About Leslie Conner

Leslie Conner's hilarious science fiction debut novel will be released in Spring 2013. For updates and blog posts, stay tuned!

Ghost Month is finally here!

Better than Shark Week…it lasts all month!

You know, as a Caucasian Southern woman, I feel as if I should keep everyone apprised of Chinese customs. As it turns out, this month is Ghost Month (which is celebrated on September 5th with a Ghost Festival). It is a time when “the gates of hell are opened to free the hungry ghosts who then wander to seek food on Earth.” They don’t actually specify what food ghosts are seeking, so we can only infer that they mean human brains.

And according to this reputable source—an article I found online—there are some things to avoid during the month of the hungry ghost. I would think that number one would be to avoid hungry ghosts, but I was wrong.

I won’t include the entire list (you can find it here), but if you want to know what NOT to do this month, I’ve included the important things to know to save yourself from certain death.

  1. Don’t stay out late because spirits could follow you back home. (I wonder if “spirits” are actually disguised as stray cats?)
  2. Don’t stab your chopsticks in your bowl of rice—it is an “indirect” curse on your own death, and as an added bonus, it tells “the spirits that it is their bowl of rice.” (I’m not sure why it’s a bad thing to give them a bowl of rice. I mean, they’re hungry, right?)
  3. Don’t take a photo at night because you will capture something you don’t want to see. (Most pictures contain things I don’t want to see.)
  4. Avoid working late because humans are weak and spirits are strong, so you might become possessed. (Done and done…no working late.)
  5. Don’t cover your forehead. Try to “pin up your head as high as possible.” (I’m not sure I want to “pin up” my head. I kinda like it where it is.)
  6. Don’t wait at a bus stop after midnight, especially after bus service hours. (Why the hell would you be at a bus stop if the buses weren’t running, you loser?)
  7. Don’t use black or dark colors on your nails because the spirits will think you are one of them and may lead you back to hell. (Black nails is all it takes to confuse them?)
  8. Avoid spitting and blowing your nose in public. (Honestly, this should be a rule every month.)
  9. Don’t lean against a wall. Spirits stick on walls because—it’s cooler. (So do they have Ray Bans and a cigarette? A James Dean jacket?)
  10. The best one must be stated verbatim: “Don’t turn your head around if someone pats you on the shoulder – It is believed that humans have two protective flames, one on each shoulder. If a ghost pats you on the back and you only turn your head, you’ll snuff out that protective flame, thus making you vulnerable. To avoid this, turn the whole body at once instead of just the head.” (You should probably start practicing your 180 turn.)

So, be safe this month. It probably wouldn’t hurt to just leave out some food. If the ghosts are busy noshing on some caramel chews, they may not even get to your brains.

The Wonder Years…as an 80s Horror Film

Now, imagine him possessed by Satan.

I remember watching The Wonder Years, loving the Christmas Story-like narration. It never occurred to me that the actors had to spend a considerable amount of time just staring at each other as Daniel Stern’s voice explained what was going on in Kevin’s head. In the absence of that narration, you just get creepy silence. And from Kevin’s facial expressions, he could be thinking of more sinister things than his motivation for staring longingly at Winnie.

 

But the producer, Jon Friedman, thought it would be entertaining to replace that silence with 80s horror movie synthesizer music. And it’s brilliant!

I stumbled upon this clip and wanted to share. Fred Savage turned to evil mastermind in the cafeteria–the power of music.

The Solar Eclipse and the Emergence of Lizard Man

 

Lizard Man – upset there is no soy milk for his latte.

With all the talk of the solar eclipse on Monday, of course, there would have to be stories of “other worldly” things to come with it. Paranormal events, sightings of strange things. It’s a good time.

By far, my favorite story has to be Lizard Man.The legendary beast— just like Big Foot but scaly instead of hairy—apparently comes out during the eclipse. Lizard Man’s been in hiding for thirty-plus years….waiting to feast on human flesh. He might find his dinner is bit fattier than the cuisine from 1979.

This sounds coo-coo for Coco Puffs, but South Carolina residents have been warned. The Emergency Management Division actually posted that they “do not know if Lizardmen become more active during a solar eclipse, but we advise that residents of Lee and Sumter counties should remain ever vigilant.”

Nice. There isn’t just one Lizard Man. There are Lizard men. And apparently, people still use the phrase “ever vigilant.” So if you are out and about, you know, hanging in the swamps, waiting to burn your retinas in the eclipse, make sure you don’t become a meal for the Lizard Men.

But for the love of God, get a picture. I can excuse the people from 1979, but this is 2017. I know you have your phone. Stop running long enough to get a clear shot.

Fox, I believe.

Helen’s Bridge – Is It Really Haunted?

Yeah, it looks creepy.

If you aren’t from Asheville, most likely you haven’t heard the story of Helen’s Bridge. I have to admit, I’d never heard of it. But I do love a good ghost story–who doesn’t?

The legend goes something like this: A woman named Helen—appropriately enough—lost her only daughter in a fire. She was so devastated that she hanged herself from the bridge. Rumor has it that you can go to the bridge at Beaucatcher Mountain to catch glimpses of Helen.

People have reported seeing a woman in white walking on the bridge, calling for her daughter. Some have just felt a weird presence or a strong breeze. Many others have stated that car trouble is an inevitable occurrence after visiting the bridge.

Trip Advisor even has a page dedicated to this spot, so it must be legit, right?

If you want the whole story, watch this video:

There are also plenty of amateur videos resembling the Blair Witch Project if you want a giggle. Like, for instance, this one:

I’m no paranormal expert, but I’m pretty sure a tour bus (with its occupants chanting, “Helen, come forth”) wouldn’t invoke a ghost to make an appearance. But I am intrigued enough to want to see the place for myself. And so begins my journey of finding haunted places in Asheville….stay tuned!

Screamin’ Demon

My entry for the www.terribleminds.com Flash Fiction Challenge. Enjoy!

Screamin’ Demon

Jim stood in line with his son at the Screamin’ Demon for over thirty minutes. The sun was nearly peeling the skin off of his forehead, the one place that he had neglected to apply sunscreen, as he shuffled along behind the train of exhausted people waiting for their turn on the ride. Even though he didn’t want to get on this death mobile, a screeching, creaking hunk of metal that defienew-york-new-york-big-apple-coaster.tif.image.1440.720.highd all laws of gravity, Ian insisted. It was his vacation. This was his fun. And since he was only nine years old, he couldn’t very well go by himself – or at least that’s what his wife said as she strolled off to the funnel cake stand.

Ian was nearly jumping out of his shorts in anticipation, while Jim looked up to the sky, the shadow of the roller coaster giving him some reprieve from the sun’s rays. He thought that he would see someone drop from one of the cars, some freak accident that would shut the whole operation down. He certainly didn’t want anyone to die, but a broken arm wasn’t too much to ask.

It all made Jim feel nauseated- the bright colors, the throngs of people, everything moving all the time, upside down, sideways, round and round. Nothing in this place was still, not even for a moment. That, in combination with the stale grease smell that seemed to permanently set up camp in his nostrils, was enough to make his stomach turn. He didn’t need a roller coaster for that.

The line inched forward, creeping at a pace that would try a turtle’s patience, and Jim began to wonder if it really was a good idea to appease his son on this vacation. He began to question the notion that a child should get his way when it came to fun things. They could have chosen to do something that Jim wanted to do with his week off, like, for instance, watch porn. He always enjoyed that, and who did it hurt? Nobody, he thought, not like this heaping scrap of loose bolts and faulty wires. Carnies assembled these contraptions overnight. There was certainly a large margin for error.

“Dad.” Ian’s voice hadn’t registered. It was only the accompanying tug at Jim’s shirt that made him acknowledge his only child. “We can get some cotton candy after, right?”

Jim scanned the crowd, a sea of sweat-stained, blue collar mongrels wolfing down fried goods at an alarming rate. “Sure, son,” was all he said. Tonya was nowhere to be found. He wondered if she was taking her time, like all the others, shoveling deep-fried cake down her gullet, licking the powdered sugar off her greasy fingers. He wiped the sweat from his brow before it dripped into his eyes.

When he turned around to, once again, stare at the back of the morbidly obese woman in front of him in line, he focused on the intricate tattoo that spanned the wide, damp canvas, partially hidden behind the straps of a child’s tank top. He wondered if she could make the eagle’s wings flap by raising and lowering her arms, a tidal wave of fat ebbing and flowing across her buried shoulder blades. Jim shook the visual away, letting his eyes drift anywhere else, and it was then that he saw the kid.

A punk, probably sixteen or so, wearing a Nirvana t-shirt and a knit cap, ducked under the velvet rope that contained their line and nestled himself ever so discreetly in front of the obese woman. Jim stood there for a minute, waiting, wishing for the Hell’s Angel matriarch to put him in his place, take him by the scruff of his grungy neck and throw him on his ass. She didn’t do a thing.

Jim shifted from one foot to the other, wondering who the hell wears a knit hat when it’s eighty-five degrees. He usually kept his mouth shut, so it was just as much a surprise to him when words fell out of it.

“Hey,” he yelled. A few uninterested patrons turned around, but the kid acted like he didn’t hear. “Hey,” Jim said again, this time loud enough that the matriarch turned to give him a menacing stare. “Not you,” he said, “Him.” He pointed to the punk in front of her, and she reluctantly poked the kid in the back until he turned around.

She said to him, in the least interested voice she could muster, “He wants you,” pointing with her thumb in Jim’s direction.

The kid’s half-lidded gaze made its way over to Jim. He could have been stoned. He could have been brain damaged. It was hard to tell. When he realized that he had no idea who Jim was, he grunted, “What?”

“Did you just get in line?” Jim said.

“Yeah,” Nirvana boy answered with a “what’s it to ya” sneer.

“The end of the line is,” and Jim turned and pointed just for dramatic effect, “back THERE.”

“I was here,” the kid shot back, like he had proven some kind of point.

“You were here?” Jim said, his volume starting to draw the attention of the slack-jaws that were meandering past. “Because I’ve been waiting in line this whole time, and this is the first time that I’ve seen you.” The kid just shrugged and turned back around, as if ignoring him would make him go away. Jim felt the fire crawling up his back, his neck, all the way up to his face, but this time, it wasn’t the sun burning his skin.

“Dad.” Ian tugged at his shirt again, but Jim didn’t listen.

He barreled past the motorcycle chick and grabbed the kid’s shoulder. “Listen,” Jim was in the punk’s face now. “You will go to the end of the line, like everyone else.”

“Chill, man,” he said, looking at him like he had just taken a big whiff of some spoiled milk.

“There are rules,” Jim said. “What if everyone disregarded them like you, huh? Chaos, that’s what. Nothing but chaos.”

The kid turned to the person standing in front of him, who had looked back when Jim started yelling, and said, “This old dude’s off his rocker.”

Jim punched him.

The kid fell back, arms flailing, on the velvet ropes.  He dragged the pillars to the pavement, the crash echoing like a pile-up on the interstate. When he hit the ground, his cap flew off his head and landed on the asphalt a few feet away. He just sat there, screaming like a girl, holding his nose in both hands as the blood seeped out from between his fingers.

Jim was, at once, radioactive, dangerous, and the people in his vicinity tried to get out of it. He looked back to see his son’s face, an expression of surprise mixed with horror, and he realized what he had done, that it was a horrible thing. He bowed his head, and his eyes fell to his hands, still shaking from the adrenaline, the boy’s blood on his knuckles. He offered to help the boy off the ground, but it was a security guard who took Jim’s hand and jerked him out of the line.

The Nirvana kid just kept screaming, “This maniac just punched me!” He still sat on the ground and refused to take his hands from his face, so it sounded more like, “Dit menic jut punt me.” If there weren’t a visual, it would have been hard to figure out what he was saying, but it was pretty clear to the amusement park police what had happened.

As two burly officers dragged him out of the park, Ian trailing behind begging them to wait, Jim saw Tonya slowly walking towards him. She stopped mid-step, wide-eyed, as Jim was escorted past her, arms secured on both sides by men in uniform. She held a piece of funnel cake just an inch from her face, the picture that Jim had imagined there in front of him, frozen in time. But instead of her shoving the deep-fried cake into her mouth, she dropped it back onto the paper plate, leaving the stray powdered sugar to linger on her fingertips.

Go Outside and Play!

So, I’ve openly made the pledge that I will visit all seven continents and all fifty states before I become too old to actually walk through them without medical assistance. I made a little trek a few weeks ago to put a check mark beside a few “bucket list” items: see the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., watch a Baltimore Orioles game at Camden Yards, stroll along the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach and have a Dogfish beer in Delaware, and find Jefferson Rock in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Camden Yards, baby!

Camden Yards, baby!

The Orioles game was, well, an ass-beating, but I did get a free t-shirt – it was the 50th anniversary of the Orioles actually winning a game, I think – so it was all good.

 

 

 

Lincoln all bad ass...

Lincoln all bad ass…

 

D.C. was beautiful, and aside from the skin melting heat, it was a wonderful experience. I had never been to D.C. before. (I know, right? Who, in this nation of upstanding American citizens, hasn’t been to D.C.?  Well, me…until two weeks ago.) I got to see the Lincoln Memorial, the Reflection Pool, and the White House. Ate at Old Ebbitt Grill and cruised through the American History Museum. And all of these things I did in a pool of my own sweat, with the grace of a lady.

I took some fluffy clouds home with me.

I took some fluffy clouds home with me.

 

 

 

Rehoboth Beach was crazy pretty – like a supermodel. The sand, sky, and water totally made me forget that I was bursting into flame. Just look at those cotton candy clouds! And the old couple spontaneously combusting!

 

 

That's one awesome rock.

That’s one awesome rock.

The last stop on the trip of buckets was Harpers Ferry. I know what you’re thinking, “Why the hell would you want to go to West Virginia?” Well, look at Jefferson Rock. How cool is that? Come on, if you’re a rock lover like me, you have to appreciate the largeness of this hunk of sediment, with a baby rock along for the ride like a remora on a shark’s belly.

Anyway, the point of all of this – and there is one – go out and see stuff. You always think that you’ll have plenty of time to do the things you want to do. And then you wake up five years later, wondering where the time went.

Create a little adventure…rent a car…find things…”ooh” and “aah” at them. It’s fun, and life is short. Go outside and play.

Could be a stalactite…could be a spider

Image

Since this is the summer of adventure, I wanted to post some of the interesting things I’ve managed to capture – not capture as in “I have it duct-taped and hidden in my trunk,” but capture in photos.

This creep-tacular shot was taken in Mammoth Cave.

It's time to move.

It’s time to move.

If you don’t know of it, it’s the longest underground system in the U.S., found in Cave City, KY (original name, guys), and it could provide a perfect set for The Walking Dead. Seriously, if there weren’t so many bratty kids running around like sugar- fueled squirrels, it would be truly terrifying…or maybe that was why it was terrifying.

The stalactites ( or stalagmites?) looked kinda like a spider dangling from the ceiling…a spider that had been magnified a gazillion times. (It’s hard to see because we weren’t allowed to use the flash on our cameras. Apparently, people prone to epileptic seizures frequent caves. And maybe the park rangers did that on purpose – so the ginormous spider, lying in wait, could attack you before your eyes adjusted to the dark. It’s all a part of their “thinning of the herd” plan. You know, the grand park ranger conspiracy.)

Although it did creep me out a bit, it did make me thankful that there’s no such thing as spiders the size of a goat. And if you’re thinking to yourself that “yes, in fact, there are spiders the size of a goat,” please don’t tell me about it.

Life is what you make it

98164466848335250_C4DOB4O4_cEvery person is sold the same line, that the human imperative is to do the following things: go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, retire, throw in a beach vacation or two, and then die. That’s the road map, the GPS that guides us through our existence.  I’m not knocking that route – it works for a lot of people. But I wonder why this is considered the “norm.” Do we need a handbook on what life should be or do we make up this path because we’re afraid to actually live?

I’ve never really subscribed to the life formula, and because of that, I’ve been labeled a variety of different things, including “flighty,” “irresponsible,” and (here’s the best one) “not right.” Well, I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. I’ve had some amazing experiences in my life – I’ve run a marathon, backpacked through Europe, performed songs that I wrote on stage, and written a book. It seems that the most amazing things I’ve done have been the result of doing the exact opposite of what everyone else tells me that I “should” do. I have taken quite a crooked path along my journey, and I can’t say that I’ve ever felt like I’ve “arrived.” That used to bother me – that I hadn’t “made something” of myself. That I hadn’t lived up to what society considers successful.

Oddly enough, it took a back injury to make me put things in perspective. I was forced to stop my frantic, too busy lifestyle to think about how I spent the hours of my day. I realized that I had fallen into a rut of “normal” living and was not really doing what I wanted to do.

So I’ve made the decision to make my life “rut-less.” Isn’t that why people create bucket lists – to distract themselves from their lives with the things that they want to do someday? But how many of us actually follow through and DO it? I’m going to make bucket list items a part of my life plan. It has always been my desire to travel, but for whatever reason (time, money, lack of money, extreme lack of money, etc.), I always push it to the back for something that takes priority, like paying a bill. Not anymore. (And that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop paying my bills – don’t worry Visa, you’ll get your due.) But I’m going to make sure that if there is something I want to do or see, I’ll do it and not worry about all the reasons I “shouldn’t” do it.

I challenge you guys to do the same. Do some planning. Have you always wanted to see the Northern Lights? Have you wanted to climb Kilimanjaro? Or are you a rabid Elvis fan, but you’ve never seen Graceland? Make it happen. Get on Expedia and book it. This is my adventure challenge. My goal is to see all fifty states and visit all seven continents. (After my trip to Alaska, I got to cross off one state, but I have 17 more to go! So that means, in terms of continents, I’ve got North America covered. I’ve been to Europe, but I still have five continents to explore.) I’ll document each adventure, so hopefully it will inspire you, too.

Asylum of the Ancient Ones

My story, “Lucidity,” is included in this incredible anthology – a collection from poets, authors, and artists that has been woven into one cohesive story – an homage to H.P. Lovecraft’s work. There are some incredibly talented writers and artists who contributed, and I’m honored to be a part of the “asylum.” (If you’d like to purchase a copy, click on the book cover to go to Amazon.com!)

I'm a part of the Asylum! I'm so excited!

I’m a part of the Asylum! I’m so excited!

Alaska – The Last Frontier

It’s no surprise (to the people who know me) that 2016 has been a difficult year. I won’t use this post to complain about things but to show appreciation for the light at the end of a tunnel I didn’t think would end.

There have been several health issues that have prevented me from “being myself” for the past few months. (And by “myself,” I mean the over active and completely goofy person who has to be doing something all the time). Despite this, I went on a trip that had been planned before all of my health issues started, with the hope that for just one week, I would get some of myself back.

It’s hard to qualify the healing powers of nature, and I’m not saying I’m healed…but it’s nice to look at the scenery and think that there are greater things than my petty concerns. So when I get bogged down with the daily irritants that I sometimes let consume me, I look at this picture and remember that life is good.

The view in Seward, Alaska.

The view in Seward, Alaska.