Here There Be Ghosts (Cleveland, GA)

Saturday was a wet dishrag of a day here in Northern Georgia.  The Cherokee Spring Pow Wow we’d been looking forward to for weeks was washed out.  Our favorite hiking trails were rivers of red mud.  No movie was calling us to the theater.  For some reason I can’t quite explain, the drab nothingness of the day inspired us to drive around looking for a new resale store in the vicinity of Cleveland, GA.

A few wrong turns, and we ended up here…

The Kenimer-Telford House in Cleveland, GA

Have you ever driven past an old, vacant house and felt some inexplicable, deeply visceral connection? Well, I have.  But don’t look for me to be featured on the next HGTV restoration/makeover show.  I don’t think I want to be tied to one single distressed property, but I can’t seem to stop the possibilities from bubbling through my brain whenever this strange connection beckons.  I see a treasure trove of unborn stories:  ghost stories (obviously), historical fiction (real history is rarely juicy enough for my tastes), unsolved mysteries (imagine how many ways someone could hide a body in that house), love stories, horror stories…and on and on and on.  Such is the blessing and the curse of an overactive imagination.

Here’s the story starter that bubbled up with this house:

This is not your typical ghost story.  It’s more of a love story.

It all started when Daddy left us for a man named Barclay T. Parker and Mother fell in lust with a house.  But not just any house.  No, it had to be a big, messy, crumbling 1870 Colonial in the deadest, ugliest part of Georgia.  No one in their right mind would want to live in this nightmare of a house…even without the ghosts.


Listed at $199,000, it's been listed on 1248 days. Bad economy or bad vibes?

 Yeah.  I don’t know where I’m going with that snippet.  Probably nowhere.

Ideas, ideas everywhere.  So many ideas! If I sat down today and wrote out every story idea in my journals, I don’t think I could get through them all in 10 years.  Possibly not even 20 years.  Isn’t that ridiculous?

I never suffer from a shortage of new novel inspirations.  When I see classes devoted to helping aspiring authors find story ideas, I just shake my head in bewilderment.  I cannot imagine a world without a plethora of potential stories.  And I am certain I’m not alone in this embarrassment of riches.  For me, the really tricky challenge is to focus on one particular intersection of ideas and inspirations that will produce a finished product that I don’t want to feed to the shredder three months, or even three years, later.

But suppose you’ve found that perfect novel concept.  It’s the story you were born to write.  Even then, writer beware!  No matter how fabulous or mesmerizing the current novel you are crafting, there will always be a fresher, sexier story idea waiting to capture your interest and lead you down a deep, dark rabbit hole.

And that brings me back to the crumbling, romantic 1870 Colonial property that hooked my imagination so unexpectedly on a murky Saturday afternoon in Cleveland, GA.  Yes, it was whispering to me of untold stories and I let myself wander down that path briefly, because it’s fun.  Then I asked myself, Can I plug any of this into my current work-in-progress?

A little brainstorming, a little creative association, a little game of What if? and wham!  I ended up with a great plot point for my current project.

Sir Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

An overactive imagination can be both an opportunity and a difficulty, but I choose to be an optimist.





6 thoughts on “Here There Be Ghosts (Cleveland, GA)

  1. Great post.

    I used to look at the mountains in Alaska, the part below the tree line, and be filled with the feeling that children were on the run, having a dangerous adventure in the trees. I can’t be in nature without feeling a need to write a novel. The city life (Atlanta) kind of squeezes the creativity out of me. It’s not that I’m not interested in people. I am. But it’s the setting that always stirs me first and the setting I love best are out in nature.

    But the spooky house is also a very cool setting. And Mother is not in her right mind, obviously. Daddy left with a man. What woman would be in her right mind after that?

    • I know! Every time we go hiking, I feel like I am swimming in stories.

      I keep waiting for the dog to bring me a skull from the national forest; but, at the same time, I hope she doesn’t. Imagine the abandoned gold mines all around Alaska & N. Georgia where a teen could hide out from an abusive parent…or stash a body…or drink an illicit beer and fall down a hole into into another time.

      It’s a fun game, isn’t it.

      Where are you in the big ATL?

      • It’s interesting that you mention the mines, because it was at Independence Mine that I first became aware of the way nature makes me want to write. It’s not so much that I have a lot of ideas—or not plots anyway—it’s just that I was sitting at the mine, back before they turned it into a tourist trap and put in the parking lot and the bathrooms and the museum, and felt this ache to create something mysterious and fraught with danger. If I believed in ghosts I would have thought the ghosts of the miners and their families were urging me to tell their stories. But then I realized that I have always had an urge to create when I’m in nature. Sometimes I want to write sunny, funny things, and sometime dark and misty things. Setting has a huge effect on me.

        I’m in Marietta. What about you?

  2. I agree with Sally, the mountains are part and parcel of my existence and the city sucks…sucks, sucks the life out of me; to the point that I find myself frequenting the remaining wild areas or zoos of places like Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

    I love a day like SlayWriter is describing here: mists enshroud or dip in and out of the place that you are exploring whether it is the Oregon coast, old Georgetown ( Washington, D.C. ), or mountain towns with old houses like Asheville N.C.

    It seems like the ERA realtor sign is telling a story too. I’ll bet this house has been or the market forever and is another crumbling and aging beauty; so ripe for the right buyer if one ever steps up with the time and effort to restore her, save her and her history. Many such crumbling houses and stories in these parts, north and south of Atlanta….

  3. Pingback: Bookstore of the (Hopefully, Not Too Distant) Future (Part 2) | Slay the Writer

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