Jack Chaucer sold and signed 26 paperbacks for a bunch of awesome people at The Big E in West Springfield, Mass., on Monday. It’s a great event with a good crowd in the Connecticut Building. Readers of all ages were looking for new books and my pal Jim Fuller made the drive up from CT to buy the whole Nikki trilogy. I actually sold out of the Nikki trilogy plus eight additional books from my other three titles. Thanks to fellow author Karin LeFranc, a veteran of the CAPA booth, for her helpful tips.
“Red, white and …
Streaks of blue
Far off the path
I search for truth
Live free or die
A state of beauty
Will we be next
To look to the sky
And find more stars
Than the night just passed?
Lessons never learned
The youngest of souls
Pay with their lives
So for them I cry
The rain in my heart
Soaks every ring
This paper on which I write
Once was a sapling
So young and new
But now it’s a vessel
On a lake
Beneath a cloud
And onto it flow
My streaks of blue
Again and again
More trees fall
No not me
But it might as well be
For I die with them
As the view gets clearer
And the truth gets nearer
I am sad to discover
That we truly are lost
So I look in the mirror
And dye my hair blue
So I brook through the mountains
And keep my heart true
I’ll blaze a new trail
No matter the cost
One without labels
One that is just
Souls are for saving
While we’re still walking
So strap on your packs
Your hopes, your boots
And keep your eyes open
For my streaks of blue
Yes, I’ll blaze a new trail
A path for the lost.”
It was like a family reunion at my signing of “Nikki White: Polar Extremes” on April 23rd at Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot. Relatives traveled from Rhode Island and Pennsylvania to come to the signing, buy books, hear me read Chapter 1 and feast at the White Horse Inn & Country Pub afterward. A fun day indeed! And “Nikki White” ended up being the No. 2 bestseller at Hickory Stick last week!!
You’re all invited to my book signing tomorrow (4-23) at 2 p.m. at Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot, Connecticut. The NikkiJtrilogy has received scores of positive reviews from readers, teachers and librarians across the USA, Canada, England, Nigeria, Brazil, Australia, Sweden, Sudan, Philippines, India and the Republic of Georgia. Here are some of them …
“Streaks of Blue does something that no other book has tried — it asks, “if just one person stepped in to love someone capable of murder, would that love be enough to stop them from hurting others?” Definitely a really worthwhile one to read.”
— Rebecca McNutt, of Nova Scotia, Canada, on “Streaks of Blue”
“I find Nikki very inspiring. … She reminds me so much of Hazel from ‘The Fault In Our Stars.’ I look up to both of them.”
— Samantha Arnold, of Khartoum, Sudan, on “Streaks of Blue”
“Such a touching and monumental story.”
— Georgina Robinson, of Hinckley, England, on “Streaks of Blue”
“Jack Chaucer took a tough subject, school shootings, and wrote a very poignant book.”
— Ruth Silver, USA, on “Streaks of Blue”
“I was super skeptical of this novel, but it was absolutely amazing, with a great message about reaching out and making a difference.”
— Shannon Mersand, a librarian at Yorktown High School in Yorktown, N.Y., on “Streaks of Blue”
“I wasn’t sure I was ready to read a book that references Sandy Hook yet, but he pulled it off. Heart-wrenching and amazing!”
— Amy Vandagriff, English resource specialist at Foothill High School in Pleasanton, California, on “Streaks of Blue”
“This book is wonderfully written. It is a masterpiece. I think it should on every English teacher’s to-read list. It helps not only to show how terrible things can be when people make poor decisions, but also shows the consequences of those actions.”
— Annie Marie, of Lake Jackson, Texas, on “Streaks of Blue”
“I am in love with this book. I wanted to keep on reading more after the story ended, and rarely do books capture me in such a way. The issues the book deals with are current, critical and must be talked about. Streaks of Blue is a must read for any teenager, even every adult.”
— Brittany of Cary, Illinois, on “Streaks of Blue”
“This book was not that long, but I would probably remember it for the rest of my life.”
— Sunny, of Asquith, Canada, on “Streaks of Blue”
“The story pulls at the heart with emotions, startles the heart with suspense, and washes away burden and brings out hope for our future.”
— Lynndell Watson, of Delta, Utah, on “Streaks of Blue”
“Nikki’s words made me re-think my school life and how we are rejecting our peers. And it made me call and write to all of my classmates and ask them if they wanted to talk and hang out.”
— Katie Topchishvili, of the Republic of Georgia, on “Streaks of Blue”
“I thought this book was totally awesome! Very well-written, beloved characters. It is very deep and emotional. (Chaucer) has certainly managed to touch me.”
— Jennifer Ahlin, of Uppsala, Sweden, on “Streaks of Blue”
“I enjoyed this book. In the end, I cried a little. So it touched me, moved me.”
— Paula Ribeiro, of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on “Streaks of Blue”
“This book is about action, love, loss, mystery, suspense and so much more.”
— Natalie Lizardo Wilburn, of Pocahontas, Arizona, on “Nikki Blue”
“This book definitely blew away my expectations. … Another great read by Jack.”
— Natalie Lizardo Wilburn, Pocahontas, Arizona, on “Nikki White”
“I want to say that I think this author has magic, sorcery, mind-controlling powers. Every damn book in this series gets me so entranced with the storyline, a bomb could go off next to me and I wouldn’t flinch. … I want to know how this author thinks of the things that happen in this book. Some are so complex and make some characters downright heinous, it’s purely brilliant. … Nikki is my freaking hero. Total bad ass chick. … This is one of my top 10 all-time favorite series.”
— Christine Sewatsky Cheff, of Totowa, New Jersey, on “Nikki White” and the whole series
“Man, I’m angry with myself because I feel like I should have anticipated the ending to this book, but I didn’t, so cheers to Mr. Chaucer on that one. I love the character transformations in this one.”
— Kailyn Klausen, of Santa Barbara, California, on “Nikki White”
“The Bridge is a masterful puppeteer sliding Nikki into a complexity of hard choices played out against the harsh and beautiful landscape of Antarctica. Not only must she fight the elements that threaten to make the most sane mind lose touch with reality, but The Bridge forces her life to collide with Thomas in such a way that kept me riveted.”
— Katie Sholty, USA, on “Nikki White”
“I feel honored to review the entire series and now I can say this one is my favorite. The book was full of twists and turns, which makes it more exciting to read. There were also heart-stopping events on the first and last part of this book, it literally made me curse.”
— Camelle Rogando, of Pasay, City, Philippines, on “Nikki White”
“I couldn’t have hoped for a better setting (Antarctica) or ending.”
— Nandini Bharadwaj, of Bangalore, India, on “Nikki White”
“It is without a doubt a harrowing and transformative series of events for the majority of the characters we’ve come to know. … I really enjoyed Nikki’s character progression in this book. Also, wow, I did not see that ending coming, Mr. Chaucer. Kudos to you for surprising me with it!”
— Catherine, of Poulsbo, Washington, on “Nikki White”
“It was fabulous. Another great work from Chaucer. This series is always in my top 10.”
— Christina Jackson, of Shawneetown, Illinois, on “Nikki White” and the series
“Another incredible journey from Chaucer! This novel, the third in the Nikki series, is a fist in the face to the corrupt corporation known as ‘The Bridge’, it is the book all Nikki Blue fans have been waiting for! … A perfect third installation to this series, a quick, fast-paced read that leaves you thinking long after you have read the final page.”
— Julie Oakley, of Hobart, Australia, on “Nikki White”
Here’s a teaser to the third installment in the trilogy, NIKKI WHITE: POLAR EXTREMES, which is out today, March 24, 2017, the very day the sun sets for six months of darkness at South Pole Station, the setting for much of this story.
But first, Nikki must survive a swim with sharks near Dyer Island, South Africa … here is Chapter 1, in its entirety. Enjoy …
point of view
January 1, 2020
Off the coast
of South Africa,
near Dyer Island
The sea gulls taunted me with their freedom.
They had it and I didn’t. And they could fly anywhere, but no, they had to show off, shrieking at me as they cruised alongside the boat.
After months of indoor isolation and captivity, I suppose I should’ve been rejoicing at this “reward” of fresh, saltwater air; a new start and new training for the new year. But the sun that I hadn’t seen or felt in so long was a no-show, masked by thick, dark-gray clouds; the air was stained with the stench of fish guts, and my own guts were roiling from sea sickness.
To add insult to indignity, a sea hag kept heckling me from the rear of the boat in German, Dutch or whatever the hell it was.
My only consolation was Roy, the biggest and blackest of my abductors, looked even more nauseous than I did. He sat on the bench a few feet to my left and held his breakfast back with a massive hand over his mouth.
That’s when the mystery captain, driving the boat behind tinted glass on the upper deck, suddenly cut the engine, leaving us to pitch and roll in lazy, 6- to 8-foot swells. The torturous motion immediately forced me to get up and stagger to the rail. I might have fought it back, but the sound of Roy hurling over the opposite rail was too much. Out it came, pouring into the sea below.
Happy Effing New Year.
And not one drink the night before to make it remotely worth it.
Then the short, stocky sea hag approached me with a big gray scooper in her hand and a prankster smile on her weather-beaten face.
“To settle the stomach, ja,” she attempted in gruff English.
She showed me the fish head and cackled. I seized up and wretched the rest of my innards overboard. Before I could regroup enough to curse her out, she was already back at the stern stirring her revolting cauldron of dead fish.
I just flipped her off with zero satisfaction, turned around and headed for the bow. The island was in front of us, its hilly outline barely visible in the haze. Yes, it was summer here, on the underside of the world. Little did I know at the time how far under I would go.
Could I jump off and swim fast enough to escape a speed boat? Definitely not. Even if I just swam normally without fear of being caught, would I reach the island before hypothermia set in? Not likely. They had warned me the water was cold, even in the summer, due to the Antarctic currents. And all they had given me to wear was a skimpy, two-piece turquoise bikini. There were no wetsuits in sight.
Was there anyone even on that island who could help me? And if my father couldn’t help me escape from The Bridge, who could?
Tears stung my eyes just as I instinctively felt someone else’s eyes on me. I turned to look up at the second deck and there he was: Dr. Peter van Wooten, smiling down at me. The rage took a second to fully engulf me, but then came his predictable wink, setting me off like a bomb.
“You!!! Where’s my father?! What did you do with Bill?! Where’s Adam and Max?! Why are you driving me around on this boat?!”
But he just kept smiling … and the next thing I felt was a hard shove from behind, and nothing hard beneath my bare feet.
The sea hag had bull-rushed me overboard, her laughs suddenly silenced when I belly-flopped into the ocean. I got my mouth above water and screamed from the pain, not from my collarbone — that had fully healed since Hurricane Felicia — but because that’s how frigid the water felt.
As I forced my shocked limbs to swim back toward the bow, the engine kicked on and the boat whipped around. It began moving away from me, so now I was chasing the stern. Peter had climbed down the rear ladder and joined the hag, both clearly amused by my predicament.
With no wetsuit, I knew I wouldn’t last long in this water before hypothermia set in. The island was too far away. I had to catch the boat, no matter how much it killed me to swim toward these assholes.
My lungs and body ached as I churned after the boat as fast as I could. Again the sea gulls taunted me, trailing the boat with ease and hovering around a big blue barrel next to the hag. That’s when she began reaching into the cauldron with her scooper and dumping the fish heads/guts into the water in front of me.
I slowed down for a second, repelled by the hideous smell, the gruesome chunks all around me and the terrible thoughts knifing through my brain.
“Fucking shark week!” I shouted, tredding the icy water and shooting Peter evil-yet-futile looks as the sea tossed me up and down.
He had grabbed a megaphone and directed it toward me, some 20 feet behind the slow-moving boat.
“Maybe now you’ll listen to my mother,” he said with a laugh, while wrapping an arm around her shoulder. “She can still kick some ass.”
She smiled, nodded and poured more shark bait into the sea.
“Nothing like starting the new decade off with a nice, brisk swim, eh Nikki?” Peter ribbed me into his megaphone. “But I’d advise you to pick up your pace and get back on deck as soon as possible.”
I swore at him through gulps of water, gagging and crashing through the waves as I resumed my ragged and desperate pursuit of the boat.
Then I heard the hag cry out. “Shark!!!”
She didn’t need a megaphone. I heard her well enough for the paralyzing chill to rip through me. And I’m sure she was only too happy to shriek that word in my language.
My response was to scream like a banshee until I realized maybe I better not draw any more attention to myself beyond my flailing and splashing.
Then my drenched eyes locked on the massive gray fin and I froze in the water, my teeth chattering as a wave washed over me.
The fin disappeared just as quickly, swerving around the front of the boat, so I surged forward again, but those foreign idiots kept driving the boat away from me.
“I’m really going to die. A great-white shark is going to have me for lunch,” I chattered to myself out loud, perhaps somehow trying to jinx the inevitable.
That’s when the boat stopped, still 20 or so feet away from me.
“Please … let me get back on!!” I shouted at Peter, who just eyed my predicament with morbid anticipation, like any fan of the movie, “Jaws.”
“Two sharks!!” the hag bellowed, pointing past me.
Now I would be a chew toy for two competing sharks, half of Nikki for each. I literally pissed into the sea and closed my eyes. I refused to even look back.
“Save her!” Peter suddenly yelled into his megaphone.
I faux-laughed, swallowed a rogue wave, choked and then wanted to scream, “Oh, now you fucks decide to save me, when it’s too fucking late!!”
But I never got the words out of my mouth for two reasons.
One, I saw what I thought was Fin No. 1 again, directly between me and the stern.
Two, a man in a hooded black wetsuit dove off the second deck and splashed into the water to the right of the boat.
He swam toward me and I rushed to meet him. He whipped around in front of me and shouted, “Put your arms around my neck!”
His voice sounded oddly familiar, but I didn’t get a good look at his face. He was young. And strong. I clung to his back through a wave and he swam us toward the boat.
“Thank you,” I yelled into his hooded ear as my eyes darted left and right to see where the next fin would pop up.
But my jaw dropped when he suddenly stopped in mid-stroke and jerked me off his back, still a good 8 feet from safety.
“What are you doing?!!” I screamed.
He grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me in the eyes.
“No fucking way!” he shouted.
“B-but h-how?” was all I could stutter before I pushed away from his grasp and dove underneath the water. The cold didn’t even bother me anymore. I just dove and dove, ready to die — either by shark or lack of oxygen. I was done with this world.
However, the sight of a great-white shark under water, maybe 15 feet away, made me change my mind in a frozen heartbeat.
I shot back up to the surface and swam for the stern with whatever energy I had left.
“Save her or we’ll leave you both to die!” I heard Peter shout at Thomas “Lee” Harvey, his black hood bobbing in the water. The boat had moved slightly further away from us while I was under.
It was too late anyway. One of the sharks circled us both on his menu, mercifully choosing Thomas as the appetizer.
Yet Thomas refused to be lunch. When the shark’s head came up toward him at an angle, he reared back with his right arm and punched it hard near the eye. That caused the shark to swerve sharply away from us, enough so that I exploded toward the boat, thrashing violently until I reached the outstretched hand of our tormenter, Peter.
“That a girl!” he had the gall to say as he yanked me up with ease and placed my hypothermia-ruined body on the lower deck. At least I was still in one piece, I marveled to myself.
Peter tossed a warm blanket over my quasi-corpse, and then shouted toward the water, “Great job, Tom! There’s hope for you yet.”
“Fuck you!” Thomas shot back, refusing Peter’s attempt to assist him as he got back on board.
“Hey, shut the hell up and get yo ass back up here!” Roy shouted down from the top deck. “This ain’t some pussy prison.”
“No shit, I just punched out a shark.”
“A baby shark, really,” Peter pointed out, extending his arms as the boat dipped between waves. “Only about 3 meters long.”
Thomas shot him a homicidal stare, one I knew well. Peter just smiled, daring him to take a swing. Roy descended the ladder a few rungs and towered over both of them, but he glowered at Thomas.
“OK thug. Get back up there … or take your shot at a great black and see how that goes down,” Roy challenged him.
“And I wouldn’t call Roy a baby,” Peter quipped.
Thomas kept his mouth shut, started unzipping his wetsuit and dripped his way up the ladder following Roy. Thankfully, he never looked down at me, still a miserable heap on the deck.
Peter, on the other hand, flashed me his best anchor-man smile and, of course, a wink. I hissed and pulled the blanket over my head.
Thomas “Lee” Harvey — who should still be in prison on the other side of the world until 2039 for shooting me and Adam Upton because we derailed his plot to shoot up our New Hampshire high school — somehow had been reinserted into my real-life nightmare. He also had stared down a great-white shark and survived.
Looking at it another way, The Bridge had sprung my would-be killer out of jail and tricked him into rescuing me so they could apparently torture us both even more.
Perhaps succumbing as a chew toy for a “baby” shark would have been a more merciful fate after all.
Read the rest of the book on Kindle ($2.99) or in paperback ($13.99) at the Amazon link below. The book is also available at Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot, Conn., and all major ebook retailers. The first two books in the Nikki Janicek series, STREAKS OF BLUE and NIKKI BLUE: SOURCE OF TROUBLE, also are available at all of the same retailers.