Attack of the Pollen (unless it’s just another cold). So here’s a bit of a ghost story…

Pounding, twinging, aching sinuses. I’d be 100% certain it’s allergies except my stomach is off too, although that could also be a result of having had that third coffee / second café mocha this afternoon.

I stood in a hot shower for a bit, hoping the steam and my nasal saline would help. Noticed that my shower drain is clogged, probably from rinsing out the cricket container. The drain is full of dead crickets. 

Made me think of a haunted house that I’ve heard students talk about, over on Poplar St. It sits on top of a boulder, an outcropping of Canadian Shield that bulges up and slightly over the road. A few straggly trees have grown up stubbornly between the house and the road, clinging to cracks and fissures with snarling roots.

Teens have broken into the house over the years since it was abandoned. The most popular story they tell is of the dolls: a circle of old, broken dolls positioned on the wooden floor in what used to be the living room. They say that if you leave the room to check out the rest of the empty house, when you go back in to see the creepy dolls again, they’ve moved.

Not sure how I linked dead crickets in my drain with possessed dolls in a haunted house, but there it is. The suggestion of a story, a germ of an idea. Imagine a family buying the structure because it’s all they can afford, planning to fix it up, but every time they move the dolls or throw them away, they come back… Peering out with their dead glass eyes from the bushes by the garbage bins… Lying in a semi-circle around the back door… Every day, pushing a little closer and a little closer, trying to get back to their domain…

And then one day, the mother is consumed with a need to know the truth. She goes to pick up the plastic baby doll, creased with dirt in its joints and dimples, but as soon as her fingers close around its fake pudgy belly, a hoard of insects pours out of the crack under its smiling mouth: brown crickets, black spiders, white millipedes, red ants…

Not sure how the story might end. It’s a mystery.

Trivia Time — About Me!

Published Works:
“Mist and Midnight” in Midnight Thirsts (Melange Books, 2011)
“Telltale Signs” in Spellbound 2011 (Melange Books, 2011)
“A Living Specimen” in Midnight Thirsts II (Melange Books, 2012)
“Brain Games” and “Bio-Zombie”, in A Quick Bite of Flesh (Hazardous Press, 2012)
“Thy Will Be Done” in Dark Eclipse Digest #16 (Dark Moon Books, 2012)

Now Available!
Wind and Shadow: Book One of the Talbot Trilogy, April 2013

Wife, mother, teacher, writer: I am a mother of two children and have been married for over fifteen years. A full-time teacher of dramatic arts, history, and English in Northeastern Ontario, Canada, I enjoy reading a wide variety of classic and contemporary literature, including romances, ghost stories, horror fiction, and fairy tales. I began writing short stories and plays in my childhood to entertain, frighten, and gross out my friends. Today, I relish creating imaginary worlds with vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, and witches.  I love listening to an eclectic mix of music, taking my dog on long walks, mowing my lawn, and curling up with a hot cup of tea, a good book, and a tasty doughnut during a thunderstorm or a blizzard. In addition to writing, my creative past times include needlework (quilting, cross-stitching, and embroidery), making and collecting miniature furniture, traveling, and watching movies. I’m a history buff, a Trekkie, and a practicing Wiccan.

In the corner of your eye…

When you see movement, or a shadow… A reflection where one should not be… Do you dismiss it? Or investigate?

Do you believe in ghosts?

I’ve shared my story of our haunted house on T. Fox Dunham’s blog, Fox True Ghost Tales Project: — I’d love your comments, and there are many spooky-but-true tales to chill your blood for this Hallowe’en!

Blogging with Tara Fox Hall!

Welcome, everyone, and most especially, welcome Tara Fox Hall to Romance and Other Dangers! Today, I’m informally interviewing and chatting with my good friend and fellow author on the men and women who inspire our visions of heroes and heroines, random inquiries concerning personality and creative traits, deeply insightful discussions on the meaning of life, and so on and so forth.

Follow along throughout the day and leave a comment, and you could win a free e-copy of Spellbound, the anthology from Melange Books which includes my own short story, “Telltale Signs”, and “The Origin of Fear”, by Tara Fox Hall.

You can also pick up a copy of Spellbound here:

Or, here:

To begin, I want to compliment you, Tara; your writing pulls me into mystery and suspense immediately; it’s a highly enjoyable read. For those who haven’t yet delved into Tara’s imagination, excerpts from her work are posted below (with the survey — did you do the survey, yet, readers?).

The way “Origin of Fear” plays out reminds me of the master of horror himself, Stephen King. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you like twists and unexpected endings, you have to get your own copy of Spellbound to see how it ends! It’s just a taste of her storytelling gift. “Just Shadows” is bound to be even more chilling.

First Question O’ The Day: Tara, would you please describe your (favourite) writing place? I’d love a visual — where are you when you are splicing ideas and crafting words into novel form?

Excerpt from “Telltale Signs” in Spellbound 2011 (Melange Books)

On my way back to the exhibit hall, I unplug the radio and take it with me. It will be less echoey if I keep it with me, anyway. And I have a new strategy. I am a bit tired. , iIt might be hard to get up on time if I stay here too long. I’ll give myself a limit, stay until eight thirty, and then I am gone. Cranking up my tunes to a comfortable, and comforting, level, I get back to work.
The next artifact that is out of place is an old pair of spectacles which had belonged to an area prospector. I inspect the lenses carefully for breaks, cracks, chips. Happily, they’re in the same condition I had noted when I found them in the collection. I have an impulse to try them on. It’s terribly bad form, but for some reason I just cannot resist. They’re round, tarnished metal wire. I have no idea what prescription they might be, but as I am already nearsighted and have contacts, I figure I’m safe. I move to the mirror that stretches the length of the stone fireplace that bisects the room, and put them on.
I like the look. It’s cute, old-school, kind of like a stereotypical librarian from a children’s book. I lift my hair off my neck into a bun, and in the mirror, I see a man standing behind my shoulder.
I freeze.
I can’t breathe.
He slowly raises his head to look into my eyes. My mind barely registers that he is not wearing contemporary clothing. I see a stained and yellowed collarless shirt, suspenders. He is balding and has a thin moustache. His eyes are deeply circled. He just stares and stares, unmoving. I exhale, and rising on my tiptoes, let my gaze travel down to where his feet should be. Bile rises into my throat. This is not possible. It is not possible for this to be happening. This is some kind of joke, a sick prank on the newbie.
Summoning my courage, I wave my hand in front of the mirror to check for a projector’s beam. “I don’t know who you think you are,” I croak, before turning. “But I really don’t appreciate this kind of immature behaviour.
And of course, there’s no-one behind me. I’m being punked, I know it. I take the glasses off and turn around again, checking the reflection. I only see myself. “Hm. Interesting. I think I know how you did that,” I call out, setting the glasses on the mantle. I inspect every corner of the room, looking for the camera. A hidden panel. Something. If the effect was done like Pepper’s ghost, the image should be projected from a black box of some kind. I ignore the little voice in my head that says that the image should also appear in the room itself, not in the mirror. In the end, after twenty minutes, I find nothing.
“This is such a waste of my time,” I announce. Marching back to the mantle, I hold the specs up once more, and out of the corner of my eye, in my line of sight through a small section of the left lens, I see him again.
Fingers trembling, I slowly put them back on.
He’s closer to me this time. I can see more detail in his face — a spider’s web of wrinkles crossing his skin, the bristle marking where he needs to shave. I can’t stop the whimper from leaving my throat. I force myself to turn around and face him.
But again, there’s nothing there.
My skin is clammy. Across from me, the night disc jockey announces the next set of songs. The room is completely empty of another individual, brightly lit, a row of blackened windows to my left and right.
I take a few steps forward, to the place where the man should be standing. Hesitantly, I put one hand out and move it through the air. “Rationally, Kate, if there was a ghost here you should be feeling a cold spot, or a pulse of energy, or something tangible. Measurable.” Talking to myself is soothing. I put my hands on my hips, looking over the glasses at the floor. “No evidence of a screen.” I look at the ceiling. “No fishing wire.” I pivot on a heel and walk toward the lobby at my left, then stop and whirl around with a judo shriek. “Hi-yah!”
The only result is that I feel even more like an idiot. I straighten from my crouch and resume my power-posture. Chin raised, I look to my right, and in the reflection of the night-dark window I see the man’s face right over my shoulder, so close that by rights I should feel him breathing on my neck, hear him swallowing as he glares directly at me, but instead I feel my heart hammering and beads of sweat breaking out on my forehead.
A banging on the front door makes me jump.
Whipping off the spectacles as I race from the room, I am intensely relieved to see Harley’s face on the other side of the wavy glass. My hands are shaking so badly that I can barely manage the locks. He is wearing some fire gear, so embracing him is uncomfortable, but when I refuse to let go of him he has to peel my hands away.
“I saw that you called,” he says, kissing my forehead. His eyes are full of concern. He strokes my hair away from my face, hugging me again. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
“Thank God for caller display,” I joke, snivelling a bit into his fire-proof jacket. I wipe my nose with my sleeve. “I think I’m just letting this project get to me. I’m so stressed out I’m starting to see things.”
“Like what?” His hands rub my back. I hiccup, aware that I am perilously close to tears.
“Um…like I was putting the exhibit back together…” I lean into his arms as I explain, turning the spectacles over in my hand while I am talking. They look perfectly ordinary. “I’m absolutely convinced that there is a logical explanation, some kind of prank, but I don’t know how it’s being done and it’s freaking me out.”
Harley keeps one hand on my back, and with the other, he retrieves a cotton glove from a box on a nearby shelf above the counter. He knows the routines here. Gently taking the glasses from me, he puts them on. “Let’s have a look, shall we?” He smiles at me, confidently, and I follow him back into the room.
Ten minutes later, he has looked into every window and the mirror, spectacles on and off. He’s put them on and turned around, copying my actions. He traverses the room looking for anything out of the ordinary. I watch, my arms folded, feeling more and more stupid. Finally, he returns them to the display case where they belong, and comes over to me.
“I’m just silly, I guess,” I admit, rubbing my eyes with the heel of one hand. He takes off my glove and lays a kiss on my palm. “It’s late, this old house is creepy at night, and I’m stressed. So no ghosts, just me and my dumb imagination.”
“It’s okay,” Harley replies, pulling me close. “It could happen to anyone. It’s probably happened to Chris Allen, which is why he didn’t want you here late. It would mess with anyone.”
“Even a big tough fire fighter?” I tease, tugging at the fasteners on his coat.
“Even a big tough fire man,” he emphasizes, kissing me. He checks his watch. “I have to go, sweetheart. There’s a cat in a tree somewhere that needs my help.”
I salute him playfully. “Then go forth, my hero, and save the poor pussy.”
His eyes light up at my choice of words. He raises an eyebrow and reaches down to tickle me; I push his arm away, laughing.

Praise for “Telltale Signs” in Spellbound (Melange Books)

This story is written with the heroine as narrator relating her experiences. (Is that a European thing?) It certainly works for her. The story blended suspense with a snap shot of the likeable heroine and her life. Being alone in the dark is a universal fear for everybody. Your imagination can be your biggest enemy. (Dennis K. Hausker, fiction writer)

John Steiner reviews Spellbound

Some of the best horror and scare is to terrify readers with what they don’t see. This takes careful build up of seemingly mundane events priod to the main setting, and then shape that main event carefully with as much description as a sculpter on a statue. An accumulation of details great and small create a mental map and the reader starts to see where everything is in relation to everything else. They can trace their way back to the front door or point to where the stairs are though they’re out of view at a given moment of the story. Here then you introduce bits and pieces to slowly dial up the audience’s heart rate and put them on the edges of their seats. Tori Ridgewood walks you through all of this and controls the pace of your steps brilliantly. A perfect moodsetter for anyone who enjoys the Halloween [or Hallowe’en] season and likes a little scare every now and then just to feel alive. (John Steiner)

Review of Spellbound 2011

Here’s what the reviewer, Dennis Hausker, had to say about my own contribution to the anthology, Telltale Signs:

This story is written with the heroine as narrator relating her experiences. (Is that a European thing?) It certainly works for her. The story blended suspense with a snap shot of the likeable heroine and her life. Being alone in the dark is a universal fear for everybody. Your imagination can be your biggest enemy.