By Rick Sobey
PEPPERELL -- Patricia Thorpe started to struggle with her vision as her multiple sclerosis advanced. But one of her life goals was to write a novel, so she started writing quickly, page after page after page.
"The vision got pretty bad, so when it started to reach that point, I wanted to focus on something that I loved to do," said Thorpe, who was diagnosed with MS in 1998. "For the most part, I'm doing fine. But it's affected my vision, so I really wanted to focus on writing, get it started and get moving with the story."
Now, 370 pages later, the 53-year-old Pepperell resident recently released an electronic version of her debut novel, "Sons of Dust." The horror story will be released "hopefully by next week" in paperback version, she said.
Thorpe describes the novel as a "ghost story with a little horror tossed in for fun." Even though it's classified as horror, she said it's not full of violent slashings like other typical horror stories.
The novel, which was written and edited off and on for six years, is set in Thorpe's hometown of Chelsea.
"It was a wonderful time in the '60s, and I wanted to go back," she said. "It was nostalgic for me. We had such a tight little group back then, and I loved growing up there."
The book's description reads: "When Kate left Chelsea 25 years before, she thought she'd left the city behind her forever.
The story follows six fictional characters who go back-and-forth in time in a "good versus evil" battle, Thorpe said. The characters aren't based on particular peers from Chelsea, but the camaraderie, friendship and tightness from her past is shown throughout the book, she said.
Thorpe has always been a writer, going from newspaper writing at Nashoba Publications to marketing at North Middlesex Savings Bank and to fiction writing today.
Despite Thorpe's vision getting worse, she will never stop writing; there is plenty of software available today that allows people to talk and the words show up on the screen, Thorpe said.
"I'm just going to keep writing," she said. "There's nothing like getting lost in a good book, and it's great when you're doing that as the writer. It's great fun, and I love it."
The book was released in electronic version on March 20, and it has received strong praise on Amazon.com, with 11 out of 11 positive reviews. According to a customer review from Kathryn Mackel, "Unknown author, first book -- and wow, close to a masterpiece. How splendid to have literary-quality writing and heart-in-the-throat fear factor. It won't be long until this author is on a bestseller list. Until then, grab this bargain and enjoy the ride ... You might want to keep the lights on."
C.G. Osberg also wrote a customer review: "An intriguing cover, title and story line combined with the elements of mystery, suspense, horror and a page-turning literary style make this book a great read. I literally couldn't put it down. Entertaining and imaginative, Updyke leads the reader on a wild ride with the devil that sucks you along in a spiritual wake to an intense, unexpected and action-packed climax."
"Sons of Dust" is now available on Amazon.com as a Kindle ebook for $3.99. Thorpe wrote the story under the pen name P. Dalton Updyke.
The printed copy will cost around $20, and customers will be able to purchase it on Amazon.com, she said. Thorpe will work with a publicist to get the book into Barnes & Noble and other locations. She'd also like to perform excerpt readings at local libraries.
"When I first put it out there on Amazon, I wasn't sure what the reaction would be, but it's gotten great reviews," she said. "It's really taken off, so now I do want to promote it."
She is also wrapping up a second horror novel set in Gloucester. Thorpe is hoping the second one will be released over the summer.