Thursday, October 30, 2008
By A.J. Llewellyn
So I am back in Waikiki for five days for some heated council hearings on the new proposed rail transit system which will wipe out the entire neighborhood where I want to re-open the bookstore that has now been closed for three years.
The current mayor has divided loyalties on this issue which up until now has taken place on Hawaii Time, meaning, nothing has happened. The measure to approve it is now on the ballot for November 4 and I am hoping of course it is not approved.
My mate Tony, he of the dithering sexual persuasion (though if current events are anything to go by, he is straight, mate) picked me up from Honolulu airport in my car, brandishing a perfect crown flower lei, my favorite, because it was the preferred flower of the last ruling monarch of the islands, Queen Liliuokalani.
I got leid!
Tony has done a nice job looking after my car, which I shipped to the islands in preparation of a move next year.
He informed me the entire neighborhood where we live in the mountain area above Hawaii Kai has decided to celebrate Halloween.
“We’ve got to buy a pumpkin, mate,” he said, blithely skipping by red lights and even a uniformed cop who stood, hands on hips as Tony gave him a finger wave, ignoring his hand raised in the universally-recognized STOP sign.
I slunk down in my seat.
“Cool,” I said, when I was certain we weren’t about to be shot from the sky by police snipers. Took me a moment to remember we were in Hawaii, not Los Angeles. “I need to stop at Duke’s for a Mai Tai and some crab mac wantons, Tony.”
“No worries, mate,” he grinned, narrowly missing a skateboarder who gave us the shaka sign. In Los Angeles, he would have skated after us and beaten us half to death.
Fortified an hour later, I let Tony take the wheel again only because after one Mai Tai and no sleep I was embarrassingly hammered. I was therefore in a convivial mood to hunt the island for a pumpkin.
Foodland and various hippie-herbal grocery stores swore they had started the day with loads of pumpkins…but they’d just sold out. I have never grooved to Halloween since my childhood in Australia didn’t include it. But since we were expecting children on Friday afternoon and into the evening, we had to have at least one pumpkin.
Then we got creative and bought pineapples. The results of which are above. I think they’re not bad. They actually look a lot like me and Tony. Unfortunately, we got busy barbecuing and forgot about ‘em. They fried to a bloody crisp, so now we’re going to have to start again.
Anyway, on our pineapple-pumpkin hunt, we loaded up on candy for the trick or treaters. Tony and I had a wonderful afternoon buying li hing mango and even li-hing gummy bears in cellophane packets. We bought all the things island kids love and we drove up the mountain road to our house after buying salmon steaks and vegetables.
The feeling I get from being on the mountain property we bought is indescribable. Four of us chipped in and bought it. I love this place and readers of my books will recognize it as the house Lopaka and Kimo live in. Their version of it is far more glamorous than the real thing, but what I haven’t embellished is the sheer natural splendor of the place.
The cool thing is the four of us are great friends, the place is huge and right now Tony is back with his girlfriend. He casually mentioned this on the drive home and I was so happy when he told me she and her little boy are spending a lot of time at our house.
It is my first Halloween ever with a child in my home and he is beyond excited. His joy in the details has transmitted itself to the adults and I got a huge kick out of watching Tony carving pineapples with him last night.
There is a zing in the air here, a scent of promise. I am listening to Keali’i Reichel whose music permeates this island, this house and I am pleased to hear Tony laughing, really laughing for the first time in weeks.
This is Halloween. Hawaiian-style.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Why you may ask? A lot of reasons. But for me, the main thing was I wasn’t looking at the big picture. Publication comes exactly when it’s supposed to and no sooner. Some people call it luck, some call it fate, some call it karma. I call it all those with a healthy dose of perseverance. And while you may have the best book in the world, if things aren’t lined up the way it’s supposed to be it won’t happen. Basically, there were things in my world that made it impossible to divide my attention any further. If you think you’re busy as a writer now, just wait until you get that NYC contract. This will magnify at least two fold.
Basically, I wasn’t ready and therefore, it wasn’t going to happen. Sigh. I think it’s something I’ll have to try a little harder at since I don’t write to a market, I write what I love. Lots of people write to the market and sell very well. I want to sell something I am completely passionate about and that’s why I took a chance on this series.
Does this mean I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and try again real soon? Probably. When I submitted this time, it was a particular series for a particular publisher. First, I need to find a home for that paranormal sci-fi erotic romance and if that isn’t pushing the boundaries, I don’t know what is. To see what it is all about, come see the opening of my new blog for the series called Protectors of the Earth. I’m putting the final touches on it right now.
http://www.lc-protectorsoftheearth.blogspot.com/ is where you’ll find the latest on one kick ass series.
The next thing I’ll try is an interesting little erotic romance. But this time, I’ll make sure my universe is as aligned as I can make it and know the time is perfect.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Last year I found the ebook world and a lot of things opened up for me. I joined a few yahoo loops, met some fun people and found the world of reviewing. By starting to review I met more and more authors and decided to take that next step and actually write a story. I wrote The End a few months ago and was really excited. I went to the Lori Foster Event and pitched the story. So it is my year for firsts. Unfortunately, the story was rejected, but I received some great advice and I’m in the process of cleaning it up now.
The funny thing about all this is I decided to stretch my writing and do a short sweet story for an anthology. Two days before I received my rejection I received an acceptance for my story. Talk about a whirlwind of experiences.
I feel I am very lucky in the friends that I have made and the way my writing career has started. My first editor is teaching me so much and I am very grateful for all of her help.
Now for a little about me, I’m married and the mother of a 4 year old boy who keeps me on my toes. At one time I wanted to be the youngest romance author ever published (well, that one didn’t happen!). I used to hate to read. One day my aunt brought over a box of books. There were some duplicates in there so my sister and I would sit in our room, she would read out loud while I followed along. I was hooked. As my brother said, “You’ve read so many of these books you’d better be able to write one!” lol
I hope to take you through my journey as a new author. Maybe next week I’ll talk about my first edits. J
It is an honor to be on this blog with C.R. Moss, Lynn Crain, AJ Llewellyn, Erin Sinclair, AP Miller and Stephani Hecht. Thank you for letting me into your world!
Monday, October 27, 2008
Part 1: The Basics
Congratulations, you’re about to give birth to a character! Get out your notebook and pen or open a new document and start keeping track of your new baby. Or, feel free to use the worksheet found at the bottom of this article.
“Hi! My name is ___.” When a new child is coming into the world, what’s the first thing parents normally do? They pick out a name. This should be the same for the creation of your new character. Some authors, myself included, are lucky in that their characters introduce themselves immediately. If the character doesn’t say ‘hi, my name is’ what then? Assess them and try to give him or her a name that will give the reader an idea of his or her identity. Make sure to think about the name. Does it convey stereotyped looks or mannerisms? In terms of the hero is it a strong sounding name? In terms of the heroine is it a soft name for a demure woman or a powerful name for a fiery female? Does your character have a middle name? Perhaps he or she goes by the second name because they hate the first one or maybe they’re undercover or maybe a parent had the same name. The possibilities of how a character uses a name are endless. Also consider the meaning behind a person’s name. If your character calls for an unusual name, have it refer to a quality of the character’s personality, background or occupation. For this, you’ll need to get a book of baby names or find a good resource on-line. For example, in my Si’Ludo Sisters trilogy the sisters’ names reference being born into a religious family. The men’s names in each of the stories have meaning: Mochrie – my beloved; Corbet – black haired; Rand’s otherworld name is Dolon – spy; Gaven – white hawk. In my upcoming Si’Ludo Prophesy series the heroine’s name is Calissa and the origin and meaning of her name is Greek, most beautiful, diminutive of Calista, mythological Arcadian who transformed into a she-bear, then into the Great Bear constellation. The Great Bear constellation figures prominently in the Si’Ludo world. Additionally, when you are naming other characters in your story, make sure to vary the names so they don’t all begin with the same letter or sound alike. Oh, and don’t forget to give your character a last name.
“Happy Birthday to…” When and where was your character born? The information should include City, State, Country, Date and Time and these details will come in handy for the rest of the Making Characters Human series.
“Just the facts…” What’s the physical description of your character? Pretend like you’re describing this person to a friend or family member. You won’t use all the details in your story but it’s good to have a complete picture of who you’re working with. Start at the top and work your way down when you take note of your character’s attributes. Hair: long, short, curly, wavy, straight, thick, thin, greasy, dry, etc. What’s the color? Forehead: shape and size. Eyes: color, shape, size, placement on the face. Nose, ears, face: shape and size. Lips and teeth: shape, size, color etc. Are the teeth straight, crooked? How’d they get that way and why? The neck, is it long and thin or short and thick? What’s the overall shape and height of the body and are there any identifying scars or birthmarks? What’s the skin like, pale and ghostly or thick and rich like fine chocolate? Don’t overlook the feet and hands of your character nor the types of nails they may have. Does your character stem from a certain religious or ethnic background? Who are the members of the character’s family? You don’t have to go into details here, just point out their names and rolls, i.e.: Character Faith has Dad – James; Mom – Grace; Sister – Hope and Sister – Joy. Does the character work or go to school and what are they doing there? Again, just the facts ie: Faith is a student studying to get a Philosophy degree. Where does he or she live? There’s no need to describe the setting since this is a character sketch. The name of the city and state will do fine here. In addition, does the character have certain mannerisms/non-verbal cues? Do they bite their lower lip a lot, crack their knuckles, blink constantly, fidget with jewelry, hair, clothing, tap their foot in all states of emotion? Remember, no one is perfect so give your characters imperfections too.
“They brought their bags with them…” Everyone has a complex background, emotional baggage they carry around, and your characters should too. Were they teased or praised as a child? Have they been jilted once, twice, too many times to count? In school were they in the geek, jock or loner group? These are only a few ideas of past events that can shape and influence a life and lend a hand in how one person will react differently to a situation than another. But what really makes a character tick and brings emotion to the story? What makes one person patient as a saint and another like a thoroughbred chomping at the bit at the gate? How do we pack the character’s bags? Join me next time when the Making Characters Human series goes deeper into the character’s psyche and bathes him or her in the sun.
Oh, and don’t forget to bring your character’s birth certificate with you.
You can visit C.R. Moss at http://home.earthlink.net/~cr_moss
If you’re interested in utilizing the worksheet, please visit http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/310364/cr_moss.html where the article has been published with the worksheet. When you're on the site you'll have to scroll down to the published content section. (If the article isn't there then the system hasn't posted it yet and you can check back in a couple of days for it.) Thanks!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
It’s November so it’s that time of year again, NANOWRIMO. For those of you who don’t know that stands for, National Novel Writing Month. Writers from all over the world set a mutual goal to write 50,000 words in one month. Crazy you say? Well, yes, but it’s a ton of fun and a great way to meet fellow authors.
Here are some facts taken from the NANOWRIMO site.
What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month's time.
Who: You! We can't do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let's write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.
Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era's most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.
When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.
Still confused? Just visit the How NaNoWriMo Works page!
This can really help motivate published and unpublished authors alike. Two years ago I wrote Rogue Angel for NANOWRIOM and it has since been published at eXtasy Books. I can’t wait to see what come up with this year.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Today I woke early which is not often for me since I am a late night person and can't manage to get out of bed until noon. But today was a special day for me anyway with the closing of my home back East fast arriving finally this Tuesday. Today is the day I sign a home away that I lived in for the past 30 years. A home filled with many memories, both good and bad. Leaving behind great neighbors and fun times. But it was the final realization for me that this was forever. I would no longer be able to go back after this, and last night I was feeling a bit meloncholy.
My daughter said she cries a lot because I am now living on the other side of the country. I told her she could always move out here eventually, and that I was a 5 hour flight away and a 3 day drive. I speak to her daily, but we haven't seen each other in a year, and now with the baby on the way she is getting a bit more emotional. We talked about the house a bit and the loss of her Dad. But I told her to remember the good things, keep the good memories, and that's when it hit me.
I realized at that point that I had forgotten who I was and the things I enjoyed doing. It wasn't that I wanted to forget, it was the circumstances I was placed into at that time that made me want to forget.
I used to love to sit for hours and read a good book, crochet a blanket and do arts and crafts. I stopped all that five years ago and it was as if my entire life had stopped dead right at that time. So I decided to put my writing on hold for a few months and stop to smell the roses and take time out for my family and friends.
I lost so many loved ones in my lifetime including my parents at a fairly young age, and said I didn't want that to happen to my children. The stress had been mounting between the house sale and my writing and I was at a breaking point, and was feeling the physical aspects of it and that's when I made the decision to put the books down and focus on life.
Sometimes we forget what's important to us and what our lives used to be like because we begin to make changes to our lives and our careers. I was so focused on writing that it actually consumed me and all of my time.
So from this day forward I am taking the time to get out of the house and away from the computer on a day to day basis. I will be flying back to Jersey in February for the birth of my first grandchild, then staying for a couple weeks. That's number one.
Today I will pull out my paints and begin painting again, and then pull out the books I swore I'd finish five years ago and never did.
So that being said, I will breathe a sigh of relief and begin my process of learning how to relax again.
To happy stress free lives...
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I scratched my head wondering what she had in mind? What did she classify as uniquely American that wasn't going to offend my sensibilities?
She'd already confessed to a slight disappointment to not having experienced an earthquake and total astonishment at not having witnessed one of the countless freeway driveby shootings the Australia media swears is the way of life in Los Angeles.
I was relieved when he told me she wanted to go to a Tupperware, candle or makeup party, since, thanks to me she now has plenty of sexy lingerie.
These pitch parties are not part of the fabric of Australian life - yet. But I predict this will change.
Anyway, I may be a gay man, but I adore parties that might involve free food. I called around and the only party going was a makeup party.
I would have preferred Tupperware or candles, but I've developed a fondness for dad's new girl and I booked us in for the evening.
So while she and I went to the makeup party, dad got possession of the last bottle of Wolf Blass cabernet sauvignon and the remote control. He settled down to what I really wanted to do: watch Dog, the Bounty Hunter.
For those who are unaware of life in other countries, all foreigners are fixated with American TV. Especially the ads. But that's another story...
We drove to Beverly Hills (she's become quite jaded about BH now that she has shopped her heart out on Rodeo Drive and had her photo taken with two celebrities - Andrew Dice Clay and Arnold Schwarzenegger) and found ourselves in the swanky lobby of a small, upscale apartment building.
If you don't know how these make up parties go - or any of these private purchase parties go for that matter - the person throwing the event is hoping to make a business of selling the product in question. The unwritten rule is that you purchase at least one item by the end of the evening.
But it's usually not how it goes. You are usually convinced your life is not worth living without buying everything on the table. That's the American way of doing things!
We were scuttled like offensive bugs into a geriatric elevator and coughed out onto the terrace of the penthouse floor of the building.
Unbelievable! There was a Chinese food buffet and champagne! This was one of the better parties I'd been to...and I started to smell a trap, or was it the spring rolls?
A transvestite in a handsome lilac colored wig and retro forties dress made the rounds introducing himself.
I won't say the name of the make up brand here since they don't need my free advertising - not in my mind anyway - but he was calling himself by the brand of make up.
He urged us all to try The Machine. I was more interested in trying the honey walnut shrimp. One by one, women who to me looked flawless, trundled off to The Machine, a huge black box with a chair parked in front of it. They'd take a seat and without fail the shrieking would start. A few emerged teary eyed. I couldn't resist, especially when my dad's new girlfriend emerged looking ashen and blinked back big tears.
"How can your father love me? I'm a monstrosity," this lovely woman whispered to me, rushing off to look at the make up offers.
Naturally, I had to see what the fuss was about and took my turn.
My friend Sophie arrived with her nine year old daughter who was brandishing an American Girl doll in her arms. They too took their turns at The Machine.
At last it was my turn. I could NOT believe what I saw. My face looked like a relief map of Switzerland.
What The Machine does is show you an ultra violet image (or something like that) of your face and all the hidden damage to it, especially from the sun.
I know The Machine is real because I saw the scar from my surfboard accident two years ago still there on my forehead. To the naked eye, it's gone. To the goddam, frickin', ferkin' Machine, it's still there.
Then they showed me what I will look like in ten years and I was ready to bawl like a baby.
We sat around on sofas while the hostess gave the floor to her District Rep and a kindly woman in an apron gave us all more champagne.
The only people deemed to have flawless skin were the transvestite and the American Girl doll. The rest of us were given cold, appraising examinations, insulting comments and long lectures on the importance of exfoliating.
This morning, I am $150 poorer and my father is in possession of a now neurotic girlfriend. I however, can rest assured that this once sunny, confident, peppy woman who is now an insecure, sniveling, needy wreck has for sure experienced the ultimate uniquely American experience.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tonight, I fell asleep in front of the TV as I commonly do when I’m on a writing spree. I’ll work and work then take a break when before I know it, I’m stumbling to bed again because I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. I’ve always been a late night person and while it doesn’t surprise me it is sometimes disconcerting. This time though, instead of dragging myself up, I was riveted to what was on the TV. I had apparently fallen asleep to some documentary that I was watching on historical political events. What I woke up to was something totally different. You’d think I’d have something better to sink my teeth into. LOL!
Still, this one completely captured my attention. While I no longer listen to country music any more unless I’m nostalgic or just really can’t get into the mood, I do listen to singers like Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Shedaisy and the Dixie Chicks. What I was seeing on my big screen was a documentary about three women and something that because known as ‘the incident’ to them and the rest of the world. An incident that everyone by now realize should never have been blown out of proportion because what was said has been found to be relatively true in the years since it has happened.
And while I don’t want this blog to turn into a political forum at all, it made me wonder about my own chosen career and just how it can hinge on the whims of the reading public just like theirs hung on the whims of a listening public. There have been times when I tell people I write erotic romance and something between horror and disbelief cross their face. When that happens I have to grit my teeth sometimes and just smile because when all is said and done, I will write what I write for a variety of reasons.
Now some of you may ask ‘How can you love smut?’ to which I would reply ‘How can I not?’ I mean everyone has a different perception of what porn is, what smut is and what romance is. Mine just happens to be a little bit broader than most. But here’s the key to the whole thing and it something most of you don’t know. I write just as much non-erotic stuff as I do the erotic venture. Yup, you heard me right. Again, I can hear you say ‘Huh? What are you talking about?’
What, indeed. The bottom line is that I write what I love at that moment. Some days it’s just as hard for me to get into a sex scene as it is the writer who has never written one. I truly understand that as I write, I am not the one in control but my characters are. If they don’t want to have sex, they won’t. If they want to shoot someone, they will. And if they need to defend themselves against the next wave of alien bloodsuckers, they will do it superbly.
I write what is in my heart at the very moment I put the words onto the page and not a second before I’m supposed to. I’m one of the few writers who won’t write to a market because it’s popular nor will I be swayed against finishing something that isn’t the latest trend or fashion. I need to be passionate about what I write and if I can’t be, the piece may never get started or even finished for that matter.
At a talk I gave this past week, one of the topics I spoke to was career. I’ve been around a long time in the romance field and I have always written the ‘hot’ stuff long before it was in vogue. I can remember the very first time that Sandra brown put in the words ‘tongue f**k’ and that book hit the best seller list. And the very first BDSM book I ever read was in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s by a science fiction author named Sharon Green and the book was ‘The Mind Guest’ another one who made it to the NY Times bestseller list. The moment I finished the book I told my husband that someday I would write a book just like it. And I did in my own way.
I used to tell people to write what they know until I was corrected by a bestselling author who told me to write what I could imagine. I’ll take it one step even further and say one should write what they know along with what they can imagine. Only then will you get the full effect and range of your writing.
I’ll end this by saying thank you to the Dixie Chicks for giving me this blog idea. I was always on their side about ‘the incident. They’re good at what they do and they won’t comprise who they are to get it done their way.
Just like me. I will always write what I love no matter what genre.
Monday, October 20, 2008
The Scoop on Meditation
A Simple Practice with Profound Benefits
People who meditate regularly appear internally and externally five to 10 years younger than their non-meditating peers, according to author Deepak Chopra. That's good news for the estimated 10 million people who practice meditation on an ongoing basis and experience the resulting calm it cultivates. The rich benefits come from doing something that looks like nothing: Sitting still, being quiet, and breathing deeply. Meditation works simply but profoundly by defusing the onslaughts of life -- a racing mind, busyness, deadlines, commutes, all of which have physiological effects on well-being. Meditation calms the nervous system, decreases metabolic rate, heart rate, and blood pressure, and lowers levels of cholesterol, stress hormones, and free radicals. It also has a direct effect on breathing, slowing and deepening respiration so more oxygen circulates throughout the body. Not only that, meditation is said to lessen feelings of anxiety and depression and improve memory and concentration. And all of this culminates in slowing the aging process, as Chopra notes. There are many meditation techniques, including focusing on a mantra, a sacred word or phrase, or your breath. But the basic intent of all meditation is focus and attention. And it doesn't take hours a day in an ashram to meditate effectively. Benefits kick in with even a short period of devoted time. How to begin? Wear comfortable, unrestrictive clothes, sit on a cushion or chair with your back straight (think once again, comfort), rest your hands on your legs, let your eyes go soft and out of focus or close them, breathe slowly and deeply, and -- the hardest part -- attempt to empty your mind of thoughts and quiet the internal dialogue. When thoughts flit through your mind, let them pass without judging them and come back to your focus (your mantra, counting, etc.) and breathing. Start with this sitting meditation technique for five minutes a day, and add on time as you get more at ease with the process. For more information on techniques and benefits, check out www.abc-of-meditation.com.
(article courtesy of Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals)
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Do I visit every Yahoo group I can find and post excerpts? Do I blog every single day and hope to get a following that way? Do I pay to have my banner or cover advertised at a review site? Do I garner up the courage to go on a radio blog?
There are so many options out there it is mind-boggling. Some days I feel I spend more time promoting then actually writing. So that brings up the next round of questions. Can you ever do too much promoting? Not only do I worry that people will get sick of seeing me on all the loops, but how much money should I really invest?
So I am putting these questions out to all you writers and readers. Then I would like to know what worked for you? Do you have any unique ideas that boosted your sales?
Saturday, October 18, 2008
A love and hate relationship
But someone has to do it!
All right, so call me a masochist. There is nothing worse then staying up into the wee hours of the morning when everyone else is nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of nightmares dance within your head...I am talking about the cynical world of a writer where anything basically goes, your characters monopolize your brain and you swear you're going crazy...
How do I survive sanity? By the skin of my teeth..If I didn't have a clear mind between fantasy and reality, I'd really be in trouble. It's not easy having 300 characters at once running a muck inside your head and you pray everyday those men in their white coats don't come to take you away...
But alas, you continue to plug at the keyboard going into a realm of arthritis, sleep deprivation, booze and chocolate cravings just to undermine those little creeps and show them whose boss. But no matter what they always find a way to get even.
In all my years of writing I seemed to have learned quite a few tricks, albeit in my old age I sometimes forget then blame senility. But it's the only place where you can go to commit a murder, rob a bank, poison someone, steal the largest diamond, break out of prison and actually get away with it.
But as my colleagues say, the edits are the worst. I often think about how many times JK Rowlings had to sit and edit those monster books. Dianna Gabaldon once stressed it takes her eighteen months to two years to write one of her Outlander series books and if you read her like I do...(and I just love her) then you know what I'm talking about.
Fortunately I have had the opportunity to see both sides. As a former senior editor I have read it all. I once had a submission from a new author. The book was total garbage and I don't say that lightly. I sent this novice author an email rejection and told him basically to re-write the entire book after he attended a few writing courses. He then spat back that it was “MY JOB” to write his book for him. That since he submitted this great story idea that his mother just raved about, it was the editors job to make it perfect and he WANTED it done immediately!
I was rolling on the floor. I still laugh just thinking about it.
I never forgot that or his name and then proceeded to pass it along to all the other publishing houses I knew. Needless to say, he will never see a publishing contract in this world.
Being an editor is also a tough business. There is more work to it then some would think. I have spent hours upon hours going through so many great books, just finding the simplest mistakes. Yet in my own work I can't find them. And that's because the books are so close to us that we don't realize what we are typing, but if we stop to think about it and do the line edits as we type, it wouldn't become such a grueling process.
Deadlines make for great writing to some authors, but to the rest who don't do well under pressure it can be a nightmare. All you need to do is take your time, read out loud, read to a friend who isn't biased and will tell you the truth. Then make those changes, watch your spelling, grammar, dialog and my biggest pet peeve...TAG LINES...when you feel the book is ready then submit it to your editor...they will love you for it, believe me.
I was always thrilled when I read a clean manuscript because I knew the author painstakingly took the time to do it right, but some of us can't and that's just the plain truth. Just because we have to go back and look at our mistakes and correct them does not mean we are crappy writers...it just means we are human and we all make mistakes which is why the delete button was created.
That being said, take your edits with a grain of salt, douse some water on your face and get back to the drawing board. I find doing edits while watching Scooby Doo helps...
Thursday, October 16, 2008
It had been a lot of back and forth, with my father saying they would stay at the Chateau Marmont instead of with me.
"Why?" I asked. I barely get to see him and was hoping to have some time with him.
"Don't be ridiculous," he said. "You don't have a spare room. You have that loft thingy and I don't like looking at all those pictures of naked men you have around the place."
"Naked men? You mean my book covers?"
"Yeah." His voice sounded pained.
So I relinquished control and let him have his way. They arrived while I was in the middle of posting a blog and I had to hustle to get everything done on time. I had shampooed the carpet, cleaned the place within an inch of its life. The dog had been groomed and looked adorable. The cat just IS adorable...
He walked in, told me my dog looked old and that it was time to get a new carpet and say, had I put on a little weight?
"Gee, dad," I said. "I'd forgotten how much fun you are to have around."
He laughed and realized he was being a jerk. He showed his new lady friend around. My dad has always loved my place, even though he moans about how much money I spend on books.
"What are all these boxes?" the girlfriend asked me. It has always staggered me that my 80 year old dad still scores. This one looked like she'd had a lot of work done and I put her in her mid 50s. She strutted around in her high heels and miniskirt and looked like she thought I live in a dump.
"Books," I replied. "I am having a book launch next month. My first book, Phantom Lover was just released in paper back!"
"Oh. So why are the books stacked up here by the front door?"
Now, I'm thinking is this woman dumb or what? Where else does she want me to store nearly a hundred books? Between my own book and copies of eXtasy's anthologies in which I have stories, plus promo materials sent to me by other authors, I have nowhere else to put it all.
She stared disdainfully at my cat Banjo who was curled up asleep on the top box.
"Why's your cat sleeping up there?"
I stared helplessly at my dad. On a scale of one to ten, this newbie rates a zero so far.
"Um...because he likes it?"
"What kind of a book is it?" she asked me, her fingers running along the taped, closed lids.
"Oh, I love erotic romances."
"You don't want to read these," my father assured her.
"Yes I do."
"These are gay romances." My father looked pained and was starting to tug at his shirt collar.
"Gay?" she blinked at me. "Why in the world would you write gay fiction?"
I stared at my father.
"Do gay people believe in romance?" She was laughing now. "You're joking, right?"
"No, I'm not joking."
I opened a box and handed her a copy of Phantom Lover.
She read the back cover blurb and put the book down.
I recently had a very experience going from book shop to book shop trying to get them interested in carrying my book on their shelves and it went a lot like this.
What happened next was exactly what happened in a lot of the book stores I covered. She picked the book up and started reading.
"It pulls you in," she announced.
Say, this chick might work out after all.
She was turning pages, I made coffee, my dad complained about my animals bugging him but got down on the floor and played with the dog.
"Oh, my stars!" Dad's girlfriend squawked. "They're having sex!"
My dad looked up at her. "Yeah, AJ's characters do a lot of that."
She kept putting the book down, then picking it up. She was a third of the way through when she proclaimed it to be "not my thing" but the second my dad and I started playing backgammon she had her nose back in the book again.
I told her she could take it home with her.
"Oh, I won't read it," she kept saying. "It's not my thing."
"Okay...sorry." I went to put it back in the box.
"But I do want to find out how it ends. There's a nice love story here once you get past all the...you know...cocks and asses."
"Thanks," I said.
"Have you read this?" she asked my dad.
He looked agonized. "Yes."
"All of it?"
"And what did you think?"
"I told AJ never to send me one of his books again."
His girlfriend smiled. "My mother reads romances...I wonder if she would like this."
I burst out laughing. Her mother?
My dad wiped his hand over his face. "You're kidding, right?"
My dad looked at me. "I get all the freakin' weirdoes," he said when she tripped off to the bathroom. "Now my girlfriend wants to read gay sex."
"Well dad, at least she hasn't asked me if I have any gay porn. The last one was..."
"Yeah, I remember. Riveted by it. This one is too classy for that AJ so don't start banging on about bloody Frank Sagat or whatever his name is, okay?"
When his girlfriend emerged from the bathroom, she nudged me. "AJ, you know, I was just wondering...got any gay porn?"
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Remember the series I told you about, Protectors of the Earth, that's the one I sent in. I did a complete package idea with some of them geared toward the ebooks they do and the rest toward their bigger books. There's seven books in all, interwoven with every story important to the whole.
And I haven't done this in years. I mean as in 1991 or something like that because when I discovered that NY didn't like any of the cross-genre stuff I did, I decided to wait. Then the erotic romance field opens up and bang, I'm in with them.
So, this weekend when you're all out and about, remember me and have a drink to NY for making people wait. I sure hope I won't wait long as the suspense is killing me. LOL!
Have a great week everyone...I'm off to write more elves.
Monday, October 13, 2008
So the question this week dear readers: Is flirting cheating?
What’s your say on the matter?
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Everyone in the family is avoiding me and the dark cloud of grumpiness that always comes when I am working under a deadline. The dog hides out in the yard, the kids go to a friend's house, and the ugly cat retreats to the closet. As soon as they all see me pull on my "editing" sweat pants and t-shirt, they all abandon ship. My husband on the other hand, get an evil glint in his eye. He knows that I will be so lost in my computer he will have the television to himself and he can watch all the Ultimate Fighting that he wants. I hate the sport whereas he loves it with a passion. I'm sorry, I just don't get it. To me it looks like two guys rolling around with blood covering them. It reminds me a bit of the Roman Gladiator battles and sadly, there is no Russell Crowe. Believe me, I looked.
So, I ignore him and continue to battle my edits, cringing at some of the stupid and obvious mistakes I make. In my Archangel Series, one of the Lehor brother's name is Mael. For two paragraphs in Hell's Angel I call him, "Meal". My editor, J, just loved that one. I wonder if I am the only author that makes such stupid errors. Surely not?
To make things even worse, the weather outside is beautiful. It would be so nice to go to the cider mill and get a caramel apple and hot cider. I ask myself is it worth it?
I answer my own question immediately. Yes, it is worth it. I am an author, not just in my job description, but in my heart. I write because I can't imagine not writing. It is who I am, what defines me. To give this up would be giving up a piece of me. I love it all, even the edits. Nothing fires my blood up more than to have to work under a tight deadline. I love the challenge of having to complete something with the clock ticking. Call me crazy, call me stupid, call me certifiable.
Me, I'll call myself a writer.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Fo anyone who has ever been there you know what I'm talking about. For the duration of seven hours the public was allowed to view all the cameras set in the rooms of all the buildings they visited. They met with an entity named Michael who was reluctant to speak to them and at several times threatened them.
They met with Terrance, the seventeen year old soldier who accidently shot twenty year old Jennie Wade, the only civilian of the entire war of 11,000 Union and Confedrerate soldiers killed.
It brought me back to the time I visited years ago. It's a place you never forget. You know you're being watched, you see strange and unusual things happening, you hear them speak, see things move.
What we all saw in the viewing audience tonight was real. I think it was awesome that Yvette came back here to the states to do this again with her team from Most Haunted Live.
I can't wait for her to come back again.
This was the best all time pre Halloween show I have watched...and one I will not easily forget.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
So my friend Tony, he of the dithering am-I-gay-am-I-straight debate and I accepted an invitation to a friend's house for dinner last night. We rolled up around seven and since my friend is not a particularly good cook, we wrestled with the idea of bringing takeout but didn't want to offend her.
The front door was open since it was a hot night in Los Angeles. We also figured out it was open, possibly, to accommodate the billowing smoke streaming from the kitchen. My friend, let's call her Jill, was in the kitchen - I could hear her banging around. The TV was blaring out in the living room and a guy was sitting at the dining room table watching helmet-haired TV pundit Nancy Grace trying and convicting that strange young woman Stacy Anthony whose toddler has been missing for three months.
"I think I might be gay for sure," Tony announced. "Nancy not only does not give me wood, she makes my dick shrink."
"Mine too," announced the other guy, accepting Tony's offer of a can of beer.
Jill's roommate Sophie came into the room with a fire extinguisher in hand, giving us all one-armed hugs. We launched into a lively discussion on the subject of Nancy's hair and from the kitchen, I could hear Jill having a meltdown.
"I'm afraid she'll throw things at me," Sophie whined. "You go in there, Tony."
"Noooo, I'm too young to die. You do it, A.J."
So I manned up and trotted into the kitchen to find Jill taking a pretty healthy slug of vodka straight from the bottle.
"I ruined dinner," she screamed, pointing at something black and crisp in the sink.
"We'll order pizza," I assured her and she poured a little vodka into a glass, brought it the living room, squeezing herself between Tony and the other guy, whom I still hadn't met.
Tony and Jill began a violent discussion on Nancy Grace's hair and the other guy and I began a game of backgammon as Sophie put the fire extinguisher back in the hall closet.
The game was getting competitive when the pizzas arrived. Drinks were freshened up and Nancy Grace's hair still hadn't moved. Everybody had an opinion on it.
"I think it's a wig."
"I think it's an optical illusion."
"I think she sprays it on."
Tony leaned into Jill. "I'd like to muss up her hair. How about you? Can I muss up your hair? You wanna have sex? I need to know if I'm straight."
Jill looked at him. "We've already had sex. Don't you remember?"
"No! Did we? How was I?" Thereby sealing his fate of going home without any action at all.
We went on to have a very pleasant evening, playing round robins of backgammon and insulting everyone who came on the TV when Jill asked Sophie to accompany her to the kitchen.
A few seconds later, Sophie came out, a strange look on her face, asking me to join them.
"I don't mean to be rude," Jill whispered, taking another hit of vodka, capping the bottle and slipping it back in the freezer. "But who the hell is that guy?"
"You mean Tony?"
"No, the other guy you brought."
"I didn't bring him. I thought he was YOUR friend. He was sitting here when we arrived."
The three of us looked into the living room. Tony and the stranger were making lewd comments about Dog the Bounty Hunter's family picking pumpkins in a patch for Halloween.
"Tony..." Jill called out.
He got himself out of his chair and lumbered into the kitchen.
"Who's your friend?" Jill asked, reaching for the vodka again.
"He's not my friend. I thought he was your friend." Tony lumbered back out and asked the guy, "Say, we've just been having a confab and nobody seems to know you. Who are you?"
"I am Eric the Great."
"How did you get in here? Did you break in here?" Tony asked.
"Of course not. How rude! The front door was wide open. I just walked in here."
We all looked at each other.
"You have to leave." Jill was on the verge of hysteria now. I was thinking about giving her a straw for that vodka bottle in her hand.
"Why? I'm not bothering anybody," Eric the Great insisted.
He had a point there, but you don't just go around walking into people's houses.
"I am Eric the Great and I am not leaving." He folded his arms across his chest in a defiant way and I prayed that Tony wouldn't suddenly announce that he was getting, you know, wood.
"This is only happening to me because you're here," Jill said, pointing a finger at me. "I've known you 24 years and you attract nothing but weirdos."
"I'm not a weirdo!" Eric the Great banged on the dining room table.
"Yes, you are!" we all shouted back.
Eric the Great was not very happy when the police were mentioned. In fact he looked petrified. Tony frog marched him out of the house, with a couple slices of pizza for the road. He took off, down Hayvenhurst Drive, muttering and shrieking to himself. Across the road, another front door was open.
We all watched Eric the Great swallow the last remaining bite of pizza, crossing the street, a determined look on his face.
"Should we do something?" Jill asked.
"No." Tony was firm. "He's their problem." We went back inside and shut the door, all of us looking at each other in a guilty way.
"Only in bloody Los Angeles," Tony opined and then we heard a police siren. "That was fast," he said, reaching for the last can of beer.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
It’s the stuff of legends. Think about the movies you know which use this type of force. Well, all the Star Wars movies use some type of elemental power. In them, it’s called the force and one has to be attuned to it before they can use it. Another story, The Fifth Element is very science fiction in nature but when it actually came to saving the world, they went back to the four elements. Then there’s one of my all time favorites, The Lord of the Rings series. If they don’t use elemental power and magic, I don’t know who does.
If you are fans of manga and anime, then you’ve seen plenty of elemental magic. Some of my favorites are Avatar, Naruto, InuYasha, Pokemon, and Sailor Moon. I could watch all those cartoons for hours. Also, Final Fantasy was based upon elementals. When I was designing this whole series, I really took into account just how Avatar was put together as it’s such a great story of the elements.
The whole concept is rampant in books and has been for years. Fantasy is strewn with those who can use elemental powers, some for good, some for evil. Some of my favorite stories have been based upon a Dungeons and Dragons type world. DragonLance was one of my favorite readings of all time. All nine books. LOL!
So, now it’s my turn to create fantastic characters and the first thing I realized was I had to name them for their element. Rather it was the second thing as I had the whole first book done before I had even planned the rest. What was strange is the fact the characters in the first book told me their names. I had had the heroine down as a one-liner for almost a year and every day she yelled at me for not doing more.
Last month, something told me I needed to get this series into high gear. So I finish the first story in record time and realized there is a whole lot more to the story. I decide then it’s time to take the plotting class which I’ve talked about in previous blogs. Once there I knew if I were ever to finish this series, it would have to be plotted meticulously and simultaneously.
So, I start with the second book and before I know it, I have the basics for each of the subsequent stories. Then come the names. After lots of thought, I decided to do something I’ve never done before and actually name the characters for what they were going to be. I looked up names and pondered if I would actually name someone that. Believe me when I say some of them were very strange looking and sounding at first.
Still, I have in my possession eight of the coolest sounding character names one would ever find. The second book is called ‘Playing with Fyre’ and the heroine is Endellion Fyre. She’s nicknamed Endy. The hero’s name is Haydn Keegan. Every word has something to do with fire which is their element. Endellion actually means fire soul. How cool is that?!?
I then took it one step further and went to a website called ‘How Many of Me’ which tells you just how many people in the world have any given name. Very cool tool for an author. I loved the fact there are only 18 Lynn Crains in the US. But I really loved the fact there is only one or less person who is named Endellion Fyre. Uniqueness is a great quality for a character. People tend to remember unique.
Your character’s name is one of your story’s greatest assets. Sometimes the characters scream out their names loudly and they will drown out anything you might say or want to say. If they allow you to plan things out, try naming them for who they are, what they do, what they like or what ever floats your boat. Make sure they like it and you like it. You will know what a character’s name should be because it will feel right.
I went through at least three to five name choices for each of my elemental characters. I’d put the names together and let them roll, or not roll, off my tongue to see if my people were meant to have that name. Once everything clicked, my characters not only had a mission they became real to me in a way that still has me in its grip.
Now that each of them are firmly planted into my mind, I have to finish the stories. From time to time, I’ll give you all glimpses into this new and fantastic world I’m creating.
Until next time…
Monday, October 6, 2008
It made me think though. With the intense interest in paranormal stories where the characters are immortals, do we secretly long to experience endless time? Would you drink from the fountain of youth?
Share your thoughts on immortality/life extension with us.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
“I’m worried about your daughter.”
Now it wasn’t so much the sentence, but it was the way she said it. She had heaved a huge sigh before she uttered it, clenched her hands in a fist on the table, and her gaze grew bleak with concern. It was the look of someone delivering bad news. Then she went on to list her concerns.
It seems my daughter could not read, had temper tantrums, bouts of crying, and was behind in math as well. For those of you who don’t know, my daughter has a marked speech disability. Bless her heart, she sounds like Scooby Doo at super speed. When she gets upset, excited, or tired it gets even worse. Sometimes even I have trouble understanding her. Until that conference, however I thought that was the extent of it. I was so, so wrong. The thing that hurt the most was my daughter could not read.
I’m a writer, books are the center of my life. They bring me joy, comfort and an escape from my troubles. The fact that my daughter wasn’t able to share in that was heartbreaking. We tried everything, tutors, bribes, and threats in order to get her to work on her spelling words or reading exercises. Nothing worked. It always ended with her in tears and me more disheartened. Then a miracle happened this past week.
A large, heavy box was delivered to my house. In it, my first print book. As I cut it open, my daughter hovered over my shoulder, a look of excitement on her face. As soon as I lifted the flaps, her tiny hands reached in and seized a copy.
“You said I could have one, Mommy.” She lovingly caressed the glossy cover.
“Yes, I did, but lets put it up so it doesn’t get dirty.” I reached for it and she pulled back and held the book protectively to her chest.
“No, it’s mine. I’m going to learn to read it.” She jumped down from the chair and ran to her room, her new treasure tight in her arms.
I felt tears building up in my eyes. My book had finally made it so my baby wanted to learn how to read. It was humbling. Then my joy slowly turned to horror. My innocent daughter wanted to read my very adult book. The one that had dirty words, sex, and all kinds of forbidden things in it. Oh no!
Does anyone have some whiteout tape handy?
Saturday, October 4, 2008
**The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.**
by Washington Irving
This etext was created by Ilana M. (Kingsley) Newby, a reference
librarian at the Urbana Free Library, Urbana, Illinois, and Greg
Newby, a professor in the Graduate School of Library Science, at
the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The equipment:
a Mac IIci and Apple One Flatbed Scanner donated by Apple with a
copy of OmniPage donated by Caere.
THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
by Washington Irving
Found among the papers of the late Diedrech Knickerbocker.
A pleasing land of drowsy head it was,
Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye;
And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
Forever flushing round a summer sky.
Castle of Indolence.
In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the
eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river
denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and
where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the
protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small
market town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh,
but which is more generally and properly known by the name of
This name was given, we are told, in former days, by
the good housewives of the adjacent country, from the inveterate
propensity of their husbands to linger about the village tavern
on market days. Be that as it may, I do not vouch for the fact,
but merely advert to it, for the sake of being precise and
authentic. Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles,
there is a little valley or rather lap of land among high hills,
which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small
brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to
repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a
woodpecker is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the
I recollect that, when a stripling, my first exploit in
squirrel-shooting was in a grove of tall walnut-trees that shades
one side of the valley. I had wandered into it at noontime, when
all nature is peculiarly quiet, and was startled by the roar of
my own gun, as it broke the Sabbath stillness around and was
prolonged and reverberated by the angry echoes. If ever I should
wish for a retreat whither I might steal from the world and its
distractions, and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled
life, I know of none more promising than this little valley.
The listless repose of the place, and the peculiar
character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the
original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been
known by the name of SLEEPY HOLLOW, and its rustic lads are
called the Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout all the neighboring
country. A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land,
and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was
bewitched by a High German doctor, during the early days of the
settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or
wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country
was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the
place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that
holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to
walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of
marvelous beliefs; are subject to trances and visions, and
frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the
The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted
spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare
oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country,
and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the
favorite scene of her gambols.
The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted
region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of
the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback, without a
head. It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper,
whose head had been carried away by a cannon-ball, in some
nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever and
anon seen by the country folk hurrying along in the gloom of
night, as if on the wings of the wind. His haunts are not
confined to the valley, but extend at times to the adjacent
roads, and especially to the vicinity of a church at no great
Indeed, certain of the most authentic historians of
those parts, who have been careful in collecting and collating
the floating facts concerning this spectre, allege that the body
of the trooper having been buried in the churchyard, the ghost
rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head,
and that the rushing speed with which he sometimes passes along
the Hollow, like a midnight blast, is owing to his being belated,
and in a hurry to get back to the churchyard before daybreak.
Such is the general purport of this legendary superstition,
which has furnished materials for many a wild story in that
region of shadows; and the spectre is known at all the country
firesides, by the name of the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.
It is remarkable that the visionary propensity I have
mentioned is not confined to the native inhabitants of the
valley, but is unconsciously imbibed by every one who resides
there for a time.
wide awake they may have been before
they entered that sleepy region, they are sure, in a little time,
to inhale the witching influence of the air, and begin to grow
imaginative, to dream dreams, and see apparitions.
I mention this peaceful spot with all possible laud for it
is in such little retired Dutch valleys, found here and there
embosomed in the great State of New York, that population,
manners, and customs remain fixed, while the great torrent of
migration and improvement, which is making such incessant changes
in other parts of this restless country, sweeps by them
They are like those little nooks of still water,
which border a rapid stream, where we may see the straw and
bubble riding quietly at anchor, or slowly revolving in their
mimic harbor, undisturbed by the rush of the passing current.
Though many years have elapsed since I trod the drowsy shades of
Sleepy Hollow, yet I question whether I should not still find the
same trees and the same families vegetating in its sheltered
In this by-place of nature there abode, in a remote period
of American history, that is to say, some thirty years since, a
worthy wight of the name of Ichabod Crane, who sojourned, or, as
he expressed it, "tarried," in Sleepy Hollow, for the purpose of
instructing the children of the vicinity. He was a native of
Connecticut, a State which supplies the Union with pioneers for
the mind as well as for the forest, and sends forth yearly its
legions of frontier woodmen and country schoolmasters. The
cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable to his person. He was
tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and
legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that
might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely
His head was small, and flat at top, with huge
ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it
looked like a weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck to tell
which way the wind blew. To see him striding along the profile of
a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering
about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine
descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a
His schoolhouse was a low building of one large room, rudely
constructed of logs; the windows partly glazed, and partly
patched with leaves of old copybooks. It was most ingeniously
secured at vacant hours, by a *withe twisted in the handle of the
door, and stakes set against the window shutters; so that though
a thief might get in with perfect ease, he would find some
embarrassment in getting out, --an idea most probably borrowed by
the architect, Yost Van Houten, from the mystery of an eelpot.
The schoolhouse stood in a rather lonely but pleasant situation,
just at the foot of a woody hill, with a brook running close by,
and a formidable birch-tree growing at one end of it. From hence
the low murmur of his pupils' voices, conning over their lessons,
might be heard in a drowsy summer's day, like the hum of a
beehive; interrupted now and then by the authoritative voice of
the master, in the tone of menace or command, or, peradventure,
by the appalling sound of the birch, as he urged some tardy
loiterer along the flowery path of knowledge. Truth to say, he
was a conscientious man, and ever bore in mind the golden maxim,
"Spare the rod and spoil the child." Ichabod Crane's scholars
certainly were not spoiled.
I would not have it imagined, however, that he was one of
those cruel potentates of the school who joy in the smart of
their subjects; on the contrary, he administered justice with
discrimination rather than severity; taking the burden off the
backs of the weak, and laying it on those of the strong. Your
mere puny stripling, that winced at the least flourish of the
rod, was passed by with indulgence; but the claims of justice
were satisfied by inflicting a double portion on some little
tough wrong headed, broad-skirted Dutch urchin, who sulked and
swelled and grew dogged and sullen beneath the birch. All this he
called "doing his duty by their parents;" and he never inflicted
a chastisement without following it by the assurance, so
consolatory to the smarting urchin, that "he would remember it
and thank him for it the longest day he had to live."
When school hours were over, he was even the companion and
playmate of the larger boys; and on holiday afternoons would
convoy some of the smaller ones home, who happened to have pretty
sisters, or good housewives for mothers, noted for the comforts
of the cupboard. Indeed, it behooved him to keep on good terms
with his pupils. The revenue arising from his school was small,
and would have been scarcely sufficient to furnish him with daily
bread, for he was a huge feeder, and, though lank, had the
dilating powers of an anaconda; but to help out his maintenance,
he was, according to country custom in those parts, boarded and
lodged at the houses of the farmers whose children he instructed.
With these he lived successively a week at a time, thus going the
rounds of the neighborhood, with all his worldly effects tied up
in a cotton handkerchief.
all this might not be too onerous on the purses of his
rustic patrons, who are apt to considered the costs of schooling
a grievous burden, and schoolmasters as mere drones he had
various ways of rendering himself both useful and agreeable.
He assisted the farmers occasionally in the lighter labors of
their farms, helped to make hay, mended the fences, took the
horses to water, drove the cows from pasture, and cut wood
for the winter fire.
He laid aside, too, all the dominant
dignity and absolute sway with which he lorded it in his
little empire, the school, and became wonderfully gentle
and ingratiating. He found favor in the eyes of the mothers
by petting the children, particularly the youngest; and like
the lion bold, which whilom so magnanimously the lamb did hold,
he would sit with a child on one knee, and rock a cradle with
his foot for whole hours together.
addition to his other vocations, he was the singing-
master of the neighborhood, and picked up many bright shillings
by instructing the young folks in psalmody. It was a matter of no
little vanity to him on Sundays, to take his station in front of
the church gallery, with a band of chosen singers; where, in his
own mind, he completely carried away the palm from the parson.
Certain it is, his voice resounded far above all the rest of the
congregation; and there are peculiar quavers still to be heard in
that church, and which may even be heard half a mile off, quite
to the opposite side of the mill-pond, on a still Sunday morning,
which are said to be legitimately descended from the nose of
Ichabod Crane. Thus, by divers little makeshifts, in that
ingenious way which is commonly denominated "by hook and by
crook," the worthy pedagogue got on tolerably enough, and was
thought, by all who understood nothing of the labor of headwork,
to have a wonderfully easy life of it.
The schoolmaster is generally a man of some importance in
the female circle of a rural neighborhood; being considered a
kind of idle, gentlemanlike personage, of vastly superior taste
and accomplishments to the rough country swains, and, indeed,
inferior in learning only to the parson. His appearance,
therefore, is apt to occasion some little stir at the tea-table
of a farmhouse, and the addition of a supernumerary dish of cakes
or sweetmeats, or, peradventure, the parade of a silver teapot.
Our man of letters, therefore, was peculiarly happy in the smiles
of all the country damsels.
he would figure among them in the
churchyard, between services on Sundays; gathering grapes for
them from the wild vines that overran the surrounding trees;
reciting for their amusement all the epitaphs on the tombstones;
or sauntering, with a whole bevy of them, along the banks of the
adjacent mill-pond; while the more bashful country bumpkins hung
sheepishly back, envying his superior elegance and address.
From his half-itinerant life, also, he was a kind of
traveling gazette, carrying the whole budget of local gossip from
house to house, so that his appearance was always greeted with
He was, moreover, esteemed by the women as a man of
great erudition, for he had read several books quite through, and
was a perfect master of Cotton Mather's "History of New England
Witchcraft," in which, by the way, he most firmly and potently
He was, in fact, an odd mixture of small shrewdness and
simple credulity. His appetite for the marvelous, and his powers
of digesting it, were equally extraordinary; and both had been
increased by his residence in this spell-bound region. No tale
was too gross or monstrous for his capacious swallow. It was
often his delight, after his school was dismissed in the
afternoon, to stretch himself on the rich bed of clover bordering
the little brook that whimpered by his school-house, and there
con over old Mather's direful tales, until the gathering dusk of
evening made the printed page a mere mist before his eyes. Then,
as he wended his way by swamp and stream and awful woodland, to
the farmhouse where he happened to be quartered, every sound of
nature, at that witching hour, fluttered his excited
imagination, --the moan of the whip-poor-will from the hillside,
the boding cry of the tree toad, that harbinger of storm, the
dreary hooting of the screech owl, to the sudden rustling in the
thicket of birds frightened from their roost. The fireflies, too,
which sparkled most vividly in the darkest places, now and then
startled him, as one of uncommon brightness would stream across
his path; and if, by chance, a huge blockhead of a beetle came
winging his blundering flight against him, the poor varlet was
ready to give up the ghost, with the idea that he was struck with
a witch's token.
His only resource on such occasions, either to
drown thought or drive away evil spirits, was to sing psalm tunes
and the good people of Sleepy Hollow, as they sat by their doors
of an evening, were often filled with awe at hearing his nasal
melody, "in linked sweetness long drawn out," floating from the
distant hill, or along the dusky road.
Another of his sources of fearful pleasure was to pass long
winter evenings with the old Dutch wives, as they sat spinning by
the fire, with a row of apples roasting and spluttering along the
hearth, and listen to their marvellous tales of ghosts and
goblins, and haunted fields, and haunted brooks, and haunted
bridges, and haunted houses, and particularly of the headless
horseman, or Galloping Hessian of the Hollow, as they sometimes
called him. He would delight them equally by his anecdotes of
witchcraft, and of the direful omens and portentous sights and
sounds in the air, which prevailed in the earlier times of
Connecticut; and would frighten them woefully with speculations
upon comets and shooting stars; and with the alarming fact that
the world did absolutely turn round, and that they were half the
if there was a pleasure in all this, while snugly
cuddling in the chimney corner of a chamber that was all of a
ruddy glow from the crackling wood fire, and where, of course, no
spectre dared to show its face, it was dearly purchased by the
terrors of his subsequent walk homewards. What fearful shapes and
shadows beset his path, amidst the dim and ghastly glare of a
snowy night! With what wistful look did he eye every trembling
ray of light streaming across the waste fields from some distant
window! How often was he appalled by some shrub covered with
snow, which, like a sheeted spectre, beset his very path! How
often did he shrink with curdling awe at the sound of his own
steps on the frosty crust beneath his feet; and dread to look
over his shoulder, lest he should behold some uncouth being
tramping close behind him! and how often was he thrown into
complete dismay by some rushing blast, howling among the trees,
in the idea that it was the Galloping Hessian on one of his
All these, however, were mere terrors of the night, phantoms
of the mind that walk in darkness; and though he had seen many
spectres in his time, and been more than once beset by Satan in
divers shapes, in his lonely perambulations, yet daylight put an
end to all these evils; and he would have passed a pleasant life
of it, in despite of the Devil and all his works, if his path had
not been crossed by a being that causes more perplexity to mortal
man than ghosts, goblins, and the whole race of witches put
together, and that was--a woman.
Among the musical disciples who assembled, one evening in
each week, to receive his instructions in psalmody, was Katrina
Van Tassel, the daughter and only child of a substantial Dutch
farmer. She was a booming lass of fresh eighteen; plump as a
partridge; ripe and melting and rosy-cheeked as one of her
father's peaches, and universally famed, not merely for her
beauty, but her vast expectations. She was withal a little of a
coquette, as might be perceived even in her dress, which was a
mixture of ancient and modern fashions, as most suited to set of
her charms. She wore the ornaments of pure yellow gold, which her
great-great-grandmother had brought over from Saar dam; the
tempting stomacher of the olden time, and withal a provokingly
short petticoat, to display the prettiest foot and ankle in the
Ichahod Crane had a soft and foolish heart towards the sex;
and it is not to be wondered at, that so tempting a morsel soon
found favor in his eyes, more especially after he had visited her
in her paternal mansion. Old Baltus Van Tassel was a perfect
picture of a thriving, contented, liberal-hearted farmer. He
seldom, it is true, sent either his eyes or his thoughts beyond
the boundaries of his own farm; but within those everything was
snug, happy and well-conditioned. He was satisfied with his
wealth, but not proud of it; and piqued himself upon the hearty
abundance, rather than the style in which he lived. His
stronghold was situated on the banks of the Hudson, in one of
those green, sheltered, fertile nooks in which the Dutch farmers
are so fond of nestling. A great elm tree spread its broad
branches over it, at the foot of which bubbled up a spring of the
softest and sweetest water, in a little well formed of a barrel;
and then stole sparkling away through the grass, to a neighboring
brook, that babbled along among alders and dwarf willows. Hard
by the farmhouse was a vast barn, that might have served for a
church; every window and crevice of which seemed bursting
forth with the treasures of the farm; the flail was busily
resounding within it from morning to night; swallows and martins
skimmed twittering about the eaves; an rows of pigeons, some with
one eye turned up, as if watching the weather, some with their
heads under their wings or buried in their bosoms, and others
swelling, and cooing, and bowing about their dames, were enjoying
the sunshine on the roof. Sleek unwieldy porkers were grunting in
the repose and abundance of their pens, from whence sallied
forth, now and then, troops of sucking pigs, as if to snuff the
air. A stately squadron of snowy geese were riding in an
adjoining pond, convoying whole fleets of ducks; regiments of
turkeys were gobbling through the farmyard, and Guinea fowls
fretting about it, like ill-tempered housewives, with their
peevish, discontented cry. Before the barn door strutted the
gallant cock, that pattern of a husband, a warrior and a fine
gentleman, clapping his burnished wings and crowing in the pride
and gladness of his heart, --sometimes tearing up the earth with
his feet, and then generously calling his ever-hungry family of
wives and children to enjoy the rich morsel which he had
The pedagogue's mouth watered as he looked upon this
sumptuous promise of luxurious winter fare. In his devouring
mind's eye, he pictured to himself every roasting-pig running
about with a pudding in his belly, and an apple in his mouth; the
pigeons were snugly put to bed in a comfortable pie, and tucked
in with a coverlet of crust; the geese were swimming in their own
gravy; and the ducks pairing cosily in dishes, like snug married
couples, with a decent competency of onion sauce. In the porkers
he saw carved out the future sleek side of bacon, and juicy
relishing ham; not a turkey but he beheld daintily trussed up,
with its gizzard under its wing, and, peradventure, a necklace of
savory sausages; and even bright chanticleer himself lay
sprawling on his back, in a side dish, with uplifted claws, as if
craving that quarter which his chivalrous spirit disdained to ask
As the enraptured Ichabod fancied all this, and as he rolled
his great green eyes over the fat meadow lands, the rich fields
of wheat, of rye, of buckwheat, and Indian corn, and the orchards
burdened with ruddy fruit, which surrounded the warm tenement of
Van Tassel, his heart yearned after the damsel who was to inherit
these domains, and his imagination expanded with the idea, how
they might be readily turned into cash, and the money invested in
immense tracts of wild land, and shingle palaces in the
wilderness. Nay, his busy fancy already realized his hopes, and
presented to him the blooming Katrina, with a whole family of
children, mounted on the top of a wagon loaded with household
trumpery, with pots and kettles dangling beneath; and he beheld
himself bestriding a pacing mare, with a colt at her heels,
setting out for Kentucky, Tennessee, --or the Lord knows where!
When he entered the house, the conquest of his heart was
complete. It was one of those spacious farmhouses, with high-
ridged but lowly sloping roofs, built in the style handed down
from the first Dutch settlers; the low projecting eaves forming a
piazza along the front, capable of being closed up in bad
weather. Under this were hung flails, harness, various utensils
of husbandry, and nets for fishing in the neighboring river.
Benches were built along the sides for summer use; and a great
spinning-wheel at one end, and a churn at the other, showed the
various uses to which this important porch might be devoted. From
this piazza the wondering Ichabod entered the hall, which formed
the centre of the mansion, and the place of usual residence. Here
rows of resplendent pewter, ranged on a long dresser, dazzled his
eyes. In one corner stood a huge bag of wool, ready to be spun;
in another, a quantity of linsey-woolsey just from the loom; ears
of Indian corn, and strings of dried apples and peaches, hung in
gay festoons along the walls, mingled with the gaud of red
peppers; and a door left ajar gave him a peep into the best
parlor, where the claw-footed chairs and dark mahogany tables
shone like mirrors; andirons, with their accompanying shovel and
tongs, glistened from their covert of asparagus tops; mock-
oranges and conch - shells decorated the mantelpiece; strings of
various-colored birds eggs were suspended above it; a great
ostrich egg was hung from the centre of the room, and a corner
cupboard, knowingly left open, displayed immense treasures of old
silver and well-mended china.
From the moment Ichabod laid his eyes upon these regions of
delight, the peace of his mind was at an end, and his only study
was how to gain the affections of the peerless daughter of Van
Tassel. In this enterprise, however, he had more real
difficulties than generally fell to the lot of a knight-errant of
yore, who seldom had anything but giants, enchanters, fiery
dragons, and such like easily conquered adversaries, to contend
with and had to make his way merely through gates of iron and
brass, and walls of adamant to the castle keep, where the lady of
his heart was confined; all which he achieved as easily as a man
would carve his way to the centre of a Christmas pie; and then
the lady gave him her hand as a matter of course. Ichabod, on the
contrary, had to win his way to the heart of a country coquette,
beset with a labyrinth of whims and caprices, which were forever
presenting new difficulties and impediments; and he had to
encounter a host of fearful adversaries of real flesh and blood,
the numerous rustic admirers, who beset every portal to her
heart, keeping a watchful and angry eye upon each other, but
ready to fly out in the common cause against any new competitor.
Among these, the most formidable was a burly, roaring,
roystering blade, of the name of Abraham, or, according to the
Dutch abbreviation, Brom Van Brunt, the hero of the country round
which rang with his feats of strength and hardihood. He was
broad-shouldered and double-jointed, with short curly black hair,
and a bluff but not unpleasant countenance, having a mingled air
of fun and arrogance From his Herculean frame and great powers of
limb he had received the nickname of BROM BONES, by which he was
universally known. He was famed for great knowledge and skill in
horsemanship, being as dexterous on horseback as a Tartar. He was
foremost at all races and cock fights; and, with the ascendancy
which bodily strength always acquires in rustic life, was the
umpire in all disputes, setting his hat on one side, and giving
his decisions with an air and tone that admitted of no gainsay or
appeal. He was always ready for either a fight or a frolic; but
had more mischief than ill-will in his composition; and with all
his overbearing roughness, there was a strong dash of waggish
good humor at bottom. He had three or four boon companions, who
regarded him as their model, and at the head of whom he scoured
the country, attending every scene of feud or merriment for
miles round. In cold weather he was distinguished by a fur cap,
surmounted with a flaunting fox's tail; and when the folks at a
country gathering descried this well-known crest at a distance,
whisking about among a squad of hard riders, they always stood by
for a squall. Sometimes his crew would be heard dashing along
past the farmhouses at midnight, with whoop and halloo, like a
troop of Don Cossacks; and the old dames, startled out of their
sleep, would listen for a moment till the hurry-scurry had
clattered by, and then exclaim, "Ay, there goes Brom Bones
and his gang!" The neighbors looked upon him with a mixture
of awe, admiration, and good-will; and, when any madcap prank
or rustic brawl occurred in the vicinity, always shook their
heads, and warranted Brom Bones was at the bottom of it.
This rantipole hero had for some time singled out the
blooming Katrina for the object of his uncouth gallantries, and
though his amorous toyings were something like the gentle
caresses and endearments ofa bear, yet it was whispered that she
did not altogether discourage his hopes. Certain it is, his
advances were signals for rival candidates to retire, who felt no
inclination to cross a lion in his amours; insomuch, that when
his horse was seen tied to Van Tassel's paling, on a Sunday
night, a sure sign that his master was courting, or, as it is
termed, " sparking," within, all other suitors passed by in
despair, and carried the war into other quarters.
Such was the formidable rival with whom Ichabod Crane had to
contend, and, considering, all things, a stouter man than he
would have shrunk from the competition, and a wiser man would
have despaired. He had, however, a happy mixture of pliability
and perseverance in his nature; he was in form and spirit like a
supple-jackÄyielding, but tough; though he bent, he never broke;
and though he bowed beneath the slightest pressure, yet, the
moment it was away--jerk!--he was as erect, and carried his
head as high as ever.
To have taken the field openly against his rival would have
been madness; for he was not a man to be thwarted in his amours,
any more than that stormy lover, Achilles. Ichabod, therefore,
made his advances in a quiet and gently insinuating manner. Under
cover of his character of singing-master, he made frequent visits
at the farmhouse; not that he had anything to apprehend from the
meddlesome interference of parents, which is so often a
stumbling-block in the path of lovers. Balt Van Tassel was an
easy indulgent soul; he loved his daughter better even than his
pipe, and, like a reasonable man and an excellent father, let her
have her way in everything. His notable little wife, too, had
enough to do to attend to her housekeeping and manage her
poultry; for, as she sagely observed, ducks and geese are foolish
things, and must be looked after, but girls can take care of
themselves. Thus, while the busy dame bustled about the house, or
plied her spinning-wheel at one end of the piazza, honest Balt
would sit smoking his evening pipe at the other, watching the
achievements of a little wooden warrior, who, armed with a sword
in each hand, was most valiantly fighting the wind on the
pinnacle of the barn. In the mean time, Ichabod would carry on
his suit with the daughter by the side of the spring under the
great elm, or sauntering along in the twilight, that hour so
favorable to the lover's eloquence.
I profess not to know how women's hearts are wooed and won.
To me they have always been matters of riddle and admiration.
Some seem to have but one vulnerable point, or door of access;
while others have a thousand avenues, and may be captured in a
thousand different ways. It is a great triumph of skill to gain
the former, but a still greater proof of generalship to maintain
possession of the latter, for man must battle for his fortress at
every door and window. He who wins a thousand common hearts is
therefore entitled to some renown; but he who keeps undisputed
sway over the heart of a coquette is indeed a hero. Certain it
is, this was not the case with the redoubtable Brom Bones; and
from the moment Ichabod Crane made his advances, the interests of
the former evidently declined: his horse was no longer seen tied
to the palings on Sunday nights, and a deadly feud gradually
arose between him and the preceptor of Sleepy Hollow.
Brom, who had a degree of rough chivalry in his nature,
would fain have carried matters to open warfare and have settled
their pretensions to the lady, according to the mode of those
most concise and simple reasoners, the knights-errant of yore, --
by single combat; but lchabod was too conscious of the superior
might of his adversary to enter the lists against him; he had
overheard a boast of Bones, that he would "double the
schoolmaster up, and lay him on a shelf of his own schoolhouse;"
and he was too wary to give him an opportunity. There was
something extremely provoking, in this obstinately pacific
system; it left Brom no alternative but to draw upon the funds of
rustic waggery in his disposition, and to play off boorish
practical jokes upon his rival. Ichabod became the object of
whimsical persecution to Bones and his gang of rough riders. They
harried his hitherto peaceful domains, smoked out his singing-
school by stopping up the chimney, broke into the schoolhouse at
night, in spite of its formidable fastenings of withe and window
stakes, and turned everything topsy-turvy, so that the poor
schoolmaster began to think all the witches in the country held
their meetings there. But what was still more annoying, Brom took
all Opportunities of turning him into ridicule in presence of his
mistress, and had a scoundrel dog whom he taught to whine in the
most ludicrous manner, and introduced as a rival of Ichabod's, to
instruct her in psalmody.
In this way matters went on for some time, without producing
any material effect on the relative situations of the contending
powers. On a fine autumnal afternoon, Ichabod, in pensive mood,
sat enthroned on the lofty stool from whence he usually watched
all the concerns of his little literary realm. In his hand he
swayed a ferule, that sceptre of despotic power; the birch of
justice reposed on three nails behind the throne, a constant
terror to evil doers, while on the desk before him might be seen
sundry contraband articles and prohibited weapons, detected upon
the persons of idle urchins, such as half-munched apples,
popguns, whirligigs, fly-cages, and whole legions of rampant
little paper game-cocks. Apparently there had been some appalling
act of justice recently inflicted, for his scholars were all
busily intent upon their books, or slyly whispering behind them
with one eye kept upon the master; and a kind of buzzing
stillness reigned throughout the schoolroom. It was suddenly
interrupted by the appearance of a negro in tow-cloth jacket and
trowsers. a round-crowned fragment of a hat, like the cap of
Mercury, and mounted on the back of a ragged, wild, half-broken
colt, which he managed with a rope by way of halter. He came
clattering up to the school-door with an invitation to Ichabod to
attend a merry - making or "quilting-frolic," to be held that
evening at Mynheer Van Tassel's; and having, delivered his
message with that air of importance and effort at fine language
which a negro is apt to display on petty embassies of the kind,
he dashed over the brook, and was seen scampering, away up the
Hollow, full of the importance and hurry of his mission.
All was now bustle and hubbub in the late quiet schoolroom.
The scholars were hurried through their lessons without stopping
at trifles; those who were nimble skipped over half with
impunity, and those who were tardy had a smart application now
and then in the rear, to quicken their speed or help them over a
tall word. Books were flung aside without being put away on the
shelves, inkstands were overturned, benches thrown down, and the
whole school was turned loose an hour before the usual time,
bursting forth like a legion of young imps, yelping and racketing
about the green in joy at their early emancipation.
The gallant Ichabod now spent at least an extra half hour at
his toilet, brushing and furbishing up his best, and indeed only
suit of rusty black, and arranging his locks by a bit of broken
looking-glass that hung up in the schoolhouse. That he might make
his appearance before his mistress in the true style of a
cavalier, he borrowed a horse from the farmer with whom he was
domiciliated, a choleric old Dutchman of the name of Hans Van
Ripper, and, thus gallantly mounted, issued forth like a knight-
errant in quest of adventures. But it is meet I should, in the
true spirit of romantic story, give some account of the looks and
equipments of my hero and his steed. The animal he bestrode was a
broken-down plow-horse, that had outlived almost everything but
its viciousness. He was gaunt and shagged, with a ewe neck, and a
head like a hammer; his rusty mane and tail were tangled and
knotted with burs; one eye had lost its pupil, and was glaring
and spectral, but the other had the gleam of a genuine devil in
it. Still he must have had fire and mettle in his day, if we may
judge from the name he bore of Gunpowder. He had, in fact, been a
favorite steed of his master's, the choleric Van Ripper, who was
a furious rider, and had infused, very probably, some of his own
spirit into the animal; for, old and broken-down as he looked,
there was more of the lurking devil in him than in any young
filly in the country.
Ichabod was a suitable figure for such a steed . He rode
with short stirrups, which brought his knees nearly up to the
pommel of the saddle; his sharp elbows stuck out like
grasshoppers'; he carried his whip perpendicularly in his hand,
like a sceptre, and as his horse jogged on, the motion of his
arms was not unlike the flapping of a pair of wings. A small wool
hat rested on the top of his nose, for so his scanty strip of
forehead might be called, and the skirts of his black coat
fluttered out almost to the horses tail. Such was the appearance
of Ichabod and his steed as they shambled out of the gate of Hans
Van Ripper, and it was altogether such an apparition as is seldom
to be met with in broad daylight.
It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was
clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery
which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests
had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the
tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes
of orange, purple, and scarlet. Streaming files of wild ducks
began to make their appearance high in the air; the bark of the
squirrel might be heard from the groves of beech and hickory-
nuts, and the pensive whistle of the quail at intervals from the
neighboring stubble field.
The small birds were taking their farewell banquets. In the
fullness of their revelry, they fluttered, chirping and
frolicking from bush to bush, and tree to tree, capricious from
the very profusion and variety around them. There was the honest
cockrobin, the favorite game of stripling sportsmen, with its
loud querulous note; and the twittering blackbirds flying in
sable clouds, and the golden- winged woodpecker with his crimson
crest, his broad black gorget, and splendid plumage; and the
cedar-bird, with its red tipt wings and yellow-tipt tail and its
little monteiro cap of feathers; and the blue jay, that noisy
coxcomb, in his gay light blue coat and white underclothes,
screaming and chattering, nodding and bobbing and bowing, and
pretending to be on good terms with every songster of the grove.
As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye, ever open to
every symptom of culinary abundance, ranged with delight over the
treasures of jolly autumn. On all sides he beheld vast store of
apples: some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees; some
gathered into baskets and barrels for the market; others heaped
up in rich piles for the cider-press. Farther on he beheld great
fields of Indian corn, with its golden ears peeping from their
leafy coverts, and holding out the promise of cakes and hasty-
pudding; and the yellow pumpkins lying beneath them, turning up
their fair round bellies to the sun, and giving ample prospects
of the most luxurious of pies; and anon he passed the fragrant
buckwheat fields breathing the odor of the beehive, and as he
beheld them, soft anticipations stole over his mind of dainty
slap-jacks, well buttered, and garnished with honey or treacle,
by the delicate little dimpled hand of Katrina Van Tassel.
Thus feeding his mind with many sweet thoughts and "sugared
suppositions," he journeyed along the sides of a range of hills
which look out upon some of the goodliest scenes of the mighty
Hudson. The sun gradually wheeled his broad disk down in the
west. The wide bosom of the Tappan Zee lay motionless and glassy,
excepting that here and there a gentle undulation waved and
prolonged the blue shallow of the distant mountain. A few amber
clouds floated in the sky, without a breath of air to move them.
The horizon was of a fine golden tint, changing gradually into a
pure apple green, and from that into the deep blue of the mid-
heaven. A slanting ray lingered on the woody crests of the
precipices that overhung some parts of the river, giving greater
depth to the dark gray and purple of their rocky sides. A sloop
was loitering in the distance, dropping slowly down with the
tide, her sail hanging uselessly against the mast; and as the
reflection of the sky gleamed along the still water, it seemed as
if the vessel was suspended in the air.
It was toward evening that Ichabod arrived at the castle of
the Heer Van Tassel, which he found thronged with the pride and
flower of the adjacent country Old farmers, a spare leathern-
faced race, in homespun coats and breeches, blue stockings, huge
shoes, and magnificent pewter buckles. Their brisk, withered
little dames, in close crimped caps, long waisted short-gowns,
homespun petticoats, with scissors and pin-cushions, and gay
calico pockets hanging on the outside. Buxom lasses, almost as
antiquated as their mothers, excepting where a straw hat, a fine
ribbon, or perhaps a white frock, gave symptoms of city
innovation. The sons, in short square-skirted coats, with rows of
stupendous brass buttons, and their hair generally queued in the
fashion of the times, especially if they could procure an eelskin
for the purpose, it being esteemed throughout the country as a
potent nourisher and strengthener of the hair.
Brom Bones, however, was the hero of the scene, having come
to the gathering on his favorite steed Daredevil, a creature,
like himself, full of mettle and mischief, and which no one but
himself could manage. He was, in fact, noted for preferring
vicious animals, given to all kinds of tricks which kept the
rider in constant risk of his neck, for he held a tractable,
wellbroken horse as unworthy of a lad of spirit.
Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world of charms that
burst upon the enraptured gaze of my hero, as he entered the
state parlor of Van Tassel's mansion. Not those of the bevy of
buxom lasses, with their luxurious display of red and white; but
the ample charms of a genuine Dutch country tea-table, in the
sumptuous time of autumn. Such heaped up platters of cakes of
various and almost indescribable kinds, known only to experienced
Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tender
olykoek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and
short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family
of cakes. And then there were apple pies, and peach pies, and
pumpkin pies; besides slices of ham and smoked beef; and moreover
delectable dishes of preserved plums, and peaches, and pears, and
quinces; not to mention broiled shad and roasted chickens;
together with bowls of milk and cream, all mingled higgledy-
pigglely, pretty much as I have enumerated them, with the
motherly teapot sending up its clouds of vapor from the midst--
Heaven bless the mark! I want breath and time to discuss this
banquet as it deserves, and am too eager to get on with my story.
Happily, Ichabod Crane was not in so great a hurry as his
historian, but did ample justice to every dainty.
He was a kind and thankful creature, whose heart dilated in
proportion as his skin was filled with good cheer, and whose
spirits rose with eating, as some men's do with drink. He could
not help, too, rolling his large eyes round him as he ate, and
chuckling with the possibility that he might one day be lord of
all this scene of almost unimaginable luxury and splendor. Then,
he thought, how soon he 'd turn his back upon the old
schoolhouse; snap his fingers in the face of Hans Van Ripper, and
every other niggardly patron, and kick any itinerant pedagogue
out of doors that should dare to call him comrade!
Old Baltus Van Tassel moved about among his guests with a
face dilated with content and goodhumor, round and jolly as the
harvest moon. His hospitable attentions were brief, but
expressive, being confined to a shake of the hand, a slap on the
shoulder, a loud laugh, and a pressing invitation to "fall to,
and help themselves."
And now the sound of the music from the common room, or
hall, summoned to the dance. The musician was an old gray-headed
negro, who had been the itinerant orchestra of the neighborhood
for more than half a century. His instrument was as old and
battered as himself. The greater part of the time he scraped on
two or three strings, accompanying every movement of the bow with
a motion of the head; bowing almost to the ground, and stamping
with his foot whenever a fresh couple were to start.
Ichabod prided himself upon his dancing as much as upon his
vocal powers. Not a limb, not a fibre about him was idle; and to
have seen his loosely hung frame in full motion, and clattering
about the room, you would have thought St. Vitus himself, that
blessed patron of the dance, was figuring before you in person.
He was the admiration of all the negroes; who, having gathered,
of all ages and sizes, from the farm and the neighborhood, stood
forming a pyramid of shining black faces at every door and
window; gazing with delight at the scene; rolling their white
eye-balls, and showing grinning rows of ivory from ear to ear.
How could the flogger of urchins be otherwise than animated and
joyous? the lady of his heart was his partner in the dance, and
smiling graciously in reply to all his amorous oglings; while
Brom Bones, sorely smitten with love and jealousy, sat brooding
by himself in one corner.
When the dance was at an end, Ichabod was attracted to a
knot of the sager folks, who, with Old V an Tassel, sat smoking
at one end of the piazza, gossiping over former times, and
drawing out long stories about the war.
This neighborhood, at the time of which I am speaking, was one of
those highly favored places which abound with chronicle and great
men. The British and American line had run near it during the
war; it had, therefore], been the scene of marauding and infested
with refugees, cow-boys, and all kinds of border chivalry. Just
sufficient time had elapsed to enable each story-teller to dress
up his tale with a little becoming fiction, and, in the
indistinctness of his recollection, to make himself the hero of
There was the story of Doffue Martling, a large blue-bearded
Dutchman, who had nearly taken a British frigate with an old iron
nine-pounder from a mud breastwork, only that his gun burst at
the sixth discharge. And there was an old gentleman who shall be
nameless, being too rich a mynheer to be lightly mentioned, who,
in the battle of White Plains, being an excellent master of
defence, parried a musket-ball with a small-sword, insomuch that
he absolutely felt it whiz round the blade, and glance off at the
hilt; in proof of which he was ready at any time to show the
sword, with the hilt a little bent. There were several more that
had been equally great in the field, not one of whom but was
persuaded that he had a considerable hand in bringing the war to
a happy termination.
But all these were nothing to the tales of ghosts and
apparitions that succeeded. The neighborhood is rich in legendary
treasures of the kind. Local tales and superstitions thrive best
in these sheltered, long settled retreats; but are trampled under
foot by the shifting throng that forms the population of most of
our country places. Besides, there is no encouragement for ghosts
in most of our villages, for they have scarcely had time to
finish their first nap and turn themselves in their graves,
before their surviving friends have travelled away from the
neighborhood; so that when they turn out at night to walk their
rounds, they have no acquaintance left to call upon. This is
perhaps the reason why we so seldom hear of ghosts except in our
long-established Dutch communities.
The immediate cause, however, of the prevalence of
supernatural stories in these parts, was doubtless owing to the
vicinity of Sleepy Hollow. There was a contagion in the very air
that blew from that haunted region; it breathed forth an
atmosphere of dreams and fancies infecting all the land. Several
of the Sleepy Hollow people were present at Van Tassel's, and, as
usual, were doling out their wild and wonderful legends. Many
dismal tales were told about funeral trains, and mourning cries
and wailings heard and seen about the great tree where the
unfortunate Major Andre was taken, and which stood in the
neighborhood. Some mention was made also of the woman in white,
that haunted the dark glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard to
shriek on winter nights before a storm, having perished there in
the snow. The chief part of the stories, however, turned upon the
favorite spectre of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman, who had
been heard several times of late, patrolling the country; and, it
was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the
The sequestered situation of this church seems always to
have made it a favorite haunt of troubled spirits. It stands on a
knoll, surrounded by locust, trees and lofty elms, from among
which its decent, whitewashed walls shine modestly forth, like
Christian purity beaming through the shades of retirement. A
gentle slope descends from it to a silver sheet of water,
bordered by high trees, between which, peeps may be caught at the
blue hills of the Hudson. To look upon its grass-grown yard,
where the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that
there at least the dead might rest in peace. On one side of the
church extends a wide woody dell, along which raves a large brook
among broken rocks and trunks of fallen trees. Over a deep black
part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown
a wooden bridge; the road that led to it, and the bridge itself,
were thickly shaded by overhanging trees, which cast a gloom
about it, even in the daytime; but occasioned a fearful darkness
at night. Such was one of the favorite haunts of the Headless
Horseman, and the place where he was most frequently encountered.
The tale was told of old Brouwer, a most heretical disbeliever in
ghosts, how he met the Horseman returning from his foray into
Sleepy Hollow, and was obliged to get up behind him; how they
galloped over bush and brake, over hill and swamp, until they
reached the bridge; when the Horseman suddenly turned into a
skeleton, threw old Brouwer into the brook, and sprang away over
the tree-tops with a clap of thunder.
This story was immediately matched by a thrice marvellous
adventure of Brom Bones, who made light of the Galloping Hessian
as an arrant jockey. He affirmed that on returning one night from
the neighboring village of Sing Sing, he had been overtaken by
this midnight trooper; that he had offered to race with him for a
bowl of punch, and should have won it too, for Daredevil beat the
goblin horse all hollow, but just as they came to the church
bridge, the Hessian bolted, and vanished in a flash of fire.
All these tales, told in that drowsy undertone with which
men talk in the dark, the countenances of the listeners only now
and then receiving a casual gleam from the glare of a pipe, sank
deep in the mind of Ichabod. He repaid them in kind with large
extracts from his invaluable author, Cotton Mather, and added
many marvellous events that had taken place in his native State
of Connecticut, and fearful sights which he had seen in his
nightly walks about Sleepy Hollow.
The revel now gradually broke up. The old farmers gathered
together their families in their wagons, and were heard for some
time rattling along the hollow roads, and over the distant hills.
Some of the damsels mounted on pillions behind their favorite
swains, and their light-hearted laughter, mingling with the
clatter of hoofs, echoed along the silent woodlands, sounding
fainter and fainter, until they gradually died away, --and the
late scene of noise and frolic was all silent and deserted.
Ichabod only lingered behind, according to the custom of country
lovers, to have a tete-a-tete with the heiress; fully convinced
that he was now on the high road to success. What passed at this
interview I will not pretend to say, for in fact I do not know.
Something, however, I fear me, must have gone wrong, for he
certainly sallied forth, after no very great interval, with an
air quite desolate and chapfallen. Oh, these women! these women!
Could that girl have been playing off any of her coquettish tricks?
Was her encouragement of the poor pedagogue all a mere sham to
secure her conquest of his rival? Heaven only knows, not I!
Let it suffice to say, Ichabod stole forth with the air of
one who had been sacking a henroost, rather than a fair lady's
heart. Without looking to the right or left to notice the scene
of rural wealth, on which he had so often gloated, he went
straight to the stable, and with several hearty cuffs and kicks
roused his steed most uncourteously from the comfortable quarters
in which he was soundly sleeping, dreaming of mountains of corn
and oats, and whole valleys of timothy and clover.
It was the very witching time of night that Ichabod, heavy
hearted and crest-fallen, pursued his travels homewards, along
the sides of the lofty hills which rise above Tarry Town, and
which he had traversed so cheerily in the afternoon. The hour was
as dismal as himself. Far below him the Tappan Zee spread its
dusky and indistinct waste of waters, with here and there the
tall mast of a sloop, riding quietly at anchor under the land. In
the dead hush of midnight, he could even hear the barking of the
watchdog from the opposite shore of the Hudson; but it was so
vague and faint as only to give an idea of his distance from this
faithful companion of man. Now and then, too, the long-drawn
crowing of a cock, accidentally awakened, would sound far, far
off, from some farmhouse away among the hills--but it was like a
dreaming sound in his ear. No signs of life occurred near him,
but occasionally the melancholy chirp of a cricket, or perhaps
the guttural twang of a bull-frog from a neighboring marsh, as if
sleeping uncomfortably and turning suddenly in his bed.
All the stories of ghosts and goblins that he had heard in
the afternoon now came crowding upon his recollection. The night
grew darker and darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in the
sky, and driving clouds occasionally hid them from his sight. He
had never felt so lonely and dismal. He was, moreover,
approaching the very place where many of the scenes of the ghost
stories had been laid. In the centre of the road stood an
enormous tulip-tree, which towered like a giant above all the
other trees of the neighborhood, and formed a kind of landmark.
Its limbs were gnarled and fantastic, large enough to form trunks
for ordinary trees, twisting down almost to the earth, and rising
again into the air. It was connected with the tragical story of
the unfortunate Andre, who had been taken prisoner hard by; and
was universally known by the name of Major Andre's tree. The
common people regarded it with a mixture of respect and
superstition, partly out of sympathy for the fate of its ill-
starred namesake, and partly from the tales of strange sights,
and doleful lamentations, told concerning it.
As Ichabod approached this fearful tree, he began to
whistle; he thought his whistle was answered; it was but a blast
sweeping sharply through the dry branches. As he approached a
little nearer, he thought he saw something white, hanging in the
midst of the tree: he paused, and ceased whistling but, on
looking more narrowly, perceived that it was a place where the
tree had been scathed by lightning, and the white wood laid bare.
Suddenly he heard a groan--his teeth chattered, and his knees
smote against the saddle: it was but the rubbing of one huge
bough upon another, as they were swayed about by the breeze. He
passed the tree in safety, but new perils lay before him.
About two hundred yards from the tree, a small brook crossed
the road, and ran into a marshy and thickly-wooded glen, known by
the name of Wiley's Swamp. A few rough logs, laid side by side,
served for a bridge over this stream. On that side of the road
where the brook entered the wood, a group of oaks and chestnuts,
matted thick with wild grape-vines, threw a cavernous gloom over
it. To pass this bridge was the severest trial. It was at this
identical spot that the unfortunate Andre was captured, and under
the covert of those chestnuts and vines were the sturdy yeomen
concealed who surprised him. This has ever since been considered
a haunted stream, and fearful are the feelings of the school-boy
who has to pass it alone after dark.
As he approached the stream, his heart began to thump he
summoned up, however, all his resolution, gave his horse half a
score of kicks in the ribs, and attempted to dash briskly across
the bridge; but instead of starting forward, the perverse old
animal made a lateral movement, and ran broadside against the
fence. Ichabod, whose fears increased with the delay, jerked the
reins on the other side, and kicked lustily with the contrary
foot: it was all in vain; his steed started, it is true, but it
was only to plunge to the opposite side of the road into a
thicket of brambles and alder-bushes. The schoolmaster now
bestowed both whip and heel upon the starveling ribs of old
Gunpowder, who dashed forward, snuffling and snorting, but came
to a stand just by the bridge, with a suddenness that had nearly
sent his rider sprawling over his head. Just at this moment a
plashy tramp by the side of the bridge caught the sensitive ear
of Ichabod. In the dark shadow of the grove, on the margin of the
brook, he beheld something huge, misshapen and towering. It
stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the gloom, like some
gigantic monster ready to spring upon the traveller.
The hair of the affrighted pedagogue rose upon his head with
terror. What was to be done? To turn and fly was now too late;
and besides, what chance was there of escaping ghost or goblin,
if such it was, which could ride upon the wings of the wind?
Summoning up, therefore, a show of courage, he demanded in
stammering accents, " Who are you?" He received no reply. He
repeated his demand in a still more agitated voice. Still there
was no answer. Once more he cudgelled the sides of the inflexible
Gunpowder, and, shutting his eyes, broke forth with involuntary
fervor into a psalm tune. Just then the shadowy object of alarm
put itself in motion, and with a scramble and a bound stood at
once in the middle of the road. Though the night was dark and
dismal, yet the form of the unknown might now in some degree be
ascertained. He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions,
and mounted on a black horse of powerful frame. He made no offer
of molestation or sociability, but kept aloof on one side of the
road, jogging along on the blind side of old Gunpowder, who had
now got over his fright and waywardness.
Ichabod, who had no relish for this strange midnight
companion, and bethought himself of the adventure of Brom Bones
with the Galloping Hessian, now quickened his steed in hopes of
leaving him behind. The stranger, however, quickened his horse to
an equal pace. Ichabod pulled up, and fell into a walk, thinking
to lag behind, --the other did the same. His heart began to sink
within him; he endeavored to resume his psalm tune, but his
parched tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, and he could not
utter a stave. There was something in the moody and dogged
silence of this pertinacious companion that was mysterious and
appalling. It was soon fearfully accounted for. On mounting a
rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveller
in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a
cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was
headless! but his horror was still more increased on observing
that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was
carried before him on the pommel of his saddle! His terror rose
to desperation; he rained a shower of kicks and blows upon
Gunpowder, hoping by a sudden movement to give his companion the
slip; but the spectre started full jump with him. Away, then,
they dashed through thick and thin; stones flying and sparks
flashing at every bound. Ichabod's flimsy garments fluttered in
the air, as he stretched his long lank body away over his horse's
head, in the eagerness of his flight.
They had now reached the road which turns off to Sleepy
Hollow; but Gunpowder, who seemed possessed with a demon, instead
of keeping up it, made an opposite turn, and plunged headlong
down hill to the left. This road leads through a sandy hollow
shaded by trees for about a quarter of a mile, where it crosses
the bridge famous in goblin story; and just beyond swells the
green knoll on which stands the whitewashed church.
As yet the panic of the steed had given his unskilful rider
an apparent advantage in the chase, but just as he had got half
way through the hollow, the girths of the saddle gave way, and he
felt it slipping from under him. He seized it by the pommel, and
endeavored to hold it firm, but in vain; and had just time to
save himself by clasping old Gunpowder round the neck, when the
saddle fell to the earth, and he heard it trampled under foot by
his pursuer. For a moment the terror of Hans Van Ripper's wrath
passed across his mind, --for it was his Sunday saddle; but this
was no time for petty fears; the goblin was hard on his haunches;
and (unskilful rider that he was!) he had much ado to maintain
his seat; sometimes slipping on one side, sometimes on another,
and sometimes jolted on the high ridge of his horse's backbone,
with a violence that he verily feared would cleave him asunder.
An opening, in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that
the church bridge was at hand. The wavering reflection of a
silver star in the bosom of the brook told him that he was not
mistaken. He saw the walls of the church dimly glaring under the
trees beyond. He recollected the place where Brom Bones' ghostly
competitor had disappeard. "If I can but reach that bridge,"
thought Ichabod, " I am safe." Just then he heard the black steed
panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied that he
felt his hot breath. Another convulsive kick in the ribs, and old
Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the
resounding planks; he gained the opposite side; and now Ichabod
cast a look behind to see if his pursuer should vanish, according
to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the
goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his
head at him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile,
but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous
crash, --he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder,
the black steed, and the goblin rider, passed by like a whirlwind.
The next morning the old horse was found without his saddle,
and with the bridle under his feet, soberly cropping the grass at
his master's gate. Ichabod did not make his appearance at
breakfast; dinner-hour came, but no Ichabod. The boys assembled
at the schoolhouse, and strolled idly about the banks of the
brook; but no schoolmaster. Hans Van Ripper now began to feel
some uneasiness about the fate of poor Ichabod, and his saddle.
An inquiry was set on foot, and after diligent investigation they
came upon his traces. In one part of the road leading to the
church was found the saddle trampled in the dirt; the tracks of
horses' hoofs deeply dented in the road, and evidently at furious
speed, were traced to the bridge, beyond which, on the bank of a
broad part oœ the brook, where the water ran deep and black, was
found the hat of the unfortunate Ichabod, and close beside it a
The brook was searched, but the body of the schoolmaster was
not to be discovered. Hans Van Ripper as executor of his estate,
examined the bundle which contained all his worldly effects. They
consisted of two shirts and a half; two stocks for the neck; a
pair or two of worsted stockings; an old pair of corduroy small-
clothes; a rusty razor; a book of psalm tunes full of dog's-ears;
and a broken pitch-pipe.
As to the books and furniture of the
schoolhouse, they belonged to the community, excepting Cotton
Mather's History of Witchcraft, a New England Almanac, and
book of dreams and fortune-telling; in which last was a sheet of
foolscap much scribbled and blotted in several fruitless attempts
to make a copy of verses in honor of the heiress of Van Tassel.
These magic books and the poetic scrawl were forthwith consigned
to the flames by Hans Van Ripper; who, from that time forward,
determined to send his children no more to school; observing that
he never knew any good come of this same reading and writing.
Whatever money the schoolmaster possessed, and he had received
his quarter's pay but a day or two before, he must have had about
his person at the time of his disappearance.
The mysterious event caused much speculation at the church
on the following Sunday. Knots of gazers and gossips were
collected in the churchyard, at the bridge, and at the spot where
the hat and pumpkin had been found. The stories of Brouwer, of
Bones, and a whole budget of others were called to mind; and when
they had diligently considered them all, and compared them with
the symptoms of the present case, they shook their heads, and
came to the conclusion chat Ichabod had been carried off by the
Galloping Hessian. As he was a bachelor, and in nobody's debt,
nobody troubled his head any more about him; the school was
removed to a different quarter of the Hollow, and another
pedagogue reigned in his stead.
It is true, an old farmer, who had been down to New York on
a visit several years after, and from whom this account of the
ghostly adventure was received, brought home the intelligence
that Ichabod Crane was still alive; that he had left the
neighborhood partly through fear of the goblin and Hans Van
Ripper, and partly in mortification at having been suddenly
dismissed by the heiress; that he had changed his quarters to a
distant part of the country; had kept school and studied law at
the same time; had been admitted to the bar; turned politician;
electioneered; written for the newspapers; and finally had been
made a justice of the ten pound court. Brom Bones, too, who,
shortly after his rival's disappearance conducted the blooming
Katrina in triumph to the altar, was observed to look exceedingly
knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related, and always
burst into a hearty laugh at the mention of the pumpkin; which
led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter than he
chose to tell.
The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of
these matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited
away by supernatural means; and it is a favorite story often told
about the neighborhood round the winter evening fire. The bridge
became more than ever an object of superstitious awe; and that
may be the reason why the road has been altered of late years, so
as to approach the church by the border of the mill-pond. The
schoolhouse being deserted soon fell to decay, and was reported
to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue and
the plough-boy, loitering homeward of a still summer evening,
has often fancied his voice at a distance, chanting a melancholy
psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow.
Thanks to: Project Gutenberg Director of Communications (PGDIRCOM)