Sorry Story Time is a day late this week. The blogging schedule got a bit shifted.
I'm pretty excited to present this novel excerpt today for two reasons. One: it has ghosts! And two: it is an example of what happens when your awesome, amazing, omgeverywordofmynovelrocks, writing just has to go. I'm a big fan of killing your darlings, as anyone who's experienced being edited by me knows. No matter how good a piece of writing is, sometimes it doesn't fit in the story you are trying to tell.
Today's story is one of these darlings. After the writer, Kaleen Harding, edited over 12,000 words out of her novel, one of her favorite sections had to get cut. Luckily, it gets to be pasted here! Kaleen is a writer living in Alberta, Canada who is a Registered Nurse by day and paranormal romance writer by night. She's preserving her lost excerpt from her first novel, Nepenthe, about a woman in a small mountain town who is on the run from a ghost who becomes obsessed with her.
Enjoy! And please feel free to send me any of your darlings you want to see preserved.
By Kaleen HardingWe hit the highway. The trees on both sides continued in their muffled blanket of black, towering over us in a wall that sucked the feeble moonlight from everywhere but the weak reflection off the dull pavement. The only distinction between them and an abyss was the subtle movement of their tips against the night sky when a breeze caught them.
Ethan silently drove like a maniac with the gas pedal glued to the floor, despite the turns in the road. It was a good thing that the rest of the town was at the fair—if anyone else had been on the road, we would’ve creamed them.
“Slow down!” I yelled over the wind flapping in my ears, but Ethan ignored me. I turned towards him and reached out to place my hand on his forearm to get his attention. Ethan slammed on the breaks again. I flew into the dash, my side pinned against it from the force. The Jeep jerked to a stop, and I landed back in my seat with an ungraceful “hmph!”
“What the hell, Ethan? Are you trying to kill us both?” I yelled.
Ethan wouldn’t look at me. He was staring blankly at the road in front of us, the dim green lights from the dash casting a sickly glow on his face. He was probably the same shade of green in reality, though.
“Hey, I know that everything tonight has been a shock. Why don’t I drive?” I tried again, remembering how hard this must be for him to process. It had been hard enough for me, and Michael hadn’t been going psycho at the time.
He peeled a tightly gripped hand off the steering wheel, and slowly brought his shaking hand up to point at the road in front of us. I followed with my eyes to see that Michael had appeared again, fully tuned in, and was standing in the middle of the road ahead of us. He was facing us with his feet shoulder width apart, his hands at his sides, and reeking of daring apathy in the washed out gleam of the headlights.
Michael was getting more dangerous, and right now I had the suspicion that talking to him wasn’t going to get us anywhere. If Ethan made him jealous, then I had to talk to Michael alone so that his emotions didn’t set everything off. Ending this was not going to happen tonight.
I reached back to strap on my seat belt. “Drive through him,” I instructed Ethan firmly. He whipped around to give me a questioning look, but still didn’t say anything. “Do it!” I repeated, getting angrier with Michael by the second.
Ethan swallowed hard and put the Jeep into first gear. He started crawling towards Michael at a snail’s pace, as though he was hoping Michael would get the hint and step to the side.
“Punch it!” I demanded.
Ethan shook his head. “But...” he croaked.
“You can’t hurt him, he’s already dead. Now come on.”
He didn’t look convinced. “You sure?”
Michael started sauntering towards us.
“If you can’t do it, then let me drive. Quick,” I said, reaching to undo my seat belt and switch with him. I’d crawl right on top of his lap if I had to.
Before I could move, Ethan hit the gas and tore forward, shifting frantically to keep up our pace. Michael saw us coming and stood his ground, turning sideways so that when we went through him, he would be facing me.
Ethan let out a surprised yelp as Michael’s seemingly solid body went through the front of the Jeep as though he was made of air. His torso stuck up above the hood, and then for a split second he was between Ethan and me, with his chest and shoulders barely visible above the middle consol. In that same second, Michael put out his hand to brush my cheek, his voice calling my name in a whisper that drew out and swirled around us as his body flew through the back of the Jeep. Finally, he was standing on the road, his body illuminated for a brief moment in the red tail lights before being swallowed into the night.
Ethan continued on at a lower speed, but was still going at least twenty over the limit. He pulled up to the curb in front of my house, put the Jeep in neutral, and slowly turned off the engine. He didn’t move any further.
“Are you okay?” he asked cautiously, like I was about to flip out or something.
“I’m fine,” I sighed. “But we need to get into the house so I can banish him if he comes back again.” I took off my seat belt and turned to look down the road behind us, but it was ghost-free.
Ethan didn’t move a muscle. He was looking at me like I was some kind of terrorist that he didn’t want to make any sudden moves around. I didn’t blame him.
“Kate, you just came face to face with a powerful, evil spirit. You should’ve been scared out of your mind, but you were so calm.” It was like he was trying to explain something to a little kid. Did he think I was in shock?
I checked the street in front of us, still no ghost. “That thing is a ghost, and his name is Michael.”