Hi guys, we have debut author Greg Howard stopping in today with his brand new release Blood Divine, we have a great guest post, a fantastic excerpt and there’s a fantastic giveaway, so check out the post and follow Greg’s instructions to enter the giveaway! <3 ~Pixie~
Cooper Causey spent a lifetime eluding the demons of his youth and suppressing the destructive power inside him. But a disconcerting voicemail lures Cooper back home to the coast of South Carolina and to Warfield—the deserted plantation where his darkness first awakened.
While searching for his missing grandmother, Cooper uncovers the truth about his peculiar ancestry and becomes a pawn in an ancient war between two supernatural races. In order to protect the only man he’s ever loved, Cooper must embrace the dark power threatening to consume him and choose sides in a deadly war between the righteous and the fallen.
Hello everyone! I’m Greg Howard and I’m excited to tell you about my debut adult/paranormal novel, BLOOD DIVINE.
Choosing my hometown of Georgetown, SC as the setting of BLOOD DIVINE was a forgone conclusion when I started the manuscript. Georgetown is nestled on the coast of South Carolina, north of Charleston and south of Myrtle Beach. It’s hailed as the third oldest city in South Carolina and the “Ghost Capital of the South” (yes – there is a sign). I chose the area by default, because the inspiration for Warfield, the deserted rice plantation in the book, was Mansfield Plantation in Georgetown.
My childhood home sat just down the road from Mansfield. We could easily walk or bike there from our house and did so many times. I don’t know what possessed me, my older brother, and our two best friends to make the 1.7 mile dirt road trek to the plantation, because it was (and is) widely believed to be haunted. Back then, in the 70s, the place was deserted, and in such a state of disrepair that it only added to Mansfield’s inherent creepiness. Remnants of the old slave village remain, about six or so cabins and a chapel. That area of the plantation always haunted me the most.
Our boyhood adventures down Mansfield Road, usually, (well always), ended with us hauling ass out of there in a scream-laced panic because of some real or perceived supernatural encounter. I documented one such occasion in the prologue of BLOOD DIVINE. It’s recorded there (from my eight year-old point of view) just as I remember it—up to a certain point. A slave ghost did not awaken some darkness inside me that day—although those who know me might argue the fact. Though I used actual places in and around Georgetown for scenes in the book, the rest of the story is complete fiction. Sure, a few of the characters were “inspired” by family members and friends, but only in the loosest sense of the word.
As for Mansfield Plantation, it’s still there. It’s been beautifully restored and transformed into a charming bed & breakfast. You should really check it out if you’re in the area. (I mean book a room and stay there, don’t just show up and roam around looking for ghosts). Things still go “bump in the night” there. I heard recently of a Mansfield housekeeper who has to make and sometimes remake beds after leaving the room for a couple of minutes. Apparently that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But I’m told the staff takes it all in stride and doesn’t make a fuss about it. So if you do go visit Mansfield, neither should you.
20 Years Ago
They stood side by side, straddling their bicycles between two vine-choked, stone columns that guarded the entrance to Warfield. The manor house teased them in the distance, the front door a mere speck framed by a cathedral of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. The deserted plantation was still and quiet, daring them to continue. It was a standoff. Whoever made the first move would lose.
Cooper drew in the thick scent of jasmine and held it in his throat. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead and trickled down his neck. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand and slowly exhaled the nervous energy clogging his lungs. They’d never gotten this far before, and it was nothing like he’d expected. Part ghost town, part sanctuary, Warfield was both creepy and beautiful all at the same time. Like he’d journeyed to hell and felt right at home once he arrived. But being here was wrong. He knew that now.
Kevin rolled his bike forward, calling to them over his shoulder with his trademark sneer. “Let’s go, chicken shits.”
Cooper glared at the back of his older brother’s head and frowned. Lillie Mae had warned them many times to stay away from Warfield, her eyes cloudy and distant at the mention of the place. The ghost stories and nightmares weren’t enough for Kevin and RJ, though. They wanted to see the real thing up close. So there they were, riding right up into Blue’s lair. If not for the chance to hang around RJ, Cooper would’ve stayed behind in the cool of his bedroom, hunkered down under a pile of books and his summer reading list.
RJ glanced over and shot Cooper a smile. “You okay there, Red?”
Cooper’s cheeks grew hot, and the butterflies in his stomach were back. RJ always had that effect on him. Cooper looked down, pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose with the knuckle of his index finger, and nodded. Easing his bike forward, he cleared the stone gates with Tony riding beside him in silence. A cluster of sagging structures lay ahead, sheltered from the blazing low-country sun by a row of sprawling oaks.
Tony squinted his eyes. “So this is where it happened?”
RJ glanced over his shoulder, one hand resting on the handlebars and the other moving dirty blond locks out of his eyes. “Yep. This is it. This is where it all went to hell.”
Everyone knew the legend of Blue. Stories of a murderous slave ghost who roamed the woods around Warfield were standard campfire lore in Georgetown, and the subject of most of Cooper’s nightmares.
“Blue got the slaves all riled up one night and they revolted,” RJ said, guiding his bike in a circle around the younger boys. “Set the manor house on fire and nearly burned the place down. Killed the planter and his whole family.” RJ steered his bike forward, stood on the pedals, and caught up with Kevin in three forceful down-strides.
Cooper studied the sad remains of the slave village. A handful of small cabins lined each side of the road, limp and leaning under the weight of neglect. At the end, on the right, another structure bore a wooden cross over the door. A modest bell tower stood guard next to it. Cooper guessed it was some kind of church, though it looked nothing like the shiny, new Pentecostal one his family attended.
“I don’t like it here,” Tony said, his voice cracking.
Cooper smiled over at his best friend. “It’ll be okay.” But he wasn’t so sure. Cooper pedaled forward, his insides churning like the drag of his bicycle tires in the soft ruts of the road. Kevin came to a sudden stop and planted both feet on the ground, the bike resting between his legs. He pointed over to one of the cabins.
They all stopped pedaling and looked to their right. Cooper’s heartbeat quickened, and sweat slicked his hands, making it hard to grip the handlebars. On the porch of the cabin, a rocking chair, rickety and broken, sat empty yet swaying back and forth, the faint creak of rotted wood sounding as it moved. It rocked for a few seconds, then stopped.
Cooper stared at the chair, holding his breath and waiting for it to move again. It didn’t.
“It’s just the wind,” RJ said, dismissing the chair with the wave of his hand. “Let’s keep going.”
The Spanish moss hanging down over RJ’s head was as still as icicles. No wind.
RJ pointed his handlebars back toward the manor house. “Come on. There ain’t nobody here. This place has been deserted for years.”
Kevin rolled his bike forward, glaring back at the younger boys. “Yeah. Come on, you babies. Or you can go back home by yourselves.”
Tony glanced over at Cooper, his brow cocked with anticipation. “Wanna go back?”
Cooper considered the option for a moment, then shook his head and pushed forward. He didn’t much like the idea of traveling two miles back down a dimly lit dirt road without the older boys. Besides, his momma wouldn’t be waiting for him at home this time with kisses, hugs, and cookies she made special for him. She’d promised she’d never leave him, but she did.
They were halfway down Oak Alley when a foreign sound cracked the silent, crystal blue sky—a desperate clanging that echoed over the grounds. A bell. A big bell. Cooper dropped his feet to the ground. They all looked over their shoulders, searching for the source of the noise, their gazes landing on the bell tower of the chapel. Still, there was no wind—certainly not one strong enough to cause the bell to swing unattended.
Greg Howard grew up near the coast of South Carolina, or as he fondly refers to it, “the armpit of the American South.” By the time he could afford professional therapy and medication, the damage had already been done. His hometown of Georgetown, South Carolina is known as the “Ghost Capital of the South,” (seriously…there’s a sign), and was always a great source of material for his overactive imagination.
Raised in a staunchly religious, Pentecostal home, Greg escaped into the arts: singing, playing piano, acting, writing songs, and making up stories. After running away to the bright lights and big city of Nashville, Tennessee with stars in his eyes and dreams of being the Dianne Warren of Music City, he took a job peddling CDs and has been a cog in the music business machine ever since.
Now an adult with a brain, Greg finds the South Carolina coast to be a perfectly magical place where he vacations yearly and dreams of the day when he can return to write full time in the most tastefully decorated beach house on Pawleys Island.
Greg has a soft spot for Spaniels and any rescue animal. People…not so much.