Saying “Boo!”

As a writer, I love to write.  At any moment, at any time, whenever the inspiration hits me.  In the springtime, if it’s raining and the rain splatters on the rooftop in just the right way, I may write a poem.  When it’s hot and muggy outside and the mosquitos and the flies are buzzing around, I might grab my pencil and turn out a lazy bit of prose to match my summer day.  I’ve been known to tweak out a verse or two based on lyrics of a song that intrigued me.  And bearing witness to an act of kindness or malice has often demanded that I make my way to my computer and adapt my testimony into words of warmth or tales of woe.  On my phone I have a note pad app that allows me to tap out a line or two when I’m in my car and a bright idea hits me (when I’m stopped somewhere, of course!), and in my purse, I have a small, spiral-bound writing journal that I always keep handy so I can write when I take the kids to soccer or to Barnes & Noble (I mean, it’s Barnes & Noble, for Pete’s sake!  How can you not find inspiration there???)

Yea, I’m always ready to write, and lots of things move me to do it.

But nothing so much like the month of October.

October signals the time for witches and goblins, ghosts and ghouls.  It’s time for scary movies, horror specials, and dark novels.  It’s when the monsters in the closet seem a little more real, the creatures under the bed are more determined to get you, and that obscure shadow in the corner is not really a shadow at all…but something far and significantly more sinister.  Friday, October 13 is the ominous date on the calendar, and crossing the path of a black cat is a little creepier.  When the window is open but a crack, you hear the wolf howl at the moon and in the light of a fire—campfire or other—flames dance and prance the steps of the wicked.

October marks the time for fear.

As any horror writer will tell you, October is the month for our craft.  This is the season when people are not as afraid to take on the dark; in fact, they challenge it, consequences be damned.  We allow ourselves to fear with both amusement and trepidation, with both giggles and shudders.  We squeal with dark delight at the terrors that flicker across our TV screens in the safety of our own homes, but at night, we shake with anguish when the floorboards creak and the windows rattle.  And it’s this curious mixed acceptance of fear that horror writers thrive on and makes it easier to write than any other time of year.

Ah, October.

It’s the beginning of the celebration of the macabre.

In the mind of the horror writer—at least mine, anyway—this month is almost sacred.  There is a heightened sense of terror during these four weeks, and I am keenly aware of the darkness and treachery that is lurking.  Things speak to me during this month and I find inspiration everywhere:  from the little old lady hanging giant spiders on her porch to the dime-store monsters on sale at the local drugstore to the pint-sized ghouls that roam the streets forever in search of Halloween treats.  Michael Jackson’s Thriller plays on a loop on the radio and its spooky beats help set the mood for thirty-one nights of chills and thrills.


Terror abounds in this corner of the calendar, and for those of us who like to pen dark, twisted tales, it’s ripe for the picking.  Sometimes the ink in our pens spills a classic story of evil witches looking to dine on naughty children.  Other times our pens will speak for the dead, recount their haunting, and deliver their revenge.  At still other moments, our pens scribble the random, incoherent thoughts of the insane, only to leave the sane wondering, bewildered and terrified.

More than any other month in the year, I am inspired by the whispers that float on the air, the undertones of death that waft on the breeze, the stark, bleak silhouettes of bare trees backlit by the ghostly light of moon and the owl’s haunted hoot.  They are stage and prelude to a symphony for the damned, where the screams of innocents and the slippery slide of blood upon the walls are the grand overture.

And I am inspired to write.

But more importantly, I am also even more inspired to share.  Because let’s face it, who doesn’t like to share the fear?  Who doesn’t like to go into the haunted house with friends so we can all scream together, laugh together, be scared together?  Who doesn’t like to sneak up on their best buddy and say “Boo!”?

Because really, that’s what horror writers do—certainly that’s what I like to do.  Writing horror is about sneaking up on someone and saying boo!—in the grandest way possible—and the month of October makes it both legitimate to do and lots of fun.

Yep, yep, I love October.  It motivates me like no other time of year, and despite all that I have going on and the troubles that plague me, October is calling me, winking at me, telling me it’s time to write.

There is inspiration everywhere and it’s time to say…




About Home…

Ahhh, home.

It’s frequently denoted as the place where the heart is, is it not?  And when you think of it this way, it does paint a pretty picture, doesn’t it?  Lots of warm and fuzzies, maybe fun times in the kitchen, or running in the sprinklers in the backyard on a hot, summer day.  Maybe you see late nights doing homework for the kiddies or watching the news for the parents.  Perhaps there are birthday parties and barbeques.  Valentine flowers, Easter egg hunts, Thanksgiving dinner, and presents under the tree. Perhaps there’s some sadness and grief.  Maybe illness has plagued your four walls, and tears were shed.  Loved ones remembered.  Regardless, it’s all part of the experience that we call home.

Yea, the traditional idea of home can conjure up a lot of lovely images.  That assumes, of course, that your perception of home is happy.

Sometimes, it’s not.

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of introducing my friend Francis F. Keating to the world (if you consider the world to be about forty or more people, but I digress…) and sharing some of his poetry.  This week, I’d like to share with you a little of the harmony that exists between us.

As writers, Francis and I are uncannily in sync with one another.  It’s been years since we’ve actually seen each other (the last time we were together was for my wedding, which was fifteen years ago) and there was a long period of time when we had simply lost touch and did not communicate at all. However, when we finally re-connected to write our novel, we amazed even ourselves at how much we are in tune with one another in terms of our ideas, our descriptions of scenes or settings, the rise and fall of our characters, the direction of the story.  In terms of our writing together, it’s as if we’ve picked up our writing habits right where we left off so many years ago, without the even the tiniest stitch in time to interrupt us.

I don’t doubt for a second that in all other facets of our lives, we are probably as different as two people can be:  the way we live, the people we love, the things we do.  It’s not even unreasonable that this is so. But when we write, he and I are completely in sync.  We both like the darkness.  We both flock to the twisted.  We both imagine the depraved, the irrational, the psychotic.  But the thing is, we tend to do this much in the same way.  Sometimes, I’ll toss an idea to him and he’ll tell me, “Ha, you know, Liz, I was going to suggest the same thing.”  Or he’ll share something with me and I’ll respond with, “Dude!  You beat me to the punch; I was going to do that!”  We’ll laugh and then we’ll move on, but sometimes we are so in line with our thought processes that it’s almost a little weird.

But, it’s weird in a good way.  Although we might surprise one another every once in a while with a bit of writing,  we’re not usually shocked by the direction the other took, the words we chose, the nature of the beast—and we always find one, he and I, we always find the beast.  We’re able to easily seek out the sinister in our tales or in our verses and help each other improve on it, without judgment or sermon, without suffocating conversations about right and wrong.  We find the darkness, we embrace it, and then we roll.

So when Francis shared one of his newer poems with me, She’ll Call Her Vengeance Home, I wasn’t at all surprised by the darkness of it.  On the contrary, I was attracted by it.  I loved the idea that he had taken the idea of home had made it obscure and opaque, adulterating it with images of revenge and despair and amazingly enough, wholehearted acceptance—and why not? Not everyone sees home in the same cheery way.  In fact, what is warm and light for some is cold and dark for others—and they welcome that. That is the reality of the world in which we live, but often times, people shun that reality.  They don’t want to believe it, despite all evidence to the contrary.

In his poem, Francis made the idea of home unexpected and disturbing, in a way that might bother some people.  However, his poem spoke to me.  In fact, I would later write my own poem, And An Angel Will Lead Him Home, partially inspired by his.

Needless to say, I too took a dark and unexpected turn, mainly because it seemed so natural to do so. Of course, I can’t speak for Francis, but I would like to think that he’d agree—that we each turn to these darker elements in our writing in a very natural, very fluid way because it has merit and it has value.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we also both think it’s kind of cool.

Other horror writers know this, I’m sure.  There’s a kind elation that comes when you find it in yourself to cross to the other side—where not many are destined to go—and grasp the darkness to tell its tale, to give its perspective.  There’s a moment when you show the ugliness for what it is: unapologetic, alive, and present.  Oh, yes, very present.

And you do it with aplomb.

Francis is good at that, too.

And so, with this next poem by my friend, I’d like to share with you another interpretation of home.


 photo credit:  Women Abuse, Cindy Coverly

When winter comes and angels die

When blackness creeps across the sky

And demons make an oath to try

A wicked plot against the eye

The watchful eye

The healing eye

Of souls that ever tend to cry

Of sorrows known to you and I

That’s when we both shall die.


But misery shall not soon agree

When death’s embrace does come for thee

When melancholia runs from thee

When saviors slay disharmony

She will not flee

She will not see

She’ll hide behind her vanity

She’ll mock the pleas of sanity

She’ll call her vengeance home.


photo credit:  Women Abuse, Cindy Coverly