Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Sammy’s Sleigh Ride

Mouse and Santa's sleigh

by Dawn Pisturino

One winter night, Sammy Mouse ran away from home. He wanted to go to the North Pole and see Santa Claus. So he put his clothes in a suitcase, bundled up in his heavy winter coat, left a note for his parents, and sneaked out of the house.

Sammy peered into the darkness, shivering with cold. Up above, millions of stars looked down at him. Sammy trudged through the snow, guided by the light of the full moon.

Sammy thought about all the wonderful things he would do for Santa Claus: help the elves make toys, feed the reindeer, and pack Santa’s sleigh.

When Santa Claus was ready to leave, Sammy would jump into the sleigh and sit beside him on the seat. Santa would laugh, “ho-ho-ho,” and Sammy would laugh, too. Then, up in the air they would go. Sammy would look down at all the little houses below.

When Santa’s reindeer landed on a snowy rooftop, Sammy would help Santa climb out of the sleigh. He would help Santa lift his big bag of toys and watch him slide down the chimney. Then, off they would go again!

Sammy walked a long time through the snow. When the sun began to shine, Sammy could walk no more. He curled up under a log and fell asleep.

When he woke up, Sammy’s stomach growled with hunger. He nibbled on a piece of cheese and hurried on his way. He wanted to get to Santa’s house before nightfall. Tonight was Christmas Eve.

But the longer he walked, the more tired Sammy felt. Everywhere he looked, he saw trees and snow. Where was Santa’s house? Where was the North Pole?

As night fell, Sammy began to get scared. Christmas was almost here, and he had not yet reached Santa’s house or the elves’ workshop or even the North Pole!

Sammy sat down in the snow and cried. He was wet and cold and hungry. He was tired, and his feet hurt. Worst of all, Sammy was lost!

Overhead, the stars seemed to be laughing at him. The man in the moon wore a big, shiny grin. Suddenly, Sammy heard bells jingling. Up in the sky, he saw Santa’s sleigh and eight reindeer flying past the moon. Sammy’s heart sank. Now, he would miss Christmas.

But wait, here was Santa’s sleigh coming right toward him! Sammy could hardly believe his eyes when the sleigh landed in the snow.

“Jump in, Sammy,” Santa said, smiling brightly.

Sammy jumped eagerly into the sleigh next to Santa. “Where are we going?” he asked.

“We’re going to take you home,” Santa answered.

The reindeer began to run across the snow faster and faster until suddenly, they were flying up into the sky!

Up, up, up they went. Sammy looked down. The trees in the forest looked like frosty toothpicks. The moon and stars grew bigger and brighter.

“Ho-ho-ho!” Santa laughed, his belly shaking.

“Ho-ho-ho!” Sammy laughed.

Before he knew it, Sammy was home. He helped Santa fill the stockings and put special gifts under the Christmas tree. He made sure he didn’t see what Santa had brought him.

When Santa was ready to slide up the chimney, Sammy said, “Oh, thank you, Santa!”

Santa laughed and shook Sammy’s paw. “You’re welcome, my little friend. Merry Christmas!”

In a flash, Santa was gone. But Sammy could hear reindeer hooves on the roof, and he never forgot the sound of the bells jingling on Santa’s sleigh.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Dawn Pisturino

copyright 2014 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Trapped in the Snow

angelo-christo-snowcovered-forestDelaware Territory 1755

Nunganey trudged through the crusty snow searching for signs of beaver and other game. He longed for a blazing fire and his mother’s warm smile. But the villagers were counting on the hunters — the best of the tribe — to bring back fresh meat.

“Turn back!” shouted his father over the rising wind as a shower of white flakes fluttered down from the sky.

Nunganey’s heart dropped with disappointment. There would be no fresh meat. His younger brothers and sisters would cry with disappointment when their mother served hot watery broth, brewed from old bones, and meager portions of mashed acorns for dinner. His own hunger raged inside of him, and he longed for a piece of fat beaver cooked over a hot fire.

Suddenly, one of the hunters shouted, “Raccoon tracks!”

Nunganey’s father pointed at an old tree with a large hole in the center of the trunk. “Nunganey, follow those tracks and see if the raccoons have taken shelter in that tree.”

With the wind and snow blowing in his face, Nunganey followed the tiny footprints to the old tree, but the tracks led deeper into the forest. He knew he should turn back, but the boy was determined to find the raccoons.

The tracks disappeared at the base of another large tree. Nunganey climbed up the tree and peered into a large hole. He had found the raccoons!

“Yohoh!” he called into the wind. “Yohoh!”

Shivering with cold, Nunganey clung to the tree and waited for a response. He called again, trying to shout louder than the wind, but no familiar voice shouted back.

Where were his father and the band of hunters? Had they left him behind? He scrambled down the tree and trudged through the snow with the wind at his back, looking for dark shapes moving among the trees. No voices called his name or answered his desperate cries.

Lost and alone, the boy shivered with hunger, wet, and cold. If he did not find shelter soon, he would freeze to death. He had his bow, arrows, and tomahawk, but nothing to build a fire. Even if he found shelter, how would he stay warm?

Old Grandfather’s words echoed in his head: Be strong, and Owaneeyo, the Great Spirit, will guide you. 

He soon came upon a hollow tree with an opening large enough for him to crawl inside. The center of the tree was dry and wide enough for him to stand up and move his arms and legs. But the wind and snow blew fiercely through the opening, chilling him to the bone.

Nunganey crawled out into the snow and looked around. Nearby, a dead tree had fallen to the ground. He chopped off the top of the tree with his tomahawk and propped it up against the opening in the hollow tree, leaving a small entrance to get in and out.

He fashioned a small block of wood out of the trunk of the dead tree and gathered a large pile of small sticks. When he had finished, he crawled inside the hollow tree, drawing the block of wood behind him to close up the entrance. Then he used the small sticks to plug up any remaining holes. He was now snug inside the hollow tree, protected from the wind and snow.

With his tomahawk, Nunganey removed the rotted wood lining the hollow tree and pounded it into small pieces on the ground. He now had a soft bed to lie on.

But it was cold and dark inside the tree. How could he get warm without a fire?

Then he had an idea. He jumped up and down, waving his arms, whooping and hollering, and dancing wildly inside the tree, until beads of sweat trickled into his eyes and he could jump no more.

Using his wet moccasins for a pillow, Nunganey wrapped himself in his damp blanket, curled up in a little ball, and went to sleep.

When Nunganey woke up, he didn’t know if it was day or night. But he was warm and dry, so he lay still for a very long time, listening to the wind, and finally the noise outside began to die down.

Nunganey put on his moccasins and felt around for the block of wood marking the entrance to the tree. It was so dark he couldn’t see. But then his fingers touched the rough contours of the block, and he sighed with relief. He pushed his hands against the block, expecting it to move, but it wouldn’t budge. He was trapped inside the tree!

He beat his fists on the trunk of the tree, tears stinging his eyes. Would he ever see his family again?

Then he remembered Old Grandfather’s words: Be strong . . . Owaneeyo will guide you.

Pushing his back against the trunk of the tree, Nunganey kicked the wooden block with all his strength. This time the block gave way, and a great blanket of snow fell down on the ground. A blast of cold air rushed in, and bright daylight flooded the tree. He was free!

Nunganey crawled out of the tree into the powdery snow. Many of the older trees grew moss on the northwest side of their trunks. He followed the moss-covered trees for many miles until he arrived at the creek which flowed past his village.

Suddenly, a large buck deer crashed through the bushes. Nunganey grabbed his bow and arrow. Aiming carefully, he waited until the rushing animal was almost upon him. Then he released the arrow, holding his breath, and watched the buck fall slowly to the ground. There would be fresh meat for his brothers and sisters!

Old Grandfather would be proud.

Dawn Pisturino

May 1, 2012

Copyright 2012-2014 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

PHOTO BY ANGELO CHRISTO.

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Interview with Underneath the Juniper Tree

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My Interview with Underneath the Juniper Tree, March 9, 2012

“Dawn Pisturino has been a staple in our dark little pages since before I can remember. We had a chance to dig through her delightfully warped mind and find out more about her fantastic writing. Please, meet Dawn Pisturino.

1. Stephen King once said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Which books do you find yourself always going back and reading over again?

I’ve read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights fifteen times. I love its Gothic elements. Most recently, I’ve been reading Mary Downing Hahn’s middle-grade books. She writes creepy ghost stories and historical fiction for children.

2. How do you start a story? Do you start at the beginning, or do you dive right in the middle?

I start with a vision in my head and try to capture it on paper. Cutting out the fluff and getting right into the story engages the reader. Since I get bored easily, it keeps my interest, too.

3. Do you have any rituals before you start writing? Do you need to warm up? Or do you go right into it?

I must have my morning cup of tea before I do anything! If I want to establish a particular mood, I play music, read poetry, watch a movie or TV program, and read passages from Lovecraft or Poe.

4. What is your dream project?

My dream project is to finish the adult literary horror novel that I started, make it a best-seller, and sell the movie rights. Isn’t that every author’s dream?

And for all you budding writers out there, here’s some advice from Dawn:

Read, read, read. Not just popular fiction, but classic fiction and nonfiction. Everything you read stimulates your imagination and expands your point of view.

Check out Dawn’s interpretation of darling little Lizzie Borden in our February 2012 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.

Excerpt from “Miss Lizzie’s Tea Party,” by Dawn Pisturino.

Miss Lizzie tackled me to the ground and held me there while the cook bound her bloody hand with a towel and telephoned the police. My chest heaved with great, gulping sobs as Miss Lizzie’s face drew closer and closer until her lips brushed against my ear.

“You see how easy it is,” she whispered.

Copyright 2012 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Writing short fiction has definitely improved my writing. I wholeheartedly agree with this advice.

The Author Chronicles

Now that I have more time to write (Toddler started preschool), I have been trying my hand at short stories. This is a new format for me, but I am enjoying learning the new skills for this format. Even as a novelist, I am finding many benefits to exploring short fiction:

1. Experimentation.

I can play around with things I would not be able to with a novel-length work. For example, if I want to dabble in a genre I usually don’t write, I can test it out quickly. If I have a new or existing character I want to explore more in-depth, I can concentrate on just them.

2. Practicing one particular writing technique at a time.

When dealing with a novel, it is often hard to go back and look at things such as dialogue, to make sure each character sounds different. Even when doing a dialogue pass…

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The Underneath the Juniper Tree Anthology is coming soon! Can’t wait!

this literary life

It’s moments like these that remind me why I work hard on my passions for no money and little recognition. Moments like these:

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It’s coming, friends. 

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Lots of good things out there to read for Halloween!

Underneath the Juniper Tree

The prolific and terrifyingly talented (ingenious, I might add) Neil Gaiman has started a new tradition called All Hallow’s Read. Watch the video below for details, straight from Gaiman himself.

Here at Underneath the Juniper Tree, we think this is just splendid. BEYOND splendid. We encourage everyone to partake in Gaiman’s tradition.

Inspire reading and inspire terror.

If you need a few suggestions of books to gift, the website for All Hallow’s Read offers many (even a great list from Neil himself) or you can check out some of my suggestions below:

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Red Rain by RL Stine

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

I Spy a Skeleton (or any of the “I Spy” books) by Jean Marzollo

ZOMBIES: The Chilling Archives of Horror Comics by Craig…

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