The Vampires of New England Series

The Vampires of
New England

The Story

Writing Mortal Touch

Researching Mortal Touch


Read the First Chapter [PDF]

Mortal Touch

The Story

Regan Calloway was born with the gift of psychometry--the ability to read psychic impressions from objects and people when she touches them. Seven years earlier, Regan assisted with the investigation of a serial killer who was targeting children. Traumatized by this experience, she returned to her home town of Sheridan, Massachusetts to manage a small thrift store, wishing only for a peaceful and low-profile life. But now, people around Sheridan are being found with mysterious injuries and no memory of what happened to them. A psychologist and amateur sleuth, Dr. Hiram Clauson, persuades Regan to help him investigate the situation.

Meanwhile, Regan's lifelong friend Veronica Standish begs Regan to do a covert reading on a newcomer who has caught her fancy, Jonathan Vaughn. Suspicious that her friend is heading for another relationship disaster, Regan agrees. But when she meets Jonathan for the first time, she learns more about him, and the unexplained assaults that she's been investigating, than she wanted to know. Like Regan, Jonathan has come back home to settle down for a while--but he last left New England over a century before, after he awakened next to his own grave, earthbound as a vampire.

Their mutual attraction leads to a strong bond between Regan and Jonathan, but it comes at a price. Veronica's jealousy and rejection leads to a series of disasters. In the chaos, Jonathan's secret is discovered by a lonely high school student, Sean. Sean becomes a staunch ally of Regan and Jonathan, but the next person to realize the truth about what's happening in Sheridan is less sympathetic. In Hiram Clauson, Regan and Jonathan face a Nemesis. Their ultimate show-down forces Regan to make choices she never deamed she would have to face.

How I Wrote Mortal Touch

Mortal Touch began in my mind with a single scene: Jonathan and Regan's first meeting in her store, after hours. I had a very general idea where the story might go after that, but I had absolutely no idea how it would end. For that matter, I wasn't sure how the story would start.

In November, 2005, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month, the online project in which participants are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days flat. Because one of my biggest stumbling blocks--or procrastination enablers--is an overweening perfectionism, I thought NaNoWriMo's "don't think, don't stop, don't breathe, just write" approach would be highly valuable for me. I was correct about that. I completed NaNoWriMo with well over 50,000 words down. But the novel was far from finished. It didn't have a title and it didn't have an ending. I knew, generally, what was going to happen. But I didn't know exactly how we were going to get there.

I often hear authors talk about "the characters in their heads." I have no characters in my head. I'm the one who has to get inside my characters' heads before I know what they're thinking, doing and saying. I've also heard authors pronounce that "their characters do what they tell them to." Not mine! My characters make up their minds on their own, and I just write down what they do.

I didn't get back to Mortal Touch for another fourteen months. In the interrim, I was able to leave an extremely stressful, low-paying job in human services to launch my publishing company, and my mother passed away from cancer. In January, 2007, I got back to work on finishing, and then re-writing, the book. I had no idea what Hiram Clauson was going to do after Chapter 27 until I was writing the words, and I had no idea how Regan and Jonathan could possibly resolve their dilemma. I didn't even know for sure what Veronica was going to do when we next met her. It all unfolded in about a month of ferocious typing.

Then I went back and rewrote virtually every single word of the original NaNoWriMo output. Then I edited and revised the entire book from start to finish. I cut close to 20,000 words from the manuscript, including one entire chapter. Then I cut more, and still more, until finally the story seemed to be in the shape it was intended to be. While I was doing this, Jonathan told me how he met Diana, who is the central character in The Longer the Fall and makes a few cameo appearances in Mortal Touch. Neither of them has yet told me how they know Johanna, so they have a lot more stories to share.

Researching Mortal Touch

One of the top rules for writing good fiction is, "Either write what you know, or get to know what you write." A great deal of the Vampires of New England series is based on my own personal experience or lifelong study. I've lived in New England for all but ten years of my life, and I've always had a lively interest in its history. I create fictional towns for my books to allow myself the greatest possible creative freedom in depicting the major locales, but all my towns, and their features, are closely modeled on real places, some of them more identifiable than others.

Connecting Jonathan to Mercy Brown was a minor epiphany that struck me early on. I realized that no one, that I knew of, had ever derived a fictional story from that well-known incident. I re-read several accounts of the case and all of Michael Bell's Food for the Dead: On the Trail of New England's Vampires as research, but I deliberately played a bit loose with the associations. By the 1890s, America was becoming much more mobile both physically and socially, so it isn't implausible that a gently bred young man in 1890s Rhode Island could have met and become infatuated with a farm girl in another town. But I was careful to leave the exact details open, and it was intriguing to have my characters tie into a well-documented incident. Jonathan's birth name is derived from another "true vampire" case in Rhode Island.

The descriptions of Regan's psychometry are drawn closely from my own experience. Psychometry is one of the psychic techniques that I have a knack for, although not to the degree of Regan's talent, for which I am extremely grateful. I also have spent a great deal of time around psychically sensitive people of all types.

Mortal Touch is set in 2004, and I did quite a bit of fact-checking about news events and institutions of that year. The movies mentioned in Chapter 8, for example, are the actual movies that were playing at all the cineplexes in late April, 2004. I also looked up the weather conditions for every specific date mentioned in the book, and at least once, I rewrote an entire chapter to accommodate the weather that was occurring in the Fall River area on the date in the story. I also made sure the moon phases, times of sunrise and sunset, and other details were accurate for the dates.

I relied on direct personal experience for many of the details about certain buildings, the Standish Mills, the ins and outs of running a small retail business, police procedures and the court system. A colorful life comes in handy for a writer--but even more important is observing and remembering whatever you encounter. You never know when you'll find it useful for your fiction!

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