Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Ghost on Every Corner -- my new book about paranormal investigations in haunted cities

What’s better than hearing a ghost story? Getting a story about a ghostly encounter straight from the mouths of people who make investigating the paranormal a big part of their lives, the paranormal investigators. That’s what I felt should be the heart of a book I started working on in 2009, which at that time had the title “Real Ghost Towns.” I got the idea for this book while I was doing research on an article for The Shadowlands. I noticed there were quite a lot of ghost stories coming from quite a lot of cities. The term “ghost town” was very present in my mind, and I started asking myself, What if there are cities out there that are really haunted? This thought was fueled by a comment another writer made on a message board I posted at, who noted that one town was indeed haunted. The whole town. I had already co-authored a book on haunted houses, so I guess it was natural that the next "haunted" book I write would be about haunted cities. As I often do with book ideas, I did some more research and discovered, you know what? This could be a book. I discussed this book idea with an editor at another publishing company and she liked the idea. From then on, I got to work on a book about real haunted cities.

But I had to figure out how to make this book different from all the other “ghost story” books that are out there. And, believe me, there are lots of them! It couldn’t just be “urban legends” or just stories. It had to have something that would give the case for a haunted city more credibility. And who better to do just that then the very people who investigate these stories? I knew of paranormal investigators through my work on other Shadowlands articles, so I pondered asking them if they’d be willing to share their stories of ghostly encounters in these cities. First, I put together a list of “haunted cities” through more research, and then I contacted investigators who have done investigations in those cities. (Fortunately, many groups do point out where they’ve done investigations on their websites, or I would learn about the investigations in newspaper articles.)  Many of the groups I contacted agreed to share their stories for the book. Looks like I was on my way in getting this book off the ground!

I spent a year working on this book, gathering stories as well as interviewing the investigators. I also spent time researching the cities included in order to provide some background information as well as claims of the paranormal these cities are known for. My original list dwindled down as I had trouble locating groups or investigators to contact about being included in the book. Many of the groups I contacted had not done investigations in that particular city (such as Boston) and other groups I contacted never replied to my emails or online contact forms they had on their sites (such as for Deadwood). I used every single resource available to find and locate either the paranormal investigators who worked alone or in groups: Google, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and even books on haunted encounters. I also used the site Help a Reporter Out (HARO). I also asked other investigators if they knew of groups I could get in touch with. A paranormal Meet-Up site was handy in helping me to find groups or investigators to interview. Finally, there was a paranormal-themed network site listing thousands of groups as well as investigators, as well as what cities they have done investigations in, and that became a valuable resource for me to find the people I needed to get in touch with. Unfortunately, there were many broken or dead links on that site, but I worked around those hurdles with a Google search. I am happy with the final list of cities included in the book and I was VERY LUCKY to get the opportunity to include some of them – such as Portland, Savannah and New Orleans. It took me YEARS to find a group who investigated Portland (in Oregon) and I found a group who had investigated New Orleans thanks to my connections on Facebook. One particular city that was not on the original list but ended up in the book was sprung on me through the urgings of a ghost!

As I put this book together, I kept one point in mind: This is supposed to be a book that allows these investigators to have center stage. They are the ones doing the dirty work so they should be the ones able to tell their stories themselves. This was their chance to share their experiences with the world. (Keep in mind, though, that not everyone included in the book is a paranormal investigator. Sometimes I had to interview witnesses or business owners to get their side of the story.) For this reason, I really wanted the investigators to have the chance to tell the stories themselves. I mean, they were there, I wasn’t. They knew everything that happened and I didn’t. And while some of the investigators did indeed submit their own personal accounts of what happened during some of their most memorable cases, others were not able to. In these instances, I interviewed them and wrote up the story myself. I then sent the story to the investigators for approval, asking them to correct any mistakes or make any changes where needed. While I prefer to interview people through email because I am profoundly deaf, and also because with email I can’t misquote anybody, some of the people, such as a business owner, didn’t have the time for an email interview. So I had to explain how I use Internet relay for phone calls (it’s a service through Sprint) and then made arrangements to call them for an interview. Thankfully, these relay interviews went really well. A bonus was that I was able to save the transcripts of the phone interviews so that I didn’t get any words wrong or forget anything.

Originally, I was supposed to get this book done and submitted to the original publisher in one year’s time. I got it to her shortly after that deadline. This publishing company later decided to not take on this book because the editor did not want it as it was originally written. She wanted me to rewrite the whole thing and change the investigators’ personal accounts as though I had interviewed them, just as I’d done with some of those included. She didn’t want them to be able to tell their stories themselves, probably because of legal implications that could result after the book was published and someone included wasn’t happy. Despite the possibility of a lawsuit in just such a situation, I refused to redo the personal stories. I stuck to my guns on this. Those people had taken the time to write up and send me their stories. This book was their chance to have their stories told in their own words and with their own voices. The editor did not want the book written that way so she canceled the contract.

But it actually turned out well. For one thing, I used this “downtime” from a deadline to make the book even better than before. I had not wanted to make this book a series, though the editor did, so I was glad I could now stick to this and make the book its own volume of stories. No series and no subsequent books. (This is actually a good thing because of the headaches involved in trying to find groups and then the very long waits I had to put up with before I heard from them again. So, no! No second or third book.) For another thing, I was able to keep the book exactly as I wanted it to be. The investigators still got to tell their own stories. Finally, another good thing that came out of losing the original contract is that I did finally manage to find the groups and investigators I needed in order to include cities I REALLY wanted in this book (Savannah, New Orleans and Portland). So, the extra time paid off.

So I went back to working on this book and resumed the search for groups for other cities to include. I didn’t stress out over it so much because now I didn’t have to worry about a deadline, but as the years passed, I started thinking, Hm, I really need to wrap this project up. It was just one year after another after another that I kept working on this book. (This is an unfortunate situation an author tends to fall into, spending YEARS working on a book without being able to decide when it’s time to stop working on it and start submitting the thing already.) At this point, I was with a new publisher and had a good relationship with them. A bonus was that they’ve been involved in paranormal investigations. I asked them if they might be interested in this book and they said yes. But before I could submit it, I had to figure out a new title. The title assigned to it through the original publisher was “Spook City.” I knew I needed a new title for this new version of the book. I brainstormed with my daughter (who is also a writer) for a new title. We both threw a bunch of ideas around and used ghostly images to help us come up with something. The final title we settled on actually came about from both of us: A Ghost on Every Corner. (Thanks, Jen!)

Eventually, I got to a point where I could call this book “done.” I submitted it to my publisher and they accepted it. Yay! I was so thrilled. What an unreal situation it was for me to finally be done with this book and get a new contract for it. I had spent so many years working on it and it was quite a shock that I was done AND that it was going to be published in the very near future. Unfortunately, the publisher was not able to include photos in this book, but you can see the ghostly photos for the chapters they belong to at this blog

But I was about to go through quite an experience in getting this book ready for publication. Wow, what troubles we had! First I had a hard time getting back in touch with everybody to ask them all to sign release forms. Some websites were no longer active, some had changed their emails (without letting me know – argh!!), and some were with different groups now. Boy, what a hunt it was finding everybody again! I used the usual sources – Google, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – and fortunately I found most of them. Those I had more trouble with I had to use what resources I could; I even had to call one of them up because he was not replying to emails or my Facebook posts/messages. (Yeah, I really tend to bug my sources. It’s that journalist in me. LOL) (“That reporter again!”) Then when I DID find everybody, there was the matter of updating bios or retouching stories. One investigator sent in an updated bio at the VERY last minute! Because of this, the manuscript went through several rounds of edits and updates. What fun that was!

Then the next hurdle was getting the final manuscript right. Somewhere in the chaos of updating everything, other things got lost. Argh! We were all beginning to wonder if this manuscript about haunted cities was haunted itself. When that was fixed and it was sent off to the printer, I thought we were finally out of the woods. But guess what? Even the FINAL file for the print book had some hiccups in it. Ugh! I told them I wanted to hold off on fixing anything because, at this point in time, I am not able to do so. But I also want to see what happens when the ACTUAL print book is in my hands and I can look at it to see if anything else had gone wrong. (Funny how we tend to notice things in print that we miss on the screen.) So, we’ll see how that turns out.

My book on haunted cities that I started working on so long ago, A Ghost on Every Corner, has finally been published! Hooray! I’m very excited and exceedingly grateful that this book was finally completed and finally published. It has definitely been a long journey and it is nice to see the creation of this book come to an end.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to be a part of this book: Hector Barragan, Jr., Rod Franklin, Mike Loop, Kathy Gereau, Paul Dale Roberts, Jen Mauricio, Marissa Sims, Shannon McCabe, Garry Patrick, Kathy Conder, Richard Senate, Jack Coulter, Moriah Rhame, Cathy Ramirez, Terry Rowe, Lena Townsend, Robert Florence, Dawn Rodriguez, SJ Baptista, Henry Steiner, Rob Feinberg, Angela Miles, Justin H. Guess, Gary Corbin, Kurt Page, Mitchel Whitington, Paula Hayes, Martin Leal, Roger Escobar, Pamela K. Kinney, Jason Gerrard, Martha Jette, Lisa Ghariani, Alec Arbour, Pat McCormack, Chad Griffiths, Charlie Rivero, Jerry Talbert, Kathy Shephard, Trish Popovitch, Robin Givens and Ron Fabiani. Thank you also to Cornelius Swart and Mara Grunbaum.

And, of course, thank you to Denise Bartlett and Charlotte Holley of Gypsy Shadow Publishing, who took on this book that was quite a ghostly adventure for us all!    

The book is currently available only as an ebook. Print coming soon!

Here is the blurb for the book:

There’s a ghost town then there’s a “ghost” town! A Ghost on Every Corner is a collection of stories from paranormal investigators who have done investigations in some of America’s most haunted cities. Read about the ghost haunting a restaurant in Galena, Illinois, or about a Gettysburg Battlefield ghost who follows an investigator home! There’s also Marilyn Monroe’s ghost haunting the famous Roosevelt Hotel, a ghost violently attacking an investigator at the Sallie House and the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe’s adoptive father angrily pushing an investigator down the stairs! You’ll also get to read historical (as well as ghostly!) information about places such as The Alamo, Myrtles Plantation and the famous BirdCage Theater. Walk with investigators located across the country as they gather evidence about ghosts and go where no other would dare to tread!

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