I may have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating the question into the ether…
Are prologues out or are they in?
As I’m wrapping up the draft for Book 3 of my Greylyn the Guardian Angel series, I once again find myself asking the same question I asked when I started the series. Do I introduce the character from the very beginning (450 years ago when she awoke in her own grave) as part of a prologue before diving deep into the story which is set in modern times USA (at least in Book 1, Rekindled Prophecy)? Or do I include this aspect of the story as a chapter or eliminate it altogether?
Trouble is, no one agrees. Some people love prologues and epilogues. Others don’t. Some declare that prologues and epilogues are out of fashion in the publishing world. Some say…do your own thing, to hell with current trends. What’s a writer to do?
Seriously, everyone has their own opinion and everyone thinks their opinion is the correct one. BUT, there is no correct answer. So again, I ask…what’s a writer to do?
To utilize an early 90’s (maybe late 80’s song) “Listen to Your Heart”. Think that was by Roxette, but don’t quote me on it. That time period is a little hazy (college days, no other explanation needed).
What I’ve learned in this whole writing process is that each author has to be true to one person, and one person only…themselves. If an author isn’t happy with his/her story, what is the friggin’ point?
Now, some authors write to template, write exactly according to genre or industry standards and beats just in hopes he/she will be published. To some, that is their only goal…to be published. They don’t have to like their own story, and that is a shame.
However, I have struggled with this a bit myself. Who am I writing for? I’d revise my story because someone reviewed it and made a comment that if I really wanted to make it sell, I had to do x, y, and z. Later, I’d read over the changes and go…OH HELL NO! That ain’t right! I can’t tell you how many times I have written, removed, rewritten, removed, ….paragraphs, chapters, and the woefully humble prologues for each book.
This is just my perspective. To each his/her own, but for me I have to be honest to myself and to my story. After all, the characters, the scenes, the plot have been rattling around in my skull for so long that I can’t deny them their chance to shine. If that requires a prologue, then LET THERE BE A PROLOGUE! Maybe the next story won’t need it, but as the sole person responsible for my story…Greylyn the Guardian Angel series will start with a prologue in each book.
So just for giggles, here is a taste of Book 1 “Rekindled Prophecy: Greylyn the Guardian Angel” series — the long-suffering prologue…
Prologue – Reborn
Fermanagh’s Lakelands – Lough Erne
December 31, 1566
The sharp scent of cut pine intermingled with a fainter, but pungent earthen odor assailed her nostrils. Her eyes fluttered open. Only darkness.
The air was damp and heavy – oppressive – like a weighted blanket holding her down. Her lungs ached as they struggled for air. Her limbs felt stiff as she tried to sit up. She smacked her head before she was fully upright.
She strained her ears, listening for some sound, any sound. Nothing but her labored breathing and the rapid thudding of her heart.
Where am I?
Shaking, her fist pounded against the wall to her right, just a few inches away. It was wood, thin wood planks. Reaching up, she was unable to extend her arm above her body more than a couple of inches, her hand came in contact with more wooden planks. Splinters pierced her palm and wedged deeply into the tender skin. She yanked her hand back. Cold sweat broke out on her entire body.
Oh, dear Lord! I’m in a coffin!
The realization unleashed a wave of panic. Her mouth gaped open wordlessly, her throat too dry and constricted to scream.
Oh, dear God! No! That’s impossible!
Bitter tears welled up in her eyes. She punched against the wood over her head as fiercely as she could again and again. She wasn’t sure how long she did this. Could have been minutes or hours. Finally, she gave up and slumped in defeat. Little daggers of pain shot through her fists and up her arms, while warm liquid seeped between her fingers.
Calm down. Just settle down and think clearly. There has to be a way out. I cannot be trapped in a coffin. That’s impossible.
Gingerly, her fingers felt around the box, searching for an edge or a possible opening. After a while, she found a small latch in the upper right corner of the box. Furiously, she worked to manipulate the latch, but couldn’t get a hold of it. The substance coating her fingers caused them to slip along the surface.
Her fist punched a hole in the wooden slab above her head. She had no idea she had that kind of strength. Dirt fell into the box and covered her chest and face. Spitting the debris from her lips in an effort to scream, she continued to pound and kick. She beat upon the wood until it finally gave way. More pungent earth poured down on her, filling her nostrils and mouth.
I’m going to choke or suffocate to death.
Holding her breath, she pushed and clawed her way up and out of the tight enclosure. With her eyes screwed shut against the debris filling the coffin, she burrowed through the tightly packed earth by jabbing out with her hands. Her chest burned with the need for air.
Please, oh God, save me! I don’t’ want to die.
Renewed strength rocketed through her body. Furiously she dug upward and kicked against the coffin below to propel her up faster as if swimming in an underground sea, chained to a sinking ship.
Just as hope gave out, fresh, frigid air touched the tips of her fingers as they broke through the surface. Clawing and kicking, the dirt gave way until she was able to latch onto the ground and drag herself all the way up – free from her earthen grave. Icy shards pierced lungs as she gasped for air. Crumbling on the ground, she vomited dirt.
Hunched over, her body convulsing in the final throes of dry-heaving, a faint chuckle caught her attention.
She turned her face towards the sound. At first, everything was blurring. Blinking, grains of dirt caked onto her lashes fell away. More blinking, her eyes brought into focus the gloom of an icy moonless and starless night. Then finally she was able to out the shadow of a tall figure lounging against the side of a large oak tree.
“Well, it’s about time you made it out. I’ve been waiting all night. A few more moments and I would have left without you,” the shadowed man said in a foreign accent. With a subtle bow, he added, “Jasper Moreau at your service, my Milady.” His silhouette separated from the tree and strolled without urgency over to where she lay on the ground. His books were shiny with garish gold buckles, as if he were walking into a palace, not standing in the middle of a dirt field.
Get up and run! Why won’t my body cooperate?
Her ordeal had left her weak. So weak that she could barely lift her head to gaze up at him. The muscles in her neck twitched with the effort. Her mind ordered her legs to jump up and run, but nothing happened. A new wave of panic rocked her body, threatening to overspill in a fresh round of dry-heaving.
Her vision cleared as the stranger came closer. Strikingly tall with broad shoulders, his clothing was fancy. Difficult to make out the details of his finery in the dim light, but the long coattails and shiny buttons and frilly sleeves were a dead giveaway he did not belong here.
She pushed herself up on trembling arms and lifted her head from the ground. “If you knew I was trapped under the ground, why did you not help me?”
“Sorry, Milady,” he said with a slight touch of sarcasm. “I could not assist you. There are no headstones or markers in this quaint little cemetery and there appear to be several fresh grave sites. I simply could not find you in time. I do hope you will accept my sincerest apology.”
Sincerest apology? Was he ridiculing her? However, something in the smoothness of his voice or his nonthreatening stance gave her a sense of calmness – that she had no need to fear this man. Still, how could she be certain?
A tingling sensation washed over her body, as energy flooded back into her limbs. First, she wiggled her toes, then shook out her legs that moments earlier had refused to move. Pulling her legs towards her body, she sat up and took a long look around. After the black of the coffin, even the cloud-filled night sky seemed bright and welcoming. She sat on the edge of a small graveyard between a sheep pasture and a thick forest. In the distance, silhouettes of buildings stood out, with one taller than the rest with a pointed steeple.
The moon peeked out between the dense cloud cover for just a moment, offering enough illumination that she could make out the visage of the stranger. Long jet-black hair pulled into a ponytail. When he reached over to help her up from the ground, she smelled his sweet musky scent and noticed his startling blue eyes set against deep olive skin. His eyes glowed in the darkness. She was taken aback by their intensity. He seemed to peer into her soul. She found herself on her feet without any recollection of standing. When she looked down at his hand on her arm, he released her. The tranquility abruptly ended.
“Madam, I realize you may be distressed about your predicament. Allow me to reassure you that you are now indeed safe. You will never need to fear the grave again.”
How dare he act so nonchalant about this situation? And say such nonsensical things! She rounded on him, her voice rising. “How is that precisely? Someone buried me alive! You did nothing about it. How can you stand there and smugly say that you could not help me?”
His eyes narrowed and a nerve ticked just under his left eye. The look, more than the silence, unnerved her.
This couldn’t possibly get worse.
“Milady, you were not buried alive,” he said. “You were very much dead.”
She was wrong.
Pain, like she had just been punched in the gut, doubled her over. Bile rose in her throat. Her heart skipped a beat, or several. Unable to take in a breath, her hands flew to her throat. Her lungs clamored for air, but her body refused to perform the function of inhaling air.
Breathe. Dammit! Breathe.
Intense emotional pain throbbed behind her eyes, blinding her as she fought to come to terms with his statement.
“You were very much dead.” The statement echoed in her ears.
She collapsed back onto the cold ground. Unable to speak, a low, raspy moan escaped her lips.
This was impossible. Some cruel, sick joke. Convinced she was caught in the throes of a horrific nightmare, she shook her head violently, shutting her eyes against the world. Her stomach clenched in a fresh bout of convulsions. Judgment Day had come for her.
Distress permeated her being, blocking out everything. She almost forgot about the mysterious man until he spoke again in a calm and soothing tone, a hand rubbed her back. “Please, do not fret. You are certainly not dead now.”
Somehow, that was not reassuring. Sputtering, she forced herself to look up at him. “Then what exactly am I?”
A smile spread over his face, showcasing perfect white teeth. “Think of it as being reborn. This night is your new birthday, if you will. The night you were resurrected into your true being.”
Blinking in disbelief, she was afraid to ask. “Reborn as what? One is either dead or alive? What does that make me?”
The man waved his hands around at the farmland and the dire graveyard. “You are no longer of this world. Earthly cares and weaknesses will no longer afflict you. You, my dear, have transformed into a being of light and truth, a warrior for good.”
A weak giggle escaped her, which evolved into hysterical sobs. The insanity of the situation was too much. She must’ve lost her mind. Either she was unstable, or he was. Perhaps they both were.
Resurrected into heaven on the Day of Judgment? Yes. She very much hoped so. But resurrected back onto Earth while trapped inside her own grave? No, not possible. If that were indeed the case, she was desperate to wake up. “Please, please wake up.”
Rivulets of tears streamed down her dirt-stained face as her thin body convulsed on the ground. Indiscernible mutterings escaped her parched lips. She didn’t even understand what she was saying. Was it a prayer? Or was she just mad?
The stranger had walked over to a farm cart situated at the edge of the cemetery and patted the hay bale next to him as a signal for her to join him.
“Milady, please let me explain. This must all seem bizarre and unnatural to you right now, but I assure you that what I say is true. My intent is to help you, not hurt you.” He waited for her to sit beside him before continuing in a patient tone as if consoling a distraught child. “I should have been more considerate in my statements considering all you have undergone tonight.”
Her mind wanted to scream at him.
You inconsiderate bastard! This isn’t funny.
But no words came out of her mouth.
He peered up at the cloud-covered sky in silence for a few moments. Sitting beside him now, she felt an overwhelming sense of calm. It surprised her, as only moments before she had been in such agony and abject fear.
He broke the silence. “However, we should not tarry too long. It would not be a good idea for the locals to find a dead person up and walking around when they start their daily chores. They might mistake you for a witch or a demon, and then what would we do?” He chuckled softly. She did not find his statements amusing in the least.
That’s what you’re worried about? Someone mistaking me for witch? You just told me that I’m undead. That’s worse.
His words cut through her muddled thoughts. After a brief pause, he added, “Also, I hate to mention this, milady, but you are certainly in need of a good warm bath and new clothes. You look and smell dreadful.”
Really? Am I supposed to care how I look? I’m undead.
However, looking down at her torn rag of a dress, she agreed. He was right. She must look horrendous. A giggle burst out of her. It felt good to laugh.
Jasper smiled with satisfaction. “Now, that’s better. Just rest and quiet your thoughts. All that screaming inside your head is giving me a headache.” As if to make a point, he rubbed the bridge of his nose with long, elegantly manicured fingers.
“How can you hear the screaming inside my head?”
He just smiled, a cockeyed side grin with a glint in his eyes.
“Milady, I am here to escort you to your new … afterlife, as it were.” He stated this as if it were a simple fact, not to be questioned. “You certainly cannot remain here.”
Well, that seems rather obvious. Where exactly am I supposed to go?
The sky had begun to lighten to a dull gray. With the sunrise just over the hills, the stranger appeared increasingly anxious. “There is a lot to tell you and little time to do so. Please know that I only have your best interests at heart and will accommodate you in any way possible to ease your transition.”
“My transition? To what exactly? I was dead and now I’m not. I’m grateful to be alive, but not sure you are the person qualified to help me. You certainly haven’t so far.”
The entire situation was absurd. A burning sensation rose in her breast. Anger scorched away the thin veil of peace she had felt barely a minute ago.
“Will you stop calling me that?” unsure why the term bothered her so.
“Well, what shall I call you then?” His voice carried a perturbed taint.
She should know the answer, but she somehow it eluded her. After a few embarrassing moments of trying to recall her name, the truth hit her hard. She simply didn’t know. Dejected, she slumped against the cart. How could she not know her name? Who she was? There was no recollection of anything before waking in the coffin underground.
“Well, Milady, since you dislike the title, perhaps I can utilize your human name. There was no grave marker. Do you recall it?”
She shook her head. Tears built up at the corners of her eyes, blurring her vision again.
“Well, that is most unfortunate…and odd. I have to say I’ve never known a guardian to have amnesia.” The man paused a moment and gave her a strange look, as if he were at a loss for what to do or say based on this news. “Why don’t we pick out a new name befitting your new status as a guardian angel? That will be fun.”
Now she had to have heard that wrong. “Excuse me? My new status as what?”
This was too much. She was now supposed to believe she was some sort of an angel? This must be a bad dream or she was suffering from a terrible affliction of the mind.
As an afterthought, she hazarded a glance over her shoulder. No wings.
“No, no, no! You are not insane! You are not dreaming either.”
How did he know what she was thinking? Did he really hear the screaming inside her head?
Laying a hand on her upper arm, a mysterious calming sensation spread from the point of contact until it filled her entire being. “I do apologize. You want answers. You need answers. You deserve answers. Truly, I understand. But it is starting to get light out now so we must hurry. Our discussion can be held once we are a safe distance from here. However, if you need a name right now, hmmm…”
Looking around, he thrummed his long index finger against his chin. “Well, there’s nothing extraordinary to connect you to this place.” His finger shot up in the air dramatically. “I know. There’s this lovely castle not too far from here. Some friends of mine lived there years ago. The name of the estate always stood out to me as being quite beautiful.”
Emotionally and physically exhausted, she was unsure what to say. At this point, he could call her “Dirt,” for all it mattered.
A broad smile lit up the stranger’ face. It gave her a strange sense of comfort again, as the fluttering in her chest subsided.
“Fantastic! You shall henceforth be named Greylyn,” he pronounced dramatically. “Now, that is settled, off we go…Greylyn.”
In one elegant movement he took her arm in the crook of his own. His touch had a soothing effect as he guided her away from the small cemetery as the horizon glowed with the encroaching dawn.
The sky lightened with a deep amber hue. A rooster crowed off in the distance. Surprisingly, she found comfort in the presence of the stranger whose beauty was now revealed by the morning sunlight.
Just as the giant orb rose over the vast rolling hillside, she had an opportunity to survey her surroundings and her new friend, Jasper. As they walked away from the dreary village cemetery, the white light radiating from the sky illuminated the snow-covered hills a short distance away.
With one hand shoved into a pocket sewn into her dismal-looking gown of rough wool, her fingers found a tiny, round metal object. Touching the item brought a sense of peace. Gazing in awe at the unnatural beauty of the man beside her as the sun’s rays kissed his face, it was almost as if she dared to set eyes on the visage of an angel.