In pop culture, ghost, ghouls and spirits are most effective at terrorizing and scaring children.
But author Tracy Lane wondered what would happen if a benevolent ghost became friends with a lonely teenager. She started to envision the way they’d work together, how, after the initial fright passed, they could help solve a mystery that has remained unsolved for more than 60 years.
Mining her imagination, Lane has written and published her first novel for young adults. “Paranormal Properties” distills her love for fantasy and the supernatural into a tale of friendship, sprinkled with suspense and humor.
The New Whiteland native waited most of her life to write the story in her head. With her first novel out of the way, bits and pieces of stories from her past have burst from her mind as seeds for future books.
“I’m new at all of this. Everything around me is going so fast,” Lane said.
When Lane was growing up on Highland Drive in New Whiteland, reading was her escape. As a student at Break-O-Day Elementary School, she visited the library each Friday to check out a book for the weekend. Most of the time, she finished the book before classes resumed on Monday.
Her favorite book was “A Wrinkle in Time.” She fell in love with the supernatural beings, magical transportation and immortal characters.
“It was so different from anything else that I’ve ever read,” she said.
The otherworldly and paranormal had a fix on her. As she grew older, she formulated an idea for a potential book — one about a teen who makes friends with a ghost, and both help each other solve a mystery.
That kernel of an idea became the basis for “Paranormal Properties.”
The book follows the story of Jake Weir, the son of paranormal investigators in Dusk, N.C. Jake has developed the ability to see, hear and talk to ghosts and is approached by Dusk’s most famous spook — boozy former lounge singer Frank Barrone.
“I fashioned him after Frank Stallone — the attitude and the way he talked,” Lane said.
Together, the two hunt for Frank’s killer, uncovering clues and stirring up new mysteries along the way.
“On the surface you have this story titled ‘Paranormal Properties,’ but when you begin to read it you quickly realize that this isn’t going to be a scary story. It’s really a fun mystery with paranormal elements in the periphery,” said Cris Francet, spokesman for Pants on Fire Press, which published the book.
Lane had dabbled in writing short stories and essays in the past, showing them to friends and family. But she didn’t feel that they were any good; she hadn’t developed the self-confidence to showcase her work to the world.
She says that life took over. Her focus was on raising her two children, Jesse and Brittany, in their home in Kissimmee, Fla. But with her kids now teenagers, she found she had more free time to devote to her previous passion.
“Maybe I should try writing again,” she said. “And my first try turned out great.”
The project took almost six years to complete. Lane wasn’t in a rush and wanted to make sure the plot twists, descriptions and characters were just what she envisioned.
Someone had once told her that by setting aside five to 10 minutes each day to write, a person could finish a book within a year. So she developed a writing routine.
She woke at 5 a.m., made some coffee and sat down at her computer.
“It’s the perfect time to do it. The house is quiet, and I can focus,” she said.
When the 192-page novel was complete, Lane hired an editor and friend to clean it up, anticipating that she would self-publish. After sending the manuscript to numerous small publishers, she found a taker in Pants On Fire Press, which focuses on books for children and young adults.
“What caught our attention was her pace and the world she built. Her writing gives dimension to her characters — Jake and his ghost-hunting parents, a big girl named Tank and a ghost from the ’50s,” Francet said. “Our mission is to entertain. Simply put, her story entertains.”
Fellow paranormal writers agree.
Joyce Godwin Grubbs, author of the Greyhound Lady Walking series, called the book fresh and unexpected. Author Rusty Fischer, who wrote “Zombies Don’t Cry,” compared it to a mix between Scooby-Doo, “CSI” and the Hardy Boys.
The book came out in late February and is available on Barnes & Noble’s as well as Amazon’s websites. Lane has released two holiday-themed short stories revolving around Jake Weir and is considering a series of books based on him.
She also is working on a novel titled “Entwined Courage.” The story is aimed at young adults and follows the relationship between the main characters, a boy and a girl. Though only in the development stage of writing, she hopes to have it finished within a year.
“Life had gotten in the way of writing. But now that I’ve done one (novel), I’m hoping the rest come easier,” Lane said.