13 Spooky Writing Prompts to ignite your imagination. Bats and cats, owls and howls, trick-or-treat, hosts and ghosts. Kids, have fun this Halloween by creating spooky stories to scare your family and friends.
(3) Amazon eBook copies of any of the Aspiring Author Series (Winner’s choice)
Leave a comment below and/or along any stop along the tour for your chance to win!
In European folklore and folk-belief of the Medieval and Early Modern periods, familiar spirits (sometimes referred to simply as “familiars” or “animal guides”) were believed to be supernatural entities that would assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic. According to the records of the time, they would appear in numerous guises, often as an animal.
The main purpose of familiars is to serve the witch or young…
Martha wrote a little piece this morning titled “Can You Enforce it? (and Rambling Nonsense) by Martha Ann Kennedy. It’s good reading. Pretty much everything Martha writes is good reading, even when I don’t agree but especially when she waxes lyrical and I feel I’m in Grammarian Heaven.
In this case, much of the post is about getting a copyright on your book. Government and other versions of copyright are almost free or very cheap, so we pretty much all get one. Because just in case someone wants to make our little book into a major motion picture (BILLIONS at the box office, or maybe TRILLIONS) — or even a very minor one ($1500, opened at two movies nationwide and went to cable where it is rarely seen), it would be nice to get a bit of whatever money might accrue.
Most books don’t make much money. Some make a lot, but the number of authors whose books make oodles of money can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Even well-published authors who can count an occasional bestseller in their collection usually need another job. I don’t know if it’s the terrible contracts we sign. Authors are not contract lawyers. I often think our contract lawyers are also not contract lawyers. Their degrees were bought and paid for on the Internet. The cheap kind on which they misspell the name of the university.
I commented how I copyrighted my book as if someone was likely to steal it. Meanwhile, publishers, producers, TV moguls, and the staff of Saturday Night Live steal ideas from people who interview for the show (I know a few of them) or steal the writing of living and sometimes rather well-known authors. They don’t pay anything for the work, so while they are raking in the big bucks, authors can barely pay rent.
Anne Golon spent a lifetime fighting to get some of the money from the widely published set of books titled “Angelique.” She kept writing them, too and was still writing when she died last year. She also finally won her lawsuit over her publisher (French courts). By then, she was well into her 90s and had been fighting for her ownership rights for more than half a century.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s books were stolen by everyone and printed by everyone everywhere for decades. I remember when I read them in the 1960s — while I was having my back fused, so I had plenty of time — there was a whole chapter at the beginning of the book saying that unless you could read this section, you were reading a hijacked copy of the book. Of course, if you were reading a hijacked copy, there was no page to read, so you’d never know it anyway.
His son, Simon Tolkien (J.R.R. was long gone by then) recovered the copyrights, got some kind of payment from whatever publishers still existed.
All four of Shirley Jackson’s children spent much of their lives fighting for her rights. They won — maybe twenty years ago? — and now you actually have to pay to buy her books, which I do gladly because she was brilliant and is credited by many authors (including Stephen King) as one of the authors whose work lighted their way.
ALL of these books were copyrighted, for whatever good it did. The theory of big corporations is (1) they have a lot of money while (2) you, the author, don’t. (3) Even though you legitimately own the rights to the book (which may have been previously published under your name and they are stealing the book AND your name), whatcha gonna do about it, eh?
Funny how rigid the copyrights of corporations are and how flimsy are those of authors, composers, et al, isn’t it? There’s a book about how this applies in the music industry, called YEAR ZERO, a novel by Rob Reidwhich I have read a few times and written about. It never stops making me laugh and cry. It’s science fiction, but with footnotes. It’s available in print, Kindle, and as an audiobook. I recommend all of them.
As the final thought in her post today, Martha points out that most of us can’t run and would make a tasty snack for any large predator. Here, in charming Uxbridge, we have acquired black bears. We are supposed to call the cops if one shows up in our driveway, probably heading for our trash can, which bears refer to as “brunch.” I assume that our two police officers (it might be one and a half, I’m not sure) will try to shoot the bears being as even counting the trash, there’s not enough for a bunch of hungry bears to eat. But maybe they can fish in the Blackstone? There are trout, I’m told.
I personally think I’m the kind of person who would make a light snack for a bear lacking hunting energy. I don’t think I’d be particularly tasty. Too old and stringy.
Seriously, I don’t understand how it happened. I don’t have a job. I am definitely, absolutely 100% retired. Yet — I’m always busy!
It’s probably all the reading. In recent months, there have been publications of great books by some of my favorite authors, many of whom hadn’t released a new one in quite a while.
You know I absolutely had to read them. Immediately!
There were two new books and a short story by Jodi Taylor, “The Something Girl,” and “The Rest is History.” book 8 of her St. Mary’s time travel series. Both were great. I’m crazy about the time travel books. Sometimes I need a “time travel fix” and listen to them again.
Then, “Mary Russell’s War: And Other Stories of Suspense” was released — a whole bunch of short stories about Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes. “The Furthest Station: A PC Peter Grant Novella” by Ben Aaronovitch was released and while it wasn’t as long as the other books, it was a day of reading.
Somewhere in there I also read the last three Michael Connelly books, two about Harry Bosch and another new one for another L.A. cop. The new Bosch stories are narrated by Titus Welliver, who plays Harry Bosch on the Amazon series, so it’s not just any old book. You can watch the series — or the movie — in your head and the right guy is the star.
I stumbled across “Strange Practice” by Vivian Shaw which is the kind of book you sincerely hope is the start of a new series. It was way too good to be a onefer! It’s about Dr. Greta Helsing who specializes in a medical practice for treating the undead. Great book and I hope it is followed by many more!
And then, Craig Johnson came out with a new Walt Longmire book — best one in quite a while — and there was Dan Brown’s “Origins” and Peter Clines’ “The Fold” and Neal Shusterman’s “Scythe” … and finally, to finish me off, the long-awaited “Robicheaux” by James Lee Burke. It has been a few years since his last Dave Robicheaux story and this was a honey. Simultaneously, up came this new book about Trump, “Fire and Fury” and …
You know? I just realized why I’m so busy.
As you may have realized, I’m a listener rather than a text reader. I started listening to audiobooks when I was commuting long distances. I got so into the habit of listening … and very much out of the habit of focusing on text … that I pretty much always listen and very rarely read. I do read a few things because they aren’t available as audiobooks and I want to read them … or I’m committed to reading them. To be fair, though, I love listening. It’s like watching a long movie in your head. It’s better than movies, really.
It’s definitely the books. And that isn’t all of my list, either. There are at least a dozen more still waiting for me to get to them.
I’m in the middle of “Fire and Fury” right now. Curiosity won on this book … but really, I just can’t resist a good book!
These are not necessarily my favorite posts, though a few are. These are posts that got a lot of hits — and are not reblogs. I also — with one exception — didn’t include photo-only posts. It was too much like comparing pineapples to raspberries.
NATIONAL ASSHOLE AWARENESS DAY– A multi-year winner because everyone knows a few assholes. I didn’t write this. I created a better insignia and cleaned it up, but I have no idea who really wrote it. It’s one of those things that goes around.
DON’T DRINK THE KOOL-AID – THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE – MARILYN ARMSTRONG – Written in 2012, rewritten each year since, usually on the anniversary of the event (November 18). it’s still worth a read. This is one of the few posts I’ve written which maybe deserves the attention. If I added the numbers for all its versions of publication, this one is probably the most popular post of all time for Serendipity.
INHERIT THE WIND AND THE SCOPES TRIAL – MARILYN ARMSTRONG – I wrote this in 2012. No one paid any attention to it. THIS year, because our political landscape has so altered, it got suddenly popular. It’s not about my writing. It is about Spencer Tracey’s amazing performance with a script largely based on the actual Scopes Trial. If you have never seen the movie — the original with Spencer Tracey — see it. It occurred more than 100 years ago and it might as well be right now.
BASEBALL: INTERVIEW WITH LYNN NOVICK – SEPTEMBER 1998 – I wrote it in 1998 and it was published in a very short-lived magazine on Martha’s Vineyard. I was digging through my old stories from before blogging and thought, “Hey, that was pretty good. Why don’t I publish it?” So I did.
I picked 25 posts. Some of the posts were a redo of others, so I picked one of several. Posts are not listed by their statistics. All were all popular. A few posts that don’t show here were re-blogs that did extremely well, but since none of us wrote them, they aren’t included. Also, photo posts — with one exception — are not listed. They are a different class and deserve their own place.
A lot of posts had very similar numbers, just three or four views separating them. To me, that meant they were all popular. I could easily have included another 25, but I got tired of cutting and pasting and it’s New Year’s Eve.
A big hand for Serendipity’s whole crew! We broke all our records this year. It’s the best year to date as we enter year number six. We are up by almost 60,000 views from 2016 and more than 150 views per day. The credit belongs us all — and you. Everyone who comes to read and comment, the folks who give me great ideas about what to write. Ideas that make me think and grow.
You are my friends. I listen to you, share your words, read your work. Truly, all of you have made my life so much better!
We have a small pond in our woods. It’s way far back and though I can see it from two windows in the house, I have never been there. There’s no path. Getting there would mean climbing boulders and crossing rough terrain. At least half the year, I can’t even see it. In the summer, the trees hide it. In winter, it’s buried under snow. As summer ends, it becomes so dry, there’s little to see. Right now, though, for this brief period after a lot of rain and before leaves come out, I can see it clearly, bright behind the trees.
It rained like crazy yesterday, so this morning, my little pond was shining in the sun. I could easily see it, so I tried to get some pictures. They aren’t good pictures. Even with a my longest lens, there are so many trees and branches and weeds in the way, the lens had a hard time focusing. But I know it’s there. Sometimes, it sort of disappears, but it pops up again.
During the five years of doing this daily, I’ve seen my numbers rise and fall. Sometimes dramatically. I have learned to not let statistics drive my writing. I am tenacious. Stubborn. Determined. If I think a post is good — mine or anyone else’s — I’ll keep putting it out there until it gets its due. Like that little pond. I may have to wait for rain, but it always rains. Eventually.
This has been a very rainy year.
I’ve been watching Serendipity’s numbers climb. Despite hearing repeatedly how “blogging is dying,” I’ve seen our statistics rise by at least 50% since last summer. I’m sure having so much help in writing makes a big difference as do the various points of view. We have more voices. More interesting ideas to think about. More dogs, too.
I always wonder what makes some sites “popular,” while others go off with a bang and then fade away. Sometimes, it’s because the blogger loses interest, gets busy with work or whatever else. Other times, there’s a sense of mental exhaustion. Good ideas popping when the blog began fade and there’s nothing new. It isn’t easy to write day after day.
I spent my life writing professionally, so I’m accustomed to writing. It isn’t exactly automatic, but I don’t suffer from writer’s block. Almost any idea can be a post. Before blogging, my best writing was done writing letters. When blogging arrived, I instantly realized I’d found my thing: blogging is letter writing with an audience.
On Serendipity, we don’t write the same way. We each have a personal style. I don’t always agree with everything, but that’s the point of not being the only writer. If I wanted it all to sound like me, I’d write it myself.
I like writing. I’ve always liked it, since the first time I picked up a pencil. Now that I blog, people read what I write. Before that, I wrote, but I no one read it. I’ve heard people say it doesn’t matter if anyone reads what they write, but I don’t buy it. Writing is meant to be read. That’s the point. If no one reads it, why bother?
Being a good writer and a pretty good photographer improves the blogging process. Varied content matters too. There’s so much available online. It is a busy, electronic world. You need to be entertaining. Five writers are a huge plus. No two people write the same Even when we write about the same thing, we each have our own way of doing it.
The pictures are pretty and our dogs are cute. Posts are funny — or at the least, humorous. On the whole, we don’t rant. Much. Okay, there’s an occasional rant, but it isn’t a daily event. Also, though we all have issues, we try not to dump it all on the blog. Everyone’s got their own bag of rocks to work through; you probably don’t need ours.
From the start of Serendipity, I got plenty of advice from WordPress. They assured me I needed a theme. I needed to have a direction because no one would want to read just anything. Personally, I’m a big reader of just anything. There are a few things I avoid. If it’s gory, I usually move on. Mostly I’m willing to try anything you throw at me. I figured I can’t be the only one who feels like that.
So I rejected their advice, though I did wonder if I was making a mistake. Ultimately, I figured if the posts are well written well and the pictures are pretty, a few people are bound to drop by for a look.
I was surprised — and still am — at all of you who have dropped by. Even more rewarded by how many of you have become friends. You are the biggest and happiest surprise of all. We may not be able to hop on an airplane to hang out for coffee, but we are friends.
From Ellin: CONGRATULATIONS MARILYN!
You started your blog five years ago, by yourself, from nothing. You now have accumulated a half million views! You have a crew of talented and devoted contributors to help you with content. You have faithful and enthusiastic regular readers. And you’re winning over new people every day. Your hard work has paid off and you deserve all the success you’ve achieved!
Thank you for including Tom and me in the Serendipity family. Here’s to the next 500,000 views!
For anyone who hasn’t noticed, there are “author pages” for everyone as well as a contact page under the graphic. So if you want to leave messages, please feel free!
Thanks to all my authors — and all our friends.
I know I’m small potatoes compared to many other sites. I know bloggers who have millions of hits and tens of thousands of followers. For me, this is fine. Moreover, it’s fun. I get to write whatever I want, when I want … or not. No one tells me what to say or in how many words in which to say it. If you have spent a lifetime writing as a business, you have no idea how special this is.
Thank you for finding Serendipity interesting enough to visit when there is so much else going on in the world. What are my chances of making it to a million? You think?
Regarding your fridge, is it organized or a mess inside?
It is an organized mess.
Do you prefer your food separated or mixed together?
Separated. I like to taste each thing as itself. Otherwise, I’d just throw it all in one big pan and cook it together.
Do you prefer reading coffee table books (picture), biographies, fiction, non-fiction, educational?
I mostly listen to audiobooks these days, but regardless of form, speculative science fiction and fantasy is my top genre with detectives and mysteries running a tight second and history running a very close third. I tend to read in waves. When I find a new author, I read everything he or she wrote, sequentially if possible and sometimes, twice. Favorite authors (in no particular author) include Gretchen Archer, Kim Harrison, Ben Aaronovitch, Mike Carey, Jim Butcher, Barbara Tuchman, Jodi Taylor, Connie Willis, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, James Lee Burke, Jasper FForde, and Anne Golan. I’m forgetting dozens more because I haven’t had nearly enough coffee.
I have a particular love for anything funny, witty, involving time travel, and the undead (except zombies … I’m really not into zombies). I do not like dystopian future stuff because it depresses me. Reality is entirely dystopian enough. I do not need to feed the beast.
I also love a good thriller and historical fiction, as long as it isn’t too sappy. My love of history started long years ago with Thomas Costain’s books and of course, the brilliant and oft-overlooked Angelique series. Fiction got me hunting real history and taught me that no matter what people make up, the stuff that really happened is more bizarre. You can’t make that stuff up.
Close your eyes. Listen to your body. What part of your body is seeking attention? What is it telling you?
My right shoulder, the one with the bad rotator cuff, is trying to kill me. I wanted to get it repaired years ago, but was told (and I think I should have gotten another opinion on this) that it was beyond repair. Usually, if I’m careful, it doesn’t bother me. The problem is that I am short and that shoulder really hates when I raise my arms to get something from a cabinet … all of which are above me because I am really SHORT. The stretch and lift thing is lethal. I have reached a few times too many recently. Now, as I sit here with the heating pad on my back, I realize I am going to have to give it a rest. If I don’t, it will keep getting worse until I can’t do anything at all.
This is another reminder of the days when I rode horses and fell off a few. I yanked that right shoulder out of joint a couple of times. Eventually, it began popping out of the socket whenever I used the arm fully extended. I had to tuck the arm in and keep the elbow bent and below shoulder level. I didn’t count on shrinking as I got older and having every cabinet above my head.
My shoulder is telling me to stop, just stop. Give it a rest. This is extremely inconvenient because it’s my right shoulder, which is attached to my right arm, which is further attached to my right hand. Guess what? I’m a rightie.
Optional Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
Grateful to the Pats for winning the Superbowl.
Shamelessness, thy name is sports fan. For nearly a hundred years, no team in New England won anything. Except the Celtics (basketball, for the sports-challenged) who had an incredible run from the late 1950s through the 1960s during which period they were the best (and dominant) team in the sport.
Otherwise, it was a long, barren time for New England fans. A pathetic and seemingly endless run of embarrassments, near misses, and coulda, shoulda, woulda. Then the world turned the corner into the 21st century. The Sox got new owners. In 2004, they won their first World Series since 1918. They won again 2007, and 2013.
Meanwhile, the Pats got Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
Brady wasn’t supposed to be the “real” quarterback. He was filling in for Drew Bledsoe, who was injured. Talk about Serendipity.
The rest, as they say, is history. This year’s Superbowl was, even as spectacular sporting events go, spectacular. If you aren’t a sports fan or are a hardcore “I hate the Patriots” sore-loser, too bad. Because that come-from-behind victory in the first-ever overtime in Superbowl history was amazing. The Pats were toast. They couldn’t win. Down by 25. Then, magically, the game was tied with just 57 seconds left on the clock.
Overtime! They won. With a politically challenged, 39-year-old quarterback, they won. Roger Goodell got a well-deserved and totally earnedbooing. The Patriots made all kinds of history. Falcon’s fans sat in their living rooms stunned, wondering what hit them. Perk up Falcons and fans. You’re a great young team. Time is on your side.
It was a very good night for New England and a bright spot in what has got to be the most depressing year I can remember.
As for next week? I can just hope it isn’t too awful.
There was a piece on NBC’s Sunday Morning show about a guy who always wanted to be an NHL goalie. He never made it. Instead, he wound up as the equipment manager for a Carolina team. He wasn’t a player, but he got to hang out with them, be part of the team. Then, one day, the goalie was injured. They needed a backup goalie.
Not even enough time to call one up from a minor league team … he got the call. Mostly, he sat on the bench, though he got to sit there in a full goalie’s uniform with his name on it. And for the final 7 seconds of the game, he was a player. He didn’t make the goal that saved the game and no one offered him a contract … but he could finally say he’d played in the NHL. As a goalie. His dream came true.
Most of us have dreams and occasionally, they come true. Or very close to true.
I got to hang out with Alfred Eisenstaedt on Martha’s Vineyard and talk to him about his photographs I had bought several books of his pictures (we eventually owned several of his actual pictures) and he went through the books, looked at each picture and could tell me what film he used, which lens, camera … and most important, what it was that inspired him to shoot that picture in that way.
About his arguably most famous “street shot” of the sailor kissing the lady in white on V-J Day in Times Square in New York:
V-J Day in Times Square (also known as V-Day and The Kiss) portrays a U.S. Navy sailor grabbing and kissing a stranger—a woman in a white dress—on Victory over Japan Day (“V-J Day”) in New York City’s Times Square on August 14, 1945. I asked him how he got the shot.
He said “I was walking around Times Square with my Nikon. Everyone was celebrating, and I was looking for something special, I wasn’t sure exactly what. Then, I saw the sailor in his dark outfit kissing the woman in white. I swung my Nikon into place and just shot. I had the right lens, the right film. It came out well, I think.” Yes, it came out well. Very well.
I will never get that picture or any picture like it because I can’t “just shoot.” It’s not for want of trying. I see a shot, but I stop to think. One second of thinking is more than enough time to lose the shot. In a second, the hawk takes to the air and the kiss is ended. That special look on his or her face vanishes.
In short, I think too much to be a good street photographer. Fortunately, I think just enough to be a pretty good landscape photographer. Even a sunset moves slowly enough for me to get a few pictures before it goes to black. Which is why I always carry a camera.
Blogging has given me other pieces of my dreams. I didn’t become a best-selling, world-famous author, but I have gotten to chat with authors whose work is best-selling and widely read. And who I admire. Every once in a great while, I get a “like” or a “tweet” from a favorite author. I’m as thrilled now as I was the first time I made contact with one of my favorite authors.
I suppose I hope by being in contact with greatness, a bit of the star-dust will rub off. On me
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