From Black Cranes: Rites of Passage

The eighth tale in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women is “Rites of Passage” by Gabriela Lee. The story may be fictional, but the tale she tells is true in a deeper level. It’s a story every woman can feel stirring at the bottom of her heart. It is in our blood.

And blood is what Lee gives us, but not for gore and hack-n-slash sensationalism. Gabriela Lee mines the feminine experience to find the significance of bleeding for a woman. It heralds change. It represents what we must sacrifice. Like ourselves, if we give just enough we bring forth life. Like blood, when we give too much we die.

“Rites of Passage” by Gabriela Lee from Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women

“Rites of Passage” haunts with the primal fears of being a woman. In many ways Lee tells the metaphorical story of motherhood. Having a baby robs us of our independence but a mother will kill to keep her child safe. Lee brings out the duality of maternal instinct by giving us a narrative full of conflicted emotion. Lush storytelling builds distinct worlds and characters we can connect with, even if the connection is brief.

Everyone knows to never come between a mother and her cub, so who is at fault when blood is spilled?

“Rites of Passage” by Gabriela Lee is the eighth story in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. Gabriela Lee graduated with a Master of Arts in Literary Studies from the National University of Singapore, and earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Studies, majoring in Creative Writing, from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. She won the PBBY-Salanga Prize in 2019 for her story “A Delicate Strength,” which is about her grandmother; it’s currently available as Cely’s Crocodile: The Art and Story of Araceli Limcaco Dansand published by Tahanan Books. She is currently an assistant professor at the Department of English and Comparative Literature at UP Diliman. She can be reached at her various social media accounts on http://about.me/gabrielalee and under the online name @sundialgirl.

Get your copy of Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women
direct from the publisher here.


Find out about the other stories
in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (and more)
here under the #amreading tag.

Related links:
Black Cranes: A Review in Verse by Renata Pavrey | Tomes and Tales
Skeleton Hour 04: Black Cranes | Horror Writers
Black Cranes Release Day Panel | Omnium Gatherum
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray I | Gingernuts of Horror
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray II | Gingernuts of Horror
Meet Black Crane Lee Murray | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Grace Chan | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Geneve Flynn | AngelaYurikoSmith.com

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From Black Cranes: Truth is Order and Order is Truth

The seventh tale in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women is a seamless melding of two cultures. In “Truth is Order and Order is Truth” by Nadia Bulkin she connects Asian myth with New England Americana as ancient meets neo-ancient.

Rich world building is hung across the framework of relationship. Bulkin fills out the atmosphere of this strange land of hybrids by painting with all the senses. The scent of the ocean, the cold winds across sand, textures of gold and finery… all of these things are woven into this tale of two cultures.

“Truth is Order and Order is Truth” by Nadia Bulkin from Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women

The end is solid and satisfying with a trumpet of victory for the oppressed. The duality of the story arc echoes both fictionally as well as having weight in the real world. A story about hybrids, the story itself is a hybrid of speculative lore. There is a subtle call to arms here for those that have endured a stolen birthright, but beyond that is a message of endurance. We will not go quietly into the night. We will become the night.

“Truth is Order and Order is Truth” by Nadia Bulkin is the seventh story in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. Nadia Bulkin writes scary stories about the scary world we live in. Thirteen of them can be found in her debut collection, She Said Destroy (Word Horde, 2017) – nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award and a This is Horror Award for best collection. Her short stories have appeared in editions of The Year’s Best Weird Fiction (Kelly & Shearman, ed., 2018, Kelly & Strantzas, ed., 2016), The Year’s Best Horror (Datlow, ed., 2017), and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror (Guran, ed., 2017, 2016, 2015, 2009), and have been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award four times.

Nadia has a B.A. in Political Science from Barnard College and an M.A. in International Affairs from American University. She also writes about and obsesses over nationalism, post-colonialism, and sport – her non-fiction essays have appeared in Tor, The Diplomat, and The Battle Royale Slam Book. She grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia, before relocating to Lincoln, Nebraska. She now lives in Washington, D.C.

Get your copy of Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women
direct from the publisher here.


Find out about the other stories
in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (and more)
here under the #amreading tag.

Related links:
Black Cranes: A Review in Verse by Renata Pavrey | Tomes and Tales
Skeleton Hour 04: Black Cranes | Horror Writers
Black Cranes Release Day Panel | Omnium Gatherum
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray I | Gingernuts of Horror
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray II | Gingernuts of Horror
Meet Black Crane Lee Murray | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Grace Chan | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Geneve Flynn | AngelaYurikoSmith.com

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From Black Cranes: Of Hunger and Fury

If you read “Of Hunger and Fury” by Grace Chan you are in for a delicious ghost story. The fifth story in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, Chan delivers darkness. From the first paragraph I was aware of a sinister undertone that didn’t let up until the final words. This is a tale of vengeance—of retribution.

There is rage here. You can see it in the space between the words. Like the women in the story, the emptiness that connects the black marks of ink gets no recognition, but without it the letters would slide off the page, untethered. The story vibrates in this liminal place—between the lines, off the page and caught somewhere between fiction and life.

“Of Hunger and Fury” by Grace Chan from Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women

Rich with metaphor, I felt the seething dissatisfaction of every woman that has put her self aside in order to conform. Dreams, desires and talents simmer on the back burner as women become subservient and obedient wives… but they still simmer.

The heat that boils beneath “Of Hunger and Fury” is dangerous and relevant. It is the fever dream of generations of proper women, good wives and perfect daughters. It is justifiably angry as lives spin to nothing in the service of tradition.

In “Of Hunger and Fury” I suspect Chan has shown us just the tip of the iceberg—a sample of a feminine apocalypse to come.

“Of Hunger and Fury” by Grace Chan is the fifth story in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, an anthology of Asian women in horror. Grace Chan is a Melbourne-based speculative fiction writer and doctor. Her family immigrated from Malaysia to Australia before her first birthday. She completed a medical degree in 2012 and is currently working and training in psychiatry. Her inspirations include Oliver Sacks, Ursula Le Guin, Isobelle Carmody, China Mieville, Ken Liu and Ted Chiang. In her downtime, she enjoys coffee, space operas, and thinking about where we come from and where we’re all going.

Her writing can be found in Going Down Swinging #39 and Monash University’s upcoming Verge Anthology. Her novella, ‘The Ship of Theseus,’ has been shortlisted for Seizure’s Viva la Novella VII.

Get your copy of Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women
direct from the publisher here.


Find out about the other stories
in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (and more)
here under the #amreading tag.

Related links:
Black Cranes: A Review in Verse by Renata Pavrey | Tomes and Tales
Skeleton Hour 04: Black Cranes | Horror Writers
Black Cranes Release Day Panel | Omnium Gatherum
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray I | Gingernuts of Horror
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray II | Gingernuts of Horror
Meet Black Crane Lee Murray | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Grace Chan | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Geneve Flynn | AngelaYurikoSmith.com

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From Black Cranes: Phoenix Claws

Lee Murray presents a horrific and darkly hilarious take on meeting the in-laws with her short story “Phoenix Claws,” the fourth story in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. The visceral descriptions of food inspired hunger and revulsion from sentence to sentence… and sometimes simultaneously. I will never look at chicken feet for sale the same way. I shared this story with my own chickens, and they all thought it was one of the more horrifying things they’ve read.

“Phoenix Claws” by Lee Murray from Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women

Beyond her imaginative treatment of food, however, Murray delves deep into the conflicted family dynamics that exist when bringing a potential mate home to meet the parents. A stressful event at the best of times, Murray brings forth the intricate dance between duty and desire with skill and empathy that doesn’t hold back. Her heroine is candid and believable as she balances that ultra fine line.

Murray brings this world of modern Chinese dining to vivid life as she captures every nuance from odors and sounds to the frenetic bustle. Her ability to paint an atmosphere goes beyond the colorful Chinese restaurant, however. Every scene is wonderfully fleshed out—to her credit, sometimes nauseatingly so. She has a knack from slipping the comical in the midst of the horrific, but my favorite aspect of the story was how well Murray captures the nuances of a Chinese family from a candid, insider point of view.

When two worlds collide there is sure to be collateral damage. It is difficult not to bite off more than we can swallow.

“Phoenix Claws” by Lee Murray is the fourth story in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, an anthology of Asian women in horror. Three-time international Bram Stoker Award-finalist, Lee Murray is New Zealand’s most awarded speculative fiction writer and editor (Sir Julius Vogel, Australian Shadows).

She is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and short fiction including the double award-winning Taine McKenna speculative thriller series (Severed Press), and supernatural crime-noir series Path of Ra (Raw Dog Screaming Press) which she co-writes with Wellington author, Dan Rabarts. She is proud to have edited sixteen anthologies of dark fiction. Lee lives with her family in the sunny Bay of Plenty where she conjures up stories for readers of all ages from her office overlooking a cow paddock.

Get your copy of Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women
direct from the publisher here.


Find out about the other stories
in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (and more)
here under the #amreading tag.

Related links:
Black Cranes: A Review in Verse by Renata Pavrey | Tomes and Tales
Skeleton Hour 04: Black Cranes | Horror Writers
Black Cranes Release Day Panel | Omnium Gatherum
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray I | Gingernuts of Horror
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray II | Gingernuts of Horror
Meet Black Crane Lee Murray | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Grace Chan | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Geneve Flynn | AngelaYurikoSmith.com

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From Black Cranes: A Pet is for Life

The third story in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women is “A Pet is for Life” by Geneve Flynn and has given me the most unexpected surprises so far. I kept thinking I knew where we were going on this trip, only to have Flynn swap the itinerary before I could set down my luggage. When the reveal happens I was genuinely surprised. I did not see that coming.

“A Pet is for Life” by Geneve Flynn from Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women

Written with warmth, throughout the story I’m in love with Tully the protagonist and threatened by the obvious monster… only it wasn’t obvious at all. I can’t give away much more or I run the risk of spoilers, and there is such an unexpected surprise I don’t want to cheat you.

What I can say is I love this story. Everything unfolds believably despite this being a tale about unbelievable things. Flynn gives just the right amount of line to keep the tension before she sets her hook. The ending leaves me questioning, not because Flynn has left loose ends, but because she has undone some of mine.

We walk through life, sure that we understand what’s happening. Perhaps it’s better we don’t know. Ignorance can be bliss.

“A Pet is for Life” by Geneve Flynn is the third story in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women an anthology of Asian women in horror. Geneve Flynn is a fiction editor that loves to help authors write what they mean and mean what they write. She has two psychology degrees which she only uses for nefarious purposes and is a proud  member of the Institute of Professional Editors Ltd (IPEd), the Chartered Institute of Editing and ProofreadingVision Writers Group, the Australasian Horror Writers Association and the Horror Writers Association.

She’s also been a submissions reader for the Aurealis magazine and a judge for the Australian Shadows Awards for short fiction. A horror writer with a love of tales that unsettle and B-grade action movies, her short stories have been published in Australia as well as internationally. You can catch her having fun with the Brisbane Writers’ Workshop, where she co-facilitates creative writing classes. Check out the fabulous workshops here.

If you’d like help getting the story in your head onto the page, check out her editing services here. Want something that will send chilly fingers down your spine? Check out her published works and see if anything takes your fancy.

Get your copy of Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women
direct from the publisher here.


Find out about the other stories
in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (and more)
here under the #amreading tag.

Related links:
Black Cranes: A Review in Verse by Renata Pavrey | Tomes and Tales
Skeleton Hour 04: Black Cranes | Horror Writers
Black Cranes Release Day Panel | Omnium Gatherum
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray I | Gingernuts of Horror
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray II | Gingernuts of Horror
Meet Black Crane Lee Murray | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Grace Chan | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Geneve Flynn | AngelaYurikoSmith.com

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From Black Cranes… Kapre: A Love Story

The second story in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women is “Kapre: A Love Story” by Rin Chupeco, and this is my kind of romance. There is no sappy ego messing everything up. No simpering princess looking for adoration. There is only love—pure, imperfect and true. If you fall in love with a monster, this is how it is. Honest.

“Kapre: A Love Story” by Rin Chupeco from Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women

And if we are being honest, I have to admit I cried at the end of this short story. Chupeco caught me up so deep in the selflessness of Kapre the end came, in many ways, like a death. I had experienced a lifetime with these characters in just a few short pages. When it was over I was overcome with loss… but it came with a gift.

The concept of love is something we pretend to know all about, yet so few of us practice it. We bandy the word around like it’s something magic—which it is—but without action it stays stagnant. In this story we see love working, alive and changing things—even beyond the grave.

To learn how to love, perhaps we need monsters for lessons.

“Kapre: A Love Story” by Rin Chupeco is the second story in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women an anthology of Asian women in horror. Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She is represented by Rebecca Podos of the Helen Rees Agency.

Sign up at her newsletter to receive updates on new books, author events, and giveaways!

Get your copy of Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women
direct from the publisher here.


Find out about the other stories
in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (and more)
here under the #amreading tag.

Related links:
Black Cranes: A Review in Verse by Renata Pavrey | Tomes and Tales
Skeleton Hour 04: Black Cranes | Horror Writers
Black Cranes Release Day Panel | Omnium Gatherum
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray I | Gingernuts of Horror
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray II | Gingernuts of Horror
Meet Black Crane Lee Murray | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Grace Chan | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Geneve Flynn | AngelaYurikoSmith.com

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From Black Cranes: The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter

Leto is perfect in every way. If a mother could order a daughter from a catalog, it would be this beautiful, obedient and intelligent girl. Except for the dreams… but it would be impolite to bring these up. And no one wants to be impolite to Leto’s mother. She manufactures the perfect daughters.

In a series of visitations, Leto becomes aware of some truths of her own existence. All families change their history with time, through multiple retellings and by embellishing what they wished was the truth. In this story Elaine Cuyegkeng takes the unsettling art of family gaslighting and builds a lush story.

“The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter” by Elaine Cuyegkeng from Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women

The descriptions, particularly of the genetic animal creations, are dreamlike and lovely. I found myself envious of the fictional people that could afford such dynamic creations. Cuyegkeng creates a science fiction fantasy with the solid vein of horror running through the foundation.

Beautiful desperation… how far will we mother’s go to have the best children?

“The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter” by Elaine Cuyegkeng is the first story in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, an anthology of Asian women in horror. Elaine Cuyegkeng was born in Manila, Philippines, where there are many, many creaky old houses with ghosts inside them. She loves eusocial creatures both real and imaginary, ’80s pop stars, and caffeinated drinks with too much sugar. She now lives in Melbourne with her partner and a rose named Blue. She has been published in Lackington’sThe Dark, and Rocket Kapre. You can find her on @layangabi on Twitter and on Facebook.

Get your copy of Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women
direct from the publisher here.


Find out about the other stories
in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (and more)
here under the #amreading tag.

Related links:
Black Cranes: A Review in Verse by Renata Pavrey | Tomes and Tales
Skeleton Hour 04: Black Cranes | Horror Writers
Black Cranes Release Day Panel | Omnium Gatherum
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray I | Gingernuts of Horror
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women by Lee Murray II | Gingernuts of Horror
Meet Black Crane Lee Murray | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Grace Chan | AngelaYurikoSmith.com
Meet Black Crane Geneve Flynn | AngelaYurikoSmith.com

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Experimenting with Playwriting

I have never tried writing a play so of course when I was offered a chance to write something for performance I jumped on it. Written for a playgroup in Niceville, Florida, I based the story off of real places people in the town would be familiar with.

The Bog Spiders are a reference to pirantulas, of course. Pirantulas are the monster I made up for a short indie film and short story that was published both independently and in Retro Horror, available on Amazon here.

The play was written to be performed on Halloween for a mixed age audience, but it was one of the COVID cancellations this year. Maybe next year. For now, here’s my first try at writing a play. Any playwrights out there? Feel free to give me advice in the comments.

Super Noob here!

The Turkey Creek Creeper
by Angela Yuriko Smith©

Cast of Characters

OLD MAN:   79 years old, an old cook.

YOUNG BOY:  10 years old, schoolboy.

Place

Niceville, Florida

Current

Halloween Afternoon

ACT I

Scene 1

       Setting:  A back room of a cafe. A chair and an overturned bucket, some stacked up pots and boxes of supplies are stacked around.

       At Rise: OLD MAN is working in his back room. Voices are heard off stage.

                   (OLD MAN is sweeping. He wears kitchen attire and sports an eye patch.)

VOICES (Off.)

You can run but you can’t hide! If we don’t catch you, the Bog Spiders will!

                   (OLD MAN stops his work and walks to a door to peer out.) 

YOUNG BOY (Voice off. afraid.)

You’re all liars! There’s no such thing! Leave me alone!

VOICES (off. Sing song) 

Bog Spiders and witches will give you the itches. 

The Turkey Creek Creeper will sew you in stitches!

YOUNG BOY (Voice off.)

Liars! There’s no such thing!  

                   (OLD MAN is knocked to one side as YOUNG BOY bursts through the door, slamming it behind him. He doesn’t see OLD MAN at first. When he turns around, he is startled.)

YOUNG BOY (panting) 

Yikes! I didn’t see you. Let me just stay here a minute? I just need them to go away.

OLD MAN

What are you hiding from? The Bog Spiders or the Turkey Creek Creeper?

                   (OLD MAN leans in boy’s personal space against the door. Boy backs away) 

YOUNG BOY (uncertain)

Those things aren’t true. My mom said they are just made up to scare kids. I’m not scared.

(OLD MAN leans in, rubbing hands together)

OLD MAN

How long have you lived here, boy? I’ve never seen you hanging around here before.

YOUNG BOY

I think less than a month. I started school at the end of September. 

   (OLD MAN nods and moves to pull over the chair. YOUNG BOY backs away another step or two so the bucket is behind him)

OLD MAN (shaking head) 

Ah… so you wouldn’t really know then. You aren’t from around here. Someone outta have told you.

YOUNG BOY (nervous) 

What… told me what?

OLD MAN

About the Turkey Creek Creeper… you really gotta be careful. You gotta know the story… or else.)

YOUNG BOY (uncertain)

Or else what?

OLD MAN (loud and fast jumpscare)

He gets ya!

(OLD MAN leans in quickly. Startled, YOUNG BOY backs into bucket and sits down hard)

OLD MAN (laughing)

I’m sorry, boy. I couldn’t resist getting your heart beating. It’s good for ‘ya. (turns serious) But still… someone oughta tell you what to do…. In case you do ever run into the Turkey Creek Creeper. 

YOUNG BOY

You mean it’s not just a made up story? 

OLD MAN (ominous)

Not only is it a real story, but I seen him myself. When I was a boy about your age. I only wish… I’d known what to do. (taps eye patch) I might still be seeing double like you if I had.

   (OLD MAN sits down in the chair. YOUNG BOY leans forward, expectant)

YOUNG BOY (scared)

Is that what happened to your eye? The Creeper got it?

OLD MAN (ominous)

You might could say that. You might could indeed. Like you, I thought he was a joke. I had to learn the hard way to take The Creeper serious.

YOUNG BOY (transfixed)

What happened?

OLD MAN (smiles)

I thought you’d never ask. (rubs hands together) See, it was a long time ago, 50 years to be exact, on a Halloween night much like this one. The shadows were extra dark that night, like they were trying to suck in any of the light they touched. The only sounds were crickets looking for winter shelter and the bog spiders looking for…

YOUNG BOY (interrupts)

Bog Spiders aren’t re…

   (OLD MAN claps his hands to startle boy)

OLD MAN (loud) 

Who is telling this story?

 (YOUNG BOY points to OLD MAN, sheepish)

OLD MAN (loud) 

Who’s lived here longer than you were even a thought in your Daddy’s mind?

 (YOUNG BOY points to OLD MAN, sheepish)

OLD MAN (miffed) 

Okay then. Like I said, the Bog Spiders (emphasis, pause)… were looking for an easy meal. (looks at boy for response, none given, before continuing) I was just a stupid young lad then. A young lad with two eyes and and no time for foolish stories… or so I thought. It was Halloween, as I said, and I had one thing on my mind that night. Candy. I was going for the Niceville record of most candy got in a single Hallloween. 

Back then all the good neighborhoods that gave the best candy were all around Kelly Way and I lived all the way over by Sparkleberry Cove. Everyone knew not to cross through Turkey Creek after dark, but I didn’t believe that nonsense. Or what I thought was nonsense at the time… when I still had both my eyes.

Even if I had thought the Creeper was real, I might still not have listened. My head was all full of Pixie Sticks and Fireballs, root beer Dum Dums and chewy Long Boys. I was so determined to get the biggest candy haul Niceville had ever seen I would’ve risked running across the devil himself. (pause for effect) Which I pretty much did.

 YOUNG BOY (mesmerized) 

But what…

OLD MAN (loud and gruff) 

Eh! No interruptions. I’m telling this story and you’ll get your turn one day when you’re a one eyed old man. Any more questions?

 YOUNG BOY (gulps and shakes head)

OLD MAN (softer, still gruff) 

That’s what I thought. Anyways… the devil… or as good as. See, the story of the Turkey Creek Creeper is this. When he was a young boy, like you are and I was, he also didn’t listen to warnings not to wander Turkey Creek after dark. A brave and silly boy, like us, he took off one Halloween after the mother load of goodies. He also cut through Turkey Creek… but back then the warnings weren’t about the Creeper. He was warned about… the Bog Spiders. 

YOUNG BOY (interrupts)


What was his name?

OLD MAN (blinks, confused)

The Bog Spiders?

YOUNG BOY (annoyed) 

The boy!

OLD MAN (confused) 

The boy? Er… um… Sam. The boy was Sam. (loud) Now no more interruptions!

OLD MAN (continues)

So the Bog Spiders have lived in Niceville a long, long time. Back when the place was still called Boggy, back before they tried to fancy it up for the tourists… there were Bog Spiders. Some say they are a kind of vicious, freshwater crab and some say they are a kind of tarantula that migrated here on some driftwood, but everyone agrees you don’t want to meet one. Bog Spiders are very particular in their dining habits. They don’t eat bugs or mice. They don’t even eat people… not all of us anyways. No, Bog Spiders are very particular diners. (pause) They only eat… your eyes!

YOUNG BOY (jumps)

OLD MAN

So what the poor old Creeper was up against back before he was the Creeper… 

YOUNG BOY (interrupts) 

When he was still Sam?

OLD MAN (annoyed)

Who? Er… yes. When he was still Sam. Now hush up and listen. (clears throat) Back when he was… Sam… he also cut through Turkey Creek on his way to maximize his candy haul. And of course, it was after dark. Back then there weren’t no fancy boardwalk like now. Back then you crossed the creek area on foot, through the muck and mud. So he’s hurrying along, his mind all on whatever old fashioned candy they had then, and he hears a noise. A clicking sound coming up behind him. A clackety click creeping up on all sides of him. So he starts to hurry, but it’s no use. The faster he goes, the faster the clackety click goes. He hears it behind him. He hears it on both sides. Then (pause) he hears it ahead. Suddenly, poor old…er… Sam… is a believer. Suddenly poor old Sam regrets cutting through the dark, boggy muck late on a Halloween night. Suddenly, Sam thinks he’s in trouble. (pause) And Sam was right.

There, in a sliver of moonlight cutting through the tangle of dark he sees the biggest spider he has ever seen. It’s the size of a dinner plate, it has eight glowing eyes across it’s hairy forehead. Eight legs scuttled along through the underbrush, glittering in the bit of moon. Each leg ended in a spike. Sam sees this and you know what he did then?

YOUNG BOY (terrified)

Did he run?

OLD MAN (suppressing laughter)

No. (pause) He peed his pants.

YOUNG BOY (shocked)

What? No he wouldn’t! He did not!

OLD MAN (suppressing laughter)

It’s true! He was so scared he peed his pants right there! But can you blame him? (serious, eerie) There he was, face to face with the scariest thing he’d ever seen in his young life. Something so scary he’d been too scared to even consider it could be real. Not only was there one, but he knew from all the clackety clicking all around him… there were probably hundreds upon hundreds of these monsters all hungry for one thing. (pause) A young boy’s eyes. (silence)

YOUNG BOY (after long pause, impatient)

What happened? Did he get away?

OLD MAN (matter of fact)

Of course not. They got his eyes. Otherwise how would he become the Turkey Creek Creeper? Think, boy!

YOUNG BOY (confused)

But that’s it? That’s the whole story? There isn’t more?

OLD MAN (matter of fact)

Yep, that’s the whole story. (Stands up, starts to continue his sweeping ignoring boy. A long pause)

YOUNG BOY (confused, disappointed)

But… then how did you lose your eye?

OLD MAN (loud, jumpscare)

Ha! I thought you’d never ask. (creepily) So the day I was cutting through Turkey Creek, it’s dark, and I also hears this terrible clackity clicking coming up all around me, and suddenly I start thinking maybe all the tales about Bog Spiders and the Creeper aren’t such tall tales after all and I commence to running. These clickety clacks are running with me though. The faster I go the faster they go. Finally, I’m running as fast as I can in the dark, dark and tangled underbrush, screaming my head off. I think I can hear the Creepers feet behind me, running just as fast… faster even. I know he’s just about to catch me… I feel his icy breath on the back of my neck and his long, slimy fingers snatching in the air just behind my head. Suddenly, a patch of moonlight, a pale splinter of light shines on the path ahead of me and I see a sharp stick jutting up through the mud. It’s angled right at me, like a spear. (pause) What I didn’t see was a whole mess of twisted grass tangled up across that path. My foot caught up in that grass, and down I went… right on that pointed stick. (straightens up and continues sweeping) And that was the end of that.

YOUNG BOY (confused)

What? The end of what? That wasn’t the end of anything. What happened then?

OLD MAN (matter of fact)

Oh, I lost my eye.

YOUNG BOY (confused)

To, what? The Creeper or the Bog Spiders?

OLD MAN (matter of fact)

To the stick, boy. There was a sharp stick in the path and I fell on it. Weren’t you listening?

YOUNG BOY (confused)

But the Creeper was chasing you… where did he go?

OLD MAN (matter of fact)

Oh, he probably got scared off at that point. I was screaming up a storm. It really hurt, you know. (continues sweeping)

 YOUNG BOY (confused)

But… but…

OLD MAN (suddenly serious, menacing)

Look boy, that’s all I know, and I won’t be one caught telling tall tales of made up nonsense. I tell you what I know and leave it at that. But I will tell you one thing I learned that night… (pause) Screaming scares ‘em off. Both the Bog Spiders and the Turkey Creek Creeper left me alone that night and they’ve never once bothered me since. Yessir, I’m convinced that screaming scares them off. As high pitched as you can get, as loud as you can. They can’t take the frequency.

YOUNG BOY (confused)

But… but…

OLD MAN (matter of fact)

Now off with you. I’ve got work to do. I don’t feed myself sitting around telling stories. Go on…

(shuffles protesting YOUNG BOY out the door and continues sweeping From offstage there’s a sudden high pitched scream) 

VOICES (Off.)

Do it again in case that wasn’t high pitched enough.(high pitched scream again)

(OLD MAN listens and just smiles. The scream comes again. OLD MAN begins to laugh maniacally, super villain style and turns slowly to face audience)

OLD MAN (addressing audience)

Happy Halloween, ya’ll. (continues laughing as lights dim)

(END)

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What NaNoWriMo Taught Me

Sometimes the destination we are headed to turns out to be the wrong place when we arrive. This is NaNoWrimo 2020 for me. I finally wrote my first novel and broke the magic 50k number. I expected to be ecstatic. The truth is, I’ve barely thought about it except to be relieved it’s over. Then today I had an epiphany. I realized I’m in the wrong place.

The flash of enlightenment occurred in the library today as I was shelving books. This is not something I normally do, but we are closed to the public and operating with minimum staff so we are all doing things different. Right now we have a ton of books to shelve so I got to go into almost every section of the library.

As I shelved, I became aware of my feelings and reactions to the different genres. I found it was hard to focus on shelving books in three areas because I was distracted by what I was shelving. These three areas were non-fiction, poetry and short stories. A lightbulb popped in my brain. Why am I trying to write fiction novels when my favorite things to read are non-fiction, poetry and short stories? I thought back to how I even got here.

My favorite books growing up were Alfred Hitchcock’s anthologies and collections of Sherlock Holmes. The first thing I can remember writing was a short scary story about a man who went insane in a house because it was full of baby ghosts that cried 24/7. The first thing I wrote that I received praise for was a poem inspired by David Bowie’s song Wild if the Wind. My first professional sale was to a website called Lovewords Ezine and it was a short called “Bad Baby” inspired by the origins of the Jersey Devil. Then I discovered non-fiction and worked for a wide assortment of newspapers, ad sites, online venues… basically anyone who would pay me. And I loved all of it.

Not to bore you with my autobiography… just to point out what should have been obvious to me. I am not a novelist. I love fast, intense and lean reading. I am usually reading something non-fiction. I enjoy an economy of words. I like to find out new information and then share it. How did I get stuck in the novelist mindset? Oh yes, it was to prove a point twenty years ago.

Back in 2001 I attended the 19th annual Southwest Writer’s Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico as a non-fiction writer. I was actually working on my first non-fiction book (another story, another time) and was enjoying all the workshops and comradery… until I heard a man claim that non-fiction writers weren’t real writers because they had no imagination.

Hey, everyone is entitled to an opinion and I voiced mine. I think non-fiction and fiction are equal. You have to gloss up the truth to sell it and you have to have a kernel of truth in your fiction to sell it. They are two sides of the same coin. He loudly, and rudely told me I was wrong and before you knew it we were having a shouting match in the hallway of the Hyatt Regency about writing.

We almost got kicked out of the conference because we were disrupting the other workshops that were trying to wrap up and neither of us would back down. I went home infuriated and determined to prove him wrong. I started my first book that night in a rage, and quite a few years later published it as End of Mae. To my surprise, it did fairly well with good reviews and decent royalties for quite awhile. It was fun. I kept writing fiction.

End of Mae is a novella at about 20,000 words. A few years later came Bitter Suites, also a novella. When it became a Bram Stoker finalist I was told by a few publishers they would purchase it if I would write the entire story arc (planned for three connected novellas) as a standalone book. I got excited and started working on it as a novel.

And this brings us to the moral of this long discourse: to thine own writing be true.

When Bitter Suites was just my fun, crazy novella I loved it. I was so excited about the story arc and how it was going together. Then I tried to force it to be a novel. If a story is my baby, I smeared make up on it and forced it to wear grown up clothes.

It felt wrong. It looked wrong. I don’t like it. Burn it with fire—metaphorically. I went back to my original plan and published the second part as a novella. That’s Suite and Sour published this October.

After I finished my long slog with the NaNo romance novel I was tired of the nightly marathon, the characters I’d lived with for a month and writing in general.

I needed my mojo back so I wrote something, but this was just a quick story of less than 5,000 words. It is fast, intense and lean. There is some death and gore. The underdog wins and justice has no mercy. All the things I love. It was what writing has always been for me: a pleasure. And I’m rejuvenated.

So, I officially wrote my novel and I’m all good. Bucket list item checked. I’ll probably do NaNoWrimo next year but I will just write 30 short stories. That sounds like a fun challenge. I do plan to publish this NaNo romance in February 2021 but it may not be a novel anymore. So much of it felt like it could be condensed or cut. Do we really care what her dress looks like? The beta readers will let me know. BTW, contact me if you want to be a beta reader :)

Future novels? I think it’s out of my system. Wordcount is not what makes a good story for me. I will listen to my own advice to let the story be what it wants to be. I don’t think it wants to be a novel, and I definitely don’t want to be the person writing it.

Image by 愚木混株 Cdd20 from Pixabay 
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NaNoWriMo Done

It wasn’t pretty, but it’s over now. As I staggered across the finish line for NaNoWriMo 2020 I thought back to the beginning when I decided to set out on this wild attempt to write a romance novel. It was Halloween… and that’s all I can really remember. The rest is a blur of trying not to fictionally kill anyone, not be disturbing and end on a happy note. These are the pillars of romance, I’m told.

I may have made a few concessions for my own enjoyment. The love triangle is between a young witch, an incubus and a succubus. There is the requisite hot guy, but he is blue with a barbed tail and sexy black hooves. The heroine isn’t gorgeous because I don’t want anyone too pretty and nice living in my head, so she’s plain, a little chunky and self conscious.

And then there’s the succubus. She doesn’t die… but not all endings are happy ones. Oh, and then there’s the dream I snuck in there where a giant silver mantis severs the head of our heroine, eating her alive as she dangles helplessly in a web made of intricately knotted ropes. I’m told I may have to edit that out as too much, even for a dream death.

The most important thing is, it’s done… and I’ve learned about a new genre and gained some great survival skills. Toward the middle of the month I wound up getting almost 10,000 words behind, something that is almost impossible to catch up on given that life always seems to double down when I need it to lighten up. In desperation, I tried something new… and it worked!

I’ve had the Google recorder downloaded on my phone for awhile, but since I almost never do interviews by voice anymore I have never used it. The lovely thing about the Google voice recorder is you get an audio file as well as a typed transcript, complete with punctuation. With one click you can have the transcript (or audio) uploaded to your Google Docs. Violia! I just ‘wrote’ 8,752 words in 52 minutes.

The recorder saved me. There is still a lot of editing to do, as with any book. While the transcript has punctuation it doesn’t do quotation marks, and every long pause is transcribed as having a period so I have lots of sentence fragments to clean up. That’s all stuff to do on the long, wintry afternoons coming. I now have 51,440 words of romance-ish novel to entertain me.

Winner, winner chicken dinner!

Another benefit to NaNo is that it got me back in a disciplined mindset where my writing came first. I’ve gotten into the habit of letting everything else jump into my writing space both physically (my reading chair is the favorite nap spot for canines) and mentally (work, bills, dishes, chickens, garden…). When I have no deadlines, I lose my discipline.

Where do I go from here? I haven’t processed that far yet. We will see how well a romance does from my pen later. I know I need a real cover. No, the cover was just a joke I whipped up in Photoshop. Yes, I know I need a better cover. But later…

Right now I am happy to just relax, go munch some cereal and read someone else’s book for fun. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Tonight, I’m done.

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