Catie Rhodes & Texas, the Rich Setting of Forever Road

It’s Scarlet Thread Sunday, when I share a thread of something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life. Today, however, I used my thread to tug Catie Rhodes over to the blog to tell us about her paranormal mystery, FOREVER ROAD.

First, here’s the book blurb:

Seeing ghosts is rough, but owing a ghost a favor flat out sucks.

Forever Road Cover My name’s Peri Jean Mace, and I’ve seen ghosts ever since I can remember. Don’t get too excited. Seeing across the veil branded me as a loony during my growing up years, and I learned to keep my yap shut about it. 

Now I’m not sure I can anymore. 

 See, my cousin up and got herself killed the very same day I promised her a favor.  Now she’s back in spirit form and determined to make me pay. If I don’t solve her murder, she’s going to haunt me forever. Talk about the debt collector from hell. 

That’s not my only problem. An obnoxiously hot cop wants to arrest my best friend for the murder.  My bigmouthed archenemy holds a clue to the killer’s identity. And there’s this mean—and ugly—woman who wants to beat me up. 

None of this can turn out good. 

Buy now at Amazon.com

Catie and I became friends online, but eventually discovered that we don’t live terribly far from one another. Thus, Catie has become a face-to-face friend as well. When I received an advanced copy of her book, I confess that I really wanted it to be good. (What do you do if a good friend writes a book and you don’t like it?)

I needn’t have worried. FOREVER ROAD is well-worth your time! An awesome debut novel. One thing stood out to me as I read–how Catie’s description of the East Texas setting and its people added depth to the novel. So I asked Catie to chat with us about her love of the Lone Star State.

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Thanks for having me, Julie. I’ve been looking forward to joining you for some greasy deep-fried food stimulating conversation for quite some time. Thanks for inviting me to talk about one of my pet subjects—Texas.

Before I get into my version of a Travel Tex commercial, let me explain why we’re talking about Texas. When I sat down to write FOREVER ROAD, I created a fictional East Texas town called Gaslight City. I spent hours figuring out the geography of this town. By the time I wrote about it, the place seemed real to me. That’s why Julie invited me to explain why I set my book in Texas.

I am fond of saying Texas is in my blood, in my bones…and it is.

My family has been in Texas a very long time.  One of my many-greats-grandfather’s name appears on musters from the Texas Revolution. He was John C. Gallion (listed on the musters of the Northeast Beat as J.C. Galion). My father’s side of the family is descended from John C. Gallion’s daughter Ellen.

My Thornton ancestors, on my mothers side of the family, came to Texas by covered wagon in the 1850s. James D. Thornton and his wife Princess Clarky Ann Tullos (a Native American) settled in Trinity County, Texas. Their descendants still live on the land James and Clarky settled all those years ago.

The people from whom I am descended came to Texas for opportunity, to secure a better future. They survived obstacles unimaginable to a generation who is lost without high speed internet. Texas was a frontier when my ancestors came here. It was either sink or swim. Whatever happened, help was not coming. In spite of adversity, wars, and poverty, my ancestors survived well enough that I’m here telling y’all where I came from.

To me, that’s what Texas is all about. It’s about working hard and taking chances to achieve dreams. It’s about independence and individuality. It’s about never giving up in the face of adversity.

There is one famous Texan who best expressed this sentiment. Surrounded by the Mexican Army at the Alamo, William B. Travis wrote

“I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna—I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man—The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken—I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls—I shall never surrender or retreat…”

Travis’s resolve never fails to inspire me. His words encourage me to keep going through adversity, doubt, and fear. There is no way I can be more afraid than he must have been as he faced the last days of his life.  But even facing certain death, Travis reacted with dignity and faith. And defiance.

I like to think we all have our place in the world, and Texas is mine. To repeat myself: this land is in my blood, in my bones…and even in the sweat of my effort. That’s why I write about Texas.

I hope some of you will check out FOREVER ROAD.  It is a mystery featuring ghosts, but it is ultimately about surviving life’s curveballs and having the inner strength to keep going anyway…in small town East Texas.

Catie Rhodes PhotoCatie Rhodes decided to turn her love of lying into writing fiction after she got fired for telling her boss the President was on the phone. It didn’t take Catie long to figure out what she wanted to do when she grew up. Drawing on her East Texas roots, her love of true crime, and her love of the paranormal, she writes the kind of stories she wishes the book stores sold. With her faithful Pomeranian, Cosmo, at her side, Catie relishes being that kid your mother warned you about, the one who cusses and never washes her hands after petting the dog.

Find Catie Online:

Long Roads and Dark Ends Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest

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Thanks to Catie for coming by! You can also see my review of FOREVER ROAD on Amazon or Goodreads.

Buy FOREVER ROAD now at Amazon.com

Feel free to ask Catie or me any questions about FOREVER ROAD, Texas, ghosts, whatever in the comments.

ROW80 goals met: Wrote 9430 words on YA mystery; finished Margie Lawson’s course on Writing Body Language; exercised twice this week.

Rules of the Undead

My husband and I watched the pilot of The Walking Dead a few months ago. During the course of the show, I kept asking things like, “How do you kill a zombie?” “Do they have to destroy the zombie’s brain?” “What do they eat?”

I discovered that I was woefully deficient in my knowledge of zombie lore. When I read Dracula way back when I was in college (hello, 80’s!), I researched vampires to the point that I could tell you all of the strengths and weaknesses of bloodsuckers. Sure, some people go and change the rules sometimes (Vampires sparkle, Stephanie Meyer?), but for the most part there are standards that writers follow regarding the legends of the undead.

I figured some of you might be wondering too. So for today’s Deep-Fried Friday, here is what I found: The Rules of the Undead — zombies, vampires, and ghosts.

Zombies

What they are: A zombie is a corpse reanimated by supernatural or other means. It appears to be alive, but is typically mute and will-less — sort of like that pothead boyfriend you had back in high school. Indeed, the phrase walking dead encapsulates the zombie crisis well. Catie Rhodes did a fabulous post recently on Zombies and Fear tracing the history and beliefs regarding zombies. It’s well worth reading for more information on zombies.

How they are made: You can become a zombie by being bitten by one. I suppose if you are bitten too much, too often, you are just dinner. Having run a preschool at one time, I know you have to bite pretty dang hard to break skin and draw blood, but even some toddlers managed it so I suppose your average zombie can sink their teeth right in.

What they eat: Zombies prefer the delicious taste of human flesh. However, animals will do in a pinch. They do not require cookware or dishes, since they eat their food raw . . . and fresh. Which is a shame because who wouldn’t want to watch a cooking show from a zombie chef on Food Network? Possible titles: Humans & Hollandaise, Fresh Flesh Foodies, The Cannibal’s Kitchen.

How to kill them: To kill a zombie, you must remove the head or destroy its brain. In The Walking Dead (the one episode I saw), the preferred method was a gunshot between the eyes — which of course makes the brains and blood splatter everywhere. Then again, decapitation would be even messier. So make sure you’re not wearing your best threads when you aim and fire.

Vampires

What they are: A vampire is a creature who overcomes death by drinking blood from the living. By consuming another’s life essence, they remain alive themselves after their own death. (Cheaters!) Generally, it is presumed that vampires can be immortal if they continue to ingest blood and avoid the stakes of the Helsings, et al.

How they are made: A vampire bites a human, then gets the human to drink vampire blood. I wonder why a mostly dead person suddenly finds blood yummy. Is vampire blood tasty? Does it have a vanilla or chocolate flavoring to it? Maybe it’s minty.

What they eat: Blood and more blood. Human blood is the first pick on a vampire’s menu. However, some more compassionate vampires have taken to drinking animal’s blood instead. Then again, your local blood bank may store perfectly good human blood that does not require biting into a neck or other artery location and thus killing the human. Another source is humans willing to let a vampire suck on their veins, as long as they don’t die. Now don’t pretend you wouldn’t do this! Some of you had hickeys the size of Canada in your teens, so you’re clearly open to letting suckers have a go at you.

How to kill them: Typically, a stake to the heart ends the undead life of a vampire once and for all. However, fire will destroy them as well. Some believe that a vampire in daylight will combust into flames, thus killing him. Others believe they sparkle. (Okay, I shouldn’t but I’m laughing again.)

Ghosts

What they are: Ghosts are the spirits or energy of dead people who remain on earth. “I see dead people.” No, I don’t. Moreover, I never even saw The Sixth Sense.

How they are made: Ghosts aren’t made. They remain here when some unresolved issue from their life prevents them from passing over to the afterlife. It can be a young or tragic death, concern for a grieving loved one, or confusion that keeps them from moving on. Some ghosts may know why they are here, but most don’t. They are scared, perplexed, or even mad. Thus, they wreak havoc on the living or the places where they reside. And in Poltergeist, they make cool formations with chairs.

Ghosts can pass through solid objects, but usually cannot move objects. They affect the temperature around them, often causing cold spots. They can manifest if they wish and may appear as a deathly figure or with the wounds they received at death.

What they eat: Ghosts don’t eat or drink, but they may need to recharge energy by coming in contact with the living. Zap! You’re juiced up again, ghost.

How to kill them: You can’t “kill” a ghost. It has no flesh to be destroyed. You can only redirect the ghost away from you by getting it to haunt another place or, better yet, by helping the ghost move toward the light and thus the afterlife. Once issues here on earth are reasonably resolved, most ghosts will happily head over to the other side. What’s on the “other side” is apparently much more interesting than what’s going on here. Maybe the Cubs win World Series in the afterlife. Who wouldn’t want to see that!

There are other paranormal creatures such as werewolves, witches, etc., but I stuck with the undead this time around. These are all beings who were once human, but are no longer.

Interestingly enough, claims of vampires, zombies, and ghosts exist throughout the world. I chalk up the first two somewhat to our curiosity about hematophagous animals (those for whom blood is at least part of their diet; mosquito, anyone?) and human cannibalism (zombies run amok). Ghosts reflect our uncertainty about the afterlife. Even if you think you know what happens after this life (if you believe anything happens at all), no one can fully explain it play-by-play.

Meanwhile, you might want to keep your Rules of the Undead at hand. In case a hellmouth opens up down the street from you or the Zombie Apocalypse erupts, you’ll need to know what to do. In fact, I hail back to another show for some tips as well. In a crisis, ask yourself What Would Buffy Do?

Are You a Believer or a Skeptic?

Skeptic: 1. a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual. 2. a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.
from www.dictionary.com, based on Random House Dictionary

I have several author friends who have written compellingly about ghosts and hauntings. Stacy Green, Catie Rhodes, and Debora Dale all recently covered fascinating tales of paranormal activity.

Yet, I don’t believe in ghosts.

I’m not a naysayer, but a true skeptic. I question the validity or authenticity of certain claims and maintain a doubting attitude. However, highly intelligent, reasonable people have drawn conclusions that are different from mine. In other words, I don’t say that there are no ghosts, but I remain skeptical that there are.

In fact, I’m a skeptic about many legends and stories. For Deep-Fried Friday, let’s take a look at six main ones, and I’ll share my perspective. At the end of the post, I hope you’ll share your views as well.


Ghosts. Ghost hunting is popular these days with shows and websites gathering evidence of hauntings. I have never seen a full episode of Ghost Hunters – only clips. However, I have researched the claims for ghosts. The evidence seems to include temperature, EMF fluctuations, photographic anomalies, and audio recordings with unusual sounds or vocalization. I wonder why we have attached these factors to ghosts. There are plenty of physical phenomena that we were unable to explain in the past that we can explain now. These unusual events may simply fall into that category. To be convinced by this evidence that ghosts exist, you must first accept the premise that EMF readings are evidence of a ghost and not merely some yet unexplained natural occurrence.

That said, I have seen odd things which I cannot account for. For instance, in Debora Dale’s final post on The Ghosts of Gettysburg, the last video shows two shadows crossing without anything casting the shadow. Can I explain it? No. Does it make me believe that those are ghosts? Not yet. I am open to the possibility. And if I am ever personally haunted, I will eat all of these words – deep-fried and with a side of humble pie. But I remain skeptical.

My conclusion: I have yet to see a sufficient body of evidence that convinces me of the presence of non-living beings or paranormal energy in our midst.

Roswell UFO. In 1947, a pilot saw what he described as a flying object “moving like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water.” The United States Army soon after recovered debris which it claimed was a weather balloon. Rumors, however, abounded that what had landed was an alien spacecraft and the government was covering up. Top secret documents from the 1940s were declassified in the 1990s, and the Air Force studied the evidence and issued The Roswell Report: Fact Versus Fiction in the New Mexico Desert.” Indeed, the debris was not a weather balloon; it was most likely the remains of a top secret research program called Project MOGUL. The project’s purpose “was to try to develop a way to monitor possible Soviet nuclear detonations with the use of low-frequency acoustic microphones placed at high altitudes.” Sounds plausible to me.

My conclusion: The UFO debris recovered at Roswell was the remains of a government research program device. The flying object has now been identified.

Area 51 Aliens. According to believers, a secretive military base in Nevada is the site where the U.S. Government has stored extraterrestials and alien spacecraft. For decades, the government would not discuss the base with the public, thus fueling suspicion about its purpose and contents. Recently, however, the CIA has declassified top secret programs conducted at the base. During the years when UFOs were sighted in the area, the U.S. was developing and test-flying spy planes – which would appear as flashes of light in the sky.

My conclusion: The sightings at Area 51 were of top secret spy planes which the government refused to acknowledge at the time due to security reasons.

“Many a man has been hanged on
less evidence than there is for
the loch ness monster.”
G.K. Chesterton

Loch Ness Monster. The Scottish lake, Loch Ness, is home to the legend of a sea monster affectionately called Nessie. Of all the legends I’ve looked into, this is the one I am most inclined to believe. There have been thousands of eyewitness accounts – and not merely from enthusiasts inclined to believe, but from people of all walks of life. The reports of a large 15-20 foot animal rolling and rising out of the lake go back for centuries. Guesses as to what Nessie actually is include a plesiosaur, an elephant, an eel, and more.

We lack conclusive evidence, though. Sonar scans have indicated the presence of something, but several expeditions have failed to find bones or the Loch Ness Monster itself. Of course, if a single monster still exists, there must have been a breeding population, so we should see evidence of aquatic beasts in the lake. Then again, the lake feeds into the Atlantic Ocean through an adjoining river. Could the creatures swim in and out? Perhaps. Also, there are caverns within the lake where a creature could hide. Still, I have to wonder why there aren’t any bones.

My conclusion: There may have been a strange sea creature in the lake at one time, but probably not now.

Bigfoot, or Sasquatch. Bigfoot is a creature that is something between ape and man and roams the cold climate, wilderness areas of North America. Tracks, scat, hairs, and brief sightings comprise the primary body of evidence. Photographic evidence has been demonstrated to be suspect, if not an outright hoax.

Is it possible, however, that Bigfoot exists and we simply haven’t found him? Maybe. New species are discovered and classified every year. Then again, I have a feeling that if Jeff Corwin wanted to find Bigfoot, he could. So I wonder why all the Bigfoot enthusiasts haven’t tracked him down yet.

My conclusion: The sightings may be a variation of ape or other primate, but not likely a beast-man as we picture Bigfoot.

El Chupacabra. El Chupacabra has mostly been seen in Central and South America, although some sightings have been reported in the Southern United States. It is described as an animal with strange eyes, fangs, and claws which can travel on two or four feet. It attacks livestock and drains the animals of their blood. The word “chupacabra” means “goat sucker.” Sightings have been rare, photographic evidence is nonexistent, and when someone has caught a chupacabra, it turns out to be a sick or deformed animal instead. I don’t buy into this vampire tale. However, El Chupacabra is an interesting legend.

My conclusion: El Chupacabra sightings are likely due to mistaking predatory animals as vampiric creatures instead.

So what do you think? Are you a believer or a skeptic? Which legends are real and which are fake? What is your supporting evidence for what you believe? Have you had a personal experience with any of these?

Sources: UFOs? Aliens? Area 51 Revealed, ABC News; How Chupacabras Work, How Stuff Works; Nessie of Loch Ness, The Museum of Unnatural Mystery; Roswell – The Final Declassification, Rense.com; Roswell: Anatomy of a Myth, Roswell Files; The Roswell Incident and Project Mogul, The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry; Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization; International Institute for Species Exploration; The Shady Science of Ghost Hunting, Live Science; The Legend of Loch Ness, Nova; Rogue Nessie, StrangeMag.com.