Posted in Teaching, Writing

Happy Spring!

Hello, World! What have you been up to? Me? Oh, the usual… reading, writing, accumulating pet hair on my clothes, and trying to get seventh graders to understand time management and the consequences of their actions. The time management thing would be easier if any of them could actually read an analog clock. [Here’s an idea: Let’s start putting analog clocks side-by-side with digital clocks in the hallways at schools to see if the visual comparison will help kids learn to tell time the old-fashioned way. It couldn’t hurt, right?]

As far as how the whole “actions have consequences” thing is going…

I used to have a cat who was addicted to curly ribbon. A package wrapped with curly ribbon couldn’t be in my house for five minutes before the cat would sniff it out, find it, and devour as much as possible, gagging all the while. I took to hiding my bag of gift-wrapping supplies in the top of my closet to keep the stuff away from him. One day, I couldn’t find Gink. I was looking all around my apartment, calling for him, when I realized… I’d left the closet door open. As I approached the space, I heard rustling sounds. Yep. High up on the shelf in my closet, there was a black tail sticking out of the bag of wrapping paper and ribbons. Having found the mother load, Gink gorged on it until he choked and began throwing up in that horrible unique way of cats. (Cat owners, you know it well. Front legs stiff, chin tucked, eyes bulging, tongue sticking out, sides convulsing, and the tell-tale “huck huck huck” sound.) But this was no ordinary hairball. Gink had swallowed, without chewing, an entire ball of curly ribbon. So when it started coming out, it didn’t stop. Like a terrible magic trick, lengths and lengths of blue plastic ribbon emerged from my cat’s throat, still connected, gagging him more with each heave of his little kitty belly. After a few agonizing minutes, it was all out. My poor, traumatized cat sat panting next to a pile of shiny blue vomit. I stroked his black fur and spoke soothing words into his fuzzy ears. “Poor Ginky. That looked awful. Why would you do such a thing? Do you see now? Do you see what happens when you eat curly ribbon? This is why I keep it away from you.” And as I comforted the poor dumb beast, he knelt down, stretched his neck forward, and tried to eat the pile of blue vomit.

Gink lived to 19 despite his addiction to curly ribbon.

Let’s just say that sometimes my students remind me of that cat. No forethought. No planning. Very little self control. For some of them, the curly ribbon is procrastination. For others, it’s online games on their school computers. For a few, it is the deep, unending NEED to reach across and poke the person in the desk next to them, over and over and over, for absolutely no reason.

Anyway, we’ll continue to work on it.

That’s not even what I came here to blog about today.

Spring has sprung, bringing all the usual delights: longer days, warmer weather, evil flowers, ghosts, and, of course, mummies.

Beware of Flowers

Today, I decided to celebrate the warm spring weather by going on a hike. Along the trail, I spotted these beautiful blooms and wanted to take pictures of them. Little did I know, I was falling right into their trap. When I knelt down to snap a photo of these pretty pink flowers, the dying cactus next to them stabbed me. Either that, or I was attacked by the world’s tiniest porcupine. Either way, I stood up with a finger full of thorns that I had to pluck out. Ouch! Beware of beauty. It bites.

Ghosts

If you think spirits only haunt in October, you’re wrong. I’m proud to announce that I’m writing my third book in the Spooky America series. The Ghostly Tales of Burlington will hit the shelves this fall. Since I have a day job and my own moderate case of curly-ribbon-esque procrastination on the weekends, I tend to do most of my writing late at night and, let me tell you, some of the stories in this Burlington book gave me the shivers, even though it’s nowhere near Halloween. The tales in this collection are so creepy, I may have to head to Vermont to check out some of these haunted places firsthand. Who wants to come with me?

In the meantime, you can still buy my first two Spooky America books. The Ghostly Tales of New England and The Ghostly Tales of Austin are available on Amazon, but if you order from me, I’ll send you a signed copy. $12 for one copy, or $20 for two. You can pay me via PayPal (@ cariejuettner) or Venmo (@Carie-Juettner). Just fill out this form to send me your address and the names of the person/people/pets you want the books signed to.

March Mummies

And last, but not least, springtime really wouldn’t be complete without a mention of mummies, right? On March 16th, Daily Science Fiction published my punny piece titled “20 Signs Your Neighbor Might Be a Mummy.” Check it out, and be sure to click the “Display Entire Story” button at the bottom to see the whole thing.

*

That’s it. That’s what I’ve been up to. Reading, writing, teaching, getting stabbed by plants, and determining whether or not my neighbors are mummies. Oh, and I also celebrated my dog’s 11th birthday. How cute is this good boy?

Posted in Halloween, Writing

Darkness Follows, Then Laughter Follows After

Click to enlarge passage.

That’s how my short story, “Darkness Follows,” begins. With a drink and a memory and a knock at the door.

I first started this story in 2016 during a Writers’ League of Texas workshop. It was just a page of notes then, but it soon grew into a full story. I titled it “Knocking” and submitted it to a contest with the theme “Let Us In.” The story didn’t place, so I kept editing and kept submitting. I really wanted the piece to be published. I’d combined things I love (Halloween, trick-or-treating, family, creepiness) with something even darker than ghosts and goblins (regret, betrayal, loneliness), and I loved the gloomy atmosphere I’d created. I felt disappointed each time an editor passed on the submission, but every time I got it back out there and tried again. The story which eventually evolved into “Darkness Follows” earned eleven rejections before finally finding a home this year in Halloween Haunts, an anthology from Gravestone Press. I’m thrilled it’s finally seeing the light of day.

It’s funny though… I don’t think I could (or would) write this story today. 2021 me isn’t so interested in the gloomy stuff anymore. I’m focusing my creative energy in new directions, looking for the humorous side of things and trying for happier endings. The tales I’m writing these days are filled more with life than death. They’re more collaborative than cut-throat. Maybe I’m getting soft, or maybe there are just enough scary things in the world right now that I don’t feel the need to add more. Whatever the reason, I find that I’m more often trying to make myself laugh lately than make myself look fearfully over my shoulder.

That’s not to say that I’m not ecstatic to finally share “Darkness Follows” with the world. I still love it. A few of the lines I wrote still give me the shivers when I read them, and the story as a whole still drapes me with a heavy sense of melancholy, which is just what I was going for when I first shaped the idea. But if I’d written it today? I think it might have a different ending.

I haven’t received my copy of Halloween Haunts yet. Like you, I’ll have to be patient to see what spooks and spirits await in its pages next to the phantom I conjured. I look forward to reading the book, of course. After all, what are October nights for if not campfires and hammocks and ghost stories accompanied by cricket serenades? But the woman who curls up with this collection of ghouls is a different person than the one who created her ghoul in the first place. This October, I’ll enjoy my moments with the macabre, but then I plan to chase my horror with some hilarity. I suggest you do the same.

My Halloween decorations walk the line between spooky and silly.

*     *     *

If you’d like to spook yourself this Halloween, pick up a copy of Halloween Haunts and read the rest of “Darkness Follows” and other creepy tales in paperback or e-book format.

If scary isn’t your thing, stay tuned for my next publication, “20 Signs Your Neighbor Might Be a Mummy,” coming soon from Daily Science Fiction. It will be free to read and promises more giggles than gasps.

Posted in Halloween, Writing

The Ghostly Tales of Austin

In October 2015, I went on an Austin ghost tour with some fellow members of the local chapter of SCBWI. We met at the Omni Hotel, then strolled around downtown, visiting the Driskill and the Texas State Capitol and other buildings with haunted histories while our guide, Monica Ballard, regaled us with stories of sinister secrets, ghastly murders, and eerie experiences.

Austin Ghost Tour, October 28, 2015

I love the night and especially love walking around my favorite places at night, seeing them by moonlight and learning their shadows. I would’ve had a good time exploring Austin in the dark regardless of what the topic was. But add ghost stories to a late-night stroll, and I’m in my happy place. I enjoyed myself so much that, when the tour ended, I bought a copy of Haunted Austin: History and Hauntings in the Capitol City by Jeanine Plumer to read more about Austin’s ghosts. I took the book home and gobbled up all the good stories inside.

I had no idea on that night back in 2015 that six years later I would be adapting Plumer’s book for middle grade readers.

In 2020, I wrote my first book in the Spooky America series from Arcadia Publishing: The Ghostly Tales of New England. I was excited about the chance to adapt one of the Haunted America books for young readers and loved learning more about New England, an area of the country I’ve visited a few times and whose history and scenery I love. But I really wished I could write about some ghosts closer to home, so when the opportunity came along to write the haunted history of my own town, I was thrilled. The Ghostly Tales of Austin comes out on Monday, and I can’t wait to share the spooky side of my city with young readers.

I put a lot of heart into this book and learned a lot about Austin along the way. Did you know that Austin suffered a devastating flood in 1900? Or that a ghost wagon haunts Westlake? Some of the stories in this book are not for the faint of heart. For instance, I suggest you don’t read Chapter 2 about Josiah Wilbarger while you’re eating. But if you’re going to the Capitol anytime soon, you should definitely read Chapter 9 before you arrive, so can be on the lookout for the ghost of Colonel Love. And I highly recommend visiting Mount Bonnell while in Austin, but you might want to leave before sunset if you don’t want to experience anything unsettling.

I have fond memories of that ghost tour back in 2015, and I’m proud to now have a part to play in passing down the spooky history of a city that I love. Austin’s ghosts await. If you’re willing to meet them, pick up a copy of The Ghostly Tales of Austin!

If you want an unsigned copy of the book, you can order it from Amazon or, better yet, from BookPeople, Austin’s own one-of-a-kind local bookstore. But if you would like a signed copy, you can order directly from me for $12. Send me a message via my contact page with your name, address, and what you want written in the book (either just a signature or a dedication). I’ll let you know how to send payment, then I’ll get to the post office ASAP, and you’ll have a personalized copy of The Ghostly Tales of Austin before you can say poltergeist three times*!

*Just to be on the safe side, I do not actually recommend saying poltergeist three times.