Monthly Archives: March 2016

Following The Living – Guest Post by Jay Wilburn #WeAreAllHaunted

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Following the Living: Telling Ghost Stories

 

We find ghost stories familiar because they have the touchstones of every type of literature. We as writers and readers are looking over characters’ shoulders as they carry on their lives. We watch from above or we enter their minds and read their thoughts. We watch the action through their eyes as we passively possess their bodies. We are the ghosts looking down on the pages from outside their world trying to get into it.

 

The ghosts in a ghost story are representatives of our position from within the pages. Sometimes they reach in deeper and influence the action. Even when they are invisible and we are watching the unexplained events with the living human characters, we get the sense of being watched and influence from outside the world of the story. When they become something that can be seen or spoken to, it is as if both sides of the world of the story have been allowed to interact in a way other literature does not get to do.

 

These interactions have meaning for us. The past informs all our choices either with pride or regret or any of a thousand other emotions. We make leaps of faith or we fail to do so out of fear. We stand by our principles or we fold up in the moment of testing. Those experiences though dead and gone in the past haunt us. They fill us with fear when the same pattern of conditions rise again for another test or another leap. Even when we went through it all before and survived, we are afraid of those ghosts when they appear in our lives again.

me with jenny

The things we know about our family and friends both good and bad linger with us even once they are out of our lives. The things we suspect or wonder about them do too. Their hidden motivations translated into actions played a part in shaping our lives and setting our paths. We might only begin to put the pieces together later during the haunting of memory to see a fuller picture of the light and darkness behind the people who were once in our lives and may still have a cold, ghostly hand on our souls in the present. No one haunts us as deeply as those that were supposed to love us whether they succeeded at it or not.

 

Armand Rosamilia and I wrote a ghost story together called The Enemy Held Near. It explored a spiritual manifestation of this family haunting in the lives of a troubled family and a strained marriage. We were attempting to tell what would be considered a traditional ghost story and haunted house story set in the modern South. We wanted it to be innately tied to the struggle of the characters experiencing the haunting. We ended up creating a story that included the hauntings of addictions, past mistakes, fear of failing as a parent, family prejudices that go back generations, and the way we hurt the very people we would have once died to protect. Because in the end we are all flawed and we are all haunted.

 

If we could see all of the picture of the generations that came before us, the darkness might be too much for us. The weight of that might be crushing to our spirits. Our heroes would be further fallen than they are now and our monsters would become uglier in the most unexpected ways. We would be tormented by seeing our own failings reflected back at us from the villains in our ancestry. We might be robbed of any hope of changing our course, if we really saw how many tried and failed in the line before us. Death and silence can be a gift when the farthest generations back step off the stage and leave the scene allowing us our brief time with the script to make our best attempt at a worthy performance.

 

This is the real horror to be found in a ghost story. Those actors dismissed from the stage step back on. The hidden darkness is revealed as the shadows take on the characteristics of life. That baggage from the past is laid at the feet of the living. The weight of the motivations of those that were supposed to love us come to bear once more in a manner that is much more threatening than mere memory or unsettled fear. It all comes back in a haunting.

 

Our ghosts in The Enemy Held Near are a manifestation of past mistakes. They reveal how regret and loss would fester if they were allowed to continue on after the release of death. The novel explores how the inability to let go can become destructive in life and after death if ghosts are in the picture. Sometimes the living and the dead are called on to make sacrifices and will suffer from a lack of forgiveness.

 

If you are looking for a great ghost story, there are a lot to choose from. We think you’ll enjoy The Enemy Held Near for the characters and for the haunting. Consider haunting our story and characters for a while.

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Reblog: We Are All Haunted by Armand Rosamilia

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I posted over at Jay Wilburn’s blog. We wrote a book together. It is good. 

http://jaywilburn.com/we-are-all-haunted-by-armand-rosamilia/

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The Enemy Held Near – Guest Post by Jay Wilburn #WeAreAllHaunted

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What Are Ghost Stories Really About?

Ghost stories are about ghosts. End of blog … Okay, there are other characters too. It’s possible to just have the ghosts floating around haunting each other, but generally the only thing that makes a ghost story interesting is going to be the living humans forced to deal with these spirits in some way. That interaction between life and death is significant to the story and as pervasive as the ghost story is to our culture, it must have significance to us as the audience and story tellers.

 

My father loved ghost stories. When I was in Boy Scouts, ghost stories around a camp fire were a staple of our camping experience. The darkness and isolation enhanced the atmosphere. There was an edge to the fear. The ratio of rationality to superstition shifts with the cycles of day and night.

 

Really good ghost stories tend to be about unfinished business. Death has a finality to it on this side of the veil. Even for those that believe in an afterlife or an eternal reward, the moment a life ceases has an impact. There were the moments before and the moments after and that cross over in the timeline changes everything for those left behind. Even the best of us will consider things that might have been done differently in the time before or things that could have or should have been said. Those of us that did not manage to live our best in the time we had with someone may feel regret and be haunted by wasted opportunities. The ghost story picks up that timeline and takes up those unfinished tasks. These stories can address relationships, lost love, or revenge. The full range of things uncompleted missions are available in these stories.

 

The conflict comes in the haunting. We may all be haunted by something whether we believe in ghosts or not. The impact of abusers can stay with a person long after they are out of our lives. The fear of those that hurt us can hang with us long after they are dead and gone. The need for forgiveness often remains even after the ones seeking it or the ones that might extend it are in the grave. These relationships haunt us and shape our lives no matter where we are in the time line of the life and death of those relationships.

 

I have written a few ghost stories. I tend toward other things in writing horror, but I revisit ghosts fairly regularly. I try to find some angle that changes the script or reorients the threat involved in the hauntings.

 

The Enemy Held Near, which I coauthored with Armand Rosamilia, is my first ghost story or haunted house story I’ve written at novel length. We had coauthored other work before including a horror humor trilogy. As we discussed the possibility of doing something more serious, we were standing behind a convention table selling our work to readers. We began to talk about what we had written before and what stories interested us now.

 

The discussion led us to the idea of a ghost story where the main characters dealing with the haunting perceive the events differently from one another. We also discussed that typically haunted house stories find some way to trap the characters in the house. Usually it begins by their own choice to stay despite the early signs of danger and then later they know they need to go, but find themselves physically trapped and fighting for their lives. We discussed the idea of our characters experiencing both options: one character stays and the other goes. Both choices have consequences and we wanted to see both in our story.

 

This led us to trying to put the meat on the bones of this skeleton of an idea. Who were these people, why did they see things differently, and why would they be led to opposite choices. We realized that we were describing a circumstance that happens in relationships all the time. This particular haunting was the framework of a break up or a troubled marriage. In the sense that we are all haunted by something, every home carries the ghosts of the pasts of all the members of that household. They all bring their baggage in with their earthly possessions. Sometimes the weight of those pasts and the choices in the present push us apart. The haunting becomes too much. Every day in homes all around us, someone stays and someone leaves.

 

The ghost story in The Enemy Held Near explores those generations of family baggage attached to a house and the people living in it. We set the story in Atlanta where I grew up and Armand and his wife visit often. It is a haunted city. It has a deep and diverse past. It has trouble in its past too. You have old wealthy neighborhoods across a highway from poor neighborhoods. The city is a patchwork of the remnants of its past. Southern families have storied histories as well with endless tales to tell.

 

We attached our haunting to the breakup of a marriage and we dove into the beginning of the story right in the heat of the coming conflict. The struggle to hold a family together while forces within and without pull the relationships apart is an all too familiar story. The escalation of our haunting mirrored the family struggle well. The inclusion of children in these struggles ups the stakes too. In The Enemy Held Near, we were able to look into the time when our characters saved and fought for each other and when they found themselves working against each other in their anger and resentment. Eventually, the good of the family requires sacrifice and demands that they find what made them fight for each other in the beginning. As with all hauntings like this, it might be too late to find that spark again in time.

 

Working together on the story, Armand and I found deeper and more interesting character dynamics and motivations than we could have conjured up alone. We traded back and forth with the narrative, moving in and out the various characters’ minds. We as the authors were the ones possessing them and moving them through the story. Some characters were haunted by both of us as they dealt with their conflicts. Others were voiced primarily by Armand or primarily by me. The living characters as well as the spirits took on personalities of their own that were completely apart from either one of us. As we blended and adjusted the story once we were finished, we were pleased and surprised at the emotion and action that had found its way into the tale.

 

We are all haunted by something. We hope we have created a ghost story in The Enemy Held Near that haunts readers because we both love and respect ghost stories so much. These characters became something special for both of us as their heartaches played out on the pages. We hope readers will root for them as much as we did. The Enemy Held Near is a ghost story that may reveal the hauntings in our own lives outside of the pages because that is what ghost stories are really about.

Armand nametag

Mando Method #amwriting

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Someone tries the #MandoMethod of writing!

dianegallagherwritings

 This morning when I was – well let’s be honest – procrastinating over my writing, I found the hashtag #mandomethod followed by a number. I was intrigued. I clicked on #mandomethod and found all kinds of tweets that were similar – #mandomethod 417. #MandoMethod 381. #Mandomethod 591, not bad! What the heck was this Mando Method?  It didn’t take much searching for me to find the original blog post that explained what the Mando Method was. I won’t explain it. Just click on the link and you can read the post for yourself.  “Well, hell!” I said to myself. “This sounds like a great idea!” So, I set the stopwatch on my phone and started writing.  Twenty-one minutes later I had 201 words. TWO HUNDRED AND ONE!  If you took the time to link back to the original blog post, you would have seen the following:

Hour 1 – 493…

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Why is Dean Koontz Loathed in Such Heinous Fashion?

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Why is Dean Koontz Loathed in Such Heinous Fashion?

Horror Novel Reviews

Dean Koontz

I’ve heard the extremely prolific Dean Koontz, author of roughly 100 works (plenty of which were number one sellers) of fiction, bashed to hell and back over the last few years. I’ve heard him labeled a hack, lazy, a poor man’s Stephen King, a dime-shelf writer. You name it, I’ve heard it, and to be completely honest I’m mystified by this strange and seemingly odious stigma (it’s not deserved I cry!) that looms over Koontz’s name. For my buck, Dean is one of the most balanced authors in the business.

The man does his research, and checks his facts. The man has built a diverse body of work that covers an expansive thematic landscape. He works endlessly to bring terror to readers sans any significant break. He’s capable of being extremely detailed, without running far too long in the tooth, and when he wants to, he can throw some seriously…

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