Meet My Villains

Part 6 in the series: How I found the snow path to Dingle

I once dated both a Roger and an Osborne, and neither proved to be very good dating material, but they did not reach the villainous status of this guy: Roger Osborne. Straight out of history, I did not need to invent him as the bad guy in Sharavogue. He showed up on his own.

But more about him in a moment. This is a post about the characters in the story, and particularly the villains who actually drive the action. In Sharavogue there are three villains. The first one we meet is Oliver Cromwell himself. Cromwell and his New Model Army have just defeated the Royalists in a bloody civil war. Cromwell has emerged as England’s new leader and has beheaded King Charles I in London. Now he comes to Ireland to cut down the Irish rebelling against English plantation on their soil.

Bust of Cromwell from the Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon.

Bust of Cromwell from the Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon.

Our heroine Elvy Burke confronts this powerful figure when he marches on her village. Cromwell had facial warts which helps add to his villainous image. It is Elvy’s hatred and vow to kill Cromwell that drives her forward and commands her decision making.

Through a series of events Elvy soon confronts the second villain of sorts, Sharavogue itself. The word Sharavogue comes from the Irish meaning “bitter place,” and it is the name given to a sugar plantation on the Island of Montserrat in the West Indies. The plantation system of the time depends on slave labor, and Elvy becomes an indentured servant struggling to survive against the customs, hard labor and the disease-ridden environment.

Because of her vow, Elvy cannot rest until she finds a way back to Cromwell to assassinate him. Thus, she seeks out the governor of Montserrat for assistance, and he is none other than Roger Osborne. In the 1650s, Osborne became governor of Montserrat when the original governor, Anthony Briskett, died. Briskett was revered for his vision and ability to engage and encourage fellow settlers and plantaton owners, and build a prosperous economy for the tiny island based primarily on tobacco crops. Briskett owned the best plantation on the island, married Osborne’s sister Elizabeth, and they had one son. Roger owned the adjacent plantation, but thought the grass was greener on Briskett’s side of the fence.

When Briskett died, Osborne’s palms must have itched to get his hands on Briskett’s plantation, but Elizabeth still wanted a husband and father for her young son. She married a Dutch planter and gentleman by the name of Samuel Waad.

What happens next is infamous for this period of history, and author Richard S. Dunn (Sugar and Slaves) lays it out like a play, listing all the characters by role. Picture Osborne, a massive spider, waiting for the perfect opportunity to weave his web and capture the fly.

Waad is a wealthy merchant and a bit of a dandy, but also very steeped in the rules of honor. When Osborne has Waad’s house guest arrested for beating a local tailor with his cane (what was the tailor’s offense, I wonder?), Waad is embarrassed and insulted. He writes a letter to Osborne that not only complains against the arrest, but goes on to call out Osborne’s corruption and whoring.

Waad is now ensnared in Osborne’s trap. Osborne is head of the militia, and calls the letter treason. Waad is arrested and, because it is a weekend, Osborne is able to call together only his cronies (and not the full militia) to determine Waad’s fate. The action is swift. Waad is executed by firing squad. Osborne takes over his estate and management on behalf of his nephew, who is Waad’s heir.

This story is true. I only wish I’d been able to find an image of Osborne to see if his countenance shows his personality. His interactions with Elvy are imagined and highly likely, but you’ll have to read the book to find out more!

What’s your book about?

Part 4 in the series: How I found the snow path to Dingle

I never would have guessed that one of the hardest things about writing a book is being able to describe it to someone in a succinct and compelling way. And when the story is set in a period that most people don’t know? A nearly impossible nightmare. What was I thinking?

My publisher sent me some questions to help me prepare for a radio interview. Question 2: Summarize your book in one to three sentences. Here’s what I came up with:

Sharavogue is a novel set in the turbulent 1650s, in the time of Oliver Cromwell and his brutal domination of Ireland. This is the tale of one girl’s vow of revenge, her journey through the lawless lands of the West Indies as an indentured servant, and her struggle to return to England to confront her sworn enemy and claim her destiny.

It’s all true but I’m not sure compelling, and it doesn’t quite get at the fun and adventurous aspects of the book. To do this, I really like the book Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. This book is aimed at screen writers but it is a fun, quick read, straight to the point and so helpful. You’ve got to be able to describe your book (screen play) in one sentence. “It’s about a guy/girl who _______” fill in the blank. Simple, right? If only!

One thing I really liked about this book is that I realized I had basically and instinctively followed Blake’s advice before I had even read it, in terms of the structure, the conflict, the beginning, middle and end. And I read the chapter on character development over and over again.

But mostly I liked the honesty and clarity about what works, what doesn’t, and reminding us that writing is just one aspect of the book business. If you want people to read what you’ve written, you’ve got to sell it. Selling books and selling screenplays is a business, so you have to think in terms of what your customers want and care about.

The book’s title refers to the idea that if you want readers to care about your main character, he or she can and should have flaws, but must also do something early on to win their hearts. Save the cat! In my case, my character tries to save her village. She fails, but hopefully by the time that happens the readers have already started to care about her and want to know what happens next, so they keep turning the pages.

Honestly, I still struggle with those one to three sentences. I’ve practiced saying them, described the book to many readers, and still there are times when I get a blank expression in return. Maybe one day I’ll write about a time that people can immediately relate to, and I’ll work in an irresistible cat.

Choosing a place in time

Part 3 in the series: How I found the snow path to Dingle

pirate ship1670As noted in my last post, my research was leading me to believe I had a book on my hands, or at least I hoped so. I had already finished my first novel but it was lengthy and meandering, and though dear to my heart because it was written as a tribute to my father, I knew it was not marketable as it was and could not see a clear way to fix it. I had already started attending writers’ conferences to learn, and found them both helpful and destructive.

In particular, I loved the Surrey International Writers Conference in British Columbia, where I met Diana Gabaldon (I’ve attended several times), and the Historical Novel Society where I met Margaret George, among others. I did not care for the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in Seattle, where the speakers’ attitudes seemed to be “we’re published, you’re not and never will be.” When I sat down for lunch and realized everyone at my table had the same impression, I knew I’d never go back to that one. The Algonkian Writers Confererence at Half Moon Bay was limited to 15 people who had achieved a certain level of proficiency. I found it intimate, individualized, bonding, positive and instructive.

Among the things I learned was that as a new writer, you need to keep your word count down, because publishers are less likely to make an expensive investment in a new writer, and thick books are costly to print. The recommendation was between 120,000 and 150,000 words. It is tricky with historical fiction, because there is more to explain and describe, but it can be done. (As an example, Sharavogue comes in at just over 117,000 words and the printed book is 292 pages.)

I also learned, as we all know already, you must hook the reader with your first line, your first paragraph, your first page. There are certainly books I’ve read that did not hit this mark, but I think unless you have a friend in the publishing industry or something else up your sleeve, it’s something to strive for. Think of an agent or editor sitting at a desk surrounded by stacks of manuscripts. He or she will be looking for a reason to eliminate some. Don’t give them one. I rewrote my openings countless times. (How do you know when it is done? As another author said recently, you just have to write from the heart and hope for the best.)

At these conferences, editors and agents often speak on panels or you can learn what they are looking for during 10-minute one-on-one sessions booked in advance. I remember hearing one agent say enough already with the Tudor period. I saw that comment repeated on another agent’s website. So in part that’s the reason I decided to look for a time different than Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn or Elizabeth I. I decided to choose a time not often covered in books (the road less traveled, if you will); a time very important in Irish history that spoke to my own Irish heritage. And, one of my goals would be to help illuminate this new time period, because I believed readers of historical fiction wanted, just as I do, to learn about history as they read a good story. From Diana Gabaldon, while falling in love with Jamie I also learned about the battle at Culloden and the Scottish rebellion against English rule.

Of course, the danger in choosing a different time period is the agents and editors also don’t know it, so they don’t know how to sell it. I deeply admire Hilary Mantel who, with her brilliant books Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, found a way to approach the Tudor period from a completely different viewpoint: that of the infamous Thomas Cromwell.

I chose Oliver Cromwell, distantly related in the next century whose name still stirs hate among the Irish and admiration among some English, but definitely controversy among all. And I did choose this period, the Irish rebellion of 1641 through Cromwell’s march of 1649, but it also chose me. Once I focused, books and articles came to me that I had not really searched for, and then because of those I was drawn to other resources that I sought relentlessly for months. Pieces began to come together like I big, messy jigsaw puzzle.

All good stories must have a beginning, a middle and an end. Fairly early on, I knew the beginning of my book, and then I knew how it would have to end. I really had no idea what would happen in the middle. It took years of research and discovery, but slowly the middle began to take shape and fill in. On that day when I realized the two ends would actually meet, the elation was magnificent!

Cruelty in the wild west of Ireland

Part 2 in the series: How I found the snow path to Dingle

At the end of my last post, I began the adventure to discover the meaning of the phrase in my head, “the snow path to Dingle” which ultimately led to the book Sharavogue. Where else could my research begin, but Dingle? Many tourists to Ireland venture out on this far-west peninsula, but if you have never been there it is an amazing mix of sugar-white beaches, dark clumpy bogs, castle ruins, rocky mountain passes, harbor towns with fishing boats bobbing on the water, lush green pastures, lively pubs and gourmet restaurants tucked amid colorful village shops and businesses. Most would never guess the horrors that once took place there.

I started my research on the Internet, but this was several years ago and the web was not the robust information resource that it is today. Still, one of the first things I found was the story of the Seige of Smerwick. According to one source:

Smerwick was originally a Viking settlement and its name originates from the Norse words ‘smoer’ and ‘wick’ meaning ‘butter harbour’. Although denoted as Smerwick on charts the area is now officially known by the Irish name ‘Ard na Caithne’, meaning ‘height of the arbutus’ or strawberry tree.

SmerwickfortPlanIt is a sweet name that helps to obscure a bitter past. In 1580, 600 Italian and Spanish troops landed here, funded by the Pope to aid a rebellion against English forces in Ireland. The garrison became isolated on a narrow tip of the peninsula, with English artillery on the land side and naval forces on the sea. Earl Gray laid seige to the garrison and their defenses crumbled after three days. Gray rejected their request for terms, insisted on unconditional surrender, then sent his bands in to execute the 600, sparing only those of higher rank. The soldiers were beheaded, their bodies flung into the sea and their heads buried in a field. The ranking offers were offered life if they renounced their Catholic faith, and if they did not their legs and arms were broken in three places, they were left to suffer for a day, and then hanged.

This story was horrible and unforgettable to me, though I was not sure I wanted to write about it. In the end I gave it only a passing mention because I chose to write of a not less brutal time about 80 years later. What this story did was ignite my passion for research into the dramatic history of Ireland. And I learned how magic and exciting research can be.

One of the best things I did was become a “friend” of the University of Washington Library, which means I paid a small fee for access to books and documents. I learned that the library doesn’t “stock” everything, but populates its shelves with things as professors and research assistants request documents and publications for their research projects. Then they are available to the lay person. I learned not to be disappointed if the book that I wanted was not sitting in the stacks where it was supposed to be, because I would inevitably find even more interesting things waiting for me that I had not found in the catalog. Just to pick up those books and thumb through them brought magical surprises that led me in specific directions.

One day I stumbled across a book that had interviews with Irish people describing the devastation left in the wake of Oliver Cromwell’s march in 1649 and 1650, and one man’s description of the horrible omen the he was certain foretold Cromwell’s coming: It was a full yellow moon encircled by blood and cleaved in two.

I was fascinated. I had found a time that I needed to know much more about. I was hooked.

How I found the snow path to Dingle

KillarneyART162687I feel it is a great honor when readers share with me that they read my book, Sharavogue, and then describe the parts that affected them most. In a few cases it has actually sent a chill up my spine because, well, it is every writer’s dream that her writing will be enjoyed and will actually touch someone. In that sense, it is really a dream come true.

People ask all sorts of questions, but several have told me they’d be interested in learning about my writing process. I’m flattered, and a little embarrassed. I’ve been less than methodical in my research, so probably not a good model. But, everyone has their story, right? So in honor of my new friend Joan Butler, today I’m starting a series of posts about just that. I’m expecting it to be about 10 or 12 posts, and will gladly take questions from readers to cover a specific topic.

This being first in the series, I’m starting at the beginning — how I got started writing this book in the first place. So hold on to your jammies, here goes. We’re going back. Way back:

I’d wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. Alone in my bedroom, maybe 10 years old, I wrote little stories about dogs and squirrels and gave them to my mother to read (top secret, of course, because if my sisters had known about them they’d have teased me relentlessly). And Mother in Heaven forgive me, once I even had a story about a swan on a lake. (I know, it’s been done…) My poor mother had to come listen to it accompanied by me on my ukelele (I thought the instrument was cute and had to have it, but never actually learned how to play it…). My father always called me “the dreamer.” Little did he know.

In grade school and then college I continued my dreams. I dabbled in English, and then Education, until my roommate finally convinced me: If you want to write, study journalism! I did and have never regretted it, but in a way it distracted me from those stories. And my career drifted even further, from journalism to corporate communications, until I believed my stories were gone for good.

The last time I saw my father alive was in the fall of 1996. By then I was married and living in Seattle. I was visiting him in Florida. He took me to lunch and asked, “When are you going to start writing again?” I don’t think he knew about the squirrel stories, but had always been proud of the newspaper ones. I shrugged and said I didn’t know if I could write anymore. My writing was all bureaucratic now.

He said, quite simply, “You’ll write when you’re ready.”

We lost him in March of the following year. It was almost exactly a year after his death that I was awakened from a deep sleep, as sure as if someone had shaken me, and a phrase was in my head: A snow path to Dingle. A snow path to Dingle — a phrase so strong and nonsensical, it had to come from somewhere, for some reason, and it refused to leave. Hardly having any choice, I resolved to do some research to discover its meaning.

And, because I already loved historical fiction, and had twice visited Dingle in the west of Ireland to explore our family’s Irish heritage, I felt I had a basic foundation and a clear place to start. And so I was off…on a real adventure.

A King’s Demise

Bust of King Charles I in the British Museum, London

Bust of King Charles I in the British Museum, London

Three hundred and sixty-four years ago this month, England’s King Charles I was beheaded by direction of Parliament, with General Oliver Cromwell leading the formalities. King Charles was charged with treason, having just lost a bloody civil war and continuing to plot with is pesky royalist friends.

Charles I was considered a bad king. He signed away business monopolies to his favorites without regard to the consequences, taxed greedily and without consent of Parliament, and spent lavishly on his grand art collection. He thought he had the right: the God-given King’s Prerogative, to which Parliament did not subscribe. Plus, his wife was Catholic when the country most definitely had gone Protestant and Puritan.

In her book, Rebels and Traitors, Lindsey Davis does a nice job of describing the dramatic scene:

The King knelt before the block. He spoke a few words to himself, with his eyes uplifted. Stooping down, he laid his head upon the block, with the executioner again tidying his hair. Thinking the man was about to strike, Charles warned, ‘Stay for the sign!’

‘Yes, I will,’ returned the executioner, still patient. ‘And it please Your Majesty.’

There was a short pause. The King stretched out his hands. With one blow of the axe the executioner cut off the King’s head.

The assistant held up the head by its hair, show the people, exclaiming the traditional words: ‘Here is the head of a traitor!’ The body was hurriedly removed and laid in a velvet-lined coffin indoors. As was normal at executions, the public were allowed to aproach the scaffold and, on paying a fee, to soak handkerchiefs in the dripping blood, either as trophies of their enemy, or in superstition that the King’s blood would heal illness.

Kings had been killed before, of course, but most typically in battle by an opposing army, or they were murdered by some ursurper using a blade or a poison. But this was the first time a nation’s government had executed a king. Would God allow that? Apparently so, and it sent a shockwave throughout Europe’s monarchies.

It also freed Oliver Cromwell to begin the episode for which he is most hated and remembered — especially by the Irish. A rebellion against the English plantation of Ireland had begun eight years earlier. With the civil war won and the king dead, Cromwell was now free to descend with Parliament’s army upon Ireland to crush the rebels. And that he did. This is where the term “decimated” comes from: It refers to Cromwell’s order for his soldiers to execute every 10th Irish rebel, and the rest were shipped to the West Indies to work as slaves or die. This is where my story begins, in Sharavogue.

17th Century Grinches

I was just wondering today (a little behind everyone else, it appears) what a 17th century Christmas really was like. In the time of Charles I and Oliver Cromwell, the Puritans enjoyed a lot of power in Parliament, and it turns out they actually canceled Christmas by ordinance in 1652: no holiday, no mince pies, no decorations, no church services. If only they’d had Dr. Seuss to remind them that Christmas happens anyway, even if you take away the gifts and the trappings.

Since Christmas Day really isn’t the day of Christ’s birth — the day was conscripted for Christmas because it was already a pagan celebration day and it was easier to turn more pagans to Christianity if they still got to party on their favorite day — the Puritans claimed the day had no basis in the Bible and therefore should be banned. A great description of this episode in history is covered by another blogger, TrickyGirl, who includes a recipe for mince pie: Another Kind of Mind.

The topic also was covered a few days ago by Rachel Schnepper for the New York Times: The Puritan War on Christmas.

Bust of Cromwell from the Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon.

Bust of Cromwell from the Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon.

The Puritan leader of the time and uncrowned King of England Oliver Cromwell gets blamed for a lot of things (he’s the bad guy in my novel Sharavogue, for instance), but the Cromwell Association says we should not blame The Lord Protector for the ban on Christmas:

“There is no sign that Cromwell personally played a particularly large or prominent role in formulating or advancing the various pieces of legislation and other documents which restricted the celebration of Christmas, though from what we know of his faith and beliefs it is likely that he was sympathetic towards and supported such measures, and as Lord Protector from December 1653 until his death in September 1658 he supported the enforcement of the existing measures.”

Still, there was much joy among the English people when Christmas was restored along with the monarchy and King Charles II.

The Puritan ban on Christmas was big for the New England colonies, but eventually the drive for religious freedom made Christmas a major holiday in our nation. Now, of course, we have so much religious freedom that Christmas again suffers a ban of sorts: If U.S. government agencies will display signs of the Christian holiday, they must also display the symbols of every other religion, including atheism. The irony is that in some cases these agencies just put an unadorned fir tree on display, and presto, we are right back to pagan symbolism!


Assassins, Miles Sindercombe, and fiddling things

Miles Sindercombe was a fascinating surprise to me as I researched my book, Sharavogue. I was looking for any assassination attempts on the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell in the mid-17th Century, because my protatonist would be attempting to do exactly that. Being American, I had never heard of Sindercombe, so I wonder if he is better known in the UK. He tried twice and failed to kill this uncrowned king.

Wikipedia gives a pretty good history of assassination that’s worth the read, tracing it back to 1080 and the Order of Assassins founded around the time of the Crusades. In Cromwell’s case the attempt must have come as no surprise, at least to his security crew, considering Cromwell had won a bloody civil war and then beheaded the king, Charles I. He also had led a brutal march across Ireland to put down a rebellion. The man did not lack for enemies and controversy over him continues to this day.

What’s interesting is that Sindercombe seems to be an unlikely and tragic figure. I was unable to turn up an illustration of him, but it seems he was a thin, mild-mannered sort who went by the name of “Fish.” A former soldier, apprentice to a surgeon, he aligned with others he met in taverns (i.e. Edward Sexby) who had fought against the Royalists but had fallen out with Cromwell’s policies.

The first plan against Cromwell was to shoot up his carriage as it slowed to go through a narrow pass on the way to Hampton Court. But, Cromwell decided to go by boat so the plot failed. The second attempt was to shoot Cromwell from the window above the side exit from Westminster Abbey where Cromwell would pass after hearing a sermon. But Crowell was surrounded by crowds, they could not get a good shot, and the plot was discovered. Sindercombe and his accomplices were arrested. Sexby was questioned by Cromwell himself, was sent to prison and soon died of a fever. He was the lucky one. Sindercombe was sentenced to a traitor’s death (the whole hideous bit, with the hanging, disembowelling while still alive, and body parts on pikes for display). To help him avoid this, friends sent him letters coated with arsenic which he rubbed on his face and neck, poisoning himself to death the night before his planned execution. His body was buried beneath the highway where no one could mourn him.

Cromwell made light of the whole thing, calling such attemps on his life “little fiddling things,” so as not to encourage the Royalist-spread rumor that he so feared assassination he was drinking himself to death. My recent visit to the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon confirms the rumor of his fear, if not the drinking. A display shows an inlaid cabinet of perfumes, ointments and soaps–a gift from the Grand Duke of Tuscany–that he never used, most likely fearing a poison. Cromwell’s doctor is quoted as saying “He is possibly afraid that they will be bitter, being fearful of his own shadow, so to speak, and living in constant apprehension of everything for he trusts no one.”

History has Cromwell dying of natural causes in 1658, but after his death his own doctor, secretly (or suddenly?) a Royalist, was rumored to have poisoned him in favor of the return to monarchy.

Following the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was not so fortunate. His life is revisited in the new movie, Lincoln, just out this week. His assassin John Wilkes Booth was trapped in a burning barn and shot by a US cavalry officer, and died from the wound hours later. It is an unforgettable episode in our history, unfortunately repeated several times.


Tale of Two Cromwells

When I talk to people about the setting of my book Sharavogue, and mention the name Cromwell, I get confused looks: cognitive dissonance. Most people have heard of Cromwell, but I am writing about the 17th century, and the man they tend to think of by that name lived in the 16th century, serving the court of King Henry VIII. After Cardinal Woolsey fell from favor by failing to produce this king’s annulment from Queen Catherine of Aragon, his protege Thomas Cromwell took up the work. It was Thomas who orchestrated the marriage to Anne Boleyn, and who dissolved and destroyed the country’s monasteries and churches to fill the king’s coffers with their riches. By 1540, Thomas himself fell from favor and was executed for treason, though good Henry later regretted it.

More than a century later, Oliver Cromwell gained prominence through the Parliamentary army’s victory in the English civil war. And for anyone with a drop of Irish blood in their veins, it is this Cromwell who makes that blood run cold. Oliver shook the foundations of Europe’s monarchies when he beheaded King Charles I for treason in 1649, and later became Lord Protector (rather than king) of the English Commonwealth. But between those two historic events, he marched his army across Ireland to massacre the Irish people and crush a rebellion. If you’ve ever heard the term “decimation,” it comes directly from his practice of killing every tenth man among his captives, and shipping the rest to the West Indies to work until they died.

Cromwell by Antonia Fraser

Cromwell, by Antonia Fraser, including my bookmarks and sticky notes

Ironically, Oliver Cromwell wasn’t really a Cromwell at all. He was a Williams. As Antonia Fraser deftly explains in her definitive biography, Cromwell, Oliver descended from Thomas Cromwell’s sister Katherine, who married Morgan Williams. Their son Richard adopted the “more celebrated” Cromwell name and this continued to be used by Richard’s descendents. Apparently it was not uncommon during this time for families to adopt the name of a famous relative in hopes of benefitting from that prominence.

But wait, the ironies continue. The true descendents of Thomas Cromwell became Earls of Ardglass, and this family supported the Royalist side, opposing Parliament when Oliver led that army to victory.  And though Richard Williams took the name Cromwell as a means to elevate his family, eventually it backfired as the two Cromwells became one in the modern mindset, and in addition to the brutal killings in Ireland, Oliver Cromwell also takes the blame for the hated archtectural destruction perpetrated by Thomas.

Oliver does retain his fan base, however. Though hated for his violence and brutality in Ireland and his Puritan oppression of the English court, he is revered by some for his military prowess and for introducing the idea of a commonwealth for England.

Live on Kindle!

Sharavogue went live on Kindle today and I feel like I was just awarded my PhD! Isn’t that funny? A decade of research, writing, reviewing, rewriting and so forth, I guess it is fairly similar! Had I any idea the amount of work that goes into a novel I would have taking up knitting instead, I think! But a lot of passion goes into it also. I’m not sure how many people are passionate about knitting — a whole industry exists for it so I guess there are quite a number. Each to his or her own! My author friends will agree, the writing passion will not be denied.

Anyway, for me this is a kind of ending even as it is a new beginning. Perhaps it is ironic that “Sharavogue” comes from the Irish meaning “bitter place” — I had many bittersweet times with this work. At times I could not stay away from it, and at other times I swore to never write again (sound familiar, anyone?). I am ready to share Sharavogue with my friends and readers, and will be doing some promotions around it just to get it “out there” a bit, but also will be deciding what comes next for me. Just as this story chose me (woke me up out of a dead sleep!), I suspect there is something in store I have not yet dreamed of.

Enormous thanks to all of you who supported me over the years as I worked on this book. After all that time, during my final proofing I found that I still love the story very much. I hope you’ll love it too.