Title: Four Rubbings, The Stone Witch Society Book 1
Author: Jennifer L. Hotes
Genre: young adult gothic thriller
Publisher: Booktrope Publishing
The night the barrier between the dead and the living is as thin as muslin. Fourteen-year old Josie, haunted by the death of her mother, leads her best friends to an ancient cemetery to rub graves. Convinced she will come away with proof of her mother’s spirit at last, the evening takes an unexpected turn as the teens gravitate four ways into the haunted grounds.
Set against the backdrop of the rainy Pacific Northwest, four graves will be rubbed, touching off a series of events that will rattle their once mundane lives. From the lonely World War II hero to an accused witch, the people buried beneath the stones have stories that need an ending.
The journey to unravel the mysteries leaves the friends wondering if the graves would’ve been better off left alone.
FOUR RUBBINGS EXCERPT:
As I kneel down next to my mother’s grave, I notice the withered flowers that slump over the sides of the vase. The sunflowers we brought for her birthday have exploded with rotting gray seeds. I dig my nails into my palms to keep from tossing the dead bouquet behind a bush. The leaves crawl with gnats and tiny worms that feast on the fetid offering. “You guys are glad I forgot fresh flowers, aren’t you?” I say, content to leave the rotten bouquet in place.
I stretch across the grave and goosebumps erupt down my naked arms and legs. I suck in the air that hangs thick around my face, a mix of rotting leaves and smoky sweet mulch that tickles my nose and makes me sneeze. After blessing myself, I cross my legs at the ankles. I close my eyes and picture the porcelain white vault below that encases the last of my mother’s earthly remains. I imagine the cedar roots that have wrapped around her coffin by now, blotting out the delicate gold leaf details entirely. I think about my mom the gardener, tucked inside the roots of a tree, and smile.
Desperate to feel my mother’s spirit, I paint a vivid mental picture of her, plucked from fuzzy memories and fading photographs. In this particular time capsule, I’m seven and she snuggles next to me in bed. Lush copper hair drapes over her shoulders. It was before the days when she hid her chemo-ravaged head with scarves. Her eyes glint with mischief as she looks down to ask which book I want first. My tiny hands reach for The Runaway Bunny. She wraps her arms around me and opens the worn board book.
The thick spine creaks as she turns to the first page and I nestle deeper into her. Resting her chin on the top of my head, she begins to read a book we both know by heart. Her voice vibrates down my back, and her warm breath washes over me like a blessing as she whispers, “Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away. So he said to his mother, ‘I am running away.’ ‘If you run away,’ said his mother, ‘I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.’”
Today brought the news of my mother’s cancer and her dire prognosis. So tonight, my favorite baby book brings me a special comfort. She won’t die. Mothers don’t die. She will be here to watch my whole life, because I need her. That’s what mothers do.
As she closes the book, I lean into her and breathe in baby powder, sunshine, and coffee. She kisses the top of my head and tucks a curl behind my ear. “Josie, before you were born, our hearts were stitched together in heaven. I’ll always be this close.” She lays her hand across my bony rib cage.
Lying on her grave, I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from crying and taste blood. I hold a hand over my ribs and ache to feel a trace of the string that ties our hearts together, but all I feel is cheap fringe and fake beads.
Encouraged by her mother-in-law, Elizabeth A. Hotes, who told her to create something and share it with others, Jennifer writes and illustrates to keep her memory alive.
To date, Jennifer’s favorite medium is pen and ink, but she also loves to paint a wall or canvas.
Her works have been featured at benefit art auctions, adorned the walls of public spaces, graced homes and enhanced books with vibrant covers and internal illustrations.
Four Rubbings is Jennifer’s first novel, though she’s busy writing the second book in the Stone Witch Series presently. Four Rubbings is great for readers that enjoyed the Harry Potter series, and has been a fun book club pick across the country. The author loves Skyping into book clubs, so email her and ask – she may just surprise you with a cyber-visit!
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