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Happy Halloween

It has become a bit of a tradition to re-post this on Halloween — although I DID spare you all last year (you’re welcome) — so here it is again. Because apparently I’m lazy in October and don’t feel motivated to write blogs posts. Or maybe I’m preoccupied with writing fiction. Or something. Only this year there are fresh new pumpkin carvings from my sister, Annie Gray. Enjoy your Halloween!

This is what my sister, Annie, does to pumpkins this time of year [2008]:

come dance with me
Yes, she carved each and every one of them. Amazingly talented, is my sister.

UPDATE: Ooooh, she just emailed me this year’s [2009] efforts:

3Pumpkins

And here are the ones from this year [2012]:

Being much less adept with a knife, I think of Halloween as the annoyingly predictable day when the neighborhood kids come to ring my doorbell, sending The Wonder Dog into frenzied fits of insanity and the cat into traumatized seclusion, interrupting my solitude with their insincere and unconvincing cries of “trick or treat!” Of course, there are the practical souls who stand there silently, petulant, stubbornly holding out their buckets and pillowcases, recipients of a largesse earned by mere entitlement rather than effort or threat of force, their young faces costumed in ghoulish aspects of expectant greed.

No, this is not my favourite holiday. How could you tell?

But today is also Samhain, the dark twin of Beltane, sometimes known as All Hallow’s Eve — a night when it is said that the veil between the worlds of the living and of the dead is at its thinnest. Some say it is a night of unimaginable power. A night cloaked in mystery and pagan ritual, shrouded by superstition and fear. A night when the spirits of the dead roam freely among us, causing mischief and harm, unappeased by meager offerings and reined in only by the approach of dawn. Tales are told of incautious souls unwary enough to be lured by curiosity to the other side, and of those unfortunate few who do not make it back before night gives way to light.

As an antidote to the crass commercialism of the modern holiday, and just generally to cheer myself up, I tried to find a poem I could post here that would convey the dark eerie spookiness of the old pagan beliefs — that the threshold between the living and the dead is easily crossed on this night — but couldn’t find any that quite fit the right mood. So I wrote my own. I hope it’s as much fun to read as it was to write. May your Hallow E’en be a night of safe travels, one disturbed only by visitations of benign spirits.

come dance with me

they come in the darkest of night
to be
afoot in the absence of light
and see
the souls who have given the right
to me
to waltz upon their graves

they come now to witness the dance
and see
how fortune has done more than glance
at me
and evil has won the last chance
to be
the footprints on the graves

and oh how they quiver with fear
of me
and how their own lives they hold dear
and flee
though fate never has been more clear
to see
’tis written on the graves

the game has already been won
you see
and night will give way to the sun
and be
the lament of words left unsung
to me
the keeper of the graves

they say ’tis sheer madness this night
to be
awash in the absence of light
and see
them link hands this unhallowed night
with me
and dance upon their graves

come
dance
with
me

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Note from me:  Most of you following along over here are avid readers and probably have been since childhood. If you have a minute or two, please read this blog post (reblogged from David Gaughran) about an initiative to help needy schools fill the gaps in their underfunded library shelves. And help out if you are able?
Also, I’ve never “reblogged” anything before now, actually didn’t even know you could do that, so I hope I don’t break something. Or, you know, summon demons.

David Gaughran

Chronic under-funding of school libraries has led to the tragic spectacle of empty shelves, leaving children with nothing to read; but a new initiative called Fill The Shelves hopes to change all that.

This story starts in a Pennsylvania K-8 school called Pittsburgh Manchester, where the librarian – Sheila May-Stein – decided to do something about the empty shelves in her own school (pictured left – that was the entire Fiction section of Manchester’s school library).

Last month, Sheila posted that photo to the Facebook wall of University of Pittsburgh professor Jessie Ramey, who then wrote about the problem on her education blog Yinzercation, along with ways that people could help – including ordering books from an Amazon Wish List.

Then things went a little viral. That Facebook photo spread like wildfire. They got coverage from their local newspaper. CBS Pittsburgh came out and did a story. Neil…

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The trouble with "should"

I have a problem. Well, several actually, but let’s limit this to just one:  my personal To Do list has lost its sense of urgency. And I’m not getting anything done. Not only that, the list is expanding, growing to a size that is unwieldy and daunting.

It’s all because of “should.” As in, “I should write a new blog post.” Okay fine, you can see I finally managed to do that. But that item has been on my list for weeks. I’m a writer. It’s just not that tough to write a blog post. Except lately.

There are seemingly thousands of them, these “I should” tasks which lack immediacy or short-term consequences. No, you don’t want to know what they are. They’re boring and tedious. Except they really are things I SHOULD do. But they all have such an optional kind of feel to them, completely devoid of any sense of priority. An equal opportunity listing of “meh.” A far cry from, “I have to sort these papers right this minute, before they burst into flame!” Or, “If I don’t trim the bushes by Tuesday, the ground will crack open and spew molten lava.” Or, “If these pictures aren’t packed up in the next half hour, the bomb will explode and all the hostages will die!”

Not even the satisfying prospect of crossing things firmly off the list has been sufficient motivation — and usually that works, along with the certainty that no one else is going to do this stuff and I need to just suck it up and DO IT already. Really, I’d feel so much better if I did. But lately– [sigh] it seems I’m languishing in the land of lethargy, immobilized by inertia, sinking slowly into the depths of depression. Ahem. Sorry, just trying to manufacture a modicum of melodrama here.

I’m starting to suspect these tasks are quietly gathering strength and purpose, simmering in a dark stew of neglect, and will reach a critical mass of imperativeness ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

God help me.

I really should do something about this.

 

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Work in Progress

I’m working here. Really. It just looks like I’m spending every free minute sitting on the couch watching movies. But that’s only because, um, that’s what I’m doing.

Seriously, I’m taking an online class this month — learning about screenwriting techniques and how to apply them to novel writing. I’ve heard from other writers that this can be very helpful if you’re having trouble with story structure. Which I am.

So I’m working here. And learning.

And yeah, sitting on the couch watching movies. And then writing detailed, yet concise (ha!), synopses of three-act/eight-sequence story structure, paying particular attention to elements of– never mind. Take my word for it, this couch potato thing is not as easy as it looks.

[Note to any writers out there:  If you ever get a chance to take a class taught by Alex Sokoloff — just do it. The woman is awesome.]

When was the last time you took a class? Set out to learn something different? Challenged your brain with new information?

Been a while? What are you waiting for?

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20 Jan 09

Today brought six inches of snow and an unexpected day off from work:

And a new President:

copyright 2009 AP

It was a very good day.

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