I’m so excited about my new book, Witch Dance! It’s in the final stages of editing and will be available for pre-orders very soon. I’ll post the link here as soon as it goes live. The official release date is September 15th and will be available in ebook and paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Create Space, Kobo, Sony, iBooks, and other online retailers. There will also be a blog tour and a Facebook release party, so stay tuned.
Just south of Tupelo, Mississippi on the Natchez Trace lies a place of mystery called Witch Dance.
When Thomas and Margaret Speedwell took their twins to Witch Dance for a weekend camping trip, they never imagined they would be pulled into a vortex of witchcraft, tragedy, and karma. One of the girls goes missing; the other won’t say what happened on the other side of the hill.
The tragedy pulls together a cast of characters from Margaret’s childhood and beyond – Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, Toltec ancestors, the extinct Hopewell tribe.
With the help of a childhood friend, a concerned newspaper reporter, and visions by a strange old woman, a two thousand year old mystery begins to unfold, uncovering missing children throughout generations. Who is taking them? Could it be the infamous witches of Witch Dance?
Elly Hays is the real-life story of a woman struggling to keep her family safe from the Creek Indians during the War of 1812. From the first few chapters, you know there is no way this story is going to end without a terrifying confrontation.
She angrily plopped down on a rock and yanked dirty stockings from the basket. She dunked them in the water and began scrubbing them hard enough to put holes in them. She could feel her ears buzzing and her shortness of breath and realized she needed to calm down. She stopped scrubbing, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath through her nose, trying to slow her heart. She concentrated on releasing the tension in her shoulders and the knot in her stomach. She felt guilty for losing her temper with her husband, but frustration was taking over her life. Every day brought new problems—life-and-death problems. Her mounting anger was overriding her fear of the Indians and her love for her husband.
She opened her eyes when she heard him clear his throat behind her, and she turned to apologize for her harsh tone of voice. But when she saw the black eyes looking back at her that did not belong to James, she stopped and gasped. They belonged to an Indian, sitting tall on a brown and white painted horse. She hadn’t heard him approach. She jumped to her feet, wondering where she could run.
The Indian was bare-chested, wearing only tan animal hide pants and moccasins. His hair was short, shaved on the sides and sticking up higher on top. Most of the Indians she had seen had this same haircut. His face was covered with lines of red and black paint, and he wore a headband tied around his head with strips of animal fur hanging on either side of his face. His headband was not adorned with any feathers. This was not the same Indian she had seen before.
He stared at her for a long time and did not move. She glanced across the swift creek to the left and right, but there was nowhere to run. She would never be able to outrun a horse. Her heart beat wildly as beads of sweat broke out on her brow. She remained frozen.
“I came to warn you,” the Indian said in a monotone.
Elly was surprised by his English.
He sat motionless, waiting for her response.
She finally blurted out, “Warn me about what? That you want us to leave? We already got that warning.” She could feel her temper escalating again. All of the tension she had felt the last few months, all of the worry for her children, all of the stress of building a new life, was about to explode in this Indian’s face.
“Yes, I’m here to warn you that you need to leave, but not for the reason you are thinking.” He looked down at the reins in his hands, as if trying to gather his thoughts and find the correct words. “My brother and I were the ones who killed your animals.”
Elly threw a wet stocking on the ground. She hadn’t realized she was still holding it, and it had dripped down her blue linen skirt, causing the front of her dress to become dark in color. “You? You did that? How am I supposed to feed my children?” she raised her voice, her temper becoming stronger than her fear.
“This is the least of your worries. When your husband chased us away, my brother’s boy fell from his horse and snapped his neck.” His eyes carried a tint of sadness. “The boy is dead.”
Elly felt her heart soften for a young boy she didn’t even know. Her anger began to subside, as if it were being washed away by the babbling creek beside her. “I’m…I’m very sorry to hear that,” she stammered, wringing her wet hands together.
“You must understand, my brother is the great warrior of our village. He has vowed revenge on your husband and your family for the death of his son.”
Elly’s eyes widened as the Indian continued.
“He told our Great Chief your husband killed his son, and the Great Chief has given him permission to slaughter your family.”
Elly was shocked by the revelation and quickly shook her head. “No. My…my husband would never kill a boy. He’s never killed anyone, for any reason.”
“Our great warrior does not know this.”
“Please tell him. Tell him my husband didn’t kill his son.” She took a step forward as she begged.
The Indian shook his head and looked at her with compassion. “I cannot tell him anything. I can only warn you. You must leave now…before it’s too late.”
The bells rang from atop the steeple as Savannah struggled to pull open the ancient wooden door of the church. When she entered, she saw the backs of the heads of dozens of people sitting in the pews. She stopped in the vestibule and awaited the organ music to announce her entrance. She ran her gloved hand over her dark brown hair, adjusted her pillbox hat, pulled the tulle veil over her face, and smoothed down her ivory wedding gown. In her other hand, she clutched a dainty bouquet of white roses with sprays of baby’s breath. The smell filled her nostrils.
After a few moments, the organist at the front of the church played a fanfare and immediately followed with the “Wedding March.” She inhaled deeply and took a small step forward. After a pause, she took another step…and another. She hesitated, thinking it strange that the crowd didn’t rise and turn to face her. She inched forward again, pausing between steps. Surely the congregation would rise when the minister instructed them to do so, but she didn’t know what he was waiting for. She put a smile on her face as she admired the sun shining through the stained-glass windows, creating a mosaic of bright colors across the room, but as she reached the halfway mark of her grand entrance, the room darkened. The sun had disappeared behind a cloud, and the vibrant colors that bathed the room turned a dismal shade of gray. Her smile vanished also.
It was difficult to see through the netted veil, but she could have sworn she saw something large sitting in the center of the altar. She narrowed her eyes and, yes indeed, something was there. At the top of three small steps that led up to the altar, a white coffin rested in front of the minister’s podium. It was surrounded by beautiful sprays of flowers—roses, carnations, chrysanthemums, daisies. The sight reminded her of her father’s funeral and her head swam with the painful memory. She looked down at her bouquet and closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again, her breath caught deep in her chest as she watched her beautiful white roses faded from white to gray to black—black and dead. The leaves shriveled and a few of the petals gently fell from their stems, fluttering to the floor. She tightly clutched the bouquet and quickly pulled her left hand away when a thorn poked through her glove and punctured the skin of her palm. She saw the small hole in the satin fabric, but there was no blood.
She squeezed her hand into a fist to make the pain stop, and looked back up at the altar. Why was there a coffin on the altar, and where was August? Why was her groom not there to greet her? She staggered a bit as she took another step forward. The “Wedding March” kept pounding from the organ and she kept inching forward. She placed her hand over her heart in an effort to make it beat normally. Remembering the puncture wound, she looked down at her dress to make sure there was no blood on the bodice. She stopped dead in her tracks.
Her beautiful wedding gown was no longer ivory; it was now black. She thought she would faint, and looked up to search the crowd for someone to help her. When she looked through the mesh of her veil, she noticed it too had turned black. Panic rose in her chest and her throat constricted. The next breath wouldn’t come. She felt her knees quiver and she didn’t know if she could take another step. Her mouth opened and closed like that of a fish gasping for air, but she couldn’t form any words. She looked left and right at her family and friends, but no one looked back at her. They all stared straight ahead. It was as if they didn’t see her.
She stumbled forward a few more steps and noticed her soon-to-be stepdaughter, Emma, sitting alone in the second pew. She approached Emma and noticed tears running down the girl’s face, dripping off her chin and leaving dark spots on her pink cotton dress. She reached toward Emma, but stopped when the “Wedding March” turned into Chopin’s “Funeral March.” She looked up at the organ on the right side of the altar, but the organist did not look back at her.
Was Savannah in the wrong place?
She spun around in what felt like slow motion and looked at the stained-glass windows, the pews, the high, scallop-shaped ceiling. No, this was her childhood church—Fisherman’s Church. She had been coming here since she was a baby. Was she here on the wrong date? She turned again and looked at the people. She knew every one of them. She had invited every one of them. She knew it was August 25, 1936—her wedding day. Why was Emma here at a funeral? Why was she crying? More importantly, who was in the coffin?
She spun again and faced the coffin on the altar. Was she losing her mind? Where was August? Terror filled her as adrenaline rose like flames up the back of her neck.
Two men she had never seen before, dressed in black suits, stepped forward and gently opened the coffin’s lid, and Savannah saw the inside of the lid was lined with blood-red satin. Who is in there? And why was there a funeral here on her wedding day?
She climbed the three steps to the altar and placed her hand on the side of the coffin. She reluctantly looked inside.
It was a woman—a dark-haired woman in an ivory wedding dress.
She gazed down into her own face and heard a scream escape her lips.
In the second book of the Stuckey’s Bridge Trilogy, Levi met an alluring young woman named Penelope Juzan. Apparently, the Juzans have quite a past which became the third book in the trilogy. Stuckey’s Gold is the story of four generations trying to escape a curse brought on by greed. The story weaves between Penelope and her friend Luke and their fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers. It doesn’t much matter which one we speak of. They all suffered pretty much the same terrible fate.
He glanced back toward the shore one more time to make sure Marguerite hadn’t followed him. But what if she had? It wasn’t like he could hide in a rowboat in the middle of the lake. But if she caught him, she would be furious, and he really didn’t want to attract her wrath. She was a mean woman when she was cross. He chuckled. Well, she’d get over it once she ran her fingers through the gold in the trunk. He smiled at the thought. They were going to be very, very rich, and she couldn’t possibly be annoyed with him for that.
He dropped the anchor over the side and let out the rope. He released more and more of the rope and was almost at the end of the line when it finally went slack and he knew it rested on the bottom. “Gee,” he mumbled to himself, “that’s a thirty-foot rope.” He knew the lake was deep in spots, but it had never before occurred to him until that moment how deep it was. “No wonder no one’s been able to retrieve the gold before.”
Suspecting the trunk of gold would be too heavy to lift to the surface by sheer manpower, he had recalled the ideas written in his father’s journal on ways to raise the trunk, and he had brought two extra ropes with him. The plan was to dive down and tie both ropes around the trunk, and then hoist it up into the boat. He hoped he could do so without capsizing the small vessel because it’d be a long swim back to the shore. He tied the ends of the two ropes to the boat and then slapped the water with his paddle to scare off any snakes that might be lurking. He glanced again at the shore, just in case his wife appeared. The coast was clear. He grabbed the loose ends of both ropes and dove into the black depths.
It had been so hot the whole summer, the cool water felt refreshing. Down, down, down he went. His ears popped with the pressure. He felt around in the blackness, hoping to find the edge of the net floating in the water. He felt nothing. When his lungs felt as if they would burst, he returned to the surface. He looked around again at the landmarks on shore to make sure he was in the crosshairs of the oak, the pines, the rocks, and the inn. Yes, the trunk had to be right here.
He took another deep breath and dove again. About half way down, he felt something brush his thigh. He figured it was one of the ropes, then realized it might be the net. Adrenaline pumped through his veins in anticipation. He grabbed in the direction where he felt the object, but nothing was there. He froze for a moment as an alarming thought came to mind. What if it had been a snake? The snakes around here could kill a man with one bite. It would be a horrific and painful death. He ignored the thought and kept swimming downward, trying not to be too disappointed that he hadn’t found the net yet.
When he reached the bottom, his ears pounded from the pressure. He could feel it in his jaw and across his whole head. He quickly groped around in the blackness, knowing he wouldn’t be able to stay down too long. There was nothing but weeds and silt. He kicked off the bottom and shot up again to the surface. He took a deep breath and turned to check the landmarks once again. When he turned to look behind him, he came face to face with the most dreaded of snakes—the cottonmouth. Its snout was not more than a foot from his face, and Gabriel saw its tail flicker in the water nearly three feet away. It was huge, solid black except for tan markings on its face. Gabriel remained as still as possible, hoping the creature was as startled as he and would turn and swim away.
The snake quickly slithered across the surface of the water, but it didn’t swim in the opposite direction. It darted directly at him and struck him on the cheek. He cried out as the serpent dashed away, disappearing as fast as lightning.
While writing The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge, the main character came across a young boy. The boy ended up being nearly as creepy as the main character, and I received tons of emails asking me to elaborate on the boy’s life. No one is that creepy without having some sort of lurid past. So, I penned Stuckey’s Legacy. The boy’s name is Levi, and he is a dark character. Creepy doesn’t quite describe him…
The starlit night was perfect for a romantic walk, and it would have been pleasurable to stroll the streets for a while in the balmy night air, but Levi had more immediate plans for his escort. He marched her to the nearest hotel and checked in under the name Thomas Stuckey.
“I thought your name was Joe.” The girl giggled as she entwined her arms in his.
“It is Joe, but I don’t want to put that on the hotel register.”
They kissed as they staggered up the stairs, laughing all the way up to their room on the top floor of the three-story hotel.
Following their lovemaking session, Grace lay in Levi’s arms and listened to him tell her all about the fancy people he was going to be friends with on Jekyll Island, about Cornelius Bliss’s death, and about the New Year’s Eve Gala tickets he’d found when he broke onto Mr. Pulitzer’s yacht.
She rolled over onto her stomach, crossed her arms across his bare chest, and looked at his face. Her blonde ringlets danced across her face and he softly pushed them from her temple.
“You’re really quite pretty, you know that?”
She blushed. “Then why don’t you take me with you?”
“Oh, that’s out of the question, dear. I’m going to meet wealthy society people, and I don’t think you’ll fit in.”
“Well, what makes you think you’ll fit in?” she teased.
“Don’t you think I’m one of them?” Levi frowned.
“Mister, I grew up in the Charleston Orphan House. I know a poor orphan when I see one.”
“Well, I never lived at the Charleston Orphan House, but it’s true I’m an orphan.”
She looked at him like a lovesick schoolgirl and waited for him to elaborate.
“I was orphaned years ago. My father was a drunk. He killed my mother right in front of me when I was eight years old.”
Levi continued. “He strangled her after he caught her fooling around with a man from up the road. He murdered both of them in a fit of drunken rage.” Levi looked away from her and stared at the ceiling.
“I’m sorry. You probably loved her very much, huh?”
“I don’t know. I thought I did for a long time, but my father pounded into my head that my mother was not worthy of my love. She was a whore.”
Grace grinned. “Well, I’m a whore. It’s not all bad.”
He looked at her with surprise. He didn’t think of her like that, but it was true. “I guess you are, aren’t you?”
“What happened to your father?”
“I killed him,” Levi said flatly and looked back at the ceiling.
After a few uncomfortable seconds, Grace giggled. “No, really, what happened to your father?”
He looked her in the eye. “I killed him.” He paused to watch her expression and was satisfied with the look of fear in her eyes.
Stuckey’s Legacy is available at Amazon.