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…

costumes

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.

Posted in Halloween, Life

It’s October!

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The air is getting cooler, and my yard is filled with pumpkins and creepy creatures, including Edward Broomhands, who’s new to the family. I have the theme song from The Blob stuck in my head, and all my smiley faces have fangs, and I’m happy, HAPPY, HAPPY because my favorite month is here!

Don't mess with Edward Broomhands.
Don’t mess with Edward Broomhands.

Last year I wrote NINE Halloween-related blog posts during the month of October. Wow. Sadly, I have no intention of trying to break that record this year, or even tie it. My little witchy heart wants to, but between jobs and novel revisions and various festive events on the calendar, I just don’t have the time. Plus I’ve got those zombies to kill, that monster to reincarnate, some apples to poison, and somewhere in there I’ve got to get these horns looked at. See? I’m swamped. In fact, if you see me blogging more than three times this month, STOP ME! It means I’m neglecting something important. Or I’ve been possessed.

But before I leave you to your own ghoulish amusements, here are a few things I think you should know.

Fun Literary Halloween Events

First, there are some really cool Halloween-themed literary events in Austin this month. Or literary-themed Halloween events. I’m not sure. I just know they all sound awesome.

Grimm’s Ghostly Fairy Tales & Haunted Trails at Pioneer Farms – This family-friendly event runs for three weekends and includes all the fixings for a spooktacular Halloween.

Texas Book Festival Lit Crawl – On the night of October 17th, authors and book-lovers will be gathering all over the city for unique interactive events such as games, trivia, and collaborative short stories. One session called Are You Afraid of the Dark? will be held in the Texas State Cemetery, where YA authors will tell spooky tales and ghost stories.

SCBWI Ghost Tour – If you’re a member of SCBWI, join the Austin chapter for a ghost tour on October 28th, when we’ll take a haunted moonlight walk through some of Austin’s creepiest history.

A Special Gift

Last year, I posted a plea to anyone who reads my blog to help me find the Halloween artwork my dad made for me that was stolen several years ago. Unfortunately, my post turned up no leads, and I came to terms with the fact that I’d probably never see the thing again. That’s still true. But this year, my dad made me a new one that’s even bigger and more awesome that the one that was taken.

Made by my dad with spooky love
Made by my dad with spooky love

Thanks, Dad! I love it. And to any would-be thieves out there, you should know that this one has been secured so that you can’t run off with it. It’s also been cursed. Anyone who steals it will be doomed for all eternity. Oh and my pumpkins are also cursed. And my car. And my mail. And my potted plants. Look, just don’t steal from me. Everything I own is cursed.

And last, but certainly not least…

We Are All Being Watched

It’s now hammock weather in Austin, which I love. About a week ago, I spent three hours reading in my hammock in the backyard. When the sun went down and I could no longer see my book, I got my book light and a blanket and kept reading. I stayed out until about 9:30 p.m. While I was out there, I kept seeing tiny greenish glints coming from the grass in various places. I wondered what was reflecting the light, worried it might be something sharp like a piece of broken glass. I meant to check later but forgot and by the time I remembered I couldn’t find them again.

A few nights later, while standing on the back porch shining a flashlight in the backyard (because I thought I heard something), I saw them again—a tiny green sparkle under the rosemary bush, another under the hammock, a third by the bird bath, a fourth in the grass. I decided to investigate.

You know what they are? Spider eyes! They are the eyes of spiders. Spiders that are looking at ME with their spider eyes.

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That is all. Sleep tight.