After a three year break in publishing, we're bringing a new Lake Ontario book out. Twinkle Toes and the Riddle of the Lake is an experiment, a blend of fact and fiction. In it a crabby cat, a lousy navigator and an old wooden boat set out across Lake Ontario in a quest for knowledge. Fog and other events derail Skipper Sue's original plans, and the crew of the good ship “Ariel” ends up at Main Duck Island in company with an old schooner named “Sara B”. Here Twink gets an insight into the fate of the lake and the possible future of all who live beside it,too.
It started out as a children's book. But after I discovered most of my writing is pitched at about 7th grade level, I began to think maybe parents and grandparent would read it too. I remain hopeful of getting Twink and her fellow travelers into the classroom, but if I don't, I believe “Riddle” will stand on its own. During its creation I also discovered that for me, fiction is far more difficult to write than nonfiction. For one thing it helps to be creative. Still I think a venture outside the usual literary rut to try something different is worth while. And this is.
I have included a lengthy supplemental appendix for "grownups" with both environmental and historical notes. One of my more interesting discoveries in researching the book was the possible link between Charity Shoal, a likely impact crater, and a sudden profound climate shift called the Younger Dryas cooling event, and the great Pleistocene extinctions of the mammoth and dozens of other North American ice age animal species. I left a lot out, or the book would be 500 pages long, but it's at least an attempt to update “Ariel's World”, published in 1995, sold out sometime ago, and still being requested.
When I sat down to write, I realized I could not simply re-issue that title. Too much had changed both with Lake Ontario and with the writer. Ariel and I no longer sail together, I don't cruise solo anymore, and the grand trio of cats who sailed with me are all passed on. Some of the lake's key ecological players are either extinct or headed that way. I was shocked to learn the once super abundant eel which supported one of the last viable commercial fisheries on the lake as recently as 1995 (described in the original Ariel's World), is among them. So I blended realities and warped time to create a tale with past and contemporary boats and imaginary and real characters. I have no idea how it will be received but I am fairly sure that cat people will enjoy it!
It's 230 pages and is illustrated by a marvelous artist from Fair Haven. Pat Cooper knows cats and nature and the lake. She grew up by the lake, she fished hunted and trapped by it as a girl, and her eye is keen and true. I am absolutely thrilled to be able to include her work.
Here's her version of Twink about to go aboard the boat to begin her cruise
Twink's book will be in print around April 15. Check the on line store at (link) or e mail me to order a copy. Cost of 15.95 plus 2 $ for shipping includes sales tax. I'll put another short excerpt below to follow up on the Log On Line entry from Jan 19 when Twink encountered the schooner cat and heard a tale..
The next morning after breakfast, Skipper Sue went up to the marina's public showers leaving the cats locked in the cabin. Twink finished her own morning wash up, settled back on the bunk, and said, “I don't know how we're ever going to get to Main Duck. And I'm sick of this place anyway. I wish we could go home. How many stories have we got Piggy?”
“Only about thirty pages. We need lots more if we're going to make a book.” Twink hissed a very rude cat cuss word adding, “I never thought it would take this long.”
“Maybe I could help get some,” offered Piggy.
“You? You won't even get off the boat. You're hopeless.”
Piggy's back fur went up and her already fluffy tail became considerably bushier.”I can get a story as good as any of yours!”
“Spare me. If we wait for your stories we'll be here until the next ice age.” “Idiot!” Piggy spat.
“Hair ball,” snarled Twink and she wound up and and let fly and whacked Piggy on the head.
Dusty spoke up, “Stop it you two. Fighting isn't going to get us home any faster.” But Piggy's blood was hot now. With a last furious curse flung over her shoulder at Twink, she sprang off the bunk and disappeared under the cockpit. Moments later Dusty and Twink heard her clawing up the vent hose and grunting as she squeezed through the deck opening. Her feet pattered overhead and then silence fell.
“Now you've done it, Miss Crabby. She'll go ashore and get lost,” said Dusty.
Twink snarled, “That fat fur ball. She won't even get off the dock let alone go ashore. She'll be back in five minutes.”
But she wasn't. When Skipper Sue came aboard and opened the cabin door only two cats sat on the bunk looking back at her.
“Where's Piggy?” Skipper Sue asked. She looked around the cabin, and peered under the bunk and inside the tiny closet where she kept her rain gear. She looked up forward on her bookshelf and used her flashlight to see into the anchor locker, and she searched under the cockpit back by the engine. There she saw the torn vent hose with sunlight showing through the exposed deck opening. “Uh oh. She got out. She must be on shore somewhere.”
Skipper Sue looked very worried as she jumped off Ariel onto the dock leaving the door open. She jogged away towards shore calling “Here Piggy. Kitty kitty kitty.”
Dusty glared at Twink. “Nice work.”
Twink glared right back. “All right, I'll go find the stupid hair ball.” Twink leaped up the stairs into the cockpit, bounded onto the dock and galloped down its length to the shore. Here she jumped down onto the slimy rocks along the water's edge and crouched under the dock.
“Come out you stupid lump!” she yelled into the gloom. All she heard was a nasty shrill giggle from a wharf rat somewhere nearby. She shouted again. Silence. Twink climbed over several slippery rocks and tip toed along the mucky edge of the water in search of some sign of the departed Piggy. No footprints, no signs, not even a single long brown hair showed itself. Two hours later she crept aboard the boat where Dusty waited alone. “Skipper Sue's still ashore looking for her. We've got to find her, Twink. She's the only one who can work the computer.”
“She can't be far away,” said Twink. “Soon as I get a bite of breakfast, I'll look some more.”
“It's nearly noon. Skipper Sue's going to miss her lecture with the famous author.” Twink was gobbling down her food and said something rude with her mouth full so Dusty didn't quite catch it.
Dusty got up with a sigh. “I guess I'd better help hunt, too.” She slipped up the stairs and went quietly off down the dock. Her mother's departure left Twink feeling guilty as well as annoyed with Piggy. She bolted a last bit of food and then followed without even taking time to clean her whiskers.
Twink found Dusty under the dock. They agreed to split up with Dusty searching the waterfront up by the ferry dock, while Twink would go look down by the yacht club. “Be careful Twink. This is a big city. You don't know what kind of cat eaters are out there. There's a rat half as big as Piggy under the next dock,” Dusty cautioned.
“Don't worry about me. I'll be fine,” said Twink.
She hiked off along the very edge of the harbor basin, picking her way around the dead fish, piles of seaweed, and bits of plastic trash carefully keeping her clean white feet out of the oily water and the slime. By staying right next to the water, Twink was able to avoid using the street with its countless cars and people all in a tearing roaring cat trampling rush to go somewhere. Down by the Marine Museum was a little area of tall grass and weeds at the water's edge. That looked like a possible hiding spot, so Twink headed for it, working cautiously along the narrow strip of shore between a rusty steel seawall and the harbor.
It was indeed a hideout, but not for a frightened Miss Piggy. Soft footed and slow, Twink crept towards the weedy clump. She stopped a few feet away and called out in a low voice, “Piggy? Are you there?”
A loud hiss exploded forth. Twink froze as a long white neck soared up out of the grass high into the sky. The neck belonged to the biggest bird Twink had ever seen. The thing was huge, darn near as big as Skipper Sue. It opened its beak and hissed again. Twink arched her back and stood on tip toe. She fluffed up her fur making herself as scary looking as possible as she slowly backed away on stiff legs. Better get out of here right now she thought. Then a flicker of movement off to the side caught her eye. Another one. Headed right for her...
Will Twink survive? Order the book to find out!
Great books about a Great Lake http://chimneybluff.com