Why I Write

At times I’ve wondered why I bother to write. The process is daunting and the finished product a distant uncertainty. I’ve written a novel expected to be published in January, but it took me years. If I include the idea and the thinking about turning it into an actual book,

Me signing my first publication contract with Oghma Creative Media. Photo by Casey Cowen, Oghma president

Me signing my first publication contract with Oghma Creative Media. Photo by Casey Cowen, Oghma president.

I’d have to admit it took at least two decades. My daughter, now 29 with a child of her own, talks of waking up one morning as a teenager to find me half awake and upset. I told her I’d thrown out the novel I’d started. Yes, I did. I pitched it and started over. That wasn’t the last time either. Now it’s done. It’s hard to believe sometimes that it is.

The process was long, but through the stops and starts and restarts I turned into a writer.
I had planned to start a second in a series of mysteries with the same protagonist, but while finishing the last edit an idea for a thriller came into my head. I had to start writing it before I burst.
That’s just it. I write. I write not because I dream of publication (but nice reward and validation).
I write because it’s in me now and to stop would be denying a part of who I am.

Graveyard Images and Inspiration

My husband says he never dreamed he’d marry a woman who loves to stop at cemeteries to take photos or just admire the surroundings. He doesn’t seem to mind our little adventures, and doesn’t seem to think I’m too crazy (or he doesn’t admit it aloud anyway).photo 1-4 photo 1-5 photo 2-5 photo 2-6 photo 3-3 photo 4-2 photo-28

Having lived in two cemeteries as a child and visited plenty of them along the way, I find them fascinating, peaceful, and even odd. The rituals of death and how we memorialize it are a puzzle. However, I think my main reason for wanting to stop, take a picture or simply look over the grounds is all about writer’s inspiration.

The character in my first novel, like me, grew up in a cemetery. I’ve got a couple of additional plots rolling around in my head for this same character and know I will get to them. However, I’ve started another novel, a thriller that doesn’t include this character. The plot came upon me like a sudden storm, and I had no choice but to start writing it.

Despite what I may be writing at any given time, I know I will likely continue to visit cemeteries and take photos. They inspire me in some weird way. I stare at the images of headstones and lawns dedicated to the dead. I wonder about the lives that were lived and those left behind.

What inspires you to seek your passion?

Photos by Lori Ericson

Writing Progress and New Business Cards

May has been a good month for me as an aspiring novelist! I have new business cards to help promote myself. And (drum roll here) I can finally say I am done editing my mystery novel, and I am so very pleased with the outcome. I’ve even come up with a new title that fits it really well… “Indecent Liberty.” Even if it changes prior to publication, I’m happy with the progress.

image001Thanks to Russell Gayer and Robin C. Stuttle at Tyson Digital Print Services for the great job, quick service and good price on the cards!

Also, thanks to my husband Lloyd Ericson for all the encouragement, and for putting up with me and my writer life.

Now time to finish another short story and move on to the next novel. I already have a plot churning in my head.

Graveyard Theft

Running from room to room, I searched for a source. An infant’s frantic sobs drove me to throw open each door along the endless hallway, only to find dust and cobwebs, and furniture draped in white sheets. The wood floor creaked, the sound mixing with the wails that were near, but then distant. The final tall wooden door called to me.

Sweat ran down my forehead blurring my vision and a rotten stench caught in the back of my throat. The brass doorknob was cold. It took both my hands to get it to twist. The door finally creaked open.

photo-26Tall windows bowed out in a semi-circle and rain pummeled against the glass. The frantic sobs came from a white crib shrouded in shear fabric in the center of the room.

Inching forward, fear snatched my breath. The crib shook with the wails of the child I couldn’t yet see. I pulled back the shear fabric with a shaky hand.

The baby’s bonnet-covered head was just a skull, empty eye sockets stared ahead, its open mouth ready to let out another wail. Skeleton arms stretched toward me.

I’m not sure if I screamed aloud or just woke from the fright of the recurring nightmare.

They’d been coming more frequently. I’m not sure which was worse, this one of searching for the crying baby, or the other of walking through the cemetery to find ghosts of babies wailing behind each tombstone.

I had to do something and soon. The guilt of what we’d done was eating me up. It was just four a.m. and too early for rising on a Saturday morning, but there was no going back to sleep. I would not rest another night without correcting this wrong.

Within an hour, I was on my way. The small statue of the shepherd wrapped in a blanket in the trunk. I could have disposed of it years ago, yet I hung onto it from guilt. Maybe I’d always known one day I’d make this trip of shame.

The gates to the cemetery were still locked for the night, the sun not yet up. But I knew exactly where I needed to go, and it wasn’t far beyond the marble pillars framing the iron gates. That’s what had made it easy the night I took the dare and stole the statue. The raised garden in the middle of what they called the “Babyland Garden” was easy to access, even when the gates were closed from dusk to dawn.

I thought it was cool, kind of funny, that night years before. Now, the stupidity of it all made me shudder.

Stopping next to one of the pillars, I popped the trunk and pulled the statue into my arms. Making my way around the gates and through the small grove of trees I prayed to not get caught. When I got to the raised garden, I doubted my mission for the first time that morning.

The statue had been replaced with a small marble angel. I hadn’t been back inside those gates since that night and had assumed the shepherd’s platform would still be empty.

“I’m such a dumbass,” I muttered.

There was no telling what the replacement statue had cost. There was no choice but to leave my guilt-ridden token there with its stand-in. I lowered the missing shepherd boy to the rock edge of the raised garden and walked away.

I could only hope my nightmares would now be over.

Most of the preceding story is my imagination. There was a statue of a small shepherd boy with a tiny lamb at his feet stolen years ago from the cemetery my parents owned. My brother and I found it returned one morning some five or six years later. It stood next to the angel statue that we’d bought to take its place.

I’m not sure if it was simply guilt or guilt-ridden nightmares that drove the thief to return the statue so many years after we noticed it missing, but I’d like to think that those who commit such crimes against the dead are tortured for their sins.

Is there anything you feel guilty about that may be invading your dreams? What sort of nightmares do you have? 

PHOTO BY Lori Ericson

 

For Halloween: Revisit of My True Dead Man Story

My True Encounter with a Dead Man

I woke up to the “swish swish” sound of his arm moving against his windbreaker in the eerie green glow of the living room. His face was covered with blood, as was his chest that was exposed by the open jacket. He wore cut-off jean shorts and tennis shoes. I thought it was a dream, this stranger illuminated by the green glass lamp base. I was stretched out asleep on my stomach on the living room floor in the house next to the cemetery when I heard him. He came through the dining room and sat in my dad’s recliner a little after midnight.

Hatbox_Ghost_Sketch_by_Captain_HalfbeardHe stared at me, the smeared blood making him look surreal. I put my head back down thinking I must be dreaming.

He rocked in the recliner.

Raising my head again, I could see the same image.

“Who are you,” I asked.

“I’m dead. I just crawled out of my grave.” He rocked.

“Oh, come on. Do you know my brother John?” I asked. He looked about John’s age, a few years younger than me.

“I might of, when I was alive, but I just crawled out of my grave.” He rocked again in the recliner and continued to stare.

Frozen in place on the floor in front of him, I was unsure what to do. He wasn’t a dream. I hadn’t ever seen him before. Fear caught in my throat.

His rocking stopped. He raised a hand to his face, drew it back and stared at his palm with a quizzical look on his face as if he’d never seen blood before.

Lowering his hand to his lap, he rocked and looked at me. “I’m bleeding to death.”

“You said you’re already dead. How can you be bleeding to death?” It was an obvious question, or so I thought.

“I’m bleeding to death,” he repeated in a raised voice.

That scared me. Why had I questioned this dead man, this apparition covered in blood?

I started to get up, moving backward slowly and watching him closely.

“I just crawled out of my grave,” he yelled.

I got to my feet, ran around the corner, down the hall to my parents bedroom. I heard him following. By the time my dad sat up in bed and put on his glasses, the apparition was standing in the hall. He reached into the bathroom, flipped the switch, and the light fell over this teenage boy covered in blood.

“Who the hell are you?” Dad asked.

“I just crawled out of my grave. I’m dead.”

He stared back at Dad, who repeated his question.

“I just crawled out of my grave, and I need to use your bathroom.” He stepped into the bathroom. I heard the water start in the tub.

I didn’t see him again until the police officer gently coaxed him out of the tub and escorted the boy from our home.

My dead man had apparently done a few too many drugs, entertained himself by jumping from headstone to headstone in the dark cemetery and broke his nose.