Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Weekend!

And now for a well-deserved vacation at my favorite haunted hot spot. I may have some fun things to share next week. But for now, have a safe and happy Halloween!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Looking for Halloween plans?

Have you made your Halloween plans yet? If not, I have a few suggestions for you, based on mass amounts of research. (T.V. programs and internet searches) 

Savannah GA- The most haunted town in America
Reasons to go:
Several parts of the town supposedly built on top of old cemeteries. (Bonus creepy points)
The17-hundred-90 Inn, where Anna Powers leaped to her death off a 3rd floor balcony. She supposedly haunts room 208
Mercer Williams House – from the true crime novel Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil.

Tombstone, Az.
Reasons to go:
The O.K Corral shootout happened just days before Halloween in 1881
Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, known for poltergeist activity, possibly even haunted by Doc Holliday.
Bird Cage theatre, you can hear disembodied gamblers and opera singers
The town is named Tombstone.  Come on!

 Salem Mass.
Reasons to go:
Salem With Trials, need I say more? 

New Orleans, LA
Reasons to go:
Some of the best ghost tours in the US (So I’ve heard)
Witchcraft ceremonies

Brandywine Valley, PA
Reasons to go:
Eastern State Penitentiary-What’s creepier than an abandoned Gothic church-turned prison?
And on a side note, they have a Giant Pumpkin Weigh Off

Estes Park, Co.
Reasons to go:
The Stanley Hotel, the setting for Stephen King’s The Shining offers hotel ghost tours, including an underground tunnel.

Providence, R.I
Reasons to go:
Jack O’Lantern Spectacular, Over 10,000 carved pumpkins are on display at the Roger Williams Park Zoo.
Okay, so it doesn’t have anything to do with ghosts, but how cool is this?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tammy and Jonathan... the rest of the story

I just love s’mores, don’t you? Anyway, back to the story.

Tammy was surprised to see Jonathan’s car in the drive when she returned from her library trip. Rushing in the house to share her discovery, she was stunned to see Jonathan kneeling in their bedroom, ripping up the carpet. “What are you doing?” She yelled, dropping her purse in the doorway.

 “I hate this carpet. The old carpet was much better.”
“Old carpet?” Tammy asked, confused. “Honey, this is the carpet that came with the house.”

“No. It isn’t” Jonathan snapped. I hate it. Get it out of my house.” 

“Okay.” Tammy was dazed. Jonathan never acted like that. She would have been surprised if he even knew what color the carpet was. But, after helping him haul the roll of carpet out to the curb, he did seem to calm down. It wasn’t until a few days later when Tammy noticed Jonathan rubbing a rust colored spot on their-now bare-floor that she remembered to tell him what she’d learned at the library.

“So, I’m not crazy. I really want to move.” She finished. 

“This is my house.” Jonathan snarled. “I’m not leaving. You can’t make me.” 

“Jon,” Tammy sighed. “I know you love this place. I’m just talking about moving across town. I’m really uncomfortable here.”

“NO!” Tammy stared in shock at the butcher knife sticking out of the wall, inches from her head. Jonathan had never been violent, but looking into the eyes of the man in front of her, a cold chill ran down her spine. That wasn’t Jonathan. He looked the same, except for his eyes. Jonathan’s green eyes were gone. The eyes glaring back at her were brown, and so dark they were almost black.

“Okay. Forget I brought it up.” Jonathan relaxed as soon as the words left her mouth. But Tammy was still terrified. She knew something wasn’t right. And then the dreams started. Jonathan woke up confused and disoriented almost every night. He would scream about bodies in the walls, something under the floor that was out to get him, and he would threaten to kill Tammy if she tried to take him from the house.

 It wasn’t long before Jonathan lost his job. He’d simply quit going to work. He spent his days pacing up and down the halls, stopping to talk to people who weren’t there. Tammy was devastated, but she didn’t know what to do. Every time she tried to help him, he threatened her. And more than once he became violent when she suggested that they leave, even for the weekend.

 Too afraid to stay home all day with her husband, Tammy started spending more and more time in the library archives. The murders at her home were constantly on her mind. The most detailed information she could find was about the brothers who’d rented the house before she and Jonathan bought it. Just out of college, they moved to town in hopes of starting a business together. By all accounts, they got along well. But then there were police reports. Apparently, the older of the brothers became violent. The reports called him “mentally unstable.” He often didn’t know where he was, and didn’t recognize his own brother. When their bodies were found, the older brother was in the living room, both of his wrists slashed. The younger brother was in one of the bedrooms, multiple stab wounds covering his torso.

Of the family that had been there before them, Tammy found less information. Only that the family had been well thought of, the son a model student. His father was even up for a promotion at work, which would let them move to the city. Both parents were found, stabbed to death in bed. The son was rocking back and forth in a corner, chanting “Don’t sell the house.”  He died, Tammy discovered, a little over a year ago in a hospital for the criminally insane.

Don’t sell the house. The phrase bounced around in Tammy’s brain. What was it with that house? Jonathan seemed obsessed with it as well. Tammy knew she had to dig further. To her surprise, there wasn’t much to find. The first family to have lived in her house were the ones who had been murdered. They’d had the house built. Just when she was about to give up, a footnote caught her eye. The house had been built on the same spot where another had burned down, several yeas before.

 It didn’t take long for Tammy to find the story. The house that had once stood on her land was called the McCarthy house. Apparently, it had been in the same family for generations, and was a great source of pride. But, as sometimes happens, the house fell into the possession of a McCarthy with few good traits. A gambler and the town drunk, he soon found himself in danger of losing the family home. The night before he was supposed to be evicted, the house burned to the ground, owner still inside.

 The last three homeowners had met violent ends. Tammy’s mind reeled. She knew she had to get out, with or without Jonathan. After making a frantic call to her sister, she rushed home to pack her bags.

 After three days and no word from Tammy, her sister called the police. When they arrived, they found Jonathan in his recliner, multiple stab wounds to his chest. On the coffee table there was a message written in blood. She wanted to leave us. We couldn’t let that happen.

After Jonathan’s funeral, the house was torn down. The land has sat empty for years. But I heard last month that someone bought the hand and is building an apartment complex. Tammy- or her body- was never found.

 So, who wants a Pumpkin Latte?

By Keshia Swaim

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ghostly Tales

In honor of Halloween, one of our favorite times of the year, my daughter, Keshia, will be bringing you some ghostly tales...

I love this time of year. The leaves are changing colors, I can get pumpkin spiced anything, and Halloween is just around the corner. Which means that the travel channel is helping me add to my list of “places I must visit” and there is another “scary movie” coming out every time I turn around. It’s also the perfect time to sit around the campfire and share ghost stories. I’ll go first!

 About twenty years ago a friend of a friend of mine got a new job out-of-state. After just a few weeks of searching, he and his wife found the perfect house: three bedrooms, big kitchen, a nice backyard, and, most importantly, the price was right. It wasn’t long before they were all settled in. 

Jonathan loved his new job, and thought everything was great. Tammy, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure about their move. As soon as they’d moved in she began complaining that she didn’t like being alone in their new home. Jonathan assured her that the noises were just the house settling, and that she was just uneasy in a new place.

But Tammy knew it was more than that. At first, it there were only little things: a radio playing when she thought she’d turned it off, or the coffee cup she remembered leaving on the bar appearing in the living room. And there was the constant feeling of being watched. Since she knew how happy Jonathan was, she tried to keep her complaints to herself and be a supportive wife.

 That changed the night she woke to see a shadow standing over Jonathan’s side of the bed, arm raised as if holding a knife. She screamed and the shadow disappeared, but not before she caught the glint of a steel blade in the moonlight. Jonathan bolted out of bed at Tammy’s scream. Even though she saw the shadow disappear, she wouldn’t sleep until Jonathan circled the entire house, checking every lock, and making sure all of their kitchen knives were in place.

Maybe it was just because Tammy was now constantly on edge, but she sensed a definite change in the house after that night. The air was always heavy, as if it was about to storm. The feeling of being watched grew so strong that she kept a can of pepper spray in her pocket at all times, and she woke up at least twice a week, soaked in sweat, screaming from some terrible dream she couldn’t quite remember.

For weeks, she begged to move. But Jonathan wouldn’t consider it. He couldn’t understand what had gotten into his wife. She had never been an overly nervous person, but now she wanted to move because of a bad dream. Not knowing what else to do, he suggested that Tammy start volunteering in the community, or even get a part-time job to get her out of the house some.

 Tammy agreed that time away would be best, and started filling out applications. When she handed in her first application, at the local library, the librarian immediately commented on her address. “So you’re the one who bought that place. Isn’t it creepy living there, after everything that happened?”

Tammy was immediately interested. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh. You didn’t know about the murders?” She directed Tammy to the town’s newspaper archives.

 Tammy quickly learned that a couple had been murdered in the master bedroom-her room- by their teen-age son. Not only had the realtor failed to mention that, he also forgot to mention that the house had been rented out to two brothers before she and Jonathan bought it. Their bodies had been discovered in the living-room several days after they died, an apparent murder-suicide.

Tammy rushed home to tell Jonathan what she’d learned. Finally, she had proof. The house really was evil. They had to leave. Unfortunately, it was already too late for Jonathan.

To be continued…

Can someone pass the marshmallows?  
Keshia Swaim       

Friday, October 14, 2011

COVER REVEAL!!!!!!!!!!

This is the cover for On Haunted Ground. The book is scheduled to be released May 8, 2012. What do you guys think about it?
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Road To Publication Part 7

Wow… Part 7!!! I apologize for this taking so long. I’ve tried only to hit the highlights, but I guess my road was a little longer than I thought. This will be my final post on the subject so I’ll get right to it.

After sending my query to Spencer Hill, Kate did ask to see the full MS. Of course, I sent it out immediately. I had had other request from agents and publishers to see the full MS so I knew it could take three months or more to hear back from her.

Putting my experience to work for me, I tried not to think about it. I knew these things took time, sometimes a lot of time. I bit my nails and paced the floor. Before I knew it, two whole hours had passed. Yep, seriously… two hours!

Trying to get a handle on the situation, I limited myself to checking my e-mail to only twenty or thirty times a day. Within the week, I saw where Kate had emailed me back. My heart pounded wildly in my chest. This is too soon. She must have really hated it.  The other rejection letters ran through my mind. “Not a good fit for us at this time. I didn’t fall in love with it. This is a subjective business…”

With my hands shaking, I finally clicked to open the e-mail. I could see this wasn’t a typical form rejection. It was a full-length letter with suggestions on improving my MS. This had never happened to me before. On one hand, I was a little disheartened. If she had all of these suggestions, she must not have liked it. Right? But, she was giving me some great advice, little nuggets of gold to help improve my MS, and for that, I was very thankful.

Reading to the end of the letter she said if I was interested in having Angelina’s Secret published through Spencer Hill, I should contact her and we’d set up a time to talk on the phone.

If I was interested? Oh yeah, I was interested!!!

The call came, the deal was made, and I was ecstatic. Angelina’s Secret was going to be published. Even though I am a writer, I can’t come up with the words to tell you how great this felt. I had worked so hard for so long and now… My book was going to be published!

I was overjoyed. Still basking in this wonderful feeling, I received an e-mail from my agent saying he had a publisher that was VERY interested in Our ParaNormal Lives. This was too good to be true, but it was indeed true. After a few back and forth’s I was offered a contract through Llewellyn Publishing.

Working simultaneously to see these two books published has been exhausting and thrilling. Angelina’s Secret is scheduled to be released on Feb. 1, 2012, and with a new title On Haunted Ground is scheduled to be released May 8, 2012.

Check back tomorrow for the cover reveal for On Haunted Ground.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Road To Publication Part 6

My agent did as I asked; he quit submitting my MS and I got busy polishing it. This was a tedious process and it took five grueling months to complete. After finishing, I sent it back to my agent and he again started submitting it to publishers.
Knowing I had done everything I could possibly do for Our ParaNormal Lives, I returned my attention to Angelina’s Secret. It was then that I truly realized just how much I loved writing fiction. My characters had started talking again and before I knew it, I had another completed MS.
Still hoping my agent could find a home for my first book, I tried to find a place for my second one. After writing the dreaded query letter and synopsis, I searched for agents who represented YA fiction. Finding the ones I felt would be a good fit, I lovingly sent my baby out into the world.
When the rejection letters rolled in, I told myself these things take time. I tweaked the query and the synopsis and tried again and again.
Between the fact that my agent wasn’t having any luck in placing my first book with a publisher and I wasn’t having any luck in finding an agent for Angelina’s Secret I was getting VERY disheartened.
I was tired, frustrated, and depressed, but I think the worst part of all was the self-doubt. I kept thinking Who am I kidding? I had given both of my books my very best. It was time for me to admit that my best just wasn’t good enough. I wanted to give up, I really did, but at the same time, I couldn’t. I had worked way too hard. I owed it to myself and to my books to keep trying.
Needing a break from the querying process, I decided to enter Angelina’s Secret into a contest for unpublished YA authors. Step one required me to submit a pitch, which is very similar to a query letter. Oh yay! How I hated those things.
I strapped myself to my computer with the intention of tweaking my letter AGAIN. Looking for any excuse not to work on it, I visited query tracker. Browsing through the various topics, I found a post that said there was an author who was helping people polish their pitch letters for the up coming contest.
Still looking for excuses to not actually have to work on my letter I rushed to the author’s blog, It was true, author Kate Kaynak was helping people polish their pitch. This was way cool! A real live author was going to help me with my pitch. I gave mine another look and submitted it. I checked the blog obsessively as I waited for my turn to be critiqued.
When my turn came around, I held my breath and read her response. WHAT???? I read it again, and then again. She said if I were to submit it to Spencer Hill, she would have to ask to see the MS.
I rushed from one website to another. I learned not only was Kate an author she was also a publisher and she wanted to see my MS. It goes without saying, I immediately sent my query to Spencer Hill.

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Road To Publication Part 5

Even though I hated having to put Angelina’s Secret aside, I was super excited with the prospect of getting Our ParaNormal Lives published. After talking with my agent and exchanging several e-mails with the interested publisher, it was beginning to look as though this was truly going to happen. My dream was coming true. I was going to be a published author. All of my hard work was finally going to be rewarded. I was on top of the world—then my MS was rejected.

I. Was. Devastated.  

I took a few days to have my own private little pity party. It was private because no one in their right mind wanted to be anywhere close to me. I was mad! I had been done wrong! Very wrong! Couldn’t these people see how hard I had worked? Didn’t they care how many hours I had put in? Apparently not!

I wallowed in my self-pity. I whined. I cried. I shook my fist and yelled about the injustice of it all. Surprisingly enough, none of this made me feel any better at all. I finally consoled myself with the thought that it was their loss. Another publisher, a bigger publisher, a better publisher would read my MS and LOVE it, like it deserved to be loved.

I dried my tears and returned to my new work in progress. Apparently, my mood was so bad that even my fictional characters didn’t want to be around me. I tried to write but my characters had fallen silent. This was the same characters that just a week or so before had talked so much that I couldn’t keep up.

Not getting anywhere with my current work, my mind kept going back to the other MS—the one that SHOULD have been published. I gently tucked Angelina’s Secret back into the deep crevices of my computer and I opened the document for Our ParaNormal Lives.

I hadn’t read it in over a year and it… well… to be honest… could use some work, a lot of work. I could see why it had been rejected. The concept was good… but the writing… not so much.

I contacted my agent and did the unthinkable. I asked him to stop submitting the MS and give me the chance to make it shine.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Road To Publication Part 4

As promised, I’m going to reveal the biggest secret I’ve ever uncovered…

Pssst lean in a little closer. Authors don’t write fiction—their characters do. If you’re not an author, I’m sure this sounds a little nuts. If you are an author, you’re probably rolling your eyes and saying UH… DUH.

Before I started writing, I had seen hints of this being true. I had heard of the writers muse and of the characters coming to life. I assumed that either this particular author was crazy or she just meant that she was such an awesome writer that her characters seemed like real people. I was WRONG.

Sitting down to write Angelina’s Secret, I had an idea of where I wanted the story to go. I didn’t however have a clear picture of how to get it there. The more I worked on it, the easier it became. Not because I was such an awesome writer, but because my characters had come to life and they told me where to take the story next. All I had to do was type. There were days I had all of them crowded around my computer telling me what to write. Sometimes I would literally call out, “Slow down. I can’t type that fast.” (It’s a good thing I usually write when I’m at home alone.)

As cool as this is, it also has its downfalls. This was after all, my story and I had a few ideas of my own, but sometimes they didn’t match the ideas of one or more of my characters. If I chose to do it my way, they quit talking and my writing came to an abrupt stop.

The first bazillion times this happened, (I guess I’m a slow learner) I would sit and stare at my computer willing the next scene to unfold. It refused. The cursor on my screen blinked, taunting me. Knowing my characters had a stronger will than I did, I’d finally give in and do it their way and the story would progress.

As much as I’d come to love my characters, I got tired of their temperamental ways. When I learned a publisher was strongly considering my first book for publication I decided to shelve Angelina’s Secret and refocus my attention on my first book. The one that I, not my characters had written.

Come back on Friday to see how this turned out for me.

Monday, October 3, 2011

My Road To Publication Part 3

Even though I hoped my agent would soon call  to tell me about an offer… he hadn't. I knew these things took time so I waited, and waited, and waited. I checked my e-mail obsessively and waited some more.

Writing the book and then going through the process of finding an agent had taken up so much of my time that now, I didn’t know what to. After a month or so of waiting, I decided it was time to start another writing project. But what?

I toyed around with a few ideas and did some research on the ideas I’d come up with. I finally chose my topic and started. I scrapped it, started another, and scrapped it too. For some reason, I just wasn’t feeling it. Back to checking my e-mail a hundred times a day and not having a clear picture of my next project in mind, my husband suggested I write a fiction book.

Fiction? No… I couldn’t. Even though I mainly read fiction, I couldn’t see myself writing it. I was a non-fiction writer. That I could do, but fiction… no… not me. With fiction, you had to be more creative. You had to make stuff up. With non-fiction, you just told a real story, in a creative way. The difference was huge.

It took some time, but the idea of writing fiction started to grow on me. My husband and I kicked a few ideas around. I liked the story line we’d come up with, but still didn’t know if I was cut out to be a fiction writer.

I finally decided to try it and see what happened. After all, I could always scrap this project too. It had to be better than staring at my inbox all day. With a skeleton of an idea for my new writing endeavor, I sat down at the computer and discovered something AMAZING.

Be sure to stop back by on Wed. and I’ll share the biggest secret I’ve ever uncovered.