Beautiful Books 2017: Ashes to Ashes

Posted October 18, 2017 by Amber in My Stories, Writing / 8 Comments


So when I originally saw this prompt on Paper Fury, I was 100% definitely going to use The Story Collector, a story I’ve been picking at for three years and is super long and nowhere near done.  But for the last week or so, I’ve had an invasive story burrowing in my mind.  Does anyone else have this problem?  Where you have way more story ideas than time?  I have a whole notebook of ideas.  Enough for a dozen novels on top of the drafts I already have and need both editing and sequels.

This one has been invasive, though.

I try to listen to my invasive story ideas, because they usually unfold themselves beautifully and then I’m liberated and can go back to whatever I was working on before.  The problem with this one, like most, is that the plot is a bit murky.  Characters and setting and magical systems come to me easily.  Plots?  Not so much.

Alors, I’m going to try my hand at this year’s BEAUTIFUL BOOKS meme to see if I can’t whip something together.  I’m not planning on NaNoWriMo this year (time….) but I’m always trying to write.  So… erm… enjoy?

What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

I was sitting at my desk at work the other day, thinking about how terribly tired I was and wishing I could freeze time and take a small nap.  Just a couple hours, not too much to ask?  I think we ought to have a siesta time at work.

The thoughts blossomed from there.  Jordan was inspired by a book I was reading with a ghost character and I was thinking at how much I enjoy writing ghosts and how much I didn’t like that particular rendering.  Then I got Santa Fe from Newsies stuck in my head, and there was born Charlotte and Jordan’s dream.

It’s been going on like this for a couple weeks.  Mundane things pop up, and I draw a line and suddenly it’s an aspect of the story.

Describe what your novel is about!*

Charlotte can freeze time.  Just for a few minutes at a time, but it’s handy.  There are loads of people with these small, strange abilities, and Char isn’t anything special.  She lives in a two-story ranch in western Massachusetts with a ghost named Jordan – a young man who was killed in a car accident down her street that Charlotte scooped up and brought home with her (the ghost, not the body).  Her parents have relocated to a condo in Florida and her baby sister is in college in Iowa.  Char works in a call center and it’s draining her soul.  She comes home from work and smells fresh baked bread that Jordan has been working on all day (because he misses eating and loves to make delicious food for Char) and they talk over dinner about packing everything up and opening a bakery in Santa Fe, that place everyone seems to dream of going but nobody knows why.

Then a new governor is elected in the state, running on the platform of squashing out the demon-possessed magic-users.  He offers tax credits for anyone who can offer information about a magic user.  A census taker arrives at Char’s door and clasps a steel bracelet on her wrists so everyone can tell who – and what – she is.  People spit on her in public – she’s laid off her job.  She hear rumors that magic-users on the coast are being rounded up.  Now, more than ever, it’s essential for Charlotte to get away.  But how can she do it, and how can she be sure she could take Jordan with her?

*In other news, I don’t do summaries, apparently?  I do endless rambles.

What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

Real quick aesthetic!  It’s very witchy and I am pleased.  All the images come from Pinterest and you can see the full Pinterest board here.

Introduce us to each of your characters!

Charlotte Van Caelen

Char is the type of girl who smiles at everyone, then comes home from work, flops on her secondhand couch, and cries.  She is so unhappy in her life that she feels powerless.  She does her best to pick up her pieces and find strength in the things she loves.  Frosted sugar cookies.  Autumn.  Jordan.  Books.  She wants to do something to make people smile, but instead she spends her life getting yelled at for someone else’s problems.  She is agreeable to a fault and always says yes when she’s asked to do something.  She’s tried to fit into the community multiple times, but most the people she grew up with are gone and everyone else seems strange and far away, and she prefers to stay in with Jordan.



Jordan Hart

Jordan thought he had his life all together when he died.  He worked in middle management with a trajectory toward executive, he had a brand new car and designer clothes and a girlfriend that made other people jealous.  He wasn’t happy, he wasn’t in love, but he exceeded expectations and he could be happy later.  It’s a thought that amuses him now… later.  People always assume there will be a later.  When his car flipped, he stayed at the spot, in a fuzz.  Then a girl with brown hair and freckles laid daffodils near the side of the road, and suddenly everything became clear and he followed her home.  Having infinite time, he considers how wasted his life was, and has been spending his afterlife pursuing his passions and being generally frustrated that nobody seems to see him except Charlotte.


Senator Elias Abraham

The senator – running for governor – does not believe in witches or ghosts.  He believes in goodness and truth on one hand, and he believes in demon possession on the other.  He has run his platform on Exodus 22:18 “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to life.”  Having grown up on the outskirts of Salem, he spend his entire life watching strange people celebrate the dark arts, and as a person with some power now, he intends to wipe the stain from his home.  As the world is uncertain, he has swayed many to his side.




Mary Van Caelen

Charlotte’s younger sister, Mary, attends the University of Iowa for library sciences.  In some ways, she is just like her older sister, but in other ways they are opposites.  They both have the same hair and the same soft brown eyes, but where Char likes to keep her own company, Mary likes to have an entourage.  She is taken by Abraham’s dialogue and comes home to try and reform her sister.  Eventually, Mary becomes her jailer.




How do you prepare to write?

Whenever I sit down to write, I get myself in a place that is quiet and comfortable.  I usually prefer not to listen to music, but I will if I’m in a public area – especially if I am trying to write somewhere I am likely to be interrupted.  I’m not a snacker, but I usually will have a cup of tea.

I’m also a terrible planner.  If I think of something about the world or characters or anything, I tend to jot it down in my notes in Ulysses or Novlr, but that may or may not EVER be followed.  It leads to an incredible lack of direction in my books and is my greatest nemesis.

What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

To be honest, I’m actually looking forward to writing the relationship between Char and Jordan.  They’re in a bit of a weird situation and it’s going to be a bit difficult to find logical loopholes and how they will navigate.

I also intend for this to have some parallels to the Salem Witch Trials, which means I will have to research and YAY I love the trials and I love researching and I’m looking forward to reading primary sources and I’m a nerd shuttup.

List 3 Things About your novel’s setting.

  1. They live in a haunted house!  The fact that Jordan makes it haunted is completely irrelevant.  I like to think he occasionally likes to make it haunted in a cliche way because it amuses him.  Usually if a house guest is annoying him.
  2. The story starts in autumn.  This is in part because it’s autumn right now, and in part because I am feeling the orange leaves and apple cider vibes strong with this one.
  3. There is a lot of food in this story.  I get so frustrated when characters never eat, and equally excited when there is a lot of food in the book.  Therefore, I plan to make sure something tastes or smells amazing in each chapter.  Besides, food is one of the things that helps Char and makes her happy, and so, it’s essential.

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Poor Char wants to run away and open a bakery in Santa Fe where she can decorate pastries with strawberry icing and little chocolate candies and live happily ever after.  And, you know, not be executed for witchcraft?  Her sister and the patrols and basic life things like money and a job and a bank loan stands in her way.

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Where she was sweet and smart and trusting at the beginning, Charlotte is angry and haunted by the end.  In some ways, she is broken, and in other ways, she is reborn.

What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

Um, I officially don’t like this question.  I suppose these are important things to think about, but I’m not very well planned, so I don’t know.  I’m not sure if Charlotte escapes (probably not) and I’m not sure that Jordan doesn’t get exorcised?  I’m not sure if there’s a happy ending or a sad ending, or what.  I don’t know what I want readers to feel because I don’t know how it ends.

I suppose the feelings are either rage or contentment?  Obviously I need to plan more things….  I’d say that trusting yourself is a theme, as well as “history repeats itself”.  Kindness and acceptance and knowing the difference between what is right and what is easy.


Are you participating in NaNoWriMo?

How do you feel about witch hunt stories?

Are you a pantser like me?

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8 responses to “Beautiful Books 2017: Ashes to Ashes

  1. Ooh, interesting idea!! Funnily enough, I was listening to Newsies when I started reading this and I like the way you’ve weaved Santa Fe into the storyline. Though, I don’ t get it, why is Santa Fe everyone’s go-to spot for running away?
    Also, have you changed your theme? I’m sure its different! It’s super pretty either way though, I like it a lot. 😀 Good luck with this story idea!

    • Amber

      I started changing my layout, erm, three weeks-ish ago? I’m glad you like it! I was having some difficulty with the readability of my featured images, so I went back to the drawing board and I really like everything I’ve got going on now. 🙂

      I have NO CLUE why everyone likes Santa Fe! There’s a song from the musical Rent about running away to Santa Fe, too. Going to have to mock that a little bit at some point in the story. 😛 Thanks for the luck – I’ll need it! I started researching a little and outlining this morning….

  2. I’ve never seen Newsies, but your premise did remind me of Open Up a Restaurant song in RENT! What a cute premise, though I have a feeling “cute” isn’t the word for the latter half of the book! Even though you won’t be participating in NaNo, I wish you the best of luck, this sounds like such an interesting concept I hope you share more of it! Also, I can toooootally relate on having way more story ideas that I am capable of writing-sometimes I panic that I’ll never get to them all, but sadly, such is life. We can just try our best!

    Rebeccah recently posted: 9 Misconceptions about NaNoWriMo
    • Amber

      Ah, see, thank you! I feel like everyone’s always like “oh no I don’t know what I’ll write next” whereas I’m more “AHHH ALL THE THINGS I DON’T HAVE TIME!”. Glad I’m not alone on that sinking ship, haha!

      Newsies is a must see. 🙂 Young Christian Bale!

      Oh yes, the story is definitely going to go dark. I’ve started brainstorming a sort of outline, so I’ve got a bit of backstory down as well as the first couple chapters or so. It’s fun!

      Good luck to you next month! Just a couple weeks left!

  3. Your idea sounds SO GOOD??! I love it?! I also love that you’re going to be researching about Salem Witch Trials and incorporating a bit of that as well – this part of history always kind of fascinated me. I really admire how much thought you already put into your story, you know SO much ahah. I hope you will have tons of fun for this NaNoWriMo and I will be looking forward to hearing more about this story 😀

    • Amber

      Salem absolutely enchants me – it’s one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a place where history has absorbed into the bones of the place so you can feel it in the wind and on the streets and just… agagahh I love Salem. I actually include the trials in a lot of my magic-based stories, but this is the first one that’s going to be like a retelling of it. 🙂 SO EXCITED.