Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Guest - Lily Silver

Good morning all! I hope you're enjoying your summer and that you've gotten some good reading in. Mentioning that, our special guest today is Lily Silver and she's offering a chance to enter a drawing for a print copy of her book Dark Hero; A Gothic Romance. Check out the details below.

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What Makes a Compelling, Believable Ghost?
 by
Lily Silver

Ghosts have always fascinated me. My first encounter with a ghost in a romance was Lynn Kurland’s Stardust of Yesterday. I admit I was pulled in partly by the cover, as the actor from Highlander was the cover model. Yes, those alluring covers do draw us in, don’t they! In this story, the hero was a ghost and the heroine was still alive. Talk about instant conflict. That first paranormal romance sparked my interest to the genre and led me happily down the path to the dark side.

As an author, creating ghosts is much harder than reading about them. When writing Dark Hero, a paranormal romance, I had think long and hard about how and why the ghosts would appear in the story in the first place, as well to try to create that chill factor we love in ghost stories. No, I didn’t go into haunted houses. I love to be scared by reading ghost stories and watching scary movies (not alone!) but facing a real ghost in a haunted house--no, not if I can help it.

I asked myself this, why stick around in a place for centuries when you could be off enjoying the after-life? I’d go to Paris, to the Louvre. I’d be off in a heartbeat if I was a ghost and able to travel anywhere I wanted to go with no physical boundaries. And yet, the main element of ghost stories is the ghost being tied to the person or to a specific place.

Ah, now I had a clue. I can’t just throw random ghosts into a story to jack up the creepy factor and scintillate readers; we need to have reason for the haunting that fits into the plot of the book.
So, I came up with a list of elements to help me construct a compelling, believable ghost:
1). Ghosts have feelings, and feelings compel us to act, rationally or irrationally.

I love the Supernatural TV Series. As Dean and Sam hunt ghosts, there are often some pretty angry haunters to contend with. An example is the female ghost in the show’s pilot who kept appearing to men along the deserted road. The men she appeared to were unfaithful to their mates, so after they picked her up she would kill them. She did this because she had been betrayed by her husband and being in an angry, irrational state, she killed herself. Thus, she became fixated on killing other men in the area near her home who are adulterers. Her feelings of pain and betrayal at death forced her to seek revenge--now that’s an emotionally driven ghost.

2). Ghosts want to contact the living. That is the bread and butter of the Ghost genre. If they’re off doing their own thing, like going to Paris to haunt the Louvre (my choice) then where’s the story? What’s the point?  It might be at the Louvre . . . but again, why would I be there instead of at home trying to contact my children and grandchildren?

3). Ghosts have to be motivated toward a goal. There has to be a reason why they are stuck where they are. That’s why they are so angry, sad or psychotic. They have intense feelings which cause them to act and they are motivated to complete a goal so they can find peace.

 To illustrate this, consider two of the ghosts in the Harry Potter movies. I love the headless ghost who keeps floating around Hogwartz cheerfully chatting with everyone, but it seems he serves no real purpose in the movie other than background flavoring. Moaning Mertle on the other hand, (the girl who haunts the bathroom) has intense feelings and a purpose to be in the story. She has knowledge that ultimately helps Harry and the gang. Once they talk to Mertle, she helps them solve their problem by giving clues that lead to the next step in their quest. 

I have several ghosts in Dark Hero. Some are strangers to the heroine and others are family members. Regardless of their relationship to Elizabeth O’Flaherty, they all have a reason to be stuck with a haunting gig and a reason to want to contact to her. Elizabeth is a seer and is able to see and speak with the dead. Examining why the ghosts should be present in first place helped me to write a compelling ghost story and avoid using ghosts as wallpaper merely to spice up the story. 

After sharing what I think makes a credible ghost, let’s open this up for discussion. Feel free to share your comments about what makes a worthy haunting in a story and what you like (or don’t like) in ghostly characters.

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a print copy of Dark Hero; A Gothic Romance.  Remember to leave an email address so I can contact the winner. So, it’s your turn--share a favorite ghostly character, what appealed to you or what didn’t?   

Guard Your Dreams . . . Lest They Emerge from the Mists to Embrace You . . .   

After her mother is murdered, Elizabeth’s Irish grandmother casts a spell summoning a Dark Hero from the Gothic Romances Elizabeth devours. When a beguiling Irishman appears at their cottage one magic summer eve, he seems to be everything Elizabeth longs for in a hero.

But Donovan Beaumont is much more than she bargained for when she said ‘I do’. 

Once they arrive on his isolated estate, Elizabeth fears her new husband is courting madness. She struggles with his dark moods, his disguises and their growing estrangement.

Elizabeth has the gift of the seer and is able to speak with the dead. Tormented by guilt, by dark memories of her mother’s murder and stalked by a malevolent ghost cursed by her ancestor, Elizabeth is forced to embrace her Druid heritage and confront the disturbing secrets hidden in her soul.

The price of honesty may be too steep; if Donovan learns her horrifying secrets, Elizabeth may lose his love forever. 

Excerpt 
A low, feral growling startled Donovan from his inebriated doze.

He opened his eyes and his heart stopped. The hair on the back of his neck rose.

Puck [the kitten] was still on his shoulder, crouched and growling at the dark haired woman he’d seen in his dream. She was bending over Elizabeth, whispering some insistent message in her ear.

The woman wasn’t alive. Donovan knew it instinctively, just like the cat.

As he watched, the mysterious woman drew back the covers and slipped pale arms beneath his sleeping wife. Elizabeth was lifted above the bed and then hurled across the room as if she were naught but a feather pillow.

The bone crunching thud of Lizzie’s body hitting the floor was enough to stir him out of his stunned lethargy. He stood and grabbed the only weapon at his disposal, the empty bottle of scotch. “Get away from my wife.” He warned, tossing the bottle at the pale woman in white.

The bottle went through the woman’s body and shattered the dressing mirror across the room. The sound of tinkling glass gave solid evidence that he was not dreaming.

The pale woman grimaced at him. Her face became ugly and skeletal. She gave him a look of pure malice before disappearing into thin air, just as she had earlier when he awakened from a startled doze to find her hovering near him.

Donovan rushed to Elizabeth’s side.

“Donovan . . .” She murmured, hugging him in recognition through her drug induced daze. He carried her to the bed and settled the covers about her. He stood looking down at her as she returned to a serene slumber. He ran a hand through his loose hair, and turned toward the doorway, desperately searching for tangible proof that he was not losing his mind.

 “Poor child.” The soft cooing came from behind him. He twisted on his heels and nearly shrieked his horror. His dead grandmother was hovering over Elizabeth, stroking her hair with a transparent hand. “I’ve tried to protect her. The woman is too powerful.”

This was why people shouldn’t drink, he thought with revived conviction. Donovan tried to swallow. His throat was bone dry. He didn’t seem to have a drop of spit left in him.



About Lily:
Lily Silver lives in Northeastern Wisconsin, on the shores of Green Bay. She lives in a lovely old Victorian house with her husband, their German Shepherd and three charming cats. She has two children and an adorable grandson who inherited Lily’s red hair. There don’t seem to be any ghosts in their charming old Victorian home, but those cats seem to have developed a very heavy step on the stairs of late. Her favorite TV shows are Supernatural, Ghost Whisperer and Bones.

Lily has degrees in both History and in Humanistic Studies with an emphasis in Ancient and Medieval Research. She enjoys writing historical romances but likes to add a paranormal twist. In Dark Hero, the heroine is a descendent of Druids and can walk the veil between the worlds and speak with the dead. In Some Enchanted Waltz, a little fairy mischief has brought the heroine back to the hero’s time, and the heroine has some latent magical abilities. In her current work, Bright Scoundrel, [a release late of October 2012; sequel to Dark Hero] the hero is an accomplished sorcerer returning to Ireland to reclaim his family’s castle and will deal with some rather persistent ghosts.

             http://strictlygothic.blogspot.com/

facebook:  Lily Silver, Author
Twitter:  lilysilver@timeless_lovers

Links for Books on Amazon.com

Some Enchanted Waltz:

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-- Lynda Again,

    Wow, great excerpt! Don't forget to follow the instructions so you can enter Lily's drawing for a chance to win the book!

   Good Luck and Have a Blessed Day!

19 comments:

Beth Trissel said...

Fascinating post, Lily. Thought provoking and intriguing. I enjoyed your excerpt too. We have a lot of ghosts and ghost stories here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and the surrounding mountains. A paranormal hot spot for some reason. Like you, I prefer not to have personal contact. But have come close. Had a poltergeist in the old farm house, prayed him out. At least, I think it was a him.
Anyway, Dark Hero sounds great.

Anna Taylor Sweringen said...

Great analysis and intriguing excerpt. I'd love to hear how your background in Ancient and Medieval research has informed your stories. Thanks for sharing.

Anna T.S.

Mary Frances Roya said...

I love the tease from your book. I have never seen a ghost. A friend of mine came to me in a dream and gave me a hug before she went to the light. It was several weeks later I found out she had passed. Strange dream. Thanks for the wonderful blog.

Lily Silver said...

Wow, Beth, a ghost in the old farmhouse. Sounds chill worthy to me. Was it a former owner? Thanks for sharing.

Lily Silver said...

Ann T.S., most of my stories to date are in the 18th or early 19th century, however, I want to write one that takes place in the middle ages one day. Many of the really old ghost stories are very romantic, some are just strange.

Beth Trissel said...

Interesting question, Lily. We have two farms and this house is on the second one. My young adult son and his fiance were remodeling before their upcoming marriage. My (now) daughter in law didn't believe in ghosts until the footsteps sounded at random times on the stairs and an upstairs bedroom door refused to remain closed and the doorknob turned and opened on its own while she was in the bathroom--freaked her and the cat out. No one told me any of this, but I dreamed about a troubled soul associated with that house and a small old graveyard up in the field behind the house--turns out there is one. My sense is that the spirit was associated with that plot and the remodeling disturbed him. But after the Anglican exorcism prayer--sent to us by a friend in England after they prayed a violent poltergeist out of the manse--whatever was in my son's house left.

Lily Silver said...

@beth Trissel; Wow, spooky! Your ghost must not have known proper bathroom etiquette! Dropping in on a poor girl when she's in the bathroom, I'd freak out too! Glad the situation is resolved. :)

Lacey Falcone said...

I think you've got a great formula for creating ghostly characters...not so dissimilar from creating human characters (must have conflict and motivation), but adding the supernatural twist. As I was reading your blog, I was thinking about that old movie from the 40s or 50s (black and white) - but I can't remember the name of it. 'The Ghost and Mrs Muir', I think. That was a great ghost story with all the elements you mention. Your book sounds interesting - best of luck with your sales!

Dan Stuttgen said...

I would definitely LOVE to read a medieval story written by you! I, too, read Lynn Kurland’s Stardust of Yesterday, many years ago and enjoyed it greatly. I must say, I enjoyed Dark hero and Some Enchanted Waltz and am looking forward to the sequels I am sure are coming.

Cheers, Dan

Lily Silver said...

Thanks for stopping by, Dan. I'm glad you enjoyed my stories. I'm currently working on the sequel to Dark Hero, and trying to create more ghostly characters! Always a challenge, but the rewards are worth it when readers are satisfied.

I love Lynn Kurland's novels. She does ghosts and time travel quite well.

Lily Silver said...

@lacey, yes, I do remember that movie, ghost and Mrs. muir. They also made it into a tv series ing the 60'S, I believe, with Rex Harrison as the ghost. I wonder if that's available as a DVD series! Thanks for joining us today.

bn100 said...

Very nice excerpt. I like Casper because he's friendly and funny.

bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

Lily Silver said...

Hi Bn100. Thanks for joining us. I love Casper, too. Not all ghosts are as friendly as he is, unfortunately.

Brenda ND said...

I like ghost stories too. One of my favorite was "Just Like Heaven", a movie, where the ghost didn't know she was dead and wanted the hero to move out of her apartment.

http://otherworlddiner.blogspot.com/2012/08/thirteenor-fourteen-summer-reads.html

Amanda DeWees said...

I've always loved ghost stories, but writing them is a challenge, so I really enjoyed this post! One of my favorite ghost stories with a thread of romance is Oliver Onions's "The Beckoning Fair One." Rereading it recently, I found that it's as much about a writer's career midlife crisis as it is about his becoming infatuated with a demanding ghost mistress. I usually like more romance in my ghost stories, so I'm intrigued by the excerpt of Dark Hero!

Nancy J. Cohen said...

I prefer ghosts as secondary characters. They can be humorous this way or not. Ghosts work well in mysteries when their purpose is to help solve a murder. I had one for comic relief in my haunted hotel story, Dead Roots. It was a lot of fun. In a romance, I prefer real live characters for the hero and heroine.

Lily Silver said...

@Brenda ND,
Thanks for the movie recommendation. I'll have to check that one out. I haven't seen it yet and didn't know what it was about.
THanks for visiting today.
Lily

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi everyone! Great visit from Lily, huh?

She's chosen a winner for her giveaway and that winner is (drumroll please)

bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

Congrats and enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I loved the old series "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" when I was a kid. I have read both of your books, Lily, and am waiting for your sequel to "Dark Hero."