This is the story about a girl who lived, died, and met a guy… in that order.
Is it possible to find true love and happiness, while condemned to purgatory until the end of days?
Olivia Brennan wasn’t eager to find out. Working for a division of Purgatory and Associates, her job consisted of one headache after another, caused by the impatient souls waiting to move onto eternal paradise. After a hard day at work, she was most content to stay home, watching reruns or reading a book. Aside from a few friends occasionally forcing socialization, her afterlife was nothing special.
That all changed the moment Drake walked into her life. He was handsome, charming, and had a sadness behind his eyes she could relate to. It seemed that Fate had finally brought her a kindred spirit…
But could Olivia move past her own dark regrets of the life she left behind or would falling for him demand the ultimate sacrifice—herself?
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Nicki Scalise lives in Colorado with her husband. They share their home with four dogs and a chinchilla. The animals pretty much run the joint, the humans just pay the bills. Prayer for the Deadis her debut novel.
Open internationally. Signed copies of Apocalypse: An Anthology by Authors and Readers, Paranormal Anthology with a Twist, Prayer for the Dead and Stalkers Anthology (not pictured). There will also be bookmarks, A Prayer for the Dead keychain, and an I <3 Indie Authors bumper sticker.
This is the original opening chapter for Prayer for the Dead. I scraped this scene because I felt it lacked “punch”. I must have reworked the opening to the novel a dozen times before settling on the chapter I chose. This one was missing Olivia’s humor and sarcasm. That’s a key component to understanding the character and it needed to be included upon meeting her for the first time. This chapter hasn’t seen an editor’s pen, so it’s a little rough, but I hope you enjoy reading what could have been.
It was early Friday morning and I had a new arrival due at any moment. I always try to greet them when they first walk in the door. I find it makes the transition easier to see a smiling face or at least it did for me.
At 8:32 on the dot my new ward and her escort breezed through the front doors. The new ward appeared young and a quick peek into her file confirmed my suspicions. Her name was Maggie. She was nineteen years, four months, eight days, fourteen hours and thirty seven minutes old. I shook my head, I hated getting the young ones.
Maggie held her hands tight in front of her. Her short blonde hair barely poked out from beneath the hood of her grey Colorado State University sweatshirt. She had the appearance of a little pixie. Her blue eyes were wide with fear and wonder.
She was accompanied by her Reaper named Hannah. The Reaper was adorned in all white and her long blonde hair gave very little in the way of contrast to her clothes. Hannah had once told me the look was intentional, it gave the impression of purity, someone you could trust. Our eyes met and she stole a side glance at the young woman. She didn’t need to say it but we were both thinking it.
Maggie was too young to be here, too young to have died.
The roads in Colorado had been snowy that morning. Maggie had been on her way to class. Some yahoo driving too fast for conditions, spun into oncoming traffic, hitting Maggie’s car head on. She was killed instantly. Instead of making it to class in time to take her midterm she wound up here, in purgatory.
I approached slowly and met them in the middle of the expansive lobby. I gave a quick nod in greeting to Hannah which she returned before I addressed the co-ed. “Hello Maggie. My name is Olivia and I’m going to be you’re liaison”
I reached out to shake her hand and she reciprocated absently. I spoke clearly using small words. I did this intentionally. Most wards are usually in shock upon arrival. It’s better to reel them in slowly then bombard them with a bunch of jargon that will slip in one ear out the other.
Maggie’s eyes were still sweeping around the lobby but I pressed on “Do you understand what happened and where you are? Did Hannah explain that part to you?”
“Okay, I’ll be taking you on from here.”
Maggie’s eyes stopped scanning. When she spoke there was an edge of panic to her voice “Liaison to what? Taking me where? What does that mean?”
“All it means is that I’ll be taking care of you while you’re here in purgatory and you’re parting ways with Hannah.”
Maggie’s eyes got wide and she grabbed ahold of Hannah’s hand with both of hers. She shook her head emphatically just like a small child under threat of being parted from their mother on the first day of grade school. Maggie didn’t know Hannah any better than she knew me, but Hannah was familiar and that made her safe in this uncertain period of transition. It’s not an uncommon response for the departed to become quickly attached to their Reaper. After all, it’s the first face a soul sees when they die.
Hannah laid her free hand on Maggie’s shoulder keeping her voice calm and soothing as she reassured her that it would be all right and that I could be trusted. The tension started to melt away from the girl’s face as she listened.
Watching a Reaper work has always been fascinating to me. Their magic is similar to hypnotic suggestion and they get this kind of melody to their voice when they are ensorcelling a soul. Ever heard someone who’s had a near death experience say they felt a strange sort of calm wash over them? That would be the Reaper’s doing. They’re present for those near death experiences, they take the souls of those whose time is up and put back the ones that popped too soon. They’re the reason souls end up in my office rather than roaming around aimlessly not knowing how to proceed with their afterlife.
Once Hannah was finished working her mojo, she said goodbye to Maggie. The new ward and I walked down the hallway to the elevators, as we waited for the car to arrive she turned to me. She was fidgeting with the seam of her sweatshirt, her eyes focused on the floor. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure.” I knew what was coming before she even opened her mouth. It’s the same first question I get from everyone passing through the front doors. It was the same first question I had asked.
“Why am I in Purgatory?”
It’s a common misconception that Purgatory is hell. Nothing could be further from the truth. I like to think of life as a flight from New York to Hawaii and purgatory is the layover in Des Moines. Just a quick pit stop while your family and friends pray away your sins so you can move onto the next destination.
You see the moment you die, the sins you committed during the course of your life are tallied. Then it’s up to all the loved ones you left behind to absolve your sins with prayers. The more you sinned, higher the chances you’ll be stuck here for a while. It’s a quota thing. Those prayers don’t necessarily mean a free pass to eternal paradise they just clear the soul so it’s free to move on. Sometimes a soul will move onto Hawaii and sometimes it goes straight to Tijuana.
When I was done reciting the quick cliff notes version, Maggie seemed satisfied with the answer. I knew better though, all new arrivals have a million and one questions, most of which I do not have the answers to. I’m low man on the totem pole here, a glorified desk monkey if you will. I have enough security clearance to my job and not an inkling more.
“How long have you been here?” She asked. The doors to the elevator dinged open and we stepped inside.
The personal questions I hated most. I knew people asked because they were out of their element and wanted to find something familiar to cling to no matter how insignificant. Problem is one answer from me never satisfies. It only opened the flood gates to more questions that I really didn’t care to respond to.
“Ten years.” Her face looked horrified before I quickly recovered “Don’t worry you won’t be here that long. I’m a special case and won’t ever leave.”
She gasped “That’s horrible! Why can’t you leave?”
I punched the button for the second floor as the doors slid shut “Well, because someone has to live in Des Moines.”
Why all genres are important; even the ones you hate
Genre readers will know the feeling of inferiority. That sense that you’re asking for something that’s just wrong. Approach the assistant in a bookshop to ask if they have any fantasy novels, and they’ll shout, ‘How disgusting, you should be ashamed of yourself’, before leaning in and whispering, ‘Meet me out the back in five minutes.’
By virtue of being human, we have a need to put things into categories: people, books, animals, cheese. It’s meant to make things easier for us all, but more often than not it seems that the reason we segment the world around us is simply to make it easier to find something new to hate.
Judging books like we judge danger
Most of this comes from a lack of understanding. We make opinions of everything in a split second. It’s probably a throwback from when we used to be prey for certain things. We had to be able to decide whether that tiger was a threat, or if he just wanted to offer us delicious sugared cereal. Now, we don’t have so many threats, but that ability to make judgements in the blink of an eye remains.
Which is why we often dismiss things which we later come to love, if we give them the chance. Have you ever finished describing something you are trying to recommend to someone by saying, ‘But it’s actually really good’? We know certain things put people off, and we want to pre-empt that judgement.
The literary world verses the speculative fiction realm
For the literary community, the argument against fantasy and science fiction is that they aren’t real. Quite a bold accusation to make for any lover of fiction. If I’m honest, though, a lot of the things that put the literary community off fantasy are the things that embarrass me about the genre I love. Everything is ‘Book 1 of the Such and Such Trilogy’, for example. There’s always prophecies, and so much capitalisation: ‘Of course, that was before The Coming.’ I don’t think there is any other genre where it would have been possible, as it was with fantasy, for me to stop reading a book after 14 pages due to excessive capitalisation.
But you can also argue that literary fiction has its flaws. I’ve read a few literary books during university, and from what I could tell, the whole point of the genre is that nothing happens and that’s apparently a good thing. The author shows off how much they know about a certain subject by ranting on about it at length, then a character sneezes, the book ends, and it’s all supposed to mean something.
Of course, this too is just as bad as the ‘Fantasy is all goblins and pixies’ argument. Each and every genre has its merits. And the real merit of any genre is not what it contains, but what it says.
What does a genre really mean to you?
We all choose the genres we love because those are the ones that speak to us the most. Reading is many things, and I think a big part of it is about belonging, identifying, and engaging. We want to escape to a world we feel completely comfortable in, and to jump into the life of another and instantly connect with their story. Does it matter if that love story is about 18th century nobles or an elf and a man? I don’t think so. My inferiority complex that stems from being a speculative fiction writer tells me that the latter sounds silly, but I try to ignore it.
Paranormal romance is big right now, and appeals mainly to teenage girls. The rest of us may look down on it, but of course it doesn’t speak to us. It’s not meant to. The genre’s popularity with that demographic comes from the fact that it talks to a part of them that none of the rest of us can. Which is what makes reading a book an incredibly personal experience.
Different genres have meaning to different people. They communicate different ideas, concepts and philosophies. To dismiss one genre because it doesn’t mean anything to you is like dismissing all the languages in the world that you can’t speak. In our quest for connection, different things will satisfy our desires and needs. Part of the magic of being human is that we are all unique. Why should we scoff at the fact that individuality has produced a raft of different ways in which to tell a story?
All genres are important, even the ones you hate.
About Rewan Tremethick
Rewan is a semi-bearded writer with tight jeans and a sometimes irrepressible need to create surrealist comic metaphors. When not spending his time writing as a freelance copywriter, he is spending his time writing as a novelist. Rewan has written two niche murder mystery books for Personal NOVEL, which you can have printed to your specifications, including changing the characters names for your own. His debut novel, Fallen on Good Times, about the soft-boiled paranormal detective Laslo Kane, is due to be published in March 2014 by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing.
Karen invited me to answer this question on her blog. This is my humble opinion, but since copy editing is also my business, you’re right to be somewhat skeptical of my answer. There will be authors who disagree with me. But if you research the topic, you’ll find I’m not the only one—writers included!—who feels this way.
First, let me assure you wholeheartedly—You Are the Expert on Your Book.
Not me, nor any other editor. You. You wrote it, you’ve revised it (hopefully), you’ve researched it—they’re your ideas and hard work. A copy editor’s job is to ensure, to the best of her ability, that the manuscript (MS) contains no errors, that it has been written as well as possible, and that you shine like the star you are. After all, you finished writing an entire MS! Do you know how marvelous that is? Do you realize how many “writers” start a book—or more than one—and never finish? <Applause>
So, you may ask, “If I’m such a wonderful expert, why do I need you?” Great question!
It’s because you are such an expert on your MS that you are physically incapable of finding all the errors. Be honest. Can you look at your MS objectively? Can a new mother—after nine months of pregnancy and hours of hard, sweaty labor—impartially see the wrinkled, scaly, misshapen being just introduced to her? No. Only the unbiased eyes of another can detect the flaws while still appreciating the baby for the miracle it is.
You are welcome—and definitely encouraged!—to use all the revision techniques you can find: read your MS aloud; read it backward, word by word or paragraph by paragraph; search for the “ly” adverbs, the “to be” verbs, and the “could/would”s to see if they’re necessary. Have at least two beta readers give you their feedback, be involved in a critique or writers’ group, and put your MS away for several weeks before reviewing a final time and running a concluding spell check.
If you don’t want to bother with all that work, definitely hire a professional copy editor. And if you do take the time to accomplish those tasks, hire a professional copy editor anyway. Trust me; inevitably, there will be something you missed. On an important marketing promotion for myself, which I pored over for hours, I missed “PalPal Accepted.”
Your eyes will read what you believe you wrote or wanted to write. A copy editor will read what you actually wrote.
Perhaps after publishing without an editor, you will be lucky to find only simple errors, like inconsistent use of toward/towards, overuse of a pet word or action, or a “he” that should have been “her.” Or it might be something much worse, like a character name change missed half the time, stating that Harlem is downtown from the Planetarium in New York City, or misspelling your own name or the title. Don’t think it can’t happen to you! These are real-life examples from MSS I’ve copy edited.
You spent a lot of time, hard work, and sleepless nights on your MS. Whether you’re self publishing or submitting to an agent or publisher, don’t you want it to be the best it can be?
Copy editing is not a luxury or an unnecessary expense. It’s an investment. High-quality material results in higher sales. And good editing doesn’t have to cost a fortune. There are many professional, affordable editors available.
Want to know more about Susan Uttendorfsky and Adirondack Editing? ClickHERE.