Okay, so that made it sound like what Santa Fe writer Elizabeth Tidrick did was lazy. It absolutely wasn't. It was actually really smart. She exhausted her creative juices by writing Chasing the Shimmer, then, with the simple click of a mouse, entered said novel in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Competition.
According to Tidrick [disclosure: Charlotte Jusinski is a former student of Tidrick's], Amazon's call for entries garnered an incredible 8,000-10,000 submissions. Tidrick entered “on a whim,” as she says. It was recently announced that her 17-page excerpt of Chasing the Shimmer had made it into the quarter-finals (aka, it's in the top 500 submissions).
Download a free 17-page excerpt of Chasing the Shimmer then tell Amazon what you think. The excerpt has strong resonances of Native American novelist Louise Erdrich, who weaves many characters into a single narrative through each person's unique, disparate life.
Tidrick's characters are almost likeable, but not quite – which makes them all the more intriguing. The book opens in 1989 through the eyes of Sydney Swan, who sits in her old Cadillac and watches from the curb, swilling vodka from a Coke can, as the sheriff empties her house of its contents. We soon meet her children, Bart and Louisa, when Bart calls Louisa to tell her that their mother has disappeared.
The story then skips back to 1974, painting a not-so-rosy picture of the Swan family when Bart and Louisa were young. The family embarks on a spontaneous “road trip” through the Southwest in the middle of the night, their elegant Arabian stallion Mustafa in tow. Why Sydney is taking her family to a remote cabin in San Lorenzo, NM, is anyone's guess. The excerpt ends with the chilling image of a car, headlights burning, following Bart as he slowly rides the horse through the dark, not looking back, “punishing one of them by leading and standing strong for the other by breaking the trail.”
On April 15, Amazon's publishing partners at Penguin Books will choose the top 100 submissions based on customer reviews at amazon.com. The more good reviews Tidrick gets, the more likely she is to get published.
Even beyond the competition itself, many finalists get contracts through other publishers who keep their eye on the contest, so it's good news for even those who don't win.