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Friday, June 8, 2012

Hunting For the Perfect Haunted House by Cege Smith

Please help me welcome author Cege Smith to Full Moon Bites! :)

For the record, I’m going to tell you upfront that I’ve never lived in a haunted house. That’s a question I’ve received from readers after they start reading the Shadows series because the story of the Bradford mansion resonates with them as much as with my characters.

I am a big fan of those ghost hunting shows where a team of paranormal investigators investigates a reported haunted location to try to document evidence of some kind of ghostly occurrence. My favorite part is when they talk about the history of the location and explain the traumatic events that happened there.

Murder. Satanic ritual. Suicide. Extreme emotional trauma. The residual energies of those events are supposed to be the reason why these places are haunted now. We don’t know that for certain, but as the camera pans around dark hallways and plunges into unknown spaces, goosebumps crawl across our arms as we take the journey for the truth right along with them. Curiosity keeps us coming back for more.

The Bradford mansion, which is a key location particularly in Shadows Deep, was a place that I truly felt like I had to get that “right” haunted feeling. In my writing, I work best with an inspiration image in my mind, so I went house hunting for a haunted house.

Here was my criteria as I considered my options:

1) It had to be HUGE. I didn’t want a haunted house really. The Bradford home was supposed to be a mansion. Readers see one reality of it in the first book, Edge of Shadows, but we see a whole other side of it in Shadows Deep.

2) It had to appear enticing on the surface. This may seem the opposite of a house that you think of for a scary series if you remember the houses from the Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street series. But in my books, the mansion attracts its “victims”. Things don’t seem scary until the characters are already so into the location that there’s no turning back.

3) It has a mysterious past.  This goes back to my earlier comment that something happened there that made the location dark. A negative energy was created there and that location becomes a focal point for it.

4) Unexplained things happen there. Lights turn on and off with no apparent intervention. Shadows appear and disappear. There are strong knockings and other noises and cold spots that occur for no reason.

5) It’s turned over multiple times. If a house has had multiple owners in a short period of time, that suggests a problem. As attractive as it may be, if people won’t live there that’s a sure sign there is something wrong with it.

6) It’s in the middle of nowhere. The Bradford mansion is set on lakefront property just south of downtown Minneapolis- not exactly remote. But when it was originally built, it was secluded. Some of the best haunted house stories occur in a house that is a rural area where there is no chance that help is going to arrive in a timely manner.

In the end, I found two sources of inspiration for the Bradford mansion. My husband and I drove around the area where my fictional mansion is located, and I took pictures of lots of different houses that fit my criteria. Of course I couldn’t go inside, but as I narrowed them down, my imagination was able to take over. For the second part, I investigated mansions that were torn down but still were located in my target area. Through that research that I discovered the Charles Gates mansion, a 38,000 square foot mansion built in the early 20th century that was torn down a mere twenty years after it was build. I was able to build the Bradford mansion in my mind with these pieces.

So going back to my original disclaimer, I’ve never lived in a haunted house. And I don’t think I’d want to. But the Bradford mansion I’ve created in my head won’t leave me alone. Good thing the series isn’t over yet.



Title: Shadows Deep (Shadows, Part II)
Author: Cege Smith
Publisher: Self
Length: 70,000 words
Genres: Horror, Paranormal (Non-Romance)

Available at:


Blurb:

Ellie Coulter made a deal with the devil, and now it’s time to pay the price. Little did she know, the shadows that have swirled around her life since her parents’ death were not a coincidence. As Ellie's destiny is revealed, it comes with the knowledge that her fate is the lynchpin in a far larger, and more dangerous game. And the one who found her has no intention of ever letting her go.

Ellie walks a fine line between keeping up the appearance of acceptance while gathering the information she needs to escape. Along the way, she has to decide who to trust and that includes the man she loves.  As facts give way to lies, Ellie begins to question everything.

With her true intentions on the verge of being discovered, Ellie must find a way to defeat her captor before she becomes a shadow herself.

Excerpt:

Letting go was one of the hardest things a person could ever do. Ellie knew that. What happened when she let go of the idea that reality as she knew it was merely a cover on a rabbit hole? She had willingly taken the cover off and fallen down into the unknown darkness. She’d surrendered. Somehow it felt easier that way. But the Voice kept picking at her even though she was deep in her hidey hole. It wouldn’t leave her alone.

“What was it like for you when your parents died?”

Ellie had answered some variation of that question what seemed like a million times over the years, but her response always paled in comparison to the effect of that one event on the rest of her life. How could she explain the depth of pain she felt when the two people who she loved most were ripped out of her life? Or the excruciating, almost debilitating sense of loneliness that followed when she finally comprehended that she was completely alone in the world?

“I was eight,” Ellie replied. “I had no other family. One minute I was surrounded by love. In the blink of an eye I was an orphan. What do you think it was like?” No one could understand what she had been through, and eventually she gave up trying to explain. Her parents’ death was just something that happened to her a long time ago. Ellie preferred to leave that buried there.

“I am sure it was difficult. But you obviously learned to cope, even thrive.”

“Thrive isn’t the word I’d choose,” Ellie said. “I learned how to survive. Eventually I learned ways to be happy again, but I did that on my own. I never felt like I belonged anywhere again.”

The Voice was silent for a while and Ellie was relieved. When it wasn’t poking at her, the darkness was peaceful. Ellie was used to being alone.

“Tell me about your ability. You’ve linked that to your parents’ death.”

Ellie was tired of the questions. They had covered the same ground over and over again. But it was like the Voice was missing some nuance, and so it all started again. Combing through her life. Looking for clues. “I noticed it the first time at the funeral. I was standing there in the cemetery, looking at their caskets, with the social worker beside me. I kept looking around for more people, but it was just the three of us: me, the social worker, and the minister. And then I noticed that the longer the minister spoke, the more these colors seemed to grow out of him. It didn’t make any sense at the time. The colors were deep purple and blue and they got more vivid every time he made eye contact with me. It scared the hell out of me. I didn’t know what to do.”

A familiar cloud of sadness fell over her thoughts as she remembered that lost little girl. “When the service was over, I wanted to kick and scream and lash out. I wanted to push over those caskets because I convinced myself they were empty and it was some elaborate hoax. Any minute they would appear to take me home. But it wasn’t a hoax. My parents raised me to think that showing emotion in public wasn’t ladylike, so as desperately as I wanted to throw a tantrum, I knew they wouldn’t approve. I looked at the social worker and she had a glow of white tinged with yellow around her. Even though I didn’t know what it meant, the colors were soothing. I had to accept that I was left with nothing but this woman to take care of me. I was naive and automatically assumed that she was kind and that she’d be good to me.”

“She wasn’t?”

Ellie sighed. “After twenty-five years of reading auras, I know now that she was indifferent. She probably saw a dozen kids just like me every week. Her aura meant that she was at peace and even slightly happy, but it had nothing to do with me. I was part of her job, and while I was watching my parents be buried, she was probably thinking about getting a manicure or going home and having a glass of wine. Me, I had no home left.”

“You went into foster care.”

“Yes, and in foster care I stayed until I applied for emancipation when I was sixteen.” She remembered the day that the court approved her request. It had been bittersweet.

“Your ability must have been advantageous in that kind of hostile environment.”

“If you mean it helped keep me out of trouble, then probably it did. But I was always a good kid. I studied hard, got decent grades, and generally stayed out of everyone’s way.  I never gave my foster families any reason to really concern themselves with me. I wanted to be invisible. I was pretty good at it,” Ellie said. She had closed herself off from anyone who tried to reach her. It was a defense mechanism that worked well. Perhaps too well.

“Until you met Veronica.”

A face flashed in Ellie’s mind. A pretty blond with infectious laughter. Whereas her parents’ faces had faded over time, Roni’s was vivid and seemed so real that Ellie almost thought her friend was there with her in the darkness.

“Roni just wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Ellie said. “She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. And for some reason she wanted to be my friend. I owe her a lot.” It was strange talking about Veronica. Those memories were under strict lock and key for a reason.


Cege Smith is a Minnesota based writer who is addicted to lattes and B-rated horror films. She had been crafting spooky stories since she was twelve years old. She lives with her husband, two adorable stepsons, and mini long-hair dachshund, Juliet in the suburbs of Minneapolis.

Link to full tour schedule.




1 comment:

  1. Murder. Satanic ritual. Suicide. Right up my alley!

    ReplyDelete

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