I know, I know. Sounds like I'm rushing through the seasons a little, doesn't it? I mean, September only just started, and I'm posting about winter already? Let me explain.
I just posted the first episode of Truth Or Dare (Games We Play, Season One) on Radish. So, of course, that's on my mind. And, what you might not know, is that one of the "seed ideas" for the series was a piece of flash fiction I wrote--quite a few years ago, now--titled The Beach in Winter. And that story had, as its starting point, two rather memorable events from my own teen years that, yes, occurred at the beach. In winter. 'Cause sometimes, as Freud might have said a cigar is, in fact, just a cigar.
So, even though it's barely fall here--and, on the California coast that means basically it's still summer, my thoughts are somewhere else. Or somewhen else, I guess I should say.
Having grown up in New Jersey, I naturally spent a lot of time going down the shore, as we say. I even lived there, for awhile (in Brick, if you want to be specific). And I still have friends and family who live there now. So, even though the Wild Geese Inn, where most of the action in the series takes place, had its genesis in a very real hotel, on a very different shore, when it came time to create my quaint, little beach town...well, I already had one of those in California, didn't I? So, I thought, why not go back and revisit my roots?
If I had to break it down, I'd say that Atlas Beach is about equal parts Lavallette and Cape May, with hints of Seaside, Point Pleasant and Asbury Park tossed in for good measure. I was actually shocked, when I went looking for a name, to discover that there wasn't already a Jersey Shore town called Atlas Beach. What. The. Fuck. So, yeah, I had to rectify that, for sure!
So far, we haven't seen very much of the town itself. Most of the action in the first three books (which are in the process of being re-released, and will be available exclusively on Radish, at this point) centers around my haunted hotel, The Wild Geese Inn. But I do have plans for more stories in the future. Kristy's brothers definitely need stories. They also need to be taken down a notch, IMO. I figure they each deserve a Jersey Girl (or maybe a Jersey Boy, I haven't quite decided yet) of their own to put them in their places. The DiLuca boys also have a family business that they're running, DiLuca's Bakery. I expect that will feature at least a little bit in their stories.
Anyway, I'm sure there are plenty of other characters--and locations--waiting for me to discover them in Atlas Beach, along with more ghosts, and perhaps a Jersey Devil...or even a mermaid.
Really, who knows, at this point? Anything is possible.
You can find the first couple of episodes HERE, and episode three releases tomorrow. Meanwhile, here's a sneak peek...
Out of the corner of her eye, Gwyn caught a flicker of motion on the stairs. She ignored it, as she usually did, and went on with her work. A moment later, a current of air seemed to rise from nowhere. Outside the wind howled. A shadow passed across the wall. Cold air swirled around her for an instant and then was gone. That was a little more worrisome. In general, the ghosts only produced drafts when they were on the verge of manifesting something unusual.
Gwyn sighed and shook her head. Perfect. Because “unusual” was just what they didn’t need this weekend. Grams had always insisted the ghosts only hung around because they wanted to help the family. Gwyn had yet to be convinced.
Brenda could argue all she liked, but everyone knew the Wild Geese Inn was haunted. It was a big reason they found it hard to keep people on staff. There were doors that opened or closed by themselves, lights that flickered or burned out too fast, voices whispering in the hallways when no one was in sight. The staff had already presented her with a list of the rooms they refused to clean—a fact she’d been careful to keep hidden from her cousin. It wasn’t like those rooms needed to be dealt with very often anyway, unfortunately. When they did, Gwyn took care of them herself. As a teenager, she’d worked as a maid here every summer. It was like riding a bike.
A couple of minutes later, the hotel’s big double outer doors slammed open, banging against the walls of the enclosed entryway. Gwyn glanced up, annoyed. What in the hell were the haunts up to now?
She was surprised—and to be honest, more than a little relieved—to see actual, corporeal people in the glassed-in entryway. Two men, one wearing a long black overcoat and dress pants, the other in a navy peacoat and jeans, were struggling against the wind to re-close the front doors. She perked up at the thought of customers. Ghosts were fine, in their place, but they didn’t pay the bills.
Having finally triumphed over the doors, the two men paused to stomp the snow from their boots. Gwyn watched them appreciatively. She couldn’t see their faces clearly through the fogged glass of the entryway windows, but they were both tall—one more so than the other—and athletic-looking, well worth ogling. Then they turned toward each other, tenderly brushing stray snowflakes from each other’s shoulders and out of their hair, and her heart melted. Her hand strayed to her throat, and she absently fingered the gold and garnet triquetra pendant she always wore. The camaraderie between the two men, their ease with one other, was obvious from clear across the room. It touched her in ways she didn’t quite understand.
It had been years since she’d seen two men this comfortable with each other, so at home. She didn’t even remember when the last time was. Then the taller and fairer of the two men said something his dark-haired companion found funny. He threw back his head in a laugh, and suddenly Gwyn recalled exactly when she’d last witnessed something like this.
“Yeah, Weidman, stop complaining. At least you have your hot girlfriend to keep you warm. Speaking of which, I’mma think I have to borrow her. You up for sharing?”
“No way,” she whispered, horrified, as the blood drained from her face so quickly she nearly passed out on the spot. “No fucking way. It can’t be.”
Gwyn had never been one to hesitate in the face of disaster. She jumped from her seat and grabbed the handle of the reception room door without waiting to learn whether her suspicions about the men’s identities were correct. Someone else could deal with this shit. Brenda, for example. Gwyn was almost positive her cousin was here somewhere tonight. She’d track her down and let her check them in. Or send them away? Oh yes. That would be even better. Although that option might take some explaining.
The door had other ideas about her leaving. It refused to open. No matter which way Gwyn turned the handle, the door didn’t budge. This is not happening, she thought as she started to panic. Behind her, two sets of footsteps crossed the lobby and stopped. She pushed at the door. Still nothing. Damn it!
“Miss?” A familiar voice spoke up behind her. “Miss, can you help us? Excuse me, miss?”
“Someone will be with you in a moment,” Gwyn said, attempting to make her voice as impersonal as possible as she continued to pull uselessly at the door.
A moment’s dead silence met her response. And then, “Gwyn? Is that you?”
Gwyn took a deep breath. You can do this, she told herself firmly. Her “useless” Theatre Arts degree and the years she’d spent in amateur productions had to be good for something.
“What can I help you gentlemen with?” she asked as she turned around. Two familiar faces stared at her—as though she were the ghost.
Berke looked stricken. Cam’s mouth had dropped open. Gwyn smiled blandly back at them. Please say nothing. Please say you just got lost and need directions out of town. Please, please, do the decent thing and leave.
“Gwyn, it’s us,” Berke said.
No shit? Her gaze tracked blankly across their faces. “Is there something I can do for you?”
“Gwyn…” Berke said again in a heartrending tone that made her want to break character and kick him. Preferably down a flight of stairs.
“We, uh, have a reservation,” said Cam, who’d finally succeeded in getting his jaw back under control. Ooh. Give the boy a star.
“Oh yes? Well, let’s see now…” Gwyn glided back to the desk and slid gracefully onto the stool. She’d never in her life been more grateful to her Aunt Norah for having insisted all three of the cousins attend deportment classes as children. She opened the reservation calendar and stared sightlessly at her screen. “What name am I looking for?”
“It’s, uh, under Steiner?” Cam said.
Yes, of course it was. Gwyn blinked furiously in an attempt not to frown. They’d been booked into the Captain’s Room for three nights. Whoever took this reservation was so fired. And yes, that was unfair and ridiculous and probably not even legal. She didn’t care. What the fuck was she supposed to do for the next few days—hide? No. Screw that. This was her home. They didn’t get to come here and act surprised to see her. Stupid bastards.
“I’ll need to see identification and a valid credit card.”