Damselfly Inn Launches Today!

damselfly-inn-paperback-coverDamselfly Inn, releases today. It’s official. It’s all for you now. I hope you fall in love with the town and its people like I have.

The book is available right now both in paperback for Kindle/Kindle app on Amazon. Readers abroad, the book is being released in all of Amazon’s foreign markets, too! You can also order a signed copy directly from me

Want to hear me work on my public speaking? Upcoming Author Events Are a Thing.

Publishing a novel, even with Bannerwing Books behind me, still takes a village, and this is where I ask for your help. There are four main ways you can support my writing:

  • Buy the book. For yourself, of course. Or not. Not your genre? Buy it for someone who’ll enjoy it. For a friend. For your mom. Your neighbor. A stranger. Books make great gifts, and Amazon even has a Kindle book gift option if dead trees and ink aren’t your pleasure. Neat, huh?
  • Review the book. It can be daunting, but it’s so very helpful. Reviews and ratings are a kind of currency for authors, especially on Amazon. Goodreads.com is another great place for reviews. Reviews open doors for promotion and marketing opportunities. Reviews tell other readers what they can expect from my books. A review doesn’t have to be complicated: just be honest about your experience with the book. Not feeling eloquent? Star ratings are awesome, too.
  • Talk up the book. Tell people. Your book club, the cashier at the grocery store, the local librarians, booksellers. Word of mouth from readers and shoppers goes a long way towards getting my books into brick and mortar establishments.
  • Promote the book. Do you blog? Are you on Facebook? Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram? Share book links, images, and reviews. Tag me so I can interact with readers – and thank you! Your influence matters, and I will be eternally grateful.

And now… a little treat for those of you who’ve stuck with me to the end of the post. Thank you, my friends:

Nan Grady was tracing glossy lettering across a misdirected postcard when her house split open.

Greetings from Myrtle Beach S.C.! The card was a vintage-styled one, with each drop-shadowed block letter featuring a scene from the beach. She turned it over to read the note, to mull over the intended recipient. The handwriting was young – full and looping.

Danny, it’s not this pretty where we live, but the beach is awesome. I miss you. Maybe you can come down here some time. It’s warmer than Vermont anyway. Love, Ellie

The postcard was addressed to Danny B. (heart, flower, star), 203 County Road, Thornton, VT. It had arrived that afternoon, nearly lost in the myriad catalogs, flyers, and bills in the mail. Something about the sender’s bittersweet tone gave Nan pause. She carried it upstairs to her apartment, meaning to drop it in her purse for her next run into town. She suspected Gary at the Thornton Post Office would know exactly who Danny B. was.

Myrtle Beach sounded like a perfect alternative to the late summer collision of weather fronts currently heaving itself down from the Adirondacks. Outside, the early evening sky had gone gunmetal gray, roiling with clouds. The rain was static, punctuated by sharp cracks of thunder, and Nan could hear the wind buffeting the walls of the old house.

The storm continued its tantrum as it drove eastward, rushing up to and over the Green Mountains like water over a spillway. Rain pelted down, blown nearly horizontal, and the huge maple tree behind the inn groaned in protest.

There would be a mess to clean up in the yard in the morning.

She’d come upstairs to wait out the thunderstorm in the snug comfort of her apartment over the garage.

It was a disorienting feeling still, the newness of owning this grand old house, but living in two rooms that were only attached to it by the stairs off the kitchen, stairs whose walls framed the breezeway between the house and the garage. It was a heady feeling, though, owning the gracious yellow Victorian, opening it to travelers, hosting treasured memories, making a home for herself in this town she was quickly coming to love.

Nan turned the card over one last time, imagining thick South Carolina heat and the light tease of sea-breeze. White heat lit up her living room, throwing everything into Hitchcock-esque relief for a heartbeat; when the thunder shattered the air no more than a half-second later, the lights blinked and the house shook with the impact.

She was on her feet and running for the stairs, pausing only to grab her Maglite from the coffee table drawer, and the card fluttered, forgotten, to rest on the braided rug.

A cold wind tumbled down from the third floor to meet her in the foyer.

With a hard knot of dread already forming in her stomach, she raced up to the third floor landing. She yanked open the door to the Adirondack Suite with her heart pounding.

The scene inside the room struck her like a fist. Rain was pouring in through the remains of the gabled roof, lumber and insulation hanging down like broken bones and torn flesh. The hot smell of ozone was fresh in the air. Shingles and debris littered the floor. The silk drapes whipped and snapped at the sills. A limb from the ancient maple tree that grew next to the house lay across the sleigh bed, its raw end sizzling.

“Oh, god. No,” she said aloud to the empty room, her voice swallowed by the noise of the storm. “No.”

 ***

 

Fall in Love with Thornton: Creative Geography and Catmint Gap

Though Joss Fuller is a child of the valley west of Thornton College, for the duration of Damselfly Inn, he makes his home in a cabin in nearby Catmint Gap.

During some recent research on the Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English in Ripton, I discovered this lovely video of the drive from Middlebury to the Bread Loaf campus in Ripton, the counterpart to a drive Joss makes more than a few times in the pages of Damselfly Inn.

It was the longest twenty-minute ride of his life; he knew he’d risked his own skin taking the switchbacks on the mountain road at those speeds, but fear and grim determination steadied his hands on the wheel.

It took a lot to truly rattle his mother, and she’d been well and truly rattled. A thousand awful scenarios filled his imagination, all improbable, none with a good ending.

He blew through downtown Thornton praying the police force was either sleeping or already on their way out to the farm. When he cleared the last stand of trees where County Road curved and dropped into the heart of the valley, he could see the farm from a mile away, emergency lights like a flashing beacon drawing him home.

Catmint Gap is a fictional village some 25 minutes from Thornton. It nestles in the Green Mountains, and draws inspiration from the towns of Ripton and Hancock. Joss’s cabin is off the beaten path a bit, on imagined land that presses against the Green Mountain National Forest. I’ve taken a number of creative liberties with the geography, but the mountains remain, as well as the river.

The Middlebury River becomes my Catmint River, tumbling down the west side of the mountains in a deep, switchback ravine, with the road perched precariously above, switchbacks and all. It eventually joins the north-flowing Thorn River, whose falls are a Thornton landmark. The Thorn is known in real-life as Otter Creek, whose falls are a Middlebury landmark, and those falls are forever in my heart (and in From the Earth to the Moon).

"Otter creek falls" by Original uploader was Jd4508 at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Pauk using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Otter_creek_falls.jpg#/media/File:Otter_creek_falls.jpg
“Otter creek falls” by Original uploader was Jd4508 at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Pauk using CommonsHelper. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

How to Write A Novel In Eighteen Steps

how-to-write-a-novel-eighteen-steps

  • Draft 50,000 words in two mad months. Convince self you are literary giant.
  • Lose focus, shelve draft for three years.
  • Discover the entire secondary plot is crap. Scrap it.
  • Rewrite over 18 months. 65,000 words of plausible nonsense.
  • Discover the entire new secondary plot is crap. Scrap it.
  • Rewrite over another year. Convince self you are not bonkers to have done so. 75,000 words.
  • Decide to publish in six months. Actually tell people that.
  • Get solid notes from beta readers. Rewrite. 82,000 words.
  • Panic. How is the book getting LONGER?
  • Gain beta reader approval. Send out for copyediting.
  • Get edits back. Fix eleventy-million things. Send out for proof copy printing.
  • Send uncorrected digital proofs to selected readers.
  • Get proof in mail. Squee like a pre-teen at a pre-Zayne’s-departure One Direction show.
  • Read through proof in horror: So. Many. Wrongs.
  • Apply 463* sticky-note edits to proof.
  • Implement changes to book files.
  • Remember when Chef Louise said you eventually have to stop fucking with it.**
  • Click Publish.

*estimate. see photo for details.
**she said it. to soften the language would destroy the beauty of the moment. “it” was, for the record, cake frosting.

Fall in Love with Thornton: NECI, The School I Didn’t Attend

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons under a CC Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 license.
Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 license.

Dreams are crazy. That’s the point of them, right?

In 2001, I’d been living on my own for a few years, was making okay money, sharing an apartment outside of Boston with a girlfriend, exploring all kinds of silly twenty-something things, and cooking.

Like, cooking. I was falling in love with flavor and texture, with technique and adventure, with ethnic cuisine and rediscovered comfort food.

When I took the job as J’s nanny, I’d envisioned it as a relatively short-term gig. A way to stash some cash for a graduate degree. What I learned in those couple of years was that I didn’t want to do a graduate degree. So then, what?

Culinary school. Personal cheffing? Managing a B&B in Vermont? Maybe even someday running one… My head was full of ideas. Ah, youth. I researched programs and settled on two: the New England Culinary Institute and the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. One program was conveniently located near my apartment and offered night classes. One was in another state, and would be a lot like going back to college, including dorms. One was under $20,000. One was not. In the end, I chose the one that would allow me to work my way through and keep my cat. I stayed in Cambridge, but a part of me always wonders what would have gone differently had I enrolled in NECI and moved back to Vermont.

As fate would have it, just after enrolling in the local program, I met the man I’d marry three years later.

In the end, what culinary school taught me, more than anything, was how to make a killer Italian meringue buttercream frosting. That, and one other truth: I loathe the kitchen politics and preposterous egotism that rules the restaurant world. Working in a professional kitchen exhausted me on every level.

I still love to cook. I still love flavor and texture, technique and adventure, ethnic cuisine and comfort food. I just prefer to feed my family, and occasionally make really awesome cakes.

Nan and the Damselfly were born from those dreams and experiences, and her NECI education is, in part, an homage to the path I didn’t take, the school I didn’t attend.

Check out Open Studio to read Foolish Things, a short story that introduces you to some of the side-characters from Damselfly Inn when they were in high school, and fall in love with Thornton a month before it’s available to the public.