Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Kozar Chronicles

The Kozars from left, Michael, Linda, Marge, Lauren & Katie

The link below features a gorgeous song, "The Prayer," 
sung in a duet with Josh Groban. It's a lovely way to start the new year:)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Callie’s Checkbook--by Linda Kozar

This is an excerpt from a story I wrote years ago. Each checkbook entry is a milestone in the character's life.

Check #1183  8/30/93 Maison d’Paris $1,500.00
The sales lady with painted on brows threw a pleasant smile her way. “Thank you for choosing the Maison d’Paris for your wedding needs.”
Callie brushed a stray lock of hair away from her face and smiled. “Oh, you’re welcome.”
Jolene giggled and grabbed Callie’s arm. “I can’t believe it. You’re finally getting married.”
She grimaced and closed her checkbook. “I can’t believe I spent that much on a wedding gown. A dress that’s just gonna be used one time.”
“You hope.”
Callie tapped her on the shoulder playfully. “Now that’s a positive thing to say.”
“Well, I don’t know what you’re complaining about. I just paid $250 for a bridesmaid gown that I’ll probably only wear once.”
“What do you mean? Those dresses are beautiful. And—and I picked them out with you girls in mind. So you could wear them again at other occasions.”
Jolene examined her nails, then picked at one as if she’d found a flaw. “Wear them again?” She laughed. “There aren’t too many places I go where crushed purple velvet is in fashion. In fact, when you get all of us maids together in one place, we’re gonna look like a cluster of grapes.”
“Oh you! Just wait till you get married.”
“Are you kidding? I can’t wait till it’s my chance to run all my friends through this. I’m gonna pick out the most obnoxious gown I can find and make all of you buy it and model it down the aisle. That’ll be my revenge for all the hideous creations I’ve had to purchase and prance around in through the years.”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Into The Fog--by Linda Kozar

“Don’t go.” I grabbed at her sleeve, a breathless fear rising.
She stared ahead, oblivious to my touch. “I have to.”
“But it’s getting dark. People round here don't cross that bridge when it’s foggy. They take the highway. The road to the bridge gets slick. Can't see two feet in front of you.”
She shook her head, “We’ll be fine. Besides, I want to drive at night when the kids are asleep. It’s easier that way.”
I looked her over, gathering clues to her state of mind from the state of her appearance. Her shoulder-length red hair, once beautiful, was matted in a rat’s nest of neglect. And the dress she wore--an orange and brown pattern, baggy and twisted out of shape, like she’d slept in it. My cousin Kelsey was nothing less than a mess. Six kids, six years and a sick marriage had taken its toll.
Was this woman the same “Kels” I knew growing up? Back then, she was slender with cascading curls of long vibrant red hair and transparent blue eyes, blue as sun-jeweled waters.
“I need to leave.”
Voice low as a purr, I’d heard that familiar tone before. Call it determination or stubborness, I realized she wouldn’t be listening to anything I had to say.
“You think he’s with her, don’t you?”
She hesitated. Pulled a thread from her sleeve. “Yes, I do.”
“What do you hope to accomplish? Do you plan on confronting them with your kids right there with you?” I shook my head. “Not a good idea. That would be traumatic. You can’t do that to them.”
She tugged at the same thread, this time successful at unraveling a line of cloth.
“Look, Kels—why don’t you just stay here with me for awhile? Move here with me and start your life over. He’s not worth it.”
            Instead of answering, she continued to pull and tug at the lone thread,
Why she married him. . .
Kelsey could have had her pick, but she chose a man who never worked.
Why she married . .
Beat her too.
Why him?
Suddenly, she spoke. “I know what I look like to you. I do look in the mirror, you know.” Her eyes fixed forward as if focusing on something. “Just tired, that's all.“
She rubbed her right eye and as she did so, I noticed her wrist looked crooked.
“What’s with that?" I asked.  "Your arm looks odd.”
She drew her arm down and tucked it under her sleeve. “A tiny fracture. Guess I broke it lifting furniture or something. It healed okay though.”
I stomped. “Why, why do you stay with him?”
She smiled from the corner of her lip. “He’s my husband, silly.” She looked away. “Besides, I love. . .” She shrugged—as if the gesture itself finished the sentence. "He was, was so romantic when we first met. Flowers, even when he couldn’t afford. . . Her voice caught in he throat for a moment. “I was beautiful.” Her voice trailed off.  “He said so.”
I grabbed at straws, “Well good riddance. You may have lost him, but you have the kids. Even if he doesn’t love you anymore, he cares about his kids. He does care about his kids, doesn’t he?”
She leaned back against the car and looked up at me.
A chill ran through me. Something about her eyes seemed to set off an innate fear. Something.
Uneasy, she must have sensed my thoughts. She turned away, instead focusing on the kids playing on the merry-go-round at my apartment complex.
Nodding her head, she answered, “Oh, of course he likes the kids. He just doesn’t want to be bothered with raising them.” She slapped a mosquito off her arm.
“The kids are my responsibility.”
“And his too. He needs to step up and help you.”
She dug the heel of her shoe into the gravel edging the lot. “He won’t.”
“But. . .”
 She cut in.  “Look, it’s getting dark. We’d better go.” She held her hands to her mouth and let out a shrill whistle. “Kids--get in the car, we’re leaving.”
            I gripped the door handle. “Please Kels, don’t go. We could--we could take the kids to the zoo tomorrow. How about it?”
With a gentle, but firm touch, she peeled my hands off the handle and took them into hers. “You have to work tomorrow. Besides, we’ve already overstayed our welcome.”
“But you only got here yesterday. One day, that’s all. It’s nothing.”
She laughed. “Say goodbye to the kids, dear cousin.”
            She opened the door and threw in a diaper bag. The kids surrounded the car, scented with sun and play, glistening hair clinging to their heads. My brow, still crinkled in disapproval at her decision, I stared down at Shay and softened. He was the oldest, the one who’d seen the most. Things a child shouldn’t see.
Tall and thin for his age; he seemed older than six years, guarded, yet vulnerable. My heart went out to him. I wrapped my arms around him and gave him a big bear squeeze. “I love you, buddy.”
The freckled face smiled back at me. For a moment, he reminded me of Kels, the way she used to be. I lifted him up and planted a kiss on his cheek, then turned to the others. Amy, Tammy, the twins Bobby and Trace and the baby, little Marce-- my namesake. I lingered longest with her and nibbled on her tiny ear until she giggled.
“Time to go.” Kelsey ordered.
I helped her fasten the children in her old blue Impala. Finally, she leaned in to start the chugging engine. A gray cloud of noxious smoke from the exhaust blew out. I coughed.
Her eyes met mine as if longing to tell me something, lips moving as if to speak, but no word—nothing escaped her mouth.
I broke the silence. “Kels, is there something you want, something you need to tell me?”
She leaned in to kiss my cheek. “I love you Marcy, always have. You are my truest friend in the world. The only one.”
Tears swelled and overflowed my eyes. “I-I love you too.” Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out a wad of money and pressed it into her hand.
“What this for?”
“Oh, I don’t know--to help you start a new life maybe.” I closed her fist around it with my hands. “I mean it.”
With surprising force, she pushed the wad of money back into my hands. “Keep it, Marcy. Keep it. I won’t, don't need your money.”
“Don’t be proud.” I fired back. “You know you’re going to need it. If not for you, then take it for them.” I pointed toward the kids, their tiny faces turned toward us, hanging on every word.
“My answer is NO. And you know how stubborn I am. I don’t need it and I won’t take it from you. Not now. Not ever.”
Her features set in stone, I knew it was pointless to argue. Why upset the kids? They’d certainly been through enough.
We fell into each other’s arms and clung, trembling.
I spoke what was in my heart. “I’m so sad all this happened to you. I-I wish your life had turned out better, happier.”
For a moment, I thought she’d break down, that the tears would come, the wall would crumble. But she pulled away. Her eyes moist, fluid, she kissed my cheek. “Bye now.” Kelsey slid into the tattered driver’s seat and put the car in reverse.
“Hey,” I yelled over the sound of the struggling engine, “Can we say a prayer together?”
She shook her head. “No time.” With that, she switched gears and pulled out the lot.
Following the car, I motioned. “Aren’t you going to buckle up?”
“I will later,” she yelled back.
I blew her a kiss in the same moment she blew me one, inspiring a weak smile. I smiled back, my own lips trembling. The kids waved and said sweet goodbyes in little singsong voices.
Maybe they’ll close that old bridge tonight.
A high-pitched whine of cicadas punctuated their departure as the old blue Impala rattled off down the road, a trail of gray fumes in its wake. Lips moving in prayer, I ran down the road after it waving at the kids, following with my eyes as far as I could see.
But long shadows swallowed the light between us, the view quickly diminished to a mere dim and blur.
What was she hiding? 
I thought of her eyes again. Blue as sun-jeweled waters.
And watched as the opaque fog coiled in, fear cementing my feet to the ground as thoughts came together like puzzle pieces. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mine to Keep--A Short Story by Linda Kozar

I swallowed hard, steeling my will against the rising tide of dread. Grasping the cold brass knob, I pushed and the heavy mahogany door ticked open with surprising ease. To a grand foyer, the grandest foyer I'd ever seen. Pausing to take in the sight, I turned full circle. An elegant ambience of crystal chandeliers, wood floors burnished to an aged sheen and a checkerboard of ebony-framed photographs along the wall. A timeline of family history, the wall held stories, whispered of legends, hinted at secrets.

The charm of the photos summoned me to look closer and survey the details. The solemn faces of immigrants in a copper wash of sepia, Victorian beauties coifed in impossible hats, a broad-shouldered crew in rowboats, white-smocked babies with rattle scepters, and fresh-faced boys in uniform photographed in the stark sincerity of black and white. Family photos from the 70s, in overexposed colors as vivid and unnatural as the fashions. Pimply teens in plaid pantsuits and smiling women, hair curled to stiff cornucopias. Linear lives measured in shutter clicks. Moments in time caught in a net of film and a liter of chemical.

I followed the line of photos on the wall, daring to reach out and touch one. The change from film to digital marked a paradigm shift in technology--an implausible leapfrog from Hell to Valhalla. Colors suddenly vivid and real seemed to jump out from modern frames; silhouettes pixelized and photo-shopped to perfection--redefining reality. The faces, the voices, ectoplasms drifting through plaster and sheetrock, treading water at the ceiling, eavesdropping on conversation and content. The faces of those who loved and were loved.

Strolling with familiar ease through the rooms and corridors, I sank into the comfort of an overstuffed wingback chair, and lolled backwards onto a tufted velvet divan. With the house so still, so quiet, my ears tuned in to the slightest sound. I could almost swear I heard people conversing in the parlor. And there were other sounds as well. Scraping for instance. Aunt Agnes, one leg shriveled by the polio, dragged her cane when she walked. And Skeeter, our favorite Lab used to skitter across the polished floor when he ran. 

And the melodious voices of children echoing through barren hallways, bouncing balls or pinging pebbles in hopscotch squares. Voices resonating through empty rooms once filled with posters, school banners and trophies.

Later, I witnessed apparitions--newlyweds crossing the threshold, presiding over ghostly dinners, babies crying, crayon drawings hanging like masterpieces on the refrigerator. Though I could scarce believe it, I saw gossamer images of children grow up before my eyes; the chubby limbs of youth grown lean and long. Young lives filled with promise. Dreams lofty as tree houses.

Every plank and timber, tile and joist is steeped, infused, and saturated with memories. The place is crowded with them. But don’t rely on my testimony. I’m an old woman. My eyes are dim, memory foggy, legs stiff as corn stalks. Perhaps I see and hear things that are not really there. Perhaps I only wish they were there.

Come and see for yourself. In fact, today is a good day to visit. Maybe your last chance.

Today is moving day. I watched as men in jumpsuits packed, wrapped and carried my life away. The curtains gone--beds and mattresses, dressers, chiffarobe, chairs, divans—all out the door. Strangers hard at work, gathering bushels of history, of sweet memories. Life’s triumphs and tragedies bubblewrapped and hidden away in double-taped boxes. 

The objects that meant so much to me will no doubt find their way to tag sales. The pictures, a mere curiosity for strangers to wonder about. But the memories, the love are mine to keep. My heart overflows with the extraordinary treasures of an ordinary life.

One last look, a longing glance, and I closed the door, which clicked shut with surprising ease. To a grand foyer, the grandest foyer I'd ever seen.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk? by Linda Kozar

A raven like a writing desk? Though I'd read Alice in Wonderland as a child, I seem to have skipped over that question.

If your memory needs refreshing, as does mine, the quote comes from a tea party Alice attends in the company of the March Hare, the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse. The Hatter poses the question:

"Have you guessed the riddle yet?" the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
"No, I give it up," Alice replied. "What's the answer?"
"I haven't the slightest idea," said the Hatter.
"Nor I," said the March Hare.
Alice sighed wearily. "I think you might do something better with the time," she said, "than wasting it in asking riddles that have no answers."

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by British author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll tells the story of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into an upside-down world of equally topsy-turvy, anthropomorphic creatures. Classed in the literary nonsense genre, Alice in Wonderland sets a permeable barrier between logic and illogic, setting the stage for delightfully ridiculous dialogue.

Which brings us back to the question: "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" Is the question a riddle of some sort? Is the question supposed to make sense, or is it simply nonsense?

Readers have been clamoring for the answer since the book first released, so much so in fact, that Lewis Carroll added a preface to the 1896 edition of the book:
Enquiries have been so often addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter's Riddle can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer, viz: 'Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is never put with the wrong end in front!' This, however, is merely an afterthought; the Riddle, as originally invented, had no answer at all.
Unfortunately, his answer did little to satisfy people, so they set out to venture their own solutions to the riddle--none of which made much sense or offered a satisfactory explanation. No one, it seems, was willing to accept the lack of an answer to a nonsensical riddle. Considering the source of the riddle, the Mad Hatter, one has to wonder why.
Postscript: In 1976 Carroll admirer Denis Crutch pointed out that in the 1896 preface quoted above, the author had originally written: "It is nevar put with the wrong end in front." Nevar of course is raven spelled backward. Big joke! However, said joke didn't survive the ministrations of the proofreaders, who, thinking they understood the author's intentions better than the author, changed nevar to never in subsequent editions. The indignities we authors suffer! Sure, we make up for it in money and groupies, but still, if in some book (e.g., one of mine) you come across a line that really clanks, be assured: It was funny before. ( 
So, it seems, Lewis Carroll had the last laugh. 

But the irony raises another question--how should an author respond when readers "read" too much into a story? 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Growing Up Haunted--Part Five--by Linda Kozar

Let me start with a little proviso to this true story. I am a Born-Again Believer, a Christian and I do not believe in ghosts or that they inhabit homes or people. I do however, believe that demons (fallen angels) exist--also that they inhabit homes and sometimes people. My husband still finds it hard to believe that I grew up in a "haunted" house. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe, but it's true. At the time, my family and I were unaware of the danger. And that's when our troubles began. . .

Growing Up Haunted
(Part 5 of  5)
New Orleans

With Hurricane Betsy (1965) bearing down on New Orleans, our family left to stay at my grandparent's home where we rode out the storm without much consequence. There were downed power lines, branches everywhere, roof damage, but thankfully, not much flooding. When we returned to our home however, we had not fared so well. There was major damage. Much of the roof had blown off and there was extensive water damage to the walls, floors, furniture--everything. We were without power for weeks on end, conserving food and water. We found splinters of wood embeded in fence posts--such was the strength of the wind.
Instead of simply repairing what needed to be fixed, my parents decided to add on to the house and do some remodeling--in this case--a major remodel. They decided to add on an entire second floor.
So for the next 5 or 6 years, things were fairly quiet around our house, except for all the sawing and hammering going on. Progress was slow as my father kept getting new ideas and inspirations. Besides that, he was both a perfectionist and procrastinator--not a good combination for an efficient remodel:)
Finally though, the rooms were ready. Our bedrooms were now upstairs--my parents had one room, my sister and I shared and my brother had his own room situated at the end of a long dark hall.
Shortly after we moved to our new quarters, my brother began to behave strangely. In the middle of the night, every night, he bolted down the hall and jumped into bed with my parents. He was terrified of something, though he couldn't tell us exactly why or what he was afraid of.
Over the years, his night terrors grew worse. I'm sad to say my sister and I used to make fun of him for being a "baby" and not being able to sleep in his own room like a big boy. Why didn't it occur to us, especially me, give my experience, that he might have been afflicted by the same spirit we had encountered years before?
As I said earlier, my mother was fully convinced that the whatever had plagued her before was gone. That said, she was still afraid to talk about it. I believe she feared talking about what happened might cause its return. The rest of the family (with the exception of my father) had no idea my mother had experienced anything similar to mine until we finally sat down and talked about it.
Finally, things began to happen in front of people other than my brother. Once he had a friend over. They were playing a board game on the floor in his room. His friend threw a ball into the closet. A couple of minutes later, the ball hurtled out of the closet at his friend. Mind you, the ball didn't simply roll out of the closet from an unstable position.
We started listening to my brother. He told us about the spirit. When he crawled into his bed to go to sleep, he would often feel something else lay next to him. He would see the mattress press down, as if under an invisible weight. And the spirit would talk to him--urge him to engage in evil acts toward his family, to others, to himself. Though terrified, he resisted.
Eventually, he moved out of that room and to a downstairs bedroom. We closed the door on his old room and used it for storage. The truth is, we avoided it. Sometimes we'd hear noises coming from the room. Other times when were pulling out the driveway, we could see what looked like a woman or a man at the window. No one wanted to be alone in the house because you knew you weren't alone. The way you feel when you know someone is watching you.
The years went by. In my twenties and no longer living at the house, I was visiting one weekend and went upstairs to look for a bolt of material in the room. It was pretty much sealed off and though we had central air, the vents were closed. In the middle of summer, I dreaded the prospect of searching for my sewing materials in the heat, but I mainly wanted to get in and out as soon as possible. I looked around and found the bolt, but as soon as I grabbed it, a chill wind passed through my body. A chill as cold as winter--as cold as the wind that first blew through the house that summer's day so long ago. I could feel it pass through me. I've never felt anything like that before or since. Shaking, terrified, I dropped the bolt and ran. That was my final encounter in the house. I never experienced any other manifestion of the demonic presence again, nor did I ever desire to.
Through a series of divine appointments with born-again believers, my brother decided to give his life to Jesus. He was the first in our family to do so and began to pray and witness (share his testimony) with the rest of us. In time, we all accepted Christ as well. Though we didn't know or understand the full significance and authority given to believers at the time, that decision was the first step to our deliverance from the demonic presence in the house.
We used to watch as my brother walked through the house with his Bible, speaking over each room with authority. An eager prayer warrior, he rescinded the invitation to the demon(s) and closed the open door originally offered by the Ouija board. He searched through the house and collected occult material--incluing the original Ouija Board which was stored on the top shelf of my closet for some odd reason. He also collected items none of us had ever considered to be occult material--books, tapes, even movies and removed them from the premises. We began to join him in those prayer sweeps, concentrating God's Word in faith on casting out that awful spirit for good. And though a few more rather unsettling occurances happened over the years, this time again involving my mother, the reign of terror welded by that demonic spirit over the house and over our lives was over, broken!
My father went to be with the Lord in 2004. A year later, in 2005, Katrina flooded the home with six feet of of water. Since no one was allowed back into the area right away, the house overcome with black mold, the interior downstairs gutted and destroyed. The home was eventually reduced to a bare skeleton inside. (See photos below). The city finally bulldozed the house in 2010. Now there is nothing left but an empty lot.
The hurricane also destroyed my brother's home but the storm left in its wake, a desire to serve God in a new way. My brother became a pastor.

There are those who still play with Ouija boards or dabble in the occult in various other ways, people who think there is nothing wrong with doing so. But experience is something you get when you were expecting something else.
We expected to play a board game.
Instead, our family was tormented for many years by a demon or demons.

The experience changed our lives. We were tormented and afflicted, but now we are free. For years we remained silent about it. But now it is part of our testimony. And because it is very much a part of my personal testimony, I finally felt ready to share this true story about overcoming victory in Christ Jesus. The blood of Jesus set us free from the law of sin and death. Jesus saves, heals, protects and delivers!
It is my sincere hope that this testimony will help others who might find themselves in similar situations or those who have lived through it as we did, but chose to keep silent.

Deuteronomy 18:10 "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead." 

Hebrews 9:27 "It is appointed unto men but once to die and then the judgment." Reveal the lies and lead them to Your Truth Lord."

The home AFTER Katrina
 1 Peter 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour."
Matt. 16:19 "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
"Ghostly Orbs" There are some plausible explanations for orbs--moisture, camera lens issues, etc. but this was the room with the greatest activity.
Downstairs completely gutted after the Hurricane.

Luke 10:19 "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you."

Acts 10:38 "How God annointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil..."

Matt 8:16 "...He cast out the spirits with His Word. . ."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Growing Up Haunted--Part Four--By Linda Kozar


Let me start with a little proviso to this true story. I am a Born-Again Believer, a Christian and I do not believe in ghosts or that they inhabit homes or people. I do however, believe that demons (fallen angels) exist--also that they inhabit homes and sometimes people. My husband still finds it hard to believe that I grew up in a "haunted" house. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe, but it's true. At the time, my family and I were unaware of the danger. And that's when our troubles began. . .

Growing Up Haunted
(Part 4 of  5)
New Orleans, LA

My mother continued to pray and read scripture and light candles, continuing these tacts until the voice dwindled and seemed to disappear into the thin air it had emerged from.
But the spirit did not flee, nor go far from its new habitation.
I was eight years old. Sound asleep in my bed when I woke up to a strange and utterly terrifying situation. My bed was jumping up and down.
At first I thought my sister was pulling a prank. Our beds were in an "L" shape--mine vertical to her, horizontal. But such a prank would be uncharacteristic of my sister. Once she fell asleep, she slept like a log. Nothing stirred her. Still--what else could it be?
I reached for the desk light on my headboard and pressed the switch. Smile on my face, I was all ready to to yell "Cut it out!" until I saw with my own eyes what was happening. The right side of my mattress was bowing down and then up again, as if someone of substantial weight were bouncing or jumping on the edge of it. And I could hear the squeak of the mattress as the invisible weight of something bounced off it.  I looked beyond my mattress and noticed my sister sound asleep in her bed. Sound asleep!
Sound caught in my throat. I could not scream. I could not breathe. I could not move.
All the while, the mattress scrunched and squeaked as an unseen weight bore down upon it. And that's not all. I was acutely aware of the presence of a being. There was something or some invisible someone on the end of my bed. Jumping or hopping, bouncing perhaps from a seated position or standing for all I could tell. On my bed.
I tried again to shout, to yell, to scream. And though it began with a mere squeak, I let out a scream.
My mother ran into the room and asked what was wrong.
Between the hysterical tears that came with her comforting presence, I told her what happened. She sat on the edge of my bed and soothed my fears, but told me it was probably a bad dream. Just a nightmare. She sat with me a while longer to calm me down. But when she left me to go back to bed, I was unconvinced. The rest of the night, I stayed awake with the light on--afraid whatever it was would come back--fearful it might happen again.
The next morning I asked my sister if she'd heard anything. But she didn't. I already knew the answer. She was sound asleep--didn't hear a thing. I'd seen her with my own eyes. But I'd also seen my mattress going up and down with my own eyes.
To my relief, my bed never jumped up and down again, but I spent many a night terrified it would, and worried what else might happen. I had the feeling of being watched and often hid under my sheets. If I had known about my mother's experience, I might have understood there was reason to be afraid. I wondered if it was all in my mind, if maybe I was going crazy.
The demonic spirit stayed in the background for a while. We don't know why. Perhaps the arrival of a hurricane and the destructive impact on the house. Perhaps my mother reciting scripture daily? Whatever the reason, my mother was fully convinced that whatever had tormented her was now gone for good. But it had moved from her to torment me.
And a few years later,  the spirit would move on to torment another family member.

Next week (Saturday, October 29th) . . .the room at the end of the hall.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Growing Up Haunted--Part Three--By Linda Kozar

Let me start with a little proviso to this true story. I am a Born-Again Believer, a Christian and I do not believe in ghosts or that they inhabit homes or people. I do however, believe that demons (fallen angels) exist--also that they inhabit homes and sometimes people. My husband still finds it hard to believe that I grew up in a "haunted" house. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe, but it's true. At the time, my family and I were unaware of the danger. And that's when our troubles began. . .

Growing Up Haunted
(Part 3 of  5)

New Orleans, LA
July, 1965

What none of us realized at the time was that a demonic spirit had come out of that simple little board game. The expression "playing with fire" took on a new meaning to my mother as she realized the game wasn't really a harmless pasttime at all. Somehow, communing with the "spirits" who moved the planchette had opened up a portal to a supernatural realm she knew nothing about.
The demonic spirit knew just what to do however. It began to torment her. Demonic beings are not human, but fallen angels. Created by God, these angels (one-third of all the angels) chose to side with Lucifer and rebel against God. They were cast out along with Lucifer (light-bearer), now called Satan (Adversary). Where did they go? Earth. They have no body or form and as such cannot experience life in a physical body as we do. They want and desire a human body to inhabit and live vicariously through--a body they can bully and command to do their will in opposition to God's will. They want to twist the scripture Acts 17:28 " Him we live and move and have our being..." to their own purpose--to live and move and have their being in the bodies of the children of God, human beings who are created in His very image.
Day and night, my mother's former "friend" followed her, tormenting her with words, suggestions, commands. The thing that had come out from the supernatural world it inhabited, took up residence in our home. It tormented her with obsene suggestions, horrible accusations and attempted to spur her to commit heinous acts. Horrified, she resisted. Its desire was to wear her down enough to convince her to consent to possession. Yet she persisted in fighting against it.
My mother read everything she could get her hands on about how to exorcise spirits from a home--though at the time she couldn't readily find what she needed to know about the subject at the public library. She began a constant prayer vigil. She prayed whenever she heard the voice of the spirit, which never rested in its advance. It had attached itself to her presence like a parasite. She'd hoped that leaving the home for periods of time would offer some relief, but her hopes were short-lived. In fact, when she traveled to other locations or homes, the spirit followed her, talking to her, but only she could hear what it was saying. It even hovered over my parent's bed at night--a swarming ectoplasm of evil. The sight of it, as well as the constant whisperings kept her from sleep. Much like my sister, my father slept through these appearances, never aware of any presence or affliction. Though he struggled to understand, my father had no way of comprehending what she was going through.
But my mother felt like she was losing her mind. Distressed by the constant torment, her face pale and drawn, she could barely eat or sleep. She began to lose weight.
Then she came across some information that offered her a shred of hope. She found some information in a book. I have no idea as to the title of it. But according to my mother, the author suggested burning a white candle and walking through each and every room of the house while repeating Bible scriptures out loud. She immediately followed the procedure, repeating it each day.
In doing so, she noticed that reading Bible scriptures somehow gave her comfort and made her feel more secure. She felt at peace when she spoke scriptures out loud through the house.
To her surprise, the spirit stopped tormenting her. It left.  Mom was elated, joyful, grateful.
But her joy would not last for long. . .

Next week (Saturday, October 22nd) . . .Bedlam

Friday, October 7, 2011

Growing Up Haunted--Part Two--By Linda Kozar

Let me start with a little proviso to this true story. I am a Born-Again Believer, a Christian and I do not believe in ghosts or that they inhabit homes or people. I do however, believe that demons (fallen angels) exist--also that they inhabit homes and sometimes people. My husband still finds it hard to believe that I grew up in a "haunted" house. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe, but it's true. At the time, my family and I were unaware of the danger. And that's when our troubles began. . .

Growing Up Haunted
(Part 2 of  5)

July, 1965
We lived in a relatively new ranch-style home in New Orleans. Though in the midst of a sweltering July, our only method of beating the heat was a large attic fan that opened from the ceiling over a hallway--that and a few well-placed box fans. The attic fan reminded me of a helicopter. The blades were enormous. Supposed to suck the hot air out. So much for that. 
Anyway, as I said, it was the middle of July and stifling, humid. The kind of heat that clings to you and won't let go. And not a natural breeze to speak of, save for the fans, stirring the hot air. My sister and I were playing in the hallway with our dolls. My brother was only a year old, sleeping in his crib in my parent's bedroom. The door to the bedroom was open and my mother was sitting on the bed, playing with the Ouija Board. Since the rest of the family lived on the other side of the Mississippi River and my mother didn't have many friends in New Orleans, she'd taken to playing the game by herself. 
And, it turned out, she'd found a friend after all. She was in daily communication with something or someone from the spirit world beyond. (Of course I had no idea about that at the time. My mother told me the truth years later). She told me how she'd started out asking it questions.
Soon, a definite personality began to answer her.
Mom was fond of an old television show, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, about a woman who moves into a home haunted by the ghost of a sea captain who falls in love with her--sort of a precurser to today's paranormal romance in secular publishing. Anyway, in large part due to the influence of that show, my mother was not put off by this supernatural friendship. She initiated conversations with it and vice versa.
On this particular day, in the humid, sweltering heat--without warning, a chill wind as frigid as a norther blew throughout the house. It blew the curtains high, plastered our hair back and ended almost as quickly as it began.
My sister and I ran screaming to our mother who was just as terrified. She began reciting the all-purpose prayers she'd grown up repeating. But her prayers did not calm our fears. She had no real belief to back them up. And she would need real faith to fight what leapt out of the Ouija Board that day.

Next week (Saturday, October 15th), the demon spirit speaks. . .

Friday, September 30, 2011

Growing Up Haunted--Part One--By Linda Kozar

Let me start with a little proviso to this true story. I am a Born-Again Believer, a Christian and I do not believe in ghosts or that they inhabit homes or people. I do however, believe that demons (fallen angels) exist--also that they inhabit homes and sometimes people. My husband still finds it hard to believe that I grew up in a "haunted" house. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe, but it's true. At the time, my family and I were unaware of the danger. And that's when our troubles began. . .

Growing Up Haunted
(Part 1 of  5)
New Orleans, LA
July, 1965

The fad of the day--Ouija Boards (pronounced wE-ja) seemed to turn up everywhere--on the shelf right next to the Monopoly and Scrabble games. As a child, I can even remember playing the game with friends during school recess in public elementary school.
If you've never heard of them, Ouija Boards, also known as spirit boards or talking boards have been around since 1848, and in other forms long before. The boards became wildly popular--associated with the birth of modern spiritualism. Supposedly, the name Ouija, either means "yes, yes" in two different languages (French oui and German ja), or was given by a "spirit" consulted on the board and is a close approximation to an ancient Egyptian word meaning "Good Luck." Others theorize the name came from the Moroccan city of Oujda (also spelled Oujida and Oudjda).
My family and elementary school friends thought it great fun to ask a question and have the planchette (French for "little plank"), move of its own accord to answer. "Will I be married? What year? To whom? Who will be the next president?" The planchette would move from letter to letter, number to number to answer each question--sometimes at a maddeningly slow pace, other times with rapid precision. How it worked--none of us knew. Maybe our minds moved it with mysterious telekinetic powers? Or maybe we answered our own questions subconsciously. Maybe ghosts moved it?
Nobody ventured much of a plausible guess. And though the main game piece actually moved on its own, nobody stopped playing. Crazy.
An aunt introduced my mother to the game. Of course, the word "game" is key. A game is all the Ouija Board was to my mother, to my aunt, to kids like me, to most people who played. In fact, I viewed the game as another version of the 8-Ball. Remember the black ball you would propose a question to, then turn over to to small window on the underside and the answer would appear from the cloudy murk of fluid inside the ball?
But the Ouija Board was something different. Words, names and entire sentences seemed to form out of thin air, whether bidden or not. Yes, sometimes the planchette would suddenly move whether or not anyone laid a hand on it. How spooky is that? Yet, as I said earlier, none of us really stopped to consider what manner of "toy" we were tampering with. I wish we had.

Next week (Saturday, October 8th), the Ouija Board plays a game of its own. . .

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's like deja' vu all over again! Just signed with Spyglass Lane Mysteries. My cozy series, "When The Fat Ladies Sing," will release as ebooks in May of 2012. If you've read the first book in the series, Misfortune Cookies, the next is A Tisket, A Casket and the third is, Dead As A Doornail. Follow beautician best friends Lovita and Sue Jan as they solve mysteries, find husbands and somehow manage to lose weight in the process.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Victoria Holt--Grande Dame of Romantic Suspense

Do you remember this cover? I do. My mother was a voracious reader and I remember seeing this cover on our home bookshelf. Victoria Holt--the grande dame of historical novelists, the Queen of Romantic Suspense, wrote over 200 novels and sold around 100 million copies. And yet, who really knows about her today?

Though prolific and wildly popular, her popularity faded over time. Her author philosophy still rings true today, "Never regret," she once said. "If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience."  She passed away in her 80s while on a Mediterranean cruise--somewhere between Athens and Egypt.

Her real name--Eleanor Hibbert (nee Burford) was born in Kensington England some time around 1906 or 1910. During her life, she was reluctant to confirm her actual birth date. She used a variety of pseudonyms which include Jean Plaidy (name taken from a Cornish beach), Philippa Carr, Kathleen Kellow and others.

But the name Victoria Holt stirs my soul more than any of the other names. It fits the romance writer in me. Here's an excerpt from the Mistress of Mellyn:

When Favel Farrington met Roc Pendorric on the Italian island where she lived with her father, they fell deeply in love, and there was no reason to suspect that they would not live happily ever after.  Then Faval's father was drowned while swimming, a circumstance that was as puzzling to Favel as it was heartbreaking.  No one could have been more devoted during these sad days than Roc, and when he took her home to Pendorric, the ancient family home on the Cornish cliffs, no family could have welcomed her more warmly than Roc's sister, her husband, and twin daughters.  In fact everyone in the house and the village was eager to meet "the bride of Pendorric".
At first the phrase amused Favel.  Then she found herself looking more and more often at the portraits of two other Brides of Pendorric who had died young and tragically - one of them Roc's own mother.  The very stones of Pendorric seemed to be waiting for her to slip; the courtyard seemed to have eyes.  And was there speculation even in the eyes of the young twins, who watched her constantly?  Did she imagine it, or was Roc curiously attentive to other women at Pendorric - and did his absence grow more frequent?  Surely no legend, no evil out of the past could threaten their happiness.  Surely Roc's love for her had not been pretense.
At last, in a terrifying moment, Favel can no longer dismiss as accident the strange things that are happening to her at Pendorric.  She must confront the very real dangers of the present.

Authors--I know what you're thinking. She seemed to go out of her way to choose the most bizarre names and surnames for characters and settings. And yes, the writing is passive, there are too many adverbs and maybe the writing is a bit hokey and dated, etc. But her stories get you all the same. 

When I hear the name "Victoria Holt," my mind conjures mysterious mansions, ancient family estates, a dashing, but complicated love interest and secrets--lots and lots of secrets. In fact, everybody has a secret and before long, the heroine is in mortal danger. She's doubting whether or not the hero really loves her or is out to kill her. (He's that complicated). And soon you begin to doubt. But you know the heroine is strong, independant, self-sufficient and fearless. You know she will overcome, expose every secret and win back her dashing love before the last page. That's why you can't stop reading Victoria Holt.

My mother not only read books, she read books to me. Which is why I began to read a lot. Even after lights out--I read under the covers with a flashlight. If I didn't get caught, I would sometimes read until dawn. I started with kid books, Little Book House series of Fairy and Folk Tales, worked my way up to the Little House on the Prairie series, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames, Little Women. Moved on to Reader's Digest Books, classic novels and anything else I could find. 

I remember reading a novel in second grade and feeling unsatisfied about the ending--the moment I decided that I would write my own books someday. That way I reasoned, I could write the kind of endings I liked. 

Life is ironic though. Before my first book, a mystery was published in 2008, my mother developed Alzheimers. It's sad to say, but she's never read any of my books. She can't manage much more than a paragraph or two before she forgets and starts over--sort of a Myth of Sisyphus scenario. But I know she would if she could. . .

Because of my mother, because of Victoria, I've started writing southern gothic--romantic historicals filled with suspense and secrets. And if either woman could read my stories, I think they would be proud. At least I hope so.

Cozy Mysteries by Linda Kozar

Gate Beautiful Radio Show--November 21, 2013

Family Reunion--Oregon 2012

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Meet The Christian Authors--2011

Meet The Christian Authors--2011
@ Barnes & Noble, Houston, TX