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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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

The Rooming House

THE ROOMING HOUSE
Victoria Nations

Anders, an aging hippie, lives over the converted garage studio where he builds harpsichords. His barrel chest and graying beard seem too coarse for the fine forms and delicate gold accents he creates. He works in sawdusty chinos, stripped to the waist. Those pants, stretched tight over thighs muscled from pumping the foot pedals, has encouraged lingering looks from…

Zelda, a winsome girl who seems to float in gauzy dresses, wanders through her long, second floor room. Her pale hair streams over her shoulders, lank and drowned. She drapes on furniture, pining for something. She leans in doorways to talk to the residents, round damsel eyes asking to be saved.  Her lithe body shining through her gown as she stands at her window has caught the notice of…

Oxford, a spectral academic, floats through the halls and, disconcertingly, through the floors. He shirks his responsibilities as house spirit by refusing to moan or rattle the cutlery. Such pedestrian acts do not suit a man of letters and are beneath him. He describes his afterlife as contemplative, spent pondering questions that eluded him in life. The residents snark that his contemplation extends to the hall shower when it is occupied. The highbrow sweep of his professorial robes has irritated…

William, a frustrated writer, lives cloistered in his room down the second floor hall. He’s carried his laptop from table to sofa, from window to alcove, demanding the Muses speak to him. His frame is too lean; his skin is too sallow.  He blames the banging of his neighbors for his empty head. Someday he’ll write a manifesto on killing them all, if he could just figure out the first line. He’s tried to confront them, staring angrily through the cracked door, but it was too overwhelming. His skulking has generated a bemused stare from…

Ms. Smith, as she expects to be addressed, lives in the high, sunny room on the third floor. Do not suggest she may want to live lower, with fewer stairs.  Do not imply anything that includes “at her age.”  The house residents note, as she wishes them to, that she is always impeccably dressed.  Her adult students carry their violin cases up her private back stair, and she gives precise, 2-hour lessons each day.  Her severe face conveys lateness is not tolerated, and occasionally the residents hear muffled sobs from someone she’s been cross with. The disheveled clothes and euphoric faces of her exiting students have inspired some gossip from…

Mandy, a sporty graduate student, is finishing her dissertation in the shabby front room on the first floor. With a flushed face usually shining with sweat, she is casually friendly with everyone. She keeps odd hours, at home and out. A 3:00 am jog is sometimes a must after a day bent over her computer. She’s worked her way through half the house so far, finding other ways to release her tension and supplementing her student stipend, too.  She’s shared her price list, but hasn’t closed a sale yet with…

Bob, formerly Louis, takes care of the yard in exchange for living in the dark room in the back of the first floor. He works hard to cultivate new scars and callouses, wiping the blood and grass stains on filthy overalls.  He tears up his hands with thorns and wood, rubbing his fingertips raw. His hair is his last vanity, too styled for the mysterious gardener character he’s playing. It’s his careful coif, standing out from his raggedy image, that has raised the suspicions of…

Birdie, a hairy monster with glowing gold eyes, snoozes beneath the rose chaise lounge in the foyer. She is just able to squint under the brocade skirt, daring herself to reach out and tickle the ankles of the residents as they walk by. Now that she’s eaten up through the bottom, there’s plenty of room to roll over, and she doesn‘t squeak like the old springs when the residents occasionally sit on her. Her wiry hairs that collect in the corners have caught the nose of…

Rufus, who jumps on the furniture since he was buried in the yard. He used to watch his owners go inside and lay on the puffy sofas. The cats said there were even softer beds upstairs. But Rufus was a good dog, and never went farther than the kitchen. Afterwards, he stayed, his little ball of ectoplasm shimmering by the stove where his bed used to be. Then one day he tried floating into the main house, and no one scolded him. Ever since, he romps room to room, bouncing on cushions and nestling down in the coverlets. His sticky tracks provoke dry heaves from…

Harry, a high strung realtor, pounds a For Sale sign into the front yard again. The brokerage won’t install any more of his signs. They told him they installed new signs, but he’s watched them lean and fade in just a few days. The voices told him it was the house; he needs special signs. He needs a barrier. He mutters to himself as he grimly shakes the new sign post, checking it is stable. His ranting has stirred up trouble with…

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.