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...)