Vree’s New Journey [character development]

I am preparing to write stories about Vree Erickson and her friend Lenny Stevens again. Lenny is a character I created 48 years ago, named Liam Burkhart then. Vree soon followed.

The above statement makes it seem like I have written for a long time. I have not. I spent most of that time painting and creating art. Even then, I labored a good part of that time working jobs that paid the bills and gave my family and me food and shelter. I have always struggled commercially and financially as an artist. More so as a writer. But I still do it. Not for fame and fortune. I do it because it still drives me.

Vree and Lenny

Vree and Lenny still come and speak to me, whether I am asleep or awake. Sometimes they tell me of adventures that I end up recording and publishing on the Internet. Someday, those adventures may make it to the print market where people pick books from shelves. For now, though, I publish those adventures in the quickest medium I know.

Lately, Vree has been revealing new stories to me. She does this every year around this time. Winter is coming and I am going to be spending more time indoors. Now is the time to dust off the old laptop and write again.

The last story I published about Vree had her battling the ghost of a witch named Mergelda, also called Margga in an earlier version, which bloomed into a novel from a short story about Lenny and ghost dogs that I called hellhounds for dramatic purpose.

It was my first novel and I was excited to have reached that pinnacle as a writer. But it was not the story I wanted to publish. Or, more accurately, it was not the same story Vree and Lenny first told me, the one that made me rush to my laptop and spill out 100,000 words.

Since then, I have stopped rushing to write more stories. I have taken the time to listen to my characters and to take notes. Vree, who was once an only child 48 years ago before she became the youngest of triplets in the novel, is back to her old self. She is 13 again and dealing with the loss of her father. He died when lightning struck him. The lightning struck her too and changed her—she can hear someone’s thoughts when she is close to the person. And the lightning burned down her home, forcing her and her mother to move to Myers Ridge, a common spooky place in my stories.

Vree can also see her father’s ghost. He appears to her as a friendly apparition. He was a spirit in the novel, but Vree argues with me that he is a ghost. “We cannot see spirits,” she says. “We can only sense them. We see ghosts because they hold to the light they had when they had a human body. We don’t see spirits because they let go of the light.”

I do not know what the light is, but I am sure Vree will show it to me. She has already told me that we are beings who embrace light, and that we fear darkness. “Darkness is the absence of light,” she says. But I question her for more information. Is darkness a void? A black hole? Negative energy?

“Darkness is no light. Exactly that. Nothing more and nothing less.”

I can tell it is going to be an interesting winter with her. I hope she and Lenny show enough of their world and themselves to me that I may produce a new book in the spring. A book that stays true to my characters’ revelations. And a book that will satisfy them and me after all the edits are done.

Vree’s Journal Entry 4 [fiction]

Lenny Burkhart:

Lenny Burkhart is my next-door neighbor and best friend.

Lenny

He’s handsome, with dreamy dark brown eyes and hair. He stands around 5’ 7” tall and says he weighs 130 pounds. He is 15, born July 5. He believes in the supernatural and has shelves of books about it. He has never seen a ghost, but I don’t tease him. Seeing the spirits of dead people isn’t glamorous. Mostly, it’s creepy and often frightening.

He owns a book written by Trevor Bettencourt about the history of Ridgewood. In it is a story about Mara Dekownik, the woman who once lived in my house. Bettencourt claims in his book that she committed suicide after my great-grandfather accidentally killed her father while hunting small game. Ghosts tell me otherwise.

Mara Dekownik:

My maternal great-grandfather, Benjamin Myers, and Mara’s father, Ludwick Dekownik, were neighbors on Myers Ridge and best friends. They hunted together until Benjamin accidentally shot and killed Ludwick while hunting in the woods behind Ludwick’s house. Ludwick’s only daughter Mara Dekownik was a witch who swore vengeance for her father’s death.

Mara

She conjured magic that killed Benjamin and his wife Verawenda. I have met both ghosts.

According to them, a witch’s agency called The Fifth Council House of Magic sentenced Mara to a 1,000-year incarceration called Yalendora, but she escaped custody, stole a valuable spell book from the Council, and used a powerful spell to fight them. The Council called on other councils and obtained enough magic to capture her. They added another thousand years to her incarceration for 2,000 years.

Yalendora isn’t a place, but a thing in which Mara is imprisoned by magic inside her portrait painted by another witch. Trevor Bettencourt owns the portrait and keeps it in the mansion that once belonged to Benjamin and Verawenda. My grandma sold it to Bettencourt and moved to Alice Lake when she married my grandpa.

The Bettencourts:

Trevor Bettencourt lives at the old Myers Mansion with his wife, Ademia, and his son and daughter-in-law, Quinn and Laila Bettencourt. Both Trevor and Ademia are reclusive writers and book authors. Quinn is our town’s leading doctor and surgeon, and Laila is a dentist and orthodontist (which I thought were the same profession, but the latter requires additional schooling and comes with a saying: “All orthodontists are dentists, but most dentists are not orthodontists”).

The Grimoire:

The ghosts of my ancestors, Benjamin and Kate Myers, led me to the stolen spell book, which Mara hid beneath the floorboards of her father’s bedroom. I found the book after my release from the hospital and can read some of the spells, which ae written in a strange language. One of the spells can release Mara from her imprisonment. That spell scares me.

The dusty black spell book is called a grimoire, but it has no title on its hard leather cover or on the title page inside. Its pages are askew and filled with numbers and strange figures, like secret code, which are bits of history written as poems, spells written as songs, and some strange recipes that I’m sure no one would want to eat. I’m the only one who can read the book, when it reveals itself to me. When it doesn’t, the pages are riddled with numbers and strange figures. Having the book has been a blessing and a curse.

Some of My Psychic Powers:

Lightning struck me and, IMHO, unlocked strong psychic abilities in me. I believe everyone has degrees of psychic powers in them, but some people are more “gifted” (or cursed) than others, the same way some of us are naturally inclined towards music or mathematics, for example. The lightning changed me and made me aware of these abilities in me.

Psychic abilities are also known as extrasensory perception (ESP) and sixth sense. There are many kinds and I am slowly discovering and developing new ones.

For now, I can see past events when I touch people (or they touch me). It isn’t something I do purposely … it just happens. Doctors of ESP science call this Retro-cognition or Post-Cognition.

I can also sometimes see events in flashes of detailed insight before they happen. The moments are short and they “announce” themselves with buzzing sounds that only I can hear. Doctors call this Precognition or Premonition.

And

I See Ghosts and Spirits!

Mediumship or Channeling is the ability to see and talk to ghosts and spirits. The difference between ghosts and spirits is who is stuck on Earth and who has crossed the astral plane. Ghosts are stuck here for whatever reason, and spirits have left our earthly plane and travel the spirit world. Some spirits return to Earth from time to time, but not often because it’s a difficult process.

Having ghosts and spirits pop in and out is something I cannot control. And I cannot beckon them to appear. I always thought psychics channeled on purpose to earn money from customers who wished to speak to their dearly departed. This isn’t so … in my case anyway. It’s unnerving when they appear unannounced. And it creeps me out every time.

Journal Entry 5

Save

Help a Guy Out [fiction guest post]

Lenny Stevens

Hi. My name is Lenny Stevens. I’m fifteen years old—although I was sixteen and seventeen a long time ago. But things changed in my life and I became fifteen again. Any fiction writers reading this will understand.

Okay, yes, I probably should have mentioned upfront that I’m a fictional character. But that doesn’t make me less real.

I was born in 1970 … I mean, I was created in 1970 by Steve Campbell, the author of my stories. I was thirteen then, lived in a big house with my mom and dad in Ridgewood, Pennsylvania, and was best friends with Dave Evans. Dave lived out of town on Myers Ridge with his parents and his twin sister, Amy. They no longer exist … I mean, they do exist, but not as the people I knew from 1970 to 1975. Now, Mr. and Mrs. Evans are characters with different names and married to other people, and Dave and Amy are brother and sister to a girl named Vree Erickson. Dave, Amy and Vree are triplets and Vree has psychic powers because lightning struck her.

Anyway, Dave and I were best friends in the 70s, went to Ridgewood High School back when miniskirts and bellbottom jeans were in fashion, and did practically everything together. We got as far as twelfth grade before Steve stopped writing about us. He saved our stories in some 3-ring binders and kept them in a box while he graduated high school, joined the Navy for six years, went off to college for four years, and married and became a dad. Now, his kids are grown up and he’s busy changing the stories in those binders. Personally, I’d rather he not change anything, but the damage is already done. I call it damage because Dave is Vree’s brother now and not very friendly. Read Steve’s book Night of the Hellhounds and you’ll see what I mean. I miss hanging with the old Dave.

I miss my old parents and my big brother and sister, too. My new mom is dead and my dad is the high school’s art teacher and an artist. I’m good at art too, though I never was before Steve published Night of the Hellhounds. I have a different big sister who runs the restaurant my new mom used to own, and I have two younger sisters whom I’m just now getting to know. So far, we’re not very close.

Steve isn’t the only writer who has changed my character. His friend Lola wrote me as a miscreant teenager when she and Steve collaborated on the Night of the Hellhounds book. They scrapped the collaboration when Lola moved to the UK to some place called Leeds with her husband and kids, and Steve deleted the scenes where I behaved like a degenerate before he published the book.

I’m really a good guy. I truly believe that. And I believe I can carry the lead in Steve’s novels. I know Vree is the main character in his planned books about Ridgewood and me, but I think I’ve been around long enough that I can vest the readers’ interest and carry a story from beginning to end easily. That’s why I’ve been interrupting Steve’s writing sessions and whispering at him while he’s drifting off to sleep. I’ve even haunted some of his dreams.

And that leads to why I’m writing this.

If you believe I could be the lead character in one of Steve’s forthcoming novels, leave a reply and let him know. If enough of his readers back me, then my dream could come true.

Whattaya say? Help a guy out before Steve does something crazy like having my family move away, or worse, killing me off like he did to my new mom.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep bugging him every chance I get.

Green Crystal, chapter 19 [fiction]

In this last chapter, it’s now June 29, 2013 and Lenny Stevens is on his parent’s front porch, trying to become a better artist by painting Sara Taylor’s portrait; she reminds him of Vree Erickson, though she is seven years younger. Lenny pines to have Vree back; the hope that she could return by magic glimmers in his eyes and he believes it could happen if he paints an accurate portrait of Vree. But to do so, he needs to practice … a lot. Discouraged by his lack of skill and troubled that Sara is attracted to him, he stops painting for the day and, upon her encouragement, tells her about the magic green crystal that Vree had found in the sinkhole of her backyard, how she became frightened of it, and that she threw it back before vanishing mysteriously. Sara kisses him before leaving for the day. Lost in memories and troubled thoughts, he sits on the porch with a shard of Vree’s broken mirror (a piece he took from her bedroom when Mrs. Erickson allowed him inside one time) and watches twilight turn to night, long after his mother calls him in to eat; he falls asleep and dreams about Vree.

Cracks In Time

We choreograph the crystal’s dance of light and color to mirror the dance of Creation.

Chapter 3 of 3: June 29, 2013

It was almost four o’clock that Saturday summer afternoon when Lenny Stevens picked a housefly from a mound of oil paint on his canvas. The north end of his parent’s front porch was now part of his makeshift artist’s studio. Heat blistered the air despite the shade and an electric fan blowing a cool breeze from one of three card tables. A young girl in a yellow summer dress reclined on a lounge chair covered in multicolored satin pillows. Her hair was the color of fine gold, her cheeks ruby-red, her smiling eyes like sapphire pools. She glowed of extraordinary purity like a summer sunset in a garden of carnations and lilies.

Well, maybe not the latter, but Lenny liked the poetic way it sounded and how much saying “A summer sunset in a garden of carnations and lilies” reminded him of Vree Erickson.

His newfound model, Sara Taylor, was nine—“Nine-and-a-half,” she’d told him—almost seven years younger than Vree and him. But she owned a beauty similar to Vree’s that he desired to capture on canvas—the way he should have done the first day he had met Vree. Yet the very thing he desired to paint distracted him, filled his heart with a want to have Vree back, to see her lounging on the chair instead of Sara.

The daughter of the woman who owned the bookstore downtown raised a delicate eyebrow and curled up a smile at the corner of her mouth.

“My parents say I can invite you to dinner tonight,” she said. “I hope you like Chicken à la caléndonienne.”

Her voice was the light tinkling of wind chimes in a gentle breeze; the very voice that had sung to him five weeks ago about his amateurish paintings of Vree being absolutely beautiful and emotional and heartfelt.

“With practice you’ll get better,” she had told him. “You can practice painting me, if you’d like.”

Now, anxiety passed over his face.

“Who am I kidding? Vree was the artist. No matter how well I try to paint her image, it won’t bring her back.”

Still, the hope that Vree could return by magic glimmered in his eyes. She had been his true love, the only girl in Ridgewood who had ever been able to reach inside and steal his heart. Being with Vree had made everything in his life seem perfect.

He sucked in a deep breath to help settle his anxiety.

“Chicken à la caléndonienne,” Sara repeated.

“Chicken à la caléndonienne?” Lenny said with a voice like a steel breeze from winter’s coldest hour. “What’s that?”

“Chicken baked in butter, parsley and lemon juice. It’s good.”

It sounded good but Lenny dared not admit it. He said, “Hmmm,” instead and adjusted his paint-splattered smock. Then he took a long flat paintbrush and spread white oil paint across his palette. The milky hue merged into a puddle of yellow, crimson and blue paint until he was certain he had the right color. He approached the large easel with its canvas positioned at eye level, dashed a shaky stroke of color across the fabric, and studied again the face of the young girl he was painting.

He saw it then, it was a look in her eyes: puppy love. He put down the brush, tossed his palette and other brushes on a card table and told Sara the session was over.

“Patience, she reminded him as she rose from the love seat.

“Yes, patience and practice, patience and practice,” he huffed, and then backed down as soon as he saw her amorous face peer at him.

“You’re a really cute guy, Lenny Stevens, and you have talent to be a great artist someday.” She smiled.

“I’m too old for you,” Lenny said.

Sara’s smile remained. “When you’re twenty-five and I’m nineteen, our age difference won’t seem like a big deal.”

“I have a girlfriend.”

“Tell me,” she said, releasing the smile and letting a frown crease her brow. “I want to know what happened to her.” She sat on a metal stool next to the card table cluttered with paint tubes and brushes, picked up an art book and rested it on her lap.

Continue reading “Green Crystal, chapter 19 [fiction]”