THE GIRL IN BLACK by Kathy Lauren Miller – A REVIEW

“The Girl in Black” by Kathy Lauren Miller is a hauntingly taut murder mystery as well as an awesome page-turner! The mystery begins with high school senior, Kate Mckenna who happens to live in an old Victorian manor that is also the Mckenna Memorial Funeral Home. Her father, Dr. Brendan Mckenna, happens to be the county’s Chief Medical Examiner. Shy Kate, whose social life as always been nearly non-existent until she is thrust into the limelight when the promiscuous prom queen, Ashley is found tortured and murdered.

Accusations run rampant in Kate’s High School concerning several male students that were involved with Ashley. To make matters worse, Ashley’s remains now reside at the funeral home where Kate lives. Kate and her best friend Cooper, a computer nerd, and Kate’s unattainable heartthrob, handsome Shane, all become involved in Ashley’s murder. Suddenly, Kate finds herself in the cross hairs of the sadistic killer and the vengeful ghost of Ashley, the murdered prom queen. What happens next is beyond Kate’s worse nightmare. The Girl in Black is a fascinating and terrifying murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the end. I highly recommend this book. (less)

A Short, Short Story, Fire in the Sky or The Black Bear and Me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It happened in a small farming community in the northwestern part of Connecticut that also included a large forest preserve and a once glacial river, now a bubbling brook, a lake, and a spring-fed pond. The community’s roots began in 1680, as The Salmon Brook Settlement that was also home to Native Americans like the Tunix, the Massaco, and the Mohican.

It was a perfect summer day. The morning was cool and the sky was a brilliant Periwinkle blue. The deep, dense forest was a monolith of wonder for elementary school age kids.  The ancient woods that the Salmon Brook flowed through provided the Native Americans with all kinds of fish, fowl, and river animals, like beavers.

Evidence of their inhabitation lingers still in the form of arrowheads, pathways, in meadows that were once crop producing fields, where they grew tobacco, beans, squash, and corn, as well as middens of shells like clams, mussels  and we often searched these for artifacts.  There were plenty of bones to find too, mostly animal, but sometimes, human bones that would be exposed as they washed up on the rocky river banks.

On this beautiful summer morning, a small band of kids, having traversed deeply into the forest, smelled smoke and considered it might be a fisherman on the river, frying up fish at the nearby lake.  At first, they weren’t considered about the smell  of smoke. The smoke was coming from some distance away.

It happened suddenly, when the leader, looked up and saw fire and one of the other children, yelled out, “FIRE!”  All heads turned to the leader of the group, who stood mesmerized by the yellow-orange fingers of flame surrounding a giant oak tree, that suddenly became  engulfed in flames that nearly reached the sky. The forest fire was closing in around them, silently sneaking up on them, until it roared like a lion.  The fire then leapt among the tree tops, high into the sky, turning the blue sky into a purple twilight, billowing with smoke and fire.

Like deer, caught in the headlights of an on-coming car, they frozen in fear, initially.  Then they ran, following their leader to an old wagon wheel road where giant, thick oaks lined the road, that was little more, now, than a pathway.  They ran and out of the corner of their eyes they watched the fire exploded into the giant oaks behind them. As they ran, animals of all kinds joined in their fierce need to escape the flames that were now, 40, 50, 60, 100 feet in the air and animals ran alongside of the five children.  The leader, shocked  to find a black bear keeping pace at her side, just kept running. Wild Turkeys, Foxes, Porcupines, Skunks, Woodchucks, ran with the humans, side by side on the narrow path, until the path widened as they reached an open field and ahead of them was Canton road and fire trucks with long hoses and a helicopter flew overhead. The parents of the children were kept back by officers and firemen.

The children emerged, blackened with smoke, wild-eyed with fear, and the animals took off in different directions, some crossing the road to the other side were safety could be found, unmindful of the crowd gathered on Canton Road. The children, now at the point of exhaustion, collapsed into their parent’s arms as the firefighters dosed them with cool, clear water.

This was a day the five children would never forget. The one thing I remember clearly, is the black bear running by my side. I remember we looked at each other, the black bear and I—with a look that was full of wonder and hope. I was eleven years old.

In Honor of Horror Fiction: More & More & More Tales to Give You Goosebumps

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Yeah, We’re Talking About R.L. Stine By: Zachary Petit Something about R.L. Stine freaks me out. It’s not that he acts nothing like you might assume, though he is wearing all black. He’s funny and charming, and his amiable character throws kids off on school visits: “They expect someone with fangs, wearing a cape,” he says.

It’s not that nobody calls him “R.L.” except book jackets. (He goes by Bob.)  Its not even that he has written some 300–400 books (!), and has sold more than 350 million in his Goosebumps series alone, making him at one point the bestselling children’s series author of all time. (He’s now No. 2, right behind J.K. Rowling.)

No, it’s how he writes the things that freaks me out: He begins with the titles.“That’s the inspiration!” he says with a laugh. “You want to know where ideas come from—for me, they come from the title.”

For instance, he was walking his dog around New York City, and he thought, Little Shop of Hamsters. It just popped into his head. He liked it, so he came up with a story to bring it to life—What can I do to make hamsters scary? OK, a boy goes into a strange pet shop. It’s all hamsters, and there’s something wrong with one of them …

“Most authors I know work backwards,” he says. “I can’t do it.” So, I decide to conduct an experiment: I’m going to be like Stine. I’m going to work backward, and I’m not going to write a word of my article about him until I’ve got the perfect title, one I can build a story around. Simple enough for a little profile, right? And without knowing it, I’ve fallen into the trap of R.L. Stine, the trap of writing for kids, maybe the trap of writing anything: It all looked so damn easy.

 

 

THE HARPY

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I wish for a tropical breeze to lighten the intense humidity that hugs this August morning.  The porch, thank goodness, is high off the ground and the mildewed screens somewhat block the steamy rays from the sun.  The sky is intensely blue and the ocean is still and quiet—waiting. I breathe in slowly through my nose and exhale gently through my mouth, waiting for what I know must come. I am powerless to change my fate.

My notebook is before me and I stare at the blank pages.  I have been siting here now for what seems like hours trying to begin a story that I must tell.   I must make sense of it, at least in my own mind. Perspiration drips from the corners of my temples.  Tendrils of fading blond curls are damp across my forehead and I push them aside with the back of my hand.

The old mahogany armchair I sit in, with its old cane seat, presses into my bare legs making my skin feel sticky and I am sure that deep patterns, now imbedded on the backs of my thighs, will blister, courtesy of the mahogany chair.  I shift uncomfortably, and vow to retrieve a pillow from the sofa when next I rise.

The breeze I had been waiting for finally arrives like a soft whisper across my cheek and I turn my face toward its source, the sky and sea.  In the morning light, I open the notebook that is now somewhat damp from the humid air and I begin again searching for the right words, the truest of words. It will come to me…..I know it will. I close my eyes and I try to remember all of it.

_________

Out of the gathering darkness, a whispering voice, close to my ear, speaks, “Dare ye not linger lest she bring a curse upon ye, child.” I turned quickly to the voice, but nothing was there. A chill went up my spine. Moments later, again, the disembodied voice spoke, “Dare ye not linger lest she bring a curse upon ye, child!” This time the voice was urgent and fearful.

I feel an unreasonable fear, of what I did not know. I grabbed my cousin Jordan’s arm to plead with him to let us head for home. He took no notice of me and continued to stare at something that was standing beyond the gate. I turned to look and before us was something that could only have materialized out of a Grimm’s fairytale. She glared at me and her dark crystal eyes began to glow so brightly that the darkness disappeared around us. The hag-like woman, lifted by unseen wings, soared over the gate.

The whispering voice behind me suddenly gave out an ear-splitting scream that shook the ground where I stood. The hag-like apparition in front of me screeched with such an unearthly sound that I dared not move, even if I could. I was still holding Jordan’s arm and he turned to me as if to wonder what I was doing.

“Jordan”, I whispered, “What is that?”

“What is what, Ana?”

“You know, the old hag, the woman, Jordan.”

“Ana, there is no woman, only a light in the window, but there was nothing to it. Let’s go home.”

I was incredulous. Was I the only one who saw and heard the unearthly screams?  My young cousins, Richie and Anise seemed not to be at all aware of what had happened.

I couldn’t understand what was wrong with them and then once again, I heard the whispering voice behind me and I angrily turned to respond. The whispering apparition was floating in the air, in front of me, her hair aflame, burning as brightly as a bonfire, “Thou art hexed, forsaken in ye life, poor child,” she said. “I begged thee not to gaze upon the Harpy.”

The apparition’s voice was sad and low as she slowly disappeared into the night.

___________

 The Mahogany chair is now hot against my thighs as the chair begins to rock back and forth. I know what is coming. The Harpy now stands beyond the screened porch. Her dark crystal eyes peer out from under the dark mane covering her head.  Another form appears on the porch, near me. It is the apparition, I now know as Nellie, who has been protecting me all of these years. The Harpy’s unholy screech suddenly pierces the air and in turn, Nellie’s high pitch scream drowns out all else. These are the truest words. Listen, now, to the screams, should you hear them and abide, for it is far to late.