Tag Archives: fear

The Woods 2 – Thirty Years Later by L.V. Gaudet

The Woods-2Two men are standing in the backyard of a small rundown house in an older middle-class neighborhood. One, wearing a cheap suit and shoes not suited to traipsing through grass, is looking at the house with a mix of uncertainty and mild remorse.  He had hoped the house would be in better shape.  The other, in jeans, shirt, and runners, is studying the trees and bushes bordering the back property line.

“I heard a couple of boys vanished in these woods years ago.” He doesn’t turn around to look at the man in the suit, his attention fixed on the trees.

“It’s a local legend.  Brothers, Kevin and Jesse. They were playing in their yard and vanished.”  The man in the suit turns around to look at the trees too.

“This yard?  They lived in this house?”  The man in jeans looks around at the leafy jumble of trees bordering the yard and stretching out past the neighboring yards.  You can’t see through them or tell how far they go.

“Yes.  To be honest, I was going to leave that bit of background out.  It’s not exactly a selling point.”

“How does anyone know they went in the woods?”

“They found one of the boys’ shoes next to an old tree stump.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.  No other sign of the boys was ever found.”

“And the house?”

“Abandoned.  Left to rot.”

“The family just left it?”

“The boys’ mother went crazy, I heard.  The husband wanted to sell the house and move, get away from the memories I guess.  She refused to sell.  She kept insisting the boys were still here. From what I heard she was obsessed with keeping the house exactly the way it was the day they vanished too.”

“Crazy.”

“Yeah, crazy.”

“So, the house is selling pretty cheap.  It wasn’t looked after?”

“The husband left both her and the house.  Walked away and never looked back.  She stayed in the house for a while, until she was committed.  As far as I know, no one has set foot in the house since.  It’s going to be in pretty rough shape.”

“You make one hell of a real estate agent, you know that, right?”

“Ha-ha, yeah, I guess I do.”

“Can I take a look inside?”

“Sure, let’s go.  I have to warn you, this will be the first time anyone has set foot inside that house in thirty years.  I don’t know what we’ll find.”

The house is an average lower middle-class family home.  Smallish, but not quite as small as the low-income homes across the way.  The windows are hazy with the grime of thirty years of neglect and the paint long ago cracked and much of it worn away by the weather.  The windowsills sag with rot, half eaten by time. The shingles are cracking and peeling up and back on themselves like over-cooked sliced potatoes, browned rather than charred and entirely inedible.  The long grass of the yard had recently been clumsily hacked down, hastily driven over by a municipal riding mower, the charge tacked onto the growing bill of unpaid municipal fees owed, including property taxes and the other inevitable costs of home ownership.  It is one of the unasked for services visited on negligent homeowners.

It is these unpaid fees which are the reason the home is for sale now.  The bank had tried to foreclose on the unpaid mortgage almost thirty years ago, only to find themselves tied up in legal purgatory pitted against the municipality trying to seize the home for unpaid taxes.

Lacking much interest on both sides, the issue dragged out and dragged on, court proceedings repeatedly pushed back, and finally slipped through the cracks of forgotten paperwork.  Until, close to thirty years later, when a bored clerk cleaning out the desk of a deceased co-worker took pause to read a page of paper among the stacks being shoved into the shredding bin, and accidentally stumbled on the outstanding unfinished business of this house.

The long forgotten house by the woods.

The bank had long ago written it off, a small piece of millions in bad debts, and the municipal office was granted free title without being aware of it.

Now the house is up for auction to collect the unpaid property taxes and municipal fees owed.

With most of the records from thirty years ago gone, and no one keeping track of this forgotten property, the best anyone could piece together and confirm owed on the property is the cost of the most recent grass cuttings.  The whopping price of fifty-six dollars.  Less than the price of a song and a dance. They don’t know when the taxes stopped being paid. Any taxes owed are moot. Nearly thirty years of taxes adds up to more than the run down property is likely worth, and ownership by the owners was given up long ago.

The place is a steal.

And in this condition, its value is in the land it sits on.  Any buyer would tear the house down and rebuild.

They reach the door and the realtor fumbles with the key safe looped around the doorknob, trying to remember the combination to open it.  It’s a rectangular box-shaped device locked over the skinny part of the knob like a padlock, housing the key to the door.

Finally, he opens it and releases its treasure, a worn looking house key with the color rubbing off and marred with bits of rust in the teeth.

*** Watch for the continuing story ***

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The Woods is an ongoing work in progress that I am sharing with my readers and fans of the darker fiction.

You can follow me and installments of The Woods here.

If you are enjoying this little story, you might want to read something with a little more meat to it.  The first two books of the McAllister series are now available from Indigo Sea Press on their website and on Amazon.

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elephantOn the lighter side, a funny thing happened on the way to the blog. (Yes, this really is a random pic of a elephant with its butt in the air.)

I have two daughters.  One a raging bookaholic (we have not yet found a help resource for that), but since she’s excelling at school we willingly suffer the darker side of this, which is a nonstop demand for more and more books.  I’m seriously debating starting a GoFundMe to beg for help supporting her addiction.

The other daughter is quite the opposite.  Instead of lots of friends, she has trouble making friends.  She is a more serious soul, more sensitive about things that don’t faze the other kids. 

bullied

I have heard so many times that a kid’s reading level is a good indicator of their success both in school, and in life. 

Despite starting out school at a higher level than her older sister, she floundered at reading.  She had no interest in reading. Her reading level was grades below what it should be. All of her grades were suffering. School was a chore both for her and us.


magical bookThen something magical happened.  It might not seem magical to some, but for anyone who is an avid book lover like me, you can’t help but want that same devotion for your own kids.

We tried so many kinds of books, trying to match them to her unique personality.  Trying to pull her out of where she was, to get her reading, and so much more.  Her sister found that magic key, the right book.

For the first time, my youngest was enthralled.  She turned to something.  She yearned for it.   She complained when she had to stop reading.  For the first time she enjoyed reading.

Today I heard an echo.  It was that frightful echo that haunts a parent of a kid with a book addiction. “I can’t stand it!  I need the rest of the series!”

fear

As an author, it’s like the angels singing.  As a parent, you feel your meagre bank account shrivel in fear.  As a book-loving parent, you give a silent cheer and swell with pride and joy.

But it was more… it was a turning point.  Since she learned to love reading her reading level at school leapt by grade points in a short time.  It’s not the only improvement at school, both with schoolwork and friends.

It’s a start.

Yes, having the book-hater suddenly turn into a book-lover is a funny thing.  It’s a wondrous thing as a parent, author, and mostly as a book lover.

It terrifies me too.  I might need two GoFundMe pages to support both their voracious appetites for books.

Better yet, make my books go viral so I can make enough off them to support these two bookaholics and, I have to add proudly, burgeoning authors.  Yes, they both like writing too.  The younger, the book-disliker, even wrote a story that scared herself.  I’m so proud.

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Love Is Blind by Maribeth Shanley

LOVE IS BLINDWhether they are visual or verbal, I love writing prompts. They test your creativity while allowing you to have fun.

For me, the word count has always been my challenge. I tend to be wordy; however, I’m learning to edit out the stuff that isn’t necessary to the story. I think Twitter is teaching me this technique. Doing exercises like the one below do as well.

I recently stumbled on a site that challenged the writer to use the line, “They say love is blind” as the first sentence of a 350 word count or less story. The result was 339 words.  I am about to enter a short-short story contest of 1,000 words or less, so I took my love is blind theme and embellished it so that the word count is now 691.  Here it is.

Love Is Blind

By Maribeth Shanley

They say love is blind.

I can tell you from personal experience that it is indeed blind and often devastating.

When I first saw Josh, fireworks flew. As our eyes met, my body tingled and my heart beat rapidly. I’m sure I must have blushed because the corners of his mouth shot up approvingly. He was outgoing, intelligent and gorgeous beyond description. His wavy hair was dark brown; and, he had lots of it. I am 5’7”, so his height of approximately 6’ seemed perfect. His physique was strong; and his voice was gentle, yet commanding all at once. I’ve always noticed a man’s hands. I can’t explain why, but I do; and his were beautiful. So, when we shook hands, I felt as if I was going to faint. I’m sure I blushed again; but, so did he which made me think the sparks were mutual.

I make a habit of never accepting blind date invitations. However, when my friends, Jim and Barb insisted, I agreed. I trusted their judgement.

Once I met Josh, I was delighted I had. The four of us sat on the veranda of a trendy yet popular restaurant. The evening was warm, while a light breeze gently tossed our hair. Josh and I spent the evening sitting next to each other, and, talk we did. We talked about everything: where we lived, our backgrounds, and, on and on. The night was magical. It didn’t end there.

When it was time to part, he asked for my number and also asked if I would have dinner with him the following Saturday. I, trying not to behave giddy, agreed to all and asked for his phone number as well.

He called me mid-week to set the time he would pick me up. He was very polite as he told me he was looking forward to our first official date, putting the emphasis on official. As we said good-bye, my mind asked the question, is this the one?

That following Saturday he rang the door-bell at exactly 8 p.m. Not wanting to appear too enthused, I took a few extra seconds to answer.

Sparks again, as I asked him in. We walked to the kitchen where I offered him a drink. As we touched hands in exchange of the glass, my legs buckled and he smiled approvingly. He told me I looked beautiful. Little did I know that he was reeling me in for the catch!

After a wonderful evening of dinner and dancing at a local club, we returned to my apartment. He came in and we sat on my sofa and talked more. Soon he moved closer and asked if he could kiss me. I blushed, nodded and, as he put his arms around me, I melted into them. He caressed my face and kissed me ever so gently. I spent the next half hour in his sweet embrace. We kissed and talked in between. I was hooked!

I can’t quite identify when the mood changed, but I soon found myself in a half prone position and backed up against the opposite end of the sofa. He had his hand on my leg and up my skirt. I felt panicked. I tried to push his hand away, but suddenly he became even more aggressive. His hand was now on my panties and he was trying to pull them off. I don’t know how I managed to free myself, but I was free and on the floor. The look on his face was that of surprise, yet, his eyes appeared to be glassed over and frightening.

I jumped up off the floor, ran to my door, opened it and commanded that he leave. He slowly walked over, eyes still glazed, and attempted to man-handle the door shut. As he pushed on the door, I swung the bat that was hidden just behind me. Now appearing panic stricken, he ducked but bolted. I was dumbfounded and exhausted, yet, grateful at the same time as I spent the rest of my evening kicking myself for having been so gullible. Never, ever again, will I accept a blind date invitation!

https://secondwindpub.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/love-is-blind

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Life in Havre, Montana (Final Chapter)

The long cold winter wound down and spring announced itself abruptly. Montana was always windy and I remember having to adjust matchbook covers to quell the howling from our front door frame, but when a dreaded dust storm loomed in our direction, the Havre Air Force Station operator would call each house to give us an estimated time before it would hit. We knew to get inside. Close and lock any open windows and doors.

As the storm approached, a huge brown cloud could be seen on the horizon and as it got closer, like the song, tumbling tumbleweeds leapt and danced across the road until visibility became zero. Within minutes, all was quiet and still again and the sun would bear down on us once more. The only indication a storm had even passed through was the color of the walls and furniture in our homes. Everything was brownish-beige. Time to get out the vacuum cleaner. I couldn’t remember ever having to vacuum walls before. All surfaces were covered with a fine layer of gritty dust, even though I had “battened down the hatches.”

Every day, my son, Rob, and I would play a game. It involved flash cards and actually taught him how to read. When people expressed their amazement as he looked at me with excitement and pointed to a box of cereal or a sign and spoke the words he saw, I felt so rewarded and proud. Sometimes, being inquisitive, though, can be frightening.

One day, I was playing the piano and Rob asked to go outside to ride his tricycle. With his little red jacket on I let him out the front, and continued playing, checking on him every few minutes. It was one of those days that makes one glad to be alive, gloriously warm and sunny. I never had to worry about traffic, because all the husbands were working up at the radar site and the street was deserted. Rob rode up and down the road, around in circles and then, suddenly, I didn’t see him.

I walked outside and still didn’t see him, or his trike. I walked up and down the street. No luck. I walked all the way around the housing circle. No Rob! Now I was beginning to worry. Where could he have gone this time? I alerted several neighbors and we set up a search party. We contacted base security and they checked the radar site area. We checked the fields behind our homes. An hour passed. Two. Still, no sign of Rob.

I was “frantic” personified! All the mixed feelings of fear, frustration and aggravation, had turned to worry, even terror. Where was my baby? We were on a secure military station with a guard gate at the entrance. How could my child have just disappeared? Neighbors were checking in with me regularly, either to report places they’d searched or to give me comfort. All of us were totally perplexed.

In the fourth hour, a car pulled up in my driveway. It belonged to my neighbor, Sgt. Knight, across the street. His wife, Shirley, got out with a tearful Rob in her arms. She approached with a knowing expression that said, “It’s okay now.” I practically screamed, “Where and how did you find him?” They explained they had gone thirty-eight miles into Havre for groceries and spotted Rob and his red jacket in a pasture on their return trip, a couple of miles from home. They were familiar with Rob’s adventurous disappearances since this wasn’t the first time he had gone missing. Their daughter was his babysitter and probably has stories to tell about him to this day.

Between Rob and Shirley, I found out why we couldn’t find him. He had ridden his trike up to the base gate and because the window in the phone booth shaped guard house was up so high, Rob had slipped under the guard arm and out onto the main road, unseen. He was playing, Daniel Boone, explorer. After riding a while, he noticed some cows grazing off the side of the road in open range and decided to get a closer look. He left his trike and scampered down an embankment into the field. These animals resembled highland cattle from Scotland, since they hadn’t yet shed their long winter coats, but as Rob got closer, he realized they were bigger than he thought they’d be. He got scared as he wandered among the beasts, and started crying. This was when he was spotted and rescued by Cliff and Shirley Knight. Bless them always!

That night, there was a celebration at Havre Air Force Station and Rob was the center of attention. I didn’t have to scold him at all. His fear had taught him not to ever do that again. Forty-nine years later, Cliff and Shirley and I still exchange Christmas cards each year and I am eternally grateful to them both.

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Love to Travel, Hate to Pack — by Carole Howard

The bright blue duffel bags had taken up residence in the corner of the bedroom, on the treadmill.  Geoffrey’s was getting pleasantly plump.  Mine wasn’t.  It was hard to ignore, much as I tried.  It accused me daily.

IMG_2553“Carole, what are you waiting for,” it seemed to say. “Tick-tock, tick-tock. You’re leaving in a week.”

Sure, I had thrown in some books and music, underwear and socks, pajamas and robe, aspirins and Pepto-Bismol.  But that was mostly to pretend I was actually making packing-decisions.

“This one’s not easy,” I whined in its general direction.  “Two climates, Ghana and Paris.  Four months.  Work and play. See what I mean?”

The truth is, though, that I always obsess about packing, even for a four-day beach vacation.  You’d think after all the traveling I’ve done, it would be a breeze.  It’s not.  For that matter, you’d think after all the flying I’ve done, I’d have given up my white-knuckle-armrest-grip during take-off, landing, and turbulence.  I haven’t.  It’s irrational: I’ve never not-packed something so crucial and so irreplaceable that it was a problem.  And I’ve never been in a plane that crashed.  But still, I don’t like to pack and I don’t like to fly.

There’s usually one thing, sometimes two, that torments me until the last minute.

Is it silly to pack three black sweaters, I ask myself?  But they’re all different, in terms of warmth and dressiness, I answer.  But still, three? And what about these sneakers?  Can I get away with them in Ghana?  Or do I need to dress like a grownup at work?

The sweater, sneakers, or any of a hundred potential tormenters – telescoping orange umbrella, always-useful portable clothesline, pants that are a perfect taupe color and fit almost perfectly – get much more of my attention than they deserve.  I say to myself,  “Get a grip.  You’ve done this so many times and it’s always been okay.  Just pack; it doesn’t matter so much. And if you forget something, you can buy it there.”

I know it’s true, but that’s the thing about obsessions: it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve traveled, nor how many times I’ve packed. I procrastinate, I waver, I fixate.  I also know that what I’m really doing is channeling my anxiety about the trip itself into something concrete.  Easier to focus on the number of black sweaters than whether I want to leave home for so long.

I have made progress, though: I no longer berate myself for my packing two-step.  I now pat myself on the back for the fact that neither my allergy to packing nor fear of flying has ever kept me from going.

Eventually, of course, I manage.  I throw a whole bunch of stuff in the suitcase (a process my daughter calls “just mighting”), then winnow like crazy.  And as soon as we’re in the car on the way to the airport, the anxiety is banished by the excitement.  Packing woes are gone.  Happy anticipation is growing.  Really, all I need are the passports, prescription meds, and spare glasses.  Nothing else is so important; everything else is replaceable.

But, just in case: is there some handy-dandy thing you always stick in your suitcase that it would help the rest of us to know about?

***

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, recently published by Second Wind Publishing.

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Just One More Halloween Tale…

As I write these words, I’m sipping a steaming cup of cocoa by a roaring fire while pondering the many questions that you, dear reader, may have concerning the origins of my tale—The Beast of Macon Hollow. It’s a crisp November evening—not long after Halloween, in fact—and the moon is sitting serenely on its throne high above the earth. It was on a night like this that the Beast first slunk from its boggy lair to prey upon the fears of—not Macon Hollow—but another small town. My hometown of Bladenboro.

You’ve never heard of the Beast of Bladenboro? Oh, it’s a true story. You have my word. In fact, I remember it well. Allow me to tell you just one more Halloween tale…

It happened in 1953. Our pets and livestock were being killed. It would happen at night while we were sleeping safely in our beds.  Something would attack! …and we, the puzzled townspeople, would find the mutilated bodies strewn across our property like discarded rag dolls. A dog… a goat… a small calf. As the casualties mounted, so did our fear and paranoia.

No one had any explanation except to blame the mysterious creature that some claim to have seen. A large cat. Black with glowing red eyes. No doubt a vampire beast considering the lack of blood in its victims. The reactions of all of us were not unlike those of Macon Hollow’s citizens. Some of us were scared. Some of us were desperate. And some of us were ready to hunt down and rid ourselves of the pestilence.

But that is where the similarities of the real Beast and those you will find in the pages of my novel end. The creature that terrorized Macon Hollow was much more…unforgiving. And its ambitions were much…grander than merely its next meal. After all, my book is a work of fiction. And our Beast was quite real.

It pains me to say that we never did catch our Beast.  Whatever it may have been. It disappeared back into the swamp with little fervor. But it still remains within the collective memories of those who lived through its brief reign of terror. And it wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t get another visit from it one day.

Now, if you’ll— Wait! What’s that? Sounds like scratching on my window. Yes, it’s unmistakable. The ear-rending screech of sharp claws on glass.

Dear reader, pardon the interruption. But it seems that I must tend to this matter at once. Please excuse me while I — Oh, my…that sounds like shattering glass.  Muddy tracks leading into the— No! It can’t be…no…NO! 

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A Moment of Hope by J J Dare

I’m going to step out of the WordPress room today, but I leave you in good hands with one of my favorite childhood poems (I first read it in a very old book of my mother’s). In your memory, Mom:

Cousins, me and Mom at Aunt Bob’s house

* * * * * * * * *

The Captain’s Daughter by James T. Fields

We were crowded in the cabin,
Not a soul would dare to sleep,
It was midnight on the waters,
And a storm was on the deep.

‘Tis a fearful thing in winter
To be shattered by the blast,
And to hear the rattling trumpet
Thunder, “Cut away the mast!”

So we shuddered there in silence,
For the stoutest held his breath,
While the hungry sea was roaring
And the breakers talked with Death.

As thus we sat in darkness,
Each one busy with his prayers,
“We are lost!” the captain shouted
As he staggered down the stairs.

But his little daughter whispered,
As she took his icy hand,
“Isn’t God upon the ocean,
Just the same as on the land?”

Then we kissed the little maiden.
And we spoke in better cheer,
And we anchored safe in harbour
When the morn was shining clear.

* * * * * * * * *

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short storiesand triple digit works-in-progress. Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch.

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Goodbye, Mr. Phobia by J J Dare

Public speaking sends a large number of  into a state of panic. Heights, spiders, clowns, grass, escalators (another one of mine) and a multitude of other phobias exist to torture us into submission. Today’s world is a hayday (with good reason) for psychologists and psychiatrists.

I recently struck one of my phobias off the list. I’m no longer afraid of heights. Show me a mountain and I’ll climb it (in a car, of course – scaling is beyond my post-vacation plubbiness right now).

Open area of a coal-fired train looking down a mountain

I’m excited to try ziplining, rock climbing (eventually), maybe even skydiving. I lost the fear of high places that almost paralyzed me when I drove through the Rocky Mountains eleven years ago.

Poof and it’s gone.

“Cliffhanger,” my eldest daughter said when I told her about my lack of fear. I looked at my palms and they were dry. Any other time, even thinking about the Sly Stallone movie would make my palms break out in a sweat.

Not this time. I was not afraid.

Phobia may be too strong a word for some of the things that paralyze us into inaction. Right now, I’m looking at my after-vacay list of things I need to catch up on. Two weeks is a long time to be out of my world and so far, the list is at #23 and still growing.

Some things on my list threaten to paralyze me, things I’ve put off for months and even years, but I’m trying to cling to my conquest of the mountain to help me. Number seventeen makes my heart beat a little faster.

17. Write. Really write. Heart, soul, bare it all.

Number seventeen is a terrifying prospect to a reclusive writer. However, inspiration struck me in New Mexico as we traveled in the Navajo Nation. I’m about to start a book about a person confronting and conquering betrayal and loss. I’m excited and scared at the same time.

This incantation by the Bene Gesserit from “Dune” by Frank Herbert is a good mantra to follow as we face the obstructions in our lives:

“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Now, we’ll see if I can follow my new path. I’m going to try and I’m going to conquer some, if not all, of my little mind-killers. Here is my coffee cup raised in salute to the rest of you as you scale your own mountains. Good luck, Godspeed and watch your step along the loose gravel of life.

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Featured Author

I am the featured author at Second Wind this week! That’s pretty cool. It means that they put my face up there and the cover of my book, Images of Betrayal. There’s also a little about the book, and a little about me. And as a bonus, the entire first chapter is posted! There’s even another nice little surprise, a sneak preview of my next book, Seeds of September.

First, go to here, (But make sure you come back to wordpress): Second Wind Publishing Featured Author

See? That’s cool, huh? You can look around a little. I’d really like that. You can buy Images of Betrayal as a book or an ebook. You can pick it up on Amazon for the kindle too. My other book, Fate and Destiny is out there in those formats too. And if you want it for the Iphone, or palm reader, or in a ton of other formats, you can buy the books from Smashwords.

Okay, there’s more. Come talk to me. I hosted a discussion on facebook, too. You don’t have to discuss my topic if you don’t want to. I’d be tickled pink if you would just come say “hi”!

And while you’re on Facebook, I’d love to be your friend, so click on my name and add me and leave some graffiti on my wall. Claire Collins

I have a couple of blogs too. One is for all of the Second Wind Publishing Family, and the other is All Mine.

How about videos? Here’s the trailer for Images of Betrayal.

I think that’s most of it. Thanks for coming to visit and my little tour of the Internet and Images of Betrayal. I’d love to hear from you!

Claire

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Patting Your Back

Encouragement goes a long way when you are a writer. No matter where it comes from, it is the fuel that keeps you going – especially, when you sink into a writer’s funk.

I’m just now climbing out of that funk after family commitments and a serious illness set me back a few months. In my mind, I felt I had lost touch with the writer inside of me. That is a horrible feeling for someone who is in love with writing.

This week, a friend of mine who has a very popular celebrity gossip site endorsed my book. In a few personal emails, she told me how proud she was of me. This is coming from someone I have only known over the Internet, someone who has yet to read my book, but her words were just what I needed to hear.

My family and close friends always ask about my writing and they are all very supportive. But, to have a person who does not know you personally to pat you on the back is totally different. Since they do not have a personal stake in you, this type of support is special.

Not that my family and friends’ support is not crucial. Without it, my writing would have slowed down and become a hobby instead of a life choice. They are the core of my support group; they sustain and maintain me.

Cynics will always be around. There will always be a few people who criticize and brutalize what you have written. No one can please everyone – it is just the way of the world.

Never give up. There are readers out there who will love what you write and will be hungry for more. That may be all the encouragement you need to complete your next great book.

Even though I may not know you, I want to say I am proud of you. Anyone who publishes what they have written is taking a chance – that is true bravery in our wonderful writing world.

J J Dare is the author of “False Positive” and “False World,”
the first two novels in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy

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Trick

I love Halloween. Trick-or-Treat is my favorite time of the year.

 

I have gone all out: decorations, tons of candy, fun costumes – I love it. I started early in October, decorating and setting everything up, and by the time Halloween is here, the inside of my house is the Martha Stewart of spook.

 

Treats are the best part of Halloween. Candy, candy, candy, and only the good stuff. That is the main reason I love Halloween is for the candy.

 

This afternoon, on the cusp of Trick-or-Treat, I fill a huge drum full of chocolate bars, peanut butter kisses, mints, bubble gum, caramels, and much, much more. It is beautiful. The shiny wrappers and the sugary smell send me into a candy high.

 

Five o’clock and only an hour to go until the official start of the candy mongering. I make sure all of my fun Halloween is in order.

 

Six o’clock. It’s still light outside when the first trick-or-treater rings the doorbell. Ring, ring, ring. Six-o-two, and the kid gets the message and goes away . . . empty-handed.

 

As the sun sets around six thirty, my porch light stays off. You would think the neighborhood would get it, especially when I don’t open my door – I’m not doing trick-or-treaters this year. At least, I’m not giving them candy.

 

But, no – they keep coming. They don’t get the hint. Greedy slackers.

 

Year after year, I am inundated with children, teenagers, and, sometimes, adults looking for a free handout of sugary heaven. Year after year, I have given away too much candy.

 

Moochers, all of them. What was I thinking, handing out all that candy for all those years? After all, I spend my money to buy it. It burns me that these Halloween beggars think all they have to do is knock on my door to get a handful of candy. For free.

 

This year I’m handing out a Trick instead of a Treat. I have something special planned later for the Halloween thugs who come to my door. You know the ones: those teenagers and young adults who are much too old to be out begging for candy.

 

They usually surface after seven o’clock. Over the last few years, they have become more aggressive in their search and destroy mission for Halloween candy. Just last year, I had to replace an uprooted shrub and a broken window after I told a teenage punk and his punk friends I would not give them candy.

 

The doorbell rings again. It has rung forty-two times in the past thirty minutes and forty-two times they have gone away disappointed. Aww. Too bad. I’m crying on the inside as I eat a chocolate-covered caramel.

 

A quarter until seven and it is almost time. The crowds have petered off as parents take their young children home to see what Halloween booty they have scored this year.

 

I look in the mirror. I am wearing all black from my shoes to the ski mask on my head. I blend perfectly with the night as I slip outside.

 

I hear them before I see them. They are laughing as they talk about the weeping child they had just stolen candy from. I’m glad they’re coming to my house.

 

 

As they approach the front yard, I wait until they are in position. Almost. Almost.

 

There. They are standing in the middle of my yard, trying to decide if someone is home as I turn on the sprinkler system. Some start to curse and other laugh, but the permanent industrial dye I’ve put in the water will make them think twice about coming to my house next year. I silently laugh as I imagine how the thugs will try to explain later why they are forest green from head to toe.

 

I have enough water and dye to last all night. After the first group of thugs, a second and third come by and I give them the same Trick. None come after the last group, so word must have gotten around. I wait twenty more minutes just to be sure.

 

Oh, well, my bag of Tricks is short this night. I walk back into the house and settle down for a quiet evening of candy gluttony.

 

Munching on my stash, at first I mistake the sound for a tree branch scraping the side of my house. As the sound gets louder and starts coming from all directions, I realize it’s not a tree.

 

I am rooted to my chair. Just as fast as the blood drains to my feet, it rises up again to the top of my head. My anger is rising, too.

 

Thugs. Horrible thugs. Whatever they’re dragging around the side of my house is going to scrap all the paint off the siding. I grab one of my registered guns (just to scare them, of course) and run out the front door.

 

A strong hand grabs me by the throat the instant I am outside and lifts me off the ground. I can’t see who has me and my brain struggles for oxygen. The grip loosens slightly and the blood rushing to my head clarifies my vision. The gun in my nerveless hand drops to the ground.

 

Still nothing. I cannot see the grasping hand, but it is there, all the same. As my feet touch the ground, a gravelly voice whispers in my ear.

 

“One night a year, my son can mingle with humans. One night a year, he doesn’t stand out,” it says as it turns me to face a miniature horror in forest green.

 

The little freak would stand out at any other time, even without the forest green hue on its skin. Its face is a mash of gruesome sinews, twisted in spirals like licorice. The thing’s arms hang down to its ankles and something protrudes from its belly like a misshapen parasitic twin.

 

Its one eye looks at me from under a hooded forest green lid. The pig-like snout is quivering as it spews forest green snot. Little gravelly whimpers come from a mouth hidden beneath flaps of dangling forest green skin.

 

“I would kill you and eat your heart, but that would be too easy,” the monster’s father says. “You owe my boy Trick-or-Treat,” he tells me as he motions his progeny inside my house.

 

A minute later, the little freak emerges with my barrel of candy slung on its back. The little monter’s father tightens his grip around my throat as he propels me forward.

 

I’m slammed into a large puddle of forest green water. An appendage, I can’t tell if it’s arm, leg, or something else, rolls me like a baker rolling dough. The little freak giggles as his father covers me from head to toe in dye. I can’t hold my terrified sobs back any longer.

 

“This is nothing, human,” monster-daddy says. “Do you have any idea what his mother is going to do to me?”

 

J J Dare is the author of “False Positive,” the first novel in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy.

Have a Scary Halloween!

 

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