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.
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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.”
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Thanks for reading.
Until next time, peace and love.