Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, August 2, 2015

New Webpage in the Works!


Fig. 1. Observe the happiness clean-cut businessmen derive from seeing strings of numbers on the World Wide Web.
Here in the whiz-bang ultra-sonic space-age a-go-go World of the Future, authors must have webpages. See the guy in the image above? He has a webpage. His cat has a webpage. So, as an author, I must needs have a webpage, too.

Why?

Look, I don't bloody know. Marketing. Presence. Author brand. Because all the other authors have one. Take your pick. The reasons are irrelevant -- unless you are Harper Lee and you wrote "To Kill a Mockingbird" before going into literary seclusion forty years ago, writers need a webpage.

I'm not anti-webpage. I enjoy these weekly blog entries. I like knowing there's a place on the web curious readers can find out who I am what I've written. I love connecting with readers, because you guys and gals are a fascinating bunch.

Once upon a time, building a webpage of one's own was even relatively simple. You needed to know fewer than 50 HTML commands. You could build the whole page using nothing but Notepad, the HTML commands, and a web connection. It really was that easy.

You can still do that, by the way. That's how my webpages were created and maintained for many years. They served their purpose, and did so effectively if not with an abundance of flash.

But as the Web has gotten more sophisticated, so have readers and internet folk. Expectations have risen. 

Sadly, my own technical skills have not. I know basic HTML, which is the language used to build webpages. Give me an hour, and I can make you a functional web page -- but it won't be very pretty.

Give me ten hours, or a hundred, and it STILL won't be very pretty. I lack any talent for graphic design. For proof of that, look no further than my own webpage, www.franktuttle.com.

Go ahead, have a look, if you want. 

See what I mean? All the necessary features are there. Links. Book lists. Bio and contact information, so when Paramount Pictures wants to shove piles of cash at me in exchange for movie rights they won't have any trouble finding me.

But yeesh -- I keep getting phone calls from 2002, which wants its webpage code back.

I think it was last year, maybe the year before, when I realized my hand-coding skills just weren't up to snuff any longer. So I bought a program that allowed me to build my website without resorting to line-by-line hand coding. The program allowed me to select a template, select the color schemes and layouts, and just add my graphics and text.

I thought I'd be able to create a modern, professional website using the program, which by the way did everything it claimed it would.

Instead, I learned a valuable lesson. 

I should leave graphic design and art to artists, and stick to tapping out words.

With this in mind, I set out to find a webpage design firm or individual who could build me a decent webpage. Bring me into 2015, so to speak. I've got a few books out. They're doing well.

Time to put on some big boy pants, I decided, and tweak my public image a bit.

A few minutes perusing price lists on website design firm pages drove home the grim realization that webpage construction isn't cheap. Most of the packages started around $1500 and rose quickly into the rarefied stratosphere. I checked my website design budget coffer (i.e., looked under the couch cushions for change), and, after a few hours of abject weeping, I resumed my search for affordable webpage design.

Well, I got lucky. I found a firm that didn't laugh at my budget, and was eager to build a page. 

No, the new page isn't done yet. But the process is underway, and soon you'll see a shiny, sleek new webpage with my name on it.

I'll keep you all posted on the progress. 

In the meantime, though, I need a new photo for the obligatory author bio page. I've selected a few random snapshots of me, taken as go about my daily routines. I'm sharing them below. One may wind up on the new page.


Does this beard make my butt look fat?
Practicing my puppet hands.

Just out for a ride on my horse, I'm totally NOT invading Ukraine.

The Good, the Bad, or the Ugly?

On my way to Waterloo, astride my war-horse Mr. Binky.
 I think I may go with the first image, because say what you will about my mug, I've got million-dollar gams.

The new page will be along in a few weeks. Until then, I'm plugging along on the new Markhat, so stay tuned!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Behind the Scenes: Mr. Mug

Image by Laura Wright LaRoche, LLPix Photography
Yes, that's Mug, co-star of the Paths of Shadow books, seated in front of Goboy's Glass.

If I put up a poll asking you guys which character from any of my books is your favorite, I'd bet money Mug would win, probably by a sizable margin.

Mug, for those of you not familiar with All the Paths of Shadow and All the Turns of Light, is Mage Meralda's sarcastic sidekick. Mug was unintentionally enchanted to life by Meralda when she was a toddler, and he's grown up beside her, been her constant companion and partner in numerous adventures.

I originally wrote Mug as a cat named Mr. Muggins. About halfway through that first draft, I realized I loved the way Mr. Muggins talked -- even in that incarnation, he was a smart-mouthed cynic -- but a cat? Really? Cats don't have the vocal apparatus to talk.

So naturally, I made Mug an enchanted houseplant.

Whoah there, I know you're thinking 'but plants can't even meow, much less speak.' That's true -- but Mug has the ability to vibrate his leaves and mimic and sounds he hears. He can imitate anyone's voice. Play entire musical pieces, using different leaves for different instruments. He can even detect sounds better than a cat, because he can hear by sensing minute air disturbances with his many leaves, from all directions at once.

Yes, he is sessile. Mug can't move on his own, and had to be carried everywhere in a bird-cage in the first book. But of course by the second book, Mug can fly his own birdcage, after Meralda installed a pair of tiny flying coils to the base of it.

So now Mug is a flying, wise-cracking, magical houseplant with 29 eyes.

And as much as I love cats, well, Mug is more fun this way.

Last week I revealed my Rules for Writing Darla. Today, you get to see my rules for Mug!

  • Mug understands magic, and shares much of Meralda's intellect and mathematical talent -- but since Mug is magic, he can't do magic. For Mug to perform even a small magical act would be to risk his own stability; he might literally unravel, right there on the spot. 
  • Mug understands a lot more about human nature than he leads people (even Meralda) to believe. 
  • Mug's pathological fear of aphids and beetles is surpassed by his fear that one day Meralda will simply not need him anymore.
  • Mug has what we would call a photographic memory. He can recall with complete accuracy everything he has seen or heard. 
  • Mug is friends with half a dozen of the more dangerous items stored in the Royal Thaumaturgical Laboratory. Even Meralda is unaware of this -- were she threatened in Tirlin, Mug wouldn't hesitate to suggest to these items that they go after any threat to her. Mug keeps this a secret, naturally. 
The main rule is a simple one -- Mug is Meralda's closest friend. They may argue, they may drive each other to the point of exasperation, but there's a powerful bond between them.

I think that may be why the Paths books are as popular as they are. People enjoy seeing that kind of relationship. Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Frodo and Sam. Can you imagine one without the other?

I can't. Furthermore, I don't want to. 

If you have no idea who or what I've been talking about, I've put the links to the books below. All the Paths of Shadow is the first book; All the Turns of Light is the second. The third and fourth books are still in the works.


Click here for All The Paths of Shadow on Amazon!



Click here for All the Turns of Light!

Finally, I leave you with something neat to watch today.

What if World War I was fought not against each other, but against an invading force of Martians?

There's a brilliant piece of film out there called The Great Martian War that presents such an event as a History Channel documentary. Using footage from WW I and some brilliant CGI, the creators managed to make everything look absolutely real.

Here's an excerpt, showcasing some of the footage, with music overlaid that is NOT part of the documentary.

THE GREAT MARTIAN WAR

You can get the whole 2 hour special -- well, blast it, I spent a good 20 minutes looking for a video-on-demand link or the DVD and found neither. I do know it was originally released by the BBC under the title "The Great Martian War 1913-1917." If any of you can find it, I'd love a link!





Sunday, July 19, 2015

Behind the Scenes: Darla

© Halfbottle | Dreamstime.com 
I don't abandon a book midway through very often, but when I do, most of the time it's because I don't care enough about the characters to bother seeing whether they get out of their mess in the end or not.

Which is a harsh thing to say. Someone out there presumably sweated blood to bring that book to life. But, if the people in the story inspire nothing more than 'meh, I'd rather be watching a Law & Order re-run,' the book is dead in the water.

Sure, it can have a clever plot, a detailed setting, intricate thematic elements. But if I don't care about the people (or the robots, or the ghosts, or whomever the book is about), it's a waste of time, at least to me. I'm looking at you, Atlas Shrugged. Didn't care after the first six pages, didn't care when it was assigned reading, don't care now, and won't care later. Classic work of literature, my ass.

I try not to write books people will put down. Look, I know my strengths and weakness as a writer. I'm damned good at writing dialog. I'm middling good at pacing and scene construction. I'm lousy at creating villains. Which doesn't mean I populate my books with poorly-penned bad guys. It just means it takes me forever to get them right.

But it's my characters I'm proudest of. They're people I enjoy spending time with.

Today, I'm going to take you backstage, and reveal a few secrets concerning Darla, Markhat's partner in everything from crime to boatsmanship.

My Markhat Files series, in case you're not familiar, focuses on a fantasy-world private eye named Markhat. The series is 8 books long now, and while Markhat started off as a bachelor, his life took a turn in Hold the Dark.




Markhat did something tough-guy private eyes seldom do -- he fell hard in love. Darla was the quick-witted accountant working at a high-end whorehouse called The Velvet. She and Markhat hit it off immediately, and things quickly progressed to the wine and roses stage.

Generally, when you see an established series character get all goo-goo eyed over someone we've never seen before, the love interest gets killed along about Chapter Ten, and the rest of the book, and perhaps the series, focuses on the protagonist's boundless rage and broken heart.

Ha. Sure, plenty of lesser authors go that hackneyed route. Amateurs. But not me, I'm better than that.

What's that? I did? Are you sure?

Oh. Right. Here's part of the behind the scenes bit I mentioned earlier -- see, in the first draft of Hold the Dark, Darla is murdered by the blood cult as an act of petty vengeance against Markhat. Which sends him on a bloody rampage, fueled by magic, that puts a permanent blot of darkness on his soul, one I planned to spend the rest of the series exploring. Darla was going to stick around, yes, but only as a wandering phantom that Markhat could never get close to, never touch.

Yeah. I did that thing. I was young and stupid.

Happily, though, the editors at Samhain raised certain arguments against Darla's murder. Even more happily, I took their advice to heart, re-wrote the book, and quickly realized that Darla and Markhat together were a far more powerful combination than a morose Markhat haunted by poor Darla's silent ghost.

The series is still chugging happily along, and Darla is Markhat's wife, and together they're hysterical.

Think Nick and Nora Charles. If you don't know the old movies, look them up. Now, Nora and Darla are alike only in a few aspects. But the dynamic is there -- the banter, the easy trust, the subtle but unbreakable bond they all share.

Darla quickly demonstrated a bloody-minded practicality that Markhat sometimes lacks. She's proven to be every bit and devious and as dangerous as anyone in the series.

And she's a lot of fun to write.

Even so, I have a few rules concerning her. I have them for all the series characters, but today, here are the Rules for Writing Darla.

Darla's Rules:
1) Darla does not get kidnapped, forcing a rescue.
2) Darla has her own money, her own schemes, and her own ways and means.
3) Darla is always armed. She might be tinkering with the houseboat's steam engine, or lounging on the deck, but she has a revolver and a knife somewhere on her person.
4) Darla is not a springboard or a foil or a catalyst.
5) Darla may or may not be a witch.
6) Darla loves clothes. Because she realizes deliberate fashion choices are a means to create one's social persona. Also, complicated gowns are excellent at concealing small firearms and handy edged weapons.
7) Darla was born dirt poor. She came up hard and she's seen awful things and she is determined to never see them again.
8) Anyone or anything that threatens Markhat, Darla's home, Buttercup, or even Cornbread will simply be shot until it falls down dead. Darla won't hesitate. Won't issue a warning. Won't threaten. She will simply act, with the cool deliberation of a threatened cobra.

The new Markhat book, Way Out West, puts Darla and Markhat on a long train ride out into the new frontier. Could there be a murder on the train? Could there be a killer on the loose, stalking his prey from car to car?

Could be. I'm not saying.

So what does does Darla look like?

She's tall and skinny. Willowy, I suppose is the term. Brown eyes. Black hair, cut in a Roaring Twenties flapper's bowl cut. She tends to dress in dark colors, and she always wear a hat and long sleeves on the deck of Dasher, because the sun makes her freckles show up.

I was thrilled when Darla made her first book cover. Here's how the artists have seen her:


That's from the cover from Brown River Queen.

Below is the cover from The Darker Carnival, showing Darla preparing to show a bunch of nasties precisely what befalls anyone daft enough to disrupt her dinner plans:


And how do I see Darla?

Given that my artistic skills are frequently exceeded by chimpanzees, cantaloupes, and asphalt, creating character images on my own is a waste of time. I tried it once, using Poser 10 and the kind assistance of a friend -- but even then, the project was an abject, hopeless failure.

By the way, I have a perfectly good copy of Poser 10. Barely used, well cussed at. If anyone wants it, hit me with an email and it's yours, free. I know when I'm licked. Art just isn't in my wheelhouse.

But The Markhat Files series has fans, and they have talents, and I have email. Sometimes all these things combine, and I wind up getting images like the ones I'm about to share. So meet Darla, as interpreted by a reader who prefers to be identified only as CatapultHA.

I think CatapultHA captured Darla perfectly, and I am deeply grateful that he or she has graciously allowed me to share these. Wouldn't it be great if CatapultHA sent some images of Makhat too, hint hint? Maybe if enough people praise these images and ask, we'll get more (that's also a hint).

So, without further adieu, here is Darla, courtesy of artist CatapultHA.


The gown even looks like it stepped right out of one of the books.

So does the next one. I can see Darla wearing this. Probably has a dagger in the hat. I won't speculate as to the hiding place of the revolver.

I started to put my own best Poser image here, but ugh. I'll spare you that. I envy people with this kind of talent.

Finally, here's Darla all dressed up for a formal dance aboard the Brown River Queen. I figure the red stoal weighs in at about a .44 calibre.


Now that, ladies and gents, is ART. Many thanks for allowing me to share it.

See you all next week!











Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Hot Day for Skeletons

Meh.

Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's my steady diet of Cheez Whiz and bacon-wrapped bacon slathered in bacon and topped off with garnishes of bacon-injected bacon.

But I just don't have any energy today. Some primal instinct suggests that I shelter somewhere dark and cool until the saber-tooth tigers move on, and frankly that seems like perfectly reasonable advice.

So, here's a blast from the past. It's the day I learned to the validity of cynicism. Enjoy!

SKELETONS ARE A BOY'S BEST FRIEND

Direct your gaze onto the advertisement below. Try to see it through the eyes of a bookish six year old who loves all things strange and eerie.

Oh yeah. This is the stuff dreams are made of...

Life-sized monsters. Seven feet tall. SEVEN FEET TALL. That's tall, people. With glowing eyes! Reaching hands! Imagine the terror, indeed.

For a dollar.

Did I absolutely have to have a seven-foot-tall glowing skeleton of my very own?

Why yes. Yes I did.

So I shoved a buck thirty-five into an envelope and checked 'Boney the Skeleton' and the clock on my frantic little life came to an abrupt and screeching halt the instant that envelope hit the bottom of the mailbox.

I'd never wanted anything so bad in all my life. I went to sleep dreaming of the fun Boney and I would have! We'd stroll around town, scaring Hell out of everyone. We'd sit out on the porch and wave to horrified passers-by. We'd be the terrible talk of my tame little town, and if any kid came around with some lame Frankenstein's monster we'd knock his block off.

That is what I dreamed. Such thoughts consumed my every waking moment. And oh, did the moments drag. The ad didn't include the traditional admonition to allow six to eight weeks for delivery. How many hours did I spend, pondering the significance of that mysterious omission? Did the fine creators of Boney the Skeleton rush their sinister creations to the happy owners in a matter of mere days, instead? Was there, even now, a dark, unmarked truck speeding through the night toward Oxford, an eager Boney at the wheel?

Hours dragged. Days crept. Weeks crawled.

Moment by agonizing moment, I waited for my skeleton friend's arrival, forsaking all lesser concerns.

One Week. Two weeks. Three weeks, four. I lost my appetite. Lost interest in all things unrelated to the subtle click of clever bones.

Five weeks. Six weeks. Seven weeks, more. My eyes developed dark circles beneath the lids. I walked with a slump. Dragged my feet. How long, I wondered, so often the very words left paths in my brain. How long must I endure this never-ending sojourn through darkness?

Then, on rainy Tuesday afternoon in September, my mother met me at the door, smiling the smile of a relieved but patient parent.

I knew. I knew without words that Boney had arrived!

He was home, home at last, all seven glorious glowing feet of him! All 206 intricately connected phalanges and metacarpals and femurs and mandibles!

I was alone no more.

I was....complete.

I raced into the kitchen, sure Boney would be seated at the table, waiting to give me a cold but friendly embrace.

Instead, atop the tiny Formica eating table, sat an envelope.

An envelope. Thick, yes, and larger than the usual bills that came to us.

But only an envelope. No more for more than a single toe-bone. If that.

Mom must have recognized my confusion.

"It's from the right place," she said. "Open it! You've waited so long."

My mind raced. All right, I thought, though I'm sure I didn't use those words. Boney's delivery has been delayed. Or maybe they send a letter ahead before the actual skeleton arrives. Yes, I decided, as I tore into the paper. That must be it. It's a warning, so people won't be frightened.

Mom moved to my side.

So she was right there, for that awful moment when I removed the contents of the envelope, watched them unfold in my hand, and realized that Boney, my magnificent life-sized seven-foot-tall skeleton friend, Boney of the glowing eyes and the reaching hands, was nothing more than a cheap piece of plastic with a crude rendering of a skeleton painted upon it.

I do remember quite clearly thinking this:

Life-sized. They said it was life-sized. That means sized like life, with height and width and thickness.

They lied. The lying liars lied.

I dropped Boney on the kitchen floor and started bawling.

The weight of every moment of the long agonizing wait fell over me like a tidal wave. I had to say goodbye to my skeleton pal Boney forever, because there really wasn't any magic at all in the world, not even for a dollar plus thirty-five cents shipping, not even from storied New York.

Mom is gone now. Boney, who I kept, flaked away into bits of dust decades ago. I turned quickly past all the ads in my comic books, because after that I knew darned well Sea Monkeys didn't wear festive outfits and build little cities in your fish-bowl, and X-Ray Specs were just cheap plastic frames with concentric circles drawn on the lenses. No. Those were merely more lies. The world is what you see, nothing more. Jobs and bills and tired Dads and worried Moms and pets that sometimes never came home.

And all that came rushing back when I lifted that old comic book out of a stack of cast-offs and saw that ad again.

I still miss ya, Boney my skeleton pal.  Maybe one day.

Maybe.

This is life before the Internet, kids. Count your blessings.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Obligatory Fourth of July Fireworks Photos

Fig. 1, BANG.
I love fireworks. They're loud, dangerous, and utterly pointless.

Fireworks are the perfect monkey toy. Which means every July 4 you'll find me at Oxford's fireworks show.

This year was no different. I took my tripod and my Finepix, and while most of the images I shot are, to be blunt, crap, I got a few I'll share here.

Photographing fireworks is easy -- if you have a few thousand dollars of camera gear. If, like me, you sport a Walmart tripod and a camera that's nice but not incredibly fast, then fireworks photography is more a matter of luck than skill. If I have the shutter open at the precise moment a charge explodes, I'll get a good pic. If the luminance of the firework is bright enough to be detailed but not bright enough to wash out the image, then I'll get a good pic.

That's not what happens most of the time. Of the 300 or so pictures I took, most of them looked like the one below -- close, but no cigar.


A fraction of a second later, and this might have been a stunning image. Same with the one below.


But this why you just have to keep clicking away. You'll get lucky, sooner or later, and catch shots like the one below.


Or this.


So last night I took around 300 pictures, and have 3 or 4 to show for it.

But that's how it goes.

I'm glad writing isn't that way. Although sometimes I do wonder -- if I was offered a deal in which I was guaranteed 4 pages of timeless, perfect prose for every 300 pages I wrote, would I take the deal?

After some reflection, I probably would.

And then I'd sit down and type really really fast.

The books won during the contest will go out this week! Thanks everyone for playing.

And remember, folks -- blowing stuff up for little or no apparent reason is a pretty good way to summarize the entire 20th century and what we've seen of the 21st. Let's all hope one day we can give up all the explosives except the fireworks.

Now that would be something to celebrate.



Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Bunny Man, And Other Wild Tales

THE BUNNY MAN

You may not see the Bunny Man above, but he sees you...
I am fortunate to enjoy the friendship of many talented people.

Eve Edelson, for instance, makes movies. Good ones; I encourage you to check out her Vimeo page, and take in The Fare, especially.

Eve's current project is a delightfully macabre short entitled The Bunny Man. Click on the title will take you to the trailer.

I've seen the whole film, which is even now making its way around film festivals, and while I won't give anything away, I will say it's a great little movie. If you see it listed at a film festival, see it! Perfectly safe for viewers of all ages and levels of horror-tolerance.

Is it about a Bunny Man? Well, yes. Which may sound like a contrived cryptid, but isn't -- the source of the mythology seems to originate from Virginia in the 1970s. And while you might initially laugh at the idea of a man-sized rabbit threatening anyone, this one carried an axe.

Eve, you picked a fantastic cast, a talented crew, and together you told a thoroughly entertaining story! I doff my hat to you, one and all.

I'm glad to see people making films without the influence of the big studios. Yes, the studios have the endless FX budgets and the infrastructure to churn out amazing visuals, but frankly they aren't doing anything new these days, and there are only so many iterations of Batman I can sit through without nodding off in my 20-dollar theatre seat.

I'd rather see something new and surprising. So, to you all you valiant indy film-makers out there, keep 'em coming!


AND THE WINNER IS....

Last week I ran a contest. The rules were pretty simple; caption the picture below, and if your caption is judged to be the best, get a free signed book. 



Well, I loved all the submissions so much EVERYBODY GETS A FREE SIGNED BOOK. So, Critter42, April, and Maria, shoot me a snail-mail addy (to franktuttle at franktuttle dot com, replace the at and the dot, you know how it goes), and your copy of THE DARKER CARNIVAL, which will bear my illegible scrawl, will be sent to you forthwith!

One lucky winner gets *two* books, but you'll have to wait by the mailbox to see who that might be...






Sunday, June 21, 2015

Signed Book Giveaway!


Want a signed print copy of the new Markhat adventure, The Darker Carnival?

Sure you do.

But as the loud guys on TV say, but wait, there's more!

I'll send you not one but TWO signed copies, if you'll agree to give the second copy away free to a friend who hasn't read the series.

Sound good? You get a free signed book, maybe I pick up a new fan. Everybody is grinning. 

And just how do you get this book, you ask?

That's easy. Look at the picture below, which is an original artwork depicting Markhat created by a fan, Raevyn Tws aka Eric Ralphs. 

Markhat is obviously saying something -- but what?

Caption the image! Post your caption in the comments section. Best entry of the week gets the books, with the winner announced next Sunday. 

Judging will be conducted by myself and my team of literary canines, who will indicate their preferences via tail-wags and emissions of noxious gasses. 


Pick an actual quote from any of the books, if you want. Or make something up. Inside jokes are welcome. It's all up to you!

So warm up your keyboards, and get those entries in the comments section to this blog. You've got a week!

Good luck, and have fun!


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Heed the Stars!




The fickle stars have spoken!

Read below to learn your fate, if you dare.  Looks like the stars have been watching way too much CSI yet again...

ARIES (March 21-April 20)
Don't act so shocked at all your media attention.  Multiple amputations are seldom associated with petting zoo mishaps.

TAURUS (April 21 - May 20)
Your feeling that you are being watched is tragically validated in later weeks as dental records confirm your jawbone's identity.

GEMINI (May 21 - June 20)
Suddenly, your attorney's insanity defense strategy is dealt a fatal blow.  On the bright side, you've lost eight pounds during the trial!

CANCER (June 21 - July 22)
This is a good time to study the habits and behaviors of the Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake, which is being forced from its natural habitat and into your sock drawer.  

LEO (July 23 - August 22)
As you soon learn, what is called 'bullet-proof' glass is actually better labeled 'bullet-RESISTANT' glass. 

VIRGO (August 23 - September 23)
Even the FBI can't quite determine how a highly toxic pufferfish wound up alive and intact in your small intestine.

LIBRA (September 24 - October 23)
Focus on the positive!  None of your friends will ever wind up with an obituary featured in its entirety on 'News of the Weird.'

SCORPIO (October 24 - November 21)
Some say every knock at your door might be that of Opportunity.  As the police will later state, however, sometimes it's just a lunatic with a wrecking bar and the strong conviction that you are Satan, Lord of the Underworld. 

SAGITTARIUS (November 22 - December 21)
You have to laugh every time you hear someone say 'That which does not kill you makes you stronger.'  And man does it hurt to laugh with all those new stitches.  

CAPRICORN (December 22 - January 19)
Turns out you were wrong to so easily dismiss the stories of anal probes performed during alien abductions.

AQUARIUS (January 20 - February 19)
You will eventually receive proper scholarly recognition for your unfortunate involvement in proving that piranhas have indeed migrated well into North American waterways.

PISCES (February 20 - March 20)
They will never quite piece together your final few moments, leaving your recorded comments about 'the knuckles, the horrible knuckles' an enduring mystery in the field of paranormal research.

SPECIAL NOTE TO SUZANNE IN MEMPHIS:
Not until 2018, when a cold case unit orders the exhumation of your remains.

Have a nice week!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Things That Go Bump, Special Summer Edition -- An EVP and an Anomalous Photo!

Fig. 1, The Red Chair of Summer
Greetings, faithful readers! I've got a lot to cover today, but before I get all spooky on you, I offer you one of my favorite photos, one I call The Red Chair. Because I'm in literal phase. Took the pic yesterday afternoon.

Is the chair haunted or cursed? Does sitting on it allow one to summon creatures of darkness?

No, but it is a good place in which to enjoy one's favorite beverage.

But on to the spooks!

Tula Cemetery


Yesterday I decided to take my mic and my camera out for a quick tour of Lafayette County's finer boneyards. My first stop was the old Tula Cemetery, located just outside the sprawling metropolis of Tula, Mississippi, famous for, well, anyway, it's Tula.

I tromped about. Invited comments. Made small polite talk with people who aren't there. 

My camera had a battery that showed 2/3rds when I arrived. Immediately upon entering the cemetery, it dropped from that to the small red 'you are SO out of luck, mister' icon every photographer loathes.

But being the fellow of foresight I am, I had a fresh battery in my pocket. So I popped it in, only to find it was depleted.

I put the first battery back in, and it went back to 2/3rds.

Odd. I took some pictures and pressed on.


Tula is an old place, although it is still in use. I tend to stick with the more remote, older areas.



A hand-made resting place, probably dating from the yellow fever epidemic that ravaged the place in the early 19th century.



I remained there for a little over ten minutes, recording audio the whole time. I didn't catch anything even remotely like an EVP voice. If you'd like to listen to the session in all its raw unedited glory, knock yourself out -- the link is below. The bugs and birds were so loud I doubt I'd have heard a whole chorus of ghosts performing AC/DC covers while phantom Stukas dropped ghost bombs about me.

LINK TO TULA EVP SESSION

I took a lot of pictures, and this is where things get all mystical-ated and occultified.

One of the pics I snapped is below. Give it a look, and see if you spot anything odd.


Look along the back row of markers, just left of center. I took this image with my 16 megapixel Fuji, so I can blow it up easily. Look below.


Yeah. Now, a lot of people would already be tossing around words such as 'apparition' and 'ghost.' Me, I'm more likely to suggest pareidolia, which is the tendency of out brains to see faces where there isn't really a face at all.

Here's the same cropped portion of the image, rendered in black and white for clarity:



I took this image yesterday, at around 2:00 PM in the afternoon. I'm going to return to Tula today, at the same time, with the same camera. I'm going to stand in the same spot and take the same photo, and then I'm going to approach the marker and take a series of images and we'll just see what the marker really has to say.

I'm betting here and now this is a trick of reflection and shadow. But we will soon see!

Keep reading, I returned to the cemetery at 2:00 PM CST today and located the grave marker. The results are posted at the end of this entry.

St. Peter's Cemetery

I left Tula and headed for Oxford, and the much larger St. Peter's cemetery.


I trudged up the big hill, approaching from the rear, because I'm a master strategist and I hoped to catch the guard ghosts looking the wrong way.


The first oddity I noticed as a trail camera strapped to a tree. I wonder if they've been having issues with vandalism.


I counted four trail cams there, all hung within about 50 feet of each other, all aimed a nondescript patch of ground. Which can of course mean only one thing.


ZOMBIES. Oxford has a zombie problem, and the authorities are keeping it quiet, because if there's one thing Oxonians won't tolerate it's anything that might affect property values. 

Most men would have fled, but I set my manly jaw and held fast. I know how to handle Oxford zombies. You don't have to shoot them in the head -- you just mention the new parking meters around the Square and saunter safely away as the zombie spits and fumes and rants about the injustice of having to feed a meter to eat at Boure.

Now, I didn't get any odd photos at St. Peters. But I had my trusty Zoom H1, and I was recording the whole time. And I might have just gotten something.


The whole unedited session is link below. At around the 8 minutes and 30 seconds mark, as I'm leaving, I catch what sounds a lot like a high shrill 'Hey.' 


In the link below, I make a remark abut my battery being nearly dead, and at the ten second mark there's a very faint 'hey.'


I isolated and looped the 'hey' so you can hear it much better. Click below to listen.


Now, what did I capture?

I'm pretty careful to tag any voices I hear with my ears during a session. I didn't hear this voice. One might argue that it was windy, and I was walking, and one might well have a valid point.  Maybe someone yelled hey in the distance and the wind carried it and my mic picked up what my ears missed.

Could have happened.

Or maybe I got another EVP at St. Peter's. It wouldn't be my first at that location.

Can I say with any sort of conviction that I caught a stray but mundane shout, or an example of a disembodied voice?

Not really. You'll have to decide that for yourself.

But it's images like the one in Tula and voices like the 'hey' that keep me tramping around tombstones. 



2:00 PM Tula Image Update: The Mystery Revealed

I returned to Tula at the same time, so the lighting conditions would be almost identical to the conditions of yesterday. 

Let's have another look at the odd image in discussion.


This was the first image. 

Here's a cropped blow-up of the oddity.


Looks like a face and a white-clad torso, doesn't it, There's even a hint of an ethereal glow about it.

The black and white version:


Yep, that's a ghost.

Or is it?

Look at the pics I took today, just a little while ago. Here's the first image, in which I recreated the original photo.


And there it is again, still looking spooky. I circled it for you.

Filled with noble bravery, I advanced upon the grim spectre, heedless of my personal safety.


The phantom remained. By now my eyes were telling me I was seeing a perfectly natural phenomena, a simple patch of color on a very old headstone. And I was right, there's absolutely nothing supernatural here. The next photos will prove that.




The 'ghost' was a trick of pareidela. The shroud was nothing more than a light patch on the headstone. The face was the same, given further definition by a raised decorative wreath of flowers.


Meet poor little Martha Franklin, who was only ten when she died in 1864. Rest well, Martha.

But she did help teach me a valuable lesson in not jumping to conclusions.

Because what appears to be this:


Is, all too often, simply a trick of light and shadow.

I ran another EVP session while I took the second set of photos today. I'm analyzing it now.

On that note, Ill leave you today with a bit of the Bard.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
- Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio