Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Swamps, Memories and The Murk (Plus a Giveaway!) by Robert Lettrick

When I was 6 or 7 my family moved into a shoe box of a house located 30 yards from a small basin of stagnant water. 
It was a swamp. On our property. And it was all mine. And sometimes my sister's, I guess. 
I loved that swamp and all the precious, slimy life that lived inside it. Filling approximately one acre of land, it was practically a puddle. But at that age, at my size, even a tiny swamp meant big adventures. For example, there was the time a huge snapping turtle crawled into our yard to lay her eggs. Possessing a beak that could snap a broomstick in half, she let us know it was in our best interest to leave her alone, so we did. And then there was the animal hospital I founded with my sister when we discovered the abandoned baby rabbits along the bank trail. Of course, I’ll never forget the frogs. So many frogs with their bubble eyes watching us from the safety of the water line. They were fast, but on occasion I was faster. Catch and release was the law of the land, and still is today. 
Found this one on a lawn the other day and relocated him/her back to the water. Be safe, baby turtle!
A few years ago, I went canoeing with my brother on the Waccamaw, a shallow blackwater river surrounded by wetlands, home to alligators and snakes, and other nefarious critters. We came across low hanging branches and attempted to push them out of the way so we could glide past them. We lost our balance, accidentally rolled the canoe, and plunged into the cold water. I was completely submerged. I remember seeing the watery sun above, wondering if I'd ever reach the surface. It was probably the most frightening fifteen seconds of my life, which is approximately how long it took to right the canoe, climb back inside, and check to make sure I still had all of my limbs. 
We retrieved the oars before they could float away, then we paddled around for a while, giving the sun time to dry our clothes, sparing us the embarrassment of arriving at the public dock soaking wet.

Then there was the time I took my niece to Alligator Adventure (home to a wide assortment of reptiles, including 18' long Utan, King of the Crocs). Every day, approximately fifteen minutes before feeding time, the alligators begin slowly drifting toward the feeding station where a park employee will appear to toss them chunks of chicken. Somehow the reptiles instinctively know when it’s time to eat. They cluster around the elevated platform, heads raised, mouths agape for easy access. This was the day I learned that alligators can use their muscular tails to propel their bodies straight up into the air like a rocket. I wish I'd know that beforehand, I might have warned the poor gull that flew too low over the feeding area. A gator launched out of the water, snatched the bird from the air, and dropped like a stone below the surface, taking the gull to its watery grave. Who needs to wait for the Chicken Guy when the whole world is your buffet?
Jump ball!
It’s amazing how our memories can shape our writing, even when we’re not consciously aware of it. For example, I never realized how much lingering affection I had for swamps until I wrote The Murk. 

The Murk, my new middle-grade book from Disney-Hyperion, debuts today. It’s set in the Okefenokee, the biggest blackwater swamp in the United States. It’s a story that’s near and dear to my heart, for the above mentioned reasons and more. While writing, I tapped into cherished memories: Angry turtles, legions of frogs, swarming gators, the earthy smell of mud and dead plants, beautiful flowers, black water, carpets of algae, and most importantly, siblings sharing adventures. It's all there. 

To celebrate The Murk's release, I’m holding a giveaway. First a little bit about the book:
With jacket and classic nude.
In the Okefenokee Swamp grows a rare and beautiful flower with a power unlike any other. Many have tried to claim it-no one has come out alive. But fourteen-year-old Piper Canfield is desperate, and this flower may be her only chance to keep a promise she made a long time ago. Accompanied by her little brother, Creeper, her friend Tad, and two local guides, Piper embarks on the quest of a lifetime. But there's a deadly predator lurking unseen in the black water, one nearly as old as the Oke itself. Some say it's a monster. Others say an evil spirit. The truth is far more terrifying. 
Piper's task is simple: find the flower . . . or die trying.

School Library Journal said: "Fans of “Goosebumps” looking for something with a little bit more substance will enjoy this action-packed adventure filled with plenty of fun and a few scares...The Murk is an excellent action adventure that will have readers burning the midnight oil to finish...The Okefenokee swamp setting is so well written that it becomes an additional character—a dangerous character with something up its sleeve at all times...A good choice for readers who like action, adventure, and horror."

So what’s up for grabs?
1). An autographed copy of The Murk.
2). I'll draw an original sketch inside the book.
Sample drawing.
3). An autographed paperback Frenzy.
4). A trading card featuring painter Mark Fredrickson's amazing cover artwork for both Frenzy and The Murk. 
5). A mystery gift from Mergo, the book’s monstrous antagonist.

Enter to win at Goodreads and please add The Murk to your "Want To Read" shelf. The winner will be notified by email. Thank you to Project Mayhem and to our readers for allowing me the opportunity to celebrate the debut of my new book. Happy Reading!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Murk by Robert Lettrick

The Murk

by Robert Lettrick

Giveaway ends May 04, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to Win


  1. This is so awesome, Robert! Man, congrats.

  2. I got the shivers reading about your swampy adventures. Happy book birthday to THE MURK!

  3. Congrats, Robert!! I love poking around in swamps!! The Murk sounds like a great read!!

  4. Thanks, guys! Much appreciated!

  5. Sounds like a terrific book! Can't wait to submerge myself in The Murk.....

  6. Robert, congratulations! What a fun looking read and I love swamp settings. Spooky and mysterious and thrilling.And what an artist you are too!


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