Guest Post by Author Bernita Harris

I am excited to welcome author Bernita Harris to

Bernita Harris worked as a short-order cook, a library assistant and a less-than-serious actress before winning a university fellowship and earning a master’s degree in English literature. Subsequently, she worked in public affairs and later as a forensic consultant in occult-related material, events, practices and beliefs.

A Libra and left-handed, she is drawn naturally to the sinister side of justice. She has grown four splendid children and now lives in an old house in the Thousand Islands with a German shepherd, a “mostly” corgi and ten thousand books. A Canadian who hates the cold and thrives on spring, she spends her time writing, tending her herb and flower gardens and negotiating with the dead.

Previous to Dark and Disorderly, her first novel, she has published occasional pieces of nonfiction, poetry and several short stories. You are invited to visit her blog at or e-mail her at

Researching the Paranormal

A story may start with an idea, an ideal, a theme, but research is the foundation that supports and carries the world a writer wants to construct. Dark and Disorderly is based on a premise arising from the classic “what if?” What if the paranormal became almost “normal?”  Become real and relevant? What types of ghosts?  What types of problems would they produce? How would ancient spirits adapt to our modern world? What sort of other creatures from myth and legend closely allied to spirits and specters might fit the framework?  Certainly, creatures like death messengers, forewarnings of disaster and death, such as the Dullahan, a headless horseman. would fit such a story. My research indicated that the dullahan’s horse was eventually replaced by a coach and four and reported as a Black Coach apparition. Obviously, the legend evolved along with methods of transportation. I wouldn’t have realized that without research. So it did not seem incongruous to me in Dark and Disorderly to provide him with a black SUV.

The banshee (bean sidhe in the Celtic) are fey house spirits who attached themselves to various Irish families and who wailed and mourned at an approaching death, seen as more a curse than ablessing. But, early accounts credit them with a warning and protective function. When one drills down, one finds that  paranormal entities are complex, many faced and many named; and who may be, in some of their aspects, benevolent to human kind. The banshee is also called the Woman of the Fords, one seen washing by the river the bloody clothes of those about to die. Perhaps today she might use the laundromat where Lillie meets her. A more modern, non-conspicuous place to conduct her business.–and easier on her hands.

Many readers have expressed a fondness for Dumbarton, the spectral dog who acts as Lillie’s watchdog.–when he’s not chasing spectral squirrels and ghostly groundhogs.Legends usually portray the Black Dog as a ferocious,  fearsome, slavering away from danger in the dark night; and that knowledge allowed me to portray Dumbarton as more dog than phantom. The supernatural never has a single face. Research opens up all sorts of exciting possibilities for adaptation of myths and legends, for new and fresh approaches, and the avoidance of same-old, same-old cliches.


Thank you Bernita for telling us about researching the paranormal and the melding of the old world beliefs with contemporary fiction. You can read my review of her book Dark and Disorderly hereJimmy Howard Jersey

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