I’ve never heard anyone say writing a novel was easy. The fact that so many aspiring authors have trouble completing the task gave Christine Smith and Jessie Kwak the brilliant idea to form Four Windows Books.
It’s an author incubator and publishing company that guides new authors through the writing process all the way to completing their first books. The novels are written and published in serial format, delivered to subscribers via ebook a quarter at a time. Each year, Four Windows will choose four new authors and a new city to feature.
The first-ever Four Windows books are being written by four authors who live in (or have lived in) Seattle. Part 2 is set to be released November 30. It was cool to revisit Seattle through Part 1 of these books – places like the Aurora Bridge (where the Fremont Troll is) and the International District, which is where the excerpt below takes place.
Here’s a taste of Trace by Ian Smith:
Joanne stepped off the bus in the International District station, the last underground stop before the transit tunnel disgorged its travelers to disperse throughout the forsaken lands south of the stadiums. The scent of curry entwined itself in the more familiar smells of black coffee and wet concrete, and the walls echoed with a busker’s saxophone wailing out Moon River.
She ascended the steps to street level, and felt a wave of nauseating anxiety — like the free falling terror of hearing a professor announce an exam that she’d forgotten to study for. There were Chinese characters on signs and the frenetic song of tonal language all around her, foreign as hieroglyphs, but all reminding her of where she was not from, what she did not know, who she could never be.
She took a moment to orient her phone to her surroundings, and then headed off down a side street.
She walked past the Tiantang Medicine Shop twice before finally Googling a picture of the building — two red characters painted over a nondescript door marked the entrance. She opened the door to be greeted by a heady wall of aromas — licorice, pepper, and ozone with a slight undernote of sewage.
A wrinkled man hunched on a stool behind the counter, wispy-haired and liver-spotted. He was gazing disinterestedly at a talk show when Joanne entered; he regarded her in solemn silence for a moment then focused back on the television. The shop was lined with shelves, and each shelf held an amalgam of irregular plastic bins containing dried bits of organic god-knows-what. There were a scattering of identifying cards about the shop, but only a few were in English, and those bore such cryptic legends as ‘concentrated gel of antler velvet’ and ‘codonopsis’. After a minute of surveying the inscrutable, she gave up and approached the man behind the desk. “Excuse me, could you help me find some of these herbs?”
He replied without taking his eyes from the brewing domestic dispute, “You from Dr. Keller?”
There was a note of disdain in his voice that made her want to deny it, but her list was on his letterhead. “Yes, I just started seeing him.”
“He’s a fool.” Without ceremony, he slid from his stool, took the paper from her hand and started scooping various powders and plant matter into bags.
“He’s big fool. You should know.”
You can download the entire Part 1 of Trace and the 3 other books for free in your e-reader format of choice.
PS Yes, Ian is my brother, but he didn’t ask me to do this. I’m just excited about the project and the books, and I can’t wait for Part 2!