Hands Up if You’ve Had a Ghostly Encounter.
by Nancy Lynn Jarvis
I write cozy mysteries mostly, but I’ve herded cats on occasion. Not real cats, but authors for “Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes” and a short story anthology titled “Santa Cruz Weird.” After that last work, I vowed I would never do another anthology. That changed when I sold a ghost story, my first short story sale, and started wondering if authors might be interested in writing short stories featuring a ghost. You know, short stories. Fiction.
I put the word out among local writers, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and anywhere else I could think of and was surprised by the response I got and the scattered locations where writers lived. It turns out, those surprises were the least of what happened.
As stories came in and I began doing content editing, I was able to communicate with writers. Some were online back and forth communications and some were in-person or phone conversations. It’s not at all uncommon for writers to use bits of their life experiences, stolen bits of stories people have told them, and eavesdropped conversations to write fiction, so I expected they would tell me the same was true for the short stories they submitted.
What I was unprepared for was how many of them wrote about the ghostly encounters they had first-hand.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have surprised me because the story I sold was a verbatim account of an experience I had as a teenager, but the ghost in my story was never part of my reality, only a second -hand account told to me. Also, I have read my mysteries to a group called Well Connected, a national dial-in service for seniors and disabled people. When I read “The Murder House,” a novel where there may be ghosts, to them, I told them at the end of each reading, someone in the group needed to share a personal ghost story. I still get chills thinking about some of the stories they reported. So, I know there are people out there who have encountered a ghost or at least unexplained phenomena. But the conversations I had with the writers of what will become “Santa Cruz Ghost Stories” were truly jarring.
Conversations seemed to follow a pattern. The writer and I would begin by talking about what they had written and within a few minutes they would share, often in a hushed voice, that many of the details they used had happened to them. “Oh, you mean someone told you about it?” I would ask. “No,” they would reply. “It happened to me. There is very little fiction in my story.”
(The most unnerving story is called, “The Toucher.” I bet you can imagine what it’s about but would never guess that the author really had such an encounter.)
What about you? Have you ever met a ghost?
Not while traveling to far off places like the Tower of London where they are reported to be, or at the Wayside Inn in Massachusetts where many sighting have happened over the years, but in your own house, or on a walk. I have, and more people than I would have ever imagined have, as well. As a result, I have to say I wasn’t that surprised when my neighbors told me my house survived the CZU fire that surrounded it because my late husband, Craig, was there alone after we were all evacuated, fighting to save the house he loved.
Santa Cruz Ghost Stories: An Anthology
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Meet Nancy Lynn Jarvis
Nancy Lynn Jarvis wore many hats before she started writing cozy mysteries. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News, as a librarian, as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz, and as a Realtor.
Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years, a philosophy she applies to her writing, as well. She has written seven Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries; a stand-alone novel “Mags and the AARP Gang” about a group of octogenarian bank robbers; edited “Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes” and a short story anthology, “Santa Cruz Weird;” and even done a little insider’s book, “The Truth About Hosting Airbnb” about her first year as a host.