Posted in Life, Poetry, Writing

Horror, Poetry, and Cats: A.K.A. The Chaos of May


All it takes to know the chaos in my brain right now is a quick peek at my current Goodreads list. Poetry, horror, short stories, novels, audio books, YA—it’s all there, fighting for attention. This is, without question, too many books for my brain to handle at once, and yet I can’t seem to put any of them away. They sit on my nightstand, lurk inside my purse, wink at me from my phone’s Kindle app, and say hello when I start my car. Two of them are sitting in front of me right now, staring at me.

My overly ambitious reading list is only a symptom of my general state of being at the moment. My focus is diverted, my attention torn between every aspect of my life. I want to write, revise, research, read, and reorganize my bookshelves in equal measure. I simultaneously want to clean out the garage, watch old movies on Netflix and plant flowers. I want to spend all day outdoors and never leave the house. I want to bake a cherry pie with one hand while painting a picture with the other.

Mostly, I do a lot of list-making and head-scratching.

This time of year is always like this. When I was teaching, May meant a whirlwind of grading and last minute lessons and field trips and choir concerts and yearbooks and talent shows. It meant a constant flux between wishing my students never had to leave me and counting down the seconds until they were finally gone. I got married in May (that was a month of wonderful chaos) and the following year we got our puppy in May. (I have a vivid memory of piling everything, even my shoes, on top of the dining room table and out of his reach.) May is a month of good weather and great plans. It’s a time for putting things off until summer and then, just at the last moment, realizing your summer to-do list is much too long, and cutting it off in the middle.

This May, I wasn’t teaching, and I didn’t plan any weddings, and my dog is well past his teething stage, yet here I am with a mind cluttered with impossible multitasking and an unreasonable number of books lying open around me. How did this happen?

I blame World Horror Con, the Austin Poetry Society, and cats.


In addition to the books I bought and received for free in my goody bag at WHC, I also won the Horror Library Volumes 1-5 in a raffle. (Thanks Cutting Block Press!) SO. MANY. BOOKS.
In addition to the books I bought and received for free in my goody bag at WHC, I also won the Horror Library Volumes 1-5 in a raffle. (Thanks Cutting Block Press!) SO. MANY. BOOKS.

My first experience at World Horror Con was a very positive one. The schedule was packed, the panels were excellent, I had the best roomies ever (shout out to Annie Neugebauer and Ashley Davis!) and everyone I met was so friendly and welcoming. I had the opportunity to meet some amazing authors, editors, and agents, including Jonathan Maberry, Kami Garcia, Lisa Tuttle, John Dixon, Lucy A. Snyder, Alec Shane, Jennifer Barnes, Dacre Stoker, and Courtney Alameda. I also had the honor of attending the Bram Stoker Awards, where several of those authors took home trophies. (The Stokers are little haunted houses. I want one so bad!)

The whole con was so fantastic that I came home inspired to read, write, revise, submit, and of course to do it all RIGHT NOW. Hence, chaos in the brain.

Austin Poetry Society:


Of course, I couldn’t exactly dive headfirst into my WHC to do list when I returned home, because as soon as I arrived, I had to prepare for the Austin Poetry Society’s Annual Awards Ceremony, which took place just a few days after I got back.

I’ve been a member of APS for a few years now, and last year I joined the board. I’m proud of be a part of this volunteer-run organization because it’s full of people who really love poetry. The society has monthly meetings with speakers on diverse topics, and they hold both monthly and annual contests with cash prizes. These contests are open to all current members who are Texas residents. (If you live in Texas and are interested in joining, check out our website.)

I find poetry wonderfully distracting. Reading short stories makes me want to write short stories, and reading novels makes me want to write novels, but reading or listening to poetry makes me want to do everything. It inspires poems and stories and novels and walks and naps and phone calls to old friends. It wakes up old hobbies I haven’t thought about in months and introduces new ones I suddenly want to try.

This year’s awards ceremony—where I was honored with two first place wins for my poems “Wildflower Season” and “Things That Could One Day Find Their Way Into a Poem (in no particular order)”—sent me home with a head full of ideas, lists, longings, and travel plans. In other words, more chaos. (Lovely chaos, but chaos nonetheless.)


As it turns out, cats do have feelings, and my four missed me while I was gone. They all showed their excitement at having me home again in different ways, such as…

Biting me when I reach for office supplies.

She's not as sweet as she looks.
She’s not as sweet as she looks.

Begging for treats.

Don't let her fool you. She's a killer.
Don’t let her fool you. She’s a killer.

Refusing to speak to me.

Yes, that's a cat, not a giant tarantula.
Yes, that’s a cat, not a giant tarantula.

Following me everywhere I go, insisting on laying in my lap no matter what I’m doing, gazing into my eyes lovingly, and drooling on me.

Note cat #2 in the background waiting for more treats.
Me reading Jonathan Mayberry’s new middle grade novel, The Nightsiders, with cat #4 in my lap. Note cat #2 in the background waiting for more treats.

Okay, well at least one of them missed me. When one finds oneself trapped under a cat, the natural course of action is to read. And, when one is especially lazy, one reads whatever one can reach. That, primarily, explains how I came to be reading seven books at once.

The Great Purge

May is drawing to a close. Just yesterday, I looked at my summer to do list, shook my head, and started snipping it down to size. With every project I finish and every task I cross off and every book I focus on for fifteen whole minutes, I can feel the chaos in my brain diminishing. Soon it will be June, and I’ll be 100% chaos free.*

* Ha.

Posted in Reading, Writing

Horror-Related Happenings

Full moon rising over Austin, TX - May 3, 2015, photo by Carie Juettner
Full moon rising over Austin, TX – May 3, 2015, photo by Carie Juettner

More than once in my life, I’ve been told, This isn’t the right time for a horror story. Apparently some people think you can’t read a ghost story unless it’s midnight on Friday the 13th and you’re in the middle of an abandoned farmhouse with only a half-burned candle for light. And wolves howling outside. While I agree that’s probably the ideal setting for a spooky tale, I also believe that sunny days at the beach, front yard hammocks, and picnics are also excellent settings for horror stories. If a story is truly going to give you the creeps, it’s going to do it no matter what the time or temperature.

Having said that, it’s SPRING TIME! The skies are blue, the birds are chirping, the wildflowers are blooming, and… it’s time for some horror updates. 🙂

Something New, Something Old,
Something Published, Something Bold

Something New:

The hubby and I have started watching a new (to us) show—Bates Motel—and I’m really getting into it. I decided to give it a try based on Annie Neugebauer’s recommendation. (<– It’s really hard to read her enthusiastic rant and NOT feel compelled to watch it.) The show is currently in its fourth season and we’re only halfway through the first, but already it’s become a favorite. Of course, we had to start by re-watching the original Psycho. Anthony Perkins is unbeatable as Norman Bates, but I think the casting of young Norman in Bates Motel is excellent.

[Fun fact: While we were watching Psycho, a huge daddy long legs crawled over my husband’s head. Hee hee. That spider had perfect timing.]

Something Old:

I recently re-discovered this cool book I got when I was a kid. GHOSTS: A Classic Collection, Illustrated by Walt Sturrock, was published by Unicorn Publishing House in 1989. I don’t actually remember when or where I got it, but chances are it was a gift for my thirteenth birthday. (It certainly looks like the perfect Halloween-birthday gift.) The collection includes nine classic ghost stories, such as “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes” and “The Monkey’s Paw” (an all time favorite). In addition to the stories, there are thirty illustrations by Walt Sturrock, and they are beautiful and disturbing. You can see most of them on Sturrock’s website. This is the cover and one of my favorite pictures:

Ghosts: A Classic Collection cover and
Ghosts: A Classic Collection cover and “Was it a Dream” illustration by Walt Sturrock

As a kid, I admit, it was the illustrations that I cared about. I wasn’t actually a big reader when I was young and the stories were too long and too old fashioned for me to get into. But I loved the pictures and the book itself—a heavy black hardback with the headless horseman on the front and a silver skull on the back. Eventually, I did start reading the stories, but I’m honestly not sure I ever got through the whole thing. So I’m reading them now. Even the ones I already know, like “The German Student,” I’m reading again because I want to read them in this unique volume.

If you can find a copy of GHOSTS: A Classic Collection, grab it. If you’re a fan of horror, the stories may not be new to you, but the experience will. Also, it makes a great gift for the young horror-enthusiasts in your life, even if they just want to look at the pictures for now.

Something Published:

I’m excited to announce that my short story, “The Girl in the Attic,” has been accepted for Growing Pains, a new anthology coming soon from Sinister Saints, an imprint of Horrified Press.

From the Horrified Press website:

Growing up is never easy. But what if the growing pains experienced are unusual, fantastical … or the stuff of nightmares? How will your main character react to these changes? What about their friends, family and society at large?   What are the consequences for all those involved?

For this anthology, explore the challenges and mental trauma experienced by those struggling to deal with their unexpected life changes. Delve deep into your imagination to deliver twisted tales from all avenues of horror.

Here’s the catch—these stories must incorporate a YA as a main character, and must be appropriate for the YA audience. They can be told from any vantage point, and can be first or third person. Dark fairy tales, bizarre fiction, horror, surrealism, and dark science-fiction are all cool here.

They’re still accepting submissions through the end of the month, so if you have a YA horror story you think they might like, check out the guidelines on their website.

Something Bold:

This Thursday, I’ll be heading to Atlanta for WORLD HORROR CON! This will be my first horror-themed conference, and I’m so excited I can barely contain myself. In addition to meeting amazing authors like Jonathan Maberry, Kami Garcia, and Lisa Tuttle (just to name a few) I will also be rooming with two fellow horror-writing friends who I normally only get to hang out with in the online universe. (Annie Neugebauer and Ashley B. Davis, I can’t wait to see you!) Look for lots of tweets this week about my conference experience. #WHC2015

[And yes, I do realize that three women who barely know each other sharing a hotel room at a horror conference actually IS the perfect setting for a horror story. I’m willing to take my chances.]

One Last Thing…

Sometimes people are surprised to learn that I write creepy stuff. Just last week someone said to me, “You’re too sweet to write horror!” HA! I have three things to say about that. First, you’ve obviously never seen me when I haven’t eaten in a while. I’m not sweet then. I’m like a Snickers commercial on steroids.* Secondly, you don’t have to be a horrible person to write horror. My fellow horror writers are some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. Their stories might scare the poop out of you, but they’re a friendly bunch. And third, I think it’s kind of fun to surprise people. Maybe if I were an old hag with long gray hair and a hunchback and warts on my nose and thin, gnarly fingers and a raspy voice**, people would expect me to write horror, but then I’d miss out on the fun of showing up to critique groups looking like my normal “sweet” self and handing out stories full of ghosts and demons and murder and mayhem. I enjoy this.

* Ashley and Annie, don’t worry. I promise to eat during World Horror Con.

** I fully intend to fit this description some day. I say if you have to get old, do it in style.

My Horror Selfie -
My Horror Selfie –
Posted in Life, Writing

Tip #8: Share Carefully

A couple of weeks ago, I posted seven Tips for Taking the Stress Out of New Year’s Resolutions, and today I want to add one bonus piece of advice.

At this point, you’ve celebrated your accomplishments from last year and have made a list of balanced, attainable goals/resolutions/intentions/wishes for 2015. (Right? If not, there’s still time. After all, Tip #3 is Ignore the Calendar.)

Now what?


Tip #8 = Share Carefully

In life, there’s a fine line between sharing too much and sharing too little and I’m usually on the TMI side of it. I’ve learned the hard way that sharing my resolutions with everybody is a bad idea. After all, it’s possible that you won’t accomplish all of your goals this year, especially if you end up accomplishing new things that you didn’t even set out to do. It happens, and being flexible is okay. But it’s hard to remember that when people keep asking you about x and you’ve already moved on to y. It can lead to some awkward conversations. So remember that it’s okay to keep some things to yourself.

Then again, if you don’t share your resolutions with anybody, it becomes pretty easy to pretend they don’t exist, and that’s not good either. You need to have someone in your life who asks how things are going once in a while and helps keep you accountable.

My advice is share, but share carefully. The exact formula is up to you, but I like to share all my resolutions with one person (my husband gets to be the lucky recipient of the full list) and I choose a few select goals to share with the world. (Click here to see the ones I shared last year. I get three checks and a check-minus for that list. Not too shabby.)

Here are the resolutions I want everybody to know about for 2015:

* I will complete my first poetry manuscript and submit it to a contest.
* I will read at least 50 books. Some of the titles on my must-read list are:

The Shining by Stephen King
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Song of Myself by Walt Whitman
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural, edited by Marvin Kaye
(I’ve been picking my way through this anthology for a couple of years now. It’s time to finish it.)

* I will participate in the World Horror Convention in Atlanta in May. (Note: This does not say I will “go” to the convention. I’m already going. I’ve got tickets and plane reservations and a hotel room and a posse of two writer friends to travel with. It’s a done deal. My resolution is to participate. When you fly across the country to hang out with other lovers of horror, that’s no time to be shy. I plan to be present every second of the weekend and soak up as much inspiration as possible.)
* I will continue to monitor my use of have to, need to, and want to. (<– This is the best resolution I’ve ever made, and I make it again every year. Read about how it started here.)

Feel free to check in now and then and ask me how things are going. And if you have a resolution you want to share with the world, post it in the comments below!

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NOTE: This blog turns one year old this weekend! To celebrate, I updated the About page and added a FAQ tab. Head over there to find out if you’ve been pronouncing my last name correctly in your head. Chances are, you haven’t. 🙂