The Witch’s Tombstone Resurrected

After about five months of research and writing, the first draft of The Witch’s Tombstone has been completed. It came in at about 72,000 words, longer than I expected. Whew. Hallelujah.

The writing process never ceases to amaze me. You’d think that after nineteen novels, it would become easier.

It certainly didn’t feel that way with this supernatural thriller. Some days the prose seemed wooden, the dialogue contrived and even a little stilted. Other days I became so immersed in the story and characters, I forgot about my daily word quota—normally 1,500 to 2,000 words. Lost in a dramatic and mysterious world of my imagination, I forgot to eat, forgot to shower, and even forgot to turn the phone on or check social media.

But it certainly wasn’t like that in the early stages. Every writer is different, I suppose. Without doubt, some start a work in progress confidently high on their past accolades, positive reviews and books sales.

But not this scribbling scribe.

To be sure, my books have at times garnered decent sales. And about eighty-five per cent of the reviews are five out of five stars. Perhaps most importantly, when I finish one I won’t release it to the viewing public unless I’m really pleased with it. Unless, regardless of what some naysayers might say, I know it’s a good book.

But that doesn’t seem to stop the self-doubt when I start a new novel. I sometimes ask myself, “Can I still do this? Maybe I’ve used up all my creative juices. Maybe there’s nothing left in the tank. Is this story even going anywhere?”

That usually lasts for about the first 20,000 words or so. After that, as I did with The Witch’s Tombstone, I usually find a groove and the process becomes a little easier and a lot more satisfying. I loosen up and the creativity starts to flow.

Sometimes the satisfaction is difficult to put into words. Indescribable. It’s a kind of magic really when you can take one little idea and spin it into a complicated story with three-dimensional characters, unexpected plot twists and—at least in my case—a heaping helping of macabre, gritty and horrific elements.

To discover that your art contains sub-texts, themes, unexpected layers, and operates on levels that you hadn’t even intentionally constructed, is a small miracle. Finishing up the last chapter of The Witch’s Tombstone, it dawned on me that in many ways the tale is about art mirroring life and life mirroring art. I started to recognize symbolism that I hadn’t consciously intended.

I asked myself, “Did my subconscious intend this? Was it a gift to my conscious?” Whatever it was, it was an incredible moment of elation and gratification, knowing that there were parts of my brain working on the novel while I was doing something else.

In a word, magic.

Writing the last two thousand or so words, I started to wonder if I would have the same emotional response as I had with most of my other titles. Would I get a little teary-eyed knowing my time with my characters, many of whom I’d grown to love, was coming to an end? I hadn’t felt it up to that point so I had my doubts.

You see, this visceral emotional response tells me it’s a decent story. It’s a captivating story. It’s, to borrow words from some of my reviewers, “a real page-turner.”

And then, during a particularly sad and heartbreaking scene, it happened. I felt my eyes well with tears. I felt a little sad. A little elated. Bittersweet. I had to leave the office and take a break before I could return to my keyboard. But when I did, I knew. This story isn’t bad. Not bad at all. Compelling even. People will enjoy this.

I guess that’s why I do it. I was born with a gift. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy to turn a blind eye to our God-given talents? I write because I was born to write. I write because, even with all the agony, despair, and self-doubt, I love it.

I’ve always encouraged my friends and family to pursue their dreams and develop their talents. If we have no passion in our lives, we don’t have much.

So, yes, I’m thrilled that one part of the process has ended and another one is beginning. Editing and rewrites. I’ve started doing some rewrites now—mainly polishing up the last two chapters and the epilogue. I’ve taken many notes and now must systematically go through the manuscript and repair plot holes, fill in backstory, correct technical inaccuracies, dialogue; and obviously punctuation, grammar, spelling and syntax. I do three editing passes of my own and then it’s off to my editor for a professional polish and some honest feedback about the book’s potential.

Maybe I was wrong. But, I doubt it.

Look for The Witch’s Tombstone in bookstores soon. Here’s a short synopsis to whet your appetite.

A troubled young woman cursed with shadowy supernatural powers believes she’s the descendant of an evil witch who was burned at the stake in the 1700s for her heinous crimes.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my rant.

The Witch’s Tombstone Revisited

I hope you’ll be happy to hear I’ve destroyed the writer’s block demon and am moving forward with substantive revision on The Dark Menace and proceeding at a decent clip with The Witch’s Tombstone, my latest work in progress. It didn’t hurt that I took three days off over the weekend and had the opportunity to clear my mind by spending time on my awe-inspiring beachfront property. The beautiful scenery never ceases to invoke a sense of peace and inspiration.

It might have also helped that I had a terrible nightmare the other night in which, armed with a chainsaw, I found myself attacking and indeed slicing and dicing demons with it. It was deeply disturbing but I believe the nightmare acted as a cleansing mechanism of sorts, my mind’s way of taking out the trash.

The Witch’s Tombstone will be a supernatural thriller combining researched elements of the myth of the Prince Edward Island witch Paddy McGuinness, the real life tragedy of Minnie McGee and the legend of the witch of Port LaJoie. It has been reported on social media that Paddy McGuinness supposedly poisoned children in the late 1800s or early 1900s and was publicly hanged for her crimes. I’ve found zero evidence to support these claims, let alone the existence of a female witch called Paddy McGuinness.

The tragedy of Minnie McGee, on the other hand, is a true story of a troubled and abused woman who poisoned many of her children to death in in 1912 by soaking phosphorous matches in tea and giving it to them. She was originally sentenced to hang but the community rallied around her and her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. There is a lot of evidence to support the story and even a book or two on the subject.

Still in the research stages with respect to the witch of Port LaJoie, I’m hoping to find some dark and mysterious facts to add credibility and menace to The Witch’s Tombstone. When I have a clearer idea of where I’m going with it, I’ll post an update. In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here is the prologue. Enjoy.

 

The Witch’s Tombstone Prologue.

The executioner slipped the rope around her neck and grinned through an improvised black balaclava. “You’re going to burn in hell.” He lifted the potato sack from her head and tightened the rope, just enough to pinch skin.

She felt a stinging rope-burn pain. She winced. Her heart rate accelerated. Beads of sweat sprouted on her forehead in the stifling heat. She blinked several times, adjusting to bright sunshine. One sweat ball dripped into her green eye and she squirmed. But she couldn’t wipe it away. Her hands and feet were tightly bound to the gallows with thick rope. She blinked twice more, trying to clear the salty bead of perspiration away. Slowly her vision cleared.

The hangman stepped back and ceremoniously bowed.

Hundreds of onlookers, gathered to witness the public hanging, erupted in applause and then began chanting, “Burn in hell, witch. Burn in hell.”

Minnie McGuinness surveyed the anxious eyes and smiling faces of men, women and children alike. Her quivering lips tightened. She waited until a hushed silence fell over the crowd before speaking. “I’m innocent. I didn’t kill anybody.”

“Burn in hell, witch. Burn in hell.”

“It’s all a big mistake,” she pleaded. “I wouldn’t kill my own children. I’ve been framed. Please… please. Let me go.”

As the crowd of death-hungry people began to erupt again, the executioner turned to them and raised a darkly cloaked arm. “Silence, please.”

He waited until order and calm was restored before continuing. “You, Minnie McGuinness, have been found guilty of starting a cult of heretics. You have also been found guilty of poisoning your own children and poisoning many children of this community—several of whom are now dead as a result of your efforts…”

A cackling-voiced woman interrupted the executioner. “You killed my little Joshua. For that you’ll die.” She flung an egg into the air. It struck Minnie in the head and shattered. Yellow yolk and clear egg-white began oozing down her long black and gray streaked hair and onto her forehead.

“Enough,” the executioner demanded. The cat calls were reduced to a hushed murmur before silence prevailed.

He continued. “As well as heresy and murder, you have also been found guilty of witchcraft. For all of these crimes you have shown no remorse. For all of these crimes you will be publicly executed at the gallows. Death by hanging, after which your evil corpse will be burned at a stake so we might rid the world forever of the evil which you possess. Now is your chance, Minnie, to show remorse and make your peace with God. Do you have any last words?”

She felt egg yolk snake down her forehead, onto her nose and into her left eye. She blinked several times but her left eye vision grew cloudy, elongating the audience into a garish band of circus side show freaks.

She cleared her throat. Might just as well give them a piece of my mind. There’s no hope now. They’ll never believe me. “First of all, I didn’t kill anybody, least of all my own children. My herbal remedies cure the sick. They perform miracles but have nothing to do with witchcraft. For all of my accusers and all the people who framed me, may you all burn in hell. Bunch of religious hypocrite liars. Burn in hell… all of you!”

More jeers, shouts and screams. More flying eggs. More flying rocks. All of them missed the intended mark. Then a hushed silence fell over the crowd as the executioner waved the hand of death.

Minnie heard a sharp metallic clunk, felt the trap door beneath her swing open, and instantly the noose tightened powerfully around her throat. She heard a bone-rattling snapping sound and felt excruciating pain as her last breaths were slowly suffocated out of her.

As her life ebbed away, she watched the crowd, who were now jeering, chanting and clapping. Several eggs and a half a dozen rocks were again flung at her. As if by divine intervention, all of them missed her. However, one egg did splatter the darkly masked face of the executioner, sending him leaping around the gallows and waving his arms in a fit of rage.

As the black curtain of death closed in around Minnie, she imagined herself in a much younger body, in a much better time, living a much better life.

Then she smiled and died.

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave comments below. Have a terrific day.