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Posts Tagged ‘Bells’

HallowRead 2014 Poster Many of us have been to “Haunted Houses” at fairs, carnivals or Disney World. For those of you who like Disney’s Haunted Manison, here’s a link to some cool facts about the ride.

And here’s a link to a few real haunted houses.

Better yet, visit this year’s HallowRead and visit some haunts on the ghost tour. I’ll be there on Sat., Oct. 25th on panels, etc.

I couldn’t resist adding a bit of haunt to the home at the center of “Bells,” the final story in Owl Light, my collection of dark speculative stories. In truth, some of the haunted bits included in the tale are taken from my personal experiences. Here’s the beginning of “Bells” for your reading pleasure:

Bells

‘The hundred and fifty-year-old Crosby family farmhouse on the corner of Park and Millstone Streets was cluttered with the dead. What should have been gray-toned or sepia photos of Melinda’s ancestors peered from shelves, tabletops, curio cabinets, and almost every available inch of wall space. But the pictures of the deceased had not been left in their original neutral tones — in an attempt to add life to the images, her Great-Aunt Vivian had garishly tinted the people’s faces, clothing, and surroundings with photographic oil paints. But by blessing men, women, and children with red lips, rosy cheeks, and brilliant irises, Aunt Viv had given everyone in the pictures the same unnatural appearance that was found on corpses at an open-casket viewing.

The room in the house on the corner of Park and Millstone where Melinda always stayed when she came to visit, had belonged to Aunt Vivian’s mother, Isabelle Worthington. Mel glanced at her Great-Grandmother Belle’s augmented photo on the marble dresser top. She shuddered. If she braided her waist-length coppery hair and pinned it to the top of her head in a bun, Mel would have been a dead-ringer for the long-gone Isabelle.

She touched the elaborately filigreed frame. Mel could almost hear her great aunt promising in her most wishful voice, “The dead are only separated from us by the sheerest gauze.”

Mel pressed her lips together, lifted her gaze from her great-grandmother’s picture, leaned forward, and checked her mascara for smudging in the wavy glass mirror. Standing behind her and just to the left, Mel thought she glimpsed the blurred image of Isabelle Worthington. She gasped, turned around. There was no one there but the bed draped in a shooting star quilt made by Belle, golden oak furniture laden with Belle’s carefully preserved belongings, the ever-present photographs, and a profusion of evergreen branchlets tucked here and there around the room.

Melinda stepped over to the window, watched the snowflakes sail down to the sea of white that covered the lawn, the sidewalks, and the cemetery across the street. Considering the weather, it was lucky most of her mother’s family still resided in the same town where their parents and their parents’ parents had lived, died, and were buried. Other than Mel and her sister and parents, everyone coming tonight for Christmas dinner could walk home if need be. She pulled the lace curtains together as far as possible trying to shut out the wintry scene below. But there was a bundle of greens tied together with red ribbon and bells dangling from the center of the rod, so not only didn’t the curtains close all the way, but her effort at privacy set off a metallic jingling.

 small owl light Shaking her head, Mel crossed the room to the bed, closed her suitcase, then strolled into the hallway. After a quick turn to the right, she descended the winding stairs to the main floor. The ghosts seemed to press less closely there, or so she thought, until a chill brushed past her on its way downstairs…’

Like what you’re reading? You can check out Owl Light and my other books on Amazon.

Last, but certainly not least, an update to yesterday’s Zombie post for you Walking Dead fans — I found a link to a zombie-proof cabin.which just might get you through the Zombie Apocalypse.

Only a few more days til HallowRead, then less than a week until Halloween — it’s my favorite time of the year!

 

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 Ghostly folklore, legends, and family stories are fertile soil for growing fiction of spirits, specters, the dead and undead. An example of this is my short story Bells.

Step one, start with what you’re familiar with by recalling and jotting down memories. For me, I remember seeing (for a split second) my great-great-grandmother beside me in the wavy mirror of my great-aunt’s home.

Great Aunt Georgie lived in a small town in western New York state known for its lake-effect snows. But it wasn’t the winter I recalled. For the first 20 years of my life, my family and I spent the Fourth of July in Phelps, NY at a family reunion with dozens of assorted cousins. And I remembered the leather strap of bells attached to the front door handle that clanged every time the door was opened or closed.

Step two, look at family memorabilia and photo albums. I leafed through an old album and spotted a sepia-toned picture of my Great Aunt June and Great Uncle Clifford. Then, I returned to step one and wrote down down a sleigh ride story Uncle Clifford had told me.

Step three, add some facts to root your fiction in reality. Mentioning actual locations, traditions, regional or national events, or historical figures all work well. Aunt Georgie’s house was located on the corner of Park Street and another road, and Oaks Corners wasn’t too far away. My father-in-law did indeed drill holes in his family’s Christmas tree’s trunk and filled-in the bare spots with whatever greenery was handy to create a fuller tree. And train gardens (HO, N Gauge, and American Flyer) are a part of my family’s traditions.

Step four, mix it up! Use your imagination to scramble facts and make-believe. In truth, Aunt June out-lived my great uncle by 15 years.

Step five, identify your theme and use your writing skills to gently shape the story. Re-order, tweak, polish, trim, expand – whatever is needed in the writing to make the tale flow smoothly from beginning to end.

So writers, use these steps to compose a ghostly story. Readers, try to figure out where the truth exists in some of your favorite ghost tales.

As for me, I followed these same steps when creating my zombie love story: The Return of Gunnar Kettilson due to appear shortly in Cemetery Moon magazine. But I’ll leave you guessing as to which parts are memory, which are folklore, which are fact, and which are make-believe.

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 All 3 of my eShort stories: Assassins, Sideshow by the Sea, and Bells, are YA/Cross-Overs. YA (young adult) books are written for the teenage reader. But some books that feature older teen and young adult characters, like Stephenie Meyer’s vampire-werewolf “Twilight” series, cross-over and become bestsellers in the adult book market.

Adults of all ages can enjoy a Cross-Over book’s plot twists, varied characters, and carefully constructed world. One of the earliest Cross-Overs I purchased for my bookshelf was JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Though Bilbo Baggins is middle-aged in human years, in hobbit years he is a young adult. Tolkien meticulously built a complex world with its own races, geography, history, creatures, rules of war, clothing, and magic.

The book was a precursor to The Lord of the Rings trilogy which also features a young hobbit, Frodo, as the protagonist. Adding to the YA feel of The LOTR trilogy is the boyish friendship of Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. But the tangle of plots, subplots, themes, and characters that weave their way through The Lord of the Rings are rich enough to snag countless adult readers.

C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and the rest of his Chronicles of Narnia are also YA/Cross-Over books. Written for the teen (and preteen) reader, the series continues to be read by adults young and old.

Another Cross-Over series I’ve filled my book shelves with is Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara, The Wishsong of Shannara, etc. These aren’t really YA books, you might say. But I submit to you that indeed they began as a coming of age story of 2 young men, Shea and Flick, in a carefully crafted world. And then, the Shannara books topped the New York Times bestseller list and became one of the favorite fantasy series of many adult readers.

The last cross-over series I’ll mention is J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter. Harry, Ron, and Hermoine, the three main characters in Rowlings’ classic coming of age tales, begin their literary journey as 12-year-olds. And as such, attracted a faithful readership of preteens and teens. But it’s the cross-over into the adult market that has help make the books one of the most successful fantasy series ever published.

 I’m not the only one to notice and celebrate the increase in both the numbers and quality of YA/Cross-Over books. The Baltimore Sun, March 14, 2010, p.4, A&E section featured an article by Susan Carpenter in which she quotes Lizzie Skurnick, author of a collection of essays about YA literature: “I think part of the reason we’re seeing adults reading YA is that often there’s no bones made about the fact that a YA book is explicitly intended to entertain…YA authors are able to take themselves less seriously. They’re able to have a little more fun…”

 And that’s why YA/Cross-Over books Rock!

They’re entertaining, enlightening, and thought-provoking – but most of all – they’re fun! So why not check-out my YA/Cross-Over story, For the Good of the Settlement And soon, you’ll be able to read some of my other YA/Cross-Overs: The Return of Gunnar Kettilson in Cemetary Moon and Gifts in the Dark in Dia de los Muertos.

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 The snow outside is just deep enough to make a planned trip to the grocery store out of the question, so I decide to do some “office work.”

The business side of writing is necessary, but bothersome for me. Nevertheless, I pull up a couple of things that need to be printed out. Argh! The printer tells me it’s not connected to the computer.

Such techie things I usually leave for my husband to sort out, so I decide to register for a few smaller urls for some of my free stories and poems from www.tinyurl.com (A site I highly recommend. Smaller urls are a blessing!)

All goes well until I try to check for my story, Angels, published in the latest issue of Ensorcelled Magazine (from Berkeley). My computer tells me I’m forbidden to access the magazine from this server. I try several different ways to locate the magazine or story to no avail. (Update: The 4 free poems and 2 free stories that were listed here are no longer available. So, even more things went wrong since this post was written. Good news though, Angels is included in The Greener Forest and For the Good of the Settlement has been updated and published as an eShort).

I decide to check my eShort publisher to see how my eShorts (Bells, Sideshow by the Sea, and Assassins) are doing, only to find the website is down.

Hmm. I have a call into an editor and am awaiting her call-back. I check my phone to make sure it’s working. It is, but the back left burner on the stove seems to have a problem when I try to warm up some soup for lunch. Does this mean I’ll have to start making dinner a little earlier than usual?

Forget the soup. As I make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I decide today is the perfect day to finish some illustrations. As long as my spectacles (a far more interesting word than “glasses”) don’t break and I have water for painting, I’m good to go. Of course as I type this, I know the studio area of the basement remains unfinished and I’ll be wearing my Bob-Cratchett-style fingerless gloves to keep my hands warm as I draw and paint.

Perhaps, I’m meant to research a new story I’m working on. I can read snuggled down in a comfortable chair by the fire and jot notes on a pad. If I’m truly inspired, I can even return to the computer and type as long as I don’t want to print anything out.

What’s the point of this blog? You can always find excuses NOT to write (or illustrate), but if you’re going to have something for publication, you must push yourself to work. Research, write, draw, paint, edit, tiddy-up websites & blogs, register new tiny urls, revise… the list could go on — but keep busy! A writer writes. An illustrator illustrates. A wanna-be finds any excuse to turn on the television and set aside their creative dreams.

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 Many authors, including me, have asked readers to vote for us and our story or poem on the Preditors & Editors Poll: http://www.critters.org/predpoll/  That’s all well and good for the authors, poets, artists, editors, and publications receiving votes — but what’s in it for the readers? Plenty! For readers, you get a chance to read stories & poems and look at books, magazines & anthologies you might not have heard about before. Perhaps you’ll find a writer who’s words you’d like to read more of.

Now, what’s in it for other writers? Gold! By checking out the various books, magazines & anthologies, you can find a few which might be interested in your writing. The nonfiction articles, bookstores, writers’ advice listings, etc. can prove to be valuable resources for you. And check out the editors, too. An editor that scores lots of votes might be someone you’d like to work with on a project. You can also check out your competition for the available slots in a publisher’s schedule. Is your work up to the standards of the work you see listed?

What’s in it for the artists?  Read the above paragraph. You, too, need to familiarize yourself with publications, editors, and your competition.

As for editors, they get a chance to see writers & artists whose work is popular with a segment of the reading population.  Though that information should never be the only deciding factor when it comes to accepting submissions, it is nice to know!

So go to the poll: http://www.critters.org/predpoll/ check-out the categories & nominees, and VOTE BEFORE 11:59 PM JANUARY 14th.  I, of course, would love your vote as a Poet, Artist, and Author — or for my 1 of my Poems: Sea Children or Spiders, my Story-Other: Bells, 1 of my Story-Science Fictions: Angels or Assassins or Sideshow by the Sea, and lastly, my Book Cover Art: Sideshow by the Sea.

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 My newest eShorts, Bells and Assassins,  just received their first 5-star reviews from Karol Kidd, a retired teacher from Ft. Meyers, Florida. Karol also gave Sideshow by the Sea 5-stars: “Bells brought a tear to my eye as it was such a touching tale of love and endearment.”

vcw-a-cvr[1] “The sci-fi elements of Assassins will keep the reader engrossed as well as challenged. It’s an excellent quick read.” And: “The fantasy elements of Sideshow by the Sea will keep the reader engrossed as well as challenged. The cover illustration truly enhances the appeal of this title.”

Plus: “TEACHERS OF TEENS TAKE NOTE: The author, Vonnie Winslow Crist, is writing fun works that are beyond the usual classroom basal reader fare. Sideshow by the Sea being one of several available at Echelon Press. Required literature and language topics of instruction could easily be based on Ms. Winslow-Crist’s delightful stories. Plus, reading them as ebooks would kick up the level of enthusiasm for many students who are not especially avid readers, but will tackle anything on the computer.”

Thanks, Karol. Maybe a teacher or 2 will want to use my short stories in their classroom!

Update: Both Bells and Sideshow by the Sea have been updated and appear in my book, Owl Light, published by Cold Moon Press.

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vwc-b-cvr[1] My ghostly holiday eShort, Bells incorporates some of the Christmas traditions of my extended family. Gatherings of friends and family to share in a holiday meal is a tradition that I’ll be celebrating several times again this year. There are always too many of us to sit around one table, so we spread out across the house sitting where ever we can locate a chair or stool or nook by the window. We share memories, the latest news, dreams for the future, love, laughter, and sometimes, tears.

 When I was young, my father, Nathan Winslow,  meticulously put up a HO gauge train garden. He even got my grandfather, an accomplished oil painter, to realistically paint plaster mountains. His was a train garden of exactness and beauty. My husband’s family also put up a train garden. The George Crist family Christmas train garden was so exciting for my husband and his brothers when they were boys, that they’d ignore the gifts and rush for the trains.

My husband, Ernie, and I continued the train garden tradition. On Christmas morning, our kids would run to see the trains. When they became older, they’d help their dad throughout December fix up the train garden for their younger cousins to see when they came to visit. Last Christmas, Ernie and I were lucky enough to have our grandson with us at Christmastime. And little Nathaniel was inspired to crawl his first few feet trying to grab a miniature train that circled around under the Christmas tree.

Sleigh bells on door knobs, watermelon pickles, patched-together trees, and carols playing in the background are other traditions mentioned in Bells we continue in my family. Another Christmas tradition is baking cookies. I baked them with Granny and Mom. My kids baked them with me, and maybe my grandson will sprinkle some colored sugar on my cut-out cookies. (For ”Granny’s Sugar Cookies” recipe, see end of blog).

 I encourage each of you to celebrate the holidays with those you care about. Make good memories and establish family traditions, remembering you’re born into a one kind of family — but you can also build a family of dear friends. And especially at this time of year, treat others with a little more kindness and love. For as Aesop so wisely wrote in his tale of “The Lion & The Mouse” — No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.  Update: Bells can now be read in Owl Light, one of my books from Cold Moon Press.

Granny’s Sugar Cookies:

1) In a large bowl, cream together: 1/2 cup margarine and 1 cup granulated sugar. 2) Blend in: 1 large egg. 3) In a separate bowl, sift together: 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. 4) Next, add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and blend well. 5) Chill for 1 to 2 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dust a pastry cloth with flour and roll dough out to 1/8″ thickness with a lightly floured rolling pin. Cut out holiday shapes with cookie cutters. Put cut-out shapes on a cookie sheet that’s been coated with a vegetable shortening spray (allowing room between cookies). Decorate with colored sugar. Bake in oven for 5 to 8 minutes. Remove cookies from oven when edges are lightly browned and using a spatula, scoop the cookies onto a rack to cool. Watch Granny’s Sugar Cookies carefully during baking, as they burn easily.

I usually double this recipe. Granny’s Sugar Cookies are a family favorite and disappear quickly! They also freeze well in sealed containers.

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