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.”

#SummerofScreams

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.

Robber_Fly,_Face,_Charles_County,_MD_2013-11-04-11.26.16_ZS_PMax_(10768695115)

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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Writing From Wild Areas – 25 Days Until Halloween

Wild areas teem with life and death.  The urgency and decay are deeply beautiful to me and source of much of my writing.

In the wet areas, life bursts forth throughout the year. Mosquitos emerge from the water desperate for a blood meal and mating.  New shoots grow from the ground at alarming speeds. And all this life pushes up through the plant corpses and rotting muck left from the season before.  The sour swamp smells and sweet tang of green growth hang in the air. The fug is nearly tangible. You can see it rise and spread above the water at night, and sometimes you’d swear it glows.

These areas are the setting for Gothic tales with women in nightgowns fleeing barefoot across the moors.  They are where the killer lurks to watch camp counselors, before emerging to slash them one by one.  The cabin in the woods was built to lure the unsuspecting into a trap.  Why?

In wild areas, a person can’t fully know all the moves around them or hides in the undergrowth.  Life and death surround them, out of their control.

The cooler air and shorter days of Autumn are settling things down.  The wet areas can rest and simmer, slowly breaking down the bodies of this year’s dead.  When you go out to those remote areas, remember that you are walking amongst them.  They’ll cling to you when you leave.

My Hunger Will Consume All That Is Here And Will Free You – A Poem of Celebration

My Hunger Will Consume All That Is Here And Will Free You
by Victoria Nations

I will climb and tear
and rip it all apart with my teeth,
until the way is cleared before me.
I will lay waste to the kingdom I’ve invaded.
I will eat until I am gorged,
until I am satisfied.
The fabric that binds this world will hang in tatters.
And the sun will reach the ground once more
after I have passed through.

air potato vineAir potato (Dioscorea bulbifera L.) is an invasive vine that was introduced to Florida from Asia over 100 years ago.  It can grow to 20 meters or more, climbing over and smothering native plants.  After years of research, a leaf feeding beetle, Lilioceris cheni, was recently introduced into Florida from China for biological control of air potato.  This is the second year we’ve had this feisty red beetle in our yard and their ability to destroy the leaves and vines of air potato is truly impressive.  Way to go, little guys!

For more information, check out the UF/IFAS Extension fact sheet.

Anyway – A Love Poem

ANYWAY
by Victoria Nations

She has no red hair,
and no gray,
and only a few freckles
peppered across her putty nose,
and splattered down her back.

She’s the tall one,
the strong one
who owns a tool belt, but
leaves the dead opossums
to me, along with the lizards
and big bugs.

She’s a delicate flower,
nearly crushed by a giant,
snuggling man child, and
fighting for space
amongst twenty-five cats,
and unexpected skeletons,
and feet in the freezer.

She just stacks the
bags of heads higher,
keeping it all organized,
and squeezes her wife and boy
when they pile on her,
showing her weird objects,
and she loves them anyway.

Happy birthday – and anniversary – wishes to my lovely wife and Monster Woman.

Clatter

CLATTER
by Victoria Nations

The whine of wind pushing the
The clatter of palm fronds and
The clacking of bluejay beaks on
The scritch of roach legs against
The rustle of leaves caught in the
Damp
Dark
Boot jacks
Reach your hand in there
I dare you

Love Bites and Chocolate

How could you not love a tiny fly called a punkie?  Especially if it’s the reason cacao trees produce fruit, which becomes the mouthwatering chocolate so many of us are indulging in today?

And punkies are adorable, if you find hunched over little vampires adorable like I do.  Ceratopogonid midges have a large, humped thorax and their heads are bent down, vaguely sinister.  Insidiously small and rising up in clouds from wet areas, the females  gorge themselves on your blood while you frantically try to smack them.  No-see-ums?  That’s them.

The larvae live in wet areas, swimming or crawling through damp dirt.  These little predators have big eyespots and a slender head capsule, and some have mandibles with blood gutters for punching into their prey and streaming the haemolymph into their gullet. Ceratopogonid

Delightfully nasty little things.

Ceratopogonid midges in the genera Forcipomyia and Euprojoannisia are the main pollinators of the cacao plant in many parts of the world.  Amidst the crawling and flying insects that may live on the cacao plant, only these tiny, biting flies are able to fit into the complicated cacao flower and spread the pollen that fertilizes other flowers.

I love a story of blood, sex, and chocolate on St. Valentine’s Day.

“Chocolate Midge.”  U.S. National Park Service. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/searchq=cache:nsRKFFHw1roJ:www.nps.gov/subjects/pollinators/chocolatemidge.htm+&cd=9&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=safari

O’Doherty, D.C. and Zoll, J.J.K.  “Forcipomyia hardyi (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae), a Potential Pollinator of Cacao (Theobroma cacao) Flowers in Hawaii.”  Proceedings of the Hawaiian Entomological Society (2012) 44:79–81

Arts and Sciences

When I studied biology in college, then graduate school, I took “hard” science classes in zoology, human biology, ecology and evolution.  I took electives in the “soft” sciences and the arts, my favorites being psychology and (one glorious semester) Elements of Horror Fiction.  The courses were very different.  The arts and sciences were separate.

But one day looking through a microscope, I noticed the shades of rust on a cockroach’s leg and the graceful spines lined along it, shading from light to almost black.  Despite my affection for insects, cockroaches were a holdout in my heart, but that day I saw how truly beautiful their exoskeleton was.  It was transformative.

Writing horror fiction feels like that to me.  Sometimes the details are horrific or unsettling, but there is an art to being able to describe a scene, an emotion, so richly that the reader feels it viscerally.  If they can feel the dampness of the dead leaves beneath the character’s knees, sense the heaviness of the trees above that seem to press down on them, feel the tightness in their own chest as they look on the scene before them, then I’ve shared that dark beauty with them.