Wednesday, July 05, 2017

 
 
 
 
Heather Graham
Krewe of Hunters:
Dying Breath,  Dark Rites and Wicked Deeds
Dear Reader,                

       Massachusetts has a special place in my heart. 
 
       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.  
        
        Therefore, 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!                
     Quakers were forbidden to live in the Massachusetts Bay Colony—they would be expelled once, 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!                   
     Benjamin Franklin 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 against disease.                
     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 mentioned that!                
     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.                
     Maryland! Another great state.                
     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 general!                
     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!                                 
 
     May your summer be safe and well,                

     Heather Graham

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Cursed – and Key West Florida!



                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!

                First, 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 hat.

                Key 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.

                Near Pennekamp 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.

                This is 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.

                Speaking of which . . . .

                In 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!

                If you wish a swim or play time with a sea lion, make sure you check schedules and availability at either venue.

                Heading on down, you’ll cross the famous Seven Mile Bridge, pass through areas where our little key deer are protected, and many nature preserves. 

                Indian 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.

                Next 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. 

                And good Lord, go on a ghost tour!

                Fun, historic, and informative.

                As many 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 states.

                Check 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?

                Only in Key West. 

                I hope 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!



               

Friday, March 07, 2014

Mini Ice-Age and Waking the Dead



            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 initial impact.
The volcanic sky began to travel, right around the globe.
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.
1816.
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 intended.
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 summer!