Happy Mediums with Meg Benjamin
Meg Benjamin stops by and talks about her book Happy Medium.
The third book in my Ramos Family trilogy, Happy Medium, is now available from Berkley Intermix, along with the first two, Medium Well and Medium Rare. All three books concern a San Antonio, Texas, family with some special abilities: they’re all mediums.
Now that word, medium, probably calls up a particular mental image—maybe an elderly woman who wears lots of rings and sits in a darkened room communing with the spirits. There’s even a medium a bit like that in Happy Medium, but as it turns out, she’s a phony. Actually, in the most basic definition mediums are just people who serve as communication channels for the dead. How they go about doing this varies widely, but when you get down to it, that’s what makes a medium a medium.
Mediums themselves have been around since ancient times, although the way they functioned differed from era to era. I think most of us are familiar with Victorian mediums, the ones who really got going on séances and spirit guides. Of course, now we’ve got television mediums who don’t necessarily do anything that dramatic. Too bad, in a way—I sort of miss the drama.
When I decided to write about a family of mediums, I didn’t want to go the traditional route. No trances, no séances, no holding hands in dark rooms. Well, okay, a little holding hands in dark rooms—these are romances, after all. The mediums in my trilogy aren’t all that happy about their abilities, and they aren’t trying to make money by exploiting people’s grief. Instead, they’re drawn unwillingly into the business of talking to dead people, sometimes very much against their will.
The hero of Happy Medium is Ray Ramos, a carpenter who specializes in renovating historic houses. Ray has run into a bit of a cash flow problem with the house he’s renovating in the King William District. Enter Emma Shea, the assistant to Gabrielle DeVere, a television medium. Gabrielle needs a house for a séance, and Ray’s place seems to fit the bill, although it’s not known to be haunted. But when Gabrielle insists on holding a test séance in Ray’s house with Ray and Emma as participants, she manages to turn loose a spirit who’s way more dangerous than the tame illusions Gabrielle is used to working with.
As it turns out, Ray is the unwilling recipient of hereditary mediumistic powers, while Emma finds that she has a few psychic tendencies of her own. The two of them find themselves fighting off a succubus who’s out to draw power through sex, and who doesn’t much care how she does it. Somehow, they have to rid the house of the ghost before Gabrielle holds her séance and all hell breaks loose, maybe literally. It helps that the two fall in love in the process.
Here’s a bit of that first, dangerous séance:
“Join hands everyone,” Gabrielle intoned in her most resonant medium voice.
Ramos gave her a piercing look, then took hold of her hand, extending his other hand across the table to Emma.
Gabrielle’s fingers were faintly damp, but Ramos’s were dry and hard. His calluses rubbed against Emma’s palm. For a moment she felt something like a mild electric shock tingle through her fingers. She pulled her hand away, staring.
Ramos stared back, his eyes wide.
“Take his hand, Emma.” Gabrielle frowned. “We need to get on with this.”
Emma extended her hand again, touching her fingers cautiously against Ramos’s palm. Nothing. Maybe she’d imagined the whole thing. Probably she’d imagined the whole thing.
Gabrielle raised her head, gazing up into the dim shadows overhead. “Is there anyone here? We call on you to come forth.”
Across from Emma, Ramos rolled his eyes. He had that sour look again. Just hold on a little longer, and we’ll be out of your way.
“Come forth,” Gabrielle whispered.
Ramos looked at her, then shook his head slightly.
And the candles went out.
Emma’s head shot up, and she turned toward the fireplace. There hadn’t been any flickering, any feeling of a breeze. One moment the candles had been burning, and now they weren’t. She gaped at Ramos, who was gaping back at her, his forehead furrowing. Somewhere overhead a door slammed.
At the head of the table, Gabrielle seemed not to notice. “Spirit forces, we call to you,” she crooned.
Something touched the back of Emma’s neck, a quick brush, so light she wasn’t sure she’d felt it. Then it came again, more definite this time, fingertips along the edge of her shoulder. She whipped her head to the right, but she couldn’t see anything in the gathering darkness.
Ramos’s hand jerked against hers. She turned back to him, but he was watching Gabrielle.
No, not Gabrielle. Beyond Gabrielle, toward the fireplace. The mantle glowed dimly in the twilight, as if there were lights beneath it. Then, one by one, the votive candles thumped to the hearthstone in front of the fireplace, bouncing lightly. Another door slammed upstairs.
Before I came to Texas twenty years ago, my husband and I lived all around the U.S., including Kansas, Iowa, Washington, Oklahoma, Alabama, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Pennsyvania, with brief visits in California, Connecticut, and New Mexico. In fact, one of my favorite things to do (in pre-gas price hike days) is to travel around the country, preferably off the Interstate.
A couple of years ago my husband took a new job in the Colorado foothills, so I’ve now relocated to the northwest Denver suburbs. It’s a big switch, but my mom grew up on the Western Slope, and she gave me an abiding love of the mountains, so I’m not expecting too many problems (and no, I don’t mind the snow).
In Texas I taught English, desktop publishing, Web design, and editing, among other miscellaneous things, before finally retiring after putting in my twenty-five. At the same time, I worked as a freelance writer and editor, on projects ranging from computer manuals to underwater photography books.
My husband and I managed to raise two wonderful sons, along with a variety of cats and a couple of dogs. We still visit South Texas, and we still love to wander around the country when the spirit moves us, although these days we’re likely to fly in and rely on public transportation (let’s hear it for light rail trains!).