Jude's Haunted House - Guest Blog with Author Jude Hopkins #WomensFiction #RomCom #RockStarRomance

I once lived in a haunted house. Yes, it’s true. Many years ago, before I left the confines of my parent’s home in northwestern Pennsylvania, I lived for about 10 years in a house that I never liked. A man who had lived there had taken his own life, so I was never comfortable calling it home. But my father wanted a roomier house for the family, so I had no choice.

Several years after living there, I began to experience some unusual occurrences. I say unusual because when is it ever customary to find shelled walnuts neatly tucked between stacks of towels in the linen closet? They were also found carefully placed on the dampers in our upright piano, something that would have required lifting up the piano’s front board to access its inner workings. My sister found a few walnuts in her bedroom, too, always carefully positioned in a row or a pattern, never haphazardly scattered. 

Being the youngest, I was blamed for the hijinks, but I knew I had nothing to do with it. At the very least, it might have been a harmless poltergeist having some fun, although I can think of less-troubling ways to get a laugh. Our family had forgotten about it for the most part when the activity ceased, but then something else happened, even more dramatic.

Often I would stay up late to watch TV in the living room and began to hear noises in the kitchen, a continuous creaking sound that was insistent and loud. When I went to investigate, I saw our kitchen table moving back and forth rather noisily and pronouncedly. My presence had no effect; it continued to move. I was petrified—and puzzled. Goosebumps covered my arms. What should I do to stop it? 

At the time, my pet Jake, a large tomcat who didn’t mind sitting up with me but always wanted, eventually, to spend the night outside, was my only witness. With his size and lethal claws, Jake was not easily scared, not by other cats, by rodents, not even by dogs. But this very active table made him freeze in place. This was not a gentle swaying; the table was moving so quickly and forcefully, its legs almost seemed to lift from the ground. Jake’s eyes as big as saucers, he would get up from his comfortable reclining position, stop momentarily before flying by the table, then run with a fury to the back door to be let out. 

With Jake outside, I was alone with the kinetic table. My parents were upstairs sleeping. I knew I had to run upstairs to get to my bedroom, but I had to turn off the light over the table and make my way through two dark rooms before reaching the staircase. Over the course of several weeks, Jake and I went through the same nightly pattern: quiet late-night TV viewing, then the uncanny noise in the kitchen caused by the moving table. Then, Jake frantic to be let out. Me? Scared to death to escape the inexplicable goings-on.

I would recount the night’s activities to my parents every morning. My father dismissed it, as he had the walnut stacking, convinced that I, with my wild imagination, was telling tales. My mother, however, became concerned. She saw the fear on my face in relating the same story over and over, even admitting to hearing me run up the stairs some nights. 

The activity continued for a good (or bad) week or so, with my anxiety only increasing.
“Mom,” I said one day. “Please. Help me. Is it (the name of the man who had killed himself) coming to scare me? I can’t go on.”

Later that day, my mother came to me. “I have a solution,” she said, handing over her Bible. She told me to keep it open to the verse she had marked with a ribbon that said “Get thee hence, Satan” and put it in the middle of the kitchen table. I don’t know if the spook was spooked by it or finally found some peace for its disquiet soul, but that night, nothing happened—no noise, no movement, no strange activity. Jake slept peacefully until it was time for him to go out into the night. With everything back to normal, I turned off the light, making my way up to the second floor without fear or haste. 

Every night after that for several weeks, I did as my mother had instructed. The table once again became an inanimate object, familiar and still. But I was left with a firsthand experience with the world beyond, an indelible experience that still has me wondering.

Babe in the Woods
Jude Hopkins

Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press Inc.
Date of Publication: June 7, 2023
ISBN 978-1-5092-4843-8 
ISBN 978-1-5092-4844-5 
Number of pages: 294
Word Count: 72,321 
Cover Artist:  Tina Lynn Stout

Tagline: Timber! She’s Falling in Love

Book Description: 

It’s September 1995, the first year of the rest of Hadley Todd's life. After living in Los Angeles, Hadley returns to her hometown in rural New York to write and be near her father. 

In addition to looking after him and teaching high school malcontents, Hadley hopes to channel her recent L.A. heartbreak into a play about the last moment of a woman’s innocence. But she seeks inspiration.

Enter Trey Harding, a young, handsome reporter who covers sports at the high school. Trey reminds Hadley of her L.A. ex and is the perfect spark to fire up her imagination. The fact that Trey is an aspiring rock star and she has L.A. record biz connections makes the alliance perfect. She dangles promises of music biz glory while watching his moves. 

But the surprising twist that transpires when the two of them go to Hollywood is not something Hadley prepared for.

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There was a knock on the door as Hadley sat down with a bowl of chocolate-chip ice cream. She glanced at the clock: 8 p.m. Sunday night. She’d shot the whole weekend, mostly grading papers and sleeping the day before.

“My God,” she said aloud, remembering Trey’s promise to make good on a date. How could he possibly show up after she’d been so deliberately elusive? She had forgotten the resiliency of some guys.

“Who is it?” she trilled, bouncing a mound of the frozen dessert on her tongue. She cleared her throat and repeated the question, all the while picking up the detritus from the weekend—the pizza box, the ice cream container, the National Enquirer.

“ ‘Tis I, Old Dog Trey,” he yelled through the door. “Ever faithful. We have a meeting, remember?”

She used her fingers to comb her hair and moaned when the mirror reflected a wan, puffy face staring back at her.

“I never confirmed any meeting,” she said through the door. She hurried to straighten the cushions on the couch. “I’ll take a rain check.” Her heart was doing double time.

“C’mon. Please open the door. It’s getting chilly out here.” His voice was deeper than usual.
She brushed the lint off her sweatshirt and zipped up her jeans before opening the door.

Trey was twirling the end of a white stick in his mouth. With a loud slurping sound, he pulled from his mouth a bright red lollipop before sticking out his tongue, which now matched the color of his shirt.  

“Fire your secretary,” he said, tapping his watch. “May I come in?”

She let him in, the shame of her unkempt apartment equaled only by the shame of her own disheveled appearance.

He stood close to her. “I have to say, you are much more attractive without all that make-up.” He talked with the lollipop stuck in his cheek. “Definitely younger.”

It was an approach she remembered from her time with Derek. First you surprise them, then compliment them when they’re at their most vulnerable. She made a mental note.

He walked toward the nearest chair, sat down, but quickly jumped up again, fishing in his pockets. “Where are my manners? Here.” He extended a lollipop, grape flavor, her favorite.

“No thanks.” It wasn’t even on the level of the apple Neil had given her on the first day of school. Besides, what was with men and their semiotics anyway? Perhaps it beat communicating with words. And how in the world would he have known grape was her favorite flavor? Was she that transparent? Was there a grape “type” as opposed to an orange or cherry type? The grape type would be moody and dark. The orange type would be young, perky, sassy. The cherry type? Passionate, desirable. Like him.

Lollipops aside, he was lusciousness itself, the blood-red shirt adding to his angel-faced carnality. His skin glowed, no doubt from a day spent in the autumn sun with a frisky faun. 

About the Author:

Jude Hopkins has published essays in The Los Angeles Times, Medium, the belladonna—and poetry in various journals including Gyroscope Review, Timber Creek Review and California Quarterly. Her first novel, Babe in the Woods, will be published June 7, 2023. She has also taught English and news writing at various universities, including the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, Arizona State University and St. Bonaventure University in Olean, N.Y. She also worked at Capitol Records in Hollywood for a few halcyon and unforgettable years.

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