Richard Sutton, writer, guitar picker, sailor, one-time adman, ski mechanic, tree planter and Indian Trader; spent his young life all over the West Coast states, eventually settling in New York and New Mexico. He began writing novels in 2005. Since then, seven books and many short stories have passed beneath his fingers on the keyboard with five currently available in both print and all eBook formats from a variety of booksellers. He’s said that he writes to “get the odd voices out of my head and onto the page”. Working in a variety of genres, from historical fiction and fantasy to scifi and mystery, the range of his writing implies he’s got many voices competing for his attention up there.
The excerpt below is from his current project-in-process: a Young Adult novel called On Parson’s Creek, set in the Pacific Northwest, beginning the Summer of 1967. It’s the story of what happened when a “new kid” moves out to the woods and finds some things beneath the cedars that nobody really wants to talk about. So, of course, he’s dragged into discovering who or what, exactly, is making its home near his. It’s a departure for Richard to write in first person, but quite a bit of the novel is memoir. The rest of it comes from his usual “what-ifs” sprung from ideas he had then and now. It’s in beta reads and editing and he expects he’ll have it ready next year or possibly this fall if the betas don’t toss out too many more suggestions.
Excerpt from On Parson’s Creek
A new kid at a new school discovers things in the woods that his new neighbors wish he hadn’t…
(c)2014, All Rights Reserved by the Author
I was sixteen the first time we crossed the culvert over Parsons Creek. It was just my luck. My tenth grade school year had just ended when Dad told me that we were moving to a cabin out in the cedars. The news didn’t bring a smile. After moving almost every year since I’d been in school, being “the new kid” was getting old. We’d actually lived in one place during all three years of Junior High and my sophomore year in High School, so I’d started to feel comfortable. Me: Jack Taylor — settled. Like I finally belonged somewhere. Somewhere I didn’t have to try and fit in. I should have known it was much too comfortable a feeling to last for long. So, here we were: uprooted again, according to some unexplained schedule. As we slowed to look at the creek, I’d already started trying to figure out a new angle.
We were staying in the same state this time. Not too far from my school friends. We’d also been out that stretch of highway many times on McKenzie River fishing trips chasing the wily Oregon Steelhead Trout. At least the scenery would be familiar. I wondered how it would feel going from a school with seven-hundred in my graduating class to one that graduated only ninety-six the year before. I’d done my research on the new digs, which helped lower my expectations as my first day at a new school approached.
I was used to feeling all nervous whenever we were about to finish a move, anyway. Running down my mental notes of “how-to-be” and “who-to-be” possibilities always occupied my brain until it was exhausted. I wasn’t a typical, well-adjusted kid. Each time I approached a new school in a new town, I tried to get it right. I tried to toss those behaviors that had been troublesome before and find new ways to fit in. It felt like hitting the ground running. Sometimes this led me to all kinds of interesting information and gossip, which I would consider carefully for anything of value before finally falling asleep each night during the school week. I had developed a “new kid checklist” in my head. It was very important to determine who the major assholes were as soon as I could, and what especially annoyed them. That meant planning how each day’s between-class activity would take place. I felt it all hanging over me like a gigantic pile of garbage I had to pick my way through. Since I was supposedly used to it, I also felt a little guilty that it still bothered me after all this time. It’s not easy watching your life unfold from an arm’s length away.
As usual, that morning we were late to our own arrival. We’d overshot the driveway, so Dad backed the car over the culvert and uphill to where the driveway opened at an angle, to the brush along the roadside. He pulled in and our first view of the house was suddenly blocked by three deer, running straight at us. One of them lost its footing, skidded in the gravel and had to jump straight onto the hood of the truck. Dad stomped the brakes with a shout and we all cringed back, thinking it was going to come through the windshield. Instead, it jumped off and joined the others, shooting off into the brush on the other side.
“What in the name of…” Mom nudged him, so he tuned it down, adding, “Sheesh! Never saw that during daylight hours. Ev’rybody Okay?”
I replied, “They must have been spooked by something. Scary. Maybe we should keep our eyes open pulling up. Who knows what’s up there. Maybe a bear?”
No bear. Still, despite the jarring welcome, the fragrant tang of the Red Cedar grove where the A-Frame cabin nestled felt like a good sign as I climbed out of the back seat of Dad’s panel truck. The movers, parked between trees up past the house, were already unloading boxes and lining them up on the long, decked porch. As I climbed out of the back seat, there was a sudden, shuddering crash as the roll-down back door of the moving van hit the deck. I figured that must have been what had spooked the deer.
The house itself, sat in almost full shade as Mom and I carried the dishes and other breakables from the car. Dad stood there, rubbing his chin with one hand while his finger traced the deep crease where the deer’s hoof had struck the hood. Out through the trees, I could see where the hilltop fell away and clear, sunny light filled in between the crowded trunks. Douglas firs and a few dark hemlocks mixed in from the creek side and wrapped completely around the small cedar grove at our doorstep. It looked like an island in the forest.
Sarah says: Thank you so much, Richard, for your guest storytelling contribution for this month. I thought your excerpt was really atmospheric and I could almost smell those Red Cedars. Also, I really felt for the poor boy (you) continually being uprooted and having to start over again at a new school, year after year. I’m sure that many Young Adult readers going through the same thing today will identify with this. Wishing you the best of luck with this novel.
You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at https://sarahpotterwrites.com/guest-storytellers-2/