And, this summer, my
Krewe of Hunters series features Massachusetts in Dying Breath and Dark Rites.
(Dying Breath is out—Dark Rites is available July 30th.)
Long ago (lol,
really long ago!) I was just starting high school and met Dennis Pozzessere. A
few years older than me, he attended junior college in Miami, waiting for me to
head up to a four-year institute.
We married a month after
I graduated high school and headed off to the University of South Florida.
But, the point here
is that, after meeting Dennis, I met my amazing family of in-laws.
Italians, they had
come to the states to settle in Worcester, Massachusetts, and environs.
Dennis’s mom was one
of six children; his dad was one of eleven.
naturally, he had dozens upon dozens of aunts and uncles and cousins, all of
whom were wonderful; I was always referred to as a niece or a cousin, as if I
were blood, and not just an in-law.
This definitely had
a huge effect on my life, in many ways.
Once we had our
children, we most often spent our summers traveling up to Massachusetts from
Miami; along the way, we stopped at museums, old churches, and fell in love
with many cities and towns and the great history that went with each.
We also spent a
great deal of time in Massachusetts, exploring Plymouth, Boston, Gloucester,
Salem, the Cape, and, the western part of the state, as well.
History has always
fascinated me. I love the state so much because of the family and friends I
have there—and because there is so much history—history that has shaped
us today. While we will always be moving forward, we have come so far.
Once the Mayflower
arrived and the Massachusetts Bay Colony was formed, Puritan rule was
enforced—not just in Salem where the infamous Witch Trials were held, but
throughout the colony.
The Puritans came
for freedom to practice their religion—
they did not allow
others to do the same!
forbidden to live in the Massachusetts Bay Colony—they would be expelled
and then, if they returned, they were executed. (Hanging was the method;
contrary to some fiction, neither they, nor any so-called witches--were
ever burned at the stake in the Masaschusetts Bay Colony.)
Puritan rule was
harsh, as anyone knows who has read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘Scarlet Letter’ or
read up on the Witch Trials of 1692.
They weren’t the
first Puritan witch trials—in 1642, a rash of accusations rattle Puritan
Hartford, Connecticut. Those eventually brought about seven trials (and
dunkings) and four executions.
“Thou shall not
suffer a witch to live!”
Easy to understand,
in a way, how good people became involved—fear was something prevalent in life.
There was always the threat of Indian attack. The woods were dark and
plentiful, death from natural causes was frequent without the antibiotics of
our day, and the winters were severe.
Still, as a
modern-day girl, I found it hard to forgive some of those wretched people from
having executed a woman so good as Rebecca Nurse—and even those who were not so
good—none of them deserved what befell them. And, I must admit, since they
might be given a reprieve from their death sentence by admitting to the crime,
I find it amazing that they were so steadfast to their beliefs in God that they
would risk their immortal souls. (The way I see it, God would have forgiven
such a lie, fully aware of why it had been spoken!)
But, out of the
darkness often comes the light!
began life as a Puritan—and became an amazingly progressive man, one who helped
bring us into our age of enlightenment.
Cotton Mather—a man
I found abominable for his determination to see George Burroughs executed in
Salem, despite his ability to recite the Lord’s Prayer—became an odd member of
a very small but progressive group when he supported the concept of inoculation
We, as humans, are
an old bunch. All subject to the way we grow up—and to the fact that we are all
unique, and have the ability to think for ourselves!
With history that’s
deep and rich, with Boston, with Lexington and Concord, with so much beauty and
natural wonder, Massachusetts, is simply an incredible place. Now diverse, with
parks, museums, and more, it’s a wonderful place to live and to visit.
I love it—think I
About a decade back,
my son, Derek, and daughter-in-law, Yevgeniya, were married there, at a place
in Gloucester, called Hammond Castle. It was incredible. Derek wore a Graham
tartan and his groomsmen were in Black Watch. My first dance with my newly
married son was to Danny Boy; we did the tarantella to honor the Italian
family, and toasts were plentiful, and most often in the Russian or Ukrainian
language to honor my Ukrainian daughter-in-law’s family.
Hammond Castle is
magnificent! It was built in the 1920s by John Hays Hammond, Jr., to house his
collections of medieval, Roman, and Renaissance artifacts and is opened to the
public now as a museum. Another must-see if you’re in the area.
For me, it was just
another reason to love Massachusetts!
The best, of course,
remains the family I acquired there!
But, whether you agree or disagree on my
personal takes on history, I hope you’ll enjoy Dying Breath and Dark Rites.
Both feature Vickie Preston and Griffin Pryce, as will the third book in the
series, out at the end of September, Wicked Deeds.
The last book moves
them to Maryland as they head to Krewe headquarters in Northern Virginia.
And the last book
features a special ghost, a man I’d truly love to have at one of those made-up
dinner parties, Mr. Edgar Alan Poe.
Our great American
author and father (many believe) of the modern mystery, and certainly, an icon in
horror, managed to die under incredibly mysterious circumstances.
Thank you for
reading this letter, and for supporting the Krewe, and/or, for just reading in
I hope to give you
hours of entertainment, and, perhaps, curiosity—and maybe even a few minutes
of, hm, I don’t agree with her at all!
Having grown up in Miami, the Florida Keys were always a
getaway for my family and I’ve loved heading down to the entire chain of
islands all my life – especially Key West!
of course, for anyone from the city area, you find yourself cheerful just
because you’re driving south. Yes, they are basically catching the same fish
off the coast of Miami as they are off the coast of Key Largo—first stop on the
chain. They somehow just taste better as soon as you’re off the mainland. And
somehow, we’re all just instantly in better moods. Perhaps it’s the concept of
the sea and the breeze and the fact that our natural landscape is just so
darned beautiful. I don’t know. But I am happy to head down at the drop of a
Largo offers a number of fun establishments and, to me most importantly, John
Pennekamp State Park. It’s a great place to go snorkeling, diving, picnicking,
or just relaxing. Our reefs are sensational, and no matter how you go, it’s a
day of nature—natural nature, if you will! We haven’t managed to manicure too
much on our reefs yet and I hope they never do. They offer such amazing
relaxation. I’m a diver, and there’s nothing like being down there—as of yet!—with
no cell phones or distractions.
you’ll find Captain Slate’s. Now, if you are a diver, this is something you
must try to do—Captain Slate’s Creature Feature. Check out his schedule—he
offers a dive with large nurse sharks and rays the Captain has been feeding for
years. They are like his pets. They are gentle and play with the divers. (Not
as food—they are naturally gentle unless you step on them or pull or tug at
them.) It is truly an experience like no other.
a blog so I’m not going to get too carried away because I can extol the virtues
of every island in the chain. But I will tell you that all along the 120 (approx)
miles to the 0 mark in Key West from the mainland, you will find excellent
restaurants, charming and rustic bed and breakfast inns and more glamorous
resorts. Fishing, boating, para-sailing, you name it. There’s camping, too. You
can drop by Theater of the Sea for lots of sea mammal fun.
of which . . . .
Marathon, at Grassy Key, there’s Dolphin Research Center. Once the home of
Flipper, the founders and trainers there work with these marvelous mammals in
many ways; they have become the home for many rescue animals who would have
died in the wild. I have my favorite friends there, and I swear, my boy Tanner
knows me when I come and chat with him or take a swim. I’ve been there for
their Wounded Warrior Day—and I can’t say enough!
wish a swim or play time with a sea lion, make sure you check schedules and
availability at either venue.
on down, you’ll cross the famous Seven Mile Bridge, pass through areas where
our little key deer are protected, and many nature preserves.
Key is where Doctor Henry Perrine was massacred with others when the Seminole
Indians—harassed and massacred themselves—took revenge on the wrong man, a man
who had never harmed anyone. Perrine had been looking for a land grant; at his
death, his widow had the land relocated and we now have the community of
Perrine, Florida, in his honor.
you come to Stock Island and then Key West. Now part of what you see of Key
West is the “new area.” Land filled in out of marsh and bogs as time went by. Old
Town Key West is naturally my favorite area. That’s where you’ll find a huge
conglomeration of Victorian houses—during the years of salvage, Key West was
the highest per capita income area of the states. You can tour Hemingway’s
house and get to know some six-toed cats. You can visit the Mel Fisher Museum
and find out about modern salvage. Visit the East Martello Museum and see a
Victorian hearse among other artifacts—and learn about the days of pirates and
Key West during the Civil War. The cemetery is mid island on the highest land
with many interred in above ground vaults—bodies did indeed wash down Duval
Street after a major hurricane.
good Lord, go on a ghost tour!
historic, and informative.
times as I’ve been, I still hop on the Conch tour train. A “conch,” of course,
is a native. A “fresh water conch” is someone who has been there at least seven
years. (Yes, it’s also a large sea snail as well.) The Conch Republic refers to
the fact that Key West, to protest at blockade at the mainland, seceded from
the Union. The “secession” lasted a few hours—the point of everyone going broke
with no tourism dollars was quickly made and thankfully, all came to a
satisfactory conclusion without the beautiful and historic island leaving the
out Artist House Bed and Breakfast – famed for being the home of Robert the
Doll. And make sure you learn the story of Maria de Hoyos and Carl Tanzler. If not
the greatest love story of all time—it’s got to be darned close to the
creepiest. Seriously—where else could a man marry a corpse and live with her
for seven years without really being noticed?
some of the crazy and incredible beauty and wonder—along with history, the
good, the bad, and the ugly—are all within the pages of The Cursed. And, of
course, I hope that one day, if you haven’t yet, you will come on down!
In theory, the mini
ice-age might be the reason St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated far and wide.
By the mid-eighteen-hundreds, the potato—a New World
crop—had become big in Ireland. It th. Imagine life
without the parades—and green beer, of course. (My mom was born in Dublin so
it’s all pretty cool to me!)
had become so big, in fact, that the country
was dependent on in. By 1849—tail end of the mini ice-age, since most
scientists agree it ended about 1850—the land was so ravaged and decimated that
the potatoes were growing black and inedible. In starving droves, the Irish
were forced to immigrate to survive. As we know, the Irish came to the United
States in massive numbers. And thank the Lord! While they went through a pretty
wretched period at first (read Gangs of New York—yes, read the book, though I
was a fan of the movie, quite different!) they began to settle in quite nicely
as the decades rolled by and we began to pick on whatever new immigrants from
different countries began to flock in and it was their turn to be ostracized.
Yes, bring us your poor and wretched . . . we’ll bitch about them and forget
we’re a nation of immigrants, but hey! Back on track here. So the Irish came
and we have delightful celebrations every March 17
So maybe another reason to party in this country isn’t
so important. But many or our leaders are of Irish descent, um, hm—like
Kennedy! And Obama apparently can go back as well. Maybe Congress could
actually agree on something if they were just to figure out that many of them
were of Irish descent!
Oh, well. Still digressing here!
And on that note, the first President of the Republic of
Ireland was an American. Yup. An Irishman (via his mom,) but born in the US of
A, which meant, that when he was caught with a number of men who were hanged
for their rebellion, he was spared the noose—no one wanted the Americans
getting up in arms against what was going on. So Eamon de Valera lived to be
the first pres. Lots of connection here—and maybe because of the weather.
Who knows just what else might have had to do with the
extreme cold? Not that the shift was that big—just big enough to ruin crops and
keep snow on the ground. Enough to make people really, really hungry.
But here’s to the point of the story—and we’re going to
backtrack a little. On April of 1815 the volcano at Mt. Tambora on the little
island of Sambawa erupted. The eruption was by far the worst of the nineteenth
century although it’s presumed that it wasn’t noted as much as the later
eruption of Krakatoa because by the time that top was blown, the telegraph was
shooting news all over the place—the Facebook of the age.
But Mt. Tambora was about 12,000 feet high—the eruption
knocked off 4,000 feet to bring it down to 8,000. That’s a lot of footage to lose—and
a lot of dirt and ash and matter flying around in the air. It’s hard to
estimate the deaths with the tsunamis created-much less being there at the
The volcanic sky began to travel, right around the
The year 1816 was not a good one in the states. It
wasn’t that they were having the coldest days ever—it was that the cold
wouldn’t go away. (Kind of like this year, 2014. I just left Chicago. Damn!)
Spring hinted of an arrival—and then just went away.
The sky was eternally overcast. Add the fallout into the
air and you had one cold year without much sun penetrating down to earth.
But, good things came of it.
Writers at the time could be a Bohemian lot. Take Lord
Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, and John Polidori. They were hanging around
Geneva, Switzerland and were known to take lovely holidays. Now on these
holidays the group usually did fun things—outside. They loved to boat on the
lake, take hikes, and, in general, play games and enjoy the great outdoors! But
when they arrived, it was cold. It was dark. It was the year without a summer.
And sitting around by the fire one cold wretched night
at the Villa Diodati, they began to tell ghost stories. And as they told ghost
stories, they decided that writing was something that could be done indoors.
Since it was eternally gloomy, day often turned to night with little being
different. There were eternal shadows surrounding them. Gray hung over the lake
like a miasma of death and waiting.
Lord Byron proposed they all write a ghost story.
Well, couple that with Mary’s upbringing—a feminist
mother, a father who liked to entertain the brightest minds of his day—and the
fact that she was very up on recent experiments with electricity and the
concept of “galvanism” and “re-animating” corpses, and you have a story.
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was born, no pun
Without the mini ice-age, this wonder of the literary
world might not exist. Hundreds of actors, film-makers, producers, and what
have you might not have had jobs over the decades upon decades since. And
writers playing upon the first chills they felt while reading it might not have
created their new works of fiction. If you want to get down to it—people might
not have been frightened into the backseats at drive-ins and who knows? Some of
us might not have even existed!
While it’s fanciful to take it too far, it is amazing
what the weather can cause and create and how it has influenced history. A
story is a small part of it, of course.
But, apparently, that mini ice-age influenced me. Waking
the Dead begins in Geneva, Switzerland, with Mary and her crew—and an ardent
admirer of them all who painted with colors rather than a pen. But his creation
of that summer makes it present day New Orleans and into the lives of Danni
Cafferty and Michael Quinn. I hope you’ll enjoy my take on the year without a