Saturday, May 31, 2014

Celebrating a Spooky Story

by Rebecca Grace

It’s always fun to celebrate and as this month comes to a close I have something wonderful to celebrate – the world wide release of my new book, Dead Man’s Rules.  This is one of those books whose inner story grabbed hold of me while I was still in college and never let go.  I wrote the original version of it when I was in my early twenties on in pencil on notebook paper and then finished it typing on my first manual portable typewriter.  I revised it on my first Selectric typewriter and kept reworking it until I finally finished it many years later on my computer.

But even as I finished it, I knew tragic love stories set in the 50s and 60s weren’t going to sell, so I ended up updating it to the present and telling it through a modern heroine’s eyes.

I’ve told the story of how I came up with Dead Man over and over – it was one of those strange ghost-type stories you hear in high school or college-some mysterious building being haunted, some mysterious person being killed.  And that was how I first came up with the story of Marco Gonzales. There was supposed to be a bloody handprint on a wall left by a dying man – at least the story went that he died. And he was supposed to haunt this old building.  The building was real enough and my college friends and I set off to see it.

We had to do it in daytime, since back in my college days, girls didn’t get to be out of the dorm past ten and it took at least a couple of hours to drive out there. That was just as well. The final drive to the old building was over dirt roads and the building was boarded up. I remember being impressed with my first view of the building I later turned into the Palladium dance hall. It was an old company store that was two stories high and stood all by itself. It was boarded up and we had to climb through a broken door to get inside. And then we had to climb a rickety set of stairs up to the second floor. All the windows were boarded up and we had brought no flashlight so we had to do this all in near darkness, with the only light from broken pieces of wood in the windows.

But somehow we found the right room and somehow we found the hand print. It actually existed—just like we’d been told. Like Cere Medina in Dead Man, I wasn’t that impressed with what we were seeing. But it was there. And it was spooky, even if it was faint. There were splotches around it, which could have been more blood. We didn’t even know if it had been made from a bloody hand. It could have been made from a greasy hand. But we all wanted to believe the story that it had been blood and it had been made by a dying man. There was nothing written under it (yes, writers must have creative license for a good story.) But it was eerie and we were all very quiet as we looked at it. All laughter stopped, all joking stopped. All I could hear was the eerie sound of the wind whistling through the boarded up windows.  

We saw no ghost or anything else scary, but I remembered being afraid of being locked inside that room. After a few moments of silence we made our way downstairs and regained our voices. On the way back to town during the long drive we all came up with stories about how the handprint had been made. One of the guys figured it had been made by someone who had not paid a gambling debt. Someone else thought it was a fight over a woman. My story was Marco’s love story, or at least the start of the story was. It eventually evolved into the foundation for Dead Man’s Rules.

That wasn’t the only time I visited that location or the handprint. Years later I took my parents and younger brother up there and saw it again. It was still just as spooky and only made me want more to write my story about the handprint on the wall.

While the building still stands in the mountains of southern Colorado near the New Mexico state line, it is impossible to get close to now.  It’s on private, fenced in property, though I supposed a bunch of kids on a late night outing might still try to do it at times.

I don’t know if the hand print is still visible, but the building itself is still spooky. And if the man who made that handprint haunts the place, he’s all alone these days.
So here's a toast to spooky stories and visits to (possibly) haunted houses! And another to Dead Man's Rules and its World Wide release.  (see below for a blurb and excerpt)
Buy Links:
The Wild Rose Press:
A woman on a mission, a man with secrets to hide...
When tabloid reporter Cere Medina decides to dig into the mysterious cold case death of Marco Gonzales, she hopes it will save her career. Instead, she unearths enough secrets to make a small town explode. Not to mention putting her on the wrong side of the town's fascinating sheriff.

Sheriff Rafe Tafoya doesn't need anyone digging up the past. He's come back to his hometown of Rio Rojo, New Mexico seeking peace and quiet. But Cere's arrival puts his town—and his heart—in danger.

Behind it all lurks the ghostly presence of Marco, who has everyone playing by a dead man's rules...
Cere caught hold of his arm. “Maybe you should take me to the Palladium, Sheriff. I’d like to see the bloody hand print for myself.”
Damn, she was persistent. Rafe shook his head, again hoping to discourage her. “I chase people out. I don’t give tours. Enjoy your vacation.”
“I didn’t come for vacation.” Her eyes flashed with irritation. “I want to do a story on the handprint. I need to.”
His stomach knotted, as his breakfast churned in his stomach. He didn’t ask why she needed to do the story. He knew. Ego.
Reaching down, Cere pulled a reporter’s notebook from her bag. “If you won’t do an interview, do you know anyone who might talk to me?”
Why had he wondered what she might think about him? Or hope that she might be interested in him? She was only after her damn story. Acid boiled in his stomach. This woman would pry until eventually she might uncover some ugly truths. And she would spill it all out on national television. She could hurt a good many people, people he knew and loved. 
Rafe gritted his teeth as he forced an answer, hoping for one final chance at dissuading her. “No one will talk to you. My advice is to let it go. Relax. Take your vacation.”
He might as well have struck her. Her chin snapped up and her body grew rigid. He drew back at the determination he saw grow in her bright eyes.
“Don’t try to tell me what I should do. It’s time someone found out who murdered Marco Gonzales. Yes, I said,murdered, Sheriff. If you don’t want to help me investigate his death, I’ll do it on my own.”




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