Friday, August 29, 2014

Let me just say...I DO love a good ghost story!

Let me begin with a disclaimer:  I am not now nor have I ever been or will I ever be involved with the occult. I firmly believe it's just not a wise move, so I'll leave that to others if they're so inclined. BUT--do I ever love a good ghost story!

My first introduction to ghosts was Washington Irving's classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Who couldn't be sucked into the story of poor Ichabod Crane and his wild ride to nowhere? My next favorite memory is Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase. I could well imagine mysterious doings behind that creaking door! So is it any wonder that I like to inject a ghost into many of my stories?

Book Two of the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series, The Stubborn Schoolhouse Spirit has a whole raft of them! And, of course, all three books of The Dreamland Series weave the spooky tunnels beneath the town of Dreamland into their plots.

However, I think it's my fascination with history more than ghosts which leads me to seek out ghost tours when I travel. I've enjoyed a fascinating tour of the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, AR, reputed to be America's most haunted hotel". At Thanksgiving, on a cold, rainy night, I was treated to a tour of haunted Vicksburg MS.  In February, while visiting Charleston SC, I plodded over uneven ground and through old cemeteries in the dead of night. No, I never saw a ghost, but I loved the historical tidbits picked up from the guide. Last March, I signed up for Shelley Tucker's "Ghosts of Denton" tour, Denton being the north Texas town where I spent four years attending college. She's a master storyteller and a fount of the area's history. Next month I'll be spending two nights in Branson MO and am already booked for a ghost tour there. It doesn't begin until 10 PM, so I'm thankful it forms just a hop, skip, and a jump from my hotel!

Have I ever experienced anything ghostly? If I have, it hasn't been of the scary variety. In 2003, my parents died within 9 weeks of each other. In June, a few nights after graveside services for my father, I found myself blessedly alone at last in a quiet house, so I fired up the laptop and browsed around. As I sat at the breakfast bar, my back to the "open arrangement" of the rest of the house, I had a sudden feeling I wasn't alone. Now, I knew the house was empty and locked up. I didn't feel afraid, but whenever I turned around, I sensed "movement" in the tiny hall between the bedrooms. Finally I decided on a simple explanation:  my parents, too well aware of my stress over the past year, were just checking to see if I was all right.

The next summer, after arriving home from working in Fort Worth, I was sitting in the recliner one morning when I became acutely aware of a "presence" beside me. Without even thinking, I looked up and said, "Yes, Mother, I'm taking fresh flowers to the cemetery tomorrow." And she was gone, just like that--and never came back. I think she just wanted to remind me my responsibilities hadn't ended with her death.

I've had one more experience which I've never shared. Several years ago, when leaving the pew to receive communion at the front of the church, I was overwhelmed with an awareness of how alone I was in comparison to other women going ahead of me with their husbands. Unexpectedly, the sensation of warm fingers gripping my own put an end to the momentary pity-party. I like to think my husband walked down the aisle with me that Sunday.

So do I believe in ghosts? I do believe those we have loved and lost are never truly gone. Are they ghosts? Spirits? Specters? I don't know. It doesn't really matter. The feelings engendered by my own personal experiences remain as warmly real today as when they happened. And that's enough.

But... I DO love a good ghost story!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Welcome Paty Norman Jager to The Word Place

Shapeshifting Spirits
By Paty Jager

The books of my heart that I titled Spirit Trilogy are set among the Nez Perce Indians of NE Oregon. The Lake Nimiipuu as they called themselves wintered and summered in the Wallowa Valley where I grew up.

Spirit of the Mountain takes place in the early 1700’s when the enemies of the Nez Perce were other tribes. Spirit of the Lake is the early 1800’s when the White man started moving in and living in the valley where they spent their summers. Spirit of the Sky follows the non-treaty Nez Perce who refused to sign the treaty of 1863 that would take the Wallowa country out of the reservation, as they flee for freedom in Canada with the Army on their heels.

While reading several books on Nez Perce myths and legends I came up with the sibling spirits that are the main characters in the books. They are a figment of my imagination, but as I wrote their stories, they came to life for me and made it hard for me to think of them as paranormal. They are shapeshifting spirits who look after the Lake Nimiipuu.

To write this trilogy I had to study and research the Nez Perce Indians in the 17 and 1800’s. Their way of life and how they worked together for a cohesive “family” endeared them even more to me. While my books focus on the Lake Nimiipuu, doing the research now, it was hard to get exact facts on this band. The information I gleaned is from several different bands of Nez Perce so some spellings were different and some of the customs may have differed slightly from band to band.

The children of Nez Perce families were taught by their grandparents. The grandfathers taught the boys how to make weapons, hunt, fish, track, and fight. Grandmothers taught the girls how to take care of their families, do the chores, and help their men. The elders passed down the stories of the trickster coyote and how “The People” came to be. By reading books of their legends I learned how the legends taught the children basic truths about life and how to conduct themselves to be good Nez Perce.

Grandmothers also taught the girls about the coming of age and were by their sides during marriages and the births. When a girl began her menstrual cycle she would stay in the menstrual lodge for the duration of her bleeding. It was believed the women carried strong powers during this time and were susceptible to getting pregnant. They also thought this strong power would overrule the man’s power.

This isolation served a purpose. They held private discussions about personal problems and conditions of health, exchanged views on herbal medicine, and composed songs. They cooked their own meals in the lodge and didn’t touch anything outside nor could they attend any ceremonies during this time.

They used buffalo hides with the fur still on for menstruation pads or buckskin and milkweed. The used pads were put in a hole in the middle of the dwelling and buried. 

After puberty girls were no longer allowed to play with boys and stayed in a lodge with their grandmothers and aunts and taught the ways of women.

Here are the blurbs for each of the books.

Spirit of the Mountain
Evil spirits, star-crossed lovers, and duty…which will prevail?

Wren, the daughter of a Nimiipuu chief, loves the mountain and her people—the Lake Nimmipuu.  When a warrior from the enemy Blackleg tribe asks for her hand in marriage to bring peace between the tribes, she knows it is how she must fulfill her vision quest. But she is torn between duty and her breaking heart.

Himiin, as spirit of the mountain, watches over all the creatures on his mountain, including the Nimiipuu. When Wren shows no fear of him as a white wolf, he listens to her secret fears and loses his heart to the mortal maiden. Respecting her people’s beliefs, he must watch her leave the mountain with the Blackleg warrior.

When an evil spirit threatens Wren’s life, Himiin rushes to save her. But to leave the mountain means he’ll turn to smoke…

Buy Links:

Spirit of the Lake

Can a spirit set upon this earth to see to the good of the Nimiipuu stay true to justice when revenge burns in his heart?

Wewukiye, the lake spirit, saves a Nimiipuu maiden from drowning and bringing shame to herself and her family. Learning her people ignored her accusations against a White man who took her body, leaving her pregnant,Wewukiye vows to help her through the birth and to prove the White man’s deceit.

Dove slowly heals her heart and her distrust as Wewukiye, the warrior with hair the color of the sun, believes in her and helps her restore her faith in her people and herself.  

On their quest for justice, Dove reveals spiritual abilities, ensnaring Wewukiye’s respect and awe. But will these abilities seal their future or tear them apart?

Buy Links:

Spirit of the Sky
Can enemies not only work for peace but find love?

Sa-qan, a Nimiipuu eagle spirit, must take a human form to save her mortal niece when the Nimiipuu are forced from their land by the U.S. Army. Sa-qan strives to remain true to her spirit world and her people, but finding an ally in a Cavalry Officer has unraveled her beliefs.

During battle with the Nimiipuu, Lt. Wade Watts finds a blonde woman hiding a Nez Perce child.  He believes she is a captive when her intelligent eyes reveal she understands his language. Yet she refuses his help. Their paths cross several times during the skirmishes, and she becomes his savior when renegade warriors wound him.

This book will be available soon.
All are available in ebook and soon in print.

Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon.  On her road to publication she wrote freelance articles for two local newspapers and enjoyed her job with the County Extension service as a 4-H Program Assistant. Raising hay and cattle, riding horses, and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

Her first book was published in 2006 by Wild Rose Press since then she has published seventeen novels, two anthologies, and five novellas. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story.

You can learn more about Paty at her blog; Writing into the Sunset  her website; or on Facebook;!/paty.jager , Goodreads  and twitter;  @patyjag.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Tunnel Trail

Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland 
99 cents! 

When young Air Force widow Trixie Blake returns to her hometown of Dreamland, Arkansas, it doesn’t take long for her to wonder if the dream is really a nightmare.

The Word Place has a new look and a new feature, Typed Tales, where I’ll post a free read every couple of weeks. Click the tab under the picture—and picture me smiling smugly because I figured out how to do this!
Be sure to follow the links for galleries of fascinating photographs and information.

In The Dreamland Series, I made lavish use of a network of underground tunnels running beneath the town of Dreamland AR. They’d been used in the past by none other than Al Capone for the purpose of making bootleg liquor and smuggling it out for sale.
There are tunnels in Arkansas—and likely in every state—but their purposes are far less exciting.
For example, in Springfield MO (where I’m headed in September for the Ozark Romance Writers Conference), the Jordan Creek Tunnel runs for half a mile beneath the downtown area. Though fascinating the photographs don’t hint at any nefarious purposes for its construction.
Traveling south to Eureka Springs, which has its own unique history, two of its original main streets are now underground due to various circumstances. There’s also a story floating around about the ‘haunted’ Crescent Hotel which has been both a resort and a quack-type hospital. Tunnels constructed for all sorts of reasons, including as an escape route for Dr. Norman Baker, whose ‘miraculous’ cures for cancer resulted in uncounted deaths. Unfortunately, if they ever existed at all, the tunnels remain hidden.
Practical purposes lie behind the construction of many underground structures which fuel the imagination. The Holiday Island Tunnel is an abandoned railroad tunnel near Holiday Island AR. Similarly, steam tunnels are in use today beneath the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
Finally, there are the tunnels running almost two miles under the streets of Hot Springs AR. These tunnels, historically (some say) connected to Al Capone, provided the impetus for The Dreamland Series.
According to the linked website, their purpose was “built to contain the mineral-rich waters that supply the famous bathhouses of Hot Springs.”
Whatever the reasons these tunnels were constructed originally, writers will tell you a different story:  these dark, damp, mysterious places are the stuff of stories.

Don’t forget to click on Typed Tales for this week’s free read:  “No One Ever Died of a Broken Heart”.

Visit my website, Someday Is Here, for more on the Dreamland Series as well as the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What do you know about SG? My characters know--and so do I.

   In past centuries, people looked on death as an inevitable part of life. Yes, they grieved for lost family members and friends, but they had to continue on the path. Today, with life-prolonging medical advances, death is the enemy to be held at bay. Unfortunately, it’s no contest—death will inevitably win.
   But we look at death differently nowadays. We fear it, fight it, take it apart and analyze it, and often make it a cause celebr—ź. War, disease, suicide, accidents, violence—all these are part of our lives on a daily basis, and somehow we don’t seem to have the coping skills our ancestors had.
When I write, I often include a death by one of the above means in connection with an ongoing theme of forgiveness and reconciliation. I also include the one consequence which isn’t talked about much:  survivor’s guilt or SG.
   Now, this isn’t meant to be a morbid blog—far from it. But it may strike a chord for someone out there. It certainly does for me. Hardly a day passes that I don’t consider how the lives of my adult sons might be different had their father lived. Could I have said or done anything to keep him alive? I’ll always wonder. He’ll always be 37—and I’m turning 70 this year.
   Yes, I have survivor’s guilt. But the word ‘survivor’ is the key here. It never goes away, but it doesn’t preclude a full life.

   That said, how did the characters in my books deal with SG?

   In Where Is Papa’s Shining Star? Lenore Seldon loses her fianc√©, the “boy next door”, in WW I, so she goes to business school and gets a job. She loses her parents within a few years of each other and then her older brother under questionable circumstances. She has no choice but to go on, so she does. But when the chance comes to marry a man who adores her (the feeling is mutual), she has a difficult time accepting her good fortune.

   The sequel, Finding Papa’s Shining Star, finds Annie Ashley still bitter about her father’s seeming desertion. When she loses her unborn child while her husband is overseas during WW II, and later her adoptive parents, she is bereft. All she can think of is that she’s been left behind again. It isn’t until she is confronted with a greater need than her own that she can begin to heal. David, her husband, deals with having survived a concentration camp when so many others didn't, so now he strives for the success of a new generation in Israel.

The Showboat Affair portrays two characters whose separate circumstances relate. Nick Cameron has raised his only son, now his law partner, after the loss of his wife to cancer twenty years earlier. When he meets Jean Kingston, cast aside by a philandering husband, he knows he’s finally ready to move on. His son plays on the dormant SG Nick has harbored for so long and almost turns his father’s dreams into a nightmare

   In The Face on Miss Fanny’s Wall, which spans a century from the Civil War to the present, love and loss touches the lives of all the characters. Some feel guilty because they’ve survived their various situations, while others haven’t moved beyond the anger engendered by their circumstances.
Celeste Riley isn’t exactly a prototype of SG in Dancing with Velvet, but the death of her mother and her father’s subsequent abuse has made her feel guilty in ways she doesn’t understand. When her true love, Kent Goddard, goes missing on a bombing run over Germany—after they quarreled on the night before he left—she bears a huge guilt for not giving him what he wanted even if she felt it was wrong. Again, someone with a greater need than her own is the beginning of healing.

   The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series pits divorced Catholic Penelope Pembroke against the mysterious Sam, a confessed lapsed Catholic with a dark secret. When Penelope’s ex-husband meets a violent death, she can’t help but re-think her decision to divorce him. Could she have been a better wife? Should she have ignored his moral stumbling? Is there any way she could have kept him alive for their grown son and his future children?

Sam, on the other hand, is angry—at life, at God, at whoever is responsible for the loss of his entire family. Anger is the second of the accepted five stages of grief. Adding to his rage is the knowledge that he was the target—and yet he is alive while the others are not. 


   Finally, in The Dreamland Series, Trixie Blake, a young Air Force widow, is clutching at straws as she tries to make a new life for herself. Intellectually, she knows she couldn’t have prevented her husband’s death in a training flight accident, but her heart tells her she has no right to still be here. Fortunately, she meets Mitch Langley, who was driving when the car went off the road in a torrent of rain and killed his wife, his high school sweetheart and love of his life. He wears the resulting facial scars as a badge of shame—but when he meets Trixie, he recognizes her pain as akin to his own and wonders if it’s time to move ahead.

   In the end, all my characters went on, as I have, with head up and eyes fixed on the future. It is, after all, the way a survivor survives. And life is good after all.

Visit my blog, Someday Is Here, for more.