Still Alive

In case you’re wondering, I’m still alive and plan on blogging a bit now that A) that novel is done and B) I’m recovered enough to consider blogging a fun activity again!. Soonish you’ll see more here. Until then, feel free to comment with what types of content you’d like to see show up!

Epilogue to Cinereous



It had been about 70 years, they estimated, since the first group arrived in Julie’s mind. They now numbered around 100, and the once barren gray land had transformed into a near utopia. A sky of blue, lush grass, and (thankfully) furniture, books, and more. Julie certainly seemed to have grown a much more active imagination than when they arrived, and also seemed more active in general. While the mountains shown brightly for so many years, recently they’d grown a bit less active once more. The core group found themselves sitting in a circle, reminiscent of the early years.

“Well, she is in her 80’s”, G-ma said, “I don’t suppose she’s running any marathons!”

“And here we are, the same age as we were when we arrived!”, Mrs. Corum replied.

This hadn’t been true for everyone. Over the years, Sara Beth had grown into adulthood, however she stopped changing around age 20. They figured this might have been where Sara Beth and Julie parted ways during their college years. Jamie appeared older now as well, although she seemed to have topped out around 60. Perhaps Julie had never updated her mental picture of her younger sister. Ryan had stayed the same age, as did Mara.

Over the years the core group had learned a lot about Julie’s present-day through those they met in her mind. There was the young man, who they later found out had married Julie. There was the young children, who got to meet their great G-ma inside Julie’s mind. There were the work colleagues, and the friends, and more. So many painting such a rich life of Julie McKay, a life that had saved itself with a little help from Mrs. Corum, Sara Beth, Jamie, Mara, Ryan, and G-ma.



When I started writing Cinereous, I felt it would be a fun experience and rewarding. And while I definitely think both of those things were true, it was also somewhat stupid.

The idea of individuals living inside someone else’s mind has intrigued me for many years. As humans, we are capable of simulating many things in our own minds, thinking of the way different events would interact with different people we know. We replay good memories, we imagine what the next major event will be like, and (sometimes) we even imagine what would happen to those we don’t like if we could do anything we wanted to them.

The idea for Cinereous was sound, and I think the idea for writing an entire 50,000+ word novel (Cinereous tops out around 67,000 words) within a month is also a pretty good way to stretch oneself and force oneself to write.

The stupid part? Committing to publish a chapter each day – November 2015 proved to be an incredibly busy month for me, including travel to a conference, as well as the Thanksgiving holidays. While I normally averaged a lead time of 2-3 chapters (e.g., I was writing chapter 13 on November 10), I still found the pace to be grueling to meet my early morning publishing times. It resulted in shorter chapters over time (something I could have remedied by just not calling each section a chapter – a revision of Cinereous would likely see some of the chapters condensed), and it also resulted in poorer writing. Perhaps the most illuminating part of this experience has been the way it held a mirror to my own writing, showing me where I was getting ‘sloppy’ or ‘lazy’. While disheartening, it isn’t a bad thing to see, as it lets one know where to improve.

Overall I hope you’ve enjoyed this strange odyssey into the mind of a 12 year old girl (which I have not ever been inside of myself, so maybe I got some of it right, but I suppose I probably got a lot wrong!). It was a good mental ‘stretching’ exercise for me, and in the end I’ll fondly remember it as that time I wrote a novel in a month and published 1000+ words a day each day. And I suspect I’ll probably do a revision of the book at some point and put it out in e-pub / Kindle format. And heck, maybe I’ll even do up a cover page!

On one final note, the subject of the book, bullying and mental breakdown potentially leading to suicide is one near to my heart. Over my career I’ve lost 2 students to suicide. It’s a problem that we cannot ignore when we see any potential warning signs in others, and one we must address directly. Sadly the myth that “talking about suicide just puts the idea into the person’s head” is still prevalent – rest assured, if you worry about someone you love thinking about suicide, they probably already have had the idea cross their mind. Look out for each other, because unlike Julie, others might not have a majority of ‘good’ characters in their minds to try to help them out. They may need some good people in real life to reach out.

  • Jon Westfall, December 2, 2015.

Chapter 30: Quiet


Well, here it is – the last chapter. These last 10 chapters have been on the shorter side, definitely something I’d expand out in a revision. Sometime in early December I’ll be posting an epilogue to the book, so be on the lookout for that. All told this has been 30 days, and 67,167 words. A 172 page paperback. A bit on the short side, but hey, I wrote it in my spare time – which I’m looking forward to having back again! Thanks to everyone who has taken the crazy journey with me! Continue reading “Chapter 30: Quiet”

Chapter 29: Secrets



They all cried, even Ryan, after the shock had faded. G-ma hadn’t been seen since she fled the group. Jamie’s body lie like Ryan’s had days earlier, with no hint of activity. Around her neck, marks where the old woman had strangled her, were visible.

“I can’t believe it” was the popular phrase uttered. They all knew G-ma had become somewhat of a fanatic regarding her belief. They never imagined that she was capable of this. Further complicating matters, they didn’t even know what ‘this’ was. It looked like death, but could one really die here? So many unanswered questions. Continue reading “Chapter 29: Secrets”

Chapter 28: Putting Down The Rebellion





“Let’s do this”

When Jamie and Julie were little, the each had their own unique set of fears. For Jamie, it had been thunderstorms. Each time a front would move in, she’d run and hide somewhere she could block out the sound. Since it was possible, very, very rarely, that storms could be violent, her parents were a bit concerned that they might not be able to find their youngest daughter in case of emergency. So they looked for a solution. It turned out to be the same solution that had worked on their older daughter. Continue reading “Chapter 28: Putting Down The Rebellion”

Chapter 27: Uprising



“They’ll see… they think I’ve gone crazy. But I’m doing this for their own good, and for Julie.”

The group lie motionless, more or less parallel to each other. G-ma stood watch while herself remaining as motionless as possible. In order, Mrs. Corum lie next to G-ma’s position, with Mara next, then Sara Beth, then Jamie, and finally Ryan, still in the exact same state he had been in. No one dared do more than whisper to each other, anytime they saw G-ma look away or seem to ‘zone’ out. They didn’t know if she realized they were talking amongst themselves or not.

The sky had grown a bit darker, they all thought, and the mountains were pretty inactive. It was hard to know if what they were doing was having any affect on Julie or if it was just a coincidence.

Inside each of their minds, they began to consider the situation they found themselves in. Mrs. Corum was certainly not a fan of G-ma’s methods or theories, but found herself truly believing that the woman wanted something good for Julie. She just wasn’t sure this would cause Julie to go in a positive and not negative direction. With the decreased mountain activity and the sky darkening, Mrs. Corum feared that Julie might have left camp early, and was spending her summer days indoors without any social interaction or friends.

Mara, in her own mind, was throughly convinced that the old woman had gone completely crazy. She didn’t give G-ma any benefit of the doubt – she felt the woman had gone suicidal herself and was determined to get out of this place, even if the alternative was unacceptable to the others. Mara was surprised at how easily the group had submitted, and secretly felt that she might need to spur them into action. How she was going to do that, though, was a mystery to her. So she bided her time, waiting for an opportunity to present itself.

Sara Beth was preoccupied with her own problems. Using Sonic as a judge of her “fadedness”, she found that he was becoming less and less likely to recognize her as the hours ticked by. She had to be careful not to make too much noise in playing with Sonic, lest G-ma notice. Thankfully the space between her and Mara was deep enough for the ball and it’s owner to be relatively unnoticed.

Jamie was the most confused of all of them. She loved her G-ma, but she also loved her sister and felt that this might not be the best way of handling the situation. But at her age, she was still used to the adults having the good ideas that worked, even if they sounded somewhat strange or unrealistic. G-ma would see them through, she hoped.

As Jamie lay there, she realized something quite amazing. Ryan, after two days of his comatose state, appeared to be moving slightly.

“Shhh…” Jamie said as quietly as she could to Ryan. Ryan turned his head slightly toward her with a very confused look on his face.

As quietly as possible, Jamie filled Ryan in on what was happening. Thankfully, as they were at the end of the line of bodies, G-ma wasn’t aware of what they were doing. Periodically G-ma would wander, and in those cases, everyone quieted down any semblance of a murmur. Jamie also encouraged Ryan to continue to give the appearance of the coma, even though she had no idea how G-ma would react to it.

The group waited, wondering what would happen next.


“She’s gotta get tougher. They all think I’m doing this to hurt her, but I’m not. How can one live their entire life consumed by fear and torment of others? That’s no way to live. Once she realizes we’re not there – no one is there – to help her, she’ll help herself. She’ll stand up for herself. I had to do it, she’ll have to do it too. It’s just the way life goes.

And if she doesn’t, she won’t be in pain anymore. She’ll make the decision, and carry it out rationally, and for her, the pain will end. We’ll also get out of this damn place, and be able to get on with our existence. Maybe we’ll re-integrate, maybe we’ll re-incarnate, maybe we’ll travel with her. Who knows. But it will be better than this, that’s for sure.

Are they talking again? They think I don’t see. Well I see them whispering out of the side of their mouths. But I’m not going to call them out unless they get too loud. We’re already having an affect on this world, and I’m sure that we’ll be fine even with a little bit of talking and moving. Just as long as that boy doesn’t wake up. He could be trouble – I don’t think I have as much sway over him. Mrs. Corum has always been weak willed, and the girls were raised right – they don’t defy authority. But him – he could be a serious problem. How could I handle him? What would stop him from challenging me if it came to it….

I suppose I could do that. But it would have to be in an emergency only. I wouldn’t take it lightly, obviously. But it would take the wind out of his sails. I only hope that maybe he doesn’t choose her. Maybe he’ll choose the oldest girl – she’s strong just like him. They seem to be getting along better. It would be easier on me if he chose her and I had to do it.

It’s starting to get closer to dim. The sky is almost black – this is the darkest I’ve ever seen it. I hope we don’t have to deal with this too much longer. Maybe tonight will be the night.

Is he moving? Naw, just looked like it from this distance. He’s in the coma, the rest of them are too scared to rock the boat, and soon this will all be over.”

Chapter 26: A New Day



“You look different”, Mara said as Sara Beth walked toward her.

“What do you mean”, Sara Beth said, visibly confused. Nothing here ever changed in appearance. That was the most disturbing part of living in another person’s mind – you were pictured however they thought of you, and it turned out, it wasn’t often you were remembered wearing different clothes. Continue reading “Chapter 26: A New Day”

Chapter 25: The Coma



After Ryan’s apology, the group eventually returned to their discussion of summer camps. Mara hadn’t ever been to one, in fact, she’d never participated in any non-mandatory activity. Her parents sent her to school, but they never had much interest in sending her elsewhere. She told the group of the trips to the mall, and of night spent watching cars drive down the street while she waited for her father to go to sleep. It was the closest she’d come to socialization outside of school. Continue reading “Chapter 25: The Coma”

Chapter 24: Camp



The mountains lit up brighter than they’d seen in weeks. Bouncing colors flitting from peak to peak. The sky seemed lighter than usual, the world seemed to be in a state of activity, if that could exist. It was noticed by each member of the small group, spurring discussion. Continue reading “Chapter 24: Camp”

Chapter 23: July



“What month is it?”

“I think it might be July now”

“I can’t believe that I’ve lost track of time, this never would have happened when I was a teacher”

“It never would have happened when I was a student, counting down the days”

Mrs. Corum and Sara Beth were both about right, Ryan confirmed later in the same day that it was around July 5th.  Continue reading “Chapter 23: July”