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Be Careful What You Wish For!

Be Careful What You Wish For!

black-cab-in-londonWe jumped in the cab at the foot of London’s shiny new landmark, The Shard. Excited to see the hotel we’d call home for the last leg of our stay, we barely noticed the luggage that totterer and shimmied at our feet as we crossed the Thames. As we drove, my family and I agreed, the Shangra-La had been posh in every way. But it was too perfect somehow.  The Shard was merely a glass and metal picture frame, perfect for viewing the historic city from a lofty height but not for experiencing it. Yes, we filled our lungs with smells as we explored the city during the day, filled our stomachs with pub food. We savored old churches and visits to countless museums. But at night, we fell asleep to the twinkle of the London skyline from 46 stories above the bustle, grit and character. We were ready for a change. As the cab neared the corner of Kensington Gardens, we pulled to the curb at the foot of a pink-brick hotel that throbbed with authenticity.

There was an inevitable mix-up during check-in, but after a time, we were given keys to a suite with two adjoining rooms at the back corner of the property. We turned the key and as the door creaked open, the kids buzzed past, ran up the steps to check out room number one, then whizzed past again to see room number two. “This one is ours!” they shouted. I climbed the steps to see a room decorated in black, white and silver and flooded with natural light that came from a generous bank of windows.

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Color palette of our room

My husband and I smiled and settled our things into our room-by-default. We set our luggage down below an oil-painting of twenty or so dogs, hungry ribby dogs. The rest of our room was painted in the same palette of browns, tans and grays. Two small windows and one lamp gave the room a tobacco-stained haze. Giggles from next as the kids set up house kept us from insisting they trade.

The location was ideal, within walking distance to our favorite London pub, The Britannia, we all went to bed feeling fat and happy.

Somewhere past midnight, I woke to the feeling of a cold hand gripping mine, which dangled out from beneath the duvet. It was the cold that made me tuck my hand into the blankets again. Two times more I would wake before morning light to a soft, “Mama.” The second cry caused me to walk the hall and steps up to check the kids next door. They were sound asleep. I smiled at the light they left on in the bathroom and the door they left ajar. I don’t think I was meant to know that they still needed/wanted a nightlight. I returned to bed and tucked the blankets around my ears, then slept once again.

The days after that were busy with plays, museums, trips to every H&M my tween could locate on Google maps. Every night I woke to the quiet, “Mama.” Once, I opened my eyes to see a little girl in a flouncy white dress standing near my side of the bed. She was watching me sleep with a tiny smile etched across her face. I  smiled back at her. You see, I’m no stranger to ghosts and hotels. Click here to see my post about the ghost writer I had on book two.

steve-donna-o-meara-ghost-in-the-hall-at-the-hawthorne-hotel-one-of-america-s-most-hauntedHalf-asleep, I whispered, “I know you’re interested in me because I’m a mom, but, please stop running back and forth in the hallway. You’ll wake up the kids.” Yes, the little girl spirit had been trailing behind me since we’d checked in. I asked her not to follow me into the bathroom, “That’s just plain rude,” I said. And thankfully, she obeyed.

The day of our departure, I did a thorough check of both rooms in search of  forgotten items. As I zipped my daughter’s bag shut, I bit my tongue. You see, we have a couple rules when we travel. Rule 1: Never use the ghost app in a hotel room we have to sleep in. Rule 2: Never talk about any “spirit” activity in the room until we’re checked out and away from the property. I knew the rules, but we were basically checked out. The cab would be here soon. I blurted out, “Have you guys had any ghost stuff happen to you?” There wide eyes and pink cheeks confirmed the truth.

“There’s a white light that follows you everywhere, Mom,” said my teen. “It’s not a bad energy, but it’s always there, like a blur, no matter where you go.”

Then my youngest child confessed, “One night, I woke up and there was a little girl standing over me. She was watching me and sister sleep,” She glanced at the bathroom door, “And there’s a mean woman in the bathroom.”

“Oh, yeah!” interrupted the teen. “She’s horrible. That’s why I never showered here.” She scratched her head and shivered.

On the drive to the airport we exchanged stories, shocked at how they intersected. We were all grateful to be away from the historic hotel and eager to sleep in our own beds that night.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 10.11.44 AMWe never seek this out, but it happens to us. I guess if we had read all the Travelocity reviews before we’d booked, we would’ve known what we were getting in to. The title of one is, “Not as good as we thought and possibly haunted.”

If you’re a thrill-seeker, check this link to find the five most haunted hotels in London.

#FreakyFriday – Reinventing the Horror Genre

#FreakyFriday – Reinventing the Horror Genre

Meet Horror Author, Alex Kimmell

author-pic-w-text-e1429318472641Alex Kimmell lives in Rhode Island with his family and two dogs. The Idea of North was released in September 2015 to wide acclaim. His previous books The Key to Everything and A Chorus of Wolves are Amazon bestsellers and his short fiction has appeared in publications by Dynatox Ministries, Black Lantern Press, Front Row Lit, Canyon Voices, Wordcount Podcast and Dumb White Husband. alexkimmell.com.

 

The Idea of North

tIoN-FINAL-HR-CoverWhen piano prodigy, Dalton Beaufort, plays his music people die.

Devastation is all that remains as storms of unprecedented size rage across the country side.
An elite group of storm trackers catch on camera a strange shape at the base of the largest tornado ever recorded.

Uncanny haunted melodies play upon the gales as whirlwinds churn and blow the world away.
Dalton must do everything in his power to discover what links him to the mysterious tempests, and avoid traveling along the path of a grim family tradition.

After all, death and music run in the family.

What Readers Are Saying

“Alex Kimmell’s stories just get better and better. I got an advanced review copy of The Idea of North a while back. Given his description, I really didn’t know what to expect. That’s good. When I’m reading, I like not knowing what to expect. That edgy feeling continued as the story unfolded. The writing is sharp and straight forward. Alex can turn a phrase and paint a word picture without falling into sounding too writerly. This is a haunting story that will keep you up wondering what dark path the author will lead you down. No spoilers. Just read it, and watch the sky.”

A Final Note

 As a kid, I loved Steven Spielberg’s movies. He was the first movie-maker I’d known to create authentic families, lull me into the normalcy of daily life and then unravel it all, making their slow destruction all the more horrifying.
Kimmell is the literary equivalent of Spielberg. As I read his books, I’m both cringing and holding my breath to see how fate will crack and crumble his characters. And I love every minute of it.
Haunted by Ladybugs

Haunted by Ladybugs

ladybug copySince the blue moon last week, ladybugs have been haunting me. They’ve pitter pattered across my window, clung to my shirt sleeve, and hung onto the rearview mirror of the car.

It’s not the first time I’ve been haunted by ladybugs, though. The first time was after the murder of my friend and co-worker, Sissy.

Sissy worked at the same small company where I was a marketing assistant. Like all people employed by a small company, Sissy and I wore many hats. Our job descriptions changed hourly. Straight out of college with my two degrees, I was willing to do anything, and that’s what I did. I made Costco runs, secured paint color approvals, dropped sample kits at the post office, made client calls and helped create ads.

Sissy was working in the manufacturing end of the business when I started. She was the only woman in the factory, small of stature but big in presence. I liked her immediately. She not only kept up with the production, she pushed the line. She had a positive attitude and cared about the quality of the work.

butterfliesThe company owner noticed her contribution and when Sissy mentioned she’d like to earn her GED and then work towards a college degree, he did all he could to support her. He brought her into the office as the receptionist where the schedule was more predictable than the factory floor. Being in the office, she’d also have the chance to learn the business-side of things, since what she ultimately wanted was to be a business professional.

Sissy and I shared the same small office space. Between phone calls, errands and daily tasks, we became friends. She confided in me her dream to complete her education. She told me of her greatest joy, being a mother to an eight-year old daughter. And she shared the ugliness of her failed marriage, the details of an alcoholic man that was rough around the edges. He made life hard on her as a wife, but hadn’t improved much as an ex. She told me about her little apartment down the road and about a friendly neighbor that helped her keep her car running for free. She called him, “Turtle.”

I need to tell you something here.  I describe myself as the psychic of small things. I can tell you seconds before the phone rings,  who will be on the other end. I can feel a fight a day before it happens and help you to avoid it. I know the time without ever looking at a clock. I predict silly things, not life-saving moments. Yes, admittedly, I had a two-day migraine before the World Trade Center was attacked. I had no life-saving details, though. That day when Sissy said the name, “Turtle,” my arms should’ve broken out in goosebumps at the very least. But, nothing happened.

The Friday before President’s Day weekend, Sissy came to work wearing an adorable dress, red with black polka dots. The dress, her shiny high heels, her darling glasses, well I told her she was cute as a ladybug. The rest of the company noticed Sissy, too. Every vendor and client flirted, every factory worker made up an excuse to come in the office to ask a question, faces blushed pink and studying the tops of their shoes, they snuck peeks at Sissy – their Sissy – all beautiful and professional. When she left work that day she waved goodbye to me through the cut out window in the office wall. I waved back, wishing her a wonderful weekend.

I wish I’d known then. I would’ve followed her to the parking lot, dogged her to grab her daughter and sleep over at my apartment, stay up too late to watch junk TV and nosh on mini-mart snacks. But, I didn’t know. I’m the psychic of small things, remember? And what happened next is something I think about every day. It could never be classified as small.

Monday morning, Sissy was noticeably absent. The office manager was concerned enough to call Sissy’s home a few times, but no one answered. I took over the phones in her absence, but every caller sounded disappointed to hear me on the other end instead of Sissy. I tried to sweeten my voice as I answered the next call. The person sputtered,  “Is my mom there?” It was a little girl.

“Are you looking for Sissy? Is this her daughter?” I asked.

“Yeah, but I think Mom was confused. I don’t have school today and she went to work. Can I talk to her?”

I tried to answer, but the words log-jammed in my throat. The office manager slipped the phone from my hand and spoke in a calm, quiet voice. “Hi, Megan? I’m going to call your dad. He’ll come pick you up soon, okay?”

Her next two calls were to the police and then to Sissy’s ex.

At work the next morning we gathered for our daily sales meeting. The office manager explained about Sissy. She was brutally murdered. Her daughter survived by hiding in a closet. Through sniffles and choking sobs, we talked about Sissy and as we grieved her, the lights in the office dimmed. I stared up at the cheap ceiling fixture above her empty desk and the surface of it was covered with ladybugs. Thousands of them crawled across the fixture and blocked out the fluorescent glow. At first it scared me, but then instead of thinking of my murdered friend, I remembered Sissy that last day in her red dress with black polka dots, beautiful and happy. And I knew she was telling us to remember her that way, not as a victim, but as a woman excited about her future.

Fast-forward twenty years. Not a day’s gone by that I don’t think of my friend Sissy and her daughter the survivor. I always hope that life will put us on a collision course, that I will meet Megan and be able to help her in some way. Maybe she doesn’t need help. She proved that she’s a fighter a long time ago. Anyhow, as the blue moon shone down on Seattle last week, I stood in the light of it and asked the universe, asked God, to use the magic of this night to illuminate my life path. “What am I supposed to do next?” And because I’m a writer, I asked specifically, “What am I supposed to write next?”

daylilies
I’ll remember Sissy that day, happy and hopeful

It’s a no-brainer if you know me. I’m in the throes of drafting book three of my trilogy, but I’ve had another series brewing for the last year. It’s a series of adult mysteries, and the first story would be written in honor of my friend, Sissy. Because I’m a mother and a volunteer fundraiser, I don’t have much time to write. I asked the blue moon to clarify my intentions. And that’s when a ladybug landed on my shoulder. As I always do, I thought of my friend. “Do you want me to write your story?” The ladybug crawled down my arm and flew away.

I took a walk and when I returned to the house, I tried unlocking the front door with my key. But, the key lodged in the front door and wouldn’t turn. As I jiggled and fussed, a ladybug crawled across the door. Impatient, I entered the code into the garage key pad. Once inside, I found the door still wouldn’t unlock. Frustrated, I went outside again and tried to turn the key. It turned easily and the door swung open. Was it all my imagination? No.

I’ve thought about it for a few days and I think Sissy was telling me it was okay to write her story, but to wait. Write the last book in the trilogy first and then write her novel. Her story would be waiting for me to tell later.

Today, as I drove my daughter to her riding lesson, a ladybug crawled across my rearview mirror. It made both of us smile. I miss you, Sissy.

How a Ghost Helped Me Finish My Second Novel! (Ghostwriter?)

How a Ghost Helped Me Finish My Second Novel! (Ghostwriter?)

On the recent retreat I took to complete my second novel, I had company; in my bed, in the living room, as I stood on the roof deck, in the shower. No, I’m not talking about the kind of company that makes my wedding ring feel itchy, it was the kind that sends a chill down my spine.

view-from-the-park-across
This image comes courtesy of TripAdvisor.com. If you look to the left of the lighthouse, you’ll see Room 303, where I had spectral company.

It was an early birthday present to myself, I drove north to Bellingham, Washington and checked into the beautiful Hotel Bellwether, a property which fronts a lively harbor. My only room request was that it contained a desk, because I knew if I had three days to devote to the effort, I could finish Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch, the follow up to Josie Jameson and the Fourth Tombstone.

My room was #303. It was a delightful suite which overlooked the harbor and mountains. I’d brought a bundle of sage to burn so I could cleanse the energy in the space and make it suitable for writing. But I couldn’t get a match to light. No matter, I turned on the Seahawks game and dove into my writing. When I looked up from the computer the sunset was painting the sky in streaks of pink and I realized I was starving. Notebook in hand, I supped and returned to the room. I finished two chapters and went to bed. Alone.

steve-donna-o-meara-ghost-in-the-hall-at-the-hawthorne-hotel-one-of-america-s-most-haunted
This image comes from Steve & Donna O’Meara’s account of a ghost at the Hawthorne Hotel.

Knowing I never sleep well in strange places, I took a Benadryl and left on a lamp. An hour after retiring, I heard footsteps cross the room and stop at the edge of the bed, then there was the clear sound of someone breathing over me, just inches from my face. When I opened my eyes, I fully expected to find a man looming above, but there was nothing. Nothing.

Gathering my wits, I double-checked that the door was locked, then piled pillows around my ears; I was determined to get a few hours of sleep. And after a short time, it happened again. Footsteps, breathing, and then nothing. I tried once more to light the sage, but the matches were still damp. Instead, I turned on the television for the white noise and wrestled with my pillows until sunrise.

On my morning run, I looked at events with a sober mind. Yes, it was a spirit – I didn’t imagine it. But, it was not dark or threatening, only curious. I knew this from experience – the experience that comes from being awakened by a demon standing over your kids’ beds. Yes, I know what dark spirits look like and smell like. I also know they’re hard to get rid of. They leave scars. What existed in #303 wasn’t that. He was a curious spirit, intrigued by the creative process maybe. So, when I returned to the room, I had a word with him, “Yes, I know you’re here. I just don’t wish to acknowledge you. Please stop bothering me.”

The following nights in my suite went roughly the same way. And when I checked out on the fourth day, my book was complete. Yes, I had a ghostwriter, of sorts. I’ll never know his name, but he was there, reading over my shoulder and maybe he knew what he was doing when he kept me from sleeping. Because, together, we got the words down, the story completed. So, for that, I am thankful to him, my ghostwriter.

 

Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch Cover*******Author’s Note*********

Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch is being called a can’t-put-down-read. I’m so glad readers are enjoying this quick, spooky novel!

The Devil’s Chair – a Josie story –

The Devil’s Chair – a Josie story –

Dad yelled down the hall to me, “Get some sleep, Josie!”

Yeah, right, I thought.

My blood pumped something fierce as I indulged in my favorite secret activity. I made an effort to type softly though, and even dimmed my computer screen, then searched online for an image of my mother’s grave. It wouldn’t take Dad long to fall asleep to the white noise of a late night talk show. I turned back to my Google Earth search. I was staring at the bird’s eye view of Seattle’s oldest cemetery, Lakefront. It looked like a park from this distance, but as I clicked the plus sign, gray stones, white marble tombs and stone benches made it apparent what the land’s real purpose was, not to entertain or refresh, no. It was a place of rest.

I oriented myself by finding the caretaker’s cottage first, then right clicked until Chief Seattle’s grave came into the screen. My eyes blurred, and I was surprised to find the clock blinking, 11:11. “Make a wish,” I whispered to Shadow, who slept in a ball at the end of my bed. I pushed back the thought of joining my cat, I was so close. There were only twenty-or-so-feet between this grave and my mother’s. I fought a yawn, and clicked the right arrow, once, twice. Expecting to see the black angel holding the heart with my mother’s name, Sarah Jameson, etched across the face, the computer screen was filled with the image of a tombstone shaped like a stone chair. I zoomed in to read the epitaph. But, because this was real life, not some corny police show, I couldn’t make out the words.

A marker that some call devil's chair
A marker that some call devil’s chair

I opened a new tab and typed, “stone chair grave,” then scrolled through the top hits. My phone vibrated, and a quick glance told me that Seth was up late, too. My father’s rule was no texting after ten, but whatever. I read Seth’s message, he was researching the symbols carved into the grave I rubbed last week. In the text, he asked if the swirls in the middle of my rubbing could be an octopus. Octopus?

I started typing an answer, but two words on my computer screen stopped me cold, “devil’s chair.” I shivered at the search findings. I clicked on the ‘image’ button and stared into twenty-something versions of the tombstone I had discovered near my mother’s grave, same chair, different materials; iron, stone, wood and brick. Some were decayed to the point of falling apart. I texted Seth to ask if he’d ever heard of the devil’s chair, and my finger hesitated over the ‘send’ button. No. I didn’t need him to be involved with this. I deleted the message, then clicked a link to a story titled, “Sitting on the Devil’s Chair,” and I skimmed one man’s account.

On a Halloween night eight years ago, the man snuck into a central Florida cemetery in hopes of finding the devil’s chair. As he waited for midnight to come, he drank half the bottle of rum he planned to give the devil in exchange for a granted wish. As the witching hour approached, the man fell asleep, waking to a cloud of sulphur. Through the yellowish light, the devil, shiny black, not red, appeared, and with shaking hands, the man offered over the remains of the rum. Scared, tired and drunk, the man was going to run away, but the devil dropped back his head and laughed. And then he asked the man what he wanted most. Fighting to keep his words straight, he asked the devil to make him a famous actor, land him a role that would bring him a tidy bundle of stereotypes; money, women, fame.

Behind the computer screen, I stifled a laugh. What a loser. Out of curiosity, I scrolled to the bottom of the post and read the author’s name, Jason Danning. As in the Jason Danning, the man made famous by his portrayal of a specter on Broadway, literally overnight. No frigging way! I reread the part about his wish and shook with excitement.

My heart raced and I pushed back from my desk, paced the room, and stripped off my sweatshirt, suddenly flushed with purpose. Something like hope, and fear, and possibility burned beneath my skin. It couldn’t be true, could it?

What were the odds that a devil’s chair would be so close to my mother’s grave? That had to be more than chance. Maybe it was fate. My mind wandered to the wish I’d make, it didn’t even take a blink to find the answer. I needed to hear my mother’s voice again, spend a few minutes with her, let her hold me and tell me that I’d done okay without her. Tears streaked down my face. And as the drops dried on my skin, I decided that I must try. I would evoke the devil and ask for a favor.

At what price? The words whispered, not in my voice, but Seth’s, dear, sensible Seth. I crumpled the thought, throwing it into a dark corner of my mind and set about preparing. The clock read 11:23. I had thirty-seven minutes left.

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This is the first part of the story, folks. Get in on the fun. Leave me a comment and tell me what should happen next. Share it with whoever you like and have them join the fun. And if this is the first you’ve heard of Josie, the protagonist of my first novel, Four Rubbings, well, for heaven’s sake, download it. Order it. Request it at your local library.