A year ago today, on the lovely island of Makatea. #SouthPacific #FrenchPolynesia #PenguinAboutTown
A year ago today, on the lovely island of Makatea. #SouthPacific #FrenchPolynesia #PenguinAboutTown
I love this little five-photo series of two young-ish elephants having a little dust-up over a watering hole. (For those unfamiliar with the term “dust-up” it means a quarrel or argument.) I like using it here for obvious reasons. The dust they kick up helps capture the motion between the photos, as the elephant on the right chases the other one away.
Look at those ears! All flared out in indignation. My watering hole! Mine!! All mine!!!
These photos were taken at Mfuwe Lodge in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.
Answer to the “mystery bird” photo in my last blog: that was an African Jicana, common to southern Africa.
The safari companies treat you well, that’s for sure. Despite the relative roughness of our campsite in the Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta, it was our favorite place of all the accommodations. The cots were very comfortable, the tents breezy, and fresh water drawn for you from the river every morning…all nice & warmed up to wash your face. They’d even heat up the afternoon shower water delivery but, trust me, in that heat and after a day’s activities, it was so much more refreshing to stand underneath a cool shower. (Those poor guys – carrying all those buckets back and forth from the river!)
Then, of course, there was our outhouse bathroom – attached to the back of the tent so we didn’t have to go outside at night.
Oh, and to show you just how warm it was, here’s a picture taken by our fellow traveler Xandra, of a thermometer her and her mom had up in their tent. This was late afternoon – after the “room” had been neatened up and the staff zipped up all the flaps. (We never figured out why they did that – we just unzipped everything when we got back to cool the tent back down.)
As part of the SPFBO (details here) all the bloggers taking part have been assigned 30 books. By the end of a six month period the aim is to choose one book to put forward into the next stage. So, I’m aiming to check out 5 books a month. My list first appears here and I’ve picked and […]
Reminder: Find my free audio horror story “Talebones” at the Thrills & Mystery podcast! Narrated by Xina Marie Uhl.
“The bones do not lie.” The oracle’s strong voice belied her many years. “They are the purest parts of us, the strongest. When our voices have been silenced, only our bones can speak for us.” The oracle had spoken these words many times and had mastered the technique of projecting her voice so it sounded like it was issuing from the scattered bones themselves. It never failed to impress the crowds, except for Meela who knew the secret to such petty tricks herself.
Check out more of my creepy gruesome work on Amazon Kindle. You’ll be scared…uh…glad you did! (5 star reviews!)
“Finger bones and toe bones rattled inside the oracle’s shaking fist, clacking and clinking as if the bones themselves were angry. When she opened her hand, the pieces fell from between her fingers like heavy raindrops in a thunderstorm.”
Click below to listen Xina Marie Uhl narrate my horror short story “Talebones” and learn if Meela can win justice for her murdered mother….
And then visit Amazon Kindle for more stories:
On this week’s Thrills and Mystery podcast, my horror story “Talebones” http://bit.ly/1ScjQQq Give it a listen for free! And let the dread seep through your own bones. Then go buy my ‘Skin and Bones’ story collection on Amazon Kindle (where you’ll find the written version of “Talebones”)
West of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America: Acoma Pueblo. The 367-foot sandstone bluff is visible from miles away, but ageless adobe houses nearly blend into the top of the mesa. The Acoma settled here in approximately 1150 A.D. – for defensive reasons as the story goes – and although the majority of the tribe now lives on the reservation land surrounding the mesa, 50 or so tribal members still live here in their sky city. There is no running water, no electricity, and no sewers. That’s the way they like it. Many of those who remain are elderly, we were told, or just don’t care for the hustle and noise of city life. Some of them are painters or weavers or potters who are maintaining their traditional arts. (And they do beautiful work – while some of them take credit cards – really, just take a bunch of cash with you – it’s easier.)
Because the people value their privacy, the pueblo is not open to visitors except for organized tours, led by a tribal guide. After stopping at the cultural center down below – which also houses a museum and gift shop – you are taken up in groups by shuttle bus driven along the road you have to thank Hollywood for. Until Hollywood fell in love with New Mexico, there was only a “staircase” of sorts carved into the cliff face. But to make movies, they need equipment, and equipment needs roads. So now the tribe uses the road as part of their tourist infrastructure. (We had the opportunity to take the, uh, “stairs” back down the mesa after the tour was over. Some of our group did, but I declined. Too close to the beginning of the trip for me to trash a knee or ankle.)
There is no wandering wherever you want, no walking into people’s homes. We saw few people besides our guide and the artists displaying their wares. And a dog.
The colors in Sky City are muted: shades of brown and white against the blue sky. It seemed somehow fitting, because the history of the Pueblo is not all pleasant. No, it wasn’t like a somber funeral procession or something, nor did we feel anger or bitterness. Our guide was funny, entertaining, and informative. She spoke of having “the best of two worlds” (of getting to choose which parts of Catholicism to blend with their native beliefs, or getting to choose whether she was in her world or in ours).
Then there was the San Esteban del Rey Mission (1640). In the Spaniards bid to convert the natives, Acoma men were forced to build it. Some of them are still present we were told: buried in the walls. And that bell you see in the photo below. They didn’t want it. But they were made to pay for the bell anyway – with their children. It wasn’t the first time children had been taken from them (never to be seen again).
You won’t see photos of the inside of the church (beautifully restored!) – it is not permitted. Nor will you see photos of the graveyard which sits between the church and the edge of the cliff. It not only represents yet another feat of architectural engineering they accomplished on top of this bluff (no road to haul up all that dirt), but another way in which they were forced to accept a foreign custom: burying their dead. There is little room left in the graveyard. From now on, only the elders can be buried there.
But that is not to say there will be no other arrivals. On the far wall, overlooking that abrupt drop-off to the valley floor, there is a hole. It is for the souls of their children. Those the Spanish took away, the ones they have no idea what ever happened to. There will always be room for those children’s spirits to return to their people. It may take a long time for the spirits to find their way home, but they will always be welcomed.
The 2015 Shriekfest Film Festival…considered to be one of the top up & coming film festivals is fast approaching, but…alas…I am once again a semi-finalist. But I’m neither saddened nor discouraged. In the last seven years, I’ve entered four times (always in the short script category) and have been a semi-finalist twice and finalist the other two times. I think that’s a pretty good track record and, as friends pointed out, shows I’m headed in the right direction. I just have to try again next year.
2009 Mother’s Day (finalist)
2010 Babies in the Backyard [version 1] (semi-finalist)
2012 Babies in the Backyard [version 2] (finalist)
2015 Santa Needs a New Red Suit (semi-finalist)
You’ll notice the first three entries sound familiar, especially if you’ve read my Skin and Bones horror collection available on Amazon Kindle. Or if you’ve read my Mother’s Day collection – which has since been incorporated into Skin and Bones for its third edition. In fact, the 2009 entry, Mother’s Day, is an even earlier version of the same story and, of the three, is truest to the short-story on which the trio is based. I greatly enjoyed playing around with the story and its characters, seeking to better define my “senior citizen serial killer” Mrs. Fortenberry (who doesn’t make an actual appearance in the Mother’s Day script or the original short story except for her name)…her motivations…her true nature (avenging angel or crazed executioner?) and she certainly hasn’t been forgotten, but it was time for a completely new entry to Shriekfest and my neighbor’s 8-year-old son provided just the right idea at the right time: did you ever wonder just where Santa gets…uh…that red coloring for his toys? (Yes, an 8-year-old came up with the gem which eventually became “Santa Needs a New Red Suit,” but then I’m told that young boys tend to be rather creative when it comes to concocting bizarre methods of death and dismemberment. Parents out there: is that true??)
I haven’t decided if I’ll rewrite the Santa script or perhaps turn it into a short story. We’ll see. Meanwhile, old Mrs. Fortenberry keeps knocking at my brain. I don’t think she wants to offer me milk and cookies. Instead, she keeps whispering at me…inviting me into the jungle of tangled ivy vines that have long held dominion over the backyard of our rental house. For that is where she was born: that tangle of ivy. You saw the ivy if you happened to see the cover of the Mother’s Day collection when it was available on Amazon Kindle. Mrs. F was born, like baby after baby to the family in the yellow house behind mine back in the early 2000s. Hidden behind the ivy and trees and bushes, every spring (or so it seemed) I would hear the wail of a newborn for a few days or few weeks…and then nothing. I could never see signs of life between the fluttering leaves, never hear the squeals of excited toddlers. My imagination began to run wild, wondering what had happened to those babies.
And then, one morning, I stepped outside onto the back patio to find a dead mother possum, with two pinkies – who had somehow wiggled out of their mother’s pouch while still attached to their umbilical cords – squirming, covered with ants. We didn’t know what to do. The pinkies obviously were too young to survive on their own and we couldn’t get animal control to come out before they succumbed to the elements and the ants. My whirling, sometimes crazy brain, put the two pieces (never seen crying newborns & dead possums) together as Babies in the Backyard.
Those children in the yellow house did eventually appear. I’ve caught glimpses of them playing in their yard in the years since…although I’m not sure I can count as many seen as I heard crying. See…there goes my imagination again.
Alas, the ivy which has inspired two stories (besides Babies in the Backyard, it features prominently in my erotica short: Ivy League) and made brief appearances in other stories, may have reached its end. As annoying as the fast-growing plants can be, our landlord may have to remove it (or at least most of it) thanks to the neighbors in the tan house (next to the yellow house). In an effort to tear down their garage and repair their brick retaining wall, they cut the ivy from its supports and it has crashed down onto itself, the weight of its own hardy thick branches working against it, breaking and dying, and is about to completely collapse onto our back patio.
While it might be nice to gain space in the backyard for family activities…will we have to say goodbye to our urban wildlife? The birds, possums, raccoons, squirrels, more birds, more squirrels, stray cats, wandering collared & belled cats, butterflies, humming birds, roof rats, and more insects than you can count. I won’t miss the ants, or the rats…or the raccoons (which seem to look at my cats – just on the other side of that window screen – as a potential midnight snack). But I’ll miss the rest. I’ll the miss the hum of life, the cries of newborn life…however quiet…however small.