Posted in Teaching, Writing

Attics, Windows, and Weirdness

Happy Monday the 13th! Muahahahaha!

I realize it’s usually Friday the 13th that you have to beware of, but once you see what I have to share with you today, I think you’ll agree that this date has a sinister side too.

The Horrors of Standardized Testing

First, it’s STAAR testing week. If you’re a teacher or a student in Texas, that’s enough to make you shudder right there. If you’re reading this post between 8:15AM and 12:45PM central time, please know that I am stuck in a silent room with thirty seventh graders and no access to the outside world, trying to keep myself from going crazy by anagramming their names in my head and making mental pie charts of the types of shoes they’re wearing. Oh, the horrors.

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More Entertaining Horrors

Don’t worry; there are other, better horrors today too. For instance, my short story, “Window,” was published today at Havok. It’s a flash fiction piece, so it’s short enough to read on a bathroom break (<– if you have a job with unscheduled bathroom breaks, thank your lucky stars) but there’s a pretty strong creep-factor packed into those few pages.

Think you’re too scared to read it? You better decide quick because the story will be free to read today only. Beginning tonight at midnight, it will be available only to subscribers. So, in order not to be reading it during the witching hour, you might as well buck up and read it now. If you enjoy the story and have a Havok account, consider rating it. The stories with the most votes will be included in the upcoming print anthology.

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If you read “Window” and survive, then check out my longer short story, “The Girl in the Attic.” This story was originally published in Growing Pains by Sinister Saints Press, but it can now be read for free in Allegory. There’s no clock ticking on this one, so read it at your leisure. It’ll give you a good reason to put off cleaning out your attic for another year.

Horrors of the Weird Variety

If you’re not dealing with standardized testing today and can’t bring yourself to read about creepy windows and attics, then spend your Monday the 13th considering this madness.

A few days ago, a couple of very good friends of mine stayed at our house. They slept in our guest room, which is also my office. This isn’t usually a problem, but these particular very good friends are also very good pranksters, and my collection of books and office supplies offers them plenty of fodder for their mischief. I never know what I’ll find (or not find for days, weeks, or months) after they visit. This time was no exception. Shenanigans were definitely afoot, and I know I haven’t discovered them all yet.

One thing they did was use my set of wooden letters to leave me a message on my bookshelf. That was easy to spot and pretty cute. They also left me a cryptic note that looks like a piece of a larger puzzle, something I haven’t even tried to figure out yet. That’s also harmless and cute. But today when I looked up from my desk, I got more than a little creeped out when I saw THIS:

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That is a stuffed pony that I loved when I was a little girl wearing the fake witch nose I wore last year for Halloween.

Not only is it really, really, really, really disturbing, but I had no idea where these very good friends got my witch nose! These people are not above a bit of snooping. I know this because my wooden letters were in the closet. Then again, they were in a box clearly labeled “SET OF WOODEN LETTERS” so, yeah, not hard to find. But my witch nose? Even I couldn’t have told you where that thing ended up after Halloween. If I had to guess, I’d say in the trash or in a box in the garage.

I immediately texted the above photo to my very good friends and asked them where the heck they found my witch nose, wondering just exactly how much of my stuff I need to keep under lock and key during future visits. The reply I got did not make me feel better.

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Um, what?!?!?! Freaking out, I showed the photo to hubby, who said, “You just now saw that? I did that months ago.”

*sigh*

Apparently, I am not very observant. When I get home from actively monitoring the STAAR test, I’m going to take a GOOD, LONG LOOK around my guest room and see what other little treasures I can find.

But I’m not going in my attic. Nope, nope.

Posted in Lists, Writing

No Joke

I’m posting this tonight rather than tomorrow morning because I don’t want anyone to think anything in here is a joke. I also don’t want anyone to avoid reading my post because they’re worried it might be a joke. I also don’t want to post it and then become suspicious of all the comments because I’m concerned they might be jokes.

If you think I’m being way too paranoid about April Fool’s Day, that’s because you didn’t grow up in my family. We celebrated every holiday. We dressed up on Halloween, watched fireworks on the 4th of July, pinched people who weren’t wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, and lied, joked, and pranked on April 1st. I walk backwards looking over my shoulder on April Fool’s Day and treat every story, message, and plea for help with suspicion. It’s the way I was raised.

[Click here to read about the time my cats pranked me on April 1st.]

I don’t devote much time to April Fools anymore– call it maturity, call it wisdom, call it laziness– but last year when April 1st fell on Easter, and I was visiting my parents for the weekend, I put googly eyes on everything in my mom’s kitchen. That was fun.

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But I digress…

The reason I’m writing is to share three pieces of news with you which are not jokes. I promise.

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 1.54.06 AMFirst, earlier this year, my story “Phoenix” was selected as a runner-up in the WOW! Women on Writing Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest, and Sue Bradford Edwards was kind enough to interview me about my writing process for WOW’s blog, The Muffin. You can read my answers to her questions and see a cool picture of a cicada here.

Also, I’m excited to announce that my story “The Girl in the Attic,” which was originally published in Growing Pains by Sinister Saints Press, will be reprinted next month in Allegory. So, if you haven’t had the chance to read this creepy tale, soon you’ll be able to enjoy it for free.

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Finally, I’m happy to share that my good friend Susan Rooke, author of The Space Between and its sequel, The Realm Below, nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. The VBA is a way for bloggers to acknowledge fellow writers and recognize them for their content. I’m honored to be chosen by Susan, because her blog is awesome. It’s equal parts writing, humor, and delicious food and drinks. Her stories about her family and her life in the country always make me smile, and her recipe for sweet batter bread is now one of my favorite things to bring to potlucks. It’s always a big hit. So, thank you, Susan!

The rules of the Versatile Blogger Award are…

1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog. (Done)
2. Tell your nominator and readers 7 things about you. (See below)
3. Choose up to 15 bloggers whom you admire for their content (writing and/or images) and creativity. Nominate them in turn. (Comin’ up next)
4. Inform your nominees. (Will do)

Since some of my favorite bloggers have already been nominated, I’ll just add four: Ashley B. Davis, The Bohemian Freethinker, Annie Neugebauer, and Love, Teach.

Ashley Davis is my writing buddy, critique partner, and a very persuasive recommender of good books. She’s also a mom of twins and a blogger. We’ve only met once in person (what? how is that possible?) but we meet almost every Sunday morning online to write and talk about writing and talk about books and drink coffee together through the interwebs. Ashley’s blog is awesome because she thinks deeply about things. Whether she’s writing about a book she loves or an event she went to or about the writing process itself, her post is going to be honest and genuine and deep. She really puts herself on the page, and I love that about her. Go listen to her read her poem “Time Consuming” and try not to get chills.

Penny R. Pierce, author of The Bohemian Freethinker, is a good friend I’ve never met. We found each other through our blogs and bonded over our love of pets and teaching and poetry. Penny is a musician and a teacher and a thinker, and she has such a big heart. Our virtual friendship has moved beyond the screen into snail mail. We send each other postcards and letters every few months. Anyone who still communicates by snail mail is alright in my book. Go read her post “When Time Stands Still” to understand her unique outlook on the world.

I owe so much to Annie Neugebauer. I met Annie at a Poetry Society of Texas Summer Conference when I was first starting out as a blogger, and I learned so much about creating an online presence from her great example. Annie’s blog is professional, organized, and informative, while also being beautiful and whimsical and inviting. Annie writes for other sites as well, such as LitReactor and Writer Unboxed, but the hauntingly poignant posts at her home page are still the ones I like best. Check out her latest post and be sure to congratulate her on being a Bram Stoker Award Nominee!

Ah, Love, Teach. I love Love, Teach. She gives me teacher tingles (which is a phrase that makes my students giggle and blush out of embarrassment for me). She makes me laugh and cry and drop my jaw in awe that she can read my mind so specifically. And I am SOOOOOOOOOO excited about her recent announcement that she is writing a book! (Note: If you are a teacher, Love, Teach’s book is what I’m giving you for your birthday in 2020. There. Shopping done.) I can’t possibly pick a favorite post from her blog, but here’s one about teacher memes that cracks me up.

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Ok, I’m almost done with this post. When I started writing, my dog was awake, and I was rambling about April Fool’s Day and how I didn’t want to post this tomorrow. But if I don’t finish soon, it will BE tomorrow. So here, in no particular order and without thinking too hard, are 7 things you might not know about me.

  1. I have hazel eyes.
  2. I make yummy cookies.
  3. I love the song “Roam” by the B-52s, but I don’t know any of the words. That doesn’t stop me from singing it.
  4. I can recite “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service from memory.
  5. I have watched this video of a mama raccoon trying to teach her baby raccoon to climb a tree 14 times this weekend. Make that 15.
  6. I am childfree by choice. I don’t want to be a mom.
  7. I love it, love it, love it when my dog wags his tail in his sleep.

Ok, that’s it. Good night, and good luck tomorrow.

Posted in Writing

Phoenix

WOW.

That’s how I felt when I found out my story “Phoenix” had been selected as a runner-up in the WOW! Women on Writing Flash Fiction Contest.

I’ve been a WOW! reader for years. I first discovered their quarterly flash fiction contest back in 2013. I submitted a couple of times, without success. My writing wasn’t at the level they sought, and I didn’t yet have a good grasp of what flash fiction really meant. But I started reading their blog, The Muffin, where I drew inspiration from their writing tips and anecdotes, eventually becoming a guest blogger myself, twice in 2014 (in September and November) and again in 2016. I was honored to have my words share space with the women who had motivated me.

This fall, I decided I was ready to give the flash fiction contest another try. I submitted my 748-word story “Phoenix” and crossed my fingers.

“Phoenix” is a subtly witchy story about the power of nature and the power we hold within ourselves. It’s about persistence and sacrifice and a love for unwanted things. It’s unlike most of the pieces I write, and I didn’t know how it would be received, so I was ecstatic when I learned it had placed in the top ten of the contest.

(A visual collage of “Phoenix”)

I want to thank the editors at WOW! for selecting my story as a finalist and Heather Flaherty of The Bent Agency for choosing it as a runner-up. I appreciate you giving Gwen and her story a home.

Go to this link to read all the winning stories from the Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest. Or, to skip straight to “Phoenix,” simply click here.

WOW! will be publishing an interview with me on The Muffin, so if you’re interested in hearing the background story of “Phoenix” and what the writing process was like, stay tuned…