rules_of_inheritanceOne of the most common kinds of question people ask me is about the process of writing my book. Did I always know I was going to write a memoir? How long did it take? Did I know the structure before I wrote it?

The answers to these questions aren’t very simple.

Writing a memoir is so different than writing fiction, or even some nonfiction. The hardest part, I believe, is that you—the subject—are always changing. I wrote three versions of my memoir. The first two weren’t very good, but they did pave the way for the third. I absolutely couldn’t have written the published version without having slaved away at those other two drafts.

I changed, my perspective and understanding of my story changed, and my writing changed, over the years I was working these drafts. So when someone asks me how long it took me to write The Rules of Inheritance there are really three answers.

  1. My whole life. I had to live my whole life so far in order to tell this story.
  2. Ten years. That’s how long ago I began writing about the events in the book.
  3. Ten months. That’s how long it took me to write the published version.

This is why whenever anyone asks me for advice on writing, I just tell them, “Write, write, write.” Write as much as you can, as often as you can, even if you think what you’re writing is terrible. The mediocre sentences simply pave the way for the brilliant ones. Few writers are brilliant right out of the gate. It’s a craft that takes years and years of practice and effort. But one thing I can promise is that the more you do it, the better you’ll become at it.


cat_christmasGeorge and I haven’t had much luck with holidays. The first time we went abroad was when George wanted to see the fish on the coral reef in Egypt, and that was when our beloved cat Ben disappeared. We thought we’d never go away again.

Ben was reunited with George that Christmas Eve, and I will never forget that evening as long as I live. I sat back, watching the two of them together, Christmas carols playing, tinsel, baubles and lights all over the floor. Ben sat pulling on everything George tried to hang on the tree. Of course, Ben was clearly helping in George’s eyes. It was my two boys decorating the tree.

We had no presents for under the tree or Christmas food shopping in the house and fish fingers was all we had on the menu that evening. It’s all we had in the freezer, as George didn’t want me to shop while Ben was missing. Our lives stopped! It almost felt like a luxury having fish fingers for dinner. Just to sit and hear the two-way conversation between George and Ben about what tomorrow would bring was amazing, seeing as George had been silent for the past three months.

While Ben sat on the table eating his fish fingers alongside George, it was like the whole experience had been a bad dream and the moment hit me when I felt what it was like to win the lottery. We never slept that night — George was busy wrapping last year’s presents up for himself and Ben to reopen again. George was over the moon. He told me how happy he was. He knew what was under the paper and surprises just worried him. I will never forget that Christmas, when George told me for the first time that he had everything he has ever wanted.

A Merry Christmas, a kiss and a smile is all a mum could ever dream of.

I would like to wish all you readers a very Merry Christmas and fantastic New Year!


I’ve always been fascinated by the unknown.

I’m intrigued by the shadowy things that shouldn’t exist, but do. The thrill of fear that comes from knowing something more exists out there. Something awesome and frightening. And I can pinpoint the exact moment I knew that we as human beings weren’t alone in the world.

As a young girl, I was completely unprepared to see the ghost of a beautiful woman in the back hallway of our house. In broad daylight. She was dressed as a showgirl, wearing an ornate headdress, dancing in a slow pirouette, and didn’t noticed me at all as I stood frozen, my mouth hanging open. I was shocked to my toes, and scared, but I was also elated. Now there would never be another question in my mind, ever, as to whether paranormal beings and happenings were possible. They were a reality, and I was a witness.

My path was set. Throughout the ensuing years, I experienced many more encounters with ghostly entities, and my love of all things paranormal took root and flourished. As a child I watched every classic scary movie and devoured both fiction and non-fiction books by the armloads, eventually moving on to adult horror starting with the amazing Stephen King.

And of course, my favorite holiday was Halloween (it still is!). Nothing gave me a bigger thrill than dressing up and hitting the street in my cool costume, and it wasn’t about the candy. Well, mostly! The really awesome part was prowling the streets, searching the darkness for the spirits I knew were there when so many others merely hoped. Or didn’t honestly believe. It was my delicious little secret, and I hugged it to me closely, only sharing with two trusted friends.

For so many, the magic of Halloween fades as they grow older. Adults sometimes forget the wide-eyed wonder of experiencing the fantastic for the first time, whatever that might be. They forget the childlike hope, the tingle, the electric anticipation of the supernatural unknown—What if? Will I see a ghost? Is it real?—and relegate those memories to a soft, fond place that’s brought out only once a year when their own children don their costumes.

For me, the magic simply grew and became a fact of everyday life. My love of ghosts branched into other creatures—werewolves, vampires, gargoyles, demons, and shifters. I started reading romance in high school, and it was no surprise that stories with hot vampire, shifter, and magical heroes eventually made their way into my “To Be Read” pile. After all, being a paranormal sensitive I had an open mind, and the idea of a brave hero with special abilities was just too yummy to resist! A whole new world of reading was revealed to me, and I couldn’t have been happier… unless I was to write those stories myself!

After several years of writing romance, that’s exactly what I did. I created the Alpha Pack, a team of former Navy SEALs who are black ops wolf shifters and protect the human population from all paranormal evil. Primal Law was the launching point of the series that gave me so much creative freedom as an author, and took home the National Reader’s Choice Award for Paranormal. Whether my heroes are wolf shifters (Primal Law & Savage Awakening) or a panther shifter/sorcerer (Black Moon, December 2012) I know that success comes from being completely happy in my element, writing stories that stretch the boundaries of my imagination. And that imagination has a foundation in personal experience that is very real, enriching my stories with a love of the fantastic, with the seemingly impossible, that has never faded.

I love the chill that creeps down my spine, not knowing what might be lurking just around the corner. And trust me, there is something waiting in the shadows.

As for the beautiful dancing ghost in our hallway? I never saw her again. Yet in some form, she lives on in every paranormal story I write, because she’s every fear and hope we’ve ever had that there is something more sharing our world. She’s the answer to the question, “Do you believe?”

And if your answer is “yes,” then maybe you have more than a bit of the magic in you, too.

Happy Halloween,

J.D. Tyler


to_have_and_have_anotherWith the cold weather approaching, we say goodbye to the summertime classics that inhabit Hemingway’s prose: the Gin and Tonic, the Tom Collins, and of course the Daiquiri. Fear not; although he lived most of his life in the warmer climes of Key West and Cuba, there are a good many cold weather drinks in my book To Have and Have Another as well.

You can start with the Hot Rum Punch. Hemingway developed an affinity for this one right after he and Hadley arrived in Paris in December of 1921. After all, a constant theme of his memoir A Moveable Feast was the struggle to stay warm during the cold Parisian winters, especially in his chilly flat. He often escaped to a café, ostensibly to write, but often just to warm up. He embraced this drink fairly early in his Paris days; in a December 23, 1921 letter to Sherwood Anderson, he writes:

“[W]e sit outside the Dome Café, opposite the Rotonde that’s being redecorated, warmed up against one of those charcoal brazziers [sic] and it’s so damned cold outside and the brazier makes it so warm and we drink rum punch, hot, and the rhum enters into us like the Holy Spirit.” (Selected Letters, 59)

The following winter the drink returns to the scene, this from a November 16, 1922 letter to Harriet Monroe: “The hot rum punch and checker season has come in. It looks like a good winter.”

You see this thread continue in his first true novel, The Sun Also Rises, published in 1926. Jake Barnes and Bill Gorton are en route from Paris to Pamplona, and stop for a few days of fishing in the Catalonian village of Burguete. In Chapter XI, they’re checking into a local inn, which is so cold, “you could see your breath.”

While Bill plays the piano to keep warm, Jake spies a cupboard full of liqueur bottles. Bill notices it, too, and suggests, “How about a hot rum punch? This isn’t going to keep me warm permanently.” Jake teaches the innkeeper how to make a hot rum punch, and he and Bill drink it and listen to the wind.

There are as many rum punch recipes out there as there are brands of rum. The recipe shown below is from Hemingway’s friend Charles Baker, Jr., author of the classic food and drinks two-volume set, The Gentleman’s Companion. It is Baker’s recipe for “The Oxford University Hot Rum Punch,” which he refers to as being “a classic that is simple & soothing & satisfactory, and dating back into the dim, distant past,” and “[m]ost excellent for anyone coming down with anything, due to the lemon juice.” Works for me. Cheers!

 

Hot Rum Punch

1 ½ 750 ml bottles Barbados or lighter Jamaican Rum

1 750 ml bottle Cognac

3 quarts boiling water

2 cups lemon juice

Brown sugar, to taste

Handful of cloves

 

Add all ingredients to a sturdy stockpot or crock pot, stir occasionally. Garnish each cup with a spiral of yellow lemon peel, careful to remove the white pith, as it contains unwanted bitterness.


to_have_and_have_anotherIf you read Hemingway’s Paris memoir A Moveable Feast, you’ll see the strong role that hunger played in his early writing style, how that feeling of wanting made his senses more acute.  Perhaps he’s exaggerating the “starving artist” image a bit, but he’s said many times how his writing style emulated that of the painter Matisse; he strove to paint with words a la Matisse, and wondered if Matisse also had an empty stomach while he created his works.  I think the same is true for thirst; Hemingway enjoyed drinking, of course, but it was generally a deferred gratification for him.

Hemingway is quoted, mostly on the Web, as saying, “Write drunk, edit sober.”  I don’t buy it.  Neither do most Hemingway scholars I’ve talked to.  Yes, Hemingway did like to drink, and drank quite a bit.  But he generally didn’t mix business with pleasure; drinks came after the work was done.  This sort of discipline was important to him.  He was an amateur boxer, and just as a prizefighter will go into a training regimen when preparing for a fight, Hemingway would adopt a similar approach.  His World War II comrade, Col. Buck Lanham explained:

“Before he wrote a book he’d go into training.  That is, he wouldn’t take a drink until noon…. He’d swim forty laps in the morning and forty laps in the afternoon in a huge pool.  And he’d look at his watch every two laps, waiting for that clock to move around.  When it was eleven on the dot, you could see his major domo come out of the Finca up on the hill and start down with this big tray and a huge shaker of martinis, what he called ‘Montgomerys.’ And old Hemingstein would look at his watch and say, ‘Well, Buck, it’s eleven o’clock.  What the hell, it’s twelve in Miami, let’s have a drink.’  And he would.  But it was real discipline for him to go that long in the morning without a drink.  He was disciplined about his work.” (Interview with C.T. “Buck” Lanham, from The True Gen – An Intimate Portrait of Hemingway By Those Who Knew Him, Denis Brian (New York: Dell Publishing,1988), 187)

You see this throughout his prose.  In Islands in the Stream, Roger Davis and Thomas Hudson engage in a somewhat half-hearted back and forth; they want “a quick one,” but refrain because “it isn’t quite twelve.”  They eventually cave, since Hudson’s work is done for the day, and Roger, after all, is on vacation.  The houseboy appears out of nowhere with a shaker, ready to make martinis.  Davis acknowledges that this strict code can be a bitch to adhere to: “It’s an awful nuisance some mornings when a drink would make you feel all right.”  Ahhh, the price of professional responsibility.

Hemingway poked fun at his rivals who did partake on the job.  During an interview, when asked if it were true that he mixed a pitcher of Martinis before work each morning, Hemingway exclaimed, “Jeezus Christ!  … Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked?  You’re thinking of Faulkner.  He does sometimes – and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one.  Besides, who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time?” (Matthew J. Bruccoli, Conversations with Ernest Hemingway (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1986), 168, from an interview with Hemingway by Milt Machlin, originally appearing in Argosy, September, 1958.)

So, if you want to learn more about how to drink like Hemingway, stick to the code, and get your work done first.  Unless, of course, you can figure out a way to bend the rules a bit.


dwarf“When our son comes home one day and tells us his teacher is mean are you going to storm in there like a hurricane? Or should I approach first?”

I was taken aback by his question. It seemed to come from nowhere, but this question must have been circling around in Eric’s mind for quite some time before finally finding its way out.

“Are you worried he’s going to be bullied?” I asked.

Replied my husband: “You were a victim of bullying.”

As I describe in my memoir, Dwarf, when I was in high school, a teacher singled me out and humiliated me in front of my classmates when I wanted to participate in the Sports Medicine team. Subsequently, yet not surprisingly, the administration failed to take any action to stand up for me.

Up until this point I’d never considered what I would do if my son were to be bullied, whether by a teacher or by a student. I never considered the possibility that Titan could be bullied, period. I’ve been so consumed by his adorable toothless grin and smiling eyes to think much beyond tomorrow. Do other first time parents worry about their child being bullied one day? If so, what are they doing about it?

“You talk about as if you were stuck in Folsom Prison,” Eric continued.

I couldn’t help but press the release button on my switchblade tongue. I cocked back my head, slipped on my sunglasses, and impersonated Johnny Cash. “My fellow inmates were wonderful. I just don’t like some of the wardens.”

But Eric was serious and growing impatient with my humor. “When Titan comes home and tells us his teacher is mean what should we do?” he repeated. A hardcore marine, Eric wanted to draw up a battle plan.

I spent the remainder of October researching anti-bullying groups and taking note of organizations geared towards stopping bullying and hate crimes. I learned that October was National Bullying Prevention Month. I read article upon article about student-on-student bullying. But I found very little regarding cases that involved a teacher. Why is this so? Why does it seem no one is talking about this? Perhaps, because too often those who are bullied by a teacher are asked not to talk about it?

This is exactly what was asked of me by the school administration.

Armed with my own experience and with the knowledge of how administrations may react (or fail to react), my husband and I have drawn up our own attack plan, because the possibility for Titan to be bullied is very real and very scary. It’s not that I feel Titan has reason to be a target, but I am acknowledging that as a little person there may be a time he’s harshly teased about it. Why? I don’t know why. Why does anyone do or say anything?

Disturbingly, according to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying and sadly 160,000 kids are too afraid to go to school and they push to stay home instead (bullyingstatistics.org). With this blowing around in my mind, I envisioned the worst—Titan waking up early on a school day, the bright twinkle faded from his happy eyes as he begs me to keep him home, because he is too afraid.

I can’t take it.

The first step, my husband and I agreed, needs to begin with Titan. He needs to know what abusive behavior is, because to be forewarned is to be forearmed. And he needs to know he doesn’t deserve it. He needs to know he shouldn’t be silent about it even if the abuse isn’t happening to him directly. We’ll need to teach him to speak up about bullying, no matter the form. Kids and teenagers are killing themselves over bullying. According to the CDC, suicide among young people is the third leading cause of death. And bully victims are between 2 and 9 times more likely to consider suicide (bullyingstatistics.org). This is a rampant epidemic that goes far beyond my experiences and I want to pay it forward and do something to help.

The second step is for my husband and me to be strong advocates against discrimination in a positive, inspirational and educational way. This begins inside our own home. And it includes the simplest of aspects, like our use of language. Also, as a physically disabled mom, I may have an upper hand teaching Titan tolerance and acceptance. Not everyone accomplishes tasks in the same way, and that’s what makes the world we live in unique and exciting. Movies, games, books—there are so many informative ways to show how differences make us beautiful. Hell, I’m a writer! I’ll think I’ll create my own story for him.

Our third prong of attack is to reach out to others and get involved. As a family we need to join anti-bullying organizations targeted towards stopping bullying and hate crimes in our community. www.niot.org is a great area to begin. There is power in numbers. We need to organize events and inspire others to take a stand. We need to talk about it. If the lines of communication are kept open students can share their experiences with bullying and discuss ways to prevent it with those in their school and in their community. Specifically, I think parents need to be unafraid to make a few demands from their child’s school, too. Like www.stopbullying.gov suggests, parents should ask the school faculty to keep them abreast with what’s happening and treat them like a partner in the growth and development of their child. Whether it’s beginning a school safety committee or appointing a coordinator to foster more parent and youth activities, parents need to be actively involved with what’s going on . Without a doubt I’ll be joining the parent teacher association and volunteering with any school event I can find. If I’m informed as a parent about what’s going on I won’t be left in the dark about the issues facing my son.


dwarfWhen I was about eight years old I watched my first United States Marine Corps commercial. I remember it vividly. I was sitting on the floor doing my physical therapy when the TV faded to black. From seemingly nowhere a loud orchestra sounded and then the screen opened to a massive chess board that reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. A silver knight perched high and proud on a horse entered the shot proudly. He battled all the other game pieces that were dressed in black. There were also some corny flashes of neon blue lightening, but it was the 80’s so that was to be expected. I will never forget this commercial, because it set an ideal of the perfect man. And that man for me is a Marine. To me, it’s an absolute privilege to be able to call myself an author. It’s an honor to be called a mom. But, the title I work hardest at is the title of Marine Wife.

“What’s it like?” A friend of mine from home asked of being a Marine Wife. “I hear about the serious things on the news all the time, but what are some of the funny things that make it different from other marriages?”

Her question kept me thinking throughout the night. To be a Marine Wife (or military wife in general) it takes an incredible ability to adapt and overcome to all challenges thrown your way. And Christ all mighty, tests are thrown in your direction. It’s a job that’s ever changing and never boring. More often than not I feel as though I’m enlisted in the ranks, too. Pack up your life and move to another country in three months? Sir, no problem, Sir! I’ll get started right after dinner, sir!

But, what the heck are the unique aspects about being a Marine Wife? I’m pretty sure many will agree with that these are tell-tale signs of the life of a Marine Wife …

You know you’re a Military Wife if… your nights consist of buttons, holes and ticks—Oh my! On some nights it’s not uncommon to burn the Irish penance on my husband’s combat boots. On others, I’m either reinforcing the loose buttons on his cammies with thread or patching the holes over his knees torn from training with consertina wire. Double checking his naked body for ticks when he gets home from the field and saying the words (hopefully), “You’re good to go” is also part of the adventure I call, Military Wifedom.

You know you’re a Military Wife if…  you mistake thunderstorms for artillery training fire. Not too long ago one of my best friends, Mark flew down from Providence to stay with me at my house near Camp Lejeune. Together, we sat on the deck outside and enjoyed a few glasses of wine. I shared with him the latest page I wrote in my memoir, Dwarf and he shared with me more memories of us in college. When the sky erupted with a loud bang that echoed for miles, I didn’t flinch. But, Mark grabbed his glass and bolted for the sliding glass door. I was certain that it was only artillery training in the distance and argued the point until the sky opened up and rained on my assertion. Too often I just can’t tell the difference. Even when the pictures on my wall become crooked from the percussion, I barely notice the loud roaring overhead.

You know you’re a Military Wife if… you stop referring to your local Harris-Teeter as a “grocery store.” In fact the term grocery store will leave your vocabulary all together! Four months into my marriage I was visiting home and said to my mom, “I need to go to the commissary.” She looked at me funny, not because she didn’t know what it was, but because I had never spoken that lingo before. Hats were also no longer hats. I needed to call them covers. A bed became a rack. A shirt needed to be called a blouse. 72’s and 96’s are only to be used when referring to periods of time off duty and when I needed to use the bathroom on base I had to phrase it like this, “Can I use your head?” And this was only the beginning. Eventually I had to learn to decipher acronyms, too! BAH’s, EAS, BAS, CMC—It’s enough to make you need Advil STAT!

You know you’re a Marine Wife if… During your husband’s yearly Oleoresin Capsicum (or OC Spray) qualification you become subjected to level two contamination. I’ll never forget the night when around 6PM my husband came walking in our front door looking excited and relieved to be home from work. All he could think about was getting in the shower and that night, all I could think about was joining him. When I tip-toed into the bathroom anxious to surprise him there was an odd mist filling the air. It peppered my throat and made my cheeks flush, but I ignored it. When I pushed aside the shower curtain and surprised Eric with a kiss his eyes widened. “No, no babe!” He said loudly. Seconds later my lips burned and my tongue felt swollen. My eyes stung and watered and my nose began to run uncontrollably. Unknown to me, the shower reactivates the OC spray and I had just become contaminated! My frisky plans were flushed down the proverbial toilet. It was that night I also became more familiar with Marine Corps vernacular—OC spray is also called, Devil Piss.

If you can relate to any of these (and there are so many more I want to share) then it’s official, you are a Marine Wife. And you always will be. It doesn’t matter if you’re still currently serving alongside your husband or you’ve been long retired after years of service, the point remains—Once a Marine Wife always a Marine Wife. Semper Fi, ladies.


bladen_coleRiding with Bladen Cole in this, the first book of my new series, takes me back to the mountains and high plains of Montana where I rode when I was a boy. For this bounty hunter, the year is 1879, and for me, it was somewhat more recent, but we both rode under the Big Sky in that time of year when the leaves on the cottonwoods have turned golden and are beginning to fall. Each year, as the sun begins to spend its whole day close to the horizon, and the first few flakes of snow become the promise of winter fulfilled, there comes that time of quiet loneliness as you ride on limitless plains under that limitless sky.

For me, as it is for Bladen Cole, the openness of the country becomes a vehicle for pondering. Whether your vehicle is a saddlehorse – such as Cole’s trusty unnamed roan – or one with a motor – and a heater – the lonely infinity allows plenty of space for pondering and for figuring out.

For this bounty hunter, the pondering time is filled with figuring out that the only way justice can really be done is for the outlaws he is chasing to be brought back alive to point their fingers at the man who hired them — and him.  For a modern man, this author, the pondering time might mean the figuring out of how a character fits into that landscape. The object of the author’s contemplation merges with that of his characters.

The relationship between an author and his characters is a close, though for me it is not so much a situation where the author becomes the character, but one in which the characters become houseguests in my mind. I suppose that it is different for all authors, but for me, I find myself not so much writing the dialogue, but taking dictation from these people who are temporary boarders in my head. They tell me what it is that they want, and need, to say.

So, as this author does his pondering within a cocoon of loneliness, I am gradually surrounded by a small crowd people. Generally ignoring me, other than to be certain that I am hearing what they say, they communicate, argue, compromise, and conspire against one another.

Yet it is the landscape, either real or made real with words — and regardless of the color, or even the presence, of the leaves on the cottonwoods — that facilitates the dialogue and drives the action which inspires, perplexes and carries the people who live within it to their fates.


a_haunting_dreamHalloween has always been a special time of year for me. My grandfather was born on Halloween in 1900 and we celebrated his birthday with trick-or-treat night. It was a huge affair with hundreds of candles, adults dressed in crazy costumes, and children running wild!

It’s still like that for my family. We get ready for the occasion all month. There’s the special food (everyone tries to outdo each other with deadly treats), the costumes (ditto here), and the games. We play Mummy Wrap to see what team can wrap their ‘mummy’ with toilet paper the fastest. We pin the spider in the web and bob for apples on a string. We also look for buried coins and plastic skeleton parts in the Haunted Maze.

Food always includes Swamp Punch in a big, black cauldron. We joyce_lavene1make it greenish-brown with orange pop, green food dye and Coke. We put a big hunk of dry ice in it for special foggy effects. Usually someone molds a frozen hand in a plastic glove, although last year, there were icy spiders too. My daughter makes witch’s fingers out of peanut butter cookies with almond sliver nails. We eat deviled eggs and make cemeteries out of cupcakes and cookies.

Once we had a whole body laid out on the table with various edible parts. That one was hard to beat!

joyce_lavene2Costumes? Everyone dresses up. Some of the younger kids aren’t spooky. They are Batman or a princess. I always encourage them to think outside the box—be a princess vampire or a zombie Batman. My daughters are ice ghosts, evil puppets or red demons. Their husbands complement them with their costumes. We do a lot of characters from books. My son was the Ghost of Christmas Past a few years ago. Last year, I was Death from Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death”.

All of this takes time and preparation. You have to think of suitable prizes for winning costumes and for games. The music has to be right—we have several CDs of creepy music. We usually choose a scary movie to watch at the end of the joyce_lavene3evening. We love Sleepy Hollow, Beetle Juice, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Bride of Frankenstein. This Halloween, it will be Hotel Transylvania, before the festivities begin.

Halloween is my time of the year. With the red and gold leaves flying everywhere and costumed characters filling the streets, I can’t imagine anything better.

Free candy doesn’t hurt either! Happy Halloween!

Joyce Lavene

www.joyceandjimlavene.com


fangoverSince there are dozens of haunted houses to visit each Halloween, it seems I’m not the only person who enjoys the thrill of being scared. One of the perks of writing paranormal fiction is that I get to indulge my hobby and call it research so in the last few years not only have I gone to staged haunted houses, I have checked out some supposedly real haunted sites in the US. I tend to be a skeptic, but I love the stories, love the spine tingling feeling, and love the possibilities of future novels that spring from my adventures. Do ghosts exist? I have no idea, but all of these places certainly have a rich and intriguing history.

Waverly Institute in Kentucky: An old asylum that eventually housed tuberculosis patients, it had a body chute to carry the deceased to the mortuary. Seriously creepy place and well worth getting on the waiting list to visit.

erin_mccarthy_fangover1Haunted Hotels of New Orleans: I have stayed at the Olivier House, Hotel Monteleone, Andrew Jackson Hotel, and the Provincial. In the Olivier House, we have definitely heard odd things and had items appear such as straight pins sticking out of our mattresses (which could be a maid resenting her tip I suppose) and a black crow (yes, a live black crow was in the room!). In the Andrew Jackson, my sister complained of children running and laughing in the hallway late at night only there were no children staying there. Turns out, it a dozen or so boys died in a fire there when it was a boarding school.

LaLaurie Mansion: This house is privately owned but just looking at it from the outside is enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck. A doctor and his wife tortured their slaves here and managed to escape punishment. The window that is blocked off (and where allegedly they did the torturing behind the bricked over window) reminds you that ghosts or not, a real life evil couple did indeed live here. My book, The Taking, has a house in it I based off of the LaLaurie mansion.

Franklin Castle: This house in Cleveland was built by a German immigrant who lost his wife and children to disease. Supposedly children can be heard crying and there are sounds of parties. There are also odd peepholes and secret doors in the very stately home.

Gettysburg: Enough said. Thousands of men died there, and it is a sad, solemn place.

erin_mccarthy_fangover2Mansfield Prison: I actually spent the night in the empty prison, where they filmed The Shawshank Redemption. There was no electricity and no heat, and it is one crumbling pile of brick and metal. It has the largest free-standing cell block (six floors high, cells all stacked on each other with a main hallway) and the worst offenders were housed here. I spend some time in solitary confinement, but the only vibe I get is that murderers and molesters lived and died in this hopeless place. The pictures are of me in the prison, and yes, I laid on the bed, and I found an old Harlequin romance novel in there!