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  • Writer's pictureElaine Marie Carnegie

Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps

by Vonnie Winslow Crist

Please welcome Vonnie Winslow Crist to the WJB this week with a venture into Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps!

Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps

I was one of those kids who loved to listen to scary tales around a campfire or at a sleep-over by a flashlight’s dim glow. When I grew old enough, I enjoyed telling shivery stories to my younger sisters and their friends. Few (if any) of the tales were graphic. The violence was kept “off screen,” because I learned early on that the most frightening things are creations of each of our imaginations.

Let me explain. If I tell you what is making the scratching noises under your bed, the picture in your mind is of that one creature. For example, if I say, “A rat is under your bed.” You see a rat in your mind’s eyes. But if I say, “I hear scraping noises, teeth clicking, claws scratching, and heavy breathing under your bed. Wait! I see the bottom of your bedspread moving. Oh, no! I hear a nasty growl.” Then, it’s likely your imagination conjures up not a rat, but a dreadful beast which reflects your fears.

That is the trick to writing a book of scary tales for kids—or adults for that matter. Leave enough room in your narrative for the reader to “fill in the blanks.” Given the space, most readers will envision the life form, mortal or otherwise, which frightens or horrifies them the most.

Which brings me to my book, “Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps,” released by Dark Owl Publishing on September 3, 2022. (Appropriately, it’s International Vulture Appreciation Day). I pitched the collection to Dark Owl Publishing using the ideas stated in the first three paragraphs of this article! When requested to do so, I sent the publisher five of the collection’s very short tales plus five accompanying illustrations which I had drawn using pencil and black ink.

Hold on, did I just say I sent black and white drawings? You might ask, “Why not color illustrations?” The answer is: one must always consider the cost of publishing a book. Colored artwork raises the printing price hugely—which raises the cost of that book for readers. Besides, I like black and white artwork with shades of gray from the faintest shadow to dark-as-death, nearly black.

Within days of receiving the five samples, Dark Owl Publishing offered me a contact for the book. Yes, I am lucky to be able to draw, and drawings are often a part of a book for kids middle-grade and up. But not always. I like to think the spooky stories alone were strong enough to secure a publisher. The fact “Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps” was just named a Finalist for the 2023 Best Children’s Book Imadjinn Award seems to confirm that.

To give you an idea of what sort of tales I included, here’s an excerpt from “Under Toad”:

“Standing on the shore, Sheila bent over every now and again to pick up a seashell. When she spotted a wave rushing toward her, she squealed. Then, she ran from the foam so quickly her toes were barely wet.

‘Come in the water,’ called her brother, Brett. He was in the ocean up to his waist.

‘No, thanks.’ Sheila didn’t want to add she was afraid of the under toad.

‘The surf is calm. It won’t knock you over,’ shouted her brother as a gentle swell washed past him.

Sheila looked at her mom and dad sitting on the beach beneath an umbrella in striped folding chairs. If the under toad grabbed her, they should be able to save her in time.

‘Okay,’ she said. Setting her bucket of shells safely above the tide line, she walked into the saltwater.

She felt her toes sinking into the sand as the seawater swept in and out. Looking up, Sheila spotted gulls floating on the late afternoon winds. Their bird cries were so loud she heard them over the slosh of the surf.

‘You are right, this is fun,’ she told her brother.

‘Why didn’t you come in earlier?’ Brett asked as a cresting wave splashed his face.

‘I remember Aunt Edna warning me to be careful of the under toad. It is a terrible creature which sleeps at the edge of the ocean,’ said Sheila.

Her older brother laughed. ‘It’s undertow, not under toad. You didn’t really think there is a big amphibian lurking beneath the ripples?’ He laughed again.

‘Aunt Edna told me the under toad pulls careless children out into the deeper water. Then, it drowns them.’ replied Sheila. Just saying the words out loud made her shiver.

Brett laughed so hard he snorted.

Sheila felt silly until she saw two large, webbed, warty hands reach up from the ocean. The frog-like hands wrapped around Brett’s arm and yanked him below the surface.

‘Mom! Dad!’ Sheila screamed as she raced from the ocean. ‘The under toad has Brett.’

At first, her parents laughed. But when they saw the fear in Sheila’s eyes was real, they stopped laughing. They jumped up from their striped chairs and raced into the surf to look for her brother…”

I must confess, the inspiration for “Under Toad” came from my childhood. I misunderstood the warning from an older relative to “Watch out for the undertow.” I thought they were warning me about giant amphibians who lived at the edges of oceans, fast-flowing rivers, and big lakes.

Just for fun, I’ve included the illustration for “Under Toad.” It is what I saw in my mind’s eye when warned about the undertow.

Several of the other tales in “Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps” were also inspired by my life experiences. Folklore, urban myths, and even fairy tales provided the catalysts for the rest of the stories. At the end of the book, I added a “Notes” section which explains the beginning place for each tale in case a reader wants to know more.

Currently, I’m working on book two of the series: “Shivers, Scares, and Chills.” The stories included in book two are different, but hopefully result in the same shivers, goosebumps, chills, and laughs as book one. Yes, laughs. Because even in scary tales, a little humor is a good thing.

For those looking for a few more spooky stories to share with the kids in your life, “Shivers, Scares, and Chills” will be available from Dark Owl Publishing in print and ebook later this year. After that? Why, book three, “Shivers, Scares, and Nightmares,” of course!

Click on Cover

Bio: Vonnie, MS Professional Writing, is an award-winning author of books and stories, poems, essays, and reviews which have appeared in hundreds of publications. Her books include: “Dragon Rain,” “Beneath Raven’s Wing” - Intl. Edgar Allan Poe Festival’s Visiter Award & Imadjinn Finalist, “The Enchanted Dagger” - Maryland Writers Assoc. Book Award & Compton Crook Award Finalist, “Owl Light” - 2018 eFestival of Words Short Story Collection Award, “The Greener Forest” - 2017 eFestival of Words Short Story Collection Award, and “Murder on Marawa Prime.” As an editor for Pole to Pole Publishing, her projects include: The Dark Stories Series: “Hides the Dark Tower,” “In a Cat’s Eye,” “Dark Luminous Wings,” and “Not Far From Roswell” and The Re-Imagine Series: “Re-Launch,” “Re-Enchant,” “Re-Quest,” “Re-Terrify,” and “Re-Haunt.” A cloverhand who has found so many 4-leafed clovers that she keeps them in jars, Vonnie believes the world is still filled with mystery, magic, and miracles. With that in mind, she strives to celebrate the power of myth in her writing and art.

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Praise for “Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps”

Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps is a wonderful collection!” Douglas Draa, editor of Weirdbook Magazine

“Vonnie Winslow Crist’s tales are precisely aimed at pre- and early teens for late night reads before bed, sleepovers, or campouts, and wow, do they hit the mark. Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps should be on the shelves of every cool parent or grandparent. I certainly wish it was when I was a young boy.” Tony Tremblay, author of “The Moore House” and other books

“I loved this book! If you’re looking for a story to tell around a campfire on a moonlit night, your search is over…. Read it in the dead of night but remember to check under the bed before you start.” Lois Szymanski, author of “The Gettysburg Ghost Gang” and other books

“I enjoyed Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps so much, I read it in one day! The black and white renderings are simply brilliant!” Marge Simon, Bram Stoker Award winning author of “Vampires, Zombies & Wanton Souls”

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