THE WITCHES OF BONE HILL will release in six months' time. And while I can't wait for readers to meet Cordelia and Eustace, I also want to prepare them. I'm talking about trigger warnings. Those pesky, little, one-or-two-word clues that tell a reader what sensitive material they can expect to be confronted with when they pick up any given book.
Not everyone in publishing loves the idea of trigger warnings, and I don't blame them. The fear is that it will turn readers away and impact sales of a book they might otherwise love. But as a person living with PTSD, I feel an obligation to provide them and always do my best to list trigger warnings on the book pages of my website. However, I think the issue here is that without context, trigger warnings can be met with shock or even outrage and do exactly what some publishers fear they will—turn willing readers away.
In my own experience, I've often been confronted with child loss in books or movies unexpectedly. Sometimes, the depiction is such that I can handle it. Other times, it is triggering and I have to stop reading or watching and then do damage control. It's not a fun experience. For me, just knowing that it's coming can make a massive difference in how I react to the material. Being caught off guard almost never serves my heightened nervous system. A heads-up can make all the difference. So, I value trigger warnings and find they don't always turn me off. This is also why I provide trigger warnings on my website despite some publishers' protests.
But, I recognize that stripped from the story they belong to, these precautions can blow material out of proportion and leave readers scratching their heads, wondering why anyone would want to read about something so terrible. The truth is, story doesn't happen without conflict, and we use books to explore themes and experiences we might not want to confront in our daily lives. For example, I keep telling everyone that THE WITCHES OF BONE HILL is a "fun" read, much more so than my other books. But the trigger warnings listed for it (sudden death, mutilation, hauntings, animal cruelty, sexual content, drug use, language) don't sound like much fun. So, to put it all in perspective, here's a context lowdown for each of these without spoilers to ruin the surprise.
Sudden death: This one is personal for me. Most people might not consider sudden death to be a trigger, but I know firsthand how it can be. I lost my daughter this way in 2017, and as a result of our experience and my blog on child loss, I am now connected to hundreds of parents who have lost a child similarly. That does not even include all the adults who have lost a spouse, sibling, parent, or friend to sudden cardiac death. For us, sudden death is all too real and all too triggering.
But let me frame the way it appears in THE WITCHES OF BONE HILL for you. For starters, we do not see the death take place. Additionally, it does not happen to a child or even young adult. There is only minimal discussion of it, and it never strays into real world statistics or facts around sudden cardiac arrest. So on the whole, I think even someone like myself would not be bothered by this in the context of the story.
Mutilation: I want to be clear that this is not referencing cutting or self-mutilation in any way. The mutilation discussed in this story is a part of our main characters' history—a clue in a mystery they desperately want to solve involving someone they very much loved. It is, as far as such a grim topic goes, relatively minor. And though a subject like this is always gruesome, I tried not to depict it here with too much gore.
Hauntings: I'm not even sure hauntings qualify as a trigger, but I usually prefer to err on the side of caution. Some people who have experienced inexplicable phenomenon are traumatized by it, and might find the subject of ghosts upsetting. But I think, overall, this is really not a great cause for concern for most, and in fact adds to much of the fun.
Animal cruelty: Please understand, I don't condone animal cruelty. That said, in a novel like this one, there is going to be collateral damage. The act is not depicted as it is happening, nor is it performed by the main characters. Bad guys (and girls) populate novels alongside our heroes, and they get up to all manner of sin.
Sexual content: To be fair, this is a plus for a lot of readers. It feels kind of silly to even list it here. But if you blush at the word "nipple", then this warning is for you. Yes, this is an adult novel with consenting adult characters who engage in consensual sex. I hope it makes your toes curl in a good way.
Drug use: It's stated plainly in the book summary that one of my characters—Eustace Bone—is involved in the cannabis industry. This is the extent of the drug use. There's no hard-hitting addiction themes or scenes. Just a middle-age woman who casually partakes of her own product and references cannabis use here and there throughout the story.
Language: It's not gratuitous, but the occasional four-letter word finds its way onto the page. If you're too sensitive for cursing, then what the heck are you doing looking into this novel anyway? Go back to the children's section.
THE WITCHES OF BONE HILL: 9*26
Cordelia Bone's meticulously crafted life and career in Dallas are crashing down around her thanks to a philandering husband with criminal debts.
When her older, carefree sister, Eustace—a cannabis grower in Boulder—calls to inform her the great aunt they never met has finally died and they must travel to a small town in Connecticut to deal with the estate, she sees an opportunity to unload the house and save herself.
But once there, the sisters learn they are getting much more than they bargained for. The Victorian mansion they stand to inherit is bound in a dynasty trust controlled by their late aunt's aging attorney who insists they inhabit the house and retain it but keeps them in the dark about the peculiar rituals of their ancestors. Not to mention a sexy, tattooed groundskeeper with a shrouded past who refuses to leave the carriage house and a crypt full of dead relatives looming at the property line.
As both women grapple with their current predicament, they come face to face with a haunting family secret, the truth of what happened to their mother, and the enemy that's been stalking them from the shadows for generations. In a twisting torrent of terror and blood, the sisters must uncover the power within them to heal their fractured relationship, reverse their mysteriously declining health, and claim the lineage they wanted to escape but now must embrace if they are to survive at Bone Hill.
"...this eerie tale will keep readers up well into the night." –Rachel Griffin, New York Times Bestselling author of THE NATURE OF WITCHES
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