Photo Credit: Malcolm Gittins
Please welcome back the multi-talented and lovely, Tiffany Apan!! I’m very happy to have her back for a second interview, and she was awesome enough to bring with her some chapter samples as an added bonus!! So, let’s get to chatting!
You have been one busy lady! What projects have you been working on since we’ve last spoken?
Thanks for having me again! 🙂 Well, I’ve been up to a lot, between home rennovations and my artistic endeavors (though home rennovations can involve a great deal of artistry as well). As far as writing goes, I’ve been working on my novel series, The Birthrite and I will be revisiting my short story series, Stories from Colony Drive very soon. I also was part of a short story series/anthology with four other authors titled One Emma Way: If Houses Could Speak (my stories, Snowflakes and Roommates, make up the fourth installment of this series).
I’ve also been on a few film projects (which I will have more info on as they are released) and I am working on some new songs with my musical partner in crime for my new album, “Antiquity” along with a song for a paranormal documentary being put out by Ghost Walk Films titled “Lilly’s Cry” (the song has the same title as the documentary). Also as a book editor, I’ve been working on projects for other authors and I also have a gig this summer with the Depreciation Lands Museum that will allow me to delve into the 18th century and other parts of history (which will help me in my stories tremendously as most of what I write has some sort of historical element).
Last but definitely not least, I am combining my love for horror and history for my new online magazine, The Parting of Veils, for which I’m also excited.
You have a handful of books currently out, including your Descent Birth Rite series and your Colony Drive short-story collections. What are the genres of your books and which do you feel were easier for you to write? What are your thoughts on writing a series or saga?
Well, they are definitely paranormal! Both are also within the Gothic genre for sure. However, I would describe my novel series, The Birthrite as being Gothic Romantic/Paranormal/Historical. The Colony Drive short series lean more toward Horror, though there are also elements of Horror in The Birthrite and Romantic elements in Stories from Colony Drive. Both series are quite dramatic, emotionally charged and definitely will take the reader on suspenseful a roller coaster ride.
As far as which of the two series is easier to write, I would say the Colony Drive series. Simply because they are short stories and don’t require the amount of research that The Birthrite does (though that can change). So much research and planning went into building the world and characters in The Birthrite. And although I pretty much have the characters and worlds down, there is still work that needs done as far as maintaining continuity, making sure the story doesn’t get repetitive, making sure the characters grow without being totally out of character, etc.
I do enjoy writing series, as they allow for more character growth, more in depth plots, AND you don’t have to let go of your characters so soon. It’s funny how you mentioned in your interview about the emotional sadness involved with ending the Divinity Saga. I know it will be the same for me when I conclude The Birthrite. Hell, ending Book 1 was a pretty emotional experience for me, so I think it’s safe to say that I will be a blubbering mess by the end of Book 5. However, there is so much history and back story in this series that there is definitely room for things like a prequel and/or spin off Birthrite-verse books. We shall see. 🙂
Can you give some insight to a favorite character from your own books? What inspired you to create them as they are?
Asking me to pick a favorite character is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. 😀 But in writing Descent (The Birthrite Series, #1), I spent most of my time with Nicolae and Dorothy.
Since Nicolae is introduced in the book first, I will start with him. He is a Romani slave in Wallachia (Romania) during the early-mid 19th century. For those unfamiliar with what a Romani is, they are a race often referred to as ‘gypsies’ (no, being a gypsy is not just a “lifestyle”…in fact, there are many misconceptions regarding their culture). They have a long history involving persecution and (in some parts of Europe) slavery. There is also found documentation suggesting that some were also shipped to the Americas with African and Irish slaves, courtesy of Oliver Cromwell. And interestingly, there are many parallels between slavery in America and enslavement of the Romani in Europe. Both were also abolished at around the same time.
One thing that inspires The Birthrite Series is the history not often spoken of by the mainstream, and Romani slavery is among that. When we begin the story, we see Nicolae as a young man of nineteen fleeing his slavemaster’s land with his little brother, Sebastian. The reason behind their escape is not revealed until a little later in the story, but Nicolae’s story was probably the one I felt the most compelled to and passionate about telling. I feel the Romani are often highly misrepresented in the media, being reduced to a very negative, comical (and not a good kind of comical) stereotype. And I’m not talking about parodies that are understood as parodies and aren’t taken seriously. I’m talking about people watching My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and thinking that it’s real. Now that isn’t to say that I write Nicolae and the other Romani characters as complete angels. They are human after all, and every group has its good and bad apples. But in my opinion, it has become so easy to demonize certain cultures, thanks to our media. Even though what I write is supernatural, I try to ‘reality-ize’ it. 🙂
Now as for Dorothy, she a young woman of almost eighteen and living in the year 1931 in America (in the fictional town of Plains, New York). She was also interesting to write of. Being the age she is in the very early 1930s, she and her peers would have been born in 1913, or a year within the 1910s. Throughout their brief lifetimes, Dorothy and her friends Linda and Gail (along with their male counterparts, Carl, Jimmy, and Reginald) would have lived through many transitions within the country.
They would have seen great progress made within the new Industrial Age. They would have seen the switch from the supposedly more reserved Edwardian era into the Roaring 1920s and Jazz Age. They would have been alive (albeit young children) when women were granted the right to vote (something that means a lot to Gail and Dorothy). They would have seen many amazing steps taken toward equality for humans and the resistance from certain groups that did not want such equality. They would have seen both Womens Rights and Mens Rights groups stating their cases. They also would have seen the stock market crash and Prohibition. And like many a youth before and after them, they would have been highly influenced by the current trends, which included jazz and “free love”, especially since they live in New York, just outside of the city.
I kept much of this in mind as I developed each of their characters, trying to make them as complex as the time they were living in. First you have Jimmy and Linda, the more traditional couple as far as male to female roles go. However, these two also take advantage of the fact that the liberation of the 1920s made sexual relations outside of marriage less taboo.
Then there is Reginald and Gail with a more egalitarian relationship. Gail is someone whom a reader might refer to as a “touch chick” type, but she does have her insecurities and vulnerabilities. She is also very much enamored with Reginald and he with her.
As for Dorothy and Carl, I did use the ‘good girl falling for the bad boy with a good heart’ trope, but of course put my own twisted touch to it. Aside from all the supernatural occurrances taking place, Dorothy is someone struggling with her burgeoning sexuality and Carl has issues and demons of his own. I don’t want to give too much away, but it was interesting delving into the psyches of these two.
As a side note, I will add that Dorothy’s father, Matthew, was also a very complex and interesting character to get to know. And The Vanishing American by Zane Grey influenced more than a couple passages. 😉
I’ve probably asked this of you before but I have to ask again, considering how much time goes into writing itself alone. What is your secret to juggling writing, acting, singing, modeling, producing, dancing, and maintaining blog and web pages so successfully?
A lot of organized planning. Sometimes one project does have to get sacrificed for another, at least for the time being. I’m also the queen of check lists. I think they were the most brilliant thing ever created. Also if you make check lists, it’s best to categorize according to deadline. That way, you know how to prioritize.
What sorts of things inspire you creatively as an artist of all trades?
Anything, really. I am often inspired by music, but I’ve also been reading up on a lot of history, so there’s that as well. It’s hard to point at just one thing, as I could be on a hike in the woods and an idea will hit me out of nowhere.
Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers or getting book reviews?
Network, network, and network. Often, if you network with other authors in your field it is easy to find someone willing to swap interviews, cover reveals, etc (SIDE NOTE: this can also apply to music as film).
Reviews are a bit tricky though. Many book bloggers get bombarded everyday with authors wanting their masterpiece reviewed or covered, therefore making it easy for your work to get lost in the shuffle. I say the best way to get your work known and out there is to network with other authors and offer to feature them on your blog or website or mailing list or what have you. Oftentimes, they are more than willing to return the favor. Blog rings can also work well.
My music started getting reviewed more by blogs and webzines as people became more aware of not only the album, but the fact that people were enjoying it and that it was of a decent quality. I think with all the (and there really is no nicer way to put this) “wannabes” out there who slap together a first draft full of errors and call it an ebook in order to get their 15 minutes of fame, many bloggers are hesitant about taking a chance on a newer author. And I can’t say I blame them.
But yes, I say that first creating a network of people with whom you can cross promote is the best way to start. Getting your work noticed is always a slow process and very rarely does it happen overnight (and even so-called overnight success stories often aren’t).
What do you think of “trailers” for books?
I think they are a great promotional tool as they allow for a more visual experience of the book. And we humans are definitely a visual bunch.
What is your favorite book and why?
Hands down, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Because it is among the most misunderstood and misrepresented works out there. Many go into the story thinking they will be getting a romance novel out of it. And it is a love story, though not the sort of romance novel we have come to know today.
To me, what makes the book so intriguing is the fact that none of the characters are very likeable. In fact, they are often downright horrible. But that is what makes them interesting and their story so heartbreaking (I can say the same of The Picture of Dorian Gray and Madame Bovary). If you’ve read the book expecting a great romance and were disappointed, go back and read again as a Gothic story. I also have been reading a great deal on the Brontes, particularly Emily. In doing so, I’ve gotten more insight to what prompted her to write Wuthering Heights.
I guess I’m kind of strange in the fact that when I read, I’m not necessarily looking to fall in love with the characters as I am wanting to be intrigued by them and why they behave the way they do. Are they a product of their environment or did some other circumstance make them the way they are? I think this is what separates older literature from stories written in recent years. I think we as a society have become so wrapped up in not wanting to be offensive that much of the newer works have become homogenized. I think one of the most important things for an artist to recognize is that you are never going to please everyone and some won’t be pleased no matter what you do. So be bold, be daring, and be offensive. 😀
What future writing projects do you have in the works?
Well, this summer I will be releasing Kindred (The Birthrite Series, #2) and Saturn Sun (The Birthrite Series, #2.5). Look for those at the end of July and mid August of this year. I’m also looking to release Rapture (The Birthrite Series, #3) this coming winter. Then books 4 and 5 will follow.
I also plan to write two more shorts in the Colony Drive series and then put it together as an anthology (giving potential readers the option to purchase single stories or all of the shorts together). I will also be releasing a couple new songs, so stay tuned. 🙂
You can see the progress of my various projects at my website and blog:
Official Website: http://tiffanyapan.com
Official Blog: http://tiffanyapanwritingproject.blogspot.com
You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube:
My books are also available in both paperback and ebook form at my website along with the following retailers:
Barnes & Noble NOOK: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/tiffany-apan?keyword=tiffany+apan&store=nookstore
Apple iTunes (my music is here as well): https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/tiffany-apan/id277754233?ign-mpt=uo%3D4
Descent (The Birthrite Series, #1)
Sacred Atonement (The Birthrite Series, #1.5)
***FANS OF PARANORMAL AND HORROR, TREAT YOURSELF TO TIFFANY’S WORK, YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!!***
And now for the treat you’ve all been waiting for!!
Sample Chapters from Descent (The Birthrite Series, #1)
October 31, 1931
Halloween was the holiday residents of Plains lived for. As they saw it, the recession was hardly cause for a dent in the All Hallows festivities that surpassed even Christmas. This was a time for parties, costumes, and revelry. A time when houses, businesses, and yards were decorated with carved pumpkins, paper skeletons, and lanterns lighting the town with an eerie glow. A time when the trees resembled gnarled, skeletal hands reaching out from beneath the earth as branches shed their leaves.
Since seventh grade, George Kolinski had thrown many parties for his peers. The gatherings were typically saturated with jazz records, necking sessions, and – as they got older – any reefer, moonshine, gin, or cocaine he could get his hands on, courtesy of older friends. Halloween of 1931 was no different. By six ‘o’ clock, the party was in full swing as the annual masquerade at the Miller residence started up for their parents. This year, Halloween fell on a Saturday, therefore offering plenty of freedom and opportunity for wild times.
Of course, Jimmy, Linda, Gail, Reginald, Carl, and Dorothy were among the many in attendance at George’s. They stayed until a little after eight ‘o’ clock, long enough for Jimmy and Carl to partake in reefer cigarettes, a line of cocaine, and a little gin with George, Evan, Bernice, and some other classmates while the music of Cab Calloway filled the room. The six then decided to head over to Chuck’s Diner for a late dinner.
The three boys went up to George’s bedroom and retrieved the jackets belonging to their respected girlfriends before everyone said their goodbyes for the evening and piled into Jimmy’s car. Linda sat in the front passenger’s seat beside her boyfriend, and Dorothy sat in the back seat between Reginald and Carl. As the group settled into the vehicle, the latter two made jokes about feeling extremely close to one another in that moment.
Because they are both apparently twelve, Dorothy thought. Gail also shook her head while taking her place on Reginald’s lap.
Upon arriving at the diner, they grabbed their usual table and ordered dinners of steak sandwiches and potato chips, a rather popular dish at Chuck’s. The conversation remained jovial with discussion of George’s party and jabs at Jimmy and Linda over what happened at the End of Summer Party.
“Hey, look at the bright side. You two did get applause,” Carl chided.
Jimmy and Linda rolled their eyes as Reginald and Gail laughed. Dorothy couldn’t help chuckling either. While she hadn’t been at George’s End of Summer party, the story had been told numerous times of Jimmy and Linda emerging from the guest room they retreated to, only to be met with their friends giving them a thunderous applause for their rather loud liason. Both had moved on from the initial embarrassment, but of course the incident would likely be one their classmates would still laugh over at their 50th high school reunion.
Gradually, the subject of the group’s talk took another turn. Given the season, local folklore, urban myths, and ghost tales held much fascination and of course, stories behind the Fleming Orphanage figured into that equation. Their table was beside the picture window looking out to the hill on which the orphanage’s remains stood. Dark silhouettes of the trees surrounding the old buildings towered above the town in the distance. Discussion consisted of reported sitings of the Fleming family’s ghosts on the property and in the Plains Cemetery. Stranger lore involved demons and werewolves coming out from the hellmouth or vortex deep inside the forest to hunt and feast on human flesh during a solstice or on All Hallow’s Eve. The tales ranged from chilling to absurd, including one that involved Jared Fleming being a werewolf, which Jimmy and Carl now debated over.
“Oh come on,” Jimmy said as he worked on his second sandwich. “If Jared Fleming turned into a werewolf on the night of his death, why was his body so mutilated? Did he do it himself?”
“It’s simple,” Carl answered. “He got into a fight with another werewolf from the woods that came up and busted into his apartment.”
“But he was found hanging by his neck in the front hall on the fifth floor,” Jimmy countered. “I’ve never heard of a werewolf hanging its victim after mauling it to death. And wasn’t Maxine also ranting about how her brother Nathaniel killed him before they took her to the nuthouse?”
“No,” Carl said, “she was saying that he was telling her to let him in. There’s a difference. Hey, maybe Nathaniel didn’t really die from scarlet fever. Maybe he became a werewolf, too and just disappeared!”
“What is it with you and everyone being a werewolf?” Jimmy asked.
“Too many Lon Chaney pictures would be my guess,” Gail interjected. “Dorothy, you really need to find Carl a hobby.”
Dorothy gave her friend a wry smile as she finished the last potato chips on her plate. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“I’m doing just fine with what I got,” Carl said, placing an arm around his girlfriend.
“Well don’t forget the documents and journals that James Livingston kept,” Reginald added. “He was a good friend of the Flemings and somehow convinced the coroner to hand over the documents detailing the cause of Cedric and Margaret’s deaths. A good portion of his final years were spent making all kinds of notes. Those particular entries are the most fascinating, but any of his journals are hard to put down. I’m actually a little jealous of Dorothy’s family getting mentioned in them.”
“Well, some of his journals are at the library,” Gail said, “I believe his relatives took the rest after he died. Which I can understand. You know, wanting to keep at least a couple in the family.”
Dorothy nodded in agreement while sipping her soda.
Jimmy turned back to Carl. “So with all that said, there is absolutely no evidence backing up the werewolf claims. None.”
“There’s nothing disputing them either,” Carl retorted. “It can go either way.”
Jimmy grinned. “Then I dare you to go up to the Fleming property and find one.”
Dorothy snapped to attention. Oh, Jimmy…why did you have to say that?
While she was still dealing with the aftermath of Carl’s confession, there was no denying her feelings, including her concern of him one day taking a dare too far. Even if the legends were nonsense, the property wasn’t a place anyone should enter alone. Especially at night…
Carl shrugged. “I’m willing. It’s not as though we haven’t been up there with the other guys.”
“True,” Jimmy replied. “But we never really explored that area. Not to the extent we could, at least.”
“Well then maybe you should come with me if you’re such a hot shot,” Carl said. He dropped his voice to a spookier tone. “Maybe we’ll find the vortex they come out from.”
Jimmy laughed. “Now you’re talking! Let’s all do it. It is Halloween and the night Cedric, Margaret, and Jared were found dead and Maxine was out rambling like a madwoman. What about you, Reg? Are you in?”
The light-haired young man quirked up the right side of his mouth. “Sure, why not.”
“Now wait a minute,” Gail said, “that place is notorious for deaths and missing person cases.”
“Yeah, a long time ago,” Carl replied. “Jared and Maxine were the last incidents. That was…what…fifty years ago? At least?”
“Well, save for certain imbeciles at this table, people tend to avoid the Fleming property like the plague,” Gail said. “I doubt you would even find a tramp up there.”
Jimmy sighed. “Look, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. We’ll go up, have a couple of laughs, and then blow.”
“I think it’s a great idea,” Linda said, leaning against Jimmy, who placed an arm around her.
The rest of the group turned to Gail and Dorothy.
“Well, maybe,” Dorothy said slowly.
Carl gave her knee a small squeeze. “That’s my girl.”
“Great,” Jimmy said. “Dorothy’s in. Gail, come on.”
“Yeah,” Linda chimed. “It’ll only be fun if we all do it together.”
Gail rolled her eyes and sighed. “Fine. I guess I’m outnumbered. Far be it from me to have respect for the dead.”
Reginald placed a hand on his girlfriend’s wrist. “Babe, don’t worry. We’re not doing anything wrong, just a little exploring. Others have done it and lived.”
Gail smiled at him but hardly seemed convinced.
“Well, then it’s settled,” Jimmy said.
Carl’s eyebrows rose. “Say, I just had a thought.”
Gail snorted. “I’m going to let that golden opportunity pass right by.”
“I’m serious! I was going to suggest that we start at the cemetery.”
“Carl’s right,” Reginald said. “They’re all buried there. If you believe the stories, there’s even been sitings of James Livingston’s ghost.”
“Hey, if we’re going to do it, we may as well do it right,” Jimmy said. “Get the whole grand tour.”
Linda’s eyes widened. “I have candles in my room. We can stop at my house and I can grab them. Maybe we can do a séance or something!”
By the time the group was ready to leave, clear plans of the intended expedition were laid out.
The girls retreated to the ladies room to freshen up as the boys paid the bill. Before leaving, the kids thanked Chuck while anticipating telling their school friends about the Halloween adventure on Monday.
Chuck watched with amusement as the high school seniors left out the door and were swallowed by night’s black veil. He enjoyed having the kids in his diner; they provided him with much entertainment. Since his wife’s passing five years ago, the company was always welcome.
Bernice had requested the night off, therefore leaving him to tend the tables. The older man hardly minded, as most of his regulars were at the Millers’ party. In fact, he would be headed there himself after closing at ten.
When the door shut behind Jimmy, Chuck took a quick glance around the near empty diner and made his way over to the table the group of six had sat at. As the tail lights of the young man’s car disappeared into the darkness, Chuck paused in the midst of clearing the plates and utensils and looked toward the dark shapes up on the hill.
“Historical monument, my ass,” he muttered. “My vote is for tearing that eyesore down.”
The jingle from the door’s bell wrenched him from his thoughts, signaling the entrance of more patrons. Quickly, he finished clearing the table and went to tend to his customers.
Only one more hour until closing.
The Plains Cemetery was located near the center of town, stretching out over a field that led back into the woods. Forest hovered in the background, lining the town and trailing up the hill toward the thicket on the Fleming property. A ten-foot iron gate marked the entrance and a stone wall circled the grounds. Near the woods at the furthest left corner from the last row of tombstones was the care-taker’s small pre-Civil War house. At night, the gate was kept locked, but that hardly discouraged the occasional group of youngsters from finding a way to sneak in.
Stories of wandering spirits were numerous. Legend told of James Livingston’s ghost walking the grounds as he watched over the safety of the town and its residents. There were also rumors of the patriarch’s guilt over the fate of his close friends. The tales behind the Flemings were even more unsettling, involving vengeance and despair. According to the lore, Cedric and Margaret hunted for Jared, seeking revenge for ruining their daughter and business. As for Maxine, she searched in eternal anguish for her lost love, Christian Andrews, and their illegitimate child. A hopeless Jared walked the grounds in aimlessly, with no place in this life or the hereafter.
Jimmy pulled his Chevy alongside the sidewalk and put in park nearly a block down the road from the front gates. As the key was pulled from the ignition, the engine faded into silence. The group of six sat cloaked in night’s shadow, watching a veil of dark clouds pass over the waning October moon and form a curtain around its light (just as they had in Wallachia almost one hundred years ago). For that moment, all that was present to each person was the racing of their own pulse as they waited for one of the others to open a car door or speak. Dorothy instinctively leaned against Carl, who placed his arm around her and brought her close.
Finally, Jimmy’s voice broke the quiet. “Well, George and Evan loosened a bar in the gate at the back a couple years ago. They snuck in over the summer a few times with Caroline and Bernice to neck…and possibly other things.”
“How morbid,” Gail said dryly. “Did they see anything or were they too occupied?”
Jimmy snorted. “My guess would be the latter. Though George claims he heard Maxine whispering next to him and Caroline. Evan also thought he saw a light in one of the windows of the Livingston Mausoleum. But the whispering could have been the wind and the light could have been moonlight reflecting off of something.”
“Yeah,” Carl agreed. “I say we get moving, though. Nothing’s going to happen if we’re just sitting here.”
The six emerged from the car and headed up the sidewalk until they reached the front entrance. As a light wind rustled the material of their clothing, carrying the fragrance of autumn brush, the clouds moved away from the moon and revealed the cemetery grounds lined with headstones. The kids gazed through the bars and looked toward the caretaker’s place of residence. The dark house sat far in the distance, standing among the monuments dedicated to lives no longer existing.
Jimmy motioned for the rest to follow. The group quietly rounded the gate at the right hand side and came to a stop.
“Right beyond there,” Jimmy whispered, pointing to the distant brush lining the night sky.
Carl grinned and Reginald nodded approvingly. The girls looked to one another, and Linda clutched the paper bag holding her candles. She appeared nervous but there was an air of excitement. As long as Jimmy was with her, she would be just fine.
Gail was still hesitant, looking back toward the car before Reginald put an arm around her and gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze.
Dorothy stared intently at the forest, not really knowing what she was looking for. As a passing breeze stirred, she would swear the trees were whispering and moving toward her. As it was on the night of the dance, she could hear almost every sound produced by the forest, along with her heart pumping and blood rushing throughout her body. Suddenly, it all seemed to close in, and she found herself floating toward the treetops and falling backward into the branches…
“Dorothy!” A distant, but urgent voice called to her.
Dorothy’s limbs stiffened as a pair of branches caught her. All she could see was trees and sky. When she looked down, her heart stopped at seeing the ground at least thirty feet below. Then she was dropped, falling passed the veil that shrouded her until she hit the ground with a hard thud. The voice calling to her was close now, almost right beside her ear.
Fear gripped her as she opened her eyes. When her vision cleared, Carl’s eyes were what she saw first. He was on the ground, holding her up from the dry grass.
“Honey, I’m right here,” he was saying.
Carl was holding me…not the trees… Dorothy relaxed, feeling small relief but still in a state of confusion. “What happened…?” she asked. The rest of her friends hovered overhead, regarding her with bewildered, concerned expressions.
“Babe, that’s what I was going to ask you,” Carl said. “You took off running toward the woods, then tripped and fell backwards. Thankfully I caught you in time.”
Dorothy craned her head back to observe the woods and sure enough, the trees were quite close, but still and silent. Her surroundings were spinning again and a familiar magnetic surge pulsed through her blood.
“Dorothy!” Carl’s voice echoed as though it were miles away.
Her being floated as the moon fell toward her (or she was flying up to it?). She was among stars, their dust twinkling and gliding about. The moon was farther ahead and absolutely magnificent to behold. There was no memory or concept of time. Here, she felt at peace and wanted to stay. But that familiar voice kept calling to her. An urgent voice belonging to someone she deeply cared for…
She fell toward the Earth, landing with great force as gravity and awareness permeated her. As she pried her eyes open, Carl still cradled her, shielding her with his arms. A pained groan escaped her mouth and she buried her face in his jacket.
“Baby,” he said, “what’s going on?”
She closed her eyes, trying to remember what just had happened but recalled only seeing light…light surrounded by a lot of darkness… “I’m fine. Just dizzy…”
“Honey, if you want, we could leave,” Carl said. “We don’t have to do this.” He looked to the rest of the group. “Right?”
They all nodded assuringly.
Dorothy struggled to sit up. “No. No, I think I’ll be all right. Really.”
“Are you sure?” Jimmy asked. “I can drive you home. It’s not a big deal.”
“Yeah, you took quite a fall,” Reginald added.
“No, please,” Dorothy insisted. “I’ll feel even worse if I spoil everyone’s fun.”
Before anyone could reply, Gail pointed toward the caretaker’s house. “You guys, look,” she whispered.
All eyes widened as light filled windows of the old shack.
Jimmy gestured with his head. “The woods!”
Carl scooped Dorothy up and carried her as he and everyone else ran toward the trees. The kids entered the edge of the forest just before the caretaker opened his front door a few yards away. Their hearts were pounding as the older man stepped out onto the porch and started surveying the grounds. While he was at too far a distance for the kids to see his face, suspicion radiated from him.
The group stood at the edge of the gate, each trying to be still while catching their breaths. Dorothy leaned on Carl, but was almost able to stand on her own. After what seemed like an eternity, the caretaker finally retreated into his house and the windows darkened.
“Alright,” Jimmy said, “if we’re going in, we have to do it now.”
“Are you sure you’re all right, Dorothy?” Linda asked.
Dorothy looked to Carl and each of her friends before nodding.
“Are you sure?” Carl asked.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Dorothy said. “Now let’s go before the caretaker changes his mind and comes out again.”
With that, Jimmy took hold of an iron bar, twisting it until it loosened out from the gate. He glanced at the caretaker’s now completely darkened house before he slid through and reached back toward Linda. After she was in, Reginald and Gail followed, leaving Dorothy and Carl as the last ones on the outside.
Carl gently squeezed her shoulders. “You don’t have to do this, baby. We can always go back to the car and wait for the others.”
Dorothy shook her head, and looked into her boyfriend’s eyes. “I want to do this.”
He gave her a slight smile and stepped aside. As she went through, her body froze when his hand lightly touched the small of her back, bringing back a memory of their first real date together.
After everyone made it in, Jimmy handed the bar to Carl, who replaced it loosely enough so leaving (or escaping) would not be a struggle.
“Where to first?” Carl whispered, turning back to the group.
“How about the Fleming plot,” Jimmy suggested.
The six ran the short distance to the first rows of tombstones while keeping noise to a minimum and an eye on the caretaker’s house. They weaved through the grave markers until their destination was reached. Beneath a large, stone platform that bore a towering replica of St. Michael the Archangel were the graves of Cedric, Margaret, Maxine, and Nathaniel.
The kids were silent as they read the inscriptions of names and dates:
February 1800-October 1867
November 1804-October 1867
May 1830-April 1842
June 1832- October 1894
Linda shivered and Jimmy embraced her. “Where’s Jared?” she asked.
“He was buried a couple plots down,” Reginald replied.
Carl broke away from the group and headed down the row of tombstones. “Right here,” he said, stopping at a much smaller headstone.
Dorothy ran over, followed by the other four. When she stopped beside Carl, he took her hand and laced his fingers through hers. The other four ceased their steps and stood around Jared’s simple memorial.
Jared Ethan Fleming
April 1825-October 1880
“He really was the black sheep,” Gail said. Her eyes turned toward the Livingston Mausoleum several feet away. “I wonder what’s in the journals that Livingston’s family decided to keep. What made them decide to keep certain ones while others were allowed for display?”
“Good question,” Dorothy replied. She felt Carl unlace his fingers from her hand and wrap his arms around her shoulders.
Sighing, she leaned into him and allowed her gaze to rest on the rather large stone monument in which Samantha Jo DeWitt Livingston was the first to be interred, followed by her husband a near decade later. All three of their sons and their sons’ wives were also there, along with a few grandchildren.
“Should I set up my candles?” Linda asked, rummaging through her bag.
She felt her boyfriend tense as he gently took hold of her wrist.
“Hold on, babe,” he whispered, and held up an index finger for all to be silent.
All eyes widened as footsteps were heard crunching over leaves on the drying grass, drawing dangerously close. Then, a beam from a flashlight floated across the headstones.
The caretaker, Carl mouthed.
The alarmed expressions of the girls silently questioned. Jimmy looked to Carl and Reginald before gesturing with his head toward the fence. The boys led their girlfriends through the rows of tombstones, being mindful of their steps as the caretaker’s continued across the grounds and heading toward them.
Finally, the kids approached the last row of headstones, though distance from the gate seemed much farther than before. Each could feel his or her pulse as the caretaker drew near.
“Let’s make a run for it,” Carl whispered. “He can’t do anything once we’re out.”
(Hopefully he doesn’t have a loaded shotgun…)
Jimmy nodded in agreement and everyone took a stance, preparing to run toward the loosened bar in the gate. Carl looked to them and mouthed now before they all broke into a run.
Carl and Dorothy were the first to reach the gate. He pried the loose bar out, allowing the girls and the other two boys through first. Once his friends were safely out, Carl quickly slipped through and replaced the bar.
Everyone held on to one another as they moved toward the edge of the woods and ran until reaching Jimmy’s car. By then, their tense silence transformed into peels of thrilled laughter echoing into the night.
The kids leaned against the vehicle, catching their breath while reliving the moment in the cemetery.
Reginald grinned widely. “That was close!”
“What do you think he would have done if he caught us?” Linda asked.
“I don’t know,” Jimmy said, placing a hand on his girlfriend’s waist. “But I say your séance would have a much better shot at the old orphanage.”
“Agreed,” Carl added.
Dorothy made eye contact with Gail who gave her a wry smile.
“Come on Gail, admit it was fun,” Linda said, grasping Jimmy’s arm.
“A little,” Gail replied, trying to hide her amusement.
“More than a little,” Reginald said, wrapping his arms around her waist.
Gail relented and embraced his shoulders. “Alright, it was fun.”
Reginald responded by kissing the right side of her face.
“In that case,” Carl said, “I say we let the fun continue. To Fleming Orphange we go.”
“I second that notion,” Jimmy replied.
The six resumed their places inside the Chevy and Jimmy started the engine. “And now, ‘ze second part of our tour,” he said, imitating Bela Lugosi.
“Yes, ‘ve continue on to Fleming Orphanage where ‘ze demons ‘vait to drink your blood,” Carl added, speaking with the same Lugosi-as-Dracula accent.
The other four laughed as Jimmy pulled the car out to the road and turned it in the direction of the orphanage. They were so engrossed that none noticed the caretaker standing at the entrance, peering through the gate and watching the black 1930 Chevrolet pass him by. He was a rather gruff, elderly man who mainly kept to himself. His occupation allowed a private existence and a roof over his head. He had everything he needed.
Seeing the six kids scramble frantically through the gate had given him a great deal of entertainment. He had a way of knowing when meddling trespassers would sneak in to make mischief, indulge in secret rendez vous, or whatever the young ones did these days. After the Kolinski and Frasier boys managed to pry a bar in the gate loose, he considered fixing it but in the end decided it wasn’t necessary.
As Jimmy’s car faded down the road, the man turned and headed back into the field of tombstones. Only a light jacket shielded him against the cold as leaves and drying grass crunched beneath his boots. His flashlight was shut off. The moon was bright enough, and he knew these grounds like the back of his hand. The flashlight had simply been used to make those kids squirm a little.
The caretaker stopped at the Fleming plot and gazed at St. Michael’s frozen stare. A smile appeared across his bristled, unshaven face before he started heading toward his small house at the farthest corner of the cemetery. As he passed the Livingston, Mausoleum, his eyes narrowed and he gazed up at the moon.
Descent (The Birthrite Series, #1) and Sacred Atonement: A Novelette (The Birthrite Series, #1.5) are available at Amazon, and other retailers.
Short Excerpt from Kindred (The Birthrite Series, #2)
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This book is scheduled for a late July release. It is also still going through revisions, so please excuse the very naked writing.
This scene takes place in Northeastern Pennsylvania
during the summer of 1933
Cletus was lying on the couch, recounting the evening with Reginald and Gail. On the way to their apartment, they had stopped at a diner for supper. After that, the three stayed up talking into the night, quietly touching briefly on parts of what would be discussed at Tahatan’s. His eyes started adjusting to the dark as he looked out at the moon in the sky.
His mind started to wander, and his eyes grew heavy. As his eyelids started closing, they suddenly snapped open as a shape appeared in the window. A face.
As he sat bolt upright, the shape disappeared.
Chills started enveloping his body as he glanced about the dark room. Then he heard a whispering. He tried making out the words, but they were inaudible.
He considered knocking on Reginald and Gail’s bedroom door, but his body was immobile, frozen in its place. Soon, the whispers were overtaken by the sounds of a piano, one playing a familiar piece by DeBussy.
Finally, Cletus was able to rise from the couch, but flinched as his foot touched an icy wooden floor. His eyes darted about and breath hitched upon seeing where he was. The Fleming Orphanage surrounded him as the summer breeze turned into a crisp, autumn chill. All around him, leaves fell from their branches, blanketing the ground. He felt as though there was a pull compelling him toward the woods. He could feel his cousin Dorothy’s presence, and the danger she was in here.
Confused and disoriented, he continued looking around, calling out to her. But she was nowhere to be found.
The woods and the empty buildings of the former orphanage seemed to mock him. He heard a distant howling off somewhere, followed by the humming of a familiar tune. All the pretty little horses…
Cletus tried to take a step in the direction of the hill that would take him to exit the property, but it was as though the wind that had started up suddenly was holding him back. He heard the howling again, only closer this time. It sounded unlike any animal he knew of.
A foul stench began seeping out from the buildings. When Cletus turned, he beheld the windows of the buildings glowing red.
The stench of death, decomposition, and decay engulfed him and he knew he was not alone. A bloodthirsty growl was right behind him. He tried turning to see what it was, but his feet were planted to the ground. But he could hear it inching closer. Now, the roaring was in his ears and he felt a powerful pounce push him forward…
Short Preview Excerpt from Saturn Sun: A Novella (The Birthrite Series, #2.5)
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is scheduled for an August 2015 release and like Kindred, it is also going through a revision
This excerpt takes place in Northreastern Pennsylvania (the fictional town of Pinewoods) during the year 1944. The characters Everett and Joanna are seven-years-old when they meet in this scene. And for now, that’s all you need to know. 😉
“Come with me,” Everett said.
“Where?” Joanna’s tone was skeptical.
“Just over there to my house,” he answered, pointing.
“Why should I?”
“Because, there’s something really important I want you to see.”
“You’re not going to pull down your pants or anything gross like that, are you?”
Everett flinched. “No! Why would I do that?”
She regarded him for another moment, still skeptical, but relented. “Fine. But only for five minutes, okay? My friends are all going to be wondering where I’m at.”
Joanna followed Everett through the back door and into the kitchen. When they entered, she looked around in awe of the setup.
“Does your mom like old-fashioned stuff?” she asked.
Everett didn’t answer as he went and stood beside the wall calendar.
Joanna’s dark eyes continued to roam the room. “So what is it you wanted to show me?”
Her eyes fell onto Everett, then traveled up to the wall calendar above his head. She stared in confusion at the year the it boasted:
***Thank you so much for stopping by, and a HUGE thank you to Ms. Tiffany Apan for taking the time out of her super busy schedule to stop by for a visit and to share some of her amazing work!!
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