Friday, July 27, 2012

Unusual Experience at Lizzie Borden's house

For me, places can be pure inspiration. And when they combine with workshops and friends, they are extra special.
And so we come to an unusual experience at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast in Fall River, Massachusetts.

As a child growing up in Florida, I heard the rhyme often enough, especially playing jump rope. “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.” Mr. Borden really got about fourteen whacks and Mrs. Borden a few more, but, hey, artistic license was at work.

I never thought at the time that I could so something so intriguing as actually spend the night in this house. Something that everyone can now do! It’s owned and run by Leeann Wilbur and a friend. Leeann has been painstaking in returning the home to its late nineteenth-century appearance, for it was August 4th, 1892, when the murders rocked Fall River—and the nation. 

Every year, friends and I head to Necon—Northeastern Writers Conference—affectionately known as Camp Necon because it’s one of the warmest—and strangest!—cons ever. Writers and artists and film makers descend in small number—the con is cut-off at 200. But there are panels, art, books—and Saugie’s (hot dogs) on the quad by night. All deliciously creepy with horror stories and amazing art and a camaraderie that exists almost nowhere else.

And then, after Camp Necon, a group of us heads to the Lizzie Borden house. 

So, this year, I was meeting videographers I’d never met before at the house to film a promo piece for upcoming books. I love Leeann—she has been wonderful to us!—and I rushed in after the last tour on our day to give her a hug and find out if the people there were “my” people.

But they were not. She was standing with a young woman and I realized I’d interrupted and I apologized and found out that she was the DP or design producer for another show being shot there for the Biography Channel. “Hey, they need a Lizzie,” Leeann told me. Hm. Well, since Chynna was with me, I laughed and said, “Hey, I think maybe I should be Abby—but have I got a Lizzie for you!”

So I did wind up being Abby Borden, victim. This had its good—I didn’t need to lose weight since she had me about fifty pounds. In fact, the coroner had described her as “fleshy.” But we were set; Dennis Cummins, friend, writer, and amazing musician, was with us; he became my “husband” for the day, Andrew Borden. Corrinne de Winter was signed on to be a guest, and our little group set out to take part. The first day, my people did come and we filmed info on the house and interviews with our group. The next day . . . .

Roll out the blood!

Now, some may think this strange. Here’s a family ready and happy for the daughter to whack away at the mother. But, then, we’ve always loved Poe and Lovelace and my children actually grew up in something like the Munster’s home, so—maybe not so strange. But, wrapped up in a dress that nicely added poundage I set out to straighten up the room while Chynna stalked me up the stairs. Historically and forensically, detectives and scholars through the years have determined that Abby did know her killer—she had no defensive wounds and surely didn’t know what was coming. 

We used the hatchet that Leeann keeps in a woodbin in the kitchen. Chynna had to be careful—it says “Welcome” on one side.

The joke of the day with my family was that by the time the filming ended, I might actually know how to fold a blanket.

It takes time. I was whacked and whacked. I fell—right where Abby Borden was really found in what is now referred to as “the murder room.” I was asked if I was all right on the floor there—I was. Necon is one of those experiences that doesn’t really include sleep, so it was a nice little nap, really.

We spent a fair amount of time on what will boil down to a matter of seconds, and then I was free while Chynna went on to murder her “father.” For this, Brea, the production designer, gave me the task of tossing film blood all over Chynna. I mean, seriously, after being whacked all day, tossing a little blood back felt okay!

When we finally left, they’d gone to film their “ghost expedition.” The show will air in mid-October on Biography. That 220 “fleshy” person (she was also described as being ‘well-nutritioned’) on the floor will be me. 

If you’ve always had a desire to do chilling things, get on over to Fall River Massachusetts. Google-search the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast. Ask for the “Murder Room,” or sleep right where Lizzie herself did night after night. See if you can solve the age old questions—did she do it? Was there a conspiracy? Everyone has an opinion. But, whether you solve the crime or not, it’s a wonderful place to visit and stay. Tours—barring the unexpected—run daily except for Christmas and Thanksgiving. 

But . . . . 

Sleeping there, hm. That is fun. Hear the stories—and see if you see any of the haunts at Lizzie’s!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Unseen, The Unholy, The Unspoken and The Uninvited

Writing the Krewe of Hunters—from the first book, Phantom Evil—has been an exceptionally fascinating undertaking.

I’m writing ghosts, so if you’re writing ghosts, you get to study ghosts!

Okay, it’s not exactly as if I can ask my friends if they know any ghosts I can interview, but in a way, it’s almost the same.

“My” ghosts actually began with a book called Haunted. Many more books came into being because of the elusive Adam Harrison. Adam had a son with a form of ESP and when his son, Joshua, died young and tragically, he passed his ESP on to a friend. And although Adam didn’t really have abilities himself, he recognized them in others and knew there was more to the world than what we see and feel.

Adam features (whether he’s actually in the pages or not) in Ghost Walk, Nightwalker, and several other books. (The Flynn Brothers Trilogy and the Keys Trilogy are not loosely related!)Because Adam has worked with the government helping out so often, it becomes evident that the Feds need some of the talent he knows all about.

Krewe of Hunters came into being with Jackson Crow charged with creating a unit of people with special talents. They all have something necessary for real law enforcement and then they’re . . . special. So began the first Krewe with Phantom Evil, Heart of Evil, Sacred Evil, and The Evil Inside.

But, it’s a big country. One unit was not enough. And so Jackson met with Texas Ranger Logan Raintree and U.S. Marshall Kelsey O’Brien and the Texas Krewe was born in The Unseen. I love the Alamo, so the research for The Unseen was eerie and wonderful—little seems as spectral and sacred as the Alamo in the late, quiet night. This place, to me, is incredibly important.

As it is in The Unholy—something truly fun and wonderful because of my friend, Michelle, who works for a major special effects studio and brought me through it, showing me horrific zombies and monsters—and giant rats for commercials and the little pig who goes “wee, wee, wee,” all the way home.

The Unholy is followed by The Unspoken which takes place in Chicago, a special city for me. It’s where my mom lived when she first came from Ireland and where my grandmother took me for candy and threatened me with banshees in the outhouse if I didn’t behave! She was a wonderful storyteller and also took me to the Field museum where I was terrified at a very young age by the mummies! Yes, mummies feature in The Unspoken along with the discovery of a long lost ship at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

The second Krewe tie it up with The Uninvited, once again taking place in a city I love dearly—Philadelphia. It’s the complete cradle of America, where our forefathers tread. When I’m there, I’m reminded that they signed their names—knowing it would mean death if they were taken as traitors by the British. They were lawyers, printers, and farmers—and they didn’t intend to spend their lives as politicians; they just wanted to create the country they dreamed could exist.

I love to walk around Independence Hall and imagine all that might have gone on at a time when our fate hung by a thread. In The Uninvited, mysterious deaths appear in a historic home where once upon a time a young woman was murdered, supposedly by the Brit who had taken her home hostage during the near-year when the patriots were forced to flee. Yes, she was spying, riding to Valley Forge . . . .
But what really happened? That’s a question that becomes intensely important as murders begin to occur in the present.

I sincerely loved working on these books. I hope you’ll love reading them.

Friday, June 08, 2012

A Travel Whirlwind

I’m writing this at the tail end of the BEA—initials that stand for Booksellers Expo of the Americas.
                It’s fantastic. Hundreds—no, maybe thousands?—of authors are there with their publishers or organizations such as Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America—horror writers and sci-fi writers—come out to sign books. And give them away.
                It’s a reader’s smorgasbord. It’s a chance to meet people.
                And it’s a great chance to have fun with friends.
                It’s also New York City. 
                Now, I admit I’m ready to go home.
But . . . .
The last three months have been a whirlwind of travel for me, a lot it work, some of it for family, and, thankfully, a lot in which work and family could combine. I’ve been back and forth from Miami, Bowling Green, L.A., New York, Nashville, Orlando, Dallas, New Orleans, Houma, Covington, San Antonio, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Chicago.
                But when I think about going home, I get to think, too, about the places I’ve been. And I’m kind of amazed, thinking of how much is out there and what a spectacular land this is. In the Nashville area, I was enchanted by the beauty of the country; in Kentucky, I was bowled over by the charm and hospitality of the people. Las Vegas was sheer fun—the kind I probably shouldn’t have all that often!  If you know me or about me, you know I love New Orleans and the history there; Chicago offers Second City comedy and architecture and the grandeur of Lake Michigan.
                Who can really hate Mickey Mouse? (Okay, I have, at times. You know—when you’ve been standing in ninety-degree heat for an hour or so with a ride with a bunch of hungry, impatient, and thirsty kids! But, in general, I love the artistry—and the pool at the Dolphin hotel!)
                San Antonio is beautiful—and the Alamo is spiritual and the way they light it up at night, it’s a misty feeling of the past that is an eerie reminder of all that happened there.
                In California, thanks to friends Scott and Sprout of the Peace River Ghost Hunters, I had a really unique experience with an investigation on the Queen Mary.
                In all this, of course, there are deadlines. So, I have gotten really good at whipping my computer out in a plane, on a train . . . if it’s in the rain . . . whatever! And a friend asked me once just how I was getting work done and I thought that yes, it was difficult.
                But, I realized I was grateful, too. I was reminded of just how fantastic I found so many places in our country; I met wonderful people—from whom I will steal when creating characters. I’ve been enriched by incredible experiences—which I will use, too, of course.
                And now, on that plane going home (I really do miss my pets! My little nephews, family, and friends when I’m gone, though, luckily, I’ve had family members with me on different legs of this long and eclectic trip!).  Thanks to BEA, I’m going to have some really great reading material!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

200 Years of Growing Pains

I saw this on Facebook the other day and it made me think about the 200 plus years of growing pains that our country has gone through. We were based on the concept of equality for all—but the country was still filled with slave owners and certainly meant that in their minds all men were created equal but women were—women.

Okay, so we’ve come pretty far. We stood up against the rest world and fought a civil war that abolished slavery.

Then we went scores of years before giving women the vote and giving our African American population a guarantee in the law—if not in the minds of all—that they were equal and the same. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and others brought us away from desegration.

Now, let’s face it. As it’s said in the wonderfully imaginative and funny play Avenue Q, one of the denizens points out, “Everybody’s a little bit prejudice.”

But we’ve fought so hard and long for equality among the sexes, religions, the many colors of humanity we come in, and our choice as far as relationships go, be they traditional or same sex. We have come a long, long way in realizing that we’re all part of this human rat race and all truly entitled to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

This picture really made me think. I pray that we keep going forward as Americans, in recognizing everyone’s rights—including their right to find happiness in their own personal way—continue. We are as great as all out individual parts—I’d like to believe that we’ll continue to forge forward as a nation, and never take steps backwards that encourage prejudice or cruelty in any way, shape, or form.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day

And here it is . . . one of the finest money making days of the years for greeting card companies, second only to Christmas!

Valentine’s Day!

Some will make a point to profess their love for a sweetheart. Some will think that they haven’t a sweetheart at the moment and be depressed—other will think that they haven’t a sweetheart at this moment and see a movie and maybe treat themselves to a great dinner!

But, the reason we celebrate is really quite nice, even if it is shrouded in myth and maybe only partially true—or if the legend is really based on the lives of several men.

Legend goes that evil Claudius II of Rome believed that soldiers fought better when they didn’t have wives, and therefore, he put a ban on marriage. Valentine was a priest—a no-no in the eyes of Claudius from the get-go. But Valentine believed in the love and the sanctity of marriage. He was said to have done good deeds akin to miracle and he had also welcomed young lovers for clandestine marriages in his church—perhaps down in the catacombs? Who knows where this was, but those who believed in love came to him. Claudius got his hands on Valentine and blinded him; Valentine merely tried to teach Claudius the goodness of Christianity. Claudius wasn’t to bed, and beloved by so many, Valentine was executed.

In the age of Chaucer, when romance and high gallantry flourished, Valentine was honored.

And to this day, we honor of the memory of the man (or the several men named Valentine) who gave his life for the beauty of love—in its many guises.

So, hey, the economy needs it! Go out and get some chocolates, buy some cards, and give someone some flowers.

There’s nothing wrong about honoring one of our finest human emotions—love!