Thursday, March 28, 2019

Now Trending in Paranormal

Many years ago, I went to a high school reunion and ran into a classmate and friend, Nilda Barrett, who at the time was working at one of the BIG New York Publishers, doing something important that I don’t even understand (she has a great brain) on the international side of the company. We chatted for a bit and when she told me where she worked my eyes probably lit up like a rabid bat’s and I pounced on her like said bat, being a pre-published writer at the time. She told me that she didn’t work on editorial concerns, but I did ask her for one favor and she said she would see what she could do. I asked her if she could find out who Christopher Pike’s literary agent was.

Do you all know Christopher Pike? He is the author of about a billion YA and juvenile books, supernatural in nature, and he was huge around the same time as R. L. Stine (who has also writen about a billion books). Between the two of them, an entire generation of kids was introduced to the sort of books I would have given up chocolate for back when I was a kid. Well, not really. And I'm not jealous of those kids who had so many supernatural books to choose from. Well, maybe just a little.

Christopher Pike was HUGE at the time I ran into my friend so of course I thought, well, might as well try for the top. Now, she hadn’t made a huge promise to find his agent’s name for me, and why would she? She had a life and an amazing job. But to my huge surprise and with boatloads of gratitude, I received a message from her a few days later with the agent’s name and phone number. Holy moly! I couldn’t believe my luck. I studied the number and thought, he’s probably in New York, so I’ll call when the office is closed and leave a message. Then he can call me back, or not. I was too nervous to even consider broaching him over the phone, me a no-name, would-be writer, and he a bright light in the agenting universe.

I made my plans and made the call. And son-of-a-gun, he fricking answered the phone himself. What??? How did that happen? Probably because the area code I thought was for New York was actually for California (doh!), and instead of getting him after hours, I got him when he was just getting started with his day. YIKES.

I managed to introduce myself, explained how I got his phone number (Nilda, if you’re reading this, he was just as excited as I was that you worked for that publishing company. He was only mildly disappointed to hear that you weren’t doing editorial work) and then I was off and running. We discussed paranormal stories and YA audiences and it ended with him agreeing to look at my manuscript. Oh, my God. I was in shock. I blessed Nilda about a hundred times or more. And then I submitted.

As you probably all know, the book didn’t go anywhere. But he was a true gentleman. Instead of simply shipping the manuscript back to me with a form rejection, he actually called me to tell my why he didn’t take it. He said, and I’ll never forget, “You write very well and I like your style. Do you have any edgier stories on hand?”

Here is the bottom line of that conversation. Being an agent, he was looking for what would sell. At that time, the huge paranormal stories concerned entities like Freddie Krueger, Michael Meyers, and Jason in the hockey mask. I had submitted a pure ghost story to him. And so he couldn’t take it. The trend in paranormal stories at the time were vengeful, murderous ghosts (or worse) who liked dispatching their victims with quite a bit of gore. I don’t write like that.

The trend stayed that way until M. Night Shyamalan released “The Sixth Sense,” a critically-acclaimed box office hit that was about ghosts. Just ghosts. And then things began to shift. The kinds of stories I wrote became more marketable. And a shift that favored just-ghost stories began. I needed another eight years or so, but in 2002, Saving Jake was accepted by a publisher and so my writing had its own shift.

Funny to think of it, but paranormal/supernatural stories do have trends. Vampire stories are like the tide: their waves rise and fall but they are always there. Sometimes they get so hot we’ll see both movies (Twilight) and TV series (True Blood) running concurrently. Even after those two ended, there were still offshoots like The Strain -  just ended- or The Passage and What We Do In The Shadows, currently on TV.

Werewolves are a little different. I have a buddy who LOVES werewolves, but you don’t see as many of them around as you see vampires (who apparently really never do die.)

Zombies hit hard and hot in the recent past and are still roaming around today.

And my beloved ghosts? Well, they’re faring better than they were back when I tried to get Christopher Pike’s agent to take me on. A remake of The Haunting of Hill House was a huge hit for Netflix, and my boys in Supernatural are still going strong, even though they’ve chosen to end next season. And then there are all those paranormal reality shows.

I’m grateful for the current trend that has room for every kind of ghost, ghoul, monster, and creature that can be imagined. That's how it should be. There’s room for everybody in a well-stocked library of horror.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

More Tales from the Hallway

Everyone who reads my blog and a lot of my FB posts, knows that I have a very “active” hallway. It seems to be a pathway for roaming spirits, although we don’t know why. Those of us who have experienced it, though, are all agreed that the (dead) folks who traipse along it travel from west to east for almost the entire length of it before slipping away. We have no idea where they go: if they followed the hall to the very end, they’d wind up in my bedroom (YIKES). If they take a left, they would be in my grandson’s room (sometimes I think that happens). If they take a left but use the second door on the immediate right, they’d enter my daughter’s. I don’t think that happens, either. But I’m not sure they actually make it all the way to the bedrooms. They definitely make their presence known around the bathroom, though. Maybe one day I’ll know why.

In the meantime, they remain active. Some of them, I think, are reminding me that I have writing to do. Nags.

But others, well…

About fifteen minutes after dinner, my grandson will come into the kitchen in search of dessert. That usually means rummaging around in the freezer and pulling out an ice cream cone (the mint ice cream ones are his favorite). Now, our freezer is at the top of the refrigerator, and he’s just a little shorter than the door, but he can reach. And when you’re getting something out of that freezer, you’re facing our laundry room, which is the west end of our dead people’s path. Well, the other night as he was digging around for his treat he said “Oh!” and stopped. Then after a moment, he resumed.

I was at the sink and I heard his exclamation and saw him pause. “What?” I asked him. “What’s wrong?”


I know him better than that. “No, really. What’s up?”
“I thought I saw something.”
“Like what?”
“Like a foot. In the doorway.”
“Like someone about to come into the kitchen?”

“Yeah, like that. But it’s gone now.” He got his ice cream cone and left.

I turned to the laundry room and said, “Please stop scaring my grandson.”

Although I don’t think that anyone was purposely trying to scare my grandson. I think he just spotted someone on the way in and they both startled each other.

A few days later, I was folding laundry when I heard a child’s voice. I couldn’t understand the words, but it was definitely a child speaking, and it definitely sounded like it came from one of the other rooms along the north side of our house, where the back yard is. I stopped and listened, but didn’t hear it again. It startled me a little, especially since it sounded like a school-aged child and we’re not at spring break yet. Also, there really aren’t any kids in this neighborhood. But I shrugged it off and finished folding the clothes.

Later that same afternoon, my daughter and I were catching up on one of my recorded Dead Files episodes, and just like her son, at one point she startled and paused the show.

“What?” I asked.

“Did you just hear or see some kids?” she asked. “I could have sworn I heard them. And I thought I saw about three or four of the, playing in our yard.”

That was a surprise. “I didn’t hear them this time, but I heard a child’s voice earlier. Back by my room.”

“Huh.” She said. “I thought I saw them, too, but they’re gone now.” She leaned back and hit the “play” button on the remote so we could go on with the show.

So. No rhyme or reason for what pops into this house and then finds its way back out again. Just thought I’d share the latest goings-on here, at the house with the active hallway.

Thursday, March 14, 2019


When I do my one book-signing event a year, at the Psychic and Paranormal Expo held in Iowa every November, I often ask people to share a personal ghost story with me. And I’ve been lucky enough to hear some really terrific ones. I’ll never turn away a true ghost story!

But lately I’m considering asking people about other encounters they might have had. I’d be interested in cryptozoology sightings (seen a Bigfoot lately? Catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness monster on your trip over to Scotland?), ghost light spotting, or even a really well-told UFO story. The kind of encounter I’d like to touch on today, though, is angelic.

I know there are entire books out there about angel sightings and experiences. I’ve read some of them and enjoyed the stories quite a bit. I’ve read various magazines dealing with the topic. And I’ve heard some stories from others around me. A co-worker once told me of her father’s experience when he took a fall while working perhaps seventy feet above the deck of a Navy ship. He had enough time to realize he was going to die when he hit the flooring below, but just before he hit, something caught him and lowered him gently to his feet. Now, this man is an engineer, a profession based in practical science. But after that, he was a true believer.

My mother was also protected twice by the house I grew up in. Now, maybe it was angels. Maybe it was whatever haunted the place that had taken a liking to her. But one time when she was home alone –and this was during the day- she literally watched as a man tried to break into the house at the side door. Our side entrance had both storm and regular doors, and as she looked on, he pried and pried away at the lock of the door. She had already called my aunt (my mom was so freaked out by this that she didn’t even think of dialing nine-one-one. My aunt totally freaked out and called my oldest brother. And he finally said, hang up and call nine-one-one.) The police did eventually get there. They found the damage around the door handle from whatever tool the man was using before he gave it up and simply left. And then one of policemen said to my mother, “I have no idea why he couldn’t get in. He should have been inside in a matter of seconds.”

There was another time when a man doing roof repairs found a couple of tools and some pry marks left around one of the upper story windows and even one pane of glass that had been removed  from the outer storm window (this window was over a balcony). Again, no one could figure out how the would-be thief was never able to get into the house, because he should have been able to enter, no problem. I think the house looked out for my mom. And maybe angels, too.

I’m thinking not all angels are visible. For instance, what whispers in someone’s mind not to get on a certain plane or a train, and then that person finds out later that there was a horrific accident with few or no survivors? What is it that tells a person that someone close to them is very sick or in distress?

And who was it that came to me one summer afternoon when I was walking down the street on my way to a class, privately in distress over the rough time I was having both at home and in a serious relationship? He stopped me in the middle of the sidewalk to tell me that everything was going to be all right, and that I shouldn’t worry. He was very nice and very gentle and he smiled before he walked away from me. I turned around a few seconds later, after finally managing to process what this perfect stranger had just told me, and he was nowhere to be found. Not steps away, like he should have been. Not across the street like he might have been if he started sprinting as soon as we parted ways. There was simply no sign of him. Anywhere. But I’ll never forget that encounter. And it turned out that he was absolutely right. This is not a story I share lightly; in fact, I kept it to myself for years and I’ve hardly told anyone about it since. But I’m sharing it now because I think there are beings out there who do lend us a hand sometimes, whether in physical form, or in the quick flash of a thought or a feeling: to protect, to warn, maybe just to encourage or maybe even to all-out save a life.

Have you ever had an encounter you can’t quite explain?