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Less than a month: the push to publication (and a sneak peek?)

It's March already, I can't believe how fast time flies. Especially when you're so focused on finishing a novel. Let's talk about it.

I got the edit back at the end of January, and as I've mentioned before, it was...a lot. In a good way. There was a numerous list of changes, all for the better. A bunch of new scenes to add or consider, a change in the entire flow of the book, and a reorganization that desperately needed doing. If you've read any of the other books, you might agree that something I struggle with is pacing. I've gotten better at it over the years, but I tend to have a lot of build up before the action, and it makes for a slow read.

That won't be the case with Bound To Parish. While it might not be laced with non-stop adrenaline pumping action - it's a suspense thriller, after all - it definitely does a better job of moving along and keeping you engaged.

It's keeping me engaged, for sure.

It's been about a month and a half, give or take, and I'm at 56,000 words and just breaking into the final act of the book. Most of the new scenes are written, and the ending doesn't have many changes, so it should go quickly. I think I have one or two new scenes left to write and tie into the story, and then it's basically transcription from one draft to the next.

Something that might be shocking to fellow writers (or maybe not, I don't know how you all do it) is that rewrites/revisions for me are fully rewritten. Something about copy/pasting old content into the new draft doesn't sit well, so even if I'm using the same words, I'll rewrite them. I feel like it gives me a chance to edit as a write, tighten things up. That's part of why this revision has taken as long as it has. Although in the grand scheme of things, it's not been that long at all. I just did the math and I've done 56,000 words in 43 days. That's not bad at all. Definitely over my general goal of 1,000 a day.

Speaking of goals, I'll put this out there publicly for the first time.

The tentative release date for Bound To Parish is April 16th.

I want to do a pre-order run for it this time as well, so it hopefully will be available for that sometime in early April. This all depends on how quickly I can get through the final act, get the full cover for the paperback/hardbacks, and do a quick final pass for any sneaky typos and things. I have faith that I can get there, I just need to buckle down.

As I've said numerous times over the course of this book, I'm SO EXCITED for this one, and I hope you all are feeling that excitement as well. I can't wait to get it out to everyone and hear what they think. I hope you all enjoy it, because I sure do.

And now for something fun. I thought about ways to keep the hype going and I've already pushed out a bunch of images and things, but beyond the blurb, you all don't really have any idea about the book. What's the best way to give you that idea? An excerpt.

So, without further ado, here's the Prologue for Bound To Parish.

Frank approached the rotting church in the flat-bottomed johnboat that served as his main method of transportation around the bayou. The floor of the boat was littered with a pile of week-old crawfish, five catfish heads with guts still attached, and two geese that had overstayed their welcome in his yard. As he cut the engine, he looked up in awe at the steeple. Somehow – as if by a miracle of God Himself – the steeple had remained straight and true, rising from the water and resting in the crook of a cypress tree that stood near it. The bell that had once resided at the peak had fallen long ago, the rope rotted from the humidity. Now it housed unused birds' nests and Spanish moss. This place was sacred, he knew that much.

His momma would have hated to see the church now, the water lapping against the waterlogged wood, the siding stripped bare and colored a dirty green with algae. Momma had brought him here when he was much younger than he was now, when the water had just started to claim the land.

"This used to be our church," she'd explained on the first trip while she glided her fingers across the bright white siding, "back when ya waste of a father was 'round. He was never good for anythin', never could prove himself a man, but he taught me 'bout dis church."

Now, years after Momma had passed, the church was his. Well, what was left of it at least. At some point in the past, the front of the building had buckled, collapsing in on itself after a drifting tree trunk slammed into it during one of the many floods.

Mockingbirds called from their perches in the surrounding boughs, frogs rumbled in the small overgrown clumps of cattails that jutted from the water, and cicadas chirped all around him as he drifted the final fifty feet toward the crumbling building. 

Then he spotted the first snout breach the water. The small ripples from its surfacing were the only movement noticeable in the murky water. The eyes locked onto him, and he met them with a smile. A moment later, another pair of eyes emerged. Then another. They knew why he was here.
He was happy to provide for them.

Grabbing the long oak pole he'd crafted, he pushed into the muck covered bottom of the canal and moved the boat toward the building. The snouts in the water shifted, three more appearing. The alligators watched him, floating lazily in a semi-circle. The water was going to be near his waist, but he'd come prepared with rubber overalls that stopped under his armpits, more than enough to keep him dry. As he approached the back corner of the church, he dropped the pole back across the bench seats and lifted the anchor, hooking it onto the empty window frame. It was the same window that he'd last seen momma.

The flash flood had come unexpectedly, and momma had been trapped inside. He'd watched her scramble at the long-broken stained-glass window, trying desperately to fit through the swiftly narrowing opening, fighting against the force of the water rushing past. He'd been smaller then and had managed to squeeze through the window as the water had started to rise. He'd thought about helping her, trying to pry the back door of the church open to give her another means of escape, but instead he'd just clung to the nearest branch of the cypress and watched as her head slipped underwater.

He'd remember her face for the rest of his life; eyes bulging, hair plastered across her forehead, bits of muck clinging to her cheeks and then washing away as the water slapped into her again and again. He hands clawing at the window frame, desperately trying to find purchase but never succeeding.

That's when it had passed to him.

With the boat secured, he shifted to the side and rolled into the water with a resounding splash. A cloud of sediment and scum appeared around him, turning the already brown water a khaki color, reminiscent of heavily creamed coffee. The ripples of his entrance spread around him, sending small waves over the snouts of the gators. From his count, there were seven now watching him from every direction. None of them made a move either toward or away from him. They waited patiently. Above him, the sun shone through the canopy of the cypress, painting the shadow of the cross that still sat at the pinnacle of the collapsed steeple on the water between him and the alligators.

As he grabbed the first goose carcass from the boat and tossed it toward the animals, he smiled. The shadow of the cross was fitting. When the flood levels had dropped, he'd come back to the church, thinking he'd find momma's body and give her a proper burial. Instead, he'd found an alligator nest. After prying open the back door, he'd been met with brush and vines and bits of driftwood piled inside the building, matted with mud and slop. An entire brood of gators swarmed the area, the babies snapping at dragonflies as they hovered over the water. 

Then he'd heard the voice. God's voice. 

It had told him what he was going to accomplish. What his destiny was. It had explained his life and goals to him in a way that he'd never thought before. That's how he knew it wasn't his own thoughts coming to him, they were separate thoughts that were being given to him. 

Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.

He returned to that sunken church later, when he'd finally felt ready, and taken some alligator pups. He'd raised them, cared for them, nurtured them through adolescence. His own adolescence had bloomed a few years before, and having matured through it, he felt ready to practice for a family. He'd treated them as if they were his children. When they'd matured to breeding age, he'd allowed them to multiply.

The alligator farm had lasted two years, giving him enough money to live on for a while, before the inbreeding became bad enough that he was forced to close it down. He'd brought the surviving animals back to the church and released them to the bayou again. 

That was the start of his conversation with God, the signs that directed his path. He ran into snags along the way, but he was staying the course. After all, it was God's plan for him. Feeding his first family always reminded him of that.

After the first goose was pulled under by one of the larger males, he turned and grabbed the second, tossing it to the other side of the semi-circle. A lively female snapped at it, missed, and instead slammed her jaws into a male that floated next to her. He reacted with a snap of his own, and soon they were both hissing at each other. Frank shook his head. Sibling rivalry was a factor in every brand of life. In an effort to distract them, he grabbed the catfish heads and tossed them in an arc toward the two. Their hissing stopped as the heads splashed around them, and they turned their attention back to the food.

As he began scooping the rotting crawfish from the bottom of the boat, a noise echoed from down the canal, the way he had come in. At first, he wasn't sure what it was, but as the low drone grew louder, he realized it was a boat motor. Someone else was out here. He had never seen anyone else at the church since he'd been given it, and he'd always assumed it was too far out for anyone to come looking around. It was the last week of April, and with the water up at the start of flood season, maybe someone had come to investigate a little-known area of the bayou. He furrowed his brow and dropped the armful of crawfish into the water.

"Let's see what this is, mes amours." Frank said to the snouts in the water.

He turned and grabbed the final armful of crawfish, tossing them into another wide arc around him. The gators snapped and churned in the water. Turning to his right, he watched the boat round the bend in the canal. The engine quieted to an idle and the driver of the vessel – a girl of about 18, if he were to guess – seemed awestruck at the sight of the church. Frank's church. She didn't even seem to notice him in the water until she was within fifty feet. As her boat drifted closer, the gators moved in unison, turning, facing her direction and sliding to the far side of Frank, much the same way children hide behind their parents when they're introduced to new people.

When she did finally notice him, her eyebrows shot up for a moment in surprise before she turned the engine completely off.

"Hi there," she called out, now within twenty-five feet of where Frank stood in the water.

Frank smiled. "Hi yourself."

The woman scanned the water, her eyes locking on the group of snouts that sat to Frank's back. While she was focused on them, Frank took a few steps forward across the silty bottom of the canal. He already knew what this was.

"How'd you find this place?" Frank asked as she drifted even closer. She was now within fifteen feet of him.

She looked up and around again, her eyes landing on what Frank assumed was the cross lodged between the branches, before turning back to him.

"I came looking for it."

Frank's smile widened. That settled it. She'd been brought to him, as the others had been, but she'd been brought to his church. The sacred place. She was the one.

Now within five feet of him, Frank took another step forward, planting his feet as solidly as he could in the squishy bottom, and reached out to grab the edge of her boat. She was unbalanced and unprepared, and when he wrenched the side of the boat down, she lost her balance and tumbled into the water next to him. At once, Frank's hands wrapped around her neck, holding her under water while simultaneously tightening. Her legs thrashed to the side, kicking the boat that rocked in the water in front of them. Frank's hands clamped like a vice, and within minutes the violent thrashing stopped. When it was over, he pulled her from under the water and felt for a pulse. It was weak, but there. 

As he pulled her limp body through the water toward his boat, he looked up at the cross in the tree, now lined with the afternoon sun behind it, and exhaled happily. To his right, the alligators watched him as he lifted the woman and dropped her into the bottom of his boat.

I hope it hooks you, pulls you in, and holds you under just long enough that you can't wait for the release.

Just as a reminder, Bound To Parish is tentatively scheduled for April 16th.

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