Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Halloween Costumes for Writers

© Embe2006 | - Halloween Background Photo

Halloween is nearly upon us. I'm too old to trick-or-treat, according to at least one judge and the content of a sternly-worded restraining order, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the holiday.

Maybe you're an author, or married to one, or keeping one chained up in your basement in the hope that she'll finally finish that final book of the trilogy that you've been waiting for since 1998. If so, here are some Halloween costumes you might consider trying, because each is designed to strike fear into the heart of an author (note: if the author lacks a heart, as is so often the case, these costumes will also impact liver function, or what little remains of it). 



Conan the Grammarian -- The Grammarian can spot dangling participles, split infinitives, comma misuse, or tense shifts in your manuscripts even after they have been corrected. The Grammarian will ring your doorbell, present his treat bag, and then deliver a scathing appraisal of your writing skills so virulent and brutal you will later be found unconscious, bleeding from your ears, unable to speak or distinguish between its and it's for weeks.. 

The Wicked Slush Reader of the West -- The Wicked Reader will appear on your steps holding your most recently submitted manuscript in her green clawed hands. Before you can comment upon the inaccuracy of the published response times, she will read aloud the first paragraph of your work, cackling with insane glee as you realize how hackneyed and trite that hook you were so proud of sounds now. She will then order her Flying Red-Ink Monkeys to storm your house, marking up any works-in-progress with the classic 'We regret that this work does not suit our needs at this time' kiss-off. 

William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White -- The authors of the legendary writing reference book The Elements of Style simply stand in your doorway, shaking their heads in silent yet profound disappointment.

Ebook Pirates of the Caribbean -- This clown ain't Captain Jack Sparrow. And he's not here for treats -- instead, he steals your ebooks, distributes them through shady 'subscription' ebook sites, and cuts your legitimate sales in half while claiming to do you a favor. "Arr, it's free advertisin' for ya, mate," he cries, as he speeds away as fast as his thrift-store rubber dinghy can take him. "Information just wants to be free."

Count Genre Snob -- It doesn't matter what you write. Somebody you know hates that genre, and this collective disdain is personified by Count Genre Snob, who reveals his face with a flourish of his cape before remarking '"Ven are you going to write a real book? No vun vants to read that <insert genre here> vut you write, blah!" The only way to dispel the Count is to confront him with royalty statements cut into the shape of the New York Times masthead. 

AmaZombies -- You've seen them. We all have -- they roam the Amazon ebookstore by the tens of thousands, and more appear daily. You know them by the awful Microsoft Paint do-it-yourself covers, the complete lack of any editing, the haphazard formatting, and the instant and furious response to even constructive criticism. Alone, each AmaZombie self-published upload is harmless -- but if your book is surrounded by thirty thousand of them, they are a terror indeed. Barricade your house and begin immediate rationing of your Halloween candy.

Happy Halloween, everyone! Stay safe, and keep reading!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Big Mug and Meralda News!

The author, upon being served decaff.

Here we are, slap-dab in the middle of October, and I haven't posted a single 'Things That Go Bump' blog entry yet.

Truth is, it's been an extremely busy October. I've barely had time to deal with the living, much less the dead. My Tesla radio sits inactive. My new parabolic mic hasn't been used since that hot day in August when we drew curious looks from the Oxford Police Department. And I'm still not done with the new ghost hunting device, which I hope will measure truly minute changes in local magnetic fields.

But I have accomplished one thing, in the last few weeks.

Drumroll, please....

The last re-write of the new Mug and Meralda book, All the Turns of Light, is DONE.

I have an ending I'm happy with. And a beginning, and yes, a middle. The book is complete. The tale is told. 

Of course there is still proofreading to be done, and the mechanical process of turning a manuscript into a book is yet to be complete. But these tasks are small compared to the Herculean task wrestling this book into shape turned out to be.

So, for all of you who have waited so patiently for the continued adventures of Mug and Meralda, your wait is nearly over.

There was another decision to be made, when the book was finished. Should I shop it around? Try to get an agent?

After much internal debate, I've decided to remain a so-called hybrid author, and publish this one myself. Hey, if Samhain (the house which publishes The Markhat Files series, and does a darned fine job of it) handled light fantasy, I'd send Turns their way in an instant -- but that's not really their cup of proverbial tea. 

So I'll handle this one myself. 

I've paid to have it edited, by seasoned professionals, who by the way were literally invaluable in shaping the book's final form. I also commissioned an original cover, one created by the same fabulously talented artist who created the covers for Brown River Queen, The Five Faces, and now The Darker Carnival. You haven't seen Kanaxa's cover for All the Turns of Light yet, but I'm looking at it now, and it's beautiful. 

Why am I going the self-published route with this new book?

Time. Let's say I decided to start shopping Turns around -- heck, I believe it would sell, but I also believe the back-and-forth demanded by the markets would add eight months or a year to the process of getting the book out there for sale.

Now, if I was a complete and utter unknown -- just for the record, I rate myself as 'mostly unknown' -- I'd take the year, and like it, because a publisher brings with them marketing and placement and promotion I simply cannot achieve on my own.

But All the Paths of Shadow has had a pretty good run, sales-wise, and that means there's a small but eager audience out there already. 

Thus my decision to go it alone, this time.

So get ready. I plan to maintain my hard push, and get this book out in a month, no more. I'll be pricing it at $2.99, which I think is still a bargain.

Turns isn't a novella, either. Final word count is 85,000 words, give or take a dozen. 

As soon as Turns is out, I will be diving back into a new Markhat. It's tentatively entitled Way Out West, and it sees Markhat, Darla, and Cornbread hopping Rannit's new steam locomotive for a trip out to the western frontier.

Does Markhat strap on a six-shooter and don a Stetson?

<Insert John Wayne drawl>

You better believe it, pilgrim.

So, wish me luck and speed as I try to make up for lost time and get this book out there at last!

Oh, and happy October to you all!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Darker Carnival cover reveal!

Few things are as much fun for a writer as seeing a new book cover, and realizing it is the perfect cover for the book..

So we're both in for a treat today, because the cover for the upcoming Markhat book THE DARKER CARNIVAL is done. The book goes on sale next April, but I don't see any reason to make you wait. So, here it is -- another Kanaxa masterpiece!

I don't know how she (Kanaxa) does it. She captured the essence of the book perfectly, she gave Markhat the perfect vampire-built revolver, and Darla has the perfect expression of elegant self-assurance. Even the shadow over Markhat's eyes embodies one of the book's more subtle themes.

I don't think I'm engaging in the forbidden art of spoilery by suggesting The Darker Carnival might be set in a carnival and that the carnival might be evil. Might be. Of course, like a magician's stage show, what you perceive and you actually happens could be two very different things.

Like so much of life, experience is often a matter of perspective. The wondrous acts of the magician are revealed as mere sleight-of-hand trickery if one steps out of the audience and observes from behind the stage.

And, on rare occasions, the mundane, rote day-today routines of life give way briefly to miracles.

You just have to be looking at the right place from the right spot to understand the true significance of either.

I hope Markhat fans will enjoy this new entry in the series. It was fun to write. Who doesn't love a traveling carnival, evil or not?

All our old friends are back, and a new face might even wind up added to the cast. But I'm getting carried away, so just scroll back up and have another look at that gorgeous cover.

April really isn't that far away.

If you haven't gotten around to reading The Five Faces, the latest book in the series which is now on sale everywhere, now is a good time! And check out that cover too. Amazing!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Welcome October!

© Marilyngould | - Halloween Pumpkin & Ghoul Photo


It's October.

I'm not a big fan of summer, with its relentless heat and merciless humidity.

Springtime? Meh. Pollen and thunderstorms, with a side order of restless rattlesnakes, fresh from their lairs and none the more cheerful from having slept all winter. 

Winter? Here in the South, winter is just one long grey drizzly day, with the odd ice storm tossed into the mix to keep tow trucks and body shops busy.

No, I don't care much for autumn's cousins. 

But October, I like.

It's the breaking of the summer heat. The retreat of the stifling humidity. The blazes of orange and gold that engulf the treetops. The crunch of falling leaves, the first hesitant ghosts adding chills to the air.

And, of course, Halloween.

Halloween is the only holiday that even pretends to be about simple fun. I'm not expected to somehow engineer a tearful Hallmark Moment with the family on a certain date at a certain time. If I dress for the holiday, fake blood and fangs will almost certainly be involved, and frankly even as old as I've somehow become the idea of slathering myself in fake blood and speaking through crude plastic fangs still seems like fun.

I like seeing jack o' lanterns on the porches and fake spider webs in the windows and gauze ghosts hanging from the trees. Try all that in summer, for instance, and you get the neighbors dropping by with brochures to Trembling Pines, which offers a variety of 'treatment programs' for various 'disorders.'

Some people have no imagination.

That's another thing I like about October. The month, and its culmination on Halloween, are an affront to small-minded, sour-faced people everywhere. 

So carve that pumpkin, friends. Festoon your home with ghosts and ghouls of every kind, because October is finally here, and the Great Pumpkin is watching us all!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sinister Sunday Horoscopes, For Writers

Fig. 1: The author's personal Book of Ideas and who has skulls lying around anyway?
We writers are a superstitious bunch. Everyone has their little writing rituals. Maybe you have a lucky pen, or a keyboard made from garbage pilfered from Stephen King's household trash. Maybe it's a special five-quart coffee cup. Maybe, like me, you garb yourself in the flowing silk robes of a thirty-third degree Owl-head Mason and build a bonfire made of L. Ron Hubbard books before you sit down in a gold-encrusted Regency throne to write.

Whatever your methods, the stars hold certain wisdom, and what appears to be a serious grudge. Read on, fellow writer, and do not despair, for the stars are often wrong and usually display lousy aim...

ARIES (March 21-April 20)
The last thing you'll expect in the cornfield next Tuesday is an actual murderous scarecrow, but if you'll think about it you've always had rotten luck on Tuesdays.

TAURUS (April 21 - May 20)
Neither the police nor the zookeepers will ever learn exactly how the gorillas armed themselves with baseball bats or managed to hide quietly in your closet.

GEMINI (May 21 - June 20)
There's no use trying to outrun Fate, especially when Fate is hopped up on bad meth and chasing you in a flaming gasoline truck.  

CANCER (June 21 - July 22)
Outdoorsmen advise that you play dead when attacked by a black bear and fight when attacked by a grizzly, but even outdoorsmen are stumped when you encounter both bears at once. Good luck.

LEO (July 23 - August 22)
Event after the events of next Thursday, the odds of anyone being besides you actually being struck by radioactive satellite debris during a gas leak explosion in a fireworks factory remain microscopically small.

VIRGO (August 23 - September 23)
Well, honestly, who knew Jason Voorhees was both real and hiding in your back seat with a machete? 

LIBRA (September 24 - October 23)
If it's any consolation, the flamethrower manufacturer is going to feel just terrible about your headline-grabbing misadventure Monday.

SCORPIO (October 24 - November 21)
See, what happens Friday at the shark exhibit is why you should never tempt a grumpy Fate by asking the (usually) rhetorical question 'At least it can't get any worse, right?' 

SAGITTARIUS (November 22 - December 21)
Even if your attacker is just a crazy guy in a Yeti suit, the homicide detectives will all agree those fake claws left quite a convincing mess behind.

CAPRICORN (December 22 - January 19)
Look at it this way -- most people have to train as astronauts for decades before they are ever launched into low Earth orbit. Of course they have spacesuits, but still.

AQUARIUS (January 20 - February 19)
Cheer up! Accusations of serial necrophilia aside, not many people can say they've lasted as the top headline on all three major media outlets for three consecutive days. 

PISCES (February 20 - March 20)
Well, you'll give it a valiant try, but face it -- hanging onto the wing at that altitude just wasn't physically possible.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Zoo Pics and Poltergeists

This week's entry will be a veritable potpourri of subjects and images. Which is writer-speak for 'I feel like hammered excrement so I'll be posting a lot of pics to hide the fact that I currently command the wit and wisdom of canned tuna.'

Will there be more EVP evidence from the Oak Hill cemetery investigation of three weekends ago? Yes there will. There is even a naughty cursing ghost, the first I've encountered. But I suppose if you're dead and trying to sleep the slumber eternal and some dude shoves an elaborate microphone in your face, you tend to might get a bit testy.

All in good time, though. Let us begin tonight's journey with a visit to the Memphis Zoo.

The obelisk just inside the Zoo ticket gates.
Well, let's back up a step so I can offer a brief word of advice concerning MapQuest, GPS navigation, and the perils therein. I plugged the address of the Zoo into my MapQuest app and set out, sure of arriving at my destination with no fuss.

But, unless the actual Zoo is housed in a derelict gas station surrounded by what appears to be a heavily-contested strip of gang territory, the GPS system has no freaking clue where the Memphis Zoo actually sits. 

"You have arrived at your destination," chirped MapQuest, as the Crips and the Bloods engaged in a running firefight over a few square yards of barren, cracked concrete. "Drive, drive, DRIVE," shouted Siri, in an uncharacteristic display of emotion, as my Android devices scrambled for cover beneath the back seat.

We did find the Zoo, after resorting to the age-old practice of asking bemused humans where the elephants are kept. 

Once at the Zoo, we were greeted by the obelisk pictured above. I assumed the fanciful animal-based hieroglyphs were merely decorative, until (too late) I translated them to be a warning, which reads "Cursed are all those who dine at the zoo eateries, for they shall suffer the Wrath of the Angry Colon, and how, yeesh."

I love the Memphis Zoo. I really do. But people, bring your own snacks -- I didn't expect great or even good food in a zoo diner, but what we were served was abysmal even by the most relaxed standards. In fact, I observed a Komodo Dragon, which prefers to dine on dead rotting flesh, grimace and spit out whole a snack bar hamburger before beating the offensive mass into a pulp with his muscular tail and saying, in passable English, 'there's really just no excuse for that.'

So. Don't trust your GPS and for the love of all that is good and true do NOT eat at the Zoo, unless you can cajole one of the gorillas into sharing an orange and you can probably do that just by saying "give me half of that or I have to eat in that place" while pointing at the snack bar. 

But now, on to the pics!

Thus quoth the raven -- "Will somebody please wash these freaking rocks?"

No, you want Yoda. Little Green guy, lives in a swamp. I sell life insurance.

I am done with you now. The exit is to your right. I said good day, sir.

"Call me an iguana again. I DARE you. Say iguana again."

Yeah, the MGM lion? My uncle Louis. 
Sorry, pal, frolicking hours are only 8 till 5. Union rules.

Wolf? Who's a wolf? I'm a Pomeranian. Come on in, we can play some catch. C'mon, kid. Arf arf?

Those are the best of the pictures I took at the Memphis Zoo. If you get the chance, you should visit one day. The creatures are truly remarkable, and they seem happy there. 

More Oak Hill Cemetery Investigation EVPs!

As both regular readers of this blog know, the last two entries have dealt mainly with an investigation of Oak Hill Cemetery in Birmingham, Alabama. Led by the crew from Expedition Unknown, we wandered the historic cemetery after closing hours, searching for instances of the paranormal. 

I captured a few possible examples of EVP (electronic voice phenomena, i.e, ghostly voices) and recorded some odd utterances by Expedition Unknown's SP-7 'spirit box' device. I've already linked the the evidence I found so far after starting the arduous process of reviewing many hours of audio.

As you might recall, I took two digital recorders to Oak Hill. I left one behind accidentally, but it was recovered the next day and mailed back to me by one of the gracious Oak Hill volunteers (thanks Renee!). So I've finally been able to compare audio captured by one recorder against audio captured by the other. 

For instance, my Zoom mic recorded the words 'get out' while we visited the Erswell vault. Luckily, my Olympus recorder caught the same occurrence. I've posted links to both recordings below, so you can compare them.

In the instance above, I believe the Olympus unti was closer to the SP-7 and also perhaps aimed right at it, thus the clearer recording. 

I located another series of words created by the SP-7 and recorded by my Olympus device. And when I say words, I mean naughty words.  First you'll hear a female voice say 'get the blank' and then a male voice says out. Listen for yourself! This was also captured in the Erswell vault.

Testy, testy.

But perhaps the most interesting EVP of all came through well after our group left Oak Hill, leaving the cemetery empty -- or was it?

I propped my magnetic recording device on top of a marker while an EVP session was taking place. The magnetic detection box was off, but my Olympus didgital recorder was attached to the box, and was running, recording sound.

Which it managed to do after being left behind all night long. Yeah, my new Zoom mic beats the little Olympus in terms of recording quality, clarity, sensitivity, and such, but the Olympus captured 12 hours and 37 minutes of deserted cemetery audio.

And here is a voice, from nowhere, about 3 hours in....

And that's not the only utterance. I can hear a voice, but can't make out the word or words on this clip. Can you?

I'm still going through the 'empty graveyard' audio, and will hopefully have more next week!

In Closing

Re-write on All the Turns of Light still in progress, blah blah blah. You've heard all that before and I imagine you're as sick of reading it as I am of writing it.

Wish me luck and a sudden burst of manic speed, please.

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.


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 -
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.

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!