Summer Solstice in a Small Town

I like to take road trips, and the stranger the destination, the better. I like small towns that literally aren’t on the map. Breaker, Texas is one such town.

In Central Texas, scrubby trees grow up twisted from constant wind. The farther West you go, the hardier the stunted trees – at least, until you get to Breaker. There are no trees within the Breaker city limits, and no other vegetation of any kind: no grassy yards, no prickly pears, not even any potted plants. Breaker wasn’t always barren, but it is now.

That makes it all the more remarkable that the Makepeace Orchard survives at the edge of town. The peach farm has been continuously cultivated since 1822. Prior to that, a tribe known as the Cayalanzuvan grew sytra there. Urban legend links sytra to the bloodier aspects of atavistic paganism, and Goddess worship in particular. If that doesn’t compel you to put FM-6060 on your itinerary, consider this: a petrified tree stands just inside the gate. It is bone white, but certain sensitive people report seeing a black haze rise from the surface. Touch the tree, and those people say they hear a woman talking. Spooky? Perhaps, but even if you aren’t the type to enact your own personal episode of Supernatural, you can get a good deal on peaches. What’s not to love?

This is my fifth summer in Texas. I still haven’t made it to Treeletting, Breaker’s annual Summer Solstice celebration. Treeletting is a multi-cultural event held in the orchard, and gives prominent place to Cayalanzuvan ritual. The allegations of human sacrifice making the rounds of the tabloid circuit booked Breaker’s only hotel, The Gauss, for this whole week. I know because I tried to make reservations. Even without the (probable) journalistic embellishment of cannibalism, the true tragedy of 2007 is probably enough on its own to draw a certain kind of crowd.

Dubbed  “The Treeletting Tragedy,” the events of 2007 resulted in multiple deaths by fire and a possible abduction. Helena Makepeace, a mentally unstable young woman with ties to the orchard, is still on the Missing Persons register. You’ve probably seen her on those sad brochures that show up in the mail, the ones with a time-lapsed photo and information about what the missing individual was last seen wearing; she’s the one who would have been beautiful, if not for the accident that mutilated half of her face.

There is also bounty out for a father and daughter who disappeared shortly after the  ’07 solstice. The tabloids occasionally run with that, too, purporting that a small religious group known as the La Zaliites is behind the reward money. The La Zaliites think that the daughter, who was only three at the time of the incident, is the human incarnation of their Goddess.

If Breaker were on a map, it would at the epicenter of strange.

Happy Summer Solstice!

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She pitches and… scores?

light, tunnel?

I have been working on my novel pitch. I expect to use the pitch for my back cover material and as the ‘product description’ for online vendors. This is important, especially at the outset and before there are many reviews, because the cover and the pitch are the two pieces of information that will be available to help readers decide if they want to read STOLEN CLIMATES. You all have been helpful in giving me suggestions, but I would like to acknowledge Meg, Paul and Nick for their specific contributions. I think I have something that incorporates all of the good bits from the 5-sentence pitches and cuts out the wordiness of my initial attempt. Please drop me a comment and let me know what you think! Without further ado or any more of my agonizing, here is the revised pitch:

Genny thought her hallucinations were from lack of sleep. Then her daughter started hearing the trees talking, too. Now they are being hunted by a cult who wants to use them in a deadly ritual to ensure the continuation of ancient ways. Their only hope of escape is a single ax and an acquaintance with his own set of debilitating issues. As Summer Solstice nears, carnivorous vines grow out of control, the sacred orchard dies of blight, and it isn’t safe after dark.

Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor.

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Publishing Update & The 5-Sentence Pitch

The publication process is underway! After two years of writing and revision, my debut novel has entered the final stages before publication! My copy editor starts work on STOLEN CLIMATES next week and my cover artist has picked out a location to get reference images to use in sketching out some initial drafts. My goal is to release STOLEN CLIMATES in the first quarter of 2012. I have not firmed up prices or outlets yet, but I’m working on those details and will let you know as soon as I do.

Part of publishing is coming up with back cover matter and a pitch. I was stymied by this for a long time, and finally asked for advice from a fellow indie author who has been very successful. I wrote a pitch and put it out for the world to read, including my father, who has also read a draft of STOLEN CLIMATES. My father is a brilliant writer. I grew up hearing the quote, “If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter.” When he read my pitch, my father suggested that I be a bit more pithy and capture the essence of STOLEN CLIMATES in five sentences. I agreed with his reasoning, and then panicked.

Have you ever tried to sum up an entire novel in five sentences? It is much more difficult than it sounds. I think there is a special challenge to summing up a horror novel, as the basic premise of most horror stories is a bit… silly.  My opinion is that just because the premise is absurd, doesn’t mean that there can’t be value and deeper meaning to a work. Yet, summing up my novel in five sentences left even me, the dedicated author, feeling like my book was… silly, even though I know that the story is not at all silly or trite or lacking in depth.  I kept working at it, and came up with five versions of the 5-Sentence Pitch. I’d love it if you’d tell me which one you feel is most effective!

5-Sentence Pitch

Option 1 (As Summer Solstice Nears…) : 

As Summer Solstice nears, a small Texas town prepares for a ritual that will give human form to Mother Nature. They will spill a mother’s blood, invoke a father’s lament, and ensure the continuation of ancient ways. Until then, carnivorous vines are growing out of control, the sacred orchard is dying of blight, and it isn’t safe after dark.  Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor. She has a name – and a face!

Option 2 (Genny thought her hallucinations…) : 

Genny thought her hallucinations were from lack of sleep. Then her daughter started hearing the trees talking, too. Now they are being hunted by a cult who wants to use them in a deadly ritual. As carnivorous vegetation encroaches on the house where Genny and her daughter are trapped, their only hope of escape is a single ax and an acquaintance with his own set of debilitating issues. Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor!

Option 3 (Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor…) :

Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor.  She has a name and a face. Every generation, the town of Breaker sacrifices a mother and offers her daughter to be the vessel for the powers of Nature. They need a new vessel, but there are no children. Then the Mercer’s arrive with their three year old daughter and not even the people of Breaker are safe from the bloodshed.

Option 4 (Genny and Malcolm Mercer are moving…) :

Genny and Malcolm Mercer are moving to Breaker, Texas. They hope living in a small town will alleviate Genny’s insomnia and the dangerous hallucinations it causes. As they look for a house to buy, the Mercers check into Breaker’s only hotel, eat at the only café, and discover there is only one little girl in the whole town: their daughter, Laney.  The town has noticed Laney, too, because they need a child to use in an ancient ritual to  incarnate the powers of other Nature. As Summer Solstice nears and  carnivorous vines grow out of control,  the Mercers learn that Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor.

Option 5 (After losing his job…) :

After losing his job and his girlfriend, Prentice decides go West. He ends up in a Texas town where ancient  rituals are carried out to incarnate the powers of Nature.  When he overhears plans to abduct the child of the only other guests in the town motel, Prentice has to choose between the safety of a largely imaginary life he’s dreamed for himself or a dangerous reality. Will Prentice be able to rescue an innocent family? Or will he be subdued by a lack of confidence and a swarm of carnivorous vines?

 

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Pitch Perfect?

Genny and Malcolm Mercer are moving to Breaker, Texas. They hope living in a small town will alleviate Genny’s insomnia and the dangerous hallucinations it causes. As they look for a house to buy, the Mercers check into Breaker’s only hotel, eat at the only café, and discover there is only one little girl in the whole town: their daughter.

Prentice Feyerbach has a good imagination and lots of time to spend dreaming up a life he doesn’t have. He arrives in Breaker with a gift for his imaginary fiancée, a suitcase full of new clothes, and a debilitating illness he wants to hide. Prentice is forced to choose between the safety of his pretend life or a deadly reality when he overhears plans to abduct the Mercers’ daughter.

Helena Makepeace is more than just a strange girl with a maimed face. She is also the human incarnation of the Goddess La Zalia. This gives Helena the power to heal, but not without a price to pay for using the Goddess powers for her own purposes.

As Summer Solstice nears, Breaker prepares for the ritual Treeletting ceremony to offer a new human vessel to La Zalia. The ritual will spill a mother’s blood, invoke a father’s lament, and ensure the continuation of ancient ways. Until then, carnivorous vines are growing out of control, the sacred orchard is dying of blight, and it isn’t safe after dark.

~ STOLEN CLIMATES ~

Mother Nature is Real

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I want to thank Ania Ahlborn for her suggestions on how to get past my mental block on writing this blurb.  She suggested that I read the product descriptions for books I like on Amazon and use those as a guide.  If you’re not familiar with Ania, check out her blog and read her debut novel SEED.

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