Author Interview – I.E. Lester

This month I’m happy to bring you all an interview with sci-fi and horror author I.E. Lester (aka Edmund Lester). Edmund’s YA supernatural novel “The Stairs Lead Down” is scheduled for release on Oct. 31st.

  1. Let’s start at the beginning. When did the writing bug bite you? Was it something that you aspired to as a youngster or is it a more recent interest?

The thought of writing fiction never occurred to my teenage or twenty-something self. I was a voracious reader in those days, mostly of science fiction, fantasy and horror, although some other fiction would occasionally sneak in. In my youth the reading bug was absolute; as was the collecting bug. As a result forty years after reading my first science fiction book, a short story collection by Isaac Asimov, I have a collection containing more than 16,000 books and magazines.

The first time the idea of writing science fiction appeared was when I created a science fiction, fantasy and horror fiction website called the Eternal Night. On this site I reviewed books, conducted author interviews, wrote articles about science fiction and science fact. I ran the site for the best part of ten years until the age of social media started and people moved away from web 1.0 sites.

During this period I was fortunate to meet many, many authors for the interviews section but also socially; including one particular group called the Terror Scribes. One or two of them wondered why I had never tried my hand at writing fiction. They encouraged me to give it a try although I was very hesitant. My background is in mathematics and physics. My day job was coding software systems. I was used to writing technical documents, an easy switch to the science articles, but I didn’t think I had any chance of adapting my writing style to fiction.

When I hit forty my wife told me to give it a try. Well, how could I disappoint her. So I tried writing some short stories and several of them sold, mostly to webzines but also to some small press magazines and anthologies. I continued with the short form for three years until an opportunity to set up a side line business selling superhero comics, toys, and merchandise presented itself which consumed all of the spare time I had.

When I sold the company after four years I decided to give writing another try only this time I wanted to see if I could write a novel. I did. And then I wrote another. Neither of them was any good but they proved to me I could stick with it all the way to typing those two glorious words, “The End”.

I wrote a third, a huge science fiction alternate history book that was intended to be the first in a series. It was the first novel I’d written where I felt it was actually a novel someone might read. I sent it out to every agent and publisher I could find who might consider it. None of them went for it; although a couple did request a full manuscript so that was encouraging. I wrote a fourth, a horror book based in part on my own childhood growing up just south of Birmingham in the 1970s. It too failed to find a home. I kept trying.

This was followed by a handful of weird novellas featuring a middle-aged, middle-class, middle-Englander whom I torment in strange ways; another horror novel, this one a claustrophobic tale of people stuck in a village store; a ya fantasy novel; a bawdy comedic space opera; two surreal novels on company culture and the fame game; and the YA supernatural, The Stairs Lead Down coming out on Hallowe’en 2017.

  1. I saw you had an article in Darker Matter some time ago called Generation Spaceships. Your other work has centered around the Horror genre, so I’m curious about a piece that is so very much Sci-Fi. It was quite a detailed piece of work.

My background is in science. I studied mathematics and physics at University and trained to be a teacher. I have maintained an interest in science ever since. Before the idea of writing fiction I had written and sold dozens of articles on science, history, horror, linguistics, plus a number of mini-biographies of people I admire.

When the online magazine Darker Matter started the editor was kind enough to consider my suggestion of including a non-fiction article in its first issue. I write a piece on Exoplanets, a topic I’d studied at University albeit it only in theory as it was 5 years after I left that the first one was discovered. The article seemed to go down well with his readers so we turned it into a series of articles on astrophysics. I enjoyed researching and writing these articles and was disappointed when the magazine ended.

You are right about the horror focus on my other published work. When I first started writing short stories the majority of the stories were horror. I couldn’t see the point of trying to write fantasy short stories. Fantasy to me is long form. Science fiction is a very friendly genre to the short form and I did write a number of sf shorts but I found horror much easier. There’s something satisfying about getting a little scare in, in just a few words. I had a particular fondness for writing horror drabbles (100 word stories), especially comedic ones.

For interest here is one I wrote six years ago. It was accepted by a magazine that unfortunately folded before it was published.

Don’t Blame Me

“Don’t blame me, you made this,” he repeated

I looked at him, really looked at him.  His eyes glowed red; his forehead was bumpy; behind him something flickered. A tail?

“Satan?” I asked uncertainly.

“Who were you expecting, Mother Theresa?”

“What do you mean, ‘I made this’?”

“Our policy is to make each hell fit the individual.  Kind of a personal service eternal suffering you might say.”

“But a neon-lit karaoke bar, who would create something like this?”

“You! It’s your idea of the worst possible night out. Eternity here should be complete hell.

Then Satan vanished.

  1. I’m sure you’ve seen the memes that want to give writers a verbal beating because we’re not sitting at our computers writing 24/7, 365. I simply can’t do that. What sort of writing work schedule and routine do you try to keep?

I do not have a very good writing schedule. Routines do not work for me. I go through peaks and troughs with it. Sometimes I can sit and write for hours on end and it all comes naturally; other times it is a struggle. Of late it’s been a trough time so I’m not writing all that often and when I do it becomes a chore.

In contrast when I’m on a peak the words just flow and I never want to leave the keyboard. To give you an example of what these times can be like. I had the idea for my sf alternate history novel walking down a road in the Netherlands whilst on holiday in May 2015. I started writing the novel on my return, with one week of the month to go. I finished the first draft by the start of August; 122,000 words long. In that time I’d also written a 30,000 words novella, the Intersection due out next year. In two months and all while maintaining a day job (I do have to keep paying the mortgage) I’d written more than 150,000 words of fiction. The revision of them both was done in another month.

This year’s been much more of a struggle. I’ve fought through writing a surreal satire around the entertainment industry and a full rewrite of my YA fantasy as requested by the publisher interested in it. They were not easy though. It really did feel like work for much of it.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to get out of the funk soon. I have so many stories I want to tell.

  1. Your first novel, The Stairs Lead Down, is scheduled to be released on Halloween of this year! Can you tell us a bit of the back story, what inspired it, and maybe share a little sneak-peak excerpt?

The Stairs Lead Down was one of a couple of the stories I’ve written that have come around because of films I’ve watched; only for all the wrong reasons. If I watch a good film or a good TV series I will walk away with happy but with a clear head. I am satisfied with how it was told. If however, I watch a film I find terrible it is quite the opposite. I start wondering how I would have written it; what I could have done to make it better.

These thought processes always end up with nothing of the original story remaining. My brain swaps out literally every single part of the film, its setting, its plot, its characters, its time period; everything. Then I sit down with a notebook and start scribbling down my idea. I keep an A5 notebook for every story idea large enough in scope to potentially become a novel or a series. If at the end of this scribbling I have enough I construct a framework plot, flesh it out with characters and scenes, all still in the notebook. Then when I’m happy I start typing.

The Stairs Lead Down, is set in my hometown, Ashby de la Zouch (rather than the big city in the USA in the film that started me thinking). There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly it makes research really easy. I know we live in the age of Google Maps but actually walking up and down the streets where the story is set is so much more valuable to me. But the main reason I picked Ashby is its history. It’s existed for more than a thousand years and everywhere you look there is history. When you’re writing a ghost story this is invaluable. I can have ghosts from any point in history just drop in as needed.

Having the two main characters as twins is possibly the only holdover from when I started thinking of the story. Twins are simultaneously freaky to non-twins but common enough that having them in a story isn’t unrealistic. (There were no twins in the film the idea started from.)

The twins in my story share a power that allows them to see the ghost realms (also non-existent in the film) hidden to everyone else. It also exposes them to danger as there are people in the world who want to rip this power from them for their own, obviously nefarious, purposes.

The house where the majority of the action takes place is based on the one where an old friend of mine grew up. It has a history almost as old as Ashby, albeit was rebuilt by the Victorians. My friend’s house was actually older, or at least part of its basement was. The foundation of his house was thought to be Roman, some 1,700 years old. The twins house has a later origin being originally built a mere thousand years ago.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Chapter One of The Stairs Lead Down:

Lizzie twisted herself almost entirely around so she could see through the rear window of Dad’s car. Standing outside the gate of her, now old, home was Michelle. There were tears running down Lizzie’s face as she waved to her friend, growing smaller as Dad drove away. It wasn’t fair. Just because Mum and he wanted to move to the country, why did she have to? Her whole life was here. What did she want with Leicestershire?

The car turned the corner. Michelle was now out of sight. A few seconds later she turned back around. Looking back was depressing; and not a little uncomfortable. Dad drove the route she had walked each morning since she’d moved to high school. Within a minute they would be passing the gate she would never walk through again.

Lizzie wasn’t interested in taking one last look though. She fished her iPhone from her pocket and started tapping in a message to Michelle. It was her intention to spend the whole journey like this. She certainly had no intention of saying anything to her father. Five minutes later she’d run out of things to write. She could tell from her messages Michelle was feeling as uninspired as her. She said a quick goodbye to her friend, promising to talk later.

She looked out of the window. She didn’t recognise the road Dad was driving along. It wasn’t somewhere she’d been before; or if she had she hadn’t cared enough to remember it. It was a London street like any other; rows of houses and shops, bus stops and bollards. It wasn’t as nice as Twickenham; but when she thought about it, nowhere was. And she was sure this Ashby de la Zouch, the nearest town to their new house, wasn’t going to be either.

What kind of name was Ashby de la Zouch anyway? It sounded French. What was a town in England doing with a French name? It was stupid. She’d seen pictures of it on the internet. It looked boring; boring and stupid. And it was her new home. She felt miserable.

Lizzie glanced at the Satnav screen. There was still more than two and a half hours to go before they’d arrive; two and a half hours of misery and the weather looked like it agreed with her. Rain started to fall as Dad turned onto the M25. Two hours; it felt horrible. That’s how far she would be from everything she liked about her life; two and a half hours from anything civilised.

She wondered where Noah and Mum were. They’d set out half an hour or so before Dad. He’d agreed to stay to the end; handle the handover of the keys to the estate agent and take care of any last minute paperwork. Lizzie had been glad he had waited. That extra half an hour with Michelle, in civilisation, was precious to her.

For once the traffic on the M25 was free from queues. Every time she’d been on this road (usually for days out or holidays) they’d been held up. Dad would usually start to grow angry and begin cursing. Mum would always tut and remind him of Lizzie and Noah. Mum needn’t have bothered. His language was nothing she hadn’t heard in school; and not even close to the screams of the girls on the hockey pitch. There was nothing she could learn from him.

Her attention was caught by the clicking of the indicator. She looked through the windscreen to see where they were. The sign indicated he was turning onto the M40 and headed for Oxford and Birmingham. Oxford was as far north as Lizzie had ever been before. Her school had organised a trip there last year to visit the Ashmolean Museum. She’d found the museum boring but had enjoyed walking around Oxford itself. The college buildings were pretty.

Birmingham though was something else. She’d never been. From everything she’d heard she never wanted to. She’d met one or two people from the city and they sounded awful. She could hardly understand them. She also couldn’t understand why they allowed themselves to sound like that. She knew if she’d been born there she would have done everything possible to not have that accent.

A horrible thought passed through her head. Would the people in Ashby sound like that? Was she going to be surrounded by people who talked…wrong? Could anything else make this worse?

~*~

Noah was glad Lizzie had opted not to join him and Mum on the drive up. It meant he wouldn’t have to listen to her whining or suffer through the inevitable argument with Mum it would lead to. It also meant he would get to see the house first, explore it and stake his claim on the best bedroom. Lizzie had had the largest, other than Mum and Dad’s, in their house in Twickenham and now it was his turn.

Mum announced a detour. She was going to drive along the high street in Ashby de la Zouch before they headed for the house. Noah was happy when she’d suggested that. It was something else he was going to get to do before his sister. She usually insisted on being first at everything and would always remind him of being born first whenever he questioned it; as if twelve minutes made any difference, beyond their having different birthdays anyway. He’d always liked that. He got his special day and didn’t have to share it with her.

High Street, no Market Street he corrected himself, looked normal. Okay it was a little smaller than Twickenham’s centre but it seemed okay. There were plenty of places where he could hang out with the new friends he was sure he would make. It would be different but he reckoned he would get used to it; and so would Lizzie. She would just be insufferable until she did.

Mum pulled the car into the drive of their new house just behind the first of the removals vans. The drive way was enormous; just like the house. Back in Twickenham one van like the one ahead of them would have filled their driveway. Mum and Dad had had to park carefully if they wanted to get two cars on the drive. Here you could probably fit more than a dozen.

As the removals van turned around ahead of them Noah saw another vehicle was already there; a car he didn’t recognise. The man leaning against it was also unknown to him. Mum did seem to recognise him though. She waved as she pulled on the handbrake and switched off the engine. That was it. Their journey was over. They were here.

Noah unclipped his seatbelt and got out of the car. The gravel of the driveway crunched under his feet. He stared at the house. It looked weird. The stones, wet from the recent rain, gleamed in the sunlight. It looked wrong. This house was so old he thought it would look far better through mist than in bright sunshine.

Mum had crossed the distance to man she’d waved at seconds before. They were talking warmly. When the two of them moved to the front of the house and he unlocked the front door, Noah realised who he must be. He was the estate agent his parents had bought the house from. Mum stepped inside. That confirmed it. It was real. This was his new home.

He had this uncontrollable urge to rush inside and explore but wasn’t sure if he should. Would he just be getting in the way of the removals men? His restraint was never going to last. There was no way anything was going to keep him from seeing where they would be living. He virtually ran across the driveway; wanting to get a closer look at his new home.

A few feet short of the door he pulled up to a halt. There was a name carved into the stone about the door. It was weathered but still just about readable. His new home was called Clemency House. It was an odd name. He wondered what it meant. He shook his head. That was a matter for later. Right now he had more important things to do.  He jumped through the large oak front door into the entrance hall beyond. He was in his new home.

5. What other things have you got going on in the writing arena? Now that you’ve written one novel, and have another one in the works, do you think that will be your preferred method of story-telling or do you have some more short stories in mind?

I have aforementioned finished novels I will be submitting out at some point in the future once they’ve been revised and polished. I’ve been a little remiss on doing this so at least six are sitting there at first draft only. I like to convince myself it’s because I have had to concentrate on the revisions of the books publishers want but it’s not entirely true. Writing new fiction is much more fun than revising a previously written story; especially once you get to drafts 3 and above.

The draft of The Patternmaker’s Daughter I sent in to the publisher at the end of August was draft 5 (plus a final polish so you might almost call it draft 6). All I know is by the time I had gone through it that many times, I was finding it hard to keep liking the world and its characters as much as I had when I was inventing them. I can’t complain too much as I can see how much these reworking have improved the story. I’m just hoping the publisher believes it sufficiently improved to be worthy of publication.

I do have a number of possible projects. I have written the first 3 chapters of the sequel to The Stairs Lead Down. This second book, called Breath of Imagined Dead, a title which will make sense to anyone who reads it, is set a few months after the end of the first book. The characters are having to deal with the consequences of the events in book one and getting used to having powers and wondering what perils are likely to come their way in future. These chapters, when I’ve polished them, will be available as a taster with the release of book one. I’ve left them with a bit of a cliffhanger. I hope people aren’t too annoyed by me for where I’ve left the story.

Away from that I have a number of other novel ideas in preparation, all adult level rather than ya. There are two fantasy stories, both of which will take a number of books to tell, one set in a roughly Industrial Revolution period world and the other in an alternate 21st Century, having diverted away from our history in the 1930s. I’m a little hesitant to pick either of these two as if Patternmaker’s sells it will start its own series and maintaining two fantasy series simultaneously does not seem a good idea.

The main science fiction idea I have is also a multiple book story. It would probably take three books to tell. It’s a post nuclear war Earth recovering tale set in Africa and Australia, the two areas least affected by the war and involves the fast rise of a new religion.

Then of course there are the weird novellas. I have scribbled down nearly twenty ways in which I could make the life of my middle-aged, middle-class, middle-Englander go to hell in a handcart. These are so much fun to write. I base a lot of this character on me, although with characteristics from some of the people I’ve known over the years to blur it a little. For one thing he’s not as tall as I am. I didn’t want him to be anything other in average in any way. Making him 6’8” wouldn’t fit with this. Also he has a child, whereas I don’t. Most people do have children so he needed to if he was going to be ordinary. I made him an accountant too, as one of my former colleagues was an accountant and I felt having a boring character being an accountant might annoy him.

As far as short stories go, none of the ideas I’ve had for fiction since returning to writing have fitted the short form. I’m not dismissing the idea of writing any in future but when you have a world encompassing idea that needs dozens of characters in various different countries to tell you just need more words than a short story can contain. Let’s see what the future brings though. I might get a slew of short fiction ideas. That would be fun.

  1. Where can people learn more about you and your work? Website? Twitter? Facebook?

My main social media presence is Twitter. I like the 140 character limit. You can find me at https://twitter.com/ielester/

I tweet most days. I tweet most often on writing days, usually giving progress reports and announcing the music I’m using for inspiration. I always write listening to music – I’m doing this interview with my foot tapping along to Ian Dury and the Blockheads. A band I’ve loved for more than 30 years. I have an eclectic taste in music and use many different genres to keep me going. As a result you’ll see mentions of bands and artists like Rush, the Who, It Bites, Lou Reed, Metallica, Kate Bush, Suzanne Vega, Springsteen, Tanita Tikaram, Marillion and Ultravox. I don’t see the point sticking to a particular type of music. I go where the mood takes me and will even admit to listening to my guilty pleasures.

I tend to interact with people a lot on twitter and will always reply if someone tweets at me. I don’t reply to the automatic DMs that get fired off when you follow some people. They annoy me. Obviously personal DMs have a much better chance. I reply to most of those.

Twitter will also be the place where I make any announcements regarding my writing.

I do have a blog although I have to admit to being terrible at maintaining it. I’ve just noticed it’s been seven months since I last posted. I will have to change that. In fact I’m going to post once I’ve finished this interview.

Here’s the link – http://ielester.blogspot.co.uk/

In the past I’ve been a lot better, posting much more regularly. This seems to go in the same phases as my writing with the peaks and troughs. I’m hoping typing up the answers to this interview might inspire. For some reason I’ve found it easy to type (hence the huge amount of words). This could be a turning point.

I have got a Facebook page. My wife set it up for me last year but I keep forgetting to update it. I must get better at this. As for a website. For someone who maintained a sffh website that ended up with 22,000 pages I have been completely terrible at getting around to creating an author website. I must make time for this.

Thanks, Edmund! What a great interview! I wish you all the best on your new book and may it lead to many more.

Folks, if you want to look further into Edmund’s novel The Stairs Lead Down – check out Writer’s Sanctum Publishing for all the details.

http://www.writerssanctumpublishing.co.uk/the-stairs-lead-down/4593890758

 

 

 

 

The Horrors That Grew Me – Ghostly Encounters

I’m not sure how old I was when my grandmother told me the story about the time she saw a ghost at a friend’s house. I couldn’t have been a teenager yet. This was the same grandmother who bought and taught me how to work an Ouija board, instead of the getting me the vampire books I’d picked out, for my 13th birthday. Pretty awesome, grandma, huh?

Now, before someone gets all up in arms about the DANGER!DANGER!DANGER! of using an Ouija board, I was then and am now, fully aware of what some people say and truly believe. 99% of my experiences have been positive. Maybe it’s because I always approached it in a positive, respectful, and empowering way. I didn’t go in full of fear or anger or anything that might draw in the negative. I honestly don’t know. As for all the talk I’ve heard about demons and all that. Meh. Angry human spirits, absolutely. Demons? No. Maybe that’s something that was instilled in me by my grandmother during those early lessons.

Needless to say, this whole believing in ghosts thing has always existed in my life. I’ve never known what’s it’s like to not believe. Maybe that’s why I’ve had what might be considered an above-average amount of experiences with it. I can totally understand why others don’t feel this way and I’m fine with that. I’m not here to try and change anyone’s mind. I’m here to tell you some stories.

My first experience, that I can remember, happened at a friend’s house. You can read all about it over at Thomas Gunther’s website where I answered his question, “What Scared The Hell Out Of You?”.

Another incident happened while my first husband and I were exploring an abandoned brick house back in the late 1980s. We weren’t looking for ghosts at all, just wanted to check out this old place. While we were doing so, I heard what sounded like an old woman humming. The image of a woman sitting out on the front porch sitting in a rocking chair popped into my head. Just sitting there, humming to herself and rocking. It was a very peaceful, happy feeling.

While with a group of friends, again, exploring an empty house that was anything but empty, I walked into the dining room and it felt like my whole chest constricted and the air got very heavy and tight. As soon as I’d leave that room, the feeling would stop. Never saw or heard anything, but that sensation was enough for me to know something, or someone, was not happy about having their house invaded by strangers. I avoided that room as best I could during the rest of our visit.

In 1994, while looking for a house to buy, we found another old place. It had a For Sale sign out front so we stopped to see what we could see through the windows before calling the realtor. While standing at one corner of the property, I heard footsteps coming around from the other side. I assumed it was my husband so paid it no mind until I turned and looked. It wasn’t him. It was a woman dressed in an early 20th-century dress, white or some other light color, with her dark hair pulled up in a Gibson Girl-style. We made brief eye contact, she smiled just a little bit then was gone. It was that fast.

Although we ended up not getting that house, we did find one the following year that met all our criteria, including a resident ghost. Our first encounter with the man we’d later call Herman, happened only a month or so after moving in. It was late February or early March and we woke one morning to find the door between the kitchen and back room wide open. We thought nothing about it at the time. One or the other of us probably hadn’t closed it all the way. It was (and still is) a tricky door to get shut. The door was closed and checked that night and off we went to bed. The next morning, it was open again. Now we’re starting to wonder. That night the door was closed, locked, and tugged on to make extra sure it was completely latched and tight. Good to go, we headed upstairs to bed.

It wasn’t an hour later when we heard a click and a the familiar squeak of that kitchen door opening. In the darkness of the bedroom I said, “Did you hear that?” “Yeah.” “You going to go check?” “Nope.” Sure enough, the next morning the door was open yet again. It was creepy, but not overly scary for some reason. My husband went to the door and said, “Okay. We get it. We know you’re here and we’re okay with that. You are welcome to stay, but can you please stop opening this door?” Guess what? That door has NEVER opened on its own since and that was in 1995.

Other things have happened over the years. Electronics going on and off as they wish, the sound of the front door opening followed by footsteps through the dining room before continuing up the stairs, and various children’s toys rolling out of room where no child was present. During our first year at the house, a woman came to the door one Saturday afternoon.  Of course, the place was a mess. She said she’d heard someone had bought the place that had been empty for three years before we came along, and it was getting fixed up again. She told us she lived there in the 1970s and hadn’t been back since moving out in her late teens. As she reached the top of the stairs, she stopped and looked into the room we were using as a spare and said, “Oh… this is the room Daddy died in.” You guessed it, Daddy’s name was Herman.

So, there you have it, some of the ghostly encounters I’ve had that have certainly inspired me as a Horror writer and an overall lover of things that go bump in the night.

New Release – No Rest For The Wicked

Every ghost has a story. Not all of them want it told.

HellBound Books Publishing and I are happy to announce the re-release of my haunted house tale, “No Rest For The Wicked“.

Initially released as a self-published title back in August 2016, NRFTW has gone through a few minor changes (let’s call them improvements) and been given a brand spanking new cover. All 452 pages of this paranormal battle between the living and the dead (and the dead and the dead, too) can be yours for $16 paperback. eBook version is coming out very soon, too.

From beyond the grave, a murderous wife seeks to complete her revenge on those who betrayed her in life; a powerless domestic still fears for her immortal soul while trying to scare off anyone who comes too close; and the former plantation master – a sadistic doctor who puts more faith in the teachings of de Sade than the Bible – battle amongst themselves and with the living to reveal or keep hidden the dark secrets that prevent any of them from resting in peace.

When Eric and Grace McLaughlin purchase Greenbrier Plantation, their dreams are just as big as those who have tried to tame the place before them. But, the doctor has learned a thing or two over his many years in the afterlife, is putting those new skills to the test, and will go to great lengths in order to gain the upper hand. While Grace digs into the death-filled history of her new home, Eric soon becomes a pawn of the doctor’s unsavory desires and rapidly growing power, and is hell-bent on stopping her. Enter the

Winchester Society of Paranormal Research; could the solution lie within the humble ranks of this group of investigators? It seems unlikely, but the crew is eager to try. Is there any force powerful enough to put to rest the wickedness that demands complete control, not just over its ghostly adversaries, but the body and soul of Eric McLaughlin?

“If you’re looking for a chilling ghost story filled with mystery and escalating tension, look no further. No Rest for the Wicked is the real deal – an expansive, unfolding riddle between the living and the dead.” Hunter Shea – author of “Tortures of the Damned” & “We Are Always Watching”

Get your copy of NO REST FOR THE WICKED at Amazon for a wicked summertime read.

new logo transp back Visit HellBound Book Publishing for even more dark and gruesome reads!

Book Review – Sinister Entity by Hunter Shea

Even at the tender age of eighteen, paranormal investigator Jessica Backman has seen and experienced more than her fair share of things that go bump in the night. She’s always worked alone, until a series of emails arrives from Eddie Homes, a total stranger. Who is this clown and how has he learned so much about her? Jessica has always been very careful about keeping her privacy, but Eddie knows things he absolutely should not know. When Eddie tells Jessica that her dad sent him, she takes notice. Jessica’s father died horrifically when she was only six, and boy does Dad have a job for her and Eddie to do!

Sinister Entity is the prequel to the first Hunter Shea book I ever read, Island of the Forbidden. After reading this I’m just itching to get the first book of the series, Forest of Shadows.

Backmanbooks_Shea

Whether he’s dealing with skunk apes that have run amok, zombies, the Jersey Devil, or a topic that seems so cliché and old school, like a haunted house, Hunter has an amazing talent of making it new again, adding his own twists, and drawing you into the characters and settings of each of his books. He could probably make a tin of Altoids frightening and thought-provoking. Sinister Entity is no exception.

I will say I did have a bit harder time getting invested in this one as I have his other books. Not sure why. It moved along quickly enough and the action was good, I just found my mind wandering off. That’s something I’ve never had happen before with a Shea novel. Maybe there was a bit more back story being explained than in others? Whatever it was, once I got through it, I was completely hooked and really had to know how Jessica and Eddie were going to tackle this particularly nasty and sinister entity.

4 out of 5 Ravens.

Into The Mansion

Somewhere, once upon a time, I learned an interesting theory about dreams. That theory stated that certain rooms represented certain aspects of the dreamer’s psyche. If you dream of a bedroom, for instance, that’s believed to have something to do with sexuality and intimacy. If you dream of a kitchen, that’s your domestic side, a living room was considered your social, public self … and so on. That, in part is what Into The Mansion is about.

Not long ago in Facebook Land, I shared that I was working on something somewhat different than my usual Horror novel fare. Oh, it’s still about a big, creepy, old house, but instead of prose – it’s poetry. It’s not a new poem. It was written in 1995, though parts of it existed long before that in the world of my dreams.

Instead of just posting it here and forcing you all to read, I’ve created a 7-minute video of the poem that I narrate. It took more times than I care to mention to get a recording I was happy with and though it’s still not perfection – it will do.

And so, without further delay – I extend a hand and say, “Come with me …

INTO THE MANSION

 

My First Ghost Story

Author’s Note: Written when I was the ripe, old age of eleven, The Strange Well was my first ghost story.  The original hand-written manuscript survives to this day thanks to my father. He saved a lot of my writing from back then and for that I am eternally grateful.  In typing it, I’ve left it as written, spelling and punctuation mistakes included. I felt correcting them would take away some of the childhood charm. It’s a very simple tale and certainly has more than its share of flaws. Some of it doesn’t make sense at all, but it, along with the fully illustrated and adventurous story of Bill, The Worm Who Ran Away, written that same year, sets the stage for what would grow into a life-long passion for writing.

                     And so, without further adieu – the World debut of … The Strange Well.

The Strange Well

Copyright © 1977 Pamela A. Morris

“You’ll have lots of fun at your Aunt Martha’s,” said my grandfather. The reason I was going to my aunts because my mother and father had gotten into a car accident and died. I had to go to my aunts, even though I didn’t like her very much.

“But, Grampa, I don’t want to go, theres nothing to do there, all you do is sit around and watch television,” I said.

“Well, it’s too late now, we’re already here,” he said. “You know I’ll miss you, Corry, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir, I know,” I said. “Oh, Grampa. I don’t want to go, please oh please, don’t let me go!!”

“I’m sorry, Corry, but I can’t help you. I love you,” he said.

Well I finally got into the house. I didn’t see anyone, so I figured that she might be either upstairs or in the garden out back. I went upstairs, looked in all the rooms but she wasn’t there. So I went back down and out the garden. I looked around, there she was picking tulips next to the summer house. I ran down the hill to where she was.

“Aunt Martha,” I said in a quiet voice.

“Corry, my dear, don’t sneak up on me so,” she said, in a sort of startled voice.

Aunt Martha had sort of a musical voice. Nothing like mine, but everyone said I looked like her, same color hair and eyes that’s all.

“Well dear, you better get in the house. You’re probably very tired after that long ride,” she said. “I have a room all ready for you. It was my grandaughters room when she came to visit me.”

“What was her name?”

“Miranda Lee,” she replied, “come on lets get to your room.”

That night I couldn’t stop thinking about Miranda Lee. I couldn’t get to sleep at all that night. I worried about making friends and school. What would it be like? Would I make friends or not? I must of fallen asleep, because the next think I knew it was time to get up.

That afternoon while I was walking down the street and I happened to bump into a girl about my age. “Hi,” I said. “Who are you?”

“I’m Sheala, who are you,” she said.

“I’m Corry,” I said.

“Hay, are you new around here, I never saw you here before?” she said.

“Ya, I just moved in with my Aunt Martha. Do you think that you could come up to my house for a little while?” I asked.

“Sure, my mother wouldn’t care,” she replied. “Lets go. I’ve always wanted to go into that house.”

That day we played games and went down to the summer house. There was something about this place that was strange. Then I saw it. The old well was gone. Aunt Martha said thats where Miranda Lee died. She was playing on the egde, fell in and drown. Then the well was full of water, not it wasn’t it only had a little bit of water in it.

“You know Sheala, my aunt said that every Saturday night Miranda growns something but she can’t under stand her,” I said.

“Really, Wow, do you think we could come out here Tonight and try to see what she wants, and give it to her?” she said.

“Sure, meets ya tonight,” I said, “bye!”

“Ok bye, I’ll bring a flashlight,” she said.

That night we were both there, listening, waiting. Then right on time twelve midnight. The groans began. At first thats all it was, but then it became clear.

SHERRY MAY, SHERRY MAY

“Hay that’s the doll Aunt Martha said I could have. I’ll go get it,” I said.

When I came back, I threw the doll into the hole and the voice stopped.

“Well, I guess we did it,” said Sheala, “we won’t have to worry any more, right Corry?”

“Right Sheala.”

After that Sheala and I played and had fun. I want to her house. It was nice inside. School went fine. And I had a friend or two, or three. Miranda never bugged us again.

THE END

By. Pam Morris – 11

Author Interview – A Very Haunted Plantation

Happy Halloween, Everyone!

As promised, I have something special to share with you all today, a couple of somethings actually.

First off, I bit the bullet and No Rest For The Wicked will soon be available as an eBook through Amazon. I make no promises about the precision of the formatting. If it’s a mess, I apologize. I was having a heck of a time doing it. Some of it looked as if it had been done before, other parts, well… I beg your forgiveness. Self-publishing has its drawbacks and this is one of them. UGH! I’m a writer not a formatter!

And now the BiG NeWs!

I’ve been reading, loving, and reviewing the works of Horror author Hunter Shea for a couple of years now. So, imagine my surprise when Mr. Shea contacted me and asked if I’d send him one of my books. I was both delighted and terrified at the notion. As the first Hunter Shea novel I ever read was his haunted tale Island of the Forbidden, it seemed appropriate I respond with a ghost story of my own.

This resulted in the following interview with Hunter not too long ago.

A Very Haunted Plantation – Interview With Author Pamela Morris

I can’t thank Hunter enough for showing interest in my work and inspiring me to keep doing what I love so much to do – writing horror that keeps people up into the wee hours reading and sleeping with a light on after.

Have a happy and safe Halloween night, everyone!

 

A Haunting We Will Go

It occurred to me this morning that I’ve not written a lot about living in a haunted house for the past twenty-one years. A lot of folks think I’m nuts when I say I always wanted to live in such a place, but they all think it’s like the movies; blood dripping from the walls, people being yanked out of their beds by the ankles, books flying around, cupboard doors slamming open, or being awakened by the ghostly wails or sobs of those that have died and refuse to move on. It’s not. In fact, it’s a bit dull.

My then-husband Roger and I bought the place back in 1995. It had been empty for three years before that. Our viewing was on a cold Monday evening in January in the dark with flashlights as our only guides. The place had been foreclosed on, and was now up for bids AS IS. Bids were due that Friday. Time was of the essence. We walked through the icy gloom of the place, the old wooden floors creaking and inhaling that ‘old house smell’ we were both partial to. Outlets seemed somewhat lacking, the wallpaper in the kitchen was horrendous, nothing appeared to have been updated since the 1970s or earlier. In the backroom was a massive chest freezer where any serial killer worth his weight in carving knives and heavy duty black trash bags could have kept four adult humans on ice rather easily. I don’t remember if we dared open that freezer for our viewing that night, but there was, indeed, something inside. We’ll get back to that later.

Upstairs we found four large bedrooms, the bathroom, (again, not updated in God-only-knows how long) and a good-sized linen closet. In total, the house, built in 1886, is over 3000 square feet. Plenty of room for us and our two children and certainly a lot more room than the single-wide trailer we’d been in for the past three years or so. We talked it over on our way home and into the next couple of days, eventually deciding we were going to bid and calling the realtor to let her know how much we were willing to pay.

Needless to say, we won the bid. Once we closed, we took two weeks off work to clean and make the place habitable again. Soon we were all settled in and looking forward to all the excitement that home ownership entails.

And then, it happened. We got up one morning to find the door between the kitchen and the backroom wide open. Nothing too mind blowing there. It’s an old house, nothing is level, and maybe the door didn’t get latched. No biggie. The next night Roger made sure the door was shut firmly and off we went to bed. Come morning, the door was open again. We exchanged questionable glances. Night came, the door was closed, locked, and tugged on to make certain it was secure. And off we went to bed.

Not more than an hour later as we lay quietly in bed, from downstairs comes, “Click, Sqqueeeeak.”

“Did you hear that?”

“Yeah.”

“You going to go check the door?”

“Hell, no.”

Roger and I were always into haunted and paranormal things. We visited cemeteries on a regular basis, we went into old, empty houses that we shouldn’t have been in, we used the Ouija board, and just generally found the whole subject matter fascinatingly. So, next morning when we went downstairs and found the door once more wide open, we knew exactly what to do. Roger stood in the doorway and said, “Okay, you’ve made your point. We know you’re here and we don’t care. You are welcome to stay, just stop opening this door, please.” That door had never opened on its own again to this day.

But, the door wasn’t our only experience. Once we were walking from the kitchen through the dining room towards the living room. At that time, the den was more a playroom for the kids than an office area. From the door of the den, a piece of fake fruit came rolling out right in front of us. I think it was an apple, maybe an orange. Either way, we figured it was one of the kids playing in there and being silly. Nope. Both kids were in the living room watching television at the time. The front porch light switch used to go on and off by itself quite a bit. It’s one of those heavy duty ones you really have to CLICK into place. You’d hear the ‘click’ and on or off would pop the light outside. The television would go on and off on its own from time to time. Most frequently was the sound of footsteps passing through the dining room and going up the stairs to one of the bedrooms. Many, many time I would be busy in the den or the kitchen and hear the distinct sound of the front door opening and someone coming in and heading upstairs. After so many years, you learn the sounds of your house, what’s normal, what’s not.

We had the house repainted and the porches repaired. The lawn that had been a hay field returned. One Saturday morning there was a knock at the door. The house was a mess, of course, and we were all lounging around in our weekend best. The woman said she had heard that someone had bought the place and was fixing it back up and said she was the daughter of the people who had owned it back in the 1970s and that she’d grown up in the house. She said she’d not been back since then and was sorry to intrude, but could she come in and see the place again. We let her in.

She was pretty emotional as she walked through, pointing out this and that while sharing her childhood memories of the place. And then she went upstairs and said in a trembling voice, “Oh, this is the bedroom Daddy died in.” She told us a little bit about her father and that his name was Herman(n).  She didn’t stay long but she certainly left a lasting impression. We didn’t tell her about our experiences, but for some reason we immediately felt that’s who our occasional, unseen visitor was. From then on, we always have called him Herman(n).

Despite it all, I’ve never felt afraid of whatever, or whoever, was doing all this. It was our ghost and we were happy to have him or her. My kids might say otherwise, but it’s never bothered me at all.

As for what was in the freezer. I’m still not sure what it was other than some sort of maybe aquatic creature, maybe a fish though the bone structure was less fish-like and more snake-like. An eel? A snake? I don’t know. It was nasty and by some miracle I managed to get the whole mess out of there without 1) falling head first into the freezer and having the door lock and seal on top of me or 2) throwing up.

Excerpt from “No Rest For The Wicked”

     The following is the the intro and first two chapters of my upcoming ghost story, NO REST FOR THE WICKED scheduled for release Fall 2016. Please note this novel contains some explicit sexual content. If that sort of thing turns you off, you may not wish to read further. However, it is intricate to the plot and to the hauntings you will learn about further in the story. The rest of you brave souls … read on.
August 1882
     She didn’t have to see it to believe it. She could hear them just fine. She’d suspected the truth for months. It was time to do something about it. She’d waited and planned long enough. Lucy looked up the stairs, gripping the top of the wooden balustrade with a firm, steady hand. Oh, yes, he was up there. He thought her so meek and submissive, but he knew as well as anyone who had not hesitated to shoot those damned Yankees point blank during the War. Yes, Beauregard Addams and his little trollop really should know so much better than to do what they were doing up there. You didn’t cross Lucy Addams without paying a price.
     She dried her palm against the folds of her dressing gown before pulling the revolver from Beau’s holster. Idiot, she thought, keeping his gun loaded and ready on the table at the foot of the stairs like that. He’d done it for years, though and now it would be his undoing. Her footsteps were silent and slow as she climbed each tread. Sweat dampened the brow above her hazel eyes, but her heart had gone cold and the color of her rage was icy blue and lethally calm.
     “C’mon, suck it,” she heard him order. “Suck it, my little slut.”
     Feminine moans and grunts of pleasure shuddered through the closed bedroom door as Lucy’s damp hand wrapped around the knob. She turned it oh-so-slowly. Lucy licked her lips.
     He had his back to the door as a dark-skinned woman knelt on the floor in front of him, naked. Beau’s trousers were pushed down to just above his knees. He’d not even taken off his waistcoat yet. Both of his hands held the kneeling woman’s unseen face against his groin as he rocked his hips back and forth faster.
     Beau moaned.
     Lucy knew that sound well. He was about to climax. Let him, she thought as a smile touched her lips and she raised the gun, aiming it at the base of his skull not ten feet away. Her husband’s ass flexed as he pushed himself into the other woman’s mouth and tipped his face towards the ceiling with a helpless groan that bordered on a yell.
     “Beau,” Lucy said just loud enough to be heard over the noise of his release.
     His eyes shot open.
     Lucy exhaled slowly and squeezed the trigger just like he’d taught her to do.
***
Chapter 1
     Twin, square columns painted ghost white and topped with massive cast iron planters stood guard on either side of an iron gate into which had been worked an impressive letter ‘A’. Vines poured from the tops of the planters and reached out in opposing directions. Their delicate stalks twisted along the top of the fencing to create a thick, tangled drapery of vines and leaves. Behind the fence, two more sentinels loomed tall and foreboding in the guise of ancient gray elms. Their yellow-tainted leaves shivered as the Harley and its two riders passed slowly beneath the entwined branches of the trees.
     Hidden further back stood the house. A ripple of fear stroked Grace’s spine and set the hairs on her arms on end. She hugged Eric’s sides just a little tighter. Bone-white with black shutters, the entire front facade boasted a two-story porch where thick, lathed spindles held aloft paint chipped railings. Half a dozen steps led up to a wide door framed by a fan window on top and glass side panels. Two more urns, like the ones atop the front columns, squatted empty on either side of the front door.
     As they passed beyond the elms, Grace turned her attention to the left. A single story room of some sort jutted out from the main body of the house. Solid-colored drapes prevented any chance of seeing what was inside. More of the familiar vines spread their long, greedy fingers around the corner and had worked their way halfway across the front, almost touching the narrow windows.
     The grounds were unkempt and ragged. Wisteria grew at random lengths over the porch while shrubs stood tall and jagged at the corners. In the center of the circular carriageway they now rounded, a scantily clad statue of a woman stood poised above a brier of roses gone wild with dead and withered blossoms.
     Eric pulled the bike to a stop behind a white compact car while lowering his boot-shod feet to the ground. The engine was cut. For a moment, silence rang in Grace’s ears. The house would easily accommodate both of their businesses, but for what price? Grace put her hands on her husband’s shoulders and swung one leg over the back before landing with a soft hop on the dry, Virginia soil.
     Both worked off their helmets before speaking.“What do you think?” Eric asked. At just under six foot Eric was a lean one hundred seventy pounds and towered a good nine inches over his petite wife. He hung his helmet on the end of one of the bike’s handlebars.
     “It’s huge,” she said.
     Eric chuckled.
     “Oh, stop it!” she mock punched him on the arm, “Men are such pigs.”
     “Oink,” he grinned and leaned in to give her a tender kiss. Eric looked every bit the bad-ass biker dude with an unruly beard, made even more so after the ride, and long blonde hair he kept pulled into a ponytail that, even when braided, reached the middle of his back, but Grace knew all too well he was nothing but a teddy bear inside. In their eight years together, she’d never seen him start a fight. He’d broken up a few, but he was never one to throw the first punch or deliver the deciding blow. Eric used his hands for making music and when they saw the ad in the paper for this property, it had sounded a perfect space to set up the private studio he’d been talking about for the past year.
     The front door squeaked open and a well-dressed, balding man emerged carrying a single manila folder, “Afternoon, folks. Welcome to Greenbrier,” he grinned like some seedy, used car salesman. “Couldn’t help but hear you pull in.” He thrust out his free hand to Eric. “I’m James, James Fletcher. Pleased to meet you.” He shook Grace’s hand, too.
     “Eric McLaughlin, and this here is my ol’ lady, Grace.”
     “Pleased to meet you both.” The realtor looked slightly uncomfortable. “Well, let’s not waste any time, shall we? Let me show you around.”
     “Lead on,” Eric replied as he reached back and took Grace’s hand. “C’mon, woman. Let’s see what this boy’s got to offer.”
     Grace gave him a little smirk that the realtor didn’t catch, “Stop,” she mouthed silently and was about to punch her husband in the arm again until Mr. Fletcher turned around.
“This poor place really only needs some T.L.C., you understand? It’s been empty for years,” the realtor said. His thin lips turned up in a grimace. Grace didn’t like it.
     “How come?” she asked.
     “The last folks abandoned the property nearly five years ago. Just up and left. Some sort of family emergency, I’m told.” Mr. Fletcher pulled the grand front door open and motioned for the prospective buyers to proceed ahead of him.
     Even before she stepped through the door, Grace’s nose crinkled. “What’s that smell?”
The front entry was generous, but not overwhelming. To the left and right doors, led into what appeared to be twin rooms on either side. In front of them a large staircase ran up along the left hand wall. A wide hallway running parallel to this staircase led to rooms lost in a murky haze of dust and cobwebs. Grace sniffed the air again. “Do you smell that?”
Eric and Mr. Fletcher both sniffed but shook their heads.
     “What’s it smell like?” Eric asked.
     She shrugged. “Like something burning, maybe? Or like … like when we went to Gettysburg.”
    Eric’s eyebrows arched, “Gettysburg?”
     “Oh, you know how all that cannon smoke smelled.”
     “Gunpowder?”
     Grace nodded, “Yeah, just like that, just like gunpowder.” She sniffed again, but the air held nothing but the scent of an old, shut up house, dust and aged wood. “It’s gone now.”
     Mr. Fletcher chuckled, “Well, you’re near Winchester. We saw a lot of the War here. In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s a re-enactment going on west of here about sixty miles. Get the right sort of wind blowing and you can smell those things for miles. However, I can assure you this house saw no part of the real war. Greenbrier Plantation was built several years after it ended to replace the original house that burned down in 1862. The story goes that the owners, Dr. Addams and his young wife, Lucy, fled in the middle of the night and spent the rest of the battle torn years in France.” The realtor adjusted his glasses and walked into the room immediately to the right. “This was the front parlor, the ladies parlor as it was known, very bright and cheerful in its day. Just needs a bit of paint and new paper on the walls to bring it back to that.
     Grace hugged her elbows to her stomach, looking at the room and the cobweb-draped light fixture that hung from the ceiling. “I like it,” she said as she turned slowly in place. “Would make a great room for painting in. The natural light that comes right through is perfect.”
    Mr. Fletcher grinned his approval and ushered them towards the room across the hall.
“Originally, this was the dining room.” He headed towards another door along the back wall. “Kitchen is through here. Plenty big enough to be an eat-in if you’d like.”
     “Hold up,” Eric said. “What’s all this about?”
      The realtor paused and looked at the pile of sheetrock and stack of two-by-fours as if he’d not seen them at all before. “Oh, those, well, the last owners were renovating the place. Those are the materials they left behind.”
     Eric strode closer in long, easy steps over. “He left his toolbox,” he bent down and picked up what appeared to be nothing more than an old rag, “and his apron. Still has nails in the pockets.” Eric steadied his gaze at Mr. Fletcher. The biker knew how to look mean when he had to. “Tell us again why these folks left, Mr. Fletcher?”
     The older man licked his lips nervously. “In the night, quickly. They packed up their car as if a tornado was coming and were gone.”
     “I thought that was how the first owners left.”
     “Yes, well,” Mr. Fletcher stammered, “yes, they did. It was during the War and the original place was on fire. They had to run for their lives. These folks just had a family emergency.”
     Eric crossed his arms and planted his feet firmly on the hardwood floor. “That must have been some family emergency.”
     “I only know what the office told me, Mr. McLaughlin.”
     “It’s haunted, isn’t it?” Grace’s voice was edged with hope.
     Dust motes sparkled in the beams of sunlight that streamed through the dirty dining room windows.
     “I’ve heard that, too.” Mr. Fletcher conceded. “Most places around these parts claim to be haunted.”
     Grace felt herself smile, “How exciting. Who by, Mr. Fletcher? What happened?”
     The realtor nudged his glasses up on his nose again and was about to speak.
     “Another time, huh?” Eric said with a chuckle. “Let’s finish the viewing first. If we decide we’re interested and want to discuss price, you two can talk about ghosts.”
     “Party pooper,” Grace mock pouted, “ruining all my fun.”
     Eric reached back and swatted her ass playfully, “I’ll show you some fun later.”
     Fletcher cleared his throat and looked away. Eric chuckled, “Sorry. Back to the business at hand.”
     The kitchen had been updated completely by the last owners and from Grace’s perspective needed nothing more than a good, hard scrubbing and some fresh paint more to her liking. A narrow staircase led from the back left corner of the kitchen up to a small room that the realtor told them was probably used by a servant A second door led into the upstairs hallway, but Mr. Fletcher took them back to the foyer the way they’d come.
     “The den,” Mr. Fletcher said as he swung open the second door on the right. It was the same size as the ladies parlor but was dim and very little sunlight came in through the single east-facing window. Layers of brittle wallpaper clung to the walls. “Electric was put in sometime in the early fifties. Apart from the kitchen and bathroom, it’s not been updated as far as I know.”
     “Damn,” Eric let out a breath and shook his head. “All I’m seeing are dollar signs, babe.”
     Grace ignored the remark. “How long did the last people live here?” Grace eyed the walls, calculating how much work would have to go into peeling, scraping, priming, and repapering them.
     “About six months.”
     “Things that go bump in the night,” Grace snickered.
     Mr. Fletcher smiled. “Family emergency,” he corrected her. “After the family left, the estate was handled by their lawyer and the bank. They never came back. The house was foreclosed and has been empty and on the market ever since.”
     Eric nodded. He had never been one to believe in ghosts or any of that kind of thing. That was Grace’s fancy, not his, and he had always let her have her harmless fun with it. Her sense of wonder and fantasy had also helped make her series of children’s books and illustrations very popular. Who knew, maybe the house and its alleged ghosts would inspire that young adult novel she’d always wanted to write. She found inspiration in the oddest places.
     Mr. Fletcher stepped back out in the hallway. “Shall we go upstairs?”
     “Lead on,” Eric replied.
     Hand-carved woodwork greeted them throughout the house, from the carved balustrade to the floors, the wainscoted hallway, doors and frames, and windows casings All spoke of the finest craftsmanship. Sunlight streamed through the dust motes the three of them kicked up in the front bedrooms. A room in the back had been updated into a large bathroom. The claw foot tub with its draw-around curtain was lovely and nostalgic but not practical; plus, the thing was an oasis of rust. With four bedrooms and the servant’s quarters, the place was almost too much.
     “What about that little room I saw from the outside, along the west?” Grace asked as they descended the front porch steps.
     “Ah,” the realtor’s eyes lifted. “If you think the thought of ghosts is fun, you’re going to love what went on over there.” He pulled the ring of keys from his pocket and fished through them.
     “What’s over there?”
     “There were coffins,” Mr. Fletcher said, giving Grace a wink.
     “Coffins?” Her heart gave an excited extra beat.
     Eric pulled back to a halt. “Whoa now, wait just a fuckin’ minute. Why the hell were there coffins here?”
     Concern etched deep into the realtor’s forehead and the hopeful look of a sale dwindled. “Alright, I’m having a bit of fun with you two. Let me show you and I’ll explain.”
     Eric didn’t move even when Mr. Fletcher started to walk away.
     The realtor turned back. “I assure you, there are no coffins in there, not anymore. The original owner, Dr. Beauregard Addams, was a very successful undertaker until the time of his death. That little addition was his place of business.”
     Still, Eric didn’t move. “You’re saying this place was a funeral home?”
     “A hundred and thirty years ago, yes.”
     Grace giggled as she watched her husband’s face. “Don’t tell me big, bad biker man is afraid.”
     Eric scowled, “No, I just think it’s damn creepy, that’s all. Let’s go look.”
     Mr. Fletcher resumed walking as he fiddled with the keys in his hand. “If it helps any, Mr. McLaughlin, there is no access from this wing to the main house. From what I’ve heard, the doctor’s wife was about as thrilled with her husband’s occupation as you are. She requested the two areas be kept apart during the reconstruction.” He slipped the key into the lock and swung the door open. “Well, here we are…”
     Grace stepped forward and peered in.
***
Chapter 2
     Mr. Fletcher moved aside, letting Grace tug Eric into the room as if leading him into a cheap carnival spook house. It wasn’t a big room by any means, fourteen feet wide and maybe twelve feet deep, but with nine-foot ceilings, the emptiness gave the impression of being much larger. Sunlight poked through what remained of a shabby, brown curtain coated with dust and partially eaten by moths.
      Rubble from the crumbling ceiling crunched under Eric and Grace’s boots. From every corner, sheets of cobwebs sagged under their own thick weight. Each was filled more with dust and debris than food for the spiders that had spun them. Portions of the plaster walls that had not already fallen away from the lathe were bowed and cracked.
     At dead center, a trash can waited to be filled by the heap of wallpaper on the floor next to it. Grace let go of Eric’s hand and bent over to pick up the push broom from the floor. “Wow,” she whispered as if afraid her breath alone would send more of the walls and ceiling crashing down around them.
     “Just a little T.L.C., eh, Mr. Fletcher?” Eric chuckled, stroking the length of his foot long beard with one hand.
     The realtor moved away from the doorway and joined them in the dark staleness of the space. “You’ve seen the rest of the house. I assure you, this is as bad as it gets. Even the carriage house is in better shape.”
     The biker grunted and crossed his arms.
     “Someone started to work on it, at least,” Grace said, leaning the broom handle against the trash can from where it had fallen long ago.
     “Where’s that go?” Eric nodded his head towards a door on the opposite wall from the front one.
     Mr. Fletcher searched his key ring again, “That’s the embalming room.” He hesitated when neither of his clients said anything, “Do you want to look or …?”
     “Baby?” Eric deferred to his wife.
     She nodded and brushed her hands off on her jeans.
     The inner room was only slightly larger than the first, but instead of hardwood floors, these had been tiled in white. There was a large drain in the middle of the floor. “Lovely,” Eric muttered. “Bets on what went down there?” For him, at least, the place had lost all its Victorian charm.
     The walls matched the floor a third of the way up before yielding to more cracked and crumbling lathe and plaster walls. There were no windows. Eric noticed Grace’s nose crinkle as she tried not to breath in the bitter tang of what he suspected was formaldehyde. “The tiles aren’t in too bad a shape,” she noted. “Only a dozen or so would need to be replaced.”
     Mr. Fletcher smiled then laughed weakly, “See, no coffins. Just empty rooms.”
     Eric couldn’t help but shake his head, “I dunno. It’s a lot of work and what the hell would we use this for?”
     Grace sidled up to her husband and took his beefy hand in hers. “Let’s go see the carriage house.”
     Eric didn’t like the look he saw in his wife’s eyes. He knew that look and it told him she still liked the place despite the damn funeral home wing. “Alright,” he gave her hand a quick squeeze and looked towards Mr. Fletcher. “The Old Lady’s still interested. Let’s do like she says or I’ll never hear the end of it.”
     Mr. Fletcher broke into a smile, “Excellent, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
     “Better be,” Eric grumbled and followed the realtor.
     The lower level of the carriage house was much as Eric expected, a cobbled-stone floor, thick plank walls and open beams. The logs appeared hand hewn and were notched together at the corners. Both sets of double doors, one on the front of the building and the other at the back, moved with surprising ease on huge iron hinges. On the left and right hand sides were open-air carriage ports. Bright sunlight reflected on the single, but fairly good-sized, window over the front doors.
     “Would make a good garage,” the realtor offered.
     Eric hated to admit it, but Mr. Fletcher was right. He hated not having a garage for the bike and with the carports, they would have room for it as well as Grace’s car and his pick-up. “And up there?” he pointed to the window.
     “Let me show you. Entrance is around back.”
     It was clear the back stairs were a recent addition. They ascended along the back of the right hand port and ended with a nice-sized deck that ran the full length of the main body of the carriage house. Eric estimated it to be about eight feet wide. It was all pressure-treated lumber and not in the least bit unstable.
     “Oh, look at the view from up here!” Grace’s eyes sparkled.
     Beyond a gently sloping embankment that stretched several hundred feet, a stream sparkled in front of a line of trees. “That stream is the property line,” the realtor told them.
     “What’s the acreage again?” Eric asked.
     “Just under five. It was five times that originally. And you get the added bonus of a small slave’s cemetery just over there. It’s hard to see from here, but it’s there.” He pointed off to the east to an area that looked like nothing more than overgrown fields.
     “Ooooh,” Grace cooed with interest, craning her neck to try and see anything off in that direction.
     “Oh joy,” Eric sighed. “But five acres is plenty to keep the neighbors at bay,” Eric found himself smiling again. Maybe he could tolerate that old funeral home idea. He wasn’t so sure about being a cemetery caretaker though.
     “Let me show you inside.”
     Grace gasped as Mr. Fletcher swung open the door, allowing them their first glimpse of the interior. “Oh, wow! It’s an apartment.”
     “The previous owners were living here before they got called away.” He remained out of the way and let the couple roam the space at their leisure. “Bathroom is through there. It’s small but all redone five years ago.”
     “It’s incredible,” Grace was looking through the cupboards. “It’s perfect!” she added. “We could put the leather sleeper sofa up here, Eric, and decorate it all southwestern. Look at these beautiful beams. They must have taken ages to sand down like that.” She ran her fingertips over the glowing wood.
     “All it needs is a good cleaning,” Mr. Fletcher said. “You could do what the other owners were doing, live here while they worked on the house.”
     Eric nodded slightly, not wanting to seem too interested, but the realtor did have a very good point. They couldn’t afford to keep the apartment they had and the mortgage on this place, too. In all their house-hunting over the past few months that had been an issue they’d discussed at length, move-in-ready or no deal.
     “Were you expecting to show the house to others, Mr. Fletcher?” Grace was standing at the front window, looking out.
    “No. Why?”
     “I just saw someone upstairs, a young woman. She looked out the window at me and smiled. She’s gone now; went further back into the room.”
     Mr. Fletcher and Eric came up beside Grace. “Which window?” the realtor asked. Grace pointed it out. “That’s the room over the kitchen. We better go look. The last thing we need here is vandalism.”
     They took the shortest route, through the back door that led directly into the kitchen. A quick search of the house revealed no intruder or signs of anyone having been there other than themselves.
     “There was plenty of time for whoever it was to go out this way,” Eric offered as they stepped off the front porch.
     “We’d have heard a car, wouldn’t we?” Grace looked back at the house. Worry lines creased her forehead.
     “Not if it were kids, baby.” Eric could almost hear his wife’s imagination working. “It wasn’t a ghost,” he added.
     “You don’t know that.”
     He rolled his eyes and shook his head as he turned away, knowing to argue was pointless. “We’ll have to talk it over, Mr. Fletcher,” Eric said as he extended his hand to the realtor.
     “Of course. It’s a big decision.” Mr. Fletcher reached into his suit coat pocket and pulled out a business card, “Call me as soon as you’ve decided.”
     Eric handed the card over to Grace who tucked it into her purse without even looking at it. Her attention was still firmly focused on the house. He knew that look all too well. She was in love; funeral parlor, cemetery, ghost story and all.
     “Babe?” Eric nudged his wife’s shoulder.
     “Huh?” She snapped out of her semi-dazed state, then realized the realtor was extending his hand towards her. She gripped it and muttered some sort of nice-to-meet-you gibberish and smiled.
     Mr. Fletcher headed back towards the house.
     “You alright?” Eric touched her arm.
     “Yeah, tired. Long day.” She shuddered as if cold and gave him a peck on the lips. “And I’m famished! Let’s go eat.”
***
     Grace offered Eric full access to her already satisfied and sweat-dampened body. The sound of her moans alone made him twitch, but he wasn’t quite ready to fill her that way.
Eric drew his mouth back slightly to blow on her sex then slid two fingers inside her. He pumped them back and forth a few times before introducing a third digit. He wet the fingers of his other hand with her spent juices and pressed on her anus, easing them in slowly. Grace was not always receptive to ass play, but she’d had a couple of glasses of wine with their dinner and that was sometimes enough to make her more willing.
He was throbbing hard and he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be able to hold off. “Come on, baby. Do it again for me.”
     Grace’s tempo increased in response as her hand slid down to rest atop his. Her whole body went rigid and still. Her breathing stopped then gushed back into her as he felt his fingers clenched and released by the involuntary throbbing inside her.
     He rose up between her fully spread legs and entered her with one smooth thrust of his hips. Grace’s legs wrapped around him, hands shifting to his flat stomach before finally coming to rest on his hips. She urged him forward and down until his chest pressed to hers.
     Her hands moved to the small of his back as her lips parted and pressed to his. Eric pumped harder until the muscles of his body clamped him into place as he shouted with the orgasm. Eric’s head grew light as his consciousness threatened to slip away. Then he was back, grunting and sweating over his wife again.
     “God, baby,” he mumbled, pressing his face into the side of her neck, tasting her damp skin and smelling her hair. Eric’s hips rocked unconsciously and he wished he could spend the rest of his life just making love to her over and over.
     She made a soft, soothing sound beneath him as her hands slid up his back and stroked the base of his skull with a tenderness he found unreal. Grace kissed his shoulder and sighed, “I love you, hon.”
     “Love you, too, babe.” He knew he should roll off her but this felt so good right now. Eric flexed his ass, giving another playful nudge into her.
     “Mmmm…” she clenched around him, teasing. “We should sleep,” she whispered against his ear.
     Reluctantly he withdrew and rolled to his back to lie beside her in the bed they had shared for nearly ten years.
     Eric was half asleep when Grace spoke again, “What?”
     “The house, what do you think?” she repeated.
     “I dunno, babe. Too tired to think about it right now.”
     “Oh,” she was quiet, but after a few minutes he felt her roll to her side, away from him, and sigh.
     “What do you think?” He gave up trying to sleep and turned to wrap his left arm around her waist, pulling her close under the blankets.
     “I like it.” “It’ll be a lot of work. I thought we’d decided we wanted a place move-in ready?”
     Her shoulders sagged a little. She didn’t just like it, he could tell. It was the house she wanted. “But with the price so low, we could have a lot left over to fix it up with, maybe even hire people, too. And we can live in the carriage house. It isn’t much smaller than what we have here.”
     She was right on all counts. “Let’s sleep on it, okay?” He really was tired and if he let her go on much longer, she’d have him signing the paperwork in his sleep. She had a way about her that sometimes he just couldn’t say no to.
     “Deal,” she said, hugging his arm tight and kissing his forearm.
     Eric closed his eyes. Few things in life felt better than laying with her like this, except maybe the way they got to this point in the first place. His mind drifted, letting the feel and smell of her and their lovemaking sink deep into his muscles and bones.
     “She was naked.”
     His eyes popped open again. “Huh? Who?”
     “The woman I saw in the back window of the house. She was naked.” She said it rather timidly which was somewhat unusual for her.
     “You sure you weren’t just seeing some sort of reflection in the glass? You know how the glass in those old houses can be warped and rippled. Maybe it was a cloud or something.”
     “It wasn’t a cloud,” she insisted. “It wasn’t a reflection of anything. I saw her, Eric, clear as I would see myself in the mirror. She was young, early twenties, I’d guess, and real pretty. I saw her face, her breasts, and they were bare. She looked right at me.”
    He pulled her a bit tighter into his arms. “I believe you saw something, baby. Can’t we just sleep and talk about all this tomorrow?”
     “Sure,” she said, her voice dull and resigned to dropping the subject for now.
     Eric kissed her again. “Go to sleep.”
     Grace said good night, but it was hours before she was able to sleep. The woman’s face would not be erased from her inner eye, the soft tilt of her dark brown eyes and the curve of her full lips turning up ever so slightly. She’d told Eric and the realtor that the woman had smiled and she had, only it wasn’t a happy smile. It was forced and pleading and it begged to be seen. Their eyes had locked for a split second before the woman seemed to step away and fade back into the darkness of the room behind her.
    Or maybe, Grace thought as sleep did finally pull her down, she’d not stepped back at all. Maybe she’d simply dissolved like the ghost Grace believed she was.
***
    The warm aroma of brewing coffee tickled the inside of Eric’s nose before he opened his eyes. Grace’s side of the bed was cold. She’d been up awhile. Pity, he thought rather selfishly as he lightly fondled his morning erection. His initial idea was to toss off right here and now in bed. Grace would have a fit, though. She’d either be upset she’d missed out, or pissed off he’d made a mess, or both.
     Naked, Eric padded to the bathroom and closed the door, still holding himself. He lifted the toilet seat and gazed into the blue water with a blank, just-woke-up stare. Having Grace know he still jerked off now and then never sat comfortably in his head. He didn’t want her to think she was doing something wrong or maybe she wasn’t enough. Women were weird like that. The only time she ever turned him down was when she was having her monthly.
     With a generous amount of toilet tissue, he cleaned himself and the edge of the toilet bowl off, then flushed. As he washed his hands, he looked in the medicine cabinet mirror. “Damn, you’re getting old.” He scowled a bit, wondering where all the wrinkles had suddenly come from. The wild days of his ill-spent youth were catching up way too fast. Eric ran his fingers through the head of hair that was already starting to gray even at thirty eight. “Better old than dead,” he said, quoting his grandfather now many years the latter.
     A pair of arms snaked around Grace’s waist as warm lips and the brushing of long whiskers tickled her neck. “G’morning,” Eric’s soothing voice whispered against her ear.
     She let out a soft purr and turned her back on the eggs she was scrambling up in a bowl. “And a good morning to you, too,” she kissed him on the mouth. “Sleep well?”
     “Yes,” he grinned and was on the verge of adding how he’d waken up with a hard-on but decided against it as soon as the thought crossed his mind. He didn’t want her asking what he done about it, and she would. “Whatcha making?” he asked instead, eyeing the eggs.
     “Scrambled eggs, omelets or French toast. Name your poison.”
     “Omelet,” he decided and pulled away slowly from her inviting body to pour himself some coffee. “Going for a smoke,” he continued, lifting the half pack and lighter from the countertop and heading out to their small patio. It was just off the kitchen through a pair of sliding glass doors and just big enough for two lawn chairs. Eric lit up and looked at the cityscape below. He found himself imagining standing on the back deck of that carriage house in Virginia instead. Maybe he had made up his mind.
     He had grown to dislike city living more and more lately. Twenty years ago when he’d been a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed high school graduate it was everything he wanted. He’d landed a job with a security company helping to install and update systems. This led to designing layouts for contractors, builders, and pre-existing businesses all over the city. The pay was good, real good, and he enjoyed doing it. The rest of the time he’d spent with his band mates getting way too drunk and stoned after practice and gigs. They were good, or at least he thought so. But, as it goes, people meet new people and end up not wanting to, or being able to, hang out with the old ones.
     Eric was just as guilty as the rest of them. He blamed Grace.
     There she was, sitting off to the right one night during a show. He could barely take his eyes off her. His playing suffered. He’d never believed in soul mates or love at first sight until that night. Maybe it was the dusting of freckles on her otherwise flawless skin or her light brown eyes. Whatever it was, Eric was hooked. This one was not going to get away. The whole thing had felt crazy. After only a month of dating, he’d popped the question. Without a moment’s hesitation, Grace had said yes. He’d do everything in his power for that woman.
     He drew in the last bit of smoke from the cigarette and crushed out the butt in the clear ashtray. “Good-bye, city lights,” he said to the gray steel and brick buildings nearby then went inside to tell his wife the good news. She cried, just like he knew she would.