Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ghosts for All Seasons

Some time ago, a fellow writer of paranormal stories for the young, Jimmy Gordon, asked me about ghosts and hauntings during the summer time. (Jimmy is professionally known as J.D. Gordon and his latest book, Field of Screams, is available at Amazon. Check it out!) Jimmy's work in progress at the time involved a ghost in summertime. And he was struggling with it.

To Jimmy, ghosts properly belonged in autumn. That makes sense. All you really have to do to conjure up a mental ghost in the autumn is pay attention to the skeletal tree branches, the dead leaves that sweep down the street sometimes without any breeze to be noted, the harvest moon up in the sky that is bright enough to cause shadows on the earth below, and then remember that dark is going to creep up on us hours earlier than it did just a month or so ago. Autumn is a good season for every paranormal critter, come to think of it. Even vampires seem more likely under that harvest moon, when the cold draft of air rattling the window might be the wind. Or not.

So I reminded my friend and colleague that ghosts can be equally frightening any time of year. Winter is not far behind autumn for a good seasonal haunt. Christmas notwithstanding, the short cold days and long colder nights, a chill up the back for no apparent reason, tombstones frozen with snow that may only be blanketing what waits beneath - ah, yes, winter is also a dandy time for a haunting.

But what about spring? What about that glorious time of year when the weather begins to warm and the new leaves, joyous and bright green, are popping free along every branch and the first of the really colorful flowers raise their heads for the return of longer days? How can anyone possibly find a ghost in that kind of environment? Oh, easy-peasy. Think of all the home renovations that start up in the spring: new kitchens, knocking out a wall to create more space, enclosing a porch to add living area - and then think of all the unseen denizens in those homes who have been content with the status quo and are suddenly ensconced in change and renovation. More than one haunting has been kicked off when the new owners of a house decide to make some drastic changes.

And summer? No problem whatsoever. In summer, people stay up late into the night, looking up at the stars and lingering over drinks and conversation on the patio. And what was that we just heard in the house? You know, up on the second floor in the bedroom - when everyone is outside? Is it a bold but clumsy burglar, or is it something else? I had an experience that verged on poltergeist activity that lasted through almost an entire summer, once. But that is a completely different story!

So yes, hauntings can and do occur in every season. And it is up to those of us who chronicle such events to keep in mind that there is no season at all during the course of a year that is ghost-free. I kinda like that.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Bit of a Departure

I am contemplating publishing a book on Amazon. There. I said it and there's no taking it back.

As you can already see, this blog will not be about  my usual beloved ghosts but about something that's been on my mind for several months now. I was lucky enough to meet up with two writers last Monday, Debbie Deutsch, and the uber-successful Terri Reid. If you don't believe me about Terri, go look her up on Amazon. And then read her. And you'll know what I'm talking about.

Considering the fact that I have already had a couple of books published in the traditional way, small press but traditional, one would not think that deciding to go the Amazon route would be any more frightening than collecting rejection slips like mosquito bites in summer, and then after a little bit of rest, sending one's work out to get kicked back one more time.

So here's what's scary. If I do this, that work will be just me. No publishing company to shield me (hey, I wrote it but THEY decided it was worth publishing. And that cover art was THEIR idea). No named editor to hide behind (I know some editors personally who would probably help me out whether as a favor or as a barter). No industry-employed copy editor to take one last look at the work before I get the galleys. No, sir, this would all be on me. That's scary.

I have stories in my head all the time. Lately I have been lazy and averse to writing them out because 1) life has been extremely challenging these past few years and 2) I'm usually too tired and freaked-out to write anything. Notice how this blog went without entries for two years?

But here it is, time to make my decision. Stick with the usual stream of rejections until I feel to crushed to try anymore (or at least for another few years) OR pull up my socks and send out my work to stand on its own. Sink or swim. Fight or flight.

If anyone out there reads this, please leave me a comment on your thoughts. I'd sure love to know what someone else thinks about this particular topic. Oh, and no worries. Next week I'll be back to the supernatural stuff.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Other Dead Meat


I've already covered my preference for ghosts over vampires, so let's talk about zombies.

Zombies were the one monster that could -and did- cause me nightmares in my childhood. When I was a kid, there were certain network shows that consisted of grade-B movies, mostly sci-fi or horror. My older brother and sister were really into these shows, so while I got my share of Garfield Goose and Captain Kangaroo after school, I also got a healthy helping of The Early Show or Science Fiction Theater. The Early Show, especially, with its logo of a cheeping bird (presumably the early bird), presented movies like "The H-Man," "Zombies of Mora Tau," and "Creature with the Atom Brain." Some of these movies were American, some of them were foreign, and all of them were cheesy and done in black and white. But they were enough to scare the bejesus out of me.

"The H-Man" featured people literally dissolving out of their clothes. If I remember correctly, one lady bought it in the lounge area of the women's rest room. All they found were her high heels, her purse, and her little cocktail dress. I was too terrified to use public bathrooms for months.

But the other two movies mentioned, "Zombies of Mora Tau" and "Creature with the Atom Brain," are true zombie flicks. There is something frankly horrifying about a recently-dead human being coming after you with unwavering persistence, despite where you go or try to hide. I've never liked being chased, not even in a game of tag. The idea of being chased by something that is not quite dead should have been enough to send me to therapy as an adult. And to make matters worse, of course these things always had mangled facial features and body parts that were decaying away from them. (When Stephen King said "I'm coming for you, but I'm coming very slowly because little bits of me keep falling off" he about summed it all up in a nutshell.)

I did have nightmares after "Zombies of Mora Tau." And those guys moved liked dead geezers. Nowadays, zombies can move at cheetah-speed, scale walls, leap like Superman, and come at you from the ceiling if need be. Despite this, somehow they are not as frightening to me as those old dead guys who couldn't shuffle more than a foot per second. Those older zombies seemed more dogged, inevitable, and contentious than their speedier counterparts, though I have no idea why.

Zombies. No one wants to become one, and no one wants to be near one. In other words, can't live with them, can't necessarily kill them.

That is why despite so many of my friends and relatives preparing for the zombie apocalypse (something they all assure me is imminent) by sharing information, detailed anecdotes, and books filled with anti-zombie wisdom, I'm still clinging to my ghost stories. Call it denial. Call it tunnel vision. Call it what you will - I prefer my dead to be corpse-free. Is that so much to ask?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Collecting Ghost Stories

Collecting Ghost Stories

Everyone who knows me, knows I collect ghost stories. I don't just watch the programs on cable, I actually clip news articles about haunted places (the month of October always sees a whole slew of these in the newspaper). And when I do a school visit or a signing, I invariably ask people to share a true ghost story with me. Some of the tales they have me told still make my hair stand on end.
Last week, my husband and I were vacationing up in Door County, Wisconsin for the Memorial Day weekend. We stopped in at Grandma Tommy's Country Store just out of curiosity and were greeted with the customary and wonderful display of cherries (dried, frozen, chocolate covered), cheese, jams, honey, fudge, gift baskets, tee shirts, and the usual sundry items that make tourist shopping so much fun. I wandered back to the book rack that held the cookbooks, local guides, and gift books, and was pleasantly startled to find a copy of my own Ghosts of Lake Michigan sitting on the top of the rack.
Jim, my husband, who is well aware of how much publicizing I need to do and how much I actually don't, literally grabbed the book in one hand, my arm in the other, and propelled me up to the cash register to ask if she wanted me to sign the copy they had. The young girl behind the register introduced us to her mother, the store owner, and that very nice lady, my husband, and I had a terrific conversation about the store, about her choice of books (she's going to order more of mine! Yay!), and best of all, about ghosts.
While we were standing there, she proceeded to tell us two ghost stories, one of them involving Grandma Tommy's Country Store itself. She confided that she doesn't normally talk so openly about this sort of thing so that people won't think she's crazy, but given the subject matter of my book, she had no problem sharing her stories with me.
I not only collect ghost stories, I remember who told me the stories, and where we were at the time. Against the backdrop of all the true experiences I've heard, this one will always be a standout.
By the way, if any of you read the blog for Young Adult Authors No One Has Heard Of, you might have already seen this post. Apologies. I blog there once a month, and I guess for that one time a month, Ubiquitous Ghosts will carry the same story. But just once a month!