Welcome to my humble wordpress abode, Malcolm. I’ve enjoyed your books, especially the ones starring Jock, the super detective, but this short story Moonlight and Ghosts grabbed my attention from page one with your description of the Florida Panhandle. Research or first hand knowledge? Confess.
While the story unfolded without specific plan (as always), three things helped pull it together: (a) a nod to James Joyce, (b) personal knowledge of Tallahassee and North Florida, and, (c) my work in a developmental center years ago.
There remains a prejudice toward mentally challenged and disabled people. This is reflected so well in your story.
Many people, as one of my characters says in “Moonlight and Ghosts,” view developmentally disabled people as the “walking dead.” Thinking on that, I turned to James Joyce’s beautiful ending in his short story “The Dead.” That is, I used his style in describing snow over Ireland to describe moonlight in Florida.
You must have grown up in Florida. I could almost taste the air.
I grew up in Tallahassee, living there from first grade through college. This gave our family plenty of time go explore everything from the piney woods, sinkholes and swamps to the beaches along the Florida coast from St. Marks west to toward Apalachicola and the offshore islands there. Having camped out in a lot of locations while in the Boy Scouts, I didn’t have to use my imagination to see the moonlight coming through the trees or shining off the water.
And did you have experience with a hospital like the one you describe?
Yes, I did. Many years ago, I worked in a center for the developmentally disabled, so I had some experience there to put to good use when describing what the residents and their surroundings were like; I also saw the politics of it and knew that funding is always a problem, especially when it leads to cutbacks and declining levels of care start to decline.
The dialogue is funny in contrast to the setting. It works beautifully. Can you tell the readers how you accomplish this?
When I’m writing fantasy, magical realism or paranormal stories, I like to “anchor them” with real-word facts and dialogue. Most of the dialogue in “Moonlight and Ghosts” is light because it would help reflect the nervousness of the characters while poking around in a scary old building. The story was partially inspired by my connection with the residents at the center where I once worked and by the tall tales surrounding an abandoned hospital near where I grew up that was supposedly filled with ghosts.
Malcolm, thanks for stopping by and revealing a bit about the craft of writing Moonlight and Ghosts, a spooky short story, a thriller and I hope there will be a sequel.