This marketing crash course has been a week’s worth of interesting. The prompt generator is … well, it’s not reeeeealy set up for what I need to do. It’s geared more towards business applications, I think, which makes for some interesting prompts.
So after a couple of false starts (“What are some tips for saving time with ghosts?” “What is the #1 WordPress plugin for ghosts?” “Which tasks should be outsourced when it comes to ghosts?”), I finally landed on “How long did it take to get where you are with ghosts?”
Well, I figured THIS was a question I could take a stab at answering with a straight face. So here goes.
I blame my dad for starting me down this dark path. JK, I’m really super glad I grew up with a dad who loved to tell ghost stories. I grew up in the Chicago area, and so did Dad, so he was the one who passed down all the local Chicago ghost lore to me. I grew up enthralled with tales of the monks of Saint James-the-Sag, the screaming mummy of the Field Museum, and all the lovely spots on Archer Avenue. (He never mentioned the Grimes sisters case, though. Dunno if he wasn’t familiar with it, or if he wanted to shield me from that particular ugliness.)
Growing up steeped in ghost stories was wonderful, but I reached my adult years believing that ghosts were something that happened to other people. I didn’t grow up in a “haunted” house, so I figured that ghost stories were something I could enjoy, but at arm’s length. I started writing horror fiction, keeping the monsters safely on the page.
In 2009, though, I got a very interesting phone call — at work. My coworker came up to me and said, “Hey, I took a phone message for you. It was a publisher. I put the message in your mailbox in the staff room.” I almost thought she was pulling my leg, but sure enough, there was a pink phone message slip in my inbox. I called the 800 number on the paper, and got Bruce Carlson of Quixote Press.
Turns out Bruce was a publisher of true ghost story collections, and he had tapped me to write a book called Ghosts of the Illinois River. I couldn’t believe my luck; here I was, a struggling fiction writer, being asked — no, invited! — to write a collection of true ghost stories, about the river that flowed almost through my own backyard. It was a childhood dream come true.
While doing the research for that first nonfiction book, I started going along on investigations with different groups. That, in turn, led to the Lights Out podcast, and all those wonderful true experiences people have so graciously shared with me. But first, foremost, and always, it has been the writing of stories that has driven me forward. Ghosts of the Illinois River led directly to Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, which led in turn to 44 Years in Darkness. Now I’m working on Spirits of Christmas, and I am happy as a pig in … well, I’m exceptionally satisfied with the path my writing career has taken.
And it all started with my dad telling ghost stories around the supper table.