V -- November 1, 2007
Oh, the excitement! Look what tumbled into my email yesterday!
I'm delighted with this cover. You're looking through a window of the old house at Gudger's Stand down to the snow covered river bank and the icy river. The floating bed? well, I guess you could take that as a token that there's a touch of the paranormal in the book. Or let's call it mountain magic.
Lots of you asked about the publication date -- My editor says May 20, 2008!
Part of last month was spent proof reading In A Dark Season. My editor (Herself) does a very thorough line edit, making suggestions on almost every page before shipping the manuscript, all six pounds of it, back to me. Then I go through, page by page (492 in all), trying to fix the things Herself doesn't like. With that done and the manuscript back in NY, it's time for me to pull my thoughts together and write out proposals for the next two books.
My second two book contract is finished, so now I have to hope that I've come up with something that will entice Herself to offer me another contract. I should hear soon and will send a special Goodweather Report when I do.
A big howdy from the dog known as Samuel Prince Ali Ali Royale with Cheese Jackson (aka Ali) he lives with my younger son but visits often.
QUESTIONS AND OBSERVATIONS FROM YOU ALL
( or you uns,' as Miss Birdie would say)
Ann J. of Weaverville, NC shares this memory:
Early November, 1974
We had lived in our Polk County mountain cabin less than two months and the days had turned crisp and cold and the sky brilliant blue. Our house was back from the dirt (not gravel) road about a hundred yards. We hadn't met any of our neighbors. The old moonshiners' road was sparsely settled and almost impassable with mud in wet weather. (We had not yet experienced snow there.)
One morning I heard a car horn blowing repeatedly. I looked out, and then went out when I realized that the mailman was sitting in his car at the end of our driveway. (We were the last house on the mail route.) He told me that I needed to go up the road about a mile to a neighbor's house. This was not a suggestion, or a request. It was a command. Two elderly sisters were sick and needed someone to carry them to the doctor. The less sick of the two had flagged him down as he delivered their mail, and then he had seen a car in our driveway. He told me how to find the house.
Well, in those days I was extremely shy and basically pretty fearful. But I was afraid NOT to comply. Their house sat in a wide, flat area, probably a farm decades ago, in the bend of the road. It looked more like a little Victorian cottage than a mountain cabin, although the exterior was badly in need of paint. In the yard was a majestic ancient sycamore tree still with a few leaves twisting in the wind.
The women, elderly spinsters, seemed to be expecting me and Miss Rose invited me inside. (My guess is that they both were nearly 90 years old.) The interior was not modern, but adequately furnished, with lace curtains at the windows. The older sister, Miss Iris, was dressed and ready to go to the doctor. Her doctor's office was in Columbus , down Saluda Mountain past Tryon. Miss Iris managed to control her stomach virus throughout the ride, thank God, and she gave me directions to the office once we were in Columbus . The waiting room was jammed with sick people, most of them elderly. We waited at least three hours. This was in the days when people just went to the doctor's office and waited their turn, no appointment necessary. And the doctor charged about $4 for a visit. I was sure the doctor would send her to the hospital, but no, he gave her some prescriptions, and sent her home. So back up the mountain after stopping in Tryon for her medicine. It was starting to get dark, but I think Miss Iris already felt better, knowing that she had seen her doctor and had medications.
Just a few days later, I learned that the other sister, Miss Rose, had died. Miss Iris ended her days in a nursing home.
This experience seemed so strange to me at the time, having moved to the hinterlands from West Palm Beach . The mailman just expected me to take care of a neighbor in need. What a novel idea!
Also from Ann J. - I have a friend who recently lost 5 or 10 pounds. Her mother told her It looks like a whole family has moved out of the seat of your pants.
Lee Fowler says : Here's a back-mountain saying for your collection. We were in the office of an Asheville ophthalmologist and my husband was in with the doctor. I got into a conversation with a real old-timer and he said, "Well, I hope your husband will be able to drive up Ox Creek, look across the valley and watch a flea shave!"
Love those great expressions!
My uncle, Gene S. writes : Recently I asked my neighbor who is from East Tennessee if she was going to give her vote to a certain politician; her reply was most descriptive. "I wouldn't give him air in a jug." She assured me that was a common expression she had heard her parents and grandparents use frequently.
I adore it! Never heard it before but it sure sounds like something my neighbors would say. (We're quite near east Tennessee .)
Clara U. writes : My step mother who was born in 1917 is now in a nursing home. She often thinks she needs to get outside to help pick the bacca. If or when my mind goes, I'm really glad I didn't pick bacca in my young days because I sure don't want to pick it in my old age.
My sister-in-law, who used to work in a nursing home, told me about one old lady who would wander the halls, looking at all the other patients and staff, shaking her head and muttering, How will I feed all these people?
As for me, I fully expect in my very old age to be wondering why my daughters Rosemary and Laurel never come to see me. (They don't write; they don't call . . .)
Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia) Heavenly fragrant but tender. (And poisonous.) I had to whack this back the other day (it was over six feet tall) so that I could fit the pot into the greenhouse.
From Beth E:
I wondered if you like Ruth Rendell. I just starting reading her a couple years ago, and I have never read anyone who was so prolific but SO unformulaic--none of her books are predictable in plot, some are mysteries with Insp. Wexford but a lot are psychological as in not "who did it, but why did it". I love English mysteries (almost as much as mountain mysteries), I read one by Val McDermid "A Place of Execution"--one of those that I hate to finish, especially when I realized Val had never written another one that came close, although she's written several good ones.
I haven't read Rendell in a long time but do remember liking her books. The odd thing about writing mystery is that I no longer read as many as I used to -- partly due to a lack of time but also from not wanting to find myself unconsciously copying someone's style or ideas.
I do love English mysteries -- and non-mysteries as well. P.D. James is a favorite. I've read a few of Val McDermid's and enjoyed them -- another good writer is Morag Joss whose mysteries are set in Bath .
Carol from Fairview says : You are so right about carrying a camera at all times especially in your own back yard! When I walked down to get the mail yesterday I stopped and saw a green fuzzy caterpillar walking across the street, it's a no outlet street but I still thought oh, I hope you make it across! When I came back with the mail, I looked for him, and he was 3/4 across, so I just stood and watched, as he got to the grass I watched him go over and under things till he got to the deep grass. Wish I had my camera!
I'm glad someone else appreciates caterpillars. My agent was grossed out by the picture of the "fuzzy bug and his mutant, buggy feet." But, as she herself said, she's a city girl. This next picture's for you, Ann! It's called a Hickory Horned Devil and is almost six inches long. And in spite of its scary appearance, it doesn't sting. Or bite.
Carol S. says: Two different people have done my astrological chart and told me that the alignment of planets at my birth gives me a lot of power (i.e. makes me a witch). Frankly, although I find it fun and interesting, I don't really put much credence in it. I did scare myself once though.
A person was very cruel and nasty to my two sons for no reason and having a pretty hot temper I was furious and called on all my warrior ancestors (highland Scots) to bring down disease and destruction (I also tend to the melodramatic)on that man and on his two daughters who had joined with him. Within the year all of them had cancer. I know logically that my curse had nothing to do with it but it taught me a lesson and I have never done anything like that since nor will I ever just in case.
Scary. And I have a related story. Ten years ago I had a ruptured disk and was in really severe pain. The local clinic had given me the most powerful painkiller they could and it allowed me to sleep some but certainly didn't take away all the pain. I mean, I'm usually pretty stoic but I was lying in bed moaning! I had an appointment the next afternoon with a surgeon (the one who eventually fixed the disk) and looking at my pills, I realized that I was one short that meant horrible pain while I waited for the doctor. I called the clinic and explained the situation. Either they had miscounted or I had dropped and lost a pill. Could I get just one more to see me through?
The woman on the phone went and asked the doctor. Sorry, no way. I'd just have to tough it out. I explained myself all over again, emphasizing that I just wanted One Pill. (This, by the way, was a clinic my family and I'd been patients at for about twenty years. I felt they should have known I wasn't someone scamming drugs.)
Our conversation went on, back and forth for about twenty minutes with me getting increasingly upset (it was near time for my next pill and I was really hurting.) The woman on the phone went and asked the doctor again: same negative reply.
And then (and I have no idea where this came from), I heard myself saying, I don't want to have to do this but I am going to be forced to wish that this doctor feel that same sort of pain that I'm feeling right now.
Don't do that! said the woman on the other end. I'll be right back.
When she returned it was to say that three pills would be waiting if my husband could come pick them up.
I only need one, I said.
That's all right. The doctor wants to be sure you have enough.
I'm still trying to sort out the message of this story.
From Tanya R.: You had a question in the Oct 1st edition about the phrase Falling a Flood. That comes from Eastern North Carolina in the Raleigh-Durham area. It means it rained really hard.
We need it to fall a flood. This is the French Broad River looking north from the bridge at Gudger's Stand. It's way too low due to a severe lack of rain.
I really wonder about your editor's advice "to devastate your readers". Personally I am looking for entertainment, escape, information but not devastation. I get enough of that from real life.
If a loved character that has been a sympathetic continuing presence in a series suddenly acts out of character and becomes a real rotter or is killed off, it ruins the series for me. Perhaps I'm just a light weight but I enjoy happy endings and have never found them trite.
The problem, of course, is that a series can get into a rut if it goes on long enough and the author (or the editor) may think that drastic measures are called for. The Goodweather books haven't gone on that long -- I'll have to work at bringing new and fresh things in without having Miss Birdie go to the dark side or letting something awful happen to one of the girls. And I have promised never to harm a dog.
On the other hand - - Sue P. writes: I don't think I knew that (about your editor being Elizabeth George's at one time.) I'm very impressed, but not surprised. I liked what she said about "you have to SHATTER them". I have read so many books that it really takes something to give me that 'jolt' at the denouement, but you've pulled it off each time. And of course Elizabeth George's ending to With No One As Witness, took many, many people by surprise, so obviously Herself gave her the same advice!
Recent Reads I've Particularly Enjoyed
Good Omens Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
The Final Detail Harlan Coben
American Gods Neil Gaiman
The Careful Use of Compliments Alexander McCall Smith
Neverwhere Neil Gaiman ( something of a pattern emerging here)
The Cat Dancers P.T. Deutermann
Taken from near the top of Mt. Mitchell , the highest peak in the east and about an hour's drive from our farm
In the spring, probably beginning in mid-February, Vicki will be teaching a 1o session class in Asheville on writing popular fiction. The class is offered through UNCA's Great Smokies Writing Program. For more information contact Dr. Elaine Fox ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) or see http://www.unca.edu/gswp/
Saturday, November 10 Great Smoky Mountains Book Fair- Sylva , NC. First United Methodist Church , Jackson Street , 9-3 .
May 23 25 WNC Woman Writers' Retreat at Lake Logan . Presenters: Kay Stripling Byer, Lavinia Plonka, Peggy Millin, and Vicki Lane
This is the original of the cabin where Ben lives (also Little Sylvie and Mr. Tomlin)
That's all, folks, for another month. (I did finally post an October entry on my blog, if you want to check it out.) http://www.amazon.com/gp/blog/A2MQM33N9H56R1/002-9833071-7618449
Happy Thanksgiving and keep in touch!
p.s. Eddie had a great Halloween.