Interview & Review: #Hauntings, #Spirits, & Eats #Michigan by Kathy Conder

Today, I’m chatting with Kathy Conder about her debut book, Hauntings, Spirits, & Eats Michigan.

Seasoned paranormal investigator, Kathy Conder draws on her experience with the paranormal to highlight different locations throughout Michigan that are reportedly haunted.  She includes restaurants, pubs, and hotels for those travelers who want to add a little paranormal spice to their trips.  Each establishment is listed by its location in the state and offers readers the history and hauntings connected to each.  For those who are interested in exploring the mysterious world of the paranormal, this book is a great starting point for planning your next Michigan trip.

Q & A

CHRISTINA: Thanks for joining me today. Share a bit of your background before we delve more into your book.

KATHY: I was a Zoology major in college. I wrote for my university paper and have written articles on the paranormal for other publications. This is the first time I have written a book.

CHRISTINA: Tell us about your new book.

KATHY: As director for a paranormal group, I am often asked where the haunted places are in Michigan. I decided that by writing a book, I could list places that I knew in an organized format that was user-friendly. I would also be able to include some history on each location and my personal experiences if there were any. While I loved the idea of basing the book on Michigan’s “haunted hot spots,” I didn’t want it to read like a road atlas. People love a good story – especially a scary one and I had lots to share!

CHRISTINA: What inspired you to write this book?

KATHY: For some reason, I felt the timing was right. I was still somewhat reluctant to begin and even more so, admit to friends and family that I had. That meant I was accountable. It was official. Once I made that commitment, the rest was easier. I had days where the words flowed and others where I stalled and sat on the floor assembling Lego sets for the grandkids. The most important thing to me was to complete the book. I did and for me it will always be a symbol of my accomplishment.

CHRISTINA: What kind of research did you do?

KATHY: Most of my research is done on the job. I admit that I find myself in more than my share of reportedly haunted places, studying and exploring. What I have learned over the years has been through my experiences. Evidence of paranormal activity is often anecdotal. There is, as of now, no scientific evidence to prove its existence. I do extensive research on the history of different locations since hauntings can often be related to what occurred there in the past. For that information, I have found the local historical societies are a valuable resource. Local libraries and on-line sources have a wealth of information as well.

CHRISTINA: What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book?

KATHY: Writing is hard!

CHRISTINA: How long did you take to write the book?

KATHY: I think it was a year-long process.

CHRISTINA: Describe your writing space.

KATHY: I write at my husband’s grandmother’s desk. I have surrounded myself with things that make me happy. I tried hard to make it my own. I find that once I sit in that space, my mind seems to switch to writing-mode.

CHRISTINA: What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

KATHY: Disciplining myself. Doubting myself. I tend to second-guess a lot!

CHRISTINA: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

KATHY: I don’t think it is interesting, but I have found music to be extremely grounding. From day to day, the music varies with my moods. I thought it might be distracting but it is the opposite. It helps me to focus.

CHRISTINA: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

KATHY: Both, equally!

CHRISTINA: What advice would you give to new writers – someone just starting out?

KATHY: Don’t be too hard on yourself. Writing is a learning process. Set up a writing schedule and stick to it, even you don’t get much written.

CHRISTINA: Where can we learn more about you and your book?

KATHY: You can find my book, Hauntings, Spirits, & Eats Michigan on Amazon and Goodreads, and you can find me on Michigan Paranormal Encounters on Facebook.

MY REVIEW

Kathy has done a great job researching over eighty haunted places in Michigan—lighthouses, inns, pubs, museums and more. I enjoyed reading the history of the sites as well as Kathy’s personal accounts as a paranormal investigator with thirty-eight years of experience. The perfect road trip book for all things spooky and historical in Michigan.

The 8th Annual One Acts Festival

I submitted my one act play back in December. Last week, the Allegan Community Players announced the lineup for the festival:

Purple Roses by Christina Thompson

Potential by Scott Mullen

The Band Currently Known as the Apaches by Les Abromovitz

I’m in! A first for me. I’m honored. What’s even crazier is that those characters are from my Chemical Attraction Series, which is set in a town based on Allegan.

The play was originally a short story. The scene takes place at Sylvia’s Bed & Breakfast, modeled after the Delano Mansion Inn in Allegan’s downtown area. The scene is a prequel to Chemical Attraction—before my main characters Joe Roberts and Madeline Pierce actually meet and fall in love. While mourning the death of her husband, Madeline’s Aunt Sylvia focuses on getting Joe and Madeline in the same room at the same time. The conversations of loneliness between Joe and Sylvia and then between Madeline and Sylvia break my heart.

Sylvia has become one of my favorite secondary characters in my series. In fact, I’m in the process of writing a new novel where she’s the main character trying to navigate in a world without her husband.

My head knows these characters are a figment of my imagination, but my heart knows their emotions are real. It’ll be strange to see these people, who have been in my life for so many years, become tangible on stage at the Griswold Auditorium, which I have also referenced in my series.

In Chemical Attraction, a fundraiser is held in the lower level of the Griswold. (I call it the Hartford though.) Then, in Chemical Reaction, a couple characters hide in the backstage area.

What a surreal experience this will be! I may cry. No, I guarantee I will cry. I’m aware the director may change the props and dialogue; this is a collaborative project after all, but I believe the emotions of the scenes will stay true.

If you’ve enjoyed my Chemical Attraction Series, this is a must see. Please, join me. I’ll be the one sobbing before the festival even starts.

Friday, April 22nd at 7 pm

Saturday, April 23rd at 7 pm

Sunday, April 24th at 2 pm

Griswold Auditorium

401 Hubbard Street

Allegan, MI 49010

All tickets are $5 at the door.

For more information, visit the Allegan Community Players.

For more information on my series, visit The Chemical Attraction Series on Amazon.

The Email That Changed My Life

On this day ten years ago, an email changed my life.  Late that night before I powered down my laptop, I checked my email.  I’d rather get a late night query rejection than one first thing in the morning. A lesson learned from experience—although both suck.

Well, after sending out over a hundred queries, multiple first-ten pages, and a fistful of the manuscript, 48fourteen Publishing offered me a contract for Chemical Attraction.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had to print and reread it to be sure.  My squeal woke my husband and freaked out our dog.  Thank you, Juanita Samborski.

Six months later, I officially became a published author.  And since then, I’ve created eleven novels (eight published), three audiobooks, four screenplays, and a stageplay.  I’ve come a long way, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. 

Cheers to 2022! 

Visit my AMAZON AUTHOR’S PAGE to learn more about my novels.

A Labor of Love and Forgiveness

My historical fiction, Dearest Mother and Dad, is a labor of love, and now it’s available as an AUDIOBOOK.  Just in time for Memorial Day!

After reading through the letters my dad wrote to his parents during the Korean War about his experiences, I finally understood why he was hard and emotionally absent.  It took me two years to write the story.  Then, it took me another year to turn the novel into an audiobook.  There was only one narrator for this job—Gary Bennett.

Gary had narrated my romantic thriller Chemical Attraction through 48fourteen Publishing.  He did an incredible job, and my mom fell in love with his voice.  So, for us, this was a no-brainer.  We were not disappointed.

Gary’s narration gave Orrin and Rawley’s friendship the perfect amount of emotion.  In fact, as I listened I cried.  Then, at the last line of the story, I sobbed.  It hit me hard.  I miss my dad and all of his gruff.

I am so proud of this collaboration.  I think my dad—who was a fan of books on tape—would have loved it, too.  Thank you, Gary.

The AUDIOBOOK for Dearest Mother and Dad is NOW available on AUDIBLE

To learn more about Narrator Gary Bennett and his other amazing projects, visit GaryBennettReads.com

Memorial Day Thank You

My Dad

On this Memorial Day, I send a special Thank You to all those who have died in military service.

My work of historical fiction pays tribute to Navy corpsmen by remembering their service to their brothers and their country.  Dearest Mother and Dad is based on my dad’s letters to his parents during the Korean War.  It seems appropriate to share some of his pictures in my album-style book trailer.  I used them to visualize and create the story.  Take a look.

Dearest Mother and Dad BOOK TRAILER

Dearest Mother and Dad on AMAZON

Can’t Contain My Excitement

I’m stoked! One of the best voices in the business will narrate the audiobook for Dearest Mother and Dad.

Coming May 2021

Learn more about GARY BENNETT at GaryBennettReads

For a sneak peek, listen to his narration of Chemical Attraction

About Dearest Mother and Dad:

“One hundred and twenty Marines wounded. Eighteen dead. All for one lousy hill.”

Corpsman Orrin Connor’s faithful letters with a touching twist shield his parents from the horrors of war. His buddy Rawley Armstrong’s poignant letters give his sister the harrowing truths. Throughout their dangerous assignments during the Korean War, they debate the consequences of their choices. Orrin gains comfort in downplaying his experiences while Rawley feels a healing purge. As they get to know the Marines in their charge, the corpsmen gather a variety of opinions. Although Orrin and Rawley disagree, their friendship remains true until the bitter end.

“It all happened within minutes. For some, it would last a lifetime.”

Based on her father’s letters to his parents throughout the Forgotten War, author Christina Thompson has produced this work of historical fiction to pay tribute to Navy corpsmen by remembering their service to their brothers and their country. Imagining her father had guarded his parents from the carnage of war, Christina elaborates on what could have happened while staying true to the dates and experiences her father shared in his actual letters.

Read Dearest Mother and Dad now.

Me versus History

Disclaimer: this information may be obvious to most.

I admit history was not my favorite subject in school. I’m not even sure we covered the Korean War in high school. (Before you smartasses say something snarky about the Korean War was a current event to me back then, I graduated in 1985. I’m old—not that old.)

It wasn’t until I married an enthusiast who liked to spout historical facts that I started to pay any attention. He talked about the people in history rather than the dates, which was more interesting. That’s one of the reasons I found this project challenging. I had to match dates with battles from Dad’s letters. I was taking tests in high school again.

One of the things that confused me at the beginning of my research was the M.A.S.H. unit. My only reference to the Korean War as a kid was TV’s M*A*S*H. Our whole family watched it. Well, Dad didn’t. Mom said he was a corpsman at one. It didn’t seem so bad with all the jokes and hijinks. Dad hated that show. Now, I understand why.

However, as I read Dad’s letters, he referred to Able Med as the place he spent much of his time during the war. My husband’s knowledge of random historical facts didn’t help in this instance. It wasn’t until a week into my fact checking that I understood M.A.S.H. units were for the Army and Med Stations (like Able Med and Easy Med) were for the Marines.

Navy Corpsmen worked with the Marines. The Army equivalents were Medics. The light bulb above my head brightened. It all fell into place for me. Now, I could focus on creating characters who told me their story—my favorite part of writing.

I’ve since learned that Navy corpsmen aided the Marines in a variety of places in Korea: the Battalion Reserve hospital in the rear, Medical Evacuation hospitals close to the front, Forward Aid stations just behind the fighting, and the front lines patrolling with the Marines.

How about that? My husband learned something from me about history.

(Christina: 1; Kraig: 286) Thanks for stopping by.

 

Dearest Mother and Dad now available

AMAZON

BARNES & NOBLE

KOBO

APPLE BOOKS

Add Dearest Mother and Dad to your GOODREADS list

Corpsman Orrin Connor’s faithful letters with a touching twist shield his parents from the horrors of war. His buddy Rawley Armstrong’s poignant letters give his sister the harrowing truths. Throughout their dangerous assignments during the Korean War, they debate the consequences of their choices. Orrin gains comfort in downplaying his experiences while Rawley feels a healing purge. As they get to know the Marines in their charge, the corpsmen gather a variety of opinions. Although Orrin and Rawley disagree, their friendship remains true until the bitter end.

“It all happened within minutes. For some, it would last a lifetime.”

Based on her father’s letters to his parents throughout the Forgotten War, author Christina Thompson has produced this work of historical fiction to pay tribute to Navy corpsmen by remembering their service to their brothers and their country. Imagining her father had guarded his parents from the carnage of war, Christina elaborates on what could have happened while staying true to the dates and experiences her father shared in his actual letters.

 

An Old Set of China

One of the most surreal moments I had while researching Dearest Mother and Dad was a specific letter my dad wrote to his parents during the Korean War. After his R & R in Kyoto, Japan, he had mentioned he had bought and sent his mother a set of china.

As my mom helped me decipher Dad’s chicken scratch handwriting, I asked her if she knew the set and if she could describe it so I could use it in the story.

“It’s the set of blue and white china with gold trim. You have it,” Mom said.

“Wait. What?”

“She gave it to me when Dad and I married. Then, I gave it to you.”

I had no idea about its history. How crazy is that? I may have to use it more often now.

Here’s a short except from the letter my main character Orrin Connor writes to his parents. (Many of the letters in the novel are my dad’s actual letters.)

 

15 August 1953

Dearest Mother and Dad,

The first thing I did in Japan was see about calling home. They were booked for two weeks ahead of time. I’m so sorry, Mother. I did buy you a set of china and it should reach you in a few weeks. I hope you will like it. Boy, Kyoto was a beautiful place. They had more shrines and temples than you could shake a stick at.

Well, Mother, today was the longest day we have had since I have been in Korea. We have to stay here thirteen months. That means I won’t be leaving until January, maybe longer. The drafts will be frozen over here even though the armistice was signed. Please don’t stop writing.

All the love a son can give,

Orrin

 

Pre-Order Dearest Mother and Dad for $1.99

Release Date: May 21st, 2020

AMAZON

BARNES & NOBLE

KOBO

APPLE BOOKS

Add Dearest Mother and Dad to your GOODREADS list

“One hundred and twenty Marines wounded. Eighteen dead. All for one lousy hill.”

 

Corpsman Orrin Connor’s faithful letters with a touching twist shield his parents from the horrors of war. His buddy Rawley Armstrong’s poignant letters give his sister the harrowing truths. Throughout their dangerous assignments during the Korean War, they debate the consequences of their choices. Orrin gains comfort in downplaying his experiences while Rawley feels a healing purge. As they get to know the Marines in their charge, the corpsmen gather a variety of opinions. Although Orrin and Rawley disagree, their friendship remains true until the bitter end.

 

“It all happened within minutes. For some, it would last a lifetime.”

 

Based on her father’s letters to his parents throughout the Forgotten War, author Christina Thompson has produced this work of historical fiction to pay tribute to Navy corpsmen by remembering their service to their brothers and their country. Imagining her father had guarded his parents from the carnage of war, Christina elaborates on what could have happened while staying true to the dates and experiences her father shared in his actual letters.

 

The WHAT-Ifs from Chemical Attraction

 

Years ago, I read an article by Carol Ekarius in Alternative Medicine called “Welcome to Nano World.” Carol wrote, “The very things that make nano particles so useful—also make them potentially dangerous.” I remember being fascinated and terrified. As a retired acupuncturist, I try to be mindful of what I put into my body.

For Chemical Attraction, I set out on a quest to answer the What Ifs. What would happen if these small particles invaded the body without our knowledge? What if someone could tap into our brain to control our actions? Who would have the courage to stop it?

My curiosity and imagination helped me combine the fascinating areas of the mind, body, and spirit as well as my characters’ love, laughter, and determination.

Grab your copy now and please consider leaving an honest review.

Chemical Attraction on Amazon

Q & A with Narrator Gary Bennett @TheActualGCB

I’m excited to share my interview with Narrator Gary Bennett. When talking to my husband, I’ve referred to Gary as “My Cousin Gary”. (My maiden name is Bennett.) Gary’s not really my cousin, but I felt a kinship with his creative mind. He’s a man of many talents. AND, I liked saying, “My Cousin Gary is narrating my novel” and “My Cousin Gary just sent me his awesome excerpt.” So thanks, “Cousin Gary”, for joining me today.

CHRISTINA: I love the results of your hard work on Chemical Attraction. Tell us a little about you and your professional background.

GARY: I spent the first half of my professional life as an Electrical Engineer and running my engineering firm. I’ve always had a creative side, though, from art (mostly pencil and pen drawing) to music (guitar, piano) and I always wanted to invest more time on those creative endeavors.

CHRISTINA: Why did you decide to begin narrating audiobooks?

GARY: In my engineering life I spent a lot of time traveling, and during those travels I fell in love with audiobooks. I eventually reached a point in my life where I wanted to explore my creative side more (and do engineering less) and I just happened to stumble upon an interview of one of my favorite audiobook narrators in which he described how he got started in the industry. And something in my soul clicked. I researched and invested in some studio equipment. I sought out training and coaching from industry professionals. And once I got behind the mic, I found myself transported into a whole new world. A gap in my life I didn’t even know existed was suddenly filled, and I finally figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up!

CHRISTINA: What do you look for in a book when choosing to audition for a project?

GARY: It has to be well written. That’s something that one can tell fairly quickly. If it isn’t written well, I’m not going to enjoy reading it, and then the narration becomes a job. Good story arcs and interesting characters also factor in to that decision.

CHRISTINA: What kind of preparation do you do before starting to record?

GARY: First, I always read the book. As I read it I take notes on the characters and build them up from what’s in the text and also what may only be implied. I research pronunciations. I highlight difficult or important passages. I prep the manuscript so that it’s more readable in the booth, changing the fonts, spacing, chapter divisions. And then I’m ready to get behind the mic and record.

CHRISTINA: How do you get a feel for the characters and the tone of the story?

GARY: The tone of the story comes from not only the action described in each scene but also the language of that narrative. The words that are actually used to describe the scenes determines the energy and the tone of the delivery.

Much of my character building comes from the text itself. How each character is described, how they behave, how they speak, how they interact with other characters. But there’s always subtext the drives each character as well. You have to open your imagination to find what motivates each character to do what they do, so that you can take the text and build a 3-D character, a real person that you can visualize, from what’s written.

CHRISTINA: How do you come up with different voices and keep them all straight?

GARY: The development of each voice often just comes naturally as I’m prepping the book, and I’ll often visualize a specific person I know in my life upon which I’ll base a character, maybe tweaking a trait here or there to bring shine uniqueness. Each time a new character voice is introduced, I copy the audio track of that voice to a separate file I maintain for every book and series, so that when that same character comes along later in the book (or in the next book of a series) I can refer to that original recording to ensure that their voice is consistent.

CHRISTINA: What is the greatest challenge in recording an audiobook?

GARY: Maintaining focus and staying engaged, in the moment. Each recording session lasts anywhere from two to eight hours depending on my schedule, and it’s my job to be–to really *live*–every character and be completely engaged in every scene. When the book is well written it’s very easy to slip into that mode but it still requires focus to stay there and not get distracted by fatigue, dry mouth, external noises, etc.

CHRISTINA: What made you choose Chemical Attraction? Do you have a favorite recorded scene?

GARY: I’ve always been drawn to thrillers and mysteries, and the added romantic element as well as the occasional humor really appealed to me. I think one of my favorite scenes was when Madeline impersonated the Homeland Security Agent at the rural sheriff’s office. Witnessing her stepping out of her norm and the growth she had throughout the course of the story was really fun. And of course the final standoff at the farm/lab was a lot of fun to record!

To learn more about Gary Bennett, visit these sites:

Narrator Gary Bennett’s Website

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

The Audiobook of Chemical Attraction is available on Audible