I just had the absolute pleasure of reading a fantastic historical fiction novel, Heir to Malla by Anna Bushi.
Princess Meera of Malla knows three things—Rish, a noble warrior, is not her equal—she loves him with all her heart—her brother, Crown Prince Jay, would support the match.
However, Jay mysteriously disappears—the kingdom of Malla is thrown into chaos—Prince Amar of Padi is threatening to capture both Malla and Meera.
As she faces an unsavory future, Meera learns three things—her kingdom needs her—she has to find the strength to defend it—she cannot marry Amar.
This book hooked me from the start! While I don’t have much previous knowledge of medieval India, there was never a point when I was reading where I felt like I was lost or lacking familiarity. In fact, the opposite occurred. I felt like I was right there in the small throne room with Meera as she listens to her father, the king, decide the next steps of their kingdom.
Though the land of Malla is fictional, as I mentioned in the interview I did with the author, Anna Bushi, her descriptions are so vivid that there were times when I was reading that I could smell jasmine or feel the pain of the wounds her characters endured (this is a no spoiler zone, which is killing me as there’re so many scenes I want to talk about!) I was so nervous and excited about what would happen to Meera and her brother Jay that I kept thinking about the book throughout the day and could not wait to get back to it.
If you’re looking for a book with political intrigue that truly transports you on a royal adventure, this is your next reading escape!
To learn more about the author, check out our interview:
In this last week’s author interview, Dr. Cary Lowe talks about his book, Becoming American.
Dr. Lowe hopes that his book will provide his readers with a clearer understanding of the immigrant experience and the meaning of becoming an American.
Dr. Lowe is the son of Holocaust survivors and grew up in Europe during the years following World War II. You can learn more about Dr. Lowe’s book by visiting his website here.
Be sure to subscribe and to click that notification bell for my YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on this author’s projects as they drop. For even more, subscribe to my newsletter by visiting my website at http://www.sfaxon.com
The people are starving and the king is blind to the threats that surround him. Unless Gertrude, the king’s advisor, can enact drastic changes, the country she loves will be lost to the animal court.
The Animal Court is a fantasy political and romance novel.
In The Animal Court Gertrude is the advisor to the king. She has spent months listening to the people and drafting changes that could save their country, but in a court dominated by men unwilling to listen, her words fall on deaf ears.
After returning from a tour around the country, the king calls his brothers for council, but rivalry amongst royal blood proves to promote deeper divisions.
The infuriating stagnation in progress beckons Gertrude to retreat to her idyllic country life, if only to hide in the comforting arms of her own skeletons. However, she knows that unless she can help enact drastic changes to tame the beasts in their government, the kingdom she loves will be lost to the animal court.
The Animal Court is on Goodreads and if you read it, one of the best gifts you can give to an author is to leave a comment on their works.
Welcome to the new branch of our author interview series! Today, we’re talking with authors to lean a bit more about their writing worlds. In today’s interview, we’re chatting with author Jeff Pollak. Mr. Pollak is the author of First Second Coming, a supernatural romantic suspense.
What advice would you give to new authors?
I don’t know that there one piece of advice that I could give every new author, but in general I’d say “sit down at your computer and buckle up, you’re in for a wild ride.” Writing a novel isn’t for the faint at heart. But seriously, the more you know your characters, the better the book will be. So really explore who they are, who they were, what they strive to be, what’s preventing them from getting there. The plot’s important but we as readers need to see the growth arc that takes place since it’s the characters we’ll (hopefully) relate to, whatever the plot may have in store for them.
What is your ideal writing environment? Do you have to have certain elements in place to be in “the zone”?
My ideal environment is right where I am as I write this – in my home office, staring at my computer and all the books and CD’s on the shelves behind and around it. I need music to listen to, and not just any music. I write in first party present, so I’m basically in the head of whichever main character is narrating the chapter I’m working on. I try to get as close to my character as I can, so I listen to the music my characters like.
Ram Forrester, who is an amateur guitar player, owns an Eric Clapton autographed Stratocaster, so I listen to Clapton and his various bands and collaborations. Brendali Santamaria prefers Latin pop and rock, so when she’s the chapter narrator her music is playing on my headphone. Bren even introduced me to a terrific singer-songwriter, Gaby Moreno, whose renditions of La Malaguena and Quizas, Quizas, Quizas are simply jaw-dropping.
What author have you found to be most influential on your works?
During the four years it took to write First Second Coming, I was reading several of Neil Gaiman’s novels – Good Omens, written with Sir Terry Pratchett, American Gods and Neverwhere. I also took Gaiman’s MasterClass online. So he’s certainly a major influence. So is Pratchett, whose Discworld novels are superb.
I read Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and his unique writing style and comedic sensibility certainly hit home with me. In fact, the first chapter of First Second Coming came from an exercise I did, trying to write a short story in Adams’ writing style. After I’d written something like fifteen different first chapters, and found them all wanting, I realized that with some modifications that short story would be perfect as my first chapter. That seems to be the case from the feedback I’ve received.
What is a random fact that no one knows about you?
I’ll give you the one even my brother didn’t know until last week.
I was roughly ten to twelve years old. A rainstorm prevented me from any outdoor activity. I had plenty of friends in the apartment building, but for reasons I can’t recall now, none were available to hang out with me. The TV only had six channels back then, and none of them offered me any entertainment. So I was stuck with nothing to do.
I decided to pick a book from my mother’s bookshelves and read it. We had a long hallway in our apartment, and one side of it was stuffed full of books – some mine or my brother’s, but mostly adult level books my mom had collected. I idly chose one and sat down to read it.
That book happened to be published in 1918. It stayed in circulation in the Brooklyn, N.Y. School District until I finally made its way to my mom in the 1940’s. This was a textbook of English history, and it absolutely fascinated me.
From that point forward I took an active interest in English history, and history generally. I began reading the Post – which was then a reputable newspaper – back to front (the sports pages still came first). I watched the news shows on TV. And all that was happening in the turmoil of the 60’s – the Vietnam War, civil rights, women’s rights, assassinations, etc. – had a huge impression on me. I did a lot of protesting, and once Watergate happened I was rapt, watching the whole thing unwind.
All of those things, from that English history textbook to the undoing of Nixon, brought me to decide to become a trial lawyer. I work in that capacity for 35 years until recently retiring. Sometimes textbooks really do have a big impact on impressionable youngsters.
In 2027 the deity known as NTG – short for New Testament God – retires after more than two thousand years of minding the store for his employer, Milky Way Galaxy, Inc. The new god, a planetary turnaround specialist, must decide whether Earth’s dominant species should or should not be included in his plan to bring the planet back into full compliance with Milky Way Galaxy, Inc.’s planetary operation standards.
Earth’s new God introduces himself to humanity by unexpectedly appearing on the Ram Forrester Hour talk show. Ram, an atheist, and co-host Brendali Santamaria, a devout Catholic, are stunned. God’s interview, beamed worldwide, shocks and infuriates viewers. They learn that a sixty-day conference will take place in Los Angeles to determine whether humans are capable of helping him implement his planetary turnaround plan. To earn a coveted spot in this God’s good graces all mankind must do is eliminate religious violence forever, without his heavenly help, within sixty days. Failure means extinction.
God designates Ram and Bren as the conference’s only authorized media reporters. This assignment, fraught with peril, ignites their romance. Not only must the harried couple attend the conference meetings by day and do their show at night, they must also outwit a fanatical religious group bent on killing them. When rising conflicts within the conference intensify, it’s up to Ram and Bren to do whatever it takes to protect their budding romance and mankind’s very survival.
Author S. Faxon spoke with author Dennis Crosby about tips for writing Urban Fantasy:
I had the pleasure of chatting with Dennis Crosby about his book, Death’s Legacy. The adult urban fantasy is about Kassidy Simmons, who must journey home and confront a past she’s been running from for two decades. She’ll face-off with enemies, old and new, and through a haze of fear and addiction, Kassidy will learn the secrets of her heritage, and challenge head on the one being she fears most—herself.
Following our interview, I asked Dennis if he has any advice to share with new authors looking to write urban fantasy. This is the advice he imparted:
First, read everything you can, both in your genre and outside of it. I’ve found that reading other writing styles helped me develop my own. Second, network with other writers, particularly those within your genre. Writing itself may be solitary, but we still need a community to bounce ideas off of and vent to when things get rough–and they will get rough at times. Lastly, don’t forget the human element. Remember that through all the fantasy, the players in your novel, human or otherwise, feel things. Be true to them by being true to those feelings. It’ll give them depth and help readers connect.
-Dennis Crosby, Author of Death’s Legacy
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When I was a little girl, my daddy said, “You will never be sent anything that you don’t have within yourself the power to overcome it. You just have to believe that you can.”
-Author Janet Hafner
This past week, I had the honor of interviewing author Janet Hafner about her journey to publication. She had years of experience writing grants, but did not discover creative writing until a few years ago. While she was able to publish her first book, things did not go as expected, but it was a tremendous learning process and a successful “experiment” that helped her to learn and grow as an author.
Janet is in the process of going back and revisiting her first book, which is something that rings very familiar with me. I’ve spent much of the last year reviewing my first published book, The Animal Court, running it through a reboot of sorts to make it as good as I’ve always known it can be. There were so many elements to writing a book that Janet, myself, and maybe a few of you, didn’t realize when we started our journeys. Like:
Cover Design specific to genre and audience
Reviews inside/outside the cover
Table of contents – is this appropriate for my genre or not?
Chapter titles – are these acceptable for my genre?
Owning an ISBN vs buying from a publisher; what are the differences?
The writing journey is one that is long and wonderful, frustrating and beautiful. There are days when everything goes right, you write 2,000 words, you get those likes on Facebook, and there are days where you have zero engagement, and the muses don’t touch your shoulder. But, one thing I have learned from these author interviews is that success is not made overnight, that it takes a LOT of hard work, whether you’re traditionally published or independently, and that, above all, the writing community is SO supportive and so ready to talk about their stories in the hopes that other authors may avoid their mistakes.
I’m going to start generating more content on this blog, so let me know in the comments below what questions do you have about the writing process? About what happens after you type those sacred words, “THE END.” If you’d like to learn more about my writing journey, sign up to my newsletter, where I drop a note once a week talking about writing tips and peeks behind the pen of my writing happenings.
As a San Diegan, comic-enthusiast and creative warrior, I found it my duty to post a series of videos this week honoring Comic-Con. Now, Comic-Con in person may have been canceled, but Comic-Con at home has been rocking it. I’ve attended a number of panels, purchased my CC-exclusive merch, learned all about The Walking Dead and New Mutants, and have been introduced to a number of new artists and creators. Today, I’m hoping to pop into the Exhibit Hall, but here is my impression thus far:
In my conversation with author Jr Strayve Jr. (Jerry) last week on my Youtube channel, we covered a variety of topics including the task of linking real-life experiences to the page. In Jerry’s book, First Spouse of the United States, we follow Ricardo Chambers, Rocky, as he pursues his dreams amid a multitude of challenges that touch on topics that have touched or affected us all.
We discussed how our characters take the reigns of our stories, and whether we’re a “plotter” – someone who meticulously details what will happen next, or a “pantser” – a writer who sees where the pen takes them, our characters find a way to take the lead and guide us through the rest of the story. Being that our characters are holding our hands through their journeys, we authors become so intimately connected to our characters that they become strong parts of our lives, long after we finish writing the stories. They occupy our thoughts for such spans of time that we think of them and the adventures that we take them through as our children. How could we not?
Like so many of us authors, after Jerry finished writing his book, he began to ask the question, “what do I do next?” How do I help this “child” spread its wings and fly? In our interview, Jerry talks about how he realized that there was a mountain of resources and possibilities for authors to achieve success, but that they would have to take the reigns of their marketing to truly succeed. In his journey to learn and to grow, Jerry came to see that the best way to learn was to teach. He and fellow author, Tamara Merrill, joined forces and created WritersCrutch, a class for fiction and non-fiction authors that teaches a huge variety of marketing skills. I was honored/blessed to be able to attend the class and I HIGHLY recommend taking it. On top of Jerry and Tamara being excellent teachers, they provided a template of how-to’s that brilliantly guides authors toward their goals. To adapt to the times, it is currently an interactive, online course, so no matter where you are in the world, this class is available to you.
In these last few weeks of quarantine, I’ve been quite grateful to be reading Jerry’s book First Spouse. The protagonist Ricardo possesses a beautiful determination to see his dreams through. Though he experiences great tragedy and suffering, the laser focus he maintains on his goals pulls him out of the darkness. Maintaining our tenacious spirits is going to pull us through this period of uncertainty. How many of us had plans, dreams, hopes we intended to see through but were interrupted by this global pandemic? It is in these times we must turn to characters, historical or fictional, like Rocky who never bend in the face of adversity. Find your “Rocky” and remember your dreams. They’re still attainable. For now, they’re just delayed. This time we have now gives us the opportunity to plan out our dreams in our best ways.
Be sure to subscribe to this blog so that you will be in the know when Jerry’s upcoming book, Braxton Century, releases. To see the rest of our interview and to see more author interviews, head on over to my channel on Youtube by clicking here.
In this time of quarantine, author and art historian Cornelia Feye discussed in our Author Interview how to look at our time stuck inside in a different way. Cornelia found three parallels of being stuck at home to her time at the Tasahara monastery:
Like in the monastery, we can’t really go anywhere, see our friends, or dive into outside distractions.
We are confined to our homes and have to look inward because so many of our distractions are gone. As Cornelia said, “We like to distract ourselves so we don’t have to encounter what’s really there, and by staying still in one place, you kinda have to look at where you are.”
We can’t look too far ahead. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, so rather than worry about it, focus on the moment and enjoy what is around you.
Having this opportunity to gain new mindfulness, Cornelia suggests that we have to “renegotiate our interaction and our relationship with time because we don’t know what is ahead…can’t really schedule that much, and so we have to look at it much more in a vertical way, all the things that are happening right now in this moment, and instead of floating along and moving along through each moment, we almost have to settle in it, and that includes all the sensations that come in this moment, all of the feelings that may arise, all the thoughts, also all the influences around us from nature, maybe the sounds of the wind, or the sounds of the birds around us, they’re all part of this moment.”
Cornelia’s time at the monastery inspired the setting for her next book, Death of a Zen Master, coming soon. Here is the link for the rest of Cornelia’s written collection. Click here to see the rest of this interview. Be sure to subscribe and click that notification button to stay up to date with all of the upcoming author interviews and videos being released.
How many of us authors, readers, event planners, brokers, bakers, candlestick makers are presently dealing with working from home? There are a lot of challenges that we are facing in this new world, so here are some helpful tips that I picked up in an interview with organizational development professional, Dr. Ann Gladys, author of Mesmerize and The Invisible Leader:
Continue your daily routine of grooming and dressing professionally, even if you’re working on your couch
Wake up an hour earlier than normal to jump start your day and to give you wiggle room for those unexpected occurrences (like the toddler spilling Cheerios on that report you’ve been preparing)
Communicate; talk to your supervisor, talk to your colleagues. With all of the technology that we have available, don’t let distance be a reason to let communication slip
Show up and speak up in video conferences, otherwise, it’s like you’re not there.
Staying focused on our career goals is just another way for us to keep pushing and to keep driving through the present situation our world is going through. I took Dr. Gladys’ advice this week and woke up an hour earlier than normal, checked in with my daily calendar to see what my daily goals were and thus far, I’ve been able to check them all off the list. It’s been a HUGELY satisfying feeling and something I hope that, with the structure that Dr. Gladys suggests, you’ll also be able to avoid the quarantine-blues.
We are in this together and if you’d like the rest of the working from home tips from Dr. Gladys, click here to view the full interview.
This story is a brief prelude to my latest novel, Foreign & Domestic Affairs, now available as a paperback on Amazon. While Foreign & Domestic Affairs centers around the king and queen, the story below takes us back to our Queen Gertrude’s home. To the land of Forsithyas and the country’s most renown healer, Galina Galiova…
Fruits of Their Labor by S. Faxon
The notoriety behind her name did not intimidate Marcus. Yes, she was regarded as an angel on earth for all the good her medicines had done over the years, but he was a businessman, and she was intruding on one of his longest-standing deals.
The Castin family had become partners with him years ago, selling him the fruits of their orchard to be sold exclusively to him. That relationship had helped made him rich, and this woman had somehow managed to obtain the orchard, stealing from him one of his most reliable products. Marcus would not stand for this. He had worked too hard to set up his business for his sons to take over, with the understanding that the Castin Orchard would carry on their partnership for many years to come. So, against the protests of his adult sons, Marcus hired a carriage to take him on the long two-day journey to Forsithya Valley, where that blasted woman called home. If nothing else, this would be his last act that would secure his trade and family legacy for many years to come.
Stepping out of the carriage, Marcus looked squarely at Forsithya Manor for the first time.
It was a beautiful entry. This had been the house of the Prime Minister, Absalom Kemen, before the divorce. The only matter that was well known of that affair, was that the people would have torn Lord Kemen apart had he taken this property from Galina. With times as tumultuous as they had been in those days between the masses and the upper classes, the smartest political move that Absalom ever made was to secede his home to Galina. Allowing Galina to keep this manor, the most centralized point in the country, she was able to expand her hospital wing, to serve the people of Vitenka, no matter their political or social backgrounds. She was a hero to the people, and here was Marcus, a retirement-aged merchant from the north, ready to take her on.
He gulped and ascended the stairs.
It was said that summers never set on Forsithya Valley. As legend told, anything that Galina touched was said to grow or to heal. That note was immediately evident as Marcus’ carriage passed through her valley. From the pines that lined the outer rim of the fields to the roses that grew to the side of the home, every plant here served a purpose; to keep the citizens of Vitenka alive and thriving with Galina’s guidance.
Marcus inhaled deeply. When he reached the door, his browline creased. In the city where the homes were tucked closely together, usually a nosey maid would already be opening the door to a visitor, and yet, here in the country, only the cries of the crickets beckoned any welcome. Straightening his vest and composure, Marcus reached for the rope beside the door that he assumed would call servants forward.
Marcus shrank from humiliation.
The two good pulls he gave to the rope sent a call of bells throughout the grounds. Though the sun was out, it was late. The summer solstice kept the daylight hours deep into the night and Marcus feared that he just awoke the entire valley. He suddenly realized how intrusive this would seem. He had sent a letter ahead so as not to drop in completely unannounced, but he hadn’t heard anything back. ‘MaybeI should have listened to my sons,’ he thought gravely. ‘Surely this woman is merely ignoring my letters.’ Her silence in the last few weeks had been driving him mad. This was the only way to obtain a clear understanding of what was truly happening.
The door opened sharply.
A kind-faced woman of about Marcus’ age, stood on the inside of the entryway.
“May I help you, friend?” the woman carrying an arm full of towels asked.
For a moment, Marcus was taken aback by this lovely woman’s smile and the glint in her green eyes. There was a motherly presence about her and it was welcoming.
Clearing his throat, he said, “My name is Marcus Amorosk. I’ve come to speak with the lady of the house in regards to her recent acquisition.”
“And which acquisition would that be?” the lady asked while maintaining a charming smile.
Marcus almost lost his way in that smile. “T-a-um, the Castin Family Orchard.” The second after he answered, he realized that it was strange for a maid to pose such a question.
The woman’s smile remained, but her charming eyes looked to and fro as she designed her next response. “And what business is this acquisition of yours, may I ask?”
Though he was not a lord, there were expectations of interactions between household staff and guests. Lovely as she was, her questions were a tad too invasive for Marcus’ tastes. “Forgive me if I seem presumptuous, but I believe it is more my business than yours. ” Marcus tried to say it lightly, hoping not to offend. “I’m sorry to be intruding at this late hour, but may I please speak with the lady of your house?”
The woman’s smile widened. “You are speaking with the lady of this house, Marcus Amorosk.” She almost laughed as she said it. “As such, I am well aware of this acquisition, but you see, dear, I am in the middle of my rounds.” She took a moment to look over her visitor. His hazel eyes, strong jaw, and embarrassed expression delighted her. “If you don’t mind talking while I work, you’re welcome to come in, but do try to keep up. There’s much to be done.”
Pushing the door open with her toe, Galina welcomed Marcus to follow her, not waiting to verify if he would. Galina took off at a fast walk down the hall.
Confused by what all-so-quickly surpassed, Marcus hopped after her. “Um, as I was saying,” Marcus’ words were shortened by his quick breaths. The haste the woman of this woman was extraordinary. “For years, the Castin Family Orchard supplied my business with ciders, wine, apples, naturally, and a variety of other products.”
The pair made it to the double doors that separated the infirmary wing from the rest of the household. Though Galina looked prepared to open the doors with a well-practiced bend of her elbow, Marcus jumped ahead to spare her the task. “Thank you,” she quickly said, bending under the arm that he extended to keep the pathway open.
The infirmary was a long hall with twenty beds. To the great relief of Galina, most were unoccupied but for a few beds on the far end of the hall. Curtains were drawn around those beds so to provide her patients a sense of peace and privacy.
A few oil lamps burned scattered about the room, giving the hall a soft, comfortable glow.
Galina walked to a cabinet and pointed to it to Marcus. Without direction, he opened the door of it for her. Using her mostly unoccupied hand, Galina grabbed a few pairs of sheets and placed them into Marcus’ arms. As she did this, he continued, “When I learned that the Castins were no longer making the decisions of the orchard, that the decisions of the products were pending…”
“I imagine you were surprised,” Galina interrupted, closing the cabinet’s door.
“Well, yes,” Marcus responded, following her with his new load.
“Is that then the justification for the letter that one of your associates sent?” Galina asked, her tone suddenly sharp.
Marcus stopped following and his brow furled. “What do you mean?”
Stopping her progression, Galina turned to face Marcus. She spoke in a whisper, hoping not to disturb her patients resting on the opposite side of the hall. “I received a letter right before the one announcing your intent to visit arrived, from Tusya Amorosk, suggesting that if I do not abide by the previous agreement, that your business would interrupt my orders from partner distributors, such as my suppliers of these linens.” Galina tapped her fingers on the towels in her arms. “That’s not terribly neighborly, is it?” The expression Marcus made convinced her well enough that he had not hitherto been aware of this letter. “It was from one of your sons, no? The letter? I imagine he didn’t discuss it with you first.”
“On my honor, my lady, I did not know about the letter,” his words were genuine and his tone remorseful. “I would never have allowed my son to send that if I had known. I assure you that no such threat would be seen through.”
Galina shrugged and then turned to resume her duties. With a flick of her brow, she encouraged him to follow.
An attendant emerged from the other side of the wing and approached, taking the sheets from him and the towels from Galina. In a hushed tone so not to disturb the patients, the attendant briefed Galina on the status of the room. Marcus was excluded from the briefing which he perfectly understood. What he was struggling with was the audacity of his son to go around his back to threaten a potential business partner. Had he learned nothing in all the years of apprenticing at his side? ‘No,’ Marcus rationalized. His son was a practical man. ‘This is different.’ This was a political matter and went back to the days when his son was a young fool, actively demonstrating against Galina’s daughter’s involvement in their country’s government. Shaking his head, Marcus couldn’t believe how clouded his son’s judgment remained to be, even though Galina’s daughter had quite possibly saved their nation from many years of darkness and instability.
“Marcus,” Galina beckoned in a whisper.
The attendant was walking away to dress a bed that had opened up this afternoon.
Galina motioned him to follow once again.
They walked in silence to the second to the farthest drawn curtains that enclosed a patient’s bed. Galina held up her hand flat to Marcus, indicting him not to follow. She stepped into the curtains and disappeared.
Before Marcus could begin to craft a heart-filled apology for his son’s stupidity, he heard hushed words pass between Galina and her patient. The sounds intrigued him. Try as he could to make out what they were saying, the words were too soft and sounded garbled. Almost like a different language. Marcus leaned in to try to hear better.
The curtains parted and a wee infant was outstretched to him.
“Here,” Galina said to Marcus as if he was the father meeting his son for the first time. She delicately placed the baby in Marcus’ unexpecting arms. “His name is Pavel. In case he gets fussy, he likes to be rocked while you walk about.” Galina disappeared back behind the curtain as quickly as she had appeared, sans infant.
Marcus held the little one close to his chest, not quite sure what just surpassed.
The babe began to coo and to fidget. As instructed, Marcus walked him up and down the small hall, rocking him gently. The button nosed baby opened and closed his eyes contentedly as he did so.
Though he had spent much of his life making deals and setting trade investments, Marcus was no stranger to babies. His eldest son blessed him with a second grandchild earlier this year. He tried to involve himself in their lives, but he had the distinct impression from his sons that they found his visits to be more of a burden than a help. Though his sons thought him feeble, he was still more than capable and sound in body and mind. It troubled him to think that his sons wanted so little to do with him, but here in this moment, this little one needed him now.
The infant distracted him to the point that he almost forgot his entire reason for being here.
“Marcus,” Galina’s voice softly called again from the standing curtains where she emerged.
There was something about how she said his name. It was familiar. As he crossed the room to return the child, he thought on how her call almost reminded him of the tender beckonings of his late wife.
“Here we are,” Galina gently took Pavel and gave him back to his mother. When Galina returned to Marcus, she informed in a whisper, “The boy’s mother is a young immigrant from Ruishland.”
‘That would explain why the language sounded foreign,’ Marcus thought. ‘They were speaking a different one.’
“She’s away from her home and family, so she’s feeling a tad nervous about it all. Thought it best to give the dear a moment to rest while I talked to her. She does love her son so, but,” with a shrug, Galina finished the thought that Marcus did not entirely understand. He decided it best not to ask.
“How’d you know I would do it?” Marcus inquired instead as they began to walk to the next set of curtains. “How’d you know I would hold the boy and not walk away?”
With a glowing smile, Galina shortened the distance between them. Touching her fingers to his cheeks, she answered, “Because you have a kind face.”
The warmth from a moment ago returned. It had been a lifetime since he had experienced a flirtatious interaction. ‘Is that what is happening?‘ Marcus thought, worriedly. ‘Or is she just trying to distract me?‘
The night continued, carrying Marcus and Galina to the last four patients. Marcus helped Galina in ways he certainly did not expect. From giving counsel to a young man who had broken his arm transporting goods, to helping Galina administer medicine to a woman experiencing debilitating headaches.
“Is this what you do every night?” Marcus asked as the pair of them settled down in Galina’s apothecary.
This red-velvet lined room was Galina’s retreat, her study, her stores. This was where she tinkered with chemicals to see what reactions would occur. Galina was a master of that, seeing how far she could push the line to see how fate would respond.
“Not every night,” she answered after pouring Marcus a glass of caramel-colored spirits, “But more often than not, I do have the joy of entertaining unexpected company, such as yourself.” Galina took a moment to study her guest again before saying, “You’ve come an awful long way to convince me to maintain a business relationship over apples. Is there no other reason why you came?”
This woman was highly perceptive. Leaning back in his high back chair, Marcus explained, “The short answer – my pride. My sons have been trying to oust me for some time and when this problem arose, I thought that I’d show them how it’s done and turn one of our most frustrating circumstances into something good.”
“By most frustrating circumstances,” Galina laughed, “am I correct in assuming that you mean me?”
Feeling ashamed, Marcus nodded with a simple ‘yes.’
“Well, I can’t blame you, but after tonight, I’d expect you’ve gained a bit more of an understanding as to why my responses have been delayed.” Looking him straight in the eye, she raised her glass and took a sip. “Of course I’ll continue your deal, Marcus Amorosk. Not merely for my benefit, but for the Castins. They traded the rights of their orchard to me when I was able to stop a nasty fungus from destroying their entire crop. However, their business and their business ways will all remain the same.”
Marcus felt like such a fool. He took a big swig from his glass. “Maybe my boys are right. Maybe I ought to just step down and give them the full reigns.”
“And what would your wife say to all of this?” Galina softly inquired.
Distracted by the spirits already tingling in his fingertips, Marcus quickly said, “Well, she would probably ask why I haven’t backed out and left the damn business to my boys already, that is, if she were still with me, that’s what she would have said. My wife passed a few years ago.”
Galina’s interest increased.
“I don’t know what to do, really,” Marcus confessed, feeling completely at ease with his company and not merely because of the spirits.
Peering over her glass, Galina took a measured sip, never removing her eyes from him. Returning her beverage to the desk, she found a suggestion worth saying. “You could stay.”
“Here?” Marcus hastily responded. “Are you serious?”
Galina’s radiant smile beamed. “Yes. I could use an extra set of hands to help me out around here and you’ve already proven yourself more than capable.”
“You probably won’t care much for the pay I’ll offer, but it will include room and board,” Galina inhaled deeply then added, “And, pending future negotiations, I’d be interested in pursuing a deeper partnership between the pair of us.”
Now Marcus was sure that she wasn’t merely flirting with him to dissuade him. His cheeks flared red. “What would my sons think? More importantly, what would your daughter think?”
“My daughter?” Galina almost laughed. “My Gertrude’s thoughts and time are occupied with far more important affairs than mine.”
The man from the north who had come to Forsithya Valley to ensure the legacy of his business raised his glass to his most exciting prospect yet.
As I look at the succulents and the seedlings of my little garden, they remind me of how precious life is. How every seed is a miracle that deserves to be cherished and loved. Like the plants that will eventually grow from those seeds, we all emerge to be unique human beings.
The news in our world may be dark and there have been many times where hope has seemed almost lost, but then the stories emerge of people standing together. Of neighbors talking to one another and realizing that regardless the color of our skin, we are all the same.
Each breath is a sacred gift. It is our duty to defend it and to cherish the lives and the rights to breathe of our brothers and sisters, not just now, but always because it is what is right.
It breaks my heart to see our nation hurting so, but from the chaos and ashes we will rise with greater love and opened eyes.
“They don’t want to recognize it, but when they start talking about it, they have to recognize it.” ~Tamara Merrill
Author Tamara Merrilland I recently met via Skype to discuss her latest book, Shadows in Our Bones.
When was the last time you read a book that really made you think? Not merely on the “who dunnit” or the “will she figure out the code” type of thinking; the kind of book that stays with you, that makes you look at yourself or the world around you a little differently?
In our interview, Tamara and I discuss the topic of racism, a main theme of her most recent book, Shadows in Our Bones.
Shadows in Our Bones is based on real events and actual persons. The story traces how greed, societal forces, religion, eugenics and racial prejudice came together in a shameful and shocking way on a small, wooded island off the coast of Maine. In the second half of the interview, we discuss some of the marketing strategies that she has employed to become a successful author.