So, where do I go from here?
Let me do a little teaser. In the last six posts, I’ve told the story of how my books and short stories came about. I mentioned that, back in ’09, Echelon accepted two of my books and some shorts. Beta was an eBook until 2014. There was another book I mentioned that was also only an eBook until the press closed. Night Shadows.
I touched upon Night Shadows a bit, but let me expound some more about it and the second book in the series, because I want to fuel the flame of interest in another series. I also made a brief mention of a stand-alone book and with giving the back stories on these three might eke out at least another couple blogs. Lol.
I wrote Night Shadows during the years after I joined the B&N group, switching back and forth between it and Beta. There was a house just outside Illinois City, which is a dot in the road town about nine miles across the river from Muscatine. The house sat at the bottom of the bluff near the river and decades ago, was a stop for passengers on the riverboats. There was a stagecoach trail hat led back into town and docks for mooring boats. The house had been in my family for a while and it was a nice place to meet for family gatherings and Memorial Day or Labor Day picnics. The road that led to the house started on top of the bluff, dropped sharply, and followed the contours of the hill. It crossed a creek twice. Not over a bridge…through the creek. We had to be careful of the weather in case the creek flooded, trapping us. I have several memories of the house and every now and then the family will show slides of times out there.
I don’t know when I wrote a short scene of a guy tortured by a combination of internal, physical and mental pleasure and pain, but I set it at this house. I thought it was so perfect a setting for a haunted house story. I didn’t know where I was going with the story and after I wrote it, I soon left it because I didn’t know what to do with it.
I used to listen to Coast to Coast AM when I worked nights at the motel. The show features stories about UFOs, Bigfoot, aliens, ghosts, and every now and then, some actual science and metaphysics. One night, the guest speaker discussed shadow creatures people see lurking out their second story bedroom windows, or hovering at the foot of their beds. I thought it so interesting a topic, my thoughts went to, “What if those shadows started killing people? And Night Shadows was conceived. It was one of the easiest stories to outline and write because it flowed so well. I set the story in Des Moines and used the cop in Alpha, Harry Reznik, as one of the main characters. He’s paired with Lori Campisi, an FBI agent tasked to investigate supernatural incidents. Yes, kind of a rip-off of X-files. However, Campisi is a unique character because she can’t remember anything that happened in her life before the age of twelve and that amnesia has affected her life. Reznik is the cynical homicide investigator and his latest case concerns two young lovers who were murdered at a local park. As the case develops, they find other victims and when Campisi reveals that the killers are shadows… The story involves Reznik’s wife and, like Alpha and Beta, uses actual places in Des Moines.
I had to take time to do some research, including driving to Iowa City and checking out one of the buildings where classes are held. I visited various spots around the Des Moines metro to get descriptions of neighborhoods and houses and businesses, including, yes, a strip club. I had the entire story written except for the climactic big battle scene near the end. I wanted Reznik and Campisi to find the dimensional portal the shadows were using to enter our world. It was opened by a bad guy seeking power by using an ancient spell book.
I scoured the city for the right spot. I don’t know how long I drove around looking at places. A stairwell in Capital Square. I considered the large umbrella exhibit on Cowles Common. I looked at a fountain near the Botanical Center. Under bridges, in some woods. No places struck my interest. I give credit to one of the women in my five member writers group who suggested an art exhibit in the Principle Insurance company. She scheduled a tour and we were taken on a walk around to the different exhibits in various buildings. May I digress a bit here and mentioned I’m not an art fan. I use the old adage, “I know what I like.” I can tell good art from schlock despite what anybody says. Most of what I saw on that tour was not good art, including the exhibit chosen for the story.
One of the exhibits was a painting or drawing or something similar that was on one wall and resembled a long crack in a foundation. Jagged and dark and a bit eerie. I considered using that and with a bit of creative license, I could have rearranged the room to make the scene work.
Then we entered what the woman had told me about. It was a ‘sensory room.’ If I remember correctly, it was about a 30’x20’ room, give or take, all dark except for a rectangle of purple neon, not to bright, upon one wall. A speaker issued a soft white noise and the air was enhanced by odors of clean, not antiseptic, just clean and fresh. The idea was that one would spend X amount of time in the room and experience…I don’t know, meditation? A revelation? Visions? Relaxation? I don’t know. I thought it huge waste of space by some fruit-loop who’d been smoking too much ditch weed.
But…I stood in the middle of that room, looked around, had the ‘sensory experience’ and knew this was the place where the shadows came from. I had the story complete, Campisi’s amnesia solved, a friendship started, and soon the book would be picked up by Echelon.
Oh, where does the Illinois City house come in? Next time…