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!

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.

The End

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No, I haven’t finished the novel yet, although I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s getting bigger and brighter by the day. But today, I woke up with words flowing through my head. That happens to me a lot, I wake up with a story running along all by itself. It makes me wonder if I’m actually the writer, or if there’s some other entity doing all the work who, once in a while, interrupts my sleep and forces me to put it to paper.
For some, starting a story is the difficult part. Putting those first words down on the page. For some, it’s all the middle stuff. Making sure point A connects to point B. For me, the hardest part is always the end. Generally when I start a story, I have no clue what the ending will be. It’s somewhat unnerving to start writing not knowing where it’s going when the story starts telling itself. I’ve made the joke several times that I just take transcription for the voices in my head, but often that’s exactly what it feels like.
Even when I finally get an idea of what the ending should be, writing it is the most difficult part of the process for me. Once I’ve built up all the drama, bringing it to a conclusion that brings the reader back down without leaving them feel disappointed is an incredibly difficult thing. I’ve known the ending of my novel for a while now, but had no idea how to tell it with just the right amount of tension, emotion, and completion to leave the reader feeling satisfied.
As a reader, the ending can make or break a story for me. I can be totally entranced by a book, but if the ending doesn’t deliver, it frustrates me. The ending is the last thing the reader is left with. To me, it’s critical to make it memorable. Unfortunately, the ending is also generally the most controversial. Some love “happily ever after” endings, some hate them, some like the story to hang, without a clear ending, others not. No matter what ending you come up with, there will be people who will sing its praises and some who will criticize every word.
I’ve talked about J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter before. The epilogue is probably the most controversial part of the seven books. Harry Potter fans are divided, some loved it, some hated it. I myself liked it. I didn’t love it. Not because I didn’t like the way the story ended, just the way it was written. I like it enough, and it’s grown on me some since I first read it, but I felt it could have been stronger. I give Jo kudos though. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to wrap up seven books of storyline.
One of my other favorite children’s/young adult authors, D.J. MacHale, had to wrap up ten books and years of the main character’s life in his Pendragon series. I actually sent him a message to tell him I thought it was the best ending I’ve ever read. I have read other reviews from readers who hated it. To me it was perfect.
So I guess in the end, the end has to be what the writer feels is necessary. We just have to hope that not too many people are disappointed. I’m hoping there’s some fate that’s telling me that the ending I wrote is the right one. An hour after I woke up with my ending in my head, my husband awoke to tell me he’d just had the weirdest dream. He dreamed that I finally came to the end of my book. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is.
The End.