OK, so in some parts of the country, it might not feel like it yet, but it is spring. And when the spring flowers grow, so, too, does my motivation and inspiration to Write All The Things.
(I should say I get interested in spring cleaning too, but I’m not going to lie to you.)
The other day, I mentioned how I was trying to decide on which project to start next. I’ve decided. I have a couple novels that I need to finish. One, in particular, I really want to finish. That’s the one I’m going to work on.
It’s called RealmWalker. I’m 18,700 words into it (counting the +/-300 I added last night). At the minimum, that’s roughly a third of the way through it. I have the synopsis. I have short character bios. After the work I did on it last night (and the requisite re-reading), I know where I’m going with it.
I’m excited to get it done. That’s my goal for this month. I want to finish the rough draft of this novel. I’ve received good–no, make that great–feedback on it from contests and a very early beta reader. It would be ridiculous to abandon it completely.
So I’m working on it. As soon as I get this posted, I’m going to write more on it tonight. When it is finished and published, it will be under my pen name, Kat O’Reilly.
Spring has sprung and, apparently, it woke my muse too. (For the record, I don’t go by “the muse” for nonfiction, but I do refer to such a fickle mythological creature for fiction.)
I thought about just ending this post with that. Instead, I think I’ll give you a teaser. Here’s the first chapter.
(Language warning for those sensitive to it.)
My first case literally walked into me as I was sitting at the kitchen table working a crossword puzzle before looking at the classified ads one more time. I have never been taken over before and it’s not an experience I want to repeat. I dropped my pen and tried to fight it off.
“Who are you?” I demanded, gritting my teeth, trying to force it out of me.
I stopped fighting. I knew that name. I heard it on the news just this morning.
Seth/I picked up my pen and started writing a telephone number. “Call this. Tell them I know who killed me.”
“Who?” I asked the question aloud.
“You don’t need to know that.” It seemed strange that I could hear him both inside my head and outside my body.
“Yes, I do. There’s no one in the world who will believe I call out of the blue and say I know who killed….”
“You don’t. I do. There’s a difference.”
“They won’t see it that way.”
He sighed and bit off a string of vulgarities that I won’t repeat.
Taking advantage of his distraction, I concentrated and tried to force his presence out of me again.
“I won’t leave until I’m finished with you.”
“Or until I’m dead?”
“If that’s what it takes.” He waited. “If you don’t make the call, I will.”
“Who am I calling?” I reached for the phone.
I dialed the number and listened. After four rings, either an answering machine or voice mail picked up. “No answer.”
“No shit, Sherlock. Hang up.” He/I wrote another number. “Try that one.”
I shrugged and dialed again. “What do I say?”
“I’ll do the talking.”
“I heard that.”
“I know.” As the phone rang, I looked out the kitchen window. Everything outside looked perfectly normal. “Why did you have to come screw up my day anyway?”
He didn’t answer.
Seth/I spoke in his voice. It hurt my throat to talk like that. “Baby, I need you to listen and listen close. Don’t cry. Don’t get all hysterical on me. This is important.”
“Who is this?” she demanded.
“You lying son of a bitch!”
“No. Listen to me—”
The line went dead.
“That went well,” I said hoarsely. I cleared my throat and swallowed a few times. “I hope you didn’t just ruin my voice.”
“Fuck your voice.”
“Now what?” I shoved the crossword puzzle away. There goes my morning.
Yeah, well, there went my LIFE, bitch. Deal with it.
I sighed. “I’m obviously not going to be rid of you until whatever it is you think you have to tell your wife is said, so while you try to figure out what to do next, I have a new job to find and a house to clean.”
I tried to get up, but Seth kept me in place.
“I hate this.” I crossed my arms and glared out the window. “If I look in a mirror, will I see me or you?”
“Depends on if I want you to see me or not.”
“OK. Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. You were killed about two weeks ago, according to the news.”
“No. I was found two weeks ago. I died a week before that.” He was quiet, but I could feel him thinking inside my head. “Yeah. A week. Time gets kind of screwed up when you’re dead. It’s hard to keep track of it because it doesn’t mean the same to us as it does to you.”
“Yeah. There are lots of us around, you just don’t see us.”
If silence could grow, I would swear it did this time. “Trust me. You don’t want to see some of them.”
Something about the way he said it made me shiver. “I’ll take your word for it. What else is different?”
“Until our business is finished and we’re assigned to one realm or another, we can walk between the realms.”
“I can come and go as I wish between heaven, hell, and earth.”
“Could I?” I’d get to see daddy again.
“Not yet. When we’re done, you will. That’s the only way I can pay you for helping me. Give you some kind of skill that you don’t have now.”
Hm. That could be interesting.
More than you know.
“If I have to work with you, don’t call me ‘bitch’ or anything like it anymore.”
I could almost feel him shrug.
He/I did shrug.
This would take some getting used to.
The phone rang.
I jumped and looked at the clock. An hour had passed. It surprised me that so much time could go by in the few minutes I spent inside my own head. That’s not quite right, but it’s the best explanation I had.
“It’s Jessica,” he informed me.
I pushed the button to answer it.
“Who is this?” she demanded before I could say anything.
“Where is he?”
“The man who called from your number and claimed to be my husband.” She had been crying. I could hear it in her voice.
Aw, hell, baby.
“I don’t know how to tell you this. I don’t quite get it myself.”
“He… that is… his spirit walked into me this morning. He kind of… took over.”
“I don’t believe you. This is a very cruel joke, Ms. Strange.”
“It ain’t a joke, Jessica,” he said. “It’s true. I needed to talk to you. I thought—”
She hung up.
“Next time, just say whatever it is you want her to know.”
“Yeah. Like she’ll believe that?”
“It’s not like she believes you now. How would it be any worse?”
“Believe me. It will get worse.”
I tried to get up again. This time he let me. I went through the motions of doing housework. I loaded the dishwasher and started a load of laundry.
Seth stayed quiet.
After lunch, I sat down on the couch with the classifieds and a spiral notebook. Instead of looking for a new job, I slept. When I woke, I didn’t feel as though I had slept any and I had writer’s cramp in my right hand.
“Yeah. No thanks to you. What did you do to me anyway?”
“Nothing. I just took over.”
“There were some things I needed to do.”
“You don’t need to know. That’s why you went to sleep and I took over.”
Oh, I hate that tone! Why doesn’t he just say “DUH” and be done with it!
“You don’t need to. I took care of that for you.”
“You’re such a smartass.”
“That’s what Jessica used to say. It’s one of my better qualities.” He almost sounded like he was smiling.
“OK. So you took over and I didn’t look for a job for—” I looked at the clock. “—over two hours! How am I going to pay the bills?” The ache in my right hand started to fade.
“I need you more than you need a job.”
“I don’t think so, buddy. Maybe if I went to St. Joseph’s, the priest there would do an exorcism and get rid of you for me.”
“I’m not a demon.”
“So? It’s not just for demons. It would work for any kind of spirit possession.”
Seth didn’t answer, but I could feel his disappointment.
Shoving myself up off the couch, I went to the front door. “I’m going to get the mail.”
He turned my attention to the kitchen table. He had stacked the mail neatly on the table instead of just tossing it there like I usually did.
“I wouldn’t know. Look for yourself.”
“Thanks for your permission.”
The rest of the day went that way with us bickering back and forth inside my head. It wore me out so I went to bed early.
“You know something else about being dead?” Seth asked the next morning after I woke up.
“Go away!” I turned over and pulled a pillow over my head.
“No sex.” He/I moved the pillow. “You know that’s not going to get rid of me.”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to hear about your lack of a sex life. I’ve got other things to worry about. Like a job.” Since he wouldn’t let me go back to sleep, I got up, went to the bathroom, and turned the water on to heat up for a shower.
“Like I said. I need you more than you need a job. And if this works out right, you won’t have to work for anyone other than yourself ever again.”
“What if I don’t want to do that?” Don’t be stupid.
“Yeah. Don’t be stupid.”
“I wish you’d stop doing that.”
“We could talk like that, you know. You don’t have to talk out loud for me to hear you.”
“Yes, I do. Otherwise, I feel like I’m just talking to myself.”
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Talking to you.” I undressed.
“But I’m inside you. In your head.”
“Then start paying rent, bucko!”
I ignored him and got in the shower. Thankfully, he left me alone, but I could still feel him there so I hurried.
Y’ain’t got anything I haven’t seen before. He paused. Jessica’s was better, though.
I didn’t want to know what was better. I pulled my clothes on in a hurry.
Her ass. And her tits. And…
“All right,” I said, grabbing a pen and my notebook and heading to the couch. “We need a plan.”
“Food first, plan second.”
I frowned. “I don’t eat breakfast.”
“You do now.”
“Stop using my voice. You make my throat hurt.”
You’re the one who insists on talking out loud. He made me get off the couch and go into the kitchen. He opened the fridge and got out two eggs.
“Just because I do doesn’t mean you have to.”
He/I shrugged. Suit yourself. Your stomach’s growling and whether you think you are or not, I think you’re hungry. Food first. Where are your pans?
“What do you plan on doing?”
Just boiling them. I ain’t a chef.
I got out a tea pan.
Tea? Jess called it a saucepan.
“Whatever.” I filled it with water and put it on the stove to boil the eggs. They took entirely too long to boil. I didn’t want to take any longer than we had to, so when they were done, I ate them plain and washed them down with water.
That’s just gross.
“Shut up. I ate. Now, we plan.” I went back to the couch. “Tell me everything you know.”
He started to take the pen in his/my right hand.
“I’m left-handed. That’s what we write with.”
He hesitated. I don’t know if I can.
“Then tell me everything and I will write it.”
Fine. Have it your way. I was walking home from work.
“You walked to and from work?”
It’s only a block away. Some guy in a black pickup stopped and asked me for directions to Chandler Street. I told him how to get there. He pulled out his phone like he was gonna call somebody, so I started walking again. Next thing I knew, the asshole was mowing me down with his pickup.
I wrote as he talked. Um. Spoke in my head.
That ain’t what killed me, though. He loaded me in his pickup—
I started to write “truck,” but he stopped me.
It ain’t a truck. Just a pickup.
Yeah, it matters. Anyway, he loaded me in his pickup and took me to this house on Chandler. He and his buddy put me in a van—it was really dark in there, maybe a moving van or something? I don’t know. They drove a long time and when we got where we were going, it was night. They dragged me out of the van and started beating the shit out of me, all the while telling me Jessica was too good for me and how they were gonna see to it that I would never see her again and how her old man would be so glad when I was gone. At first, I believed ‘em. It ain’t no secret her dad don’t like me none, but then…. He/I shuddered. One of ‘em started talking about how he was gonna fuck Jess and how he’d make her forget I ever existed.
“What about names? Or what they look like?”
I’m trying to remember. I don’t think I ever heard their names. The first guy was as tall as me. The other was a little shorter.
“How tall are—were—you?”
“So the other one was six-one? Six even?”
Probably six even. Built. Both of ‘em. I wouldn’t call ‘em bodybuilders, but they were definitely muscled.
I shook my head after I finished writing that down. “We don’t have much to go on.”
I know. But I know if anyone can help me, you can.
“What makes you so sure of that?”
You don’t know? He sounded genuinely surprised.
You’re psychic. And I don’t mean just a little bit like just about everyone. I mean full-blown psychic. You’ve ignored it all your life, taught yourself to bury it because it scares you shitless.
He had that part right. He was starting to scare me too.
I don’t mean to. But you really are the only one who can help me. He paused. Please.
I could hear all the heartache and desperation in that one word. More than that, I could feel it, whether I wanted to or not. And he was right. All that psychic stuff, everything I had scoffed at and dismissed as so much mumbo-jumbo all my life until that point, scared me. I couldn’t leave a desperate soul, though. Plus, I didn’t want him hanging around inside me for the rest of my life. “Okay, but you’re going to have to help me with this. I don’t know the first thing about any of it.”
I’ll do what I can.
Tears pricked the back of my eyes and I knew it wasn’t my relief. If anything, I was more scared about what I had gotten myself into. It was his.