Welcome to our August issue!
We are proud to present our personal stories. Some fictionalized, some about the experience itself, but all deeply personal. We appreciate your continued support.
As always, feel free to let us know how we did on Twitter or by contacting us directly through the info in our individual articles!
The Amuse Bouche Review Team
Feature: Technology and I (Renée Gendron) Essay
Food (Crystal L. Kirkham) Essay
A Room For The Night (D.W. Hitz) Fictionalized Experience
The Finale (A.P. Miller) Essay
What Writing Means to Me (Louise Sorensen) Essay
Inspiration (Norm Boyington) Essay
Haunted (Aedyn Brooks) Essay
Team Showcase from AMBR Contributors (Augsut 2020)
by Renée Gendron (@reneegendron)
When I was younger, I could figure things out quite easily. I programmed in Basic, got the VCR to record my shows, programmed the coffee machine to brew fifteen minutes before I woke up, set the code for the house alarm. Easy-peasy.
Technology and I got along great until I hit about twenty, then strange little things started happening. Take something as simple as a key. You insert into the keyhole with the teeth pointing in the right direction, then you turn. Click. The door opens.
It’s simple. Ancient Romans had keys. I’m pretty certain Ancient Egyptians also had keys. It’s an old, reliable technology, except in my hands. I had rented an old apartment with an old door. The apartment had charm. I went to open the lock, making sure the long, spindle-like key was angled correctly and turned.
The key broke in the lock on my first attempt to enter the apartment. Good thing it was the middle of the business day and the property management company was able to send over a locksmith within the hour.
Then there’s cooking. I admit to not being much of a cook to begin with. I can live quite happily eating tuna from a can over the sink. It saves me time from not having to cook and clean up, time I can apply to writing. That aside, microwaves don’t like me. They have a specific button for popcorn, and I can’t make popcorn pop.
When I go to defrost something, I check the power settings to make sure it’s appropriate, and whatever gets defrosted comes out with a boil or still frozen. There’s no happy medium.
I’ve had pop-tops not pop open. I’ve resorted to using butter knives to pushing open beer and pop cans because the tags have fallen off.
Can-openers are hazardous to my health. And I don’t even own an electrical one. If I did, it would electrocute me. I’m certain of it.
Computers. One of the cornerstone technologies of the twentieth century. The technology that ushered in the information age. Where do I start? The computer itself or computer programs?
The computer itself. My current computer no longer has a side panel. Despite three fans, it overheats. When it’s humid outside, I have to have an external fan directly on the video card, so it doesn’t crash. Years ago, I stopped playing computer games because the computer wheezes and sputters, then crashes. I can’t even play Solitaire on it anymore. It has an SSD hard drive that’s only half-full. I’m told, but no longer believe, a Solid State Drive (SSD), is top of the line. No games for me. Mind you, the upshot is the time I used to play games is now time I have to write.
Computer programs don’t do what they are supposed to do. At least not for me. I worked on a project that involved a large spreadsheet. Thousands of data points large, loaded from a common server to allow members of the team to access it. I thought there was missing data. Turns out, my computer refused to look at the entire spreadsheet. It skipped forty-five lines of data. I switch computers and again, I couldn’t see the missing data. Same computer, different person, the data is there.
I took that personally and cursed the computer gods.
There was a computer program I had to use to release stock. A customer would place an order and sometimes request the stock be delivered on a certain date. It worked for everyone, but me. Of course. One year, the computer decided to default all release dates to February 29. That particular year wasn’t a leap year.
Again. The computer only forced my orders to release on the non-existent Leap Year.
I went to create an account for an online service. You know the drill: input your name, email, and wait for the confirmation email to arrive.
I did that three times. On the third time, I had someone look over my shoulder to confirm I was doing it right. The webpage refused to accept my email address as valid. I type the email out slowly. Very slowly. When I’m flying, I can type 90+ words a minute with a 98% accuracy rate in English. My word count drops in French because I have to type the accents – that’s a different story. I drop down to a word count of five words, just my two index fingers typing it up.
Refused. Denied. Do not pass go.
I call tech support. Do the same thing, do things so slowly I almost fall asleep. The computer senses the presence of tech support and accepts the email I’ve typed five times and sends me the link.
I shake my fist at the sky.
Car radios have refused to increase the volume through the buttons on the steering column. Any other driver and the buttons work just fine. Me? All buttons reduce volume.
For these reasons and more, I’m the person who buys the technology last. I want the major kinks worked out first and leave the particular only-for-Renée-bugs a unique experience for me. Why? Because by that point, I’m certain the technology won’t kill me. Only annoy me.
Maybe I went into the wrong profession. Maybe the universe wants me to be a technological product tester. Maybe it’s my way of helping hone the skills of engineers and technical support because all I hear from them is: it’s never done this before or I’ve never seen that before.
If you need me, I’ll be in my cave marveling at this new thing called ‘fire’.
by: Crystal L. Kirkham (@acanuckclick)
In fantasy novels, it’s often at play. In science fiction it will get a passing mention. In horror, well, it better serve the plot.
The other day I was interviewing an author for a podcast and we got off on a tangent. We started talking about food. My co-host who also happens to be one of my editors mentioned that she has never edited any of my work—regardless of genre—that didn’t have some passing mention of food.
And it’s true.
I just submitted a contemporary weird horror story that was less than 4000 words in length and there were two scenes that revolved significantly around food.
With this month’s topic being about personal experience, I figured it lent well to me talking about why food is always in my writing.
The answer is simple. Food is important to me and it has often played a prominent role in my own life. From the times where we were short on groceries growing up to when I was well employed and eating out at the nicest places—it has always been something that was on my mind and in my heart.
When I was 14 years old, I took over cooking for my family and I fell in love with it. Until recent years, I was always trying out new recipes. I once even ended up in a 2-hour conversation with a tech-support guy… about meat marinades.
Although it’s not all fun and games. I too often still measure my days in meals and coffee cups. Perhaps that isn’t the healthiest, but I have also long struggled with my weight and my relationship to food. It’s no wonder food is a part of my life… and my writing.
While it is true that authors put a lot of themselves into their writing, not everything in a novel is something that an author actually believes. However, things like this will often make it into the work of many of us. Food is important to me, so it has a place in my work. From opulent meals to bare trail rations, it will get a mention.
I always find it fascinating how this can happen. Those experiences—good and bad—make a home in my stories. Food is just one of the things that is the most notable. So much so, my editor will also say that she can vividly recall many of the food scenes that have made it into my work.
For those who are writers, take a look at your work. Is there something from your life that constantly pops up without intention? I know for me it was never intentional until I noticed it. Now, I make sure that food has a home in most of my work.
For readers, pay attention to some of your favourite authors. Not just series work, but all their work. Is there an aspect there that is always popping up? Something small, and normally unremarkable? It might just give you a clue as to something that this author finds important in their life.
by D. W. Hitz (@dustinhitz)
Inspired by true events…
Cold air rushed through the gap at the window’s top. It kept the couple awake. There was no good reason for them to be driving down deserted stretches of Route 66 at two in the morning, but there they were.
The winter day had shown classic Americana and tragic tourist-trap dives. The night had shown neon beacons and sleepy towns. The late-night showed desert, sand, and nothingness for miles, until a motel flashed, Vacancy, in bright red bulbs.
“What do you think?” Chris said to his new wife.
“I think if it has a bed, we stop,” Bobbie said.
Chris turned in by the sign and parked.
The motel looked to be made of three rows of buildings and an office. Each row was a single-story, leading further away from the road. The office was dark. Its door held a sign with a late check-in telephone number.
After a phone call, a visit from the night attendant, and a quick look at the cliched collectibles in the front of the office, Chris and Bobbie had a key to their room. They got back in the car, and through the blur of sleep deprivation, they circled the property, headed for Building 3.
The parking lot around Building 1 was empty. Not a car, truck, or SUV sat in front of the dozen lifeless rooms.
“It looks like we have the place to ourselves,” Chris said.
“Yeah.” Bobbie scanned the dark chambers and empty spaces. “Looks pretty creepy. Do you think we’ll get murdered here?”
“No, I’m sure it’s fine. But, maybe.”
A small smirk cracked on Bobbie’s face.
Building 2 was nearly as empty. A single room was illuminated, spilling amber hues into the parking lot and onto one of its two residents. Its door gaped, spilling amber hues into the parking lot and onto one of its two residents. Lit between the door and a twenty-year-old van was a man in a folding chair with a beer in his hand. Across from him in the dark was someone else. Chris couldn’t tell if it was man or woman, young or old, fat or thin. But someone was there.
“Okay, this is a little creepy,” Chris said.
They passed behind the second row and turned into the parking for Building 3. Not a vehicle was there. Not a light was on. They parked halfway up the lot, in front of room 306. Chris backed in, in case they need to leave in a hurry.
Chris killed the engine and stepped outside. His eyes were drawn up to the glow of the Milky Way. It hung over the frozen desert motel like a ghostly visitor. It reminded him just how deep they were into the country.
“Come on,” Bobbie called from the other side of the vehicle. “I’m tired.”
“Yeah.” Chris brought his eyes back to Earth and met Bobbie at the door to room 306.
The brass, numbered plaque on the door was half-legible. The three and six were scuffed and corroded. The door’s paint was cracked and peeling on its edges. Chris forced himself to hope the outside of the building was last to be renovated. The office had looked nice enough, clean, and possibly, recently painted. Besides, it was late at night. It was best to stay positive and see what the inside looked like.
Bobbie shivered and nodded, impatient gestures Chris quickly recognized.
Chris slid the key into the lock and pushed on the door. The scents of mold and dust and well-worn upholstery wafted out. It reminded him of his grandmother’s basement, where he and his cousins used to hide from the rest of the family and play games with the antiques they weren’t supposed to touch.
Bobbie rushed inside. She attempted to remove her coat and jerked it back on. “It’s freezing!” She found the heater by the window and switched it to high, as Chris flipped on the light switch.
The room was painted cinder-block walls and 1970’s furnishings. The paint faded from off-white to cream along the crevices and mortar lines. The carpet was mostly green except for three brown stains and a number of worn-out lines from foot traffic. Chris closed the door. Its frame was cracked from the top to the threshold.
“Okay,” Chris muttered to himself.
Bobbie sat on the bed closest to the door and rubbed her hands in the heater’s warming air. Chris dropped their bags beside the scuffed and scarred dresser and headed into the bathroom.
More block walls led a soap-scum-layered tub. A cracked mirror hovered over a two-faucet porcelain sink, and a one-foot-wide by two-foot-tall window hung over the toilet.
Chris stared into the reflection of his own face as he urinated. When he was almost done, a feeling crept over him. Is someone watching me?
He looked past his reflection. All he could see was darkness, it could easily hide someone.
As if fooling a watcher, Chris flushed the toilet and washed his hands. He clicked off the bathroom light and waited. He stared into the black of the window as his eyes adjusted. Moment after moment, the blackened bathroom became more visible, and shapes beyond the glass’s pane began to take form.
The land behind the room stretched into the gloom, holding the usual desert dirt and boulder. The ground was littered with various sizes of boxes and piles of objects—maybe bikes or car parts. Further on, there was a massive structure, something planted in the ground, but rising on two legs above where Chris could see.
“What is that?” He whispered. He leaned closer to the window, his nose almost touching it.
He strained to focus in the unlit night and began to notice a shine against the left leg. The shine split and became two distinct dots.
Chris’s neck hair stood up, and cold ran down his spine. His legs felt weak, as he saw an outline around the two dots. It formed the shape of a man, a man whose twinkling eyes were staring right back at Chris.
Click. Squeak. The doorknob turned, and the door opened. Light flooded the room as Bobbie’s face came through the door.
Chris jolted at his reflection in the window, staring right back at him.
“Jesus!” Chris yelled. He was exposed. Whether or not the stranger saw him looking before, he must see Chris now, with the light in the bathroom as bright as day. “Shit!” Chris jumped back and flipped the switch. He put his hands on his wife’s shoulders and ushered her back from the doorway.
“What were you doing?” Bobbie said. “I mean with the lights off?”
Chris yanked the door shut. His eyes circled the bedroom. “There’s someone out there.”
Bobbie glanced back at the bathroom door. “Outside? You mean behind the bathroom, like a peeping tom?”
“Something. I don’t know. He was staring right at me.”
“Maybe it was another guest, walking his dog or something?”
“I don’t know. He was watching me back. Like, in a weird way.”
Bobbie sat on the bed. Her eyes tracked around the room as she bit her lip. “Go back and look again. See if he’s still there.”
Chris took a deep breath. He nodded. “Kill the lights in here. He won’t see me go in, if he’s still out there.”
Bobbie walked to the door and toggled the switch. The only light in the room rose from the heater’s red-hot heating elements.
Chris took a deep breath and grabbed the bathroom knob. He opened the door and crept inside. He inched toward the window, his eyes still shedding the brightness of the previous room.
The outside slowly came back into focus. There was the ground, the boxes, the piles of strange garbage. He saw the legs of the thing and squinted. His eyes flexed, trying to make out every curve of the distant object. They followed the lines up and down. There was no glow. No eyes staring back.
Did I imagine it? Did he run away?
Chris scanned the rest of his view of the desert. He looked to the left and right.
“I guess I just scared the shit out of myself for no reason.”
Chris walked out of the bathroom. With his adjusted sight, the entire space glowed red. Bobbie sat on the corner of the bed, her eyes glistening, her hands shaking. She stared up at Chris.
“No one,” Chris said. “There’s no one there. It’s okay.”
Bobbie didn’t move. Instead, her eyes darted left, then back to Chris. Left, then back at Chris.
Chris followed her eyes across the darkened room, past the worn rug, beyond the beat-up dresser, where a darkened shape filled the corner beside the motel room door. And two dots gleamed back at him.
by: A.P. Miller (@Millerverse)
I got out of bed early — I can’t say that I woke up because I’m not sure I slept. I’d spent the weeks prior packing my things, trying to remove the influence of a relationship that we couldn’t keep our oath to. Till death do us part was a cruel joke as I was removing her pictures from the photo album I kept. Of all the painful things that were said, hurtful things that were done, the greatest betrayal was the photographs of two people who would look happy as long as that picture existed.
I couldn’t stand to look at the kitchen that wasn’t mine anymore, so I grabbed breakfast from one of the virus hold-out restaurants and drove the ten minutes to the shore. The city blocks of the closest beach town were functionally abandoned, a fitting sentiment, considering what I was experiencing. The boulevard seemed much longer that morning, like it knew that I didn’t want to leave, but also knew I had to. The wind that morning was sweet, seasoned by the saltwater from the ocean, and it felt remarkably like a teary eyed goodbye kiss.
I had my breakfast on the beach in the early moments of dawn. That early in the morning, when everyone you can turn to is sleeping, there is no one to keep you company but the ghosts of your own memory. Figments of who you used to be, people you used to know, and the way you wish some people still were. I think I went to that beach looking for those ghosts, hoping to find some wisdom or reasons that would make my entire world falling apart make sense. Of all the spirits that I wanted to conjure, I wanted to talk to my Dad the most. Maybe I wanted someone to tell me that these things happen or receive a revelation of providence.
Dad must have been busy or talking to someone who needed him more than I did.
From the hood of my car, I watched the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean and said my goodbyes to the surf.
It’s said there is spirituality to the water, epiphanies to be found for those who need them. Personally, I think it’s a meditation practice, watching the waves rolling in and out. Like the tide, the human condition is a series of ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys, and certainly high and low tides. I’ll never understand the limits of the spirit’s resiliency or the mind’s ability to go into autopilot as a survival mechanism. I can’t tell you what made me turn the key in the ignition, or allowed me to pack everything I owned into that moving truck, or what forces are at work to let me walk out the door for the last time.
She was kind enough to be gone while I moved out. She was merciful enough to take the dog for a ride so that I didn’t have to say goodbye to her like that. I’d moved eight-hundred miles away from where I grew up to live there and the only person that I could relate to didn’t want me in the house anymore. Now that is loneliness. Through the entire ordeal, I’d held the quote “Why wasn’t I made of stone like them?” from the Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.
As I stood on the threshold of the home that I thought I was going to live in forever for the last time, it felt like the finale of a TV series. I heard the voices of the people that had been through the home, the echoes of laughter, and could feel the searing of tears for the low moments. All of the plans that I had made for the place were suddenly irrelevant and all the time I’d spent on devising them was gone. I remembered the day I moved in and everything that led up to it — all of that effort was for nothing and it hurt.
That house wasn’t my concern any more; it wasn’t my cast to belong to anymore, my time in that series had come and I wanted to leave with dignity. I turned off the lights, closed the door, and I was off to live somewhere I’d never seen before for the second time in my life.
The transition wasn’t easy. There were lonely times intertwining with the moments that I really believed that I was okay. I am extremely fortunate for the people who were close and knew what was going on. If I’ve learned anything, other than trust being a rose with thorns of razor, it’s that sometimes you just have to not be okay. Feelings have to be felt and experienced as bottling them up will ultimately do more harm than good. Sometimes you have to completely fall apart in order to build yourself back up in better form.
The story does have a happy ending — what could have been my darkest night ended up being my finest hour. I stood when it was easier to fall. Dad didn’t come to me on the beach that morning, but his immortal words have stayed with me: “No matter how much it hurts, always get back up.” While I may never know the limits of resiliency of the human spirit, I am surely grateful for its compound effect. There will still be a few dark days, but the sunny days are much more frequent and I have a lot more to come.
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” -Albert Camus.
Not the End, but a Pause.
by: Louise Sorensen (@louise3anne)
The first book in which I connected the written word to the spoken word was in a Fox and the Crow comic my Grandmother Zermah used to read to me. This was my go-to book and she must have read it a hundred times. Or it might have been a Heckle and Jeckle (still crows) comic. I remember the plot of the story was that the crows were stealing a farmer’s corn.
So at age five I learned how to read and became a voracious reader.
Grandma was a free spirit and told me stories about her early life on an Alberta farm. She participated in the very first Calgary Stampede on her Mustang Molly. In the off season, for extra money, her father and his brothers used to go down to Mexico to break wild horses to ride, and then sell. In those days, horses weren’t trained to stand quietly when you got on them. When you wanted to mount, according to my grandma, the horses took off at a run and you were expected to throw yourself into the saddle. Before they got too far. I don’t know how that worked, but it fired my imagination.
One time fourteen year old Grandma was riding Molly in a big field near a railway track. A train was going by and gave a long loud blast of its whistle. Molly got spooked by the sudden noise and bucked and bucked and then took off out of control. A runaway. Grandma got jostled sideways. She would have fallen off, but her foot got caught in the stirrup and she was dragged. Looking back, I can see that in those moments, I was like Schrodinger’s cat, existing, and not existing, at the same time. Fortunately, my Uncle Will galloped his horse up beside Molly, brought her to a safe stop, and saved both my grandma and my maternal line.
So with many wild stories and my grandma’s nonchalant attitude towards them, I became horse crazy. About that time, I started drawing horses, trying to create art as good as the horse pictures I studied. That began another lifelong obsession
One time my mother said she had a magic wand and told six year old me to wish for anything and she’d give it to me. At least, that’s what I recall from the conversation. I’m not sure how well she knew me at the time, but I wished for a pony. Unfortunately, what she had available, was a new pair of pajamas. They didn’t even have ponies on them. After a long back and forth, I finally accepted the new pajamas, but ever after, always wished for a pony, if anyone asked.
When my family went to the beach for a cool swim on a hot summer’s day, I preferred to stay on the sand with my nose in a book. An avid swimmer, my mother insisted I spend some time in the water. I did, but it never gave me as much thrill as a good book.
According to my mother, I was a difficult child.
So my life to that point as a child whose grandmother was a fearless adventurer, made me a voracious reader, a fanatical horse lover dreaming of a horse of my own, and a constant sketcher. When I wasn’t reading, I was drawing. My grandma, by the way, got married at sixteen, and that was the end of her riding days. What she had ahead of her was a difficult life, but she overcame a lot and lived life her way. That’s a story for another day.
I had to wait a long long time to get my pony, but I was able to satisfy my taste for adventure in stories, and my need to express myself creatively, by painting.
As it often does, time passed, and I grew up.
Fast forward to a winter night in January 1998. My husband, children, and I were living on a farm in eastern Ontario. A continuous heavy rain fell in subzero temperatures, resulting in a terrible ice storm. I woke up about midnight to the booming echo of huge trees crashing onto the house. And then the power went out.
There was nothing we could do until morning. When we got up, we saw that our driveway was full of huge trees and thick branches. There was hardly any damage to the house, because it was encased in an inch and a half of ice. It took us three days to clear the driveway. We had to wear bike helmets to protect against chunks of ice falling from the trees that were still standing. It was nine days before the power came back on.
And just like that, I couldn’t paint anymore.
I spent a couple of years working on my garden.
And then, one of our kids suggested I take a creative writing course with him at the local college.
I tried it. Turns out I liked it so much I took more courses. And then more. And then a friend from one of those courses suggested I take a writing workshop with him. Twenty years later, I’m still taking those workshops with the same friend, many new ones, and the same teacher, a retired prof.
Which is a roundabout way of coming full circle. From the little girl who loved stories and horses and painting, to one who blends all those loves into one. Writing.
What does writing mean to me?
Writing to me is a path, an escape, a love, a skill. An obsession. A power.
It allows me to tell the story of my beloved grandmother. It allows me to express myself, to right wrongs and send up warning flags in the form of stories, that the messages may be more palatable. It allows me to communicate my very best, without apology.
I am Canadian.
And I am a writer.
by: Norm Boyington (@NormBoyington)
2017 was a year of fires in the mountains and drought throughout the prairies. It also happened to be our 25th anniversary; a road trip from home to Vancouver Island was in order.
I can’t say for sure if the spirits were with me or not, but ideas for prose and tales of one who passed on over to the other side came upon me as I drove along the picturesque highway we call the TransCanada.
I’m not sure how it came about, maybe it was my wife or myself, but I started asking her to write down my impressions as they came to me; as she did she would ask me why, or what I see, and how I might turn the idea into something bigger; something somebody would want to read.
It began with a long human shaped piece of driftwood. I laughed as I asked her to write the words, “Driftwood on the rocks, looks like a naked lady.” I knew then that working it into a poem or story was something I would want to work on, and yes, I did have to explain to my other why a wet log on a granite beach made my mind think of a naked woman.
As the miles flew by, the blank pages filled with thoughts I wanted to remember. All I needed to jog my memories would be these few lines that my scriber dutifully copied onto blank papers we found in our fire starter box in the back of the Nissan.
A turned-up tree trunk, roots to the sky would be a landlocked water dragon seeking revenge. A raven hopping along in front of us on the beach became the Dark One, leading us down an unknown path. The best of the lot, though, was a sizeable broken stone resting on a rock outcropping beside highway seventeen only a hundred or so kilometres from the Manitoba border.
She wrote as I spoke it to life, “A Viking helmet in the stone. I guard thee with my very life.” I loved the idea of the ghostly Viking warrior, chained to the highway’s side for all eternity, or at least until the gods became bored of him.
The Stone Visor, as I called the piece, turned out to be a seven-hundred-word piece of prose that even now I still read. Why it inspires me, I can’t say. It also turned out a short story centred around the same characters. The Warrior is approximately five thousand words, so it’s not the lengthiest story out there, but even now, the premise of the tale moves me.
Talking to people who have traversed the grasslands, say for the most part that they would never do it again. However, I loved the open sky, the prairie dogs, and miles and miles of train tracks leading off to the horizon. I grew up in Dundas, Ontario. The street over from ours had tracks running straight down the middle of it. As a child, I can remember being sung to sleep by the crack of the wheels on the iron rains. To me, the trains of Manitoba and Saskatchewan were something of my dreams.
After hours of driving, we came upon this old, dilapidated farmhouse from the turn of the century. It sat gently atop a large knoll surrounded by golden grass. We passed it by, and without thinking, the message from me to my wife was, “Dustbowl. House ghost waiting for the rains. Calling his love back home.” It was on our way back from our journey, I thought, that maybe his love was in the old cemetery down the road. Her soul trapped where her body fell, never to be found. She now stands silent by the old apple tree where she took her life, her longspun hair blown by an imaginary wind. I’ve kept this to myself until now.
The experience of driving through our vast country was humbling. There’s too much to see even if you have a lifetime to try. Powerlines held by giant steel hands pulling the cables to where the sky meets the earth. Dinosaur bones that spoke of an ancient flood and a mass grave of souls. Everywhere I turned, something or someone was communicating to me. Telling me the implausible stories of a time that is now long gone.
Meares Island British Columbia.
Old Man’s Beard
Played at like a child’s toy
A Dreidel caught with fine spun thread
Crafted lovingly by the hand of God
We walk from our campsite at the apex of our adventure. We find a fine sand path leading down to the ocean. I gaze out on the waters and wonder to myself if someone is standing on the other side, far far away, looking east.
I take a seat beside Keith. He tells me he is listening to the noise of creation. I smile, and I keep it to myself that I can hear the waves crying out as they pound upon the sand, relentlessly driven in its mission to pull the children back to the sea. I can hear the mountains calling from the mainland, crying for their mother’s touch. The mother hears, and the tide begins to roll in, a giant blanket of seafoam and saltwater covers all it can, soothing wherever it touches.
I stare out to sea, standing hand in hand with my love. Twenty-five years of togetherness have us standing barefoot, ankle deep in the Pacific. We are like teenagers on some grand adventure, so in love with the idea of just us.
We stay on the beach looking for shells and pretty stones, scanning the sands for some treasure, for something to bring home as a keepsake, but we leave our prizes for the water to gather. The sun begins to complete its journey for the day, and I look to my lover as the ocean winds play at her hair and I wonder if she could be any more beautiful.
by: Aedyn Brooks (@aedynbrooks)
Have you ever seen a ghost? Common answers are: Yes, No, and Hell no—and never want to.
When I was five, I encountered my first ghost. I probably wouldn’t have remembered her at all, had she not made the continuous loop of a residual haunt, walking often down to the dock where she dove into the murky waters of Moses Lake. In a red dress, white heels and gloves, hair in a flippity-doo, no less. Definitely not dressed to swim. She never answered my questions. She never acknowledged me when I blocked her path. She never came out of the water.
When we moved to the burbs outside Chicago, we took up residence in an old, haunted house. Evil lived there long before we arrived. My bedroom was situated far away from everyone else’s—right off the living room. Old houses creak. Mine had dancing shadow demons, pitchfork and all, on the wall outside my bedroom door. Thing was, a shadow didn’t exist. We never kept curtains open after sundown. Ever. Cardinal rule, up there with the dinner police arriving at 5:01 PM. The demons danced every night. Until I was allowed to sleep with my bedroom door shut.
That’s when the knocking began. Three AM sharp on random mornings I’d jolt awake with three loud knocks at my bedroom door. Sometimes I’d hear heavy footsteps approaching beforehand. It didn’t make it any less terrifying. No way was I answering the door. Whatever knocked wasn’t human. My gut told me to hide under the covers and pray whatever was there would go away.
My early and natural curiosity into the paranormal, like most naïve meddlers, began by looping my friends in to share the experience. We held séances, repeated Bloody Mary three times into a mirror cast in candlelight, and scared the bejesus out of each other with made up ghost stories. One more menacing and terrifying than the last. Who knew that some of those stories would be rivaled by real-life experiences?
Over time, my appreciation for the dead came from my darkest hours. By that I mean when you’ve hit bottom so hard that even looking up held more optimism than mentality possible. My dad died in a horrible accident when I was three, and I’d like to think he’s been my guardian angel since. If anyone had a vested interest in me succeeding, it was him. I’ve felt him brush the hair from my forehead, hold my hand, and even slow my car down by manipulating the engine just in time to break as an oncoming car swerved into my lane—and had I kept at the current speed, would have been hit head on. Angels have your best interest at heart.
I also have a firm belief to be a well-rounded person, you need to find what feeds your mind, body, and soul. There needs to be a quintessential element that brings you joy. Until you find that one thing that brings exhilaration to the key part of what makes you tick, you’re only living a partial life. Often we search every possible avenue validating and confirming this is “not it.” Kind of like how you learn that you like scrambled eggs more than over-easy ones. I have plenty of projects that eventually found their way to the trash bin that brought me more hours of frustration than joy.
For me, I found that joy in writing. At first I wrote procedural manuals, step-by-step lessons for vacation bible camp, and family-fun activities like a geography bee for my children’s elementary school. It wasn’t until I’d read my first romance, well into my thirties, that it woke a part of myself that fed my soul. Happily ever after stories, to me, are the best stories. I read every romance I could get my hands on, until that fateful day I thought…could I write a romance?
Just because I was an avid reader didn’t mean I could write. That’s hard lesson number one for many writers. Self-realization is a valuable tool, if you’re willing to heed feedback from strangers. Writers aren’t rewarded for great imaginations alone. They’re recognized for mastering formulated thoughts, emotions, and conveying every minute detail you need to know as a reader. The same is true with the master mechanic, millwright, lawyer, nurse, or school teacher. In the beginning, we have a lot to learn. Only through time and practice can we proclaim to be proficient. Or at least, better than what we were yesterday, last week, or last year.
The next question I needed to answer was what type (sub-genre) of stories do I want to write? If writing feeds your soul like it does mine, trust me, write something you want to read—you’re going to read it more than anyone. Which of my life experiences left an impression that I’ll never forget? Ghosts, angels, and demons. Paranormal encompasses a broad spectrum of story types, but I don’t write shape-shifting human/bear hybrids, nor aliens from another world. I wanted my readers to know exactly what they’re getting when they (eventually) read my stories. I write haunted romances about haunted lives. Hauntings that raise the little hairs on your arms, and have you double-guessing did you lock the front door? Hauntings that I hope scare you to read, as much as it did for me to live and write them.
It’s taken a lifetime to narrow down what brings me joy. In the end, putting words on a blank page is what fills my soul. A lifetime of experiences with other-worldly beings that I want to share with the world. Please share your haunted experience and tag #MyHauntedLife on Twitter—that’s where I leave some of mine.
Whatever you do…find what brings you joy.
Beneath The Twin Suns An Anthology will be released in late August. Follow Renée Gendron for more details