writing

SHADOW (a short story)

SHE DID NOT know where she was going. She had no idea if she was headed north or south, although she could probably take a glance up into the night sky to follow the stars. What she did know was that her hands were glued to the steering wheel of this nondescript car, and the car kept straddling the lanes, unsure where she was going too.

“Where am I, where am I, where am I?” she hissed to herself, lungs quaking with fear. No one responded. Who would respond?

Momentarily she was blinded by the hot sting of her tears, and the pain inside her was enough to blind her forever. But her eyes stayed open, and she saw through the blurriness the straight-shot arrow of the pine-fenced road. The darkness was almost quaint, if she’d take a moment and soak it in, but now it felt dead and gloomy, an invitation to a sepulcher.

“Okay. Enough,” she muttered to herself, certain that her teeth would snap out of her head from her frayed nerves. She needed to keep it together—or at least act like she could. Of course, that was easier said than done. She needed a memory, an image, a vision, anything, to remind her that she knew who she was. She had to fight through it.

But in this darkness all she could think of was… Well, nothing good. What she remembered was suffocation, a kind of suffocation that terrified her more than the blackness outside. A suffocation from despair, a suffocation from nothing going to according to plan, a suffocation from the person she supposedly loved most in the world, and…

She whistled between her teeth and bit down hard. Her jaw ached, but she had to distract herself, and this slight pain drew her eyes down to the wedding ring, where her promise for forever was chained to her finger, her body. Maybe she shouldn’t go back into those dark memories that would swallow her up, those memories that would force her to relive the pain over and over again, each time in a slightly different way. Instead her gaze darted to the dashboard. Sixty miles per hour. Pretty fast for a hair-thin road, especially when there seemed to be some fog rolling in. She pushed her foot against the brakes.

Nothing.

Though the car wouldn’t brake, it felt like her heart had bounced out of its cavity and smashed straight into her bones. She gulped down bile and pressed her heel down once more.

Nothing.

She slammed on the brakes.

Nothing.

She floored the gas pedal, and the car galloped to seventy.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” she screamed, punching the wheel, her knuckles bruising.

Realizing it wouldn’t do her any good to wound herself further, she concentrated on keeping the violence down, and considered some possibilities. Maybe she was dreaming, and this was some terrible, acidic nightmare that she’d laugh at in the morning, try to interpret with the Internet’s help; maybe this was her brain’s way of compensating for some traumatic event (and there were plenty of those to pick from), and she needed a good night’s rest; maybe she was just being silly, and needed to try the brakes one more time.

If there was a time to pray, it was now.

She did. Nothing happened.

Which meant that there was one more possibility, one that she refused to accept just yet: This was real. The car was moving all on its own.

Her hands unclenched from the wheel, and the car steered itself. It went perfectly with the road, as if it was a train on the tracks. And she knew the car wasn’t controlling her body, but it felt like it. Her chest hurt, and she gripped her collarbone, aching to breathe properly again—needing to breathe properly again. The bruises were nothing new, but they ached more and more with each passing mile, as she escaped farther and farther away, as she entered the unknown more and more. Her eyes bubbled with tears again, and she was certain she was losing it. This had to be a nightmare. It had to be.

But why did everything feel so real?

Something flashed nearby, a light sparking to life. The bright glow belonged to her cell phone that had fallen onto the floor of the passenger’s seat.

“At least the car is driving itself,” she hissed, and stretched herself to fish the phone from the darkness. She scooped it up and was ensnared by the simple text message that had made its way through, a remnant of her true life. The life she had abandoned in favor of this mysterious bolt from everything she had ever known.

Her collarbone ached.

WHERE ARE YOU GOING?

The slow drag under. She felt like she was in a pool, and someone was taking her by the back of the head, pulling her deeper.

WHY WON’T YOU ANSWER ME?

Why had she brought the phone? She should have left it elsewhere, tossed it out the window, so there would be no trace. So there would be no ability to fall for any more of his traps. He loved to set them, just for her. And when she’d realized how many of them waited for her, it was too late. Her misery was something she could change, but it would cost her everything she had: mental, physical, emotional. She just had to escape. She had to get out of there, even if it was the middle of the night, even if it was to nowhere at all. Nowhere was better than where she’d been before.

SARAH, I’M SORRY. JUST PLEASE ANSWER ME, OKAY?

She lifted her eyes again and caught the glimpse of the rearview mirror. The person she expected to see was not there, and in her stead was a morphed version of herself, an image of horror and grief. There were spots all over her face, violet and ugly. While she was revolted at the sight of herself, she barely moved, unable to believe the image she saw. How could she believe it, even when the proof of her pain was as clear as this? But suddenly… Something didn’t seem right. She knew she was hypersensitive—she had to be—but this was different. She scrutinized the mirror and felt her blood boil when, in the empty backseat, something shifted in the pitch black.

She screamed, slammed on the brakes again, and the car flew off the side of the road, crash landing in a nearby ditch.

A few seconds passed. Silent seconds, until there was a slight dripping noise. The stink of oil and blood rose through the air, and Sarah realized that a few drops of scarlet had fallen from her nose onto her wrists. Something sharp cut into her neck, a silver cross necklace. She then noticed that she was hanging upside down, her dark hair tumbled below her.

This night is never going to end, she thought to herself.

Everything seemed hazy, surreal, as if gravity itself did not work properly here. As if time did not work properly here. As if certain moments sped up like a bullet, and others slowed to a trot.

A car crash. She’d just been in a car crash. Her body was buzzing from the pain, but she gritted her teeth and managed to unbuckle herself. Before she knew it she was falling to the ground. She collected herself like a wounded animal and crawled through the broken window, surprised at the ease it took her to get out of the mangled car. Sarah pushed herself up from the wet, muddy earth and stood, analyzing the sight of the mess before her. She was really lucky, she decided, to have survived. Maybe it was more than luck. Luck didn’t seem to fit the bill when it came to how crushed the car was. A little ounce of hope dawned over her. It had to be a good thing she survived this, right? It had to mean something. She had been a survivor all her life, especially in these past few weeks, when his hands had sucked each breath out of her lungs.

As the thoughts flickered away, Sarah’s neck burned. She pushed her hand against a thin trickle of blood from where her necklace had cut her, and she repositioned it so the cross hung properly against her neck. Her fingers grazed against the silver.

Sarah walked along the back of the car. The license plate seemed to be the only thing still in one piece, tags from Georgia. How had she made it out of this? The sight before her was brutal. She kneeled down and examined the broken window she’d climbed through. She had to be careful, as she didn’t want to pierce her skin amidst the endless shards of glass, but her curiosity was killing her. She’d been stupid not to check the car when she had the chance. Yes, she’d been overwhelmed by the fact that the car was practically driving itself; in fact, it wasdriving itself, and she’d only been able to stop it when…

Her heart fell into her chest.

Sarah gulped and fell back, the shards of glass piercing her. Her body twisted from her awkward fall, and in the process she caught a glimpse of a dark figure emerging from the broken window. She bounced away as fast as she could, but she knew she was too slow.

She ran out onto the road, her throat raw from shrieking. There was no one out tonight, no one at all, and she felt the hope dissipate when she considered that she hadn’t seen a single car in what felt like months. Why couldn’t there be another car? Why did she ache to escape into the maddening darkness instead of a big city? He’d try to find her no matter where she went. It was her fault she craved isolation.

Isolation. The thing that had propelled her here. How she ached for it, and now she was here in this horrible nightmare. That thing in her backseat was the whole reason she’d crashed anyway, she remembered now: Ithad been there, an obscure shifting thing. She’d seen it in the rearview window, and it had terrified her so much that she’d driven straight off the road.

Sarah was definitely crazy. At least she knew that now. A woman who’d hopped into a black car in the middle of the night to escape her violent husband? Believable. But a woman who’d imagined a dark figure in her backseat? Who’d envisioned a car that wouldn’t brake or drive like she’d wanted it to? Maybe she was on drugs. Had she taken any drugs? Had she beendrugged?

She had to have made it up. She’d been running for a while now, and she was so tired, and her body hurt so much. All she had to do was take a peek over her shoulder, see if she was still being followed, but it was very possible that nothing would be there, that it had all been in her head. She’d been told that for months now, that she didn’t really know anything at all. So how was this any different?

Sarah was scared, but she paused in her tracks and turned around. At first, there was only the road again. Out in the distance was the glimmer of the totaled car, but there was nothing on the road. No psychotic masked ogre following her with a hatchet. No, there were only peaceful pines that seemed to blow back and forth in the gentle night breeze. And that creepy fog that seemed to inch closer and closer to her as time bled on.

Peaceful.

Almost.

As she rolled her eyes at how stupid she’d been, how crazy she must be, the hairs on the back of her neck rose, and her hands shook. She looked down at them and remembered the shards. In the moonlight her skin appeared normal. Normal for her. The bruises on her arms still glowed, imprints of man’s violence toward her. But where there should have been blood from the car crash, there was none. In fact, her entire body seemed to float, though she was tethered to the ground by fear.

The breeze pounded into her, and then there was a whistle, shrill and fierce. A garbled voice whispered into her ear: “Move.”

Sarah froze.

It said again, more forcefully this time: “Move!”

It had to be right there. It had to be, and before she lost her nerve, she needed to twist around to confront the dark figure. The thing that had been in her backseat. But before she could, the road lit up with the high beams of an approaching minivan.

A force slammed into her. Sarah was unsure what propelled her out of its way in time, but she fell to the shoulder of the road as the van whizzed by. As she stared down the street, the haze coming closer and closer, the van suddenly screeched to a halt. The entire image seemed vague, out of focus, as she pushed herself up and raced back to the scene of the crash. Sarah screamed as loud as she could, hating the sound of her voice, but she needed this driver to acknowledge her. He’d take her to the hospital, save her from this black hell, and she’d never go outside again. She’d never step foot in a car again, either. No, she’d walk everywhere from here on out, and that way no dark figure would appear in her backseat ever again. No dark figure would strike out against her ever again, whether that be a person she loved or a shadow in the blackness. She would make sure of that.

When she neared the van, she felt relief and hurried up to the driver. He was a middle-aged man, clean-cut. A woman appeared beside him seconds later, and she must have been his wife, because her wedding and engagement rings glinted in the light. She yelled at someone in the back of the van. Must be their kid. A beautiful, happy family. A family brought into her horror, she realized guiltily.

Sarah shouted, “It was me! I need your help! This is my car!”

But the man seemed to care less. He was stepping closer to the wreck, a pained look on his face. Why wasn’t he listening? Sarah was screaming so loud, but he refused to acknowledge her. She moved up to him, patting him on the shoulder, but he didn’t budge.

“Scott,” said the wife, tears in her eyes, “we should call the cops. Call someone to get out here. Let them handle it. Don’t go over there.”

The fog came closer.

Her husband shook his head. “What if somebody’s in there? Someone was obviously driving it.”

“Me! I’m right here!”

The woman’s lip quivered. “Do you really think you’re going to find anybody in there?”

“Call the cops,” said Scott. “Don’t come near it, okay?”

Sarah felt like her heart would rip right out of her. Why couldn’t they hear her? They didn’t need to go to the car, not when she was right here. She was right here. “Why can’t you hear me? I’m okay, I’m alive!”

“Make sure the kids don’t see anything, okay?” Scott added, a thousand lines cutting across his forehead. He couldn’t have been older than thirty, but he seemed to have aged ten years in two minutes.

“All right,” agreed his wife, pulling out her cell phone.

Sarah’s bones hurt again. She screamed, terrorized by the fact that this couple didn’t seem to see her. Did anyone ever really see her? She trailed the man named Scott to the mangled car, and she heard him cough in disgust. She felt his terror when he stumbled back from the car, a grown man who’d seen too much, and she saw him vomit and recoil, hurrying away from what he’d seen.

“Why can’t you hear me?” she yelled at him. Why did this keep happening? She wanted some control back. She wanted her choice, her freedom. It had been gone so long. “Why won’t you listen? Why won’t anyone ever listen? What did you see?”

The stillness seemed to spin. Things were misting up again, as if she was experiencing severe vertigo. She tried to keep herself up, but when she heard Scott’s cries she shut her eyes and imagined herself a world away. Somewhere with a sunny sky, a tropical beach, her hand unmarked by the curse of a wedding ring. The thought woke her back to life, a place where suffocation would swallow her up. She’d never forget what had happened. It was her curse to bear. It wasn’t fair; it never was. But it was still here, just the same, even as she hurled her wedding ring into the crushed car. She should have tossed it into the darkness long ago.

The mist was sweeping over the trees now, sweetly devouring everything in its path. With visibility diminishing faster and faster, Sarah watched as the man named Scott rushed to his boring but practical little minivan. He wrapped his arms around his wife, tears dropping down his skin. Oh, how he would never let go. Oh, how his wife wouldn’t either. And, oh, how Sarah would always understand the feeling, the feeling that no one would ever let go, since the memories would stay with her forever, even when her own body did not.

Time sped up again, a mental mist hanging over like a veil. She was there, but she knew she wasn’t. Not really, or they’d be able to hear. They’d try to hear. And suddenly then there were cops and EMTs and passersby and the minivan and the darkness and the fear and the mist, a collection of souls who should not have been there to assess the wreckage. But it was their job to do so. She stood in the midst of them all, as they collected her physical body from the wreckage and they said things they didn’t think she could hear:

Oh, how sad it is.

Wonder if she was drinking.

Such a beautiful girl.

Not so much anymore.

Not so much anymore.

She listened to those who would never listen to her back. The fog came closer.

At some point, something caught her eye. A flash of moonlight spilled down onto the shiny, broken metal of the car like a spotlight. A shapeless black figure stood at the spot where she’d died. The thing was unimaginable, but it was there just the same. Maybe it too listened to those who would never listen to it back.

Sarah breathed the rich pine-scented air all around her. At least she could breathe again. “What do you want?” she asked.

“Move,” it said.

Somehow she understood what this meant. It was giving her a choice. She bit her lip. Her collarbone ached. Some scars never go away. If she followed the shadow, she was unsure where she’d go. But if she didn’t follow the shadow, she’d be stuck here, rooted in place, unsure where she’d go but alone.

The figure seemed to accept her resistance, and then it glided beyond the car. It passed by the men in uniform. It hovered over one man’s shoulder in particular, as if sensing something for future reference. But then it turned back around, and it continued on its path, slowly and quickly approaching the flash of a beautiful black car on the road. Shiny and new it gleamed.

As Sarah followed, she became aware that the fog hung all around the car, eventually closing up any connection to the realm where she’d once lived, and once died. It was a dismal fresh start, but it was an opportunity, and so she followed. Her blood boiled with nerves, but she’d made her choice. Sarah pinched the cross on her neck. It was the only thing she’d kept of herself.

The car door was already open for her. She took a seat, things feeling eerily familiar, eerily normal. There was a dull throb in her body which she was sure would never go away, as certain suffocations remain with us even after we’re dead. The door closed, she buckled her seatbelt tight against her abdomen, and she checked the rearview mirror, finding her shadow snug in the backseat.

“This isn’t the first time this has happened, is it?” she asked, not expecting a response.

“Move,” said the shadow.

She hit the gas pedal. The fog lifted, and the car blasted off down the road.

writing

SEPTEMBER POETRY SERIES

Hello, my dear readers! Hope all is well in your nook of the universe. ❤

This will be a quick post for you guys, but I just wanted to alert you all to something I’ve got in the works beginning this September 1: We’re doing another poetry series! 

As you guys may know, I wrote two weeks’ worth of poems in a series called Sins & Virtues, in which I penned my opinions on the Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Heavenly Virtues. Since I miss writing a poem every day, I thought it would be fun to come up with another series, and this one is going to be a little different than Sins & Virtues.

We’re going to be going through the English alphabet, from A-Z. Every day there will be a new poem published here that connects to that day’s letter. Yes, this may seem childish, but I think it’s going to be a way to stimulate my creativity in a new way.

I hope you guys will be okay with this. I don’t want to spam you too much, so I hope you will bear with me for the next few weeks during this series. ❤

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The life of a writer… (Malibu, CA // February 2019)
writing

CATCH THE WIND (a short story)

EVERY WHICH WAY there are faces.

Black, white, brown, yellow, red, pink skin. Giant, small, lopsided, almond-shaped eyes. Broken hearts, swelling pride, fragmented dreams, wondering what happened to fuel them this far.

A billion stories reside within the souls of these people, and the depths of discovery here have no limit. There must be millions on these busy streets, in the swelling metropolis of New York City, as the hubbub of car horns blasts from the roads. But I don’t want to be anywhere else, even as their body heat turns my cheeks ruddy and a woman falls over me.

 It is chaos: A sweet, simple, human chaos. A chaos I don’t pay attention to often, a deep dream that is blurred by my career, my family, the city itself. Usually I am a thoughtless wanderer, off to work, off to the routine. But for a strange reason, today, I watch those around me.

A girl on her father’s shoulders stares out in the sea of bodies asking for cotton candy.

Businessmen and women chirp into phones, sipping on warm coffees, pupils aglow with the thought of greenbacks.

A hipster dances past, headphones deep in his ears.

A young teenager attempts to read a novel without bumping into anyone else. Good luck, kid. I wish I had that skill.

A few paces ahead, the dark red hair of a woman catches my eye–that luminosity, the shine, a color that stands out anywhere.

But it’s when my mind captures individual faces, I am astounded by the complexity of our world, and how this is where I am meant to be at this exact moment. For a reason. My heart swells inside me like a rushing tide ready to break free onto warm sand. Humanity is unimaginable, incomprehensible, and I am a witness to the individual facets of this species. 

And then I see him.

Up ahead, a tall man glides down the road, a peculiar hat perched on his head despite the cloudy day, the perfect weather. He glances back, sweat trickling down his cheeks like dripping candle wax. My eyes unfalteringly set on him. He blends into the crowd. His head bobs over the regulars and the tourists, but there is nothing special about him. Normal features, normal attire, normal everything, really. Could be a banker or a teacher, who knows. He tugs on his hat a few times, pulling it closer to his crown. Maybe he’s a murderer, I decide in the loneliness of my skull; maybe he’s an angel. He glances back around him, avoiding stubborn souls sweeping down the sidewalk.

Somehow–and for whatever reason–he locks eyes with me. As my gaze focuses in on his warm amber irises, it happens like magic: He is gone, a departed ghost. A mysterious flash, within the blink of an eye.

I stop in my tracks. A man barrels over me, and then like the parting of the Red Sea, people swim around me down the street. But I pay no attention. I look down the way to the spot where I saw this man disappear, and a squirmy ache in my heart sickens me. What did I witness? He was gone in a literal flash, like the sudden disappearance of the sun on a perfect day.

With careful examination of the crowd, I see nothing. Even if he didn’t disappear or I simply blinked and he was gone, I would never be able to find him, not with the hordes of people pushing past me now. They pass me by, their arms grazing my flesh, and I realize how lonely inside I am, how crazy I must be. People don’t disappear into the clouds. With a thumping heartbeat, I look up into the sky, as if this is a plausible way the man left the streets. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t.

Tiny teardrops of water hit my nose. Did anyone else notice? 


AN EXPLANATION.

Oh, my beautiful readers! This post is one of the weirdest I’ve done in a while, and that’s because of the story around it.

As some of you guys know, I’m working on a novel right now called Church Boy. It’s a 55,000 word Christian romance novel that I’m hoping to publish soon. And somehow as I was editing this book late at night on August 5, I stumbled upon my Submittable account. What is Submittable, and why does it matter?

Submittable is a way for writers to query multiple agents at once. It’s an easy tool to use, and somehow I fumbled upon my account and saw my previous works I’ve sent off to agents in the past few years. And “Catch the Wind” was one of them.

According to this entry date, I submitted this short story to a magazine in February 2015. (Over four years ago, what in the world?). Now what’s really wild is that I have no trace of this short story on my new computer, and I don’t remember writing it. That being said, I know this short story is important, because as I read it, I thought to myself: Why not put this on the blog?

“Catch the Wind” is a short story that made me stop in my tracks, now that I’m reading it four years later, because it convicted me. It made me think that I pass so many people on a daily basis, and I ignore them. It isn’t humanly possible to recognize every single person on the face of the earth, but I do think we have a responsibility to put our energy into the people who come into our lives unexpectedly.

In 2019 it is easy to hide behind a screen, especially in public places. We’re selfish people, and we tend to find momentary happiness in stroking our own egos, but I believe there is long-standing joy in strengthening our relationships with others. This can happen through budding friendships, waving at strangers, and casual conversation with an old friend.

What I mean is that we have a limited amount of time on this planet, and we need to make the most of it. When we see that someone’s hurting, we need to help him or her. When our intuition goes off and implores us to help another, we should follow this sense.

This life is much more about we can individually do. It’s about coming together, as corny as that may sound.

Because what if, going back to my story, we are the man who disappears into thin air? What happens then?

Okay, enough ramblings from me now. I just thought this story would be a perfect Friday morning blog post, and I hope you enjoy this little guy from a seventeen-year-old Katie Kay.

More on Monday!

-K. ❤

Volcanoes National Park, Hawai’i (July 2019)

writing

WRITERS, SEND ME YOUR MATERIALS

My beautiful readers!

Today’s post is going to be a little different than most, because I have a request to make of you. Though I could ramble on and on about nonsense to pique your interest even more, I’m just going to put it out there:

If you’d like someone to review your materials, I’d love to be that person.

What does this mean? Well, let me share with you guys. Over the past few months, a few of you have sent me your books, and I’ve loved every moment of reading and reviewing what you send. So…

For the people of you who want feedback, send me your books, poetry, etc. I’m not a full-fledged editor or anything, but I really do enjoy getting to know you more through your writing.

What I’m offering is simple: I’ll read your work, offer a review on Amazon/this blog/wherever, and let you know what I think. Why am I doing this? Because I want to. In the midst of wild life, this blog has been a source of escape for me, and you guys transport me to your worlds. You have that kind of power as a writer!

So if you’re down to share with me, I’m down to share in response.


THANK YOU!

This was a short and sweet little post, but I am super excited to write more in the next few weeks. This blog has grown so much in the past few months, and I’m super excited to see where it goes next. The sense of community here is amazing. Truly amazing.

❤ ❤ ❤

-K.

Smiling because I’m excited to see what you guys send me!
writing

5 TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR WRITING

Hello, my dear readers!

As promised, today’s post is going to revolve around our favorite topic… WRITING!!! 

The past few months have been heavily devoted to life updates, poems, and musings, so it is about time for some source material on this blog, and that is the art of writing!

The truth is that we as writers should always strive to build our craft. While some people have a natural knack for words, there is still so much behind this skill that must be carefully maintained in order to persuade and inspire an audience. Therefore, we must remember to be patient and implement these upcoming five tips in our art.

Without further ado, let’s hit the list!


1. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

No literary great became great overnight.

This is inevitably one of the most important tips on this list, because you must practice your writing in order to improve. As a student pilot, I couldn’t just hop in an airplane and expect to know how to get off the ground… And even if I did get off the ground, what about the landing? Maybe this isn’t the best example, but I hope it hits you a little bit in the heart. We must recognize that we are students of words.

Here is something I want you to think on: What was your first story? What was your first poem? Your first journal entry? What about song? Or whatever your method of writing is? Now think about why you wrote that. How did you write it? What were you trying to say? What insights did you want to give to the world?

You’re also probably thinking: What the heck was that trash? And that’s okay! You can be proud of your first work, but the truth is that there’s probably a lot you would change if you could. And that means you’re doing what you should be doing: Practicing.

So, what exactly does practicing entail? Well, you’ve gotta sit down, ignore the world around you, and get to work. You have to be willing to commit to your art, and stick to it. If something isn’t working, figure it out. As you write more and more, you will develop your own methodical approach of writing and editing (which should arguably take longer than the actual writing process, if we’re being honest). And there is a great feeling when you’ve got your ritual of writing down.

What’s even greater than that?

Seeing how far you’ve grown.


2. FOCUS ON GRAMMAR

Some of us are grammar nerds, and others aren’t. I fall into the first category. One of the first things I notice about anything is how grammatically strong it is. If there are countless errors, I’m probably going to grow a little agitated. Why is that?

Well, when I pay for a book, I expect it to be the perfect copy of what was once the writer’s surreal conception. If I’m going to toss fifteen bucks to the industry, I want to know that I’ve paid for something borne from hard work and creative beauty.

Maybe you’re not the same, but I’m going to ask you to consider this point carefully then. Your audience will know whether you put the time and effort into your manuscript, and one of the tell-tale signs is through grammar. For example, my mom is a grammar fiend who will pick apart any of my works. While this can be frustrating, I know that she is coming at my work with an analytical mind, and that’s a good thing. When we write for an audience, we’re writing for people who don’t necessarily think like us. And if you want to impress your writers, you need to know how to write effectively.

So, how do you know if your grammar is satisfactory? Some websites I have used in the past include these:

We live in the technological age. Do not be afraid to use online programs, spellcheckers, and your friends to help you with grammar. Nobody’s perfect, but we must humble ourselves and seek advice when it comes to our writing. How else will we improve?

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Editing on a random Uruguayan beach.  (February 2018)


3. USE YOUR AUDIENCE

All right. How could we talk about improving our writing without a shoutout to the people for whom we’re writing?

We writers are selfish (or maybe it’s just me). I’ll admit it: I write as if I’m the main character. Some of my characters are actually based on people I know. Some plot points are borrowed from real life.

But guess what? Your stories aren’t going to sell if you don’t have a mind for your audience.

Maybe you’re the kind of person who is just writing for yourself. Maybe you will never publish anything. However, a lot of you guys are bloggers, and that means you are publishing things. The truth is that you must have a knowledge and appreciation of your fanbase, because there are people who will be reading and analyzing your materials. And if you want your audience to like you, you must be willing to write for them.

What I mean is that if you want to write beauty advice posts, then your target audience has to be the people who are interested in your topic. So leave Easter Eggs for them! Write posts and see how they respond. If they’re not super interested in certain aspects of what you’re producing, check in and see what else they’d like to see from you. Your audience knows when you’re invested in what you write, and they’ll be more likely to invest in you as a result.


4. READ UNTIL YOU CAN READ NO MORE

When I was in elementary school, I remember telling my teacher, “Yeah, I love writing so much, but I hate reading.” While that was most definitely a lie, and who knows why I said that, it is simply a law of the universe that a writer must read in order to improve his or her craft.

Although I do believe a writer’s style has unique elements, I also know that we develop our styles through the writers we read. We borrow aspects we enjoy and toss what we hate into our mental trash cans. When we read thousands of works in various genres, we learn what works for the audience and what doesn’t.

If you want to write commercial fiction, study the masters like King, Grisham, and Steel. You may not like their writing techniques (I certainly do not like Danielle Steel), but they’ve become super successful for a reason. If you’re invested in poetry, study the different forms and practice your own. If you want to write songs, you have to study what goes into songwriting, and study through those who have done it in the past.

Plus, if you want to make it big, you have to know the environment. You get a better picture of the environment when you know what’s selling best right now. If you don’t care about making it big, you should still aim to improve your writing. So don’t make excuses; start reading.

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Read random books with your pig if you need to. Actually, I do not recommend this. Who knows what kind of blue waves my poor pig was exposed to?!? (Tennessee // 2016)


5. WRITE FROM THE HEART

Others will argue with me on this one, and that’s okay. While this list is in no particular order, I believe that the biggest tip to improve your writing is to write from your own heart. 

You have your voice–and no one else’s. That is why people will be drawn to what you produce. And, as I’ve stated previously, your audience will recognize when you are writing from your heart (or not).

What does this even mean then?

Think of the most beautiful song you’ve ever heard in your life. What makes it beautiful? The notes, certainly, but it’s also the build-up of emotionality behind it. I will never forget hours and hours of dissecting piano music and learning the hardest songs I’ve ever played. While I would hit every note with precision from all the practice, my one-of-a-kind teacher, Mrs. Xu-Peppers, would shake her head and say, “But you aren’t playing with your heart.”

What? I was sixteen, my fingers flying across those keys, and my teacher was still disappointed? But then I got it: There is more to music than the notes. Like she wisely said, I had to learn to play with my heart, because only then would I understand what the music was saying to me and to my audience.

Writing is the same exact thing. You can write like a pro, but if you’re not writing from your heart, then you’re going to fall flat. You have to write things that matter to you. You have to write with honesty and convey your unique perspective of the world. You must be willing to share the raw side of you, so that we can gain understanding from the emotions that flow through your blood.

How do you do this?

Write as if you’ve only got one day left on Earth to live. Write as if your life depends on it. Write as if you’ll never get the chance again.

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Though I wanted a picture that relates to writing, I found this old pic of a baby alpaca that I think can represent us writers. At first we’re skinny, confused, whatever… But eventually we will grow into who we are meant to be. Random musings, I know. (Memphis, TN // September 2017)


GET TO WRITING, GUYS!

My hope is that you guys have taken some of these tips to heart. While I’m blabbing away on this topic, I definitely feel convicted by some of the tips listed above, and I will try to implement them more in my own writing life. Never forget that none of us is perfect, and that’s probably why we’re all on these blogs, so that we can share our experiences and learn from others. 🙂

The point of this post is to encourage you. You have so many opportunities, so use them! Forget the insecurities in your head, and get to work. You’ve got an audience waiting to hear from you. ❤

Keep me updated on your goals and writing life. I am super excited to hear from you.

Until next time,

-K. ❤

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It doesn’t matter where you write, as long as you enjoy what you are producing. (Please ignore my creepy shadow.) (Tennessee // June 2019)

writing

CHURCH BOY (first chapter)

CHURCH BOY

A NOVEL BY KATIE GEORGE

Chapter One

 

FOR EONS NOW the First Baptist Church of Colonia, Mississippi, had been the social hub of the entire county.

On Sundays every business shut down, except the bookstore run by the only Jewish man within fifty miles. Church was expected, not just a friendly tip. It was so expected that even the morally ambiguous put on their shiny shoes and zipped on over to their chosen place of worship—and there were plenty to choose from.

But nothing was more distinct than the First Baptist Church. Most churches within the area had long since given up their status as being first in their particular denomination: First Presbyterian had become Hope Pres, and First Lutheran, with its ten congregants, had become Friendship Lutheran. First Methodist, First Baptist’s loyal enemy, had stayed the same to spite those said Baptists, and the Church of Christ up and moved to the country, needing a respite from Colonia’s self-righteous residents.

Now it was true that most Southerners were, aptly so, Southern Baptist. It was a tradition with a rigorous history, and though its membership had been on the steady slope downward for a while now, Colonia’s First Baptist Church was as strong as ever. Nearly four hundred churchgoers flocked to the pulpit at ten-thirty on Sunday mornings, donning suits and dresses and the occasional skirt or slacks. Some women wore lace hats that plumed like peacock feathers, while others covered dainty hands with satin gloves. Everyone clutched weathered Bibles, including the youngsters who sprinted across the aisles with annoyed brothers and sisters trying to catch up.

Miss Sue, a religious attendee at First Baptist since the 1940s, was no stranger to the scene. Miss Sue, who was the opposite of a stickler, felt her panty hose rip right down the middle of her age-spotted leg as her great-grandchild, Emma Ray, bounced into Deacon Todd, who was a righteous son of a gun.

“What in…” shouted Deacon Todd, who held a stack of pamphlets in his leathered hands.

“Hiya!” shouted Emma Ray as Miss Sue caught up.

“Where is her mother?” snapped Deacon Todd, but when he caught a wicked glance from Miss Sue, he readjusted his tie.

“I’m a good enough substitute, don’t you think?” replied Miss Sue, shaking her head. “I know you wouldn’t have a clue, Todd Appleby.”

“A clue as to what, Sue Richards?” he growled, tossing a bulletin to an unsuspecting guest.

“How to live a little, and remember that children are children. Now, you come here, little miss!”

Emma Ray snaked her way out of her grandmother’s arms once more and dived into the sanctuary, her church shoes somehow screeching against the emerald green carpets that had been laid in the ’70s, back when Emma Ray’s mother was her size. The little girl was a tornado as she burst through throngs of gossips and guests and terrified people in general. Everyone had always thought there was possibly a curse in the Richards family line, because none of those Richards women could calm down.

“Emma Ray!” screamed Miss Sue, almost tripping over her nemesis in the process.

The nemesis, Rita Scarborough, licked her lips and rolled her eyes. She lifted a red-painted fingernail into the air and shook it back and forth as she chatted with her gaggle of best friends, all of whom had been born, survived, and would die in Colonia, Mississippi.

“Sue Richards,” she muttered.

“Emma Ray,” said of the friends, in a nasally accent, “is such a mess in comparison to your little Margaret Ann.”

Just at that moment Margaret Ann appeared, docile and doe-like in her mother’s arms. Rita took her granddaughter, kissing both china doll cheeks, while Emma Ray or Miss Sue (it was hard to tell) shrieked across the aisle.

“Grandma,” said Margaret Ann, pushing back a few perfect curls from her face, “Grandpa was looking for you.”

“Was he now?” asked Rita Scarborough. She knew it probably wasn’t true. Her husband of nearly forty years was always somewhere or the other, collecting even juicier news than she could. It was what had attracted them to each other in the first place, if you didn’t count the Ole Miss degree, fancy diamond ring, and the fact that they’d been matched since birth, when their families prayed over them at the baby dedication.

And, in reality, Wesley Scarborough was not looking for his wife. He stood beside Deacon Todd, greeting guests and regular attenders alike, learning as much as he could about anybody and everybody. Todd passed out the papers, and Wesley passed out the Southern hospitality.

At some point, as the sun rose higher in the sky on this particular Sunday morning, Wesley grew a little tired, because he needed a doughnut or a bagel or anything with caloric intake. Since it was almost show time, the crowd had withered in the lobby. Deacon Todd ran out of bulletins and grouched off like an elderly crab, leaving Wesley alone and at peace, because he enjoyed his solitude too, even in the midst of a place as spiritual as this.

But then, out of nowhere, the front doors opened, and there was a young woman he had never seen before. She was so young, he noted, that his wife would either take her under her wing or scoff at her for the rest of time, and so he estimated her age to be twenty-four. She wore an acceptable dress, her curly hair bouncing down her back, and she clutched a Bible with nervous hands. He knew they were nervous hands because he’d been in those shoes, long, long ago, when he also visited First Baptist Colonia after a long bout of disbelief and anger and grit and grime.

“Welcome, young lady!” he said, extending a hand.

“Am I late?” she asked, her eyes huge and green. “I wasn’t sure if… I don’t know. My neighbor invited me, and…”

“You’re all right,” said Wesley, wondering where this creature had beamed in from. “What’s your name, dear? I’m Wesley Scarborough.”

“Olivia Scott,” she said, the Bible a barrier between them.

“It’s nice to meet you, Olivia. Who’s your neighbor?”

“Lisa Richards.”

Wesley smiled to himself. “Lisa Richards, one of the most active members in this congregation! I swear—well, I suppose I shouldn’t swear, on account that we are Christian people, Miss Olivia—but half of this congregation belongs to the Richards family!”

“I’d believe it. There’s always something going on at that house.”

“Here, let’s see if we can see her. You’re just in time, dear. No worries if you’re late, either. We’re a talkative congregation.”

They walked to the edge of the sanctuary, where all four hundred congregants chattered and buzzed around like the busy bees they were. Wesley caught a glimpse of Deacon Todd throwing Emma Ray onto his shoulders, while Miss Sue chased him down. He then saw his wife and his daughter and the grandkids and smirked. There were the Pipers, debating politics, no doubt; and Mr. Blake Sampson, who’d never taken a wife, and Reece Jetterby, the richest man in the county, and Oscar Thomas, the poorest man in the county. But where in the world was Lisa Richards?

“It’s okay if you can’t find her,” said mild-mannered Olivia Scott, “because I can find her after the service. I just promised her I’d come, and so here I am.”

“Well, you’re more than welcome to sit with my family and me if you’d like, or I can point you in the direction of the young people’s section, or…”

“Hi, Wesley,” said a strong voice behind them, and Wesley twisted around to face the young pastor, Luke Sweeting, who’d been in town for three years but felt like a forever presence in the church home. Luke was twenty-eight, a Georgia man who’d been educated up North and came home with a desire to preach. He’d come to Colonia on a whim. But as everyone believed in Colonia, there was more to it than just a whim. Things always worked out according to God’s miraculous plan, and they had hope that things always would be that way.

“Pastor Luke!” shouted Wesley, grabbing the man’s hand, pulling him in for a hug. When they drew apart, Wesley began with, “This is our dear guest, Miss Olivia Scott.”

Olivia blushed, and Wesley found this interesting.

“Very nice to meet you, Olivia,” said Luke, shaking her hand. “Welcome to our church. I know it can be overwhelming, but I hope you enjoy your time here, and that you feel God’s presence in the meantime.”

“Thank you,” she said, and Luke excused himself, heading off to the worshippers, a shepherd collecting his flock.

“That’s the pastor,” said Wesley again, and then he nodded. “Well, I’m going to have to insist you sit with my family, Olivia Scott.”

“All right.”

“Follow me.”

This poor girl, thought Wesley to himself. At least she’d have a story to tell.


YAY!

My beautiful readers! Thank you so much for reading this far. I hope you all are doing spectacular!

As you guys know, I have challenged myself to write three books this summer, one of them being this short but sweet romance, Church Boy. When it is finished, it will clock in around 50,000 words and be self-published through my go-to website, Smashwords, which you can find here: Link to my books!

Church Boy is a Southern, Christian romantic comedy. Some of you will probably cringe right there (and I absolutely feel you). However, I conceived this story a few years ago, and it felt like the time to crank it out before I totally lost the energy to write it.

This book pairs two unlikely leads: Luke Sweeting is a kind Southern Baptist pastor, whereas Olivia Scott is a struggling law student who is new to town. The two meet at Luke’s church in Colonia, Mississippi, where things do not exactly go according to plan…

Therefore, I wanted to give you guys a little teaser before the book comes out. Right now I am hoping to get it out there by June 1, but it may be pushed back to June 15. We will see, we will see. 😉

Okay, I have to go study for now, but expect more blog posts soon. Thank you all for reading!

Until next time,

-K.

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You know, who doesn’t love some fake flowers from Hobby Lobby?

writing

TOP 5 WRITERS

Hello, my wonderful readers!

It is a joy to be able to write to you guys on this very important day (Good Friday). However, this post is going to relate to five very influential writers who have impacted my writing life. While these five are the ones I remember, there have been hundreds of other writers who have left me inspired to be as inspiring as they were to me.

Also please comment below which writers have inspired you and impacted you the most.   I am constantly on the hunt for a new book, and you guys are an amazing resource to do this!


1. WILLIAM FAULKNER

William Faulkner at his home, Rowan Oak; Oxford, Mississippi

The king of Southern Gothic literature, Faulkner has been the most impactful writer to me in the past two years or so. Faulkner is probably the most influential writer from Mississippi, and his works have secured his legacy.

When I was growing up in the South, I hated every minute of it (or at least, I told people I did). I wanted nothing to do with the culture or the history or anything about it. I’d tell people I was a Yankee since my parents are from West Virginia, and I’d refuse to associate myself with my home state of Tennessee. As a result, I was not a fan of Southern literature, though I’ve since converted, let me tell you.

However, that all changed when I asked my mom who her favorite writer was.

“William Faulkner,” she responded.

“Why?” I asked. I’d heard of Faulkner before, but none of his works were ever required reading at my school (though they should be).

“Read some of his books, and you’ll see why,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.

And so I read As I Lay Dying in the summer of 2017, after I realized the South isn’t a terrible place, and that despite its problems, it is my home. Faulkner’s emotional depth struck a chord in me, especially with a wide range of characters and controversial situations that weren’t easy to discuss when he wrote in the 1920s and so on.

Faulkner is famous for Yoknapatawpha County, where several of his novels take place. Yoknapatawpha almost perfectly fits the Southern Gothic realm, in which deeply flawed characters are exposed to curious readers. Faulkner’s deliberate, pointed style of writing has also inspired me to play around with narrative.

While in creative writing class, my professor harps the concept of having one main character who struggles with internal conflict, Faulkner displays the beauty of having various protagonists whose struggles intertwine into one complicated organism.

Highlights from Faulkner: Southern Gothic; Yoknapatawpha County; stream of consciousness

What I’ve read by Faulkner: As I Lay Dying; The Sound and the Fury; Sanctuary; “A Rose for Emily”


2. JOHN GRISHAM

John Grisham, the legend.

Possibly my favorite writer of all time, John Grisham produces some of the most thrilling novels known to mankind (try to argue me on this, please). Another Mississippi legend, Grisham is the king of the legal thriller.

The first book I read from Grisham was The Pelican Brief in 2016. I’d heard of the master, but I didn’t think legal thrillers would suit a then-eighteen-year-old girl. But man… Was I in for a real wake-up call. This one book left me on the edge of my seat, and it challenged my perception of Washington, D.C., and our government system. Of course The Pelican Brief is fiction, but it felt real, and it was amazing.

As you can see below, I’m a Grisham nut. I have so many more books to read of his, but I can think of no other writer whom I talk about more. I wish it were acceptable to tell people, “Oh, yeah, John Grisham is my favorite writer,” because so many consider him to be a so-so writer since he is so popular (this seems like ridiculous logic, and it is).

So why do I like Grisham so much?

I think I can attribute it to the fact that his stories are so unique, and I honestly cannot predict what will happen next in any story he writes. Sometimes his stories are set in big firms in New York or D.C., and then another book will be something as socially relevant as A Time to Kill, his probable magnum opus. Then he’ll pop out with a book like Bleachers, which is more of a nostalgic ode to the past and has nothing to do with the law, and it’s like: I want to write like John Grisham!

His writing is very to-the-point. There isn’t much flowery language or description like some of the others on this list, but that’s because his novels are very much like movies in print. He wants to keep his readers hooked into the action of the novel instead of setting, and it’s why he’s one of the bestselling authors of all-time.

Highlights from Grisham: Legal thriller; political thriller; activism

What I’ve read by Grisham: A Time to Kill; The Firm; The Pelican Brief; The Partner; The Testament; Gray Mountain; The Summons; Rogue Lawyer; The Associate; Skipping Christmas; Bleachers 


3. LIANE MORIARTY

The beautiful and talented Liane Moriarty

Another writer I discovered when I was in high school is the Australian queen of women’s literature, Liane Moriarty. And also I hesitate to use the term “women’s literature,” because Moriarty is such a talented writer, and I don’t want to limit her to just the “chick lit” genre. Her books are primarily targeted to a female audience, though anyone can become easily invested in her material.

I’m not sure what the first book I read by Moriarty was, but I remember knowing her as the writer of Big Little Lies, one of the hits of 2014. Whenever a popular book comes out, I devour it: Gone Girl (2012) or The Girl on the Train (2015) are examples. While I am quite a fan of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins, Moriarty is a popular writer who has stuck with me in terms of how I want to write.

Liane Moriarty is an unapologetic observer of the world she writes. She is a professional at creating flawed but believable characters who make entertaining bad choices, whether that be the hypnotist in The Hypnotist’s Love Story or an amnesiac housewife in What Alice Forgot. 

When I was eighteen, I wrote a novel called The Forever Optimist that was an attempt at mimicking Moriarty’s writing style because I was in love with it so much. She is a magician at penning beautiful phrases and settings that make me want to hop on a jet for Sydney immediately.

Highlights from Moriarty: Complex characters; rich description; modern storytelling

What I’ve read by Moriarty: Big Little Lies; The Husband’s Secret; What Alice Forgot; Truly Madly Guilty; Three Wishes; The Hypnotist’s Love Story; The Last Anniversary


4. KHALED HOSSEINI

Afghan-American Khaled Hosseini, writer & physician

Khaled Hosseini is one of the most inspirational writers on this list. Though I do not know much of his personal backstory, I can tell you that this man escaped unbelievable horrors in his home country of Afghanistan in order to forge a future in the United States. Hosseini is an example of the American Dream, as he rose from a refugee into one of the 2000s most respected writers (all while being a doctor).

When I was thirteen, I attempted to read The Kite Runner for the first time, and I was disgusted by the first chapter. There was plenty of foul language and adult themes, and I refused to read more. When I was in my senior year of high school, my best friend and I decided to read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns at the recommendation of our teacher.

We were stunned.

Hosseini’s books are not appropriate for a thirteen-year-old, obviously, because they are so starkly honest and brutal. Hosseini’s literature focuses on the atrocities of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Hosseini writes with a forceful emotional capacity that left my friend and me speechless. As American girls we were astounded to read about things we had no idea were happening on the other side of the world. (Again, Hosseini’s books are fictional, though many situations are based in reality.)

Hosseini’s books are not for the light-hearted; however, they are for every human out there in the sense that we must listen and respect others from different cultures and backgrounds.

Highlights from Hosseini: Historical fiction and drama; sharp critique of culture; emotional writing

What I’ve read by Hosseini: The Kite Runner; A Thousand Splendid Suns


5. GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ

El reino de realismo magico, Gabriel García Márquez (Gabo)

What would this post be if I didn’t mention the man who taught me my favorite genre of literature to ever exist? Gabriel García Márquez is the papá of magical realism, a medium of storytelling that uses magical elements to highlight a realistic or mundane world. The way I explain magical realism is to highlight the real world, and to minimize the magical.

My roommate freshman year of college asked me why I hadn’t read One Hundred Years of Solitude, a book she was reading. “You’re going to Argentina to study abroad,” she said, “so you should probably know what magical realism is.”

I shrugged. One Hundred Years of Solitude looked like a long book, and I was reading other stuff at the time.

But then something happened. A new novel idea dawned on me, about a young woman who goes to a mystical Mississippi town in order to find her missing sister. I wasn’t sure what genre it would be, as I am not the biggest fan of fantasy, and I’d read nothing like the story I wanted to tell.

Suddenly, I remembered my roommate’s excitement about magical realism and One Hundred Years of Solitude, so I gave the book a shot, and it was absolutely crucial for me as a writer. Anyone who wants to write magical realism has to devour the fine course known as One Hundred Years of Solitude. 

García Márquez’s world is believably magical, with characters who make no sense at all and the most sense known to man. There is a strict order to what is possible and what is impossible, and the reader is left to decipher the symbolism of the literary gold of this incredible man.

Now, though I love Gabo, I do think he can be wordy, and his books take a long time to read. Compare this to Grisham, and you’re looking at two very different writers. However, that is why we are looking at so many different writers today, to see what stands out from each.

Highlights from García Márquez: Magical realism; Latin American literature; almost biblical narrative style

What I’ve read by García Márquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude; Love in the Time of Cholera; “La prodigiosa tarde de Baltazar”


WHY THESE WRITERS?

Obviously each person out there is affected differently by different writers. However, I am so glad that I got to share a few of my favorites with you today. It is always fun to write about writing.

I’d love to hear from you guys! Who are your favorite writers and why? And if you want to argue with me on John Grisham, I’ll be waiting. 🙂

Until next time,

-K.

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Malibu, CA (March 2019)

writing

YOURS TRULY (out now!)

Hello, my dear readers!

I hope you are all doing wonderful and having a great beginning to April. I am sorry for not posting as much this month, as things have been quite busy as the school year wraps up. That being said, I wanted to do a quick post and tell you guys some very big news.

My newest book, Yours Truly, is out today! This book is a thriller that takes place in both New York City and Mississippi, and I’ll give you guys a brief overview below.

Eight years ago Eliza Oehlstrom was a college senior aching to graduate and get discovered by New York literary agents. Today Eliza Oehlstrom is a bestselling writer who has retreated to the quiet Mississippi hills.

Both Elizas are forced to reckon with unwarranted and haunting notes from a stranger only known as Yours Truly, who seems to know Eliza’s every move. While Yours Truly supports Eliza’s writing career, the stranger also makes it clear that Eliza’s every move is being observed.

But Eliza can only take so much.

Told from these two time periods, YOURS TRULY poses the question: Are we ever really alone?

SMASHWORDS LINK

***The book will be published on Smashwords, iBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other formats. Since it is just now coming out, the URL links are not available yet, so I will make sure to come back and add in those links ASAP.

Thank you guys so much for your support! I promise I will keep writing soon. (Things will settle down here in a week or so, and I’ll get back to my regular schedule.)

Until next time,

-K.

yours truly-2

 

writing

YOURS TRULY (new book announcement)

Today I have some wonderful news for you guys!

It has been quite some time since I’ve published anything, and that is why I’m super excited to announce my newest novel, Yours Truly, will be available on April 1. It’s about time, isn’t it?

Well, what’s the book about?

Eight years ago Eliza Oehlstrom was a college senior aching to graduate and get discovered by New York literary agents. Today Eliza Oehlstrom is a bestselling writer who has retreated to the quiet Mississippi hills.

Both Elizas are forced to reckon with unwarranted and haunting notes from a stranger only known as Yours Truly, who seems to know Eliza’s every move. While Yours Truly supports Eliza’s writing career, the stranger also makes it clear that Eliza’s every move is being observed.

But Eliza can only take so much.

Told from these two time periods, YOURS TRULY poses the question: Are we ever really alone?

Yours Truly is definitely a project that has been time-consuming, arduous, and emotional. The novel is unlike any other I’ve written, and to be honest with you guys, I’m not sure if it’s good or not. It’s a book that dives into my psyche, and it’s one I’ll probably regret self-publishing in a few years. But that’s the magic of being a writer, and I want to showcase my writing from all different eras and ages of my life.

And, added bonus: The book will be free to download. (Yeah, no excuse not to get this book!)

I will post on Release Day, but I just wanted to give you guys a little heads-up about this project. I’ve put a lot of time and energy to it, and I hope it interests you. If not, no worries. That is the beauty of the free market system. 😉

Until next time,

-K.

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Book cover! This was shot in Malibu, California, in March 2019. Thank you, Miss Givenchy, for lending your creative talents and model hand for this picture. LOL.

writing

YOURS TRULY (chapter one)

YOURS TRULY

A NOVEL BY KATIE GEORGE

 

“One life… A little gleam of time between two eternities.”

 –Thomas Carlyle

 

CHAPTER ONE

Then

THE SECOND NOTE came on a crisp autumn day, snuggled in dead strips of violets. Fitting, considering that I was stepping on a pile of dead leaves at that precise moment, and the crunch sounded like the growl of my empty stomach. I was on my way to the cafeteria, and suddenly I didn’t feel so hungry anymore, though my body thought otherwise. College was a constant battle between anxiety and starvation, and the note didn’t help things.

But this was the secondnote.

I gripped the seemingly aged envelope between sweating, clammy hands. If this was a joke, I’d sock whoever was up to it. If it was real, then there’d still be consequences. Who would mess with me? Who’d want to mess with me? Who’d be stupid enough to?

I stared at it like mustached art critics fixate on Picasso. I held it like a mother clutching her baby when all she wanted to do was toss the chubby thing in the crib. And I finally caught the gumption to open it, my stubby fingernails crackling against the paper, something snapping inside me like a fistful of hair stripped from the base of the skull.

I knew, even then, that what was happening would not get easier, that this situation would only fatten up like slaughterhouse cattle, and I needed to prepare myself. Make something up. It’s what you’re good at, Eliza. Defend your senses before it’s too late.

And so, as I walked, my aching feet rigid against too-tight tennis shoes, I sorted through the possibilities. What if it was finally somebody who started to like me? What if it was somebody who wanted to let me know that I was attractive, important, admired?

A secret admirer didn’t sound so bad when I thought of it like this.

But then the world bit into my jaw, and I was left reeling instead.

Open it.

And so I did.

The note was on a piece of snow white paper, so white I felt like I was gripping an icicle. The font was sprawling, looped like a woman’s writing, but I knew it wasn’t a woman’s writing. This was something else. This wasn’t a love note, or a congratulatory note, or a mistake. This wasn’t a joke, and it wasn’t real, and there was no one to punch for it.

The icicle punctured my skin, leaving a trickle of blood to foam against the paper. Even the paper cut didn’t sting.

 

Dear Elizabeth,

            Emerald looks stunning on you. And, by the way, I can’t believe you haven’t told anybody yet. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Of course you do.

                        Yours truly

 

Only four little statements, addressed to Elizabeth from Yours truly. Who even came up with that stupid, perfunctory phrase anyway? Yours truly? I was nobody’s except my own, and the two words sounded a whole lot like some ’50s gibberish. No one wrote letters anymore, which was a pity; but I didn’t want to start a new trend like this, with some creep watching over me and critiquing my meager fashion sense. It was in poor taste.

Elizabeth.

That was what threw me off.

Elizabeth.

My fingers gripped the metal door handle to the caf, and I wanted to scream. I hated the food and the overwhelming hordes of zombie-like twenty-year-olds, but I was even more zoned out than normal. Who was watching me? Who knew, and called me Elizabeth anyway? Who was there?

The endless grumble and scream of the everyday college kids sprayed drops of anxiety all over my body. I entered the lobby and wanted to take cover. A pack of freshman girls slid past, squealing about some frat party that night, while I still held the note in my hand, a scaly scab on my finger. Though the girls were only in my periphery for mere seconds, I stared at them with forced unease. As soon as they zoomed by, there was a youngish guy with floppy hair and a bad mustache. He was pecking away at his phone, headphones jammed tight in his ear canals, and he glanced up at me, a snarl on his lips. I almost tripped over my feet at the situation, but managed to carry myself away from these people and to the food.

It was seven o’clock, but there were still too many people here. There were always too many people. The dish of the night smelled rotten and looked like fried squid, and I settled once more for stale cheese pizza and a warm Diet Coke, thanks to poor refrigeration. It cost ten dollars, and I wanted to send my university a thoughtful note (maybe addressed from Yours truly?), but I finally grabbed my food and dodged outside to the patio, away from the endless cacophony of young people, to the freedom of anywhere else.

The patio was an all right place. It overlooked the lumpy hills of the college, and if you strained your eyes enough, you could see the Little Fork River cutting against the valley. Since it was another crisp autumn day, it was mighty chilly outside, and my skin was already stained pink from the temperature. I shuddered and pulled my sweater tighter to my bursting skin, though it was cotton and thin and wouldn’t do much to help me.

But even if I was freezing outside, at least I was alone.

Alone.

Alone.

I pulled out my books and slammed the second note into my stats assignment. It would all go away. It didn’t mean anything. It was not like I was being threatened, or harassed, or assaulted. It was simply a critique of my fashion sense, however odd that may be, and did it mean somebody was watching me? A lot of people were always watching me. I had a sometimes prank gang with some of my friends, so it would be natural that they’d prank me back. But we hadn’t pranked each other in months, maybe even a year. Maybe this was still a joke. It could be. It could possibly not be.

“Get back to work,” I hissed at myself, hoping that this would be the cure: A tongue-lashing from myself. As if that ever does anything.

But one thing did the trick.

All the textbooks in the world didn’t matter for the work I whipped out from my backpack. The unfinished manuscript was in my hands like a gold rush, and I smilingly set it down across from me. One hundred and fifty double-spaced, back-to-back printed words on a page. A book, if you want to call it that. The only work that mattered to me.

My hands caressed the glossy pages as I admired my second novel. A gust of wind slammed against me, but my hands were locked against the book, and though the pages wanted to flutter away from me, they had no choice but to stay just where they were, ready to be clobbered by a rigorous editing process. I whipped out a pen and highlighter to begin this somehow soothing procedure, and my spirit was dampened just a tad by the roll of a boom of thunder in the distance.

“Seriously?” I shouted to no one in particular, since no one else was outside. It was fall—not exactly thunderstorm season—and here we were, having this random pop-up storm. At least it would keep all the other college kids away.

I glanced over the hills and noted the hint of the black clouds out in the distance, but I was going to hope and pray that it stayed over that way while I worked here. I didn’t want to go back to the apartment, since I knew what I’d stumble into there, and the library was under reconstruction, Starbucks was closed, and my friends’ places weren’t the best locations for creative discovery.

I took a bite of the stale pizza and tried not to spit it out like regurgitation. I took a swig of the Coke and imagined, years down the road, when I would finally be established and have a regular job. Who would that Eliza Oehlstrom be? What would she do in her spare time? With whom would she spend her spare time? Nobody has time to answer what if questions, because they’re infinitely endless, and so I returned to the soft comfort of my writings, my pointless musings. She probably wouldn’t be eating pizza that tasted like swollen cardboard.

I leaned over the pages and pretended I was Stephen King, at the cusp of my literary awakening. I had everything to gain, nothing to lose.

The note.

Unimportant, said my racing heartbeat. It was not even important. Everything to gain, nothing to lose. The stakes are high, and at the same time they’re low. It’s all a matter of choice.

The note was just a joke.

“Elizabeth?” somebody whispered, clear as iced glass, and my body immediately tensed like the harsh snap of a noose.

A gust of the stormy wind blasted across the table, but my hands were firm against the stack of papers. I twisted around and examined the surrounding area, searching the empty tables and the untrimmed hedges. There were trees leaning against the columns of the patio. But no psychos, nothing but the sound of the whistling wind. A bird flapped its wings out of nowhere, and it leapt into flight faster than I could blink.

And now I was hearing things.

My eyes were bulging out of my head, and my hand ached to text my roommate, but Sarah wouldn’t believe me. How could she? She’d think the second note was from an admirer, that I was hearing things. After all, she was probably not wrong. That being said, I couldn’t help but squirm in my chair. My hand was twitching, and my skin was flayed by the crisp air. Put on a jacket, Eliza. Where’s your umbrella, Eliza. Who are you, Eliza.

The words on the page were blinking at me like stars, each word a slice of terror. What was it I’d written? And yet I thought this was literary excellence? I thought I could compare myself to Stephen King?

She walks across the pond’s cool, fresh edge, the skin of her feet chafed from the rocky shore.

Who cared?

Elizabeth.

No one called me Elizabeth.

No one.

“My name’s Eliza,” I whispered to myself, a little mantra, and another gust whipped across my face, stinging my skin this time. After I removed a clump of hair from my chapped lips, I looked up and saw Will, and my heart sunk like a damaged vessel. He was oblivious, just for this moment, but he’d see me at any second, so my eyes darted low. I dipped my head down, a writer focused on her most prized work, pushing the rest of the world away. Pushing Elizabeth away, and the person who called her name.

Will.

I wanted to hear him call my name, I wanted to hear his voice, but there was nothing but the sly, snaky hiss of the wind. And the only person who called for me was my imagination.

Though I couldn’t focus now, because of a stupid boy, I had to pretend like I was hard at work, like I had a purpose for being on this patio, all alone despite the foreboding weather, the diving temperature, the thud of my heartbeat that felt like it would jump out of its cavity.

I circled a phrase in thick red ink that smeared like blood. The words meant nothing.

It was a long, arduous walk back, but variables don’t matter when you get the chance to go home.

As soon as my eyes finished the sentence, they put me in jeopardy. I blinked up, just for the briefest of seconds, and Will saw me too. There was a catapult in me, and I swore I’d float to my death like a popped balloon. Will lifted up two fingers in a cool, casual wave.

He was at the table just across from mine, despite the endless, friendless tables all around. He was the kind of guy who wants to be around people, even though he was more quiet than most. He smiled at me, and it felt like a mustache had been pulled from the top of my lips. Painful.

“Eliza?” he asked, because I was staring at him, at Will, like a real creep.

“Hi, Will,” I said, steeling my voice, feeling like there was a giant glob of pepperoni on my front teeth. I hated small talk, and I hated it even more with him.

“How’re you doing?” he asked, though I wasn’t sure if he wanted the answer or not.

“How are you?” I shot back, though I didn’t mean to be rude. I should have answered his question.

“Good, I guess,” he said, pointing toward his books. “A lot to study.”

This was what we always said to each other. We were always poring over our work, too busy for anything else. When we saw each other on campus, we always sent each other personal little smiles and waved and said a chipper hello, but it was moments like this when it was so obvious that your heart could just burst.

In any other circumstance, maybe Will and I could have been something. Something great.

It’s obvious he wanted to talk to me; I wanted to talk to him. But where would it even begin? Where could it begin?

My eyes fell back to my book. Always got your head in a book, Eliza Oehlstrom, so that when the people pass you by, you don’t have a clue.

Suddenly, I was reminded of the shallow voice, right behind my head, a terrifying nightmare. Elizabeth.

My soul was clamped down tightly, and I was certain I would pass out, if a tornado didn’t get me first.

Will was talking to me, but I couldn’t hear him, because of my bleeding heart and that same hypnotic voice, like Scandinavian ice down my spine: Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Elizabeth.

“Eliza?” Will asked, and I remembered everything.

Everything came back again, all at once.

Elizabeth.

The strange obsession with my name.

Maybe I needed that storm to come for me after all, let the storm wash away my grizzled bones and picked-at flesh.

I stood up, my feet digging into the soles of my worn-down tennis shoes. Without another word, I slipped away from Will, from the truth, from the thing that called me Elizabeth.


AN EXPLANATION.

I hope you all enjoyed this excerpt from my forthcoming novel, Yours Truly, which should be out in the next few months. This book has been a very personal one to write, though very therapeutic as well.

Yours Truly has taken months to write, and it’s not necessarily my favorite novel ever. And, to be honest with all you, I am still in the throes of the editing process.

That being said, it has been a while since I’ve published any new novels, and this book is a good change from my normal material. I do believe that writers should challenge themselves, and therefore I wanted to go a different path in tone.

I hope you guys enjoyed this snippet. Just know more will be coming shortly.

Until next time,

-K.

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Calabasas, CA (January 2019)