Welcome, Annette Drake.
I grew up in rural Missouri. Whenever I traveled along scenic Highway 24, I drove past a dilapidated two-story brick house just outside the small town of Dover. The house had white columns and big front windows, most of which were broken. Every year, the house fell more and more into disrepair. A tree grew out of the upstairs balcony. One day, I saw a pickup truck parked at the abandoned house. I felt bold, and I stopped. The man there told me the house had been in his family for years. Slave labor had built it. The bricks were fired in a kiln at the end of the driveway. To restore the structure would cost more than the family thought it was worth, so the house slowly fell in on itself.
Years later, I woke from a dream about a house just like this one. In my dream, a woman bought an abandoned antebellum house, restored it and opened it to the general public. Among her obstacles were the ghosts that lived there. This dream would become Celebration House.
At the time I had this dream, I was working as a registered nurse in the cath lab at a large hospital in Seattle, Washington. I cared for patients whose hearts were failing them. Often, there would be down-time between cases while we waited for the physician or prepared the procedural room, and I would ask patients about themselves. I wanted to hear their stories. I remember caring for a middle-aged man who told me he had suddenly lost all of his energy and stamina. On a good day, the best he could hope for was to get up, take a shower, and go back to bed. That was his day. He was an intelligent, articulate man who had been robbed of his life. Although I met him more than six years ago, I can still hear his voice.
All of these things came together to build Celebration House, but I didn’t finish writing the book until life threw me a curveball. I was fired from my position in the cardiac ICU at a hospital in my community. After working a 12-hour night shift, my manager called me into her office and told me I didn’t have the critical-care skills to care for such ill patients. She introduced me to the manager of the ICU step-down unit and told me to apply for a position there. Meanwhile, I didn’t need to return to work that night or any other.
Now, I had time to write but little money and perhaps less self-esteem. I needed a win. I revised Celebration House and submitted to about five publishers. On April 10th, Tirgearr Publishing offered me a contract. I said yes. Had I not been fired - had I not failed in the role of ICU nurse - Celebration House would still be sitting on a shelf in my closet. Unfinished and forgotten.
My main character, Carrie Hansen, knows something about failure. Her health fails. Her marriage fails. Her dream of being a mother fails. With these strikes against her, it would be easy to give up, but Carrie is determined that there will be more to her life than these disappointments. She is determined that more will define her than a diagnosis. She leaves Seattle and moves back to her childhood home of Lexington, Missouri. There she buys a derelict antebellum house and restores it. She offers it as a venue for weddings or class reunions, a house for celebrations.
My goal for this book is to entertain my readers. But I also hope that the men and women who read this book will find comfort in its pages and agree that out of failure comes unimaginable success. Success for me, for Carrie and perhaps for themselves.
Celebrate your life!Annette Drake
Annette Drake is an aspiring writer whose work is character-driven and celebrates the law of unintended consequences. Her debut novel, Celebration House, will be published this summer in e-book format for readers everywhere by Tirgearr Publishing.
Annette left high school after two years to obtain her GED and attend Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. There she earned a degree in journalism before working as a reporter and editor for newspapers in Missouri and Kansas. She earned a bachelor of science in nursing in 1994 from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, and worked as a registered nurse in hospitals throughout Missouri, Alaska and Washington for 18 years before returning her focus to writing
Annette recently completed her middle-grade novel, Bone Girl, and is hard at work revising her steamy contemporary romance, A Year with Geno.
She is the mother of four children. The oldest just graduated from the University of Washington; the youngest just graduated from kindergarten. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. She loves libraries, basset hounds and bakeries. She does not camp.
You can follow her writing at www.Annettedrake.com She welcomes correspondence at: Write2me@annettedrake.com.
Celebration House Blurb:
Carrie Hansen spent her life caring for cardiac patients. Little did she know she would become a patient herself. After recovering from her own heart surgery, she realizes she has a special gift: the ability to see and talk with the dead.
Now, with her new heart failing, she leaves the bustle of Seattle behind and returns to Lexington, Missouri, the small town where she spent her childhood. Here, she sets out to restore an abandoned antebellum mansion and open it as a venue for celebrations.
Carrie’s work is cut out for her. The 150-year-old Greek revival house is in need of serious repair. Her sister, Melanie, tries to bully Carrie into returning to Seattle, predicting “her little project” is doomed to fail. Finally, Carrie’s health gives out on her, requiring emergency surgery.
But she will not give up. Carrie’s unique gift allows her to build relationships with the mansion’s original occupants, especially Maj. Tom Stewart, the handsome Civil War soldier who died a hundred years before Carrie was born. He encourages and comforts her, though not in the physical way they both desire.
Then there’s the builder of the house, Col. Bartholomew Stratton. If there’s one thing this 19th century horse trader cannot abide, it’s the living trespassing on his estate. He delights in scaring these intruders away, even if they are paying guests.
Will Carrie finish restoring Celebration House or will it finish her? And how can she plan a future with a man who has only a past?
Driving up to the house, Carrie smiled. She loved the long driveway, the poplar trees on both sides. Behind the trees, the fences had fallen into disrepair. Just one more thing she’d have to fix. She parked her car alongside the house and stacked her groceries and camping gear on the front porch. Seeing a small barn behind the main building, she decided to explore and see if there was room to park her car inside.
Carrie opened the door and stepped inside. Sunlight streamed in through the dirty windows. Even though the barn had been vacant for years, she smelled hay and horses.
Looking to her left, she saw a man shaving. He was bare from the waist up, his chest finely proportioned, lean, and muscular. His arms were powerfully built, and his right hand remained steady as he scraped the white soap from his angular jaw. His dark blue uniform pants were tucked into black leather knee-high riding boots. He stood at least six foot tall, and though Carrie hadn’t made her living in the carnival, she guessed he was probably younger than her, likely in his mid 20s. He peered intently at a small mirror tacked up on one of the barn walls. She waited to speak until after he’d finished the last swipe with the ivory-handled straight blade and had dipped it into the basin of soapy water.
He turned towards her suddenly, his expression an equal mix of surprise and annoyance. He dropped the razor and grabbed his shirt off a nearby nail. He turned his back to Carrie and pulled it on.
“You can see me, ma’am?” he asked, buttoning his shirt before stuffing it into his pants.
“Yes. Do you see me?”
“Yes, but I believe I have the advantage. I am dead. You are not.”