Before Agent Cloud Beaudry can close the book on the Slave Quarter case, there’s one last objective, which brings him to the scenic city of Savannah, Georgia. You see…Cloud is one of those rare individuals who takes his vows very seriously. Even if it was a promise made to a ghost.
The Slave Quarters
Chapter 22 – Back to Work
By Rock Kitaro
The coastal city of Savannah should be called the City of Spanish moss. There are giant oak trees at every turn and the aged moss hangs like garland throughout the year. It’s the oldest city in Georgia, a history replete with tales of the Civil War, colonial pirates, and remnants of the grand Old South.
Its college town atmosphere reminds me of Athens, except it has more character reminiscent of antebellum class and sophistication. Horse-drawn carriages are one of the key stables for tourism. The many churches, statues, monuments, and Victorian age street lights…it makes the city a time capsule by which one could escape from the modern world. Liberal Arts is huge in the area. Even on a crisp Thursday afternoon, one could hear a distinct cello or some classical string arrangement carrying with the wind.
It’s not my first time to Savannah. To date, I’ve solved three cases here. The last one involved the disappearance of a teacher who was so fascinated with the pirate folklore that she managed to get herself trapped in an old dungeon. By the time I found her, the rats had stripped her to the bone. The graphic image has scarred my mind and ever since, I’ve dreaded the idea of coming back. Between Savannah, Charleston, and New Orleans…the ghosts really are the worst.
Thankfully, I’m not here on official business. I moseyed on down after stopping by Augusta to testify at Det. Griffin’s Internal Affairs hearing. It’s been one whole week since I helped solve the Slave Quarter mystery. Det. Griffin was still a mess but my guilt no longer held me down. Griffin will probably spend the next three years in and out of the psych ward. And here I am indulging on a decadent dish of shrimp and grits at a highly recommended kitchen near Hutchinson Island.
It’s a satisfying meal. My belly is full and my schedule is clear for the rest of the afternoon. So as per usual, I seek out aesthetic beauty in the form of quaint scenic parks where I’m least likely to find horrible humans beings. Notice how I said “horrible”. I don’t mind the company of other humans so long as they’re good and decent. It’s been my experience that horrible human beings don’t bask in nature’s glory. If they do, it’s rare and brief.
The golden sun glistens through the browning crowns of Reynolds Square. The blue jays and robins are tweeting their lovely tunes as they bathed in the jade waters of a trickling green fountain. I’m wearing khakis and a cream-colored sweater vest over my shirt and tie. The cool breeze and a soothing scent of jasmine makes me feel lighter than a feather.
Indie Rock plays in my earbuds as I stroll the park on a grass stained walkway of maroon colored bricks. My mood is so chill, so cool. That rare sensation of “be free” enters my bloodstream causing my hands to wave along with the groove of the guitar. My shoulders bounce along with the beat. I don’t care who sees me, it’s all good. It’s all gravy. Dog walkers and joggers smile as they pass by. Single mothers are checking me out. I smile and nod to everyone. These are good people. It’s a good day.
I should be heading back to Atlanta. I have to work in the morning. Apparently Jessica and Leanne picked up a gangland murder that threatens to break the stability of Atlanta’s most prominent mob family. It wasn’t my case, and yet, for some stupid reason I feel responsible for those women. Call me chauvinistic if you want, I don’t care. They are my women and I protect my women. Yes, it’s this old-fashion obligation that compels to make one final stop before getting back on I-16. When a man makes a promise, he follows through. It’s just one of those things.
Cloud and Jessica attend the heartwarming wake of KeNedra Thompson. Here, Cloud finally releases the floodgates of so much emotion. He receives comfort from KeNedra’s mother and in return…Cloud is able to give her something from KeNedra.
The Slave Quarters
Chapter 21 – Warmth
By Rock Kitaro
– Mika “Happy Ending”
There are things about African Americans that I can’t help but find truly endearing. For starters, there’s the gospel music, a genre that’s been stuck in my head for the past few days. I hope Miranda’s burning a CD for me when I get back.
But also…when it comes to church congregations, the unity, warmth and acceptance. It’s in times of tragedy or celebration that these people really know how to put aside their differences and treat one another as family. Everyone is a brother or sister, momma or pops. You feel loved. You feel supported. Even the few Caucasians are embraced and welcomed with warmth.
I wish this sentiment could carry on every day. I wish strangers, pedestrians, and passengers could see one another in the same light regardless the circumstance. I wish they’d put down their phones and look each other in the eye; say hello, smile and don’t be afraid to step out of their bubble. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. Talk to someone. Learn something new. The world is too big to confine yourself to one ideal, one culture. As long as your faith is strong, there’s nothing to fear and you’ll never be offended.
Some people slight the south, calling it “the Bible Belt” as if that’s a bad thing. In my opinion, it’s the “Bible thumpers,” those who embrace the “God first” mentality, those are the people I’d want to surround myself with. These people have an optimism I severely lack. Theirs is a pure beauty that shines through my gloom and melancholy. They have an ability that, to me, seems almost superhuman in the sense that I find it impossible to ever emulate.
That ability…is forgiveness.
The wake of KeNedra Thompson takes place at the Goshen Heights Community Center. It’s a huge turnout. KeNedra’s classmates, friends, relatives, and various figures from the majorette community have come to bid farewell. The parking lot is packed with vehicles having to park curbside along the streets of the neighboring houses.
The golden lawn of browning grass is garnished with sprinkled red leaves. The maples themselves still have plenty of foliage in their vibrant crowns as the morning sun trickles through the canopy. It’s brisk but warm enough for people to leave their heavy coats in the car. Thus, everyone is donning their Sunday’s best, black if they had it.
Leanne elects to stay in the rental while Jessica accompanies me to the front entrance. We’re dressed corporate but don’t intend to stay long. Her beauty and my bruises draw unwanted attention yet, oddly enough, I’m not nervous. In fact, I’ve found that when I’m attending public events with a purpose that transcends the sole act of socializing, I function much better. My agoraphobia remains subdued. My heart remains stout. The bouquet of yellow roses in my arms serves as my olive branch.
The reception lobby’s loud and congested. It’s a wake, sure, but there are so many reunions going on. Jessica hooks onto my arm as I see “brothas” checking her out. I smirk and nod their way. They nod back as if to congratulate and say, “Aight, now. Gah head.”
Two girls wave at me. I reciprocate, marveling at their charm, their modest attire providing a glimpse of the mature women they’ll one day become. It’s Jacqui and Meghan, the two prominent members from KeNedra’s majorette team. They’re surrounded by friends from other teams, all high school students, glowing with blooming youth and promise.
Like the guys, the girls seem surprised to see Jessica with me. I know she’s out of my league, but I confess, my ego starts to swell as Jessica squints with a playful glare as if I’ve forgotten the majorettes are all minors. I whisper if she’s jealous. She responds by merely jutting her chin and batting those long lashes.
Nearing the banquet hall, I spot two familiar faces dressed in sharp purple vests over their black attire. They have to do a double-take to recognize me with the patch under my eye and the queen by my side. Immediately, the brothers erupt with laughter and disbelief as their friends stand puzzled.
“What in the hell happened to you?!”
“This man stay in trouble, boi. Shieet! Hahaha!”
“For real, though. Is there ever a fight you’re not involved in?”
“Straight up! Can’t take this dude nowhere.”
“You know what? Shut up, both of you,” I chuckle.
Jessica releases to let me embrace the brothers in that awkward hand-clap pull-hug technique that I never truly mastered.
“Bruh! You really need to learn how to fight or something!” says O’Shea.
“Forgive me, but I do seem to recall slinging one of you over a sofa set.”
Jamar laughs, clapping his hands as their young friends turn wide-eyed in shock. Apparently O’Shea is known for his prowess and the fact that this here white boy bested him is somewhat hilarious.
“Ah, man! I wasn’t even ready. You came out of nowhere with that kung fu shit. I got you back though! Look at his face. Hey! Look at his face.” O’Shea brags.
“Yeah. You got me back.”
“Anyways! Who dis?” Jamar asks.
“Yeah, Cloud. Who am I?” Jessica asks, flustered to just be standing there in awkward silence.
“I’m sorry. This is one of my best friends and colleagues, Agent Jessica Arroyo. Her expertise was pivotal in solving the case. She used to work for the FBI so, yeah. Best watch your back.”
“Okay! Okay! I’m Jamar Thompson aka JT Smooth. This my little brother O’Shea aka O’Sssh!”
O’Shea tries to give Jessica a hug but Jessica juts her hand like a spear, preventing him from coming too close. The disappointment on O’Shea’s face is priceless.
“You’ll have to excuse their profanity, Jessica. I assure you, I have been working with them about that.”
“Um. Profanity is just an expression by which we add emphasis. Can’t help it if society wants to demonize the practice.” Jamar explains.
“Well said.” Jessica compliments.
“No! Jessica, please. For the love of God do not encourage it.”
On the outskirts of Augusta, Georgia, the bodies of five young women are found on the slave quarters of abandoned plantations. Initially, Jessica Arroyo and Leanne Donaldson of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are assigned to investigate but Cloud insists on getting involved. It’s not that he doesn’t trust the ladies to handle a case of this magnitude, but he recognizes the name of the local lead detective. The last thing he wants is for history to repeat itself.
Chapter 5: The Next Case By Rock Kitaro
It’s half past one when I return to the 4th floor of GBI headquarters. It looks like Jessica has claimed the cubicle next to Leanne, just one seat away from me.
While I was at the library, Leanne gave Jessica the grand tour of GBI facilities. Leanne went to great lengths to impress the new recruit with her clout and extensive knowledge of statistics. They seem to have hit off like old besties united.
Jessica…It’s been five years but I can tell the prime of your life will carry well into your fifties. From her awkward smile and kind laughter, Jessica’s already figured out that Leanne’s inappropriate workplace humor doesn’t just stop at the occasional one-liner. Like everyone else, Jessica made up her mind to get used to it. Wise, Ms. Arroyo. Very wise. You have indeed matured. And here I am, gawking at you from the hallway with hooded eyes like a hungry velociraptor stalking a foolhardy zookeeper.
“You’ll get used to how loud everyone is on the phone. And if you really need to get away, I usually step into one of the conference rooms. Hahaha! You might need to do that from time to time,” Leanne says, speaking twice as loud as everyone else.
Jessica is still unpacking to decorate the cubicle as she replies with, “That’s good to know. I’m not too worried about it. I grew up in a house full of women. You had to learn to sleep through loud raggae-ton playing all hours of the night. This doesn’t even compare.”
“Oh? So you have a big family?”
“Oh yes!” Jessica says as she sets a picture of herself and another young woman.
“Is that your sister?”
“My baby Angel. Haha, literally. Her name is Angel. She’s starting her final semester at Georgia Tech.”
“Kudos! I have sisters. But ones a stingy bitch and the others a coke whore. So what are you going to do?” Leanne says as if she’s talking about spilled milk.
“Oh! That’s not good,” Jessica says, keeping her chin tucked to hide her high brows.
“Tell me about it! I was on assignment when my mom died two years ago and by the time I came back, these airheads had already squandered our inheritance on a busted up house on the Southside. They wanted to flip it and turn a profit. But really, what they meant was that they wanted me to do all the work, hire the contractors, coordinate with HOA. Girl! I don’t have time for that?” Leanne says, giggling at the absurdity.
“So what did you do with it?” Jessica asks.
“I fixed it up a little and let them live in it. They’re paying rent until I recover on the construction costs.”
“Very smart!” Jessica nods with an approving grin.
“That’s right. I might be an old bird but I still know how to make lemonade out of life! Hahaha!” Leanne boasts.
“You’re not old, Leanne,” I say, approaching with sweat beginning to muster.
The ladies turn in unison. The instant I lock eyes with Jessica, time stops. Sparks fly and that warm sensation of heartfelt adoration washes over. That’s not to sound romantic. I’m not trying to be romantic. I’m trying to stay on my guard. My poker face is rock solid. I don’t know what she’s been up to all these years and I don’t want to give her the upper hand by showing all my cards like I used to.
However, this is unexpected. Here I am, thinking some unsettled dispute would surface. But Jessica’s caring eyes settle on me with such joy. It’s like she actually missed me. A snort escapes from her cupped laughter before the woman glides over and wraps me in an embracing hug. So warm. Her smooth cheeks press against mine. I feel the air in her lungs, the heartbeat against my chest. Even as I raised my arms to hug her back, I exercise caution. My palms graze the toned muscles in her back ever so lightly and I confess, I simply melt.
“What uh…what’s going on here?” Leanne asks as she and several onlookers were dying to know.
Jessica releases me. I straighten out my blazer and try to get a hold of myself.
“I’ve known Cloud since forever. He’s like the brother I never had. Seriously, he’s probably the most decent man I’ve ever met. You probably noticed, right? Let me guess. Annoyingly polite. Always apologizing. Self-sacrificing. The kind of guy who would give up the last chair just so you could sit. The epitome of chivalry. I’m sorry! Hahaha! I’m just so happy to see you! I can’t believe it!” She says, cupping her mouth with jovial laughter.
“Jessica. Good grief,” I mutter in a deep blush.
The office curiosity is satisfied. Her description of me settles in their mind that I’m locked in the “friend-zone,” an idea they’re more than willing to tolerate.
For those still scrambling for the pieces, allow me to introduce special investigator, Cloud Beaudry. When people think of spoiled, entitled, Millennials with bad work ethics who complain about everything…let’s just say that Cloud forces everyone to rethink those stereotypes. And it probably has something to do with the fact that he’s tormented by a curse that allows him to hear and see ghosts all the friggin time. And of course, when you know secrets that are supposed to be buried, you tend to make enemies among the living.
Five years ago his mother was killed and the local police was quick to pass it off as an accidental suicide. It was a dark, depressing time in his life where Cloud was on the verge of ending it all. Then he met Maggie. And for seemingly no reason at all, she helped him avenge the death of his mother. Cloud was grateful. So grateful, in fact, that he vowed to hunt down those responsible for killing Maggie back in 1959. And unfortunately, there are still names on the list.
Chapter 3 – Meritocracy
By Rock Kitaro
It’s a brisk morning, just before the auburn glow makes its ascent. I was once told that this is the best part of my day and it goes downhill from here. But that’s just a matter of perspective, one I choose not to entertain. There’s nothing like busting out a 5K at five in the morning. There’s no one around. Barely any traffic. With Korn’s “Take a Look in the Mirror” album blasting through my earbuds, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come. It doesn’t make me proud, it just… it strengthens my resolve. And I need that strength. Else I would have killed myself a long time ago.
For those still scrambling for the pieces, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Cloud Beaudry. Ever since I was a child, I’ve always been able to hear, see, and feel the presence of the dead.
It started with my ancestors during the Salem Witch trials. The family matriarch wasn’t a witch herself, but was hanged for speaking up in their defense. Since then, a wretched curse has been passed down the Beaudry line from generation to generation.
This curse…you can call it a curse, however, I choose to believe it’s just some twisted sick coincidence. For instance, every generation in my family gave birth to just one scion. Every family member died before they reached the age of forty-five. And nearly everyone has been regarded by his or her peers as crazy or delusional. I’m probably the first to embrace the paranormal instead of letting it drive me insane.
To me, the traditional concepts of weird or normal are no longer relevant. I’ve trained this ability to interact with the dead so well that it’s now about as familiar as my sense of sight or sound. I know. It sounds unbelievable. That’s why there’s only one person on Earth I’ve told this to.
I’m only thirty but the atrocities I’ve faced have advanced me well beyond the years of any average Millennial. That might sound like I’m bragging but I’m not. Dread doesn’t even begin to describe my life. When I was growing up, I couldn’t remember a single night that I didn’t hear people screaming for help. Dark twisted faces, weeping dead children, relentless murderers and the toe curling sounds of ripping flesh and wet hacking…I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone.
Dark eye circles of sleep deprivation stayed with me until I was at least twenty-one. It was during that year that something snapped in me. My mother. She was raped for the second time and nearly beaten to death. I’ll never forget sitting by her hospital bed with a permanent scowl lined with crusted dried tears. I never had any best friends. I never had a social life where people sought me out. But paranoia and fear followed me every day of my life almost as constant as the sun and the moon.
It was fear of letting shit like that happen to my mother again, the paranoia of forever being a loser, the butt of the jokes, and everyone’s punching bag. It was fear of failing to make something out of myself. The fear of going mad by watching the rotten assholes move up in the world while decent honest hardworking individuals are stepped on because they lack “ruthless ambition.”
I won’t say I embraced the fear. I only use it as motivation. I turned this negativity into a fuel for production. It’s what prompted me to take my fat ass in the gym and shed 140lbs over the span of four years. I dropped from 320lbs to a healthy, athletic180. Working out and martial arts became a source of therapy for me, an outlet for my frustration. It was fear that prompted me to stay in shape, which is why I’m on this exhilarating jog around my subdivision.
As far as my encounters with dead people, I’ll not go so far as to say I’m no longer terrified, but it’s more like I gradually adopted an air of defiance. I strengthened my mind and stopped worrying about what ghosts could or couldn’t do to me. I laid awake on countless nights watching the blinds rattle and the shadows crawl along the ceilings. Then I’d close my eyes and drift to sleep, fully aware that I may never wake up again. If any demented phantom stared at me from the fog or through some milky reflection or behind that dead tree in the distance, I’d glare right back at them.
If they wanted to kill me, they were more than welcome to try.
After my mother was raped, I switched majors and enrolled into law school. I would’ve preferred to send assholes off to prison as a prosecutor, but defense attorneys made way more money. The idea was to get a good paying job so my mother could quit waitressing and stop sleeping with every flannel-wearing cowboy who just so happens to throw a wink at her.
That plan went up in flames just days before I was about to graduate. After four years of endless studying, of sacrificing the holidays and weekends to climb my way to the top of my class, someone went off and killed my mother. Her body was found floating beneath a bridge on the outskirt of Athens.
The police heard about her promiscuous reputation with men. They also heard from neighbors and co-workers that she believed in aliens and claimed she could speak to ghosts. Eventually, the detectives ruled her death as an accidental suicide. They said she got drunk, bumped her head on the railing, and tumbled over to drown. She was only forty-two.
I can’t even begin to describe how livid I was. My worst fears had come true. This woman was my life! She was the reason why I toiled so hard, put up with so much shit, why I sacrificed so much. Nothing else mattered. We had come so far! Only for it to end like this!?
No one showed up for her funeral. It was just me and fifty white chairs on a cold rainy day. The rage in my heart, it forced me to ask questions no decent human being should ever need to ask themselves. The police were wrong. I knew it from the get-go but as a mere law-grad I was powerless to do a damn thing about it. The outcry of inner demons demanded an audience and to be honest, I was about ready end the torment once and for all. Perhaps it was hitting rock-bottom that lured me to Maggie.
Florence meets Maggie. Or rather…they’ve already met. And last time Florence checked, Maggie was dead.
Warning: Contains a Graphic Haunting
Chapter 2 – Horrid Sounds by Rock Kitaro
Florence gets an uneasy four hours of sleep before waking up in a cold sweat. It’s just a few minutes past midnight. Her throat is parched but it’s the discomfort from her drenched blue nightgown that prompts her to open her weary eyes. She doesn’t get up right away. She’s too tired. The AC is set to 70 degrees on an already frigid November evening but her bedroom feels moist and warm. So she lies there, contemplating if she should try and sleep through it.
It isn’t until she raises her knee that her heel drags along the bed. She feels an alarming puddle of fluids as if her foot was sinking into a soggy sponge mattress. She sits up, whipping off her sheets with a frantic gasp before the cracking bones in her back reminds her of her age. Shadow stripes from the window blinds line across her face as she sits on the edge of the bed, planting her balmy feet to the wooden floor.
She wipes the bangs from her forehead with a puzzled look. The beads of perspiration once there was now gone. She reaches over and slides a hand across the sand colored bed sheets. It’s dry. She checks the dent in her pillow. It too is dry.
After a soft confusing chuckle, a relieved Florence lies back down and pulls the sheets over her body. As soon as she does, a thousand fingers rush up from the mattress desperately trying to grip at her flesh from her shoulders down to her ankles in a straight line like a tidal wave approaching the shores of her body. The fingers stay submerged under the bed sheets but violate her with the unnerving strength of a groping maniac trying to peel at her wrinkled skin.
Florence gapes open with a groaning shriek. Entire hands jolt through the sheets to wrap around her legs, slithering, grabbing, closer and closer up her thighs like a determined molester on a mission. In a frantic struggle, Florence’s thrashes herself off the bed.
She lands in a hard thud before crawling to the wall. Her heart’s racing. She’s crazy-eyed and panting like a jarhead in boot camp. The patio light goes dim. She reaches for the lamp on the nightstand. It’s not working. The digital clock says zeros in all slots.
Suddenly, the entire house begins to tremor. Rocks grind with the loud tenacity of a jackhammer on cement. The wooden floorboards crack and splinter as they shift and bend upward of their own volition. The walls contract, popping streams of chalky white plaster like water bursting from a pool. A web of cracks stretch across the windows and the bed sheets bulge as if a monstrous anaconda was emerging, slithering from one corner of her bed to the other, slowly approaching Florence.
The defiant shout comes from the other side of the closed bedroom door. It was a deep bass-heavy voice, hollow and it echoes. Splintering bangs boomed one after another. As if someone was pounding a nail gun into the floor.
“NO! NO! AAHAAYAK!!! OW-HOW-HOW-HOW!!!”
Florence’s imagination takes her to a dark place where murky death invaded and demanded her attention. All of her worst fears consume her at once.
The screams get louder, more desperate, more dire. The hard mechanical pumps of the nail gun were driving sharp metal into someone’s flesh. She hears it, the tearing of tendons, the wet patter of blood splattering on the floor. The harsh guttural cry was from her husband… Her husband! Florence recognized the voice to be that of James Leach crying out in agony.
The elderly Florence Leach has a dark secret she’s kept buried for over 50 years. She’s been able to move on, get married, have children and even grandchildren. Then…one day she welcomes Cloud Beaudry into her home. And let’s just say he didn’t come for the tea.
Chapter 1 – Old Smiles
by Rock Kitaro
I should’ve known better. Smiles are so deceptive. Even in her advanced age, it seems wisdom has yet to falter. Still sharp as a whip. Makes things tricky, a bit difficult, but not impossible. Just take notice and tread with caution. For behind those disarming eyes is a tomb fill with secrets. But I’m a man on a mission and I’ve come to dig.
Florence Leach is a longstanding resident of Macon, Georgia. Her children and grandchildren are all of adult age. Each of them well established, either in college or pursuing some profession. The husband, James Leach, died in 2001 not long after the Towers fell.
Those were some depressing times. But from what I heard, the community rallied around her and gave her the strength she needed to carry on. Since then, she’s gone on to publish a number of whimsical children’s books good enough to give Mother Goose a run for her money.
Yes, if she were my grandmother I’d have every reason to be proud of her. Indeed her grandchildren were very proud. In an effort to maintain such affections, Florence made sure to keep her Southern two-story dream house in order.
Her front lawn was mowed recently, groomed, and edged behind a white picket fence. She must have hired a cleaning crew for the five bedrooms and two baths. There wasn’t a speck of dust on the cabinets or the gilded framed portraits adorning the walls. The area rugs were vacuumed, especially the hazelnut carpeting over the staircase. The kitchen had dark hardwood flooring and there was an exquisite dining table that was so polished you could your own reflection.
She entertains me in the formal study with afternoon light flowing through the windows. Silver platters gleam from the China cabinet. The luster fluctuates from clouds moving in and out of the sun’s way. It’s all so very quaint, really.
Before this day, Florence and I had never met. She didn’t know who I was or what I was about, yet she welcomed me in with such zeal. Perhaps it was my well-groomed appearance, my youth, combed blond hair or unblemished tan. Perhaps it was the sincerity she saw in my brown eyes that lulled her to trust and confide in me as so many have done before. She knew I was an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, but that’s not why she granted me an audience.
Ms. Florence was simply lonely. And I was new. The intrigue was mutual.
Everyone’s heard of at least one ghost story. Well, try living it every day of your life. That’s s what Cloud Beaudry’s had to do.
The voices of screaming victims, the apparitions of relentless killers have tormented the man ever since childhood. And after the death of his mother, Cloud embraced his ability to communicate with the departed and enlisted the help of vicious young ghost named Maggie. With Maggie by his side, Cloud is able to digs up secrets from the grave. And anyone who gets in his way just might find themselves haunted to death.
The bodies of five abducted majorettes are discovered on the old abandoned plantations around Augusta, Georgia. One girl managed to escape, only to die under mysterious circumstances in police custody. This all happens in the hometown of GBI Agent, Cloud Beaudry. He knows the Black Community won’t stay silent. Time is of the essence and Cloud is determined to get to the truth.
As much as he’d like to devote all of his deductive prowess to the case, several factors stand to distract him.
For starters, Cloud has to work with Det. Mark Griffin, the same detective who botched his mother’s homicide five years earlier. Transferring into Cloud’s unit is the brilliant Jessica Arroyo, an old flame who could easily discover his paranormal secret if he lets his guard down. And finally there’s Maggie the unfriendly ghost. Cloud promised to avenge her 1959 murder and there are still names on her hit list. Maggie’s growing impatient.
“The Literary Tempest and Combative Seas” A Stage in the Sky Update by Rock Kitaro Date January 23, 2017
DNA ft. Suzanne Vega – “Tom’s Diner – Long Version”
If this is your first time here allow me to introduce myself. My name is Rock Kitaro. I’m an author specializing in the themes of revenge, rivalry, and rebellion. However, I’m thinking about adding romance to that list because “love” is almost always the main source of motivation for my characters. They just don’t know it. Neither do I.
I haven’t reached my goal of signing with a traditional publishing house yet, but I will. And when I make the best-sellers list you can look back on this piece as a proof of perseverance. I hope it encourages others who are coming up to plan on running the marathon, don’t quit after the sprint.
Allow me to begin by saying that the reason why I’ve exercised restraint in posting so much this past year was because I thought it would be prudent to say as little as possible. Ever since I was 23, I’ve committed myself to succeeding as an author in the publishing industry.
I’ve sacrificed weekends, holidays, vacations, money, and heart-felt relationships to get this far and I don’t want to ruin it by shooting myself in the foot. I thought that being an artist meant freedom and liberty through self-expression, but that’s a problem if your opinions aren’t welcomed by those whom you need to progress in this industry.
It’d be one thing if I was a non-fiction writer in which my platform was built upon provocative opinions as if that’s exactly what you were going to pay for with my books. However, I am a fiction novelist. I have to present myself to agents and publishers as someone worthy of investment. Allow me to explain.
“Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan” – popularized by John F. Kennedy
They say that silence is a sign of consent. I don’t think so. I believe that a wise man knows when to exercise patience, bide his time, and strike when the time is right. At present, the scene is chaotic. The waters are rough. Those who sail these seas are bound to get lost, stranded, or shipwrecked. Some have made it though. Some because they had head start. Others, because they don’t mind riding the waves created by the first adventures. And there are those who have emerged because they’re that damn good, far better than myself. Like, Roshani Chokshi. Her writing is ridiculously beautiful. And that’s alright. That’s okay.
With so many every day bravely joining the fray, I can’t help but wonder if my patience is really a sign of cowardice. As I get older I see my peers entering the next stages of their life while I continue on this road I’ve been traveling for seven long arduous years. Then, I think of the scene from HBO’s “Rome” where a young Octavian says, “The graveyard is full of middling swordsman. Best not to a swordsman at all than a middling swordsman.”
When I started self-publishing in 2011, I had no idea what I was up against. I didn’t think of trends or what was in-demand for the market. I simply wrote what I wanted in my own voice with the hopes that others would like it too. I had no idea about the highly selective nature of agents or publishers. I assumed that if you created a great, original story and show them something new, you’re in.
I won’t go so far as to say I was naïve, but I will say there’s more to it than that. It appears that after the success of books-turned-movies franchises like “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight,” and the “Maze Runner” everyone and their mothers have flocked to the publishing industry with the next best idea.
In 2012, when I self-published“The Three Kings of Ybor,”my e-books were just seven of 300,000 published that year on Amazon Kindle. I predict the number has only increased over the years as Hollywood continues to blast trailers that start with that deep husky voice saying, “Based on the best-selling novel.”
This isn’t a complaint. To realize what you’re up against and state it clearly shouldn’t be considered complaining. It makes things difficult but not impossible. In fact, it only makes the reward of success that much sweeter. If Lord Byron’s climb to success was but a hill on the beach, then mines will be to the top of Mount Everest. And beneath my feet will be the millions of books published by those shipwrecked, stranded, and lost.
But still…just as one wouldn’t climb Everest in the middle of winter, it’s best not to join the arena when destruction and obscurity is certain and swift. Until then its best that I build my ships, fortify its defenses and stock up for a voyage in which I might not reach land for many years. And build, I have.
By the end of 2015, I finished my flagship masterpiece called, “The Pierce Syndicate.” I promoted it to Literary Agents for a just a little over a month. This isn’t nearly enough time for me to call it a viable campaign, but something happened to me.
I confess, I became doubtful. Not because my story wasn’t ridiculously awesome but because “The Pierce Syndicate” is a huge project, well over 46 chapters and separated in two volumes. I put myself in the shoes of an editor at a traditional publishing house and asked “why would I take a chance on such a big project from a new author?”
The answer is, I wouldn’t. Not without recommendation. Especially these days where the entertainment industry leans heavily towards pop culture, an area I don’t like to be associated with.
Thankfully, God took pity on me. In the depths of my doubt, I honestly feel that the greatest creator noticed me standing alone under that single lamppost in the night’s freezing rain. He saw me look up to the sky and ask him, “What should I do?”
I think he smiled. Because in the span of a three-day weekend I dreamt of a new story in its complete entirety. I couldn’t believe it. The entire story, beginning, middle, and end just hit me like an epiphany. If that’s not a blessing, I don’t know what is.
In February of 2016 I set about writing “The Slave Quarters,” a crime mystery featuring my characterCloud Beaudry and his bundle of sunshine, the conniving ghost Maggie. I’m afraid of writing the plot here because it’s never been done and I don’t it to be stolen. But the coolest thing about this story isn’t even the plot. It’s the first-person narrative in which you’re put in the shoes of a very manipulative (for a good cause), misanthropic detective who’s chalk full of hidden agendas and ulterior motives. I think that’s what makes him so human though. Because I believe almost everyone has ulterior motives. The only difference between Cloud Beaudry and most people is that he’s aware of it. It’s very entertaining, just wait and see.
The “Slave Quarters” took me only three months to write from beginning to end and it was the coolest thing about 2016 by far. I enjoyed it so much. I’ve never been on a cruise. I’ve never been to Disney World. But if I had to pick between a cruise, Disney World, or spending three months writing that book, I’d gladly choose writing the book. Because I am able to travel through time and space. I smell, hear, and see things that don’t exist, that haven’t happened. My ability is that good. Articulating it is always what I have room to improve on.
By July 2016, I started querying it to Literary Agents. This was a campaign that lasted from July till the end of October. And while I know this is a process that every author has to go through, it wasn’t enough for me. The period of July through October is four months. To spend four months of my life just mailing query letters and receiving rejection after rejection (which is to be expected) would drive me insane. I needed to keep creating, keep writing, keep building more ships! I needed more cowbell!
Thus…by the end of July and after reading the “wish-list” of over 100 literary agents who clearly want strong female protagonists or stories centered around women as the main character, I revisited a dream project that I conceived back in 2009. Lol, again, this is an original story that hasn’t been done and the last thing I want is for someone to read this and steal my characters, thus ruining a genre that I’m hoping to resurrect.
I will say that the title is called “The Knights With No Lords”. The main character is a strong female protagonist, but if you know me, then you know I’m a practitioner of the Byronic model. My characters struggle with a sense of what’s right and wrong, mainly because their dark selfish desires are obstructed by the knowledge of what’s good and decent.
I confess, “The Knights With No Lords,” is probably the toughest project I’ve ever worked on because the female lead is seventeen. I already told you about my imagination. Sometimes I have to go places I don’t want to go in order to write emotional dialogue that feels true. When it comes to the romance, I drew on my own personal experiences. While frustrating, it’s also funny as hell. There’s always some virtue or personal conflict preventing me from being with the woman I want. Again, not pleasant, but still entertaining nonetheless. It’s led to thoughts like this:
“If good girls fall for the bad guys, then who do the bad girls fall for?”
I’ve presented that question to a friend of mine and he said, “nope. The bad girls still fall for the bad guys.”
Haha, I don’t know. Either way, “The Knights With No Lords” explores the idea. I’ve finished it just before Christmas and I’m now in the process of editing it. I’ve even enlisted one of my closest friends to help on that endeavor. By April, I plan to have it copyrighted to start sending it to query agents.
We’ll see if my female protagonist is good enough to win the hearts of those agents. And I do feel a little sad in saying that. Part of me acknowledges that I wrote this book for agents more so than the reader. But maybe that’s what I needed to do all along. Either way, I won’t stop building my ships. My android and thumbdrive is full of premises and projects just screaming to be developed. It’s all a matter of patience, diligence, and perseverance.
That’s the main thing I wanted to share with you. I haven’t been posting on this website in a long while because, as you can see, I’ve been a busy man. And I know there are producers and agents who would say, “But still. You gotta keep giving people something. You have to keep your online presence known.”
And to that point I won’t say I that disagree…but more so I just have a greater deal of self-respect for my work. I’ve come a long way from launching vessels that wind up lost at sea. Twitter and Facebook may have been a viable marketing platform in the past, but now it’s
oversaturated with peddlers of their products.
If you tout your own work it doesn’t have the same strength as someone else saying on their feed, “You gotta check out this author!”
In my seven-year journey I’ve been through the trials and errors. I’ve marketed myself through social media for at least two years and you need money to advertise and draw customers to your books. You really do have to spend money to make money and I’ve racked up a debt. I’ve done crowd-funding campaigns. I’ve reached out to my family and friends. I’ve contributed to other blogs, supported other authors, and made myself a part of writer communities.
Again, these aren’t complaints. Football players practice in the sweltering heat to prepare for Sunday. Olympians train and sacrifice so much just for one summer to reach gold. Singers and actors exercise discipline and practice for their roles. If you make up your mind to do something and fully commit yourself to it, you’re going to have to work hard and it won’t happen overnight unless of course you know someone or wore born into money.
There have been so many times I’ve thought about quitting. The pressures of life, commercialism, societal expectations, familial responsibilities, devotion to God, intimate relationships, and the tense corporate ladder that I’m expected to climb. It’s like they’re all a bunch of Apaches firing arrows at me as I ride my steed with no cover in sight.
If you were to ask why am I trying so hard…because there are a multitude of authors who have succeeded and maintained healthy relationships with spouses, children, and cool circle of friends. They’ve attained that proverbial balance that people keep telling me about. So why can’t I?
The easy answer is that I’m just different. I wrote another article about that so I won’t get into it. I will tell you there’s a quote from Pres. Theo Roosevelt that resonates deeply with me. He wrote: “Dark care rarely sits behind the rider whose pace is fast enough.”
Pres. Roosevelt wrote this after his first wife and his mother died in the same night. To cope with the pain, he ventured into the Wild West and kept himself busy with the rigors of frontier life.
I dare not compare my pain to Roosevelt, but there is pain in my heart. That’s why I can’t even go on vacation for more than three days before the angst surfaces. I wonder if this is the case with other workaholics. For me, keeping my mind focused on a story or project keeps my mind from wondering about old flames. It’s morphine to regret, loneliness, and despair.
I recently told one of my exes, someone who’s still one of my best friends, that I see her face everyday. I know that sounds creepy by today’s standards, but she understood and was touched. And I wasn’t lying. When I think about my exes, or enemies, or failures and embarrassment, the emotions rush over as if it’s happening all over again.
Oddly enough, this doesn’t work so well with the positives for some strange reason. For the positives, I have to seek in the real world what I’ve done and remind myself of how far I’ve come, or those who do support and love me. I’m not sure why I’m like this. But it doesn’t matter.
At this point, I’d like to point out that I’m not a miserable person. In spite of all the pitiful sad stuff I just told you, I really do like the man I’ve become. I’m tall, strong, caring, and generous. The few friends who have stuck with me over the years, I treat like jewelry because they are rare and extremely valuable. I laugh at just about everything and I have a strong relationship with Jehovah our heavenly father. I started reading the bible from start to finish about a year and a half ago and I’ve just started 1st Timothy.
Also! I’ve taken up boxing. It’s tough but I enjoy it. If you scroll down, you’ll read one of my essays about how I used to weigh 378lbs. Now I’m down to 215. I can run, jump, and fight like a son of a gun. So don’t pity me. I have my scars just like everyone else but I wear them like a champion! Not to mention, God’s blessed me with the ability to turn my negatives into a positives. Even when I step into the boxing gym, depleted and fatigued from the work-out the night before, all I need to is think about certain group of people and I’m Mike Tyson in his prime if only for an hour.
It’s like my life is a steamroller. To keep going I have to chuck coal into the furnace. With all the times I’ve stumbled and fallen down, my fuel supply if infinite. I have no doubt that I really am going to live life till the wheels fall off. But still…I plan to live life my way, seeking first the kingdom of God. We can’t all be party animals and thrill-seekers. Not all men are in it for the thrill of the chase. Some of us like to stay put and build.
There’s one other subject I’d like to discuss. It’s about Facebook and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying what I’m about to say.
Facebook has become a platform of pictures and political correctness. In 2016, I’ve posted hundreds of thought-provoking questions and theories that get little to no interaction. But let someone post a picture of their vacation, their material things, their visage (as if we forgot what they looked like yesterday) then people flocked to that with likes and comments.
People say, “You shouldn’t expect praise or likes or…”
All of that’s bullshit. Why post anything if not with the hopes that someone in this expanded universe would see it? There’s nothing wrong with admitting you hope people will like what you put out, and what’s worse than people not liking it, is people completely ignoring it. And as an artist, I refuse to rehash old gems once I’m published as if I just thought of something new, when in reality, I’ve had it for years. For that matter, I’ve decided on my 30th birthday to stop posting on Facebook. I’ve decided to stop scrolling down Facebook to see what my friends and family are up to. And dude, I’m telling you…it’s done wonders for my health.
If you try it, you’ll find yourself washed with that nostalgic freedom, to a magical time where you only found out what people were up to when they friggin told you. Ignorance is a bliss! A magical bliss where you can walk to work and smile at other humans without worrying how they feel about some stupid current event/fad/trend/movement.
It really was one of the best decisions of my life and I’m lovin every minute of it. So while everyone is riled up on a daily basis about what’s going on in Washington DC, New York, or Los Angeles, I sand down the rails of my ships and check the hulls for leaks. I smile knowing that I’m drawing closer to God and wait patiently till the day that I cast off.
“But Rock. What if that day never comes? What if the seas stay rough and only continue to get worse? Don’t you think you’re wasting time? You’re going to waste your life waiting forever. There will never be a perfect time. You need to just go for it!”
I smirk, wipe the sweat from my forehead, and peer outward to those dark stormy clouds.
“You might be right. Knowing me, at some point, I am going to say fuck it and just go for it. Maybe I am wasting time building all these ships that might never see the open seas. My ambition isn’t so dulled that I’m contempt with having these magnificent pieces linger away despite the immense pleasure I’ve derived in constructing them. I guess that’s what you should look out for.”
“In the thick of the chaos as ships become tangled with ships, and cannons blare, and the torrential downpour becomes so heavy that you can barely see the light of day, look out that you’re not caught in the way of my formidable fleet. At least you’ll be able to hear me coming. I have a tendency to laugh out loud when I’m scared out of my mind.”