Research Suggestion For Writers To Better Their Story

Research is an important tool for writers. Whether you are writing a western or a police procedural story, for example, you want details to be accurate. But there is another type of research that is just as important.

You want your characters to be real, ones readers can identify with. They have a type of personality, they have motivations,  they have strengths and insecurities. So in creating a character there is also research involved. Let me give an example.

I am writing a murder mystery. The victim is a young woman. We know nothing about her. She is fished out of a canal on the first page. During the course of the novel we learn about her and not just facts, more about who she is behind the facts.

I need to research the type of woman I want her to be. So I look at a book entitled Women Who Run With the Wolves.  The book contains myths and stories of the wild woman archetype. I focus on four chapters. One contains mythical stories about women as naïve prey. Another chapter is Hunting: When the Heart is a Lonely Hunter. The point is to learn about the mythical and psychological aspects of who this woman is, to give flesh and blood to her.

I am also reading Love and Limerence which is providing some great insight into men and women, about what love is and what it might not be.

I am also checking through Games People Play by Dr. Eric Byrne, about the psychological games we play-and there are many. This will help when her friends talk about her, telling specific stories indicating something of her character, her nature.

There are many books to chose from, not just books like The Meaning of Persons or Please Understand Mebut books on mythology from countries around the world.

The more research you do about the psychology of people, of archetypes, of mythology, the more you see who your character is going to become. The character will be real, will be someone readers can understand. All because of research.

Of course, since my story takes place in 1928, I need to research fashion, automobiles, all the little details, something of the times, making sure nobody watch’s TV or uses a cellphone. Writers always take the time to get those things correct, but we should never take for granted the characters to be created. Not how to create them.

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Need Your Help and Opinion

The image below is a possible cover for my new e-book to be published on Amazon. Original title was Head on a Grave, thus the cemetery setting. It is a murder mystery set in 1928 with more than one murder. I would like to know your thoughts about the cover. Because of the brightness, is it wrong for a mystery? Or should there be something more sinister? I like the idea of the not so perfect lettering, but that is only one opinion. So if you like it or not I would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.

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Spillane’s Assault and Insult On Why We Read

Mickey Spillane, famous for creating Mike Hammer, wrote hard boiled, tough, sexy  crime novels. The stories were short, packed a violent punch, and were big sellers, popular with men, but not with the critics or the literary world. Spillane didn’t care. Like Hammer, Spillane was a tough guy too.

What he wrote on the first page of his novel My Gun is Quick caught my attention. It is something we readers and movie goers know, but ignore, pushing it to the back of our minds. But Spillane confronts us with the following:

“You pick up a book and read about things and stuff, getting a vicarious kick from people and events that never happened. You’re doing it now, getting ready to fill in a normal life with the details of someone else’s experiences. Fun isn’t it? You read about life on the outside thinking of how maybe you’d like it to happen to you, or at least how you’d like to watch it. Even the old Romans did it, spiced their life with action when they sat in the coliseum and watched wild animals rip a bunch of humans apart, reveling in the night of blood and terror. They screamed for joy and slapped each other on the back when murderous claws tore into the live flesh of slaves and cheered when the kill was made. Oh, it’s great to watch, all right. Life through a keyhole. But day after day goes by and nothing like that ever happens to you so you think that it’s all in books and not in reality at all and that’s that. Still good reading though. Tomorrow night you’ll find another book, forgetting what was in the last one and live some more in your imagination.”

Spillane is right of course, but what struck me, and it may not have been his intent, is that it seems an answer to his critics, a defiant explanation of why people read and that he is writing for what his readers want, that being action, plenty of it, and a dame of course, nothing serious, just another vicarious experience. Mike Hammer will get involved with some tough guys, get in brawling fights, but we never will. Hammer will help out some blonde, the type we will never meet. But we will live through it in our imagination.

But there is something else going on in the quoted passage. “Life through a keyhole,” is  a punch in our face, like a blow from Hammer, telling us we have a dull life. Therefore we get ready to “fill in a normal life. . .someone else’s experiences. . .you’d like it to happen to you. . . nothing like that happens to you. . .”

Spillane manages to tell us why we read and insult us at the same time. I like that in a tough guy. We need not take it personally. Howard Cosell said, “I tell it like it is.” So does Spillane. I read a book or two of his years ago, so long ago I remember nothing of what I read. But I picked up a used book that contained three of his memorable novels, I the Jury, My Gun is Quick, and Vengeance is mine. So the stories are there for when I need a vicarious thrill. And I will read someone else’s adventure and be happy.

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WINNIE THE POOH’S 6 RULES FOR WRITING MYSTERIES

Full disclosure, the six rules of writing mysteries were set forth by A.A. Milne, who wrote Winnie the Pooh, but Milne does speak for Winnie, so there.

Milne also wrote a delightful mystery The Red House Mystery, that he dedicated to his father who was a big fan of mysteries.

So the six rules:

  1. The story should be written in good English

I thought that would be a given. After all, if you write bad English, you write a bad novel. So writing in good English should be obvious. I think this rule came from Winnie and Milne used to make Winnie happy.

2.  Love interest is undesirable.

Raymond Chandler also said the same thing. Of course there was Nick and Nora Charles, but being married their love is implicit. They sparred with wit and charm, with Nora being Watson to Nick’s Sherlock, although she was smarter than Watson.

Chandler, by the way, thought little of Milne’s mystery. He also trashed Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and virtually all British mystery novelists in the Golden Age of British mysteries, between the two world wars. Chandler was about realism, especially the writings of Dashiell Hammett. But Chandler missed elements of Red House Mystery, those being social satire, with a stab at comedy of manners. It is very witty with sharp dialogue.

3.  Both detective and villain should be amateurs.

Since the early 1920’s, when Milne was writing these rules, police procedural mysteries  have become a sub genre of their own. There were a few back then, but the genre has grown to the point that this rule does not apply. It is a matter of taste and preference and I prefer the amateur.

4.  Scientific detection is ‘too easy’.

I am not sure what Milne meant with this rule. But obviously nearly a century has passed and science is much bigger now in detecting clues and evidence. British mysteries in the golden age were more about puzzles, and figuring out who did it. Milne may have implied that the amateur detective should rely on getting clues, piecing them together to solve the puzzle.

5.   The reader must know as much as the detective.

This rule should apply to all mysteries of any era. The reader should have access to the information, not only to see if he can solve the murder before the end, but more important, not to trick the reader. You can not add information at the end when the killer is revealed that comes as a surprise to the reader. That is not playing fair and it pisses off the reader who has invested his time in the story.

6. There should be a Watson: it is better for the detective to Watsonize’ than soliloquize.

This is elementary. One could have a detective working alone and he can share his thoughts through the first person, such as “When I saw the gun on the floor it was too far away for it to be suicide, but then why was the gun ten feet away, perhaps because . . .”  In essence the reader could be the Watson. In my mysteries I use Chet and Eveleen, a married couple, who along with their flapper friend Clancy solve mysteries. I do this because I enjoy their interplay.

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Why Writers Lie and Why It’s Good

There is a reason why a novel or short story is called fiction. According to my American Heritage Dictionary fiction is defined as 1. an imaginative creation or pretense 2. a lie 

Putting the definitions  together we find a novel or short story is a pretentious lie created in one’s imagination. Shame on writers. And I do think you have to be a little pretentious to be a writer. And you certainly have to lie.

So why do writers create lies and why do readers believe the lies. We believe the lie you know. Readers talk  about characters as if they are real. When we read we get involved in what is going on with imagined characters who do not exist. If this happened without a book, that being getting involved with people who are imagined, said people get therapy and drugs for their hallucinations. I had an aunt who stood in front of a mirror in the hallway and talked Finnish to her reflection believing it was a friend of hers. She was ill. My aunt, not the reflection.(though that would make an intriguing story if the reflection was ill, and not my aunt). Anyway, you see the point. We have the book as an excuse for believing in non-existent people.

Writers create stories because they can not help themselves; they are warped.

Readers read for many reasons. One of which is that they like warped writers who create characters that interest them.

But here is the truth of the matter. If the characters seem real, if their actions are believable, if the readers can identify with situations, the reader sees the truth of the matter.

When you read the lies created by great writers human truths are revealed, for if they were not, we readers could not identify with the story. We sympathize, we feel empathy, we get mad, we laugh, we get scared, we sense tension. In short all our human emotions come into play, and in doing so we see the bigger picture, we understand something that can enlighten us, move us, learn more about how we feel, how we think, and it is all done through a lie.

I do not advocate lying in real life. Lots of trouble when you do. Let the writer do the lying, he will tell you the truth.

 

How Fiction Emerges from Synchronicity

I have mentioned that writers find story ideas all around them. All you have to do is keep your mind open to wonder.

Here  is an example culled from real life, something you might be prone to forget the moment it happened, unless you let your mind run with it. I volunteer at a local historical museum. Recently I was scanning newspaper obituaries into a computer and then entering them in Excel. I listed name, date of birth, date of death and a hyperlink to the scanned obituary. Then a strange thing happened. I had made an entry and moved on to the next obit and when I came to date of birth I noticed the previous entry date of birth was not aligned properly. By that I mean, as Excel users know, when you type in a date then tab to next cell the entry aligns to the right, but this entry was to the left. So I deleted and retyped, same thing. It would not align right. For some reason, perhaps a ghostly whisper in my hear, I looked at the newspaper article and saw I had the month wrong. It should have been a 3 not a 2, so I typed in the correct date and it aligned correctly.

I do not draw conclusions whether it was a coincidental glitch, or a supernatural whisper from beyond to the tune of  ‘hey, you got my birthdate wrong, please correct.’

As I said, the majority of people would say, ‘well that was weird,’ think nothing more and proceed. But writers must be alert and when weird things happen, jot it down, save it, run with it, let your imagination fly.

This happened the same week that a construction company was working on improving and repairing the sewer system; they have been outside my house for a couple of weeks. I was doing some research on my home computer about a baseball pitcher from the past whose last name I had never heard before. It took about 15 minutes before my brain clicked in. I went out to the kitchen, found the notice from the construction company. It was the same last name of the baseball pitcher. Synchronicity at its best.

One more example, I was visiting a local Native-American museum for the first time. During the tour there was a large picture of a long ago tribal member and the guide discussed who he was and his importance. Two days later at the museum I volunteer at, I picked up a book on sale I had not seen before. It was historical and was about a Native-American woman from the late 19th century. I flipped it open to the picture section in the middle of the book, and there was the same picture I saw two days earlier. Of course I had to buy the book. You do not fool with synchronicity.

What does all this mean? I don’t know, but when you find these things happening in your life YOU can make something out of it. A short Twilight Zone type of story or a horror novel, or anything. As a writer be alert for things little, weird, and odd, and put them to use. Remember, if you do nothing, nothing will happen.

Starting a Novel

In the beginning . . .

is the problem. The problem being how to begin. To outline or not to outline that is the question, whether it is more noble to create a roadmap and follow it through to the final destination at the outline’s end, or freelance and go where imagination (madness) takes you. In other words, take the road less traveled.

I opt, as usual, for madness. I like freelancing, making the story up as I go along. I have mentioned this before as I feel it gives the imagination free reign. I am also lazy and an outline is more work, and the less work the better. But in either case the opening is crucial. It must set the tone, it must draw the reader in to the story. It should introduce blah, blah, blah. Every writer has read all the advice about beginning  a story. And if you have read enough advice you have discovered conflicting ‘rules.’ So lets move on.

Let let me tell you about my new project because it has a bearing on how I start my new novel.

It is a murder mystery set in the spring of 1928 and is a follow up to my soon to be published e-mystery Head on a Grave. That story took place in the Pacific Northwest during November of 1927 when my lead Chet Koski having dispatched of a killer earlier in the year in Silent Murder, is given a vacation by his boss at Paramount Pictures, so he goes to visit his cousin in Centralia, Washington.

While the killer was caught, one person, who may or may not have been involved has proved elusive. Chet who lost his screenwriting job chasing the killer and not returning to work is going to stay in Washington to work on a novel.

That is the background to set up the next novel.

Research is important and during this time there was an artists colony on Hood Canal, which, by the way, is not a canal, but a fjord. It is a long story, feel free to click the link. So Chet, who is a writer, or at least he thinks he is, decides to go the Canal and find the artists who are painters, and blend in with the art colony. So that is the setting.

But we must begin the story with something exciting. Like the body of a dead woman washing ashore on the canal.  The opening paragraph is written in the omniscient point of view.

And then, as in Head on the Grave, I break the rules and change to 1st person as Chet gets out of bed and kills, or tries to, kill a black ant. This leads to a conversation with his actress wife and partner in solving murders, Eveleen.

So what have I accomplished so far. I have let you know I am working on a new novel, let you know a novel is soon to be published and given you a link to another novel, one I like a great deal and hope you read it if you have a Kindle or Kindle app, and given a link to the origin of Hood Canal.

I have done this because I am stuck on what happens next in my novel and was hoping to free up my creativity by writing a blog. That’s my story anyway and I am sticking to it.

And sense it is baseball season here is a link to the below e-novel based on a  true story you can read for 99 cents and help me feed my cat. Thanks for reading my blog.

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GUESS WHAT WRITERS NEED TO EXERCISE?

If you are like me, and I feel sorry if you are, then you may have a physical exercise plan like running, walking, something cardio or with weights, maybe all of the above. I have a written plan next to my desk for me to easily see. But again, if you are like me, you are well intentioned, but find excuses that you tell yourself are legitimate so you can do something else, like watching  reruns of Two and a Half Men, staring at the wall to make sure the paint is drying properly, or putting your books in alphabetical order by color.

But physical exercise is not what I mean to tell writers about, though it is good when you spend a lot of time sitting at the keyboard to keep your heart and body from degenerating into mush by exercising. Lack of exercise cause your muscles to atrophy, you gain weight, and friends tell you are getting grouchy. Where I live it rains December and January, the clouds are cloudy all day, and everyone is a grouch. I can feel muscles turning to mush as I write.

The same is true of writing. The brain may be an organ but, like the heart, which is a muscle, it must be exercised. Writers must either write or practice on a regular basis. The reason has less to do with keeping your grammar sharp or expanding your vocabulary. It has to do with keeping the creative part of your mind sharp.

The more frequent you write the more creative thoughts emigrate from your subconscious, settle into your creative consciousness and introduce themselves. But if you ignore the opportunity presented to you, it will retreat back into the deep cortex of the right side of your brain, and if it gets petulant with you it will hide out in the cold, analytical left side of the brain and will never be heard from again.

Being well intentioned with physical exercise will not get you into shape. Doing the work will. 30 minutes or an a hour a day.  Exercise your heart and body. And being a well intentioned writer will not spur your creativity. You must exercise your imagination, whether an hour a day or every other day, but do it frequently.

You can make your own writing schedule based on your time availability. But do it. Your brain will thank you.

You can click one or all of my e-book titles above to see the results of paying attention to the right side of the brain. They are available on Amazon.

 

 

The Disappearance-a paranormal short story to take your mind into a new dimension

My short story was published in Mason County Writes, a yearly journal of stories, poems, and drawings from regional writers.

 

Mayda Engel looked left, then right, before glancing behind her. She was sitting on a white wooden bench near a cobblestone footpath. Her heart pounding, her breath laboring, her mind wavering back and forth; yes she was meeting a murderer at his request, but no she told herself, he was never arrested, only suspected. His wife’s body was never found, no crime scene, nothing to indicate murder, only malicious gossip eight year ago when the wife of writer Gordon Manton disappeared. Mayda didn’t believe he was a killer, but still, one can’t assume, or at least, should not assume.

As her right hand brushed lint off her cream colored skirt a few pigeons landed in front of her feet. “No food birdies, so off with you.” They stayed; looking at her, with what she thought was certain insolence. Stupid birds. She kicked out her foot and they hopped across the cobblestones. She looked at her watch. Gordon was ten minutes late. What he wanted to meet about he did not say. She had tried to get an interview with him in the past, but even before the disappearance of Annalise, he gave interviews as often as vampires got suntans. Was getting a confession out of the question? It would certainly enhance her career and reputation. Not much of a risk she told herself. No body, no crime scene, nothing to worry about. But what did he want from her?

Gordon was fifteen minutes late. Twenty minutes late. Looking down the cobblestone paths, Mayda saw elderly people out for a stroll, kids playing. She said out loud, not necessarily for the pigeons benefit, “I have better things to do on this beautiful July day than be entertainment for you silly creatures.”

But she stayed.

While debating whether to leave or throw a shoe at the pigeons, Mayda saw Gordon hurriedly coming down the path.

“My deepest apologies,” he said. “I could offer some excuse, but I have none that would justify my lateness, none that would appease you I mean. Late start to the day, things just went wrong. But thank you for waiting for I do need to talk with you, and need your help actually.”

“Do you have something to get off your chest, something about your wife, or just want to talk writing? A confession would be preferred of course.”

“Neither. That is, I mean, it does concern my wife, not her disappearance, but her reappearance at our summer home, the one in the country.”

“What do you mean? Is she back?”

“Well that is what I want to talk with you about. She is there, at the house, but also, not there. It is hard to explain, but . . .”

“Oh for God’s sake, make some sense. What are you talking about?”

“This will sound like I am nuts of course. Believe me, I have considered it. I have seen her in the house more than once, in fact many times over the years, but I am unable to talk with her. Look, I could say she is a ghost, but I do not believe in that nonsense. Besides she is not some shadow, nothing ephemeral, no wisp of a smoky thing, or whatever ghosts are supposed to look like . . .”

“So she is at the house, but she is not a ghost, though she could be, as you seem unsure about what you are seeing . . . well you’re a writer, you paint a picture with words, so relax and get into your writer’s mind.”

“Well let me get to the point. I want you to accompany me to the house, the sooner the better before I change my mind. Maybe I am nuts, but I want somebody to see what I am seeing, to confirm everything, perhaps to give an answer. Would you come to the house? Stay there for a few days, a week, or I don’t know, just to give it a chance.”

“Why not call those ghostbuster people? They can document it, get it on TV you know. Then the world can see Annalise.”

“I sense you are joking, but I am not. You see I don’t think she is dead, I don’t believe in ghosts. It must be something else. I can see her as clear as I see you, but when she sees me I can’t hear a word, a look of panic on her face. Then again I must question my sanity. I need a respected journalist, a skeptic, and you have a no nonsense reputation, somebody who the public, and of course the police, will believe if you see what I see.”

“Thank you for the compliment. I remain dubious, but that is what you want isn’t it? On the other hand, I did write, and I make no apologies, a rather brutal piece about you and your wife, so I have concerns for why you chose me to be a witness.”

“Because if I asked a good friend, or my agent, or my attorney, people like that, then credibility of the witness would be questioned. But if you verify what I have seen, that she is alive, the public and the authorities are better inclined to believe you.”

“Why not bring in a large audience?”

“Because,” said Gordon, “I am afraid that if a large group was there and did not see, anything, then word spreads so fast that I will look ludicrous and any subsequent attempts would be . . . well it just wouldn.t work. You are one person, not much damage done, even if you write one more negative story. I think you are my best shot.”

Mayda bent over, her head towards her lap, she brushed back her short dark hair with her hands. Sitting back and looking at Gordon, his gray hair impeccably combed, she said, “let’s go.”

 

Nearly 800 country acres of rolling hills and ponds is where Gordon and Annalise purchased a house, bought because Gordon professed he liked the country feel of the area, was tired of the noise and distraction of big city life; rich green lawn preferred to gray hard pavement, birds chirping and tweeting preferred to horns honking, deer and an occasional raccoon or two preferred to angry, hostile people. Three months later his wife Annalise disappeared.

The house sat in front of a large wooded area, the woods enveloping the house on three sides. In front of the house a circular paved driveway winds through a deep rich green manicured lawn.

As Gordon drove his British grey Bentley towards the house, Mayda, seeing the house for the first time, did not think the house was imposing in any manner whatsoever. Influenced by Gordon’s ‘ghost story’ she expected something ominous. Both relieved and disappointed she resolved not to make any judgement the rest of the stay. Watch, listen, and see what happens.

It would be a great story if indeed she saw Annalise. And if she didn’t she would still file a story, one in which people would think Gordon had emotional issues. Of course, she thought, he might be setting up some kind of insanity defense.

Entering the door was a long entryway deep into the house with stairs to the upper floor on the right. To the left was the living room with dark red carpet and floor to ceiling windows.

The entire house was well kept, the furnishings giving the appearance of an Architectural Digest photo spread. The difference is that some of the furniture had protective covering for Gordon spent most of his time in New York. Mayda thought the house warm, friendly and inviting.

“How often do you return here Gordon?”

“Usually on our wedding anniversary, her birthday, and sometimes just to come back.”

“But not on the date of her disappearance?”

“No. That is not a day to celebrate. But I have been coming back more often, usually when I finish a book. I can write here, but I am often distracted. I see things, things I hope you will see.”

“Noises, do you hear noises?”

“There are always noises, even alone in a big house. Wood creaks depending on heat or cold. I paid no attention, not much anyway, of noises, until Annalise disappeared. Since then when I hear noises, they seem louder, more menacing, more imposing. Is it my imagination? I don’t know.”

“Which happened first? You saw her, and then noises, or the reverse, noises and then you saw her?”

“Noises.”

Gordon then took Mayda to her room on the second floor, far left from the top of the stairs, a library and bathroom between her room and Gordon’s. Wooden floors didn’t creak when Mayda walked heavily on them as a test. Her mind eased, she smiled. Bright yellow wallpaper gave the room a cheerful look, the window facing the front of the house brought in lots of light.

“When you see Annalise, Gordon, do you see her downstairs or up here, near or in your bedroom?”

“The first time I saw her was in our bedroom down the hall. I had fallen asleep while reading, so the table lamp was on. I don’t know why, but I felt something wrong, even though I was asleep, and that I always found odd, but when I woke up she was standing at the foot of my bed. I thought I was seeing things of course. But she was as real to me then as you are to me now. As I said in the park, no specter, no shadows, nothing like what a ghost is supposed to look like. All rubbish I say. Anyway her mouth moved as if she was talking, but I heard nothing. She then seemed panicked and looked like she was almost yelling. She looked frightened and here is the odd thing, she was pounding the air is if it were a door. Now imagine me standing here and pounding the air. If I were pounding my arms they would not always stop in the same place, but hers hands did. In fact it looked like her fist had flattened out as if she was pounding on glass.
Of course there was no glass. Then she walked hurriedly away towards our walk-in closet, but before she could get inside she vanished into air.”

“I confess I have never heard of anything like that. I don’t know what to make of it. What about other sightings. Does she always pound the air with her fists?”

“Would you like to see the room Annalise and I shared?”

“Of course, but about my question?”

“No, not always. Sometimes I see her just walking into our room like normal. She stops when she sees me, with a resigned, forlorn look on her face. She stands there, her arms hanging down, looking beaten, not physically, like she had been hit or anything, but beaten by something, a hopeless, sad look, her shoulders drooping down.”

“And naturally you have tried talking to her.”

“Every time, except the first time. I was too stunned to say anything. I could not believe what I was seeing. But since then, yes, always. Once I got frustrated and said ‘where are you?’ Knowing that she was standing in front of me I felt silly saying that, but it was simply frustration. No matter what I say, she shakes her head, or cries, or both. Once she screamed with a wide open mouth and I heard nothing. Nothing; how can that be? She showed all the physical signs of a scream. Mouth wide open, eyes large and nearly bulging out of their sockets, neck stiff with those tendons on the sides of the neck stretched tight. Other times she walks into the room, sees me, shrugs her shoulders, and walks out.”

“Does this only happen at night?”

“No, it can be morning, afternoon, evening, middle of the night. Sometimes I can be outside the house and I see her looking out through a window. She evened waved at me from the window and I waved back, though I felt silly doing so. After I waved she shook her head slightly and walked away.”

“You said the first time she vanished into air. Does that always happen?”

“It can, but those times when she walks out of the room, I follow and though she is not there I can’t say for certain that she vanished. A couple of times I followed her down the stairs and she walked into the kitchen, but when I walked in she was gone.”

“If that is the case, I could see her anytime. So I had better be alert for anything.”

Gordon looked at her without emotion, his eyes dark and empty. After an awkward moment she said, “What’s for dinner?”

 

Over the next five days Mayda read two novels, one by Peter Ackroyd about a mystery surrounding Thomas Chatterton and one by Paul Auster set in Brooklyn; called her office twice; wandered around the house until she had memorized every room, corner, floor, ceiling, and piece of furniture; left the house to explore the garden and was startled by either a large dog or maybea wolf, she couldn’t tell which. She stayed indoors after that. Gordon spent long hours in his study which he kept locked.

At breakfast the next morning Mayda asked Gordon if previously there had been long stretches of time where nothing happened.

“Depends on what you consider long stretches. There was always a sighting, a noise, something every week.”

“Well, to be honest, I’m bored and I do not plan on waiting much longer. This is wasting my time and in case you haven’t noticed there is a lot going on in the world and as a journalist making my living covering news and people, I must get back to work. I can’t sit around waiting for a ghost to show up. Instead of me trying to verify whatever you saw, how about an interview. That is something you can do for me since we are both here. You owe me that for the time I have been here.”

“As I said, I don’t believe she is a ghost.”

“Is there something you’re not telling me?”

Gordon put down his fork, swallowed his bite of pancakes and maple syrup, took a sip of orange juice, and said, “There are more things on heaven and earth . . .”

“Oh wonderful. You’re quoting old Will. Is his ghost here too?”

“No, he haunts the Globe.”

“Then spill it. What should I know that you’re not telling?”

“I would rather show you when I see it,” said Gordon. “It will be easier to explain. If I am correct and I have no idea if I am even close to understanding, but it will be harder to believe than a ghost. If we see it together, you will perhaps understand.”

“So you have seen something other than a ghost, something that makes you believe in something else entirely, is that it? And of course it has something to do with Annalise.”

“Of course.”

“I have to say I am disappointed by this shutting me out of whatever you think might be going on. So if something does not happen soon, I will call a taxi and head back to the real world.”

 

The next day Mayda was packing before breakfast. Before calling for the taxi she thought to ask if Gordon would take her back instead. She walked to his study and knocked, got no answer, opened the door, called his name, heard nothing, then walked into his bedroom. It was empty. She walked through the rooms on the ground floor and saw nothing out of
the ordinary. The car was still in the driveway. Mayda went outside, walked throughout the large yard and garden. There was no Gordon.

At least the day was bright and cheerful she thought. But concern began to fog her mind, her spirit incongruous to the weather. Mayda walked back in the house and starting with the ground floor, checked every room, every closet, everything she could see that could hide somebody, and she thought ‘the somebody’ in question would be dead. Her mind even thought Annalise might be found, her body rotting. But how could that be. There would be a smell. Mayda told herself to stop having these stupid thoughts. Don’t panic. Remain calm.

She reached the second floor, checked everything, even looking at the ceiling in every room. She remembered a jewel thief who said ‘always hide things in plain sight because the police will never look there.’ Once the police came to his home looking for stolen jewelry, but they never found it. They did not look at the chandelier in the ceiling. It was in plain sight.

She walked down stairs and thought she heard a noise, one she could not identify. She stopped on the stairs and listened. It was quiet. Was her mind playing tricks? No. She heard it again. It was soft, not of voices, not anything she could compare it to. Slowly she walked down the steps until, she reached the ground floor.

Mayda heard the sound more clearly. It was a blend of a kind of a hum, a sort of whistle, and a type of whisper; all in tune with each other. The sound was all around, not coming from any direction. She moved away from the stairs, and moved to the left and looked down the hallway.

And then she saw it.

It was a vertical line in the air, long, not straight, but shimmering and wavy. It appeared to radiate waves outward across the hall on either side, the visible shimmering waves bouncing off the walls.

Her first instinct was to run. But she was frozen in wonder.

She approached the vertical ripple cautiously; afraid any sudden movement would make it disappear. She stood in front of it with awe and fear. It was inches away.

Mayda tentatively put her right hand up to the ripple and put her hand slowly into it. Her hand disappeared and she quickly pulled it back. She looked at her hand and it was normal, no sign of anything on it at all.

She bent down slightly and stuck her head inside. She screamed, but heard no sound.

 

After taking a long sip of a gin and tonic, her hands trembling, her heart still pounding, her mind still in disbelief, Mayda leaned back in the comfy chair in the living room of the house in the beautiful countryside. She knew what she saw, but decided not to tell anyone. Who would believe her? She saw what she saw and she was not sure she believed what she saw. She started to smile, knowing in time, a long time, she would not believe it; it would be some dream she had.

But for the moment she did believe. Believe what is the question. When she stuck her head in the ripple she saw a man and woman embracing each other. Annalise and Gordon. They turned to her, perhaps after she screamed, or thought she screamed. Gordon smiled. Then he took a deep bow and laughed. At least it looked like laughter. Gordon and Annalise walked away, not down the hallway, because they were not in the hallway. In fact they were in a room, one she had never seen before. Everything in the room, which see saw only briefly, was old, like an antique store, only everything looked new.

Mayda never asked herself if she was going to write about this. She had a career. Then she realized that Gordon having disappeared like Annalise would open up a new investigation. Police would ask her when she saw Gordon last. If she called a taxi, then the driver would say he picked up a woman at the house. He would give a solid description. If she drove Gordon’s car, provided she found the keys, where would she leave it. Would someone see her?

Mayda wondered if Gordon knew this beforehand. Did he know if he could disappear into another time with Annalise with me as a witness that . . .

She got up and went to the hallway. The ripple was gone. There was no escape. But it might come back. Mayda waited.

 

I hope you enjoyed the story. More weirdness can be found in 2 e-book collections of short stories at Amazon.

 

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Shakespeare and R L Stevenson altered our minds without drugs

Myth can be created by folklore like Paul Bunyon, a tall tale to be sure, but myths can also arise, inadvertently by an author, from popular fiction that takes on a life of it’s own.

Two cases in point.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. The popular conception of pirates is that they buried their treasure because that is what happened in the novel. But there is only one known pirate to do that and it was Captain Kidd, who was more a privateer than pirate. It depended on whether his contemporaries liked him or not. More disliked him than liked him, so to us he is a pirate. Winners write history.

Think of it logically. Why would pirates bury their treasure and return later to dig it up. The entire crew knows where it is, so each larcenous crew member now looks at each other with distrust and paranoia. And don’t think the captain was the boss. A pirate captain was elected by the crew and he did nothing without a vote from the crew. And the crew wants the loot and they want it now. They have been at sea a long time and they want rum and women.

In truth pirates took ships, their cargo, and most of the crew of the captured ship. At one point, Kidd had three captured ships in tow. They would go to a friendly pirate port and sell everything they could, keeping supplies they needed.

The only reason Kidd buried nearly a million dollars in jewels and goods is that he was headed back to New York to answer charges of his piracy so he had to bury the evidence. Didn’t help. Most of his treasure has been found. But other pirates and ‘X’ marks the spot maps are pure fiction, not history. Thank to Long John Silver and R.L. Stevenson.

Another example comes from Shakespeare’s play Anthony and Cleopatra. Everyone believes Cleo was bitten by an asp while she was a prisoner of the Romans. That is what happens in Old Will’s play, but whether Will was passing on the lore he knew or he made it up, the asp is now our truth. Check any crossword puzzle.

The Romans found her dead. There were two puncture marks. From an asp? Well, according to other records she committed suicide by a poisoned hairpin, not an asp. Poison was a big seller in Egypt. Cleo was found in her private chambers. As a prisoner she would not have access to snakes, nor would she keep them in her rooms. But a snake is more dramatic because the audience would be more fearful of a dangerous snake than poison. Poison being more passive. 

And now you know the truth of the matter. Until it changes once again. You never know. It just shows the power of the written word, the power of story telling, and how we believe what we read, even if it is fiction.

Here are two of my fictional e-novels at Amazon. Both based on true stories. Perhaps another myth will arise from one of them. With your help of course.

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