Category Archives: ghostlight

Unexpected Steampunk

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A little work on introducing a character I’ve been thinking about for a while, who would be introduced not in Ghostlight, but it’s sequel (though he is mentioned in Ghostlight a few times). I tried keeping spoilers about Ghostlight’s ending vague enough as to be nonexistent.

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I live with ghosts in my everyday life, witnessed more than one impossible murders firsthand, was a murder suspect myself and get dark looks if not outright threats to my personal safety every day at school. Just to give some context when I say that what I saw upon opening the door on an afternoon in late April was the last possible thing I could have expected. Read the rest of this entry

Can Young Adult Fiction Grow Up?

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The novel I’m working on, Ghostlight, is very clearly in the Young Adult Paranormal (YAP) genre. Bette is 17, a high school senior, as are her friends, and there are ghosts. Bam, YA, done. See also such series as The Vampire Diaries, Harry Potter, Twilight, the list goes on.

But she’s also a character I can easily see in what’s come to be called the Urban Fantasy (UF) genre: Bette in her 20’s, in a city somewhere, doing some manner of paranormal-related work, be it a professional ghost hunter, a PI, a journalist with a secret, and so on. In a number of ways, the story I’m writing is Bette’s origin story, her first adventure into the paranormal, the point at which her life changes, the events that set her on a certain path. See also such series as The Dresden Files, Southern Vampire Mysteries/True Blood, Mercy Thompson, Greywalker–the list, again, goes on.

Really I just wanted an excuse to post this awesome picture.

What I’m writing for Bette now is the kind of story that the Urban Fantasy novels will often mention in passing, but don’t usually go into details on. Those novels largely skip ahead to when the character is established in their weird world; whereas for the YAP novels, this is the story that they cover, how it started, how the character went from normal to paranormal, how that world got weird in the first place. While both types have their similarities and differences, there’s one big difference I’m seeing right now: the YAP novels tend to be contained by a set number of books, usually a trilogy, while the UF novels are much more open-ended.

I can see Bette’s story being contained, spanning 3 or 4 books and then ending there, with the future becoming a big blank slate. But I can also see it continuing on, her growing up and finding a new place in the world, her being not just the YAP heroine, but the UF one as well.

As far as I know, this isn’t something that’s been done before, a Young Adult character/series developing into an adult-focused Urban Fantasy series. I can certainly see why, there are plenty of reasons for it. Who do you market the books to, those books generally (or at least often) have a very different tone and subject matter, there’s no ‘transitional’ genre out there for this. It’s the reason why TV shows about high schoolers rarely manage to survive when those characters go to college. You’ve got characters you like, a setting you like, actors you like, and the reality is that most people don’t all stick around in the same town they grew up in when they go to school.

Harry Potter: The Jack Bauer of Aurors

But, I can also see reasons why it could possibly work. For one thing, your readers are growing up, why not a character who grows up with them? As well, a book series doesn’t face the same issues of having to always be tied to one place, certain characters, certain actors. It’s easier to change those up in a book than in a TV show. And while one may say there’s no transitional, I’d argue that YA is the transitional genre. Some very real and meaningful events, thoughts, and conflicts can and often do come up in YA. Death, love, broken hearts, hardships, prejudice, poverty, family issues — all of these frequently come up in YA and are explored and dealt with in thoughtful, satisfying, and mature ways.

It might be challenging — and, of course, this is all assuming I finish this book, get it published, and have enough success to keep doing more featuring Bette — but I do think it’s possible. I’d like to approach the whole idea thinking it’s possible, and that because whatever adventure Bette has now may end, it doesn’t mean she can’t have more of them later in life.

Let’s be honest, if JK Rowling decided to write books about Harry Potter’s adventures as an Auror, who wouldn’t want to read that? It would be awesome! (No, I’m not saying I’m the next JK Rowling, as awesome as that also would be. But HP is a series that had many mature themes for what was a “kid’s” book, so it well illustrates my point here.)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Family & Hidden

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Going out of order with my photo challenge catch-ups, I know. 🙂 But it’s the holidays, and for me holidays means family, and one of my missed photo challenges over at DP was Family. At first I was browsing looking for your average family photo–not a posed one, because as nice as those can be, they aren’t the real everyday truth of a family. Those pictures are the unexpected ones, or the ones taken on any old weekday. But in my search, I found this photo by yi-ching lin tagged for the “Family” photo challenge and I kinda love it.(I’m unable to insert the image directly in this post, so I highly recommend you go there and check it out. Yi-Ching has a lot of great photos on his/her blog, in fact!)

It’s a more morose take on the idea, yes, but it instantly brought Ghostlight to mind. A big part of Bette’s life is that her brother is dead and she doesn’t know why, and her family has been falling apart ever since. I’ve been itching to write the next section, and after seeing this picture it struck me: this girl is seeing ghosts, new murders have striking similarities to Graham’s mysterious death, why hasn’t she gone to visit grave yet in this story exactly? Duh!

For added flavor, I’m throwing in some elements of this picture I mentioned a few weeks ago by three sticks of watusi.

Family & Hidden

Mist still hung heavy in the air; it hadn’t burned off with the morning, instead choosing to hang around for the whole day. But really, how much more fitting could it get? Halloween was a few days away, there were unsolved murders, I was seeing ghosts, and now I was standing in front of a cemetery gate. A chill mist that felt like it was sinking into my skin and weighing down my bones would’ve only been more appropriate if I were also in London.

I stepped closer, curling my fingers around the cold iron bars on the gate. I wanted to go in, to visit Graham’s grave…to answer the question I’d had in the back of my mind since this began. Would his ghost be there? I just wasn’t sure what answer I wanted. If he was there–and, presuming ghosts could also be seen in the daylight, another answer I didn’t yet have–it would mean getting the answers I’d wanted for three years. But if he wasn’t, then there was no telling what that meant. Maybe he was gone on to his afterlife. Or, more likely from how he’d died, his ghost, his soul, was somewhere else altogether.

Only one way to find out, Lauden. No more stalling.

Letting go of the iron gate, my last refuge, I stepped into the fog of the graveyard. The temperature dropped around me and I knew that even if ghosts weren’t visible, they were still here. The mist obscured what might be real, or imagined, or spectral at first, but a few feet further revealed the outlines of colorless people, lurking about their graves, watching my approach with sad confusion. I don’t think they knew I saw them, and that was fine with me. After trying to sort out so many ghosts at the tree the other night, the chill in the air as they clustered around me, I was happy to let these ones think I was just like any other mourner. But I did study them out of the corner of my eyes as I passed.

They were less clearly defined than the ghosts I’d seen at night, and most of them were sulking in a solitary fashion, even if they had neighbors. One set of graves, a trio of them in fact, provided a different tableau altogether. A husband, wife, and child, buried together and now haunting their plot together. The couple held hands while the child ghost talk excitedly to them about the other ghosts and people he’d seen visiting the cemetery.

What kept all of them here? Had they been murdered like the ghosts at the tree, and that was why they lingered? Was there some other family member they were waiting for? Or did they even know? Hell, there were enough things I’d done without really knowing the reasons, especially in the last few days. I hadn’t yet seen much reason why death should be any different; if anything, the ghosts I’d met were even more out of it than the living.

That thought brought me to a halt. What if Graham’s ghost was here–and what if he was as lost as the Lantern Man’s victims? Graham had been sharp in life, very intelligent and even craftier than any of us knew. I’d prepared myself for the thought of his ghost existing here, but not for the idea that if he was, he may be very different from the brother I had known. Three years is a long time, and what kind of company did ghosts make? Shreds and shadows of the living, cut off from what they knew, unable to move on. Unable to move at all past a certain point, depending on what anchored them here. What’s his mind, his memory, his fire–whatever you might call it for a ghost–was as much a shadow as the rest of him?

I didn’t try to peer through the mists at the ghosts around me as I turned and hurried out of the cemetery. Some answers I really wasn’t ready for.

Photo Challenge: Hidden, The Neverending Story, and Cognition

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Photo Challenge catch-up continues! This past Friday had the prompt “Hidden.” The very open-ended themes have been really fun, and I love perusing the photos posted to see what kinds of interpretations people have, in addition to just enjoying some great photography.

And this week I found two inspiring photos! One for nostalgia’s sake, and one that’s giving me ideas for the next section of Ghostlight.

First up, this photo by Stir immediately reminded me of one of my favorite childhood movies: The Neverending Story.

Aww, cute doggy!

...oh god, no! No, bad doggie, back! Ahh!

Now I’m sure Stir’s dog is just lovely, but regardless you can see the resemblance in the staging. There is a shot where the G’mork is a little more hidden behind some shrubs and such, I think, but the image below is the best approximation I could find with a quick image search.

G’mork. Even his name is harsh and a little frightening. A huge, vicious, murderous direwolf (he’s not called that in the book or the movie, but he’s the best candidate to imagine such a creature in my mind), who nearly stops the one boy who can save Fantasia (Fantastica in the book). And why? Pretty much just because. One website I happened across while searching for an image called him a Nietzschian character, and that’s pretty on the money. He claims to be a servant of the power behind the Nothing, but this power is the lack of belief in fantasies and stories on the behalf of humankind. As near as I can tell, that quite literally makes the G’mork the product of someone’s nightmare, and I can attest to him being one of the creatures I imagined in the darkness of the far side of my bed at night as a child.

So this relentless beast, as black as the space where his soul never was, wants to destroy the world. To throw it into nothingness, bleakness, where’s there no such thing as hope. Even if it means his own destruction along with it, it seems.

Atreyu: But why is Fantasia dying, then?
G’mork: Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger.
Atreyu: What is the Nothing?
G’mork: It’s the emptiness that’s left. It’s like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.
Atreyu: But why?
G’mork: Because people who have no hopes are easy to control; and whoever has the control… has the power!
Atreyu: Who are you really?
G’mork: I am the servant of the power behind the Nothing.

So it’s all about power, as it usually is with villains, and obtaining that power through Machiavellian-Nihilistic means. The authority he answers to isn’t just The Nothing–it iS nothing, it’s specifically a lack of something, an empty space where something should be or once was.

This, and how the story turns out, is why I very much disagree with the idea that it is better to be feared than loved. Fear is an emptiness, and love is filling. You can never make everyone love, no, but nor can you make everyone fear you. And those who have love, and therefore hope, will always fight back.

It would be fascinating to read more about G’mork. His life, the nightmare that spawned him, how he came to be where and who he is. Even if his motives are at their base very simple–power and control through despair and fear–we get the implication of a much more complex character as he states what he does and whom he serves.

And that animatronic G’mork is more terrifying than a CGI one could ever be, at least by current standards.

The second inspiring image was this fog-drenched photo posted by three sticks of watusi. This one is inspiring me specifically for my next chapter of Ghostlight, so I’ll plan to post that chapter (or part of it) here when I’ve written it.

Now time for some shameless self promotion!

I’ve written before about Phoenix Online, the independent game studio I work for in my free time. This past weekend, we announced the development of our first commercial game, Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller. An adventure game of the supernatural detective variety, it’s about an FBI Agent in Boston who’s hunting down serial killers with her ability of postcognition: one touch and she can see the past of an object, find clues no one else can, and see secrets no one wants known. Now someone is leaving specifically leaving clues that only she can find. Who knows her secret, and what do they want?

We’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the development of the game, offering some really fun rewards for pledges, and it’s going great! As of today we’ve raised over $10,000! But our goal is $25,000, and we only receive the funding if we hit that goal. Every dollar helps, and we all greatly appreciate donations or even just helping us spread the word. If you can do either, thank you very much in advance for supporting our project and our dreams!

Photo Challenge: Opportunity

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I’ve got some catching up to do!

First up, two Fridays ago the Photo Challenge was “Opportunity.” Two pictures jumped out at me. First up, I very much enjoy this picture by whatwecallearth.

In high school, I was something of a journal addict. I loved buying little book-style journals like this, which I’d then start filling with journal entries or stories and so forth. Some I liked so much I wanted to save them for something special, but of course I’d never find something I considered special enough for how pretty the journal was. So between my things and old boxes at my parents house, I have several books like this that are either partially filled, barely filled, or empty entirely. But seriously, for high school and even college me, slap a good quote about dreams on a nice picture and bind it and I was sold!

But it’s this picture by omelchronicles that’s inspiring me to write. Anyone who writes is always thinking much further ahead in their story in some aspects than is practical–admit it, we all wonder about what the sequel(s) to our unpublished works will be! Being no exception and quite guilty of this myself, this image put me in mind not just of a sequel to Ghostlight, but the book that would follow that one! Bette’s heading off to college somewhere–I’ve not yet determined if the things that happen to her in the intervening time would compel her to enroll somewhere close by or as far away as she can get–and faces the daunting day that is freshman move-in day.

Opportunity

Stretching out like the dubious opening shot of a movie, monotonous in its repetition of doors and flourescent ceiling lights, the uniform hallway was only broken up by a water fountain and an exit sign pointing to a stairway. I had a fleeting impulse to use it.

But no, room 212 was my destination. I adjusted my grip on the box under one arm, and dragged my rolling suitcase behind me as I headed down the hallway, checking the numbers on each door until I came to it. Our Resident Advisor had gone with an 80’s movies theme for the nametags on the doors. My name was photoshopped into the starring role on a poster for The Breakfast Club, and my new roommate Callie Thornton was getting top billing for Ghostbusters. I snorted at that, amused at my near miss for the more fitting movie. At least it wasn’t Ghost. …was that from the 80’s? 

Unlocking the door revealed a room that was still empty, as expected. Callie and I had emailed a few times over the summer, and I knew she wasn’t due on campus until that afternoon. Which gave me plenty of time to set up my half of the room however I liked. First things first, getting my dad’s help in de-bunking those beds once he finished parking the car.

So for now, it was time to put my things down and get used to the furniture and walls that would be here everyday until May. My new home. A new start.

And, I could only hope, significantly less death and fewer ghosts. There would always be the one, of course, my constant companion, but that was and would always have to be an exception. There was nothing to be done there–nothing I could bring myself to do, that is.

I had hopes for it being a calmer existence here. No small town with a long history, no haunted tree at the heart of it, no trails of where my brother had tread before me, in life or death. A city campus, days full of classes, probably finding a spot for myself on their school paper, this was what I wanted and what I needed: the opportunity for my life to be normal once again.

Photo Challenge: Possibility

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Possibility. I like this challenge topic–it’s open-ended, non-literal (I was about to say non-linear, which it may also be, but I’m not entirely sure of that), and I can’t wait to see what else people come up with.

But I write these shorts based on what the images inspire in me, not necessarily what the theme inspires in me. Two images put Ghostlight back in my mind, no doubt because they both have forests in them. One was the image in the DP post:

This started me off thinking about Bette’s story (and that I’ve been neglecting it, but there are reasons for that)–the thick forest, the green and natural beauty, and the secrets and dangers it’s hiding.

The second is this image by Northern Narratives. Rainbows are always pretty, but with a story of ghosts and murder on my mind, this one jumped in as a juxtaposition to horror instead of a symbol of hope. Or maybe it is a symbol, and Bette just doesn’t know it yet.

This scene would happen at the end of Ghostlight, and I’ve intentionally left what just happened very vague. So if you’re confused, well, you should be! Spoilers!

Possibility

Rain and fog still hung in the air when dawn began to break. As I finally pulled myself away from the grisly scene, leaving behind the bodies, the sword, and some piece of myself, I didn’t need help finding my way out of the woods. Whose knowledge was that?

This wasn’t right. I was leaving alone, leaving alive, and both of those things surprised me. There was no dread this time that something or someone was after me, chasing me and trying to make sure I never left. There was no one left to chase me; not that I could ever truly be free of what had happened. But when the tree line came clear before me, when I heard the sounds of early morning cars and trucks on the highway, I knew exactly where I was. This is where Graham tried to escape. Pulling himself on the ground by his hands, with some fatal wound, until someone stole everything that remained and left him there, dead. Who had killed my brother, I still didn’t know, even after all this, but I knew without a doubt that he had been killed, and how, and why. Someone took his life because of what he could, and however long it took me, I was going to find out who had done it and make them pay. I had no choice. He was my brother, and now that I was a ghostlighter, too, I might be next.

But today, I wasn’t Graham, and my life wasn’t going to end here. Step by bloody step, on my feet, walking away from the dark of the forest and the circle of ghosts, I stepped out of the trees and squinted into the early morning light. A rainbow was arcing across the sky above them. After what had happened, what I’d seen, what I’d done and what I’d failed to do,  I was the only one to walk away with my life and be greeted by a goddamn rainbow.

I fell to the ground in tears until a passing car finally noticed the rain-soaked, blood-covered girl on the side of the road and stopped to call 911.

New Goal: April 2012

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A recent subscriber, suehealy, has a lot of writing contests and competitions on her wordpress blog–so one, thanks for the subscription! And the very useful links!

One of those lead me to the Unpublished Authors Competition, which has a genre a month, and the winning novel is published. Now I’ll do more research on this, the people running it and so forth, but April 2012 is the Horror & the Supernatural month, and if all looks good, I want to enter it with Ghostlight.

So I’ve got a deadline now: by April 30th, this book must be written and refined.

Deadlines are good. And I’m excited. Fingers crossed!