The sweet scent of lilacs permeates the air around Grandma’s gravesite. Only Sarah Kay can smell Grandma’s favorite flower, and they’re not even in bloom.
Sarah Kay and her best friend, Mary Jane, believe the lilacs are a sign from Grandma’s ghost. The girls follow one ghostly clue after another, uncovering a secret that Mom never wanted Sarah Kay to know.
Grandma makes sure Sarah Kay gets the message even from the grave. As the evidence piles up, Mom still refuses to accept the possibility Sarah Kay’s father is alive.
Sarah Kay finds Dad’s parents. A set of grandparents she didn’t realize existed. They make it clear her father is alive but days and miles separate the father and daughter reunion because Dad is a truck driver on a long haul.
Sarah Kay waits. The news reports a fatal car accident involving a semi and Sarah Kay fears the worse. She runs away which leads to Dad and the truth, Mom wanted Dad to remain dead.
Dad had faked his death so why not just stay dead. The ghostly clues of Grandma wouldn’t allow Dad to remain dead to Sarah Kay.
I slid under the covers and closed my eyes and began tossing and turning, trying to block out my haunting thoughts. Once more I flopped over and faced the wall. From somewhere something creaked like someone stepping on the floor board. I pried my eyes open trying to figure out where it was coming from. Under the bed? From the closet? Just outside my closed bedroom door? The noise stopped so I flipped with my back to the wall. A white glow appeared in front of the bedroom door. It came from the center of the door and headed toward the bed. I gasped in a breath, holding back my scream. The light hovered over the foot of the bed.
The smell of lilacs drifted in the air and I held the sneeze in, too afraid of the scene in front of me. My heart beat faster as the glow transformed into the shape of a woman. The lady had snow-white hair pulled back in a bun. A smile formed on her face and her familiar sky-blue eyes twinkled. The springs creaked as she lowered herself to the bed and the smell of lilacs greeted me like a hug.
“Grandma?” I whispered, sitting up and staring.
Grandma looked the same as when she was alive except her hair was grayer than I remembered.
She bent down to pick up the doll. As she handed it to me, her mouth moved but no sound came out.
“Grandma, what are you trying to tell me?” I whispered.
“Kay, darling, don’t cry. Your grandfather will be okay,” Grandma finally said. “It’s not his time to go home yet.”
“Wow.” My jaw dropped open. “I can hear you.” I wanted to wrap my arms around her and squeeze, but fear that any movement would cause Grandma to disappear stopped me. “How do you know Gramps will be okay?”
“He’s too stubborn. He just needs to take it easy. So make sure he does that. It’s not his time to be with me.”
“How can you be here?”
“That’s not important.” Grandma touched my hand.
The touch felt strange like a warm tingling sensation. I sat very still afraid this moment wouldn’t last long.
Grandma stared at me for a moment. Her form seemed to become more transparent. The cluttered dresser behind her started to appear clearer.
Stephanie Stewart didn't ask for her gift of guiding the deceased to the other side but she's stuck with it. Why can't dead people just follow that bright light and leave her alone? When Mr. Undead wants to use her special talent for his own evil purposes, her little gift becomes a major liability.
Today the Poet's Fire welcomes fellow MuseItUp Author Sara-Jayne Townsend for an interview about her writing and a look at her book Death Scene.
Sara-Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror. She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there. She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris. She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person.The first two books in her amateur sleuth series about Canadian actress Shara Summers will be released by MuseItUp Publishing in 2014. DEATH SCENE, the first book (and a re-release) will be available in Summer, with the sequel, DEAD COOL, following in Autumn.
I find horror scary and disturbing, what draws you to write horror?
I think because it is scary and disturbing, but in a controlled environment. The things in horror stories can’t really hurt you. I tend to use my horror stories as a way of dealing with my own fears and insecurities. By writing about the things that scare me, I exorcise them.
What frightens you the most?
I write a lot about betrayal, isolation and death. Going back to the previous question, the fact that these are recurring themes in my stories is a clear indication that these are things I have difficulty dealing with. But I think my biggest fear is loss of identity. I take pride in being me. Some people find me strange and unusual, but I am unique. The thought that somehow that might be taken away from me is terrifying.
When writing a mystery, how do you organize the story? Do you start at the end and work backwards, or plant clues along the way?
I’m a meticulous plotter, so I work out the plot first. The first thing I’ve got to do is work out who the killer is. One I’ve got that, I’ll draft out a plot summary. From there I’ll take the summary and work it out into a chapter plan, which gives a brief summary of what’s going to happen in each chapter, including vital clues that my sleuth must uncover So by the time I sit down to write chapter 1, I’ve got my road map. Like taking a journey, the process of writing the novel might throw up some unexpected diversions along the way, but I know where I have to end up and roughly how I need to get there.
What's your favorite thing to do when not writing?
I love video games, and I wish I had more time to play them. Current favourites are Dragon Age Origins and the Resident Evil series.
I see you like to travel, one of my loves as well. What's your favorite place that you've visited to so far?
There are so many wonderful places in the world. I loved New Zealand, and long to go there again. Such a beautiful place, and full of friendly, welcoming people. But I also love cities – as a Londoner I am used to the bustle and vibe of big cities and find the same thing in other cities across the world. New York City is probably my favourite place in the world, and if I could live anywhere, I would live there.
If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would it be, and why?
I think I’d like to meet Queen Elizabeth the First, because I consider her one of the first feminists. She was a woman in a man’s world, ruling England and refusing to marry even though everyone said she had to because a woman could not run the country. But on the whole she did a very fine job, and England was in pretty good shape when she died. Though I suspect by necessity she would not be a very nice person in reality. Even so, I’d like to meet her.
Sounds good. Tell us a little about Death Scene.
Poking around in family closets produces skeletons…
British-born, Toronto-based, actress Shara Summers turns amateur sleuth when her sister is stricken with a mysterious illness. Summoned back to England to be with her family during a time of crisis, Shara discovers doctors are at a loss as to what's causing Astrid’s debilitating sickness.
After her aunt is found dead at the bottom of the stairs the death is deemed an accident. Shara suspects otherwise. Her investigation unearths shocking family secrets and a chilling realization that could have far-reaching and tragic consequences that affect not only her own future, but Astrid’s as well.
Ruth sat in her rocking chair watching the television–which was probably about ten years old, and appeared to be the most modern thing in the room. She was wearing a blue floral dress, with a patchwork blanket over her knees. I had seen that dress before. Her hairstyle hadn’t changed, either–her white hair was thinning, and she wore it short and curly, in the style of old ladies everywhere. When we came in she looked up, a toothless smile breaking out over her face. She had dentures that she never wore–something else she only saved for special occasions. As a child, Ruth had appeared very scary to me on the occasions she wore her dentures because we just weren’t used to seeing her with them.
My mother went up to Ruth and leaned in to give her a kiss on her soft wrinkled cheek. “How are you, Auntie Ruth?” she said loudly. Ruth’s hearing had been going even back then. She must be virtually deaf by now.
The house was freezing. The only source of heat was a three-bar electric fire on the floor by Ruth’s feet.
“I’m doing all right, dear,” Ruth said. Her voice was husky, ravaged by age and lack of use. “Mustn’t complain.”
Summer, still in my mother’s arms, began to cry and squirm, no doubt intimidated by the presence of this ancient lady. “Who’s this?” Ruth said, stroking one of Summer’s chubby legs.
“This is Summer,” Mum said. “This is my granddaughter. You’ve met Summer. Astrid’s daughter.”
Ruth frowned. “Astrid? Your little one?”
“Not a little girl any more, Auntie Ruth. She’s all grown up now.” Mum pointed in my direction. “This is my other daughter, Shara. Do you remember? Shara lives in Canada.”
Ruth was staring at me, frowning. There was no indication that she recognised me. “It’s been a long time,” she said eventually.
“Hello Auntie Ruth,” I said.
“Have you taken your pills, Auntie Ruth?” my mother asked.
Ruth frowned in concentration. “Pills? Think so. Can’t remember, you know. My memory’s not what it was.”
My mother thrust the crying child into my arms. “Watch Summer for a moment, Shara. I’m going to make Auntie Ruth some lunch.” And off she went into the kitchen.
I sat down in the faded armchair and bounced Summer on my knee. She kept crying. Ruth stared fixedly at the television. There seemed to be an Australian soap opera on. I couldn’t tell which one. I wasn’t a fan, and they all looked the same to me. “So what are you watching, Auntie Ruth?”
“Eh?” She swivelled round to stare at me.
I raised my voice. “The television. What are you watching?”
“Oh, I don’t know, dear. I watch everything. Keeps me company, you know.” And she lapsed back into silence, staring at the television. A couple of minutes went by and then she said suddenly, “they’re stealing from me, you know.”
“Who?” "They’re stealing from me.” Ruth continued to stare at the television. I wasn’t at all sure she was even aware of anyone else in the room. I stood up with Summer in my arms and hurriedly went to find my mother in the kitchen.