Camp NaNoWriMo Project Part 3

Previous: Sixteen-year-old Leona Moss’ confused relationship with her father is discovered by her eldest brother Frank, with devastating consequences. Her middle brother, Liam, leaves the family farm to emigrate to England for work.


Sins of the Son: Nature, Nurture, Torture

Camp NaNoWriMo Project Part 3

Leona sat on the edge of the examination bed. Colm hovered in the corner of the room with his arms tightly crossed.

“Can you tell me where your pain is, Leona?” Aidan requested.

“Here,” Leona said, pointing to one corner of her abdomen. “My back is hurting a lot, too.”

“Does the pain come and go, or is it there all the time?”

“All the time, but it’s worse at night.”

Aidan tensed his brows thoughtfully.

“Have you had any sickness or vomiting at all with the pain?”

“I do feel sick, but I haven’t vomited.”

“And when was your last menstrual cycle?”

There was a long pause before she answered.

“Awhile ago.”

“Right. Could you lie back please?”

Leona reclined back on the bed.

“My hands are cold, I’m sorry.”

Leona winced as Aidan gently massaged the problem area of her stomach in a circular motion with the tips of his fingers.

“There’s pain in my back too,” she murmured. “It’s like needles.”

“I’m just going to have a listen.”

Aidan took his stethoscope from his neck, breathing onto the cold head before pressing it against Leona’s skin.

“Have you taken anything for the pain?”


“Aidan paused.

“How old are you now, Leona?”


“You can sit up again.”

Aidan removed his stethoscope and took a seat at his desk.

“I will have to take blood and urine samples and send them away for further tests. I am concerned about the pain, but I will give you something for it.”

“So what’s wrong with her?” Colm asked impatiently.

Aidan sighed.

“It’s pure speculation until the test results come back, but there is a chance that Leona is pregnant.”

Colm turned away, shaking his head and covering his mouth.

“Who do you think the father is?”

“It was a worker I hired.”

Leona looked to her father. Aidan looked from her to Colm.

“I won’t tell Father Braden about this, I promise. But you must let me know if the pain gets any worse, Leona.”

Colm nodded. Leona said nothing, a tear trickling down her cheek.

Once home, Colm sent Leona straight to her room. She lay down on her bed, swallowed by her thoughts. She knew her father was furious, but this is what she had been secretly hoping for all along.

Her mother had died when she was sixteen years old, and since then she had been the woman of the house. She had cooked and cleaned and looked after her family; having a baby of her own would complete the picture.

On Sunday morning, Leona wandered sleepily out of her room. At the bottom of the stairs, her father was putting on his hat and coat.

“Why didn’t you wake me up?” she asked.

“Because you’re not coming,” said Colm. “Stay here. Do not leave the house, you hear?”

Leona watched through the window as her father walked off down the road toward town. With every step he took, her heart sank inside her a little further.

Colm sat in the pews of Saint John’s alongside the other parishioners. After mass had concluded, father Braden approached the family.

“I see Leona isn’t with you today?” the priest cheerily enquired. “Is she unwell?”

“Yes, I’m afraid she is,” said Colm. “A stomach ache. She’s resting at home.”

“Oh dear. Well, I will be praying for her. I hope she starts to feel better soon.”

“T’anks, Father.”

Leona folded her father’s shirts and trousers and placed them on the bed. She caught a glimpse of herself in her mother’s mirror, pausing to regard her reflection. Her body was changing; her breasts had swelled, and her abdomen was growing. She was overwhelmed with joy, but her father maintained a suspicion of her condition, keeping tabs on her with a watchful eye. Since the return of the test results and the confirmation of her pregnancy, Colm had forbidden her to leave the house. He had even suggested that she was pretending.

In the corner of her room was the cane bassinet that Leona had slept in as an infant, as well as her brothers, her mother and her aunts and uncles on her mother’s side of the family. It wouldn’t be long before her baby was sleeping in it.

Leona’s due date of August 6th came and went. When the baby did not arrive, Aidan made a house call to the Moss residence. Colm refused to take his daughter to his office in town.

“I suppose I could have miscalculated the due date,” Aidan speculated.

“Well, how much longer do you think it’s going to be?” Leona urged.

“I could have been wrong by a couple of weeks. Let’s make it for September.”

“What it she’s not pregnant at all?” Cathal sneered. “What if she’s making it all up?”

“Da!” Leona exclaimed. “I am pregnant! I’m having a baby!”

“Leona, do you realise how dangerous this situation is?” Colm exclaimed. “If anyone were to find out about this, you’d be dragged off to Tuam! The baby would be pulled from your arms the moment it was born and sent to America, and you’d be working off your board for years!”

“No-one is going to take my baby away from me!” Leona cried. “We’d stay with you at the house! We’ll all stay together. Father Braden will let you look after us. They won’t sent me away if they know we’ll be looked after! And it is only three of us, there will be enough to eat…”

“You’re delusional, girl,” Colm scoffed.

“It is a possibility, Leona, that something else is causing your condition,” Aidan interjected. “And it is cause for concern. It could be serious. Your swollen belly could be a tumour of some sort.”

“Well, how do we find out, then?” Colm insisted.

“She would have to go to hospital…”

“The only reason I’m going to hospital is to have a baby! I am pregnant!

“Shut up, girl!” Colm scolded. “You’ve gone mad! If they don’t drag you off to Tuam I’ve half a mind to take you to St Brigid’s!”

“Let’s wait until September,” Aidan suggested. “If Leona does have a tumour, another month isn’t going to make a difference.”

Weeks passed and September approached. Instead of producing a baby, Leona’s belly began to visibly shrink. Standing in front of the mirror, she desperately searched her reflection for any scrap of remaining evidence of her pregnancy. She could not understand what was happening to her body. But in her young and stubborn nature, she defiantly refused to believe that she did not have a baby inside her. Her father had gladly discarded any scrap of belief he had held, with his suspicions confirmed that she was indeed pretending. But Leona was determined to keep waiting.

September and October came and went, and upon Leona’s insistence, Aidan extended her due date even further. It wasn’t until December that he declined to continue.

The cool morning wind stung like needles against Leona’s face, which was sodden with tears. Standing on the pier in Kinvara, the bay unfolded before her, gusty winds sweeping off the Atlantic Ocean. This was the first time she had been into the village in over a year. The gentle waves lapped up against the shore, over the rocks and clumps of brown seaweed.

Leona’s agonized wails echoed out across the water, and she didn’t care who heard. The shock and heartbreak had taken over her body. She felt sick to her stomach, her face feeling clammy and faint.

Throughout her adolescence, along with crippling menstrual pains and irregularity in her cycles, Leona had also suffered frequently from spells of deep depression. Her suicidal mother had been emotionally absent for as far back at Leona could remember, starving her daughter of love. In the face of the ultimate abandonment, Leona had resorted to the approval of her father, and he had given in to primal indulgence.

All along, Leona had known that deep down he could not let go of his beloved Aisling, and that through resemblance; she had been his pathway back to her.


Camp NaNoWriMo April Project & Part 1 of Sins of the Son: Nature, Nurture, Torture

More than ten years ago I began to formulate the concept of what would eventually become Sins of the Son. The idea was to follow the downward spiral of a person from regular member of society to cold-blooded murderer, and the subsequent psychological deterioration that would drive someone to commit such an act. The story explores how trauma flows on through generations, how the abused become the abusers, and who is truly responsible for the resulting actions. It also asks the questions posed about nature-versus-nurture: are some people simply born evil, are they made evil, or is it a mix of both?

Over the past decade, this story has changed dramatically. First set in my hometown of Brisbane, Australia, in 2012 I was inspired to shift the setting to Galway, on the West Coast of Ireland after I visited for the first time. In 2017 I traveled back to Ireland to conduct more book research.

The change in the setting allowed for a flood of new themes to be woven into the story, including religion, women’s rights, ethnic minorities, institutional sexual abuse and more.  The genre of the story has transformed from a straightforward crime novel into a psychological suspense story. I’ve also decided to divide the novel up into smaller, more manageable bite-size pieces, thus creating three, possibly four novellas.

Due to some rather significant life shifts over the past six months, I have not done much writing or blogging. Not that long ago I would become irritable if I hadn’t done any writing for more than a day, however over the past few months I have gone days, weeks and even months without writing a word.
In April of this year, I decided to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, in an effort to ere-establish a daily writing habit. I injected 7,838 words injected into the beginning of my Irish novella over the month of April, amidst starting a new job, moving house for the second time in two months, and just general life chaos.

I used Camp NaNoWriMo to add more detail to the beginning of my story, the first novella in the series, of how many I’m not yet sure. The story follows Leona, a teenage girl living on her family’s farm on the outskirts of Kinvara, a small fishing village in County Galway. In the wake of her mother’s death, Leona is forced to step up as the woman of the house. This newfound responsibility, along with her adolescent urges, become entangled in her father’s grief, leading to a shocking sequence of events with devastating consequences.

I’ve decided to share the first part of my Irish psychological suspense novella- Sins of the Son: Nature, Nurture, Torture- right here on my blog. I will publish this excerpt over seven posts so as to break up the read into shorter, more manageable bite-sized pieces.

These posts are kind of a big deal: this is the first time any part of my Irish novel has been read by anyone but myself. This is my baby, my life’s work. I am more passionate about this project than any of my previous stories, and I think any I will ever write after this one. I’ve been hesitant to share any of it until I knew it was perfect. It still isn’t perfect, and needs much more editing. But I’ve reached a point where I want to share it, as is, a work-in-progress. Please feel free to leave any comments or feedback.

TRIGGER WARNING: This excerpt contains strong themes involving sexual abuse, and may distress some readers.  



Sins Cover 2

Sins of the Son: Nature, Nurture, Torture

Copyright © Kate Kelsen 2019. All Rights Reserved

Part One

Kinvara, County Galway, Ireland


Aisling Moss’ body had been washed and dressed in white. Her hands were positioned atop one another on her chest, and a rosary wrapped around them. A cross had been placed around her neck. Candles flickered at the foot and head of her coffin. At the time of death, every clock in the house had been stopped and every mirror covered. The curtains had been drawn. There was someone in attendance of her body at all times, Leona took it in turns with her father and brothers.

Colm Moss and Father Braden, the parish priest, were sitting in the dining room next door. They were speaking softly, but she could still hear their conversation.
“Her sadness started the day Frank was born. It was incurable The loss of the baby girls between Liam and Leona only made it worse.”
Colm sighed.
“She named them all Leona. All five. I thought the name was cursed; I couldn’t understand why she insisted on the same name every time.”
“If only she had more faith in God,” Father Braden sighed. “She wouldn’t have suffered from such ongoing grief if she did. Its been sixteen years, after all.”
The priest paused.
“Colm, I’m afraid that because of the nature of Aisling’s death, I am not at liberty to give her the funeral rites or a church burial.”
“Father, please! She was not in her right mind when she did this!”
|“We are stewards, Colm, not the owners of the life God has entrusted us. Life is not ours to dispose of.”
“But, the girls! The girls are buried at the church!”
“To take one’s own life violates God’s sovereignty over life. It violates a genuine love for oneself, and one’s family, friends, neighbours and even acquaintances.”

The evening came, and Leona found her father still sunken in defeat in his chair, as numb as his wife was dead.
“Daddy, I’m serving up Mrs. Fitzgerald’s casserole,” she said softly.
She slipped her arm around his, gently guiding him to his feet and walking with him to the kitchen. Frank and Liam were sitting at the table, silently watching their father as he and Leona appeared in the doorway. His skin was washed out, with dark circles embedded under his eyes. Leona helped him sit down at his place at the table, taking her own seat at the other end.
“Frank, perhaps you’ll say grace tonight?” she suggested, pressing her hands together ready for prayer.
They ate in silence. Colm pushed the lumps of meat and potatoes around in its sauce, and a few spoonfuls made it to his mouth before he pushed the plate away. Leona and her brothers watched on silently as Colm stood up and shuffled heavily on his feet out of the room.

At dawn the sun rose somewhere behind the clouds, its light filtering through the grey. Leona rose from her bed and descended from her loft bedroom to the kitchen and made a start on the porridge. Her brothers soon appeared, followed by Colm shortly after. His skin was washed out, with dark circles embedded under his eyes. Leona served the porridge up into four bowls. She sat down at the table with her family, pressing her hands together ready for prayer. Colm breathed in deeply, fathoming for the strength to give thanks.
“Dear Heavenly Father,” he began, his voice quivering. “We thank You for Your goodness, and your kindness, and for this food we thank you, Amen.”
Colm picked up his cutlery in his hands, shoveling porridge onto his spoon. He slipped the food into his mouth and chewed slowly, forcing himself to swallow it down. At the end he promptly stood up.
“Come, boys.”

Leona sat by her bedroom window, looking out into the yard behind the house. Her father’s body popped in and out of sight from the hole in the ground in which he was furiously shoveling. He was a man possessed; the ground was frozen, yet still he drove the spade into the dirt with force over and over.
Colm, Frank and Liam gripped the ropes as they slowly and awkwardly lowered the coffin into the burial plot. Colm drove a wooden cross into the ground at the head of the plot, then stood up, dusting his hands off and stepping back to stand with his children. His voice was exacerbated by the exertion.
“I remember when you used to laugh, my darling. Showing off that smile of yours. Your absence is like a gaping hole in each and every day. I would give anything to have you back.”
Colm looked at his children.
“She’s gone to heaven to be with God,” he insisted. “She’s with God, you hear?”

That evening, the family gathered at the table for tea, and Leona served up plates of meat and vegetables. Her father sat at the head of the table, and she sat adjacent to him. He took her hand, she took Frank’s, and he took Liam’s. Together they bowed their heads in prayer, and after saying grace proceeded to eat in silence.
“Dad, why did Mam killed herself?”
Colm looked up at Frank, the mournful droop of his face tightening with fury.
“What did you say, boy?”
“Why did she do it?”
“Go to your room.”
“But Dad, I ain’t finished eating…”
“Go to your room now! There’ll be no tea for you tonight! Now go before I flog you!”
Frank stood up and stormed out of the kitchen. Colm looked at Leona, whose eyes were welling up with tears.
“I’m sorry, love.”
“Why did she do it, Daddy?” she begged desperately. “Why wouldn’t she want to be here with us?”
Colm took her hands in his.
“She was sick, love.” His voice wavered. “She was very sick in her head. She didn’t know what she was doing, okay?”
Colm looked up at Liam, raising his eyebrows.
Liam nodded.
“Yes, Dad.”

With their mother gone, there was much to be done. On Mondays Leona hand washed the family’s clothes. The milkman stopped by each day, a portion of which Leona churned into butter. The greengrocer, baker and butcher delivered once a week in their trucks. And once a week, Leona made the short trip on her bicycle into the village to buy non-perishable items.

She propped the bicycle against the wall outside the combination store. Inside, she gathered canned goods and bread. She approached the counter where Artie Higgins sat in attendance. He was her age; they had been in class together at St. Joseph’s. She placed her shillings on the counter, and their fingers briefly brushed as he reached over to drag them towards him. He smiled at her as she quickly withdrew her hand.
“How are ye this mornin’, Leona?”
“Fine, t’anks,” she softly replied.
“How’s your dad?”
“He’s doin’ okay.”
Artie nodded. His eyes were clear blue. Leona looked away coyly and she slipped her
mother’s purse back into her pocket.

Colm stood before Aisling’s side of the wardrobe, the doors open. He traced his fingers along the row of hung dresses. The lump in his throat was swelling so large it ached. He reached in and lifted a dress from the rod, and then another, and another, examining them as he laid them carefully on the bed behind him.
The loft door was closed, the daylight shining under the crack as Colm climbed the stairs.
Colm wrapped his hand around the doorknob, turning it and pushing it open slightly. Leona spun around, gasped, standing awkwardly in her petticoat, wrapping her arms across herself in an effort to cover herself. Colm stepped into the room, laid the dresses on her bed.
“They were your mother’s. You can have them.”
Leona approached them, picking up one of the dresses, holding it in front of her.
“Put it on.”
Leona lowered it and stepped into it. Colm approached her.
“Turn around.”
She obliged, and he buttoned the dress up the middle of her back. She turned back to him, and he regarded her, a sad smile pricking the corner of his mouth.
“You look so much like her. I see her every time I look at you. It’s agony;
I wish it were her I was looking at.” Colm shook his head.
“Why would she torment me in such a way,” he said almost to himself. “Remove herself but leaving you in her place to be a constant, torturous reminder?
He sighed.
“I don’t dare confess this to Father Braden, but if I could have her without you or the boys, I would take it any day.”
He stepped back toward the door, closing it slowly behind himself.

At the solemn call of the bells, the parishioners emerged from their homes and made their way to St John’s for Sunday morning mass. Sitting in the pews prior to the commencement of the service, Leona overheard a couple sitting behind him.
“Isn’t it lovely how much Leona is looking after her father?”
“Oh yes. The girl has certainly stepped up. She’s doing so well, considering her mother gave up on them.”
“Yes. I feel for her father. Her death must have been so embarrassing for him. You know Father Braden wouldn’t give her the burial rights, or bury her on the church grounds. If only she had more faith in God. She wouldn’t have suffered so much after the girls died.”
“That’s right. The Bible says, ‘Cast all your cares upon Him for He will take care of you’. We tell her that, but she never seems to listen.”
Leona felt a lump tightening in her throat, and tears burning behind her eyes.
How could they talk about her like that? she thought.
After mass, Leona felt a finger tap her on the shoulder. She turned around to the young man standing before her
“Aidan,” she greeted.
“How are you, Leona?”
“Good, t’anks.”
Luke smiled down at her.
“It’s great to see you again.”
“You, too. You’re home now from medical school?”
“Yes, I’m going to be working here in town, actually.”
“I see.”
“So, what have you been up to?”
“Oh, still looking after my father and brothers on the farm. You’ll have to excuse me, Aidan. They’re ready to go.”

The household had retreated silently to bed. The door to the main bedroom was open slightly, and Leona hovered outside, peering through the crack. Her father stood by the bed. He shrugged his suit jacket off, lying it on the bed. He unlooped his necktie from its knot, and then unbuttoned his shirt, sliding it off to reveal solid, hardworking arms that seemed to have no fat, only muscle.

She felt the sensation below her belly button and inward from her thighs. It was like nothing she’d ever felt before, not when her fingers had brushed with Artie Higgins’ over shillings, or when Aidan Kelly had spoken to kindly to her after mass. It made her feel grown up, like the woman she had so suddenly become after her mother had died.

Colm lay on his side in the bed he had shared with Aisling. He heard the door creak, and moments later felt a warm body lie down behind him, a soft hand rest on his arm. He didn’t move.

Colm longed Aisling with every fibre of his being. His body ached for hers; the memory of her body was so vivid; he could feel her lying next to him, her arm around him, her small body fitting like a jigsaw piece behind him into all the angles which his joints were bent.

Aisling lay on her back underneath him, looking up at him with that sweet, enchanting smile. He unbuttoned his trousers, and she playfully helped him pull them down. He reached up and under her dress and guided her underwear down along her legs. He entered her, and she gasped, her eyes fluttering. His thrusting quickly intensified, and he drove his head into the pillow, tears dripping down his cheeks into the fabric. He cried out; the euphoria was short-lived, quickly swallowed by sadness as it swooped back in. He flopped onto the mattress, lying on his back, sobbing.

“Don’t cry, Daddy,” Leona whispered, touching his arm. “Please don’t cry.”

Frank lay awake long after the house had fallen silent. His stomach was churning, his heart beating firmly. He wanted to get up, go see for himself. But he held back, just that little bit longer. He was sure Liam would be sound asleep by now.

Treading with caution so as not to disturb the floorboards, Frank stepped into the hallway. Leona’s door was closed. He held his breath, and the handle creaked as he turned it. He pushed it open, peering through the dark room. It was just as he’d thought; she wasn’t there. His stomach sank to the bottom of his body, and fury burned in his cheeks. He withdrew from the room, returning to the one he shared with Liam. He crawled back under the covers, where he lay for hours awake, his imagination darkly piecing the puzzle together.

Please feel free to leave any comments or feedback about this excerpt.



Ireland: 31 Days, 31 Photos: Day 26- O’Brien’s Castle

Day 26: O’Brien’s Castle

The Castle oversees Inisheer from one of the highest points of the island, with views of the beach, pier, and ruins below. This castle is thought to have been built in 14th century making it one of the oldest ruins on the Aran Islands. It would pre-date the other ruins in surrounding areas of County Clare such as the Burren Tower Houses and other stone forts on the Aran Islands.

The early Tribal Kingdoms that divided Ireland often competed for resources and were not exactly known for their peace making. It is not surprising that in 1582 the O’Flaherty’s of Connemara sieged and occupied the castle from the ruling O’Brien’s of Munster. The O’Flaherty family was driven west due to the invasion of Norman conquerors but fought ferociously to maintain their influence in the area.