Saturday, March 22, 2014

Blind Stitches Cover & Progress

I have been making headway on BLIND STITCHES. My first round of edits are done, I have the cover copy (description for the back cover) and a cover concept. Hopefully the cover conveys a psychological drama feel with a hint of romance and mystery. I’m open to suggestions and observations.
Talented young seamstress Juliet Glitch has been putting the finishing touches on a wedding dress for socialite, Nadia Solvay. When Nadia’s father dies unexpectedly two weeks before the wedding, mother of the bride, Olga Solvay—former prima ballerina and Russian expatriate—asks Juliet to hem her son’s trousers for the funeral. He has just returned to America from England where he has been attending a “school for the blind.”

Juliet’s life is complicated. Her nineteen-year-old brother, Rome, has Asperger’s, and their aunt whom they live with hoards cats and junk. Juliet’s life in the small but elite community of Historia, New Hampshire, is absurd enough as it is, but when she meets Nikolai Solvay to alter his trousers, she finds he is not blind at all! Nikolai’s mother, Olga, is delusional, believing her son has been blind since birth.

When Nikolai persuades Juliet to secretly model his sister’s wedding dress—a replica of Olga’s most famous ballerina costume—so he may paint a portrait to convince his mother he is not blind, Juliet and Nikolai embark on a psychological and emotional journey into family dysfunction and repressed memories surrounding his mother’s defection from the Soviet Union twenty years earlier. Against the backdrop of autumn 1989, during the Glasnost era, Nikolai’s family secrets crash alongside the crumbling Berlin Wall. 
Next, another round of beta readers, more edits ... more edits ... and more edits .... 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Blind Stitches and Winter Survival

No, I haven’t fallen off the grid—okay, I might have slipped the grid a little, but I’ve not done so in my usual winter slump. I’d like to think it’s because after years of practice, I’ve learned how to survive winter a little better. No, full-spectrum lighting is not part of my W.S.K, (and as soon as I post this—just because I have posted this—I may very well fall into a deep dark place), and I haven’t returned to medication (aside from an occasional glass of wine in front of my keyboard). And in spite of the brutal cold outside that started in November and is now stretching into March (many mornings, like as this morning, it has been well below zero), this winter has flown by for me. My secret? I’ve been completing my first draft of my next novel, formerly known as Blind Sight.

Now that the first draft is complete, a more appropriate title has emerged, BLIND STITCHES It fits much better since one of the main POV characters is a seamstress, and the other is vicariously ‘blind’—that is, his delusional mother believes he is blind.

Having said thatabout not falling into my usual winter slumpI must add a disclaimer about the way winter may have affected my writing. BLIND STITCHES is a little on the darker side, psychologically speaking. Then again, it’s difficult for me to be objective about my novels, especially when it comes to gauging how dark, or twisted, or disturbing my readers might consider them. I will admit to a sensitive constitution—I don’t like horror stories, and while I enjoy the occasional thriller, it takes my nervous system days to recover. So, what I consider dark may seem merely ‘dim’ to someone else.

I don’t have a projected date of publication for BLIND STITCHES, but I anticipate having it out there within the next six months. I need time away from it while it’s out with my beta readers, and I will use that time to read some Russian literature and to work on the cover layout.

Meanwhile, Portrait of a Girl Running has received some nice reviews and mentions—check these out if you are inclined:

And I would especially like to thank a loyal reader whom I shall refer to as Mr. Left8, from over on the WoodenBoat Forum, who started a really nice post about mybooks. (For my long-time readers, you may recall that when I wrote Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright, I spent a fair amount of time researching over at the WoodenBoat Forum, and it was grand fun!) That thread, and those who contributed to it, were a huge perk that helped me stay out of the doldrums! 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Not All 17-year-old Young Adult Characters Have Superpowers!

Okay, yeah, I know this isn't earth-shattering news. But it's a way Raven Reviews opens an interview with me.* I quote:
"Lately, it seems all young adult novels involve a seventeen year old who either have a supernatural secret or find out he or she is a supernatural. Then I came across this next book where the teen was being raised by a black man and a white man and no mother. And they are always on the move. It seems strange, right? Then, the main character falls in love with her track coach. Seems like a lot of stuff going on here. I decided to take a closer look at the book and the author."
If you care to read the interview, head on over to Raven Reviews and find out what inspired Portrait of a Girl Running. There is also a link to an excerpt of the first chapter.

I did warn you I'd be doing some promotion of this book, didn't I?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pushing the Limits of Absurdity

I suppose I ought to post something now that it’s the beginning of a new year—and I thought I’d provide an update on what I’ve been up to, writing-wise. Blind Sighted was slow starting, but now I’m nearly 20k words into the story;  the characters and plot are beginning to take shape. I still have a lot of research to do in the following categories:

  • Sino-Russian relations during the cold war
  • The Berlin Wall
  • The Russian ballet and costumes
  • Delusional Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Common Russian expressions
  • Being a professional seamstress in an upper-class, small New England community—Oh, wait, I don’t have to research that—I already have personal experience!

Hopefully this gives you a hint about what this story entails, and yeah, I will be pushing the envelope of absurdity—I mean, the main POV character’s name is Juliet, and her brother’s name is Romeo. Seriously. What kind of a mother names her children Rome and Juliet, especially with a last name Glitch!? And let’s not forget Kim (the poor guy whose delusional mother believes he’s blind). When a girl’s life already pushes the boundaries of absurdity, it’s easy for someone else’s absurd life to draw her in—dangerously easy.

I’ve also decided to do a little book promotion for Portrait of a Girl Running, and its sequel Portrait of a Protégé. I’ve been reading up on marketing books in this ever-evolving world of publishing, and it seems that slow and steady has more of an impact on long-term marketing than the old model of creating a huge bang at a book’s release (yeah, I’ve been reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog). That said, now, a couple of months after the release of my Portraits novels, you will see me doing what I didn’t think I’d ever get up the gumption to do—promote my books (with the help of publicist Paula Margulies, because you know I wouldn’t do it on my own!).

That said, I should plug my networking stuff, so, if you'd like to follow me on Twitter or Facebook, that would be okay with me! My books are also on Goodreads ... in case you were wondering ....

Meanwhile, here’s an absurd song I wish I could use as my theme music for Blind Sighted—sort of.


Friday, November 29, 2013

When Amityville Is Your Hometown

Now that I have decided to forgo a formal outline for Blind Sighted, I’m diving into writing and thinking about settings. Should I use a fictional New England town, or an actual, real-life village? I was faced with the same question when I wrote my other novels. In Uncharted, I went with fictional, just so I could contrive the quintessential coastal-Maine community. With Portrait of a Protégé, sequel to Portrait of a Girl Running, I chose a true-to-life setting—the Sunapee Lake Region in New Hampshire, even naming some establishments in the community—but with Girl Running, I had a dilemma. I wrote with the geography of a particular town in mind—the village I grew up in—Amityville. So much easier than plotting out the ‘floor plan’ of an entirely new imaginary setting.

Since it has been a few years since the debacle, The Amityville Horror, was produced—thirty-four years to be exact—I don’t know … perhaps many people don’t remember the movie. I never saw it, and not just because I have an aversion to horror flicks. There are quite a few of us who still remember the horrible night that spawned the movie. I was an impressionable fourteen years old. I did not personally know the DeFeo family, but their tragedy rocked my safe, predictable, middle-class, ordinary life. Their tragedy was incomprehensible and it still reminds me of how precarious life can be.

Nevertheless, I have many fond memories of growing up in Amityville. It was a unique setting amongst the suburban towns that surrounded it, with its quaint village and mixed racial community. It was not only picturesque (and I believe it remains that way), but it felt safe. For me and my siblings, life happened in a three-mile radius. Aside from occasional trips upstate or to Florida, and out to Iowa to visit grandparents, Amityville, with its nearby beaches—Robert Moses State Park and Gilgo Beach—was all I knew for the first eighteen years of my life. It was only natural for me to write from memory when I constructed Girl Running. Even though at the time I had no plans for publication (that’s what new writers say when they set out to write their first real-live novel!), I was saddened to know that I could never use the actual name Amityville in a fictional setting. So sad, because it even sounds like the perfect fictional setting—Amityville! Doesn’t it conjure images of a happy, safe, amiable place? I mean, the word amity itself means friendly! Alas, I had to alter the name to Millville. Yeah, it’s pretty generic and it still works for fiction, but I would like to have held true to my hometown.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Changes and Alterations

… Speaking of change or growth or self-empowerment, or whatever you want to call it … I think I am forever destined to ride this cycle of discontentment into striving into frustration into acquiescence onto a plateau, rinse and repeat. I value growth exceedingly. I push myself into discomfort in so many aspects of my life, hoping for growth if not enrichment. I have benefited even if at times the results have been harrowing. This means I am also coming to terms with my strengths and weaknesses and my boundaries. These threads weave their way through my life, including the threads of my writing.

All four of my novels took years to sew up—from inception to the story’s conclusion. A lot of that that time was sucked up because of not knowing what I was doing. Too many of my characters were shallow and all over the place. The story arcs seemed to take a circuitous route. And the prose itself was laden with so much unnecessary verbiage. Now that I finally have those books stitched up, pressed, and published, I’ve been thinking about how great it would be to actually know what I’m doing ahead of time—that’s right, OUTLINING! Using an actual pattern instead of simply draping fabric over a forms and seeing what jumps out at me. Outlining is supposed to streamline the whole writing process. And in theory, I really like the concept of outlining—it’s like ultimate control (and yeah, I kind of like to control stuff and know how things will turn out in real life), so what’s not to love about outlining? In fact, the idea of it has made me discontent with my former make-it-up-as-I-go-along approach to writing.

The problem is, all I seem to be doing is hanging around with these new and fascinating yet ethereal characters in my head, but no plot—like laying the pattern on some amazing fabric, but not being able to visualize the garment. Of course, I do have a few plot points—I do know what each character wants and what stands in their way, but I can’t seem to visualize them playing together. They—and their story—have no solidity. It occurs to me that a basic idea is all I’ve ever had when I started writing a story. Yeah, I’d like to say that pushing my brain to work in a different way would make me a better writer, a better person, but good grief—at what point am I just going to accept the way I work creatively and be happy—yes, content—with that?

Okay, there, I said it! I have officially committed to just writing my next novel by the-comfortable-seat-of-my-pants, one stitch at a time. I don’t know how long it will take to sew Bind Sighted together, or how many times I will have to rip out its seams and refit it, but it’s got to be a whole lot better than poking my needle at nothing at all!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Blindsight—Seeing What We Can't See

Because I’ve always written primarily by the seat of my pants, beginning with just an idea and a vague destination, I really want to try out a new approach, which is not new at all—outlining. Part of this approach entails theme (although knowing the theme up front is not absolutely necessary, it’s supposed to be really helpful, and I need all the help I can get!). The theme should help the outline take shape, running its thread throughout and tying everything together. I have never consciously assigned a theme to my stories up front, though by the time I type THE END, the theme is pretty clear.

For my next project, I've been mulling over ideas and keep coming back to a couple of possibilities, one of which I stumbled upon quite by accident. It has to do with the title of this project “Blind Sighted.” Yeah, it's sort of a play on the word blindsided, but it also alludes to the fact that the mother of one of the main characters believes her son is blind—but he’s not! Yes, she’s delusional.

In the process of researching delusional disorders and simply typing “blind sighted” into Google, I came across the medical term, Blindsight. Well, now, this is quite fascinating, I thought, and serendipitous! Blindsight, according to Wikipedia, is the ability of people who are cortically blind due to lesions in their striate cortex … to respond to visual stimuli that they do not consciously see. This cartoon* nicely illustrates it:


So, this idea of responding to visual stimuli without consciously “seeing” it fascinates me! Metaphorically, this seems like something I could expand upon as a theme. I mean, when it comes to relationships, we often tend to wear blinders—it can be very difficult to see a person as they really are. Sometimes, if they are highly-motivated actors, it may takes years. But meanwhile, we generally respond to individuals and navigate relationships intuitively—without conscious reasoning. That may work for a period of time, but often when there is some sort of upheaval, we may suddenly see what we have been previously blind to. Now, add a delusional layer, and I have all sorts of fodder for tension and conflict.

Do we see what we need or want to see in an individual? What happens when imagination or fantasy or delusion meets reality? I can tell you that it is very messy!

*image by Jolyon Troscianko

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Winds of Change

In my last post, I warned you about my big thoughts that turn into ideas, which sometimes get messy. As I analyze the writing books I’ve been reading, it occurs to me that storytelling revolves around change. Yeah, I know that is probably a very elemental idea that surprises no one. I mean, without change, it remains status quo, stagnation, static. Nothing interesting or worthy of writing about. But what is it about change that intrigues us humans?

It has been my personal experience—and my observation of others—that we ultimately don’t like change. Yet we all desire it on some level. I think we would all like to be improved in some way. Yes, I know the mantras, ‘Love yourself as you are’, ‘It’s all about self-acceptance’, “Live in the here and now’. And yet why do we even have to be reminded of those axioms? Because we inherently desire change. We want better, or at least we want different. Unfortunately, it usually requires that the discomfort of status quo becomes more uncomfortable than the what it takes to change.

Stories revolve around change. Good stories revolve around BIG change. Why is big change so riveting? I think it’s like that strong impulse to gawk at a horrible accident as we pass by. We shudder to imagine being the one with such misfortune. It makes us uncomfortable, but for a moment, we consider how changed out little cosmos would be if it were us. Stories are like that, though not always with such morbid overtones.

Chinese Symbol for Change
Think about the big changes in your own life, the positive ones and those that left you bereft. What upheaval did it trigger? Was it a planned change, or one of happenstance? How long did it take to recover, so to speak, or do you still feel the reverberations of that change? Did it change just your circumstances, or did it change you?

This brings me to the point I’ve been thinking on a lot. Do people change? In the books I’ve been reading on the craft of storytelling, the character arc is intrinsic to the story. Some characters change minimally if at all, but they at least incite change in other characters. We want to see characters grow, learn lessons, and to change. We want them to do what we find so difficult. We are fascinated with the process, so fascinated that we don’t want them to change easily. We want a character to overcome big hurdles, either physically or emotionally. But that’s all good and fine in a made up story. We want to believe that people change, but in real life, do we really change? Is this question the reason why we are so taken in by watching characters change, because we are so stuck in our same old stuff?

Don’t get me wrong, I have witnessed some remarkable ‘changes’ in some individuals, that is to say, they have modified their behaviors and outlook if compelled, or even impelled by some internal motivation. But does our core self, that part of us that is formed into 'us' at a very early age, actually change? We may successfully overcome some weakness, but when put to the testusually by something that hits us out of the bluedon’t we still struggle with that weakness? When it comes to stories or real life, is ‘change’ just a matter of modified behaviors? I think perhaps trauma may change a person—rewire their core, but it seems that such a trauma would have to be severe. On the other hand, could something on the opposite end of the scale—some kind of an amazing positive event—likewise have the capacity to change a person’s core?

Not that the 'truth' regarding the matter of change is intrinsic to how my new story will develop. In stories, it’s all about illusion. I will put my characters through changes. Perhaps some will have their core altered, or some will simply modify behaviors—after all, sometimes, that’s as good as it gets. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Blank Pages

It may come as no surprise to some of my readers that I was largely uneducated regarding story structure while writing my first four novels. If I hit on what looks like a preplotted story arc, I attribute it to intuition or gut feeling about how my stories should develop. Now that I have my recent works and also my backlist published, I’m thinking a lot more about how to develop a story—a new story.

I’ve been reading writing blogs long enough to come across a lot of terminology on storytelling. Character archetypes, character arcs, the three act structure, inciting incidents, building tension, climaxes, and the list goes on. Generally, I love reading how-to guides. I am a do-it-yourselfer from way back. But I want to know more than simply the mechanics of something—I crave knowledge of principles, those amazing gems of information that can be applied to so many endeavors.

A while back, I purchased a few books on writing. For a beginner writer, The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman helped me clean up my writing, back when I was primarily interested in snagging an agent. I also enjoyed Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. But the idea of constructing a story—well, I had stories and they were already pretty well formed, so I put the other books, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Volger on the shelf. They seemed like heavier reading that I would eventually get around to.

In fact, I have finally gotten around to reading them, but with a very specific purpose—I have a few characters with some interesting history, but I have no story. I mean, I know there’s a story to be told about a young man whose mother is delusional—she believes her son is blind. But how to write it! I may be as delusional as my character to think I can pull this one off, but still ... Hmm … this story could take a while … so, I thought I’d work out my process of discovery here on my blog and make this space earn its keep. Unless of course I get sidetracked with something else … Be warned, I sometimes get big ideas, and they often get messy. Now, if I can just avoid Exploding Head Syndrome!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Portrait of a Protégé, sequel to Portrait of a Girl Running, Now Available!


I hadn’t intended to publish Portrait of a Protégé so soon after its prequel, Portrait of a Girl Running, but I ended up working on the publication process for both books simultaneously. Now that Girl Running is available, it seems prudent to have its sequel published and ready to read while the first story is fresh in the reader’s mind. And yeah, I just want these stories done so I can finally focus on other things.


While Portrait of a Girl Running has a Young Adult feel, Portrait of a Protégé can be properly classified as New Adult, since the main character, Leila, is twenty-two and finding her way in the adult world. Here’s the description from the back cover:
Four years after the close of Portrait of a Girl Running, Leila is twenty-two and living on a pretty little lake in New Hampshire. A new set of circumstances throws her into a repeating cycle of grief that twists and morphs into unexpected and powerful emotions. Leila must finally confront her fears and learn to let go while navigating the field of cutting-edge psychology, protecting herself from the capricious winds of Southern hospitality, playing in the backyard of big-money art, and taming her unruly heart. Even her ‘guardian’ has a thing or two he must learn about love and letting go.
Portrait of a Protégé focuses a lot on the question of how we define love, and when it comes to romantic love, where do we set our boundaries? Yes, I push a few boundaries in this story. While I’m not opposed to stirring ambivalence, I just hope my readers find it entertaining and maybe a little thought provoking.

If anyone would like a review copy, just e-mail me (bridget at jbchicoine dot com) and let me know which format you prefer.

Here’s where Portrait of a Protégé is available so far: Amazon (trade paperback); Kindle; Smashwords (all other eReader devices)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Portrait of a Girl Running, Now Available


Well, I didn’t expect to get Portrait of a Girl Running up and out for another few days, but Amazon tells me it is now available … so, I may as well share that news! It has been a long time in coming—’tis probably my favorite, perhaps based solely on it being with me for so long. And yeah, the protagonist is a young artist, so naturally, there is a bit more of ‘me’ in this novel—the artist, not the ‘young,’ hehe.

It's sort of a Young Adult, coming-of-age story but fits just as well in the Adult Fiction category with some romance.  Just to whet your appetite, here’s what it’s about:

All Leila wants is to get through her senior year at her new high school without drawing undue attention. Not that she has any big secret to protect, but her unconventional upbringing has made her very private. At seventeen, she realizes just how odd it was that two men raised her—one black, one white—and no mother. Not to mention they were blues musicians, always on the move. When her father died, he left her with a fear of foster care and a plan that would help her fall between the cracks of the system. Three teachers make that impossible—the handsome track coach, her math teacher from hell, and a jealous gym instructor. Compromising situations, accusations of misconduct, and judicial hearings put Leila’s autonomy and even her dignity at risk, unless she learns to trust an unlikely ally.
If anyone would like a review copy , just e-mail me (bridget at jbchicoine dot com) and let me know which format you prefer.


As it becomes available on iTunes and other avenues, I will keep you posted.

Oh, and Portrait of a Protégé should be 'up and out' within a couple of weeks.

Monday, October 7, 2013

UNCHARTED: Story for a Shipwright—Second Edition!

This is a case of ‘I have good news, and I have bad news….’ The bad, well, rather sad news is that my publisher of Uncharted, Rhemalda Publishing, has closed its doors due to some unforeseen events in the lives of those who ran the operation. Sad indeed, as they were a fine publisher to work with, and I hate to see any small press shut downespecially one who spent so much time and energy on my debut novel. The good news—as I choose to view it—is that I have received the ‘reversioning’ rights to Uncharted. This means I will be publishing Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright as a second edition under my own self-publishing entity, Straw Hill Publishing. In fact, I have already done so!

One of the consistent pieces of feedback I have received on Uncharted is that the ending is too abrupt; consequently, I have extended the final page—a bit more of a dénouement. Additionally, I have added an epilogue, a small bit about ‘The Island,’ and a Reader’s Guide. And yeah, the cover is slightly different. I doubt anyone will notice unless I point it out, but the ship Marlena is gazing upon now sits in the Atlantic Ocean where the shipwrecks of the story take place, rather than in the middle of Asia. Okay, yeah, I’m a tad OCD. And I added the subtitle, Story for a Shipwright, to the cover.

The new and revised version of Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright is now available as a trade paperback from Amazon, for your Kindle, and in various eBook formats via Smashwords.

I am also doing a giveaway on Goodreads, so if you'd like to enter to win a copy, head on over!

So that’s my immediate news. Within a week, I should be releasing Portrait of a Girl Running, and soon thereafter, Portrait of a Protégé!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Girl Running: Writer Vulnerability and Peeling Off the Shell


I’ve made another decision regarding Portrait of a Girl Running. I have to admit that I have had mixed feelings about publishing this novel and its sequel, Portrait of a Protégé. Don’t get me wrong, I love these stories. In fact, I wrote Girl Running for my husband nearly seven years ago and it has always been my favorite. Consequently, there is a lot of me in these two stories, much more so than in Uncharted and Spilled Coffee, which are written in first person from a thirty-something male point of view. I’ve thought a lot about why I choose to deliver a story in that fashion, and I think it comes down to vulnerability. To write in a point of view so completely opposite who I am—a fifty-three-year-old woman—is sort of an emotional cloak, a way to protect my “identity.”

When I submitted these stories to my publisher, they turned them down because both stories push societal boundaries. That made me all the more squeamish about publishing them—in fact, I wasn’t sure if I would. But, in my biased, authorly opinion, they are really good stories. I didn’t want them to end up little better than a painting sitting in a portfolio, unseen and unappreciated after all the hard work that when into them. But publishing them means vulnerability—much more so than with my other novels.

So, I thought I’d try to apply a story within a story to Girl Running, as I had with my other novels. I had a really cool idea and went with it. I sent it out to a few readers and received mixed responses. Ultimately, I have come to realize that with my other stories within stories, the “shell” story was intrinsic to the overall plot and enhanced the story within. With this attempt—the shell around Girl Running—I did not succeed. The shell only dilutes Girl Running and distracts my reader from the perfectly good story that Girl Running already is as a standalone story. Indeed, I have come to realize that the shell, which I named The Step-Up Man was actually a way for me to work through my feelings about publishing Girl Running, a way of emotionally distancing myself from the stories, a buffer of sorts.

With the help of several astute and supportive reader/writers, I killed my little darling. I am now brave enough to present Portrait of a Girl Running and Portrait of a Protégé straight up, no dilution required. And I feel really good—no, eager—to publish them once and for all. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Portrait of a Girl Running: The Evolution (or Digression) of a Title

From the start, I named my soon-to-be-published novel, “Girl Running.” I had neither plan nor any notion for a sequel. When I ended up writing the sequel, I focused a lot on the protagonist Leila’s artistic bent, and I titled the story “Portrait of a Protégé.” It fits the theme of both novels perfectly—in fact, at one point, I considered combining the two stories into one tome, but it would have been so very unwieldy. Marketing-wise, two separate novels is better. For continuity, I decided upon Portrait of a Girl Running for the first story. I also had an idea for each cover, both comprising a watercolor concept—go figure, Leila is a watercolorist. One painting of a girl running and another of ‘the protégé’ as depicted in the second novel.

But then I had a big idea…

Since the story within a story works for me (that is, I really like the concept), I came up with the character James Grayson and encapsulated Leila’s story within his. Consequently, another cover-design concept struck me. And I could still make it work with the sequel by illustrating a painting in progress, by a man’s hand. Problem was, when I worked up the layout for Girl Running, the title seemed absurd and out of place—it didn’t fit with a man’s forearm and stack of papers. So, I changed the title to The Step-Up Man. It fit the story very well—in fact, there is a literary piece in the novel with the same title.

Then, it was time to work on a cover for Portrait of a Protégé (since I plan to publish both stories near-simultaneously). I knew what I wanted. I had the cheesy thrift-store prom dress, I knew the pose I needed, I knew the angle I wanted it photographed from. I wasn’t entirely sure about the lighting, but when my husband suggested, “Just let me try something,” I was game. The result was amazing—it wasn’t the bright background I had planned, and it wouldn’t fit with my original idea, but I loved the lighting effect. It’s dynamic and eye catching, just what I need for a book cover. Yeah, I knew it didn’t really go with the cover for The Step-Up Man, but I was so inspired that I got busy painting it. I’m very, very happy with the result.

When I started messing around with a promotional flyer for the two books, placing them side by side, it hit me full force how ill-paired they are. I may be a novice publisher, but I know enough to realize that a novel and its sequel should at least carry the same theme and some conceptual similarities, so even though I really liked the cover for The Step-Up Man (and the title), I decided to paint something that would look good beside Portrait of a Protégé. The same girl, of course, and the same chiaroscuro—but then The Step-Up Man would be an absurd title. So back to Girl Running…and because the covers are so similar, I tagged ‘Portrait of’ back onto it. I even thought I might paint a girl running, like I originally intended, but compositionally, that didn’t work for me. Besides, the ‘running’ is as much metaphorical as it is literal.

So, now, here is the official cover for the official title of my upcoming novel, to be published this fall.

Let me introduce you to Portrait of a Girl Running, along with its sequel, Portrait of a Protégé.






Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Chiaroscuro Cover for Portrait of a Protégé!

I just learned a new term, thanks to my sister who knows all sorts of great words, (like penetralia!). The word is "chiaroscuro." As an artist, I should know it, alas, my unschooled background is showing, not to mention my linguistic challenges! Try as I may, the pronunciation eludes me, but that won’t stop me from using it in my soon-to-be-published novel, Portrait of a Protégé! It fits so well because its definition perfectly describes the style of art that I’m using for the cover. Here’s the definition (from my Mac dictionary):
chiaroscuro |kēˌärəˈsk(y)o͝orō, kēˌarə-|
noun
the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting.
• an effect of contrasted light and shadow created by light falling unevenly or from a particular direction on something: the chiaroscuro of cobbled streets.
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Italian, from chiaro ‘clear, bright’ (from Latin clarus) + oscuro ‘dark, obscure’ (from Latin obscurus).
So, now I must insert the word in the story, just because I can. Yes, it is a gratuitous use of a fancy foreign word, but that’s this writer’s prerogative! Besides, there's a portrait in the story with this exact lighting, though it's not the painting on Protégé's cover.

Anyhow, Protégé's cover was a lot of fun—yeah, it’s original artwork by moi. The dress was actually a cheesy Goodwill prom gown that I altered via the paintbrush, and my husband is the photographer extraordinaire. I do believe this is my favorite cover. I am still working on the cover copy, but this is what I have so far: 
James Grayson of The Step-Up Man introduces Portrait of a Protégé, written by the character Layla Sand as the sequel to her semi-autobiographical story, "Girl Running."
Four years after the close of L. M. Sand’s novel, "Girl Running," Leila is twenty-two and living on a pretty little lake in New Hampshire. A new set of circumstances throws her into a repeating cycle of grief that twists and morphs into unexpected and powerful emotions. Leila must finally confront her fears and learn to let go while navigating the field of psychology, protecting herself from the capricious winds of Southern hospitality, playing in the backyard of big-money art, and taming her unruly heart. Even her 'guardian' has a thing or two he must learn about love and letting go.
It’s a real challenge to write the cover copy since Protégé is a sequel to a story within a story and is a ‘speculative’ work, written four years into the future. Likely, most readers will have already read The Step-Up Man and so all that will make sense ... or not...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review of Spilled Coffee

I just received a very nice review of Spilled Coffee on author Carol Newman Cronin’s blog, Where Books Meet Boats. While this story has no sailing in it, there is a rowboat, but that has nothing to do with the review. This is what she says, in part:
"The opening scene (in a coffee shop, of course) drew me in quickly, just as I expected. Ben Hughes meets a potential love interest, drops hints about his recently ended engagement, and lets us know he’s on a curious mission involving a lakeside summer cottage, some dark personal history, and a dysfunctional family.... I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next…."

"…Once I had enough information to draw my own conclusions about the ending, I enjoyed the steady drip, drip, drip of details that were carefully woven into the narrative. With each new step back into the past (artfully marked with a pocket watch picon), the story unfolded. And then in spite of my preconceived notions, the ending completely surprised me—another reason I love Chicoine’s books."
I just love how you tied in the coffee theme throughout your review. Thank you so much Carol!

Monday, July 8, 2013

A New Title and a New Concept

So, I've been working on my next two novels—actually, they are two novels that I have had on my hard drive for the past five years. Girl Running and its sequel Protégé have undergone so many changes in the course of revising and editing. Girl Running's first draft came in at over 150k words and is now a trim 111k. It had dropped as low as 92k, but then I had an idea. Yes, ideas can be very dangerous, but this time it feels oh, so right!

I have always been intrigued with the story-within-a-story concept. I pulled it off with Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright, and even Spilled Coffee has that feel, and both those novels are written in first person as a thirty-something man. Don't ask me why, I just like that POV. At any rate, I've had some qualms about putting Girl Running out there. Yes, it does push some societal boundaries—the teacher-student relationship scenario, but that's really not what the story is about. It's not the theme, anyway. It's about stepping up and following through and finding our own way when no one else is willing to "step up" in our behalf.

So, Girl Running now has a new format—a story within a story—and a new name. The Step-Up Man. Here is what you'll read on the back cover:
In the wake of a student suicide, twelfth-grade English teacher James Grayson is second-guessing his “don't bring work home” policy, while his reluctance to commit to his girlfriend—to marry and have children—has his personal life hanging in the balance. He can't even commit to finishing one of his own novels. 
When sullen and withdrawn student Layla hands in a compelling assignment that is actually part of a larger body of work, James becomes obsessed, not only with convincing her to let him read it, but with the notion of stepping up to do the right thing by his girl-friend, his students and his writing, and how they are all intertwined. 
Layla acquiesces. James has no idea what he’s in for as she weaves a tale about 17-year-old orphaned "Leila" who needs to live inconspicuously until she graduates. Three teachers make that impossible—the handsome track coach, her math teacher from hell, and a jealous gym instructor. Compromising situations, accusations of misconduct, and judicial hearings put her autonomy and even her dignity at risk unless she learns to trust an unlikely ally. 
James guesses at which parts of Layla's novel are true and what is wishful thinking. If the "step-up man" in Layla's story turns out to be fictitious, can a cast of characters still change the way James views his own life?
Yes, it's a little long, but then, so is the story. Yeah, it's going to be a thick one. Now I need to finish editing and decide if I'm going with a smaller font (10 pt) and thus smaller page count, or make it a whopping 400+ pages. I'm also toying with the idea of two different fonts—Times New Roman for James Grayson's narration and then switching to Courier (or another typewriter font) for Layla's manuscript. What will my readers tolerate when it comes to that sort of formatting creativity?

Anyway, I hope to get these polished and published sometime this autumn, or perhaps even sooner.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Spilled Coffee Launched!


I was going to wait and post this until after all the formats are available (specifically ePub), but since word is already out (yes, I 'spilled' the beans* on Facebook), I might as well officially launch Spilled Coffee, my latest work.

I love this story. It’s a little ‘darker’ than Uncharted, in as much as it deals with more adult issues, although they are tempered through the eyes of a nearly fourteen-year-old boy, Benjamin, back in 1969—a more innocent, dare I say naïve time for someone not old enough to comprehend all the complexities of the social revolution taking place around him. Like Uncharted, I wrote Spilled Coffee in the male, first person point of view. Here’s the description from the back cover:

Benjamin Hughes is on a mission. He has just bought back the New Hampshire lake cottage his family lost eighteen summers ago, in 1969, just before he turned fourteen—just before his life blew apart.

Still reeling from a broken engagement, Ben has committed himself to relive that momentous summer for the next twenty-four hours.

Every summer as a boy, Ben has gawked at the pretty redhead Amelia, granddaughter to the richest man on the lake, Doc Burns—owner of a Cessna floatplane and the Whispering Narrows estate. During the summer of ’69, Ben not only sneaks around with Amelia, but he learns how to fly with Doc, and meets an eclectic cast of characters that will change him forever. The best summer of Ben’s life turns out to be the worst as the Burns’ family dysfunction collides with his own family’s skeletons.

Here’s where you can purchase a copy, in either trade paperback, or for your Kindle. It will soon be available for your iPad through Smashwords, but remember, there’s a Kindle app for that! If anyone is interested in a Review Copy, in either eBook, PDF, or paperback version, please e-mail me via:  bridget at jbchicoine dot com. If you like it well enough to leave a review, that would be groovy. You can also find it on Goodreads.

*yes, that would be coffee beans!