The Curse of Book Jackets

Don’t you love to gaze upon a dazzling book cover and then read the back hype and know this is a book you’re going to really like? You look forward to a great story. Then you get 40 pages into it and the book isn’t what you thought it was at all. That’s happened to me too. Sometimes the story seems flat or the writing isn’t very good and you lose interest.

In all honesty I’ve never been satisfied with anything I’ve written on a book jacket. The idea is to grab and entice so people will buy the book, just like the method used to sell a refrigerator or car. The main reason (excuse) is that there isn’t room or time to tell the best things about the story. That is true, and I’ve wrestled with finding another way to say what my books are about without taking up 10 pages, which you don’t want to wade through just to decide if you want to read one of them.

I’ll give it a shot while only using a few more words than a book jacket.

The two connected books I’ll describe are called Historical Adventure, a vast cauldron where you might find anything from vampires to a real glimpse into life as it was. The two books here are based in real adventure of the times, memorable characters and Northwest Native American culture.

When Wolf Comes is the beginning of a love story under unlikely circumstances, told by Aidan, a young Irishman from Boston, and Neveah, Native-Spanish, who was stolen from a tribe on Puget Sound. There are other love interests and relationships, but this is the main one. After Aidan’s ship is attacked, they meet as slaves and are owned by a tribe on the primitive Washington Coast. Aidan forms an unlikely friendship with an unusual Native who is cursed by being half Russian, yet he is a commanding presence in the tribe; Squintanasis is a main character who makes it possible for Aidan and Neveah to be together and for them to be given a chance to gain freedom. There are many adventures, some dire, some humorous, and finally Aidan and Neveah take part in a bloody battle for survival in what has become their front yard. Many lives are lost. Then Aidan and Neveah are told they must leave.

The characters come right out of events of the early 1800’s. To accurately uncover the truth took a long time. I wanted to get the day to day living of the people in the story, the reality of it. What happened to me during the research for this story was a change in perspective from what I thought the people of the coast in that time were like. A lot had been written that was simply not true, and the truth was not easy to find. I came to understand the present day suspicious nature of the people I was writing about, how it was driven into their consciousness’s in 1792 and even before that. I was driven to present their culture as accurately as every scrap of information I could gather about those times would allow. Parts of it came naturally because I had always loved wilderness and the ocean, knew the locations first hand, and had experiences to draw from just as harrowing as some you will read in this book. I also learned about the secret Wolf Ritual, the most important ritual on the NW Coast. Local historians seemed to know little about it. Then on the bottom shelf of a dusty used book store I found a crudely copied master’s thesis written by a woman who lived 10 summers with the tribe in the 1930’s, when the secret ritual was still practiced. And in her pages I found the most in-depth description of the Wolf Ritual that is ever likely to be presented, and it fit naturally into When Wolf comes.

When the pre-pub editions of When Wolf Comes arrived I emailed the tribal center and asked if someone there would like to read my book. I sent the two copies requested and expected the worst, since the story was classified as fiction, I’m not a Native, and was unknown to them. Their response was a great relief. You can find parts of their revues in these pages (When Wolf Comes, reviews).

Lives of the Spirits picks up three days after When Wolf Comes ends, but it takes a little different angle. The spirit world as it was known and lived is a force throughout, along with the desolation of slavery, ours and theirs, and its emotional and physical scars that can never be forgotten.

Aidan and Neveah are suddenly faced with the most feared curse of the times and assemble a group of refugees to escape by paddling canoes 200 miles up wild Big (Columbia) River to the Land of She Who Watches. One of the crew is a president’s son who has ended up here on the other side of the continent because he looks too much like his father.  Relationships are intensified and Aidan and Neveah must become leaders. They make it to a secure place where they find new friends. Their temporary peace soon ends in a shocking way. To save his wife Aidan must face the most vicious criminal of the region and defy two chiefs. But first he must accept the spirit world he has tried to avoid; he fears the price of entry, but now there is no choice. He tells his hosts he will go alone to the mountain and get his wife.

This is not where it ends, it is the beginning of the second half of Lives of the Spirits.

The two books are a story about love, character, friendship, race, slavery, and how a culture that has endured for thousands of years can die. It is about us.

Posted in John's blog

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