So, this happened.
Sometimes when you really need a lift (and let's just say November 2016 was not my favorite month for a few reasons), one just appears. And when Library Journal lists your novel as one of the Top 5 Mysteries of the Year, that's the very definition of a lift.
But that's not why I gathered you here today. Although you might want to take a peek anyway.
Here's how the publishing business works: The author (in this case, me) writes the book about a year before it's to be published. When, as in this instance, the novel is the last on the contract from the publisher, there is always the possibility that there will be no offer for more and this will be the last story in the series. Of course, it's a year ahead of time and nobody knows what's really going to happen, so there's also the possibility that the publisher WILL decide on more books or that (as with the Haunted Guesthouse series many months later) the publisher does pass but another publisher decides to continue with more books.
But keep in mind that I'm writing this book a year ago, when everyone thought Jeb Bush would be the Republican nominee.
As a writer, one has to juggle the possibilities. This was the eighth in the series. Subplots and character interactions had been developed from Book #1 and the writer, as an entertainer, would hate to leave the audience (that, hopefully, is you) without a satisfying ending. So with the state of cozy mystery publishing being what it was in 2015 and what it remains today, writing a conclusion to the series seemed at least a consideration. Don't want to frustrate loyal readers.
But there was the other possibility, which in its own way came true. There WILL be more than eight Haunted Guesthouse mysteries. There will be at least 10 (that's a minimum of two more, the first of which is being written right now). So writing a definitive conclusion to the series would, in retrospect, have been a strategic error. Not to mention, there was no way of knowing when writing this book which way the wind was going to blow.
So what does an author do? Well, I'm not going to tell you because I want you to read the damn book. But suffice it to say that SPOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL leaves its possibilities open while offering what hopefully would have been a satisfying conclusion to many things that had been brewing since the series began. It's a high wire act and one that you'll have to read for yourself to determine if I've pulled it off successfully. I look forward to hearing from you. No, really. I mean that.
Suffice it to say: SPOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL brings back Alison Kerby's ex-husband Steven Rendell, to whom she refers, not at all fondly, as The Swine. Steven blows into town (Harbor Haven, New Jersey) with no suitcases but plenty of baggage: He's skipped out on a very large business deal, owes some shady people a good deal of money, and thinks they might be following him. So he asks if he can stay at Alison's Jersey Shore guesthouse because, this being February, surely she has an available room.
Given his nickname, Alison would be happy to turn The Swine away. But he is the father of her now-teenage daughter Melissa and she (Melissa) would be devastated if anything happened to her dad. So in comes Steven, his debts, his pursuers and his infuriating habits. And before you know, somebody's dead, somebody's suspected and everybody is scrambling for answers.
Meanwhile, Paul Harrison, the resident ghost detective, is distracted by an electrical experiment he believes might propel him into the next level of existence. Maxie Malone, the guesthouse's poltergeist, is carrying on her romance with Everett, the ex-Army ghost who was murdered in a gas station restroom, and Alison's boyfriend Josh is acting oddly. So it's a slightly more hectic week than usual at the Haunted Guesthouse.
And it all wraps up. Or not. Depends, I suppose, on how one looks at it. I hope you take a look and decide for yourself.
Possible Endings for
SPOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL
- A random missile from Ft. Dix blows up the guesthouse; (rejected)
- The ghost of Abraham Lincoln strolls by and emancipates all the other ghosts (unlikely)
- Melissa grows up to be a paranormal scientist and finds Paul his path to the next level (I wouldn't count on it)
- It was all a dream (no comment)
- The Swine sees the error of his ways and remarries Alison (uh-huh)
- The Guesthouse is shut down by the local Board of Health (plausible, but boring)
- Something not listed here (most probable, and let's face it, I've read the book)
Only one way to find out, and it starts this week.