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Northern Comfort

Listening to Frank

Frank is the name I give to the mechanical voice in the Read Aloud function of Word who recites whatever document is open. Currently, Frank is reading aloud my novel, Northern Comfort, which I plan to self-publish soon. His voice has zero emotion and some of his pronunciations are a bit weird — although I love how he says “pop” — but he’s been the most helpful fellow while I proof this novel.

I wrote Northern Comfort when I lived in the Western Mass. hilltown of Worthington way over 15 years ago, and despite the efforts of an agent and my persistence, I couldn’t find a publisher willing to take it on. Too bad. It’s a really good story. (Alas, it doesn’t fit for my publisher’s genres of choice.)

So, I’m going to do it myself. I have gone over this novel countless times. I even used a program that catches grammatical errors. But I’ve found the most effective way is to hear it being read by somebody else, and that’s where Frank helps out. I read the words on my computer screen as he says them.

Here you can hear Frank read the opening chapter, Worst of Winter:

It is a time-consuming process, but now that I am nearing the end, I will admit Frank has done a great job showing me typos and missing words. There have been instances when a word or phrase didn’t work when he said it, and I made the change.

Next, I will send the book onto my son-in-law, Chris, who will bring fresh eyes to the story. Then I will turn it over to Michelle to handle its design.

So what is Northern Comfort about? Here’s the synopsis:

Willi Miller and her young son are a charity case in a New England town that holds dear to the traditions of making maple syrup, playing old-time music, and keeping family secrets. Willi does her best by Cody, who was brain-damaged at birth, supporting him by cutting hair and doing dye jobs. Their home is a cabin left by the grandfather who took them in after Junior Miller abandoned them. Then, on a snowy day, Cody’s sled sends him into the path of a truck driven by Miles Potter. Willi and Miles have known each other since they were kids, but until the moment her son dies, they are separated by their families’ place in town.

Northern Comfort is my novel about the harsh realities of rural life: A single mother raising her disabled child alone because his father doesn’t accept any responsibility; a girl abused by her stepfather, who threatens to leave the family poor if she tells; and a man of means feeling helpless after he is suddenly thrust into a tragedy.

Cody’s death has a powerful effect on the three people involved. For Miles, he discovers he and Willi have more in common than the accident that brought them together. For Junior, he faces his failings as a father and tries to make amends that matter to his child’s mother.

And Willi, a slight woman with a powerful resolve, is able to confront her dark secret and find peace after her son’s death. For the first time in her life, she feels optimism.

Northern Comfort will be the next novel I publish. I will certainly let you know when that happens. But first, I have to get back to following along with Frank.

MY BOOKS: Looking for something to read in the meantime? Here’s the link to my books on Amazon: Joan Livingston books

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