Monthly Archives: January 2011

YES, CYNTHIA, THERE IS AN AFTERLIFE

Cyn arrives! I picked her up at Bradley Airport, and here we're toasting to a great week! July 13, 2010.

A friend and fellow writer Cynthia Wilson passed away in December.

To say that we were close would be an understatement; in a sense, I lost not just a friend, but a sister. We shared so many interests and passions that we were instantly drawn to each other: we were both witches. We were both writers. We both loved New Orleans jazz (and you can’t imagine how much time we burnt up the phone lines over every tiny development in HBO’s Tremé—I don’t know how I’m going to get through Season 2 without her!). We both loved good ghost stories, in print and in film. And we both spent a lot of time researching and discussing the paranormal—always wondering if there really was an afterlife. When I got the news of Cyn’s passing, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was like my soul had separated from my body, like I was looking down at myself. I had always thought I knew what heartbreak felt like until that moment.

I called Melissa, whom Cyn had met when she was up visiting us this past summer.  Melissa had talked to Cyn just two days before she’d passed away, and Melissa said she “said something very strange to me. She said, ‘if I die, I will find a way to be in touch with you and Krissi. I will give you proof of the afterlife.’”

If there’s anyone in the world that would find a way to do it, it would be Cyn.

At first, what she’d said weighed on me. But then I got distracted. People were posting on her Facebook page and addressing her in the present tense. Her blog was still there for me to go back and read. There were e-mails she’d sent me I hadn’t opened yet. And there were photos and videos of her visit that I hadn’t had time to sit down and look at or watch.

She was proving to me there was an afterlife—in a technological sense.

A person can, nowadays, continue to live forever in social media, photos, videos. We are incredibly lucky. I think back to the Victorian era, when photography was young and expensive, and so few families had any photos of their loved ones, any photos of their everyday lives. In fact, so few families could afford it that when the person died the entire family would stand around and pose with the corpse, just so they’d have a visual record that person existed. We are blessed today that we do not ever have to recall a person that way. We can go back and read that person’s blog or post things on their Facebook pages. We have photos of us alive and well. And we have videos. We can pop that disc into our TV or that card into our computers and there that person is, alive and well, like she isn’t gone.

It isn’t that these things can replace this person; the person’s absence has created an enormous hole in our lives that can’t possibly be permanently filled by a bunch of Facebook posts and photos. But for a few moments, the hole can be temporarily filled. All we really have to do is dream; all we really have to do is pull out the old photos of something fun we did together, or retell a great story about some crazy adventure we had with that person, or replay a video.

There are so many things Cyn did not get to finish, and so many things she’ll never get to do. But in the last year of her life, there were things she did get to do that she’d never done before. She came up to visit me in July, and she spent her days, while I was at work, whipping up some wonderful southern cuisine. She loved to cook, and she especially loved to cook for large groups of people. She had the time of her life in my kitchen cooking for all my friends with the New Orleans Jazz blasting from the stereo. And she got to go to New York City, someplace she’d always wanted to go and had never been. She was like a kid in a candy store. And since I spend a lot of time in New York and have gotten blasé about it, how refreshing it was to see the city through a child’s eyes.

So, yes, Cynthia, there is an afterlife. There is one where you are, and there is one here. You will live on for as long as I hold you in my heart, and as long as I share evidence of your existence with others.

And so, here is Cynthia Wilson in living color. Enjoy.

Cyn is cookin' up her awesome Jambalaya. July 14, 2010.

Video: Cyn talks Hot Sauce with Charles.

Video: Cyn confesses she wants to be locked in my local Shop Rite.

Video: Cyn discusses the state of bread in TexArcana.

Video: Cyn shares a funny story about TK, his friend, and Wonder Bread.

Video: “Anything good is five hours from me…”

Video: Cyn talks with Julia Copeland, our buddy from Goddard.

Video: Cyn dreams about moving to Connecticut and shows off her favorite cookbook.

Video: Cyn discusses her favorite cookbook in detail.

 

Cyn listens in as Nathan interviews Mick Doyle, of East Coast Paranormal Investigations in Dublin, Ireland, for The Ghostman & Demon Hunter Show via SKYPE.

Video: Nathan interviews Mick Doyle while Cyn listens in.

 

In New York City, July 15, 2010: Cyn is THRILLED for her first Subway ride. You would have thought we were in Walt Disney World.

We took Cyn to the Carnegie Deli. Here she celebrates with a beer.

Cyn takes a bite of her pastrami sandwich at the Carnegie Deli. She couldn't believe how enormous it was and insisted we take this picture to prove she could barely get her mouth around it (and, she said, "I always thought I had a big mouth. This just might prove me wrong!")

We were all hypnotized by this stupid giant billboard in Times Square. If you look to the lower left of the picture you'll see us.

There were NYPD officers in Times Square--just for the purpose of having their photos taken with tourists. Cynthia could not believe this. She took pictures of them so she could "prove to people back home that up in the North they have police officers whose whole job it is to just be nice." It was amusing. She didn't, curiously, want her photo taken WITH them.

I took Cyn to Newport, RI. Here we are clowning around in front of the building that was used as the house for the original Dark Shadows TV series -- it's now a dorm for Salve Regina. Photo courtesy Melissa Martin Ellis. July 17, 2010.

We walked into one of the Cliffwalk Mansions that was open. Cyn fell in love with this fireplace and wanted her photo taken with it.

Melissa and I take Cyn to experience a RI classic: Del's Lemonade.

July 18, 2010: Cyn made southern specialties for all of us -- Rob and Jen Mayette were coming over for dinner, and because Rob and Jen love NOLA food, well, Cyn just had to be all over that one. Here, we've set the table.

We're ready to sit down and eat! There was New Orleans Jazz blasting from the stereo.

Cyn brought some 'shine from Ireland. Here, she gets us all to try it. Rob pours the shots.

Rob does a shot!

Jen does a shot!

Cynthia, Rob, and me. Cyn was very excited to meet Rob--the editor of Read Short Fiction (which I work on, too). We published her story "Sunshine and Stones" as our March, 2010 feature. You can read that story, if you like, here: http://www.readshortfiction.com/2010/03/sunshine-and-stones-by-cynthia-wilson/

SKELETONS DONATED TO PARANORMAL CHARITY FUNDRAISER FEB 5

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve donated two copies of Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—Tales from Haunted Disney World to a paranormal charity fundraiser for Bella Tucker, a little girl who became extremely ill on Easter Sunday and is now facing a long, difficult recovery and not without significant hardship for her family.

The paranormal event will take place Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 3 p.m. at the Harley House in Lunenburg, Mass. Several paranormal personalities are pulling together for this event, among them Jeff and Shannon Sylvia from Ghost Hunters International and Paranormal State, Keith and Sandra Johnson of Ghost Hunters and Paranormal State, Brian Harnois, Dustin Pari, and Lisa Dowllaby, all of Ghost Hunters; author David Manch, and Mike Baker, director of 14 Degrees.

The evening will include presentations, face painting, raffles (I’m assuming Skeletons will be a raffle prize), and a ghost hunt; psychic medium Beckah Boyd and occultist Katie Boyd will be on hand. 100% of the proceeds will go to Bella Tucker and her family.

If you’d like more information about this event—tickets are quite reasonable, actually—you can visit http://www.pararockproductions.com/events.html

POUNDED IN PTOWN

The pile-up outside Toni's open door. Notice how the snow blew the drifts and left pieces of itself in the opening. Kind of cool.

Snow! While Ptown has had more than I’m used to (granted, I only have last winter to compare it to, so for all I know, this could really be normal), I’ve been spared Western Connecticut’s major pummeling that’s thrown many of my friends back home into states of depression and frustration. I’m going back there in a few days, so I know I’m due for my share, and I’m not looking forward to it.

Ptown’s portion of Wednesday’s whopper manifested itself as nothing short of a Nor’easter. The town had been buzzing about its severity for a couple of days, but it didn’t concern me much other than I knew to expect a very noisy, wind-crazy-inducing night. Toni, my neighbor, and I, had bought a few groceries, and had gone so far as to devise a loose plan: if the power went out, I was to come up to her apartment to sleep or hang out or whatever. There was no point, we figured, in a couple of suburban girls being separated in the pitch dark in a place so far from home.

A close-up of the snow lining Toni's door frame.

The storm moved in while I was on the phone with friends, and it was average wind and some rain—nothing I hadn’t really seen before in Ptown. At 10:20, I was getting ready to call it a night when I heard a thump against my bedroom door, a thump so hard the wall shook a little bit. I stopped brushing my teeth, and, heart pounding, went to go check it out.

An unmoving bird lay on the boards.

Now, you know me, I love to photograph dead birds. But for some reason this one spooked me to the point that any thought of taking a photo went completely out of my head (the next morning, I went to go find it, and it was gone). When I finally did go to bed, I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. I got very little sleep as the storm intensified. Pieces of things—sticks or God knows what else—kept hitting the bedroom window and waking me up; something someplace in the house was slamming so that the walls vibrated, the wind went from moaning to shrieking, and at 2:30, the lights dimmed and then popped back on.

I got up and rummaged in my pocketbook for the mini-Maglite Nathan had given me and told me never to be without. I put it and the phone by my bed.

At 2:45, the lights dimmed, popped on, dimmed again, popped back on. Outside, the wind screamed.

I heard a pop and crack, and then everything went dark, and the apartment heater whined to a stop.

I looked at my cell phone. 3:03 a.m.

Having been in one situation in Ptown in which the heat went out, I knew it wouldn’t be long before the place got really cold. I got up and changed into flannel PJs (most of mine are cotton, but I do own one flannel pair for just such an occasion), heavy socks, and called Toni, who didn’t pick up. I left her a message, told her the power was out, I was down in my apartment, and if she needed me call.

I’ve been camping, so I’m used to pitch dark. But there was something creepy about this dark, and I almost got the sense that something was outside at the door, trying to get in. The bedroom door creaked and groaned with every sweep of wind.

My cell phone rang and it scared the hell out of me.

“Kristi? Are you there?” It was Toni. “Oh my God it is so scary up here!” She’s on the third floor, but her apartment is all glass on the side that faces the ocean; she was getting the brunt of the wind.

I agreed with her, gathered some candles, a sweater, the cell phone, the camera and few other things—which despite my flashlight were really hard finding in the dark—and braved the storm.

Trying to the get my front door open to make the short trek from my place to hers was not easy—the wind practically slammed it against the wall and blew snow into my foyer. Making it up the stairs without literally being blown off them wasn’t easy either, and ice crystals kept stinging my eyes. When I did make it to her door, there was a large snow drift in front of it (which we found out the next morning wasn’t a snow drift at all—it was the screen and shorn off wood and metal from her screen door, which had flown open and broken in half). When I stepped inside, we both had to force her front door closed against the wind.

My front door. You can tell from the way it's covered with snow there was a whole lotta blowin' goin' on!

Toni's door at 3 a.m. And miles to go before I sleep...

We could not see outside Toni's door.

So, inside and warm, we decided to wait the outage. We took care of some necessary stuff first—running the cold water in her kitchen and bathroom sinks just to keep them from freezing, since I had no idea how exposed the pipes were and how long they could go without a consistent heat source; lighting candles, bringing pillows and blankets into the living room, since her bedroom had, shockingly quickly, become too cold to stay in. We talked about how terrified we both are of the pitch dark, and how all the screaming wind and things hitting the house made it worse, and how the staircase in her bedroom that lead only to a bolted door and nowhere else was a serious scare factor.

Video: There’s something slamming in the house and Toni’s windows are completely iced over.

Video: Stairs to Nowhere and Screaming Dead Things

Video: Hitting Windows and The Donner Party

Video: Avoiding frozen pipes.

But it wasn’t long before the air of terror dissipated. There was a certain magic that took over—like we were nine again and at a pajama party. We told spooky stories and shared girl talk, ate some crackers, and had a Tarot fest. At 4:30 a.m., the lights came back on…and, not ready to go back to bed, we turned them all off again and kept the party going.

We had some fun taking "ghost-like" pictures. Here's Toni.

Girl party! Candles and tarot cards...

What the hell is this creepy thing hanging from the ceiling? Toni said someone told her it was a good luck guardian for men who go to sea, but we both decided that it's just creepy. Period.

Spooky Kristi.

This is a night light in Toni's kitchen. It changes colors. But that's how we knew the power was coming back on--I spotted the red light. For me, it was creepy. I used to have a red night light in my room growing up--my parents had run out of clear bulbs and put in a Christmas bulb in a pinch--but it had terrified me. All I could think of was being thrown into a volcano and I couldn't sleep.

This may be one thing I’ll have to keep in mind. That amidst all the backbreaking work and hassle and everything else that accompanies repeated snowstorms, there may still be an opportunity for a little flashback fun here and there. A pajama party by the fire, a couple of snowball fights, ghost stories by candlelight, hot chocolate and cookies—these are winter’s small pleasures that we’ve forgotten. Taking time out to enjoy these things once a snowstorm just might get us New Englanders through the rest of the toughest winter we’ve had in a long time.

And now, to go call property management about that screen door.

The garden and parking lot, the next morning.

My bedroom window, the morning after.

My bedroom windows, iced over.

My kitchen window at 6 a.m.

Tony's digs the next morning.

I love how the snow piles up on the houses here. This is the Inn next door to us.

A close-up of the window at the Inn.

TONI’S BROKEN SCREEN DOOR

Video: Screen Door Damage.

BREAKING BIVALVES

“I don’t understand what happens up there. Every time you go up there windows break, animals die, walls fall into the sea.”

~ Nathan, on me in Ptown, 01/25/11

An urn of shells on the NMWC back porch.

Every time I come to the Mailer Center in Provincetown there is some new discovery I make, usually accidentally inspired by something in nature. The landscape, the way things work here has a certain magic, a magic that for me makes the veil between the natural world and the inner life incredibly thin.

One day I was working on a project at the Mailer house. I took a cigarette break, and for as many times as I’ve stood on the back porch I saw something I’d never noticed: several urns overflowed with oyster, clam, scallop, and mussel shells.

The NMWC admin came outside to say hello.

“These bowls are cool,” I said. “I’ve never seen them before. Are they new?”

“We pick them up from the deck,” he said. “Look.”

Sure enough, the porch was littered with bivalve shells.

Look closely -- you can see some of the scattered shells under the light dusting of snow.

“That’s the seagulls that do that,” he said.

All of my years working in two different aquariums, at one in the fishes and inverts department (of which bivalves are part), I’d never heard of this, much less seen it. “What do you mean?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Seagulls are smart. They drop the clams or whatever on the porch so they split open, and then they fly down and eat the meat and leave the shells. We just pick ’em up and chuck ’em in the bowls because we don’t know what to do with ’em all.”

I know seagulls are strong, but I was still amazed. Some of these shells indicated that their owners had been pretty large animals (a live oyster or clam can actually weigh quite a bit, you’d be surprised), and Norman’s porch being, obviously, a popular spot might mean the birds would have to carry some of these creatures several miles.

This struck me. As usual, I had come to Provincetown not just with piles of work to do and high hopes of getting it all done, but also with things to think about, understand, process, sort. In some cases, I realized, some of these issues went back as far as a couple of decades. Each of these things was a heavy bivalve I’d been carrying but had never been ready to let go, smash open, process, and finally, resolve.

I left the Mailer house that day with a new sense of what lie ahead of me beyond writing. I’ve spent the past week and half smashing open and digesting a lot of things—some not so tasty, some going down not the way I’d expected, others nourishing me in better ways than I’d have imagined.

Now the only thing I have to do is figure out what I’m going to do with the shells.

PARANORMAL, POE, AND GHOSTS IN DISNEY ON THE INVISIBLE WORLD

In October, I was featured on Frank Todaro’s Paranormal Internet Radio Show The Invisible World.

Recently, people have been dropping me e-mails asking me where they can find it. I looked back through my posts and realized I’d never posted the re-play, so here it is!

The Invisible World explores paranormal news and features guests discussing all that’s happening in the paranormal—be it UFO sightings, cryptids, ghosts and hauntings, conspiracies, and much more. Frank features guests from all walks: writers, investigators, psychics, and paranormal celebrities. The hour-long show is always entertaining and features psychic Lady Fontaine as well.

Support Frank and head on over to The Invisible World at www.blogtalkradio.com/theinvisibleworld and check out Episode 33—you can play it right from his page. Extra bonus? Nathan is featured on Episode 31. Or…you can just click & listen below!

KrissiInvisibleWorld10-10

RHODES REVIEW NOTES SKELETONS

 

Rick at Rhodes Review gave Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole a nice blurb! You can check it out here: http://rhodesreview.com/?p=1971

 

ECLECTIC FLASH BEST OF 2010, FEATURING MY “SHELL GAME,” NOW IN PRINT & FILE DOWNLOAD

Life still a little too fast for you even though the Holidays are over? I know it is for me, and it’s hard to cram in all my reading. If you’re looking for something short, sweet, and on-the-go, consider Eclectic Flash’s The Best of 2010 anthology, which contains my short (very short) piece “Shell Game.”

Hey, you can use them as an excuse to take a quick break from snow shoveling, right?

In Print:

http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/eclectic-flash-the-best-of-2010/14419666

Downloadable Copy:

http://www.lulu.com/product/file-download/eclectic-flash-the-best-of-2010/14419667

NEED TO RE-TREAD YOUR RESOLUTION? CHECK THIS OUT AT READ SHORT FICTION

So…how are you doing with your New Year’s Resolution(s)? Plugging away? Struggling? Or have you given up already?

Joseph Auslander’s  “A Goal for Goals” at Read Short Fiction just might put what you’re up against into perspective—or give you that “oomph” you need.

This story quite literally cracked me up when I read it, and I remember thinking I hadn’t read anything this outrageous, clever, and funny in a long time. And yet, in a very scary way, I also identified with this character—I found this piece an excellent example of how an exaggerated character in a story can absolutely work. There’s a little bit of this guy in all of us, probably, whether we want to admit it or not, and he’s one I won’t be forgetting any time soon.

Check it out at

http://www.readshortfiction.com/2011/01/a-goal-for-goals-by-joseph-auslander-jr/

WINNERS OF THE BLESS THEIR HEARTS MOM SKELETONS GIVEAWAY!

Congratulations to the winners of the Bless Their Hearts Mom Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole Giveaway:

Kayla Justice of Kansas

Wanda Bergmann of Canada

Each received a copy of Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole with limited-edition postcards.

To learn more about Bless Their Hearts Mom and check out her other giveaways, visit here:

http://www.blesstheirheartsmom.blogspot.com/

SLEEPING BEAUTY

The giant dune that made me think about hibernation.

Another view of the dunes from Route 6. I'm very close to the turn for Provincetown here.

Every time I come to Ptown the landscape inspires a revelation. This time, when I first saw the snow-covered dunes along Route 6—one giant one in particular that reminded me of a great bear—and all of the beautiful bare trees and gardens that surround the apartment in which I’ll be staying for two weeks, I thought about the nature of winter.

I’ve always tended to think of winter as a dead time, but it isn’t, really. Everything is just asleep—the trees, the gardens, the seasonal inns. And everywhere there are small signs of awakening: birds chirping, fences and brickwork being repaired, porches being swept.

Here are pix of this January’s Ptown writing spot. Enjoy!

The exterior of the house. The large window in the front is the one in my bedroom.

My key and welcome kit.

One of those great No Vacancy signs on Bradford Stree, which is what I use as a landmark for the turn into my parking area. I think this is for the place next door, but I'm not sure.

The parking area.

The path next to the garden that leads to the house.

The garden gate.

The door to the laundry room.

The path continues between the houses and out to the front yard.

This is my porch.

A view of the walkway that leads to my porch.

The stairs to reach the 2nd and 3rd floor apartments.

The first flight of stairs takes you to my apartment, which is on the 2nd floor.

The front door to my apartment.

The walkway that runs the length of the apartment and ends in a very small porch.

The porch.

The porch has a separate access from my bedroom, which is convenient at the moment since there's a patch of snow (rapidly melting) between the front door and the porch.

This plant sits on the porch's built-in bench. I have no idea what kind of plant it is, or if it's a kind that really isn't dead but will come back (somehow I doubt that), but I love looking at it because it's so Poe-esque.

I love the vines everywhere.

Inside the front door. There is a small "foyer," so to speak.

When I'm working at the nook table, this is the view out the window and door. I love the branches. I'd swear I've used "skeletal branches" in my stories so many times it's not even funny.

The view out the small window to the left of the door if you look directly out of it.

A view of the small "foyer" and bedroom. I really love the yin-yang fish scroll on the wall.

Entering the bedroom.

What I consider this place's showpiece--the gorgeous bedroom window.

There is a very small window to the left as you walk into the bedroom. Here's the view out that window.

Exiting the bedroom door to the small porch.

The full view out the bedroom window. I love the light. Once I bed down for the night I open the curtains so I can enjoy the dawn.

The view out the top window.

Another view out the bedroom window.

This is the garden - I can see it out my bedroom window.

The bedroom ceiling. Some features here remind me of the house I grew up in. My Dad would've loved this place.

The bedroom wardrobe and a view around the corner to the bedroom nook.

The bedroom nook.

The sunrise through the bedroom nook's window.

This is the view of the large window reflected in the bedroom nook's mirror.

The closet. This place has a great deal of storage space.

Exiting the bedroom and a view through to the main living area.

The living area.

View out the living room window.

A view of the living area. I'm standing in the kitchen nook. The beams run through to the bedroom.

This interesting piece of art is perched on the wall at the bedroom end of the apartment.

A view of the eating area and the kitchen.

The eating area. Sometimes I work here.

A view out the eating area window.

The kitchen and bathroom.

The kitchen. It's the most comfortable one to work in I've had up here so far.

View out the kitchen window.

The kitchen skylight.

Time to celebrate!

The winter moon through the kitchen skylight.

This sun is perched on the wall between the kitchen and bathroom.

This is on the wall between the kitchen and the bathroom.

The bathroom.

A candle holder on the bathroom wall.

Stepping out of the bathroom. This bureau is where I have my stereo set up.

View out the window next to the bureau--we're looking here at the underside of the steps that go to the third floor.

Morning coffee.

One of my two workspaces. The other is at the table.

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