Tag Archives: Devil in the Details

It’s finally happened!

It’s finally happened!

Holding my first book in print was like holding a newborn baby. My newborn baby. I’m fairly certain that I love my other (human) children more, but still… the happy endorphins are real. 🙂

So, like I was saying: Devil in the Details is now available in print, as well as on Amazon Kindle! Advance copies are available now in the CreateSpace - An Amazon Company store, with an Amazon release within the week.

More happy Pics:


For Kindle and Kindle app users, the eBook version is still available on Amazon.com.


Oh my gosh, I’m rewriting! Finally!


The title says it all! 

*Squeals of Joy*

So, I took the plunge and decided that my original document was too ugly to permit to live, so I formatted the whole thing using the Back Space bar. The result was a freedom of expression that got me out of my writers block by removing the gunk that I was trying to fix. Instead of doctoring up the dinner to make it edible, I scrapped the whole plate and decided to make a new dish. So far, I like it much better. 

Though I came across something that I’ve never encountered before… How do you write a text message into a story?

Check out what I have so far, and let me know if I did it right. 🙂 (Warning: opening teaser, subject to change)

It was a beautiful fall evening. I hated it. The sun was setting out of a cloudless sky, painting the horizon with various shades of blue, red, and everything in between. The slight chill to the air was a relief from the pressing heat of the summer’s remains. A day of reviewing inventory lists and preparing purchase orders for the fall selection of pumps and boots had done little to lift my spirits. Even though fall was my favorite season, my mood was better suited to overcast gloom. My 27th birthday was in two weeks, and even though I had friends nearby, the people I missed the most were going to miss it. I sighed and donned my sunglasses as I stepped out of the office building where I worked and prepared to walk the two blocks to the parking garage.

Two months ago, if someone had told me that I would miss being out in the country, separated from high speed internet, reliable phone coverage, and readily accessible retail therapy, I would have told them they were crazy. And yet here I was, doing just that. Surrounded by my favorite parts of Atlanta and unable to enjoy it.

I looked back to the city skyline, made note of the rapidly setting sun and picked up my pace. It was more a reflex than a need, though. I used to carry mace, but in the past few weeks since returning to Atlanta, I’d found that I was becoming particularly adept at hexing people, whether I had meant to or not. It always left me a little tired, but the victims of my mislaid powers always came out worse for wear than I did. They even deserved it, most of the time, so I didn’t feel too bad. What did concern me, however, was the source of these powers. Through recent events, I’d become something of a demonologist, complete with demon familiar. Add to that a little bit of Angel in my family history with a side of Demon, and I was a veritable cocktail of wicked good times. I was fairly certain that my soul bound familiar, Azaraphel, was not the source of my outbursts. I knew what his energy felt like, but this was different. All me. The one time I’d fully let it loose was in a fight for my life against a crew of demons, and what I’d done was not pleasant. I still had nightmares about that night.

I turned the corner into the parking garage, making sure my keys and cell phone were already in my hand. Another trick one picks up when living in a city- always be prepared to dial 911 and make a quick getaway. While my phone was in my hand, I turned my ringer back on and checked my messages. The first one was from Holly, who was arguably my best friend from Salem, Alabama. She called to let me know that she was making some decor changes to my house down there and to let me know that she and her son, Tommy were both settling in great. That was good news. I sent her back a quick text to take care and do whatever she needed to do with my full blessing. I owned it, but it was her home as well now.

The second message was from Jennifer, my city BFF and fellow shoe junky. She worked in the marketing department of the office complex right above mine. We often met up for gripe sessions during lunch and sometimes ventured out together to enjoy the night life.

Going out man hunting tonight. Be my +1? It looked like tonight was going to be one of those nights. I smiled.

Not hunting, but sounds great. =) Time? I unlocked my Prius and climbed in. It didn’t take long for the next message to jingle on my phone.

Y not?

I sighed and replied. Guy issues. Tell you later.

I watched the ellipses on the bottom of the conversation screen blink for a good minute before her short reply was finally sent.

K.Pick u up at 8.

I bet she had typed and erased at least five different questions before that answer. I knew that I was going to be grilled later, but I shrugged. That would be just enough time to get home, shower, and get ready. I sent back a quick confirmation and started up my car. Just before I put the car in drive, however, the dulcet tones of Stevie Nicks filled my car. I checked the caller I.D. – Phil Brennan. Speak of the Demon, it was Azaraphel.

Novel Update: A Comedy of Errors

Novel Update: A Comedy of Errors

It isn’t pretty, it is sort of puzzling, and it it looks strangely like something else I’ve written before…. I just can’t decide what.

That, in a nutshell, describes my feelings about the second (and third) books in what I planned to be the Riesa Grimshaw series. The first book went well, and I’ve gotten good enough reviews on the Kindle version that I’ve finally decided to bite to bullet and publish the hard copy. But then my overly eager friends (who really liked my book, and not just because they are my friends) became very excited and started saying things like “You can do a book signing! You should get in touch with Barnes and Noble, and the Campus Bookstore, and *insert yada yada yada* and let them host your debut! I want the first signed copy!”

“. . .” I reply.

The very idea of having the gall to go and talk to these people and say, “Hi! You don’t know me from Adam, but I’m a self-published Indie Author and I’d like to take up your valuable business space and shamelessly plug my book during your open hours” fills me with utter terror.

But that is another story. The first story, actually. The one that is already written, edited, rewritten, re-edited, previewed, beta read, and published. The one that is FINISHED. This post is about the second (and third) story. I’ve outlined, plotted, erased scenes, added scenes, and massaged much, though that’s been interspersed throughout the last couple of years. The ending effect is something resembling the bones of my original idea put through the Van Gogh-inator, a la Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz  of Phineas and Ferb fame, and then eaten and subsequently spit back out by a malfunctioning Chaos Engine. It is like my ugly child… I love it, care for it, and would never abandon it… but I really don’t want to look at it.

It has made me reevaluate what I want. Do I want this to be a trilogy? A series? Should I let the first book just be a Stand-alone and move on to something else? And then I got to thinking about endings. Did my first book wrap things up enough? Will my main character ever escape her fate? Will she ever resolve her relationship with the male protagonist, and if so, how? Will the evil powers lurking within her prevail, or will the goodness? How many characters must I kill off in order to sate the needs of the Plot Gods? Why is a platypus even a thing?

I just don’t know.

So what do you think? If you’ve read my book, would you like to see a continuation? If so, what would you like to see happen? If you haven’t read my book, do you think I should move on, or should I buckle down and work until this comedy of errors reaches it’s conclusion?

Baby’s First Book Cover


The official book cover for Devil in the Details


I officially feel like I’ve arrived in some small way. Today, I recieved in my email the official cover for my book, Devil in the Details. This is a huge thing for me! It was like looking in the mail and seeing my child’s first acceptance letter. Sure, the acceptance letter was to the little league soccer team, but it didn’t matter. I was proud!

This whole journey began last November, during the 2011 NaNoWriMo extravaganza. On November 1st, I started with a random idea. No outline, no plan, no notes, just a vague character named Riesa Grimshaw, and the knowledge that something was going to happen to this character. Quite likely many somethings, in fact.

As it happens, while struggling to come up with a little under 2 thousand words a day, Riesa led me in directions that I wasn’t sure I ever could have expected. By the end of the 30 days, Riesa and I had met the 50k words challenge, and I had the very rough draft for my first supernatural novel, Devil in the Details.

Now what?

I did a lot of googling and blog surfing, trying to figure out what to do with this brain baby. Did I raise it and try to find a good agent to represent it? Did I raise it and try to jump on the e-Pub bandwagon? Either way, I was going to raise this brain baby.

(1) No matter where I looked, almost every advice column had the same thing to say.

“Edit, rewrite, edit again, rewrite again, leave it for a month, come back and edit again, have someone else read it, then edit. If you think you have it perfect, you don’t. Go back and edit one more time.”

In other words, polish that rough diamond until it shines like a becon in the night. And then it still isn’t done. Most sites suggested sending your baby off to a professional editor. Lets face it, unless you have a degree in literary editing, there is going to be something you missed that will stand out like a sore thumb to a professional editor. Are there words that you over use? Are you writing in passive voice too much? Do you have a plot hole that you somehow missed because, as the writer, you already know everything? As an ebook reader myself, I can tell when something hasn’t been through the editing process. Those books make me sad. They aren’t bad books, but I know that they could have been so much better if someone had just stepped in and given it some counciling.

There is a downside to a professional editor though. $$$.  I’ve seen editors charge from $450 to $900 for a 80,000 word novel. Some charge by the word, some by the hour, and some offer flat rates. It is a pricey investment for a first time writer, but it is also a personal choice. You can publish to Amazon or through Createspace just fine without going this step.

(2) Step Two differs depending on if you are submitting to an agent, or self publishing. In the end, I chose to self publish. Majority of the articles I read on self publishing waxed poetic on the urgent need to self advertise your book. No one will ever read it if they’ve never heard of it! Some tips and suggestions that I’ve found were:

  • Start a blog and/or join a blog community.
  • Utilize social networking sites (facebook, twitter, ect.)
  • Create business cards that include your name, a web address for your book, and an extremely brief synopsis (your hookline) of your book.
  • Get the word out through your friends and family.

Check. =)

(For the record, “writing a proposal letter” is the second step for submitting to an agent, and then preparing for the rejection letters, and then try, try again.)

(3) After this usually came “Create a unique and eye catching book cover that looks good as a thumbnail.” Yeah, I had a bit of a problem with this one. I am not an artist, photographer, or anything else of that nature, and as good as I am with word art, nothing I ever did looked as good as some of my favorite books. So here were my options:

  • Use cover designing software offered by CreateSpace, and other distributers, usually at a cost.
  • Hire a professional designer.
  • Bribe an artsy family member to make a cover for you in exchange for a month supply of fudge filled cadburry eggs.


(4) And now for the tough choices… Choosing which platforms to publish from. I’ll be honest, and just tell you that I am not smart enough yet to outline this step. There are so many options, but I will give you a word of warning: Vanity Presses are still out there! These are “publishers” that don’t pay you, you pay them. If someone is charging you an upfront fee to publish your book, run in the other direction. A real publisher or distributer will take a cut from your sales, but they won’t charge you upfront. The amount of the cut varies on the publisher/distributer.

One of the best and most comprehensive articles that I’ve found was Here. One more that I’d like to add, since it is not listed on that page, is CreateSpace.

This journey isn’t over for me and Riesa, but wish us luck! We will do the same for you in your ventures. =)

A sneak peek at Devil in the Details


Devil in the Details, my first supernatural fiction novel, is still in the beta-reading process before my final edits, and then after that, tis off to the professional editor! I have an illustrator working on the official cover for the book, and should have that in a few days. I’m not sure that I can properly contain my enthusiasm at having come so far in this project! So, to share my enthusiasm and get some pre-release feedback, I thought I’d post up the first chapter for your perusal. Please feel free to leave a comment below! I’d love to know what you think. =)

Sometimes, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. At other times, the lemon juice just gets into old wounds and stings like hell.

Everything started the week after the reading of my grandfather’s last will and testament. He left everything to me, including his home in Salem, Alabama, and a rather substantial bank account. I was a bit surprised that I was the only beneficiary. My grandfather became my sole guardian after my parents died when I was ten, though I have to admit that we were never on very good terms. He had a tendency of being a curmudgeon and a recluse, which had totally ruined my hopes of having my own personal Orphan Annie experience. It also answered the question of why some random charity didn’t get everything. He probably had wanted to keep everything in the family, even if I was the only member of that family.

It was only fitting that it would be raining on the day I returned to Salem. The roads were just as muddy as I remembered them. I wasn’t used to driving on slippery mud roads, however, since I had spent the last seven years in Atlanta, Georgia. Riesa Grimshaw, City Girl, that’s me. I couldn’t believe that I was giving up my well earned vacation time to come to the Alabama backwaters.

I threw a quick glance at the manila envelope in the passenger seat. My inheritance consisted of an allowance of three thousand dollars a month until I turn thirty years old, at which time, the entire bank account would become available to me, and one home in Salem, Alabama. I grew up in that house. It was a four bedroom and two bath home with a ground floor master suite, attic, wrap-around porch, and four acres of mostly wooded land. I didn’t need that much space, and the idea of living out in the woods of Alabama again scared the daylights out of me. The retail therapy there was bound to be dismal, no matter how nice the house was.

I finally pulled into the drive and my heart stopped at the sight of the house. It was downtrodden, completely the opposite of everything that I remembered. Now staring in the face of this decidedly intimidating colonial home in the middle of nowhere, on what was probably the dreariest and most overcast day of the entire fall season, the only positive thing that I could find was that the rain had stopped. The exterior paint was peeling away; there was a shutter on the second floor that had fallen off and another shutter on the first floor that was hanging on by a single hinge. The lawn had not seen a mower in more than a few months, and I think that there were creatures living on the porch. My heart sank. This was going to be the worst vacation time ever spent. Whatever my grandfather had been doing for the past seven years, he hadn’t been doing it here.

“God, please let there be running water,” I mumbled under my breath as I put my little Ford Focus in park. I got out of the car and popped the trunk to get my bag. I was dismayed that my cotton candy blue car was now a ghastly shade of orange. I was certainly going to be chiseling off southern clay for the next few days. I made a note to myself to find the water hose- if there was one- and again prayed for running water. I got my overnight bag out of the trunk and closed it, getting mud on my fingers. I made a disgusted noise and shook my hand as if that might get the offending substance off of my fingers. No such luck. I sighed and brushed them off on the side of my blue jeans. If the outside of the house was any indicator, I was certain that I was going to get even dirtier before the day was up.

I only stumbled once as I walked up the pebble path to the front steps in my three inch heels, which I thought was rather impressive. I yelped when I stumbled, fearful that I might have scuffed my favorite Mary Jane pumps, and startled a bird that had been nesting under the eaves of the porch, confirming my suspicions that the porch had become a habitat for local wildlife. I glanced up into the rafters while I was going up the steps to see if it had left a nest, and indeed it had.

It was at that moment that my phone decided to ring. It was nice and loud, obnoxious even, causing me to nearly jump out of my skin. I wasn’t the only one, apparently. A stray cat came careening out from under an old rocking chair, and tore off right past me. I yelped again, dropped my bag and grappled for the phone. After the third round of Aerosmith lyrics, I finally managed to answer with the customary, “Hello?”

“Hey, baby! Did you make it to Salem alright?” I grinned. It was nice to hear my boyfriend’s voice. Greg had one of those great voices that sounded like a deep purr every time he talked. I think he could have read me the phone book, and I would have listened intently. He was pretty cute too. Luxuriously thick brown hair, baby blue eyes, tight … well you get the point.

I’m a sucker for blue eyes. I think it’s because I have blue eye envy. I was born a dirty blond with muddy brown eyes. I can bleach my hair, but the eyes? I can’t really do much about them.

As for Greg, he always reminded me of an urban cowboy every time I saw him. In the six months that we’ve been dating, I think he has turned me on to the leather vest and tight pants look. He pulls it off fantastically. Just hearing his voice now made me wish I was there, within touching distance of his tan muscles…

I caught myself daydreaming about things that we had never done before and managed to answer in a flushed voice, “I’m here. The drive was hell, and the house is a wreck, but I’m here.”

“You are at the house already?” He asked. “I’m surprised you were able to find it at all. My GPS didn’t even recognize the address, so I figured you’d be lost for at least another hour.” I could tell by then that he was picking on me. Jerk.

I laughed anyway. I can giggle at my own expense on occasion, though I was willing to drive all the way back to Atlanta just to give him the evil eye if he picked on my navigational skills again. I would much rather have been looking at him than the monster project before me, anyway.

“This house really is a mess, Greg. You should see it.” I picked up my bag and dug through my purse, balancing the phone on my ear until I found the key to the front door. “This is going to be more than a one-week job. I may have to hire someone with the inheritance money.”

“Give me a few days, and I’ll be there. I’m almost finished with the project that I’m working on, and then I’ll be able to take some personal time.”

I unlocked the door and tried to open it. It stuck a bit, and a bit of dust flew up into the air when I jerked it open. I coughed into the phone. “Sorry, sorry,” I apologized. “God, did Grandpa even live here? This place is like a haunted house.” I stood in the doorway for a bit, watching the sunlight reflect off of the dust particles in the air while I waited for my vision to adjust and the dust to settle.

“It can’t be that bad, baby.” I knew that he was trying to console me, but I wanted to reach through the phone and smack him. Apparently, death stares don’t travel well over long distances, since he continued. “I’m sure that he had a den or something that he spent his time in. He probably couldn’t get around all that great. He was in his 70’s, after all.”

I laughed. “Oh, please. He died of a heart attack on a mountain in Tennessee. I don’t think that not getting around was his problem.”  My eyes had finally adjusted to the dim sunlight shining through the dust on the windows. I looked around and flipped a nearby switch, and was pleased to see that the power was actually on. “It’s like he abandoned this place,” I told Greg. “When I was living with Grandpa, everything had to be neat and tidy. Everything had its place. I just don’t see him letting his house get like this if he was actually living here.” I opened a few doors as I passed them so that the rooms could be airing out while I checked out the kitchen. Now that power was confirmed, I was anxious to see running water. “This just isn’t the house that I remember. Yeah, I hated living with Grandpa, but it’s weird to see everything run down like this.” I opened the door to the formal dining room. “He has sheets over the nicer furniture,” I noted. “He wouldn’t have done this if he still lived here. I’m betting that he tidied up and protected what he could before he left. Maybe he had a hobby, or a bucket list, or something.”

I could hear Greg harrumphing on the other end of the line. “I still think it’s odd that you don’t know what was going on with your grand dad before he died.”

I felt a bit miffed by that statement. “You know, I really don’t appreciate that. You know that we didn’t talk after I moved out. It’s not my fault that he didn’t call to let me know he was gallivanting around kingdom come for God only knows what reason.”

“You could have called him,” Greg said with his nice purr of a voice. He was right and I hated him for it in that moment. It was horrible when he sounded all reasonable like that.

I turned away from the dining room and its ghostly furniture covers. I walked past the stairs, to the end of the hall, and into the kitchen before I spoke to him again. I didn’t like talking about my grandfather, or my teenage years for that matter, at all. I vaguely remember the blow-out argument that we had before I left home for good, and I don’t even remember what it had been about, but I had said some nasty things to him. I couldn’t forgive him for making my life hell after my parents died. I walked to the sink and turned on the faucet. “Thank God, there is running water,” I exhaled as I changed the subject. I needed to get into a happier head space. “I think I’m going to start excavating this place today. The sooner I can get it livable, the sooner I can put it up for sale or rent and come home.” I turned the water off and had to wrench it a bit to stop it from leaking. I added it to my mental list of things to fix.

He took the hint and let the subject of my grandfather drop. “Well, have fun, Reece’s Pieces! Call me if you need anything, okay?”

“I don’t like that nickname, Greg,” I replied with a slight laugh. I really didn’t want to encourage him. “Love you.”

“Love you too.” He hung up.

I snapped my phone shut and picked up my bag. I took one last look around the kitchen. It looked a bit cleaner than the rest of the house, and I was glad to see that the cabinets were empty, except for a few pots and pans. Having hand-me-down food in the pantry did not appeal to my delicate sensibilities. It reinforced my theory that my grandfather had cleaned house before he left. He had known that he wasn’t coming back.

Even though we weren’t the closest family, I felt a stab of regret that he hadn’t wanted to call me and let me know that he was leaving, as if he hadn’t wanted me around him. It was just like how he didn’t want me around eight years ago, when he put me in a cab and sent me to Atlanta. Sure, he paid for my tuition at college and he paid for my apartment, but in the end I think he was simply paying me to stay away.

I drew in a ragged breath, but I didn’t cry, even though I really wanted to at that moment. Instead, I walked up the stairs and went to my old room to put away my things and change into some clothes that I didn’t mind ruining with mud. I had a lot of work to do, and the first order of business involved finding the water hose.

* * *

      By noon the next day, I had washed the mud off of my Focus, both literally and figuratively. My car was now clean and I felt a bit more clear headed for the good night’s rest. I had a physical list of all the things I needed to fix around the house compiled and sitting in my purse. The dust covers had been removed from the furniture, the floors had been swept, and I had gone to the store and restocked the kitchen with the few things that I would need for the week. I had found a few places that needed repainting, a section in the living room ceiling that needed replacing, and a loose step on the staircase. I was at least pleasantly surprised to find that the upholstery did not smell like dust and mildew and that the overall integrity of the house was still good. However, I was not so surprised to see that my grandfather had not upgraded a single piece of furniture in the preceding years. Now that everything was cleaned, it was like walking into a time capsule for me.

I stood in the door way of my grandfather’s small library and remembered the day that I had first come to live here. I was ten years old when my parents died in a car accident. At first, I went to live with a great aunt on my Mother’s side of the family, but that was short lived. She was checked into a nursing home two months after my arrival. I then spent about a month in a foster home while the social worker tried to find a new placement for me. I had never met my paternal grandfather before. In fact, I hadn’t even known that I had a living grandparent until the social worker introduced us.

That day, I had walked into my grandfather’s house for the first time. He didn’t know what to do with me, and I didn’t know what to do with him. That never really changed. He had made one thing clear, however. We stood in front of these double French doors, and he told me quite sternly to never go into the library, even if he was in there. He was always working on something important, though I never did know what his projects were. For now, I closed the doors, trapping the old books and that first memory of my grandfather inside.

My list of things to do included finding the missing finials from the bedposts in my bedroom.  The sturdy oak frame just did not look right without the ornate knobs. Why they had been removed was a mystery, but I was certain that they were around somewhere. My grandfather hadn’t been one to throw things away. With that in mind, I headed into the attic.

I loved my grandfather’s attic. It was almost like a third floor. There were windows on the front and rear sides, providing natural sunlight. It was what people dream of when they think of nice attics, spacious, bright, and filled to the hilt with antiques. Even though I wanted to find the finials, I got a bit excited over just going through all of the things in the attic. My grandfather had never allowed me up here, and I had always itched to do just this. I walked through the stacks of things and touched everything.

I felt like an archaeologist who had just singlehandedly discovered a lost civilization. I found cedar chests, large and small, filled with old clothes, letters, and keepsakes. There was an old sewing machine that must have belonged to my grandmother, who had died before I was born. There was also an antique sewing form with strands of fake pearls and measure tapes strung across it. It still had push pins stuck into it.

There were old games in wooden boxes, a toy box filled with toy soldiers and cast iron automobiles, which I took as proof that my father had actually existed and had once been a child in this house. I don’t remember my Dad ever talking about his childhood. He was a loving father, but a lot like my grandfather in that he never shared anything about himself. I gently closed the lid to the toy box and ran my fingers across where the name Samuel Grimshaw had been carved into it.

It hurt to remember that I had once had a real family. I was surrounded by things that had once belonged to my close relatives, people who were so close to me and yet I never knew them. Every family member that I had ever known was only in my life for a decade or less.

A glint on the top of an old record player box caught my attention. I stepped closer and noticed that it was the corner of a silver photo frame buried underneath an old woven blanket. The picture was covered in dust and grime. Looking around, I grabbed the woven blanket and found a silver necklace underneath it. I left it there and used the corner of the blanket to clean off the picture. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The photo was of my grandfather and me.

We looked so close, and smiling, which was impossible. I didn’t remember ever being that happy the entire time that I had lived with my grandfather, and I definitely didn’t remember ever smiling like that before moving out of this house. In the photo, I was about thirteen years old, wearing a long blue jean dress. A long chain with a round silver pendant was hanging around my neck. My birthstone was set into the middle: an opal for October.

It was the same pendant that was sitting on top of the record player.

I put down the blanket and picked up the pendant, running my thumb across the stone. It was milky and iridescent, like a polished sea shell. Even though I was holding it in my hand, it felt like a distant memory, something that I barely remembered but at the same time didn’t. Looking back at the picture, I remembered the dress, and it wasn’t a distant memory. I had seen it in a cedar chest just a few minutes ago. I carefully hurried over to the other side of the attic, opening the cedar chests until I found the right one.

It was next to the sewing form, sitting on top of a cast-away night stand. The silver name plate on top of it had also been covered in grime. I rubbed it with my sleeve to reveal, in slanted cursive, Theresa Marie Grimshaw. It was my given name, meaning that this small cedar chest had once belonged to me.

The blue jean dress sat neatly folded on top of a few other outfits in the chest, but it mostly contained letters, diaries, and other things that I did not remember. I riffled through until I saw a couple of things that I did remember. The first item was an old Fleetwood Mac vinyl record. I remembered this record because it had belonged to my dad when he was young, and I would listen to it for hours at time while I tried to remember my parents. The other was a small porcelain jewelry box that my grandfather had given me for Christmas one year. It was strange because I could clearly remember getting the jewelry box, and I know that I had opened it, but I couldn’t remember what was inside it. It was something that I hadn’t thought of before this.

My head hurt. There was a whole box full of items that had my name, my handwriting, and my face all over them, but I couldn’t remember a thing about them. The more I tried to remember, the more my head hurt. I struggled to think of an explanation for it. Perhaps I was so unhappy living with my grandfather that I had intentionally forgotten everything when I moved away. That is how I remembered my grandfather; a stiff curmudgeon who didn’t have time for me at all.

But I couldn’t ignore that the objects in this box were telling me an entirely different story. An entire photo album depicted me with a grandfather that I did not remember, in places that I had no recollection of ever going to, doing things that I did not recall doing at all. It looked real, but it wasn’t anything at all like I remembered.

Who were the people in these pictures from fifteen years ago? What about the ones from ten years ago? The faces were mine and my grandfather’s. The photos were old enough to have been us. Barring the advent of me having an identical twin that I knew nothing about, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.

I put the photo and the pendant in the cedar chest and picked up the whole thing, taking it to my room. I also grabbed the record player that my photo and pendant had originally been sitting on. Surely, this was all a huge cosmic sign telling me that I was actually going insane, was suffering from selective amnesia, or was the brunt of a huge cosmic joke. Either way, me, myself, and I had some catching up to do.

* * *

      After I had plugged in the record player and started it off streaming a scratchy rendition of Black Magic Woman, I sat on my bedroom floor and began going through the items in the cedar chest. I took everything out, wracking my brain for memories with each piece I handled. I had put the pendant around my neck and the photo frame on my dresser.

My floor was covered with things from the cedar chest, most of them completely alien to me. It was odd how much all of this clashed with every memory that I had. I laid down on my bed with several diaries that I had apparently written. I couldn’t dispute that the writing was mine, but reading them  was like reading the diaries of a stranger. I wrote at length about spending time with my grandfather, playing some of the wooden boxed games in the attic, making snowmen and decorating Christmas trees in the winter, celebrating birthdays, going on trips, and other things that I had absolutely no recollection of.

Every now and then, the diaries would mention a bad day, like the time that Derrick Green cut a chunk off of my hair, and I had to have the rest of my hair cut ridiculously short to match. This was before pixie cuts were cool, mind you. I could remember that incident like it was yesterday. Almost every crappy day mentioned, I remembered. It was as if all of the happy details of my years with my grandfather had been stolen from me. I couldn’t help but feel robbed, even violated.

I wondered, did my grandfather know about this? If something had happened to me so traumatic as to erase my happy memories, then why didn’t my grandfather tell me about it? If he was such the wonderful grandfather that he was in these diaries, then I’m almost certain that he would have said something to me.

I closed the diary that I was currently reading and put my head in my hands, lacing my fingers in my hair as an act of sheer frustration. I could feel my heart beating in my throat and I had a momentary episode of nausea. There was something else that was upsetting me, and that was the missing pages. In every diary dating to the time that I had spent with my grandfather, there were pages missing, sometimes even whole sections. Most of them were cut out, leaving a straight edge behind in the journal. I couldn’t help but wonder if those missing pages held the answer to all my questions.

Looking out the window, I noticed that the sun was starting to set. The day had escaped me, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony in that thought.

I looked back in the cedar chest to see if there was anything that I had missed, and noticed a piece of brown ribbon, sticking out of the crevice in the bottom of the chest. It blended in so well with the wood that I almost missed it entirely. I gave it a tug, and the false bottom came up, revealing one last diary.

I carefully picked it up and turned it over in my hands. It was a bit different from all the other diaries. For one, this one seemed fairly well put together. The binding was only slightly broken, and there were bookmarks throughout the pages. The cover was a type of leather, dark brown, with the word “Journal” embossed across the front in gold.

This journal was also locked, unlike the others. I stared at it for a moment, and tried to pull the lock open once or twice. Since that obviously wasn’t going to work, I resolved that I was going to have to find something to break it open with in the kitchen. My stomach was growling anyway.

I picked up the last diary and took it downstairs with me to the kitchen. I hadn’t eaten in eight hours and was starving. I gave the library a quick glance as I passed it on the way, and made a mental note to check in there later for the missing pages, or more diaries, perhaps even some of my grandfather’s journals, if he had kept any. But I needed a sandwich first.

I took the bread, peanut butter, and honey out of the cabinet and placed them on the counter, then started to look for the plates. I found them in the overhead cabinet by the back door. While I reached for one, I heard a scratching and a faint meow at the back door. When I opened it, the tabby cat that had dashed out from under the rocking chair yesterday came right on in through a pet door installed in the outer screen door. He brushed against my legs and meowed.

“Well I guess you aren’t completely a wild stray, then,” I said to the cat. “I’ll bet you want some food, too.” I love cats, it’s no mystery. They’ve been my favorite creature since before I can remember. Sorry, poor choice of words, seeing as I’ve apparently forgotten most of my childhood.

The cat answered me with more of his begging meows. I took down a can of tuna and opened it out onto one of the plates, put it on the table and got down another plate for myself. The tabby jumped up on the table and went at the tuna like it hadn’t eaten a good meal in a while, and I went about making my peanut butter and honey sandwich. I poured a glass of milk for myself also, and with another thought, got a bowl down and gave the tabby some of the milk too.

I could hear the cat purring while he ate. “I’m glad you like it,” I said a bit sarcastically. “I guess this means that I won’t be getting rid of you anytime soon now.” I added buying cat food to my list of things to do. I took a moment to wonder if he was a finicky eater or if dry cat food would work just as well. I scratched behind his ears and he bumped my hand with his head, purring. It was a nice distraction. “Cat, you have earned that tuna, just for making me feel a bit better about this whole day,” I told him. He just purred back at me and went back to the milk. He finished and scampered off, leaving me to finish my sandwich alone.

After cleaning up from mine and the cat’s lunches, I began looking for things to pop open the lock with. I found an ice pick in the utility drawer that seemed sturdy enough to do the job.

I picked the diary back off the counter and gave it a good glare before sliding the ice pick inside the hoop of the lock and twisting, snapping the weaker metal of the lock. I opened it to the first bookmark and was thoroughly confused. As if the day couldn’t get any weirder, now I was looking at a page full of pentagrams, Latin words, symbols, and other strange doodles. I flipped to all the other bookmarks and found the same type of writings. I had no idea what I was looking at, but it didn’t look sane or normal.

Even though I had most likely discovered why pages were missing from the other diaries, it was not an explanation that I could ever have guessed, and it left me a little furious. I was perfectly convinced that someone had played a cruel prank on me. It was the only sane explanation, other than the explanation that I was, or had been, insane. With that revelation, I threw the diary back down on the table and paced across the kitchen, back and forth a few times, fuming.

On the third pass, I noticed a folded paper sticking out of one of the covers that had come dislodged. On the outside, it had just two words, written in scroll: I’m sorry. “Aha!” I exclaimed to the empty kitchen. I looked at the little folded piece of paper and said, “I sure hope you are a confession letter.” I opened it up, and was again sorely disappointed. It was not a confession letter, but had only one word written on it, which, I was sure to regret, I read out loud. “Dimittam?”

The book flew from my hand and landed open on the floor, the pages turning rapidly as if caught in a wild wind. The room filled with the smell of smoke and ashes, and my head blossomed with pain. For a split moment, I saw a dark figure form on the other side of the book, and in that moment, I passed out.