WAYNESBURG — While doing genealogical research on her family, Carol Cajigas tracked down a family member, her great-great grandfather, Teater Higgins, to Waynesburg.
Born in Paw Paw, West Virginia, Higgins married Mary Wilkinson from Wheeling, West Virginia, but is believed to be buried somewhere in Waynesburg, according to old family accounts.
Her discovery of her long-gone relative led her to write a series of three books based on a fictionalized version of his life. Titled “Sensate Nine Moon Saga,” the trilogy centers around a group of people called sensates, who were born with a recessive gene that allows them to exhibit extrasensory abilities and who live by a high moral code requiring them to guard their secret from those who would use their powers for nefarious purposes.
“The sensates live an extended life span and quit aging around 35 years old,” said Cajigas, who was born and raised in Bellaire, Ohio, but now lives in Mohnton, Berks County, just south of Reading. “The only way they can die is by accident or murder. The oldest still living is close to 600, but the first sensate, an Iroquois named Onatah, lived to be 2,000 plus until she was killed by another Indian.”
Cajigas published “Larkspur,” the first book in the series, in paperback and digital form on Amazon.com in November 2011. The title comes from the name of a fictional house in Waynesburg that sits next to a hollowed-out hill in which the sensates reside.
While Cajigas said the first novel just flew onto the page, it was so in her mind (she wrote it in about three months time); however, the second and third were harder to write.
“I never wrote a series before, but after ‘Larkspur’ came out, people kept asking me about a character in the book named Ryeth. I based and titled my second book in the series on him.”
The third book, “Heartseed,” takes its name from the vine that covers a massive stone arbor atop the hill of the sensate stronghold. Built by the great-great grandfather, the Teater character, for his beloved Nancy, the arbor supports the tangled vine, whose brown seeds hold an ivory-colored heart.
The second and third books were released in April and June of this year, respectively. Cajigas said she wrote “Larkspur” to stand alone and that the three books can be read out of sequence. However, she feels it's best to read them as a series.
The books are published under the pen name H.H. Laura, derived from three strong, influential women in the author’s life — her grandmother, her mother and her husband’s mother.
“Hazel, my grandmother, was the kindest, most persevering woman I have ever known,” she said. “She had the softest skin, the best freckles and the greatest recipes. Helen, my mother, never speaks an unkind word about anyone and is quite a woman. Laura is my husband’s mother, to whom I shall be forever grateful for raising such a wonderful son. These women have been an inspiration not only in my daily life, but also in the creation of my characters.”
Cajigas said she released her first book early because her mother had Alzheimer’s and she wanted to immortalize her in a book. She said when she read the part of “Larkspur” that dealt with her parents’ first meeting, it gave her mother a lot of pleasure.
The author, a microbiologist by training, said she first started writing a book about a pirate and an Irish lass back in the 1980s but her sons deleted it from her word processor. She didn’t pick up a pen again until 2009, six years after she retired from her career with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.
“I originally wanted to write a children’s book about a bee with an allergy to pollen,” she said.
“Sensate Nine Moon Saga” came out instead. All three books in the series are available in either paperback or digital form at amazon.com or smashbook.com.
Starting July 23, all three books will be available for purchase at the Artbeat Gallery, located at 52 E. High St. in Waynesburg.
Cajigas is planning a fourth book that will launch a new series with many of the same characters found in the sensate trilogy. The author said that about 10 percent of the new book is already written, although 90 percent is already in her mind.
“In my writing, I try to keep my books light and imbued with the appreciation of nature,” she said.