Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dark Hero by Lily Silver : Guest Post, Excerpt

Guard Your Dreams . . . Lest They Emerge from the Mists to Embrace You!

After her mother is murdered, Elizabeth’s grandmother casts a spell summoning a champion to arise from the mists to rescue them. When a beguiling Irishman appears at their cottage one magic summer eve, he seems to be everything Elizabeth imagined in a hero.

But Donovan is much more than she bargained for when she said ‘I do’.

Once they arrive at his isolated estate, a dismal place where ghosts linger and sorrow pervades, Elizabeth fears her new husband may be courting madness. She struggles with his black moods, his eccentricities and their growing estrangement.

Tormented by dark memories and stalked by a malicious ghost cursed by an ancestor, Elizabeth is forced to embrace her Druid heritage in order to confront the disturbing secrets hidden in her soul. And yet, the price of honesty may be too steep; if Donovan learns her horrifying secrets she may lose his love forever.

In this excerpt from Dark Hero, the heroine, Elizabeth, has just arrived at her new husband’s home for the first time:

 “Stay here, I’ll be right back.” Her husband admonished, leaving Elizabeth standing in the foyer to gaze up at the winding marble stairs leading to the second story. The mahogany banister had been polished not too long ago, she noted, feeling hopeful that the interior was not as neglected as the exterior grounds.
Double doors to the right of the stairs piqued her interest. She decided to look beyond them. She was relieved to find this door unlocked, only to have hope crushed as she gazed inside. The room was dark, the shutters were drawn to block out the sunlight. The furniture was covered with white sheets, resembling ghosts in the darkened room. She crept in a few feet and waited for her eyes to adjust to the gloom. Slats in the shutters allowed jagged shafts of light to diffuse through the shadows. Something dark and furry scuttled across the floor in front of her. Elizabeth stifled a scream and stepped back, remembering Peter’s tale about hairy spiders the size of tea saucers.
Who lives here? The house had an empty, desolate feel to it, as if no one occupied it for a very long time, at least, no one who cared.
“Lizzie.” Elizabeth turned at the sound of her husband’s voice, his normal voice, not an affected one. He stood in the foyer, seeming perturbed that she wasn’t standing precisely where he’d left her. “Come.” He held out his hand. “I’ve ordered a bath for you. Tabby will see to your comfort while I’m out.”
“Where are you going?” She grimaced as she left the dark room for the sunlit foyer. “We’ve only just arrived.”
“I want to take a ride about the place while I’m still dressed as the count. Enjoy your bath and a nice nap. You look all in, darlin’.” His lips brushed hers, teasing lightly, reminding her of the tender, caring man on the voyage. He smiled down at her, and then straightened as a lone figure stepped from the shadows of the hall. “This is Tabitha Wilkes, my grandfather’s--” He paused momentarily. “Housekeeper. I kept her on after he died, and the cook.”
Mrs. Wilkes was clad in an informal muslin gown rather than the starched black uniform that housekeepers wore in the wealthy homes in England. She was barefoot. Her white hair was unbound, cascading down her back in gentle waves. She was thin, graceful, her complexion golden from time spent in the sun instead of indoors, cleaning her master’s home.
She did not resemble any servant Elizabeth encountered in England. Nevertheless, she smiled at the older woman. This was Donovan’s home. She was going to have to accept his odd ways and get along with the people in his employ. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Wilkes.” Elizabeth responded, knowing her mother would scold her for being familiar with a servant. Alas, putting on airs would not win her acceptance from Donovan’s household staff.
“It’s Tabby, Ma’am. I’m not married.” The woman archly corrected Elizabeth, looking her up and down as if she were a dead rodent the cat carried in from the woodpile.
“Don’t be impertinent, Tabby.” Donovan interjected before Elizabeth could form a response. “My wife is the grand-daughter of the ninth Earl of Greystowe. She’ll put you through your paces, old girl. You might wish to put some thought into retiring. I’m certain my lady will be more particular than I am regarding the household routines.”
The woman bristled at his words, looking for a brief second as if she might curse out loud at them. She managed a limp smile from taut lips. “Welcome to Ravencrest, your ladyship.” The housekeeper made a polite curtsy to Elizabeth.
“Take care of my lass and mind your tongue, Tabby. I’ll tolerate none of your cheek with her.” Donovan directed as he made his exit, effectively abandoning Elizabeth.
Elizabeth followed the woman up the stairs and down the hall to the master’s chamber. She sensed resentment within Tabby. She dismissed the impression, reasoning that she’d be cranky, too, if she was in this woman’s place and the master dropped a new mistress on the doorstep without warning and then left again. It was an awkward situation all around.
Donovan’s bedchamber was furnished in a deep forest green that complimented the oak paneling. Very masculine, indeed, befitting a bachelor lord.
“Rest Madame, your bath water will take a while to warm.” Tabby said, and left her.
Elizabeth stepped over to the louvered doors and peered through the slats. They gave access to a veranda winding about the second story. And they were locked. She was suddenly seized by a rush of sheer panic.
 Watch out!” A thin, frightened voice from beyond the grave warned in the empty room. “He’ll lock you away for his pleasure. He’ll never let you feel the sunlight on your face or the wind in your hair again.”
“Who are you?” Elizabeth glanced about. No one appeared or answered her query.
This was too much; an isolated estate, a house with chained gates and locked doors, a cranky, resentful housekeeper and now a spirit whispering cryptic warnings to her in the middle of the afternoon. Elizabeth whirled about to the double doors adjacent to the veranda doors.
Those, too, were locked.

What Makes a Compelling, Believable Ghost?

With Halloween just around the corner, I wanted to talk about what makes a good ghost story.

As an author, creating ghosts is much harder than reading about them. When writing Dark Hero, a Gothic Romance, I had think long and hard about how and why the ghosts would appear in the story in the first place, as well to try to create that chill factor we love in ghost stories.

I asked myself this, why stick around in a place for centuries when you could be off enjoying the after-life? I’d go to Paris, to the Louvre. I’d be off in a heartbeat if I was a ghost and able to travel anywhere I wanted to go with no physical boundaries. And yet, the main element of ghost stories is the ghost being tied to the person or to a specific place.

Ah, now I had a clue. I can’t just throw random ghosts into a story to jack up the creepy factor and scintillate readers; we need to have reason for the haunting that fits into the plot of the book.

So, I came up with a list of elements to help me construct a compelling, believable ghost:

1). Ghosts have feelings, and feelings compel us to act, rationally or irrationally.

I love the Supernatural TV Series. As Dean and Sam hunt ghosts, there are often some pretty angry haunters to contend with. An example is the female ghost in the show’s pilot who kept appearing to men along the deserted road. The men she appeared to were unfaithful to their mates, so after they picked her up she would kill them. She did this because she had been betrayed by her husband and being in an angry, irrational state, she killed herself. Thus, she became fixated on killing other men in the area near her home who are adulterers. Her feelings of pain and betrayal at death forced her to seek revenge--now that’s an emotionally driven ghost.

2). Ghosts want to contact the living. That is the bread and butter of the Ghost genre. If they’re off doing their own thing, like going to Paris to haunt the Louvre (my choice) then where’s the story? What’s the point?  It might be at the Louvre . . . but again, why would I be there instead of at home trying to contact my children and grandchildren?

3). Ghosts have to be motivated toward a goal. There has to be a reason why they are stuck where they are. That’s why they are so angry, sad or psychotic. They have intense feelings which cause them to act and they are motivated to complete a goal so they can find peace.

 To illustrate this, consider two of the ghosts in the Harry Potter movies. I love the headless ghost who keeps floating around Hogwartz cheerfully chatting with everyone, but it seems he serves no real purpose in the movie other than background flavoring. Moaning Mertle on the other hand, (the girl who haunts the bathroom) has intense feelings and a purpose to be in the story. She has knowledge that ultimately helps Harry and the gang. Once they talk to Mertle, she helps them solve their problem by giving clues that lead to the next step in their quest. 

I have several ghosts in Dark Hero. Some are strangers to the heroine and others are family members. Regardless of their relationship to Elizabeth O’Flaherty, they all have a reason to be stuck with a haunting gig and a reason to want to contact to her. Elizabeth is a seer and is able to see and speak with the dead. Examining why the ghosts should be present in first place helped me to write a compelling ghost story and avoid using ghosts as wallpaper merely to spice up the story. 

After sharing what I think makes a credible ghost, let’s open this up for discussion. Feel free to share your comments about what makes a worthy haunting in a story and what you like (or don’t like) in ghostly characters.

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a print copy of Dark Hero; A Gothic Romance.  Remember to leave an email address so I can contact the winner. So, it’s your turn--share a favorite ghostly character, what appealed to you or what didn’t?  

I live in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, on the eastern shores of Green Bay. I have always been a voracious reader of romances, mostly historical romances and sweeping historical sagas. I love researching different time periods and imagining what life was like back then so it seems only natural to write historical romances. My one vice, aside from reading romances, is coffee. I melt beneath the intoxicating sway of a strong white mocha latte promising to embrace my senses and carry me away. Mmmm . . . I can visualize the steam rising from that frothy cup as I sit here thinking of it. I write Historical Romance novels and non-fiction essays on women and feminist movement throughout history. I completed two degrees at the University of Wisconsin, in History and also in Humanistic Studies with an emphasis in Ancient and Medieval Research.

Aside from good romance, good coffee and history, I am also passionate about art and enjoy reading about the lives of artists through the ages.

Enter for a chance to win a Print or Digital copy of Dark Hero. 2 Winners.
Comment on this post for a bonus entry.
Follow the author on Twitter for another bonus entry.
This giveaway ends November 3rd 11:59 PM Central Time.


katsrus said...

Your book sounds really good. Loved the excerpt. One of my favorite ghostly characters is in the movie Ghost. I think Patrick Swayze did a really good job at making it seem real. You could feel his emotions. So far nothing has been unappealing in anything that had a ghost in it. I guess if it was too fakey I wouldn't like it. Just wanted to also say "Hello" from Wisconsin. Lived here all my life. Thank you for the giveaway.
Sue B

Joanne said...

Thanks for the great excerpt and post. I love ghost stories. They're scary and always seem to have some kind of motivation to contact the living for some closure or maybe to right a wrong.


Lily Silver said...

Hi Sue at katsrus. Love that handle. I have three fur family members of the feline persuasion myself.
Thanks for stopping by to say hello. May all your ghostly encounters be pleasant.

Lily Silver said...

Hi Joanne, thanks for stopping in to read my excerpt and comment. I love ghost stories, too, whether in movies, TV or books.

Lily Silver

JuneA** said...

What a great storyteller you are! I can't wait to read this!

D Mason said...

Definitely looking forward to this one!

Goldenmane said...

Great excerpt. I love ghosts and wish I had a few helpful ones around. Love cats too, but mine died two years ago. She was my companion for 16 years and I'm not sure if I could bond with another. Love Wisconsin, although I haven't been there in years. My mother was born in Eau Claire and I still have quite a few relatives there that I've not seen in 50 years. Hope to go back and visit before it's too late.

Paranormal Dream Writer said...

I'm fascinated by ghosts. Your thought on their motivation was great, loved the examples.

wanda f said...

Sounds amazing this is a must read for me .Have a fantastic week

Gurlonthemove said...

I love Ghosts and think this subject will make a great book. Thanks for the giveaway!

Twitter: @Gurlonthemove93
Email: christiane_dude@hotmail.com

Renee said...

Hello! I'm afraid I haven't read any of your books as of yet, but I absolutely LOVE to read and hope I can soon read your work. I know you put a lot of time, energy and creativity into this book, so I would love the opportunity to get lost in it!
I am a full-time (24/7) caretaker of an 88 year old with alzheimers, so when I get any "down" time or I get flustered, I open a book. I find it very relaxing for me.
Even if I don't win a copy of your book, I do wish you the best in your success in this book and future books!

Renée Hines

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