It's Creepy and It's Kooky, and Altogether Spooky (Penny Rader)

Happy Halloween!

Want to add a bit of a thrill or a chill or touch of suspense to your writing? Check out these links:

Foreshadowing and Suspense (Anne Marble)

Keep in mind that not all characters will react to anxiety and crises in the same way. Spend some time figuring out how characters react to suspense, anxiety, and fear. Try to avoid the usual descriptions, such as "her pulse raced..." If you're at a loss for descriptions, remember the last time something scary happened to you. What happened the last time you stepped on the breaks and your car tried to skid? Did your stomach feel like a brick? Did you shriek, or swear? Or did you steer yourself out of the skid and only respond to the stress after you were safe? Use those experiences to color your characters' reactions.

How Do I Captivate the Reader in My Scary Story? (Elizabeth Burns)

Omit excessive detail. Some of the best scary stories skillfully leave it to the reader's imagination to fill in the blanks. It is often what is hidden, or merely hinted at, that sends chills down the spine.

How to Succeed at Writing Romantic Suspense (Shannon Reynolds)

Craft a tense and suspenseful tone. Focus on more than just the scary abandoned buildings or creepy old mansions. Characters reflect tone by how they react to events as they unfold: if the characters are convincingly tense and uncertain of what's around the next corner, chances are your readers will be as well. Throw some twists and turns into your story, surprises that your readers will not see coming.

Ten Tips on Pace and Structure of a Thriller (Jordan Dane)

Hitchcock believed suspense didn’t have much to do with fear, but was more the anticipation of something about to happen.

And we’ve all heard the phrase “Write what you know.” It should be “Write what you fear…what you love…what you hate.” Writing what you fear conveys human emotion that will resonate with readers. Tapping into what makes you afraid will translate into a trigger for the reader as well. And this goes for other emotions too. Drawing on a reader’s emotions will pull them into the story.

Tips for Writing Fiction (Robert Gannon)

What is scary is very subjective, so it's best to write something that scares you.

Try writing about an actual event that scared you in your life. My first horror story I ever felt comfortable sharing (long since lost, of course), involved a string of events that I'm still convinced were caused by a ghost in my house. The genuine nature of the story to me allowed me to effectively tell it to other people. Since I thought it was real, I wrote it like it was real, and that is what scared people.

Writing Horror Literature (Justin Daniel Davis)

What scares people? And how do I tap into it?Well, a good place to start as a source of fear would be the most logical and often overlooked one: yourself. Face’re rarely going to get anywhere by trying to capitalize on what you THINK scares people. Start with yourself...not only is this your most reliable source, but your writing will come across as more genuine, less artificial. What scares you? Monsters under your bed? Loss of control? Ghosts? Goblins? Chores?


So...what scares you? Do you have any tips to share to add a touch of creepiness to stories, maybe just enough to have your reader on the edge of her seat?

Something Wicked... (Rox Delaney)

One more day.  Just one more day before All Hallows Eve, when the veil between this world and the spririt world thins, and communication between the two becomes easier.

Or at least that's what some believe.  It's up to you to decide if you do.

There have been a few scary Halloween nights for me.  When I was very young and lived in the big, bad city (before moving to the little bad small town, then to the big bad middle of nowhere and now back to that big bad city), my older neighbors often took me trick or treating.  One year, as we stood on the corner waiting for a car to drive by so we could cross the street, that car and another car collided.  I screamed.  It was nothing more than a fender bender, but the sound of the crash and my blood curdling scream brought friends and neighbors outside.  At that point, trick or treating ended for me until the next year.

When I was around six or seven years old, I dressed as a Pilgrim girl, in long gray dress, white Pilgrim hat and round collar, all made by my mother, and a blonde braided wig.  Those same neighbors as above had a grandmother who had given them a pair of real, authentic wooden shoes, which were loaned to me for the evening.  Believe me, they were not comfy, but I wore them anyway, determined to be as real as I could be.  The block behind us ended in a circle drive/dead end, thanks to U.S. 54.  As we approached one of the houses near the end, a horrible witch came around the corner.  Scared beyond sanity, I began screaming and ran for home.  When I arrived, I sobbed to my dad what had happened...and then realized that I'd lost my hat and wig during my race for safety.  I cried even harder.  When I finally stopped, my dad walked me back, finally convinced me that the witch wasn't real, and we found my hat and wig.  Once again, trick or treating was over for me until the next year.

Fast forward to small town and high school.  No more costumes.  By eighth grade, we'd even given up painting our faces and going door to door.  But what fun to steal pumpkins and toss them in the middle of Main Street!  Braver souls moved the picnic tables from the park to the streets, and burning hay bales were scattered in the street, making driving a tad difficult. The local grocery store removed all egg cartons.  After Halloween our senior year, I distinctly remember how, when the heater was turned on, my best friend's car smelled of rotten eggs for months and months.  Tricks in town got so bad that mounted police from the city were sent for a few years to try to keep things under control.  One year, after looking for an outhouse to tip over, a group of us ran across the railroad tracks at the edge of town, hoping we wouldn't get caught, and one of the guys and I fell in what's known as "Devil's Hole."  Rumor had it that the six feet deep hole was the mouth of a tunnel than ran underneath the town.  Well, maybe long, long ago it did.  All I know is that climbing out was not for sissies.

Fast forward to the present.  My five grandkids and their parents (and an aunt or two) enjoy trick or treating together---all in costume.  I'm sure the people handing out candy aren't too sure what to think of the mob at their door.  No, the parents don't ask for candy. ;)

Me?  I stay home, turn down the lights, and listen carefully for the whispers of those who have passed on to the next world.  [Have I mentioned that I've had two paranormal experiences?]  Then I turn on the TV, grab a DVD or two, and find something fun to watch.  This year I've decided on Hocus Pocus, followed by Practical Magic.  I know I'm in for a treat. ;)

The Believing and I

When I was growing up, our family and another did everything together. They had three children the same ages as we three. That made six children that experienced everything about the same time as in a small herd of barefoot animation. We went everywhere together and eventually even explored the other side--yup, someone got a Ouija board for Christmas, me. We spent hours in contact with the great beyond--for about three weeks.
Then we found out the great beyond lies. Yes, friends and neighbors, the beyond, speaking to us through the Ouija board, lied. At first we couldn't believe it. Something must be wrong. But, after repeated trials and new tests, there was no longer any doubt, the Ouija control is at the mercy of many forces, but they aren't supernatural. Gravity, slickness of the board, and the underlying subconscious drives of the user/users. Playing wasn't fun anymore, so the spirit board went the way of all presents for children that no longer amuse--it was lost into history.
Fast forward to me as a jaded adult who has taken a look into the occult, seances, witchdoctors, and such. I have developed a theory. Everyone ought to get the chance to play with Ouija boards and such things long enough to find there is not a jot of anything in them. And what did I run across? A local group in a small cafe. I'm a regular customer and one day stopped in and discovered the young ones waiting tables were, in their spare time, using an Ouija board to amuse themselves. As teenagers, I'd have thought they'd have blown through that pretty quickly. However on one of my weekly town days, I noticed they'd merely morphed their interest into contacting perfect strangers on the other side. They were keeping copious notes on name, age, how they died, and did they want to send any special messages to anyone. If those teenagers had spent half of the time they spent contacting the spirit world via the Ouija board studying, they'd have been at the top of their classes.
Weeks passed. A few older, young adults started hanging about. Still the Ouija board spewed info to be written faithfully down. I believe the cafe owner encouraged it, but then maybe she was waiting to hear from a loved one herself.
Not wanting to rain on any parades, I kept my disparaging remarks to myself, however, I had repeatedly refused a turn at the board. Then the final pressure came. Why wouldn't I try? Instead of answering the question, I offered to give it a go. The Ouija board never moved. Then we were both on it. It didn't move. I told the co-operator that it seemed the beyond didn't want to talk to me. The co-operator, one of the most intense operators, immediately asked the Ouija board why it didn't talk to me. With wondrous ability to delve into self delusion, the young woman told me the answer she received. The Ouija board told her I had too strong of a soul. I didn't roll my eyes, but it took a lot of self restraint.
Sheesh. Was there no end in sight? An idea popped into my head. Not the most noble, but it would be interesting for a group of people absolutely determined to experience a connection to the other side. And for me, the devil in me just knew it would be awfully amusing.
I succumbed to temptation.
Drinking my coffee, I drawled out that if a person really wanted to talk to the dead then a seance was better. My, oh, my. They were all over that like ants at a picnic. I told them how to do it:
First: get a table
Second: get a table cloth. Lace would be nice, but if you don't have one, any will do
Third: have something personal from the person whose spirit you wish to talk to
Fourth: get a candle.
Fifth: sit around the table. If you can, hold hands.
Sixth: just as the sun sets, attempt to contact spirit/ask a question of the spirits
The last instruction was to remember that spirits do not have vocal cords. If they answer it could be by any way they can. Be prepared for a 'sign'.
Off home I went, smiling the whole while. I figured there was at least six people about to scare themselves silly. They were ripe for it. That seance was going to be a success! When I reached home, my beloved husband was there and asked about the smile. I told him that if all went well at about fifteen minutes after sundown, I expected a call.
Almost to the minute, a call came in. Yes, it was an excited seancer. The young lady reported that she'd just had the time of her life!! Yes, it was true, the spirit had used a truck horn to communicate. Did I mention the cafe was on the highway?
In the end, it wasn't finding out that the spirits don't really speak that put a stop to the Ouija board, it was parents. It seemed the parents thought that Ouija boards contained demons and devils and banned the use. Well, what can you say to that?

I have always wished that the Ouija board participants could have discovered quietly on their own that there is nothing in a Ouija board that isn't in themselves, a final closure if you will, for flinging open the door to the other side only to find a blank wall. But then, who am I to determine where the spirits live?

My Halloween Memories (Melissa Robbins)

Halloween is my second favorite holiday. Columbus Day has the first spot. Oh, I jest. It's Christmas.

Anyway, I grew up in the northeast where Halloween was hugely popular. Every year, my family would pile into our gray station wagon and drive along the windy road through the woods to Butler's Orchard. Sitting in the “way back,” my sister and I looked out for the ghosts and witches hanging from the trees.

Soon the woods gave way to a large opening where hay bales and pumpkin sculptures abounded. Pumpkins were painted and dressed as famous characters. I remember Snoopy laying on his doghouse as being my favorite.

After admiring the sculptures, my family rode a hayride to a large field where everyone could choose their perfect pumpkins. Serious business for my family. Round and fat? Long and skinny? My sisters and I always wanted the biggest pumpkin we could find.

Before leaving Butler's Orchard, we stopped at the Farm Market for other fall supplies. They had the best apples and apple cider. The funny shaped gourds amused me. Mom would select small pumpkins to make pumpkin pie. It amazed me that she could get pie filling out of a pumpkin.

The big day was just as special. Dad carved the pumpkin and Mom had our costumes ready after spending hours making them. I can remember being a mouse, scarecrow, pirate, angel (twice), witch, and a Cabbage Patch Kid (showing my age with that one).

Every house gave out candy and my sisters and I attacked every one. Okay, maybe not every house, but it was not from lack of trying.

I still dress up for Halloween. I do it for my kids. Nodding head. I want them to love Halloween as much as I do. I may even sew a costume or two.

As writers, we create our own worlds that come alive on paper. Halloween allows those worlds and words to jump off the page. Hmm. My sisters are writers too. I wonder if there is a connection between a love of writing and a love of Halloween.

One October Night

A friend and I had an interesting experience one October years ago. We were in our late teens and had just arrived at a weekend retreat hosted by a church camp. It was dark, and while the immediate area where people were arriving was lit, the edges where there were woods and a creek were rather creepy. I looked up and happened to glance at a cabin set on the creek at the edge of the woods.
"Hey, I said to my friend, "What are those two guys doing out there?
They look like they have some kind of light suits on."
"Wow, those are awesome, let's go see."

We walked toward the two guys, noticing how they were standing. One had his profile to us, leaning against the doorpost of the cabin with one foot propped up on the doorpost, knee sticking out. The other stood next to the first, feet shoulder length apart, arms akimbo. They looked like they had bright white neon lights from head to toe. All we could see was the lights, no features.

At that moment, another friend ran up to greet us and we stopped to talk for just a moment. When she ran on, we both looked out toward the cabin and the guys were gone.
"C'mon, let's go see what they were up to," I urged.
With eager curiousity, we hurried to the cabin. As we drew closer to the door, we both slowed down, then stopped in confusion as we saw the padlock on the door, the cobwebs covering the door, the uttter evidence that no one had been there for quite some time. I felt a weird skittering sensation up my back, realizing that whatever we had seen, it wasn't two guys from the camp standing in the doorway.

We retraced our steps and walked toward the cabin again, hoping to see again whatever we had seen. We saw nothing. We have our own conclusions about what we saw, but it was a very strange experience.

When a Stranger Calls (Penny Rader)

I grew up in the country. Lots of farms around. Very few actual neighborhoods. I attended a really small school. One day a mom asked if I’d consider watching her kids every day after school for a couple hours. I didn’t want to commit to an every day thing until I’d spent time with the kids so I agreed to babysit while the parents went out.

Did I mention I lived out in the country? Well, the B’s lived even farther out in the boonies. In a tall, multi-storied house all by its lonesome. Didn’t know this until Mr. B and I pulled into their driveway.

Everything started out okay. Met the kids. They were cute. Mr. & Mrs. B headed out the door. Before too long I heard a “thwap, thwap, thwap.” I probably didn’t mention that I’ve always been something of a coward. I was never going to be one of those nightgown-clad heroines who foolishly went down into the dungeon to see what the noise was. But…since I was the babysitter I had to suck it up and check it out. I drew a deep breath and forced myself to search for the source.

Thwap. Thwap. I peered around doorways. I had a hard time hearing the noise because my heartbeat was reverberating throughout my entire body. Several rooms later I finally found the culprit – an open window and a banging window shade. Whew! Crisis averted and my heart slowing back to its normal rhythm, I closed the window and headed back downstairs.

You know how they always tell kids to not tell strangers your parents aren’t home? But they don’t really tell you what to do in that situation? What’s up with that anyway? You probably guessed what happened next. Um-hmm. The phone rang.

Me: “Hello?”
Stranger: “May I speak to Mrs. B?”
Me: “Uh…she’s busy.”
Him: “I really need to talk to her.”
Me: “She’s really busy and can’t come to the phone.”
Him: “Okay. Let me talk to Mr. B.”
Me: “He’s busy too.”
Him: sigh
Me: waiting…hoping he’d just leave a message.
Him: “This is Mrs. B’s brother. I’ll just come over.”
Me, inside my head: Aaaaack!!!
Me: “Wait! Please don't come over. I’m the babysitter. Mr. & Mrs. B aren’t here."
Him: “Just tell them I called.”

Did I mention that my imagination sometimes goes into overdrive? That call freaked me out and I was absolutely certain some raving lunatic was on his way over to murder, ravish, and pillage, but I could not show my fear in front of the kids. So, I calmly got them all into their jammies and settled in their beds. Then I planted myself in the corner of the couch, squishing myself down under a quilt until I was as small as I could make myself. To anyone watching I would appear to be watching the TV, but actually, I had one eye on the front door and one eye on the picture window.

There are lots and lots of noises in the country. Spooky noises. Tree limbs smacking windows. Wind shaking just about everything. Howling animals. It’s enough to give a 13 year old girl a heart attack.

Boy, was I relieved when Mr. & Mrs. B got home. (Though there was a moment of extreme panic when that door opened!) The next day I called and told Mrs. B that I wouldn’t be able to take the every day babysitting job. (In my head I added or any other babysitting job!) My excuse: I had too much homework. She believed me. Her kids had tons of homework, too.

Yep, I’m a wimp. And I hate babysitting. And I still don't know what you're supposed to tell people when they call and ask for the parents.
Do you have any scary experiences you'd like to share with us?

Fears Come In All Sizes And Types

I thought long and hard and missed my day yesterday to blog due to farm hell. But now we're finished with harvest and everyone can go back to their own corner, I'm ready to proceed.
What I was thinking about was the horror of election time. Characters are shredded, points are made, and the electorate would like to put ear muffs on the kids.
However, over the years I've been growing ever more aware of things around us not being as I thought they were. Imagine that. As my eyes have been opened and the area behind my ears dried out, I realized that a lot of people don't vote. Then I kept my ears open and discovered that unlike what the news-people will tell you, that it isn't voter apathy that keeps people from voting, but fear; fear of the unknown, fear of making a fool of oneself, and fear of making a mistake. So, I started talking to people, one on one, why they didn't vote--exactly why. Many didn't know how or who to ask. Many didn't know how to decide. Many felt too stupid. I realized that what we needed to help us conquer our fear is a little basic information:

Let us start with how to vote.

To register to vote:
Go to your local driver's license renewal location or your county clerk's office.
You can register as a party member (Democrat, Republican, Communist, whatever your pleasure) or
You can register as an Independent, meaning you're registered to vote, but not declaring a party. If you don't declare a party, you can't vote in their primary--just the general and special elections.

Now you're registered. What next? Call your county clerk, tell them where you live, and ask where the poll will be set up for you. Usually, you are informed by mail. A poll is a place to vote. It can be a school, a government building, or the living room of someone's house.

On voting day, go to the poll, between the hours of 7 AM to 7 PM (hours may change to more but never less) and vote. Some areas allow early voting. Again, call your county clerk and ask if it exists in your local area and how to go about it. There may even be mail-in options.

How to vote? The machines, papers, or whatever necessary to do the job changes regularly. There is always an explanation at the polls on how to use the equipment and someone there to answer any questions or demonstrate them. It is very ok to ask. Ask several times if you need to. Like I said, the equipment changes regularly enough that even a season voter has to ask questions.

What to vote? Ballots or explanation pages are set on tables so that you can read and understand them before actually entering the voting area. They are there to be read by anyone.

How to decide what to vote:
You decide that too. If, when you get into the room, face to face with the ballot, and all of it makes no sense, then finish it without making marks and turn it into the poll lady as if you did. No one will look at it. They can't by law. We have secret ballot in this country. It really is secret. No one sees it except to count from it. Your name is never on a ballot unless you're running for office!

Are you too stupid to vote?
No! You may not be comfortable choosing a president. Fine, don't vote that section. You might not be comfortable voting on a judge position. There is nothing that says a voter has to vote on every issue or even every race on a ballot. If you have a strong opinion on whether your neighborhood needs a new swimming pool and that is one of the issues, then vote your yes or no vote! If you have a little time before voting day and want more information, then look a question up. For example; this November we vote on whether we want to change our wording in our state constitution to clarify our right to bear arms in the state of Kansas. On this one, if you believe it to be an independent, a personal right, then vote yes. If you believe it to be a militia or military right, vote no. Oddly, this has been unclear in our state since before the first world war ended in 1918! You are also free to NOT VOTE on this issue even though you might on others. There are other issues on your ballot that might not be on mine in a different district. Ballots are individualized for each district depending upon the needs of those people (electorate). Some things on the ballot are the same for all Kansans. One would be the choice of president. The governor, state attorney general, state treasurer and many more are open for voting on when the terms of the individual offices are up or someone has left office.
Other voter items are on local school board members, mayors, city councilmen, and even sometimes whether to put in a stop light at a specific location. Don't keep yourself from making local decisions that make a difference in your every day world, because you wish to stay out of the state and federal decision making.

Does your vote count? Every vote counts. I've had to count them. We strung them on a huge curved needle with a heavy string attached to it and a button on the other. As each ballot was counted and looked at by six people, the ballot was strung on the string to keep from accidently counting a ballot twice. The people counting votes are from several parties, no party is left alone with ballots. Ballots are never left with only one person in attendance.

CAUTION: No one is allowed within a certain distance of a polling area to influence you to vote a certain specific way. This is illegal in most states. Report it.

A weird little question: Do you know how long/big the constitution of the United States really is? It will fit in your shirt pocket with room for an ipod and takes a half hour to an hour to read.

I hope this little bit of information helps dispel the biggest fear of the season--our electoral process. If you think this info doesn't fit with a writerly life, think again. What the government does sways the mood of the people. As the mood of the people goes, so goes their money. As the money of the people go, we writers want them to buy what we sell. What romance writers sell is hope. If the people prosper, they buy retail. If the people do not prosper, they go to the library. We need the people to prosper, vote accordingly.

Ghost Girl

This story is being retyped as it was told by an adult in her own words. It is written in the oral tradition of storytelling:

“It was a dark, cool night in the fall of 1978 in the state of Oklahoma. On the outskirts of Midwest City, a group of girls were enjoying a slumber party full of junk food, games and silly stories of boys. They were camped in the den of the fairly new home and the parents of one of the girls were on the other side of the house, watching a “made for TV” movie.
There were two houses on the unpaved road of this newest neighborhood being built in the rural area. The only lighting outside came from the full moon. Street lights had not been added yet and the large ditch that ran on one side of the road had not been completed as well.
Close to midnight, the girls heard laughter and squealing outside. They stumbled to the only window in the room, pushed aside the curtains and looked outside. They couldn’t see at first, so one girl instructed another to turn off the lamp so they could see what was happening.
It took a moment, but it dawned on them that the only other house down the road was having some type of party as well. Lights were turning off and on from the upstairs floor of the two-story home. Suddenly, a lone girl, the same age as the girls watching from the den window, careened from the back of the house. She was clad only in a long, white pajama gown. She ran onto the front porch and they could hear her yelling, “Let me in! Let me in! You win!”
As the group of girls continued to watch, one looked out the window in the other direction. The illumination of the moon beamed down on the road and the figure of a man appeared in the ditch and walked slowly down the street toward the two-story home. Directly behind, a car followed, so slowly that it didn’t seem possible that it was traveling at all. The car was very old and dark. It was impossible to tell if someone was inside or not. She whispered to her friends and they all turned to witness what she was describing.
The girls watched as the car and man grew closer to their house. The man in the ditch suddenly stopped, turned and stared straight into the eyes of the girls viewing from the window. They could make out that he was elderly, yet it was as if they could see through him! He had a long beard, and was wearing a suit jacket and slacks, but the clothes seemed outdated.
They squealed and shut the curtains and fell to the floor. They looked at each other in fright and wondered what to do? They didn’t want to tell the parents of the home in fear they would get into trouble for “making up stories.” Instead, they waited a few minutes to catch their breath and it was then they realized the shouting of the girl down the street had stopped. It was only a matter of seconds when this had all occurred.
The one brave girl sat up and drew the curtain apart a bit to look outside. The house down the street had grown dark, and the man and the car were gone!
Terrified, she sat down and told the other girls what she had seen.
They were too scared to leave the den, so they crawled into their sleeping bags and shivered until one by one, they fell asleep.
A few days later, the little girl walked into her own kitchen and overheard her parents talking about an article in the newspaper. There was a story of a cold case of a missing girl. She had disappeared in the 1950’s and had never been found. The feature stated she had been kidnapped in a dark sedan by an elderly man. The little girl leaned over the shoulder of her father and saw the portrait of the same girl she had seen that night at the slumber party – the one who had been begging to be let into the house!
When the little girl explained what she had seen, the father looked at her and laughed.
That wasn’t possible, he explained.
Why not? The girl had asked.
Because the other house on the street was unoccupied. No one lived there. It was still being built.
But I saw the girl! And the car! And the old man! She tried to explain. The lights were on in the house, she continued.
The father just shook his head and muttered something about “imaginations” and continued to read his paper.
The little girl walked away in defeat, knowing that her story was not to be believed by any grown-up, but she knew what she had seen.
To this day, the missing girl was never found

This is the tale I narrate to my students every year at the beginning of the Halloween season. I teach them about story telling in the oral tradition and then I continue to recount stories throughout the month.
I enjoy closing the blinds and darkening my room. The students seem enthralled and they are truly spooked when I tell them this was a TRUE story and not made up.
Because I was the little girl in the story who witnessed this whole scene. I was ten years old when I lived in Oklahoma and it was my first experience of the paranormal.
It would not be until I was sixteen years old and two of my friends and I decided to play with a game called the Ouija board. Big mistake. Big. But that’s another story……


Warning! Only for those with intestinal fortitude who don’t mind getting seriously creeped out!

Have you ever noticed when friends and family do you a favor, or hook you up with a great deal, that it often turns out not? Why is that? Why is it that the people who are supposed to love you the best, often get you in the worst messes? Mine was a house way back in the day when we were still renting. Not the same one that Fang appeared in though. His was better.

This was the house from hell. They could make a movie about it. It didn’t look like the house from hell. There were no signs or omens. We simply had no clue. I guess that’s what we get for trusting family.

We only had one child back then, our daughter who was around two at the time. She had her own twin bed in her own little room. The first indication that we picked a loser was when we turned the furnace on. I went to check on her that night to find the room filled with noxious fumes. I pulled her out of bed and began opening windows. We got that fixed but it was only a warm up. Let me rephrase that, the house had no insulation. We froze our you know what's off all winter, but I digress.

At night, we would often hear noises; strange, skittering sounds. Not much at first so we thought it was just from being in a new place. You know, that old line about the house “settling”. Some nights I suspect we slept through it but eventually it was bad enough that we knew something majorly weird was going on. An intermittent rustling soon joined the skittering, and paper sacks began moving during the night. If we got up to check, there was nothing obvious to the naked eye.

One night I finally reached the very brave, very disgusted, or totally stupid mark. I’ve never been sure which. I went to bed prepared with a flashlight. When the noises got going full swing, I leapt out of bed, flipped on my light and ran full tilt into the living room/kitchen area. To my horror I realized that something was crunching under my feet and that the floor was moving under my wavering beam. I turned the kitchen light on just in time to see hundreds of cockroaches running for cover. These weren’t your normal wimpy German variety. These were the King Kong of Cockroaches. They averaged two to three inches in length and were armor plated. Thus the crunching as I ran across a living carpet of moving targets. I kid you not.

I didn’t know whether to scream, puke, or pass out. Passing out would have landed me on said floor so that was definitely out. I opted for the scream. At least I think I did. I don’t actually remember the rest of that night. My mind refuses to let those memories resurface.

I do remember the next day when we confronted the landlords, our so-called friends. They denied ever having roaches in their rental. Since they lived next door to us, I found that hard to swallow. They also inferred we must have brought them with us (NOT) and refused to do anything about it. Our beloved family members just steered clear of us for awhile.

Interestingly enough, after discussing our unwanted guests several times, they decided to sell the house. Since we had killed off a dozen cans of roach killer by then, I suppose they figured the new owners wouldn’t notice until it was all over but the screaming.

If you want another moral for this disgustingly icky story, try this:
Don’t listen to your friends and family. Or, always wear shoes when you get up at night. (: O

ps: I'll be out of town Fri.-Sun. so will get back with you all later. I'm expecting to read some of your truly creepy stories when I return. Happy hunting!

ITSY BITSY SPIDER . . . by Becky A

October brings to mind the beauty of multicolored trees, the crispness of crunchy leaves under foot, plus cool shivery weather. Along with the chilly air come images of Halloween: spooks, witches and ghouls galore. I’m not impressed by ghosts, vampires or Freddy Kruger. The real scary stuff comes straight from nature itself. You know, those snakes, spiders, bats and bugs that show up in unexpected places. Like our homes.

I could tell you the story about when my hubby found a three foot snake in our closet. He was terrified of snakes. Guess who got to pick it up and haul it outside? I don’t like snakes, but I can deal with them. Or, the time the neighbors asked my spouse to remove another three footer from their house. I carried it half a block and released it into a nearby field. Snakes feel icky. That’s the only way I can describe it, but they are doable.

I’ve never been around bats much but I’m pretty sure I would freak if one landed on me. I prefer to keep my blood, thank you. Bugs are here to be squished, period. I don’t care how much good they do. But then we get to spiders, yuck!

The one time I decided to be merciful to a spider, it came into my bedroom via my laundry. It was sitting on my clothesline one day and I said, “If you will leave me alone, I will leave you alone.” The little sucker ended up under the covers with me and bit my left calf in the middle of the night. Now, I didn’t feel it bite me. I did feel it crawling up my thigh. I flipped back the covers and swatted the then unknown culprit and went back to sleep. Two days later, I knew I had a problem. I proceeded to crawl around on my hands and knees until I found the shriveled little corpse. Yup, it was a brown recluse. Stupid spider! After a round of antibiotics, much prayer, and liberal doses of garlic infused olive oil, problem solved. I then spent many days vacuuming every corner repeatedly to get rid of all his little friends that had come with. Aacckk!

That's still not my most memorable spider story. I saved it for last. If you’ve got a better one, then I want to hear it. Here goes:

Getting up in the middle of the night and stumbling into the bathroom, I kicked something with my bare little tootsies. Flipping on the light, expecting to see a stuffed toy, I nearly came unglued as I stared into the big beady eyes of the largest spider I had ever seen up close and personal. It was the green, gray and tan colors of dried grasses. The body and legs were covered in spiky hair, and its overall appearance was of a tarantula. Its size was too, about five inches across. I’m going to go out on a limb and declare it was a tarantula. What kind? The, I’m not ever going to the bathroom in the middle of the night again, kind. Needless to say, after doing a very brief heebie jeebie ick dance, I ran screaming for my spouse.

By the time he pried his eyes open and arrived at the scene of the crime, the humongous and hairy nightmare was gone. I made him do a thorough search while I watched from my elevated vantage point. I stood rigid with fear in the middle of the bed, every light blazing. When all efforts failed to locate the creepy crawler, we determined that it must have come through the space around our sink drain. A full half inch between pipe and drywall was apparently enough. Stupid spider!

My spouse, satisfied that the problem was solved, crawled back into bed and resumed snoring. I considered bashing him over the head. We may have solved how it got in, and we may have run it back out. But, if it came in once, WHAT WAS GOING TO STOP IT FROM COMING IN AGAIN??? There was no way I could sleep now. My vivid imagination provided lovely pictures of it crawling into our bed or snuggling up to my helpless babies. Not to mention taking a bite to try out its super duper deluxe fangs. So, I did what every other intelligent, capable, and hero deprived wife does. I got out the duct tape and proceeded to seal that sucker into the wall.

Do I care if it looks ugly? NO! Do I care if my beloved has to pull it all off to fix it correctly? NO! Do I care that we are still living in a rental? NO, NO, and NO! Will I think of that stupid spider every time I get up to go to the can in the middle of the night? YES, YES, and ick, YES, at least for the next 20 years or so.

Now, for the moral of the story: Be careful. Be very careful when your tootsies go bump in the night. What you thought was a stray sock or stuffed toy, may be something very large and hairy, just waiting to make your acquaintance.
(Evil laughter-hahahahahahahaha!)

PS: I’ve decided to name him, Fang. Now tell us all about your favorite “pet”.


I looked and searched and tried to find something Halloweenie to write about. Was I afraid of spiders? Not really. Some are pets around the outside of my doors. They are cute, fuzzy, with bright shiny black eyes of different sizes and resemble small black grain combines. They can jump like fleas and generally spend their time hunting flies. They are a marvel to watch. Then there is the giant wolf spider that lives under my TV cabinet. Try as I may, I cannot seem to get him killed. Every once in a while, in the dead of night, I catch him racing back to under the TV cabinet. Where he's been and who he's been hunting I have no idea. Generally, my house is insect free so I don't know what critters he's eating. I am consoled with the fact that I haven't ever seen TWO wolf spiders so I expect he's a very lonely guy.
Was I afraid of snakes? Nope. I've got my own method of dealing with them and it includes a pony irrigation shovel. Snakes can be quite exhilarating.
Afraid of mice? No--a deep-seated disgust for them bordering on obsession--yes.
The dark? No, I can see pretty well in the dark. It feels like a dark blanket.
The sun? Maybe. It is pretty hot out and my skin burns easy.
People. Yes. I don't understand them very well. They seem to be hooked up by some power of telepathy that lets them all communicate with few words. My hookup is blocked. I don't get how they all know things I don't when I was in the same room or converstation.
Alone. No, I crave alone time. A minimum of an hour a day or I'm really ugly with my fellow humans--including myself.
Then it hit me. Fear drives me and has all of my life. Thats why I feel the need to learn, to examine, to understand. I have always owned a car big enough to live in if I had to. I learned to understand money and finance because I fear having no money for basics. I know how to make a fire from sticks and other ways, because I fear having no heat. I fear not being able to buy clothes so I learned how to make them. I fear not having food, so I learned how to get it, kill it, preserve it, and understand how to make plants or animals grow. I fear sickness, so I learned some healing skills and arts. I fear accidents so I learned about emergency medicine. I feared not having tools so I learned how to make them or make do. Writing has opened up all new avenues for fear. I fear success, for what will I do with that? I fear I have no talent and people are too kind to tell me to hang up my pen and go swimming. I fear that I have only a few stories and then will run out. Fear has a lot to answer for in my experience.

Now for the second half of this blog. The writerly half. Writers are supposed to write about what they know. That's true because they can't really use their brains to write a story unless the information contained in it is first in their heads. Think about that a bit.
All of our experiences, assets, fears, and talents are food for our stories. They contain the meat of them. The writing skills we learn become the bones from which the structure of the story hangs. My life of fears is why I write survival adventure romance stories. I can turn all of my experience at surviving as well as experiments into stories that have a natural feel to me as I write them.

Now for a true fear story.
My mother has always thought I should have a job. We were in the Colorado Rockies in a place called South Park. A water well drilling crew came to our cabin and drilled a water well. My mom was all over that as she wanted to understand and learn to witch for water. She did learn how, but also learned they were burning their food because they didn't really know how to cook. She offered me up on the altar of their hunger. She told them I could cook. Then she told me. I was nineteen. I was dropped off at their doorstep three days later. One skinny suitcase in hand.
As we came to a stop in front of a trailer house, I noticed a lot of the wood stacked in ricks. Lots of it. It turned out I was to live and work in this trailer house with three men. There was electricity--most of the time. The wood was used for heat and cooking. Cooking. Did you notice I said cooking? I had no idea how to cook on a wood stove. The crew was expecting real food and were so excited about it. I was to get up early and make bacon, eggs, biscuits (by hand) and gravy. I wouldn't have to chop wood at first I was assured. Chop wood. I didn't have a flying squirrel of an idea how to chop wood. Lunch the men would do on their own with standard lunch stuff. But supper. Oh, that was to be wonderful with steaks, stews, potatoes and all forms of wonderful things including pie. was I supposed to make pie? I'd never made pie. How do wood stoves cook pie? There wasn't a dial or a thermometer on the thing...anywhere.
There wasn't a cookbook in the place.
There was a half wild cat that was half bobcat. I yelled at it to get out of the trash and it took out a window. First day on the job and I had a broken window to explain, and a missing cat, and no pie.
And it wasn't noon yet.
I did what any self-respecting teenager would do. I cried. Then I tried. Then I lied. I cried when I couldn't find any cookbook anywhere. I tried to get a steady fire going in the stove. I singed my arm hair off when I opened one of the 'eyes' on the stove top. Fire leapt out ten inches. I lied when they came in for supper. I told them all I didn't have time to make the pie because I was familiarizing myself with the supplies and settling in. Luckily, the steaks, mashed potatoes and gravy did the job of keeping their attention.
The area had nothing for signal--no radio, no television, and no phone. I found out I was to be left alone on Wednesdays while they went for supplies and I could have weekends off as the wife of the boss would cook on the weekends when she brought the entire family up.
That first Wednesday when I was left all alone I did as I was supposed to. I put some wood in the heating stove, wrapped up in a blanket to stay in that cot--not my normal room--so I could monitor the fire, get up through the night and put more logs on--or so I was instructed. I turned off the light. Crawled into those blankets--with all my clothes on. At first it was comforting to watch the flames. Then I wondered what would happen if a coal fell out while I slept. I'd burn to death. Then I heard the log drop in the firebox and bounce a few coals. Then I heard noises as the wind picked up. The groan of the trailer as it settled and changed temperature. Then I heard the log drop. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. The light dimmed as the fire burned lower. Then I heard the log drop. I stared at the glow until I thought I could take my eyes off of it and my backside was getting too cold, so I turned over. And heard the log drop. I was so tired, cold, and scared by the time morning came, because, you see, I'd only put one log on that fire. What had made that noise I'd heard every so often that I thought a log dropped? I never found out and get a creepy sensation to this day every time I think about it.

From then on, every Wednesday night, I slept under an electric blanket I bought that first weekend. I always let the fire go out. Before the crew got there on Thursday morning I started a new fire. I hid my electric blanket so no one would know.
After a while I learned to use the wood stove and have never made better food since. The cat came back and never got in the trash again--amazingly intelligent creature. I borrowed a cookbook from mom and learned to make pie crust. The pies that came out of that oven have never been duplicated. They were fantastic (really). There was a tiny hole in the back of the oven and it would shoot overheated air into the oven box, so, halfway through the baking I'd have to rotate the pie or cake or whatever was being baked. All in all, the experience is one I still hold against my mother, but I would like to have a wood stove to use occasionally (until I think about that wood-chopping thing).
The time was short at that job, not because the cooking didn't hold up to standards but because the wife of the boss didn't think a girl ought to be cooking in the mountains for an all male drilling crew. I never met her but thank God for her notions of propriety. I really hated having my jeans freeze while they hung on a line three days to get them dry. The men? They were great guys. All they wanted was good food--and of course--pie.

Snakes and Snails and...Shovels!

Like many others, I'm not a spider fan.  I don't scream, I don't jump, but I just plain don't like them, but I do understand that they have a purpose.  No, that purpose isn't scary the life out of us, but as part of the chain in insect life aka they eat bugs.  I don't like them, either.

But what I really, really don't like is snakes.  I lived on a farm for 24 years, and there were several occasions when a snake got in the house.  Not little garter snakes.  Big.  Fat.  Long.  Bull snakes.  During the first memorable visit by a slithering reptile and my reaction to it, my best friend called.  I told her what was happening, and she laughed.  And laughed.  I informed her that someday in the future, I would include the story in a book.  The following is an excerpt from A Saddle Made for Two, Silhouette Romance, July 2001; my second book.

Sticking the key in the lock and turning the knob, she pulled open the door and stepped inside.  She growped in the dark to switch on the light while she yanked her hat from her head.  The hat fell to the counter, and her gaze dropped to the floor.

Her blood-curdling scream, at the sight of the snake curled on the floor, bounced off the thin camper walls.

Thoughts skittered through her mind, but none made sense.  Without taking her attention from the cold-blooded invader, Ellie acted on instinct and eased open the door of the small closet to her right.  After carefully pulling out a newly purchased, flat-bottomed shovel, intended for her horse trailer, she jabbed the edge onto the snake as close to its head as possible.  Praying the critter would stay put, she gripped the wooden handle with both hands and jumped atop the metal.  The snake flipped and writhed beneath the blade, and Ellie realized what she'd just done.  Frozen to the spot in shock and unable to move, except to brace herself with one hand against the cabinet for balance, a shudder shook her body.

Now what? she thought, when the snake slowed its wriggling.  If she got off and it came after her, she'd die of fright.  Mercy, she hated snakes!  But staying propped on the shovel for eternity wasn't an option, either.
All true, I swear.  Except the grain shovel (flat-bottomed and new) was around the corner in the entry that led outside.  It had been (thankfully) left there by my husband, who was, of course, nowhere around.  And I didn't scream.  I was standing on that shovel, the snake beneath the blade and still moving, when the phone rang and my friend called.  The rest, as they say, is history.

From Frankenstein to Ghosts to Witches by J Vincent

Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, a novel Mary Shelley started writing when she was 18. It was published anonymously in London in 1818 when she was 19. While horror stories existed in regency times, the period my characters live in, I have never been a fan of it. I refuse to see or read anything remotely related to horror because my mind has the uncanny and extremely uncomfortable tendency to replay scenes I desperately want to forget! But I digress.

Today mention of Frankenstein does not immediately bring to mind Lon Chaney but rather Mel Brooks. The only kind of “horror movies” I ever watched were made in the 1920-30’s. Lon Chaney’s Quasimodo (1923) and Boris Karloff’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935) were ones I did watch and was deeply touched by. These movies however are nothing like today’s Dracula or Chain Saw. They wanted to elicit sympathy and pity and did not overwhelmingly terrify or repulse despite the gross disfigurement of the characters who were victims of fate. To quote form Lon Chaney, “I wanted to remind people that the lowest types of humanity may have within them the capacity for supreme self-sacrifice. The dwarfed, misshapen beggar of the streets may have the noblest ideals. Most of my roles since The Hunchback, such as The Phantom of the Opera, He Who Gets Slapped, The Unholy Three, etc., have carried the theme of self-sacrifice or renunciation. These are the stories which I wish to do."

Another quote from Ray Bradbury that I found really hit the mark: "He was someone who acted out our psyches. He somehow got into the shadows inside our bodies; he was able to nail down some of our secret fears and put them on-screen. The history of Lon Chaney is the history of unrequited loves. He brings that part of you out into the open, because you fear that you are not loved, you fear that you never will be loved, you fear there is some part of you that's grotesque, that the world will turn away from.”

Beside ancient horror movies I like what some call comedy/horror though not of the Mel Brooks mold. My early introduction to this class of movie was the hilarious Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein released in 1948. They did several more of these involving Dracula, Wolf Man etc.

Another kind of movie I like is the ghost story—the old Casper films also from the 1930’s (not the friendly ghost but the man who can only be seen by the couple who accidentally hit him with a car) and who doesn’t love The Ghost and Mrs. Muir?

Then there are the witch movies among which one of my favorites is Bell,Book, and Candle released in 1958 starring Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, and Hermione Gingold.

An average, modern-day witch (Kim Novak), lives in a New York apartment with her Siamese familiar, Pyewacket. Oone day a handsome publisher (Jimmy Stewart) walks into her building and Gillian decides she wants him--especially as it turns out he's marrying an old poison penpal from the witch’s college days. She casts a spell over the publisher. But her powers are in danger of being exorcised by something stronger than the bell-book-and-candle routine: Love. She loses her powers but does she lose the publisher?

Hocus Pocus (1993) with Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy is another one I liked. Bedknob and Broomsticks (1971) with Angela Lansbury. Definitely lighter fare but my kind of Halloween enjoyment.

But then there is Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane . . . . almost too scary for me but then the more I thought about this topic the less simple it became!


Hi, my name is Reese Mobley and things that go bump in the night scare the crap out of me. Living breathing creatures that crawl—other than puppies or babies, are creepy. I rarely watch scary shows, even from the comfort of my living room. I’d never pay money to see a scary movie at the theater. I’m not a thrill seeker or an adrenaline junkie. That’s not to say I don’t ever or have never done any of the above, but if I can avoid them, I can and do. I am a wimp. I’ve come to terms with my level of wimpiness.

Which brings me to this blog.

It was a dark and stormy night.

Really it was. Dark and stormy. And late. All three kids had been tucked safely into their beds. Hubby and I were happily snoring away beneath our soft flannel sheets with the cartoon sheep on them. The rain raged on accented by the occasional crash of thunder or stab of lightening.

Hours into our slumber, we heard a strange noise that didn’t resemble anything normal or from Mother Nature. The sinister sound came from the basement where the two oldest children each had their own rooms. I covered my head. Hero hubby decided to crawl out from the warmth and comfort of our sheep sheets to check on their safety and scare away any boogiemen who dared to linger longer.

Hubby’s weapon of choice was an aluminum baseball bat. Clutching the bat tightly, he turned on the hall light, peeked into all the upstairs rooms and headed for the basement. In the meantime, I rolled over and tried to reclaim some much needed beauty sleep. After all, he had everything under control.

The house grew silent. The hall light went off. I knew hubby would soon be joining me in bed. I dozed off. He slid between the sheep sheets and asked, “why’d you turn off the hall light?”

My heart stopped. My eyes flew open. Those fine hairs on the back of my neck stood erect. Goosebumps dotted my arms. And legs. And everything in between. “I didn’t turn off the light.”

“Then who did?”


When morning finally peeked through our windows we crawled out of bed. No worse for wear, but as tired as if we'd slept with one eye open--which we had. It was then that our youngest son, a four year old, looked up from the cartoons on the television and informed us that we’d stupidly left the hall light on and he’d taken care of it for us.

Thanks, son.

Hugs, Reese


A true story by Pat Davids.

Here at the WARA blog we are kicking off October with some spooky personal stories. If you are a new visitor to our site you can learn a ton of things about writing by clicking through our archives. If you’ve been here before you know what I mean. We have some great stuff gathered together by talented writers at every stage of the craft. Check us out.

But on to my story.

I love the fall, but one thing I don’t love about this time of year is the way spiders seem to find their way inside when the weather gets cool outside. Did I mention I hate spiders? If I didn’t, let me tell you that spiders inspire fear, loathing, hate and disgust all the way to my very core. I hate spiders. I’m okay with snakes, but I hate spiders.

I am not alone. 55% of females have a fear of spiders. Only 18% of men do. Girls are smarter than boys.

I understand that spiders have a wonderful purpose in life. They eat insects, they create intricate webs that sparkle like diamonds when the early morning sun strikes one bedecked with dew, but I hate them anyway....because....I do.

I grew up in an old farmhouse that we shared with the occasional brown recluse spider. I’m sure I’d die if I actually knew how many lurked in the dank basement, in the attic or beneath all those boxes in the junk room. Happily, I remain in ignorance of the total number but let me tell you about one encounter I did have.

Do you remember when you were finally old enough to stay home alone? I do. I was nine and delighted at the chance to stay home by myself. I felt so grown up. I parked myself in dad’s recliner and watched Gunsmoke on TV…until the old house began to creak and groan as it settled down for the night.

It really isn’t the same without your family in the house. It was...spooky.

I will admit things got spookier the later it got, but I wasn’t going to give in and go to bed when I finally had the house to myself. I got a book and decided to lose myself in the story. I kicked off my shoes, curled up in the chair and began to read.
Quietly, in the still house I turned the pages one by one…and then I heard it.

A faint skit-skitta-skit, skit-skitta-skit.

I looked down and saw a brown spider the size of a dinner plate—okay, well—maybe a saucer—okay, okay, a half-dollar—but a big half-dollar—crossing the hardwood floor straight towards me.

I am not kidding you. I heard that spider walking!

It ran under my recliner and I went straight up and out of that chair like a scalded cat. Barefoot, I turned in panicked circles looking for somewhere, anywhere safe and spotted a kitchen chair a few feet away.

I made the leap with amazing accuracy. I’m sure it was a sight to behold. And there I stayed.

An hour later, when my family finally came home, I was still perched on that chair. I had never taken my eyes off that recliner.

When you tell people (ie, parents and siblings) that you heard a spider walking across the floor they don’t believe you. They don’t. Even if they find you perched on a kitchen chair in the dead of night. My brave dad took one look at me and said, “Why didn’t you kill it?”

I was barefoot. It was fast. It was BIG!
I said, “I don’t know.”
Hey, I was nine.

Dad tipped over the chair and guess what? No spider. Gone! Vanished! Lurking to this day in the dank basement, hidden within the dark corners of the attic, concealed beneath the empty Christmas boxes piled in the junk room. He was Gigantico Arachnosaurus. The biggest darn spider I ever saw. So big you could hear him walking.

I never sat in that recliner again.