12 September 2016

Father and Daughter Act

by David and Bridgid Dean

Part One: Father Knows Best

If I had to choose a few adjectives with which to describe my life, it might be these: fortunate…blessed…lucky…providential. It’s not that I haven’t had a few set-backs and trials along the way—I wouldn’t be human if that weren’t true, but I have a lot to be grateful for—I have Bridgid… my daughter.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for her siblings, too: older sister, Tanya, and younger brother, Julian. But, Bridgid and I, over the years, have forged a writing connection. I’ve shared a reading connection with all of them, but Bridgid evolved into a writer and that, as the Wizard says, “Is a horse of a different color.”

In order to properly train her for her chosen profession I’ve required that she read and edit nearly everything I’ve written over the past decade. This was not done, as some may suspect, because I am one of the cheapest SOB’s on the planet, but in order to provide depth to her appreciation of fine literature (mine) and round out her college education. The fact that her editorial eye virtually removed the element of chance in my story acceptance ratio is neither here nor there. I would have done her this fatherly kindness in any event. Plus, I did pay for that education. Now she’s gone and penned a novella.

Yes, for those of you who suspected this was going to be a shameless plug for mylatest non-selling novel, you were wrong. It’s a shameless plug for Bridgid’s book, The Girl In The Forest.

No, it’s not crime fiction like her old man pens, but it does contain intrigue, shady characters, and betrayal. Something we can all relate to. My daughter’s story is set in a world in which the border between reality and myth blurs and no one you meet is exactly whom they may appear to be. It’s fast-moving, readable, and features a very sympathetic heroine. As to how it came about, well, that’s a story I’ll leave for Bridgid to tell, as it’s as unique as the book she’s written. Oh, by the way, I finally returned the favor by helping to edit this, her first published work.

I also want to thank mighty Leigh Lundin for suggesting this post in the first place. Thanks, Leigh!

Part Two: When Life Serves You Lemons…

by Bridgid Dean

Bridgid Dean
Bridgid Dean
The idea behind The Girl in the Forest was born of a rather unfortunate event. In August of 2011, shortly after we were married, my husband and I had a tree fall on our house. Not a limb, and not a small tree, but a massive oak.

We were at a dinner party at my in-laws when it happened; when we drove around the corner and saw our little hundred year old house, half smushed, my Volvo buckled under a thousand pounds of oak, I could only laugh. A crazed, reality-is-standing-on-its-head kind of laugh.

My husband went inside and found the house full of gas. We waited in the back yard for the fire department to arrive, our cat Zelda looking from us, to the tree, to the house, as though asking, "Do you see this?"

After the fire department turned off the gas connection my husband drove us back to his parents' house. We spent the next ten weeks living in their guest room before we acknowledged that this process was going to take a really long time, and we'd better rent something. In the end it was almost a year before our house was fixed and we were able to return home.

Those first two months were incredibly stressful, but things began to look up when we found our rental, the little cottage in the woods. We'd never lived outside of town before- we loved it!

Our landlord had a grand old home on what felt like hundreds of acres, with three rental cottages on the property. Ours was a five hundred square foot cottage surrounded by trees. It had a green metal roof, wisteria climbing the porch railings, and was so small as to be almost one room. We slept in a loft that looked out over the great room and the huge wood stove. As night fell you could sit on the porch and watch the sun set over the Blue Ridge Mountains, linger while the stars came out, then hurry inside when the coyotes started to howl.

The combination of natural beauty, isolation- and even something about the self-contained quality of a house that small- had me, before long, thinking about fairy tales. In so many of them, there is something magical about the cottage in the woods. I suddenly felt I was experiencing a bit of this first hand. Inspired by the surroundings, (and with the peace and quiet to really think!) I began to write the first draft of “The Girl in the Forest.”

This novella is a modern retelling of the Hansel and Gretel story, set it in a town not unlike Charlottesville, VA, where I currently live. The protagonist, Jolie, is new to the town, having moved there after her mother's death. She feels alienated and lonely, friendless at a crappy job, with only a cat for company. The recurring nightmares keep her from sleeping well, and she eventually gets fired from her job. At a bookstore she meets Jamie, a strange man with a past who secures her a job at his friend, Greta's, bakery. As Jolie starts to learn the ropes at this new job, the questions stack up quickly: What are Jamie and Greta planning? Who is Greta running from? And what is the creature that Jolie sees in her dream each night? And, perhaps most puzzling, why is Jolie the only one who can see the cottage in the woods?

It was not until I'd finished writing the fourth draft and handed it to my dad that I realized I'd written something of a Fantasy/Mystery crossover. You might think, after editing so many of my dad's stories, that a fact like this would not sneak up on me. Yet somehow it did, in the same way, I hope, that the inevitable conclusion to my story will sneak up on the unsuspecting readers. Like a coyote, or a wolf, or some other hungry creature, waiting in the shadows of the forest.

Thank you to Leigh Lundin and the SleuthSayers audience for the opportunity to tell my story-it's been a privilege!


  1. Well done, Bridgid! It sounds intriguing.

    And David, to mix sayings, the literary apple of your eye didn’t fall far from the tree!

    Congratulations, both.

  2. Thanks, Leigh, from both of us. It may not show, but I'm very proud of Bridgid.

  3. Great to have you back. David, and welcome to Bridgid. I hope your novel will do very well and be one of many more.

  4. Leigh sort of said what I was going to say, the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree. Welcome back, David. And your novel sounds intriguing, Bridgid. Much luck and success with it! And luckily you and your husband weren't home when that tree fell, now that's magic.

  5. Congratulations, Bridgid! You've certainly had a stellar apprenticeship (David, just read your latest EQMM story over the weekend, btw). Best wishes with the new book--sounds fascinating! (...though the picture of car... wow. The sacrifices we make, planned or not, for our art....)

  6. Love crossovers. Good luck with the book, Brigid!

  7. Great post, and I'm looking forward to reading "The Girl in the Forest"!

  8. David, good to see you in print again (here and in EQMM), and nice to meet your daughter. Best wishes.

  9. Thank you all for your kind words! Art Taylor, would you believe the car still ran after that? We had to junk it anyway, but I thought Volvo should have used it in a commercial first.

  10. Wow! That is impressive! I've heard their safety features are at a high standard, but...... :-)

  11. My thanks to all, as well. R.T. it's always good to be seen in print! Art, I hope you liked my latest and thanks for reading it. Congrats on your newsletter debut! It's great. Paul, you're absolutely right about Bridgid and her husband being lucky. If you could've see that house...

  12. We were lucky in more ways than one! We'd been a bit starry eyed when we bought our fixer upper. Having a tree fall on it (and the insurance company pay for a contractor to work on it) was probably the best thing that ever happened to that house. Naturally, once it was all fixed up, we sold it and moved out to the country. Not quite a cottage in the woods, but pretty close:)

  13. David and Bridgid, I understand that special ties that form when both parent and child write. When I was growing up, my English professor father wrote novels on the side, and I wrote lots of stories; we loved sharing and discussing them. And now both of my daughters write--one writes songs, and the other writes novels. We're constantly passing drafts around and offering each other suggestions. We've always been close, but this has brought us closer. (I should say that my husband writes, too, but his writing is more academic.) Bridgid, I think one of my daughters, especially, would love your novella--I'm going to send her the link for this post. Congratulations, and best of luck!

  14. Nice to see you again, David. And Bridgid, your book sounds awesome. Good luck with it!

  15. B.K. Stevens,
    Thanks for passing the link along to your daughter, I certainly hope she enjoys it!
    Three generations of writers...wow!

  16. Congratulations, David, on your recent achievements--it's always good to see you here--and special congrats to Bridgid!! Fantasy/mystery sounds great to me!

  17. Isn't it great, B.K.! It's often so difficult for parents and their children to connect, but both reading and writing provide such a wonderful bridge between generations. Like I said earlier--I've been blessed. Sounds like you have, too.

    Thanks, John, and right back at 'cha!


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