Pursuing The Life of a Starving Artist with Delirious Delight (and a constant craving for chocolate) by Elaine Dodge

Harcourt's Mountain by Elaine Dodge - 500No matter what title I’ve held in any profession I’ve pursued, my sub-title has always been ‘starving artist’. This was in no way, let me assure you, a romantic title. Only poet’s think it’s romantic, but then they’ve been known to declaim the romantic allure of daffodils and lonely clouds. And as the majority of the romantic poets seem to have wafted through life amid the haze of opium fumes, one can’t really take their notions on being a starving artist with more than a pinch of salt. Not that a starving artist could spare salt for such trivialities as that.

My entire life’s ambition was to ‘make movies’. No one in Zimbabwe, certainly not my career guidance counsellor at school, even knew that film school, such a wondrous palace of dreams, even existed. They certainly didn’t in Africa. He suggested, even though I answered every question on the tediously long form with the blunt statement, “I want to make movies,” that I pursue ‘commercial art’. Schools really should be more careful when electing personnel to the rather lofty heights of career guidance councillor. ‘Commercial art’ hadn’t been called that for nigh-on twenty years when he gave me this sage piece of advice.

Nevertheless, the sage had spoken and my parents agreed. It helped that, after a brief foray into nursing to appease my mother – where I discovered the horrors of bedpans and the male surgical ward – our church choir master accepted a post at the local polytechnic in Harare in the Graphic Art department. It was but a hop and a skip to signing up for a three-year London City & Guilds Design for Print Diploma.

Unperturbed, well only a little, I threw myself into graphic design. I had, you see, a plan! ‘Top Gun’ had recently come out and I had heard, rightly or wrongly, that the director had once worked in advertising. Somehow, I was going to make movies, even if it meant slipping in through the back door artfully disguised as a graphic designer.

After a few years designing packaging for bacon, I threw in the towel and escaped on a two-and-a-half year jaunt around the world, on my own. A hideous nightmare for a confirmed introvert but, little did I know it, a wonderful source of scenes, atmosphere and location notes for a career well ahead in future.

When I returned to Zimbabwe to attend the weddings of various men in my family, I realised I needed to earn a living and once more resorted to the only thing I knew – graphic design.

A mere hand-span of years on, I was invited to join a company of designers, starvation having been held off thanks to dearest dad during that time. A few years later, that company was bought out by an advertising firm. The plan was starting to kick up a notch, albeit, only into first gear.

Rising through the ranks to Assistant Creative Director would, one would have thought, have increased my bank balance and made being a starving artist a thing of the past. One forgets that one lived in Zimbabwe, the land of the Trillion dollar note.

I was then offered a position as Creative Director in South Africa. I packed the cat and anything else that would fit into the car and headed towards the Antarctic. Johannesburg is a mere 7 342kms from the frozen wastes, but let’s not quibble. A year after arriving, my potential movie career was slammed into second gear when I was appointed Producer and Voice-over Artist on a reality TV show with a local television company.  Another hop, skip and jump and three years after that, I was Producer, Writer, and occasionally Director and Voice-over Artist with a wildlife TV production company working on more shark shows for Discovery and National Geographic than I previously thought possible. I mean, how much is there to say about sharks – they’re big, grey, swim in the sea and are rather fond of humans for lunch. Except, it turns out, they’re not remotely interested in humans until they discover one is quite tasty and conveniently already in their jaws.

Elaine Dodge 3Third gear. Soon, the movie career was going to happen soon. The starving part of being an artist was thankfully slipping into being no more than an old memory.

The one thing about living in Africa is that, despite the realities of life, everyone is unduly optimistic. It must be the sun and rather laissez-faire attitude that tends to prevail. There we were happily swimming with sharks, making award winning documentaries about the poor misunderstood creatures and the next – we’d all been retrenched. The company shrunk from fifty-five to eight overnight. It took a little while longer for my bank balance to go the same way but go it did, and I was once more among the elite – the starving artist elite.

However, by this time I had written my first novel, ‘Harcourt’s Mountain’. I had come to the stunning realisation that perhaps it wasn’t ‘making movies’ that held the ultimate allure for me, but rather ‘telling stories’.

So, now I pursue the role of starving artist with quite another goal ahead of me. I write copy for various companies in order to pay the rent and to support the new dream – being a novelist. It’s not too bad. I’ve gotten used to the garret. It has a spectacular view over the largest man-made forest in the world, which one doesn’t find too often, and which helps to sooth the soul as one wrestles with truculent plots. And if you’re looking for recipes for beans and rice, I’m your woman!



Spring, 1867 – the western frontier of British Columbia hardly seems a likely place for romance. Filthy, terrified and confused, Hope Booker is waiting to be sold off the ‘bride ship’. Luke Harcourt happens upon the sale. It’s not love at first sight, but he feels compelled to save her from a life of slavery and prostitution. To allay her fears of being raped by him, Luke promises never to touch her. Being a man of his word, this is a pledge he quickly finds almost impossible to keep.

Battling their growing attraction to each other, they must learn to live together in the forests of the wild and almost unexplored mountains. They face white water, Indians, wolves, and dangerous men.

No longer able to deny their feelings, their ‘happy-ever-after’ is shattered when a corrupt land baron forces Luke’s hand. Enraged at the man’s actions, Luke rides into town and disappears.

Alone and pregnant Hope faces the prospect of the worst winter in ten years.  The trauma of fighting off a hungry grizzly brings on labor, but the baby is stuck. Luke, meanwhile wakes up on a ship bound for South America, captained by a revengeful sadist who means to murder him. Luke’s chances of survival are slim. Can he stay alive and make it back to Hope in time?


The street was so crowded Harcourt couldn’t get through. They came to a halt outside the brothel. With the bride ship in town it was a relatively quiet day for the girls of the Bright Star Saloon. They crowded the balcony watching the to-ings and fro-ings, calling out ribald remarks to men who had been customers only the night before.

A brightly coloured redhead spotted their wagon. “Mr. Harcourt has himself a bride,” she exclaimed in a sing-song voice. “Heard you paid a lot of money for her, Luke.”

“She doesn’t look like a lot of fun, Luke,” mocked a brassy blonde. “You could have had all of us for that amount of money, honey!”

“At the same time!” yelled the redhead. The girls screeched with laughter.

“Come on Luke, ditch the stuck-up bride and come and have some fun with Babette and the girls!” The blonde wriggled her hips invitingly.

Hope sagged a little beside him and Harcourt felt a blush surge up. He wasn’t sure if he was more embarrassed by the girls’ attention or the flush in his face. He expected Hope to say something. It would be the predictable response. She sat up a little straighter but stayed silent. That was a surprise. Clearly she’d decided discretion was the better part of valour. She shot a quick glance in his direction and then looked down at her hands.

He tipped his hat to the blowzy girls. “Afternoon ladies.”

“Oooh,” cooed the girls, giggling.

“Honey,” the blonde one called, leaning as far over as she could, her straining bodice barely holding her ample self from tumbling out. Hope realised the girl was talking to her. “You going to let that new man of yours come by and visit with us next time he’s in town? Or you going to keep him on a tight leash? We would hate to lose touch with a man we know so well.”

The other whores roared with laughter at her emphasis on the word touch.

Luke grinned up at them. “Now ladies, you might know my name, but that’s about all.” They immediately came up with a variety of ways they could get to know him. “It all sounds very intriguing,” he replied, “but I’m afraid I will have to decline, yet again.”

The blonde leaned out even further. “We’ll get you one day, Luke Harcourt.” The girls all laughed. A space had opened up; he flicked the reins, tipped his hat again at the whores and the cart pulled away.

Glancing over at Hope he saw a small curve flicker across her lips. Although she was trying hard not to smile at all, her laughing eyes gave her away the relief she obviously felt. He wasn’t sure why he’d wanted her to know he didn’t visit the Bright Star, but it had been a good idea. Even though they barely knew each other, Harcourt didn’t want her thinking he was the type of man who visited prostitutes.


Buy Links

Kindle US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EK0V2Y4/ref=cm_sw_su_dp

Kindle UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Harcourts-Mountain-Elaine-Dodge-ebook/dp/B00EK0V2Y4

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/347550

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/fi/book/harcourts-mountain/id691811266

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/harcourt-s-mountain


One thought on “Pursuing The Life of a Starving Artist with Delirious Delight (and a constant craving for chocolate) by Elaine Dodge

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *