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Sye Mac

Sye Mac

Hailing from the Tarheel State, Sye explores North Carolina folklore to describe the abiding tension surrounding homosexuality and mental illness from a black southern perspective.

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If Who's Sarah Murdoch? hits 500 pre-orders by Saturday 5 January 2019 3 A.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 7 traditional publishers when the campaign ends. If Who's Sarah Murdoch? hits 250 pre-orders by Saturday 5 January 2019 3 A.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 43 independent publishers when the campaign ends. If Who's Sarah Murdoch? hits 100 pre-orders by Saturday 5 January 2019 3 A.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 36 hybrid publishers when the campaign ends. If Who's Sarah Murdoch? hits 50 pre-orders by Saturday 5 January 2019 3 A.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 28 service publishers when the campaign ends. If Who's Sarah Murdoch? hits 500 pre-orders by Saturday 5 January 2019 3 A.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 114 publishers when the campaign ends.
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Who's Sarah Murdoch?

Who's Sarah Murdoch? is a supernatural saga set in present day North Carolina chronicling the struggles of a young black woman named Harper Montgomery Neilson

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Thriller Magical Realism
Texas, United States
86,000 words
100% complete
1 publisher interested

Synopsis

We meet Harper in her late-twenties, clinging to a crumbling reality of alcoholism and opiate addiction. She exists in a world where she's lost everything, the most resounding lost occurring one year ago with the breakup of her girlfriend of seven years, Aryn. In her own grief and suspected madness, Harper dreams and hallucinates terrible things that lead her to seek help from Dr. Nathaniel LaConte, a renowned psychotherapist. Under his guidance, Harper attempts to recover missing memories from her childhood
in hopes of getting to the root of her self-destructive behavior.

Through a sequence of flashbacks set at Christmas over twenty years ago, as well as contentious interactions with her avoidant family, Harper soon perceives her imaginary demons to be very real. From the fire and shadows consuming her in slumber, to the khaki-hooded figure haunting her when she's awake, Harper's world continues to unravel and a mysterious woman named Sarah Murdoch just might know why.

Who's Sarah Murdoch? is part one of a delightfully
dire supernatural saga.

Outline

Ch. 1-3: We meet Harper and get a glimpse into her addictions, demons, and whispers of Sarah Murdoch. Taylor -- Harper's older sister -- attempts to balance her perfect life while trying to support Harper's mental instability. Harper convinces Taylor to attend her memory regression session with Dr. LaConte


Ch.4-5: In the first flashback to a Christmas twenty-two years ago, a six-year-old Harper visits her great Aunt Maggie in a mental institution. In the present, Harper tries to accept Aryn's wedding announcement and prepares to returns to work at her bar. We also glimpse inside Aryn's life with her new fiance Jonathan, revealing her inner turmoil regarding Harper. 

Ch. 6-7: Dr. LaConte studies the file on his one and only patient, Harper, as he prepares for their regression therapy session with Taylor. In another flashback twenty-two years ago to Christmas, Harper meets a special couple. The regression therapy opens a door and memories that leave both sisters -- along with Dr. LaConte -- reeling.

Ch. 8-10: Another flashback to that faithful Christmas where Aunt Maggie's views warn the family of a shift and ends in terror. Back in the present, Aryn resolves to move on from all thoughts Harper. We also meet Sophia, Harper's grandmother, as Talbit Harvest begins.

Ch. 11-13: With the end of Talbit Harvest comes deadly family secrets. Harper embarks on a special trip. With a new ally, Harper finds out more about her family and Sarah Murdoch. Aryn and Harper have a long overdue meeting with mixed results. Dr. LaConte obsesses over Harper's session

Ch. 14-18: The night of Taylor's benefit concludes early due to an accident . Harper's arrested and Taylor abandons her. Aryn and Dr. LaConte try to Harper with disastrous results.

Ch. 19-21 (+Epilogue): Harper takes another special trip and finds out the truth about Sarah Murdoch, but perhaps a little too late.

Audience

Who's Sarah Murdoch? is geared towards a adult market (18-35). It's tangible fiction for minorities, women, and LGBTQ+ peoples. In horror/magical realism genres, there aren't many books written for these specific audiences.

Author

As a tried and true horror fan, Sye spends a great deal of time reading and absorbing stories surrounding the horror and magical realism genres. Though her background's primarily in screenwriting with a few small successes such as the Austin Film Festival script competition, her writing career began in short stories.

Promotion

Sye has over 1,000 followers on Instagram and Facebook devoted to her short stories. She's hosted a local news program geared towards the arts, and looks forward to using her growing momentum to get the Sarah Murdoch series published.

To promote Who's Sarah Murdoch?, Sye will:

-Establish a website, create a blog, monthly newsletter, interactive forum, schedule and media kit for the book.

-Offer exclusive readings and promotions for LGBTQ+ bookstores and organizations.

-Participate and host online discussions or Q&A's regarding the book and the representation of subject matter.

-Actively seek endorsements using social media.

Competition

Witches of Eastwick by John Updike

Updike's play on seventeenth century "witchy" drama in the 1960s paints an intriguing spin on the old wicca narrative. Who's Sarah Murdoch similarly taps in to an olden root of supernatural lore from the seventeenth century and brings it into the now with a LGBTQ+ protagonist.


Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved invokes feelings of despair in the face of loss and subsequent insanity using the slave protagonist Sethe to convey such tensions. Who's Sarah Murdoch?'s protagonist Harper is a young black woman in the south living under today's tensions, dealing with loss and insanity stemming from a painful past. Where Beloved exemplifies poetic imagery for the most oppressiveness time in America's history, Who's Sarah Murdoch sticks to a more dark magical twist for the world today.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

As letting go and moving on is a huge theme of thing of King's supernatural classic, the same can be said for Who's Sarah Murdoch. Specifically, mourning of a child can drive extreme reactions from grieving parents.



Sample

CHAPTER ONE

Oh, how intolerable her nights had become. Harper Montgomery Neilson discerns normality in the faint breathing emanating from her right, yet it alone does little to quell her uncertainty. She simply refuses be tricked again.

For weeks her dreams had the most unusual way of meshing with reality, and even for a twenty-eight-year-old burgeoning junkie with a slightly manic temperament, their inevitable occurrence brought upon a practiced delirium. Shapes and shadows seemed to move about eventually causing what several perfectly inadequate psychiatrists referred to as an incessant paranoia.

Harper slides her trembling hand across rumpled bed sheets in hopes of finding a warm body, and expels the stale air from her lungs when her fingertips meet the exceptionally soft strands of Aryn’s hair. Her girlfriend of seven years had recently taken to organic shampoos, and while these USDA certified splurges promised less stripping and more hydration, Harper believed them to be of little consequence since Aryn’s hair was perfection by any standards.

Satisfied with her affirmation, she gently slips her hand away from her sleeping counterpart, and routinely checks the firmness of the mattress and pillows beneath her head. She conducts the investigation of linen with the thoroughness of a blind detective, concluding it all to feel right before trusting her bleary eyes to the unchanged bedroom.

The pale blue fluorescence from the street lamp located on the edge of the front lawn peeks through the split black out curtains, casting a calming haze over the master suite. Harper fumbles items around her cluttered bedside table in search of her cellphone. The device sparks to life when she finds it, and the time staring back at her, almost mockingly so, is 3:26 a.m.

“Fuck,” she whispers, wishing to shatter the ridiculously expensive, yet cheaply made device against the wall. Two consecutive hours was her sleep record since the terrible nightmare business began, and had gotten progressively shorter by the week.

Sitting beside the decidedly unfunny cellphone, Harper notices a near empty bottle of tequila which joins in on the cellphone’s joke. It takes a certain level of restraint for her not to surrender to the pull of the one-hundred percent agave nectar wrapped in a shiny gold label. In truth, she knows it’s less about her restraint and more about her remembering cracking the seal on the bottle not four hours earlier. And before that, if her failing memory serves her correctly, were several beers and a shot of whiskey—not to mention a pill medley that would put a vintage rock star to shame.

It’s in this dismal recalling of the day, in the gloominess of such a night, that Harper suddenly feels parched, the bone dryness of her throat seeming to travel and rack her limbs. She attempts to moisten her chapped lips with an even drier tongue and finds the whole affair fruitless. The wide-mouth mason jar, usually holding water for such an occasion, lies spilled over onto the relatively clean carpet, and the darkened area beneath it shares in on the inside joke made by her cellphone and tequila bottle. Harper looks to the closed bedroom door, weighing the pros and cons, before allowing the cons a swift victory upon the platform of somehow being both too drunk and too hungover to move.

She chugs the last of the tequila instead.

Her latest psychotherapist, whom she begrudgingly trusts, had suggested holistic practices to overcome her chronic insomnia and persistent night terrors. To aide in this aforementioned restlessness, Dr. Nathaniel LaConte emphasized the importance of refraining from television or electronics before bed, as they overstimulated the mind where relaxation was the goal. He’d warned her against the use of narcotics and alcohol as they would further aggravate her sleep cycle, to which Harper arguably agreed. His aversion to narcotics also made him the only doctor to withhold prescription sleep aides from her, though a moot endeavor given Harper operated on far more engaging substances on a daily basis. And while she didn’t possess the twenty-first century urge to Google the latest celebrity gossip, watch the next YouTube sensation, or mourn the next wrongfully killed minority, she rather enjoys snorting Dilaudid off the dash of her black 1968 Pontiac Firebird. She lacks the desire to switch on the zombie box to entertain another reality television show championing perpetual mindlessness via a series of anticlimactic events, or listen to another politician’s lies, but she has not, nor ever will she, turn down a tequila-soaked orgasm bestowed by a random hookup. No, Harper didn’t have any qualms with avoiding electronics in the middle of the night—technical morning—per Dr. LaConte’s recommendations, but there are always compromises one makes for one’s own impulses.

Another unfortunate side-effect of addiction.

One compromise to the stipulations set forth by her well-intentioned psychotherapist was maintaining a dream journal of sorts, and with the increasingly terrifying nature of said dreams, it’d become a rather illuminating practice. Harper retrieves her X-files themed pen and black leather-bound journal from the bedside table drawer and begins the task at hand. Recalling these elusive night terrors became quite the task in itself, each attempt taking longer than the last. Harper taps the heavily gnawed pen against the empty page as she fiddles with a thin chain around her neck.

She’d never been one to wear jewelry, finding anything beyond studded earrings an unbearable hinderance, yet the small, silver necklace accompanied by a tiny cardinal charm suits her. It was a birthday gift from her mother she received two months ago, one month after Harper’s actual birthdate, and the first one she’d received from the woman whom birthed her in nearly seven years. It had arrived by mail on a particularly sober Saturday, and with it came Harper’s hope for an end to their communication stalemate. Moments after opening the small package, the shrinking voice in her heart that whispered of reconciliation and acceptance began to sing, and Harper nervously picked up the phone to call Ophelia Talbit to say thank you. Perhaps they would even shoot the breeze. It’s the proper Southern thing to do after all, and Ophelia—being your conventional former debutante—valued these bona fide manners over anything else. As the ringing vibrated in her ear, Harper found herself forming a hypothetical conversation with her mother; inquiring about the book club Ophelia hosted every Thursday was a safe topic, along with what television shows she’d become obsessed with. Harper even considered asking how things were down at the church, though, that particular inquiry could have disastrous results, and was used for truly desperate times like Talbit Harvest.

Sadly, all the small talk prep was for naught when mommy dearest couldn’t be bothered to answer the phone, or even return her call the next day. Instead, Harper endured an awkward fifteen-minute discussion with her mother’s latest boyfriend David who spoke at great length of car maintenance. He’s a nice enough guy and Harper didn’t dislike him, but she also didn’t see the point in initiating some great kinship either. To her he simply existed as a personal assistant for her mother.

Endless minutes tick by and it’s nearly an hour later before the images from Harper’s latest dream take form once again, thus allowing her words to frantically leap onto the page. Once the letters stopped pouring, Harper takes in the incohesive bluster and finds them a stark reminder of her wavering sanity.  She reads the entry over and over again, until the words blur on the page and a headache ensues, and thankfully the consequential migraine allows sleep to beckon her once more. Harper tosses her journal and pen back into to the drawer space, then checks the time on the cellphone display before settling back under the duvet.

It reads 3:26 a.m. and efficiently shatters any hope of a gentle slumber.

“That’s impossible,” she says to no soul. Surely it has been over an hour since she checked it last, yet there in large digital lettering reads 3:26 a.m.

 Harper considers Occam’s razor. She once prided herself on being a prominent applied mathematics student, therefore indulging in the philosophical classics had been a hobby. Electronics stop working all the time. In fact, it’s more normal, she reasons, for them to fail based on the redundancy of new versions introduced every year. The more she seeks the simplest of explanations, the more frantic grows her attempts to shut down the device. To no avail do the shiny, black plastic buttons respond, and to no avail does the taunting time change.

“You piece of shit,” she growls and launches the offending device against the wall, not caring to wake the bedroom’s other occupant. The sound of it cracking on impact echoes in the quiet.

It’s in this new darkness of her own making that Harper realizes she can no longer hear Aryn’s deep, rhythmic breathing. When had it stopped?

And it’s in this new darkness of her own persistence that a fearful Harper closes her eyes as she slides her hand over the ocean sized space to discover she can no longer feel the silky strands of her lover’s hair.

She’s alone. She has in fact been tricked again.

Harper desperately racks her increasingly torpid mind for understanding. How could she forget being alone? Is she so desperate for normalcy that she’d accept the first sign of worthiness as truth? Is she truly this pathetic? It’s a dangerous line of questioning, resounding in a loud and boisterous Yes. For Aryn had moved out nearly a year ago and Harper is indeed alone.

Her eyes open to a familiar darkness now, then trace the static shadows on the walls leading to the closed bedroom door. She realizes that it, too, is wrong. Once Harper’s life had taken an abrupt turn for the worst, she developed a nighttime ritual—a compulsive response Dr. LaConte called it—which hinged upon her opening every door surrounding her before going to sleep. She’d passed out drunk in a drive-thru lane last month and not fifteen minutes later, she awoke up to a teenage boy reeking of gaunga asking if she was okay. Harper gave him twenty bucks for being cool about it all, and he took it without hesitation, only inquiring of why both her cars doors were open.

She dismays this in-between, this new reality, where from behind her closed closet door low voices crawl to life. Panic grips her with the disillusion of the situation setting in, sending a flurry of thoughts scattering across the front of her mind. The fine hairs of her forearms rear up, forcing the skin beneath them to tighten and squeal. Her terror seems to drive these otherworldly proponents, resulting in an amplification of their voices, the voices beyond the closet. Harper presses her sweaty palms against her ears, and her tired eyes remain on the closet door.

It moves closer now, floating through the air like a looming wooded phantom. The pounding in her chest reverberates in her ears, more so than the shouts from beyond the closet door, and she screams, “Jesus fucking Christ! Just stop!”

They silence on her command.

The closet door hovers an arm’s length away from her bedside and if she’s learned one thing from the last few months, it’s that triumph required facing the end. Harper takes a steely breath and reaches for the handle. Before the trembling appendage touches rusted brass, the door swings open and billowing flames expel from its depths, ending within an inch of her nose.

Harper yelps and slams back against the headboard, a scalded animal in her attempted bravery.

The savage inferno isn’t warm, isn’t healing. It feels of hell or very close to it, of something seductive and primal. It’s majestic in its own way and entrancing in every other. The voices return and Harper fails to notice, too enraptured by the orangish glow. Yet mangled souls bellow out, more persistent and clearer than they’ve ever been:

“Sarah Murdoch! Sarah Murdoch! Sarah Murdoch!”

The dancing flames, hypnotic and deadly, call upon something deep within her, something forgotten. Thus, she leans closer to the genesis of its seduction and not at all aware of the tentacle-like shadows sliding down the wall behind her.

This familiar gloom, the source of all her sorrows, slips over her wrists and neck, yanking Harper back within its cold clutches before she can enter the desperate warmth. Her eyes flutter shut as she faints backwards into this darkness, her head landing softly on her pillow.

#

It’s daylight when her eyes open again, confirmed further by the singing of brown thrashers nesting in the rose bushes next to the bedroom window. Harper lies in silent reprieve, but not fully convinced of her escape.

She sniffs the air and falls into a fit of coughs. It takes a few conscious moments for her to perceive the foul stench permeating her nasal passages and the most unpleasant wetness surrounding her. Her brows furrow and every muscle in her body tenses in repulsion of what this ungodly smell may be.

She pushes her bed linen away and stands on tremulous legs. Once the cool air from the room hits her body, she discerns the considerable amount of urine soaking her backside, ruining what’s likely her last pair of clean cotton underwear, while a substantial amount of vomit and bile soak the front of her white wife beater. Next to bed is where most of the puke had landed, a curdled heap where maggots now feast. She dry heaves in spite of her wavering strength, and forces down the gag, or sob, that tries to escape; refusing to let the embarrassment and rage of what’s transpired undo what dwindling confidence she has left.

Instead, Harper, a vision of beauty and despondence, chances a look to the bedroom door standing remarkably ajar and smiles.

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