Jan's Blog
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May 2024
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So, you want to be a writer?
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 12:51 pm

As more than a few clients have asked, “Jan, how is that novel of yours doing?” - I thought I’d share where things stand today.

Actually, I already did that, in a guest blog for a respected writer, Sandi Kahn Shelton. With the NCAA basketball tournament in full gear at the time, that became the theme for my blog.

Quick update: I completed “Telling Tales: On Merlin’s Island” some months ago, have spent sporadic time editing, and was encouraged to enter my first work of fiction (seven published books already, but all nonfiction) in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest back in January. To my surprise, I have continued to make each month’s cut… winnowing the pool of possible candidates from 10,000 down to… 100 as of today ;)

If you’re curious, you can visit Amazon for a free download of the excerpt … http://tinyurl.com/c4n5cwn

Here’s the synopsis (pitch) that got me through the first gate back in January:

Telling Tales: On Merlin’s island (Jan LaFountain Melnik)

As she rounded the corner behind the woodpile still buried beneath last night’s snowfall, she could hear Jeff speaking sternly to someone. There was an urgency to his tone and she realized he was on the phone. Her pace slowed and she found herself almost catatonic as she heard, “I told you not to call after 6, ever. I’ll see you tonight.” The perfect world she believed she’d been living in was suddenly a snow globe turned upside down.

* * * * *

At 31, Nicole Ferris Kemper finds her happily-ever-after dissolving when she is betrayed by her husband. She decides to start over by leaving the Boston suburbs and moving with her standard poodle, Molly, to her family’s cottage on Merlin’s Island. An elementary school teacher, Nicole lands a job at one of Maine’s few island schools. There she connects with folks from her childhood summers as well as someone from her grandfather’s past when she discovers letters from the final year of World War II in the attic of what was originally her grandparents’ cottage. Hidden among the many missives her grandfather had written to his mother during the war were letters of a different sort: Love letters from a woman who was not her grandmother.

Unable to resist her penchant for bad boys, Nicole tries to purge the taste of her soured marriage through a series of flings in what would become a carnal journey. She is surprised, though, to find herself attracted to a caring, considerate man—someone unlike the guys to which she was typically drawn. At the same time, she grapples with the death of her overly controlling mother and their unresolved issues all while trying to adjust to living alone and settling into a new job. Sifting through her grandfather’s letters, Nicole becomes mesmerized by a one-sided account of what clearly had been a passionate love. She works to uncover the mystery and in doing so recognizes that lust and love are not mutually exclusive.

Then there’s the book’s description (sort of the why-did-you-decide-to-write-this-novel that got me through another contest hurdle):

Description: A fictional island in the middle of Sebago Lake, Maine, Merlin’s Island is patterned loosely on Frye Island, but with a year-round population and a small K-12 school (similar to several island schools off Maine’s coast).

The story line follows a school year (September–June) and takes place in 2009–2010. A secondary story line alternates between the present day and the final year of World War II, 1945 (90% of the novel is in the present and just 10% is in 1945).

An underlying catalyst for this novel were letters written by my father, a WWII vet, who is now 88 years old. These letters had been saved by his mother/my grandmother and served as a rich source of authentic material for the flashback chapters. Those chapters expand considerably beyond the letters with action/narrative both in the European theatre of WWII as well as ‘back home’ in a rural Vermont village.

With my dad’s permission, I use approximately half a dozen of these colorful letters in the novel (my dad was—and is—a talented and interesting storyteller, writer, and orator), altering only the names of people. While I have nearly 75 letters available, this novel is not a collection of letters; rather, select letters are shared to advance a fictional plot that began 60 years earlier. They provide a historically accurate and vivid backdrop to the stage on which a purely fictional story line develops.

I began work on this novel more than four years ago, with the idea that Nicole’s journey would speak primarily to today’s female audience. However, the elements of erotica in the novel bring a dimension to her character that is relevant and timely given the broad popularity of novels such as the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

And if you’re interested in how the whole contest has unfolded (and what’s at stake), these are the details!


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