Excellence in All Genres of Fiction

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Release by Toni V. Sweeney

On November 15, one of my “lost” novels will find its way to publication.

I call these my lost novels because they were exactly that…for all intents and purposes lost, deleted, thrown away, and gone for good.

Almost twenty years ago, in what I can only describe as a fit of madness in which I decided I was about to die, I threw away the only copies of several of my manuscripts and deleted the originals from my computer.  I admit it was somewhat…rash…to put it mildly. Crazy, to be harsh about it.  By the time I came to my senses and realized I was not only not dying but was actually looking forward to being alive, it was too late; not only were the hardcopies gone, but the computer on which they had been written had given up its electronic ghost. 

Believe me, I found myself wishing more than once that I could go back and undo what I’d done but as we all know, that’s impossible. They were gone.  If I went any further with them, I’d have to rewrite those first, precious pages, and as everyone knows, you can rewrite something but you can never recapture exactly the way you originally said it.

Ten years passed, and then…one of those minor miraculous moments happened.  Someone I’d once known, and lost track of, sent me an e-mail.  He was deleting files from his computer and had come upon a folder with my name on it.  In it were copies of some early novels I’d written and sent him to read.  Would I like to have to have them back?

What do you think?

Most of the manuscripts I received were some I had copies of and I’d gone on to polish and edit.  They had actually been published, but tucked in among them were a partial chapter and two very small fragments…of something called Blood Bay.

I never intended to write what I consider a thriller, in fact, but the idea pushed itself into my mind…with the question, How would I have done that story?  The story in question was Cape Fear.  I’d seen the 1962 version, interested in it, not only because parts were filmed in Savannah, but because of the harrowing episodes in which the villain chases the lawyer’s wife.  It gave me chills and I wondered how I would’ve reacted if I’d been in her place.  Then, in 1991, the story was re-filmed, again partly in Savannah, and unlike some remakes, it was just as frightening, perhaps even more so because this time, the teenaged daughter was also one of those threatened.  I kept replaying in my mind the scene where her father asks her about the man she’s seeing and the girl simpers and refuses to answer him, not realizing her new “friend” is the convicted rapist her lawyer father put away fourteen years before and he’s now back for revenge, with her as his target…I was already re-writing the story, looking at it not from the lawyer’s point of view, but from the victim’s.  In my version, he goes after the original victim, still very much alive, but this time, she’s prepared to fight back.

Even a decade later, with absolutely no synopsis and no further idea of the story except that it would involve an island off the coast of Georgia, a vengeful rapist and his victim and the man she loved, I found the story remarkably easy to write; it was the research giving me problems, for the real-life setting had changed quite a bit since my original inception.  I had to find out what color Georgia State Patrol cars were; how far my imaginary island was from the cities of Savannah and Brunswick; if there were any rest areas now in Georgia other than the single one in North Georgia which had existed when I left the state in 1975, what state highway ran through my mythical town of Stella.  What is the actual title of the Savannah Police Department?  What is the main newspaper in that city?  A dozen other things I had to know to give my story the authentic ring it needed. 

Blood Bay is my version of Cape Fear. Set in the Golden Isles off the coast of Georgia, a young woman, agoraphobic after an assault ten years before, is brought out of her shell by a young man determined to show her that love is neither demented nor violent.  Their budding affair is interrupted by the escape from prison of the man who assaulted her and left her for dead, and he’s heading to the island, to finish what he started ten years before. That’s the premise of Blood Bay, told from the viewpoint of Connell Ambers, the victim, Tucker MacKenzie, her would-be lover, and Benjamin Reed, the escaped rapist.  It’s a thriller, like nothing I’d ever written before, and very graphic, and after I finished, I wondered if it was too different for me to submit anywhere.

Finally, after much consideration, I submitted both books to Class Act Books;  Blood Bay will be released November 15.

What’s the moral of this story?  No matter if you’re certain you aren’t going to live another day, don’t ever throw away any manuscript without keeping at least one copy, tucked away somewhere.  The sun may come up tomorrow and you’ll still be here and wanting that story!
And if you aren’t?  Then your heirs will have yet another of your novels to have posthumously published.

click cover to go to Class Act Books 

Connell Ambers was fifteen when she was raped and left for dead by her brother’s best friend.  Ben Reed was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and confined to a psychiatric hospital, but Connell received a worst sentence.  She’s a recluse, taking refuge on Isla Bahia de Sangre—Blood Bay Island-- in Georgia’s Golden Isles.
Tucker McKenzie was simply supposed to stop by on his way to Florida and check on a frat brother’s sister.  Agreeable to doing this favor for Jesse Ambers, Tuck makes two visits to the island before meeting Connell face-to-face but when he does, he finds a contradictory young woman toward whom he feels a startling attraction.  The man who was just passing through stays on, and in spite of Connell’s fears of intimacy, they begin a tentative and somewhat one-sided love affair, as Tuck encourages her into taking the first steps toward again leading a normal life.  
Then Ben Reed escapes, leaving behind a trail of bodies as he makes his way to Bahia de Sangre.  His purpose:  to finish what he started nine years before.  It’ll be a reunion he doesn’t expect.  For this time, Connell’s waiting for him… 
…with a gun.

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