My novella, Haunted Serenade, is no longer for sale but is now offered by me for free from my gothic romance website (annamtaylor.webs.com) as the first in a series of urban gothic novellas I'm calling Haunted Harlem. Haunted Serenade is a contemporary gothic with inspirational elements. Here's the back cover blurb:
All the women in Anora Madison's family have lived haunted by the curse of Poor Butterfly: women still longing for but deserted by the men they loved. Determined to be the first to escape a life of abandonment, Anora fled from Harlem to Brooklyn, not only severing her ties with her mother Angela, but also ending her relationship with Winston Emerson, her lover and the father of her child.
Six years later, Anora comes home to make peace, but an unseen force manifests itself during the homecoming and targets not only Anora, but her little girl Cammie.
With nowhere to run, Anora must confront the evil now trying to destroy her life. She vows to protect her daughter at all costs, but if that protection can only be found with Winston back in her life, how will Anora protect her heart?
I swore I’d never return to my mother’s house. She swore I’d never be welcomed back.
That was 1957. Six years later death made liars of us both.
On September 15, 1963, the one year anniversary of my aunt Diana’s death, four young girls in Birmingham, Alabama lost their lives when their church was bombed for its involvement in the Civil Rights movement.
My mother called that evening and inquired after my health and the health of my daughter Cammie – the granddaughter she vowed never to acknowledge. Fear, anger and sorrow sounded in her voice. Mine too. We mourned those girls, their families and the sister/aunt we both loved. In that spoken grief, I silently mourned what had died between my mother and me.
The following month she called again, this time inviting me to bring Cammie to dinner. Like some sulky child I felt tempted to ask what took her so long. Instead I swallowed my hurt and came home.
Cammie squeezed my fingers and stared at 13 141st Street with a wide-eyed wonder only six year olds possess.
“Wow. Grammie has a real house.”
I don’t know what excited her more: the prospect of meeting her maternal grandmother or visiting a real house. Single-family homes with front stoops, porches and backyards were things she saw only on television. We lived in a Brooklyn housing project with eight apartments to every floor and eight floors in every building.
All last night she ooo’d and ah’d over the photo of Number Thirteen my mother had sent her. Too wound up to sleep, her pudgy little body tossed and turned like a happy puppy on the double bed we shared and shook me awake each time a new possibility occurred to her. Did her grammie really own the whole house? Could she have a room of her own when she spent the night? Could she have a puppy there? No cats or dogs were allowed in the projects. How many staircases were inside the house? Did it have a doorbell she could ring?
The sound of her excitement cleaved my heart. She showed no signs of discontent with our life, yet the smile she wore as she slept told me my daughter had desires of which I was unaware.
We paused on the sunny side of 141st Street and surveyed the stately façade of my mother’s Harlem brownstone. While the rest of the block showed signs of neglect, Number Thirteen survived as an unscarred reminder of this venerable neighborhood’s glorious past.
The stoop and first three floors stood shadowed by the oak looming before them, but the fourth floor blazed inexplicably with a light of its own. Cammie pointed to the windows where the orange glow of autumn seemed to appear, fade and reappear like the light of a dying bulb.
“Mommy?” She smiled a smile as wide as her eyes. Her young voice trembled with delighted terror. “Does Grammie Angela live in a haunted house?”
I shivered. Out of the mouths of babes.
I set Haunted Serenade amid the triumph and tragedy of 1963 to revisit how far African Americans have come and how far we still have to go. As with all romances my hero and heroine's journey takes them to that wonderful place where love triumphs: the place we romance writers call "happily ever after."