I Like to Give Halloween Presents

Image of 3 carved and lit Halloween pumpkins

Our actual pumpkins for Halloween 2019

And I have one for you!

Halloween is my favorite holiday and I have been known to give Halloween presents, nice little packages of orange, purple, and green tied with black ribbons, but I never got around to it this year. While I always have the spirit of Halloween in my heart, if you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ve likely heard me lament my lack of holiday motivation. Our pumpkins graced our porch for almost two weeks before the inspiration and the motivation struck to carve them. I’ve only visited Spirit Halloween twice, and as I mentioned on social media, I haven’t even tried to raise the dead once yet.

If you’re a frequent visitor here, you may also know that I’ve been struggling with writing lately. I’m stuck on my novel and fiddling with that has stopped up my flow of short fiction. Maybe it’s worry over it not being marketable; maybe it’s an issue of exhausting my writerly energy on assignments at ye olde day job (jobbe?), but whatever the case, it’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve finished a piece of fiction.

At least, that was true until I had an epiphany: I could write a story for a Halloween gift this year. I could do it just for fun (my roundabout way of saying that I edited my own work), to get into the spooky spirit and share a bit of it with others.

So, without further ado, I present a piece of Halloween flash fiction.

Click to read ‘Prophetic Dreams by yours truly.

Happy Halloween!

Trails from the Crypt

With Labor Day just over a month in our rear view, the autumnal equinox a couple of weeks past, and the weather forecast assuring me that the rain has returned and is staying for a while, I find myself reflecting on summer. I spent quite a bit of time hiking trails at various state and national parks and so I tormented my Facebook friends with photos of mountain views, glorious sunsets, and every damn waterfall I came across all summer long. That is, admittedly, a pretty happy and sunny method of torture, but then, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows on those trails. Sometimes, I come across some seriously creepy shit.

Since summer is officially over, and it’s the most wonderful time of the year (Halloween), I thought I would take this opportunity to share a shiver in the form of some of the more unsettling pictures from this summer’s adventures.

The Silence of the Ram

Okay, so here’s the deal. I have no bloody idea what this is.

I mean, seriously!

I mean, seriously!

I just know that when we turned the corner at Paradise Valley Conservation Area and there it was, I had to get photographic evidence. Now, I’m sure that whatever this actually is, it’s just the result of some perfectly innocent creepy kid shenanigans and not in any way related to any real kind of evil ritual. However, coming upon a scene that features a pink plastic pony head with blackened eye sockets stuck on a human doll body jammed into the throat hole of the pink pony body – the ruined and severed human doll head perched on a nearby rock – would make anyone stop to ponder. Perhaps it might make some run. Either way, can someone please explain the ram?

My WTF meter is still spiking on this one and will likely continue to do so. A couple of weeks after this photo was taken, my husband and I were back on the trail and this little horror scene was still there. It even had some new additions, though nothing worth taking a follow up photo.

That said, the next time I’m there, you better believe I’m going to check for it again.

The Tortured Soul

The cool thing about this picture, aside of its high creep factor, is that it was one of those “and we didn’t even notice until we looked at the pictures later” scenarios. We decided that we wanted to stop at Ape Caves, Mount St. Helens Lava Tube. We didn’t venture very far into the cave because we didn’t have adequate light sources and hadn’t planned to do any deep spelunking that day anyway. Perhaps the poor lighting provided by the flashlight on my cell phone was why I never noticed what looked like the agonized face of a tortured soul trapped in the rock.

image-2-face

I’m in the blue hoodie. The giant tortured face is to my right.

It wasn’t until we returned home and started going through the pictures that my husband exclaimed, “Wow! That’s sort of freaky!” and I saw it. Since we were taking photos in the dark, it’s entirely possible that the face was a trick of the light and that even with proper illumination, I will never see the giant tortured face in person, but again, I’m going to go back to look.

Also, I’m seriously considering using this for my next author photo!

The Third One Because I’m Weird and Need a Third One

I admit that this one is a bit of a stretch but I really like the number three. I like it so much that I’m willing to reach as far as this photo just to include a third example. Also, I like to brag about hiking the Carbon Glacier Trail at Mount Rainier National Park. It’s a long one and we do it in a day.

If you look past the ants, the glacier can be seen in the background.

If you look past the ants, the glacier can be seen in the background.

As we were climbing the final yards of the trail with the glacier well within view, my desire to get close-up shots of high altitude wildflowers battled my desire to keep climbing. At that moment, I was particularly interested in the thistle when I came across this one.

I’m not sure what kind of ants they were. I’m not sure why they were all over that thistle, but I couldn’t help but think of swarming bugs on dead and dying things (or really, just swarms of bugs at all), and get a little shiver. I still say I’m reaching a bit with this entry; at the same time, I’m getting kind of itchy thinking about those ants crawling on me.

How ‘bout you?

13 Morbid Tales is Available Now!

Lookie what I've got!

Lookie what I’ve got!

Today is the official release day for 13 Morbid Tales! Why now? I needed my 13 creepy little tales to be available to readers by Halloween: werewolves in mailboxes, ghosts in e-readers.

This has been a lot of years coming. Fun fact: by my estimation, the oldest story in the collection was actually written 13 years ago. Don’t worry. It’s been edited to reflect my skills today, not my skills back then.  *smile and wink*

Some of you may already know that the links went live a couple of days early. The really cool thing about that is that for the last two days leading up to the “official” release, I have seen an outpouring of love and support so strong I completely forgot about my anxiety. Those who know me know that’s no easy feat. I cannot thank you all enough. Really. It’s not possible. Just know I’m feelin’ the love for all of you!

At this point you’re probably wondering, When’s this chick gonna stop being sappy and get to the book blurb and the links where I can buy this bit of awesomeness, already? At least, I hope you are. So here goes:

The creatures living within these pages come from the imagination: a place where a sentient life support machine contemplates its own existence, a budding slasher villain comes into her own, and a demonic agent makes another deal.

And they’ve brought friends.

Werewolves, ghosts, and human monsters alike guide the reader down highways of dark fancy, exploring what goes bump—and what stays eerily silent—in the night.

Available Now!

Get 13 Morbid Tales for Kindle

Get a paperback copy of 13 Morbid Tales from Amazon

Get a paperback copy of 13 Morbid Tales from the CreateSpace eStore

#13MorbidTales

Edited by Reggie Lutz.

Cover Art by Janell R. Colburn.

Love Sonnet for the Monsters

So…it all started when I set out to write a proper Shakespearean sonnet. I wanted to write a love sonnet to the monsters. I’m thinking of using this as a forward or afterward or something-or-other in 13 Morbid Tales, but for now, let’s just celebrate the season…

Love Sonnet for the Monsters

By Devon L. Miller ©2013

When dark descends the mighty werewolves howl.

And specters float from their crypts in the night.

Take care and listen for the demon’s growl

As vampires perform an ancient blood rite.

One dares not step into the mummy’s tomb,

And should not walk on zombies’ vacant graves.

For these things surely can mean a man’s doom,

No solace found at the mouths of bats’ caves.

A letter in blood sent by raven’s claw,

Received with shaking hands and bated breath,

Only to be snatched by the Hell hound’s jaw,

Or the cold grip of the one we call Death.

To some, a terrible nightmare it seems,

To me, it makes for most romantic dreams.

Hungry Like the Wolf

I wrote this story many moons ago—how many moons, you ask. Well, I originally posted it on MySpace, so yeah…moons. I deleted it from MySpace when I decided to use it in 13 Morbid Tales but since my work has evolved, I no longer intend to use it in the final product. Does that mean I don’t think it’s a good story anymore? Absolutely not. This is why I’m sharing it with you all now. Hope you enjoy! And again, Happy Halloween! 

Hungry Like the Wolf

            She walked down the wooded path with him as he stumbled, the smell of alcohol on his breath. Darkness settled in slowly, but settled in nonetheless. She had begged him to take her home, but he was in no condition to drive. “No matter,” she had said with a shrug and a toss of her long, black tresses. It wasn’t that far into town and so she had insisted that she would walk. He had insisted that he would come along. Her honor needed protecting, after all. Yet the thought had occurred to her that protecting her honor was the last thing on his mind. She didn’t like him when he was like this, and she realized it especially in this moment. The thought that things would be so much safer if she was by herself ran through her head as the hairs on the back of her neck not only stood on end, but seemed frozen that way.

            Her friends had warned her not to go out with him that night. They told her that she didn’t know what she was getting into, but she was having none of it. She had looked forward to the harvest party all summer and no power in the heavens was going to stop her from going. I’m in control of the situation, she had told herself, and truly she had believed it. If things started getting a little uncomfortable, she’d leave.

            But now, she began to rethink all of her choices. The discomfort was growing and her legs itched with the need to run. It had rained earlier that day, and the mist crept up from the ground. Sonofabitch! She thought to herself as his hand, that had only moments before, while still at the party, been protectively resting on her shoulder, slid down to cup her breast. This is the way scenes in bad horror movies start. Lately, she had been realizing that bad horror movies weren’t always wrong. She moved his hand away. This was no time for too much liquor, raging hormones, and desire, to mix.

            He moved his hand back and she pulled away from his grasp. “Come on, Jim. I told you, not tonight. I want to go home.”

            The hand that hadn’t been grabbing at her breast still clasped a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. He clumsily brought it to his lips and took a bigger drink than necessary. “So that’s why you decided to come walking all slinkily down the path by yourself. No, you didn’t want me to follow you at all,” he said, his voice thick with sarcastic frustration as he tore a hand through his shaggy, blond hair.

            Her eyes flashed, even in the dark. “I’m walking because you continued to get drunk and couldn’t take me home! There’s no sense in anyone getting killed…” She was cut off by him kissing her hard on the mouth. When she managed to shove him away, she noticed that in his aggression, he had split her lip. She licked it and tasted blood. The situation was getting worse.

            It seemed that he had tasted it too. “Baby, I’m sorry,” he said, and it seemed for a moment that she’d be free. No such luck. “But we both know you can handle a little pain, right,” he continued. He walked back toward her with more motion in his hips than any man should ever have. She could tell that he wasn’t through with these advances by far, and they were alone.

            This can’t happen, she thought. He has to let me go. She had always been so comfortable in the woods, even at night. But she knew if this happened, the trees would know. They’d see, and her place of solace would become her place of shame.

            He advanced toward her and knocked her backwards. She winced against the pain as her head hit the ground hard.

            “No!” she cried as he settled himself on top of her.

            “I don’t fuckin’ get you, Amber!” he said, his voice rough and hoarse. He pinned her shoulders down and kissed her neck in a way that was more a bite than a kiss. “One minute we’re hot and heavy and the next you’re acting like some shy virgin!” He pulled his shirt over his head. “We both know that virgin shit isn’t true. Now come on; let me feel those nails down my back again.”

            My God! He’s going to get his way, she thought as she cried against the pain of the splitting flesh as her nails grew, extending into claws.

            Then the clouds parted, and she saw the full moon in all its glory. She looked into eyes that were growing wide with shock and fear. “I begged you to take me home!” she sobbed. But the words came in growls and the tears were lost in the sleek, black fur growing on her face.

            And this time, the blood she licked from her lips was his.

Halloween Costume Shop Frustration

Halloween is coming—not the most astute observation, I know, but it’s a good starting point for this post. Halloween is coming, and for my costume this year (a classier, non-green version of the witch stereotype), I did what I have done on many Halloweens past. I took a lot of stuff I already had, made additions, subtractions, and embellishments, and came up with something I really like.

I did/do this for three reasons.

1. I can’t sew worth a damn. While I am certainly crafty, and I do own a sewing machine that I actually know how to operate, it’s the actual sewing part I’m not so great at. If it’s beyond a button, a hem, or a torn seam, forget it! I’m lost! (Costuming teachers from way back when I was a Theatre major can verify that this is true.) So, I take clothes I already have and alter them slightly. It’s even better if alterations can be done with fabric glue and I don’t have to pull out the machine at all.

2. Budget. While I admit that I purchased a few accessories (and people who know me know that it doesn’t need to be Halloween for me to wear them again), I used clothes already in my closet. There was just no way I could afford an entire costume of the caliber I wanted, which brings me to…

3. Besides the overall cheap look of some of the costumes sold by in-budget costume retailers, these retailers seem to think that if you’re not going as a nun, you’re going as a prostitute. Sure, the costume might be a prostitute dressed up as a police officer, or a nurse, or a non-green version of the witch stereotype, but still a prostitute. Keep in mind that I am in no way judging or condemning prostitutes. I just don’t want to be mistaken for one, ’cause let me tell you, that’s really awkward!

Now, I did some soul searching as to why this bugs me so much this year. Am I a prude? Hell no! Showing skin has been an integral part of my Halloween costumes since the day my parents no longer had a say in what I wore. However, showing lots of skin is not work appropriate (I’m coming to the office in costume whether they like or not, so the least I can do is pretend to respect dress code), and unlike past Halloweens, I really only want to do one costume this year. As a Ren Faire geek, I always have some garb on stand by, but I’ve always considered that cheating. And also, jacked-up boobs and a sword on my hip are probably not office appropriate either.

I even asked myself if it was a body image thing. Am I so bothered by costume selections this year because I’m not ten years younger or 30 pounds lighter? Nope. Because, as the song goes, “I’m sexy and I know it.” (And humble too.) And honestly, when was the last time anyone looked at a full figured model (who’s still probably only a size 6, but that’s a whole other post entirely) in a sexy pirate costume and said, “Ew! Gross!”? Exactly. Never. And while I applaud the costume companies for acknowledging that beauty comes in all sizes and making sexy costumes for full figured ladies too, that still doesn’t solve my problem.

Where is the selection of costumes for women who are neither nuns nor prostitutes? Where is the costume for…oh…say a thirty-four-year-old married technical writer who intends to wear her costume to her male dominated office? And, oh yeah, she has to be able to afford it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled with my costume. I haven’t gone as a stereotypical witch since I was a little girl (that time I believe I actually did wear green make-up). And I’ll be honest, one of the big reasons for doing it this year is that I just couldn’t miss the photo op with my black kitten. The other is that I thought I’d take a negative stereotype and, like probably a few other witches out there, turn it into a positive one. And between my own closet, Amazon, and a couple of accessories from the costume shop, I think I’ve accomplished my mission nicely. I’m certain I have one of the best piecemeal costumes I’ve ever had. I merely wonder if anyone else is just a little irked too, or all out frustrated by the selections out there.

So…obligatory, Halloween themed, closing questions: Are you wearing a costume this year? Are you making one or buying one? What has your experience been?

It’s Autumn!

Hello faithful readers!

Yes, I’m still here. I’ve not been spirited away to another dimension. I’ve not been fighting my way through a labyrinth to save my little brother from David Bowie (although, how cool would that be?!). I’ve not had one of my notorious “f*ck this sh*t, I’m going off the grid” hissy fits. It’s actually been a decent time with a lot going on, and of course, in the midst of all of it, I have–once again–neglected the blog.

*Flogs self.*

So, what exactly is it I’ve been up to? Well, I’ll take a break from flogging of myself to tell you (in no particular order).

1. Making Room for a New Addition

When we were first approached with the idea of taking the last kitten from a neighbor’s cat’s litter, I intended to stand firm on being a dog person.  Since our place is too small for the dog breeds I prefer (Pit Bulls, Labrador Retrievers, Huskies), I was sure we were going to remain pet-free for the time being. Then I met said kitten. Needless to say, my husband and I took the little guy. As it turns out, I’m an animal person. This is actually a shock to no one.

Salem is really adorable when he plays.

Salem is really adorable when he plays.

Of course, having been raised with dogs, I went into full research mode on the absolute best way to care for a feline since I knew nothing about doing so. And of course, being a bit of a germophobe who has now read all about what kinds of little nasties cats can carry (honestly, I just wanted to research when and how often to get him to the vet and what kind of things to have the vet check for. I had no intention of feeding my paranoia), our whole home had to be purged of junk, cleaned and disinfected from top to bottom, and kitty-proofed, because cleaning up after an animal is easier when you don’t have to move piles of junk just to get to the mess. And keeping a place in a certain state of cleanliness (and perhaps sterility) is more easily done once working with a clean slate. In truth, the Great Purge of 2013 needed to happen anyway, but our little Salem motivated us to get it done. So, a car load of donation stuff, 4 big bags of trash, and numerous containers of bleach wipes later, kitty has a very clean, much more open place to wreak havoc.

*Pats self on back for being such a good pet parent, instantly flinches from touching the flogging wounds. Humility restored.*

2. Partaking in Fall Festivities

I know, I know! I was attending various fairs and festivals when I should have been writing! How could I do such a thing?

*Still stinging from first flogging. Not doing it again.*

The view from the top of the Ferris wheel, Fall Fest 2013, Misquamicut Beach, RI

The view from the top of the Ferris wheel, Fall Fest 2013, Misquamicut Beach, RI

It’s been told to me by many writers and various other artsy folks that it’s not so much about writing what you know as it is about drawing from life experiences.  So I had some experiences.

There are few things I enjoy as much as walking around a festival, fair, or carnival. The rides. The food. The excitement in the air. It all makes me feel just a little more alive, and for me, that is vital to my writing.

Which brings me to…

3. Writing

Autumn tends to be my most prolific time of year. Summer travel obligations are through. There’s no paralyzing depression brought on by a long Winter. There’s no desperate desire to do anything but sit once Spring ends the cabin fever. And, of course, being a dark fiction writer, Halloween brings endless inspiration. You can’t swing a cat (sorry Salem, I’ll quit using that expression) without hitting some sort of creepy festivity: haunted corn maze, haunted hay ride, haunted house, etc.

So, even though I run to all of these festivities, I end up getting a lot more work done. Does that mean I don’t have trouble with my writing in the Fall? Oh hell no! I have a short story in the works right now that’s kicking my butt. I think I’m on the fourth re-write now and still don’t have a presentable first draft. I really do feel bad every time I tell my critique buddy it’s still not ready. But it’s being worked on and that’s what matters.

That said, faithful readers, you’ll be seeing some creative stuff from me soon.

Until then, I will leave you with a photo of my front yard.

Happy Halloween, readers and fellow bloggers!

Happy Halloween, readers and fellow bloggers!