Category Archives: Ghosts

Pictorials, Paper Dolls and Old Magazines

We went to Arizona to visit family over Christmas vacation. It was our first trip there ever and one of the highlights (among many) for me, was our visit to Tombstone, the town that didn’t die. I walked the streets of history that I’d only seen in books — pictorial histories, which I discovered years ago when I wasn’t writing, hadn’t been published, hadn’t a thought I ever would be published.

Pictorial histories put me in the picture. I didn’t have to have lived in that time and place to describe what I saw in those old photographs, I was writing westerns initially — five of my first nine books (I know — who would have thought) — so I relied heavily on pictorial histories (Before Barbed Wire is a good one) to describe how it was from those taken-at-the-time photographs.

I love them, don’t you?

When I veered into the Victorian era, I found troves of photographic histories on everything from harems to Sherlock Holmes’s London. I also loved the reproduction editions of the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogues from the 1890s. Especially the house kits. I love floor plans.

And for clothes — I bet most of us have the Dover paper doll editions as well as their photographic histories of fashion. But at some point, it occurred to me that there might be a wealth of other kinds of paper dolls on-line : fictional characters, movie stars (from the thirties and forties), teenagers from the fifties, along with accurate depictions of the fashions of the times.

And then — old magazines. I found about a half dozen copies of Ladies Home Journal from the 1920’s in a basement we were clearing out. I pored over them for years. I added to that collection when I realized I could find more magazines from the 20s on-line — from any era, really. Is there anything more immediate than reading a woman’s magazine of the day? The articles, the advertisements, the fashions, the advice — personal and decorating … how different, how the same …

I haven’t succumbed to one of those “build your own” western towns or southern plantations. Yet. (I’m very tempted by the plantation, though.) I do have a Victorian house pop-up book that came complete with its own punch-out family. And lots of furniture. I haven’t set it up. Yet. I just like looking at it and imagining what’s happening there. You know — family secrets, secret panels, something the family album, ghosts on the staircase, eerie dreams, hovering fog, blanketing snow, a haunted attic …

Of course, a lot of this is available on-line. Call me old school. I like holding a book.

And of course, before we left Tombstone — I took loads of pictures. I don’t know if I’m ever going to write another western, but you never know: I do have a couple of ideas.. So — do I even need to say? — I bought all the pictorial histories I could find as well.
Do you love paper dolls, pictorial histories and old magazines? Do you ever use them? Do you have a secret source you’d like to tell?

My Secret, just between you and me: there are Downton Abbey paper dolls on-line.

Thea Devine is currently working on her next erotic contemporary romance — and readying those original backlist westerns for eBook release.

Deborah Malone Shares About Her Christian Cozy Mystery

Cozy Mystery author, Deborah Malone is visiting the Scribes today. Debbie has worked as a freelance writer and photographer, since 2001, for the historical magazine “Georgia Backroads.” She has had many articles and photographs published during this time. Her writing is featured in “Tales of the Rails” edited by Olin Jackson. She has also had a showing of her photographs at Floyd Medical Center Art Gallery as well as winning several awards. Her debut cozy mystery “Death in Dahlonega”, was a winner in the ACFW Category Five Writer’s Contest. Today she is here to tell us about her next in the Trixie Montgomery series, “Murder in Marietta.”

Murder in Marietta follows historical magazine writer Trixie Montgomery on her latest assignment that can make or break her new career. The Marietta History Museum’s resident ghosts are stirring up trouble in historic downtown Marietta, Georgia. Trixie begs her best friend to come along.  Their plans to research the spooky sightings vanish into thin air when a dead body is discovered in the museum. The director of the museum and her boss’ friend, Doc Pennington, shoots to the top of the suspect list when his fingerprints are the only ones found on the murder weapon, a civil war rifle. Unwilling to risk losing her boss’s faith in her journalistic abilities, Trixie and Dee Dee offer to help sniff out the real culprit only to wind up in hot water when they are kidnapped by the real killers. Will they be rescued in time? 

Welcome, Debbie, can you give us a sneak peek at your new release “Murder in Marietta?”

Thank you for having me today, and I sure can! Trixie and Dee Dee head off to Marietta, Georgia for another assignment. They visit the Marietta History Museum where they spend the night to see if they can sight the resident ghosts. Sometime during the night a murder takes place in the museum and the director, Doc Pennington, is put on the suspect list. He asks Trixie and Dee Dee to help him find the real killer. Nana takes a larger role in this book and she won’t disappoint you with her antics.  All of this together makes a recipe for murder and mayhem.

Sounds like fun! What inspired this book?

 I’ve always loved to read so I think it was natural that I’d transition into writing. Mysteries have been my genre of choice since I was a young girl and loved to read Nancy Drew.  Cozy mysteries are one of my favorites and Ann George has been a big influence on my writing. As for writing Christian Fiction – Margaret Daley’s books were a big influence.

How did you know you were called to write?

I’ve always wanted to write, but while I was writing my manuscript I wrote it as a secular book. While I was writing it I was thinking I’d like to write it in a manner that wouldn’t be offensive to Christians. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as “Christian fiction.” I had finished the manuscript when I read one of Margaret Daley’s books and went to her website where I ‘discovered’ Christian fiction. I couldn’t get enough. I joined ACFW and began to study how other writers wrote their books. I went back and rewrote my manuscript as Christian fiction.

Are you a panster or do you outline?

I’m definitely a panster. I have a general outline on how I want the manuscript to progress, but that’s it. Then I might do a general outline for each chapter, but none of it is done in detail. Now after I’ve written a chapter I will go in Microsoft One Note and detail the chapter so I can keep up with my characters, timeline, setting, etc.

 How long have you been writing?

I started writing seriously in 2001 when I started writing for “Georgia Backroads” a historical magazine. I am still writing for them. I started on my book in 2002, but life got in the way and so I came back to it around 2009/10.

Tell us something silly about you.

My friends and family could probably answer this better than me. The one thing I can think about is that I love to sing – but I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. So I sing in the car with the windows rolled up and the radio/CD’s going to cover up my singing.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

There aren’t any deep messages in “Murder in Marietta, but there is a theme of forgiveness and faith. For the most part I hope I make someone laugh and take them away from the stresses of real life for just a while. I want them to have some laugh out loud moments.

What other projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on the third book in the Trixie Montgomery series. Trixie and Dee Dee along with Nana and Trixie’s mama Betty Jo have gone to Savannah/Tybee Island, Georgia for a vacation. Of course they are going to have to help someone find a killer.

What has been your most challenging experience writing a book?

I don’t think I can list just one. Learning the craft/rules of writing was a big curve for me. Then there is the editing. Then there is submitting to publishers. And then when you are finally published you think you are home free – not! Then there is the marketing. It seems there are always new challenges to learn in writing and publishing a book.

Tell us a fond childhood memory?

I have many fond memories, but one that stands out is when my grandmother bought me a horse. My parents weren’t able to afford one so she chipped in to help and one Christmas they surprised me. Boy was I surprised.

Awwww! That is a sweet surprise! Debbie, I have enjoyed getting to know you a little better. Thank you for visiting, and I have to tell you, your covers are beautiful and entriguing.

Readers, keep in touch with Debbie at:

www.deborah-malone.com

www.deborahsbutterflyjourney.blogspot.com

www.sleuthsandsuspects.blogspot.com

www.cozymysterymagazine.blogspot.com

You can find her books at: www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com

Ghosts of November–Interview with Paranormal Investigator Jim Chianese

Hey, Scribelings, Suze here. Guess what? We’ve got a special treat for you today! Paranormal investigator Jim Chianese is back, (click here to read his last interview with us). But wait, there’s more! Next Thursday, I’ll be asking some similar questions to ghost photographer and author Julie Griffin, so be sure to visit us again. Here’s what Jim has to say:

Hello Scribes!!!  Thank you again for having me.  I love the questions you guys have, it forces me to think.  Well, it has been a very busy year, Jeff and I have formed our own Ghost Hunting group, Connecticut Ghost Investigations (click here for more information) and have spent most of the time trying to get it up and running.  We still work with East Coast Angels on occasion.  If it is okay, I’m going to answer your questions with the story of a case we are currently working on and will probably be for a while longer.

Of course it’s okay! Since you last visited us, Jim, what has been your most memorable case? What can you tell us about it?

A mutual friend found out about Jeff and I investigating paranormal events and told us about the house he grew up in: a 200 year old colonial built by one of the founding families of our little town.  He lived there for about 20 years.  While he was growing up, items would be found in different locations than where his family had left them, and his sister saw a woman in the field by their house, but when she looked again the woman disappeared.  There were several instances where he felt someone touch him when there was no one in the room with him.  After hearing this, Jeff and I were eager to investigate.  Unfortunately, his family has since sold the house and property.  The house was torn down several years ago.  Our friend did tell us where the property was located and that it was currently a vacant lot.  We decided to test a theory.  Would the spirits still be on the property or were they tied to the house and now that the house is gone, would they be gone also? All three of us agreed on a date and time during the day to do the investigation.  We picked the daytime vice night for safety reasons.  We did not want to be walking around unfamiliar terrain.

Would you say it’s more, or less, difficult to investigate a building as opposed to an open site such as a cemetery? How do these investigations differ? Which do you prefer?

We arrived at the location of his old house and property with the CGI team.  The property itself had been kept up even without the house on it.  As he gave us a tour, Jeff and I took Electromagnetic Field (EMF) readings.  This was to give us a base line reading and also to see if there was anything close by that could produce an electromagnetic field.  There was a transformer across the road but its field diminished entirely after about a foot.   All the readings showed what you would normally find outside.  This is a similar technique we use when in a house.  In a house we take readings from all four corners and the center of each room to gain a base line of the entire house.  We sometimes find, specifically in older houses, that the wiring in the house will give off an exceptionally large EMF field.  This field has been known to make people sick who are sensitive to it.  However, that is not the case here.  We decided to sit in what was once the living room and conduct an Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) Session.  This is where we sit quietly and ask questions.  The theory is that the spirit will be able to imprint a voice response on the electronic media.  Ideally, we would receive an answer on our digital recorder(s).   We sat here for about 15-20 minutes.  Unfortunately, the wind started to blow.  When we reviewed our recorders later we could not hear anything over the noise of the wind.  One of the difficulties investigating an outdoor location vice a building.  At this point, our friend told us about the family cemetery located on the property.  This cemetery dates back to the late 1700s when the house and property were originally settled.  Not being able to resist, we headed to the cemetery.  As we were walking to the cemetery, Jeff felt a tingling sensation in his legs (as if asleep) after walking for some distance.  It was definitely noteworthy, simple because he only felt it in a specific area and not right when we stood up like you normally would have.

What equipment or tools do you consider essential for an investigation? Have there been any recent advances in technology that are yielding good results?

I’ve mentioned the EMF reader and digital voice recorders already.  There are many different kinds of EMF detectors, some light up, some have a digital display, some are analog, some digital.  They all operate under the same principle and provide similar results.  There are several models that have more than one function, usually combined with a flashlight or thermometer.  This helps to cut down the amount of equipment you have to carry.  After all, you only have two hands.  The digital voice recorders are the same ones you see at any electronic store.  We take the saved file and import it to our computer.  We then use an audio software program to listen to and clean up the file to see if we have an EVP or not.  We also use digital cameras.  I have one that has an infrared (IR) light built in to take pictures in the dark.  There are several modified cameras that can take a picture using the full spectrum of light.  The theory is that a spirit may not be able to be seen in regular light, but you might be able to pick it up in IR or full spectrum.  These are all great tools and gadgets to have on an investigation, but the best tool you can have is your own body and a notebook.

When we arrived at the family cemetery, we were all taken in by the tombstones.  We were reading the names and dates and trying to figure out who was who.  Just like most people do when you go to a really old cemetery.  The cemetery is about the size of a 3 car garage.  I was drawn to a particular corner of the cemetery.  When I got there, I immediately felt slightly nauseous.  Sort of like the day after a good night out on the town.  I left the area and found Jeff.  I waited a few moments until I wasn’t feeling nauseous anymore then told him to go to the same corner I was in.  He took the EMF detector over with him and it didn’t register anything at all.  I asked him how he felt and he responded fine.  He then asked if I was sick.  I answered yes and at this point in time our friend comes over and says you too.  He then states he started to get a headache when we entered the cemetery and he never gets headaches, but when he got to the corner of the cemetery we were in he started to feel nauseous also.  Another one of our investigators came over and stated she felt a slight pressure around her arms and an overwhelming sense of sadness, at this time she began to cry.  I told her to step out of the cemetery to see if the feeling passed.  She walked out and in a few short minutes she felt better.  Jeff and I began an EVP session in this corner.  Upon reviewing the files we did get a direct answer to one of our questions.  When asked the question “was this your property at one time” we received the answer “Yes” on two different digital recorders. 

Can the weather or astronomical events (such as phases of the moon, planetary alignments, periods of increased solar flares) affect your investigations? Do you find more activity at certain times than others?

As you can see the weather can affect an investigation (i.e. the wind during an outdoor investigation).  Even during an investigation inside the wind can play a factor.  If it is a windy day and a window is slightly open or the insulation is bad; you could feel a slight chill or something could be moved by a slight breeze.  That slight breeze could be misinterpreted to be spirit activity.  As for astronomical events, there are several theories that say the phases of the moon affect certain human behaviors.  Could these phases affect the spirit world or do they affect us in such a way that we perceive something as paranormal that really isn’t?  We use equipment that measures the electromagnetic field in the local area, if there is electromagnetic wave coming from space and bombarding the earth on the particular night of the investigation it can do one of two things.  First, it can give us a false positive reading.  Secondly, it could give the spirit an extra dose of energy so it can communicate with us.  It is hard for me to say that there is or isn’t more activity during these times.  At a recent investigation on a crystal clear night, we had a lot of activity, but we also had a lot of activity during a rainy night.  Unfortunately, there really isn’t any cold hard scientific facts that can prove or disprove paranormal activity.  There are however, theories that are being tested everytime a ghost hunting group investigates.  Some day there may be enough empirical evidence to prove these theories. 

Have you investigated outside of New England? Do you think this area has more paranormal activity than other places in the country? If so, any reasons for that?

Most of my investigations have been in the Connecticut/Rhode Island area with one in Maine.  I do not think New England has more activity than anywhere else.  There are paranormal groups investigating all over the world.  I think there is more of a focus on the New England area here in the United States because it comprises the original states.  In other words, lots of old buildings are still around.  That is not to say that spirits are only in old buildings.  They just have more of an allure for us than new buildings.  Think about that old house in the neighborhood that everyone thinks is haunted.

Do you do any research into places before you investigate them? Or do you like to go in with an open mind, and do the research afterward?

We will interview the owners and have them tour us around the building or house and explain their paranormal experiences.  This allows us to get a feel of the people involved and the place itself.  We will ask question about the history of the place (i.e. when was it built, history of owners, did anyone die there, etc.)  We approach all investigations with an open mind. You need to because not every place is haunted that people think is haunted.  Sometimes there is a very mundane reason for what is happening there.  Once we investigate a location and go through the evidence collected we sometimes have more questions than when we started.  That is where the research aspect comes in.  For instance, an EVP that said “where is Joe?”.  Was there someone named Joe that lived there? 

In the last year, have your views on the paranormal changed at all? If so, how?

My views haven’t changed at all in the past year.  I do believe there is a spirit world that does on occasion interact with us.  I do sincerely want to help people understand what they are experiencing whether it is paranormal or not.  I do not believe every place is haunted that someone says is haunted.  And most of all, when you have ruled out all of the impossible, then what ever remains, however improbable must be the truth.  Yeah, big Sherlock Holmes fan.

Other than being generally heroic by serving our country as a naval officer, and making a mean bottle of wine (I’ve been the lucky recipient of a couple of bottles!), what are your other hobbies and interests?

Well, I don’t know about being heroic, but I do make a great bottle of wine.  I have several hobbies which I love to participate in.  My favorite is SCUBA Diving.    I have been a certified SCUBA Diver for about 20 years now and I’m currently working toward my PADI Divemaster certification.   I am also currently studying Seizan Ryu Kempo Jujitsu with both of my sons.  It helps keep me in shape and it is a great bonding activity with my boys.  Except when they put me in an arm bar, then it’s not so fun.  I have been known to enjoy the occasional geocache.   I learned about geocaching during my last deployment.  It is a great activity to get you out on those really nice days.  I look at it as hiking with a purpose.  I also belong to a couple of Masonic organizations which keep me pretty busy at various times of the year doing fund raising events for all of our charities.  I guess it is my own way of paying back to the community.

That’s about it for me.  I hope everyone enjoys my ramblings.  Please feel free to check out Connecticut Ghost Investigations on our web page www.connecticutghostinvestigations.com or stop by and LIKE our Facebook page.  Just click here, or search for Connecticut Ghost Investigations or use the link on our web page.

Thanks, Jim! OK, readers, have any questions about the paranormal or investigations?

Who Influenced You?

Thea Devine posting today.  So tell me if this isn’t a bookaholic’s dream.  You’re buying a house and strewn all over the living room floor are books, a hundred or more of them.  You’re buying the house from the estate of a recently deceased widow, and you know it had been broken into, but the important things were not taken: the fireplace surrounds, the sliding doors, the books.

Among them was a uniformly bound set of novels by Augusta Evans Wilson —

— who, I came to find out, was a best selling author of her time with her novel, St. ElmoSt. Elmo has to have been the original bad boy hero who had to redeem himself to win his orphaned heroine love.  The book sold hundreds of thousands of copies just after the Civil War and allegedly was so popular that people named children, homes, streets and towns after it. and it was also said that Rhett Butler was supposedly modeled on the character.

There were a half dozen of Wilson’s novels, of which I’ve read 3 — St. Elmo, At the Mercy of Tiberius , and Inez, a Tale of the Alamo.

Which led me to think about the other best selling romance authors of their day, some of whom are long-time favorites of mine:  Faith Baldwin — who wrote career girl (usually nurses or secretaries) romance;  Kathleen Norris (rags to riches, usually set in the Mission section of San Francisco, vividly portrayed);  Emilie Loring (hometown girls in New England, richly evoked in a very distinctive voice).

I know there are some I’m forgetting, but I’m so glad I read those long ago authors long before  the idea of becoming an author myself was ever remotely possible.

Because of them, I found what I liked to read, and what I wanted to write.  From Wilson, and latterly, Catherine Clinton’s The Plantation Mistress,I discovered the pre-civil war south through the women’s eyes, so I’ve been collecting women’s civil war diaries for some time now, just out of my fascination with the time period.

Because of them, I came to love stories of heroines returning to their small town roots.  If they’re going down south, I’m there.  If there’s a plantation, I’m up all night reading it.  I love married-to-the-wrong-guy-but-maybe-not stories;  stories especially of wounded heroes and heroines overcoming their pasts and finding each other;  heroines caught in circumstances manipulated by someone else for nefarious purposes;  ghost stories; stories with conspiracies simmering under the surface that are just hinted at as the solution to the overt problems of the heroine (read gothics).

I just love old books. Love reading the “commercial fiction” from before the turn of the century, even having to plow through the dense Victorian prose and quotations from obscure poets and philosophers.  Love finding old books, as I’ve posted elsewhere.  Love it all, as witness my bookshelves and desk room floor.

But who’s on my current TBR pile then, you might ask.  Well, Gone Girl, Tatiana de Rosnay, Kate Morton, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, Karen Rose,  A Victorian Household, Carla Neggers, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, and  Macaria (another of Wilson’s novels written during the Civil War), among a dozen other books.   What about you?

So who were your influences, who’s on your To Be Read pile?  Do you like old books?  Have you read Norris, Baldwin or Loring?   Do you have other favorites, old or new?

Thea Devine is working on a new erotic contemporary romance and will be putting five backlist titles on-line soon.

It Was A Dark & Stormy Night …

And it’s not even Hallowe’en as I write this.

Thea Devine here, waiting on the storm, and feeling that an unbridled hurricane can be every bit as scary as a supernatural Hallowe’en scenario. For one, it comes out of nowhere with its own unearthly sounds. You’re at the mercy of its driving winds, and the full force of its destructive and uncontainable nature. You’re powerless and yet you try to defeat it every time.  And when you survive it, you feel as if you’ve gone through some mystical transformation.  You feel superhuman.  You feel you’ve cheated death.

Maybe that’s why Hallowe’en — and ghosts, ghouls, vampires and zombies — has such a powerful hold on the imagination.   Life beyond death, no matter form it takes, is beyond seductive, and perhaps worth the price you might have to pay.

It’s fun to fictionally play with the idea of life beyond eternity. But that’s underscored by the certain knowledge mortality is just around the corner for all of us.  That’s why we write about the monsters, the ghosts, the storms.  Leaving something tangible behind is a way to conquer the beast. Wading into the storm gives you strength.  Manipulating fears with words makes you feel superhuman again.   Overcoming the threat gives you the sense that you can surmount anything.

Hallowe’en always reminds me of the times I watched the classic horror movies with a friend who lived several floors above our apartment.  She would have to go up two or three flights of steps in a dimly lit stairwell after we watched that week’s movie.  Now, remembering those nights, I wonder what would have happened if she’d just disappeared.  In the stairwell. That was barely lit.  Her footsteps echoing and then suddenly, not. With no witnesses. And no clues.  And she was never found.  Ever …

Are you a ghosts and ghouls Hallowe’en person?  Or a princess and fantasy Hallowe’en person?  Your favorite old horror movie?  (Me, The Mummy — love 1920’s Egypt )  Any Hallowe’en moment in your life that you could make into fiction?

Thea Devine has been delving into the world of vampires with The Darkest Heart, and its sequel, Beyond the Night (April 2013 Pocket Star eBook). There are no vampires in her just reissued erotic contemporary novel, His Little Black Book, available now.