Wednesday, March 30, 2016

a list of scary things

John Bauer - 1915 - The Gold Key- "and she held up a key, a find key made of pure gold."

Astrid has been sent to live by herself for the summer. She is to care for the small herd of sheep and cows in the lower pasture land, complete with a tiny sod-roofed summer cottage. Her family continues to live in the main house, far above her in the mountains. When no one comes for her at the appointed time, she treks up there on her own, to find that something horrible has happened. She can't live there anymore. She takes anything she might need back to the Summer Farm and prepares for a winter there. What she doesn't know is what happened to her family, who or what is terrorizing her, when or if someone will come help her, and if she can survive on her own. So...scary things that might happen to her:

creaking floorboards coupled with swaying, sputtering lanterns

From her garden, her eyes perceive the shape of someone who has hastily entered her cottage. She runs up to the door but she hesitates to enter. She hears nothing coming from inside, but she puts her ear to the door all the same. Someone behind the door, knocks. From inside. Right opposite her ear. When she swings the door wide to dissuade the intruder, she sees no one.

getting scared and dropping something outside upon her hasty exit, only to find it (perhaps neatly folded) on the end of her bed in the morning. Her doors and window are shut fast and locked.

strange things happening in bright daylight

stepping over a threshold and feeling instantly and acutely vulnerable

hazy shapes at dusk

creeping and shuffling, in a barn, at night

dead farm animals in the morning that at night were perfectly alive and healthy the night before

hands and fingers on legs in deep, murky water

tapping on windows, at night, with no moon

a cold, long shadow coming over her suddenly whilst sitting in the forest in a bright spot with the sun high overhead, turning to see what makes the shadow, only to have it, just as suddenly, disappear. nothing.

being stuck - anywhere - and not being able to get out

on a midnight pathway through a forest with only half a moon, she sees before her a night shadow - dense and deep as the maw of a cave - under a thick oak, and as she passes through it, she bumps her feet into something soft laying there in the middle of the path

deep loneliness in a strange new place

not being able to start a fire after pulling herself from a frozen lake

strangers being strange

partially submerged any-things

those she loves instantly being apathetic toward her

something that lures innocents to danger and death

writing quietly in the dead of night and hearing the squeaky wheels of a tiny wagon being pulled along under the window immediately to her right

having to choose between certain anguish or certain anguish

whispers in empty houses

no soft noises from the forest

fiddle music coming from a cave - that is empty

pool surfaces that do not ruffle in sudden breezes

ancient peeling wallpaper revealing chalked on hexes

coming suddenly upon nests of things - other than birds

finding body-width holes in the ground that drop more than 10 feet into cave systems that have no other way in or out, BUT those body-width holes - now 10 or more feet above her.

if she finds, one day, that every single thing about the life she has led and are leading now, is regretful.

getting tangled, head-to-toe, in a fishing net that is steadily being pulled into the ocean

The animals in the barn are in distress - loudly. She hops out of bed and bundles on her sweaters and shawl to run out and see what the matter is. As it gets louder and louder, she gets more frantic. She swings the barn door wide and leans in with the lantern. Utterly quiet. Not one peep. She inspects each animal. They all appear to be breathing softly and content. Confused, but glad, she steps back out of the barn and closes the door quietly. On her way back to the house, her lantern sputters out and there is extremely heavy breathing right behind her, warming her ear.

fingers poking at her back, under the covers in bed, when she sleeps (and lives) alone

Sunday, March 13, 2016


John Bauer Agneta and the Sea King

Dagrun (dahg-ROO-ne) is my main character. I think about her even when I'm not writing. She is so like me, I have to step back and shake my head to see her as a stranger might.

Her name is Old Norse for "day" and "secret lore". If I can call my characters' names "Dickensian", I've definitely done that. Their names ARE who they are.

An excerpt:

     The Haraldson's sad little place, smaller than it should be for two children, a husband and a pregnant wife, was deep in the woods surrounded by enough stumps that everyone from the village could've sat on one apiece, and they'd still have some left over.

     Right in their front yard were two trestles, tall as a man and sturdy enough for one to stand on. Across the two, was always a log being ripped, or waiting to be ripped, into wide planks. She'd seen Bjern and his father working a couple of times, with his father standing on the log and Bjern below in a pile of sweet sawdust, a long rip saw between them, his ten-year-old arms barely able to keep up. Mr. Haraldson was usually yelling at Bjern to keep the cut straight, though she'd asked Bjern about it once, and he said it was the job of the top sawyer to keep the line straight. That didn't matter. If a board was crooked, Bjern was the one who paid for it.

     Today he straddled a log, taking off long slivers of bark with a drawing knife. When he saw the two of them, he rose from the mean work and dropped to his knees, fussing over Gunnar.

     Bjern's mother was at the door, long white apron being nudged by the breeze. Aslaug Haraldson was a diminutive woman, pale and sorrowful, with a huge belly. She was forever stooping and wringing her hands. today was the same. Her hands only came apart long enough to raise one in greeting.
     "Hello, Mrs. Haraldson. How are you, today?"

     "These babies will come any day, I suppose."

     "Babies? Two, Mrs. Haraldson?"

     "I'd bet my last coffee bean on it."

     They were both quiet for a moment when a breeze picked up, swirling through the sawdust, toppling a precarious-looking pile of skinny fence posts. Dagrun shook herself, remembering one of the other reasons she was here, "Oh, Mamma sent the woad yarn in exchange for the fence posts."

     "Ayuh. I hope they'll keep your goats in this time." Mrs. Haraldson put on hand on her expanding belly, and squinted out at her children: shy little Inga was taking a break from her white lace embroidery, her ruddy-cheeked older brother threw sticks for Gunnar.

     "I hope so too, but the younger ones are smarter every year, Mrs."

     "They aren't smarter. They just carry on from the old ones...learning from their mistakes...until they find a way out," Aslaug's voice softened as she went on. Dagrun wondered if they were still talking about goats.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

What have you been UP to??!!

John Bauer "The Tale of the Moose Hop and the Little Princess Cotton Grass"

You mean, besides teaching 2nd grade? Raising two kids, keeping our little farm running and housework? I've decided I needed to do what I really and truly love to do in my "off-hours": write. I've been writing at every available place and time.

At Christmas, I began really reading a book I bought a few years ago called Keeping Christmas: Yuletide Traditions in Norway and the New Land. My husband's family comes from Norway and I am enamored with Scandinavia myself. Between the pages of this book, I read about the "hill people" and the "hidden people". The "hidden people" came down out of the hills at Christmas. Of course, being from America, I imagined Appalachian hill people coming down out of the hills to celebrate Christmas with the "townsfolk" or something like that. This intrigued me to no end. Hill people in Norway. You can guess how much I wanted my husband's family to have come from the Norwegian "hill people": rich in traditions and superstitions. But theeeen, I looked it up. Not to be disappointed, however!
"Hidden Folk" are the fairies and elves, the trolls and magical beings that live up in the hills, the caves, the rocks of Scandinavia. It is so ingrained in their culture that even still today in Iceland, there were great protests over moving an building-sized boulder from its place where a roadway was being built, and they opted to build AROUND they wouldn't disturb the hidden folk.

AFTER Christmas, I began reading a book called The Outlandish Companion by Diana Gabaldon, in which, among other wonderful things, she talks about HOW she began writing the Outlander series. The one bit that stuck with me was that she said she didn't know how to write a novel, but she began anyway. She was very careful not to tell anyone that DID know how to write a novel that she was writing one as well, this way, she could just do it purely and simply on her own. I LOVED THAT!

So, I began.

I figure that the world needs more Scandinavian (particulary Norwegian) fiction. Recently, I've been watching Vikings on the History channel, so that also inspired me. My son has begun reading a new series called Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan. But other than that, I don't find any recent books for young adults based in Scandinavia! I think I've found a niche!

So, began my research. Now, I can think of half a dozen books to write based on people's lives in Norway, touched by magic!

More to come...