Posted in Halloween, Writing

Darkness Follows, Then Laughter Follows After

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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.

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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, Life, Teaching, Writing

Reasons to Celebrate

Life is still weird, and some days are hard, so it’s especially nice when you find a few reasons to celebrate. September has gifted me with some good ones.

Reason to Celebrate #1: FALL

The official start of fall is still a few days away, but last week the Texas summer took its leave. The temperatures dropped, the oppressive humidity blew away, and we even had a few days of hard rain and thunderstorms. There’s nothing quite like that first burst of cool weather after the long, hot months. I was so happy, I went out and bought my first pumpkin. It won’t be lonely for long.

Reason to Celebrate #2: A SMOOTH-ISH START TO THE SCHOOL YEAR

The drop in temperature coincided with the first day of school for my district. On Tuesday, September 8th, we began online teaching. Despite thunderstorms and power failures and zoom fatigue and even a mass internet outage that affected most of our school’s neighborhoods one day, it was still a successful start to the year. The students arrived ready to learn, and the teachers welcomed them with smiles and reassurances and well-planned virtual lessons.

It’s hard though. The amount of work that goes in behind the scenes to make that smoothness possible is too large for most people who don’t work in education to truly understand, and it means that sometimes dinner looks like this:

But we did it, and we’re still doing it, and we’ll keep doing it to the best of our ability. I’m very proud of my campus and my coworkers and my community. This morning, while walking the trail in my neighborhood, I saw this painted rock, and it felt like such a gift. I’m sending it out to all my fellow teachers.

Reason to Celebrate #3: GHOST STORIES

October is just a few short weeks away, which means ghost story season is almost upon us, so I’m excited that my new book, The Ghostly Tales of New England, is now available! This slim, but spooky volume includes twenty-two true stories of historical haunts in Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island, and it’s the perfect companion to a cup of hot chocolate and a campfire.

A friend of mine read some the stories to her six-year-old daughter, and now she’s writing a scary story of her own! It’s called “The Bodiless Foot,” and it comes with some wicked illustrations.

I think we have a new horror author in the making.

Speaking of writing inspiration, I’m doubly excited because Austin Bat Cave has asked me to teach an online Ghost Stories Workshop on October 17th. If you know a 5th-8th grader with a love of writing and a flair for the macabre, consider signing them up. Space is limited, so reserve your spot soon.

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I’m grateful for these reasons to celebrate, and I’m always on the lookout for more. Let me know if you find any.

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.

Ghostie

 

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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!