When my husband got a job offer in Russia, I quit my job and we were off. I'd been a public school teacher, a technical writer, and had poems and essay published, but whether from lack of time (between a job and two small children) or lack of energy (between a job and two small children), or lack of opportunity (travel in the days before lap tops), the star in the sky – a novel – eluded me. In Russia, a new life opened before me: learning a new language and culture, a myriad of activities via the American Women’s Organization, a love of vodka.
By the time we'd lived in Moscow for a year and a half, Steve and I had long established the custom of sipping on an after-dinner vodka. One evening we were so engaged, chatting about this and that, when my husband pronounced, “I had an idea for a thriller.”
“What is it?” I asked, amazed. Steve is a scientist and his interest in creative writing was last demonstrated, well, never in the 35 years I'd known him.
“This guy goes to the craft market and buys a lacquer box. Part of the painting on the box is the key to a nuclear weapons smuggling operation.”
Hold the horses! “That’s a great idea! What happens next? How does the box lead to the smugglers?”
“Oh, I don't know; that idea’s the only part I thought up. You should write it.”
So I did.
It wasn't that easy, of course, but Russian winter afternoons are as long and dark and cold as they are described in Russian novels. That makes plenty of time for writing. By the time we returned to the States six months later, I had the better portion of a completed manuscript.
The “guy” morphed into a young woman (Claire) living in Moscow with her scientist husband (Jack). If this sounds familiar, I can only describe Jack and Claire as Steve and I but younger, prettier, and faster. Claire innocently buys the lacquer box and subsequently gets herself and Jack into more trouble than any two people can handle. I gave them help in the form of Claire’s Shamanic power animal, a spirit jaguar. The fun for me became marrying the two worlds: the most up-to-date technology of tactical nuclear weapons with the most ancient of spiritual belief, Shamanism. (Shamanism is fitting in a Russian story as some of the earliest evidence of Shamanism has been found in the Altai Mountains of Siberia). The enigmatic title of the book reflects its intertwining concepts: a fast paced thriller about tactical nuclear weapons smuggling with a paranormal overlay in an exotic setting that jumps from Moscow to a pine forest in Siberia: a little something for everyone. Unsurprisingly, my book is a lot like me: unique, adventurous, and maybe little weird. I prefer to think of it as cutting edge. And just as we are always taught, my plot reflected things about which I was familiar.
I finished the book after our return to the States and then realized that WRITING it was only half the dream. It sat reproaching me from my desktop until I went to Kindle’s KDP (digital publishing) site. I hired a talented young woman to convert Jaguar to HTML format and create the cover from a photo I took from our Moscow apartment. I followed Kindle’s instructions and uploaded the novel. There were a few glitches, but the people at Kindle are extremely responsive and helpful. So there it is, my OWN novel, actually selling with actual people buying it.
People wonder how it feels to have my book published. It feels great, not only because Jaguar is out there roaming in the real world (and Claire and Jack are out there, too), but because I did something I've wanted to do my entire life. There’s no amount of sales, no number of fan letters that top that. Well, okay, the fan letters are really nice to get, but there’s nothing that tops achieving your dream.
Ann Simon is the Scribblers' New Voice. is available at the Amazon Kindle store for electronic readers, Windows 7 phone, i-pads and other i-products. The Kindle app is currently free.
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