Christal Ann Rice Cooper

Christal Ann Rice Cooper
May Flowers 2017

Friday, June 5, 2015

Supernatural Suspense Novelist Kristine Goodfellow: The Dark Side Of Writing MANSION ON BUTCHER LAKE

Christal Rice Cooper


article with excerpts 2,480 Words


Guest Blogger Kristine Goodfellow:
The Dark Side of Writing
Mansion on Butcher Lake


       *Reader’s Note:  The Mansion On Butcher Lake takes place in 1887 Pennsylvania where red-head Gwen Butcher is a witch in every sense of the word.  She is the wife of the very wealthy Lane Butcher, co-owner of the prestigious industrial business Valiant Ironworks and the family estate, Iron Heights.  The other owner of Valiant Ironworks and Iron Heights is Lane’s brother Cameron.  The brothers appear to be close, but something happens the moment Lane Butcher marries Gwen, and that something worsens when Gwen has her husband drink a certain potion.  Then Lane makes a startling discovery that involves Gwen and his brother Cameron, throwing him into the dark side. . .


       What results is sex, passion, anger, hate, revenge, love, and in the, end redemption, in the form of Corwyn Blackstone, who, along with her abusive husband Jayce, comes to Iron Heights.  Jayce, Lane’s cousin, not only abuses his wife, but the servants as well, while Lane hides in the basement, haunted by things that are terrifying and real.


       Soon Lane and Corwyn develop a friendship that makes them realize their enemies are not of flesh and blood, but of spirit.

As with all my stories, the idea for Mansion on Butcher Lake started with a visual muse, followed by a flash of inspiration which continued into full-blown obsession. On a walk with my husband, we found a wonderfully, spooky, mansion…and I fell in love.


The real mansion on which the story is loosely based was built in the 1700's by a wealthy ironmaster who owned the iron forge across the street. The gorgeous estate was passed down for several generations, but then was sold.  Years later, it was abandoned.


After a couple decades of falling into disrepair, it was once again purchased, renovated and reoccupied. However, it wasn't long until it had been abandoned again.
       This time—it was abandoned with everything inside.


The once-glorious mansion had a story to tell. On my many, many furtive visits, I sat mesmerized by its crumbling magnificence. The house called to me. I listened.  Mansion on Butcher Lake is a work of fiction. Names of people, the events and most of the places are strictly from my imagination.


However, there are many ideas in the book that came from visiting and/or obsessing about the actual estate. For example, in my book there is an explanation for the Japanese Garden hidden in a grove of trees. The once-beautiful garden is now forgotten and rotting.


Lane bounded into the parlor where Gwen read her new novel.  She reclined in a black and red velvet fainting couch.  “There you are!  I have a surprise for you.  I couldn’t give it to you yesterday since the weather was bad, but I can’t wait for you to see your birthday present.”
“My birthday?”  She wrinkled her nose.  “That was weeks ago.”
“I know.  I’ve been waiting to give you this.  You were gone and I really wanted to-“
“”Can’t you just give me the present here?”
“No, you must come with me.”  He grinned.  “It’s not something I can bring inside.”
“Can’t this wait?  I only wish to read my book.”
“No, this has been long overdue.  Come with me.”  He held out his hand.
Gwen sighed and placed her book on the end table.  She stood up without his assistances and followed him out the kitchen door and down the steps.  He cupped his hands over her eyes and guided her behind a group of trees on the west side of the estate and thirty yards form the summer porch of the mansion.
“Really, Lane, is this ridiculous pretense necessary?”
He removed his hands, “Just for you, Gwen.”
Dainty red metal lanterns led to a Japanese garden complete with koi fishpond with lily pads.  A footbridge crossed over a babbling brook.  Imported Asian lawn furniture sat in a cluster on a brick landing under the shade of trees.
She squealed with joy, “Oh, how beautiful!”  Gwen wiggled her finger sin the koi pond.  ‘I never expected this.”
“A tranquil, special reading area just for you.  Happy belated birthday, my love.”
Gwen threw her arms around Lane’s neck, but before their lips touched, she pulled away.  “I’ll be right back.  I want to get my novel.”  She left him standing under the blood red leaves of the expensive Japanese Maple tree.  At last, one of my gifts did not fall flat.  It was wroth bringing in the gardeners from Philadelphia and paying them extra to work here.

Excerpt from Mansion On Butcher Lake
Pages 13 -14
Copyright granted by Kristine Goodfellow

And just like in the book, the real house is across the lane from an iron forge/furnace. Of course, the physical descriptions of the house in the book came from staring at my muse in all her decaying glory and trying to capture the splendor with words.
There are several instances where the strike of imagination came from something I'd seen while 'visiting' this house.

      
       He pulled on the reins and stopped the thoroughbred before he approached Iron Heights.  Atop a hill, looking down on his beloved home, a sad sense of nostalgia gripped him for a moment.  Double door with decorative beveled glass were propped open to engage the cool autumn breeze.  The stately Federal–style mansion shining pristinely in the Pennsylvania sun should’ve made him proud.  Built by his grandfather, Iron Heights bore witness to the Butcher family’s continuing prosperity.  Everything belonged to him now, but Lane couldn’t enjoy the breathtaking sight

Excerpt from Mansion On Butcher Lake
Pages 17 – 19
Copyright granted by Kristine Goodfellow

After admiring the mansion from a decent distance, I eventually gathered enough courage to walk up to the porch and peek in the windows.


What I saw set my imagination on fire. It looked like nothing had been disturbed inside the house in years–everything had a layer of dust. Cobwebs hung from every doorframe. To the side of the staircase stood a half-decorated Christmas tree, a box of ornaments near its base. Garland hung suspended from the banister as though someone stopped midway through the job. Boxes marked ‘ornaments’ lined the walls. The entry table held several Christmas knickknacks. It looked as if the residents started decorating and someone or something scared them away and they never returned.
As soon as I peeked through the door windows, a narrative began forming in my mind. An idea was planted into my subconscious.


Standing on the front porch of Iron Heights, Hugo removed his hat, wiped his sweaty brow with his handkerchief and knocked.  He wrinkled his nose at the dead Christmas wreath hanging from the front door.  Coated with dust and almost devoid of needles, what was left of the wreath was laced with silky spider webs.  The ominous adornment warned him that something within was extremely wrong.  He clanked the door- knocker with more force.

Excerpt from Mansion On Butcher Lake
Page 169
Copyright granted by Kristine Goodfellow

I found beauty in the mansion, but also sensed danger. There was something sad, yet proud. Angry, yet resigned.  I felt a powerful yearning radiating from the walls and since the current owner denied my frequent requests to learn its actual history, I simply made up my own. I used some strange features I'd found on the abandoned estate to enhance my tale—details of the house that piqued my interest.


And perhaps, just perhaps, there is a reasonable explanation for simply abandoning a house halfway through decorating for Christmas. However, I let my imagination loose to come up with a sinister explanation.?
I’m influenced by so many writers, but I don’t know if any of them specifically inspired Mansion on Butcher Lake. However, I once read a book where a crumbling, decaying mansion was almost like a character in the novel. I loved that idea. The book was The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It’s a dark story that follows an aging novelist who enlists a young woman to write her life story including her enigmatic childhood spent in a dilapidating mansion called Angelfield. I loved how the house in The Thirteenth Tale almost had a personality. I tried to make Iron Heights (the name of my fictional manor) as much part of Mansion on Butcher Lake as any of the characters.




My writing this fear-provoking story coincided with my husband’s six-week-long business trip. And this business trip coincided with a series of violent spring thunderstorms that plagued south central Pennsylvania for weeks. I remember writing until deep into the night. Thunder shook the window- panes as the sun went down and shadows crept up the walls. Sometimes the house creaked and moaned after a storm.


A few times, I became so lost in writing, it would become dark in the living room (where my desk was) and I wouldn’t even notice until there was a lightning/thunder episode that jolted me back into reality.


One time, I heard something in the basement. I sat in my darkened living room unable to move. My watchdog was nowhere to be found—probably hiding under my bed. The next clap of thunder made me slam my laptop shut and fly up the stairs turning on every light along the way. I’d locked my bedroom door, threw myself under the covers and turned the TV to a nice romantic comedy. I fell asleep with the lights and TV on.


On one of her walks, she’d discovered a neglected Japanese garden.  Overgrown bushes almost hid the red iron lanterns lining the path.  She stepped over the tangle of thickets and thistles and crossed the small arched bridge over a brook.  A swollen carcass of a mouse floated atop a mossy pond.  The young widow carried her novel to one of the lily-carved chairs under the Japanese Maple.  Weeds chocked everything surrounding the reading terrace.  Shaggy grass grew between the bricks beneath her feet.
An ebony bird with a yellow head picked through the dead grass snatches up insects until it suddenly turned and fixed jet black eyes on Corwyn.  Her heart beat as though she faced a dire threat.  They studied each other without moving until the bird flew straight at her with rapid wing beasts.  Had she not ducked, it would’ve flown into her forehead.  Corwyn covered her face and cried.
After a few minutes, she gained control of herself.  She lifted her head.  Iron Heights came into view.  The white mansion appeared sullied and dull.  Because of a particularly cruel autumn, the red paint on the double-arched front doors curled and peeled into sharp slivers.  Ivy crept up the walls like a hand from the grave coming to claim its rightful property.  The vine twisted up the Georgian pillars and crawled across the porch’s roofline.  Gangly stands hung off the edge like a row of nooses swaying in the breeze.

Excerpt from Mansion On Butcher Lake
Page 245
Copyright granted by Kristine Goodfellow

Of course, the next day I continued writing. And scared the crap out of myself all over again. Every day, I vowed to stop working when it got dark and every night, I regretted not stopping when it got dark. I simply lose myself when I’m working on a novel. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
      I had fun writing Mansion on Butcher Lake. I’m not sure I could pick out the ‘most’ compelling scene. But, when I wrote the following excerpt, I realized I was going to a very dark place—a place I hadn’t gone in my writing before. To be honest, I enjoyed releasing a little bit of my dark side.


Sitting on the bank of the stream, Lane broke a stick into small pieces. He tossed them one at a time into the water of Winter Creek. As the strong current swiftly carried the pieces downstream, the increasing need for his wife’s comfort burned within him.
I’ve done what she asked—everything she asked and she still looks at me with contempt, he thought.
At dusk, the stream appeared bottomless. Low, black clouds assembled above him. Lane shivered. He stood, ready to go home again when a voice behind him whispered, “Murderer.”
He whipped around. He listened with intent, but only heard the sound of leaves rustling, predicating a fall storm. One quick glance at the tree line disclosed a pair of yellow eyes staring at him from the dark woods.
“Who’s there? Identify yourself at once.”
A voice came from behind him, the opposite direction than before. “Murderer,” it whispered again.
Lane spun around, wishing he’d brought his revolver. His heart thumped in his ears; his mouth dried. “I demand that you come out and show yourself.”
Two consecutive lightning bolts lit up the sky. A large, mysterious shape ran on all fours straight towards him. Abruptly, the wolf-like creature stopped at the edge of the woods. He stood upright revealing he was no animal, but a misshapen man. Course patches of fur and rough skin covered his body. Long, matted hair topped an elongated, deformed head. His sinewy arms hung down at his sides; his oversized hands clenched in fists. Before Lane fully processed what he’d seen, another series of lightning bolts let him witness the man’s head falling backward like the hood of a cape. A torrent of blood spilled down the sunken chest. A large snake slithered out of the gaping hole atop the neck. During the next lightning flash, the blood-bathed snake glared at Lane with saffron eyes. Its split tongue thrust out between fangs. “Murderer!”
Darkness enveloped the woods once again.
A clap of thunder jolted Lane out of his terror-induced paralysis. His breath came in short bursts; his heart flogged his chest as he hurried to his horse. The next bolt of lightning startled [his horse] and lit up the forest once again. Lane glanced over his shoulder afraid the creature had followed him. The forest showed no signs of such a being.
Lane jumped on [his horse]. He raced through the meadow en route for the comforting lights of the mansion on the shores of Butcher Lake. Rain came down in giant, heavy drops soaking both horse and rider.

Excerpt Mansion On Butcher Lake
Pages 38 – 40
Copyright granted by Kristine Goodfellow

I had a hard time classifying this novel at first. But, then I heard of a genre called Supernatural Suspense. Blogger, RN Adams, describes Supernatural Suspense as “The plot revolves around the ‘other-worldly’ but the emphasis is on suspense rather than horror…”


I thought that description fit Mansion on Butcher Lake pretty well. I do believe that is about spiritual warfare, too. Overall, I believe Mansion on Butcher Lake is a tale of love, redemption and forgiveness. I like to tell people it’s a love/hate story about people trapped in a haunted house. I often get puzzled looks, but I think they get what I’m saying. I hope so.



Photograph Description and Copyright Information

Photo 1 and Photo 5
Kristine Goodfellow standing in front of the Pennsylvania mansion that inspired the story Mansion On Butcher Lake.
Copyright granted by Kristine Goodfellow

Photo 2, Photo 8, and Photo 21
Jacket cover of Mansion On Butcher Lake

Photo 3
Painting attributed to Franz Von Stuck (02/23/1863 – 08/30/1928)
Public Domain

Photo 4
18th Century Painting
Public Domain

Photo 6, Photo 7, Photo 10, Photo 13, Photo 14, Photo 18, and Photo 20.
The real mansion in Pennsylvania that is the inspiration behind Mansion On Butcher Lake.

Photo 9
The Japanese Garden behind the real mansion
Copyright granted by Kristine Goodfellow.

Photo 11
Kristine Goodfellow peeking over a tree
Attributed to Christal Rice Cooper
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Kristine Goodfellow

Photo 16
Diane Setterfield’s web logo photo
Fair Use Under the Untied States Copyright Law

Photo 17
Jacket cover of The Thirteenth Tale

Photo 19
Painting Thunderstorm Over Dordrecht
Painted by Aelbert Cuyp (10/20/1620 – 11/15/1691)
Public Domain

Photo 22
Kristine Goodfellow in Montgomery, Alabama
Attributed to Christal Rice Cooper
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Kristine Goodfellow

Photo 23
Kristine Goodfellow in Pensacola, Florida

Copyright granted by Kristine Goodfellow

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