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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Ghost Cats in Central Florida - A True Story

As some of you have heard, I've done a few speaking engagements over the past couple of years, mostly discussing the horror genre, writing and my book, The Wash. A question I've been asked on more than one occasion is whether I believe in the supernatural.  You'd think that as a horror fan I'd have a healthy belief in all things paranormal.  After all, I've spent an unusual amount of time reading, watching and writing about the subject.  The fact is though, that when people asked me about it, my answer was always, "I want to."

That was the truth. I wanted desperately to believe that there was something supernatural, otherworldly, downright frightening and unbelievable out there but the fact was I'd never experienced anything like that firsthand.  I'd visited haunted houses, haunted forests and places where stories of monsters abound but I'd never seen one for myself.  Because of that, I had reached the conclusion that there really wasn't any truth to the stories I'd heard. 

Don't get me wrong. I didn't think the people who did believe in that were crazy.  I believed that they honestly thought they'd seen otherworldly phenomena, but I was sure there had to be an explanation for it. I just thought they weren't thinking clearly.

That is, until about a week ago.  Now, I'm a believer.

My father and stepmother live on a lake in Central Florida.  It's one of my favorite places to visit and I don't get there often enough.  It's a great place to reset for me and last week I was there visiting.  For years, they had a solid black cat named Ninja.  He was an indoor cat and was an unlikely addition to the house at first.  My father had always been a dog person but my stepmother agreed to foster him when he was young and my father and he became quick friends.  He lived with them for over 20 years and died less than a year ago.  

I have a major allergy to cats.  Anytime I'd visit, I'd be doped up on Allegra and sometimes even had to supplement it with Benedryl just to get through the week, but Ninja was awesome.  Occasionally, he'd come up and want me to pet him and I gladly would, even though my fingers would begin to itch almost immediately.  He was a cool cat who continued to be playful even when he got older.  So when he died, it left a hole in their household.

I wasn't here to experience just how much of one. I just knew he was a much loved pet.

Last Tuesday, my father and I sat out on the back porch and talked until it was pretty late.  Finally, he decided to call it a night and I headed in and took a shower before laying down myself.  As I lay on the bed in the guest room, I felt something jump up on the bed at my feet and then walk along the side of the bed next to the wall.  I could feel every footstep.  

I bolted upright!  I thought for sure that one of the two outside cats had gotten in.  I hit the light and looked around.  There was nothing there.  Nothing.  Yet, without a doubt, I felt a cat jump up on the foot of the bed and walk along the edge next to the wall, toward my head.  It freaked me out a little but then I started explaining it away.  Maybe I was dozing.  Maybe it was a dream.  All the usual excuses.

The next evening, we were all talking after dinner and I mentioned it to my stepmother. Her eyes lit up and she said, "That happened to me also!"

A month after Ninja died, she felt him jump up on the exact same bed, in the exact same place and take the same route along the edge before climbing onto her chest.  It was something he'd done countless times before when he was alive. I never knew he did that though.  Because of my allergy, when I stayed with them I kept the door closed, so I never experienced Ninja jumping on the bed to come visit.  

I've played it over in my head repeatedly since last week, but I have no doubt about what I felt and having it corroborated by my stepmother has cemented my belief that I actually experienced my first ghost, and a cat ghost to boot!

Pretty crazy, huh?  

Anyway, I thought I'd pass it along because it's truly changed the way I look at some of the stories I've read and heard.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Lizards - Big and Small (plus book news)

Hello!  Hello! 

I know many of you probably think I've fallen off the face of the Earth.  After many months of regularly bringing you posts about music, movies, horror, etc., the second quarter of 2019 has been pretty quiet here on the blog.  Some of that is due to weird circumstances that you can piece together from previous posts.  Some of it is due to focusing efforts in other places.  In the end, what you need to know is that things are good overall and progress has been made.

As I write this, I'm sitting on a screened porch looking out at Lake Dora in Tavares, Florida.  Other than my father (who is taking a nap), I'm currently accompanied by an old dog named Toby, a cat named Patches (probably sleeping directly beneath me under the porch in an effort to stay cool) and no less than 30 small lizards feasting on lake flies and trying to stay out of the direct sunlight of a summer day.  

There are larger lizards about also.  A five foot alligator is somewhere off the dock in front of me.  He's not visible but he hangs out in this area.  We tend to see him at dusk.  His larger neighbor runs 10 - 12 feet and while he doesn't generally patrol this part of the lake, he made an appearance yesterday afternoon as he calmly swam about 20 yards off the end of the dock with the confidence of something that is the apex predator of these parts.

I should also point out that it's in the mid-90's here with humidity in the high 80's.  I'm drenched in sweat.  I tried to write inside but the AC and soft chairs were putting me to sleep.  This might be the only time in my life that I've actually worked up a sweat while writing.  Let's be honest though, in these conditions, you work up a sweat just breathing.

While The Wash was set in Utah, my upcoming book and many of the other books I'm currently working on are set in Florida and Georgia.  You may wonder why this is if all you've ever read is this blog.  After all, I have entire series of posts devoted to weird places in Southern California but nary a mention of Georgia or Florida.  The fact is, I love California.  I love it for its geography, its diversity, its politics and because of the incredible friends and family I've managed to acquire there.  

I once read an interview with the musician Flea from the band Red Hot Chili Peppers.  He said California is like an incurable virus.  It gets under your skin and the rest of your life, no matter where you are, when you're away from it, you just want to get back to it.

That's true but for me the same can be said for this place.  I feel its pull when I'm in SoCal.  No matter how long I stay away, once I come back and feel the heat and humidity, it just feels like home.  I'll be back in California within a week and once I'm there, I'll miss all of this again.  It'll start creeping into all of my writing because that's the best way for me to hold onto it.  

Conversely, I'm sure if I lived in Florida year round, all of my books would be set in California.  That's just the way it works.

Speaking of books, my new one is complete and a publisher is currently considering it.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  As I've mentioned previously, it's set in the South and it's definitely a different beast than The Wash was.  This one is a lot more fun and involves swamp witches, moonshiners and a kaiju-sized catfish.  No news yet on when it will be available but I'll post more here once I know.  

I've got two more I'm in process on.  One is the fabled "Redneck DaVinci Code" book and the other a ghost story about America.  The latter will be the first I've ever set in California.  Both are about a third complete but moving along nicely.

I'm still determining what the next series should be for this blog.  I feel the movie reviews were getting a bit banal and I don't want this to get stale.  If you have suggestions on what you'd like to see here, let me know.

In the meantime, keep an eye on this space.  I'll have more news to come soon.  

Until then, the lizards, the cat and I wish all of you well.  

The dog is so old it's hard to tell what he's wishing at the moment, but it probably involves either a treat, a nap or a walk.