Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Exorcism and Ghosts

Imogene Duckworthy has a problem in her third adventure, contained in the mystery novel called BROKE. She's rented a house for her, her daughter Drew, and Drew's pet potbelly pig. The leasing agent, Jersey Shorr, tells her there's a rumor that the house is haunted. But Immy is not deterred, since she doesn't believe in ghosts.

If she wanted to exorcise the ghost from the house, could she? Not really. In Western thought, an exorcism can only be performed by a Catholic priest. Even then, it's more to rid a person of demons than to get rid of a ghost.

There are measures she could take, though. Ideally, you want to send the ghost to "the other side" or into The Light. This web page stresses that you should be sober when attempting to persuade a ghost to leave. Burning sage is the accepted method of cleansing your house. This page thinks that ghosts don't need to be gotten rid of, rather they need to be rescued. They just need to be talked into going into The Light. Some ghosts, apparently, are afraid of leaving because they don't think that's exactly where they will end up.

However, I've recently learned (through a short story in Kevin Tipple's collection, Mind Slices)  (which is a very nice bunch of stories) that the concept of that other place wasn't always what it is today. Earlier religions and cultures, pre-Judaism, had a cyclical view of life. For these people, hell was a place to either rest between incarnations, or a neutral zone for dead souls. Early Judaism had no concept of hell, but later developed one that consisted of a place where you go to be purified of your earthly sins so you can ascend to a form of what Christianity now calls heaven.

Anyway, wherever the ghost goes, the important thing for the people in the house is that is goes.

Immy found there were quite a few cultural views of ghosts. The book she bought, The Moron's Compleat Guide to Ghosts, lists these: doppelgänger, a duplicate of a living person; poltergeist, mischief maker but not connected with an actual person; vardøger, a Norse ghost who does things immediately before a real person does them (that would be handy for a fortune teller, she thought); gjenganger, a Scandinavian spirit of someone risen from the grave, but not really ghostlike, more human like; and wraith, a bad omen with a cloak and no face.

Immy didn't think her ghost was any of these! She valiantly plunged ahead, regardless, trying to get rid of the ghost.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Music, Art, and Writing

The Impassioned Singer by Giorgione c. 1510

I've been working on the edits for EINE KLEINE MURDER, which will debut in May from Barking Rain Press. I made an excuse to include a quote in the book. It's one of my favorite quotes about music, by Walter Pater, an English art critic and essayist who lived in the 1800s. In an essay on 'The School of Giorgione' (a 15th century painter and musician) he said, "All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music". My characters discuss what this means for a bit, but I think it could use a lot of discussion.

Why would Pater say that? He was writing about a painter who departed from convention and produced works that didn't illustrate a story, a painter who was also a musician.

Here's one interpretation for the wiki gods:  the arts seek to unify subject matter and form, and music is the only art in which subject and form are seemingly one.

OK. But why are subject and form seemingly one in music? Why aren't they one in painting, sculpting, literature, dance, drama? (Those are what comes to my mind when I speak of arts. Others may differ.)

The arts in the preceding paragraph have one thing in common. See if you agree with me. They must all be seen. You can't close your eyes and appreciate them. With drama, you can hear the spoken word, but you can't see the stage sets and the expressions and gestures of the actors.

To me, this is a layer that comes between the art and the mind of the receiver of the art. Visual art must be interpreted by people who perceive colors differently, such as the color blind. Who knows what blue looks like to someone else? No one knows what it looks like to me. In fact, my daughter and I get into heated discussions about what is blue and what is green. (Totally on a tangent, there are languages, such as Vietnamese, Korean, and Thai, that don't have separate words for blue and green. If my daughter and I spoke one of those languages, we would never argue about blue-green, green-blue, turquoise, or aqua.)

Some of the arts are conveyed through words, which are also subject to interpretation and are colored by experience and culture.

But you can close your eyes and receive music straight into your brain. No words, no shapes, no physical form to get in the way.

Another quote reinforces Pater's opinion. Rabindranath Tagore, a native of India who is  classified as a polymath (he would have been called a Renaissance man if he had been born in a different century), was a remarkable person. He is the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, for his poetry. He was also a visual artist and musical composer. Here's what he says"Music is the purest form of art". He lived in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. I wish he and Walter Pater could have gotten together for a conversation. And I wish I could have been there to hear it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Writers' Retreat

The closest we came to a crime scene

A few Texas mystery writers, all women, decided to go away for a weekend in Salado, cute little touristy town south of Dallas and north of Austin. Since we all knew about the Stagecoach Inn, we decided to stay there.

Here's how it went.

High Tea--yum!
I guess I'm the one who started this ball rolling, and my thinking was that I needed a getaway and I needed to concentrate on nothing but writing, as I'm working on some time-crunch projects. They're not actually crunching right now, but will be if I don't get to setting some major sets of words down. We went with a laissez-faire structure, which means no structure. Meals happen, of course, and one member, Gale Albright, booked us for High Tea at Adelea's.

Those of us who could, Kathy Waller, Gale, and me, gathered Friday for lunch in the Coffee Shop (really, it was breakfast for me), then went to our rooms to write. Kathy and Gale roomed together, but I got a single since I'm so easily distracted. Except for the weird noise, which I later figured out was caused by big semis going over a stretch of bad pavement on the bridge over Salado Creek, my room was peaceful and comfy. I got a good bunch of words down--1602!

Midafternoon we took a break for fudge shopping and I got some Christmas shopping done.

We met for dinner and walked to the dining room at the Inn. The serving staff keeps their old tradition of reciting the menu. It's impressive, but does make it hard to order. Our waitress may remember everything she said, but I didn't. Gale and I picked ham slice out of her list. She shortly returned to say that it was all gone. We had no choice but to order prime rib, all three of us. It came with everything, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, veggies, bread, dessert--all but the wine. As usual, I order rare and got medium rare, but I've gotten used to that. We rolled back to sit out on the nice patio overlooking the pool at Kathy and Gale's room, then to bed. I think I wrote a little more that night.

Saturday morning, the other two writers arrived, Laura Oles and Nancy G. West. We had breakfast at the Coffee Shop, then had writerly discussion in the double room. I worked on FAT CAT until it was time for tea. I've never had such good scones in my life!

Outside Hemingway's Bar at Adelea's
I went to my room and looked through some emails, but then the wifi connection went down for most of the rest of the day. I got some more FAT CAT work done, a total of 948 words that day, then we had another session in the big bedroom.

We decided that there were a couple of drawbacks to our venue. One was the lack of microwaves and refrigerators in the rooms. The other was the lack of a good meeting place for our group. If this gathering happens again, I'll recommend we look around to see what else is in the area.

Sunday morning it turned suddenly cold. The Good ones, Laura and Nancy, went for a brisk walk while I slept in. We had breakfast and broke up soon after.

I loved getting to know Nancy better and meeting Laura for the first time. This is something I would recommend to any bunch of writers!

All pictures by Kathy Waller

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Guest Today: Chris Redding

I'm glad to be able to host Chris Redding today! Chris discovered at age ten she had a knack for storytelling. Ever since, she has wanted to be a published author. She lives in New Jersey with her family and animals. When she isn't writing she works part time for her local hospital.

Chris is the author of the hot mystery, BLONDE DEMOLITION, a mystery thriller with romance. You're in for a treat--an excerpt from the novel. Here's a bit about it:

Mallory Sage lives in a small, idyllic town where nothing ever happens. Just the kind of life she has always wanted. No one, not even her fellow volunteer firefighters, knows about her past life as an agent for Homeland Security.

Former partner and lover, Trey McCrane, comes back into Mallory's life. He believes they made a great team once, and that they can do so again. Besides, they don't have much choice. Paul Stanley, a twisted killer and their old nemesis, is back.

Framed for a bombing and drawn together by necessity, Mallory and Trey go on the run and must learn to trust each other again―if they hope to survive. But Mallory has been hiding another secret, one that could destroy their relationship. And time is running out.

Here's an excerpt from the novel:

She slammed her hand on the table. Her beer wobbled. She caught it. "You are not seducing me back into this life."

He shifted away from her, his arms crossed. His expression didn't change. He hadn't even flinched at her outburst. Not even at her use of the word seduce, which she knew any shrink would have a field day with.

Had he predicted what she would do?

When they had worked together, he'd known before she did that she had to pee. She'd never met anyone so in tune with her. Maybe she never wanted to have anyone know her that way again.

"I'm different now. I have this great life." Her finger stabbed the air, punctuated every word. "You cannot take that away from me."

"I'm not taking away anything. I'm giving you something. I'm giving you back the ability to make a difference."

She stalked away from him. "You think I don't make a difference? What about the family whose house didn't burn down because I was here?"

"You can prevent many more houses from not burning down with us."

She shook her head. "It isn't the same."

He would not pull her strings. He would appeal to her sense of honor and her strong desire to help people. He knew all the cards she held and how to play them to his advantage.

"No, it's better," he said.

Please take a look at the book on Amazon!
Amazon in print:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Imogene Duckworthy is a responsible adult. No, wait, she’s getting there! I realize that, if you’ve read the first two books of her adventures, CHOKE and SMOKE, you might think she has a long ways to go. But she does have a responsible job (OK, she got fired once, but she got her job back), she’s saved up enough to buy a car (OK, it’s a clunker, but it runs--so far), and she figures it’s time for her to move out and have her own place.

The problem, as BROKE opens, is finding a rental property in Wymee Falls that will accept her, her four-year-old daughter Nancy Drew Duckworthy, and Drew’s pet potbelly pig Marshmallow. He’s a cutie and very well behaved, but he is a pig.

The real estate agent, Jersey Shorr, finds four places that are amenable to having pigs, which surprises Ms. Shorr, but only one is in Immy’s price range. The rumor that the house is haunted doesn’t deter our intrepid Immy, but she is taken aback by the body of a broken-necked man in the bathtub.

You can sample a bit of the book hereIt’s available for Kindle and on Smashwords in all electronic formats right now.

As soon as Nook finishes processing the files, I’ll announce it launched, but you heard it here first.

The paperback is in the works and should be ready in a week or two. Certainly by Halloween! This is a bit of a spooky story, what with the ghost and all.