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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#SpookyAllYear

The Midnight Society – a wonderful collection of horror and paranormal writers and literary folk –  is hosting #SpookyAllYear, a blog hop to add a little horror and spooky fun through the year.  And today is the first day!  Folks posting creepy stuff on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month will be linking to their site.  They like their books a little bloody.

I’m by the lake again today, the lake that I keep returning to.  It’s sunlit and lovely, but the rays only go so far into the water, because it is also deep.

Crows are flying over the lake today and calling to each other.  You don’t expect to see crows along a lakeshore.  This one should be the backdrop for majestic wading birds, frozen as they watch the water for fish.  If you’ve watched a blue heron hunt, you know they spear their prey with their sharp beaks, and then gulp them down whole.  If you watch closely enough, you’ll see the creature moving in the bird’s neck as it slowly makes its way down.  What must the bird feel with something alive wriggling in its throat?  What must the prey feel, bleeding to death, as they are swallowed?

The flock of crows means something is dead in the water, just past where I can see.  It’s drifted in, and the crows are cawing to warn me away from their meal.  If I walk a little further down the shore, I will be able to see it.

I imagine seeing a form, long hair trailing around it, turned so I can’t see its face.  Only the head is visible, and an arm, reaching in front of it, the hand floating limply in the water.  The form looks vaguely human, but it’s not.  There’s something wrong with the shape of the head, and the long fingers extending from too small a hand.  Once I see it, I won’t be able to ignore it.

Once I see it, I could walk out into the water to investigate what’s floating there.  The water is shallow, and still warm enough to wade in.  I would be able to see my feet most of the way, until I got close to the floating thing.  But that far from shore, I wouldn’t be able to pull away if something curled around my ankles and pulled me in deeper.  Then there would be two things with long, trailing hair floating in the water.

The crows are warning me away, and I understand that it will only be a mystery until they reach it.  Once they’ve eaten, once all the creatures that eat the dead have eaten, the thing will be gone.

So there is my choice.  Do I walk further down the shore?  Or, do I listen to the crows?

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Disciplined Porch Writing – Day 6 of NaNoWriMo

This week, I’m spending a few days writing in a mostly empty house on a bluff above a lake. People have passed in this house. I walk the halls with my laptop, listening for them. But all I hear are the waves lapping on the shore.

Sounds magical, like the perfect writing spot, doesn’t it?

Actually, I’m spending time at my parents’ house while a work crew helps clear out the last of the housewares, furniture and trash. There are people working hard around me, and they make bangs and thuds, and sometimes they need to talk with me. I’m doing some work remotely for the day job on my phone, and I’m running errands to take care of house things. And amidst that, I’m writing on a giant porch overlooking a lake.

It’s magical. It’s wonderful to have stretches of time when I can write.

weirsdaleporchnanowrimoAnd it’s hard. It takes discipline to make time to write. It seems especially challenging since I’m not used to having this much time available to write. My usual writing schedule is day to day, dependent on family time, work schedules, and whether the weather is too good to miss out on a bike ride to get my body moving along with my mind.

NaNoWriMo puts out a constant stream of support and ideas during November, including prompts for writing sprints. That’s how I’ve been getting myself to focus on writing, rather than the myriad other things happening around me.  In between I can make notes of where to go next, write down any additional characters that have popped up that I want to keep track of.  And then, it’s on to the next push.

For a writing sprint, you set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes, and then write. No looking at the clock. You let the scene unfold as you go, or work on the scene you’ve planned to write next. You make it something exciting, where something important HAPPENS. It’s amazing how much you can crank out in small bit of time like that. Yesterday, I managed 800 words during a 20 minute sprint, and I had a great time writing about my main character and her bloody shovel.

Best of luck on your journey to your 50K. You can totally do this, you know, whether you’re holed up in a corner at home or looking over the water and straining to hear ghosts.  I’d love to hear how your writing is going, so leave me a comment and tell me what tricks you’re using to keep the words coming.

The Little Man – 6 Days Until Halloween

The Little Man
by Victoria Nations

There’s a little man
crouching by the fence past the stop sign.
He’s bald and wearing a shapeless coat,
and he reminds me of Uncle Fester,
but he’s grinning a little too wide.
His teeth are very long.
And he looks much too menacing to be an Addams.

He’s shaking the split rail fence.
Maybe he’s trying to pry one of the boards off,
though it would be easy enough to crawl over
or even through the fence.
But perhaps he’s just doing it to get my attention.
He’s catching my eye, and he’s grinning wider now.
And he’s pulling the fence with greater force.

Bang.
Bang.
Bang.

He pauses for a moment and looks to see if I’m reacting.
I’m trying to hold my face still.
I’m trying to look as if I’m not watching him.
And I’m wishing that I could drive past him faster.
He’s obviously tracking me. He knows what I’m doing.
His head swivels around, and his smile is wider.
I can see the gums above his teeth.

I lose him in my blind spot as I pass closest to him.
When I look in the rearview mirror,
he’s not at the fence anymore.
The board is still in place.
I can’t see him anymore,
and it’s worse than watching him follow me.
I wonder how fast he can move, or jump.

I think about him clinging to the roof,
his face raised to the wind.
It’s causing his lips to pull back from those long teeth.
I think about him waiting there.
He’s waiting for me to get farther down the road.
I hear his grip shift on the roof, before trying to pry it off.

Bang.
Bang.
Bang.

Throwback Thursday – 9 Days Until Halloween

Dr. Paul Bearer was the host of Creature Feature, a self-declared “horrible old movie” double-feature that aired in the 1970’s and 80’s in the Tampa area.  In my memory, I’m laying on a floor pillow on orange carpet, in the living room of our family cabin, and watching Attack of the Mushroom People with him on a Saturday afternoon.

At commercial breaks, Dr. Paul Bearer brought out ridiculous props and made amazing puns, like his box of “Kellogg’s Mourn Flakes” cereal.  He pretended to play Poisoning Pigeons in the Park by Tom Lehrer on his grand piano.  He was brilliant.