Last week I released my newest novel, Church Boy, to the world! While I should have posted on this sooner, I was a tad bit busy and forgot to advertise the book. (Pretty “redonk”). Anyway, I thought I would go ahead and post something now so that you guys are up-to-date!
Church Boy is not my typical book, but I’m happy it is done and released. It took a month to write and clocks in a little under 60,000 words. While I submitted the manuscript to Harlequin’s Christian line, the book was almost immediately rejected, so I thought: “Why not just go ahead and publish it free online?”
Without further ado, here’s some info on this little summer project of mine. 🙂
Who doesn’t want a church boy?
This is an everyday thought in the small town of Colonia, Mississippi, where church and romance are as integral as breathing. But when Olivia Scott moves to Colonia to care for her ailing father, she isn’t looking for love. The daughter of irreligious parents, Olivia constantly struggles with her Christian faith, and a summer romance isn’t on her mind. And for young Baptist minister Luke Sweeting, his peaceful life as a bachelor is tested when town gossip Lisa Richards decides to matchmake her pastor with their mysterious newcomer.
This unexpected love story sets off a chain reaction that affects the entire town, including a young mother who falls for a faith-seeking drug dealer; folks long entrenched in a Christian family feud; and Colonia churches of all backgrounds. Despite the pressures on the young couple, there is a common denominator: God’s will be done, and goodness will prevail no matter what is hurtled their way.
For most of you guys, this book is probably not your cup of tea. Romance? Christian romance? I mean, if I went into a bookstore today, I probably wouldn’t hit up the Christian romance section. That being said, this was something I’d been thinking of for a while, and I like to challenge my genres whenever possible. Some writers stick to legal thrillers, but I’m a bit of a chameleon, and this was my calling for summer 2019.
But for fun let’s have a little Q & A session on the book and see what you guys think!
1. How did you come up with this story?
The inspiration for Church Boy is a little murky in my mind. Whenever I am at college in California, I don’t get enough church/Jesus time, and it’s really because I miss church back home in the South.
I think I conceived this novel sometime around my sophomore year of college, and it was probably in response to being so far away from home. While there are churches all around the world (amen to that!), there is nothing quite like a good old Southern Baptist pulpit in my opinion.
The romance part of the book came much later. I knew I wanted to write wholesome Christian romance, so the connection between this book’s two main characters came rapidly. A pastor and an out-of-towner struggling with her faith? Interesting enough, and it was a way to play with dual aspects of ourselves: The faith-believing side, and the doubting side.
2. Why set it in Mississippi?
This book would not be possible without the South, and especially the state of Mississippi. As I mentioned before, there’s nothing quite like Southern Baptist churches, and when I was craving my Sunday mornings away, Mississippi was the place I wished I could visit.
A lot of you are probably thinking: Really? Mississippi?!?!?!
Yes, Mississippi. The people in this state are larger than life, but they’re some of the best people you’ll ever meet, and this novel is my attempt to flatter the people there. Of course, who knows what they think of good old Tennesseans. 😉
3. Where can I find/download your books?
Well, if you want, you can download any of my novels, including Church Boy, for free via Smashwords, Apple iBooks, and Barnes & Noble. While I want to make my novels free everywhere, they are $2.99 on the Kindle Store (eBook version) due to policy situations. As for paperback copies, I just sent my final edits to Amazon, and this is my first book published paperback (a little more expensive, unfortunately, but wow!).
Let me make it easier for all of us and post some links.
Well, I’m not really working on anything right now. I’m about to head back to college, so I’m sure I’ll have a lot of material to work with shortly. However, at this stage, I’m enjoying blogging, writing poetry, and studying airplane stuff. So we’ll see what comes from my fingers next. Maybe I’ll stick with romance, since those books are pretty easy to write, or I’ll challenge myself with something a little more thought-provoking. Who knows?
THANK YOU GUYS!
All right. This pop-up post is coming to a close, but thanks again for reading this attempt at marketing my latest book. I’m super excited for the future, and I feel so blessed to be able to share my content with you guys so easily online. Thank goodness for technology that allows us to share our stories with the world!
On Friday we will resume normal blog posts. That one will be a summer update post, so stay tuned for more then.
FOR EONS NOW the First Baptist Church of Colonia, Mississippi, had been the social hub of the entire county.
On Sundays every business shut down, except the bookstore run by the only Jewish man within fifty miles. Church was expected, not just a friendly tip. It was so expected that even the morally ambiguous put on their shiny shoes and zipped on over to their chosen place of worship—and there were plenty to choose from.
But nothing was more distinct than the First Baptist Church. Most churches within the area had long since given up their status as being first in their particular denomination: First Presbyterian had become Hope Pres, and First Lutheran, with its ten congregants, had become Friendship Lutheran. First Methodist, First Baptist’s loyal enemy, had stayed the same to spite those said Baptists, and the Church of Christ up and moved to the country, needing a respite from Colonia’s self-righteous residents.
Now it was true that most Southerners were, aptly so, Southern Baptist. It was a tradition with a rigorous history, and though its membership had been on the steady slope downward for a while now, Colonia’s First Baptist Church was as strong as ever. Nearly four hundred churchgoers flocked to the pulpit at ten-thirty on Sunday mornings, donning suits and dresses and the occasional skirt or slacks. Some women wore lace hats that plumed like peacock feathers, while others covered dainty hands with satin gloves. Everyone clutched weathered Bibles, including the youngsters who sprinted across the aisles with annoyed brothers and sisters trying to catch up.
Miss Sue, a religious attendee at First Baptist since the 1940s, was no stranger to the scene. Miss Sue, who was the opposite of a stickler, felt her panty hose rip right down the middle of her age-spotted leg as her great-grandchild, Emma Ray, bounced into Deacon Todd, who was a righteous son of a gun.
“What in…” shouted Deacon Todd, who held a stack of pamphlets in his leathered hands.
“Hiya!” shouted Emma Ray as Miss Sue caught up.
“Where is her mother?” snapped Deacon Todd, but when he caught a wicked glance from Miss Sue, he readjusted his tie.
“I’m a good enough substitute, don’t you think?” replied Miss Sue, shaking her head. “I know you wouldn’t have a clue, Todd Appleby.”
“A clue as to what, Sue Richards?” he growled, tossing a bulletin to an unsuspecting guest.
“How to live a little, and remember that children are children. Now, you come here, little miss!”
Emma Ray snaked her way out of her grandmother’s arms once more and dived into the sanctuary, her church shoes somehow screeching against the emerald green carpets that had been laid in the ’70s, back when Emma Ray’s mother was her size. The little girl was a tornado as she burst through throngs of gossips and guests and terrified people in general. Everyone had always thought there was possibly a curse in the Richards family line, because none of those Richards women could calm down.
“Emma Ray!” screamed Miss Sue, almost tripping over her nemesis in the process.
The nemesis, Rita Scarborough, licked her lips and rolled her eyes. She lifted a red-painted fingernail into the air and shook it back and forth as she chatted with her gaggle of best friends, all of whom had been born, survived, and would die in Colonia, Mississippi.
“Sue Richards,” she muttered.
“Emma Ray,” said of the friends, in a nasally accent, “is such a mess in comparison to your little Margaret Ann.”
Just at that moment Margaret Ann appeared, docile and doe-like in her mother’s arms. Rita took her granddaughter, kissing both china doll cheeks, while Emma Ray or Miss Sue (it was hard to tell) shrieked across the aisle.
“Grandma,” said Margaret Ann, pushing back a few perfect curls from her face, “Grandpa was looking for you.”
“Was he now?” asked Rita Scarborough. She knew it probably wasn’t true. Her husband of nearly forty years was always somewhere or the other, collecting even juicier news than she could. It was what had attracted them to each other in the first place, if you didn’t count the Ole Miss degree, fancy diamond ring, and the fact that they’d been matched since birth, when their families prayed over them at the baby dedication.
And, in reality, Wesley Scarborough was not looking for his wife. He stood beside Deacon Todd, greeting guests and regular attenders alike, learning as much as he could about anybody and everybody. Todd passed out the papers, and Wesley passed out the Southern hospitality.
At some point, as the sun rose higher in the sky on this particular Sunday morning, Wesley grew a little tired, because he needed a doughnut or a bagel or anything with caloric intake. Since it was almost show time, the crowd had withered in the lobby. Deacon Todd ran out of bulletins and grouched off like an elderly crab, leaving Wesley alone and at peace, because he enjoyed his solitude too, even in the midst of a place as spiritual as this.
But then, out of nowhere, the front doors opened, and there was a young woman he had never seen before. She was so young, he noted, that his wife would either take her under her wing or scoff at her for the rest of time, and so he estimated her age to be twenty-four. She wore an acceptable dress, her curly hair bouncing down her back, and she clutched a Bible with nervous hands. He knew they were nervous hands because he’d been in those shoes, long, long ago, when he also visited First Baptist Colonia after a long bout of disbelief and anger and grit and grime.
“Welcome, young lady!” he said, extending a hand.
“Am I late?” she asked, her eyes huge and green. “I wasn’t sure if… I don’t know. My neighbor invited me, and…”
“You’re all right,” said Wesley, wondering where this creature had beamed in from. “What’s your name, dear? I’m Wesley Scarborough.”
“Olivia Scott,” she said, the Bible a barrier between them.
“It’s nice to meet you, Olivia. Who’s your neighbor?”
Wesley smiled to himself. “Lisa Richards, one of the most active members in this congregation! I swear—well, I suppose I shouldn’t swear, on account that we are Christian people, Miss Olivia—but half of this congregation belongs to the Richards family!”
“I’d believe it. There’s always something going on at that house.”
“Here, let’s see if we can see her. You’re just in time, dear. No worries if you’re late, either. We’re a talkative congregation.”
They walked to the edge of the sanctuary, where all four hundred congregants chattered and buzzed around like the busy bees they were. Wesley caught a glimpse of Deacon Todd throwing Emma Ray onto his shoulders, while Miss Sue chased him down. He then saw his wife and his daughter and the grandkids and smirked. There were the Pipers, debating politics, no doubt; and Mr. Blake Sampson, who’d never taken a wife, and Reece Jetterby, the richest man in the county, and Oscar Thomas, the poorest man in the county. But where in the world was Lisa Richards?
“It’s okay if you can’t find her,” said mild-mannered Olivia Scott, “because I can find her after the service. I just promised her I’d come, and so here I am.”
“Well, you’re more than welcome to sit with my family and me if you’d like, or I can point you in the direction of the young people’s section, or…”
“Hi, Wesley,” said a strong voice behind them, and Wesley twisted around to face the young pastor, Luke Sweeting, who’d been in town for three years but felt like a forever presence in the church home. Luke was twenty-eight, a Georgia man who’d been educated up North and came home with a desire to preach. He’d come to Colonia on a whim. But as everyone believed in Colonia, there was more to it than just a whim. Things always worked out according to God’s miraculous plan, and they had hope that things always would be that way.
“Pastor Luke!” shouted Wesley, grabbing the man’s hand, pulling him in for a hug. When they drew apart, Wesley began with, “This is our dear guest, Miss Olivia Scott.”
Olivia blushed, and Wesley found this interesting.
“Very nice to meet you, Olivia,” said Luke, shaking her hand. “Welcome to our church. I know it can be overwhelming, but I hope you enjoy your time here, and that you feel God’s presence in the meantime.”
“Thank you,” she said, and Luke excused himself, heading off to the worshippers, a shepherd collecting his flock.
“That’s the pastor,” said Wesley again, and then he nodded. “Well, I’m going to have to insist you sit with my family, Olivia Scott.”
This poor girl, thought Wesley to himself. At least she’d have a story to tell.
My beautiful readers! Thank you so much for reading this far. I hope you all are doing spectacular!
As you guys know, I have challenged myself to write three books this summer, one of them being this short but sweet romance, Church Boy. When it is finished, it will clock in around 50,000 words and be self-published through my go-to website, Smashwords, which you can find here: Link to my books!
Church Boy is a Southern, Christian romantic comedy. Some of you will probably cringe right there (and I absolutely feel you). However, I conceived this story a few years ago, and it felt like the time to crank it out before I totally lost the energy to write it.
This book pairs two unlikely leads: Luke Sweeting is a kind Southern Baptist pastor, whereas Olivia Scott is a struggling law student who is new to town. The two meet at Luke’s church in Colonia, Mississippi, where things do not exactly go according to plan…
Therefore, I wanted to give you guys a little teaser before the book comes out. Right now I am hoping to get it out there by June 1, but it may be pushed back to June 15. We will see, we will see. 😉
Okay, I have to go study for now, but expect more blog posts soon. Thank you all for reading!
It has been quite some time since I’ve published anything, and that is why I’m super excited to announce my newest novel, Yours Truly, will be available on April 1. It’s about time, isn’t it?
Well, what’s the book about?
Eight years ago Eliza Oehlstrom was a college senior aching to graduate and get discovered by New York literary agents. Today Eliza Oehlstrom is a bestselling writer who has retreated to the quiet Mississippi hills.
Both Elizas are forced to reckon with unwarranted and haunting notes from a stranger only known as Yours Truly, who seems to know Eliza’s every move. While Yours Truly supports Eliza’s writing career, the stranger also makes it clear that Eliza’s every move is being observed.
But Eliza can only take so much.
Told from these two time periods, YOURS TRULY poses the question: Are we ever really alone?
Yours Truly is definitely a project that has been time-consuming, arduous, and emotional. The novel is unlike any other I’ve written, and to be honest with you guys, I’m not sure if it’s good or not. It’s a book that dives into my psyche, and it’s one I’ll probably regret self-publishing in a few years. But that’s the magic of being a writer, and I want to showcase my writing from all different eras and ages of my life.
And, added bonus: The book will be free to download. (Yeah, no excuse not to get this book!)
I will post on Release Day, but I just wanted to give you guys a little heads-up about this project. I’ve put a lot of time and energy to it, and I hope it interests you. If not, no worries. That is the beauty of the free market system. 😉
“One life… A little gleam of time between two eternities.”
THE SECOND NOTE came on a crisp autumn day, snuggled in dead strips of violets. Fitting, considering that I was stepping on a pile of dead leaves at that precise moment, and the crunch sounded like the growl of my empty stomach. I was on my way to the cafeteria, and suddenly I didn’t feel so hungry anymore, though my body thought otherwise. College was a constant battle between anxiety and starvation, and the note didn’t help things.
But this was the secondnote.
I gripped the seemingly aged envelope between sweating, clammy hands. If this was a joke, I’d sock whoever was up to it. If it was real, then there’d still be consequences. Who would mess with me? Who’d want to mess with me? Who’d be stupid enough to?
I stared at it like mustached art critics fixate on Picasso. I held it like a mother clutching her baby when all she wanted to do was toss the chubby thing in the crib. And I finally caught the gumption to open it, my stubby fingernails crackling against the paper, something snapping inside me like a fistful of hair stripped from the base of the skull.
I knew, even then, that what was happening would not get easier, that this situation would only fatten up like slaughterhouse cattle, and I needed to prepare myself. Make something up. It’s what you’re good at, Eliza. Defend your senses before it’s too late.
And so, as I walked, my aching feet rigid against too-tight tennis shoes, I sorted through the possibilities. What if it was finally somebody who started to like me? What if it was somebody who wanted to let me know that I was attractive, important, admired?
A secret admirer didn’t sound so bad when I thought of it like this.
But then the world bit into my jaw, and I was left reeling instead.
And so I did.
The note was on a piece of snow white paper, so white I felt like I was gripping an icicle. The font was sprawling, looped like a woman’s writing, but I knew it wasn’t a woman’s writing. This was something else. This wasn’t a love note, or a congratulatory note, or a mistake. This wasn’t a joke, and it wasn’t real, and there was no one to punch for it.
The icicle punctured my skin, leaving a trickle of blood to foam against the paper. Even the paper cut didn’t sting.
Emerald looks stunning on you. And, by the way, I can’t believe you haven’t told anybody yet. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Of course you do.
Only four little statements, addressed to Elizabeth from Yours truly. Who even came up with that stupid, perfunctory phrase anyway? Yours truly? I was nobody’s except my own, and the two words sounded a whole lot like some ’50s gibberish. No one wrote letters anymore, which was a pity; but I didn’t want to start a new trend like this, with some creep watching over me and critiquing my meager fashion sense. It was in poor taste.
That was what threw me off.
My fingers gripped the metal door handle to the caf, and I wanted to scream. I hated the food and the overwhelming hordes of zombie-like twenty-year-olds, but I was even more zoned out than normal. Who was watching me? Who knew, and called me Elizabeth anyway? Who was there?
The endless grumble and scream of the everyday college kids sprayed drops of anxiety all over my body. I entered the lobby and wanted to take cover. A pack of freshman girls slid past, squealing about some frat party that night, while I still held the note in my hand, a scaly scab on my finger. Though the girls were only in my periphery for mere seconds, I stared at them with forced unease. As soon as they zoomed by, there was a youngish guy with floppy hair and a bad mustache. He was pecking away at his phone, headphones jammed tight in his ear canals, and he glanced up at me, a snarl on his lips. I almost tripped over my feet at the situation, but managed to carry myself away from these people and to the food.
It was seven o’clock, but there were still too many people here. There were always too many people. The dish of the night smelled rotten and looked like fried squid, and I settled once more for stale cheese pizza and a warm Diet Coke, thanks to poor refrigeration. It cost ten dollars, and I wanted to send my university a thoughtful note (maybe addressed from Yours truly?), but I finally grabbed my food and dodged outside to the patio, away from the endless cacophony of young people, to the freedom of anywhere else.
The patio was an all right place. It overlooked the lumpy hills of the college, and if you strained your eyes enough, you could see the Little Fork River cutting against the valley. Since it was another crisp autumn day, it was mighty chilly outside, and my skin was already stained pink from the temperature. I shuddered and pulled my sweater tighter to my bursting skin, though it was cotton and thin and wouldn’t do much to help me.
But even if I was freezing outside, at least I was alone.
I pulled out my books and slammed the second note into my stats assignment. It would all go away. It didn’t mean anything. It was not like I was being threatened, or harassed, or assaulted. It was simply a critique of my fashion sense, however odd that may be, and did it mean somebody was watching me? A lot of people were always watching me. I had a sometimes prank gang with some of my friends, so it would be natural that they’d prank me back. But we hadn’t pranked each other in months, maybe even a year. Maybe this was still a joke. It could be. It could possibly not be.
“Get back to work,” I hissed at myself, hoping that this would be the cure: A tongue-lashing from myself. As if that ever does anything.
But one thing did the trick.
All the textbooks in the world didn’t matter for the work I whipped out from my backpack. The unfinished manuscript was in my hands like a gold rush, and I smilingly set it down across from me. One hundred and fifty double-spaced, back-to-back printed words on a page. A book, if you want to call it that. The only work that mattered to me.
My hands caressed the glossy pages as I admired my second novel. A gust of wind slammed against me, but my hands were locked against the book, and though the pages wanted to flutter away from me, they had no choice but to stay just where they were, ready to be clobbered by a rigorous editing process. I whipped out a pen and highlighter to begin this somehow soothing procedure, and my spirit was dampened just a tad by the roll of a boom of thunder in the distance.
“Seriously?” I shouted to no one in particular, since no one else was outside. It was fall—not exactly thunderstorm season—and here we were, having this random pop-up storm. At least it would keep all the other college kids away.
I glanced over the hills and noted the hint of the black clouds out in the distance, but I was going to hope and pray that it stayed over that way while I worked here. I didn’t want to go back to the apartment, since I knew what I’d stumble into there, and the library was under reconstruction, Starbucks was closed, and my friends’ places weren’t the best locations for creative discovery.
I took a bite of the stale pizza and tried not to spit it out like regurgitation. I took a swig of the Coke and imagined, years down the road, when I would finally be established and have a regular job. Who would that Eliza Oehlstrom be? What would she do in her spare time? With whom would she spend her spare time? Nobody has time to answer what if questions, because they’re infinitely endless, and so I returned to the soft comfort of my writings, my pointless musings. She probably wouldn’t be eating pizza that tasted like swollen cardboard.
I leaned over the pages and pretended I was Stephen King, at the cusp of my literary awakening. I had everything to gain, nothing to lose.
Unimportant, said my racing heartbeat. It was not even important. Everything to gain, nothing to lose. The stakes are high, and at the same time they’re low. It’s all a matter of choice.
The note was just a joke.
“Elizabeth?” somebody whispered, clear as iced glass, and my body immediately tensed like the harsh snap of a noose.
A gust of the stormy wind blasted across the table, but my hands were firm against the stack of papers. I twisted around and examined the surrounding area, searching the empty tables and the untrimmed hedges. There were trees leaning against the columns of the patio. But no psychos, nothing but the sound of the whistling wind. A bird flapped its wings out of nowhere, and it leapt into flight faster than I could blink.
And now I was hearing things.
My eyes were bulging out of my head, and my hand ached to text my roommate, but Sarah wouldn’t believe me. How could she? She’d think the second note was from an admirer, that I was hearing things. After all, she was probably not wrong. That being said, I couldn’t help but squirm in my chair. My hand was twitching, and my skin was flayed by the crisp air. Put on a jacket, Eliza. Where’s your umbrella, Eliza. Who are you, Eliza.
The words on the page were blinking at me like stars, each word a slice of terror. What was it I’d written? And yet I thought this was literary excellence? I thought I could compare myself to Stephen King?
She walks across the pond’s cool, fresh edge, the skin of her feet chafed from the rocky shore.
No one called me Elizabeth.
“My name’s Eliza,” I whispered to myself, a little mantra, and another gust whipped across my face, stinging my skin this time. After I removed a clump of hair from my chapped lips, I looked up and saw Will, and my heart sunk like a damaged vessel. He was oblivious, just for this moment, but he’d see me at any second, so my eyes darted low. I dipped my head down, a writer focused on her most prized work, pushing the rest of the world away. Pushing Elizabeth away, and the person who called her name.
I wanted to hear him call my name, I wanted to hear his voice, but there was nothing but the sly, snaky hiss of the wind. And the only person who called for me was my imagination.
Though I couldn’t focus now, because of a stupid boy, I had to pretend like I was hard at work, like I had a purpose for being on this patio, all alone despite the foreboding weather, the diving temperature, the thud of my heartbeat that felt like it would jump out of its cavity.
I circled a phrase in thick red ink that smeared like blood. The words meant nothing.
It was a long, arduous walk back, but variables don’t matter when you get the chance to go home.
As soon as my eyes finished the sentence, they put me in jeopardy. I blinked up, just for the briefest of seconds, and Will saw me too. There was a catapult in me, and I swore I’d float to my death like a popped balloon. Will lifted up two fingers in a cool, casual wave.
He was at the table just across from mine, despite the endless, friendless tables all around. He was the kind of guy who wants to be around people, even though he was more quiet than most. He smiled at me, and it felt like a mustache had been pulled from the top of my lips. Painful.
“Eliza?” he asked, because I was staring at him, at Will, like a real creep.
“Hi, Will,” I said, steeling my voice, feeling like there was a giant glob of pepperoni on my front teeth. I hated small talk, and I hated it even more with him.
“How’re you doing?” he asked, though I wasn’t sure if he wanted the answer or not.
“How are you?” I shot back, though I didn’t mean to be rude. I should have answered his question.
“Good, I guess,” he said, pointing toward his books. “A lot to study.”
This was what we always said to each other. We were always poring over our work, too busy for anything else. When we saw each other on campus, we always sent each other personal little smiles and waved and said a chipper hello, but it was moments like this when it was so obvious that your heart could just burst.
In any other circumstance, maybe Will and I could have been something. Something great.
It’s obvious he wanted to talk to me; I wanted to talk to him. But where would it even begin? Where could it begin?
My eyes fell back to my book. Always got your head in a book, Eliza Oehlstrom, so that when the people pass you by, you don’t have a clue.
Suddenly, I was reminded of the shallow voice, right behind my head, a terrifying nightmare. Elizabeth.
My soul was clamped down tightly, and I was certain I would pass out, if a tornado didn’t get me first.
Will was talking to me, but I couldn’t hear him, because of my bleeding heart and that same hypnotic voice, like Scandinavian ice down my spine: Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Elizabeth.
“Eliza?” Will asked, and I remembered everything.
Everything came back again, all at once.
The strange obsession with my name.
Maybe I needed that storm to come for me after all, let the storm wash away my grizzled bones and picked-at flesh.
I stood up, my feet digging into the soles of my worn-down tennis shoes. Without another word, I slipped away from Will, from the truth, from the thing that called me Elizabeth.
I hope you all enjoyed this excerpt from my forthcoming novel, Yours Truly, which should be out in the next few months. This book has been a very personal one to write, though very therapeutic as well.
Yours Truly has taken months to write, and it’s not necessarily my favorite novel ever. And, to be honest with all you, I am still in the throes of the editing process.
That being said, it has been a while since I’ve published any new novels, and this book is a good change from my normal material. I do believe that writers should challenge themselves, and therefore I wanted to go a different path in tone.
I hope you guys enjoyed this snippet. Just know more will be coming shortly.
You must learn to let people go. You must learn to do this so that you will live, so that you will have the opportunities I desperately wished for you.
I love you, Abigail, but I’m afraid it’s too late.
GREEN, GREEN, GREEN, the color all around me. For an endless pop of seconds, I can’t see anything but green, and my eyes are desperate for anything—anybody—else, and I’m wailing, screaming, howling at the moon, and when I realize it’s a stupid idea to do that, I bite on my knuckle, as hard as I can, silencing my cries.
My brain’s on fire, my body flailing like the husk of a snake. Tears are streaming down my face. Some people feel resolute, ready, when they are called to die, when life slips through them and heads into the next soul, but I’m not that kind of person. I’m selfish. I want my time on Earth, and I want as much of it as possible.
“Not yet!” I scream, and though I want to furl into myself, I spread out, and I’m scared senseless, but I can think of nothing less than escape. Than saying one last I love you before it’s too late, before I never get the chance again. And I know—trust me, I know—that being left behind is even more excruciating than the act of dying itself.
THE FIRST THING my mother said to me when I moved back into my childhood home at the age of twenty-seven was simple: “How long before your next job?”
I smiled, but my heart was heavy, and my wallet was not. “A few weeks, tops.” And I said it smugly, with gusto, pride.
“Are you sure about that?” she asked, her eyes narrowed like slits, lifting a mug of hot coffee to her lips. She always had the uncanny ability to see right through me.
“Trust me,” I said, because I want out of here as much as you do.
She nodded in approval, which somehow caused her to drop the mug. It shattered and sliced her foot open. It was her favorite one, the one I bought in Uruguay when I was nineteen and studying abroad. Now it was blasted to smithereens.
But the weeks started to vanish by, each moment like an unseen ghost, and there was nothing for me to do in our town. No copy editor positions open, not since the decade before; no need for journalists, because the news always seemed to be the same. I’m not even a journalist, but I know how to report on the things I see, the things I feel, and there was nothing for me. I applied for everything, including a cash register position at a nearby Hobby Lobby store.
After days and days of sluggish non-activity, I grew more and more frustrated. Writers don’t have much option in life, except to find an agent and publish a novel. And if you’re really serious, maybe you can go get a job as a librarian, try out slam poetry, be the next Sylvia Plath. Grab a guitar and write some songs, wait for a label to pick your name out of a hat. But that’s not what I’m about. I’m not your normal writer who gets high off manuscripts and coffee and the buzz of an unseen world and strong, admirable heroes. In fact, I don’t even like writing. It’s just something I happened to get good grades in when I went to school, which doesn’t really help post-college. And, if we’re being honest, the real reason I was a writer—back then, at least—was because it allowed me to go places.
One night, about two months into my stay at my mother’s home, which certainly wasn’t my childhood home anymore, I opened my laptop and dragged the cursor over countless photo albums.
SOUTH AFRICA 2016.
FLORIDA KEYS (round 2) 2014.
SAN ANTONIO 2018.
Since I had hours to kill and nothing better to do, I pushed myself through every album on that computer, the files like sudden snaps of memory. My fingers traced outlines of Scandinavian fjords and English crags, Caribbean islands and flat mesas across the American heartland. My mind was on fire, my eyes ripe with tears. There were photos of South American cuisine and my attempt at riding the hump of a camel in the Jordanian desert to Petra. I stood on Swiss cliffs and Hawaiian volcanoes. It was another woman I saw on the computer. An unrecognizable woman. Certainly not me.
But as soon as I came across the album dedicated to him, I slammed the computer shut and threw the expensive piece of technology against the wall. I had to cover the hole it left with a poster of cats I bought for ten bucks at Walmart. At least my mother would appreciate it if she ever stumbled into my childhood room again. She’d think it similar to his favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, but I don’t get to escape like the clever Andy Dufresne.
It isn’t easy, losing your passion at twenty-seven, when you’re one of the top travel writers in the United States. It isn’t easy getting fired for losing your brain, for losing your love of adventure, when you suddenly have the desire to hole yourself up in your room for hours at a time and cover the windows with black curtains. It sure isn’t easy when you lose who you are, what makes you tick and survive off a bone-crunching salary, but hey, you get a lot of airline miles stored up. You could always surprise your coffee-addled mother and take her to Montego Bay. But that’s only if your mother likes you and can leave the house. Not if she hates you, which my mother does.
The day after throwing my computer at the wall, I snagged a job at a gift shop in the country, where I became a sort of therapist for my customers. I learned about rich Southern aristocrats who’d been in the area for centuries, and I found myself in political discussions where I hid my ideologies. I made about the same amount I did in high school, barely over Tennessee’s minimum wage. But it made me feel safe and comfortable, working there, wrapping little pottery dishes in pink tissue paper, handing presents to the very few souls who chanced upon the store.
“What’s a girl like you doing here?” asked one brave woman, whose name I have since forgotten. It’s not important. They loved to tell me their names, and I forgot them just as quickly as I’ve forgotten the files on my computer.
There were moments when I suddenly clung back to the woman I was. When I saw a little teacup and it reminded me of India; when I found myself in a field of sunflowers and remembered London streets in the springtime. And moments when somebody would say, expecting a true, honest, distinct Southern answer: “What’s a girl like you doing here?”
The one brave woman meant the question about my career choice. But it hit me in the head, the fact that I was in a small, Podunk town. A town five miles from my mother’s house, when I’d spent the past decade traveling around the world, never settling down, never ever wanting to. Never needing to, either, because I was one of the lucky ones. Somebody who got to do what she loved and was paid to do it.
“I don’t know,” I said, though it came out like a squeak, like a mouse. I’m not a mouse. You need to know that now.
The woman who asked me the question did not have a response for me. She could see the faraway look in my eye, and she took her gift and her receipt and jetted out of the store in her periwinkle blue flats. She was beautiful, married, and a mother. She had her creed, and I had mine.
I cried for an hour after she left. Luckily no one came by the store in that hour, but I—who had never been a crier before in my life—suddenly felt like a well had broken loose in my soul. It was like my organs had burst and drained me in their juices. I couldn’t stop crying until I crammed my stomach full of cold pizza that tasted like the bottom of my shoe.
As I reapplied my mascara (I had to look presentable for my older clientele), the bell above the door tinkled, and I was alone no longer.
Though I preferred the solitude of the store, when the hours slugged by and there was nothing but me and the sound of the broken radio speakers, this was something different altogether. My boredom was sucked dry, and in its place was a sort of abysmal fear, a sort of primal awareness that I cannot even begin to describe. My intuition is sharp, or at least I pretend it is, and I felt like a cat ripped from its pride. I was suddenly damaged by a pain that crushed my skull, and it all happened so fast that I was certain I would pass out. There was the sudden awareness that I was alone, and no one would be there to help me if I needed it.
The woman was strange. She walked in, and her shoulders were severely slumped, like she had been mashed to an utmost insecurity. Her hair was strawberry colored and was tucked away in a ratty ponytail. Wisps of the strawberry strands puffed out all around, the baby hairs like flagella. Her lips were pursed so tightly that I could not imagine her ever smiling, not once in her life. Her eyes were a light green, like fading grass, and the whites around them were yellowing with age. Crow feet striated the skin around her eyelids, and I was struck by the realization that this woman was actually beautiful, even though I was noticing her flaws first and foremost. Despite this, she was gorgeous, and it was so strange, because beautiful people are normally confident, right? But this woman… It was as if she had been used to so many bricks on her shoulders that she’d physically shrunken and coiled into herself for protection.
I was so struck by her, so awed and fearing her so deeply, that I said nothing. It was my job to welcome people into this store, and since people were few and far between, this was my second probable sale of the day, and I needed to woo her, charm her to gain her credit card numbers, but I couldn’t say anything. I was too struck.
She didn’t look at me at first. She glided around, pushing her fingers against silver wind chimes, so that the spookiness was even more surreal, this time in the form of music. It was as if the sun had fallen away, and there was a gathering of gray clouds outside. I wondered if I would have to drag in the outdoor embellishments in case of rain.
Eventually, the woman curled around toward me. It was sharp, as if I was nothing, and then I was everything. Her eyes pierced into my own, flailing me open like I was a burning fish, hot on the frying pan. She stared at me with a beaming curiosity that seemed impossible from such a shrunken figure as she, and when a little grin stretched across her cracked, peeling lips, I felt like she could kill me, right here and right now, and I wouldn’t even scream.
“What is your name, dear?” she asked, her voice clear and professional. It was a melodic tune, as if she’d had years and years of training, and how would I be able to tell this fact if I’d just heard her ask one question?
“Abigail,” I said in return, though I knew I looked like one in defeat, one in submission. But what battle had I just fought? Was it internal, my keeping quiet, a steady defense against the woman in my store? Maybe my boredom had churned itself so deeply into my brain, that I couldn’t resist creating this elaborate fear toward the woman.
“Abigail,” she said, and it flared my skin. I glanced down and saw red splotches all up and down my arms. “Abigail is a classical name. A traditional name.”
“Abigail Ross,” I said back, and I cursed myself for giving out more information, but I knew she was going to ask anyway.
“Very Americana,” she whispered back, turning away, stroking a slip of baby blue pottery. There was dust on her finger, and she blew it away with paper-thin lips. “Well, Miss Abigail Ross, what is a girl like you doing in a place like this?”
Ageism does exist, just like racism and sexism and discrimination. It always will, when hearts are rotten by the germs of our culture. But here I found myself speculating as to how old this mystery woman was in the shop, out of my own curiosity. I couldn’t tell if she was spectacularly old, or younger than myself. I wondered if this would change my opinion of her, knowing whether she was old or young, and I bit my tongue as I remembered the question she’d just speared at me.
She glanced up and waited.
“Why are you here, Miss Ross?” The woman suddenly slammed her palms against the countertop, and a deep red bloomed across her angered skin. She was staring into my soul with intention, and it threw me for a loop. I stumbled back and my back brushed against the wall. Noting my terror, she moved away and started chuckling to herself.
“I’m… I’m sorry,” I sputtered, wishing I had 9-1-1 already plugged into my phone. It was possible she’d lunge across the counter and grab me by the jugular. “Why am I here?”
“Yes. Why are you here?”
“I needed a job,” I said, and I prayed somebody else would enter the store, anybody who could save me from this. I still couldn’t tell if I was making up the fear, or if it was real, and that is more terrifying than the act of fear itself.
“You need a job?” she asked, and another haunting smile lit up her face, like a bolt of lightning on Halloween. So much for assuming she couldn’t smile. She cocked her head at me, and I wondered how I’d analyzed her slumped, insecure posture, and now she seemed nothing but the most confident, self-assured woman on the planet. Her teeth flashed in my direction, butter yellow like corn, and she continued: “You’re a writer, aren’t you? Writers always have a look to them. It’s their eyes, maybe. It’s what’s in their eyes.”
“Really?” I asked in disbelief.
“No,” she said with a cocksure wink. She slid her finger against the pottery again, enjoying the feel of the dust on the skin. “The truth is that I heard some ladies talking about you at the restaurant next door. Now don’t grow mad, please. Every woman participates in the gossip wheel at some point, and since it’s a wheel, you’re bound to get caught in it sometimes.”
“And… What were they saying?” I knew I was red with shame, wondering what I did wrong.
The woman had me in her snare. “That you’re not like the women from these parts. That you don’t have the refined accent from years of practice. But they say the same thing about me, and I’ve lived here for ages.”
“Why do they say that?”
“About you? Because they’re jealous. About me? Because they’re scared.”
I had no idea what to say. I was growing more relaxed, but there was still the underlying rush of adrenaline flowing through my veins, and the woman was chuckling to herself again. She shook her head, and I caught a glimpse of a star-shaped freckle on her jawline.
“You can do better, Abigail Ross,” she said to herself, and I could tell she had places to be, other thoughts to think. “Much better.”
And with that, she turned on her heel, and the gray clouds seemed to lift, and the hot, draining sunlight was bursting through the windows again. I hurried to the window, watching as she disappeared into the nothingness, because there was no car around, and she was gone, gone, gone, and I wanted nothing but to leave too, and I thought back to my mother:
“How long before your next job?”
By the Skin of My Teeth is a project I worked on this past summer, and it was incredibly fun to write, because it challenged my writing skills. This was my first attempt at a psychological thriller (and Southern Gothic as well), and it showed me the value in trying new things. (As you guys know, I primarily write romance and magical realism.)
To give you guys a little backstory, Abigail Ross is a talented travel writer who experiences a dramatic loss. When she loses the will to write, she takes a mysterious job from a woman named Josephine Ashley, the owner of a dilapidated Antebellum mansion. Nothing is as it seems…
Therefore, I thought it would be a little fun to preview the first chapter of the book while I query to agents and attempt to get this bad boy published. Of course, who knows what will happen with that, but why not try? If I can’t get it agented, I will publish the book online within the next six months.
I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but maybe I will offer snippets of the next chapters in following blog posts. Leave your feedback and comments, please!
Well, I feel like I’m publishing books left and right. Today I am announcing the release of my newest libro, Mystic Mississippi, that is a swoon-worthy romance set in, you guessed it, Mississippi.
Since I’m in Argentina, I’m especially missing my good Southern roots, and I felt it was time to write a romance novel set back home. This book isn’t my magnum opus, but it was fun to write, and it’s probably a little cheesy at parts, but I think it serves its purpose.
Q & A over the book
Has your time abroad had any influence on your writing?
For sure. Being abroad has made me appreciate my home country (the USA) much more. I have also taken for granted having my family near me, and so I am quite excited to be reunited with them.
In Mystic Mississippi the main character has a strong bond with her mother, and I think that is highly representative of the fact that I miss my own mom. Family is hugely important to me.
Last year, after my freshman year of college, I wrote my favorite novel to-date, a magical realism that I hope to someday publish publish, not self-publish. Therefore, my best writing comes from being away, from exploring new areas and new ideals, but remembering who I am along the way.
Is there a guy who has inspired this romance?
While there is no one significant in my life right now, the main character of Cameron is based on someone I do know… Not to be too cryptic, but…
As for Clara, the book’s heroine, she is not based on me. While we have similarities, Clara is outspoken, sarcastic, and fiery. Therefore, I wanted to write a character who was unlike me, and I think Clara qualifies!
What are you working on next?
I am still working on a magical realism I wrote over my Christmas break. I hope to be done with it in the next few weeks, but I’m not sure if I will self-publish that one just quite yet. It is set in Tennessee and revolves around a family who moves into a (sort of!) haunted house.
As you guys know by now, I write for you, and I’m really happy to share this latest book with you guys. I hope you enjoy it, but I’m probably going to shy away from romance for a little while.
Lately I’ve been on a serious publishing kick. It’s only been a few weeks since I self-published The Forever Optimist, my attempt at chick lit. However, only a few days passed, and I was bitten by the bug once more.
So, without further ado, I’m announcing the self-publishing of my novel, Dark Descent, my first true attempt at the science fiction-horror genre. I wrote it around a year ago, and it has just been sitting around, collecting dust, and that’s not what I write for. I want people to read what I have to say, and I’m super excited to hear the reaction in comparison to my lighter, happier novels.
To celebrate, I thought I would answer a few questions about the book and its relevance in my life right now. Now, again, I don’t normally write as dark as, well, Dark Descent, but I think this is one of my best books. I really like it–and I hope you do too!
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Dark Descent is not your typical Katie George novel. I don’t want to ever stereotype my writing, because I love bending genres and writing what I want to write. There are some months where I want to delve into serendipitous romance, and others when I want to examine gritty drama.
This novel, therefore, is what happens when I up and move two thousand miles away from home, away from the people I love most in the world. The truth is that what I write and the tone with which I write can be traced back to my subconscious. When I read Dark Descent now, I can see how upset and homesick I was. And though California isn’t necessarily Argentina (haha), a Southern girl like me was experiencing some tremendous culture shock in a state about as polar opposite as Tennessee.
When I moved to California, I expected happiness and sunshine and kismet and palms and, of course I can move two thousand miles away, no problem. Except that I’m very close to my family and friends in Tennessee, and it kills me when I am away from them.
So, I was a little angsty and a lot inspired, and to compare my writings at the beginning of freshman year and the end of freshman year–there are some differences. I started class in September, and I completed The Forever Optimist in October or November of 2016. Ironically, my optimism was severely dampened, and I became a bit of a pessimist.
I wanted to write something dark, something that played with my mind, and I wanted it to reflect my mindset.
Dark Descent was born. It is a novel about senseless wealth and greed. It is a novel about what love really is, and what it isn’t. It’s about friendship and boredom and horror and shallow humanity. It also dives into the strength of the human heart.
Two college girls are supposed to be having the time of their lives in Malibu, California, but there is a catch: Something has been watching them the whole time. Something sinister waits for them in one of the crusted-out canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains. And when things start to unravel, somehow these two are forced to seek refuge at an opulent oasis to survive the night.
Is it apocalyptic? Maybe a little. Is it symbolic? Totally, one hundred percent. Is it my best book? No, but I think it has a solid nucleus. I am proud of it because I was being as honest as I could be as I was writing it.
A LITTLE INSPIRATION…
So, yes. I wasn’t having the best time when I wrote it. I felt suffocated as a writer as I lived on-campus. To write, I need space and time and dedication, and I would have to track down an empty closet to clear my head. Most of the book was written in a roach-infested closet, and it wasn’t the most therapeutic experiences of my life, but it produced some interesting results.
I remember calling my dad constantly, asking for his opinion on the novel’s direction, and how I could better improve it. I wanted to impress him with the book, and I knew something like Dark Descent would appeal more to male readers than my previous romances. Therefore, I was excited to showcase my ability to write for both men and women, and I want to constantly push myself into different genres, for different viewership, etc.
WHY PUBLISH IT NOW?
So, it has been about a year since I’ve written the book. I went ahead and sent it to a few literary agents after I completed it, because I wanted to see if there was a chance I could see my book in writing. However, I didn’t send it to many agents, and I don’t think this book should be traditionally published. While I think it is one of my better books, I still have a long way to go as a writer, and deep in my heart, I want my first real novel to be something extraordinarily important, something that pushes boundaries and creates true beauty.
This novel is not that.
This novel is for hard times, and it’s not a feel-good book. It’s creepy and weird and fits how I felt at one point in my life. I will always be able to look back and judge how I felt at a particular point in my life solely based on how I wrote during that time period.
I published it because I don’t want it to collect dust any longer. I want people to read it and give me their feedback, especially if I choose to return to the science fiction genre in the future. 🙂
SOME THANK-YOUS ARE IN ORDER!!
I would love to thank you for reading this post and all my other posts as well. As you know by now, I’m writing all the time, and I’m not interested in making money from this. (I mean, it would be great, but when you love something, you love something). Therefore, you’re part of my life as an undiscovered writer. Maybe, one day, we’ll both be able to look back at this and remember when I wrote on a blog that I barely can remember to write, but who knows. This world is crazy and amazing and sometimes fair and others unfair, and I’m just happy that I can write. I’m happy that I can type out a bunch of words five thousand miles away from home, and still count on being heard in my home country. I can be count on being heard in new countries around the world.
I’ve seen views from Poland, South Korea, Canada, Argentina, etc. That is insane to me. How incredible that I can write this blog, and people literally from around the world can listen to me. That is amazing!
Thank you again. I really appreciate your reading this, and I hope you can enjoy my books as much as I enjoy writing them. For the fans out there… I plan on writing more. Lots more. 😉
As I write this, it is almost midnight, Buenos Aires time. I am exhausted after a long week of Spanish presentations, writing until my poor wrists bleed (just kidding, is that even possible?), and trying not to sweat through my deodorant as summer wraps up in the Southern Hemisphere.
Buenos Aires is a city that never sleeps, and I feel like my lifestyle has mimicked this motto in a way. As a result, I have been writing as I never have before, and I’ve made it my mission to publish my books.
Therefore, I want to explain a little bit more about what’s going on over here in the mente of Katie George.
WHAT AM I WRITING RIGHT NOW?
Well, as the hopeless romantic I am, I have grown accustomed to seeing thousands of couples in the huge, bustling city that is Buenos Aires, and it became my mission to write a full-fledged romance novel. While I’ve delved in the realm a little bit, I know that romance books sell, and I want to sell my books. So, therefore, I’ve got a great book planned out that takes place in the American South. I’m about half-way done with it, and it’ll be out within the next two months.
Over my Christmas break, I also wrote about 95% of a magical realism novel that takes place in Tennessee. It is a pretty epic novel, and one that I’m not sure I will finish. (Yes, it is very painful to write eighty thousand words of a book and realize you don’t want to nip it in the bud.) We will see if I continue to write it, but I find myself in a different state of mind when I am doing this thing called “going to school.”
WHAT BOOK DID I JUST PUBLISH?
So, before I headed off to college two years ago, I discovered a wonderful writer named Liane Moriarty. She’s an Australian genius when it comes to chick lit, and I decided to imitate her style with a women’s novel of my own, even though I wrote it at eighteen and very much still a young girl.
However, my book, The Forever Optimist, was just collecting dust, and I decided it caused no harm to self-publish it through my go-to, Smashwords. I also discovered KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and was able to add four of my novels to the Kindle Store, which I think is pretty cool! I am excited to see where that path goes.
Anyway, The Forever Optimist is a story of, you guessed it!, optimism and its roots in a young woman’s heart after she witnesses a bizarre event that will shake her testimony. The novel takes place in a beachy Florida town on the Gulf Coast, and it was a blast to write. If you’re a fan of Liane Moriarty, then this was my attempt to appease you. 🙂
WHAT MORE AM I UP TO?
I am a full-time college student who doesn’t really know what’s going on. I’m a go-with-the-flow type, and that can be both detrimental and amazing. So, to tell my parents that I wanted to go to school to pursue a creative writing degree, that took a lot of guts, I suppose.
However, I decided that I wanted to pursue a double major in Spanish, and so here I find myself in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I’m constantly consumed by my mind’s love of culture, travel, magical realism, and dulce de leche (seriously, if you don’t know what this is, please check it out. I may even include a picture of it at the end of this article). I am twenty years old, want to be a “real” writer for a living, and have dreams higher than the stratosphere. I know I am young, and people smile at me when I tell them I am a writer, but the truth is, I’m willing to try.
Every morning, I get up and write for three hours before my mile and a half journey to school. When I’m not writing, I’m researching literary agents, untraditional paths to publication, and how to better improve my storytelling. I spend my free time plotting new novels, and when I’m not a therapist to other college students, I try not to be too affected by rejection letters and youthful uncertainty.
The truth is that I’m twenty, and yes, I am a writer. You’re not a writer unless you write, and I write quite a bit. This thing is inside me, and I’m not sure I can ever let it go. The way I see it is that if I’m not blessed with a career in writing in the future, it will always be my passion, and I will always want to share it with the world–and you guys!
Therefore, thank you so much for being part of my journey. Thank you for taking a few seconds to read my blog, and I hope that you’ll follow your heart like I try to follow mine. That’s what life’s about, isn’t it?