Posted in Making It Up As I Go

The One with the Hypothetical Poltergeist

The other night, I woke up after something banged in my living room.

It wasn’t an oh-shit-something-broke bang. More of an eh-the-neighbors-dropped-something-in-their-living-room-again kind of noise. So I rolled over, pulled the comforter back over my head, and went back to sleep.

I’d forgotten all about the noise by the time I crawled out of bed the next morning, and my brain struggled when I noticed that one of my candles had fallen out of its candlestick. It lay across my dining room table with small clumps of broken-off wax in the little collection area at the bottom. Had it been like that when I went to bed? No, I thought, no. It hadn’t.

Eventually my brain put two and two together: the candle falling over was the bang from the middle of the night.

But what made it fall over? I posed that question to my [probably] haunted figurines: Miss Georgia and Phillip.

Me: Hey, Miss Georgia, do you know anything about this candle?

Miss Georgia: I am afraid not, dear. I was enjoying a rather spirited conversation with Nosferatu about the rights of vampires when I heard the candle hit the table.

Me: The rights of vampires…? You understand that he’s a vampire, right?

Miss Georgia: Of course, dear. That is quite evident.

Me: O-K. What about you, Phillip? You keep tabs on the living room at night. Did you see anything?

Phillip: I don’t like what you’re implying.

Me: Excuse me?

Phillip: You’re implying that I had something to do with that candle being knocked over. I didn’t.

Me: That’s totally not what I said but all right.

Phillip: I don’t like your tone.

Me: Oh for f#$%s sake. Did you or did you not see who knocked over the candle or not?

Phillip: … Perhaps.

At this point, I realized that my fingernails were beginning to make gouges in my palms, and I flexed my fingers until they no longer felt cemented in place.

Me: Look, nothing’s broken. I’m not mad. I’d just like a straight answer.

Phillip: If I saw what happened, and this is hypothetically, I imagine there might have been a poltergeist.

Me: A poltergeist?

Phillip: Hypothetically, yes. The poltergeist decided that the best way to freak you out would be to knock over the candle. Now, I’m not sure why this hypothetical poltergeist would want to freak you out. Maybe because you sprayed him in a clear-coat of spray paint or something. Maybe to get you back for that because that stuff smells, you know.

Me: Phillip. Is it possible that–hypothetically–you’re the poltergeist?

Phillip: Hypothetically, no.

Me: All right then. Well, tell this hypothetical poltergeist that he’s going to have to try a hell of a lot harder to scare me. And for the record, that spray paint is going to make sure your paint won’t fade.

I turned around at that point, and I’m pretty sure Phillip flipped me off as I walked away. There’s no doubt in my mind that the hypothetical poltergeist isn’t going to stick around. As long as he doesn’t break anything, I’m curious to see what kind of trouble he gets into.

 

Posted in Making It Up As I Go

On Writer’s Block

The act of writing is simple enough: it’s creating a couple lines on a page with a pen or tapping on a keyboard until words show up on a screen. I can do those things no problem; hell, I do them on a daily basis at work and around the apartment (my grocery list doesn’t write itself, unfortunately).

But there’s a creative aspect involved in crafting characters and setting and plot that isn’t needed when writing emails, and it can’t be forced.

I’ve mashed the keys on my keyboard in an attempt to write a story that didn’t want to be written, only to drag the file into the “Graveyard” folder on my desktop. Or on the worst days, I delete everything I write and leave the page as blank as it was when I started.

Those days of clawing my way through a single paragraph are demoralizing. And when writing day after writing day is like that, when weeks pass with nothing to show, when it’s been a month and I’m still not falling in love with a story, that’s when doubt starts to whisper into my ear.

It says: You’ve had a good run of this writing thing. Wrote for newspapers; had a few hundred thousand hits on an article; even got a short story published. But that’s over now. You might as well find another hobby that’ll fill the hours you’re not at work, like painting or balloon animals. 

I know–logically–that I shouldn’t believe doubt and all I need is to find the story that wants to be written. But logic isn’t all that comforting when I’m staring at a blank page, unable to live up to the writer label that I’ve carried like a badge of honor since I was eleven.

Fear is the seed of doubt; fear that I’ll never be able to write again and that I’m not actually a writer. So when a story isn’t ready or when my brain isn’t ready to work, I try to force it. The failure that inevitably follows leads to more fear and more doubt and more panic. Stepping away from the computer, going on a Netflix binge, and letting the story peculate in the back of my mind is the best way to get back in the saddle.

It feels counter-productive when it’s actually the opposite; my brain works out the kinks in stories even while I’m busying myself with other things. And then the time comes where I read a book or watch a movie, and I’m itching to write.

Words flow from my fingertips like there was never anything keeping them stopped up inside me. Everything is right again because writer’s block is temporary, even if it may seem otherwise.

Posted in Making It Up As I Go, Updates, Writing

2017: A Wrap Up

Three-hundred-and-sixty-five days is a long time, despite the fact that it often feels like a single day passes me by in the blink of an eye. And a lot happen for me in 2017. Both when it came to writing and to life in general. Sometimes when I’m in the middle of a rough spell, I forget how much I’ve accomplished. So this kind of post is a good way to remember the successes of the past year.

Here are the big things that I did in 2017:

The Map (March)
In 2016, I participated in the Collaborative Writing Challenge’s mystery project, The Map. The project wrapped up for the writers in September 2016, and the book was published in March of 2017. The eBook copy arrived in my email shortly afterwards. Over the summer, I ordered a paperback copy from Amazon for my “brag shelf.”

Attended ConCarolinas (June)
I talked myself into buying weekend passes to ConCarolinas in March as an investment in my writing career. I didn’t know where I was going to be job-wise and didn’t know if my introvert-slash-hermit tendencies would allow me to go. But it worked out, and I had an amazing time. Not only did I learn a ton during the panels, I credit my experience as giving me the confidence to submit a short story to an anthology.

“The Monsters of Bear Mountain” Accepted into Down with the Fallen (August)
A ConCarolinas panel on short stories inspired me to find anthology calls for submission, and I stumbled upon Franklin/Kerr Press’s call for post-apocalyptic horror. I wrote and revised “The Monsters of Bear Mountain” over the course of two months before submitting it. About three weeks later, I received an email saying that they had accepted my story. I couldn’t stop smiling for a whole hour after reading it.

Enrolled in College Again (August)
After serious soul searching about what I want to be when I grow up, I decided to enroll in classes at my local community college. I wholly believed I was overestimating myself when I signed up for five classes in addition to working full time. But I not only managed to keep up with my classes, I ended the semester with a 4.0 GPA.

Down with the Fallen Published (November)
Franklin/Kerr Press’s Down with the Fallen anthology–which included my short story–was published on November 7th. But what I’ll remember even more than release day was when I received my author copies in the mail. It was a couple days before the release, and I must have flipped through the book a dozen times. Seeing my name and my story was so surreal and amazing.

Finished Knitting a Poncho (December)
I started my first big knitting project in November: a poncho. I’d only worked on scarves before because they were so simple, but I wanted to accomplish something bigger. Something usable. While it’s not perfect by any measure, it’s complete and is something that I’m insanely proud of. I crafted it with my own hands. There are few things cooler than that.

Posted in Making It Up As I Go

Just One More Thing

I’m far more productive between the hours of 9 PM and 12 AM than I am at any other time of the day. It’s quite unfortunate considering I work a day job that doesn’t allow me to go to bed after midnight (Well, it does. I’d just fall asleep at my desk.)

This combined with building up momentum after finishing a task–whether homework or a bit of writing–makes it difficult to step away from the computer and head to bed. Or to get in the shower and then go to bed. I’m tempted to do just one more thing: write one more line, do one more homework questions, read one more chapter.

Because it’s only one thing, right? That’s true until one thing morphs into a second thing when I tell myself I’ll just do one more, and then the cycle repeats until it’s well passed my bedtime.

Trying to squeeze writing in between the hours I’m committed to my job and to school has only made this habit worse. I want to write. I will write.

I just need to get better about parsing out my time and only spending half an hour re-watching YouTube videos instead of an hour and a half. The time I have after work or after class and before bedtime is pretty finite. And it doesn’t do me any good do do just one more thing before saying that the day is over because it’s really just refusing to admit that I’m out of time but not out of things I want to do.

On that note, I need to get off my computer, head to the shower, and then tuck myself into bed. Goodnight to all, and to all, a good night.

Posted in Making It Up As I Go, Movies, TV & Games

‘Tis the Season of Spooks & Scary Movies

Haunted houses and vampires and zombies are year round in my house (well, apartment,) so I don’t exactly need an excuse to curl up with a scary story. But indulging during the month of October is different; the world just feels better suited for watching horror movies.

It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed any of the not-so-creepy classic horror DVDs lined up on my shelf. And there’s no better time to dust off the plastic cases and revisit a bunch of old favorites.

In a perfect world, what movies do I want to watch this month? Oh, just a few…

  • Dracula 
  • Frankenstein
  • The Wolf Man
  • Dracula, Dead and Loving It
  • The Black Cat
  • White Zombie
  • Bowery at Midnight
  • Spooks Run Wild
  • The Mummy
  • Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
  • Paranormal Activity
  • Bag of Bones
  • Son of Frankenstein
  • The Babadook (Netflix)
  • Young Frankenstein (Netflix)

And with me being me, there’s bound to be a bit of live-tweeting while I’m curled up on the couch and watching these movies.

Now I’m not so out of it as to think that I’ll get through all the movies I want to watch. Between a full time job and going to school full time, I barely have time to do laundry and squeeze-in half an hour of writing a week. But these movies will serve as a creepy little carrot to coax me through the work.

Do you have any must-watch movies this time of year? Or any good (non-gory) horror movies that I should check out?

Posted in Making It Up As I Go

The One with the Cockroach

When I moved into my apartment, I established a truce with the local creepy-crawlies. I wouldn’t bother them when they chilled on my patio, and they wouldn’t come inside the apartment. Most of them seemed to have gotten the memo.

Except for Jeremy.

Jeremy is an amber-colored cockroach the length of my thumb, and he set up camp in the corner of my bathroom ceiling while I was in the shower.

Jeremy: Hey, SE! You should dust once in a while.

Me: What the f#$&?!

Jeremy: I know, I know. No one thinks about dusting their shower, but this little ledge where your shower meets the wall collects dust.

Me: You’re a f#$&ing cockroach. In my f#$%ing shower.

Jeremy: I’d help you out. Really, I would. These scrawny little arms can’t hold onto anything.

I’d only just finished rinsing the shampoo from my hair, so I couldn’t exactly hop out of the shower then and there. That left me the choice of standing with my back to Jeremy (and being unable to see him if he decided to join me in the tub) or staring the creepy little bastard down. I decided to keep my eye on him.

And of course, Jeremy didn’t shut up the whole time.

Jeremy: Apart from the dust, you’ve got a nice bathroom here. I really like your shower curtain; is it from Target?

I bolted out of the shower and the bathroom in record time, and I made doubly sure that the bathroom door clicked shut. I also hoped against hope that Jeremy wouldn’t scoot out the half-inch gap between the door and the linoleum floor.

Then, I dressed for battle. Meaning I tossed on my over-sized Twilight nightshirt, stepped into black-and-white plaid pajama pants, donned my cowboy boots, and tucked said pajama pants into said cowboy boots. Because I was going to be damned if Jeremy crawled up my boot and into my pants.

I gathered a broom and a glass bowl with a lid from the pantry before heading back into the bathroom. I was only partially relieved when I saw that Jeremy hadn’t left his corner above the shower. Only partially because I still had to get him out of my apartment.

Jeremy: They say that you’re not supposed to shower without the fan running, but I love how all the steam turns the entire bathroom into a spa.

Me: All right, motherf#$%er, time to get your ass out of my apartment.

I used the broom’s bristles to gently tap Jeremy’s behind and encourage him out of the corner. He wasn’t exactly thrilled.

Jeremy: Hey, what’s this? What’re these blue pieces of straw bumping against my butt for?

I pressed the glass bowl into the corner of the shower, right in Jeremy’s path. He balked at stepping over the rim. Tried to go left and then right. But I used every iota of resolve in me to herd him toward the bowl rather than dropping everything and running out of the apartment while screaming THERE’S A F#$%ING COCKROACH IN MY BATHROOM at the top of my lungs.

Then suddenly, Jeremy scuttled into the bowl, and I nearly whooped with joy. I eased the bowl and the broom to the floor, and reached for the black lid. Just as I was ready to swap out the broom for the lid, I realized something: I couldn’t see Jeremy through the bowl’s glass bottom.

Jeremy: Ya’know, I don’t like that clear dome-thing. It almost looks like there ain’t anything there to keep me from falling to my death. So I’m gonna just hang out here on this blue straw roof.

Me: You’ve got to be kidding me. How am I going to get him outside now?

Foresight is 20/20. I’d unlocked the sliding glass door in my bedroom that opens out onto the patio, which meant one less thing to struggle against; however there was still the challengeof maneuvering through my narrow apartment with a broom handle held horizontally and then opening the slider without my hands.

I managed it. I created new swears under my breath, but I managed it. I released Jeremy into the wild that is my patio.

Jeremy: This… isn’t your bathroom. Is it? Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice, but I’d rather go back inside.

Me: No f#$%ing way.

Jeremy: Cool, cool, I get it. It’s your apartment. I’m just gonna scurry under the deckbox over there. See you tomorrow!

Me: I better not.

Fortunately for me, I haven’t spotted Jeremy anywhere. Not in my apartment and not on my patio. Maybe he’s found another bathroom to call home. Or maybe a pantry somewhere. There are lots of apartments in my complex after all. I really don’t care, so long as he stays the f#$% out of my apartment.

 

Posted in Doggies, Making It Up As I Go

The One with the Red Fox

Grace does dumb things (like eating rocks), but she’s done pretty well landing on her own four paws (with lots of help from some amazing vets & vet techs). She also doesn’t think twice about going nose to nose with her 90lb brother. She’s a scrappy little mutt.

And it didn’t surprise me one bit when she charged to the end of the leash one day when I was back in Massachusetts. The fur on her back puffed up to the size of a softball, and she threw all 38lbs of herself against the leash.

My gaze traveled across the patchy green and brown expanse of the front lawn, expecting to land on a furry gray ball of rabbit. But it didn’t. Instead, I saw a fox. A beautiful fox with orange fur and dainty black legs.

My first thought was: Is that really a fox? It looks big enough to be a coyote. Then: Oh shit, is that thing going to come after Grace? Does it have rabies?

Grace didn’t share my momentary panic. She launched herself against the end of the leash again and barked her head off.

Grace: That’s my yard, you weird dog! Get out of my yard!

Fox: F#$% this!

The fox bolted around the side of the house and into the swamp beyond. Grace–naturally–tried to follow.

Grace: That’s it, you better run! Punk! And don’t you ever think about comin’ in my yard again!

It took a lot of encouragement and reminding Grace that she hadn’t had breakfast yet, to get her back inside. But even once we got into the kitchen, she still ran for the sliding doors and the porch beyond (with its view of the backyard). That was where I left her when I took Sampson outside for his morning walk.

I figured that was the end of it. The fox had disappeared into the woods, Grace was stationed in the kitchen, and Sampson was (thankfully) oblivious. I’d even gotten a pretty decent photo of the fox with my camera, which was a bonus.

Then came barking from the front window, and I damn near jumped out of my shoes. Grace had positioned herself in the bay window at the front of the house, barking up a storm.

Grace: Hey, you! I told you to get out of my yard!

Fox: F#$%!

For some reason that must’ve made sense in its brain, the fox had doubled back and stood in the side-yard. It froze when it heard Grace barking and then spotted Sampson with me in the driveway. The fox turned into an orange blur as it bolted back to the swamp behind the house.

Sampson: What was that?

Me: Nothing, dude. Let’s just get your walk done, so I can feed you and Grace.

Sampson: O-k. I wanna eat.

Grace was obviously very pleased with herself when we got back inside and tried to convince me that she deserved some of Sampson’s breakfast because she defended the house. I told her no.

Posted in Making It Up As I Go

The National Monument to the Forefathers

Adventure should be my middle name. There’s nothing that makes me happier than hitting the open road for someplace entirely new or a corner of town that I’ve never seen.

Grace and I did a bit of exploration in Plymouth, Massachusetts this spring. I’d never been to the National Monument to the Forefathers which is tucked away, down a side street not far from Plymouth Harbor and the Mayflower II. So we took a trip.

It’s a peaceful little spot with a beautiful view of the Harbor if you look east (behind the camera in the picture). Grace had a blast sniffing every blade of grass while I tried to coax her into taking cute pictures.

 

Posted in Doggies, Making It Up As I Go, Personal

The One with the F#%@ing Mouse (Part 2)

When I left off, Orville the f#%@ing mouse decided it was a good idea to make a break for the upstairs instead of outside the night before Mom and Dad left for their cruise.

Mom and Dad had just gone to bed, and I was upstairs with Sampson and Grace when Grace suddenly zoomed over to the top of the stairs.

Grace: Orville? Buddy? I wanna hunt you!

Me: Gracie… what the f#%@ are you hunting?

Grace: Orville! Orville’s here, S.E.!

Me: F#%@.

Orville: F#%@!

While Orville scurried into and through the kitchen, I shooed Grace to her bed and convinced myself that Grace had been seeing things. Or was hunting a bug that she’d named Orville. The last thing I wanted to believe was that the damn mouse was upstairs.

Then about ten minutes later, Orville decided be stupid for the second time that night.

Orville: I gotta find a way out. Maybe if I sneak by that dog, then I’ll be able to get back downstairs and go out the way I came in. I gotta just make a run for it.

From the corner of my eye, I spotted a gray fuzz dart along the wall before disappearing behind the TV stand. I knew exactly who the furry little bastard was without even a good look. So I did exactly what any grown, badass woman would do: I called Dad’s cell phone and begged him to come upstairs and catch the mouse.

Orville took off underneath the loveseat and then the couch as soon as he saw Mom and Dad coming up the stairs. He managed to disappear for a few minutes before hiding beneath the corner of Sampson’s bed. I grabbed both dogs, and Dad cornered him. He tossed a towel over the gray fuzzball.

Orville: F#%@ing, f#%@!

Me: You got it!

Grace: Let him go! I wanna hunt Orville!

Sampson: Wh-huh? What’s agoing on?

Orville: Okay, hold yourself together. Wait for him to make a mistake. Then make a break for it.

And Dad did make a mistake. He scooped up the towel to get it underneath Orville, and the f#%@ing mouse bolted.

Orville: FREEDOM!!!

Grace: Run, Orville! Run!

Sampson: What’s agoing on?

Me: Annnd shiiiittttt.

I sent Grace after Orville before poking into every corner I could find with the flashlight beam. But no one could find him. There were just too many places for him to hide, whether behind a dresser or underneath a bed or crouched behind cardboard boxes.

That night, I slept on the living room couch because there was a very good chance Orville was in my bedroom. And there was no way in hell I was sleeping in the same room as him.

As for Orville, he was never seen again. I’ve persuaded myself that he escaped through an open door the next day. Maybe it was true. Maybe it wasn’t. Either way, it was the only way that I could go to sleep at night.

Posted in Doggies, Making It Up As I Go, Personal

The One with the F#%@ing Mouse (Part 1)

I recently got home from Massachusetts after spending a month in my hometown. Since I was between jobs when my parents were going on a three-week cruise, I found myself house-sitting and dog-sitting. It’s nothing to complain about: spending a month writing and playing with dogs and hanging with friends.

There was just one hiccup. A f#%@ing mouse named Orville.

Let me backup a bit.

My parents’ house sits between suburbia and wooded wetlands, settled deep enough among trees that you can pretend to be off in the wilderness when the trees are full of leaves in summer. Privacy is great. But the wildlife that lives in the wetlands don’t think twice about encroaching into our space, though Sampson and Grace do a pretty good job of keeping them away.

Well, except for Orville. He arrived a couple days before I returned to Massachusetts.

Orville scurried into the garage for some mousey reason or another, probably following his nose to the crumbs of dog food. He met up with his buddy, Mercury, before descending the stairs to the first floor.

Mercury: Dude, there are f#%@ing dogs in here.

Orville: Shit, you’re right! Big ones.

Mercury: Hurry up and get the food.

Orville: Okay, I’m hurryin’.

Mercury: F#%@! Dog!

Grace: What’re youuu?

Grace happened to be downstairs at the time with Mom when she saw Mercury and Orville. Her muscles went all stiff in stillness yet flexed in a fluid motion when she moved. Her eyes sighted-in on Orville and Mercury with laser focus.

Mercury & Orville: F#%@!

Grace: I’m gonna hunt you.

At that point, Mom shouted for Dad, and he managed to toss a towel of Mercury and catch him. Mercury cursed the whole time as Dad carried him out to the backyard. Orville took the opportunity to bury himself into a shadowy corner, and there he stayed while Dad put out mouse traps.

Days went by. Dad checked the traps. Orville bypassed the tempting smell of bait in favor of the crumbs that collect in the corners of rugs no matter how many times they’re vacuumed.

Then the night before Mom and Dad had to be up and ready for their ride to the airport at 5 AM, Orville decided to make a break for it. But he didn’t do the logical thing, oh no. He didn’t run for the back door when Mom or Dad left it open for a few minutes. He ran the f#%@ upstairs.

To be continued…