Of Gothic Mansions and Victorian Ghosts

I’m getting ready to start a new draft that will have, at its core, a mystery involving…well, we’ll just call them “ghosts” for now. I’ve been looking at Victorian/Southern US Gothic-style mansions for inspiration on what our “haunted house” will look like, and it makes me wonder what it would be like to live in a house like that. Three stories, maybe a semi-hidden sub-basement connected to the root cellar, hidden passageways behind bookcases and beside fireplaces, cold walls and drafty windows. Old electrical that flickers the lights when the wind blows just right, and gauzy curtains that really should be replaced but just haven’t been, for whatever reason.

Furniture too heavy to move from the house, closets stuffed with moth-eaten ballroom wear, beds that look fine, but have long since become mouse condos, and a beautiful old set of the finest steel knives you could ever hope to see, still hidden in a kitchen cupboard that looters somehow “missed”, still shiny and sharp as the day the owners…ah…went missing. Disappeared. Stopped upkeep on the house, in any case.

Isn’t that just the most delicious setting for a suspenseful tale? A mystery to solve, might-be-ghosts to appease/survive, and innocents to keep safe…potentially, anyway.

It’s been teasing my brain for months now, the story fleshing itself out quite literally as scenes on a tattoo sleeve for my right arm. The sleeve is nearly finished – just one more session to go. Just thinking about the story playing in my head gives me chills every time I think of our late heroine, her father and sisters, and the drama that our current heroine is about to uncover.

Are you ready, dear readers, to meet Misty and Jane? I can’t wait for them to finish telling me their respective stories…

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Mosquito Therapy?

Quite awhile ago I read an article about scientists fighting an incurable disease spread by mosquitoes with…mosquitoes. Now I’m not a huge fan of genetically modified food…I think playing with genes in relative isolation (ie, instead of the food genes changing/evolving naturally so all the DNA is kept in balance) isn’t generally all that great of an idea. But this is kind of genius, when you think about it on the surface. Using bugs against themselves to knock out a disease that could eventually knock us all out? Seems like a great idea, doesn’t it?

Naturally though, it starts one to thinking. If we can modify a mosquito to contain or kill off a specific disease in it’s own kind, what’s stopping scientists from modifying them to “modify” the humans it likes to feed on? I mean, mosquitoes are everywhere (except Iceland, if I remember correctly). And I think I might have read that they’re the number one spreaders of disease in the world (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). So is it too much of a leap to think that scientists have already thought to themselves, “What if we just put disease vaccinations into mosquito DNA? Can we make it so if they bite someone (when, really), that certain immunities can be passed on through repeated bites throughout a person’s lifetime?

Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, if it would truly work. Putting those blood-suckers to work for us, instead of killing them off as fast as possible every summer. But…there’s always a “but”.

If scientists could figure out how to do that, they could figure out how to modify the diseases these bugs already carry into something weapons-grade. And then can you imagine the underground arms deals for “swarms of mosquitoes” in a box, to use against your enemy? Or government militaries around the world spending an insane amount of money on bug repellent gear and spray, and still losing far too many soldiers to whatever the designer disease-du-jour happens to be?

Black market mosquito swarms, people. I feel another Insecticide story coming on…

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The Moths Are Back…

Have you seen them? I’ve been noticing for a few weeks now…moths are hatching all over the place, from the tiny little grain moths to your average paper moths, to the small and very oddly shaped moth (at left) that hung out in my kitchen for a day last week. I caught him and released him in the backyard, but only after I made him sit still for pictures. I wish I’d been able to get a picture of his wings spread open, because he had the most beautiful “eye” pattern on each, but he wasn’t cooperating and my cell camera isn’t *that* good, unfortunately. Still, kind of a cool little thing.

This past weekend I was watering a flowerbed and a larger moth fluttered up out of the weeds (yes, I’m *that* neighbor…sorry). It only flew a few inches, but long enough to give me a good look at the bright orange patterns hiding underneath the dark brown and black outside of its wings.

I’m not a huge fan of grain moths. You could almost say I hate the little things, because they force me to keep my cereal in the fridge. I suppose they have a use of some sort, though I’m not quite sure what it is, other than to drive me insane, and occasionally end up backstroking in a drink.

I’m not all that fond of paper moths either. For some reason, they creep me out. A single one is fine, but a bunch of ’em? No thank you. A few summers ago I was leaving for work, and got “rained” on as I was leaving by a bunch of them who had been sleeping in the top track of my screen door. It was like a gray, fluttery curtain, and I had that itchy “bugs crawling on me” feeling for the whole rest of the day.

Another time, I found a dead one in my water bottle (stainless steel/opaque) after I’d almost finished drinking all the water. I’m guessing it had gone in there the night before, and then drowned when I filled the bottle up the next morning. Talk about serious motivation to brush your teeth (after you get done gagging and hoping you didn’t just contract some sort of exotic “spread only by moths” disease). Needless to say, I now always (*always*) rinse my water bottle out before filling it in the morning.

As you might have guessed, the story I’m editing right now, The Dry Rain, was inspired by those experiences. Paper moths and larvae everywhere, taking over the world, ruining crops, starving us out.

I do kind of wish we had those huge, hand-size moths here in Montana. Maybe we do, but I’ve never seen one bigger than a few inches wide. Some moths are really cool looking, and some are just plain gorgeous.

Paper moths are…neither. *shiver*

 

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Ancient & Not So Ancient Dentistry

Last week I had to get a dental bridge put in for my teeth. It’s been a long time coming, courtesy of a dentist nearly 20 years ago who decided it would be easier/cheaper for me to get a tooth pulled than for him to put a root canal in it. Needless to say, he’s not been my dentist in a long time.

I have horrible teeth, and up until my current dentist, I’ve had bad experiences with “tooth doctors”. Some were creepy, some seemed okay at the time, but constantly gave me bad work, and others were just too focused on cosmetics and not worried nearly enough with overall mouth and tooth health. My current doc is great – concerned more with saving teeth than pulling them but also attentive to filling/crown colors and such. He’s also very concerned with making sure his patients aren’t in pain, and that overall mouth health is attended to, not just tooth health. Needless to say, if I were looking farther than the standard drills and needles for horror inspiration, this doc would be a huge letdown.

Alas, the first dentist I had as an older child/teen was the creepy sort that nightmares are made of. The times I saw him without a face mask on were so few that I can’t even picture his face in my head, just icy blue eyes staring at me over an equally blue mask. He had long, bony fingers that reminded me of spider legs, and didn’t even try to hide the needle when it was time for the ubiquitous Novocaine shot (luckily, needles have never bothered me – and I think dental needles are actually quite interesting from an aesthetic perspective).

He “sealed” my teeth several times (which as far as I can tell, did nothing to protect them – most of mine are dead/root canalled/crowned), and he hated to stop for a second shot if things weren’t quite numb where he was working. I learned early on to just fight through the pain, and did that with every dentist after until my current one, who is insanely perceptive to the tiniest flinch and perfectly willing to pause a root canal so he can inject more drugs directly into the tooth.

As you might imagine, I’ve experienced a lot of dental pain as well. It’s my least favorite kind, and the only kind of pain to ever make me cry – something not even a broken arm could manage.

I think the most squeamish I’ve ever been about a torture scene on TV happened on an episode of NCIS-LA, where one of the detectives was tortured with dental drilling/pulling. I believe Alias had a dental torture scene as well.

So when I read these two articles about ice age and stone age dentistry, I may have flinched just a bit. Flint drills? Tar & bitumen or beeswax fillings? I mean, yeah – something has to be done about cavities, but I’m assuming this was all pre-anesthetic of any real sort. Did they just knock ’em out altogether, wait until they passed out, or just hold them down? Can you imagine how long and how much pressure it would take to drill out a cavity without power tools?

Ice Age Tooth Filling | Stone Age Tooth Filling

This is the stuff of nightmares, folks. Maybe we’ll all be a little more thankful next time we see our dentist, eh?

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Back to Work & Pack Snakes

Life is cyclical, and so too, are things like blogging. I’ve never actually stopped blogging on my main site, but my alter-egos have gotten the shaft for the past couple of years, and that’s just how it is, unfortunately. I went through a long period of not writing when some pretty serious life changes were beating me up mentally, and while it wasn’t fun, I like to think I’m a better, stronger person for it. Mostly because that would mean those two years weren’t just wasted time…

In any case, I’m hoping to get back to regular blogging here and getting some stories done and published, but the blogging may be a little spotty while I get the schedules worked out.

For today, something that caught my eye this week in the world of creepy-crawlies:

An article came out this week that a researcher in Cuba observed three pythons hunting bats together. Mashable sums it up here. Snakes are generally pretty solitary critters, so this is quite notable, and considering snakes are generally considered completely instinctual, the fact that they learned that they would have more success hunting together than alone is a pretty big departure from what my normal perception of “snake life” is like.

If snakes can learn to hunt in packs, what else to they have the capacity to learn? Are they smarter than we previously thought? Or is it still just instinct that leads them to work together?

Somewhat more worrisome…if they can learn to hunt in a pack for bats, what’s to stop them from hunting larger things in packs? Like…say…humans?

In other news, I’ve noticed the cupboard moths are back. And I am currently working on revisions to The Dry Rain, the last serial story I posted here, featuring a paper moth infestation so bad that the world is going apocalyptic. It should be done and ready to publish sometime this summer, so stay tuned!

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Excerpt: Canvas

Melanie is one of my most favorite characters. I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately, and decided it was time to share again. Something tells me we’ll be hearing more of her story eventually…


Excerpt:

Hey there, handsome,” she greeted him as he drew closer. Better to open the conversation herself than have him ruin it with some cheesy over-used line. “Buy a girl a drink?”

Absolutely, beautiful. Whatcha drinking?” He smiled, revealing a set of teeth so perfect they could only have been achieved through thousands of dollars of dental work.

Damn it. She couldn’t take someone who clearly had a well-documented dental history, no matter how well he filled out that black tee. Shame, really. All that lovely skin.

Um, whatever you’re having,” Melanie said, already scanning the room for another suitable candidate. The leather jackets and boots by the pool table were out – too many tattoos, as a general rule. Skinny guys wouldn’t work either – not enough space and often less supple tissues due to the lower body fat.

Then she spotted a loner staring at a laptop in a corner booth. Slightly overweight but still in good shape, he looked a little uncomfortable and unapproachable.

Perfect.

She rose from the barstool with a sheepish smile. “I’m sorry, but I see an old friend over there. I really should go say hi.”

The look he gave her as she moved away was confusion mixed with anger, but he’d get over it. Putting him out of her mind, she walked quickly across the room and slid into the booth across from her new target. Leaning forward, she kept her voice low.

I’m sorry for disturbing you, but I just can’t seem to shake that guy at the bar. It would really help me a lot if I could just sit here for awhile and pretend to be talking to you. Do you mind?”

The man shrugged, not bothering to look up. “Suit yourself,” he said, his tone unfriendly. Probably not the best target, considering she doubted he’d agree to come home with her, but someone with his attitude was unlikely to be missed, at least not for long.

Thinking fast, she decided an appeal to his protective side might work. If he had one, anyway.

Actually, I should probably just get out of your hair. It’s obvious that you’re busy, and I apologize for bothering you. I just need to find someone who will walk me to my car. Just in case, you know.”

He looked up then, eyebrows raised. “You’re scared to walk out alone?”

The way he looked at her gave her the chills. His eyes were cold, hard. Unfeeling. He looked like he wanted to eat her, and not in the pleasurable way.

Well, no matter. Protective or predatory, whatever got him out to her car of his own accord. She could handle him from there.

Melanie rolled her eyes. “Oh. No. Well…of course not. You’re right. He wouldn’t be that stupid, would he?” She gave a nervous little laugh and slid out of the booth. “Have a good evening, and thanks for helping me out.”

Sure,” he said as she walked away. She could feel his stare between her shoulder blades, and she intentionally walked slow enough that he could easily follow.


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Scrub-a-Dub Spider

ShowerSpider

Monday morning, I took a shower with a spider.

He was cold, I was cold, there was plenty of room for both of us. He mostly stayed on the far wall though – didn’t have a shower cap handy, and didn’t want to go all “frizzy” with wet legs.

We did have a brief skirmish over the conditioner bottle, but I convinced him that he really didn’t need it, since he was staying out of the water and all.

I asked him where he was from, he said south. He’d heard the hunting was better up north, but when he finally arrived, he was kind of disappointed. I told him he hadn’t gone quite far enough, but that I’d give him a ride to Garden City on my way to work.

He was reluctant to accept the ride, as most spiders are (independent little things), but I convinced him everything would be okay, and I wasn’t one of those serial killers who pick up hitchhikers just to murder them for sport.

I gave him a comfy jar to wait in while I got dressed and ready to go, and he made himself at home spinning a lovely silk web while he waited. I dropped him off in a lovely patch of green with lots of gnats buzzing around, and he waved a leg as he scurried off.

Happy hunting, little fella…


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The Tiniest Bugs…

Happy St. Paddy’s Day! Hope you’re not wearing green. Wouldn’t want you to miss out on all that pinching…

Wow…has it really been over a month since I posted last? Aye karumba. Things have been a little crazy around here, what with drafts I’m trying to finish and books hither and yon. Not to mention story ideas. There are seriously not enough years left in my life to write all the books I want to write (and I hopefully still have at least 40 yrs left)…

Most recently though, I’ve been doing battle. Or rather, my immune system has. The littlest bugs in the world have attacked, and you know, it’s completely crazy that such microscopic little organisms can bring us to our knees (sometimes literally, though not me this time, thank goodness). Last week I was so ill I could barely even think, let alone make any kind of coherent sense, and while I feel better this week, I’m definitely not one-hundred percent yet.

Crazy, creepy little bugs. It’s really no wonder some people fear germs so much they’re constantly slathering on hand sanitizer (not good for you, people!) and wishing they could sterilize the world. but the truth is, germs and bugs are good in the long run. Our immune systems need to be tested occasionally to stay in good shape, and we’re far healthier for all the dirty little microbes out there than we would be in a sterile environment.

Still, no one likes being sick, and obviously, some people just can’t handle it (or rather, their immune system can’t). Luckily for me, mine can with a little support for the troops in the form of healthy foods and herbs. I’ll be very happy when I finally kick this stuff to the curb and can get back to my normal self. Relatively speaking, of course.

The whole experience does kind of make me want to write a book about a virus though. How weird would it be if a virus became…well, I’d better not say. Wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise…but it’s a great idea, if I do say so myself!


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Excerpt Day: The Dry Rain

This week’s excerpt is from the first story in the new Insecticide series. It’s supposed to be a short story, but…we’ll see…


 

Excerpt: The Dry Rain

(Insecticide, Book 1)

William shuffled his feet through the barren field, papery gray bodies floating up with each step to explode in tiny puffs of corpse dust. It had been a week since the last dry rain, and no one knew when the next one would come. More importantly, there hadn’t been any real rain in over a month, and if the crops hadn’t been decimated by the moths already, they would have been dead now for sure. Streams and ponds were dried up, rivers were low, and there had been talk that even the oceans didn’t come up as high on the beach as they once did.

William had never seen the ocean. Hell, he’d never been anywhere else, but right now? He wished he were anywhere else. Or at least somewhere the moths hadn’t gotten to yet.

If there was such a place.

The first time they’d come, he’d been asleep – they all had. Thousands upon thousands of moths had covered every inch of any exposed surface, their paper-thin wings beating fast as they found and sucked the water out of every living piece of vegetation there was. This was farmland, so there had been a lot. Two days later, the moths had all been dead, leaving behind a wriggling mass of larvae in their place.

He wasn’t sure how the larvae survived, but there must have been enough nutrients somehow, because not long after that, thousands of moths had taken to the sky again, only to rain down in big clumps of papery gray waste two days later. Where they’d gone, or where they’d come from, or if these were even the same moths was anyone’s guess, but it was less of a concern than the fact that food was running out, and animals and humans alike were starting to die.

A thin figure stood waiting for him near the gate – one they hadn’t bothered to close since the crops had been devoured. May was getting weaker, and now that the cow had stopped producing milk, he supposed the only thing left to do was butcher it for the meat. They didn’t have any water for her anyways, and every day it was harder to get water out of the well. They’d have to leave soon, and find water, at least. Maybe one of the bigger cities would have supplies until…whatever this was, ended.

“Find anything?” May called out when he drew near. William shook his head.

“Nothing. Just moth-bodies, as far as I could go. The creek is almost dry too.” He took her hand and walked with her back to the house, not sure what else to say. She didn’t want to leave, but it wasn’t a question of want now. It was a question of survival.

“It’s gonna be soon,” he said, hanging his old hat up on a hook as he closed the door behind him. “Can’t survive without water.”

“What about damming the creek?” she said, handing him a cup of coffee and then cradling another in her hands as she leaned against the kitchen counter. “We could get the neighbors together, make sure everyone has what they need.”

He shook his head. “Water’s falling too fast. By the time we could get everyone together and get back out there with supplies, it’ll be dry.”

She took a long, slow sip, her face a study in contemplation. She’d always been a thinker, his May. He often wondered why she’d settled for him instead of finding herself o’ them smart city-boys that were always asking her out in college. Bet she was regretting that now, he thought as she met his stare with a tired, hopeless look.

“So that’s it then,” she said, putting her cup on the counter and letting out a long sigh.

“What about Bessie?”

He shrugged. “We’ll take her with us. Might need something to trade for water, depending on how far this thing goes. She’s weak anyways. Probably won’t last much longer.”

May nodded, slowly. “Okay then. Tomorrow?” Tears welled in her eyes, and William went to her, pulling her into his arms. He’d loved her since they were sixteen, and he’d take care of her, no matter what.

“Tomorrow.”


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Bugs Plus Robots Equal World Domination

First off, in reply to last week’s comment from Ardee-ann…I totally agree. If any insects are going to take over the world, it will definitely be cockroaches. *shudder* Hardy little critters, they are….zombienanopackage

In continuing with the theme, I was looking at Hexbugs this week (okay, I was looking at the zombie hexbug in a coffin shown above, which I may yet order), and thinking to myself, “Dude. If cockroaches don’t take over the world, it’s gonna be these things.”

If you haven’t seen them before, Hexbugs are little bug-like robots that scurry around and…well…that’s all they do, really. Unless it’s an aquabug, in which case it swims around. They’re robots. And bugs. And the only reason I don’t have any yet is because if I get one, I’m going to want more, and just when I get ready to take over the world with my hex bug army, they’ll turn on me, eat their way under my skin, take over my brain and use my body to infiltrate the human race one little piece at a time.

Or…my husband might kill me for starting yet another toy collection. Though I do have a mostly empty table at work that could do with a little faux “bug life”…

**Note: I did in fact order a Zombie Hexbug. And I ordered a couple of extras too…whatever will I do with those? Stay tuned…**


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