Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy (and Haunted) Trails to Me

I’m starting to feel the early tremors of a panic attack. In just two weeks I hit the unfriendly skies for a 10-day trip east. Never mind that I have a book due in two months, or that my desk at the law firm looks like a paper bomb hit it, or that we're in the middle of two huge projects. It’s a trip that has been on my calendar for a long, long time. And even though I’m looking forward to it, I also wish I had another six weeks between now and liftoff. Each day the trip gets closer, my blood pressure goes up with worry that I won’t be ready. It’s the same with every long trip I take.

This trip will be a combination of book conference, book signings, and a visit to my family. I haven’t seen my family in a couple of years and my niece has had two children since my last visit, the last baby just a month ago. If I postpone visiting any longer, Megan and Catelyn will be in college before they get a chance to spit up on me.

My trip will start with four days at the Malice Domestic Conference in Arlington, VA, followed by the Mystery Lovers Bookshop Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, PA. On May 4th, after dumping pals at the Pittsburgh airport, I’ll go solo and point my rental car in the direction of Jim Thorpe, PA. That’s right, there really is a town named after one of the greatest athletes in history. The weird thing is Jim Thorpe wasn’t even from there and probably never in his life step foot in the former coal mining town located at the foot of the Poconos. Seems his widow sold his remains to the town, once known as Mauch Chuck. The town then changed its name, interred ole Jim in the city limits, and gave him a suitable monument.

Originally, I had planned on simply driving from Pittsburgh to Massachusetts. But since it’s a 9-hour drive, I decided to check a map for a suitable place to stay half way through the trip. As my eye scouted the route, it caught on the name “Jim Thorpe.” Let me stop right here and say that I love maps. I love to see where places are in relation to other places, and odd names always tickle my nose like the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

The town of Jim Thorpe, it seems, has a very wild, woolly and even haunted past. Of course, this was back in the days when it was named Mauch Chunk. And, yes, I said haunted. Right then and there, I knew this was where I was going to stop. As soon as I read a sketch of the town’s history, my spidey sense told me a future Ghost of Granny Apples book was brewing. In fact, the story started coming alive in my head immediately.

Mauch Chunk was the setting for some of the Molly McGuire trials of the 1870’s, when Irish miners were charged, convicted and hanged for violence and conspiracy against the mining companies. To some, these were the early union organizers. Back then, they were branded criminals, although there is historical evidence that they may have been in large part railroaded. There’s an old and imposing jail in the town, appropriately named the Old Jail. Several Molly McGuires were hanged in the jail and today there is a replica of the gallows, along with a rumored haunted jail cell in which the hand print of one of the hanged men can still be seen on the wall, in spite of decades of paint and plaster.

The owner of the Old Jail Museum has promised me a private tour on May 5th. I can’t wait!

Also of interest in the town is the Harry Packer Mansion, which was used as a model for the Haunted House at Disneyland. The Mansion is now a B&B and is also purported to be haunted. If you’ve ever seen the Haunted House at Disneyland, you can see that it’s a dead ringer (pun intended). I’m staying two nights at the Inn at Jim Thorpe, also supposedly home to things that go bump in the night.

People always ask me where I get the ideas for my books. I get them from anywhere and everywhere, including while checking out a map for a place to rest my head.

Okay, just 14 days until the trip. I can do this. I know I can. I just have to remember to breathe.

Sue Ann Jaffarian


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

That's a looonnnng trip! I'll look forward to seeing you at Malice.

Hope you get lots of ideas (sounds like you're going to some really cool places!)

Mystery Writing is Murder

Lisa Bork said...

It is a dead ringer. So cool, Sue Ann. You're going to have so much fun!

Looking forward to meeting you!

Deborah Sharp said...

So THIS is how the mind of a truly creative writer works (also, maybe, a creative tax accountant, since your trip may now be filed under research!)
Sounds like a blast, Sue Ann. Looking forward to seeing you at Malice, and to that LOOONG car ride from D.C. area to Oakmont, PA.
Don't let the ghosts get you ...

Alan Orloff said...

I've heard that things go bump in the night at Malice, too.

See you in a few weeks!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Have a great time! I love staying in haunted spots--there's a great haunted hotel in San Antonio, TX, the Queen Mary in Long Beach is definitely haunted, and there's a lovely B and B in Ventura, CA, also haunted. Your work will wait for you, unfortunately.

Lisa said...

Hope you have a great trip! I just discovered your books . . . loving them. I am planning to see you in Massachusetts.

Kathleen Ernst said...

I know the feeling; Malice seems to have zoomed up on the calendar! But I've no doubt the trip will leave you full of new creative energy, especially since it's already spawned new plot ideas!

Cricket McRae said...

Malice, fans, family and ghosts -- Oh My!

Good luck getting ready for your lengthy jaunt. It's always hard to leave for that long, but it sounds like you'll have a good time once you're on the road.

Mauch Chunk? Really? Ha!

Hearth Cricket
Hearth Cricket

G.M. Malliet said...

My husband used to have relatives who lived in JT, believe it or not! Two elderly sisters who lived together. Sadly, long gone. I visited the town and was charmed. You will be, too.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I am so looking forward to seeing so many of you at Malice. And to heading to Oakmont with Deb. It's always so much fun, but exhausting.

Gin, so far I've already been charmed by JT. Can't wait to see it in person.

Marilyn, I've stayed on the Queen Mary in one of the original first class staterooms. Nothing odd happened, but I know someone who had some very scary experiences in the middle of the night.

Keith Raffel said...

If it weren't for trips, I'd never get anything done. Have to clear desk, reply to emails, pay bills, etc before leaving. This deadline is a good thing, Sue Ann, but I don't figure you'll see it that way till you're at Malice. Have fun.

Alice Loweecey said...

Have a great trip!

Darrell James said...

I'm sure the ghost blogs are alive with twitter right now... "She's coming!!!!!"

Have a great time!