(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Darius was written by Darius Sayers.)
A warm wind, smelling thick of salt and sea-spray, delicately caressed the white-sand beach of the island. Fifty to sixty yards from the shore, where the waves crash into it, the jungle grew thick, overgrown, like an ancient beast snoozing in the noon-day sun. Through the trees, a path could be seen, well worn from use by a single walker. It snaked up, out of sight from the beach, rising towards a massive, eclectic building of hodge-podge structures.
Darius sat on the beach, waiting. Some might read his uneasy shifting, glancing about as impatience, annoyance, but in truth, he is simply anxious. No one, besides himself, as ever set foot on this island. Only one other person had ever been told of it, and that was decades ago. In the sky, a seagull screeched after dipping low to the water and snatching one of the silver-winged fish that has leapt into the air.
He smiled, closed his eyes and listened to the sounds of nature around him. It was all there. The birds, the small creatures of the jungle, and larger ones, moving carefully to avoid him. Below it all, the crash-crash-crash of the surf against the beach is there, pounding over and over again, mimicking his heartbeat. He glanced, over the canopy of the jungle, up the mountain to where his library sat. Everything he kept sacred sits there, kept and tended by the Curator. He sighed. Looks up at the deep, blue sky and continues to wait.
Kelly wandered through this island taking in all the sights. If she didn’t have someplace to be, she could get lost here all day, but she saw someone, so she approached him with a smile. “Darius Sayers? Kelly Blanchard. I’ve got to say this place is beautiful!” She gestured at their surroundings. “And I need to ask, do you really own an island?”
At her voice, a strange thing in this place of solitude, he climbed to his feet, brushing the sugar-sand from his shorts. “Hi Kelly, and welcome.” He looked around, taking in the island from her perspective. He reached up with one long finger and tapped his temple. “It is as much mine as anything up here can be. It was something I learned at a very early age.”
“Very cool.” Kelly grinned. “So shall we sit or take a walk?” She motioned at a path she saw. “And also, tell me about yourself–what it is you do?”
He chuckled and looked to the path she gestured at. “If you do not mind a hike, we can go up to the summit before I show you the true purpose of the island.” He took a few steps toward the path and scratched his head. “I sometimes think I do too much… I spent the last 20 years in the Marine Corps and the US Navy… and right now I am finishing up my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, before moving on to a Master’s program in Counseling. Oh, and I run a warehouse for a cable company.”
Kelly was more than happy to take a walk, so they began walking down the path. “Marines and Navy? Impressive.” She smiled, having several brothers-in-law also in the services. She heard what else he said he was doing and nodded. “So you want to get into counseling? I suppose that’s the same vein as being a writer…maybe. How exactly does that work?” She shot him a quizzical glance.
The path began slowly, with a slight rise, but as it reached the base of the small mountain, began a successive string of switchbacks that carried them towards the summit. “Thank you, sometimes I look back on it and wonder how I made it through, and other times I realize that like anything it is a matter of accepting each day, and putting my head down to keep plowing through.” He gestured to the jungle around them. “It did give me a chance to practice one of my loves, hiking, all over the world.” He listened to her next questions, pondering them carefully. “It is. It’s listening to people, listening to their stories. Many times counseling is what you don’t say, like writing can be.”
“That makes sense.” Kelly nodded, taking the path as it took them higher, and she had to remark. “I love this place. It’s beautiful.” She smiled at Darius but then returned to the topic at hand. “Okay, so about writing, what got you started with writing? I mean, what inspired you to be a writer?”
He grinned, seeing someone enjoying the view as much as he had for so long. “It is. Its one of the places that has always given me calm. Writing… Part of me wants to say I have always wanted to be a writer, but that’s only one aspect. I’ve always told stories, whether they be oral, written, or in some other medium. I can remember doing so from a very early age. What inspired me to be a writer? My mother. She is the biggest influence in my life. She always plied me with books, letting me read anything I desired. I had no boundaries when it came to reading. At the age of 10 she bought me an old typewriter from a yard sale, and a ream of paper.” He stopped at the crest of the final switchback, and looked over the haphazard menagerie of buildings laid out before them.
Kelly tilted her head at the sight. She had a feeling this place had a lot of stories and secrets, and it frustrated her a little that she wouldn’t have the chance to ask about it. Instead, she could only turn to Darius and smile. “Okay, so what sort of stories do you write? I bet you have a lot of stories with all your experiences with the Marines and the Navy.”
He nodded and stared at the building, knowing everything that filled it. He turned to Kelly and smiled, listening to her question. “I once met the author Walter Mosley, a mystery/detective author. My high school english teacher took me during the middle of the school day thirty miles away to meet him. He told me, as many had to, ‘write what you know’. At the time, I didn’t understand it. I thought it meant writing about Michigan, my small hometown and the stories that came from it. After twenty years in the military, I learned that it meant to use my experiences in life to fill my stories. After thirty years of writing, and forty-one of living, I have a lot of experience and a lot of stories. I like to stick to paranormal, horror, fantasy and science fiction, but those are just trappings, backdrops that any story can be told within.”
“Awesome!” And finally Kelly gestured to the building. “And what’s in that?”
He laughed, looking from the building and back to her. “Have you ever heard of the ‘Method of Loci’?”
She shook her head. “No…at least I don’t think so. Enlighten me.”
He nodded. “It’s an old Roman and Greek thought, a mnemonic device of sorts, that postulates if you can connect a visual, physical place to a thought or memory, it would be easily found, remembered and used. Most recently its been used in the BBC’s Sherlock, but I came upon it in an old book by Frances Amelia Yates, called ‘the Art of Memory’. While it’s not as polished and tidy as Sherlock’s, its a bit more like the warehouse from the end of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’.”
“Actually yes, I had heard of that! I remember it from Sherlock Holmes like you said.” Kelly looked at the building with new eyes now. “I’ve never tried the method before though. Does it work for you?” She cast him a glance.
“Oh good, I thought you might have seen it. I wouldn’t say that it works to the degree that it does for Sherlock, but it does work for what I need. As I read, or learn something new, I have the Curator file it with connected information, making it easier to remember. I cannot pull information instantly, the Curator is a bit too old to do that, but if I allow the time, I can normally pull the information that I need. It works great for writing… not so when discussing shared memories.” He laughed, remembering several heated discussions among friends and family over such shared events.
Kelly chuckled. “Well, I’m honored you brought me here. Now though, we really need to discuss your story before our time is up.” She turned to Darius more fully. She wasn’t sure if they should meander a bit more, but she let him decide. “So what story of yours do you want to focus on?”
He ran a hand through his thick salt and pepper hair, contemplating her question. “I have so many I am working on. A series that I have written two novels of, a few stand-along novels, one that I am currently writing, one page a day this year… I think I would want to focus on ‘Angels Deserve to Die’. It is the one that I feel especially connected to, have written the first complete draft and am working to edit.”
Kelly nodded and meandered around until she found a large rock to sit on. “Okay, tell me about this story? What is it about?”
He sat down on a lower rock, and glanced out at the ocean, down to the beach and back to Kelly, before answering. “I wrote it in twenty days, for 2014’s National Novel Writing Month. It started as a small idea, a small story about a woman and her son surviving Hurricane Katrina together in a shotgun house in the Bywater region of New Orleans. I wanted to write a new twist on the old ghost story genre, what I ended up with was a story about a woman making peace with her life, and learning to get out of her own way.”
“Interesting.” Kelly leaned forward, setting her elbow on her knee, and planting her chin in her palm as she listened. “So what makes this story so unique? You said you wanted a new twist to an old ghost story…”
Darius scratched at his thick beard, pondering Kelly’s question. He thought over the novel, the characters and everything connected to it. “Everything I write comes from experiences I have had, or have listened to others speak of. I think that what makes this story unique is that it is not a traditional story with one character as a protagonist and one character as an antagonist. In ‘Angels Deserve to Die’ the main character, Daniela Rosales, is both the protagonist and antagonist. She is, in fact, her own opponent.”
Kelly had to smile when she heard this. “Ah, that makes for a fun story and very interesting character.” She then paused, tilting her head to a side, and frowned. “Unfortunately, our time is up, but a little overtime won’t hurt.” She smiled at Darius as she rose to her feet. “So, obviously you’ve put a lot into this story. What is it that you hope your readers will take away from it and never forget?”
He chuckled, nodding his head at the time. “The entire reason that I wrote it, was to teach myself, or to keep reminding myself that I get in my own way, far too often. That I try to control life, when I should be letting life happen, and enjoy the experience. I want the people who read it to understand that. To see what happens to Daniela because she will not let go, continually tries to control the outcomes of her life, and most importantly won’t forgive herself.”
Hearing this, Kelly reflected on her own life and found it to be true, so she nodded. “That is a very good lesson everyone should remember, so I’m glad you’ve written about it.” She smiled. “So is it published? Going to be published? Or what exactly?”
He ran both hands through his hair in frustration with himself. “I haven’t completely learned this lesson yet. I dislike rejection, to an epic degree. It’s the reason that I haven’t published anything. I want to publish it. I’ve been mulling over the idea of self-publishing it. Perhaps using a kickstarter. I already have a professionally done piece of cover art from a great artist. My biggest stumbling block is editing. However, I’m working with a critique group, and plan to edit it before June, pay for a professional editor to help, and then perhaps launch a kickstarter next fall.”
Kelly had to smile widely. “Glad I’m not the only one who can’t stand rejection, but yeah, you’ve just got to take that jump…you might fall, or…you might fly. You never know until you just jump.” Then a portal opened near them, and Kelly sighed. “That’s my way home, but Darius..” She waited until he looked at her, and she offered him a kind smile. “Publish the book. If you need me hounding you to make sure you get it edited and out there, fine, I’ll do that. If you want help with self-publishing or someone to brainstorm with, I’d be happy to brainstorm with you, but do it. You’ll learn a lot, and you won’t regret it.”
He stood up, and returned her smile, and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Thank you, that means a great deal to me. I would gladly take any hounding. It is part of the goals that I have set for this year, and I plan to achieve them. You are right, I’ll never know until I take the leap. Take care, Kelly.” He waited until she was gone, and then trundled back down to the beach to think.
Darius Sayers’ ‘Angels Deserve to Die’ is set to be published the beginning of 2017. Be sure to follow Darius on social media for more updates!