Monday, October 31, 2011

Flash Fiction: Special Treats by Shah Wharton

About Shah Wharton: I've enjoyed 'words' and all forms of art forever. I read a lot and I'm currently writing a novel - my first (Finding Esta). I also write short stories and I have completed around thirty and learn more from them than from any other writing genre. I've been writing poetry for years, for catharsis more than anything. I have bipolar disorder, which runs in the family, and means I've had great need of an outlet at times. I have hundreds of poems completed, many on scraps of paper everywhere, and two published in anthologies. I'm interested in how people use art as a form of expression during hard times - how they use it to help them cope with, or get through those times. If you are especially knowledgeable of such things/related things please contact me to submit an article or anything you feel could be of use or inspiration to us. I have a BSC(hons) in Psychology and I'm qualified in counselling, hypnotherapy and mentoring amongst other things. I think we can tell a lot about people by their playlist - check out mine - Thanks for your interest.

You can find Shah Wharton blogging away at Wordsinsync.

Special Treats
by Shah Wharton

It was the time of year she’d anticipated: Halloween – A time of gaudy orange and velvet black, candy shapes and spooks, the dead and reminiscences of their passing.... and of children playing old games in strange costumes. Her son Graham had once loved it.

Insomnia meant she had too much time to think. She fantasised about the expressions on deceptive, cute faces as they tasted special treats, prepared by her own hand from scratch. Toffee apples, lollipops and chocolates all wrapped in bright shiny wrappers, would certainly please greedy eyes and watering mouths.

Indeed, her imaginings grew so bold they began to stir her stomach, cramping and squeezing it. Soon enough, her mouth watered and she gagged. She ran to the loo and threw up. Rinsing her mouth and wiping her sweaty brow, her instincts peaked. Like stone she stood, awaiting the summons. Her door bell punctuated the music of giggles and tiny feet coming from the street, the excitement of which almost made her vomit again. Though this time, she kept it down.

Peering through dusty bathroom blinds she saw them: Little witches and ghouls, vampires and werewolves, each with goodie bags, tummies with butterflies, hearts overflowing with love. More vomit tried for release, sweat crept threw her skin cooling her a little. With a pounded heart and on trembling legs, she rushed down to her long awaited visitors.

Swinging open her door, they all sang out, “Trick or Treat?” Their laughter made her want to scream.

She presented them each with their own package – a proud carved-out pumpkin stuffed with candy. Tiny eyes opened as wide as tiny mouths. She knew they’d grab their loot then run so she had to speak to them, which she found difficult.

“Because I ... made so much effort for you all, please allow me to enjoy seeing you taste these... extraordinary delights, before you go.”

“No problem, Lady,” said a little boy in zombie costume. Little Darren from down the road is gonna get his.
Lisa from the next street snatched her prize and stuffed a chocolate in her greedy mouth without hesitation. “Thank you, Miss,” she said, spitting chocolate at everyone.

They all chose their candy source, unwrapped and consumed.

 'Good little brats.' 
Her guts flipped again as she recalled Graham’s corpse, drowned, bruised.

‘You all left him there, alone. He couldn't swim but you all thought throwing him in the filth pond water, watching him scream, flapping helplessly, was so much fun, didn’t you. If that wasn’t enough, he fought the infection like a warrior, but you never saw that bit, did you. You never watched him die; poisoned by his friends.’
Quickly, the rewards for her patience arrived. Rosy cheeks turned a shade of green. Small, chilly bodies began to boil. Pink lips turned blue, killing smiles which hung there only moments before.

‘Payback for you, sweet Graham.’
One by one they dropped, clutching onto each other and their poisoned pumpkins.

“Happy Halloween” she said to them as death found each one. “But I never answered your question - forgive me. I choose, Trick!” She closed the door smiling uncertainly, sucking on a lollipop, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Between the Covers - Book Review #2

Today's book reviews are brought to you by the late Tatsu, my beloved bearded dragon and fashion model of many lizard harnesses. In the spirit of Halloween, I pulled out his wizard pic, one of my favorites. Miss you little man.

I have three picks for you today: John Connolly's The Gates, Sara Rosett's Mimosas, Mischief, and Murder, and Derek Armstrong's Madicine. Don't be scared! The Bad Book Fairy didn't make a visit to my house this week. They're all BOO-tifully written. Mwahaha!

1) The Gates is the perfect Halloween book. John Connolly's writing is reminiscent of the snarky, intelligent humor of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Samuel Johnson and his dachsund, Boswell decide to get a head start on trick-or-treating. At 666 Crowley Road they discover Mrs. Abernathy and a few friends aren't themselves any more. They've been possessed by demons and have opened a portal to Hell. The Great Malevolent One and his minions will soon be freed by All Hallow's Eve. Samuel desperately tries to get any adult to listen to him, but as you can imagine, his mother thinks he's telling stories again. The only adults who will listen to him are the scientists working on the wormhole computer experiment that caused the portal. But will they make it to Samuel's town in time to stop Satan from walking the earth?

This book is delightfully devilish. The cast of demons are both creative and lovable. I even have a soft spot for Mrs. Abernathy. She's such a devious, scheming character. You have to admire her drive to stop Samuel and his friends from foiling her demented plans. And there's a sequel available now. How great is that? I love when a good story doesn't have to end. Don't miss this pick. It's worth the read.

2) Sara Rosett is a newly discovered author for me. Her female sleuth, Ellie Avery, is a lovable mother and crime solver. This cozy is just as good as Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayles series. The only criticism I have is that I found Ellie Avery's organizational tips at the end of chapters jarred me from the story and didn't seem to really anything to my reading. In Mimosa's, Mischief, and Murder, Ellie Avery travels with her husband and children to visit relatives in Alabama, but their vacation soon turns deadly. Her husband's grandfather has passed unexpectedly and while planning the funeral, Ellie and Mitch discover that Grandpa Avery was hiding some valuable letters from a popular local author who doesn't speak to the media. Someone wants those letters enough to kill, but who is it? Is it part of the family or a stranger? This book moved fast and had a few twists and turns that made it interesting. It's not a dark mystery, but I recommend it for a good escape.

3) Derek Armstrong's Madicine is a relevant fictional commentary on greed, biological warfare, and science ethics. Ada Kenner is a virologist who discovers a new strain of virus engineered to eliminate the violent gene in humans. If it worked correctly, the virus would eliminate all violence from its test subjects, but it doesn't. It causes an even greater violence to sweep through the continents as Ada and her team race against time to discover a cure and figure out who has manufactured this deadly biological weapon before it gets into the wrong hands. This book jumps from country to country to tell the story, which at first seems disjointed, but quickly makes sense. This is not a light read, so if' you're tired, you might try something else. The plot is complicated and well-written. I recommend this book. It ranks up there with Michael Crichton's work.

As always, happy reading and happy writing to all! And a very haunted Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Demon Carved My Pumpkins! - Photo Essay

That pesky demon is back and this time, instead of stealing my pencil, he stole my pumpkins and carved them all. At least, the house looks freaky festive this year. And my cat, Toshio, approves. That's the important thing, after all -- the cat approves.

These will inspire you to write a story or get in the holiday spirit of spooking. Mwahaha!
Sinister Jack Skellington
Oogie Boogie
Baron Samedi

Baron Samedi, Sinister Jack, and Scream
Owl in a tree
Bruce from Finding Nemo

Edgar Allan "Poekin"

Toshio poses with "Poekin"

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Twenty Questions with Editor Ellen Datlow

Photo by Gregory Frost
Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for over twenty-five years. She was fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and SCIFICTION and has edited more than fifty anthologies, including The Best Horror of the Year, Inferno, Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror, Lovecraft Unbound, Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy, Blood and Other Cravings, Supernatural Noir, the Mythic series of young adult books and Teeth: Vampire Tales (with Terri Windling), Haunted Legends (with Nick Mamatas).
Forthcoming is the young adult dystopian anthology After, with Terri Windling.

She's won multiple Locus Awards, Hugo Awards, Stoker Awards, International Horror Guild Awards, World Fantasy Awards, and The Shirley Jackson Award for her editing. She was named recipient of the 2007 Karl Edward Wagner Award, given at the British Fantasy Convention for "outstanding contribution to the genre." She has also been honored with the Life Achievement Award given by the Horror Writers Association, in acknowledgment of superior achievement over an entire career.

She co-curates the long-running Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series in New York City’s east village.

More information can be found at or at her blog: and Facebook. She also, (gods help her) tweets, under EllenDatlow but only from her home computer (not phone).

Twenty Questions with Editor Ellen Datlow

How many hours do you spend editing an anthology before it goes to print?

That’s a more complicated question than you’d think, because the process begins with the proposal, and a good one that will interest a publisher could take months to put together—including soliciting a handful of prominent writers in advance.

But if you mean the actual hands-on reading and editing of the stories, that’s on ongoing process. I read the submissions as they come in and some stories I reject outright. I start the editing process on those I’m interested in from before I actually commit to buying the story (I may like the story but feel there are flaws that need to be addressed before I make a final decision to see if I feel the writer can fix them). A story might go through one or more rewrites. At the very end of the process, once all the stories are accepted, I do a final close line edit before handing the book in to the publisher.

If you weren’t in the writing industry, what would you be doing today?

No idea. Possibly work in a bookstore or in a library. It would have always been something to do with reading.

What three authors are essential for anyone seriously interested in the horror, fantasy, and science fiction genres?

I don’t feel comfortable answering this but in order to see where their chosen subgenres of the fantastic emerged it wouldn’t hurt to read:

Horror: Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and Shirley Jackson
Science fiction: Alfred Bester, Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. LeGuin
Fantasy: J. R.R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, John Crowley

Do you have a favorite anthology you’ve edited?

I’ve enjoyed editing most of my anthologies but among my most recent favorites are Supernatural Noir and Teeth.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring editors, what would it be?

Make sure you’re really committed to all aspects of editing, that is, acquisitions and hands-on editing. You must be willing to reject the stories you don’t think are good enough or appropriate for what you’re editing, whether it be a magazine or an anthology. And part of that is if you’re a writer/editor do not impose your voice on another writer’s work. You’re working with the writer to make a better story. You can make suggestions and ask for rewrites but it is not your story. It is ultimately the writer’s. If it can’t be fixed to your satisfaction, reject it.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Read widely in and out of the field you’re interested in and be willing to take chances. That’s what’s ideal about writing short fiction.

What is the oddest encounter you’ve ever had with a fan?

Not a live encounter and not really from a fan but someone who submitted a story at OMNI: he sent me a package of Hostess Twinkies because one criticism of his story was that Twinkies don’t crackle—(he meant the package but that wasn’t clear in the mss). My assistant and I consumed the evidence without setting it on fire).

Which editors do you admire?

Maxwell Perkins, Harlan Ellison, Judith Merril.

Which authors do you admire?

Too many to name-but most of those I publish.

Do you think that the social issues authors address has changed since you first began editing over thirty years ago?

Not really. The specific issues may change (eg. Vietnam vs. Iraqi wars) but the basics remains the same. Gender relations, how technology affects humanity, racism, sexism, etc.

You often co-edit with Terri Windling. Have the two of you ever disagreed on whether or not to include a certain story in an anthology? If so, how did you resolve the issue?

We’ve only disagreed in two instances over the years (don’t forget, we did not confer on our choices for The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror series—I’m only referring to our original anthologies) and each time we didn’t buy the story (in one case I bought it for a different anthology).

You have edited more than one anthology a with fairy tale theme. What is your personal favorite fairy tale?

I always had a soft spot for Falada, the horse, in “The Goose Girl”. I just felt bad that his head was cut off for fear of his telling the truth.

Of all the illustrators you’ve worked with, do you have a favorite?

I haven’t worked with any illustrators. I’ve had jacket art created by different illustrators, but writers/anthologists generally have no say (or very little) in the matter of their book covers or design. I’ve certainly loved the art on most of my anthologies –especially some of the covers by Thomas Canty. I also love the art of Cory and Catska Ench, for Tales of Wonder and Imagination.

Along with editing fantasy and science fiction, you also edit horror. What is your deepest fear?

Loss of control of my life

Are there any authors you haven’t worked with that are on your wish list?

Not really, but I’d like to work again with some writers I’ve edited in the past.

Which new authors do you have your eye on?

Genevieve Valentine, N. K. Jemisin, Matthew Kressel, Nicole J. LeBoeuf, Karina Sumner-Smith, Ray Cluley, Steve Eller, Micaela Morrissette, Carole Johnstone, E. Michael Lewis, and Miranda Siemienowicz. Some of these writers I’ve reprinted in my last three Best Horror of the Year series. A few are writers whose work I’ve bought for recent original anthologies.    

If you could invite three dead authors to dinner, who would they be and what would you ask them?

Ewww. Not a good idea. They’d put me off my meal, I’d think ;-)

What themes do you predict to be popular in science fiction, horror, and fantasy for next year?

I hear mermaids are the new big thing in fantasy. I suspect that dystopic/post apocalypse work will continue to be popular (in fact Terri and I have a YA anthology on the theme coming out fall 2012). Overall though, it’s always just a guessing game.

You wake up tomorrow morning and learn that the pet store down the street is selling mythological creatures. What pet would you get and why?

If I had room in my apartment, I’d love a unicorn –alas I don’t have room. They’re one of the most magical of all creatures, and very beautiful. Also, I’ve always loved horses and as a child dreamed about being a rider. What could be more fun than riding a gleaming unicorn in NYC traffic?

Who introduced you to your love of stories as a little girl and were books a big part of your household experience growing up?

My mom read me classic fairy tales as a child, but we had collections of stories on the bookshelves as long as I can remember, from Bullfinch’s Mythology to the collected tales of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Guy de Maupassant. I was allowed to read whatever I wanted as a child and adolescent, which gave me a rather broad view of literature.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Demon Stole My Pumpkin! - Photo Essay

Last week I traveled to the Dallas Arboretum for their autumn show. "It's a fairy tale world" is the theme for this year. Along with the pumpkin patch where you can purchase your pumpkins and gourds, you can also travel through Cinderella's pumpkin village. All the houses are constructed out of pumpkins. And you can get photograph in Cinderella's carriage. It was fun watching the little monsters roaming around and being tortured in the pumpkin patch by parental paparazzi. *grins*

I also learned about the origins of Cinderlla's glass slipper and the carriage. This quote is from the page, Cinderella History:

"Charles Perrault...wrote the version in 1697 and introduced the fairy godmother. This story also included the pumpkin carriage, the animal servants, and the glass slippers. Perrault was told this story by storytellers and added these extra things for effect. Some people think that he confused "vair" (French for fur) with "verre" (French for glass) which would explain how the slipper came to be made of glass!"

You can read about the origin of other fairy tales here:

Here are the rest of my pics. Hopefully, you can scare up a good story from the depths of your soul -- preferably Halloween related, but if not, maybe, you can twist a fairy tale or two into a new concoction.

Cinderella's glass slipper.

The true origin of Cinderella's fairy godmother.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Author Karen A. Wyle's Twin-Bred & Giveaway Contest

Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. She now considers herself a Hoosier. Wyle's childhood ambition was to be the youngest ever-published novelist. While writing her first novel at age ten, she was mortified to learn that some British upstart had beaten her to the goal at age nine. 
Wyle is an appellate attorney, photographer, political junkie, and mother of two daughters. Her voice is the product of almost five decades of reading both literary and genre fiction. It is no doubt also influenced, although she hopes not fatally tainted, by her years of law practice. Her personal history has led her to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, the impossibility of controlling events, and the persistence of unfinished business.
You may find Karen on her Facebook Author Page, on Twitter @WordsmithWyle, on her author site, and on her blog, Looking Around.

Many writers know from childhood that they were meant to write. Many others come to writing late, often after raising families or developing other careers. I'm one of those who did both.

From early childhood, I considered myself a writer. I had a poem (not a very good one) published in the local paper when I was in 3rd grade. When I was 10, I decided to write a novel as a labor of love for my 5th grade teacher. It was my ambition to be the youngest published author ever, and I was somewhat crestfallen to learn that a 9-year-old girl had claimed that honor. I completed the novel, despite this setback. I wrote two pages a day, longhand (of course – this was in 1965), in pencil, and stopped at 200 pages or thereabouts. It had its acceptable passages, but was mostly dreck (although, if I am ever psychoanalyzed, the analyst could paddle happily about in that book for several years). I began to realize my novel’s failings when the teacher, to reward my achievement, read parts of it to the class during story time.

I tried to write a second novel – about an orphan, I believe – at age 14, but stopped after 40 pages. For the next few years, I concentrated on poetry, of varying quality. I still considered myself a writer, but felt I had not yet found my proper area of focus.

Then came college. Cue ominous music. In my junior or senior year, I took a seminar in writing short stories. I wrote at least two stories and some shorter assignments. (I found them while visiting my parents last summer. They weren’t bad.) One day, in class, the instructor commented casually that I had done a pretty good job at something or other, given that I was “not a born writer.” Through all my shifts and doubts, “born writer” was the one belief about myself I had maintained. For whatever combination of reasons, I let that teacher’s assessment crash down on me like a boulder from a cliff.

I am not sure whether I wrote another poem. I know I wrote no more fiction for many years. I did become a lawyer. I came to concentrate on writing appellate briefs. I took pride and some comfort in my frequently confirmed ability to work with words. I described myself as not a writer, but a wordsmith.

At age 36, very pregnant with my first child, I wrote what was almost a poem – a picture book manuscript, just 88 words long, called “Mommy Calls Me Acorn.” Over the next 19 years (and counting), I wrote more picture books. They tended to be short on character and plot. I told myself and others that writing anything with characters and a plot was beyond my talents.

A few years ago, I took a plane somewhere, and got to chatting with the man in the next seat. I don’t remember how I came to tell him the story of that college class. I suggested a way to interpret or explain the instructor’s comment: perhaps she meant that I was not a born storyteller. He raised an eyebrow. Apparently, he thought I had told my story well enough.

Just before November 2009, my older daughter, a wildly talented young artist, heard about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and decided to take part, her senior year in high school (and one college visit) notwithstanding. She won – and produced a wonderfully entertaining novel. I began to toy with the thought of trying NaNoWriMo myself -- someday. Someday came the following year. I gave myself permission to start without knowing whether I could possibly succeed. Give it a few days. See what happens.

What happened was that the facility in writing I had gained, over many years of producing words in quantity, made it surprisingly easy to sit at the keyboard, or go for a walk with pad in hand, and have events and characters and dialogues emerge. There was, of course, effort – but it was natural. And while my characters didn’t throw me the wildest of curves, they frequently wrote my scenes for me.
I "won" NaNoWriMo by passing the 50,000 word mark by the end of November (actually making it to 60,000), and spent the next ten months or so expanding and revising and editing my science fiction novel, Twin-Bred. And editing. And editing. . . .

During that process, my goals for the book changed. At the start, I was busily researching the process of finding an agent and/or publisher. I wrote and rewrote query letters, made long lists of agents, and followed agent blogs. Somewhere along the way, I started hearing about the recent changes in the publishing industry and the surrounding landscape. I learned how much more practical it had become to publish one's own work, as a POD (print on demand) paperback and/or an eBook. I read many a blog post about the pros and cons of self-publishing, and gradually became convinced that for me, it made eminent sense. I am thrilled, tickled, and delighted to be self-publishing Twin-Bred this month. I have rough drafts of another novel and a short story awaiting my attention, and I intend to self-publish them in due course.

I cannot generally endorse the view that all trials and setbacks are disguised blessings. There is too much in human experience to which that statement can't even remotely apply. But for me, it has often been true, and I believe it is true of my long detour away from and back to my identity as a writer. This -- not thirty years ago -- is the time to be writing fiction.

eBook Giveaway: Simply leave a comment with your name for this post. Please make sure your user profile you sign in to comment with has an email attached where I (Nora B. Peevy) can contact you. On Sunday, October 30, 2011, I'll announce the winner here. The author will email your ebook to you afterwards.

Suggest a song and win an eBook: Karen A. Wyle is running a special promotion for Twin-Bred. Be the first reader to suggest a song for a Twin-Bred playlist and if I agree with your selection, your name and song choice will be included in an appendix to a future edition of the book!

Please send an mp3 file or a link to a YouTube video where I can hear the song, to Karen A. Wyle at (At the same time, please let me know if you'd like to be on my email alert list, so you can hear about upcoming releases and events.)

I'll post occasional updates about the playlist on Twin-Bred's Facebook page.

Purchase Twin-Bred here:

Amazon: The Kindle Edition & Paperback

Barnes and Noble: The Nook Edition

Createspace (paperback)


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Between the Covers - Book Review #1

On the advice of my business advisor, who also happens to be my charming husband, I've changed my book review title again. 

I devoured three books in less than a week. Two of them were great and one should win an awful book award.

1) I'm the type of person that just rips off the Band-Aid without thinking first, so we'll get the painful one out of the way. Then we can all enjoy ourselves. Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur beckoned, full of promise. The main character is a vampire/wolf hybrid -- a refreshing idea in a supernatural world overpopulated by horny, love struck vamps and lusty werewolves, but this supe fell short for me. Riley Jenson started out beloved in my eyes and by the end of the book, I wanted to smack her in the face. There were so many problems with this plot, which appeared a good one -- someone creating their own supernatural creatures in a laboratory. Let me count the ways I loathed this book. One -- she's supposedly a smart detective, but for two years she slept with one of the were characters and somehow missed he was wearing a necklace that shielded his thoughts all the time, until the very end of the book. Two -- the author chose to have Riley Jenson raped by one of her former lovers; instead of being disgusted and afraid, which would be a NORMAL reaction, Keri Arthur decided Riley would enjoy the sex. She had an orgasm with her attacker and then, instead of having emotional issues and feeling violated, Riley still lusts after the one man she wants to have a relationship and cannot. She even has sex shortly after being raped and enjoys it. This is NOT natural. Three -- What kind of role model is Riley for young women? Most of her sexual encounters in the book make her out to be at the mercy of a virile, stronger male. She's even raped while wearing handcuffs, for Satan's sake! Why are most of the sex scenes misogynistic in this book? And four -- I got really tired of constantly being banged over the head with the fact that Riley's main love interest in the book did NOT want a relationship. I got it! I didn't need to read it umpteen zillion times.

2) Now onto something more pleasant. Love me some China Bayles mysteries! Susan Wittig Albert hit another homerun with Bleeding Hearts. China Bayles, the retired lawyer turned herbal shop owner, sets off sleuthing to solve the mystery of a young girl's suicide. If you haven't read a China Bayle's mystery, you should try one. I particularly enjoy the herbal lore included at the beginning of each chapter and the recipes included at the end of the book. I haven't tried any of them, but they are being photocopied shortly. This is a recommended read, but don't expect it to be as involved as Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. It's more along the lines of Patricia Cornwell, just with an herbal gardener's charm. *grins*

3) I ended on a high note this week with Kelley Armstrong's YA novel, The Summoning. It's the first book in the Darkest Powers series and quite lovely. Once a teenager, though my stepson finds that hard to believe, I could relate to the issues the kids were facing at the Lyle House, a home for troubled teens. However, I quickly learned that the teens weren't really trouble -- just gifted with supernatural powers. Chloe Saunders is a well-written, believable character, and the other teens she meets at Lyle House are too. I think young adults will relate well to this series. I'm rooting for them to be successful in their escape from the house and to discover what is happening to all the teenagers who supposedly have "left" Lyle House for other hospitals or home. Can't wait to read the next one.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In Memory of My Brother, Greg, R.I.P.

October is a bittersweet month for me. I love everything about fall; the scent of crisp leaves crumbling beneath my boots, the way the sunlight seems weaker in the morning, pumpkin pie, and Halloween. I love it all, but I also associate a family tragedy with this month too, a painful memory -- my brother, Greg, being admitted to the veteran's hospital downtown.

Greg was my half-brother from my father's first marriage and about eighteen years older than I was. I didn't know him well. My brother struggled with an addiction to alcohol. While enlisted in The U.S. Navy, he learned he actually was allergic to alcohol, which made him an angry, violent drunk. Medically discharged decades ago, he went on S.S.I. and sometimes was homeless. Sometimes he lived in an apartment or rented a hotel room, but he never stayed in one place long. My parents tried repeatedly to get him help to no avail.

I was 22 years of age in October of 1998 when we learned my brother, Greg, was seriously ill with the new strain of tuberculosis resistant to antibiotic treatment; he'd gotten it from someone at the bar that he often shared bottles with. Greg holed himself up in his hotel room, continuing to drink heavily. He thought it was just a cold. My other half-brother tried to get him to see a doctor, but Greg, true to his nature, believed he was invincible and would beat this thing on his own. He continued drinking, having friends from the local dive bar deliver bottles of alcohol to his room, which he did not leave. By the time he realized he was very ill, it was too late.

My brother had to be placed in restraints at the hospital, so he would not pull out his breathing tube. He was so strong and the D.T.s were so bad, that the doctors decided to medically induce a coma to give his body a chance to fight the infection, but it was in vain. Greg woke up the only time my family and I visited him, confused and in a panic, trying to speak around his breathing tube. He looked like a caged, wild animal. My father rushed us from the room because Greg's heart monitor started bleeping frantically. I never got to say goodbye. That is the last memory I have of my brother. He died on Friday the 13th, November 1998. My father was 68 at the time; he has never fully recovered from having to bury his son. A parent is not meant to outlive their children.

I thought about Greg a lot last night, as the end of October nears. I couldn't sleep. This morning, I want to share one of the poems I wrote about my experience. 

All Hallow's Eve
for my my father

Death stares back at him from a bloodstained phlemgy ventilator
and his eyes are like two slick oil pools
amidst the hiss of the oxygen machine
that pumps life into his tuberculosis ridden body.
He is a wild caged animal riddled with piss-stinking fear,
trapped by I.V. lines, oxygen lines, heart monitors,
and chest tubes to keep his lung from collapsing,
and outside children dressed as ghosts, goblins, and witches
are trick or treating on this dreary All Hallow's Eve.
He claws at the sterile white hospital sheets,
grasping for his father's hand to pull him back into humanity,
tears dripping from the corners of his eyes
like sugar water dripping through clear tubes into his shrunken veins.
I tell him that when he is better we will play cribbage together,
and meanwhile my father is on the phone talking to his ex-wife,
and making funeral arrangements,
teetering on the brink of indecision --
"should he be resusticated," the doctors ask him again and again
each day as his son slips further away from the living.
"Should he be cremated or buried," my father asks my mother.
My father decides on cremation.
They are arranging for his funeral while he is still with us,
and my father is trying not to cry, to be a man, to be the head of the family
the way all good little boys from the depression era
were taught by their mothers,
but he can't wind up so many loose ends into
a neat ball of string and brown paper wrapping.
He can't bind up all the memories of his son
and toss them into the trash to be recycled.
He can't forget December 27, 1954,
the day his son was born
in a renovated castle in San Juan,
or 1974 when his son graduated high school
and enlisted in the navy to conquer the world,
and so many holidays spent with the family.
He can't help but ask why he hasn't said it earlier,
why he hasn't said, "I love you, son."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia - A Photo Essay

I am currently writing a YA vampire short story. I've chosen Savannah, Georgia as my setting. The live oaks shrouded in Spanish moss, the historic buildings, the haunted graveyards, and the narrow cobblestone alleyways by the river make this the perfect setting for a vampire to sink their fangs into.

One of the most beautiful cemeteries I've visited is Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. The cemetery is founded on the property, formerly home to Bonaventure Plantation, first owned by Colonel John Mullryne. The first house burned down in 1771 and was rebuilt. The plantation's history is rich and varied, including the historical escape of Royal Governor James Wright from Revolutionary captors in 1776. It was also used as a hospital in the Siege of Savannah during The American Revolution in 1779.

The cemetery was designed around the ruins of the plantation, incorporating the existing roadways. It opened for private interment in 1846 and to the public in 1907, though the Tattnall family, late owners of the property, were buried there as early as 1794. It is nearly 100 acres and great for photographing. There are also a bunch of ghost stories associated with the graveyard, also great for any writer to reference. Bonaventure was also featured in the popular novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, later made into the movie.

Here are some of my photographs, which I hope inspire your own stories. I visited Bonaventure on a dark and misty day, quite phantasmagorical. I found the cemetery charming.