Light the darkness through belief and persistence

Cynicism rules the modern landscape. But even in these troubled times, belief against impossible odds and the persistence to see a thing through to the end can shed light into the oldest and darkest of places.

My novel “Rings of Passage: A Time Travel Novel with Richard III” emerged into the light in late 2013, long after its burial on the virtual shelf.

Against all odds, the universe shifted, allowing a miracle to occur.

The word “miracle” is flung about loosely these days, but I believe this event qualifies.

Richard III PortraitThe bones of my novel’s romantic hero, King Richard III, had been excavated from beneath a parking lot in Leicester in 2012. DNA comparison to living descendants of his sister proved his identity.

The discovery of the medieval king, who died in 1485, was made by a team of archaeologists of the University of Leicester. The excavation had finally been undertaken because of the fervent belief by Richard III Society members Philippa Langley and Dr. John Ashdown Hill that Richard’s remains lay in a makeshift grave beneath a city parking lot on the former site of the Greyfriars Priory.

They simply would not give up.

For those who can’t quite place which English king this is – he’s the one whose reputation is painted the blackest of all in British history.

In the centuries since he was slain by Henry Tudor’s army, Richard has been unfairly maligned by, oh, just about everyone. That’s what happens when the winning side writes history books.

To add insult to injury, Shakespeare wrote one of his greatest plays based around Richard’s alleged crimes: the murder of his innocent nephews, the Princes in the Tower.

The Bard leaves us with the taste of ridicule in our minds when he wrote Richard’s final death cry as, “My kingdom for a horse!” – what the king really cried was “Treason!”

By the time the Leicester City Council had finally agreed to the excavation, I had not thought about my Richard book for years.

Admittedly, I was a bit in love with Richard at the time I wrote it.

I got on the bandwagon after reading Josephine Tey’s “The Daughter of Time.” After studying the facts of Richard’ life and learning about the propaganda disseminated by Henry Tudor’s supporters, it troubled me that Richard had been given a raw deal by historians. Despite the fact that Tudor had gained the throne by winning a battle, and not through bloodlines, everybody seemed to be on his side.

I fervently wanted to show Richard III, the last Plantagenet king and the last English king to die in battle, as a good and honorable man who was worthy of happiness and love.

Bosworth battlefield, where Richard III fell in battle in 1485

Bosworth battlefield, where Richard III fell in battle in 1485

In my story, my heroine Anise time travels via a magic ring to the 15th century just prior to the Battle of Bosworth Field where Richard is destined to die. In a plot setting the historical events of the final days of Wars of the Roses against a backdrop of magic devised by wizards to put Henry Tudor on the throne, Anise and Richard fall in love.

Completed in the ’90s, my novel identifies Greyfriars Priory as Richard’s confirmed burial place. As if channeling future events through my writing, I employ the plot device of excavating the King’s remains and using DNA evidence – even though, 20 years ago, the use of DNA in forensics had just come into common usage a few years before.

During my research trip to England so long ago, I visited that Leicester parking lot where Richard had been found. I stood there on a rainy day in September, on the street outside the city building, and tried to sense Richard’s presence. (blog post.) When I heard years later he had been found on that very spot, it left me breathless.

And now, as a member of the Richard III Society, I will be returning to Leicester. In another gift from the universe, my name was chosen in a lottery to attend one of Richard III’s reburial services in Leicester Cathedral at the end of the month.

Remarkably, through the persistence of Ms. Langley, Mr. Ashdown Hill, and other supporters of the excavation, Richard’s bones and the true facts of his life have been brought into the light.

Inspired by their unflagging belief and persistence, I unearthed “Rings of Passage” and rescued it from obscurity.

And to come full circle, I will be in attendance – a witness to history – when Richard III is finally laid to rest in a manner of respect and dignity befitting a medieval king.

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Rings of Passage: A Time Travel novel with Richard III

Rings of Passage: A Time Travel novel with Richard III

Rings of Passage is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

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Dangerous Reflections: A Historical Fantasy through Time

Dangerous Reflections: A Historical Fantasy through Time

Dangerous Reflections is a time travel historical fantasy set in Edwardian London. After Martie is bequeathed a magic wand from her grandmother, she steps through a mirror into the arms of a powerful wizard and a truly magical romance.

Richard III tour: History inspires fantasy fiction at an ancient church near Bosworth Field

My visit to an ancient church where Richard III prayed on the eve of his death became the backdrop for this transformative scene in my novel, Rings of Passage.” 

(see photos below)

St. James Church, Sutton Cheney

Window at St. James Church

The   door   of   the   church  was   scored  by centuries  of  use  by  the  simple  people  of  his parish. Richard ran his fingers along the scars just as  Francis  caught  up  with  him.

“Dickon.  The hour  grows  late.  This,  of  all  nights,  you  must rest.”

“I’ve  learned  to  do  without  rest.  What  I haven’t  learned  is  why  God  has  forsaken  me. This I must know before I die.”

He  looked  up  at  the  exterior  of  the  old church. Small and squarely built, it had been put up  by  the  Normans long  before a  Plantagenet ever wore the crown of England. A corner of his mouth quirked – and doubtless it would remain so long after.

“Perhaps  here  I  will  find  it.  I  cannot  be swayed from this, friend.”

Francis sighed,  recognizing Richard’s stubbornness in full force. Grasping the large iron ring at the center of the door, Francis pulled. It opened with a groan.

Within, the walls glowed, bathed in the light of a multitude of candles. Stretching to the ceiling were the colored glass windows that in daytime colored the interior of the church, but at night receded into shadow. The vicar hovered near the altar, his face anxious. He had faced a steady stream of knights who had come this evening to make peace with God.

Other than the priest, the church was empty.

Richard nodded to Francis, who stayed by the door to keep others out. The king did not want to be disturbed.

Under the vicar’s watchful eye, Richard knelt before the altar. The priest consecrated the bread and wine, ministering to his king who, in the eyes of Deus, was but a mere mortal.

But Richard could not open his heart to God. Even now, forgiveness would be denied.

Why have you deserted me, Lord?

Richard spoke the prayer that brought him the most peace: “De beato Juliano. Cum volueris pere res afflictos relevare captivos redimere in carcare positos…”

But he could not concentrate. The memorized words flew from his mind like startled birds. And though he knelt before God, Richard could only think of Anise.

Forgive me, my love – I judged you by my own besmirched soul. I accused you when you were without guilt. My ignorance brought you only suffering – ’tis this I abhor most of all. Dear Anise, wherever you are, know that even hours before my death, I would give up my kingdom to be with you.

A sense of peace flooded his soul, causing him to gasp. He sensed Anise nearby. Was he imagining it? Or had she heard his thoughts? He choked back a sob. “Anise?”

Richard remembered he was not alone. He looked at the vicar and saw the priest staring fearfully at something to Richard’s left.

He followed the man’s gaze and knew why he was frightened. In the aisle, a mist had gathered. Glowing with an otherworldly light, it spread out before him.

Richard’s senses expanded as the power of the magic ring on his finger thrummed through his arm. Opening to its insights, a presence filled him up.

Her presence. Anise. Richard got off his knees and rose to his feet.

His pulse raced as he watched the mist take human form, and now recognized her face at its center.

In his mind, he heard her speak – but could not make out the words.

He sensed her struggle. She wanted to tell him something. He could feel she was weary.

And she began to fade. Don’t leave me, Anise!

He thrust his arm into the glimmering mist, reaching for her – and caught hold of a hand that wavered between two worlds, one moment solid and the next, spirit. The shock of her presence filled him. She could not come to him, but was confined in some place that would not let go.

Where in God’s name is she?

Richard’s mind numbed to everything but Anise – and at last he heard her.

So… tired… cannot go on… must tell you…

She was giving up. Her exhaustion coursed through him. Richard was losing her. I must not… lose… her.

Clinging to the tendril of mist, using what power he could glean from the ring, he fought for her. He pushed back the weakness that sapped her strength, lending her his will and his strength – and his love.

As her spirit rallied, the otherworldly light grew brighter. He could discern her features more clearly now, her eyes hollow with weariness, her full lips, her dark, flowing hair.

She said his name, not in his mind only, but spoken aloud, “Richard.”

From the corner of his eye, Richard saw the vicar backing away in terror.

Anise tried to speak, but no words could be heard. Richard concentrated, opening his heart, drawing her into himself. Her thoughts, her emotions, her soul, joined his.

He knew the eternal blackness she experienced, and sensed her weariness. Without words she told him – she could not hang on. She had tarried too long in that place.

If he let go now, if he lost her, it would be forever. She could not return.

Then all became clear. Richard knew how to save her – to save them.

Clinging to her insubstantial hand for all his life, he shouted to the vicar, “Marry us!”

The priest held up his hands, shaking his head. “N-no, Your Grace – ’tis evil!”

“You fool! ’Tis a miracle! If you don’t marry us, she will die!”

Still the priest refused.

Richard was furious. There was no time for this! With his right hand, Richard felt for his scabbard, and made ready to draw his sword.

“Do you deny your king? As I am your sovereign Lord, I demand you marry us, or be cut down upon this altar.”

The vicar’s eyes widened.

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Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage” is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Richard III Tour: City of York – Ghostly encounters

In 1990, I set off for England for a month to research my Richard III novel, “Rings of Passage.” This is my travel journal.

Looking back from 2014: I was Richard III’s biggest fangirl when I walked into York through Mickelgate Bar. If the King had been a rock star, then being in York was like going to his greatest concert ever. It was magical and moving and intense. I had close brushes with ghosts, real and imagined. And if you ask me where I think Richard should rest for eternity, it would be in this city, which has been unwaveringly loyal to the King for 500 years, long before he became an archaeological celebrity.

City of York
September 21, 1990

So far, York is my city – and Richard’s.

Richard III wax statue, Friarsgate Museum, York

Richard III wax statue

He’s still their favorite king. Everything has the Yorkist white rose and there’s even a pub, the King’s Arms, with his portrait on the sign.

I felt Richard the minute I walked through Micklegate Bar, where his father’s head was piked after the Battle of Wakefield.

Went on the Ghost Walk. Spooky. The guide was a great storyteller. We went into some dark places. A snicklewalk  – and the Judge’s Court. Little nooks right out of literature.

My guest house is outside the walls. After hearing about all those ghosts, I was nervous coming back through the dark. Also, Friday nights are kind of rowdy.

York is a wonderfully medieval place. I’m listening to my Gram Parsons tape, just for a contrast. “Sin City.”

September 22, 1990

Woke up in a sweat.

After that ghost walk, I was quite shaky about that stuff.  I slept well at first, but then I woke up after 2 a.m. to a noise I couldn’t identify.

So I listened and heard something else. And then the adrenalin started pumping. I lay perfectly still, eyes shut tight, pretending I was still asleep. Terrified.

Then I heard the noise again. And I identified it as my stomach. The curry I had for dinner was gurgling around down there.

I was relieved, but the adrenalin was already there. Had to take a Valium. I had bad scary ghost dreams the rest of the night.

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Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage” is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

 

 

Richard III Tour: Middleham Castle – Pilgrimage to the past

In 1990, I set off for England for a month to research my Richard III novel, “Rings of Passage.” This is my travel journal.

Looking back from 2014: Richard’s childhood home was one of the places I most wanted to visit. Getting to Middleham Castle proved to be a challenge, testing my endurance. Once there, I had very little time. The universe granted favors in the form of earthly delights – a picnic lunch of delicious market cheese and bitters, with a gorgeous view of the Yorkshire Dales. I had longed for transcendence, but felt let down at the time. The photos tell a different story. Middleham had been a jewel in the crown of my Richard tour. The lesson: Let the expectations go, and experience what is offered.

Middleham Castle, Yorkshire
September 22, 1990

Middleham Castle

Doors through Middleham Castle

This day was a lot of work.

This morning, I got the train to Darlington, then a bus to Richmond.

Richmond was having its market day. Cobbled streets, buildings all of stone. I wished I could stay longer. Went to an antique fair. Then I got some cheese and a beer and packed them away to wait for the bus to Leyburn.

Oh, what a beautiful ride through the Dales. I’ve never seen a landscape like Yorkshire. Sort of Pennsylvania pushed up against Indiana farmland. Loads of sheep. Long-haired ones with long tails. We went over hills, through woods, past fields divided with dry stone walls. Leyburn was quite quaint, as well. But then I had towalk 2½ miles to get to Middleham Castle. And I didn’t have a whole lot of time because I had to catch the bus back.

No pleasant walk across the Dales, this.

I had to walk along a fairly busy two-lane highway with no shoulder, up and down steep hills in a cold wind. Not fun at all. I got there and was almost locked out – but the British Heritage lady let me in after all.

There I climbed up on the ruins overlooking the great hall, and ate my Leicester Whirl cheese with herbs and garlic, and my Huntsman’s cheese, and drank my Stones Bitter.

I talked to Richard, but it’s not like he was there like he was at Warwick and Kenilworth. Maybe I was just too tired to commune.

It actually did seem rather peaceful. If I felt anything, it was in what had been the chapel.

I explored it faster than I would have liked, but my time was short. The material about the castle was all about Richard, and I got some books. But then there was that walk back looming before me.

At last I set off – the wrong direction! Going probably ¼ to ½ mile the wrong way toward Coverdale. Turned around, back through the town of Middleham. The walk back was exhausting, colder, but without as many cars. Crossed the Ure River. Couldn’t enjoy the countryside. Too much against me.

Back in Leyburn, I caught the bus, changed in Richmond. The bus driver kindly dropped me at the rail station, saving me that walk. I blessed him over and over.

Once on the train, I was freezing. A woman brought a refreshment cart through, and I got a hot chocolate. A lifesaver! I felt like a guardian angel was looking after me – maybe Richard? – for making that long pilgrimage to his castle.

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Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage” is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

 

 

Richard III Tour: Kenilworth Castle – The King’s ghost roams

Aside

In 1990, I set off for England for a month to research my Richard III novel, “Rings of Passage.” This is my travel journal.

Looking back from 2014: I remember being very affected by Kenilworth, as if I had entered a holy realm. It was back in the days before there were digital cameras, and I had used all my color film at the storybook castle, Warwick. All that remained in my backpack was 35mm black-and-white 400 ASA film – which meant the pictures would be contrasty with some visible film grain. Turns out, Kenilworth looks amazing in black and white. That day, the universe had my back.

Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire
Sept 20, 1990

I can’t describe how I felt at Kenilworth. These huge chunks of ruins gave me the eeriest feeling. Like how I always imagined Wuthering Heights. It was the first place I’d visited that will actually be in my book.

I had to take two buses to get there. I got there late – about 4:30. There was hardly anyone there – two or three other people and myself. And it was cold, about 50. The wind was blowing gustily. The sky was steel grey. Surrounded by gentle, green slopes, sheep, a quaint town.

Door into the past

Door into the past

There at Kenilworth, it was so isolated. So far from anywhere. It echoed with the past.

I walked all of its nooks and crannies. I climbed up into a tower, up these narrow spiral stairs in the dark – and it was ghostly. And to think that Richard stayed there.

I got a tight stomach, a tingly feeling, as if I might see Richard’s ghost any minute. As if the past were going on at the same time in a different dimension. As if we were sharing the same physical space. I was nervous, as if I were about to meet someone famous. I got rushes, as if I had taken an amphetamine. Like Anise must feel in Richard’s presence.

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Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage” is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

 

 

Why did Shakespeare throw Richard III under the bus?

Dedicated to a fellow writer from my newspaper days, who inspired deliberation on this topic through his blog, “A Year of Shakespeare: 38 Plays, 365 Days.”
Richard III and Shakespeare
Why did Shakespeare throw Richard under the bus?

Some of the assumptions I make here may be false, however it is based on a fair amount of research, some of which I did while researching for my novel, Rings of Passage. I don’t claim to be a Shakespeare scholar. Experts out there take issue, please, if you will. Let’s get this thing cleared up.

Why did Shakespeare throw Richard III under the bus?

  • Political fear

Shakespeare wrote Richard III during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and so his portrayal of Richard is sometimes shrugged off as “toeing the party line.”

Elizabeth’s father Henry VIII dispatched Yorkists whenever he could get away with it. On flimsy charges, he beheaded Richard’s niece Margaret (countess of Salisbury,  George, duke of Clarence’s daughter) when she was 68 years old. She was hardly a threat.

He learned his hatred of Yorkists from his father, Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor dynasty, whose hate was grounded in the reasonable fear that his kingship was both undeserved and usurped.

If you had Yorkist leanings during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII, you had good reason to be afraid.

Yet Elizabeth the First did not share the hatred of her father and grandfather. She was a moderate in government and tolerant in religion. She enjoyed the theater, earning the disapproval of the Puritans on her own counsel.

According to Lisa Thyer, author of “Shakespeare Life and Times/Intro to Shakespeare’s life and Historical Context”:  “Theater was often used as a covert forum for political criticism: …some may have remembered the swinish face of Henry VIII, and all in the audience knew that it was only under special circumstances that they could publicly share the thought that monarch was a swine.”

Criticism of the Tudor dynasty embedded in a dramatic performance would not be cause enough for Elizabeth to eliminate a playwright, whose work she most likely enjoyed.

To toe the line of the current political climate is not a convincing enough argument for  Shakespeare’s trashing of Richard III.

  • Chasing the fame

How many tabloids have jumped on the bandwagon to destroy some celebrity’s career for the sheer purpose of selling more copies? Could the Bard’s motivation have been opportunistic?

Although Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays “preceded only by the three parts of Henry VI and perhaps a handful of comedies,” according to Wikipedia Richard had been dead a century by then, give or take a few years. Richard’s “dark” reputation had already been convincingly painted against the backdrop of the “Tudor Myth*.”

The rehashing of that old chestnut wouldn’t have gained a playwright much traction unless he happened to be Shakespeare. Like all great writing, he took an old idea and told the story in such a compelling way that it became new again.

It’s the universality of this theme, molded by the deft hand of a genius, that propelled Richard III to the top of the Elizabethan drama charts.

If there was any bandwagon jumping, it was because Shakespeare knew he could use the legend of Richard’s evil to drive home the idea that, in the karmic scheme of things, crime doesn’t pay. Shakespeare was not adverse to cozying up to his audience’s preferences, however (more on that later).

  • Poetic license

By the time Shakespeare penned Richard III, he had already written three historical plays Henry VI, parts I, II and III.

While researching the intrigues of British royalty, Shakespeare wasn’t looking for truth. He was looking for drama. And something deeper.

Shakespeare grew up on the morality plays popular at the time of his youth. These plays, and the classical dramatic tradition of unity and decorum learned as part of a grammar school education, provided the foundation for his work. Along with his contemporaries, Shakespeare blended old morality drama with classical theory to develop a new secular form for the English Renaissance.

In a nutshell, this new form of drama resonated on an emotional level, but also incorporated themes dealing with the human condition and destiny. And despite its ambiguous themes and complexity, this new brand of drama should be universally understood, not only to the educated elite, but also to ordinary people.

Because of the speed that authors had to produce plays at the time, and the Renaissance theory that  tragic plots should be grounded in history, Shakespeare turned to source material typically used by playwrights of the time: Raphael Holinshed’s 1587 Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande.

Among the sources Holinshed used for Richard III was Thomas More’s unfinished, The History of Richard III.

Born in 1478, More was 7 years old when the Battle at Bosworth took place. As a boy, he lived for a time in the household of Dr. John Morton, who was Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VII, and one of Richard’s bitterest enemies. Morton’s conspiratorial machinations against Richard eventually helped put Tudor on the throne.

More’s account of Richard’s life was interpreted through the prism of Morton’s anti-Richard propaganda, which was then reiterated in Holinshed’s Chronicles, which provided the plot for Shakespeare’s play.

Morton’s hatred filtered through Shakespeare’s pen dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s turning Richard into an evil and unredeemable monster who murdered children.

In his quest for drama and theme, Shakespeare had no use for primary sources that proved otherwise.

Even if Shakespeare knew that Richard III could not have perpetrated the crimes he was a accused of, he didn’t care. In Henry VI, Part II, Shakespeare has Richard killing the Duke of Somerset, when in actuality Richard was only three years old.  In part three of Henry VI, Richard is seen participating in the Battles of Mortimer’s Cross and Towton.  In fact, Richard was 8 years old and living in Burgundy.

Shakespeare’s motivation was not to exonerate, but to exploit plot twists to amplify his theme.

As with the character of “Vice” of whom Elizabethan audiences would been familiar from the morality plays the fates turned on Richard in the end**.

“Fate versus free will” was popular with audiences influenced by the growing Calvinism of the Elizabethan era. Inherent was the belief in historical fatalism, in which individual historical events are determined by God, who often punishes evil with (apparent) evil.

Shakespeare used Richard’s “reputation” as the perfect vehicle for conveying this idea.

Does that make him a toady to the Calvinists? I don’t think so. Still, he wasn’t beyond playing to the preferences of his audience.

Yet it is done so brilliantly. Can’t we forgive him?

I never really doubted that Shakespeare’s real motivation behind Richard III was artistic. I need not have taken the journey, just to come to the conclusion I had at the beginning.

However, I have learned much, and do not regret the trip.

And finally…

  • Conspiracy theory

In a nutshell, there are serious scholars who believe “William Shakespeare” was an identity assumed by a member of the nobility, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, to enable him to write plays and sonnets anonymously.

If Oxford was Shakespeare, he would have had strong motivation for painting Richard III’s reputation black.

Prior to Richard’s reign, the de Vere family had been stripped of nearly all its land holdings, after John de Vere participated in the Battle of Barnet in 1471, against the Yorkists. Richard’s elder brother, King Edward IV, confiscated, and then turned around and granted to Richard, all of John de Vere’ s property.

Was Shakespeare’s most famous play written by de Vere out of some kind of revenge?

Food for thought.

My Sources
Footnotes:
* Tudor Myth: Political propaganda promoting the Tudor period of the 16th century as a golden age of peace, law, order, and prosperity; and the Yorkist period of the15th century, including the Wars of the Roses, as a dark age of anarchy and bloodshed.
** Richard was God’s curse on England in punishment for the deposition of Richard II in 1399, which formed the basis for the conflict between the Yorkists and Lancastrians and sparked the Wars of the Roses.

Cover reveal: Jackson Paul Baer’s “The Earth Bleeds Red”

THE EARTH BLEEDS RED is Jackson Paul Baer’s first novel due out the end of October 2013 (Pandamoon Publishing). It’s part literary and part suspense.

The Earth Bleeds Red

Author Jackson Paul Baer new book comes out on Pandamoon Publishing in October.

This cover is one of the most beautiful and poignant I have ever seen. Congratulate Jackson on his achievement. Visit his website at http://jacksonpaulbaer.com.

Here’s a description of the story:

Scott and Jessie Miller are a couple in love. Ashley, their only daughter, is 17-years old and has vanished; leaving behind nothing but a pool of blood. Her strange disappearance is quickly thought to be a homicide. Her cozy, northwest town is stunned when police find the body of another girl at the bottom of the Willamette River. The eerie signature found on the girl links to a monster dubbed the Hail Mary Killer. While Scott searches for Ashley, the FBI feels convinced that she is the killer’s latest victim.

In spite of three other bodies with the same distinct marking, no one prepared themselves for the discovery in southern Oregon. Local hikers stumble upon a car in the mountain brush and a tattooing needle with an evil history surfaces inside. A cabin appears nearby with another gruesome discovery. Scott finds some solace in his friendship with Father Henry as he and Jessie try to salvage their marriage and move on beyond the loss of Ashley. The FBI finally catches a break when they unearth the dark past of the Hail Mary Killer’s family. What emerged in his basement is more terrifying than anyone could have possibly imagined. What happens to the Miller family and Father Henry will shake your soul and keep you reading till the last page.

Lucky number 13

Book of Omens

This little book bought off the supermarket aisle rack when I was a kid scarred me for life.

A few days ago, we experienced Friday the 13th. This reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend:

“Do you have triskaidekaphobia?” asked True. “Or maybe you have friggatriskaidekaphobia?” She likes saying long words at the speed of light. (She also says “acetaminophen” so fast that my brain turns the last few syllables coming out of her mouth into “Muhbluhblah.”)

“Do I have what?”

“Paraskevidekatriaphobia. The fear of ‘Friday the 13th’.”  True, who used to write for Air Force newspapers back in the day, once wrote an article about Friday the 13th.

I shook my head. “Nope… the number 13 is lucky for me.”

I’m as superstitious as they come. When I was 13, I picked up a 25 cent “Omens” booklet from the rack at the grocery store checkout stand. It scarred me for life.

Some of the words of wisdom from this little book: “If you wish to live and thrive, let a spider run alive.” That’s not advice to be taken lightly by someone with arachnophobia.

And here’s one: “See a pin, pick it up, and all the day have good luck. See a pin, let it lay, bad luck all the day.” (The bad luck being that you get a pin stuck up your foot.)

It’s considered unlucky for lovers to be photographed together. Based on how many marriages end in divorce, this has some merit: think of all those wedding photos!

And this: “White spots on the nails foretell wealth. It’s also said they signify lies.”  Well, duh. How do you think the person got the wealth?

But back to triskaidekaphobia. The superstitions to avoid bad luck are ones I follow faithfully. I don’t walk under ladders. I throw spilled salt over my left shoulder. I say “rabbit” every first day of the month when I wake up.

However, my relationship with the number 13 is quite the opposite.  I don’t avoid it. I celebrate it. For me, 13 brings me good luck.

Here’s an example. I’ve been a Rolling Stones fan all my life  – since I was 13. In 2006, I went to my 13th Rolling Stones concert, which was in Las Vegas. When the band came onstage, Mick Jagger announced, “This is the13th time we have played in Las Vegas.”

Later, I realized my hotel room at the Tropicana was on the 13th floor (labeled the 14th, but I wasn’t fooled by that old trick). My flight out of Vegas was on Nov. 13, and it was smooth and non-stressful.

That entire Vegas trip to see my favorite band, shared with two of my best friends Beverly and True, was magical – and it was wrapped up in memory paper patterned with the number 13.

Sometimes, one person’s triskaidekaphobia is another’s triskaidekaphilia (say that fast 13 times).

That thing that most people fear? It might be just  the thing that rocks your world. Your fascination with the Black Death or Jack the Ripper or vampires, might be the very thing that sets you apart from the crowd and brings you luck.

As the brilliant psychologist Dr. Carl Jung once wrote, “To confront a person with his Shadow is to show him his own light.”

Don’t be afraid of the differences within you that make you strong, even if they’re a bit scary.

Even if it’s the number 13.