Golden Shovel

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Last week, I taught my poetry class about Golden Shovel poems, a form in which you use the words of a poem or part of a poem and write your own poem, making the words of the original poem the last word in each line. I chose a haiku from our textbook for my example. This was actually kind of fun, and I may do more as time allows.

 

Midnight Walk

(After Matsu Basho)

 

I slip out of bed, borrowing

Mom’s sweater. I can’t sleep,

So I take the lantern from

The shelf and slip silently out the

Door. Across the yard to the scarecrow’s

Field. I gasp, “Oh, friend! Your tattered sleeves!”

I can’t sew patches at dark midnight,

So I loan Mom’s sweater to chase the frost.

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Thirteen Halloween Haikus

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Because I’ll be teaching a class on haiku this week, and because I’ve been reading an author friend’s book of horror haiku, my Friday the 13th offering for the blog hop will be a collection of thirteen Halloween haikus. Enjoy!

 

I

Jack o’lanterns glow

On front porches, welcoming

Witches, pirates, ghouls.

 

II

A skeletal hand

Emerges from the cold ground

And high-fives the night.

 

III

Through the trees, a house

Beckons weary travelers,

Disappears at dawn.

 

IV

A dare. I walk through

The silent cemetery.

Behind me, footsteps.

 

V

We stroll past tombstones,

Whispers shatter the silence.

Shh! You’ll wake the dead.

 

VI

Halloween, midnight.

Even the clock hides its face

And prays for morning.

 

VII

Crescent moon hangs high

Above the cemetery,

The Grim Reaper’s scythe.

 

VIII

Down the darkened street,

Spooky specters wail as they

Trick or treat for souls.

 

IX

Skeletons practice

Extreme nudism as they

Dance in their bare bones.

 

X

Spiders weave their webs

By moonlight, hoping to catch

Some trick-or-treaters.

 

XI

Crows perch on a branch,

Standing guard over graves where

Souls rise from the dead.

 

XII

Does a pumpkin scream

As knives slice its skull and scoop

Its soul from within?

 

XIII

Halloween’s over.

The last trick-or-treater runs

Home with his candy.

Blog Hop Links

Welcome to the October Frights Blog Hop

 

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Welcome to the October Frights Blog Hop. Be sure to read through to the end of this post and click “Blog Hop Links” at the bottom so you can check out the other blogs on the hop. Also, there is a Rafflecopter giveaway, so be sure to check that out as well.

For my first October Frights post, I’m sharing an excerpt from my soon-to-be-released-if-I-ever-get-it-finished book, An Uneasy Inheritance. In this section, Kyr abruptly leaves her house after a frightening encounter with the resident spirit and finds herself in her  great-aunt’s garden.

******

The rusty metal gate protested loudly as it swung shut, drawing me from my reverie. I looked around, bewildered but not frightened by the fact that I now stood on the other side of the gate, with no memory of having walked through it. Recalling Celeste’s final words to me, I muttered, “Well, I suppose Celeste has something to show me.”

I started down the stepping stone path, trying not to step on the random vines and branches that seemed to reach across the path to each other. Regardless of my attempts to avoid brushing against the plants, a dried leaf here and a limp tendril there stroked my face or my hair as I passed. A shiver raced down my spine at the uncanny notion that they reached out to me as they would to a long-lost friend.

The further I walked into the garden, the more I sensed that it was enchanted. From outside the fence, the space appeared quite small. As I wound my way along the path, however, I realized I’d been walking for some time and still hadn’t reached the center. No wonder Teresa Vale thought Celeste was a witch. If she’d ever visited—

Glancing to the side, I gasped as I caught a glimpse of a small white face peering at me through the branches of an overgrown snowberry bush. Immediately recognizing it as a little girl, I dove into the bush and cried out, “Charlotte?”

It wasn’t Charlotte after all, but a life-sized statue of a little girl gazing with wonder at a butterfly in her palm. Snow covered much of the statue, and icicles hung from the girl’s hair, nose, and fingers. I cocked my head and stared curiously at it, searching my memory for any recollection of such a figure in the garden. Finding none, I stepped forward to gently brush away the snow and break the icicles from the white marble.

As my fingers brushed against the cold stone, an overwhelming surge of sadness swept over me, as though this statue memorialized someone who had passed. Charlotte came to mind once more, but I immediately dismissed the thought; Celeste likely didn’t know Charlotte and would have no cause to either mourn her or memorialize her in such a way. Not knowing what else to do, I kissed my fingers before pressing them to the little girl’s cheek and entreating her to be at peace.

Continuing on past what I guessed were lilac bushes, I came to a small, shallow, brick-encircled pool with three concrete benches spaced evenly around it. Of course, the water in the pool was frozen over and snow-covered, as were the benches, but I was delighted with the space and hurried over to brush the snow from one of the benches so I could sit down.

It didn’t take long for the cold to seep through my jeans into my backside, but still I sat gazing around, trying to imagine what this spot looked like in the summer, with lovely white flowers blooming all around and with stars and the full moon shining down from above. I closed my eyes, willing myself to feel the warmth of a summer night, to smell the heady aroma of a hundred different flowers, to hear crickets serenading all around.

A skittering sound in the underbrush nearby ripped me from my daydream and made my head whip around in the direction from which the sound had come. I sat motionless, holding my breath and listening, as I tried to determine who or what might be approaching.

The garden fell silent once more, without even a breeze to rustle the leaves, and I decided it must have been a bird. After a full minute, I relaxed and allowed myself to breathe normally. Turning to face the pool again, I stretched my legs out in front of me and leaned back on my hands as I gazed at the perfect circle of white before me. Feeling much lighter than I should have after my terrifying encounter at the house, I looked around for a twig. Finding one beneath the bench on which I sat, I plucked it up and sat for a moment, thinking.

I leaned forward to draw a few squiggles in the snow with the twig. After the initial sketch, I sat back and wrinkled my nose. Drawing had never been my forte. As I reached down to erase the offending doodle, I stopped. Inspired, I took up the twig once more and added to my simple sketch.

When I finished, I sat back and laughed to myself. I had turned my initial mess of scribbles into the face of a crooked-nosed man with a wavy moustache. On a whim, I took out my phone and snapped a picture, then texted it to Spook with the caption, “The scariest thing you’ll see today—one of my drawings.” I giggled as I hit Send, wishing I could see his face when he got it.

The very next instant, I let out a scream as a furry black blur burst through the bushes and whizzed past directly in front of my face and landed with a thud next to me. “Lucifer! What the ever-loving hell?”

My cat turned to stare haughtily at me, his tail lashing back and forth like a furry black snake. Apparently pleased with himself for giving me my second heart attack of the day, he planted his bottom on the bench and began grooming himself.

No sooner had my heart rate slowed to its normal speed than a loud snap made me tense again. The sound of approaching footsteps and a low, murmuring voice told me I wasn’t alone in the garden. I caught a flash of blue through the thicket, announcing an unexpected presence. I glanced around for something—anything—I could use as a weapon, but the only two things close enough to grab were the discarded drawing twig and the placid-for-the-moment demon kitty.

Just as I’d made up my mind to grab Luci and launch him at whoever was trespassing in Celeste’s garden, Helen suddenly emerged from between two pyracantha bushes. Seeing me perched on the edge of the bench with my arms extended towards my unsuspecting cat, she grinned broadly and said, “There you are, Kyree child. I knew you’d be in the garden.”

Blog Hop Links

Orange is October

I’m teaching a poetry workshop for homeschoolers this semester. This week’s assignment was to write a color poem using paint chips from Lowe’s and the figurative language we talked about in class. Just sharing the one I wrote as an example.

 

Orange is October

Orange grins like a jack-o-lantern
Glowing in the window.

Orange is candy corn,
Sugary sweet and grainy on my tongue.

Orange is the hiss and pop of bonfire embers
Dancing like flaming fairies in the wind.

Orange screams,
“Trick or Treat!”

Spooktacular Author Giveaway

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If you like prizes (and hey, who doesn’t?), then you won’t want to miss this!

To celebrate my favorite spooky holiday, I have teamed up with more than 50 other authors for a huge giveaway that includes books, gift cards, jewelry, and lots of other Halloween-themed prizes, including a Grand Prize of a $150 Amazon gift card!

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To enter, just click the link below!

Enter Rafflecopter

My Corona

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My Corona (A parody of My Sharona, in honor of the 2017 Solar Eclipse)

Ooh, the pretty flaming ring, the flaming ring
Shining all around the dark moon, Corona
The hottest part of the sun, of the sun
Can see it during the eclipse, Corona

Man, I wanna look, gotta look, such a pretty thing
I’m always lookin’ up, for the sight of the diamond ring
My, my, my, aye-aye, whoa!
M-m-m-my Corona

Brightness makes me squint uh-huh, it’s bright, uh-huh
Bright enough to burn out my eyes, Corona
The crazy thing’s a mystery, it gets to me
Looking up into the sky, Corona

Man, I wanna look, gotta look, such a pretty thing
I’m always lookin’ up, for the sight of the diamond ring
My, my, my, aye-aye, whoa!
M-m-m-my Corona
M-m-m-my Corona

Man, I just can’t wait to see totality
Is it just a matter of time, Corona?
Am I really gonna see the Baily’s beads
Or am I gonna miss it this time, Corona?

Man, I wanna look, gotta look, such a pretty thing
I’m always lookin’ up, for the sight of the diamond ring
My, my, my, aye-aye, whoa!
M-m-m-m-m-m-m-my, my, my, aye-aye, whoa!
M-m-m-my Corona
M-m-m-my Corona

M-m-m-my Corona
M-m-m-my Corona

Making Up Words–Accidentally

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As I was typing up one of my hand-written scenes this morning, my fingers got ahead of me again (I’m usually a hunt-and-peck typer), and I ended up typing this:

“If I could have run the mile in high school as fast as I made it back to the footbridge, John Wesley wouldn’t have been the only Carter on Bermudian’s record books for track. I thundered across the footbridge onto my own property, then collapsed in a panting, wheezing heap in the snow, clurching the painful stitch in my side.”

The word “clurching” is obviously a typo, but I laughed to myself thinking that it might be a clever word to use deliberately at some point. It would mean something along the lines of “clutching one’s side while running clumsily.” I could actually see it in a YA novel in which an out-of-shape character is trying to run the mile in gym class. As he/she runs, wheezing, out of breath, and clutching the painful stitch in his/her side, classmates stand at the sidelines watching and laughing at him/her. One of them coins the term “clurching,” and the unfortunate, out-of-shape classmate earns the nickname Clurch.

Lurch

Memorial Day Musings

Our family just got back from spending Memorial Day in my hometown of Millersburg, PA. It was a wonderful day, reminiscent of childhood Memorial Days, when there was always some kind of ceremony on the town square, followed by a parade. Those celebrations were never “fun” for me as a child, and I can recall being “bored,” just as my younger son was today. However, even as a child, I always understood that there was a deeper purpose to those ceremonies than mere entertainment, something that I appreciate more now than I did when I was younger.

Today’s celebration was even more meaningful than usual for me. Today, the town commemorated the holiday by officially presenting banners honoring Millersburg veterans. These banners will be displayed throughout the town and along the riverfront. One of those banners features my father, SMSgt Glenn Daniels, who served in the Air Force from 1951-1972, including time in Korea during the Korean Conflict. I know very little about his duties and accomplishments during his time in the military; most of what I heard about was family life during those years, how my mother coped with small children while he was gone, and everyday life in the places he was stationed. I still remember after he died, finding a collection of medals he earned during his time in the Air Force. While we were able to research online the names of the awards, none of his children or grandchildren know what he actually did to earn each particular decoration.

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One other part of the ceremony that I found especially meaningful was the winner of the Voice of Democracy Essay Contest reading his essay. He talked about the importance of asking veterans about their experiences and listening to their stories, so that those stories could be passed down to future generations so that those things are not forgotten. He challenged not only his generation, but all of us, to do our part in keeping these stories alive. It made me think of my own father, who shared so little of his days in the service, and it made my wonder if I’d pressed him, showed a little more interest in his story, would he have opened up?

One last thing that weighs heavy on my mind this Memorial Day is something my younger son said to me at church yesterday. At one point during the service, he leaned over to me out of the blue and said, “You know, Mom, I kind of feel like I want to join the Army when I grow up.”

Outwardly, I believe I gave a good, supportive response. I told him that’s something he needs to pray about and decide for himself when the time comes. Inwardly, as a mother, I screamed, “Nooooooo!!!!!” The thought of my son, my baby, enlisting in the military and being sent overseas to fight in wars or conflicts and possibly not coming home was just too much for me to bear at that moment. My heart cried over the possibility, and I wondered how other mothers dealt with that inward turmoil.

Still, a part of me knows that military service is in his blood. My father, uncles, an aunt, and at least one cousin have also served our country, some during wartime, and others during various skirmishes. My struggle with my son’s potential future choice is not unique; I’ve had loved ones who have likely asked those same questions. I know that when the time comes, if he chooses to follow that path in life, I’ll let him go, sending him off with the same love, support, and prayers that my grandparents, aunts, and uncles have sent their own dear ones off with.

And if he does indeed choose a life of service to his country, then one day he, too, will have a story to tell, to pass down for future generations to remember.

Research

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You’d think by now my husband would stop asking when something a little out of the ordinary appears in our search history.

I’m waist-deep in writing Book 4 of my paranormal mystery series, and there are more twists and turns in this plot than there are on the mountain road where the last half of the story is set. Some of those twists and turns–and even some of the more mundane parts of the plot–have required a bit of research.

Just for fun, I decided to list some of the things I have researched so far in writing this novel.

  1. Inheritance laws. Obviously, there is an inheritance involved in An Uneasy Inheritance. Since I’ve never been the executor of an estate, nor have I ever inherited an entire estate, I had to look up some of the in’s and out’s of the process.
  2. Renovo, PA. This will become Kyr’s new home in the second half of the book. I went to college in Lock Haven (Willow Lake in the books), which is about half an hour south of there. I may have visited the outskirts of Renovo once during that time, but I really didn’t know anything about its history, the mindset of its residents, or anything like that. Fortuitously, I discovered that a friend actually grew up there, so I have some personal testimony to add to my internet research.
  3. Funeral services. I’ve been to funerals. Many funerals. By and large, the majority of the services I’ve been to have been religious–specifically Christian–in nature. The memorial service Kyr has to plan is decidedly…not Christian. It’s kind of a mish-mash of spiritual, pagan, and a touch Native American, so I had to do a little digging to find a suitable template for a service. Of course, a moment of chaos kind of throws all the planning out the window…
  4. Cremation urns. Something else I’m a bit unfamiliar with. I knew that Celeste wouldn’t want the typical vase-shaped urn, but I wasn’t sure what else was out there. The ghosts in the above photo are actually cremation urns, and I also found one resembling Barack Obama (still trying to wrap my head around that one). It took some searching, but I did find one that suited Celeste’s unique personality and reverence for nature.
  5. Symbolism of crows. I keep seeing crows as I write this scene or that. One showed up in an old photo of Kyr’s great-aunt, and on the day of the memorial service, Kyr notices one sitting outside the funeral home, watching her. And the creepy neighbor lady Helen has a red-eyed crow carved on the top of her walking stick.  default-1464354436-173-crow-brains-reveal-secrets-of-their-intelligence
  6. Brocken spectre. This is a weather phenomenon I saw on the Weather Channel once, and I decided to research it further, thinking it might play into some of the spookiness of the property Kyr now owns. Basically, it’s a shadow cast on a fog bank, and it looks like a ghost or an angel. I haven’t decided where, how, or if this will even come into play, but it’s certainly an interesting motif.  Brocken spectre
  7. Cargo vans vs. moving vans. Even with moving the vast majority of her furniture into storage until a later date, there was no way Kyr would get all her belongings into her small car to take to her new house, and since she was moving three hours away, multiple trips were not an option. Because of the remote nature of her new digs, I wasn’t sure a moving van would be wise, or even feasible, but just how much can you fit into a cargo van?
  8. Disassembling a bed frame. I’ve never had to move a bed to another house, so I wasn’t sure if the actual bed frame came apart or not. I was fairly certain it did, but had no idea how far it disassembled, so off to Google I went. Luckily, there’s just enough disassembly and reassembly involved so that Kyr’s brother Luther could have an interesting experience in the attic.

I know there are other things I have researched over the past few months, but these are the ones I could recall off the top of my head. I’m sure I’ll be doing more research before this book is done, and I’m sure my husband will ask many more times, “Is there a reason you’ve bookmarked a page about _________?”

Whether you’re a writer or not, what is the strangest thing you’ve found yourself researching on the internet? Let me know in the comments!