To dream is to be human. In dreams, we are free to become another person, free to take risks, to bend the rules of reality — or face our darkest demons. Most people fall asleep safe with the knowledge that when they open their eyes, their nightmares won’t follow them into the light.
Keilann Douglas isn’t like most people.
Seven Stones is set against the dramatic landscape of Scotland: a land full of history, culture, and unsurpassed beauty. But, as far as Keilann is concerned, it means living in the middle of nowhere, having an ocean separating her from her Ojibwe relatives, and new schoolmates who decide almost instantly that she’s something of a joke.
On top of adjusting to a new life in what seems like a different world, Keilann has become subject to terrifying nightmares. Infernos set her nights ablaze, ghostly cries tear through her restless sleep, the dreams somehow connecting Keilann to a mysterious girl who haunts her waking life. The more time Keilann spends in Scotland, the more she realizes that her vivid dreams are not something of fantasy, but a window into the country’s turbulent past.
As Keilann delves deeper into Scottish history, she finally begins to connect with her own Ojibwe heritage. By rediscovering her long-buried identity and beliefs, a remarkable and unshakable bond is formed between her and an incredible woman who vanished from recorded history long ago.
Seven Stones follows Keilann Douglas on her journey from an uprooted girl trying to fly under the radar to a woman unafraid of the power of her own voice. Only after she discovers the source of an impossible connection that spans continents and centuries, Keilann realizes that her true quest has been finding herself.
I was born Julia Nichole Lewis in Brookfield, Wisconsin on May 27, 1988, and grew up in a small town about twenty miles outside of Milwaukee. As the fourth of five children with a huge extended family, life was fun, chaotic, and loud, but never boring. Descendants of German, Irish, Scottish, and Danish immigrants, my family has always identified most with our Celtic heritage. Descending from King Robert the Bruce’s brother, my family belongs to the clan Bruce. Interest in all things Irish and Scottish began at a very early age—I wanted to learn everything from our family history to haggis to speaking the Gaelic.
I come from a family of storytellers and readers, so it was no surprise that I started writing my first stories in kindergarten. My very first book had the tantalizing title Animal Day, and followed the epic story of a young girl who got to dress up as a cat for a whole day. Sadly, this heartwarming tale has never been published. At the age of ten I wrote a forty-page book (complete with illustrations) and sent a hand-written query letter to Scholastic, informing them that I was the next big thing. Though Scholastic actually replied to my letter, they declined to have the honor of publishing Trapped in Merlin’s Time. I was 0 for 2, but I kept writing. I wrote every chance I got—short stories, very bad poetry, diary entries—and read voraciously.
Writing was not my original life dream, however. Since I can remember, I wanted to be a Jedi Knight. My sister, Catherine, and I would take turns throwing rocks at each other blindfolded, trying to use the force to block the rocks with a stick. It was rough, but I was determined to bring balance to the Force. After Jedi, Hogwarts was next on my list. I wanted to be a Hufflepuff and study Herbology. Tragically, I did not get a letter by owl on my eleventh birthday.
Since Hogwarts was out of the question, I attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and decided to major in English education with a minor in Theatre education. College is where two huge events happened in my life: I won first place for prose in the university’s writing competition, and I met the love of my life, Shane. We met in our Introduction to Theatre class and started dating November of our freshman year. On July 10, 2010 we were married and the honeymoon has never ended!
I was lucky enough to get a position teaching English and Theatre at Badger High School in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin that same year. I had the fantastic job of teaching the most wonderful group of young actors, in addition to directing plays and building the sets. I was also thrilled to be able to teach a Shakespeare class, one of my absolute passions.
In May of 2011, Shane (a journalist) was offered a reporting job in northern Minnesota. We thought, “How cold can it be?” We packed up our cheese heads and moved to Brainerd, Minnesota. At that time, it had been a while since I’d written anything. I had an idea for a novel, so I finally decided to take the time and write it. It took a year to write the entire first draft, and I couldn’t have done it without the great support network of family and friends who always believed in me. Never once did Shane suggest I get a real job and give up on writing. He, along with so many others, cheered me on and kept me motivated.
Whenever I can, I am writing and working on my next book. When I’m not writing, I’m reading. I also love to practice yoga (I am a yoga fanatic! It really helps me center my thoughts and focus when I’m feeling stuck), cook (I’m a foodie who loves to cook healthy, tasty meals for friends and family), tend to my organic garden, and cheer myself hoarse during Packer games. I am the proud aunt of five amazing nieces who I love to pieces, two adorable nephews, and more on the way! I am the aunt who always gives books for presents, and I am proud to say that my nieces are little bookworms, especially my eldest niece, Nikki. She can read a book in a matter of hours, and is growing into quite a talented writer herself.
That’s me so far! Thanks for checking out my website!CONTACT JULIA
PURCHASE THE BOOK
It was only a dream. Already the details were blurred, images falling through the cracks of her memory like grains of sand.
Go back to sleep.
Keilann glanced at the neon clock next to the dark form of her suitcase and groaned into her pillow. Four hours—she had to say goodbye to her life in less than four hours. She rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling, struggling to connect the frayed ends of her dream. Someone had called out to her, and she was almost certain there’d been a fire. Or had it been a crash?
A police siren wailed past her open window, the flashing lights threw harsh shadows against her walls. Her old walls. Tomorrow, they would be someone else’s. A nameless, faceless someone who would paint over the green Keilann and her mother had picked out together with God knows what horrible color. She stared at the blank spot on the wall where her old dreamcatcher used to hang. It used to comfort her when she woke from nightmares as a child. What Keilann wouldn’t give to have it with her now.
Keilann kicked off the blankets and sighed. It was too hot to sleep. Her bare skin stuck to the air mattress and beaded with sweat. Next to her, Fiona slept untroubled by the heat or the move tomorrow. Her little sister’s chest rose and fell evenly, her splayed black hair glinting with gold in the glow of the street lights outside.
You have to sleep. Go back to sleep.
Tomorrow. It was hard to believe that Keilann would no longer live in Chicago—that she’d no longer even live in the United States. Even though she had packed up and shipped out most of her belongings weeks ago, it still didn’t feel real.
Squeezing her eyes shut, Keilann tried to will herself to sleep. It was no use. She rubbed the heaviness from her eyes and heaved herself up, closing the door noiselessly behind her.
At first, Keilann thought she imagined the light. Curious, she abandoned her original plan for a glass of water and followed the bright glow to the living room. Keilann had always loved the cozy brick-lined walls and big bay window. It was strange how big and sad the apartment looked without her mother’s dreamcatchers on the walls or the fat purple couch squatting in the middle of the room. Keilann peered into the empty room. There, standing alone in the glare of the city streaming through the window was the stout silhouette of a woman. Her warm, cinnamon skin seemed to glimmer in the amber light, a thick woven shawl huddled around her shoulders despite the stifling heat. Even in the semi-darkness, Keilann could pick out the intricate floral beadwork, the bright, jewel-like colors shouting across the black fabric. Keilann’s mother had brought the shawl with her from the Rez. She wore it when she needed comfort, and wrapped it around her shoulders like a hug.
Keilann hung in the doorway.
“Hey,” she whispered.
Her mom jumped, rapping her knuckles against the window pane. It was strange, but Keilann almost thought she looked guilty, as if caught doing something inappropriate or wrong.
Her mother made a show of rubbing her reddened knuckles.
“You scared me,” she laughed. “Everything okay?”
Keilann shrugged and shuffled into the room. Leaning against the cool window pane, she soaked in the familiar view—old brick buildings and stately maples lining the narrow street below.
“Mom, are you scared?”
“A little,” she admitted. She looked at Keilann over the rims of her glasses perched on the end of her nose. At forty-five, her mother’s face was still smooth and youthful, but tonight Keilann could see the lines beginning to creep around her eyes and mouth when she smiled. “But I’m also excited. You saw Dad’s pictures. Scotland is gorgeous.” Her mother wrapped her arm around Keilann’s shoulders and gave her a squeeze. “It’ll be an adventure.”
Keilann gave her a limp smile. “Yeah.”
Her mom looked out the window.
“I know this is hard on you, changing schools and making new friends—”
The word ‘friend’ was razor sharp. Keilann tried not to think of the friends she was leaving behind, or the year of plans they were making without her. They promised to Skype, promised to call, but it wouldn’t be the same. Senior year should have been the best: trips to Navy Pier, Broadway shows at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, the traditional class cruise on Lake Michigan. All that was gone now.
“—but after a while, I think you’ll love Aberdeen as much as you love Chicago. Maybe more.”
Keilann pressed her forehead to the cool glass. “Why did he have to take the job? I thought Dad was happy at the U.”
“He was happy, Akiiwin,” her mom said, using Keilann’s Ojibwe name to emphasize her point. “We both were happy teaching there, but this is his dream job. Head of the English Literature Department at one of the most prestigious universities in Britain—how many people do you think get that chance?”
“But I thought you wanted to move back to Minnesota after we finished school.”
Keilann’s mother picked at a loose thread in her shawl. “I did.”
“So what happened? Are you an apple now?”
A car alarm blared in the distance. Keilann’s mouth tightened; she hadn’t realized she was so angry. It was one of the worst insults she could’ve hurled at her mother. Namid used to tell her daughters stories about life on the Rez, a place Keilann had only visited on short trips during summer vacation. She told how people there called her an “apple” because she left to get an education: red on the outside, but white on the inside. Not really Ojibwe anymore.
She expected her mom to snap. Instead, her mother sighed again, her shoulders slumping wearily.
“Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the ones you love.” There was a tremble in her usually strong voice. “Sometimes you have to give up more than you ever thought you could and hope that it’s all worth it in the end.”
She pressed her hand to her mouth, her shoulders shuddering. With a horrified jolt, Keilann realized that her mother was crying. Keilann didn’t know what to do, where to look; she could feel her face growing warm.
“Mom, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it,” she said. “I’m just tired and crabby. Forget it, please.”
Her mother waved away her apology. “It’s fine,” she said, dabbing her eyes on her shawl. “It’s not you—”
“I didn’t mean it.”
“I know, Akiiwin. I know you didn’t mean it.” She smiled, her eyes red and puffy. “Look at us. We should get to bed, huh? Big day tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” Keilann’s stomach sunk. Tomorrow. “Night, Mom.”
Keilann shuffled back to her room, but her mother turned back to stare out the window as if saying goodbye. She crept past her parents’ door where her father’s snores drowned out the light scuffle of her feet. No wonder her mom couldn’t sleep.
Keilann rolled onto the mattress and closed her eyes, but her mind refused to be quiet. She’d have to begin in a new high school, walk into the cafeteria on the first day of school with not a friendly face in sight. Keilann had never been quick at making friends like Fiona. Would she have to eat her lunch in the bathroom stall? Her stomach flip-flopped.
Sure, she had dreamt of traveling before, but more along the lines of a road trip to the East Coast or maybe somewhere exotic like Hawaii. But never, not once, had she ever dreamed of going to Scotland. What the hell was in Scotland, anyway? She’d seen Braveheart a few years ago—to her, Scotland meant a bunch of white guys in ugly skirts with weird accents and bad hair.
What more was there to know?
Keilann yawned. Her eyelids were getting heavy.
Far off, the steady swish of traffic on the Interstate lulled her to sleep.
She was riding in a car with William Wallace; he was a terrible driver. The car kept bumping and swerving all over the road. She was going to say something to him, but the car disappeared.
She was running. The high rise of downtown Chicago disappeared as she drew nearer like a mirage. She was running through a forest alone. Trees rushed past her on all sides, dark and silent.
Where was she?
She craned her neck from side to side, recognizing nothing. A spasm of fear shot through her. Where was the Braveheart guy? How could he have left her like this? She could smell smoke; a billowing black cloud rose above the trees and closed in around her. There was a noise like a tea kettle whistling, and it kept getting louder and louder. Keilann pressed her hands to her ears, but the scream roared in her head. Only it wasn’t a tea kettle anymore, it was a person. Someone was screaming.
Keilann held her breath as a face began to emerge from the smoke—wide forehead, high cheekbones, dark eyes smoldering, burning. Keilann could feel the heat of the fire from his eyes on her face. Without warning, the trees burst into ferocious, hungry flames, consuming the shadow man instantly. He reached for her, blackened flesh peeling from bone as the flames licked up and down his arms. He opened his mouth. Keilann was sure he was going to speak to her.
His scream ripped through the flames. She stood, frozen, helpless as she watched him fall to his knees, one arm still reaching to her—
The sharp crack to her head woke Keilann instantly, wood meeting bone with a dull thud. Pain throbbed in her temples, her heart beating somewhere behind her eyes. She’d fallen off the air mattress.
“Keilann?” A voice whispered from the darkness.
She turned, a flutter of surprise turning to joy as she recognized the dark face of her little sister not a foot away from her own face. A wave of gratitude rushed through Keilann. For once, she was glad that Fiona had insisted on sleeping in Keilann’s room the night before the move.
Fiona was staring at Keilann intently; her smooth forehead was crinkled, her eyes wide.
“Are you okay?”
Keilann propped herself up, her limbs still tense and cramping. She touched two fingers to her forehead; an egg was already beginning to swell. Perfect.
“Yeah. Just a bad dream,” she muttered.
Fiona kept staring.
“Are you okay? What were you dreaming about?”
Keilann rolled away from Fiona and stared at the blank wall. How could she explain the dream to Fiona when she didn’t even know what it was about? All she knew was that it was terrifying.
“I don’t remember,” she lied.
Keilann lay in the dark a long time before she finally could close her eyes. When she woke up the morning of the move, all she remembered was her stiff neck, the lump on her head, and the vague sense of a terrible dream.