Happy Halloween! Here we are at the last day of Bad Moon Rising. I don’t know about you, but this month passed in the blink of an eye for me. A variety of books have been featured ranging from children’s books for the little guys up through adults. They’ve hit plenty of targets on the horror/thriller/supernatural spectrum from “What was that creak?” to “Think I’ll sleep with the light on tonight”, up to “I’m locking this book in a trunk and dropping it in the lake where nothing can escape.”
Today’s featured book is on the lighter end of the spectrum for readers who prefer their horror to be kinder and gentler. His book features a haunted house and judging by the three items he’d take to spend the night in one, he’s adequately prepared. Welcome James J. Cudney!
Would you rather sleep in a coffin for one night or spend the night in a haunted house?
This is a tough choice! I’d be okay with either one, honestly… but I’ll choose the haunted house. I love to be scared, and the opportunity to sleep in one, maybe for a million dollars upon survival, seems really cool. Wait… that’s a movie plot that didn’t go very well for some of the guests. I’m sure I would make it through the night; I tend to be lucky, and I’d be the one trying to solve the mystery. But if I did choose the coffin, I would sleep well as long as it was dark and I could breathe easily. I tend to toss and turn a bit, so that might be uncomfortable if it were too small.
Name three items you’d take to spend the night in a haunted house.
Handcuffs to lock up the creep who was haunting it, since the likelihood is that it was not a ghost but a real human being. A heavy, thick bottle of whiskey to be sure I could drink some (for fun and energy) and knock anyone bothering me over the head with it. A camera to record exactly what is going on the whole night. It might also serve as footage for a future movie or to remember what happened when I write the details into a future book. I’m sure my cell phone would die, so that would be useless to bring… and guns and knives could easily be used against me, hence why those weren’t options. I’m trying to think ahead!!! Shall we partner up and protect each other, Teri?
Would you rather use a Ouija board or participate in a séance?
Definitely participate in a séance. I have used a Ouija board and it really comes down to who you are playing the game with. If someone won’t truly focus, it’s kinda boring and not helpful. But in a séance, if it’s done properly (fake or real), you could really have quite an amazing time. In reality, I would love to connect with spirits just to ask a bunch of questions and learn about the past. Not mean ones though… they can leave me alone!
Do you write to music?
No! I need completely silence. I think music influences the words or emotions I would place into the book. Sometimes this is good. I suppose I could listen to sad songs when writing a tearful scene or haunting music when writing a thriller scene… but ultimately, I’d get caught up in the music and not be able to focus. I usually hide in a room where no one can find me for a few hours; then I get a lot done!
What was the hardest part of writing your author bio?
I don’t like to talk about myself, and there is not a whole lot intriguing about me. I broke it up into chunks to talk about different aspects of my life, but it feels boring… if I read it on a site, I’d scroll through to the next page. Ultimately, I personally choose my reads by the description of the story and not the author. I don’t care much if he or she is famous or indie, boring or exciting… so I think that’s why I skim over my own bio. It’s the same thing for LinkedIn or my resume; I have accomplished tons but I can’t possibly think about how to present it in any way that makes clear sense. I just know which job I’ll like and hate having to fix my resume to work for it!
What are you working on now?
I am editing my next book, Weathering Old Souls, a co-written novel with Didi Oviatt. It is a contemporary fiction novel that delves deep into one and half centuries of history. Here’s a brief description:
Abigail has always struggled with strange voices appearing inside her head. From the relentless tyranny a woman faces on an antebellum plantation to the unknown prison camps in America during World War II, our heroine discovers the past in a way that forever changes her future. There are moments from previous periods that serve as guiding posts for the country’s growth, but they also mark the transitions for Abigail’s own personal history. Her best friend, Margaret, partners with Abigail to discover the identity of these voices while focusing on her passion and quest to become a United States senator. Through it all, a serial killer torments the country, romance blossoms between some of the people they meet during the journey, and secrets long thought buried come to light in devastating ways. With the twisting of elements, numerical alignments, and the trauma of spiritual entanglements, no one will be the same… and just a few might not even be around anymore.
We’re hoping to negotiate a deal with a publisher by the end of 2020, and it will publish in 2021. I’ve also begun writing the seventh Braxton novel, and I’ll be revealing the title in the next few days! It will also publish in early 2021, assuming I can stop listening to music this month and finish writing the book by my 11/30 deadline!
Haunted House Ghost is the 5th of 6 published books in the Braxton Campus Mysteries. In this book, it’s Halloween, and excitement is brewing in Braxton to carve jack-o’-lanterns, go on haunted hayrides, and race through the spooky corn maze at the Fall Festival. Despite the former occupant’s warnings, Kellan renovates and moves into a mysterious old house. When a ruthless ghost promises retribution, our fearless professor turns to the eccentric town historian and an eerie psychic to communicate with the apparition. Meanwhile, construction workers discover a fifty-year-old skeleton after breaking ground on the new Memorial Library wing. While Kellan and April dance around the chemistry sparking between them, a suspicious accident occurs at the Fall Festival. Soon, Kellan discovers the true history and dastardly connections of the Grey family. But can he capture the elusive killer – and placate the revenge-seeking ghost.
Haunted House Ghost – Excerpt
My mother scooped a heap of aromatic fruit salad into one of Nana D’s cherished Halloween-patterned dishes—orange-glazed china with floating white ghouls—then passed the serving bowl to me. “I didn’t scope out your new place this morning, Kellan. Are you leaving those ghoulish turrets in place? If it were my house, I’d focus on fixing that exterior, so it doesn’t resemble a scary monstrosity.”
“I suppose,” I replied wryly, ignoring her accidental insult. Should I mention the weird, unnerving incidents the contractors had witnessed? I’d given little credence to their jokes about tools moving around while no one was home, but after my latest disturbing dream and the supernatural presence this morning, I second-guessed my decision. “Nicky Endicott offered me a good deal on the price of the reno, and he’s been handling most of the work. They even hired extra guys this week to complete the initial phase on schedule.”
“Are you still worried it’s haunted by ghosts?” Nana D drizzled syrup on her voluminous stack of fluffy pancakes—I suddenly recalled that everything was pumpkin-flavored for her in October—and ravenously swallowed a forkful. Between her tiny button nose and the lengthy, henna-rinsed braid she’d soon trip over, Nana D was an undeniably humorous vision. When she put on her tailored green twill suit, I’d call her my lucky charm. It usually resulted in a painful pinch on the underside of my arm, but the utter shock and frustration on her face was worth the temporary discomfort.
“There’s no such thing as ghosts,” Emma stated with the assurance of a much wiser girl. When raspberry jelly unexpectedly dripped to her chin, she snorted. “It’s just magic fairies.”
“Whatever it is, I don’t like it. Nicky separately chatted with the new workers this week. The crew claims someone in a white lace gown was floating on the second floor when they arrived to begin construction.” I’d thought at the time they must’ve drunk too much the night before, but after my own frightening and hair-raising experience, a cavernous dollop of fear stirred inexorably.
“What else happened? Maybe Eleanor can solve this hocus pocus nonsense.” My mother, already stuffed from a nonfat yogurt parfait and the miniscule morsel of pie filling she’d snuck earlier, aimlessly pushed fruit around her plate. No pancakes for her, mostly since her vanity echoed that of the queen from Snow White. Despite being ten years younger than my father and looking at least ten years younger than her true age, she constantly fretted about her weight and fading youth.
“Tools moved when no one was in the room. A minor overnight flood when Nicky supposedly turned off the water. Scratching noises inside the walls.” I swallowed the remaining food on my plate and pushed back my chair with a flourish. I wanted to unhook my belt to gain some breathing room but refused to admit defeat. I’d increase my upcoming workouts to counter the impulsive overeating. The stress of construction delays was wearing me down. “Eleanor threw angelica root around the house and volunteered to sing a freakish chant about poltergeists. She claims it’ll protect me against evil spirits.”
“I’m confident your prankster is the ghost of Prudence Grey. We’re approaching the fiftieth anniversary of her disappearance. She lived there with Hiram and is probably rolling in her grave, seething that he sold it.” Nana D unexpectedly shivered with excitement, then directed Emma to check on Baxter. “Little ears shouldn’t hear what I’m about to tell you.”
“Don’t even think about embellishing the story, Mom. We’ve heard you complain interminably about Hiram Grey’s past.” My mother was adamant about controlling Nana D’s gossipy nature. Though often careful with her words, someday, loose lips would bite Nana D in the you-know-where.
“Pish! Last time, I only told Kellan that Prudence disappeared. The truth would’ve scared him from buying the house, despite Ulan’s imminent arrival in Pennsylvania.” Nana D smiled sanctimoniously as she shared the troubled history of the infamous Greys.
Prudence was Hiram’s first wife. Hiram, four years older, had just finished his senior year at Braxton College and enrolled in law school, obsessed with becoming a judge. Although Prudence had once been a stunning ingénue, she entered a rough period after giving birth to their son, Damien, and surviving independently while Hiram focused on his studies. Her parents had also died in a tragic accident, leaving her an emotional wreck. No one realized she’d suffered from postpartum depression.
“On Halloween in 1968, a gigantic organized protest against the Vietnam War erupted on campus. Everyone, professors and students alike, participated. Some were for it, others against it. It was a difficult time,” Nana D explained while scraping our plates into the trash compactor. “Hiram insists he’d left Prudence at home with Damien because he had to attend a vital class, but the professor recorded him as absent that day. When a bunch of students turned violent, the protest escalated, and the college library caught fire.”
Construction of a new wing on the building had been in process. Workers had finished early and already left the site. The protest was most volatile directly outside the oldest part of the library, but the Chief of the Fire Department was never sure how the blaze had started. Multiple people had witnessed Prudence enter the library during the demonstration, yet they never saw her exit.
“Your father was there, Kellan. He was only a teenager but remembers all the commotion. It was awful, and although no one actually died,” my mother began, casting a warning glance at Nana D, “it caused widespread damage and delayed the library’s renovation plans. By the time everything sorted itself out, the temperature had grown too frigid to break ground again.”
“What does this have to do with Prudence Grey haunting my new house?” I sighed, unable to decipher the connection between the two events. Time to further reel in the busybody yentas.
“Patience, brilliant one. I’m getting there,” Nana D rebuked, waggling a finger in my direction. “Prudence vanished. Hiram never spoke with her after he’d left the house that morning. The last place he saw his wife was allegedly carting a box into your basement. She loved that home so much… at least she’s not stuck haunting someone else.” Nana D wearily glanced downward, fanning herself.
“It’s possible that Prudence got trapped in the library and died in the fire. The winds were gusty that day and made the whole tragedy hard to contain. The firemen checked as soon as the opportunity presented itself but never found a body. All hearsay, since I was hardly out of diapers,” my mother added with a wink, eyeing the second round of fragrant pumpkin pies Nana D retrieved from the oven.
“Hiram claims Prudence suffered from a severe depression that prevented her from being a proper mother to Damien.” Nana D grew lost in the heartbreaking tale, eyes deep with remorse and regret. “I didn’t know her well, but Prudence was an innocent young lady before she’d married that fool and suffered his folly. Men suck. Don’t they, Violet, dear?”
“I’m not sure I understand. What precisely are you suggesting happened to Prudence? Is she buried under the library and moonlighting as a vengeful spirit in my new digs?”
“That’s the fifty-year-old mystery. Hiram moved out the next day and into the Grey estate with his family. No one’s ever heard from Prudence since then, and everyone who’s dared to live there flees within a week after complaining about peculiar noises and unexplained apparitions.”
“Didn’t you think to tell me that part before I bought the place?” I shot an emphatic gander of frustration and shock at my nana for her borderline treachery. Exhaustion had made me irritable.
Upon finishing her coffee, my mother placed the cup and saucer in the sink. “I don’t believe in all that hooey phooey. Hiram waited the necessary time to declare her legally dead, then he remarried. For all intents and purposes, Prudence is long gone. You shouldn’t worry.”
“But you think she’s haunting me because I bought her house?” I growled at Nana D.
“I assume Hiram got away with killing her. Prudence’s spirit must be restless, stuck inside the last place she lived before dying so dreadfully. I doubt she’ll hurt you,” Nana D suggested impishly while patting my hand. “Just be considerate of sharing her space, and I’m sure it’ll turn out fine.”
My mother tut-tutted. “Hiram can be ruthless, but no one suspects the judge of murder.”
Were they for real? At the very least, I deserved to know this tidbit of history before Nana D had convinced me to buy the place. My mind theorized outlandish scenarios about what could’ve happened to Prudence Grey. I’d been known to investigate suspicious deaths ever since moving home to Braxton earlier that year, but I had zero time to explore a fifty-year-old cold case.
“How’d the Fall Festival meeting go?” Nana D interrupted, her brow wrinkled and mouth hanging slightly open, ardently waiting for a response.
“Belinda Grey was obstinate and ferocious. I think you underestimated how angry she’d be when you declared us the head of the planning committee.” My mother ruffled through her gargantuan purse for the car keys. Did she hide an entire cornucopia of useless clutter in there?
“Belinda was derogatory all morning long.” I recalled how Hiram Grey’s second wife had also refused to congratulate us on securing Madam Zenya as the upcoming spectacular’s resident psychic.
“Hiram and Belinda Grey were perfect for each other. I could tell you stories about that churlish woman. Too bad that cantankerous old judge feels the need to find a new spouse every few years. Five sons with six wives makes him a menace to society.” Nana D reminded us that our local magistrate was a modern-day Henry VIII, only instead of beheading his wives, he compelled them to disappear. “Some were probably murdered like Prudence. He tortured the others until each caved in to escape his tyranny.” She chuckled aloud, then lifted her old-fashioned, canary-yellow phone from the wall.
“He just divorced number six last year, right?” my mother nonchalantly questioned.
Nana D counted the judge’s wives by using the fingers on one hand, running out of digits after the fifth. “Yup. They seem to get younger each time. Now, skedaddle. I’ve got calls to make.”
Once my mother left, Emma, Baxter, and I visited our new house. Although it was the weekend, Nicky had paid his team overtime to tile the bathroom and install the kitchen plumbing. I parked the car and suggested Emma lead Baxter into the enclosed side yard to play fetch. A bulky, hairy spider had woven a fresh maze of silky webs across the front porch, swaying in the gentle breeze from my hasty approach. It cautiously sat in the center and bundled its most recent prey in a sticky clump of white threads, staring and mocking me to swat it, if I dared. As soon as I ducked and strode through the door, Nicky anxiously approached me with his grease-stained palm glued to his forehead.
“Kellan, I’ve called for hours. Didn’t you get my messages?” Exasperation clung to the young contractor’s words. His awkward body language denoted something disastrous had occurred.
Grabbing the phone from my pocket, I realized I had accidentally turned it off. “No, I’m sorry. What’s going on? Is there an issue with construction?”
Nicky repeatedly shook his head and pursed his tense, thin lips. “No, you better see this for yourself. Follow me.” While dragging me through the main hallway toward the basement entrance, my impassioned contractor agitatedly explained how he and his crew had shown up at ten o’clock. “We let ourselves in using the only key to the front door. Look at what awaited us.”
My heart immediately raced like a bustling train as I absorbed the pungent scent of shock hovering stiffly in the room. In the same red paint I’d rolled on the walls in Ulan’s bedroom, someone had written a scraggly message on the locked basement door. It read:
James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media, hospitality, and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote short stories, poems, and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I committed to focusing my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing, and publishing.
Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, mind, and body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels, and suspense thrillers. I conjure characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.
Reader & Reviewer
Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies, or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read two books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review, and post it on all my sites and platforms.
Blogger & Thinker
I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice, and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks,” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.
Genealogist & Researcher
I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.
My Genres, Formats & Languages
I write in the family drama, suspense, and mystery genres. My first two books were Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I wrote a sequel, Hiding Cracked Glass, for my debut novel, and they are known as the Perceptions of Glass series. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available. All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, paperback, hardcover, large print paperback, pocket size paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.
Websites & Blog
Next Chapter: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney
Haunted House Ghost – Amazon Book Links
- Kindle: http://mybook.to/hauntedhouseghost
- Paperback: http://mybook.to/hauntedhouseghostbrapb
- Large Print: http://mybook.to/hauntedhouseghostbralp
- Hardcover: http://mybook.to/hauntedhouseghostbrahc
- Pocket Book: http://mybook.to/hauntedhousepkb
- US Audiobook:
- UK Audiobook: