Phantasy Friday: December, When Ghost Hunting Gets Cold!

I can’t believe it’s the second day of December already! Things have been frosting nicely at night, leaving the grasses and leaves beautiful with their glittery white attire. Very fairy-ish in the pale morning sun. Not so much fun when it burns off wet and all those limp, damp, brown pecan leaves cling like one-dimensional leeches to the bottoms of your shoes. Between the dogs and grandchildren I’m tempted to start an indoor mulch box. I’ve certainly recovered enough material tracked across the floors for one.

It’s off topic, but I just have to share my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. Ended up with 68,449 official words. Probably need another 15k to finish the book, but I was assured it still counted as a NaNo win. We had a house full for the Thanksgiving holidays or I may have even finished it. (Hey, I’m entitled to any excuse I care to use at my age!)

But back to ghost hunting. I’m looking forward to Winter Solstice and all the metaphysical properties it entails. Most people think Halloween is the most paranormally active day of the year. Well, they’re mistaken. The most active day is Winter Solstice– which falls on December 22 this year — and is a ghost hunter’s dream. I’m hoping our crew has something challenging lined up.

Everyone out there knows how glamorous ghost hunting can be. Hauling equipment, setting it up, tearing it down. Changing batteries in everything. Then changing them again. Hours of sitting without making a sound between questions during a session (don’t want to mess up the Electronic Voice Phenomena recordings); staring at the split screen monitor until your eyes cross (making careful notes of camera number, time, and possible evidence on the event log, all to be reviewed later frame by frame); organizing groups to take rooms and outdoor locations in rotation (some people are good investigators, but just don’t play well with others. But aren’t personality clashes true everywhere?); making sure the memory cards from the digital cameras get downloaded into the laptop to examine and compare to the infrared motion cameras and event log.

But when it gets cold, there’s a whole new level of challenges to conquer.

In the cold you have to wear protective gear. Ever try taking pictures with gloves on? You don’t always hit the right button. You can’t help but fumble the camera on occasion too. We always gets a few hilarious frames with panicked expressions mid juggle, and if the camera shoots in rapid bursts, you get full effect of widening eyes and can lip read the accompanying slow motion “Oohhh, nnnoooo!” The still shots reveal faces stretched into unattractive grimaces of avoidance of the flash, eyes squinched tightly shut.

An outdoor interaction session in the cold can be downright uncomfortable. Since you freeze whether you sit or stand, I prefer to sit on the ground. The camera doesn’t have so far to fall that way. It may take a couple of the guys pulling on my arms to unstick my butt later where my jeans have frozen to the ground, but we get it done.  And when your nose gets cold, I don’t care who you are; you sniff. We’ve had to call warnings to investigators: “Recorded session coming up! Blow now, or forever hold your sn– um, silence.”

Another problem with taking pictures outdoors in the cold is breath vapor. It’s takes a conscious effort to hold your breath and extend the camera away from your face while snapping shots. And if things start happening, it’s only natural to breathe a little faster and get that viewfinder where you can see what you’re shooting. Quite a few newbies get ribbed with, “We’d have had something here if (fill in the blank) would just quit breathing so hard!” To prevent disappointment, one of the first things we do is show investigators the difference in paranormal mists and a hot breath released into cold air.

And have you ever tried to walk quietly when you can’t feel your toes? I’ve always heard your big toe is critical for balance. Well, the other four must feel left out or something, because they hang up on every twig, grass clump or slight rise in the ground to gain their share of attention.

Winter weeds out the prima donnas. Everyone has to do every rotation. So the wimps tend to fade out of the investigation area when it turns icy outside.

Oh! And Never. Never. Ever, ever, ever agree to have a magazine photographer or television film crew accompany you during the winter and expect to appear professional. Pull that cap off when you come back indoors and you have a head full of static electricity. A person tends to look a little crazy with their hair shooting in every direction. A group of them is guaranteed laughter. You always catch somebody elbowing his buddy and snickering, “Oh, look. It must be a ghost. Their hair is haunted!”

Sigh. The things we endure to advance our chosen field.

That’s not everything, but it’s enough for now. I’d hate for you to get bored. So until next week, keep up the word count! I want some good books hitting the eReaders and shelves out there!


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Phantasy Friday: NaNoWriMo; Complete With Interruptions, Special Ones

National Novel Writing Month commenced the 1st — and it’s not too late to join in! The goal is 50 thousand words by the end of November. It can be a complete story, or the beginning of a story for those who write long. And it’s very achievable at 1,667 words a day! If you write the typical 2500 word chapter, you can have it done early. You can write by yourself purely on an honor system, or hook up with NaNo writing buddies. There are online pep talks and everything. Well, almost everything. There’s nothing for what happens at my house.

I’m doing NaNo for the first time. And I actually took into consideration the need to write extra words every day to cover weekends I’m ghost hunting. But the main thing NaNo does is prove you can write a novel in a month. Rough draft it may be; but they’re all rough drafts at the start. Give it a try! And if you do, buddy up with me. You can find me as Runere.

HOWEVER— it’s as if there’s a great conspiracy to keep me from completion. Despite all the wonderful encouragement you get from NaNo and writing buddies, I feel compelled to point out there are things NaNo has no control over. I’m going to give you a condensed version of interruptions from my household. I swear, it’s like watching a movie only to have a commercial break leap out at you during the deepest, most exciting part of the film! Certain situations have arisen that have me leaning toward a murder mystery next year. A perfect murder. With no bodies found. Lots of life insurance to collect. It’s about a writer who just can’t take any more interruptions . . .

Sorry. Plotting moment there.

Writing at a good pace on day one. This is pretty cool! You know, if a person sets this goal for each day you really could write a book a month! Enter my word count at the NaNo site.

Second day, scene: a chase ensues in a dark New Orleans alley, sounds and scents amplified by terror. My heroine looks up to see the nightmare version of my bad werewolves. It’s thick lips bare bloodied fangs as it prepares to speak. *snarl* “I can’t get the damn microwave to work right.”

Poof. Scene gone with a jolt. Wh-what? He wasn’t supposed to say that! And what happened to that gravelly, raspy voice I devised for him? I lean into the screen and peer closely at the words, trying to reclaim the momentum.  Hubby’s voice repeats, “The microwave won’t heat my soup.” I twist my head around and glare at him (probably resembling Linda Blair in The Exorcist. More than a little). He recoils at the sight and tries to shut the office door. But it’s too late. I stomp in to investigate. Turns out hubby thought he should adjust the temp control. We’ve only had this microwave for ten years. Why did he think it suddenly operated differently? Sigh.

Third day: I’m in the process of laying an intricate trail of clues. I’ve made notes, and it’s pretty cut and dried, so when I hear Hubby hollering for the dog outside the office window, it wasn’t too much of a distraction. Until he yelled, “Dixie!” for the third time. That penetrated. Dixie is in heat. I walk her on lead. Not Hubby. She listens to him. (Yeah, right. Like a teenage daughter with the hormonal hots for a bad boy with a fast car!) That hump-happy hound was probably off fornicating with every male in a ten-mile radius. Since I’d be the one stuck taking care of any puppies, you better believe I left a cloud of papers fluttering in my vapor trail on the way out! Found her and dragged her back inside before she went behind a bush with Romeo. Or Cisco. Or Pancho. Or Duke. Or that one I’ve never seen before. Or that little brown dog that humps my leg.

Fourth and Fifth days: Ghost hunting! Loved both nights of it. Did I ever expect to use my experience as a maritime captain during ghost hunting? No, never. But it turns outs this house was supposed to be haunted by an old sea captain. Things were quiet until I asked questions about Celestial Navigation and using a sextant for taking sun and star shots. We got a LOUD response then!

Back to NaNo on Sunday night. Hubby tried to help by cooking. Took me two hours to scrub that burned pan. We had doctor’s appointments out the wazoo on Monday; but I stayed up later to write. Had a migraine; gritted my teeth and wrote five hundred words while trying not to be ill.

But something happened this week that made me shut the computer down. It was just too much. I literally stayed in shock for a full day. Still get a little wobbly in the legs if I think about it too long while walking.

I got the phone call informing me I’m going to be a great-grandmother in June.

Yep. Full mental shutdown.

But after the initial shock wore off (two, maybe three days later!), I got really excited. Not many people get the opportunity to actually hold a person who will live so far past them in the future. I can’t wait to hold him or her, wrap them up in loving arms. To whisper in their ear to treat him or her self with care and respect because there will never be another one just like them. I’ll whisper to be sure to walk their own baby down to that certain tree near the pond.

That tree will be grown by then and I’ll be long gone. But I want that later baby’s father or mother — the baby I held — to press tiny hands to the bark and tell that little person, “Someone believed in me so much that she planted this tree the day I was born. For you to hang your swing from.”

Hope they both feel the love, because that’s truly the one thing that never changes, never dies. I’m thinking an Oak.


Visit Runere at Friend her on Facebook @ Runere McLain  Follow her on Twitter@RunereMcLain

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