English: Sunset on Mildred Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta with view of Mount Diablo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Delta Legend is so much more than a scary creature story. It is about second chances, community, new friendships, budding romance, courage and honor.
There is an inner story that provides vital background for the legend. Kelan has really done a lot of research in order to tell you about this creature and where the events take place. Her descriptions of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are almost visual. You can almost feel the sluggish, dark water on your skin and the cold, silty bottom between your toes.
There are many characters that have their parts to play in this book. They are all essential to the plot and add depth, believability and some comic relief.
When Calvin has a brush with the juvenile court system, his mother, Angela, knows she has to do something. After losing her older son Leo to drug and gang violence, she does not want him going down the same path. Her solution is to send Calvin to stay with his great-uncle Samuel for the summer break. He wants no part of the “cuts”, or back country life and arrives with a big chip on his shoulder.
Samuel was apprehensive about taking in Calvin, but is pleasantly surprised when his great-nephew shows a penchant for machine and engine repair. He proves to be a hard worker and an asset at Samuel’s Marine Repair Shop.
Calvin’s first encounter with Mei Li, a young Chinese farm girl, is confrontational. She sees through his tough guy persona and calls him on it. She is sassy and bold and he wants nothing to do with her.
Samuel takes Calvin into the local cafe and small grocery owned by Frances. It is also where the rental desk for Heron’s Harbor Marina, which her teenage son Jess runs. The locals come there to hang out, have a bite to eat and catch up on the daily news around town. It seems every small town has one of these.
After a little bit of juggling, Calvin and Jess start up a friendship. Mei Li is friends with Jess and includes herself on their outings. It is not hard for the others to notice that Jess has developed an interest in Lauren. She is a nice girl, but hangs with the town bullies. But soon enough Lauren sees them for what they are and joins up with Jess, Calvin and Mei Li.
Good old boys Terry and Neal just want to fish and drink cold beer. They motor to their favorite fishing spot and settle in to catch some dinner when they spot what looks like debris from a boat floating in the water. Seeing what they think is a wig, they hook it and take a look. What they had on the end of that hook was someone’s face. Their return trip broke records. This is not the only encounter they have with body parts, it seems like they just can’t get a day of fishing in.
It soon becomes obvious that something is preying on the people of the Delta. Something hungry. The fatalities start piling up, and finally even Sheriff Ray Cruz has to accept that there is a deadly creature cruising the waters, killing and eating the unsuspecting .
The mish mash of locals, along with Calvin and his posse of friends and Sheriff Cruz and bumbling Deputy Burt Watson, unite to combat this evil monster. There are many more characters that I’ve not mentioned, each one adding flavor and dimension to the story. Kelan has the ability to weave them in without confusing you or slowing down your reading enjoyment. No flipping back and forth to see who’s who.
I particularly liked her characterization of Joe, Tak and Samuel. I smilingly think of them as the Over the Hill Gang.
There are a few surprises, you think something has been left out, but then Kelan slips it in effortlessly, providing all of the answers.
And I can’t wait for you to read the great “Oh No!” ending.
If you are looking for a unique monster story with lots of action, adventure and scares, I recommend you get Delta Legend and get reading.
I loved this book and decided not to do a STAR rating. It deserves much more than 5 STARS.
I am so happy to have Kelan O’Connell on my blog today. She has been kind enough to do an interview.
Hi Kelan. Would you like to start by telling us about yourself?
Sure. I live in Northern California with my partner, Tom Size, who’s a sound engineer/producer. His profession makes for some interesting experiences, especially since one of his primary clients is the rockband Y & T. Considering I was never a rocker chick, it’s pretty funny that I’m now thrown in with that scene. But I truly love the Y & T family and the boys in the band certainly keep us all entertained – on stage, backstage, and on the road.
At home, we have Roxie(a pitbull/boxer mix) who”s a brilliant ambassador against breed discrimination. Everyone who meets her falls head over heels. We also have two cranky old boy cats(both named Jack) who live to wake us up at all hours of the night. These two are NOT good ambassadors for anything and really should be fired, but they’d only file grievances against us so what’s the point really?
When I’m not writing, I love to hike(especially along the Sonoma Coast where I used to live) cook, wine taste, and read. Sadly, I’m writing more than reading these days. When I see how many books you devour on a weekly basis, Laura, I am both impressed and extremely jealous. My idea of a great vacation is to be somewhere beautiful near the water where I can sit and read all day long, my only distractions being a dip in the pool or ocean, eating great food, and enjoying tropical beverages with umbrellas in them.
What was the inspiration for your book?
Delta Legend was a spec screenplay I wrote during my time as a struggling screenwriter in Hollywood. Teen Horror was all the rage back then and I was chasing the genre. In order to crank one out, I had to ask myself “What really scares me?” The answer came from my own young adulthood – swimming and waterskiing in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. I was always more than a little freaked out about what might be lurking in those deep murky waters. So, the story line, characters, and legend all grew out of that one fear, and the Delta itself.
By the time I finished the spec, however, it was such a budget-busting behemoth, no one in their right mind would have touched it. Tons of shooting in and around water, loads of Special Effects(at a time when they were far more expensive) not to mention a cast of thousands – okay, I’m exaggerating but more characters than advisable. Thank god I was deep enough in denial to complete the screenplay, otherwise I never would’ve had the blueprint for what ultimately became the novel.
You have many colorful characters in Delta Legend. Are any of them based on people you know?
None of them are based on any one person, though many of my characters possess some element or trait of someone I’ve known – especially the more extreme ones. I’ve always loved creating colorful(and whacky) characters. This stems from my days writing sketch comedy and one-act plays.
I think colorful characters provide a great balance to the more hip and controlled young adults in YA stories. While teenagers can be just as colorful and out there, most of them have a better cover on. As we age, that cover starts to come off more and we fly our freak flags a little higher without caring who sees it.
Is there one genre you prefer?
Seems I’m becoming partial to YA and its sub genres of Urban Fantasy, Adventure, and Horror. I never feel like I’m writing specifically for a younger audience, however, since people of all ages love YA and I create characters of all ages. I’m also a big advocate of multiculturalism in YA. I’d like to see more YA novels that reflect the demographics of our society.
Do you have a current project and would you like to tell us something about it?
In addition to working on a new “Legend” now and then, I’m finishing a fairly extensive article about the process of turning a screenplay into a novel. It’s not commonly done, and I want to encourage other screenwriters to go for it.
People have no idea how many brilliant stories with great characters have been created but are going to waste in unwanted specs. Of the countless spec screenplays written, only a tiny fraction of those will actually get picked up and made into a film. I now regret that I let Delta Legend languish in story purgatory for almost nine years. I won’t lie, turning a visual story into a narrative one was far from easy, but if I can do it, other screenwriters can as well.
Screenwriters know how to write creatively within a very limited format. This makes for a more deliberate novelist – we rarely wander aimlessly. And the cinematic quality screenwriters bring to a novel is undeniable. Most readers aren’t able to put their finger on why, they just know they’re experiencing a richer, more visual read, one that leaves them saying, “I can totally see this as a movie.”
What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?
Aside from transitioning it from screen to novel, it was the amount of research required to create the historical fiction element. The novel version required far more detail and therefore more research in order to meld fictional characters with actual historical events. At one point, our kitchen wall was covered with a large timeline so I could visually see when different events took place in order to properly build the story around them. I still have that timeline somewhere. Thankfully, it’s no longer taking up an entire wall of our kitchen.
I’m extremely proud that Delta Legend teaches a slice of American and California history in a fun and interesting way. There’s a small but growing list of teachers who want to use it in their classrooms once the print-on-demand version is available. (I’m working on that.) If I could have learned a piece of American history from a fun YA novel, I would have been much more engaged in high school history class, that’s for sure.
Thanks for a wonderful interview with some really unique questions, Laura! I stalk you here and on Goodreads so I know what to put on my TBR list for that reading vacation I’m dreaming of.
Thank you also Kelan. This was a fun and enlightening interview. It is nice to be stalked, I think?! I am always on the lookout for the next great read. Give me a shout out when you take that vacation!
Kelan is offering up some really cool stuff for a giveaway here on fuonlyknew! Stay tuned for more about when it will start. I’ll be posting it next week!
Be sure to visit Kelan’s blog: http://kelanoconnell.blogspot.com
and the Delta Legend website: http://deltalegend.com
I hope you enjoyed the review of Delta Legend and the author interview with Kelan O’Connell. See ya’ll next week for the GIVEAWAY!