My family used to take an annual trip to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. We would park our car at the rented house or condo on North Forest Beach Drive and not move it the rest of the week. To eat or shop, we rode bikes, either on the beach or the walking paths that crisscross the island.
One afternoon, after lunch at Steamers in Coligny Circle, my oldest daughter pedaled behind me on the tag-a-long bike. We always had a running conversation when we biked. She was seven or eight and was filled with questions. She was the Energizer Bunny of questions, although I would never say that her questions were tiresome. Never.
The bike path ran along North Forest Beach Drive, although there were certain parts of the path that cut through an empty, forested lot, with palm trees, big oak trees, a few pines, all with Spanish moss hanging. We called it the jungle, and occasionally saw tigers, lions, snakes, opossums, and other wildlife. At that age, kids have a larger imagination than we do. She saw the animals. This day, she was quiet as we went through the forest. When we were back into the bright South Carolina sunshine, I looked back and asked, “Did you see the ghost back there?”
Her eyes got big, and she asked me the ghost’s name. I told her Bob. She asked why Bob the ghost was in the jungle on the path. I explained he lived on the beach, and he was wandering looking for his family who had left him after he died on the island. She wanted to know why his family left him. “His family couldn’t see him,” I answered.
“But we can!” she said.
She continued with her questions throughout the day. Where’s he from? How old is he? How’d he die? On and on. For the rest of the vacation, Bob stayed close. We ate our meals with him. We built sandcastles and flew kites with him. He shopped with us. We waved at him as we passed by on our bikes.
We left the island four or five days later, but the ghost and a little girl who asked him questions stayed in my thoughts. You could say Bob haunted me, but I was less interested in Bob, than I was the little girl he watched build sandcastles. She was nine in my mind, maybe a year or two older than my daughter. I realized she was troubled, and she needed saving, and Bob the Ghost was there to save her. When I sat down to write the story, months later, this was all I knew about Lucinda. It was enough of a spark to carry me forward.
I do not remember how long it took me to finish Lucinda’s Ghost or how many drafts I did. When I published it on December 3, 2012, I had a sense of urgency. I saw this novel as a path for writing to be my day job. My only job. But the story wasn’t ready. There were flaws. Lucinda was not really nine, and her brother was not three. They acted older than they were. I had done my own copyediting, and there were obvious errors. The most unfortunate was that Bob was a high school English teacher at one point, but then a history teacher. After a year, I pulled the novel from Amazon, and I put it aside. I was not really embarrassed by my effort, only disappointed. I still believed in the story. Others believed in Lucinda’s Ghost as well, and many gave Lucinda love for which I am grateful. Editorial comments were provided by a few, and those were set aside for later, as a beginning point.
When I opened Lucinda’s Ghost eighteen months ago, I read it with fresh eyes, and I found the flaws to be minor. In my first post-publication edit, I aged Lucinda to eleven, and her brother, Woodrow, to five. I added an important chapter and epilogue. A friend referred me to Bob Nailor. He edited certain idiosyncrasies of my writing and gave the story a renewed life. He especially liked that Bob the ghost was his namesake.
Lucinda’s Ghost is a kid book meant to be read by adults, and an adult book meant to be read by kids. It’s hard to market to eleven-year-olds, so the only way for Lucinda’s Ghost to really blossom is for parents to read it and want their kids or nieces and nephews to read it. It’s an easy read, but I believe it will take your mind off your difficult day for a bit.