A short excerpt from my novel.

Because I am tired ( and feeling a bit tapped out on the fresh blog topic front) I decided to post a few paragraphs from the novel I’m working on. Because I am chilly (and regreting that I didn’t have one last bonfire before it turned cold) I chose this snippet:

(Lizzy is burning yard waste after a day spent working outdoors.)

Lizzy’s body unkinked as she watched the blaze grow. When the logs had caught well, she stood to add the final fuel—the pile of willow whips. Sweet, white smoke billowed as the flames worked to ignite the green wood. She retreated to her lawn chair. The fire’s kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, yellows and blues lulled her into stillness.

As the fire matured to low flames springing from cracked, ash-covered wood, she slumped with her eyes half shut and her fingers laced loosely over her belly, allowing her thoughts to wander over the accomplishments of the day. She didn’t startle when she heard her name in the hissing and popping of the fire.

Her gaze drifted up from the embers to the coiling smoke that rose toward the dark sky. Within the coils, a figure came into focus. Lizzy’s head dropped back. Her skull clunked against the aluminum frame of her chair, but she barely registered the thud. Her hands remained, numb and brick-like, on her abdomen. Under them, her stomach moaned and rolled unpleasantly.

She studied the hovering form. It … no, she … appeared to be made of the smoke, yet concealed within it. The light cast by the dying fire seemed pale and thin compared to the figure’s own, internal, illumination. She was a creature made up of layers of light. But it wasn’t as though she glowed—rather, she dispelled the dark.

Again the figure breathed her name. A string of faint words, lost in the hissing of the fire, followed. Lizzy tried to decipher the movements of the pale, blurred lips. The apparition frustrated her attempt at lip reading by moving her left hand across her face—the wrist encased in a tight cuff … but now bare, as the milky bell-sleeve of a robe fell back—in a somehow familiar gesture. She was tucking a lock of smoke behind her right ear.

Lizzy wanted to move, to speak, to drop her head between her knees and breath hard and fast. Instead she remained quiescent, watching as the smoke-woman stepped down and toward her, using the shimmer above the flames like an uneven staircase. The warmth of the fire was nothing compared to the sensations flooding her body. Knife-edged heat was stabbing out from her core, boring through her thighs and arms, burrowing into her extremities. An urge to run coursed through her, but she could not even twitch backward into the webbing of the chair. I’m frozen, she thought with horrified clarity, frozen in place, and about to combust.

The smoke-woman advanced smoothly, and probably slowly, but the distinction between minutes and seconds had skewed for Lizzy. She had ample time to contemplate her bad joke, her ill-chosen thought. She wanted any word to describe her state except frozen.

Good night. Sweet dreams.


How can it be so painful to write three paragraphs?

I spent much of today preparing my completed chapters for a public unveiling in an online critique group. I had to draft a bit of set-up text – something like the teaser you might read on the back of a paperback novel. It needs work, but this is what I came up with:

In one line:

A haunted Midwestern family discovers its own secret heritage after one member dabbles in new-age spirituality.

In about 250 words:

Lizzy Rickart Robideau – thirty-three years old and sixteen years married – has everything her extended family ever wanted for her: a snug house in picturesque Arden, where generations of Rickarts have grown up. Two bright, well-behaved children. An adoring, ambitious, husband. Lizzy knows she should be content, but lately her homely, constructive pastimes – like knitting, scrapbooking, gardening – have failed to stave off a gnawing restlessness.

One September evening, on her weekly night out, Lizzy’s childhood fascination with the paranormal is rekindled. In the days that follow – inspired by books about new-age witchcraft and spurred on by her long-held suspicion that her century-old house is haunted – she develops an eclectic practice of the Craft for herself. Her magickal efforts meet with satisfying success, but unintended consequences arise. The minor paranormal phenomena which initially sparked her curiosity intensify. Tensions develop in her relationships when her occult interest is dismissed, even mocked, by her most trusted confidants.

As the formerly benign haunting begins to menace her and the children, Lizzy – feeling more isolated than ever before within her close-knit family – is forced to seek understanding, advice and instruction from an experienced witch, who has recently opened a metaphysical shop in Arden. While striving to control her own abilities – and those of her teenage daughter – she works to excavate her family’s heritage in an effort to identity the spirits that are threatening to tear apart everything she has built.