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Friday, September 29, 2023

Interview: Horror Author Deborah Sheldon + giveaway

What inspired you to write this book?
Our son – now a grown man – used to love reading as a child. I usually bought him action-adventure books. In 2022, in search of something different to read, I browsed his shelves and thought I’d try The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard. My God, the stories knocked my socks off! Howard is an amazing writer. Two of his stories – “The Hills of the Dead” and “Wings in the Night” – are the most exciting I’ve ever read. I’ve since bought all Howard’s collected fiction, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

So, my inspiration for Cretaceous Canyon was Robert E. Howard. His thrilling fiction motivated me to write my own suspenseful, action-packed novel. I hope I’ve succeeded.

What can we expect from you in the future?
My anthology Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies (IFWG Publishing 2021) featured work by Australian writers. It was nominated for six awards and won two of them, including the Australian Shadows ‘Best Edited Work’ Award.

I’d always envisioned Spawn as a trilogy. Currently, I’m working on Spawn 2: More Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies. This sequel is open to submissions from Australasian writers (where Australasia means Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and the neighbouring islands of the Pacific). The submission deadline is October 31st.

Where did you come up with the names in the story?
I’m always irritated when reading a story that has, for example, James, Jack, Jackie and Jane as characters because I confuse them. So, when writing I have a general rule for character names that serves me well: the names must be vastly different from each other.

I choose names that (a) start with different letters, (b) vary in syllable length from one to four, (c) are from different eras, and (d) from different ethnicities. I Google popular baby names from particular years and countries, then mix and match until I’m satisfied. I do the same with surnames.

I used this technique for my seven main characters in Cretaceous Canyon, and the process took about an hour. Of course, the names have to suit the characters. I already had all seven in mind, so what actually took the longest was searching through my lists of perfectly appropriate names to find the exact ones that would fit my vision.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
My aim was to write an exciting, suspenseful and unputdownable novel. That’s a big ask! I enjoyed finding different ways to grip the reader’s interest. The thing is, if you use the same technique too many times, the reader will catch on and begin anticipating your surprises.

I think I was successful! Some of my reader reviews so far have included such comments as, “A non-stop, page-turning, visceral, heart-pounding thriller”, “a gut-wrenching, roller-coaster ride through six hours of time”, and “Was expecting to read for a half hour then go out for a walk. Instead, I read start to finish, and then had to shower cause I felt hot, sweaty and exhausted. What fun!”

What is your favorite part of this book and why?
The chapters involving the canyon’s river. I can’t say why because I don’t want to risk giving away spoilers for my own novel!
Suffice to say, these chapters were exciting and stressful to write.

Have you written any other books that are not published?
In my opinion, one of the best things I’ve ever written is the crime thriller Bodily Harm. Based on my unproduced screenplay of the same name, I wrote this contemporary novel about 10 years ago. Unfortunately, it’s a tough sell because publishers baulk at the novel’s raw violence and various trigger issues such as sexual assault.

By the way, if any publishers of hardcore crime are reading this interview and think Bodily Harm might suit their list, please contact me!

If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Eucalyptus and blood.

Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
A team on an expedition to explore a mysterious canyon in the Australian outback encounters Cretaceous-era dinosaurs. 

Cretaceous Canyon

by Deborah Sheldon
Genre: Horror, Action, Adventure, Dinosaur Lost World
Australia’s outback hides a mysterious canyon. Hidden deep within is a forest of pine tree that dates from the Cretaceous Period. A megacorporation sends in a team of experts to research this canyon for botanical riches.

The expedition enters a no-man’s land formed 100 million years ago when Australia was still attached to Antarctica, and dinosaurs ruled the super-continent. But the canyon has more prehistoric and dangerous species than anyone could have possibly imagined.

Trapped and terrified, unarmed and unable to communicate topside, the team’s extraction deadline is six long hours away.

The frantic race for survival is on.


Robyn O’Sullivan (Goodreads) 5/5 stars – This book is a gut-wrenching, roller-coaster ride through six hours of time, ripping the reader every which way through emotional and physical upheavals that suddenly crash-land, leaving a sense of “Wow! What the hell just happened?”.

Steve Paulsen (Goodreads) 5/5 stars – Unputdownable! A non-stop, page-turning, visceral, heart-pounding thriller. Highly recommended!
Cretaceous Canyon excerpt
by Deborah Sheldon
The hiss of the opening door drew everyone’s attention.

Good Christ! Alastair jumped to his feet.

It was Raj Devi himself, wandering into the conference room like a lost and befuddled grandfather, wearing slacks and a giant knitted cardigan. His hair and beard were salt-and-pepper, his seventy-two-year-old face frowning with its usual look of perpetual distraction.

Alastair raced towards the door and took its weight.

“Mr Devi!” he gasped, clumsily grasping his boss’s elbow. “What are you doing here?”

The old man glanced up, his gaze as sharp as darts, and whispered, “Rallying the troops.”

“Let me help you to a chair—”

“Thank you, I already know how to sit in a chair,” Raj said, and this time he lifted his voice, rolling it around the conference room, a deep and rich example of Received Pronunciation English, a baritone fit for the Shakespearean stage.

Alastair saw the effect on his recce team: everyone sat up straight. If he could figure out Raj Devi’s effortless ability to command an audience, then Alastair would rule the world.

“Everyone, pay attention,” Alastair said, his voice in comparison like a squeak to his own ears. “This is Raj Devi, your sponsor. You’re in the presence of a great man.”

Raj took Alastair’s chair and gazed around the table. No one rushed him. No one looked impatient. The silence was still and complete. He held them all in the palm of his hand, and Alastair both idolised Raj and hated him for this charisma, this absolute magnetism. Alastair had to remain standing, which was awkward, but the time for sitting was now lost.

With a half-smile, Raj nodded sagely. “I’m a believer in our power to make a better world,” he said, and the timbre of his voice sounded hypnotic; even Gloria was in thrall. “So, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tell you a story. A story about seeds. Leaves. Bark. Fruit. The human race has used plants to make medicines since before written language was invented. Traditional medicines date back thousands of years to Egyptian scrolls, Indian clay tablets, Chinese inscriptions etched on seashells and across the dried bones of oxen. Today, one in ten of our essential modern medicines is based on flowering plants. One in ten! My word.”

Lapsing into silence, Raj linked his fingers together on the table and closed his eyes. The seconds ticked on. Alastair checked the faces of his team and felt that he must say something, had to say something, or risk losing them. But what? God, the empty seconds kept ticking…

Alastair said, “Not just medicines! No, the plants we find today could also make new pesticides, and help farmers to breed disease-resistant crops—”

“All of us,” Raj Devi interrupted in his sonorous tone, “has taken a painkiller as simple as the aspirin. That miracle medicine was derived from the willow tree, its properties discovered by ancient Egyptians and other peoples such as Native Americans. Morphine is from the poppy. Today, plants help treat Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, various cancers, heart disease, other ailments. Your work today could very well discover unknown plants that may herald a new age of medicine. Imagine, a cure for Alzheimer’s! It might be waiting for you, out there in that canyon. Waiting for all of us, the entire human race. Your hike has the potential to change the world, and save countless lives for generations to come. Oh, my goodness. What a legacy.”

The silence in the room was absolute. Alastair became aware that he was holding his breath. The team members appeared transfixed, mesmerised by the old man.

“Thank you,” Raj sighed. “Thank you for striving to help me make a better world.” He pushed out his chair, stood up, went to leave and then hesitated. “Please,” he added, “eat as much of the breakfast buffet as you can. It cost me a small fortune!”

He laughed and everyone joined in. Like Pavlov’s dogs to a bell, they automatically reached for Danish pastries, croissants, donuts, muffins, goat cheese tarts, fruit skewers.

Alastair stopped Raj at the door. The old man glanced up at him, cold and annoyed.

Taken aback, Alastair found himself stammering. “Gosh, sir, that was a…that was a…”


“Such a terrific, inspiring speech—”

“I don’t take notes.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean—”

“Focus on the hike. Don’t fuck it up,” Raj said, and put his hand on the door.

“I’ve put together a competent team,” Alastair said, striving to appear confident. “I’m just wondering if you think it’s absolutely necessary that I go with them into the canyon.”

Raj gave a frosty smile. “Hmm. I don’t know. Do you think you’re necessary?”

“Well, yes, in the creation of the team—”

Raj raised his eyebrows. “And now that the team has been created?”

“Ha-ha! I’m sorry, I’m not sure—”

“You’re not sure if you’re necessary anymore?”

Sweat beaded on Alastair’s hairline. “No. I mean, yes. I’m still necessary, sir.”

“Okay.” Raj patted him on the arm. “Enjoy your hike.”

“Yes, sir.”

Raj left the room. Alastair watched him shuffle along the hallway towards the bank of lifts, where he would take a ride to the building’s top floor and probably take a fucking nap. Raj Devi walked like an old man in his seventies, which is what he was, and his refusal to put on a false front was admirable in a way that stuck in Alastair’s craw. Only a multi-millionaire could afford to drop the façade, wear slacks with a baggy cardigan, let his paunch hang out.
About the Author:
DEBORAH SHELDON is an award-winning author from Melbourne, Australia. She writes short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum of horror, crime and noir. Her award-nominated titles include the novels Body Farm Z, Contrition and Devil Dragon; the novella Thylacines; and the collections Figments and Fragments: Dark Stories and Liminal Spaces: Horror Stories.

Her collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories won the Australian Shadows ‘Best Collected Work’ Award, was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award and longlisted for a Bram Stoker. Deb’s short fiction has appeared in many well-respected magazines such as Aurealis, Midnight Echo, Andromeda Spaceways, and Dimension6, been translated, shortlisted for numerous Australian Shadows Awards and Aurealis Awards, and included in various ‘best of’ anthologies such as Year’s Best Hardcore Horror.

She has won the Australian Shadows ‘Best Edited Work’ Award twice: for Midnight Echo 14 and for the anthology she conceived and edited, Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies.

Deb’s other credits include TV scripts such as NEIGHBOURS, feature articles, non-fiction books (Reed Books, Random House), stage plays, poetry and award-winning medical writing.

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Excerpt: Personal Demons (The Rifter Series Book 2) by L.R. Braden + giveaway

Dark, quirky, urban fantasy with a mystery plot, a dash of social commentary, and a sprinkling of slow-burn romantic potential.

Personal Demons (The Rifter Series Book 2)

by L.R. Braden
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Suspense
Protecting her secret and hunting demons is a matter of survival for possessed-practitioner Mira Fuentes. She's spent years learning to work with the snarky demon housed in her body, and it hasn't always gone smoothly. Nor has her recent partnership with an agent of the Paranatural Task Force. Ty Williams—uncomfortably-attractive and overly-protective—may never fully accept that his partner has a literal inner demon
But work-life-demon balance is the least of Mira's problems when a figure from her past drags her back to the hometown she's avoided for nearly a decade to investigate a string of potentially-magical disappearances. Someone or something is snatching teens from the local high school.

Emotionally off-balance in a city full of old ghosts and new dangers, Mira will have to confront her past to discover what is hunting the innocent.

Praise for L. R. Braden:

"My new 'auto-buy' author. I love everything this woman writes."—J.D. Brown, award-winning author of the Ema Marx Series

"A fast-paced, engrossing, unexpected, and tension-filled magical work…A great read for every female lead Urban Fantasy enthusiast."—The Queen of Swords, NetGalley reviewer on Demon Riding Shotgun

"I LOVED this book. It's got fun. It's got depth. It's definitely going to stick with me."—Lydia R, NetGalley reviewer on Demon Riding Shotgun

Excerpt from Personal Demons
Moonlight streamed in from the building’s skylights, casting long shadows from the crisscross of scaffolding onto the concrete floor. Several large bay doors that would once have allowed trains to pull in were boarded over, each sporting the tag of a local artist. Steel tracks set flush to the floor created a ladder effect across the pitted, dirt-crusted surface.

A figure crept along the far edge of the building. Long, matted, white hair draped their shoulders and obscured their face save for the profile of a beak-like nose. Pale, wiry limbs moved amid tattered strips of soiled fabric, fingers nearly scraping the floor as the hunched form slunk from shadow to shadow between patches of moonlight. One bony hand clutched something. Mira squinted, then nearly gagged as she realized the man—he had to be the rifter—was dragging an extra appendage. A dark smear snaked across the pale-gray floor in his wake.

<Looks like dinner.>

Mira scowled, but since the demon was inside her, the expression didn’t have much effect. Not that the demon tended to care about Mira’s disapproval in any case.

There but for the grace of God. . . . She sent a silent, grateful prayer for the miracle that had allowed her to strike a balance with her possessor all those years ago and saved her from becoming one of the creatures she now hunted.

The rifter shuffled from pillar to pillar, dragging its gory meal toward a break in the south wall—a section of empty window frame partially covered by a loosely propped piece of plywood. At the pace he was moving, she had maybe a minute before he reached the opening.

She glanced around the rest of the interior. Plenty of open space, good solid supports, no one nearby . . . couldn’t really ask for a better space to fight in.

<Are you going to call Ty?>

She fingered the cell phone clipped to her belt. Carrying the device—basically a tiny tracker—made her uncomfortable, but she had eventually given in to the practicality of being able to quickly communicate with Ty. Yet another concession to this whole partnership thing. The plan had been to locate the rifter, text the location, then trail it at a discrete distance until they could take it down together. It had seemed logical enough when she’d agreed to it. Now, watching her target move slowly away, she wasn’t so sure.

She worried her lower lip between her teeth, then shifted her hand to the sheathed kukri knife also attached to her belt. By the time Ty gets here, the rifter will have moved on, and the next place we catch up to it might not be so accommodating. She slid the long, curved blade free. We can handle this ourselves.

Mira felt the demon grin. <Just like the old days.>

Her lips twitched up to match. The “old days” were barely two weeks gone, hardly any time at all, but Mira couldn’t deny the thrill of acting without the need for debate or consent. The single hunt she’d worked with Ty—not including the unofficial case on which they’d met—had gone smoothly enough, but she’d chafed at his slow pace and meticulous planning. Right now there was a rifter in front of her, and she was going to kill it. Simple.

Demon Riding Shotgun (The Rifter Series Book 1)

Possessed by a demon since she was eleven years old, Mira Fuentes maintains a fragile alliance with the snarky soul who shares her body. Together they hunt down unstable Rifters-- demon-controlled humans bent on causing chaos in the mortal realm. But when a routine hunt leads to a powerful Rifter with plans for Baltimore, Mira quickly finds herself in over her head and at the top of the city's Most Wanted.

Recently retired from the PTF after losing his partner, Ty Williams now works for the Baltimore PD and keeps his distance from cases involving magic. But when a person dies of clearly magical causes and the PTF doesn't have any agents to spare, Ty is the closest thing the department has to an expert. Saddled with a new partner he doesn't want and a mountain of self-doubt, it's his job to track down a suspect who looks suspiciously like the one-night-stand he brought home from the bar last night.

Mira will have to set her trust issues aside and enlist the help of a man determined to uncover her secrets if she hopes to learn the identity of the demon's host and prevent the human race from becoming meat puppets for the denizens of the Rift.

On COURTING DARKNESS: "This book was a fantastic second installment to the Magicsmith series… Truly brilliant writing!"--Richelle Rodarte, NetGalley Reviewer

"The plot was engrossing, fascinating and action-filled."--Pam Guynn, NetGalley Reviewer on Faerie Forged


Demon Riding Shotgun
Mira scooped a handful of shockingly cold water into her palms and splashed it on her face. She gasped and shook. Icy drips trickled down her neck, soothing the raw skin where the collar had burned her. The distorted reflection on the tumbling surface of the water threw back swathes of color with little detail, but Mira could still see that half her hair was white and her left eye shone a brilliant gold. She and her demon were matched equally at the moment, or near enough, each with one hand on the steering wheel—which might seem like a balanced partnership but was a sure recipe for a wreck.

Because her demon was naturally so much more powerful than her, their balance needed to be far from even, like a heavy-handled knife balanced on a fingertip. There was a lot more material on one end because the other was so dense. In Mira’s case, the demon could only keep the smallest portion of itself manifested or the body they shared would be torn to pieces by the force of its presence. Even now, after the feedings that had temporarily stabilized her, Mira could feel the strain on her cells. Purplish stains were starting to form around her fingernails and trace up her fingers like ground cracking in advance of an earthquake.

She pressed her palms to the damp earth and took a deep breath of moist air.

<We need to reset the anchors.> The demon’s voice swelled and faded, as though she was rapidly changing positions, flitting about Mira’s mind, unable to hold still—the incorporeal equivalent of pacing.

Nodding, Mira shifted so she was sitting in a more comfortable position. They hadn’t had to reset their anchors in years, and she wasn’t sure how long it would take. She relaxed her neck and shoulders until her chin rested against her chest, closed her eyes, and took another long, steady breath.

She opened herself up to the energy around her—not in unshielded abandon as she had in the police van, but by allowing a thin trickle to funnel through a specific point that she controlled like a sluice gate. She could feel the rift energy, the energy her demon was made from, seeping into her, filling her reservoirs. At the same time she could feel the pull of the demon’s power, tearing away the energy that kept her alive, the physical bonds of her mortal form. This was the balance they maintained—the cannibalistic partnership—each devouring the essence of the other for the power they needed to perform magic.

About the Author:
L.R. Braden is the bestselling author of the Magicsmith and Rifter urban fantasy series, as well as several works of short fiction. Her writing has won the Eric Hoffer Book Award for Sci-fi/Fantasy, the First Horizon Award for debut authors, the Imadjinn Award for Best Urban Fantasy, and the Colorado Authors League Award for writing excellence in multiple categories. She was also honored as a finalist for the 2023 Colorado Book Award in Sci-fi/Fantasy and for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year award in 2021 and 2023.

While she loves to travel, she’s always happy to come home to Colorado, where she lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her wonderful husband, precocious daughter, and two quirky cats. When not writing, she spends her time playing games, enjoying the great outdoors, and weaving metal into intricate chain mail jewelry that she sells in her Etsy shop, WimsiDesign.

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Thursday, September 28, 2023

YA Horror: Where Did the Wind Go? (The Ghoul Gang Book 1) by J. M. Failde

How amazing is this cover?!

Welcome to the tour for Where Did the Wind Go by J.M. Failde. Read on for more details!
by J. M. Failde
Genre: YA Horror
Ages: 14 - 18
With the help of the newly formed Ghoul Gang, self-proclaimed ghost hunter Simon Woo soon learns that his new town of Ravenswood, North Carolina, is riddled with ghouls. But something even more nightmarish is lurking within the woods. And it has its eyes on Simon.

After moving with his family, Simon discovers that his new town is better fitting for a survivor in a horror movie rather than a junior in high school. He quickly befriends two other outsiders—Miles, the equally horror-obsessed new kid from New York City, and Riley, the resident goth girl with a secret.

As the brutal murders continue, the Ghoul Gang must discover the truth behind the ghoul in the woods in order to save Simon from becoming the entity’s new host.

About the Author

J. M. Failde spent just over one hundred fortnights rigorously studying the complexities of the English language at Florida International University. While she is not conjuring up stories, she can be found searching for el chupacabra, befriending the ghost in her house, or dying her hair a new shade of blue. Failde currently resides in her gothic manor on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, with her partner, Mike, and her familiar—the round but feisty calico cat, Maki.
 Twitter: @jm_failde @RRBookTours1 #RRBookTours

IG: @jmfailde @rrbooktours #rrbooktours #rrbtwheredidthewindgo #wheredidthewindgo #spookybook #halloween #halloweenbook #halloweenread #yabook #paranormalya #paranormal #supernatural #spooky #spookyseason #ghoul #ghoulgang

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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Character Confessions with a Matchmaking Ghost Grandmother by Beck Erixson + giveaway

Beck: Thank you so much for including “Just a Fika” on I Smell Sheep!

As usual, when contemplating what to share about Ingrid and her story, my dear Mormor made her presence known. This time, it led to an unexpected incident involving spilled hot tea all over my drafting table. Her unique ability to pop in and out of different realms without warning is a never-ending source of amusement for her. Today, I'm indulging her and letting her have her say before she attempts to rewrite the entire book. She's still a bit perturbed that I didn't include more chapters about her, but she adores her granddaughter and understands why Ingrid is the central character.

Mormor: You could improve your posture while typing; it would save me from constantly prodding your shoulder to sit up straight. Honestly, are you trying to develop a hunch? Tall women should carry themselves proudly. A true shield-maiden never lowers her chin as you do.

Beck: I'm not a shield-maiden, and this isn't exactly a confession. What did you want to discuss about the book or yourself?

Mormor: Very well. You may not know what you are, but I do. You'll discover it eventually. Back to the book—I should have been featured more prominently. Ingrid should have invited me out personally rather than me having to pop in and out. If she were more upfront instead of letting me guess where she was going, I’d have left her alone more.

Beck: You weren't exactly forthcoming about your own background either. Besides, I'm fairly certain a deceased grandmother showing up on a date would be a mood-killer.

Mormor: For the umpteenth time, I'm not deceased. I'm in-between—neither alive nor dead.

Beck: A zombie?

Mormor: You know very well I'm not a zombie.

Beck: Fine. What's one thing you'd like to clarify for the readers that may have been unclear in the story?

Mormor: Well, you blabbed about my library encounter with Loki in the book, but you omitted some details. That wasn't our only meeting when I was younger. AND it’s the same spot Ingrid's grandfather and I used to visit to gaze out at the water. I never saw that peculiar man after Poppop came home. Not until he showed his true self in the book. I know those eyes anywhere.

Beck: Are you upset because you and Loki didn't get more page time?

Mormor: Life is intricate. There's a reason Ingrid should avoid dating him and why he's so involved in her love life. I'm conflicted about how much you revealed in the book. You did an excellent job covering the other identities like Heimdal, Baldr, Freya, and Thor... but you dropped hints too. This isn't how you protect Aegir Haven from outsiders who might come to gawk at the gods and disrupt our quiet little seaside town.

Beck: You do realize the book is fiction, right? Norse gods won't be found strolling around, and Bifröst isn't accessible from the Jersey shore. Thor's ego would never fit in here, and the town would inevitably become a tourist trap.

Mormor: You're absolutely right. The entire story is a work of fiction, except for me, Ingrid, and the others. And let's not anger Aegir; he's already flooded the area enough times.

Beck: I can't do this right now. Fine. There's a massive gathering of Norse gods not using their powers, and you and Loki used to flirt. It's preposterous.

Mormor: Next time, you should start with my story. I'm telling you, a prequel.

Beck: I... um... have already begun writing another book in this world, one for Saga...

Mormor: Saga isn’t even in Just a Fika! This conversation is taking a turn for the worse. Why am I always last?

Beck: ...I didn't think...

Beck: Damn it. She's vanished again. We'll sort this out later. She might be a tad irked because her husband's short story is appearing in an anthology in 2024. She's a remarkable woman, fiercely spirited, and truly wonderful once you get to know her. As for the Loki part, well, I'd take that with a grain of salt. Some days she can be a bit dramatic.

Just a Fika: Coffee, Connection, and a Matchmaking Ghost Grandmothers
by Beck Erixson
October 3, 2023
Genre: Speculative Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction with Romance
Publisher: Aegir Haven, LLC
Date of Publication:
ISBN: 979-8-9875998-0-8 (paperback)
ISBN” 979-8-9875998-2-2 (ebook)
Number of pages: 308
Word Count: 83,000
Cover Artist: Melody Jeffries
Family. They’re always meddling in your love life… Even after they’re dead.

Brooklynite-and genealogist-Ingrid Ekstrom accepts a surprise request from her typically estranged family: to become the live-in caretaker of their shared historic house in the sleepy Jersey Shore town of Aegir Haven. A fun-loving cousin is quick to introduce Ingrid to the local handyman and bluegrass musician. As he fixes up the place, Ingrid digs into the house's past and learns about the family she barely knows.

And then Mormor-her long-dead grandmother-shows up, acting as though not being in the spirit realm is perfectly normal.

Ingrid's always yearned for stronger family connections, and it's nice having Mormor around. Mormor tries to set her up with a young real estate attorney who's closer to her more thunderous, god-like personal standards than the musician with keen senses Ingrid is falling for. As lore and legends mingle with real life, she's torn. Mormor's fantastical family sagas can't actually be true, right?


“Show yourself, you meddling woman,” I say, probably too stern for a granddaughter. She did this to herself.

“Oh, relax. You had fun, didn’t you?” Mormor’s voice projects from the living room.

“You had no business showing up tonight. My social life is mine.” I kick off my shoes in the entry and cut across to the warmth of the lit fireplace. She’s kept herself busy.

“Oh, sit down,” she scolds me from the purple wingback chair, like the child she believes I still am.

Hard to say no to your grandmother, even if you don’t really know her. For civility’s sake, I take my place in the leather chair on the other side of the fireplace, garnering an unobstructed view of her. The heat and flames of the fireplace illuminate the bridge etched into the back of the black stone, only visible when the temperature hits high enough. She’s been waiting.

“Did you have fun?” The chair creaks as she adjusts her legs. “You two were adorable together.”

“So you said at the restaurant. Directly to him.” The energy it takes to argue isn’t worth the effort right now. Opting for a tone of juvenile annoyance takes less energy. “Can you please stay out of my personal life? Can this be something we agree to?”

“Absolutely not. You’ll blow it. Look at your track record. You need me.” She waves off my request. “Besides, it was one date, and of course that boy ended up there too.”
Ah, so she didn’t send him. Sweet. “Thatboy?“ I ask.

“Yes, the one with the instrument and the curls in his hair. The one who’s been fixing things here.” Mormorisn’t holding back niceties.

“Kurt?” I grin. “What do you have against Kurt?” Reveling in this is wrong, but so right.

“You need someone with their feet on the ground. Someone like Yale.” She sits high like a queen in her court.

“What do you know about him?” I’m not arguing. Who knows how long she’s been popping in and out of my life?

“I know what I need to.” She lengthens her neck. “Why even bother with him?”

“Ah, so you know nothing.” Makes two of us, really. Other than being kind, talented, and someone to joke around with, he’s a mystery. A mystery who’s comfortable to be around, but sometimes makes butterflies flutter in my chest. Yale makes me awkward and nervous. Ugh,I’m overanalyzing again. Inside me there’s a constant nag when I’m around Yale that he’s not a good idea. Not that Kurt’s a good idea.

“Let’s clarify something. I’m not going back until I know you are okay.” Mormor stares off at the fire. A gentle breeze whistles through the windows and flutters the edges of her hair.

“Is this a promise or a threat?” Please stay, for at least a while longer. I like getting to know her when she’s not meddling. Half the reason I agreed to move out here was to learn more about my family.

I suppose I should thank her. Dinner ended when the menu she was holding too close to the wall sconce caught fire and we had to run outside. Serves her right for spying and not paying attention. There’s nothing quite like the smell of melting plastic to inflict headaches and end a date quickly.

He was kind enough to walk me home after I made the first turn in the wrong direction. I’d have made it eventually. His gentlemanly self was fantastic. It was the long periods of not talking and staring at the candle that made me want to bolt.

“You know I love you.” I open my arms for a hug.

She turns non-corporeal and laughs as my arms slice through her.

Mormor! “What are the rules here? When are you—you? And when are you a ghost?” I stamp my voice like a toddler mid-tantrum, adding extra emphasis at the beginning of each sentence.

“You were going to squeeze me too hard.” She’s right. “When I’m tired, I fade a bit. I don’t like where I go when I fade.”

A tiny over-the-top squeeze to make her feel as uncomfortable as I felt with Yale is deserved, tight enough so she knows I’m squeezing love and the want of a direct connection with her.

“Where you go?” Legitimate question.

“I have to go somewhere? What? You think I’m like a fading light?”

I shrug. “Sorry, I don’t have experience with—ghosts?”

“We’ve been over this.” She rolls her eyes. “The rules are murky.” She pulls at the low braid on the back of her head.

“Oh, is that all?” This woman is off her rocker.

“It’s complicated.” She crosses her arms and huffs. “Haven’t you bothered doing your research?”

“This isn’t something I can research.” Hello, librarian, I keep seeing my dead grandmother. Do you have any books on this?

My jaw drops—this was an intentional diversion. “You’re trying to get sympathy and distract me from the fact you interrupted in the most inappropriate way on a date.”

She wrinkles her nose. “Caught me. You still need to think about dating a proper choice. I’m holding my ground on this.”

“Proper?” Again, with that word. “I don’t need to date anyone. I’m here to watch the house.”

She comes over and envelopes me in a too-hard hug.

I wheeze. “Besides it wasn’t a date, it was two people going to dinner.”

The unsuccessful wiggle of my arms proves Mormor’s ghost form is stronger than she lets on.

“Dating doesn’t mean a relationship.” I peck her cheek. “Having dinner once or twice is getting to know someone.”

She releases her arms and slinks back in her chair. “Don’t end up alone, Ingrid.” A tremble crosses her tone.

“I’ve got you. How can I be alone?”

“You know very well what I mean. You’ve squandered your twenties, and now—”

“I got an education and lived life.” There it is. Clear disappointment I’ve caused her in my life choices. “I traveled and dated. Not everyone finds themselves in their early twenties.”

“Will you consider dating while you are here? He’s really a nice boy.”

“I’m here to maintain the house. Not to date.” I’m over dating.

“Being here doesn’t mean you can’t date.”

I shake my head. She’s relentless.

Mormor waves her hand in front of the fire, and the flames dance higher. “Yale is…” She wags her eyebrows. “Kurt is…” A hovered eye roll punctuates the end of her sentence.

“A friend.” Sort of—he’s working here because Svea paid him.

Mormor grumbles something inaudible from my seat. “I have a list of projects for you. Promise me you’ll stay till you finish some?” She pulls her arm back to the chair and rests her hands on her lap.

“I’m a fill-in. The only person available with no ties to kids or an office.” Story of my life. The living family members call when they remember my existence. Supposedly they love me, but…eh, baggage to think about another day, right? “Promise me you won’t mess up Kurt’s projects on the house?” He works hard regardless of her impression of him.

“As long as he sticks to the house as a project and not you.” She wags her finger and heaves a sigh.

A halfhearted nod is the only option to end this conversation. “Tea?”

I’m not a project.

About the Author:
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Beck Erixson writes about the beautifully awkward world of navigating the journey to true happiness through friendships, love, and family—be it blood, found, or chosen. Her stories enhance the importance of positive interconnection, even when we feel lonely. She lives on the Jersey Shore, and can often be found either writing by the river, or in it in some way. Her short stories have appeared in Many Nice Donkeys, and Full Mood Mag.

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