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 & 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 & has made me more aware of these abilities in me.

Psychic abilities are also known as extrasensory perception (ESP) & sixth sense. There are many kinds & I am slowly discovering & 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 & scary. The effects of psychic abilities are poorly understood, & mainstream science is not @ the point of accepting the validity of scientific studies performed in parapsychology & consciousness research. Even with the available documented information detailing proof of psychic functioning, most people remain unaware of these results, & many others, like my brother & sister, have a pseudo skeptic outlook.

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

When lightning struck me, it also struck my dad & our house. It killed my dad & burned down our house, leaving my family & me homeless. I was in a coma after lightning struck me & 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 & spoke to him then, & again during & after my family & 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 & 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 @ my bedside & saw myself in bed @ the hospital.

Telepathy, Mind-Reading & Thought Transference — This is the ability to receive and send thoughts & emotions, like when my family first entered Ridgewood & I received the troubled thought of a Roualen—a traveler from another planet & galaxy that became marooned with its kind on Myers Ridge. Along with this came Empathy—the ability to sense their needs, drives, & 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 & 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 & an understanding of how to heal him. Also, when I touched the Roualen spacecraft inside Myers Ridge & concentrated on the object, I received information about its damaged engine & 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 & fix the Roualen ship.

Psychic Abilities I Don’t Have

The following abeyant psychic abilities (in alphabetical order) exist & 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 & 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 @ 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 & 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, & 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 & 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, & seeing events @ a distance &/or in the future.

Developing Characters and Story, Part 3


My Friends & 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, & is 5’ 7” tall & says he weighs 130 pounds. He lives up the road with his dad & 2 of his 3 sisters.

He has toys & 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 & pages askew that I call Margga’s Book of Spells & Other Magic. It’s an old, oversized log book that has no title & is filled with numbers & strange figures, like secret code, which are predictions written as poems, spells written as songs, & 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, & future, & brings hope for healing & 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 & me flint arrowheads as protection from evil spirits the day Margga tried to kill him.

Lenny & I are spiritually close to each other by a psychic connection. Once, he touched my forehead & connected to my dreams. When Margga killed him, I brought him back, which strengthened our connection & gave him some of my psychic abilities, albeit weaker than mine. The connection remains & 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 & 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, & brown, almost hazel eyes.

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

Howard & his three youngest children live up the road from us @ 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 & where she imprisoned my father’s spirit. That creepy property belonged to Howard’s maternal grandparents Reginald & Cathleen Myers & 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 & killed Margga’s father while hunting in the woods behind the house. Then she killed him & his wife & spellbound their spirits to Myers Ridge. She was sentenced by the Council of Magic @ Myers Ridge to a 1,000-year incarceration, but she escaped, stole a valuable spell book from the Council (the one I now have), & 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 & obtained enough magic to capture her. They stripped her of her protection spell & 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), & sentenced to return annually to the scene of her crime until forgiven by Howard’s grandparents. She refused & 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) & later gave the book to me the day I moved in. Having it has been a blessing & a curse.

Rebecca “Becca” Stevens

Becca is Lenny’s deceased mother; she was 36 when she died 5 years ago. She owned & operated Becca’s, a restaurant located @ Alice Lake. Her oldest daughter Lynelle owns & runs the restaurant now. Besides a fondness for cooking & 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 & 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 & brown hair. In some pictures her hair is long & straight like mine, & in others it’s short like Grandma’s & Mom’s hair.

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

According to Lenny & his family, Becca was killed 5 years ago on July 5 (Margga’s curse & Lenny’s birthday) between 9 & 9:30pm, right @ 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 & saw a Rottweiler (probably one of Margga’s hell hounds) in the road before she died. In the vision, she wore a yellow blouse, navy blue skirt, & black hose & 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 @ 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, & she warned me to stay away from Margga.

Lindsey & Leanne Stevens

Lindsey is 9 & Leanne is 7; they have straight & shoulder-length brown hair. Lindsey has brown eyes & likes to hunt & fish with Lenny; Leanne has bright blue eyes & likes drawing & painting, like her dad & Lenny … & 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, & is slim with a nice figure, & stands around 5’ 9” or 5’ 10” tall. Her boyfriend Henry James is adjunct history professor @ New Cambridge University who, according to Lenny, receives lower pay than tenured professors & no health benefits, which makes him attractive to Lynelle’s caring personality—“All her life, she has taken in unfortunate stray animals … & Henry is no exception.”

Lynelle owns & runs her mom’s restaurant called Becca’s, located @ 79 East Main Street, Alice Lake. Her brother Lenny & her two younger sisters Lindsey & Leanne often bus tables & wash dishes while she & 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 & landscape paintings. Double doors behind the counter & cash register in the foyer/gift shop lead to the kitchen where Lynelle & Howard & a 40-year-old cook named Juanita Richards do a lot of the food preparation. During business hours of 6-9am, 11am-2pm, & 5-9pm, Lynelle greets customers in the foyer/gift shop & takes them to their tables in the dining room. An unmarked wooden door between the restrooms in the gift shop leads to oak stairs & 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 & 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 & pastoral prints & paintings on white walls make up the rest of the apartment’s décor. Lynelle’s 2 boxy bedrooms & narrow bathroom with bathtub & shower are behind the living room. The place is in a residential business community—small stores & shops, a tiny post office, a bank & a savings & loan, & 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 & stores that still thrive in America. The long, wide street is lined with Hawthorne, Linden, & Flowering Cherry trees in plots along wide sidewalks on both sides of the street, which is near Alice Lake & runs north & south along the lake’s east side. I love visiting the lake & seeing the neighborhoods of quaint houses & cottages every chance I get. I think this would be a nice place to live at—much nicer than creepy Myers Ridge & its scary sinkholes.

Henry James

Henry is 30, an adjunct history professor @ New Cambridge University, & 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 @ around 5’ 7” in bare feet, though he always wears cowboy boots with big heels. He has short, dark brown hair, brown eyes, & wears blue jeans & T-shirts a lot, & pointed-toe cowboy boots with heels that clomp on wood floors & 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, & he knows a lot about Ridgewood’s history & folklore, especially supernatural stuff.

Developing Characters and Story, Part 2


The Magic in Me, by Vree Erickson

My Family Tree, at a Glance

Joseph & Hendrika Groot (my maternal
great-great-great-great-great-grandparents); begat 2 children

Daughter Mina Groot (my
great-great-great-great-grandmother), married to Baltisar Andersson; begat 7 children

Daughter Ruth Andersson (my
great-great-great-grandmother), married to Jonathan Kaufmann; begat 2 children (sons)

Youngest son Joseph Kaufmann (my
great-great-grandfather), married Helen Baker; begat 5 children (daughters)

Daughter Adali Kaufmann (my
great-grandmother), married to James Doyle; begat 4 children

Evelyn Doyle (my grandmother) & Trevor Renfrew;
begat 1 child: son, Balen Renfrew

Evelyn Doyle, married to Jonathan “Jack” Lybrook;
begat 1 child: daughter, Karrie

Evelyn Doyle’s Siblings

Jack Lybrook’s Siblings

married to Kurt Ziegler, Blooming Valley; 3 children: John Luke, Mary, & James

married Roxanne Stills, Brookside; no children

married to Nathan Davies, Bakers View; 4 children: Jean, Carla, William, & Pamela

married Elaine May, New Cambridge; 2 children: Erin & Kay

married to Ronald Baker, New Cambridge; 2 children: Debra & Anne

married Diane Marrs, Albany NY; 3 children: Brianne, Donna, & Gail

Karrie Lybrook, (my mother), married
to Charles Erickson; begat 3 children (triplets)

Charles Erickson’s Parents

Charles Erickson’s Siblings

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

married to Paul Watson, Cincinnati OH; 4 children: Sara, Joel, Thomas, & Holly

married to Justin Roth, Laramie WY; 5 children: Michelle, Nichole, Ryan, Jessica, & Crystal


My Family Line of Psychics

(Relations with known psychic/magic abilities are listed in bold.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mina Andersson & her husband Baltasar had seven children. They lived in Ridgewood & were influential members of the community before Baltasar killed a man & 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 & 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 & speak to spirits. Psychic abilities in my family stopped with Walter & 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 @ Alice Lake’s Lakeview Living Center;
  • Grandmother Evelyn Lybrook née Doyle, b. 64 years ago, alive, lives @ 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 @ Grandma’s weird farmhouse on Myers Ridge.

Developing Characters and Story, Part 1


Sketches & Anecdotes about Me, by Vree Erickson

My Origins & Family

My name is Verawenda Renée Erickson. I have straight, shoulder length blonde hair that I usually part in the middle. Mom won’t let me get a pixie cut like hers, though I’d really like short hair so it’d be easier to dry when I’m in a hurry to be somewhere. Maybe some tease & curls added to the shortness … & dye it auburn like hers & Amy’s hair color. My eyes are listed on my birth announcement & student identification as green, but are actually blue-green & gray with amber flecks in them. Some days they are bluer, some days greener—the blue stands out if I wear white clothing, & the green stands out if I wear dark clothing. I am 5’ 4” tall & weigh around 95-100 pounds.

My nickname Vree comes from my initials VRE. My name is a combination of Vera & Wenda. I was named after my mother’s paternal grandmother Vera Lybrook & maternal grandmother Wenda Walsh. My middle name Renée is my maternal grandmother’s middle name.

According to my mom & 3 birth certificates, I’m the youngest of triplets born 15 years ago @ St. Clair Hospital by natural childbirth to Charles & Karrie Erickson. My brother David is the oldest & older than me by less than an hour, followed by my sister Amy. Dave & Amy were born before midnight, June 18; I was born 9 minutes after midnight, June 19. Though my parents always celebrated my birthday on June 18, Dave reminded me last year of my real birthdate, as if I were committing a crime celebrating my birthday early. So, to make peace with him, I chose to gain some independence by celebrating my birthday on its proper day this year. That proved disastrous when lightning struck me, my father, & our home in Upper St. Clair PA. I awoke from a coma to discover I had developed telepathic powers & that the lightning had killed my dad & burned down our home.

I sometimes have difficulty remembering past events, which started after I awoke from the coma. When I’m tired or really stressed, it’s difficult for me to know if I’m remembering real events, dreams, or plots from TV shows, movies, or books.

Another thing that began after waking from the coma is my body emits white light when I’m anxious or excited. The white crow Enit Huw calls me a Luminary. The book of magic that Lenny Stevens gave me over the summer mentions the word & uses it to describe powerful sorcerers/magicians whose bodies produce light.

Overall, 15 is an awkward age, especially when you feel like you’re responsible for your dad’s death and the loss of your home & most of your possessions. Then your mom moves you to her old childhood hometown & now you have to make new friends & go to a new school. And along with all that, you find out you can see & hear and do paranormal things that most other people cannot, while your body goes through physical changes that make you look less like a teenager & more like a woman. Too many boys—men too—look at you with lust in their eyes. And alcohol, drugs & sex are things to be afraid because they can really screw up your life. So you think about the past when you were innocent of the bad things in life, & dream of a future where everything turns out right.

Dad – My father, Charles Maxwell Erickson, was born 41 years ago on May 11 in Wheeling WV where he lived with his parents, attorney Reginald Keith Erickson (now 70, retired) & school teacher Rachel Louise (McGuire) Erickson (now 67, retired) & older siblings, Leanne Louise Erickson (now 45, graphic designer, married & lives in Cincinnati OH with husband Paul Watson & family) & Alexis Michelle Erickson (now 43, kindergarten teacher, married & lives in Laramie WY with husband Justin Roth & family).

Dad graduated from Wheeling Park High School @ age 18 & then from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (Pitt Law) @ age 22. He met my mom @ college & married her when he was 25. They lived in Upper St. Clair where he was a lawyer. He died June 19 this year (my 15th birthday) when lightning struck him while he put away his lawnmower that I left in the rain.

He was tall (6’ 3”) & had blonde hair & blue eyes.

Mom – Karrie Renee Lybrook was born 37 years ago on November 19 in Ridgewood PA, the only child [1] of her dairy farmer parents Jonathan “Jack” Edward Lybrook (now 66) & school bus driver/substitute teacher Evelyn “Evie” Renee (Doyle) Lybrook (now 64) on Myers Ridge. She lived a childhood of milking cows, baling hay & harvesting crops when she was home. At high school, she was a 4-year cheerleader for the football team.

[1] (See Balen Renfrew below.)

Mom graduated Ridgewood High School @ age 17 & moved to Pittsburgh where she attended & graduated @ age 21 from University of Pittsburgh School of Education, receiving her teaching degree in secondary education. She lived with her Aunt Helen (Pittsburgh school teacher) & Uncle Ken McCormick (news editor) while attending college, met my dad Charles Erickson while @ college, & married him in a July ceremony in Pittsburgh after a whirlwind relationship. They lived in Upper St. Clair where Mom taught school for 16 years until lightning killed Dad & burned down our home.

Mom is 5’ 4” tall, has thick auburn hair worn in a stylish pixie cut, & green eyes that never look blue like mine do. She drives a silver-colored Kia Sorento SUV that has a transmission that rattles & an AC that stops working during long drives. She was hired to be the seventh grade science teacher @ Ridgewood High School when the school year starts.

Brother – David Charles Erickson was born @ 11:46pm on June 18. He has hazel eyes, is 5’ 11” tall & lean like Dad was, & has blonde hair kept short in an Ivy League crew cut—a style worn by Dad most of his life, except that one time when he was a law student @ the University of Pittsburgh—an incident Mom refers to as The Lost Bet of Haircuts.

Dave is sports active, outdoorsy & loves playing football, basketball, & baseball. He enjoys bicycling & riding motorcycles & 4-wheelers. He is mechanically inclined & is handy @ fixing small engines, which has endeared him to Grandpa Jack Lybrook. Since he is the only boy in the family, he seeks out other boys with similar interests.

Sister – Amy Louise Erickson was born @ 11:57pm on June 18. She is 5’ 5” tall, has brown eyes, & straight, shoulder-length auburn hair. She is musically inclined & likes to write & play songs on Grandma Evelyn’s piano & on her own Gibson acoustic guitar. She sings with a beautiful soprano voice. She had a trio “rock band” in Upper St. Clair (Pittsburgh) called The Amys (all the girls were named Amy—she & Amy Schweitzer are best friends, but the move has changed their relationship to an online one when she can go somewhere that has a working internet/wi-fi service).

Maternal Grandfather – My grandfather Jonathan “Jack” Edward Lybrook is 66 years old, tall & thin @ 6’ 2”, has bushy but well-groomed gray hair, frowning brown eyebrows, serious looking brown eyes, & an upturned nose above a pinched mouth on a clean-shaven face.

Grandpa often wears brown coveralls & spends a lot of time mowing the yard & fixing things in the 2-car garage @ his newly purchased foursquare farmhouse on Myers Ridge @ 31619 Ridge Road, Ridgewood PA, built around 1890 by sheepherder & farmer Ludwik Dekownik, grandfather of Margga Dekownik, a witch who created havoc on Myers Ridge for too many years. The house is white trimmed in blue & has a long, stone paved driveway on the right that leads to the garage painted to match the house. Inside are 4 boxy rooms on the ground floor: the living & dining rooms have wall-to-wall plush cream carpets, plush furniture, velvety drapes, animal & pastoral prints & paintings on white walls, a glass chandelier in the dining room, & a large kitchen next to a laundry room & a small bathroom. Upstairs are 4 more boxy rooms: 3 bedrooms, including the master bedroom where Grandma & Grandpa sleep, & a large bathroom. The attic is now a bedroom where my sister Amy & I sleep. Downstairs in the basement, the low-ceiling with copper pipes everywhere make going there a headache for anyone who is taller than 5’ 10” & forgets to duck their head. Still, Grandma & Grandpa keep it clean, the lighting is adequate, & the cement floor has good drainage, so it’s good place for storage.

Grandpa grew up in nearby New Cambridge where his father & his brother Paul & sister Janet Baker live. His brother Jerry lives in Albany NY with his wife Alice & family. His mother is deceased & his 91-year-old father lives @ New Cambridge Retirement & Health Center, a senior care home.

Grandpa had to move from his dairy farm on the other end of Myers Ridge because the ground has collapsed, creating a large sinkhole in the cornfield next to the house. The sinkhole emits a strange buzzing sound that only Enit Huw (the white crow) & I can hear. I thought the sound came from generators pumping gas to keep alive the Roualens (travelers from another planet residing there), but they left with their machinery & the buzzing continues. The sinkhole also emits green light caused by crystals glowing underground. I think the buzzing & light are connected & needs to be investigated.

Overall, Myers Ridge is old farmland with few farms in operation—where farming is almost a vanished way of life. Second growth woods surround the house, and are quiet and peaceful now that the Roualens have left, flying back to their own planet, & Margga’s spirit isn’t around anymore. This is country life where lawnmowers are large, tractors are used to plow fields & harvest crops, barbeques & lemonade are part of backyard activity, as well as gardening small flower & vegetable plots, swimming in aboveground pools, camping, hiking in woods, & riding horses in summer. In winter, there is deer hunting, plowing & shoveling snow, sled riding, & snowmobiles.

Continue reading “Developing Characters and Story, Part 1”

Redoing “Night of the Hellhounds” (Part 3)

Chapter 3: Vree’s Comeback

Not long after I published “Hell Hounds” (Night of the Hellhounds 2.0) and the alternate ending version (Night of the Hellhounds 2.1), I found the original draft in a box of high school papers and notebooks. I knew I wanted to bring Vree Erickson back, so I took to the keyboard and composed a story similar to the original.

Night of the Hellhounds 3.0: The Amazon Short Story

02-cover-trial-1000x1600I’m one of those people who picks at scabs; I can’t leave well-enough alone.

However, it was not an immediate decision to tell again the story of ghost dogs terrorizing some local teenagers on Myers Ridge. I was busy making artwork, working 36 hours a week at the neighborhood Wal-Mart Supercenter, presiding twice a month for almost nine years over a group of local writers, and writing other stories for local publication at book fairs and craft shows.

By 2012, after I semi-retired from making art, stepped down as president of my writers group, and saw my hours at Wal-Mart dwindle because of corporate greed, I found myself with more time to write. I rediscovered the original ghost dogs story and began making changes, though I left in the names of the original characters. It was fun seeing Lenny Stevens, Dave and Amy Evans, and Vree Erickson play out again on the pages. It definitely took me back to my teen years and brought back pleasant memories. Not everyone’s childhood is as bad as psychologists would have us believe.

Around the same time I was “playing” with Lenny and the gang, I was reading ebooks via a Kindle reader my wife had gifted me, and some friends said, “Hey, Steve, did you know you can publish your own books through Amazon so other people with Kindles can read them?”

I did not.

I wasn’t new to e-publishing; I had published several books via the PDF platform, so I looked into publishing via Amazon. They hooked me like a hungry bass when they offered me a real honest-to-goodness author page. So, I set about converting my rewritten ghost dogs story into language the Kindle would recognize.

I published “Night of the Hell Hounds” January 7, 2013.

The following day, my book received a 5-star review that had this to say: More please! Mr. Campbell has started something with this story that I truly hope he intends to continue for a long time to come and soon I hope. This may be his first time in print but you can still tell how much he cares for the story and its characters by the level of detail he uses. “Night of the Hell Hounds” may be a short story in form but it has the heart of something much larger and I shall be checking often for additions to the story.

More? Continue? Something larger?

Could I?

When my second 5-star review came in, I decided I could.

This short story acts like the first chapter of a book you do not want to put down. Although you meet several familiar tropes and may even be tempted to shrug off the Rockwellian setting, the book hardens back to the scary stories you loved as a kid. The characters go from telling ghost stories to living one, and just when you think the other is going to “Scooby Doo” his way out of committing to a certain story arch, THAT’S when you want to keep reading and see what else this world has to offer. I, for one, can’t wait for the next installment.

Upon rereading the story, I saw that I had left in the original cliffhanger. No wonder my readers wanted more. So, I scrambled and found an old story called “Trespasser” that I felt would be a fun platform for Vree Erickson to play on. From there, The Ridgewood Chronicles was born.

Since then, I have offered the book for free, though Amazon was hard-pressed about giving it away. So, I reprinted the story on my blog. You can read it by clicking here, or continue scrolling and read it below as teenagers Lenny Stevens, Dave and Amy Evans, and Vree Erickson encounter ghosts and demons and struggle to survive atop mysterious Myers Ridge.

The Story

It was the weekend after Halloween, dark and cold on the night Lenny Stevens parked his Schwinn next to the garage at Dave Evans’s place on Myers Ridge. Dave had told him he would be behind his dad’s barn. Lenny found him there, roasting hot dogs on a stick at a fire that failed to advance any warmth. His tent was set up behind him, and his twin sister Amy had her own tent behind her. She sat cross-legged across the fire from Dave, whispering and giggling with Vree Erickson. Lenny’s heart pattered while his gaze caressed Vree’s long hair looking golden in the firelight. Amy saw him, patted her sleeping bag and told him to sit next to her. He did, sandwiching himself between the two girls and snuggling under Amy’s blue blanket, which she draped over their shoulders. He quickly warmed, all the while smelling hot dogs and wood smoke and perfume that smelled like oranges.

They wore sweatshirts and blue jeans and jackets to ward off the night’s chill, and Vree had on white furry mittens that seemed to make her all the more beautiful to Lenny. He said hello to her and she nodded, smiled, and remained silent while Amy controlled the conversation about Mr. Baretti—a tenth grade teacher she didn’t like. When she finished, Lenny opened his mouth to make small talk with Vree. He never got a word out.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Dave said, seeming to awaken from the trance the fire had put him in. “Take a look at the old Myers place and tell me what you see.”

The old, burnt shell of Myers Mansion was to Lenny’s right and at the bottom of a hill. It languished inside a thicket of property almost a hundred yards away and barely visible in the darkness. No moonlight broke the cloud cover then, so he squinted to see the spooky remnants of the mansion destroyed in June by an unknown arsonist. The police were still investigating the fire and Lenny and his friends had their suspicions of the culprit—he figured it was Craig Coleman and his gang of toadies who liked to smoke and drink there, even though the place was supposed to be haunted.

“Dave thought he saw ghosts,” Amy said. She gave him her whittled stick and a hot dog to roast. “Always with the ghosts.”

He looked again at the house, excited about this new turn of events. The once prominent house had been built ninety years ago by a once-famous Broadway playwright named Benjamin Myers who became even more popular writing blockbuster screenplays for Hollywood before he and his wife mysteriously disappeared.

“You saw Myers and his wife’s ghosts?” he asked.

“Apparitions of some dogs,” Dave said; “three of them as plain as day. They vanished right before you came.”

“You saw his dogs? The hunting dogs that froze to death?” Lenny almost dropped his hotdog while he fumbled to pierce it with the stick.

“How did they freeze?” Vree asked. She, who had moved last year to Ridgewood, inched closer to Lenny. He began to tell her when Amy interrupted.

“It’s a dumb story that says the county sheriff found Benjamin Myers and his nine hunting dogs frozen inside the house on a hot summer day.”

“It isn’t dumb,” Dave said.

“Yes, it is. I checked the town’s newspaper archives that time I did an English paper about Cathleen and Benjamin Myers. There was no mention of anyone or anything frozen inside the house the day they disappeared.”

“So, how did they disappear?” Vree pressed closer to Lenny when she said this.

“No one knows,” he said as he relished the feel of her body against his; “but it started a half-century of ghost stories.”

“The police concluded that Mr. and Mrs. Myers died in a plane crash during a trip to the Caribbean,” Amy said.

“Which isn’t official,” Dave added. “Myers and his wife always flew using pseudonyms, and no bodies or substantial wreckage were ever found, which means there’s no confirmation that they died at sea.”

Amy sounded irritated when she groaned. “It makes more sense than believing that he and his dogs froze to death, or that Cathleen jumped to her death at the bottom of Widow’s Ravine.”

Lenny glanced at where a trickling stream separated the two properties. A half-mile away to his left, the stream fell into a steep-sided gorge called Widow’s Ravine, a place that the rest of the legend claims Cathleen Myers jumped to her death after she found her husband and his dogs frozen. He told Vree about the legend and added, “Her screams can be heard whenever her ghost relives the suicide and plunges into the ravine.”

Continue reading “Redoing “Night of the Hellhounds” (Part 3)”

Redoing “Night of the Hellhounds” (Part 2)

Chapter 2: Rewrites, Rewrites, Rewrites

Sometime while I was in high school, I decided to rewrite “Ghost Dogs.”

Night of the Hellhounds 2.0: Hell Hounds

nothThis was the first time I changed the title to “Hell Hounds,” and then later to “Night of the Hellhounds.” It’s basically the same story: some teenagers are on Myers Ridge and they meet malevolent ghost dogs that put someone’s life in danger. During the first rewrite, I took myself out as the point-of-view character and wrote from the perspective of a girl. I’m sure it was the result of a classroom assignment.

Text of the following short story is copyright © 1974 when I finished scribbling it down in a notebook, and 1985 when I typed it into a word processor at college. The language became stronger than what I wrote in high school because of the age of the readers reading my work. I even wrote an alternate ending at a friend’s request. That text was renewed in 2002 when I published it at my old (and no-longer-available) website.

This is the PDF version offered above at my Books section. For a quick download click here.

The story is a bit long but I think if you stay with it you’ll find it fun to read. Comments are welcome, so please consider dropping me a line or two below.

The Story

My name is Nancy Louise Johnson. I’ll never forget the night I almost died. Ghostly hellhounds were snapping at my heels when I slipped on some gravel and fell over the steepest side of Myers Ridge.

The day began like most August days in Ridgewood, Pennsylvania: hot and humid. Every hour, the weatherman at our local radio station promised more of the same, and every hour since seven o’clock that morning my twelve-year-old sister Krissy groaned from her spot in Dad’s huge recliner. It was Friday and as usual, I was babysitting. Dad was at work and Mom and my big brother Ted were shopping in nearby New Cambridge for a new air conditioner.

I pulled the legs of my blue jean shorts away from my sweaty skin as I shifted from a sitting position to a reclining one on Mom’s plushy sofa. After finding a cool spot on the middle cushion, I leafed through another romance paperback from the bag of books Ted’s fiancée Jeanette had given me. Buxom women and muscular men seduced and cheated on each other in graphic description. I threw the book back into the bag and looked over at Krissy.

She lay semi-naked in pink bikini, sprawled out like a Hollywood corpse, her summer tan looking dark in the dim light of the living room. An oscillating fan blew on her every fifteen seconds and tried to lift her flaccid blonde hair away from her forehead and from around her sweaty cheeks. The arid breeze merely flicked the ruffles on her beachwear and rustled the pages of her beauty magazine. I dropped the bag of books next to her. She looked up with blue eyes opened in wonderment.

“What’s up, Nanny Lou?”

“Knock yourself out,” I said before I made my way to the kitchen.

My family calls me Nanny Lou—short for Nancy Louise, but I prefer to be called Nance. Nanny Lou’s more of a girl’s name and I’ve not been comfortable being a girl ever since I developed breasts and discovered boys stop looking at girls face to face when that happens.

The doorbell rang and took me away from peering into the refrigerator.

I’ll get it,” I said and headed for the front door. Krissy sprang up at my heels and followed me to the sun porch where my once long-time friend Dave Evans stood at the front door and peered in at me through the screen. I stopped and frowned when I recognized his face through the screen’s murky grayness. I crossed my arms over my chest if he should want to look there.

“Can we talk?” Dave asked.

I almost said no, but Krissy interrupted me to tell him the door was unlocked. I turned to her and replaced her flirty smile with a pout when I ordered her to return to the living room. She stomped away and when I turned back, Dave stood inside. Unlike me whose red hair and freckles seem to emit beacons of light and attract unwanted attention everywhere I go, Dave stood there looking average: medium height and weight, auburn hair, blue eyes and all—the kind of guy who blends into a crowd.

I started to ask him what he wanted, and then stopped. He wore a long-sleeved pullover shirt and heavy blue jeans and wasn’t even sweating! So okay, that part about him would certainly keep him from blending completely into a crowd.

“What’s up?” I asked, a little too icily.

“Can we talk?” This time his question sounded urgent instead of inquisitive.

“It’s been a while,” I reminded him.

“A long while.”

I pondered this before I nodded and led him inside. I pointed to the ceiling. “You don’t mind, do you?”

He managed a squeaky no and gave away his unease.

“Going to my room,” I hollered to Krissy.

“Turning on TV,” she hollered back.

Upstairs and at the back of the house, my tiny bedroom was a hotbox during summer afternoons. A small breeze coming through my window screen actually made the moment bearable. Dave sacked out in my beanbag chair—the one he bought me last year for my sixteenth birthday.

My dresser and nightstand were littered with swimming and softball trophies. He studied the softball batting trophy I had won two months earlier, the only Junior in our school’s history to ever beat out the entire Senior squad. Preparing to brag about my feat, he interrupted me when he cleared his throat loudly.

“I have something I need to get off my chest,” he said, and with that said he added, “I’m sorry.”

The apology seemed dry and forced, and I surprised myself when I accepted it. I cursed myself silently.

Dave sorely smiled at me and I launched into all the reasons I should have said no. After all, he had taken advantage of me during my time of need. I didn’t want him to think I’d completely forgiven him just yet. I wanted him to remember that our reckless time together last winter had tarnished our friendship. When I had needed him most, he had let me down. I still hated him for that!

He waved at me, caught my attention, and told me the date.

“August twenty-third,” he said. It’s tomorrow.”

I sat next to my orange tabby cat Ginger asleep on my bed and listened to his plan to go camping that night on haunted Myers Ridge. Dave and I had gone there since we were kids. First with my brother Ted and his friends, and then by ourselves. And even though we’d never seen any ghosts there, the legend of Ben Myers drew us there every year. In fact, Dave and I and a boy named Jerry Hopper ever camped there anymore, waiting for a glimpse of the hill’s namesake.

But I was no longer that girl—the flat-chested tomboy who used to fit in easily with the guys until my DNA had decided in January to show everyone otherwise. And Dave was not really as medium looking as I pictured him. He had grown a few inches since our high school graduation and had filled out some in the shoulders and chest. Camping at night with an attractive boy seemed like an unwise thing to do, especially when that boy had told me he loved me and then tried to make out with me.

Before I could turn down his invitation, heavy footsteps and breathing drew close to my door. The footsteps stopped and meaty knuckles rapped against the doorframe. Then Jerry Hopper’s short, two-hundred pound frame entered my room and dropped to the floor between Dave and me. His red AC/DC T-shirt clung to him like soggy plastic wrap, and the waist of his blue jeans had fallen several inches below the tops of his bright white underpants. He gasped for air and tried to speak. After several attempts, he said to me, “Krissy said … you were up here.” He turned to Dave and asked, “Did you ask her? Is it okay?”

Continue reading “Redoing “Night of the Hellhounds” (Part 2)”

Redoing “Night of the Hellhounds” (Part 1)

Chapter 1: The Beginning

nothThose of you who have read this blog since 2012 know that I wrote a short story called “The Ghost Dogs” when I was 13 years old and an eighth-grader at my small town high school in northwest Pennsylvania. Until then, I was an avid reader who occasionally wrote stories for class assignments. Things changed when my parents bought me a portable typewriter. How could I not become a writer when I had such a wonderful tool at hand?

The year was 1970. Music was a big deal on TV as well as the radio, so I wrote a short story about a 13-year-old boy who played lead guitar in his high school rock band. From there, a continuing character was born: David Evans. David’s names came from the spooky TV soap opera, Dark Shadows. That show, along with reading Dracula and Eerie and Creepy magazines influenced some of my stories.

I fell in love with creating make-believe worlds the moment I typed my first story. I followed the conventions of storytelling, of course, but I rarely wrote endings to my stories. I wrote cliffhangers so my readers would want to read the next story. Comic books did this, so I did the same. My readers loved it.

I wrote all my stories in first person point of view. At first, Dave was the narrator in his fictional world, which I named Ridgewood. But then I chose to do something novel: write myself into the stories and interact with the characters I created. It made story writing a thrill to do. I loved every minute of it.

Dave and his best friend Leonard Stevens were in the same grade at Ridgewood High, home of the Fighting Eagles. Lenny’s names were a mix of my own (although Leonard was a stretch of my middle name). His last name would change to Armstrong in 1972, but he was rambunctious Lenny Stevens for two gratifying years of writing young teen adventure stories about Dave and him.

Night of the Hellhounds 1.0: The Ghost Dogs

Faithful readers of this blog may remember that Dave and Lenny were the central characters in “The Ghost Dogs” along with Dave’s twin sister, Amy, and her best friend, Verawenda Erickson. Except for Lenny and me, the others lived on Myers Ridge, a hillside farming community on the western outskirts of Ridgewood. Lenny was a “townie” and I was a visitor from a neighboring city called New Cambridge.

Myers Ridge was well-known by folks in and around Ridgewood for its caves, abandoned mines, a few sinkholes and precipitous hillside, and the occasional sightings of Norman Myers’s ghost. In 1891, Norman Myers found gold on his property atop the ridge. For a decade, he and his family hauled out ores and precious metals and occasionally squabbled over mining rights. Then, according to legend, Norman’s mines dried up ten years later, on the very anniversary of his discovery. Not long afterwards, Norman disappeared and was never seen or heard from again. Some suspected he was murdered by James McCoy, an angry business partner. Soon afterward, family claimed to see Norman’s ghost haunting the hill. They claimed his body lay inside one of his many abandoned mines, and would haunt the land until his body was found and given a proper burial. That never happened, so the ghost sightings continued throughout my high school years.

Another weird occurrence was the sighting of another ghost named Myers: Norman’s son, Benjamin. Ben Myers was a famous playwright who became even more popular writing blockbuster screenplays for Hollywood during the 1930s. He and his wife Cathleen (whose whole name was Ademia Consuela Ramona Cathleen Savakis) lived in California but summered at their estate on Myers Ridge until one fateful summer when he and his hunting dogs were found frozen inside the house. Cathleen died soon afterwards after either falling or by being pushed from a steep section of Myers Ridge called Widow’s Ravine. In “The Ghost Dogs” Ben’s ghost and those of his dogs haunt the estate grounds next door to Dave and Amy’s house. And Cathleen’s spirit cries from the depths of Widow’s Ravine.

Those spooky occurrences became part of my story’s theme and made it a delight to write. Another delight was developing a bigger role for Verawenda “Vree” Erickson. She got her nickname because of her initials VRE (Renée was her middle name). She lived as an only child with her parents in a farmhouse down the road from Dave and Amy.

The Story

It happened that my visits to Ridgewood became weird the Halloween night of 1970 when I sat at my typewriter after supper and went to visit Dave and Lenny. They were behind the barn at Dave’s parent’s place on Myers Ridge, roasting hot dogs on a stick at a fire that failed to advance any warmth when I stood next to it. Dave’s A-frame tent was still set up behind him and Lenny from our September get-togethers, and Dave’s twin sister Amy had her own A-frame tent behind her. Sitting next to her was Vree. My heart pattered while I stared at Vree’s long dirty-blonde hair looking golden in the firelight. She and Amy sat cross-legged on the other side of the fire, whispering and giggling. When Amy saw me, she patted her sleeping bag and told me to sit next to her. I did, sandwiching myself between the two girls and snuggling under Amy’s blue blanket, which she draped over our shoulders. I quickly warmed, all the while smelling hot dogs and wood smoke and perfume that smelled like oranges.

We all wore sweatshirts and jackets and Vree had on white furry mittens that seemed to make her all the more beautiful. I said hello to her and she nodded and smiled and remained silent while Amy controlled the conversation about a teacher she didn’t like. When she finished, I opened my mouth to make small talk with Vree, but never got a word out when Dave interrupted.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he said from across the fire. “Take a look at the old Myers place and tell me what you see.”

I had to turn around since the old, burnt shell of Myers Mansion languished inside a thicket of property below the side yard behind me. The place was barely visible in the darkness. No moonlight broke the cloud cover above us, so I squinted to see the spooky remnants of the Myers house destroyed by fire years ago.

“What am I supposed to see?” I said. I knew that the once prominent house had been built ninety years ago by a famous Broadway playwright named Benjamin Myers who became even more popular writing blockbuster screenplays for Hollywood, before he disappeared.

“Dave thought he saw ghosts,” Amy said. She gave me her whittled stick and a hot dog to roast. “Always with the ghosts.”

I looked again at where a grand house had once stood, excited about this new turn of events. “You saw ghosts?”

“Apparitions of some dogs, actually,” Lenny said, grinning wide. “But ghosts all the same.”

“That’s right,” Dave said. “Three of them as plain as day. Then they vanished when I told the girls. But Lenny and I saw them again right before you came.”

“You saw ghost dogs?” I asked.

Although I had created this world, there was much about it I was still inventing and developing. Every visit was a discovery that got added to my notes.

“Myers bred hunting dogs,” Lenny said between large bites taken from a roasted hotdog. “Then one hot summer day he and his dogs froze to death inside the house.”

Amy groaned. “I can’t believe you think that silly legend really happened.”

“What legend is that?” I asked her.

She sighed and was reluctant to talk about it. Dave began to tell me when she interrupted him.

“It’s a dumb story that says the county sheriff found Myers and his nine hunting dogs frozen inside the house. I checked the town’s newspaper archives when I did an English paper about Ben Myers. There was no mention of anyone or anything frozen inside the house when he and his wife Cathleen disappeared.”

“You probably didn’t research hard enough,” Dave said.

Amy glared at him. “I researched it just fine. I even found their obituaries at the library. The police concluded that they died in a plane crash during a trip to the Caribbean.”

Continue reading “Redoing “Night of the Hellhounds” (Part 1)”