My new y/a novel, Lake Thirteen, was inspired by a trip to an old cemetery one night at the Bold Strokes retreat in August, 2011. The retreat was an amazing time, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself…but as far as I know, I’m the only person who went who came away with a book idea.
On the way up the mountain where the lodge was located was another road marked as Cemetery Road. One of the first nights there, Lisa Girolami and the infamous Carsen Taite gathered up a gang to go ghost-hunting in the cemetery there and so, equipped with recording devices, they, myself, Trinity Tam and Nell Stark and several others departed for the cemetery. It was a perfect night for ghost hunting–the sky was filled with clouds so there was that sense of true dark–and I think it was our second night there; I could be wrong. Anyway, we found the cemetery–which was truly old. When I got out, I walked immediately to a grave with the headstone ALBERT LINCOLN 1892-1908. My immediate thought, which I spoke out loud, was “How terribly sad, he was only sixteen.” His grave rested next to his parents’; his mother was born in 1866 and lived to 1965; to which I added, “poor woman, she outlived her son by 59 years.” I stood there for a while, feeling this overwhelming sense of sadness, before we began moving around in the cemetery, looking for paranormal activity.
There were American flags everywhere, planted, one would assume, by the local VA on the graves of veterans. There was no wind, and there was a mist rising up from the ground. We were all gathered around a large tombstone when suddenly Trinity called my attention–and everyone else’s–to a grave behind us and far to our left. The flag on this grave was moving back and forth; yet all the other flags in the cemetery were still. There was no wind, none whatsoever. We all walked over to this grave, and it was about this time I noticed that I was feeling cold–I’d been cold since getting out of the car, but it was getting colder. The flag continued waving even after we got to it–and we were all standing at various places around the grave–and there was no wind; no reason for the flag to be waving at all.
I was drawn back to Albert’s grave again from here, and it was around now that I realized that not only was I cold, I was only cold from behind; in other words, my back and the back of my legs were cold, but there wasn’t any kind of wind. I asked Trinity if she, too, were cold, and she wasn’t–no one else was; they all thought it was muggy and sticky. At this point, all the hair on my arms stood up, and I had goose bumps like I’ve never seen before–and my back was getting colder.
While we were at Albert’s grave, several people heard a strange growling behind us (I didn’t hear it) and the majority of the group went investigating, leaving Trinity and myself behind. While we watched them, I asked Trinity to feel the back of my shorts and my shirt–and she confirmed they were cold.
Throughout this entire experience I continued feeling incredibly sad. Later, when the others rejoined us, Lisa felt the back of my shirt between my shoulder blades, and she, too, confirmed my shirt was cold.
Lisa said a prayer, since we were departing, and as she said the words, I got incredibly cold, this time all over. All the hair on my body stood up–head, arms, legs–and then as suddenly as it had come over me, it was gone–and I felt the muggy stickiness everyone else was experiencing.
As we drove back up to the lodge, I kept think about Albert and how he died. And later that night, alone in my room in a different cabin a little further down the mountain from the lodge, listening to the wind moan through the forest, the story started coming to me.
And that’s where the story of my new novel Lake Thirteen came from. I’ve been really pleased with the response to it so far…and now, when I have some free time, I might actually try to find out what really did happen to Albert.