Guest blogger Sandy Wickersham talks about her new release, The Diamond Road
Thank you for having me on your blog today, Lia! The Diamond Road is an inspirational romantic suspense with an unexpected setting, occupation, and plot. I’ve been given some odd looks when I tell people where I got the inspiration for the book. Though women are a large part of the Ice Road Truckers TV show viewership, many women in my area aren’t fans or hadn’t even heard of it. The show is mesmerizingly addictive even after I learned that the danger was overblown the first season. There’s just something about men trying to out-drive each other in 50 below zero on ice that could crack under their truck at any moment that keeps people watching!
A year or two before the TV show premiered, I’d seen a special on the History channel about the pioneer of Yellowknife’s ice roads, John Denison, who started them in the 1950s, so my interest was piqued. The germ of the idea for the book didn’t happen until the show’s second season on the History Channel. I discussed it with my oldest son as we drove to a store one day. He said today’s young readers want lots of explosions and stuff. We collaborated on the main characters’ names based on one of his favorite TV shows, Jake and The Fatman. Connie Willams’s name came from Conrad Williams who was the Fatman, and Jake Baxter’s name came from the character Joe Penny played, Jake Styles.
My family thought I was weird as I recorded every episode of the second season of Ice Road Truckers and got all the first season when the History Channel repeated it, took copious notes, researched on the internet, and started the rough draft, making sure the female main character was a trucker. There’d been no women truckers the first year! Finally, I got to the point where I knew I needed some local flavor so I called people in Yellowknife and found a new friend in Faith Embleton of Embleton House Bed and Breakfast in Yellowknife. She set me straight on Yellowknife’s relationship with trucks, truckers, and the ice roads.
Between the calls to Canada, and the promotional items Faith and others sent me, I learned I had a massive re-plotting and rewriting to do, which led to the book’s final version. All the notes and took and episodes I recorded? Basically useless except for quick references to the gold and diamond mines names and distances from Yellowknife and setting my truckers’ personalities, from the bad guy to the good-hearted men who’d give their life for a fellow trucker.
I love the story and final version, but I learned one lesson other writers may need to hear; before you spend a lot of time drafting a book set in a country you’ve never visited, call local residents and get the facts so you don’t end up with a problem I just found in the book while looking for an excerpt, an error in distance between two buildings that are in the book constantly. It was one item I’d had wrong in early versions of the manuscript and when I was sick during the final edit, I missed correcting this important point in one paragraph. Now when Yellowknife residents read the book, they’ll think I didn’t do any research at all. I’d spent hundreds of hours researching but three days of illness at the wrong time blew it all.
I hope any beginning writers reading this will remember what I learned and remember to do better drafting and proofreading in the early stages because you never know what will happen a year or two down the road in the final editing.
Now for happier news, I’m holding my first contest for a free download of the book to a poster who best describes what your dream ice road trucker would be like. Since this an inspirational suspense, all answers must be G-rated.
Devoted to her family and God, American trucker Connie Williams decides to run the ice roads to earn money to pay her beloved father’s mounting bills as he fights kidney failure. Losing him will destroy her. Subconsciously, she feels inadequate because she never went to college like her siblings and still lives life like a teenager.
Canadian professor, rancher, and ice-road trucker Jake Baxter runs the ice roads for money to keep his ranch out of his greedy siblings’ hands. He clings to the ranch because it’s the only thing keeping his parents alive in his heart; their deaths are too fresh in his mind, too overwhelming. He blames God for his parents’ deaths and hates seeing any living creature die.
During Yellowknife, Canada’s ice roads, they will face two truckers fixated on murderous revenge. Connie and Jake and their friends have three short months to solve the mystery of who their attackers are and stop them, or die.
Jake faced Connie, a serious look in his eyes. “Did you know your dad turned me in for speeding my first year?”
“He didn’t tell us much about you. Here’s my load, 62,000 pounds of structural steel. How fast were you going?”
“About twenty-three miles an hour instead of fifteen. My first offense. I was in a downhill slide. Since I was so much over the speed limit, I was suspended off the ice for five days.”
She looked at him, puzzled. “If you were sliding, how was it your fault?”
“Officials figured out that I started down the hill faster than I should have and picked up speed as I slid. Pure rookie inexperience.”
She asked, “No one considered that?” as she checked the steel’s placement on the trailer.
“Not much. The result of speed, intentional or not, can be what happened to that speeder and his victim.”
“Do you resent my dad? You could have made over $8,000 those five days.”
He came to her and pinned her with his ice-gray gaze. She could see sincerity lurking there. “Not at all. He passed loads to other drivers to show me how to go down hills properly. He didn’t have to do that.”
“The land is flat in Alberta, so you couldn’t have had much experience on hills. Let’s find your load.”
Two trailers down, they found his load, eight black mining-truck tires.
“How much do they weigh?” Connie asked, staring dumbfounded at their sheer size.
Jake laughed. “They’re twenty-five tons of black rubber worth $144,000.”
“I’ve never seen such monstrosities!” she said, walking around the trailer with Jake, her eyes aglow. “They must be at least twelve feet across and five feet thick.”
“You should see the machines they belong on. They’re bigger than houses.” His eyes gleamed like a kid in a candy store as he described the trucks and worked to add straps to the chains already on the tires.
She was as enthusiastic as Jake, and said, “I want to see them when we get up there.”
“You probably will. Let’s go strap down your load.”
When they arrived at her load, she said, “This will be a tricky haul. Looks to me like these pieces will shift all over the trailer as I drive.”
Jake couldn’t understand why Mrs. Garreck gave a rookie such a treacherous load. Maybe she wanted Connie to learn on the job. “A correct assessment. You never know what can happen. All you can do is stop frequently to tighten the straps and keep your speed down.” He winked at her and smiled.
She winked back. “That goes without saying.”
Jake moved closer. He could almost feel her in his arms. “After we hook up Betsy, I’ll help tighten the straps. Then we’ll check them before we leave the Meadows.”
“Thank you. Let me make them as tight as I can first. I can’t rely on others all the time.”
With Betsy hooked to the trailer minutes later, Jake inserted one end of each strap in a binder and threw the other end over the load to Connie. After putting her strap’s end in the matching binder on the trailer’s other side, she pushed down with all her weight on the long steel pipe she put on the binder’s handle.
Jake soon joined her. He watched her work and love filled his heart. He gave a silent prayer, the first in years, Dear Lord, please help me make her parents my in-laws. I feel like I’ve known her all my life. Keep us safe on the ice until I can convince her that I love her. “Let’s see how you did.” He walked the trailer’s length and tried to tighten each strap. “Only the last two were loose. The rest were very tight. You’re very strong for your size.”
Buy link for The Diamond Road- http://www.soulmatepublishing.com/the-diamond-road/
A native of Muncie, Indiana, Sandy married while in the US Air Force and moved to North-central Ohio in 1973, where she’s worked as an LPN since 1980. Since the writing bug bit her in 1990, she’s earned an English degree, sold her first two books, had two granddaughters, taught college courses, substitute taught in local schools, and taught an adult-education creative writing class. In addition, her oldest son, who spent time on dialysis, had a kidney transplant. Sandy celebrates her 40th wedding anniversary next year. She decided to embark on earning an MFA in creative writing in 2011. She wonders where busy authors like her find time to write?
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