Dead Spaces

My new book is halfway done! It’s a collection of ghost stories with a few thoughtful non-fiction spooky essays thrown in. I am very excited about this project. As a lover of old spooky houses I’ve been passionate about ghost stories since I was a kid.

I’ve only got one or two more stories to finish, about half the illustrations left to do (you can bet they will be awesome!) and the final clean-ups and edits. Then there is the whole other job of getting it ready for Createspace/Kindle. That should go quicker this time as I am trying to format as I go along.

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Sprinkled throughout this post will be pictures of our house decorated for Halloween. 🙂
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A witch hangs her hat here and snake plants flank the doorway (the plants are here all year though).

My original self-imposed deadline was Halloween. At the time I made it I was still at the top of my game from finishing “The Secret of Sterling House.” That was in the summer. As a first grade teacher, I teach six year olds how to read, write, do math, and be decent human beings all day. I forget how exhausting and time consuming that can be! There was no way I could finish a book, work, raise my children, be a wife, homemaker, and everything else in two months. I don’t even sit down when I’m at school except to listen to readers and for 15 minutes to eat lunch! Getting up early helps. Then I can put myself first before everyone else is awake. At the end of the day I don’t feel cheated anymore when I’m too tired to be creative.

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Favorite Halloween books with favorite Halloween cat. She loves to be in the pictures. Here she is telling me something. I’m sure it was important!

Halloween was fun as always, but seemed really busy.  As an introvert I get really cranky with people who “add fun” to my day by thinking up extra “fun” things for us to do at school.  I have enough to do and worry about. This October we had two weeks of dress up days for the kids. TWO WEEKS!!!! WHA? My building is 4-7 year-olds. This isn’t just a slight annoyance, it becomes a huge behavior problem! So I struggled to write at all during the last week with Halloween. I didn’t post here either. 😦

My new deadline is December. That gives me NaNoWriMo to help me power through and both Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks to write, paint, and prep. Plus I’ll  have something to do in the cold weather. Winter is supposed to be bad this year.

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Halloween Annalee figures I’ve collected over the years sit in the front hall on a server. The green cornucopia is one of my favorite Frankoma pieces.
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A Halloween Longaberger Boo basket my MIL gifted to me and an Annalee dragon that usually lives in my studio. I love decorating with what I have and moving stuff around.

I usually get a hankering to decorate long before the time to, but this year I just went with it. I am so glad I did because by the time the second week of October was here I was done! I was able to put it all away last weekend and now we are ready for Thanksgiving. Some years I don’t do a lot of decorating, this year I have because I’ve been really into the FlyLady system for housekeeping again. I love her motivational videos on YouTube. I can get my housework done and have time to decorate!

Since we will be colder than the last few years this winter I plan to implement a lot of Hygge, Ginger & Pickles style of course.  My favorite things are lit candles, hot tea, soft warm blankets and heating pads, logs on in the fireplaces and my sketchbook at my side and plenty of cookies!

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I’m working on a post all about Martha by Mail copper cookie cutters and cookies. Recipes will be in it too!

Our house is so big that we shut most of it up for the winter time. Downstairs we close off the dining room and library. Upstairs we close the guest room. The third floor is completely closed. There’s no heat up there anyway.   I cringe when I think what my heating bills could be if we heated this whole place. We shut most of it off in the winter unless we are hosting an event. Essentially my house becomes a lot of dead spaces.

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There is a ton of dead space inside this window seat. The lid is not hinged so last year I pried it open with a crowbar. I found wood shavings and construction debris from 1907.

In my non-fiction essay in my new book I explore the phenomenon of hidden rooms and dead spaces in old houses. Over the years I have had the privilege to live and even work in lots of very old houses and I’ve studied them and read as many books on them as I could find.  Secret rooms, dead spaces, strange closets, wells, closed off passages, etc. have always been fascinating so I decided to share everything I have experienced and learned over the years.

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An illustration for the new book. This is a real closet on my third floor.

In my grand old Victorian there are many such places: odd areas, tiny closet doors tucked into the eaves, a tiny extra room in the basement from a pantry build on, chimneys compromising the symmetry of closets, compartments  in window seats and more. Its a thoroughly fascinating read.

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Who doesn’t like secret staircases?

 

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Make sure all your creepy little doors are closed before going to bed.
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My new book “The Secret of Sterling House” is available on Kindle or as a paperback from Amazon. It features hidden spaces very prominently in the story line. It’s all about two siblings who find a treasure hunt clue in the Victorian house they just moved to. They follow a trail of clues through many secret places and dead spaces in the house!

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With love and mysterious doors to dead spaces on Kansas Street to you,

-Jaime

 

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