Alcatraz – California

Today we will travel to the West Coast all the way to California. We are going to visit Alcatraz.

Alcatraz is considered one of the most haunted places in America. Some of the most notorious criminals of all time served time in Alcatraz, including Al Capone, Arthur “Doc” Barker, and George “Machine Gun” Kelly.

Alcatraz was created in order to break the most rebellious criminals. Back in 1933, the US decided they needed a max-security, minimum-privilege prison to house the worst of the worst criminal. If an inmate broke any of the rules, they would be sent off to what was known as the “strip cell.”

Before going into the empty cell, they were stripped of all of there clothes. The only thing inside was a hole for them to use as a bathroom. The empty metal cell stripped the criminals of any humility or hope that they have had. It’s no surprise that there are quite a few spirits that can’t move on from this place.

Cell 14D was the room that they were sent to for their punishments. Visitors to this room say that it feels cold as if more than one spirit is left in that room. It is believed that there was a man who died while being held in the room. The guards found him strangled to death on the floor. Rumor has it, that the night before he was found, he screamed that a yellow-eyed creature was trying to kill him. If you don’t find that scary, maybe you should give cell 14D a visit.

Visitors to Alcatraz often say that they hear crying and moaning when traveling through cell blocks A, B, and C. A psychic once said that they felt a malevolent spirit called Butcher in this area as well. Would you like to take a guess at what the prison records showed about a man named Butcher? In the 1940s, an inmate by the name of Butcher was assassinated.

If you visit the showers, it is said that you can hear banjo music. Al Capone spent his last years locked up in Alcatraz and strummed along with the prison’s banjo band. Because he was afraid that he would be killed if he played his banjo out in the open, he would practice it in the showers.

Alcatraz is sure to give you the creeps if you go for a visit, but don’t miss out on other haunted places in San Francisco. In fact, it is said that San Francisco is one of the most haunted cities in the US. If you are planning to visit any time soon, think about taking a ghost tour.

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Being Vulnerable is Being True: How to Be Vulnerable in Your Writing

Sorry, I missed last week, but my Mom and I were planning a surprise 50th birthday party for my Dad. To say the least, I was a bit preoccupied. But the party went over well, and I think he was pleasantly surprised.

We’re going to jump right into things today, though. We are going to be talking about another aspect of writing your truth. Specifically, being vulnerable.

Writing is very much an intimate act. It is one way to express yourself without having to talk to a person face-to-face. For an introvert, writing is the perfect way to communicate feelings. That is if you are willing to.

Vulnerability scares the crap out of people. So often, people view vulnerability as being weak, which it isn’t. Vulnerability is one of the strongest things that a person can show.

In order to show vulnerability, you have to understand yourself. We’ve done activities to help you find your truth, so use that to learn about you. Who are you really? Not just the good, happy parts, but your dark parts as well.

Over the years, I have become more of an open book than I ever thought I could. That being said, I’ll faster write down my deepest, darkest secrets than say them out loud. But, if you ask me directly, I will likely tell you the truth if I feel you have any reason to know.

So the first thing I want you to do is write about a dark, vulnerable moment in your life. I want it to be a moment that actually happened.

Write out this moment like you would write a story. Be descriptive to the point that you relive the emotions from that time. Put all of those emotions on the paper. Let them spill out.

Allow yourself to emotional purge before you begin writing something that is emotionally charged.

This is a great way to wrangle your vulnerability and emotions so that you can write something cohesive. This is a good journalling exercise. Start writing out your emotions around the scene and let them escalate how they will. This will purge the raw emotions that were hiding right under the surface giving you a clear place to start. Nobody wants to read something where they have to weed through emotional ramblings.

Write out your actual emotions. In any scene you write, whether you write in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person, there is going to be emotions. Write the emotions you would feel if you were in that situation.

That’s the only way something is going to come off as genuine. Yes, you will have to put yourself in other people’s shoes, but you were going to have to do that anyway.

Let’s be honest, nobody wants to read a story about a gangster who suddenly gets hit with guilt and decides not to rob a bank and gets an honest job instead. (zzzzzzzzzzzz)

Now, if you want a gangster to turn his life around, give him a reason to do so. Give him something that makes him want to change his way. You have to break him down into teeny weeny vulnerable pieces and then put him back together as a better man.

That’s the kind of story a person wants to read.

Don’t shy away from awkward emotions. Negative emotions can be tough to express, but then you have the positive ones that are just as awkward.

This may be something some people won’t have to worry about. It all depends on the types of things you write. But I’m talking about love scenes. Depending on how intimate you get in your writing, you could be facing some of the most awkward scenes that a writer has to face.

Now, I will talk about writing sex scenes in a later post so I won’t get into the logistics of it here. This point simply ties back in with the last one. Be honest with those scenes. What do you feel (you know what I mean) when you write those scenes? If it doesn’t create some sense of warmth inside of you, then it won’t in your readers. You need to back up and punt.

Alright, that’s it for today. Take these four tips and see what they can do for you in writing your truth and being vulnerable.

“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”
― Criss Jami

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Get Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles today.

The Golden North Hotel – Alaska

This week we are traveling all the way to Alaska, Skagway, Alaska.

In 1896, gold was discovered in the Yukon and this set of the Klondike Gold Rush. Around 100,000 prospectors ran to this territory with the hopes of striking it rich. A lot of these people traveled to the Skagway area of what would become Alaska. This area provided them with a more direct route to the gold.

In 1897, the population of Skagway was 700. In 1898, it boomed to around 10,000. This made the town Alaska’s largest city, but this was short lived and it was back down to 1800 in two years. The influx of people created problems like lawlessness, disease, chaos, and death. This created the perfect time for ghost stories.

In 1898, the Golden North Hotel was built. This was during the height of the gold rush and served as a place for 1000s of prospectors to stop for refreshments and rest each week. It was these people that would end up creating this ghost story. Our tale begins with the prospector lovingly known as Klondike Ike who traveled to this lovely little town with his fiance Mary. Mary stayed in room 23 of this hotel while Ike took the 500-mile journey to find gold.

There are a few variations of this story from this point on. The first says Mary fell ill with pneumonia. Another said she became distraught with worry when Ike didn’t return when he was supposed to and locked herself away in her room. The third says that she hid away because she ended up getting involved with some ruffians. Whichever is true, nobody really knows. No matter how the story really went, Mary died while she was waiting for Ike to return from his adventures. There are some versions that said the hotel staff broke down the door to her room, finding her dead in the dress she was going to wear to her wedding.

Believe she continues to haunt this hotel. The stories from those who say they have seen “Scary Mary” vary widely. There are some who say they have seen a spectral woman roaming around the hotel, or sitting in her room waiting for fiances return. Others say they have heard strange noises or felt sudden breezes of cold air. Some people who stayed in room 23 said they woke up in the middle of the night feeling like they were choking.

There is yet another ghostly event that is said to have happened at the Golden North in room 14. The staff and guests have said they’ve seen mysterious lights that look like sparkles or twinkles, and others call them orbs. Where these lights come from is not known, but they aren’t threatening.

The hotel itself closed in 2002, but the building and sign still remain. Unfortunately, curious ghost hunters can no longer visit the rooms to try and experience their history. The floor plan says that room 23 was on the third floor in the northwest corner. As of today, the building is being used by Frontier Excursions & Adventures.

 

A Question For My Readers

Today’s post isn’t going to be about writing. In fact, I have a question for my readers. Would you like to see blog posts about ghost stories?

I’ve always been a big fan of ghost stories. I’m talking real ghost stories, not just horror books. I’m talking about stories like The Portrait of Theodosia Burr, The Pink Lady at the Grove Park Inn, Ghosts of the USS Constellation, and The Hawthorne Hotel.

I think ghost stories are helpful for writers, especially those of us who want to write horrors or similar genres. Of course, whether you believe they are true or not isn’t relevant. The point is they are fun to read and can give you some clues as to what makes a good spooky story.

I spent a lot of time in high school and college reading books about ghost stories in my state of North Caroline. Trust me, we have A LOT. In the town of Asheville alone, which is about five minutes from me, there are 10+.

My proposition is, would you like a couple (or five) blog posts that share ghost stories from around the world each week along with the regular blog posts. I wouldn’t be replacing my normal writing tips and tricks with the ghost stories. I would simply be supplementing them with some fun spooky stories.

I wanted to get my readers opinion since you guys are the reason I do this. Please let me know what you think if you want me to or not.

If you have your own ghost story, let me know, and I may share it on the blog. With your permission, of course.

“I’ve got quite a vivid imagination and I’m easily overwhelmed by sensations and things that are beautiful or scary. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ghost – I think I’m probably haunted by my own ghosts than real ones.” – Florence Welch

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Get Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles today.

How to Embrace Vulnerability and Write Your Truth

We’ve spoken about writing your truth before. As you have probably noticed, it can get very convoluted as to what it really means to write your truth. The reason for that is because everybody has their own truth.

Today we are going to look at vulnerability, which I believe is the key to writing your truth. If you can bare your emotions on the page, then conveying a truth is going to be very hard to do.

Emotions play a huge role in writing. Not only in the act of writing a story, but in everything that surrounds it; publishing it, sharing it, getting feedback, everything.

I would say that I have only been a true writer for a year. While I have been writing for most of my life, it was only last year that I buckled down and chose this as my life. Last year was when I shared my writing for other people to read. Last year was when I put myself out there to be loved or rejected. Last year I experienced more emotions than ever before. In fact, it feels like it has been longer than a year.

When I first started this blog I said I was going to go the traditional route when it came to publishing my books. I was going to an agent and all that, but I switched to self-publishing. One, because I am a bit impatient. Two, I wanted to get my book out there for people now. That doesn’t mean I have given up hope on getting an agent, it just means I’m doing things on my own for now. Emotions played a huge role in this.

There are weeks where I feel confident and excited. Then I will have doubts and thinking about a back-up plan. But I know in my heart of hearts, writing is the only career that is going to make me happy. (That and acting, but let’s not get started on that tangent.)

The reason I am sharing this is that, as a writer, you can’t be afraid of emotions. I would hazard a guess that most writers are introverts. We don’t do well speaking out emotions out loud, thus we write them. So, if writing is how we express our emotions as introverts, how can we express our self if we don’t show vulnerability.

But What Will Others Think?

This is probably the biggest roadblock in showing vulnerability through writing. Everybody is worried about being judged. I could say, “get over it,” but that’s rude and annoying. You can’t just simply get over things. Everybody has to work through their own problems in their own time. That doesn’t mean that you can’t work through them faster, but you still have to work through them on your own.

Too often people write off these types of issues as just being in your head. They don’t think there is a real issue. But fears are fears. They are all important and everybody has the right to be afraid of things. The important thing is that you figure out what those fears and work through them so they don’t hold you back in life.

I will dedicate another post on working through these types of issues. For now, let’s look at some of the best ways to show vulnerability in your writing.

Be Open

The key to showing vulnerability is to be open. You can write a one-sided story. Even children’s books have a good side and a bad side. You can’t have light without the darkness. There is no good without the bad. A day always has a night.

When you write with openness, you allow the story to guide you. It will naturally show you where it needs to go. I don’t know how many times my outline has changed once I started writing the story because what I had planned didn’t feel right once it was put on paper.

Trust

Writing with openness and vulnerability means that you trust the process of writing. If you can’t trust the process, you will end up holding yourself back and censoring yourself. I’ve already talked about how censoring yourself is bad for writing your truth. You have to trust that the story is going to lead you to where it needs to go.

This could mean that characters you hadn’t planned on killing are going to die. Your story could plummet to depths you never imagined, but as you work your way back out, your story is going to be better for it. Trust is hard, but it’s what makes for a good story.

DO NOT CENSOR

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, you can’t write your truth and censor yourself. This is also one of those fine lines. There is a way you can go too far with your writing where it can end up causing a lot of backlash. This, in my opinion, is when you write with the purpose of being mean and hateful. If this is you purpose going into a book, do us all a favor and stop. There is enough hate already, there is no need for any more.

With that said, you can write without censorship and not be mean and hateful. If your story tells you that it needs something that many people would consider taboo, put it in there. It will be a better story for it. It can be written in a tasteful manner as well.

A big taboo subject that people are sometimes afraid of touching on is abuse. This could be domestic, sexual, what have you. It’s a touchy subject, but if stories about these things aren’t shared, then nobody is going to learn about them. People who aren’t afraid to write about these things are people who help to change the world for the better. The same goes for injustice as well.

These three tips are heavy subjects, and I understand that. Being vulnerable isn’t something anybody likes feeling. But it is a fact of life. If you don’t feel vulnerable at some point in the writing process, then you need to take a step back and see where you are holding back. Be vulnerable and change the world with your writing.

“If the book is true, it will find an audience that is meant to read it.” – Wally Lamb

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

I Don’t Want This to Happen to Anybody Else

 

If any of my blog readers also follow me on Facebook, you have probably heard the story. If not, here is what I posted on Facebook:

Last Sunday I said I had to unpublish my book for a bit. I didn’t explain why at the time, but I will now. 
First, the book will be available for purchase again in the next couple of days. Whenever Amazon finishes their process.
Let me preface this by saying that I purchased my book cover from a guy on fiverr. I didn’t have anything in mind when he asked. I told him what the book was about and he sent me an image and asked if I liked it. It was a great image and felt it represented my book fairly well. I told him I like it and he finished out the rest of the book cover.
Maybe I was too trusting to pick somebody on fiverr and not go through a company that only does book covers, or go through an individual that I could research, what have you. I’m sure there are some people out there that would say what happened was all my fault and I shouldn’t have gone the cost-efficient route. I did what I could afford, and the cover cost me $22. I’m sure there are lots of other people out there that have used fiverr for book covers, or who have thought about it. People shouldn’t have to worry about this kind of thing. People that sell things on fiverr should be honest people.
Anyway, fast forward two months. A woman contacts me and tells me that I have to unpublish my book that the cover image is stolen. I even got an email with a cease and desist letter. It scared the crap out of me. I immediately contacted the fiverr guy that made the image. He claimed it was a free image, but he couldn’t provide me with a source image. I wasn’t taking any chances. I would never want to make money off of somebody else’s work, so I unpublished my book, temporarily took down my website and everything until I could go through and get rid of all the uses of the image. The fiverr guy even offered to make me another cover for free. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t trust him not to do the same thing again. Everything was taken care of last Sunday and nothing more has been said. I even got my money back from fiverr.
While this is embarrassing for me, I wanted to spread the word to let people know so that maybe it won’t happen to them.
Stealing somebody else’s work isn’t cool. As lame as that sentence may be, it’s true. Now, I don’t know if the fiverr guy knew the image was stolen or if somebody else had shared it somewhere and he assumed it was free to use, I don’t know. What I do know is he used the same image twice, so…
I just want everybody to be safe. I don’t want this sort of thing to happen to somebody else.
Like I told the original creator of the cover, I would never knowingly use somebody else’s copyrighted images for personal gain. I hate that I unknowingly used the image for two months to promote my book, and if I could take it back I would.
But, what’s done is done.
I’ve got a new image that I know I can legally use, and I will share it with you later.
Thanks for listening.

This isn’t something that is easy to admit. You never know how somebody will respond. I’m putting this out there willing to face criticism by some in the hopes that other people don’t find themselves in a situation like this.

I had written a blog post bragging about fiverr, but I have since taken that down. That’s not to say I won’t purchase things from them again. I’ll still probably use them for beta readers and things that can’t end up being stolen. I know there are a lot of people on there that are just trying to make a living doing things they love and sharing it with others, but once bitten twice shy.

The whole thing was embarrassing and nervewracking, and I am still trying to fix everything. I’m lucky that the owner came to me first to resolve it instead of going straight to lawyers. All I had to do was unpublish my book until I got a new cover, and get rid of the use of the old cover. Even still, I didn’t like the experience and I hope I never go through something like that again.

By sharing this, I hope I can prevent this from happening to anybody else. If you pay somebody else to make your book cover for your, or anything that uses images, make sure you get proof of the copyright information for the image.

On a positive note, my book is for sale again. While Amazon’s system hasn’t updated everything completely, the paperback and Kindle editions have new covers.

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. I will be making Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles available for free on Kindle in the coming weeks, so make sure you keep an eye out so that you don’t miss your chance.