Tag Archives: ghosts

Review of a Book I Actually Like: Waking Up Dead


[amazon template=image&asin=1493750461]Today I am sharing a review of a book written by my friend Margo Bond Collins. I wrote this review in January 2014. The name of the book is Waking Up Dead.


This book is not the sort I usually read.

I’m not typically attracted to books involving raped, murdered, and mutilated women. But this book was given to me by the author to read during the long cold winter, so I gave it a try. I’m glad I did.

I think it’s cool that Callie, the main character, is a ghost who doesn’t yet know how to be a ghost (much less why she is one). I was disappointed that Callie didn’t meet any other spirits (or even a human) who could explain at least a bit to her of the how’s and why’s of ghosthood. Can Callie possibly be the only ghost in the Abramsville, Alabama? I hope that in future Callie Taylor adventures our hero will meet folks (dead or alive) who can offer some explanations and tips.

I appreciate that the author doesn’t go into gratuitous gory detail when describing the two murders that happen in this novel. Yes, a woman is raped and murdered and another is murdered and mutilated, but the reader isn’t forced to witness every disturbing detail. Collins reports what the reader needs to know to follow the plot, then allows each individual to imagine the nasty details or not, according to her or his preference.

I chuckled when Callie goes to the Wal-Mart to find a human who can see and hear her. It’s a perfect detail, proving that the author knows just how small Southern towns work.

I thought Collins also reflected race relations in the 21st century South in a true light. Blacks and whites do have relationships (friendships, work connections, romantic encounters) with one another, but such relationships are often fraught with a particular kind of tension. Hurray to Collins for having her characters involved in interracial relationships that are real and complicated.

The cadence of her characters’ conversations also impressed me as the real rhythm of Southern dialogue. I’m not sure someone who hasn’t lived in the South for many years could get the spoken sound of the region so right.

Collins also did a great job with the “who done it?” aspect of the story.  As I mentioned, I don’t usually read murder mysteries, but when I do, I either seem to figure out the answer to the mystery immediately, or find the plot so convoluted that I don’t understand the detective’s eventual tidy little explanation of events. Waking Up Dead kept me guessing, kept me reading, but made sense when explanatory details came to light.

My favorite part of this book is that it has not one, not two, but three kick-ass, strong, brave female characters. That one of these characters is a maw-maw (grandma to folks not from the South) who can’t drive and has poor eyesight is an added bonus. There just aren’t enough old lady heroes in the world of fiction, so I’m grateful that Collins has given us a new one.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and look forward to hearing more from Callie Taylor and Margo Bond Collins.

Southern Gothic Declining Gentility Edifice


One of the jobs I found on Craigslist while I was in Austin during December 2012 was a house and dog sitting gig. The woman looking for the sitter was very upfront in her ad that whoever stayed at her house had to be ok with sharing the bed with her dog. I was at a point in my life where I couldn’t be too picky, so I took the job. I wrote about the house and the job while I was there.

This place where I am house sitting is weird. And kind of creepy. And messy. There is a heap of recycling (I think) in the corner of the kitchen. It’s a bunch of newspapers literally thrown haphazardly into a corner. There are old fashioned, creepy-as-fuck baby dolls under glass.

The refrigerator is full of rotting food. I am not speaking in metaphor or hyperbole. The refrigerator is full and a good portion of the food in it is rotting. (One of the disgusting items in the refrigerator was a whole pie covered in a fuzzy growth. Who lets a whole pie go bad? Sacrilege!) Usually I would be excited to dig through someone’s leftovers and eat what would go bad before their return. This refrigerator simply scares me. I dare not open a takeout box for fear that what is in that box will try to eat me! (The homeowner told me she would clean the refrigerator before she left so I would have room to put food in there. She did not. I tentatively moved some things so I could get my stuff in.)

I’m in some Southern Gothic declining gentility edifice.

I’ve already had a talk with the ghost(s) that I’m sure are here. I told it/them not to haunt me. I explained that if it/they have haunting to do, C. (who owns the house) is the woman to haunt, that I’m just here temporarily and they should keep it down so I can sleep. Not that I’ve had one good night’s sleep since I’ve been to Austin, but I didn’t tell the ghost(s) that.

The lady I am house sitting for didn’t tell me until I had already agreed to sit and came out here to pick up keys that I have to give the dog half a pill twice a day so she (the dog) won’t pee in her sleep. Seems to me a potential dog sitter should know the dog is half incontinent and in need of pills before s/he agrees to take the job. Luckily, the dog eats up the pill in a blob of peanut butter, but still! (The dog also woke me repeatedly each night so I could let her out into the backyard. Was she peeing or just checking out the scene? I don’t know. It was dark, and I couldn’t see what she was doing out there. I didn’t want to take the chance that she actually needed to pee and by not letting her out, I was setting myself up to mop up dog urine.)

Here’s another crazy thing that happened. C. hadn’t mentioned money, so I figured she figured my payment was getting a free place to stay. I hadn’t brought up money either. Yesterday when I came over, as I was about to leave, she said she would leave “half” on the table, would a check be ok, or did I prefer cash?  I said cash and told her I don’t have a bank account. I was pretty excited that I would be getting some money (especially since now the dog is getting pills and oh, there’s a cat to feed too). Well, when I got here this evening and looked on the table, there was NO MONEY. Weird. Weird. Weird!

When C. returned to Austin, she did pay me, and she hired me to clean her house and cook for her. We had the following exchange one day when I was working at her house.

C. told me that she is only the second owner of her house. It was built in 1932, and the first owner (a woman) DIED in the back bedroom (C.’s bedroom, where I slept with the dog while house sitting) in the 80s. I fucking knew there was a ghost in the house! I felt it! Not that it did anything. I think my little preemptive speech took the wind out of its ghostly sails. Anyway, I asked C. if she believes in ghosts. (She is a psychologist, so I would not have been surprised if she had said no.) She said, “Probably.” I asked if she ever thought there was a ghost in the house and she said no, but maybe there was a guardian angel. I didn’t tell her that I felt some kind of presence there, and I didn’t tell her I did a little out loud talking about how I was not there to be haunted.