Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A SOUTHERN HAUNTING: True Hauntings of the South

There are a million reasons why someone might want to come to the south and a million things to do, see and experience while you are here. There are beautiful cities, rich, wonderful foods and historical buildings and sites that mark major turning points in the history of the United States, but NOTHING seems quite as intriguing as the South’s deep rooted love and connection with… ghost stories.
I have been asked dozens of questions about living in the south from the far-fetched (Do you have indoor plumbing?) To the truly absurd (Do you fry everything you eat?) In case you are curious, I do have indoor plumbing and don’t actually know anyone who still uses an outhouse. I don’t fry everything I cook, but if I could, I just might! The one question I have never been asked is, ‘Are there really that many haunted houses in the south?’ My answer to this would be a resounding… YES!!!
For the next several months I will be tackling as many of the local haunts as I can and delving deeply into their past to see just what we can uncover. For some of my visits I will be interviewing owners, curators and even those who believe they have seen a ghost in these famous or not so famous haunted places. I will also be sneaking out and trying to get a glimpse of these spectral beings and the properties they haunt and even snapping a photo or two to get you, the reader, a little closer to the south; a little closer to the place I call home.
I set out to find as many haunted houses or buildings as I could and then narrowed it down to the ones with documented sightings. These included any photos of full bodied apparitions or unexplained orbs, any EVP’s that were taken with clear disembodied voices and of course, any homes or buildings that are on the National Historic Registry and are open at any time for tours based on their individual hauntings. What I found was mind blowing. In Columbus, Mississippi (the town where I was raised) there are five documented cases of hauntings within private residents and ALL are available for tours in the early spring months and are registered as landmarks. My whole life I knew of only one, Waverly Mansion, and now I find four more have been there all along just under my nose.
I could write for days and never come close to a complete listing of every haunt that I was able to find just in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia & Louisiana! So, I have decided to find the ones that I hold particularly near and dear in my heart and share them with you.
Just down the road from my current home in Alabama is a very famous haunt that boasts an extremely interesting story to go along with its very long history.
Pickens County courthouse is located in Carrolton, Alabama in Courthouse Square. Easily one of the more famous haunted buildings from this area, the courthouse has seen its share of Ghost Hunters and ghost investigations. With a little digging on the Internet you can come across a ton of information as well as some pretty incredible EVP’s (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) that are available from the investigations that took place there.
The Pickens County Courthouse has a long history dating back to the early 1800’s, but it would be November 16, 1876 that would change the town and add a harrowing twist to the courthouse’s history. It was on this date that the Courthouse burned to the ground for the second time. The first burning had come at the hands of Union Army soldiers during the chaos of the American Civil War. Carrolton Courthouse was the pride of Pickens County during those years mostly because it had been rebuilt during the Reconstruction Era, a time when money and resources were scarce for all Americans. The locals became so outraged at the second burning of their beloved courthouse that they set out for some swift justice of their own. Although nothing was ever proven, the local people believed that a hooligan by the name of Henry Wells was the perpetrator of the heinous crime.
Henry Wells was never given the opportunity to plead his case in court… his would be a much more malevolent and infamous type of justice. As a black man during a very tumultuous time in our nation’s history, a time when racism was rampant, Henry Wells quickly became an easy target. He was accused of burning down the courthouse and was arrested two years later in 1878 and charged with arson, burglary, carrying a concealed weapon and assault with intent to murder. He was whisked away and taken to the brand new jailhouse located inside the newly re-constructed courthouse. When word of his whereabouts spread, an angry mob was assembled and made their way to the courthouse.
As the mob assembled at the base of the courthouse steps, Wells became afraid and (as the story goes) it was then that he began to shout: “I am innocent. If you kill me, I’m going to haunt you for the rest of your lives.” Just as they were about to break through the doors and drag Wells from the courthouse, lightning struck and Wells was killed instantly. What remained behind was a permanent imprint of Wells face etched into the windowpane in the room where he stood as he died that night.
No one in the town noticed the window until daylight broke and it was then, while walking past the courthouse steps, that locals looked up and saw the haunting image of Henry Wells looking down over Carrolton, Alabama.

That same piece of glass is still in the window to this day and no amount of washing, scraping or the passage of time can remove the stain.
If you go to the courthouse in Carrolton you will find an old historical marker which reads:

If you walk just a few yards from that sign you will find a magnifying viewer that points to a lone window on the courthouse and for twenty-five cents, you can get a close up look into the face of Henry Wells.

Just remember, if you are ever in these neck of the woods, be sure to bring your camera and maybe, just maybe you might get a glimpse of this Sothern Ghost.
By: CK Webb

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

WRITING A SERIES by: Kara Lennox

A BIG, HUGE thank you to Kara for taking the time out of her busy writing schedule to share a wonderful post on writing a series. You can pick up a copy of Kara's book TODAY and you can also leave any comments or questions you have for her at the bottom of her post.

There’s no doubt readers love connected books. They become invested in a certain world and eagerly await each new installment. It’s fun to revisit the heroes and heroines of former books, like spending time with old friends, and to anticipate the romances between characters you know you’ll see starring in future books.

But writing a connected series is harder than it looks. It takes more than simply moving characters from one story to another. You have to plan, from the very beginning, where the series is going, and you have to plot at least three books ahead so that you can set up the stories you want to tell in future books. For example, you can introduce the hero and heroine for Book Two in Book One as secondary characters and show how sparks fly between them so readers are anxious to pick up that next book. Or, you can set up a mystery that carries over several books.

You also have to keep track of all the people, their ages and descriptions, the locations, and you have to establish a time line so if a character is pregnant in Book #2, you know how old the baby is in Book #5. You think you’ll remember, but you won’t. If you don’t keep track of the details, they’ll come back to bite you. I have the floor of an office building lobby as marble in one book, and wood in another. Dang it! (Now I keep a detailed “series bible” with descriptions of characters and settings, time lines, etc.)

Before I started Project Justice, my ongoing romantic suspense series for Harlequin Super Romance, I’d written several trilogies. I at first envisioned Project Justice as stopping at three books. So I created three heroes and three heroines, setting up a mystery that would carry over for all three books, and planting hints in Book One for the romance in Book Two, etc.

Then, after all three books were turned in, my editor said she wanted three more in the series.

I was jumping up and down with excitement … at first. This was the first time any editor had wanted more of a series from me. But then I realized that I hadn’t set up anyone else to star in their own books. I had to hustle up some heroes and heroines from the existing cast of characters to populate the new trilogy.

Book #4, which is the one that came out this month, Outside the Law, wasn’t so hard. I already had introduced an evidence analyst from the lab in previous books and hinted that she might have the hots for a Cajun computer hacker, so it seemed natural to give them their own story. For Book #5, I still had Billy Cantu in my back pocket. He was one of the Project Justice investigators mentioned in passing in the earlier books. So I gave him a larger role in Book #4, and a starring role in the next book. I paired him with another minor character, a consulting psychologist who had appeared only in one scene, in the first book.

But, Book #6 had me stumped. Who was left?

Then, inspiration struck. The billionaire hero of Book #3 had a personal assistant, Jillian, who had appeared in every book. The problem was … she was a bit of a pill. She tried to break up her boss’s romance, and at one point she was even suspected of trying to kill someone. But I liked her; she was flawed, but real and fully formed in my mind. I just had to find a way to make her sympathetic and show that she was remorseful for her less-than-heroic behavior.

I did it by revealing that she’d been an overweight, homely teenager who had suffered a major humiliation at the hands of her high school crush. Then I made that crush her new boss. I also made it clear that she was trying to repair her reputation by working hard and being a good employee, despite the fact no one trusted her.

Finally, I gave her an admirer. Cranky Celeste, the septuagenarian office manager who seldom has a kind word for anyone, sees something of herself in plucky Jillian and takes the young woman under her wing. (The hero of this book, Hidden Agenda, is an entirely new character. It will be available in July.)

Now, my editor wants more Project Justice books. Having learned my lesson, I tried my best to set up characters for future books. I have at least one couple’s story worked out, but books #8 and #9 are going to tax me. I’m in awe of the authors who plot out a dozen books from the very beginning. It’s like playing chess, thinking ahead several moves, and I never was very good at chess. With each new book, the world gets more complex, the cast grows larger. More and more balls in the air to juggle

Still, I’ve had more fun writing these books (and more aggravation!) than any I’ve previously written. I’m looking forward to expanding the series indefinitely.

Kara Lennox

Monday, March 5, 2012

Blog Tour Stop March 13, 2012

Please don't miss the Blog Tour on Twisted Webb March 13, 2012. We will have a wonderful post by Kara about writing a series, as well as a glimpse at her upcoming novel from Harlequin!!

Kara Lennox, a.k.a. Karen Leabo, is the award-winning, bestselling author of more than sixty novels of romance and romantic suspense for Harlequin and Random House. Currently she is working on the next installment of her romantic suspense series, Project Justice, published by Harlequin Super Romance. Also, several of her classic Bantam Loveswept novels (writing as Karen Leabo) are soon to be re-released in e-book form by Random House. Her novels have finaled in several contests including the Rita, the Reader’s Choice award and the Holt Medallion. Romantic Times awarded her a Reviewers Choice Award.

Prior to writing romance, Karen was a freelance writer with hundreds of magazine articles published, as well as brochures, press releases, advertisements and business plans. Her former clients include Working Woman Magazine, Hallmark Cards and Marion Merrill Dow.

Karen has written ten screenplays, three of which have been optioned by Hollywood, New York and overseas producers. She lives with her writer/publisher husband and several pets in a shabby-chic (heavy on the shabby) Victorian fixer-upper in Southern California. When not writing or sanding floors, she loves bicycling, bird-watching, hunting for flea-market treasures, painting and making mosaics.