The characters Brandy and Susan are actually from a different novel I wrote years ago. It was a murder mystery titled “Running in Place”. There was no caving involved and I buried it six feet under during the rewrite. Later, I found caving and wondered what would happen if I put the characters from “Running in Place” into a cave. I liked them and their relationship. Would they make good cavers? Then they met Alexander —and he fell in love with Brandy. I fought it for months then gave in and wrote this love story.
Though, I must add, that this is a thriller/romance and I wrote it to scare myself. So, I put in cave diving. I will add, I had multiple near drowning experiences as a child (and perhaps a watery incident as an adult) so cave diving isn’t top on my list of things to do and is definitely my adrenaline point. I believe that fully comes through in the book and makes the reader sweat.
Alexander. This was an interesting character that appeared out of nowhere. He was sitting there in a cave and I had to explore his world and why he was. The best thing I ever did was join up with a group of colleagues at work. We formed a writing group titled the “Sh!tty Writer’s Club” and our goal was to support one another during our manuscript process. Everyone in the group is supremely talented in other artistic areas such as painting, sculpting, illustration, etc. Writing was our side hustle and we were enthusiastic in helping one another finish a manuscript for publication. They helped me shape Alexander and his abilities greatly. I had already incorporated the idea that Alexander lived outside of time and how he experienced the world—the group came up with the idea that he randomly shifts through time when he sleeps. That one idea further concreted why Alexander has to live in a cave and helped to add some vulnerability to this seemingly immortal and all-powerful character.
I stalled for a moment with the romance interest story line, since that is not something I have written before. Then I cast Benedict Cumberbatch as Alexander and listened to how he would deliver the lines and it was a breeze after that. Later, Dr. Strange came out and I see that my casting was spot on.
So many novels I have burned at the stake but this one made it through the rewrites and I truly enjoyed the characters and their world. There was also an experiment I was doing with the writing technique. First, I wanted to show each character from their point of view. So the writing style changes to reflect their personality. Second, I focused on complete action and verbs with as few descriptors as I could manage. I wanted to see if I could help punctuate the here and now of time. Thirdly, there is a staccato of triplets I use in the phrasing because this is a bizarre love triangle. I worked with my editor to help keep that in there along with as many semicolons as possible, another tip of the hat to the concept of time. No one would probably pick up on those concepts. Who would? We just want to enjoy a good story.
All in all, I enjoy re-reading this book and the characters still leap off the page to me. I hope you will enjoy reading their tale too.
The #FORLINEARS puzzle: Please check out the virtual blog tour and you might find some embedded fun in the imagery.
(https://www.rachelsrandomresources.com/absolute-darkness) In fact, I dare you. Can you find the hidden puzzles that lead to an autographed book give away? First one to figure it out wins an autographed book.
Excerpt from Absolute Darkness:
Brandy is at the campfire describing an unusual event that day to her caving friends.
CHAPTER 3 THREE DOOMED TO DIE.
“Just as we were leaving the cave, I turned back to see if we had left any rope or gear and for a split second, someone was standing there at the edge of the pit.” Brandy’s voice became a whisper.
“You’re shitting me,” Blaine blurted.
“No, swear. He was looking at me.” Brandy looked at each friend in turn, her eyes pleading for them to believe.
Given that no one was completely sober except for Brandy, they were her rapt pupils and firm believers.
“What did he look like?” Mark asked.
Brandy considered the question. “It was such a quick glimpse. Pale white, ghostly. Dark hair, I think, messy or curly, short. Sharp nose and chin. Dark eyebrows.”
“What was he wearing?” Susan asked breathlessly.
“I didn’t really get a good look. Not a caver. No helmet or anything. Dark clothing, maybe just jeans and a t-shirt.” Brandy closed her eyes to try to remember. “I don’t know. I just saw his face. Then, he was gone.” She opened her wide, grey orbs. “He was there. I swear it.”
No one answered at first. Then all at once they tried to give their explanation for what it might have been. Mark’s voice won out over the turmoil. “I absolutely believe in ghosts.”
Dreams are linears way of dealing with something that has changed in the time stream. Here Brandy is processing a time stream that had occurred where her friend, Susan, was killed.
Chapter 5 Blood in the Water.
The sound of dripping water in the distance.
Where? Brandy tries to remember how she got here.
“ROCK!” the scream splits the darkness above her. She instinctively recoils out of the fall zone. Brandy crouches under a rock overhang at the bottom of the pit. Cold mud seeps into her boots. A thud. The rope end, visible from Brandy’s muddy spot, jumps and jerks erratically.
A loud crash. A medium boulder hits the side of the pit. Chunks of rock and debris rain down. Dust gets in Brandy’s eyes. She holds her breath, knowing what comes next. Praying, in that split second, a silent plea that only the rock is falling. The boulder splits in two on the ground in front of Brandy. Nothing else falls.
“SUSAN?” Brandy is on her feet looking up. A rain of sand and pebbles dislodged by the boulder’s reckless path falls on her face.
The rope sways, a pendulum. Not the steady swaying associated with someone climbing. The rope sways. Steady decaying arcs. Someone hanging.
“Sus…?” Her voice stops, refusing. In the dark, above Brandy, Susan’s headlamp shines on the sides of the pit as her body dangles from the rope. The light sways and arcs rhythmically back and forth, spinning slowly.
Brandy hurries to clip into the rope, to climb up to Susan. As her gloved hand reaches for the rope she begins falling.
Why is she falling up? Brandy falls UP past Susan’s lifeless body, blood covered face, helmet split, neck twisted. She tries to grab Susan’s limp hand, manages to clumsily grasp Susan’s chest harness.
Nothing. Brandy is holding nothing, only darkness. She falls up.
A thrill ride through time that will make you hold your breath.
Sitting by the campfire, Brandy admitted a secret to her friends. She swore she saw a ghost when exiting a cave earlier that day. Was she seeing things? Did they believe her? The next day, breaking a cardinal rule, she snuck back to the cave alone. No one knew where she was. What if she fell or was trapped? There would be no rescue.
For ten thousand years Alexander had kept the time streams of this universe safe from an eternal destructive force that continually threatened to tamper and destroy all. Locked in an unremitting battle, the two foes become sidetracked by an unexpected visitor. An entangled journey begins with chilling twists and turns until becoming locked into an inescapable death in a submerged cave.
Who will come out of the watery depths alive?
Tina O’Hailey (author of animation text books “Rig it Right” and “Hybrid Animation”, professor in animation, visual effects and game programming, caver and occasional mapper of grim, wet, twisty caves—if she owes a friend a favor or loses a bet—whose passion is to be secluded on a mountain and to write whilst surrounded by small, furry dogs and hot coffee) was struck by lightning as a baby.
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