Monday, October 20, 2014
I'll be leaving for my favourite writer's conference soon.
I look forward to this conference all year long, and when I've been unable to attend due to work commitments, I've definitely felt something was lacking in my life.
Writing can be so isolating that an opportunity to connect with other like-minded souls should not be missed.
But these must haves don't just apply to writing conferences--they're important for any kind of conference you may attend.
1) Business cards: You're going to be meeting a lot of people. Awesome people. People you'll want to keep in touch with--people who may end up being important business contacts in the future. I've seen too many scramble for a piece of paper and a pen when someone asks for their contact info. Don't be one of those people--come prepared with a professional-looking business card. It doesn't need to cost a bundle, but it's so much easier to hand someone your card than it is to scribble your name on a napkin. And there's a much better chance that the people you meet won't lose a business card. Random scraps of paper are easily misplaced.
2) Samples of your work: I was always told never to give an agent a sample of my writing at a conference. Imagine my surprise, then, when an agent asked for one. The only reason I was able to deliver was that I had a blue pencil appointment that day that required me to bring part of my novel with me. Otherwise, I would have shown up empty handed. Always bring printed samples of your work along. You never know who might ask to see what you can do.
3) Cash: In these days of paying for almost everything with plastic, hardly anyone carries cash anymore. But it can come in handy and save some awkward moments when you're at a bar with your fellow conference-goers and everyone's trying to split the tab in twenty different ways. It's also great for tips, vending machines, and spur-of-the-moment emergencies. At my particular conference, most of the books can only be paid for with cash. Talk about an emergency!
4) Professional Wardrobe: I've said it before, and I'll say it again--it never hurts to look professional. Even when you're in a creative field like writing or design, it's still a business. Don't give the wrong impression by turning up for a workshop in your beloved "I'm With Stupid" T-shirt.
5) A Smile: I know a few introverts who feel like they could never enjoy a conference, but that's not true. An introverted friend I met at last year's conference simply sat beside me, smiled, and said hello--or I said hello to her. We're not sure which, but we've been friends ever since. If you smile and look approachable, you will make friends. You're at a conference with a whole bunch of people you have something in common with. Almost everyone wants to make friends. Almost everyone is nervous and doesn't want to be the only one sitting alone. So smile--at a conference, it's worth more than cash.
Do you ever go to conferences? Do you like or dislike them? What are your must haves for a conference?
Friday, October 17, 2014
I'm going to be published.
I'm still in shock. I found out on Monday night, signed the contract on Wednesday, and the press release went out from Samhain on Thursday morning.
I wanted to tell you right away, all of you who have been so supportive and encouraging throughout my journey, but I haven't been able to find the words--isn't that ironic?
When I first found out about Samhain's call for novellas dealing with childhood fears, I thought it would be a fun excuse to write something new. My awesome writing group encouraged me to put my current project on hold and go for it, and I'm so glad I did.
Look how it turned out.
I'm honoured to be published by one of the biggest, most respected names in the e-publishing world. I'm beyond thrilled that my story was chosen out of over a hundred submissions, and that I'll be appearing in an anthology with Bram Stoker-award winners.
To say it's surreal is an understatement.
Thank you so much for reading this blog, for commenting even when you didn't feel like it, and for all the support and encouragement.
I hope you'll read "The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave" when it's released. And I hope you'll love it. Maybe, just maybe, it'll make you look at that teddy bear with a little more suspicion.
If so, I've done my job.
PS...Samhain started out publishing romance exclusively, so if you go to their site, don't be put off by all the bodice rippers--Samhain is getting to be quite a big name in the horror field as well.
Posted by Holli Moncrieff at 1:32 PM
Friday, October 3, 2014
|My G Adventures Group in China--I'm on the far left, in the back.|
I hate to travel alone.
Over the years, this has meant I haven't traveled nearly as much as I'd like, as my friends or significant others haven't always had the same means, time off, or desire.
I've also traveled to places I wasn't overly interested in because someone I knew was going, and hell, it was a chance to go somewhere.
So when the opportunity to go to China arose, I decided to take the plunge and do something I'd never done before--sign up for a tour with a bunch of strangers.
I was nervous, but I consoled myself with the fact that we'd all have at least one thing in common--we wanted to see China so much that we'd signed up for this crazy tour.
If you've read my past two posts, you already know that I had a fabulous time and met some amazing people, some of whom I hope will be lifelong friends.
BUT that doesn't mean there were no bumps along the road. If you're considering joining a tour, here's some helpful tips for surviving travel with a group of strangers.
1) Be Friendly With Everyone, Dependent on No one: If you've traveled with a friend, or even a spouse, you know there's that point in the trip when you start to get on each other's nerves. The great thing about a larger group is that this never has to happen, because you can vary who you spend time with and who you talk to. If you spend all your time with one or two people, you miss out on the chance of getting to know others in the group, whom you may have just as much fun with. If you're friendly with everyone, you won't wind up having to do things by yourself when your chosen buddy doesn't feel like going out.
2) Be Prepared to Share: One of the great things about my G Adventures group was that it didn't feel like sixteen people traveling on their own---it felt like sixteen people pooling their resources. If someone got a blister, a headache, a cold, lost their luggage, or just didn't get to the store to buy provisions, they had about fifteen offers of help. It was pretty awesome how everyone pitched in for the good of the group.
3) Be Careful What You Say: There were some "uh-oh" moments when people said things assuming that those they were talking to agreed with them. Whether these were racist comments or slamming people of a certain age, best not to say anything you wouldn't feel comfortable announcing to the entire group. Especially if you don't know the ethnicity or age of the person you're talking to! Appearances can be deceiving.
4) Be Considerate: If you join a group like this on your own, you're most likely going to be paired with a same-sex roommate, so a little consideration is in order. As long as you're always mindful that you're not living alone and that the other person has as much right to the space as you do, you're on your way to being a great roommate.
5) At All Costs, Avoid Drama: The guys on the tour managed to avoid drama. How? They didn't take things personally, they were friendly with everyone but attached to no one, and they didn't take things personally. Did I mention they didn't take things personally?
6) If You Can't Avoid Drama, Don't Let It Ruin Your Trip: Of course it would be ideal if everyone in the group functioned like one big happy family all the time, but that's not realistic. Travel--especially strenuous, adventure travel--puts a strain on everyone, and emotions can be heightened. But always remember it's your trip, and you paid good money to be there. Don't let petty drama ruin even one day of your vacation, or you'll regret it later. Shrug it off and suck it up as much as possible. You'll feel better the next day.
7) Be Prepared to Get Sick: When you're traveling with a group, someone is bound to get sick. And once one person gets a cold or a flu, almost everyone else will come down with it as well. Bring an arsenal of cold and flu medication, just in case, especially cough drops, which can be hard to find in some countries. If you end up not needing them, you can give them to the person who does.
8) Be Inclusive: Maybe you've really hit it off with a few people, but see that person who's always alone? Why not invite him or her to join you for dinner? When it comes to traveling in a group, the more, the merrier. Whenever I expanded my horizons, I never regretted it.
9) Realize It Might Just Be A Moment In Time: Traveling like this really bonds a group of people. Promises are made--to keep in touch regularly, or to visit each other. Maybe to travel together as a group again. And these things might happen, but they can seem like a fantasy when everyone returns to their real lives. Enjoy your group as much as you can in the moment, because no matter how close you are, the sad fact of the matter is that coming home can (and often does) change everything. It's nothing personal.
10) Be Positive. The very best advice I can give is to be positive. If you're generally cheerful, encouraging, and can make people laugh now and then, you'll get along just fine.
Have you ever traveled with a tour group before, or if not, have you ever considered it? What are your best travel tips?
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
|Part of our G Adventures Group on a train in China|
As writers, we can get too stuck in our own heads.
One of the best cures for this, I've found, is to travel. I always keep a journal when I travel, and I try to update it everyday, but inevitably so much will happen that I fall behind.
I used to fret about this. How could I get so far behind? What if I forget something? And then I realized how ridiculous it would be to pass up living life in order to merely write about it.
You can always catch up on the plane.
Last month I went to China. In a moment of crazy spontaneity, I saw an unprecedented sale on a direct flight to Hong Kong. Before I knew it, I had found a group tour that would hit all the sites I desperately wanted to see, and booked it.
I had never traveled with a tour group before. Only friends and significant others, with varying success. Now I'd be throwing myself at the mercy of a group of strangers that I might not have anything in common with.
What if I was the only solo traveler? What if the group didn't get along? What if I didn't fit in?
Even crazier, I had to find my own way through Hong Kong and to Beijing before I met up with the group. I'd never navigated cities that immense before, and certainly not on my own. I pictured wall-to-wall people pushing past me, people who didn't speak my language.
And even worse, there would be four overnight sleeper train rides that Google assured me would be cramped and miserable. My heart pounded harder at the thought of experiencing severe claustrophobia among a group of people who didn't know me, care about me, and who would undoubtedly think of me as Freak Girl, or at the very least, a troublesome burden.
As writers, we've taught our minds to misbehave, and as the time came to leave for China, I was terrified. Instead of looking forward to this trip of a lifetime, I dreaded it. What if, what if, what if? And besides, I had so much writing to do. How could I possibly take a month off?
I'm sure those of you who have done a lot of traveling are nodding your heads and smiling. Because you know what happened next.
I found my hotel in Hong Kong with little effort, and they upgraded me to a suite. It was fabulous.
I found my flight check-in desk, my trip to Beijing was faultless, and even getting to my hotel in that city was not that difficult.
The group of strangers quickly became like-minded friends, and I met some of the most wonderful people I ever could have imagined--I hope they will be friends for life. I was sorry to say goodbye to them, and now that I'm home, I miss them constantly.
And the trains? Not only was everyone sympathetic to my claustrophobia and willing to help me in any way possible, it ended up not being a problem. The train rides I'd been so afraid of were actually the most fun--all-night slumber parties that gave us a chance to bond and really get to know each other. We laughed the most on the trains.
To write, you have to live. I was an insecure writer and an insecure traveler. Now I hope I'm a lot less insecure about both.
While I was in China I got a great idea for a novel, and one of my fellow travellers inspired a wicked first line. But that was just a bonus.
If you have the opportunity to close your journal and step away from the computer, seize it. Follow the adventure and see where it takes you. I don't think you'll regret it.
I never have.
Has not writing ever made you a better writer?
The Insecure Writer's Support Group's purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It's a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posted by Holli Moncrieff at 5:00 AM
Sunday, September 28, 2014
I've just returned from the trip of a lifetime--almost a month exploring the culture and history of China.
I'd wanted to visit China since I was a little girl and first saw pictures of the Great Wall. It was on my bucket list long before people called them bucket lists.
And China didn't disappoint. From Beijing and Shanghai to Chengdu and Yangshuo, China was both awe-inspiring and challenging. It's a dizzying mix of old world meets new--monks talking on smart phones, gift shops at the terracotta warrior dig site, splashy skyscrapers nestled among temples that are thousands of years old.
In a country like this, anything can happen, and pretty much everything did. In no particular order, here's the ten craziest things that happened during my month in China.
1) Holli, Defender of Monkeys. To prepare us for a trek up Mount Emei, we were armed with large bamboo poles to fend off the area's notorious food-stealing macaque monkeys. Little did I know I'd end up using my pole against a local woman!
The monkeys were gentle, much more peaceful than the ones I'd encountered in Bali, and really cute to watch. I was stunned when I saw a woman hit a baby monkey in the face with a bottle of hand sanitizer. I was horrified when she followed this up with smearing hand sanitizer in the baby's eyes! Without thinking, I started hitting her in the legs with my pole, yelling "No!" I also pointed her out to the "monkey police." I was upset for the rest of the climb, but at least I could take comfort in the fact that I did something about it. And it makes for a good story.
2) A Monk Stole My Bathing Suit. Well, he was more of a monk's assistant and he didn't actually steal it, but all I know is--out of all the bathing suits he was given to dry, only my bikini never returned. It makes me smile to think of that earnest little man wearing polka dot bikini bottoms...cause what else could have happened to them?
3) I Groped a Panda. It took some doing, and some of our tour guide's best arguing, but I was able to achieve one of my life's dreams--cuddling with a giant panda bear. My chosen cub, Hexsing, was only a year old but already weighed so much that two people had to carry him in. I'd like to say we had a moment, but he was much more interested in his apple than in me. Oh well. How many people can say they groped a panda?
One in particular caught my eye. He was the Chinese Fred Astaire, slim and graceful in his purple shirt and dress pants. As he moved his body to the music, leaping and spinning, a beautiful smile lit up his face. I could have watched him forever.
5) Attacked By a Blind Man. Not all the elderly men were quite so charming. I was waiting for the light to change in Shanghai when a blind man walked right up to me, screamed something I couldn't understand and started whacking me in the legs with his cane. I still have no idea what he was trying to say....
6) Participating in the Anti-Talent Talent Show. On the last night of our Yangtze River cruise, our guide had the brilliant idea that our group should perform in the ship's talent show. There were several obstacles. One: we'd had no time to rehearse. Two: the ship's limited English music selection limited our "dance" performance to Michael Jackson or Michael Jackson. And three: all we had to aid us was a ridiculous assortment of props that had no relation to each another--maracas, feathered fans, a cowboy hat with beaded dreads attached??, Blues Brothers-type fedoras, and tambourines.
Aside from the crew, the only other group to perform were serious German folk singers who had obviously put some effort into their rehearsals. Then it was time for our group. Between an impromptu staged battle, some bad break dancing, a heartfelt air guitar solo, and a pseudo moonwalk, we pulled it off. Or at least confused our audience enough that they didn't realize we had no clue what we were doing.
7) Stuck in an Elevator. Perhaps fate decided that after such a magnificent trip, our farewell dinner was anti-climactic. Not to worry, because on our way out of the restaurant, half of our group got stuck in an elevator. After some "stuck in an elevator" selfies, some of the women began to panic.We were told the maintenance crew was on their way and would be there in five to ten minutes. Not one to wait around, my South African friend managed to pry the doors open, saving us from a slow death. Adventure over.
8) Failing a Cooking Class. I like to think I'm a good cook, but I was no match for Peter, the Tyrant of Traditional Chinese Cooking. Concerned that my carrot sticks weren't small enough, I proceeded to whittle them down further with my cleaver. "Noooooo!" Peter screamed, pointing at my plate. "Don't do that!" The resulting silence was deafening.
It was not an auspicious beginning to my first (and last) Chinese cooking class, which also included several rounds of humiliation by dumpling and choking on Sichuan pepper fumes. Not recommended.
|Me and Mr. Lau.|
But my all-time favourite was the scooter. If you feel like looking death in the face and laughing, I highly recommend it. Many thanks to Mr. Lau, who took me on a high-speed trip of a lifetime through the heart of Yangshuo. Why cycle when you can fly?
10) Petting a Fish. There's an old tea house in Shanghai where you can pet a koi fish. If you're patient, quick, and really, really want to.
It was slimy.
Monday, September 1, 2014
How many times have you met people who want results without the work?
The reward without the sacrifice?
These are the people who have always wanted to be novelists, but haven't finished a book. The ones who want to see the world, but content themselves with quick jaunts to the Caribbean. The uncle who always dreamed of being a professional musician, but who settles for strumming the guitar at family get-togethers.
If you truly want something, what are you willing to sacrifice? What could you do to make it a priority in your life?
I was really struck by this when I connected with Rachael Stead from Leeds, England. Rachael is one of the women who will be on the China trip with me. After China, I'll be heading home, but for Rachael it's just the kick off--the beginning of 18 months of travel. Her very first backpacking experience.
Now, lots of people say they want to see the world. I'm one of them. But Rachael is putting her money where her mouth is...she sold her house and almost all of her belongings and moved back in with her mom to make it happen. That's commitment! Here's her inspiring story.
Q1) Can you describe your upcoming trip for us?
A1) This is my itinerary as I have planned it out, but it will probably change. I am usually quite a planner in life--I normally schedule things down to the tiniest details, so I have attempted not to be too detailed in what I plan to do.
- September: Tour of China, with extra days in Hong Kong
- End of September: Fly to Bangkok
- September 29--December 28: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia. (In Cambodia I have five days volunteering with elephants at the Elephant Valley Project.)
- December 28-January 5: Kuala Lumpur
- January 5-March 1: Volunteering at the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary in Borneo
- March 1-March 6: Singapore
- March 6: Fly to Perth, travel and work in Australia
- November: New Zealand
- February: Fiji
- Middle of February: Las Vegas and San Francisco
I am attempting to travel as ethically as possible, looking at tours and volunteer programmes that give back to local communities.
Q2) What prompted this trip?
A2) I have always wanted to travel. I have always been encouraged by my mum and best friend to do it, but I always put my career and education first. I became a psychiatric nurse and worked up through the ranks to what is called a Senior Clinical Practitioner (also known as a Sister). Then last August I got badly assaulted at work. A few weeks later, a friend who was also my mentor suddenly died.
It put things into perspective. I shouldn't put off the things I really want to do. I didn't feel happy and confidant in my job anymore, which I once loved. I didn't feel that I was providing the optimum care I could for people, and I always said that if I ever got to that point, I would leave.
Q3) What do you hope to get out of the experience?
A3) I hope to get out of my comfort zone, meet new people, learn about different ways of life, see amazing places and just sit back and relax for some time! I also hope to maybe find a new path in life or rediscover a love for nursing.
Q4) Do you have any plans for when you get back?
A4) My job is open for me if I want to go back, but for once I haven't got my career progression worked out.
Q5) What are your traveling essentials?
A5) I have a tendency to believe I need everything on every suggested backpacking list! I am sure I will find out what is essential as my travels go on. So far, I think comfortable footwear, a decent backpack, a camera to capture the amazing places, and a phone to keep in touch with family and friends back home. A Kindle, eye mask, and earplugs for all the long flights! I had four journals bought for me as presents, so it looks like I will need to fill them in. Toilet paper--I am not elaborating on this.
Q6) Do you have any advice for those who'd love to follow in your footsteps?
A6) Don't put it off. Something will always crop up that will make you think you shouldn't do it, but if I've learnt anything from the past year, it's that life is very short and that you have to grab opportunities to make yourself happy when you can.
I'm thrilled that Rachael took time out from packing to do this interview for us! I find her very inspiring, and am looking forward to meeting her in person. I'm hoping she'll check in with us throughout her trip.
Is there anything on Rachael's itinerary that inspires you? What sacrifices have you made in order to follow your dreams? Please share your story in the comments!
Posted by Holli Moncrieff at 11:45 AM
Saturday, August 30, 2014
I'm preparing for the trip of a lifetime.
I should be ecstatic, but I'm not.
My relationship with traveling has always been complicated. Seeing the world ranks right up in the top two things I want to do during my time on Earth. (Getting traditionally published is number one, but I have less control over that.)
I haven't done as much traveling as I would like. After an epic journey to Africa in 2001, I didn't go anywhere of note for nine years.
Lately I've felt this pressure, like I'm running out of time. If the opportunity to go somewhere new arises, I jump at it.
But instead of getting excited, as I hear "normal" people do, I start to wish time would stop. It's too soon! I'm not ready! I need more time.
More time for what? To throw some clothes in a backpack and print some vouchers? I'm not sure.
Sometimes, I will actually cry as it comes time to leave my boyfriend, my babies, and my home. And when I'm on the trip, no matter how much fun I'm having or how busy I am, I will be keenly homesick and counting the days until I can be reunited with them.
Until the last two days of the trip, when I will realize how fast it's gone, and that I'll soon be back in my cold city of never-ending winter, with a pile of assignments due, not to mention house cleaning. Once again, I'll wish I could stop time and have just one more day on the beach, or in this case, on the Great Wall.
It's bizarre, and I don't understand it. I've never comprehended how something I want so badly can make me feel fulfilled and miserable at the same time.
I seem to be an odd combination of adventurer and homebody. It's not an easy compromise.
Just like some people want to get rich and famous without having to lift a finger, I want to see the world without the sadness of missing those I've left behind.
But that will never happen, so I try to be grateful that I have a home worth returning to. Some people dread coming home to their job or a nagging spouse. I'm always thrilled to come home.
Maybe, in a strange way, that's a good thing.
How do you feel before a big trip? Are you ever conflicted, or is it just me?
Posted by Holli Moncrieff at 12:48 PM
Friday, August 29, 2014
Hello Dear Readers,
Lost was the very first book I felt was polished enough to submit to agents. I landed my first agent with it, but unfortunately it never got published. Thank you for taking the time to read it now.
I really appreciate all the donations, comments, and encouragement I've received. Everyone who's read this book has my undying gratitude, but I have to acknowledge Lisa Saunders and Lisa Suomu Case for reading and commenting on almost every single chapter. You two kept me going! Thank you so much.
I really appreciate all the donations, comments, and encouragement I've received. Everyone who's read this book has my undying gratitude, but I have to acknowledge Lisa Saunders and Lisa Suomu Case for reading and commenting on almost every single chapter. You two kept me going! Thank you so much.
I'd also like to thank Chris Brogden for his copy editing and Jeff Ryzner for years of developmental editing. David Finch, my forensic consultant and friend, ensured the crime scene sequences were accurate. Bruce Glover, a retired patrol sergeant with The Winnipeg Police Service, gave my detective his name and showed me what every cop should be like. Thanks to everyone who was kind enough to read an earlier version of this work and give me their feedback: Lisa Saunders, Rick Caslake, Donald Benham, Lee Saunders, and Frank Krivak. Thanks to my dear friend Christine Brandt for all of her support along the way, and for helping me come up with this book's original title.
This book is dedicated in memory to my friend, Darbi Krysta Donovan, 1973-1990.
~ Epilogue ~
Mrs. Pauls banged on the door, a cigarette dangling from her withered lips. “Open up in there. Open up, you bitch!”
“What seems to be the trouble here?”
Mrs. Pauls whirled around, relieved to see the police officer.
“Thank goodness you’re here, Officer. This woman is over a month behind in her rent and she won’t open the door.”
“She’s a tenant of yours?”
“Yeah, the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. Most surly individual I’ve had the misfortune to meet, but I took a chance on ’er. And does she do me a good turn for my generosity? Not on your life. Here she is, stinking the place up, not paying her rent….”
The man sniffed the air and then crinkled his nose in revulsion. However unbalanced Mrs. Pauls seemed, she had one thing right. The place did stink.
“Ms. Pembrooke.” He pounded on the door. “Ms. Pembrooke, you’re in violation of the tenancy agreement. I’ve come to remove you from this apartment. Ms. Pembrooke?”
“Rental property is at a premium in this area,” Mrs. Pauls said. “There are thousands of people waiting for this apartment.”
The officer eyed the shabby building doubtfully, but continued to bang on the door.
“Police, Ms. Pembrooke. Open this door.”
When there was no response, he turned to the landlord. “You have the key?”
She pulled the correct one off her key ring. “They said I should wait for you to use it.”
He returned his attention to the door. “Ms. Pembrooke, I’m coming in.”
As the door opened, a horrible stench almost knocked them off their feet. Mrs. Pauls gagged, her jowls quivering in indignation. “What has that bitch done to my beautiful apartment?” she howled, covering her nose and mouth with fabric from her striped housedress. “You get out of there right this minute, bitch!”
Covering his own nose with a gloved hand, Jake gestured at Mrs. Pauls to wait for him in the hallway. Slowly he began to walk through the apartment, flicking on lights as he went.
He found Marilyn Pembrooke in the bedroom.
She was lying naked in a pool of her own blood, which had dried to a brown stain. Her mouth was frozen in a silent scream. Countless stab wounds riddled her body, forming dark, ugly mouths that gaped at him. Through the trails of blood on her face, Marilyn’s eyes stared at Jake in shock.
Around her neck was a gold locket.If you've enjoyed this book, please consider making a donation. Any amount, no matter how small, would mean the world to me.
Friday, August 22, 2014
Hello Dear Readers,
Sometimes life imitates art, but more often it's the other way around. As strange as it sounds, what happens to Sara in this chapter happened to me when I was visiting my best friend's grave. Darbi died in a car accident when we were only seventeen, and I thought of her often while I was writing this book. Her death hit me really hard, but I believe what happened that day at her gravesite was her way of letting me know she was okay.
This chapter marks the official end of the book, but there's an epilogue to come next week. Thanks for reading. I really appreciate everyone who has taken this journey with me. All your kind comments and donations have meant so much.
~ Chapter Forty-five ~
“Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?” Jake asked.
Sara shook her head. “Thanks, but this is something I have to do on my own.”
“Take your time. I’ll wait for you.”
She leaned over to kiss his cheek before getting out of the truck. “I won’t be long.”
The sun shone on her face as she walked toward the cemetery gates, but the wind was cold. Sara studied the trek ahead of her and groaned. No one had bothered to shovel a trail through the snow, and getting to her sister’s grave would be a formidable challenge.
Tessie was buried in a newer area of the cemetery, far away from any trees or shrubs that could have provided shelter from the wind. Her gravestone had yet to arrive from St. Paul, so a simple wooden cross marked her final resting place. T. Martin was written across it in black letters.
Sara hadn’t visited her sister’s grave since the funeral, but she picked her way through the cemetery from memory. Snow drifts rose high as her hips, frosting her jeans with a thick crust. The wind nipped at her face and throat as she continued her hike uphill. She wished she had thought to wear a scarf.
At the halfway point, she was startled to see deep holes in the snow, left by others foolhardy enough to make the same journey before spring. Tessie’s grave was swept clear of snow. The gifts from her many visitors were evident here and there: a rosary twined around the cross, china figurines of horses and puppies, a blue soccer ball.
Shaking from the cold, Sara reached into the inside pocket of her jacket and withdrew Sam Skunk. She placed the little animal on the grave, right below the cross, snuggling him in between two votive candles. Fishing in her pocket for a lighter, she lit the candles and watched them burn a moment.
The air in the cemetery was heavy, as if a thousand spirits were holding their breath, waiting for her to speak.
“I miss you, kid,” she whispered, tears sliding down her cheeks. “Nothing’s the same without you.”
Gradually, Sara realized that she wasn’t cold any longer. A warm current of air drifted around her, protecting her from the brutal wind and thawing her frozen face. She took a step back from Tessie’s grave. The same hostile wind she’d felt before promptly howled in her ears. Quickly, she stepped forward again and was once more embraced by that inexplicable feeling of warmth.
Suddenly, Sara knew that her little sister was at peace.
And maybe … just maybe … she would be one day, too.
We're coming to the end of the road. If you've enjoyed this book, please consider making a donation. Any amount, no matter how small, would mean the world to me.