Beginnings, Chapter 1

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In the beginning, Vree lived on Myers Ridge in Ravenwood, Pennsylvania. I created Ravenwood when I was 13. The year was 1970 and I was an eighth-grade student at a small high school in northwest Pennsylvania. I modeled Ravenwood after my hometown and surrounding communities. The town’s countryside was center stage for many of the characters I created from scribbled notes in my trusty 3-ring binders. Many of those notes became foundations for stories typed up on my portable Remington typewriter and shared with friends.

Vree’s character began in 1971 as Vera Erikson, a 9-year-old cousin to a 14-year-old character named Dave Evans. I based them, Dave’s twin sister Amy and best friend Lenny Stevens (and many other characters) on favorite characters from books and television. I soon changed my mind about Vera’s name, made it Verawenda, gave her the nickname Vree, and made her Dave’s same-age friend and neighbor—even a love interest, though she was always attracted to Lenny. By 1975, when I quit writing Ravenwood stories, Vree, Dave, and the others had taken on lives of their own. Or so it seemed.

Digital renderings of Vree, ages 9, 14, and 17, respectively. Copyright © 2022 Steven Leo Campbell at – All rights reserved.

I don’t think authors of fiction completely control their characters. Mine were always trying to change situations by doing things against my wishes. I learned parenthood early as a young author.

My life’s journey after high school took me on the road as a radio disc jockey, a sailor in the U.S. Navy, a college student, an artist, and a husband and father. I occasionally thought about those characters, but never wrote about them again until I was 41.

One of the first things I did was change the town’s name to Ridgewood, which sounded like a more plausible name for a town. That, and because Myers Ridge and other ridges surrounded it.

I brought Dave back as a 41-year-old artist and teacher who had recently moved back to town from San Diego after a 23-year absence. Divorced and with a daughter at college on the west coast, he stays with his mother at the house he and his twin sister Amy grew up in. Their father is dead—prostate cancer at 65—so Dave takes on the role of “handyman” for the remaining summer before he begins teaching art classes at the high school. And there he meets Mrs. Vree Carlyle, the high school English teacher. He finds that he still loves her, so his world is turned upside down. He ends up stalking her and causes her to wreck her car, killing her. Devastated, he turns to alcohol to ease his pain and chances upon a wizard who gives him a means of going back in time and correcting his mistake.

Digital rendering of Vree, grown up. Copyright © 2022 Steven Leo Campbell at – All rights reserved.

I never figured out a proper ending for that story, so I put it away for a while before rewriting it and publishing two short stories from it: one, “A Sinister Blast from the Past,” and the other, “Liam’s Kismet,” which changed when I rewrote it in 2002 as “Kismet.”

By 2013, the teenagers Vree, Dave, Lenny, and Amy were back for some short stories I published at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Most notably were “Night of the Hell Hounds” and “Trespassers,” both of which I took off the market in 2016 in a move to concentrate on Vree’s backstory as a Luminary witch. (More on Luminary witches in a future post, I promise.)

Vree’s current book, the short story “A Night of Hellhounds” (available at Amazon U.S.) is based on the earlier “Night of the Hell Hounds” and an unpublished story I wrote in 1999 about the first ever mention of Luminary witches. The latter story was the main basis of my Vree e-novel, Margga’s Curse, still available free at Smashwords.

In that unpublished story, which became a novel-size doorstop manuscript, the main protagonist is a 16-year-old girl named Emily whose father dies in a construction accident, which forces her mother and her to move in with her widowed maternal grandmother. After seeing ghosts and will-o-wisps, Emily discovers she has psychic powers as well as magic abilities akin to an average stage magician. However, her magic is the real deal, not parlor tricks. When she makes something disappear, it vanishes into the ether for good. Yikes!

She also discovers from a diary that her maternal great-great grandmother had magic powers and worked as a stage magician dressed as a man during vaudevillian times. She concludes she inherited her abilities from her great-great grandmother’s bloodline. Though the magic is dormant in her mother and grandmother, it runs strong in her, and she finds performing it relieves a lot of the pain she experienced after losing her dad.

After she reveals that she has psychic abilities to a neighbor girl named Martha who befriends her, and after a school performance as a stage magician (she’s the new kid and trying to make friends, after all), she has a run in with Martha—the story’s main antagonist. After carefully observing Emily’s performance, Martha concludes that Emily is a witch and that her special powers are derived from the devil.

From there, Emily is pitted against fanaticism and other injustices that took me to places where it was difficult to bring her out of the mire still mentally strong. Images from Stephen King’s novels Carrie and Firestarter kept haunting me as I tried not to make her lash out with destructive forces. It was a hard go and one I gave up on, putting the manuscript away where it lies today, untouched and unfinished.

With Margga’s Curse, the revised Emily—our hero, Vree—gets to fight a mean old dead witch who wants to return to the living as a powerful witch once again. But to achieve that, she has to drain Vree’s power, killing her, and Vree isn’t having any of that.

I like both stories but think the original is the stronger one and the other is the fun one, which is why I think I want to combine them into one story and publish it as a novel in Vree’s Luminary Magic series at Amazon. Of course, I’m debating whether to kill off the father figure that she is attached to: her paternal grandfather with whom she lives with. (Her parents are away on an archeological dig, as explained in Book 1: “A Night of Hellhounds: A Vree Erickson Short Story” available at Amazon.)

Graphite drawing of Vree’s favorite grandfather. Copyright © 2022 Steven Leo Campbell at – All rights reserved.

We will see what happens. Meanwhile, I hope you check out my current books available at Smashwords and Amazon.

Until we meet again next week, have a great one.

Steve, 5/16/2022

This post “Beginnings, Chapter 1” copyright © 2022 Steven Leo Campbell at – All rights reserved.

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