The Ice Twins

ice twins

 

My book club recently finished The Ice Twins, a psychological suspense thriller by S.K. Tremayne.

A year ago, Sarah and Angus Moore of London lost Lydia, one of their 6 year old twin daughters to an accident. Or was it Kirstie?

For a year, they believed their more reserved, quiet daughter, Lydia (and Sarah’s favorite) had fallen from their grandparent’s balcony. But now their surviving twin Kirstie is asking her mother, “Why are you calling me Kirstie? I’m Lydia.” Kirstie is also behaving differently than she used to: she’s more like Lydia used to be, and even prefers Lydia’s favorite toys.

Still grieving from their tremendous loss, and in some financial straits after Angus has been fired from his architect job after punching his boss, Sarah decides the family needs to get away from the city and relocate to an isolated island in the Hebrides, Scotland, in a house that has been in Angus’s family for generations. Though the landscape is spectacularly beautiful, the house needs a lot of work, and the only way to the island is by boat. Still, Sarah feels hopeful that their family can heal here.

But things only get worse. Enrolled in the local school, Kirstie is shunned by  her peers. Friendless and lonely, her behavior only gets more bizarre. She demands more vehemently to be called Lydia, and is observed at school to be talking to someone who is not there–her dead twin. Again and again, my heart broke for this sad little girl, to the point I had to put the book down to wipe my tears away. The suffering of children is not something I can easily handle, and this child wasn’t spared.

Sarah and Angus’s marriage isn’t faring so well, either. Angus clearly has a drinking problem (and Sarah is no teetotaler, either); there is a simmering rage inside the man that is troubling and foreboding, and one senses he’s hiding a secret. The anger is directed at Sarah, and she has no idea why. Sarah, for her part, is a total failure at communication, and harbors secrets of her own.

As events get more bizarre and the tension builds to unbearable levels, the questions keep surfacing: is the child Kirstie or Lydia? Is the child’s behavior a result of psychological trauma, or is there really a ghost among them in this haunting, fabled land (where, one local says, the air is “thin”, as in between the worlds of the living and the dead)? What secrets are both Sarah and Angus harboring, from each other and from themselves? What really happened the day one of the twins fell from that balcony?

I spent most of the book wondering what the heck was going on, and it certainly kept me turning the pages. Its horror creeps up on you, and only gets more intense as the book goes on. The resolution is both satisfying and sad. I felt like I went through the wringer on this one–and that’s when you know you’ve been superbly entertained by a work of fiction.

 

 

 

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Dear 20-Year Old Self

letter to self

Dear 20-year old self:

This June 28, 2016, I’ll be turning 45. I know what you’re thinking: how could that possibly happen? Believe me, I know how you feel. I can’t really believe it myself, but here it is. I know that you couldn’t really fathom yourself at this age. It was all so far away, and a little unreal. It was as if life stopped at 25, and anything beyond that was veiled, murky and uncertain.

I know your questions: Will I ever find love? Do I even want kids? Should I try to be a writer, or do something more practical? Will I end up a lonely old woman surrounded by rangy cats and dusty books? Will I ever find a hairstyle I like?

Well, let me put you at some ease. You will find love, real love, a few years from now. When Jay asks you out, say yes. When he asks you to marry him, say yes. Just understand that with real love comes complexities that you can’t even begin to imagine right now. You’ll learn that people change, and even love changes, even as it deepens. Hang in there; it’s all worth it.

One of the reasons it’s worth it is because, yes, you will have a child with this man, and she will be the ultimate love of your life. This sweet, beautiful child will challenge everything you think you know about yourself. She will help you grow in ways that nothing else in this world can. When your flights of fancy threaten to send you spinning off into oblivion, she will ground you. I know motherhood scares the crap out of you-all that responsibility!-but believe me, the love you receive in return is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. You know how you wonder what it’s all about? This is it.

Speaking of flights of fancy, keep writing. Just do it. I wish you had committed to it sooner, but all that scribbling you’re doing- and will do- is creating a foundation. Keep nurturing that dream. If I had to go back and do it all over again, I’d forget about the accounting degree, and the study-at-home courses for veterinary assistant, and the other one for pharmacy assistant. Forget about those hare-brained ideas, and concentrate on writing. That’s what you’re meant to do. Practical has nothing to do with it.

As far as I’m concerned, there are worse things than ending up surrounded by cats and books. I don’t think that will be your fate, but make sure you have a few of each at all times, anyway.

Put away the curling iron and the aqua net. You don’t need them. And those strands of gray hair you’ll be plucking out in a few years? You might as well keep them, because there’s just going to be more. A lot more. But because you’re smart and will quit smoking, your skin will be as smooth as a 35-year old’s when that big 4-5 comes. Could be worse!

I know you’re full of worries and insecurities about the future. I still am now, just with different worries. It will all work itself out. It won’t always be easy-far from it-just know that you’re strong enough to face the challenges. Really; it’s in there. There are probably a few things I could warn you about, and advise you to make different choices. But your mistakes are my invaluable lessons. And great fodder for writing, so keep the screw-ups coming!

So try not to worry so much, and have fun. And remember, the best is yet to come.

Love,

Your older (and still kind of a mess but okay about it) self XOXO

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So, what would you tell your 20-year old self? If you’re 20 (or so) now, what would you ask your older (and hopefully wiser) self?

 

Black Buzzard

My mother’s companion of 28 years passed away last weekend, at the age of 79. He’d been in poor health for a long time, and the massive heart attack that killed him wasn’t wholly unexpected. And yet his death is still shocking, still startling in its lightning-strike finality.

Even before this, my mind had been often contemplating that final destination. Not so much for myself (I never worried about dying young until I had my daughter), but for my aging parents, both 80 years old; I knew that Death was waiting patiently by their sides.

He appeared maybe 10 or 15 years ago, when the realization hit me that my parents were (gasp!) getting old and would die someday. He was fuzzy at first, a shadow. Every day since then he’s been getting clearer, more defined. He’s like a black buzzard sitting on their shoulders.

Losing a parent at a young age has got to be shocking and traumatic. I don’t envy anyone in that position. I’ve been lucky to have my parents around for a long time (and still going fairly strong), and I’m grateful for that. But there’s something horrific about realizing your parents mortality, of suddenly seeing that shadow looming over them forevermore. You find yourself waiting for him to strike-will it be today? Tomorrow? Next year? In a decade? It’s a slow dread.

We laugh and live in spite of him, ignore him as best we can. Flip him off now and then. But he’s immovable. He’s like one of those British soldiers guarding the Queen’s palace. He won’t move a muscle until it’s time to move. You can do your best to distract him, lure him away, do a little dance to make him crack a smile. You feel a little foolish in the attempt, but what else can you do? That stare is unnerving.

So while I mourn my stepfather’s passing, while that black buzzard makes his claim on those that I love, I have to remember to keep on dancing.

 

The Well is Full

water in bucket

So I’ve been away from the blog and writing for two weeks to “refill the well”, and I can honestly say that it did me some good.

This little vacation didn’t totally consist of goofing off. Really. I researched home remedies for strep throat, in the event my persistent case came back again, concluding that I was done with antibiotics no matter what. I’m relieved it hasn’t come back so far, since I wasn’t looking forward to apple cider vinegar gargles and honey-garlic-cayenne pepper pastes to swab onto my misbehaving tonsils. Lilly was having some bladder problems which turned out to be a bacterial infection, and so she has been on some antibiotics this past week. I cleaned and purged a few things from my apartment. I’m reading two books right now (The City of Mirrors, by Justin Cronin, and The Ice Twins, by S.K. Tremayne), and finished beta reading for a writer friend (my first experience doing so, and something I recommend all writers do at some point).

All the while, I thought about which direction I wanted to go in at the end of the break. Blogging has been the only consistent writing I’ve done in the past six months, and while I love it, I feel it’s time to focus more on my fiction writing. I’ve been away from it long enough to miss it, while I’ve tooled around with blogging and essay writing. And while reading my writer friend’s novel, I thought, Right. This is what I should be doing, too.

Two days ago I dug out my rough draft of Wolf Dream, the novel I finished during NaNoWriMo last November. Well, I can’t properly call it a novel, since it’s only 150 pages long and 60,000 words. A novella, at this point. I sat down and read through it in a few hours. I love it. Oh, it needs a ton of work, but I adore this story. I’m eager to delve back into it and make it better, to make this story really come alive. And that’s what I’ve been waiting for: to fall back in love with fiction again. Several months ago, I’d lost that loving feeling, and wondered if it would ever come back. But like any marriage (and I’m married to this writing thing now, for better or for worse), you have to weather the ups and downs and trust that the love is still there, deep down in the well.

So my goal for the summer is to work on revising Wolf Dream, put some meat on it, and have it ready to put out for feedback in the fall. And blogging? I’ll still be here, but I think I’ll be scaling it down to one post per week. I’ll try to make it interesting, I promise.