Spooky Inspiration In New Orleans…part 1

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My husband and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary this year and decided to take a rare trip by ourselves. You see we have/are raising five kids and haven’t gotten away by ourselves for more than a night in over 8 years! We decided to go somewhere we had never been before, New Orleans! It seemed like an interesting place to explore and maybe I could get my spooky creative juices flowing.

In part one of this two-part blog series, I’ll share some of my overall impressions of the city to warm you up for the spookier entry of part two!

You never know what to expect when going someplace you’ve never been. If our hotel was any indication of what the rest of our experience was going to be like, we were in for a good time! The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel is classic elegance and charm. From the people to our suite, to the hotel bars, to the food, to the rooftop pool and bar, every little thing was spectacular.

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We got a full view of some of the damage left behind by Katrina from our room. It is a shocking contrast between the scene from the window and the elegance of the sitting room of our suite, most notable was the back side of Charity Hospital.

Founded in 1736, The Charity Hospital for the Poor is the second oldest public hospital in the US. The now abandoned building, built in 1939, was at the time the second biggest hospital in the US and was primarily for the poor and needy.

The story of how the rising flood waters in the wake of the winds and rain from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 trapped 360 patients and 1200 staff inside the large art deco style building for five days is both inspiring and heart-wrenching (click here for more). It was difficult to imagine the situation as it unfolded from here in the Rocky Mountains, not so much looking at it with my own eyes. It would be no wonder if lost spirits roam the empty hallways. We didn’t explore it any further as it felt that would be somehow disrespectful to the heroism of the doctors and nurses and the anguish of patients and their families.

As you can see by the nearby cranes and construction, the city is thriving and plans for redeveloping the old hospital site are being explored.

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To celebrate our anniversary (the whole reason for this trip) we took a River Boat Cruise down the Mississippi on the Creole Queen. It was pretty incredible. I have never been on a big boat like that or seen the Mississippi River! Here in Colorado most of our rivers have rapids, but not this one! It was hotter than Hades, but the breeze off the river was wonderful. The food was delicious, and the sunset was quite romantic!

 

 

As far as spooky juices flowing. The river served up some various sights that may work their way into a storyline or two.

 

The sugar factory – loading sugar and monsters at the pier! It’s how the otherworldly creatures traverse the Earth, moving to always more fertile hunting grounds. Perhaps the zombies will hold up here until the time of the apocalypse begins. Look at the pilings under the pier, beings of the night slumber under there in the daylight, waiting for darkness to fall. The murky water – perfect for underwater creatures, aliens, or mutant alligators to hide out, seeking their next meal from unsuspecting boaters gone overboard. Not to mention, it could not be better for covering bodies. Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, standing guard during the day, but even it is overtaken by the darkness.

Oh, pardon me! I got lost there for a moment! Writers are never completely on vacation. New Orleans was a terrific choice for creative fodder, but more on that later.

We took some time to wander around the Garden District and it was everything I’d hoped it would be. If I ever strike it rich, I’m buying here! I fell in love with the distinctive New Orleans architecture. It was peaceful, dynamic, beautiful, and mysterious all at once. It wasn’t hard to imagine many of the homes being sanctuaries for sophisticated vampires!

Coming up in part two: cities of the dead, haunted places, strange sightings, and of course…bourbon street.

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Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!

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Meet Nate Camden From my Novel DREAD

nate.jpgI’ve done a few author interviews for book blogs and such, but never has someone asked to interview one of my characters, until now! Author and blogger R.J. Davies asked just that and I think it is probably the coolest interview I have ever done!

I didn’t realize how much I missed the main character of DREAD, Nate Camden, until he started answering the interview questions. The photo to the left is an image I used to help me create his character(unable to find photographer or model credit other than it first appeared on the internet in 2009). Check out the interview here:  http://rjdavies.tumblr.com/post/172642019516/interview-with-protagonist-nate-camden-from-joy

Then check out DREAD to get the rest of Nate’s story. Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 12.38.00 PM

Women in Horror Month a Peek Behind the Pages: Women Who Create Nightmares, Jeannie Wycherley

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All during February for Women in Horror Month I’ll be highlighting my sister nightmare makers and their work! Today’s installment is the incredibly talented Jeannie Wycherley. She is going to share her thoughts on why she writes horror. Take it away Jeannie!

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Getting Under the Skin of It With Jeannie Wycherley

The reasons I write horror are a little oblique, to me at least. I’ve wanted to ‘write’ practically my whole life, but I got caught up in being an academic and having a career. When I finally listened to my soul and put pen to paper, I simply explored the things that were in my heart and in my mind. I was in a dark place, severe anxiety, depression with suicidal ideation, so those early forays were bleak and black and unhappy. In any case, people always say ‘write what you read’ and I would say a third of what I read is horror, with the rest made up of classic Victorian literature, historical drama, and murder mysteries.

I’m a writer, yes, but being a woman who writes horror puts me in a unique place because it allows me to dissect female experience based on my own inimitable experiences as a female, using scary situations. The things that terrify any of us are likely to be different in every case, so I utilise the emotions and knowledge that I’ve gained as a woman and a human, and they become my monsters. I find this process absolutely fascinating. Getting under the skin of all my characters, regardless of who they are, gives me a real thrill.

I’ve always hated the ‘woman-as-sidekick’ character, or woman-as-victim, or the female teen scream queen. We can be those characters for sure, but since I noticed I had the central role to play in my own life, I’ve always enjoyed stories where the woman is complicated and multi-dimensional. While I think it is important characters are likeable and can be identified with, I don’t mind incorporating faults and flaws.

As a result, Crone, has received high praise for the characterisation of the witch Aefre (including an Indie B.R.A.G Award). She’s not just evil for evil’s sake, she actually has her reasons, because let’s face it, when you or I make a decision that will have repercussions, we usually have a line of reasoning behind it that we find rational (even if no-one else does).

One aspect of writing that I love, even when I’ve plotted a good outline, is when the character runs away with story themselves. I found this with the character of Elizabetta in A Concerto for the Dead and Dying (my long short story written for the Mrs Dracula anthology and now available by itself). She is a vampire, but as I wrote, I became very aware of how nuanced she was, so this is a very bittersweet story.

Horror and dark fantasy are immensely satisfying to read and write. Women in HorrorMonth is fantastic because it highlights some of the wonderful writing out there, tales you may not stumble across otherwise. I recommend casting your net wide, and trying out a few new women horror writers! Enjoy!

Links

 

Crone http://mybook.to/CroneJW

A Concerto for the Dead and Dying http://mybook.to/ConcertoDead

Deadly Encounters http://mybook.to/DeadlyEncounters

Follow me: https://twitter.com/Thecushionlady

https://www.facebook.com/jeanniewycherley/

Website: https://www.jeanniewycherley.co.uk/ 

 

Jeannie Wycherley has always been blessed with a wildly overactive imagination. Her formative years were spent inhabiting the glorious worlds that other writers had created, and even now she finds it a wrench to leave Narnia and Alderley Edge behind. As a child she loved history, and visited many sites of interest, with her family, in the UK and around Europe, and was a keen – and sorrowful – observer of the evil man perpetrates. No surprise therefore that she went on to study history at University, and left – or was eventually politely turfed out – with a PhD in modern and contemporary social history.

After 16 years teaching in higher education, Jeannie hung up her mortar board and scaled down her life. She moved home to Devon with her husband and the fur-kids, three beloved dogs who are spoilt rotten. They all reside in Sidmouth, Devon, where a rocky coastline meets the glorious East Devon countryside, providing immeasurable inspiration for Jeannie’s writing.

Jeannie writes dark stories, suspense, horror … and just the plain weird. As Betty Gabriel she has written some erotica – just for fun! She has seen her short stories successfully published in the UK and the USA. Her debut novel CRONE is available from April 2017.

 

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Women in Horror Month Blog Series

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WiHM9-GrrrlLogoTall-BR-SFebruary is a terrific month! Winter is in full swing, but Spring is just around the corner, it’s my birthday month, and it’s when we celebrate Women in Horror Month!

“Women in Horror Month (WiHM) is an international, grassroots initiative, which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre.

WiHM celebrates these contributions to horror throughout the year via the official WiHM blog, Ax Wound, The Ax Wound Film Festival, and with the official WiHM event/project database in February. This database in conjunction with the WiHM social media fan base— actively promotes do-it-yourself annual film screenings, blogs/articles, podcasts, and any other form of creative media with the ultimate goal of helping works by and featuring women reach a wider audience.

This inclusive and positive movement is open to everyone, just as we believe the horror genre should be.”

All month long I’ll be doing my part by highlighting some sister horror authors with a blog series called Peek Behind the Pages: Women Who Create Nightmares. These talented ladies will be sharing their work, telling us why they write horror, why they believe female voices are important to the genre, what they love about horror and advice or encouragement for other writers!

Stop by and spread the word to support my fellow nightmare makers!

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Tales from the Ghost Town Writers Retreat

15493618_10154899107475972_7094799763006043672_oI have had a difficult time writing this past year. I have a novel that I have started and stopped more times than I care to admit and a Christmas project that I decided to postpone from the planned November publish date. I had amazing momentum coming into this year, but it fizzled quickly, and I’m not sure why.

I decided many months ago to attend the Ghost Town Writers Retreat at the beginning of August to see if I could get my groove back, then my Grandma passed away a few weeks ago, and I almost canceled. Losing her hit me harder than I expected and I just wanted to hide out. My darling husband took time off from work to go with me and said it would give us some time away from the kids together, I suspect he knew I needed him to give me an extra push.

The retreat was held in the small mining town of Georgetown, Colorado. I’m a Colorado native but can say I’ve never hung out in Georgetown for anything more than a bathroom break, fill up, or to get to the pass to go to Clear Lake. I remember when I was little my parents looked at buying a piece of property there. The day they went to look at the property they dropped me, my two siblings, and my grandparents off at the little park in town to eat lunch so they could speak to the realtor without distraction. My sister would not play or leave the bench she sat on. It wasn’t until I told her where I was going that she said the park was full of spooks and they demanded to know why she was there. It scared the hell out of her, and that’s why she wouldn’t play. Weird story, I know, but totally normal in my family.

Georgetown is only about an hour from our house on I-70, but the ride up was hairy. The retreat needed to borrow some grills for the Grill and Greet, so I volunteered ours. Since my husband was coming along, we took his truck and loaded our old gas grill into the bed. The day was overcast, and the wind was picking up. Just as I inquired if the grill was safely tethered a huge bang shook us. The grill had fallen over but not out of the bed. Sadly, the handle didn’t survive. After readjusting the bungee cords, we journeyed on. We drove through dense fog, drenching rain, and pounding hail. It didn’t help that I woke up that morning with a nagging headache. Maybe it was a sign to go home, I thought.

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I-70 Westbound

 

When we got to the hotel we discovered that it would be some time before for our room would be ready and we were a little confused about where to check in for the conference, but we did figure out where to take the grill. After an uninvited cloud burst, my husband helped cook up some buffalo hot dogs and burgers, and we had a tasty little dinner with some fascinating folks.

One of the things I really wanted to do was check out the park. I still had a headache, but the next morning I grabbed my camera and off we went. The moment I entered the park through the iron archway my headache was joined by a turbulent stomach. No one demanded to know why I was there, but it felt heavy and strange. My husband asked if it used to be a cemetery because it gave that kind of vibe. As a side note, I got a terrible headache working on this piece, and I kept getting an error message when I tried to upload the photos of the park, it took several tries. Coincidence? Maybe, but my husband says I should quit messing around with this subject!

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The Park Entrance

Even though my head and tummy were very unhappy, I continued to hit up all the sessions I could. Every single session was terrific, and the presenters (some first timers) were great. When we got home and were describing some of the things we learned my daughter laughed and said it sounded like a murders’ convention! Most of the sessions were held in the historic Heritage Center, the old school house. The building restoration was fabulous!

The marketing sessions were beneficial, as that is the area I dislike the most about this author thing and find the most challenging. I’m a quiet, shy, introverted person which is a huge hindrance to my marketing efforts. I made a commitment to myself to move way out of my comfort zone in the coming months regarding this.

I also had an epiphany. I believe my difficulty in writing has come because I know the marketing will come after. Yes. I hate it that much. I think I got some tools and resources at the retreat that will help me, though.

Being the very first Ghost Town Writers Retreat, there were some hiccups and places where there is room for improvement. I thought Georgetown was a great location and I had the best burger ever (after my tummy finally settled down) at Round About Burgers. The waffles at The Happy Cooker were amazing, and the Family Dollar is stocked better than a full sized Walmart! It turned out to be more of a conference than retreat, however. I would have liked more opportunities to meet up and write with other writers. And coffee! Coffee at the venue for morning sessions, please!

I wasn’t sure where or how to sign up for editor/agent sessions, but since I didn’t feel well, I opted not to pursue it. Maybe for next year,  the signup and location information could be available a few days before the event begins.

There was a walking ghost tour that I would have loved to attend, but it happened on Sunday evening, and I was already jonesing for my kids. We opted for the train, mine tour, and of course, the cemetery.

We really didn’t need a ghost tour anyway. I drug my husband around the town late on Saturday night, just to see what we might see. He always warns that I better not get him arrested, but I’ve been doing this to him for years, and so far we are arrest free, knock on wood!

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Haunted Hamill House After Dark

 

Even though I didn’t feel well for the first three days, I feel like I got out of it what I wanted. I have a strategy to push through my writing wall, and I got to spend some time with my husband. He got a better idea of what it is I do and struggle with and ended up getting into it himself! I said we should just write spooky books together and forget everything else!

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My Handsome Husband – It Looks Good on Him!

 

I can only imagine what it takes to organize a thing like this. The speakers and moderators were great. The movie screening of Dead Awake was fun, and I wanted to ask Jeffery Riddick (Dead Awake, Final Destination) what led them to cast Lori Petty (Orange is the New Black), she was great by the way, but my head was killing me.

How you go about contacting all these folks and getting them to come to a retreat in a tiny Colorado mountain town is beyond me. I’m grateful for the opportunity and that I ignored my headache AND did not go back home. I am already looking forward to next year, but I think I’ll stay away from the park…or not!

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The Binding Chord of Stories

mourning-360500_1920Today I am tired to the bone. There is not one inch of me that doesn’t hurt. My eyes are scratchy and bloated. I feel like a ran a marathon or spent the last two days in drunken bar fights. In a way, I wish either of those things are what is wrong with me.

I have no desire to read, promote, edit, or write. I don’t even want to look at my laptop. There is a piece of me that never wants to write another word or utter any kind of story. I’m forcing myself to write this because I think it will be good for me and no other reason.

You see, yesterday I returned to the place that we laid my mom to rest, almost to the day, forty years ago. This time I buried my second mother, my maternal grandmother, Rose Lovato. If you read my bio in my book you would know that she is one of the reasons that I love spooky stuff. Our culture and our family have always had a unique connection to the supernatural and no-one could convey that better than Rosie.

When I was little and my mom was missing to go to chemo my Grandma Rose would stay with us. We would cuddle on the bottom bunk bed and she would tell us stories. Some funny, some scary. I would beg to hear the scary ones over and over, so much so that I earned the nickname Spooky.

I didn’t care if it wasn’t cuddle time either. I remember being in her kitchen and she was making tortillas, rolling dough into balls, placing them in the galvanized pot and covering them with a red and white tea towel to rise. Her bright red finger nail polish flashed as she rolled out and worked the dough. I begged her to tell me a story. I think she was annoyed that I wouldn’t let her get her work done, but she told me a story anyway.

The day before she went into hospice she was telling us stories. Beautiful stories about answered prayers and angels she saw. I tucked these away in that secret place in my heart reserved for my most private thoughts and memories.

At her memorial service, we shared stories about her. Her devotion to prayer and middle of the day phone calls, no she did not care if you were at work. How she won $6000 at her favorite casino. The time she had to go to the tavern to find our grandpa and when a man made a lewd comment to her she beat the hell out of him with her purse. How they lost everything in a big fire when they lived in Utah and she took her two tiny babies on the train back to Colorado that very night in nothing but her nightgown. How much she liked a good party, and good music, and to sing. And tell stories.

Today I feel like I will never publish an other thing. It takes confidence to put your work out into the world. I have what I consider a delicate balance of support from those around me. My insecurities regarding writing are legion and require specific support from specific people. Knowing somebody as tough and outspoken as Rosie was in my corner, no matter what drivel I put out, made me feel like I could do this. She’d be there with her big purse to wonk anyone that dissed me. Now there is a terrible void in that network of support.

Remember I told you my family has a unique connection to the supernatural? At her memorial, one of my cousins told me he talked to her and that she was ok and wanted us all to know that she was happy, she was where she wanted to be. Perfectly normal in my family, perfectly acceptable. My boy reminded me this morning as he came in to see me writing this and crying, that Grandma Rose is still there for us, not to worry. She may have come to him too, but he rarely speaks about the encounters he has.

Many elements or themes from stories Grandma Rose told me pop up in my writing. Stories, it would seem, are the binding chord from me to her, from this world to the next. I’ll keep telling them, for her. 

Until next time – Thank you for teaching me to be a good woman. Love you, Grandma Rose.rose-402671_1920

What a Year

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endof-year

What a year. 2016 had ups and downs, losses and gains, twists and turns. I don’t know about you, but I feel a little sea-sick! I’m hoping 2017 is a little less crazy. A girl can dream, can’t she?

It’s been a good writing year. I finished writing and revising DREAD and published! I’ve sold some copies, and not just to my family, LOL! Some of those readers even left five-star reviews. Weirdly, I miss my characters a little bit. I spent almost every day with them for over two years, after all. I’m sure they don’t miss me but are enjoying new life every time they spring to life in a reader’s imagination. I *heart* you Nate, Garrett, Sophia, and Lindsey!

I stretched out of my writing comfort zone and wrote a short story in the Dystopian Horror genre. Dystopia always felt overwhelming to me. Seriously, how in the world do you create a whole new world…out of your words? I spent a large part of my summer working on Code Yankee Sierra 7 so I could enter it in the  Pandora’s Box of Horrors Challenge. Guess what? It tied for the win. Pretty exciting!

I’ve made amazing writing friends and connections this year. Their stories captivated, spooked, entangled, and encouraged me. Thanks, guys!

I wrote three other short stories. One was originally posted as a Thanksgiving story, but I revised it to a Christmas story (All Through the Night) and popped it up on WattPad for fun. Another one is also a Christmas story (The Kalli-Who) that was published on this blog as a playful holiday share with you, the readers! Lastly, just for grins, I reworked a story I wrote a very long time ago (Best Night Ever) and also shared that on WattPad.

My current WIP Shiver is coming along. I’m still getting to know the characters, and so far, I like them. Too bad I’ll have to terrorize, burden, and maybe knock some of them off *evil giggle*. What?  I’m a writer, it’s what I do.

A writer. You’d think I’d feel perfectly fine calling myself a writer by now, wouldn’t you? But it still feels awkward. When I think writer, I think of Anne Rice, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, and the like. When I say I am a writer, it seems arrogant and like a big overblown fishy tale. Despite the list of accomplishments above, it feels like I am the biggest poser in history, play acting a childhood fantasy and hoping the world buys it. I wonder if the people I mentioned before ever feel that way.

For 2017 my resolution is to own it. To boldly submit works and laugh in the face of rejection letters! To shout, I AM A WRITER! Well, maybe just say it in an inside voice.

Here’s wishing you an adventurous, thrilling, spooky, joyous, own-your-truth new year. I hope you get some of that through reading something I wrote for you.

Until next year, Never Turn Off the Lights!