Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Haunted Objects and Haunted Houses: New novel Imprint was inspired by both

One way that a writer gets ideas for things to write is to ask the question, “What if?” Sometimes that question will be asked because of something the writer overheard or something that they witnessed happening – or NOT happening. (This is why writers like to people watch; we get ideas for things to write just from observing what may or may not be happening with people!) Sometimes, the writer is inspired by something they read. They’ll read something and a light clicks on over their heads and they think, “That could be a book.” Or, they’ll read about something and start to go, “Hmm. What if?”

That’s exactly what happened for me shortly after the release of a book I co-wrote with Martha Jette. Totally Scared: The Complete Book on Haunted Houses came about after I started writing a series of articles about haunted houses for the The Shadowlands newsletter, and one chapter in that book discusses haunted objects. It was Martha’s idea to include this in the book and I enjoyed writing about the haunted mirror at the Myrtles Plantation for that chapter. But after the book was published and I was rereading that chapter, I was struck by an idea. I started to wonder, What if a haunted object is inside of a haunted house? My guess was, That would take the hauntings in the house up a notch!

I didn’t know it at the time, but my curiosity about this planted the seeds of a story in to that writing workshop in my brain. The novelist in me saw a story there – though I didn’t know what kind of story it was just yet. The story actually came to me over the course of several months, in bits and pieces here and there. The same was true of the characters. Like, I would have a scene for the story pop into my head and I’d wonder, Who are these people? Why are they saying these things or doing these things? What does that tell me about them?

It took a long time, but eventually, the whole story came to me in the end. I figured everything out and knew exactly what kind of story this was I had growing in my brain all along.

So when National Novel Writing Month came around in 2008, I sat down and started writing this story. I didn’t stop working on it until the whole story was complete. I didn’t end up typing a 50,000-word masterpiece for NaNoWriMo, however, but it was done. The story was complete – and that made me one very satisfied writer.

Now, 9 years later, this book has finally been published. What started out as a story I titled “The Haunted Carpet” is now published in book form as “Imprint.”

But it took a while before that manuscript got whipped into shape for publication!

At first, I wasn’t sure if I should try sending it out for publication, because I thought it would get a lot of criticism. “Why did you set it in Eugene?” might be one response I got. (I set all of my novels in places where I have lived – though the first novel, November’s Child (which later became Shadow of Samhain, was set in Washington as a fluke because, at that time, I didn’t have a system for where I set my stories and I just closed my eyes and pointed at a map to decide on where to set that one). Another criticism I thought the book might get was, “Oh, geez! ANOTHER haunted house story!” Or, “Another ghost story!” (Well, why not?) Or maybe people would think it was too predictable or boring or just lame.

But then I decided not to worry about the criticism the book might receive. I had written another novel, gosh darn it! It deserved a fighting chance! Let some publisher decide whether or not this manuscript gets to be a book!

But before I could send the book out, I had work to do. I had to revise the manuscript first. Then I had to do some fact-checking. One of the characters in this story is in the business of flipping houses and selling them, so I had to ask someone I knew about certain technicalities about that. Also, at the time, one of my cousins was working as a real estate agent, so I had to ask her for info, too. A paranormal investigation group checks out the haunted house in the story, so I contacted someone I’d interviewed for another book who is a paranormal investigator and ran things by her for this book, too. And since I couldn’t figure out something on the website for the local newspaper, I had to contact someone there who could help me out. (My character ends up doing that exact same thing in the story. Ha!)

Then, once that was done, I took the manuscript through more rounds of revisions, edits, and more revisions. I changed the names of the twins because I didn’t think I should name them “Frannie and Annie” (thanks to my friends for sharing their thoughts on the new names!), and the ending was changed, as well. I also had to do research on some other things.

Oh, and I got rid of the Prologue. I was told by a beta reader that it was probably better to keep it out.

And, actually, here is the original Prologue! It is unedited and unrevised so please excuse the crappy writing:


        Michele King examined the crowd sitting in their chairs. Mutters among attendees flooded through the university auditorium, cascading over the crowd packing the room. She glanced over university students searching for a seat, taking note of the older attendees who sought refuge on the floor.

It’s no secret people are interested in paranormal subjects; the impressive sales of her book only proved as much. But never before did she think giving a talk on haunted objects would draw such a crowd. Everyone gave a fuss over haunted houses, but very little about haunted objects.

        She smiled, the very first line of her speech coming to mind.

        She cleared her throat and looked out at the crowd. “We hear so much about haunted houses these days. Stories of people enduring nightmares in their homes. Web sites on the Internet devoted to such topics. But the truth is, haunted objects can be just as important and just as scary as a haunted house.”

        She looked over the audience, hoping to see some interested looks from the attendants. So much for the popularity of the paranormal; everyone looked bored. A young girl, most likely a college student, blankly stared up at her from her seat. An older man sat reading a book that wasn’t her book. Another attendee, an elderly woman, only sat with her cell phone against her ear, nodding her head.

        Michele pushed her glasses up on her nose and forced a smile. She folded her hands together and started walking around on the temporary stage set up for the occasion.

        “We know that houses can be haunted because of the energy left within them from negative life experiences. Someone suffering from chronic depression. Physical abuse. Suicides. They all leave an imprint within the space it is happening, and, just as likely, they will leave an imprint on the objects around them. A necklace worn by a woman who commits suicide is likely to cause its next wearer to have bad luck. A key chain of the keys used for a car that was in an accident could have bad mojo.” She shrugged, standing to look out at the crowd. “Even a young woman’s doll.” She held up her finger. “Case in point.”

        She walked back to the podium and picked up the switch for the overhead projector. She pushed on the switch and a picture of a doll appeared on the screen behind the stage. “This is Julie, a doll that belonged to Diana Redburn of Pensacola, Florida. Diana’s mother gave her the doll for her sixteenth birthday. It was a cherished gift and Diana kept it with her everywhere she lived.” She licked her lips, remembering this part of her book. “Unfortunately, Diana died in a ski accident three years later. Her mother was sorely grieved and kept the doll with her.”

        She turned around to look at the crowd again. “The thing about this doll is that it talks.”

        The crowd chuckled.

        Michele smiled, nodding. “Yes. A talking doll. You pull a string and she says ‘I love you, Mommy.’ And it was after Diana’s death that, from time to time, her mother heard it say those same words. ‘I love you, Mommy.’”

        Murmurs erupted in the audience. Some of the younger attendees sat up, paying closer attention.

        Michele held up a hand. “Scout’s honor! The doll talked. It said those same words it always said, but this time, without anyone pulling on the string.”

        She turned around and clicked on the switch again. This time, a photo of a painting appeared. “This is a painting a woman named Elizabeth bought,” she continued. “It’s a reproduction of Flowers in a Vase in a Stone Niche, by Johann Adalbert Angermayer. Lovely painting, really, and Elizabeth thought so, too. Thought it would be perfect for her bedroom wall.”

        Michele clicked the switch again. A picture of the bedroom the painting hung in appeared, with a pool of blood on the floor beneath it. “Unfortunately, this is what happened only days after she hung the painting in her room.” She clicked the switch as she continued. “Here it is in the living room, with the same result. And here again in the bathroom. More blood on Elizabeth’s good carpet.”

        The murmuring in the audience grew stronger. She turned to see people talking and shifting around in their seats.

        She shrugged. “Elizabeth would have tried hanging it in the den to see if she got the same result, but apparently ran out of good carpet cleaner to make the stain go away.”

        Some people in the audience chuckled.

        “Still, it only went away when she removed the painting,” Michele continued. “She took the painting back, but she asked about its previous owner. Apparently, a man was killed while standing in front of the painting. Shot right through the heart.” She sighed, shaking her head. “And this is only a sample of the kinds of haunted objects out there. My book has plenty more. The point is, sometimes, when things happen, bad things, they will leave something behind. Chances are good that something will be on a coat worn by someone who was murdered or even in a music box that starts playing at the same exact time its previous owner died. Sometimes, the haunted objects are innocent, causing no trouble for anyone at all. Sometimes, they can be creepy, such as for Diana’s mother and the doll. Or they can wreck havoc in someone’s life. Inciting panic. Causing terror.”

        She turned to click the switch again. A picture of a woman wearing a brooch appeared.

        “This is Sally Meadows. That necklace you see her wearing was passed down to her from her great-great-grandmother. Unfortunately, Grandma was wearing it at the time she was murdered. Strangled to death by her husband. Every time Sally wore it, she felt pressure around her neck and had trouble breathing.” She looked at the audience. “At first, she thought it was her imagination, but as the feeling continued, Sally started to think that maybe it had something to do with the necklace she wore. Meanwhile, she had nightmares of being strangled to death, of being murdered. The more she wore this brooch, the worse the nightmares got. Finally, Sally got rid of the necklace, but she died that same day of accidental strangulation.”

        Murmuring sounds returned among the audience. When they quieted down, Michele turned and pushed on the switch again. “And now we come to this little dandy. A music box that played by itself. The owner thought nothing of it until he started hearing voices and seeing a little girl walking around in his home. Next thing we know, the man hears the music playing while up on a high ladder. He turns around to see the ghostly little girl behind him in the room. It startles him so much, he loses his footing and falls, breaking his neck.”

        She started walking around on the stage. “It was only recently that Time magazine did an article about haunted objects. They covered all the usual bases – describing incidents in which a haunted object caused some disaster or another – and touched on the history of haunted objects causing natural disasters. At the same time, the author of the article had a tone of skepticism and pretty much ended up discrediting the idea that any object, any item, could indeed possess enough negative energy to be haunted. Or a reason for bad luck.” She shrugged. “Unfortunately, we’ve a long way to go before it is accepted as a legitimate reason behind a haunting.”

        She turned to look at them. “Skeptics like to use a whole host of excuses to explain things away. Imagination. Mental problems. Reflections from somewhere else or even bad lighting! There’s no room in their closed-up minds for the possibility that anything at all could be haunted, or even posses the bad energy associated with a haunted object. They want to explain away everything to think they are in a safe world that can be controlled and understood. But this will never change the fact that events that cannot be explained still happened. A painting that causes a pool of blood to appear on the floor. A brooch necklace that causes the wearer to feel as though she is being strangled. Coincidence?” She shrugged. “You be the judge.”

        The crowd stood from their chairs and started clapping. Michele smiled at them and held out her hands. She blew kisses and nodded at the people giving her a standing ovation.

        “Thank you,” she said. “Thank you so much.” She smiled and nodded at the crowd as they continued clapping. Then she called out, “If you have any questions at all, you’ll find my book and business cards on the table in the foyer. Please, feel free to visit my group’s web site. You’ll find more stories and photos of haunted objects.”

        A teenaged boy stood from his seat and followed his friends out of the auditorium. He walked past the large white sign advertising the event. “Author Michele King Discusses Haunted Objects” it read. Included on this sign was her photo, as well as the cover photo of her book.

        One of the friends nodded at the boy. “Hey, Danny, let’s get something to eat,” he said.

        Danny shrugged. “Nah, I can’t. Gotta get back home. We’re leaving tomorrow for Eugene.”

        “Man, we’re gonna miss ya,” his friend said, clapping his hand on Danny’s shoulder as he shook his head.

        “Shoulda had a going-away party instead of going to some spook talk,” his other friend teased.

        Danny laughed. “Tell me about it! My last night in Portland, and this what I pick to do!” He shook his head, looking back at the sign. “Big fat waste of time.”

Haunted objects may not get as much attention as haunted houses, despite the success of movies such as Annabelle and the 1980 film, The Changeling. But I was inspired by the thought of combining a haunted object with a haunted house and felt compelled to write a story about what might happen to a family living in such a home. Imprint was the result of that idea and I am very pleased that my 2008 NaNoWriMo story is now a 2017 novel. The book is currently available in electronic form but the print will come out in the near future.

What’s interesting is that we actually received a free piano from a friend this year. The piano in my novel is also haunted. It’s kinda funny that we got a piano the same year my novel with a haunted piano in it is published! But at least our piano is not haunted – at least, I don’t think it is! I hope not. There’s enough paranormal activity that’s been going on in my house, thank you. I’ve even been told there is a portal here! Hm, maybe that’s another idea for a novel to write someday.

Many thanks to the following people for their time and assistance to help me make my latest novel, Imprint, into the book that it is today. Thank you to all of my friends and family who sounded off their thoughts about things for this book; thanks also to LK Hunsaker, Kathy Gereau, Tamara Bates and John Heasly for specific kinds of info and for feedback; thank you to Denise Bartlett and Charlotte Holley at Gypsy Shadow Publishing; and, finally, thank you to everyone for their support for this book.

Here is the book’s blurb:

A house never forgets. And for Maureen Boyd, neither does a vengeful ghost lurking within what she hopes to be a dream home for her new husband and children. After her son’s house-flipping company loses out on a deal, Maureen’s husband buys the house, and Maureen hopes that living closer to her son will help salvage their distant relationship. But living in a haunted house brings up dark family secrets her husband would rather keep buried, plus opening an old wound that Maureen’s long-distant relative could never forgive. 

And here are the buy links:

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