Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Dreaded Love Scene

Today is day 14 of National Novel Writing Month, know affectionately as "NaNoWriMo" unless it is Day 25 of your one month time-frame to write 50,000 words in...at which point you may just be calling it the "thing I swore I wouldn't do again, lest I become a heavy drinker."
I was doing pretty good, until I reached day TEN. That was the day I had to write (she whispers) a SEX scene.
Yeah. My characters usually get strangled, poisoned, eaten by werewolves or zombies...so this was new territory.
 I wanted this scene to be romantic (as romantic as a one-night/day/night stand can be) and passionate. Without using all those '-ing' words. I sweated a lot over this (no pun intended!), but when I was done...

 It was a little of this:


And a lot of this:


This, of course:


And...this:


Whew! Glad that's over!

Ok, I'm off to the land of NaNoWriMo to wreak more havoc. 
I'm much better at pushing my characters off cliffs than into the sack together! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Things I Miss About Halloween

Trick-or-Treaters
We rarely get children at the door on All Hallow's Eve anymore. The packs of roaming vampires, ghosts, witches, and pillowcase-toting princesses vanished along with the era of homemade popcorn balls and plastic Wonder Woman masks, I guess. I miss them...the toddlers struggling to stay upright with their jack-o-lantern buckets while Mom waited at the end of the walk; the off-key, hopeful chorus of "Trick-or-Treat!" and an occasional giggled, "Smell my feet!" And the "too big for this anymore, but I have to drag my little sister around" teens in their makeshift costumes.They acted aloof until the candy bowl came out...and then they were little kids again, if only for one night. The last teens I had at my door were driving their own car down the street. They hopped out wearing jerseys and basketball shorts (hello--daytime clothing is not a costume), snatched double handfuls of candy and left me feeling like I'd been raided.


Costumes
I dug up this ancient photo of (gulp) me and my puppy. Um, brother. Then I looked online at kid's costumes. Wow. Life ain't simple anymore. Watermelon fairy. Fallen angel (double yikes...it comes with fishnets). Zomberina (tutu included). Prom Queen Corpse (no, I'm not kidding). Captain America "party suit". Zombie Skate Punk. Zombie Hunter. And my personal favorite, "Headless Boy".

Carved Jack-o-Lanterns

There is no feeling in the world like reaching into a pumpkin and scooping its brains out. Slimy seeds, sticky tendrils, and the earthy smell just screams Halloween. You cannot have a true jack-o-lantern experience with magic markers, store-bought stickers, or press-on Mr. Potato head features. (oh, the horror!) 


Real Vampires
In my day, vampires were fearsome, blood-sucking, creatures of the night. Not sexy, sparkly boyfriends. Although I admit that Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise had the sexy part down in Interview with the Vampire. But then they tore out your throat, so there you go. Vampires--evil.

Being a Kid
On Christmas, I am a kid. I have a stocking. It always contains a bit of nifty kid stuff. (Thanks to my husband, Santa) It's easy to feel like a child on Christmas.
Halloween, though, is different. That magical feel of being allowed to wander the neighborhood at dusk, jumping with fright at unexplained movements in the shadows, daring each other to approach the creepy scarecrow rocking in a front porch chair, screaming just for the excitement of it all. These things are lost to me an adult. (A grown woman in a french maid costume standing on the street corner...likely to get offered more than a bag of candy corn.)

So, I'll just carve my jack-o-lantern...and I'll leave the porch light on...and I'll have candy.
Maybe I'll get a visit from "Zombie Sock Monkey".
I seriously hope not.
I might have to scream.




Saturday, August 10, 2013

August


Every year, August lashes out in volcanic fury,

rising with the din of morning traffic,

its great metallic wings smashing against the ground, 
heating the air with ever-increasing intensity.
       Henry Rollins

 This August is no exception around here. Fires are burning their way up the mountains and the asphalt clutches at your shoes. It's a hot, dry month and the clouds are still smothered by summer's haze.
 Feels like the right time to sit in the shade and watch the birds indulge in their bath...

...and maybe share a little poem, inspired by these afternoon visitors!

Bird Bubbles

The tiny sparrows
gather on the rim
of my garden bath,
crowding together 
as they flutter about
in the sun-warmed water,
reveling in the simple
pleasure of the bath
until suddenly, as one,
they fall silent--
cocking their heads
as if to say
hey, who farted?








Monday, May 27, 2013

A Simple Thanks

To all those whose first act of bravery was putting pen to paper and saying, "I'm willing to sacrifice my life for my country." It matters not where you served, or for how long... I THANK YOU. 
Grandfather

Brother

Nephew

Niece

Friend

Friend

Husband




For anyone whose hero didn't come home: 

their sacrifice - YOUR sacrifice - 
is NEVER forgotten.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Story of Lucky

This is the story of Lucky the hummingbird.
It is wondrous.
It is nerve-wracking.
It is sweet.
It is brave.
It is scary.
It is amazing.

Lucky hatched in a tiny nest high in our big-big tree. During the terrible winds of April, the branch broke and swung low, low over the driveway. The little nest was thrown sideways and nearly torn loose from its delicate moorings. Purely by chance, I found Lucky on the cement behind my car. I didn't run over him, or step on him. No cats found the tiny morsel of baby bird, and no ants had discovered him. He was ALIVE.
Wondrous!


Bearwalker pulled out the ladder and righted the little nest on the branch. He put tiny Lucky back inside. I climbed onto the car roof and, using some waxed thread, tied the nest securely to the branch. We let go and the branch swayed again in the wind, tiny baby Lucky curled inside. Would Mama abandon him and the funny-looking nest? She was buzzing over us frantically. We watched from the kitchen window and waited.
Nerve-wracking.

Hooray! Not only did Mama come back, but she seemed unfazed by the mishap. Three weeks passed and the nest stayed put. If you look closely, you can see the bits of spiderweb that Mama began adding to secure the nest. Bet you didn't know hummingbirds did that. Anyway, on with the story. The little baby grew and grew, his tiny beak sticking out of the nest, as he constantly watched the sky for Mom.
Sweet.

Yesterday, Lucky climbed up onto the edge of the little nest. The wind was fierce again, and he clung to the rim, swaying and watching for Mom to buzz in with a bit of protein. Lucky was still fuzzy, so tiny, and we watched him with affection as he examined his big-big tree world.
Brave!

Later in the day, I heard the unmistakable sound of a terrified and angry mother bird. I ran to the front yard and discovered, to my horror, a huge black crow sitting in the tree, eyeing the baby. Above him, a nest-robber Blue Jay schemed. Mama was fiercely buzzing both birds and chittering, trying to distract them from Lucky, who still sat exposed on his little nest. I yelled. I swung the broom. The crow left, and Mama chased the Blue Jay to another tree.
Scary.

 Bearwalker watched the nest for an hour. No more invaders.  I relaxed, weeded the garden. I was returning to the house when I saw it - the crow, hanging from the little branch, bending it low...with Lucky in his big black beak. No. No! I ran at the crow, yelling, swinging my arms... fierce as any Mama. He dropped Lucky and flew off. I couldn't look. I was in tears. "He's dead!" I cried, as Bearwalker bent over the tiny body.
"No he isn't," he said, picking up Lucky. He's...why, he's fine!"
AMAZING!!!!!

We couldn't put Lucky back in the nest, now that the crow knew he was an easy meal. We couldn't feed him like his Mom (hummer babies need a very specialized form of protein; sugar water can literally cripple them since it will halt their normal development). I searched the internet, looking for someone qualified to help our little Lucky, who was very contentedly nestled in Chloe's bird carrier in the kitchen, looking around with interested eyes. When we spoke to him, he hopped up on the edge of the carrier to peer out at us, unafraid.


Finally I found a phone number for the only licensed hummingbird rescue person for miles around. Miraculously, when she answered the phone I discovered she lived only a few blocks away from our house! She was thrilled Lucky had survived and took him in immediately, promising him a meal of special protein formula imported all the way from Germany. She told me she had another little guy of the same age for him to hang out with until they are both ready to be released.

So there you have it. The wondrous, nerve-wracking, sweet, brave, scary and amazing story of Lucky.

"Have you ever observed a hummingbird moving about in an aerial dance among the flowers--a living prismatic gem. It is a creature of such fairy-like loveliness as to mock all description."  
W.H. Hudson


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Tag Break!


My friend and enviably talented writer Tricia O'Brien, author of a very special dark fairy tale (I've read a bit...it's awesome with a capital A!) has thoughtfully "tagged" me in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. At first, I thought a bloghop was perhaps a toad-like creature with a tail like a rat and the aroma of last week's guacamole, but then she explained the concept, and I appreciated her thoughtfulness for including me! Here are the questions I was asked to answer:

What is the working title of your next book?        MISMATCHED BONES

Where did the idea come from for this book? The ideas for my stories come from that harmless-looking cottage in my imagination that is surrounded by autumn trees and singing bluebirds... and filled to the rafters with boiling cauldrons, not-quite-normal rabbits, overturned vials of unwise curiosity, steam-driven birds with very pointed beaks, butterflies with stingers, peanut butter and toadstool sandwiches, talking foxes and a locked trunk containing a straight-jacketed sock monkey.

What genre does your book fall under? I haven't a clue. Grown-ups read 'em and so do grown-up kids. My stories have jeepers-creepers, mystery, dark humor and often paranormal elements... so I just call them dark tales.

What actors would you choose to play the part of the characters in a movie rendition? Hmmm. I've got no one particular in mind, but remember that movie from the seventies called Trilogy of Terror -- in which Karen Black played the lead in all three of the horror shorts? I love that concept, and it would be nifty to have one actress do that for three of my stories on the big screen.

What is a one sentence synopsis of your book? Watch out for coyotes, take that necklace off NOW, don't take that trail, avoid dating a serial killer, fear alien babies and look underneath the stairs. (Yeah. I know. I have to live with this imagination.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I self-published my other stories: Becker, Not Like Other Girls and Stirring Up Spiders as e-books for Kindle. I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment-- formatting the books and creating my own covers. I plan to do that with this one.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? Another tough question. I have been working on a middle grade historical novel for over a year now, and it is like building a house. Hard, labor-intensive, time consuming. But the short stories I write are first-drafted usually in one sitting. I just love it when a snippet of overheard conversation or strange and unusual news story sparks that flood of creative energy, and I'll type away until it coalesces into something dark and original.

What other books would you compare this to in your genre? I'd say if you looked up collections of short horror stories, then it would be there, hopefully along with the likes of King's Nightmares & Dreamscapes (a girl can dream).

Who or what inspired you to write this book? I want to say I've always loved creepy tales. But in truth, I was pretty much a reader of horse stories and Florence Nightingale biographies as a child. As a teen, I developed an embarrassing devotion to Harlequin romances. (It was a small town. We had a bookmobile.) Once I left home for college, I discovered (drum roll) Clive Barker. I know, you thought I was going to say Steven King. He followed soon enough, along with Richard Matheson. I was hooked on stories of the strange and terrible from then on.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? The stories are short, some of them even qualify as 'flash fiction', which makes them perfect for reading while you wait for your torture dentist appointment, or for the sandman to take you to the land of nightmares pleasant dreams. Hopefully they will inspire you to see beyond the ordinary and into the dark world of what-if...

Here's a  bite-sized sample, from the story 'Coyote':
"Leia screamed—her old voice tearing on the high, raw notes as she tried to get down the steps to save her dog. Dad held her back, fear of the coyotes twisting his features. Mom pulled Evie’s face against her side so she couldn't see the terrible thing anymore. But of course she could still hear it."


I tried to get a few more folks on board for a hop, but they're all busy...um, writing. And that's what I'm off to do now, so thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Adventures of "Indi-Annie Jones"

Since my last post was in... um, October 2012...you may have wondered if I'd fallen off the face of the earth-- but actually, I only got as far as Central America. My adventure in January to Belize and Guatemala was amazing, exciting, challenging, and filled with all the greens and blues and turquoise of the Caribbean sea,  the ivory of sandy beaches and stone temples, the gold of fried plantains and the red of sunburn and mosquito bites!

 I discovered a few years ago that despite thinking all my life I was afraid of heights...I'm not! But I do have a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out)... thus I HAD to climb every temple...just in case I missed another spectacular view!
From the jungles to the ocean...and a tiny, pristine island called Laughing Bird Caye...
...where I faced my fear of wading into the ocean, swimming in the ocean, putting my face into the ocean, getting stung/bitten/eaten by something in the ocean, drowning for no good reason in the ocean... get the idea? Anyway... I took a big breath, strapped on the mask and fins and DID IT! It was awesome.
 This is one proud adventuress. FYI, that pale skin? Lobster by the end of the day.

All that hiking/climbing/swimming meant I needed fuel... and what could satisfy more than fresh live termites...
...seriously, they taste like carrots. 
For the more traditional meal, there was a bowl of hot, delicious Cow Foot Soup.

One of my favorite  experiences... canoeing into the silent, black, sacred recesses of what the ancient Mayan called "The Place of Fear and Darkness".
Barton Creek Cave. Spectacular and often a bit tight to navigate. I tried my best not to overturn our three man canoe as I played NatGeo photographer in the bow!
That skull is many hundreds of years old, embedded in the limestone of the cavern wall. 
Possibly the remains of a human sacrifice.
Moment of silence and awe now, for all things ancient and mysterious.

And then, of course, the thing I'm least afraid of...critters! They're what I live for when exploring.
 Curious coatimundi.
 Basking crocodile.
Noisy  howler monkeys!
 
The elusive harpy eagle (this one in a rescue facility...isn't he gorgeous!)
 There was a rescued jaguar there, too. We didn't see one in the wild, but saw a ton of cat footprints along the muddy trails in the Jaguar Sanctuary.
My favorite new bird...a "nightjar"...can you see her roosting on the branch? She will fly out at night, making a "poor will, poor will" sound, and eat moths. Yum.
A tapir. Ugly and proud of it. We were warned not to get too close to the tapirs... they pee on you when they get excited. Nice.
Everyone's favorite tropical bird!

I could go on and on...but  you should go adventuring yourself, and see the ancient ruins, taste the termites, and smell the tapirs! My own journey was amazing, beautiful, surprising, educational and unforgettable. Yours will be, too.