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Friday, I revealed my big, exciting self-publishing plans, and I said I might just tell you about the book today. So, I will.

Last October, the day after a best friend’s raucous wedding, I got a call that my aunt was sick and needed help. My aunt lived in Canada, which, from where I am, is about a five-to-six-hour drive. For the next two weeks, I drove back and forth and helped out as I could. In the end, the diagnosis was what we all thought: cancer. And she was gone by November 10th.

It’s sad and I’m sorry about that, but it’s the exposition.

While I was there, we had taken her into the hospital for tests, and during that trip, as I was waiting, I found this book in the hospital’s gift shop, used for four bucks. I had been in such a rush to get up to my aunt that I had neglected to bring anything to read, so I snagged it. For the next few weeks, I was reading this pretty great biography of Robert Louis Stevenson (which thankfully took my mind of some pretty heavy stuff).

RLS, taken in 1879, a year after his travels through the Cevennes.

RLS, taken in 1879, a year after his travels through the Cevennes.

As far as Stevenson goes, I’d read the usual suspects—The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Treasure Island, The Body Snatcher, etc. And I knew a little about his life, but not a ton. However, I had just the previous summer visited the Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh, and as bothered as I was that they made no mention of James Hogg (really?), they do have a wonderful Stevenson exhibit in the basement level. The more I read, the more fascinated I became of this person, whose writing I came to better appreciate through his real-life trials and adventures.

How can anyone not just love RLS? Answer: They can’t. Not molecularly possible. To not totally dig RLS would, I think, suggest some sort of inner deformity. But that’s just my opinion…

When I finished the biography, I didn’t end up diving into more of his fiction, like I thought I would. Instead—apparently now on a non-fiction kick—I started in on his travel essays and books. And I can only assume that whatever it was that finally burst from me like an alien thing had started germinating sometime during the biography phase. Because as I turned to his Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes, I hadn’t even gotten to the text proper and had only just finished the introduction before a fairly fully formed concept popped into my head. I started writing about five minutes later.

I pretty much knew how I was going to go about it, but then not two days later, I’d managed to plug up one major narrative gap with a little research and a little luck. In the end, this is what I came up with:

Antoine killing the Wolf of Chazes, 18th-century engraving.

Antoine killing the Wolf of Chazes, 18th-century engraving.

When RLS was 28 years old, heartbroken by certain complications with his great love, Fanny (fated someday to be his wife), he embarked upon a walking journey through the highlands of southern France to clear his head, but also to gather notes for a planned travel book. Just him and his donkey, Modestine. It just so happened that the region through which he traveled was the very same region famous, not only for its religious suppression and resistance, but also for its wolves. Specifically, La Bête du Gévaudan! Two wolf-like beasts had been hunted and killed during the 18th century after having slaughtered up to two hundred French folks.

So far, everything is true. Even La Bête. As a matter of fact, Stevenson mentions La Bête specifically in his journal and it winds up in the ultimate MS that originally went to press.

What does this have to do with a sickly Scotchman traveling through France with his ass in the 19th century? Well, you’d have to read it to find out, but I can tell you this: there are monsters, of varying sorts. Monster-monsters and human monsters. There are peasants and monks, socialites and priests. There is lovely scenery. And there is, of course, Stevenson and his irascible, loveable donkey, Modestine.

Though I’ve done a fair amount of historical horror fiction, I had never written a werewolf story. It only took about a month and a half to squeeze out a first draft. I am now working toward a final draft, which I expect to have finished before the end of April. The best part: I can see doing this again, because, although he died young, rather tragically, at age 44, his life did not end after France. Nor did his travels and adventures. And, frankly, I had a lot of fun writing this.

If you like Robert Louis Stevenson, and you like fictionalized accounts of the lives of famous folks, and most importantly, if you like mystery and werewolves (and perhaps a little of the red stuff)…then this book is for you. Yes, you. So, stay tuned! Watch me finish this guy up, prepare promo materials, and navigate the world of self-publishing! It’ll be fun, or horrifying. Or both. For you and for me. Good times.

P.S. My aunt would have liked this book, and despite her wacky tastes (or maybe because of), she knew what was what.

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