Click here to read the first chapter of: Warning Signs by Sheila Englehart
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What harm could come from attending a séance? Kellan Brooks is up for anything that might boost her creativity, but finds the event silly until she steps into a crack between her world and a place she could never have imagined. The local grapevine pushes her cleaning business down the drain, her boyfriend to running damage control, and a steady stream of troubled souls to a mysterious gate that has appeared in her apartment. Her writer’s block is broken, but the clear voice Kellan hears doesn’t belong to her.
Connor Clarke was thought to have taken his own life, when in truth, he was taken by something people had long stopped believing in. Now he needs Kellan to get an urgent message to his brother. She agrees to keep the gate closed on the entity that claimed his life, but no way is she playing messenger for a dead kid.
Anthony Clarke seeks truth for a living, and has spent twenty years searching for reasons behind Connor’s suicide. He is as blind to his own problems as he is to Connor’s presence. So when the entity escapes to target Anthony, Kellan must drop everything to find him before he meets Connor’s killer face to face.
She would have sold her soul for a story. Chalk on the blank slate in her mind made agonizing noises as her level of anxiety grew. Kellan took a couple deep breaths and rubbed her hands together to generate an imaginary spark. “Day one, do or die.” She had convinced herself that the next thirty days would decide if she had what it took to live her fantasy writer’s life, or if she needed to let go of her childhood dream.
Her thumbs tapped the space bar in anticipation.
Any minute now.
After ten minutes, she typed: This sucks. Why did I think I could do this? I haven’t written more than a grocery list in three years.
She knew her day was about to go off the rails when the phone rang. The time on the computer read 4:22 AM and she didn’t need Caller ID to know who was calling.
“You need to come with me tonight.” Jade never bothered with preliminary greetings.
“Not with a gun to my head.” The last time Kellan let Jade talk her into going out, it was Ladies-Drink-Free night at a men’s strip club. Women pushing forty didn’t belong in strip clubs.
“Don’t tempt me.” Jade’s southern lilt was slanted with sarcasm.
“What are you doing up this early?” Then Kellan remembered the Danish boyfriend was in town. His band had just begun to get airtime stateside. She could also hear Jade smoking. “Putting a few clicks on the rock star?”
“Not writing in the middle of the night, that’s for damn sure.”
Kellan stared at her twenty one words. “Makes two of us.”
“See there. You have to come. Get your juices flowing.”
“I’d rather stick needles in my eyes.”
“Oh, come on. This is something you only get to do when opportunity knocks, and it’s pounding the door off the hinges.”
Kellan’s stomach fluttered as she fingered the peeling edges of her mouse pad. Her writer’s block had been reinforced with steel, and she felt like a convict trying to dig her way through a cell with a pencil nub. But she conceded, knowing full well she’d live to regret it. “No drag strips, no sex toy parties, no men’s clubs, biker bars, two-for-one tattoos, and no checking out a new band in the basement of somebody’s grandma’s house.”
“God, you’re worse than my mother,” Jade said. “I’ll have you know that this happens to be a very classy soiree at the Crestletter Mansion. Seven thirty.”
“Seriously?” Kellan perked up. What she wouldn’t give to see inside of those gates. “What are you doing, a private class?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“You already agreed, so don’t wimp out.”
“I clean these people’s houses. Well, not that house, but you know what I mean. I can’t sit at the same table with them.”
“Trust me,” Jade huffed out another puff into the receiver, “tonight you can.”
The words ‘trust me’ never went down without a strong chaser. The needle on Kellan’s suspicion meter swung to its highest level and she had prickling up her spine that warned her not to go. Seeing inside of the Crestletter Mansion would be worth any humiliation Jade might spring on her, right? Facing a long night staring at a blank screen was option two. Option three was nonexistent, since her boyfriend was busy dealing with a family matter.
“I swear on Opal’s life, if you don’t come home with a story idea, I will. . .” There was a long pause as Jade thought it over. “Well, you know I’m good for something.”
Kellan closed her eyes. Jade’s daughter was usually not in her good graces. “If some stripper shakes sweat on me or some old fart tries to cop a feel–”
“There won’t be any men there.”
“Well, women either.”
“No one will sweat, slobber, or paw on you.”
“Wait,” Kellan sucked in a breath, and her eyes flew open. “What would I have to wear?”
Sheila Englehart grew up obsessed with the afterlife, UFO phenomena, and the mystery that had shrouded the Bermuda Triangle since the disappearance of Flight 19. She wrote to figure out what she believed while viewing everything through the lens of a skeptic.
For twenty five years she wrote feature film scripts, novels, and novel adaptations. Her day jobs were many, some in the name of research. Sheila worked in the domestic, financial, and medical fields before studying hypnotherapy. This opened a new door that led straight back to the unknown, through which she flew like a duck that had spent too long on dry land.
She lives in Winston Salem, NC and has charted a course toward novels easily adapted to film. Warning Signs is the first of those.
An aspiring writer is forced to learn how to deal with the phenomenon of spirit communication, as well as defense from dark energies, after attending a séance.
Why will readers relate to your characters?
Readers can relate to people just like themselves who are thrust into situations they have never encountered, always asking, “How would I handle that situation?” The two main characters are skeptics who don’t believe in the process until faced with it. People tend not to believe what they can’t see.
How much of the story did you have in mind before beginning to write?
Nada, zilch, zero. Not even a crumb for the Grinch to steal.
I was a screenwriter who discovered Hollywood was making more films from short stories and novels than original screenplays. After my first novel was universally rejected, I never thought I’d do another. Film was my comfort zone. But I saw an ad in the paper two days before NaNoWriMo that invited curious people to come and discuss the process. Everyone had a theme, a character, a storyline to explore. I had nothing but curiosity about the process and desire to see if I had it in me to write another novel. A woman sitting next to me suggested that I pick a genre I’d never tried before, since I had no ideas to begin with. I left that meeting agreeing to sign up for NaNoWriMo. Then I sat in front of a blank screen and typed 50K words of a truly awful fantasy story. But a couple characters, who didn’t belong in the strange story, wouldn’t go away, even after I cut them a couple times. When I returned to see if there was anything in those pages, I found those two characters to be the best things in it, lifted them out, and let them loose to tell their own story.
How do you decide when you are finished writing the story?
I’m not sure I ever believe a story is finished, but the slice of it that I’m telling is finished when the characters decide to stop talking. It’s almost as if what happens to them next is none of my business.
What is the goal for your book? What you want people to take from it?
I really want readers to be open to possibilities even if they don’t understand them immediately, and believe in forces they can’t see or touch physically. I’ve always believed in signs and synchronicities. They surround us, if we take the time to notice. I try to honor everyone’s beliefs and think those who chose not to believe shouldn’t disparage those who do.
Do you think this book has changed your life? If so, how?
Absolutely. This story opened up a world of possibilities. It attracted a publisher and is now bigger than just an idea, theme, or character. It’s a business — one I’m learning to grow. When you sell a script, you kiss it goodbye placing it into the hands of producers, directors, and an entire ensemble of people who take it and make it theirs. A novel is a different animal. As a novelist, I feel like a one-woman show. I can enlist many people to help with various aspects along the way, but ultimately, I create it, carry it, deliver it, nurture it, and do everything I can to give it the best shot possible. At the end of the day, it’s on me. And I still have to write the next one.
How has your background influenced your writing?
All the strange and unusual parts of my background bleed into my writing. I could never have dreamt the odd way I got engaged, so I had to lend that to my main character. I share most of my flaws, quirks, insecurities, and general weirdness with my characters. I lend them jobs I’ve had, places I’ve been, food I’ve eaten, situations I’ve experienced. I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived a pretty eclectic life, so I have a lot to draw from. I mean, how many kids did you know that aspired to go through the Bermuda Triangle without caring if they ever returned?
Are you trying to reach a particular kind of reader?
I’m not intentionally trying to reach a particular group, but in the paranormal world I know who gravitates to my brand of writing. I write what I want to read. I’m not much for vampires or creatures with super powers. But I do enjoy exploring the unexplained from as practical a perspective as possible.
What are you working on now?
In the same vein, Guiding Signs explores the idea that people have a spirit guide assigned to them at birth, but they might not be any more knowledgeable than their assignees. Perhaps guides are just people who failed to complete their purpose before they died, so they have to atone by choosing to guide a person they might have opposed in life. One character from Warning Signs will make an appearance.
What age did you discover writing?
Short answer: 13. All I ever really wanted to be when I grew up was Snoopy. He did it all, including write. I escaped into books and wished that someday I would be smart enough to write a book, fly a bi-plane, explore the wilderness, and everything else Snoopy did. I’ve checked a lot of things off my Snoopy list.
What is the most difficult part of the writing process?
A lot of things are difficult about writing, because if it were easy everyone would have a book out. I find it hard to get back into a piece of work if I’ve been away from it for more than a few days. It’s like starting over from the beginning. It’s also hard for me to talk about it without giving too much away. If I’m talking about it, I’m not writing it. And if anyone has a negative reaction to an idea, it has me second-guessing my work before it actually gets done.
Have you had difficulty killing off a character because they are so intriguing?
I’ve had difficulty killing off characters because they just refuse to die. If I delete them or move them to another file, they come back determined to not go away. They have minds and wills of their own and I find they have a lot to say. People who don’t write will be scratching their heads over that one.
Do characters take on a life of their own?
All the time. I often watch the computer screen amazed at what comes out of their mouths or actions they take. I am constantly in awe because it doesn’t feel as if it comes from me. It’s interesting to look back at a scene and wonder where it came from because “I don’t think like that.”
What do you never leave home without?
Two pens. I can always find something to write on if I forgot my notebook, but something to write with is tragic to forget. And if one runs out of ink and I don’t have a backup? Ruins the whole day.
Well, I haven’t invented any new words. I suppose I’d leave advice: Be fearless and waste no time trying to anyone but you. No matter what they think.