Annette's blog

Meet Elaine Dodge, author of Harcourt’s Mountain

Elaine Dodge

“Tell me what you don’t see.”  It’s almost as good as, “What if…”

For a writer, these magical phrases launch adventures. They begin the journey of one idea giving life to another, linking the pictures in my mind with the words on the page. Granted, it’s also the start of a lot of hard work, involving too many cups of coffee and a fair amount of banging my head on the keyboard while I cry, “What happens next?”

One afternoon, what happened next was the timely arrival of the fire-brigade. I was in the throes of discovering, “What happens next?” when outside, the gazebo caught fire! I had taken Henry, the cat, for a stroll around the garden to get the creative juices flowing when I stumbled upon the landlords trying to extinguish the smoldering fire while coughing from the thick black smoke. The chimney had gotten too hot as a result of the garden rubbish that was being burnt in the fireplace.  When the fire-brigade arrived, the excitement ended quickly. With the fire snuffed out, the gazebo looked as though it had a bad case of the flu and had sneezed violently.

The good thing about being a writer is that every sight, sound, smell and emotion is grist for the mill. The fire was labeled and stored away for future use.

My book, Harcourt’s Mountain, started with a “What if?” and then moved onto, “What happens next?”

I live in South Africa and have never visited British Columbia, so this faraway place filled my imagination. Harcourt’s Mountain flowed well because I plotted the novel in advance.

I can’t do that for my current work-in-progress, “The Device Hunter.”  The characters won’t let me. This inability to plot has never occurred before, but the characters in my next novel are fiercely independent. They’ve taken control of the story, and I find myself wrestled to the ground, clutching my notebook to my chest and moaning, “Yes, but what happens next?”

As a first time novelist, I’m learning to navigate the pitfalls of marketing Harcourt’s Mountain while writing The Device Hunter. Discipline helps although it battles daily with procrastination. There’s a children’s story in there somewhere. Meanwhile, “What happens next?” is the question continually on my mind.

Thank you, Annette, for having me on your blog. It’s been great!


More about Elaine:
Elaine was born in Zambia, grew up in Zimbabwe and currently lives in South Africa. Books have filled her life from the very beginning. She trained as a designer, worked in that industry for years, even running her own company for a while. A long stint in advertising followed. In the last few years, she’s been toiling away in the TV industry, winning an odd international award. But that wasn’t enough. She wanted to “tell stories”. She is passionate about it. She feels most alive when she’s writing, and delights in letting her imagination run riot. In November 2011, she finally took the plunge and decided to “wrestle the Rottweiler” and started putting all those stories on paper.

Harcourt’s Mountain
Harcourt's Mountain by Elaine Dodge - 200Spring, 1867 – The western frontier of British Columbia hardly seems a likely place for romance. Filthy, terrified and confused, Hope Booker is waiting to be sold off the ‘bride’ ship. Luke Harcourt happens upon the sale. It’s not love at first sight, but he feels compelled to save her from a life of slavery and prostitution. To allay her fears of being raped, Luke promises never to touch her. Although he is a man of his word, this is a pledge he finds almost impossible to keep.
Battling their growing attraction to each other, they learn to live together in the forests of the wild and unexplored mountains. They face white water, Indians, wolves, and dangerous men. No longer able to deny their feelings, their ‘happy-ever-after’ is shattered when a corrupt land baron forces Luke’s hand. Enraged at the man’s actions, Luke rides into town—and disappears.
Alone and pregnant, Hope faces the prospect of the worst winter in ten years. The trauma of fighting off a hungry grizzly brings on labor, but the baby is stuck. Luke meanwhile wakes up on a ship bound for South America, captained by a revengeful sadist who plans to murder him. Will Luke survive and make it back to Hope in time?

Where to find Harcourt’s Mountain

Annette's blog

The dream

Last night, I dreamt I was at a children’s writers convention. Much to my surprise, I received an honorable mention for something I penned, and I was invited to join a panel of writers at the front of the room.

I took my seat with the others, but when I opened the manila envelope, I saw that the manuscript which was being honored was not mine. When the speaker reached me, after briefly interviewing all of the authors to my right, I stood up and called out the name of the author/illustrator whose work had been mistakenly filed in the folder with my name on it. He jumped up and ran to the table, a bevy of excitement and joyful noise. I sat back down.

I’m amazed at two things: 1) the degree of complexity of my dreams. I remember the vibrant colors and complex storyline of the picture-book manuscript that was misplaced in my folder, and 2) how quickly my mind works to make sense of the events that happen when I’m awake.

You see, yesterday, I received my first royalties statement. No money yet, but I know how much to expect. Dare I share it with you? Probably not. That would be crass. But let me say I was correct when I joked that I could expect “tens of dollars” from my first novel. Here’s another hint: I make in one hour at my current profession the same amount that Celebration House garnered in two months of sales. Succinctly put: writing is a financial waste of time.

My publisher tells me I need to promote, promote, promote! That’s done by sending emails to bloggers and asking them to review my book and/or feature me. I call it blog begging. And I did that. A lot of that back in August. 

My publisher tells me to write a second novel. But I did that. Bone Girl was finished last summer. The problem is, my publisher doesn’t buy children’s fiction. Bone Girl is meant for kids age 8-12.

Yet, here I sit at 6:20 in the morning, writing a blog post. When I’m done with this, I’m going to read over the last scene I was polishing in “A Year with Geno.”

I think, for now, writing must remain a time-consuming hobby. And the idea of writing full-time, supporting my family with my storytelling, well, that’s just a dream.

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next: please meet Elaine Dodge, author of Harcourt’s Mountain.

Annette's blog

Meet romance author, Kate Robbins

Her debut novel, Bound to the Highlander, was published Oct. 8 by Tirgearr Publishing.
Her debut novel, Bound to the Highlander, was published Oct. 8 by Tirgearr Publishing.

Kate Robbins writes historical romance novels out of pure escapism and a love for all things Scottish, not to mention a life-long enjoyment of reading romance.

Her journey into storytelling began with a short screenplay she wrote, directed, and produced which was screened at the 2003 Nickel Film Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She has also written and directed several stage plays for youth.

Kate loves the research process and delving into secondary sources in order to give readers the most authentic historical romance possible. She has travelled to Scotland and has visited the sites described in her Highland Chiefs series.

Bound to the Highlander is the first of three books set during the early fifteenth century during the reign of James Stewart, first of his name.

Kate is the pen name of Debbie Robbins who lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada with her hubby, the man-beast, and her two awesome boys, the man-cubs.

Here’s more about her debut novel, Bound to the Highlander.

Kate's novel is on the Top 100 Paid Novels on Kindle.
Kate’s novel is among the Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store.

Aileana Chattan suffers a devastating loss, then discovers she is to wed neighbouring chief and baron, James MacIntosh—a man she despises and whose loyalty deprived her of the father she loved. Despite him and his traitorous clan, Aileana will do her duty, but she doesn’t have to like it or him. But when the
MacIntosh awakens something inside her so absolute and consuming, she is forced to question everything.

James MacIntosh is a nobleman torn between tradition and progress. He must make a sacrifice if he is to help Scotland move forward as a unified country. Forced to sign a marriage contract years earlier binding Lady Aileana to him, James must find a way to break it, or risk losing all—including his heart.

From the wild and rugged Highlands near Inverness to the dungeons of Edinburgh Castle, James and Aileana’s preconceptions of honor, duty and love are challenged at every adventurous turn.

And now, a short excerpt…

The early morning mist was refreshing as she walked along the well-beaten road leading north toward Inverness. The fog lifted just enough to expose the stunning landscape. Out here, with the rolling green hills and explosions of color, she could spread her arms wide and feel free from the pain gripping her. The tightness in her chest eased. In the distance, the sharp mountain peaks protruded from the crawling mist towards the blue sky. The day would be lovely when the fog burned off.

Aileana reached the crossroads and turned right, following a smaller path leading east. Thick brush and oak trees framed the path, often giving way to vast farmlands that lay beyond. Littered here and there were bluebells, lady fingers, and cowslip. She knelt to collect some, pausing to inhale their sweet scent.

The flowers brought back memories of the many times her uncle had brought them to her. Widowed and with no children of his own, he took guardianship of Aileana after her father’s death and came to love and treat her as if she were his own. All these years, they had only each other and she was lost without him.

Her hair prickled at her nape. She stepped onto the road and looked both ways, her arms full of flowers. The thunder of hooves reached her ears at about the same time her peripheral vision caught a flash of something white and very large coming around the bend just ahead. She leapt out of the way to avoid being trampled, landing on her backside. She strained her neck and viewed the largest horse she’d ever seen. The dense fog had prevented her from seeing the horse or its rider approaching at top speed. She was lucky to have avoided serious injury.

Aileana’s heart raced. She should have known better than to walk alone, considering all the recent raids. Was the rider friend or foe? She recognized a small path across the road. If she could get around the giant beast before the rider saw her, she could slip through the trees undetected.

Within a split second, however, the rider dismounted and held out his large hand. His deep chuckle made her cheeks burn.

“I’m sorry, lass. I didn’t expect to see anyone out at this hour, nor this far from any dwelling.”

The tall man took in her appearance, his sweeping glance resting on the embroidered stitching of her low neckline. His gaze lingered there before travelling up her throat. She held her breath as his eyes trailed over her body.

“You can ride with me if you like.” His husky voice conjured images of silk sweeping across her flesh.

She was entranced by the sight of him. Thick muscles flexed beneath a dark leather jerkin which ended just above his knee and was secured at his waist with a broad belt. In his current position, she could see his thigh muscle tense and her face grew hotter. His plaid covered one shoulder and ran underneath his sword arm secured by a large silver brooch offset with rubies and centered with a wildcat.

MacIntosh. They supported the king. It wasn’t well known, but Uncle had speculated to those he trusted. Anyone who supported a man who pawned his people like cattle for his personal gain was no friend of hers.

It was clear from his inappropriate suggestion, she was better off not knowing him. He was no gentleman, despite his expensive accessory and giant horse. No decent man would speak that way to a lady. Couldn’t he tell by the way she was dressed that she was no common wench? Then again, it would not matter to this base sort of man. Either way, without a chaperone, she was not about to remain in his company for one more second. His hand hung in mid-air, but she ignored it, hoisting herself instead off the cold ground.

She mustered the most authoritative voice she could. “No thank you.” Aileana lifted her chin and walked away.

“Wait lass. I’m sorry to have startled you. What are you called?”

Aileana turned on her heel intent to put this rogue in his place and ran into his chest. She gasped. The thick, rich scent of leather enveloped her, sending an unexpected shiver down her spine. She stumbled, but he was quick enough to catch her by the arms before she fell. Her hands splayed flat against his chest. Bulging muscles underneath his jerkin begged her fingers to stroke their curve.

His bright green eyes bore into hers. While his long brown hair was tied at his nape, a few strands had broken free and fell loose across his face. She fought the irresistible urge to reach up and tuck them behind his ear.

“Who are you?”

His deep voice was warm honey on her flesh. He smelled of sweet ale and she was transfixed by his mouth which curved in all the right ways.

“Perhaps you’re a faerie come to steal me away.”

His raspy voice made her skin tingle.

“Good sir—”

“I bet you taste as delicious as you smell.”

Aileana pushed against his chest. He pushed back. The stranger pulled her forward, his mouth now no more than an inch from hers. His hard body pressed against hers, spreading heat to her very core.

His fingers brushed the side of her mouth and his lips parted. Her knees trembled. His intent was clear and their proximity was inappropriate.

Panic hit her hard.

Annette's blog

Discovering the villain within

Work continues on my third novel, A Year with Geno.

But it has been slow going because I’m writing about unpleasant things happening to Geno’s two teenage boys, Anthony and Chris. They visit Las Vegas (dare I say Lost Vegas) to spend Christmas with their mother, Cheryl-Anne. Sounds like fun, right? Not so much.

You see, Cheryl-Anne’s priority is to keep her boyfriend, Kevin, happy. She hopes that by bringing her two sons down from Alaska, she can convince him to be impulsive and marry her.

There is a big obstacle to this: Kevin sees no reason to marry Cheryl-Anne. Perhaps you know his favorite saying: why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free. I really hate that saying. Women aren’t cows and milk isn’t sex.

I worked on this same scene for more than a month, and I struggled to understand why it was so hard for me to write. Finally, it came to me, and this wasn’t easy to admit: I am Cheryl-Anne. Yep. I am my own villain. Over the course of 22+ years of being a mom, I’ve made mistakes. Lots of them. I’ve put other people in my life before my own children, as Cheryl-Anne did. This isn’t fun to admit, and it sure isn’t fun to write about.

The other challenge with this scene is I don’t know Las Vegas. I searched online and discovered some fun websites about the city. My favorite was a site that listed all of the hotels infested with bed bugs. That list led me to a news story that one of the most famous hotels, the Sahara, closed a few years back. So of course, I checked my fictional characters into this Vegas landmark. Spoiler alert: Kevin is arrested near the end of the scene. I doubt the reader will feel sorry for him. I laughed out loud when the words appeared on my computer monitor. Honestly, I didn’t know I had it in me to deliver such justice.

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next: meet fellow Tirgearr author, Kate Robbins.