Well, today I awoke as a published author. It feels surreal, but only a little. 🙂 I spent the entire morning on Goodreads while Bergen handled himself on Facebook. Kallan and Rune were teamed up on Google+ where they took turns blasting each other with vile comments and tempers. Occasionally, Kallan fried Rune’s ass. Each location held a giveaway of a signed paperback copy of Dolor and Shadow. Winners were Charlene Jones and Ed Ireland.
By 2:00, I had the need to run (issues revealed in “Broken”), so I climbed into my car and drove to the one place I wanted more than anything in the world. I went home. I want to tell about where I grew up and share that with you, dearest reader. If you’re a regular on my blog, you’ll know I grew up in the forests of Central New York.
I live on the Allegheny Plateau near the dot that says “Binghamton.” I grew up around the midway point between Syracuse and Binghamton. Endicott, Home of IBM, is actually where I live now. Down the street from me are the first IBM buildings. “INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES” are etched into the stone buildings. I love the local history.
The forests of New York are like no other. Nothing comes close to these beauties. I haven’t been here since 1999. I arrived at the village exit and entered Main Street. Main street…where every church is pristine. There are more than five. The Center Green is home to a vast white gazebo next to a village clock recently added. Every business and building is clean and new. We have a “Reilly’s Cafe.”
I had to slow down to ten miles an hour while I passed an oncoming horse and buggy. We have an Amish family who lives in town. Horses. I never realized it until today. Marathon is a horse drawn carriage town. It truly is. There were “Caution: Horse and Buggy” signs everywhere. I never noticed it until now, but I grew up in Pleasantville.
I realized this as I drove down Main Street to Highland road and felt so sick to my stomach. Pleasantville. Picturesque. Pristine. Perfect. I passed Mara Lane and thought, “The Secrets of Mara Lane.” That is the truth of it. Marathon hoards a plethora of secrets the adults were oblivious to. I grew up with the wrong crowds. I had two of my own wrong crowds. My brother had his wrong crowds. I knew every dirty little secret of that perfect pleasantville.
I attended a group therapy in school where my classmates revealed the truth of their Hell. So many children I knew were raped. So many of them were beaten. So many of them were trafficking drugs and selling sex in exchange for cigarettes and alcohol. And not one of the parents knew. If they knew, they didn’t care. Some of the parents enabled, encouraged, and contributed to the problem. I know because I watched it first hand. Marathon, where the majority of citizens were children in the foster care unit.
I passed Mara Lane along with four horse farms and turned down Highland Road. Three horse farms later, I reached Muster Road, the old dirt road that led deep into the woods of New York. So much had changed and nothing. I passed the Clydesdale farm I grew up alongside as a child and made it to the end of the road and the edge of my forest. The trees my father had planted alongside the yard twenty years ago were now twenty feet. They towered over the road. I imagine this is exactly what my father had expected to see when he planted them alongside the fence that was no longer there.
Beyond the trees, I saw the ranch-styled house perched on the hill that overlooked the wood. The house on the hill. My home. My Hell. The porch was cluttered with garbage. It looked like Merl Dixon now lived there. It looked like a dump. “Posted” signs were everywhere. The only thing missing was Kujo and the “Beware of the dog” sign. The yard my father had cut back had grown in. Rubber tires had been dumped in the yard. In short, they trashed the place.
I stared at the “posted” sign. I am a law abiding citizen who respects the law and have never broken a single law a day in my life. This day, I didn’t care. If Merl shot me or arrested me for trespassing, it would be worth it and I wouldn’t regret it. Not for this. I pulled up alongside a Caterpillar. No idea why the construction plow was parked there. I would have to sneak onto the property. I grew up here. I knew exactly where to go and what waited me on the other side.
I knew the trees so well in these woods that I named them. Lucifer was the name I gave to the large dead maple at the edge of the forest. In a sea of green, this single black trunk reached up and clawed at the sky with its black tentacles. Lucifer. I always stayed to the south. This day, I went north. I climbed around Lucifer to the side I didn’t dare go as a child.
I found a deer path right away and followed their route into the woods. Burdocks and raspberry bushes grabbed my skirt, but I pushed through and ducked down into the woods out of sight. It was there. I knew it was there. I pushed on, until the house was out of view and then turned south. The old trail was there. I knew it. I knew exactly where and how deep I had to go to find it.
The deer trail led me as I knew it would and I emerged moments later on the trail. I looked east back to Lucifer, my car, and the house. I was right where I needed to be. I looked west. There.
My heart stopped and I gasped. It had been 16 years since I last looked upon this trail. I smiled and at once felt elated to be home.
This is the 200 year old wagon trail that flows through the forest. When we lived here, my father rode his riding lawn mower down and kept the trail trimmed back where we could walk with ease. In 16 years, grass had grown in and taken over. It looked as beautiful as ever.
I was terrified I would be found by Merl. Today, I was a rebel! Me…breaking the law? I was trespassing. “Let Merl shoot me,” I said and I ran smiling and giggling like the little girl I once was. I was home.
I took in every tree, every shrub, every leafy bit. I knew each and every name. It was like an old friend—my best friend—had found me again and I know, better than anyone, what that feeling is. I stomped through the mud and listened to the birds sing their arias around me. I could pick out the chickadee, the cardinal, the turtle doves, finches, the blue jay, the squirrels. I missed it all so much.
It wasn’t long before my imagination stirred. I began composing my next story. In addition to “The Secrets of Mara Lane,” which I decided would be a contemporary thriller that compiled all the horrors I had witnessed as a child in my “Pleasantville,” I also composed the story I am currently writing for an Anthology. I will say no more as I am getting ready to compose it now. I think I will call it “Finding Me.” But this…I just had to share this world with you. My world. This is the backyard where I grew up. An enchanted forest all of my own. Is it any wonder I grew up to be a fantasy author?
While gallivanting through the woods, my husband called to ask where I was. I told him where and we talked. This trip had a lot to do with “Broken,” which is due to release August 2015. It’s why I made this trip. I had to go back. It was time. I won’t get into that now, but while on the phone, my husband explained that he and the children had organized a “Surprise Book Release” party for me. I had no idea. In thirty minutes, I was back on the deer trail, walking out behind Lucifer, and climbing back into my car. This time, I was leaving the forest behind…for the final time. More than ever I wanted my children and my husband. I wanted my gardens. I said goodbye to my Enchanted Forest and drove home.
I can honestly say, I am more than ready and eager to begin my next journey.