#75 Preparing book three for launch

Well Runs Dry_full-wrap 600 x 435

Preparing my third novel for launch has involved making last minute changes to the manuscript, submitting the novel for book promotion sites, creating ads for Amazon, Facebook and Bookbub. I have created new banners for this website, Twitter and Facebook and loaded new versions of my previous two novels to all the online retailers.

To let my followers know the book was on its way I emailed an extract to my mailing list and I’m sharing this extract with you today.

The book will be launched on Sunday, August 12th at a special launch price of $2.99 (or equivalent worldwide).

January 28

The rain stopped, and I picked through the rubble to see whether I could salvage anything from the ruins of the house. I could still get water from the river, but I could not be sure what bacteria lurked within, so I needed a pot to boil up some water before I could drink. I had taken a lighter so could start a fire but I had to find something in which to boil the water. In the rush of leaving the house yesterday, I hadn’t thought to take any pots, and they had stolen the entire contents of the kitchen before they set fire to it. In the end, the only thing I could find that would hold water and withstand fire was the enamel bath, which, if I set it at an angle would hold some water. I had no issues getting it downstairs as it had fallen through the floor during the fire, but I had to drag it all the way to the stream to wash it, which was no small task regardless of my age, and then actually washing it was not easy without much in the way of equipment. The trucks they brought must have been large as they had taken just about everything including the Pelton wheel and the batteries. They even took the broken fridge and freezer. Perhaps they could fix them. The problem, having washed the enamel bath as best I could, was how to stand it at an angle with a fire beneath one end. The answer came in the form of rocks which I gathered from around the property to construct a base on which I could stand the bath at an angle with a gap underneath large enough for a fire. Do you remember the border I have for one of the vegetable beds, made from the bottoms of plastic two-litre drink bottles? I washed out a couple of these and used them to fill the bath. I used the kindling that I’d stuffed in my coat pocket and found some dry wood in the wood pile which remained only partially damaged. This way I was able to boil water in the bath and make some mint tea by picking fresh leaves from the garden.

I have to admit I am feeling a lot less pragmatic than yesterday and a lot more pessimistic about maintaining my life here.

January 29

It rained all day today, and I spent all day in the shed with Molly thinking about what I need to do to try to rebuild my life. It feels like this time I have lost everything. It felt like that when you left, but it feels even more so now. I have no pans to cook anything. I have no tools to tend my garden. I have to boil water in an old bath. I sleep in a shed.

I don’t know how long I can go on surviving like this. I sometimes wonder whether I should have confronted them when they came and let them kill me.

Surprisingly they left the compost toilet untouched. They didn’t even take the porcelain bowl.

I have a bar of soap, but it is too cold to strip off in the river. I saved this diary. I don’t know why. Perhaps I still harbour the hope that one day you will come back and read it. Even if I am not here.

January 30

Something amazing happened today. In fact, two amazing things happened. I was walking through the woods and found a couple of stray chickens. I managed to catch them and took them to the chicken coop. On the way, a chicken under each arm I caught sight of a goat. A doe. I hurried to the coop, locked up the chickens and was about to go back for the doe when I realised I had no fence to keep her in. The chicken coop was composed of three smaller coops with space for layers, broilers and cocks. If I kept the goat at one end and the chickens at the other, with an empty compartment in between, what could go wrong?

I got some dead branches and swept out the chicken coop as best I could and then went to get the doe. It was not an easy task, but I managed to gain its confidence and got it back down the hill and, with only a little struggle, into the coop.

I’m now saving all the goats meat for Molly. I’m on a vegetarian, raw food diet, eating whatever I can harvest. Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips and carrots, mainly.

Maybe these small miracles are the start of something new. Maybe I can find a way.

January 31

Raining again today. Another day in the shed and another miracle happened. Miracle in my world, probably not in anyone else’s. Both chickens had laid an egg this morning. During a break in the showers, I managed to boil up some water in the bath and the eggs with it. I stuck some Jerusalem artichoke, parsnips and carrots in too, not forgetting to take some boiling water out before the veg went in so I could make a mint tea. It’s funny how smells evoke images. I haven’t washed in a while, and I smell of smoke, amongst other things. I caught a whiff of myself, and it took me back to my childhood at scout camp.

I don’t think that I’m going to be able to stay here. I’ve lost the seeds that were in my seed bank, so I only have what is already in the ground, two chickens and a goat. All the careful planning I had put into surviving the collapse theydestroyed in one stroke. There’s always the possibility that there might be seeds in the sheds in some of the gardens in the village. They seemed to burn the houses and take the tools, but they don’t seem to burn sheds, and I very much doubt that they are bothered about growing their food. If it’s not raining tomorrow, I’ll go on another scouting expedition, and this time I’ll be more thorough.

By this time I should have started a lot of seeds in pots and the garden. I still have what’s in the polytunnel and greenhouse, but that’s not going to see me right through the year.

Out of everything I’ve lost this week I think I miss my books and my music the most. The days seem to drag now, and I wonder whether it is worth it to exist at all cost. What do I have to live for now anyway? I do have a sense of responsibility to Molly and her unborn kittens and maybe to the chickens and the goat. I don’t have the means to butcher them now anyway.

Two eggs are just not enough to lift my spirits anymore, and I am feeling more and more despondent about my prospects of survival.

February 1

Another wet day but at least it is warming up a bit now. The nights have been cold without the stove. I’ve been wearing the same clothes for quite a while now. During a lull in the showers, I tried to have a quick wash by the river. I shivered as I undressed and got dressed again while I was still wet, not having any towels anymore.

I had boiled eggs and milk. They seem like a luxury now. Perhaps too much of a luxury given that the limited ability of the garden to feed now has to be shared between the chickens, the goat and me. Molly enjoyed having some more milk. I’m now rationing the remaining dried goat’s meat, assuming that it is going to need to last beyond her pregnancy until she can catch meat again. Never having had a pregnant cat, I’ve no idea how long all of this will take. On nice days, she’s been going out, but she constantly begs me for food, and I doubt I have enough to last.

I’ve postponed my trip to the village until tomorrow if tomorrow is dry. Not having a stove to dry myself, I don’t want to risk pneumonia.

I saw trout in the river when I was washing. I’d forgotten about the trout. I never ate fish, and so trout was not on my radar. Now, with the supply of Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips and carrots getting very low, the thought of trout has become appealing. The only problem is that I have no rods or tackle and wouldn’t know how to use them if I did. If I had just a roll of fishing line and a hook, I might be able to work out a way of catching one other than leaping into the river and trying to grab one with my bare hands. An alternative might be to fashion a hook from some rose thorns and a line from my shoelace. When it stops raining, I might try.

February 2

More rain today but at least it is getting milder, so the nights are less unpleasant. Molly is becoming very annoying with her demands for food. At this rate, the goat meat will not last for very long.

I dreamt about you again last night. I wonder where you are, how you are getting on and whether he is looking after you properly.

I feel lonelier than I used to and think often about how different everything could have been.

February 3

It stopped raining today, so as soon as I had managed to boil a couple of eggs and milk the goat, I headed down into the village which looked pretty unchanged except that some of the bodies which lay in the road had been run over by trucks and were now lumps of pulp.

As fast as I could, I went from garden to garden visiting all of the sheds I could. They had broken into most of them already. Mainly I was looking for old biscuit tins, the standard receptacle for seeds. It surprised me how much I found. At first, I kept the tins, but so many of the sheds contained tins of seeds that, before long I was able to pick and choose which tins I kept and filled these with the seeds from the inferior tins. It wasn’t just tins and packets of seeds I added to my loot. I found an enamel mug and an old tin plate and some of the sheds contained receptacles of useful things like comfrey fertiliser, which I could come back for later. I found a patch of comfrey as well and took some to plant on my land. I didn’t find any pots, pans or utensils, despite checking the kitchens of some houses. They were so thorough when they came, their job was so professional that I imagine they must do this looting on an almost daily basis.

I was very pleased with what I had managed to collect. I need to sort through it all but, assuming that most of the seeds are still viable, I should have enough to keep my garden going though I have to admit I am no longer enthused at the prospect.

February 4

Rain again today. Heavy for most of the day, so I spent most of the day in the shed, sorting the seeds into a planting plan and re-planning the garden in a notebook I found in one of the sheds yesterday.

It was a good hoard of seeds, I only wish that they had left some tools behind. I am going to have to fashion tools out of sticks and twigs. I feel like a bit of a cave dweller. Albeit living in a prefabricated shed. I planned my garden along the lines of the garden I had planned before, with the same crop rotation. Only this time I adjusted the sizes of the beds in relation to my new stock of seeds. My biggest loss has been my seed potatoes. The potatoes I used to complain about all the time. I had stored my seed potatoes in the house, so they had gone up in smoke. Sometimes I have violent daydreams about what I might do if I got my hands on the bastards that did this to my property.

February 5

I got to work implementing my new plan today. First, I planted onions, leeks, lettuce, tomatoes and garlic in the greenhouse along with some marigold seeds, which I will plant out along with the tomatoes when they are ready. Some spinach and radishes in the polytunnel. Some of the lettuces cabbages and onions that I’d planted in seed trays look like they might be ready to plant out soon. I planted some spinach, turnip, and peas out into the garden and covered the pea bed with a sheet of clear plastic, which had survived the raid. I started pots of all the seeds that I had potted in the house, lost in the fire. I put them all in the greenhouse. I also planted lettuce in one of the beds and added compost to the beds according to my new planting scheme.

Tomorrow I plan to plant some peppers and aubergine in pots in the greenhouse. If it doesn’t rain, I’ll plant some radishes, spinach, carrots, peas, beets, onions, sweet corn, cucumbers and cabbages directly into the beds.

I miss the potatoes now. I’m sure I’m not getting enough carbohydrates, and I can’t seem to get rid of this permanent sensation of hunger that I have.

Molly disappeared for the day and came back looking very satisfied with herself. I’m sure she must have caught a mouse to supplement the goat’s meat with which she’s probably getting fed up.

I’m struggling to sleep now. The days and nights seem to go on forever. I keep wondering whether this price of survival is worth paying. I feel I need to look after Molly until she has her kittens. However, after that, I wonder whether there is any point struggling on like this.

February 6

Another rainy day, stuck in the shed, apart from a bit of planting in the greenhouse. I saw another drone today. It came very close to the shed, and this time I didn’t hide. I stood in the doorway of the shed and showed it the middle finger. I’ve decided that I will not run away and hide this time. I am going to stay and fight them. If they kill me, then it will be a blessing to end my suffering.

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About M J Dees

M J Dees lives and works in Sao Paulo, Brazil with his wife, daughter and two cats. He has written three novels, Living with Saci, The Astonishing Anniversaries of James and David plus another which will be published later in the year. He is currently writing the fourth. You can sign up for more information on his book launches at http://eepurl.com/cTnAD5
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