Summer Camp, Summer Screams

Summer camp is bonfires, camp songs, and summer friendships…

Summer camp is spooky woods, monster legends, and the scary things that lurk just beyond the trail…

Or on the trail, like “Blink Fly.”

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Jolene Haley is hosting #SummerofScreams, writer and artist showcase celebrating the darker side of summer camp.  “Blink Fly” follows a camper hiking in Palo Duro Canyon, where the Texas ground cracks open.  The canyon is rust red and deep.

You’ve probably met a robber fly before, maybe even jumped when it buzzed past you.  They’re common and spectacular, and always hunting.  Hello, gorgeous.

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Credit: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab from Beltsville, USA [Public domain or CC BY 2.0]

Jolene Haley is an exceptional writer and curator of horror and other anthologies.  I highly recommend “Harrowed (Woodsview Murders, #1),” her YA slasher with Brian LeTendre.

Follow the #SummerofScreams showcase for more scary summer camp stories.

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NaNoWriMo 2016 – My Third Year at Hogwarts

Have you met your word count for today, NaNoWriMos?

NaNoWriMo has been rocking along for six days now, and writers are flying on the heady rush of stories pouring out of them while simultaneously worrying when and where they’ll find the time to reach their nearly 1700 wpd (words per day) goal. Wacky sleep patterns are starting to take their toll. Writers are sneaking into corners to tap on their phones or dictating scenes while driving.

This is my third NaNoWriMo and just like Harry Potter in his third year:

“I knew I could do it this time,” said Harry, “because I’d already done it…Does that make sense?” Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling

I’ve “won” NaNoWriMo twice before, so I know I can get 50,000 words of a story out in 30 days. And I know I’d have a blast doing it.  I even have a creepy story idea that wants to be a novel, badly.

But I needed something other than 50,000 new words this year. I’m doing something harder, at least for me. I’m spending my time editing last year’s novel. That means reworking the parts that fell flat before, or which ended with note to myself to “do something here.” It means punching up my ending to something more exciting.

It also means discovering that I really like some of what I wrote last year, and being grateful it’s organized more coherently than I’d feared. I love this story. The main character is awful, and kind of hilarious, and I have the best time writing her. Horrific things happen that make me want to clap my hands. There’s magic there, and the story deserves to be made better. And it feels good to push myself to get better at my craft.

And I have some reward writing for myself, too. I have a spooky short story to finish for submission in December, so that’s my dessert after I do the harder stuff.

Do you have a writing goal this NaNoWriMo? Any tricks for fitting writing into your schedule?

You can find me at Leaves and Cobwebs – reach out and let’s cheer each other on.

The Rooms the Guests Never See – 13 Days until Halloween

Jolene Haley is hosting a horror writer and illustrator showcase on her website to celebrate the spookiest of months.  My story, “Food and Drink Man” is featured today.

The Thornewood Hotel has seven stories and 666 rooms.  Sometimes it has grand elevators and a ballroom.  The staff mostly keep out of site, but they are watching.  The guests come and go…well, oftentimes, they come and stay.

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The character Darryl is based on a “food and drink man” who worked with my father, who refurbished hotels.  I saw many hotels stripped to the bones while growing up, as my father and his workers replaced floor and wall coverings, plumbing, and electrical fixtures.  I saw through hotel walls, into the space between rooms.  I saw chandeliers laying splayed on the ground.  Hotels are a beautiful facade for their guests.  The workers know what lies in the rooms the guests never see.

Jolene Haley is an exceptional writer and curator of horror and other anthologies.  I highly recommend “Harrowed (Woodsview Murders, #1),” her YA slasher with Brian LeTendre.

Comment and let me know what you think of “Food and Drink Man” and follow the #HauntedHotel showcase for more spooky stories through the month.

 

Spooky Empire Refugees – 20 Days until Halloween

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen my posts about #SpookyEmpireRefugees.  It was heart-breaking, then heart-warming, and overall an incredible event for Central Florida’s horror community.

I had spooky plans for the first weekend in October.  Somehow, The Addams Family musical, Halloween Horror Nights, and Spooky Empire all came together at the same time.  I was especially excited about the horror writing panels at Spooky Empire.  Then Hurricane Matthew happened.

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Neighbors stocked up on ice, and we bought a clown.

If you’ve been through a hurricane or other huge storm that you can plan for, you know how the days beforehand are a mix of excitement and impending doom.  You prepare for the weather and losing power.  You follow work and school closures.  You check on the folks in the path of the storm.  You wait, and you hope it isn’t as bad as it could be.

By Thursday, it became clear that things could become pretty bad for Orlando and all of Florida’s east coast.  The theme parks wisely shut down.  And Spooky Empire had to cancel.

This article describes how the horror community rallied in the wake of the storm, pulling together to support the people who organized Spooky Empire, the numerous vendors who were missing the event, and the horror fans who desperately wanted their spooky weekend.

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Horror writers, artists, and vendors packed Gods & Monsters comic store.  The Bloody Jug Band wailed.  There were amazing cosplayers.

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The Spooky Empire Refugees event happened because of the amazing folks at Coffee Shop of Horrors.  They make horror-themed coffees (and teas, candies, and soaps), roasted locally and to order.  Everything there is delicious, and the small bags make excellent Halloween gifts.

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You need something to keep your warm in the autumn chill.  May I also suggest Tribal Screams Roasted Chestnut and Bubba Spiced Bourbon?

 

 

 

 

Halloween at Work – 25 Days until Halloween

A taxidermied Bufo marinus that’s been made into a change purse is a permanent resident of my office at my day job.  Animals skulls and insects preserved in jars keep it company.  My coworkers have different bones and dead things at their desks. So it is with field biologists: we love critters so much, we bring them back with us to put on display.

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My office Halloween decorations tend to include bones and bugs, too. This field biologist didn’t stay as hydrated as she should have. And the bug repellant wasn’t enough to keep a big tick from sucking her dry. Maybe her toad friend will eat it for her.

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A non-biologist coworker felt Skelly’s leg and laughed to herself. “I don’t know why I thought it would be real!” Indeed.

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I keep the Halloween goodie bowl filled all month, with candy and healthier stuff. I don’t give out raisins, though. I love them, but they just don’t pass the Halloween treat criteria.

Do you decorate your office or workplace?  Tweet photos to me at @Leaves_Cobwebs.

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Countdown to Halloween Begins!

It’s the first day of October and the Countdown to Halloween begins today!

Well, actually, I hold Halloween in my heart all year.  There are always some spooky things lying about the house and scary stories to read and write.
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If this is your first visit here, welcome, and I hope you enjoy browsing through blog posts about horror, writing, exploring wild places, and creepy critters (mostly things with lots of legs).  October 1 is when the rest of the Halloween decorations come out, at home and at work.  This guy is part of the second wave of Halloween decor and goodies for my office.  He’s pretty serious about the candy he’s guarding.

There are always some spooky things lying about the house and scary stories to read and write.  If this is your first visit here, welcome, and I hope you enjoy what you read.  You’ll see posts about horror, writing, and exploring wild places.  There will be monsters along the way, and creepy critters (mostly things with lots of legs).

DreadFest 2017 – Call for Writers

I’m very excited to be involved with an upcoming event that celebrates horror and dark fiction in all its delicious forms.

W.T. Bland Public Library in Mount Dora, Florida is looking for authors to participate in its first annual “DreadFest,” an event to celebrate the darker side of fiction.  The event will focus on horror and other genres that give a creeping sense of dread.  Authors must have books available for purchase.  The event will be limited to 20 authors.

The event is being planned for January 14 or 28, 2017, at the library.  The library has large rooms for presentations.  Authors who participate will have their own 6’ table to sell and sign books and other things.  The library will promote the event and feed the authors lunch.  They will solicit vendors to provide door prizes to attendees, and may even be able to provide some musical entertainment.  There is an outdoor pavilion that could be used if an activity is better suited for it.

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W.T. Bland Public Library

Since this is a new event, participating authors have the opportunity to help direct the format.  The library would love to have participating authors:

·         Do presentations on writing or elements of dark fiction (horror, dark fantasy, thriller, paranormal romance, etc.)
·         Participate in a horror/dark fiction author panel
·         Help judge a micro- or nanofiction writing contest
·         Sell and sign their books
·         Donate a book to be included in door prizes

W.T. Bland Public Library has held a popular Romance Expo (celebrating Florida romance authors and books) for several years.  At last year’s August event, they had 20 participating authors and over 100 attendees.

Bonus: The weather in Central Florida is usually beautiful in January, and Mount Dora is  a popular spot for winter “snowbirds” and tourists, so it’s a perfect time to visit and share your scary stories.

If you are interested, email me at LeavesandCobwebs@earthlink.net or send me a message on Twitter at @Leaves_Cobwebs.  Hope to see you there!

Stephen King, Coincidences, and Dementia

I started reading Stephen King stories in elementary school, starting with the newly published paperback edition of “The Shining” after my mother was through reading it. I’d heard it was scary, and I liked scary. I saw the movie in the theater when I was ten.  I was enrapt.

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Stephen King books, stacked two deep on the living room bookshelf

And since that time, as Stephen King books came out, little bits of the stories have mirrored aspects of my life. One reason I love Stephen King’s writing is how he writes characters and dialogue; even his minor characters are complex and familiar. But the similarities I notice are always story elements that seemed to coincide with something in my life at the time.

Some are subtle at best: “The Library Policemen” haunting me as I navigated the stacks in college, or feeling a sense of déjà vu for the wild areas in “The Tommyknockers” and “It.” Others feel like uncanny Easter eggs.

Reading “The Talisman” as a teen when I was on a road trip with my relatives.

Having a terrible stomach flu while reading “Dreamcatcher.”

Meeting my future sister-in-law (who has the same name, phonetically) while reading “Lisey’s Story,”

Reading “Duma Key” as my future mother-in-law (and her caregivers) dealt with the devastating changes of Alzheimer’s Disease.SK-Duma Key.jpg

“Duma Key” is one of my favorite Stephen King novels. It’s rarely mentioned when his name is invoked. Perhaps people overlook it because it’s set briefly in Minnesota and mostly in Florida, and not in the weirder parts of Maine (though there are connections, oh yes – all things serve the beam in the Stephen King Universe, nearly).

I’ve lived in both states, and I know the west coast of Florida where Edgar Freemantle buys a giant pink house, suspended over the waves, with shells clack-clack-clacking beneath it.  The place is unnerving and compelling. It’s a place I want  to visit desperately when I read about it. I want to spend my time creating in that windowed loft looking over the changing Gulf of Mexico. And I’ve seen paintings like what Edgar Freemantle creates, with such precise details and light that you feel like you could fall through the canvas.

And Elizabeth Eastlake resonates with me, with her moods shifting like the Gulf waters, and her fear and anger as her mind slips. I read the story while seeing my future mother-in-law struggle through the same storms. Some of these moments of recognition in Stephen King’s stories are uncomfortable or sad. But the way he writes about his characters’ struggles, their desperation and redemption, is why I connect so deeply to his stories.

That, and the haunting settings that lie just past the characters, driving them mad or lulling them until they are vulnerable. The clacking is silent when the tide is out, but crunches under Edgar’s feet when he ventures out, like bones hitting each other. Which they are, you know: little exoskeletons of dead things underfoot.

I start each Stephen King book wondering what will show up in it.  I’ve wondered if I’ll see some semblance of the Dark Tower in my life someday, some real life element that mirrors Stephen King’s epic tale, rather than the other way around. If so, I hope there are roses.

THERE ARE GHOSTS IN THE GROVES (II)

THERE ARE GHOSTS IN THE GROVES (II)
by Victoria Nations

There are ghosts in the groves picking
oranges that fall through the net sacks and
bounce onto the ground.
The oranges are too bright to be
anything but real. They look alive.

The ghosts flit about, preoccupied by the work.
They don’t notice the oranges
laying about, rotten on the ground,
now lost to the living
who could taste them.

The ghosts in the groves let vines crawl up
and wrap around tree branches,
and cover the leaves.
The orange trees struggle for light, but
The ghosts
never cut them down even though
the trees are strangled.

 

It’s past due when the orange groves should have been picked here in Florida.  The abandoned groves drop their heavy fruit.  Or maybe the ghosts don’t notice their sacks won’t hold them anymore.

The abandoned groves are haunting and full of memories.  You can read “There Are Ghosts in the Groves (I)” here.

Check out #SpookyAllYear for links to creepy stories and blog posts.  And click on the graphic for spooky goodness by The Midnight Society.

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