Upcoming – Spooky Empire Creators Track

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I will be appearing as part of the Creators Track at Spooky Empire in Orlando, Florida, USA, on October 26-28, 2018.  Spooky Empire Ultimate Horror Weekend is one of the largest horror conventions in the nation, and this year’s convention has a huge line up of celebrity guests, horror creators, a film festival, live performances, and a tattoo festival.

This year’s Creators Track focuses on horror writers and includes panels, seminars, and signings. Come see me at Cult of Terror, Women in Horror, and Writing is Hard, But We Love It.  I’ll also be signing The Dark and Stormy Night, a blind round robin horror story.

Want more information on the Creators Track? I wrote about last year’s panels for The Midnight Society.

Can’t wait to see you there!

VICTORIANATIONS

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Woo hoo! Blink Fly is a Finalist!

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Fed up with her cabin mates, a girl hikes under the Texas sun and meets the fly of her darkest dreams.

I’m excited to announce that my story, “Blink Fly,” is a finalist in the published flash fiction category of the Royal Palm Literary Awards.

The Royal Palm Literary Awards are the Florida Writers Association annual writing competition.  I’ve been a member of FWA for several years, and I’m honored that my story has been recognized by my local writing community.

Awards will be given on October 20, 2018, at the FWA conference banquet.

“Blink Fly” was published as part of the Summer of Screams Writer and Artist Showcase, a compilation of dark fiction and artwork set in summer camp.

Happy Birthday to the Magical Jolene Haley!

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Did you see the will o’ wisp dancing outside your door this morning?  She fluttered for just a moment, then careened off. There are forces moving on the wind, darting between shadows, luring you off to where the spirits are celebrating today.

Jolene Haley, writer and founder of the The Midnight Society horror writer collective, is having a birthday today!

 

An adorable night hag, haunting the dreams of her victims, Jolene writes terrifying slasher YA stories and witchy romance.  Her beast minions, the dog and the occasional cat, serve her on the night roads.  She grows stronger from eating the food of the gods, pizza.  She cannot be stopped.

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Jolene’s greatest magic is the warmth and support she gives to everyone around her.  She brightens dark days, dispels dark spirits of the heart, and feeds the creative fire in her friends and acolytes.

Blow out those birthday candles, Jolene! Hope you special day is amazing!

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The Midnight Society is celebrating our creepiest member all around the internet.  Check out all the other Jolene celebrations!

Jenna LehneKathy PalmAmy GiuffridaMary RajotteBrian LeTendre

NaNoWriMo 2016 – My Third Year at Hogwarts

Have you met your word count for today, NaNoWriMos?

NaNoWriMo has been rocking along for six days now, and writers are flying on the heady rush of stories pouring out of them while simultaneously worrying when and where they’ll find the time to reach their nearly 1700 wpd (words per day) goal. Wacky sleep patterns are starting to take their toll. Writers are sneaking into corners to tap on their phones or dictating scenes while driving.

This is my third NaNoWriMo and just like Harry Potter in his third year:

“I knew I could do it this time,” said Harry, “because I’d already done it…Does that make sense?” Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling

I’ve “won” NaNoWriMo twice before, so I know I can get 50,000 words of a story out in 30 days. And I know I’d have a blast doing it.  I even have a creepy story idea that wants to be a novel, badly.

But I needed something other than 50,000 new words this year. I’m doing something harder, at least for me. I’m spending my time editing last year’s novel. That means reworking the parts that fell flat before, or which ended with note to myself to “do something here.” It means punching up my ending to something more exciting.

It also means discovering that I really like some of what I wrote last year, and being grateful it’s organized more coherently than I’d feared. I love this story. The main character is awful, and kind of hilarious, and I have the best time writing her. Horrific things happen that make me want to clap my hands. There’s magic there, and the story deserves to be made better. And it feels good to push myself to get better at my craft.

And I have some reward writing for myself, too. I have a spooky short story to finish for submission in December, so that’s my dessert after I do the harder stuff.

Do you have a writing goal this NaNoWriMo? Any tricks for fitting writing into your schedule?

You can find me at Leaves and Cobwebs – reach out and let’s cheer each other on.

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!

Dreams and Summer Camp (NaNoWriMo)

In a place where the oak canopy opens and there is full sunshine, the Seminole-Wekiva Trail asks what you want before you die.

A little apart from the murals of Paint the Trail, a section is painted with chalkboard paint.  There’s chalk to write your dreams.  What do you want to do before you die?

I stopped when I first saw it, struck by the question.  It’s so big and yet so basic. It implies that you aren’t, yet, doing the thing you want to do.

Maybe the remoteness makes it easier to declare what you want.  The wall is covered in layers of writing.  People wrote who they want to marry, or just that they want to fall in love.  They wrote they want to become the best at something.  They wrote they want to move away from their home city, dreaming of the wider world.

Some came back to write that they did the thing they had written before.  These are written in large, victorious letters.

I wrote a dream earlier this year, and I think of my chalkboard heart often as I work towards it.  This year has been about editing my stories better, paying attention to how they are crafted, and submitting them.  With more submissions, I’ve received more feedback, and that is making me a better writer.

Happy first day of Camp NaNoWriMo to my fellow campers out there!  By participating, you’re making your declaration of what you want to do.  You’re carving out time to write, riding the thrill of a story coming together in your head, and pushing through the muck when it slows.  I’ll see you along the way at #5amWritersClub and near midnight, trying to get my daily word count.  Come say hi at Leaves and Cobwebs, and we’ll sprint together down the trail.

SWT-Before I die-heart

 

 

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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