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Curt Buckley

Curt Buckley

I am a writer and audiobook narrator. I have lived all over the world but somehow always end up back in my home town.

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If Frannie hits 500 pre-orders by Wednesday 26 December 2018 9 P.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 14 traditional publishers when the campaign ends. If Frannie hits 250 pre-orders by Wednesday 26 December 2018 9 P.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 56 independent publishers when the campaign ends. If Frannie hits 100 pre-orders by Wednesday 26 December 2018 9 P.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 44 hybrid publishers when the campaign ends. If Frannie hits 50 pre-orders by Wednesday 26 December 2018 9 P.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 29 service publishers when the campaign ends. If Frannie hits 500 pre-orders by Wednesday 26 December 2018 9 P.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 143 publishers when the campaign ends.
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Frannie

Book One: 1987-1990, 2009-2010

In 2009, John and Frannie meet 14 years after their love affair ended. In 1987, their love affair begins. The mystery of their lives emerges, one chapter at a time.

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Literary Fiction #1 in Literary Fiction
Grand Rapids, Michigan
123,000 words
100% complete
3 publishers interested

Synopsis

This is the story of John Graham, a young expatriate American, who meets Frannie O’Brian, an American studying classical piano, in a London pub one summer afternoon in 1987. 

The narrative covers the next 28 years of John and Frannie’s lives. They never fall out of love after that first meeting but their complex lives — incredible highs and desperate lows, terrorists, addiction, physical and mental illness — leads to pain and long separations.

Along the way, they meet an array of extraordinary people who become friends and even family, most importantly a tiny ten-year-old transgender girl who changes everyone’s life.

Outline

This outline covers Frannie, Book One: 1987-1990, 2009-2010, the first book in a trilogy. Except for the excerpts from Henry’s journal, the entire trilogy is written in the first person from John’s perspective.

Chapter 1: Menorca. Winter, 2009

John Graham, 45, arrives on the Spanish island of Menorca to visit an old girlfriend, Frannie O’Brian. They have not seen each other for 14 years. Frannie is separated from her most recent husband. John and Frannie talk about their past, all of which remains a mystery to the reader.

Chapter 2: Excerpts from Henry’s Journal: November, 2009

A ten-year-old Scottish boy named Henry writes in his journal. Henry’s life is difficult. We discover that Henry, assigned male at birth, is in reality a transgender girl, even though he doesn’t quite understand that yet.

Chapter 3: London. Summer, 1987

John Graham, 23, a vagabond sailor, meets Frannie O’Brian, also 23, a classical pianist, in a London pub. Later they will both admit that they fell in love almost immediately. 

Chapter 4: Excerpts from Henry’s Journal: November, 2009

Henry reveals in his journal just how very confused he is about his gender.

Chapter 5: Menorca. Winter, 2009

John and Frannie admit to each other that in spite of everything that has happened in the 22 years since they met, they have always loved each other. Frannie convinces John to have sex with her. John feigns reluctance which Frannie sees through immediately.

Chapter 6: London. Madrid. Winter 1987 - Autumn 1988

After an idyllic month living together in John’s London flat, Frannie suddenly runs away for no clear reason. John is devastated but does not try to find her. John meets his friend Annie’s aunt, Edith Hamilton, who invites John to live on her and her husband’s estate outside of Madrid and work as their gardener. John moves to Madrid and begins work on his historical novel about Francisco Goya.

Chapter 7: Menorca. Winter, 2009

John and Frannie are perhaps becoming a couple again, for the third time. John is confused by his own reluctance. Frannie suggests they take things “one day at a time.”

Chapter 8: Excerpts from Henry’s Journal: November, 2009

Henry’s father is an alcoholic and beats Henry. Henry tells no one about his feeling that he is actually a girl.

Chapter 9: Madrid. Spring, 1990

Frannie appears out of nowhere on John’s doorstep in Madrid. She is very ill. Her body is covered in surgical scars. Frannie tells John that in the almost three years since she left, she got married, had a baby and, just a few months before, almost died in a car crash in Chicago which killed her infant daughter.

Chapter 10: Menorca. Winter 2009 

Frannie and John talk about what has happened in their lives in the last 14 years. Much of this remains opaque to the reader. John meets Frannie’s friends — Father Tim VanDyke, Estephan and Linda Quintana and their 15-year-old son, Elián.

Chapter 11: Madrid. Spring, Summer 1990

John and Frannie live together in the gardener’s cottage on the Hamilton estate. John continues to work on his novel and Frannie begins playing the piano again. John sends the first draft of his novel to a literary agent in London.

Chapter 12: Menorca, Madrid. Winter 2009

John and Frannie travel to Madrid and stay in John’s flat there. Frannie finally tells John (but not the reader) what happened to her in Argentina between 1996 and 1998. They return to Menorca. Elián reveals to John that he is gay but has told no one else about it.

Chapter 13: Madrid. Autumn 1990

Frannie finally tells John the truth about why she left London so suddenly three years before and about the “accident” that almost killed her in Chicago.

Chapter 14: Menorca. Winter, 2009

Elián comes out to everyone. At Frannie’s urging, Elián’s parents agree that he can move to Madrid to live with John and Frannie and study guitar.

Chapter 15: Madrid, London, Dublin. Autumn 1990

John flies to London and finds a publisher for his novel, an eccentric member of the British aristocracy. John makes a side trip to Dublin to try to solve Frannie’s problem with people there.

Chapter 16: Excerpts from Henry’s Journal: December, 2009

Henry is especially sad and confused at Christmas time.

Chapter 17: Menorca. Madrid. Winter 2009 - 2010

John, Frannie and Elián move to Madrid. John and Frannie begin to discover the joys and challenges of helping raise a 15-year-old boy.

Chapter 18: Excerpts from Henry’s Journal: January, 2010

Henry searches the internet and discovers that he is transgender. He is very excited to finally begin to understand something he has been feeling all of his life. Henry begins wearing girl's clothes when he is alone in his room.

Chapter 19: Madrid, London, Dublin. Autumn 1990

John meets with some dodgy characters in Ireland but he resolves Frannie’s problems and returns to Madrid.

Chapter 20: Excerpts from Henry’s Journal: March, 2010

Henry takes a bus to Glasgow while presenting as a girl among the strangers there. He feels like his real self for the first time in his life.

Chapter 21: Madrid. Spring, Summer 2010

Frannie gets a divorce. Edith and Charles Hamilton passed on long ago but their son gives John and Frannie the estate outside of Madrid where they lived together in the 1980’s.

Chapter 22: Madrid. Autumn 1990

John signs his book contract. He and Frannie move to London so he can work with his publisher to complete his novel. Frannie considers restarting her classical music career in London.

Chapter 23: Excerpts from Henry’s Journal: April, 2010

Henry continues his exploration about trans kids on the internet. 

Chapter 24: Madrid. Summer 2010

John begins renovations on the long-neglected gardener’s cottage at the Hamilton Estate. Frannie’s divorce is finalized and she and John wonder about what is going to happen to them next.

Chapter 25: London. Winter 1990

John and Frannie settle into their new life in London. Years later, John will think of this time as the best years of his life but they cannot last.

Excerpts from Henry’s Journal: May - June, 2010

Henry’s father finds the girl’s clothes Henry has been hiding and beats Henry severely. Henry decides to run away to France, where he has seen a lot of trans kids posting on the internet. He takes a train to London where he will present as a girl named Mae. He is certain it will be easy to get to France from there.

***

Frannie, Book Two: 1990-2009, 2010-2011 continues the story using the same alternate timeline structure as Book One. 

The 1990-2009 timeline picks up with John and Frannie beginning their lives in London and ends when John flies to Menorca to visit Frannie, as depicted in Chapter One of Book One. 

The 2010-2011 timeline continues with John and Frannie’s lives in Madrid. In Chapter One, a 10-year-old stranger suddenly shows up at their door, needing their help.

Frannie, Book Three: 2011-2015 wraps up the story with a single timeline bringing the story to a close.

Audience

Readers who like a complex, sometimes contradictory love story will enjoy bringing John and Frannie into their lives. 

The large cast of characters are smart and funny. You will find yourself crying and then laughing and always wondering what trick the world is going to pull next on these extraordinary people.

Classical music, literature and living the writer’s life are woven through every part of the story. 

Frannie is many coming of age stories: John and Frannie, Henry, Elián — everyone, really, no matter what age — are trying to grow up and figure out where and how they fit into the world — or perhaps do not fit.

While Frannie is not a mystery in the standard sense, the story is teased out in a compelling way. What does the IRA have to do with the story? Who is Henry and why are we reading his journals? What happened to Frannie in Argentina? Who is the eccentric British aristocrat and who is this man named Mr. Pearse?

Frannie explores the mysteries of love and sex and gender, loyalty and betrayal, life and death, light and dark. Just when so much is lost, much is gained. 

In the end, Frannie asks the simple question: what am I doing here? And, in the unlikely event we discover an answer, we are left with another question: what am I going to do about it?

Author

This is my first novel. Having spent a lot of time in Spain, including walking the entire 500-mile Camino de Santiago, I set much of the narrative there. I have also lived and worked in London, so it is an important location as well. The characters are an amalgam of the many people I have known and loved, both in the US and abroad. An eclectic mix, to be sure.

Promotion

I have a few dozen friends on Facebook but we are a closely connected group. Most of them are artists with whom I have worked on stage over the last 40 years. As fellow artists, we are enthusiastic to support each other’s work. I expect this group to be a solid core of supporters. 

I also have what I believe is a unique form of promotion: a podcast of me reading the novel. The podcast has been running in weekly 30-40 minute episodes since September. As of this writing, the podcast has almost 400 total downloads from listeners around the world. In the last 7 days, downloads are up over 185% over the previous 7 days. The podcast itself promotes the book and I will be promoting this campaign on the podcast as well.

I also have a natural and compelling “stage presence” developed over many years as a stage actor. This can work in live events as well as video and audio, whether scripted or extemporaneous. I would also hope to leverage this experience for promotion.

Competition

Without pretending my work is anywhere near being on par with these authors, I see parallels in structure and style with these works.


Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities

Like Dickens’ great work, The Frannie Trilogy has a sprawling narrative covering many years and several locations. While there are three central characters in my trilogy, there are over a dozen more significant characters, each very distinct and important to all or some of the story. Dickens was a master of the “secondary but significant” character which I have also tried to realize.


To my surprise, most of my early readers mentioned one or two of these lesser characters as their favorites and asked me to write more about them.


Like nearly all of Dickens’ works, my story is complex and carries a sense of veiled mystery.


John Irving: The Hotel New Hampshire

1981, E.P. Dutton

Like Irving’s long, complex narrative of love and family, The Frannie Trilogy is a bildungsroman — actually several parallel coming-of-age stories interacting over the years. 


The characters in The Frannie Trilogy may not be quite as quirky as Irving’s characters but my characters are funny and odd and often inimitable. 


Like Irving’s story, mine is often comic and sometimes tragic, at times in the same moment. 


As with all of Irving’s work, when the reader finishes my trilogy, I hope they will feel they have shared in the lives of my characters, many of them vastly different than themselves and their own lives but all part of the familiar yet amazing mosaic of humanity. 

Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler's Wife

2004, Harcourt

No one travels in time in my novel but, like Niffenegger's story, the narrative moves around in time in a non-linear way; one chapter takes place in 1987, the next in 2009, etc. Much of the time, the characters in the novel know more than the reader and discuss people and events that the reader has not encountered yet. This creates a sense of mystery as the story unfolds.

Also, like Niffenegger's characters Henry and Clare, John and Frannie are part of a great love affair which is repeated frustrated by events in the world around them.

Sample

These are the first two chapters from Book One. It should be noted that Book One and Book Two follow this same structure of alternating back and forth between timelines, chapter by chapter. Book Three follows a single timeline through to the end of the story.

Chapter 1: Menorca. Winter, 2009

I had never before seen the island from the air. Approaching from the sea, as I had the last time, it rose up suddenly. From the cockpit of a sailboat, one might scan a blank horizon, then take a quick glance down at the compass or up at the sails, and in the space of a few seconds, an island popped up out of nowhere.

But from a window seat in a small jet, the island appeared slowly, like a great rock floating on the green water, dun colored with a fringe of palms.

Her email from a few days ago surprised me. She disappeared 14 years ago and we hadn’t seen each other or talked since except for a few moments on a London street.

”John, I’m on Menorca. Come see me. Right away. — Frannie.“ 

She had sometimes talked about the Balearics. We had even discussed going there one day, but we never went. I wondered what she was doing there now.

An address in Mahon. That was it. A command, not a request. That was like her.

When the flight attendant opened the aircraft door, I was struck by the scent of the warm air wafting in. Salt, of course, but also a gentle tang, not really sour or sweet, a bit acrid, iodine; the infinitely complex odor of the sea meeting the land. As I packed the book I was reading into my knapsack, I laughed a bit to myself. That scent. I knew it so well and yet it never failed to surprised me.

As I walked across the tarmac to the terminal, I felt the light. This is a desert island and the mid-morning sun felt close and warm and bright. But there was more than bright sun; the light had a blue-green feeling that meant there was open ocean nearby. This too was familiar. I laughed again.

And here I was, going to see Frannie again. Like the smell of the sea and the light near the water, Frannie was at once so familiar and now so far in the past. We first met in London over twenty years ago.

She stood waiting on the far curb. "Hey, sailor." She waved.

She looked stunning. Healthy. Beautiful. Thin but strong. Solid and grounded. Her hair was short again.

We embraced and she kissed me on each cheek. “Jesus, it’s good to see you, John. Really, really good. Thanks for coming." She put her hands gently on either side of my face, looking into my eyes. “Don’t you look fine,” she said, smiling.

“Hi, Frannie,” I said. She laughed — sort of a low chuckle that came from deep inside her. She took my hand, pulling me down the sidewalk.

An ancient Peugeot was parked under a no parking sign, a policeman standing next to it.

"Gracias, Estephan." She waved at the policeman. He opened the passenger door for me with a grave, "Buenos días, Señor."

She drove confidently, a little too fast.

"Cops are accommodating," I said.

“Friend of mine." She always had friends, everywhere.

"Lunch on the harbor," she announced. "The Miramar, it's called. You'll love it. Palm trees, fishing boats, that sort of thing. The fish is excellent."

"And wine?" I said.

"Definitely wine,” she said.

“Good,” I said. “You look wonderful. Are you healthy again?”

She glanced at me then back to the road.

“Thanks,” she said. “Pretty healthy. The cancer is gone along with even more organs apparently I never really needed in the first place. One begins to wonder how many I can lose and still keep body and soul together.”

A tattered paperback lay on the dashboard. I picked it up.

"You're reading Cervantes? In Spanish?" I said.

She shrugged.

"Where's Jack?" I asked.

"Gone,” she said.

She parked high above the harbor. "I can't drive on those tiny streets in the town. Always scared I'm going to run over somebody's children,” she said. “Anyway, you need to stretch your legs."

We walked down, down, down. The deep green water of the great harbor appeared between the white houses. The air took on even more of that ocean quality. Calls of “¡Buenas!” from balcónes. She waved.

"Gone?" I said.

"Back to England, the bastard. Said he'd had enough,” she said.

"Enough of what?" I said.

"Don't rightly know. Me, I suppose,” she said.

"Understandable,” I said.

Her laugh — full and ironic now — echoed down the cobbles. 

“Really gone? For good?" I said.

"For very good,” she said. “For the best. Fuck him."

She stopped to look at shoes in a store window. 

"What are you going to do?" I said.

"Have lunch with an old friend,” she said, “get a little drunk and then buy a pair of shoes on the way home. You pay for lunch and I'll pay for the shoes." She walked on.

I stopped short in the street.

"No. I mean about Jack...about everything,” I said.

"Fucked if I know," she called over her shoulder.

The street ended at the restaurant. The harbor lay beyond. "Here under the awning, Señora?" said the waiter, pointing to a table. 

She replied in Spanish. "No. In the sun. A bottle of the house red and some anchovies. Bread. Cheese. Olives. Will that do?" She looked at me. I nodded.

We watched the traffic in the harbor. Fishing boats creaked at their moorings. 

"We can go for a hike over there," she said, pointing across the harbor. "Around the old fort. We could go by boat. I'll see if Phillip can take us tomorrow."

"Phillip?" I said.

"French guy,” she said. “A bit over the top. But he has a boat." 

"They think they still own the place," she added. 

 I had lost her train of thought. "Who?" I said.

"The French,” she said. “They think they still own the place."

"I thought Americans were the ones that acted that way,” I said.

"Everybody acts that way,” she said.

Lunch arrived, the anchovies sizzling on an iron plate.

"God, I love these,” she said. “They're too hot to eat. Let them sit a minute."

"You don't like fish,” I said.

"I didn't once. Now I do. I'm fickle,” she said. “But, God, these are the best. Caught this morning, most likely just outside the harbor mouth. There are grottos where the anchovies hide."

She loved to know the provenance of what she was eating.

"The wine is good,” I said.

"Local stuff,” she said. “Not as good as the Riojas and Navarres you're used to. Too much of this stuff will fry your brain."

She squeezed some lemon over the anchovies and began to eat.

“You can stay with me,” she said, her mouth full. She was always a champion eater. “I mean…I have an extra room." Her voice trailed off.

“You have a house?“ I said.

“Sure. It’s nice. You’ll like it,” she said.

“How do you know?“ I said.

“Because I know what you like,” she said with a crooked smile.

¿El Quixote? ¿En Español? Really?" I said.

She laughed again. We drank red wine in the sun and ate fish and bread and cheese. 

She bought shoes on the way home.

                                                   ***

We had breakfast on her balcón.

"I hope the coffee is drinkable," she said. It was, barely. "I just grabbed whatever was on the shelf." 

She was the only person I knew in this coffee obsessed culture that didn't touch the stuff. Tea was her thing.

I stood at the railing, looking down over the harbor.

"You look tired. Didn't sleep well?" she asked.

"I slept very well. But, yes, I'm tired,” I said.

"Exercise. That's the ticket,” she said. “You've put on some weight."

"Kind of you to notice,” I said. “You, on the other hand, look as fit as ever.”

"Walking. Even more than I used to,” she said. “Sometimes it feels like that's the only thing holding me together. Weird, no?"

"Not so weird,” I said. “You should get a dog. Make it a little less weird."

She snorted. "What do I need a dog for? I've got you to walk with me."

She was a strategic liar but not a casual one and then very rarely. Actually, she too often blurted out inconvenient truths. She was holding something in, something back from me. She had done this before. I waited.

“You are always looking for reasonable, logical explanations,” she went on. “I don’t have one at hand. I wanted you to come to me and you came.”

"I'm beginning to sound like that dog..." I said.

"No, no. Of course not,” she said angrily. “Jesus, man, we were together for six years…”

“Eight,” I said.

"Really? I thought it was six. Eight?”

“’87 till ’95,“ I said. “Depends on how you count them. You were in Chicago, married to Jake for a couple of those years.”

"OK,” she said, “we were together — on and off — for eight years..." 

"And we've been apart for almost fifteen more…” I interrupted.

"Shut up. I know. I know,” she said. “I just wanted someone comfortable, someone who wouldn't ask for a lot of explanations. And now you've got me fucking explaining things."

“Bullshit, Frannie. You dump your latest husband and then just call on me to…what?…rescue you? Again?” I said. “Has it occurred to you that I might not want to play this time?”

"Well…” she began.

"And Quixote?” I said. “I am not interested in being Sancho Panza on your mad quest."

"I was thinking more of Rocinante,” she said, smiling.

"Very funny,” I said.

"But here you are,” she said.

“Here I am,“ I said.

She sipped her tea. Morning traffic began to hum in the streets behind the house. She had found the perfect place, of course. High above the din of the town, right above the huge harbor with a view to the open sea beyond. From the balcón one could look straight down to the water below. A tiny footpath wound across the cliff face to a small floating dock at the bottom.

"Did I wrest you away from some pretty chica in Madrid?" she asked.

"No."

"Chico?"

"Fuck you."

She chuckled.

“I can’t help but recall that things ended very badly between us, back in the 90’s,” I said. “Is this really a good idea?”

She sipped her tea, looking out over the harbor.

“Things were different back then. I was different. I was ill,” she said after a long pause.

“You’re not going to use that as an excuse,” I said.

A visible shudder went through her though the morning was already warm.

“No,” she said, looking at me steadily. “I would never…” Tears were starting in her eyes. She looked away.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “That was cruel.”

“Forget it,” she said. “Anyway, London was a long time ago. We’re older now. Smarter, maybe?”

“Older, at least,” I said. “Love? Is that what you want?”

"We've been in love for over twenty years. Yes. I want that. I want love.”

“But I don’t need you anymore,” I said. “It took me years and years to not need you any more. I have a life, a good life. And now you want it to be like the old days? In Madrid? Or London? Have you forgotten what happened?” 

“No,” she said. “I remember everything…every day.”

I said nothing.

“You never married?” she said, rather out of the blue.

“No. I never felt the need,” I said.

“We used to have so much fun together,” she said.

“What about sex?” I said.

She looked at me with that old crooked smile. “That was always fun. I don’t know,” she said. “What do you think?”

“I think not,” I said.

“Fine,” she said. “Love will do for the moment.”

She stood up. “Finish your wretched coffee. We'll go for a walk and pick up some decent stuff on the way home." 

She kissed me on the head and went inside. 

I looked off over the cliffs to the sea.

What was I doing here?

Chapter 2: Excerpts from Henry’s Journal: November, 2009

Friday, November 2, 2009

Mrs. Higgins wants us all to write in a journal. Every day, she says, but it’s OK to miss a day or two if we’re too busy. She handed out new notebooks to everyone in class.

We talked about people that wrote in their journals. Someone named Boswell, I think, and Samuel Peeps (sp?) — I think I’ve heard of him. She talked about a Frenchman named Montaigne (I looked that name up).

We are supposed to just think about ourselves and write whatever we think about. I’m not sure what this means. Mrs. Higgins says no one should read our journal, so I’m going to hide mine in the rafters in me room.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I have missed a bunch of days writing. It’s harder to find the time than I thought and I still don’t know what to write, really.

It’s really late but I can’t sleep. The welt on my back and side is hurting a lot.

Da beat me with his belt tonight. I don’t know why. I think he was just mad. He got me good across the back. He tried to slap me but I ducked and he hit the wall. He says one of his fingers is broke. I reckon that will be my fault too. It probably ain’t broke anyway. He’s just drunk.

I wish I could get away from here but where would I go? Maybe I should ask the parson or Mrs. Higgins about da, about the beatings. But how could they not know already?

And nobody knows about me being a girl. Nobody knows. Not even Glenda. I want to tell her but she’s my only friend and she might not like me anymore if I tell her the truth. I wish I could tell somebody.

I wonder sometimes what me ma would think if she were here. I bet I could tell her. She would understand. But she’s gone. Everyone is gone and I am alone.

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eBooks2go

eBooks2go, Inc., was founded in 2011 to provide the missing link for all your publishing needs. Our end-to-end solutions provide the guidance and support that enable publishers and independent authors to pursue their passions. To date, we have helped more than 750 authors and 100 publishers worldwide. Our Mission eBooks2go is where dreams get published! We are devoted to grooming ...

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1106 Design, LLC

Dear Author, Congratulations on writing your book! Today's publishing world is filled with options, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between traditional publishers, hybrid publishers, subsidy publishers, and self-publishing companies. 1106 Design offers independent publishing as it was originally intended, with you, the author, being the publisher. We don't publish your book, you do, and we'll show ...

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Atmosphere Press

Atmosphere Press is an independent full-service publisher for books in genres ranging from non-fiction to fiction to poetry to children's picturebooks, with a special emphasis on being an author-friendly approach to getting a book into the world. We're professional, honest, and kind. Learn more about what we do at Atmosphere’s website, atmospherepress.com.

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  • Update #1 - Thanks! Nov. 28, 2018

    A few preorders are in and I wanted to thank each of you for your orders. I am very happy to be able to share this ...


  • Lindsey Pachella on Nov. 26, 2018, 10:24 p.m.

    Good luck fellow Michigander! I am excited to read your books.

  • Phil Murphy on Nov. 27, 2018, 12:38 a.m.

    Good luck, Curt...I look forward to reading.

  • Michael Binstead on Nov. 27, 2018, 10:09 a.m.

    Good luck Curt. Happy to be along for the ride. Please remember me when you are a wealth novelist

  • Holly Heffron on Nov. 28, 2018, 4:52 p.m.

    I can't wait to read this!

  • Tristan De Boer on Dec. 4, 2018, 5:32 p.m.

    Can’t wait to share with friends!

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