Wednesday, April 21, 2021

NBtM Virtual Book Tour + Review + #Giveaway: Emergence by Ellie Beals @BealsEllie @GoddessFish



by Ellie Beals

GENRE: Thriller


It starts with Just Watching. But danger emerges when Just Watching ends.

When the "wild child" Xavier ¬ first encounters Cass Hardwood and her dogs in the woods of West Quebec, he is enthralled. Unknown to them, he Just Watches them in a lengthy ongoing surveillance, before ¬ finally staging a meeting. His motives are uncertain—even to him.

The intersection of the lives of Cass, a competitive dog handler; her dogs; her cousin Lori; and the complex and enigmatic Xavier leads them all into a spiral of danger. It starts when Just Watching ends—when Cass and her crew encounter tragedy in the bush. Xavier's involvement in the tragedy, unknown to Cass, sets off a chain of potentially lethal events that begin in the dark woods of Lac Rouge, when hiking, skiing, hunting, trapping, marijuana grow-ops, and pedophilia collide. It matures in the suburbs of both Ottawa and Baltimore, and culminates back in Lac Rouge, when Lori's spurned and abusive lover arrives uninvited at Cass' isolated cabin in the woods. In the night. In the cold. In the heavily falling snow. His arrival is observed by Xavier, whose motives are again uncertain, but whose propensity for action is not.

Join Xavier, Lori, Cass, and the realistic and compelling dogs that are essential players in this dark drama as their fates converge in a deadly loop of revenge, fear, guilt, and hope.



Our cabin doesn’t have a basement. It is raised on cinderblocks, and is only maybe a foot off the ground…That has allowed me to have an excellent place to hide things I don’t want Stefan to know about. There are boards underneath where the kitchen is, that I’ve had to explore when working with insulation. I now have my own special board, where I’ve hollowed out a space where I can hide stuff. My secret stuff incudes extra notebooks with the drawings of Cassie and the dogs, that would reveal how much time I spend observing them. But it also includes special stuff I’ve liberated, that I don’t want Stefan to know about.

Liberation is a game Stefan taught me when I was littlelittle. He told me that good equipment deserves to be well cared-for. When he was teaching me how to Just Watch, he’d find hunting stands where we could watch campers, fishermen, and hunters. And he would explain when they did things right, and when they didn’t. Not looking after your equipment is not right. So when people were careless, and particularly when they were careless and drunk, or even better – careless, drunk and asleep ( which happens pretty often!) he taught me how to do a super-quiet “leopard crawl”, which means crawling really low to the ground on your belly. And I would have to leopard crawl to liberate the good equipment. It was scary and very fun! I got us lots of good stuff. As far as Stefan knew, it all went into a big wooden chest in the book room.

But I have liberated some stuff on my own – things I never told Stefan about. And that stuff goes into my hiding space under the house. Most of it is small stuff. My favorite little liberation was a system for carrying water in a pack with a hose you can sip it through. But the main thing, the big thing in my hiding space, is the rifle I liberated a year ago, when Stefan was away.

I was Just Watching a little clearing off the main road where hunters often met up with each other. It was early in the season, and I was there before any one arrived. But as the sun rose, four SUVs showed up. They were all big, expensive looking vehicles. Six men got out, all dressed in in the kind of clothes that hunters from the city wear and that Stefan makes fun of. One of the men, who I think maybe was younger than the others, acted really excited. He reminded me of how bullshit dogs like Zeke try to act tough but end up wagging their tails really fast and low and licking the mouths of the no-bullshit dogs. He was the guy with the biggest SUV. While they were getting ready to go, he took two rifles out of the car and showed them to the other men. There was a lot of discussion. I’m pretty sure they were deciding which one he should use that day. They decided on the fancier, newer-looking one, with a powerful-looking scope. The guy put the other one back in the SUV…

It never occurred to me to liberate it. Breaking into a car was not something Stefan had taught me to do. But the guy never locked his vehicle! I couldn’t believe it!

My Review:

Emergence intertwines the lives of Cass, a dog trainer who loves and trusts dogs more than she does humans, Lori, Cass’s cousins, and then there is thirteen-year-old Xavier.

Cass has an isolated cabin in the woods that she likes to visit and go on hiking trails with her dogs and her friends. Cass likes getting away from everyone and everything. Cass is an outdoor person.

Thirteen-year-old Xavier lives alone in the woods with his dad. Xavier has always more or less taken care of himself. Xavier learns by watching his dad and how he does things and then when he is doing something he thinks about his dad and how he did something and applies it to his situation at the time.

Xavier likes to observe people like Jane Goodwin watching orangutans. He watches them without their knowledge. Xavier stalks and observes Cass and her friends while they are hiking. He likes watching Cass with her dogs.

I was very concerned with Xavier’s behavior of watching everyone. I kept wondering what was he up to. If he was up to anything or if it was all just a child’s curiosity. I couldn’t figure out why he was watching them like that but the more I read and the more of his story was revealed the more I was enlightened on his behavior.

When tragedy strikes I am more suspicious of Xavier’s behavior than ever. It had me wondering if Xavier was in any way involved with what happened. Who is this boy? Is he a good kid or a bad kid? Not to mention other events that happen in the woods. Did Xavier have anything to do with them? If not who did?

Emergence drew me in from the first page holding my attention all the way to the end. Emergence was vividly written in such a way that I felt as if I was right there hiking in the snow with Cass and her dogs. I could just see the snow, mountains, woods, and Cass’s cabin. I could see Cass working with the dogs and I could see the love she had for them.

I loved how good she was with the dogs. The way a person treats a dog tells me what kind of person they truly are and the way a dog reacts to a person lets me know what kind of person they are as well. If a dog likes a person then in most cases you can usually trust that person but not always.

If you like dogs then I believe you will fall in love with Emergence so pick up a copy and give it a try. 

Interview with Ellie Beals

What made you want to become a writer?

I became a writer as soon as I learned to write, and in the process discovered that I could think better when I wrote. So it was my drive towards both complexity and clarity, the qualities that have always epitomized the fun of thinking for me, that drove me to become a life-long writer. I’m not saying I was a wunderkind, producing great philosophical treatises as a seven-year old. The complexity and clarity achieved were age-appropriate, but fun nonetheless.

I was a social kid, and enjoyed sharing my fun with others. So even though I did considerable introspective writing in my journals, I also wrote plays, poems, and short stories that my friends and I had fun with. Recently, I reunited with a couple of grade-school friends with whom I’d lost touch when we dispersed for 7th grade. I was amazed that in our reminiscing, they both quoted passages from an epic play about Andrew Jackson that I’d written for a school project. Though I remembered none of it, they had retained quite a few of my punchier lines: “Unhand him, you scurvy knave!” was a favorite.

But I suspect this question is more geared towards what made me want to write a novel. And in this arena, the real driver was my desire to prove to myself and others, that I could produce the kind of writing that I most love: compelling fiction. It was this ego-driven challenge that drove me rather than what I wish I’d had: a need to write so visceral that I would have no choice but to honor it. The kind of “have to do it” drive that Stephen King has described so well and so often in his essays. I knew I had the technical skills required to be a novelist. But could I do it without the impetus of that need?

Though typically, I enjoy and seek out challenges, this one was so central to my sense of self, that I was afraid of confronting it. I put off the attempt throughout my professional career (I’ll write The Book when I retire) and then stalled another five years by becoming an almost full-time dog obedience coach when I retired from consulting. And then….the pandemic came and coaching went. There was no longer a stalling option.

What inspired you to write Emergence?

I was inspired to write Emergence based on an amalgam of laziness, passion, and vengeance.

  • Laziness: I did not want to spend lots of time doing research. So I needed to confine myself to a setting and characters I knew so well that no research would be required.

  • Passion: I doubted that I’d be able to complete this project unless I could harness my passion. Since I lacked the passionate need to write, I had to replace that with passions I do have. And key among those are my dogs, and the wilderness of West Quebec, where my husband and I have a log cabin in the woods, and where I’ve trekked, skied, snorkled, and kayaked with my dogs for over thirty years.

  • Vengeance: the first dramatic and traumatic event in Emergence, which catalyzes much of the rest of the book’s action, is based very closely on a real-life event. I have never forgiven the distant neighbor in West Quebec, responsible for that event. I wanted vengeance that was not legally available to me. So, as a timid, sniveling law-abiding sort, I had one of my fictional characters do what I would have liked to.

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Emergence?

Emergence features two protagonists: Cass Harwood, a middle-aged dog-trainer and wildnerness recreationist, and Xavier, a “wildchild” raised in seclusion in the West Quebec woods, by an anarchist father.

Cass is modeled on me, She is designed to show a realistically strong woman – one with flaws and minor neuroses, who triumphs over those and circumstances, to take care of herself and others around her, without inevitably turning to a man to save her. Above and beyond that, Cass is basically the “straight man” in the cast. Her job, as a fictional device, is to provide context and to showcase Xavier.

For me, Xavier is the beating heart of Emergence – the character who came to me effortlessly and fully-developed, as if I were channeling rather than creating him. I love this boy, and the often unintentionally humorous but still lyric passages he brought with him. One of my favorites is his description of how he feels when touched by a character with an unsavory and unhealthy interest in him: “So here’s the thing about Jean-Luc touching me. It felt like he was leaving the kind of trail that a slug would. I checked, and there wasn’t anything there on me, even though I felt like I had slimy boogers on me. I think he must have bad hands. I assume there is such a thing as bad hands, because the day that I helped Cass with training, she taught me about good hands. She said that often you can communicate better with a dog by touching him with your hands, instead of giving him a command.

Finally, Lori, Cass’ cousin and sidekick, plays a supporting role. Just as Cass is based on me, Lori is based on my real-life cousin, who is as strikingly beautiful as Lori is said to be in the book. I welcomed the opportunity to expose readers to another strong and independent woman, and in the process, hopefully defy the prevailing stereotype which positions great physical beauty as somehow antithetical to strength of character.

You know I think we all have a favorite author. Who is your favorite author and why?

I have to take issue with your premise that we all have a favorite author. I have quite a few. They include Margaret Atwood, James Lee Burke, Kurt Vonnegut, and Louise Penny. But because I’m reading him now and am so grateful for the way he has grabbed and maintained my attention every time I’ve turned to him for almost fifty years, I’ll focus here on Stephen King, who I believe is one of the unacknowledged masters of American fiction. “Unacknowledged?” you ask. “This man who is billed as America’s king of dark fiction, who has sold more than 350 million books?” But just as in popular culture, beauty is positioned as antithetical to character, high sales are often perceived as indicative of an absence of artistic merit.

I concede that some very popular authors publishing today are indeed…..a bit short… on fluidity, depth and complexity. But I maintain that is not the case with King. I find his characters to be richly drawn, multi-dimensional, and compelling. And his narrative talent keeps pace with his brilliance at plot development, so that the two intertwine to generate more, and more consistent momentum than any other writer I’ve encountered. But he is SO not a technical show-off! In the 47 years that I’ve been a faithful reader of his work, I’ve never found a passage in one of King’s books that I thought was gratuitous, included not because it furthered the movement of events or understanding of character, but instead because it was fun to write and beautifully phrased. King is totally dedicated to doing what is necessary to move the book along, and never allowing ego to intrude on that. And because he is so massively successful at “moving it along” I think many readers and sadly, critics also, fail to recognize the extraordinary skills he exhibits in the process.

Can you tell us a little bit about your next books or what you have planned for the future?

Nope – can’t do that. Emergence was my first book, and as you’ll see when I respond to the last question, below, writing it was tremendously rewarding. But the process of marketing a self-published work takes a lot longer than writing it did, for me – given that it took only three months start-to-finish, for me to write Emergence. And, with the exception of this blog tour, marketing is considerably less fun than writing. So at this point, I have no idea if or when I’ll write another book. My fervent hope is that the marketing gains traction, Emergence returns my investment in self-publishing, and that once that starts to happen I will feel able and want to start work on another novel.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I loved the way it took over my life. This intrigues me, because I’ve generally resisted ANYTHING that impedes my ability to spend my time and live my life on my own terms. That’s why I rejected the safety of employment and instead ran my own consulting firm. Unlike the vast majority of self-employed people and small-business owners, I often said “No” to work that came my way – particularly if and when I thought the project in question was likely to take over my life.

I certainly had no intention of allowing my pandemic project to take over. I had fewer obligations than I’d ever had before – no consulting clients, no obedience students to coach, no competitions to prepare for. I was at liberty at our cabin, and there was skiing, hiking, and kayaking to undertake, and a husband and three dogs to keep me company. Glorious liberty! I refused to blow it by sitting in front of my computer all day. And I didn’t - I generally spent only 3-5 hours, maybe 4 times a week at my computer, throughout the project.

But very quickly, the creative musk of writing overwhelmed me. While I spent only 3-5 hours at my desk, my mind was constantly churning, spinning, gyrating with ideas, phrases and embellishments. And perhaps most to the point – remember that I started this Q&A by talking about how I’ve always enjoyed thinking? - during the period of time I was writing Emergenc, I never felt more cognitively ept, more intellectually sure-footed. It was a cerebral high. I so hope that I eventually find myself willing and able to do it again. I’d love to find out if Emergence was an anomaly, or if the state of heightened lucidity I achieved while working on it is simply the way I am, when writing a novel.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Ellie Beals grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to Canada when she was 20. She spent the majority of her professional career as a management consultant in Ottawa, Ontario. Plain language writing was one of her specialties.

Dogs have been a constant in Ellie's life from the time she was a child. In the mid-1990s, she started to train and compete in Obedience with Golden Retrievers, with considerable success. In 2014, she had the highest-rated Canadian obedience dog (Fracas—upon whom Chuff is modelled), and her husband David Skinner had the second-rated dog. During a ten-year period, both Ellie and David were regularly ranked among Canada's top ten Obedience competitors. They have an active obedience coaching practice in Ottawa, having retired from their previous professional careers in order to spend more time playing with their dogs and their students.

Like Cass and Noah Harwood, Ellie and David have a log cabin in the wilds of West Quebec, where Ellie is an avid wilderness recreationist, constantly accompanied by her dogs. As COVID-19 spread in March of 2020, she and David temporarily shut down their coaching practice and retreated to their cabin, where Emergence was written. Lac Rouge is not the real name of the lake on which they live. Everything else about the locale for Emergence is faithful to the character of the gentle Laurentian mountains of West Quebec.

Connect with Ellie Beals


Purchase Links:





$10 Amazon/BN GC

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Debbi Wellenstein said...

Have a great day!

Anita said...

The book looks like it would be a great book to read