Of Sea and Seed Meet Kathleen Kerrigan, a ghostly family matriarch who is doomed like some ancient mariner to tell and re-tell the story of the lives of three generations of the Kerrigan family as they struggle to survive tsunami, secrets, and betrayal in early twentieth century Newfoundland. “Heaven does not open its gates to a woman of my ilk,” Kathleen tells the reader.
What is she guilty of?
Don’t have a Kindle, you say?? You don’t need one. Simply download the Kindle App and you can read Kindle books on tablets, i-Phones, Computers. To learn how, Click Here .
Isadora was not willing to renege a lifetime of promise. For years she had planned, scrimped, and saved and now, at last, opportunity was here. She sprinted through the autumn woods, tendrils of silver hair streaming behind her. Every few steps, she let out a delighted laugh. What a sight she must be! An octogenarian in a full-length, black-velvet skirt, with a bulging shoulder purse hammering her titanium hip. And yet, she was dashing along with the agility of an adolescent doe.
As she neared the clearing, she slowed her pace and kept her eyes down. What if the cabin wasn’t there? For a few seconds, her mind flirted with the extermination of hope and her body responded by coming to a standstill. A sense of fragility imbued her and she felt as one with each crisp leaf she had just crushed beneath thoughtless shoes. With heart and hope plummeting, should she go on?
Overhead, the call of bird and whoosh of wing distracted her. Isadora’s lips curved into a smile. Canada geese. Bidding their annual farewell. She took a deep breath. Wood smoke. A comforting aroma. Emboldened, she raised her head and instantly clapped her hands in glee. It was there, all of it: the old, log cabin with its red-brick chimney; the faded, inebriated-looking Adirondack chair; the window boxes with their peeling, green paint and stubborn, pink geraniums. Still blooming. Amazing.
She felt content to linger, to stare, but a blast of cold air slapped her, snaked under her billowing skirt, and caused her whole body to shudder. She clutched her purse to her chest and rushed to the rickety porch steps which whined in protest as she climbed. Sidling up to the door, she knocked. A timid knock. She waited.
As Isadora hovered, another gust of wind sent leaves flying. They swirled and spiralled around her and fell at her feet in a mosaic of ochre, red and brown. Autumn. She grimaced. To some, autumn meant renewal. To her? Her whole life, she had watched as autumn approached, encroached, and retreated, taking all living things with it.
Isadora recalled her first encounter with autumn’s cruelty. She had been playing outside and a single oak leaf, which had magically turned from green to yellow, had fluttered down and landed on her shoe. She snatched it up and ran home, intent on show-and-tell with Mommy, by the fireplace. But an eerie sound emanating from the house caused her to hesitate, to peer through a side window instead of entering. Her eyes widened and flooded as she watched her father fall to his knees, wailing, at her mother’s bedside. Interspersed with his cries, were words of regret and apology. Hard to decipher but, within seconds, the young Isadora understood. Doctors cost money. Her father had no money and, because of that, her mother, like the leaf in her hand, was dead.
That autumn, Isadora watched leaves fall, one by one, until none remained. All winter, she listened as naked trees moaned, echoing her pain. She was alone. Shuffled from one relative to another. Abandoned by a devastated father who knew nothing of raising a three-year-old girl.
Every subsequent autumn, as leaves rained to the ground, regret haemorrhaged through her pores. If only she could have changed things. Doctors cost money. If only she could have given her father money. Somehow, she always felt that she could have done something. Should have done something. But she had failed.
As she stood on the porch now, waiting, Isadora’s hope began to dwindle once again. She repeated the knock. Still no answer. Anxiety crept into her body, causing her to tremble. She let out a sob, formed her fingers into a fist, and pounded the door.
This time the door squeaked open and a tiny girl, a mere waif, stood there. Isadora gasped and recoiled. When she caught her breath, she leaned forward. “Hello,” she said to the bedraggled child who was hugging a filthy, hairless doll.
The little girl was silent.
Isadora held out the purse.
The child’s eyes popped wide. “Mommy’s purse,” she whispered. “That’s Mommy’s purse.”
“Yes.” Isadora opened the purse, displayed its contents, and closed it again. “I kept it all these years, filled it, just for you.” She placed the purse at the child’s feet. “You know what to do?”
The child nodded slowly. “Doctors cost money.”
A tidal wave of realization flooded through Isadora. She had done it. For a few seconds, she stood, frozen. Then, in measured motion, she turned and headed down the steps. At the bottom, she paused and looked back.
The little girl, waif no more, was still standing there. Her dress, new and pink and velvet, matched that of the pristine, porcelain doll she carried and her waist-length, glistening blonde hair was topped with a pink velvet bow.
The two exchanged no words, only smiles.
Isadora walked away, gradually picking up her pace until she was skipping along the woodland path. Deep within her, sad memories began to disperse, dropping away one by one, like the falling leaves around her. Soon those recollections were gone, replaced by images of a happy little girl, learning, laughing, and singing, at her mother’s side.
Isadora returned to the starting point of her journey—the funeral parlour—and slid through the front door. She entered the viewing room and floated for a while, staring at her body, resting in its mahogany coffin. She sighed in contentment and slipped back into place. Cradle issues resolved, she was ready for the grave.
When I finished writing Of Sea and Seed, The Kerrigan Chronicles, Book I, I realized that it was not only the ocean that connected all the main characters, it was also a small boat. I decided instantly that the cover had to incorporate both of those images. I did not expect the attention that that decision garnered.
Recently, this same cover won an award — the 2017 Best Literary Fiction Cover Design from B.R.A.G. Medallion.
The creation of this cover started with the title and even that underwent a few changes… that happens to all my titles. This one was initially called Wave over Wave.
Gradually, I came to know that the sea was a metaphor for the matriarch of the story and the seed a metaphor for her offspring. Somewhere around that time, I read Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and well… you can guess the rest.
What about the small boat?
Each of the three point-of-view characters in Of Sea and Seed experiences a life-or-death situation in a small, traditional fishing boat, called a dory*.
*Wikipedia Definition: “The dory is a small, shallow-draft boat, about 5 to 7 metres or 16 to 23 feet long. It is usually a lightweight boat with high sides, a flat bottom and sharp bows. They are easy to build because of their simple lines. For centuries, dories have been used as traditional fishing boats, both in coastal waters and in the open sea.”
From there, I worked with the design team at Create Space.
The traditional Lunenberg dory, as depicted on the cover, has a yellow base and dark green gunwales. There’s a reason for those colors: the yellow makes the base visible against the water; the dark green makes the gunwales (the upper edges of the side of the boat) visible in the fog.
I asked the design team if they could make the green color pop a bit more. They responded by reversing the colors, putting the green on the base, the yellow on the gunwales. Uh-oh!
I knew better than to let that pass but I got a second opinion from my brother Richard who did not mince words. “No fisherman in his right mind would have gone on the ocean in that thing.” The act of reversing the colors had negated their purpose, making the dory unsafe, and making my dory story less plausible.
I explained. Create Space amended, happily.
I also requested that Create Space remove the red gas can in the above image (barely visible, but none of the dories in my story had one, so I wanted it gone.) Done!
One choice that Create Space made without any input from me was to flip the image of the dory. I instantly took a liking to the switch. If left to my own devices, I never would have come up with such a perfect detail. (It’s great to have a design team.)
I provided Create Space with all of the information required for the rest of the cover… blurbs, back copy, and my imprint (McRAC Books) with Logo. The fonts (love them!) were chosen by my Create Space Design team.
I am currently entrenched in writing Book II of the Kerrigan Chronicles, this one titled Of Sea and Sand. (Could change, stay tuned.) As I work, I am keeping cover possibilities in mind. There will be an ocean. No doubt about that. But what else? I am looking for commonalities, one of which will surely leap to the fore and land on the cover.
( A note to Lynne Legrow , a.k.a. @fictionophile: Thanks for putting my book in the Small Boat Category of your Cover Love Series, but, with another sticker on the way, I think I’m gonna need a bigger boat! Ha!)
Readers, love looking at great covers? Writers, looking for great cover ideas? Check out the covers posted in the Fictionophile Cover Love Series! So many themes: windows, lakes, doors, gates, jars, piers, umbrellas… over thirty categories to choose from. Lots of fun!
The Whistler Independent Book Award contest is jointly administered by the Whistler Writing Society and Vivalogue Publishing. It is a cutting edge contest in that it is the only juried novel contest for independent writers in Canada. (For more information click HERE.)
In addition to receiving a prize of $250, finalists receive opportunities outlined in a congratulatory letter, part of which, with permission from Tidewater Festivals, is reprinted below:
“Your nomination brings with it an invitation to attend the Whistler Writers Festival from October 12-15. Here are the events that I think will be of particular interest:
Thursday, October 12, 4:30 – 5: 30: Finalist Reception. This is a private event where finalists and their families will have an opportunity to meet each other, festival organizers and WIBA judges. There is no charge for this event but there will be a cash bar.
Thursday, October 12, 6:00 -7:00: WIBA Readings. This is a free, public event where you will have an opportunity to read from your book and answer questions from the audience.
Friday, October 13, 1:00-4:00: Speed-Dating for Authors. This is a chance to pitch your book to two publishers of your choice. One ticket to this event is included in your prize package.
Friday, October 13, 8:00 – 10:00: Literary Cabaret. This is one of the marquee events of the festival and will be where the WIBA winners are announced. One ticket to this event is included in your prize package.
The winners of both the fiction and non-fiction category will be invited to participate in a panel event on Saturday, October 14
Book sales will take place all day Saturday and Sunday morning.”
In addition to the above, finalists (including family members) receive a special code that gets them a reduced rate at the Summit Lodge in Whistler. (Even my dog CoCo is welcome… a good thing since we rarely go anywhere without her!)
I have long been a proponent of writing contests. (See post: Why Enter Story Contests?) I have used writing contests to hone my craft, and have won or been short listed in many, both for stories and novels. I have done workshops on writing contests available in Canada and the United States and believe that contests are a viable choice for all independent authors who want knowledgeable eyes on their work. I highly recommend that Canadian independent authors consider entering the Whistler Independent Book Award Contest.
Thank you to The Whistler Writing Society, Vivalogue Publishing, and Tidewater Festivals. I am thrilled and grateful for the opportunity provided to me and am looking forward to attending the Whistler Writers Festival in October.
I entered this contest because I love writing contests. In fact, I started with contests—story, poetry, and novel. I believe contests provide a viable route into the writing world and are therefore something that all authors among you should consider. Many times contests offer a word count limit and a time limit, both of which force you to hone your craft. Many times contests give a prompt, a creative spark, which forces you to think outside of the box. Both of my Vancouver suspense novels—Castles in the Sandand At the Heart of the Missing— have their beginnings in short stories that won contests. Castles in the Sand went on to win the 2012 Houston Writers Guild contest in mainstream fiction.
Of Sea and Seed is the recipient of the Book Readers Appreciation Group (B.R.A.G.) Medallion, bestowed for excellence in independent writing. And now, it has received this nod of recognition from the Whistler Independent Book Awards. My heart is in this book, readers. It is a literary and lyrical and suspense-filled sea saga, kindled when my father told me that a little girl had survived a tsunami in Newfoundland.
A ghostly family matriarch chronicles the lives of three generations of the Kerrigan family as they struggle to survive devastating tsunami, toxic secrets, and shocking betrayal in 1920s Newfoundland.
About the Whistler Awards…
The Whistler Independent Book Awards are relatively new, having been “established in 2016 to recognize excellence in Canadian independent publishing.” They are the “only juried Canadian award for self-published authors” and offer prizes in both fiction and nonfiction. This year, the three finalists for each of these categories will be announced on July 17th, and the winners’ presentation will be held at the annual Whistler Writers Festival, October 12th to 15th.
The Whistler Independent Book Awards, which are jointly administered by the British Columbia Whistler Writing Society and Vivalogue Publishing, are a boon for self-published authors who struggle to have their work recognized. The fact that these awards are juried and the winners chosen by distinguished authors can ease the burden for librarians, one of whom informed me that librarians wish to support independent writing but they do not have staff available to vet the tons of titles that cross their desks each year.
I am grateful that my work has been nominated for the 2017 Whistler Independent Book Award for fiction and am thrilled to be in illustrious company.
A free short story is yours when you join my email list! My newsletters contain book news, blog posts, sneak previews, and, occasionally, fun facts about my beloved island of Newfoundland. To join, place the required information in the space provided on the right. Rest assured your email address will not be shared for any reason.
It’s my write before Christmas, I’m happy to pen
holiday wishes to all once again.
It’s become a tradition, this greeting in rhyme
To readers and wordsmiths at holiday time.
Authors work solo but none are alone.
It takes a village (an adage well-known)
With this in mind, once again I’m highlighting
Links and events in this world of writing.
A new writer? This world’s a mysterious place.
Catch a conference! It’s there that you’ll come face-to-face
With writers and editors and agents and such.
Volunteering’s an option if the cost is too much.
Got a post that helps others? Want it retweeted? @MondayBlogs is a place you’ll be greeted.
Ready to market? Don’t know the score? Book Marketing Tools has ideas galore.
Having trouble with structure? Can’t seem to outline? K. M. Weilandhas guidelines to help you refine.
Seeking courses or webinars to carry you through? Writer’s Digestwill surely have something for you.
Do you have a routine? Great tales must be spun
And writers toil daily to get the job done.
(On that note, dear writers who are reading this verse,
If today you’ve not written, go away and WRITEFIRST!)
So here’s to my tweeps, and all Facebook friends,
And bloggers and techies on whom I depend.
As for Tea & Critique with friends Fran and Mary,
I always apply their sage commentary.
A toast to all editors (writers, pay heed!)
You need that blue pencil if you want to succeed.
Take it from me, I once published alone,
A difficult lesson but from it I’ve grown.
(Despite years of grammar in English and Latin
I made mistakes and had to go back in
Re-edit the published, suck up the shame,
Suffice to say I won’t do it again.)
Accolades to my editors, Michael and Ken, At the Heart of the Missing‘s being scoured by them
For content and structure and copy and line
My new novel! Pretty soon you’ll see it online.
Here’s to writers who’ve found success on the road,
Who’ve looked back to aid others to lighten the load,
You help bridge the gap from the dream to real ground,
Your help is essential for success to be found.
Some bloggers review without compensation ,
They truly deserve a standing ovation! Fictionophile is a gem I discovered this year
(Stop by. Check her posts. You’ll find great reads there.)
Most of all, here’s to you, readers, on you we rely,
The work’s not complete until you stop by.
Samuel Johnson once said (and I paraphrase herein)
“A reader finishes what a writer begins.”
That’s it for this year. Best wishes to you
As 2017 comes into view.
And now, ere December rolls out of sight, HappyChristmas to all! Have great reads and great writes!
Coming in 2017! Images: Shutterstock.com Design: michaelhiebert.com
What follows is a seasonal story, flash fiction, originally written for a 24-hour writing contest for Writers Weekly and currently published in Passages A Collection of Short Stories. It is definitely one of my favorites…
The little boy stands at the log cabin’s rear window, peering out at us. The corn stalks rustle in the brisk breeze, waving at him. Laughing, he returns their greeting. I want to wave at him too, but my limbs are shrivelled now, useless appendages. I sigh. I observe the boy.
He seems happy. Does he know? Has he heard the news about the baby brother that his mom promised him? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he is too young to be told.
But I know.
His mom, my caregiver, whispered many secrets as she planted the fields. When my seed sprouted and breached the surface of the rich soil, she stooped and told me about the life that was developing inside her own body. She promised that she would create siblings for me just as she was doing for her little boy. I beamed with pleasure for I did not want to live a solitary life.
In a short time, her truth became evident: I was surrounded by an abundance of relatives—long and green, round and yellow, plump and orange. So strong was my appreciation of my caregiver, so great was my loyalty to her that I tolerated without question the summer heat and the frequent watering and the incessant buzzing of the hordes that swarmed around, flitting from flower to flower. Without complaint, I obliged when she redirected the growth of my rapidly spreading arms. ‘Not here, but there’, was her mantra, as she donned kid gloves and shifted my limbs around. So much attention. So much care. I noticed that the bodies of both my caregiver and me were becoming spherical, and that hers seemed to achieve the desired shape more easily than mine. Obviously aware of that, she added regular rotation to my fitness regime. I responded by becoming corpulent and carroty.
The summer lazed away and autumn slid in to replace it. The rains came. And the mud. And the children, bus loads of children, laughing and trampling and squelching through the muck. Choosing and plucking and stumbling away with their heavy bundles. One by one, my brothers and sisters and cousins disappeared. I wondered how it was that so many school children whirled around me, brushed against me, slid past me, and yet, none chose me. My caregiver explained that she had great plans for me, that I was the chosen one, the one who would light her doorway on that important night—All Hallows’ Eve. I would be the first to welcome the newborn child she would carry to the door that very day. I would witness the smile on her little boy’s face when he first saw his new brother. All this she promised me.
But sometimes promises are broken.
When I had grown to the size of a soccer ball, I looked to compare my shape with hers and realized that her spherical form had vanished. Her body had flattened, returned to its former size. Her spirit, too, had vacated, leaving only sadness, which bled through her pores. Empty in both body and spirit, she had no words, no whisperings. On most days, she just stayed away.
So now I lie here—alone. Leading a solitary life after all, the very life I did not want. But what of the boy? Is he still waiting for his new brother?
The dusk deepens on this, All Hallows’ Eve. The wind picks up and the front gate swings and creaks. Puffs of blue smoke rise from the kitchen chimney. The house is well-lit now, but here, in my resting place, it is dark and lonely. As night falls, my body sinks and just sits, marinating in mud.
Suddenly, the cabin door opens and she emerges. She dons her heavy boots and, with her head low, trudges through the mud toward me. Nearer and nearer. As she stoops, I long to console her, to slide my arms up her back and embrace her. But my arms are just flaccid vines and it is she who comforts me, talks to me, apologizes for leaving me alone for so long. I want to tell her that I understand. She reaches into her pocket, retrieves a knife and frees me from my vines. Then, she hefts me into her arms and straightens her back.
On the way to the cabin, my caregiver explains that there is a new plan—that she wants me to smile for her young son. This evening, she will carve a grin on my face and, while she is doing that, she will tell her son that he will always be a solitary child. We reach the porch and hover there, waiting for her body to stop trembling and her tears to abate.
Despite her distress, I am pleased with this new plan. I want her to carve me a ridiculous grin, tooth-filled or toothless, whatever it takes to ease a lonely boy’s acceptance of unwelcome news. I know of the difficulty of the solitary life. Unlike the boy, I have experienced the joy of siblings; however, many died before maturity and all the others were taken away. Like the boy, I represent the end of the harvest. I am the very last pumpkin from the pumpkin patch. Together, the boy and I—and our mutual caregiver—will face the night.
Are you about to publish a collection of your short stories? I have done that once and am considering a second. Here are six suggestions based on hindsight:
Go for a ‘sense of book.’Group stories around one theme, one character, one setting. My first collection is varied: most of its stories were written, not with the idea of a book in mind, but for contests based on prompts. It was long after their completion that I chose a theme.
Give thought to the title.
Take time to examine your collection. Perhaps, as book title, you might choose the title of one story or the name of a place that is common to all stories. After I read through my stories, I realized there was indeed a thread: the choices we make and the paths we take. Thus the title: Passages.
Consider, as title/subtitle, “a collection of short fiction,” not “a collection of short stories.”
I used stories in the subtitle of Passages and wished I had used fiction, especially after I dropped a narrative poem into the mix. (Yes, I know: could have eliminated the poem. Sigh.)
Acknowledge previous publications.
List the stories that have been previously published, and include publisher, publication, and date of same. In Passages, in acknowledgements, I thanked creators, administrators, and judges of writing contests, and named a couple of specifics. There was no ill intent in my lack of a list of previous publications; I was simply unaware of the courtesy.
Share background of story.
Many of the short stories in Passages were written for contests. In retrospect, I could have enhanced the reader experience by writing a paragraph or two before each short, revealing the prompt or inspiration for the story.
Give thought to the placement of stories.
You might consider placing your best story first and your second-best last. I went a different route: I put an award-winning short story first because I wanted to draw attention to the fact that it had grown into an award-winning novel. As for the last story in Passages, it is a very short piece called Final Passage, a piece that is more than appropriate for its position in the book. The only thing I would have done differently with it is listed above: I would have revealed the inspiration for the piece.
Why do I love story contests? Click on image to link to “Why Enter Story Contests.”
Are these suggestions helpful to you? If you have already published a book of short fiction, what were the steps that worked best for you? What, if anything, would you do differently the next time?
Are you looking for ways to get your short stories and poems published?
I recently received an email from a writer who was seeking ways to do that. What follows is what I offered her, what I thought could be shared here as well.
I have used two avenues for publication of short stories: Story Contests and Literary Journals.
I use story contests to hone my craft; therefore, I’ve researched them and have entered many, including 24-hour story contests. This has resulted in having many stories published, both online and in journals in Canada and the United States.
The most comprehensive resource for contests in Canada is the Canadian Writers’ Contest Calendar. This calendar is published in the fall of each year, usually by November. All contests are listed by deadline. Everything you need to know—submission guidelines, eligibility, word count limits, etc. — are given for each contest and, yes, poetry contests are included.
The best site I’ve found for information on contests and journals in the U.S. is Poets & Writers, “the nation’s largest nonprofit organization serving creative writers.” On the right hand side of the landing page, under Tools for Writers, you will find an impressive list of databases for literary magazines, contests, agents, etc.
I know how much time and energy go into the pursuit of publication. I hope the above is helpful to you.
Do you have any suggestions to share? Please send them along.
Annie Daylon reading short story “Buryin’ Day” at launch of Freefall Literary Magazine (Vol XIX, Number 1) in Calgary. (First contest entry, second place!)
Good luck on your journey.
Please subscribe to my Author Newsletter by placing your first name and your email address in the space provided on the upper right.