My Favorite Memory of 2018!
AKA My Cousins Are Going to Kill Me For Posting This
It’s that time of year, y’all. The time where forward-minded folks like us assess the past year’s progress and usually decide to make changes to what we do, how we behave or what we eat. It’s all very promising when you’re proverbially standing on the precipice of January 1, 2019. The world is waiting for you and I; all our hopes and dreams are right at our feet, the possibilities are endless. I love the feeling of a new year. I love it. Almost as much as the feeling I have when I begin a new book. I adore both of those experiences. And in past years I was right on board with all the other Resolution Makers. But not this year. I’m spending more time on the review of 2018. I guess you could call it Counting My Blessings before moving on. Don’t get me wrong, I have a plan and things I want to change. I love goal setting. I followed the 2018 plan for myself and although I didn’t get 100% of the results I hoped for—wow! 2018 was a remarkable year for me.
I walked my first 5k. That had been a bucket list item so bonus to me for achieving that. Have I mentioned how much I love St. Jude? I think I’m going to go for it again this year. It didn’t matter that I was practically dead last crossing that finish line. I did it!
I slow danced with the Mister. In public. On multiple occasions. We were involved in so many wonderful events this year, so many opportunities to slow dance. And we did. And I loved every minute of it and I love him. He’s My Imperfect Cowboy, even with his bad jokes and his two left feet. He still looks a treat in a pair of jeans and those eyes…
Yep, My Imperfect Cowboy. (Hey, that sounds like a book title. Please don’t steal it, fellow writers. LOL)
But hands down my favorite memory of 2018, was our cousin Christmas party. I had no idea that I missed this so much until I was with them again. I reunited with family members, cousins, I hadn’t seen in ages. We had our first reunion and it was a blast. I love my Viking Cousins and I’m so glad that there are so many amazing people in my family tree. I look forward to the future. And I'm glad to say that I spent plenty of time with my "squad," including a my "most bestest."
Another cool 2018 adventure? Actually I had several paranormal adventures. My spooky friend, Victoria and I walked through Old Cahawba this year, as well as visited a local cemetery. It was exciting and a blast. Not to mention the ghost hunt tour in Mobile. It was great ghost hunting with the ten of you ladies. I hope we can do it again soon.
I guess the reason I’m telling you all this is to encourage you. Not to brag on myself. I encourage you to look back at your year and look for the good things. Don’t let 2018 be a complete write off. Welcome the Do Over that 2019 brings but don’t dismiss the many blessings you have enjoyed.
Some of you will have endured significant losses in 2018. It’s never easy losing people you love. Trust me, I know this. I lost my little brother in 2017 to MS. What a cruel way to die. But I have to move forward and so do you. Look for the good things and remember those too. Let grief do its work but keep your eyes on the horizon, my friend.
Hint! Want to see how great your life is? Keep a planner and write in it every day. Make THAT your resolution. It’s a great tool to use when you need to go back and remember all the good that happened to you. Your heart and mind and soul deserves to be reminded of all the sweet moments that you've experienced. It can be easy to forget during times of adversity.
And if nobody else says it I sure will. “You are loved and celebrated. Make 2019 the best year ever! You can do it!”
- Monica Leigh (M.L.) Bullock
Here's a sample!
I had kept an eye on the balcony entrance as best I could between thanking my guests, but I had not seen him step back inside. I tugged his jacket around me tighter as I ventured back out to the balcony. Besides a few potted trees and a sitting bench, I saw nothing and no one at all. I glanced around in hopes of finding my treasure, but there wasn’t a trace. Perhaps Father had collected it and planned to force me to confess the loss. That must be it! He must have it in his possession!
“Father?” I called as I stepped out a bit further. Could I have missed his return? There was no trace of him out here.
Except his shoe. Where would he have gone with one shoe? I picked it up and clutched the leather protectively. Yes, this was certainly his shoe.
I walked to the edge of the stone balcony and looked across the forested area toward Rockville. Strangely enough, the fog had lifted, disappearing as if it had never arrived. Never covered the town. Had an ocean breeze blown it away? Had I dreamed the fog? That could not be true; I wore my father’s jacket, and this was his shoe. That was no dream.
That’s when I heard a scream—a long and terrible blood-curdling scream rose up from the driveway below. A woman by the sound of it. I peered over the side of the balcony and, to my horror, saw my father’s broken body sprawled on the ground. His head was turned around backward, and his eyes stared up at me. His legs and arms were akimbo, flung out wildly like a marionette cut from his strings from a very great height. A scream of my own erupted from my lips and seemed to last forever. I cannot say how long I leaned there, over the side of the balcony staring and screaming at the sight below, but it seemed like forever.
Continued from last week's post, September Hauntings: Spooky Stories with M.L. Bullock
You lose your footing momentarily but steady yourself by grabbing the closest small pine tree. The footsteps stop behind you and you can’t resist looking as you put your free hand up to fend off the potential attacker but there is no one there. With a shocked gasp you continue to run down the road. Despite the chilliness of the afternoon you feel sweat popping out on your forehead. Why do you feel so sick?
“Burly! Get back here!” You know the dog can’t hear you, he’s too far ahead. In fact, you notice his barking has stopped altogether. You find yourself in front of the house. You pace the road and stare at the place, dread fills your heart. No, your soul. You want nothing more than to be away from here. You wouldn’t go in that house for a sack of money or anything else.
“Burly!” You call again but he’s not answering. You think you hear him whimper, the sound comes from the depths of the house. Yes, he’s in there. What should you do? Go home and call someone? That seems a ridiculous thing to do. You’re a grown woman and you’re not afraid of the dark or things under the bed. At least, not since you were a kid. When you were a kid you were afraid of everything. Halloween, dark corners under the stairs, Aunt Rita’s basement. Why was it that this house brought all those childish fears back? There wasn’t anything special about it. Not really. A dilapidated, two-story Victorian with broken windows, missing paint and a porch that looked like it would fall in at any moment. Not scary at all.
“Burly! I’m not calling you again!” You threaten as you hear him answer with a troubled bark. Yes, he was definitely inside the house.
You pace a few more seconds and then unzip your jacket a bit. You left your phone behind and who was to say you would get a signal on this lonely road? That wasn’t an option.
Steeling your nerves, you pick up a stick, just in case there are predators hiding inside. You whack the stick in the palm of your hand to make sure it’s not rotten. It’s solid. Not much protection but at least it’s something. Maybe it will help you if you encounter an angry rodent.
But you know there are ghosts in there…you can feel it. Your stick won’t help you with the ghosts.
Maybe this isn’t such a good idea, you say to yourself. You could go home and call the neighbor. You really shouldn’t trespass on someone else’s property. Right? That’s the responsible thing to do.
The leaves stir behind you. Those footsteps have returned. You aren’t looking back again. No, not again. You step into the yard and approach the porch. With measured movements you move up each step until you are standing in front of the open door.
“Burly? Come here, boy.” You hold the stick tightly. Your mouth feels dry as you push the door open. It groans as it sags awkwardly on the rusty hinge.
“Please…Burly,” you whisper with one last hope that you won’t have to go inside. Maybe he’ll answer you this time. Be a good boy, Burly, you think but he does not come.
That’s when you feel two hands shove you and you fall into the house.
Are you scared yet? Leave me a comment below!
Hi, everyone. We’re slap-dab in the middle of September. Can you believe it? This year is sailing past us but at least it saved the best for last. Spring leaves me feeling inspired; summer reminds of happy moments and is the perfect background for making more but there is something about fall…I think it is my favorite time of year. Not just the theoretically cooler temperatures (I live in south Mississippi) or the crunching of leaves underfoot or the smell of a roaring fire and hot chocolate. This time of year is much more than football and hayrides. Yes, fall is so much more to me. It’s storytelling time!
I thought it would be kind of neat to share a story with you. I’ll add to it every few days. Here’s one for September. Let me know what you think.
The season comes with long shadows and hiking boots and you love it. It is a combination you can’t resist. You put on comfortable jeans, a warm sweater, and lace up your boots. You aren’t the only one that is excited. Your dog jumps around excited to take a walk with you. The two of you play in the leaves for a few minutes but you really want to stretch your legs so you hook up his leash and head down the road. It is quiet out here. This is no busy highway but a lonely country road. You don’t regret the decision you made to leave the city behind and live in more peaceful surroundings. The cottage is cozy and you’ve gotten a lot of writing done recently. The new book should be finished right on time. You breathe in the air and let it out. Yes, you love everything about your new life.
Except that house.
The abandoned house down the road is no longer hidden with overgrown foliage. The leaves have fallen away and revealed the skeletal remains of a once friendly farmhouse. You can see it plainly as your dog tugs you along towards it. You aren’t one for dramatics but you feel as if ghosts must wander there. And they beckon you subtly. As you turn your head away, your eyes are immediately drawn back. You can see someone moving around on the top floor, just out the corner of your eye. You stop and stare but there’s nothing to see.
You cross the red dirt road. Best to avoid the place altogether. That’s what the postman told you and you had every intention of taking his advice but you pause again. Just there! You see a hand on the window pane, white and small. A child’s hand.
But that can’t be right. There is no one living there. The mailbox is missing; the front door is hanging on one hinge. A few windows are broken. But your dog sniffs the air as if he catches a whiff of something too. Fear grips you and you tug at his leash as you fight the urge to run and then the fear vanishes almost as suddenly as it appeared.
That’s so odd, you think to yourself as you remain rooted to the spot.
The aroma of musty leaves and rotten wood fill the crisp, autumnal air. You want to leave but you’re transfixed by the house. You manage to coax your dog away from the house and the two of you travel down the road and up the hill. You have no intention of staying out late, you just wanted to take a quick walk to stretch your legs. Yes, up the hill to take a few photos with your camera and then back home again. You have friends are coming visit; they have been dying to see the new cottage.
As you walk, you can’t help but look over your shoulder. The sound of footsteps behind you frightens you but you are determined not to look back.
But your dog does and he begins to growl. You pull him close to you and steel your nerves. You don’t want to look, you really don’t but the dog’s hair is standing up on the back of his neck. He is immovable. Slowly you spin on your heel, you clutch his leash desperately.
There is no one there. Your dog remains at attention as if he can see something or someone you can’t. Feeling slightly sick you decide to go home. The beauty of the late September afternoon has quickly faded and you want nothing more than to hide in your room. In your bed, if possible.
Suddenly, your dog lurches forward, the leash slips from your grip and you watch in horror as he barrels down the road barking ferociously. And he is running full speed towards the house. Not your house but the empty, broken one.
The empty house, the one you wanted to avoid.
The sound of footsteps behind you let you know that you aren’t running alone…
What do you think? Do you want to hear more? Let me know in the COMMENTS section.
Mobile, AL, 1883
As the horses’ hooves clopped heavily on the dry, red dirt road, I tugged on the black thread that I had tied around my finger. My eyes gazed past the driver of the carriage, but he was not my focus at all. I was seeing beyond this moment in time into another world. There were many interesting things to see here past the veil. Oh yes, the air was thick with sorrow on both sides, the atmosphere so saturated with grief and loss it was almost tangible. And I felt power. Slowing my breathing, I stared intently into the beyond—I had to see more! Yes, you could feel it with your fingers and taste it in your mouth. I could see it all now, all except them, the dead who hid from me. Why would they? But I would wait, I would remain focused. They could not hide from me forever. No, not forever.
Ah, the sorrow. Yes, the air was heavy with regret, and just like dew on the morning grass, it would fall upon someone sooner or later.
“Almost there, ma’am,” the driver said with a friendly smile, but I paid him no mind. I gave him no answer, no sign that I valued the information he offered me. I knew exactly where I was—I was no stranger to Seven Sisters. My late husband had been in the employment of the Delarosa family, a fact that he had taken great pride in.
You should have listened to me, Max. I warned you that Death wandered the halls of Seven Sisters, but you didn’t believe me. You never believed in my powers, and now you are gone. But I am not gone. I will see you again, my clever one. You spun your web too quickly, Max, my darling. Too tightly and too quickly, and you snared yourself. I have real magic, my poor husband. Watch and see.
Although our marriage was legal, it had not been widely publicized. Max and I agreed upon this. It was rather scandalous for a young man to marry an older woman, but the difference in our ages had not mattered to either of us. We had been like two old souls, born for one another. Max had been my fourth husband—I’d been widowed three times—but he was the one I had loved the best, despite his moral turpitude. His scheming repelled me at first, but Max had a rare elegance about him; he was a charismatic spellbinder, and I could not help but fall under his power. But he became too ambitious, too sure of himself in the end. He was not the purest of souls, but he had been my husband, and upon learning about his death, I realized just how much I loved him.
Through some difficult spirit work, I delivered a kind of justice for Max, but my dead husband was not satisfied. Oh, I can feel such power here! Yes, there were many restless spirits associated with the grand old home. I tugged the thread tighter, my gray eyes focused on the space in front of me. Contrary to what the driver might believe, I wasn’t watching the road rise up ahead. I wasn’t studying the flickering amber lights of the fine home that welcomed her arriving guests. Although the sound of the creaking oak boughs above me briefly caught my attention, as did the occasional cascade of leaves and Spanish moss that flitted about, I saw none of it. Only sensed it.
Tug tighter. Feel the pain. Endure it. Pain frees you, Margaret. It is the catalyst.
Dr. Maxwell had been an excellent mentor, a patient teacher and a student of the emerging world of spiritualism, but in the end, I had grown past him. In all ways. I had not realized how true that was until the day I left the institute. I’d been so young when I came under his wing. He’d treated me like a daughter, but his refusal to acknowledge my emerging gifts had frustrated me beyond words. In the end, I had to leave. But even today, as the sun beat down on my face and the air chilled my bones, I could hear him coaxing me on, instructing me.
Still your mind. Focus on the veil. Feel the pain, Margaret. It is the key.
I tugged harder on the black silk, so hard that I was sure my finger was bleeding. Suddenly, the air moved and I gasped at the double sight that appeared before me. No, he couldn’t hide forever! I could see the road, yes, but also a dark figure. A shade, a ghost. It was as if the two images were superimposed on one another, the figure and the road. And as we moved, he moved. A man! Like an arrow from a taut bowstring, he raced ahead of us now, his black hair fluttering about his face. He paused and hovered at the crux of the road where it turned to the long drive that would lead me to Seven Sisters. I did not question the vision, for I could see Jonatan Delarosa clearly. And I smiled at him.
I whispered, “Oh, yes. You remember me, don’t you, Jonatan? But you are dead now, dead like my Max and like Memphis. Tell me, Jonatan, does she haunt you? Can a ghost be haunted by another?”
The carriage driver cast a glance over his shoulder and asked, “Ma’am?” but I didn’t break my focus. I waved him silent with my bloody finger, and he moved the carriage along at a more hurried pace, but the damage was done. The change in speed broke my trance, and I unwound the black string and tucked it in the pocket of my black dress. Smothering the wound with my handkerchief, I shot the driver a look of disapproval, but he did not look back again. No, he wouldn’t look again. Oh, but he could feel me. I stared at his back and imagined raking my fingernails across his flesh. I smiled as he shivered briefly and then popped at the reins.
Jonatan was gone from my vision now, but he had not gone far. He’d faded into the background of falling leaves and was carried away on the icy, late-fall breeze. I smiled as I watched the tangle of red, brown and gold leaves scurry toward the house as if they too wanted to shield the Delarosa family from my arrival.
But it was too late now. I was here.
I didn’t smile and clap my hands as I so wanted to do. I kept my composure as the carriage came to a halt in front of the house. The driver made no move to assist me, which was just as well as I did not like to be touched by strangers. I shoved my mossy green bustle behind me and escaped from the carriage as smoothly as possible. I had not brought my trunks with me. Not yet. But they were packed and ready to go at the hotel if I should need them, if the work here took me longer than expected. I could send for them later, at the appropriate time.
Jacinta Delarosa alone came to greet me. Her once-handsome face was pale except for the bold red patches on her cheeks. This color came not from rouge but from liquor. Was she drinking now? Oh, that would work in my favor. With a false expression of concern, I climbed the steps and offered my gloved hands to her. She clutched them like a drowning man would clutch the hands of his rescuer. Then she kissed them, and I bit the inside of my lip to keep from smiling.
“Thank God you are here. I have so wanted you to come, Madam Serena. Welcome to my home. Welcome to Seven Sisters.”
“I am glad to do so, Mrs. Delarosa. I am happy to be of service to you, my dear, and I have good news. I have already seen your son; he greeted me on the road. A handsome boy with long, dark hair. He waved me down the driveway.”
My half-true confession drew a gasp from Jacinta’s pale lips. “My Jonatan! That is my son! Then he is here. I knew it. Please come in!”
I released her hands and stepped through the open door. “Yes, I think I will.” My eyes took in the grand entrance, and I could smell the promise of a delicious meal. Someone slammed a door above us, but perhaps it was only the wind. In a house as large and fine as this, that was possible. Things would move. Doors would close. No doubt there were many spirits here. Yes, the air was rich with all manner of negative emotions. No wonder Max loved this place and wanted so desperately to claim it. Seven Sisters drew you in. It had a presence about it, a strange charisma, like it wanted you to love it and it would always love you back. Forever.
I knew what Dr. Maxwell would say about the aging antebellum home. The place has a powerful energy and great potential for important spiritual work. What fun I would have here! I would open every door I could. I would uncover every Delarosa rock; in the end, I would leave them with nothing.
Not even their dignity.
I smiled up at the big empty staircase. Someone unseen watched me from the highest step. I could hear her sighing at me.
Watch and witness my power, all you dead. Watch and witness…
Y'all ready to get a little shabby?
Here's your sneak peek!
“I have makeup remover, Tiffany. In the bathroom.” She sprinted off to get her freebie towelette and came back looking sort of normal. “If you’re here to talk about Ginger’s text, I don’t want to hear it. I have to power-wash trailers today. End of story. I already told her that. Did she send you over here?” I dumped about three teaspoons of sugar in her mug and handed it to her.
To my surprise, she wasn’t disappointed at all. She stirred her coffee and grinned at me. “No and thank goodness because I really want to be the first one in our unit to earn those dragonfly wings. I mean, I am your recruiter.”
“My what?” I asked her as I tried not to laugh at her.
“Your recruiter. It’s up to you to spread your wings, pardon the pun, and find customers outside our mutual friends. Seriously, Arcadia. You, me and Esme know pretty much the same folks. Is it too much to ask? I’ve gotta pay for Buddy, Partridge and Elvis’ vet appointments.”
I frowned at her. “Are you serious, Tiff? I told you the same thing last night, but you insisted that I join your team. I spent a hundred bucks plus tax on a Bevvy Jane kit, remember? I’m entitled to sell to whoever I want to. But may I remind you that I didn’t want to do this in the first place?”
She sneezed and sloshed coffee on the cheap plastic flooring. Obviously, her springtime allergies were kicking in. Or at least that’s what she called them. I suspected she was allergic to her colony of cats, but she would never admit it. She set the cup down and began dabbing the coffee up with paper towels. “I know, I know, but can’t you sell outside the park? I’ve already got an order from Rita. I called her as soon as I got home last night, and she was really sorry she couldn’t make the party. I think she had a date with Gus, but she spent well over a hundred bucks on that tape. Old ladies love that stuff, you know. Do you know Aunt Mavis bought almost the entire product line? She’s crazy about that tape.”
“Tiffany, don’t tell me you sold Mavis anything. She’s not to be trusted with checks or debit cards. How much is she in for?” I opened the trash can for her so she could deposit the paper towels.
“She’s good for it, and she believes in the Bevvy Jane products. Look, just do me a favor. Don’t sell to anyone in the park, at least not right away. I want those wings, girl. I really need a win in my life, what with Jeb gone and all.”
I rolled my eyes. “You’ve got to get out more, Tiff.” Before I could talk her down, someone banged on my trailer door. “Who is it now?” I called as I handed my stressed-out bestie her mug again.
“It’s me, Esme.”
“Good Lord. I’m so popular this morning,” I said under my breath. “Hey, girl. Come on in. I think I have some coffee left.”
“Okay, thanks.” Esme flashed her beautiful smile at me and joined Tiffany and me in the kitchen. “I see I’m not the first one here. You’ve got a lot of nerve going behind my back to get Rita, friend.”
Tiffany ratcheted up her saggy blond ponytail as if she were getting ready for a fight. Before she came back with a smartass comment, I asked, “Any chance either of you will help me power-wash today? I sure would appreciate the help.”
“Tiffany is off today, right? You should help her out, bestie,” Esme said in an accusatory tone of voice. Uh-oh. What is going on with these two?
“I’m going to earn those wings before I go into work tonight. It’s all-you-can-eat shrimp at Fry Me a River, and I plan on putting that pin right on my t-shirt.”
“You better wear your pushup bra, Tiffany, or the customers might not see it.”
Tiffany slapped the counter and stepped closer to Esme. “What does that mean? My chest is bigger than yours, Es-mee.”
I stepped in between them. “So no takers on the power-washing? I’m happy to spring for lunch. But I’m not having this squabbling going on in my home, so cut it out, you two. Now, any takers?”
“I’ve got back-to-back hair clients today or you know I’d help you out. I help out friends when they need me, and I don’t stab them in the back.”
Tiffany sputtered but didn’t dare step any closer. “I never stabbed you in the back, Esme; I just made a phone call. But I’m getting those wings first. Hide your clothes and watch. And I’m not going to forget that crack you made about my bosom. Brave words from someone who has no behind to speak of. Wearing your padded drawers today, Esme?”
“I don’t have any padded drawers, Tiffany. That’s only for bras. I know you nabbed that Victoria’s Secret collection from the Goodwill, and you knew I was going to buy them. You just had to undercut me.”
“I did not!”
“You can have Shabby Hearts and Fry Me a River, Tiffany! I have a beauty shop! When I’m not shampooing, cutting or styling, I plan on selling Bevvy Jane to every woman I know. At least my customers won’t smell like crawfish.” Esme glowered at Tiffany as she put her hand on her hip and continued to cock an attitude.
“That’s fine, Esme, but you remember our agreement. Everyone in the trailer park is mine. I get to sell here. You can have that snobby beauty shop crowd.”
Can you believe it is June already? I sure can’t. I know I sound like an old-timer here but why does it feel as if time has sped up? Just yesterday I was taking down my Christmas tree, dragging out the Mardi Gras stuff and searching for the Easter decorations. I swunny, it’s enough to make a girl’s head spin. Well, there isn’t much I can do about the speed which the hands of time move. All I can do is enjoy each day as it comes, be thankful for it, and make it as special as possible. And not just for everyone else but for me too. That’s a hard thing for a mom to do, isn’t it?
I get that.
But please, friend. Do something nice for yourself. Take that walk in the evening. Pick up a bouquet a flowers for your nightstand or desk. Buy the good chocolate and hide it from the family. You have my permission to hug yourself, be kind to yourself and stop and smell the roses. Or hydrangeas. Don’t let time get away from you.
I have a nephew getting married next month, my youngest is learning to drive, (y’all pray for me!) and the Mister has a few more aches and pains than he used to. I don’t like any of that. My family is in a season of change. I recognize it because we've been here before. Time to do what I asked you to do, stop and smell the roses. Or in my case, smell the chlorinated swimming pool. I plan on taking a few days off this week to hang with two of my three besties. I’m going to float around the hotel pool, dilly dally, have a nice dinner and maybe hit the dance floor. Of course, I will write a few words here and there but for the most part, no working. One day, I may not have the chance to hang out with my girls. I love my tribe.
As you all know, when it’s not hot enough to melt your face off, I do love to walk. And when I walk, I listen to podcasts. Some of my favorites are author podcasts but I have some other favorites too like Haunted Places by Parcast (which I’ve mentioned before) CoastToCoast and probably my hands down favorite, the Sasquatch Chronicles.
There’s nothing like taking a walk through the woods (I live on a 16 acre farm) and listening to witnesses recount their Bigfoot encounters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve moved a little quicker because I thought I heard something while listening to Wes Germer and his guests. (Which the sound was probably a squirrel or a rabbit. We have plenty of those. But we also have coyotes, bobcats and black bears.)
I love the way that Wes treats his guests with respect. It's so important to give people a platform to talk about the things that matter to them, things that make them scratch their head and wonder. Wes does that in a professional yet entertaining way. All respect for that, Wes. I try to do the same with my ghost stories.
I know ghosts are real. I've seen, felt and experienced them. Unlike Wes, my stories are fictional (but some are based on legend) but I do my best to treat paranormal believers with respect. There's a big paranormal world out there full of strange creatures and ghostly beings. Let's not pretend that they don't exist. Okay?
If you get a chance, check out the Sasquatch Chronicles. What an entertaining listen and if you happen to walk through the woods, it might help you to pick up the pace. I’m not affiliated with the podcast nor did Wes, the guy that hosts it ask me to mention him. In fact, we’ve never spoken. So go have a listen and get your scare on.
So, as we get closer to summer, don't forget to have a good time, Mom and Dad. It's okay to be a kid again. Time doesn't slow down for us just because we get older and life isn't always about the kids. No matter how loudly they scream or persistently they beg for the car keys. You have to live a little too. Remember the things you used to love. For me, that's swimming, riding my bike (guess what I bought) and watching Jiffy Pop rise over an open flame. So go, Adventurer! Stop letting your age tell you that you can't have fun anymore.
Jump into the river. Go for a walk. Have a bonfire. Host a block party. Celebrate old friends and make new ones.
And don't forget to bring the Jiffy Pop.
After last week's heavy duty subject, I decided to go with something a little more lighthearted today. Just a peek into my life. Sorry, y'all. I'm as down-to-earth and no frills as they come. And apologies for posting so late. The Mister has bronchitis (Yep, I passed it on) and I'm playing chief cook, maid and bottle washer for one sick cowboy. I don't mind. He always takes good care of me when I'm down. And he's a cutie pie which helps.
My long, sugar-filled obsession with Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond’s recipe collection continues. Like many of my heroines, I'm not the world's greatest cook – with the exception of a few tried-and-true recipes. (Remind me to tell you about the time my then six-year-old asked me at the dinner table, "Mom, are you sure about this?")
Still, I'm tenacious – borderline obsessive about things I am interested in. That includes ghosts and writing and cooking. (And the Mister :0) And not to mention how much the Pioneer Woman and I have in common.
She loves earrings and so do I. Ree's husband Ladd is a cowboy and my husband has two cows. And she's a style junkie, in a laid back sort of way, which at my age, I can appreciate. Ree always looks so put together in her boots and jeans whereas I prefer capris and flip-flops but still, she's the first to admit she feels overwhelmed from time to time. As do I.
I know there are differences. She’s a redhead and I’m a blonde (kind of) but aside from those two things we are very much alike. Just two post-forty women working hard, trying to keep the family together, fed and happy.
This week's recipe inspiration from Ree Drummond was No Bake Peanut Butter Bars. Since they were “no bake” desserts I figured I was a shoo-in.
Of course, it was not. For some reason, my food processor went berserk on me and didn’t grind up all of the vanilla wafers so I ended up with big chunks of cookies. Not very appealing look but I made it work. I think.
Then I had to spread the cement-like material into the casserole dish. That was a struggle, especially as I forgot to butter it first. I had to "unstuck" the bottom layer, butter the dish and reapply it. I got my work out. (Notice all the cool Pioneer Woman gear? It did not help.)
Not very appetizing looking but at this point I had chocolate melting on the stove. No turning back now. Note to self, when Ree says double boiler what she really means is a Pyrex bowl in a saucepan of boiling water. And further note to self, said bowl should be round and not oval-shaped. But that's another story.
Okay. This proves that chocolate makes everything look better.
So far, this part was my favorite. Who doesn’t love pounding something into small pieces? Mission accomplished. Just like Ree. Except I used a can of tomato sauce. I couldn't find my mallet until after the nut banging session was over. But it looks good posing in the photo. However, it's doesn't look like Ree's mallet. Darn it. (Add that to the Pioneer Woman must-have list. She gets me every time.)
And with a sprinkle of the nuts, everything looks kosher. Right? My family obediently smiled and chewed on the bars but I noticed that the initial leftovers were not moving out of the kitchen very quickly. So like the good aunt that I am, I passed a plate off to my nephew. Still waiting on the plate to come back. He also smiled and nodded encouragingly.
Probably not going to try this particular recipe again. Back to the beginner's class for me. Nope, I'm not the world's greatest cook but I continue to look forward to trying new things. And I’ll keep trying until I get it right. Just not this particular recipe.
Which brings me to my next point. Some of you have probably heard that I am starting a brand-new series. And what's surprising is that this series has no ghost in it. Zero. That's right, no ghosts. It's not that I'm off ghosts or giving up on that aspect of the paranormal but I thought it would be fun to write something wacky for summer.
Namely, stories about a smart, sassy yet shabby trailer park owner named Arcadia Shabeaux. In Arcadia's world, family is everything—even if that family member is running short on brain cells. Set in fictional Lake Dennis, at the Shabby Hearts Trailer Park and Campground, everyone pulls together in a crisis. You know what they say, teamwork makes the dream work. And Arcadia has big dreams.
There are paranormal elements to the stories including a mysterious Bigfoot and an unusual curse that makes Arcadia irresistible to the opposite sex. And even… Well, I can't spoil everything. Needless to say I've planned a fun romp for summer readers. I do hope that you love it.
The first book in the series is called A Touch of Shabby which will be followed by two other books, Shabbier by the Minute and Shabby by Night. The first book in the series will be $.99 for the first 24 hours when it goes live which is May 31. Pick it up before June 1 to get that price. I hope you love Arcadia and all her crazy Cajun family and friends. I can't wait to see what kind of trouble she gets into.
One more thing. I'm working hard behind-the-scenes to put together the rest of the remaining two books of the Return to Seven Sisters series. Those books will include A Garden of Thorns and A Wreath of Roses. I have so much more to share, so many more surprises but I think that's enough for now. I'll be sharing updates on new releases on my Facebook page. I usually try to put up covers along with the links to preorders but not everything will be available for preorder, I'm thinking.
Contrary to popular belief, there are no ghost writers here. Just little ol’ me, banging on a keyboard for on average, six hours a day.
So that's it. Thanks for coming along on this ride with me. And more than that, thanks for listening and reading and being a friend.
Greetings and Salutations, to quote the world's second most popular spider. Although, in my book, Charlotte is the hands down favorite. (Take that Itsy-Bitsy.) Although the truth be known, I don't care for spiders much, but a lifetime of living in old houses has helped me to grow accustom to their existence and as long as I don't see them, spiders and I get along just fine. (Please don't send me hate mail, spider lovers.)
It's been an early summer here in south Mississippi. The azaleas are long gone, the roses are holding on and my walking schedule has been greatly diminished because of the heat. Oh well, I'll just have to stop binge watching Destination Truth episodes and go to bed on time. Maybe then I can get up early enough to walk without dying of heat exhaustion.
I'm still walking in the evenings, just when it's getting dark. Dark enough for the shadows to come out and play during the last mile home. Even at this age, with all the "knowledge" I have about ghosts and shadows and things that go bump in the night I find I often walk faster after dark. Unlike some, I know things lurk in the shadows. And even in the corners of your bedroom.
I know it for a fact.
Which is why I write ghost stories.
I have had sleep paralysis all my life. It started about the time this photo was taken. Maybe a little before. It has been a horrible unending experience that has shaped my life in ways I could never expect. If you don't know what I'm talking about, count yourself lucky. Older folks call it Old Hag syndrome. Professionals call it Sleep Paralysis. Moms call it Night Terrors. (Except mine. She wasn't much comfort.) Yes, this kind of thing has all kinds of names and none of them are nice.
Imagine falling asleep. You're in that place between awake and asleep and you suddenly become aware that you aren't alone. There's something in your room with you, watching you and it wants you to know it's there. As your eyes become accustomed to the dark, you see it. It's perched between the door and the dresser or it's beside you. It's usually all black but sometimes it has a horrible face. And then it touches you. It chokes you, assaults you in ways I don't want to explain. It's not a ghost story, y'all. It's a real thing. And it happened to me. For years. And I'm not alone. It happens to a lot of us.
I can go for months, even a year or two without a paranormal event and then suddenly, it's there again. Without sleep medication, I know I'd have to face it. I'd have to experience it and I never want to experience it again. Granted, I'm less afraid since I became a Christian. There really is power in the name of Jesus but sometimes, you can't speak during these events and in those cases, I have to think the name of the Lord and even then I have to command the thing to leave repeatedly. And no matter what, I'm always left wondering why.
Why did this happen to me?
Some will say I did this. But this was happening long before I wrote the first ghost story. Before I thought much about the paranormal at all. Some will say, that I brought this on myself. That somehow, I am to blame. Trust me, I've searched my soul. I've pleaded, prayed and I know it's not just me. It just happens. There is a hostile side to the paranormal world. It's not always K2 meters and friendly EVP sessions. (Which I do neither in case you are wondering.)
Maybe this is why I write ghost stories. (I write other things too but people seem to love my ghost stuff the most.) I write about dreams and the past, and family secrets and horrible things because all that happened to me, to people I know and love. I write about hauntings because I have to make sense of it all. Sleep paralysis frightens me. And yet, I can't stop studying and searching for answers, I can't stop trying to understand. I can't stop wondering why it happens at all. Maybe one day, I'll write a book about THAT.
Periodically, I watch documentaries about it. When I'm feeling brave. This one is next on the list.
Chances are, I won't be able to watch the whole thing at once. And I sure won't watch it before bed. But I will watch it. Because I have to know.
Until then, I'll write ghost stories. I'll make my ghosts people, real people not creepy shadow things that want to choke me. I can understand dead people. People, I can relate to. I like ghosts much better than the shadows that swirl beside my bed from time to time.
Yes, I like them much better.
Hey everyone! It's me! I'm back from the land of the Near Dead and feeling better everyday. If you follow me on Facebook (the place where I tend to overshare the most) you've probably heard that I'm recovering from bronchitis. To say it took the wind out of my sails is an understatement. I went from walking five miles a day to unable to get out of bed for almost a week. It was terrible! I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, if I actually had any. But at least my spoiled cat kept me company and the Mister took good care of me. However, I waited a bit late to do a final proofread on my latest book, The Ghost of Harrington Farm so if you find a typo, please let me know. I'm sure I missed a few things. But overall, I loved telling the story and especially enjoyed the ending. It was very exciting to tell Plum Darcy's story.
It will be a few months before the next Gulf Coast Paranormal book comes out but since there are already eight in that series, I figured you wouldn't mind waiting a bit for the next one. After my informal poll last month (also on Facebook) I have decided that next year, probably in January, readers will get the crossover they've been asking for--Midas, Cassidy, Carrie Jo and Ashland will meet and of course, investigate together. Won't that be a hoot? I can't say more than that as the story is in the early stages of development . So mum's the word. But you know I can't keep a secret when it comes to my books so I'll have more information to share soon. Quick mention here, if you happen to be in the Mobile area on May 25th, come by the Renaissance Riverview. I'll be speaking at MobiCon, Mobile's version of ComicCon and I'm pretty excited about it.
And the last bit of news I want to share, my new Shabby Hearts series begins at the end of the month. The first three books in that series, A Touch of Shabby, Shabbier By the Minute and Shabby By Night will be released in rapid succession beginning at the end of May. Meet Arcadia Shabeaux, y'all. She's sassy, smart and totally shabby and so much fun to write. It's a paranormal cozy mystery with a lot of humor and hopefully good summer reading. Here's the promised first chapter. (Unedited and subject to a small amount of change.)
A Touch of Shabby
A Shabby Start
“Hey! Have you called the all clear yet?” A scrappy, female voice whispered like a freight train from the nearby open window. I didn’t have to look. I knew who it was.
“Why are you whispering from the window, Aunt Mavis? The front door is wide open.” I shuffled the paperwork around and tossed a few pages in a manila folder. Actually, I wasn’t as irritated as I pretended to be. I liked having Aunt Mavis around, even if she wasn’t quite all there. I scribbled the name Broussard on the file folder tab and immediately couldn’t read it. My handwriting was horrible and there was no guarantee that I would be able to read it when reached for the file again. This idea of mine to “get the family business organized” was for the birds. I hated this part of my job and no amount of fancying that up was going to change it.
Give me yard work any day of the week. Paperwork sucked. How ironic considering I am a business school graduate. Wasn’t I supposed to adore all types of paper shuffling?
“What about the all clear?”
Feeling generous, I glanced around my office and announced, “All clear, private. Come on inside.” Now that I actually caught a good glimpse of her, I tried not to laugh at the ridiculous sight. My great aunt sported full combat gear today, complete with an oversized camouflage jacket, a boonie hat, and a painted face. Seeing her white curls poking out from either side of her military jungle hat made her appear even sillier.
“Roger that,” she answered, disappeared and reappeared on my front porch. The screen door slammed behind her as she took the seat opposite me.
Man, she was fast for a seventy-year-old. That water skiing accident might have smacked her brain around but she was as physically fit as I was.
“I hope you aren’t going to let that woman live here, Arcadia Shabeaux. She would ruin our entire operation—she’d gum up the works, so to speak. Rumor has it,” she dropped her voice and leaned across the desk, “that woman is a spy, you know.” She slapped the desk once to emphasize her opinion before she continued with her stare down of me.
What do I do? Laugh or cry?
“I assume you’re talking about Rita Broussard? You might as well get used to seeing her face around here. Ms. Broussard is Shabby Hearts’ newest resident. So yes, she’s in. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re not exactly the Ritz Carlton, Aunt Mavis. Rita’s check cleared and we need all the paying customers we can scrounge up.”
Mavis pursed her precisely painted red lips. My decision did not meet her approval. I sighed and met her steely gaze with one of my own. “Rita has a good casino job and great credit.”
“And three dead husbands. If you ask me, that woman is a black widow and a spy. Those Russians can whip up good credentials just like that.” Mavis snapped her fingers, plopped down in the chair and leaned back with a deflated sputtering of her lips.
I smiled and did my best to lighten her mood. “She’s not Mata Hari, Aunt Mavis. And you’ve known Rita all your life, remember? She’s not a Russian. She’s as homegrown Louisiana as we are. I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”
“You should listen to me on this, Arcadia Marie. I know a spy when I see one.”
Okay, this must be placebo day. She’s using both my first and middle name. If I wanted to move this conversation along I’d have to play her game.
“Fine.” I put the pen down and looked her square in the face. “Who told you Rita Broussard was a spy? I need actual proof, please.”
Mavis narrowed her eyes. “I won’t identify my informants--not even if you torture me.” She sat up in the pleather chair and popped the top on a can of cola that she pulled from somewhere.
With a smirk, I said, “I don’t think it will come to that. I’ll keep my eye out but I don’t think we have anything to worry about. And since when did the military put stock in snitches, Aunt Mavis? You need actual proof before you can accuse someone of being a spy.”
“Don’t get smart with me. Nobody likes a smartass, Arcadia. You know, you weren’t this mouthy before you hooked up with that Dubois fella. I blame this attitude on him. I didn’t raise you to be a sass-mouth.”
“Yeah, you did.” I shook my head as I tossed the file into the filing cabinet and closed the drawer.
“Speaking of that two-timer, you hear anything from Armand lately? He still hanging out with Kitty?” I flinched at hearing his name spoken out loud, especially in so close a connection to my cousin. My backstabbing, betraying cousin. I had spent all winter trying to forget about the both of them which had proven harder than I expected. Some small part of me wanted a little revenge. But how? I wouldn’t kiss Armand’s cousin with Aunt Mavis’ lips, much less mine.
“No, and if you’ll excuse me, I do have work to do, general.”
She smiled at the title I used. My change in subject worked. “Don’t rub it in. I know it’s shameful that I’m still a private. Can you believe that? I’m this old and still a private? Well, I’ve got a mission in mind that will put me on the big wigs’ radar. It’s a doozy.”
That was worrisome. “Aunt Mavis…”
“Nope. Can’t tell you nothing else but you remember what I told you. That Broussard lady isn’t to be trusted with anything important. Not even a mailbox key, if you can help it. And she’s not the only suspicious character living here.”
I didn’t ask for further details. I knew she was referring to Duval Lorette. He was Shabby Heart’s official curmudgeon and he and Aunt Mavis had tied up more than once in recent years. But then again, who hadn’t tied up with Duval? No need to mention that now. My confused aunt was already stirred up this morning. “I’ll keep that in mind, Aunt Mavis. Thanks for the heads up.”
“Always glad to pass on whatever intelligence I can to my favorite niece.”
“Thank you,” I laughed as I lazily arranged the rest of the paperwork into a kind of neat pile on my flimsy desk. I’d deal with this later; maybe tomorrow or next week. I had too much to do outside. Shabby Hearts Trailer Park and Campground needed some love and a whole lot of repairs. And I only had a few weeks to get it all done. I had potholes to fill, a garden to prepare, trailers that needed power washing and grass that needed cutting. What I needed was a twin. Or a few volunteers.
Hmm…maybe I could drum up some this afternoon. Wonder what Tiffany and Esme were up to?
“You coming to the crawfish boil this afternoon? I’m sure Gus expects you. Everyone here at Shabby Hearts will be there.”
“Anything I should know about? It’s not your birthday yet.” She pushed her hat up to scratch her head thoughtfully.
“No. It’s not my birthday but Gus thought it would be nice to have a get together before the tourist season begins.” I was exaggerating, of course. Despite my attempt at positivity, the truth was, nobody was knocking the down the door to book a spot at the Shabby Hearts Trailer Park and Campground, even after I nearly broke the bank on a horrible, low-budget radio commercial. But I had to give it a shot.
The trailer park ran year round but the campground was only opened seasonally. We had twelve fire pits, ten RV hookups and a wonderful view of Lake Dennis. Not to mention we were a bonafide Bigfoot hotspot, at least, according to the locals. Five years ago, this place was always busy but then Uncle Ray Gene died. Aunt Mavis did her best to keep things going but as wonderful as she was, she was no businesswoman. To be fair, she’d done a decent job until she tumbled head over feet last year on a water skiing dare. Now the future of the Shabeaux fortune rested on my shoulders.
No pressure at all.
“Hmm…it’s tempting but I’m enlisted now. Can’t spare the time, Arcadia. I’m working up the details on my new operation. Over and out.” She took a big slug of her soda, belched and waved before she walked outside.
Yep, this would be my first year running the Shabby Hearts Trailer Park and Campground all by myself. True, some of the trailers needed major repairs and the campground needed some tending to but I felt sure I was up to the challenge. Our property butted up against Lake Dennis and although it was a pristine lake, it was smaller than nearby preferred Lake Camberleigh. It was bigger and had more amenities, not to mention a tour boat that everyone knew was a floating, illegal-as-heck casino. Of course, the sheriff’s nephew owned it so nothing was ever done about it.
Oh well, I would make Shabby Hearts a success come hell or high water and I wouldn’t have to break the rules. A girl could go a long way with a business degree. Not to mention a pair of high heels, blue jeans and an ever-growing collection of tank tops, my preferred uniform. Unless I was working in the yard and in that case, my uniform was shorts, tanks and flip flops. Which I needed to change into now. Maybe I could get some grass cut before the crawfish boil. I really needed to focus on getting some of this yard work done. With Aunt Mavis running around like Rambo, Gus and his sons trying to catch Bigfoot every weekend and my cousin Tiffany’s ever-growing cat colony, it was becoming more challenging each day.
I closed the windows and tried for the tenth time to record a decent business voicemail. I couldn’t afford to miss any phone inquiries. After five minutes, I felt like I had at least a small win. I grabbed my purse and locked the filing cabinet. I smiled as I said goodbye to the end of my first week as the new manager of Shabby Hearts. Uncle Ray Gene would be proud, and so would Aunt Mavis if she knew what the heck was going on in the real world. At least I still had her with me. Sort of.
Today was the last day of February and it was already warm outside. My stomach grumbled in anticipation of the tasty meal Gus would kindly prepare for our Shabby Hearts’ family. I just hoped Armand didn’t stop by.
I didn’t have time for that cheating so and so. I can’t believe I wasted a whole year of my life on that loser.
If we hadn’t been so good together behind closed doors we wouldn’t have made it past the first month. He had a big mouth and even bigger arms and once I believed a big heart but I’d gotten it wrong. Completely. I sighed thinking about the whole situation. Maybe I should forgive and forget. He’d apologized about a hundred times since I busted him.
Nope. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t act like nothing had happened. It’s not like he wiped his mouth on his t-shirt or took my parking spot, as he had a habit of doing. Yeah, I missed him, or more to the truth, missed having someone around but not enough to sacrifice my dignity and my good sense. Not twice. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and you might get cut. Nope. He wasn’t worth jail time. I flipped off the lights and locked the door behind me.
The sun would be going down soon and even though we were located in the sticks, the place had an exciting vibe to it this evening. Almost a kind of hum.
Without much more thought about it, I headed home to shed my business clothes, pull up my hair and get ready to cut the grass by the road.
What a great way to start the season. Gosh, I can’t believe how great things were going.
I should have known better.
So what do you think? Let me know in the comments!
As a kid, I never wanted to be a superhero but I would have traded all my Barbies to be Nancy Drew. That love for mysteries and a total obsession with ghost stories is what led me to become a writer. I just love a mystery!
I'm a true blue Southern girl who loves living on the Gulf Coast. When I'm not playing the trumpet or hanging out with the people I love, I'm probably daydreaming.
It's really what I do best.