Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Oak Hill Cemetery Investigation with Expedition Unknown, Part Two

The so-called 'Creepy Cherub,' Oak Hill Cemetery in Birmingham.
Tonight I'll reveal a few more EVP (electronic voice phenomena) samples captured during last week's investigation of Oak Hill Cemetery in Birmingham, which was hosted by the gracious and talented staff of Oak Hill Cemetery and led by the intrepid members of paranormal research group Expedition Unknown.

To read Part One of this series, skip back a week, or just click here.

The most time-consuming part of any paranormal investigation is evidence review. For example, we were in the cemetery from 8:00 PM until midnight. I left both my digital audio recorders running the entire time, which means I shall now enjoy the singular pleasure of listening to eight full hours of unfiltered audio, most of which consists of footsteps, my inane ramblings, and the sound of distant trains. I didn't mind the trains so much, because if there is anything more mournful than the sound of a freight train passing in the middle of the night it is standing in a cemetery and hearing the sound of a freight train passing in the middle of the night. Seriously, you'd have to listen to half a dozen Johnny Cash albums back-to-back to even approach that kind of industrial-grade mournful. 

But I digress. I'm still not done listening to the audio, but I have three more odd sounds for you to listen to tonight. 

Big Radio Tower

The first oddity takes place at about 44 minutes and 30 seconds into my main recording, captured on my Zoom H1. We are all walking, heading up the big hill toward the spot where subtle movement in the shadows was observed. One of the investigators remarks upon a big radio tower.



But right before he says those words, you can hear a faint, oddly modulated voice speak. To me, it seems to be saying 'Hey (unintelligible unintelligible).' It continues speaking even as the investigator speaks.

I have no idea what made these sounds.

Here's the first clip, unaltered. The 'hey' starts pretty much as soon as the clip does. Click below to listen.

Hey1

And here's the same clip, amplified for clarity.

Hey 2

I can hardly wait to advance my second audio recorder to the same time and listen to its recording. Of course since I left my second audio recorder in the cemetery, I can't do that right now -- but the good people of the Oak Hill volunteer staff (thanks Renee!) have mailed my gear back, and it should be here tomorrow, so expect an update on this next week.

Train and Moan

This clip needs no amplification at all! You'll hear some conversation, a train, and then a moan (the moan is about 14 seconds in). Go ahead, have a listen.




The scene was this -- Eric, the fearless Expedition Unknown intern, was dispatched to conduct an EVP session at a tree about which movement was observed by 4 people. The first part of the clip mentions 'Eric has a K2' and the green light thereof. Then the train whistle blows.

All the scratching around is me moving the mic so that it points away from the train. The moan or groan is so loud no amplification is required.

Now, one could argue that the source of the groan was one Frank Tuttle, an obscure and undeservedly non-famous fantasy author who was very much above the cemetery ground that night. And I admit that is entirely possible, although I've been doing cemetery sweeps long enough to know to tag any old-age related groans. Could it have also been my stomach?

Yes, but again, I hope I'd have tagged it as such, since in either case it would have clearly been audible.

I'll compare these two events when I have my second recorder back. Until then, I offer this one as a possible EVP, but one tainted by suspicion.

Alabama Devil Dog

This third offering was captured at the foot of the Grand Army of the Republic marker, which denotes the resting places of Civil War soldiers, both Union and Confederate. The site has seen reports of whispering in the past.

We gathered about the marker and conducted an EVP session. During the session, I heard what I thought was a dog howling, and I tagged the sound as such. The other members of the group disagreed, saying it didn't sound like a dog.

My mic must have been facing the wrong way, because the sound I recorded was much fainter than the sound I recall hearing. Even with the amplified snippet, you'll need headphones or a Mighty Wall O' Speakers to hear the sound, which is a brief high-pitched wail. Again, I hope my second recorder captured a clearer aural image of this instance.

But for now, here it is. The first one is unaltered; the second is amplified as much as I could manage without degrading the sound quality. 

Devil Dog 1 (howl about 4 seconds in)

Devil Dog 2 (howl isolated)

I'm still up in the air with this one. Yes, it could have been a dog -- but several of the witnesses claimed the sound took place from a point very near us, almost standing in the circle with us. 

What do you think?

More to come next week!

Writing Roundup

It's been another week of editing on the new Mug and Meralda book. Which I believe is yet another variation on the same theme I've been stuck with for months now. Look, what can I say, I don't want to release a book that still needs work, so -- I'm still working. 

In the meantime, I have many other books you might enjoy reading! One such worthy is featured below. Click and buy, if you are so inclined, and the spirits say you are....




 



Sunday, September 7, 2014

Oak Hill Cemetery Investigation with Expedition Unknown

The gates to Oak Hill cemetery in downtown Birmingham, Alabama.

I'd like to open tonight's entry by extending a heartfelt thank both to the crew of Expedition Unknown, paranormal investigators par excellence, and to the knowledgeable and intrepid volunteers from Oak Hill Cemetery, who not only joined the late-night investigation but provided us with a wealth of information about the sites and stories we explored.

Expedition Unknown conducts public investigations of various sites on a regular basis. You may see their upcoming events calendar by following their page here. I heartily encourage anyone interested in the paranormal to consider attending an event. You'll be informed, entertained, and exposed to sound investigative techniques.

Oak Hill Cemetery is nestled in the heart of Birmingham, and due to the tireless efforts of the Oak Hill volunteers and staff, the cemetery is beautiful. If you live in or about Birmingham, or you're simply interested in Southern history and folklore, Oak Hill is a wonderful place to visit. Guided tours are available, and you can even speak with historic re-enactors who assume the garb and roles of some of the graveyard's most famous and colorful citizens. Please visit the Oak Hill website here.



My visit to Oak Hill began at 8:00 PM last night -- Saturday, September the 6th, 2014. It was a hot night in Alabama, as most summer nights are. The sky threatened rain all afternoon, and though there were gaps in the clouds directly overhead, lightning danced on the horizon all around.

We met the Expedition Unknown crew in the old chapel. There, we discussed equipment and a few ground rules. The EU crew doesn't employ a lot of the practices you'll see on TV ghost hunting shows -- no 'provoking,' for instance. No Ouija Boards, no taunting, no seances. Basic respect for the property is stressed -- these people are, after all, beloved family to someone out there. 

I like that about EU. You won't find them leaving so much as a gum wrapper behind, because they're classy folks, and they're serious and professional about their investigations.

The Cefalus were grocers. 
Now then. I set out with a variety of instruments, to the extent that I really should have brought a pack-mule and a Sherpa or two. Note to self: limit gear to all future field trips to what I can carry in one hand and a small backpack, no more. Also, if it's hot, BRING WATER. I sweated, like an overweight 51-year-old pig last night, and I fully expect to discover at least one EVP sample which says 'Hey that guy in the Harley shirt needs to start working out right after HE TAKES A SHOWER EWW.'

Science isn't easy, and sometimes it doesn't smell good, either. But I digress.

We were led around the cemetery by Renee and Tammy, who supplied us with the stories behind the names on the gravestones and the vaults. Which was wonderful. I'm often saddened by cemeteries because the stark name-born-on-died on inscriptions on the markers reduce whole lives to nothing but a span of years. It's good to be reminded we are more than just the measure of our days.

I have more than 3 hours of audio to analyze. Six hours, really, because I had not one but two digital recorders running. So far I've been through a fraction of that, and I've already isolated what may be an EVP a mere 3 minutes into the investigation.

Our first stop on the tour was the Erswell family vault. Edward Erswell was a prominent cabinet maker in early Birminghad, and he turned his woodworking skills to the manufacture of caskets during a cholera epidemic which killed thousands. 

Photo taken by Carrie from Flickr - https://www.flickr.com/photos/st-carrie/
The Erswell family vault because a grim staging space during the cholera outbreak, when bodies arrived at the cemetery in such numbers they couldn't be prepared and buried immediately. So the corpses were stacked in the Erswell vault, to await burial.

Yeah. Bodies stacked by the dozen in the brutal Alabama summer heat. I leave that scene to your imagination, and I hope your imagination has a strong stomach.

My static field detector, ever vigilant. 

We weren't quite to the Erswell vault when I picked up my first anomalous sound. We're all walking, in a group. 

Everyone knows to 'tag' sounds they either make themselves or recognize as background noise. Cars passing, for instance. Someone will say 'Tag, car.' This way, no one later interprets the sound as that of a Class IV Free-Floating Vapor, or the shade of Benjamin Franklin out to fly kites in the lightning. 

The sounds you are about to hear were not tagged. I do not recall hearing them, or I certainly would have remarked upon them. They are so loud I have applied neither noise reduction or amplification.

What are they?

I have no idea. They are not words, that I can discern. They are moans or cries of some sort. 

First, listen to the long snippet, which contains the conversation between two investigators as we walk.


The investigators are discussing EVPs. You should hear the first faint moan at 5 seconds in. The second louder one is about 7 seconds in ("you have 3 of them..."), clearly audible over the words. The last moan sounds about 9 seconds in.

The moans are nearly as loud as the spoken words, and I have no recollection of them.

Here's the loudest moan, isolated:


But that's one advantage of investigating with a group. I know several other recorders were running at the time, so I'm reaching out to them and later I'll be able to compare their recordings to mine.

I will keep you updated as to whether anyone else captured or identified this noise.

The second phenomena took place inside the Erswell vault. Which by the way is now free of corpses. But is it free of history?

Expedition Unknown brought along a so-called 'spirit box,' which rapidly scans FM radio bands and broadcasts the jumble of sounds via a small speaker. Surprisingly, these spirit boxes have been known to form words and whole phrases from the usual gibberish, and last night may have produced just such a phenomena.

We gathered inside the steamy, dark confines of the Erswell vault. The story of the stacked bodies was recounted, and as various instruments and recorders worked Expedition Unknown brought out their SP-7 spirit box. 

I've posted a link to a 14 second cut of the whole session below. 


In the clip, investigator Stephen Guenther asks if anyone is with us in the vault. At the 14 second mark, it seems as if the box responds with 'get out.'

Here's the response, slowed by 36% for clarity:


There's a lot more audio for me to go over. I will post more excerpts next week!




A final cautionary tale.

One of the pieces of gear I took was a device designed to pick up and record faint EM radiation. And when I say faint I mean very faint -- it was so sensitive I could turn my phone's volume down to zero, pull up a song, hit play, and listen to the song over my super-amp device from a good distance away. It was picking up the tiny signal generated by the phones even tinier audio amp. I was really proud of that device.

Testing it here at home proved it's a viable instrument for picking up faint EM signals and rendering them audible. I could easily identify common sources, such as 60 Hertz house current, or the high-pitched whine of a nearby cell phone, or the buzzing of a fan motor.

But, once in downtown Birmingham, when I switched the amp on in the chapel before the investigation I was horrified to hear, loud and clear, a country station blasting out music.

I hadn't counted on being immersed in such a strong field of urban background EM fields. And as such I used fixed internal components to set the amplifier chip's gain to a maxed-out 3000X.

To make matters even worse, in the final moments of the investigation, I put the amp atop a marker while I aimed my mic toward an EVP session. I then walked away, and left the mic, the magnetic pickup, and the audio recorder attached to the chassis there in the cemetery. 

Good going, Tuttle. Smooth move. You da MAN.

I was nearly back to Oxford when I suddenly realized what I'd done, because my brain is ever-vigilant, but four hours behind. 

Thus, I am forever grateful to Oak Hill expert Renee, who not only found my derelict EM amp but is keeping it safe and seeing it home. To Renee, my thanks! 

And to everyone else, a good night. Because staying up late is yet another task my silly brain is not suited for. 

 






Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mirror, Mirror



The image above was created when I fired up my prototype hyperdrive and accidentally sent my camera (briefly) to a point somewhere near the galactic core. The camera came back intact, which is great because I'm pretty sure the warranty doesn't cover damage caused by hard vacuum and intense gamma radiation.

I kid, of course. That is a genuine image, but I created it in my mirror-box, which I played with earlier today for your viewing pleasure. Those lens reflections were created when I took the image below.



Here's the same shot, as the hyperdrive engages:


That really is a rugged little camera. Also, the galactic core is full of tee-shirt shops ("I traveled a hundred thousand light years and all I got was this lousy thorax covering") and souvenir stands, just as I suspected. Hardly worth the trouble.

Mug and Meralda Update

The most difficult book I've ever written continues to churn along. Still more work to do, but I promise I'm doing it as fast as I possibly can. 

I need more hours in my day. The hyperdrive camera passed a couple of Earthlike worlds that sported 30 hour axial rotation periods, and I'm thinking of moving my writing space onto one of them via a wormhole door. All I need is 30 million kilograms of superconductive iridium and a pair of D-cell batteries, and at least one of those items is probably available from Amazon.

I already tried cloning myself so the copy could write, but all the lazy slug did was goof around on social sites and download old games. He's on the couch now, engrossed in Planescape: Torment, and promising to 'really hit the manuscript hard tomorrow, dude.'

He's lying, of course. I should know. 

Yeah, I know it doesn't tie into the text, but it's pretty.

Movies You Should See

If you only see one movie this summer, may I suggest you make that movie Guardians of the Galaxy?

I finally saw it. And it was an absolute blast. I remember seeing the original Star Wars back in '77, and this movie took me right back to that moment, when I was a kid enjoying the perfect frickin' movie.

It has everything -- humor, heart, excitement, and gorgeous visuals. Yeah, okay, it's also cheesy as Hell, at times, but you won't care because at its core its a movie about people who've lost everything coming together to find each other.

Find each other, and KICK ASS.

That's a potent combination. Also, I was told that Rocket Raccoon's character is very much mine, and I heartily approve of that sentiment. 

I believe movies that show the good guys coming from behind to win the day are so powerful because life doesn't work that way. It ought to, but it seldom does, and that's a shame.

Go see Guardians. Leave your inner critic at the door. I swear you'll lose thirty heavy years, at least for an hour or two.

Worth the ticket price, and then some.


Rowr.
What is that, portrayed above? 

I have no idea. Best I can figure, the image was taken about 23 thousand light years from Earth. Not a world I'll be visiting. Long on claws and fangs, short on eateries and theaters. 

It's a dangerous cosmos out there, fellow humans. Remain vigilant, and of course purchase fine reading material on a regular basis.






Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Release Party!

Today, I'll be stepping out of the spotlight (you didn't know we had a spotlight? Well, we do, and it takes three trained monkeys to keep it aimed at me) to feature an interview with author Elyse Salpeter. Enjoy!

Why look, an author with a book!

Last week, I sent Elyse a series of questions carefully constructed to make it appear as if I have a rudimentary command of English. She kindly obliged by answering each, and consenting to have her responses posted here in the Board-certified, gluten-free pages of my blog.

But first, here are a few links to Elyse, and her books!

Elyse's Amazon Author page (includes links to all of her books!)



So who is this writing madwoman? What is she all about?

I give you the Official(tm) Elyse Salpeter Author Interview!


QUESTION from FRANK: Your new book, Flying to the Fire, is the latest installment in a series featuring a deaf protagonist. What led you to feature a deaf child as the hero of the series?

ANSWER from ELYSE: I’ve been asked this a lot and I have to say, when I first wrote Book #1, FLYING TO THE LIGHT, I had no intention of making any sort of statement by introducing a deaf child as the main character. It’s just that when I was developing the story, this young boy popped into my mind and I said to myself “what if he can’t speak and no one has any idea about the amazing secret he holds?” I was more concerned about his age. How no one would take this child seriously at the age of six, so his secret would be safe for awhile. In book #2 I move him to the age of thirteen because I really wanted him to be the driver of the story.

I didn’t want this child’s deafness to be construed as a disability and it was simply a part of who he is. I have the family all using sign language to communicate with him and I treat him very typically. 


QUESTION from FRANK: You've established a unique cosmology for Flying to the Light and Flying to the Fire. Both books are set in the world we know, in the present, but your young protagonist knows something about the afterlife we don’t. Without giving away too many spoilers, how did you come up with the plot twist that’s central to the books?
ANSWER from ELYSE: No one really knows what happens to us when we die. We think we might have an idea. We believe in faith and religion and spirituality concepts, but none of us actually has the answer. Unless you’re a complete agnostic that believes you’re worm food at the end of the day, most of us think there “something,” though I’m hard pressed to say what it is. 

I love the idea that good souls have somewhere to go and bad souls have some place where they do penance, or are simply tortured for eternity for their heinous crimes on earth! When I came up with the idea for the FLYING series, I thought to myself “what if our souls don’t necessarily go where we think they do?” I also liked the idea that this wasn’t a plot scenario that I’ve seen anywhere in the field, and death and the afterlife have been covered a lot. I think readers will enjoy this twist on the age-old question of “what happens to us when we die?” 


QUESTION from FRANKLet’s shift gears for a minute and talk about Elyse the author. Walk us through a typical day -- when do you write, how much do you try to write, and what’s the biggest obstacle you face trying to get all that done?

ANSWER from ELYSE: Ah, you see, when you said typical day and then discussed writing, that’s where my creative side gets skewed. You see, I never have set times to write. Between a full time job, married and with kids, I find my time to write to be a “plead, beg and steal” routine. A typical day is me turning on the computer in the morning and blasting out some social media promotions before I jump into the shower to get ready for work. Then, if I’ve dragged the laptop with me to work, I get two twenty minute sessions, on two different trains, to write. Sometimes I’m lucky and then can get some time in at lunch, and then also on the way home. 

Writing at night happens after the kids go to sleep, but by that time, I’m pretty much wiped out from my day. That said, when I’m deep into writing a new novel, I’ll negotiate with the family time for me to write and usually it involves me leaving the house in order to get the space and time I need. “Ideal” this is not. 


QUESTION from FRANK: The publishing industry. You’re a writer, so you’re a part of it. If you could change one thing about the business of writing itself, what would that be, and why?

ANSWER from ELYSE: I wish so many things. I wish there were more brick and mortar stores. I wish more publishing companies took on new writers. I wish it were easier to reach readers. I wish it were easier to get respected companies in the field to do reviews of self published work. I wish agents were more responsive and open to also taking on new writers. I wish it were easier to break into Hollywood. As you can see, I’m a big wisher. 


QUESTION from FRANK: What’s next for you? Got any new projects on the horizon you’d like to talk about? 

ANSWER from ELYSE: I do! I have a horror novel that I’m presently editing that I’m hoping to release for Halloween. It’s called THE MANNEQUINS and is about a film crew that disappears after breaking into a deserted mansion. After that I’ll start working on Book #3 in the FLYING series. The tentative title is called FLYING HOME. 


QUESTION from FRANK: Advice for aspiring authors -- it’s a Federal law that I ask this question in any blog interview. So, what’s worked for you, and what hasn’t, and what would you suggest new authors concentrate their efforts upon?

ANSWER from ELYSE: I would tell people to persevere. There are so many different levels of success. I know that now with five novels out I can be considered successful and I should be happy, but I’m not. I want to be able to do this full time and so I implore aspiring authors to keep writing, keep promoting and keep trying new things. With this ever changing social media and publishing landscape, who knows where the industry will be in ten years? Continue to keep writing and put out quality work and sales will come. I can’t tell you if you’ll be able to make a full time job out of it, but if you can reach a few people who enjoy your work, then you can certainly call yourself a success. 

Elyse is hosting a book launch for her new novel, Flying to the Fire. The official launch is August 30, but since you're a person of taste and no small wit, you can grab a copy right now by clicking your clicky little finger on this brightly-colored easy to use link



Thanks, Elyse, for joining us on the blog today!


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Along Came a Spider



That's Millicent above, our resident Argiope aurantia (or, more commonly, the Black and Yellow Garden Spider). Millicent maintains a tidy two bedroom, two bath web above our box hedges, and is easily one of the best neighbors I've ever had (though not the first neighbor to subsist entirely on a diet of insects).

I'm careful to leave her web alone when I trim the hedges, because everyone deserves a place to live regardless of the number of their legs.

Reviews are Pouring In!

The most recent installment in the Markhat series was reviewed last week on Big Al's Books and Pals site.


I'm happy to report that The Five Faces garnered a 5 stars out of 5 rating, and the reviewer has nice things to say about not only this book but the series too:

Mr. Tuttle has a talent for developing his characters with dialog that I really appreciate. I love the banter and self-deprecating humor that he excels at. I also like the elements from our world that he weaves into his unique fantasy world of human characters along with wand-wavers, undead, trolls, banshees, soothsayers, and vampires.  I am not quite sure what to make of the slilth, but I like what he did with it at the end of the story. I am laughing right along with Stitches. I also have to laugh at the Brown River Bridge clown patrol, they add an interesting touch to Rannit’s unsavory population.

Which means I did exactly what I set out to do, this time.

You can read the entire review from the link below:

The Five Faces review on Big Al's Books and Pals

In other writing news, the new Mug and Meralda should go out for proofreading next week. Which puts the release of the book just a few weeks away!

Frank's Marketing Tips for Authors

If you read any online writing blogs or discussions, one of the first topics you'll encounter will be that of marketing your new book. There are mobs of new authors out there who appear to be convinced that the only thing standing between them and a stack of money high enough to climb and roll down is some uber-secret marketing plan.

Don't believe me? A cottage industry has sprung up overnight on Amazon alone, as hundreds of how-to books appear, each with titles like How to Make a Million Dollars Overnight Before You Even Finish That Pesky Novel or 100 Sure-Fire Tips and Tricks to Reach Best-Sellerdom and Quit Your Day Job and Show All Those Nobodies in the Crit Group That Grammar Doesn't Matter After All So Ha. 

I'd be a lot more impressed if these sure-fire can't-miss tell-all books weren't mostly written by people I've never heard of. I'd be even more impressed if many of them were longer than 15 pages, or contained fewer than half a dozen formatting and grammar errors on the first couple of pages. But hey, what's a fewe spellinging errorz between budding billionaires, right?

No marketing efforts can do more than temporarily boost sales of a bad book. And even good marketing plans can't propel goods books instantly into the sales stratosphere -- for every best-seller, I believe there are ten or a hundred equally good books languishing in the weeds, left behind out of caprice, not incompetence.

But of course there are actions and strategies any author can undertake to make the most of a fickle and ever-changing market. And since I'm a generous sort, I'll give my tricks and tips away for free (although donations are gladly accepted, after all, Millicent above needs a new central air unit).

Thus, I give you Frank's Marketing Tips and Tricks for Authors. Use them with care, lest ye summon down a furious plague of reviewers and movie producers!

Frank's Tips

1) Branding is crucial to the success of your marketing efforts. Not the kind of branding done to cattle in Westerns, though. Don't make that mistake no matter how many hits the YouTube video is likely to get.

2) Keep readers engaged with a series of high-profile crimes and arrests. Strive to have your booking photos featured on The Smoking Gun website at least once per quarter, and right before every new book release.

3) When using the Tweeter, maximize your content with lots of hashtags, abbreviations, and acronyms. HEY #AGHTY & CPHY @ASJESDF,#LOLOLOL SPDER/GHTY says what mere words can't.

4) Constant blatant self-promotion is ineffective and annoying, except when you do it. Automate Twits and book-face posts to remind readers to buy your new book every few minutes, or you'll be lost and forgotten by all.

5) Invite bloggers to blog on their blogs about your blog and then blog about their blog concerning your blog.

6) Google yourself. Pull the blinds down first, you pervert.

7) Always approach editors and agents from behind, while wearing cork-soled shoes, or they'll hear you coming and you'll struggle to force the chloroform-soaked rag over their mouth.

8) Book signings are a powerful way to reach and build an audience. Bookstore owners are busy people, so don't waste their time by asking permission before you set up a table and start signing. An attitude of quiet self-assurance and a pair of burly roadies named 'Big Mike' and 'Butcher-knife' are all you need to establish your presence.

9) Receiving a bad review is part of any author's life. But you're not any old author, so respond to a poor review with calm, professional mercenaries, who can be found for hire in the pages of Soldier of Fortune magazine.

There is a 10th tip, but it is so powerful and potentially dangerous I must wait and publish it in my own upcoming how-to book, which shall be entitled Writing For Big Bucks: How to Command Financial Mastery of the Publishing Industry With Only Two Small Ice Cubes, the Shinbones of a Hamster, and a 42-syllable Sanskrit Word Spoken Beneath a Total Eclipse, Part 1 (available in October for only $39.99).

Finally, the Inevitable Ice Bucket Challenge Video 

I leave you this week with a video.

I was challenged by my wife to undertake the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS research, and of course I agreed, because this is Mississippi in late August and a bucket of ice water poured over one's head is a thing devoutly to be wished for. 

There's another reason, too. My Mom died of ALS three years ago, and I believe I can say without reservation that I've never seen anything so cruel and so devastating as ALS. Every dollar raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge is a blow against the disease, and for me, that's a very good cause indeed.

Donations can be made via www.alsa.org.

Below is my video. Please note the appearance of the large fused ice-chunk, and the velocity at which it contacts my formidably sturdy skull. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Words With Author Elyse Salpeter

Today, I'll be stepping out of the spotlight (you didn't know we had a spotlight? Well, we do, and it takes three trained monkeys to keep it aimed at me) to feature an interview with author Elyse Salpeter. Enjoy!

Why look, an author with a book!

Last week, I sent Elyse a series of questions carefully constructed to make it appear as if I have a rudimentary command of English. She kindly obliged by answering each, and consenting to have her responses posted here in the Board-certified, gluten-free pages of my blog.

But first, here are a few links to Elyse, and her books!

Elyse's Amazon Author page (includes links to all of her books!)



So who is this writing madwoman? What is she all about?

I give you the Official(tm) Elyse Salpeter Author Interview!


QUESTION from FRANK: Your new book, Flying to the Fire, is the latest installment in a series featuring a deaf protagonist. What led you to feature a deaf child as the hero of the series?

ANSWER from ELYSE: I’ve been asked this a lot and I have to say, when I first wrote Book #1, FLYING TO THE LIGHT, I had no intention of making any sort of statement by introducing a deaf child as the main character. It’s just that when I was developing the story, this young boy popped into my mind and I said to myself “what if he can’t speak and no one has any idea about the amazing secret he holds?” I was more concerned about his age. How no one would take this child seriously at the age of six, so his secret would be safe for awhile. In book #2 I move him to the age of thirteen because I really wanted him to be the driver of the story.

I didn’t want this child’s deafness to be construed as a disability and it was simply a part of who he is. I have the family all using sign language to communicate with him and I treat him very typically. 


QUESTION from FRANK: You've established a unique cosmology for Flying to the Light and Flying to the Fire. Both books are set in the world we know, in the present, but your young protagonist knows something about the afterlife we don’t. Without giving away too many spoilers, how did you come up with the plot twist that’s central to the books?
 
ANSWER from ELYSE: No one really knows what happens to us when we die. We think we might have an idea. We believe in faith and religion and spirituality concepts, but none of us actually has the answer. Unless you’re a complete agnostic that believes you’re worm food at the end of the day, most of us think there “something,” though I’m hard pressed to say what it is. 

I love the idea that good souls have somewhere to go and bad souls have some place where they do penance, or are simply tortured for eternity for their heinous crimes on earth! When I came up with the idea for the FLYING series, I thought to myself “what if our souls don’t necessarily go where we think they do?” I also liked the idea that this wasn’t a plot scenario that I’ve seen anywhere in the field, and death and the afterlife have been covered a lot. I think readers will enjoy this twist on the age-old question of “what happens to us when we die?” 


QUESTION from FRANK: Let’s shift gears for a minute and talk about Elyse the author. Walk us through a typical day -- when do you write, how much do you try to write, and what’s the biggest obstacle you face trying to get all that done?

ANSWER from ELYSE: Ah, you see, when you said typical day and then discussed writing, that’s where my creative side gets skewed. You see, I never have set times to write. Between a full time job, married and with kids, I find my time to write to be a “plead, beg and steal” routine. A typical day is me turning on the computer in the morning and blasting out some social media promotions before I jump into the shower to get ready for work. Then, if I’ve dragged the laptop with me to work, I get two twenty minute sessions, on two different trains, to write. Sometimes I’m lucky and then can get some time in at lunch, and then also on the way home. 

Writing at night happens after the kids go to sleep, but by that time, I’m pretty much wiped out from my day. That said, when I’m deep into writing a new novel, I’ll negotiate with the family time for me to write and usually it involves me leaving the house in order to get the space and time I need. “Ideal” this is not. 


QUESTION from FRANK: The publishing industry. You’re a writer, so you’re a part of it. If you could change one thing about the business of writing itself, what would that be, and why?

ANSWER from ELYSE: I wish so many things. I wish there were more brick and mortar stores. I wish more publishing companies took on new writers. I wish it were easier to reach readers. I wish it were easier to get respected companies in the field to do reviews of self published work. I wish agents were more responsive and open to also taking on new writers. I wish it were easier to break into Hollywood. As you can see, I’m a big wisher. 


QUESTION from FRANK: What’s next for you? Got any new projects on the horizon you’d like to talk about? 

ANSWER from ELYSE: I do! I have a horror novel that I’m presently editing that I’m hoping to release for Halloween. It’s called THE MANNEQUINS and is about a film crew that disappears after breaking into a deserted mansion. After that I’ll start working on Book #3 in the FLYING series. The tentative title is called FLYING HOME. 


QUESTION from FRANK: Advice for aspiring authors -- it’s a Federal law that I ask this question in any blog interview. So, what’s worked for you, and what hasn’t, and what would you suggest new authors concentrate their efforts upon?

ANSWER from ELYSE: I would tell people to persevere. There are so many different levels of success. I know that now with five novels out I can be considered successful and I should be happy, but I’m not. I want to be able to do this full time and so I implore aspiring authors to keep writing, keep promoting and keep trying new things. With this ever changing social media and publishing landscape, who knows where the industry will be in ten years? Continue to keep writing and put out quality work and sales will come. I can’t tell you if you’ll be able to make a full time job out of it, but if you can reach a few people who enjoy your work, then you can certainly call yourself a success. 

Elyse is hosting a book launch for her new novel, Flying to the Fire. The official launch is August 30, but since you're a person of taste and no small wit, you can grab a copy right now by clicking your clicky little finger on this brightly-colored easy to use link

Thanks, Elyse, for joining us on the blog today!


Writing News

Despite a trying week, I was able to finish the second draft of the new Mug and Meralda book, All the Turns of Light.

This new draft is now enjoying a stay with a Secret Beta Reader. Meanwhile, I do as all serious authors do after completing one book -- I've started another. 

It might be a new Markhat adventure. It might be a new Markhat adventure involving a long train ride. All these rumors might be true, although it must be pointed out that I could very well be lying about the whole thing, and have instead immersed myself in Cheetos and video games while I await the verdict on the second draft of Turns of Light. Frankly, I'm such a devious, deceitful fellow that I'm not even sure anymore. Why are my fingers stained yellow?

Other Writing News

There has been much ballyhoo and hullabaloo concerning the so-called Authors United Open Letter To Amazon, which you can read for yourself here

The crux of the matter is the ongoing dispute between publisher Hachette and bookseller Amazon over, um, whatever it is they can't agree upon. The right of Amazon to price ebooks as they wish or Hachette to fish inside the hundred-mile territorial waters limits of Norway or possibly over whether Han shot first.

Truth is, I don't know. Look, I have a full-time job, an elderly diabetic dog, and a closet-full of demons and skeletons of my own to deal with each and every bloody day. Bad author, I know, but Amazon and Hachette are going to do whatever it is they wind up doing regardless of my opinion on the matter. It's all I can manage most days to just keep putting words together; I don't have the time or the energy to spare on what amounts to a clash of the Titans over the hills and far away.

I do hear the crash and thud of battle, though, and that itself is disturbing enough. 

Publishing isn't an easy. It wasn't easy when I dived in back in the 1990s and it isn't easy now. But Frank, you say, aghast at my statement -- why, publishing is easier than ever, today! Anyone can upload their ebook, and instantly become an author!

My point exactly. I read somewhere that Amazon introduced more than 70,000 new ebook titles in the last two months alone. Seventy thousand. 

As a veteran of the publishing industry, I will leave you with this comment, which is of course open for debate.

It has never been easier to publish one's own book, and it has never been more difficult to place one's own book in front of the right audience.

Awash and bobbing amid an ever-widening sea of titles, each clamoring for rescue by a reader?

That's how it feels, much of the time. 

So whether Amazon is right or Hachette emerges victorious is secondary to someone treading water and hoping to stay afloat. 

And with that, gentle reader, I bid you good evening. 

How about a book to read?



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hot Blue Summer Sky


D 31095903 ©  | Dreamstime.com
Maybe it's the heat. Maybe I've got a case of the midsummer doldrums. All I want to do is lie down and have a good long nap. And by good long nap I mean I want to wake up no sooner that mid-October.

I've had it with summer. It's an inferno out there -- even the copperhead snakes are sticking to the shade and passing out cards that say CONSIDER YOURSELF BITTEN, THANKS instead of coiling up and striking, and I don't blame them one bit.

I believe Lou Ann agrees. We went for a walk earlier, and instead of running ahead and bouncing around and generally displaying boundless doggy exuberance, she headed right for the trail camera, waited quietly while I swapped data cards, and made a bee-line back to the house as soon as I locked the camera case shut. She's been in her chair, belly-up, under the study air conditioner ever since.

And still the sun blazes down. I can almost feel the heat of it, hear the merciless sizzle, just a couple of feet away on the other side of the study's A-frame roof. Part of me truly appreciates Lou Ann's sudden dedication to the air conditioner. I too want to curl up in a cool, dark place and hide from the sun's fiery glare.

I can't do that, of course, because there's too much work to be done. I'm down to the last five or ten pages of the new Mug and Meralda book, All the Turns of Light. That's the last place you want to stop when you're working on a book. There's a rhythm, a cadence, a delicate pace to be maintained near the end, and if I stop now, even for a day or two, I'll lose my sense of that pace. Getting it back would be difficult, if not impossible, so I'll let Lou Ann keep the chair and I'll sit here and tap away instead.

Turns of Light has taken nearly twice the time to complete than I estimated. But that's fine -- I'd rather blow my timeline and end up with a great book than stay on schedule and produce a mediocre one. If you're a fan of the first book (All the Paths of Shadow) I believe you'll love this one too.

Publishing News



My friend Maria Schneider, who is a talented author, animal lover, and licensed airship pilot, just released the sequel to Dragons of Wendal, which you should grab and read if you love fantasy and you haven't read it already. It's lots of fun, and it reminded me of the classic fantasy I grew up on. 

The new book is entitled Dragon Kin and you can get it from the Kobo bookstore or from Amazon by using the links below:



I loved the first book, The Dragons of Wendal, so I'm excited to snatch up the sequel!

Here's the sample blurb from Kobo, to give you an idea of what the book is about:

Drissa needs a place to hide, and she needed it yesterday. Wendal, with its rumors of inhospitable shifters, unknown terrain and wild magic, is not a territory many want to explore, making it the perfect place to disappear. Now, the last thing Drissa needs is to adopt more trouble, but what can she do when it hatches at her feet and then insists she drag it and a half-dead stranger to safety? But she’ll do whatever is necessary to survive, because her younger sister can’t wait forever to be rescued. Of course, Wendal and its inhabitants aren’t necessarily interested in her long-term plans or her survival.
Dragons of Wendal is book one in the series.

Okay, it's back to work for me. Take care, folks, and be wary of the heat!



Sunday, August 3, 2014

In Case You Haven't Heard, Plus Amorous Frogs!

New Markhat is on the Way!

Just in case you haven't heard, Samhain Publishing accepted the new Markhat novel, and we have a tentative publication date of April 2015.

The book will be entitled The Darker Carnival, and if you think this one might be set in a carnival there's a really good chance you might be right. 

I've always wanted to include a traveling carnival in a Markhat book. Even a perfectly innocent carnival provides a rich and exotic setting for a book, but if the carnival is Evil(tm) -- well, that's just plain good fun.

I did a fair amount of research on turn of the century (i.e., the turning of the 19th and 20th centuries) carnival folk. They lived rough and tumble, hard-luck lives, especially the 'freaks,' but even so carny life was preferable to the alternatives in the early 1900s. Some amassed quite respectable fortunes, for the time, and enjoyed long and hopefully fulfilling lives. 

So in this new book, you'll meet, among others, the Man of Bones, Vallarta the Swamp Witch, Elisabet, Queen of the Elves, and the Living Dead Girl. Oh, and mastodons, because how else are you going to haul your Ferris wheel and carousel across the war-torn wastelands?

I believe I had more fun writing The Darker Carnival than I have any of the others, which is a good sign that you'll enjoy reading it too. 

I can't wait to see the cover. A carnival setting? This one ought to be really good!

But in the meantime, don't forget about the other eight Markhat titles, such as the one below!


Available from Samhain, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes!

Here There Be, Um, Frogs and Snakes. Mostly Frogs.


©  | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Finally, a short bit of audio.

I live in north Mississippi. So do some of you -- but to many of my readers, Mississippi is a far-off land, a strange and exotic place peopled by barefoot hillbillies and over-run with beat-up Chevy pickups.

First, I would like gently point out that I own numerous pairs of shoes, which I wear on special occasions (formal tractor-pulls, court sentencings, the annual We Hope We Get The Lectricity Real Soon Now festival). Also, my truck is a Nissan, and I washed it once. 

We all live in unique settings. Whether you're in New York or Singapore or you're aboard the ISS looking down on us all, your moment is utterly unlike anyone else's. Communicating the differences of our experiences is part of what writing is all about.

I can't replicate for you the aromas of the dining room at Taylor Grocery. I can't describe to you, in more than the crudest terms, what you might see and hear and smell walking around Oxford's pre-Civil War town Square.

But I can record the sounds of night-time here in sleepy Yocona, which is what I've done and linked to below.

My summer nights are filled with a tireless orchestra of creeping, jumping, flying things. Crickets and toads. Frogs and katydids. Plesiosaurs and Sasquatch, probably, since anything could be back there in the dark.

It's only a 30-second clip. I promise it's not a screamer, because I find those things annoying (first rule of being funny: BE FUNNY. Screamers aren't funny and haven't been since 2007). 

Night in rural Mississippi. Enjoy, and mind the water moccasins!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Big News: The Darker Carnival has been accepted! Markhat lives!

An actual MRI of my current brain activity
Good news! The very latest Markhat book, The Darker Carnival, has been accepted, and will join the rest of the Markhat books under the Samhain banner in April of next year.

Which is something of a milestone for me and the series. This will be book 9 in the series, which means I've written nine more books than even I ever expected to write when I first sat down at a typewriter that sultry afternoon in the Late Cretaceous. 

I hope fans of the series will like this new book. I will say there are some big surprises in store, and things will never be quite the same for Markhat, Darla, Mama, and the rest. But that's life -- change is inevitable, whether we like it or not, and I'm hoping you'll like these changes. 

As soon as I finish the edits on the new Mug and Meralda, I'll dive right into book 10 of the Markhat adventures. I already have a good portion of it mapped out.

But for now, I shall revel in the sheer joyous sound of the words 'we want this one too!' 

If anyone wants me, I'll be over there, grinning like a fool.

Thanks, everyone!



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Things That Go Bump, Mad Science Edition: The Parabolic in the Cemetery #1

Speak into the clear plastic dish...

Today, I have something genuinely spooky to offer you. 

As you can probably guess from the image above, I took my newly-constructed parabolic microphone rig to a local cemetery. Not just any cemetery, either, but to the very same place I've captured EVP phenomena before.

Before we get to the sounds themselves, though, a few words of explanation are in order. What you see above is the dish, of course, and the electronics. The black box on the bottom is the power supply and volume control for the mic itself. Poised atop that is a small general-purpose audio amp I use for signal tracing and low-level amplification (it has a gain of around 50, I think). Perched precariously above that is the Zoom H1 field mic itself, which is recording via its auxiliary cable input, and not its stereo microphones.

Oh, and that bit of fuzz, peeking over the top? That's a windscreen, which is placed over the electret mic at the focal point of the dish. 

I built the dish to use the 3000X super-amp, but I found that amp's output is well in excess of what the Zoom expects, wants, or can tolerate. So I'll need to add an attenuator circuit to the big-gain amp before I can use it with the dish. Bummer, but the little general-purpose amp performed quite well this trip.

My 20 minute recording session netted a couple of interesting audio samples. As usual, I don't claim to know the source of these sounds. I'm not claiming they are ghosts. I'm not claiming they aren't. All I'm saying is that I get odd sounds -- some voices, some not -- when I go to St. Peters Cemetery in Oxford, and I don't get these same strange noises in my backyard or other such mundane locales. Make of that what you will.

Let's start out with the most impressive of the sounds, which occurs around the 13 minute mark on the full session recording.  The image below shows what the dish was pointed at.


It's facing a hill. Just out of frame is a vase of flowers which has fallen from a marker.

I'll put the clip in context. Thirteen minutes in, and I've moved the dish around a few times. It's facing up a hill. I wander off, spot a vase of fallen flowers, and note aloud I'm going to right them. Shortly after that, you'll hear, quite clearly, the sound of a music box (or perhaps wind chimes).

It plays for several seconds. I did NOT hear even a hint of any such thing during the recording.

Could it be an actual wind chime, the sound of which was carried on the wind?

Maybe, I suppose. But the dish is very directional. It's aimed at a hill on purpose. And it's quite loud.

You be the judge:

Music Box Sound Sample Click Here



The next sound occurred just before the 18 minute mark in the full recording. I'm explaining that the devices I carry can't do anyone any harm, and that they might be able to record faint voices. Just after that, there is a noise of some sort that over-rides my next statement about their voices being detected in the background. The image above depicts what the dish was aimed at.

Is this a voice? I can't tell. I can only say I didn't hear it, and since it comes across as even louder than my own voice for an instant, that's weird.

Might Be Able Sound Click Here

Here's the sound isolated. It still doesn't make any sense to me.

Might Be Able Clip Isolated Click Here

Finally, and I almost didn't include this one, a very faint voice, captured at the 11 minute mark. I have no idea what it's saying. I was walking around, with the dish facing as in the last image above.

You may have to crank this one way up.

Unintelligible Voice Click Here


If you'd like to listen to the entire unedited session, click below. Be warned; there's a three and a half minute period right after I say I'm switching to the parabolic that things are just a buzz because I forgot to switch on the mic pre-amp. Duh. I noticed and switched it on at the 5 minute mark. I've got to get a cheap label-maker so I can at least denote the ON and OFF positions of my switches.

I hope you enjoyed the chimes and the other weird sounds.Sometime soon I'll have to have a talk with the Oxford Police Department and see if they have any objections to me setting up my gear after dark. Anybody want to slap on a proton pack and join me?

Random Catfish Sunsets



No. No I did not eat this handsome fellow, who surfaced to gobble down an easy meal of fish-food in the lake behind a friend's house. That is a Mississippi catfish, long may he live and prosper.

And here is a sunset, taken over the same lake:


If you squint just right, you can see Bigfoot waving from the trees, and of course Nessie is lurking below the surface. 

Writing News

My news this week is much the same as it was last week. Still finishing the re-write on the new Mug and Meralda (less than a hundred pages to go, yay!). The new Markhat is still out for consideration with Samhain. 

I know I've asked before, but since The Five Faces just came out and many of you might have only recently finished it, I'll go ahead and beg abjectly once more for reviews. Seriously, if you liked it (even if you hated it), if you've got a second to drop by Amazon and leave me a few stars and a handful of words I'd really appreciate both. We live and die by rankings, and rankings are related to ratings. It's a sad old world, but it's the only one I've got.  Thanks!