Tell Our Stories (The Ghost Version)

So, I think it’s seventh grade, I’m trying to be a theater kid, but I’m not actually talented enough to be a theater kid. My dad died last year. My mom’s working like a crazy woman and I’m living in Bedford, New Hampshire where it seems like everyone else in the world is rich except for us.

 

I manage to go to theater camp at school for the summer. I’m not sure who is actually paying for this. I’m guessing my nana maybe?

 

Anyways, I’ve got a tiny bit of a reputation for being sort of weird. This is because:

 

  1. I am weird.
  2. People tend to die on the highway outside my house.
  3. I sometimes know things I shouldn’t know.
  4. The whole automatic writing thing.

 

My Post-18

Back in fourth grade, I read this book that talked about automatic writing. So, I tried it. Grabbed a pen and my notebook and didn’t pay attention to the words that were coming out while my stepdad and I watched a Chargers game on tv in the family room. Our family room used to be a garage. Then it was my brother’s bedroom and then my stepsister’s bedroom, but she was long gone by the time I hit fourth grade.

 

During a commercial break, I decided to read the five pages in my notebook. It was first person narrative of a girl who came over on a boat and lived where my house used to be. She was hurt and scared and hated it there. Then her house caught fire and she died.

 

I was little. The story scared me, mostly because it was actually a story written in cursive in a handwriting that didn’t look much like mine and because at the end it said, “Tell my story.”

 

“Daddy?” I asked. “Was there ever another house here?”

 

“I don’t think so, honey.”

 

It wasn’t a good enough answer. I ripped the papers out of my notebook and threw them in the woodstove and Mom called us to dinner.

 

I tried again. “Mom? Was there ever another house here?”

 

“Yes. A long time ago. If you look in the book we have about our town you can see in one of the old maps that there used to be a house here. Your father found pieces of the foundation when he built our house,” she said this all like it was the most normal thing in the world.

 

“What kind of people lived here?” I asked, remembering the story.

 

“Oh, I’m sure they were nice.”

 

“What happened to the house?” I asked.

 

“No idea.”

 

Two seconds later, I saw a weird orange glow on the snow outside the picture window. My mom asked me what I was staring at. I told her and my dad jumped up from the table, running outside and shouting back, “Betty! Call the fire department. Our roof is on fire.”

 

They put out the fire. It could have totally been a coincidence. But when my mom researched what had happened to the last house, it really did burn down.

 

It was the sort of place where the piano would play by itself, where you walked by the windows and were certain that someone was outside in the dark staring in at you. When I told people where I lived they’d say, “The creepy brown house? You live there?”

 

Yep. I lived there. I loved it there, actually, because of the woods and the big hill to sled down and the giant boulder in the background that I used to pretend was an island.

My Post-19

 

In seventh grade, we decided to have a séance. A bunch of the theater kids from camp went to my house. My mom was working. We did automatic writing in that same family room. The drapes across the living room closed by themselves. A pencil caught fire. One of the boys acted possessed. I’m not sure if he was really possessed, because… theater kid.

 

It was terrifying.

 

One of the things that was written down was, Tell our stories.

My Post-20

 

It’s years later and I try so hard to be normal, but obviously constantly fail.

 

My high schoolwriting teacher, Mr. Sullivan, has this laugh where his tongue darts out between his lips and his mouth hangs wide open and I swear, his tongue looks like a freaking lizard tongue. It’s creepy and hysterical all at once and everyone in class points and starts laughing at him whenever he laughs this way. He doesn’t even care. He just laughs harder.

But this day? He just stops abruptly, right in the middle of a laugh.

So, Mr. Sullivan? He looks at me and says, “Carrie Barnard. What is going through your head right now?”

And my mouth opens and no sound comes out. No words. Not even adverbs.

He cocks an eyebrow, which is white and gray and black with old-man extra hairs squiggling out everywhere. “Well….? I would have called your look inquisitive.”

“I was just staring at your tongue when you laugh.”

Everyone in class starts cackling as I say this.

“Because…” Mr. Sullivan prompts, leaning back against his desk. Papers crumple under the edge of his butt.

“Because you look like a lizard when you laugh?” I offer and instantly feel bad about saying this.

“A lizard?” He stares at me for a second. Another second passes. “I look like a lizard when I laugh?”

I shrug, which will hopefully end this conversation and keep doodling, not looking down at my notebook. “Pretty much. But… um not in a bad way?”

This just makes him laugh more.

One of my friends announces, “Carrie thinks lizards are cute.”

“Which is why she liked you, right?” another friend says.

Everyone just cackles more and my first friend bows. “Perfect setup. I gave you the perfect setup.”

 

And that’s when I start thinking that maybe people aren’t just people. Maybe we all have angels and demons stuck inside of us and the reason that good doesn’t last and good people die is because the angel people are being wiped out by the demon people in some sort of eternal, perpetual war. But then I just realize that these are symbols that I’m making up to distract myself from the fact that people suck so badly.

I’m not going to tell Mr. Sullivan all that. If there is one thing I know about this life, it’s that when people ask you what you’re thinking, they only want to know the top surface level of it, not the muck and mud and layers, not the way your thoughts spiral out in a million directions. People only want the tiny truths, not the complexities, which basically means they want nothing at all.

 

I shouldn’t write basically because Mr. Sullivan hates adverbs. He insists they are weak ways of writing, but I think they have purpose, right? Because people are weak. People created adverbs specifically because we are weak and have a hard time expressing ourselves in strong enough verbs all the damn time.

Words fail.

Words fail constantly. . . all the time… a lot. So, you have to grab the best ones you’ve got, right? But sometimes… sometimes… there are no words at all and the big ass pit inside of you stays huge and horrible and threatens to swallow you whole, which is not an original image, but whatever.

 

 

“Write!” Mr. Sullivan tells us as he gesticulates wildly with Sharpie-smudged hands and frayed-cuff khakis. He paces the front of the room like a baseball coach. “Free write! Tell us about lizard-tongue people. Tell us what the brilliant Carrie Barnard observed.”

But I have already told him and I have nothing else to say.

I just stare at the ceiling and then this whisper comes into my right ear – just the right one and it says, “Tell our stories.”

I jerk so hard that my chair legs scrape against the floor.

“What?” I look around.

Mr. Sullivan sits at his desk now. He meets my eyes. I can’t tell what his eyes are thinking.

Nobody else is even looking up. They are all being good students, worker bees.

“Barnard? Are you all set?” Mr. Sullivan’s voice isn’t mean. It’s just a question.

“Yes,” I lie, yanking my hair back into a ponytail, gathering it up into a cheap, black elastic. It must look as wild as Mr. Sullivan’s. “Yes, I’m fine.”

I  look down at my notebook, full of doodles, but it’s not full of doodles. There’s just one sentence, written over and over again, in every font ever – obscure and weird and traditional, messy and neat, capitalized and not.

Tell our stories.

            Tell our stories.

            Tell our stories.

Tell our stories.

            Tell our stories.

            Tell our stories.

Ghost Stories! -2

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s  out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Ebook on Sale for October! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book NEEDis on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 3.56.50 PM

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

 

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Cooking With a Writer – Ghostly Pizza

As you know, I’m trying desperately to make the family vegetarian and I am TOTALLY failing.
But here is my recipe for Halloween pizza. Halloween is a frantic night for us because we get about 800 – 1,000 trick-or-treaters. So, I tend to make things that are fast and easy like calzone snakes or mummy Stromboli, but this… this, my friends, is the ultimate in easy. It’s sort of embarrassingly easy. Stay tuned below for the story of my first-ever ghost sighting.

Ghostly Pizza

So, sometimes I cheat because on Halloween things get hectic here. 

Course dinner
Cuisine American
Keyword ghost
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 338 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Frozen Pizza Doug do not judge
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • .75 cup pizza sauce
  • .5 lb mozarella slices
  • some little capers for the eyes

Instructions

  1. Realize that you have no time to make food that isn't candy.

  2. Preheat oven to 475ºF. 

    Spray bottom of a 16-by-11-inch rimmed baking sheet with the stuff that makes things not stick. Or use olive oil, but olive oil is expensive, so maybe don't. I mean olive oil is awesome, but we're already using pre-made pizza dough here so pretension is gone, right? 

    Spray the darn sheet.

    Celebrate by eating candy.

  3. Stretch that dough evenly to cover bottom of sheet. 

    This is a lot like stretching your 20,000-word story into a 50,000-word novel. You might have to take a couple of rounds, and rest in between to get this stretched.

    Do not give up.

    Celebrate by eating candy.

  4. Open the jar of sauce. 

    Cry because you have no wrist strength.

    Celebrate when you finally open the jar. Celebrate by eating candy.

    Spread that sauce over the dough. Try to make it even. Leave a border on all sides of the rectangle. Try to make that border a 1-inch border. 

    Celebrate with candy.

    Set a timer. Put it in the oven.

  5. Bake about 15 minutes. 

    Celebrate that. Celebrate that with candy.

    Now, you get to have fun! Yay, fun! Remember fun?

    Scrounge up a ghost-shaped cookie cutter and cut ghosts out of cheese. 

    That is so cool.

    Put the ghosts on the pizza. It is hot. Be careful. Obviously these ghosts have been hanging out in hell. The sauce is like red flames. And the whole scene is hot. 

    Celebrate liberating the ghosts from hell with candy.

    Hide the candy wrappers in the garbage during the final five minutes of baking.

  6. Take the pizza out. Look how cool that is! 

    Put caper eyes on each ghost.

    Let is stand for five minutes. Eat it. Eat it with a celebratory side dish of candy.

Man Verdict: It needs meat and more cheese.
My Verdict: Seriously? I’m so full from the candy.
Dogs’ Verdict: We agree with the man. If you’re going to dress us up, the least you can do is add more meat.

GHOST STORY TIME!

This is the story about the first ghost that I ever saw. . . Or the first possible-ghost I ever saw for you nonbelievers.

I grew up in what used to be rural Bedford, New Hampshire and I lived up on a hill on the corner of Hardy Road and Route 101, which was then a little two-lane highway that led from Manchester, New Hampshire (a thriving metropolis former mill town) to points west. People thought my house, a dark brown ranch with red shutters, perched up on the hill was creepy. It was the kind of house people would dare each other to go to. On a positive note, we didn’t get a ton of  door-to-door solicitations.

I remember when I met a girl in second grade and told her where I lived she said, “Oh. But you’re so normal. You’re not creepy at all.”

And I was like, “Huh?”

“Your house,” she said. “Your house looks scary.”

My house was scary, but my house was also home, which is sort of this weird concept for some people, a dichotomy that doesn’t make a ton of sense. How can your home be scary but also comforting? They have created entire entertainment enterprises out of this concept – things like the Addams Family where the macabre is comforting. Or the vampire family in Twilight where their vampyric nature is hidden by the clean, modern lines of wealth and big windows and good hair.

In the last ten years, I’ve incorporated a lot of the scarier things that have happened to me into books. That’s because they seem more presentable and understandable when they are fiction instead of shouting to the world, “Hey! My house was weird. Maybe haunted. Who knows?” Or, “Yeah… this happened at a seance I had in fifth grade.”

And the stories?
They add up.
You can only hear so many footsteps in so many houses before people start to think that you’re either lying or a freak. I spent a lot of time trying to quash the differences inside of me – of being poor, of slurring my s’s, of being the freak with the haunted house, the person who sometimes knew things she shouldn’t logically know.

So, yeah, I grew up in this house my dad built in Bedford, NH. It was on a hill. There’d been another house there about 100 years before but it had burned down.  And after that some people from Connecticut built a camp in the woods and would come there in the summer. That was in the early 1900s, I think. But those were the only known houses before ours.

Anyway, we had this great big picture window in the living room. My dad and mom were arguing at the kitchen table, so I toddled off and went into the living room. It was night time. I was really little, probably somewhere between three and five, because my parents were still married enough to be living in the same house.

I really hated them fighting so I waddled over to the picture window and decided to blow on it, so I could make those hand footprints in the mist that comes from your breath.

So, I started to blow on the window to see if it would frost up, but then I noticed something outside on our front lawn. Our front lawn was a big, grassy hill that sloped down to the road. I cupped my hands around my eyes so I could see better and peered out because it was getting dark. There was a woman wearing a long, white dress walking across the lawn, from left to right.

That was weird. Nobody ever walked across our lawn at almost night. We were really rural then, up a long, dirt driveway, up a hill.

I was little, but I knew it was funky.

But something else was wrong, too.

She was walking right above the hole for the septic tank. It was a big hole about three feet deep that was covered with two granite slabs. I knew it was there because my mom was always warning me about falling in and breaking an ankle. My mom was really, really worried about my ankles. I grew up thinking pretty much anything could break my ankle — holes, bikes, skis, horses, soccer….

So, anyway, even though there was a hole there, the lady walked right over it.

“Mommy!”

I yelled for her but they kept arguing. The woman kept walking. She lifted her arm and waved. She seemed nice.

“Mommy!”

“What?”

“There’s a lady in the lawn.”

“What?”

“There’s a lady…”

My mom and dad both rushed to the picture window.

“There’s nothing,” my dad said.

“I thought I saw something…” Mom interrupted. She turned me around to look at her. “What did the lady look like?”

“She was a lady… she was wearing white… you could see through her dress…”

My mom put me to bed, right away, but my parents stopped arguing, at least for that night.

Writing News

Last Time Stoppers Book

I love this book baby and you can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

 

Three Tips to Writing Scary Things

I almost never think that what I’m writing is scary, but I am also an author who has occasionally had people put their books in the freezer in order to ‘stay safe.’ So, apparently I’m not the best judge of scary. I watched both Haunting of Hill House and Hereditary and nothing happened. No scary dreams, lingering horror, or even many jump scares. And these are movies/shows that are awesome and other people rave about.

So, obviously something is wrong with me.

But the truth is that I find books way more scary than movies and that’s because my mind gets to fill in the gaps and I’m able to put myself in the character’s space and live it through them in a way that works for me more than it does in a movie.

Advice about adding resonance and cohesion to your story
Bob? Yuri? Scary?

 

So, how do we scare people in books? Here are three quick tips.

Find the Horror in Skiing

Think about what scares people. What scares you might not scare other people.

I am going to try to ski today. Last time, I fell and broke my ankle. The time before that, I fell and broke my arm.

That’s truth, but it’s not terrifying to other people, right?

So, for me, I’m scared of downhill skiing. That’s really pretty damn specific and isn’t going to make people frightened unless like me they lack depth perception, grace, and strong ankles.

But if I make skiing the setting for losing control and someone sabotages ski binders or some evil creature lurks in the woods while people are skiing? And then kills them and hangs their broken skis in creepy patterns in the woods? It gets better and scarier.

Take what your frightened of, and then think about why you’re frightened of it, and then make it bigger and creepier and more relatable. Bingo – you’ve got scary.

Do not make your character toilet paper.

Make us care about your characters.

We don’t care about tissues when horrible things happen to them. Or toilet paper. And really horrible things happen to toilet paper and tissues.

There’s a reason for our lack of horror and concern over their fate. They are just toilet paper. They are just tissues. Whatever.

It’s works the same way for characters. We care about the characters that have been built up, that have emotions, dimension, feelings. We get frightened for them and with them.

The toilet paper was ripped from its roll and used. Horribly. Flushed down the toilet and into a swirling dark pipe full of water, chemicals and impossible smells. It was gone.

We don’t really care that much and we aren’t scared. We know that our fate is not the toilet paper’s fate and can’t put ourselves in its position. At least… Well, I hope we can’t.

SHORT SENTENCE IT UP

When things get scary and full of action, you can use short sentences to show the fast-paced terror of your character.

He froze right outside the closet door. 

Someone was humming on the other side.

No, he thought. I just pulled the last bin of toys out of there two minutes ago and shut the door.

Nothing could be in there.

The humming kept up, louder now, and closer to a tune. Some kind of childhood lullaby.

He would not open the door. 

Something kept humming. 

“No,” he said.

Humming. 

Dude. Do not open that door.

Happy Halloween and happy scary writing, everyone!

12132620_10153806073894073_5162852288847828385_o

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s  out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Ebook on Sale for October! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book NEED is on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 3.56.50 PM

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

 

The Woman in the Wave

When I first saw her, she stood on a granite walk that jutted out into the Atlantic Ocean, holding onto a railing that tourists lean against in better weather. They stand, listening to the calmer waves sweep into a carved-out place in the rock called Thunder Hole. The ocean was crashing over her, obscuring her from my vision.

Someone screamed.

People had stopped their cars to watch the waves the storm made, but instead they saw a woman standing on the roped-off platform, her back to them, facing the sea as it smashed itself against her. I was one of those people, the people who watches.

She survived the wave that swept over her head and waited for another to come, to engulf her and the platform. The waves were so large, they splashed over my hiking boots and I was standing above her by fifteen feet. The echoes they made as the crashed against rocks hurt some of the children’s ears. One little boy stood near me with his hands pressed against his head, crying.

“She’s going to get swept right in,” a man next to me yelled to anyone and everyone. “She’s crazy. She’s going to get swept right in an bashed against those ledges.”

People murmured their agreement.

“It’s not going to be pretty,” he added.

This was true.

“You going to get her?” He asked me, zipping up his LL Bean anorak to his neck.

“Me?”

I looked around for a park ranger, a cop, someone official. There wasn’t anyone there. Just tourists in expensive cars with their kids and dogs beside them. And of course her, the woman in the waves, standing there, defying one of the strongest forces of nature.

Just then the woman buckled as another wave crashed against her. I expected when the crest dropped to see her gone, to just view the soaked granite of the platform and a vacant place where she used to be.

And then it hit me – the guilt of the bystander, the one who watches and witnesses. The guilt overwhelmed me.

She made it through. Her back was bent as if she was ancient.

“Jesus! She made it!” someone yelled. A few people cheered.

“What a freak,” some college-aged guy standing on the other side of me said. “She must be totally psycho.”

They didn’t know her. They didn’t know why she was there, what she’d done, who she was, what she’d been through, or even what emotions she was feeling right then. They just stood there watching, judging, not helping. And just like that, I knew… I didn’t want to be one of them.

“Okay,” I grumbled aloud and started down the wet rock steps, trying to pump myself up for what I was about to do. “Okay.”

Lifting one leg over the rope with the “closed” sign shining on it, I slipped a bit, heading down, but somehow she knew and turned herself, facing me now, grabbing onto the railing with both hands, she pulled her way back up towards me before the next wave hit. Her eyes were brilliant. The gray Maine ocean was so dull in comparison.

I reached my hand out for her.

She took it, smile, and came up to where I was.

“Thank you,” she said, laughing, alive, still holding my hand as she hopped over the rope and glided from one granite step towards the land, towards the bystanders, judging, watching.

And that’s when I realized where she was…? Down there in the waves? It was a less dangerous place then where we were heading back to. You know the violence to expect from the sea, from nature. You brace yourself for it. You move with it. But people? We expect more from each other. We expect hands and help, guidance and love. But too often, what we get is inaction, judgement.

When we got back up, most of the people had left. She survived. They weren’t interested any longer. The moment for them had passed, a story to tell, even though they didn’t know her, her motivation, or her name.

Sometimes I think that woman is all of us. Sometimes when things go down in this country that are just ridiculously bad, I think about that woman, standing there, a force in herself, bending but not breaking, refusing to be swept away, silently taking it as everyone watches. And when I think about her, I’m amazed.

“Are you okay?” I asked her as she shook out her hair and started to actually wring out the sleeves of her shirt.

“I am,” she said. “I am now.”

She took four steps forward and disappeared.

 

Note:

This happened when I first came to the island and a long time before the accident that took a child’s life close to this area. I was working dispatch at the police department when they recovered that little girl and this story has absolutely nothing to do with that horrible event. 

 

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s  out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Ebook on Sale for October! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book NEEDis on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 3.56.50 PM

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

 

 

The Podcast is up and It’s Advice About Writing Scary Stories and the Levels of Terror

Hey! Another podcast is up and in honor of Halloween, it’s about writing scary stories. We tell a couple of our own and we talk about the man currently standing outside the house staring at a tree.

Seriously.

He is absolutely still and just… staring.

Here’s the link to the podcast. I hope you’ll check it out.

And here’s the link to the words that go with the podcast.

 

My Grandmother’s Ghost

Canadian Geese

By F.M.B.

Oct.2, ‘91

 

In the dim light of twilight you suddenly appear.

In swift and silent formation,

Determined in your flight to reach your destination,

Oh! Tell me who directs this urge

Never failing in direction?

Where are you now wondrous birds?

You break my heart headed for the land I love.

I shall remember you always

Indelibly imprinted in my brain.

Your silent flight guided by your leader.

 

When I was born, my mother was 35 and my father was 42, and he was the youngest child, too. 42 plus 18 equals 60, so my dad was 60 when I was 18. My Grammy Barnard? She was 33 when she had my dad. She was 75 when I was born, if that puts it into perspective. That’s like the age where when you die people say things like, “Well, she had a good, long life.”

She lasted in this world a lot longer than that.

My grandfather Barnard was 82 when I was born and died six years later. He was grim, austere, and full of edicts and judgements. He once ran for office as a communist. He’d been a stockbroker before that. He was not a kind man according to my mom.

He had a stroke in the bathtub and drowned, but my mom liked to pretend like Grammy Barnard finally had enough of his bullshit and held him under the water. She told this version only to me. She also would say, “You are so lucky to not know that man. He had a copy of Mein Kaumpf in the basement and when I called him on it, he said that it was good literature. Evil bastard.”

“Hitler or Grampa Barnard,” I usually asked.

“Both,” she usually said.

 

The point here is that I’d never known Grammy Barnard young.

The other point is that I’d never known Grammy Barnard not pining for youth.

The other point is that I’d never known her not stressed about death.

She would cry over the beauty of a tomato. She would cry over the pains in other people’s hearts.

Grammy Barnard Poem #2

March 11, 1927

 

A Wish

 

Love, she goes hand in hand with spring,

To thoughts of this girl then you will cling,

Go dear, and to her tell,

Of the desire you have in her heart to dwell,

Tell her while sweet spring is here,

Tell her while she still is near,

Tell her of moonlight, tell her of flowers,

Tell her of love, and its wondrous powers.

When she died she was 104. I was 30.

When the terrifying ex-communist, ex-stock broker, also known as Grampa Barnard died, my parents were already divorced. Everyone decided that my dad couldn’t handle living by himself very well. He was prone to melancholy, according to Grammy Barnard. My mom liked to say he was depressed. My dad would just say he “gets sad.”

He went to a therapist to talk about the divorce and how it made him sad and how his dad’s expectations also sometimes made him sad. He only made it to second grade. He could barely read. He was smart, but he was dyslexic before people really talked about dyslexia.

He was a sweet man. He forgave people anything. He forgave people everything. He was like a little hobbit who watched a lot of PBS and news shows. He would ask you insightful probing questions that would hit right to your soul. He could create tools for car engines. He could make a tree grow fast and strong in ways that honestly don’t seem human.

Anyways, Grammy Barnard had lived with my dad since I was six or seven and she had always been old to me.  When I went over to their little ranch house, she always took my face in her hands and said things like, “Ah, look at your skin. It’s so beautiful. The beautiful skin of youth.”

This was awkward.

She was about four feet eight inches tall and had a hump in her back. She wore silk blouses and liked pickled herring. I’m not sure why these facts seem important but they are somehow important.

She was tiny.

She also wrote poems and made paintings and had no faith in either.

My dad liked to announce, “My mother is a poet. She is an artistic person. She cries at the beauty of a tomato.”

She’d roll her eyes and say, “Lew.”

And he’d say, “You are, Ma.”

And she’d say, “My art and poems are rubbish.”

“They are not.”

“They are!” She put her hands over her face almost always, hiding from the kindness. “I despair of them. I can’t come close to recreating the beauty of this world.”

Grammy Barnard Poem #3

Truth, May 19, 1927

 

They say how we think so we are

And I from my guess room not afar,

From the truth of the feelings you have for me

My sensing heart does well know when yours is on a spree

Delicate instrument ticking like the clock,

Accurate recorder of each emotions shock.

Timid quaking little hart,

This man who tore your life apart.

 

And then she died. At 104. I was 30.

I eventually took the money she left me and used it to help pay for me to Vermont College of Fine Arts to get a Masters in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

When I got to Vermont I heard all about the ghosts in the college. The stories didn’t bother me. I’d heard about ghosts before. But one night, during the first residency after Lisa Jahn Clough convinced me to not quit. I’d been feeling despondent because all the other students were so much more knowledgable that I was about everything.

I came from the world of poetry and newspapers. Sports writing. Columns. Play reviews. Stories about planning boards. Deadlines. Quick turn-arounds. Hard facts.

And here I was surrounded by people who were splurting out phrases like “objective correlative” and “emotional resonance” and “desire through lines.”

I was sure I didn’t belong, especially after one student berated my lack of confidence as an insult to all women everywhere. That didn’t help my confidence, by the way. Tearing people down for not being confident enough, usually isn’t the best policy for building them up.

Anyway, Lisa convinced me to stay. But when I looked out the window an hour or so after our talk, I saw in front of me, my grandfather, angry looking, wearing his austere clothes, blood coming out of his ear.

I was on the second floor and my grandfather was dead, long dead, and he stared at me with the most hateful eyes.

And then, I heard the voice of my grandmother behind me, loud and strong, “You are not rubbish.”

I whirled around. She wasn’t there. I turned back around towards the window and there was no creepy old grandfather full of judgement. He was gone.

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s  out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Ebook on Sale for October! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book NEEDis on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 3.56.50 PM

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

 

 

A Week of Creepy Stories

In honor of Halloween, I’m telling some ghost stories this week.

Ghosts I have seen:

  1. My first ghost was a woman who was dressed in white who walked across our front lawn back when we lived at Hardy Road. My parents were arguing about something in the kitchen. I was four. I didn’t like to hear them argue and I went and stared out the window.
  2. My grandfather in his long coat and dark hat, his too white skin, peering into the kitchen window.
  3. Everyone I know. Dead or alive.
  4. Myself, over and over again.

 

Weirdness that has happened at past seances:

 

  1. Piano playing.
  2. House catching fire
  3. Seances with pencils catching fire, drapes closing.
  4. Me predicting stuff that’s going to happen, over and over again, so much so that for a long while I didn’t know when I was talking about something I shouldn’t know or should.

I might go into detail later, or maybe not.

It’s weird how other people will try to tell your stories for you, how there are so many interpretations of truth. Like I remember talking to my mom about when I found the pot pipe in my stepsister Lori’s bedroom. I don’t remember much about it other than it was super pretty and I was playing with it. My mom, freaked out. But according to my brother I ran out of Lori’s bedroom with the pipe and a bag of weed.

I was six.

“You were such a narc,” he said. “You were always such a narc.”

I don’t remember any of that except my mom gasping when I held the pipe and said it was pretty and her telling me it was dirty and to give it to her.

My mother likes to tell this story about when I was one year old and had just had an eye operation.  When I was born, my eyes didn’t track on objects at all so they thought I was blind. Then they realized I saw – but I just saw blurs and maybe color. So, they operated on my eyes, and afterwards put patches on them so for a month or so, when I was a year old, I was in complete darkness.

My mom marveled because I would kind of toddle around the house on the same paths I always took. I’d crawl behind the couch, stand up at the end, walk to the picture window, press my cheek against the cold glass and stand there. I would talk to people who weren’t there. I would shake people’s hands. There was nobody there to shake with.

“Spirits,” my Aunt Rosie would whisper. “She talks to spirits.”

When I was born, I came out with the caul around my head and body, the umbilical cord tightening around my neck.  Caul in Latin is caput galeatum, which means ‘helmeted head,’ and it’s basically when a piece of membrane sticks to your head. People have been superstitious about it forever. It happens like one in every 80,000 births for a piece of the membrane to stick, but it’s even rarer to be born inside the amniotic sac, which is what I did. They call this born in a veil.

Spoiler: I’m not sure who ‘they’ are.

Aunt Rosie was my dad’s sister and she’s Portuguese so according to my mom she believed a lot of weird shit. I’m not sure what the correlation is other than maybe my mom being bigoted about Catholics maybe?

In the world of science, cauls usually happen to babies who are born early. According to my mom, I was over a month late.

Aunt Rosie insisted this made me see things, ghosts, futures, pasts. She brought me to a psychic who agreed but said I would never use my gift. He insisted I’d be a writer and a real estate agent… He was half-right, I guess.

Throughout history, caul bearers were persecuted because they were expected to be leaders and special.

Honestly, that sounds right even if caul bearers weren’t special, there was a panic that they might be. And for some people in power? Panic is enough to warrant death. A suspicion of losing their own power is enough to warrant crushing everyone else.  Current leaders never want new leaders to arrive and suplant them. It’s way better to kill them off when they’re young before they can get powerful, before they can fight back. Humanity. Got to love us.

I’ll have ghost stories all week. I hope you have fun with them!

 

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s  out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Ebook on Sale for October! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book NEEDis on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 3.56.50 PM

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!