Friday, October 29, 2010

No Baby Cthulhus Allowed

This is a free read also published on the company blog last week at MuseItUp Publishing.  I'm stepping outside me genre here with horror but I had quite a bit of fun writing both this and Shadow Trick or Treating last week.  Enjoy!

No Baby Cthulhus Allowed

“Mark, why is your room twenty degrees colder than the rest of this house, I can see my breath in here.”

He stopped clearing off his desk and gave me an exagerated sideways glance. I ignored his cute melodrama although it slayed me every time. Handsome devil that he was.

“C’mon, spit it out, I can’t believe your mom let’s you get away with turning off the heat in here!” I said, feeling the radiator for any sign of warmth. It had to be thirty-two degrees outside and dropping. It was perhaps forty in this room. I breathed out a puff of steam and stomped my feet to get my blood moving hugging my elbows. The moonlight glinted on the frost in the narrow cobbled street two stories below. I blew my breath on the window pane and traced Mark’s name on the glass.

“It’s always like this. C’mere, I’ll warm you up.” He slipped his arm around my waist and I slipped away artfully.

“Later, baby, Ellen and Joe will be here any minute and if we leave them on the doorstep for too long, you know they’ll disappear.” I protested half-heartedly. The door chimes in Mark’s parent’s house were hard to hear.

“I can live with that,” he said winking at me and I flashed him a wicked grin. I looked out over the city from his bedroom window as a wave of lights came on in the twilight, blinking through curtains and drawn shades. The view from the hill at this height was enchanting. Only a few windows were bare giving me a long distance peek into some of the posh living rooms of the old mansions on the East Side of Providence. The history in this part of town oozes out of the bricks and church bells. Secrets, ancient and forgotten beckon just beyond the well-worn steps of the Victorians and marbled gates hidden between them.

“Look, what’s that?” I pointed to a weathered house two streets over. The attic window flamed as if a fire was roaring in the fireplace inside.

“Hmm,” Mark said, hugging my shoulders and holding a film strip up to the bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. “Hey, these are pictures of us at the beach this summer. Oh, that’s Lovecraft’s house, the weird one over there? Yeah. He lived there with his aunts. Weird guy. Died in the nineteen thirties pretty young. They say his monsters killed him…”

“Who lives there now? Or is it a historical landmark?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Mom says the place is up for sale or something. No one’s in there, if that’s what you mean. He wrote all those crazy stories up there you know, right in that room at the very top. The backyard is really creepy. I’ll take you there sometime…” he said, laughing low and bugging his eyes at me. I swatted his hand gently.

“You cad! Is that his room, the one with the fire?” What was taking Ellen and Joe so long?  Maybe it would be nice if they didn’t show after all. A quiet evening watching a movie sounded good to me.

“What fire?” Mark asked edging in to the window beside me.

I looked again; he was right, no fire. It had to be a figment of my imagination. Or the last rays of the sun blazing it’s reflection off the warped panes…but the sun had gone down an hour ago and the full moon was shining bright now. Maybe it was moonlight, I supposed, and turned my thoughts to our party plans.

As I peered into the dusk, avoiding looking at Lovecraft’s house again and feeling the curse crawl down the street, two dark figures scurried to the door below. The doorbell rang and Mark disappeared to let our guests in. We had his parents beautiful home to ourselves for the evening so naturally a party was necessary. Ellen brought the wine and we set appetizers out on the dining room table. Our parents would kill us if they knew, but at seventeen we ruled the world and gave little thought to consequences.

We soon took to eating, drinking and laughing uproariously. Mark was in fine form entertaining us with his crazy jokes and monster impersonations. I put my arm on his shoulder. However cold his room was, it must not have mattered since he was always feverish. It was his metabolism, he claimed. At almost six feet tall and thin as a rail, that was believable.

He ducked into the kitchen to pull the stuffed mushrooms out of the oven while Ellen and Joe sat locking lips on the white velvet loveseat. I opened a music box on the credenza that played a haunting tune, I couldn’t quite place it... I heard Mark swear from the kitchen but Ellen and Joe were oblivious to everything. I thought he burned himself and was about to go to the bathroom for band aids when he came into the living room crawling on his knees. Ellen and Joe slid off the couch to the floor and the room swirled with a thick green smoke that covered everything, blinding me and then it separated into strands and wavered. Then it flowed through the room. Then it shot about in slow motion. What was Mark cooking? Was the stove on fire?!

“Mark?! Mark!” I called to him through the mist falling to my knees to the clear air near the floor. It smelled like sulphur but he wasn’t cooking eggs… The house was burning down and his parents were going to be furious with us. Where was the front door again? As I crawled around the couch, Ellen and Joe got on their knees and the mist disappeared as quickly as it came, into all three of them, through their eyes, ears and mouths.

“Guys, did you see that?!” I screeched at them.

“No, I didn’t see a thing,” Mark growled, snarling and pawing the Oriental rug with his long fingers. His eyes shone with an unholy light and I gulped audibly. Ellen writhed and pounced a little too close to me and Joe nudged her forward. They seemed like… like animals…

“Dear God, what the hell is going on?!” I shrieked.

They came closer and closer, circling me, making strange gutteral noises. They smacked their lips flicking their tongues and there was a clicking sound coming from somewhere. Finally standing up, I dodged one of them and scrambled to the front door but my conscience kicked in; I had to save them. They were… howling. My stomach lurched. I had to do something.

“Shanta kolaman tantook!” I shouted into the wild array of hostile noises. “Shantaloaman kataston deetanto!”

Mark jumped to his feet and ran toward me.

“Shantalovan! Mekanto, statalomato!” He stopped short and shook his head.

“Karen, are you alright!?” he yelled.

Tears streamed down my face as the smoke swirled behind him and fled out the window. He looked normal again and I ran to his arms. Ellen and Joe stood up, snarls ravaging their faces. Mark shot me a look of horror and I pushed myself between them and him.

“Chilanto makan, venatak lo asvan!” I cried out at my friends transforming into the most bizarre things I’d ever seen.

Ellen shook and Joe slumped onto the couch. She fell at his side and green mist poured out of her eyes onto the floor and sped to the windows. Joe opened his mouth and it slithered out of him, too. They shivered for a moment, and then turned to stare at me.

“Karen, are you alright? What the heck are you saying?” Ellen said, fixing stray hairs that had come loose from her head band in the fray. She looked none the worse for the wear. Joe tucked in his shirt, his face turning red.

Mark held me as I stifled my sobs and tried to compose myself.

“You’re scaring me. That is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.” I buried my face in Marks chest.

“What language are you speaking, we can’t understand you, sweetheart,” Mark said smoothing my hair with his hands.

“Umm, nothing, I was speaking English, what are you saying?”

I relaxed realizing my friends were completely normal again.

Safe, we were all safe, finally.

“Whatever that was, it was cool,” Joe said. “But, what were you saying?”

“Look, guys, I was speaking English the whole time, I don’t know why you didn’t understand me unless that green stuff stopped your ears up…”

Ellen flipped her head sideways and stared at me. “I think I heard you, but you were saying something in another language. I heard you in my head in English. What was it? What green stuff? I didn’t see any green stuff. What have you been drinking, girl?”

“Nevermind. Maybe we should just have some more wine and play a board game, huh? I think I’ve had enough excitement for awhile. Mark, is there a decent movie on tonight?”

“Well, we can always take a walk to Lovecraft’s backyard tonight, that should be a hoot,” he offered.

NO! I mean, I’d rather sit here with you guys and hang out. Are there any appetizers left?” Anything to stay away from that house. The curse had come from there, I was sure of it.

“Yes, help me get the other batch from the oven?”

Once in the kitchen I recovered more and tried to piece it together.

“Mark, do you believe in Lovecraft’s monsters?”

“No, he was a weird old guy. Crazy as the day is long. Do you?”

“Nah, I believe in monsters but I don’t think they were his. I think he just saw things. Scary things.”

“Yeah, maybe that’s why my bedroom is so cold. Spirits like to play around with humans sometimes.”

“Yeah. Well, they can’t get in here now.”

“Karen, did you see the looks on Ellen and Joe when they got up off the floor. What were they doing on the floor? They snarled. I saw something sort of drain out of them, did you see that?”

He had no clue he had been acting the same way moments before.

I ran to his arms and lifted my chin to look up into his clear brown eyes. “Kiss me quick, baby. I don’t want to lose you again.”

“Again? What do you mean again? You’re not going to lose me, ever!”

He flashed me his best smile then and gave me that cute little sideways look. The melodrama was thick and a welcome comfort at that point. Mark was back and green smoke be damned, we were going to have a good night anyway. I was more than a little relieved we all returned from the edge of hell, and not too sure how it happened, but I’ve heard Lovecraft was never as lucky.

This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. H.P. Lovecraft’s stories were a mix of horror, fantasy, sci-fi and weird fiction. He claimed there is a world beyond us where beasties live that are incredibly evil. I don’t think he was entirely wrong.

Photo credits:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Free Reads!

Here is part three and the conclusion for this short story, Shadow Trick or Treating.  Check back on Friday for my memoir story about H.P. Lovecraft!

Shadow Trick or Treating
Part Three

Mom killed a Shadow Man? They Trick or Treat for children?!

I motioned for my sibs to come out and they climbed out of the gutter dragging their candy bags in the grass. Michael lost a shoe somewhere and Ava’s trousers were covered in mud. We’d find it in the morning, I told him and promised Ava I’d hide her from Mom seeing her muddy pants, evidence of the gutter.

“It’s ok to go in,” I whispered. “Mom got the one guarding the house.” Ava gave me a funny look, but then she always did that. There was movement in the trees near the back door, but it must have been the wind. We bolted to the comforting light of the back porch. Mom got there when we did, coming out of nowhere. I didn’t even hear her turn off the car but I wasn’t thinking much about it then.

“Look! Here’s that Shadow Man.” Mom kicked a big black pile of cloth on the porch and we stood there in shock. Was it really dead? It looked like it moved a bit so we ran screaming by it.

“We’ll just leave it outside for the Shadow Men to pick up.” She said laughing.

Maybe she was making it up but sitting at the kitchen table in the kitchen light, we wanted to forget we had seen them at all. I didn’t want to know how she killed it, I was scared enough. We counted our loot and I got my share for standing watch on the rich street. Three Baby Ruth’s from Ava, Two O’Henry’s from Michael and a pile of Tootsie Rolls and gum balls. It wasn’t anything near what they got on that street but it was good enough for me. I didn’t want to go Trick or Treating again for a very long time.

As we chomped our candy, Mom leaned over and asked for a candy bar.

“Doesn’t dear old Mom get some, too? After all, I killed one of those creatures. “

We laughed…nervously.

“Aw, Mom, there’s no such thing as shadow men. They’re ghosts. We know you didn’t kill one, that’s just one of Dad’s old tarps for the tent. You don’t have to kid us.”

“Is that right?” She asked grinning. She made us all some hot chocolate and put us to bed but before saying prayers with us, she ducked into her room for a minute and came out with a top hat on.

We laughed again…more nervously.

I slept through the night, walking to four hundred houses wore me out, I didn’t even dream.

Mom chuckled over breakfast. “Darn old shadow men invade my neighborhood on Halloween, I don’t think they’ll do that again.” She left to get something in the basement, I forget what it was she said she needed. I didn’t think anything of it…then.

We guffawed when she was out of hearing range. Mom had really lost it, we told each other. Only kids see Shadow Men, right? Since when do grown-ups play kid games? Me, my brother and my sister looked at each suddenly, my brother’s mouth forming a perfect circle. I knew what they were thinking, was it a game? It was Mom who told us about them in the beginning, way back when...

We ran to the porch to see if the tarp was there. It wasn’t. Had the Shadow Men come for the body? At least we didn’t have to call the cops to come get it. We traipsed back to the table to finish breakfast when Michael dropped his fork on the floor and ran to the pantry to get another one. When Ava and I heard the ting on the floor of another fork falling, we ran after him. He was staring out the back window. We joined him in time to see Mom dragging the tarp and the body out to our garbage bin. I suddenly became aware of four little hands clutching my arms, two on either side of me. We couldn’t move, not one of us. We could only stare in shock.

I noticed her scarlet mouth first and then her flattened nose. Her skin was unnaturally white and her hair blew away in the November wind. She dropped the body and ran after the wig. For a moment she twirled her hands around each other in that weird sort of way. I could almost hear her say something in that high pitched language and make those slurping noises through the window but I must have imagined it. Then I saw the fangs, millions of them like curved jagged combs in her gums, on the top, and on the bottom. One leg flopped out of the tarp and the Shadow stuffed it back in but not before we saw Mom’s favorite shoe on the foot.

Michael regained his speech first. “We’ll pretend, ok?” he pleaded. “We’ll just pretend we don’t know and maybe it will go away. I mean, if we don’t say anything, it has to pretend to be our mom, right?”

Sheesh, little kids… “How long do you think it will do that before it eats us? You heard it, this is Shadow Trick or Treat for them. Look what it did to Mom. You can stay but I’m outta here. Grab the candy and run!” I yelled.

All I know is I ran way past the seven blocks we were allowed to go in the neighborhood. At one point I turned around and my sibs almost knocked me down running into me. Not bad for little kid legs, keeping up with me racing the wind, that’s for sure. Never mind carrying those bulging pillowcases, too. I figure that much candy will keep us for a week or two before we have to go home, we can keep watch from under the William’s porch. Maybe by then the Shadow Mom will be gone... that is, if they haven’t taken over the neighborhood.

Beware the Shadow Men!

photo credits:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Free Reads!

Here is part two for your reading enjoyment.  Part three will publish tomorrow at noon.  This one's for the Tweensters although I love a good mystery/horror story no matter the ages!

Shadow Trick or Treating
Part Two

Then I heard them...

They were right in front of my bush on the sidewalk… and they were whispering.

Up close they didn’t look that scary, maybe I could reason with them if it came to that. I was just about to step out of the shrub when I caught my name in the middle of their gibberish, then my brother’s and my sister’s. I froze. My legs refused to move. I peeked through the leaves to see what was happening, holding my breath and willing my heart to slow down.

One spun his face toward me, his beady eyes flicking all around like an insect. He had no nose, and just a small slit for a mouth. Then I heard something that made my insides clench and my hair curl. One spoke in English. To this day I don’t know if they really did or if some sound warp made me able to understand them.

“Where did the tall one go?” one of them said, his voice high and fast.

“I don’t know but she left the smaller ones alone. Heh, heh, heh. We can pick off the runts now.”

“Did she go home?”

“The guard hasn’t seen her yet and he’s right outside her back door.”

“Well, no mind. Let's get the little ones and eat them behind the Temple. Then we’ll find her.”

They smiled viciously, their mouths turning scarlet in the street light. My blood pounded in my veins, I was sure they could hear it. I had to get to Ava and Michael. I had to find them immediately!

The Shadow Men hovered over the sidewalk twirling their hands together and making slurping noises. I swore I saw fangs when they laughed, fangs that looked like the fine teeth in a comb. I choked down my cries of terror. If they found me now, my siblings didn’t have a chance, that was certain. They floated over the curb in a weird little dance. I bit my fist stopping my screams.

I scanned for lights in nearby houses but Halloween suddenly seemed long over. Folks were going to bed. It had to be ten o’clock. If we were any later Mom would be searching for us in the car soon, that is, if the guard back at the house hadn’t gotten her already.

Finally they moved along and I crawled out from behind the bush. I watched carefully until they were about half a block away and I ran to Rochambeau Avenue and one block up and one block over to head Michael and Ava off at the middle pass. I hung behind a large maple tree trying to catch my breath in the dark. Ten minutes dragged by and I didn’t see them. Then I heard rustling and giggling. I spotted them a few houses down. The Shadow Men were just beyond them hiding behind some cars.

The kids went inside one of the houses; thank God, they were safe for a moment. The Shadow Men positioned themselves ahead at the next house, waiting for them in the bushes. Once Michael and Ava got their next treat, they were toast.

My siblings came out to the street and ran to the next house. The Shadow Men loomed out of the shrubs and opened their black arms. I whipped a rock down the street in the opposite direction which scared the heck out of Ava and Michael so they screamed bloody murder. Lights came on in a few of the houses and the ghouls faded into the shadows, snarling. Someone called out and my sibs said they were ok. They ran up the sidewalk and I stood out from the tree so they could see me. I put my fingers to my lips. They halted and almost dashed the other way until they realized it was me.

“Shadow Men, over there,” I whispered. “They’re after us.”

They shook in their hobo suspenders, their little faces red from carrying their overstuffed candy bags. What a haul. I begged them to ditch the bags but they refused. Each one had to weigh more than each of them, we’d go faster if we left the bags but no…

“We got the leftovers,” Michael said proudly.

Ava hid hers behind her back; it was a losing battle to get them to drop them.

I whispered the plan quickly. We threw more rocks and the neighbors came out. The porch lights snapped on stopping the Shadow Men from following us. We saw them fidgeting in the shadows and licking their scarlet lips. They smiled at us twirling their hands in front of them.

We dashed around the block and down the back road behind Rochambeau. Once we hit our row of houses, we ducked into the backyards we knew like the back of our hands and hid behind the garbage bins. The shadow men were in hot pursuit but they lost sight of us and split up. We squatted behind the bins moving our lips in silent prayer. And gorging on chocolate bars for extra energy, whipping the wrappers in the trash.

We waited between our house and the William’s when I realized the guard might still be at the back door. Then we heard the car start in the garage. I made Ava and Michael huddle in the cellar window gutter. Good thing they were small, they just fit with their candy bags. Their heads barely cleared the ground. I circled around to the door of the garage.

Mom caught me in the glare of the headlights.

“Where the heck have you been? Where’s your sister and brother?” She was ripping mad but I was so relieved she was alive. “Do you know it’s eleven o’clock at night?” Of course I knew it was night but I wasn’t about to tell her that then.

“There were so many houses. Ava and Michael are in the back yard.” I didn’t dare tell her they were in the window gutter, Dad’d punish us all for sure.

“Well, go get them and get in the house right away. And just step over the Shadow Man, when you walk in. I had to kill one. Why they insist on coming here for Halloween I’ll never know. Children are not candy, they can’t just come to our house and expect us to give away our children…”

“What? Yes, m’am,” I said scurrying through the back yard. Mom killed a Shadow Man? They Trick or Treat for children?!

Part three tomorrow at noon!

photo credits:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Free Reads!

Hey everyone!  I'm recuperating from the writing whirlwind at the Muse Online Writer's Conference.  It was spectacular. I presented the workshop Sacrificing Your Novel to the Editor Gods? which I plan to available as a PDF on this blog soon.  I took some great workshops on author promotion, making book trailers, and quick plotting.  All of this is excellent info at any time but especially now, just before NaNoWriMo starts November 1st.  Any one else doing NaNo this year?  Please friend me!  My id is Karen McGrath. 

I've also been hostessing at the company blog for Muse for our Masquerade Festival in October.  I posted a number of ghoul things, lol, and here is one of my free reads for the Tween Set.  The next installment will publish tomorrow so stay tuned...

Shadow Trick or Treating

(the real reason parents accompany their children on Halloween nowadays...)

Instead of the usual sheet with holes cut for eyes, I decided to wear black and a pointy hat Mom picked up from the local drugstore. The better to hide from the Shadows, I thought. My siblings were far more inventive with hobo outfits. The big day was here. We drooled for hours waiting for the sun to set and the moon to rise. Candy time!

We slipped the cases off our pillows and lined up at the back door for last minute instructions from Mom. Don’t go past Hope St., don’t go in the other direction past Main St. And only one street on either side of ours, Rochambeau. I tabbed it in my head. Seven blocks east to west, three streets north to south, counting both sides of the streets at ten houses a block, it was a little more than four hundred houses altogether! Maybe I should have grabbed another pillow case, just to make sure I could carry all the loot.

“And visit the William’s…” Mom was saying bringing me back from candy heaven. “They want to see your costumes. If anyone invites you inside their house, be polite but don’t wear out your welcome and stay together. I won’t be able to find you in the dark if you get separated.”

“K, Mom, bye,” we called.

“Watch out for the Shadow Men,” She yelled. Yeah, yeah, stupid legend. I saw one once but he ran when I yelled. That was two years ago. Supposedly they came here every Halloween but you know, that’s just one of those grown-up tricks to make you go home on time.

I walked a lot faster than my baby sister and brother, leader of the motley pack that I was at twelve years old to their eight and nine. They beseeched me with dirty hobo-smeared faces as soon as we got out into the night.

“We’re going to the street behind the Temple. Do you want to go?” They asked, eyes shining with candy greed. Granted, Mom’d never know.

“Yeah, let’s go!” I said, racing to the first house next to ours.

The William’s loved our costumes and told us to stop in on the way back home to show them our haul and have a cup of hot chocolate. We said yes, but the minute we hit the streets again, the idea vaporized as thoughts of chocolate danced in our minds.

“Look, that house has no outside light but the living room one is on. Whaddya think?” Michael called.

“Yeah, ring the bell.”

We breathed heavy. I felt the sweat through my grease make-up. No answer. Drat… We trudged to the next house. No light. The next one, no light. The next one, a score – a handful of jawbreakers, yes! And a popcorn ball each, gross.

The next one had a light, too. We fidgeted, banging on the door. My tunic was itchy.

“Trick or Treat!” we screamed in unison as loud as we possibly could. A nice old lady handed us each an Almond Joy bar and we drooled into our pillowcases.

“Are you goblins?” she asked in that baby voice all kids hate.

She acted surprised that we weren’t. What is it with adults anyway? She even had her glasses on. We scrambled by some other kids pushing us on the way down the path to the sidewalk again. My brother fell in the leaves and the older kids laughed. Ava kicked one of their shins before the nice old lady distracted them with her goblin question. We heard the snickers.

Our regular route took hours it seemed and my feet hurt. By the time we got back to the Temple, our half way marker, most of the neighborhood kids were long gone, there were just a few teenagers running around boo-ing at stray kids. Michael was panting and Ava whimpered but we pressed on. We dragged ourselves to the extra street. This was where the rich people lived where the candy was always better.

Then I saw them.

Just out of the corner of my eye, mind you.

Three of them in long black trench coats and top hats, faces whiter than the moon. They floated along and I held my breath. They spotted us and ducked behind some trees.

“Look you two, we should go home. The shadow men are here.” I whispered huddling them together.

“What?” My brother asked incredulously, his eyes like saucers.

“Yeah, keep it down, they’ll hear you! They saw us and hid in the trees, maybe they left. I don’t want them to catch us.”

“For crying out loud, they’re ghosts, they can’t touch us,” my sister said, stomping her feet.

“I’m not so sure… and I don’t want to find out. They’re probably out ‘cause everyone will think they’re kids like us. They can get away with it, you know? I never heard of them actually taking a kid but we better hurry home.”

My brother shook in his sneakers and my sister pouted.

“Alright,” I said giving in. They’d never agree to call it a night. “I’ll wait here in the bushes for you, ok? If they follow you, I’ll run around the other block and meet you at the end and we’ll take the other way home, got it? If you don’t see me, come back here and get me before you head home.”

Two little hobo faces nodded quickly with gleaming eyes. I saw candy dancing in their eyes, I was sure of it. And I was left alone to guard.

“You guys owe me.” They double scout promised me extra M & M’s before I let them take off.

They looked both ways and tore into the new street. I found a small bush and set up camp behind it. I would have loved some of that hot chocolate from the William’s right about then. The wind whipped through my hair and my sweaty tunic making me colder by the minute. I hunkered down rubbing my sore calves that felt like aching lead weights.

Then I heard them...

Part two will publish tomorrow at noon so stay tuned!

photo credits:

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Seven Stages of Editing Grief

Next week I'll be at the Muse Online Writer's Conference.  I have the entire week reserved to enjoy all the workshops!  Today and next Friday, we'll forego Thirteen Questions in light of the Conference. 

For today, here's a preview of one of my hand-outs for my one-day workshop on editing.  If you'll be at the Conference, please stop in for a visit!  It's called Sacrificing Your Novel to the Editor Gods? at the MuseItUp Publishing forum.

The Seven Stages of Editing Grief
by Karen McGrath

Editing is a process. Sometimes writers go through editing grief. If this happens to you, please don’t feel bad, it’s very common. It’s next to impossible to edit your own work. I’m an editor and I still need one myself. My backyard looks lovely from my kitchen window but I’m sure my neighbor can see the weeds growing near the porch – that I can’t see! We all have blind spots and use comfort words.

My goal is to fix any editing issue while preserving your unique voice in your manuscript. If at any time you feel uncomfortable with an editing change, please let me know so we can work it out.

Here are the stages. They’re funny but they do happen!

1. Denial - "That editor doesn't know what she's talking about. My manuscript was fine 'til she got hold of it."

2. Pain & Guilt - “I can't believe this is such a mess. If only I used that word there, I wouldn't be stung by that stupid red pen."

3. Anger - "What the *%$&# does that chick think she's doing? Does she even know how to write?"

4. Depression - "Why did my publisher ever send me a contract? I should have been an architect."

5. Acquiescence - "Well, maybe I should look at this and see what she has to say. I mean, she's supposed to fix things, right? How bad can it be?"

6. Reconstruction - "Hey, this is fairly decent, in fact some of these changes make the story stand out a little better than before."

7. Hope - "Wow, this is pretty cool. I wonder what else I can fix to make it more compelling?!"

It really is a process. Sometimes when you get done with the first edit, you find so many other things, it’s like layers. Other times you edit something out and discover you liked it better the first way later on. This is all normal, don’t worry. You don’t have to be a grammar pro to write well. And every writer needs an editor!


Friday, October 1, 2010

Thirteen Questions for Debra K. Dunlap

Today I have the pleasure of introducing Debra K. Dunlap to Boston daydreaming… Debra is an author at MuseItUp Publishing. Her debut YA novel, Fallon O'Reilly and the Ice Queen's Lair, released in September 2010.  Debra weaves together her education, love of Alaska and experience as a Children’s Librarian to create a hidden world of magic in the far north.

ksm:  Debra, thank you for joining me today and answering these questions. It’s great to have you here. My readers are excited to learn more about you and your work. Congratulations on your contract with MuseItUp Publishing.

Debra:  Thank you for inviting me, Karen!

ksm:  You know I have to ask this, when and why did you start writing?

Debra:  I wrote my first “novel” at age twelve using a toy typewriter. The title escapes me, but I had read a book about a group of children who found an underground world. I wanted to find my own underground wonders, so I begged my parents for a typewriter for Christmas. As soon as I unwrapped the gift, I carried it to my room and wrote the entire masterpiece in a day. Thankfully, it’s long lost!

ksm:  Please tell me a little about your book.

Debra:  Fallon O’Reilly & the Ice Queen’s Lair is the first book in the Magic in the Americas series. Set in the Alaskan wilderness, the book tells the tale of a young girl’s first year of magical education. Together with her wheelchair-bound cousin and new friend from Wyoming, she seeks the source of a great evil in Alaska and fights to protect her school and friends.

ksm: What inspired you to write this book and why did you choose to write this in the YA genre?

Debra:  An interviewer asked J.K. Rowling if she planned to introduce any Americans or other nationalities in her books. She replied…if anyone wants to write about American wizards they are, of course, free to write their own book. I started wondering how an American magic school would differ and ultimately, a plot began to unfold. When my oldest son referred to my living room as “the ice queen’s lair,” I had an ah-ha moment and that became the title.

I enjoy both reading and writing in the YA genre. I think as adults bogged down by worries and responsibilities, we forget that the world is a wondrous place. To me, YA literature imparts that sense of marveling at the world. How can one not wake up every morning in awe at a world where you can listen to Ode to Joy?

ksm: Did you do any research for the book and what was it?

Debra:  I spent a great deal of time researching before I began writing. As an Alaskan, I am familiar with assorted historical figures and events, but I refreshed my memory on those so I wouldn’t make mistakes! Latin words were next on my list and there’s a great online English-to-Latin dictionary ( As my research sources, I use my home library, local public library and the internet.

ksm:  They say that books choose their authors. How has writing this particular book affected you?

Debra:  It made me terribly homesick for Alaska! Although I live in Wyoming now, I’ve spent most of my life in Alaska. My parents moved from Missouri to homestead in Alaska when I was a baby, so I grew up in the wilderness. It’s a fantastically beautifully and rugged place.

ksm: What do you want readers to take from your writing? What do you want them to understand and why?

Debra:  I wrote the book mostly as entertainment, although you will find hints of the importance of family relationships and a portrayal of a few Americanisms. Those things will become more obvious later in the series. In the simplest terms, I think I’d like people to understand that things will always get better. You know, sort of “Don’t worry. Be happy.”

ksm:  Longhand or typing?  Do you carry a notebook with you all the time?

Debra:  Neither! Keyboarding only! We have a typewriter at work and it’s my arch-enemy, a thing of dread. Give me my laptop! I don’t carry a notebook, but I use my Droid for note-taking when I’m away from home and want to jot down ideas.

ksm:  Do you consider yourself a full-time writer or do you have a day job? Where do you see yourself in five years?

Debra:  I have a full-time job, so I write whenever I can manage the time. I would love to be writing full-time in five years!

ksm:  Are you working on any new projects? Can you give us a short preview?

Debra:  I’m working on several things, like the second book in the Magic in the Americas series. I recently finished a new novel unrelated to the series. In this novel, a fifteen year-old girl finds herself responsible for sixteen orphaned children when the King’s army destroys her village. I’m also plotting a “boy book,” but that hasn’t been committed to paper yet.

ksm:  What is the hardest thing for you as a writer?

Debra:  Time, time! With a full-time job, a new fixer-upper house in dire need of remodeling and family commitments, it’s hard to find time for writing.

ksm:  Do you have any pearls of wisdom to pass on to aspiring writers?

Debra:  Get started! It amazes me that so many people tell me they’ve always thought of writing a book. Just do it! It can’t hurt and you might surprise yourself with a terrific story.

ksm:  Can you tell us what your favorite pastime is? (other than writing!)

Debra:  There are many things I enjoy, but reading is at the top of the list.

ksm:  If you could do anything you’d like, go anywhere in the world without time or money constraints, what would you do and why?

Debra:  I’d spend time castle-hopping in Scotland and soaking up the history, partly for pure fun and partly because that’s my ancestry. Next, I’d head to Iceland to ride the horses and read the sagas in the original Old Norse. My list would be endless if I truly had no money or time limits!

ksm:  Thanks for sharing your time with us, Debra! How can fans find, follow and friend you?

Debra:  Here are a few places:

My blog and website both need updating. I promise I will do it as soon as I can! On Facebook, I am “Debra Dunlap.” People are welcome to email me at: .

Thank you so much for inviting me, Karen. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions!

ksm:  Fallon O'Reilly is an excellent read!  Here's the buy link for everyone.