Thursday, November 15, 2012

Calling Forth the Restless

In my newest book, Haunted, there is a scene in which one of the characters remarks that reading or talking about ghosts will attract them to you. I hadn't been thinking about that consciously when May Parrish, my character, opened up her mouth and made that particular proclamation, but since it wound up on paper the thought must have been in me somewhere. I didn't give that specific bit of dialogue much attention until quite a bit later. And now I wonder what I was trying to tell myself.

Nonbelievers will assure me that the reason I hear more things happening in other parts of my house when I'm the only one home is that I am focusing more than usual on hearing creaks, thuds, thumps, and other disturbances. So of course, they explain, I will hear every single one of those noises, though I might not have noticed them otherwise. I suppose that is as good an explanation as any. Maybe it explains why, when I am tucked away in my office writing a ghost story, I always hear random rustlings, squeaks, and assorted sounds that pop off spontaneously and sporadically as I work. Some of these can be quite obnoxious: a heavy thud like someone dropping a cinder block in the other room, or maybe a series of creaks that suggest someone is approaching me from the other end of the house. Most of the time, if I'm working on a story, I try to ignore it. Most of the time, though, because I am working on a story, I wind up looking away from my monitor and glancing out the office door. There is never anyone there, but frequently the noises continue. And then I'll yell something like "Knock it off!" and things will quite down.

When I did newspaper writing some years ago, I had the happy annual assignment of collecting and writing up true ghost stories for the Halloween issue of the paper. I only worked on those stories during the day (while the kids were in school), and I have never forgotten the afternoon I was typing away merrily only to hear a loud bang against the inner wall of the garage, which was connected to our house. It was loud and violent enough to shake the shelf in the adjacent powder room and make the little items on it vibrate against the glass. Naturally when I got up to check, nothing had fallen over or tumbled down anywhere in the garage or in the house. I stopped writing immediately and finished the article when the whole family was home again, and the heck with the kids being in school while I worked.

This whole topic got me thinking: are there certain things that do invite restless spirits? I have a daughter who has always been uneasy around wind chimes because when she was a child she believed -and shared with me- that they attract ghosts. I have always loved wind chimes myself, but I must admit that since she told me that, I always hear an undercurrent of loss or sadness or something even more unsettling coasting along on the pleasant tinkling of the small metal chimes that I have hanging just outside my front door. If my daughter is correct, I must be a bit insane to hang these things so close to the entrance of my house.

And what about music? I know music inspires a whole range of emotions in me and I wonder sometimes if music can't attract a ghost or two. It's so tightly wound into the fabric of an era, surely a Benny Goodman album or some Scott Joplin ragtime could conjure up a nostalgic spirit.

I am writing this in broad daylight with a Depeche Mode song playing on the radio and the sunlight shining on the trees outside my window, but I know later I'm going to go home and transcribe this onto my blog. I wonder how I'll feel about the topic tonight when my grandson has gone to sleep and I'm alone because Jim is out of town again? For the sake of a sleeping child, a sharp Knock it off! is probably preferable than a scream, don't you think?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Haunted Lecture

 A few months ago, I wrote about the possibility of individual things being haunted, as opposed to actually having a haunted house. And I think I mentioned the name John Zaffis.

John Zaffis has a TV show on SyFy, for those who aren't familiar with his name, and it's called "The Haunted Collector." The show is about Mr. Zaffis's travels around the country to help people who are having, for want of a better phrase, paranormal problems. Mr. Zaffis and his team of investigators will go to the person's residence or place of business and try to determine if the problems his client is experiencing are related to items within the location. To date, he and his colleagues have rooted out weapons used to commit murder, jewelry that still had the spirit attached to it, animal bones, and at least one cursed object. And that's just a short list. Once a disturbed/disturbing object is identified, Mr. Zaffis will usually remove it and bring it back to his haunted museum, where it will be safely stored in a sort of privately owned Warehouse 13, speaking of the SyFy channel.

A few weeks ago, while life was truly insane, my husband and I took an evening off to go see Mr. Zaffis lecture at a local community college. What an engaging evening! First of all, it was a chance to see a noted paranormal investigator tell his stories in person. Secondly, what an audience! But first things first. Mr. Zaffis had an entire PowerPoint slide show with topics like ghosts and spirits, or demonology. For a supernatural fanatic like me, this was hitting the mother lode. Toward the end of his presentation, though, just when he got to the topic of demonic possession, the computer went berserk and zipped through the remaining pictures like a cheetah on steroids -but with less grace and more disturbing images- terminating the slide show in a most unceremonious fashion until the process stopped at his icon-filled desktop. Mr. Zaffis seemed about as startled as the rest of us and asked if the college had a ghost. I suppose this might have been staged, but anyone who could see the bewildered expression on the gentleman's face, and I could, would say otherwise. So the bad news was that we never got to see the whole show.

The good news is that he then devoted himself to a solid hour of Q & A from the audience. Did I say something about the audience earlier? There were any number of ghost hunters and paranormal investigators sitting in that lecture center, and all of them had a question. Quite a few people seemed to be looking for personal help. And then there were all the questions about the TV show itself. Mr. Zaffis explained the difference between what he really does and what is allowed on the television screen. He has his frustrations ("They won't let me show the kind of precautions I take whenever I remove one of those objects and store it away") but he is also happy to share his knowledge to those interested in picking his brain.

I don't get to see his program as often as I would like anymore, but I was thrilled to have a chance to see the man in real life. He's funny and down-to-earth, and I did find myself lying awake later that night, mulling over some of his more frightening tales. A bit afraid to open my eyes in the dark? Check. Very uneasy about wandering down the hall to use the bathroom at two in the morning? Check. Sleep a long time coming with all those weird noises originating in a spot just left and a little behind my side of the bed? Check. I must have had a great time!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Well, Where Have I Been???

And I was doing so well! I actually had a weekly post up for several months in a row and then life happened.

First, I accidentally got an almost full-time job as a medical assistant. Seeing as how I spent two-plus years of my life attending classes for this, not to mention getting certified in the field as well as in phlebotomy, getting a job as a medical assistant seemed like a good idea. But it sure takes up a lot of time.

Then there was the whole book thing. After lots and lots of discussion, coaching, advising, and more discussion with friends, with writers experienced at this, with my hubby, with anyone walking down the street willing to listen to a somewhat neurotic writer, I finally decided to self-publish my work. Hence, the picture at the top of this post. It's currently available as an e-book at Amazon. I soon hope to have it available in print, as well. Anyone who doesn't think self-publishing a book for the first time is not a lot of effort or doesn't take very long has clearly never tried it. Or is about twenty times more technically-minded than I am. I have hope for my own learning curve the next time around, and if not, there's always hubby.

That said, most writers I know who are self-publishing their work follow a fairly grueling schedule when it comes to output. Terri Reid puts these things out about every three or four months. I opted for every six months. Since I write ghost stories for the most part, releasing one around Halloween seemed like a good idea. And six months from that is April or thereabouts. I am currently trying not to panic.

At any event, thank you to everyone who has stopped by. This is an unusual post for me: most of the time I try to throw something paranormal into this space and hope to do so for next week's edition. So happy you came by to read this, though, and hope to see you next week with something more in line with a blog titled "Ubiquitous Ghosts"!