Redoing “Night of the Hellhounds” (Part 4)

Chapter 4: Turning the Short Story into a Novel

Sometime in 1998 I planned writing a novel based on a friend’s idea of a teenager moving to a new town where there are magic and weird happenings afoot. The concept was an overused one but that didn’t stop me from mapping the story and building the story and character arcs. I named the main character Serafina Jones, wrote several chapters, then deep-sixed it when the middle bogged and new projects came along.

Fast forward to 2012 when I pulled that old WIP from my desk and saw potential to breathe new life into it. I changed Serafina Jones to Verawenda Erickson and wrote a story about a 15-year-old girl developing psychic powers at the same time she and her family move in with her grandparents in a new town where a witch’s spirit and hellhounds cause havoc next door.

I finished the final draft in 2014, replaced “Night of the Hellhounds” short story at Amazon and Barnes & Noble with the novel, and said, “That’s that.”

Night of the Hellhounds, 4.0: The Amazon Novel

Enter the magical world of 15-year-old Vree Erickson who survived a deadly lightning strike. Although she lost her father and her home to the lightning, she can see and do things few people can because of it. But she doesn’t want these powers. And who can blame her once she becomes the interest of a witch’s spirit who wants Vree’s powers for self-serving ends.

Chapter 5: Title and Story Conflict

When I publish a story, I try not to read it later on. In my mind it’s perfect even though it has flaws. I reread Night of the Hellhounds a few months later and found a major flaw: Theme and Title. It didn’t take me long to see that the book’s title didn’t follow the story’s theme of a witch’s curse on a family that lives up the road from Vree. So…

Night of the Hellhounds, 4.1: Margga’s Curse

15-year-old Vree Erickson is destined to die this summer. Although she is a healthy girl, all the fates point to her demise. But despite what the fates have planned for her, every decision she makes over the summer will either change her destiny or leave it the same.

Vree and her family are forced to move upstate to her maternal grandparents’ home on Myers Ridge near Ridgewood, Pennsylvania after lightning strikes her, kills her father, and burns down her family’s home. To complicate matters further, the lightning strike leaves her with psychic powers. On the day of the move, she sees and hears mysterious invisible creatures and becomes a victim to an annual curse when the vengeful spirit of a witch returns to the property next door and reigns terror there. With the help of the boy from up the road, she embarks on a difficult journey to save her life and destroy the ghost witch who wants her dead.

Chapter 6: Putting the “I” In Vree

Flash back to 2013 when, soon after I published “Night of the Hellhounds,” I wrote and published Vree’s next chapters. In them she finds a green crystal that magnifies her psychic powers. The crystal also contains an imprisoned spirit that she accidentally frees. The spirit possesses Vree and all sorts of havoc breaks loose. These chapters appeared at Amazon for 99 cents per chapter because Amazon wouldn’t allow me to charge less (which is a major gripe of mine with the company). So I unpublished them at Amazon and put them here at my blog for free. You can find them above my header where it says Green Crystal Stories.

Soon after I scrapped those chapters I began working on a new novel for Vree. I have a habit of writing in first person point of view when I write a first draft, then change everything to third person point of view by the final draft. Because first person is a limited scope to work with, the third person draft is tight and has less head hopping.

Sometimes, however, the urgency of first person point of view gets diluted in the change. This happened with the second novel and has delayed publication. I wrestled with the idea of changing Vree’s point of view to third person, or leaving it at first person. The entire first novel is told in third person, so all of her stories should follow suit. Right?

But what if I changed her point of view in the first book to first person?

Night of the Hellhounds, 4.2: Margga’s Curse Rewritten

Instead of republishing the book at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Kobo, and the several other outlets it’s at right now, I have decided to post the story and its changes here, one chapter at a time. I hope you’ll come along for the ride. And I hope you’ll leave me comments, just to keep me honest if the story should bog.

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Developing Characters and Story, Part 4

My Psychic Abilities, by Vree Erickson

A girl with psychic abilities is sometimes called a witch or sorceress. I am neither. I do not practice witchcraft or sorcery, though I do have a book that contains magic spells … when the book reveals them to me. Lightning struck me and unlocked psychic abilities in me. I believe everyone has them, but some people are more “gifted” (or cursed) than others, the same way that some of us are naturally inclined towards music or mathematics, for example. The lightning changed me and has made me more aware of these abilities in me.

Psychic abilities are also known as extrasensory perception (ESP) and sixth sense. There are many kinds and I am slowly discovering and developing new ones. Below is a list of psychic abilities that I developed … or more accurately, psychic powers that appeared in me without me consciously making them happen.

Having psychic abilities can be fun and scary. The effects of psychic abilities are poorly understood, and mainstream science is not at the point of accepting the validity of scientific studies performed in parapsychology and consciousness research. Even with the available documented information detailing proof of psychic functioning, most people remain unaware of these results, and many others, like my brother and sister, have a pseudo skeptic outlook.

Mediumship or Channeling — My first ability was being able to see and talk to my dead father’s spirit. This ability includes communicating with ghosts. The latter happened after I awoke from my coma and moved to Myers Ridge in Ridgewood.

When lightning struck me, it also struck my dad and our house. It killed my dad and burned down our house, leaving my family and me homeless. I was in a coma after lightning struck me and I had a weird dream about my dad. He told me he was dead. Some people close to me who are involved with studying psychic phenomena say that this was a precognitive dream. I disagree. My dad was already dead when he came to me. Another argument, which I feel may be true, is this was a telepathic experience with him. All the same, I saw and spoke to him then, and again during and after my family and I moved to Myers Ridge.

After I awoke, Daddy told me not to tell anyone that I could see him. I think he wanted to spare me from ridicule. Most people, including me, don’t take well to things they don’t understand.

Astral or Mental Projection — When Daddy came to me during my coma, he told me and showed me that I was in a coma. I believe I traveled out-of-body where my “astral body” separated itself from my physical body. It’s been the only time I’ve done this, so I have little evidence to back my theory. But my gut says I really stood at my bedside and saw myself in bed at the hospital.

Telepathy, Mind-Reading and Thought Transference — This is the ability to receive and send thoughts and emotions, like when my family first entered Ridgewood and I received the troubled thought of a Roualen—a traveler from another planet and galaxy that became marooned with its kind on Myers Ridge. Along with this came Empathy—the ability to sense their needs, drives, and emotions—though not right away.

Precognition or Premonition — This happened once: perceiving events in flashes of detailed insight before they happened. And I certainly received plenty of strange looks from my siblings when I warned our mom of an impending traffic disaster after I saw the Mayflower truck with our meager belongings in it pass through our SUV.

Clairvoyance or Second Sight — Lenny argues that because I could see past the cloaking devices that made the Roualens look invisible to the human eye, that I am able to perceive outside the known human senses. He says this ability includes being able to read Margga’s book of magic written in a language that he cannot understand.

Retrocognition or Post-Cognition — This is the ability to see past events. I can do this only when I touch people. It isn’t something that I do purposely … it just happens.

Energy Medicine — When Margga killed Lenny, I healed his wounds and brought him back to life by somehow channeling a form of energy into his body.

Psychometry or Psychoscopy — When I touched Lenny’s dead body, I received information about his wounds and an understanding of how to heal him. Also, when I touched the Roualen spacecraft inside Myers Ridge and concentrated on the object, I received information about its damaged engine and how to fix it.

Psychokinesis or Telekinesis — This is the ability to manipulate matter by the power of thought, which I did to heal Lenny and fix the Roualen ship.

Psychic Abilities I Don’t Have

The following abeyant psychic abilities (in alphabetical order) exist and may appear in me over time. If so, who knows what will happen. Scary!

  • Animal Telepathy—communicating with (but not command or influence) various kinds of creatures. Think “pet psychic.”
  • Apportation—materializing, vanishing or teleporting an object.
  • Aura Reading—seeing the energy fields that emanate from people, places and things.
  • Automatic Writing—producing written words without conscious thought, or through the guidance of an outside intelligence.
  • Bilocation or Multilocation—physically being in multiple places at the same time.
  • Channeling—acting as a channel or vessel for an outside intelligence.
  • Clairaudience—hearing from a long distance any sound that would otherwise be inaudible.
  • Clairsentience—perceiving and understanding—“knowing”—of a hidden or forgotten fact.
  • Death-Warning—envisioning a living person before his or her death.
  • Dowsing—locating water or lost objects by using a rod, sticks, or pendulum. Also known as “water witching.”
  • Empathy—sensing the needs, drives, and emotions of another.
  • Intuition—attaining direct knowledge or cognition without rational thought or inference.
  • Levitation—bodily hovering above the ground.
  • Psychic Surgery—using one’s mind to remove diseased body tissue via an incision that heals immediately afterwards.
  • Psychometry or Object Reading—sensing psychic impressions (vibrations) left on an object by someone connected with it. Someone with this ability could use an unfamiliar object to reveal much about its owner.
  • Pyrokinesis—starting fires and manipulating them with one’s mind.
  • Remote Viewing—describing or giving details about a person, place or thing that is inaccessible to normal senses due to distance or time.
  • Scrying—looking into reflective, translucent, or luminescent substances such as crystals, stones, glass, mirrors, water, fire, or smoke, and seeing events at a distance and/or in the future.

Developing Characters and Story, Part 3

My Friends and Neighbors on Myers Ridge (So Far), by Vree Erickson

Leonard “Lenny” Stevens

Lenny is my age—15, born July 5, a day that was known as Margga’s Curse because of a witch’s spirit that tried to kill his family on that day every year. Lenny works helping my maternal grandfather Jack Lybrook fix up the old farmhouse that Grandpa bought from Lenny’s dad. The house used to belong to Margga when she was alive. Lenny’s paternal grandparents bought it after she was killed by the Council of Magic.

Lenny is handsome, with dreamy dark brown (chocolate) eyes, thick, burnt sienna hair, and is 5’ 7” tall and says he weighs 130 pounds. He lives up the road with his dad and 2 of his 3 sisters.

He has toys and childhood treasures hidden beneath the floorboards of the attic that is now the bedroom I share with Amy. Also hidden in the floor was a large book with a dusty black, hard leather cover and pages askew that I call Margga’s Book of Spells and Other Magic. It’s an old, oversized log book that has no title and is filled with numbers and strange figures, like secret code, which are predictions written as poems, spells written as songs, and some strange recipes that I’m sure no one would want to eat. I’m the only one who can read the book, when it reveals itself to me. When it doesn’t, the pages are blank.

Lenny knows a lot about the weird history here, like the white crow Enit Huw who can speak to us. Lenny’s paternal grandmother told him that Enit Huw is the soul of time—past, present, and future, and brings hope for healing and new beginnings in life. Lenny used one of Enit Huw’s tail feathers for its magic power to release me from Margga’s imprisonment spell when she tried to steal my psychic energy. He also wears around his neck a good luck pendant of a gold cross that his grandmother gave him. He believes in all kinds of good luck charms—he gave my family and me flint arrowheads as protection from evil spirits the day Margga tried to kill him.

Lenny and I are spiritually close to each other by a psychic connection. Once, he touched my forehead and connected to my dreams. When Margga killed him, I brought him back, which strengthened our connection and gave him some of my psychic abilities, albeit weaker than mine. The connection remains and allows him to psychically communicate with me—he often visits me in my dreams without physically touching me like he did before. Now, if we touch or we’re in close proximity for more than 5 minutes, our bodies glow with white light. The longer we’re together, the stronger the light becomes and we feel heat envelop us until it gets too hot to bear. We usually have to distance ourselves by 10 feet or more after 20 minutes.

Howard Stevens

Howard is Lenny’s 45-year-old widowed father. Howard is 5’ 10” tall, has dark brown hair graying around the temples, and brown, almost hazel eyes.

He is a wildlife artist and the high school art teacher at Ridgewood High. His spouse Rebecca “Becca” Stevens née Crawford of New Cambridge is deceased. Besides Lenny, his children are Lynelle, 20; Lindsey, 9; and Leanne, 7. Lynelle owns and runs Becca’s Diner (once owned by Howard’s wife) located at Alice Lake—his youngest daughters and Lenny bus tables and wash dishes there on weeknights and weekends; he and Lynelle prepare the food at the restaurant.

Howard and his three youngest children live up the road from us at the next house across the road. His parents once owned the house my maternal grandfather bought from him. Howard still owns his family’s property next door to us where I fought Margga and where she imprisoned my father’s spirit. That creepy property belonged to Howard’s maternal grandparents Reginald and Cathleen Myers and gives me the chills when I get near it, probably because of its bloody history. According to what I’ve been told, Howard’s grandfather accidentally shot and killed Margga’s father while hunting in the woods behind the house. Then she killed him and his wife and spellbound their spirits to Myers Ridge. She was sentenced by the Council of Magic at Myers Ridge to a 1,000-year incarceration, but she escaped, stole a valuable spell book from the Council (the one I now have), and used a powerful spell from its pages to create a plague that drained 90% of magic from all creatures within a thousand-mile radius of Myers Ridge—including members of the Council. A protection spell she put on herself saved her from the plague. The Council called for and obtained enough magic to capture her. They stripped her of her protection spell and added to her incarceration, but were unable to lift the spell on Howard’s grandparents. She was killed during another escape attempt. Her spirit, under the powers of spirit law, was bound to serve imprisonment in Tartarus (an abyss reserved for evildoers below the underworld Hades where the Greek mythology Titans were imprisoned), and sentenced to return annually to the scene of her crime until forgiven by Howard’s grandparents. She refused and haunted Howard’s family for years. The Council never recovered the spell book hidden inside her house where a young Lenny Stevens found it after Howard’s mother bought the house. He relocated the book to another hiding place (beneath the attic floor) and later gave the book to me the day I moved in. Having it has been a blessing and a curse.

Rebecca “Becca” Stevens

Becca is Lenny’s deceased mother; she was 36 when she died 5 years ago. She owned and operated Becca’s, a restaurant located at Alice Lake. Her oldest daughter Lynelle owns and runs the restaurant now. Besides a fondness for cooking and baking, Becca was an avid hunter who enjoyed the outdoors. Her parents own a hunting camp in the northeast woods of New Cambridge, not far from where she was born and raised.

From the photographs I have seen of her, she was a plump woman similar in size to my maternal grandmother Evelyn Lybrook. Becca had intense ice blue eyes and brown hair. In some pictures, her hair is long and straight like mine, and in others it’s short like Grandma’s and Mom’s hair.

Although I’ve never told anyone, I think I met her ghost.

According to Lenny and his family, Becca was killed 5 years ago on July 5 (Margga’s curse and Lenny’s birthday) between 9 and 9:30pm, right at sunset when a car struck her along the road she lived on while she changed a flat tire on her car. I had a psychic vision of the event. Becca heard dogs howling and saw a Rottweiler (probably one of Margga’s hellhounds) in the road before she died. In the vision, she wore a yellow blouse, navy blue skirt, and black hose and high heels for a birthday party planned for Lenny.

Not long after I had the vision, I met a woman like her who wore the same clothes. She was at a pond I went to when I ran away from my grandparents’ place; she was extremely excited about finding a hunting knife on the ground there, and she warned me to stay away from Margga.

Lindsey and Leanne Stevens

Lindsey is 9 and Leanne is 7; they have straight and shoulder-length brown hair. Lindsey has brown eyes and likes to hunt and fish with Lenny; Leanne has bright blue eyes and likes drawing and painting, like her dad and Lenny … and me. That’s all I know so far.

Lynelle Stevens

Lynelle is 20; she has blue eyes, long auburn hair that is always tied in a ponytail when I see her, and is slim with a nice figure, and stands around 5’ 9” or 5’ 10” tall. Her boyfriend Henry James is adjunct history professor at New Cambridge University who, according to Lenny, receives lower pay than tenured professors and no health benefits, which makes him attractive to Lynelle’s caring personality—“All her life, she has taken in unfortunate stray animals … and Henry is no exception.”

Lynelle owns and runs her mom’s restaurant called Becca’s, located at 79 East Main Street, Alice Lake. Her brother Lenny and her two younger sisters Lindsey and Leanne often bus tables and wash dishes while she and their dad prepare the food. Months before her death, Becca turned the restaurant’s foyer into a gift shop where Howard Stevens sells some of his artwork, which are mostly wildlife and landscape paintings. Double doors behind the counter and cash register in the foyer/gift shop lead to the kitchen where Lynelle and Howard and a 40-year-old cook named Juanita Richards do a lot of the food preparation. During business hours of 6-9am, 11am-2pm, and 5-9pm, Lynelle greets customers in the foyer/gift shop and takes them to their tables in the dining room. An unmarked wooden door between the restrooms in the gift shop leads to oak stairs and Lynelle’s apartment upstairs. This is Lenny’s favorite place to go to, so we’ve spent plenty of time watching TV here. The first room inside the entrance is the living room where white shag carpet matches most of the furniture there, including a plush cream sofa. A glass coffee table sits in front of the sofa that faces a giant flat screen TV attached to the wall. A bookcase sits across the room next to the door that enters the kitchen; a clay urn made by Henry sits on the bookcase. A computer desk with Lynelle’s laptop sits in the corner. A cream-yellow kitchen sits off the living room (the entrance is next to the bookcase); lots of glassware and a glass table are in the kitchen—glass figurines sit atop a five-foot tall refrigerator. Plush cream carpets, plush furniture, cream-colored drapes, animal and pastoral prints and paintings on white walls make up the rest of the apartment’s décor. Lynelle’s 2 boxy bedrooms and narrow bathroom with bathtub and shower are behind the living room. The place is in a residential business community—small stores and shops, a tiny post office, a bank and a savings and loan, and a small fire station. Law enforcement is maintained by Ridgewood’s small police department. East Main Street is a quintessential picturesque street of small, independent, family-owned business and stores that still thrive in America. The long, wide street is lined with Hawthorne, Linden, and Flowering Cherry trees in plots along wide sidewalks on both sides of the street, which is near Alice Lake and runs north and south along the lake’s east side. I love visiting the lake and seeing the neighborhoods of quaint houses and cottages every chance I get. I think this would be a nice place to live at—much nicer than creepy Myers Ridge and its scary sinkholes.

Henry James

Henry is 30, an adjunct history professor at New Cambridge University, and Lynelle Stevens’s on-again off-again potbellied (beer gut?) boyfriend who has a whiskered face—the beginnings of a goatee. He is shorter than Lynelle at around 5’ 7” in bare feet, though he always wears cowboy boots with big heels. He has short, dark brown hair, brown eyes, and wears blue jeans and T-shirts a lot, and pointed-toe cowboy boots with heels that clomp on wood floors and stairs—heels that add nearly two inches of height but still keep him shorter than Lynelle. He drives a silver, turbocharged Ford F-150 full size pickup truck he calls Mama, and he knows a lot about Ridgewood’s history and folklore, especially supernatural stuff.

Developing Characters and Story, Part 2

The Magic in Me, by Vree Erickson

My Family Tree

Joseph and Hendrika Groot (my maternal great-great-great-great-great-grandparents); begat 2 children. Their daughter Mina Groot (my great-great-great-great-grandmother), married Baltisar Andersson; they begat 7 children. Their daughter Ruth Andersson (my great-great-great-grandmother), married Jonathan Kaufmann; they begat 2 sons. Their youngest son Joseph Kaufmann (my great-great-grandfather), married Helen Baker; they begat 5 daughters. Their daughter Adali Kaufmann (my great-grandmother), married  James Doyle; they begat 4 children. Their daughter Evelyn Doyle (my grandmother) and Trevor Renfrew begat 1 child: son, Balen Renfrew. Evelyn Doyle then married Jonathan “Jack” Lybrook; they begat 1 child: daughter, Karrie. Karrie Lybrook, (my mother), married Charles Erickson; they begat 3 children (triplets). I am the youngest of the triplets.

Evelyn Doyle’s Siblings

  • Vera, married to Kurt Ziegler, Blooming Valley PA; 3 children: John Luke, Mary, and James
  • Matthew, married Roxanne Stills, Brookside PA; no children
  • Sara, married to Nathan Davies, Bakers View PA; 4 children: Jean, Carla, William, and Pamela

Jack Lybrook’s Siblings

  • Paul, married Elaine May, New Cambridge PA; 2 children: Erin and Kay
  • Janet, married to Ronald Baker, New Cambridge PA; 2 children: Debra and Anne
  • Jerry, married Diane Marrs, Albany NY; 3 children: Brianne, Donna, and Gail

Charles Erickson’s Parents

Reginald Erickson, married Rachel McGuire, Wheeling WV, retired; winters St. Petersburg FL; they have 3 children: Leanne, Cincinnati OH; Alexis, Laramie WY; and Charles, deceased.

Charles Erickson’s Siblings

  • Leanne, married to Paul Watson, Cincinnati OH; 4 children: Sara, Joel, Thomas, and Holly
  • Alexis, married to Justin Roth, Laramie WY; 5 children: Michelle, Nichole, Ryan, Jessica, and Crystal

My Family Line of Psychics

My relations with known psychic/magic abilities are listed in bold.

Josef and Hendrika Groot had 2 children: Rutger Groot and Mina Groot;

Mina Groot, whom at 13, married: Baltasar Andersson, 16, (139 years ago), had 7 children, of which daughter

Ruth Andersson, whom at 17, married Jonathan Kaufmann (112 years ago), had 2 sons, of which son

Joseph Kaufmann, whom at 23, married Helen Baker (87 years ago), had 5 daughters, of which daughter

Adali Kaufmann, whom at 19, married James Doyle (68 years ago), had 4 children, of which daughter

Evelyn Doyle, whom at 19, had 1 son with wizard Trevor Renfrew (45 years ago), of which son

Balen Renfrew is half mortal, half wizard & has limited magic;

Evelyn Doyle, whom at 27, married Jonathan Lybrook (37 years ago), had 1 child, of which daughter

Karrie Lybrook, whom at 21, married Charles Erickson (16 years ago), had 3 children, of which daughter

Verawenda Erickson, struck by lightning at 15, has psychic/magic ability.

Mina Andersson and her husband Baltasar had seven children. They lived in Ridgewood and were influential members of the community before Baltasar killed a man and went to prison. After their youngest child was old enough, Mina left home for a nunnery. She stayed there until her death. Mina had telepathic powers. She foretold her husband’s act of murder, along with other prophesies, including the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the sinking of the Titanic. Her daughter Ruth could also see future events. Ruth’s son Walter was a vaudeville magician who could move objects with his mind. His brother Joseph claimed to see and speak to spirits. Psychic abilities in my family stopped with Walter and Joseph until lightning triggered it in Grandma Evelyn.

Timeline, From Josef Groot to Me

  • Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather Josef Groot, b. 173 years ago, deceased;
  • Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Mina Andersson née Groot, b. 152 years ago, deceased;
  • Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Ruth Kaufmann née Andersson, b. 129 years ago, deceased;
  • Great-Great-Grandfather Joseph Kaufmann, b. 110 years ago, deceased;
  • Great-Grandmother Adali Doyle née Kaufmann, b. 87 years ago, alive, lives at Alice Lake’s Lakeview Living Center;
  • Grandmother Evelyn Lybrook née Doyle, b. 64 years ago, alive, lives at weird farmhouse on Myers Ridge;
  • Mother Karrie Erickson née Lybrook, b. 37 years ago, alive, lives with Grandma on Myers Ridge;
  • Me, Vree Erickson, b. 15 years ago, still alive, I live with Mom at Grandma’s weird farmhouse on Myers Ridge.