Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Inspiration Behind "The Stone Beach"

Readers always want to know where authors find their inspiration. Often there is no easy answer to that question. Ideas come from all around: family stories, life experience, news articles even jokes. Often a story comes from a combination of ideas.

In the case of “The Stone Beach,” inspiration was a clear as a knock on my door. Our cat, Casey, an alarmingly orange, long-haired tabby, had been diagnosed with diabetes and hyper thyroid disease. He was fourteen years old, and as I watched him shrink from a robust 17 pounds down to 11 pounds (he shrunk to only 6 pounds in his final days), I knew that we didn’t have much time left with him. My daughter was only five-years-old at the time. One afternoon, after one of our many trips to the veterinarian, she asked, “What if Casey just doesn’t wake up one morning?” My heart broke to tell her that might happen. I thought back to other pets I had lost and realized how hard it was to speak of such things to a child. As a parent, I wanted to brush her worries aside, tell her everything would be all right. But how could I make such empty promises, when her heart was so full of love and worry?

So I wrote The Stone Beach. In the course of editing it, I’ve read this book dozens of times, and my eyes still prickle with tears in certain parts, but it brings me comfort. I hope my daughter and all the children who are hurting from the loss of beloved pets, will read it and find comfort too.

Casey (March 31st, 1992 - October 18th, 2007)

Casey started life as a runt. He was so tiny, I worried he wouldn’t live. He was also shockingly orange with wide, blue eyes. His brother, Moe, was identical, but black. I called them my Halloween cats. They came into my life in 1992. It seems like a lifetime ago now, and I guess it was—Casey’s lifetime. We lost Moe in 1995. Casey spent weeks sitting on our back deck, scanning the horizon for his brother.

Casey was a trooper. For the first two years, he came to work with me everyday. We moved ten times in sixteen years and adopted numerous kittens, puppies and other critters. Casey took it all in stride.

For the first few months, he hid from me constantly. He was so timid; I thought I’d never get a cuddle. By the end of his life, he was my constant companion. Many of my typos can be blamed on his big pink and orange paw stretching out to tap my keyboard.

Though he outgrew his runtiness (he was 17 pounds in him prime), his life was plagued with inexplicable illnesses, so I am thankful that I had sixteen fabulous years with him.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Excerpt from The Henge Betrayed -- Flight

The Henge Betrayed – Flight Janet Lane Walters Mundania Press Two sets of twins must flee their home and seek the teachers their parents have called to help them. To survive and to defeat Dom Senet, he who walks with evil, they must to learn to use their affinities. Ashlea is Air, Brandien is Water, Kylandra is Fire and Jaydren is Earth.

He removed the scrying cup from one of the cloak’s inner pockets. The need to know burned. He filled the cup, then sat cross-legged and held the cup in his hands. Once more, he stilled his thoughts and rippled the water with his breath. He thought of his parents. An image formed. He saw the spiral staircase and the wall that contained the inner chamber. Of his parents, he caught no sign, but the hidden room was sealed against invasion.
He released the image and sought further. This time he wanted to see what passed beyond the walls of the henge.
Pictures rose in rapid succession. Men mounted on war steeds, their single horns polished to a silver gleam, followed scores of foot soldiers to the first wall. The secret gates opened and the army entered the gardens of the henge.
“Who has done this?” His question caused the water in the scrying cup to bubble. A distant figure grew larger. On a rise at a great distance from the henge, a man stood with his arms wide. The sides of his black cloak spread like wings. Bran shivered for the man resembled one of the carrion birds that feasted on the dead.
The water in the scrying cup stilled. Bran saw the man’s long pale hair and skin and knew this enemy wasn’t from the lowlands. He was a dom of highland birth.
The dom raised his head. His pale eyes bore into Bran’s. He sees me. Bran’s heart beat a staccato rhythm. He tore his gaze from the face he’d never forget. His hands shook and the scrying cup fell. Water splashed across the cavern floor. Fear erupted inside him. Had he betrayed his siblings? Did the enemy know where they were?
He looked at the torch and saw it had nearly gone out. With a fresh one from his bundle, he touched it to the dying flame. Then he knelt beside Ash. “I’ve lit the fifth.”
She stretched. “Then Let us go.”
Ash woke Jay. Bran touched Ky’s shoulder. “Time to go.”
A spatter of flame zipped across the rocks. “Sorry. Did I burn you?”
Bran pulled her to her feet. “You must learn how to be awakened without singeing people.”
“I only react when someone rouses me. There’s no problem when I’m not disturbed.”
Before they left, they filled their flasks in the pool. “How long before we can sleep?” Jay yawned through his words.
“Two torches,” Ash said.
Bran shook his head. “We’d better keep on as long as we can. Papa said not to tarry.”
The others nodded. “This way.” Ash strode around the pond.
Bran saw three gaping holes. “How will we know which is the right one?”
“In two, the air leaves. We’ll use the one where the air enters the cavern.

He was glad she’d come this way before. Otherwise, they could wander forever. She

must have heard his thought because she grinned. He answered her smile with his,

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Stone Beach by Kim Chatel

When Caroline begins her last year of middle school, she barely recognizes her best friend. Brenda dresses differently. She blows off classes, homework and friends. But has Brenda really changed, or is Caroline just seeing her with new eyes?

Caroline has worries that Brenda doesn’t even understand. Her fifteen-year-old cat, Casey, is sick and the vet has been hinting that it’s time to put him to sleep. How can Caroline lose her two best friends at once.
In the next few months, Caroline learns that some friendships are not worth keeping, others are worth fighting for and still others will endure into the afterlife.

Read more about Casey and Caroline at


“Casey! Casey!”

She felt foolish calling him, but she was far enough from the house that no one would hear her. She walked along the river’s edge toward the stone beach and was so intent on peeking under every shrub, she didn’t see the river open up before her until she came right up to the beach. When she saw the pink stones under her feet, she looked up and held her breath for a moment. The stones were a mirror of the sunset sky. The river was smooth obsidian. The sun lit the willows from behind and they glowed like gold filigree.

This is truly the most beautiful place on earth, she thought, and sat on a large rock to enjoy the play of light area.

“I never should’ve shown you this place,” said Aimee, from behind her, as she clambered onto the rock beside Caroline. She carried the same purple book which had caused the fight earlier in the week.

“Now I guess I have to share it with you,” she added.

Caroline didn’t say anything. She wasn’t in the mood for Aimee tonight. Casey was lost. It was getting dark and she’d have to leave him outside, to fall prey to whatever the night would bring.

They watched in silence for a while as the last light faded, leaving the stone beach in shadow. Suddenly, from high up in the trees behind them, Caroline heard yelling. She tensed for a moment, thinking her mom had called, but no. The voices were an angry man and woman. They were too far away to hear the argument, but the rage was clear enough. Something shattered. The voices were quiet for a moment and then exploded again, louder than before.

“I guess I can’t even escape them here,” said Aimee. Caroline was about to ask who, when she noticed the strange expression on Aimee’s face, embarrassment. She hadn’t thought it possible to embarrass the brash Aimee Jones.

“My parents,” said Aimee, with a shrug, as if it explained everything.

“Oh,” said Caroline, hating herself for uttering such a stupid response. She didn’t know what to say. Her parents rarely argued, and never with such vehemence. How did Aimee stand it?

The two girls sat on the stone beach, listening to the parent-storm above them. Caroline was too embarrassed to get up and leave now, as if it would make it worse somehow. Aimee, clearly, had nowhere else to go.
Eventually the storm blew itself out. Aimee still made no move to leave, despite the growing dark. Caroline’s mother would be worried about her, but she couldn’t make herself leave. Not without saying something.

“So how come you spell your name that way?” she asked, pointing to the notebook with “Aimee” scrawled all over it.

“It’s French. My grandma’s from the south. They still speak French there, or something like it.” She smiled at Caroline wryly. “It means ‘loved’.”

Caroline smiled back at her.

“That’s pretty sucky,” she said. Both of them seemed to know, Caroline would never tell another soul Aimee’s name meant something so mushy.

“Yep,” said Aimee. “I sure feel the love.”

The girls burst into nervous laughter that turned genuine.

“I think my parents were hippies,” said Aimee, finally catching her breath.

“Mine still are,” said Caroline. “If I have to hear one more time about the benefits of compost, I’m gonna puke.”

After another moment of companionable quiet, Aimee asked, “So what are you doing out here, anyway?”

“I’m looking for my cat,” said Caroline. “I haven’t seen him all day. I’m worried he might be hurt.”

“You know,” said Aimee, “Cats often go off to hide when they’re about to die. It’s instinctual or something.”

“Why do you always have to do that?” said Caroline, getting to her feet.

“Do what?”

“You know what!” Caroline’s voice cracked, and she fought back tears.

Not in front of Aimee, she thought. Please, not it front of Aimee.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Spaz. I was telling the truth.”

“It might be true, but it’s really mean.”

“So sue me,” said Aimee.

“See what I mean,” said Caroline. Anger had won out over the tears. “Every time you’re nice to me for even a minute, you have
to ruin it. You’re such a . . .such a . . .jerk!”

She spun to leave and her ankle turned on a stone. She went down with a thud, banging her knee and badly scraping both hands.

“Dammit!” she swore. Aimee always made her feel so awkward and small. There was nothing nice in her. No point looking for what wasn’t there.

As Caroline painfully got to her feet, Aimee shushed her.

“Shush yourself,” said Caroline, but Aimee waved at her curtly with one hand while she listened to the night.

A pathetic mewling came out of the bush behind them followed by a bedraggled cat.


Caroline ran toward him, ignoring the pain in her leg. Then she noticed the strange way he walked as if he were drunk. And his meow was almost strangled in his throat. He took another step and his back legs collapsed on him.

“Oh, Casey!”

She sat beside him and gently stroked him all over, looking for broken bones. He didn’t hiss at her touch, so he wasn’t in any pain. In fact, he purred. Caroline wondered if it was a nervous purr. He did that sometimes at the vet.

“I’ve got to get him home,” she said. “Something’s wrong.”

“Wait,” said Aimee, staring intently into the bushes. The night was silent. Unnaturally silent. No crickets, no frogs, no rustling leaves. A chill shook Caroline. As she bent to pick Casey up, a shadow burst out of the bushes, knocking her to the ground.

Except she’d felt nothing, even as it pushed past her. No, not past her. Through her!

Another long wraith erupted from the bushes, and then another and another until the beach was filled with the bounding shadows. They ran along the edge of the river, never touching the water.

“They’re cats!” said Caroline.

Orange cats, black cats, striped, calico. Hundreds of cats.

She held onto Casey as the ghostly cats ran around them. He mewled, and Caroline bent herself over him, protecting him from the wraiths. They caterwauled with an ear-splitting howl. Caroline covered her ears but nothing could block out the piercing noise. She shut her eyes tight, but she could still feel the wind against her skin as they swirled around her.
Casey squirmed in her arms, and Caroline held on tight. The ghost cats wanted him. Deep in her heart, she knew it. They wanted to drag him off on their monstrous hunt.

They screamed and raced around the beach until Caroline thought she would go mad.

As suddenly as they’d appeared, they were gone. Caroline opened her eyes to see the last ones running on sleek soundless paws along the river’s edge. They melted away, shadows into shadows.

In the silence that followed, Casey mewed loudly. One of his eyes drooped shut. Caroline had to get him home, but she couldn’t move. She looked over at Aimee, who also looked frozen in place. Aimee met her eyes and shook her head.

There was nothing to say.

Coming Soon: Read about the real Casey, the cat who inspired "The Stone Beach."

Kim Chatel is a Canadian born novelist and picture book author. She now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter and assortment of animals, which, until recently, included an alarmingly orange tabby cat named Casey. Website

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ninth Lord of the Night

Ninth Lord of the Night


Moonlight floods the ancient ruins of Tikal. The park’s gates are locked, the tourists safe and comfortable in their hotels. Only the night creatures and ghosts from the past are witness to the eerie shadows cast upon the Great Plaza by the giant temples. From the depths of the jungle the roars of howler monkeys and the drone of insects mimic ancient Mayan voices.

In the bright moonlight a lone figure crosses the plaza. The Mayan chimán climbs the North Terrace stairway, ascends the stone steps of a temple, and disappears into a small opening at the summit.

Deep within the innermost chamber, he sits cross-legged on his multicolored woven mat. He faces northwest before an altar of white flower petals, beeswax candles, and copal incense. Under the flickering candlelight the grotesque drawings on the walls seem alive while the corners of the cell remain shrouded in darkness.

The medicine man’s weathered face bears a vacant, glazed expression as he enters his self-induced trance and concentrates on the vision appearing before him. He sees the image of a seventeen-year old boy with long reddish-blond hair, troubled blue eyes, and a glint of gold in his left earlobe.

The vision fades leaving the chimán with a clear mental picture of the youth. The waiting is almost over. Soon the chimán will attempt the most important ritual he has ever done, a ritual taking a lifetime of preparation. Using knowledge passed from father to son, from generation to generation he will invade nighttime dreams, create daytime visions, and use his influence to bring this young man to a point beyond fortune and personal gain. This boy is destined to return to the Mayan people a part of their lost and ancient heritage.

Chapter 1

Zack tucked an unruly lock of curly hair behind his ear and checked his watch. In exactly twenty-nine minutes he’d planned to be cruising down Sunrise Boulevard. This unexpected family meeting definitely cut into his schedule. What the heck was it about anyway? His family wasn’t a democracy. They didn’t discuss problems in an open forum.
More annoyed than worried, he sauntered into the den and joined his family for what would turn out to be their last family conference.
“Let’s get this over with quick,” he said. “I have things to do, places to go, people to see.”
The silence was deafening.
Zack’s father sat in the faded tan recliner, his large body bent over, his powerful forearms resting on his knees. He didn’t bother to look up, but kept his eyes focused on his shoes as if they possessed some fascinating feature he’d never seen before.
His mother sat on the sofa, very businesslike in her brown suede suit. Her face was dry-eyed, serious, and composed as if she were about to give a major presentation to a potential client. Only her hands betrayed her nervousness as she rubbed her palms over non-existent wrinkles.
Even Zack’s older brother remained mute. Kyle leaned against the patio door, gazing out at the swimming pool like a kicker who’d just lost the team a championship game by punting the football wide of the uprights.
Zack began to get panicky. Whatever this family meeting was about, it was big. He slid from the sofa arm to the seat cushion trying to make himself small and mentally inventoried his latest escapades. He could think of several exploits that would mean his death if his parents knew of them and they wouldn’t look so serious unless they had extremely damaging evidence. He steeled himself for a barrage of accusations and the lecture he knew would follow.
“Okay,” he conceded. “What’d I do now?”
But, it wasn’t about him. Not directly.
His mother’s voice possessed a gentleness he hadn’t heard in months as she explained that she and their father had problems they couldn’t seem to work out. Every now and then her voice would quiver and catch and she’d pause as she fought to regain her composure. She cast pleading glances at her husband, but he continued to stare at his feet. He wasn’t helping her out of this one.
Zack’s eyes drifted beyond his father to the trophy case that housed Kyle’s gleaming football trophies and his own tarnished little league ones. Memories of glory days flooded over him. He shifted his gaze to Kyle who shrugged his shoulders as if to say, ‘Well, what did you expect, fool?’
Not this. Not ever.
“Jeez,” Zack whispered. “When?”
His mother stood up and took a deep breath. “This summer. Right after school is out.”
Couldn’t be. School ended in two days.
“Holy shit!” Zack blurted. His father arched an eyebrow.
His mother continued on, “I’ve purchased a townhouse and I’ll be moving my things out at the end of the week.”
“You’re moving out?” His mom bit her lower lip and his father looked up. The sadness in his eyes told Zack all he needed to know.
“Your father earns more money in construction than I do in health care,” she said, making the word construction sound like a swear word. “And, teenage boys should live with the father.”
“Where’d that come from?” Zack said. “You making up new rules as you go along?” From the corner of his eye he saw Kyle frown.
His mother continued, “As you know, Uncle Clifton is at an archaeological dig in Guatemala. You boys will spend the first month of summer vacation with him while I get settled in my new place and your father and I work out the details of the divorce.”
First month?
Zack shook his head. “Nope. No way. Can’t do it. I’ve made plans with the guys and my first month of summer is all booked up.”
“Unbook it,” his father stated. “You’re going to Tikal.”
“Tikal?” Kyle asked.
“Tikal is an ancient Mayan city,” their mother explained. “One of the archaeologists, a Dr. Collins, has brought along his daughter and a group of her friends. You and Zack will be staying with them. Your passports are still current and we’ve already purchased your plane tickets. You’ll be leaving Wednesday morning.”
Whoa. The lump in Zack’s throat grew larger and a knot appeared in his stomach. There wasn’t a lot of time to prepare. Only two days.
“Hey, cool!” Kyle piped up. “New babes.”
Their father gave Kyle a slight smile.
Zack groaned. “Oh, right. Chicks.”
“Well, I guess that’s all for now,” their mother said.
Zack leapt to his feet, towering over his mother. “What do you mean, that’s all? Excuse me, Mom, but don’t we get a say in anything? First, you lay this divorce thing on us. Then, you add that we’re being shipped off to Guatemala.” For an instant emotion appeared in her blue eyes, then faded as Zack blundered on. “What about what we want? Huh? Did you even think about us? Maybe we don’t want to go to Guatemala!”
Kyle stepped away from his spot by the door. “Zack, cool it.”
Zack stared at his father. His dad had always been such a tough guy. He never took any shit off anyone. “Why are you letting Mom get away with this?” Zack demanded. “What’s wrong with you? Tell her to forget it. Tell her she can’t have a divorce.”
His dad’s muscles were taut and well defined underneath the white cotton of his v-necked T-shirt. The veins in his neck began to stand out as a warning of his anger.
Zack’s mother positioned herself between them. “Stop it,” she said. Zack’s dad stared at her for a second then stood and quietly left the room. “Kyle, you and Zack need to think about what to pack. Later you’ll be given a list of items to purchase. Zack, you look like a slob. Get a haircut and lose that earring. I want you to look presentable around your uncle. Is that clear?”
They were dismissed and there was to be no discussion. Zack retreated to his room and flopped down on his bed. At least finals were over. These last two days of classes would be a breeze. He slammed his fist into the pillow, leaving a nice dent right in the middle.
When had his parents begun to think about a divorce? Where had he been? Kyle didn’t seem too surprised. Somehow he’d seen it coming. Zack hadn’t. He recalled vague memories of his mother on the phone, discussing real estate. He hadn’t paid too much attention, never thinking that she might be buying a new house for herself.
Jeez, now he’d have to call his friends and cancel his plans. No cruising tonight, and no scuba diving off the California coast this weekend. No surfing in Malibu, no camping trip to Yosemite, no hiking in the Sierras. Not for the first month of summer anyway. After that, he would be back home and his life would get back to normal. Except, of course, that his mom wouldn’t be around anymore. He tried to imagine what his father was feeling and couldn’t. What would it be like not to have her in the house? Would there be an emptiness? A void? Or would they just be eating more take-out? He felt someone watching and rolled over to see Kyle standing in the doorway.
“What?” Zack demanded.
“Hope you’re friggin’ satisfied,” Kyle said, and left.
Zack’s reflection stared back at him from the mirrored doors of his closet. Blue eyes peered out from underneath reddish blond hair and once again he was reminded of how different he looked from the rest of his family. Wrong, he corrected himself. Kyle’s family. They were Kyle’s family.
Being adopted was a slap in the face, especially when he’d started high school and his failures were measured against Kyle’s successes. The more he competed in sports, the more he was compared to his brother, and the more apparent it became that Kyle had not only inherited his father’s physical stature and looks, but also his natural athletic ability and timing. Last year Kyle was the football team’s MVP. Zack only made the second string, spending most of the season sitting on the bench. He lifted weights and busted his butt, but he couldn’t compete with an older brother expected to be the next great pro quarterback.
This past year it finally got around school that he and Kyle weren’t from the same gene pool and Zack quit getting so much pressure to perform. It bothered him though that being adopted elicited so much sympathy, as if there was something very sad about it and something very wrong with him. Public attitude negated his parents’ supposedly loving explanations.
He hated being compared to Kyle – especially by his parents. And, he hated being constantly hassled about his grades, his hair and his dude attitude. Kyle was their golden boy. Kyle could get away with murder while he got clobbered over the slightest infraction. Kyle dated the prettiest girls, was favored with the use of his mother’s ice-blue Mercedes convertible, while Zack was lucky if he got to drive his father’s trusty Toyota.
Things could be worse. The number of cute chicks who schemed to get Kyle’s attention by dating his younger brother was staggering. Although it was pathetic to see the disappointment in their faces when he pulled up in the Toyota instead of the ice-blue status machine. He never bothered asking the same girl out twice, though. Why set himself up for more humiliation than necessary?
Only now, Kyle’s life was as screwed as his. He, too, was going to Central America; hot, humid, buggy Central America where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger got sick while filming the movie, Predator. If the climate in Central America could make a fitness expert like Arnold Schwarzenegger sick, then Zack knew he’d probably die.
He pushed his hair away from his face and winced as it tangled on his earring. Lots of guys had longer hair than his, but he was willing to bet they didn’t get hassled the way he did. Didn’t matter. From this day forward, his mother had relinquished her authority. No longer did she have the right to order him around. He wasn’t going to get his hair cut, and he wasn’t going to remove the small hoop earring he wore in his left earlobe.
The next two days of school passed quickly and Zack got his report cards. His lowest grade was a C in history. The grade wasn’t unexpected, as he hated studying about dead people. In fact, he got the shivers just thinking about spending the next four weeks in a city whose only claim to fame was that it had been built and deserted by people long dead and decayed.
By Tuesday evening he and Kyle had purchased insect repellent, good flashlights, and cool cotton clothes. Zack had also packed a few CDs and his player. Their father assured them that money wouldn’t be a problem as he handed both boys a small fortune in cash.
Zack fingered the wad of twenties and fifties. Maybe this trip wouldn’t be so bad. Then he reconsidered, yeah it would. He would be bored, absolutely bored to death. It would be hot and humid and there would be nothing to do except sit around and look at a bunch of stupid ruins.
Before dawn on Wednesday, Kyle and Zack were dropped off at the airport. They departed Sacramento, changed planes in Dallas and continued on to Guatemala City, the whole time traveling in relative silence. Zack and Kyle hadn’t discussed the divorce before and they avoided the subject now. Kyle never explained the remark he’d made when he asked Zack if he was satisfied.
He didn’t need to explain. Zack knew what he meant.
They arrived in Guatemala City at 6:30 p.m., central time, and Uncle Clifton, white Stetson in hand, met them at the airport. In less than eight hours Zack had gone from California, land of fun in the sun, to the third world nation of Guatemala. In less than eight hours, reality as he’d known it had forever changed. He was now a statistic, a child of divorce and a kid from a broken home. There was nothing he could do to alter the situation even though he’d been the one to set these events in motion the previous January, on Super Bowl Sunday.