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The latest in Regge's series of Endless Mountains ghost stories is available on Amazon:

The Boy in the Toy Room: An Endless Mountains Ghost Story

Nora is haunted. She's haunted by the past, haunted by the future, and haunted by the boy in the toy room. Wanting desperately to fall back in love with her husband, Nora moves back to the country to work on building their dream home. Building dreams isn't easy, though: she'll have to fend off a drunken ex, contend with an interfering mother-in-law, and try to keep a battered rental house from falling down around her.

Meanwhile, someone has been breaking into the house, and her daughter's imaginary friend, the boy in the toy room, seems to be trying to burn the place down. While the men around her rage and bluster, it's Nora's job to hold things together and keep her daughter safe, whatever the cost. 

 

And don't forget Waking Up Dead: An Endless Mountains Ghost Story

If Deidra Shay had known she was dead, she might have made other choices -- but she didn't. When her best friend, Jesse, finds her body and is pulled away screaming and crying, Deidra follows her home and all hell breaks loose! Friends and family are pulled into a maze of love and sex, revenge and redemption as Jesse and Deidra struggle to figure out how to go on living after waking up dead. 

This is romance, a testimony to friendship, and one answer to what life might be like beyond the grave for both the person moving on and the people left behind.

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Old And Still Evolving

photo by Angela Episale

Someone once told me that, "To live is to dream; to dream is to live." As I get older people I've been young with and dreamed dreams with are falling, one by one, into a state of perpetual stillness. Dreams are scoffed at and put into "when I was young" and "before I knew better" categories. This is the blog of someone who hopes to never know better. It's the rambling of someone who should know who they are by now, and doesn't -- someone who is still evolving. 

 

Wednesday
Apr172013

Writing Romance 

I'm acting as editor for writer of Historical Romance, and was dismayed to see that she uses the old "can't control himself" excuse for grabbing someone and kissing them. The sex scene is also introduced by him getting so drunk he can't understand when she says, "Stop" and goes ahead anyway. Of course, she achieves not one, but two orgasms during this -- her first time -- and is only heartbroken that he walks away and regrets having ever been with her. 

I believe that women still want to sit and read a romance. I believe there is a place for this genre. I do not, however, believe that readers today want liasons to be the result of blind passion, and thus brutal and forced.  This is what I wrote to the author. I wish I had an editor for my own revision suggestions. Maybe a book needs two editors working together.

 

My comments to the writer:

 

Again, you have done great work on this book. I love that you've added more about ____, more about what _____ has to gain with marriage, and good descriptions about how people look and interact. As from the start, I really like _____. I especially like that you've added this first kiss.  That brings me to what I would like you to look at regarding the love scenes.

 

There was a time when women were not supposed to like sex. For that reason, women fantasized about being forced so they didn't have to feel the heroine was low-classed or bad, and thus they, the reader, didn't either. From that we got Dracula, being kidnapped by pirates, the big-bad-wolf, etc. John Wayne movies always had some scene where the woman was "tamed" by the big, strong cowboy, very much like Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Bullies and tough guys were heroes. Things have changed.

 

 

Seduction has replaced brute force. Many readers are turned off by big stupid guys who are overwhelmed by lust and forget themselves enough to molest and rape. Romance is a two-way street. Yes, forbidden love is still the driving force in romance novels, and you have set up all the right reasons for this romance to be impossible: money, other obligations, health problems, age,  social status, etc. Up to this point the reader is cheering for Niall to recognize that he is falling in love, and you've done that very well, step by step.

 

But he can't be a bully and be likable. He can't lose his mind as an excuse for bad behavior. Blind, uncontrolled force is no longer seductive. Women today want to be loved beyond reason. They want to be irresistible.  They want romance novels to fulfill their fantasies, and their fantasies have changed. Make him a desirable man who is out of reach, with looks, money, and power, but make him a good guy. Seduce her. Make the reader yearn.

 

Friday
Dec142012

The Difference Between Dictating and Being Dictated To: Merry Christmas

To all of you who are sad that you can't say "Merry Christmas": You can; you just don't have the right to insist that I say it, too. Okay? Actually, I say Merry Christmas at Christmas and Happy New Year at the end of the year, and Happy Thanksgiving in November. But if I am only going to see a person once during all three of those, or I am including everyone, no matter what they celebrate, or if I just feel the urge, I say "Happy Holidays," and mean it to cover all of the wonderful, loving, exciting, reflective events that come this time of year and all of the people I know and wish I knew. Now, why is it so wrong for me to say that? What? You are offended if I don't say what you want me to say? Stop accusing me of stopping YOU just because we don't express ourselves in the same manner! Believe me, you can say, "Merry Christmas" and I won't be offended; I'll even appreciate it -- until you start complaining because not everyone parrots you, that is. Then I won't like it so much, knowing the meaning is lost -- not on me, but on you.

 

Wednesday
Dec122012

The Grave Marker

I went to the cemetery to see if I could find Johnny. I read in the History of New Milford that during the Civil War and the years of the great fires, there were many, many people buried without their names being recorded in the cemetery records or engraved on their head stones. I thought that something (or hoped that someone -- particularly Johnny) would jump out at me. Somewhere in my mind I hoped that if I was looking for Johnny, who had been seen by so many other people, he would come looking for me. Maybe he did. Maybe the message I received that day was the message he wanted to send.

Financial and social status follows us to the grave -- literally.

I followed the road to the top of the New Milford Cemetery and parked. The cemetery was much larger than I had realized and my first thought was, "How will I know where to start?" As it turned out, that wasn't a problem. I walked down hill toward the corner closest to town and the first stone I read was dated in the 1800s.  The closer I got to the road, the older the graves, until I was at the bottom of the hill walking among stones that were marked as being dated to the Revolutionary War. And they weren't the oldest by any means.

What struck me was how many stones were legible, even though they dated back to the early to mid 1700s. And I was saddened to see many more stones in the same area were worn away or broken, unengraved or rendered illegible by time and nature. It seems that if you can afford high quality granite, the right polishing tools, and deep engraving, your name and life will be visable on your grave marker for hundreds of years. If, however, you can only afford local stone and a shallow engraving of your name, if any, your stone will break, your name will wear away, and eventually the grave may not be marked at all. 

I don't think it matters to me, but it may matter to others. It certainly seemed like a worth-while investment to certain families who had their graves all clustered together, registered the parents and each child as they passed, and paid for a stone that may well last into the future long after the graveyard itself has disappeared. 

I probably found Johnny's grave. There are small stones, appearing to never have been engraved at all, peppered throughout the area where other graves are dated 1700s and 1800s. You can see that they weren't engraved because the ones that carried names that have worn away still hold indentations the were once legible. Some of the thinnest markers have broken and are now piled where they once stood. It was a sobering experience.

There were other things I learned while walking through the cemetary. According to The History of New Milford, the Methodist church used to be located at or next to the cemetery. I looked but couldn't identify the exact site, unless it stood where an old foundation now serves as a garage for a neighboring house. I am not surprised that spirits who had ended their time as people and were buried without a name might feel disenfranchised when the church, the one place they had found to rest near, was taken away. I wonder how many other spirits felt disturbed when that symbol of their faith was removed. 

I read the stone of a woman who bore her one and only child when she was 40 years old. One year later the child died and within 5 days the mother, also passed. Her husband and the father of the baby lived considerably longer but there was no indication that he ever had another family, although he would have been young to be widowed. The three stones stand next to each other, still legible.

I found stones whose dates matched the Civil War, and others whose dates matched the dates of the great fires New Milford experienced in the 1800s. In that same area many unengraved stones, some whole, some broken, all small and blank, are common. I couldn't help but wonder how many belonged to war orphans who waited for fathers that never returned, or for fathers who returned too late and never found their children. How many were apprentices and nannies? How many had been placed in homes to be schooled in exchange for servial duties? How could I find Johnny, or any other child, among the blank pieces of stone? But he was there. He was seen by people driving near the cemetery and living in surrounding homes. He had played with neighborhood children in their bedrooms, curious about their toys, fearful of being caught there by adults. 

I was selling books and wine glasses when a woman started telling me about the haunted house she grew up in on Main Street. Excited, I asked if the ghost was a child. "No, the little boy lived a block down on the other side of the street. The ghost in my house was a woman." So, Johnny knew, or knows, more people than I realized. Johnny was and is very real. Maybe part of his active life-after-death is due to no one knowing who he is or who he was. Maybe an engraved stone would have made all the difference.

 

 

Saturday
May262012

FINDING JOHNNY

Whenever I do a reading or signing, I make the comment that my ghosts are real, but the story is fiction. Someone tells me about a ghost they have encountered -- who, what, when, and where. I go back at a later date and ask them to tell me again. They talk about what they saw, what they heard, what they felt, what they smelled. They tell me what they think the ghost's intentions are. An awful lot depends on the story teller's frame of mind at the time and the outcome of the experience. Some ghosts catch my imagination and my heart. Those are the ghosts I write about. They become main characters in my books. Lately I've been looking for Johnny.

I first heard about Johnny about 40 years ago. Even though I was told there were two child-ghosts in that house, I never could wrap my mind around the second boy. Johnny was so real to me that I kept forgettting there even was another one.

Johnny was six or seven years old; possibly a year or two older, but certainly not younger. He loved the toy room or he was trapped there; maybe a little of both. His favorite toy was a rocking horse which he generously shared.

He was afraid of fire and firemen, insisting to the children he played with that "the firemen burned down the new house." He liked to be included in the excitement of everyday life and was amazed by a firetruck speeding down the street with lights and sirens going, even if he was sure firemen burned down houses. I don't think he connected those firemen in the shiny red truck with his concept of firemen.

Johnny liked to sit at the table for meals, but especially for breakfast. His favorite food was pancakes. If the children came to the table and there wasn't a place set for Johnny, they insisted Johnny was sad.

He would fight with boys but not girls. There was one incident when a boy cousin fell down the stairs. When the adults rushed to him, asking him what had happened his answer was, "Johnny pushed me."

Johnny was so clearly visible to the children that they couldn't understand how adults couldn't see him. He could, however, create visible manifestations to communicate. For example, when he didn't want the children to leave the house with their mother, the children reported that their mom was "making Johnny angry," but when their mother got them dressed to go outside and tried to leave the children said that "the house doesn't want us to go." During that incident, the house really did insist no one leave, to the point of locking the doors and windows so the family couldn't get out. Fortunately, company arrived and opened the door from the outside. 

Johnny either didn't like the children's father, didn't like fighting between the parents, or didn't like being considered a figment of someone's imagination. Whatever it was that set him off, it was evidenced by strong wind, doors opening and slamming shut repeatedly, and drawers in the dresser opening and closing. If Johnny wanted to prove for a fact that he existed, he had enough power to make himself known.

At first I thought Johnny was alone in the house but other ghosts appeared to be present. Footsteps on the stairs and going down the hall were common. That presence felt masculine, but no one ever saw him. There was a woman who was seen coming into a room and taking a blanket off a sleeping child, folding it, and laying it across the foot of the crib, where it was found in the morning. As I said in the first paragraph, the children insisted there were two boys.

I suppose I have given away too much information on my second book, The Boy in the Toyroom: An Endless Mountains Ghost Story, but I started this article to discuss the process of identifying my ghost and thus being able to really get to know him well enough to write about him. The preceding paragraphs guided my search.

First I needed a time frame. New Milford was settled in the late 1700s. The first death and first person buried in the New Milford Cemetery was a 7 year old boy, but as much as I wanted him to be Johnny, he doesn't fit. He lived with his parents in a house that was little more than a lean-to, and would never have been exposed to firemen as there wasn't really a town at that point.

There was also a poor farm in New Milford called the Dix School, which existed from the Civil War until 1900. I was hoping it's history would offer a boy who could have been Johnny, but it turns out that the Poor Farm was outside of the actual town. They would never have placed a child that far away from the school.

New Milford had a series of fires which devasted large portions of the town at a time through out the 1800s. They had the first two story school building with graded classes in Susquehanna County but were the last borough to have a fire company. As a matter of fact, New Milford didn't have a hose company until 1893. Before that time, there had been major fires caused by sparks from the rail line, chimney creasote, and at one point, several set by an arsonist. A fire in 1867 took out a large portion of dwellings south of the bridge on the east side of Main Street -- the neighborhood where Johnny is so often seen.

I say he was seen often because there is my resource, there is the couple who encountered him, or someone who could have been him, in the road by the cemetery, and another person who lived in the area about 10 years later and tells of a young boy who would visit her boys. She had put her two sons to bed one night when she heard them talking. She heard her older son say, "It's okay. You can play with it," and assumed he was offering a toy to his younger brother. She opened the door with a firm, "What are you doing?" only to have her son sigh in exasperation. "Ah, Mom! You scared him away!" They told her there had been another child in the room who disappeared when she opened the door.

Cemetery records don't give me a boy who matches all of these details, but there is a note in the History of New Milford that indicates the records from the 1800s are far from complete due to the Civil War and the fires. Even the grave stones are often illegible, broken, or just missing because people couldn't afford to make them. Based on his fear of fire, his location, his lack of familiarity with modern firemen and fire trucks, and the wooden rocking horse which was the style of those constructed in the 1800s, I believe there is a very good chance Johnny died during the 1867 fire. His affinity for children and apparent wariness around adults makes me wonder if he was the son of strict parents or possibly a foundling being cared for by either the Methodist Church or the Congregational Church. Because a Methodist minister who rented the same house for a short period of time had such a bad experience he left within three months,I am going to speculate that Johnny might not be too fond of the Methodist Church. That church did have a school, also, and he could have gone there instead of the new community school that was only a block away. Also, servants, slaves, paupers, or foundlings were not always listed in the cemetery records, and frequently were buried in unmarked graves. Even those known and living with well-to-do families were frequently buried with only a first name and no date of birth or death written on the stone. For that reason it is easy to assume Johnny (he gives his name very clearly and I believe him) could have been an apprentice at the tannery, foundry, or wagon maker, placed there by the Methodist church, and provided room and board by the owners while serving his apprenticeship. It's easy to see him wondering about and craving time with children, fearing adults, loving toys, and in the end, fearing fire. It's even easy to imagine he could have seen the person who set that fire, possibly a fireman from the foundry who was disgruntled or simply loved fire.  

I may not have found that specific child, but I have found out a lot about him. I needed to get to know him a little better, see his world, understand when and how he lived. I've found the boy in the toy room, and now I can write the story.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Mar272012

Still Wanting a Glass Slipper

It's all well and good to be grown up and practical and realistic and individual and independent and self-actualized. And then sometimes one can't help but look at all of those fairy tales that didn't and won't come true and feel a little regretful and a lot cheated, and somehow like you sold out or gave up along the way.