Swan (or ugly duckling) Song

Bilateral Arthritis and Dupuytren’s Contractures dealt a double blow.

Genetics has reared its ugly head and dealt this author a blow that will end this blog—at least temporarily. Bone-on-bone arthritis in my hands and my family’s Dupuytren’s Contractures, a condition that draws the fingers into the palms, will curtail my ability to type and, thus, my writing. Once I determine if the shots are effective against the pain and halt or slow the two diseases’ progressions, I’ll reevaluate. Maybe, I’ll even try out the speech-to-text software, even though I’ve heard it’s not all that accurate.

Here’s a cautionary tale, sweeties: All things in moderation. Never type twelve hours a day for a year and a half during a pandemic—or else.

A Reason To Bury: Blood, Guts, and Secrets, Book 2 of the Firestorm series, is scheduled for release on June 30, 2021. Drop by Amazon and pick up your copy then. While you wait, buy Book 1, A Reason To Forget: Training Games, and get to know Jazz, Blossom, and Davy. Book 3 will be delayed, but I’m determined to finish the trilogy before my hands curl up completely! The upside? I’m getting used to needles.

It’s been a blast, people! I’ve enjoyed every minute. Follow your dreams while you can!

The Unfathomable Human Mind: Part One

Cottingley Fairies photographed by Elsie Wright 1917

In the Firestorm series, Jazz walks a fine line of friendship between Davy, who believes in science, and Blossom, who stretches the imagination into the magical unknown. If Blossom has no superhuman ability, could she have extrasensory skills similar to those demonstrated in the animal kingdom? Bees seek shelter before it rains. Cows lie down, and this alerts the farmer of a powerful storm to come. Animals flee a city days before an earthquake. Some animals seem able to predict death.

But what happens when the mind plays tricks on us or the eyes and ears deceive? Would what we hope to see and hear become our reality?

In 1917 two young cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths photographed “fairies” in the woods around their grandmother’s house. Over several years, Elsie’s mother and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle convinced many of the photographs’ authenticity. Reputable organizations, including Kodak, added to the confusion by stating that the pictures had not been manipulated but were not evidence of fairy existence. In the 1980s, Elsie and Frances admitted the fairies were merely cut-outs from a popular book of the time. Obviously, early photography lacked clarity, and adults didn’t buy the children’s book to see the hoax for themselves. Plus, magazine editors who ran these stories must have been in dire need of readership.

Or did the world need a diversion, something to focus on instead of the actual reality?

Would you have a difficult time walking across this painted on the sidewalk?

 Photo by Lukas Rodriguez from Pexels

What if I told you an alligator strolled into my Tennessee backyard after an ice storm, and I have a picture to prove it?

Photo by C. L. Giles 2021

Photography has improved from 1917 to 2021, but have human minds changed at all?

Feel The Chill: A Grotesque By Any Other Name

Foliate head on Antique Secretary

It stares at me. Screams at me. Why do I keep it?

I allow it to creep me out because it’s attached to a relatively nice piece of furniture that’s filled with things I’d have to “relocate”—or toss, which is not a trait I’ve mastered when it comes to nostalgia.

The creature is not a gargoyle. My antique secretary’s decoration is a Green Man or foliate head, depicting a leaf for hair and vine beard. The word gargoyle comes from the same root word as gargle, thus throat and water-related. Gargoyles are usually those architectural features spewing rainwater from rooftops or functioning as some other water-control feature. But it can also be seen on churches inducing piety on passers-by or scaring evil away from the congregants as they enter.

Foliate heads, on the other hand, have a much more complicated purpose. History tells us that artisans sculpted Green Men as early as 420 BCE as pagan representations of Dionysus. But as traditions usually transform and adapt, so did the Green Man. Most major religions adopted the Green Man as a concession to newly converted pagan worshipers. Sculptors and architects used him as decoration, and environmentalists even employed a softer version as a mascot for green policies and practices. Someone even depicted Father Christmas as a Green Man.

Nevertheless, no matter how much my academic self researches, I still see a monster, and it’s still terrifying. I feel the chill every time!

Not A Stick!

Pssst! Launch day for A Reason To Forget: Training Games is April 9, 2021!

I live out. Way out! Trees, crops, cattle, and a plethora of wildlife surround my house. If you’ve read previous blog posts, you’ve seen some of the less-lethal animals that share our space, or is it the other way around?

My daily exercise consists of four 10-minute loops through what must have been a pasture decades ago, but my husband has planted evergreens and pin and willow oaks to complement the landscape. While walking, I ramp up my exercise by dancing around like an idiot and tossing stray limbs into the woods.

One evening, after the sun had dropped low in the sky, I needed a second walk. That late in the day, I decided to trudge through my second route, boring twenty 2-minute loops on the driveway and front walk. Ugh.

Usually, when darkness drops around me, I’m automatically on high alert. But, for some reason, I was hyperactive, bouncing and walking at a clip, rounding the corners like a race car. I had no flashlight, but that’s not important. What could happen? I’m on concrete.

Sun. Warmed. Concrete.

I whipped around at the street and sped back down the drive. The trees were silhouettes now. My eyes scanned the beauty of the sky, chin high, gauging my trajectory by my relationship to the roofline. From the driveway, I skipped onto the front walk and spied a pesky stick across my path.

Hmm, it must have been blown onto the walkway by a storm—I thought. But there were no storms today or anytime this week. Odd. I shrugged and decided to dance around like an idiot, pick it up, and toss it in the woods.

Then God screamed, “STOP! That’s not a stick!”


My body froze in place. Just before I reached down to pick up . . . a snake!

Yes, that’s the stick. My camera is zoomed in on the little fellow.

Feel The Chill: Decapitated

Photo by Darcy Lawrey on Pexels.com

It was a startling bang, more like a simultaneous crack and thud. Since we live near a military installation, the percussive rumble of bombs dropping is a constant, and out here in the country, many of our neighbors target-practice with firearms. The sound shouldn’t have alarmed me the way it did, but its distinct nature was disturbing, unique enough to grab my attention, rocket my heart rate, and bounce me to my feet.

I was in the middle of a project in the sunroom and hated the interruption, so I filed through several scenarios and dismissed each one. A household object hitting the floor—would clatter more. A tree falling against the roof—would not be that brief. A car crashing in the street—would be more, I don’t know, metallic.

My husband, George, strolled in the backyard with no alarmed expression on his face, so I relaxed without pursuing the source of the commotion. If he didn’t hear anything, it must have been the jarring popping and cracking the house makes with a temperature change. But I wasn’t convinced.

When George returned from his walk, I mentioned the episode. Being a person who would never let a possible structural failure slip by unnoticed, he checked. A few minutes later, he stuck his head in the sunroom.

“I found your sound.”

He’s never cryptic. With my curiosity piqued, I followed him.

“A bird hit the window,” he said.

I laughed. Birds hit the windows regularly here in the country, and that was NOT the sound.

“It was far too intense to be a bird!” I said.

When he opened the front door, it wasn’t just any bird. Sitting stunned on our front porch (at least an hour later) was an enormous hawk. And crumpled beside it was a small ball of feathers I assumed was his, or her, intended lunch.

But it didn’t look right.

As with all men who are still little boys who threw turtles at their brothers and dressed rabbits after a hunt, my husband excitedly reported, “And the other bird’s head is under the chair over there! Chopped it right off!”

“Aaahhh! Nasty!”

Yes, I snapped a pic!

Feel the chill!

Stunned Hawk After Crashing Into The Window by C. L. Giles

Feel The Chill: Ghost Bumps

Photo created on Canva

Jazz jumped to her side. “What’s wrong?”

Blossom turned abruptly to the closet, clutching at a thick blanket hanging on the door. “Wow.” She pointed to her arms. “Ghost bumps.”

“You mean goosebumps?”

“No, ghost bumps. My grandmother, Nona, sent me a message.”

A Reason To Forget: Training Games

I create fiction, and in this category of writing, strange and unbelievable events occur. Superheroes fly. Children blow up buildings with their minds. Humans travel into space and encounter all manner of sentient life. You could argue that these examples are science fiction. But is realistic fiction more rational when timelines align perfectly, an eclectic mix of character traits combine to advance the plot to the ideal ending, and the good guys always win? This is not real life, right?

Ponder this:

1818 Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein reanimated dead flesh by electric shock. In 1947, real-life Dr. Claude Beck saved a teenager with his homemade defibrillator.

1911 Stratemeyer Syndicate wrote Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle. In 1974, Jack Cover, a NASA scientist, loved the idea and invented the first Taser.

1880 In Mary Bradley Lane’s “Mizora,” fictional Amazonians used beef chemicals to create economical synthetic burgers. In 2013, Mark Post grew beef in the lab from stem cells.

How about communication? You know—talking to people far, far away.

1837 Wired telegraph

1876 Telephone

1895 Wireless telegraph

1973 Cellphone

Don’t freak out.

2014 Starlab, Axilum Robotics, and Harvard Medical School published results of their experiment using telepathic communication between two subjects wearing EEG (electroencephalography) sensors and TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) systems on their heads. Okay, the experiment was lengthy and lacked finesse, but a first step is a first step.

So, cards on the table. Because of my religious beliefs and a tendency to view everything from a scientific perspective, I join Davy in his skepticism regarding Ghost Bumps and communicating with the dead. Ninety-nine percent of the time! But I communicate daily with God, who resides in the same realm as my dead grandmothers. Hmm? 

It is my waffling one percent that makes reading fiction so enjoyable. Experiencing the what-ifs, the maybes, and the doubts forces me to shed my ties to the sanctioned and delve into the possibilities, to take what I know and have been taught and see beyond them to what might be.

Skepticism protects me from frauds, charlatans, and swindlers. Open-mindedness allows me to grow.

And I do believe the good guys always win, just maybe not in this lifetime.

Feel The Chill: Snakessss

Photo by Jan Kopu0159iva on Pexels.com

The chill crawled up my spine just writing the title.

Do you believe snakes receive a bad rap or that they deserve their evil reputation? It’s a topic for debate, but no one can deny that non-native Burmese pythons are the scariest creatures in the Everglades National Park in Florida—and not because they are snakes!

In the park’s southernmost area, tens of thousands of these invading species have decimated the rabbit and fox populations. Along with raccoon, opossum, and bobcat, the endangered woodrat and limpkin are a smorgasbord for the python. Adult deer and six-foot alligators can’t escape these indiscriminate predators either, but meals of this size sometimes have devastating, or should I say explosive, consequences for the most gluttonous python. Now, that’s scary! Check out the YouTube videos on Florida’s Exploding Burmese Python!

An entire ecosystem is teetering on the brink, so what can we do?

  1. Stop dumping pets that we can no longer maintain, and secure their habitats to prevent escape.
  2. Solve the problem Davy’s way: address the existing problem using science. Because much of the Everglades is inaccessible, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Wetland and Aquatic Research Center developed a technological approach to python control. The scientists surgically implanted VHG transmitters, organized weekly telemetry flights to locate new pythons, and implanted suitable females with accelerometers and GPD tags. All this allows them to use the python’s own biology against it, effectively controlling the population naturally.
  3. In the meantime, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission encourages the public to help control all invading snake species. The FWC now allows year-round killing on some commission-managed lands, and private property owners are allowed to kill pythons without a license or permit. There are several restrictions, but they outline methods on their website to deal humanely with any python.
  4. Some “lucky” hunters, anglers, and military veterans can join PATRIC (Python Action Team Removing Invasive Constrictors). They receive hourly wages, two hundred dollars for active non-native constrictor nests, fifty dollars for snakes up to four feet with twenty-five dollars for every additional foot of snake.

I’ll pass. Thanks.

Jazz’s snake encounter was of a different variety, but a decade ago, someone killed a Burmese python in south Georgia, so who knows where the northernmost habitat ends. If the idea of stumbling across a 25-foot, 200-pound snake that can live up to 25 years, gives you pause—it should. But don’t pause too long. You’re smaller than an alligator.

Feel The Chill: Creepy Carousels and Non-linear Sound

Photo by Mihai Vlasceanu on Pexels.com

They ate ravenously for a few minutes before Davy pointed toward the carousel in the middle of the food court. “That kid’s riding the dragon backward.”

Jazz glanced up at the fire-breathing figure, and her pulse quickened. “Why would they have something mythological with all those ordinary animals?”

Blossom started naming the creatures as they circled. “Horse. Camel. Elephant. Bear. Rabbit. Rabbit? Who rides a rabbit?”

Jazz wasn’t paying any attention. She scanned the nearby tables. The hair on her neck stood and crawled up her scalp.

From A Reason To Forget: Training Games

What Jazz experiences next pales in comparison to a creepy carousel.

Visualize this: It’s a warm summer day bathed in bright sunshine, and cheerful music floats about on the breeze like strands of spider silk. Your best friends giggle and drag you through the burgeoning crowd of fair-goers to the carousel, spinning on its never-ending journey to nowhere, lights flashing a multi-colored greeting. Delightful, right?

Let’s change the scenario. Drop the carousel into an open field at midnight, adjust the tune to bone-chilling minor keys, and eliminate All. Other. Humans. Step up, my friend. Pay your fare, and take your chances surrounded by wild-eyed stallions and the frozen screams of man-eating tigers, bears, and dragons.

Feel the chill?

Movie creators have perfected the art of horror by using our own biology against us. With audio, we humans react viscerally to non-linear sounds, such as the distress calls of wild animals or babies crying (Same thing?).

But the strategy doesn’t pack a real punch until it’s paired with an equally scary visual—knives glinting in the moonlight, shadows slipping into the trees, or a hand reaching to grab you. When theaters install seating that reacts tactilely with the audio, we experience even more heart-racing adrenaline. Not only do we see the carousel spinning out of control, but we also hear the tempo of the musical score increase and feel the tremendous vibrations threatening to toss us from the ride.

Oh, wait. We’re just sitting still. But our minds experience the entire scene as if we were right there in the moment. Ah, the magic of cinema.

Does anyone know the name for fear of carousels? Leave a comment.

Check out the short video I created below and Feel The Chill!

Feel The Chill: Creepy Carousels and Non-linear Sound by C. L. Giles
Created with Canva

Feel the Chill: Cave Ghosts

Betsy Bell: One Victim

[Jazz] continued several yards to the right, bowed low, and addressed the cave. “Hello, Mr. Simpson.”

Rumor had it the cave demanded respect. To enter and not die, one had to greet Simpson by name and promise that your intentions in the cave were honorable.

“I promise my intention today is to save someone’s life.” Jazz examined the vegetation outside the entrance carefully. “And please save me from snakes.”

– From A Reason To Forget: Training Games

Cave ghosts? If you live here in Tennessee, caves are just a part of the environment, and the spirits that inhabit them are ever-present. Even though the Bell Witch Cave was not the inspiration for the setting of A Reason To Forget: Training Games, it very well could have been. The cave’s proximity to my house and the Bell Witch ghost’s uncanny ability to influence her victims make me at least pause to reflect. Maybe, Kate Batt drifted into my dreams, weaving her tortures and abuse with Simpson’s Cave.

The Bell Witch tales began centuries ago. According to the official website, The Official Home of the Historic Bell Witch Cave, even General and future president Andrew Jackson stayed a night at the Bell’s farm. He is quoted as saying, “I had rather face the entire British Army than to spend another night with the Bell Witch.”

After reading about the physical attacks, eerie sounds, and unexplained events, I’m getting ghost bumps! The gruesome death of John Bell made me cringe, but the symptoms he exhibited before his demise gave me nightmares.

You can visit The Bell Witch Cave at 430 Keysburg Rd, Adams, TN 37010 or visit their website http://www.bellwitchcave.com/ghost_hauntings/bell_witch_cave_location.htm for more information.

But be prepared. It’s not something you’ll ever forget—because Kate won’t let you. Bow low, address Kate with respect, and maybe, just maybe, she’ll let you live.