Over the past year, I have learned tremendous amounts about the publishing industry. Little did I know the struggle and strife that goes on in that world! I still have hopes to publish my novel, Terrible Miss Margo, in the traditional manner, but I didn’t want to miss out on the rather fascinating world of eBooks.
Instead of finding an agent, rewriting manuscripts, finding an editor, rewriting manuscripts, finding a publisher, rewriting manuscripts, and then finally falling into almost assured obscurity, the eBook world lets you take charge of the entire process and then fall into obscurity. Obviously, this could be an unmitigated disaster. Just think of all the people in the world with a novel in their drawer that they wrote one winter, knowing they had a New York Times Bestseller in them. Truly frightening. I’ve read some of these pieces and found myself gaping in horror. To the horror of most consumers, some of them were even published, travesties like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
Now, even though I may humbly go on about myself being the reincarnated Oscar Wilde or one of the most important icons in American literature since Mark Twain, I only say this with sarcasm. Still, I like to think that my writing is decent. I put a lot of care and thought into what I do, and there are very few sex toys in my work, even less glitter. Thought you should know. And, with that in mind, perhaps you’ll be willing to give my novella, Haskell and Eudora, a try?
This story had a very interesting genesis, and since I’m long-winded on this blog, I’ll detail it for you. You are most welcome!
This October, as my family drove through Stillwater, Minnesota, on our way back to Iowa, I was flabbergasted as always by that beautiful village on the St. Croix. It’s honestly one of the most perfect places in America. I’m saying this with full awareness of how much I love Sarasota, Florida, and San Francisco, California. To me, it ranks right up there. The place has a magical feeling to it, the way it climbs up the valley walls, the trees ablaze with autumnal color, and the easygoing commingling of modern life and historic Americana. I love it so much. I would happily live there; the only thing stopping me is the frigid weather and the nearness of my arch nemesis, Michele Bachmann. I hate that woman. I hate her for all she stands for. I also hate her for elbowing me and not apologizing.
Anyway, I knew that I had to write a story about this place. I write all the time, so it was only natural to add it to my list of projects. But for some reason, the idea of this piece wouldn’t leave my mind. I knew it was going to be a short story or novella and I knew that it would involve supernatural elements.
That night, while waiting in line to meet one of my heroes, Anne Rice, the story fell into place with such ease that it alarmed me. I furiously typed out a synopsis on my phone and then gushed to Anne about how much I loved her.
And afterwards I was stunned by her perfection:
Over the next week, the story poured out of my brain onto paper — I always write on paper, I can’t type a story — and I was very happy with how it turned out. I’ve never had such fun writing in my entire life. It delighted me the way it flowed right out without the complications and confusion of some of my earlier works. Only recently have I stopped procrastinating long enough to put the thing together, though. (It’s a real problem.)
After a few stressful days of figuring out how the hell you’re supposed to format an ebook — not as complicated as I first thought, but still irksome — it was all done. I proofread it a few times and designed the cover:It’s not quite my original vision, which was more spartan and haunting, but I think this is still evocative of the story I’m telling. Besides that, this picture of my grandmother was free to use…so, how could I resist?
I submitted it last night and it’s for sale now for $2.99! I’m a published author!
I think this is a fun and interesting foray into the publishing world whilst I wait for an agent and an editor and a publisher for my first novel. I had a good time and I think I may do it again. I fell so in love with some of the characters in this story that I’m sure you’ll hear from them soon. They’ve amazing stories to tell and they won’t shut up in my head, so I may have to exorcise them.
Also: HOLLYWOOD, PLEASE BUY THE RIGHTS TO MY STORY. NO, YOU’RE NOT CRAZY, I SMELL AN OSCAR, TOO.
Here’s the opening for your perusal (and I’m no heathen, I just can’t indent on here because of HTML…I don’t know what that means, but my apologies to you.)
* * * *
Every afternoon after closing the shop, I go to Fairview Cemetery. I love graveyards; they’re always desolate and peaceful and I enjoy the solitude they provide. Of all the burial grounds I’ve seen, which is not many, this will always be my favorite. There is nothing spectacular about it. The headstones offer nothing exceptional. I suppose the one from the late eighteenth century is curious enough, but I don’t come here for any historical purposes. I come for the magnificent view of the St. Croix River and to spend a moment with my parents. I never had the chance to have dinner with them––I have almost no memories of them at all, and the ones I do have are surely of my own creation––so I dine with my family in this consecrated ground. It’s pleasant, especially now with the leaves so ridiculously colorful.
I took another bite of my sandwich, always egg salad with lots of chive, and turned back to one of my mother’s books that I had brought along, The Secret Doctrine by Helena Blavatsky. She had owned a vast library that lined the walls of several rooms. All those tomes were in a storage unit now on the outskirts of town. I couldn’t bear to get rid of them and was glad that Gran Josephine had been thoughtful enough to save them in case I turned out to be an avid reader, too.
“I wasn’t aware that people still studied Theosophy.”
I turned quickly to the voice. Never before had I been disturbed here. It was my sanctuary and though it was patently untrue, I consider myself to be a guardian and protector of the graves and large mausoleum stuffed with ashes of long–forgotten members of this wonderfully vital river town.
“Blavatsky is an intriguing woman, though, I freely admit,” the man said. He had a deep, melodic voice touched by a British accent.
I flipped back to the cover. “It’s all over my head, really.”
Smiling, he squatted next to me. He had long, wavy hair pulled back into a loose ponytail; dark brown tendrils from his bangs had escaped and framed his face, drawing attention to his high cheekbones and clear, blue eyes. His skin was ruddy and his cheeks showed only the slightest trace of stubble.
“Salons that she hosted were memorable by those lucky enough to be invited.” His eyes wandered. “Allegedly, of course.” He flashed another smile, dazzling white teeth.
“I imagine so,” I replied lamely, unsure of what I should say. I have always been timid and rarely, if ever, seek out conversation with a stranger.
“I’ve not introduced myself, just leapt straight into the middle of a conversation. Bad habit.” He extended a long–fingered hand. “I’m Haskell Desmarais.”
“Desmarais?” I parroted, questioningly. I knew that name. Anybody who lived in Stillwater for any length of time was familiar with it.
“They always say our name like that,” he laughed, “rather nasty history, isn’t it?”
“You could call it that,” I replied. “We’ve all grown up with the story of Loretta high up in the tower of that mansion where she hung her entire family and fled, never to be found. Then that wonderful house was left all alone, never occupied, never entered, just standing eerily quiet until it falls to the ground.”
“She must have been deranged. I can’t think of any other reason to act as she did.”
“No,” I responded quietly. This was an awfully strange conversation, but not so uncomfortable as I had feared at the onset. “I wonder what became of her?”
“I’ve been told she went to live with the native people, the Ojibwa, and became something of a shaman in their tribe. That’s the family folklore, anyway.”
“I didn’t realize that there were any of you left.”
“We aren’t a large family, but there are a small number of us. My sister and I are recently arrived from London. That house has been waiting for a new crew of Desmarais for nearly a century now––has it been a century, yet?––but none of the family wants to associate with that tragic chapter of our story.”
“You don’t mind the infamy?”
“No,” he sighed, “quite frankly, I relish in it. I suppose you could say my sister and I are something of an eccentric duo.”
I smiled shyly at him. “Your namesake is buried over there.” I pointed across the lawn to a worn limestone grouping of headstones.
“Is he?” Haskell looked eagerly over. “Would you accompany me?”
I nodded, putting the old book and the remains of my meal into the canvas rucksack I always have about me.
He walked with unusual elegance, his posture perfectly straight; his tall body striding effortlessly over the long, dying grass. He wore dark khaki pants and a thick, navy blue cable knit cardigan that hung open, revealing a perfectly white shirt. A scarf was wrapped casually, but elegantly around his neck. I rarely thought about appearances, but he had an air about him that commanded attention. I suddenly felt rather ashamed of my worn Mickey Mouse sweater and comfortable jeans.
“I’m glad to have found you,” he said as we approached the cluster, “I’d have been searching all day.”
“I like to think I know all the names and where they are.” I replied. “It’ll begin to snow soon and I’ll have to stay inside. I hate the winter. I miss the graves.”
He nodded. “Perfectly reasonable. They’re your friends.”
“Don’t you find that peculiar?”
“Heavens no!” He exclaimed with a laugh. “They don’t argue with you, they let you think, they’re kindly, and are always here when needed. I envy the dead, though I have no interest in joining their troupe.”
“I’ve never heard that sentiment expressed quite so elegantly. Do all Englishmen speak like you?”
“Hardly. We have our uneducated masses, too, and the educated that inconceivably choose illiteracy.”
“Same the world over.”
He turned to me with a look of amazement, “You’ve totally charmed me, yet you’ve said so little, and, I don’t even know your name.”
“Julia,” he repeated slowly. “It doesn’t suit you.”
I laughed, “What should I be called?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I say many things I don’t think through.”
I smirked. He amused me. “Here he is, Haskell Lucas Desmarais.”
He ran his fingers over the rough, white stone, marred with lichen, the delicate scrollwork and engraving nearly impossible to make out. “Ici, il y a une vie,” he read in beautifully accented French. “Toujours vivant.”
“Always alive?” I tried to remember my high school French, which I had learned only a few years ago.
“Indeed,” Haskell sighed, and a melancholy expression muddled his charming features. “They had a very curious sense of humor.”
“What do you mean?”
“Never mind. Like I said before, talking without thinking.”
He studied the group of gravestones: Eudora, Haskell, Rosamond, and Mortimer. “If you aren’t in the cemetery, where can I find you?”
“You’re peculiar.” I laughed, then thought better of what I’d said, “Don’t take offense.”
“One should never be bothered by the truth, though it is often more unpleasant than a lie.”
I looked at him for a moment, he had charmed me as well. Nobody spoke that way. “I work at the Christmas shop, Noel, on the main street. It’s impossible to miss. If ever you need ornaments or a crèche or a strand of lights, well, there’s no finer place.”
“Tinsel, too? I’m mad for tinsel.”
“All the tinsel you’d like.”
“May I call on you there?” He looked down at me quite seriously.
I nodded my consent. How could I not? He intrigued me utterly.
“Thank you, Miss Julia. And forgive me, your name is quite beautiful, it sounds very much like a jewel.” With a warm smile, he left my side, leaving me rather astonished and incomprehensibly flustered.
* * * *
I do hope you enjoyed that. If you’re biting your nails, desperate to know what happens next, click this link and buy your very own copy. My goal is to make enough money to buy a pair of pink shoes, so, I’m not asking for the moon here. Thanks in advance for my shoes and I really do hope you liked it. Leave comments. Leave reviews. I adore you.