Posted in Personal

Hallowe’en Cometh

All my life Halloween has been my favorite holiday. I know it’s not technically a “holiday” but most people treat it as one and most people refer to it as a holiday.

When I was growing up I went to a Lutheran school and was constantly shocking one of the teachers with my fascination with horror. When I talk of horror, I don’t mean psychos hiding in the shadows of the parking lot, waiting for you to come to your car so they can kill you. That’s too realistic. I mean paranormal and stuff.

Scary-Stories-coversSome of my favorite books as a kid were the Scary Stories collections from Alvin Schwartz. I’d bring the books to school and my friends and I would hide in the closet where we hung up our backpacks and jackets. We’d pass the flashlight around and read the stories outloud to each other, trying to scare us all.

Yes, the teacher knew we were back there. Those were probably the days when we couldn’t go outside to eat our lunch and play (rain) so we’d stay in our classroom.

Short_&_ShiveryMy favorite story from Short and Shivery: Thirty Chilling Tales (another favorite book) was The Green Mist. It was about a girl who’s really sick and everyone’s afraid she’ll die. One day she wishes out loud that she could live as long as the cowslips outside the door. A goblin hears the wish and grants it. The green mist of Spring comes and she gets healthy again. A guy falls in love with her and picks the cowslips to give to her as a wreath. She dies.

It wasn’t scary but I thought it was super cool because of the goblin and everything.

scary-stories-to-tell-in-the-dark-7The story that terrified me so that I had to snuggle with my sister when we went to bed and she had to assure me time and time again that it was just a story was called Harold from Scary Stories 3. It was the illustration that was the worst part of it – so scary for a kid. Even now it’s pretty ugly.

Two farmers are bored living alone taking care of their animals so they made a dummy out of straw and named it Harold, after some guy they hated. They’d taunt it and throw bits of food at it etc. It starts grunting after awhile and then moving around. When they’re out taking care of their animals in the pasture, they realize they’ve forgotten something back at their hut. One of them goes back and when he doesn’t come back, the other goes and sees Harold strutting about on the roof. Also on the roof is the bloody skin from the first guy laid out to dry in the sun.

My mom told the best scary stories when my sister and I were kids. We’d get together with our cousins and she’d scare the bejeebers out of all of us. The other adults always felt as if they needed to spice it up though (to great effect).

For example: once we were all vacationing in Death Valley. The cousins had tents and we had a motorhome (we never were ones for roughing it). We all sat around the campfire telling stories and my mom comes up with one with young people who are in a similar situation as us except they all DIE! I don’t remember the story now or I’d certainly tell it.

After we were done, I and a couple others (including my aunt) went to hang out in the motorhome. Everyone else would come later. We had just settled down (my aunt and I sitting next to each other on the couch) when a hand came through the window behind us and GRABBED US!!

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We all screamed bloody murder and my aunt and I practically fell over each other trying to get to the door on the opposite side to escape. I can’t remember whose hand it was but the suspects are: my mom, my dad, my then-uncle.

I probably shaved a few decades off my life that night but my “dignity” at least was safe because I held onto my bladder!

Now my husband and I find great delight in scaring the daylights out of our son. We’ll hide behind doors and jump out, “RAARRR!!” Mini Me loves it. He laughs and laughs and laughs. In fact, that’s what they were doing while I was busy talking to people after my bible study class last week.

Makes me sigh with happiness. My little turdlet takes after me.

Do you like horror? What scary stories/movies are your favorites?

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Posted in Books and Authors

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Awhile ago a book caught my eye while we were “window” shopping at Target. Can it really be called window shopping if you’re not looking through a window?

imageHollow City by Ransom Riggs. The cover was so odd. I thought for sure a book with a cover like that was bound to be interesting. My immediate thought was: ghosts! I love ghost stories. Growing up I fed my imagination on Scary Stories and More Scary Stories by  . More on that in the next post.

imageHowever, when I went to check it out at the library, I discovered it was the 2nd book in a series. The 1st book’s cover wasn’t as interesting (I mean, how can you top a kid with a giant hole in her chest??) but upon closer inspection it was odd enough.

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very peculiar photographs. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine’s children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive.

Ooo! How are they dangerous?? Why were they quarantined? Were they monsters?? I started reading and proceeded to spend over half the book wondering what the book was about. The questions posed in the beginning of the book were not being answered. Was it supposed to be a horror book? It wasn’t scary though there was some action in the beginning to whet my appetite.

It turns out the book’s description was misleading. Quite misleading. Considering it starts out with Jacob going over the stories his grandfather told him in the past and there was never any mention of danger and fear (except the danger he escaped – he was a Polish Jew living in Poland during WWII), I never got the impression that Miss Peregrine’s children were dangerous. It’s stated more than once that Jacob’s grandfather was happy there and that it was a safe place.

I was confused. It didn’t seem to be a horror story if the place is safe. So what kind of story is it?

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Well, I’ll tell you now it’s not a horror story so you don’t go into wondering and wondering and wondering as I did. Despite that discrepancy, it was good. Riggs used vintage photos (a lot of them look pretty weird) to show certain things he describes in the story. But it’s not just a book with pictures in it where we’re merely seeing what’s being described – the characters are looking at photographs and we are given those photographs to see for ourselves.

Riggs has collected old black and white photos and seems to have created a story based on them. It was very interesting I thought.

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I won’t tell you more because I don’t want to give away anything, but if you like vintage photos (many of them weird and some creepy), magic, and danger then you may give this one a try.

And next time someone claims to see something you can’t, maybe you’ll think twice about calling them crazy. They could just be peculiar.

Read any good books lately?

Posted in Personal, Writing Endeavors

Writing for Fun vs Writing for Work

When asked if I write for fun or for work I say both. It just happens that my work is fun. This isn’t always the case, naturally, as it can be quite difficult to write when I have nothing to say or when my imaginative waters are shallow or, worse, stagnant. But generally I enjoy what I do.

Until days like today when my imagination is suffering from technical difficulties so instead of forcing myself to write, I reorganize my writing folder on my computer. There are folders for current/past projects but a lot of misc files were sitting around looking messy so I tidied up by sticking them some in a Misc folder and deleting others.

Go me. I’m so original.

Several files caught my eye as I was cleaning. Most of these stories were less than 1000 words long – short starts that never went anywhere. A lot of them could be traced back to either when I was living in Japan or just after that time period when my imagination was still being heavily influenced by my time there.

Holly would smile at some of the works as she would know all about them. She was always starting writing groups among her friends back then. Back in the day when we were all super excited to start new writing projects but mostly never taking them seriously. Makes me grin thinking back on it all. She was serious about it all so I think it irked her that the rest of us slacked off for the most part. Anywho…

After skimming through some of them I wound up just deleting them, but one in particular clamped down on my attention and didn’t let it go.

It was called MusingsRamble. I think it didn’t have any spaces because the program I wrote it on didn’t allow for spaces though I can’t be sure. The program was well over a decade old. It was another start with no finish, no middle even, but it went on a lot longer than 1000 words – 16 pages in fact! So surprising.

As I read to see if anything was salvageable, I was drawn back to that time in my life when I wrote it. There were parts that made me cringe and others that made me think. The story took me in and refused to let me go so that I used up all my morning writing time reading it. I’d say it was a waste of time except I don’t think it was.

The concept intrigues me. It’s grabbed my fancy once more as it did a decade ago. Instead of leaving it in the Misc folder, I gave it it’s own place – Land of Dreams and Nightmares. The title was right there in the story, screaming at me though I never noticed it when I was writing.

“Welcome…to the land of dreams.”

But there’s a problem. It’s exactly the sort of story that I’ve been warned against. At least one agent (don’t ask me to recall names) has strongly advised against stories that have a person being transported to another land. I guess it’s been done to death (HA! There’s another thing that’s been overdone). So I’m left with a dilemma: take time out of my stagnant writing career and pursue this for fun or leave it as is, sigh, and move on never to look back?

Decisions. Decisions.

One problem with the story itself (among many unimportant problems with it) is that if I did pursue it, would I be able to recreate the voices of the characters now that it’s 10 years later? They’re all rather unique because they were based off of the actual people I was around at the time. Loosely based.

There are those people who write blog novels – writing in sections and posting them at whatever intervals. I suppose I could try that, but I would have to know a lot more about the process and plan it out a lot beforehand. It might be fun.

Should I blog out this novel or leave it and focus on my “real” work? Any thoughts?

Posted in Books and Authors, Personal

That In-Between Stage

There’s a stage in my reading that I always eventually hit – what do I want to read? I pick up a book that I think I want to read and I’m going strong for however many pages before I get distracted by whatever. The next time I sit down to read, I want to read something else. So I pick up this other book and go for perhaps 10 minutes before putting it down and feeling like something else.

I just can’t find the right book to read!

by-the-pricking-of-my-thumbsCurrently, I started with By The Pricking Of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie. I really wanted to read another of her mysteries and I had yet to read this one (the only one I own oddly enough). A couple chapters in and I’m bored and playing with my iPad.Persuasion1995cover

The next day my husband puts in the movie Persuasion (1995 with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds) and the next thing I know I feel the burning need to read the book. Whenever I watch that movie, I always want to read the book. Doesn’t usually happen with any of the other movie adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. Just that one.

9781902197258So I read about a chapter in and set it aside. Nope. My imagination’s calling for something else. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft is at hand from the library. A chapter in and again, my attention is roving.

I don’t know what to read!!!  I think I’m in the mood for horror and mysteries but I can’t find the right one.

What should I read? Any suggestions?

Posted in Personal

Vengeance Is A Dish Best Served Cold

If you hadn’t guessed it from my 1-2 week-long absence, I’ve been temporarily out of action. At first it was because I had nothing to say and then it was because I forgot…and still had nothing to say.

I haven’t been writing all that much for 2 reasons:

  1. I wasn’t sure how to continue.
  2. I had to research the rivers in the Greek Underworld because it occured to me that the last part of what I wrote was completely wrong.

So it really didn’t matter that I wasn’t sure how to proceed because what I last wrote was wrong anyhow. Well, after 1-2 weeks of confusing research I was able to piece together a vague picture of how the rivers worked…more or less.

Agatha-Christie-And-Then-There-Were-None-1It took so long because I prefered to spend my free time reading for fun. One book was And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I liked it. It kept me guessing. I was able to get a little payback at the end too. My husband likes Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Ms. Marple stories. He’s really into detective stories and likes Sherlock Holmes as well. So I gave him the general layout of what was going on in the story. He asked me who did it but I had reached the end of the book and still didn’t know, so I read him the last few chapters including the final confession of the killer.

65502_backAs I’m reading the confession, though it hasn’t given a name I know who did it because each character’s job was distinct from each other’s and the killer’s job is eluded to (not subtly) in the confession. However, because my husband hadn’t read the book and I threw a lot of details at him (most of which I’m sure he didn’t retain as it was in English and that’s a second language for him), he still didn’t know who the killer was.

He HATES waiting to find out what happens and will always ask how things end if he thinks I know the ending. Most of the time this isn’t a problem. However, it became a problem – a very big problem – when we were watching Game of Thrones and he got a little too excited. When he was at work one night he googled the show and read/watched HUGE spoilers. Half the fun in a story for me is the anticipation and theorizing. But Mr. Blabbermouth over here was too excited and began spilling the beans. I told him repeatedly to shut up or die but he only got worse till I finally had to sit down with him and explain to him as calm a manner as I could that he needed to stop telling me the show’s secrets or he was going to find his tongue ripped out, his lips sewn shut, and his body floating bloated and lifeless in the river.

No, not really. Though I was tempted. He doesn’t listen to my death threats as they’re never serious. So I told him that I would hide the DVD when it came in the mail and watch it the next day while he was at work and my son at school. Then I’d immediately package it up and mail it out again so he couldn’t watch it. After that I might drop hints at what was happening but never really tell him anything but mostly I’d just stay silent about it all. I also refused to talk to him about the show after that. It’s no fun sharing something with someone when they can’t keep their bloody mouth shut about spoilers.

He stopped after that but the damage had already been done. It was laughable then and it’s laughable now but not for me. I was seriously upset about it because he was ruining one of the most awesome stories I had ever heard/seen/read.

Time passes, Game of Thrones has faded into the background, and along comes Agatha Christie again. He was curious. Who did it? Instantly I perceived my time for vengeance had come. I told him with a slow, sweet smile that I knew who it was. The confession practically shouted it out. Didn’t he know?

Man, that confession lasted pages and pages. And I read him every word of it. Every time he asked me who the killer was, I’d just smile and keep reading. I won’t reveal who did it here but it was surprising. I didn’t like the end of the confession because it described how the killer completed his/her final murder. It was a complicated process and it just didn’t ring true for me. Too complicated. Too difficult to imagine. Simple murders are the best. The rest were awesome; just the last one seemed contrived. The letter was signed by the killer so I waited a moment before finally reading the name to him. He was super surprised when he heard it. I think everyone would be.

“Vengeance is mine!” MUWHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Finally! Instead of blabbing spoilers, I made him writhe and wriggle in suspense. Serves him right. Goodness! It felt good!

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Later on when I related the whole thing to my mom she said I was evil for doing that to him. I think my actions were justified.

What do you think? Are you a spoiler blabber or more like me?

Posted in Personal

Decided on a Title for NT2!

Some of you might have noticed some changes here and there on my blog. Even if nobody did, that’s okay. It’s impossible to remember a single blog’s appearance 100%.

The changes are on my Novels page and on the sidebar where progress bars of my Greek Mythology novels are. NT2 is no longer in either place. What happened to it?

Easy answer: I given it a title!

WOO!

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From this day forward (actually, from some time last week), it shall be known as Shadow’s Strength.

Here’s another blog – Sir Writes A Lot by blogger Laura Mizvaria- that gives advice on how to figure out a title for your work:

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Did I give this title a lot of thought? Not really. When I first started trying to think of a title, all I was getting was craptacular crap. So I left off and referred to as Night’s Treasure 2, or NT2 for short.  I mean, in essence it was a continuation so the title would have fit had it been a movie series.

I was doing whatever on the computer (can’t remember now but it was semi-important) last week when my brain halted to allow a mysterious flow of titles race across my attention. BAM! I knew what to call it. End of story.

Sometimes it really is just that easy.

Ever have one of those epiphany kind of moments? Do tell!

Posted in Weekend Writing Warriors, Writing Endeavors

Weekend Writing Warriors #7

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This 8-sentence snippet is another from my published short story entitled Rapunzel. If you’re interested in reading the whole thing, you can find it in DM du Jour, a blog associated with the online magazine Danse Macabre.

If you’re interested in posting a snippet of your own story yourself or want to read things that other people have written, mosey on over to Weekend Writing Warriors. Every week they have a new sign-up sheet for people interested in showing their work to the world.

– 8-sentence snippet of Rapunzel

“My lady, I am Prince Rollin, defender of maidenly virtue and destroyer of witches.” He stared in rapture at her beauty. She kept her head tilted from him so he could only glimpse the side of her face which was partially shielded by her hair. “We will leave this accursed tower and you shall be my wife. You will never want for anything, my love, for you have but to ask and it will be yours.”

“You pledge your love to me?” she asked, her speaking voice as stunning to hear as her singing. His vow was enthusiastic. “You pledge your life to me and my happiness?”

– End Snippet –

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I wanted to do 3 snippets but since this short story is only 3 pages long, I’m sticking with 2 snippets. I mean, why bother getting anything published if I put the majority of it here?

If the last 8-sentence snippet wasn’t enticing enough, then hopefully this caught your interest. The link to the published full work at DM du Jour is given above in the beginning of this post.

Happy reading!