The Fair might be a thing from last week (still take a look at it if you like all that’s Halloween. Main page of the blog, you’ll find it there. It was on Saturday), but we’re not quite there yet. So here’s some more spooky.
Whispers in the Dark by Laurel Hightower is a Paranormal Thriller/ Horror.
Rose McFarland is a trained killer–a Memphis S.W.A.T. sniper with a secret. Her team knows about the burn scars that lurk under her clothes, a legacy of the house fire that killed her father and brother sixteen years before. Her supervisors know that she spent two years in a rehabilitative facility, healing and learning to cope with the emotional trauma of the fire. But no one knows about the visions that drove her there, angry spirits that consumed her childhood, alienated her from her family and made her doubt her own sanity–the Whispers.
When Charlie Akers, a half-brother she never knew, ends up on the wrong side of Rose’s rifle, she unwittingly sets off a chain of events that puts her family in the middle of increasingly dangerous paranormal visitations. Charlie won’t stay dead, and soon ghosts from Rose’s past are creeping back into her life. People she’s killed in the line of duty, family she thought long buried, every one of them under the influence of Rose’s greatest fear, the Whispers themselves.
As the walls between our world and the world of the dead grow thin, Rose will have to face her old nightmares to stop the Whispers from breaking free. If she can’t, it won’t just be Memphis that falls to the dead–there will be no safe place left on earth for the living.
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His heart thudding again, Zack tried to hold his breath, peering
into the gloom. He didn’t have to wait long. Another shuffle, something
dragging against the grit. A shadow, darker than the rest of the
night. It moved, swayed. Waited.
No answer, but Zack thought he could hear breathing now. Labored,
wheezing. The way Matt had sounded toward the end. He took a step closer,
“Zack.” A whisper. Tired, but an uptick of hope at the end.
Zack swallowed. Matt had been waiting a long time. For the first
time, Zack wondered if his brother would be angry.
More dry dragging as Matt moved again. He was close now, almost
close enough to touch. Zack coughed, his asthma tickled by something in
the dry air down here. What was that? What did it smell like now?
“Zack?” A hand reaching out, slow, tentative.
Zack smiled tremulously, reached out too. Clasped the hand he’d
waited thirty-seven years to feel again. Felt it pull him closer, into a shaft
of moonlight coming through a broken window high on the wall. He looked
up, into his brother’s face. Faltered.
No, Zack realized with regret as the bony clutch tightened and
pulled him close. Not Matt at all.
About the Author
Laurel Hightower grew up in Kentucky, attending college in California and Tennessee before returning home to horse country, where she lives with her husband, son and two rescue animals, Yattering the cat (named for the Clive Barker short story) and Ladybug the adorable mutt. She definitely wants to see a picture of your dog, and often bonds with complete strangers over animal stories. A lifetime reader, she would raid her parents’ bookshelves from an early age, resulting in a number of awkward conversations about things like, “what does getting laid mean?” She loves discovering new favorite authors, and supporting the writing and reading community.
Laurel works as a paralegal in a mid-size firm, wrangling litigators by day and writing at night. A bourbon and beer girl, she’s a fan of horror movies and true life ghost stories. Whispers in the Dark is her first novel, though there are always more in the pipeline, and she loves researching anything horror related. She can usually be found working on the next project into the wee hours, sometimes as late as ten at night, as long as her toddler allows. Follow her on social media, even though she’s really bad at it, and she’ll follow you back. Plus you’ll be rewarded by pictures of cute dogs and kids.
On Genre Blurring
It’s been a long held tenet in my reading life that most stories would benefit from the addition of a ghost. Romance? Spooky factor brings your characters closer together. Historical fiction? Ghosts are ready-made in most circumstances. This may have something to do with me being a horror junkie from a young age – trips to the library always resulted in me staggering under a stack of every book I could find with the little ghost sticker on its spine.
Then for a few years, it seemed I’d run out of horror to read. It’s obvious in retrospect that I wasn’t making proper use of the internet, but my library and local bookstores consistently failed to have any authors beyond the four or five most famous we’re all familiar with. I turned to mysteries, my mother having stacks of talented authors to recommend to me – Ian Rankin, P.D. James, Reginald Hill, Jonathan Kellerman. Later I discovered Louise Penny and T. Jefferson Parker, and happily read my way through well-constructed, character driven plots. I loved the police and detective protagonists, the way they stood in a separate plane of humanity. There with us, but as protectors and punishers, always separate. Truth be told, I took the police entrance exam in my late twenties. I passed the written test with flying colors, but missed one of the events on the physical by two seconds. I’d injured my hip during training, but honestly, I’ve never been a fast runner. It was crushing at the time, but one of those bless the broken road moments. I love my job as a paralegal; it’s interesting work with enough flexibility to never miss time with my son, which wouldn’t be possible if I were a police officer.
I never lost my fascination with the profession, and when I started writing Whispers in the Dark, there was no question that my protagonist would be a female officer. There was also no question that her particular struggle would involve ghosts. They say to write what you want to read, and if every novel I read had ghosts in them, you’d hear no complaints from me. So I suppose there was never any conscious decision to blur genres – I dreamed up characters that I wanted people to care about, added as many ghosts as I could get away with, and constructed a plot along the lines of my favorite reads. I wasn’t thinking much of genre, in fact I wasn’t thinking about publishing and being asked to assign my book to one. My agent finally came up with “paranormal police procedural,” which, while accurate, is also a mouthful, and as it turns out, kind of awkward to repeat to a bunch of partners in a law firm. Go figure.
Looking back, as well as forward to my own projects, I think genre is most important after the work is written. Your agent or publisher has to classify it somehow, usually with an eye towards what packaging will sell the best. There’s nothing wrong with writing to market, or to what you believe will reach a wider audience, but it wasn’t something that occupied me during the long process of writing and revisions. Once my agent took me on and was ready to shop the manuscript, I’d already written three other first drafts, all with supernatural elements. When horror proved to be a hard sell to the larger publishers, I did have some moments of doubt – had it been a waste of time to write all these ghost stories? Were none of them ever to see the light of day? Was horror truly dead?
Since immersing myself in the horror community, I know the answers to those questions. Horror’s not dead, not even close – it’s just underground, for the most part. I’ve readjusted my expectations and game plans for the next works, and it’s a community and genre I’m happy to be a part of. If the thriller and police procedural elements of Whispers give the book a wider reach, that’s a wonderful side effect, even more so if those readers aren’t turned off by the gorier horror elements.
As far as the future goes, my agent mentioned several times he’d like to see a psychological thriller from me. I started out thinking that wasn’t something I had the chops to do, but over time an idea took hold, and after listening to interviews and podcasts with some of the greats, I took the advice of Josh Malerman and John F.D. Taff to stretch my craft intentionally. Who knows how it’ll turn out, or whether it will appeal to the same readers who’ve enjoyed Whispers. My advice to anyone looking to cross genres is the same that I took – write what you want to read. The rest will come, even if it’s not in the form you expected. And if you get the hankering to throw in some ghosts, you’ve got my seal of approval.
Goodreads – author https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18567912.Laurel_Hightower
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