It's only for research purposes

 My second novel, Death in D Minor, officially premieres tomorrow, July 11. I’ve been busy revising the third book in the series, A Killing in C Sharp, so I haven’t had time to freak out about release day for my sophomore effort. I resisted the urge to repeat my debut novel swag buying frenzy. With Murder in G Major, I put my book cover on everything—hats, t-shirts, posters, calendars, tote bags, mugs, pens, stickers—you get the idea. For Death in D Minor, I limited myself to pens, postcards, bottle opener key rings, and combination flashlight/laser pointers. I’ve scheduled a book signing on July 13, my first official book signing not associated with a conference panel. Stop by if you’re anywhere near Lake Forest, IL. I’ve also been doing research for future novels. When you write about ghosts, research consists of streaming episodes of Ghost Adventures on Sling TV, listening to paranormal podcasts on Stitcher, and—my favorite—listening to M. R. James’s ghost stories on Audible. Montague Rhodes James, a respected medievalist scholar, college provost (King’s College, Cambridge and Eton), and museum director, wrote the most disturbing ghost story I’ve ever read—”Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.” The. Most. Disturbing. Ever. I had issues with bed sheets for months after I first read it. (No spoilers in this blog. You’ll have to read the story to see what I mean.) James possessed a gift for turning the disarmingly bucolic English country village into the scene of your darkest nightmare. Think Jane Austen tossed with Stephen King, seasoned with a dash of razor-edged satire on the English academic establishment. And a sprinkling of golf jokes. James pokes fun of golfers a lot. His biography attracted me to his ghost stories as much as his writing style. I’m looking at a photo of the man as I write this. He looks like you’d expect an antiquarian scholar/college administrator to look: conservative haircut, receding hair line, wire-rimmed glasses, appropriately stern look. The son of Anglican clergy and a naval officer’s daughter, he had what sounds like a well-adjusted childhood, an excellent education, and a satisfactory career. He never married, spent most of his adult life in an academic setting, and won an Order of Merit. No reports of family dysfunction, childhood traumas, scandals, nervous breakdowns, or any of the other drama so often associated with authors of dark fiction. The mind that translated the Apocrypha and, according to Wikipedia, wrote a Latin hagiography of Aethelbert II of East Anglia also penned dozens of tales featuring cursed objects, demonic creatures, and horrible deaths. The normalcy of the man who wrote such paranormal tales makes the stories seem all the creepier. Still waters run deep.  The best thing about James’s stories? He read them aloud as Christmas presents to friends and students. Christmas presents! No socks or puddings from Professor James. Oh no. How about a demonic painting found in an old book in a church library? Field glasses made from human bones? A killer ash tree?This aspect of his stories—their oral presentation—inspired me to take the advice given in the introduction to a volume of his collected works to experience the stories the way they were meant to be experienced and listen to someone read them. I started with You Tube where I found a surprising collection of audiobooks. Then I discovered Audible. With Audible, I could not only listen to James’s stories, I could listen to them read by Derek Jacobi and David Suchet. And never again look at the English countryside—or a sedate college don—the same. (Images public domain from Wikimedia Commons)

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