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Fleur Lewis

Fleur Lewis

Houston, Texas

Fleur Lewis is an award-winning author with a BA in English from the University of Montana and a MFA in creative writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles.

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About the author

I Am Lucky Bird, Fleur Lewis's first novel, was published in October 2011 by New Dawn Publishers in the UK. It was a General Fiction Finalist for the Book of the Year Award from ForeWord Reviews. It has since been rewritten, and she is now seeking new publishing options.

In early 2013, Fleur self-published her first young adult novel, Crumble. It was the San Francisco Book Festival Winner for YA Fiction, a YA Fiction Finalist in the International Book Awards, a Silver Medal Winner in the category of YA, Mature Issues in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, and a YA Fiction Finalist in the USA Best Book Awards from USA Book News. It was also listed in Working Mother as one of the top 7 Summer Reads for Tweens and Teens.

In 2015, SparkPress picked up Crumble. They also published Fleur's second young adult novel, Beautiful Girl, a YA Fiction Finalist in the USA Best Book Awards from USA Book News.

In addition to these novels, Fleur has written articles featured on WriterUnboxed.com, The Back Page of the San Francisco Book Review, and the Portland Book Review Author Spotlight. She holds a BA in English from the University of Montana and a MFA in creative writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles.

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Success! I Am Lucky Bird sold 50 pre-orders by March 9, 2019, was pitched to 29 publishers, and will be published by Happy Self Publishing.
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I Am Lucky Bird

A Novel

After the mysterious disappearance of her mother, 12-year-old Lucky Bird must learn to survive in a brutal world, and find meaning in her grandmother's words, "Everything happens for a reason".

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Literary Fiction Commercial Fiction
74,000 words
100% complete
7 publishers interested

Synopsis

Lucky Lillian Bird is 12 years old when her mother, AnnMarie, mysteriously disappears from the small town of Plains, Montana. Upon returning home from school that afternoon, Lucky discovers her grandmother, Marian, upset and nervous. Within 24 hours of AnnMarie vanishing, Lucky becomes the victim of unspeakable abuse at the hands of her grandmother. Up until that moment, life with Marian had been simple and quiet.

As weeks turn into months, Lucky tries to cope with the loss of her mother, while at the same time reach an understanding of Marian’s unusual cruelty. Lucky soon discovers that Marian’s lover, a local mechanic named Tom Cressfield, might play a significant role, not only in the instability of her grandmother, but also in the disappearance of her mother. When Tom begins to play a strange game of cat and mouse with Lucky, she finds herself desperate, vulnerable and terrified.

At a point when Lucky believes death would be better than life, a new student at her high school, Rika Adams, befriends her. The unusual and intimate friendship that develops between the two girls gives Lucky a sense of hope, and helps to encourage her to remain strong and accept her life. Lucky soon discovers, however, that nobody can keep her safe from Tom, when on a warm spring day, not long after her 15th birthday, he shatters her innocence, leaving her to endure emotional and physical pain that challenges the very core of her existence.

Facing the reality of certain death at the hands of her grandmother, Lucky finds the strength to escape from the imprisonment of Marian’s home. With Rika’s help, she leaves the town of Plains and the painful memories that remain there.

Lucky tries to move on with her life, but the horrible images of the past haunt her, and she again finds herself spiraling downward. Unable to cope, she is easily tempted into a life of drugs and prostitution. It isn’t until Rika abandons her in a desperate attempt to escape from her own abusive father, however, that Lucky finally crumbles. But as she’s about to plunge into the icy waters of the Clark Fork River, a young man pulls her back from the river’s edge, giving her a second chance at life.

In the months that follow, Lucky receives the love and support she needs to bring peace to her heart, until a deadly encounter with Tom forces her to return to Plains. There, she is presented with a stack of letters, and in her grandmother’s own words, Lucky learns the terrible truth about who she really is, what happened to her mother, and the sadistic connection Tom has to both. With all the dark secrets of her past revealed, Lucky comes to terms with who she is, but there remains an emptiness in her soul, and to fill it, she must set out to find the one person left in her life who holds the key to her heart.

Outline

I Am Lucky Bird is broken into segments rather than chapters, separated by two dashes ( ~~ ). The story alternates between Lucky's POV and Marian's POV (told through letters written to her father over a period of years). The letters detail Marian's childhood, revealing to the reader over time a tragic accident that was the catalyst to Marian's rapid decent into insanity. For this outline, I will include just the segments from Lucky's POV.

Segment One - Lucky introduces herself and her mother, AnnMarie, as well as Marian (her grandmother) and Marian's lover, Tom Cressfield. Backstory of an event that happened in their home that changed AnnMarie. Not long after, AnnMarie vanishes.

Segment Two - Lucky wakes up to a life without her mother. First abusive encounter with Marian.

Segment Three - Search for AnnMarie is abandoned. Lucky settles into lonely existence. Encounter with Tom reignites abuse from Marian.

Segment Four - Marian's abuse intensifies. Her behavior becomes erratic and strange, culminating in the destruction of Lucky's book collection.

Segment Five - Tom stops by the house. Lucky is alone. She hides under the bed. After he leaves, she's overwhelmed with a feeling of dread. The following morning, she meets Rika Adams, a new girl at her school.

Segment Six - Lucky's friendship with Rika blossoms. Upon discovering this, Marian's attitude changes, and the house becomes quiet again.

Segment Seven - Lucky stays with Rika overnight. They have their first intimate encounter. They talk about running away together.

Segment Eight - While Lucky is walking home from school, Tom attacks her.

Segment Nine - Lucky begins a dark, downward spiral. She pushes Rika away. 

Segment Ten - Marian keeps Lucky locked in the house, a dirty secret, but Lucky manages to escape and is reunited with Rika.

Segment Eleven - Rika and Lucky leave Plains and move to Missoula with Rika's brother, Kurt, but Lucky is plagued with nightmares. Rika takes her to a party where she meets Chris, a local drug dealer. 

Segment Twelve - Lucky is drawn into a world of drugs and prostitution. She finds herself sleeping with men for drugs.

Segment Thirteen - Finally kicked out onto the street one night, Lucky tries to reconnect with Rika, only to discover she and her brother ran away to Seattle to escape their abusive father. Lucky finds no reason to live any longer.

Segment Fourteen - Lucky wakes up in the hospital after an attempted suicide. Learns of her bizarre rescue by Jason Colare, a foster boy living with Dr. David Crier and his family. Dr. Crier invites Lucky into his home.

Segment Fifteen - Lucky meets Jason for the first time. They develop a strong bond, at first intimate as they both crave the attention, but Lucky's heart is with someone else.

Segment Sixteen - Dr Crier's wife volunteers at a homeless shelter. She brings Lucky there to help. Lucky meets a girl her age. Sees the pain and shame in her face. Vows to help. Life is finally good, but then, a deadly encounter with Tom at the county fair.

Segment Seventeen - Lucky returns to Plains. Visits Rika's mother. At Marian's house, a police officer gives her a manila envelope filled with the letters Marian wrote to her father, revealing who Lucky is and what happened to AnnMarie. 

Segment Eighteen - Lucky discovers unmarked graves on the property. Learns of small fortune set aside by Marian's father. She leaves Plains again for the last time, and then the Criers and Jason in search of Rika.

Audience

Because I Am Lucky Bird has adult themes, including domestic violence, rape and other sexual content, drug use and prostitution, the target audience is 25 and older. The competing novels I chose--Bastard Out of Carolina, The Lovely Bones, and White Oleander--attracted a larger female audience than male due to the protagonists being female. However, in each of these novels--as well as I Am Lucky Bird--the protagonist is young (pre-teen to teen), and so there is the possibility of I Am Lucky Bird appealing to a young adult audience as well. If so, it would likely fall in a category more relevant to authors such as Jay Asher, Ellen Hopkins, or Chris Crutcher.

Although I believe the target audience for I Am Lucky Bird is more likely women 25 and older, I don't think that would include women 65 and older as this generation is more likely to read non-fiction over fiction. Additionally, according to the Pew Research Center, only 69% of this age group read a book in 2015. This was compared to 80% of readers aged 18-29. 

Young adult fiction has become widely popular, and not just for fantasy fiction novels such as the Twilight series, Harry Potter, or The Hunger Games. Books by authors who tackle tough teenage topics are competing on the New York Times bestseller list. Such novels include Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, and Crank by Ellen Hopkins.

Another possible target audience for I Am Lucky Bird are mystery readers as AnnMarie's disappearance is unsolved until the very end of the novel, and its revelation is shocking. Therefore, readers attracted to Ruth Ware novels, or even Gillian Flynn might find I Am Lucky Bird to be appealing. Here again, the focus is primarily female readers ages 25 and older.

Promotion

In 2011, I hired a firm to assist with the marketing of I Am Lucky Bird (as well as Crumble, my first young adult novel). They pitched the book to bloggers and media outlets, as well as submitted it to independent press contests. Foreword Reviews recognized I Am Lucky Bird as a General Fiction Finalist for the Book of the Year Award. 

Some of the blogger reviews include:

“…one of the most stunning and visceral books I’ve read on child abuse this last decade. It is so brilliantly and beautifully written I found myself holding my breath through many of the passages…I highly recommend I Am Lucky Bird to all of my readers. 5 stars."

- The Bookish Dame Reviews

“Philips portrays a completely genuine character living a life that, unfortunately, is completely plausible and realistic…A truly lasting and emotional story, I Am Lucky Bird is a novel that has carved a home in my heart. Highly recommended.”

- Jenn’s Bookshelves

“This is a gripping story, and you won’t be able to put the book down.”

- Hanging Off the Wire

“A story that will capture the hearts and minds of readers.”

- WTF Are You Reading?

“I finished this book in one, less than 2 hour sitting-I couldn’t stop reading it. Period…It’s hard to believe this is the author’s debut novel!…Lucky’s tale will stay with you, and make you want to share the book with everyone you know!”

- Bless Their Hearts Mom Reviews

“…a deeply emotional book that would stay with me for hours after I put it down and for days after I read the last page…Hands down, one of my favorite reads of 2012!!”

- Chick Lit Central

“This is just a non stop book, beautifully written. I am highly recommending it!”

- A Novel Review

In addition, I hired a production team to create a book trailer. It has been viewed over 7400 times. My twitter account has over 2100 followers (@fleurphilips), and I had a professional website created (www.fleurphilips.com). My professional Facebook page has nearly 500 followers. I also have a Goodreads Author account that includes reviews of my novels. All three of my books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Competition

The below novels I feel are most relevant competition to I Am Lucky Bird:

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison; Plume, 1993

"At the heart of this story is Ruth Anne Boatwright, known simply as Bone, a bastard child who observes the world around her with a mercilessly keen perspective. When her stepfather Daddy Glen, "cold as death, mean as a snake," becomes increasingly more vicious toward her, Bone finds herself caught in a family triangle that tests the loyalty of her mother, Anney-and leads to a final, harrowing encounter from which
there can be no turning back."

Similar theme of childhood trauma caused by a male figure close to the family or a family member himself, and resulting jealousy from a maternal figure. I Am Lucky Bird has two POV's--Lucky, but also her abusive grandmother, Marian, through a series of letters that are revealed throughout the novel.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold; Little Brown, 2004

"This is the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her--her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling."

Similar theme of survival, but for Lucky, she must find meaning and purpose here on earth. Both stories have elements of magical realism.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch; Little Brown, 1999

"The unforgettable story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter, Astrid, whose odyssey through a series of Los Angeles foster homes becomes a redeeming and surprising journey of self-discovery."

Similar theme of teenage homelessness due to destructive relationships with a maternal figure. The roads traveled by Lucky and Astrid, however, are very different. Both girls inevitably find strength through companionship with strangers. 

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       When I look back on my childhood, I realize Marian was partly responsible for keeping me alive, but it was AnnMarie who gave me life. It wasn’t that she was particularly affectionate with me—I wouldn’t know what affection was until later in my teen years, so I had nothing to compare it to—but she showed a degree of tenderness simply in the way she moved and in the softness of her voice. She was a gentle woman, thin and frail with stringy dark hair and deep green eyes. She wasn’t beautiful, but there was something intriguing about the fairness of her skin and the small blanket of dark freckles that lay beneath her eyes and across the delicate bridge of her nose.

       I never called AnnMarie by anything other than her first name, at least not after the age of five when Marian came home one night stinking of whiskey and cigarettes and stale perfume and told me I wasn’t allowed to call AnnMarie "Mom". She didn’t give me a reason, but I wasn’t going to cross her, and so from that point on I never used the word "Mom" again. Three years later, Marian told me the story of finding me in a cardboard box behind the Green Valley Bar. Then, I understood. Up until that moment, however, I didn’t, and I struggled with how I was supposed to be around AnnMarie. 

       Eventually, I think we just fell into the role of being nothing more than friends, maybe sisters at the most, and that was fine. I didn’t have any other friends, neither did she, so this seemed to be the most fitting definition of our relationship. It worked well enough for me, but there were moments when AnnMarie struggled. She wore it on her face—the sudden wrinkle in her brow caused by a thought in her head that maybe she should touch me or talk to me, but she didn’t know how, or worse, she was afraid to.

       I wonder now if maybe AnnMarie knew what was going to happen to her, and by keeping her distance from me, she was protecting my heart. I don’t know, but what I do know is that prior to the summer of 1988 when Tom Cressfield stopped by our little white clapboard house alone, AnnMarie was different. Quiet, calm, often distant, but not unusual for her. We’d seen Tom a time or two, mostly in town, but each time we did, AnnMarie took my hand and we walked in the opposite direction. I never thought much of it. The few times he’d been at the house with Marian, AnnMarie and I stayed in her room. Marian didn’t like him being at the house, and she especially didn’t like him being around me or AnnMarie. I used to believe it was because he was embarrassing—always dressed the same, his boots dirty, his hair a mess. And those fingernails.

       I was 12 years old on that summer day in 1988 when Tom knocked on the door. I was sitting on the living room sofa reading a book. AnnMarie was in the kitchen. Marian was at work. We rarely had visitors, other than church-goers delivering pamphlets or the mailman dropping off a package. AnnMarie stepped through the dining room into the foyer and opened the door. As soon as she did, her face paled. Her eyes widened and her mouth turned down. I’d seen that same look on her face one time before when I was six years old and we came across a rabid squirrel perched on the wooden steps at the back door. It was trembling and gagging, a thick film of frothy saliva coating its mouth. AnnMarie took hold of my arm, and then stepped between me and the animal just before it snarled and lunged toward us.

       “Marian forgot my check for the battery I put in her Ford,” Tom said. “I need it, and I told her I was comin’ over here to git it.”

       AnnMarie stepped slowly backwards, her eyes on him. I didn’t know why at the time, but my stomach came alive like a pile of worms suddenly exposed to the sun after hiding under the darkness of a rock.

       “You wait here,” AnnMarie said. “I’ll get it for you.”

       “Sure thing, Ms. AnnMarie,” Tom replied.     

       I set down the book I was reading and lowered my feet from the coffee table. I couldn’t see Tom from where I was. I tried leaning back to peer at him through the window, but he was still invisible to me. When the screen door hinges creaked, I knew he’d stepped into the foyer. I smelled him even before I saw him. As familiar as the stench of whisky and cigarettes was to Marian, so was the scent of Tom’s cologne—a thick, musky odor that reminded me of rain-soaked wood. Marian’s clothes always smelled as though they’d been washed in it.

       AnnMarie had already disappeared into the kitchen. I remained still as Tom passed slowly through the foyer and into the dining room. He stepped out of sight then and into the kitchen. AnnMarie’s voice quivered as she told him to please go back outside and wait on the porch.

       “Could I have a glass of water, Ms. AnnMarie?” Tom said.

       There was a long pause before I heard AnnMarie pull a glass from the cupboard next to the refrigerator, and then the rush of water as she filled it. My head was pounding, as though someone inside of my brain was trying to get out.

       “Thank you,” Tom said.  “You sure look pretty today, Ms. AnnMarie.”

       “Here’s your money,” she replied, her voice still quivering.

       There was the clink of glass on tile, and then another long pause before the shuffle of shoes on the linoleum floor and a strained whimper escaping from somewhere deep in AnnMarie’s chest.

       I stood up and walked toward the kitchen. Tom was standing in front of the kitchen sink, his back to me, and AnnMarie was jammed between him and the edge of the sink. Her hands were pressed firmly on the counter, the veins in her forearms bulging. Tom’s hands were in front of him. I had no idea what he was doing with them, but I suddenly felt the need to make myself known, so I cleared my throat.

       Tom turned around and wiped his mouth with the back of one hand.

       “Well hello there, Ms. Lucky,” he said. “You’re just like a lil’ mouse, aren’t you?”

       He spoke as though he had a mouth full of marbles.

       AnnMarie stepped away from him, brushing at her skirt with the tips of her fingers. Her jaw was clenched tight, her cheeks flushed. There was a thin line of sweat across her forehead.

       The worms were slithering and flipping and burrowing.

       “Guess I’ll be on my way, then,” Tom said, his eyes on me. 

       He tucked the envelope of money into the front pocket of his flannel shirt and stepped around me, into the dining room and through the foyer. I held my breath to avoid inhaling his sickly cologne, but I kept my eyes on AnnMarie, partly because I didn’t want to look at Tom again, but partly because I was afraid she might faint. Her cheeks had gone from red to grey to white. At the creak of the screen door hinges, she hustled past me to close and lock the main door.

       AnnMarie stood still for a long time, one hand wrapped around the brass handle, the other pressed against the door. She lowered her head as though she was staring at the floor, and then she turned around and held my gaze.

       “Everything’s okay,” she said, and then she hurried down the hall to her bedroom, closing the door gently behind her.

       I contemplated following her, but I didn’t. The worms had settled in my stomach, but there was a lingering uneasiness that left me feeling like I might throw up. What Tom had been doing to AnnMarie in the kitchen was wrong. I felt it in my bones the way it might’ve felt if I’d just seen a dog being kicked. But we were okay. AnnMarie was okay. She’d said so herself. I returned to my place on the sofa and went back to reading my book.

       It was later that evening, while AnnMarie sat on the edge of my bed carefully brushing through the twisted tangles of my long brown hair, that she asked me not to tell Marian about what I’d seen in the kitchen.

       “He stayed outside and I brought him the envelope, okay?” she said. 

       “Okay,” I replied. 

       I stared at her through the oval mirror on my dresser, but she wouldn’t meet my gaze. Instead, her eyes remained focused on the boar bristle brush and on the hand she used to slowly stroke the back of my head. It was an almost nightly tradition, but not one normally spent in silence. And outside of the hug she gave me every morning when she dropped me off at school, it was the only time AnnMarie touched me. I craved those moments the way I imagined a baby might crave being held. There was something warm and safe about them.

       For several days after Tom stopped by the house, we kept seeing him—at the Safeway grocery store, at the Shell station where we’d go to buy taffy sticks, and at the hardware store where Marian sent us to purchase a new faucet for the bathroom sink. Each time we saw him, Annemarie ignored his presence, but he’d somehow manage to catch my eye. He’d smile at me and wave—an act most people would’ve found completely innocent. But it was the way in which he smiled and waved that made the gesture malicious. With his head dropped slightly, his eyes narrowed to slits and his lips pressed tightly together, he’d use just the pointer finger on his right hand to wave. If he turned his hand so it faced him, rather than a wave, it would’ve appeared as though he were signaling me to come to him. I think if any other person had done that to me, I wouldn’t have thought much about it, but Tom was no longer just any other person. He’d become that man we were taught in school not to talk to, that man we were told to stay away from.

       “And if he tries to grab you, scream and kick and fight to get away before he gets you in his car,” they’d say.

       As the weeks passed, AnnMarie changed. Our walks to and from the Plains Public Library each day where she worked—and where I spent my summer days reading and drawing—became uncomfortable. She kept her head down, her focus on the dusty road, but by the glaze over her eyes I knew she was seeing something far different than rocks and dirt. When she spoke, her words were random, having nothing to do with a question I asked or a comment I made.

       “I just need to figure this out,” she’d say. Or, “It will be okay. Everything will be okay.”

       When we returned home at the end of each day, AnnMarie went directly to her room and locked the door. She was no longer interested in going to the cottonwood grove at the edge of the Clark Fork River, as we so often did together during the hottest of summer days. We’d make peanut butter and honey sandwiches, pack them in a basket with bottled Coca Colas, and walk the short distance along the trodden path that cut through the meadow behind the house. Once at the cottonwoods, we’d eat and read and soak our feet in the cool, crystal water.


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