Haunted Heirlooms: Resurrecting the Past with Cherished Items

By Gail Z. Martin

Anything you keep for sentimental reasons has a hint of haunt to it.

The word “memento,” one we often use to mean sentimental knick-knack, actually means “remember death,” and described the Victorian penchant of making jewelry to memorialize their dead. While we no longer make death jewelry, the items that we keep for sentimental reasons are more similar than not to those old Victorian lockets — a memorial to memories and emotions that we don’t want to forget.

Deadly Curiosities, my new urban fantasy novel from Solaris Books, is centered on a 350 year-old antique and curio shop that exists to get dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands. The proprietor, Cassidy Kincaide, is a psychometric, someone who can read objects by touch and sense strong magic and memories.

While Cassidy’s talent goes far beyond the nostalgia most of us experience, there’s more truth to her magic than you might feel comfortable acknowledging.

Think about the treasures you’ve got stashed away in a box. You keep things that have little or no monetary value because they bring back a strong vision of the past. Pictures, jewelry or personal possessions of those who have passed away serve to extend the influence of the dead over the living, even if it’s just the power of memory.

The items we hang onto — as individuals and a society (museums) — not only remind us of the past, they shape our understanding of that past by what we choose to keep and what we throw away. Because what we keep is selective, our heirlooms tend to reinforce the memories we value and erase the things we don’t want to remember. Many families have been divided by vicious squabbles over heirlooms with no monetary value for this very reason. As a society, the items we enshrine in museums reinforce a code of conduct, a view of national identity, a worldview. Old objects have power.

Go to any religious shrine, and you’ll see more objects with a hint of haunt. Relics and religious artefacts are invested by our belief with power. We look to them for clarity, luck, protection. Wars have been fought over such objects because on a deep instinctive level we sense imbued power. Think of the feeling of awe that you get in a historic site/shrine/museum, a sense that because of the objects housed in that place, the past isn’t gone, it’s just thinly veiled.

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I’m celebrating the launch of Deadly Curiosities the whole week of June 22-29 with more than 30 different guest blog posts, a Facebook launch party featuring prizes, guest authors and surprises, podcasts, three different excerpts, a Reddit give-away/AskMeAnything and a Goodreads party/give-away. Get all the details at www.DeadlyCuriosities.com, and follow me on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms or on Twitter @GailZMartin!

I’ll be signing Deadly Curiosities in major cities across the U.S. and in England, Wales, and Scotland this summer — the full book tour schedule is on my website, so please stop by and say hello!

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About the Author: Gail Z. Martin writes epic and urban fantasy, steampunk and short stories. She is the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series, the Fallen Kings Cycle series, and the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series of epic fantasy books, as well as the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy world. Coming in 2015, Iron and Blood, a Steampunk novel, co-written with Larry N. Martin. Gail is a frequently contributor to US and UK anthologies. She also writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

She leads monthly conversations on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin and posts free excerpts of her work on Wattpad http://wattpad.com/GailZMartin. An original novella set in the Deadly Curiosities universe, The Final Death, is available free on Wattpad here: http://www.wattpad.com/story/15334006-the-final-death

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