Monday, August 29, 2011

A True Ghost Story from 2010

In the fall of 2010, my wife and I went on a weekend getaway with some friends of ours. We rented a really cool cabin in Nashville, Indiana equipped with hot tub, gas grill and pool table. Nestled in a cozy hillside, the joint had a beautiful wraparound porch and an exquisite view of the southern Indiana countryside. The sun shone through the tree and the air felt crisp and cool.

I was in Heaven.

We unpacked, started the gas log and settled into our perfect retreat. We had a fun evening planned of shopping, cards and watching horror flicks.

After we settled in, we decided to head into town to walk through the many shops and galleries. The storefronts were lined with pumpkins and hay bales, making hot-apple cider a perfect refreshment. The evening went as planned and we returned to our cabin ready to warm our bones and watch House on Haunted Hill.

Before I knew it, the other three started getting sleepy and we decided to hit the sack.

A couple hours later, around 2:00 a.m., I woke up dripping with sweat. The upper loft had very little airflow. I felt so flipping hot I couldn’t stand it. My wife slept like a baby, but I had to get out of there!

I lumbered down the steps and listened to the creaks and cracks in the rafters caused by the whistling wind. Believe it or not, I enjoyed the sounds coming from the rustic structure. I peered at the leather couch; it looked so cool and inviting. For a moment I imagined sprawling out into its cushiony spread, but I heard a strange noise coming from the kitchen and my skin melted off my face.

I looked around and didn’t see anything unusual. The open concept left nothing to hide. The stairs opened to the living room, dining room and kitchen. Our friend’s bedroom and bath were the only other rooms on the first floor and they too were within eyeshot. After giving the cabin a final inspection from where I stood, I lay down on the couch, snuggled into my bed sheet and closed my eyes.

The noises continued.

I listened like a cat, but the little squeaks and groans seemed to be coming from every direction. No big deal, I thought. It’s just a cabin. Get over it and fall asleep. 

Then, something curious happened. The creaking floorboards began to move closer to me. One at a time I’d hear what sounded like footsteps rolling across the wood floor, carefully pressing down, trying not to be heard. My heart, as you can imagine hammered in my chest, nearly bursting through my ribcage. I looked through the TV screen to see if there was anyone walking behind me, but I didn’t see anything. Then when this thing, whatever it was, pressed into the floor right next to the couch, I couldn’t take it, I sat up, turned my head toward the open space and heard a voice forcefully whisper, “Hello!”

This wasn’t a quiet, don’t let them hear you whisper. Oh, no! This was a, I’m not presently living in your dimension, so I’m screaming at you type of whisper.

I panicked, jumping straight up like the cat that I was, nearly falling off the couch. 

As I turned I saw a dark silhouette, adding to my near death experience. Seconds later, I realized that the shape beside me was only a floor lamp, but that didn’t make me feel any better. My heart continued pounding like a jackhammer.

For no less than thirty minutes, I felt an electric energy buzzing through my body. I felt as if something hovered over me, almost nose-to-nose, staring at me. I peered through the corner of my eye but couldn’t see anything—nothing physical anyway. But I knew in the deepest part of my soul that something was there. I lay frozen in place, like an icy Neanderthal in the Tibetan icecaps.

My eyes searched for movement, but found nothing. I did see, however, a showy figure moving side to side in the reflection of the microwave door. It was the strangest thing. There were no ceiling fans spinning or curtains waving. Everything stood still—everything except the dancing shadow. At that point, I couldn’t take it anymore. I ran back up the stairs to my personal boiler room and slid under the covers with my wife.

Still, the energy followed me.

After several minutes of fighting my fears, I finally fell asleep.

The next morning, I woke to the smell of biscuits and gravy and the sound of coffee percolating in the kitchen. My wife and friends, like myself, were shuffling their feet like the undead, trying their best to navigate with squinted, puffy eyes. We eventually sat down to eat.

In a moment of silence, Sarah, my friend’s wife asked if anyone heard anything in the night. I looked at her curiously and asked why. She said, “Because someone was tugging at our doorknob, off and on, for about an hour sometime around three in the morning.” She thought we had mistaken her room for the bathroom, but she was too tired to get out of bed. She also said that at one point in the night she felt like someone was standing beside her, but she was too scared to look.

After she told her story, I shared my experience. I affirmed that I never left the living room until I ran upstairs, and that I never walked toward their bedroom.

We all sort of let our suspicions cool for a while. But then my buddy opened up the guest logbook; the kind where each visitor can leave a message to the cabin owners about their experience. And wouldn’t you know it; the book was filled with story after story about a spirit that inhabited the structure. 

They call him Earl.

Some of the visitors claimed that he was a gentle ghost, mostly curious, and only somewhat troublesome. Others rebuked the owners for not disclosing the fact that malevolent spirits had haunted the cabin. Me? I don’t know what that thing was, but it scared the hell out of me.

The upside to coming face to face with Earl is when I write supernatural thrillers, I can honestly communicate what it feels like to be petrified by something that you can’t explain. I know what it sounds like when a spirit is moving. I know that electrifying sensation when a ghost is standing beside me. I know that there are things out there—things we can’t see. But I also know that where there is darkness, there is also light, and that is all I need to know to keep my sanity.

Jeff Bennington
Author of Reunion, a supernatural suspense.

Feel free to read my excerpts, grab a short story, or support my writing addiction by buying a book.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Everything you do Matters

You may not know it, but everything you do matters.

Every mistake.

Every victory.

Every word.

Everything you do matters because choices have consequences; some make life better and some make it worse. And with our busy lifestyles today, I think we forget how important we are to others. I think we lose track of the power of our words, our actions, and at times, our inaction. 

Recently, my nine-year old daughter sent a letter to Bethany Hamilton, the young lady who lost her arm in a surfing accident in 2003. My daughter was so inspired by the movie, Soul Surfer, that all she could talk about this summer was surfing, the ocean, and Bethany Hamilton. Then when she discovered that she could join Bethany's fan club, oh my gosh, you would've thought she won the lottery. 

A couple weeks later, my precious little nine-year old gets a letter in the mail with a return address from Hawaii. To our surprise, Bethany sent posters, post cards of Hawaii, and even wrote a personalized response to my daughter's letter that included a prayer regarding questions she asked about surfing. My little girl was ecstatic and I was floored.

I had to watch the movie and find out what this surfer chick was all about. 

Of course, I cried. 

The movie was great, but the message is what really stuck with me. 

The message: We might experience the greatest moments imaginable, but we could also be dealt a devastating blow when we least expect it. How we respond to those moments matters. And Bethany responded beautifully. At her lowest point she was ready to give in, to quit surfing, and drop out of life all together, but she didn't. When she read through the fan mail and letters of support that came in by the truck loads, she realized that she had a unique opportunity to influence and inspire. 

The point I want to make is that everyone of us has a unique opportunity to influence and inspire. If you work and live with people, every word you say has the power to encourage or beat down. Your words matter. 

If you're a coach, you can inspire greatness or generate defeat. Your methods matter. 

If you're a parent, you can communicate love and acceptance. Your parenting style matters. 

If you're a writer, you can stir imaginations and inspire thinking. Your prose matters.

Teens, the way you treat others can change the world, because one kind word can stop a suicide. 

Everything you do matters, today, every minute, every second. 

We often rush through the day without thinking about our potential to influence the world around us. When we forget, we stop living with purpose and we start living within ourselves, a place that usually impacts others in a negative way. So take a minute before you say or do anything else and focus on the people around you. Then, make a conscious effort to  inspire and encourage, smile, give a hug, don't complain, work harder, plan better - live intentionally.

You may not have a million fans, but if you live your life like it matters, you'll have more than you thought possible. Just ask Bethany.  

Jeff Bennington
Author of Reunion & other thrillers

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Story Behind the Teen Killer

I remember watching the news on April 20, 1999 and the days and weeks that followed, disturbed and shell-shocked at what had happened in Littleton, Colorado. 

I stared at my television, absolutely distraught, watching helicopters flying overhead and the terrorized faces of the students as they wandered outside seeking and offering comfort. Do you remember that? Do you remember how you felt?

Do you remember that cold, heavy feeling that fell from your chest, into your gut, weighing you down like you were carrying the universe on your shoulders?

I do.
I felt sick.

And that’s where the idea of my latest novel, Reunion, came to life. I started to think about the survivors and what their lives would be like ten or twenty years later. I wondered what the long-term consequences would be. I wondered if they’d be able to cope, to live normal lives, to have normal relationships. I often thought about the immediate break, for lack of a better word, that they must have experienced as their lives, young and forward looking, changed in an instant—literally in a flash.

Those wonderings haunted me for years, reminding me again and again, after the other shootings that followed, including those in my home states of Indiana and Ohio. Columbine wasn’t the first and there have been over a hundred since then, in the United States alone. Still, I don’t think we’ve grown numb to these atrocities and I hope we never do.

Fast forward to 2007.
The Virginia Tech shooting reminded me of that dark feeling once again, nurturing my questions, feeding my muse. Then in 2009, my questions finally began to take root. David Ray, the killer and troubled teen in Reunion started to develop in my mind. From there, the story began to unfold and the other characters took on their own personalities.

My wonderings started to stir the character stew boiling inside my head. Who were David’s victims? Why did he do it? What was his state of mind? Was he bullied? Who bullied him? What were the students doing the morning of the shooting? What were they thinking the day their lives turned upside down? How did their futures deviate from that moment forward? 

Jared Cano, Teen arrested for suspected bomb threat.
Just this week, Tampa police arrested expelled student, Jared Cano, for threatening to detonate an explosive devise at Freedom High School. Can you imagine the horrific nightmare that would've played out if Jared had succeeded?

Thank God he didn't!
Thank God he's locked up and facing many, many years in prison.

Jared is unfathomably similar to David Ray, the young killer in Reunion, and I can't imagine the damage someone like David could do in real life.

After learning about Jared's plot, I've returned to my wonderings and I'm convinced more than ever that  the topic of school shootings, bullying and school violence in general must be addressed not only in our daily lives but in literature as well.

But creating a realistic and powerful novel that addresses so many issues isn't easy.

I researched PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and the public lives of some of the survivors so I could understand, as best I could, how they've suffered. I filled my black book with notes and names and timelines and general goals for each chapter, but then I let the twists and turns happen in their own way as the characters lived out the tale according to their design and the complexities that are inherent with PTSD.

Reunion is not only a novel about the dark, supernatural side of humanity; it’s a story about finding hope in horrific circumstances that appear hopeless. It's a story about retracing your life when it veers off course. Reunion is my second born as far as novels go. I would practically die for her. She’s tender. She’s dark. She’s horrific. She's romantic. She’s full of hope and beauty, and frightening at the same time.

And isn't that what life is like? Thank God it's not always tragic and that some nightmares never come to fruition.

If you read Reunion and recover from the triumphantly chilling experience, I hope you walk away with more than a good read. I didn't write it simply to entertain. I wrote Reunion to create a better understanding of school violence and bullying and to offer hope—hope that this life is not all there is, and to leave you grateful for the precious few moments we are given.

Thanks for reading.
Why not get your copy of Reunion at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or anywhere books are sold online? 
- Jeff Bennington

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Building Bare-Naked Suspense

Think about your favorite thriller. 
What was it that made you catch your breath? What was it that kept you awake at night, nervously peeking over your pillow at the slightest creak in the floorboards? Was it a monster, a ghost, a serial killer? Or was it the writing style?

I’d like to think that one could create a suspenseful situation without a dark entity or supernatural element.

But what fun would that be? We like being scared because it gets our heart rate up, saving us from sweaty, labor-intensive exercise; a completely unnecessary activity for one who keeps a titillating, suspense-filled book handy at all times. Besides, ghosts have always done a great job of stimulating our fears because you never really know if there’s one residing in your house, roaming the halls late at night.

But you know, if we grew dependent on ghosts, specters, phantoms and evil spirits, we’d miss out on the pure, literary art in creating suspense out of thin air; what I call, bare-naked suspense.

Therefore, out of respect for the many ways one can scare, frighten, petrify, terrorize and otherwise put the fear of God into one’s heart, I would like to invite you to join me in the process of titillation, by creating a brief moment of suspense in this snippet of flash fiction.

I wrote this for you; a bare-naked suspense. I hope you enjoy it…

Murdoch’s Eyes

Sand filtered through Gina’s toes as she sprinted across the powdery granules. Her dress danced across her thighs and her heart beat rapidly. The crash of the waves, the tidal winds and salty air confused her mind. These were supposed to be the sounds of relaxation, not distress.

Murdoch had acted rather awkward, she thought. No, freaky was a better word. She had to get out of there. He went to the kitchen to get her a drink and she didn’t waste a minute. Gina darted out of the condo, leaving the party without saying a word to anyone. She slipped out the back door, onto the deck and down the spiral staircase.

When her heels hit the sand, she pulled her shoes off and started running. She could feel his anger brewing, burning like red-hot coals. He’d sensed her rejection and she knew it.

When he returned, she was gone. He sat Gina’s sex-on-the-beach on the coffee table and began searching through the crowd of partiers.

Gina could feel Murdoch’s eyes seeking her, heating up, fists clenching. 

She could see her car through the beach grass, parked on the side of the road. Her legs strained up the sandy hill. Her breath grew heavy, her hair disheveled, curls straightening.

She gripped the handle. Pull. Locked. “No!”

“The damn thing’s locked-not now-not today!”

Mudoch’s eyes burned into her brain-green maniacal things staring into her subconscious, transcendentally finding her with his metaphysical GPS system. He squinted, working his thoughts into hers, breathing methodically like an artificial respirator. He blocked out the music and voices and clanging glasses, focusing only on Gina-his Gina.

Panic filled every cell of her body.

Laughter shot from his brain to hers.

She knew he had found her; the shiver down her spine had told her so. Sweat beaded on her forehead. A blonde strand of hair stuck to her lips. She called out, hands trembling, whispering her fears to no one but herself.

“My God, who is this guy? What’s he doing to me?”

She could see him staring. She could hear him breathing.

“My keys!”

 She dug through her purse. Nothing. She dumped the contents on the side of the road, rummaging through receipts and lipsticks, but the keys were not there. Did I leave them at the house, she wondered? Her shoulders sank as a feeling of hopelessness fell heavy upon her. 

Murdoch reached into his pants pocket, grabbed her keychain and began twirling it between his fingers. He watched the keys dance, delighted, smirking as the green windows to his soul led Gina back.

The End

 Jeff Bennington
Author of Reunion

Please subscribe by email and then go to My “Free Stuff” page and get a free copy of The Rumblin’, my short suspense!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

5 Reasons Why Indie Authors Are Succeeding

Welcome to The Writing Bomb.

I've been consulting with two publishers recently and I've discovered five golden nuggets of information. One of these two publishers is a high end, high-quality vanity press; the other is an up and coming, recently restructured, shared-publishing press. They are digitally behind the times and still operating as if digital publishing is irrelevant to their authors.

They have a bitter sweet taste in their mouths because, I think, they have been taken off guard. It was only two or three years ago that vanity presses were booming and desperate authors were dishing out thousands to get their words in print.

I've talked directly with the editors of these publishing houses, listened to their questions and vision, and I've been introduced to their processes. In doing so, I've discovered something quite interesting: Indie authors know the state of publishing and without a shadow of doubt have a leg up on the latest ebook and publishing trends.

Does that surprise you?

Indie authors are gaining ground not only in popularity and credibility, but we are the force behind the changes in this exciting new industry. From what I've seen, some publishers are beginning to need us more than we need them. Here are five reasons why Indie authors are succeeding!

5 Reasons Why Indie Authors are Succeeding
  • Indie authors are in the trenches. We are battle hardened warriors who have had to endure the scars of rejection, ascending the depths of failure over and over again, fighting our way to publication tooth and dirt-filled nail. As a result, we've read every book on style, marketing, html, advanced blogging and "how-to" on social media. We've paid to self-publish, discovered the faults of vanity presses and have mastered the art of publishing ebooks and print with the business finesse of Jack Welch. We are starting our own publishing companies and living our dream without the help of the big six (Examples: and 
  • Indies are technically savvy. In general, a growing number of Indie authors know how to effectively publish our books to every major online retailer for next to nothing. We know how to format our ebooks properly. We know how to make effective covers ourselves. We know how to add links to our ebooks and get blurbs. We've had to learn these skills because the very act of keeping us out of the publishing arena has driven us underground where we have mastered the latest technologies.
  • We know how to promote our work for next to nothing. Indie authors talk. We tweet. We email. We share information and the latest trends at a rate that would leave Google's mainframe in the dust. We've been building online relationships in our underground world and lo and behold, we've developed our platforms and relationships with book bloggers and reviewers. We've created a community that supports and publicizes each other's work...for FREE! In the process, we've gained readers on our own, not by might, but through our determination and the quality of our work.
  • Indie authors have zero overhead. We work out of our garages and bedrooms and home offices.  Our greatest expense is our computer, a cheap tool that we already own. We list our books for .99¢ and grow our readership by offering great deals, without imposing ridiculous prices on the very people who support our efforts. John Locke is the obvious example of how Indies can flourish with rock bottom price points. 
  • Indie authors are strategically positioned for succeess in the ebook market. After taking a brutal beating from indie haters, and amazon discussion forums we've learned (or at least most of us have learned) to focus on quality (editing, cover, layout). For the most part, we've matched our quality with traditional publishers and we are improving exponentially. Indie authors are winning awards, getting rave reviews (see The Kindle Book Review), selling by the tens of thousands and making a serious dent into the digital market share. Just look at the Amazon bestseller list; you'd be shocked at how many are independent authors. From a business stand point, we are in a prime position. We have a lean business model. We are the experts in our filed. And we are highly motivated!
Disclaimer: I don't mean to knock traditionally published authors. They have earned their success with equal effort and in many cases, greater skill. Kudos.
    If you're an indie author, I commend you for your efforts, self-discipline and perseverance. You came to the publishing party with your pen and paper and desire to share your stories. Little did you know that you'd stumbled into a world of digital publishing that is actually working in your favor. Throw your shackles off, write free little birdies and publish your own destiny! 

    If you're a reader, I hope you join the revolution. In the end, you are the ultimate beneficiary because when you buy a .99¢ - $2.99 ebook, you save as much as $13 per book where the author is only making 35¢ or maybe a couple of bucks at most. 

    But just so you know, each 35¢ tastes as sweet as a drop of honey.

    Jeff Bennington
    Author of Reunion, Killing the Giants & The Rumblin

    Be sure to follow by email at the top right!