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.

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.

WT Bland Library

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!

Chicken Purse – A Poem

CHICKEN PURSE
by Victoria Nations

I need a new purse
and I want to find one that looks like a chicken.
It will be life-sized and feathery,
and have little horny feet that stick out of the bottom
because truly elegant purses have feet.
The head will have a pink, rubbery comb
and bright plastic eyes.
And I’ll carry the straps over my shoulder
so I can tuck the chicken purse under my arm.

Everyone will notice my chicken purse.
They’ll wonder if I’m carrying a live chicken
or a stuffed one that’s dead.
I’ll talk to it, stroking its neck
and cooing to it lovingly.
And people will think it’s adorable,
or kind of sad, the way I talk to my stuffed chicken.
They won’t notice how it has a perfectly sized sleeve
for my laptop, and cunning little pockets,
and pen holders inside,
though they really should assume it has those features.
I wouldn’t have gotten my chicken purse if it weren’t functional.

I’ll set my chicken purse next to me when I dine.
And I’ll tell it “stay,” and give it a piercing look
like, “You’d better not disobey me, pet chicken.”
But it won’t really be a pet; it will be a purse.
And I’ll compliment it when it sits obediently through the meal
and reward it with bits from my plate.
And when the check comes,
I’ll pull my credit card from under its wing
and thank it for holding it for me.
But I’ll tap it on its beak when it tries to peck the paper.
It will need to learn to behave properly in a fancy restaurant.

Story Editing on a Sunday Afternoon

We have a small farmer’s market in our area, and a large one in the next town over.  The large one is amazing, with a huge variety of fresh produce, boutique cheeses and breads, kettle corn, plants, and this place that makes these bagel sandwiches that are delicious.  I love the large farmer’s market, but I visit our neighborhood market most every week.  The selection is smaller, but the vendors are local and have time to tell you stories about what they’ve brought to sell.

Today, the produce seller told me how good the strawberries were, and he knows because he used to sneak onto the farm at night as a kid and steal the fruit.  “That’s a Peter Rabbit story,” I said.  He agreed – he was the rabbit.

Peter Rabbit almost got caught by the farmer when he snagged his coat on the garden fence.  The story makes you love the naughty rabbit, but satisfied he got what was coming to him after disobeying his mom and stealing.

I wrote a story not too long ago about retribution and fresh produce.  Today’s visit to the farmer’s market inspired me to work on it to tighten up the editing.  Here’s a snippet:

“Gel-stiff hair fallen on their foreheads, the girls wear tiny graphic T-shirts pulled on over shorts and pajama pants that ride their slim hips. They have stained Toms instead of slippers on their feet, but the effect is the same. They’ve rolled out of bed less than an hour ago, still recovering from the last night’s adventure. Their shirts define them:

“Whirled Peas” in a paintbrush font, with a smiling pea pod.

“Biker Chick” shaped like a cruiser with woodland creatures in the basket. 

“I Don’t Eat Innocent Animals” in bold red. 

They forage along the sun-washed windows, new as the morning themselves.”

from Tomatoes, by Victoria Nations

Pushing

I’m editing a story I wrote last year, with the plan to submit it to a short story contest that’s looking for fantasy/paranormal/speculative fiction.  I’m happy with it, but I know it needs more in places…and also less.

The main character has been talking to me today, and it feels like we are catching up after time apart. I’ve been pushing into how something made her feel. I’ve had no problem getting her to talk affectionately about the other character or to describe the sequence of events, even the tough parts. But she hasn’t revealed much about how she felt when things started going badly. She’s cracked a little today, though.  She’s ready to share, and so even with a busy schedule, I’ve been squeezing in time to get the details down.  They’re messy, hand-written notes, and there are arrows and boxes drawn all around the pages.  But it feels right – the additional insight is going to make the story stronger.

The main character is warm-hearted, but practical, and she doesn’t lose it when something threatens her.  So how do I make a character like that admit she’s frightened?  Or that she’s in pain?  I can see her holding back her reactions, staying strong to get through the situation, but her stoicism could keep the reader from connecting with her.  She’s in survival mode, focused on the immediate future, and putting off her freak out until after things calm down.  But she’s going to have to break a little, I’m afraid.