Today (June 19, 2015) novel Only Breath is released to general availability. It is the first book in a trilogy called Language of the Gods. The second book will be Only Words, followed by Only Hope. Only Breath is a ghost story; Only Words will be set (in part) in Neolithic/Mesolithic times, the vicinity of the Black Sea (now Bulgaria); Only Hope will be…well, we can only hope.
Some important characters: At the beginning of the novel, protagonist William Kepler is a thirty-year-old virgin living with his parents. He has trouble relating to people and doesn’t believe in ghosts. All that changes before the last page. Joe Creek is an omni-capable sixty-five-year-old handyman who was blinded twenty years before by an angry ghost. Lisa Hart is a librarian writer-wannabe who gets very excited when men read to her. Marci Moore is a lusty lover of life who gets excited when men…whatever. Oh, and the ghost is trapped in a cement statue of Saint Francis, and he’s not happy about it.
I don’t want to defuse any of the narrative tension, but (in a nutshell) there’s a mystery to be solved, insights into the nature of communication and the role of words, several characters resolve what troubles them, the world becomes a happier place, and doors leading to the second novel in the trilogy are left open. Likable characters grow, and remain likable; unlikable characters get what’s coming to them. The narrator asks some questions at the very end that you should be able to answer easily if you were paying attention all along.
The title comes from a line from Sappho (probably from Sappho – it appears only on a broken, Roman-era vase dug up in Poland): θεοί· ἠερίων ἐπέων ἄρχομαι ἀθανάτων –My words are ONLY BREATH, yet they live forever. I don’t know…sounds like Sappho to me.
Here are a few quotes:
- The world of literature is a sacred mirror that shows not the reality around us but the dreams and fears that reality stimulates: It’s not where we live, but life itself.
- Sometimes, like a shaft of sunlight suddenly showing itself from an overcast sky, an insight that has waited behind the curtain for its moment on stage appears suddenly. Perhaps such insights, like crust on toast, egg white turning milky, are transformations of what is already there, brought out by the heat, or perhaps they simply appear from unknown places like swallows of spring. Whatever the origin, William suddenly saw himself in new light. He was no longer a lingering adolescent trapped in this day, this hour, this moment, a single, isolated, vulnerable, living being. He was a lifetime.
- Emma’s solace in her belief that William could now overcome his behavioral abnormalities originated in her anxiety that she or Alan had passed on some sort of gene-based malady, though neither exhibited any symptoms. In fact, she alone was the cause of his do-called disorder, but through nurture, not nature. When William was a baby, from birth to the time she first noticed his reluctance to engage others, Emma sang the same ditty to calm him, often to coax him to sleep. Because it seemed to have remarkable calming effect, she repeated it whenever he was agitated, or whenever she was agitated, or whenever the world seemed agitated. Her soothing words came through his baby ears and into his baby brain, where processing them helped him learn to recognize sounds used in his native tongue – ooo, iii, ess –and helped arrange the very structures of the circuitry.
- The first time William missed powerful signals of this sort he was thirteen years old, sitting alone in a movie theater, waiting for the feature film. Rita, a girl in his class, took the seat next to him after the previews, though the theater was nearly empty. “Do you mind if I sit here?” she whispered, bringing her lips so close to his ear he felt her warm breath on his earlobe.
- Marci took a copy of Cosmopolitan from her desk drawer, lifted her butt from her chair, and leaned far over her desk to pass it to William, watching his eyes carefully as she did. If they went to her gaping blouse, she’d know there was a spark to kindle; if not, then he was gay and she needn’t waste any further effort. At least he’d appreciate the Cosmo. “It’s August’s,” she whispered hopefully… His eyes focused first on the magazine, then the hand holding it, and then drifted up her bare arm to her shoulder and grinning face, eyelashes fluttering like hummingbird wings. Tucked under her chin two bulging globes vied to emerge from the straining blouse neck, creamy white and speckled like chickadee eggs, but larger, much larger. “Sorry,” he blurted. “Guess I’ve got the job injerview titters.” He took the magazine, vaguely aware he’d said something wrong.