Anyone who knows me will tell you I love the mountains, especially the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’ve visited the area eight times since 2005 and I’m returning this summer. Sure, I’ve also traveled to other places in the past ten years (Florida, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mexico, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands), but at the beginning of every summer I get a yearning in my gut to head back to the Smoky Mountains, which are majestic and beautiful, yet ominous and mysterious.
When I visited in June/July of 2012, I read about a man who had gone missing three months earlier. That reminded me of other missing person cases I had previously read about. As I explored the mountains on that 2012 trip, I couldn’t help but wonder what had become of those poor people. My imagination ran wild and, upon returning home from vacation, I began writing what later became THE SEVENTH TAKING.
Set in the fictitious Blue Summit Mountains of Tennessee, THE SEVENTH TAKING follows Abraham Wilson on his quest to find his missing ex-girlfriend, who disappeared while vacationing with her family.
It’s summer in southeast Louisiana and eleventh-grader Joy Vincent is complaining about everything from her dad to the family vacation being forced upon her, but Abraham Wilson has other things on his mind—and it’s not the mosquitoes. He plans to break up with Joy, hoping to begin college with a clean slate. But Joy doesn’t take the news well, and Abraham feels a tinge of guilt, yet that’s nothing compared to how he feels days later when he learns Joy has disappeared in the Blue Summit Mountains of Tennessee after an argument with her father. Abe begs his parents to let him travel to the mountains and participate in the search efforts, but they will have none of it.
Weeks later, there’s still no sign of Joy. Authorities determine she voluntarily ran away, and they stop their search. Beside himself with guilt, Abe finally convinces his parents to let him go to the mountains with his friends Brett and Charlie to see for himself.
The day after their arrival, they realize there’s much more to the story than just a girl who ran away from home, and they also realize they’ve gotten in way over their heads. Afraid but driven, the trio sets off on the narrow trail where Joy was last seen and soon they find themselves fighting for their lives against man, beast, and the majestic mountain country that can turn deadly in a split second.
Will Abe and his friends live long enough to discover the secret behind Joy’s disappearance, or will they meet with the same fate?
…When I first heard the steady crunching sound, I thought I was lying in my backyard listening to Achilles—my giant German shepherd—eating his dog food. I would often feed him after my workouts and then lie on the ground to recuperate while he ate. The cool breeze blew against my cheeks, and I knew it had to be fall, which meant boxing tournaments would be in full swing soon. The crunching stopped briefly and then a twig snapped. I stirred in my sleep, turning to my side. The ground was uncomfortable, but the soothing sound of Achilles eating his food began again, and I settled into my sleeping position. After a few seconds, another branch snapped and I wondered what could be making that sound in Achilles’ dog pen.
I suddenly bolted upright as it all came back to me—Brett being taken by Leaf Creature, the storm, the raging river, the briar patches, and us being lost. I scanned the area and when I saw the bear I started to scream, but it got stuck in my throat. The bear had stopped what he was doing and now stood staring at me with brown beady eyes. He was so close I could smell him. With the exception of his tan eyebrows and snout, his fur was black as the night we had just survived. A dark reddish liquid dripped from his snout and I wondered if it was blood.
I realized my hands were empty and slowly felt around for Jezebel. When I found her, I gripped the handle and lifted it in front of me, pointing one of the blades at the bear. As though trying to smell my intentions, the bear tested the air with his black nose. He then reared up on his hind legs and made the most horrific noise I’d ever heard. My heart pounded in my chest so hard it hurt. The bear stood staring down at me, trying to decide what to do next.
“What’s going on?” Charlie stirred beside me and sat up to wipe his face. When his eyes focused on the bear standing over us, he lurched to his feet and made a dash for the opening in the briar patches behind us, screaming as he ran.
This seemed to startle the bear, as it dropped to all fours, turned, and loped off in the opposite direction. I sank against the tree and sighed, nearly peeing my pants. “Charlie,” I called halfheartedly. “It’s gone.”
I stood on trembling legs and grabbed my rucksack. I pulled it onto my shoulders, snatched up Charlie’s bag, and set off in the direction Charlie had disappeared. Whatever energy I’d regained from a good night’s sleep had been zapped by the fear of the bear encounter. I wanted to roll up in a little ball and go back to sleep, but, instead, I trudged on, calling for Charlie as I hiked. He wouldn’t answer, and I began to fear the worst. At that moment, I felt as alone as I’d ever felt. I swallowed hard, as I tried to imagine what fate had befallen Joy. Had she truly been killed by Leaf Creature? Was she still stumbling around the mountains all alone? Or was she hiding out with her aunt?
I didn’t know how far I walked—calling Charlie’s name every few steps—but it had to have been twenty minutes before I heard a response to my hollering.
“Over here, Abe.”
I stopped and looked in the direction of Charlie’s voice. Solid briar patches. “Where are you?”
“Over here,” he said.
I searched for a way around the prickly bushes and detected a small passageway through the thinner portion of the thickets. I shucked off my rucksack and, holding it in one hand and Charlie’s in the other, I inched sideways through the narrow lane. As I zigzagged along the passageway, I noticed globs of mushy fruit on the ground that were the same color as the dark reddish liquid I’d seen on the bear’s snout. My blood ran cold. This trail had been made by a bear. What if we encountered it?…
RANDOM NOVEL STATS
I first began writing THE SEVENTH TAKING on July 16, 2012 under the working title, THE MISSING SIX. I completed the novel sixty-one days later on September 15, 2012. I missed four days of writing during that period of time, so I actually wrote the book in about 57 days.
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To purchase a copy of THE SEVENTH TAKING, click HERE.
Genres: Young Adult / Mystery / Detective / Suspense / Thriller
Length: Novel (56k words / TBD paperback pages)
In closing, I want to thank the owners and staff over at Amber Quill Press for publishing my novel, and I want to thank everyone who decides to buy a copy. As I always say, writers are absolutely nothing without readers, and I always appreciate the people who sacrifice their time and money on something I’ve written.
I’m happy to answer any questions y’all might have and I welcome feedback from those who read my book.
Best to all,