The Ghosts of October

Note from Jessa: Something about October is perfect for creepiness. It’s getting darker earlier. The scent of death and rot haunts your heels like a wet leaf stuck to your shoe. The claustrophobia of impending winter. Little kids swarming your porch… Or maybe that’s just me. Here’s writer Mike Garzillo to share his October creeps.


Thanks, Jessa, I felt inspired to blog because it’s October and the weather has been awesome.  Unlikely in Portland, it’s like this every October in San Francisco.   

I spent 12 years living in San Francisco.  Summer warmth arrives fashionably late every year, in September and October.  Fog becomes rare, the nights are clear, and a full moon is brighter than any streetlight.  October is a great San Francisco month; reverence for hedonism makes Halloween a favorite holiday while decorations are creative but rarely scary.  A skeleton in the shadows, with small mirrors for eyes, sitting in the front window of a dark Victorian as you jog by, is scarier.  Jogging late at night in October in San Francisco was different than during other months, creepier, not the fog-induced creepy of horror movies, it was more a sense of foreboding.  I’d assumed it was the random skeletons in windows or looming holiday expenses that made me imagine real ghosts hiding among the fake ones, watching.

24 years ago I was living in The City during the earthquake.  The evening started with countless groups of friends gathered at packed bars or house parties because the A’s were playing the Giants in The World Series.  It was beautiful weather as the game started.  I was at a bar with friends.  The TV on the wall started shaking and then went black.  Bottles of alcohol behind the bar flew forward, smashing against the bar.  Windows exploded, the sound of shattering glass blending with screams.  People ran for doorways, most ran outside.  It would have been more terrifying if it had lasted longer but suddenly it was over.  The power was out.  We all smelled gas.  This was before the Internet or cell phones so nobody knew anything more.

A buddy and I had motorcycles so we drove toward our apartments, agreeing to meet at his.  He lived in the Marina, I was in Pacific Heights.  There was very little damage to mine; some stuff in my living room had bounced around.  As I drove toward the Marina I could see the fire and smoke.  My buddy’s apartment was in a building that was still standing, even thought there were huge cracks in the side.  Five blocks up, buildings burned.  Soldiers in camouflage uniforms with guns were already standing on the corners of Chestnut Street, watching, a convincing looting-deterrent.

The Ghosts of October

No phone lines worked.  We didn’t know about the Bay Bridge or what happened in Oakland, yet, or when power would be restored.  My buddy left to find his girlfriend.  I stayed in the Marina, watching news helicopters land in small areas, unloading guys with TV cameras.  Soon film crews were everywhere as firefighters sprayed the flames.  Cops were putting yellow strips of Keep Out tape across the front of buildings, condemning them, not allowing anyone to go in and get their stuff if the building was unsafe.  One guy had died already trying to get his stuff, falling through the back stairway of a condemned building after it had been tagged.

Night descended with no power or phones.  We were being told to get inside.  I had a motorcycle and could go anywhere.  Currently between girlfriends, I’d been with a few of them recently enough that there was still hope.  I opportunistically drove toward one of their apartments.  People were outside still, standing and talking with each other.  It seemed like a good night to knock on the right door.  She wasn’t home.

I rode around on my motorcycle again, seeing what other areas of The City had been damaged.  The night had become darker than ever before.  People were all inside now, the streets empty in neighborhoods other than The Marina.  I love the dark, I’m never afraid of it, but started to feel like I had reason to be, that same ghosts-while-jogging feeling magnified, as if they had all come up through cracks in the earth into San Francisco, accompanied by death and destruction.

I really didn’t want to spend the night alone and was hoping the next door I knocked on, she’d feel the same way.  She did.  I asked why and she described the same thing I’d felt, like there was something out there to be afraid of.  She was concerned about what would happen next, tomorrow, and asked me to spend the night.  I agreed while thinking about what was happening already while we were the ones hiding in the dark.

Mike Garzillo is one of the few men in the Rose City Romance Writers, which teaches him as much about women as living in San Francisco did.  His 1980s San Francisco Gothic romance Emerald Eyes will be released in February, 2014.  Follow him on Twitter @SFGothicRomance.        

Taming Your Monkey Mind Chatter

Note from Jessa: I have a somewhat dysfunctional relationship with the divine. I WANT to believe, but I also have an aversion to brainwashing, even when it’s my own brain doing the laundry. I feel the lure of spirituality, I am a pattern-seeking primate with an Old World affinity for superstition and a storyteller’s love of symbolism, and I can have endless conversations with the voices in my head about whether any of us entertain free will. Meanwhile, I was poking around on this website with cloud drawings and oracles, and I was interested to have the author on my blog. Then she sent me this post on monkey mind, and I was, like, whoa, that is ME! She couldn’t have picked a more pointed post for one of my personal struggles.

Weird how the world works. Keep reading to learn more about how Ann Bolinger-McQuade to share more about her world.

monkey Image for Jessa Slade post

I would like to thank Jessa Slade for hosting me as a guest blogger, as part of the virtual book tour celebration for my book, EVERYDAY ORACLES – Decoding The Divine Messages That Are All Around Us.

I’ve been having a lot of fun lately talking about the pesky monkey mind chatter that can plague us when we receive personal oracle messages. You know how it works. You have a gut feeling that tells you, “Hey, look! Did you notice what just happened? Don’t miss it. The universe is sending you a message.” That’s when the monkey mind jumps in with something like: “Oh come on now, that’s just a coincidence. Nothing more.”

Or maybe you’ve experienced this one, ”Here you go again imagining things.” That’s our monkey mind working frantically to yank us back into the think-box of conventional reality. Mind chatter is designed to distract and dis-empower us.

It blocks out our gut feeling/intuition, at the exact moment our intuition is in the process of doing its best to flag personal oracles for us.

And the struggle is on….

Oh, what to do, what to do?

Restrict that monkey chatter to the part of the brain where it belongs.

Try this. In your mind’s eye see the image of your brain with both sides visible. Notice the line that divides analytic left-brain from creative/intuitive right-brain. 
As you watch the monkey mind chattering away in your left-brain, begin to move to the right. You have already engaged your right brain creativity, so to silence the chatter just continue to ease your consciousness further on into the right side of your brain. You can have great time practicing this. Then comes the intriguing part. Place your hand on your gut and reengage your intuition. “Thanks for waiting – now what were you saying?”

Caution: do not engage in a dialogue with the chatter.

Mute the volume, shut the door, gag that monkey!

Or be creative and discover a method that works for you.

Sometimes when all else fails we just need to entrap that noisy monkey, instead of him trapping us. If this happens, remember the image of our monkey screaming behind those bright green bars and toss him a banana!

Today’s heads up personal oracle.

I thought I had completed this blog until I noticed something on the floor. It was a tiny stuffed toy monkey that our animals have been playing with this morning. The monkey is clutching a pink heart in both hands. I’m taking that as a sign there is hope for all of us when it comes to taming our monkey mind chatter!

Follow Ann on tour

Follow Ann on tour


monkey photo of annIn her book EVERYDAY ORACLES Decoding The Divine Messages That Are All Around Us, best selling author Ann Bolinger-McQuade uses memorable stories and photos to introduce the formula for how personal oracles work, and then teaches you how to recognize and decode yours.

If you have experiences to share please submit them to Ann through her interactive website, Ann will respond personally to all submissions. And while you are on the site, check out the cloud photos in the What Do You See Section. Have fun, exercise your psychic muscles. Who knows you may just discover a personal oracle that is hiding in plain sight, just waiting to deliver a special message to you.

My hero needs hair! (Or maybe not)

Minor emergency! I just realized I haven’t nailed down my hero’s hair style (okay, I said it was minor) and the art fact sheet is due! So, what sort of hair should my dark fey warrior prince have?

Let’s challenge those cover artists! *evil grin*

Here’s a glimpse of Raze the Ruiner from A LITTLE NIGHT MUSE (Steel Born #2):

Swathed in a gray samite robe, his hulking figure was a drear wall, his glare equally gray above cheekbones as whetted as the exposed steel of the athame hanging from his belt. Amongst beings who could conjure any masquerade, his stark presentation seemed a mockery, as if he had never left the Iron Age behind.

That’s all I said about him, but now he gets his own story so I think he needs a bit of a makeover. Oh, he’s still dark (because I love those moody, broody bad boys!) and his world will soon be falling apart around him (because I love to torture those moody, broody bad boys!) but he’s gotta have style!

So what do you think would look best on him?

paranormal romance hero hair

[ETA I forgot to add color! Well, let’s assume dark hair for a dark hero.]

Skew to the positive: Another reason to write romance

A Facebook link posted by writer friend Tawna Fenske to the Dove “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign on the same day as the Boston Marathon bombings at the same time I’m reading a writing book called Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence made me think about how simultaneously wonderful and scary is our power of perception.

As a writer, I’m taught to create a storyworld for my reader using their senses and emotions. We use techniques like showing instead of telling and archetypal imagery to incite visceral responses that build Technicolor, 3D, surround-sound, smell-o-vision experiences out of a black and white page.

It’s magic, I tell ya.

But magic — like all powers — can be used for good or evil. The Dove campaign shows women seeing the evidence of their own perceptions of their beauty played against the perceptions of others. Just like a writer builds a storyworld out of the senses and emotions of the reader, we real-life people build our real-life world out of OUR senses and emotions.

And sometimes that world is so, so wrong.

The Dove example might seem petty — so some lady thinks she has more flaws than she really does; wash with mild soap and it’ll all be better — but what other, more debilitating flaws in imagination lead someone to place a bomb?

Use your power for good

I write romance because I believe good triumphs, love wins the day, and we can all strive to be better people. And that is the world I want to build. Meanwhile, there are dark souls out there seeking to build a world that reflects their own skewed perceptions.

Don’t let them win.

Use your power of perception to find the real beauty (even in a silly ad). Seek the truth (even though knee-jerk conspiracy theories). Believe in the potential for happiness (even when it hurts) because that is the definition of hope.