If you’ve never read any of my books you might not know that I love to write about spirits, ghosts, witches and the like. Over the years I’ve developed a growing curiosity about the paranormal world. I’ve filled my personal library with books on everyday spells and rituals and located several websites where I’ve come in contact with some intriguing folks. Most recently I’ve become enamored with the use of crystals and natural healing remedies as a means of tapping into our earth’s truly magical gifts. I find it all quite fascinating.
So it makes sense that I’d use some of this new found knowledge to create a mystical world of my own by writing my first series The Witches Of New Moon Beach. At least it makes sense to me, although my father (if he were still alive) would surely call me a “kook”!
Thankfully, my husband has patiently supported my interests and helped me to seek out curious sites, stores and book shops to aid in my research. And my children have done their part by alerting me to unusual stories, websites and people they’ve come in contact with.
For Christmas, my daughter jumped right into my kookiness by giving me The Ghost Tour on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California where we went this past weekend.
We were both so nervous and excited and arrived on the ship at 10:45 p.m. ready to hunt for spirits. What we didn’t know was that the guide planned on extending this evening’s event until 3:00 in the morning… a little more time in the bowels of a supposedly haunted ship than either of us were prepared for.
After lengthy instructions from our supernaturally sensitive spirit hunter – aka our guide, we set our cell phones to record and wandered the engine room; stopping occasionally to pose a question or two to any waiting spirits. Sitting in cold metal steps in the dark we asked repeatedly for any sign of spiritual existence.
Sad to say, if there were ghosts aboard, they must have been traveling in a different part of the ship. Or maybe they just weren’t very talkative that night.
By 1:15 a.m. my daughter and I were both beat and opted out of the rest of the tour. Armed with recorders, movement sensors, a compass and other data collecting devices the rest of our troop happily continued on with their supernatural investigation while we jumped in our Uber and jaunted home. I understand that we missed the best part – the haunted pool area. Oh well.
You might wonder if I thought the trip was a bust because we didn’t run into any visitors from the other side?
No way. Absolutely not. I learned a lot about collecting paranormal data, the inner workings of the Queen Mary Ship and how much people really do want to engage with the spirit world. Would I do it again? Maybe.
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you – when I got up the next morning I hid out in my bedroom where listened intently to my cell phone recording of the evening before. Was that a spirit I heard softly whispering and who was that giggling in the background? Was the tapping I heard a natural mechanical sound emanating from old pipes or was it a spirit attempting to communicate with me?
I guess I’ll never know for sure, but I can tell you that no spirits followed us home and I did get some great ideas to add to my next book.
Next research investigation? The castles of Scotland.
Mrs. Gabaldon’s bird feeder was ravaged again last night.
When you live in a rural area a neighbor’s angst can quickly be made your angst. This act of vandalism is the signal for me to bolt before everyone for a mile around is, once again, grilled for an alibi — it’s off to the library for me.
I wonder among the shelves, picking a book at random to see if it’s the one. We all have our ways of making that decision. I start with the title; it tells me something about the story and reflects on the author’s style and mindset. Of course I look at the cover, but that’s often more a statement from the publisher so I don’t give it too much weight (which is why I love Indie covers; those reflect the author). Quick read of the blurbs and then always, always, I read the opening. That seals the deal.
The brash hook is a raucous opener: She was ten years old, but knew enough to wipe clean the handle of the bloody kitchen knife. Whoa! I’m in, Annie Hauxwell! An opening like that is so bold, so intriguing I had to learn more, I had to know what happened. I completely enjoyed A Bitter Taste.
That’s one way to grab a reader but I love it when an opening sets the tone of the story and tells me something about the characters. My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. I read that and love the autobiographical voice; it is filled with innocence and a gentle wisdom I know will tell me a tale of sorrow, and maybe redemption. Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones is unforgettable.
An opening can also bring the reader immediately into the genre and instantly set up expectations. It was a bright day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen. With just thirteen words (!) George Orwell has let me know that this is not the normal, comfortable world. There is something ominous about clocks plural, and of course clocks don’t strike thirteen —accept in the world of 1984. Who can pass on an opening like that?
Opening lines can make a book irresistible—after all, that’s what it’s about. There are no rules for openings except, of course, to make them well constructed sentences. Ask yourself what you want to reflect about the book and construct the opening around that. Make it a promise of the richness to come; make the reader unable to resist learning what happens.
BTW, as I turned onto my road, bulging book bag beside me, I could see the Cullison twins tidying up Mrs. Gabaldon’s bird feeder. They worked diligently under the watchful eyes of their mother and the stern direction of the lady herself. Phew, mystery solved, angst averted. I’m pretty sure I’ll get the details tonight and I’ll learn what happened.
With a BA in Anthropology and English I pursued a career in advertising and writing and segued into developmental editing. It was a great choice for me. I love the process of creating and am privileged to be part of that process for so many great voices — voices both seasoned and new.
I’ve worked on nearly 400 books over 20 years, books by noted authors published by New York houses including Penguin, Kensington, Pentacle and Zebra as well as with Indie bestsellers and Amazon dynamos. From Air Force manuals and marketing materials to memoirs, thrillers, sci fi and romance, my services range from copyediting to developmental coaching.
Having worked in advertising and marketing, I am always cognizant of the marketplace in which the author’s work will be seen. I coach for content and style with that knowledge in mind in order to maximize sales and/or educational potential. My objective is to help the author’s material stand out from an ever more crowded and competitive field.
Sweet, Funny and Strange Tales of the Paranormal
Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2018 Short Story Award is accepting entries. Send us your stories about wizards, clairvoyants, other-worldly creatures, vampires, werewolves, telekenetics, hosts, goblins, witches, mediums, poltergeists, the supernatural, and other unexplainable experiences.