Sally really goes out of her way for authors! Check out her Christmas Grotto post for my latest release – Maelstrom. Many thanks, Sally.
The state of the world this week had me tuning into the news more often than usual. I saw a clip of a man who carried a portable piano on his bike to the sidewalk in front of one of the Paris attacks. He sat down and began to play the John Lennon song, Imagine. The crowds gathered around him and a hush fell as tears streamed down faces filled with confusion and fear.
I am also reminded of a poster we have had in our home for so many, many years it is faded and tattered at the corners but the message remains strong.
Here’s for all we yearn for peace and understanding.
This post is part of Colleen’s weekly writer’s quote feature on SilverThreading. Make sure to stop by her blog and check out her round-up of all the great quotes.
Every great story begins with a snake … (Nicholas Cage)
On this quiet Sunday afternoon, as the precious few hours of fall sunshine slips away, I’ve been searching through photos from the summer and smiling as I go. Back in those lazy, crazy days of August our small cabin was bursting at the seams with visitors and it was soon to be granddaughter Britney’s fourth birthday. I was prepared with cake mixes in the cupboard and loads of icing sugar, food colouring and sprinkles.
Two days before the big event, I asked her what kind of birthday cake she would like. I had bookmarked on Pinterest a fairly easy looking butterfly cupcake creation that I thought might be a possibility.
Like many conversations we have with children, I was ready to throw my suggestion on the table before Brit had even a moment to gather her thoughts. She didn’t give me the chance. She levelled her gorgeous blue eyes at me and said, “I have a snake cake, Gama.”
My own eyes widened in surprise. “A snake cake? Really,” I responded. “I was sort of thinking about a nice butterfly.”
Her blonde curls danced as she emphatically shook her head. “No, Gama. Snake cake.”
Being ever one to go with the flow, I said, “Okay, then, snake cake. What colour?”
Once again her response was immediate, as if this idea had been fully formed for some time. “Geen, Gama. I have a geen snake cake.”
Britney’s inability to say the letter ‘R’ often results in some darn cute sentences. Like the time she said, “Gampa Buce like geen, so I like geen, too.” Or when she asked me for geen gapes, Gama.
What the heck, who needs Pinterest? We made that green snake cake complete with shaped snake head, chocolate chip eyes and a bright red construction paper tongue. A unique cake for a very special four-year old who already understands the importance of going her own way.
Granddaughters Britney (age 4) and Emma (age 6).
The most challenging part of my life as a full-time writer is the week after a book launches out into the world. I have done everything within my power to make it the best book possible; I have pulled my hair out getting formatting details just right; I have carefully planned a few targeted promotions; I have blogged, updated Facebook and tweeted on a regular basis.
That’s all I’ve got, folks. I can’t think of anything else to do. Maelstrom is now on its own, swimming in the vast Amazon sea. Here’s hoping it can paddle its way to an island with a high hill, scramble up to the top and wave wildly to be noticed by the reading public. While I may lack objectivity, I do think those who give Maelstrom a chance will enjoy the fast-paced story.
Meanwhile, my life goes on. Fall is making its presence felt in our evergreen world. The apple, pear and Mountain Ash trees are all decked out in yellow splendour. The nights are getting colder and except for those days when the sun shines bright for an hour or two in the afternoon, we are less inclined to run around outside in T-shirts.
And yet, I can still find a garden treasure or two if I really look. The odd, brave flower brightens the barren beds. Though most plants are showing those distinct signs of decay, destined for pruning back or uprooting to a new location in the ever-growing compost pile, I’ve got a few hardy peppers still growing in a cold frame. Celery and celeriac root poke out of the ground and will soon find their way into soup to warm these chillier days. There will be a few more meals of beets – luscious, round and the deepest red.
The fourth novel in the Crater Lake Series beckons to me from the storyboard. A growing file of notes clutter my planning file – storylines, character sketches, location descriptions and bits of dialogue. Exciting … yet something holds me back. I’m not yet ready to plunge in for that deepest of first draft dives.
I’m like the garden going fallow for a time. I need to ponder and think, walk the trails and let my mind wander ahead of me onto paths unknown, territory uncharted. I feel the need to have story ideas turn and turn through my mind as if I sat bent over a spinning wheel with heaps of wool at my feet and the task of spinning it all into the finest yarn.
There is an ebb and flow to the writing life – a time to churn out words in creative frenzy and a time to rest and let the creative spirit rejuvenate. Let me honour both ends of the spectrum.
“Powerful men clash and fathers are pitted against sons in this action thriller. Maelstrom is a book you don’t want to miss.”
This tweet really took off yesterday with multiple re-tweets and likes. The e-book for Maelstrom hit the virtual shelves of Amazon on Wednesday and I have been busy getting the word out.
Of my collection of self-publishing hats, promotion is my least favourite one to don but if any time requires me to cram that hat on my head and get busy it is the week of a new release.
If you follow me across a few social media platforms, you will be gently bombarded with Facebook updates, tweets and blog posts – all related to release of my latest novel. I’ve heard that it takes a minimum of three exposures to a message before people think of acting. Nowhere does it say how many exposures make people want to hire a hit man to take out the sender. Hmmm … hoping I get the message across without irritating too many of you.
Here’s a short excerpt from the opening page of Maelstrom for your value-added enjoyment.
The heat of the past day hung heavily over Suicide Ridge. A rifle shot shattered the still night air. The young woman walking across the gravel pullout took the shot in her back; the bullet smashed through her body, winged out and kissed the air alongside the arm of the man she had been waiting to meet.
The dead weight of her crashed into him and Myhetta fell to his knees. He searched the darkness in the direction of the shot. Blood pumped from the exit wound in the woman’s chest. The headlights of her car, parked against the battered barrier near the drop-off to the river below, blinded him as the sound of gravel crunching underfoot came closer. Polished, brown boots appeared. A rifle casually smacked against a leg. The wide brimmed sheriff’s hat obscured the eyes but the moonlight caught the silver line of a scar as a voice drawled, “You move along now, Breed. No need for you to hang around.”
Myhetta rose and whistled as he drew out the knife tucked at his back. Two timber wolves loped out of the trees and flanked him. Lips pulled back to reveal yellow fangs as the animals snarled.
The sheriff raised the rifle at his side and took aim at the wolf to Myhetta’s right. “Get going or one of your precious pets dies.”
Sheriff Bert Calder did not make idle threats. As Myhetta backed up a step, hate smouldered in his dark eyes. He kept the animals close to his side with a gesture of his hand as he walked away into the trees. His horse was grazing on the scrubgrass that grew under the tall pines. Swinging his body into the saddle, he urged Black along the trail. He wound his way up the switchback and stopped at a point where he could look down to the dirt pullout on the corner of the stretch of road known as Suicide Ridge. His tall form was outlined in the light of the full moon.
The sheriff returned from the police cruiser parked in the nearby trees with a jerry can in his hand. He had already loaded the body into the driver’s side of the car. He doused the vehicle with gasoline. Reaching inside, he shoved the battered Volkswagen into gear and rolled it forward. He stepped back, lit a match, flicked it into the car and raised his boot to nudge the bumper. The car clunked down the rough, rock face of the ridge. All was dark for a moment then a whoosh of fire lit the night sky.
Hope that has you hooked.
Drum roll, please. It gives me great pleasure to announce the release of my latest novel, Maelstrom. Amazon threw me for a loop by releasing two days early but like any self-published author, I’m going with the wave.
Check out the book blurb:
A shot is fired into the still night air and a young woman dies on Suicide Ridge. A dangerous game has begun. Over the course of one blistering, hot week, winds of change sweep through an isolated valley in small town America.
Sheriff Bert Calder, with the help of Mayor Amos Thatcher, has held the town of Haddon under his thumb for twenty-five years. As things spin out of control, Calder works the angles, ensuring he can make the most of the upheaval that is to come.
Rafael Destino, facing his own mortality, races against time to gain control of the railroad – a lifeline essential to the town’s survival. His goal – to financially destroy Thatcher, the man he believes responsible for the death of his beloved sister. His tool – adopted son Myhetta. But how far down the road of revenge will Rafael push the young man who owes him everything?
Myhetta is poised on the edge of controlling Destino Enterprises, the job he has been groomed for. While money, power and influence are his to command, the past continues to torment him.
In a clash of powerful men, with fathers pitted against sons, no one will be left unscathed. Maelstrom is a page turner that speeds along like a runaway train.
I hope everyone will enjoy this latest addition to my published catalogue.
The following piece appears at the end of my soon-to-be released novel, Maelstrom. Enjoy.
This novel began its journey to you, the reader, when I was a child. My father worked nightshift and my mother was writing a book. We kids would fall asleep to the clack, clack, clack of the typewriter keys, the ding of the bell at the end of a line and the unforgettable sound of the carriage return. When I got older, I would stay up late and my mother would share bits and pieces of the story with me – highly censored, I’m sure. My brief introduction to the characters left an indelible impression – Sheriff Bert Calder, the sadistically cruel man who held the town of Haddon under his thumb; Myhetta, the handsome, knife-wielding adopted son of Rafael Destino; Laura, the woman who seemed to exist always in her basically white kitchen.
The years went by and I assumed my mother had given up on her book. Nothing could have been further from the truth. When I was in my twenties, I visited her and she proudly showed me a large box filled to the brim with type-covered, fluted, white paper placemats – a complete draft of Maelstrom. She was working at a café and had purchased those placemats for a good price. My mouth dropped open, my eyes grew large and I demanded that she let me read it. But she shook her head – it was too rough and raw. It needed work. From time to time, I heard that she had written yet another draft of the first chapter but more often than not, she seemed content to move onto other work. She penned a column for a local paper and honed her craft in the genre of short story writing. She joined a writers’ group and contributed to an anthology. She had a short story accepted for publication in a magazine.
When my mother died in 1997, she willed reams of her writing to my son. He was only a teenager at the time but he took the boxes she left him. Overwhelmed with sorting the rest of my mother’s possessions, I never even peeked inside those boxes. My son carted his inheritance from place to place until he winged his way across the vast country of Canada. At that point, whatever he couldn’t get on a plane, he left with his father. The boxes from his grandmother were then moved from here to there as part of a thing parents do for their kids – store their stuff.
Two years ago, my son brought me a red folder that had turned up in some of his things – pages from a book his grandma must have been working on. He had glanced through it and wondered if I would be interested, now that I was writing books of my own. I was stunned. I hadn’t seen those typed placemats for decades. I read with my heart in my throat. The margins were full of my mother’s handwritten notes. I could almost see her dark eyes sparkling with intensity as she glanced over my shoulder.
The red folder contained eighty pages of Maelstrom. But where was the rest of the manuscript? My son assumed that it must still be in storage at his dad’s somewhere. Later, the news came to me that boxes would be looked through with an eye to finding the missing pages.
I convinced myself that the degree to which I desired those pages to be found was in direct proportion to the likelihood that they never would be. I held myself firmly, repeating T. S. Eliot’s words – hope without hope.
I decided to transcribe the portion of the manuscript I had. No sooner did I begin typing than I started to rewrite. I couldn’t stop my imagination from springboarding off my mother’s words. By the time I was done, I knew that I could outline a beginning and ending for the novel.
Then came the magical day when my daughter sent me a text with a photo of a tottering pile of several thick binders bulging with pages. The rest of the manuscript had surfaced. I stared and stared at that photo, not quite believing my eyes. Those binders contained over two thousand pages. But I was never to find the all-important beginning. The manuscript started at page thirty. I have no idea what happened to that elusive first chapter that my mother had rewritten so many times.
So began a long process of reading. By the time I had finished, I was holding her version and the version I would have written side-by-side in my head. I started outlining, blocking out sections I would use and those I would not. I put sticky notes here and there in colour-coded, reckless abandon. My handwritten comments down margins and across the tops and bottoms of pages vied for space with my mother’s.
I made major alterations to the story she had set out to tell and that resulted in even more changes as the book progressed. The majority of those two thousand pages were left on the cutting room floor. Some characters were toned down, others were fleshed out with backstory wholly of my creation, a few were combined to streamline the narrative and one even underwent a gender change. I mined my way through those pages again and again for the gems – the turns of phrase unique to my mom’s way of writing dialogue, the colourful descriptions and plays on words. And I never came away empty-handed.
As the months of writing flew by, I struggled to understand whose book this was becoming. It was certainly not the book my mother had intended though it echoed with her ideas and characters. On the other hand, it was not something I could have come up with on my own.
After fifteen drafts and countless hours of work, I have come to the conclusion that the premise for the story belongs to my mother; the book you have just read is mine.
I’m not sure I can adequately describe what this experience of ghostwriting my mother’s story into my own and bringing it to a reading public has meant to me. There were times when I was so emotional, I sobbed over the keyboard and had to stop working. I never felt as close to my mother or as frustrated with her as I did when working on this novel. She made me laugh and I could almost feel her hand on my shoulder as I typed. Then she would exasperate me and I’d throw my head back and moan. I thought if I turned quickly, I would catch her shrugging her thin shoulders and hear her say, “It made sense to me at the time.”
It gives me great pleasure to present my interpretation of the novel my mother began so many years ago and to bring her characters to life with my own unique spin. It feel as if a circle is closing and, though I’m not sure if my mother would wholly embrace this version of her story, I am confident she would be proud of me for making the effort.
(A conceptual, pencil sketch of Casa Destino by June Guenette)
Countdown to Maelstrom release is FIVE days