Why I’m Writing a Ghost Story

Dear Reader,

Haunting Miss Trentwood began as an exercise to understand how my parent felt about losing both of their parents.

I researched adult (or midlife) orphans, which is such an important, and under-recognized topic. I’m certain the public library thought I was going through some deep trouble because I read every book on the topic.

I became fascinated and terrified by the idea that one day, my parents will die, and with them goes the only people in the world who have seen it all happen to me. They exist as a living record and archive of the traumatic moments in my life. They are my anchor.

I asked the questions: What happens to someone who loses both their parents? How do we continue, knowing there will never be anyone who knows us entirely? How do we keep the spirit of our parents alive?

Soon thereafter, I began dreaming about ghosts. Specifically, one ghost: the ghost of Mary’s father. I didn’t know why he was there. Mary certainly didn’t know why he was there. But we both knew his presence would forever change the plot and purpose of Haunting Miss Trentwood née Trentwood’s Orphan.

Looking back, I can see influences of Hamlet involved in the inspiration of Haunting Miss Trentwood. We so often underestimate the importance of the role our parents have in our lives, or the lack thereof if our parents are not a part of our lives. We underestimate the influence our parents have on our judgments and decisions.

This book is my attempt to understand and cope with the idea that one day, my parents will be gone, but I hope to keep their spirits alive within me. Is that crazy? Am I alone in worrying about this? Are you wondering how in the hell can I make an entertaining read about such a morbid topic?

Don’t worry, I wonder the same thing all the time. It’s a challenge, but it’s one I’m excited to face. Which, in retrospect, seems kind of weird, doesn’t it?

All the best,

Belinda

Worderella Reveals a Snippet

Dear Reader,

I am ashamed to admit it has been, according to 750words.com, five days since I last wrote a word for Haunting Miss Trentwood. Thank goodness for blogfests! I almost forgot I agreed to be a part of the Rainy Day blogfest, held by The Writer’s Hole.

Below is my submission, a first-draft snippet of Chapter 24 from my work-in-progress, Haunting Miss Trentwood. To give you an idea of the story, it is set in 1887 England, and the tagline is “Father knows best… even after death.” Enjoy!

By the time they reached Wayland’s Smithy, it had begun to rain. It was the kind of loud rain which spoke of the end of winter and the coming of spring. Mary had been forced to jog that last one hundred yards to the black opening of the Saxon tomb. She had slid on the slick rock floor covered with decaying leaves. Trentwood’s tight grasp on her arm righted her. She jerked away from his unnatural touch.

Mary huddled beneath the sheltering rocks of the sarsen stones that made the ceiling, her arms wrapped tightly around her waist. I haven’t anything left to vomit. “Tell me what happened back there.”

Trentwood stood in the shadows beside her. She could feel his white eyes watching her, and fought the wave of nausea that shuddered through her body. Those white eyes had, for a brief moment, looked at her through Hartwell’s eyes. Certainly she hadn’t imagined that? Trentwood had, for a time, stepped into Hartwell’s body so he could land a devastating punch to Sedgwick’s jaw. One couldn’t imagine that. Just as one couldn’t imagine one’s father haunting one.

I’m not mad. Please, tell me I’m not mad.

Outside, the rain plummeted to the ground more furiously than Mary had ever seen. It was as if the sky vomited on her behalf. She closed her eyes and leaned her forehead into the moss that clung to the vertical stone walls. She sighed as the cool rock soothed the pounding at her temples.

“What would you like to know?”

She wasn’t sure where to begin. “How did you do it?”

Trentwood shrugged. “One minute I was watching you thrash about in bed, and I heard you scream that terrifying scream of yours, and the next minute, I was in your dream. I haven’t the slightest clue how it happened.”

Mary blinked. Wait, what? Her tongue felt heavy in her mouth. “I was talking about when you possessed Mr. Hartwell, Father.”

Again, Trentwood shrugged. “I’m as new to this being dead folderol as you are in watching it.”

Wiping beads of sweat from her brow, Mary whispered, “You will limit such… jaunts… in the future, I hope?”

“Indeed,” he said with a short laugh. “It pains me to do it as much as it seems to pain you to watch it. Do you know how difficult it is to be dead, hopping around from one mind or body to the next, not knowing how you got there, or how you’ll get out?” He stepped closer, and she could smell his death-stench.

“No, I don’t. I never thought it was a skill I would need to learn.”

He grunted. “Inherited your mother’s morbid sense of humor, I see.”

“Given the circumstances, I think I’m glad of it.”

Suddenly seeming sheepish, Trentwood took yet another step closer. “Mary, we must talk about your dream. We must talk about your mother’s death.”

Definitely make sure you check out the other submissions. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Belinda

Write Every Day

I am now a Master of Science. Fear me!

What have I been doing with myself?

I have taken my time detoxing from the intensity of my masters program. Graduating has felt like how I imagine transitioning to civilian life after being in the military for two years must feel. I didn’t have to kill anyone (though I wanted to), but life in the “real world” such as it’s described is very different. For one thing, I get to make money. For another thing, I actually pay taxes now.

Welcome to the world of adulthood, Belinda.

My first week after graduation was spent hanging out with friends and watching movies, as well as moving home to the parents’ house while looking for a job.

The second week out of school, I began to read fiction, but not necessarily romantic fiction. After my stint as a literary short story writer for one of my elective courses, I realized that while I love to write about love, it doesn’t always have to be distinctly romantic, or at least belonging to the romantic genre and the dogma that goes along with it.

And you know what that means, if I’ve begun to read fiction again. Yes, you assume correctly, it means I’ve begun to write fiction again.

Starting over

As mentioned in my previous post, the last two years have been… an experience. To say the least. And with the aplomb of any good writer, I mean to use my experiences to inform my writing. Not explicitly, of course, but I have learned so much about how people actually behave versus how we read about them in fiction.  I wanted to continue writing Trentwood’s Orphan; I’d had a dream about the characters about a month ago, which hinted at my shifting interests from academics back to fiction writing.

The problem? Everything seemed too fantastic, too dramatic, too… forced. I was trying to create drama rather than allowing the inherent dramatics of being human speak for themselves. Which brings me to my point: I’m starting over. I have cut 75% of the character list, 100% of the plot, and 100% of the theme.

I pulled out my whiteboard and began scribbling thoughts about the new theme, which I had realized while falling asleep the night before. I thought about the experiences I’ve had over the last two years, and pulled in what few characters I actually needed to tell the story. I put major plot points on post-it notes and arranged them on the whiteboard under the headings Act One, Act Two, and Act Three. I copied my notes into my notebook, and walked away for an hour.

And then I began to write Haunting Miss Trentwood.

Write every day

If you’re having trouble writing, I’d like to point you in the direction of a really simple online writing tool that has worked wonders for me. It’s called 750 Words, and that’s the entire point. You log in with your existing online profiles, including Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and write.

After you log in, you are greeted with a blank screen with a cursor, with the date at the top of the screen. And you write. There is a running total at the bottom of the screen. When you reach 750 words, the number turns green and you get a little notification saying “Congratulations! You’ve reached your goal!”

You have the option to change the color of your text, background, etc. Other than that, the only thing you can control is your writing. The website doesn’t care how long it takes you to write, it simply expects you to write 750 words that day. It logs your typing style, and autosaves for you. There is no formatting of the text so you can’t get distracted.

It’s simple. It’s brilliant.

My friend used 750 Words to spur his writing of his masters thesis, and while I had no problems with my masters thesis, I’ve been a little intimidated to start the new incarnation of Mary’s story. So I logged into 750 Words and gave it a whirl. Next thing I knew, I had 1000 words, and a solid first chapter.

Give it a try. It might work for you.

Worderella Writes schedule

Given the fact that I want to focus on my writing, I’m taking a much-needed actual vacation, I’m starting a new job, and I’ll be moving out of the parents’ place in a couple of months, I don’t want to get ahead of myself and commit to too much all at once. Or rather, more than I have already. So I’m only going to promise to write once a month, probably on a weekend. It might be a simple writing update, it might be a book review, it might be a cool link, it might be all of the above.

Most of all, I’m just glad to be back. Sincerely and truly back, doing what I love: sharing my love of writing with my peers.