I am a new writer in the business, having just completed my first novel, and I am mostly through the second as well. As a military spouse, I move around frequently. I have had the wonderful experience of touring the world with my husband and two children. My daughter is now married with a beautiful daughter of her own, and my son plans to get married this spring.
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This first scene of the novel introduces the protagonists, one of the secondary conflicts, as well as some foreshadowing of larger events to come. ONE A harsh chemical stench assaulted Skye as she left her bedroom. Her hands trailed across the golden flocking of the floral-patterned wallpaper as she tried to pinpoint the source of the smell. An odor similar to those in an art studio, but more subtle and with a hint of flowers, led her down the hall to the bathroom. A sigh escaped Skye’s lips as she opened the bathroom door. One word described this room: minuscule. The sink stood to the right of the door, with the tub to the left. Directly across from the door sat the toilet. Upon entering the small room, a person could easily touch all three amenities at once. Only the second bathroom downstairs made it possible for two women to live in this house with any semblance of harmony. Her mom currently occupied that small free space. Katherine stood with an old towel wrapped around her neck, and her hair set in a wet mass over top of her delicate heart-shaped face. What are you doing?” Skye’s voice slashed through the silence; her anger never seemed far away these days. "It's actually fairly natural. Most women my age dye their hair. I don’t know why you are getting so upset,” Katherine said, her sheepish smile causing the torrent to rise further within Skye’s chest. "Only to get rid of gray, maybe. This is completely different.” "What’s so wrong about it, honey? I think it will look good.” Measuring each word carefully, Skye tried to bring her temper back under control. "Your normal hair looks better.” "I know, but sometimes change is a good thing.” "How much change is going to be enough for you? New town. New house. Okay, definitely old house,” Skye said, looking back at the faded olive-green carpet with its large leaves formed by brushstrokes of gold, green, and burnt orange. “New hair. What’s next? New names?” "No, we will keep our names, thank you very much.” "But why do we need all of this new?” Instead of answering, Katherine looked down at the box sitting precariously on the toilet seat. Her eyes glazed over with unshed tears. Skye became flustered as she looked at the large container full of brunette hair dye. "This isn’t just a trial thing, is it? I don’t understand. WHAT? Why?” The last question came out more as a plea than a demand. "Is it so bad I want to look more like my baby girl?” "More like? I’m already your clone. Everyone says so.” "Well, now it's definitely true.” Skye’s eyes narrowed as she crossed her arms in front of her. "And I know you won’t understand right now, and I can’t really explain. At least…. No, I can’t explain it. I just need you to trust me.” Skye her eyebrows as her mother fumbled on, saying, “But for now, at least, would, I mean, could we just not tell anyone that I am a blonde? I just really need you to do this for me.” Silence fell for a moment as Skye tried to force the air to move slowly in and out of her lungs. "Is there something wrong with being blonde?” Katherine flinched at the coldness in her daughter’s words. "No, honey; I just… I can’t be blonde right now.” "Are you hiding from something?” "Of course not.” But Katherine's words came too quick, and her eyes cowered like those of a wounded and cornered animal devoid of hope and full of fear. Her mom was broken—Skye knew that—but that did not make this change acceptable. What could make her mom so afraid? What could be worse than what they had already been through? No, this counted as a betrayal. Skye stared at her mom in disbelief. "Why this sudden need to uproot our lives and run away from everything and everyone?” Again, pleading bled into the anger suffusing her words. "I don’t know.” Katherine’s voice barely rose above the hum of the exhaust fan. "You don’t know? Oh, wow. Okay then.” "That’s not what I meant.” Skye did not even try to mask the sarcasm in her voice as she said, “No, no. I get it. Well then, I’m going to go take a walk. I want to experience some of this wonderful beauty that is supposed to help me forget all my problems and start over.” Katherine's voice quivered as she struggled for control. "Listen up, young lady, because we are going to discuss some new rules. First, we just moved here, and you are responsible for helping me unpack this place. I know this is hard for you, and I can understand if you want to take a few short breaks—after you have already done something.” Skye glared back. Did her mother just imply that she had not done anything yet? True, she woke up mere minutes before, but what gave her mom the right to assume that? Besides, I am not the one wasting my time dying my hair. Katherine’s voice grew steadier as she continued saying, “But for the time being, all your breaks should not take you out of view of the house. Otherwise, you’re too far away to be of any use. In addition, there will be no breaks in the woods. Not now, not ever! Understood?” Skye’s mouth fell open as she stared at her mother. "Is that why you brought me to this abandoned house in the middle of nowhere? So, I can be locked up here in this prison surrounded by woods I’m not even allowed to enter.” "That’s not fair, Skye.” "No, this—this is what is not fair!” Skye said, gesturing to the surrounding walls, accidentally hitting the mirror in the process. “Being fifteen and having no say in my life—is not fair. Moving here—is not fair. Getting stuck with you—is not fair.” Katherine’s eyes flashed as the last of her control slipped. "Trust me, child, you have no idea about what’s unfair. At least you still have me. And as for the present, you are going to have to trust that I am trying to protect you. So, I say again, you will not go into those woods. They are not safe. Bad things happen in places like that. But you are not a prisoner. I don’t mind if you go into town after we unpack the house. But the woods are forbidden. DO YOU HEAR ME?” Katherine yelled the last few lines, because Skye turned around, and stormed down the stairs, through the kitchen, and toward the back door. The door slammed on her way out. Her mind raced as she stalked through the yard, paying no attention to her steps. When Skye finally looked up, a small smile tugged at her lips. A large tree stood sentinel before her, guarding the edge of the forbidden woods. The thickly grooved bark ascended several feet above her before branching out in towering limbs filled with rich green leaves. How could a person possibly be afraid of trees? Her mother acted like she expected something to come jumping out of the shadows. Bad things happen here? Her arm lifted of its own accord and gently caressed the deep depression of the tree. How? Maybe bears scared her mother. Are there even bears in southern Illinois? Skye doubted it. Maybe there’s a vicious squirrel or two. A voice washed over her, drawing her out of her revelry. She turned and looked back at the house. Katherine stood on the porch, dirty towel still around her neck, yelling. Skye could not understand her mother's words, nor did she try. Her mother’s tone rang clear enough—Skye was not allowed to take another step further. Throwing back her shoulders, a malicious grin spreading across her face, she gave her mom a little wave before plunging onto a small path between the trees. Leaving her mom’s scared voice behind her. Skye’s mental rampage continued. Serves her right, let her worry about me for a bit, and maybe when I come back alive, she will loosen up. Fat chance. More likely, she will buy a leash. Or one of those invisible fences and make me wear a collar. Oh well. In either case, at least I know she will leave me alone for the moment. There is no way she is going to chase after me in here. Whatever aspect of the woods that scared her mom, she seemed particularly afraid of this set. A vehemence laced through the regular strictness of her mother’s words as she spoke about these woods, giving away the depth of her fear. Can there possibly be a stranger fear than dendrophobia? They’re just trees. They can’t even move. After what felt like only moments, her phone vibrated. Her blood pulsed in time with the small device in her back pocket. “Seriously?” Without looking, she knew her mother lie on the other side of that ring. Who else could call her? The parental lock on her phone prevented her from sending or receiving calls from all but her parents, grandparents, and 911. Maybe I will call her later; let her sweat for now. She put her phone on silent and kept walking. Closing her eyes, Skye took a long, steadying breath. She took a moment to concentrate on the “fresh” air. People often describe the woods and country as a clean smell; Skye felt otherwise. It definitely did not smell like the city. Instead, the woods smelled like dirt, flowers, grass clippings, wood, and something else; something strangely musty and old. Slowly, the red in her vision gave way to green. A variety of plants littered the woods around her. So many new plants for her to explore. Though in all fairness, her mother’s insanity and Chicago upbringing limited her botanical knowledge. Every few steps, Skye stooped down to observe yet another new plant. She felt their leaves and stems and drank in their vibrant colors. Some plants tickled her fingers with their velvety leaves, while others felt as rough as sandpaper. One plant even gave her a slight cut, like a paper cut, as she ran her finger over the edge of its leaf. Each new plant took Skye inescapably deeper into the woods. One group of tall plants with greenish-yellow flowers on top sported white hairs all over its stem and leaves. The thought of a plant with hair lifted her face in a gentle smile. She reached out to touch it but drew back quickly. Instead of the soft give of hair, the white extension held firm and stung her. This ended her textile tour of the forest. Trying to rub the sting out of her hands, she let her eyes drift upward. An assortment of trees surrounded her. The forest held many varieties besides the few maples and oaks she could identify. Trees with leaves that ranged from no bigger than a paperclip to larger than her head, and even some with large thorns, grew on every side of the path. Maybe these trees can bite. After an initial chuckle at the thought, she remembered her mother. A long sigh escaped her lips; she left the house quite a while ago. Skye still did not feel like talking to her mother, so she opted for a quick text message. When she opened her phone, she stared at it in disbelief for a moment. Fifteen missed calls flashed on her screen. Did her mom call her every minute since her departure? Wow—chill, lady. I'm fine B back ltr Stop wasting mins Skye keyed the text as one long message so her mom would not get the chance to reply. Her phone snapped shut in her hands and she quickly shoved it into her back pocket. Despite cooling down considerably, Skye still did not feel ready for this conversation. The woods made her feel alive. Skye loved wandering around the trees, not caring about her destination. It seemed like every time she hit a fork in the road, her feet knew exactly where they wanted to go. She never even paid attention to the direction or considered how she would get home. The longer Skye stayed in the woods, the more she felt at home. These woods felt strangely familiar to her; like she had walked its paths before. The preposterous feeling increased, as the farther she walked, the more she knew her path led to somewhere in particular. Maybe she just wanted to belong somewhere so badly, and not just anywhere, but to a world without her mother that kept her feet walking. After a while, Skye came upon a sad little creek. Calling it a creek seemed like a mercy. The water flowed only a couple of inches at most above a small bed of rocks. The world felt dark and lonely next to the water. She stared at it, getting lost in the shadowy swirls. Colorless stones littered the bottom, simply various shades of gray and black, covered by a translucent film of water. Will this be me soon? Will I just flow by, surrounded by trees with nothing to brighten my life? Skye felt the walls around her heart constrict a little, as the trickling stream echoed the distant tears that no longer flowed from her eyes. Unlike this small stream, her heart’s creek bed lay barren. The cloud blocking the sun slowly crept out of the way, and the change before her took Skye’s breath away. Gray rocks shimmered with various hues of red, blue, brown, green, and yellow. As the water tripped over the rocks, it formed bubbles that reflected the colors in all directions. Light and beauty filled the creek bed. At first, the mere wonder of the scene mesmerized Skye, but then, slowly, the sounds of the water caught her attention. Her eyes closed as she listened to the trickling water flow over the rocks. Without thinking, she stepped out of her flip-flops and into the creek. The cool water refreshed her and tickled her toes as it funneled over and through them. She could stay there forever. Skye sighed. As much as she enjoyed the water, she felt anxious. Deep down, she knew her destination still lay in front of her and this only wasted valuable time. Such a strange feeling because she came out here exactly for this relaxation. Still, she could not shake the feeling that pulled her to continue walking. Opening her eyes, she reluctantly stepped back to her shoes. Abandoning the path, she followed the creek bed. The clouds kept passing over the sun, and Skye watched the kaleidoscopic performance of the water, sun, and clouds as she walked. Later, she would come back to the stream and paint it. Her amateur skills would not do the stream justice, but if she could just capture some of its essence, it would stay with her no matter where she went. As she rounded a bend, she froze. Her breath caught as she felt the thrum of her pulse in her ears. She found it. A cabin, but not just any cabin. She knew this cabin. As a scream echoed through the wood, Skye fell into a crouch, trying to hide from both sight and sound.
Story Statement Skye and her friends must travel to the magical realm of Amina Natura to save her presumed dead aunt without becoming victims themselves. Antagonist Orphaned as a young boy, his new masters abuse Lathian. One night, his first love betrays Lathian, causing him to snap and kill her before fleeing for his life. After being driven mad by dreams of her return and endless days and nights in a cold, dark cell, he is brought to the land of Anima Natura. Here he befriends some matagots who train him in the magical arts. He soon betrays his friends and kills his newest master, all for the love of a second woman who did not wait for him. Spiraling into madness, Lathian takes out his need for revenge on women who look identical to his first two loves. Every thirty years, he crosses to our world to steal one of these women away, where he will both love and abuse them until he tires of her and must move to the next one. The story picks up as Lathian is on his current most run into our world to secure his latest victim. While he is away, his previous victim contacts Skye through her dreams and Skye's artwork. Then begins the race against time and Lathian to save all of their lives. Titles Reflections The Art of Deception Reflections in Time Comparables This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron - This book contains similar elements of including well-known people or creatures from mythology, but giving them a real but magical backstory. It also has similar elements of magic and having to puzzle out clues that are only revealed a little at a time. There are also timeless characters who seem to be stuck at a certain age, but have mannerisms from a time long past. We Were Restless Things by Cole Nagamatsu - This book contains many similar elements of having to solve a mysterious murder and stopping further murders by a magical entity who lures people into a different realm all while being influenced by dreams that are produced by an unknown force. In both books, the main character is dealing with grief over the loss of a loved one and finds healing in the mystical aspects of everyday forests. Logline Torn from all that she holds dear, fifteen-year-old Skye races through a land of magical beings to stop a serial killer without becoming his next victim. Inner Conflict Skye is a fifteen-year-old dealing with the grief of losing her dad and moving to a new area. This tiny town and its school is nothing like her Chicago home, and has depressingly few options, making her feel all the more isolated and out of place. Art, which has always been her solace, now scares her as an unknown possessive force controls her drawings and creates images of a long ago murder she should know nothing about. Once she believes in the validity of the drawings, she feels torn between if it is showing her a way to save her aunt or a path to become the next victim. "Hello?" the familiar voice asked from the other end of the line, bringing part of her instantly back to her childhood. "Hi, Mr. James," Skye said. "Well hello there, Miss Skye. I see you still haven't forgotten about me, but isn't it a bit late?" "I know. I just needed to talk to you for a couple of minutes." "Is everything alright?" Of course not. Outwardly she said, "It's okay." "What's wrong?" he asked, his voice full of concern. "I just miss you." This was the only truth she felt like she could tell him, but even with those words, she felt the familiar wave of grief wash over her. She thought time would lessen the pain, but the grief felt just as strong every time it struck. Would these waves ever stop? "Oh, Miss Skye, I'm sure it's not that bad." Skye remained silent. No words would come to her lips, even if she had the strength to speak them. "Okay, well how abouts I tell you a story." "Mmm-hmm." Her reply was barely audible, but he seemed to have understood. "Have you ever heard of the story about the John Millais painting called Ophelia?" "No." Mr. James thought quietly for a while before beginning. "It's a painting that shows a young solemn Miss floatin' in a small river, singin' to the heavens. It's a simple yet beautiful painting, and I imagine that she had a wonderful singing voice. A voice so sweet that every creature within hearing stopped just to listen as she passed. But no one came to her, because her song was so sad that it broke the hearer's spirit. "Well, the story goes that Ophelia was a beautiful maiden. Her life was simple and her only concerns were over boys. As it should be for any young lady." Mr. James chuckled before turning serious again. "And for her, it was about one boy in particular. Unfortunately, for Miss Ophelia, things with this boy didn't go so good. He ended up breaking her heart and then killing her father." "What?" Skye interjected. The wave of pain had receded slightly as she listened to this voice she so dearly loved. "It was a bit of mistaken identity and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Anyway, Miss Ophelia takes the death of her father pretty hard, as you might expect. Actually, she takes it so hard that most people think she'd gone insane. Her madness finally drives her until she falls into the river. Once in the water she doesn't call for help, nor does she try to get out. She simply floats in stream singin' until her clothes finally drag her under." Mr. James paused for a moment before continuing. "Now, the sad part is that Miss Ophelia was so wrapped up in the death of her father, she missed out on all the other people who still loved her. Even though the boy had broken her heart, he still loved Miss Ophelia. At her funeral, a fight even broke out between her lover and her brother as to which one of them loved her more." He grew quiet. It was not one of his usual stories. It was much more serious and void of his usual embellishments. Mr. James did not mean this story for her entertainment, but as a warning. It was clear that he thought Skye was Ophelia, and that she was so blinded by her dad's death that she could not see how much she was still loved by those who remained. But Skye could see. She did know, and it was only making her decision about the next day that much harder. Skye knew she was not only leaving her mother behind, but many other people who would miss her if she never returned. And how many more families would be destroyed if none of them returned? "You got all that from a picture?" Skye asked, quietly. "No, not exactly. Someone told me that story," he confessed. "Who?" "Some guy named Bill." "Bill who?" "Bill Shakespeare." "Nice, Mr. James." He chuckled as she asked, "Which story?" "Hamlet. So what do you think?" "It's a good story. Thank you, Mr James." She barely managed those few words around the tightening in her chest. "You're welcome," he said. Skye could tell he wanted to say more, but she was too close to tears to continue. Secondary Conflict Skye unfairly blames her mother for her father's death, and as the only safe person left to her, often takes her anger and grief out on her mom. Her mother exhibits strange behaviors after they move, and Skye feels betrayed as she misunderstands her mother's motives, believing them to be a way for her mom to forget her dad and move on. The townspeople are another hurdle Skye must overcome. Feeling like the shiny new toy, the attention is almost overwhelming. Everyone her age seems to want to be her friend, and maybe more. However, she feels unwelcome by some of the older townspeople. Taking up the free space between the tub and sink was her mom. Katherine stood with an old towel wrapped around her neck and her hair set in a wet mass on her head. "What are you doing?" Sky asked her mother. Skye's voice slashed through the silence. Her anger never seemed far away these days. "It's actually fairly natural. Most women my age dye their hair. I don't know why you are getting so upset," Katherine said, her sheepish smile causing the torrent to rise further within Skye's chest. "Only to get rid of gray, maybe. This is completely different." "What's so wrong about it, honey? I think it will look good." Measuring each word carefully, Skye tried to bring her temper back under control. "Your normal hair looks better." "I know, but sometimes change is a good thing." "How much change is going to be enough for you? New town. New house. Okay, definitely old house," Skye said, looking back at the strange leafy patterned carpet behind her and its offending color pallet of green, orange, and gold. "New hair. What's next? New Names?" "No, we will keep our names. Thank you very much." "But why do we need all of this new?" Instead of answering, Katherine looked down at the box that was sitting precariously on the toilet seat. Her eyes glazed over with unshed tears.Skye was beyond flustered as she looked at the large box filled with boxes of brunette hair dye. "This isn't just a trial thing, is it? I don't understand. WHAT?" "Is it so bad I want to look more like my baby girl?" More like? I'm already your clone. Everyone says so." "Well, now it is definitely true." Skye's eyes narrowed as she crossed her arms in front of her. "And I know you won't understand right now. And I can't really explain. At least. No, I can't explain it. I just need you to trust me." Skye raised her eyebrows as her mother fumbled on, saying, "But for now, at least, would, I mean, could we just not tell anyone that I am a blonde? I just really need you to do this for me." Silence fell for a moment as Skye tried to force air back into her lungs. "Is there something wrong with being a blonde?" Katherine flinched at the coldness of her daughter's words. "No, honey. I just. I can't be blonde right now." "Are you hiding from something?" "Of course not." But Katherine's words were too quick, and her eyes cowered like those of a wounded and cornered animal: devoid of hope and full of fear. Her mom was broken, Skye knew that, but to change like this was unacceptable. What could her mom be afraid of? What could be worse than what they had already been through? No, this was a betrayal. Skye stared at her mom in disbelief. "Why this sudden need to uproot our lives and run away from everything and everyone?" Despite her anger and exasperation, desperation to understand seeped into Skye's words. "I don't know." Katherine's voice was barely audible above the hum of the exhaust fan. "You don't know? Oh, wow. Okay then." "That's not what I meant." Skye did not even try to mask the sarcasm in her voice as she said, "No, no. I get it. Well then, I'm going to go take a walk. I want to experience some of this wonderful beauty that is supposed to help me forget all my problems and start over." Settings There are three main setting in the book. 1. Ramsey, IL. Small town in Illinois that has very little compared to most towns, but especially compared to Skye's hometown of Chicago. The only places to shop are the small grocery store with four aisles and a deli, a Casey's General Store, and a Dollar General. A solitary swing set surrounded by trees is their only park. The library is in a small building with the title Town Hall, Library, Police Station on top. Once in the lobby, one can be buzzed into the Library side with its three shelves of books and two computers. The small school lacks many of Skye's favorite activites, including watching football games and art classes. She feels lost in a world that she will never fit into. The largest attractions in the town are the cemetery, and surrounding woods and farms. Within the woods, there is a cabin. A cabin that is only unique in that it haunts Skye's dreams before she ever knows of its existence, and when she draws there, it haunts her pictures as well. 2. St. Louis, MO. The book spends most of its St. Louis time in Forest Park or else site-seeing its major attractions, such as the zoo, Busch Stadium, and the Arch. This is the setting for Lathian to seduce his next victim. 3. Anima Natura. Anima Natura is a magical land that was formed long ago by Prince Kannalizar as a way for him to grow in his magical and leadership abilities. In his frustration, he introduced a layer of evil into some of his creations. Calming down, he accidentally opened a portal to our world. Prince Kannalizar fell in love with many of our creatures and brought them to his home as companions. He imbued each species with unique powers and gifted them all with the ability to speak. He has long since departed the land, but his magic has only continued to intensify over the years. The stream that was meant for rejuvenation now puts the unwary to sleep. The trees, which were made with beauty and light, have arranged themselves in a nearly impenetrable maze, and some now carry poison within. Many of the animals that were once meant as companions for man have since turned to evil and predatory ways. This is the land Skye and her friends must try to battle through before even reaching Lathian's castle.