Sunday, September 28, 2014

#Ghost #Investigation of Virginia City, MT, Courthouse

Our #ghost #investigation of the Virginia City, MT, courthouse was a great success, plus we managed to visit and investigate several hotspots in this very haunted frontier mining town. Our team included two savvy locals, "Moonbeam Aboc" (not her real name) and Fonda Porterfield. And a shout-out to the Madison County Sheriff's Office, who gave us permission to investigate the courthouse premises.

Here are highlights:
The Courthouse
Built in 1876, site of many hangings on the front steps, disturbed by earthquakes and major fires several times.
Notable events in the investigation:
  • Interviewed several deputies and dispatch staff,  who recounted repeated paranormal activities, including footsteps, clanging and knocking, unexplained disruption of CTV during many of these events -- and turned-over pews (all of them) in courtroom in middle of night minutes after janitor cleaned room.
  • Staked out the old jail, *still* in use as holding cells, and recorded several pics with clear orbs (a first
    three pics of similar orbs
    for us), with Spirit Box confirmations describing our ongoing, on-site activity ("film," "videotape" as well as "floodlights" both when we turned on and turned off such lights, plus repeated references to "fire," burning," "flame").
  • Staked out courtroom, where many reports of apparitions and footsteps on the adjoining empty stairwell (multiple Spirit Box confirmations of the words "stairwell" and "staircase").
  • Baseline EMF readings in 150-200 mG would spike to 2,000 mG (holding cells) and 4,000 mG (courtroom) and then disappear, and tripled readings (200 --> 700 mG) on approaching line on courthouse steps where many hanging executions occurred.
  •  Two interesting EVPs, one a whispered voice that name "Moonbeam's" real name, and another was unintelligible but clearly human voices in the holding cells (still under analysis).
note "ghost ropes"
The Hanging Building
 Site of multiple lynching incident by the notorious Vigilantes of Montana in 1864.

  • Team member "Moombeam" snapped two cellphone pics back to back, first having ghost "ropes" hanging from hanging beam, second taken seconds later revealing no such thing.

morgue niche
 The Wells Fargo Steakhouse
Underneath the current premises was the original city morgue, where deceased individuals were stored in wintertime, pending enough ground thaw to bury. In same basement are reports of the well-known though enigmatic ghost of "Angry Dan."
  • Spirit Box immediately announced "Daniel" as we approached hotspot traditionally associated with "Angry Dan."

 We're still running through video footage of the investigation, but all in all, an interesting on-site experience.

The locals reported to us many paranormal anomalies as well as apparition sightings -- all events that continue to occur into the present throughout this very haunted town.

Watch for our accounts of haunted hotels of Western Colorado for the new book, beginning the second week of October. Updates on Facebook, and you can "join in" during our actual on-site investigations by following us on Twitter @writeinthethick.

On we go!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Accounts from our personal #X-Files: Living in a #Haunted House

Our latest project, investigating and writing about haunted hotels, seems a natural enough extension to our earlier experiences -- writing paranormal comedy-adventure novels. (Not to mention our involvement with the Mutual UFO Network as field investigators.)

But there's a personal side to our experience we've never shared: We lived in a haunted house for nine years.

We'd rented a 900-square-foot, two-story log cabin, which sat on ground that was the first site occupied by the frontier mining and ranching community of Doyleville, Colo. Nowadays, the only remaining evidence of that settlement are a few foundations, the original stage stop (now a storage shed), and the berm that supported the 1800s narrow-gauge railroad tracks.

A hundred years ago, most of the bustling little "town" of 2,000 residents consisted of haphazard assemblies of tents with occasional wooden false storefronts for local commerce. These days, Doyleville is a ranching community of around three dozen families scattered over a hundred square miles.

Only after our family (two adults, two little girls) had been in the two-bedroom cabin for a couple years did a neighbor mention that the first burial was on our place -- an unmarked grave. Interesting to us, but more as a historical curiosity.

It wasn't until one night, when Kym asked Mark to go downstairs and retrieve a pop from the fridge and learned he didn't want to go down the stairwell, that the two of them talked about how both sensed that spot in the house was, well, ... creepy. In fact, we both had noticed it since we'd moved in but felt too silly to mention to the other.

We shrugged it off, even laughed about our separate if coincidental impressions. But then our girls mentioned they'd each seen a man dressed in old-time clothes in the hallway near the stairwell -- and why they didn't like to go to the bathroom down that hall in the middle of the night.

That seemed a bit much for a coincidence.

On two occasions, different friends came to visit (each later confessed they were "sensitive" to paranormal phenomena) and each told us there was something in the stairwell -- a presence. One of these friends refused to come inside the cabin. In both instances, we hadn't mentioned previously our "in-house" secret.

It was time to clear the air, in a manner of speaking. So one evening we sat in the stairwell  and had a little chat with our extra resident, suggesting we all try to get along since we were all, ahem, living under the same roof. That seemed to do the trick. We felt better about it, and neither of us minded going down the stairs after that.

Did the feeling of a presence go away? No. It just felt less creepy. And by then we quit worrying about the pranks that continued to happen -- lights going on and off, the satellite TV changing channels, the water facets turning on and off. (Did we mention? The cabin wasn't old; it was built as a summer retreat just a few years prior and turned into a rental. So no old and creaky plumbing, etc.)

One odd thing that happened, though, occurred when we returned from a three-day trip. Our downstairs had a half-bath/laundry room: just a shallow sink, a toilet, and a washer/dryer. We kept the cat box on the far  side of the dryer and well away from the sink, and Kym emptied the spoiled litter into a garbage bag, returning half a minute later with fresh litter. She found the emptied cat box full of water. But the cat box was too large to fit under the faucet in that narrow little sink. No way any of us could have done the deed in so short a time.

Cute trick, Mr. Ghost.

Eventually, we needed more than two household bedrooms as the girls grew up, and we moved, not once mentioning our extra resident to the landlord.

We later learned the next two consecutive tenants lasted only six months each, and each complaining that the cabin was haunted. One even walked away from a lease and had to keep paying not to live there. In neither case had either of the tenants heard about the resident ghost ahead of time.

Finally, the landlord retired and moved in. But his wife wouldn't stay there -- too many odd and creepy things going on for an idyllic retirement, we guess.

We moved out 17 years ago, but the experience gave us an open mind. Or at least a greater level of tolerance for unannounced roommates.

In some ways, we're kind of surprised it's taken us this long to bring our journalistic talents to bear on a book about ghosts.

But here we are now: researching, investigating, and writing about ghosts. Other people's ghosts.

You can join us on our next investigation -- the notoriously haunted courthouse in the frontier mining town of Virginia City, MT, along with a stop down the street at the old morgue under a current restaurant -- by following us on Twitter. We'll be live-tweeting these and all our visits over the next few weeks.

Check for updates at our Facebook postings and Twitter feeds about the when and where.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Live-tweeting the ghost investigations for our latest book

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As we announced in our previous post, our current work-in-progress has moved from research for a new paranormal fiction (Silverville Saga, #4) and into its own nonfiction book.

But we had no idea how deep those waters were becoming.

 * * *
First, though, this is the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop, hosted by our incomparable Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh (thanks, Cap'n!), postings shared on the first Wednesday of every month by a host of conspiratorial scribblers:

"Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

* * *
Now back to the promised topic:

Live-Tweeting our Ghost Investigations

You could say we live in an ideal writers retreat -- 30 miles from the nearest town (pop. 5,000), surrounded on three sides by Colorado high country public land, and only three dozen families in the hundred square miles around us.

One irony is that our kids grew up thinking we lived in a really boring place. Sure they could go horseback riding, hiking, mountain-biking, or cross-country skiing -- all from our backdoor. But that was nothing special to them because it was all they knew. And they certainly didn't realize we had spent years getting to a point where we could call this home.

Another irony is that, although it's a great place to live and write, it's so isolated it makes book promotion a
logistical challenge. Once you get past the four bookstores within 60 miles, it's hundreds of miles to get to a population density with a demographic that supports much readership. And even then, plane connections to conferences or guest appearances from our place are a nightmare.

(We know, we know -- poor little us to be "trapped" in such a terrible place!)

Our promotional solution: we decided to embrace social media to expand our platform and reach, and with  ,vengeance. The plunged into this blog, our WebsiteFacebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google-Plus, and Goodreads as well as blog hops and tours (thank you, generous hosts!) and all the links to these various venues through our assorted author and product pages -- plus all the interconnecting RSS feeds we could muster (no telling which of the above platforms you used to reach this posting!)

But we're still just two tiny voices amid the clamoring social media throngs of other authors -- despite the accolades and awards our books have garnered.

So, back to the "deep waters" we mentioned at the beginning. Plunging once again into the deep waters of a new form of promotion, we're taking a close look at using Twitter. Since our latest project is a nonfiction of sorts -- a travelogue on haunted hotels in our region -- our newest initiative is to try live-tweeting our investigations. (Even though we early on set up a Twitter account, we soon ran out of interesting tweets while laboring away composing our fiction -- BORING!)

We've finally taken Twitter seriously, and we're hoping the nature of this project will be fun for our followers if they get to "join us" during the actual investigations. Now it's a matter of honing our thoughts into 140 character posts. And trying to find suitable Wi-Fi connections in some of the remote places we'll be visiting in coming weeks.

Wish us luck, and join us if you care, to see what ghosts we can "scare" up -- or vice versa.

Our Twitter feed is @WriteintheThick

Monday, August 25, 2014

Write in the Thick takes on the X-Files

Our lives are starting to feel like episodes of the X-Files -- minus the guns.

It all started with our investigations into UFOs as research for the first book in the Silverville Saga, Little Greed Men. Like any serious writers, we jumped into that research with a vengeance, taking the training and becoming field investigators for MUFON to see firsthand what motivates people to believe.

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

It quickly became apparent that the roles we assumed even mimicked Mulder and Scully. Mark definitely fit the bill for an "I Want to Believe" investigator, while Kym maintained the distance of a rational skeptic. In the 35 or so field investigations we've now conducted, we've come across our share of the inexplicable as well as the expected stonewalling by assorted government officials (who were nonetheless polite if not exactly helpful, we might add).

But we've also we've been able to determine less-than-extraterrestrial solutions for most of the sightings and encounters we looked into: weather balloons, mis-ID'd stars or meteors, sightings of the International Space Station, etc. Definitely the sorts of explanations that wouldn't have made for compelling X-Files episodes.

Over the past couple of years, we've nonetheless interviewed folks who make extraordinary claims and even some who produce intriguing (though not conclusive) evidence for events that defy rationale explanation.

All of these activities have tended to move Mark closer toward Scully and Kym not as far from Mulder . Let's just say we're now both optimistic skeptics.

So it comes as little surprise to us that our latest writing project, which is all about hauntings, has plunged us into a whole other realm of the paranormal. It began as research into the fourth book for the Silverville Saga series, but now it's taken on a life of its own, and its own "nonfiction" book.

And we feel like we're back in the X-Files once again.

We've decided to use our blog for this WIP to report excerpts from our findings and experiences as we research and investigate. Why not share the fun and the perplexing?

Stay tuned ...

[cue X-Files theme song and fade]

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Our newest book project, a paranormal "nonfiction"

We used to be more skeptical about the supernatural -- at least, we were before we lived in a haunted house for nine years. Because we can't explain the many creepy events that occurred in that old two-story log cabin, our time there managed to make us a bit more open-minded to paranormal possibilities.

It's also the reason we agreed to make our next book a sort of "nonfiction" for our publisher, Raspberry Creek Books.

We were having dinner with press owner Larry Meredith and his wife Alice last fall, and conversation naturally turned to the paranormal since our whole Silverville Saga series is paranormal fantasy. It took a couple glasses of wine before we confessed our experiences with the ghost who inhabited our former home, and we mentioned we'd always planned to write a book about such encounters (well, maybe others' rather than our own) but just hadn't gotten around to it.

A week later, Larry contacted us with a proposition we change gears and write that book for his press. Writerly sluts that we are, of course we said yes.

The book we decided on is a travelogue of haunted hotels in Western Colorado. And we just conducted our first on-site investigation and "stake-out."

After all, we've been both free-lance and staff journalists for years. Plus we'd received additional forensic training when we became field investigators for MUFON (another story altogether). So here was a chance to apply our trade craft to a whole other realm, so to speak. First, we spent weeks researching locales in the region with a history of anomalous incidents and developed a list of candidates for the project. Then we narrowed it down to 13 (of course) sites we wanted to visit. Finally, we started making contacts and setting up appointments.

Last weekend, we finally started the field research, visiting our first haunted hotel, the hundred-year-old Bross Hotel, Bed and Breakfast in Paonia, which is about three hours away.

We showed up with an assortment of recorders, still cameras, videocams, EM meters and, something new, our "spirit box." (The theory is that ghosts can use words transmitted over the airways, and the spirit box continuously scans frequencies to record and capture random words that are manipulated by the other-worldly as a means of communication. What a great toy -- er, tool.)

We conducted interviews (with the Innkeeper as well as purported inivisible occupants), collected accounts from former visitors, and then staked out the (in)famous bedroom in the hotel.

Was it scary? No. (Maybe because we spent so much time setting up gear and taking various readings.)

Did we come away with a paranormal experience. Actually, yes, several. (Which was a relief: What if you gave a party and no ghosts came?)

Did those experiences prove the existence of the paranormal? Maybe, maybe not. That wasn't the point: We're not trying to be ghostbusters; we're writing a "nonfiction" book about haunted hotels!

Let's just say we're still optimistic skeptics. Besides, we're still having fun as writers.

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

IWSG - "Channeling" your characters

To visit other IWSG postings, click here
Even as children, we were bossy: We were both eldest children and used to ordering around our younger siblings.

But somehow that doesn't work with our characters, who somehow manage to develop minds of their own when we get to know them.

 * * *
First, though, this is the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop, hosted by our incomparable Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh (thanks, Cap'n!), postings shared on the first Wednesday of every month by a host of conspiratorial scribblers:

"Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

* * *
Now back to the promised topic:

Channeling Your Characters

The first week of June we completed the third in a once-a-month three-part guest series for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) blog, and we chose the topic of collaborative writing -- something we're always asked about when we do readings.

If you've visited our blog before (or gone to one of our readings), you already know the answer to how we write: We compose at the same time in front of the keyboard. (Since we use Mark's laptop and Kym hates the cursor touch pad, Mark keys in most of the story, which has led him to claim that he "writes" all of the novels -- technically true, but not a popular answer in Kym's eyes.)

Although our guest series covered many strategies to think about if authors want to collaborate on projects, we ended the piece straying onto the topic of how our characters usually take over our stories. Even though we've learned that we play nice together as collabowriters, our innate bossiness still marches to the front when it comes to letting someone else make suggestions.

What "write" do our characters have to tell us what to do? After all, they get the starring roles and deliver all the best lines. But the deeper we get into a tale, the more  they insist on where the story should go and -- the biggest affront of all -- often object to what we propose they do and say.

Talk about Frankenstein creations!

It took us a long time to learn we'd better curb our sarcasm when our characters come to the table with an alternative plan. (We'd never let on to them, but on the QT we're confessing to you that their ideas are always better. And when we ignore them, the stories are never as good.)

Okay, before you write us off as hoodoo practitioners, let's clarify how we've decided this actually makes sense -- even to our rational minds.

It's no secret the key to a good story is great characters. We seldom read a book or watch a movie where we say two weeks later, "Wow! What a great plot." But we often find ourselves entranced by well developed characters, returning again and again to discuss what made them so memorable.

That's the reason, of course, why authors spend so much time developing (hopefully) good characters, and learning to get to know them.

In our own experience, we don't really know them well until we're about halfway into a novel. By then, it's easy to finish the story because, no matter what we throw at them, they tell us how they'd react and how they'd grapple with the problems we devise. In some ways it takes a lot of pressure off us. Hey, don't blame the authors -- we were just writing what we were told.

Guess we should come clean and admit we'd still rather be in charge. But just because we're authors doesn't mean we're stupid. We know who we'd better listen to if we want stories someone else will want to read.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Writing, a *Taxing* Avocation -- Not!

In our profile, we write, "By day, Kym is a graphic artist, Mark a teacher. By night, we're caped crusa-- er, we're writers." And that's the way we like it.

We like the security of a paycheck, and it somehow helps the creative juices flow better when they're not submerged beneath the current of *needing* to make a buck through our writing

That doesn't mean we don't take our writing seriously -- particularly during tax time, which we've just finished preparing this past month as conscientious citizens in the US of A. Gotta play by the rules: We register our name, "Write in the Thick of Things," as an official entity, have letterhead stationary, biz cards, and all the other formal accoutrements. Plus, we maintain the requisite faces on blog, Twitter,  Facebook, and Goodreads -- all to legitimize our status, our alter egos.

Like any serious writers, we also cull through our receipts to find anything we can declare that has a bearing on our writing business for possible tax deductions. And just having finished that little exercise, we realize just how much fun we're having as avocational authors.

For the Silverville Saga Series, we wrote various scenes that take place in New York City, in the Yucatan, in Berlin -- not mention in Silverville. But the fun part was visiting those locales and consequently making those trips -- you guessed it -- largely tax-deductable.

And don't get us started on our book-buying expenses -- er, deductions. We almost (again, almost) feel guilty for calling our reading habits "research" expense. But we do. We never crack a book or touch-flip a screen (and how about those e-readers!) without adding our books to the tally. After all, ya gotta stay on top of the trends -- especially the escapist literature trends.

But there's other legitimate research we engage in to enhance our literary flourishes. Since a number of our (own) books involve either express or implied extra-terrestrials, we decided to embrace that culture, becoming trained Field Investigators for MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network). Okay, we've taken that job to heart and we never divulge confidences or specific accounts from our investigations, but we nonetheless use those investigations to fuel insights that range from bizarre sightings to the (sometimes) bizarre personalities involved in many such "encounters." Hey, it's all research for our writing.

And we don't stop there. Our deductibles have amassed inside categories that include telescopes, forensic tools, training seminars, field investigation expenses, training conferences, and trips to interview witnesses or investigate sites.

And yep, you better believe we make sure it's all on our little itemized expenses ledger under the title of "writing business research."

Our latest two writing projects have moved us in an entirely new direction involving the paranormal: ghostly apparitions: The fourth book in the Silverville Saga is a ghost story, but along the way, we've decided to work on a travelogue of area haunted hotels for our publisher. We're capturing two ghosts for the price of one research project.

Can't wait to start adding up the deductibles for the cool ghost-busting gadgets we're gonna start collecting!