With the opening of new exhibits at Kensington Palace, it seems that a few of Queen Victoria’s dresses are on display. Take a look at her wedding dress. Couldn’t you just die? Isn’t it gorgeous?Read More
Archive for March, 2012
I wanted to share a free preview of my upcoming novel, From the Darkness Risen: Book II. To set the scene, Eva Grimm has been working for a Confederate agent in St. Louis for a few months behind her husband’s back (Thaddeus) and she’s finally been trusted with a task that could make a real difference in the war effort.
Robert Louden, Rachel Hyatt and the boat burners really existed in St. Louis during the Civil War, causing numerous headaches for the Federal army there. Louden destroyed the steamer Ruth, for example, in the summer of 1863 that carried $2.4 million in pay for Grant’s army. Coal torpedoes were real weapons in the war along the Mississippi as well. At this stage, they were just being tested occasionally before the inventor got backing from the Confederate government later in the summer of 1863 (we’re in the late winter of 1863 at this point in the novel).
I’ll blog more about the real history behind my novel later. For now, here is a free excerpt that will likely be edited and improved before publication next month. Feedback is appreciated. Enjoy!
“Do you have it?” Rachel Hyatt’s heightened, excited tone sounded entirely different than the sober volunteer Eva met at Senator Godfrey’s reception.
“Yes, just here.” Eva patted the basket hung from her arm. “I told my husband I was bringin’ soup and bread to an ill friend. He didn’t even question me. You might as well take the food.”
“No, no,” Miss Hyatt decided, “you shall need these things to conceal your purpose. Don’t you think?”
“Yes, of course. I don’t know what I was thinkin’.”
The swiftness with which she rifled through the basket made Eva tense and jumpy, for the coal torpedo jostled beside the loaf of bread. As it turned out, they hatched a plan to conceal her assignment from her husband with the greatest ease. It appeared that Miss Hyatt lived alone in a few rented rooms above a bustling tavern, yet she wore a wedding ring. Her husband must have been in the army. Eva didn’t ask many questions. It was better for agents to know very little of each other even if Miss Hyatt was little more than a petty thief and lady of the night.
Miss Hyatt studied her for a moment. “You’re anxious. You’ve got to put your mind at ease or you shall surely be caught. Here, sit down.” She grasped Eva by the elbow and propelled her to a nearby chair, old and creaking with years of overuse. “We shall have a drink and then send you on your way.”
As the lady crossed the room, Eva noticed how swiftly and naturally she moved without the cumbersome hoops under her dress. True, hoops freed ladies from the bulk and weight of layers of petticoats that were popular so many years before, but her mind worked ideas about further freedom. She might have to run from the police or the army that night. It was already going to be difficult with her false foot. She knew a large, bell-shaped dress could hinder her escape.
“Do you have another dress I could use?” Eva inquired as Miss Hyatt handed her a small glass of brown liquor. “It’ll help me escape quicker should I be seen.”
A slow smile creased the other woman’s pale pink lips. She disappeared into a second room where Eva could no longer see her. Moments later, she returned clutching a length of wool patterned in claret and brown paisley. The dress was as poor and simple as Miss Hyatt lived but the lack of adornment meant Eva could slip through the night completely unnoticed.
“Put this on. I have a long cloak you may use as well. If you pull the hood over your head, it will make it harder for anyone to get a good look at you.”
Eva flung her head back and downed the drink in one long swallow. Her face twisted in the momentary discomfort, but soon the warmth soothed her nerves. She stripped out of her dress and hoops with very little modesty thanks to the whiskey. Miss Hyatt’s dress felt tight around her waist as it was buttoned up the back but she was not about to tighten her corset and risk losing her breath.
She could handle it.
She could get the job done.
“There. Nearly a perfect fit,” said Miss Hyatt.
“Thank you. I’ve got to go and do this before I lose my nerve.”
“You’re doing what you can for your country. That makes you just as much of a hero as the men fighting in the field.”
It was, as if by design, exactly what she needed to hear. She simply needed to get back into the routine of leading a double life. Sacrifices for the cause had to be made and the men in the field were putting life and limb at risk every day. The least she could do was help them along if she was not allowed to fight by virtue of being born a female.
Indeed, she straightened herself and found her courage.
With the heavy wool cloak fastened across her collarbones and encasing her in the darkness of night, she bade Miss Hyatt goodbye.
“One more thing,” she said from the doorway. “If you’re detained by the provost marshal’s men, you must never offer them your real name. Decide upon another identity and teach yourself to respond to it with the same ease you respond to your true name.”
Eva nodded. She hadn’t thought of that and it only reminded her of how long it had been since she involved herself in such things. She pulled the cloak’s hood over her head and descended the stairwell two flights down to the street.
The late hour meant the streets were more or less deserted, thankfully. She estimated the time to be around midnight. She found the nearest gaslight on the street and studied the map hastily sketched on the linen napkin in her basket. Just in case anyone walked by, she broke off a piece of bread and nibbled, feigning a moment of hunger. Three blocks north and two blocks east, the map read. She hadn’t walked that far on her wooden foot yet and dreaded the test of endurance.
She traversed the path marked on the map without an upward glance, careful not to walk too fast and draw attention. Her thoughts pieced together the persona of a beggar woman and she allowed her posture to hunch just enough to present that image to possible onlookers. The buildings increasingly became taller and wider, suggesting she entered a warehousing section of the city. In the dark, of course, hulking buildings intimidated her. Intermittent gaslights flickered a tawny haze along the length of the street with candlelight occasionally illuminating shopkeepers’ homes above their shops. It was better to assume she was being observed, she decided, and adjusted the cloak to hide as much of her body as possible.
At the corner where the map told her to turn east, she leaned against a gaslight for a moment of rest. Pressure from the wooden limb on her ankle brought a new ache with each step and she suspected it didn’t fit well enough. She lifted her foot off the ground and balanced on her intact foot. The sudden release of pressure brought a flood of new pain. She bit her lip to keep herself from crying out in shock.
The sooner she dropped the coal torpedo in the pile at the docks, the sooner she could go home and climb into bed. She reminded herself of that fact as she pressed herself to continue walking. The damp aroma of the Mississippi arrived before she could see it through the darkness of night. She reached the top of a hill and thought perhaps the giant swath of blackness ahead was the river. There wasn’t much in the way of light along the riverfront – something she hadn’t considered – and she wondered how on earth she could locate the correct steamer.
Once she reached the riverfront, three steamers towered over her like buildings in their own right. Her pulse quickened. The moment was upon her, if she could only decipher one vessel from another. Intense silence filled her as she took stock of the three steamers docked at a diagonal angle with the riverbank. She calmed herself. Panicking would only draw attention.
The steamer docked on the far left appeared considerably smaller than its two counterparts. It couldn’t possibly contain enough supplies or munitions for the Yankee army, she surmised. A passenger vessel, perhaps, but it was nothing of value to her interests. She maneuvered as close as she dared go to the next two steamers, much larger than the first and capable of carrying the cargo she imagined.
Voices reached her ears from the warehouse over her shoulder. Her heart stopped. She sank into the shadows as four men approached the third steamer carrying crates in their arms. They hadn’t seen her but she held her breath and remained perfectly still within the safety of the shadows cast by the first steamer. From her concealed vantage, she managed to calm her drumming heart long enough to hear their voices, although she couldn’t make out any defined words. Tinkling sounds carried to her ears from the crates. Two men laughed at something.
Were they carrying crystal and china?
Men disappeared onboard the third steamer and Eva quickly deduced the possibility of military supplies including crystal and china being next to none. It wasn’t entirely impossible but she hadn’t the time to wait and see. The risk of being wrong wasn’t enough to stop her. She focused her attention on the middle steamer and believed it the one she needed. If only the men would finish their business and leave her to her work. There was no time to wait.
Cautiously, she emerged enough from the shadows to see where the men were on the third steamer. They laughed and made a ruckus together, their silhouettes moving about the top deck with no clue of her presence below. It was now or never, she insisted to herself. She didn’t know how long they were going to be up there.
The coal pile meant to be loaded onboard the middle steamer in the morning stood about fifteen feet back from the dock. She estimated the distance and how long it would take her to cover that distance with her foot. Quickly, she put the basket on the wooden planks where she stood and uncovered the torpedo. She tossed the linen napkin with the ink sketched map behind her into the river should she be caught delivering the explosive. The less evidence on her person, the better. Gloves under the soup jar slipped on her hands quickly while she listened for the men.
She rose to her feet with the explosive gripped tightly in her gloved hand. The focus that overcame her completely calmed her senses. One last glance at the rowdy workmen and she ventured out from the safety of the shadows. She didn’t move straight for the necessary coal pile but instead gave the appearance of casually wandering along the docks. Eventually she reached the coal pile and ducked behind it where she thought she could hide undetected. There, she smashed a real piece of coal on the ground just as Mr. Louden had instructed and she rubbed the coal dust over the torpedo. It resembled a real piece of coal quickly rather than the hollowed out piece of iron in reality. She stowed the torpedo in the coal pile, careful to make certain no one would recognize it as out of place.
Before she reappeared, she leaned over the mound and raised just enough to look upon the three steamers. Thankfully, she saw no one close by and the rowdy men hadn’t noticed her presence either. She darted back to her basket without feeling any pain. Peculiar how carrying out her obligation eliminated any pain in her leg, she absently thought.
Again, she crouched at her basket and looked for anything that might connect her to the scene. The gloves caked in coal dust were thrown into the river along with the linen napkin. She leaned over the dock and washed her hands in the freezing river water. It chilled her hands to the bone but it was better than being caught with coal dust on her person.
Light covered her suddenly and shined on the river.
“What are you doing here?”
Eva spun and shot to her feet. A soldier stood before her with a lantern held to her face. She shied away from the intrusive light.
“Well?” he forced.
“I needed a walk, sir.”
“At this hour?”
“I couldn’t sleep, sir.”
“What’s your name?”
“Elizabeth Brown,” she said impulsively.
The soldier didn’t look any older than one of Thaddeus’ students. Light eyes and orange hair under his kepi gave him a ginger appearance. He looked positively ghostly in the lantern light.
“Elizabeth Brown, does your husband allow you out so late by yourself?”
“My husband’s dead, sir.”
“I see,” he replied. “Why were you washing in the river?”
“I fell and my hands were muddy.” The lies came naturally from a place of pure self-preservation. As long as she kept her responses short, she could keep everything straight.
The soldier chortled in a superior air. “That’ll happen when you wander around the city in the middle of the night.” He noticed the basket on the ground and lowered the lantern over it. “What’s that there?”
“My basket, sir.”
“Obviously.” He stooped and put the lantern on the ground. Without any care for her privacy, he emptied the basket of its bread loaf, soup jar and root beer jar as if looking for something suspicious.
Eva bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself from expressing her outrage.
“Where’d you get all this?”
“A friend packed supper for me, sir.”
Those Yankee light eyes turned up to her and narrowed. “I thought you said you were just out for a walk because you couldn’t sleep.”
“Yes, I was.” Her stomach began to burn as her thoughts raced. “Before that, I was with a friend for the evening.”
Distrust darkened his features. She knew it when he grabbed everything, put them into the basket, but wouldn’t give it back to her. “You had better come with me for further questioning,” he decided aloud. He seized her by the elbow.
“Honestly, sir, that isn’t necessary,” she protested.
“I shall decide what’s necessary, Mrs. Brown. Keep quiet and do as you’re told,” barked the ginger soldier.Read More
I made it a rule when I “came out” about my reincarnation case several years ago that I wasn’t going to read anything about myself after the fact, especially when I published my book. When you start allowing outside noise into your head, it makes it almost impossible if not completely impossible to hear your own thoughts. And we all know that when outside noise makes you look down on yourself with a critical eye, it’s very difficult to pull yourself out of that negative cycle. Happiness is a choice. People who gossip and surround themselves with negative energy are only asking to be unhappy. So it’s better for certain types of people like myself who have sensitive, creative energy to avoid looking at themselves too closely or looking back on things they should have done differently or whatever the situation may entail.
The downside to avoiding reading things about myself is that it backfired in such a way that I developed a fear of rejection. I fully realized how far the fear of rejection went when I was in Gettysburg on the PRS field trip last November. One would think me being around “my own kind” as I call them would create a bubble of safety that would allow me to be open about not only being the reincarnation of Fanny Chamberlain but growing up a child medium as well. Not so. My fear of rejection was so intense that I didn’t tell anybody about what/who I am until the last day. Even then I didn’t name myself in the past. I only gave vague details about my former husband fighting there in Gettysburg and how I grew up having nightmares about army hospitals. I taught myself a long time ago to be okay with rejection from people who simply don’t understand the paranormal, but the possibility of being rejected by people educated in the field was at almost phobic proportions. Phobic because I am absolutely, wholeheartedly, unconditionally telling the truth about my past life case and there’s no concrete way to prove it. People have to take the evidence on faith. If they don’t, there’s a thinly veiled implication that I’m a liar and that’s the pill I can’t swallow. The fear of rejection about what/who I am was not something I spelled out directly there having lunch with Ryan Buell in Gettysburg but he figured it out.
“I want you to be prepared for rejection,” he said kindly but firmly, with a gesture of his fork.
I got it. I decided I would work on it, since I didn’t realize how bad the fear of rejection really was in me.
I know who I was, who I am, and what I’m doing with this life, but the possibility of other people rejecting me makes me doubt myself and I hesitate. There is hesitation cropping up when I do my readings at times as well. Things I should say but delete out of fear end up coming back to me with the clients’ feedback and I want to kick myself. Talking about Fanny is not something I do very much anymore either, except with a very tight circle of people who have proven their trust. When I “came out”, it was like a levy breaking free and I wrote about everything as if I was driven by some higher force. Then I learned how cruel strangers can be and I slowly tapered off on what I’m willing to discuss in public and what I’m not. Being called a devil worshiper or being told I need to ask Jesus for forgiveness don’t really faze me anymore though because it happens so often and the people doing the mudslinging are not intellectual in their arguments at all. Of course that doesn’t mean I like to see it.
Even in my own home, I find myself unconsciously suppressing my true nature. Most of you know that I come from a family of sensitives, mediums, intuitives, psychics, etc., going back many, many, many generations into France before we ever set foot in the New World. The problem is my family has an equally long history of suppressing those skills. If we acknowledge them at all, it’s only within the context of privacy among other family members. My grandmother is a psychic medium and also reads auras but she taught her children to suppress and ignore their own abilities to the point of making them phobic of them. My generation is starting to break that ugly cycle with me leading the pack in my work but my grandmother has been fighting me every step of the way since I was about sixteen. It’s difficult not to listen to her negativity. She knows I do readings and she knows I do PRS field trips but she doesn’t approve of either activity, saying that Ryan is a bad influence for encouraging me (I made the mistake of telling her about Gettysburg). When I went to an event with Dustin Pari formerly of Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International last year, her response was to frown and warn me not to accept drinks from him because she watches Dateline date rape drug stories too much.
You see what I’m dealing with here.
I was talking to Dustin about suppression of medium abilities to please my grandmother recently. Under normal circumstances I’d never repeat private conversations but in the interest of helping other people, I don’t think he’d mind. Like Ryan, he cut to the heart of it with just a few words.
“All you can be is who you are. And you are… Unapologetically yourself,” he said, quoting my Twitter bio.
It occurred to me that a lot of people, including myself, may say that they don’t apologize for who they are or they are prepared for rejection but saying it and doing it are two very different things. There has to be a balance between awareness of people’s perception of you as well as the ability to stop those perceptions from hurting your views of yourself. Completely shutting out the noise puts you in a bubble and you never learn coping skills, nor do you develop tougher skin.
So, on a whim, I turned on the noise a little bit today to see what happens when I search myself online. I expected a lot of negativity because reincarnation is tough to accept just like doing intuitive readings is tough to accept as well. Surprisingly, the majority of what I found was my book on sale in many different retailers besides Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I also found myself on several paranormal websites that were rather objective in a way like, “Here are her claims if you want to look at them,” with no real subjective opinion. There was, however, one obscure message board deep in the search had a thread about my book when it was released, I think. The person who posted it called it rubbish and about ten other people chimed in but it was clear that nobody in the thread had bothered to read the book. If they quoted me, they twisted my words into something I didn’t mean. It was hatred based on… nothing, really. Hatred without bothering to really understand what they were hating. At first I was upset and stopped looking at it, but then I realized that it was the only negativity I found about myself out there. I’m pretty lucky, all things considered.
Then Ryan’s words came back to me. “I want you to be prepared for rejection.”
Then Dustin’s words came back to me. “All you can be is who you are. And you are… Unapologetically yourself.”
My three goals have been the same from the beginning. – 1) To connect with other people who have been through these experiences. 2) To tell my story in a truthful, humble and practical manner. 3) To help other people who think they might be alone. – I have accomplished all three of those goals, so I have to reach a place of peace in myself where any negativity thrown my way won’t really matter. If I have the right to say I was Fanny Chamberlain in a past life and I grew up as a child medium, then freedom of speech means other people have the right to question it or even hate it. I can’t control that. I can control the ability to follow the advice of two men who are very influential in my life. I control the information I release out there and I control presenting myself in the most purely authentic form. If people don’t use the information responsibly or they don’t bother to learn the whole story before they become armchair critics from the safety and anonymity of their computers, then that’s not my problem. The good I can do with my life far outweighs the bad thrown at me in years of hate mail and random message board discussions.
Does that mean I’m prepared for rejection and I’m just being myself? Well, only time and daily effort will reveal that. I figured out how to create a buffer around myself though. Whenever something bad comes my way, all I have to do is ask myself if my intentions were pure and if I was truthful in the purest, most practical way. The answer to both those questions being yes means I’ve done all I can and people misusing my information is their own problem. It won’t mean it won’t sting or I won’t want to argue, but there is no point.
Say what you mean correctly the first time and how people use it to bring positivity or negativity to their own lives is on their own shoulders, not yours.
One of the ways I’m going to push myself to “be prepared for rejection” is to give Ryan my book when I see him later this month in San Francisco. That sounds pretty minor but that is actually quite terrifying for me because I respect him so much that if he hated it, I think it would hurt a lot. But I ask myself those two questions again – are my intentions pure and was I truthful in the purest, most practical way? Yes and yes. So whatever happens, I did my best and that’s the thing that matters the most.
How can you apply these lessons to your own lives?Read More