Hey, girl! It’s me, your muse.
Do I have a bone, or two, to pick with you! I give you all those great ideas and what do you do with them? You twist them, crush them, mutilate them, and then you blame poor little me for giving you the silent treatment. Well, since you won’t listen to me, I decided to register you for a special writing workshop.
Don’t bother to argue! I’ve already paid for it, so like it or not, you will attend. The workshop will add splinters at the edge of your seat and venomous crawlers at the back of your neck. You’ll experience terror and fear in ways you never imagined.
The workshop takes place at Ghostly Shadows Resort where small rustic cabins border an ancient cemetery. One of them awaits your immediate arrival.
You can bring a friend at no cost, but make certain your guest has a strong heart. And don’t forget to sign the liability waiver attached to this letter.
Transportation by coach will be provided from the train station.
I promise you the insights you’ll gain from the workshop will leave you breathless.
See you soon,
Your muse ☠
The three authors had received the same letter, and arrived at the train station within minutes of each other. The only person nearby was a hooded coachman seated on the outside bench holding the reins. The coach’s door swung open, beckoning them to approach with their luggage.
When they’d read ‘transportation by coach’, they’d imagined some sort of bus or shuttle. None of them expected to climb into a black carriage pulled by four ebony horses.
The authors exchanged glances then entered the coach to settle on the red leather benches with their luggage at their feet.
The coach jerked forward along the bumpy road. They entered a forest where shadows sneaked in the twilight.
“You know girls, I’m starting to think I should have visited my granddaughter instead of attending this gripping workshop.” J. S. Marlo, a brunette with purple highlights matching her glasses and a melodious French accent, looked out the window at the darkening night. “I write romantic suspense that already keeps my readers up all night. I don’t want them to pee in their pajamas. By the way, I’m Marlo.”
“Hi, Marlo, I‘m Rita—Rita Bay. I get your point. This is the damndest invitation I’ve ever received. Glad I came alone.” The middle-aged passenger with an athletic build and a light Southern accent ran a hand through her short dark hair and perused the darkened interior of the coach. “An invitation from my muse? I don’t even have a muse. My paranormal shapeshifter and erotic mythological romances are my creations—out of my own head.
“I think this is some sort of sick joke. Bet my Champagne publisher Ellen or my editor Nikki is behind this. The culprit will get a piece of my mind when I get home.” She glanced out the window again. “If I get home.” She turned to the other passengers in the coach. “What about you?”
Without warning, a lantern flickered on inside the carriage. A brunette who looked to be about fourteen years old—but was almost thirty-five—jerked and grabbed the hand of the older passenger beside her.
"I'm Rachel," the mature, sable-haired woman said. "Jumpy-magoo here is Jenna Greene. She's the author. Obviously, she doesn't write anything spooky. Strictly young adult fantasy leaking out of her brain.
The coach came to an abrupt halt. Yelps rose into the chilly air as the luggage tumbled on the passengers' feet.
The door opened. Jenna took the first tentative step down, then another. She landed on a gravel path. The tiny rocks crunched under her weight as she advanced toward a large cabin. The other passengers scrunched behind her. A horse neighed from behind, startling them. When they turned around, the coach had disappeared into the darkness.
Underneath an oil lantern nailed to the wall, a sign squeaked on rusty chains. Bones of different shapes and sizes formed the words Welcome to Ghostly Shadows Resort.
Though none of the women felt particularly welcome, they had nowhere else to go, so they entered.
A vaporous creature with translucent skin and piercing violet eyes gazed at them from behind a counter.
“You must be the authors. I’m Banshee, the matron muse in charge of the workshop.”
A thick ledger rested on the top of the counter along with three skeleton keys. One in bronze, one tarnished silver, and the last in gold.
The young grandmother approached with her backpack. She was tired and she wanted to sleep. “I’m Marlo.”
The muse flipped through the pages of the ledger.
“J. S. Marlo. Canadian author. Your muse ordered dark chocolate and an extra pillow. It should be in your room.” She presented Marlo with the bronze key. “Cabin twenty-nine. Next?”
The small black wheeled suitcase thudded to the floor in front of the counter. “I’m Rita, Rita Bay, and I don’t have a muse. What I want is a lift back to the station. A cab. An Uber ride. Whatever.”
Banshee frowned. “That’s impossible.”
“We’ll see about that.” Rita pulled out her phone, then glared at their hostess who wore a smug smile. “No bars.”
Banshee snorted. “And no Wi-Fi, cabbies, or Uber drivers.” The silver key dangled from her skeletal fingers. “Cabin five. Your muse ordered a tray with your favorite snacks and a very special wine.”
“Whatever.” Rita, dressed head-to-toe in black, snatched the key from Banshee’s icy hands, picked up her suitcase, and stalked toward the exit muttering curses about publishers and editors messing in her business.
Jenna and Rachel shuffled forward.
"Cabin eleven. Twin beds provided. Your muse ordered three different types of potato chips and a pot of Earl Grey tea."
Receiving the gold key, Jenna remarked, "Ooh! Shiny."
Tugging her friend's elbow, Rachel grunted, "Focus," and led her out of the room.
After distributing the last key, Banshee picked up the ledger, hugged it to her chest, and floated through the back door behind the counter without providing them with any directions.
Since the inside walls and the counter failed to display any maps, the women exited into the night in search of their cabins.