Blogoween Day 13 – Spooky NaNo Prep

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I don’t think there’s anything particularly spooky about National Novel Writing Month except maybe the bone-crushing fear of taking on such a terrifying task or the horror of putting yourself through a grueling 30 days of writing to reach 50k words. But unless you’re writing horror, or a thriller, or darker paranormal stuff, or real-life scary things, or, well, you get the picture, you’re probably not going to immerse yourself in spookiness for NaNo.

Still, we should discuss since it’s lurking just beyond the horizon of Halloween, aaaaand I need a topic for today.

I’ve written a few (well, more than a few actually) blogs about NaNo in the past:

If you don’t have time for all those, well, I don’t blame you, Dear Reader, but the gist of everything is this: I’ve never hit 50k words during actual NaNoWriMo, but I sure blog a lot about planning to! November 2017 I did manage 30k, and then last July I completed Camp NaNo, and I actually got 50k words done in 31 days! So I have a lot of confidence for this month coming up, and I’ve identified the tools I need to do it.

I hit a slump in August and September, just after wowing myself with 50k words for the first time, but surprisingly it wasn’t because I wore myself out. On the contrary, I was actually more pumped about writing in July and just after than I have been in years–I felt the invincibility that only teenagers in fast cars feel–it’s just that the rest of life got in the way. So near the end of September I formulated a plan:

  • October: Blogoween and catching up with Vacancy
  • November: National Novel Writing Month with a completely new project
  • December: Edit She’s All Thaumaturgy (working title, 2018 Camp NaNo project)

October is meant to be prep month for NaNo-ers, Preptober, I think? So to warm up my creative juices, I decided to blog every day. Sticking to a daily writing/creative task is good practice regardless of if you’re working toward something, honestly, and for me it’s been a way to sort of clear out the cobwebs (ooh, I see we are getting a bit spoopy, huh?)

And of course the other point of Preptober is planning your novel. I’ve learned that I am absolutely not a pantser like I believed for so many years (it was a bit like finding out I was a Hufflepuff and not a Ravenclaw like I thought for so long), but I’ve been torn the last couple weeks on which plot to pick: I have two projects that could neatly fit themselves into the month 1) The Last House on Magic Lane and 2) This One’s Embarrassingly About Vampires and Werewolves. (Neither of these are even working titles, they’re just what I’m calling them for this post, but there is a part of me that kind of wants to be the author who titles her books these things.)

Last House is something I came up with quite a while ago–it’s another story about a charmed place, as I am so wont to do, and has a complex history and soap opera feel to it. In fact, I originally conceived of it as another serial that I wanted to be a long and complex parody of a soap opera, told from many viewpoints spanning a few generations, but I’ve since scaled it back to a one-off. The story does lend itself, though, to a possible trilogy, and might be better served that way, so it may not be the best contender for NaNo. Right now, this book is a collection of scenes and an overall mythology, but a lot of the motives and characters are not neatly defined.

Embarrassing is kind of the total opposite: it’s a much newer idea, the plot is reliant on a much smaller cast moving from pace to place, and it’s absolutely a one-off. The other pro to Embarrassing is that I have the plot and characters almost entirely mapped out; Last House would require significantly more work to get it to the same place. So the choice seems easy, right? Except it’s not because Embarrassing is exactly that: EMBARRASSING. Well, okay, not really, but it falls squarely into young adult paranormal romance territory (I mean, I have it saved in a folder called “Wattpad” on my Google Drive, for goodness sake!), and my fear is that I’ll fall into all the easiest tropes and cheesiest writing if I go with this story. But maybe that’s who I am and I should embrace it? It’s just a first draft, after all, and I can trash it if I want, but I’d really like this to be something I can come back to in a few months (like I will be doing in December) and rework into something publishable.

Then again, maybe Embarrassing, like Blogoween, is exactly what I need right now. Maybe I need to purge these ideas and words from my system. And maybe it will end up being great after all?

I should probably not rush Last House. With only 18 days to go in October (and a LOT of crazy life stuff happening in that short time) I don’t know that I could even successfully plot out where I would want the story to go over the course of a single novel anyway, and I’d ultimately probably feel like I was cheating myself and the story if I cut out all the grandiose plans I had for it. So, I guess that settles it? This One Is Embarrassingly About Vampires and Werewolves it is? Have I talked myself into it?

Well, I guess so. Now to finish fleshing out the plot, and crossing all my appendages that I can shit out enough words in November to make it count!

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Blogoween Day 6: Recommended Spooky Internet Reads

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We all know that The Internet is a cesspool where every bad thought humanity has ever had goes to hang out and pick on one another, but sometimes the World Wide Web gives birth to a thing that’s not actually total garbage, and I think one of those things might be creepypasta.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the term “creepypasta” is derived from “copypasta” which is a blended play on “copy (and) paste” which refers to a piece of prose that is shared over and over on internet forums. The original creator of copypasta is often lost, and the prose become recognizable and a joke. Creepypasta specifically is a bit different and the stories are treated more like urban legends, making the rounds on the internet and keeping people awake at night.

The stories are neat because they’re typically written in the first person with the suggestion that of course they’re true, and with the added anonymity of The Internet, there’s a greater sense of “Well, I guess that could have happened??”

Now, yes, like most things on the interwebz, there is a LOT of awful creepypasta, but also like most things on the interwebz, creepypasta is not exactly cultivated or controlled. It’s molded by those who engage in it, and it is amateur (just like everything you’re reading here, friend!) because it’s created largely by anonymous writers to be distributed and consumed for free by readers, so expecting these stories to be polished is asinine. (Also, if they are true, then you’re not expecting them to be well-told stories right??) That being said, there are some really great pieces floating around out in the inter-ether, and I’d like to share with you some of my favs. These are stories that have stuck with me either for their imagery or their style or just for nostalgia’s sake.

Skinwalker – I’m starting with this because it’s one of the first I ever read years ago, and though I doubt I saw the original post, I know I read this on one of the internet’s scummier sites. It’s also notable to me because it frightened Husband, and he doesn’t really care for spooky stuff at all. The link I’m including below is to an image of a bunch of screenshots of a message board, and the story is written in greentext, popular on that forum, so it’s not the easiest to read, but I do love this story because it’s so organic, and it’s everything I love about creepypasta. These stories aren’t usually written as if by an aspiring author, they’re told like how your friend might tell you the weird thing that happened to them last night, and that makes them all the more creepy. Light a campfire, maybe, before you read.

Anansi’s Goatman – If you liked the skinwalker story above, or if you wanted to like it but couldn’t get through because of the writing, this story will be a better read for you. The concept of the skinwalker/goatman got popular for a while and you see a lot of the same lore around the creature pop up in the stories, but these two do it best, I think. All I know is I will never fucking go camping out west.

Abandoned By Disney – This is another that feels quite real, but is more prosey. I’ve seen the concept of the story and the imagery in this one be criticized a lot, but I think that’s bullshit because, again, you’re getting it for free, and you’re not meant to look at it like a piece of literature. Regardless, I think it’s a really fun read.

The Smiling Man – In literally “this creepy thing happened to me last night” fashion, this story is a short read that will give you chills on imagery alone. There isn’t much to it, mostly facts, and that’s all it needs. The author insists the story is true, so I have no reason to disbelieve her.

1999 – Perhaps one of the longest-running creepypastas out there (technically still running), this story is a long, uncomfortable read, but you won’t be able to stop. They were written as blog entries, but I don’t know where the blog itself is (or if it ever really existed), but I do believe the posts were updated over the course of years which really sets the creepy factor high for this one. Be forewarned: it gets graphic and disturbing. What the fuck are you reading?

Borrasca – Perhaps one of the best known stories on the Reddit NoSleep forum, this is a long and unsettling piece, but it won’t feel long. Despite how legitimately upsetting it is, the writing makes it a pleasure and a surprisingly fast read. Unlike most creepypastas, Borrasca has a stronger fiction-feel to it, with wonderful Stephen King undertones. But do be warned: it is legitimately disturbing and will haunt you. Fortunately it’s not anonymous and the author can be found here!
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

I hope you’re sufficiently spooped, Dear Reader! Sleep tight!

Blogoween Day 5 – Freaky Fiction Friday: Best Friends

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Best Friends

Marianne is my best friend. We’ve been together since the beginning of time, or at least it feels that way since I can’t remember an instance from before we met. When we were very little we would play most of the day and even sometimes at night when we were meant to be sleeping. If you would have asked her then, Marianne would have said I was her best friend too, even if sometimes she would do something bad and blame it on me, but it was okay because sometimes I’d do bad things too, and she would always end up the one in trouble.

Once I knocked over her milk–and it was an accident really!–but her mom didn’t see it that way. Marianne didn’t talk to me for the rest of the day, and I slept in the closet that night, but by the next morning we were back to having a tea party with her stuffed animals.

I will admit that over the years we’ve drifted. Days would go by, weeks even, and we wouldn’t even talk, but Marianne always comes back. A classmate turns on her, a boy breaks her heart, and when she’s finally at her lowest, she reaches out to me. She doesn’t need to know my part in those things–that would only complicate our relationship–she just needs to know I’ll always be here for her. I am her friend, after all. Her best friend.

Caroline would say that she is Marianne’s best friend. They met in Mrs. Mulberry’s third grade class and became inseparable, but I don’t know how Marianne could stand her with her whiny voice and stupid pigtails. Marianne ignored me when Caroline was around, but despite my best efforts they remained friends, so I came to accept her. I let them do whatever stupid thing Caroline suggested, work on projects I wasn’t part of, go to parties I wasn’t invited to, but I’d eventually get my alone time with Marianne. Even just for five minutes before falling asleep, we’d talk. And that was enough. It had to be.

Marianne was really nervous the night before her first day of senior year. We stayed up really late talking about how we missed being little and all the fun we used to have, how we’d play pranks on her mom, and how we’d fall asleep with Barbies in our hands. We even talked about how stupid Caroline’s hair was, and Marianne laughed! She thanked me for calming her down, told me that she loved me, and in her sleepy stupor as she closed her eyes, she said goodbye. Silly, I thought, she just meant goodnight.

I woke up last week to her call. She was so nervous all over again that I thought I was living the same night over again at first, but no. We caught up, apparently this last year has been great–without me–but she was a wreck trying to figure out where to go to college. Her mom wanted her to pick before graduation at the end of the week, and she needed help. That’s when it hit me: Marianne was leaving. I always had an inkling this would happen, but it never felt so real. Every time I’d watch her walk out the door, I never felt like this, like she might leave me behind for good.

I can feel myself slipping already. It’s like, I don’t know, like she’s able to look right through me now if I don’t go out of my way to get her attention. I didn’t want to break her volleyball trophy–really, I didn’t!–but I needed her to know I was there. To acknowledge me. Her best friend.

So after all this time, I finally sat Marianne down and told her that it was my turn, that I needed her now. I told her she owes me this, and, I mean, Marianne made me what I am, so she must want this too somewhere deep down inside. It took some convincing, some rationalizing, some coaxing, but in the end she understood. Of course she does, because really this is what she wants. What we both want. It’s the same thing when you’re best friends.

So Caroline is coming over to spend the night, one last time before their big graduation bash. Marianne says she knows the words–I think she’s always probably known them since she made me–and I brought her the knife. I’m sure I can dye her hair or something, and if I can’t, well, it’s a small price to pay to stop being imaginary.

Podcast: Vacancy 1.16 – Here’s The Thing

Episode 1.16 – Here’s The Thing

Vacancy is an ongoing web serial. Find out more about it and start reading or listening here.

Vacancy’s Theme is “Planet Bullspit” by Corey Major

Vacancy Episode 1.16 uses these sounds from freesound, all of which have been remixed. The inclusion of any sound does not indicate endorsement of this completed work or its author:

Blogoween Day 2 – True Terror Tuesday: The Spirits of Bourgeois Swamp

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Let’s start light, shall we? Oh, and if you’d like a little ambiance, I created a fun haunted house-style mix over at Ambient Mixer.

A few years ago, Husband and I were living in New Tampa, Florida which isn’t a real place, it’s just a bourgeois name some wealthy but uncreative people came up with who still wanted to be considered in the city limits but have sprawling golf courses between their McMansion subdivisions. The smartest thing the New Tampa planners did was to plot the “city” down in the middle of a protected wetland-type-area. Yeah, I don’t know exactly how they did it either, but basically most of the developed areas there are surrounded by land that can’t be built on because it’s too soggy or too protected. I’m all for protecting natural areas and leaving wilderness untouched, and maybe this was the best way to do it, I’ll never know, but something about it feels icky.

We lived in one of the few apartment complexes allowed in the area because sometimes you have to keep the servants close what with gas prices being so high and their wages so low. We actually didn’t know anything about the area when we moved to it, we just picked the complex for its convenience to my new workplace. It was much nicer than any place we’d lived before; our apartment was on the back of one of the buildings and all of our windows looked out on what was essentially untouched forest/wetland. This made the apartment nice and cool and quiet, but it was also often a bit creepy. I made Husband sleep on the side of the bed next to the sliding glass door.

Speaking of Husband, you should know this about him: he thinks all of this is bullshit. He’s never had a supernatural experience, and doesn’t believe in ghosts or demons or anything like that. He loves fantasy stories, and he has a great imagination, but none of those things are real to him. Although I can’t wholly wrap my head around this kind of thinking, I’m really appreciative that I’ve married someone who can keep me grounded. (Though if we ever find ourselves in a horror-movie situation, he is the exact kind of person who will get possessed but insist there’s nothing wrong with the house, and WE AREN’T MOVING, DAMMIT!)

So while we were living there, we would go on walks in the evening along the driveways and parking lots of the complex that snaked deeper into the preserve. Even though there weren’t sidewalks, there wasn’t a lot of traffic. The complex had about 55 buildings, most of which were at the front and the main road, but there was a private road that went further into the forest and ended in a big loop with about 10 buildings off of it. The private road was maybe a third of a mile long, with dense woods on either side and a stream running under it in the center: I suspect there weren’t any apartments built right off of it because the land was too bog-like.

We were both working weird hours back then, so we’d often find ourselves walking kind of late, and once you were headed down that road with the woods on either side of you and the trees reaching out overhead, it got dark quickly. There was a single streetlight, maintained by the complex so that is to say, not well, right in the center of the road. It was that yellow, sickly color, dim, sometimes flickering, sometimes out all together.

We had a couple occurrences out there in the dark. Once as we were walking we could see something in the shadows of the road up ahead, black against the tar of the road, so just a weird outline on the street, but it was long and a bit winding, not like a branch had fallen from a nearby tree, but that would have been the most obvious thing. We got closer, and not unreluctantly–we just thought hey, what is that thing?

A snake. That thing was a snake. And not like a little garden snake–we certainly wouldn’t have been able to see a small thing as far as we were to begin with. I’ve happened upon plenty of snakes while walking in Florida and though obviously they give a fright because of how they move and basic human instinct is “GET AWAY FROM THE FAST, POINTY, POSSIBLY VENOMOUS THING!” I know logically snakes want to me around me about as much as Di wants to be around Rutherford (which is not at all). But this wasn’t that, Dear Reader, this was massive and fat and in the shadows of the trees and the evening, it was black.

Florida is a great place for reptiles: it’s hot, wet, swampy, and there are year-round bugs and rodents. People have also released enough invasive species there to really amp up the scary factor when stumbling upon anything scaled in the state. I can’t tell you what this was–it was too dark and even in the light I honestly assume all snakes are good guys who should just be avoided–but it slithered away and into the woods with the kind of leisure that says, “I have no reason to be afraid of you.”

A second memorable moment was once when we had already walked down the road and completed the loop. We hadn’t measured time well, and upon return, we saw that the road had gone almost completely dark, but there wasn’t any other option–there was a single way back home, and it was through the heart of the wood.

My mind immediately goes to playing tricks on me, so I have to reason with myself, but the danger in that is I go too concrete: “Of course there isn’t a wendigo loitering behind the trees and sniffing the air for your blood, and those two glowing dots you see are very certainly not the piercing eyes of a skunk ape ready to attack.” I managed to calm myself down by chatting with Husband about something inane like work or football, and had actually put the spooky thoughts out of my mind when I heard it: the growl.

This noise shook me to my core, Dear Reader. We did not walk along the edge of this road, and it was wide enough for cars to pass one another, but even as we walked down its very center, I heard this growl in the space just behind my ear so that my jaw bone tingled. It wasn’t loud, but it was somehow right beside me. I didn’t have the nerve the turn and look, but I did feel something out in the forest. Not just behind me, not preparing to attack, but something lurking that was looking as us like we ought not be there.

Yes, I may have been too heavily invested in The Werewolf of Fever Swamp when I was a kid, but if nothing else R.L. Stein taught me not to dawdle when lycans are afoot. I grabbed Husband’s arm and started fast walking til we got past the flickering light then broke into a sprint. He was questioning me audibly, but not enough to make me stop. I didn’t explain, I didn’t even bother to ever look back, I just told him we had to go. When we got back home I told him what happened. No, Husband does not believe there was a werewolf in the woods that night. But he’s also not dead, so that is that.

Finally, the legit most frightening thing that happened to us on that road, and possible ever in our relationship, was another night, of course, when we were walking out towards the back loop of apartments. The streetlight had been properly maintained at this time and though still yellow and illuminating the humidity hanging in the air, it lit up the road enough in its center to make walking though the darkest parts tolerable. We were headed toward the light but in the darkest span of the road. It was quite quiet that evening, not even a breeze, and the woods on either side of us were still and heavy. Then there was a sound, somewhere off in the forest, more than the snapping of a twig, but not the fast and loud skitter of a small animal. No, this was slow and deliberate. We stopped to listen, but it was followed by nothing.

So we continued on toward where the streetlight stood illuminating the only bright patch on the road. Then, just at the edge of where the light ran out and the foliage turned from distinct leaves to shadows, a form emerged. Husband and I were petrified in that moment. This was no trick of the eye, there was nothing to question or second guess–something was coming out of the woods, and we, like hapless victims in the first fifteen minutes of your favorite creature creep film, froze.

Bursting onto the street up and out of the woods, it crashed through the brush like cannon fire and plunged itself out onto the road just under the light. The thing looked to be easily seven feet tall, even on four spindly legs, and had a head massive and branch-like. It stood there for just a second, regaining itself, its features obscured by shadows, then darted back off onto the other side of the road and disappeared into the woods leaving just the clamor of snapping tree limbs and crushed leaves in its wake.

Dear Reader, it was only your sweet namesake, a deer, but it was humongous with antlers like something out of a hillbilly’ wet dream. We knew almost immediately what it was once it had gone, but the jump scare we got that night will likely stick with us forever. Its size is most definitely hyperbolically painted into my memory, but not the scare we got.

So those are my spookiest stories from the time Husband and I lived in the boggiest but best apartment we’ve ever had. More to come next Tuesday, possibly spookier, possibly more supernatural. So far Blogoween is going quite swimmingly, but I’ve only had to post for two days straight, so I guess we’ll see! Stay spoopy, my deers!

Blogoween Day 0 – It’s Almost October

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It’s almost October
Time to get crunked on pumpkin spice
It’s hard to overstate my jubilation

Blogoween’s coming
Hang up your skulls and frickin bats
Raise a cup of virgin blood
And party with the undead

From their year-long slumber hungry ghouls will awake
Fend them off with funk-of-forty-thousand-year cake
Get your spookiess on
Get your graves out on the lawn
And hope in a month you’ll survive

I’m so frickin happy
I’m being so sincere right now
Even though Christmas decor is encroaching

Just leave me my pumpkins
Now give me that knife, he needs a face
Double, double, toil and trouble
Hide round the corner say “Boo!”

These ghosts and goblins on your soul they will dine
Then it’s R I P if you run out of time
So get your creepy ass in gear
It’s the best time of the year
To be thankful you are still alive!

Maybe I went too far?
I can see how this blood’s a little much…
Maybe I should take down this satanic altar?

Consider Jesusween?
That was a joke. Ha ha. FAT CHANCE.
Anyway these brains are great
They’re so delicious and moist!

Look at me still talking when there’s hell left to raise
Don your scythes and cloaks, there’s only thirty one days
Think of all the fun
There’s black magic to be done
On the people who are still alive

You should be happy you are still alive
Sucked all your blood, you can be still alive
Ate your brains, but you can be still alive
Sewed on new body parts to be still alive
You might be dead but you can be still alive

Still alive

Still alive

It’s Almost October, And You Know What That Means…

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Actually, I’ve given exactly zero indication that October will be anything special, but now you know! Of course, October is always special because IT’S HALLOWEEN, but I haven’t really been ramping up this year like I have in the past. I missed pre-pre-pre and pre-pre Halloween, and it’s the end of September, and no, past me, I don’t have half of anything that I wanted to get done done! You knew I wouldn’t! So I’m resorting to in-the-moment-ness.

But I knew this year would be significantly different because we moved in February and if all goes according to plan, well, I’ll let that be a surprise, but basically I can’t go all out in the ways I’d normally like this year. So in lieu of all that, I decided the perfect way to celebrate this year is with my blog.

So just like Blogmas, I’m intending to post every day of the month with either something Halloween-related or with Vacancy stuff which will hopefully be on a regular schedule starting next week. I was torn between calling this Blogtober and Blogoween, but only because I think Blogtober sounds better: Blogoween is clearly the superior choice and fits the holiday theme.

I’ve seen a number of Blogoween and Blogtober posts with sets of prompts for the month, and that’s a great idea, but I’m doing my own thing:

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Rutherford jumped up on this, erased at least half of everything, and knocked it down from behind twice. He hates everything.

I’ve got a whiteboard that I hastily drew a calendar on and filled in what I want to accomplish and on what days, but it’s all in erasable marker, so… If you’re interested in what’s coming up, or even in following along on your blog, here’s my weekly lineup:

Monday – Vacancy which I’m planning on being at least fall-themed this month.
True Terror Tuesdays – These posts will be ghost stories from my real life. Prepare yourselves for the vast depths of my crazy.
Witchcrafting Wednesdays – We gon’ do some artsy fartsy stuff!
Thursday – Podcast if I can get off my ass and get to editing!
Freaky Fiction Friday – More alliterative posts with spooky short stories.
Saturday and Sunday Spoop – Basically everything else like lists of favorite movies, costumes, and other silly things that fit in with the season.

I’m so excited for October now, I can barely wait! I have some things prewritten and I’m just itching to post. Stay spoopy, Dear Reader, and til then, crep on!