A family patriarch’s dying proclamation, an enigmatic disappearance, and a century-old curse converge in the shadows of a majestic home on Cape Cod’s craggy coast.
Thirty-seven-year-old painter Cassandra Mitchell is fourth-generation to live in the majestic Battersea Bluffs, a brooding Queen Anne home originally built by her great-grandparents, Percy and Celeste Mitchell, and still standing despite tragedies that have swept the generations. Local lore has it that there was a curse placed on the family and the house is haunted, though opinions are divided on whether it’s by malicious or benevolent spirits. Cassie believes the latter―but now she stands to lose her beloved home to mounting debt and the machinations of her dream-weaving ex-husband.
Salvation seems to arrive when a nomadic young couple wanders onto the property with the promise of companionship and much-needed help―until they vanish without a trace, leaving behind no clue to their identities. Cassie is devastated, but determined to discover what’s happened to the young couple…even as digging into their disappearance starts to uncover family secrets of her own. Despite warnings from her childhood friend, now the local Chief of Police―as well as an FBI agent who pushes the boundaries of professionalism―Cassie can’t help following the trail of clues (and eerie signals from the old house itself) to unravel the mystery. But can she do so before her family’s dark curse destroys everything in its path?
House of Ashes has Cassie trying to save her ancestral home while searching for missing friends and worrying about a possible family curse. There are several elements to this story, both in the past and present, and they will keep you guessing. I enjoyed the slightly darker feel of this mystery – almost gothic, but not quite. This was the first book I’d read by Loretta Marion, but it will not be the last.
I am very excited to have a guest piece from Loretta Marion to share with you today, so please join me in welcoming her to The Book’s the Thing!
Written by Loretta Marion, Author of HOUSE OF ASHES
The Ghost and Mrs. Marion? ~ My Personal Experience with the Spirit World
I’m often asked about the inspiration for my books and how I come up with story ideas. As observers of the world around us, writers find inspiration everywhere and in almost every person, place or thing. I jot down observations and ideas in one of the many notebooks I keep around my house, in my purse, in the car — if I can’t find a pen and paper when I see something intriguing, it sends me into a panic.
When I first came up with the concept for the story that became HOUSE OF ASHES, a paranormal element was not in the mix. I knew I wanted to weave together a present-day story with a related historic tale, however bringing Percy and Celeste Mitchell back to their beloved Battersea Bluffs as spirits didn’t come to me until after I’d completed the outline. I had the mystery plotted out and was pleased with the characters and their backstories, but as I began to rough out a draft, it just felt like more spice was needed to bring a unique richness to the story.
I turned to my go-to resource: the notebooks. I flipped through the pages of jotted notes, some so hastily written I could barely make them out, searching for another little gem to add. I was about to give up when in the back of one of my oldest writing journals I found a section where I had documented my experiences with Oswin Dickinson.
You may be asking, who is Oswin Dickinson? And I will answer that he was my very own version of Daniel Gregg, the sea captain apparition from the old classic, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947 film that inspired a television series from 1968-1970). I did not live in a seaside cottage, nor was I a widow, and the ghost who visited me was not a sea captain. Instead, he was a Civil War Union soldier.
Newly married, my husband and I had just moved into our first home together. It was a rustic farmhouse and our property abutted a 300-year-old cemetery. Shortly after we moved in, the strange happenings began. Nothing sinister, but enough to make me question how I’d become so distracted. Why did my favorite jeans end up stuffed under the fluffy bath towels in the linen closet? How did my teacup end up on the fireplace hearth when I’d just set it down on the side table with my book? Who hid all my socks? What were those noises in the attic that sounded like someone playing tackle football? I would tentatively walk up the stairs only to find everything quiet and in order. No evidence of a squirrel or bird that somehow found its way in, as my husband had originally suggested. Our dog, Bartleby the bloodhound, began to bark and growl at empty spaces. I’d often find him pacing at the top of the stairs, afraid to come down. On more than one occasion when I walked up to assist him, I passed through a cold mass — of what? — I did not know.
We eventually learned that our neighboring cemetery was listed in an old book of haunted graveyards, and that’s when I decided we were sharing our home with a mischievous old spirit. Then as Bartleby continued to stop and growl at a certain tombstone in the cemetery, I was convinced our uninvited housemate was one Oswin Dickinson. There were other signs pointing to Oswin being our unearthly lodger, such as footprints in the snow that led from our front door to Oswin’s grave, and a sighting by our niece of a man standing in our kitchen, wearing an old-fashioned blue coat.
My husband once joked that Oswin had a crush on me and that’s why he chose our house. This suggestion took me back to my tween years when my mother and I would watch episodes of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir together. The Ghost and Mrs. Marion does not have the same catchy ring to it, but it was a fun little fantasy while it lasted. I did find Oswin to be a pleasant ghost to have around. As I reveal in the acknowledgements in the back of the book – Oswin is the first mention by the way – I’ve found that I miss having him around since moving from our Connecticut home. We even had Oswin’s tombstone added to a painting we commissioned – (see cropped section above) – though we had to forgive the painter’s misspelling of his name.
There are plenty more incidents documented in the back of my old writing journal, but the point is, if I hadn’t kept that journal or documented my experience with our otherworldly visitor, I may not have been inspired to include a ghostly element to the story. HOUSE OF ASHES would have been an entirely different book…or maybe not written at all. So, thank you once again, Oswin Dickinson!
About the Author
An author of fiction, Loretta Marion’s writing bridges the genres of mystery and suspense and women’s fiction, always with hints of romance and humor, sometimes delving into the psychological and paranormal. She creates strong but flawed and struggling characters as appealing as the rich atmospheric settings in which the stories take place.
Loretta is a true bibliophile and has loved reading and creating with words since she was a young girl. And that affection for the written word followed her like a shadow throughout her life as she put pen to paper crafting marketing and advertising copy, educational brochures, and newsletters. But her passion for writing fiction evolved from the unlikely world of hospice. As a volunteer, she set out to establish a Legacy Story program to honor and preserve the rich heritage of the fascinating people who were soon to leave this world. The meaningful experience inspired her to create her own interesting characters and stories. Her debut novel, The Fool’s Truth, was a twisty and suspenseful mystery with whispers of romance. Her newest novel, HOUSE OF ASHES – A Haunted Bluffs Mystery, is the first in a series published by Crooked Lane Books.
Though born and raised in the Midwest, Loretta fell in love with New England and has made it the setting for much of her writing. When not whipping out words on her laptop, she is traveling, enjoying outdoor pursuits, or is curled up with a delicious new book. Loretta lives in Rhode Island with her husband, Geoffrey, and their beloved Mr. Peabody, a sweet, devoted and amusing “Corgador” (Corgi-Labrador cross). (www.LorettaMarion.com)
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