Witch of Willow Lake Epilogue

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Okay, so Witch of Willow Lake has been out for about a month, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the ending. I like the ending the way it stands; for the most part it wraps up the main story and leaves an opening for Kyr and Spook’s story to continue, which it will.

Still, in some ways I felt it wasn’t quite complete. I had a few ends left dangling, and I felt that more could be said. So I sat down and wrote up a bit of an epilogue that ties up some of those loose ends. Enjoy, and let me know what you think in the comments.

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The next morning, Spook and I packed up our things and checked out of the hotel. Even though I knew we each had to return to our respective homes and get back to our routines, I was more than a little reluctant to let him go. We’d once again come dangerously close to losing each other, and I couldn’t quite dispel the childish fear that he might disappear as soon as he was out of my sight.

We decided to spend some time just sitting by the river and enjoying each other’s company before we parted ways, so we headed downtown and parked in the public lot. It being a holiday, Market Street was quieter than it would usually be at this time on a weekday morning. Only a handful of cars were in the lot, and the few cars that passed by were headed out of town, most likely weekend visitors on their way home.

As we walked hand in hand up the sidewalk, Spook turned to me and asked, “Is the Street Faire not open yet? It seems awfully quiet.”

Glancing at the clock on the town hall building up the street, I responded, “No, they won’t start up for a little over an hour yet. There might be some food stands open, but that’s about it.” I smiled up at him. “Were you in the mood for some fruit soup?”

He laughed and unlaced his fingers from mine so he could wrap his arm around me and pull me close. “No, but it sounds like you are. Shall we go find some?”

I bit my lip, considering for a moment, remembering the scrumptious peach soup I’d had the previous day. I was about to suggest taking a stroll down to the end of the line of vendors to see if Ladle Old Ladies was open for business yet, but another thought suddenly popped into my head. “Actually, Spook, I’d like to stop in at the used book store and talk to Cora, let her know how the investigation turned out. What do you think?”

He gave me a crooked smile. “You do know if you do that, you’ll likely end up being featured in one of her Willow Lake history stories.”

“Well…” I wrinkled my nose as I returned his look. “I guess I’ll have to take that chance. You know how stories get twisted in the telling, especially in this town. I want to make sure at least one person has the truth and that Mary and Warren’s names are cleared. Who better than a local history buff and storyteller?”

We crossed to the northern end of Market Street and continued up the block to the maroon-shuttered building. The battered Used Books sign still hung above the door, and it looked even more faded than it had a couple days ago. The old shop still had an appearance of neglect, but now a sense of nostalgia and long-forgotten memories emanated from inside. I raised my eyes to Spook’s to see if he had the same impression. His furrowed brow told me that he, too, sensed something different about the place.

I stepped up and tried the door; it was locked. Glancing at the window where the Open sign had been displayed, I noticed that one of the panes of glass had been broken, and I wondered if vandals had struck over the weekend. “They must be closed for Labor Day,” I mused. It really wouldn’t surprise me. Carleigh had said the shop didn’t get much business, so it was indeed likely that Cora might decide to take the holiday off herself.

Spook leaned close to the broken window and cupped his hands around his eyes to peer in. “What the…Kyr, come here and look at this. Everything inside is gone! No books, no shelves, nothing is left!”

“What?” He took a step back to let me squeeze in to peer in the window. He was right; the building was completely empty. There were no books, no decorations of any kind, and only a couple broken bookshelves standing along the back wall. Even in the dim light, I could tell that cobwebs and dust covered the floors and the shelves. A shiver ran down my spine. There was no way Cora and her granddaughter could have moved all those books and furnishings out within a day or so; the place looked as though it had been abandoned for years.

As Spook and I stood looking at each other, baffled, someone behind us spoke. “Are you folks looking for something?”

We turned to see a heavyset older woman walking a pug that seemed as rotund as she was. “I’m not sure,” I said hesitantly. “Do you know what happened to the book shop that used to be here?”

The woman laughed. “You folks must be from out of town. That shop closed down a couple years ago. The Renards just couldn’t keep it open any longer.”

“Oh. Well…thank you.” I edged closer to Spook as the woman and her dog continued on their way. Looking up at him, I asked, “What do you make of that?”

He shook his head slowly. “I don’t know, Kyr m’dear. I just don’t know. Just when I think this place can’t get any weirder, something like this happens. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to turn on the Paranormal Channel and find Willow Lake featured on one of those old Twilight Zone episodes.”

I gave him a bemused smile before we turned our backs on the abandoned book shop and made our way over to River Street.

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A few weeks later, I opened my mailbox and found a special edition of the Willow Lake Alumni News. I was reluctant to open it, knowing at least some of the news that it held and thinking it was too soon to revisit the events of Labor Day weekend. In fact, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to consciously revisit those events; my mind did enough of that through the crazy dreams I’d had since returning from Willow Lake.

In the end, my curiosity won out, and I sat down after work one evening to read it from cover to cover. As I’d suspected, there was quite a lengthy write-up that documented Dr. Harris’ decades-long career with the college. As Bobby had told us, Dr. Harris had indeed enjoyed a meteoric rise from a Teaching Assistant in the Business School to College President, and it was duly noted that he was a well-respected—or in my opinion, greatly-feared—member of both the Willow Lake campus and community. The article briefly mentioned, but otherwise glossed over, his association with Professor Childress, whose obsession with the occult had been rumored for years and had ultimately led to his hasty departure from the college after Mary’s death.

I still wrestled with how I felt about the now-former college president. I had never cared for the man, and in some ways I believed he had brought some of his troubles on himself. Most of my anger over the events of that weekend was directed at Professor Childress. I wasn’t sure how much real occult power he had actually possessed, but the fact that he had used what power he had to manipulate a grieving man at his weakest point caused my chest to burn with anger.

Unable to bear reading any more of the sad saga of Dr. Harris’ final days with the college, I roughly flipped the pages until I came to an article entitled “Honoring the Past, Looking to the Future.” I began reading, hoping for a bit of more positive news. I gasped aloud at the news that the decision had been made to demolish Appleton Hall and use the space to create a commons area where students could gather to study or to just enjoy the outdoors while on campus. With a twinge of nostalgic uncertainty, I studied the drawings of the proposed changes being made. Two pavilions would stand on either end of the green space, for use during college events and alumni functions, and in the very center of the commons would be a gazebo.

I sat back and closed my eyes, imagining what the space would look like in real life when it was completed. While I could indeed see the cosmetic appeal, as well as the functionality of the space, a lump of sadness rose in my throat as I mentally turned to look towards the spot where Appleton Hall had once stood. Even though the newly-proposed space was beautiful and functional, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of loss and injustice as I thought about Mary Bollinger. Her spirit was now at rest, and the real story of what had happened in 1958 had at last been told; still, I couldn’t help feeling that the decision to demolish the building was an attempt to erase from memory the tragedy that had happened.

As I was about to open my eyes and end my reverie, a voice whispered in my ear. “Look.” In my mind, I was guided to the walkway at the outer edge of the commons area, where an archway spanned the sidewalk leading into the green space. Atop the archway was a sign that read “Appleton Commons.” I smiled, somewhat mollified that the memory of the building would in some way live on. Again, the voice whispered, “Look.” I raised my gaze to the pavilions. Tears of happiness blurred my vision, but not before I saw that one pavilion had been named the Mary Bollinger Pavilion, and the other had been named the Warren McKnight Pavilion.

Satisfied that Mary and Warren’s love story would indeed be remembered, I pivoted slowly to take one final look at the future green area. “Oh!” My eyes widened in surprise as I noticed a figure standing in front of the gazebo and watching me. It was Mary Bollinger, looking peaceful and happy, as though she approved of the space. For a brief moment, I was alarmed; I had thought her spirit was now free and at rest, but she was still here.

As I opened my mouth to speak, another figure appeared on the commons and glided towards her. Warren! The younger version of Warren McKnight I had seen in my visions joined Mary in front of the gazebo. They gazed at each other for a moment and then kissed each other sweetly before turning to me. Smiling broadly, both raised a hand to wave to me before slowly fading from sight.

Between Silence and Fire–Kristan Cannon

KRISTAN CANNON’S NEW NOVEL – BETWEEN SILENCE AND FIRE – ON SHELVES OCTOBER 28TH, 2016

Kristan Cannon, author of the novel After Oil, is releasing her third novel in the Sudbury set Kingdom of Walden Series. In Between Silence and Fire, the action heats up as Derek, Sheridan and Garrett fight against both a tyrant to their east and nature itself. War is brewing on the horizon and the author states that not everyone will survive.
Kristan Cannon is a staunch supporter of literacy and independent artists and writers, an active member of the Indie Writer’s network, and a member of the NaNoWriMo Ambassador’s program. She wrote both all three books during three separate NaNoWriMo events.
Readers of her books have expressed great enthusiasm for the series so far and love that the books takes place in Sudbury, Ontario.
“I set the series in Sudbury—while it’s post-apocalyptic and deals with the fall of civilization–I saw that the people here would band together and support each other. You don’t see the same sense of community in many larger cities. Somehow Sudbury has managed to be a big city with all the perks but yet a small town at its heart.” – Kristan Cannon
Kristan Cannon became fascinated with the post-apocalyptic genre through games such as Fallout, and books such as The Day of the Triffids (a book Kristan admits was the “one of the best books I was forced to read”) by John Wyndam, but she admits her own writing is heavily influenced by authors Margaret Atwood and Elizabeth Moon. Born and raised in Northern Ontario, Kristan decided to set her books in the North after moving to Toronto and missing her home. More information about Kristan Cannon and her books can be found on her website at http://www.kristancannon.com.

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Third book in the Kingdom of Walden Series

Blurb:

THE LINE IS DRAWN

Four years ago Derek Moss formed the Rangers of Walden to protect the last spark of civilization from those who would see it all vanish into dust.

Now, Colonel Harnet has encroached into the borders. He has one aim on his mind–taking the last barrier between him and total control over the whole Region.

ALLIES UNDER FIRE

Communities once free are slowly falling under the tyranny of Colonel Harnet. Those who resist are brutally dispersed. Survivors are forced to flee to new safe havens or into communities who have bowed under the pressure.

One last one remains–the small enclave of survivors led by Russell Wither on the shore of Richard Lake.

THE DRUMS OF WAR THUNDER

When Harnet’s soldiers strike deep into the heart of the Kingdom of Walden, tragedy soon follows.

Fanning the flames of war is the knowledge that they cannot leave their allies with only silence as an answer.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristan Cannon is a hybrid author with credits including novels, novellas, numerous short stories as well as two blogs, Kristan’s Desk and Lone Wolf Books & Review (for Lone Wolf Books, a bookstore she co-owns with her father and fellow artist, Greg Cannon).

She was born in April 1980 in Kirkland Lake, Ontario and educated in North Bay and Toronto. She has been writing since the age of thirteen under the pen names Selena Grey and Meredith Hayes. In 2014 she dropped the pen names in time to release the Special “Anime North” Edition of After Oil and re-launch her writing blog.

Kristan is a staunch supporter of literacy, reading, and young writer’s programs. She also holds a current membership with The Indie Writer’s Network and is a member of the NaNoWriMo Ambassador’s program.

Her inspiration for writing came from her love of reading. She loved to read so voraciously that one of her school teachers pointed out that she should write her own stories before she read through the school’s entire library. This sparked another beloved hobby—one of research, and asking questions to seek out those answers on her own.

 

A Ghost Report from the Nashville Union and American on November 19, 1868

The Merry Ghost Hunter

Spectral Edition

Before the Civil War, a horrible murder occurred in a house in Greensburg, Indiana. The murderer escaped and was eventually killed in the war.

The house didn’t forget. Every midnight, a ghostly commotion ensues. A ghost hunter claims to have seen a female spirit dressed in black.

1868-11-19-p1-nashville-union-and-american-tenneseeEach Wednesday, I post an actual ghost report from a U.S. newspaper published between 1865 and 1918. You can also hear me read the articles The Big Séance and the History Goes Bump podcasts — or listen to previously released recordings here.

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The Stuff of Legends

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People often ask about my writing techniques, or where I get my ideas. Like a lot of other authors, I tend to pull ideas from many different sources–my everyday life, my dreams (or nightmares), my own past experiences, and most recently, from local legends and stories.

Both School Spirits and The Witch of Willow Lake are set in a town that was heavily inspired by Lock Haven, PA, where I attended college. School Spirits built on a lot of the campus ghost stories I heard during my time there, and The Witch of Willow Lake continued one of those stories, the tragic tale of Russell (Appleton) Hall Mary.

What I bring to you today is a few articles I found as I did research for these books. A lot of the stories I discovered were both written by and shared with me by Lou Bernard, Lock Haven historian extraordinaire.

So sit back, grab yourself a cup of coffee, hot cider, or cocoa, or even something a bit more potent, and give a read to some Clinton County legends that found their way into my heart and my books.

Russell Hall Mary

This is the story I built upon for Mary Bollinger’s spirit being in the Appleton Hall bell tower. The article states that the first actual documented telling of this story was in 2003, in an edition of The Eagle Eye, LHU’s student newspaper. All I have to add here is that this may have been the first documented telling of the story, but I recall hearing the story when I was there in the late 80s through the mid 90s, and I had my own creepy experiences in Russell Hall (which, by the way, you can read through Kyr’s recounting of her experience in School Spirits). I’ll leave you to decide how much is truth and how much is embellishment.

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The Were-Wagon of Farrandsville/Jerry’s Sarah

Okay, so there was more than one alleged witch in Clinton County, and even in the Lock Haven vicinity. I suppose the stories all have their commonalities–usually a woman living alone, almost always at a distance from other townsfolk/settlers, and many times they are reputed to be healers, or at the very least they have some strange habits.

In those days, superstition often took over in the absence of real explanations for why things happened. In my research, I came across two alleged witches who piqued my interest. One was the Witch of Farrandsville, or as Lou called her, the Were-Wagon–I love this guy’s wit, so much like mine at times. This was a woman who was very protective of a spring that ran past her property. Woe to anyone who allowed their horses to drink the water from her spring!

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The other witch, obviously, was the one tied to the Giwoggle (see the next entry). The article mentions several women who were blamed for conjuring the Giwoggle, but I was drawn to the name Jerry’s Sarah. I thought it odd and intriguing that she didn’t have a last name, or even a husband (at least from what I gathered from the article). It seemed like a great little tidbit to add to my own story.

The Giwoggle

Unless you’ve lived your whole life under a rock, you’ve almost certainly heard of cryptids such as Bigfoot/Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti,  or even Mothman and the Chupacabra, but I’d be willing to bet you’ve never heard of the Giwoggle. Well, unless you’ve been reading Lou’s articles, or more recently, my blog posts.

What is a Giwoggle? Well, it’s kind of like a werewolf, but isn’t. A werewolf transforms between human and wolf, but a Giwoggle doesn’t. A Giwoggle is a beast that has been conjured or summoned–it depends who you ask–by a witch. When I first read the description of this creature, my reaction was a lot like Kyr’s–I laughed. A wolflike beast with horse hooves on its back legs and bird claws on the front? It certainly didn’t sound like something to be afraid of. But as we all know, looks can be deceiving.

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So there you have it. Just a few pieces of local folklore that have found their way into my books. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Lou Bernard for introducing me to these and other stories. He’s tipped me off to a few more legends that may just pop up in future books. But you’ll have to wait for those.

To get a Kindle copy of The Witch of Willow Lake, click here.

To get a Nook copy, click here.

October Frights Blog Hop: Day 2

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Question: What does The Witch of Willow Lake have in common with The Wizard of Oz?

If you answered, “They both feature a good witch and a bad witch,” you’d be correct.

Of course, the bad witch is the one Kyr and Company are most concerned with, but Kyr also has a good friend who practices Wicca and owns her own metaphysical/New Age shop in Gettysburg. This friend assists Kyr in getting rid of a cloud of negative energy that has attached to her, and gives her a stern warning about someone who wants to harm her.

For today’s post, I’m sharing an excerpt from Witch of Willow Lake in which Ione performs a cleansing ritual for Kyr.

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Ione pulled a piece of black tourmaline from the pouch on the corner of the table and handed it to me. “I’ll take back the sodalite now, Kyr, and you can hold onto this one for protection.” My eyes widened apprehensively, and she quickly reassured me, “I don’t expect there to be any trouble, but I believe it’s better to be prepared when dealing with negative energy.”

I took the black stone from her and grasped it tightly as she got up and ducked behind the screen. I heard the protesting wood-on-wood groan of a window being opened. When she emerged from behind the screen, she invited me to stand and led me to the middle of the room. Next, she went to the corner to fetch a small, short-legged bench and set it before me. She then gathered her supplies from the reading table and arranged them on the bench. “Are you ready to begin?”

Still somewhat uncertain, but eagerly desiring to be rid of what I was sure was the spirit of a very evil woman, I simply said, “Yes.”

“Good.” She positioned herself in front of me, with the squat little table between. She stooped to pick up the jar of salt, then met my eyes earnestly. “The first thing I will do is cast a circle of protection. As I do so, I will offer up a prayer to the deities I serve, and I encourage you to do the same, either out loud or in your head. As you pray, try to envision a golden-white light descending from above to envelop you.”

I watched as Ione closed her eyes and took a deep breath before raising her hands above her head in supplication to whatever deities she called upon. As she lowered her hands slowly, I tried to imagine her drawing a shimmering dome around us. In one smooth motion, she then stooped to pick up the jar of salt and stepped away from the bench to walk in a large clockwise circle around us, using the salt to make a perfect ring on the floor.  When she started to speak, I shut my eyes and quickly bowed my head, feeling out of place and uncertain. The smell of the smoldering incense and the cadence of her chanting flooded my mind with memories of sitting through my cousin’s Catholic wedding ceremony when I was six years old. Now, as then, I wasn’t sure what to pray, and struggled to keep my mind grounded. Finally, I stumbled through the Lord’s Prayer and what I remembered from Psalm 23, all the while half-listening to her lilting voice as she prayed effortlessly:

“Creators of all living things,
Spirit guides that fly on golden wings,
Surround us now with purest light,
And keep us safe in your loving sight.
Now guide our hands, our thoughts, our hearts,
And may all negative energy now depart.
Protect us now; O, hear my plea.
As I will, so mote it be.”

When she finished casting the circle, she knelt to set down the jar of salt and took up the bundle of herbs. Pulling the lighter from her skirt pocket, she gave it a flick and held the flame to the bundle until the tips glowed orange and then began to smolder. Tendrils of smoke rose, and the pungent aroma tickled my nostrils, making my nose twitch with the urge to sneeze.

She placed the burning herbs in the glass bowl and picked up the feather. As she fanned the smoke around my feet, she began to chant in a low, reverent tone. “Air and fire, earth and water; cleanse, dispel, disperse.” Over and over again she spoke her incantation as she walked slow circles around me, fanning the fragrant smoke over my entire body.

At first, I was mindful of her purposeful actions and her soothing words, but by the time her ministrations reached my shoulders, my thoughts had drifted to Luther and my father, and what they would say if they knew I was here. The old familiar feelings of guilt rose within me as their harsh voices echoed from the depths of my memory, chastising me, judging me, condemning me for my blasphemous foolishness.

By the time Ione finished smudging the crown of my head, there was such turmoil in my mind that I was in tears, and I squeezed my eyes shut in a futile attempt to stem their flow. Seeming to sense my emotional state, she lowered her voice as she completed her ritual, and my ears zeroed in on her words of benediction. “By the sacred smoke of these fragrant plants, may this dear one be cleansed and free.”

The room fell silent as her words rained down into my thirsty soul. The words cleansed and free resonated deep in my spirit, and the image of chains falling away came to the forefront of my mind. I took deep, cleansing breaths, filling my lungs with the acrid-sweet smell of the smoldering herbs, and when I released the breaths, I imagined expelling my feelings of guilt and of being held down by my family’s rigid beliefs. By the time I opened my eyes, the tears that remained were tears of relief, and I felt freer and lighter than I had in longer than I could remember.

After saying a prayer of thanks to her gods, Ione walked counterclockwise around the circle, “to close the circle and end the ritual,” she told me. When she finished, she stood in front of me once more. She studied me for a moment and then smiled and nodded approvingly. “Kyr, you look like a different person. Your aura is clearer and brighter than I’ve ever seen it. How do you feel?”

I wasn’t at all surprised that she could see a difference in me; the change I felt was so great it was almost tangible, and I actually looked down to make sure my feet were still on the floor. “I feel amazing! I don’t think I’ve felt this good in years.” I laughed out loud, thinking I sounded like one of those elderly women on a late-night infomercial who had regained her youthful stamina just by taking some miracle supplement not available in stores. “If you could bottle that and sell it, you’d be a millionaire in no time.”

Ione’s laughter echoed mine. “It sounds as though you were long overdue for a bit of cleansing, although I firmly believe that some of your new lightness of spirit comes as much from confronting some of your personal demons as from my smudging. Now that some of these issues have come to light, you would do well to spend some time examining them rather than running from them.”

Even though I knew she spoke truth, hearing those words made me feel a bit less light. “I suppose you’re right about that.”

“Of course I am,” she joked, sounding annoyingly similar to Spook. “As for bottling a smudging, I can’t do that, but I can give you something you can use on your own.”

We left the Reading Room and made our way back to the main part of the store. Ione led me to the Herbal Magick section and quickly plucked a bag of crushed herbs from the shelf. This is a mixture of the herbs I used in my smudging ritual: white sage, cedar, and sweetgrass. You can perform your own smudging ritual at home just as I did here.” She briefly gave me instructions before handing me the bag of herbs. “I recommend doing this every so often in your home, as a preventative.”

Ione headed for the cash register, and I followed. When she rang up my purchase and gave me my total, I realized she hadn’t charged me for the Tarot reading or the smudging. “Wait, how much do I owe you for your services?”

She waved away my question. “That one is on me. I like to give one free reading each month, so I’ve just satisfied that requirement.” I was doubtful that was true, but she continued to refuse payment, telling me to pass along a kindness to someone else. “Also, I ask that you be very careful when you return to Willow Lake. Take precautions during your investigation, and be sure that everyone involved—you especially—watches their backs. Make sure you take along your tourmaline, these herbs, and anything else you find to be empowering.”

A chill ran down my spine as I realized that her warnings sounded much like Spook’s, only much more detailed. Still, I trusted her advice, and I knew I would take her words to heart.

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October Blog Hop Begins!

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For those of you new to my little piece of the blogosphere, welcome. For those who have visited before, welcome back. For everyone who stops by, get ready for a week of ooky-spooky fun, some ghostly stories, and a giveaway or two.

Today’s post is Part 1 of a YA Halloween short story that I began and abandoned a couple years ago. I’m hoping to get it finished and posted on Wattpad in time for Halloween. But for now, enjoy Part 1.

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The Curse of Weatherly House
October, 1987

I came to the end of the lane and paused at the bottom of the long driveway that led up the hill and around the bend to Weatherly House. Casting a glance over my shoulder, I saw that my costumed companions gathered several yards away on the sidewalk in front of the property, their heads together as they laughed in certain victory that I would lose the dare. I turned to face the pathway once more, swallowing hard once, twice, to dislodge the lemon-drop-sized lump that had suddenly appeared in my throat.

Taking a deep breath, I pulled the sheet back down to cover myself once more, hoping it might hide me from the spooks they said haunted this hill, or at least make them think I was one of them. I ducked my head and started quickly up the long, sloping curve, stiff-legged in my haste, wanting only to get the dare over with and return home where I could sort my sugary stash from the middle school party and gloat over my victory.

I made it around the first curve before raising my eyes. Maple and oak trees made an alternating pattern of yellow and red as they stood guard the entire length of the driveway and obscured from view the mysterious abandoned mansion that crouched just on the other side of the hill. Their foliage was just past its mid-autumn prime, but enough of their flame-bright color remained to push back the quickly-gathering dusk enough for me to make my way towards the house. I felt small and conspicuous in my crisp, white ghost costume as my feet swish-swished through fallen leaves and crunched the occasional acorn.

A sudden breeze kicked up, whistling through the branches and surrounding me with foreboding whispers. “Beware,” they warned. “Turn back now. Come no further.” I froze in my tracks as something rustled loudly in the branches above me before launching itself from its perch. I bit back a cry and threw my arms up to protect my face before I realized it was only an owl. I watched it swoop close to the ground before ascending once more and making a wide arc through the trees.

I continued on my way and soon rounded the last curve. As the trees parted and I laid eyes on the fabled mansion for the first time, I stared speechlessly at the scene before me. Not for nothing had the old folks in town dubbed it the Fairy Tale House! The stately home seemed out of place among the later-built, cookie-cutter duplexes that lined the rest of the street. Its rich reddish-brown exterior with its ornate white trim called to mind the candy-laden gingerbread house of Hansel and Gretel fame. I swallowed hard, recalling who it was that inhabited that all-too-tempting abode.

Taking a deep breath, I inched closer. All I had to do was run onto the front porch and grab some random piece of evidence to prove I had actually gone the whole way up the house. The place had stood empty for so long that it was quite literally falling apart, so I reasoned that it wouldn’t be difficult to find a shingle or a piece of loose shutter to present to my friends.

I cleared the last of the trees and stood staring up at the imposing structure. As I took the first hesitant step towards the front porch, I stopped, my eyes widening in terror. Carved pumpkins sat on either side of the three steps leading up to the porch, as though someone lived there and had decorated for Halloween. In the upstairs window, I caught a glimpse of a faint, warm glow moving around, as if someone were walking about by candlelight.

I turned to run, but then stopped. Did I really want to go back to my friends empty-handed and face their taunts, as well as weeks of being the butt of jokes at school? For several minutes I stood frozen by my indecision—should I abandon my quest, or should I prove myself brave?

Finally making my decision, I dashed the rest of the way up the sidewalk and bounded onto the porch. I bit back a yelp as the rotten wood sagged slightly under my weight, and I froze for a second, hoping it would hold. When it did, I glanced wildly around, looking for anything I could swipe as proof that I had completed my task. My eyes landed on the rusted brass house number; the 5 in the middle had come loose and hung upside down. Perfect! I grasped it and gave one yank, then another. On the third yank, it came off with an eerie screech, almost as if I had hurt the house.

A series of thumps sounded from inside, as though someone were coming down from the second floor. Seized with fright, I turned and leapt from the porch, and then ran the whole way down the winding driveway back to my waiting companions. When I showed them the house number I’d taken, they ripped off their masks to stare at my prize. I had expected congratulations, a few pats on the back, and maybe a bit of respect. Instead, they stared at the rusty number 5 with horror and quickly turned to sprint off towards their respective houses.

I was left standing alone in the middle of the sidewalk, wondering what evil I had just gotten in to…

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There you have it. Feel free to leave a comment below. Since it’s still unclear how the story will end, let me know if you’d like a happy ending or a spooky ending.

Also, to check out the other authors in the blog hop, click on the little blue frog icon below, which will take you to Clarissa Johal’s blog where you’ll find links to the other participating blogs. Lots of spooky stories, giveaways, and Halloween fun to be had.

October Trees

One of my favorite parts of autumn is watching the trees turn from summer’s lush green to the fiery hues of full-blown fall. From the first blush of color to the fading glory of near-November, I love the trees of October.

Shots from a Wellsville field trip.

Fire on the mountains.

Fading glory.

Tree

A Blog-Hopping Halloween

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Hey, everyone! It’s October, my favorite month of the year! I’m looking forward to fall harvest treats, fiery orange and yellow leaves all over the mountains, cooler temperatures, and of course, Halloween!

Another event to look forward to is the 2016 October Frights Blog Hop, hosted by Clarissa Johal. More than twenty authors of paranormal and dark fantasy will be participating in this hop, and there will be free reads, flash fiction, books, and prizes galore from October 10th-15th.

Catch up with your favorite author, or maybe check out a new one or two.

Until then, happy haunting!

 

Beyond Dark Waters Blog Tour

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Book Synopsis:

bdw-cover1From being cast out from the group, to losing his way in the dark lake at night-time, Ben will never betray his friends. Even when he feels a vicious fang slowly piercing his flesh, he knows what he is doing is right. He will never submit to the bullies, racists or indeed anyone who tries to steer him from the path he is taking. Ben is growing up very quickly and soon he gains many followers. This leads to a multitude of challenges and to one of his friends giving his life for Ben. As an eleven year old he manages to avert a war and bring pride to different communities.

For Ben, falling into the lake and entering into different species presented many challenges, but the rewards will stay with him forever.

Beyond Dark Waters plots a young man’s rite of passage into adulthood, seen from the viewpoint of different species in and around a lake.

Author Bio

dsc01112Des Birch lives in Norfolk UK with his wife, Julie. He is a self-professed writing nut, shark nut, wild about the natural world and is motivated to empower young people. Des admits to being frightened of heights, bears, and hagfish; an odd combination he will admit, but reality is often stranger than fiction.

He has raised his two children on his own, been in shark cages, stroked big cats, jumped off a mountain, SCUBA dived the Red Sea and lived in other European countries. If asked why, Des will smile and say, “I enjoy living life to the fullest.”

Des does not write about super heroes or people with special powers. He would much rather take ordinary people and place them in extraordinary situations, and record how they react.

Des has always written in one form or another but in 2006 while living in Spain, he wrote his first novel, The Diary of an Innocent. A couple of years later he moved back to England and married Julie, with whose help and support, he continues writing.

If he could have one wish come true, it would be that his young adult books (Dark Water series) will serve to empower young minds.

Social Media:

Des Birch on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/4976644.Des_Birch

Foundations, LLC on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/foundationsbooks/

Publisher Website: http://foundationsbooks.com/

Links

Amazon (Kindle)

Amazon (Paperback)

Amazon (Hardcover)

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