Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tale of the Taconic Mountains by Mike Romeling: Interview and Excerpt


Who is your favorite author?

So many to chose from—but perhaps I’ll give the nod to Daphne Du Maurier—gorgeous style and no two book alike. I love a great sense of “place” in the books I read and she hits the mark on that as well. Dickens and Tolkien are also among my favorites.  On the non-fiction front, I have always loved Thoreau and the mountain/travel writing of H.W. Tilman.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was entering my teen years, I found a James Bond book (Dr. No) that someone had left in the house.  I read it and subsequently read most of the others in the series.  I was soon quite sure I wanted to be a spy too and travel to exotic locales where gorgeous women would be ready to frolic at a moment’s notice :>)


Do you play any sports?

I am a tennis addict and also love to ski—both downhill and cross-country.

         How do you react to a bad review of your book?

Fortunately, so far, the reviews for “Tale of the Taconic Mountains” have ranged from quite good to (one) luke-warm. But I believe that when a reader enters into the author's world, it becomes a collaboration where the reader and/or reviewer should have as much free rein to react to the experience as the writer had in creating it. And everyone's a little different in their tastes and preferences.  I remember when Tolkien was asked for his reaction to some of the mixed reviews that were written when "The Lord of the Rings" was first published. He remarked how some aspects or sections of the book that were censured by some critics were the very same that were particularly praised by others. He concluded by saying this: "The author, of course, finds many faults both large and small, but fortunately being under no obligation to either rewrite or review the book, he will let them pass." 

What books are you reading now?

I have just finished “The Night Circus” and “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.”  Loved them both.  I have just started re-reading a biography of the author, George Sand, that I recently found in my highly disorganized pile of old books scattered about the house.

When’s the last time you played that musical instrument?

Since I have been a singer-songwriter most of my adult life, I am playing my guitar (and a bit of harmonica and keyboard) all the time. Of late years I have mostly stayed on the writing and recording side of things. I think at this point I would need both a roadie and a masseuse to survive on the club scene any more:>)  I  do however do a weekly live show over the internet into the virtual world of Second Life. 

      When a patron at a local library returned “Tale of the Taconic Mountains,” she had inserted a note in the book that simply said, “Wonderful, absolutely wonderful.”  I hope she is right.

I am a freelance writer and also a singer-songwriter from New York State. Both my music and my newly released novel, "Tale of the Taconic Mountains" are available on Amazon.
Everyone had an agenda and it just seemed like coincidence—and of little consequence—that they happened to end up in the small town of Cedar Falls nestled at the base of Bakers Mountain, deep in the ancient Taconic Mountain range. Completely involved, even obsessed, with their own pursuits, it was hardly surprising the visitors would be unaware of older agendas both within the dying town and up in the forests and ridges of the mountain looming above.

There was the discontented novelist fleeing his job and his family, hoping to regain his mojo with a young girlfriend and a new book; a mother in search of her long-estranged daughter, but finding first an unlikely romance with the proprietor who loved his failing bowling establishment like a child—at least when he wasn't making plans to burn it down for the insurance; a soap opera queen who thought she was stopping by for a simple PR gig for the PETA folks when the town was plagued by thousands of bats in search of a new home. Instead found herself revisiting Gretchen Foley, the frightened disturbed child she had been before emerging as the famous Amber Steele.There were the two Native American friends who came to climb the mountain in search of the fabled quartz Spirit Stones of their Mohican ancestors, the young man who wanted to retrace the steps of his grandfather who once lived along the river that flowed through town. But instead he would come to grief and need to be carried down the mountain by the mysterious and seemingly ageless Boudine sisters who had led secluded lives high on the mountain as long as anyone could remember. Few knew where these strange women had their cabin, but the dying Randle Marsh did, and it was said that he visited the sisters often; was he trying to live on endlessly as dark rumors suggested the sisters did? The rustic Wayne Funt knew where they lived too, but he would leave them strictly alone until he and his dog Duke played a major role in the mayhem that broke out during the raging Christmas snowstorm that buried the town and the mountain.

This collision of clashing agendas was presided over by a sheriff who did the best he could to navigate a safe landing for as many as he could who shared the wild ride on this memorable, often frightening year. And if the result could often be laced with humor and absurdity, it was always tempered—sometimes tragically—with what has always been true: sometimes, deep in the heart of the New England mountains, there are things going on, things both lighter than air and darker than starless night.


Trish Lang stuck out her tongue and made a gagging noise. When she had finally gotten the turkey thawed enough to open up the legs, she was appalled to find body parts—icky organs actually —inside. Why would anyone put those disgusting things inside where the stuffing was supposed to go? She couldn’t even identify them for sure except for the liver which now hung wet and gelatinous, wobbling on the edge of the spoon she was using to remove it without actually touching it. Continuing the ghastly process, she decided the next vile part she scooped out might possibly be the heart. Good God, why would they include that? As she scooped out the items, she was taking each one directly across the kitchen to the garbage pail so she would not have to handle it again. Unfortunately, the liver had slithered off the spoon half way across the kitchen and made a sickening splat when it landed on the floor. Crouching down, Trish had attempted to scoop it back onto the spoon but only succeeded in pushing it further along the floor where it was leaving a shiny trail of goopy slime. She made more noises of disgust and hoped Nelson would have a good appetite for this Thanksgiving business, because she herself might not be able to eat for a week. Well, she consoled herself, she was attempting to prepare her first ever Thanksgiving meal mostly for Nelson’s sake anyway. Certainly not for herself who, like most young people, saw Thanksgiving dinner as something that magically appeared on the table once a year, at which point they would be called in from another room, a room with a television that was a safe distance away from the hot smelly kitchen. Nelson himself was actually even at a safer distance away, no doubt happily ensconced a mile up the bumpy road at Randle Marsh’s cabin. Nelson had lately been walking down there each morning, hoping that some exercise and a pleasant chat with Randle would help refresh his mind and body to better attack his languishing novel. But when she asked him once if it was helping, he just made a face at her.
     Down in town, turkeys were being stuffed, basted, and cooked everywhere as Cedar Falls was having a relatively peaceful Thanksgiving, at least compared to their batty Halloween. Nevertheless, Halloween night had actually been quite festive. Everyone had been hyped up over the Amber Steele show and spirits were running high. Beyond that, the weather forecast called for a sharp cold snap to move in and the bats should soon become dormant. Candy flowed freely to all the costumed children of the night and the beer flowed just as freely among the tents up at Bathaven. Many of the adults had also dressed up and even Trish and Nelson, infrequent visitors to the town, had made up some makeshift masks and joined in the festivities. A week after that, the first light snow arrived and the strategies used to drive the bats out of occupied buildings were meeting with success. The only reminder might be the occasional strange rustling in the attic. Everyone wondered, of course, what the following Spring would bring; whether they would again be battling the bats along with the perennial floods, but they would just have to cross that bridge when they came to it. In regards to the flooding, it was often expressed, with varying amounts of profanity, how it was too bad the bats had not  continued on down to Bennetsville and pooped all over those people and their lousy dam. But overall, it was a Halloween to remember, and later that evening when Trish and Nelson came back from town, they had sat together, still wearing their masks, on the flat boulder along the river that ran past their cottage. Here, on the outskirts of town, the bats had never been the plague that they were for the town folks. Still, hundreds could be seen in the evening sky, and Trish wrapped her arm a little tighter around Nelson’s shoulders  as they watched the winged silhouettes gliding across the yellow gibbous moon. And shortly after that ghostly evening, the fifteen minutes of fame allotted to Cedar Falls had expired.
     Trish was now peeling potatoes, having successfully gotten the bird crammed into the small oven. It was a small turkey that should be done by early afternoon. The box of frozen cranberries thawed slowly on top of the stove. When the white frost melted off the box, she might even be able to read the directions and figure out what she was supposed to do with the berries inside. She had never liked cranberries herself but supposed one had to flow with tradition. She also hoped mashing potatoes would prove to be as simple as it sounded.
     Trish really wanted to make this a good day for Nelson. A week ago he had said he planned on driving down to see his wife and son. But that same evening she had overheard the telephone conversation when he learned they would not be in town for the entire Thanksgiving weekend; would instead be visiting relatives somewhere. Meanwhile his writing was disappointing him. On top of that, things had not been quite the same between the two of them ever since Trish had failed to return on the day of her encounter with Ariel Boudine and the bats, high on Bakers Mountain.
     Nelson had called Sheriff Bosley after midnight to report her missing and the Sheriff had spent the rest of the night organizing a search party for first light. When Trish had finally arrived home shortly after dawn, the sheriff was with Nelson at the cottage and so at least the search could be quickly called off with a minimum of hassle.
     Trish had been hugely apologetic, explaining that she had become lost on the mountain, had run into Ariel Boudine, and been invited to stay at the sisters’ cabin rather than attempting to descend the mountain in the growing darkness.
     The sheriff, despite having lost a night’s sleep, had been supportive of this. “First rule when you’re lost, Miss, is to stay put if you can do that safely; just makes matters worse to start wandering around aimlessly in the dark.”
     Trish had said nothing of the bats, or the caves, and she seemed disinclined to share any details of her stay in the cabin when Nelson probed a bit after the sheriff had left.                        Perhaps to both change the subject and to cheer up her disgruntled lover, she invited Nelson into the darkroom with her as she developed the pictures she had petulantly taken of Ariel on the shores of the beaver pond. Nelson watched in the eerie red light as she excitedly enlarged the first photograph and dipped it into the chemical tray. In a few moments, bare tree branches slowly appeared, but nothing else.
     “What the hell,” Trish exclaimed with a mixture of irritation and bewilderment. “Wait, wait, I’ve got a second one. She scared me so much when she showed up that I must have somehow missed her with this first shot I guess.”
     She went through the process again with the next picture but had the exact same result: lots of branches with a little sky showing through. “Jesus, where the hell is she?” Trish asked, wide eyes staring at Nelson as though he might magically know.
Nelson shrugged. He had noticed the light sky showing through at the top of the pictures. “I thought you said you got lost in the dark.”


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Rachelle21 said...

I think this may be a book, I would like. It has someone from a soap opera and Native Americans, which both are interesting topics for me.

Anne Consolacion said...

I would love to read this!