Write and Publish a Short Story in 8 Hours? I’ll Take That Challenge!


People might not know this about me, but I’ve got a deep-rooted competitive streak that’s a mile wide. I hide it well behind a lot of smiles and polite talk, but, at the end of the day, if somebody throws down the gauntlet in front of me it’s Game On.

So when I read a post over in the Writer’s Cafe on Kboards (my absolute favorite writerly place to hang out) about Joe Konrath’s 8-Hour Challenge, I was stoked. The basic premise of the challenge is that you had to write, edit, create a book cover, and publish a story on Amazon in 8 hours. HA! I laugh in the face of that challenge. I had no doubt I could do it. I’m Speedy Gonzales on the keyboard when the muse strikes, and I love the short story medium.

However, I had a dilemma. I had this past week off work because I was dealing with some personal issues that I had put off that required 100% attention for a few days. On top of that, I feel like a lynch mob of Twisted Souls and Bloodtruth fans are going to descend on my doorstep any minute demanding that I finish the final books in those series.

So I decided I wasn’t going to do it. Even though I felt like this challenge was tailor made for me, I thought I’d do the grown-up thing and let it pass. I watched the thread of Kboard  participants get longer and longer as they each raced against the clock to snare their win. By the morning of August 29th, the final day of the challenge, I was gnashing my teeth wanting to throw my hat into the ring.

My personal issues dealt with, and with 8000 words down on A Soul to Settle (Twisted Souls #4), I decided to go all in on the Konrath challenge. I HAD TO DO IT, if no other reason than I knew that I could do it.

Four hours and ten minutes later, I hit publish on Forbidden. I had been waiting for the right opportunity to return to my haunted house roots, and this short story scratched that itch perfectly. Clocking in at 5500 words, it is a horror short about a girl who defies her mentor and decides to test her special abilities on her own with disastrous consequences.

Alas, I fell down in properly following the directions of how to submit my entry to Joe to get credit in his epic post that showcased all the challenge winners (all 140+ of them!!). There’s a lesson to be learned there, and it’s a mistake I won’t make again.

Hopefully Forbidden will whet the appetite of any new-to-Cege readers, and for those of you who might have noticed I haven’t published anything in awhile, this will (hopefully) remind you why you liked me in the first place. 🙂

Forbidden is FREE on Amazon through tomorrow (9/2/13), so go grab your copy today!


(photo credit The U.S. Army)

The Bradford Mansion: Virtual Haunted House Tour Stop #11

Happy Halloween!!

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year, and I’m offering up a treat for all of my readers today: a behind-the-scenes peek at the Bradford mansion, which as anyone who has read Edge of Shadows or Shadows Deep knows, is a very important location in the Shadows series.

It’s come through loud and clear that readers are fascinated by the Bradford mansion and its dark history. I put the house on the shoreline of the Lake of the Isles in Uptown, MN. The house itself is fictional, but I built it as a composite of two different Lake of the Isles homes- the Charles C. Gates mansion, which was torn down in the 1930s, and a house that currently sits on East Lake of the Isles Parkway (you can see that house in the short little video below).

This on-location video also gives you a first hand view of what the characters in Edge of Shadows see when they look out the front windows of the mansion.

A Dark History

For those of you who haven’t had an opportunity to dive into the Shadows series yet, here’s the backstory on the house:

The property was purchased by Joseph Bradford in 1906. There was a small, existing house already there, but Joseph tore it down to build his dream home.  Joseph was “new money” and built the home to coerce his wife, Lillian, to join him in Minnesota and forget about her comfortable Southern roots.

Construction took well over a year, and there were “accidents” along the way. Finally, the Bradfords settled into their home and began to enjoy their new social life, which included frequent entertaining in the home.

Unfortuantely, the Bradfords happy facade began to crumble over Joseph’s financial stability and their inability to have children. The colorful parties turned dark as the Bradfords become involved in darker activities that included psychics and seances. Then one day the Bradfords were gone, never to be heard from again and the house was empty.

The house went through several owners over the years, but no one stayed in the home longer than a few months, at least until Edge of Shadows begins, and we find Linda Jordan purchasing the home.

Is It Haunted?

I am not disclosing any spoilers when I tell you that unequivocally, YES, the Bradford mansion is haunted. But if you want to know by who and why, you’ll have to read the book to find out. 🙂


The Virtual Haunted House Tour Comes to a Close

I want to say a big “THANK YOU” to everyone who has joined me on the virtual haunted house tour this year. If you enjoyed the tour, and would like to see this type of event next year, be sure to leave me a comment below. (I’m thinking “haunted hospitals” for next year’s tour.)

(Halloween photo credit: Muffet)

(Charles Gates mansion photo credit: 1889 Victorian House Restoration)


Finally, don’t forget that today is the last day of the Monster Fest sale! Three of my monster-ish tales are on sale for $0.99 through the end of the day today. Click the book cover to snag your copy now!


Magnolia Plantation: Virtual Haunted House Tour Stop #10

When my family decided to vacation this past summer in Charleston, my very first thought was “Yippee!! Plantations!!”.  (I may have mentioned my love of plantations in the very first tour stop at Latta Plantation.)

I grew up watching Gone with the Wind, so in my mind, every Southern plantation house must look just like Tara, right? Alas, it is not so. However, there are definitely still some lovely plantation homes to be visited, like the one I’m featuring today: Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, S.C. They just aren’t as big or grand as the way that Hollywood portrayed plantation homes.

There are a few very cool things about this location:

  • It’s been in the Drayton family for 300 years.
  • This is the 3rd house to stand on the property. Naturally, after 300 years, things happen (like the Civil War) and the house has evolved with the family and the times.
  • The gardens are stunning. The late Reverend John Drayton worked in the gardens not only for the health benefits (he suffered from tuberculosis), but also to give his wife a beautiful place to live that would make her forget her former life in Philadelphia.

Now, a place that is as old as Magnolia plantation is almost expected to have its share of ghostly visitors, especially Drayton family members who have passed on. For example, Rev. Drayton’s older brother, Thomas Drayton, died of a gunshot wound (a hunting related accident) on the plantation home’s steps. It seems plausible that he may still be in residence on Magnolia Plantation.

A recent paranormal investigation by the Ghost Hunters turned up strange noises including music, a young girl’s voice, coughing, and an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) of a voice who asked “What are you doing?” (Read a full account of the investigation here.)

None of these unexplained things seem overtly threatening, but at the same time, no one wants to be there after dark.

Tomorrow is the last stop on the virtual haunted house tour. I’m in Uptown, MN visiting the location of the fictional haunted Bradford mansion from my Shadows series. If you are enjoying the virtual haunted house tour, please share it with your friends! See you again soon!

Don’t forget that there is a Monster of a Sale going on. Just in time for Halloween, three of my monster-ish tales are on sale for $0.99 through October 31st. Click the book cover to snag your copy now!


The Houghton Mansion: Virtual Haunted House Tour Stop #8

As the tour rolls on, we are visiting North Adams, MA today to see the Houghton Mansion. This is one location that you don’t have to wonder if it’s haunted, just doing a quick Google search pulls up pages of reported paranormal activity here.

The History

The house was built by Albert Houghton in 1890s. It was truly a reflection of Houghton’s status and wealth. He moved into the house with his wife Cordelia and youngest daughter, Mary. The Houghtons lived in the house for many years, and that should have been the end of the story.

Then August 1st, 1914, all that changed…

Albert Houghton purchased his first automobile, and employed a chauffeur by the name of John Widders. The morning of August 1st, John was driving Albert and Mary Houghton, and two of their friends for a pleasure drive. While attempting to pass a team of horses on a road that was under repair, Widders lost control of the car on the soft shoulder and it tumbled over the embankment.

Mary Houghton and one of their friends was killed, while the other three passengers survived.  Although Albert Houghton survived the crash, he died ten days later.  John Widders was cleared of any wrong doing in the accident, but he still blamed himself. He committed suicide in the Houghton barn shortly after the accident.

Mrs. Houghton was cared for by her daughter Florence, and Florence’s husband until she died in 1916. Florence and her husband sold the home to the masons in 1926, and it has been used as a masonic temple ever since.

The Hauntings

Speculation is that Albert and Mary Houghton, as well as the spirit of John Widders still haunt the Houghton Mansion.  I found this clip of the Ghost Adventures crew’s investigation compelling, and very creepy. (courtesy of Travel Channel)

What do you think? Did the paranormal evidence convince you?

(photo credit ISIS Paranormal Investigations- check out their investigation report of the Houghton mansion here.)


Tomorrow we’ll be visiting the LeDuc Mansion in Hastings, MN. If you are enjoying the virtual haunted house tour, please share it with your friends! See you again soon!

Don’t forget that there is a Monster of a Sale going on. Just in time for Halloween, three of my monster-ish tales are on sale for $0.99 through October 31st. Click the book cover to snag your copy now!


The Griggs Mansion: Virtual Haunted House Tour Stop #7

Can you believe we’re over halfway through the 2012 Virtual Haunted House tour? Hopefully you’ve been enjoying our tour stops as much as I have. 🙂

Today, I’m highlighting a house right in my neck of the woods in St. Paul, MN: the Griggs mansion. The Griggs mansion, which stands on Summit Avenue, a street noted for it’s string of period homes from the early days of St. Paul, is said to be the most haunted house in St. Paul. It has received that dubious honor by having reports of seven different ghosts within its walls.

The big difference between the Griggs mansion and many of the other haunted houses I’ve featured so far is that the Griggs mansion is a private residence. That made doing the on-location video below a little bit more challenging as I didn’t want to be too obvious about what I was doing. My film crew (my 11-year old stepson Ryan) and I found a quiet spot in an alley behind the house. Check it out:

Who May Still Walk the Halls?

In the early 1900s, a young maid reportedly hung herself on the fourth floor landing after a romance went sour. A team of journalists from the St. Paul Pioneer Press attempted to stay in the mansion in 1969, but were driven out before the night was over because of ghostly, unexplained sounds they heard on the fourth floor.

A former gardner, Charles Wade, is said to have enjoyed spending time flipping through books in the library. Visitors have heard an eerie rustling in the library, and the speculation is Charles continues his favorite past time even in death.

A man in a Civil War uniform has been seen in the house, and is thought to be Chauncey Griggs himself, the original owner and namesake of the mansion.

Looking to Buy Your Own Haunted House?

You may have noticed the “For Sale” sign off the left in the picture at the top of this post. Yep- the Griggs mansion is currently for sale for a cool $1.1 million dollars. I’m not sure if it’s because of the price tag, or the house’s reputation, but the house has been waiting for the right buyer for three years.

For an inside look at the house, check out its real estate listing here. Honestly- it’s gorgeous and maintains many of its original features. If you can just get past the ghosts, I think it could be a fantastic place to call home.


Tomorrow we’ll be visiting the Houghton Mansion in North Adams, MA. If you are enjoying the virtual haunted house tour, please share it with your friends! See you again soon!

Don’t forget that there is a Monster of a Sale going on. Just in time for Halloween, three of my monster-ish tales are on sale for $0.99 through October 31st. Click the book cover to snag your copy now!