If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book next year, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our October interviews feature: Kathy Aarons 10/5, Tracy Weber 10/12, Shelley Costa 10/19, and Maggie Toussaint on 10/26.

Saturday Guest Bloggers: Sharon Love Cook 10/1, Leslie Lantry 10/8, and our Saturday Bloggers--10/15 Margaret S. Hamilton, 10/29 Kait Carson. 10/22 will be filled by E. B. Davis.

Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Coal Mine and The Devil" will be published in Centum Press' 100 Voices anthology available for pre-order. The We've Been Trumped anthology to be released by Dark House Press will contain Warren's "The Wall" short story.

Jim Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

What Are We Afraid Of?

As mystery writers and for mystery readers, fear of some kind has to be included in a story or book, but as people not characters, what are we afraid of? What would really spook us if it happened? What do we worry about happening to us?
I once had a nightmare of a tiger roaming outside.

This might sound strange, but I’m not afraid of much of anything. Of course, if someone broke into my house with a gun, I’d be afraid, but I don’t worry about that happening. If a tiger escaped from the zoo, I’d be afraid if it was wandering around my house, but I don’t live near any zoo. If I lived in an area with cougars or grizzly bears, I’d be nervous walking by myself, but there are no cougars or grizzly bears in my area. I live alone with an extremely friendly collie. Would she protect me? I doubt it, although my niece’s husband, a cop, said even having a dog is a deterrent to burglars. I have nothing of value to a burglar, unless it’s a burglar interested in a thousand or more books. I only have cheap jewelry. I don’t keep much cash on hand. Of course, burglars don’t know that. I’m not totally clueless. Still, I live in a rural neighborhood with neighbors across the street and a son sort of next door, and I do keep my doors locked most of the time.

I think I don’t worry about things so much because my mother and grandmother never did, but then the newspapers weren’t filled with crimes then so much. At least I don’t think they were.

I got to thinking about something most people seem to be afraid of and that’s snakes. According to Clara Moskowitz on Live Science, March 3, 2008, “Fear of snakes is one of the most common phobias, yet many people have never seen a snake in person.” She claims that “New research suggests humans have evolved with an innate tendency to sense snakes – and spiders, too, - and tend to learn to fear them.” The article goes on with references to other articles on this. I’m wondering if part of it goes back to the Bible story of Adam and Eve, but probably not.

 As a young girl I used to catch snakes and chase boys with them. Once when I was quite young – and I don’t remember this – I caught a black and white snake and put it in the garbage can where it totally startled my father. Of course, we didn’t have poisonous snakes where we lived except for swamp rattlers in a low lying place at least twenty-five miles north of us, or so I heard. Mostly what was around where I lived were garter snakes or milk snakes or the occasional black snake which I don’t remember seeing any near where I lived. So snakes may startle me if they come out of the weeds, but I’m not afraid of them. Once I even had to fish one out from under the hot water heater when my then husband raced up the steps in a panic after spying a snake when he was getting ready to take a shower in the basement. I got the snake out, put it in a bag and took it outside to release it.

The first rattlesnake I saw outside of a zoo was on a backpacking trip in Pennsylvania with my sister Elaine. At first we thought it was a large branch stretched across a forest road. When we got closer we saw it was a large snake at least six feet long or longer with a huge bulge in the middle where it had swallowed something. We were both excited seeing it and walked closer to it. It lay still with its tongue going in and out as it tried to figure out who or what we were. We stood not too far from it and watched as it slowly glided into the large patch of ferns in the woods next to the road.

I saw another rattlesnake down on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah Valley National Park. It was a very hot day, and I was out of water and heading down the trail that went down to a stream at the base of the hill I was on. My sister and her son had gone ahead of me, and I came across her sitting on a boulder. She said we couldn’t go on because a rattlesnake was on the path ahead. I was hot and thirsty and wasn’t going to let that snake keep me from getting to water. So I walked ahead and stomped my feet and pounded my walking stick on the ground when I got within five or six feet from the snake lying across the narrow trail. Now snakes can’t hear, but they can feel vibrations, so the snake started shaking its rattles in warning, but I only pounded louder. I was not going to climb up the right side of the narrow trail or climb down the other side, either. Eventually, it gave in and slithered off the trail a short distance as I walked by followed by my sister.  (I recently learned from a fellow blogger that recent research shows that although they don’t have ears something inside does allow them to hear. I find that interesting.)

For a while after moving into the old farm house; I bought, I got milk snakes in my basement because the basement had a crawl space under part of it and there were spots where the foundation had gaps. They didn’t bother me because I rarely saw them, but once when my granddaughter and her friend were taking care of my critters and went to clean the litter boxes in the basement, they saw one on a beam overhead. It spooked them. I’ve since had any gaps in the foundation repaired. An interesting fact is that milk snakes feed on rodents, birds and other snakes, even rattlesnakes.

No, this wasn't the guy or the snake I held.

As a third grade teacher, several times we had someone come in with different animals including a python. Once when he asked, I agreed to let him put it over my shoulders, and only got a little nervous when it wrapped its bottom half a little tightly around my arm. Snakes are afraid of falling, and it was only trying to get a firm hold of something to keep from falling. The snake’s owner carefully unwound it from my arm. The man encouraged the children to touch the snake. Some wouldn’t but many did and were surprised that it didn’t feel slimy.

Several weeks ago I saw a garter snake beside my brick sidewalk in the garden bordering it under bird netting I’d put there to keep the rabbits from eating the begonias I’d planted. I ignored it and walked on. Much later when I saw it still there, I realized it was trapped so I got garden gloves, a pair of scissors and cut off as much of the bird netting as I could and then picked it up and sat on a garden bench with the snake on my lap and carefully cut as much of the netting as I could without cutting into its scales. It lay there quietly with its little tongue flicking in and out. When there was only a small bit still attached to it that I was afraid to cut any closer and risk cutting it, I put it under the bench. It lay there awhile and then slowly moved away.

 I found out the second thing most people are afraid of are spiders. Well, I wouldn’t want a big spider in my bed and don’t like them in my house, but I don’t freak out. I simply sweep it up with my sweeper. Otherwise outside I like to see them in their spider webs waiting for an insect to come along for dinner.  I taught a unit on arachnids to my third graders, too, and although some might have still been afraid of spiders most were fascinated by them. Once a college student from Hiram College; in the village where I taught, came to visit us and she brought a large pet tarantula in. She let it crawl on her hand, and I did, too. Only a few students did.

What do I fear and hate to see? Not bears. I saw a lot of those backpacking in Shenandoah National Park on the AT, and occasionally young male bears come into our area to escape from adult alpha male bears. I heard one once while walking and Maggie barked at it, but it was in the brush and left without me seeing it. The next day my daughter-in-law and great-granddaughter saw it by their house, and I had signs of it when every blueberry on my bushes disappeared one night.

No, not bears, but I hate rats. I’ve never had one in my house, but have had them in my barn. I’m not particularly afraid of them as much as I don’t like them and worry about one finding its way in my house.  I haven’t seen a rat in my barn for several years, and I’m glad of that.  In one of my short stories, I used rats as a way to cause the death of a not so nice person. The other third grade teacher in my school loved rats and let them crawl on her shoulder. She found them very friendly, but then they weren't barn rats.

What do you fear most?

If you’re a writer, have you used your fear in your stories or books?