Peacocks and Happy Ever Afters

Just looked out the back door in the dark to check on the peacocks, and in the distance their pen has the glow of a thousand candles. Funny how light in the night has such a different feel to it.

That glow is a little muted by the construction sheeting stapled around the pen, but the heat lamps Hubby put in to keep our birds frost-free are throwing off an impressive warmth. Those birds will appreciate it tonight for sure. Hubby even made sure their perches were still wide and flat. Turns out peacocks are prone to frost bite, and it’s better to use a flat 2X4 plank for a perch so their feet stay flat and their bodies fully cover them as they settle on the roost. Better insulation that way. If they curl their very long toes around round perches, the exposed ends freeze and, well . . . gangrenous toes don’t do well.

Got to thinking (I know, scary) and found an odd correlation. Writing is a bit like that cold-wrapped peacock pen. Like construction mishmash, you set unrelated things in place one at a time to create a particular result. You sheath the pen in careful layers to block out the winds the way you layer elements in a story to shield and strengthen the story line. You set staples at critical points to secure it tightly against the frame, much the way you use key incidents and dialogue to ensure your reader stays with you. You add heat lamps to create comfort in a hostile atmosphere, the same way you add pieces of written illumination to your characters’ surroundings.

But you can’t just toss those lamps in or haphazardly prop them up on something. Too far away from the roost and they aren’t effective, much like a vague plot provides no interest. Too close, and they become a danger. A haphazardly built story runs the risk of it collapsing under the weight of too much confusion. So like the positioning of those little heat lamps is critical, you think and plan where to use your high points and black moments for best effect. Test your reasoning and make adjustments. You have to secure those lamps to something solid so they won’t fall if bumped or jostled. The same goes for your story; your research has to stand up to scrutiny, your time and plot lines solid. Each scene has to serve a purpose, with every scene ending securely locked with the next opening one, or things collapse around your characters and they become lost in a sea of broken pieces.

But without a power supply those lamps won’t shine. All your efforts for naught.

The power supply is imagination. Your muse. That driving demand that a story be told. And like that supply source, it runs in a straight line to its conclusion, insulated against outside elements.

I sat here shaking my head just now, wondering how on earth I got off on a tangent comparing peacock survival to writing. Then it hit me.

Those peacocks are the characters of any story told. If you write strong characters – and by strong I don’t mean just alpha males or kick-ass females – I mean characters that connect deeply with readers on an elemental level. Characters that face the same emotional dilemmas as the rest of the world and find ways to overcome them, characters that hurt yet continue on despite that pain, characters that face crises or impossible odds yet keep going one step at a time. As long as you create believable characters you can modify their setting and maintain a habitable atmosphere, like we did with that peacock pen, and those characters will carry on.

It seems like a lot of work just to take care of a few birds.

But then they fan, catching you off guard with the unexpected display. You can’t help but stare, awed, your senses so involved in the moment everything else drops away. You’re lost in time, entranced by all that shimmering iridescence and the sheer volume of rare beauty. It’s the same feeling you get when all those different writing elements, diligent application of technique, and determined sticking to the building blocks of good writing culminate in that perfect sentence, phrase, scene or chapter. That HEA or HFN ending is when your story fans its tail. Those few moments when everything is right and equitable in the written world and that feeling transfers to the reader.

That’s when you’re glad you went to all the effort.

That light in the darkness is the one you feel in your soul, because it does glow like a thousand candles.

Keep writing, and don’t forget Silken Sands Writers Conference is only a little over two months away! If you haven’t registered yet, you need to do so. Check out the workshops lined up, and see which agents and editors will be in attendance Sign up for pitch sessions to present your work one-on-one to them. I’ve included the link to make it easier.


Silken Sands Writers Conference
March 16-18, 2012
Pensacola Beach, Florida



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The New Year Off To a Good Start Despite the *#/%%!! Hackers!

Of Special Note: A quick reminder the Silken Sands Self-Published Star Contest deadline has been extended. Due to scum sucking hackers, our website was down for two days. Sooo . . . now that we have a new host, we want to make sure things are fair for everyone. Entries will be accepted until January 7, 2012. You still have time to get your entry in! Here’s the link:

It’s the New Year, and I’m happy to say mine started off on an unexpected yet promising note. Who would have thought the very first Monday of the year (and you know how we all feel about Mondays!) I would have signed a contract for another anthology?  Puts me in the frame of mind that 2012 may be the breakout year in my writing career!

Shush. I can dream! lol A strong imagination is a writer’s greatest tool!

But that happy surprise in my inbox seriously bumped up my enthusiasm. I’d allotted more time to writing every day, and now I feel justified in doing so. Also, I’m getting things organized for a workshop at our Silken Sands Writers Conference in March, assisted by the lovely Gothicdweller! It’s titled: “Of a Paranormal Persuasion: Using Fact to Create a Believable Paranormal World”. Hope you can come spend that hour with us, and the rest of the weekend taking advantage of the many other helpful workshops being offered, the agent and editor pitches, and great new friends you make at these affairs. Goth and I are both excited about the many new people, the pitches and fun!  Check it out at or

I love the paranormal. I can’t help it. I also love my Celtic heritage. A chance combining of the two has opened a whole new writing endeavor for me. One involving Cailleach Bheur of the Highlands. The supernatural remnant of the Celtic Goddess of Winter, Cailleach Bheur is a lean, blue-faced hag reborn every Halloween, and doesn’t return to stone until Beltane’s Eve, April 30th. In the story I’m currently writing, for some reason she’s been picking on a particular clan for centuries. A clan who has trouble finding lasting love because of her shenanigans. Hope I manage to effectively blend some interesting Celtic legends, history, people, and a twist on the paranormal in a way that draws a reader in to Winter’s Witch. We’ll see. But I can tell you the spark of that idea caught flame while I going over some photographs of old statuary I’d taken. Funny how items from completely separate areas can meld together. Rather like love and the way it combines unlikely individuals, don’t you think? In fact, I’ll share my inspiration with you today. One of the pics is a slash job. Sorry. But if you half close your eyes and allow it to blur a little you can see where he’d cause some concern if glimpsed climbing up the side of a castle or among the rocks!

The intricacies carved in the Celtic cross depict many things; family lineage, Holy oaths . . . and protection from things that can't be explained.

The blue-skinned Caillech Bheur of the Highlands is released from her stone state between Samhain and Beltane's Eve, plenty of time to wreak havoc.

Spirits pay visit deep in the night . . .

But do they come to harm or protect?

Happy writing, everyone! Keep those fingers flying over the keyboard!


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Just Relax and Absorb the Holiday Joy!

I thought I’d share a few family holiday moments as we ease our way between Christmas and New Year; my grandson flying his girlfriend all the way from Washington State to meet me the current highlight. She’s a beautiful girl, intelligent, independent and with a sense of purpose, her educational curriculum set to become a marine biologist. But her highest recommendation in my eyes? She takes no crap from my grandson! His shooting me a what-the-hey look when I landed firmly in her camp on an issue needed explanation. This family’s shortfall when it comes to producing females (he has four brothers, no sisters), means I’m so happy to have a worthy example of womanhood brought into the family that of course I’m taking her side. Probably on everything!

She looks like a cover model–without the rotten diva personality–and shares a personal connection with me. Wonder of wonders, she hunts! I’m talking deer, elk, moose and mountain sheep, the whole nine yards! My oldest daughter (whom I love) has unfortunate Barbie tendencies, and while the youngest daughter loves venison and other wild meats and shoots like Annie Oakley, she refuses hunt. People, do you know how long I’ve waited for a female kindred spirit to hike and hunt with? Brianna was so worth the wait! She rides competitive rodeo (Sadie will approve of that!), she’s involved in her community (Arabella and Jillian, take note), explores Indian grounds with respect for the culture’s history and the environment (Rita Bay!), travels to interesting places (Lizbeth!) and loves Paranormal books (Gothicdweller!). She’s into photography, shoots and fishes. Did I mention I’m taking her side?

Hunter and Brianna at the Gulf.

We visited the Gulf where I insisted they stick their fingers in the water. I want my great-grandbaby to retain a connection here, even if it’s subliminal.

Football?? More like full contact rugby! lol

The guys? Other than their size, they don’t change. My boys are into sports and very competitive. So competitive we even had a fist fight break out. What a wake-up call for me! I used to simply plant a hand on each forehead, holding them separated until tempers cooled or they wore themselves out swinging. This time I found myself in the disconcerting position of my arms wrapped around a middle, and using my feet and legs to hold off the other one. I’m not small, yet still wound up squashed into a mid-air pretzel between them. (I won’t be trying that again. Too damn old. It’s easier to just mop up the blood when they’re finished.)

Tyler and Uncle B.J.

Pop closed in to break it up on the run, a hollered warning as he sped our way. “If you boys hurt Mawmaw there won’t be anyone to cook!”

They jumped apart. So fast I fell to the ground with a thud. I lay there in the sudden silence blinking up at them. You know what? It doesn’t matter they’ve grown to over six feet and weigh two hundred plus pounds; their eyes forever retain that rounded Oh-crap-we’re-in-trouble-now look. I rolled to an elbow and gained my feet without a word, gathered my shredded dignity, and stomped to the house. But, Hubby informed me later, snorting with laughter so that I barely understood him as he recounted his recollection of the incident, I lost visual points. It seems shedding a flurry of dried up pecan leaves with each furious step lends one a comic appearance, no matter how regal your exit.

Hunter and 'return team'; Smokey on left, and Cochise, my pitbull rescue puppy, on right

My youngest daughter summed another situation the best. “Give up, Mom. As long as you have kids and grandkids, you’ll never have nice sh*t.” That was in reference to my dining table. I’d had it less than a week when the oldest g-daughter visited at the age of four. She hurled a heavy Marine Corps issue ship’s coin with enough force to put a major dent in the wood. A year later, one of the boys balanced a lit punk on the edge while they dug through the bag of fireworks. And promptly forgot it. It burned a trench in the table top. This year we made pine cone turkeys. One of the g-kids lavished theirs with glue and glitter, some of which ended up on the table.

An older g-son waved frantically from the hall, motioning for me. Busy, I demanded, “What?” He just waved harder. We kept it up our “What?” and wave exchange a full five minutes before I gave up and went to him. “Think you need to go in there and check on Kirsten,” he muttered, jerking his head toward the dining table. “Why?” I demanded.  He pulled a face, his answer meaningful in its inflection. “Leah says she’s getting the glitter off the table.” Just as I’m wondering why that requires my attention, a dull scrape-scrape-scrape sound registers. I scramble for the other room.

Kirsten is getting the dried glitter and glue off the table all right. With the edge of a pair of scissors. Along with the finish, the stain and a shallow layer of the wood. Too late I show Kirsten how a sponge and water remove leftover craft deposits. I can’t stay mad. Not when tragically wailed, “I was jus’ tryin’ to get it off for you, Mawmaw!” is accompanied by that five-year-old’s tear-filled brown eyes. Sigh. I now have a cluster of light-colored trenches added to the other damage. I fear Rachel is right. I’m never going to have nice things.

But I do have noise and laughter and squeals of delight. I break up fights and praise accomplishments. I watch tears from scraped knees turn to smiles when kisses and Neosporin are applied. I watch mountains of food disappear, eaten with relish. (And yes, when feeding that ravenous bunch I’ve counted my fingers a time or two to make sure they were all still there!) I have smoky clothes to wash after midnight bonfires, and I use warm wash cloths to clean sticky fingers of marshmallow while sleepy heads rest on their daddies’ shoulders.

Who needs nice sh*t? I have a table that carries the proof they like it here enough to come back over and over again. I couldn’t ask for anything better!

Keep writing, everyone! I’ll see you next year!


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Don’t Look! My Family’s Gone Christmas Again!

I can’t believe tomorrow is already Christmas Eve. We’ve had some of the grandkids over and it’s been a blast.

One of the grandsons from Washington State flew in with his girlfriend. She’s expecting our first great-grandchild this summer, and it means so much that she came to see us while she could still travel. So we’ve been enjoying our time with her. She had a little trouble with preggers nausea, but after a quick trip to the clinic for a refill on her morning sickness meds we went on to dine on the good stuff. Shrimp, oysters, crabs, crawfish pies, snow crab legs, coleslaw and French fries. Our mama-to-be had a burger but snuck a few shrimp too!

Entertainment was up to its usual high standards, unintended as well as intended. Hubby and I were drinking our morning coffee when we spotted one of the boys in the edge of the woods. He had on hunting boots, camouflage shirt, hat, shooting glasses, and carried a compound bow in one hand and a range finder in the other.

And wrecked the whole professional hunter effect by wearing shorts. Red ones.  And my Lord, that boy has some white legs! We laughed so hard at the incongruity we had to lean on each other to stand up.

I’ll admit our bunch is food oriented. Growing teenage boys and all that. So I spend a large amount of time in the kitchen. Unfortunately that leaves the kids entertaining themselves. Almost burned the French toast one morning when hysterical laughter and loud rhythmic crinkling noises distracted me. I’m used to laughter and the kids running past while I’m busy. But the huff, crinkle  huff, crinkle I was hearing was something new. I frowned as it got louder and louder and closer and closer. I know my mouth fell open when a human-sized Christmas present bunny-hopped past the door in their wake, yelling bloody murder. The words were a little muffled by colorful layers of wrapping paper and multiple stick-on bows, but I think the gist of it was, “Dammit! Untape my ankles! It’s not funny any more! C’mon! At least unwrap my head so I can see!” Whoever it was huff, crinkled off into the distance, and I’m assuming he was cut loose because they all turned up to eat. I hope there aren’t any more gifts to wrap because I’m pretty sure there’s no paper–or tape– left after that stunt.

The general population of our family runs long on males. That means we have an assortment of hunting goods around here. Animal calls in particular. Duck calls, crow calls, squirrel, baby rabbit, dying rabbit, deer grunt, dove, turkey, elk . . . you name it, it’s hanging on a string somewhere in the house. I was woken early one morning to g-kids circling the bed doing their rendition of Christmas carols. Wish I’d been able to record it. There’s no way to effectively describe the sound of We Wish You a Merry Christmas being exuberantly honked, hooted, quacked, cawed, gobbled, cooed, grunted, bleated and bugled instead of sung. The closest I can come is it was like a warped woodland version of the barking dog Jingle Bells I hear on the radio. I may have been startled awake –okay, I nearly had a heart attack until I realized my room hadn’t shifted to a Twilight Zone zoo somewhere — but I wouldn’t trade a single squeal, squawk, caw or joyous blat of it. Memories like that are priceless. And make for great blackmail material!

I enjoy our times together with the kids. But I have to share them with the rest of the family; it’s only fair. We drove them all to Petal today to spend the next few days deer hunting. Wonder if I should have reminded them I’m food oriented too. And I sure wouldn’t object to a nice deer roast.

I always have fun sharing my family here. They keep life interesting for me! Hope they do for you, too.

May everyone have a very Merry Christmas! Keep the spirit, and good writing!


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Phantasy Friday: A Winter Solstice Celebration

A check into history as to the origins of Christmas reveals its Pagan roots. Emperor Aurelian established December 25 as the birthday of the “Invincible Sun” in the third century as part of the Roman Winter Solstice celebrations. Shortly thereafter, in 273, the Christian church selected this day to represent the birthday of Jesus, and by 336, this Roman solar feast day was Christianized. January 6, celebrated as Epiphany in Christendom and linked with the visit of the Magi, was originally an Egyptian date for the Winter Solstice. I’ve heard both arguments as to the choosing of December 25 to celebrate Christ’s birth. One negative: it was the Church’s way of Christianizing the Pagan holiday to make it its own, giving them control over conquered cultures. The other positive: the Church wanted to effectively demonstrate its sincerity it meant no harm to conquered cultures; absorbing current practices to ensure it wouldn’t completely erase their histories.

Boring technical stuff first. Speculation as to whether the birth of Christ should belong to Yule or Spring Equinox probably stems from a number of cultures that considered Spring Equinox the beginning of the year. The classical Greeks invented the still-used system of numbering the degrees of the zodiac of signs according to the beginning of the seasons, and decided that the fiducial (the point accepted as a fixed basis of reference or comparison) of that zodiac should be O ̊ Aries on March 21, Spring Equinox. In the ancient Roman calendar March was the first month, still reflected by the numerical names for some of the months; September (7), October (8), November (9), December (10). January 1st was officially adopted as the beginning of the year in 153 BC to coincide with the date of entry into office of the Roman consuls. But it wasn’t until sometime after the adoption of the Gregorian calendar that the church settled on January 1st to be the beginning of the year. It seems I remember reading it wasn’t until the mid-eighteenth century that January 1 superseded the Annunciation (March 25) as the beginning of the church year in England. Hopefully Rita Bay, being the fantastic historian she is, may be able to help! She’s also featuring multicultural holiday posts all this month at .

Debates aside, after a number of emails asking how Winter Solstice is celebrated, I’m going to try to recreate one here.

To start, Yule (Winter Solstice) is connected with Rebirth, a celebration of New Beginnings. It occurs when the Sun enters O ̊ of Capricorn, usually December 21, but occurring on December 22 this year.

A festive occasion, at this ritual there are always a few guests, some of whom are not Pagan. This Sabbat, more than any other, is an ideal “bridge” ritual since the basic symbolism of Yule and Christmas are so similar. The symbolism works, and it makes a valid point of universality.

The altar displays all necessary magickal tools: athame, sword, chalice, bells, besom, candles, mortar and pestle, charcoal brazier and incense, God article and Goddess article, salt, and water. It’s centered by a Yule log decorated with evergreens and three candles: one white for the Maiden, one red for the Mother, and one black for the Crone. Around the rim of the altar is a holly wreath (which can be a hula hoop covered with silk holly and glitter). This will be lifted up later in the ritual for participants to step through.

Whether conducted in daylight, or at night under the stars, with participants in full Wiccan attire this ritual carries visual and auditory impact. If you’re ever invited, I would urge you to attend!)

Greetings and Centering begin the ritual, with red-garbed High Priestess (HPS) and High Priest (HP) (in black) greeting each other as usual. The HP then greets the black-garbed Crone (wise woman, and usually longest practicing among the group, representing the ending solar year) and white-garbed Maiden (younger member, usually recently ordained into the order, representing the new solar year). HP then withdraws to the edge of the circle, to lead the group in a centering meditation. Guests may be invited to pray according to their belief as energy is centered from the Cosmos (heavens) above and the Earth below.

Casting Circle
HPS is dressed in red as Mother, Maiden in white, and Crone in black. The three cast Circle according to the following sequence, and it’s a beautiful and moving ritual involving the use of magickal tools and appropriate words:

Sweeping on three levels with twig besom: Maiden
Cleansing the circle: Maiden—earth and water: Crone—fire and air.
Banishing pentagrams: HPS
Defining circle on three levels with sword: Crone
Invoking Spirit with wand: HPS

At that point Consecration begins. Words appropriate to the ritual are spoken by the HPS, always with the entreaty to “allow no evil in, allow no evil out”. Upon completion Passing the Kiss is done HPS to Maiden to Crone to circle.

A calling of the Watchtowers –representing one of the four elements—now begins, a spoken ritual called by individual members stationed at a distance, and requesting the presence of the element and its protection during the ceremony. The echoes build awareness, energy, focus and power. Corresponding colored lights are lit and raised by each with their calls.

East is the first to call, Air, a yellow light.
South is next, Fire, a red light.
West is next, Water, a blue light.
North is next, Earth, a green light.
(Anyone wanting the actual words, feel free to email me. They’re beautiful in their Charge.)

Then Invocation of the Goddess, is performed by HPS, Maiden and Crone, and finished by HPS/Mother.

Invocation of the God follows immediately, by HPS. HP, standing in the East, holds an unlighted gold candle toward the altar to light it from the white candle held forward by HPS. Words appropriate to the ritual are called between HP & Maiden, HP & Crone, HPS/Mother & HP and ending with HPS/Mother. The Crone directs people to move doesil ( pronounced jestle: clockwise) around the circle toward the East. As each participant passes to the west of the altar, the Crone passes the holly wreath over him/her. Maiden helps each one step out, and hands them a small white candle. As each person passes the HP they are to light their candle from the God candle. Usually the third verse of Silent Night/Solstice Night is sung, followed by Joy to the World for the procession.

After all are again standing in a circle, still holding their lit white candles and ringing the consecrated circle in light, HP brings his candle to the altar, and greets the three ladies.

Great Rite

All four touch chalice and athame, as they speak the traditional affirmation of life, a beautiful rhyming ode. Then all sing Deck the Halls while blessed cakes are passed until everyone has some. Use the traditional words here—they are Pagan!


When there are non-Pagans or even cowans as guests, instead of the usual sharing, the HP and HPS will open the circle with athame and sword, in preparation to carry out the old tradition by burning the Yule log in the fireplace (or bonfire), inviting all others to bring their candles too. HPS hails the Watchtowers in turn, who offer thanks to their aspects, Hail them, offer farewell and Blessed Be. Each extinguishes his light upon conclusion.

The ceremony closes with the HPS calling: The circle is open but unbroken.

The HP then calls: Let us carry it with us in spirit as we proceed to the Yule fire.

At the fireplace (or bonfire) everyone places their small candles around the Yule log as it burns. Gifts are exchanged, blessed wine and cakes are shared and enjoyed, and end with “merry meet.”

This was a rather clinical rendition, but I have faith in you. Y’all are writers. I know you can paint the stars pricking the indigo velvet of the night sky. Work in the cries of owls and other night birds, disturbed by the rising energy. Recreate the cadence of droning chant and sharp rung bell. The rattle of the twig besom as it sweeps away negativity. Droplets of water falling to earth like sparkling pieces of shattered crystal, blessing the perimeter of the Circle. The spill of salt along measured steps, a protection against evil. The intermittent glint of flame and moonlight along the polished length of the sword wielded by the Crone. A raised hand extending from crimson fabric, a smooth, slender length of birch topped by a single crystal gripped tight while Invoking spirit.

Weave in the way the wind pushes against you in a startling gust, swirling hems and fluttering cowled hoods around uplifted faces just as the East Watchtower cries out for Air’s presence. The way the bonfire leap highs, red and blue flames writhing amid a burst of sparks, candle flames guttering then flaring the exact moment the South Watchtower invokes his spirit aspect, Fire.

You can describe finale, the mystic swirling shift of robes as participants’ feet move in dancing unison until they’ve encircled consecrated space, flickering white candles held before them.

Who knows, this ritual may be the conclusion you’ve been looking for to end a story you’ve already written. Or it may be the beginning of a new one; a story sparked to life and carrying as much promise as the rebirth of the Sun.

Good writing everyone! Enjoy the days (and nights) preceding the upcoming Holidays!


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Phantasy Friday: When Writing Eludes You, Listen

It’s been a yucky week. Between a miserable earache and the resultant heavy-duty antibiotics, I feel dulled to near Zombie-ism. Even my thought processes are slow and stumbling. So I sat here I know for twenty minutes thinking “What to write? What to write? What to write?”

Then it dawned on me. I pulled out my grandmother’s cure-all I haven’t used in a while. Settle somewhere, chair or grass doesn’t matter, and ground yourself. Breathe deep, then exhale slowly and fully, allowing yourself to go limp, chin falling to your chest. “Thinning yourself” as she called it. With each exhalation allow a bit more of yourself to slip away and spread out. Three or maybe four breaths and you’ll be amazed at how relaxed you are . . . and how aware of your surroundings you’ve become.

The first thing I noticed were the coyotes howling in the distance. I hadn’t heard them over the television. Got up and opened the window a little to hear better.  The cold seeped in immediately, somehow one with the distant white face of the waxing moon. Settled again, legs stretched before me on the bed, inhaled, exhaled, thinned, and just connected. There had to be a dozen voices in the pack, discordant, yet strangely melodic; some prolonged and strong, some warbling, some yipping, yet together they created a night time chorus. The sound seemed to shiver in the cold, making me as acutely aware of the individuals as their combined effect.

Inhale, exhale, thin. I caught the sound of horse hooves moving at a slow loping gallop. I was attuned enough to smile as my mind followed Shamrock around the moonlit field, each stride lazy and stretching, not at all bothered by the coyote pack circling closer. I knew exactly when she rounded the far corner by the heavier staccato thuds as she spun in a new direction, driving hard to pick up speed for the sheer joy of running. Heard her snort in rhythm with her rolling gait as her hooves thudded in the grass; blow soft horsey grunts when she dug into the ground in a burst of power.

Inhale, exhale, thin. The sharp, trilling one-two-threee note of a night-bird. Probably the same one who kept me awake all night earlier in the week. An owl hooted ‘who-cooks-for-you’, somewhere closer to the pond. Caught myself hoping he missed the small bunnies come out nibble on damp grass.

Inhale, exhale, thin. The loud unexpected bray of the neighbor’s jackass a half mile up the road causes me to jump. Intrusive, carrying in the clear night, he overrides all the gentle sounds. He keeps up his brash sawing for an impossible length of time, sounding so much like a hoarse, harsh horn I start to laugh. His noise has broken my concentration.

Inhale, exhale, thin. I notice house sounds now. The soft slap of ceiling fan blades, set to spin slow. The dog sighing after a stretch, falling immediately into a puttering snore. The dulled pulsing rumble of the cat purring against my side. Another dog, at the other end of the house, settles in his crate, ready to sleep after an active day.

Inhale, exhale, thin. Cellophane crinkles. Hubby peeling and eating his hard candies–

Wait. Hubby’s watching TV in the living room. Jarred back to immediacy I hang over the edge of the bed just in time to see Spider Monkey dive head first into the industrial size bag of hard candies, snatch up a cinnamon disc and streak out of the room with it. Weird cat. The only ones she steals are the cinnamon ones.

I know there’ll be a few more sounds later tonight. The sharp ping, skid, pop-pop-pop, cr-rack of a candy ricocheting off the baseboards up and down the hall as the cats indulge in a midnight game of cat hockey. Maybe even a “Dammit!” or two if hubby steps on it barefoot.

And just like that my senses are stirred and I’m in the mood to write. Have to get up and close that window first though. I’m shivering and my fingers are so cold they’re stiff! Grandmother was right though; if a person want to find peace or inspiration, the first thing they need to do is to step away from themselves. It’s surprising how much can fill that extra bit of room.

Good writing everybody!


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Phantasy Friday: December, When Ghost Hunting Gets Cold!

I can’t believe it’s the second day of December already! Things have been frosting nicely at night, leaving the grasses and leaves beautiful with their glittery white attire. Very fairy-ish in the pale morning sun. Not so much fun when it burns off wet and all those limp, damp, brown pecan leaves cling like one-dimensional leeches to the bottoms of your shoes. Between the dogs and grandchildren I’m tempted to start an indoor mulch box. I’ve certainly recovered enough material tracked across the floors for one.

It’s off topic, but I just have to share my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. Ended up with 68,449 official words. Probably need another 15k to finish the book, but I was assured it still counted as a NaNo win. We had a house full for the Thanksgiving holidays or I may have even finished it. (Hey, I’m entitled to any excuse I care to use at my age!)

But back to ghost hunting. I’m looking forward to Winter Solstice and all the metaphysical properties it entails. Most people think Halloween is the most paranormally active day of the year. Well, they’re mistaken. The most active day is Winter Solstice– which falls on December 22 this year — and is a ghost hunter’s dream. I’m hoping our crew has something challenging lined up.

Everyone out there knows how glamorous ghost hunting can be. Hauling equipment, setting it up, tearing it down. Changing batteries in everything. Then changing them again. Hours of sitting without making a sound between questions during a session (don’t want to mess up the Electronic Voice Phenomena recordings); staring at the split screen monitor until your eyes cross (making careful notes of camera number, time, and possible evidence on the event log, all to be reviewed later frame by frame); organizing groups to take rooms and outdoor locations in rotation (some people are good investigators, but just don’t play well with others. But aren’t personality clashes true everywhere?); making sure the memory cards from the digital cameras get downloaded into the laptop to examine and compare to the infrared motion cameras and event log.

But when it gets cold, there’s a whole new level of challenges to conquer.

In the cold you have to wear protective gear. Ever try taking pictures with gloves on? You don’t always hit the right button. You can’t help but fumble the camera on occasion too. We always gets a few hilarious frames with panicked expressions mid juggle, and if the camera shoots in rapid bursts, you get full effect of widening eyes and can lip read the accompanying slow motion “Oohhh, nnnoooo!” The still shots reveal faces stretched into unattractive grimaces of avoidance of the flash, eyes squinched tightly shut.

An outdoor interaction session in the cold can be downright uncomfortable. Since you freeze whether you sit or stand, I prefer to sit on the ground. The camera doesn’t have so far to fall that way. It may take a couple of the guys pulling on my arms to unstick my butt later where my jeans have frozen to the ground, but we get it done.  And when your nose gets cold, I don’t care who you are; you sniff. We’ve had to call warnings to investigators: “Recorded session coming up! Blow now, or forever hold your sn– um, silence.”

Another problem with taking pictures outdoors in the cold is breath vapor. It’s takes a conscious effort to hold your breath and extend the camera away from your face while snapping shots. And if things start happening, it’s only natural to breathe a little faster and get that viewfinder where you can see what you’re shooting. Quite a few newbies get ribbed with, “We’d have had something here if (fill in the blank) would just quit breathing so hard!” To prevent disappointment, one of the first things we do is show investigators the difference in paranormal mists and a hot breath released into cold air.

And have you ever tried to walk quietly when you can’t feel your toes? I’ve always heard your big toe is critical for balance. Well, the other four must feel left out or something, because they hang up on every twig, grass clump or slight rise in the ground to gain their share of attention.

Winter weeds out the prima donnas. Everyone has to do every rotation. So the wimps tend to fade out of the investigation area when it turns icy outside.

Oh! And Never. Never. Ever, ever, ever agree to have a magazine photographer or television film crew accompany you during the winter and expect to appear professional. Pull that cap off when you come back indoors and you have a head full of static electricity. A person tends to look a little crazy with their hair shooting in every direction. A group of them is guaranteed laughter. You always catch somebody elbowing his buddy and snickering, “Oh, look. It must be a ghost. Their hair is haunted!”

Sigh. The things we endure to advance our chosen field.

That’s not everything, but it’s enough for now. I’d hate for you to get bored. So until next week, keep up the word count! I want some good books hitting the eReaders and shelves out there!


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