Monachopsis, Part I

 

lost beach ball

monachopsis: the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place, lumbering, clumsy, easily distracted.

I.

 

I’ve been living on the outside looking in,

Never quite feeling like I belong.

How can I feel comfortable in my own skin

When I feel like my own skin is wrong?

 

I see the world through different eyes

Than everyone else around me.

It never takes long for folks to realize

That a cloak of weirdness surrounds me.

 

It’s not that I’ve never been invited

To come in and partake of the fun.

But it’s soon obvious everyone else is united,

While I stand apart, a party of one.

 

I don’t like what they like; I do my own thing,

When I do, then the whispers begin.

I want so much to belong, but I’m left with the sting

Of playing a game I know I can’t win.

 

You see, I’ve lived so long in the fringes,

And I know they think I’m somewhat askew.

When I share my thoughts, my likes, everyone cringes,

And I know there’s just one thing I can do…

 

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Playlist for an As-Yet-Unstarted YA Novel

big waves under cloudy sky

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com

After what seemed like forever, I finally released An Uneasy Inheritance, Book 4 of the Kyrie Carter: Supernatural Sleuth series in August of this year. My original intention was to end Kyr’s series with Book 4 and then move on to other things for awhile.

But you know what they say about our best-laid plans.

As it turns out, even though Uneasy was and is quite the beast of a book (626 pages), it did not end where I wanted it to end, necessitating a fifth book. I know, some of you are cheering, while others are probably groaning.

In any event…

This post is actually in reference to what comes after the KC:SS series–a YA series that follows the adventures of Spook and Kyr’s teenage children (yeah, there’s a spoiler for you), and Drac’s and Gabe’s offspring as well. The first story in that series will follow Spook and Kyr’s oldest son Declan as he travels to Pawley’s Island, South Carolina in search of the Gray Man. If you know anything about the Gray Man legend, you can probably guess that a hurricane will play a significant part of the story.

That being said, as this story is beginning to take shape in my mind, if not on paper yet, I’ve been listening to some songs that at least mention hurricanes, tornadoes, or storms in general. So just for fun, here are some of those songs.

  1. Hurricane in the USA – I came across this song quite by accident when I was looking for something else. “Party in the USA” was on one of my playlists some time ago, but I had forgotten about Bridgit Mendler’s “Hurricane.” I absolutely love this mashup! It’s a lot of fun, and it gets me up and dancing around, even when I’m tired.
  2. Adalaida – This is one from my country music days. I’m not a particular fan of George Strait, but this is just a fun song to listen to and sing.
  3. Down at the Twist and Shout – Another one from my country music days. Actually, the first time I heard this was on a country cover album by the Chipmunks (don’t judge me, huh?), so I looked up the original and really liked it.
  4. Bad Moon Rising – Probably the most classic natural disaster song in existence. It’s a bit more foreboding than the others, so it really hints at how dangerous Declan’s adventure becomes, and not necessarily on the paranormal side of things. (This video is a treat too!)
  5. Rock You Like a Hurricane – Of course, Declan being Spook’s son, he’s going to have a run-in with a feisty young lady while on his adventure. I won’t say much about her, except that she’s a storm chaser on an adventure of her own, and they have quite the clash when the storm comes ashore.

I’m sure there are other songs out there with a similar theme, and I’ll be adding more songs as the story takes shape. What’s your favorite song that mentions bad weather? Let me know in the comments!

Serendipity?

On Saturday, I had a table at a craft fair/vendor event that ran in conjunction with Carlisle’s Ice Fest. This particular event was a benefit for a young cancer patient, so I figured even if sales weren’t great, as they usually aren’t at these things, at least the money was going to a good cause.

The event began at 9:00AM, and we were told that we couldn’t get in to set up until 8:00. That really didn’t concern me, as I only sell my books, and it really doesn’t take long to set up my display.

But here’s where the day took a bit of an unpleasant turn.

We were notified by the person in charge that the event was going to be on the second floor of the venue. Okay, so what’s the problem? Well, first of all, getting inside the building was a trip. Here are the instructions we were given regarding unloading and getting set up:

All spots are on the 2nd floor you will unload your vehicle onto an elevator take it up stairs unload it come back downstairs and move your car will have A-line forming in the front and a line in the back.

And this is what it looked like trying to get maybe thirty vendors unloaded and parked:

Now, add to this the fact that the elevator we were to use was a small, one-person elevator that had to be operated by someone in charge of the building. Remember, there were around thirty vendors unloading, taking their things up, and coming back down, not to mention the fact that several vendors had to make multiple trips on the elevator. Needless to say, very few, if any, had enough time to be completely set up by the 9AM start time.

Quite a few of us finally decided to just go park in the main lot and haul our stuff in by hand and carry it up the stairs. I was among that group—thank heavens for the kindness of one of the other vendors, a gentleman who offered to carry my table and crate full of books upstairs.

At this point, many of the vendors, myself included, were grumbling about the entire turn of events for the day. A few of the words being tossed around to describe our experience up to this point were “$&!^ show” and “cluster%$&,” and a few of us considered cutting our losses and just leaving.

The venue itself wasn’t that bad. It was quaint and charming, although the heat didn’t work so well. Thankfully, it wasn’t any colder than the thirty-seven degree high temperature for the day.

The only sales I made were to other vendors, which is also quite typical of these types of events, but I made enough to cover my table cost.

Now, here is where events became a bit serendipitous.

A woman stopped by my table and began asking questions about my books—questions that were a bit more than potential-reader inquiries about plot and intended age group. My head is still spinning from the huge amount of information she gave me, but let me do my best to sum it up.

The first thing she did was to write down information for a weeklong book festival held at a local library in October (Celebrate the Book Festival at Bosler Library in Carlisle, PA, if anyone is interested). This event attracts authors, illustrators, publishers, and other industry professionals, and she said it would be a great place to network and maybe sell a few books.

Next, she gave me information on the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, including cost of membership, the various national chapters, the conferences they hold, and the benefits of membership.

After that she pointed me to two local writers’ groups: Pennwriters, which I am already familiar with, and Writers Wordshop at the Bosler Library. I told her that I already belong to a critique group that I am quite happy with; the only drawback is that with it being a church-based group, I cannot share much of what I write (paranormal fiction). She encouraged me to find a second group where I can freely share my main genre of works.

Finally, she gave me a bit of homework to do. She advised me to sit down and write a query letter, a pitch page, an elevator pitch, and a two-sentence Library of Congress description of each of my books. Admittedly, a couple of these I hadn’t even considered, since I am independently-published and have no need to pitch to an agent. However, her advice was food for thought, and I’ll undertake those tasks, if for nothing else, to hone my skills.

The whole point of this bit of a ramble is that sometimes the events an author—or any other independent business owner—signs up for don’t result in many, if any, sales. I’ve lost count of the times when my costs far outweighed the money I brought in.

However, I constantly have to remind myself that if nothing else, these events provide the chance to network and make important contacts. Today handed me a very fortuitous opportunity to meet someone in the business who gave me a goldmine of information on the craft of writing and the publishing industry.

I thought I was there to sell books, but I wasn’t. I firmly believe that God put me there to make those connections. For what purpose? At this point, I don’t know. But I do know that I’m going to follow up on the information and the opportunities I was given and see where they lead.

Stay tuned.

Off to Camp I Go

Camp-2017-Participant-Facebook-Cover

Yes, I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo again.

No, I’m not typically one of the winners, but I try.

I’m going to spend the month trying to finish, or at least make a significant dent in, An Uneasy Inheritance, Book 4 of the Kyrie Carter: Supernatural Sleuth series. I’m at a part of the plot that is a bit slow-moving, but still important to the main story line. In the scene I’m currently writing, Kyr just dropped the bombshell on her brothers that she is the sole heir to their great-aunt’s estate. Naturally, there is disbelief and anger, but not because they want a share–well, at least in Luther’s case. John Wesley is a bit more torn, and Graham at this point is moody and pensive, but hasn’t given any indication of his feelings on the matter.

Once Kyr actually moves to the house in Renovo, things should start picking up as she interacts with the townspeople, her mysterious neighbor Helen, and the handsome attorney Jamison Hufnagle. She will discover there’s a mystery and a number of stories surrounding her newly-acquired property, and she will meet someone who shatters her entire world and makes her question who she is and everything she ever believed.

Oh, by the way, I’ve written 798 words so far today.

Update From Write Van Winkle

Most people are at least familiar with the story of Rip Van Winkle, the man who fell asleep for twenty years. Can you just imagine what it would be like to wake up and find that so much time has passed? What have I missed? How much has changed since I’ve last been in the world?

 

Well, I’m feeling a bit like old Rip myself these days, except that I haven’t been sleeping; I’ve been writing. I’m currently hard at work on An Uneasy Inheritance, the fourth book in the Kyrie Carter: Supernatural Sleuth series. At the moment, I’m writing chapter 11, and I’ve got about 120 pages. While that’s all good, I realized that I haven’t blogged at all in over a month.

So, here’s a little glimpse at what I’ve been working on.

A lot is happening to Kyr in this book, and she’s really going to find out what she’s made of as the story progresses. In the first few chapters, she has lost her job, lost the house she was renting due to the death of her landlady, and found out that she’s the sole beneficiary of her great-aunt’s estate–a relative she didn’t even know existed. I’m at the point right now where she’s in Renovo, PA meeting with Jamison Hufnagle, the (young, very handsome) attorney handling the estate. Spook decides to show up unannounced to “lend his assistance,” much to Kyr’s chagrin, and some sparks fly between Spook and Jamison.

renovosnow

The three make the trek, in a snowstorm, to the house Kyr now owns. Kyr’s ultimate plan is to fix up the house and list it for sale, but the moment she sets foot inside, something calls to her and sets the idea in her head to keep the house.

kyrhouse

That’s about as far as I’ve gotten, but here’s a teaser for things to come:

A spooky neighbor who seems to appear out of nowhere to give Kyr advice.

A hermit living on the mountain who seems to know Kyr and tells her to stay away.

A dire warning from both the neighbor and the hermit not to go into the woods at night.

Clues hidden in strange places throughout the house that suggest a treasure somewhere on the property.

Someone trying to get rid of Kyr and find the treasure.

And of course…

Ghosts, ghosts, ghosts!

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Stay tuned for more news and excerpts from An Uneasy Inheritance!

Some Writing Goals for 2017

2017

Yes, it’s January 9th.

Yes, New Year’s Day was just over a week ago.

Yes, I’m behind in setting my goals for the year. When have I ever done anything on time?

My family and I were away over Christmas and New Year’s (we travel to Florida over the holidays, since that’s when my husband can get off work and the kids are off school), so I’m still getting back into the swing of things with housework, kids back to school, and the half-dozen activities I’m involved with. I think I’m finally at a point where I can start thinking about my writing, specifically a few goals and upcoming events I’m focusing on for 2017.

An Uneasy Inheritance

Naturally, I want to continue my Kyrie Carter: Supernatural Sleuth series. At the moment, I’m about seven chapters in to Book 4. I have some basic ideas of the adventures Kyr and Spook will have in this book, but for the most part, I’m waiting for inspiration to strike about what paranormal encounters they will have. Poor Kyr is already likely to go from being a ginger to being gray-haired with all the life changes she’ll have; I’m not sure how much paranormal she’ll be able to handle.
And in keeping with being behind on things, I am just now writing the part where she’s helping Spook decorate for Christmas. Here’s a little excerpt of that:

After grabbing a quick lunch, we returned to Spook’s house and spent the next couple hours laying his old tree to rest and assembling the new one. After snapping the last piece into place, Spook rested his arm across my shoulders, and we stood back to admire his new tree. Smiling down at me, he said, “That’s a definite improvement over the old tree. In fact, it looks so good that I don’t even think it needs any decorations.”

I laughed and elbowed him in the ribs. “Oh no, you don’t. You’re not going to weasel your way out of a properly-decorated tree, Mr. Humbug.” Ducking away from his embrace, I went to the stereo and turned on the Christmas music. “Now where are those lights?”

My heart swelled with happiness as we trimmed the tree with strings of blue-white lights and blue, white, and silver balls; I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed decorating a Christmas tree. I usually helped Aunt Julia with hers, but this was somehow different, more special. Before long, I was singing along with Mariah Carey and dancing around the tree as I hung the shiny ornaments from the branches. A sudden chuckle from Spook made me stop abruptly, a silver ball on a hook pinched between my thumb and forefinger. “What?”

“Oh, nothing.” As Spook sat on the couch, holding up his phone and smirking at me, I realized that not only had I been doing the lion’s share of the decorating, but had also become the star of a video. “Just enjoying the show.”

Letting out an exasperated huff, I snatched his Bah Humbug hat from the floor and tossed it at him. “Really, Spook? Just because you’re a YouTube sensation doesn’t mean I need to be one too.”

He laughed as he tucked his phone away, then pulled me onto his lap. “No worries, Kyr m’dear. This video is solely for my own viewing pleasure.” I felt my face flushing as I narrowed my eyes at him. He drew me closer to nuzzle my neck and growled, “Call it a Christmas present to myself.”

Other Projects

At some point, I want to branch out from writing paranormal mystery. I’ve already got bits and pieces of a YA fantasy/romance (The Knight and the Not-Quite Lady) and another story set in the fictional town of Millers Ferry, PA (based on my hometown of Millersburg, PA); I haven’t worked out if it will be inspirational, women’s fiction, or cozy mystery, but this one will be set between Halloween and Christmas Eve.
I’d also like to try my hand at writing short stories. There are so many contests and anthologies looking for short stories, but it’s just not something I’ve ever really attempted. I do have an idea for one, tentatively titled “Chasing Skylab.” I won’t give any more on that for now, at least until I put a bit more thought into it.

Events

In an effort to do more in the way of marketing, I want to look into more author events this year. I had a pretty good run of vendor events last year, including Millersburg’s Cherry Blossom Festival and Dillsburg’s Farmer’s Fair, as well as two events in Lock Haven. In March of this year, I will attend my first paranormal conference in Gettysburg. At this point I’m just a vendor, but I hope that at some point I will be able to talk about my books and my writing process at one of these conferences. I’ve also got one library event scheduled for March, and I hope to add a few more over the summer.
One thing I have not done yet, but hope to do, if not this year, then next, is to attend a writers’ conference of some kind. I’d like to go to an event where I can talk with other writers and share experiences, as well as getting my books out on a wider scale.

All in all, I’ve got a pretty good idea of where I’d like to be at the end of the year. God willing, and notwithstanding all the life events that always manage to shove their way into the best-laid plans, I believe this is a good start.

Happy New Year!

Happy Reading!

Happy Writing!

Witch of Willow Lake Epilogue

maryandwarren

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

Witch of Willow Lake Playlist & Excerpts

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Anyone who has ever written, well, anything knows that a big part of getting to that final product is the editing, revising, and proofreading. And let me tell you, that can be a very tedious job. Well, as I was on maybe my third of fourth read-through of WWL, my edit-weary mind began singing me songs during certain story scenes.

Now that I’m (finally) finished revising, and the book has been released, I though it would be fun to make a list of some of those songs and pair them with excerpts from the story. So in this post, you’ll find five of the songs that have been playing incessantly through my head for the past few weeks (months?).

Highway to Hell – AC/DC

It would be an understatement to say Kyr’s brother Luther doesn’t approve of her ghost-hunting hobby. In fact, he tells her she’s on the way to eternal damnation.

“It’s bad enough that you’re dragging Kyr into that occult nonsense. Don’t think for a minute that I’m going to stand by and let you influence my kids that way.”

Enough was enough. I shot up out of my chair and jabbed a finger into Luther’s chest. “Luther, you need to back off now. You have no right—“

He smacked my hand away and glared down at me. “I have every right to protect my children from negative influences. I may have lost you, but I will not lose Eli.”

“Lost me? Lost me to what?”

“All this ooky-spooky garbage you’re running after lately. Dad was always afraid you’d get mixed up in something you couldn’t handle and lose your soul to the devil, but I thought you had more sense.” His expression was a combination of sorrow and disgust. “I guess Dad knew what he was talking about all along.”

I sputtered with indignation, unable to believe what I was hearing. “Luther, what is wrong with you? I am not mixed up in something I can’t handle.” We just won’t mention what happened in the bell tower. Or in Borland, for that matter. “And I have not sold my soul to the devil.”

“I didn’t say you sold your soul to the devil; that would require a conscious decision. I said you lost it, meaning you let yourself slide little by little, not even realizing you’re slipping away until it’s too late.” His eyes blazed like the coals in the fire pit, and he gesticulated wildly as he spoke, looking every bit like the fire-and-brimstone preachers he liked to watch on TV.

The back of my scalp prickled at his words, and a part of me wondered if he might be right. My mouth opened to respond, but all that came out was a confused huff. Spook shouldered his way around me to come to my defense, but before he could speak, Luther turned accusing eyes on him. “I just never thought you’d have help. And here I thought Trevor was bad news.”

 

Witchcraft – Robert Palmer

For months, Kyr, Spook, and the gang have assumed they were investigating a simple haunting involving the spirit of a young coed who perished in a fire. One night, Kyr finds evidence that there may be more involved:

I let the book fall open once more, this time to the Table of Contents, and trailed my finger down the list of chapter titles, waiting for something to jump out at me. “Humble Beginnings, Hidden Treasure, Strange Creatures of Clinton County, In-laws and Outlaws, Indian Lore, The Witch of Willow Lake, School Spirits…wait, what?” I blinked my eyes hard, disbelieving what I saw. I must be more tired than I thought. The title of Chapter Six, “The Witch of Willow Lake,” seemed to hover above the page, begging to be noticed. A witch?

I swallowed hard as a lump of dread welled up in my throat, threatening to choke me. Something stirred in my subconscious, and I vaguely recalled suspecting witchcraft or some occult ritual when I first heard about the charred book and the candles found in the bell tower. Surely this witch wasn’t part of the Appleton bell tower saga. Was it?

My fingers were clumsy as I flipped the pages of the book to Chapter Six. The spine cracked in protest, scattering dust and frayed pieces of the cover into my lap. Finding the page I was looking for, I began reading. “Do you believe in witchcraft? In curses? You don’t? If you had lived at the northern edge of what is now the community of Willow Lake in the mid-eighteenth century, you might not be so quick to dismiss the idea.” The account went on to tell of a lone elderly woman who arrived in the pre-Willow-Lake settlement just north of town one autumn day. The men of the settlement helped her build a small, primitive shanty, just enough to get her through the winter months. My scalp prickled as the cabin from my visions suddenly loomed in my mind.

 

Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell

As if the spirit of a witch wasn’t enough to deal with, almost as soon as Kyr arrives back in Willow Lake, she realizes she is being stalked by a mysterious dark figure that no one else can see.

Without warning, the back of my neck began prickling, and I had the uncomfortable sensation that someone was watching me. I froze in the pew where I sat, afraid to turn around lest I find that an unfriendly person stood at the back of the sanctuary. I held my breath and strained to hear through the sound of my pulse pounding in my ears. I was certain no one had come in; heaven knew no one could have entered the church without those doors announcing their presence. The creak and pop of someone stepping on a loose floorboard finally made me whirl around and call out, “Hello?”

No one was there. My eyes scanned the entire sanctuary, looking for any sign that I wasn’t alone, but I found nothing. Still, the feeling of being watched remained. A sudden movement above made me raise my eyes to the balcony at the rear of the sanctuary. My breath caught as I spotted a figure silhouetted against the side of the stained glass window in the center of the balcony. I stood and started slowly up the aisle, calling out again, “Hello? Who’s there?”

There was no answer, but the figure moved as though trying to edge out of sight. Suddenly and inexplicably terrified, I dashed up the aisle and out of the church, not caring that I slammed the doors behind me. I raced down the front stairs, across the street, and up onto the levee, frantic to put as much distance as I could between me and whoever had been watching me inside the church. I kept running until I passed the amphitheater and reached the area where the Street Faire vendors were preparing their booths. When I got to the stairs that led down to the street, I rushed blindly down them, hoping to lose myself in the knots of people beginning to mill about.

 

Don’t Pay the Ferryman – Chris deBurgh

I love this seldom-played song. It’s got a combination of a catchy tune, a mythological reference, and a sense of creepiness that lends itself well to the mood I was trying to capture in this story. It ties in well with the message Kyr and Spook hear repeatedly, that pursuing the mystery of Mary Bollinger and the Witch of Willow Lake will bring them no end to trouble.

“Not Mary Bollinger…” The woman’s face had gone white, and I sensed that she had just reached the same realization about the decades-old haunting. Her expression suggested she was weighing her desire to examine this revelation against her fear of what would happen if the truth came out. Fear won out, and she shook her head wildly, pleading, “No. No good can come of pursuing this. Please, just let the story die with those who were in the bell tower that night.”

“You know as well as I do it doesn’t work that way,” Spook blazed. “This thing didn’t start in 1958; it started two hundred years ago, and it’ll go on for another two hundred if something isn’t done.”

I found my tongue and joined the discussion. “The story won’t die with those who were there that night. There will always be someone who knows some part of the story. And that’s the problem, that no one knows the whole story. If we had the whole story, maybe we could find a way to end this once and for all.”

The book seller’s eyes turned to smoldering blue coals as she regarded the two of us. We had so many more questions to ask, but we knew that pressuring her now would only make her more determined to withhold information. After a long moment, she stood, letting us know the conversation was over.

 

Spooky – Atlanta Rhythm Section

This is just a short little fluff scene that I decided to keep. This song has been running through my head since Kyr and Spook got together in Book 2, but there’s a line in the song that really piqued my interest towards the end of the story, and it may come into play in the next book. I leave you to guess about that one…

Shaking my head, I switched off the light and walked out of the bathroom. The steady buzz of a beard trimmer drifted through the connecting door, and I stopped short when I heard Spook’s voice. Was he talking to someone? I went to the doorway and stuck my head through. He wasn’t talking; he was singing. I stifled a giggle as I recognized the Atlantic Rhythm Section song from my mom’s music collection. A Spook and a spooky girl. You can’t get a spookier combination than that.

I tried to ignore the shudder that went through me as I thought of the scene from my vision earlier this afternoon. No, that’s not spooky, I thought. That’s downright horrifying.

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Witch of Willow Lake–Cover and Blurb Reveal

We’re finally in the home stretch! I’m still working on the novel itself (a few plot twists jumped in, which means I’ve had to rewrite scenes and change the ending), but I’ve got a stunning new cover done by Ravenborn, as well as the blurb.

Isn’t it exciting to have the first visual of the ruggedly-handsome Spook Steele? I love what Raven did with his expression in this shot–he’s looking at Kyr as though he knows she’s hiding something. Could it be something she found in the book she holds?

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Blurb:

A book of local folklore may hold the key to solving a mystery…

Left with unanswered questions after the paranormal investigation at Willow Lake College, Kyrie Carter vows to discover the events leading up to the fire in Appleton Hall’s bell tower that took Mary Bollinger’s life in 1958. Her research leads to a book of legends written by a local historian. Kyr’s sense of obligation borders on obsession as she redoubles her efforts to locate the out-of-print book. She is cautiously optimistic when the book arrives anonymously to her workplace.

…but is it also a portal for an evil from the past?

Almost immediately, Kyr is plagued by terrifying visions—a cabin in the woods,  a mysterious woman who calls to her, ominous words chanted in an unfamiliar language. Discovering evidence of a witch in Willow Lake’s past leads Kyr to believe her visions are more than bad dreams, and that there is more to Mary Bollinger’s story than anyone realized.

When Mary’s fiancé, Warren McKnight, agrees to break his decades-long silence about the fire, Kyr and Spook return to Willow Lake. Something in Warren’s account of that tragic night tells Kyr that she was not the witch’s first target, and she will not be the last, unless she can find a way to defeat the evil spirit.