Back cover, front cover. Both originally artwork by Mark Hogg. Link to his fanpage can be found at the bottom of this post.
Well, the day I’ve been waiting for since forever (no really…FOREVER! LOL) is finally upon us. My most recent novel, BONES OF WILLOW LAKE, has a release date! And, of course, the novel will be released on the very same day my awesome novella, THE DEMON KING, was released. FEBRUARY 14th! That’s Valentine’s Day, in case you didn’t know. Also, it’s my son’s 7th birthday, so Valentine’s Day is special to me for many reasons. Not just book releases, although I do believe I should probably just go ahead and reserve that day every year to release a new book because it looks like it’s just my day.
I promise I won’t just sit here and prattle on and on about how absolutely enamored with myself and my release date I am, though. I promise! Instead, how about I give you a blurb and an excerpt? Will that appease the masses? I sure hope so. We’ll start with the little blurb intended to be printed on the back cover.
Celia Burne bought a house in LaGrange, Georgia, thinking she’s found a place for herself and her dog, Barnibus, to find rest and solitude–a break from the heartbreak of her mother’s death and the resulting incarceration of her younger sister. What she finds in the beginning of her new life, however, isn’t what she bargained for. Celia discovers two of the house’s former residents still live there decades after their deaths.
Although artist Paul Gray only wants Celia’s friendship, and perhaps a little bit more, Celia begins to feel that finding Gray’s body would allow him to pass over into the light. In order to find the body, however, Celia has to solve a 1947 triple murder mystery, and the angry spirit of Ruth Wilkins doesn’t want this to happen. With help from an elderly neighbor and her cartoonist grandson, Celia wrestles with the mystery until she’s thrown into a tailspin and is forced to decide whether she is willing to let Gray go or if she would rather keep him for herself. All the while, the story begs the question of who is helping whom?
The fire is warm and I like to sit in front of it, but the sound of boxes shuffling around is still distracting me. “Gray!” I shout again. “What on earth are you doing up there?” Frustrated, I push the covers back off my legs and get up to wander to the attic. I stomp up the stairs, as though my noise is going to aggravate him enough to stop making his noise, and stop at the small opening to the attic at the top of the stairs.
To the left, there is a small broom closet where I keep my ladder. I pull it out and open it up. As I climb the few steps to the top, I push the attic opening back and poke my head inside. It’s dark, but I can see a blue glow from the window. “Gray?” I whisper as I push myself into the attic.
He doesn’t answer, but I knew that he wouldn’t—he can’t. “What are you doing up here?”
I walk to the window. Gray is sitting in the windowsill as still as a picture. In his hands, he holds a lady’s hatpin. It is a blue flower, but plain and ordinary.
“Ruth’s.” I say. It isn’t a question. There is no one else it could have belonged to.
Gray nods and shrugs before peering back out the window. He is lonely, I think to myself, feeling a bit discarded. Doesn’t my company mean anything to him—the way his does for me?
I want to shake him. Ruth is dead. Henry is dead. They’re obviously not here, but he is. What’s the connection?
I sigh and rest my hand on his shoulder for whatever comfort I can offer him. I don’t know what happened to my sweet Gray, but whatever it was, it scarred him for his entire afterlife.
I am going mad, I tell myself.
Gray turns from the window and looks up at me. There is hopefulness in his eyes and he rests his head against my chest. He raises a finger and sits up. He begins to trace a word in the dust that’s settled on the glass. I give this one hundred percent of my attention. His fingertip begins to curve around on the glass until he’s formed a perfect C. He traces the letters very slowly, as though it’s been a very long time for him—and I’m sure that it probably has been. Eventually, he’s written my name in the dust. When he’s finished, he looks up at me and goes back to tracing.
Next, he traces the word alone and looks to me for approval. I nod. “I am lonely.” I say.
He folds me into his arms and pulls me close. He is cool, but not cold. I allow him to do this because I feel no fear whatsoever in what the dead can do—it’s the living that scare me the most. Gray rests his cloth-stitched face against my cheek and I feel the weight of each horrible, likely painful stitch and wonder why the bits of dark blue material would be stitched over his entire face like that, but it’s not likely that he’ll tell me anytime soon and I’m too polite to ask. I smile at the awkward ridiculousness of the situation—I have no one alive on this earth save for Velma, but it seems I’ve made a really great best friend in this dead man.
I look up and realize that Gray’s hair is showing today. Typically, he keeps it back somehow and I can’t tell if he even has any. Gray, it seems, is/was a ginger. I reach up and roll my index finger around in an unbelievably soft lock of reddish-blond hair. It’s short, but neat, and combed out of his blue-gray eyes. His face tightens rom under the cloth and I realize that he’s probably smiling at me.
“I like your hair.” I tell him with a playful grin.
Slowly, he reaches around to teasingly pull at my long, dark ponytail. Then, he holds his finger over where his mouth should be to tell me to be quiet. Or to shut up. I’m not sure which one he means, but it makes me laugh and I am enjoying his company.
I wonder if, wherever they are, Ruth and Henry Wilkins can see what Gray and I are doing tonight in the attic—playfully enjoying the night. Then, another thought creeps into my head and I have to ask Gray another question. I’m positive that my questions are an annoyance, but I want to know anyhow. “Did you know Velma Beatty?”
He nods, but doesn’t look at me. Instead, he’s staring out the window again. I don’t push the questions further. Something I’ve said has made him sad. I wonder if maybe he might have been a lover of Velma’s so many years ago. I shake the idea from my head—she had a husband and he died in the seventies. Sometimes, he was all she ever talked about.
Gray releases me and I take that as my cue to leave him to himself. I back away, but as I reach the little crawl hole over my ladder, I see that the ladder is gone. It isn’t down there at all, so the possibility that my larger than life dog has knocked it over is out of the question and there isn’t anyone else in the house—or at least I thought there wasn’t up until now.
“Gray?” I breathe. He turns to face me and shifts his weight in the windowsill. “Gray, my ladder is gone. I can’t get down.”
It takes only a few seconds before he materializes at my side. He looks down the hole and then at me. He is just as puzzled as I am. He groans as he lifts me in his arms. He’s cradling me like a baby and, with his index finger and middle finger, closes my eyelids. He holds his fingers there for a moment and when he removes them, I open my lids and see that we are standing at the top of the stairs and he is no longer holding me. It’s as though time was temporarily erased.
I have no idea what to say, but manage a quick thanks and a nod. Gray disappears in a low flash of blue light and I look up to see the opening to the attic shut behind him. He’s up there again, all by himself, and I have no idea where my ladder is.
I go to the broom closet and open the door. Cold water flows out of the closet as though it’s been submerged. Some of it falls down the stairs like an indoor waterfall. My feet are freezing cold now and I see my ladder folded carefully inside the closet. I’m shaking as I step forward and inspect it. The top rung has a spot of dried blood on it and a discarded sewing needle with twine laced through it.
Of all the houses in LaGrange, I had to pick the one with dead folks, I think to myself. I pull my flannel pajama pants down and pick them up as I wander to the upstairs bathroom and push them into the hamper. I go to my bedroom and pick a clean pair of sweats from a drawer and put them on before going downstairs to the kitchen and reluctantly pull the mop out of the corner and grab my bucket. I take the mop and bucket back upstairs to clean up all the water, but when I reach the stairs, the water is gone.
I swallow hard and walk up the stairs to the closet to see that the ladder is back underneath the opening to the attic. There is no spot of blood or needle on the top rung. There is no water damage to my closet.
It’s as though the entire thing was a figment of my over worked imagination.
As promised, here is the link to Mark Hogg’s fan page on Facebook, Mr. Markzilla Artist! Go give him a like and check out all of his artwork!
STAY TUNED FOR: Okay, so we’re going to have a contest called the HAUNTED VALENTINE GIVEAWAY. Yes, we’re giving away a free copy of BONES OF WILLOW LAKE! Stay tuned to this blog because this is where the contest will be posted FIRST.