Exclusive Sneak Peek of the New Green Crystal Series

I’m still reworking my young adult (YA) Green Crystal series of books, which I published in 2013 and then took off market three years later. I began the series with no clear vision of its future. It was a series with no end and each installment was a short story (or more) written in “pantster” mode. Every story was an adventure into the unknown.

But things changed in 2016 when I realized that I needed to structure a plan around those stories. It needed to reach a destination, just like my paintings did when I made sketches of the visual world I was creating.

Unlike the disciplined artist that I am, the carefree writer in me struggled to structure a straightforward process. It was more fun to unfold my wings of creativity and fly into the unknown and see where the adventure took me. But alas, plot, setting, and pacing in stories are necessary constructs between the first sentence and the last. No book ever gets written if the writer keeps soaring into the uncharted.

A well-published author told me years ago that he created his books the way a contractor builds a house. He begins with a blueprint, gets the materials needed, and builds by following the blueprint. But what is a writer’s blueprint? Many authors have theirs, which you can find on the How To/DIY shelves of every bookstore. Using my journalist skills, I made preliminary sketches of the 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Once I had sketched the five into a rough outline, I set about writing the How. The How is the journey of every story and where every author wrestles with how much How (detail) does one put in a story?

Again, seeking advice, I was told to throw everything and the kitchen sink into my book’s first draft. Then, after a short break—a fortnight or two, I had to return to the mess and throw unneeded things out, connect loose parts, and make the thing whole and uncluttered.

Was I building a house again? Apparently so.

So, I’ve been rebuilding the Green Crystal stories and getting closer to releasing three of the books this year. (See my January 23, 2022 post.) The first book is done and I’m excited about the achievement. So excited that I’m sharing a few lines of that story here, just to whet your appetite to things to come.

Disclaimer: My story is classed as a YA one because of the main characters’ ages but I don’t consider myself as an author of YA. I consider my stories suitable for all ages, classed as AA in my world.

* * *

It was a chilly Halloween night when I rode my bike to Myers Cemetery under the cloudless moonlight. Trick-or-treat had ended four hours ago and my gut was full of candy. But that hadn’t stopped me from smuggling some peanut butter cups in my coat pockets in case a craving hit while I looked for ghosts.

Halloween was prime time for ghost hunting, and this year I hoped to finally see some. An ancient local legend claimed ghost dogs patrolled Myers Cemetery from sunset to midnight on Halloween night to guide lost souls back to their graves, and I wanted to see them. So did my best friend Lenny Avery who arrived on his red mountain bike minutes later.

He parked his bike next to mine in front of the cemetery’s tall black iron gate, then stretched his arms over his head. He was lanky and a little clumsy at times and stood a half-foot taller than me.

Seconds later, his twin sister Gaylene rode up, followed by her friend, Vree Erickson. Vree’s real name was Verawenda but we called her Vree because of her initials: VRE.

I shot a quizzical glance at Lenny. What were they doing here? Gaylene didn’t believe in ghosts.

“I came to keep you two boneheads out of trouble,” she said when Lenny echoed my thoughts out loud. She leaned her yellow road bike against the fence connected to the gate, and Vree followed with her purple one.

They sounded a little out of breath, though they only lived a mile away on Russell Ridge.

“That was a one-time accident,” Lenny said, referring to last year when he had tripped over a headstone and broke his left collar bone when he fell onto another headstone. “It could have happened to anyone.”

“Well, Mom asked me to keep an eye on you this year.” Gaylene pulled down the white knitted cap atop her head of long brown hair. We all wore our winter coats, and hers matched her hat. She even wore white jeans, which made her look like a fashion model in her attire.

Lenny spat. “You’re not my babysitter. Nick and I can manage fine without you.”

“Mom doesn’t think so, so take it up with her. Besides, I’d rather be home where it’s warm than pull parental duty.”

“Fine. Then go.”

I turned away from their bickering. We had been friends most of our lives, but their brother-sister relationship had become strained since our entering ninth grade this year.

I drew in a breath and decided to intervene. “Did we come to look for ghost dogs or not?”

The others looked at me, surprised I suppose that I had spoken up. Then Gaylene chuckled. “You know ghosts aren’t real. If they were, you’d have seen one by now.”

I burned a little from her laughing at me. But Lenny intervened. “We found proof in one of Grandma Avery’s old diaries. If she said ghost dogs are real, then I believe her.”

Lenny had a profound curiosity of the supernatural equal to my own. Over the summer, he and I had found one of his grandmother’s teen diaries among her belongings in his parents’ basement and learned about a time when she and some of her friends had seen the ghost of a black Labrador Retriever at Myers Cemetery on a Halloween night. The ghost dog guarded the gated entrance and wouldn’t allow them to enter. Some boys threw stones at it to chase it away, but the stones passed through its body and the dog vanished. She never saw the ghost dog again.

Gaylene scoffed and Lenny told her to be quiet. I turned to enter the cemetery, then stumbled over a mound of dirt along the grassy pathway. I sidestepped to keep from falling into a freshly dug hole. I caught my balance and aimed my flashlight at a three-foot-long by two-foot-wide cavity.

“Hey, look at this,” I called out. Something had pawed the earth to make the hole. Several hoof prints marked the dirt.

Gaylene was the first to join me. She aimed her phone’s flashlight at the hole. “Why would anyone dig a hole here? Someone could break an ankle. Or their other collarbone.”

Two more flashlight beams met ours.

“It could be a grave.” Lenny knelt at the other side of the hole for a closer look. “I think it’s the empty grave of one of the cemetery’s protector dogs.”

Vree knelt at his side. “What’s a protector dog?”

Lenny turned to her and shared the legend that had started our search three years ago. He and I had found an online news story about the cemetery’s two

guardian dogs: a pair of black Labrador Retrievers buried alive at the cemetery’s entrance two hundred years ago.

“It’s so their spirits can guard and protect the cemetery grounds from evil forces trying to enter,” I added.

“That’s so cruel,” Gaylene said. “I can’t believe someone did such a horrible thing to those defenseless dogs.”

Lenny agreed. “Superstition can make people do all sorts of stupid things. But it adds credence to ghost dogs protecting the cemetery.”

When Gaylene didn’t poke fun at that, I aimed my flashlight away from the hole. “Speaking of superstition, I remember reading that if anyone ever removes their bones, the dogs’ spirits will turn into hell hounds.” My flashlight lit up another empty grave fifteen yards away.

Gaylene laughed. “That’s even dumber than believing in ghosts.”

I burned again but didn’t disagree.

She said, “We should fill in these holes so someone doesn’t blame us for digging them.”

“Uh-uh, no way.” Lenny stood. “We came to see ghosts. Whoever dug up the graves and took the bones, then that’s on them.” He started toward the gate. “Come on.”

* * *

Thanks for reading.

Until next time, peace and love.

Macroscopic Death [poetry reblog]

Faces fading like new literature,
soft and pale,
sink into the quicksand of poverty.
Their government turned their dollars into pennies.
One hundred George Washingtons won’t buy a fistfight today.
But a hundred Ben Franklins can get you murdered…
Franklin kicks Washington’s ass every time.

But whose city park does big Ben stand in?
Philadelphia?
Tiananmen Square?
DC, where the crackle of old flesh inside the White House
grows loud above the vomiting whispers from a Chinese whorehouse
fronting the CCP,
UN,
and WTO?

Oblivious,
Washington’s carved face remains proud and noble
in his green erection
where he stands alone in the town park I sit at.
Alabaster pigeon poop covers his broad shoulders.
Cell phones twitter at his feet with news that does not educate;
a horror brought about by the theft of a billion gold Franklins
when our infected financiers sold America at the First World War
for a hero’s seat at Versailles.

Washington died the day Franklin was fitted as bridegroom
for the multiple marriage of our country to the World Bank,
to OPEC,
to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,
to the World Economic Forum,
to the World Council of Churches,
to the World Health Organization,
for unity by assimilation
for control by one government worldwide.

Apple Orchard [poetry repost]

Apple Orchard
Apple Orchard, Oil Painting

In small acreage on a hilly clearing,
Sunny morning shines golden on chalky-pink blossoms;
I pause and prolong my hike to watch sunbeams lick away dewdrops
Soaking in shaded greenery of an apple orchard.

Craggy, crabby branches nod jaggedly at a breeze dashing across the way;
Wasps complain from gray papery hives swaying above me;
A hummingbird pauses and peeks inside a blossom—
Perhaps she smells the jellies, pies and cider clearly on my mind.

I head away on journey once more,
Longing to return and sample ripe fruit from the trees.

© 2006

New WIP Installment 4 [fiction]

In this final installment, Abigail and Quinn butt heads, and then Abigail goes to the hospital’s breakroom to cool off. It is still Monday and four days before Halloween. I have a feeling that the holiday is going to pair up Vree and Abigail before the novel ends.

Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone.

Enjoy the installment. Thanks for the likes and comments on the previous posts. And again, please don’t shy from letting me know what you think about this story so far.

4

Abigail was lost in thought as she walked down the sapphire colored hall with its highly polished light green tiled floors. Quinn was a few feet in front of her, his heels clicking sharply. He stopped at the elevator bay. “That was a hell of a surprise,” he said.

“I’m still stunned,” Abigail said. Her belly rumbled—almost as loud as the rumble coming from the elevator shaft. She stood next to him, swayed for a moment, and then said, “For a moment I was worried I was going to lose my job.”

Quinn pressed the only button there, the square one marked DOWN. “He’s crazy,” he said steely, “picking you to work in the OR. But that’s okay. I like the idea of you working for me.” Embers flared at the rims of his eyes as he smiled. “I’ll make you a deal. Sell me the lake house and I’ll back off and give you no hassles.”

And there it was … again, ever since the divorce. The log house at Alice Lake and its thirty acres her grandfather had left her when he died. Quinn had taken a special liking to the place during the marriage, but Abigail had been wise to keep Quinn’s name off the deed.

“Not for sale,” she said. “And what do you mean by giving me no hassles? This isn’t kindergarten. I expect you to behave professionally.”

“I should think you would want to make things easy on yourself,” he growled. “Keep the head surgeon happy, if you know what I mean.”

“Are you threatening me?” She could feel embers heating around her own eyes.

“Here’s some advice,” he said as the elevator car stopped and the stainless steel doors rumbled open and revealed an empty car. “Don’t try to play in the big leagues, Abby.” He stepped inside, turned and flicked his hand at the air as though he was brushing away a fly. “You wouldn’t be working here if your grandfather hadn’t been on the board of directors. And if it was up to me, you’d be nothing more than an admissions clerk.”

The doors began to close. Abigail lunged at the panel and pressed the DOWN button. The doors rumbled open again. “You don’t own this hospital,” she said through a clenched jaw. “And you don’t own me. Not anymore.”

“Is that so?” Quinn grinned, exposing large teeth at her. “You’re part of the OR staff now. My OR. So consider yourself owned, babe.”

Abigail stared at him, hoping to see him fade away like a bad dream. He remained postured in his stance, smirking at her. She swiped at the tears pooling in her eyes.

Quinn laughed.

“You’re nothing more than a bully,” Abigail said.

“And you’re a slut who slept with Tommy. I can never forgive you for that.”

“Forgive me?” She slapped the wall above the panel. In her mind, she had struck that supercilious smirk from his face. “You cheated on me!”

“And who did I find you with in our bed?”

“It wasn’t like that. Tommy was drunk—”

“Keep telling yourself that.” He stepped back, folded his arms over his chest, and shook his head three times. “Good luck carrying this baby to term.”

“I will. I don’t have a jackass for a husband who’ll hit a utility pole and make me lose our baby!”

Quinn shrugged. “Now you just have a jackass who calls himself an artist but paints houses for a living.”

“Well, at least—”

The doors began to close. Abigail waited with her hands balled into fists for her comeback—the one that would hurt him most. But it stayed in her throat as the doors closed. She took in a deep breath, and then let it out with a growl.

“This will never work,” she said. She marched to Wentworth’s outer office. The door was closed and locked. He had left, likely taken the rear stairwell next to his outer office to the administration parking lot. She wondered if he had seen and heard her fighting with Quinn.

Her stomach rumbled. This time for chocolate.

She entered the stairwell and followed it down three flights of cerulean and light-green concrete stairs to the nurse’s break room. There, she charged into the cozy room and halted in front of the candy machine.

“Damn it.” The Kit Kat bars were sold out. She pressed her forehead against the candy machine’s Plexiglas window. She did not see the reflection of the white-haired nurse who stood at the coffee maker next to the sink behind her. Her mind busily played more highlights of her angry moments with Quinn.

When her mind settled from its Quinn attack—and it did, quicker now that Daniel was a part of her life—she spied the last chocolate truffle waiting inside the machine. The money slot refused the crumpled dollar from her skirt pocket. After three tries, she gave up, feeling defeated. Turning, she halted with a yelp as she faced a white Styrofoam cup that seemed to hover in front of her face.

“Hot and fresh,” Emily Frewin said.

Emily’s cinnamon breath wafted over the nutty coffee aroma. The plump woman always chewed Big Red gum. Neither smell alleviated her frustration or her nausea.

She took the cup by its top and bottom and almost dropped it from the heat, then hurried it to the nearest table and blew on her stinging fingers.

Emily sat across from her and eyed her suspiciously. The older nurse’s brown eyes were red and puffy.

“Allergies,” she said when Abigail commented on them. “Every October.” She shook her head. Her short hair held its place above a narrow brown forehead, and where it fell short and straight in the back, caressing a slender neck and resting unmoving on the back collar of her white blouse. Nurses her age were well familiar with hair spray.

“What happened upstairs?” she asked. “I heard you were in Wentworth’s office. It has to be important if it involves Wentworth.”

“I turned in my leave of absence papers.”

“To Wentworth? Why should he care about your leave?”

“I think I did something I’m going to regret.” She watched steam rise from her cup. “In fact, I know I am.”

Emily cocked her head. “You’re going to make me play Twenty Questions, aren’t you?”

“You have to promise to keep this news to yourself until I’m back from leave.”

“Listen, I’m old enough to be your grandmother. I have secrets even my husband doesn’t know, and he thinks he knows everything about me. Now tell me what’s eating you.”

“Wentworth offered me Linda’s job and I accepted.”

A smile filled Emily’s face. “Congratulations.” Moments later, she returned to studying Abigail’s face. “This is where you smile,” she said.

“I know it sounds good, but I’m having second thoughts of working with Dr. Quinn, medicine jerk.”

“You’ll do just fine working in the same room with your ex-husband. You have spunk, Abigail Mae Gentry. You won’t let the sonofabitch push you around.”

“He blamed me again for our divorce. And he wants me to sell him the lake house.”

Emily shook her head. “He owns enough property in and around Ridgewood. Don’t you sell him anything.” She looked down at her coffee. “Don’t ever give in to him. Never.”

Two chattering Radiology nurses entered the room and took turns ordering from the candy machine. Abigail and Emily were silent. After they got their candy and left, Emily said, “I got laid off. Just found out a half-hour ago. But don’t you feel sorry for me. This was a job, not a profession. I can always go back to being a Walmart cashier … anything to keep me busy.” Emily returned to staring at her coffee. “And if that doesn’t pan out, my oldest, Larry, said he can get me a job at the plastics plant, so there’s always that.”

“Well, if you need anything, call me,” Abigail said. An awkward silence fell between them. She was certain there was more Emily wanted to tell her.

“What is it? she asked.

“It’s a bit awkward, but I know you have an interest in the unordinary. So, I’m going to be frank. At first I thought our new patient was either talking to herself or the lightning that struck her may have harmed her brain.”

Abigail leaned forward. “Are you talking about the girl with the unusual name?”

“That’s the one.” Emily lowered her voice. “Or she’s neither and I either saw something real and extraordinary or there’s something wrong with me.”

“What do you mean?”

“Earlier today I answered her bell and just before I entered her room, I heard her telling someone that she wanted them to leave her room … to leave her alone. She even told me that she wanted them out of her room, but no one was there.”

“Fascinating.” Abigail leaned closer. “And?”

“Just that it was so cold in there … colder than usual. I got her a blanket and got her calmed down … she seemed so frightened. But the really weird part was when I was at her bedside, I swear I saw a flash of white at the door, like a camera flash, only not as bright. And in the light—”

Two more nurses—Lab, by their blue name badges—entered the room and headed to a table in the back.

“You’re going to think I’m crazy,” Emily whispered, “but I saw something in the light … a woman … a big woman.”

“That’s Mrs. Radcliffe,” Abigail whispered. “You’re not crazy. I’ve seen her too. She’s a ghost.”

“I’ve never believed in that stuff. But…” Emily swallowed down her coffee. “But I’ve been a nurse long enough to know there’s more to life after this one is over.”

Abigail sat back. “So it seems our young patient may have been talking to one of our resident ghosts. That is definitely intriguing.”

“And spooky to hear you say there’s more than one ghost in our hospital.”

“All harmless.” Abigail stood. “I’m heading back to the floor before people think I was fired.”

Emily went to the machine and bought another coffee. “Since they’re laying me off after today, then I’m taking a longer break.” She sat and said, “What are they going to do? Fire me?”

End of installments