Friday, January 31, 2014

Four Rubbings by Jennifer Hote: Spotlight and Excerpt


Mystery/Thriller/Suspense / Horror/Occult /  Teen/Young Adult

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The night the barrier between the dead and the living is as thin as muslin. Fourteen-year old Josie, haunted by the death of her mother, leads her best friends to an ancient cemetery to rub graves. Convinced she will come away with proof of her mother’s spirit at last, the evening takes an unexpected turn as the teens gravitate four ways into the haunted grounds. Set against the backdrop of the rainy Pacific Northwest, four graves will be rubbed, touching off a series of events that will rattle their once mundane lives. From the lonely World War II hero to an accused witch, the people buried beneath the stones have stories that need an ending. The journey to unravel the mysteries leaves the friends wondering if the graves would’ve been better off left alone.
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WHY DO PEOPLE have to mess with the dead on Halloween anyway? They’re dead. Respect the dead. Didn’t their folks teach them any better? I squint into the distance at a cluster of folks standing inside the cemetery gates. 
“I’ll scare them good and give them a piece of my mind along the way,” I mumble as I stomp the three hundred or so yards it takes to reach the cemetery entrance from my caretaker’s cottage. Can’t help but think if I had just done my job in the first place, I wouldn’t be standing knee-deep in a pile of trouble right now.
Not five minutes ago I’d stood staring out the kitchen  window watching a dull, dreary day change into something better. Leafless gray trees framed an orange and white fireball sky, framed it like iron gates, and that is when I’d remembered. Damn, Grace.
Ten years of watching over Lakefront Cemetery and tonight of all nights I’d forgotten to lock the gates. My forty-year-old bones felt soggy from a day of rain-chilled grave tending. Clearly, I was thinking more about a hot bath and a cup of warm cider than doing my job. Ah, well. With an hour before sunset, I’d figured I had plenty of time to put things right.
I’d found my mud-caked work boots and damp flannel coat
piled on the back porch where I’d shed them an hour ago. As I shoehorned my boots onto bare feet, I’d spotted a group gathering at the cemetery entrance. I checked my watch. Five o’clock seemed awful early to start Halloween trouble, but there they were. I made out four bodies, four or five. Couldn’t tell for certain without my glasses, and I wasn’t willing to trudge back through the cottage with muddy boots to collect them up. I’d know soon enough.
As I stomp across the grounds, I rehearse what I will say. I’ll
give them a lecture about respecting the dead, then shoo them off speedy quick. All worked up, I don’t pay no mind to the noise my boots make as I dodge headstones and thunder through wet leaves and mud. I want them to hear me coming and be afraid. Too bad I don’t have time to go back for my hefty flashlight, or better yet, a rusty shovel, to shake at them. Boy, the stories they could tell their friends tomorrow about the crazy cemetery lady and her wicked shovel.
“You’ll all think twice about coming around here again after I get through with you,” I spit into the wind.
As I near, I see they’re decked out in costumes. I count four of them, teenagers, of course. It’s mostly the teens that make trouble around here. I duck behind the Yessir’s family tomb to get a better look. “Sorry if I’m blocking your view, folks,” I whisper.
I steal quick peeks around the white marble structure and make out an oversized superhero, a football player,         Pocahontas and some kind of dapper fella.
Pocahontas, a tiny copper-headed girl, is giving them
instructions. I can’t hear everything she says, but catch phrases like, “Let a stone call you…. open your heart…. connect with the person buried underneath…”
She doesn’t sound like my typical vandal rat; I give her that
much credit. I rub my chest where a knot has formed and lean in closer to catch the gist of her words.
The girl reaches into a tan leather pouch and hands around
oversized pieces of paper and chunks of black chalk, not the toilet paper and spray paint I expect to see. Art supplies. My knees give out as the truth dawns on me. They’ve come to rub the stones. They’ve come to remember the dead, not hurt ‘em.
The breath I didn’t know I’d been holding bursts from my
mouth. My eyes cloud over. My calloused hands ball into sweaty fists and shake. My cheeks burn with shame. I’ve been wrong about these kids, pegged them as vandals when they are bent on doing something good. I fall apart, but gather it all up again quick. I am wrong and have to atone. Good thing I’m already down on my knees.
It’s been so long since I‘ve said any kind of prayer. Too long. I’m clumsy about how best to place my hands, how far to bow my head, and how to muster the words. But I close my eyes, and feel warm tears roll down my cheeks. I send a prayer up to the God I’ve been cursing for the past decade.
“Let them have a journey, Lord, a journey that begins with
remembering the dead and rubbing a stone. Amen.” 

About Jennifer Hotes: 

Raised across the river from the Hanford Nuclear Reactor, Jennifer grew up looking at the world a little differently. Now she uses her unique perspective and glow-in-the-dark countenance to write YA novels and illustrate for talented authors, preferably with a cat on her lap or dog at her feet.

She blogs to teens because she feels the world-at-large gives them a bad shake. Her latest blog is all about finals week and how best to cope/endure.

Mrs. Hotes loves living in rainy Seattle, volunteering in her children's schools and raising funds for Providence Hospice of Seattle. Her first novel, Four Rubbings is out now.

She is a member of SCBWI, society of children's book writers & illustrators and is currently painting a group of aging men posed in an old red truck for a book cover.

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Author Jennifer Hotes is giving away 50 ebooks!
Open internationally.

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1 comment:

Mary @SweepingMe said...

Love Horror/Occult/Thriller books this one sounds great!

Thanks for the chance!