Digging Deep: Freeing the Ghosts from Our Past

We all have them. For some, they constitute nothing more substantial than the imagined boogie man in the closet, or under the bed. For others, the childhood fears are bigger, more powerful, more damaging, usually involving a situation with our parents, siblings, or peers. The end result is the same: we carry these ghosts, either consciously or somewhere deep beneath the surface, throughout our lives.


One of my ghosts is pretty easy to pinpoint. Growing up in a family where Mom stayed at home and Dad was an alcoholic, I lived in constant fear that either, a. we would lose our home, or b. Mom would leave—without taking my younger brother or me. She actually threatened that once, a night I will never forget. She did it to make an impression on my father, hoping it would snap him out of his cyclic behavioral illness. She went as far as to pack her suitcase and “call a taxi.”

She would never have left us. I know that now. She had no idea where she would go (she had no job, no savings, no family close by), but that logic failed to prevent sending me, at the age of eight, and my younger brother at six, into a panic. Leave us here alone with Dad? Who hadn’t gotten out of bed in days (literally) and was incoherent most of the time? The very thought was horrifying.


Not that my father was in any way abusive or dangerous. He was a pathetic drunk, one whose own emotional damage caused him, every few months or years, to take to his bed with a bottle of whatever he’d managed to bring home and hide. He would sleep for days.

Mom didn’t leave that terrifying night, but later an ambulance came to gather my father who had fallen in the hallway atop a gallon of wine he had hidden somewhere. The smell of the wine, the sight of the blood, the sound of my father’s pathetic sobs as they strapped him onto a gurney–they bound his hands–will never, ever leave my memory. They took him to the Middletown Psychiatric Hospital where they kept him until he sobered up. Weeks? Months? At eight, it seemed an eternity. I simply remember my mother being very sad all the time. I remember going to visit him on Sundays, where they let him sit out at the picnic tables under the pine trees. We brought peanuts to feed the squirrels.

Squirrels still make me sad. I’ll never crack a peanut shell without that memory causing a clenching in my chest.


Was I trying to exorcise this “ghost” when I wrote Spirits of the Heart? I’m certain. I set the book at the same, now defunct psychiatric center in Middletown, N.Y. My hero in the novel is fighting alcoholism. Only in this rendition, I had control over the ending. I could banish the addiction, rekindle the love, and create a happily ever after.

Yep, it’s what I do. It’s what I write about. Resurrecting old ghosts, healing them, and putting them to rest. In fiction, I have the power to do what in real life, I could not.

What old ghosts are haunting your memories? If you could bring them to life once again, and had the power to change history, would it heal you? Would it make your life more complete? Tell me in comments, and I’ll select someone to receive a copy of Spirits of the Heart.


Claire Gem writes supernatural suspense which is, apparently, based on her own deepest fears. Personal ghosts. We all have them, don’t we?


Amazon Author Page



An Unexpected (and a little eerie) Side Trip

As a left-brainer by day, I tend to be a planner: reservations, time schedules, itineraries–even for a casual weekend trip. But sometimes even the best-laid plans go awry. Thanks to a harried schedule and a little trick Travelocity played on me, my husband and I ended up this past Saturday night, in the middle of freaking nowhere, with no hotel room.

(Warning: when booking through Travelocity, check your confirmation email CAREFULLY. I searched and booked–I thought–for the 28th. Arrived at the hotel with a confirmation in hand for the 23rd–which had already been charged to my bank account).

No matter. After a wonderful evening with close friends in rural Maine (VERY rural!) for their wedding, we drove twenty miles to find we had no room. The hotel across the street was booked as well. We had no choice to but to hoof it back toward the main highway.

Until we stumbled upon The Poland Springs Resort. At first glance, I was sure we couldn’t afford a room in this elegant old Victorian mansion. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that they did still have a few rooms available in our price range. What an unexpected delight this was.

The Poland Springs Resort was established in 1794, and is the original site of “THE SPRING” from which all Poland Spring water, well . . . springs. There are numerous buildings on the expansive resort surrounding an impeccably manicured golf course. The building we had the honor of staying in was called the Presidential Inn.


The building itself has no check-in office–you do that at The Lodge a half-mile up the road. With old fashioned keys in hand, we parked and used one of the two keys to unlock the exterior doors to the Presidential–and took a step back in time to a more elegant era.

We stepped into a warmly lit lobby which, although it was only about 8 p.m., was empty. The only other guests we saw were two elderly couples playing cards on the lower level in one of their “gathering rooms.” The place was clean, quiet, but I have to admit–in its seemingly abandoned state in the dark, a little bit creepy.


There are no elevators. So, luggage in tow, my husband and I trudged up the very long carpeted stairwell to the second floor to our room, number “5.” The room was spacious and just as comfortably appointed as the rest of the hotel. If not somewhat dated.


The bed was clean and comfortable, there was plenty of hot water and the pressure would just about blast you out of the shower. And it was quiet . . . almost supernaturally quiet. Until about two a.m.

After a trip to the bathroom, I lay in the bed waiting for sleep to again claim me. The footsteps began moments later. First, in the hallway outside our door. These were not those of an adult. Quick, bouncy, like a small child running down the hallway. First up the hall, then back down. Over and over again. No voices accompanied these sounds, not the opening or closing of a door. Nothing.

Then they began overhead, seemingly on the third floor directly above us. A child, running excitedly, almost bouncing, from one end of the room to the other. Again, no voices. No doors opening or closing. Not another blessed sound.

This went on, switching back and forth between overhead to the hallway outside our door, until after 3:30 a.m. It wasn’t loud enough to disturb my husband–he snored through the whole thing. I was sorely tempted to peek out, but my chicken liver feared I might find one of Stephen King’s little girls from the Overlook peering back at me.

Was I afraid? Strangely not. I tried to rationalize that there was an over-active toddler somewhere in the hotel whose parents–whose mute parents–were trying to let run off extra energy.

But in the middle of the night? For almost two hours? There are placards at the head of every staircase, and on every floor, plainly stating, “Quiet Hours: 10 p.m.- 6 a.m. No loud music, loud conversations, no running in the halls.”


My hair stood up on my neck just a little at that last line.

The next morning, a lovely buffet breakfast was included in our room rate. This was in another building, where there were additional rooms. We were not, I discovered, the only guests of the Poland Spring Resort that night. Several dozen others enjoyed their breakfasts alongside us–all senior citizens belonging to some sort of car club (my husband had noticed the line of classic Studebakers in the lot). Not a toddler or young family among them.

Is the Presidential Lodge haunted? Having been around since the turn of the 19th century, I would say that chances are good. But have no fear–I didn’t. Instead, I left the Poland Springs Resort with a sense of curiosity that will fuel my research and bring me back, again, to stay at the Presidential Inn another time. Or two.

It might even be the site for another Haunted Voices novel . . .

I Can Hear You Better Now

I stopped eating toast and cakes and pies, and I can hear you better now.


Deafness runs in my family. My younger brother suffers considerable hearing loss. He has one daughter who is profoundly deaf and had to attend a special school. My older brother has been wearing hearing aids for twenty years. My “deafness” began quite abruptly.

We were on vacation, halfway between Tampa, FL and Ft. Worth, TX. I awoke in the hotel room on the second day of our vacation with a terrible ringing in my ears. I was alarmed. I wasn’t sure if it signaled high blood pressure, an inner ear infection, or . . . what?

After three hours and numerous tests in the local emergency ward, I was informed I had a condition known as tinnitus. Chronic ringing in the ears, for which the world of medicine had no known cause and no treatment or cure. I was devastated.

That was 15 years ago, when I was 45. Since then, I’ve learned to “ignore” the ringing, although sleeping can only take place if there is some kind of background noise (a fan or the like) to distract me. Last year I went for an official hearing test, and the audiologist concluded I had 40% loss in my right ear, and over 60% loss in my left. I was, very nearly, deaf.


I resisted hearing aids (insurance won’t cover them) until my older brother donated his old ones to me when he upgraded. He took me to his audiologist, who tested me to adjust the aids to my deafness pattern. When I escaped from the “tank” where they test folks, I asked, “Did I pass?”

“You did fine,” he replied.

“So, I don’t really need this hearing aids?”

“Uh, no. You really need them.”

Hearing aids suck. They are uncomfortable, and amplify noises you don’t need to hear, while the sounds you want to hear remain muffled and too loud. The first time I wore them in a restaurant, I couldn’t make out what my brother was saying across the table. When a busboy dropped silverware into a bin across the room, my eardrums threatened to explode.

But when I stepped into the outside world, a wonderful realization hit me. I could hear birds tweeting in the trees. I hadn’t realized it, but it was a sound I hadn’t been able to hear for years.

I froze at the foot of the steps when I heard what sounded like a gigantic bee buzzing. In the next moment, a bicycle whizzed by on the street. I would never have heard that bicycle if not for the hearing aids.

Fast forward about a year. I will confess, I only wear my brother’s donated (and professionally adjusted to my hearing loss) hearing aids when I absolutely have to. They are still uncomfortable, and far from ideal when it comes to amplifying what I want to hear.

Four weeks ago, I started the Keto Diet. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it is Atkins on steroids. The science behind the diet is sound and impressive (see www.drberg.com). The diet is based on the fact that our brains are fueled, not by sugar or carbohydrates, but by ketones. Ketones are the byproduct of metabolized fat. Just like our caveman forefathers, if we feed our bodies sufficient fat with a moderate amount of protein, we will thrive.

It is a proven fact that sugar (and elevated insulin levels) produce inflammation. This diet, bizarre though it may seem (to those, like me, who were sucking down fat-free, artificially sweetened treats back in the 1980s and 90s), is scientifically sound. The National Epilepsy Foundation is recommending this diet to those suffering from the syndrome: it reduces the occurrence and severity of seizures. It has been known to cure diabetes. The advantages go on and on.

But hearing loss? Can hearing loss possibly be reversed by eliminating carbohydrates from our diet?

I have found little, thus far, to substantiate my claim. I can only tell you that this week, while unlocking the door to the lab where I work, I took pause. What was that noise? That high-pitched sound I don’t usually hear (without the hearing aids)?

Bird song. I could hear the early morning bird song in the trees. No hearing aids.


I came home that day and plopped down in my office chair. There are two aquariums in my office, the bubbling sound of which I am completely unaware of. Usually.

Absently, in the process of trying to read my email, I began the attempt to snatch the hearing aids out of my ears. The high-pitched bubbling whine was driving me crazy.

I wasn’t wearing my hearing aids.

In a few months, continuing on a low-carb diet, I intend to test my hypothesis by returning to my brother’s audiologist. I will have him retest my hearing loss pattern. Will it have improved? I guess only time will tell.

Our caveman ancestors survived to evolve. Without Wonder Bread or Twinkles or Coca Cola. I sometime wonder if we’d made it this far with these elements in our diet.


Claire Gem writes romance and supernatural romantic suspense. She imbues her characters with real-life challenges: her heroine in The Phoenix Syndrome goes deaf. Available in ebook, paperback, and coming soon in audiobook. Visit http://www.clairegem.com.

So . . . About Vincent . . .


Anybody else out there a huge Van Gogh fan? I’ve been fascinated . . . okay, obsessed with his art, his life, his history, since I was a little girl. I’ve read a number of books, watched a number of movies about his life. Was he insane? Or just a frustrated artist who sadly failed to attain fame until after his death?

Let’s talk about his death. Suicide? I’ve always questioned that. A number of other historical scholars share my opinion that Vincent was murdered. There are also some theories that it was not Vincent who cut off his own earlobe, but that it was severed during a sword fight with his contemporary and idol, Paul Gauguin after a heated argument.

These theories are those I explore in my upcoming novel, PIGMENTS, a story where my heroine, Rachel Parrish, travels back in time to access Vincent’s memories through his DNA.

“Dear Theo” is, in essence, an autobiography of the artist, the man, the enigma: Vincent Van Gogh. The work chronicles over 1000 pages of letters Vincent wrote to his younger brother over his short lifetime. Theo Van Gogh, who owned a gallery and tried valiantly to champion his brother’s work, literally supported Vincent throughout his career.

The original publication of Vincent’s letters, all of which Theo’s widow kept, allows the artist to tell his own story. The original text is Bible-thick and very expensive. Although I managed to borrow the hardcover edition through Tufts University’s library system (I work there), I found it almost as difficult to get through as the Bible itself.

In 1937, the scholar Irving Stone, with the help of his wife, went through the 1000+ pages of Vincent’s letters. He combed out the insignificant details of ordinary life, translated the original Dutch to English, and produced a book he felt would be, a. short enough to be palatable to a general audience, and b. producible at a price that would sell. I am now listening to the audiobook version of this compilation.

Reading about Van Gogh’s life and hearing his own words describing it are two, very different mediums. I’m only about 1/3 of the way through. But I have to tell you, my feelings for Vincent are tarnishing, as silver does when left to open air. In his younger years (early 20s), Vincent yearned to follow in his father’s footsteps: that of a Protestant minister. But his faith proved too weak to sustain the course. He turned to art—first drawing, then watercolors, to express his views on life and its hardships. It was not until later that he took up oil painting.


Vincent had a soft spot for the working class. The coal miners. The weavers, the seamstresses, and the prostitutes. Those who worked hard in horrific conditions to make just barely enough to survive. This is not surprising. He became one of them.

But he was determined to be an artist, a vocation he defines as “seeking truth yet never to arrive.” It seems his heart was in the right place. Still, I have to question his sense of responsibility. In letter after letter to his younger, more successful brother Theo, the main thing he does—repeatedly—is to defend his own views on life, and to ask for more money.

In listening to Vincent’s own words in describing his mentors—those who, one by one, abandoned him—I cannot deny: he sounds like either a sociopath, or one who suffers from bipolar disorder. In one breath he states he “cannot blame” his mentors for turning their backs on him. In the next, he condemns them for their blindness to his worth.

Does this sound like a man who could have self-mutilated? Committed suicide? Absolutely not. At least so far, in the letters from Van Gogh’s own hand, I see a picture of a man with a very high opinion of himself whose pride, if nothing else, would keep him from doing himself harm. From taking his own life.

My love affair with the Van Gogh legend started when I was just a kid. I was at the tender, impressionable age of fourteen when Don McLean’s rendition of “Starry, Starry Night” came out. We all loved Vincent. He was the starving artist, one to be pitied. He “suffered for his sanity.”


I have to admit—a third of the way through the audiobook of “Dear Theo,” I’m losing patience, as well as pity, for Vincent. I hope this impression changes.

I’ll keep you posted . . .


Claire Gem writes award-winning supernatural suspense. You can find out more at http://www.clairegem.com.


Welcome Chris Redding to my blog with her new release, DESTINY OF A GARGOYLE, Book One of the Series, “When Gargoyles Love.”

Destiny of a Gargoyle

Donal Foley was born in a time when magic ruled the Earth.

Gargoyles protected fairies from goblins. His family was a group of elite gargoyles who were assigned to protect a specific fairy. His father’s dereliction of that duty cursed his sons to become stone and wait.

Now reawakened in the twenty first century where no one believes in magic how is he going to convince his fairy that she is one and that she is in danger from a goblin?

He must do that without falling in love with her.


I’m a personal fan of gargoyles. 🙂 I have two in my office atop my desk that look down on my while I write. Let’s get to know Author Chris Redding better . . .

Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?

I listen to music. Specifically I listen to video game soundtracks when I write. They are designed to help you focus.

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

Colin O’Donaghue would play the hero. Emma Stone the heroine.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Invited to do a workshop at Comic Con. The one in San Diego. They would have to ask me because my paranormal characters are so beloved by man at that point.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

I would never write about the abuse of a child. I just can’t. Not in any context.

Have you ever gotten into a bar fight?

No. I grew up in a pretty dysfunctional house and the upshot of that is that I have great instincts. I know when trouble is coming and how to stay away from it.

What secret talents do you have?

I can juggle. There is a picture of me juggling while doing tree pose.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

I was a dumper for a newspaper. This was many years ago and my job was to “print” out the classifieds. The paper then had to go through a photo processing machine. Sometimes light leaked into it and I wouldn’t know until the ads came out the other end. Smelly chemicals and a crappy boss made the job even worse.


Gosh, even the name of that job sounds bad – a dumper! And having a crappy boss is never good.

Thanks for stopping by today, Chris! You can find out more about Chris and Destiny of a Gargoyle here:

Chris Redding Author LLC

Email: chrisreddingauthor@gmail.com

Website: www.chrisreddingauthor.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/chrisreddingauthor

Twitter: www.twitter.com/chrisredding

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/101743269602364199911/posts

Skype: Chris.Redding.Author

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/chrisredding/

Buy Link: http://a.co/i56M3uV

New Inspirations

Most of my fans know that it takes an energetically charged location to inspire my stories. Up until now, those places have been old libraries, abandoned hotels, crumbling asylums, even an antebellum mansion. After reading this article this morning in Observer-Reporter, I believe I may have found my next inspiration.

From a memory.

The article talks about a new, nonfiction book called “Haunted Hills and Hollows” by Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Kevin Paul. Apparently there is a corner of southwestern Pennsylvania that seems sleepy–except for the recurring supernatural occurrences there. Ms. Guiley, who runs Visionary Living Publishing, was contacted by Mr. Paul about the strange events in the area. Ms. Guiley was intrigued.

Of course, the book is on my to-read list. But what popped out of this article for me was a quote by Ms. Guiley:

“Guiley said mines, oil and gas wells and rivers are conduits for spiritual energy, all of which Greene County has in bounds.”


That’s when it hit me. A memory I had buried (no pun intended) in the deep, dark recesses of my mind.

It’s got to be 15 years ago now, but I had the pleasure of taking a trip to Belgium a while back. My gracious host and hostess packed me in their station wagon and took me all over the region. One of the places they took me was to an abandoned coal mine in Liege, Belgium.

The experience I had that day still makes my heart race.

I guess I must be claustrophobic, although I was not aware of it until that day. We took an elevator down some distance below the surface. I can’t remember if it was 30 feet or 300, but it doesn’t matter. The panic attack I experienced slicked my skin with sweat and deadened my hearing for the blood rushing in my ears. I was sure I would die there that day. I couldn’t wait to get back to the surface.

Men died in those shafts. I remember the tour guide telling us the stories. What better place for spirits to be trapped?


Claire Gem writes award-winning supernatural suspense novels. Find out more at http://www.ClaireGem.com.



Tech-Savvy Ghosts?


This year’s Mother’s Day was not the most festive I’ve experienced. I spent the day at the funeral of a friend of the family. This incredible lady (we’ll call her Sally), who was stolen away from us at ridiculously young age from a sudden illness, has touched the lives of hundreds, if not thousands in her short, fifty-one years. Her younger brother (we’ll call him Will) and I are particularly close. Will and I met for the first time about ten years ago and in that moment had a “Hey, wow, there you are!” kind of weird recognition. A communion of spirits.

Yesterday, we followed Will and Sally’s family, proceeding in a long line of vehicles to the tiny cemetery very near, ironically, to the town where my first Haunted Voices novel, HEARTS UNLOCHED, is set. A steady, drizzling cold rain made the already unpleasant journey even more miserable. As I was getting out of the car to walk to the interment site, a very bizarre thing happened . . .

I had, of course, silenced my phone during the wake, and it was still on silent. Yet suddenly, as I grabbed the small wallet case in which I carry it, a song began to play from its speakers–LOUD. I didn’t recognize the tune, and what’s more, I could not make it stop, even though I hit the two little vertical “stop” bars on the screen multiple times. Each time I tried, the screen went black but the song continued to play. Embarrassed and more than a little flustered, I finally had to shut the phone off to silence it.


When I powered the device back up a half-hour later, the phone was still set to silent. The song was still displayed on the screen: California (There is No End to Love) by U2. It was not on my Youtube app, where I often listen to random songs.

It was in my iTunes app, as if I had purchased it.

Now don’t get me wrong–I have nothing against U2. I’ve heard some of their songs and do kind of like their style. But I’m not a fan, and have never either purchased any of their music nor even looked them up on Youtube. So how–and why–did my iPhone begin playing this particular song as I headed to the grave site for the interment of my dear friend’s sister?

I suppose I will never know. I have asked Will if the band was one of Sally’s favorites, and he said he wasn’t sure. I don’t know any of her friends well enough to ask the question, and would be afraid they would think I was a little loopy if I shared my story. Perhaps some of the lyrics hold a clue:

“I’ve seen for myself, there’s no end to grief
That’s how I know

Whoa, that’s how I know
And why I need to know
That there is no, yeah,
There is no end to love.”

Was the deceased sending a message from the other side? A message to let us know that although the grief is endless for us, there is no end to love? In sending that message, was she letting me know that the other side does exist?

In our modern world of gadgets, we rely heavily on what? Energy. The first law of thermodynamics tells us that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed. We are all made of energy. Perhaps, once the force which defines our lives is transformed, our essence–spirit, if you will–retains the capability to influence the tangible, electronic devices still present on this side of the veil.

Maybe a spirit can turn on an iPhone’s speakers and make it play a song.

Was it my friend’s sister who played the U2 song? Or some other, random soul whose energy was still present there in the dismal cemetery on this cold, rainy Mother’s Day? I may never know the answer for sure, but of one thing I am certain: it wasn’t only the icy drizzle on my neck sending chills through my body as I made my way between the gravestones to the place where they laid a very special lady to rest.

Rest in peace, pretty angel, and feel free to send me a tune anytime you please. I’d be honored to hear from you.



Claire Gem writes contemporary romance and supernatural suspense. Find out more at her website or Amazon Author Page.