Blackhorse Road A Novel—Quotes to Live By—On Twitter @MLJohnsAuthor
At the virtual launch party for Blackhorse Road held on July 21, one of the beta readers elaborated on the maturity and perceptiveness of eighteen-year-old Luci, the story's protagonist. We didn't have the time during the launch to discuss what informed me about Luci's character, so I'd like to share the insights that led me to develop a character who had this type of awareness at such a young age.
A few years ago, my husband and I were visiting with friends who had two teenaged children—a daughter, eighteen-years-old, and a son, sixteen-years-old. The six of us chatted before, during, and after dinner, engaging in conversation about politics, world events, and everyday issues. The teenagers were not ancillary to the conversation but were part of it. I put on my "coaching" hat and listened carefully to what these young people had to say and engaged them, from time to time, with powerful questions—What are you concerned about? What's most important to you? If you had the choice, what would you do? What is your assessment of this situation? How would you handle that problem?
When we left for the evening, I turned to my husband and said, "I'm so relieved because those two young people are our future—I'm so impressed with their level of insight, judgment, and perspective."
In our busy, distracted world, I don't know that older adults or parents have given themselves the gift of space to listen to, be curious about, or seek out the wisdom of their young adult children or their children's friends. Remembering the remarkable experience I had with the teenagers of our friends, I wanted Blackhorse Road to reveal to my readers the possibilities of this dimension.
The following quote is taken from Chapter Five in Blackhorse Road and gives an insight into how Luci's maturity was developed through the relationship with her father, Sam.
"Sam knew the best way to get Luci to reveal her thoughts was to pose a question requiring an opinion. He recognized Luci's growing emotional maturity and was proud of his daughter's self-confidence and her commitment to a more tolerant world. He also welcomed her ideas and encouraged her to debate with him, believing it honed her judgment and decision-making. Often, Sam would ask Luci her thoughts about a political matter or seek her advice in sizing up a business problem. Allowing her to express herself in a secure environment, Sam believed, helped his daughter build self-esteem."
Added to Sam's practice of listening, observing, and asking questions, his insight about how people react when given a choice contributed to Luci's maturity. Here's a quote from the book where Sam shares his thoughts about autonomy with Luci.
"Given the relevant facts and the chance to think things through, most people are smart, creative, and resourceful enough to make the right decisions."
Was I ever excited about the pre-launch virtual parties for Blackhorse Road. They sure lifted the web of mystery about the development of the novel!
I know that most readers of fiction aren't privy to the publication process—but they have a hunger for getting answers to questions about the story behind the story. And that's why I designed the pre-launch—to give readers at a peek at who the people are who made Blackhorse Road possible and to satisfy readers' curiosity by of things that are not usually disclosed about production.
Featured guests at the parties—Megan Shultz Grennan developmental editor, Kim Bookless, copyeditor, Pat Hertel, proofreader and copyeditor, and beta readers Marian, Sue, Carol, and Laurel—didn't hold back punches as they assisted me in unveiling the mystery of how a manuscript goes from the first draft to finished product.
The beta readers shared their insights into the story characters and their visceral responses that they had to portions of the novel. Each of them fielded questions and told the audience how they came away with different lessons, thoughts, and yes, there were questions about some unresolved issues among the characters. Perhaps there's a sequel in work?
The audiences were not shy about asking questions either!
· Why did you write the book?
· What was the hardest part to cut out of the story?
· How much research went into the story?
· How much of the story comes from your own family, including ancestors?
· Does the story touch on sensitive issues?
I have to say that the audience response has been overwhelming, and here is a sampling of comments:
· "I haven't had any interactions with developmental editors before . . . so it was great to hear about Megan's role and see your manuscript examples. That was excellent," said one attendee.
· "It was great to hear from your team and about the whole book process. Kudos to you for picking up the ball and scoring several touchdowns," said another.
My heart overflows with having such a great group of cheerleader.s
The official virtual launch party for Blackhorse Road is scheduled for July 21, 2020, at 7:00 PM CT. So, join the fun and registration visit www.MeridaJohnsAuthor.com.
It is said that authors write about what they know—I guess that might be true. In my novel, Blackhorse Road, I've included a place that resonates with history, memories, and spirits, and some of my own memories, too!. After reading the excerpt below from Blackhorse Road, click on the link and view the pictures to see why Luci loves Fort Malden so—I promise, you will feel its energy and vibration, and maybe even feel the spirits of long ago.
"Nevertheless, the manicuring and modernization could not destroy the resilience of the old fort's spirit. The fortification's life force emanated as strong as ever and rose from the earth and battlements like a quivering earthquake. The power of General Brock and Tecumseh, the soldiers, the French settlers, and the First Peoples, still cried out demanding acknowledgment. They will not be denied, Luci comforted herself. Time marches on and changes things, but it cannot eradicate the imprint of energy stamped on a place. Energy does not die. Its vibration, perhaps redistributed, continues. Memories are similar. They do not die; they are the waves that flow throughout a lifetime."
For more photos see the link here https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g793524-d1861821-Reviews-Fort_Malden_National_Historic_Site-Amherstburg_Ontario.html
Carousels play a significant scene between two sets of lovers, separated by sixty years, in my novel Blackhorse Road. One of the things I love about writing a novel is where the research takes me in tracking down specific facts—one of these journeys was locating an old carousel that existed on Bob-Lo Island in 1900 and one that existed in Fairmont Park, Riverside CA in 1966. Here is a picture of Mountain Dancer that Luci rode in Fairmont Park—a ride that changes her life. https://carousels.org/psp/CrossroadsVillage/LeafHorseRow.html
As most of my friends know, I began writing a novel back in the late winter of 2018. Writing fiction was always a dream—to use my creativity in imagining and writing about regular people and how they faced and overcame challenges. However, it wasn't until meeting and overcoming a significant medical challenge myself that I put a computer keyboard to a digital screen and started writing my first story, Blackhorse Road. Writing this novel has been a journey of fulfillment, personal introspection, insight, and, yes, a stress reducer.
During this chaotic and uncertain time, polishing off my novel during its last round of copyediting has given me a quiet place to hang out with the book's characters. And my characters, in turn, have provided me with a therapeutic escape and the energy to come back and face the real world.
I think all people have a gift of story-telling—after all, we share stories every day with our family and friends! Give yourself a gift of time to put the computer keyboard to a digital screen and write a story, creating characters that will give you a therapeutic escape and a quiet place to hang out for a while.
Book Reviews for my novel Blackhorse Road are coming in, and I'm over the moon!
Midwest Book Review's Senior Reviewer Diane Donavan has given the novel high praise. The full review will appear on the Midwest Book Review's website in March, but here's a peek at one part of the review: "Blackhorse Road, a story of romance, coming of age, betrayal, and recovery that moves from personal transformation to personal disaster in the blink of an eye….Novel readers seeking a tale that closely considers deception and forgiveness, love gained and lost, and family ties will welcome the multifaceted Blackhorse Road's ability to come full circle in a satisfyingly unexpected way."
The full review will be posted to the Midwest Book Review webpage in early March.....wait for more to come.
What genre is my novel, Blackhorse Road?
There was a robust discussion about that topic when my five enthusiastic proofreaders met over Christmas tea last month.
"It isn't just a romance," Marian said.
"It's self-help, but it isn't self-help either," someone else chimed in.
"But it's a love story although not a bodice-ripping romance," said one of them, and that remark caused a howled from all of us.
"Maybe it should be bodice-ripping," I joked, which produced some raised eyebrows and nods around the table.
Seriously, though, my friends had made an important point. Determining a novel's category is essential for many reasons, but from a practical point of view, identifying its genre helps readers find an author's book. While novels may cross over into several genres, having a home base helps to set expectations about the story and subject matter between the book's covers.
So where does that put Blackhorse Road? Read the synopsis and see if you agree with my choice that follows.
It's the turbulent 1960s, and eighteen-year-old Luci Bartolini is following her North Star and new beginnings. Her values are grounded in her Irish great-grandmother's grit, her Italian father's philosophy of choice and happiness, and the era's social justice ideals. A chance meeting at a street dance with a handsome air force cadet sets the stage for a romance that is filled with intimacy without bounds and is as thrilling as a roller-coaster ride. But lurking in the shadows is a powerful foe who robs Luci of her autonomy and shatters her love affair. Discovering the betrayal, Luci tumbles into darkness and a chasm of anger, hate, and despair. Can Luci free herself from the shackles of bitterness and resentment by walking down the forgiveness path? Does she have the strength to restore belief in herself and keep hope alive even as she believes she has lost her soulmate forever?
I believe the foundational home for Blackhorse Road is Women's Fiction. The novel is a story about a young woman on the brink of change who is searching for her place in the world. Her journey is one of personal growth and maturation spanning two decades and that details how she finds love, lives through sorrow and betrayal, struggles with doubt and forgiveness, and acts on her aspirations to achieve a flourishing life.
Cross over genres include Realistic Fiction, defined as stories about real life problems, Adult Fiction, defined as stories about and intended for adults, and for some of the audience, Historical Fiction (after all, the 1960s began sixty years ago) and, of course, Romance—a love story with a satisfying ending.
Publication now: March 2020
I love my copy editor! Copy editor: A person who corrects written material to ensure that it is free of error, omission, inconsistency, and repetition.
In my forthcoming novel, 181 Blackhorse Road, a 1929 D-25 plane and the Aerodrome at Old Rhinebeck, NY make cameo appearances. My copy editor, Kim Bookless, caught my number transposition of D-25 (yeah!), but beyond that she found a terrific YouTube video of the plane filing today at the Rhinebeck Aerodrome. I was so thrilled to see how well the video and the description in my book matched. See if you agree with my description below and the video link that follows:
"Connor surprised the boys by arranging a ride for them in a 1929 New Standard D-25 biplane. They were outfitted in a costume of goggles, leather helmets, and colorful scarves that hurled them almost four decades back in time. Strapped into the open passenger compartment in front of the cockpit, Barry felt the ride was as thrilling as the Comet roller-coaster, except without rails. Barnstorming the countryside and soaring above the treetops, the wind was deafening as it rushed across the airplane wings, but the sights were spectacular. Barry could not help wonder what stories the plane could tell and what it would be like to fly a machine like that himself."
"What the heck is that? It looks like part of an abandoned fort!" Barry exclaimed as the old blockhouse came into sight.
"That's an extension of the Fort Malden defenses built in the late 1830s," she explained.
"Good god, Luci this thing is sturdy. It's all square-cut logs and looks like white oak."
Giving Barry a gentle shove, she teased him, "Remember, the British built it to fight off those annoying Americans."
Fort Malden, located on the banks of the Detroit River in Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada, and its extension on Bois Blanc (Boblo) Island, evolve as poignant places of remembrance and loss for protagonist Luci in my upcoming novel 181 Blackhorse Road.
Built by the British in 1795, the fort was a defensive fortification and was a British stronghold on the Detroit frontier during the War of 1812 and in the Rebellions of 1837-1838. The dialog above appears in my novel when Barry and Luci are exploring Bois Blanc; a place that had transitioned from a military fortification to a favorite rendezvous for lovers.
Imagine the chill and goosebumps that floated across my body when I came face-to-face with this photo of the Bois Blanc blockhouse today! The small photograph was tucked among a scattered grouping of old family pictures, and as my eyes took in the features of the old blockhouse, I couldn't believe how its description in my novel matched the photo completely:
"This is in remarkable shape," he commented as they circled the building. "Look at the line of gun slits on all four sides of the first and second floors," he pointed out to Luci. "I guess the British were pretty damn serious about holding on to this piece of real estate," he chuckled. Peeking through the first-floor gun slits into the darkened structure, Barry noticed there were narrow openings cut into the ceiling of the first floor. "That's curious. What the heck?" he remarked. "Hey, Luci, I've read about this before but have never seen it." Lifting Luci so her eyes could reach the narrow openings to see into the building, he instructed her, "Take a look at those long slots in the ceiling."
"I see them! What are they?" she questioned, looking at the unusual slim openings.
"Those are murder slits," he said.
What happens between the two lovers on Bois Blanc Island? You will have to read the book, but meanwhile, it's okay to let your imagination run wild!