Tales from the Ghost Town Writers Retreat

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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!

roy and joy

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Possession Movies with Real Life Beginnings

There is a new horror film slated for release tomorrow, Devil’s Due. You may not have heard of the movie but maybe you heard about or have seen the viral marketing for this movie.

Funny, yet disturbing.

This movie is based on fictional characters but there are several well known possession movies that are based on allegedly true stories. Probably the best known of these is The Exorcist, based on the story of Roland Doe (not his real name), a 13-year-old boy who in 1949 underwent a month long exorcism ritual conducted by two Jesuit priests, Fathers William Bowdern and Walter Halloran. In the movie version it is a young girl who is overtaken by an evil entity after playing with a Ouija Board. Roland’s ordeal also began with a Ouija board. Several manifestations were inflicted on the boy, writing would spontaneously appear on Roland’s skin, he spoke in a guttural voice, he had an aversion to sacred objects, he was vulgar with the priests and even tried to urinate on them. Finally, according to Tom Leonard of the Daily Mail, the boy shouted out “Satan, I am St. Michael! I command you to leave this body now!” He went limp and announced “He is gone!” He acted normally and has never had a relapse since that moment, prompting some to say the boy was faking the whole thing.

A possession movie I found most interesting was the 2012 release The Possession. Usually it seems the Catholics have the corner market on exorcisms but this story has a Jewish slant. The movie is loosely based on the book The Dibbuk Box by Jason Haxton. In the movie a young girl buys the Dibbuk box at a yard sale and becomes possessed by the evil spirit from Jewish folklore that was trapped inside when she opens the box. In real life the box was first purchased at an Estate sale and later on eBay, finally coming to Jason Haxton. The box has a history of strange and tragic occurrences happening to those in possession or vicinity of the box. Haxton still owns the box and says it is in a safe place, whatever that means. Apparently some strange things happened on the set of The Possession even though the crew and cast turned down Haxton’s offer to give them the actual Dibbuk box. Several times lights inexplicably exploded and phantom gusts of wind would billow on the set. When shooting wrapped up all the props, including the movie version of the Dibbuk box, were put into storage. A short time later the storage unit burned to the ground with no explanation.

Demonic possession is discussed in the Bible numerous times and many religions hold the belief that spirits can possess the living. Dr. William B. Bradshaw, Ph.D, a demonologist, wrote Sinister Among Us as a layman’s primer into demonology. Dr. Bradshaw holds his Ph.D. in demonology has spent decades studying the subject. While he concedes that mental disease, physical maladies, and human choice are usually at the root of these cases he believes that there is a struggle between good and evil. As he points out in his book, possession is not always head-spinning, levitating, pea soup shooting obvious and can strike in the most unlikely place. Which makes the prospect even more unsettling.

Sinister Among Us by William B. Bradshaw

Sinister Among Us by William B. Bradshaw

Unfortunately, my usual advice of never turn off the lights probably won’t help in this situation. Unless you are an unbeliever, then you should be fine, right?