Gallery: Ada and the Singing Skull

RELEASE DATE: Dec. 1, 2023

Alas, alack! I don't have a moodboard for this book because Adobe Express decided not to work on Firefox, and it'll be a cold day in hell when I use Chrome. So for now, we'll have to content ourselves with individual images scattered throughout this page plus a lovely image of Hadleigh Castle by John Constable. 

click all images for a closer look
Ada and the Singing Skull is the seventh book and second sequel to the Ghosts and Tea series. I was largely inspired by an old ghost story whose title I can't remember anymore, and I'm kicking myself for donating that anthology when I moved to a new house. As far as I remember, the plot centers on a couple who buy something like an old castle (this was written in the 19th century, I believe) and then are haunted or plagued by a skeleton that drags itself around on the floor searching for something. It finds what it was looking for in the couple's bedroom, claims it, and drags itself back out and vanishes. Whether or not it was its own skull it was searching for, I can't say, but that particular scene pretty much got etched in my mind, and I thought what a great story to draw inspiration from for a more lighthearted book!

As a writer, I prefer not to give too many physical descriptions of my characters unless there's something about the character's appearance that's significant to the plot. And over the years, I've learned to simply let the reader come up with their own mental images and scaled back the descriptions. That said, I do take a lot of inspiration from either real people or characters (fictional and real) in either films or TV shows.

Case in point: Helen Mirren playing Sarah Winchester in Winchester inspired me with clear images of how I want Prudence to look. Prue's younger than Mirren, though, though she might complain a lot about her arthritis, forgetfulness, crankiness, and the dreary side of aging. Though I never established it, she's younger than Antigonous but not by much (maybe a year or two), which makes their ongoing sibling animosity pretty logical. Antigonous would likely ignore her had she been born several years after him.

Now Frederick Bisset was a more problematic character to envision. I wanted him to "bloom" as a character, and I wanted him to start off looking attractive enough in Prue's eyes but nothing much besides that. Through the rest of the novels, however, especially after he falls in love with Jonathan Beverly, his character blossoms into a more put-together young gentleman whose happiness after being unreservedly accepted by his aunt and servants helps him develop his confidence as well as his looks. And it's really difficult finding actual people to help me envision him -- didn't have any person in mind for years, in fact, until just recently. I also didn't want him to sound too modern, but I gave up the effort in the end seeing as how I'm writing fiction, after all. So I latched on to model Luke Powell, who seems to come the closest to how I imagine Freddy to look.

Oh, and as a runner-up, here's a photo I stumbled across as well, and there's no info on it other than it's on Pinterest. The poster claims to have photoshopped it, so to what extent this photo is inaccurate, I don't know -- though likely the original sitter's head was replaced with a contemporary model's or an AI-generated one. I at first considered this young fellow for Freddy, but he's still not quite the right kind of beauty I had in mind. I mean, he is absolutely lovely, but if I could have him and Luke Powell merge into one person, that would very much be more like Freddy. Oddly, I still find it rather difficult to put his physical features into words besides Prue's references to the Bisset family's famed bone structure. I suppose everything about Freddy that I consider in my head when I write him is all about emotion and character and not physicality.  

Jonathan Beverly was a lot easier to imagine, and the closest person to look like him in my mind is poet Rupert Brooke. The difference between them is that Jonathan's got dark hair and dark features, while Brooke is very blond. Jonathan's something like a tongue-in-cheek shot at all the "perfect hero" tropes I've come across in all classic literature I've read. But he also serves a very good purpose, and that's to be the ideal foil to the crazy shenanigans at the priory. He's intelligent, extremely handsome, suddenly filthy rich, very generous and caring (he used to be a humble schoolteacher who never loses sight of his roots), level-headed, and blessed with the patience of a saint. Unless, of course, Gaylord Murgatroyd (the ghost haunting Jonathan's antique inkwell) is involved, and he does make an appearance in this book (pun intended).

Going back to the book's inspiration (boy, what a distraction those pictures are!), not only did the ghost story I mentioned above got me thinking, but this song specifically as well. If anything, it was this song that got it started, and then the idea of a skull carrying on the psychological manipulation after death followed. I've always wanted to write a story that used this insane sequence in Tangled as a foundation of some kind. While I know gaslighting is nothing to laugh about, I thought the way the filmmakers handled it in such a darkly humorous way while shedding light on just how horrible it is was worth looking into for other ideas on how else it can be explored with even more ghoulish consequences.

Ada and the Singing Skull tops off, as usual, at 50,000 words and is available in e-book at 99 cents and print at $9.00. Go here for the book blurb and for online stores for purchase. Content warnings for this book include mental abuse (as noted above), grave desecration, and the earth-shaking awfulness of three missing cats.