Wednesday, June 26, 2019

#53 Inside the Emotion of Fiction's SHADOWS IN THE MIST by Jeri Westerson

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*****Jeri Westerson’s Shadows in the Mist is #53 in the never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece. 

Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us? The third in my paranormal Booke of the Hidden series is called Shadows in the Mist. I originally had it as Dancing in the Mist, with the visual in my head in mind of a sort of danse macabre, but my editor didn’t like it. Since it dealt with zombie Vikings (I KNOW!) emerging out of a mist they created, “shadows” seemed to work better, though there are a lot of titles like that, apparently. I guess we all prefer our mist with shadows.

Fiction genre?  Ex science fiction, short story, fantasy novella, romance, drama, crime, plays, flash fiction, historical, comedy, movie script, screenplay, etc.  And how many pages long? This one is a paranormal romance with a lot of mystery and humor. I wanted that sensibility, to offer the reader a romance, light comedy, some paranormal scary stuff, some pathos and drama, adventure—something for everyone. It’s 286 print pages long.

Has this been published? And it is totally fine if the answer is no.   If yes, what publisher and what publication date? May 14th from JABberwocky Literary

What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction? I started working on it May 2017, just getting the feel of what had to happen next in the series (I was probably working on my medieval mystery series at the time), picked it up again to work on it in earnest September 2017 and finished it January 2018.

Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work?  And please describe in detail.  And can you please include a photo? In my home office, a jumble of tchotchkes, reference books, and general messiness.

What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day? I generally start around nine in the morning—with coffee—and work a few sporadic hours, continuing after lunch. I sometimes listen to certain stations on Pandora, not always. I keep a journal for every book I write, just a cheap spiral bound Mead notebook from the store. In it is research, scenes, dialogue, arguing with myself what should happen next. I would be lost without my handwritten journals. But the book itself gets typed directly into my laptop.

What is the summary of this specific fiction work? Tea proprietor Kylie Strange must capture deadly monsters she has unwittingly unleashed, while juggling the not-so-unwelcome advances from both an alluring and dangerous demon and the very human and handsome sheriff. But what are the lethal creatures seen in the mist around the little town of Moody Bog that haven’t come from the supernatural Booke of the Hidden? A ritual murder to solve, werewolves, and an assassin demon summoned to kill her…and now zombie freakin’ Vikings! Just another day in the life of Kylie Strange.

Can you give the reader just enough information for them to understand what is going on in the excerpt? Kylie is just an ordinary person who opened this ancient book bricked up in her 18th century wall—Booke of the Hidden—but when she opened it, it unleashed deadly creatures into her little village of Moody Bog, Maine, and it’s up to her to put them back. In the excerpt, she and her local coven who have been enlisted to help her, see a little girl change into a strange monster, and Kylie takes off after it to try to dispatch it…even when it jumps the fence into a cemetery.

Please include the excerpt and include page numbers as reference.  The excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer. This begins on page 36 at the end of chapter 2, and goes into chapter 3 to page 43. Nick is part of her coven, Ed is the sheriff, and Jeff is her ex-boyfriend who has come to Maine to try to convince her to come back to him…but he gets turned into a werewolf by the First Werewolf that comes out of the Booke:
Shadows in the Mist Excerpt
     I went to the door to flip the OPEN sign over to CLOSED when I noticed a little girl standing in the middle of the road. She was looking down toward the village.
     Even though there wasn’t likely to be much traffic at this hour of the afternoon, standing in the road probably wasn’t a good idea. I unlocked the door, opened it, and stuck my head out. “Little girl! Hey, honey! Come out of the street.”
     She didn’t look at me.
     I stepped out to my gravel parking lot. “Hey! Little girl! Come away from there.” I searched around and didn’t see any adults nearby. And the sun was going down. That meant that the Draugr would be out soon. I race-walked toward her and leaned over to touch her arm. “Honey, let’s get you to the shop and see if we can call your parents.”
     She turned her head toward me then. Her eyes, round and clear blue, looked me over. She was maybe six or seven, wearing a plaid dress with red tights. Too young to be out on the street at twilight.
     I smiled, trying to look friendly and nonthreatening. “I have tea. And maybe I can scrounge up a cookie while we phone your folks. Shall we do that?”
     She looked up at me placidly. And then she opened her mouth and screeched an unearthly sound.
     I stumbled back.
     Her teeth were covered in blood and her eyes suddenly glowed yellow. And then she fell forward, got down on all fours, and bounded away.
     “Did you see that?” cried Nick from the doorway. Everyone had gathered when they saw me go outside. All their faces were white and stark. I was willing to bet they hadn’t seen anything like that before either.
     I turned my attention back to the creature quickly disappearing into the rising mist. My instinct was to scream, but I started fiercely trembling instead.
     Ed was at my side. “What the hell was that?”
     I shook my head. Couldn’t speak. Would scream if I tried. But something else took over—those damned Chosen Host skills—making me take off after her.
     She was far ahead, and I wasn’t gaining on her, even going full pelt as I was. While her strange gait—butt in the air, running on hands and feet—was freaking me out, I had to keep her in my sights. Something told me to raise my arm; the familiar whistling sound of the crossbow coming toward me gave me a smidgen of confidence. When it slapped into my hand, I clutched it hard. I glanced quickly at the bolt in the flight groove and knew I’d never seen it before.
     She was still galloping down the street when she made a sudden turn at the church. She ran past it and toward the dark gates of the cemetery. Don’t go in, don’t go in, I chanted in my head. But when had anything gone my way lately?
     She leapt right over the closed gate. I slowed, my boots slapping the wet pavement as I came up to a halt in front of the gate and clutched the cold metal bars in my hand.
     Nick and then Ed came up on either side of me, breathing hard. “What the hell was that?” Ed asked again.
     “Call me crazy,” I said, “but I’m betting that wasn’t really a little girl.”
     “But I know her,” said Ed. “And…Jesus.” He loosened his tie and his collar. “A few days ago— It’s Lexy Johnson.”
     Nick snapped his head toward Ed. “Lexy Johnson? You mean…the little girl who…who…”
     Ed nodded. He stepped up to the gate and peered through, scanning the tombstones and monuments.
     “She what?” I asked Nick, then Ed. “She what?”
     Nick finally answered. “She died. She fell off the roof of her house three days ago. Her funeral was yesterday.”
     “She wasn’t a ghost.” I checked the crossbow. It wouldn’t need to shoot a ghost. This bolt was designed to kill something from the Booke. “But she’s dead. And she’s not a Viking.”
     “Wait,” said Nick. “You mean she’s a zombie?”
     “I don’t know. Hey,” I turned, looking back down the street. “Where’s the rest of the coven?”
     Nick’s eyes were wide, scanning our surroundings. He licked his lips. “Ed told Jeff to stay and tell the others when they arrived.” Nick couldn’t seem to help himself from looking behind him again. “I left before I realized what I was doing.”
     “For what it’s worth, I’m glad you’re here.” I girded myself, securing the loaded crossbow in my hands. “I’m going in.”
     Ed’s hand wrapped around my arm and squeezed. “Kylie, no.”
     “Ed.” I lifted the crossbow to show him. “I’ve got this, and it armed itself. That means I’m up.”
     “You’re serious about this? Jesus. Let me do it. Hand me the crossbow.”
     I snatched it back. “Don’t you get it? This is my mission. It’s mine.”
     “But…” He didn’t know how to argue it.
     I could see the pain on his face, and I wanted more than anything to kiss it away from him.
     “Then have my back,” I said gently.
      I saw the change in him immediately. He straightened and had his gun in his hand so fast it seemed a blur.
     Nick raised his trembling hand. “Uh…third banana, here. Without a weapon, I’d like to remind you all.”
    “You don’t have to come, Nick.”
     He looked behind him one more time to the darkening street, filling with mist. “Well, I’m not going back there alone.”
     No more talk. I pushed against the gate, which opened with a good, old-fashioned horror movie whine. I stepped up the walkway and looked around. “Ed, do you know where her…her grave is?”
     “Yeah. Up this way.”
     It was the perfect cliché cemetery. There was a kneeling, weeping angel to my right and a vine-covered crypt up ahead to the left. Did they deliberately design these places to look extra scary?
     “I am sooo creeped out right now,” said Nick.
     “Me, too,” I said, yet my feet kept moving.
     Ed led the way up onto the grass. We walked between tombstones as the light was falling and fog was rising, sending fingers of mist hovering over the lawn. I hadn’t even had time to grab my jacket. I wish the crossbow could have picked it up on its way out.
     I held the crossbow at my shoulder and aimed it forward but kept looking all around. We came to a rise and walked upward. Ed stopped, and I came up behind him.
     “What is it?”
     He was shaking his head at something ahead of us. “What. The. Hell.”
     I had a feeling he’d be saying that a lot in the near future. When I came around him, I saw it too. The grave had been opened, with dirt sprayed all over as if it had been dug up by some enormous dog. The coffin had been dragged up out of the grave. A child’s coffin. It was white with a sort of lace pattern—something dainty for a little girl. And it was spattered with blood.
     The lid had been torn open, hanging on one remaining hinge. I didn’t want to look. I was about to chicken out and make Ed go…when my hands tightened over the smooth ebony and silver contours of the crossbow, feeling its organic lines and sensuous curves. It reminded me that it was my job to look, to investigate, and to kill whatever it was that had possessed that innocent child.
     Ed was surprised when he saw I was right beside him. “Kylie, you need to step back.”
     “Ed, what I need to do is go forward.”
     “Sweetheart, there’s blood all over that.”
     I stopped. “You…called me ‘sweetheart.’”
     He blinked. “Yeah.”
     I slowly blew out a breath. I liked the feeling I got from his words a little too much, but I had to shove that aside. “I have to see what happened.”
     “Are you sure?”
     “I’m sure I’m not going over there,” said Nick, his voice quavering.
     I barely acknowledged him. This might be the worst thing I’d ever had to do. No, my mother’s funeral was the worst thing I’d ever had to do. But this was a close second.
     We got to the opened hole. I could now see streaks of claw marks on the coffin and more dug into the edge of the grave—and I could smell something too. It was the scent of death, but more than that. It was what I smelled when I was at the murder scene of Dan Parker, the old Congregational Church’s caretaker. He’d been murdered—sacrificed, so the Wiccans believed. And we hadn’t a clue as to who had done it. That was another thing we’d have to discuss with Ed.
     We slowly rounded the other side of the open coffin, and I got my first glimpse of the contents. “Oh, God.”
     She was there. But…parts of her were missing. And a big chunk was cut out of her abdomen. Wait. Not cut.
     I stepped closer.
     Bitten. Chewed. Eaten.
     I turned away and threw up all over someone’s grandmother’s tombstone. I sank down and leaned on the stone when I was empty.
     Nick winced and squirmed somewhere behind me. “Jesus, Kylie. I’ll pay you anything not to tell me.”
     Ed’s hands were on my shoulders, a comforting presence. “You should go. I’ve got to call this in.”
     “No, wait. I have to—”
     “You don’t have to do anything else.”
     I put a trembling hand to my forehead. “Is it her?”
     He turned and grimaced as he looked it over. “Down to the same plaid dress and red tights.”
     “So…something got her just as we caught up to the grave?”
     “That doesn’t seem likely.” Ever the detective, Ed’s eyes constantly roved around the scene as he spoke, searching. “I don’t…I don’t think she left her coffin.”
     I ran my sleeve over my sweaty forehead. Sweat and freezing cold. What a great combination. “What do you mean?”
     “I’m looking at her shoes, her hands. She wasn’t running on mud and gravel. She’s clean…as far as that goes. And…you know. The rest of her…her face—mouth and eyes. Still sewn shut. It wasn’t her.”
     “Then…what was it we saw?”
     “I don’t know. That’s the Wiccan’s department, isn’t it?”
     I looked down at the crossbow. It had disarmed.
     “Go, Kylie,” he said. “Take Nick with you.”
     I lifted the crossbow weakly. “But maybe I should…”
     “You should go back to the shop.”
     “I’m not leaving you alone.” I spit the bile from my mouth and unsteadily raised the crossbow.
     There was an endearing twinkle in his eye. “Then wait here while I call it in.”
     He spoke into his shoulder mic and got Deputy George, while we waited. It wasn’t long till we spotted the flashing lights of his police Jeep rambling up the drive. He got out and stared at Nick. Deputy George didn’t often acknowledge him in public, but Nick gave him a bro-style chin raise in greeting.
     “Jeezum rice!” cried George when he saw what Ed was staring at.
     I slipped away toward Nick.
     “Hey!” George called after me. “Where do you think you’re going? Put down the weapon.” He reached for the flap snapped down over his holster, but Ed covered his hand.
     “She can go,” he said.
     “But Sheriff…”
     “She and Nick can go.”
     Deputy George squared on Nick, mustache and all. “Ni—uh, Mr. Riley? What are you…what are you doing here?”
     Nick gave me a desperate look, but it was Ed who saved the day. “They followed some animal into the cemetery and called me.”
     “An animal? What kind of animal?”
     “They don’t know.” Ed gestured for me to go.
     I swung the crossbow down, trying to hide it by carrying it next to my thigh with one hand, and took Nick’s arm with the other. We hurried down to the cemetery gate. Nick looked back, but the deputy never glanced his way. Once we got to the street, we ran.
     Nick tried to slow me down. “What’s the hurry?”
     “The Draugr.”
     “Shit!” He then grabbed my arm, and we sprinted back to the shop…
Why is this excerpt so emotional for you?  And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt? I just liked the idea of this cute little girl, that suddenly does something really horrific. Bloody teeth, glowy eyes, and then falls down on all fours to take off running. So unnatural! So discomfiting! Kylie reacts to things like I would, only she has more courage to pursue them. I’d be running away, for sure. The idea of a ghoul—that feeds on dead children and then takes on their appearance—had that particular ick factor that I liked and also provided opportunities for a bit of humor too.

Other works you have published?
The Crispin Guest Mysteries
  • Veil of Lies (2008) Minotaur Books
  • Serpent In The Thorns (2009) Minotaur Books
  • The Demon’s Parchment (2010) Minotaur Books
  • Troubled Bones (2011) Minotaur Books
  • Blood Lance (2012) Minotaur Books
  • Shadow of the Alchemist (2013) Minotaur Books
  • Cup of Blood: A Prequel (2014) Old London Press
  • The Silence of Stones (UK December 2015) (US February 2016) Severn House
  • A Maiden Weeping (UK April 2016) (US August 2016) Severn House
  • Season of Blood (2017) Severn House
  • The Deepest Grave (2018) Severn House
  • Traitor's Codex (2019) Severn House
  • Sword of Shadows (2020) Severn House
Historical Novels
  • Though Heaven Fall (2014) Old London Press
  • Native Spirit: The Story of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (2014) Writing as Anne Castell
  • Roses in the Tempest (2015) Old London Press
Paranormal Novels
  • Booke of the Hidden: Booke One in the Booke of the Hidden Series (October 31, 2017) Diversion Books
  • Deadly Rising: Booke Two in the Booke of the Hidden Series (October 23, 2018) Diversion Books, EverAfter Romance Imprint
  • Shadows in the Mist: Booke Three in the Booke of the Hidden Series (JABberwocky May 14, 2019)
  • The Darkest Gateway: Booke Four and the last in the Booke of the Hidden Series (JABberwocky October, 19 2019)
The Skyler Foxe LGBT Mysteries (writing as Haley Walsh)
  • Foxe Tail (2010) MLR Press
  • Foxe Hunt (2011) MLR Press
  • Out-Foxed (2012) MLR Press
  • Foxe Den; A Skyler Foxe Holiday Short Story Collection (2012) Novella, Foxe Press
  • Foxe Fire (2014) MLR Press
  • Desert Foxe (2014) MLR Press
  • Foxe Den 2: Summer Vacation (2015) Novella, Foxe Press
  • A Very Merry Foxemas (2015) Novella, Foxe Press
  • Crazy Like a Foxe (2016) Foxe Press
  • Stone Cold Foxe (2017) Foxe Press
Short Stories
  • "Pax" in Kinesis Literary Magazine (1997)
  • "The Tin Box" in St. Anthony Messenger Magazine (won second place in the Best Short Story Contest sponsored by the Catholic Press Association; 2003) and now on Kindle (2013)
  • "Catching Elijah" in St. Anthony Messenger Magazine (2004) and now on Kindle (2013)
  • "The Noodle Girl" in Shaken: Stories for Japan anthology, edited by Tim Hallinan (2011)
  • "Universal Donor" in Murder and Mayhem in Muskego anthology, edited by Jon Jordan (2012)
  • "Do-Over" an ebook short story (writing as Haley Walsh) (2012)
  • "Marked" in Anything for a Dollar (writing as Haley Walsh), edited by Todd Gregory (2013)
  • "Mesmer Maneuver" in Day of the Destroyers serial anthology, edited by Gary Phillips (2015)
  • "Dark Chamber: A Crispin Guest Short Story" (2016)

Anything you would like to add? Writing is the best and worst job in the world. Best, because you, alone, are sitting with your thoughts and fantasies and weaving marvelous tales, the kinds of books you’d want to read, and putting your personal stamp on them. And worst because it pays so little. You work so hard for nine months on a book that you hope people will enjoy, and it’s still so tough to be discovered, even after all the books I’ve published from a big New York house, to mid-size to small publishers and self-publishing. It never seems to get any easier, and all the publicity falls on the author. That part really sucks.

     Los Angeles native JERI WESTERSON is the author of twelve Crispin Guest Medieval Noir Mystery novels, a series nominated for thirteen national awards from the Agatha to the Shamus. Her fifth novel BLOOD LANCE was named one of the Ten Hot Crime Novels for Colder Days by Kirkus Reviews, and her sixth, SHADOW OF THE ALCHEMIST, was named Best of 2013 by Suspense Magazine. For BOOKE OF THE HIDDEN, her paranormal romance series, Publishers Weekly said, “Readers sad about the ending of Charlaine Harris’s MIDNIGHT, TEXAS trilogy will find some consolation in Moody Bog.” The third in the series, SHADOWS IN THE MIST releases in May, and the last in the series, THE DARKEST GATEWAY, releases October 2019. Jeri was featured on two local NPR shows, ‘My Awesome Empire” and KVCR-Arts. She has served two terms as president of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, one term as vice president for the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and twice president of the Orange County Chapter of Sisters in Crime.
You can find me and my books at 

Wikipedia page 




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