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.