Do you enjoy a good ghost story? They’re not usually my thing, but around this time of year they creep up on me whether I will or no. Like yesterday, when I found myself drawn into Michaeline’s excellent and satisfying re-telling of the story of Old Betty and Raw Head the razorback hog.
That set me to wondering what’s the best ghost story I ever read. Richard Adams’ The Girl in a Swing won by a mile. In case you’re wondering, yes, it is by the author of Watership Down. He wrote a number of other novels in various genres, but as far as I’m aware this is his only scary story. It may not be the most famous ghost story I’ve ever read, but it’s the one that had the most profound and lasting effect on me.
The Girl in a Swing was published in 1980 so it must be more than thirty years since I first read it, and I can still remember how it made me feel. It’s not a slam-bam horror story. There are no chainsaws or buckets of blood. It’s a story of ordinary people living normal lives in a present-day world. It’s very low-key and the pace is deliberately slow. The writing is quality, as you’d expect, and little by little, it drew me in until I was completely hooked. Richard Adams did a brilliant job of making me care about the characters, and at the end I was horrified, scared, shocked, moved and very sad.
Raw Head, Bloody Bones and Halloween stories
Every October, I stumble upon this charming little site which is full of American spooky tales, and I have to say, it’s quite inspiring. I’m going to summarize (and maybe embellish a little bit) on one of the stories, and I hope you’ll follow the link and check out the other offerings.
Anyway, there was a conjuring woman out in the Ozarks named Old Betty, and she was one of the best there was. She was a little old woman who helped the neighbors with midwiving and taking off curses and helping the animals, but like a lot of magic workers, she kept herself to herself.
Old Betty had Continue reading
When I was growing up, carnivals would magically appear in parking lots or vacant parcels of land from time to time. There were games to play, foods to eat, and whirling rides to enjoy. There was invariably a Ferris Wheel, made more exciting by the knowledge that it had just been erected hours before (safely, one would hope), spinning rides that left riders stumblingly dizzy, and roller-coasters of a sort.
From the house I’m in now, I used to be able to look across my backyard and see the illuminated midway lights of the local carnival in past years where a Home Depot sits today. Over time, the carnivals have come to town less and less often and it’s been years since I remember seeing one. In their place, a sea of inflatable castles and slides and bouncy-houses has appeared.
Down the road, where there used to be a weekly farmer’s market, the “inflatable carnival” came to town a few weeks ago. One day the lot was empty and the next day there were dozens of brightly colored inflatable structures, filled with happy shrieking little jumpers. There are no carnival games or foods to eat, but there are bales of hay with pumpkins to purchase which, several weeks from now will give way to Christmas trees to buy. Late at night the lot is a little creepy, with everything deflated, looking much like a multi-colored sea of popped balloons. Continue reading
Piggyback. Yesterday, Elizabeth posted about her focus for NaNo. I’m not planning to do it this year, unless it can be stretched to editing 50,000 words, instead of writing them. But I am reminded of planning that I have done in the past to prep for it.
One of my favorite writing blogs, Writers Write, posted an organizer that led to a brainstorming worksheet and 30 tips (with lots of links for other helps). From the Writers Write blog, I found some resources that are on the NaNo website. Like the Reference Desk. I never knew it was there. Rather than spending time noodling around on the internet doing research, post a question on the reference desk and another writer might have the answer. Want to know how to rig a 500 gallon propane tank for explosion? Need information on growing up in a Turkish Cypriot family in London? Need to know how to milk a cat (really?)? Post your research question and get an answer (maybe – no one seems to know how to milk a cat). Continue reading
We’re halfway through the month of October, which means there are just a few weeks left before NaNoWriMo kicks off on November 1. In order to prepare for what I hope will be a successful month of writing I’ve been doing a bit of prep-work these past few weeks.
As I mentioned in my first post in this series here, I began the countdown to November by working on the outline for the story I’m planning to write. As the outline developed, I found I needed to clarify the setting, in order to get a big picture view of how the story will progress. If you missed it, you can read that post, and the helpful suggestions from commenters, here.
With a general outline and the story setting(s) nailed down (kind of, sort of), I still have a pretty large gap that needs to be addressed before I start trying to put words on the page. I need to know who these people are who will inhabit the story. My heroine needs a hero. My antagonist needs a supporting cast. And I need to know who that random assortment of secondary characters is and what roles they are going to play.
Piece of cake, right?
Not surprisingly, this week my focus is on: Character Continue reading
I’m currently working on the second book in my Touched by a Demon series, The Demon’s in the Details.
So far I’m liking it. (Which is good, because that is not always the case.)
One thing that I suspect isn’t so good are the jokes I’m writing into it.
Some of you are now thinking, “Jokes are good. And Jeanne’s pretty funny, so they’re probably good jokes.”
These jokes are really goofy. They take a dopey premise (the physical act of a demon possessing a human–have you ever given any thought to just what that choreography would look like?) and wring every last drop of comedy gold (and silver and copper and tin and lead and that grody stuff you have to scrape from the the crack between the stove and the countertop) out of it before I let it go. Continue reading
Several weeks ago, I found myself in a familiar place. I was coming off a big day-job project, which had included long hours every day for the last couple of weeks to complete it. I hadn’t been able to touch my writing during that time and for weeks before that, because even when I wasn’t working quite as many hours, I was expending all my mental energy on that other job. But now that I and my team had completed that project and submitted it to the customer, I was able to reclaim my life, including my writing time. “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” right?
When last I’d communed with my writing, I’d been on a hot streak (despite that pesky novella that I’ve struggled to revise). I was writing for long hours and wracking up word counts, knowing all the while it couldn’t last. I’d signed a consulting contract. A company was going to write me a monthly check; it stood to reason at some point they’d want me to do something to earn that money. Then I got a call saying a project that was supposed to start in October was actually starting six weeks early. I went cold turkey on my writing. Turns out, by the time I finally got back to it, it had gone cold turkey on me. I had one novella and one full-length novel in need of revision, and the first act of a second full-length novel all set in the same story world. I also had the first half of my women’s fiction story waiting for completion. But when I sat down at the computer, I couldn’t get back into any of those story worlds. I’m not going to lie – some panic set in. After all, it’s only a matter of time before I get the next call about the next day-job project, and then I’ll have to go cold turkey on writing again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Continue reading