Writing & Publishing Update – October 9, 2020

Happy Friday, folks! It’s a chilly, rainy fall morning as I write this, although the sun’s fighting to come out. I’m wearing my fall flannel and I’m here with my favorite afghan, my dog (who is still hanging in there) curled up in my lap, I’m sipping Cinnamon Apple Spice tea out of my Boo mug, and a candle is making my office smell like pumpkin pie, and I’m loving every bit of it like the walking basic cliche that I am (at least it’s not a PSL in my Boo mug, so give me credit for that).

I just wrote and scheduled the official launch announcement for Revolution Part One to go out to my mailing list on Monday, so I’m feeling good about that. It actually releases this Sunday, and there’s still time to pre-order.

I’m happy to report that the writing has been going like gangbusters, albeit on my secret romance project that I mentioned in my last post. As for Revolution Part Two, I’m going through and polishing what I’ve got so far, which is quite a bit — nine chapters, some of which are massive. Once that’s done, I’ll go back to the editing and revising as I go method that worked so well for me on Part One. That way when I get to the end it will be DONE, except for the proofreading and formatting.

I’ve also got a draft of a stand-alone horror novella saved up from last year that I’ll be getting ready for publication after Dominion is all done and off my plate. Plus I’ve got plans to release all of the Dominion series wide very soon (that means everywhere else besides Amazon), and to release them all in paperback. And I’m sure there’s also a boxed set somewhere in the not-too-distant future. But all of that is down the road a bit.

Meanwhile, I’m striking while the inspiration’s hot on this sweet romance novel and working on getting a platform together for that pen name. Again, if you enjoy sweet and cozy romance, drop me a line or leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to let you know where to find all of that. Otherwise, I’m trying to keep these audiences unmixy to protect my precious Amazon algorithms, hence all the caginess.

In other news, it’s Halloween all month long here at the Bauhaushold. We’ve got so many Halloweenish movies we want to squeeze in, not to mention snacks, that we can’t possibly do it all on one night, so we’re spreading it out through the month. We’ve already checked the original Halloween (although we’re sure to play that one again on the actual night), Prince of Darkness, Dark Night of the Scarecrow and the 2010 remake of The Wolfman off of our watch list, and that’s hardly putting a dent in it. I’m not sure what we’ll be watching this weekend, but I think we’re both ready to take a break from movies and squeeze in some of our favorite Treehouses of Horror and that perennial Halloween classic, Hilloween (so much nostalgia — I had many a Junie Harper in my life growing up).

Okie-doke — back to the word mill. Have a great weekend, y’all. ♥

Happy Halloween! I Brought Treats!

 

 

halloween-963122_1280

Okay, confession: these treats are recycled. We’re in the middle of getting ready to move and I don’t have time to run to Target and pick up new bags of candy make new content. But these old treats are still yummy, I promise!

Here’s me last year doing a Halloween live reading of my short horror story, Snack Machine:

 

And here’s me narrating two creepy pieces of flash fiction:

 

 

These are all featured in my short story collection, Midnight Snacks. Click here to get your copy. It also includes my horror novella Eucha Falls, which is available as a free standalone wherever e-books are sold. And if you like those you’ll also like my creepy story about a witch’s ghost, Weather Witch. Get it here.

But wait, there’s more! Before you go, be sure to check out my Restless Oklahoma and Stuff I Think You’ll Like blog tags for more spooky reads and recommendations.

And finally, here’s a Halloween tip: If you’ve got more candy corn than you know what to do with, try mixing it into your popcorn. We tried this the other night and it was the perfect mix of sweet & salty — and I’m not even a fan of candy corn. But that was a big bag o’ deliciousness.

Happy Halloween, folks. I hope you’re enjoying it this year. As for me and mine, we’re going to take a break from packing and prepping to enjoy our favorite monster movies and candy. What Halloween traditions are you enjoying this year? Shout it out in the comments!

Derek Brandt Inspiration

Character Inspiration: Derek Brandt

Derek Brandt InspirationIf you’ve read any of the alternative scenes from the original draft of Kindred Spirits I posted–or if you were one of the unlucky people who, to my embarrassment, were sent the wrong Kindle file on the day the book launched (a faux pas that was quickly resolved by my publisher, so if you blinked you missed it; I’m hoping you blinked)–then you won’t be surprised to learn that Chris Wilson’s nemesis-slash-love-interest was originally named Douglas Batey, and in my mind he bore a strong resemblance to Jeremy Renner.

Sometimes characters evolve as you write them, and in more ways than just character growth. This was one of those times.

And it turns out that the actor you envision in the role can make a big difference.

Writing the second draft of Kindred Spirits coincided with marathon binge-fests of Gilmore Girls as I got myself all caught up and ready to watch the revival mini-series on Netflix. And while I am not a fan of Logan Huntzberger (Team Jess all the way!), it wasn’t very far into his introductory season when Douglas/Derek suddenly morphed into Matt Czuchry, and everything clicked into place.

In my mind, Derek Brandt shares Logan’s looks, mannerisms and penchant for banter with none of his spoiled poor-little-rich-boy childishness. While he does have a stubborn streak a mile long, a tendency to become too single-minded in pursuit of his goals, and a penchant to be overprotective of the people he cares about, he’s also smart, caring, and he eventually comes around to admitting when he’s wrong. He also possesses courage and a mighty sense of justice, and he doesn’t let sentimentality or even loyalty stand in the way.

As for the name change, you can thank my husband, who pointed out that Douglas is a terrible name for a romance novel hero. While I happen to think it’s a perfectly manly name, I had to concede his point–plus it no longer fit the new and improved version of the character. I’m happy that I caved. Derek Brandt is a much better foil/match for Chris than Douglas Batey ever was.

Get to know Derek Brandt in Kindred Spirits before his next appearance in Bound Spirits later this summer!

Kindred Spirits Jean Marie Bauhaus

Short Story Preview: The Box

Adobe Spark(8).jpg

Here’s a sneak peek at a brand new flash fiction, the entirety of which will go out in my newsletter this Sunday. To read this and other stories that are exclusive to my mailing list, sign up here!

The box sat on the dinette table, a silent threat to everything Keely Brewster had worked so hard for. She sat and regarded it as she sipped her chamomile tea—it was supposed to keep her calm, but it wasn’t doing the trick. Maybe if she added a shot of bourbon—and mulled over what she should do. It had just shown up on her doorstep, all brown and nondescript. No postal marks, no return address, nothing to provide even a hint of where it had come from or who had placed it there.

The first thing she had done, after searching the yard and scanning the street for any sign of its deliverer, had been to get on her hands and knees and put her ear against it. There was no ticking, although that didn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t a bomb, of sorts. The enemies she’d left in her wake weren’t the sort to deign to use such backward human means as a mechanized explosive, although that didn’t preclude them from paying off a human assassin to get the job done.

A magic bomb, on the other hand, would be much harder to detect, and have much more far-reaching consequences than simply blowing Keely to bits.

The white-haired lady from across the street—Keely had only moved in last week, and hadn’t yet had time to learn any of her neighbor’s names —came out to walk her equally white-haired Scottish terrier. She stopped to stare questioningly at Keely, still down on all fours inspecting the box, prompting her to get up and, very carefully, bring the box inside, where she’d set it on the table before making herself a cup of tea.

Sipping and contemplating, she considered the list of people and other beings who would happily see her dead or dismembered. It was too long to count. After all, she’d killed countless of their kind. Some wanted revenge, some what they would call justice. Others just wanted to remove her as a threat to their existence. Nothing personal.

The former she could understand. The latter she wished would understand that she no longer posed them any threat. She was done with that life. She just wanted to raise her daughter in peace. Let someone else deal with all the monsters for a change.

More important than the question of who had sent the package was knowing how they had found her. She’d changed her name, her looks, her entire life so she could run to ground in the smallest nowhere town she could find that still offered her daughter a decent education. She’d done every possible thing to cover her tracks. This was supposed to be the end of running. A chance to put down roots and give her girl a normal life.

Whatever that meant.

She glanced into the living room, at the toys scattered among stacks of still-unpacked boxes, and thought of having to load those boxes back in the Jeep, having to pack those toys and explain to her little girl that the new best friend she’d already made at school was someone she’d never be able to see again, not even to say goodbye. She finished her tea, longing even harder for that shot of bourbon and lamenting her decision to quit drinking.

There was only one way to find the answer to these questions. She had to open the box.

***

Want to read the rest? Sign up to have it delivered to your inbox this Sunday!

Enter to Win a Signed Copy of Kindred Spirits!

Kindred Spirits by Jean Marie BauhausWant to win a signed, personalized copy of Kindred Spirits?  To enter, all you have to do is head here to take my reader survey. You’ll not only help me get to know my readers better and figure out what I’m doing right and where I’m going horribly awry; you’ll also automatically be entered* for a chance to win a signed uncorrected proof copy of the trade paperback of my latest romantic paranormal mystery!

The survey should take no more than 10 minutes to answer, but it will tell me a lot about the best way to connect with you and create content that you actually care about.

*The contest for the signed physical book is open to U.S. residents only. If you’re outside the United States, as a thank you for your time you’ll be eligible to receive a free electronic copy of one of my books — your choice!

The winner will be notified via e-mail at the end of October. International participants will also be contacted by then about receiving a free e-book.

Click here to take the survey and enter!

Read the First Chapter of Kindred Spirits!

The wait is almost over! The release of Kindred Spirits is just a few weeks away, but here’s a sneak peek at the long-awaited sequel to Restless Spirits!

Kindred Spirits by Jean Marie Bauhaus

I hate this guy,” Veronica Wilson announced as she stared at the television in disbelief. “I think I’ll go haunt him.”

Christine Wilson punched the “off” button on the TV remote and tossed it on the sofa with a disgusted sigh. A queasy feeling started to come over her, but she tried to hide her discomfort from her sister. “What would that accomplish?”

It’ll scare the smug skepticism right out of the jerk, that’s what.”

I’m not sure how that would help.”

How wouldn’t it? The guy just pantsed you on live TV!” Ron moved to stand in front of Chris, doing a better job than her younger sister of not noticing that she hovered in the middle of the coffee table. “Nobody does that to my little sister. Besides, once I get through with him, there’s no way he’ll be able to deny the existence of ghosts. He’ll have to recant.” She looked over at her partner, who sat on the other end of the sofa, pointedly focusing all his attention on the semi-transparent Jack Russell Terrier curled up in his lap. “Joe, tell her I’m right.”

Joe looked for a second like he’d been caught in a trap before smoothing his face into the picture of diplomacy. “The man does seem like he could use a comeuppance,” he said to Chris before turning his attention to Ron. “But your sister can fight her own battles.”

That’s right. I can.” Chris folded her arms to underscore her statement. As much as part of her loved the idea of Ronnie going over there and putting the fear of all things paranormal into Derek Brandt, she had a feeling that would only make things worse. “No haunting.”

Oh, come on!” Ron flung her hands up in frustration. “This guy just shredded your reputation. You can’t do nothing.”

I didn’t say I’d do nothing. I said I don’t want you to do anything. See the difference? Besides, it’s not like this is the first go-round I’ve had with him.”

No, but it’s one thing for him to pick on your paranormal club in the college paper. But you’re both professionals now, and you’ve got a lot more to lose. And he called you a fraud on live television. He can’t get away with this.”

He didn’t actually call me a fraud.” Chris knew she sounded pathetic even as she spoke.

To her credit, Ron didn’t roll her eyes. “No, but he implied it.”

He did at that,” Joe agreed.

So if I just find out where he lives, I can personally show him just how wrong he is.”

No.”

But—”

Ronnie, I said no!”

Fine.” Ron plopped down in the middle of the couch, right on top of the remote. Chris still wasn’t sure how she did that without going right through the cushions. “So what are you going to do?”

Good question. Chris wasn’t sure what she could do. Ron was right about one thing. Derek Brandt was a respected local crime reporter now, not some journalism student writing filler for a little college paper hardly anyone actually read. He’d won awards for consumer advocacy. Her Aunt Judy had e-mailed her dozens of clips from the Channel 24 website citing Brandt’s warnings about products to avoid and mechanics who would rip you off and how to keep from getting mugged in the parking lot. People took him seriously.

She, on the other hand, was someone who talked to dead people and investigated haunted houses for a living. Her most recent claim to fame was her role in exorcising the city’s most haunted housea house she now called home. That, and publishing a novel that was ghost-writtenliterallyby her dead sister. The pool of people who took her seriously was already pretty shallow. This would likely shrink it down to the size of an inflatable kiddie pool.

I don’t know,” she admitted. “I think I should sleep on it.” If I can sleep after all this. “Look, guys, I need to think. Would you mind giving me some space?”

Ron opened her mouth, probably to argue, but Joe spoke up before she could get started again. “Not at all.” He got up and tucked the dog under his arm. “I’m beat, anyway. Ron, how ‘bout we turn in?”

Ron glared at him a moment but then softened as she imitated someone who could sigh heavily. “Fine,” she said, getting to her feet. “But my offer’s still on the table. Just say the word.”

Chris couldn’t help smiling as she shook her head. “You don’t even know where he lives.”

She shrugged. “I have my ways,” she said before fading out of sight along with Joe and Buster.

Chris stared at the spot where they’d all been standing, taking a moment to relish the silence. She didn’t get a lot of it since moving into the house her sister haunted. As much as she loved still having Ronnie around, she sometimes regretted giving up her own apartment. But although the selling price of theformerlymost haunted house in town had been a steal, the renovations had been another story.

Keeping an apartment when she owned a perfectly good house with so many vacant bedrooms had seemed like an extravagance she couldn’t justify, even with the book royalties Ron had bequeathed to her.

She imagined that Ron was up in the attic, giving Joe an earful. She felt slightly sorry for him but also grateful. She wanted to watch the news report again without her sister’s running commentary and angry outbursts. With another sigh, she picked up the remote and rewound the DVR.

Derek Brandt was handsome, that much was undeniable. As she’d seen for herself that morning, he was even better looking than she remembered from their college days. He was even cockier than she remembered, too. As irritated as she’d been when he’d interrupted her investigation, what made it even worse was that he’d shown no sign of remembering her.

More irritating still was how he’d handled himself. His manner had been polite, even charming. His questions, on the other hand, were smug and condescending when they weren’t downright hostile.

So it wasn’t as if she’d expected to come out smelling like a rose.

Chris took a deep breath, then pressed Play.

Tonight, we look at Christine Wilson,” Brandt’s voice said over a shot of Christine trying to duck the camera, “self-described paranormal investigator and founder of W.I.G.G.I.N.S.”—he pronounced each letter rather than just saying the acronym, and Chris couldn’t help but smile at the thought of him trying to say it with a straight face—”which stands for Wilson Investigations: Ghosts, Goblins, Imps and Nasty Spirits.”

The name had been her sister’s contribution to the agency, and even now, it made Chris giggle. She had actually shortened it since Ron’s passing, dropping everything after the colon. It figured Brandt had dug up and used the longer and less professional-sounding versionit tied better into the narrative that she was a ridiculous, attention-seeking crazy lady.  “Some would call her a psychic medium, as she claims to be able to communicate with the spirits of those no longer living.”

Chris sighed and paused the DVR, then got up and went to the kitchen. She took a bottle of wine down from the cupboard and stared at it a moment. Then she put it back and rummaged through the cabinet until she found what she really wanted: a bottle of Jameson’s left over from Ron’s wake. She poured two fingers into a jelly glass, added a splash of tap water from the kitchen faucet, then took it back into the living room.

Seated again, she took a sip and managed to suppress the urge to cough as fire ran down her throat and spread through her chest. Feeling sufficiently fortified, she grabbed the remote and resumed the story.

The camera focused on Mrs. Wood standing in her garage next to her late husband’s classic MG convertible. Mr. Wood had restored that car himself, pouring most of his free time for the past fifteen years into restoring it and keeping it in cherry condition. He’d apparently spent more time in the latter years of their marriage working on that car than he’d spent with his wife.

Mrs. Wood had called Chris earlier that week, claiming that she was sure her husband was haunting the car, and Chris had gone out there this morning to check it out, along with her equipment guy, Gus.

Chris had known right away that the car wasn’t haunted. Though it was possible that the ghost had simply been dormant while she was there, she could usually at least sense a presence. More often than not, they came right out and introduced themselves once they realized she could see them. She had gotten no sense of anything inhabiting that car and had been in the middle of explaining that to Mrs. Wood when Derek Brandt’s news crew crashed their little party.

Evelyn Wood called the Channel 24 consumer hotline about her various attempts to find the cause behind several electrical malfunctions on her late husband’s convertible,” said Derek Brandt’s voice-over. “Mechanics from four different garages have been unable to identify what is causing the headlights to blink on and off, the horn to blare at random intervals, and the radio to unexpectedly turn itself on and cycle through stations. Fed up and desperate for answers, Mrs. Wood turned to Christine Wilson for an alternative explanation.”

Well, I thought it had to be my husband,” Mrs. Wood said to someone, presumably Brandt, standing just off camera. “Vic poured his heart and soul into that car when he was alive. It made sense to me that he stayed there after he passed away.”

A jump cut focused on Gus, in the middle of a standard EVP session. Sitting in the driver’s seat with a high-powered microphone and digital recording equipment, he called out a series of questions. In a real haunting, the recorder would usually pick up answers, or at least a word or two of a message the spirit wanted to convey. Chris didn’t need it done for her own benefit, but she found that things usually went more smoothly if she could provide her clients with physical evidence instead of simply taking her at her word.

Of course, this time, the recorder didn’t pick up anything, as she’d known it wouldn’t. But that part didn’t make it into the story.

As you can see, Ms. Wilson and her team”“Team?!” Ron had snorted at this point. “Can’t he see it’s just Gus?” In the here and now, Chris quietly sipped her whiskey“investigated the car for signs that would support Mrs. Wood’s suspicions. We asked if we could review the evidence from the investigation, but Ms. Wilson declined. She also declined to be interviewed for this story.” This last part was spoken over a shot of Chris’s back as she helped Gus lug his equipment back to his van.

Maybe it had been a mistake not to speak on the record. Chris could tell from Brandt’s attitude that he had no intention of painting her in a positive light, so she’d though it prudent not to play along. She had simply done her job and told Mrs. Wood that she thought the car’s behavior probably had more to do with wiring than anything paranormal, and then she and Gus had called it a day and tried to get out of everyone’s way.

It didn’t occur to her that their leaving would be painted as running away because they had something to hide.

And, of course, Brandt left out the part about Chris suggesting a non-supernatural cause. Instead, this happened: “To satisfy my own curiosityand to get to the bottom of this car’s strange behavior once and for allwe brought along Mike Henson, whom regular Channel 24 viewers will recognize as The Honest Mechanic, to check out the car.”

The camera cut to a muscular man with a shaved head. He wore blue coveralls with the name “Mike” embroidered over his left breast. “A lot of today’s mechanics aren’t really trained to deal with these classic cars. If there’s not a computer system that can be hooked up to a diagnostic machine, they don’t know how to diagnose something like this, so it’s not really surprising none of them could provide an answer.”

It cut to a shot of him bent under the hood, which revealed a logo on the back of his coveralls that said “The Honest Mechanic” in bright yellow. A halo sat at a jaunty angle over the H, and angel wings protruded from either side.

Mike, on the other hand, has an extensive background in classic car repair,” said the voice-over. “And his findings?”

Back to a shot of Mike speaking to the off-camera reporter: “I found some crossed wires and a loose spark plug that would be the most likely explanation. I tightened the plug and fixed the wiring and now, the car’s electrical appliances should stop going off like they had been.”

I’m so glad,” Mrs. Wood said after she received the mechanic’s verdict. “I’d hate to think my Vic had to spend his afterlife with that car, although it would’ve been nice to speak to him again. But I’m glad to know he’s at rest. And I’m glad that now, I’ll finally be able to get some rest without that car blaring its horn at two in the morning!”

A shot of Brandt, with his jacket off and shirt sleeves rolled up, looking like Joe Everyman Hero as he walked up the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Wood’s house. “So there you have it. The Mystery of the Crying Car turned out to be nothing more than a loose spark plug. When asked what psychic Christine Wilson had to say to that, she unfortunately declined to comment.”

Actually, she had commented. When Brandt had chased her down at the van to tell her what the mechanic had found, she’d shrugged and said, “Great. Mystery solved,” before shutting herself inside. Guess that wasn’t quite the sound byte he’d been looking for.

The moral of this story?” Brandt smugged at the camera. “The next time you run into unexplained phenomena, don’t be taken in by so-called psychics pushing their paranormal agenda. It’s likely that the truth is a little more down to earth.”

Chris turned off the TV aggressively and downed the rest of her drink. This time, she did cough, and leaned forward to set the glass on the coffee table and breathe. She was slightly grateful to the whiskey for choking off all of the names flitting through her head that she wanted to call Brandt out loud.

By the time she composed herself, she was no less certain of what to do than she’d been before, but at least she had a pleasant buzz that made her care a little less.

How much damage could his story really do, anyway? His was only one of four local news channels in this cityhow big could his viewership be? Besides, most of the people who called her for help were already inclined to believe in the paranormal. It’s not like one snide commentary on the subject would change their minds.

It was her other clientele that she worried aboutthe dead who often counted on her to deliver messages to loved ones or fulfill unfinished business so they could find peace. How likely would a skeptical loved one be to listen to her after this?

She hoped she was overestimating the story’s impact, or at least Derek Brandt’s reach. Although, in the back of her mind, she had a feeling he’d done more damage than either of them could possibly know.

Chris re-started the story from the beginning. She got about as far as she’d gotten the last time before pausing it and taking her glass to the kitchen. She found the whiskey on the counter where she’d left it and poured herself another shot, not bothering with water this time. She turned to go, but after a moment’s hesitation, grabbed the bottle and took it with her. Once she was settled back on the couch, she backed up to the beginning and played it again.

***

I still say I should haunt him.”

Up in the attic, Joe sat on the antique couch and watched Ron pace back and forth. “Your sister asked you not to.”

Ron scoffed. “That’s because she’s the good sister. She has to tell me not to. It gives her plausible deniability.”

She’s also the one who has to live with any consequences your little haunting adventure stirs up,” he pointed out. “Christine’s a big girl. She has been for a while. You gotta let her fight her own battles.”

Ron frowned down at him, her bottom lip protruding ever so slightly in the tiniest of pouts. “I hate it when you’re all reasonable.”

You hate it when I’m right.”

I didn’t say you were right.”

No, but you wouldn’t be so irritated if I wasn’t.” He got up from the couch and went over to her, taking her hands in his. “Somehow, I also don’t think you’d still be here.”

Her pout grew more pronounced, inviting him to nibble on that lip. He took her up on the invitation, and her lips parted in welcome. He could never get enough of the way touching her made him feelthe way every tiny molecule of whatever it was his spirit was made of seemed to dance for joy throughout his whole being. It had been more than a century since he’d been alive, and longer still since he’d kissed a living woman, so it was hard to remember exactly how that had felt. But he doubted it had been better than this.

Now you’re just trying to distract me,” Ron mumbled against his mouth.

Oh, believe me, you’re the one that’s doin’ the distractin’ here.” He pulled her into his arms. She came along willingly, sliding her own arms up to wrap around his neck and sighing against his mouth. They stayed like that for a while, just holding and kissing each other, and gratitude welled up in Joe, powering his kisses and driving his caresses. He still couldn’t believe she’d chosen to stay with him, and he felt like the luckiest man ever to haunt this limbo between life and death.

And also the least deserving.

He couldn’t bring himself to speak these things aloud. Instead, he tried to show her with every touch, with the way he gazed into her eyes between kisses. He didn’t have a heartbeat to show her how much it excited him just to be with her. He didn’t have the normal function of a living man. Their lovemaking was literally a spiritual act, a joining of their essences that was the most exhilarating thing he’d ever known.

Later, lying together on the sofa, wrapped in each other’s arms, they barely had enough energy left to enjoy the afterglow. It became harder to think, but even so, as oblivion overtook them, Joe knew how selfish of him it was to let her stay here with him instead of sending her into the light.

And as his being continued to vibrate from her nearness, he also knew he didn’t care.

***

She awoke sooner than she’d expected. After the way she and Joe had ended their evening, she’d expected to sleep like . . . well, like exactly what she was. Joe certainly seemed to be. Ron lay still for a few minutes, just watching him in his repose. Her heartor whatever stood in for it these daysswelled with joy, and she once again marveled at the fact that she’d had to die to find the kind of love she’d previously only written about.

When she couldn’t take it anymore, she carefully extracted herself from the couch, managing not to disturb either Joe or Buster, who had apparently snuggled up with them at some point. With no more than a thought, she was standing in her sister’s room. The bed was empty. Ron glanced at the clock on Chris’s nightstand. It was a few minutes past three. Where was she?

Ron popped downstairs to the living room, the last place she’d seen her sister. There she was, sacked out on the couch, with her big gray tabby curled up next to her head. Ron couldn’t understand how she could sleep so peacefully after what had happened, but then she saw the bottle on the coffee table, next to the empty jelly glass.

Oh, sweetie,” she whispered. Poor kid. Things had been going so well for her, and for the business. Ron wasn’t about to let a tool like Derek Brandt undo that and get away with it. “That does it,” she muttered, more to herself than to her sleeping sister. With a glance at Chris she added, “Sorry, but sometimes, big sis knows best.”

She stole into the office, where Chris kept a laptop booted up at all times for Ron’s late night writing sessions. Ron lowered herself into the chair behind the antique oaken desk. Instead of pulling up her work in progress, she opened a web browser and practiced a little Google-fu. She couldn’t track down Brandt’s home address, but she did find directions to the TV station where he worked.

Thankfully, she could take a much shorter route than the one suggested by Google Maps. Looking at the building on Street View, she simply closed her eyes and formed a picture of it in her mind. When she opened them again, she stood in the parking lot.

Ron grinned, a little amazed with herself. “That never gets old.”

Inside the building, she found a directory. She didn’t find a listing for his office, so she took a chance and went to the news room. About twenty desks filled the large room, surrounded by low cubicle walls. Ron floated up and down the aisles between them until she found one with Derek’s nameplate.

Her sense of accomplishment quickly faded once she discovered his desk was locked up tight. Locks weren’t generally a problem for her these days, but if he had an address book in there, she’d need to take it out to read it. She could easily reach in and feel around, but pulling out a solid object was another matter.

He probably keeps all that stuff in Outlook, anyway,” she muttered. She looked at the monitor on his desk. It was attached to a docking station rather than a desktop unit, and the laptop was gone. Not that she’d had much hope of cracking his password if it had been there.

Undaunted, she scanned the objects on his desk. Her gaze landed on a framed photo of two teenage boys standing at the end of a driveway in front of a brick, ranch-style house. Both boys bore a resemblance to Brandt, especially the younger one. At first, Ron thought they must be his younger brothers, but upon closer inspection, she realized the clothing and hairstyles were way too late ‘Nineties for the picture to be current. The younger kid must be Brandt himself.

Another framed photo showed the adult version next to a much older manhis dad, most likelyin front of the same house. So it was likely that his parents still lived there. It wasn’t quite what she’d hoped to find, but at least it was a lead. She’d probably have better luck tracking down his address there.

Ron focused on the house in the photo until it materialized before heror, rather, she before it. She was surprised to see a classic dark green Mustang sitting in the driveway in place of the type of sedan typically driven by retirees. It was probably maintained by “The Honest Mechanic.” Ron rolled her eyes as she remembered the big show that was made of that guy inspecting Chris’s client’s car. One thing she’d noticed in her short life was that if someone went around advertising how honest they were, they were usually pretty shady.

She moved up the front walk and passed through the front door. Inside, she found another surprise: the decor was all leather, glass and chrome, very masculine. It was tastefully doneRon especially appreciated the vintage Eames chair set off to the side of the burgundy leather sofa. She could tell it was the real deal and not a knock-off, but it screamed “young single guy” and not “retired parents.” Could she actually be so lucky?

An entry table sat beside the front door, on top of which sat a black lacquer tray that held keys and a wallet. Ron flipped open the wallet and revealed Derek Brandt’s driver’s license inside. “Jackpot!” A giddy giggle bubbled up out of her.

And morphed into a scream when a voice behind her said, “Who are you?”

Ron spun around. A teenage boy stood in the living room, staring right at her and looking somehow familiar. Ron glanced around to make sure there was nobody else in the room with them, then pointed at herself. “Me?”

I saw you come in through the door,” he said. “You’re like me, aren’t you?”

Confused and taken off guard, Ron squinted at the kid, trying to remember where she knew him from. He stared at her earnestly, waiting for an answer, and it dawned on her: she’d seen him in the picture that stood on Derek’s desk. He looked the same. The shirt was different, but he hadn’t aged a day. “Who are you?” she asked him.

I asked you first. What are you doing in my house?”

Your . . . you mean Derek Brandt’s house, right?”

The kid blew out a sigh of frustration and flicked his eyes toward the ceiling. “Derek’s my kid brother. Although I guess he’s not exactly a kid anymore, and yeah, I guess technically, he owns this house now.”

Wait a minute. You . . . haunt this place?”

He gave her a petulant shrug. “I guess you could call it that. But shouldn’t I be the one asking the questions here, lady? Who are you and what are you doing here?”

Ron folded her arms across her stomach and lifted her chin. “I’m a ghost, like you. I came to haunt your brother.”

The kid screwed up his brow. “Why?”

Because he was a jerk to my sister and now he must pay. Sorry. I have to ask, though, why does he act like people who believe in the paranormal are either idiotic or insane when he’s got a ghost living right here in his own home?”

The expression on the kid’s face became crestfallen. “Because he has no idea I’m here. I don’t know how to get his attention.” He came over to Ron and looked past her at the entry table. “You did that?” he asked, pointing at the wallet.

I did what?”

You opened his wallet. How’d you do that?”

It . . . um, well, I just

Can you teach me?”

Ron pressed her lips shut and eyed the kid. “What’s your name?”

Jimmy.”

Ron smiled and held out her hand. “Hi, Jimmy. I’m Ron, and I think I’m your new fairy godmother.”

***

Kindred Spirits comes out June 30th from Vinspire Publishing!

Story Inspiration: Eucha Falls

Eucha Falls coverI used to have a recurring dream about visiting an amusement park. The park in my dream was a bit of a drive to get to but still close enough to be considered local. It wasn’t recognizable as any park I’d ever been to in real life, yet these dreams were so vivid that whenever I woke up from them I had to struggle to figure out whether this was a real place I was remembering. For the most part the dreams were pleasant enough, but I remember one instance where in the dream I discovered a room at the park full of glass showcases filled with oddities of a disturbing nature, and I recall a distinct and very creepy feeling of being watched by something malicious as I made my way from case to case.

Around the time I had that particular version of the amusement park dream, I had fairly recently discovered creepypasta and had been reading a lot of them. One of my favorites was “Candle Cove” (you should click here and go read it — I’ll wait), and I was intrigued by the concept of a bunch of people who met on the Internet having shared memories of something that didn’t exist. Was it a shared hallucination, or was something supernatural going on?

I remember this little story reminding me of my dreams, for some reason, and this story of a young woman searching for her brother after he’d gone missing while searching for a theme park he remembered visiting as a child (but which nobody else remembered) began to take shape. And perhaps inevitably, another prominent Internet legend which had also grabbed hold of my psyche and refused to let go also helped to shape it–this story owes as much to Marble Hornets and Slender Man as it does to creepypasta and my own subconscious.

All in all, it’s a mashup that works, and it resulted in a short story that I’m actually quite proud of.

Eucha Falls (pronounced Oocha Falls) is perma-free at most places where ebooks are sold online, including Amazon. You can also download a copy in the format of your choice from Noisetrade.

Restless Spirits 2 is off to the publisher – AND it has a title!

At long, long last, I’m pleased to tell you that the full-length sequel to Restless Spirits that I spent all last year (and then some) working on is FINALLY finished and turned in to my publisher. No word yet on when they plan to release it, but I’m guessing we’ll be looking at another Halloween-adjacent launch.

Of course I had to give it a real title before turning it in. After a lot of deliberation and highly scientific online polling, I settled on Kindred Spirits. That’s not officially official until my editor approves it, but seeing as how I believe that was one of her suggestions back when she rejected calling it “Ghost of a Chance,” I feel pretty good about its chances of survival.

Stay tuned to this space over the coming months (or better yet, head here to sign up to my newsletter) for updates on things like an official release date announcement, excerpts and the eventual cover reveal!

And don’t forget — the mini-sequel novella, Love Letter, set about a year after the events of Restless Spirits, comes out next Tuesday! Head here to pre-order your copy!

Love Letter: A Restless Spirits Novella by Jean Marie Bauhaus