We paranormal people* have TWO contenders for Best Picture in 2018.

*By “paranormal people”, I mean people who are:

Para- / par-ə / Prefix. ”Alongside, near, beyond, altered, contrary to.”

Norma/ nawr-muhl / Adjective. “Conforming to the standard; usual; regular; natural.”

Also, people who love horror and speculative fiction.

I remember the first time I saw one of *my* movies win an Academy Award for Best Picture. It was a wintry evening on March 31st, 1992, and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) swept the big five awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best  Actress, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture.

As I watched a movie I LOVED win award after award that night, I grew increasingly giddy. Finally, I thought, my genre was getting some respect after years of being completely ignored.

You see, in the weeks leading up to the broadcast, I had been listening to the “buzz” about how Silence of the Lambs might win. And it was always accompanied by a lot of talk about how it couldn’t REALLY win, because the Academy ALWAYS snubbed genre movies — suspense, speculative fiction, sci-fi, and horror in particular.

(Rather like the buzz we are hearing right now, as the news of nominations for Get Out and The Shape of Water spread across the internet.)

That night, I didn’t yet know that in 1941, Hitchcock’s Rebecca had not only won Best Picture, it had received enough nominations that it could have (should have, in my opinion) performed as well  The Silence of the Lambs did in 1992. I didn’t yet know that the Academy had actually nominated many horror, sci-fi, and speculative fiction films — right from the beginning of its existence — and that it had handed out several prestigious awards to the best of them.

In 1992, I just didn’t know enough about the history of the Academy Awards.

As a kid in the late 70s and early 80s I watched the Oscars on TV every year with Mother, even though we never went to a movie theater.  I saw a lot of beautiful, elegant, people win that little gold statuette, but I’d never seen a movie that hadn’t been edited for television and interrupted by commercials, let alone any movie that was contemporary enough to be up for an annual award. (This was before videos were available, Children.)

I didn’t start seeing real movies until I began dating in the mid-80s, and those early dates certainly weren’t taking me to see Oscar contenders. That’s not to say I didn’t see some great flicks. I saw The Terminator. Beverly Hills Cop. The Karate Kid.  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  All of them on the big screen. Hell, I saw Return of the Jedi in its first run at least three times. 

The blockbusters were fun, but I didn’t become truly infatuated with films until we could afford a VCR in the late 80s. That’s when I started spending all of my “spare” money renting all the film adaptions of my favorite books, and all the classic movies that my favorite authors talked about in their afterwords. (And everything Stephen King recommends in Danse Macabre.)

One thing led to another, and my affection for horror and speculative fiction films, from all eras, became consuming. My friends and I rented everything from Psycho, to Carrie, to Last House On the Left, to Faces of Death. (I regret that last one to this day.) I had found my niche.

By the time 1991 came around, I hadn’t bothered to watch the Academy Awards for years. I wasn’t interested in “that kind” of movie. It was a busy year for me and I wasn’t going out as much. I was still renting movies like crazy, but the only two times I remember going to the theater, I saw The People Under the Stairs and The Silence of the Lambs. I loved both movies, for different reasons, but it didn’t occur to me that the Academy would consider either one for an Oscar.

Then the buzz about Silence of the Lambs began. I gave the Academy another chance, expecting to have my hopes dashed. Instead I was rewarded.

I’ve watched the Oscars every year since. And I’ve been doing my due diligence in researching the history of the Academy Awards.

The truth of the matter is — with a few notable exceptions — the Academy is generally happy to reward a genre movie … IF it really is the best in a category in any given year.

This week I’m sharing the Oscar highlights of my favorite genre’s movies, prior to 1992. (See list below.) Next week, I’ll share some thoughts about films that followed The Silence of the Lambs. (Hint: It gets even better.)

Right now, I want to encourage you to catch the two films that are in contention for next month’s 90th Annual Academy Awards, while you still can.  Go ahead. Get excited. These movies have a great shot at winning. (But be warned — the field, as usual, is really competitive.)

Get Out

  • Nominated for Best Picture
  • Nominated for Best Director
  • Nominated for Best Original Screenplay
  • Nominated for Best Lead Actor

Get Out is available through Redbox, and will likely go into re-release now that it has nominations.

The Shape Of Water

  • Nominated for Best Picture
  • Nominated for Best Director
  • Nominated for Best Original Screenplay
  • Nominated for Best Lead Actress
  • Nominated for Best Supporting Actor
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing
  • Nominated for Best Sound Editing
  • Nominated for Best Sound Mixing
  • Nominated for Best Production Design
  • Nominated for Best Original Score
  • Nominated for Best Costume Design

Movies The Academy Acknowledged

Even Before The Silence of the Lambs

1932 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

  • Winner for Best Actor in a Leading Role: Frederic March (Tied with Wallace Beery for The Champ)
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Adaptation
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography

1936 Bride of Frankenstein

  • Nominated for Best Sound, Recording

1941 Rebecca

  • Winner of Best Picture
  • Winner of Best Cinematography
  • Nominated for Best Director: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Leading role: Laurence Olivier
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading role: Joan Fontaine
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Judith Anderson (And it’s a crime she didn’t win for her portrayal of Mrs. Danvers.)
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction, Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing
  • Nominated for Best Effects, Special Effects
  • Nominated for Best Musical Score

1944 The Phantom of the Opera

  • Winner of Best Cinematography – Color
  • Winner of Best Art Direction – Interior, Color
  • Nominated for Best Sound, Recording
  • Nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture

1946 The Picture of Dorian Gray

  • Winner of Best Cinematography – Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Angela Lansbury (She won this category at the Golden Globes.)
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Interior Decoration, Black and White

1957 The Bad Seed

  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Nancy Kelly
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Eileen Heckart
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Patty McCormack
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography, Black and White

1961 Psycho

  • Nominated for Best Director
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting role: Janet Leigh (Leigh won this category at the Golden Globes.)
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Interior Decoration, Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography, Black and White

1963 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

  • Winner of Best Costume Design, Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Bette Davis (An ouch for Joan Crawford.)
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Victor Buono
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography, Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Sound

1964 The Birds

  • Nominated for Best Effects, Special Visual Effects

1968 Wait Until Dark

Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role – Audrey Hepburn

1969 Rosemary’s Baby

  • Winner of Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Ruth Gordon (Gordon also won a Golden Globe for this role, and Mia Farrow won a Globe for Best Actress – Drama.)
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium: Roman Polanski (Polanski won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay.)

1973 Ben

  • Nominated for Best Music, Original Song: Ben

1974 The Exorcist

  • Winner of Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium: William Peter Blatty
  • Winner of Best Sound
  • Nominated for Best Picture: William Peter Blatty
  • Nominated for Best Director: William Friedkin
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Ellen Bustyn
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Jason Miller
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Linda Blair
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Nominated for Film Editing

1975 Young Frankenstein

  • Nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted From Other Material
  • Nominated for Best Sound

1976 Jaws

  • Winner of Best Sound
  • Winner of Best Film Editing
  • Winner of Best Music, Original Dramatic Score
  • Nominated for Best Picture: Stephen Spielburg
  • NOTE: I do think there were some performances here that should have been nominated, but weren’t.

1977 The Omen

  • Winner of Best Music, Original Score
  • Nominated for Best Music, Original Song: Ave Santini

1977 Carrie

  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Sissy Spacek
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Piper Laurie

1980 The Amityville Horror

  • Nominated for Best Original Score

1980 Alien

  • Winner of Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Winner of Best Art Direction-Set Decoration

1982 An American Werewolf in London

  • Winner of Best Makeup (Rick Baker)

1983 Poltergeist

  • Nominated for Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Nominated for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
  • Nominated for Best Music, Original Score

1987 The Fly

  • Winner of Best Makeup

1987 Aliens

  • Winner of Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
  • Winner of Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Sigourney Weaver
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
  • Nominated for Best Sound
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing
  • Nominated for Best Music, Original Score

1991 Misery

Winner of Best Actress in a Leading Role




Go see The Greatest Showman.

Everything the critics are saying about the movie The Greatest Showman is true.


It isn’t even close to historically accurate. It’s simplistic. It’s squeaky clean. (On the surface.*) There is not a single swear word in the flick.

All true.

But this critical dismissal is also all rather funny, considering one of the themes of the movie itself. (In the film, watch for what the newspaper critic has to say.)

If you’re heavily invested in personifying a sophisticated critical thinker, you will find the movie to be too shallow, too light, too pop-culture-friendly. If, on the other hand, you’re up for letting your guard down so you can be cracked wide open by an explosion of song, color, dance, and, yes, optimism (in a year when it is sorely needed) then you have to go while you can still see it on the big screen. (Find it soon. I caught it near the end of its run, I think.)

I was not prepared for the emotions that hit me as soon as the first musical number began. (Be sure to be in your seat and attentive by the time the last preview is done.) I hadn’t read reviews. I didn’t know anyone who had seen it. In fact, we almost didn’t go, because Ogre and I are on our annual quest to see as many serious Oscar contenders as we can, and this didn’t seem (and still doesn’t seem) like a real candidate. (But if it doesn’t win best original song, I will be annoyed. Listen via the video below.)

I don’t want to set you up for anything less than my going-in-blind experience, so I’ll won’t give a review or a summary of the movie’s plot here. Besides, none of that matters. Either this movie will hit you or it won’t. And whether it does or doesn’t has nothing to do with the flaws film critics are pointing out. I won’t even tell you what I loved and what I have quibbles with.**  At least not here in this post which is encouraging your to go if you haven’t.

Just on the off chance that this movie does make you feel the way it made me feel, risk the investment of time and cash. If you don’t like it, you aren’t out that much. If it thaws you, even half as much as it did me, you’ll be so appreciative you did. (Maybe even appreciative enough to go again. The next day. Dragging someone you love with you.*** )

* I do think it helps to come to this movie knowing the truth of who Barnum was and what he did. I enjoyed spotting the nods to history that are scattered throughout the movie. Don’t research, but be glad if you already know a little about circuses and freak shows … like I know most of you do.

** Of course I have quibbles. I’m open to discussing the details in the comment section.

*** I can tell you all three of my hostages loved the show.

Starting off 2018 right.

I’ve got this crazy plan (just don’t call it a resolution) to resume regular blogging in 2018. The plan itself is reasonable enough, I think: one biggish / major article on the 13ths of each month, and shorter, chattier notes once a week, on Mondays. This plan has been in place since –oh — sometime in September.

You’ll note it is currently the 3rd Monday in January. You’ll also note it’s the 15th.

Clearly, it hasn’t gone so well so far.


  • I’ve got an article about weird weather nearly done, so the coming February deadline is all but covered.
  • It’s Monday, and I’m actually here.
  • And I scared the hell out of my upstairs neighbor this weekend, so I’ve got a story to tell.


We’ve been having a cold snap since Christmas here in North Carolina. It’s nothing compared to the bomb cyclone that hit the upper east coast at the beginning of the month. And it’s nothing compared to every winter of my life (up until two years ago) in Minnesota. But it’s chilly. And for a day or so, we even had some snow.

One night last week, we were watching the local news for the forecast, when the weather guy flashed one of the cool nature photographs he regularly solicits from viewers. This one broke our hearts. It was of a Rufus hummingbird, looking desperately cold, perched on a snow-dusted nectar feeder. (I’m sorry, but I can’t find the picture on the newscast’s site. They only have the 2017 photo collection available so far.)

My Ogre and I have a long history with hummingbirds back in Minnesota, where we used to feed them faithfully. When we moved here, we tried setting up a feeder, but were outsmarted by the voracious ants that climbed up the support we made on the deck area outside our door. (We live on the second floor of a three-story apartment building with breezeways and individual entrances.) After some trial and error, we reluctantly conceded defeat to the hordes of sugar ants and packed away our hummingbird supplies.

The meteorologist said the snowy photo of the little Rufus had been taken the day before, in a Raleigh neighborhood not far from where we live. This was a shock. It never occurred to us that hummers would actually winter here in NC. According to the weatherman, the population that does stay around is small but persistent. And he noted that they do have a hard time finding food in January and February.

In that moment I realized I had accidentally solved the hummingbird v. ant battle while I was putting up our Christmas decorations this year.

Just as I had done with some pairs of over-sized ornaments, I could suspend two feeders of equal weight, using only fishing line, from the floorboards of the breezeway above us. The combination of the thin fishing line, the long drop from one story to the next, and a good feeder with an ant moat, should theoretically prevent ant-thievery. (In any case, the ants aren’t very active when it’s this cold. I guess we’ll see if it’s a good long-term solution when spring arrives in about a month.)

By the time we had found our feeders, made and cooled nectar, measured out an appropriate length of fishing line, and tied slender hooks on either end of the line with intricate fisherman’s knots (okay, Ogre tied the knots, I watched), it was late. Like two-thirty in the morning late. No matter.

We went out onto the breezeway — Ogre in sweats and me in a long white flannel nightgown — to put up the feeders. I ran upstairs and dropped the line down to him, making sure to arrange it so that it fell between the boards, onto the cross support, so that it couldn’t get caught by the foot of someone walking on the decking. Ogre received the hooks and attached the feeders. It worked. But. After we looked at the arrangement from a few angles, we realized we really wanted them to hang from a point a few boards away from where they were. No problem.

We detached the feeders and attempted to pull the line down. We figured, when it was free, I could just run up and drop it down again, in the correct position. We figured wrong. One hook got caught in a crack. We wiggled and tugged, but our efforts only served to wedge it in more tightly. I was going to have to go back up to the third floor, with something really long and thin that would fit between the boards, to push the hook free. Something like my longest butcher knife.

Do you have the image that greeted my neighbor yet?

In case you don’t, I’ll describe it for you: It’s past three o’clock on a Thursday night. It’s cold. It’s quiet. Everyone in the complex has been asleep for hours. I’m crouched (in my white nightgown, with my long graying hair loose and blowing in a cold, fitful wind) just outside my neighbor’s door. I’ve got a 13″ butcher knife. I’ve just freed the hook and I’m happy, so I’m brandishing my knife, in a kind of ta-dah! way, to celebrate.

Of course that’s when the door opened.

Just to be clear, we didn’t wake him with our bird-feeder project. I don’t know where he was going at that time of night, but he was fully dressed and carrying car keys. I was able to see that much before he slammed the door shut.

To his credit, he was very casual about it all when he came out a few seconds later. He didn’t even wait for me to clear the stairs before he started out for his destination again. Maybe he realized I’m the same woman he chats with when he finds me, during the day, working at my table on the deck. Maybe his curiosity about the activities of the crone on his doorstep got the better of him. Maybe his errand was just very, very important.

I do know that, despite my rushed explanation, he didn’t seem completely reassured until I was able to show him the hummingbird feeders when we reached my floor.

We wished each other a good night. He went on his way. Ogre and I finished hanging the feeders.

I haven’t seen Mr. Bates since, but I’m sure we’ll be past any lingering awkwardness by the time it’s warm enough for me to work outside again.


PS: Yes. I did just creep up to my neighbor’s doorstep so that I could lay my butcher knife on his welcome mat and snap a pic.

So, anyway. What did you do over the weekend? (Besides watching the Vikings pull off a miracle?)

Miscellanea: the pup, the book, the con, and the weird (to me) weather

I’ve gone broody. Like a hen. I am obsessing about only two things: rearing this pup and working on this novel. Both tasks are going reasonably well, even if both are more … consuming than I imagined they would be.

Re: The Pup

She’s 14 weeks old now. A full 3 weeks younger than our Dozer was when we first got him. (That explains why I have been surprised by how much more supervision she requires — and how many more trips outside she needs — than I remembered from my last pup-raising phase.) She’s nearly house-trained, I think. She’s mastered her tinkle bells. At first she was shy about the noise, but when she figured out she could punch them with a paw instead of nosing them, she got over her hesitation. She had her spay surgery day before yesterday. Did you know that a spay is really a full hysterectomy? I did not. I guess I thought it was more like a tubal ligation. I’ve been having sympathy pains ever since I found out. She’s a good puppy, but I can’t wait until she’s a dog. (Ogre and I agree that puppies and children are way more fun once they can communicate reasonably well.) We are still taking opinions about her ancestry. (Remember, she was found alone so we have no idea who the parents were.) She’s currently 15 pounds and still slender. (Keeps growing up instead of out.) What do you think she is? I keep hoping someone will recognize those ears.

Those ears. My God, those ears.

Those ears. My God, those ears.

Re: The Writing

I can’t really share a photo of my novel progress, but I am on track. (I am nearing the place where I’ll want to print it out, just so I can see the manuscript grow.) I have to work around the pup, so my daily word counts aren’t usually high, but the daily momentum is in place.

I did have to take a few days off entirely last weekend because I was helping my daughter sell her 1″ buttons at a 3-day sci fi / fantasy convention in Raleigh. (The Classic Monster Movies set was a big seller.) It was my first con, and it was great fun. I snapped a few shots of my favorite cosplay outfits, and I can share those:

Re: The Rest

The weather here in NC is still an astonishment to me. We had a winter storm a few weeks back. I feel bad that I didn’t write about the experience at the time. To a Minnesotan’s eye, it was minor. (Some icy rain. An inch or two of snow. Temps in the low 30s.) Things are really different down here though, and we were pretty much confined to the house for four days. (I’m not making fun. The roads are treacherous with ice. They brine the main roads, but they don’t have enough equipment to even attempt the neighborhoods.) On the fifth day after the storm, the temperature reached the 60s and everything just melted away in a morning. Since then it’s been lovely. Some gray days, but mostly sunny. Temps in the 50s & 60s for the most part. I usually have the windows open at least a little during the day. Honestly, it feels and looks like late April or early May.

Today, however, it’s rainy and chilly. (For some values of chilly. Okay. I just checked. It’s 51 degrees. I’ve completely lost my cold resistance already.) The pup is asleep at my feet, I have a cup of coffee at hand, and it’s time to sink back into my other world.

Training a Writer’s Dog

Happy New Year everyone!

When I last checked in, I’m sure I talked about my preparations for getting a second dog for Christmas. We felt, after our older dog’s cancer scare, that it was time to find him a companion. (Dozer is six.) After a hitch in the plans, this happy event has come to pass. We do indeed have a pup.

the new pup's baby picture

Meet Miss Harper Lee

She’s not the dog we initially chose. Sadly that one showed an aggressive streak to her foster mom before we could bring her home. (She was nearly five months old and quite capable of inflicting real harm.) The shelter group refused to place her with a “regular family” like us, and instead sent her on to a sort of rehab program they have. Then they offered us any other dog they had.

Enter Miss Harper.

She was only 10 weeks old when we got her, three weeks ago. We didn’t expect to start with such a youngling, but the little girl captured our hearts at first sight.

Her supervision and training have been INCREDIBLY time-consuming. (Do you have any idea how tiny a ten week old puppy bladder is?) For housebreaking purposes, we are primarily using the umbilical leash method. In essence this means that she’s attached to one of us (usually me) whenever she’s having a wakeful time. We do crate her for meals and overnight. Occasionally, she naps in there too …

… but only occasionally.

Harper and Dozer

Harper and Dozer

Between Harper and a two-week Christmas visit from my son’s girlfriend, ALL of my writing time in December disappeared. (Along with my time for housekeeping, sleeping, eating while sitting down, etc.)

But it’s getting better. She’s coming along nicely. We’ve worked out a schedule, finally, that allows me a bit of time at the keyboard in exchange for long “writerly” walks that wear her out. Granted, these are short writing sessions, but I’m okay with that.

It takes time to learn how to be a writer’s dog.

Luckily, she has a good teacher. Dozer just showed her how it’s done, by laying down on one of my feet, under the desk. After studying him for a moment, she’s claimed the other one.

Time to crack open that novel project I haven’t even looked at for almost a month and get back to it.

Relaxed in an endless autumn.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the keyboard lately, working on my carnival novel. (It’s still going well!)  Today, though, I took a break so that I could spend the afternoon with my (adult) kids. We had a tasty lunch in a retro diner, did some Christmas shopping, and finished up with a walk at a local park.

I hadn’t yet found a good image for this week’s photo challenge prompt, so I was going to skip it (again.) Then I saw this swing, in this light, on this brisk but lovely afternoon. Just before the sun dropped below the treeline, I snapped the following picture … I had my response to the prompt: RELAX.


I’m pretty sure I’ve never before been this relaxed on the eighth of December.

In my former life, as a Minnesota woman, I would already be anxious about the weather by now.  Even in those rare years when winter conditions were delayed by a long, mild autumn, my delight in the season was muted by my dread of the coming snow and cold and ice. By December, I was almost always deep in the season of  treacherous paths and chilled bones … which meant I was also deep in the season  of regular anxiety attacks, though I didn’t recognize them as such at the time.

I didn’t realize, until I experienced the unfolding of my first North Carolina autumn, just how much that winter-dread was affecting my life.

What I can tell you so far is this, in North Carolina:

  • December feels likes late October.
  • November felt like late September.
  • October felt like … September too, just the earlier part of it.
  • September felt like late August.
  • (And August wasn’t any worse that a normal Minnesota August.)

I’ll let you know when “winter” arrives.

EDIT: December 9th

My Facebook told me I had a “memory” today. (That means it wanted to show me something I’d written on this day in a past year.) My memory was from 2009, and it’s connected to this 2016 post. (Caution, there’s a dark turn ahead.)

My dad didn’t have a lot of time to leave me things before he died. A record player, a bike, a little money that I used to buy my first car – all gone now. What lingers are the other bequests. A self-imposed identity as a writer, an unslakeable thirst, and a terror of winter driving.

It is a ridiculous fear. His death wasn’t caused by a car accident. Drunk beyond understanding, he drove along a deserted road until he neatly pulled over, then he wandered into a featureless field where he either got lost or tired. He laid down and he died.

How does such an event translate to my paralyzing phobia about driving, especially after dark, in the winter? I figured it out today, I think. Or I figured out another layer of it. My dad died because he made a foolish mistake. He was not in control of what he was doing.

That happens to me all the time. I might drive angry or sad. I might be in a hurry. I might take that slippery curve just a little too quickly. Or I might drive too slowly, too cautiously, and another driver might get impatient with me and make a foolish mistake of his own.

All of that is true year round, of course. So why do winter roads make me panic? Because winter is a cruel, merciless bitch. Roads are more treacherous. Lane markings and signs disappear. (Erasing the clues that tell me that I’m not screwing up.) The consequences of a mistake, even a tiny error in judgement, can too easily become lethal.

Had it not been the coldest night of 1977, he would have survived that night’s mistake. Had he laid down in a field of grass rather than in snow drifts, his loss of self-control would have been pathetic, but not fatal. And I wouldn’t hate this vicious season quite so much.


Find all my photographic projects at Haunting Photos (there’s also a link in the blog header.)

Click to visit the homepage of Post A Week.

Click to visit the homepage of Post A Week.


BFQ Diary #3: A Fall Failure … Kinda.

So the month of NaNoWriMo has passed. I did not write 50,000 words in November. Worse yet, I did not finish a complete rough draft of a novel in autumn, which was my actual goal. (Otherwise known as my Boss-Fight Quest, as you may recall.) Assuredly, by these metrics, I have failed.


I am writing again. I have figured out how to find the time and energy I need to make words happen, even as I continue to settle into my life in North Carolina.

During the month of November, I pretty much set aside everything I deemed negotiable — things like housekeeping and social media maintenance, for example — in favor of a new approach. I split my waking time into thirds, as follows: 1/3 taking care of my self and my loved ones, 1/3 having fun and relaxing, and 1/3 working on the novel. (Plus, I’ve been sleeping regularly … up to eight hours at a time!) This approach worked. (Even if it didn’t lead to prodigious, NaNoWriMo-style output.)

This autumn, I helped my daughter sell her buttons at a couple of events, including the Raleigh Pagan Pride Festival. Our family picked out, and are preparing for, a puppy who will come home to us in a three weeks. I went to the NC State Fair. (That was a two-for. Both fun and work, because I wanted to do some research for the novel setting.) And now plans are underway to have a real Christmas, for the first time in years.

I also wrote about a third of a novel. (One that is shaping up pretty damn well, I think.)

In these last few days of fall, 2016, I feel balanced and healthy. My relationships are happy. My home environment is … fine. (Better than fine, really. Even good. Just not immaculate.)

So. As the “winter” season begins, I’m going to stay with this plan. I’ll have to make few tweaks of course. I am going to have to dust, sooner or later. And, as usual, I’m resolving to being more faithful to the blog and my other social media connections. I hope to do some on-topic posts in coming weeks, but for now I’ll settle for checking in with you and sharing a bit of what I wrote in autumn.

I hope you are all well, and living the lives you want to live.

P.S. Please remember, this is from a first draft.

Excerpt from ‘the carnival novel’. (As it is currently known.)

The wind lifted the hair off his hot nape, bringing with it a fresh burst of his prey’s scent. Under layers of sweet and powdery perfumes, the animal smell — the betaille smell — of her was dank. She reeked of long-dried excretions, of gently rotting teeth, of pinprick wounds now scabbed over.

For more than an hour, she’d been posing off to the side of midway traffic, smoking cigarettes, making herself available. Despite the sultry evening, she was wearing a jacket with long sleeves and many pockets. All the better to hide a pharmacy, he thought, scowling. Below the hem of the coat, a few inches of denim-clad thigh showed above tall boots. Best to cover up as much scarred and pasty skin as possible, eh Chère? He noted the boots were flats. She’d be able to run.

The night was loud with the sounds of the carnival, but it was no trouble for him to sift through the noise and hear the patter she directed at teenagers as they passed. “I love your skirt,” she’d call out. Or “Hey, where’d you get that foot long?” If the marks engaged with her, she’d chat some, maybe offer a cigarette, before asking, “Looking to get hooked up?” Or, “Need some party supplies?”

The kids couldn’t see the sloven woman — the salope — beneath her fresh-from-the-mall clothing. A shoplifter too, yeah. They couldn’t see the underside of her shiny, long, false nails were crusted with dirt and food and flakes of skin. To them she was a girl, like them, except a bit more edgy. Just a pretty pichouette, in a fashionably distressed jacket, offering to sell them a little fun.

Maybe if she only peddled the mari, he would leave her be. True, she was stealing money better spent on the carnival’s attractions, but about that he could look the other way. After all, some of her marks had come to the carnival only to score their pot. Whatever dollars were spent on the midway by such as them was a windfall, a side effect of the “munchies” her herb inspired. If mari were all she sold, he could forgive the trespass. Mais non, this one sold all the poisons, all the pills and powders and rocks. And some of the children she pitched were so young they had yet to grow hair under their clothes.

Now she was selling capsules, each a one, to a trio of muscular young men wearing matching jerseys. The were laughing and posturing for her, daring her to come ride the Freefall with them. He tensed as she looked up at the blazing neon tower they pointed at, worried she might slip away from him, escorted by the fortuitous herd of near-innocents.

His shoulders relaxed when she put them off, telling them to come back around for her later, making sure to touch each boy as she made her excuses. Was she a putain too? If so she was spoiled meat. He could smell her sickness from where he crouched.

Finally the pack of boys left her. As soon as they turned away, her flirtatious pout fled her face and she licked her thin lips. With narrow, feral eyes she looked up and down the strip. Assured that no one was paying attention to her, she turned her back to the flow of people and swiftly organized the cash the boys had pressed into her hands. She tucked a single bill deep into her front pocket then slipped the rest down the front of her pants, careful to snug the wad up against her crotch.

She looked up suddenly, a stray chienne who’d caught an alarming odor. She peered into the darkness, trying to decide if there was something or someone to fear between the generators he was using as cover. He held his ground, motionless. If her human vision was better, she would have made direct eye contact with him, but to her there could be nothing more than a glint of reddish light reflecting from his eyes. Spooked even so, she backed out into the traffic behind her, then allowed the stream to carry her eastward. She glanced back to her squatter’s territory twice before the crowd swallowed her. Trust one predator to know when another was around.

Staying to the alleys, he kept pace with her as she strolled along the midway, not always bothering to keep her in his sight; he would not lose her trace now. He contented himself with occasional glimpses of her long blond ponytail and that jacket. Within five minutes, with the invisible pressure of him muted by distance, she had stopped checking over her shoulder.

He drew close again when she paused to buy a lemonade and a pretzel. A local boy, temporarily hired to work behind the counter, was just as vulnerable to her surface beauty as any mark. But — he was pleased to see — his cousin Salvatore’s son, who was running the booth tonight, was not fooled. His face twitched in disgust when he caught a whiff of her. When the local went to pump extra cheese into a second cup for her, T-Salvatore stopped his hand with a disapproving glare that forbid the lagniappe.

She moved on. By the time she dropped her plastic lemonade cup into a garbage can, her loose-hipped, easy saunter told him that she was feeling confident again. He wondered if she’d circle back to the corner where he’d discovered her or choose a new location to hawk her wares.

Instead of doing either, she made her way to a bank of portable toilets that lined the eastern edge of the fairgrounds. There was no crowd here, where there was nothing bright and flashy to make one linger, but plenty of stink to hurry one away. She moved toward the end of the line, where strung up lights did little more than blunt the darkness pressing in from the rough fields around the fairgrounds. To the north, beyond the fields, on the far horizon, was a black line of timber. A welcome breeze wafted the clean, wild scent of pines to him as he watched the girl check three boxes, before she chose to go into the second from last. He smiled.