Writing the Paranormal Mystery

The first draft of Dixieland Dead had no ghost. It was outlined as a cozy mystery featuring three southern sisters who worked together to solve a murder that occurred in their beauty shop. Actually, Scarlett was a secondary character in the role of Jolene’s best friend, and made only cameo appearances throughout the story. She was never the intended victim, but as I continued to write, she continued to blossom and emerge as a main character. Scarlett came to life and began taking center stage, and pushing Deena and Billie Jo into supporting characters. It was in the third rewrite that I realized Scarlett’s true role in the story.

That’s when I killed her, and the magic began.

One day as I was working behind the chair—yes, I was a licensed cosmetologist at the time— and Scarlett complained rather loudly to me about her new role as a murder victim. “I don’t want to die,” she said. “I’m coming back, so get ready.”

I listened to her superior mind and resurrected her to bring out the best in Jolene. The partnership was magic from the start, and I fell in love with the new direction of the book. Those two sizzled on the page together, and since I’ve always believed in ghosts, it was as natural as breathing for me.

Are ghosts real? Yes, in my mind they are. Scarlett tells me they are always watching from their lofty heights. They peer from behind the invisible veil for any chance to communicate with the living. If you don’t believe me, then late at night, quiet yourself, and you will hear the whispers of the silence. You never know, it could be Scarlett paying you a midnight visit.

Until the next phase of the moon.

~Penny

 

Stepping Stones

Life has a way of laying out a pathway for me to follow. Each day I rise with expectations of how I would like the day to unfold. I’m an early riser and like to greet the day before the sun has crested the horizon. As I cast a sleepy gaze out the darkened window, i pause to enjoy the silence and solitude before the sun’s rays bring about an awakened world bustling with sights and sounds, some pleasant, and some not so much. In that tranquil moment, an awareness unfurls like the petals of a blooming rose under the gentle, spring sunshine, and I catch a glimpse of the day’s journey.

This morning I see my first steps will be on stones as smooth as a glassy, marble surface. They stretch to the noon hour promising an easy stroll, and I step lively onto the pathway and begin my trek down today’s passageway. An unforeseen object rises from one deceptively, flat stone, and I stumble and falter, questioning the safety of moving forward after a painful event. Seeing no further impediments on the path ahead, I step out with confidence and move past the noon hour and the injury it brought. Now, however, the stepping stones have morphed into larger, rough-cut rocks complete with hard edges. Being careful with each step, I traverse the path until another distressing object blocks my progression. This one brings me to a sudden stop, and I can go no further without precise calculation of the hazard. Chiseled in the boulder is a word. A scary word. I take a few steps back and ponder the wisdom of moving forward. To the side of the passage is a small trail. If I embark upon it, I can avoid the scary rock and find my way among the trees. Never having stepped onto this particular trail before, the unknown hides in the prickly brambles.

So, now as the sun begins its westerly journey to twilight, I pause in the crossroads faced with an important decision. Do I go straight ahead and face the scary obstacle and perhaps strengthen my resolve muscles by overcoming it? Or should I branch off into the unknown and fight my way through the brambles? The choice is hard, frightening, and still I hesitate. Twilight lengthens, casting shadows about me. I must decide soon or I will be stranded on life’s pathway in the gathering dark.

From within, I sense a voice guiding me, comforting me, and reassuring me to face the giant obstacle and leave the unknown trail for another day. Life’s pathway is hard, and the unknown casts the longest shadow. Frightened and alone and without confidence, I step up to the boulder and weigh my options for moving past. Whether I succeed or fail depends entirely upon me. There is no magical formula for fighting the giants we meet along life’s pathway. But somehow, I find myself on the other side. The pathway is clear and smooth as a calm Georgia lake, and the still surface sparkles a welcome home greeting. I have arrived at my destination. The sun has set and the day is done, and I can rest easy until the sun once again rises in the East, and I must traverse a new day’s pathway.

Until the next phase of the moon.

Penny

Why Must I Write this Book?

An interesting question every writer should ask themselves when they sit down to write or plan their next book. When I first came upon this question, at first, I must confess, I drew a blank as I’ve never considered the question before then. Then I took the time and effort to think it through, and I realized why I want to write The Devil’s Triangle Trilogy, starting with The Devil’s Eye, Book One. Interested? Keep reading. Here’s what I came up with.

I want to write this story because I love the thrill of creating a very special place along the wild shores of Lake Okeechobee, Florida. A spooky, dark hacienda with a cursed black diamond and an unseen assailant walking its shadowed halls. Casa de Bella, built by an emigrant family from Mexico with dreams of erecting an empire. I want to walk the ancient house and land with Isabella’s spirit as she seeks to guide the living from beyond the grave; to soak in the Hispanic flavor of the family, and to hear the musical lyrics of the melodic Spanish language; to rally with Rafe Montoya as he faces the dark forces unloosed upon his land, and in his heart. I want to feel the moment when he opens his heart to everlasting love.

I want to write this story because I want to be with Katherine Michaud when she visits Casa de Bella for the first time; to see and feel her desperation as she takes the first steps to save her crumbling world. I want to walk in her shoes, to feel her excitement, fears, pain and insecurities, and grow into a strong, independent woman. And finally fall in love with a handsome, dynamic man with fears and faults equal to hers.

I want to write this story because I want to be the grand house and embrace the people living within my sheltering walls. I want to nurture and protect my people from the storms of life; to offer shelter and warmth during the cool winter mornings as the wind whips across the black, endless waters of the lake. I want to keep the cursed black diamond hidden within my walls from the evil hands that seek it. I want to share my secret with Rafe and Katie when Isabella allows it. I want to hear the ring of laughter once more within my ancient walls.

I want to write this story because I want to enter the tiny town of Willow Springs, Florida, and become acquainted with the people and the town. I want to walk its streets and witness the town struggle as it attempts to remain alive and vibrant during an economic downturn; to observe the relationships between the townspeople as they confront the lies and suspicions of an unsolved murder and the mysterious disappearance of a young citizen.

I want to write this story because I want to fall in love.

A story spanning three generations – One house, three strong, independent women woven together by tragedy and triumph.

And this is why I must write this story.

The beginning: The Devil’s Eye, Book One in The Devil’s Triangle Trilogy.

Until the next phase of the Moon.

Penny

Reflections

When I pause to reflect upon the past, I see an endless expanse of water staring back at me. The water is smooth like a shiny mirror, the foaming waves having struck the shore eons ago. The raging storms have calmed, the winds mastered and still under a bright, yellow sun in a cloudless sky. From the shoreline, I gaze across the still, blue waters of yesteryear and bow my head in thanks for the lessons I’ve endured. Overhead, a seagull glides by on a warm, ocean breeze, his wings outstretched to ride the strong current as he relaxes into flight; his song blending with the gentle lapping waves on the grainy shore. I pause and reflect on the beauty of the sparkling water, enjoying the hot rays of the sun on my bare flesh. Trials and tribulations have stripped away the illusions and distortions, and I stand naked and exposed to all eyes who glance my way. Naked, yet unafraid of prying eyes as the hard knocks of life have hammered my body into a work of art. My legs are long and strong, shaped by climbing tall, foreboding mountains and navigating rocky pathways; my arms muscled from carrying the heavy load no one else wanted; my eyes are lined and squinting from ancient hurts and present tears, yet bluer than a robin’s egg.

On the horizon I spy a sail from a distant failure drifting upon my sea. He is always there, waving in remembrance of happier, by-gone days. I wave at the love I lost, and wish him Godspeed as he disappears into the mist of forgetfulness. As I stand there admiring the shining sea, my toes sink deep into the warm, gritty sand, and I look down to find one perfect conch shell lying at my feet. I pick it up and press it to my ear. From within rises the melody of the ocean. I pause and reflect on yesterday’s music, and then, satisfied with my composition, I return the shell to the sandy shore, and lift my eyes to the setting sun. My time of reflection has come to an end. The moon is waning, and it’s time to look forward and decide what to do about the crossroads lying ahead.

Until the next phase of the Moon.

 

The Darkness Within

I try hard to hold the Darkness at bay but it comes upon me silently, without warning, like an unseen phantom lover hiding in the shadows until he can wait no longer to press his fevered flesh against mine. Although I struggle against the unexpected weight, I finally  recognize him and open my arms to accept him and the poison he brings. At the first onslaught of his embrace, the tantalizing euphoria of his presence washes over me, and I give in to the illusion of completeness. Here, in his arms, I allow the blackness of my own soul to rise up and embrace freedom; to walk willingly into the shadowy abyss with its narcotic arms open wide, accepting; always accepting me. My heart aches with the need to give myself to my dark lover and his addicting evil. For he is evil, like me.

His eyes are dark and compelling, his midnight hair long and flowing, soft and entangling in my fingers as I pull him down beside me on the bed. My heart beats against my breasts like the wings of a captive bird as he whispers to my soul, beckoning me with the tender coercion of a consummate lover. I can see nothing in the inky shadows, but my mind and body are awash with sensations. The Darkness deepens, and I close my eyes in supplication.

Take me quick before the sun rises.

My breath catches as his supple fingers remove the last vestiges of my resistance and plunges deep into the loneliness of my soul. I cry out with anticipation as one tapered finger traces the outline of my despair, teasing and probing until finding the unfathomable depths of the mysterious opening where angels fear to tread. My insides quiver with thirst and longing as his eyes intensify and glow with a savageness poised to rape my innermost longings to escape the Darkness within.

At last, I lay naked and exposed before him; my resistance to the rape silent, and I seek the pain of his fiery spear of depression. Seeing my acceptance of the inevitable, his eyes alight with victory, and for one perfect moment, we share a harmonious, thrilling union of life and death; and then, I’m helpless in the throes of unbearable, excruciating hopeless as he withdraws his poisonous shaft, and the misty veil of euphoria drops me into a swirling world of crawling darkness and violent passion.

His insatiable hunger satisfied, he moves into the shadows, barely disturbing the night from whence he came. Alone and spent, I draw the tatters of my dignity about me and leave my disheveled bed. At the window, I gaze upon the morning mist, and watch him disappear into the swirling fog of my imagination. I press a shaking hand against the cold pane of glass, and sigh. His return is certain. When I ponder not, for I am a tortured soul haunted by this demon lover, and he asks not permission to invade my dreams.

Until the next phase of the Moon.

 

How I became interested in the paranormal

Being raised in the Deep South predicated the weekly attendance of Sunday school and the eleven o’clock church service. Disobedience meant a not-so-gentle correction upon the backside with a leather belt. I personally never felt the sting of correction’s strap as I loved the Kool Aid and cookies served in the social hall by kind old ladies with wide smiles and funky hats.

It was during my childhood that I learned about the invisible world of angels and demons. Being Southern Baptist, the pastor warned us not to dabble in the occult or any other spiritual doorway as that would give the Devil a foothold into our innocent lives. Knowing my mother would blister my hindquarters if I disobeyed, I followed the righteous path to salvation and never explored the forbidden until many years later.

Like most southern girls, I married young and left home to start my own family. Soon after, my God-fearing mother-in-law steered me back onto the straight and narrow path to righteous living, and I raised my children in the Christian faith. After a strange event that occurred in the church I was attending, I began to question the teachings of the religion. After an exhaustive two-year study, I left organized religion behind me.

Thus unencumbered, I opened my mind to other possibilities and felt an incredible freedom to explore other realities. Not fearing retribution, I studied other religions and pathways to God that left me with many unanswered questions, like: What do we leave behind when we die? Does our life energy continue or rot in the ground like our bodies? Is Heaven real? Hell? What about reincarnation? Ghosts? Demons? Angels? Are they real or myth?

In my studies, I haven’t found all the answers, but I’m still pondering the mysteries of the afterlife. The Haunted Salon Series explores the light side of passing over. There, in my imaginary world, I can zoom around the Universe with Scarlett, visit the mysterious Madame Mia and her Tarot cards, search for Confederate gold with ghostly soldiers, and listen to Granny Tucker’s sweet voice as she whispers secrets from beyond the grave in Jolene’s ear.

Perhaps, in the future, I’ll write Scarlett’s story. Now, that would be a hoot!

Until the next phase of the moon.