Tag Archives: horror

Manor Mystery Series

Ladies, Gentlemen, Minions! Spotted Writer is BACK! After several months of working and the pursuit of a few new writing projects, I come to you with a Halloween special. My dear, sweet friend Megan and I have co-written this story from a writing prompt I found a year ago. This is part 1 of 3 of our still untitled brainchild. It is still a work in progress, but we are very passionate about this project and wanted to share its spooky contents with you for Halloween 2016. Read, enjoy, be scared!

Manor Mystery Part 1

Fog clung to the windshield as Abigail Irving drove down the city streets, weaving in and out of traffic. She was used to the sounds of car horns blaring and the hustle and bustle of downtown Syracuse, but today she didn’t have it in her to endure it all. The sound of the soothing voice of a woman filled her car, spouting off self-empowering words and Abigail tried to absorb them desperately as she drove out to the suburbs.

Today is the day. You are a strong, confident woman who can do anything you set your mind to.

“I am a strong, confident woman who can do anything I set my mind to!”

Abigail chanted the phrase again and again until she reached her destination. She slowed her car to a stop in front of a glorious Victorian house, the last of its kind surrounded by identical lots of modern townhouses. The house stood four stories tall with historic brick and the most beautiful stained glass windows shining through again the thick, misty air.

In the front yard stood that daunting “for sale” sign that had the fate of her future embedded into it. Abigail knew that if she couldn’t sell this home today that her life would be in shambles. Her sales were a fraction of what they used to be. Had she known her no-good ex-husband would be an abusive, jealous bastard, she never would have let him manipulate her, destroy her confidence, her life.

The minutes dragged  by as Abigail waited for the Lahey’s to arrive, so she decided to head inside to check on the final clean-up job. Her stomach churned as she walked, accompanied by a sharp pain in her abdomen. She dug her fingernails into her palms to divert the pain and tried to keep balanced in her tall heels.

If there is one thing out of place I’m going to kill Rick. Those alimony checks barely pay for groceries anymore.

As she stepped through the heavy oak door, swatches of muted blues and creams bathed the sun room in a milky glow. The high-arched entryway was trimmed in a deep mahogany that greeted the house’s guests. Abigail shut the door as lightly as possible, but the weight of the oak caused a small tremor within the foyer. When the house settled again, she heard a loud thud come from one of the upper floors.

“Just what I need,” she complained. “Squatters. If you don’t come down, I’m going to call the police.”

She tramped up the staircase as loud as possible to scare whoever was hiding upstairs. Around the corner to the right of the final landing, Abigail smelled something rotten coming from the master bedroom.

Son of a bitch, they left food in here too. Those slimy rats are going to jail.

Her stiletto pumps clacked as she ran to the end of hall, where the bedroom door was ajar letting a wave of decay into her perfect home. Just as she was about to walk in, the doorbell rang downstairs.         

The sound of the doorbell echoed throughout the house and rang hollow through her bones. It seemed to ring for eternity as sweat saturated her palms. Abigail hurried back down the stairs toward the door, but froze when she passed a gold-rimmed mirror in the hallway. She stopped for just a moment to fix the out of place strands of hair.

“I am a strong confident woman.”

And with that, her hand closed around the cold, brass doorknob and turned it to the right.

“Please, come in,” she said in her most professional tone.

A young couple was waiting outside under the cover of the front porch since the morning fog had turned into a steady, chilling rainfall. They ran into the foyer, shaking off their coats to reveal a petite, well-groomed brunette with designer clothes to match her expensive-looking purse. This had to be Mrs. Lahey, who looked ready for the runway, and Mr. Lahey looked like he had come from the boardroom, cell phone with never-ending battery included. He took no notice of the interior or that his heeled dress shoes were tracking water onto the antique wool rug just inside the entrance. Abigail would have to distract them with some coffee while she got a towel, and took care of the smell upstairs without them knowing.

“Welcome to Devinshire Manor, built in 1901 by Tennison Devinshire. Let me take you through to the sun room before we tour the rest of the house.”

The Lahey’s followed Abigail as she led them towards the sun room, pointing out recent renovations and historical decor as they walked.

“Now this is the sun room.”

As the Laheys stepped into the room, even Mr. Lahey pulled the cell phone away from his face and stared in awe of the centuries-old craftmanship. Beautiful custom windows spanned across the  room, letting in tiny beams of light peeking through the clouds. Hand-carved wood furnishings were elegantly placed and fresh flowers made the air smell sweet. After taking in the sights, Mr. Lahey’s gaze quickly returned to his phone screen as if something more wonderful was contained inside.

“Isn’t it just beautiful?” Abigail inquired.

“It’s quite lovely – though, I do wish it were a bit larger,” Mrs. Lahey responded.

The non-committal response shook Abigail and she knew she had to step up her game. The two mouths she had to feed and little bodies to clothe were only going to get bigger. 4-year-old Dara and 7-year-old Felix rarely left her with enough funds on her card for a frappacino.  And her debt was beginning to pile up. This sale meant everything to Abigail. She had to provide for this family she was left to raise. No one else would do it for her and sometimes she spoiled them to make up for having to file a restraining order against their father. .

“Next we’ll see the living and dining area.” Abigail said as she stepped out of the sun room, which was on it’s own level along with a library and coffee nook.

She gestured towards the hall, leading them down a small staircase onto the next level toward the living room.

“How many places does the table hold in the dining room?” Mrs. Lahey asked, her voice whiny and high-pitched. “Because our dinner parties bring in dozens of the city’s socialites as you know.”

Mr. Lahey grunted in agreement, typing away on his phone with both of his manicured thumbs. Abigail walked them through the swinging door to the dining area, where a long mahogany table had place settings to seat well over a dozen.

“This antique mahogany long table seats 14 comfortably, and will be a discussion piece for any of your gatherings. It is an original piece for the…”

Abigail’s sentence ended abruptly as another thump came from the upper floors, this time it was directly overhead on the west wing of the house. She wasn’t going to close this deal with whoever was upstairs making that foul smell. She had to close the deal—whatever the cost. Mr. Lahey looked up from his phone at the dining room ceiling as if the intricate ceiling tiles explained the sound.

“Just the noises of a century’s old house, no need to worry. With the restoration complete, the house will settle down nicely.”

Abigail thought hard about the best way to stall. Then she remembered the scones the sellers had left yesterday when dropping off the spare keys.

“Please, feel free to move forward into the kitchen and help yourself to some freshly baked scones and a latte while you look around. I’ll just be right back. ”

Excusing herself, Abigail made her way towards the stairs and made the climb up as quietly as she could. As she moved down the hallway, she felt a cold draft escaping through the open door to the master bedroom. She was relieved to hear the steamer on the Espresso machine making noise from the kitchen.

Good. They’re distracted.

She gripped her hand around the edge of the door and pushed it open gently. Before she could see anything – the draft from the open window carried the most awful stench, permeating her nose. Abigail felt her stomach clench just before she began gag.

Abigail found nothing on the other side of the door. Nothing to explain the smell, except for the open window. Without a moment’s hesitation, she tiptoed towards the farthest end of bedroom, and shut the window. The drapes wavered back into place casting a burgundy hue across the four-post canopy bed that overtook the room. She sighed with resolve, knowing that one crisis had been averted.

Once I’ve sold this place, I think a mani-pedi wouldn’t hurt the budget too much. 

As silently as she stole away from her potential buyers, she returned to find Mr. Lahey munching on his second scone, his face glued to an iPad, which she assumed was for his important work material. Mrs. Lahey, on the other hand, sipped her espresso in the breakfast nook, already on the phone with someone discussing the price of fine china to replace the sets currently in the dining room because they “looked worn and overused.”

Well, at least that’s a good sign.

Abigail plastered on her fake facade, full of smiles, and got back into business mode. She continued the tour with a quick viewing of the lower level and the Laheys seemed content with the carport and theater area. Abigail noticed the side glances they flashed each other from time to time though, which were rather unsettling to say the least. Abigail thought back to her queasiness earlier and couldn’t help but fear the worst.

Oh, I really hope I’m not pregnant – that would be the end of my career and my life right now.

She hadn’t seen or heard from her lover, Jacob in almost a month despite numerous attempts to reach out to him. She decided she had better pick up a pregnancy test on the way home just to be safe. The Laheys asked a bunch of boring real estate questions and then they made their way to the staircase to view the top level. The top level of the manor held the Master bedroom, bathroom, several spare bedrooms, as well as an expansive outdoor balcony.

“Please, do watch your step,” Abigail warned as they climbed up the narrow staircase towards the top level. Upon reaching the top, the Lahey’s peaked in each room with mild interest, barely tolerating Abigail’s extensive speeches on the history of each room.

“What’s that smell?” Mrs. Lahey asked. Her upturned nose scrunched further up her narrow face. “It smells like…like…”

The Lahey’s looked at each other and then at Abigail with a displeasure so intense that her heart nearly jumped out of her body and onto the floor. Her palms began to sweat again, but she took a quick breath and focused on the first answer that came to mind.

“A garbage truck,” she said without missing a beat. “The windows were open a moment ago, and let a draft of air through.”

Mrs. Lahey cleared her throat loudly as she left the room, Mr. Lahey close behind. Abigail walked them to the door, confirming that they would be in touch with her within a few days and handing over a business card for further reference.

“Call me if you have any more questions,” she said after they closed the door of the manor in her face.

That was a close one. Rick needs to get down here right now and fix whatever that smell is.

A call to her clean-up guy, Rick, left her with fifteen minutes of investigation before he arrived. She raced up the stairs again, making a straight shot for the master bedroom, where the spoiled meat smell was now pouring from every inch of the room.

She made her way to the bed immediately, getting onto her hands and knees. There was no rotten food or trash underneath the bed that may have been missed. She pulled herself up to sit on the bed and put her head in her hands, sobbing in frustration and letting herself break just for a moment.

Enough crying. Pull yourself together, Abby.

She wiped the tears away with her hands and stood up to resume the search. Making her way over to the master bathroom she searched the shower, behind and inside the toilet, in every drawer and cupboard and found nothing. She came back out and began to search all of the closets. She opened up the first closet which held nothing but some towels left behind by the previous owner.

Making her way to the walk-in closet she pulled open the door and she screamed as someone reached out to grab her.

To be continued……

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction-Read and React

Scary Setting: Why They Were Picked For Stories?

We all know why the phrase “on a dark and stormy night” brings on a wave of chills and terror when read.  Yet, it is where you are on that stormy night that truly turns a story into the horrifying one the author’s nutty brain imagined.

The mystery and suspense thrive on the creation of a spooky setting

The setting may be just part of the background for some writers. I have found the more I read (as a writer), the more important place becomes to the story. It’s not only the playing board on which the writer sets his/her characters, but it can bring the story to life for the reader. Besides, do you think if a horror story were set in a different place, the story would really stay the same? HELL NO!

Would The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde be the same outside of London? Or how about Dracula and Transylvania? None of these classics would hold the same power if they weren’t set in these eerie places with descriptions to match. There are a few familiar examples to follow to help explain my point. Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire would feel out of place without New Orleans casting its old world mysticism onto the modern story. Most of Stephen King’s novels take place in a fake town in Maine, allowing him to create the most fantastic horror stories of our time. Finally, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson is set in the ruins of Los Angeles leaving its main character alone with throngs of mutated humans that once populated the luxurious city.

At times, the writer will focus too much on the plot or characters to notice what makes good horror writing truly believable, but that is where the terrifying bumps in the night live. I found the inspiration for my next story not in a person or idea, but in a place.  About a ten minute drive from home, sits several new developments with pretty, new houses. When I say several I mean hundreds of brand-new, huge mansion-sized houses in the forests of Western Pennsylvania–all empty. There are one or two occupied houses in each development and the rest…Well, the rest are as deserted as a Western ghost town (also another great location).

Now, I may not be an economist or real estate agent. However, building hundreds of $400,000 homes in an unlikely real estate location strikes me as odd. So odd that it becomes spine-tingling creepy if you visit them at night.  My story does not have a spooky city, but a spooky house. It may seem cliche or lame, but it is the perfect place to write my new science fiction horror.

What are your favorite scary settings in novels and if you’re currently writing a horror, why did you choose the setting you did?

Happy reading and writing!!

4 Comments

Filed under Idea of the Day

The Tell-Tale Heart: My Love Poe

Creepy and mysterious!

So, I think it’s time for me to confess my love for Edgar Allan Poe. As sure as I am a lover of books and aspiring writer, I have loved Poe from the moment I picked up a middle school edition of his short stories. Inside this book, I found   the magic of Poe’s writing.  He was a legendary literary critic, poet, and author. I say legendary because his ideas have surpassed just becoming classic literature. They have become a basis upon which people can appreciate writing for its truly powerful purpose.

Even for those who “don’t read” they know Poe’s reputation. He is one of the most famous and revered American authors to date (if that isn’t a fact–it damn well should be). Like all great writers, he has dabbled in a bit of everything, but eventually settled into what he was destined to do. Write horror. He is credited with many contributions to mystery, horror, detective fiction, and science fiction.

Without Poe, the genres detailed above would not be what they are today. He allowed readers to see inside the human mind, and wasn’t afraid to highlight the frightening parts. Yes, I’m talking a big game, but that is only because Poe walked a pretty big walk in his time on Earth. I believe that my love for Poe began when my 8th grade teacher had a week dedicated to Poe and we read “The Raven.” Cliche to read “The Raven” first? Probably. However, it was the best possible poem to introduce Poe to me. I proceeded to learn everything I could about him, and fell in love with his stories. I cannot claim to have read them all. At the same time, though, some of my favorite stories are his or come from his influence. Part of my love for detective fiction stems from that heart-racing mystery that Poe provides in many of his stories, which is probably what brings me to my next topic.

Pop culture. Dread it or use it, pop culture has an effect on the public. It can enlighten people as book movies encourage people to read, or it can scare people away by the out-of-date references of the past.  For Poe, nothing has helped more than the pop culture influence he has bestowed upon the world.

A screen shot from the episode featuring Poe's notebook

First, let me take you back to an episode of Syfy’s Warehouse 13, which utilizes the power of word to bring Poe to life. I recently watched the episode in season 1 titled “Nevermore,” which features an “artifact” or supernatural item that must be contained by the main characters Myka and Pete in the show. What they create in the show is a notebook and pen used by Poe that hold the power of his words within them. The notebook causes the possessor to fuse with the words on the page and create a link between the text and the person in possession of the pen. It is a painful process to be so close to the  words of Poe that it almost kills the man.

The pen, however, holds the power. It allows the person who holds it to recreate the stories of Poe in real life. A pendulum, trapping a man in a wall, and forced love are some of the disastrous effects of Poe’s writing in a young boy’s life. The episode brings the two together to solve the supernatural issues going on in the story, and the overall message is—Words have power. The simple fact that the writers of this tv show chose Poe is not a coincidence. He has always had a very powerful connection with the words he placed on paper. He has influenced me, and some of my favorite authors to delve into the darkness sometimes.

Next, a more recent event in pop culture has given this lover of Poe something to be excited about:

The movie--The Raven featuring John Cusak as Poe himself!

The Raven will be coming to theaters very soon, and I anticipate its arrival. The scene is set–Poe must help the police find the suspect behind murders copying his stories to clear his name and stop these horrifying killings. Sounds spooky and fantastic to me. Any chance I can have at seeing great writing on the big screen in an inventive way, I will TAKE IT!

You see, I have faith that this movie, like Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and many others will spur some in the audience to go back to the books before/after watching the film. It is an opportunity to show the world how exciting and powerful the written word can be as well as those who write it down.

I look forward to the move and invite you to check it out as well. Here is the trailer below:

8 Comments

Filed under Idea of the Day

The Author Near and Dear to My Bleeding Heart

The inspiration for a writer can come from many places, but a sure fire way to know why a writer writes can come from his or her favorite author. Upon looking at me or some of my writing, you would never guess I am a huge fan of  Stephen King, a master of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. His career has astounded me and given me hope for my career. He spent most of his life writing and doing at least two unrelated jobs to support his family. His short stories were published in magazines until 1973 when his first novel, Carrie, was published. It was then that his writing career became an ongoing one. He would continue to write novels, short stories, and collections for decades.

I first read King in high school. We read his novella Apt Pupil and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.  I was immediately drawn to his ability to develop several main characters in extreme detail. From that point on, I vowed it would be my life’s goal to read everything he has written. So far, I have only made a small dent in the huge list of works he has written.

However, the books I have read encourage my own writing and keep my opinion of King positive. From his first, Carrie, to his most recent book, 11/22/63, King continues to surprise and horrify me.

For the haters, he doesn’t invoke shock and disgust lightly. There is a delicate nature that you must place horrifying terrible things. The fact remains that the readers of 2012 are not phased by gore and pain anymore. What would horrify and scare people 40 years ago when King was first publishing is not going to affect the readers of today. It’s sad that video games and action movies have made violence and killing more acceptable, but the horror King artfully places in his books is not appreciated by most of the public.

To me, there will always be a shock to what King writes because humans need to be shocked at what could possibly happen to them. Although his supernatural elements (time travel, magic, demons, ghosts) elevate the story to a different level, the underlying themes to his stories ring true in all of us. Kujo,  fighting for your life against a rabid animal. Under the Dome, minus the mysterious electrified dome, the fear of a town cut off from the rest of the world is a very real possibility. Those elements are what make King’s stories terrifying. They could in one way actually happen and that slice of reality neatly tucked in between vampires  scares the crap out of readers.

That’s what I love about him. He understand the human condition so well that he uses our worst fears or qualities against us. He reminds us that life is not all puppy dogs and rainbows. That bad things happen and only you can change the  outcome of a bad situation. Every story I read of his gives me the drive to create the world like in the Dark Tower series or focus on place as he does with his home state of Maine.

Although King has met criticism by many, he is revered and loved by more for his dedication to the craft. After reading his memoirs On Writing, I told myself I would be just like King. Writing every day until I die. The funny thing about writers is that we need to write to survive, and even in the face of almost death we still find a way to write. In 1999, King was hit by a van and subsequently decided he might retire. It was difficult for him to sit down to write and his energy wasn’t high.

Yet, a few months after finished physical therapy he was writing the memoirs I just previously mentioned. He has continued to grace the shelves virtual and physical with insightful stories of human life. I hope that he has many more ideas left to write because I don’t plan to stop reading him now. He has written over 50 novels under his name and Richard Bachman. He has published almost 10 collection and even some non-fiction.

King has and always will be my inspiration for writing. I will use him as encouragement, for advice, and a guide through the tough world of writing.

Have you read Stephen King? If so, what books? Did you like his stories, why or why not?

A collage of King's amazing works of art. Not my collection, but someone with a lot of money

Below is the list of books I have checked of my very long list:

Misery

Carrie

Black House

Cell

The Dark Half (most of it, had to return it to the library)

Gerald’s Game

Lisey’s Story (about half)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Apt Pupil

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

Under the Dome

11/22/63


 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Idea of the Day