A Ghost Lives Here

I’ve finished NaNoWriMo! I have not, of course, finished the novel. It’s a massive rewrite of a previous NaNo novel.

I scrapped half the plot and took the story in a new direction. Now there’s a ghost!

No, it’s not a horror story. The ghost has a lively (lively?) personality, but the story is really about grief. I don’t intend for it to be a downer! Like I tried to say, the ghost isn’t scary. The ghost isn’t out for revenge. She’s just not ready to say goodbye. But she is a character who has died, obviously, and everyone who knew her has to come to terms with her absence. If you’ve ever had to deal with loss, you know how hard that is.

The story is about that.

But it’s also about family bonds and love and believing in one’s self.

At least, it will be when it is done. I needed a ghost to help tell the tale. That’s what I realized was missing from the first effort. In this story, the dead needed to hang around and be heard.

It might seem like I’m interested in death. I’ve written obituaries for living friends, I watch Ask a Mortician videos, I’ve attended Death Cafes, and I listen to Griefcast. Last year, a college friend and two aunts died. This spring another friend died, and as I type this, another friend is in the hospital, and her prognosis is breaking her husband’s heart. And of course every day brings updates to Covid19 death counts, not to mention the usual grim news of death the news always brings.

But it’s the story of grief I return to. I know friends and readers, you perhaps, are on your own grief journey. It’s part of life’s journey. We all say goodbye.

(For the record, I think I’m more cheerful than otherwise. I’m the sort of annoying person at work who is going to shout “peachy!” if asked how I am. I draw bunnies. It’s hard to be gloomy when drawing bunnies.)

In any event, I need to take a break from this story. I’m going back to my princess detective story. But even though it is a princess detective–a princess solves crimes, y’all!–she is solving a murder, and murder means…someone is grieving. Can’t get away from it.

Nonetheless, it’s more light-hearted. Well, as light-hearted as I ever manage, and it’s the story I want to serialize next on my Patreon.

Here’s an excerpt from my mess of a NaNoWriMo novel, Leaving Iris. Sisters, Cela and Iris, are walking home after school. This scene picks up in the middle of a conversation.

“You worry too much.” Iris skipped ahead, her purse swinging and smacking into her hip. “What treat shall I get? I got an A on my math test, so dad gave me money for a treat!”

“Great.” It was the 14th day of September and hot.

I promised him I wouldn’t eat it until after dinner though.”


“Maybe I’ll buy something for Evan.”

The name rang a bell but Cela couldn’t place it. “Who?”

“Don’t’ you remember anything? Evan! The boy at school. I told you I’m going to marry him.”

“Oh right. Evan. Lucky him.”

“You’re so slow! C’mon, Cel!” And Iris spun and let herself spin right off the curb.

Cela lunged forward and grabbed her sister’s arm, yanking her back onto the sidewalk as a pickup truck rumbled by and honked. “Rissy!”

Iris laughed. “This is why you have to come with me. To save my life.”

Cela let Iris go. “Jesus. Don’t do that.”

“That truck wasn’t going to hit me. He was way out there. I was barely off the curb.”

“He was totally going to hit you.”

Iris shrugged. “Thanks for saving my life! How many times does that make?”

642?” Cela suggested, amused in spite of herself. She’d made the number up, but there were many times she’d pulled Iris from danger, talked her out of trouble, or taken the blame for whatever had gone wrong.

They reached the store. “Once you’ve saved me a thousand times, you won’t have to save me anymore, okay? After that, I’ll be old enough to take care of myself.”

I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Iris swung up the store’s door and the bell hanging up above clanged. “Now for something sweet.” She spent every dollar she had on candy and Twinkies. She ate all of it right away.

Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “A Ghost Lives Here

  1. Congratulations on hammering your way through another NaNoWriMo!

    Obviously, I haven’t read it, but I like the premise: a ghost story which apparently isn’t about a haunting (i.e. a focus on the ghost’s actions) about being haunted (i.e. a focus on the responses of the living to the dead’s absence). I’m imagining a real-life conversation between two friends, after one has experienced a death in the family:

    Empathetic Friend: “Did you have a good relationship with X?”
    Grieving Friend: “Oh yes! Yes, I did!”
    Ghost (aside, unheard): “Now wait a minute — we STILL have a good relationship! Er, don’t we???”

    It doesn’t happen often, but I hold imagined — always brief — conversations with my father, who died in 1988. I think sometimes he and I still have a good relationship, although it’s not markedly different or “more meaningful” than the 37 years we had while he was alive; at other times, I imagine his having been reincarnated in someone else, and my suddenly recognizing the remade soul in the way someone’s head tilts, or the way their eyebrows move. Am I haunted? I guess I am. It’s hard to say that it’s by his choice, though — I can’t imagine him, y’know, wanting to hang around for an occasional 5 minutes’ of casual conversation…

  2. Clare Wuellner

    Marta, you simply amaze me. This is just such insightful stuff and thank you for talking about the hardest things. We all need to hear these ideas expressed so well.

    I’m deeply sorry for all of the loss you have been through recently. And for the impending loss. My heart goes out to the husband as well.

    Love you so much.

    > >

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