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!

To tell the truth, the whole truth…or not

p { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }

I recently spoke to a group of seventh graders and their families at St. Raphael’s Catholic School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They’re working together on a Build-a-Book project and I was asked to talk to them about writing and being a writer. One of the things I told them, and one of the things I’ve always firmly believed, is that no matter how fictionalized your story is, it has to be realistic. It needs to have truth. Even in fantasy, things need to ring true to the reader or they won’t feel a connection, and subsequently will have a hard time following your story.
There are examples of this out there now. Take the Star Trek series. There’s a reason we now have real life items that look and perform similar to the futuristic counterparts from the stories. They were based on real science.
When Harry Potter waves his magic wand, the spells are based on mostly Latin terminology. Since many of our words today come from Latin, the spells have a familiarity to them. We can pretty much figure out that “Wingardium Leviosa” will make something float. Many of the creatures are based on mythology that we’re already familiar with. The setting is an accurate portrayal of life growing up in a boarding school albeit with some magic thrown in. These pieces of truth ground the reader in that fantasy world.
More so, if your space alien lands on the streets of New York, you need to have the details of the city accurate. If your ghost haunts a location people might be familiar with, you will lose them if describe that location incorrectly.
This has been a constant for me as I work on my upcoming novel. My main character does some time traveling. Not only does she go to many different eras, but she ends up involved with several historic events. This meant a lot of research on my part. For those of you who might not realize it, research is a big part of writing, no matter how long or short your piece is. Take for instance one of the chapters I did in “Where Do I Begin – One Woman’s Story.”
My outline was simply to describe how the two main characters spent time together on a cruise ship. First I had to take her date of birth and the age she was supposed to be and figure out what year it was when she was on this cruise. Turned out to be in the 1970’s. Then I needed to find out what activities were available on cruise ships during that time. If I had ignored that step and had them climbing a rock wall, or surfing the wave pool, it would have been inaccurate. Although cruise ships of today have those things, cruise ships back then didn’t. I have no doubt that some of my readers have been on those cruise ships and would have been frustrated with my inaccuracy.
So as you can imagine, when writing a historic fiction/time travel novel, the accuracy is imperative. It’s been a daunting task to get the myriad of details correct. Unfortunately it turns out the truth sometimes really is stranger than fiction. In one scene I have one character who’s deathly ill. I actually had to make sure that during that time in history the process to lower a fever was to cool the person down. You might laugh, but you can’t assume anything. While doing my research I found out that the common treatment for a burn was to hold the burned area over a flame! They believed it was better to get the burn to blister and for the blister to burst. Ouch! So I learned not to assume anything.
I recently read a part of my novel to my classmates in my writing class. Two questions came up after I read the dialog between two women in 1903, in which one of them, at age 35 is considering trying to conceive another child after losing her two daughters. The first question raised was her age, wasn’t she a bit too old to be having babies, weren’t women back then getting married young and having families young? My answer was no. My research showed that because of poor nutrition at that time, women didn’t even start their menstrual cycles until they were in their twenties. They may have married younger, but children came much later. The second question raised was whether or not birth control, or the idea of “trying” for a child was even a concept back then. Imagine my surprise when I researched the history of birth control. Not only was it a concept, it was widely accepted and used. The condom had been around since the 1600’s, the contraceptive sponge since the 1840’s, not to mention lectures and pamphlets circulated about the rhythm method as well as other methods to avoid pregnancy. It turns out that the idea of birth control and family planning was so prevalent that the Comstock Act of 1873 made any kind of family planning illegal. The law was quite routinely ignored. Believe it or not you could buy contraceptive devices from the Sears Roebuck Catalog in 1930!
So now I find myself faced with a conundrum, do I tell the truth and keep the facts accurate? Or do I lean toward the commonly held misconceptions? Will I do what I was trying to avoid in the first place and possibly have readers doubt the realism I’m trying to instill in my story by telling it accurately?
It was something to think about. In the end I’ve decided I have to tell the truth. It feels wrong not to. Not only do I feel strongly about being accurate in my details, but I also feel strongly in never underestimating the intelligence of my readers. I have to trust that if my readers get stuck on some detail, they will take the time to look it up.
So I have to stand with what I told those seventh grade students. Keep it real. Tell the truth. As a reader I’d rather learn something new, even if it means doing some research myself, than to know that facts the author presented are incorrect. Even in fiction, I want non-fiction.
The reader needs the truth, the whole truth, no matter how unbelievable.