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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Disciplined Porch Writing – Day 6 of NaNoWriMo

This week, I’m spending a few days writing in a mostly empty house on a bluff above a lake. People have passed in this house. I walk the halls with my laptop, listening for them. But all I hear are the waves lapping on the shore.

Sounds magical, like the perfect writing spot, doesn’t it?

Actually, I’m spending time at my parents’ house while a work crew helps clear out the last of the housewares, furniture and trash. There are people working hard around me, and they make bangs and thuds, and sometimes they need to talk with me. I’m doing some work remotely for the day job on my phone, and I’m running errands to take care of house things. And amidst that, I’m writing on a giant porch overlooking a lake.

It’s magical. It’s wonderful to have stretches of time when I can write.

weirsdaleporchnanowrimoAnd it’s hard. It takes discipline to make time to write. It seems especially challenging since I’m not used to having this much time available to write. My usual writing schedule is day to day, dependent on family time, work schedules, and whether the weather is too good to miss out on a bike ride to get my body moving along with my mind.

NaNoWriMo puts out a constant stream of support and ideas during November, including prompts for writing sprints. That’s how I’ve been getting myself to focus on writing, rather than the myriad other things happening around me.  In between I can make notes of where to go next, write down any additional characters that have popped up that I want to keep track of.  And then, it’s on to the next push.

For a writing sprint, you set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes, and then write. No looking at the clock. You let the scene unfold as you go, or work on the scene you’ve planned to write next. You make it something exciting, where something important HAPPENS. It’s amazing how much you can crank out in small bit of time like that. Yesterday, I managed 800 words during a 20 minute sprint, and I had a great time writing about my main character and her bloody shovel.

Best of luck on your journey to your 50K. You can totally do this, you know, whether you’re holed up in a corner at home or looking over the water and straining to hear ghosts.  I’d love to hear how your writing is going, so leave me a comment and tell me what tricks you’re using to keep the words coming.

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?

A Monstrous Love – 4 Days Until Halloween

In the movie Crimson Peak, Lucille Sharpe (the dark sister who holds the keys to the family manse) tells the gothic heroine, “It is a monstrous love. And it makes monsters of us all.”  Her version of love is menacing and possibly mad, as the best monsters are.

My favorite monsters pursue their victims with a deliberate and threatening drive.  In a presentation at the Florida Writers Conference, Sidney Williams posited that a monster is only frightening until you see it, and I think this is true.  You know it is there, that it will come, that it is hunting the others. The anticipation is suffocating. You squint into the darkness trying to see if you can make out its silhouette.  You wait behind the door with the gothic heroine, the original final girl, listening hard for its approach, desperately wanting to bolt, trying to hold your breath so you won’t be heard.

You want the monster to find her, so the final girl can face it and survive.  But the monster is never more threatening than right before that breathless moment.

Hallow-WriMo – 11 Days Until Halloween

NaNoWriMo begins at midnight on November 1. I’m often up then, closing down the house after the last trick-or-treaters and eating Halloween snacks in front of a late night horror movie. I’ve usually gotten most of the makeup wiped off, and I’ve transitioned to ghost socks. I’ll be dreaming of starting my NaNoWriMo story.

I’ve actually already started because it’s been building in my head for several weeks now. Characters are fleshing out, and I am starting to see how they look, though they haven’t all revealed their names yet. A few locations are coming together.  The antagonist is starting to talk and he’s pretty grumpy. The main character is pretty antagonistic, herself.

My writing will begin later on November 1, after the sun has come up, but I’m excited about it already. I want to get to that scene I see in my head, where the main character is exasperated about cleaning up the blood. I can’t wait to hear her pitch a fit as I write about her.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, look me up and send me a note at “Leaves and Cobwebs.” I’d love to hear how your stories are going, too.

Quiet Horror – 12 Days Until Halloween

I grew up reading Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, and I still adore them. Some day their language is overblown, but I love how their lavish descriptions overwhelm me. Their stories are more horrifying for how they make me feel crushed beneath moldering walls and surrounded by alien angles.  Something monstrous is usually threatening to overtake their narrators, and I hold my breath waiting for it to come.

When I see old buildings, their windows covered, my mind runs with the possibilities of what could be lurking behind them.  The buildings may be abandoned, but somehow they don’t seem empty.  I want to see the curtain twitch.  I want to see a shadow move behind them.

One of the presentations by Sidney Williams at the Florida Writers Conference was on quiet horror, those stories with a feeling of creeping terror.  It’s the form of horror fiction that I love to write (and read).  I want a reader to sense something is off, something wrong is happening. They’ll sense something is waiting for them to come closer, but they won’t be able to identify it in time. The unknown, the inability to escape, will make it even scarier.

October Is For Writing Conferences – 15 Days Until Halloween

It is an amazing feeling to write a scene, even a sentence, that gives you a little thrill.  I enjoy writing spooky stuff, and those thrills come when I feel like I’ve written a scene that is particularly gruesome or I’ve managed to capture a character’s reaction to the horrific thing that is happening.  It makes me pull away from the keyboard and make delighted spirit fingers.

If I describe my excitement to someone who doesn’t write, they often look puzzled.  From the outside, I’m just someone sitting at a computer who suddenly gets giddy for no apparent reason.  If only they could see the events that are happening in my head!

That’s one of the important things about writing conferences for me.  When I talk about that feeling to other writers, they get it.  They get excited along with me, and they share their experiences with writing a delicious scene that defined their character or the make-believe world they are creating.

The motto of the Florida Writers Association is “Writers Helping Writers,” and the  Florida Writers Conference is this weekend.  The panels cover topics from the craft of writing and the writing life, to the business of representation and publishing.  One my favorite events is the daily Genre Breakfast.  If you come to the conference, come sit with me and the other speculative fiction writers, and we’ll talk about how to make our fantastic worlds seem “real.”

Creatures In The House – 21 Days Until Halloween

We have cats.  We also have animals skulls, mink skins, a preserved alligator head and piranha, and vials of insects.  I have a coin purse made out of a Bufo marinus, complete with head,  front legs and googly eyes, but she’s at work.

percey and skullsNow that it’s Halloween time, there are all sorts of additional creatures lying around.  The cats consider them new places to sleep and fantastic toys.  I found a skeleton leg today that a cat had pulled from its owner to bat around the living room.

If I’m writing, this is the cat trying to crawl into my lap, pawing at my computer, or suddenly deciding to climb the laundry room shelves so I have to get up and investigate the crash when it happens.  I’d like to say he inspires me to write creatures that move stealthily through the night, creeping up behind you, with golden eyes that glow as a light slides past them.  Alas, he is the least monstrous creature in the house.

I am drawn to creatures of all types, whether they are furry or warty or scaly.  Even the ones with shiny exoskeletons and pincers are beautiful to me.  And I am intrigued by how they can figure into a horror story.  The idea of something adorable filling someone with dread is compelling.  Imagine the recognition a character would have, the moment they realized their beloved pet or the beautiful creature was something monstrous and unpredictable.  It gives me shivers.