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Welcome, R. Cathey Daniels!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired over the past twelve months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you R. Cathey Daniels, whose novel Live Caught is due out next spring. 

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our June Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies), anthology proposals, and translations from German. 

 

 

 

The Author

R. Cathey Daniels grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina and graduated from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, with a master’s degree in education. She taught high school mathematics in East Tennessee prior to becoming an award-winning newspaper reporter for The Oak Ridger, covering education as well as science coming out of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She is a 2016 graduate of the Stanford University Novel Writing Program, won first prize in the 2018 Retreat West First Chapter Competition, and was a semi-finalist in the 2020 University of New Orleans Press Novel Contest. When she isn’t writing, she can be found at Crossfit, in her garden, hiking, or shooting hoops with her grandkids.

 

 

On Writing Live Caught

The novel-writing prompt was plucked from an elderly craft guide on my bookshelf, and it went something like this: Don’t think! As quickly as possible, write three opening sentences. Choose the one you like best, then just keep writing!

I couldn’t have pinpointed a more uncreative, uninspiring writing prompt.

But the “Don’t think!” part appealed to me. Why? Because it gave me latitude to fail. Not my fault!  I wasn’t even thinking!

If I’ve figured out nothing else, I’ve figured out this: Writer’s need a safe place to fail.

So I followed the prompt, rapid-fire typing out my three sentences (enjoying every minute!).

Here’s the sentence I chose: Beyond the light of the farm, a coyote skirts the fence line, heads north under the moon’s halo, then circles back.

I rode that sentence for 250+ pages.

Then—no shocker to most writers—I dropped it from the novel.

However, that sentence had done its job. Lenny, my protagonist (failing awkwardly but hopefully toward success), skirts many metaphorical fence lines, only to circle back, time and time again, to figure out what he originally missed.

Just like the coyote, just like Lenny, that’s what I’m trying too.

 


Excerpt

 

Three brothers, just goddamn kids. Goddamn boys up on a barn’s roof. One gets shoved off the edge, loses his arm. What did the other two lose? Or gain?

And for God’s sake why would the one-armed brother, supposedly now a man, drive a little girl, Romey, directly back into the land of his brothers? Rumbling along in his pickup truck, tracking back into land he’d sworn he’d never set foot on again. Never in the history of ever. The very act was to compromise the idea of Romey, the one, the only pure thing in his life.

“Where we going, Lens?”

Romey’s frizzy head startles out of her 11-year-old dreams then droops back against the truck’s cold, fogged window. Outside, the gloomy November afternoon and its gloomy decaying landscape passes them way too rapidly in the opposite direction.

He’s plucked her out of danger on the city streets only to toss her right back into danger on the farm. Catch and release. Hadn’t she been through enough?

Romey riding away from her demons, directly into his.

Why?

His mother and his brother out riding horses. Goddamn grownups. His mother doesn’t make it back. So, a memorial service, five days from now. Was it an accident? Was anything an accident when his brother, Jude, is a witness?

Jude had been on the barn roof when Lenny lost his arm. Was Jude saddled up beside his mother when she lost her life? From what he’s heard, Jude swears not. Jude swears that by then they’d separated on the trail.

Lenny could hope Jude is a changed man. Lenny could hope Jude is telling the truth. Yep, he could. But he’s so sick of false hopes. Where’s it ever gotten him?

Also, there’s his mom-dream. Looping back at him. His mom-dream, resurrected from childhood, welling right back up to sting his adult eyes. Looping, looping. His mother rouses herself from her stupor, or from whatever it was that seemed to veil her from seeing her kids clearly, her husband clearly. Whatever. She awakens, finally. She rises, long curls shimmering. Her head clear, finally. Her voice clear, finally. Strong. On a mission. Calling. Calling for a reckoning. A God-trembling, devil-quaking reckoning.

That’s what reels him back to the farm. His childhood mom-dream. Reels him back into what 10 years ago he’d left for good. Had her death been an accident? Or had she called Jude out so late in the game. Hell, inside her own erratic, twisty thought garden, it would not have been too late, not for her, and certainly not for Lenny.

Had she finally, finally challenged her eldest son, Jude?  

Had she given terror his name?

What about those rope burns on my youngest child’s neck, Jude? Your little brother, Lenny? All those years ago? Rope burns on a nine-year-old? And, how exactly did an 11-year-old go flying off the barn roof? Who else was up on that barn roof, Jude? Explain. Explain that to me right now.

She could’ve gone on and on, salve soothing Lenny’s heart, she could’ve enumerated all of the “accidents” throughout their childhood years, “experiments” Jude called them back then.

And then what?

Once his mom’s accusations were out there floating in that open country air, how would Jude have reacted? What would Jude do? What did he do? That’s the question needling him now, the question he’s returning to answer. He’s heading home to finish his mom’s reckoning.

She calls, even though she’s gone.

Yep. When word came of the accident, he’d taken just enough time to pack Romey’s bag and nab her from the school bus line. He would’ve done that eventually, anyway. Yes, eventually he would have snatched Romey from her own nightmares. His mom’s unexplained death only escalated that timeline. Romey had been in need of a rescue for as long as he’d known her.

So he’s rescuing her.

Most folks would call it kidnapping.

But one goddamn kid up on a ledge. What you gonna do? Just leave her teetering?