Author of Suspense Thrillers talks writing & stuff

Archive for the month “October, 2012”


The Truth About Black Cats

Posted by: Alice Verity // October 20, 2012 // Courtesy of

It’s that time of year: ghosts, goblins and black cats pop up everywhere and our thoughts turn to scary tales and long forgotten myths. For instance, black cats have long been the subject of superstitions that consider them to be bad luck. However, those of us who love our ebony felines also know how loveable these magical balls of fur truly are.


As we know from Halloween folklore black cats are commonly associated with witches and in many parts of Europe were often portrayed as partners in black magic.  In fact, this relationship was made official in the 13th century by the Roman Catholic Church and the devil became associated with all black cats.  Many cats died untimely deaths thanks to that questionable status.  During the Middle Ages, black cats were thrown on bonfires, hurled off castle walls or killed upon sight in order to ward off the evil spirits they supposedly embodied.


Sadly these suspicious religious beliefs were brought to the New World by the Pilgrims and eventually in that grand conspiracy called the Salem Witch Trials many cats lost their lives, burned at the stake along with their mistresses.  A demonic familiar or simply a close companion to a lonely old woman?  You be the judge. 


In some cultures a black cat crossing your path or walking away from you is a sure sign of bad luck approaching.  Since there is no known scientific study of this phenomenon, might this superstition merely be a warning of that lovely trick cats have of weaving themselves around our feet? Especially when we are going down the stairs or are carrying a heavy load? Tripping over your beloved cat is certainly bad luck. Maybe there is some truth to this myth. 


Luckily not all cultures demonize black cats and instead think they bestow good luck and happiness to their owners.  In England owning a black cat is said to ensure good luck and pirates of long ago hoped to have a black cat on board their ship to bring rich rewards.  Petting a black cat three times is said to bring good luck as is plucking the white hair of an otherwise all black cat. Of course the ancient Egyptians were the supreme cat lovers and protected them in life and honored them in death by mummifying them. Sounds like good sense.


While most know the bad luck black cats supposedly bring, there are also many cultures that view a black cat as bringing luck. For instance, in Great Britain and Ireland black cats are symbols of good luck and the Scottish believe a black cat in the household will bring prosperity. Additionally, it is also thought that a woman who owns a black cat will have many suitors.


Sadly there is one very true, very tragic fact which is no myth.  Black cats are routinely overlooked in animal shelters in favor of their more colorful cousins.  These are perfectly sweet, affectionate cats and embody everything anyone would want from a pet, but due to their color are all too often ignored.   Pro-active shelters who know the value of these cats often hold special adoption days for the black ones, with low fees or two for one special.  Seems like a bargain when you consider the fascinating and sometimes unsettling role the black cat has played throughout history.


Although its origin is lost in time the enduring myth of the Black Dog brings shivers of terror to those willing to believe this malevolent spirit still haunts the moors and crossroads of the British Isles. This evil apparition appears in many guises but is universally associated with death and the devil and is often referred to as a Hell Hound. Of course we are more likely to see a Black Dog on a pub sign now instead of stalking the moors, but perhaps it’s wise to still take precautions on a foggy night.



If you like creepy tales you may love these. On the other hand, if you’re squeamish, you may just find these historically interesting as Urban Legends.

Are they true? You decide.

(Thank you for these tales.)


ONE NIGHT a woman went out for drinks with her girlfriends. She left the bar fairly late at night, got in her car and onto the deserted highway. She noticed a lone pair of headlights in her rear-view mirror, approaching at a pace just slightly quicker than hers. As the car pulled up behind her she glanced and saw the turn signal on — the car was going to pass — when suddenly it swerved back behind her, pulled up dangerously close to her tailgate and the bright lights flashed.

Now she was getting nervous. The lights dimmed for a moment and then the bright lights came back on and the car behind her surged forward. The frightened woman struggled to keep her eyes on the road and fought the urge to look at the car behind her. Finally, her exit approached, but the car continued to follow, flashing the bright lights periodically.

Through every stoplight and turn, it followed her until she pulled into her driveway. She figured her only hope was to make a mad dash into the house and call the police. As she flew from the car, so did the driver of the car behind her — and he screamed, “Lock the door and call the police! Call 911!”

When the police arrived the horrible truth was finally revealed to the woman. The man in the car had been trying to save her. As he pulled up behind her and his headlights illuminated her car, he saw the silhouette of a man with a butcher knife rising up from the back seat to stab her, so he flashed his bright lights and the figure crouched back down.

The moral of the story: Always check the back seat!

* * *


A TEENAGE boy drove his date to a dark and deserted Lovers’ Lane. After turning on the radio for mood music, he leaned over and began kissing the girl.

Moments later, the music suddenly stopped and an announcer’s voice came on, warning in an urgent tone that a convicted murderer had just escaped from the state insane asylum — which happened to be located not far from Lovers’ Lane — and that anyone who noticed a strange man lurking about with a hook in place of his right hand should immediately report his whereabouts to the police.

The girl became frightened and asked to be taken home. The boy, feeling bold, locked all the doors instead and, assuring his date they would be safe, attempted to kiss her again. She became frantic and pushed him away, insisting that they leave. Relenting, the boy peevishly jerked the car into gear and spun its wheels as he pulled out of the parking space.

When they arrived at the girl’s house she got out of the car, and, reaching to close the door, began to scream uncontrollably. The boy ran to her side to see what was wrong and there, dangling from the door handle, was a bloody hook!

* * *


A TEEN-AGE GIRL is babysitting for a wealthy family in a very large house, with a large number of rooms. The parents are going out for a late dinner/movie, and the father tells the babysitter that once the children are in bed she should go into the den and watch TV there.

The parents leave and soon she gets the kids into bed and goes to the room to watch TV. She tries watching TV, but she is disturbed by a clown statue in the corner of the room. She tries to ignore it for as long as possible, but it starts freaking her out so much that she can’t handle it.

She resorts to calling the father and asks, “Hey, the kids are in bed, but is it okay if I switch rooms? This clown statue is really creeping me out.”

The father says seriously, “Get the kids, go next door and call 911.”

She asks, “What’s going on?”

He responds, “Just go next door and once you call the police, call me back.”

She gets the kids, goes next door, and calls the police. When the police are on the way, she calls the father back and asks, “So, really, what’s going on?”

He responds, “We don’t HAVE a clown statue.” He then further explains that the children have been complaining about a clown watching them as they sleep. He and his wife had just blown it off, assuming that they were having nightmares.

The police arrive and apprehend the “clown,” who turns out to be a midget. A midget clown! He was a homeless person dressed as a clown, who somehow got into the house and had been living there for several weeks. He would come into the kids’ rooms at nights and watch them while they slept. As the house was so large, he was able to avoid detection, surviving off their leftover food, etc. He had been in the TV room right before the babysitter right came in there. When she entered he didn’t have enough time to hide, so he just froze in place and pretended to be a statue.

* * *


SOMETHING TERRIBLE happened to a 10-year-old girl who had braids. The little girl had been wearing her braids in a ponytail for the longest time, and apparently the braids were old, at least 2 to 3 months old, and the mother never took them down to wash them or let them air out.

For two straight weeks the girl complained to her mother about having a headache, but her mother just brushed it off. One morning the child again complained to her mother about having a headache while getting ready for school. Again, the mother brushed her off.

When the child got to school, she told her teacher that her head was hurting. The teacher assumed that the braids were too tight in the child’s hair and attempted to let the ponytail down. When she removed the hair piece and let the braids loose, there was a spider in the child’s hair.

The spider had laid eggs in the child’s hair and the spiders were eating her scalp. She was rushed to the hospital, where she later died.

* * *


A YOUNG couple, both 18, decided to get married right after high school. The father of the bride lived in a mansion and was able to afford a big wedding for them. To make a long story short, they got married and the wedding was beautiful.

After the wedding they had a big reception in an old building and everyone was drinking heavily. When there were only about 20 people left, the groom decided that they should play hide-and-seek. Everyone agreed and the groom was “it.” They all went and hid and the game went on.

After about 20 minutes everyone had been found except the bride. The groom and guests looked everywhere and tore the whole place apart in the search. After a few hours the groom was furious, thinking the bride was playing a terrible trick. Eventually, everyone went home.

A few weeks later the groom, having placed a missing persons report, gave up looking for her. Heartbroken, he tried to go on with his life.

Three years later a little old woman was cleaning the place up. She happened to be in the attic and saw an old trunk. She dusted it off, and, out of curiosity, opened it. She screamed at the top of her lungs, ran out of the building, and called the police.

Apparently, the bride had decided to hide in the trunk for the game of hide-and-seek. When she sat down, the lid fell, knocking her unconscious and locking her inside. She suffocated after a day or so. When the woman found her, she was rotting, her mouth in the shape of a scream.

* * *


ONE SUMMER day in Southampton, New York, a woman pulled into a gas station. As the attendant pumped gas, the woman told him she was in a hurry to pick up her daughter, who had just finished an art class in East Hampton.

A very-well-dressed man walked over to her car and started talking to her. He explained that his rental car had died, and he needed a ride to East Hampton for an appointment. She said she would be happy to give him a ride. He put his briefcase in the backseat and said he was going to the men’s room quickly.

The woman looked at her watch and suddenly panicked. She drove off quickly, having forgotten that the man was coming back to the car for a ride.

She thought nothing of him again until she and her daughter pulled into their driveway. She saw his briefcase and realized she had forgotten him! She opened the briefcase looking for some form of identification so she could notify him about his belongings. Inside she found nothing but a knife and a roll of duct tape!

* * *

What can you say after these spine tingling tales?







1. Cut the boring parts
I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard
Unless you’re writing for personal reasons alone, you need to consider the attention of your readers. There’s no point is publishing content that isn’t useful, interesting, or both.

2. Eliminate unnecessary words
Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain
I used to feel that using words like “really”, “actually”, or “extremely” made writing more forceful. It doesn’t. They only get in the way. Cut them and never look back.

3. Write with passion
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth
It’s not hard to realize that unless you’re excited about your writing no one else will be.

4. Paint a picture
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov
Simply stating something is fine, but when you need to capture attention, using similes, metaphors, and vivid imagery to paint a picture creates a powerful emotional response.

5. Keep it simple
Vigorous writing is concise. ~William Strunk Jr.
Maybe it was all those late nights, struggling to fill out mandatory 10 page papers, but many people seem to think that worthwhile writing is long and drawn out. It’s more difficult (and effective) to express yourself in the simplest possible manner.

6. Do it for love
Write without pay until somebody offers to pay. ~Mark Twain
When you’re just starting out it’s hard to decide where to begin. So don’t. Just start writing. A blog is a good place to start. The most valuable benefit is the feedback.

7. Learn to thrive on criticism
You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. ~Ray Bradbury
Writing means putting yourself at the mercy of anonymous hecklers and shameless sycophants. Learn to make the most of the insults and distrust the praise.

8. Write all the time
Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed. ~Ray Bradbury The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything. ~John Irving

9. Write what you know … or what you want to know
If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Learn as much by writing as by reading. ~Lord Acton
Successful writing is all about trust and authority. It makes sense to write about your area of expertise. If you don’t have an expertise, reading and writing is the best way to develop one and put it on display.

10. Be unique and unpredictable
I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite. ~G.K. Chesterton

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. ~Oscar Wilde

Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto. ~Ray Bradbury


Guest blogger: Alice Verity // October 06, 2012 // Courtesy of

A soft thump-thump-thump of a wag as your dog lay contently at your feet. The quick back and forth wag you receive when you arrive home. The erect and jerky wag when meeting another dog. Your dog’s wag communicates a lot of information, much like a person’s tone of voice, and can be an indicator of what your dog is feeling.

Tail wagging remains the most misunderstood and mythologized piece of canine body language. For instance, a wagging tail doesn’t always mean the dog is happy and friendly. In fact, it can mean quite the opposite; therefore, interpreting a wag correctly within the context of the situation is key to understanding your dog’s feelings as well as another dog’s feelings. You could even say a dog’s tail really does tell tales. Especially when combined with the other physical clues that accompany a specific wag including tail posture, ear set, body position and sometimes mouth movements.

Tail wags are one component of highly complex often misunderstood canine communication behaviors. Held in a relaxed, easy manner, or wagging in big loopy circles it is signaling a relaxed, open demeanor. Held rigid and frozen or stiffly waving most likely means the dog is focused intently on something and is potentially very reactive. A tail flicking just at the tip and held close to the rump or between the hind legs can mean the dog is frightened or unsure of herself. Held below the horizontal often means a submissive posture while held above the horizontal can mean confidence, arousal or aggression.

Beyond a doubt, any tail wag or movement is part of entire communication package your dog is transmitting to you or another dog. Very well socialized dogs get plenty of experience reading all sorts of dog-to-dog behaviors and often become the most social and confident of dogs. Dogs that miss out on lots of positive social interactions may misread or misinterpret subtle cues from other dogs and thus lack normal social skills. Dogs with docked tails may have a harder time being read by other dogs and their owners.

To be absolutely clear what your dog is trying to communicate it’s necessary to read the whole dog. Are his ears alert or are they pinned back on his head? What is his body posture? Is he stiff legged or in a play bow? Are his eyes dilated with fear? Are his lips curled back showing his canines or just his front teeth in a “smile?” It’s important to know what signals your own dog gives when she is happy and relaxed and when she is tense or fearful. Knowing these clues goes a long way in not only enhancing the bond between you, but enhancing your own knowledge of the world as seen through your dog’s point of view. It’s like learning a whole new language.

I wonder what they say about us?


Thank you guest blogger Joanne Terry, Menquon, WI for this thought provoking submission.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
– Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
– Why the early bird gets the worm;
– Life isn’t always fair

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge). His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, his wife, Discretion, his daughter, Responsibility, his son, Reason, and by his 4 stepbrothers: I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, It Is Not My Fault and I Am A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.


I’m fairly certain it was stress expert, motivational speaker, author and humorist, Loretta LA Roche, who once talked about The Committee that that follows us around on our daily walk (or in my case run) through life. This well-meaning group of people began to form before we were even born. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, all the folks who plant the seeds that eventually grow into a huge garden of guilt. They are always with us. Oh, they really do have good intentions, but you know what they say about good intentions. Being an only child, my Committee doted on me and was working on Project Patti Ann around the the clock. It is losing its grip, but the battle between Committee and mere mortal continues.

No one could ever accuse me of being a great housekeeper, but is nearly impossible for me to leave the house in the morning, or for that matter any time of day, unless the bed is made, the dishes are done and the garbage/waste baskets have been emptied into the bins in the garage. Don’t get me wrong, I have been guilty the offense but believe me, the days that followed those mornings were fraught with anxiety and guilt pangs. Committee wins.

Every item placed into this modern marvel MUST be completely rinsed before being carefully and methodically positioned. Knives, kettles and “the good dishes” must be washed by hand and NEVER see the inside of the machine. To this day, I cannot bear to put anything into the dishwasher that has not been thoroughly rinsed but the ban on knives and kettles has been lifted, and I sold all of the “good dishes” years ago. The Committee is slowly losing this particular battle.

I never could understand why this was one of the cardinal rules. I may not be Celine Dion, but I know I have always been able to sing in tune and have a relatively acceptable voice. Maybe it was because, in my eagerness to use good vocal technique, I also shared bits of partially chewed food with the rest of the family. I still do it, (sing at the table, that is, not spew crumbs on my partner) but my Committee is always there to haunt me.

Following closely on the previous ban comes the oft repeated, “For heaven’s sake, chew with your mouth closed! No one wants to see what you’re eating!” Okay, no problem here. The Committee was/is absolutely correct on this one. No contest.

Hats, brushes, combs, hairpins and the like would never rest on my Mother’s table and will never be welcome on mine. This rule is easy to understand and live with. There are few things more nauseating than trying to pull a slimy strand of hair out of an egg salad sandwich. As the kids would say, “Eeuuwww!” But I never could understand the one about shoes on the bed. Actually, I think that was just an old superstition. No matter, with an English bulldog puppy who has a voracious appetite for all things on the floor, this rule is no longer enforced but the guilt remains.

These are just the tip of the iceberg and The Committee is still in the lead, but I think I’m gaining on it. Hmmm. Are my sons’ Committees as powerful as mine? Someone wonders.

Post Navigation