Today I’m reporting from the Cape Fear Crime Festival, a small but lively festival put on by the New Hanover Library in Wilmington, North Carolina.
As It happens I am not the only Rat here – Dusty Rhoades will be here any second now (in fact we have a drink waiting for him) and Stacey Cochran is here with his minii traveling production studio.
We just finished up a panel on the paranormal. I am beginning to feel less like an impostor, being a supernatural writer on the mystery circuit, as there always seems to be a paranormal track. In fact I feel much less like an impostor at Cape Fear. Wilimington is a port town that I love for its gorgeous historic downtown and boardwalk, and its obvious presence of ghosts. (I have come to believe that Spanish moss is a major indicator of paranormal activity – it even looks like ectoplasm).
Water, of course, is a standard component in hauntings, and psychic trauma (there was a devastating race riot in Wilmington in 1898). I’d venture to say that some locations suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder just as some people do.
Conference magic is working in full force, as a surprise last-minute addition to our panel was Brooks Preik, the author of HAUNTED WILMINGTON, a collection of true local ghost stories. That book has been on my to buy list for weeks, as it’s germane to my next book, and so not only do I now have a freshly autographed copy of said book, I also got to hear the real stories from the font, including a story about a character in my own book. Nothing like research doing itself for you.
And Joe Konrath is a featured conference guest, which in my experience always leads to spirits.
The conference even started out creepily, last night with author Jon Jefferson talking about his and Dr. Bill Blass’s books about The Body Farm in Tennessee, with appropriately trauma inducing slides.
Maybe I’m out to scare myself, but the high rise condo on the beach I’m staying in this weekend is practically deserted. I was having thoughts of THE SHINING on the beach, you know, bad relationship breaks up, take a condo off-season to go get healed, hurricane cuts off road… this weird fog starts rolling in… (anyone else see the trailer for THE MIST, yet? Cannot freaking wait.).
Of course, it is Halloween so I’m allowed to have all these thoughts. Oh, right – it’s my job to have all these thoughts.
Stacey did REALLY scare me during that paranormal panel, though. We were talking about historic trends in supernatural and paranormal literature and he made the very valid and eloquent point that realistic modern ghost stories like THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE came about simultaneously with the rise of Freudian psychology – and explored the concept of ghosts being the past traumas of troubled people. Then he went on to the frightening part. He said that the current trend in psychology is not to focus on trauma or the unearthing of psychic ghosts, but to explore peak experiences and how human beings can live optimal lives.
Well, you see why that unnerved me. That’s a thought that could put me right out of business. Accentuating the positive is no way to scare the pants off of people.
But, as this is a conference, I have no time to obsess on that potentially career-ending thought. It’s on to a panel, Wild Women of Mystery, which, being moderated by the inimitable Konrath, promises to live up to its title.
More later if possible!