Camp NaNo (April Recap)

I won Camp NaNoWriMo! “Winning” Camp NaNo means I successfully met my writing goal for the month, which on a purely personal level is actually pretty awesome. I went for the standard 50K word count and made it with a week to spare.

It was weirdly validating. I’m only about halfway through the novel itself — and maybe less than that after edits — but it made me silly and giddy and I walked around all day feeling super accomplished. Like yeah, bitches, I’M A REAL WRITER NOW.

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

I’ve been a “real writer” (in the published sense) for a decade now, but this felt different somehow. You’d think getting paid would be validation enough, but what can I say? Writers are a needy, greedy bunch! We need petting on a regular basis.

So yes, I’m already looking forward to Camp NaNo again, in July! I even broke down and bought a damned Camp NaNo Storysquatch T-shirt. Represent, yo.

Things I was able to finish during Camp NaNo: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

I did make a great deal of headway, though. I’ve finished several chapters that I didn’t really want to write (not because I disliked them, but because they were connective chapters and like a kid who wants to skip dinner and gobble up dessert, I was having more fun writing the whizz-bang-rotting-corpses-all-hell’s-breaking-loose-gaaaaaaah! parts instead). I also discovered a few plot holes and have set about filling them in.

(Speaking of — brief aside here — if you’re a fellow writer and you sometimes find yourself getting bogged down by plots, I can’t recommend Alexandra Sokoloff’s Stealing Hollywood highly enough. Best four bucks I ever spent.)

I also came to realize, in the desperate need to stop dicking around and finally solidify my novel’s premise, exactly what sort of novel I was actually writing. This probably seems like a no-brainer, but while I’ve been writing short stories for a long time now, this is my first real go at a full-length novel (not counting one long-ago fan fic and a truly awful fantasy novel I wrote more than ten years ago before I had the first foggy clue what I was doing).

OCTOBER DIM is definitely Gothic horror. I would call it a love letter to every Gothic trope I ever loved in novels, films, and an avalanche of penny-dreadfuls. I stopped trying to fight it and just went with it — gaslights, fogbound cobblestone streets, gloomy cemeteries and all.

It’s also deeply religious. I realized I kept trying to bury the religious themes and go for more subtlety, but nope. It’s a religious novel. I’m owning it.

Now I just have to FINISH it. *flails!*

 

My Real Life Haunted House Story (Part 5)

Part 1          Part 2          Part 3          Part 4

Afterword

The house is still there. It is still owned by my husband’s cousin, and he still rents it out to tenants. Outside our two year stint, not a single tenant has stayed in the house for more than a year. In a weird quirk of fate, we live two doors down from that house now, as my father-in-law passed away a few years ago and my husband inherited the family farmhouse and the farm that goes with it — the same fields that surround that creepy little house.

I’ve only had the opportunity to speak at length with one tenant. During the conversation, I told her we had once lived in the house, and she asked me if I had ever noticed anything strange in the house. (Oh HONEY, let me tell you…) When I asked her why, she shrugged and looked away with a troubled expression, before asking if I had ever noted an odd, pungent smell in the house. I didn’t remember any odd smells, but I did tell her that we hadn’t liked living there and had always felt a little uncomfortable. Why I didn’t tell her more, I don’t know. Fear of her reaction, I guess. Loyalty to her landlord, who was family — the rent was part of his income, after all.

Even so, she didn’t stay long after that.

I haven’t been inside the house since we moved out, although I came close once. Right before the current tenants moved in, while the house was empty, I went for a walk along the edge of the woods and eventually up the old garden path that runs beside the house. I couldn’t resist going closer — like a child approaching the decrepit Victorian at the end of the street, daring themselves to climb the steps and peer through the sidelights, hands cupped around their face against the glare, what horrors might be inside?!

I tried to look in a window but it was too dark to see. I walked around the back of the house and found that one of the exterior doors had been left open, with only the screen door closed. I could look right inside if I chose. It would only require crossing the back porch and approaching the door in question. I stood there for a few seconds, debating, and ultimately decided to hurry home instead. It felt too much like something was inside, something regarding me with that same cold, foul amusement and hoping, ohhh so hoping that I would come closer, just a little closer — all the better to see you, my dear.

Haints? Or Something Worse?

I don’t know. Whatever it was, though, it made a believer out of me, and now when I hear someone say, “I’d love to live in a haunted house! I bet it would be SO COOL!” I always tell them no, trust me, it’s really not. Nothing hurt us while we lived there, but the constant state of “what the HELL is going to happen next?!” was psychologically wearing, and after the disembodied laugh, none of us could shake the feeling that we were sharing our house with a stranger we could not see — and worse, one who seemed to take a perverse pleasure in scaring us.

Since then, I’ve learned more about the nature of so-called hauntings. Between my own research and that of my son (who is now a strapping seventeen years old), we’ve amended our original assertion that OUR HOUSE WAS HAUNTED, YO to allow for the possibility that it might NOT have been the spirits of the deceased — who, in my theologically humble opinion, are likely only going to stick around to resolve unfinished spiritual business. I highly doubt that would involve turning on water faucets, pounding on walls, and generally scaring us half to death. I think it’s much more likely that old house was (and quite possibly still is) suffering from a demonic infestation. I know how that sounds, believe me — Oh LAWD, she’s talkin’ demons! Ghosts, for obvious reasons, sound far less melodramatic, but a good read on the subject by any exorcist worth his blessed salt shows that the “signs and symptoms” in that old house fit the criteria for demonic infestation to a T.

And it would make a grim sort of sense. When we lived in that house, I was very interested in the occult. It was the site of a suicide, which makes it the traditional “unhallowed ground,” and I may have contributed to that. Regardless, my husband and I decided that if the time ever comes that his cousin wants to sell the house, we’re going to buy it — and then raze it to the ground. And then have our priest come out and bless what’s left. Thoroughly.

So, there! That’s my real life haunted house story.

Sleep tight.