Evie Rhodes wrote a novel about a woman losing her son. Two years later, that character could have been her, living the very emotions she had written about, a transition she describes as "surreal."

Her son, James Rhodes, 24, of East Orange, was shot May 20 in a Camden alleyway between the 2800 block of North Constitution Road and North Congress Road, Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo said recently.

Lehjye Waring, 24, of Camden, was charged six days later with his death and remains in the Camden County Correctional Facility.

Rhodes, who lives in Connecticut but has another child who lives in New Jersey, said her 2014 novel "Expired" is "an amazing book with an amazing story" because it's primarily focused on a mother's battle coping with the loss of a dead son.

It was a reporter's question after Waring's  arraignment that made Evie realize the parallel her life had taken to her characters.

"I had been writing (my characters) so they could be helpful to other people. But my own life had take a turn the same way" within a week after her son was shot. "It was all surreal. How could it be possible that I was writing about these things constantly and then it happens in my own life?"

"And then when my son was murdered I just felt like my life was imitating my art. It just seemed so strange that I had been writing these stories," Rhodes said, recalling her book "Out 'A' Order" was set in Newark and talked about how young black men were losing their lives. "It was very surreal," Rhodes said.

Rhodes, who also performs gospel and hip hop in New York City churches, was honored by the Cumberland County library during Black History Month.

Rhodes decided she had to do something in memory of her son and  help start a conversation to help other mothers deal with the death of a child.

"I've been doing interviews, I'm writing articles and talking to people. As the mother of a young black man who's been murdered, it's a terrible, horrendous thing. Every day since May 21 when I found out, I wake up to the same pain every morning."

She vows that her son's death will not be in vain as she has come to realize that Camden "really really really has a problem" that she said is growing.

"You have like a 1-in-27 chance of being hurt, even if not murdered, and it feels like I have been thrust in the middle of it," Rhodes said.  "I'm not just going to sit by and not talk about it or say 'well, things happen.'"

She plans to create a forum where grieving parents can go to share and talk  so they don't have to grieve in silence.

Just over a month since her son's slaying, she is still trying to determine what resources are available to help create her forum.

"If we can put put some kind of initiative out there that hasn't been done before, together we can marshall our efforts. If it saves one life, so be it. Every life is important."

In her next novel, James' death will be represented by her characters showing "strength after pain."

"I am going to try and assist people in walking themselves  through that pain and understanding their tools and trying to give them hope and faith to reach out."


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