Running Through The Swamp – Halloween At Last

Happy, happy Halloween!  It’s the finale of my celebration of October and the spooky things that emerge at this time of year.  My Halloween morning was perfect: I spent it running through the woods from zombies and a swamp monster.

mudwalk-swamp witchThe MudWalk is a tradition for elementary school kids in our area.  They visit the Environmental Studies Center and then hike through a mucky swamp.  Someone always loses a shoe, and they have to pull each other across (or out) of the muck.  The Support the MudWalk Spooky 5K started several years ago as a fundraiser.  The route is paved and on a trail, and the trail run is through a haunted forest.

The trail was lined with gravestones and cautionary signs. Ghosts and bats flew overhead.  Creatures emerged from the bushes and zombies swiped at passersby.

mudwalk-spiderwebThe jump scares were pretty mild, and the monsters seemed to like that I was running by them and beaming, just wildly happy that there were so many spooky things on the trail with us.

Tonight will be clear here in Florida.  The ghouls and princesses will be in short-sleeves as they trick or treat.  I’ll be dressed as a bat to fly around the gravestones in the front yard and give out candy.  I hope you have an amazing celebration of your own.  Thank you for spending the Countdown to Halloween with me.

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow!  Come join in and find me on the NaNoWriMo site at Leaves and Cobwebs.mudwalk-tombstone

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Christmas Is Creeping Up Behind You – 1 Day Until Halloween

The Halloween shelves are shrinking with the last of the cackling skeleton brides and tombstones.  There are some turkeys overlapping them, but Christmas and winter holidays are coming on strong.  I see you, giant nutcrackers and elves, just on the other side of the shelf.

RIP carolersHalloween is almost here, our last revelry of this spooky season, but the creepy celebration isn’t over.  I’ll be writing about scary things through November for NaNoWriMo.  And I’ll be finding inspiration in my beloved swamps, like these carolers guarding a grave.  Are they singing songs of celebration or lamentations?  Or an endless, hellacious round of Jingle Bells to torment the poor soul?

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.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year – 30 Days Until Halloween

October is here!  October is here!  pumpkin zombie

There’s a faint chill in the morning, and night is
coming earlier.  Bats are flying like mad in the evenings as the summer insects emerge and search for mates. Pumpkins are everywhere.  Flying skeletons and graveyard fences are showing up in neighborhood yards.  I’m late haunting our yard due to my writing conference and camping last weekend, but our holiday zombie has put on his trick-or-treating costume.

This is my first year participating in the Countdown to Halloween, and I’m excited to share this season with you.  I’ll be writing about where I get inspiration for my creepy stories and poetry, my many loves of autumn and Halloween, and other spooky things.  Much of my inspiration comes from remote areas, deep in the woods and marshes.  The muck is deep with layers of death and rebirth out there.

Florida is still having thunderstorms most evenings.  Everything is wet.  The ground is so saturated, it moves under your feet in the low areas.  When we camped, the puddles on the tarp drew dozens of planarians under our tent.  They were glorious little things to see, since they are usually hidden under wet leaves and logs.  And knowing they were squirming beneath us all night was delightfully unsettling.  What other creatures might’ve spent time there, but left before we broke camp?

So welcome, Halloween lovers and spooky kids, and the rest of you who are visiting.  Tell me what grisly details make you shiver in a story.  Or share what you imagine when you are writing a frightening scene.  The best stories happen around a campfire.

Camp NaNoWriMo – Lurking in the Woods

Welcome Campers and lurkers!  Day 8 of Camp NaNoWriMo and the day is full of activities.

As I’ve posted before, I’m editing and adding to my draft novel for Camp NaNoWriMo.  Most of the story is set in Florida woods next to a blackwater river.  It’s a setting I can see vividly in my mind – lush growth and dark water – and it’s a place I have great affection for.  And it feels delightfully full of living and dead things, as all the best wild areas do.

So as I work on it during Camp NaNoWriMo, I am doubly tickled that the novel has all sorts of camp-related activities: walking in the woods, swimming, eating outside, the vague dread that the river, or perhaps your relative, wants to do you harm.

And campers.  I am very lucky to be part of a cabin of smart, funny writers who post each day to share support and talk about writing.  I found my cabin by responding to a Twitter post by an author (and publisher) I follow.  Having folks to ask about formatting internal monologue and reminisce about 1980’s horror movies had made the experience even more fulfilling and productive and November’s NaNoWriMo was.

1980’s horror movies: also fond of happening in the woods.  Near the river.  *insert evil laugh here*

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

Cypress Vine and Muck

Catbriar lies there, seemingly innocuous, but suddenly wraps itself around your ankles and digs its thorns in as you lift your foot. I grew up calling it cypress vine, for how it  snakes across the forest floor and climbs up the tree trunks.  Bright green tendrils with tiny thorns become woody ropes as it park-2-smilaxgets older.  I smile when I see it, even when it sneaks up and scratches, because it  means I’m moving from the higher ground down towards the swamp.  And such wondrous things live (and die, and grow again) in the  swamp.

MUCK
Victoria Nations

I grew from sandy mud
the muck of families sticking to me
rich with stories
sweet rotten smells of intrigue and violence
thoughtlessly composted and
seeping into the bodies of each new generation

I played elbow deep in that dirt
rolling it into balls to feel its grit
pushing it deep under my nails
and smearing it onto my face as camouflage
blending in with the mud and
hidden amidst the growth, I grew

I learned to eat the wild plants
to fashion them into vine huts and tree houses
the mud wet under my feet
drawing the poisons out
staining my skin dark red and
tanning it like leather

I grow things in that fertile ground
great leafy visions I cut and press onto pages
rearranging them until they tell stories
colors still bright even with the life dried out of them
sometimes the images bleed when I cut them down
careful not to cut myself on the blade I swing