In the spirit of the season, I've decided to share some spooky, children friendly poems I've written. Enjoy! Oh, and go all the way down to the bottom for the cover reveal of the new book featuring my scary YA story "Mother's Night Out", coming out in November.
Noises in the Dark
By D. G. Driver
In a single instant
I spring up from my sleep
Something out there woke me
From my slumber so deep
Darkness grips the room in terror
An eerie glow from under the door
What’s that? Did I hear a creak?
Is something moving across the floor?
Blankets pulled up to my chin
Protect me from my fear
Lying still as marble
A movement might beckon it near
“What’s out there?” My mind screams
I wrench in sweat and tears
It sees me in this state
Through beady eyes it peers
“Help me!” I whine in frustration
Nothing comes in reply
It’s just torturing me
Before I actually die
What was that?
I cover my head and squirm
The rational possibilities:
The dog? The cat? A worm?
Breath exhales at length
Another inhale takes forever
Close my eyes, forget it
It will strike whenever
I throw my teddy bear across the room
My hero gliding through the night
He soars across and hits the wall
Turning on the light
That I can see
But just to be careful
I’ll keep the light on
For whatever was here
Now seems to be gone
And if that doesn’t work
I’ll cry out for Mom.
By Donna Getzinger
He stumbles and falls
This little creature of mine
He squeaks as he walks
But I like him just fine
Sometimes he’s wicked
Sometimes he’s mean
And often he makes
My mother scream
Mostly, though, he stays in my room
Hiding under the bed
I’d show him to you,
But you might get scared
Of my pet monster named Fred.
This next rhyme is one I made up when I used to teach drama and dance classes at elementary schools and after school programs. It is a game where the students sit in a circle. They pass a small pumpkin around, like "Hot Potato", while reciting the poem. Whoever is holding the poem on the final word get to act out a very dramatic (and hopefully over-the-top) death scene. Naturally, that person is now "out", and the game repeats until there is one final survivor. My students always had fun playing this.
The poem is copyrighted, but please feel free to play the game with your students or children on Halloween. Have a blast with this game. Expect some Oscar-deserving death scenes and a lot of giggling corpses. For a prize, let the last survivor keep the pumpkin.
Pass the Pumpkin
by D. G. Driver
Pass the Pumpkin, pass it fast.
Who knows how long this song will last?
The headless horseman’s coming soon
He comes by the light of the Halloween moon
If he sees you with his head
You’re gonna wish that you were dead
Is that him knocking at the door?
Oh no! It’s too late!!!!!
I hope you enjoyed all that silliness. I don't write poems often, so there you go. What I do write are novels and short stories, and this has been my year of getting stories published in anthologies. My third one of the year is coming out on November 17th (and it's my understanding that the ebook version will be FREE).
Two or three of you who've been following me for a while may have read my scary baby horror story "Mother's Night Out" when I had it up on Wattpad. Well, I've pulled it off of that page, spruced it up a bit and had it accepted into a real-life book called Fantastic Creatures. All the stories in this book are free of graphic content and bad language and are rated PG-13 or younger. My story is one of the few scary ones with a bit of blood, but it's perfectly appropriate for my usual YA readers. Below is the cover for this wonderful, fun book, and if you click on it, you can read the little bit about werewolves I wrote for their blog. Make sure you follow me on Facebook or Twitter to get updates about when the book is released.
Oh hey! Still with me?
Just reminding you, that while I don't have a Halloween-ish horror book out right now, I do still have a great ghost story, Passing Notes, selling for only 99 cents.
I'm also hosting a Goodreads Giveway for a signed copy of my eerie YA novel Whisper of the Woods about a girl trapped 170 feet up in a tree by an ancient tree spirit. The giveaway ends at midnight on October 30th, so don't wait.
With Halloween looming, there have been many promotional opportunities to advertise my books with groups of spooky themed stories. At this point, none of my books really fit into the Horror category (although I have a scary story coming out next month in a new anthology – more details to come). I do have one published ghost story, my novella Passing Notes. I chose not to include it in the Halloween book promotions, though, because the ghost in my book isn’t scary. He’s actually really nice, helpful, and a bit of a romantic.
Some people have read Passing Notes and told me they think my ghost is really an angel. I’ve even considered going back and rewriting the book using the word “angel” instead of “ghost” to see if that might get more readership. Maybe if people saw it as an angel story, they’d read the book for the sweet, sentimental message it holds instead of waiting for it to get scary. In all honestly, I waffle on this subject several times a week. I am currently plotting out two companion stories to go with Passing Notes, so the idea of making the book more “spiritual” than “paranormal” is on my mind a lot.
So, I decided to explore the idea of what is the big difference between a ghost and an angel. In many movies, TV shows, and books these spiritual beings are interchangeable. For example, when Kevin Costner’s dad finally appears in Field of Dreams is he a ghost like the other baseball players, or is he an angel? In the movie Ghost, Patrick Swayze is loving and helpful, but couldn’t that movie just as easily been called Angel?
On the other side of things we have Medium, Ghost Whisperer, and movies like Sixth Sense where a psychic is able to talk to stranded ghosts and help them finish their business and move on. Definitely ghosts. And there are shows like Dominion, Lucifer, and Touched by an Angel, where angels are absolutely Heaven sent/created to change the lives of mortals.
By these rules, ghosts appear to have originally been human, and angels are originated in the spiritual realm. Does that mean then that a person visiting from beyond is not an angel? If you’re doing a séance and call the spirit of your long lost aunt, she is a ghost not an angel? If your best friend you lost to cancer visits you at your bedside to assure you he’s okay, he’s a ghost not an angel?
I looked around at some websites by psychics and mediums for their opinions on the matter. Bob Olson of Best Psychic Directory writes that the confusion comes from not using the word “spirit”. In his opinion (which makes a ton of sense to me) ghosts, spirits, and angels are different things. A ghost is a trapped, earthbound soul that has never crossed over to the light. A spirit is a soul that has been beyond and has returned, usually to visit or help a loved one. An angel is a messenger or servant of God. Think of Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life.
In a lot of stories where a long lost love or family member has returned to be helpful, the book, movie, or TV show refers to them as ghosts. Olson thinks this is for marketing purposes. “I can only speculate that the TV show producers and book publishing executives… used the word “ghost” instead of “spirit” in their titles for marketing reasons. There had been a lot of success with television shows and books… that used the word ghost, so it probably seemed like a savvy marketing choice. But there’s no question in my mind that these terms “spirit” and “ghost” confuse many people.”*
Melanie Beckler is a medium and author. From her site Ask-Angels, she explains: “Ghosts and earthbound spirits miss or avoid crossing over into the light, and then they must draw on the energy of people, or physical locations to stay bound to the physical plane… Visits from your loved ones in Heaven, is an entirely different experience than that with ghosts and earthbound spirits. The main difference is that your loved ones in Heaven have crossed over into the light… They have received a great deal of healing, and their energetic being has been restored… Much different from the encounters with earthbound spirits and ghosts, visits from deceased loved ones can be beautiful, healing and positive experiences” And finally, “Your spirit guides and angels are always available to help, whenever called upon… But they will sometimes connect with you without your direct asking, in the cases of emergencies, or when you’re in need of an encouraging hug energetically, to help protect and comfort you, or when someone else is praying for you and invites them in.”*
Now, of course, there are scary ghosts and angels in fiction and perhaps in real life. Horror films and YA paranormal romance are filled with them. In these extremes, there is absolutely no question of the difference between an angel and a ghost. Ghosts are dead people here to haunt and terrify the living. Angels are often fallen and here to either cause the end of the world or to prevent it.
I think the difference between ghosts and angels also depends on what you believe. If you don’t believe in Heaven, then then all souls in spiritual form here on Earth must be ghosts. If you don’t believe in ghosts, then they must all be spirits or angels from beyond. Some people don’t believe in Biblical stories of angels and demons but might believe in something more like guardian angels. It gets complicated.
On my part, I do believe in ghosts, and I believe that I’ve encountered a few over the years. I’m positive the 150-year-old house that used to be the location of the daycare where I work was haunted. We named one of the ghosts “Duncan”. My family was pretty convinced our tiny cottage house in rural Tennessee had some children ghosts that laughed and played outside in our yard regularly. I swear to this day a ghost watched a play I was in over my shoulder in the wings of a theater in Oakland, California. A couple years ago my husband and I got both thrilled and spooked on an overnight ghost hunting trip to an old haunted hotel. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered an angel or spirit. If I have, I was unaware of it.
I hope the confusion has been cleared up for you. I think I’m still waffling.
I now suspect that the character haunting Mark in Passing Notes is probably a “spirit” and not a ghost or an angel. However, it seems a bit lackluster to blurb my book: Mark is being haunted by a spirit who wants to teach him to write a love letter…
I think I’ll leave it alone and let him remain a ghost. What do you think? Feel free to post your opinion below or let me know about other books or stories that feature ambiguous ghosts. Want to know more about Passing Notes. Visit my page all about it. And if you’d like to read it, the novella is always only 99 cents everywhere ebooks are sold.
When people ask me these days, “Who is your best friend?” I always answer, “My husband.” It’s true. He fits the definition of Best Friend. He and I spend all our time together. We share all the ups and downs. We laugh at each other’s jokes, and cry at each other’s sadness. He gets as angry along with me when something goes wrong, and vice versa.
But then people roll their eyes and say, “Well, of course, but who is your best friend besides the person you’re married to.”
That answer is harder to provide. I have had several people over my lifetime that I considered best friends. All of them have faded away over time and been replaced by others. There is one woman right now I consider my closest friend, but we don’t hang out together like friends do in the movies, and she has at least a dozen other good friends that are probably higher on her list than me. Still, I know if I need her shoulder or support, she’ll be there. I think she knows that about me too.
I was at a wedding last night where my step-niece of 25 had two best friends as her bridesmaids. They claimed to have been her friends since they were four years old. Wow. They seem like the kind of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants kind of close, and I can see them being all Ya Ya Sisterhood when they’re old. I’ve always envied those kinds of friendships. I never have had those.
I recall having a couple best friends from Girl Scouts in 3rd grade. I changed schools in 4th grade, and those friendships were gone. It took a while at my new school, but I finally got one solid best friend before the year was out. Jennifer was her name. We were Judy Blume novel tight until 6th grade. That’s when the mean popular girls in school decided to hate me, recruit everyone else to hate me (including Jennifer), and bully me. It was a real Harriet the Spy type experience. I finished elementary school with no friends at all.
Middle school for me was 7th and 8th grade. I had one friend named Betty in 7th grade. She was a very smart girl, super shy, and we liked doing art and calligraphy together. Sadly, our friendship came to an abrupt end before the school year was over. I don’t really know why. She never told me. She just stopped calling me or taking my calls. I don’t think her mom liked me, and that may have played a part in what happened. So… I went into 8th grade with no friends again.
But then! Then! I got into Musical Theater class. I connected with a group of complete nerds, and we hit it off. These people remained my best friends for the next five years. We were a force of Drama nerdiness, and we loved it. My bestie of the best was a girl named Sonia, fresh from living abroad in Taiwan. She was hilarious and bright. She was exuberant and extroverted to counter my quiet introvertedness. We were an inseparable team. None of the boys we dated through high school managed to get between us. Their existence in our lives was brief.
Alas, high school, that weird time when teens are trapped in a dome where nothing exists outside of it, ended. My dearest friends and I parted ways for various colleges. The colleges changed everyone, and all of those people I loved so much were gone from my life. Completely.
Once again I was alone. I never made friends like that in college. I was too shy to get in involved. I never realized how much I leaned on my best friends in high school to provide my social life for me. Without them, I was lost. I had some boyfriends, but no real friendships came out of that time.
I have a reason for all this best friend reminiscing. I recently beta read a book for an author I know, and my favorite character in her book was the quirky best friend. It got me thinking about how best friends are often portrayed in YA and MG books. A lot of the time they are the more easy-to-like character. If the main protagonist is serious, the best friend is often silly. If the mc is heroic, the best friend might be more timid. If the mc is super smart, the best friend might be a little dorky. In girl books, isn’t the best friend always a little less attractive or beguiling than the mc?
I confess, even in my Juniper Sawfeather books, Haley comes across as far less noble and desirable as Juniper. One reviewer of Whisper of the Woods wrote honestly, “I still have reservations about the best friend when I started reading this book and I honestly don't like her. She's immature and annoying and well, I guess she's being her age. But I was glad to see her character developing in this book.” (Yes, I did just put a fairly negative review quote about my own book in my blog post. For more about my thoughts on teenagers being teenager-y in books, read my post: http://www.dgdriver.com/write-and-rewrite-blog/how-teenager-ish-should-a-ya-book-be
Why would I create a character that is less-so than my main character? Well, Haley was created to be more “typically high school”. Her concerns are inside that dome I mentioned above. She wants more friends, popularity, and a hot boyfriend. These are her main concerns right now. She cares for Juniper, but the extreme environmental activism of Juniper’s parents has made Juniper super unpopular. Haley suffers beside her, resenting it quite a bit. She has a hard time coming around to support Juniper’s exploits in the first two books, but in book three Echo of the Cliffs (coming out in May, 2017), you’ll see a whole new Haley, inspired by Juniper’s activism, with a mission that is all her own.
I created Haley (and consequently the mean girls Regina and Marlee) to juxtapose against Juniper’s character. Juniper is in her parent’s shadow, but she still shares their views about the environment and sees the bigger world outside the high school dome. She is eager to escape from high school and get her life started. So naturally, when the mermaids stranded in an oil spill present themselves, it isn’t farfetched that she would step up to try to help them. And when she learns that a 1,000 year old tree is going to be chopped down by a timber company, she would want to climb into its branches in order to save it.
But is Haley superficial? Not in my mind. I think her desires for popularity and a good boyfriend are real and valid. There’s nothing wrong with those goals. I think that if I told the whole story from her point of view, she’d have a lot to say about it all. Granted, it would be a very different kind of book.
In real life, best friends are the lead characters in their own stories. Sonia was my fun, vibrant best friend in my personal high school story where I (in my head) was the leading actress of the high school drama department. On the other hand, I was the shy, overly serious best friend in her story of being the much-loved center of attention.
Think of Ron from Harry Potter. Clearly, of the three best friends, he is the silly one. He gets all the funny lines and comedy scenes. However, no one can argue that he is superficial or unnecessary to the book series. Likewise, Grover, in the Percy Jackson series, is the cautious one and gets most of the laughs. Still, without him, Percy wouldn’t achieve much success. Iko, the best friend to Cinder in the Lunar Chronicles, behaves just like a typical, adorable, always there pal even though she’s actually artificial intelligence. She is lovely comic relief in a very intense science fiction series.
There are books where the best friends are more complex, but I am finding that tends to happen more often when the POV changes to the different characters. In the Raven Cycles, for example, the best friends are not quirky and funny. Ronin is quite severe and Adam is quiet and pained. They each get their own chapters, and Ronin even is the main character in the second book. Other books with marvelous rotating POVs of best friends are The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
Sometimes, though, as in real life, the main character has no best friend. Being alone with no one to talk to is the point. Mark from my book Passing Notes has no one to give him good love advice, nor does he have anyone to tell when he starts communicating with the ghost. His loneliness is part of his troubles. He doesn’t know how to talk to people, because he has no one. Other lonely characters might be heroes on quests in fantasy novels. Eragon comes to mind. Or you have someone searching for someone to understand them like Gordie from These Gentle Wounds by Helene Dunbar.
As a reader, think about the best friends in the books you read. Why are they there? In what way are they helping the plot or the main character’s arc?
If you are a writer, think about the best friends you are creating. Remember that the more real these people are to you, the more realistic they will come across in your writing. Think of your own best friends from your school days. How did they enhance your life? When those friendships were strong, how did they help you? When those friendships failed, how did it hurt? Imagine their story if they were the leading character, and you were the supporting role.
I’d love to know your thoughts about best friends in books. Feel free to comment, listing any books you know that have great best friend characters and why.
D. G. Driver
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.