Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Scary Movies - Non-American Style

Is it me, or does anyone else ever feel like the ghost stories that come from countries other than the U.S. are scarier? I'm not sure exactly why, but I do know I've always felt that way, even from a very young age.

When I was a kid, I was forever looking for tales of hauntings in Ireland and the British Isles. At the ripe old age of nine, I had never seen a castle first-hand. I had never seen a fortress or a Medieval Cathedral or a proper British churchyard, but I'll tell you this: I was prepared to be terrified by all of them. And I have no idea where that tradition comes from. I just somehow knew that the scariest stories came from castles and old English graveyards and so I spent a great deal of my time hunting down stories from those countries. This lasted through my early adult years when one of the best Christmas presents that Jim ever gave me was a 15-book set devoted to true ghost stories of the British Isles. I had no idea exactly where Cornwall or the Lake District or East Anglia were, but boy howdy, I sure knew a good ghost story when I read one.

Fast forward some twenty or so years later, and I have begun to realize that Asia has some pretty fricking scary stuff. And I'm not even talking about the true stories. Anyone paying attention to paranormal movies over the past decade or so is well aware that some of the most frightening recent films have been re-makes of Japanese ghost/horror stories: The Ring and The Grudge come to mind. I have it on good authority that the original flicks are even scarier. I will take the word of my adviser - I'm much too chicken to watch the originals myself.

And then there have been the offerings from countries other than Japan (The Devil's Backbone, from Spain, and A Tale of Two Sisters, from Korea, come to mind) that are horrifying.

So what is it about these non-American movies that make them so effective? Part of it might be watching actors that I do not know. The Sixth Sense scared the bejesus out of me when I first saw it, but there was always a part of me that held tight to the realization that I was watching Bruce Willis, after all, so this was just a story. However, when I'm watching actors I don't know at all, there is no comforting recognition of the people involved in the story. That always makes it worse for me. Also, movies that do not come from Hollywood have a different feel to them, a completely different kind of atmosphere. I have yet to put my finger on it, but the finished product does not have that slick Hollywood sense, and that probably is also enough to nudge me a little bit more out of my comfort zone.

Lastly, the movies coming out of those other countries take on subjects that are mind-boggling. Watching a video that causes death within a certain period of time? Being stalked by the spirit of a vengeful wife? The storyline itself reduces the main character -and thus the audience- to hapless prey, and feeling paranoid and in fear of one's life is a great way to get someone unsettled from the get-go. There is nothing comfortable about watching these movies.

So there it is. There are Hollywood classics that I have been terrified while watching: the original version of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting (b/w with Julie Harris); The Changeling (George C. Scott), and of course The Exorcist, even though that is not a movie about ghosts. No, it's much worse than that, eh? But if I want to freak myself out to the point that I can't get up and use the bathroom in the middle of the night without turning on lights for every step of the way, or to the point that I'm afraid to close my eyes because of what might be lurking beside my bed -and equally afraid to open my eyes for the same reason - IF I want to get myself to that point? A foreign horror flick will do it every single time.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Ghosts and Pie

What happens when three paranormal/supernatural writers plus their spouses get together for dinner?

Two weeks, ago, my husband Jim and I were lucky enough to draw a dinner invitation from renowned writer Terri Reid and her husband, Richard. Also invited were gifted everything-to-do-with-the-writing-industry (as in writer, editor, e-publishing formatter, POD formatter, cover designer, and all around nice guy) colleague Donnie Light and his wife, Barbara. This was the first time some of us were meeting each other, but instead of any kind of awkwardness or anxiety, the conversation began with ghost stories and we were off and running for at least an hour with that particular topic. Credit must be given to Terri's friendly and very outgoing son, Andy, who was not the least bit shy when it came to telling tales about his haunted home. (Yes, Terri lives in a haunted house.) 

We talked animals and their sensitivity, shadow people, haunted historical sites, personal experiences, and haunted reality TV. In other words, we had a really good time just talking.

We also discussed writing in general, the current shifts in publishing, and our own hopes and dreams as writers. For me, that was a crucial part of the evening. Writing is a very solitary profession, and that explains things like writers' groups, critique groups, and chat boards. We talk online and send each other congratulations, but in the end, all of us go back to our keyboards, and do what we do. Alone. I'm not complaining. I think a bunch of us have hermit tendencies anyway, truth be told. But getting together with others who understand the whole gig is an amazing thing.

So what I took away that night when we all parted was the warmth of real camaraderie, the realization that I might work alone but I don't need to be lonely, and the well-wishes of some very large forces in my chosen industry. 

I also took away the amazing apple pie serving that I did not finish, and a welter of ghost stories that may or may not turn up in various forms in my writing. There is always more than one way to nourish a writer of the supernatural!

By the way, the attached picture has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog post. I just wanted to share a picture of my two favorite hunters. Besides, I'm writing this on Thanksgiving. I have a lot to be grateful for!!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Kind of Town


Savannah, GA : Bonaventure cemetery - Embodies the South...

Savannah, GA : Madison Square - Poetter Hall SCAD Admissions

Normally, the next word in the line "My kind of town" is "Chicago," and normally, that would apply to me. I grew up in Chicago and have called it, and the area around it, my home for my entire life. But last week, my husband and I were treated to another town that is definitely one of my kind, as they say.

Welcome to Savannah, Georgia, the most haunted city in America. When I first read that claim, I was somewhat skeptical. I know, me skeptical? What's up with that? But I was thinking, how could Savannah possibly be more haunted than New Orleans? Or Washington, DC? Or St. Augustine? San Francisco? Even my own stomping grounds, Chicago? We've had so many disasters here it's not even funny. But when we took a ghost tour of the historic district, well, I guess I found out.

For one thing, Savannah is a massive burial ground. Literally. The city is built on a burial ground and even if you haven't seen the movie "Poltergeist," I'm willing to bet you know that such a site choice does not have the makings for a peaceful, placid kind of place. Secondly, there is all kinds of history in Savannah, from the first encounter with the indigenous people, through the Revolutionary War, piracy, slavery, and the Civil War. There is more history there than you can shake a stick at, and why would you want to? You might accidentally invite something, if you shake a stick at it.

No kidding. The ghost tour Jim and I booked stopped off at some of the more disturbed locations in the city. The Pirate house, where people were literally shanghaid into service on the seas. Or simply murdered, if that's what suited the folks behind these goings-on. The Sorrel-Weed house, that was featured on one of my favorite TV shows, Ghost Hunters. It was the site of the show's first live Halloween broadcast and some of what occurred that night was enough to drive away at least one of the site's employees, we were told. The house on Abercorn that is owned but not lived in. No one is allowed to live in it. Women are even cautioned against approaching the place, it is so malevolent. I'm not an idiot- I kept my distance from the place. Dave, our tour guide, told story after story as we drove through and around the historic district, and encouraged picture taking just to see what would wind up on the photos. (And for the second time in our ghost-tour taking history, Jim captured something in a picture that we can't quite explain. LOVE IT!!!)

But the one, true reason Savannah is my kind of town? People talk about ghosts there the same way they talk about the weather. I have a belief that everyone has a ghost story. The folks there seem to have several apiece, some more than that, and they aren't shy about sharing their tales. There's no hesitation before they launch into their narratives. There is no embarrassment or quick peeks to see if you are looking at them with skeptical eyes or disdainful expressions. No, they just tell you what they saw, when, where, and then go right on with the conversation about restaurants or sweet tea or what have you. And I REALLY LOVE THAT.

We were only there for a couple of nights and we both agree we'd go back in a heartbeat. We both want to know more of the history. I know Jim wants to explore the river and maybe eat more of their amazing seafood. And me? I want as many ghost stories as I can handle. Absolutely my kind of town.

(Pictures from the Savannah, Georgia Photo Album website. Top: Bonaventure Cemetery. Below that: Madison Square-Poetter Hall)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Joys of Being a Ghost Story Collector


The other week, my husband and I got together with some friends we hadn't seen for a few months. As the gathering broke up, one of them turned to me and said, "Hey, I saw a ghost the other night." Those are some of the sweetest words this writer can ever hear, and I love when that happens. My friend went on to tell me that as he was leaving his ex-wife's house (they are good friends), he glanced back and saw her walking on her outdoor back porch. He thought this was rather strange because it was a cold, dark October night, and all she was wearing was a white nightgown. Of course, when he asked her about it later, she said she was never anywhere near the back porch, let alone outside on a cold October night in her nightgown.

I also had an incident at work when my supervisor greeted my morning entrance with "Something happened at our house last night and I thought of you." Apparently, while her son was trying to go to sleep, he was visited in his room by an orb of red light that hovered above his face and refused to go away until he finally called out to his mother. He had seen this same thing previously but hadn't said anything about it because he thought his parents would think he was crazy. He was also bothered by the doorbell ringing only to find no one there when he answered.

I get smatterings of ghost stories frequently, like the newly-made acquaintance who was hosting a get-together and said to me, "You should talk to my son. His college is haunted." Or the instructor I had who said, "Have you talked to Dave? His apartment is haunted. Every night at ten PM the door to his bedroom closes itself. When he tried keeping it closed before-hand, the door opened and then closed itself at ten o'clock on the dot." And then there was the PTO mom who told me about her little boy talking to someone she couldn't see at their front door, inviting him in out of the rain. The boy said the man he saw was a fireman, and the PTO mom told me later she found out that the former owner of the house had been a fireman, and had died of a heart attack in that doorway.

I also collect ghost stories off of the Internet ("The Woman Who Sold a Ghost on E-Bay), out of newspapers ("Shoe Factory Road is Haunted!"), and at historic sites that are proud of their ghostly visitors (Shipwrecked Brew Pub and Restaurant, Egg Harbor, Wisconsin). I collect all of these and more, hoarding them in various bins, notebooks, and files to pore over and enjoy again, and to inspire and suggest stories of my own. One can never have too many ghost stories!

So when I go to work, or go to a party, or find myself exploring a new inn or restaurant or museum, I am always open to hearing a tale or two about the dearly departed. That lead-in statement "I have a ghost story for you..." always makes my toes curl in delight. Maybe a strange obsession, maybe even a stranger collection, but hey, some people collect (shudder) clowns or porcelain dolls. (See illustrative picture above) Now that's really strange.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Future Destinations

I think I have mentioned before my goal of getting to the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine. The place was founded by Loren Coleman, and anyone who has ever been interested in Bigfoot, the Yeti, Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, Mothman, the Jersey Devil, mermaids, or the Skunk Ape will know Mr. Coleman's name.

The website for the place is phenomenal and if you haven't been to it, please do try googling the museum. There are all sorts of pictures and quite a bit of information about the venue. I would have guessed that it was a little-known wonder in the bounty of museums in this country, but it has been featured on all sorts of television shows, including Mysteries at the Museum, which is one of my faves. It's even been voted one of the most family-friendly museums in the country, so that's a big plus.

I am considering building a whole trip around Portland, Maine and my visit to the museum. Luckily for me, New England is not huge and while we're out there, we might as well go see other historic sites as well, up to and including the Basketball Hall of Fame. Well, why not? We could do a whole museum tour and take in mystery critters, basketball players, and maybe even a Revolutionary War site or three. What could be better?

The more I think about it, the better it gets. Battlefield sites tend to be haunted. I've also heard that the Baseball Hall of Fame is haunted, so why not the one for basketball? And then we could finish up with an entire museum devoted to creatures that most of my friends call "mythical." Ah, but the "what-if" writer side of my brain is doing the happy dance at the thought of such a journey. What if there are still redcoats walking the historic sites of New England? What if departed basketball players come back to the site of their final triumph from time to time? What if by the time I get to the cryptozoology museum, one of those mysterious creatures has been found and proven to exist? And what if after all of this, I finally get to taste an authentic lobster roll????

My husband and have a trip scheduled to Savannah, Georgia in the near future. Savannah has been designated "the most haunted city in the U.S." I don't know how they passed up New Orleans, St. Augustine, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Gettysburg as the most haunted city, but that's what's on the Savannah website. Accordingly, we've been trying to schedule a genuine Savannah ghost tour for some time now (reservations required), but somehow it doesn't seem to be happening for us. Ordinarily, I would have been really disappointed, but for some reason, I'm okay with that. If we get a tour, great! If not, I still get to hang out in this haunted city for a few days. Maybe something will turn up in the pictures we take.

And then there's always that trip to New England...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

An Overabundance of Ghosts

I am currently trying to finish my manuscript for Dead Voices, the follow-up to last year's Haunted. In that first book, one of my characters, a regular at the Thursday Night Ghost Story sessions, remarked that thinking or talking or even writing about ghosts would make them all come to you. May Parrish is that character's name and she's a sweet, older, grandmotherly-type lady who tends to come out with observations that unsettle the rest of the people sitting with her. I'm theoretically the person who invented her, and I had no idea how unsettling, not to mention spot-on, she could be.

Dead Voices, like its predecessor, is a ghost story. Maybe I should say "ghosts" story. There are a bunch of them in there, and I really wasn't trying for that. It started out with a haunted house, like so many stories do, and somehow, the specters started mass producing themselves. This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but they're all clamoring for attention, and their own time in the spotlight, and so on and so forth. Bad enough to deal with that among living characters, but now the dead? Talk about unruly. Everyone wants an individual story line. I wonder if Charlaine Harris had that problem when she started working with the fanged undead.

Just to get away from the chaos they are presenting to me, I took time out to work on this blog entry, which I know should have appeared this morning. Apologies for that. The ghosts got the better of me, yesterday, so I'm writing it today instead. And playing Free Cell.

I guess I shouldn't really complain that so many spirits have shown up to be included. It's kind of flattering, actually. The hard part is weaving together all of their stories so that they make sense as they are revealed, little by little, to the heroes of the entire adventure. Not to mention weaving together all the stories of the heroes. It can get a little rough, but bottom line is, writing books about ghosts and getting to share those books with anyone cares to come along for the ride is probably one of the sweetest things a writer ever gets to do. So somehow, I need to find it in me to complete the Free Cell game, finish this blog entry, and then go whip the manuscript into some kind of coherence.

As I have mentioned in earlier blog posts, every time I start working on this stuff, I get treated to inexplicable bangs and other noises from various parts of the house, even when, or especially when, I am home alone. I guess it comes with the territory of writing about these things. (Thank you again, May Parrish.)  I will need to work around that, as well. But it's the season for hauntings so I guess i'd better get to it.

Hope my inner writer has a ghost of a chance.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

In Door County

This column is about Door County, one of my favorite places on the planet. Door County, the little "thumb" on Wisconsin's east side that reaches into Lake Michigan and forms Green Bay on the west, is a land of water, woods, bluffs, farmland, and peace. It is a natural-born resort area but also a realm of hidden treasures, quiet back roads, and sheltering forest. It's the place I go to breathe.

But that doesn't mean it doesn't inspire that other side of me!

Under a golden sun, autumn in Door County is a bounty of iconic seasonal beauty: corn shocks, friendly scarecrows, pumpkins, mounds of apples and even larger mountains of pumpkins, ornamental ears of corn and wagon-loads of every imaginable squash and gourd known to modern agriculture. Fall is a time when the county shines.

Fall is also a time of gray and rainy days, chilly fall nights, the smell of wood fires, and when conditions are absolutely right, twilight fog. Ah, and that fog is as wonderful to me as the sight of autumnal riches. 

When our kids were still young enough to travel north with my husband and me, but old enough to bring along friends, we had a Friday night tradition of lighting a fire in the fireplace, turning out all the lights, and sharing ghost stories. I will never forget the night one of their friends had just hit a climactic part of the story and the log in the fireplace broke. We all jumped about twenty feet, and that turned out to be one of the best ghost story nights ever.

But to kick off an evening such as that, I would remind the kids, as we drove northward past meadows shrouded in dusk and fog, that this was the time when the shops closed and all the customers went home. At least, all the living ones. I would wonder out loud what came out in the foggy night to peruse the jars of homemade jams and the endless bakery cases of pie. I would invite the kids to think of all that could be wandering out in the damp and chill of those deserted fields, following paths that were once followed years and years ago. And if we ventured out, would we see any of them? Would we even -gasp- be invited to join them? A wonderfully chilling thought to ponder over mugs of hot cocoa or cider. Safely inside the cabin,of course

Door County in the fall is an amazing place. When you read this, think of me being up there, enjoying the sun and celebrating the fog. No writer of supernatural fiction would ever turn away from such a place of bright and dark magic.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Signing We Will Go

Read Between the Lynes


A very great friend of mine has talked a bookstore owner she knows into letting me have a book signing. (Thank you, Eileen Millard!)

This is phenomenal for many reasons: 1) No one knows me from Adam. 2) I am not a NY Times best seller. 3) Because of the first two reasons, I am not necessarily going to draw a huge crowd or boost store sales.

On the other hand, because of my subject matter, having a book signing the weekend before Halloween probably makes sense. There is always the off chance that someone will buy a book, even if it's not one of mine. Also, the signing is dove-tailing with the town's Haunted House in the middle of the square, so people may come in looking for a scary story. That would be lovely.

I am excited about this because for the first time, I actually have more than one book to put on display. I actually have three, not even including the one that's out of print, so at least people have a choice. I'm also excited because both the book store owner and Eileen-who-facilitated-this are going to market this event! This is something amazing, because I am *clueless* when it comes to marketing. I don't think like marketing people do, which is unfortunate, since that is a good way to drive book sales. But it's a hard thing to learn.I saw the results of a personality inventory once that put "writer" and "marketer" at exact opposites of a spectrum of personality traits, and I believe it.

Have you ever been to an author fest? The kind where they have about twenty authors you probably have never heard of all together in one place for a mass book sale/signing? (Or in my case, mass hope/depression. If I sell one book at one of these events, it pretty much makes my day.) If you've ever gone to one of these things, you will see there are some authors who are very comfortable meeting and greeting passers-by. And there are other authors who will either have the heads stuck in books or will be writing something, basically ignoring anyone in the immediate vicinity. Obviously, the latter model is not way to sell anything, but I assure you, it is also the comfort zone of the average writer. Think about it. We are people who like to hang out alone in a room and write. I mean, what normal person does that?

But I have been trying to get better about marketing, and about meeting and greeting the public, whether they want me to or not. To that end, I smile, engage in small talk, frequently put out a bowl of chocolate candy to entice people to drop by, AND, if someone buys a book, I do a freebie-quickie palm reading.This may not be the most efficient or successful way to close a sale, but hey, shy, reserved, writer/hermit me can live with it.

If you're in the vicinity, Read Between The Lynes book store in  Woodstock, Illinois, owned by Arlene Lynes, is hosting me for the signing on Friday, October 25, starting at 7 pm. Drop by! And I'll remember to bring the picture of Michael Penfield...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I Wish I Could Post the Picture!

A year or so ago, I posted a piece about how certain celebrities or models or anyone whose face turns up in movies, on TV, or even in magazines, is fair game for triggering a creative spark in me. Jake Holdridge (Saving Jake) for instance, is based on the appearance of a British actor who once portrayed Robin Hood. The personality of the actor (I've met him on more than one occasion) and the personality of my character have very little in common, but the appearance of this particular person -his hair color, his eyes, his build, his height- all had a great deal to do with how Jake came into being. His name is Michael Praed and as Robin Hood, he looked like this!!!

I got some interesting feedback on that piece, not just because of the hot picture, but because other writers apparently do the same thing I do, glimpsing a particular face and then running wild with a new character.

There have been times, however, when the process has worked in reverse. And when that happens, I'm always amazed. 

Back when I was holding down my first job after finishing college, I wrote a sci-fi fantasy that has never been published. Trust me, it's a good thing this book has never seen the light of day. Still, I put a lot of work into my three heroes, carried them around in my head while I was working on the manuscript, conversed with them, dreamed about them, all the usual. So you can imagine my shock when I went out with hubby and some friends one evening and caught a glimpse of one of my characters sitting at the end of the bar. I almost fell over. But there he was in true life -the hair (dark), the build (slender), even the way he gestured while he was talking with his buddies.

I didn't want to make him think I was a stalker, so I didn't do things like get closer to eavesdrop, or follow him to the pool tables. I wanted to, but, well, I'm not THAT crazy.

For those of you who know my book Haunted and the character Michael Penfield: I just had the same kind of shock while paging through an Avon catalog and finding a color photograph of Mr. Penfield right there, right in my face. Much to my surprise, Michael was peddling men's cologne. Anyone who knows Michael will find that statement pretty funny. But no kidding, this model is my character's doppelganger.

And I wish I could post the picture, but I don't think I can for a couple of reasons. 1) Copyright -don't want to get nailed by Avon OR  by this model, for using his likeness without permission, and 2) I have no scanner. But if you can find an Avon catalog from last August, and go to page 52 for the ad hawking Wild Country cologne, you too can glimpse Michael Penfield as I picture him. All that's missing is the scar. Everything else - perfecto.

(By the way, if you don't find the catalog, but you do happen to run into me, I'll be happy to show the picture to you. At the moment, I keep the page very safely in the folder that also holds the growing manuscript, Dead Voices...)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Other Other-worldly Creatures

I think I mentioned, many, many posts ago, that ghosts are not the only thing that pull my interest. I'm interested in all manner of strange things including the type of stories that fall under cryptozoology, or, as my non-believer friends put it, nonsense.

To that end, though, I will watch Destination Truth, MonsterQuest, and River Monsters. When I'm really lucky, I'll stumble across a cryptozoology piece being presented on the Smithsonian or History Channel. That's like hitting the jackpot for me. And it happened just last week.

Did anyone else see the hour-long show devoted to mermaids??? I'm still slightly freaked out about it, and also slightly jazzed. Because I LOVE this stuff.

The show featured footage and photographs, some of them obvious hoaxes, and others clearly inexplicable. The guest on the show was a former marine biologist for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) who had apparently come across the body of a being that could only be called a mermaid while working off the coast of South Africa. Although these half-human, half-fish beings are usually depicted in stories and movies as beautiful females with long, flowing hair and very comely features, the mermaids being discussed on this show had very little to do with the customary image, other than the tails. (And whoever dreamed up Abe Sapien for Hellboy must have seen some of this!)

If you are curious about seeing a creature that looks half alien, half fish, and makes underwater sounds that are even eerier than whale song, you might want to go to YouTube and look up things like "Mermaids The Body Found" or "Mermaids Cell Phone Video." The footage on these beings not only startled me, they still pop into mind even a week later, they're so strange.

And also glorious. For all the nonbelievers who refuse to admit even the possibility of other species whose existence we have not yet proven (mermaids, the yeti, the big black dog of England, etc), I can't help feeling that refusing to keep an open mind in this direction somehow makes the world a smaller and less wondrous place. And it also brings to mind that patent office administrator who announced back at the dawn of the twentieth century that patents were no longer needed because everything had already been invented.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Art Imitates Life, Life Imitates Art, and Like That

 A good friend of mine recently read my book Haunted and one of the first things she said to me was, "How much of what was in that book was based on what happened in your house?" It was a good question and one that, funnily enough, never occurred to me.

Everyone who knows me also knows that I grew up in a haunted house on the north side of Chicago. It's in my biography. It's in my profile for this blog. I'm sure it's in several other places including one or two interviews, so I would consider it to be common knowledge. The house where I spent my formative years was haunted.

When my friend asked me the question, I was surprised. Surprised that she had thought to ask that, and also surprised that I hadn't thought of that myself. So here's what I told her: Some of the details included in the haunting Cassie experiences are based on my own reality. I know what it's like to feel something cold sweep through a room. I have heard furniture shifting in other rooms when I was the only one home. I know all about a "witching hour," as Michael rather inaccurately calls it, starting at a particular time and also ending at a particular time. Yes, my house had all that, and more.

The funny thing, though, is (and I hope this isn't a spoiler if you haven't read the book, yet) the scenes where Cassie always pauses before she opens her bedroom door, feeling as if she's going to run smack-dab into someone who has been standing just on the other side, are based on feelings I have in my current house. Only in this case, it's not the bedroom but the bathroom. I can't count how many times I've paused in opening the bathroom door because I can't help feeling that someone or something is waiting for me to do just that.

The extent of the paranormal events that Cassie experiences is not something I am familiar with, however. To come up with that I just needed to run through my personal checklist of things that would totally terrify me and then write them into the story. I certainly have no wish to run into a dead young man who is covered in blood, waiting for me outside my bedroom door. (And if you haven't read the book yet, that sentence is not much of a spoiler. But if you haven't read the book yet, well, why not????)

I will say, however, that when I am working on a ghost story, any ghost story, this house comes to life even though I am the only one in it. I'm talking about inexplicable bangs down  in the kitchen, floors shifting in the hall just around the corner from my open door, the sounds of footsteps, and almost always, the sounds of someone coming into the house. No one is ever there, but the noises are plainly audible nonetheless. Good thing I write during the day!

Speaking of writing, I am spending serious time trying to recapture fear and dread in the follow up to Haunted, titled Dead Voices. It may not be quite as frightening -and according to some readers, they found Cassie's story to be pretty frightening- but it will at least be strange and eerie and involve Cassie and Michael once again getting involved with those who have already departed earthly life. The really scary thing for me is figuring out how to get this book up and running before Haunted is a year old, but that's my problem! I do hope, though, that when it hits, you all find it as entertaining and chilling as the first.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

All In the Family, Part 2 -OR- I Come By This Honestly

 Ghosts stories are nothing new in my family, so let's go farther afield, shall we?

The other week at my sister's family dinner, the subject of ghosts came up. Then my maternal uncle got to talking about stories he had heard at his grandfather's knee when still a little boy, back in the Philippines. Anyone who has ever read anything about my ancestral country knows that it has its own particular brand of strange.

For instance, the paranormal reality show (and no, for me that is not an oxymoron) Destination Truth once did a piece on the hanging coffins of Baguio, a mountainous area in the Philippines. No fooling. The people up in that neck of the woods bury their dead by placing them in coffins and then hanging them in stacks from the roofs of very remote caves located beneath the island. The investigators on the show got some interesting EVP's on their recorders and also had some experiences with the wrath of the spirits that guard the area.

And then there was the mananangal attack that actually made international news back in the '90s. I remember that because my supervisor at the time asked me if I believed in the creature. Up until that point, I had never even heard of it, so she showed me the news article. The mananangal is an unearthly beast that passes itself off as a beautiful woman during the day, but at night becomes a flying blood-sucker that attacks pregnant women. As if that isn't bad enough, it also separates itself from its legs when it goes out on these nightly sorties, so the horrified mother-to-be has the added nastiness factor of being attacked by the top half of the monster. 

I kid you not, this was actually in a Chicago-area newspaper. Apparently an entire village was under attack and there had been numerous assaults by this creature. I never did find out if they caught it. I guess American newspapers can only go so far when including stories of unheard-of monsters from far-away places.

That aside, my uncle told me a tale about a monster in his own village. Bottom line: this thing is a shape-shifter. It looks human, can shift into the form of an animal, and can also slip under locked doors in the form of a mist. And it, too, likes to prey upon pregnant women. 

When my uncle was a boy, such an attack happened on a woman in his village. The men of the village missed the man-beast at the hut and set out to hunt him down. Apparently, according to my uncle, they were able to catch the critter when he disappeared into some trees (mind you, this is in the dead of night and we're talking remote here, so finding someone who slips into the jungle isn't easy). The beast changed itself into animal form, this time as a pig, but made the mistake of leaving his shoes on, so he was captured. How many pigs wear shoes, right? They put him in the village jail but when they came to find him in the morning, the cell was locked and empty. So that must have been due to the mist thing.

The whole story, on the surface, sounds pretty funny, I grant that. Sitting in the evening, though, listening to a man, an engineer by profession though now retired, tell this tale with the fervency of belief, will shake one's reality if just for a moment.

A paternal aunt of mine in the Philippines keeps inviting me to come over for a visit. She says she has knowledge of an island that is teeming with supernatural phenomena and would love to take me there to explore. Maternal uncle, paternal aunt - I get this from both sides of my family!

So now I wonder: could my writing career ever make me enough so that I can take the trip and then write it off as research? But then I also wonder, do I really want to come up against a mananangal or a shape-shifter?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

All in the Family

Some weeks ago, I received an e-mail from my niece in Texas who was requesting some family information. To paraphrase her: "Could you send me a copy of all the family ghost stories? I don't want to forget any of them." 

Out of context, that request could sound like half of a conversation between two crazy people. Seeing as how it pertains to my family, however, that is only partly true. We might be crazy. But the house I grew up in was haunted. What my niece was asking me to send her was a written account of the weird, freaky, and sometimes downright scary things that happened in that big old house on the north side of Chicago. For instance:

There was a very nice old lady in the living room. She liked to listen when my sister practiced the piano, kissed fevered little faces when we were home sick from school, and also was seen by a guest during one Thanksgiving celebration.

There was a not so very nice entity of sorts who permeated the entire house, from basement through attic, and mostly on the west side. Go figure. It wasn't always there, but when it turned up, everyone left in a hurry. No words were ever spoken. We simply evacuated to get away from the cold, almost hostile presence that would suddenly flood the room we were in. 

There was the routine haunting that started every night at 10:30 and ended every morning at 1:30. I would never have known about this except that in college I started pulling very late nights/all nighters and became aware of the shifting furniture in the next room and the rush of air that sometimes passed by like a hurried, cold caress.

There was a prankster that hid things and brought them back weeks later. Losing the Beatles album covers for three weeks was the worst, but at least they came back. The same cannot be said of my favorite suede fringed vest (hey, it was the late '60's) and some of my favorite books. 

And then there were the unseen children, the ones who played and called out and sang in our bedroom. 

Lots of people will not give credence to any of this but there were some physically strange things about my old house. For one thing, there were two rooms in the basement that were always kept locked. I think in all the 23 years I lived there, I only saw the inside of one of them once. I never saw the inside of the other. My mother told me they were "too dirty" to enter. But my mother and my aunt, who lived with us, were cleaning fanatics. What couldn't they get clean? The staircase going up to the attic had a bottom step that creaked any time someone used the stairs. My sister-in-law decided she couldn't stand it anymore and decided to fix it. That's when she discovered the compartment hidden away in the step itself. It was empty, but it made us wonder. Worst of all was the garage with the coach house apartment on the second floor. The staircase leading up to that apartment as well as the back room at the top of the stairs were bricked off. I never would have known that back room existed until a college friend who was studying architecture pointed out to me that we could see a window from outside the building, but not from inside. We could still gain access to that second floor by way of a trap door and a ladder, but I never knew until college that the space upstairs had been quite a bit larger before that additional brick wall was built.

I never researched that house, and now I'm curious about it. I've asked for information on how to learn more about it, but that would be almost a full-time job and I haven't got the luxury of chasing around the city and looking for old records. Not yet, anyway. Sometimes I wonder about it, but most of the time I just have memories that hang around in the background. Not enough to disturb me anymore, but certainly enough to influence all the fiction I write. 

Ghost story, anyone?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

From Scary Pictures to Scary Movies

Just for grins, today I decided to do a quick one-poll question at work. I'm new there, and I thought it might break the ice. It did. It may also have convinced my coworkers that they've allowed a real lunatic onto the staff, but at least I'm entertaining! And harmless.

The question was: What is the scariest movie you've ever seen? I did tell them all that it did not need to be a paranormal/supernatural movie, just something that scared them. Some of the answers surprised me.

The top contender was The Exorcist (that got my vote, too.) A very close second was Paranormal Activity. I think two people chose Paranormal Activity III and one person chose the first of the series, but I kind of put them together. The rest of the list:

Children of the Corn
Night of the Living Dead (the original b/w film)
Jeepers Creepers
The Grudge
The Omen
The Shining
The Blair Witch Project
Child's Play (while Chucky is creepy, my idea of a scary doll has a porcelain face and 19th C clothing)
Nightmare on Elm Street
The Call

The non-supernatural movies included Silence of the Lambs, The Usual Suspects, Manhunter, and even Snakes on a Plane! I'm sure that anyone reading this can come up with a host of other titles not brought up here. 

It was fascinating to watch my colleagues come up with their answers. Some of them could pop out a title without blinking an eye. Two of them decided to think about it and came back to me hours later. And a number of them told me "I don't watch scary movies." And then they would proceed to tell me the movie that was the last straw for them.

I have a few others besides The Exorcist, myself. The original version of The Haunting, also in black and white, with Julie Harris and Clair Bloom, scared the bejesus out of me when I was a kid. I actively avoided anything with zombies in it, and as an adult The Changeling (George C. Scott) still comes back to bother me from time to time.

If you're ever stuck for a topic of conversation, try asking someone this question. For some reason, it's really fun to talk about movies that traumatize us for weeks!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Scary Pictures

Last week, I mentioned that my sister was taking a road trip that would bring her to Little Big Horn, among other places, and that she will be taking pictures to see if she captures anything eerie in them, since the battlefield is consistently listed as one of the most haunted places in America.

That got me thinking about scary pictures in general. Sure, the photos that include unexplained orbs of light, shadows, transparent figures and the like are scary. They really are. But there is another kind.

Who out there doesn't really enjoy being in a room with pictures that date back to, oh, the 1800's or so? Raise your hands! I'd be jumping up and down with both arms waving. I have eaten in restaurants that insist on decorating with photographs of people who sat down before a camera maybe some time in 1866. Somewhere around there. They are usually family portraits, where everyone, including the baby in someone's lap, is downright somber. Their clothing is somber. Their body language is somber. And their eyes? Wow, I don't even want to think about that at the moment.

It's not so much the realization that everyone in that photograph is now dead and has been for years and years, although that definitely adds to the uneasiness I feel. I can't really explain it, except to say that I sometimes get that same uncomfortable sensation when I'm in an antique store. Sometimes even in museums. There's something truly eerie about gazing on the faces or possessions of people who are long gone. It's almost as if, well, maybe they're really not completely gone. Like something about them is still reaching out to touch the present. Or touch me.

The idea of all those serious folks in their Sunday best, probably six feet under in one cemetery or another, could be reaching out to touch me? That is the sort of thing that gives me the willies.

The TV show Supernatural got it right when they addressed the idea of a family photograph from the early 1900's having the spirit of a long-dead serial killer attached to it, a spirit that found a way to continue its favorite past-time. 

I know people who collect old pictures. I think that's about as attractive as collecting porcelain dolls (yikes!) and clowns of any kind (ditto!). I don't like insects all that much and I'm not happy when rodents leave their little collections of debris in my pantry from time to time, but at least I know what I'm up against. When it comes to those old photos? Who knows?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Sense of a Place

My sister is going on a road trip and along that journey, she and her husband are taking the time to visit Little Big Horn. I am so jealous.

Little Big Horn resonates with me for three particular reasons: 1) I am deeply interested in Native American history and have read and watched almost everything I can find about this particular battle; 2) I have also read extensively about Custer; 3) the place is reportedly one of the most haunted battlefields in the U.S.

I am drawn to Little Big Horn, but there is a teeny, tiny little part of me that is also terrified at the idea of going there. So I told my sister, "Take pictures." I want to see what turns up.

While I was lying in the bed in the dark, thinking about my request to my traveling sibling, I began to wonder about particular places in this world. Are there sites that have become so infused with a battle or a tragedy or a disaster of some kind that they are forever changed? I believe there are sacred places on this planet. I have been to areas where the atmosphere is so energizing or so warm and friendly or so very, very peaceful, that the sense of that permeated me to the bone. So  much so that I don't even need to see pictures, I can go there in my head and relive that wonderful burst of feeling that I experienced when I was there in person.

So if that can happen, can the negative stuff hang around an area just as strongly? Interestingly enough, the places I found to be sacred were pretty much untouched by people: they were out in open areas and fairly wild, some of them. But the negative places I have been have all been stamped by man's indelible hand, whether through war or other violence. Sometimes through a tragedy. 

A friend of mine from college went to Europe and during the course of his trip, visited Auschwitz. He told me that even though he went on a beautiful summer day, with the sun shining and no clouds in the sky, that the site of the concentration camp was so eerie it was almost unbearable. He said that once inside the actual camp, there were absolutely no insects. There were no little animals of any kind. He said it was like the entire area was devoid of life. 

Some years ago, I was able to get to the site of 9/11. I can't even begin to explain how heavy it feels there. That is the only word I can use for it: heavy.

I think sometimes if these places had voices, if they had the language, they would tell us stories filled with terror, with anguish, with suffering and tears. Maybe it's a good thing that places can't actually cry aloud with what they have witnessed. I don't know if humanity could bear the sound.

As it is, those of us who are sensitive definitely pick up on the energies of places, whether serene and tranquil, or disturbing and sad. We may not get all of the story these places could tell, but we never walk away without something of their history.  I wonder what my sister will take away from her visit to Little Big Horn. I can't wait until she gets back.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Plants and Hauntings

The idea of combining plants with hauntings probably seems like combining cows and marshmallows. Complete non sequitur, right? Here's the thing, though. Plants, as innocuous as they may seem, probably have a lot more going on for them than people realize. 

For one thing, some plants will kill others that are competing for the same space. If you don't believe me, try googling "can a plant kill another plant?" and see what pops up. Plants are not quite as passive as they may seem. 

That said, some years ago, I read an article about a man who planted a tree for each member of his family. The idea of everyone having his or her own designated tree sounds peaceful and green and just pleasant, doesn't it? Until one of the trees died. Shortly after, the family member who owned that tree also died. The man who did the original planting might have thought it was a coincidence, until it happened again. It had happened at least three times when the article went to press, and the man and the remainder of his family looked at the trees still standing with quite a bit of uneasiness. If it really was all a coincidence, what a nasty one.

On the other hand, if plants are sentient enough to kill each other, can they pick up a communicative link with humans? Even when I was in high school, which was roughly about the time that the plague hit Europe, botanists were already studying the effects of things like music or people's moods (encouraging or angry) on plants and were surprised to find that our floral friends seem to be aware of different kinds of atmospheres, and not just those having to do with weather. 

So here are two little, little, tiny stories on how plants have connected with hauntings in my personal life.

1. When I was in eighth grade, my paternal grandfather passed away in the Philippines. I was too young to have very many memories of him, even though he did come to visit us here in the States, but my older siblings had more time with him on his visits and remember outings and other activities. One morning, my sister and I were up in our bedroom, making our beds and getting ready for the day. We each had a window, and we each would put up the shade as soon as our beds were made. My sister put up her shade and was startled when the plant on her window sill, an African violet, leaped out at her. I asked her if it had gotten caught in the shade's material, but she said no, she had already finished when the plant pretty much jumped out of the pot. It refused to be re-potted and would have become just another dead plant except that it was one given to my sister by our grandfather. It was shortly after that incident that we learned he had died. Guess he wanted to say goodbye to my sis.

2.  I used to watch ghost story movies on TV (see last week's blog for my current thoughts on this.) One night when my husband was out of town, my daughters and I were huddled on the couch watching "Grave Secrets: The Legacy of Hilltop Drive" which was a made for TV movie that starred Patty Duke. I don't mind admitting that it was a fairly creepy flick and that we were getting a bit freaked-out by it. And then the jade plant on the counter above the TV stand jumped out of its pot and landed about a foot away from its former home. Of course, this corresponded with one of the scariest scenes in the movie and all three of us jumped about as far as the plant. I have no idea -still don't- what would make a jade plant actually leap out of its pot but there it is. I haven't had a jade plant since. I have also never had another plant take a flying leap.

As I said, very small, tiny stories that fall into the "I can't explain that so I'm gonna ignore it" category. Still, I would say we should be mindful of our plants. Be mindful of our trees. I think there's more going on with those quiet green guys than we suspect.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ten Things You Might Not Have Known About Me

Like the title of this one? It's also called "I have no idea what to write about this week." Nevertheless, a couple of thoughts popped into my head and one of them was a list -paranormal writer style.

1.  I once asked a ghost hunter, the sort of person who wants to measure and quantify spiritual activity, if it is possible for a ghost to follow you home. Without batting an eyelid, he met my questioning gaze dead on and said "Yes." Thus was born the opening for my e-story "Hunting Spirits."

2.  I watch all sorts of reality paranormal shows, and I read all sorts of collections of true ghost stories, but I rarely watch ghost story movies because they scare the living daylights out of me. Wuss.

3.  Completely out of character, unless you really know me, is the fact that the one writer I would really love to have a deep conversation with is Rudyard Kipling. He's one of my all-time favorites. And I can't bring myself to believe what everyone says about him.

4.  When I'm not writing enough, I dream in stories. And most of them are just downright weird.

5.  I believe monsters exist.

6.  I love tales about psychic abilities and ghosts, but vampires and zombies? Not so much.

7.  I am the only one in my immediate family who has never seen a ghost. Heard one? Absolutely. Dealt with one? You bet. Seen one? No. And I'm really, really okay with that.

8.  I find it nearly impossible to write without music, and without pain. Everyone who creates will understand that statement.

9.  Along with my younger daughter, I once took a class about the paranormal that was taught by a raging skeptic. I got some good information but the entire experience was quite annoying.

10.  The International Cryptozoology Museum is in Portland, Maine. I intend to get there, just like I intend to get to the All-Ghost Weekend in Ireland.

This list may convince you that I have several screws loose at once, but it's honest. I think if you read my work, and enjoy it, some of these probably apply to you, too!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Face in the Darkness

She had gotten up in the middle of the night, stumbling her familiar way around the bed, past her sleeping husband, and arriving at the door to the hall and the bathroom just beyond. It was the sort of middle-of-the-night trip she knew to expect if she drank a little too much water too late in the evening. She didn't even think about it anymore: she woke up, went to the bathroom, and went back to bed.

Unfortunately, she had spent the previous afternoon watching paranormal reality shows that she had recorded beforehand, so making this nocturnal trip also involved keeping her thoughts focused on anything besides the dark and the shadows that turned her home into an alien and fearsome place. And she succeeded. Or so she thought.

As she was groping her way around the bed, literally feeling with one outstretched hand because the corners of the platform bed were sharp and merciless to unsuspecting knees, she glanced at the two framed pictures that graced the tall dresser to her left. During the day, she knew one picture showed her beloved oldest grandson as a newborn. The other was a dusty portrait of herself that had once held sway in her husband's office. 

And during that glance, that one quick look at those framed pictures, her eyes now adjusted to the dim light from the moon and the occasional street light that slipped between the slats of her blinds, she saw...a face. Not her own. Oh, she saw herself as clearly as possible in that midnight gloom, reflected back in the glass of the picture frame. But she also saw - a man's face, smiling at her over her shoulder, his cheek so close to hers that it would mean...

She didn't want to think about what it would mean. She dove into the bed and pulled the covers up snug, reassuring herself that her husband was beside her, refusing to open her eyes and take another look.

The man's face had been so close to hers that he would have had to have been right next to her, to be seen in that reflection. He would have nearly been cheek to cheek with her. And that smile on his face: she couldn't decide if it was friendly or leering.


This happened to me late last year and I have never written about it until now. It still gives me the shivers. I have no idea who he was. I just know that I saw him. The next morning, I moved the framed photos on the tall dresser so that they would no longer reflect me when I made any nocturnal foray. They would not reflect me, or anyone else right beside me in the dark.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Blogger Goblins

Maybe a better name for this post would be Blogger Demons. I should market bumper stickers that say "Got Demons?" and sell them at writers' conferences. I bet I'd make a fortune.

Yes, all of us writers have demons. Lots of 'em. Under different disguises. For some people, the mother of all demons is WRITER'S BLOCK. I know a writer who is so superstitious about this that he won't even say the phrase aloud. In fact, he gave me a book that contained those two words in the title, and taped the letter C over the B in the second word, thus changing the work to a discourse about Writer's Clock. Of course, he's heavily involved in theater, so I could probably scare four years off his life by walking up behind him and whispering "MacBeth" in his ear.

But demons come in all shapes and sizes. I have heard some successful writers talk about theirs, and I'm always blown away by what occurs to some people. I heard a best-selling author (believe me, you'd know his name, but it's not my place to air his confidences) once talk about his constant fear of not being able to write past page 40. That he would come to that particular page number and the book would be finished because he'd run out of plot points. I know a Young Adult/Middle Grade writer, also a best-seller, who worries that he is too old to write what he does, and that what he says will have no meaning for his target audience. Also clearly not the case, as he continues to sell and sell and sell.

My particular demons jump out of the floorboards and dance around the computer desk when I confront the blank screen and the blinking cursor. There are times I look at the screen and then get up and walk away. Coward! the demons hiss after me, chortling with glee. I come back eventually, and they start up again at once. On a good day, I can kick them all back into their little box under the floorboards, but there are other times... Well, best left to the imagination.

The blog goblin is the one that leers at me at the beginning of every week and says "What are you going to write about this time?" as he swings from his perch on the door to my office and hangs upside down. "You haven't got any idea, do you?" And he cackles.

If I could throw things at this little creep, I'd do it. But of course, if I start throwing things at the door to my office, my husband would have a fit about the damage done. And possibly have me hauled away by ambulance. So my battles remain internal, a struggle to find an interesting topic while munching on way too many Hershey miniatures and perhaps the odd bag of chips.

Today, the little hobgoblins have given me a topic simply by existing. Next week, I won't be so lucky. But maybe by then my muse will have come back from her 20-year trek through Everywhere-Else-But-Here and handed me a worthy idea. In the meantime, back to the Hershey bars. I wonder if goblns eat chocolate?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ghosts + History = Magic

Some years ago, I was in a college class and the subject of THE BIG earthquake in Missouri came up. Most of the class had never heard about it and the instructor herself was not sure of the year, but I knew it. 1812. (Actually, it was December, 1811 through January, 1812 since it was a series of upheavals, but I was close enough.) And why did I know that date? Because of a ghost story I had read during childhood.

Recently, while doing my "research" and immersing myself in the paranormal reality shows on SyFy, Biography, A & E, TLC, and the History Channel, I started taking notes simply because I was learning not only history, but lots of little factoids that tend to stimulate the writer in me. For instance:

- Casket plates were metal plates that were attached the tops of caskets as identifiers during the winter when the ground was too frozen to dig graves. Since the caskets were stored in a community location, the plates were helpful in keeping the remains of loved ones organized. (Some people collect these things- would you???)

- In the 19th century, there was such a thing as a "baby farm", where illegitimate and otherwise unwanted babies and youngsters were placed. As is so often the tragic case with this sort of thing, the babies were sometimes killed and the poison of choice was arsenic, because its symptoms mimic cholera.

-  I now know of at least two man-made lakes, Norfork Lake in Arkansas, and Table Rock Lake in Missouri. Creating Norfork Lake entailed flooding 400 farms, numerous small towns, and also required moving 26 cemeteries. I have been to Table Rock Lake: when the water is still, you can see some of the buildings down at the bottom. Very eerie.

-  Phenobarbitol was used to treat epilepsy in the 1930's and '40's.

- James Thurber lived in a haunted house at one time and wrote about it in his book of short stories, My Life and Hard Times.

I could go on much longer, but I'm sure you all get the idea. It's amazing how much history you can pick up reading and watching ghost stories! When I was a kid, I loved tales of haunted locations, and learned smatterings of history along the way. As an adult, I've also learned to love history. When the two come together - for me, it's positively magic.

(This piece was previously published at the blog Young Adults You've Never Heard Of .)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dead Voices

 So it's only been about six months since my last post. Sue me! Actually, I don't mean to be rude. I admire people who blog regularly. I can't seem to get the hang of it for longer than a couple months at a stretch, if I'm lucky. Still, it's not that I don't think about blogging. I just somehow never make it there.

Today I am here because: 1) I am between jobs that require me to leave the house. 2) My grandson is home sick so I need to be home. 3) Said grandson is also asleep so I get to be on the computer instead of checking on him while he watches Angry Birds videos, and 4) I am avoiding doing the breakfast dishes.

Mostly I came to say, to any reader who may happen upon this, that I know my follow up book is taking far too long and there are any number of reasons for this. But here's the primary one. (Readers who have emailed me and gotten a response -which should be most of them- will already know this story, but please bear with me.)

When I launched the Bridgeton Park Cemetery series, the only continuing character I intended to have was Bridgeton Park Cemetery itself. I don't tend to think of my work in terms of book series, and believe it or not, the ending to Haunted was the ending I intended. Anything after Steve's last statement would mean the beginning of Steve's story and the end of Cassie's and Michael's. So I stopped there and went on to the next, a work entitled Ghostwalk that involves an entirely different group of people. And the same cemetery.

While I was working on that, some interesting things happened with Haunted. Buddy and very wonderful and successful writer Terri Reid gave Haunted a review and a hell of a boost. The good news is that I picked up some of her readers and they wrote reviews for me, so my sales left me flabbergasted. The other hit-me-with-a-brick news? Everyone seemed to think there was a sequel coming with Cassie and Michael in it. I even had readers writing me to ask when that would be available. The technical term for how I felt when I read these messages is "freaked out." Here I was, chapters into the new work, and readers were asking for a completely different story with characters I had already bade a fond farewell to.*

After a LOT of moaning and groaning, I started work on a new Cassie and Michael story, Dead Voices. How's that going? Slowly. I'm just not as fast as Terri Reid! But please bear with me. I hope to finish this thing ASAP because I think some of the scenes coming into my head belong in book three already.

Sigh. Yes. I am now writing a CassieValentine/Michael Penfield series under the catch-all name of Bridgeton Park Cemetery. I never would have seen this coming, but here it is. Thank you to everyone who offered me an opinion, even those who let me know in no uncertain terms how much Haunted displeased them. I guess that qualifies me as a real writer! In the meantime, I hope to do better with this blog. Next week I'll try again for a scary topic, and from time to time I'll let you know what's up with the next book. See you next week!

* Read an article recently that said it is not always incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition. Don't know if everyone will buy that, but I thought I'd give it a try!