Friday, October 31, 2014

Haunted: A Romantic Suspense by Maris Soule

It doesn’t matter to Valerie Wiggins that most people believe Jason McLain killed his wife. She needs the three-time Oscar winner’s expertise in special effects if they are going to turn their local charity’s annual haunted house into a money maker. Besides, every since she first saw his picture in the tabloids, she’s been attracted to him: his piercing dark brown eyes, unruly brown hair, and unsmiling mouth. And even though he’s come to this small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains to hide, she won’t take no for an answer. Except once he says yes, he fears he’s pulled her into the darkness that continues to haunt him.

Excerpt:
Nowadays every town and city in the United States has a haunted house at Halloween time. If you want Slaterville’s to bring people from miles around, it’s going to have to be different. More spectacular, frightening, and mysterious than any other haunted house in Northern California.”

Valerie Wiggins parked her white Ford in front of a run-down, peak-roofed mountain cabin and cursed herself for standing up and giving that speech at the last WIN meeting. The squeaking door didn’t get oiled, it got volunteered. It was now her responsibility to create a “different” haunted house, and her job to make sure it was more spectacular, frightening, and mysterious than any other haunted house around.

Just what she needed, another job.

She didn’t have the time. She didn’t have the energy.

Cut the bull, she told herself as she stared at the cabin. The truth was, she did have the time. And the energy. And she didn’t mind being in charge of the project. What she didn’t want to do was talk to the man who lived in this house.

“We have just the person who can help us turn our haunted house into a success,” she’d said at the meeting that night. “Living right outside of town.”

As if every woman in the room didn’t know about Jason McLain.

So now, thanks to her big mouth, she was the one appointed to talk to Slaterville’s newest and most infamous resident. His reputation alone scared most of the other women.

His reputation scared Val.

Unless you knew, you’d never guess a man who’d won three Academy Awards for special effects lived in this house. If he was as rich as the papers had said, he sure wasn’t using his money to upgrade his property. In the six months since he’d moved to Slaterville, he’d done nothing to improve the exterior of the old Dalton place. The fence was broken in several places; beneath the snow, the small patch of lawn that had existed years before was no more than weeds; the bushes around the house were overgrown and dying; and the porch sagged. All of the wood needed a fresh coat of paint.

The only changes she could see from back when the place had stood abandoned for years were the broken windows had been replaced and heavy drapes and venetian blinds kept passersby from looking inside. There were certainly no signs of life. The snow hadn’t been shoveled from the walkway, no smoke curled from the chimney, and no lights showed behind the closed drapes and blinds. There was nothing to indicate anyone lived in the cabin except the tire tracks that led to the garage near the side door.

Or perhaps away from it.

Maybe he’s not home, Val thought as she opened her car door.

*****

Jason heard two raps at the side door and grumbled into the near darkness of his living room. It had to be Bud, back from the store. He’d said he was going for a six-pack of beer, but he’d probably bought more and couldn’t open the door.

Again there were two raps.

Light.

Hesitant.

Jason pushed himself up from the sofa and started toward the kitchen. Why had Bud come anyway? It wasn’t as though an invitation had been issued. The past was better forgotten, and that included friendships. Besides, in the past three years, Bud hadn’t exactly been Mr. Stand-By-Your-Side.

Jason had to admit, if only to himself, that had hurt.

He shook his head as he walked between the sink and the table, both of which were piled with dishes. Dammit all, he’d left Hollywood to find solitude, to get away from the memories. Two and a half years of being harassed by the police and media had been enough. His own doubts were enough.

If Bud expected him to be Mr. Jovial, he’d driven five hundred miles for nothing, and a few beers wouldn’t change that.

About the Author:
“Write what you love and know.” That’s the advice given to writers.

I fell in love with the Rhodesian Ridgeback the first time I saw one at a dog show. I love their temperament, their intelligence, and their personalities. I’ve shown them, bred them, whelped them, cried when I sent a puppy off to a new owner, and been as proud as a motherwhen one won at a dog show.

I also love living in the country. I have childhood memories of catching pollywogs in the creek that ran by our two acres in Walnut Creek, California; being able to pick ripe peaches from the tree (also almonds, pears, English walnuts, apricots and more); and sitting in my “thinking” tree making up stories.

When I married my husband, we were living in Santa Barbara, but his father was ill and we decided to move to Michigan to be closer to him. It was supposed to be a short-term move (just a couple years, my husband said). I won’t tell you how many years we’ve now lived in Michigan, but we now have grown children and teenage granddaughters. I haven’t regretted the move. Michigan is a beautiful state, and for 27 years we lived in the rural community of Climax. What a perfect location for a romance writer, and what a neat place to plot a mystery with a lot of suspense. (Yes, there are some similarities between the real Climax and my imaginary Zenith in The Crows and As the Crow Flies, but the events and people in those books are definitely fictional.)

We’ve now moved close to Lake Michigan (so my husband is near his sailboat), and we spend our winters in Florida, not far from the Gulf Coast. Both locations feed my love of being near water (remember that creek I played in and Santa Barbara) and are ideal places to nurture my desire to write. Whether I’m writing a romance, a mystery, or a combination of the two, I’m probably going to include an animal or two and there’s a good chance the characters will live in the country, the mountains, or near water. I’ve often used Michigan and California as settings, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Florida shows up in a future book. I’m sometimes asked if the characters in my books are based on me or someone I know. My answer is: Maybe bits and pieces, but my protagonists are always braver and smarter than I am (along with younger) and the antagonists are always nastier than the people I’ve known.



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