I’ve attempted to read many a scary book in my day. I have a hard time getting through them because of the fact that I like to avoid nightmares when I’m sleeping! LOL. But I recall as a kid, I tried reading The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson and I had to stop part way through. I put the book back on my bookshelf – hidden behind all the other books. I never touched it again.
But in my young teens I began to read many books based on “true events” that I found quite scary including Fatal Vision by the late Joe McGuinness. True life stories are scarier than any horror book.
So what is the scariest book you’ve ever read? What book truly scared you as a kid?
Leave a comment and you could win a free ebook copy of The Awakening by Sara Brooke. The Awakening is the first book in a series following a quiet librarian from a small town who becomes an exorcist.
As I write this, I’m hard at work on my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt, which tells the story of an observatory haunted by the ghost of its founder. Much of the novel is inspired by my own experiences at observatories. Last month, I put out a call for haunted observatory stories and I’ve heard some interesting tales.
Author and editor David B. Riley tells me he heard stories of shadow entities at Chabot Observatory in Oakland, California. He had a roommate many years ago who worked for Oakland Park Police and swore people were seeing entities around there. Shadow entities are also known as black ghosts.
So far, my most convincing ghost encounter was with one of these shadow entities on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. I was in the changing rooms of the First Class swimming pool and took a photo. I thought I saw a person reflected in the flash, but when I walked in that direction, no one was there. When I looked at the photo on my computer and adjusted the contrast and brightness, I saw a figure standing there, apparently in an old-fashioned bathing suit. For some reason, this “being” was not illuminated in my flash! You can read the full story here: “Queen Mary Ghost”
Dr. Don Terndrup of Ohio State University told me a story about an observatory where visiting astronomers were cautioned about the woman in white. She would appear in the morning, not long before sunrise, holding a tea kettle. Sure enough, the observers would be working late into the evening when the door to the observing room would slowly creek open. They’d turn around and there would be a woman in white robes holding a kettle.
It turns out the woman was the observatory director’s wife, who would get up early to make tea for the astronomers visiting the observatory. Apparently she never understood why the astronomers always seemed so frightened when she would appear!
In last month’s post, I told the story of James Lick, who is buried under the pier of the 36-inch Telescope at Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton in California. Dr. Elinor Gates who works at the observatory tells me astronomers routinely tell tourists who come to public night at the 36-inch that Lick’s ghost will appear and snatch a visitor from the group. Of course, the astronomers guiding those sessions are just joking.
All jokes aside, it’s said that several people have seen the ghost of James Lick in the Director’s Cottage at Lick Observatory. Dr. Gates lives in the cottage and says she hasn’t seen a ghost . . . yet. That said, a previous resident claims to have had several encounters with the ghost and won’t be convinced the house isn’t haunted.
As you can tell from both of these stories, there’s a common thread of astronomers joking about ghosts. We work in dark, quiet buildings late at night. Often our minds do play tricks on us. I definitely pull an element of dark humor into The Astronomer’s Crypt. As it turns out, astronomers don’t always joke about ghosts. Sometimes we joke about vampires as well. I work as a telescope operator and that means I’m rarely seen at the observatory except between sunset and sunrise. One of my co-workers used to say we were the vampires of the mountain.
This particular co-worker was a fan of vampire novels and convinced me to sit down and read Dracula by Bram Stoker. I’ll never forget the night I read the scene in the novel where the ship carrying the vampire blows into Whitby Harbor. The townspeople find the crew of the Demeter missing. The ship’s captain is dead, lashed to the ship’s wheel. The only living creature is a massive dog or wolf that leaps from the ship and runs off into the storm. The night I read this, a particularly fierce storm blew over Kitt Peak. My duties required that I go outside to check on the buildings periodically . . . in the howling wind, pouring rain, and cracking lightning. Every time a bush rustled or a wind howled through a tree, I was convinced a wolf was going to leap out at me. I’ve been a fan of Dracula and horror novels ever since!
A few years later, I had occasion to write a vampire story. I pulled from what I knew. I told the story of a vampire who operated telescopes. He only appeared between sunset and sunrise and never complained about the hours. He never told ghost stories to scare his observers because he wanted them unwary, not suspecting he might attack at any minute. This story went on to become a central chapter in my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order.
Although I won’t admit to being a vampire and I can’t honestly say I’ve seen a ghost at the observatory, I’ve certainly been able to channel those spooky experiences into my writing. Through them, I get to explore the stories of people rising to meet impossible challenges, which in turn tells me much about what makes us noble as human beings.
Here’s wishing you and yours a very Happy and Spooky Halloween!
KATHRYN LE VEQUE is a USA TODAY Bestselling author, an Amazon All-Star author, and a #1 bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author in Medieval Historical Romance and Historical Fiction. She has been featured in the NEW YORK TIMES and on USA TODAY’s HEA blog. In March 2015, Kathryn was the featured cover story for the March issue of InD’Tale Magazine, the premier Indie author magazine. She is also a quadruple nominee (a record!) for the prestigious RONE awards for 2015. Kathryn has accomplished a great deal in her amazing career – and she’s done it all as an independent author.
How many of your books have been bestsellers and what lists have you hit? Tell us how you felt when you hit those lists.
KLV: Currently, I have 73 published novels, collections, and bundles. Out of that group, 62 have hit #1 on Amazon for any length of time in Medieval Historical Romance, Scottish Historical Romance, or Ancient Historical Romance. This means they were there for one day or, in the case of my novel NETHERWORLD, held #1 for six weeks in July and August of 2014. Most recently, I was part of the USA Today bestselling collection WITH DREAMS ONLY OF YOU that hit the USA Today bestselling list in July 2015. As for the Amazon Author’s Ranking, I have consistently been in the top 10 authors in Historical Romance since February 2014 and in 2015, I have been fortunate enough to remain in the top 5. As of today, I’ve been #1 for three days, so I’m extremely grateful for my readers and their love of my books.
It’s interesting to ask how an author feels about hitting a list – it’s a milestone to achieve for an author so it feels as if you have really accomplished something but to me, there was more to it – it meant that the readers were loving it and that, to me, is the most important thing of all. As an author, the only thing that should matter are your readers and how they receive what you write. It’s always a great feeling when they love it.
When something awesome happens in your career how do you celebrate – with food, fun, or flowers? (details please! 😉
KLV: I write another book. LOL! Seriously, I don’t really celebrate. No flowers or anything like that. I look at every achievement as a bestseller a motivation to do the same thing again and again – celebrations are short lived. It’s the product you produce that matters and that’s what I focus on – a consistently quality product at a reasonable price.
Tell us why you write historical romance specifically Medieval. And you also write contemporary adventure? Tell us about that.
KLV: Early in my career, I was big on writing contemporary adventure. Clive Cussler is one of my favorite authors and I really wanted to write what he wrote, so a lot of my earlier works are modern adventures. I wrote an entire series about a female Navy S.E.A.L. back in the ’80s before it became popular to write Military Romance. It was written long-hand on spiral notebooks, which I just recently had my assistant type up, so we may see them published yet. But in the early ’90s, I read a book called THE FALCON AND THE FLOWER by Virginia Henley, and that changed the course of my life. After reading that book, I felt such a connection with Medieval England that I began to read everything I could on it. Then, I started writing in the genre. I don’t consider myself an ‘expert’ on Medieval England, but simply a student of the era. It’s difficult to explain my love for the period but I think the best way to explain it is to say that I’m fascinated with the post-conquest era because it’s a period in Man’s history where he was just coming out of the darkness and trying to find his way into the light. So much growth as civilization became more refined. The period was raw and rugged and brutal, so it’s a testament of Mankind’s strength. It was either do or die. And I find that inspiring.
Promotion is an important part of every author’s work routine. What do authors need to do – hands down – to promote their books?
KLV: An understanding of the market. You can’t just write a book and ‘hope’ people buy it. Understand your market. Understand your genre. Reach out to people (like me) who have learned something about it. Most people in this business are extremely helpful and willing to impart their knowledge on a newbie. Start with websites like Kindle Nation Daily to advertise and reach out to other authors to see where they’ve advertised. It’s all about advertising AND word of mouth in this business. Also, there are several books out from Indie published writers on how they do things – single out some top sellers and see if they’ve written a book about it. But most of all – and this is key – understand how to WRITE. Learn how to craft a book and understand the English language. You can be the best promoter in the world but if you produce a mediocre product, you won’t get very far with readers.
You’re an indie author – independently published author. How did that come about?
KLV: It’s come about from twenty-five years of rejections. I wasn’t going to let that stop me. It’s taken a long time, but the market and technology was at the right place and right time for me to go Indie. I have a very specific style of writing (romance with heavy male POV) that traditional publishers don’t necessarily embrace, so honestly, the only way for me to publish is to go Indie and I’ve been fortunate enough to be very successful at it, which tells me that traditional publishers don’t always know what readers like. I’m a perfect example of that. Had I not Indie published, and had I listened to the traditional publishers, I would not be where I am today. Therefore, even if you’ve been rejected by publishers, don’t let it stop you. It didn’t stop me!
You’re a prolific author. You’ve published more than 50 books since 2012, and 37 of them have hit #1 in the Medieval Romance Category on amazon. That’s a big WOW! How does your typical day work?
KLV: Here’s actually the breakdown on what I’ve published to date because I need to update my numbers – 57 published novels (individual) and 16 collections (either bundles of my own novels or bundles with other authors). I will publish my 58th novel (SWORDS AND SHIELDS) on November 6. My day usually starts about 7 am where I go through emails and conduct other business for a couple of hours before jumping into writing. I usually do between 3k to 8k a day (depending on how strongly the muse is singing), and I don’t stop until about 7 or 8 at night. That’s when I’m on a deadline. When I’m in between books (I usually take about a week off in between), then it’s revising covers, working with my editor, doing administrative stuff, and things like that. I have two assistants and one editor who work for me but there still aren’t enough hours in the day! Ah, to clone myself!
What are some pros and cons to being an indie author?
KLV: The only con I see is the lack of a big publishing marketing and PR machine behind you. That means it’s up to the author to really get out there and sell themselves, which can be extremely time consuming. Hiring marketing and PR companies can be extremely expensive. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to even start (refer back to the answer on the promotion question). Other than that, being an Indie author, if you manage your business correctly and smartly, is the best job in the world because the control is yours, the creativity is yours, and the revenue is yours.
Not every book can be a bestseller. Heck, some only sell a handful of copies – tell us about one book (or author) that you’ve read recently that is a true gem waiting to be discovered.
What is the coolest/nicest thing someone in this industry has done for you or said to you?
KLV: It’s so hard to pick one particular incident and I’ll tell you why – this business is full of generous authors who are more than willing to help you. I have had countless kindnesses given to me by fellow authors that are too numerous to name. I wouldn’t even want to try because my heart is so full of gratitude for these people who have done it selflessly and without the need for recognition. If I could single one person out, however, it would be NYT and USA Today bestselling author Tanya Anne Crosby, who has been my mentor through this process. Her wisdom and generosity is unparalleled.
And my readers – oh my gosh! – I have been blessed with some of the greatest readers ever. Their enthusiasm and support are what keep me going. I tell them this all of the time – without them, there would be no me, so I am deeply grateful for each and every one of them. But I will single out one lady who is just enamored with my novels, so much so that she knitted a knight’s helm and visor and sent it to me. She really did. I made my son model it and it was amazing. I treasure it. Or the couple that always drive to my book signings – they’re just wonderful.
Tell us about your latest release. And what do you have coming down the road?
KLV: My next release is called SWORDS AND SHIELDS, available now on pre order at Amazon (Release date Nov. 6, 2015). It’s a novel about a reluctant bride and reluctant groom who end up not being able to live without each other and face some pretty serious tribulations during Edward I’s wars in Scotland. After that, I have one more release for 2015, DARK DESTROYER (Release date Dec. 24, 2015) about a legendary warrior and rake who meets his match in love. and then I’m into 2016 where I already have 9 novels scheduled. I am scheduled out until 2020, which is normal for me. I have so many books to write – because that’s just the way my brain works – that I have to plan out at least four or five years in advance. In that sense, I’m very organized. With so much material, I have to be. My website contains lots of information about this at www.kathrynleveque.com.
If you could meet a hero and heroine from one of your books – who would they be and why?
KLV: What’s weird (or maybe not so weird) is that I already ‘know’ these people. I have created them, every single one of the, so I know everything about them. I can have conversations with them because I know exactly what they would say. But if I could meet one, it would be Matthew Wellesbourne from THE WHITE LORD OF WELLESBOURNE. He’s my favorite – a man of uncommon compassion and humor. What’s not to love?
BONUS: Tell us about one of your “guilty pleasures” that is just for you to indulge in.
KLV: I am a massage girl! I would get five hour massages if I could, every single day!
Halloween. All Hallow’s Eve. Eve of All Saints. Samhain.
All these names for one night, but it’s the last one which touches me most. Sow-wen. Its Celtic origins mark it as the original name for what we’ve come to call Halloween. For me, the name conjures images of Priestesses and their Woodsmen consorts, dancing with abandon between twin bonfires. Additional fires burn throughout the hillsides for protection and to light the darkness. The harvest is over and another cycle is complete. The Celtic New Year has begun and the Crone begins her transformational journey toward the Spring Maiden.
When I first started researching my historical/paranormal/romance novel, PAGAN FIRE, I dove headfirst into ancient Celtic ceremony and traditions. The lure of ritual touched me at a cellular level and I knew I had been there with those women of long ago. This knowledge drew me to apprentice – and later create – my own priestess circles where I invite women to reconnect to the time when our bodies were in tune with the turning of the seasons.
The Autumnal Equinox passes and Samhain looms. The Wise Woman turns inward.
The underworld beckons.
The Goddesses of Shadow extend their thin, bony hands and invite us to enter their realm . . . Inanna, Hecate, Persephone, Nephthys . . . it matters not what you name her, these are all faces of the same energy. Collectively, they call us to die to old ways of living that we might be reborn at the Vernal Equinox. Shiny. Pink. New. Ready to live again with knowledge accrued from the inner reflection of our own wintry death.
These Goddesses teach us that dying is not the end, it’s simply a turning of the page on this earthly journey. Samhain marks this time as a night where the veil is the thinnest between this world and the next. It’s the place of ‘in-between’ when we might touch those who have crossed the bridge before us.
Samhain ritual inspires us to pay our respects to the dead. Place apples or other fruit near the front door for them. Light a fire that they may better see their path (or place carved and lit pumpkins in your window, though turnips were the original option!). Visit a graveyard, sit amongst the headstones, and keep the spirits company. Hold a Dumb Dinner in remembrance of your ancestors. Dumb meaning you don’t speak during the meal as a way of honoring the dead (this works out wonderfully as a pitch-in to include friends and family).
Or, simply sit quietly and reflect on those who went before you. Send them love and light on their journey. You might also ask them for messages, but be sure to light candles and surround yourself with a circle of salt first. While the point of all this is to honor and appreciate the dead, a little protection never hurts when inviting spirits into your world.
Jersey “The Brawler” Romero is dying. Slowly. Tediously. Not the way he thought he would go out on the savage streets of Glory, the Twilight City. But all of that is about to change when Jersey is granted his youth again by a messenger of the Twilight Goddess, the Spirit of Glory. He’s also given a mission: save Glory from the dark forces that are bent on destroying her.
Jersey’s been a fighter his whole life, whether it was on the streets where he struggled to survive, or in prison where he fought to stay alive. Glory never gave him anything without a battle, and that’s what he’s always loved about his beloved city. But nothing has prepared him for the war that’s coming. Monster-like creatures masked as humans are bent on exterminating him. Their leader is a mysterious man named Templar. He’s been amassing an underground army called The Black Crux. Templar wants to make Glory his, by laying waste to everyone who stands in his way. Possessing an almost otherworldly vision, Templar knows everything about Jersey, including an explosive secret that will blast away everything Jersey has ever believed.
But Jersey isn’t called “The Brawler” for nothing. He’s determined to fight Templar with everything he’s got. Because he’s not just fighting for his life, he’s fighting for Glory’s very soul.
READ AN EXCERPT:
We’re standing on the roof of Skript and Abigail hasn’t said a word in five minutes. She dragged me up here with such urgency, I figured the show would have started by now.
Sitting down in a damp lawn chair, I wait. Patience and I have nothing to say to each other, but Abigail has me intrigued so I let her have all the time she needs. It’s not easy opening up doors that have been locked for so long, especially to strangers. If that’s what we still were. Maybe strange acquaintance is a better term.
The view from the rooftop is actually quite beautiful. Rarely can the word beauty describe Glory. What little good happens to someone here, happens at the expense of someone else’s pain. Surprisingly, the night is peaceful. It’s never peaceful in Glory, so there’s obviously something off, but I don’t have the time nor the inclination to worry about it at the moment. It’s just the cone of silence. The calm before the storm. Strangely, I’m the calm. Abigail is the surging storm.
My eyes fall from the billions of firefly buildings to a sight more pleasing. Abigail stands looking up at the moon. It’s a waxing half-moon, but there’s still enough light for decent visibility. I watch her take off her leather jacket and pull off the gloves and drop them at her feet. Before my eyes, strange symbols begin to appear on her forearms and hands. The spaghetti strap top she’s wearing leaves much of her neck visible where more symbols begin to shimmer. Spiral patterns. They resemble some sort of tribal ink, but they begin to glow like lanterns in the dark. It’s an eerie, beautiful blue light. Cerulean, turquoise, and sapphire.
I stand up and move closer as Abigail turns around. I can see her face now. The incandescent markings have spiraled up her cheeks, climbing like staircases up to her eyes. Both her eyes shimmer inhumanly, one golden amber, the other a pool of twinkling emerald. Her breathing is erratic, she shakes, like she’s frightened I’m going to run away or grimace at the sight of her.
“Th-this . . . is me.” She stutters. “What . . . what I was talking about.”
Before I know it, she’s reaching for her jacket to cover herself. I spring forward and stop her, grasping her firmly by the shoulders. She looks up at me like she’s a monster that should be cowering in darkness. She won’t look at me. I can’t help but wonder who ever looked at her and cringed. Who made her feel so malformed? It’s perfectly clear to me she’s not the abomination she considers herself to be. She’s the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. It’s not every day a street devil like me gets to behold a shimmering angel.
I move my hands to her cheeks, rubbing my thumbs over the glittering markings. There’s no textural difference. Her skin is as soft as cashmere. Her radiance is overwhelming. Her glow envelops me.
In our ongoing series THE BOOK THAT HOOKED YOU at the Lachesis Publishing Daily Blog we feature Q and As with established and successful authors who tell us about the books and authors they love as well as telling us about the books they are working on.
Today’s Q and A features Joe McKinney, the multi-talented and a Bram Stoker Award winning author (multiple times) of horror fiction, science fiction and crime thrillers. Joe McKinney is based in San Antonio where he is a sergeant for the San Antonio Police Department where he helps to run their 911 Dispatch Center. He has been a homicide detective and a disaster mitigation specialist.
Take us back to when you first discovered horror and science fiction. When did you become a reader? How old were you? What were some of the books that made an impact on you?
JM: My gateway drug was Stewart Cowley’s SPACEWRECK. An absolutely beautiful book. Every page featured a full size colored painting of some eerie, abandoned spaceship. There was a two or three page short story to go with each painting, and I would spend hours going through them. I must have read that book a thousand times. I think I was seven when I first found that book, and after that I went into Robert Heinlein’s juveniles. My favorite of those was SPACE CADET.
Tell us about a few of the authors who inspired you, when you first started in your own writing career?
JM: One big inspiration was Lee Thomas. We met at a convention in Dallas shortly after I published my first novel, and we’ve been friends ever since. Lee has been through just about joy and nightmare the publishing world can throw at an author, and he was a tremendous mentor. As to authors who inspired me, I’d have to point to Robert McCammon. His early works were amazing takes on classic horror tropes, like vampires and zombies and werewolves. But after that, he went into these fantastically lush novels like Boy’s Life and Swan Song that set the bar impossibly high. When I write, I push myself to try to be that good.
You write horror, science fiction, and crime novels. Tell us what draws you to those three genres?
JM: You know, I think the genre finds you and not the other way around. It’s like water finding its own level. You end up in horror because you have to be there. I’m a pretty upbeat guy most of the time, and I try to have a great deal of fun in everything I do, but when I write, it just ends up going to dark places. I wish I could give you a better answer than that, but that’s about the size of it.
You’re a police supervisor in your “day job”. How does your very challenging police work impact your writing?
JM: Well, police work has colored my entire writing career. Not only because a lot of my characters tend to be cops, but also my approach to characters. In fact, I think it’s impossible to underestimate the influence it’s had on my writing. You can’t do this job without it changing you in a fundamental way. Maybe that’s where the dark stuff comes from.
Tell us about a book that you’ve read recently (past year) that blew you away (can be from any genre).
JM: That’s easy. 14 by Peter Clines was an amazing science fiction adventure story with a crazy Lovecraftian turn at the end. A young man is looking for a cheap apartment in the heart of LA. He finds one, but after he moves in, finds one odd quark of the building after another. Any one of them wouldn’t amount to much, but when taken in their totality, they add up to a mystery with shades of a government conspiracy and cosmic horror. Trust me, one of the best times I’ve ever had between the covers of a book. I also loved The Martian by Andy Weir and Ready Player One by Earnest Cline.
What is the coolest thing a reader has ever said (or done) for you?
JM: I once wrote a magic typewriter story called “Writing for Exposure.” A fan of mine enjoyed it so much he found a 1939 Underwood typewriter, completely restored it, and sent it to me as a gift. It has a special place of honor on the shelf in my office.
You’ve won the Bram Stoker Award twice now – tell us about your books that won and how you feel about being on that illustrious list?
The first time I won was for my novel Flesh Eaters. That’s the origin story for my zombie series, The Dead World. You can probably tell from what I’ve written above that I’m a huge Robert McCammon fan. Well, he was one of the presenters for the award, and when I went up to the stage to receive it, McCammon leaned in and whispered, “Great job, Joe. I love your book.” I nearly fainted right there. To this day, that remains one of my finest writing moments ever.
Tell us about your latest release THE DEAD WON’T DIE (part of an ongoing series) Tell us about the book and the series.
JM: The Dead Won’t Die is Book 2 in my new zombie series, The Deadlands. It’s been thirty years since the zombie apocalypse, and only little pockets of humanity have survived. One of those communities is a place called Arbella. Arbella has not only survived, but thrived, and now they are getting so big they need to expand. The trouble is, nobody knows what’s out there. So, one of the up and coming members of the community, First Deputy of the Constabulary Jacob Carlton, organizes an expedition to go explore the Deadlands. In the first book Jacob and his friend Kelly Banis barely survive their encounter with the nomadic communities that wander the Deadlands. They are rescued by a super advanced society called Temple. The Dead Won’t Die takes us into a vast conspiracy that is threatening to destroy Temple from the inside out. Fun stuff, with tons of zombie action thrown in to boot.
What are you currently working on and when can we expect it to be released?
JM: I’m currently finishing up Book 3 in a series that I’m writing with Craig DiLouie and Stephen Knight. My installment is called Die Laughing. The series takes place in the present day, along the Eastern seaboard. A new disease called The Bug appears on the scene, and it turns its victims into unspeakably cruel and viscous killers. The disease victims are called Klowns because they cannot control their laughter. It’s how they process pain, both their own and their victims. A battalion of light infantry is in Boston when the series starts, tasked with protecting the populace. But they never had a chance, and now they are in full retreat. The first book was about getting out of Boston. The second book was about the rolling gunfight that got them to Philadelphia. That’s where I pick it up.
You’re a writer of horror and crime and sci-fi. What truly scares you?
JM: Well, snakes and heights. But those are just things that give me the creeps. When I think about things that truly terrify me, I think about Alzheimer’s disease. I watched my grandfather die of that, seeing his mind taken from him just scared me to death. Now that I’m older, the fear is even stronger.
Bonus: What is your “go-to” snack when you’re writing?
JM: Popcorn. Definitely popcorn.
Joe McKinney is the San Antonio-based author of several horror, crime and science fiction novels. His longer works include the four part Dead World series, made up of Dead City, Apocalypse of the Dead, Flesh Eaters and The Zombie King; the science fiction disaster tale, Quarantined, which was nominated for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in a novel, 2009; and the crime novel, Dodging Bullets. His upcoming releases include the horror novels Lost Girl of the Lake, The Red Empire, The Charge and St. Rage. Joe has also worked as an editor, along with Michelle McCrary, on the zombie-themed anthology Dead Set, and with Mark Onspaugh on the abandoned building-themed anthology The Forsaken. His short stories and novellas have been published in more than thirty publications and anthologies.
Witch meant “wise woman” to our Pagan ancestors, as it does to me. I cannot think of any more appropriate term.
Laurie Cabot (the official witch of Salem, MA) warned, “Do not teach this craft to fools.” I don’t think I hear that quite enough. There is great power, thus great responsibility, at our wand-tips. Those who are governed by knee-jerk reactions or vindictiveness have no business wielding magic as a weapon. For those who fear modern day Wicca, know that the number one fundamental lesson we are taught is “Harm none.” The next item on the Witchcraft 101 lesson plan is the rule of three. If you send out any black magic, it will backfire on the sender three times.
A craft is something creative. It’s also something we practice. Authors create and practice their craft each time they write a story. Wiccans may draw a magic circle and put an intention out to the universe as part of practicing their craft. Because I wish to be a wise-woman, I never told a certain ex-friend that I was involved with the craft. She had a hair trigger temper and revenge was something she thought was good to get. Right after Hollywood released, “The Craft” she asked me if I knew where she could learn witchcraft. I told her she should probably realize that Hollywood wasn’t real. I went on to mention that Witches today were more like a bunch of earthy, peace-loving hippies. She quickly lost interest.
My latest series, Love Spells Gone Wrong is about a coven of good witches that goof! Hey, we all make mistakes, right? How did I get the idea for this series? Well, it happened to someone who asked for my help. (By the way, other than sending healing white light, witches can’t perform magic for another person without their specific request.)
So, my male friend asked for a date for New Year’s Eve. I felt he was a tough case, because he wasn’t exactly good looking (putting it mildly.) I supercharged my spell, using red (passion) instead of pink (romantic love.) My mistake! On January first he called me and demanded, “What did you do?”
Uh oh. “Why? What happened,” I asked, innocently.
He shouted, “I was practically date-raped last night.”
Yikes! As it turned out, he bumped into an old girlfriend who was obsessed with him. Coincidence? People who don’t believe in magic would say ‘yes.’ People who do believe in magic would tsk-tsk and tell him to find another witch.
Now, I have to confess, I’m a lazy Wiccan. I haven’t practiced in years and no one has asked for my help recently. (Thank goodness.) I don’t do spells for myself anymore, because my life is almost perfect, and I don’t want to mess it up!
But nothing is wasted on a writer! I’m able to use what I know to craft a believable story. And maybe that’s all I should do!
Phaedra Michaels is a small town psychologist who is beginning to lose hope. Two of her patients at the local hospital in Dismal, Alabama have just killed themselves, she’s still reeling from her divorce and what turned out to be a disastrous marriage, and her father has died, leaving her without any notion of who her real mother is.
Just as Phaedra decides to commit herself to a serious drinking problem and an eating disorder, or two, a mysterious spell book arrives in the mail. Feeling desperate, Phaedra uses it to cast spells to save her fading patients. Suddenly, good things start happening. Phaedra’s patients begin to get better and she even starts dating the sexy doctor from the hospital.
Phaedra is so happy she doesn’t notice the small things that start to go wrong in Dismal, or the dark creatures slithering out of the shadows near her house. When Phaedra finally realizes her spells have attracted every card-carrying demon from hell, she has no choice but to accept help from a slightly nerdy, 500 year-old warlock with a penchant for wearing super hero T-shirts and a knack for getting under Phaedra’s skin. Now, if only she could get the hang of this witch thing, she might be able to save her town.
I carefully pulled the twine and the brown paper fell off. Beneath the paper was a large, leather bound book. It looked like an old journal or recipe book. It was tied together with a red ribbon and the ribbon held numerous pieces of paper. I ran my hands over the smooth leather and read the title of the book. It simply said Spells.
I laughed and pulled the red ribbon that held the book together. The book fell open. Inside, it was like a recipe book a mother would pass on to a daughter. There were old typed pages with handwritten notes in the margins. There were pages added with handwritten spells on them and drawings.
“What the hell?” I said as I leafed through the old book. There were potions and summoning spells and candle spells. In-between pages, there were pressed flowers and herbs and some of the pages were stained with old candle wax.
I set the book down and went into the kitchen and opened the fridge. At least the kitchen was done. It looked like any other modern kitchen. It had granite counter tops and marble floors. I’d spared no expense making it look like something that belonged in an old southern mansion. I wanted the house to be perfect and I had Johnny Boy’s money to help me achieve that dream. The lights flickered when I entered. I would have to talk to Lawson about that in the morning. I took a beer out of the fridge and opened it. I had a sip and grabbed a roll of cookie dough. Armed with the cookie dough and beer, I returned to the book. It had fallen off the counter, to the floor, and was opened to a page. I laughed again. The page it had opened to was love spells. That was just what I needed.
I sat down and ate and drank and leafed through the book. I stopped at a page with an interesting picture on it. The spell was an awakening spell. It awakened you to the supernatural world. I hesitated and looked at the script around it.
Something fell upstairs and the lights went out. I fumbled around and found the nearest flashlight and switched it on just as the lights flickered back on.
“Lawson, you asshole,” I said as I turned the flashlight off. “The wiring is done in the parlor, my ass.”
A sudden wave of fatigue washed over me and I picked up my mess and carted my sorry butt upstairs. I climbed into bed with my flashlight. I still had the book of spells. It had been so long since someone had given me something that I had forgotten what it felt like. I knew the book was more than weird. It bordered on creepy. A normal woman would probably burn the damn thing, but I wasn’t a normal woman. I was a lonely divorcée living in a house known to be haunted, but I loved it the way most people love their pets. I was the daughter of a man who had made it clear that he loathed me, with a step-mother who’d bought me toilet paper for Christmas. The creepy book was wonderful to me. It meant that someone out there, even if they were a freak, cared about me, and freak love was better than no love at all.
Everyone knows the expression ‘things that go bump in the night’. Things go bump 24-7-365 in my house.
In the early 1960s, my father bought an old carriage house (horse and buggy and later cars) two blocks from where we lived in a house with apartments. He kept the framework of the carriage house and built a whole house from it. I was 12 when we moved, and the house was like a palace. Two floors, 2 bathrooms, attic, cellar. But whenever I was home alone, I felt like I was being watched, and walking in the attic made me uneasy.
Decades passed. Lots of decades passed. My sister and my brother (both older) left home, and finally I left home too. My mom and dad still lived in the house with the 3rd family dog we’d had. Dusty was an overweight, hermaphrodite mini-schnauzer.
My mom passed in 1999. One summer day, I stopped by to visit my dad. Dusty was on the enclosed back porch so I sat on the couch out there and patted him. My dad was upstairs and called out to see who it was. I answered that it was me. I never left the porch. My dad walked downstairs and, passing the first floor bathroom, asked if I had shut the bathroom door. I said no. He was irritated because he wanted the door open and insisted I had closed it. When I went home, I thought about it and realized that my mom always wanted that door closed. I knew then that my mom was still there. I called my sister and said, “Ma is still in the house.” My sister said, “I know.” Apparently something similar had happened to her. We were convinced my mom was still there. As time went on, other little things started to happen.
A few years later, Dusty the dog passed. (Guess who got stuck taking him to be put down. It was one of the saddest days of my life). When I visited my father, I pulled into the driveway and got out of the car. I heard Dusty barking. He sounded as if he was a distance away, but I knew it was him.
Then my father (by that time was in his late 80s) became ill. We needed 24 hour care. The overnight woman didn’t know my mother was still a presence in the house. She saw my mom walking down the stairs and then vanish. She didn’t tell us for a long time because she didn’t want us to think she was doing drugs.
My father finally passed. The house was empty except for the furniture and other stuff everyone had dumped there: my mom’s clothes, my dad’s things, my sister’s and brother’s extra free storage. Since I was getting the house, I had to clean it.
I didn’t move in right away because I wanted it painted. I also had the kitchen renovated. So the house was empty for quite some time.
That’s when things really started to go bump 24-7-365. There were the usual things: footsteps overhead as well as the pitter-patter of little dog’s feet. Yes, Dusty the dog was still there. Doors opened and closed on their own, lights on were that shouldn’t be on, sometimes voices.
I needed to put extra locks on the attic door, the cellar door, doorstops for bedroom doors upstairs. I had cats and didn’t want them to get stuck in a room.
One summer day, I stopped by with a friend. When I unlocked the front door and stepped inside, I called jokingly, “Hello!” From upstairs a voice called, “Hello!” I looked at my friend who said, “That’s your father’s voice.” I thought “Oh, crap, my father’s here too.”
Four or five ghost hunters groups came through. All the psychics who walked upstairs to the attic asked me who the little boy was. (I was being watched when I was 12). Jeremiah, the little boy, died in the carriage house decades earlier and was waiting for his sister (who had most likely died decades earlier). Jeremiah and my mom like to play pranks on me. I’ve heard the sound of a little boy running and a dog running with him.
It would take me a week to write out all the incidents that have happened. For example: The man who installed my new furnace told me I had a ghost in the house.
I’ll leave you with this. I recently called my sister and said, “If you die, don’t come here. There’s no room.”
Patricia Grasso is the author of eighteen historical romances including the Douglas Series which follows the love stories of the amazing Douglas sisters (Angelica, Samantha and Victoria) in Regency London and the Lords of Stratford Series, Regency historical romances with a fairy-tale twist about the aristocratic families in Stratford-on-Avon.