by Camela Thompson
A couple of weekends ago, my friend and I attended Geek Girl Con in Seattle. It was awesome. They had some really great panels, but a lot of our time was spent perusing the booths of artwork, t-shirts, jewelry, games, and oggling a number of people in full costume. My favorites were Maleficent, the Queen of Hearts, and some really awesome costumes of fae. One woman had gorgeous long blue hair with intricate ebony antlers climbing from her skull above pointed ears. For every unique creature, there were several that were very recognizable. Copyright infringement abounded. As I was purchasing some beautiful artwork, I found myself biting my tongue. I wanted to ask if they had contacted all of the copyright holders for the pieces they were reproducing, but I was pretty certain I already knew the answer.
Geek Girl Con really knows their audience
With Halloween fast approaching, I've been thinking a lot about costumes and cosplay (for more on what cosplay is, go here). It's rare to see authors rant about cosplay, but I've seen it happen. While the author of the particular rant I have in mind had valid points about copyright infringement and misrepresentation, I couldn't understand why she was focused on cosplay. I've seen work that was very close to her own in really bad, low budget movies that are available through common movie providers. Other works get spun off in fan fiction, possibly robbing the author of an opportunity to explore a character's story on their own. Artists sell paintings, prints, and t-shirts with images and creatures torn off the big screen. Artwork, fan fiction, and movies all stand a chance to take a share of the author's profit.
My vision of Olivia's party dress from Book 1.
So much bead work...This is why I don't cosplay.
Cosplayers don't manufacture their costumes for profit, although there are some lucrative prizes in contests. I still doubt it makes up for the cost poured into years of costumes. Cosplayers also don't tend to make costumes in bulk to sell to other fans. It's too expensive, and the whole point of the exercise is to express their love for a character. While a lot of money can go into manufacturing a costume, generally cosplayers make their own from scavenged materials and it's used as an expression of self.
The material shouldn't be sheer, but
working with templates is interesting
I would be honored if someone loved my work enough to bring it to cosplay. Honestly, it's on my bucket list. All I ask is that I get a picture so I can share it. It's not done for profit, it gets the word out about my books, and it's very flattering. The motive behind the act has everything to do with my reaction. Fan fiction or movies without my permission prior to production will not get the same response, and I'm not shy about involving a lawyer.
What do you think about cosplay? Are there forms of media you would love to see your work in? Are there others that would bother you?
My first time seeing the books made it a little more real.
by Camela Thompson
When I first started writing, I never really considered getting published. It was a distant possibility, as far away as the stars in the sky. I didn't think of the odds stacked up against me. If I had, I wouldn't have been able to write. It's too discouraging. The minute you tell people you want to be a writer, they are really eager to share how hard it is to be published. It's tremendously encouraging <- that was sarcasm (Seriously - it's like going to a baby shower and listening to every woman in the room recount their most horrifying birthing ordeals in front of the terrified new mom). In order to keep writing, I let ideas turn into scenes. Characters demanded to go through their trials. Stories haunted me until I sat down and started typing.
All the Pretty Bones is not the first book I have written, but it was the first time I had this feeling that I was on to something. People would ask me what it was about and lean forward when I gave a quick two to three line description. Their reaction made me think, "Wow. Other people might want to read this!" When it was finished, I shared it with my beta readers (special thanks to Z.D. Gladstone, Stephanie, and Christy for their tremendous insight). Once the major issues they raised were addressed, I decided to pitch at a writing conference I was already scheduled to attend.
I am a very analytical person who loves to be prepared. Deciding anything on a whim, particularly pitching a novel, is very stressful. In the week leading up to the conference, I crammed by researching agent posted recommendations for pitches and queries (Writers Digest has a fabulous list of successful query letters posted by agents). There were so many things to learn! It was the first time looking at my book as a product instead of this organic thing that shot forth from my brain. By the time I sat in front of an editor, I had convinced myself that I was as prepared as possible, but my odds were low. After stumbling across agent after agent expressing their vampire fatigue, my odds became downright improbable.
Imagine my surprise when my first meeting went well.
I met with an editor representative of Booktrope, a small publishing company based in Seattle. She was kind and easy to talk to. I'm sure she could sense my nerves, but with her encouraging smile, it was easy to jump straight into my pitch. When she leaned forward and started asking questions with a grin on her face, I had hope. When she said, "This is very marketable and I really hope we hear from you," I almost did cartwheels on the way out the door. I was so excited I was shaking and I don't think I slept for four days (that actually turned out to be an issue with hyperthyroidism, but it all worked out). I still had to get through a sample chapter review, and then my manuscript was submitted to a team of readers to give me a thumbs up or down. For some reason, I had a really good feeling - and it ended in a contract.
What I have learned about the publishing process and author expectations pre- and post-publication could fill several blog posts, and there is still so much to learn! It has been an amazing experience, and Booktrope has been fabulous.
Writers get beat up on the road to being published. I don't think I'm the only author out there that came out on the other side with a deficit in confidence, and I had it pretty easy. I've seen the pain that comes with rejected queries and pitches that end badly. Please keep trying. The difference between a successful author and a retired writer is perseverance. Good luck, and keep writing.
See what people are saying about All the Pretty Bones on Amazon.
by Camela Thompson
There are several books that left a lasting impression on me. If the book was really good, finishing it came with a weird sadness. I had rushed to get through it because I had to know what was next. Then came the regrets. Maybe if I had stretched it out a little longer, I would remember more. It's like sitting down to a favorite piece of cake. I grabbed the smaller piece so I wouldn't feel sick from gorging myself, but now it's gone and I'm pressing my thumb into the crumbs so I can get every last morsel. (Yeah, don't look at me like you've never done that when no one was watching.) Once it was over, I couldn't help but wonder if my favorite character was based on the author's close friend or a lover. It brought me hope to think someone so awesome existed in the world. Now that I've been writing for a while, I no longer ask those questions.
Taking people straight from this world and putting them in fiction doesn't work very well. First of all, if we're writing from a character's perspective, we're expected to know them so well that we can see into their brains. I have yet to meet a real life Sookie Stackhouse, so I'm putting this in the "not possible" category. If authors base characters on real people, they're still manipulating them like giant puppeteers, steering them through dialogue and action. Second of all, if we were true to our friend's character, the person on the page may not be interested in taking the action needed to get them on the hero's journey. Maybe they are perfectly happy with their day job and don't need to jump from the platform at a train station onto a moving car to save the woman shrieking inside. Most people would call 911 and consider their civic duty met. Third, and most importantly from this author's perspective, if the character rendition is particularly life-like and the person on the page does something unflattering, you've just pissed off a friend.
My characters are based on a blend of people, fictional and real. Their personalities are suited for the journeys they have to travel, although I like them best when they're flawed. The most believable characters, in my mind, are the characters who do what they have to do despite wanting to do anything but what they have to do. There are heroes who spend their days looking for an opportunity to prove to the world what they already know: they are meant to save people. The heroes I love writing and reading about are the people who have to decide that they'll attempt the impossible, and it's only because it's the right thing to do - not because they want the world to know they were brave when it really counted.
Are your characters based on real people? Have you ever encountered an awkward situation because the character was a little too true to form?
Olivia and Kai were inspired by several real people, but there's a lot of fiction in there, too.
Note: This is a fictional interview between fictional characters.
By Mary Atalia of The Seattle Globe
I knew this would be an interview that would be difficult to pull off. Mark Porter is a private individual, but with all of the accusations swirling around lately, he felt obligated to come forward and clear his name. He was hesitant to meet at all, so I agreed to his location. We met at a bar in the Central District.
Mary Atalia: Thank you for meeting with me. I realize you don’t typically talk to reporters.
Mark Porter: There have been so many rumors running rampant that I felt I owed it to myself to clear the air.
MA: Which rumors are you referring to?
MP: That I’m stalking Olivia, of course.
MA: Are you?
MP: Of course not. We’ve been in a relationship for ten years.
MA: Then why did she file a restraining order?
MP: Someone put her up to that. And it’s no longer valid. She didn’t renew it.
MA: But it’s not like someone can file on her behalf. She entered the paperwork.
Interviewer’s Note: At this point in the interview, Mark dug through one of his pockets, making the gentlemen at the table next to us a little nervous. They only relaxed when they saw him push a rumpled piece of paper across the table.
MA: What’s this?
MP: It’s one of her love notes.
MA: This looks a lot like a grocery list.
MP: Over half of those ingredients are my favorite foods. And do you see how she crosses the t’s?
Interviewer’s Note: Let the record show that the handwriting is pretty standard.
MA: Were you recently in prison?
MP: Not exactly.
MA: How is that possible?
MP: I don’t like your attitude.
MA: I apologize. Let me rephrase the question. Did you serve time for committing a crime?
MA: Would you like to expand on that at all?
MP: Not really.
MA: Could you expand on it?
MP: I did what I had to do.
MA: Did the man you beat attack you?
MA: How did he provoke you?
MP: He didn’t. I was considering my options when it occurred to me that I could get out of the army by getting into a physical altercation serious enough to warrant a discharge.
MA: His injuries were so extensive he has had to relearn how to walk and perform simple motor functions.
MP: And that is regrettable. But the army is no longer transferring me to Georgia.
MA: Was it worth it?
MP: Certainly. My Olivia - I see her all the time. That’s priceless.
MA: So you don’t dispute that you committed the crime.
MP: I already served time for it, so I don’t see the point.
MA: You said that you and Olivia have been together for 10 years. Have you ever been on a date?
MP: Of course!
MA: Where did you go?
MP: Just last weekend we went to the gym and the book store.
MA: Did you get coffee or a meal?
MP: She got a juice at the gym.
MA: Did you get a juice with her?
MP: I was busy.
MA: Were you in the gym?
MP: No, at the time I was in the car.
MA: Did you ever go in the gym?
MP: Of course.
MP: I don’t like your tone. What would your husband say about your questions?
MA: He would probably say that I’m doing my job.
MP: He must not provide very well.
MA: I want to work.
MP: I doubt that.
MA: Olivia is very good at her job. She works.
MP: That’s different. We aren’t married yet. Once we’re married, she’ll give up her job.
MA: Gee, look at the time. Didn’t you say you had somewhere to be?
MP: Yes, I’m meeting Olivia in five minutes. She’s cooking dinner.
Interviewer’s Note: I love my job, but I’m not paid enough for this.
I would pretend that I don't like these chain blog posts, but it would be a total lie. Someone is spoon feeding me content. It's like wine tasting without the dizzies! This week's blog post is brought to you by the talented Michael G. Munz, a fellow Booktrope author of Zeus is Dead.
1) What am I working on?
This question has been going through my head a lot lately because it's hard for me to focus on just one project. I have a New Adult Urban Fantasy series that just needs a few tweaks, but my focus has been on book 2 of The Hunted series (All the Pretty Bones was book 1) and my horror novel, Charlie's Shadow. I don't want to say much about book 2 because there are too many potential spoilers for book 1.
Charlie's Shadow is about a struggling couple who finds a dog under their front porch. When they invite Charlie into the house, they get more than they bargained for. Things begin to go bump in the night and a dark secret about their house is discovered.
My adorable inspiration for Charlie's Shadow
2) How does it differ from others in its genre?
The Hunted series is in the Paranormal Thriller genre, but the focus is on the very human struggles the characters face. Olivia is tormented by a stalker and facing terminal illness. Sean Howard struggles with his need to save his ex and what the emotions being drudged up are doing to his marriage. Lucian has to decide whether risking his life is worth saving a woman who makes him feel alive. The mythology is important but it isn't the main focus.
Charlie's Shadow is a horror novel, but it doesn't shy away from some difficult topics. Infertility and infidelity play major parts. Horror is often viewed as a "male" genre, but I believe Gillian Flynn has paved the way for a new twist with a heavy emphasis on contemporary issues.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I get ideas in my head that nag until I finally just have to write them down. My mom has asked me why I write things that are so dark. She has always wanted me to pen a nice, cheery romance that takes place in Provence (I think a little bit of this desire stems from wanting an excuse to expense a "research" trip to France). I'm not sure why things get dark and twisty, but it seems to work for me.
4) How does my writing process work?
It used to be that an idea would hit me and I would just sit down and write. The first time I sat down to write, I cranked out 70,000 words in a week. That sounds like bragging, but if people were allowed to read those words, they would see that they were terrible. Which is why no one is going to read them. Ever. Except my good friend, but she's been sworn to secrecy. Despite the horribleness of the words, it was a beginning! Now I let an idea tickle at my brain and I write down some ideas for major plot points. Then I move on to sketching out characters. By the time I sit down to write the first few chapters, I know how I want the book to end. That doesn't mean it always ends how I first envisioned it, but it seems to work better than locking myself in a room and free flowing.
Now it's time to meet the next blog hop participants.
Encouraged by her mother-in-law, Elizabeth A. Hotes, who told her to create something and share it with others, Jennifer writes and illustrates to keep her memory alive.
To date, Jennifer’s favorite medium is pen and ink, but she also loves to paint a wall or canvas.
Her works have been featured at benefit art auctions, adorned the walls of public spaces, graced homes and enhanced books with vibrant covers and internal illustrations.
Four Rubbings is Jennifer’s first novel, though she’s busy writing the second book in the stone witch series presently. Four Rubbings is great for readers that enjoyed the Harry Potter series, and has been a fun book club pick across the country. The author loves Skyping into book clubs, so email her and ask – she may just surprise you with a cyber visit!
Jennifer Hotes'.......... Website | Twitter
Patricia D. Eddy
Patricia D. Eddy can't stop writing. Not that she's tried. Her characters won't let her.
She fuels her writing with copious amounts of caffeine-she lives in Seattle, after all-and rewards herself with good Scotch and red wine.
In between writing, editing, and mentoring other authors, she runs around lakes, reads late into the night, and is terribly addicted to Doctor Who and Sherlock. She has a thing for quirky British men and isn't ashamed to admit it.
Her quirky-but-not-British husband never gives her grief for working long hours or occasionally talking to herself when she has disagreements with her characters, for which she is very thankful.
Patricia D. Eddy's...... Website | Twitter | Facebook
by Camela Thompson
In addition to diversifying the content on this blog and introducing more personal elements, I have decided to change the schedule a little bit. Instead of posts on Monday and Thursday, I have decided to post topics on Monday and Wednesday and do a character study on Friday. I hope you enjoy getting to know my characters a little better - although with this first introduction, I'm not sure "enjoy" is the right word. Mark Porter is Olivia's Stalker in All the Pretty Bones.
"Mark didn't like feeling the darkness when he was close to his girl. He forced a deep breath in and willed his body to relax against the telephone pole as he looked up to her window. Olivia was exquisite when she cried, and the bastard had made him miss it. She was mopping at her eyes. A grow rumbled in his chest. It was ending too soon. She got her despair in check and turned away from him.
She was always beautiful, but she was radiant when her broken shards came to the surface. It made him want to do things to her—make her beg and grovel at his feet, shower his body with tears. He knew she wanted him. Olivia was afraid of the power they would unleash as their bodies met. That was why she resisted him. She was always so reserved and proper. A female of worth: that was what drove him on after ten long years of waiting for the right moment. He nearly roared into the night, tormented by the fact that he had never so much as stroked her body. He needed to claim her. She was his.
Before she ducked out of his sight, Olivia paused and walked back to stare out the window. Mark was certain the light was too bright in her kitchen for her to see into the darkness, but he could swear her amber eyes sought his own. He could almost feel her skin shiver as she rubbed her arms and pulled the blinds down over her disturbed expression. The spinning in his chest slowed and he smiled up to her. She always sensed him—somehow knew he was near.
She belonged with him."
There are reasons Mark is the way he is, but those reasons don't take away from the fact that he is frightening. When someone's reasoning doesn't fit into the normal realms of logic, predictability goes out the window. He is muscular and mentally unstable, but take away the darkness he carries with him and you would have a normal looking man. When I picture Mark, I picture someone who would go unnoticed were it not for the feeling that something about him is "off."
What do you think about Mark so far? Would you like to meet additional characters?
Subscribe to my mailing list for the first two chapters of All the Pretty Bones! Interested in reviewing All the Pretty Bones or participating in a blog tour? Click on the banner to sign up.
by Camela Thompson
During the cover reveal party for All the Pretty Bones, I got some really great questions. The first question was:
"Where did you get the idea?"
I explained that I had a stalker when I was fourteen. Since living through that experience, news articles about stalking cases grab me. I feel for the victims and get angry with our legal system. I realize that we can't proactively arrest people before they commit an offense, but there should be harsher penalties for engaging in intimidation, threats, and stalking. There are too many women and men who end up seriously injured or worse, and maybe - just maybe - this would happen less often if the punishment carried more weight. It wasn't a big reach for me to wonder what would happen if the wrong person was pushed too far and had nothing left to lose.
I also was asked how similar my experience was to what my main character faced. It was a really great question, and it made me very thankful that things ended as well as they did. The question also made me think back to when I would read books and wonder who in the author's life influenced their main characters. Fiction has a lot of influence from reality and I have heard a few writers say that they divulge more in fiction than their memoir - and they feel safe doing this because the context has changed so much the circumstances would not be recognizable. I can't speak for all authors, but the real world influences on my work are so altered that the end result is merely a vague impression of what I started with. Characters are composites of real people, fictional characters, ideals, and research - never a single person. The same can be said for scenes and plot.
Unfortunately, my stalker had a violent streak and was cruel to animals. He was very clear about what he wanted to do to me, left death threats in my friends' lockers, and isolated me from my peers. He was so menacing that no one wanted to risk being hurt, so I sat alone near the principal's office clutching my backpack and an apple, too nervous to eat. It is hard to put into words the chill that ran from the base of my spine to the tips of my fingers when I walked out of my house to see the man who had been following me from class to class. That moment will always stick with me. It was the moment he crossed the line from being someone frightening at school to the man who knew where I lived. The threat was no longer left behind when I went home.
Being stalked was awful, but it could have been a lot worse - and it was for my character, Olivia. I'm thankful that I was able to start moving on after a year of fighting. Olivia was stalked for 10. I went through the legal system. Olivia went rogue. I would also never claim to have experienced anything paranormal. The differences go on....
It feels really good to be able to say my experience was channeled into a book. I found the silver lining and something positive was created from something negative. The feelings and emotions revealed in the book are pretty personal, but the circumstances are difficult to compare.
The vampire is a newer creature, evolved from centuries of mythological beings that consumed human flesh and blood. Just about every civilization had their own brand of people eater. The Western European revenant is not the oldest legend, but it predates the vampire by at least half a century. The revenant is often described in the High Middle Ages as a bloated, discolored human that has returned from the dead only to hunt down their family and neighbors.
Where Did The Legend Begin?
The High Middle Ages were about six hundred years before the discovery of bacteria. The discovery of bacteria happened approximately two hundred years before bacteria was definitely linked as a causative factor in disease. Without science, people had God, superstition, and a lot of fear. Death and disease were everywhere, proliferated by the belief that bathing was evil and a lack of any semblance of sanitation. People didn’t understand what death did to a body and sometimes they didn’t realize when a body wasn’t dead.
The description of the revenant often involves bloating and discolored skin. People have theorized that the legend stems from grave robbers disturbing a decomposing body and scaring the crap out of themselves when the coffin lid springs and the body sits up. I imagine this scenario would be entertaining to observe were it not for the bloated body sitting up in its coffin. Even knowing spontaneous movement is possible, I would need a change of shorts (TMI?). These grave robbers probably needed a stiff drink and gathered at the local bar, telling the locals about their brush with a person who came back from the dead, especially since these robbers hacked at the body with their shovels and saved the village from being eaten. Did I mention bodies often leak fluids and have blood bubbling up from their mouths? It wouldn’t have been a huge stretch for these same grave robbers to tell their captivated audience that the body was drinking blood.
A story with returned bodies craving blood would spread through a sleepy village like wildfire. Just as people are worked into a frenzy, someone gets sick. The illness is so severe that they are buried a little early (I believe the polite term is “premature burying”). In a dramatic twist of events, the - buried? bury-ee? - gets better and wakes up stuck in a box and scared out of his mind.
Can you imagine clawing your way up to the surface, successfully escaping your own grave? Maybe it was a shallow grave or perhaps it was one of those tombs that had a lid that could be moved aside. After being ill enough to be mistaken for dead, it would be difficult to conquer either of those scenarios. The adrenalin that surges after realizing you’ve been stuffed into a box which is then stuffed into the ground would probably help. Once you’ve managed to claw your way out of a box and up through the earth, where do you go? Home.
In a time when people thought illness spread because of witches and demons, a relative who was mourned and buried showing up covered in dirt, stumbling around from dehydration, was not a welcome sight. Someone declared dead by a priest would have no good reason to return home. They must be up to no good! The “lucky” bastard was probably attacked with a pitch fork and beheaded before he had a shot at saying, “I got better.”
And that is how the legend began. Probably.
A group of writers I am affiliated with decided to do a Blog Hop today, and I thought it sounded like fun. A huge thank you to Tiffany Pitts for kicking it off for our group and Melissa Thayer for passing it along. I didn't really take into consideration that I had already posted a topic this morning, but I guess it helps me make up for missing my usual Monday post. Anything that keeps the words flowing is a good thing.
Where do you like to write?
My favorite place to write is on the chaise end of our sectional couch. The couch is one of my most epic impulsive purchases to date. My mother is a bad influence when it comes to shopping and I usually walk out of the store with something bigger and - I'll admit it - better than I intended on purchasing. I only meant to replace the Naugahyde monstrosity my husband had brought into the marriage. It was a comfortable couch with rips all along the top and cushions sinking into the springs. It had to go. I needed three seats and purchased a couch that could comfortably house three people stretched out after a night of binge drinking. Fortunately, that scenario hasn't been tested because I chose a color that will show any spill. Despite my color palette misstep, I am glad my mother talked me into the purchase because that chaise is where I spend many hours with my writing co-pilot, Annie
A view of my writing buddies from my spot on the couch.
Which part of researching your current novel was most interesting?
The most interesting part of my research is the stuff I envision setting off alerts at NSA. Body decomposition rates, military grade weapons, explosives, biological weapons, and any other dangerous substance/weapon that probably has some poor lackey at the Pentagon scratching his head and wondering if I'm a risk when bumping it up against the rest of my searches. When I'm really procrastinating, you may find unicorns, zombie garden gnomes, anything chocolate, and handsome men who may or may not look like one of my characters. My vampire would be holding a bazooka with rainbow stickers and glitter if you go by my search queries.
How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose them?
I try to use a lot of diligence when selecting a name. It needs to be something that fits the region, time period, and family history of my character. Then I pick up a book to read for fun and inevitably find my favorite character's name plastered all over the place and have to go change it. This has happened at least four times. I have learned not to get too attached and to Google the names to minimize the risk of stepping on anyone's toes.
Do you read your reviews? How do you respond to the bad?
My first book doesn't come out until October of 2014, so I'm really not sure how I will respond. I will read them though. At least at first. It's my hope that I will learn from the bad, but I won't know how I will react until it happens.
What are your favorite books to give as gifts?
This really depends on the friend. The Dog Lover's Companion to Seattle is a great one for the dog lovers out there. Friends who want to cook healthier meals but never know what to make get my favorite cookbooks. The friends who share my dark and twisty side get books by Gillian Flynn (Sharp Objects is my favorite). A really good friend with a taste for vampires and naughty bits gets something by J.R. Ward.
To continue on the blog hop, check out the fabulous Eileen Maksym:
Eileen Maksym writes in a variety of genres, but her favorites are paranormal, horror, science fiction, and urban fantasy. Her first novel, Haunted, came out this past spring! She is also a submissions editor for Apex Magazine.
Eileen currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, while her husband, an astrophysicist, does a post-doc at the University of Alabama. Before moving there, her sports love was baseball (GO RED SOX!) However, since football is the lingua franca around there, she started watching the team, and now she's hooked. Roll Tide!!!
Eileen has two children: Kolbe, who is nine, and Josie, who is seven. They’re wonderful and exasperating and surprise her every day!
When Eileen is not writing, she can often be found fangirling online about her current pop culture obsessions. Right now she is a huge fan of Elementary, Sherlock and Doctor Who. She also loves to read, sing (pretty well!) and play guitar (very badly).
The night light cast shapes against the bedroom walls, highlighting fragments of toys and casting shadows in dancing shapes across the room. Despite the cheerful stars and moons sparkling across the room in endless circles, the small child hesitated, dwelling on the darkness that pooled in corners, behind toys, and reached across the floor from the bed like some giant being in restless sleep. The dominant shadow hugged the bottom of her bed and the army of smaller shadows shifted like roiling water against a craggy shore. Her feet flexed, lifting her toes off of the cold hardwood, as she waited for a path of light to appear through the shadows.
“Jessica,” her mom’s voice materialized by her ear, causing her to jump. She spun quickly to see her mother bundled in a pink robe, smiling down on her with eyes that crinkled in the corners as she grinned. Jessica was so focused on her dilemma that she hadn’t heard her mother walk down the hall.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost, sweetheart. Why are you standing out in the hall?” her mom asked.
Jessica cast her eyes to the ground and fidgeted, hooking her right big toe around her left heel. Long, shiny blond hair that hung in her eyes was gently cast away in a billowing curtain as she let out a shaky breath. She hadn’t considered the possibility of a ghost lurking around her bedroom, but her mother’s poor choice of words added the possibility to the monsters she’d already conjured up in her mind.
“Are you scared of what’s in the closet?” her mom asked.
Jessica hesitated. She hadn’t thought of her closet either, but she shook her head no. “It’s the bed. Could you please turn on the light and check?”
Her mom’s smile tightened and grew harder. This was a game they played every night and her patience was slowly being chipped away over the weeks. Months. She had even dared to hope for a slightly different variation of the phobia. Like daughter like mother - the woman blew out a gusty sigh, causing a wave of light brown hair to momentarily feather away from her face.
“Sure,” she replied through gritted teeth and flicked on the light to Jessica’s room.
The woman made a show of folding the blankets away from the floor over the bed to look underneath, even going so far as to reach into the darkness. Jessica cringed, waiting for her mother’s arm to be grabbed by some unseen force and nearly shrieked when her mother made a face. Unharmed, her mother stood up clutching a wayward toy and brushed imagined dust from her robe. When she turned to Jessica, she was smiling a little too brightly at the child.
“See? Nothing’s there!” She made a dramatic sweep of the room with her arms.
Jessica was anchored in place. Her freckled nose wrinkled; arms stubbornly crossed. Her little voice squeaked, “Can you check the closet?”
Her mom’s patience was pushed to the limit and anger briefly flashed across her face. She strode briskly to the closet, muttering, “I guess I brought that one on myself.” Brittle fingers violently shoved the closet doors apart in opposite directions. The hinges squeaked loudly in protest and one of the doors caught before folding.
“What the....” Jessica’s mother bent over and retrieved something from the floor. “I just don’t understand how this little guy always gets crammed in here. Don’t you like Mr. Elderberry anymore?” Her mom held the hideous marionette puppet up by the control bar, flexing her hands so the strings moved his disproportionately small arms and legs, his giant mouth gaping open and close like a yammering drunkard.
Realizing that her mother was waiting for a reply, the small girl looked up with wide eyes and benignly nodded. Satisfied, the woman put Mr. Elderberry back on his hook overlooking Jessica’s bed. While her mom was distracted, Jessica took a flying leap across the floor to avoid any lingering shadows and landed on her bed. The headboard gently tapped the wall as her slight body shifted the bed frame on impact.
“Jessica,” her mother knelt next to her bed to tuck her in. “I know you’re scared of what’s under the bed, but the more you think about it, the more power you give it. If you choose not to believe in it, it will go away.”
The little girl’s face scrunched up as she considered what her mother said. “You mean, it’s only there if I think it is?”
Her mom’s face softened as she leaned down and gave her a quick kiss. “Yep. You can make it go away by telling it that it’s not there.”
Jessica looked skeptical but a small smile tugged at her rosebud mouth as she snuggled down into her blankets. “‘Night Mom,” she said quietly. Her mom hesitated as she stepped out of the room and turned off the light. “Can you leave the hallway light on at least?” Jessica called out.
“Nope. Just remember, it’s not really there unless you think it is,” her mom called over her shoulder as she went towards her room.
Frowning, Jessica squeezed her eyes shut and muttered, “It’s not really there.” She moved her legs around in her blankets, feeling the crisp cool sheets against her knees and toes. Something shifted in her room, making a sound like branches hitting together. Her breath caught in her throat as she pushed her blankets over her head and pinned them against the headboard. Seconds passed with a gentle tapping that slowed in rhythm. Remembering what her mother said, Jessica forced herself to slow down her breathing and pull the sheets back beneath her chin. She slowly opened one eye and then the other. Mr. Elderberry was gently rocking against the wall, its weight finding a balance on the perch.
As Jessica relaxed and began to settle into her pillow, she froze and frowned.
“Shoot,” the little girl whispered. She had forgotten to use the bathroom and her bladder was full. She looked around the room watching the shadows dance with the turn of her night light. She started when a face jumped out on the wall, but calmed when she watched it shrink back to the source. Mr. Elderberry.
“You are not real. This is my bedroom,” she said quietly.
“You are not real,” she said again a little louder.
Feeling empowered, Jessica decided to take advantage of her new found bravery and swing her feet to the ground. She stood up with sudden conviction and even took the time to stretch before continuing on to the bathroom. Two cold hands clamped down on her ankles like vices and pulled her to the ground, knocking the wind out of her before she could scream.
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.