Thursday, March 29, 2018

Busy, much?

So, I guess I officially suck at blogging.

But you know what? I don't really care. I still love it, and will blog when I can, but I guess I don't feel like I NEED to have an update every day, every week, or even every month. I can't force it, right?

***

I've been busy, too. Kinda keeping a few things under my hat for now, but I've been drawing again. Well, doodling, really. But the doodling morphed from small doodles (like the one at the left) to bigger ones, to stuff people might actually call "ART" on some occasions. This, in turn, has also morphed into some actual pen/ink/colored-pencil drawing. Again, I'm going to keep some of it to myself for now, but in the meantime, what I can tell you is that my ETSY store is open again! (There's a link on the right under the heading of "My Hobbies" - in case you're interested.)

The doodling (especially) and drawing has been fun and, more than I ever could have anticipated or imagined, has been amazingly soothing for me. So, though my thumb feels like someone has poured cement into the joints and the writing callus on my middle finger is slightly sore and definitely more pronounced, I'm creating something tangible again. Not just writing creepy micro-fiction, though I haven't let that go, either. Hey - you love what you love, right?

***

In other news:

  • The month of March brought my kids each another year. Boy-child is now 14 and Girl-child is now 11. Please, pray for me. Mostly they're great kids, but every now and then I wonder, "It's wrong to kill my kids, isn't it?" Parenting is most DEFINITELY NOT for the faint of heart.
  • I had dental issues. Well, one tooth in particular decided it didn't want or need to be in my mouth any more and tried to commit suicide. It was especially horrifying for me because I'm legitimately terrified of the dentist. I was quite proud of myself for handling the dental visit and subsequent oral surgery to remove the tooth without winding up in a padded room. I still have the dental implant process and eventual crown to look forward to (ha ha) but at least, at this point, I know I can handle it. I don't have to like something to be able to deal with it, do I?
  • The Puppet Ministry I'm part of at our church is beginning to branch out. It is something else I truly love and, though the work isn't easy, it's fun. We now have a YouTube channel at H.I.S. Puppeteers, so check it out! Make sure to subscribe and ring the bell so you'll know when we upload a new video. Also, we've started taking the show on the road (Have puppets; will travel!) and so far, we have two shows in April on the same weekend, one in May, and an entire week booked at a Christian camp in Indiana in June! 

So, the humans at Chez Shell are fine, the felines are fat and happy and spoiled, and (as applicable) school and work are all going well. We are all truly looking forward to warmer weather so we can spend some time outside. The kids want to build a Bird Garden in the backyard, so we're collecting bird feeders and houses right now, and, once things smooth out weather-wise, I'll dig in with them and help because it sounds like such a neat idea and will be fun to do something like that with them.

I guess that's it!

TTFN
JMS


Wednesday, January 03, 2018

New Story! "The Right Red"

Natalie was stoked! She was totally prepped to start her next painting and this one was gonna be a doozie! Man! She hadn’t created something in so long, just running her fingers through the soft mongoose hair of her limited-edition fan brush made her arms break out in gooseflesh.

She knew this piece would be a work of art. She could feel it. Standing there, smelling the fresh paint, staring at the blank canvas, the feel of the brush handle solid, anticipating, she felt...elated! It was the only word that worked.

Natalie didn’t know why it had been so long since she’d allowed herself this pleasure, but it had been years. She guessed maybe the itch - for want of a better word - just hadn’t been there. Maybe creativity was like the moon - waxing and waning, coming and going? Except, she supposed, without the clockwork regularity. But now it didn’t matter why. She had everything she needed right in front of her and was ready to begin.

With a deep breath, she dipped her largest choice flat brush in, and, on the exhale, swiped a violent slash of red across the stark white canvas. She stood back to admire her work. It was breathtaking! The contrast of that red, so deep, so vibrant, against the white was...well...she couldn’t explain how it made her feel. Almost wanton. Sexual. But the release was not enough. She definitely wasn’t done yet.

She dipped the brush again and made another mark on the canvas. This one slightly more focused. Straighter. Stronger. Less abstract. Bolder. Where it crossed with the original slash it darkened in a pleasing way.

For a few minutes, Natalie put the brush down and simply stood back to stare. She knew what she was doing. She knew what it should look like and so far she was absolutely hitting her intended mark. 

Her round face broke into a brilliant smile.

She was suddenly caught up in the frenzy of it. Ah! She remembered this. This frantic need to get it all out. To get the image or the idea onto canvas, out of her head. Do make the colors do all the work. She began to sweat with the effort. It was a dance. A long forgotten, but well choreographed dance. Anyone watching would have been fascinated; mesmerized. Just as the red began to take over the canvas completely, she stopped. Swiped at her brow with the back of a red hand. She needed to let some white show through - but just a little.

The dark color was next. She picked up her thinnest line brush and dipped it skillfully into the cup. A careful, thin line of darkness, which was not exactly black, appeared. A similar frenzy took over as she used that dark color to express what she was feeling. Fire and brimstone! The work was exhausting, but savagely captivating.

When Natalie finally finished she simply stopped, like someone had flicked her off-switch. Her arms fell to her sides, the sweat poured from her forehead, dripped off her nose and slid in warm rivulets down the middle of her back. The brush fell to the floor from her slack fingers.

She stared. It was a masterpiece! She hadn’t created anything like this, ever in her life. Except...well...maybe this was similar to the last time. She’d almost forgotten. But it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore. Just this piece of art. Oh! She was going to be a millionaire! That red looked like the color of money and she could almost taste it.

Actually, since she was splattered with it, she was tasting it. And it was good. Just a little zing on her tongue.

Finally, she snapped out of her fugue. She squatted gracefully to retrieve the dropped paintbrush from the floor and stood to begin her clean-up process. It was a ritual, really. She’d prepared by covering the entire sun room floor with an opaque plastic sheeting. She always got color over everything. It was just less messy this way.

After she’d removed the canvas from the easel and put it aside, she took the cup of dark color and walked to an old metal pail in the corner by the back door. She upended the little cup and watched as a sickly greenish black oozed out. She watched it slowly drip from one vessel to the other until no more drops fell. Hypnotized. Then, once the cup was as empty as she could make it, she simply dumped the cup into the pail, too.

Then, she walked back to the easel and removed that. She tucked it away behind the door.

After the easel was safely stored, she turned to her brushes. She’d paid hundreds of dollars for them about five years ago and they were her most prized possession. They were custom made, just for her. The mongoose hair bristles were - from what she knew - the best money could buy, therefore, she knew they were exactly what she needed to create her pieces. She felt sad for them that they’d been so neglected lately. But, she’d discovered her passion again, and therefore felt sure she would use them more often.

The only thing left to clean up was the body. He’d been stripped and flayed, and placed on a an old stainless steel autopsy table next to her easel. Easy access for the red she needed. It was the only way she could find that particular color. She had tried over and over again to mix synthetic colors to find just the right red, but she’d been unsuccessful. The last time - oh, that last time - she’d gotten so angry when time after time the color just wasn’t right! She still couldn’t feel sorry for her boyfriend. He deserved what he’d gotten after interrupting her color experiments. But, at least she’d discovered how to get the right red.

She grinned at the memory - coming back strongly now - and she began to peel the corners of the plastic sheeting away from the edges of the room. Provided she tucked everything in properly, she could dispose of the body tonight and no one except she would be the wiser.

~ by Jennifer Shell (2016) (Not to be copied, used or reproduced without permission.)

***

Note from me (the author): More than once, I've been asked, "Why do you write about such awful things?" The answer: I don't know...because I can, I guess. I've always been fascinated by the gruesome, macabre, bizarre, unnatural, supernatural, etc.. I spent a good portion of my pre-teen and teenage years reading authors like Dean Koontz and Stephen King (or, Richard Bachman, if you prefer) and yes, they definitely directed my tastes in books. Though those kinds of things aren't all I read, they are my preference. My love of all things weird, scary, and creepy has yet to fade. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Tidbits

I've been so terrible at keeping up with this blog lately. I keep wavering back and forth between just getting rid of it, and then also forcing myself to write something AT LEAST once a month.

I don't want to get rid of it because I quite like some of the stuff I've written and don't want it to go away. But at the same time, I just keep finding myself so busy, or uninspired, or dejected, or whatever...and I just don't wanna. So, since I'm writing this particular post in a sort of "stream of consciousness" way, we'll just hang in there a bit and see where we end up.

***

I've discovered YouTube. Ok, ok, I know that's been a thing for a long time, but I've never been a YouTuber - EVER. Then, the a YouTuber (Lady Mcreepsta) contacted me and asked if she could record one of my stories for her channel (and subsequent Podcast, too!). Also, the puppet ministry I'm involved in with my church started a YouTube channel. And now, I've tumbled down the rabbit hole of Internet videos. It's fascinating and terrifying and distracting and interesting and ridiculous and mind-boggling and weird and...fascinating. (I already said that, right?)

So far, my favorite YouTube channels (in no particular order) are:

Dr. Sandra Lee (a.k.a Dr. Pimple Popper) - Yes. I'm one of those. Ask my Uncle John.
Clevver Style - Who knew, right? Especially their Beauty Breaks.
H.I.S. Puppeteers - Because, of course, I have to love the one I'm involved in, right? #HISPuppeteers

OK - there are probably more, but right now, those are the top three.

I've also discovered that there are some full-length audio books on YouTube! Holy What? Really? Books I can listen to? Free? I'll take some of that, please?

Sheesh - I guess I didn't realize how behind-the-times I am!

***

I'm a little bit manic today. I did NOT sleep well last night and my brain is going 100 miles a minute. I can barely keep one thought in my head long enough to bring it to an end before I start thinking about something else. I'm confusing myself, and that's definitely not good. More rest. Ha! At this time of year?

I know, that's crazy thinking, right?

***

Speaking of this time of year, I have not done one little tiny bit of shopping. Ok - a few small things - but nothing really of substance. It's OK, though, because my kids know we're doing a very light Christmas. The biggest gift they're getting is the gift of my time, because I'm taking 12 days off (that includes weekends and holiday days off). Much needed. Maybe I can get SOME of that aforementioned rest?

TTFN
JMS

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

What do YouTube, Lady Mcreepsta, and Amy have in common?

Hi.

It's been far too long.

One of those times where, quite frankly, I didn't have anything I felt was worthy of writing about. Lots of ups and downs. Lots of sadness. Lots of stress and busyness. No one really wants to hear about all of that.

I'll just leave you with something interesting which happened recently.

I was contacted via email by a YouTuber called Lady Mcreepsta who asked if she could narrate my story "Amy" for her site. Totally flattered and surprised, I said yes. I mean, why wouldn't I, right?

So, here is my story "Amy", narrated by Lady Mcreepsta, on YouTube.

Have fun!

TTFN
JMS


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What is "NORMAL" anyway?

You know, sometimes I have to sit back and remind myself I can't let life just HAPPEN to me. That I need to TAKE CHARGE! GRAB THAT BULL BY THE HORNS! GET STUFF DONE! GO! GO! GO! NEVER STOP! It's freakin' exhausting.

But then life throws you a curve ball and NORMAL gets tossed right out the window.

Life threw our little family a curve ball last week as we said our final farewell to my sweet Mother-in-Law. She was one of the best people I've ever known and she will be missed. She accepted me right from the start and I loved her.

Hubby is so very sad. He said, "If everyone would stop asking me how I'm doing I'd probably be OK!" But it's not just that. So many thoughts. So many memories. And there's absolutely NOTHING I can do. Nothing I can say. Nothing that will help. And I feel so very, very helpless.

I can't grab the horns. I can't get stuff done. I can't go.

I have to stop. Reflect. Be solid and stable and THERE.

So, what is NORMAL? Normal is making sure he knows I'm here for him, no matter what. Remembering not to ask him how he's doing, but instead, asking what he needs or how I can help. Normal is letting him know I've got things under control at home if he needs to be with his sisters to grieve or do whatever needs to be done on their end. Normal is giving him time and space when he wants it. Or, smothering him with hugs and love when he needs it.

I can't FIX this.

The kids are sad, too. It's hard for them. They have so many good memories of their Nani. I asked girl-child about her best memories last night. She said she had two which stood out: The time she and boy-child were helping their Nani wash dishes in her little kitchen in Big Stone Gap, VA and they argued over who got to use the chef scrub brush. And the time they helped Nani make her special chocolate bundt cake for their daddy's birthday and covered the entire thing with thin candles - all over - and they called it the Spaceship Cake. And also many, many animal memories. Nani had lots of animals.

They have their memories, for which I am profoundly grateful.

I have to let my little family grieve in their own ways. And I'm grieving, too. I couldn't have searched the world over and found a better Mother-in-Law. I definitely lucked into a wonderful extended family.

So right now, our NORMAL is grief. Our NORMAL is trying to do the day-to-day. It's fresh and new and hard right now. But we WILL move forward.

And it will never be exactly the same again.

TTFN
JMS

OBIT: http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Obituary/2017/10/16/Ellen-Ginger-Nave-Shell

Monday, October 02, 2017

My own worst enemy

I may only be able to think about you and wonder how you are.

Maybe the best I can manage is to reach out, just a little, by text or by email, just to let you know you're part of me in some meaningful way.

But then again, maybe I can bring you a Diet Coke, or chicken noodle soup, or lasagna. I want you to be okay. 

But maybe I'm scared. Afraid of what I might see, think. Feel. Oh, feelings are so hard. Especially when I love you. It might be easier for me to play ostrich; stick my head in the sand. Pretend there isn't anything wrong. Doesn't mean it's the right thing. The fair thing. But what if that's the reason I don't call? Visit?

I want to help, but I'm overwhelmed with my own awfulness. My own drama. My own self-imposed and selfish issues. My own brain gets in the way. 

Except you matter. I might not do the right things. Say the right words. Be who you expect me to be. Be who I expect me to be. I am who I am. Right or wrong. Love me or hate me.

I've been more disappointed in myself than you could EVER be with me.

But oh, the green of the sky after sunset, before full night takes over to make us wait for the rising of another day. That green means opportunity. It means I have a chance tomorrow. To succeed. To fail. To just barely make it through. 

I hate failing. So I'll be here tomorrow. Pushing forward. Even if forward is only an inch. Even if I only think...and don't act. 

TTFN
JMS

Friday, September 22, 2017

What the heck is that?

There's a bobcat on campus.

Define campus? Not college. Work.

Big, giant, campus. Lots of people in lots of buildings doing some amazing research.

Since I started working here in 2014, I have seen two snapshots of the elusive bobcat taken by employees - one of which was taken behind my building! But I have never seen the actual creature itself.

Until today.

Granted, it was a brief glimpse, but enough to make me actually slap my hand across my mouth in total surprise!

I was on the main road coming up to the intersection where I would turn to go to my office building and I saw - on the far left corner - something streaking across the field toward the street.

Thought process: Too big, and far too fast, to be a groundhog. Too small to be a deer. What the heck am I seeing?

And then it burst through underneath the guard rail into the street, right in front of me, and zipped across into the woods on the other side. Total visual time? Approximately 40 seconds.

Bobcat.

I actually, really and truly saw the bobcat.

Yes, I know there are going to be people out there who see bobcats far more often than I do, but they're not terribly common around here so for me, this was a big deal.

Granted, it didn't stop to let me see it's cute face, or pet it and hug it and squeeze it and name it George.  But I saw it, and that's enough.

TTFN
JMS

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Stick a fork in it and call it Done

I have started stirring the ol' Word Pot again. For a long time, other than this blog, I didn't write too much. Busy with other things, I suppose. You know, kids, job...life, whatnot.

("Life is not 'whatnot', and it's none of your business." Bonus points if you know the movie.)

If you've been following my blog, you know I've been struggling pretty badly with my depression and anxiety lately, and that I am finally - I think - medicated appropriately. I feel better.

Wait. Let me say that again.

I FEEL better.

OK - I'm done.

Anyhoo, now that my brain is beginning to function normally (or, normally for me) again, I'm writing. Because that's what I do when I feel well. I have dreams, I see images (no, not psychic images - just a blip on the radar that winds up becoming the catalyst, or the jumping-off point, for a story), I hear snippets of conversation which spark my imagination. I never know where I'm going to get inspiration. I like this. I missed this. So I'm writing again.

I've written two stories in the last month. One, which you already know about (http://www.creepypasta.com/becoming/), was based on a pretty disturbing dream. The other (http://www.creepypasta.com/the-desert-road/), was the product of seeing a very clear image of a blonde girl, lit up by car headlights, walking down a dark road. The Desert Road stemmed from there.

Admittedly, I seem to be writing creepy stories. I'm not really sure why, except to say I've always been a big fan of the creepy, the macabre, or the supernatural...and "They" say: Stick to what you know. I know I'm not done yet because there's a third story already in the works which is based on another awful dream I had a couple of weeks ago. This one is currently titled: "Alterations at The Warehouse" and I'm hopeful to have that done in another week or so. This one is slow coming together because I only remember snippets of the dream itself, but I'll get there.

There is also a fourth story - which is actually the first one I started - in the works. That one isn't short and it's also quite complicated, with a lot of characters. I've had to update my outline quite a bit because the story seems to keep changing on me. As soon as I think I know what direction I'm going with it, something happens (yes, that's exactly what I mean) and I have to change it. It's weird how that works, but you writers (Allie, I'm talking to you) will know what I mean. I've gotten all my characters developed. I know them all, who they all are, how they fit into the larger story, but there's still a lot of work to do. So that might take another year or so to complete. Who knows, maybe it will be big enough to call a novel? I'm not getting my hopes up, though. Right now, I'm just enjoying the writing phase.

So - love the stories or hate them, that's OK. We are all entitled to our own opinions. But for me, this is so cathartic. I LOVE to write, and apparently - based on some stuff other folks have said - I do have some talent for it. That's not to toot my own horn, though; I always feel like my own writing is awful. But I've decided I don't really care. When I feel like a story is finished - because there is a point where it is finished - I tell myself to stop. Stop re-reading. Stop editing. Stop worrying and second guessing. Call it done.

I've called two stories Done now.

Let's see where this goes, shall we?

TTFN
JMS

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Parental Error in Judgement

I made a parental error in judgment the other night. Yes, I did. We are all fools, on occasion, are we not?  Ah...to really give you the proper insight, therefore, I must go back and explain how the error came to be. (Can you tell I've been reading Jane Austen again?)

Several weeks ago, I had a horrible nightmare. Truly, one of the worst I've had in a very long time. Without going into details about that particular dream, suffice it to say it left me feeling sick in my soul and supremely disturbed in my heart and mind. It stuck with me. I remembered every detail; every feeling. And I carried that discomfort around for a few days until I finally decided that the only way I could hope to get rid of that soul-sickness was to write about it. Put it all down on paper in a way that might take it from me and transfer all the ickiness (that's an Austen word right there) to paper.

Almost 12,000 words and 19 pages later, I succeeded. The disturbing nature of the dream was now gone from me because it became a fictional story, rather than a dream in which I felt I'd taken an intimate role.

I sat on this story for a while before I even said anything to anyone about it, but finally had one of my trusted friends read it. Her words were, "...it's creepy and chilling and awesome..." Honest and high praise from her as she reads more than I do. I was glad to know I was able to convey the feeling of it.

Fast forward to earlier this week, Boy-Child and I were discussing various things and he said something about a bad dream he'd had the night before. We talked about it, and I said, "Boy, I had a doozy of a dream a few weeks ago. It was so bad I had to write a story about it just to shake it from my system."

Well, I didn't think at the time (though I should have) that my book-loving son would want to read that story. He thought about it for a couple of days before he asked me to read it.

At first, I said no, because I knew it was creepy and I also because he has never slept really well and I didn't want to run the risk of my being the reason for his having a bad night. Which this story, I felt certain, would do.

He persisted. And I (here's my parental error) finally gave in and let him read it.

It probably took him 15 minutes to read 19 pages and 12,000 words. Far faster than I can read. When he was done, I looked at him and watched him visibly shudder. Oops, I thought.

"You OK bud?"

He couldn't look at me, but said, "Yeah, that was REALLY CREEPY, mom."

"I know."

He needed to go to bed shortly thereafter and told me he would be sleeping with his light on. I expected that, and so didn't really make a reply.

A little while later, he came in and said, "Mom, that story was really creepy!" I suggested he grab his ear buds and listen to music as he fell asleep. He thought that - along with his light - was an excellent idea, and so went back to bed.

Again, he came back to me and said, "I think I figured out why your story bothered me so much."

"Oh? Why?" I asked.

"Because the main character is you. It's creepy because it feels like it happened to you. I could see you in the character and that's what made it creepy."

I put my hands on both sides of his head, looked him directly in the eyes (knowing he was looking back; looking to make sure my irises hadn't suddenly turned black) and said to him, "Bud, I'm right here, soul and all. I'm OK, I promise. And so are you."

He said, "OK," and went back to bed.

Apparently, he was so convinced of my truly being OK, he was no longer even fearful, because when - about 30 minutes later - I went to check on him, he was fast asleep. Lights and music off. And further, he slept all night long.

The next morning, I asked if he was alright and he said, "Yeah, but I guess I probably shouldn't have asked to read it."

Probably not. But he's 13 now and is finally starting to understand actions and decisions and consequences. So, I suppose, even though I feel like I scared the crud out of my son and am a terrible parent, it is a lesson learned. For both of us.

TTFN
JMS

PS: My trusted friend, who had the distinction of being the first person - other than myself - to read the story, said that she could see me in the main character, too. Her words were something to the effect of, "...those who know you will really see you in this." Guess my son has excellent insight, too.

UPDATE 8/15/17: It's rough - I reread it after it had been posted and there are some spacing errors, as well as a few things I'd like to fix, but the story is out there now and you're welcome to go read it. http://www.creepypasta.com/becoming/ Good luck. Feel free to tell me how you really feel. My skin is thick.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Kids vs. Cats

As I was walking through my house the other day, going about my chores, I made almost unconscious, idle conversation with the cats - neither of whom were near at the time - telling them what I was doing as I did it.  Of course, it occurred to me, as I stuffed another load in the washing machine, how silly it was. The cats don't care what I'm doing; not really. Yeah, they're nosey little buggers, but truthfully, unless it involves food, they would much rather sit in a sunny window and doze.

Further, I thought, when having such conversations with one's cats, how similar they sometimes are to conversations one may have with babies and toddlers. I remember keeping up a running commentary about everything I was doing when my babies were little, which might account for why they talk so much now; not that I mind.

Once I'd made the connection, it stood out every time I said something aloud to the four-legged fur-creatures. I found myself saying things to them that I would and, I'm sure, did say to my kids.

Why are you sticky?

Don't eat that!

Don't climb on that! 

Get down!

No, that's my food. You eat your own food.

Why are you wet?

Where have you been?

What have you been getting into?

Why is it so quiet?

Ugh, what is that smell?

Which one of you made this mess?

Ok, who puked?

Someone needs a bath!

The list, I'm sure, could go on. But every time I said something to the cats, I further realized...maybe I didn't really want to know the answer.

TTFN
JMS