I’ve been a bit remiss about blogging in general and discussing my recent publication specifically, but it my defense, and you know what that means…NaNoWriMo. 30 Days 9and nights) of writing, writing, writing. I’m also a Municipal Liaison this year, and that means more writing related work. I love it, but it can be overwhelming.
Sooo…”Magnolia and Moonlight” is my newest short. I wanted very much to write a Halloween ghost story, and I also wanted to try my hand at Southern Gothic. Though it’s not my favorite genre, I love some of the conventions and wanted to play with them.
It took a while to develop the plot. Three years ago, I visited Belle Grove Plantation in Virginia with my mother. Way back then I knew I’d use the house somehow in something, but Inferno had just come out, and I was editing Gods and Mortals, so I set it aside.
Last spring, I found my pictures of that trip and a niggling idea became a story. Of course, I had to revisit Belle Grove once lockdown had been loosened, for research purposes, of course. The story also owes a great debt to Vivian Vande Velde’s short story “The Ghost.” I only hope I can one day match the brilliance of that piece of flash fiction.
Caro Talbot loves Belle Grove, but not the people caring for it, and things get worse when they invite Desmond Mason to research the house’s history. Yet Dez is different from what she expects, and she becomes determined to help him solve the puzzle of the woman in the painting that’s hung in the house for years.
As Halloween approaches, Dez pries into secrets she’d rather keep, raising the ghost of her past. Caro has to decide whether to trust a man she hardly knows or run the risk of being eternally lonely.
“Is this..?” Dez paused before the entrance to the final upstairs room.
“It is.” Jasper clamped one flighty hand in the other and rose up on his toes then settled back on his heels. “This is the room. Go ahead. See for yourself.” He always did this, ramping up the tension before a guest walked into the hauntedroom. The room he charged more to stay in.
She rolled her eyes. “It’s just a bedroom. Go in. There’s no spectral ooze monster waiting under the bed.”
Dez glanced in her direction, then drew in a deep breath and walked in.
I bet he’s disappointed. I would be. Except I love this room. And the view.
Of all the rooms, this was the best as far as she was concerned. The bedroom faced what most people would have thought of as the back of the house, but it was actually the front, since Belle Grove was built overlooking the river. Large, almost floor to ceiling windows graced one exterior wall, a delicate carved marble fireplace the other. From the windows, guests could see the sun skip across the surface of the water and play peek-a-boo with the trees whose leaves tickled the river’s surface.
Dez crossed to the plantation style four-post bed and trailed his fingers along the tassels of the crocheted canopy then across the surface of the nightstand, finally coming to rest with his palm against the beige silk wallpaper sprigged with pale pink peonies. He contemplated the pattern a moment before making his way around the room, considering the low upholstered chair, the cherry wood bookshelf, and finally surveying the sloping yard through the window.
Usually she would have thrown a fit over someone, anyone, touching the wallpaper or smudging the wood with his fingerprints, but Dez did so respectfully, as if trying to feel the atmosphere of the room.
“It’s so peaceful.” His voice was barely audible.
“Isn’t it?” She drifted over to stand beside him. Near but not touching, close enough he could smell her perfume, and maybe he did because his eyes widened a fraction. Yet, he said nothing.