Wonder: Ghost Stories – The Ghost Train

Camp’s always a great place for ghost stories, isn’t it? The day camp I went to a few summers when I was a kid had one sleepover night each year. On that night, we’d go on a hike with our group through the dark across the fields, and then the counselors would tell us the story of the ghost train.

According to the story (to the best of my memory), near the camp grounds there’d once been this mansion where a rich and mean-spirited man had lived. He felt nearly everyone in his life had betrayed him in one way or another, so one evening he invited various friends and family members over for a dinner party. During the party, he went crazy and turned on them, murdering all of them. Then he ran from the house, fleeing the scene of his crimes.

But he didn’t get away. As he was running through the night, he heard a sound like a train’s whistle, even though there were no train tracks in the area. Dismissing it as his imagination, he hurried on. But he heard the sound again, and the whir of its passing over the tracks, and it was getting closer. As he ran, the lights of the train appeared, and the ghostly engine hurtled into him, killing him. And that was his punishment for his murders.

I’ve tried to find the source for this story (though it’s possible it was something the camp made up)–if you know one that you think might be the same story, or one this one was based on, let me know!

What ghost story do you remember best from your childhood?

Widget Fun

All right, I’ve jumped on the widget bandwagon. Check it out:

Sprout removed due to edits–thanks to those who commented!

What do you think? Any changes I should make before it’s officially official?

For the writers among you… Want a critique?

You may have heard that author Cynthea Liu is hosting an awesome and amazing party to celebrate the launch of her novel, PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE.

What is so awesome and amazing about Take the Dare: Show You Care? Well, for starters, Cynthea is raising money to buy books for a school-in-need in her home state. Can’t find a much better cause than that!

There’s tons of fun stuff going on over at the site, but most of the money is being raised through a whole bunch of fantastic auctions from lots of wonderful authors and editors and agents. And I’m pleased to say that I have joined those authors!

Interested in getting a critique of the first three chapters of your YA novel, plus query letter? Head on over here and bid. It says contemporary paranormal because that’s what GIVE UP THE GHOST is, but I have critiqued and am totally comfortable critiquing any sort of spec fic (all sorts of fantasy, paranormal, science fiction, etc.). And I’d love to help one of you make your manuscript and query even stronger–and to help out those kids as much as possible at the same time. 🙂

Happy bidding!

Writer At Work: On Location

Whenever I go on vacation, I’m always, in a way, scouting for story locations. I say “in a way” because it’s not like I go out there thinking, must find cool place to set a story. More like, I’m wandering around minding my own business and a location grabs me and insists this place needs story!

Some day I’m going to write a novel set in Edinburgh. And Venice. (Probably not the same novel, but you never know.) Both were very grabby places.

So when I got a story idea last year that I knew had to be set some place with a somewhat unfamiliar mythology and at least one high-tech city, I was hopeful that I could use one of the places I’d already been to. China? Italy? *research research research*

Almost but not quite, the muse said. Japan fits best. Which is nice, because I’ve always wanted to visit Japan, but not so nice, because it is very very far away and I really do not think I can do it justice without having been there.

So the muse and I are compromising. I am going to attempt to write the rough draft of the Japan story this summer, with imagination and various research tools as my guide. And if it works out, well, I know where my next vacation’s going to be!

What places have you been to in your travels, that you think need a story or two? Are there any places you’d love to go to, so you could write about them (or just for fun, if you’re not writing-inclined)?

Book Rec: WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson

From the jacket: Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

Recced for: Vivid, stark, and totally believable voice, which makes the main character sympathetic and understandable even as you struggle to accept what she’s doing to herself. (It helps that she’s struggling to/not to accept it, too.) Sparse but beautiful writing. A story that will haunt you if you try to put it down before you’re finished, and then continue to haunt you after you have.

Note: Likely triggers for those with present or past eating disorders.

Flashback: Crushes Make You Crazy

April 3, 1994 (Megan is 13)

The Weird Things I Did When I Liked D

The weekend when I’d first found out I liked him I tried to send psychic messages to him and I rode my bike around at the park, hoping he’d come. Before that, when he first asked me if I liked him, it was like this:

Class is on their way to classroom. On stairs, D approaches me.
D: Megan, do you like me?
M: No!
D: I mean as a friend.
M: No.
D: Why not?
M: You’re mean.
D (smiling): What did I do that was mean?
M: You called X “Pimple face”.
D: X doesn’t care, she’s my friend. Right, X?
X: Yeah.
The class has reached the classroom.

Even after I started liking him I could hardly admit he was my friend. I have a very stubborn head. Of course, before I liked him, I was totally sure he liked me. After, I was never sure. Liking someone does something to your faith in your mind.

Another time, I forget why, most of the people were gone. That was when D told me he liked me. Well, not exactly. He sang a big of a song saying he liked “you”. Then he said, “Did you know that, Megan?” I pretended I hadn’t heard him. What can I say, I was scared half to death.

Another time I remember well was last winter. The ensemble was singing at the Sheridan Centre. D sat next to me on the streetcar. I was seriously “scared stiff”. I could hardly move. Our eyes met once and we said “Hi”. I remember thinking that he had awesome eyes. I’d never seen them that close before.

An Introduction to Flashbacks
The Flashback Cast
The Flashback Timeline

Playing with books (and movies, and TV shows)

If you’re looking for a little laughter today, I submit two links for your viewing pleasure:

Courtesy of several people on my LiveJournal Friends list, Buffy vs. Edward. If you thought Edward got away with a little too much creepy stalker behavior in TWILIGHT, this is for you! 😀

Courtesy of Pegg Kerr, a Harry Potter musical. A mishmash of the plots of all seven books, plus singing, tap-dancing, and Zac Efron posters. Okay, it’s pretty goofy, but I got lots of giggles… and the first song was catchy enough to get stuck in my head. And also, the Best Line Ever: “I want Hermoine Granger! And a rocket ship.”

Enjoy!

Free Fiction on Friday

Over the next few months I’ll be making my previously published short stories available online, for free. And what better day to start than today? 🙂

First up is “Seven Years”, a science fiction story that was my first and only venture into flash fiction (it’s under 500 words–so, a quick read!). It was originally published in ON SPEC, a Canadian science fiction and fantasy magazine, in 2004.

I invite you to read it here.

Hope you enjoy!

Flashback: Discovering My Writing Process

June 13, 1997 (Megan is 16)

Very little happened yesterday — I spent a good part of the day writing. I’ve found it goes somewhat faster now — it used to take me an hour per page, and now I’m getting at least a page and a half done, sometimes two. Maybe it’s because I’m writing so much, my mind is really geared into the story, plus I have it outlined so well, I don’t have to think much on where I’m going.

It’s kind of sad, though, don’t you think? I mean, I spent a good part… most of grade 11 working on STARS FALLING, but it just sort of… crumpled. Really, it’s because I hardly outlined it at all, and also the idea was too big. But now, it looks like I’ll finish this novel in less than a month. Of course, it helps that, being summer vacation, I have lots of time to write, but if I didn’t have each scene mapped out…


An Introduction to Flashbacks
The Flashback Cast
The Flashback Timeline

Wonder: Ghost Stories–Bloody Mary

When I was in grade six, one of the popular stories going around was about Bloody Mary. According to a close friend who claimed to have attempted this herself, what you had to do was go into a bathroom, close the door, and turn off the light, then say “Bloody Mary” three times while looking into the mirror. She’d tried it once on her own and once with friends and both times she’d seen some sort of blurry image that had freaked her out so much that she ran right out of the bathroom shrieking.

She tried to convince me that we should give it a shot, but being somewhat more timid than her, I figured that I’d rather let this Bloody Mary person rest in peace.

Apparently this tradition of calling Blood Mary (or Mary by other names) in the mirror had been going on for quite a while: see articles at Wikipedia and Snopes.

How about you all–have any of you ever called Bloody Mary? Did you see anything?

What other ghost “games” have you played or heard of?