Katie Ardea’s Braver Than You Know book launch speech
Hi, everyone! I presented Katie Ardea’s Braver Than You Know book launch speech on December 1, 2019, at the Fraser Gallery in beautiful Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia.
To open the launch, George Klass, president of the Northumberland Arts Council, read an introduction written by author Monica Graham, who was unable to attend (used with permission):
“Magi – or shall I call her Katie? – has produced a pageturner.
“When she asked me to participate in this event, she sent me a digital copy of Braver Than You Know, so I would have some idea what I was talking about.
“I figured I’d do a light read-through, hit the highlights – just because I was busy and I can generally do that with a romance novel. It takes about an hour.
“That didn’t happen.
“In fact, nothing else on my to-do list happened – until I finished reading this book. It’s that good. It’s that interesting.
“Actually, I should have known better – I read Magi’s New Zealand trilogy in one go, finishing up at 3 a.m. trying to see through just one eye. What was I thinking?
“Magi paid the same attention to detail in Braver Than You Know as she did with her previous books. The setting and circumstances and the plot are all well-developed, and knowledge based – but it’s done so skillfully that you don’t notice that as you read.
“You just get caught up in the lives of her characters, the prairie lifestyle, the wildlife and the lowlife and – a bit – the night life.
“I won’t say much more, because I want you to read the book for yourselves. It’s a really good yarn!
“It gives me great pleasure, and I am honoured, to present to you – Katie Ardea – aka Magi!”
Katie Ardea’s Braver Than You Know book launch speech:
“Thanks, George, and thanks, Monica. You know how to make a writer feel great!
“I’d also like to thank the Northumberland Arts Council for making this launch possible during the beautiful Festival of Trees. I received so much help and encouragement, and the rescheduling [due to a snowstorm] went incredibly smoothly. Special thanks to The Carline Sisters—Emma on violin and Grace on cello—for their wonderful music. We’ll hear more from Emma and Grace after I finish my spiel. And, of course, it’s great to have family and so many friends here. I couldn’t do this without you. Thank you for coming out this afternoon to celebrate with me.
“And now for my spiel.
“The author Stephen King once wrote, “I was built with a love of the night and the unquiet coffin, that’s all. If you disapprove, I can only shrug my shoulders. It’s what I have.”
“Well, I was built with a love of the natural world and the seeking heart. It’s what I have, and it’s what I offer to readers in Braver Than You Know.
“This is a love story set in farming and ranching country on Turtle Mountain in southwestern Manitoba. Turtle Mountain is a locale that holds a special place in my heart because my husband and I lived there for three years while he studied striped skunks for his doctoral research. Yes, my husband voluntarily studied skunks, and yes, we both got sprayed! Here’s a spoiler alert—cover your ears if you have to—there are no skunks in Braver Than You Know, but there will be in the next novel.
“The natural world has always been a gift to me, so I cast the story’s heroine as a wildlife photographer named Kimberley Colter. When Kimberley is out shooting, you’re right there with her, catching sight of a red fox with a mallard hen dangling from its mouth, or smelling the honeyed scent of sweet clover.
“My roots are in farming country in Alberta, so I cast the story’s hero as a cattle rancher named Lincoln Steele. When Lincoln is shipping stock, you can hear cattle bawling and the loading chute clanking, and smell dust and manure.
“After I had my two lead characters for the story, well, I basically threw everything but the kitchen sink at them… as if they didn’t have enough to deal with already. Kimberley is trying to resurrect her career and overcome the physical and emotional repercussions of a work-related tragedy. Lincoln is a single father in a job he didn’t want and has a deep emotional wound of his own.
“I have to say that it was kind of fun to keep tossing conflicts and obstacles at my characters. I put the ranch on the edge of going under. I made Lincoln compete with his best friend for Kimberley’s love. More than once, I put Kimberley square in the middle of a life-threatening situation. The plot became a series of twists and turns imbued with what I hope is a delicious sense of uncertainty about what’s going to happen next. There were times when I wondered what was going to happen next; in one case, I wondered for weeks what would happen next, until I figured it out.
“The conflicts and obstacles that Kimberley and Lincoln encounter in the story force them to face their fears and past hurts and in doing so, to create pathways toward healing. We all have battles to fight, whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. Kimberley and Lincoln struggle, and they overcome. Like so many of us, they are braver than they know.”
Katie Ardea’s readings from Braver Than You Know
“Almost there, Lexi.” Kimberley patted her husky’s shoulder. In the town of Seton, northeast of Turtle Mountain, she gassed up and bought groceries and a land ownership map, as per her new landlady’s suggestion. On a late June Monday, the small town seemed hunkered down on its grid of streets. Heat bounced off the sidewalks. Blocky stores and houses stood bare under the scorching mid-day sun. Street trees hung dusty, wilted leaves that fluttered in a strong breeze.
The day after she’d e-mailed Terri, Kimberley had received a message from the teen’s mother, accompanied by photographs of an elm-shaded, older farmhouse situated on a rise overlooking a ravine. Lauren Steele had written that the house was known as “the old Steele place” and was situated on Steele Cattle Company land about a half-hour’s drive from the nearest town, Seton. With a sense that God was prodding her shoulder, Kimberley had arranged to rent it.
During the past ten days, she’d tied up loose ends in Calgary, sorted through her belongings, and packed her Ford Ranger with necessities to live for an undetermined length of time in a farmhouse in Manitoba. She’d stretched the drive from Alberta into a leisurely three-day excursion, her express purpose to once again immerse herself in the beauty of the natural world and the solitude of being alone.
Dry summer heat cast a tawny shawl over the prairies, yet views of rugged river valleys, sun-scorched grain fields, and rangelands dotted with cattle and pronghorns had inspired her. With Lexi by her side, she’d cautiously hiked river-eroded badlands east of Calgary, her heart pounding at the sight of old wolf tracks, her nerves jumping at the sharp whistle of a ground squirrel. In the Cypress Hills straddling the Alberta–Saskatchewan border, she’d stood trembling in a clearing and then forced herself to walk into a forest that loomed like a wall in front of her. After five minutes—her senses screaming at her to run from the shadows—she’d hiked back to her truck, her legs shaking. Then she’d driven across southern Saskatchewan’s bald prairie and entered Manitoba’s southwest corner.
Can I really do this again? Do I have the courage? During the months following her physical recuperation, she’d barely gone through the motions of photography; however, the drive from Alberta, even with its terror-infused moments, had birthed a reawakening of her desire to record images of landscapes and wildlife. Whether she could cope emotionally with capturing those images, and whether her desire for photography would grow to the point where it continued to provide her with a livelihood, remained to be seen—as did the length of her stay in Manitoba…
Tires crunched on the gravel outside the ranch office. Lincoln blew out a relieved breath and pushed out of his desk chair.
Matt swung the office door open, his eyes shining. “Hi, Dad.”
“Hey, how’d it go?” He lifted his gaze to the black-haired woman who’d followed his son into the office. She’d rolled her T-shirt sleeves up onto her shoulders, revealing the scars on her right arm. Wisps of black hair had escaped her ponytail and dangled around her face, yet her eyes were calm. Apparently, entertaining an eight-year-old for four hours had been no big deal.
Matt shrugged out of his daypack. “Kimmie showed me how to use her camera. The telephoto lens made it seem like the owls were right in front of me. There were only three babies left.”
“A goshawk flew over.” She lifted a hand to push the dangling hair behind her ears. “It might have made earlier raids. I’ll e-mail Matt’s pics to Terri so he can have them.”
Kimmie. Matt. Put two people in a blind for a few hours and look what happens. He nodded to her arm. “Your bruises are fading.”
Her eyes played blue mystery with him. “And I have a new scar to add to my collection.”
“We all have scars, Kimberley.”
Matt piped up, “Dad has one where a cow kicked him.”
“That’s right.” He scanned his son’s flushed features. “Want something cold, Matt? Water? Lemonade? Ice cream?”
“Can I have lemonade and ice cream?”
“‘May I,’ remember? Or your grandmother will get on my case again. Go for it. Then get ready for your riding lesson. Clothes are in the bathroom. Darby’s ready to go.”
His son skipped into the kitchenette.
Lincoln turned to Kimberley. “Can I get you something cold?”
“No, thanks. I’m off to Brandon.” She frowned as she looked down at her camo pants. “I need to buy a dress.”
Her expression made him smile. “You make that sound like fun.”
When she looked up, sadness tinged her features. “When I was a kid, my mother designed and sewed dresses for me, but I was such a tomboy, it was like pulling teeth to get me into them. Then she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and I wished I’d worn them more often.”
Like he wished he’d made peace with Terrence before the accident. “Must be something big happening now, if you need a dress.”
She shrugged. “I’m going to the ball team’s dinner and dance with Jake. I’ll probably see you there.”
Lincoln fought a kick of surprise and forced himself to nod casually. “Save me a dance.”
She pointed to the door, her eyes taking on that measuring look he’d come to know. “I’d like to speak with you outside. Bye, Matt,” she called.
Matt appeared in the kitchenette doorway, a bowl of strawberry ice cream in his hands. “Bye, Kimmie.”
“Back in a minute,” Lincoln told his son. He followed Kimberley outdoors, where hot sun beat down into the ranch yard. In its harsh light, he noticed a scar that traced her hairline above her forehead and right temple and disappeared behind her ear. He braced his hands on his hips. “What’s up today?”
She lifted her eyebrows, her expression cooling several degrees. “You’re making it sound like I always have some kind of issue.”
He dropped his hands. “Okay, that was a poor choice of words. What would you like to discuss?”
“We’ve been through this, Kimberley. I told you they mean nothing to me. I just noticed the one along your hairline. Did I express revulsion?”
“No, but that’s not—”
“Look, this might be hard for you to swallow, but have you considered that maybe your obsession with your scars is more about vanity than anything else?”
Her mouth dropped open. “Vanity?”
“Let me put it this way: If you want to go through life hiding your scars because you think they make you less of a woman, that’s your choice, but the whole world is out there waiting for you.”
The blue ice in her eyes changed to blue fire. “So says the man who can’t look at a picture of his former wife. Tell me, Lincoln, just which one of us is it that’s hiding?”
He lifted his chin. “You know nothing about my relationship with Matt’s mother.”
“And you know nothing about me.” She turned on her heel and strode to her truck, hands clenched at her sides.
Lincoln watched her drive away, bitterness like a bad taste in his mouth…
Before dawn, Kimberley carried Lexi outdoors and then back inside. Her emotions in chaos, she desperately needed to clear her mind, which was why—as always when troubled—she sought the outdoors. She left the kitchen light on, locked the porch doors, and struck out on foot with her Nikon clipped to the camera harness, her pack on her back, and her binoculars around her neck. Anyone who approached the yard would see the light on and her truck parked beside the house and assume she was inside.
Calves bawled from across the ravine—the last shipment. Lincoln would be so relieved.
All night, she’d tossed and turned, her mind racing. A thousand times, she’d relived the events of the previous day. First, Lincoln’s visit and how he’d wanted to discuss their relationship, only to be interrupted by Jake’s arrival. Then, later, Jake’s proposal. She’d stood frozen, caught completely off guard. She’d only met Jake a month ago. In a crazy way, it seemed as though the emotional intensity of Les Misérables had infused her own life.
First light softened the darkness as she descended the slope below the house and hiked south beside the creek bed in the ravine bottom. From earlier study of a topographic map, she knew that the gentle ravine slopes near the house compressed into high walls a mile to the south, creating a narrow gully. On the map, closely spaced contour lines indicated a bluff with a sheer cliff on the gully’s west side. Perhaps the gully and cliff would offer good subject material, and maybe the outing would give her insight as to how she should answer Jake.
Grass swished against her boots as she pondered her heart. She was twenty-seven years old, and although she wanted children—yearned for children—she wanted love, too, the kind of deep, soul-sure love her parents had shared, the kind of love she’d thought she’d found with Bryan. Did she love Jake like that? No, not now. Could she love him like that? In all honesty, maybe with time she could. Did that mean her answer was yes? She didn’t know.
On the south side of the access road, grass gave way to a ribbon of forest. She trod softly among lofty aspens beside the creek, the morning air cool and fresh in the deep shade cast by the trees. She breathed deeply of it, glad to be outdoors with her camera. This is who I am.
She skirted the pool where she’d photographed a beaver reinforcing its dam a few weeks after her arrival on Turtle Mountain. Two blue jays voiced strident alarm calls from atop the ravine edge and swooped into view ahead of her. What had set them off? An owl? A fox? With the awareness of someone who spends hours outdoors on a daily basis, she noted a sudden difference in the feel of the ravine. She froze into stillness in the shade, knowing that as long as she remained motionless, she would be virtually invisible. Her camo clothing and cap were a leaf-and-twig design, and her pack, camera, and binoculars were also covered with camo designs. She’d even daubed camo makeup on her face and hands and tucked her long ponytail down the back of her shirt, heeding Lincoln’s advice to be careful when she was out on her own. Without moving her head, she scanned the ravine banks and creek bed. Her senses pricked. She wasn’t alone.
After thirty seconds, a man carrying a rifle stepped into view fifty yards ahead of her. He picked his way south beside the creek, his back to her, an over-the-shoulder canvas bag bumping against his side. Not Lincoln. She would have recognized his broad shoulders and athletic build instantly. She froze as the figure swung around to look behind him. The face turned in her direction was familiar, as was the paunch revealed in a side view. Phil Johnson.
She remained absolutely motionless while Lincoln’s former employee swept his gaze over the ravine. When he resumed walking away from her, she noted that he wore moccasins rather than the cowboy boots he’d worn on the day he’d mentally undressed her at the wheat field. She slid her cell phone out of her pocket and checked for coverage. Only one small bar. The ravine walls blocked the signal. She texted a message to Lincoln, not knowing if or when he would receive it.
What was Johnson up to? No good, undoubtedly, but what? She envisioned the topographic map she’d studied earlier that morning, and then pictured the land ownership map. A chill ran through her. Lauren’s purebred Aberdeen Angus cows—her black ace, as Lincoln had called them—were pastured south of the old Steele place on land adjacent to the ravine. If Johnson had beaten Lexi, what might he do to those cows?
With every sense heightened, she silently followed the trespasser…
Q & A Session
Audience questions ranged from when I started working on Braver Than You Know to how I decided on my pen name, and from where Braver Than You Know is published to who designed the cover. For answers to these questions, and for more information about how Braver Than You Know came to be, read this post on my sister website. Also, check out my author bio and media coverage of the release of Braver Than You Know.
Thanks to everyone who attended the launch or helped in any way to make it possible. I enjoyed it so very much!
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