I grew up in Middletown, N.Y., a medium-sized burg about sixty miles north of NYC. We had an insane asylum there at one time . . . well, it actually went by the name Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital.
Basically, it was a place where they sent those suffering from illnesses not of the body, but of the mind.
By the time I graduated high school, the facility, which had been in operation since 1866, was more or less defunct. Many of the buildings stood empty, but some had been re-purposed for use by other state agencies. The grounds still maintained a firehouse, as well as security guards. I actually dated one of the nighttime security guards for a time.
The asylum was always a creepy, haunting place for me, and the reasons went beyond the dilapidated, abandoned buildings and the loneliness that seemed to ooze out of their very walls. My father, who suffered from alcoholism, was a patient there at least one time, a sad and mournful memory from my early childhood.
I decided to exorcise some of my own ghosts when I wrote SPIRITS OF THE HEART. The hero, Miller Stanford, suffers from alcoholism. Or thinks he does.
One of the largest buildings still standing on the campus, up until June of 2015, anyway, was Talcott Hall. The monstrous, three-story brick structure was crumbling from the inside out, windows smashed, encircled by an eight-foot high chain link fence that failed to keep out the vandals and the desperate homeless.
While I was working on SPIRITS OF THE HEART, my sister, Terri, who is a quasi-professional photographer, spent the day with me driving around the asylum grounds, taking pictures for my book cover and trailer. It was overcast and cool that day, adding to the chill that always seemed to seep up from the ground. We got lots of photos, one even unique enough to use for the debut cover of the novel (enhanced, of course, by Terri and Gimp photo-editing software).
Two weeks later, the building burned to the ground. Mysteriously. The fire was chalked up to vandalism. But in conversation with Nick Elio, one of Middletown’s fireman, some strange events kept the crew from reaching the building until it was way too late. Two or three other alarms were pulled that night in places far from the old hospital grounds. By the time the fire trucks arrived, the building was completely engulfed. (Photo courtesy of Nick Elio, Middletown Fireman)
What really happened to Talcott Hall? I mourned the loss of the building, since it was the spotlight in my ongoing novel-in-progress. My muse was bruised and discouraged. I put the book aside and couldn’t work on it for almost a year.
SPIRITS OF THE HEART finally came out on Valentine’s Day, 2017. The following year, the title was a finalist in the “I Heart Indie Awards.” Now, it’s in the running for InDTale’s RONE (Recognition of Novel Excellence) Award. This round, however, is judged by public vote.
Will you vote for SPIRITS OF THE HEART? Voting ends Sunday, May 13th. Please make my Mother’s Day special this year by helping my book get the recognition it deserves.
First, you must go to InDtale’s website and register. It’s free and there’s no obligation. They will send you an email link, which you must click on to confirm. Then you go to the Voting Page, where SPIRITS OF THE HEART is the third title down under Long Paranormal.
Thank you in advance for your support, and in helping pay tribute to a novel set in a place that surely qualifies as the perfect supernatural setting.