The Haunted Caves Misadventure

Ah, Halloween memories. The Haunted Caves in my hometown of Hillsboro, Oregon was a tradition. I threw this together a few months ago during a ten minute free writing exercise. All fictional, of course. 😉 Enjoy!halloween

The Haunted Caves Misadventure

The conversation went back and forth all day at school on Halloween. “Are we going?”

“Yeah, we’re going.”

We set out together down the gravel shoulder of the highway. The Washington County Fairgrounds was only a short walk away. One of the event halls held the best thing to happen to Halloween since the individually wrapped peanut butter cup—The Haunted Caves.

“You know what I heard,” Krissy asked. All eyes turned to her. “There’s these guys working there that grope girls when they walk through.”

“Really? Groping?” I said.

“Yeah, Gemma Wallace said she went last night and got felt up by a guy in a goalie mask.”

I giggled. “But that’s Gemma. He probably brushed her shoulder or something. What would he be groping on Gemma—she’s got the chest of my twelve year old brother.”

Leah’s brow furrowed and wrinkled her nose. “Do you think we should still go?”

We all slowed and exchanged uneasy glances. I didn’t know about them, but I found the idea of being groped in the Haunted Caves mildly intriguing.

“Maybe they’re hot guys,” Krissy said.

I tugged on Leah’s arm. “It’ll be fine. We’ll slap them if they grope us. And we’ll stick together.”

Logic should’ve told us they weren’t hot guys. Hot guys could grope girls in broad daylight—they didn’t need to do it on the sly in the darkness of the caves. All the same, we were off to get groped by questionably hot guys wearing balaclavas and carrying bloody plastic knives. We kept walking.

We got to the caves, paid our fee, and waited in line. The first hints of that exhilarating thrill of fear  hit me when I heard the screams of other girls. Finally, it was our turn. We huddled together and shuffled through the black curtain.

And time’s up. How would you end the story?


Writing With Kids in Tow

 My kids are my priority and my writing needs to fit around them. The writing has to be Photo_080410_006flexible, not the kids. But there’s more than a few times where there’s tension between the two.

In my house there’s a never-ending demand for food, probably because I have boys. One day stands out in my mind. I had made everyone breakfast, cleaned up from breakfast, and put a load of clothes into wash. I promised myself once this work was complete and the children otherwise occupied, I would spend some time writing.

After five minutes of writing my youngest finds me. “Mom, I’m hungry.”

“We just had breakfast.” I check the clock. It’d been almost two hours. “Why don’t you go and have a banana.”

He disappears up the stairs. I sank into a scene in my book and I was just gaining speed when Mom & Jasonhe appeared at my side again.

“I’m still hungry.”

“How hungry?”

“Really hungry.”

Heavy sigh. Shoulders slump. “Okay.” I close up shop and go upstairs to make lunch. 

Here’s a few strategies that have kept kids and Mom happy.

Contract a time. If they’re home, especially over school breaks, I contract an amount of time with them. “Mom’s going to go write for one hour.” I set a timer. “I don’t want to be interrupted unless it’s an emergency.” They’re usually pretty respectful, but if they forget I point to the timer. It’s also been helpful to frame this in terms they understand. “How do you feel when you’re in the middle of building Lego and I tell you you have to go to bed?” Then they can understand how the interruptions feel to me.IMG-20130826-01206

Involve them. When I need a teenage word, I ask them. One day I was searching for a name for a villain. I asked them over dinner and we had a lively and hilarious discussion. They came up with some great villain names. Another time I told them a story and asked them how they would finish it. They’re amazingly creative and came up with endings I never would have thought of.

Keep them informed. I had been furiously editing one of my manuscripts when my son asked what my book was about. It struck me that I had never told them what this particular book was about. So I pitched it to my son. As I went on the edge of his lips started to curl and his eyes got wider. Was he holding back a smile? When I finished he let the smile go. “She’s a superhero,” he said. I cocked my head to the side. I hadn’t thought of her that way, but I could see his point. Not only did he help me to see my protagonist in a new light, but I now had him rooting for this book too.

Do You Have a Story Inside You?

I spent a couIMG-20130703-00930ple years in the “writer’s closet.” I didn’t tell anyone, besides family, that I was writing. As soon as I finally “came out,” I started having people confide in me that they too have dreamt of writing a book and that they too have a story that they’d like to tell. 

My answer is always the same. Do it! Writing has brought me an immense amount of joy (heartache too, but that’s a topic for another day). Why wouldn’t I want everyone to give it a try? If you’ve ever been whisked away by a book, transported IMG_4644somewhere new, felt the adrenaline rush of new adventure, those feelings are dwarfed by the thrill of writing your own story.

The best way to start is to—well, start. Grab a sheet of paper. Open a new Word document. Pick a time when you can have an hour of solitude and just start writing. No, I don’t advise taking a class first or reading through umpteen books on writing first. If you would like to write, then begin putting words on paper. Tolkien began the Lord of the Rings series on a whim with these words scribbled on a sheet of paper: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” Write your first word, then your first sentence. Move on to paragraphs, then to pages. Don’t scrutinize. Don’t edit. Write. There is no magical way to begin. Remember:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” –Lao Tzu

Many of you will discover you don’t like it. It’s not for you. But, many of you will discover the joy of writing. And if you like it, want to continue, and improve your craft talk to me. I can help you get started. But for today—write your first sentence and let your adventure begin.


Falling in Love…With a Book

What is that thing? That thing some books do.

You know what I mean. You can’t put your finger on it. It goes beyond beautiful prose, engaging characters, and fascinating plot lines. It’s the difference between liking a book and prideLOVING a book. That thing that gets your heart racing, adrenaline surging, arms shaking as you hold it to your nose at three in the morning. That thing that make you want to flip to page one and start again as soon as you read the last page. 

 I just finished a book I really liked. I’d recommend it to anyone, but it didn’t have “that thing.” So it made me wonder—what is it? IMG_4104

Is it a connection with the main character? Is it that sense that I’m walking in their shoes, feeling every breath, step, and ache. That somehow I’m a part of them and they’re a part of me. And from now on there will always be that connection.

Is it a setting that makes me feel like I’ve been whisked away? When I look up from the pages I’m disappointed to see that I’m still in my living room. A place so vivid, I can fool myself into believing I’ve really been there.

pride2Is it a plot that keeps my heart pummelling my intercostals with every chase, every revelation, every kiss?

Is it the opportunity to fall in love? What Mr. Darcy has been doing to women for two centuries.

Very few books occupy this spot for me. I’ve liked a lot of books, but only loved a few. Last Christmas, Kate Morton’s, The Forgotten Garden so unnerved me that I was unable to write for three days. I didn’t wantforgotten the book to end and I couldn’t get the tale out of my head enough to make space for my own stories. It was, actually, kind of frightening.

            What books have done “that thing” for you? Which characters have become part of you? Which have you fallen in love with? I’d love to see your comments below.

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