Saturday, December 8, 2012
Karen Pullen (Guest Blogger)
Have you ever been truly frightened? I don’t mean anxious, worried, or upset. I mean hair-standing-on-end, adrenaline overload, heart-pounding fear. Convinced in every cell of your being that something horrific is about to happen.
Mystery novels aren’t usually scary, sleep-with-the-light-on scary. The truly scary novels, the stuff of nightmares, belong to the horror genre. Ghost Story by Peter Straub. A Simple Plan by Scott Smith. Page-turners, because the characters – who are sympathetic – make mistakes that snowball into frightful horror. Delicious reading.
But when real life is frightening, it’s not so funny. At least at first. I remember a few times in my life when I’ve been truly frightened.
Once I almost burned down a house. I was 12.
A night of terror. I was 16 and spending the night alone in a motel, traveling home. The night before, I’d seen the movie Psycho. All night, at random intervals, someone knocked on my motel room door. All night, I lay awake in terror, defenseless and vulnerable. Needless to say, I didn’t take a shower.
Once my husband and I decided to try back-country hiking. We loaded up our backpacks with everything we’d need for a week in the woods. Checked in at the ranger station, gave them our planned route, and received a warning about bears. Black bears are mostly harmless, but they will go after food. So the first night, after we made camp, we spent over an hour hanging our food high, a process involving branch selection, finding the right sized rock, multiple tries and a few curses until we said, “Good enough.”
We crawled into the two-man tent to sleep. I lay in my sleeping bag thinking how flimsy the tent fabric was, mere inches from my face. The forest’s night noises, how different from home. A light wind rustled the leaves. I thought I heard the scampering of a squirrel. I tried to relax. Until, right in front of my face from the other side of the tent, something growled loudly. Then growled again.
I screamed. It was a bear, right outside! About to claw through the thin fabric and eat me! I screamed so loud they probably heard me in Asheville. I screamed so loud I woke myself up. Woke my husband up. Probably woke up everyone camping in the Great Smokies National Park that night. But there was no bear. I had fallen asleep and turned over to face my husband, who was SNORING, just inches from my face.
Now you know why I’m a writer, a nice safe occupation for a coward. My only risk is rejection, a blow to my ego.
Brave readers, my mystery novel Cold Feet will not terrify you though I hope that it keeps you turning the pages to find out what happens to Stella, Fern, Bebe, Blue, and the rest of my crew. Pub date is January 16, but I’m rewarding anyone who pre-orders with a chance to win a weekend at my charming bed & breakfast in North Carolina.
How about you? When have you been really, truly, frightened?
Karen Pullen left a perfectly good job at an engineering consulting firm to make her fortune (uh, maybe not) as an innkeeper and a fiction writer. Her B&B has been open for 12 years, and her fiction is finally ready for prime time. Her first novel, a mystery called Cold Feet, will be released by Five Star Cengage in January 2013. Karen's story, "Brea's Tale," appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and won the Derringer Award for Best Long Story in 2012. Her website and blog are at www.karenpullen.com.