Excerpt #2 from my New Novel-The Desert Between Us

Pier like in Santa Barbara


From time to time, I like to update you on my latest writing projects. This is Excerpt #2 from my new novel The Desert Between Us.

This scene takes place as the main character, novelist Chase Kincaid, 37, walks along the beach near Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara with Sierra Taylor, his son’s third grade teacher, and his future love interest.
Chase’s wife (Aimee) died two years prior, and he is still caught in the fog of grief. He’s wrestling with the idea of talking to a grief counselor as suggested by Jennifer Adams, a social worker at his son’s school.



Sierra glanced at him as they strolled along the beach near the wharf. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

Chase wasn’t sure he was ready to be vulnerable, but Sierra seemed ready to listen. “Jennifer implied by sharing my feelings—or verbalizing them—I stand the best chance of finding my way out of the fog of grief. She also recommended that I consider talking to a grief counselor, Dr. Mark somebody. Could I get your opinion of her suggestion?”

She hesitated, considering his question. “I’d say don’t put the cart before the horse.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you don’t need a grief counselor if you’re not grieving.”

“True, but I think Jennifer thinks I’m still grieving.”

Sierra stopped, turned to him, and spoke softly. “What matters most is what you think. Just be honest with yourself.”

Surprised, he responded, “Do you think I’m not being honest with myself?”

“I’m not close enough to you—or the situation—to know. But what I know is, you seem confused—which is normal after a tragic loss.”

“You think I’m confused?”

She listened to the waves breaking at the shore before answering. “I think grief can confuse us.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, sometimes we just go through the motions when we’re grieving. We run on automatic pilot, so we conclude we must be over it because—we’re still functioning. Yet, we’re only functioning at fifty percent. Grief can affect our ability to think clearly.”

Chase stopped and looked out over the ocean. She waited for his reaction. “I’m not functioning at one hundred percent—that’s for sure. And I’m definitely struggling to write my second novel—or at least, to write well. Truthfully, I’m confused about what I should write at all—and now my agent knows it.”

She processed his comment as they walked. “It’s just my opinion, but I believe we grieve the most—privately—when we’re completely alone. When we’re with other people, we can act like we’re not grieving—and in the process of deceiving others, we deceive ourselves.” She didn’t wait for him to respond.

“Chase, if you’re unhappy when you’re alone, then I think you’re still in the grieving process. If you can admit that—you have the best chance to open up and honestly share your feelings with others, including a grief counselor. Does that make sense?”

“It does.”

A gull squawked as it flew overhead. “How you feel when you’re alone?”

Chase stopped again. Sierra had just pushed him out of his comfort zone. Could he be that honest, that exposed? It felt like she could see through him. “I’m not sure how to answer that question.”

She didn’t challenge him. Instead, she offered him a safe zone by gently touching his arm. The warmth of her touch spoke to him in a way he hadn’t sensed since Aimee died. “Chase, I’m a safe place.” It was all she said. It was all she had to say to start the painful process of lifting the fog that had engulfed his life.

 “Sierra, if I’m honest, I’m afraid,” he said in a whisper. “Sometimes when I’m alone, I feel the grip of fear. I feel isolated. Deserted.” He couldn’t believe he had just put himself out there--his inner thoughts laid bare.

As they continued to stroll, she touched his arm again. It was enough to fuel the courage to continue.

“What do you fear most?” she asked.

“I fear all the ‘empties’ in my life.”

She looked at him. “Empties?”

Glancing at the beach before him, he let his words fall in the sand. “The empty house, the empty bed, the empty chair at the kitchen table, the empty passenger seat in the car. Then there’s mail with her name on it, the silence in a vacant living room—where our conversations and laughter once lived. I fear a closet full of memories, her favorite shoes—and where she left them by the back door. They’re still there.”

When he took a breath; their eyes met. “So, how’s that for verbalizing?”

“It’s a start.”

She stifled a tear and stated the obvious. “You’re still grieving. Admit it to yourself—and share it with others, like you just did with me. Don’t fight it or deny it. Release it. Set it free.”

“I’m a dude. I’m not sure how to do that,” he said as a gentle breeze blew through his hair.

She held his arm longer this time, and he felt something he didn’t know how to describe. Something warm. Encouraging. Healing. “Start by giving yourself permission to grieve.”

Smiling, he said, “I’m afraid I’ve duplicated the mistakes of my father.”

They walked for a moment in silence and listened to the whisper of the waves.
“Well, there are at least two things you don’t need to be afraid of, Chase.”

“What’s that?”

“Don’t be afraid to see the grief counselor—Dr. Mark McAllister—to figure this out. He makes sense of life when life makes little sense.”

“And the second thing?”

“Don’t be afraid to cry—to have a good—long—cry.”

He nodded. “I did that once—right after Aimee died.”

She paused and smirked. “Really? Once?” Her eyes widened. “Tell me something. What on earth makes you think once is enough?”


SPECIAL NOTE: The Desert Between Us, at its core, is a story of a victorious journey through the desert of grief. This novel speaks to anyone who has experienced loss through death or divorce--and it celebrates the role of friendship in helping us overcome life’s toughest trials.

This novel has been through three rounds of self-edits and is currently scheduled to be professionally edited. Cover design will soon be underway and a publisher will handle interior design and final production. A date for release has not been set.

#1 Best-selling Author Richard Paul Evans recently endorsed this novel and I was designated by him as an “Author to Watch."

Evans has written more than 42 consecutive best-selling novels. (To learn more, visit Richardpaulevans.com)

Photo above is by Jeremy Bishop from unsplash and is only representative of Stearns Wharf in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, the setting of the novel.

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