Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Truth about Ghost Stories by Jacqueline Seewald

It seems as though ghost stories have been haunting us forever. Whether in a Medieval castle with turrets or the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, stories of ghosts continue as part of literature. The fact is, I’ve written quite a few myself, both in short stories and novels.

Why the continued interest? Sarah Begley in her TIME article appropriately published in the October 31, 2016 issue, discusses GHOSTLAND: An American History in Haunted Places. Author Colin Dickey, is quoted as stating in this nonfiction book that ghost stories reveal “the contours of our anxieties” and “the nature of our collective fears and desires.”

Why are we inclined to want to believe that ghosts or spirits exist beyond death? There’s an old spiritual that says: “Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.” We would like to believe that we do in fact have souls and the possibility of an afterlife.

The popular 1986 motion picture, Ghostbusters, set off a virtual mania regarding ghost hunting. It was followed by an animated cartoon series which pursued the same theme for children and also met with enthusiasm. And now we have a recent updated adult film with a female cast.

But truth is stranger than fiction. Ghost hunting has become an avid though admittedly unusual hobby for many people. These individuals are joining groups or organizations that hunt for spirits of the dead. Groups are proliferating that attempt to use scientific methods to locate ghosts. In fact, it’s a hobby that many people enjoy throughout the world. These organizations research, photograph, document, and, in some instances, seek to remove those ghosts that have proved inconvenient.

Groups have sprung up across America in such diverse states as: Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. From the number of ghost-hunting organizations with websites, there appear to be hundreds of groups with thousands of members worldwide.

International organizations exist everywhere. Their purpose is to find scientific evidence of ghosts and an afterlife. Organizations exist in such places as the United Kingdom, including Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, and Sweden. There have been ghost sightings in Asia, in such far flung locations as Singapore--and in short, the entire world.

Today’s ghost hunting organizations take pride in using the most modern technology possible. A variety of recording and measuring technology are used by ghost hunters who visit haunted houses, graveyards and other eerie locations, attempting to capture empirical evidence of paranormal beings. These ghost hunters utilize the latest in sound, video and still-image recording, as well as sensors that detect changes in temperature, electromagnetic fields and radiation.

Every state, every country, has its own unexplained paranormal spirit phenomena. Many ghost hobby organizations make the distinction that they are not hunting ghosts so much as investigating paranormal phenomena. They even offer to examine private dwellings and businesses for free. One reason these groups shy away from the term ghost hunting is because the term “hunting” suggests the sport or hobby of pursuing something with intent of killing it. The groups merely intend to investigate, carrying out a detailed examination or inquiry, especially with documentation with intent of finding truth, reason, and cause. For the most part, they are ordinary people, curious and fascinated with the paranormal.

The groups take several initial steps when starting an investigation. They use video cameras, digital recorders, heat sensors, and motion and electric magnetic field detectors to record whatever may be happening at a particular site. Clairvoyants also provide their impressions. Psychic mediums serve as a channel between the living and the dead. Eventually, the groups puts together a report and discuss findings with the owner. Group members are known to specialize in electronic voice phenomenon, commonly called EVP; these are voices that supposedly do not come from a human source. Special software is used to determine whether a voice is in human or paranormal range. Findings are then authenticated by experts with a group called Haunted Voices.

The groups consist of volunteers, people with regular jobs who have a serious interest in ghosts. Members range in age from young adults to retirees, and include secretaries, cooks, office workers, crossing guards, a lawyer and computer programmers.  They take investigations seriously, but also have fun together. They are not glory-hunters. In fact, they are conscientious about maintaining client confidentiality when investigating a potential haunting. They do not disclose exact locations.

Supposedly, there is a difference between “spirits” who died in a normal way and can communicate and move around and ghosts whose souls do not know they’re dead. In the case of the ghosts, they are believed to have died tragically and are stuck in space and time and can’t move or go from place to place; they don’t understand their predicament and need help in order to move on. Unlike poltergeists, who are nasty, and know they’re dead, ghosts don’t harm the living.

Do average people really believe in “spooks”? It appears that worldwide interest in the paranormal will not soon abate. Many people would like to believe there is an afterlife, a beyond. Ghost researching continues to remain an enthusiastic leisure activity for hobbyists.

As for me, I’ve written about the legends of the Jersey Devil in my co-authored novel THE THIRD EYE: A PINE BARRENS MYSTERY.

My Gothic romance DARK MOON RISING involves a ghost story—two in fact.

Some of my short ghost stories have appeared in the anthologies:  BETWEEN THERE, VOL. 2, LIVING DEAD, and MISSOURI GHOST STORIES as well as such magazines as BLIGHT and HYPNOS.

If you are a writer, do you write ghost stories? Tell us something about your most recent work in the genre. As a reader are there any ghost stories you would recommend to fellow readers?


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Why Does Horror Literature Continue to Appeal to Readers?

In honor of Halloween, let’s discuss horror fiction--or dark fantasy as it now euphemistically called. Why does it continue to fascinate readers? Why do readers love what scares them? It appears that vampires never die. Zombies can be found in movie theatres, TV shows, commercials, books, and short stories.

When people talk about horror fiction, they might let out an involuntary shudder. However, horror fiction isn’t just about the gruesome. It’s not only about such supernatural creations as: ghosts, goblins, ghouls, gremlins, etc. No, it’s really about what we fear, what we dread most, what strikes terror into our hearts and souls. These things may be ordinary, like a pit bull off the leash running toward us, or extraordinary, like meeting a vampire in a neighborhood bar at midnight. It may even take us to a dystopian world of chaos. Our fears are both usual and unusual.

Horror fiction will not be going away any time soon because it is human nature to feel fear as an emotion. Horror fiction actually helps us handle these feelings, helps us cope with and confront our terrors, those within us and those in the environment around us. Writers like Stephen King and Dean Koontz have recognized this. They reach into their worst fears and nightmares to help us come to terms with our own. As we find ourselves in real life forced to face horrors like Ebola outbreaks and violent terrorist attacks, there is comfort in paranormal solutions.

In my co-authored novel, THE THIRD EYE: A PINE BARRENS MYSTERY, a boy and his mother, writing alternating viewpoint chapters, come to terms with their own greatest fears while solving several connected murders. The novel’s setting is real but eerie. Legends of the Jersey Devil still seem to fascinate.

Tales of the supernatural are ever popular during the Halloween season.

THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, a paranormal YA novel from Clean Reads Press, is a perfect choice for Halloween, available in All e-book formats plus print.

DARK MOON RISING, Gothic romantic suspense from Luminosity, is also available in All e-book formats and print. A perfect ghost story for Halloween:

The Kim Reynolds mysteries feature a librarian protagonist with paranormal abilities. The latest book in this series, THE BAD WIFE from Perfect Crime Press, is now a free read for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers.

I also have a literary crime story with a paranormal edge in the newly published anthology BREWED AWAKENINGS 2:

Do you read horror/speculative literature? Why or why not? Do you have favorite authors, books or short stories that you would recommend to fellow readers?

If you are a writer, do you write horror/paranormal lit? Tell us something about your most recent work in the genre. Are there any that you would recommend as good Halloween reading choices?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Interview with Author Susan Coryell by Jacqueline Seewald

Hi, I am interviewing author Susan Coryell. She is a career educator who has taught students from 7th grade through college-level. She earned a BA degree in English from Carson-Newman College and a Masters from George Mason University. She is listed in several different volumes of Who’s Who in Education and Who’s Who in Teaching.  Susan belongs to Author’s Guild, Virginia Writers, and Lake Writers. She loves to talk with budding writers at schools, writers’ conferences and workshops.

A RED, RED ROSE, first in a cozy mystery/Southern Gothic series, was nominated for a literary award with the Library of Virginia. BENEATH THE STONES, the sequel, also nominated for a literary award, was released in April of 2015. NOBODY KNOWS, third novel in the Overhome Trilogy, was released October, 2016. All three novels were published by The Wild Rose Press in NY.
When not writing, Susan enjoys boating, kayaking, golf and yoga. She and her husband, Ned, love to travel, especially when any of their seven grandchildren are involved.

What is the title and genre of your latest novel?
NOBODY KNOWS is the 3rd book in the Overhome Trilogy (The Wild Rose Press, Oct. 14, 2016) All three novels in my series are categorized as cozy Mystery/Southern Gothic cross-genre.  I have long been interested in the history and culture of the South where deeply-held and hard-fought ideals battle with modernity; the Southern Gothic works well with The Overton family’s historic plantation. Also, I love the fact that cozies rely more heavily on mystery and generally deal with gore and sex off-stage, if at all. This fits my own reading preference, not to mention I can’t write sexy scenes without cringing.

What inspired the Overhome Trilogy?
Interestingly, even though my setting is (fictional) Moore Mountain Lake in Southern Virginia, my inspiration for the first novel A Red, Red Rose, derived from an historic property in Northern Virginia where I lived and had my career. The beautiful old estate was rumored to house a ghost. Though I never experienced the spirit in any way (Lord knows, I tried!), I was fascinated by the ancient aura surrounding the house and barn. I never had time to write the novel, but, when I retired to Southern Virginia, I decided to fictionalize the setting based on my new home; thus, Moore Mountain Lake was born and I set out to write A Red, Red Rose. The setting remains the same for the second novel, Beneath the Stones and for Nobody Knows. In each novel a new conflict arises related to the layers of history and generated by the anxiety of spirits of that past, most notably those involved in the Civil War.  The reader meets the ghosts of former masters of the plantation as well as slaves who worked the house and fields.

Tell us about the heroine and/or hero of your novel.
 Ashby Overton is twenty years old when she arrives at Overhome Estate in search of ancestral roots and answers to family mysteries kept from her as she grew up in New Jersey. On her first night in her room in the oldest wing of the house, she is visited by Rosabelle, who turns out to be a family ghost. (A Red, Red Rose) Five years later in Beneath the Stones, Ashby, now owner of the Estate, battles with ancient spirits as she attempts to sell off some of the property to stave off financial peril. Another five years passes, and Nobody Knows finds Ashby a successful writer, happily married and settled at Overhome until a tall, dark (literally dark since he is African-American) stranger shows up claiming to be related to the Overtons. His appearance, along with a local developer’s attempt to destroy a slave-built church, stirs the slave spirits to a fury. In each novel, Ashby must use her sixth sense to ferret out the troubled spirits and set them to rest. I call the series mystery, history, romance and ghosts.

Tell us about your previous published work.
My first published work was a YA anti-bully novel Eaglebait, now in its third edition. It won the NY Library’s Books for the Teen-Age award as well as the International Reading Association’s Young Adult Choice. Schools, churches and other groups interested in anti-bully literature find the book a good way to talk about building self-esteem as a way to combat bullying.

What are you working on now?
 I am thinking of a departure from my other writings—perhaps a snarky murder mystery based on my thirty-year teaching experience. Yes, there’re plenty of grounds for murder in career education!

What made you start writing?
 I have always been a writer. My mother said I was born with a pencil in my hand, and I admit writing seems strongly embedded in my gene pool. My maternal grandfather was a published poet; both of my college dean brothers are published as are all three of my children. One grand girl, now nine, already knows she is a writer. I say, writers know who we are and writers have to write.

What advice would you offer to those currently writing novels?
I’d say, first, write for yourself, then branch out to a likely audience for what you have to say. Definitely find a writers’ group willing to dish out constructive criticism and tell it like it is. Read widely, especially in your writing genres and never quit—even when the dreaded “writers’ block” sets in. Lower your standards temporarily and press on. Learn to write a decent query letter and don’t be afraid to submit to small publishing houses willing to keep your book available indefinitely. Also, don’t quit your day job; if you make it big, it probably won’t happen for a long, long time.

Buy links:
A Red, Red Rose:
Beneath the Stones:
 Nobody Knows:

Contact info:
Twitter: @SCoryellAuthor

Thanks, Jacqueline for the invitation to participate on your wonderful blog! I look forward to comments from our readers.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tips on Writing Bestsellers

Robin Cook claimed to have analyzed the characteristics of numerous bestsellers before writing his own blockbuster COMA.

GalleyCat’s Infographic recently explored the anatomy of bestsellers. Here are some of their more interesting observations and statistics.

They found the length of the average bestseller to be 375 pages.

Books with a female protagonist are more likely to be successful.

But men are more likely to read a book with a male protagonist.

Main characters or protagonists in bestsellers are often lawyers or detectives.

Books set in America are most popular.

The number one grossing genre in fiction is still Romance.

Second is: Crime/Mystery.

Third is: Inspirational or Religious.

Fourth is: Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Fifth is: Horror (Stephen King eat your heart out!)

Personally, I would love to write a best-seller, a novel that is widely read and appreciated. However, I would be just as pleased to write a great novel, one that endures the test of time. Yet an article in a June 2016 issue of TIME Magazine observes we can’t really know which books they will be.

Moby-Dick, Herman Melville’s masterpiece, was not well-received in its day. Melville died poor and depressed. Poe died in poverty as well. Kafka was dead before The Trial was ever published. However, Shakespeare was a very successful and popular dramatist in his own day and has withstood the test of time.

In But What if We’re Wrong? Thinking About the Present as if It Were the Past, author Chuck Klosterman notes that works which endure are ones future societies find meaningful. Someone who is writing in obscurity today, who we have never heard of, could be the most admired author to future generations.

I believe the best approach is to write the work that we want to write, that is meaningful to us, and not worry about current trends which ultimately come and go.

My novel, THE INHERITANCE, will be published by Intrigue Publishing November 1st. It’s a cozy mystery as well as a romantic mystery novel with a female protagonist. Her love interest is a small town Midwest police chief. It’s also a “clean read.” Hopefully, this novel will appeal to many readers. Will it be a bestseller? Who can tell? I didn’t write the novel with that expectation. It’s now available for pre-order from Amazon, B&N and many other booksellers both in print and as an ebook:

 Any thoughts you might have about popular fiction vs. great fiction? Can a book be both?