Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Excerpt from Rosemary Mild’s new memoir, IN MY NEXT LIFE I’LL GET IT RIGHT

My Quirky Crusade


A zillion books, articles, and workshops are out there on how to be a better writer. If you put them end to end they’d probably circle the earth. 

In the writing of dialogue, there’s a current style these days for authors of mystery and suspense fiction. The standard appears to be the verb “said.” For instance, “I feel miserable,” she said. “My car broke down,” he said. 

We’re taught that “said” is a good verb and we should use it—and rarely anything else. And above all, ditch the adverbs! Here are a few examples of adverbs that tell instead of show: 

“…she said angrily, spitefully, sweetly, happily, morosely.” Instead of showing: “I’ll never come back,” she shouted. 

Elmore Leonard (author of Get Shorty) said something like “Let’s kill all the adverbs.” Lawrence Block wrote a book for writers of fiction, Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. He said that if your characters are good and your dialogue is natural, “let them talk to each other. And stay the hell out of their way.” 

The same rule goes for piling on the adjectives. The Maryland Writers’ Association newsletter once had a cartoon of a speaker at a podium in front of a large audience. A sign on the wall behind him read: “Adjectives and Adverbs Anonymous.” 

But getting back to the word “said.” I’m launching my own personal crusade to do away with the persistence of it. My point is, the word “said” is boring. Downright booooring! I miss the old-fashioned authors’ extravagant animal sounds, such as: “He barked, he yelped, he bayed, he grunted.” “She snarled, she screeched, she warbled, she bleated.” 

Now I ask you: Aren’t those verbs more fun? I intend to indulge in them. But I promise you, I will never write “The horse-faced woman neighed” or “whinnied.” You have my word on that.




Acclaimed novelist Rosemary Mild pulls back the curtain on life, love, loss, and everything in between in her new book, In My Next Life I’ll Get It Right.  In this charming, entertaining, and heartfelt collection, Mild dances to her own captivating tune. With a keen eye, wicked wit, and sparkling delivery, she produces a collection of essays ranging from the hilarious to the serious, from the practical to the irreverent. Clever, pitch-perfect, and polished, Mild’s conversational tales are destined to strike a chord with readers.

Mild writes with candor, compassion, and honesty in a voice that brims with humor and wisdom. Her essays run the gamut from gritty observations on everyday life to laughing at her own wishful thinking tempered with tough reality. In My Next Life I'll Get It Right has it all.

No subject escapes the pen of Rosemary Mild—wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. Readers will delight in her Hawaii adventures; “Senior Decade”; brief encounters with the famous; medical mishaps; and her rocky road from blind dates to lasting love. Join her as she takes on sailing, skating, Jazzercise, football, marathons, and more—and come along as Mild lays bare a mother’s heart-wrenching loss. A collection that is at once timeless and timely, In My Next Life I’ll Get It Right is utterly irresistible.

Find out more about the book

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rosemary Mild is an award-winning essayist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Chess Life, and countless other outlets. When not dreaming up outrageous essay ideas, Rosemary Mild and her husband, Larry, wallow in crimes and clues that include their popular Paco and Molly Mysteries; Dan and Rivka Sherman Mysteries; two Hawaii suspense/thrillers; and three gripping story collections. They have two stories in the 2021 anthology Kissing Frogs and Other Quirky Tales. Rosemary has also authored two memoirs: Love! Laugh! Panic! Life with My Mother; and Miriam's World—and Mine, in memory of the beloved daughter they lost in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Fout out more HERE


Sunday, April 11, 2021

HIS KILT DROPPED HERE by Kathleen Shaputis




Title
: HIS KILT DROPPED HERE: A MAGICAL REALISM SCOTTISH ROMANCE
Author: Kathleen Shaputis
Publisher: Clutter Fairy Publishing
Pages: 170
Genre: Magic Realism Scottish Romance

BOOK BLURB:

Rogue Bruce enjoys running a Scottish castle turned bed-and-breakfast with her Aunt Baillie from America. They specialize in hosting romantic Elizabethan-themed weddings, complete with resident ghost, Lord Kai. But love is something Rogue is not the least bit interested in. Content with her work, she requires no male accompaniment for happiness.>A new delivery service brings Bruce MacKenzie, a Thor look-alike in plaid and denim, fetching more than the usual number of groceries from town, while Jonathan Olson, a snobbish, dark, Rhett Butler type, arrives at the castle to administer a writing seminar for aspiring authors. With two men after the heart she’d thought safely locked away, Rogue is flattered and confused. But when things start to take a sinister turn, danger befalls Rogue and those dear to her. The musical soundtrack of Rogue’s life flares from complacent, to dizzyingly romantic, to heart-thumping scary in this sizzling triangle.

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon https://amzn.to/3oSL72D

FIRST CHAPTER

“Who created these torture devices for women?” Rogue Bruce muttered as the high-heeled ankle boots her glittery Seattle friend, Rafael, had picked out for her squeezed her toes. Her steps made soft clicks on the temporary polished flooring as she dashed around the white-silk-draped chairs inside the reception tent set up on the castle grounds. She lifted her floor-length emerald skirt of fluff and ribbons and screamed internally about her aching feet. “Spike heels make my legs look better, she tells me. Heels? Seriously? Buried under twenty yards of bloody material, who will even notice? I swear, and this dress weighs a ton.”

And why must my bloody underwear be authentic if no one knows or sees it? Seriously, another full day of endless agony in this restrictive Elizabethan costume of layered torture is maddening. You know an evil man must have created the corset. No woman would have designed something so miserable and called it fashionable. How many times had she pleaded with Aunt Baillie to let her wear something soft, something comfortable like pants and a jacket during these events? Her aunt’s normally sweet face would transform into a stony glare, forcing Rogue to relent and don one of the many costumes made specifically for her as owner of the Scottish estate.

“The Baillie Castle Bed and Breakfast promises a fairy-tale environment for couples in love and bridal parties creating a stop-time fantasy for families and guests,” Rogue mimicked her American aunt and business partner. “Remember, these expensive weddings pay the taxes and daily upkeep of your renovated castle.”

Rogue could barely breathe in the tightly wrapped bodice as she rounded out of the heated white tent, her eyes on the temporary stone path placed in the soggy Scottish mud. Plowing into something solid, Rogue cursed and frantically reached out, wobbling on the spiked heels. Grabbing at anything, her fingers found soft, crushable flannel before warm, strong hands wrapped around her wrists. Staring at the manly fingers holding her steady, Rogue’s eyes traveled up the long, chiseled arms of a young man to his concerned face, locking eyes with her.

“Ya be all right, miss?”

His baritone voice tickled her ears, causing the breath to catch in her throat as the heat from his grasp flushed in a wave across her face. All she could handle was a weak nod. Staring at his serious face framed with shaggy blond hair, a chill breeze lifted the bangs from his ruddy forehead. His oddly green eyes blinked above a well-freckled nose and broke the spell.

Rogue stiffened her body and checked her balance before pulling her arms away. “Of course, I am. Just dinna expect anyone to be in the reception area this time of the afternoon.” Rogue brushed her trembling fingers against the flounce of her skirt. “It’s the middle of May, and the paying guests are huddled by the fireplaces inside as if it were bloody January, wondering why the wedding isn’t in some tropical place like Hawaii.” Trying to control her nervousness but having trouble drawing breath in front of such a gorgeous male creature, she asked, “Who are you?”

“Aye, sorry, “My name is Bruce, Miss Rogue, Bruce MacKenzie, delivery service from the village.” The man pulled gloves from a back pocket. “I was checking with Putney one last time to be sure she has all she needs for today before I leave.”

“Ya seemed a wee bit familiar, but we’ve a crowd of local security today on the grounds. Ya could have been one of the guards. You’ve the size and all.”

“Aye, I’ve had to show credentials a few times today.” The edge of his full lips pulled into a crooked grin. “I’ve been delivering vegetables, breads, and such to Putney from town over the last nine months since my da passed away. I’ve seen you now an’ again in the stable door, I have, with your hands full of currycombs or muckrakes during my times here. Nice to see there’s a lady side of ya.”

Rogue steeled herself not to bark something rude at his personal remark. Who admitted to watching someone without her knowing? And what did he mean about her lady side? Wearing some historical costume had nothing to do with who she was inside. The man had the manners of a goat. She took a slow, deep breath, forcing something polite. “Putney has mentioned good things about ya and, uh, ya service.” She bowed her head, clenching her teeth.

Keeping her head down, willing her pounding heart to return to normal, Rogue clutched her skirts. “Well, I, uh, I have much to do before the wedding. I best be going.”

Bruce tugged on his gloves, shuffling his feet. “I hear everyone has to clear the premises before the ceremony. Is some big movie star taking vows this time? I dinna bring near the crates of caviar or champagne Putney usually orders for the fancy events ya hold here. Seemed a bit odd.”

“Aye, this inna our typical wedding booked at the Baillie Castle, but the oldest daughter of some actor trying to dodge mass publicity if ya must know. The family requested utmost privacy for their ceremony, a simpler affair.” Her voice dropped to a loud whisper despite herself. “I’m thinking she’s in a family way and alcohol will be limited.”

Nodding his head, Bruce wiped a gloved hand under his nose. “I need to get back to the shop. Tell Putney to call me if she needs something.” He scuffed the toe of his worn boot against one of the stepping stones. “See ya, Miss Rogue.”

The sight of his retreating backside in tight jeans sent a warmth of fiery hormones cloaking her against the dampness of perspiration. Rogue’s mind blanked; with no idea what she was originally going to do before the sudden run in with the delicious jerk of a delivery guy, she picked up her skirts with a swish and headed toward the castle’s kitchen.

She had never felt such an intense frustration and intrigue talking to a strange man, let alone a local one. With the castle being a romantic spot for weddings and celebrations, she had met gorgeous, rich men from around the world. Yet the flash of his green eyes while he held her hands, sent irritating bolts inside her thumping heart. Blowing her cheeks out, she wrinkled her nose. “‘Nice to see there’s a lady side of ya’ he has the nerve to say.” She pounced across the moat’s wooden bridge, ignoring the dancing caps of windblown onyx water below, and into the kitchen. The heavy oak door closed against the outside coolness as aromas of spices and sweet bakery smells wrapped her in a warm, soothing hug.

“Child, you’ll be snapping the heels right off those shoes, clunking that way. Dinna Miss T-Cup and Rafael show you better than that?” Putney looked over her thick shoulder, her plump cheeks red from the heat of the oven, a strand of damp, gray hair dangling from her tight bun. “Did ya learn nothing ladylike from those glitzy drag queen friends of yours and them spending so much time trying to coach ya?”

Rogue blinked at the feisty cook, a natural foundation of castle life since the first day she’d arrived years ago. “Ah, Putney, donna I wish the girls were here this very minute.” She pinched a broken piece of scone and popped it in her mouth. How she would love to pick Rafael and T-Cup’s glittered brains right now about a certain delivery guy she’d run into, literally. Why would he think clothes made a difference, a lady? What was wrong with the jeans and boots she typically lived in? Local chauvinist.

“Ya had your way, they’d live here full time. Poor wee things would wither away if stuck out here in the wilds as they say of the hielands, from sheer boredom if nothing else.” Chuckling, she smacked her hip. “They exhaust me during their visits from America. And donna get me started on the smooth-talking Mr. Gillian Nation and his plume-waving ways. He’ll get no mocha, whatcha, latte crazy coffee from me just for his bit of flirting.”

Rogue gave a single nod, staring beyond the cook’s shoulder, her motionless hands still holding a scone. The delivery guy had seen her often during his trips to the castle? Why had she not noticed this local hottie before? Why hadn’t Putney said anything? She nearly slapped her hand against her forehead. Putney had done nothing but talk about Bruce MacKenzie. The old woman had given speeches and passionate soliloquies all winter long about the new single businessman Rogue should be concentrating on, as she wasn’t getting any younger. She’d pretty much ignored the cook’s deluge. Good-looking single men came in and out of the bed and breakfast, but that didn’t mean she needed to introduce herself to each one. She was quite content between her work here at the castle and taking care of her horses.

“Girl, the bloody sky’s falling.” The cook kept her voice even, not changing her tone. “The moon will be full and purple with stripes tonight, I hear.”

Another vacant nod to whatever Putney was rambling about would tide her over. Rogue popped a bite of scone in her mouth. He must get those muscles from lifting and carrying such heavy bags of flour and sugar for all the baking going on around town every week. And who knows how many other deliveries he makes in a day? An independent man at least, inheriting his work much like I did.  

Rogue stared at the cook without focus, watching the older woman turn back to the pastries and silver platters, running a work-reddened hand across her damp forehead.

An ancient looking man with angel-white hair shuffled into the room, wearing fancy black suspenders against the crisp white shirt his wife, Putney, forced him to wear on these occasions. Before speaking a word, his eyes caught Putney’s, and Rogue caught the cook tilting her head back toward her on the other side of the room.

Robbie twisted to peek around the vision of his hefty bride of forty-five years, then shrugged, and moved to grab a biscuit. The noise of her slapping his hand away with a snort broke Rogue’s concentration, and she let out a long sigh.

“Sounds like the weight of the world is nestled on those young shoulders,” he said in her direction. “Ya havena looked so begotten since them flouncy diva women ya make such a fuss over left last summer.” He rubbed his weathered cheek. “But they’ll be back in a few weeks, aye?”

Rogue cleared her throat; had she sent up red flags of concern? She didn’t want the old couple nosing around in her direction. She gave the couple a brilliant smile, as if she’d just entered the room. “Yes, you’re most right, Robbie. It’s but a blink of the eye before they return in all their splendor and glamour.” She snapped her fingers in a z-motion like T-Cup had shown her. “And we got a wedding today.” She marched out of the room, her floor-length skirt rustling, and heard Putney whisper as she left.

“Lost, I tell ya, mooning like a she-wolf in heat she was.”



Baillie glanced over the final lists and papers for the celebrity wedding taking place in a few hours. She’d found a quiet spot in the library to concentrate on the last-minute details when her cell phone vibrated. The caller id noted Olympia, Washington, and she snatched it by the second muted ring.

“Sally,” she said with a smile. “Happy Valentine’s Day to my best long-distance assistant.”

Sally laughed. “Your only assistant over here. How’s the special V-Day celebration going?”

“So far, so good. Just another over-the-top extravaganza, my dear. But the security on this one is nearly strangling the staff.” Both women chuckled. “How’s your divorce going?”

“George has been amicable about everything, I guess,” Sally sighed. “I can’t imagine what I would have done without you letting Casie and I move into your apartment upstairs at Pen and Pages. It’s been a godsend, Baillie. I will never be able to repay your generosity.” Baillie heard sniffling. “Casie even gets to stay in her school district and catches the bus right in front of the shop. I can’t tell you how much this means to me as a new single mom.

Baillie closed her eyes and conjured her beloved bookstore nestled in firs and maple trees in her mind. She knew Sally was taking good care of her business. The woman was a Godsend.

“And, of course, your cat, Sebastian, is being spoiled something awful. I swear he knows what time the bus arrives and greets her at the shop door after school. He’s like her own Lassie.”

Baillie looked out the library windows patterned in black iron, the rectangles of leaded glass showing the glint of obsidian movement in the dark moat below as Sally continued talking. Mesmerized by a single ray of light breaking through the quilt of soft gray across the sky, Baillie moved closer to the window. A siren’s call from the water filled her heart with familiar song, a soothing contentment to her excited soul.

Outside she watched the wind ripple the white monstrosity’s roof panels in a gentle rhythm, the reception area for tonight, a few of the white-draped chairs barely visible. A smile played on her lips as she watched her inherited niece, Rogue, smack right into that gorgeous local delivery kid Putney always raved about. She let out a sharp noise, hoping the girl didn’t fall on her rear in the mud from the bodily impact.

“What was that? Are you listening to me? Have you heard anything I’ve said?” Sally’s voice increased in volume over the phone’s speaker. “What did that ghost of a Highlander do now? Lord Kai can’t hog all of you just because it’s Valentine Day. I deserve some too, you know. This is not a favorite day of mine right now.”

A quick tingle down her spine at the mention of Kai’s name pulled her away from the activity beyond the window, and she concentrated on Sally. “No, no Kai around, truly, just Rogue blindsiding the cute delivery boy down below. Putney swears they would be the perfect couple, but I don’t think this is quite the romantic introduction Putney was hoping for, though pretty memorable, I guess, as first meetings go.”

“Seriously?”

“She plowed right into the guy coming out of the reception tent. Rogue’s not the most graceful thing in heels though Gillian and his girls keep working on her every chance they get.” She peeked out the window again, the two were talking, always a good sign and no stains or tears on her dress. “See, my distraction was all about Rogue, no mushy stuff from Kai this time.”

Baillie stifled a laugh at her vision of Sally settling her ruffled feathers on the other side of the world. “Sweetie, I have to finish these lists and get out there or it will be off with my head by the bride’s father. The fee from this one event is more than we made last year. Some people and their bottomless checkbooks are a nice reward, especially after the hard work and obnoxious secrecy this one has caused.”

“Must be nice hobnobbing with the rich and famous while I slave away at the old bookstore.

Baillie snapped a group of the papers into a clipboard while rolling her eyes. “I hear the world’s tiniest violins in the background, dear.” Both women giggled. “You’ll be out here before you know it for my wedding.” She heard the tinkling of bells from the shop’s door in the background. “See? You have a customer, go make us some money and I’ll talk to you soon. Tell Miss Casie hi for me.” She tapped the screen disconnecting her call.



Bruce stopped his Ford delivery truck at the empty crossroads a mile before town, looking left and right for clearance, when his vision blurred into the tantalizing image of the local celebrity Rogue Baillie Bruce in a dress. Not any style of dress you’d see in church or a fancy restaurant on the girls in town, but like she’d stepped out of an epic movie about ancient times. Like royalty, with her hair done up off her shoulders with ribbons—a bewitching style, he noted.

The temperature inside the truck cab increased as he replayed their brief conversation, her nearness as he steadied her from falling. After the months of seeing her out by the stables in boots and jeans, his heart had pounded at the view of her plowing into him. The tight top half of the dress hugged her slight figure, showing her cream-colored neck and cleavage; her russet-brown hair pulled into fancy curls atop her head made her more beautiful than he could have imagined. He’d wanted nothing more than to pull her closer and caress the smooth curve of her exposed neck with his lips, like a knight of old claiming the princess after a joust, a crazy split-second notion of make-believe.

Bruce snorted. Like he had a chance in the world of dating the richest woman in the county. Word in town, as well as stories from Putney herself during his deliveries, confirmed that Rogue and some American relative of hers had made the haunted castle into a popular bed and breakfast concept. Their business had practically put their town on the international map. And he’d also heard the vineyards next door belonged to Ms. Bruce; after all, she’d started her own wine label, so it made sense.

Yet time and again, Putney cooed about the young woman, filling his head and dreams with romantic notions like some matchmaker witch, she did. None of them exaggerations, mind you. The woman was everything and more Putney had described her as. But why in the world would a bloody wealthy, gorgeous heiress be interested in the likes of him?

Though she hadn’t run away from him today, hadn’t bit his head off to let her go, the look on her face seemed to say otherwise. That was something, aye?  

“Da,” he whispered aloud, “I met the most incredible woman today. I think she’s the one, I do, like you told me as a boy how I’d ken when I found her, a woman like Ma.” His hands gripped the steering wheel making the dry, rugged lines of his fingers almost white. “A woman of grit and softness, she is, in one fair package. As Ma took your breath away, aye, so does Rogue do mine, Da.”

A montage of images over the last months rolled through his mind: her stepping out of the barn holding a leather harness of the four-legged black beast Putney called Dougal while he crossed the bridge with a case of groceries in his arms. The cook told him stories of the indelible bond between the monster of a black stallion and Rogue, raising a heat of ire in his heart, almost a jealousy of their friendship.

“She’ll no bother with a lowly businessman, though. She’s the closest thing our town has to a princess, with her name and photo showing up in the daily papers. Da, what am I gonna do? The beautiful enchantress has stolen my heart.”

The blast of a horn behind him knocked Bruce from his heavenly conversation. Stomping the gas pedal, he bolted back toward the village, leaving his fantasy for bland reality once again.

 

 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

BANEWIND by M.B. Chapman


Title: BANEWIND
Author: M.B. Chapman
Publisher: Light Messages / Torchflame Books
Pages: 268
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Fiction

Almost two weeks ago I was just a normal girl getting ready to start my senior year of high school, deciding where I wanted my life to go. And now?

I’ve kissed a boy. I’ve been to another world. I’ve seen death.

And I don’t know what my life’s become.

Banewind tells the spellbinding story of 18-year-old Genevieve DeWinter, a typical high school girl who finds herself entangled in the throes of adventure, romance, and survival after discovering the existence of a group of magical beings known as Formulists and their co-existing world, Banewind.

With the arrival of several mages in her hometown of Parma, Ohio, Genevieve soon learns that these extraordinary secrets are rooted deep within her family’s history when it is revealed her deceased mother was a heroic warrior in a long lineage of female protectors called the Holy Guardian. Now, a vengeful group of Formulists known as the Voidweavers have returned and set their sights on Genevieve, believing she might be the next Holy Guardian and the key to awakening their fallen leader, the Void King, who had been destroyed by Genevieve’s mother when she sacrificed herself a decade earlier to save Banewind and all of humanity from an unthinkable evil.

With the help of new allies, Genevieve must fight to stay alive as she unravels the mystery and danger that have shattered the stability of the life she once knew before the Voidweavers succeed in shadowing the world in chaos and darkness once again.

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon → https://amzn.to/36O4Ust

Barnes and Noble: https://bit.ly/3kLolHj

Kobo books: https://bit.ly/36QgZx5

FIRST CHAPTER

“Are you ready, Blaine?” A man stands in the middle of a darkened lab, staring at a metal platform rising from the concrete ground. With dark, beady eyes he looks to the woman who just spoke, before averting his gaze back to the contraption welded to the floor. “Are you ready?” she repeats. The large bird skull adorning her head obscures her face. “Perhaps he’s having second thoughts,” another woman sneers, from the lab stool she sits on. Her silver curls cascade past her face, barely allowing her emerald eyes to sparkle through. “What’s wrong, Blaine?” she says. “Is the mighty Magician afraid?” “If you’re more confident in this working, Valkryn, then why don’t you volunteer to do it yourself?” Blaine continues gazing at the platform, his hands buried deep in the pockets of his orange trench coat. “Of the few occasions I have constructed makeshift portals without connecting to a specific endpoint, the results have been…less than desirable.” “You sent the orphan through without issue last time.” Valkryn’s black amethyst latex suit squeaks as she crosses her legs. “How do you account for that?” “Dumb luck.” He pulls at his black goatee, the gears in his mind churning. “Perhaps there’s a better way.” “I don’t have time for any more foolishness,” says the woman with the bird skull. “The boy has already informed us that Sadie Hawthorne and Jensen Saint Clair are in town, ready to protect the girl. With every moment we waste, there is less of a chance we can capture her.” She points to the platform. “Get on there now, or the only thing going through that portal will be your lifeless body.” Blaine grunts, adjusting the orange, pointed hat atop his head, before stepping onto the metal. His black boots clang, echoing through the room. “I’m ready,” he says. The woman with the bird skull nods and picks up an octahedral-shaped crystal from the lab bench nearby. “Do not fail me.” She moves forward as her purple cloak glides against the floor. “The girl is the only key we have to breaking the spell.” “If she’s even what you say she is,” Blaine says. The woman turns the crystal in her hand, and he vanishes. “You really think this will work?” Valkryn looks at where Blaine stood just moments before. “Addisyn DeWinter never told us about the existence of her daughter,” says the woman with the bird skull. “The Holy Guardian’s bloodline has always been passed on through the female lineage. The next paladin would have to be her.” “But she’s not from this world.” Valkryn frowns. “She was born outside of Banewind.” “That makes no difference.” The woman with the bird skull turns toward the lab’s exit. “You cannot escape destiny, Valkryn.” She pauses at the door. “I have learned that all too well.” She leaves Valkryn alone, in silence, as she disappears into the darkened corridor.

The evening sky above the forest is splotched with stars, reawakening to blanket the world in their beauty once again. The faint breeze in the midsummer night’s air carries with it the woodland’s melody—a cacophony of chirping crickets and singing nighthawks. In the trees’ hollows, the majestic owls arise from their slumber, ready to cast their watchful gaze over the land. And there, in the center of the forest, stands Blaine. Alive. Relief washes over his mind. He looks around at the trees and shrubbery, taking a hesitant step as if testing the muddy ground. When he seems content with his surroundings, he steps through the foliage, pushing the branches and twigs out of his way. Within minutes, he has broken through the forest’s edge and finds himself at the top of a hill. From there, he sees the quaint cityscape that lies below, dotted with specks of light from the streetlamps and car headlights that speed through the dark. Blaine treks down the hill and continues toward the city’s outskirts. He finds himself outside of an abandoned church. As he approaches the wooden doors, he sees a plaque adorning the nineteenth-century brick wall, the remnants of its founding date having rusted away with time. A thick metal chain is wrapped around the handles, preventing him from entering. He clears his throat and grips the padlock in his calloused hands. An orange glow radiates from his fingertips, evolving into flames that dance until they are chewing through the metal lock. The fire reflects off his face, illuminating his worn, pock-marked skin. Soon the metal glows molten red as it melts into a mound of gelatinous goo, dripping through the cracks between his fingers. Hisssssssssssssss! Snap! The chain unravels through the handles as it clangs to the ground. He forces open the doors, shielding his face as a thick cloud of dust billows out into the night air. His footsteps echo through the church’s vaulted ceilings as he treads across the marble floor with his black boots. He pauses at the altar, slowly turning in a circle to take in his surroundings. He removes his orange, pointed hat and clutches at its brim, rubbing it between his fingers while grunting. “Hmm. This could work.” He taps his foot against the marble floor. “Yes, this could work.” As he stands there thinking about the project ahead of him, his memory stirs back to the first time he ever created a portal. “You’re never going to amount to anything, Blaine,” his father had jeered, taking a hammer to the metal structure he’d worked so hard on. “The opportunity to study at the Academy, and you waste it on meaningless projects like this? You’re no engineer. I’m disappointed to even call you my son.” Blaine shakes the image from his head. If he could only see me now. A sardonic grin spreads across his face. The feared Magician, chief tinkerer to the Voidweavers’ army. He pulls out a cell phone and dials a number. “Hello?” a young man answers. “I’m here, Scythe. Do you have the girl?” Outside, a murder of crows soar into the night sky, startled awake by the church bell’s thunderous roar resonating from the belfry tower.

Friday, November 6, 2020

First Chapter Reveal: 'River Aria' by Joan Schweighardt


Genre: Historical fiction

Author: Joan Schweighardt

Website: www.joanschweighardt.com

Publisher: Five Directions Press

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

River Aria is narrated by Estela Hopper, who, as a ten-year-old girl living in the impoverished fishing village of Manaus, Brazil in the early 20th century, is offered a twist-of-fate opportunity to study opera with an esteemed voice instructor. During her years of instruction, Estela, who is talented, passionate and dramatic by nature, dreams of leaving Brazil to perform in New York. But as her beloved instructor is not able to convince the managers of the great Metropolitan Opera that they should bring on a mixed-race immigrant who grew up on the banks of the Amazon River to become an elite performer, Estela accepts what they do offer, a position in the sewing room, and leaves Brazil on a ship with her cousin JoJo in the year 1928.

The challenges that befall Estela and JoJo in New York are plentiful. Estela’s father, an Irish American who came to her village nearly twenty years earlier (at which time she was conceived), has a plan for what her life should look like once she is settled. Her relationship with JoJo changes drastically when he learns he was lied to about his own parentage, and again when he takes a dangerous job working for the owner of a speakeasy. And of course her personal challenges of finding some modicum of success in a place like New York are not only enormous but crushing to her once robust sense of self.


RIVER ARIA 

1

December 1928

When Tia Adriana’s tearful outbursts first began, JoJo thought it was because she would miss him so much. And surely that was part of it. But the bigger part was that she had lied to him, long ago when he was a little boy. And as there didn’t seem to be any harm in her deception at that time, as it made JoJo happy in fact to hear her build on it, Tia Adriana had done just that. She’d embellished her lie; like clay, she kneaded it and stretched it, working it until it was as high and as stalwart as the tall ships that sometimes came out of the night to rest in our harbor, until it was as vast and mysterious as the river itself. She even made it official, hauling it up the hill to The Superior Tribunal of Justice building to be recorded and made public for anyone who cared to see.


Many times in the weeks before JoJo and I left for New York, Tia Adriana tried to tell him the truth. But every time she opened her mouth, her effort turned to sobbing. Dropping her head into her hands, she would cry with abandon. And when JoJo crossed the room to lay his callused palm upon her heaving back, she would only cry harder.

She wept so much that not two weeks before our departure JoJo said he wouldn’t be coming with me after all, that he would rather stay in Manaus and live the life he had than break his mother’s heart. He made a joke of it; he said if his mother kept crying, the flooding that year would be twice as bad and everyone in the city would drown, and it would be on him, and he would be forever cursed and become a corpo-Seco when his days were up, a dry corpse, because the devil would return his soul and Earth would reject his flesh. He was joking, yes, but he was also toying with the idea of changing his mind.

It was then that the other two got involved, my mother, whose name was Bruna, and Tia Louisa, who were sisters—in heart if not in blood—to Tia Adriana, and to each other as well. “Is that what you want for your son?” Tia Louisa scolded when JoJo was not around. “You want your only child should grow up here, fishing for a living in a ghost town? Dwelling in a shack up on stilts and likely to flood anyway? Every day a sunrise and a sunset and barely anything worth noticing in between?” My mother would chirp in then, adding in her quiet way, her coarse fingers extending to cover Tia Adriana’s trembling wet hands, “Adriana, wasn’t it because you wanted more for him that you lied in the first place?”

The three of them would become philosophers once my mother and Tia Louisa had calmed Tia Adriana sufficiently that she could think past her grief. They weighed JoJo’s future, how it would unfold if he stayed in Manaus, and how it might unfold if he left. Would and might: they might as well have been weighing mud and air. Could he be happy, they asked themselves, eking out a living on the docks for the rest of his life? Blood and fish guts up to his elbows? Endless squabbles up on the hill trying to get the best price for his labors? Drawing his pictures on driftwood—because between us all we couldn’t keep him in good paper—or on the shells of eggs, or even our shabby furniture? 

Was that what was best for our beloved JoJo? Or was it the alternative that promised more? America! America! O my America! My new-found-land! In America he would be attending an art school—the grandest art school in the grandest city in that country—not because he, our JoJo, who had grown up ragged and shoeless, had ever even considered that he might travel to New York, but because a man by the name of Felix Black, the protégé of a famous American artist and a former teacher of art himself, had come to Manaus to study our decaying architecture some months ago. And as The Fates would have it, he wandered into Tia Louisa’s restaurant and saw JoJo sitting in the back booth with some paints he had paid for with money he’d made scrubbing decks on one of the locals’ boats, painting the young woman sitting across from him (me, as it happens) on a canvas so scruffy it could only have come from someone’s rubbish pile. Senhor Black watched for a long while and then bent over JoJo and whispered in his ear—startling our dearest JoJo because, except for his eye and his breath and the fingers holding his brush, he was barely there in his own body when he painted—to say that he was a benefactor at an art school far away in New York, and if JoJo were to come, he would help him to realize his full potential—a message I quickly translated as JoJo did not speak much English at that time. 

Mud or air? Foot-sucking muck from the bottom of the river or the breath of the heavens, sweet and suffused with bird song? Stinking dead fish or full potential?

We knew what was best for JoJo all right; and we knew that JoJo, who was fearless—though he could barely read or write—would never get an opportunity like this again. And as I would be traveling to New York too, what could be better than sending us off together, one to watch over the other? But the fact remained that Tia Adriana could not bring herself to tell him about her deception, and he could not be permitted to arrive in New York without knowing about it.

I didn’t know the lie was a lie myself until the week before our scheduled departure. Being more than a year younger than JoJo (and loose-lipped, if my mother and as tias could be believed), no one had been foolish enough to trust me to keep a secret of such consequence. I had even participated in the lie—albeit unwittingly—which was nearly as exciting to me as it was to JoJo. 

And so it was that when my aunts and Mamãe first began to look for ways to throw light on the truth, they didn’t include me in their conversations. But when they failed to find even a single solution, they called me into Tia Adriana’s shack and sat me down at the table and told me the whole long story from beginning to end. 

While they spoke, interrupting one another with details as was their way, I slouched in my chair and leaned back, until I was looking up at the ceiling. Our images were up there: Me and Tia Adriana and my dearest Mamãe, and Tia Louisa and Tia-Avó Nilza, who was Tia Adriana’s mother (and JoJo’s grandmother). Three years earlier, JoJo had painted all of us on a large rectangular ipe wood table top that Tia Louisa was throwing out from the restaurant because rain from the roof had leaked on it a time too many and it had begun to blister and crack. When JoJo claimed the piece of wood for himself, Tia Louisa scolded that his mother’s house was far too small to hang a thing that size. But then an out-of-towner who’d been listening to their conversation over a bowl of fish stew told JoJo about The Sistine Chapel, which JoJo had never heard of. And so impressed was JoJo with the stranger’s story of how the famous artist (Michelangelo, whom JoJo hadn’t heard of either) had come to paint on the ceiling of the Pope’s chapel, that JoJo decided he would nail his painting up on his mother’s ceiling, where no one could say it was in the way. And there it remained. But instead of scenes from the Bible depicting man’s fall from grace, JoJo had painted us floating through our labors, all smiling as if we were saints already—me and Tia Louisa at the restaurant, serving rowdy wage earners, and my mother and the others sitting shoulder to shoulder all in a row on the wooden bench outside Tia Adriana’s shack, repairing fishing nets and singing their favorite fados with strong voices and extravagant gestures.

Usually when I looked at the painting it was to marvel at how young I was back then, how much I’d changed. But now I was thinking that with the exception of myself, JoJo had unintentionally painted the very women who knew about the lie from the beginning, who had most probably helped to shape it, knowing them. I felt my face grow hot, with anger first and then with embarrassment and then with despair. And then Tia Louisa, who was just hoisting the story into the present, changed her tone and snapped, “Estela, are you listening to what we’re saying?”

I straightened at once.

“This is important, young lady, so please pay attention,” she said in Portuguese. She knew a little English, but we always spoke in our native tongue when we were all together. “Once you’re safe on the ship on your way to America, you need to tell JoJo about the lie—”

“And the truth it was meant to hide,” Tia Adriana broke in, nodding excitedly.

“And the truth it was meant to hide, yes.” Tia Louisa closed her eyes and sat in silence for a moment, perhaps in prayer. Then she went on. “You’ll be almost four weeks traveling, the two of you sharing a cabin. He’ll have nowhere to escape to! When you arrive in New York, we’ll want your full report, your letter saying he knows and has accepted…”

“And that he loves me…us…in spite of…,” Tia Adriana cried, her eyes filling with fresh tears.

I looked at their faces. Only my mother was leaning forward, waiting anxiously for me to respond. The other two trusted me better, especially Tia Louisa, who was sitting back now with her arms folded under her ample breasts.

I let them wait. I looked beyond them, at the cast iron skillets hanging from hooks over the wood stove, the clay dishes out on shelves, the cot in the corner where Tia Adriana slept, the old tin washtub in the opposite corner, the curtain—worn to gauze from years of handling—that separated the kitchen from the back room where Tia-Avó Nilza and Avô Davi (who was Nilza’s husband and JoJo’s grandfather) and JoJo slept. 

“Yes, of course,” I mumbled. 

They chuckled, all of them, with relief, and in that moment it occurred to me that I would have to lie to them, mamãe and as tias, in the event that JoJo was unforgiving. 



About the Author:

Joan Schweighardt is the author of River Aria, which is both a standalone novel and the third book in a trilogy, as well as other novels, nonfiction titles, and children’s books. She is also a freelance writer and ghostwriter.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

MAGNOLIA by James S. Kelly

Title: MAGNOLIA
Author: James S. Kelly
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Pages: 432
Genre: Historical Fiction/Civil War Love Story

BOOK BLURB:

Two young men grow up in the south, become great friends and love the same woman. One moves north as the civil war nears and becomes Administrative Asst to Abraham Lincoln The one who remained in the south vacates his office of US Senator to become the south’s chief spy. Both men are pitted against each other during the war. As the war ends, they try to renew their friendship but will the presence of the one they both love be an impediment.

CHAPTER 1

            The Bureau of Indian Affairs under the US Department of Interior had its main office in the nation’s capitol.  Cameron Harris worked as an agent for them over the past ten years. Prior to obtaining this position, he served as an Army Scout for ten years in the far west, leaving the service with a military rank of Lt. Colonel. There were twelve agents in the entire directorate that were responsible for all the Indian Reservations in the United States, including about two hundred and fifty million acres of land. Cameron’s territory was the mid Atlantic States to include the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey; he was responsible for twenty five reservations.
This week he was in South Carolina to witness the treaty signing between that state and the Catawba Nation or what was left of it. The Catawba had lived in the South Carolina Region for over five thousand years and at one time were a great Indian Nation. But the incursion of immigrants continually squeezed the nation into smaller and confined areas. There were continuous claims made by the Catawba with very little resolution. Eventually, the federal government awarded the Catawba about fifteen square miles of land in York and Lancaster Districts to resolve their claims. As late as the American Revolutionary war, there were between four and five thousand Catawba; in 1820 their number had dwindled to less than one hundred.
There were many reasons for their decline, including the numerous viruses brought by the Europeans. But the primary one was that they fought on the side of the colonists during the war for independence and the English retaliated. For siding with the Americans, the British destroyed their major villages, which had a huge economic impact on their future. It was the British vindictiveness that devastated their nation. It forced them to turn to the plantation owners for their livelihood. They were now dependent on cotton and tobacco for work and subsistence.
But the signing of this treaty wasn’t the only reason that Cameron Harris left his office in the nation’s capital to be in South Caroline today. He was going home to Charleston to be with his wife, who was expecting their first child. They already had the name picked out. He was to be named after his great grandfather, James Stephen Harris, that is, if it was a boy.
The old chief of the Catawba Nation, Running Deer, had known Cameron for ten years and wanted to celebrate the treaty signing with his friend on this auspicious day. Members of the tribe had dressed in their finest and several state officials remained behind after the ceremony to give support to the Catawba. There wasn’t supposed to be any spirits at the ceremony, but it didn’t take long for a bottle to be passed around. “I’ve got to go, chief. My wife is going to have a baby.”
“Women have baby all the time. Don’t need help. We drink to treaty.”
“You’re not supposed to drink in the court house.” Cameron pleaded.
“No one care; you have drink.”
Cameron smiled. “I’ll come back next week and we can have a party. I’ll bring a deer, but I’m leaving now. I can be home in three hours.”
“You our friend. You have one drink and dance with my people, then you go.”
He shook hands with several state officials, staggered to his horse and made his way home after he had four drinks and did a five minute dance with Running Deer and five other members of the tribe. His wife was living in Charleston with her parents until the baby came. He had a three hour ride to be with her; it started to rain.
He’d come to Charleston two years ago to meet with South Carolina officials to discuss how to supply food to the reservation in their area when there was an emergency, which happened far too frequently. After the meeting, his contact within the State’s Indian Section, Charles Morgan, asked him to join him and another state official at the Beef and Rye Restaurant, downtown. Since he was by himself, he readily accepted. By eighteen hundred standards, the restaurant was average but the food and service were excellent. Cameron had a busy day and was tired; besides he needed to return to Washington the next morning; he wanted to turn in early. But Morgan insisted he meet a friend of his, who was an expert on Indian Affairs.  Rather than be difficult, he allowed Morgan to walk him over to another table in the restaurant and be introduced to Frederick Hendricks, a Professor of American History at the University of South Carolina.
It seems that Hendricks wasn’t the only one at the table. Cameron met Hendricks’ wife Hilda and his daughter Amy, an attractive and perky daughter of twenty one. After the introductions, Cameron went back to his table with Morgan but kept looking back at the Hendricks’ table. His two companions so became engaged in a spirited argument dealing with slavery, but he didn’t hear a word they were saying. He had his eyes glued on Amy Hendricks. When their eyes met, she smiled. As soon as he got up enough courage, he went back to the Hendricks’s table and apologized for the interruption. “Sir, I wonder if I could have a word with your daughter?”
The father nodded and Cameron turned to the young woman. “I hope that I’m not too presumptuous, but would you care to have lunch with me tomorrow at the inn in the town center?”
Amy answered immediately. “I’ll expect that you’ll call at my home tomorrow at noon. If that’s acceptable, here’s my address.” She handed him a small piece of paper with her address printed on it.
He stammered a yes and went back to join Morgan; Hendricks and his wife smiled at each other.
There’s was a white two story, two bedroom home with blue trim around the windows sitting in the middle of the block on First Street. He arrived thirty minutes early and talked to her father while Amy was getting ready. The two men found that they had a lot in common and were engrossed in a discussion when Amy came down the stairs. Cameron got up and complimented her on her light green dress she wore with a matching shawl.
He shook hands with her father and promised that they wouldn’t be gone long.  As they walked to the inn, he was astonished at how small she was. Barely five feet tall with a slender frame; yet she walked with the grace of a dancer. Cameron was no giant. He stood five feet ten inches tall on a one hundred sixty five pound frame. His black hair and brown eyes were in stark contrast to her red hair and blue eyes. This was the start of a one year courtship from Washington to Charleston.  Initially his visits were once a month but gradually increased to twice a month. His main transportation from the nation’s capitol was by a boat that resupplied Forts Sumter and Moultrie, lying on an island in the Charleston harbor. He made this commute for a year before he asked her father for Amy’s hand in marriage.
When her father gave his permission, he stammered a proposal. The only thing she said before he kissed her was, “what took you so long? A girl could get tired of waiting.”
The ride to see Amy took longer than the three hours he estimated, primarily because of the heavy down pour that drenched him to the skin. His father-in-law met him at the door with a glass of wine and a wide smile on his face. “It won’t be long now. She’s in labor and the mid wife and my wife are with her. I think you can go up, but they’ll throw you out when it’s time. I suggest you change into something dry first. Use the kitchen; no one’s there. I’ll put your horse in the paddock out back and give it some oats.”
Cameron only had time to kiss his Amy before her mother said he’d have to leave. Ten minutes later he and Hendricks heard the cry of a new born. Soon, her mother yelled down the stairs, “It’s a boy.”
Within the same time frame, on a plantation ten miles outside the city’s limits, Francois Beauregard, a West Point Graduate, was waiting with his father, Ambrose for the birth of his first child. Similar to Cameron, he hoped and prayed for a boy to carry on his tradition. He wasn’t to be disappointed.
The Beauregard family had lived in the Charleston area since the late seventeen hundreds. They left Haiti in midst of a revolution and arrived at Charleston Harbor with forty of their slaves. Ambrose bought six hundred acres and planted cotton; they named their plantation, Rosebud. Subsequently, they grew so large that they had to employ three white overseers to manage seventy five slaves, who planted and picked cotton; tobacco was a secondary product. Ambrose was a firm but tolerant master and his overseers took his lead in dealing with the blacks. What made his operation work so smoothly was the fact that he worked in the fields alongside the slaves.  He personally operated the cotton gin and baled the product. To date there’d been no runaways that plaqued other plantations in the area. He felt grateful for his good fortune in coming to this country and tried to make life on the plantation as tolerable as possible for everyone, including the slaves.
Cameron owned a modest three bedroom home on the Potomac a few miles from the Capitol; he planned to move his young family there as soon as his wife was able to travel. But he hadn’t counted on his wife’s depression that persisted after the baby was born. His mother in law told him that it was normal for a woman to feel tired and emotional after giving birth. “You must have patience. It may take a little longer than normal, but she’ll come around She’s a tiny woman and it may be weeks before she can build up her strength. I’m going to have Doctor Watson keep an eye on her. Maybe he can recommend a tonic that’ll help.”
“I’ve stayed longer than I anticipated. I must get back to my office or I won’t have a job. Do you think I can leave Amy and the child here for a couple of more weeks and then I’ll come back and take them with me?”
“Cameron, my husband and I want to do as much as we can to help you and our daughter. The boy will be fine with Frederick and me until you come back.”
With a heavy heart he took the ship back to Washington. His boss, the Under Secretary for Indian Affairs wasn’t happy with all the time he’d been taking to handle his personal business. “Look Harris, you either get your personal life squared away or get yourself another job. I’m sorry to be so tough on you but that’s the way it is.” With that he dismissed Cameron.
When he returned to Charleston two weeks later, Amy’s symptoms were the same and the prognosis unsure, but this time there was a different doctor attending to her. When Cameron went into her bedroom, he kissed her on the forehead but she barely acknowledged his presence. He stayed by her bed for over thirty minutes holding her hand and finally stepped out of the room. He walked down the stairs and joined Doctor Allen, who’d recently taken over Amy’s care and was talking to both parents at the kitchen table. “She doesn’t look any better than when I was here the last time.” Cameron interrupted.
Allen turned around to talk to Cameron. “I gave her a sedative to relax. She hasn’t been attending to the baby and she’s not sleeping. I think I’ve done all I can at this time. Perhaps a psychiatrist might be better suited to treat her symptoms.”
“You mean she’s crazy?” Cameron blurted out as he sat down.
“No. I didn’t say that, but she’s troubled. I’ve tried everything I know, but it’s not working.”
“Doctor, I don’t know what to do. My supervisor has threatened to fire me if I don’t spend more time in my office. I’m just a simple man, what can I do? She seemed to be so full of life during her pregnancy. Tell me that this will go away.”
“I’m not sure. This is the worst case of post pregnancy depression that I’ve ever seen. I’m out of my element. There is nothing physically wrong with Amy, but she’s depressed. I’ll contact a colleague of mine, who’s a psychologist; he may have better results with her than I. Since you were coming down this weekend, I took the liberty of asking him to come by and meet with you. His name is Doctor Herman Rosen.”
When Doctor Allen left, Cameron and Amy’s parents sat without saying anything for a few moments. “I don’t know what to do. I can’t take Amy and the child with me. I’m gone three out of five weeks to Indian reservations and some military installations. She seems to need constant care. I don’t know what the cost will be for that.”
“She can stay with us as long as it’s needed. We’re her parents and we love her very much. We also think you’re a fine man and we’re glad that you’re our son-in-law.” Mrs. Hendricks said.
“But the child needs attention. You heard the doctor say that she’s not taking care of young Jimmy. This seems like too much of a burden for you, since your husband is in Columbia during the week.”
“If it gets too much for me, I’ll let you know.”
Cameron stayed long enough to meet Doctor Rosen. “It will take me at least two to three weeks to evaluate your wife and then a week to determine if there is a cure for her depression. Your in-laws told me of your predicament. How often can you visit?”
“I can be back in three weeks.”
“Make it four and I’ll be able to give you a professional analysis.”
Although sad at the turn of events, he went about his duties as before. But all the joy he had in his marriage and the birth of his son was lost; he was lonely and he didn’t know what to do. He travelled extensively before returning four weeks later. He was anxious to hear what Doctor Rosen’s evaluation. They talked for over an hour and although Dr. Rosen was encouraging, Amy didn’t respond to any of his methods or medicine.
”To be honest with you Mr. Harris, I’ve exhausted everything I know. I don’t seem to be able to help her and I don’t know who can. It may be just a matter of time and then again she may never recover.. I’m sorry.” Rosen said.
During the same period of time, her father retired from teaching at University of South Carolina and devoted himself full time to the care of Amy and young Jimmy. With the Hendricks in one of the bedrooms and Amy and Jimmy in the second, .Cameron would sleep on the couch in the living room when he visited. In spite of the trauma with his wife, he and her father became close friends and discussed the mood of secession that was griping the south, and especially in South Carolina.
“How can the south survive? They seemed to be so dependent on cotton and tobacco. What if they have a poor crop one or two years after they secede? Where will the money come from to allow them to survive?” Cameron asked his father in law.
“They’re optimistic that France and England will buy their produce, because those European Countries are heavily dependent upon cotton. In addition, there are many who think both nations will interfere on the southern side if there is an armed conflict. Great Britain has cities that are so dependent upon cotton, that there may be massive unemployment, if the flow is stopped.””
“I don’t know what the southern states will do, but if they do secede, then a naval blockade would seem to be one strategy that could be used to bring then back into the union.” What do you think about the slavery question?” Cameron asked.
“I believe it’s morally wrong, but those who own the plantations are also the drivers behind the secession movement. They don’t think they can survive without the slaves; therefore, they’re not going to give them up. The power of the plantation owners is immense. Although they represent only four percent of the population, they control the majority of the wealth and therefore the legislature. You may not realize this, but the majority of the people in the Charleston area are black. With the law prohibiting the importation of slaves since 1808, they become an even more valuable commodity; those that control them become richer and therefore they increase their power.”
Weeks turned into months and then years. He’d visit every two weeks for the first year, but with no change in Amy’s conditions, his trips were becoming further apart. All during this time, Amy would sit in her room and stare into space; she hardly recognized Cameron when he visited. The Hendricks, were acting as Jimmy’s parents, though at no time did they intentionally ignore Cameron’s rights to his child. He couldn’t have asked for a more cooperative and sensitive in- laws.
After five years, he and her parents came to an accommodation. The boy and his mother would live with his in-laws in Charleston and Cameron would reside at his home in the nation’s capitol. He’d be able to visit his son anytime during the school year and would take Jim with him when school was out.
In the summer, Jimmy would live in Washington with his father or accompany him on his many trips to the Indian Reservations and military installations. Even though the grandparents said it wasn’t necessary, Cameron sent money each month to help defray Amy’s doctor bills. When he returned Jimmy at the start the school year, he’d hold Amy in his arms, kiss her on the cheek, but she didn’t appear to know who he was.
Young Jimmy Harris’ first exposure to any Indian was at The Catawba Reservation, lying along the Catawba River in the Western Carolinas. The Indians had cleared space for over two hundred tents but only seventy were visible. James could see about thirty people in the village doing various chores as they rode up. It was Chief Running Bear, who greeted them and took young Jim under his wing almost immediately. The young man idolized the chief and followed him around as though he was a lost puppy dog. Jim delighted in dressing as an Indian Brave and wearing the old man’s headdress. It was large, filled with yellow and red feathers and dragged on the ground as he walked behind the chief.  One of the braves taught Jimmy how to use a bow and arrow and throw a spear. Each summer he’d stay at the village for at least a month: this was the highlight of the young man’s year. On one of his first trips with Cameron, they visited the Creek and Cherokee villages in South Carolina. Jimmy was exposed for the first time to the plight of the Reservation Indian. He didn’t understand it yet, but he knew what he didn’t like and asked his father why the people in the village didn’t have any energy.
“They’ve been squeezed into smaller and smaller plots of land that can barely sustain life. They’re suffering from malnutrition and now lack hope; they seem to accept their station in life.”
. Most of Cameron duties were to ensure that food supplies were being delivered on a timely basis and occasionally mediate a dispute between tribal nations. On most trips to his list of reservations, he had to find out why the food supplies seemed to be late or not delivered at all; this wasn’t lost on a six year old. He couldn’t put his feelings into words; he just knew something was wrong.
Before the first summer was over, Cameron and his son went fishing on the Pee Dee River making their way through the cotton plantations which were so important to the south until after the civil war, when the dependency on slaves was lost. It was a three day trip to introduce his son to outdoor camping. They stopped at one of the landings along the river and fished from the bank. They didn’t save the young man’s first catch, because Cameron cooked it over a fire and they ate it. Jimmy would have plenty to tell his maternal grandparents when they returned to Charleston.
It was September when Cameron brought Jim back to Charleston. His wife Amy, was sitting in the parlor and welcomed her son; she seemed to have regained some color in her cheeks. The meeting between husband and wife was cordial and even friendly, but not warm.  Cameron had resolved that his wife would never be the same and he started seeing other women in the DC area. He spent most of his time with Abigail Stanton, the widow of Miles Stanton, a British Diplomat, assigned to the consulate in Washington. Left with a small fortune, Abigail felt more comfortable in Washington Society where she lived for the past eight years prior to her husband’s death, rather than return to her home in England. Cameron didn’t feel guilty about his affair; he felt it was the way it was.
As the years passed, the visits to Charleston during the school years were becoming less frequent. When he came to pick up the boy in the summertime in the seventh year of their marriage, Amy seemed to have improved but not enough for Cameron to spend any time with her. He didn’t blame her for the affliction; he just lost interest. The love they had when she was twenty one wasn’t what they had now. The parents were getting older and her father confessed to Cameron one day, that he wasn’t sure what would happen to his daughter after he was gone. Her mother was becoming impatient with her and devoted very little time to her well being. Sooner than later, a decision had to be made about Amy.  Cameron didn’t know what to do.
Eleven years had passed when he received a telegram from Frederick Hendricks to come home immediately. It took him two days but he was too late; his wife had passed away. He tried to remember how it was during their first year of marriage, but too much had happened; all he could remember was how she seemed so distant for the remainder of her life. James Stephen was a fine young man and although he spent some time helping his mother, it was his grandparents who he related to. They filled the role as parents. The question now was what was best for the boy. With the grandparents, he had a home and love; with his father he had love and adventure.
The grandmother seemed to be her old happy self again. The burden of the daughter had been lifted from her shoulders; she wanted Jimmy to live with them. “I know this is your decision, Cameron, but I believe my husband and I can handle his raising; he’s such a wonderful child and he keeps us young.  Frederick thinks the world of the boy. He doesn’t want to replace you as a father; he just wants to be part of James’ life.”
“Why don’t we leave it the way it’s been and see how that goes. I want your word that when the time comes for him to be entirely with me, you won’t stand in my way. You’ll work with me and do what’s best for my son. It’s a couple of months until the end of the school term.  I’ll take him with me for the summer and then bring him back for the school year.” Both grandparents agreed.

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