SWAMPSCOTT — Jerry Brooks is semi-retired from a career in sales for a manufacturing company, but the Swampscott resident has always dreamed of writing a novel. A voracious reader with an active imagination, Brooks recently achieved that goal, self-publishing “Owldoll,” which he describes as a young adult/middle grade fiction work about witches, magic, spells and a girl’s friendship with a wise old owl.
“It’s a 21st century faery tale,” Brooks said, “emphasis on ‘faery,’ with an ‘ae.’ A fairy godmother, with an ‘ai,’ is kind and loves kids. A faery godmother, with an ‘ae,’ burns kids in an oven.”
Owldoll, he said, has the magical ability to see hidden dangers and helps Daisy, a young girl in a city like Salem, whose mom abandoned her family after being put under a spell by three witches.
“In 2006, I joined a writers group (The Red Rock Rewriters) that has met at Swampscott Public Library weekly since then. It has motivated me to write,” said Brooks, relaxing in the library’s Baldwin Room. “The nice thing about the group is there are no rules or requirements. We try to read each other’s work and give feedback. It has helped me a lot.”
Brooks said “Owldoll” started as a short story back then. “The writers group decided to work on a common story, a murder mystery, and the library staff agreed to read it and give feedback. They liked it, but wished it were longer. That got me thinking about my short story, and I took ‘Owldoll’ and started writing it as a novel, about four years ago. … I had no idea where it was going. The novel has little in common with the short story.”
The Reader’s Digest version of the plot: The owner of Witchcraft Heights Potions gives Daisy’s mom, Deborah, a beautiful cobalt blue bottle and an owl doll, a stuffed owl attached to a wooden box. The shop’s owner remarks that she senses in Deborah an owl. Eventually, Mom runs away, leaving her husband and Daisy on their own. One day after the ball Daisy’s playing with bounces away, an owl appears with the ball in its beak. The owl speaks and gives Daisy advice once she promises to be its friend. “It’s a little scary in places, like it is when children are from a broken home,” said Brooks.
Brooks hopes to make the book available in area bookstores. He has a reading planned at the Lynn Public Library in April.
Brooks wrote the novel in Google Docs. But he discovered self-publishing companies prefer novels in Microsoft Word. “Amazon had a program, Create Space, that would, for a fee, format the story. They terminated the service the month I decided to publish the novel,” he said. It took him nine months to find someone to format it properly. “Karen Ronan, who designed the owl on the book cover, did it. I was put in touch with her by Lina Rehal, a member of the writing group who has published several books.”
The short story bears little resemblance to the novel, yet it’s around for eternity, even though it’s unavailable to the public. “I put a copy of the short story in the library’s time capsule in 2017, so I’m guaranteed limited immortality,” he said, then smiled. “One hundred years from now I’ll be back, when they open the capsule.”
“Owldoll (a Twenty-First Century Faery Tale)” by Jerry Brooks is available online at amazon in paperback and Kindle.