By Pat Remick
I have not been visited by the ghosts of dead heroes, pets nor family members. The spirits apparently prefer to spend time with more interesting -- or receptive -- human beings. Therefore, adhering to this month's spooky theme has been a challenge.
My husband suggested writing about our Lhasa Apso (seen here in the most mysterious and ghostly photo I could manage) because legend has it these dogs were bred to guard Tibetan temples against evil spirits.
My dog does have an annoying habit of barking at the wind, but not strangers who come to the house. Perhaps I should give more credence to the possibility that he is preventing ghosts from calling on us. However, I have a difficult time viewing our happy-go-lucky Buddy as a ferocious guardian against otherworldly beings.
Next, I considered writing about what terrifies me, which would be things that could harm the people I love. Fellow New Hampshire author Jodi Picoult readily admits the themes of her best-selling books center around subjects that most frighten her and her hope that by addressing them in fiction, she can prevent these horrible things from happening. I do the same.
Then I gave a great deal of thought to what might frighten others and concluded the unusual thinking processes of people who enjoy writing about crime and murder might very well qualify as spine-chilling.
For example, Buddy and I sometimes take early morning walks through a wooded area and I often wonder if something, or someone, other than the usual forest creatures is watching and waiting to pounce. When the hair rises on the back of my neck, I become very aware that it would be easy for someone to attack, kill me and escape. (At just 18 pounds, Buddy isn't much protection -- remember, he only barks at the wind.) What's more, there are several locations that offer excellent opportunities to conceal a corpse. Believe me, I've looked.
I think that if other people knew how much time mystery writers spend thinking like this, they might find it ... well, unsettling, to say the least.
I can't even engage in recreational activities, such as attempting to climb a mountain with my spouse, without thoughts of murder and mayhem. As I complained to a National Forest Service official recently in an entry on my personal blog, "Because we're mystery writers, we also know that mountain trails provide optimum opportunities for serial killers and other wackos. If we could figure out that someone hiking without ski poles to defend themselves – and no emergency button to push – easily could be dragged off into the woods and murdered, so can they."
It is impossible for me to drive by an overgrown highway median, enjoy the view of a large body of water or even visit a historic fort surrounded by vegetation without thinking: "That would be a good place to hide a body." My husband and I often discuss ways to commit murder -- and not get caught. Reading the ingredients on household products can prompt musings about new opportunities to dispose of people and evidence. An intriguing news story can trigger imaginative and macabre discussions of "what if....?"
Normal people might find these traits peculiar at best -- and possibly even horrifying. But I consider them just part of "getting in the spirit." How about you?