Writers often find inspiration in unusual places.
For Fort Dodge writer Linda May, that place was a small spot of land on the outskirts of Hardy, an acreage with a home and a whole lot of potential, especially in the yard.
"I just owned it for three months," May said. "I discovered it was too far away and too much responsibility. I couldn't do it by myself, so I just gave it back to the lady." She said she heard the story of the acreage after she bought it. There had been a fire in 1970. Children died.
"That kind of got me thinking about what if somebody bought the property and there were ghosts there," May said. "One thought led to another. The story came to me the day I sold the property - or gave it back to her. I was driving back from the courthouse, from signing the documents, and I drove through Hardy on purpose. I stopped at the acreage one last time to pick some flowers and say goodbye. I pulled in the driveway and opened the car door and the wind was howling so badly, it actually scared me.
"I have never heard wind that sounded like that before. It was like moaning; I can't describe it. It took me aback because I wasn't expecting it. It hadn't been extremely windy.
"I got back in the car for a minute, then I thought it must be the children who died there. I decided to bless them. I got out of the car and stood. The wind was still howling. It was still frightening. I just closed my eyes. I sent them the light. I imagined them in God's protective light and told them to leave, that they were dead and had no reason to be there any more. And I asked God to take them. And that was it. As soon as I said that, within minutes, there was no wind and it was quiet. And that was freaky, too."
After that bit of unreality, May picked a few flowers, a couple roses, a couple mums.
"Not a whole bunch," she said. "I kind of regretted having to give it up. I had plans for the place. I wanted to do something with it. I wasn't able to."
That's when the story slipped into her mind. She thought, "I may have lost the property, but I gained the story. The wind went away, so I assume the kids were touched by my prayers."
May worked on this story, "The Ghost Children: An Adventure into the Unknown," off and on for 14 years. Life got in the way.
"And I had to think about the next phase," she said. "It wasn't an easy story to write."
May grew up in Mount Vernon, Ill., and graduated at age 19 with the class of '66.
"I was going to be a missionary," she said. "And I always thought I'd be a great journalist in the world."
Just 19, she married. It was six months, maybe nine, after graduation. She doesn't remember the small stuff. She was in the Navy and met who she thought was the man of her dreams. He was a photographer, she a journalist.
"I had a natural ability for writing," she said. "I wrote all the time when I was young. Then I gave it up when I was married and became a housewife."
She spent just six months in the military, she said, because in those days if a woman got pregnant, she automatically was out. She's now a freelance writer.
She planned to make something of the acreage in Hardy - turn it, at least the gardens, into a showplace. Her two sons weren't able to help, and she was unable to make it work. When she looks back on it, she thinks it may have been a providential purchase. She no longer has the acreage, but she has the story.
"I've never done anything that big before," she said. "I just wanted to get it down. It's a worthwhile story. It gives you hope that there's maybe more to life than what we see here, more than we can see and touch and scientifically document. We are all actually energy, and the spirit world is very important. In this day and age when people are so unhappy, that's where we're going to have to turn for comfort and support."
Although her novel is fiction, May admits, "We don't know what's true and what isn't. The story makes you think 'what if?' To think of something except the everyday."
The library has a copy of May's book, and May can be reached at email@example.com.
"I have a fan in Canada who's ordered 10 books and she wants to represent me and find a real publisher in Canada," May said. "It's every writer's dream to write something people can't put down and touches them. It's good, positive food for thought. There's a couple of scary parts in it, but there's a good part of them that offsets the negative."
Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org