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New Release / Giveaway: These Haunted Hills – Jana Denardo

These Haunted Hills - Jana Denardo

QSFer Jana Denardo has a new MM paranormal romance out: These Haunted Hills.

Young wildlife conservation professor, Joshua Zimmerman, adores foxes, steampunk, and paranormal investigation. As a geek of the first order, Josh is a collector of nerdy memorabilia and tattoos, and he’s an avid steampunk cosplayer. When his favorite author hires him for some ghost hunting for his new project, Josh can hardly believe his luck.

As an author of the wildly successful urban fantasy series, The Green Tablet, Brendan Halloran should have it all. And he did until his young son, Connor, died of cancer. Heartbroken and drowning in grief, Brendan stops writing, stops living his life. His marriage has disintegrated, leaving Brendan trapped in the moment Connor died.

When Brendan rents a cabin in Ohio’s Hocking Hills, it’s ostensibly to research his next book, an adult paranormal tale. Brendan hires a local professor who is an expert on the paranormal, thinking if he does pull out of his tail spin and makes good on his plan to write a new book, he might as well do it right. And the perfect place to investigate could be the remains of an old hotel constructed to suit the serial killer who built it.

Brendan finds himself swept away, completely unprepared for the joy and enthusiasm Josh brings to everything he does. Step by step, Brendan reenters life. His head might not be convinced he’s ready to love again, but his heart disagrees. Unfortunately for him, the ghost is every bit as vicious as the killer was in life, and he and Joshua have a target on their backs.

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Brendan second-guessed his decision the moment he parked his car. He reminded himself it was exactly what he said he wanted: a cabin in the woods. The cold spring deluge lashing him from car to porch soured things further. To Brendan, the shower perfectly embodied the condition of his mind and soul.

Leaving his bag inside the door, Brendan drank in what would be his home for the next month. It could almost be called cute, in a rustic sort of way. The outside was a quintessential log cabin with a small porch bearing well-padded chairs. Only the green metal roof ruined the sixteenth-century settler homestead feel. Inside, the loft bedroom perched above the open-concept living area and kitchen. A tiny bathroom, tucked around the far corner of the kitchen, looked functional. As promised, there was a table, which would be useful as a writing desk for the times curling up on the couch with his laptop proved to be an ergonomic nightmare. He’d have to snap a photo of the stone fireplace with its fan-shaped iron guard and send it to Heather. She’d love it. A pang zinged his heart thinking about her.

He peered out one rain-streaked window. The only thing in view were trees, mostly pines mixed with something covered in blooms, dogwood maybe. Zimmermann had chosen Brendan the perfect cabin. The green isolation he’d chased after surrounded him. The forest suffocated him, the sheer aloneness of it. Those second thoughts skyrocketed. Heather hadn’t wanted him to come. She didn’t trust him alone. Brendan knew his ex had reason to worry. Both of them were mired in grief, and three years hadn’t moved them past it.

Brendan imagined giving in to the grief in a quiet place such as this cabin. No one would know until his month’s worth of rent was up. He shuddered and forced himself away from the window. His hypothesis wasn’t exactly true. Zimmermann would wonder where he was if Brendan missed their meeting. Brendan braved the chilling rain to grab his computer bag and three canvas bags of groceries out of the car. He busied himself with unpacking. His mood lifted to an inch above the floor once he filled the cabin with the scent of coffee.

With the groceries stowed, Brendan started a fire in a fireplace made for romance, but he wasn’t here for affairs of the heart. The small fire would be efficient in heating the cabin and driving the spring chill from the room.

Brendan planted himself with his coffee on the couch in front of the smallest TV he’d seen in ages. He shifted around on the futon, which seemed more comfortable than most of their ilk. Maybe someone had added a memory foam pad to it; whatever it was, Brendan was grateful since he would be spending a fair amount of time on it. Flipping on the TV, he reassured himself there was a functioning satellite and ditto the Wi-Fi for the computer, so there wouldn’t be some Overlook/The Shining isolation-driven craziness going on.

After turning the TV off, Brendan powered up his computer. He checked his emails and let Heather know he’d made it safely. He saw no emails from his agent, nor from the man he’d hired to show him around the haunted sites in the Hocking Hills area and the surrounding towns. Brendan brought up the These Haunted Hills website to determine what sites he should visit first. There were no pictures of Joshua Zimmermann on the website, just ones of the haunted locales.

Zimmermann had sent Brendan a photo at his request so Brendan would know who to look for when he met up with his guide for the month. One clue Brendan wasn’t completely dead inside was how cute he found Joshua. Zimmermann looked more like an undergrad in his picture and almost too boyish to be believable as an accomplished PhD, teaching wildlife conservation at a local university. It could be an old photo, or that his bright smile belied the number of years behind it.

Of all the potential haunted locations, Brendan wanted to visit Crooked Pines the most. A former hotel, Crooked Pines was now abandoned and theoretically too haunted and too ruined to be reclaimed; it contained a story, and Brendan needed to dig it out. His agent still doubted the idea of him writing a more adult ghost story, but it had been five years since the end of his young adult series. He’d written nothing new, though the adventures of Kiyomi Fujita, John Archer, and Vince Bianchi had generated more than enough money to live his life out twice over.

All his money hadn’t bought Brendan any happy endings. What had begun as a lucky break—and Brendan was well aware of how many fantastic authors never hit it big—became a noose. So many nights Brendan had lain awake wondering if the success of his series had drained the rest of the luck from his family’s life. The evidence suggested yes.

Author Bio

Jana is Queen of the Geeks (her students voted her in), and her home and office are shrines to any number of comic book and manga heroes along with SF shows and movies too numerous to count. It’s no coincidence that the love of all things geeky has made its way into many of her stories. To this day, she’s disappointed she hasn’t found a wardrobe to another realm, a superhero to take her flying among the clouds, or a roguish starship captain to run off to the stars with her.




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