Posted in Halloween, Writing

Let’s Investigate That Strange Sound! (And Other Bad Choices During the Month of October)

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October is here, and that means one thing: neck aches. Why? Because if you’re smart, you’ll constantly be looking over your shoulder.

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This particular creepy crawly got started a little early this year. It decided to hide IN MY BED last weekend. Not funny, Ms. Scorpion. Not funny at all.

October is the month of Halloween. It is the month when spirits roam the earth, and the dead play tricks on the living, and creepy crawlies have their fun.

October is also the month of poor choices. It is the month when people decide to watch slasher movies at midnight during thunderstorms, and hunt vampires at sundown, and say things like, “Let’s split up!” when there’s a madman on the loose and their cell phone battery has just died.

In other words, October is the month for horror. It is my favorite month.

Every year, I spend October scaring my loved ones and scaring my neighbors and (ultimately) scaring myself. Despite my knowledge of October’s wiles and my propensity for carrying flashlights into the dark and peering out windows before opening doors and always, always, always checking behind shower curtains, I too make poor choices during this month of spooks and specters. I often spend so much time looking behind me that I run face first into a spider’s web. Or I wander into the yard at night to bring the dog inside, only to realize that our dog is in the house and isn’t the thing making that snuffling sound in the bushes. Or, sometimes, I get distracted and accidentally trick myself with my own traps. (A hazard of haunting.)

This year, though, I’m taking my October foolishness to a whole new level.

This time tomorrow, I’ll be flying (alone) to Pennsylvania to spend five days in a remote cabin in the mountains with ten strangers who write horror. Oh, and there’s limited cell phone service.

Why would I do such a thing? Because I’ve been given the incredible opportunity to attend the Books With Bite workshop at the Highlights Foundation. There, I will study with authors Nova Ren Suma and Micol Ostow, and that is worth sleeping with one eye open while cuddling a baseball bat.

Still, if you haven’t heard from me in week, send help. Just make sure the person comes alone, at night, in a car that’s low on gas, and doesn’t tell anyone where they’re going first.

After all, it’s October.

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*   *   *   *   *

October is also my birthday month, and I love giving gifts almost as much as I love getting them, so I’m hosting a giveaway. On November 1st, I’ll be selecting three winners to receive one of the following prizes:

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  • A copy of The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (the first book in my favorite series: Lockwood & Co.)
  • A copy of Susan Rooke’s debut fantasy novel, The Space Between (Susan is a friend of mine and I’m so excited about her new book!)
  • Your choice of one of the journals from my Etsy shop.

To enter, just comment on one of my October blog posts OR share one of the posts on social media, and use my contact form to send me a link to it. Each person can enter up to five times, so feel free to share on multiple platforms. Good luck!

Posted in Halloween, Life, Teaching, Writing

Where Did October Go?

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I blinked and it’s November.

Where did October go? One moment it was here, in the coyote’s howl and the spider’s skittering legs and the moon’s game of hide-and-seek, and the next moment it was gone like that shadow that lingers in the corner of your eye, the one you can’t quite catch.

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for the past few years may have been confused or even alarmed at my near-silence these past few weeks. After all, October is my favorite month, and I usually fill my blog with creepy stories and spooky poems and tips for how to best haunt your neighbors.

Don’t despair for me, dear readers. Although I kept quiet this October, rest assured that I was happily haunting all the while.

I decorated my yard with ghouls and ghosts and tombstones…

My spooky display this year.

I carved jack-o-lanterns…

The jack-o-lanterns I carved.

And I dressed up not once, but twice, as a ghost writer for my family’s party and a witch on Halloween…

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I also went to House of Torment with my new coworkers, ate way too much candy, and celebrated the publication of my flash fiction story “The Night Children” in last month’s issue of Havok Magazine. (Psst! You can actually read my story for free with the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon.)

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Besides that, I also graded a lot of papers, took a great class at The Writing Barn with the wonderful K.A. Holt, graded some more papers, squeezed in a bit of reading time with my most snuggly cat, and then graded a few more papers just for good measure.

So, you know, I’ve been busy.

I hope to see you more often over the next few weeks. I’m keeping my eye on November. This month is not going to slip away from me.

Wait… is it already the 7th? How did that happen?!?!

Posted in Halloween, Reading

Haunted Austin, A.K.A. Be Careful With Your Brain

Happy Day-After-Halloween!

I had so much fun yesterday that I forgot to even post here. 🙂

My Halloween-Birthday was a laidback day of hanging out with my hubby and pets, and I loved every minute of it. The day included some very thoughtful and spooky gifts (such as the eyeball necklace and Day of the Dead bottle opener from my hubby’s sisters) and lots of ghostly books (because my family and friends know me well). I also went to see Hotel Transylvania 2 (so cute), had a nice nap (when you’re 39 you get to nap on your birthday if you want), and had a great time handing out candy to all the adorable trick-or-treaters in the neighborhood. I think my favorite costume this year was the little boy wearing the skeleton suit and rainbow butterfly wings.

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My birthday celebration ended with one of my favorite pastimes—reading scary stories in bed. This year, I chose nonfiction and opened up my new book, Haunted Austin: History and Hauntings in the Capital City. It’s by Jeanine Plumer who, coincidentally, is the woman who started the Austin Ghost Tours, which I attended for the first time last Wednesday night.

This isn’t an official book review because I’m only halfway through the stories so far, but I can already tell you this is a great book. I’m no stranger to stories of local hauntings. I like to pick up local lore on vacations, and have read both Haunted Alaska and Haunted Maine among other things. Strangely, though, I’ve never learned much about my own town’s ghostly lore until now.

While I enjoyed both the Alaska and Maine books, there wasn’t a lot of substance to their ghost stories (no pun intended). They focused on the haunting part and skimped on the background info, often leaving the causes of the disturbances vague or easily doubted. But Haunted Austin is a well-written volume that concentrates on the history of the city and then shares snippets of ghostly phenomena that relate to that history. Some people might be disappointed that Plumer devotes eight pages of text to the Lake MacDonald flood in April of 1900 before mentioning any specters, but I loved it. I’m learning so much about Austin and, to me, the history makes the ghost sightings that much more intriguing.

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So, last night, Halloween night, I was in bed reading Haunted Austin, and although I was loving the book, I didn’t expect it to scare me. I mean, being told that someone saw a ghost is cool, but not skin-crawling, make-you-look-behind-you creepy. And I was right—the book didn’t scare me. But one story totally and completely traumatized me and made me worry I would have nightmares. That was the story of Josiah Wilbarger.

When something traumatizes me, I like to tell as many people as possible so that they can be traumatized too. (I’m generous like that.) So I’m going to sum up the story for you here.

(Warning: You might want to sit down and stop eating.)

Josiah Wilbarger was shot in the neck by Comanches in 1833 and left by his friends who thought he was dead. But really he was just temporarily paralyzed. The Comanches stripped him naked and scalped him WHILE HE WAS CONSCIOUS, then left. He later came to, regained his ability to move, and crawled for a while before being rescued due to prophetic dreams and ghostly appearances. (That part was cool but not what traumatized me.) Josiah lived for eleven years after being scalped, BUT…

“Wilbarger’s head where he had been scalped never healed, leaving a portion of bone exposed. He kept the area covered as best he could with scarves and hats, even fashioning a metal plate to cover the hole. In time though, the bone became diseased and weakened, finally exposing the brain. Sadly, infection made its way into the moist tissue and eventually worked its way to the inside of his brain. The pace of his slow deterioration accelerated when he bumped the exposed spot on a low door frame.”

AAAAAAAAA! EW! EW! EW! He had a HOLE in his HEAD exposing his BRAIN and he bumped it on a door frame! HE BUMPED HIS BRAIN ON A DOOR FRAME!!!!

Forget fiction horror stories, this was the most horrible, disgusting thing I’ve read in a LONG time. I look forward to seeing what the rest of Haunted Austin has in store for me.

Have a nice day, and try not to bump your brain on anything.