Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Ghost Story with Heart by Karen Rock


Since it’s Halloween, it seems only fitting that I tell you a ghost story. Not a creepy, sinister, chiller, but the kind of tale that befits our Heartwarming line, a story of family, traditions and forever love. Here’s how it goes.

One of my family’s traditions has long been to gift female children with a new purse on Easter. I’m not sure when this custom began, but I recall, vividly, who continued it: my Great Aunt Marie. The eldest, single daughter of Manhattan hat shop owners, she lived and cared for her parents until their deaths, turning down at least one proposal to do what she felt was her duty. In fact, Aunt Marie’s devotion to her family included all generations, from using her teacher’s salary to help with financial crisis to buying special gifts for her siblings and their children and later, their children’s children. I remember looking forward to visiting my grandmother every weekend because it included a visit from Aunt Marie who arrived with fresh rolls, deli meat, pickles and bakery treats from the big city. What a feast!

Most of all, I remember that she’d ask about the colors of our Easter dresses in advance of the holiday and scour the city for just the right little girl’s purse to match. As gifts weren’t a frequent part of my upbringing, this was a treat beyond imagining. The bags made me feel special and elegant, but mostly loved and remembered by my favorite aunt. She was always sure to slip a dime in each pocketbook for ten times the good luck. It felt like a fortune though I couldn’t bring myself to spend them, and thus began my dime collection.

Though we outgrew the Easter purse tradition when we reached our teens, my aunt resurrected it for my Confirmation, a Catholic ceremony. Deeply religious, I’d chosen Aunt Marie to be my sponsor as my godparents had moved back to Italy. With an unshakable faith and a generous heart, I couldn’t imagine a better person to stand up with me and tell the priest my Confirmation name, someone who would be a better role model in faith, than Aunt Marie. And I wasn’t disappointed. She was excited to accept my request and began sending me religious literature, helped me study for my test, and, of course, asked me the color of my dress. It brought tears to my eyes when, on the day of the ritual, she gave me a beautiful lavender purse with a cross, a pocket book of psalms, and, of course, a dime tucked inside a satin inner pocket.

When she passed, I was devastated. She’d always been such a wonderful source of encouragement and support in times of worry, praying for me and even saying Novenas- an all day, repetitive, timed saying of the rosary- to ensure the best outcomes. With her gone, who would be my prayer champion? It always seemed as though Aunt Marie had a special connection with God. Would that faith continue in me?

Then a strange thing began to happen after she’d passed. Whenever a moment of deep concern arose, a dime would appear- on a kitchen counter, on my nightstand, on the bathroom sink, even on my work desk. The timing was too uncanny to be a coincidence. When I was rushed to the hospital after some bleeding suggested my early pregnancy with my daughter Danielle was jeopardized, the ultrasonographer  exclaimed that a dime was on her machine. I asked for the coin and held it as she began the test. Yet I no longer needed the reassuring pictures. I already knew what Aunt Marie was telling me from heaven. That Danielle would survive and that I would become a mom, something she had been to all of us, in spirit if not in title. I do believe in ghosts, but thankfully mine are loving spirits who look out for me in this world and will be there for me when I move on, someday, to the next.

If you have a 'ghost story with heart' to share, please post it in the comments section below, as well as your email address, to be entered to win either a Kindle/Nook or print copy of my Heartwarming novel, Wish Me Tomorrow; your choice! The winner will be announced on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/karenrock5  tomorrow.  Thank you so much for stopping by our blog today :)
 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's that time of year for Halloween candy!


Check any store sale ad, and you'll see that there's a lot of candy for sale right now. In fact, 598 million pounds of candy is sold at Halloween with a cost of 1.9 billion dollars. It's amazing how fast that can add up!

And what happens to all that candy besides giving tummy aches and cavities? The lucky ones learn to repurpose the candy. A few years ago, a writer I know shared her recipe for the day after Halloween, and I am passing it on to you.

SNICKERS SALAD:

Ingredients:
1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 (12 ounce) containers Cool Whip, thawed
6 Snickers candy bars
4 -6 granny smith apples (or any you prefer)
 
Mix cream cheese and powdered sugar until thoroughly blended.
Fold in Cool Whip.
Cut Snickers into bite size chunks and add to cream cheese mixture.
Chop the apples into chunks and stir.
Chill 1 hour before serving.
 
 

It's got to be healthy with the apples, right?
Enjoy!
 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

10,000 Hours


I’ve always enjoyed music, but it’s only in the past few years that it’s become a passion. Recently, I’ve attended concerts of America, Herman’s Hermits, and The Little River Band, as well as a tribute band for The Eagles and guitar concerts held at my college. I marvel at these musicians’ fantastic talents.

At  the Glendale Community College, where I’ve worked for the past sixteen years, I’ve been able to pursue my burgeoning interest in music. I’ve taken the history of Jazz, lessons in acoustical guitar and presently, the history of Rock and Roll. Sounds like fun? You bet.

This week we started studying the Beatles. The British invasion began on February 9, 1964, when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Some people thought they were nothing more than untested young musicians in need of a haircut. But in actuality they were skilled and experienced, having spent years playing together, developing into a group of experienced professionals.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outlier: The Story of Success” explains the 10,000-hours rule, a requirement to becoming truly skilled in a cognitively demanding field. He uses the Beatles as an example of how the amount of time they spent devoted to their music brought them to such proficiency.  

When I took lessons in acoustic guitar, I pictured myself playing to crowds of cheering fans. But my fame and fortune in music will never happen outside of my imagination. Why? Because I’ve never put in the time to become proficient. I figure the entire semester struggling with the guitar accumulated about 100 hours of practice. I have 9,900 more hours to go in that 10,000 hour rule.

Music isn’t the only place where this rule can apply. What about writing? Have you ever looked at the number of hours you’ve spent to become proficient? Are you close to 10,000 hours at creating your manuscripts or did you pass that number years ago?

Monday, October 28, 2013

What a Writer Can Learn from the NFL by Melinda Curtis

Recently, Mr. Curtis asked me when I’d become obsessed with football.  It was Sunday.  Tiger Woods was playing and had a chance to stage a come-from-behind-win in some tournament held in a gorgeous, windy, sunny place.  Mr. Curtis wanted possession of the remote and the big screen.  Currently, I was in possession of both and was watching the NFL Red Zone.

I must admit, I’ve never followed professional sports teams other than the sound-bites needed to converse with any sports-fanatic I knew.  There was just too much to do around the house and always a good book to read.

But a few years ago, things changed.  My step-mother passed, and my father began to spend significant time at our house.  He’s an avid fan of Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the Women’s National Basketball Association.  I found it necessary to have more talking points about sports.

It started innocently enough with Inside the NFL (on Showtime).  This band of merry men talked football gossip, explained why all men seemed to be talking about the play of the week, and set up a fun rivalry for their weekly picks.  It was like Entertainment Tonight with more testosterone.

Soon, when Mr. Curtis flicked past a game between two flyover state teams that Californians normally don’t care about, I was asking him to stop so I could see if the rookie wide receiver was going to overcome his jitters and last week’s public set-down by the veteran quarterback.  Drama.  Sheer drama, fans.

The NFL has done what other professional sports have been unable to do – make all those players and coaches real to me.  As an author, that’s exactly what I try to do in my books – make everyone real and have a good time doing it.  You don’t need a pageful of backstory.  You don’t need to explain the town’s pedigree in detail.  You just need to drop interesting tidbits in between the action to hook someone.

What’s your “obsession” and how does it relate to writing?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hot Chocolate Is Good For The Brain---by Roz Denny Fox


Now that the mornings are crisper and we’ll soon have frost on the pumpkins, my thoughts turn to warm drinks. Once that was coffee, but I had to give it up. As a life-long fan of hot chocolate who worries about middle-aged spread, hot chocolate went by the way-side, too. But recently I’ve seen results of some medical studies which have re-considering drinking hot chocolate again. Yum!


Harvard University did a study where they had people with high blood pressure drink two cups of hot chocolate a day for a month. 1/3 of the study group had impaired blood flow to the brain. At the end of the study that group showed an 8 percent increase in blood flow and improved their speed on a working memory test.  Hooray!

Really the researchers concluded that chocolate may ward off dementia later in life. The American Academy of Neurology also looked at the effect of cocoa consumption on cognition and in the neurovascular link between nerve cell activity and blood flow to the brain. They found in their 30-day study that participants with impaired blood flow who drank two cups of hot chocolate a day saw an 8.3 percent improvement. They do recommend low-calorie, sugar free variety of cocoa.

A year ago an Italian study that tested 90 seniors had the same result. They decided cocoa is rich in flavanols which is what they believe helps maintain brain power as one ages. In a similar study at John Hopkins researchers don’t think the antioxidant flavanol plant compound is what boosts the blood flow to the brain, but say it’s a good first step for guiding future studies. Previous studies have only shown beneficial effects connected with dark chocolate, but now the more recent studies point to all cocoa having some vascular benefit.


How many of you have ever brewed chocolate tea? The other day a tea expert on Dr. Oz’s show claimed making tea from cocoa nibs calms nerves and relieves anxiety. He recommended starting with organic cocoa nibs and said to let 1 tablespoon of the nibs steep in very hot water for 5 to 7 minutes before drinking the tea.


I found instructions on the Internet for chocolate tea. They say to start with filtered or bottled water. Heat the water to a rolling boil and then fill your teapot. Measure 1 rounded tablespoon with loose chocolate tea per 12 oz of water. For a change of pace you can add cinnamon, or ginger—1.5 tsp per 8 oz of water.


We have a tea shop in town, but I’ve never been there. Apparently tea shops sell bagged chocolate tea, but it’s not pure chocolate like the nibs. Most bagged tea sold as chocolate tea contains yerba mate, a South American herbal stimulant, or they may contain a mix of chocolate, roasted carob, or chicory for better flavor.
 

I’m for trying anything that tastes yummy and may improve my brain power. So I’m off to find the tea store where a friend tells me she buys cacao mint black tea that she adds a dash of cream and rock sugar for extra decadence. What do you all think?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

In Memory of Millie, our Sweet Editor Cat By Rula Sinara


On Monday, October 21st, little Millie, also famous as the adorable #editorcat, passed away peacefully. Many of you know, Millie had a rough start when her mother abandoned her at the front door of Harlequin's Toronto office on May 16th. Coincidence? I don't think so. I believe that mommy cat had a great sixth sense and knew her little one would be loved and cared for if she left her there. Sure enough, Senior Editor Victoria Curran and Editorial Assistant Claire Caldwell came to the rescue and got Millie (named after Harlequin's street address...Don Mills Road...where she was found) the emergency care she needed to survive. Only days old, eyes still shut and weighing in at a mere 3.5 ounces, Millie proved to be a tough kitty.

 
Millie's first day at work as an editor...only 4 days old
And lucky Victoria got to take her home.


Millie was in kitty heaven. Attention, love, cuddles, Harlequin fame, her own Twitter hashtag and making it to 'editor' at only weeks old. Come on! Well, okay. She did work hard at the office and she did do community service by bringing joy to folks at a senior center.

Look at that belly!



Millie at about 3 mos old, right before retiring from her job in favor of leisurely naps at home.
Millie is in kitty heaven now. She became ill about a week before she passed and couldn't fight the odds again. She passed peacefully, painlessly and, I'm positive, very content with her life. I think Victoria said it beautifully when she tweeted, 'Small kit, short life, big impact...Too perfect to live long, I guess...'.

Hugs to Victoria for her loss, and to all who knew Millie in person or online.

As for pet angels, here's wishing Millie an eternity of belly scratches and warm milk.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Promotion vs Writing

This past weekend, I participated in a local Words In The Park author book fair with one of the Alberta libraries and once again, I met some wonderful new authors and learned a lot.

One of the conversations that came up was a discussion about promotion, and in light of my release date next week, I wanted to throw it out there for discussion.

Promotion is a full time job in itself. I have even hired a virtual assistant to help organize a street team (verdict still out on whether or not I like this concept or will continue with it) and I hired a PR company to draft a press release that was sent out in August. I have also organized a 20+ stop blog tour with spotlights, interviews, guest posts etc throughout November and December. And I have an ad running in the November issue of RWR.

Then through those efforts-I was lucky enough to be asked to write the back page piece for the February issue of a local magazine called Avenue, I've been invited to do a blogtalk radio interview at Hummingbird Place on Dec 23, I've had my blog about avoiding a saggy middle featured on SheWrites.com, and I've been invited to do some promo with a local radio station in late November...so the efforts are paying of...I guess...sort of.

As exciting and fun as all of the above is-the debate that arose on Saturday at the book fair was-just how many actual sales will result from all of this effort?  So far, I'd have to sell quite a few books to earn back the money I've spent on promotion...not to mention the time commitment it takes to do all of this. (I have four other books to write...but if no one knows...but if I don't have time to write them...the cycle continues lol)

While I certainly believe, as a new author especially, all of this is necessary to gain a following and establish yourself as a writer-the same point was repeatedly made and I can't say I disagree-the key to success is a great product. If people read your book and they love it-they will tell others.

It's just the preliminary matter of getting it out there to be found...And hopefully not taking away too much of your precious writing time in the process. Ideally, we all just need to hire E.L. James's publicist lol:)

So, thoughts? I'd love to hear what else you guys are doing to promote your work and whether you spend more time than you'd like...or how you balance both.

Hugs,
Jen

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

And So I Ride the Rollercoaster...

Pamela Tracy here and I'm the luckily woman in the world

See, living in my house, besides a husband and cat, is an eight-year-old boy.

And boy is he a boy.

I have the Dennis the Menace boy.

He and his friends love to take the shovels and dig deep holes in the backyard.  They find pieces of wood and make ramps in the street to ride their bikes and scooters over.  They build lego worlds all over the floors of my house so that I can, barefoot, step on small pieces.  He's the food all over the face kid.

He wants to be a hot dog for Halloween.

A hot dog?

LOL

His rowdy side made its way as Caleb in my 2012 Once Upon a Christmas from Love Inspired.  His sweet side mades its way into my 2010 Daddy for Keeps from Love Inspired.

As for me, I can fill in backyard holes (actually my hubby does that).  I can put band aides on his cuts he gets when the ramp malfunctions (really, 8 year old malfunctions).  I build legos with him, and offer a wash cloth after he eats.

Yesterday we were at a carnival.  I probably walked twenty miles in a corn maze (I found the way out!).  I rode pushcarts, played putt putt golf, took a hayride, and rode the haunted train.

The black moment (last time I wrote about this I used the Heroe's Journey) was the rollercoaster. 

I hate roller coasters.  I'm afraid of heights and don't much trust a gadget that goes up and down and fast.       

Still, I'm in line with the 8 year old, going to sit in the car and go up and down and around.

The stupid thing breaks right before our turn.  Eighty percent of the line walks away when they hear "It'll take at least 20 minutes to fix."  Here comes a mechanic (Later, he was selling kettle corn)

Now, I have to get on a roller coaster right after it's broken down!

And I did it.

Because in 5 years, my son will want a friend to ride with him instead of me.  In 10 years, he'll go to carnivals by himself.  In fifteen years, he'll go with his wife.  And, in 20 years, he'll go with his own 8 year old.

And so I ride the rollercoaster of life.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bonanza Buzz Busts by Cynthia Reese

What would you do if you found a huge pile of cash? Would your sudden jackpot jolt you with joy, or would the buzz quickly bust?



Would you jump for joy? Would you throw your hands up in the air? Would you toss around the dollars? Would you plan on that cruise you've been wanting to take?

In my novel SECRET SANTA, which comes out in November, my heroine finds that pile of cash. But for her, it's no cause for celebrating.

As I was writing the book, I would talk about the idea of finding a big heap o' cash to people I met. And every one of them said, "That wouldn't be a problem for me!"

In my heroine's case, the money is from her dad, and there is no explaining its source. That is the problem. Where did it come from? How did her dad get it?

So if you found that slush pile and you weren't sure what the money's origin was, what would you do? Would you turn it over to the police? Even if it meant that a family member would come under suspicion?

Or would you do what other people have suggested to me? Pay off that credit card bill? Finish paying down your student loans? Put the money away for a rainy day? 

Would it bother you that you didn't know where the money came from?

So which camp do YOU belong to? The "spend it with abandon" or the "worry until you do the right thing" one?


Friday, October 18, 2013

What Loving Rosie Taught Me


Rosie was a tuxedo cat who was abandoned by someone up the hill from us, and joined the 'tribe' of Spenser and Colby Jack, our neighbors' cats.

Steve and Barb (of the famous front porch parties I told you about in the summer) live in a rehabbed Colonial that has no front porch, so no shelter for the cats.  Because everyone visits a lot in our neighborhood, sits on everyone else's steps or porch to chat, the cats figure they have the same rights.  Spenser, a long-haired tuxedo, and Colby Jack (named after the cheeses for his color) slept in a cozy pile on the wicker rocking chair on our porch when it rained, or when they needed a good rest.

One day, I noticed a third cat in the pile.  I put out another plate of food, another bowl of water.  Barb thought her name was Rose and that she'd been left when her family moved away.  It was soon clear what might have prompted that, if her owners had adopted her, hoping to be loved by her.  Ron called her the Princess of Darkness.  She apparently never felt grateful for the food and shelter, always ran away when we tried to pet her, and never learned to trust us.  I kept thinking, "Tomorrow, she'll respond to me." She never did, even after 12 years.  Eventually, we concluded she probably wasn't in her right mind.  She did love Spenser and Colby, though, and the tight little unit they all made on the rocking chair.

Last year Colby died, followed closely by Spenser.  They were both in their late teens - a good life for cats.  We mourned them and I felt certain Rosie would just die of loneliness.  But she lived on, though she began to look very frail.  Taking her to the vet was not an option because she never, ever let me touch her.  I was sure forcing her into a box would kill her before old age did.  So I lined a document box with fleece, covered it in plastic, and prepared her for the winter on our porch.

She lived out there until February, then one cold night I was carrying laundry downstairs and found her curled up on a basement step.  I made a bed for her inside, under a table in the hallway that's out of the way, and she stayed there until May when she moved back out onto the chair.

As summer wore on, it became clear she was dying - whether from old age or illness, I'm not sure.  We had no idea how old she was.  I was determined to let her die on her own terms, but it became harder and harder to watch her become even thinner.  Early in August, I decided we'd give her the rest of the summer because did seem to love those puddles of sunshine on the porch, then I'd find a way to catch her and take her to be put down.  Our vet will sedate your pet and let you hold it while he puts it to sleep.  It's a comforting way to part company.  I made a mental deadline of September 1st.

That day was a Sunday.  I came home from Mass and Rosie was sitting in her chair.  I reached down to scratch her between the ears, prepared for her to shrink from me as she always did.  But she let me touch her!  That had never happened. I was amazed.  I went inside to get her food and when I came out the chair was empty.  Thinking she'd gotten past me and back into the house, I went back inside, looking for her.  I never found her.  I'm sure she went off to die alone.

I cried for days.  I wanted her loneliness and her suffering to be over, but I wanted to hold her while she went on her way.  After all the years invested, it would have made me feel better.

Then it occurred to me that those were my feelings, but it was HER life.  She'd found a way to survive when she'd been abandoned, and became one tough cookie.  It's hard to know what was going on in her mind, but survival apparently involved depending on herself and no one else.

That made me think about love.  Romantic love, of course, has to be reciprocal, or you couldn't live every moment with each other and raise children together, unless you were getting back from the other person, all the love you put into the relationship.  But love of other people and love of animals, doesn't have to be returned to be effective.  Often, we love because what we get back makes us feel good, appreciated.  But in cases where you don't get that, it doesn't really matter.  Love does what it does anyway.  We gave Rosie a home and kept her going until the last minute.  If she ever related to me at all, it was that moment when she let me scratch her head.

Also, about love.  In defiance of all science, love is the one thing that doesn't leave an empty space  when you take it from one heart and give it to another.  More love takes its place, fills you up, gives you more than you had before.  So we should give it to everyone, everywhere so that there's just more and more.

That's what Rosie taught me.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Autumn Is Here! by Tara Randel




I have to admit, Autumn is my favorite season. Growing up in New England, I couldn’t wait for the leaves to change colors. I remember the air, crisp and cool, redolent with the scent of burning leaves. The nights chilly enough to pull on a bulky sweater. The days grew shorter so playtime took on a more urgent frenzy. Piles of leaves piles we all jumped into, making my Dad crazy as he tried to clean up the yard. Childhood memories I’ll never forget.

 Now I live in Florida. No changing leaves here. It’s October and we still have temperatures in the high eighty’s. But the mornings are cooler, so I can go on my deck to read the newspaper. Still, I miss the weather change. So how do I fix that?



On October first, sometimes earlier, I pull out my carefully packed boxes and go way overboard decorating my house. I have ceramic pumpkins, ceramic leaves, artificial fall foliage hanging everywhere, scented candles, you name it, I probably have it displayed somewhere in my house. All my goodies may not be the real thing, but in my heart I’m enjoying my favorite time of the year. 
 
 

 Am I the only person to go overboard with fall decorations? Let me know how you decorate. If fall isn’t your favorite time of the year, what holidays can’t you wait for each year?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Library Love by Syndi Powell


Next week (October 20-26)  is the National Friends of Libraries week. It's a week to honor those who contribute and donate to their local libraries in order to provide materials and programming at no to low cost to their communities.

I've been in love with libraries since I was three and visited my first with my mother. It was the Macomb County library, and the children's section was to the right when you walked into the lobby. It was only a corner of the building, but for me it represented so much more. It was the doorway to adventures and friends that waited to be discovered simply by presenting a card and the desired book at the checkout desk.

When I went to school, they had a library there as well. In the third grade after my teacher read us the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I discovered a love for historical biographies. I started with the As and by fourth grade had finished the section. I moved on to mythology in fourth grade then mysteries in the fifth. I fell in love with books at the library.


I still have a love affair with libraries. I even worked at one for a while and imagined retiring from there until budget cuts eliminated my job thirty years too soon. I still visit the library about once a week and check out the website about once a day to see if my holds on books are filled yet.

There's something special about a library. That distinct smell of musty pages and glue. The hushed stillness. The rows and rows of books waiting to be opened and devoured.

I love libraries. Don't you?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What's Important in Your Life?


Have you experienced that moment when you examined your life and realized you hadn’t accomplished all that you wanted to do? Mine came shortly after my father’s death. Up to that point I had achieved most of the goals I’d set for myself back in high school. I had a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Textile Design earned at Rhode Island School of Design. I had my career as a lace designer for nine years on Fifth Avenue in New York City. My life included marriage, two children and a spacious home in New Jersey. I had everything I’d ever wanted except for one: I never wrote anything outside of my journals.

It had been a hard choice for me back in Plainville, Connecticut, to decide which direction to choose - art or writing. My family didn’t feel I could make a living in either. Women back then became secretaries or teachers, and once they married they stayed home and took care of their husband, house and children. I’ve never followed the norm. I continued to work as a textile designer, and when that ended, I made clothing for a local woman’s store.

My first efforts into writing were done on an electric typewriter where I used an equal number of ribbons for typing and correcting. What frustration. Thank goodness, my father left me with enough money to invest in a computer. My first attempts to write for publication brought the usual rejections. But I kept at it, often hiding in our trailer in the back yard so I could concentrate. By then my children were old enough to fend for themselves and were warned to only call me if the house was on fire.

One of my first sales was an anecdote to Writer’s Digest. I had received some books from an editor. When I cut open the package, gray stuffing material fell to the floor and my son said, “That’s what I call a rejection. They burn your manuscript and send you the ashes.” That earned me twenty-five dollars. I went on to be an editor of a newspaper, and began selling short stories while I continued to write my novels.

During this time, I discovered Romance Writers of America and attended conferences whenever possible. It was at these that I met Harlequin editors, Paula Eykelhof and Victoria Curran, who listened with great patience to my stories. “Just Like Em,” finally made it and will be published in February.

The one thing I’ve learned and pass on to you – keep at it. Don’t give up. Most likely, your dreams won’t be fulfilled overnight, but they’ll never happen if you stop trying. It also helps if you have wonderful children like my son and daughter, who provide humor and support. I plan to keep them.

Monday, October 14, 2013

GHOST STORY? by Aimée and David Thurlo

First, let me say that, to me, there's a difference between spirits and ghosts. Casper is a ghost - sheet and all. A spirit... well, that's something else. The Navajos don't use the word spirit, or soul, they use the term wind breath. I like that. It signifies the essence of what we are, the part that goes on. I believe that there's an after-life, and millions of books detailing NDE's support that.

Sometimes if we're lucky we see evidence of things we can't explain through our mortal senses. After our dog passed away, David and I would hear the doggie door - at the same time. We'd look at each other, and rush out to see if we were hosting a stray cat. We never found evidence of any intruder, but the sounds continued for a long time. Occasionally we still see a shadow go by the hall. Nothing to be scared about - it's just there, and then gone.

To be honest, I find things like that comforting. Had I been the only one to experience it, or if David and I had experienced these things at different intervals, I would have said it was our minds giving us comfort through memories. But at the same time? Uh-uh.

 Of course, David and I have had separate experiences too. A few days after my dad passed on. I was sitting with David in the kitchen, and something called my attention to the end of the hall. I leaned over (David sits in front of me and was blocking my view) and saw my dad clear as day walking down the hall and coming toward me. Incredibly, my first thought was "Oh, it's just Papi." Then without skipping a beat, I continued my conversation with David.

Then it hit me. Huh? I looked again, but he was gone. Fear never entered into the equation, but a sense of wonder did.

David had his own experience. Years back, he went to a teacher's retreat at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos. Mabel was quite a character in her day. She was a wealthy patron of the arts and had a particular affection for authors. She hosted notables like DH Lawrence and Willa Cather. She also tried her hand at writing, publishing a memoir about DH Lawrence's visit titled, Lorenzo in Taos.

David, of course was terribly excited about his visit to the famous hacienda, and since I couldn't go, I was dying of envy.... 

I'm going to step aside now and let him tell you about that experience himself!

David:

It was October 31st, a Friday that year, and we arrived at the house around dinner time. The bedroom assignments had already been made - and it turned out, I got Mabel's bedroom - and her old bed. In the corner of the room was a kiva fireplace, and, in Taos that time of year, it was already very cold at night. There were stories at dinner time, told by the couple who ran the facility. Mabel, they said, roamed the house at night, sometimes peeking in on the guests and coming up to stand beside their beds. It was a great Halloween story, we thought.

I was the one who'd be sleeping in Mabel's bed, so I got some teasing, of course. After dinner, we had some workshop events and entertainment, then several of us went into one of the sitting rooms, sat around the fire, and talked for a few hours.

When I went to bed, there was already a fire roaring in the kiva fireplace. The  bed was cool beneath the covers, so I slid over to the side closer to the fire. Surprisingly, it was downright cold. I thought my own body would warm it up, so I stayed in place, but it didn't work. Eventually I slid back over to the other pillow. It was a lot warmer, though farther from the fire. So I stayed on that side, trying to puzzle out why one side of the bed just wouldn't warm up. Eventually I went to sleep.

The next morning at breakfast, I was asked if I'd seen Mabel's ghost during the night. When I told the other teachers about the cold side of the bed that would never warm up, I got a lot of teasing. Someone suggested that Mabel didn't want me to sleep on her side.

Mabel Luhan's House - 2011  Photo by Khlnmusa

A few years after that, Aimée and I were watching a PBS program on Mabel Dodge Luhan. They had old home movies that showed her, her guests, and her Taos home. The `thirties era black and white video was kind of grainy. Then everything changed. Mabel crossed the patio, and looked straight into the camera. In that split second the image became completely clear, zooming in on a smiling Mabel, waving at the camera. 

"Whoa'," I think I said, then looked over at Aimée. She'd been creeped out too, it was like Mabel was looking at us personally, across time. I've never forgotten that moment.

Aimée:
 
These days we have a flashlight in the bedroom that keep coming on at two or three in the morning. No one's near it, and in fact, turning it off requires one of us to get up, going to the dresser, and shutting it off. It's annoying, but David's determined to figure out if it's a change of pressure, cold, or what. It's not a regular flashlight. It's a cheap little thing with a big bulb, and is only supposed to come on if you press the center.
 
Personally, if a spirit is trying to communicate, I prefer it pick ten in the morning than two at night, but the flashlight remains in the bedroom while my former science teacher husband tries to figure it out.
 
 
 
 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tis The Season of the Haunted House By: Roz Denny Fox


I was never big on paying money to get scared out of my wits going through a “for charity” haunted house. When I worked at the elementary school and we had Spook Night on Halloween to keep the kiddies off the streets, we set up a fun, not scary area that the little kids thought was scary and the older ones thought was stupid. So, teens and college kids really go for the big, bad haunted houses. I remember in Seattle where my kids grew up, it always rained and the nights around Halloween were dark and spooky anyway. My husband loved to take them and their friends through any one of many houses set up for charity. Bless him, I was freed of going through rattling chains, webs (ick) and things that go bump in the night.

Okay, I’m well past the age of having anyone at home who wants to visit a haunted house. But the reason I decided to blog about them is because the other night I was scrolling through programs on TV and landed on Showbiz Tonight, the entertainment program hosted by A.J. Hammer. He had people on talking about the Emmy’s and the Alma’s, so I stopped to listen. In the course of guests discussing award shows, someone mentioned Halloween and haunted houses. A guest asked if the others had seen where the popularity of haunted houses was waning. But apparently one group of fundraisers hit on a new twist. Visitors to this particular haunted house would be expected to leave their clothes at the door on entering. The house was adult-only. (well that’s a relief)

Okay, they joked about it a while and I laughed, but thought it couldn’t be true. Then the next night I heard the same thing on a news channel.

So, are you picturing this? That’s what I started to do. Calling on my memories of traveling through a pitch black house where things jumped out, slapped you with cold, wet fronds of some kind, or stuff of undetermined origin brushed against you moaning, screeching, or worse---and I began to imagine doing all that nekkid.

The scariest part might not be what is rigged up in the house, but standing in line outside waiting to shed your clothes—watching others do so at the head of the line--at night in who know what kind of weather. Adults aren’t all young and buff and beautiful. We come in all shapes and sizes. It didn’t sound as if the group putting this house on was part of the local nudist colony, but everyday folks raising money for their favorite charity.

Alas, I don’t recall anyone advertising what city this is going to be in. If some city ordinance doesn’t shut them down, I can’t believe the trend will catch on. I’m pretty sure not in the wet, rainy, cold Northwest of my history with haunted houses. Maybe here in balmy Arizona, but more probably in California—land of risk takers. Or I suppose it could even be in one of the places where they’ve legalized smoking funny stuff. Okay, so I’m taking a poll here. How many of you would fork over five or ten bucks for this spooky opportunity?

PS: I heard on Jay Leno last night that the police closed down this haunted house.

 

 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Writers do this all the time...don't they?

The answer is 'no!' Last Saturday, I had one of the most un-typical days a writer can encounter. For the first time in a long time, I wasn't buried under stacks of paper, trying to fight to keep my eyes open to finish just one more scene...zzzzz.:)

No, last Saturday I had an author photoshoot with a local company Photo Junkies. Andrew and Kelty were amazing, but the fun started early in the day.

Manicure, pedicure, hair and makeup-a full day of pampering. Believe me this happens....um...NEVER! :) I mean, I won't lie, I did do edits on a new submission while sitting in the chairs, but at least it was somewhat relaxing lol.

Then, I met them in Sherwood Park and we hit the highway...About twenty-five minutes later we pulled off to the side near a big field-with absolutely nothing except the book props I brought along.

It was so much fun and they were amazing to work with. If you haven't had this experience, I highly recommend it. For $125.00, they made this deadline-exhausted, mom of a sick up all night toddler look not half bad lol:)

I may not get this opportunity again for a long time...if ever, but it was a nice perk of being a writer!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Suspense is my First Love Really


Suspense isn't always that lose your breath, feel chased, need to get to freedom scenario.

Or is it?

I'm going to plot last evening via the Hero's Journey.

Ordinary World = Mom (me)  Dad (hubby) and Son (Mike).

Call to Adventure = Dad has to work so Mom has to take son to Cub Scout meeting. 

Refusal = This meeting is called "Building a radio from scratch!"  Mom tells Dad to go late to work.  Dad laughs.

Meeting the Mentor=  Mom calls a friend who has an older boy who is a boy scout.  Older boy invited to the meeting.

Crossing the Threshold = Arrive at meeting.  Have to use Suri.

Tests, Allies, Enemies =   Get handed Kit for ages 8 and above.  Mike is 8.    Very few pictures in book, small print.  Son hasn't eaten yet, and there's still homework waiting at home.

Approach = Mom purchases two radio kits hoping Son will ape older boy.  Nope, too hard.  Soon three    people are working on one kit.

Ordeal, Death, and Rebirth = There's a long coil (brass) that has to be wound around what looks like a red toilet roll holder.  Oh no, we've got a knot!  Oh, no, we've over lapped!  Take the whole thing apart and start again.

Reward = Finished coiling the toilet paper roll.  Notice most people are at the same place we are.

The Road Back = Try to read the rest of the directions, do something strange with sand paper but see no purpose to it, stick long rods through holes.  Rods fall out.

Resurrection = Decide to put everything into a box and take it home to Dad!

Return with Elixir = Treat both boys to ice cream after meeting and decide that the failure to create the radio was the radios fault since no one managed to complete.

And, yes, this is how a romance author spends her evening.  Stay tuned for tonight's adventure:  Taking Grandpa to Peter Pipers.