Seeing a Ghost

ghost

As research for the seventh Mae Martin book, I recently read a book on paranormal investigation techniques by a professional skeptic. It reminded me of this post I wrote three years ago, which some of my current blog readers may not have seen, so I’ve updated and recycled it.

Once in a while, writing paranormal mysteries, I need to introduce a character who is no longer alive.* In Shaman’s Blues, Mae has no concept of ghosts at first, but Jamie, an anthropologist’s son, assures her that every culture has them.

Ghosts fascinate us, even when we don’t believe in them. People sign up for ghost tours of historic districts, and some choose the option to get the presumably haunted room at a B&B. Part of the attraction in ghost stories is the curious pleasure of safely experienced negative emotions. There is something frightening about an encounter with the dead, and most ghosts are said to have fallen into the place between worlds through tragedy. By seeking out ghosts, we can dip into terror and sadness for a quick swim and come back out, invigorated by the plunge.

It’s different for the ghost. Stuck in the crack between two worlds, attached to earthly life yet incapable of living it, looking, perhaps, for one particular soul, the ghost must be frustrated, bewildered and lonely. No wonder they behave badly sometimes. It can’t be much of an afterlife.

I say that lightly, but at the moment that I met a ghost, I was scared to the bone. It was quite some time ago, but I can still feel her when I think about her.

The cold is what made her frightening.

I was a college student on Christmas break visiting my sister and her husband, and my boyfriend and I stayed in the attic bedroom of their old house. In the dark before dawn, the alarm went off, and my boyfriend got up to go to work. We spoke briefly, kissed goodbye, and he left. Wide awake, I stayed in bed under a heap of quilts and blankets, hoping I could go back to sleep. Our shared body heat had made a cozy nest of the bed and I didn’t want to get up early on my vacation.

I snuggled the blankets around me—and was suddenly chilled. I wasn’t alone. A woman’s head and shoulders floated on the far side of the room. She stared at me, her face stern and judgmental over a high-collared dress, her hair pulled back in a severe tight bun. I was terrified, not by her apparent resentment, but by the deep, unnatural chill. At the same time, I thought her features were like the country comedian Minnie Pearl. I’ve cited Stephen King’s Danse Macabre in a book review before, and it fits here: comedy and horror go hand in hand. I pulled the blanket over my head until the cold went away.

Prior to that, I didn’t believe in ghosts. I’m not sure I do now, either, but it’s like what anthropologist Michael Harner says about shamans not believing in spirits. They don’t have to. They know.

*****

*My books containing characters who are ghosts or spirits are Shamans’ Blues and Soul Loss.soul ebookshaman

 

Book Review: Snake Face

before the second sleep

Snake Face (Book III in the Mae Martin Mystery series)

Mae Martin is moving into the next phase of her life, what she’d been planning when last we saw her in Amber Foxx’s second psychic mystery, Shaman’s Blues. College in New Mexico has started and she cautiously enters a new relationship with Stamos, a fellow student with whom she later plans a road trip, given their destinations not far from each other.

snakeebooknew.jpgSnake Face, B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree

Very soon after the novel’s opening, Foxx utilizes a blend of dialogue and omniscient narration to bring readers up to speed on where Mae has been until now, and it works like a charm. The passages also introduce the above-mentioned Stamos Tsitouris as he and Mae get to know each other and work out an agreement for cross-country travel. Stamos provides background regarding his former wife and Mae recalls Jamie Ellerbe—known professionally…

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Book Review: Shaman’s Blues

before the second sleep

Shaman’s Blues (Book II in the Mae Martin Mysteries series)

by Amber Foxx

A B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree

shamanSecond in Amber Foxx’s Mae Martin Mysteries series, Shaman’s Blues gives us a sneak peak into a dire moment in Jamie Ellerbee’s life, then re-opens with Mae Martin as she prepares to leave her Virginia practice where, until now, she offered energy healing and psychic services. A year since discovering her psychic ability, Mae is now in the midst of a divorce and about to embark on a journey to New Mexico, where she will attend university and re-unite with her father, who came out and separated from his family when Mae was a teenager.

Before leaving, her soon-to-be-former supervisor, Deborah, gifts a CD of healing music to Mae, with an “ulterior motive,” as Deborah playfully calls it. The musician, Jangerrai, seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth, or at…

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Art that Inspired Me

The Bull

I can’t take full credit for the images of Niall Kerrigan’s sculptures. If you’ve read Shaman’s Blues you know the art I’m talking about—rusted metal, parts of old tools and machines recycled into creatures or people. Take a look at the art that inspired the art in my book. Sculptor Alexandra Soler’s work amazed me when I encountered it in person. Her animals aren’t just inventive, but practically alive. They seem to be filled with some inner vitality, ready to move, supported by anatomically believable muscles and bones—and yet they are made from recycled metal scraps. She finds parts that are shaped like the parts of the animals and reuses them with perfect fits. I have no idea how long it takes her to create these sculptures, but even finding the right materials must be challenging, not to mention the process of building them. My favorite is the bull made from Toro lawnmower parts. He is every inch the bull. I wish you could stand face to face with him. It makes you feel as if he’s making a turn to charge you.

See more of her work on Art by Alex. The horse made of horseshoes is startlingly real. The chicken made me smile.

https://www.facebook.com/ArtbyAlex

Virtual Tour of New Mexico, Part Two: Music in Santa Fe, a trip to T or C, and Desert Beauty

This started as a virtual tour of Santa Fe last week, but I decided to expand it to other locations as well.

First stop, music. Santa Fe Bandstand is one of the highlights of my summer. I enjoy the atmosphere and the range of artists, and as a writer of course I especially like watching the audience. Every summer I come up from T or C for a week or a few days, timing my trip for the performers I most want to see and hear.

Bandstand plays a key role in Shaman’s Blues. If you’ve read the book, see if reality matches your imagination.

Photo gallery

http://santafebandstand.org/galleries/bandstand-photos/

Not many videos available right now, but here are a few. My personal favorite among the bands in these videos—Felix Y Los Gatos. Love the blues accordion!

http://santafebandstand.org/videos/

This next stop on the tour is part of the “on location” visit for Shaman’s Blues. New Mexico Magazine recently featured an article on my beloved Truth or Consequences, where Mae moves in the beginning of the book. Read the article and you’ll see how an off-beat artist like Niall fits right in, and how a place like Dada Café just might happen. (I located it on Broadway in a building that has had a high rate of restaurant turnover.)

Turtleback Mountain is prominent in the picture that accompanies this article, and it’s in Mae’s view from her back yard.

http://www.nmmagazine.com/article/?aid=84968#.UxkFLdiYbDA

If my book or this “tour” made you fall in love with New Mexico, I recommend New Mexico Magazine as a way to keep the virtual tour going year round. They cover art, music, books, food, history, recreation, and their photography alone is enough to make the publication worth my subscription.

http://www.nmmagazine.com/

The final part of this tour is immersion in the natural beauty of the state. These pictures are not related to scenes in the book, other than the fact that one can’t drive on the interstate in NM without seeing something breathtaking, and that is part of Mae’s experience in her new home.

I discovered this photographer’s work at an outdoor art show in Santa Fe a few years ago. His way of seeing the world is attentive to grand vistas and subtle details, often in the same picture, and makes me feel the sacredness of the land.  He has a name that somehow suits his work—Amadeus Leitner.

The photo gallery could keep you in a state of exalted bliss for quite some time. Imagine the smells of sage and juniper, the breath of the wind, the texture of a rock heated by the sun, and you’ll be there.

http://www.amadeusleitner.com/

Welcome to the Land of Enchantment.

Virtual Tour of Santa Fe: On location in Shaman’s Blues, Part One

 

This week, take a look at some of the art my characters see in the book.

 

  1. Manitou Galleries, works in glass inspired by Native traditional art. First stop on the gallery tour in the book. http://manitougalleries.com/artists/Ed_Archie_Noisecat
  2. Next stop is the Worrell Gallery, which was still the Frank Howell Gallery in the year I set Shaman’s Blues. Bill Worrell’s mystical sculptures, paintings and poetry shared space with Frank Howell’s reverent portraits of Native elders. There had always been a Worrell deer shaman or two outside as well as a few of them inside. They have titles. I call them deer shamans. The scene in Shaman’s Blues where Mae and Jamie start to have a serious discussion of shamanism and a tourist says something funny takes place here. http://worrellgallery.com/
  3. The Howell Gallery has moved to Canyon Road. This link to Howell’s posters shows some of the images I have Mae looking at earlier in that scene. http://frankhowellgallery.com/j25/artists/frank-howell/posters
  4. Blue Rain Gallery, glass, pottery and paintings. The blue glass bird sculpture that provokes a significant revelation is set here.

http://www.blueraingallery.com/artists/nancy_callan

http://www.blueraingallery.com/artists/tammy_garcia

http://www.blueraingallery.com/artists/tony_abeyta

http://www.blueraingallery.com/artists/preston_singletary_and_ross_richmond:_a_collaboration

  1. The whirling sculptures at the Mark White Gallery. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QloFhVK9Gb0
  2. This next location is the store where Mae finds the corn mother fetish.

http://www.keshi.com/categories/fetishes

 

Enjoy. Don’t you wish you were there? Next week, more!

Shaman’s Blues Released!

                                            Shaman’s Blues

                           The second Mae Martin psychic mystery

Mystery crosses between the worlds and romance gets turned upside down in Santa Fe, the City Different.

Mae Martin gets a double-edged going-away gift from her job as a psychic and
healer: beautiful music by a man who’s gone missing, and a request to find him.

When she arrives in her new home in New Mexico, aiming to start life over as she comes to terms with her second divorce, she faces a new challenge in the use of her gift. Her new neighbors are under the influence of an apparently fake psychic who runs the health food restaurant where they work. When Mae questions the skills of the peculiar restaurateur, the woman disappears—either to Santa Fe, or another dimension. The restaurant’s manager asks Mae to discover which it is.

Finding two missing people proves easier than finding out the truth about either of them, or getting one of them, once found, to go away again.