In 2003, my nonfiction book, Click for Joy: Questions and Answers from Clicker Trainers and Their Dogs, was published by Sunshine Books (now KPCT). Later that year, it won the Dog Writers of America’s Maxwell Award for “Best Training/Behavior Book of 2003.” Although I haven’t pulled out the reports from my publisher, I estimate it has sold over 15,000 copies, and it’s still selling well. Not bad for a book written for a type of training most people hadn’t heard of ten years ago!
After writing Click for Joy, I experimented with screenplays. Screenwriting is the road not taken for me; when I was in high school I dreamed of writing for television. I know now I would never relocate to Los Angeles, so that door is closed. But, unwilling to turn my back on my first love completely, I wrote two screenplays. The first won a couple of small contests and was optioned but not produced. The second was a semi-finalist for a Nicholl Fellowship.
I loved the story in the second screenplay, so I decided to expand and novelize it. The project, titled Doubting River, is my first novel and my current work-in-progress. I had hoped to have the manuscript on submission by now, but work and life got crazy, and I had to shelve the manuscript for several months.
Doubting River (expected word count 95K) is a mainstream novel about an estranged family who comes together to help a boy fulfill his late father’s dream of turning an injured retriever into a champion:
Charm Freeman ran away from home when he was sixteen. Now, eighteen years later, he returns to his old life after his sister’s husband’s unexpected death. Initially planning to fulfill his brotherly obligation then disappear for another twenty years, Charm reluctantly agrees to stay and help with his sister’s injured son, Lucas, but they clash over how to best help the ten year old deal with the death of his father.
Before the accident, Lucas and his father were training River, a neighbor’s retriever, for a field trial. The boy desperately wants to fulfill his father’s dream, but his mother believes anything to do with the dog is a setup for heartache. The past belongs in the past; the way forward is forward. Against his sister’s wishes, Charm and Lucas join together to turn the injured retriever into a champion, a journey that forces the family to face the issues that tore them apart in hopes of finding salvation in the past they tried to forget.
Doubting River won the Mainstream category of The Sandy in 2010. Click here to read the first chapter. To read blog entries about Doubting River, click “Projects” under Categories in the right-hand column.