Scary and interesting.
13 Steps To The Cellar by Teresa Mathew is a mystery that will release tomorrow.
Thirteen Steps to the Cellar. They were steep; they were narrow—but was a fall down them enough to have caused the twenty-seven deep lacerations to her aunt’s head?
Callie Harris travels from her home in Alabama to her aunt’s former mansion in Maine to unravel the haunting forty-year-old mystery of Dr. Laverne Harris Doss’ brutal death.
Why wasn’t a murder weapon found? Was her uncle justly convicted of the killing? Was his mistress involved? Or was the murderer the bearded stranger rumored to have arrived by train that night?
In the charming town of Richmond, located on the banks of Maine’s historic Kennebec River, Callie uncovers the community’s darkest secrets—a botched police investigation, a betrayed widow’s lie, a dead woman’s blackmail, and a wealthy philanthropist’s shame. The web of intrigue extends far beyond her suspicions and its connection to her personal story pierces Callie to her core.
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Opening the door, Callie stumbled over a cardboard box. Catching her breath, she steadied herself. What is this? She stared at the lid. Written with a black marker…all caps…neat handwriting…large letters…the name CALLIE stretched across the top.
She picked it up and brought it inside. Placing the heavy box on the bed, she searched for something to cut the binding. Resorting to a nail file, she sawed through the twine. After a few seconds, she lifted the lid.
Taking a deep breath, she reached inside, pulling out a yellowed newspaper. Opening the folded daily, she read the header. Portland News. Scanning the front page, she found an article about her aunt’s murder. She placed it aside. Several copies of the Boston Globe featured the homicide in bold headlines and included pictures of the crime scene and mansion. Callie unloaded the box filled with timeworn newspapers, clippings, and magazines—all relating to Laverne.
With her heart racing, she picked up the phone and called her brother. Bypassing a greeting, she said, “Richard, get Kenneth on a three-way call. You guys won’t believe what I have here.”
“Hold on. I’ll see if I can get him on his cell.” Spreading the articles across the bed, Callie put her phone on speaker. “Okay, we’re both on the line,” Richard said.
“Hi Callie, what’s going on?” Kenneth broke in.
She began telling her story. “Late last night, someone knocked on my door. I peeked out the window but didn’t see anyone, so I started thinking I’d imagined the whole thing. This morning when I opened the door, I almost tripped over a box that had my name written across the top.”
“What?” Richard asked. “I hope you left it right where you found it.”
“Are you kidding? I tore into it, and it’s filled with old articles about Aunt Laverne’s murder. There’s even a glossy Startling Detective Magazine with a picture of her on the cover.”
Neither brother answered immediately. After a moment, Kenneth asked, “Who do you think put it there?”
“I have no idea,” Callie responded.
“I don’t like this,” Richard said.
“But you guys are gonna be thrilled when you see this information.”
Richard cross-examined his sister. “Who knows you’re there?”
“Well, let’s see,” Callie said, pausing. “I spoke with several people yesterday and gave them some business cards.” She continued to explain how she’d asked around about their aunt but had been unsuccessful in finding anyone with any memory of her. “But it’s such a small town; I guess someone heard I was here and wanted me to have this stuff.”
“Why the secrecy? And why bring it to you late at night?” Richard asked. Before she could answer, he sternly admonished, “Callie, you’ve seen the house. It’s time to come home.”
TERESA MATHEWS is a graduate of The University of South Alabama. She’s a member of the Mobile Writers Guild and serves on the Board of Directors for the Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association.
An avid gardener and artist, she has multiple book covers to her credit. Several years ago after visiting the site of her real-life aunt’s murder, Teresa discovered a third passion–storytelling. Although inspired by an actual tragedy, Thirteen Steps to the Cellar is fiction.
Raised on the Gulf Coast, Teresa, her husband, and son now live on a farm with a second home on the sparkling white sands of Fort Morgan, Alabama. This is her first novel.
Advice to Beginning Fiction Writers from a First Time Writer
by Teresa Mathews
“13 Steps to the Cellar” is my first novel. In 2013 my family visited Richmond, Maine, to see where my aunt had been murdered. She died before I was born and as a little girl, I’d been fascinated with her life and death. It was surreal to visit the town of Richmond. I fell in love with the charming community, the history and its magical location on the Kennebec River.
After returning home, I daydreamed about Richmond. I thought about my aunt, her murder, and soon, I began to imagine going back to do more research. My protagonist, Callie, was my return ticket to Maine. Callie is years younger than me, pounds lighter, cute and single but she was my escape night after night as I created a fictional world where she lived.
I’ve read that as a writer, you put sand into the sandbox and build the castle later. My sandbox was full of debris. I had no clue what I was doing. After finishing the first manuscript–which only took three months–I began with each Chapter, tediously reworking every scene. I learned not to head hop. Points of view had to be cleaned up, and all those ly words dug out of the sandbox.
Many drafts later, I began querying only to be told that 120,000 words aren’t the ideal sweet spot for a first time writer. Back to the sandbox I go. A very dear friend taught me early on to not fall in love with my words. “Tighten, tighten, tighten,” she said. “Imagine every word you delete you are saving a dollar.” Her experience and advice were invaluable. I deleted, then deleted more–often entire scenes.
The story was easy, but writing…not so much. Is this past tense? Is it present tense? Does a comma go here? What does this word really mean? It had been so many years since I’d taken English, I didn’t even remember the definition of a dangling modifier. But I learned. “You have a story,” both my friend and my husband would say. “Don’t give up.”
It takes hours and in my case years to write a novel. I have a new admiration for authors. It’s a lonely job fraught with self-doubt and lots of revisions. Let me repeat. LOTS OF REVISIONS. I lost count of those years ago. I was fortunate to have my husband for encouragement and my experienced friend for guidance. If you are a first-time writer find some beta readers, make friends with a writing group and soak up as much advice as people are willing to give. Be ready for criticism and be prepared to hit that delete button. But don’t give up…tell your story.
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/teresamathews
Publisher Author Page: http://tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Mathews_Teresa
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