Souljourner

Here is a passage from my new novel, Souljourner.

Jacob was eight years old. Eight. Too young to die, but old enough to know what death was, to possibly fear death. Even though her heart broke for the babies, they didn’t know. Jacob was old enough to know.

Kate was unnerved by the sound of her own voice in the silent graveyard, even though she whispered as if in a library or church. She told Jacob everything was okay, that he wasn’t alone anymore. She reached her hand toward the headstone and imagined a hand reaching back. Reaching out to her. Grasping. Holding on tight. Finding comfort in the feel of her hand around his. She could sense it, sense the warmth of his small fingers in hers. She tried to convey security, compassion, and love in her grip. She tried to convey the idea that everything would be alright. But they wouldn’t be. They couldn’t be alright. He was dead. She felt his hand pull on hers. Pull her to him, toward the grave. The pull was more than she could resist.

Now available for your Kindle, Nook, or other eReader and also in paperback!!!!

“All these forgotten souls. No one to tell their stories. No one to remember them. No one to care for their final resting place, as if their lives didn’t matter at all.”

But every life matters…

Katherine Cooper is a young independent art student with a long history of unusual dreams and nightmares. After visiting an old cemetery she begins having nightmares about the people buried there. But what if they aren’t just dreams? When Kate starts questioning their true meaning she gets a mixed reaction from her friends and family. The one person who believes her is the strange woman who lives downstairs. Just who is this woman and how is she connected to Kate’s dreams? And what does all of this mean for her future?

You can find it on Amazon (ebook and paperback) and Barnes and Noble (ebook)!

Check out the trailer video!
I hope you all had a fantastic holiday filled with the warmth of friends and family!

Fiction of Fright…or not…fiction that is.

I’m thrilled to have my story “Spirits of the Corn” featured in the October Issue of eFiction Magazine. If you like a good fright, I highly recommend you read this issue, It’s chock-full of Halloween horror. I enjoy scary stories, and LOVE Halloween. I admit, I have a bit of a dark side.

As much as a fictional tale of terror can inspire nightmares, I have a ghost story to share that is absolutely non-fiction.
When my husband and I bought our first home, there was no history of horrible crime, death, or unexplained noises. Other than us being the tenth occupants in its forty years, there was nothing special about the house.
At the time Duffy, our border collie mix, was in his later years and quite sedate. Sometimes, our neighbors had to step over his sleeping body on the porch to get to the door; not much of a watch dog. So I was quite surprised one afternoon, when he refused to come in the house. Not as in, I’m-napping-in-the-warm-sun-bug-off, don’t want to come in; but tail-tucked-hackles-raised-feet-firmly-planted-not-a-chance-in-heck-I’m-coming-in-there, don’t want to come in.

When I finally dragged the struggling animal in the door, he took one look down the basement stairs, snarled, then turned tail and ran. I finally found the terrified pooch hiding under a table, and when I bent down to talk to him, my normally lethargic dog snapped at me. This was the worst episode, but there were others when our dog seemed nervous, and had a problem with the basement in particular.

A side note, purely for effect, but absolutely factual: our house was a Dutch colonial – the Amityville Horror house, was a Dutch colonial. And in our basement there was a funky little storage room tucked under the concrete front porch. To enter it, you had to climb through a small opening in the basement wall. The opening was covered with a thick wooden door complete with wrought iron latch. The room’s craggy walls and ceiling were covered in cobwebs, and floor was nothing more than dirt. Other than peeking in when we bought the house, we never went in there or used it for anything. It was just too creepy. Only in the movies would someone ACTUALLY go in there, despite the audience screaming not to.
There was also the sound of running footsteps, always late in the evening. It’s a two-story house and the footsteps were always heard from the living room on the first floor, so we knew it wasn’t just a squirrel on the roof. Our son was a year and a half old, so when we heard the foot steps racing above our heads, we naturally assumed that he had climbed out of his crib and was sprinting around his room. Every time we’d hear the thump, thump, thump, of running feet, we’d race upstairs to find our son sound asleep. We found this occurrence curious and intriguing, but not frightening.
The event that hammered home that something other-worldly might be going on happened many months later. I’d laid down next to our son, who was now in a big bed and had trouble settling for the night. My back was starting to ache from lying so still. He had been quiet for a while, but I wasn’t brave enough to move yet.
I was longing to go back down to the living room, so I turned my gaze from the darkened room out into the brightly lit hallway. There, in the doorway, stood the silhouette of a man. I assumed my husband had come up to check on us. I held a finger to my lips to warn him not to say anything, lest our son wake up. I turned my head, for just a moment, to check if our son was truly asleep. When I turned back, the man was gone.
Although my original assumption had been that the figure had been that of my husband, the way he seemed to appear and disappear without so much as a creak of the stairs bothered me. The whole episode was so brief, I questioned whether or not it had been real. Had I imagined it? Maybe, I had unknowingly dozed off and dreamt it. But it felt real.
When I was sure it was safe for me to leave, I went downstairs to find my husband sitting on the sofa reading the newspaper. I sat down next to him. “Did you come up to check on us?”
My husband lowered the paper, his eyebrows drawn together. “Why do you ask?”
“I thought I saw you outside the door,” I answered.
Dropping the paper into his lap, my husband shook his head. “Wow, that’s weird.”
“What’s weird?” I questioned.
He paused. “Have you ever had one of those times, when you see something moving out of the corner of your eye, but when you look, there’s nothing there, so you just write it off as your imagination?”
I nodded.
“Well,” he said, “I was sitting down here reading the paper while you were upstairs and I could have sworn someone went up the stairs.”
My flesh tightened into goosebumps so hard it was almost painful.
Now I can hear some of you screaming in your head, “Run away! Get out of the house!” It’s never that easy. Maybe we really just had a senile dog, funky thumping floorboards, and overactive imaginations. We also considered the fact that if there really was a ghost involved, he certainly didn’t seem mean-spirited, rather he seemed friendly, checking in on us, keeping an eye on our child.
Was it a ghost, or did my husband and I have some kind of simultaneous imaginary event, each of us on a different floor of the house? I leave that up to you. But I have to admit, I really like the ghost theory better.
Did I mention how much I love Halloween?

The End, a beginning…

Last week I took a vacation from my day job, and locked myself in a room in an effort to finish my first full-length novel “Souljourner”. On the afternoon of July 31st it happened; I finally got to the end.  By the way, despite my husband’s protests, I did not write “The End” at the end.
I am, what other writers call a “pantser”, in other words, I fly by the seat of my pants. Instead of starting with a detailed outline, I just write. When I start writing the story, I might have a general idea of the general premise, but for the most part I let the story tell itself. That can be frightening, especially to those who are “planners”, but it’s the way that works best for me.
In the beginning, even I don’t know the end, so it’s extremely exciting when I get there, because I’m getting the same thrill of discovering what happens as, hopefully, my readers will.
But this ending is also, what I hope will be, a beginning. I can’t convey how much pleasure writing is for me. How miraculous it is to have all the pieces fall into place, in almost a magical way, to make a complete story. I will be blissfully happy if I get to do this for the rest of my days.
So here’s to reaching the end of one story, and hopefully the beginning of my new life.

Life imitates art, art imitates life, life after death…

Life imitates art, art imitates life, life after death...

I have to start this out with the statement that, although I write a lot of fiction, this story is completely, absolutely, without embellishment, pure non-fiction. This is exactly how it happened, or should I say is currently happening to me as I sit and type this. Cross my heart and hope to die.
Given what I’m about to tell you, maybe I shouldn’t say that.
This week started out with my attempt to write something for this blog. My head was not in the best of places, feeling frustrated with my lack of time to do any quality writing. What I wrote, I decided, was poor at best so I didn’t post it. That made me feel even more frustrated as I am feeling pressure to blog more often. Today, Wednesday, is my one day off of work, devoted to writing. I spent all day at my favorite coffee shop. Although I did some great re-working and editing on my novel, I wasn’t feeling very inspired.
As some of you may know, the novel I’m currently working on is about a young woman, Katherine.  While walking through an old cemetery, contemplating the lives of the people buried there, she inadvertently ends up traveling back in time directly into the life of the person’s headstone that she touches, just before their time of their death. This idea was born as my husband and I drove past a small local cemetery (pictured above). Although we’d driven by it many times, on this particular occasion I tried to read as many headstones as I could. I, like my main character, started to wonder about those names. Who were those people? What were their lives like? Did they still have family members that remember them… visit their graves? Or were they lost in time, just names and dates etched in stone? I went back to take some pictures of the cemetery. It seemed small, quaint, with a chapel at the back. There were a mix of newer stones right alongside very old, almost, illegible ones. Perfect for my novel.
In my story, which is a fair way toward finished, I needed the cemetery to be bigger, yet I didn’t want to lose that small old cemetery feel. So I had my character discover a path behind the chapel that leads to a hidden section she’d never known was there. This was already down on paper, or virtual paper I should say, as everything is written on my laptop.
In fact it had been a part of the story for at least nine months when a good friend, Sue, asked me if I’d ever really walked around that cemetery. I said I’d been there once, but didn’t go too far. She said she’d just recently gone on a geocache (a treasure hunt led by hand-held GPS). My first thought was, really? In a cemetery? But that thought was quickly halted when she said “Did you realize there are two more cemeteries hidden in the woods behind the church?” Well, as you can imagine, I was shocked. So today, after my less than inspired day of working on my book, I stopped there.
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By my friends recommendation, I parked on the street and walked, rather than drove into the cemetery. I walked up the hill towards the church and around the back. There, winding through the woods, up a steep hill, was a paved road. At this point I heard a loud caw and look up to see a solitary crow in a dead tree, juxtaposed against the scene of the butterfly fluttering around the flowers at the base of the trunk. I made a mental note to make sure to add that to my story.
I followed the road around and up and sure enough, it opened up onto another cemetery. This graveyard also had a mix of older and newer stones and was even smaller than the main one that I had just come from. By this time my heart was beating a bit faster. I’m not sure if it was finding the hidden cemetery of my imagination, or the hike up the hill in the heat and humidity. I didn’t walk around this middle cemetery, instead I searched for the way up to the third cemetery my friend had mentioned.
There in the corner, barely visible, was a narrow path in the woods. This one was not paved, it was merely mowed through the woods. The path wound around a bit, the overgrown trees and shrubs brushing against my shoulders. I made another mental note to include this imagery into my story as it was doing a good job of creeping me out in real life. My only thought was that it was too sunny, the beams of light dancing through the leaves too pretty. In my story I needed to make it cloudy, maybe even an approaching storm. Again I must emphasize, this is REALLY true. Only moments after this random thought, a rumble of thunder echoed in the distance. REALLY!
So, this path did indeed open up into a third cemetery. This one much larger than even the first and looked to be more modern. I wandered a bit but decided I would wait and come back another day, since that rumble of thunder had been the precursor to some approaching clouds that were definitely calling for rain. As I walked back toward the path, I thought to myself that it was that middle cemetery, carved into the woods, that had the ambiance I’d imagined. I started to mentally go through the gravestones and lives my character visits to figure out exactly which one(s) she would find in this back cemetery. Although I already had a description of the cemetery written along with it’s hidden back cemetery, I still hadn’t decided which grave she’d find there. There were certain ones that needed to be clumped together, and in the more visible portion of the cemetery, for reasons I can’t tell you here (sorry, you’ll just have to buy the book when it’s finished). It came to me that the best one for her to find in this hidden cemetery would be the one of an eight year old boy. I would make that hidden cemetery a children’s cemetery. As soon as that idea occurred to me, I knew it was the perfect choice. Just the idea gave me goosebumps.
As I came out of the wooded path back to the middle graveyard, I decided to take the time to look around a bit. I walked up to the first headstone and was shocked by the dates. It was a child. I walked to the next one. No dates, just the word infant under the name. The third stone, another child. I swear to you this is just how it happened. I thought “it should be a children’s cemetery” and it was, or at least the section I was standing in was.
I started to walk briskly back to my car. I had to write this all down. As I passed a bush on the way out, a bird suddenly flew out of it. I think I jumped a foot! I’m pretty sure that will make it into the book as well.
So I sit in my car, laptop balanced against the steering wheel, still parked by the cemetery. Despite the sweltering 90 degree weather and the barely cracked windows because that rain finally came, I’m trembling and have goosebumps. I couldn’t wait, I needed to write this all down as soon as I could. I’ve gotten inspiration, not only for this blog, but also for my novel.
And it seems to have come from the grave.

Early Morning Revelations

I present to you, the third place winning essay of the 2011 Bo Carter Memorial Writing Contest.

Early Morning Revelations
by D.L. Marriott

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I dip my foot into the water. I expect it to be chilly this early in the morning. I’m surprised by its warmth. I turn the canoe over, put a book encased in a plastic zip-top bag, a travel mug full of coffee, and a life-preserver in the bottom. I paddle my way through the channel and onto the lake. The sun has just begun its rise over the horizon. The sky is painted with hues of pink and orange. There is no one else out here. I expected to run into a fisherman or two, it seems impossible that this morning they are absent.
Once I’m in a place where I have the most room to drift, I slide down into the bottom of the canoe, and take out my book. There is nothing to interrupt me from my story. There is a highway not too far away, but at five A.M. on a Sunday morning there is little traffic. The muffled sound of the occasional car only barely gets my notice.
But then I hear a rumble that gets louder and louder, disturbing my peace. It’s a train on a not too distant set of tracks. On such a quiet morning, its clattering is intrusive, disturbing. I stop reading and cringe at how it dispels my ideal of relaxing, drifting aimlessly on the water. Before long the rumbling fades away; my solitude returns.
Now that my attention has been torn away from the book in my hand, I take notice of what’s around me. The lake is still, not a ripple on it other than those created by a family of ducks swimming by. My ears pick up the serenade of frogs, early morning birds, and the occasional splash of a jumping fish. There is a heron standing on the shore. His profile is majestic. At first he is so still that I’m not sure if he is real or a garden ornament. Just when I have convinced myself he cannot be real, he moves his head, turning it towards me.
I start thinking about how I would have missed him had the train not caused me to look up from my book. How sometimes we don’t realize what’s around us because we’re too busy doing something else. How much sitting in this boat, floating along, is so much like life.
It starts out with the trip up the channel. Paddling is work. It’s not horrible work. In a way, I enjoyed the challenge of working to get where I wanted to go. It’s very much like when we were young, working hard to raise a family. It was work, sometimes hard work. But we were heading in the direction we wanted to go. It didn’t all go smoothly. We occasionally had to shake the weeds from our paddles.
But then as our children grew up, we got to a place where we thought we could relax and enjoy life. Drift along, instead of working so hard. We thought we were coming to our perfect destination. We knew and accepted the mild disturbance of the car whizzing by, but it was so fleeting it barely registered. It isn’t until something really shatters our silence that we take notice. Something big and intrusive like a freight train comes barreling into our world. Momentarily we wonder why. Why, when we finally have what we were dreaming of, does something big and ugly have to ruin it?
Like the train that disrupts my peaceful morning in my canoe, the things that disrupt our lives eventually pass. They rumble off into the distance. In their wake, we realize that there was beauty and peace all around us. It had been there all along, but we had been too preoccupied to appreciate it. Now in the deafening silence of the train’s absence, it is wondrous. It’s a lesson in appreciating all we have and realizing that bad things will come along, but they will pass, and we will still be here drifting on an unseen current. If by chance we are not happy with where the current is taking us, all we have to do is work up some muscle and paddle in another direction, and remember to take stock in the beauty around us.
We can’t banish the weeds, the cars and the freight trains of life. We can just close our eyes and wait for them to pass, then keep on paddling to our destination, never forgetting that there are always ducks and frogs, sunrises and herons, if we just take the time to recognize them.

 

Finding Hope

This is a big moment for me.  One that seems surreal.  I have released my first book on Amazon.com for download.  Don’t worry, if you don’t have a Kindle, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Blackberry or Android base device.  You can also download a free app for your PC or Mac right on Amazon.

It’s a novelette about finding oneself, finding love and finding hope.
If Steve knew anything, he knew that he was fine the way he was. He was a hard-as-steel tough guy. He was a detective that lived alone and was, if not exactly happy, satisfied with the way things were. One night changed all that. When asked to investigate the kidnapping of his ex-partners daughter, Steve finds more than the evidence of the brutal crimes committed in the old dilapidated house of a serial killer. He finds that he is not the person he thought he was. That night begins a chain of events that makes him question everything he ever thought he knew about himself.
What is a novelette, you may ask?  It’s longer than a short story, but shorter than a novella.  It’s just over 10,000 words or 12 pages.


I’ve posted links on Facebook, Twitter, my website @ www.dlmarriott.net, and I put together a book trailer on YouTube which you can see here.

My hope (Ha! That was totally unintentional) is that this will give potential readers a taste of my writing style at the low risk cost of only 99 cents.  If they like it they might be more apt to read my novel once it’s released.

Whether or not it works, it still gives me a thrill to type my name into a Amazon search and see myself listed as an author!

Watch the trailer, read the reviews, and if you feel so inclined, check it out for yourself.  I truly hope you enjoy it.  Either way, let me know what you think.  All feedback, positive and negative help me to become a better writer!

Buy “Finding Hope” here.

Borrowing

As promised here’s the story that was published one year ago. It may have been my first, but I’m hoping and planning on many others.

Borrowing
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There are friends and then there are real friends. The kind of friends you can depend on to be there through all the highs and lows of your life. My husband and I are lucky enough to have friends such as these. To be honest they started out as my husband’s friends first, I was adopted later.
Jim’s been best buddies with John since they were both five years old. As children they shared in all those adventures that young boys have; building forts, walking the train tracks, riding their bikes. As they got older they got their first jobs together, worked on cars together, and got into trouble together. Over the years their friendship had it’s ups and downs. Their high school graduation night ended in fists, but in the end, they always came back to each other. When they got to adulthood they started dating and eventually found their future wives. In some relationships, that may have added a strain to the friendship, but in this case it didn’t. First John married Sue, and later Jim married me. Sue and I have been mistaken as sisters, which says something about how close our husbands are. There must be something special in a friendship that has lasted almost their entire lives. Instead of two best friends and their wives, we quickly became four best friends.
As close as we are, we’re always borrowing something from one another. There never seems to be a time in which one of us doesn’t have something that belongs to the other. If it’s not some borrowed item, it’s borrowed money. We often go out to dinner or shopping together and to make things easier, we trade off who pays for it. One time we will cover the bill, the next time they will. We’ve been doing this so long, we no longer keep track of what we owe each other, we just figure it all evens out in the end. Sometimes we get to the point of getting the check at a restaurant and say, “It’s our turn, we owe you for something.”
None of us will remember what we owe, or even what it was we owe for, just that it’s our turn. Over the years, we took notice of this habit of one always borrowing from the other. We asked ourselves why that was. In the end we decided it was our way of insuring we would get together again.
We’ve been there for each other as we got married, Jim was John’s Best Man, and John was Jim’s. John and Sue moved away for a time, but the long distance phone call was one of the first as each of our children were born. Once back in the same state, we were there to share the trials of moving and house building and the joys of our children growing, graduating, and getting married. We travel together, and jump in to help with any project. We were there to support them through the loss of a parent, grandparent, brother-in-law, and friend. They were there for us through the loss of a parent.
They played a most important role in our lives. They were always there for us when our disabled and medically fragile son was ill. They didn’t think twice about coming to wait with us in the middle of the night as he underwent emergency surgery. They forced us to go out for a bite to eat after we spent days in his hospital room. They kept us sane during the 16 years of medical crises. They were there to give us support in his final days, and helped to plan his memorial service. I can’t imagine a more heartbreaking time in our lives, and they were there for us. I know it was difficult for them. How hard must it be to sit with your friends as they wait for their son to take his last breath? It didn’t matter how hard it was, we weren’t just friends, we were family, we are family. I truly believe there is nothing we wouldn’t do for each other, barring the impossible. At a moment’s notice, we we’ll drop everything for each other. Our families have become each others families.
Recently my husband and I were affected by the poor economy. We were forced to sell our dream home. This house was one that my husband, an architect, designed just for us. We built this house ourselves. We didn’t just watch the contractors work, we put our sweat and backs into it as well. It took a year to build. John and Sue were there every step of the way, painting walls, laying tile, hauling rocks, whatever it took.
The process of selling this house has been an emotional one. The equity in that house was to be our nest egg. We were starting over. It’s hard enough to lose your home, another when that home is also one’s livelihood. It’s my husband’s business to design and build houses, now we would be living in someone else’s. First John and Sue were there as moral support. Then they were there to help us pack and move in a hurry as we scrambled to find a place to live. We even traded vehicles for weeks as theirs had a hitch to pull a trailer. They were with us when we looked at houses, and they gave up their weekends to help us transfer our belongings.
On the last day of moving we returned each others cars. But in typical fashion we found John’s sunglasses on our counter. Sometimes the “borrowing” was unintentional. It didn’t matter, as long as one of us had some belonging to the other.
The next morning my husband woke up to realize we had forgotten some large items that were stored outside our former home. Since we had already given John and Sue their van back, we were forced to call first thing in the morning to ask if they had the time to come back and help move the forgotten items. Sue answered the phone. John was in the garage, he had the tire off of the needed van, and was about to start a brake job on it. She stuck her head out the door and yelled “STOP!” No questions asked, John popped the tire back on and came right over.
When it was done and John was about to leave, he grabbed his sunglasses. As he took them Jim said, “I think we all have everything that belongs to each of us.” John said, “Oh no, does that mean we won’t get together anymore?”
We laughed, albeit a bit nervously. As if it really takes borrowing things from each other to make sure we would see each other again. As much as we have been through, it’s silly to think that it’s a simple borrowed item that keeps us together. Yet why did we feel uncomfortable?
After John left, I suddenly remembered something. I looked at Jim and said, “Don’t worry, we still have that DVD I borrowed from Sue.” With an unfounded sense of relief we knew all is as it should be. Our friendship is guaranteed to live another day.