Character Interview: Adam Priestley’s Lazarus Sinclair

Earlier this week, I had the honor of meeting with Adam Priestley to discuss his not yet released novel, ‘Lava Lounge Nights’, which is a blend of many genres—sci-fi, romantic mystery and thriller with a futuristic edge. However, in this interview, I was escorted into the story world of ‘Lava Lounge Nights’ and met, Lazarus Sinclair, one of Adam’s characters. ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Lazarus’ was written by Adam Priestley.

adam-priestleys-cover

Kelly was woken by the telephone constantly ringing. She rubbed her eyes and looked at the clock. It was 4AM. As she answered the phone, a gruff voice she didn’t recognise greeted her. “Ello darling a car has been arranged to take you to the Lava Lounge Night club, the boss Lazarus Sinclair would like a word. His wife went awol last night and the only person he’s prepared to talk to is you. I hope your not a bleedin’ reporter, I take it your not afraid of flying!”

Kelly barely had time to get dressed before there was a knock at the door. She opened the door to a blanket of white. It had been constantly snowing all night. A stranger in a sharp suit and a scar down his left cheek ushered her into the back of a stretched Rolls Royce. She held on tightly. Kelly heard the noise of the hover jets roar to life as the car took off into the night sky.

Kelly was quickly ushered into the club straight up past the punters. A cat like singer on the stage eyed Kelly suspiciously. Kelly’s eyes set on the mighty Sagosian Taunogh standing guard outside of Lazarus’ office. His stag like antlers almost scraping the ceiling. He bellowed down his nose as he saw her approach.

“It’s alright, Tauny.” She heard the gruff voice she recognised from her phone call. “This is Miss Blanchard. Mr Sinclair is expecting her.” Taunogh stood aside to allow Kelly access into the room.

Lazarus sat at his desk looking at a locket as saw the door open he quickly put it back in his pocket. He looked up and smiled as he saw Kelly enter. He steepled his hands in front of him. “Ah, Miss Blanchard. I am so pleased you could make it.”

Kelly greeted him with a nod. “Thank you for the invite. A little more notice would have been nice, but I work with what I get.” She smiled at him then glimpsed around the office. “It’s quite a place you have here. How long have you been running this business?” She raised her brows as she glanced back at Lazarus.

Lazarus smiled. He stared straight at her with his piercing blue eyes. “I’m sorry where are my manners.” He stood up to shake her hands. “My boys can be a little over zealous. i just needed to talk to you. You see I need someone I can confide in, there’s a lot going on at the moment and I need someone outside of the picture i can rely on.” He gestured to the chair in front of his desk. “Please sit down, would you care fior a drink?” He paused for a moment, the muscle in his jaw clenched. “Ah yes you wanted to know how long the Lava Lounge has been mine. Now let me think was it before Italy or after, yes, yes that was it. We, that is Angelica and myself took over the club in 2073 just before little Aaron was born.” He glanced at the holographic picture of his eldest son Aaron sitting on his grandmothers knee and smiled.

Kelly sat when he offered the chair, but she declined the offer for a drink. She nodded when she heard his answer, but the first part of his response had caught her attention. “What sort of things did you need to confide in someone?” She furrowed her brows.

Lazarus sat back down in his chair, pulled open the desk drawer and took out a tumbler of Rybekian brandy. As the dark red contents splashed into the glass, silver sparkles swirled in the light. “All this.” he sighed. “It’s been all over the holovids. My wife angelica disappeared last night.” He started to ramble, the words just falling out of his mouth. “My lovely, gorgeous wife. Some one  just took her, someone.” A hard lump started to form at the back of his throat and he struggled to continue.

Kelly tilted her head to a side as she observed his emotion of the situation. “And yet I understand you were with a mystery blonde last night. Is it an understanding between you and your wife that you have such…entertainment on the side? Or is this unique to last night?”

“Who told you that!” he snapped. “Nothing happened, we’re just friends. I loved….” He stuttered and corrected himself. “I love my wife dearly I would never do anything to hurt her, you have to believe me. I asked you here Kelly because I, I need someone to believe me.”

“Lazarus, let me explain to you how this works…” Kelly leaned forward and locked eyes with him. “Whether or not I believe you is irrelevant, but I do believe that you believe you are right, and I’m not here to judge you. I’m here to make you think, and some of the things you think about and realize might not be something you like, but it’ll be the truth. And the good thing about me is, after today you won’t see or hear from me again, and I won’t be spreading any rumors about you at all. I won’t speak a word of this conversation to anyone, so you can trust me, but I need you to trust me.” She made sure she had his attention before continuing. “You don’t love your wife anymore. I caught the use of past tense a moment ago. When did that change?”

Lazarus stood up and walked to the window, he gazed up at the stars through the glass doors of his office leading out into the hover car parking lot. He sighed heavily, as he glanced back over his shoulder at Kelly. “It’s no that I don’t love her anymore. I will always love her. She is the mother of my children.” He crossed back to his desk and took a big swallow of his drink. The brandy stung the back of his throat. “Okay.” he sighed “So I’ll admit I did have company last night but it’s not what you think and no I can’t name her, it would put her in danger if I did. But I did not kill my wife. You have to understand the stress I’m under at the moment. The club is crawling with filth, all of them certain I have done something.” He paused and glared at her. “Which I did not, no matter what anyone says. I wanted you hear because somebody has to know the truth. The press are going to have a field day with this one. Do you know how many years they have been waiting for me to slip up. Every little thing they are at me like a blood hound trying to get the big scoop and why because I’m a little bit more successful than some.” He sat back down, heavy in his chair. “Do you want to know the real reason i used past tense?” Not really giving her time to answer he fixed her in his sights with his penetrating blue eyes.”Well?”

“Why did you use the past tense?” Kelly raised her brows but listened.

Lazarus sighed, not for the first time that day. He ran his hans through his hair, desperate to have something to do with herself. “Because I think she was murdered, and I think I know who did it!”

Kelly wasn’t surprised by this because he specifically said that he hadn’t killed her, and until that moment Kelly only thought she had been missing. Nevertheless, she nodded and continued to listen. “First of all, why do you think she was murdered?”

“The only possible reason.” He breathed down through his nose. He thought everybody would know. It just made sense to him.  “To get at me. Why else would anybody just grab a mother of two. When the police have had enough of torturing the innocent they’ll realise the same thing.”

“And what has happened to the children? I understand they were with her when she was taken.” Kelly watched him. “Are they home now?”

“No.” Lazarus looked away. “As the police suspect that I am guilty of murdering their mother. They have been taken into overnight care. They said something about safe guarding. What do they need to guard them from. I’m their father.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “And you said you believe you know who is responsible? Who might that be?”

“Thank you, that’s the question I’ve been waiting for someone to ask all day. The person, in fact the only person the police should be talking to right now is.”

The doors to Lazarus’ office suddenly hissed open and Lazarus twin sister, Lydia, walked in. Kelly noticed how identical they actually were, despite the obvious gender difference. They both had the same jet black, hair, mesmerizing blue eyes and thin aquiline nose, That on Lydia reminded Kelly of Audrey Hepburn. “I heard we had company.” Lydia said as she entered the room. She glared at Kelly as she walked across to the desk. She picked up the bottle of Rybekina Brandy. “Bruv, are you drinking again. You know how lethal that stuff is.” She turned to look at Kelly, sizing her up, glaring deep into her eyes, trying to psyche her out. “So who do we have here?”

Kelly just met Lydia’s eyes unbothered, and she even offered her a smile. “Hello, Lydia. I’m Kelly, and your brother was just about to tell me who he thinks supposedly killed his wife.”

“Was he now? Let me guess–Hartman.” She snorted. “You’re going to have to forgive him he thinks everything that goes wrong in his life is Wolfric ‘bleedin’ Hartman.

“If you don’t mind, I would like to hear it from your brother.” Kelly shifted her attention to Lazarus. As long as Lydia didn’t keep interjecting into the conversation, she didn’t mind her presence, but if she started answering the questions and such, Kelly would have to ask her to leave, but she understood the siblings were close.

Lazarus glared at his sister. “What do you want, Lyds, I was hoping for a private conversation.”

Lydia shrugged. “I’m trying to look after you bruv, you know what your like letting everyone in on all the dirty little secrets in your life. Do we even know who this Kelly is, I don’t know her from Eve.”

“Kelly is a friend of mine. Now if you don’t mind I’d like to talk to her alone.”

Lydia glared at him. “No bleedin chance, you’ve got cops all over the place down there and your up here having a nice cosy little chat with her.” She glanced over her shoulder at Kelly, who just shrugged and smiled.

“And yes, Lyds, yes, I do think Hartman killed Angelica. If you don’t mind I’d like to talk to Kelly for a while alone. Now get out.” Lazarus stared at Lydia. “Or I’ll have to get security in here to chuck you out.”

“Fine. but you just watch what your saying and don’t keep drinking that stuff you know you can’t control your moth when your on that muck.” Lydia gave Kelly a dirty look as she left the room. As she got to the door. “Brothers.”

As Lydia left the room Lazarus turned his attention back to Kelly. “Sorry about that, now where were we?”

Kelly nodded. She understood siblings all too well. “Hartman. I understand he’s been a rival of yours for a long time. Why would he take the chance to kill your wife?”

Lazarus sighed heavily and then looked up at Kelly. “Because it’s him, because he can.” He shook his head and reached for the bottle of brandy picking it up. He looked at it before deciding to put it down. “Me and Wolfric go years back, hell, we once even worked together once. Well for his dad anyway. It all used to be hunky dory, we’d hit a few securicor vans, split the dosh and go on our merry ways. then she came on to the scene.” He smiled as fond memories came into his head. “You know whatever he says she was mine first.”

“Sounds reasonable, but…too easy.” Kelly shook her head. “Yes, I know you two have a feud, and I’m sure both of you would like to possibly put the other in the ground—or out of business—but still, I say it’s too easy. You’re the obvious target for your wife’s death, and people would expect you to blame him. As I said, too easy.” Kelly sat back in her chair. “I’m not saying he didn’t have a hand in it, but…I think it’s more complicated than that. Think harder. Think back to the last time you saw your wife, and the last interaction you had with her. Did she let on to anything? Did she seem uneasy about something or someone?” Kelly felt more like a detective than an interviewer, but that was all right. If it opened him up and got her answers as well as possibly brought a bit of peace to him, she was okay with that.

Lazarus sat still for a moment, quietly contemplating what Kelly had just said. “She was at her parents all last week and what with running this place we didn’t really have that much contact. To be honest I didn’t even know she was back in the country until the Police rang. It all came as such a surprise. The only thing I do remember is that before she left she was banging on about some diamonds, called the Kadam stones or something. To be honest I thought she was just dropping hints as to what she wanted for Christmas presents.” He ran his hand shakily through his hair, thinking again. “You do know her mother hates me right. Whether she had an argument with her parents i don’t know but I wouldn’t trust her father as far as I could throw him.”

“I doubt either of her parents would kill their own daughter to get to you. There are other ways to hurt you than killing her.” Kelly pointed out then rose to her feet. “You don’t mind if I meander about, do you? Helps me think.” And she began moving around the room, looking at different things. “These diamonds though…that sounds like a lead. Have you looked into that?” She turned back to Lazarus with raised brows.

“No, like I said I just thought she was trying to give me an idea about what she wanted for Christmas.” He turned to look at her. “Feel free to have a good nosey around, Christ everybody else whose come in here today had. Why should you be the exception?” He looked absentmindedly out of the window again. “I wouldn’t rule her father out though. He’s no saint. Have I told you he once asked me to shoot somebody for him.”

Kelly wasn’t walking around to be nosy. To be honest, her mind wasn’t on what she was seeing but whether many other possibilities. “You think he would have killed his own daughter?”

“Christ, there was rumours he killed his own mother.” He looked at her with a straight poker face. “The thing you need to know about Roberto Accorsi is that he plays from his own rule book and boy does that one hold a grudge. Like I said he once asked me to shoot somebody for him. A business rival I think. I told him straight to forget it. Despite what anybody says i’m not a gangster.”

Kelly turned to look straight at him. “Have you killed anyone before? I’m not asking because I think you’re guilty of this, but depending your answer, I want to make a specific point.”

Lazarus shrugged. “What can I say stuff happens, but I’ve never killed anybody who didn’t deserve it.”

“Now, with that in mind, would you be able to kill your own children just to hurt someone you don’t like?” Kelly locked eyes with Lazarus.

Lazarus looked stunned. “No of course not.” Lazarus laughed. “I see what your driving at but hell I’m not Accorsi.”

“I’m not saying he’s not innocent. I’m merely giving you a different angle to look at. You can’t just pin it on someone you think is guilty.  You need to have people out there digging and trying to find the truth because right now, everyone thinks you’re responsible, so they’re not going to look any further than that.” Kelly stepped up to Lazarus. “But at the same time, you can’t control this to paint the target on someone else’s back. If you want to catch her killer, I suggest your people find the crime scene and work from there. Of course, if the whereabouts of that is unknown, someone needs to go to her last known location and backtrack her every movement. Have you done that yet?”

“That’s the police’s job, but I promise you I’m not exactly going to sit back and let them pin this on me darling, but what can I do I’m just a man in a sharp suit.” He poured himself a large glass of brandy. “You sure you don’t want one?”

“You may be a man in a sharp suit, but you have people, don’t you? Because, like you said, you’re not the kind of man to just sit back. It might be the police’s job, but how much do you trust them–really?” She raised her brows as a small smile tugged at the corner of her lips. “I’m sure they’d just love to put you away, so who’s to say they’re investigating wholeheartedly? Who’s to say they want the truth? Who’s to say they care about it? But you do, don’t you? You want to know what happened to the mother of your children, and you would like to see the person responsible for it punished. So…use your resources.” Then Kelly shrugged as she came around a chair and sat down once more. “That’s my suggestion anyway, but I’m really not here for the investigation. I’m here to discuss you. You said you have children. Tell me about them. What are they like?”

Outside of the room Eddie the gruff voiced man was stood outside of Lazarus office, trying to listen in on the conversation. When the cat like singer sashayed across the room towards him. Her amber eyes sparkled. “Darling, I never had you down as a gossip.”

“I’m not.” Eddie flushed. “But what’s going on in there? First Angelica goes missing, which I’m still not sure she just didn’t run off with another man.”

The cat like Singer glared at him, “Angelica wouldn’t do that. Then the place is crawling with cops adamant that he’s guilty as sin. Then he secludes himself with some mystery girl. I don’t like it I don’t like it one little bit.”

Inside the office, Lazarus smiled. “Oh honey don’t worry I’m not just going to sit here, curl over and die. I just don’t want to get you implicated in all of that.” He shuffled nervously in his seat. “I purely asked you here so that I could give you my side of events. To answer your question about my family. i couldn’t wish for better. I notice you keep looking at your watch when you ready to leave you can, say the word and I’ll have my guys drop you back home or anywhere else you’d like.”

“I have a few more minutes, but yes, I will be having to leave soon.” She smiled and nodded. “But answer me this, Lazarus…is there anything in your life that you would have changed if you could? That you would have done differently?”

“Never let my wife out of my sight.” He sighed. “My poor boys having to grow up without their mother.” He looked down at his glass. “You know what i really don’t need this.” He picked up the glass, walked to the widow and threw it out into the cold night. “I really do appreciate you giving me these two hours.” He said glancing over his shoulder at Kelly. “Especially when everybody else think I’m as guilty as hell. I promise you one thing Kelly I’m innocent and my boys are not going to grow up without their father.” Kelly smiled as she left the room, as she opened the door she almost tripped over Eddie who was still trying to eavesdrop. “Ah Eddie.” Lazarus smiled. “Please be a good chap and make sure Miss Blanchard gets home safely, won’t you?”

“Sure boss.” Eddie grunted.

“Goodbye, Kelly, and thank you.”

Kelly watched as the doors hissed shut behind her, leaving Lazarus alone in the confines of his office.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Adam Priestley’s novel, ‘Lava Lounge Nights’, is not yet published, but there is a taster chapter of Adam’s forthcoming story available on Wattpad: www.wattpad.com/story/85092855-lava-lounge-nights.

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Author Interview: Adam Priestley

I had the honor of meeting with Adam Priestley to discuss his not yet released novel, ‘Lava Lounge Nights’, which is a blend of many genres—sci-fi, romantic mystery and thriller with a futuristic edge. In this interview, I sat down to get to know the author behind the story. ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Adam’ was written by Adam Priestley.

adam-priestleys-cover

Kelly ran through the rain to the coffee shop, and she let herself sigh in relief once she was out of the rain and in the warm confines of the shop. Maybe by the time her interview actually began it would have stopped raining, but for now she stepped inside and up to the counter, ordering hot chocolate to ward off the cold of the rain.

Once she got her drink, she went to a table near the front windows of the shop and sat down facing the door. Here she could watch people, and watching them run through the rain was always entertaining, but she was watching for a specific individual.

Adam opened the door of the taxi cab and stepped out onto the high street in front of the coffee shop. Typical it was raining, and he had left his umbrella at home on the side of the sofa where he had discarded it last time.

The rain was coming down so hard he would be drenched by the time he was inside. He could see the girl he was meeting, sitting waiting patiently for him. He started to walk towards her and then froze as his nerves got the better of him.

Telling himself off, he looked across at her and smiled. Plucking up the courage he opened the door and went inside. As soon as he opened the door he was met by the welcoming, tantalising smell of coffee and pastries. He resisted the urge to go get himself a drink and walked straight towards kelly. “Hi.” he smiled, nervously. “Hope you haven’t been waiting long?” 

Kelly shook her head as she rose to her feet to greet him. She reached out her hand to him. “Adam, it’s great to meet you. I haven’t been waiting here at all. If you’d like to get something to drink, go ahead and then you may join me here.” She motioned to the table and smiled at him.

“Thanks” he said accepting her hand, he smiled. “I see you’ve already got a drink so I’ll get you your next one. I’ll just be a sec.” Adam walked to the counter, thankfully there was only a small que. As he waited he glanced over his shoulder at Kelly and smiled again. He hadn’t done anything like this before. He ordered a traditional cappuccino, no chocolate sprinkles as he was watching his weight and walked back towards Kelly. He buzzed with excitement ready to begin the interview.

Once Adam returned and sat down, Kelly smiled at him. “So, tell me a bit about yourself. I know you’re a writer, but do you have a job other than that? I find writers come from all walks of life, and it’s quite interesting.”

“Yeah I do. It’s not that exciting, certainly not what I trained at university for but it pays the bills and I’ve met some good friends along the way. I’m what the company calls a key operative, others call the position a charge hand. At a meat factory, specialising in hams.

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “Well, writers do what they have to to make ends meet, don’t we? Definitely not what we likely went to university for, but as you say, it pays the bills.” She took a sip of her drink before continuing with a smile. “So, when did you first become interested in writing?”

Adam smiled as fond memories circulated in his head. “I think my interest started at a very early age I would always have my nose in a book as a youngster and used to love playing out my own scenes from the books. But my best memory was when I was seven and as part of a school production I had to read out one of my stories called Turkeys Revenge.” He let out a blissful chuckle at the memory. “It was about Turkeys who decided they weren’t going to be eaten for Christmas and attacked the farmer. The audience loved it and even to this day if I go back to the village I grew up in some of the old residents always talk to me about it. At secondary school there was a bot of a lull as I set my heart on becoming an actor. This is what I dreamed of being and went away to study at university.”

“You wanted to become an actor?” Kelly lifted her brows. “That’s pretty awesome! If you had the choice between writing and acting, which would you choose? I know, unfair question, but still…” She shrugged and smiled at him.

“N,o it isn’t as they were part and parcel of the same thing. I used to write a lot of my own material. I was in a production of Scrooge as Scrooge and I even played Snow White in an off beat comedy.” He smiled. “But this isn’t really answering your question. If you had asked me ten years ago I would have said an actor, but these days I much more prefer creating the characters and learning about them.” He shrugged. ” I think maybe when i am writing I am actually acting all of the characters.”

“And as a writer, you have the ability to be all the characters at once whereas with an actor you’re limited to one or two characters,” Kelly pointed out. “But what made the shift in you from acting to writing? Why did you change your mind?”

“To be truly honest. I really haven’t got a clue.” He laughed. “I think its time when I started working where I am ten years ago i was still involved with my local ma dram group trying to get them to put on one of my plays. then I started working at the factory where I have to get up at 4 every morning, and it was like if I can’t have the time to be an actor, I’m going to focus on my books and enrolled on an open learning course.”

Kelly nodded as she listened to this. “It sounds quite grilling, but you found your way back to writing.” She smiled at him as she leaned back in her chair, getting comfortable. “So, tell me about your writing. We can only discuss one story at this time, but you get to pick! I’d love to hear it.” She grinned at him because she loved hearing the new stories every writer had, and she knew they loved those stories with all their beings. That made her happy.

“Well,” he smiled, “That’s easy it would have to be Lava Lounge Nights. This has kind of grown out of the play I was trying to get my old am dram group to produce.” He loved talking about this story. It had been with him for a very long time and although it had evolved to him it was still the same thing. “It’s set in the future and about a night club caught in the middle of a turf war between two rival families. In the play version there was going to be this whole Romeo and Juliette style thing but as it’s evolved that kind of now feels so cliche.”

“This sounds very intriguing.” Kelly leaned forward, setting her elbow on the table and her chin in the palm of her hand. “So, who are the major players in this story?”

“Lazarus Sinclair, is the owner and he’s been with it every step of the way, although in the present version he has become a lot younger. He’s the eldest son in the main gangster family.” Adam took a swallow of his coffee, and Kelly smiled as it left a foam mustache.

Kelly motioned to his mouth, indicating to the foam, but she smiled nonetheless. “Okay, you have Lazarus, but who else?”

Adam flushed with embarrassment before wiping his face. “Then there is his wife Angelica, who is hiding some dark, mysterious secret and has been forced to make a late night runner from her parents house. She hates herself for dragging her kids on a red eye flight full off drunks and undesirables but she feels as though her hand has been forced. Through the whole journey she is feeling uneasy as though she is being watched. After she lands in the car park she is suddenly abducted by masked men.”

Kelly arched her brows when she heard this. “And I suppose you can’t tell me what happens to her, eh?” She gave him a look but then smiled as she sat back in her chair. “Guess I’ll just have to read the book! So, what inspired this story idea? You mentioned it was a play of your originally which has evolved since then, but what gave you the idea for the story?”

“I think I wanted to create a sci-fi that didn’t have the stigma of only being for sci-fi fans Lava Lounge Nights has a bit in it for everyone. From romance to aliens. I think the main inspiration comes from mixing together everything I like but also with scifi there are no barriers. One last character I really ought to tell you about is is Lydia, Lazarus Sinclairs twin sister. Like the Krays one is more damaged and prone to violent outbursts. In Lava Lounge this is Lydia. When we are first introduced to her she is in the middle of a bar fight.”

Adam looked at his watch he was enjoying this, there was so much more to tell but the real world outside wanted their characters back. “Sorry Kelly, I’m going to have to go, but I really have enjoyed this, maybe another time.”

“No problem! Thanks for meeting with me and showing me a bit of your world.” Kelly smiled as she rose to her feet. “I need to get going anyway, but I can’t wait to meet whichever character you’ll have me meet.”

<~>~<~>~<~>

Adam Priestley’s novel, ‘Lava Lounge Nights’, is not yet published, but there is a taster chapter of Adam’s forthcoming story available on Wattpad: www.wattpad.com/story/85092855-lava-lounge-nights.

Character Interview: E. M. McGowen’s Tenshi

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Tenshi was written by E. M. McGowen.)

A small bell made a ringing sound as a gentleman made his way through the doors of Cafe Bella, a local coffee and smoothie shop located in south Oklahoma City.  In the couple of years since Tenshi had made his home in Oklahoma, he’d discovered one very important and vital fact—coffee in the United States was shit.  Still, there were places, like this particular haven, that managed to make it at least tolerable.

He ordered his drink and sat, waiting for both his order and the woman he was supposed to be meeting.  It had been a bit of a surprise to find he was someone who could be interviewed, but he figured why not—it couldn’t hurt anything.  Tenshi grabbed his drink as it was placed on the counter, taking a drink and making a noise of approval.

Soon the bell rang again, and a young woman in professional attire walked in. Even though she liked being casual when she could, Kelly learned most people took her interviews serious when she was dressed professionally, so she went to the counter, ordered a drink, and took the opportunity to look around until her eyes landed on Tenshi. While waiting for her order, she approached Tenshi with a smile. “Tenshi…? I would attempt to say your last name, but I’m afraid I would completely fail.” She offered her hand for him to shake if he wished to. “I’m Kelly Blanchard. Thank you for meeting me. I trust you are well?”

Tenshi watched as she walked in, almost positive this was the woman he was supposed to talk to.  He waited until she ordered to approach her, but was surprised when she came to him first.  He stood to meet her and took her hand, shaking it firmly before gesturing for her to take a seat.  He laughed at her quip about his last name, the smile reaching his eyes.  “It isn’t as hard as it looks, honestly.  Japanese is fairly easy to pronounce if you break it down phonetically.  It would be Ih-ch-ee-joe-gee.  The first part is similar to the word “itch”.”  Tenshi shook his head a little, chuckling again.  “Sorry.  I teach Japanese at my University.  It’s habit to try to break things down now.  It’s very nice to meet you, Kelly.  I’m doing very well—are you the same?”

She bowed her head. “I am doing quite well, thank you.” Then she lifted her gaze again with a smile. “I didn’t know that about Japanese, so that’s very informative! And I was going to ask what it is that you do, but you just told me you teach Japanese. Fantastic!” She gave him a grin. “I can already tell you have a teacher’s spirit, and that is very important.”

By this time, both of their orders were ready, so they retrieved them, and Kelly followed Tenshi to the table where he had been sitting, and she sat across from him and sipped on her drink. “So, Tenshi, you’re from Japan, correct? How did you end up in Oklahoma ?”

Tenshi sipped his drink, looking over the woman in front of him as they talked. He watched her mannerisms, the way her eyes moved and where they moved.  He tilted his head a little, making a mental note to ask her about this later. Instead, he crossed his legs and took a sip of his drink and answered her question.

“I am—I was born and raised in Tokyo.  Spent several years in London before moving back.  I moved to Oklahoma about two years ago…I had a falling out with my partner of almost ten years and needed a change of scenery.  When the University of Oklahoma offered me the teaching position, I took it.  My sister-in-law is from Norman, OK, so I was familiar with the area.”

Kelly nodded as she took this in, and she drummed her fingers on the table as she contemplated her next question. Finally, she lifted her gaze to lock with his, and she offered him a smile. “Forgive me for my bluntness, but I understand you lead a gay lifestyle. Don’t worry, I’m not going to judge you for it, but when you said partner, I’m assuming that’s what you meant about Japan, correct?” She raised her brows, curious. “And have you found life…acceptable here?”

Tenshi’s eyebrows went up at her question, slightly surprised at her bluntness, but not opposed to it. If anything, he was impressed with her ability to get to heart of the question she wanted. He nodded a little. “I am gay, yes, and that is what I meant by partner.  His name was Ryoua.”  He tilted his head as he thought about her question. “I’ve found it to  be more open and accepting here.  I can walk down the street and hold my partner’s hand and not get too many odd looks.  In Japan, we often conceal it.  It’s not as accepted.”

Kelly nodded in understanding. “So what happened between Ryoua and you? I know it might be difficult to talk about but…think of it this way: you’ll never see me again, and I’m a total stranger, and talking it out might be exactly what you need.” She offered him a kind smile.

Tenshi bit his lip, looking past her to stare at the wall.  He was unused to talking about this particular subject with strangers. “I…well, he cheated on me.  He’d began cheating on me four days after our fifth anniversary.  We were at a Christmas party for his company, he got drunk and disappeared. Didn’t think of it then, but looking about on it …” He shook his head. “I’m an idiot.  I found out about it because he left his phone at home, and his lover called for him.  I could handle maybe one affair.  People have worked through that, but I couldn’t handle multiple people.  Especially not … not after what happened after.  The repercussions of the affairs were very, very horrible.”

“Because you have HIV.” Kelly locked eyes with him.

He stared at her for a full minute before replying. “Yes.”

“I’m sorry about that.” Kelly bowed her head before lifting her gaze once more. “I know that can’t be easy at all, and to be honest, I don’t completely understand it myself, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to life with that. How do you manage?” She furrowed her brows, sincerely both curious but also concerned.

“It is what it is.” Tenshi stated bluntly, lifting his shoulder in a shrug. “It’s easily managed with medication.  HIV, or even AIDS, is no longer the death sentence it was in the 80’s or 90’s.  The average person diagnosed with it now has at least a 40 year life span to look forward to – possibly more depending on how young and healthy they are.  I’m fairly health conscious, and I’ve managed very well.  Unlike my partner, who is going to end up giving himself lung cancer if he doesn’t stop smoking.” He said this with an amused look and a chuckle.

“A new partner? Or are you still talking about Ryoua?” Kelly raised her brows a little confused.

“Oh! Sorry, I should have explained.  No, Ryouta is my ex.  I have a boyfriend now.  His name is Jaime.”

Kelly smiled then took another sip of her drink–she’d almost forgotten about the drink. “So, tell me about Jaime. How did you two meet?”

“We met at the college.  He teachers English.  Jaime very literally crashed into met at the orientation they held for all the teachers.  Spilled Coke down all over himself and me.”  Tenshi finished his drink and set the cup to the side.  He reached up to unconsciously run a hand through what he could of his hair, reaching behind to make sure the braid was still in place.  It was a habit he’d had since he’d grown his hair out this long.

“Jaime was straight, but we had a connection.  I’ve…never known connections like that actually happened between people.  He followed me around everywhere, talked to me all the time.  Finally, he asked me to take him on a date and I did.  The rest is history.”

“Interesting.” Kelly nodded with a smile as she took all this in. Now I understand you have a son, Kouji…and this is going to sound like a stupid question, but how do you have a son?”

Tenshi let out a merry laugh. “I was wondering when that question would happen!”

Kelly grinned. “Well, I’m glad I don’t disappoint.”

“I was married to a woman for years.  I spent quite a bit of time in denial of the fact I was gay.  I come from a very prestigious family and I was supposed to marry and have sons.  I went to England for a year during medical school and met Kouji’s mother.  There was a mutual attraction.  She’s the only woman I’ve ever been attracted to in my life.  I think I’m mostly attracted to her personality – she’s my best friend.”  Tenshi smiled. “But we were together for about fifteen years, married for almost eleven of those years.  She very literally set me up with Ryouta.  She’d figured out ages ago that I was gay.”

Kelly smiled. “Interesting! And you say that she’s your best friend still? The fact that she set you up with Ryouta—I bet she feels bad about how that worked out.” She frowned

“She is. Jaime had to learn early on she’s going to be in my life forever, and not just because she the mother of my child.” Tenshi frowned and looked down at the table. “She does.  I’ve told her it isn’t her fault, and it isn’t.  Emelia…well, I think it is something she is going to feel guilty over for a while.”

“Understandable but unfortunate.” Kelly nodded then went to take another sip of her drink only to realize it was gone now, so she set it aside. “Okay, so, you’ve got Jaime in your life, and Kouji and even Emelia in a way. You’re a teacher at a university, so life seems to be going quite well for you.” She smiled but observed Tenshi’s face. “So, what do you want out of life? If your wildest dreams could come true, what would they be?”

“And I have Jaime’s daugher, Kitlyn.  She’s a big part of my life now, too.” Tenshi brushed a little hair from his face and thought about her question.  A smile crossed his face as he stared at her, looking her straight in the eye.  “Honestly? I have it.  This is my happiest, wildest dreams.  I have a great job – even if they did try to fire me for being gay a few years ago, but we got that resolved. I have a son who is doing great on his own – in fact he goes to my college.  I have a man who loves me, and a great little step-daughter.  I’m happy.  I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”

Hearing all this made Kelly smile again. “That’s good. I’m happy for you. Not many people achieve the level of happiness you have.” Then she tilted her head to a side before answering her next question, “And what is your biggest regret?”

The question made him think hard, his brows furrowing in concentration before they focused on her face. “I…well…probably my relationship with my mother.”

Kelly lifted her brows. “What do you mean?”

“My mother hates me.  We have never had a great relationship.  She has a slew of mental illnesses.  Last diagnosis, she was schizo-affective.  My nephew has schizophrenia.  Her behavior was one reason I decided to go into psychiatry.  To make sense of why she acted the way she did toward me.  I regret that she and I don’t have a better relationship, seeing as she’s my only living parent.”  Tenshi fidgeted in his chair. “I am a disappointment to her.  I’m gay, and in her eyes, that’s a terrible thing and something I should be ashamed of.  She’s even gone so far as to say I should have been the twin that died, not my brother.”

“I’m sorry.” Kelly shook her head. “That is never easy. My great-grandmother actually said the same thing about my grandfather—how he should have died instead of his brother. Living as a ‘disappointment’ to a parent—especially your only living parent—is one of the hardest thing anyone can endure, and I’m sorry that is that case for you.” But then she paused, searching his gaze then furrowed her brows. “Do you think there’s at all the chance for you two to reconcile? Or is that completely off the table?”

“Oh wow, that’s horrible to hear.  It was a shock when she said that to me.  I understand it was only a few days after the death of my father, and perhaps she was just in shock…but she wouldn’t allow me to bring Ryouta to the funeral. Ryouta knew and loved him as well.  Mikiko told me I was a disappointment to the family name and that my stillborn twin would have been a better son than I.  It hurt.  It hurt a lot coming from her right then.” Tenshi rolled his eyes, but the hurt still shone there.  “Of course, this is from the woman who named her SON ‘Tenshi’.” He took a deep breath, tapping his foot against the table a little. “I don’t know.  I’d like to say we could.  My brother, Shin, says that she’s getting nicer as she’s older.  Not as acidic as she used to be. Maybe someday, but I’m not holding my breath.”

“That’s understandable.” Kelly nodded but then gave him a hopeful smile. “But I do hope the best for you in that regard.” Then she thinned her lips as she pondered her next question before shifting her gaze once more to lock with his. “We spoke of your dreams, of your regrets–what is your deepest fear?”

“Loneliness.  I don’t mean that in the sense of not having a partner.  Deeper than that—not having anyone.  I’m also terrified of losing myself, or my dignity as I get older and eventually my virus starts taking a toll on my body.”

“As we age, unfortunately dignity isn’t often retained.” Kelly shook her head, frustrated with this reality, but then she sighed and looked up at him. “So what if you begin to lose yourself? It’s a terrifying thought, but if it’s going to happen, you need to have a single ray of hope you can hold on to even in that darkness. Do you have something like that?” She tilted her head. “Because, I’ve found, if we have a fear and no way to truly combat that fear, when it finally comes upon us, it will truly ruin us. So, how will you combat this fear of yours if it ever comes?”

“I suppose my single ray of hope would have to be my son or Jaime.  That they’d take care of me, no matter how bad I got.  No matter how much of a shell of myself I was, they wouldn’t let me waste away in a home or in a bed where no one will take care of me.  That at least will give me a little dignity.”  It was a thought Tenshi didn’t like to think about, even if it was a reality he may one day face. His stomach twisted as he spoke, and his hands began to nervously play with whatever was on the table.

“I’m 54 years old, I know that age is already starting to take a toll on me.  I’m not entirely certain if Ryouta caught HIV from the cheating or if he’d already had it when we got together and it was dormant.  But…I saw how he was toward the end.  His had already progressed to AIDS.  He never had the best immune system to begin with, and then he was diagnosed with cancer on top of it.  He visited me a couple of months before he passed away and just looked like a skeleton—a shell of himself.  I guess it scared me more than I realized.  I don’t want my son or lover, or my baby girl to see me like that.”

Kelly met his gaze firmly, so he could see the sincerity in her eyes. “I hope it doesn’t come to that.” Then something off to the side of the room caught her attention, and she looked to see someone almost drop their coffee but managed to somehow save it, and this brief moment was enough to pull Kelly out of her deep thoughts and smile as she returned her gaze back to Tenshi. “Now, we haven’t much time left, but let’s move on to a brighter topic, shall we?” She raised her brows as she smiled again. “Your son, what are your hopes for him?”

Tenshi stared at the wall just past her again after their gaze broke, swallowing the emotion that was building in his throat.  He took a deep breath and returned her look, noting she was looking him straight in the eyes now, and not so much looking between the table and himself.  Showed confidence. Comfortableness.  He smiled.  “My hope for him is that he is true to himself.  I am not that worried for Kouji, to be honest.  He’s a very smart, eccentric, hilarious and open young man. A young man who happens to be dating my boyfriend’s sister.”  He made an odd face. “I don’t even care anymore  They aren’t related by anything, so all the more power to them.  They’ve been together for a year now and seem the happiest I’ve ever seen either of them. I probably should mention that Jaime is about 19 years younger than myself.  His sister is only 27, and my son 23.  It’s not a huge age difference between the two of them. “

“Interesting.” Kelly raised her brows, but then she smiled. “Well, I hope the best for all of you–whatever life may bring your way.” Then she happened to catch a glimpse of the clock on the wall and sighed before looked back at Tenshi. “Unfortunately, it’s about time for me to leave.” She rose to her feet, taking her empty cup to throw away on the way out, but she gave Tenshi a brilliant smile. “But it was a pleasure to meet you! Thank you for answering all my questions regardless how…blunt they may have been.”

Tenshi stood as well, pushing in his chair and tossing his trash into the bin next to the door.  He stood in front of her, looking down at her and smiling at her brightly.  He held out his hand again for her to shake. “It was a pleasure to meet you as well, Ms. Blanchard.  I hope that we can meet again.  I would like that.”

She shook his hand. “It would be a pleasure.” With that, she smiled once more and bowed her head respectfully before leaving the coffee shop.

<~>~<~>~<~>

E.M McGowen’s story, ‘Les Cœur a Ses Raisons’ is not yet published but is due to be released sometime in 2017. Follow her on social media for more updates!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sphynxsys

Tumblr: http://sphynxle.tumblr.com/

Author Interview: E. M. McGowen

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Erin was written by E.M McGowen.)

It was a quiet evening in Moore, Oklahoma, and the quiet was not entirely unpleasant.  Erin sat alone in the small cafe, quietly writing and sipping on the smoothie she had prepared moments before.  It had been a long few months with little inspiration coming to her, and she was going to take advantage of any moment she had to be able to write freely. The ideas were beginning to come back, and Erin was beyond grateful they were appearing once again.  She missed her characters, like old friends she had not seen for a while.

She wouldn’t be alone for long, however – she was expecting a guest, a fellow author and friend, who would be conducting an interview with her.  Erin tapped her pen against the page and looked around the cafe, staring at the decorations – scenes of travel and far-off places she had both been to and desperately wished to go in the future. Already she was planning for her next adventure, and could hardly wait until the time came. 

She checked the time.  Any moment now.

Kelly stepped into the cafe and looked around. She locked eyes with Erin and approached her with a smile. “Hi, I hope I haven’t kept you waiting long. I’m Kelly. I’m assuming you’re E. M. McGowen, right? Kelly reached out her hand. “Nice to meet you. How are you doing today?”

Erin shook it, smiling in return and gestured toward the table she was occupying, inviting the other woman to sit down. “Call me Erin, and you haven’t kept me waiting long at all.  I’ve been writing a little to keep busy.  Would you like anything? A drink, or a pastry?”

“I’m fine. Thanks.” Kelly smiled as she took a sat across from Erin. “So, tell me a bit about yourself. What is it that you do? Obviously you’re a writer, but is it a full-time job?”

“Not exactly, although I would love for it to be someday.  I don’t have a profession exactly, more of a jack-of-all-trades.  I currently work customer service, but I’ve done everything from reception work to veterinary technician.”

“Then you’ve encountered a lot of people!” Kelly nodded as she eased back in her chair. “When did you first become interested in writing?”

“Lots of people—most of them good, some of them not so good.”  She gave a small shrug. “I’ve been writing since I was a young child.  I believe I wrote my first story around the age of five or six.  It wasn’t very long, but it was about my cat, Midnight.  I’m not entirely certain what the plot was, but I know I had him going on some epic adventures.  Before that, I would tell stories aloud. My mother used to tell me she’d hear me in my room, playing out and telling all kinds of stories to my stuffed animals.”

Kelly smiled when she heard this. It was a common tale that writers were story-lovers since a young age. “So did you always write? Or was there a moment in your life that really encouraged you to get serious about writing?”

“A little of both. I’ve always written and loved my stories.  I could read books by the time I was four—small children’s stories of course, but actually read them by myself—and it just went from reading and telling them to putting them on paper.”  Erin tilted her head a little, thinking as she took a sip of the smoothie, idly tapping bouncing her foot.  “I suppose what really got me to writing was the discovery of fan-fiction.  I was about eleven and had just finished the first two Harry Potter books.  I remember finding a website with a lot of artwork, and it had some stories on there written by the artist.  It wasn’t anything new to me—I’d been creating my own versions of fandoms since I was a little girl – but it fascinated me.”  She let out a laugh, remembering her excitement at the discovery.  “About a week later, I had a plot and had written my first real “chapter” to a story.  I admit, it was pretty terrible and embarrassing!”

Kelly grinned when she heard this. “I started off with Star Wars fan fic, so yay fan fiction!” She then tilted her head to a side. “But you transitioned from writing fan fic to writing your own work, right? How did that come about?”

“I always love meeting fellow fan fic writers!  It used to be something people didn’t like admitting, and it’s actually become a lot more acceptable now.  I actually had an interview with one of our local news papers here in Oklahoma about writing fan fiction.  The journalist was trying to discover what it was, and why people would do it! As for moving to my own stories …” She thought a moment, trying to remember when she made the jump from preset worlds to creating her own. “I have a character, Osamu, who I have had since I was about twelve.  He started off as a fan fiction character, but was one that was in the background.  I attached myself to him and gave him a story.  Eventually, I rewrote that story . . . and then rewrote it again.  Finally, there was nothing that even tied it to the original fandom he came from, and I dropped it all together.  He’s the reason for the jump.  Although, if I admit, I still write fan fiction more than I do original, still.”

“Don’t you love it when there’s a character that helps you make that jump?” Kelly grinned at Erin. “I know exactly what that’s like. So, you’re working on your own work (while still writing fan fiction, of course!), so which story of yours would you like to discuss?” Kelly leaned forward. “I’d love to hear it!”

“I really do! He’s probably one of my very favorite characters ever.”  Erin grinned and leaned forward, obviously excited to share a little about her story with Kelly, and those who read her work.  “The current original story I’m working on right now is called “Le Cœur a Ses Raisons.  Funnily enough, the main character is actually Osamu’s uncle.”

“Interesting.” Kelly tried to keep that title in mind because it was little unusual but asked. “What’s it about?” She smiled at Erin.

“It’s about a middle-aged man who uproots his life from being a well known and respected psychiatrist and professor in Tokyo to Norman, Oklahoma to work as a Japanese professor.  While there, he meets a fellow teacher, Jaime, and ends up developing feelings for him.  Problem is, Jaime is straight and much younger than him.  It’s mostly just a story about life, and culture shock.”

“Culture shock is definitely something we don’t think about much but is an intriguing element to include.” Kelly nodded as she eased back in her chair and still smiled at Erin. “So what inspired this idea for a story?”

“I’ve been using Tenshi—that’s my character’s name, and yes, I know it is in no way a name the Japanese actually use.  That comes up in the story! – in role plays with my friends for a number of years now.  Tenshi was actually the second character I created for Osamu’s story, and he’s been around almost as long.  I’ve always known Tenshi was gay, and I’ve always known he’s had a bit of trouble with love.  He was married to a woman in his late twenties and early thirties, had a child, finally came out and got together with his second partner.  That didn’t end too well for him.  The actual story came to me while riding on a bus through the Czech Republic.”  Erin took a breath, realizing she was talking very fast and probably not making a ton of sense. “I’m sorry, I tend to overshare when I get excited. I’d been calling Jaime “Tenshi’s Idiot”, because I didn’t have a name for him.  But I had a long bus trip from Berlin, Germany to Prague, Czech Republic and it just all hit.  It worked, and I’ve spent the last several years piecing it all together.”

“Don’t you just love it when things fall into place for a story?” Kelly grinned at Erin. “Now, obviously there’s lots of personal and internal conflict for the characters. What is it you’d like your readers to take from the story? Something you’d like them to remember?”

“I do love it, so much, especially when it comes so easily.  I got back home and pretty much bombarded my friend with all the ideas I had for it.” Erin nodded, looking down at the paper she had been writing on, and back up to Kelly, taking a deep breath. “I think what I want people to take away most is that there’s always more to a person than meets the eye, and I touch on a number of social issues as well.  Obviously the topic of homosexuality, but both of my main characters have HIV, as well.  For Tenshi, he was infected when his partner of ten years cheated on him.  For Jaime, he is a former heroin addict, and shared needles. There are so many stereotypes and so, so much information about HIV positive people that I want to shed light on that.”

Kelly paused to take all this in, and she regarded Erin for a moment then smiled at her. “Sounds like quite a lot to accomplish, and I admire your willingness to touch on their issues to try and help others understand. It’s interesting. Keep it up!” Kelly glimpsed at a clock on the wall and frowned. “Our time is almost up, but we still have a few more minutes.” She smiled at Erin. “What would you say is your favorite thing about writing in general? I know that can be a difficult question, but still…I’m curious.”

“My favorite thing about writing would be seeing my characters actually come to life.”  Erin focused her eyes behind Kelly, something she did when thinking hard.  It allowed her mind to drift, and not feel like she had to keep eye contact the full time. “I’m not an artist, I can’t draw anything more than a stick figure.  But I can paint a picture with my words.  I’m still a baby writer, and I have a long way to go.  Still, I want to share these characters with the world, and have them love my babies as much as I love them. I get very, very attached to my characters.  Every one of them mean something special to me.”

“And if I may, what about you? What is your favorite thing about writing?”

Kelly chuckled at this and wagged her head. It was hard to narrow down, but she tried. “I’d have to say creating new worlds and exploring the stories. Always fun.” She smiled. “But what’s the most difficult thing you’ve found about writing so far?”

That question made Erin laugh aloud, rolling her eyes at herself as she leaned the chair back on two legs. “Everything! As I said, I’m a baby writer, and things I’ve written even two months ago make me cringe.  I struggle with insecurity, I struggle with getting what I want out of my head an onto paper…it’s all difficult for me.”

“It gets a bit easier as you go.” Kelly reassured her with a smile but then sighed. “unfortunately though, I must bring this conversation to a close. It’s been lovely chatting with you though. You’ll keep me posted on the progress of your story and such, yes?” She raised her brows.

Erin nodded, extending her hand once again for Kelly to shake. “Of course I will.  It’s been a pleasure speaking with you as well!”

Kelly rose to her feet and shook Erin’s hand. “You keep writing, and never give up. Take care!” With a farewell wave and a smile, Kelly headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

E. M. McGowen’s story, ‘Les Cœur a Ses Raisons’ is not yet published but is due to be released sometime in 2017. Follow her on social media for more updates!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sphynxsys

Tumblr: http://sphynxle.tumblr.com/

Character Interview: Lynda J. Cox’s Rachel

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Rachel was written by Lynda J. Cox.)

Rachel took one last look around the kitchen. Everything seemed to be in order. A bouquet of fresh picked prairie sunflowers stood in a half full mason jar. The counters were wiped down and freshly coated with lemon oil. The floors were swept and even the ash pan on the Hoosier had been emptied. Father was in the study and Ben had promised to keep him occupied while this woman showed up to talk to her. If Harrison could just keep Joshua from running into the house every five minutes, it should be a relatively simple task to talk to this person.

Was it too cool in here with the windows wide open to catch the ever-constant Wyoming breezes? Maybe she should close a window or two down. Should she start a pot of Arbuckles brewing? What if that woman wanted tea, instead? She should have asked. She should have sent someone into town to meet the woman at the train depot. Directions out here usually were composed of “Follow the road to the first fork. At the lightning split Ponderosa pine, go to the west until you come to the stream…” What if she got lost?

Kelly rode through the countryside enjoying the scenery. Being a country girl herself, she appreciated the peace it brought. Soon she came up to the house described, and she dismounted her horse then came up to the front door and knocked then glimpsed around and listened to the sounds inside the house while waiting.

Finally the door opened revealing a woman, and Kelly smiled at her and offered her hand to shake. “Hi, I’m Kelly Blanchard. I trust you are Rachel? I believe you’re expecting me.” She glimpsed around at the ranch again the smiled at Rachel once more. “Lovely place you have here.”

Rachel took the offered hand, surprised at the strength in the firm handshake. “You’re being polite.” She was too aware that even with Harrison’s help, there was still so much to do. The house needed a thick coat of whitewash a year ago. The garden fence had been repaired but everything in it had bolted and gone to seed. “I’m glad you could find the place. Come on in.”

Kelly smiled as she entered the house and took in the comfortable home, and she followed Rachel where she would lead her. “So, my impression is this is a fairly large ranch. Do you run it all on your own?” She raised her brows glancing back at Rachel because that’d be an impressive feat if that were the case.

Rachel gestured to the kitchen table and allowed a small laugh to escape her. “thirty three thousand acres that I tried to manage on my own. That didn’t work. Of course, I didn’t know at the time my father had already gambled half half of it away to Harrison Taylor.” She placed a plate of cookies on the table. “Coffee?”

“Thirty three thousand acres!!” Kelly’s eyes widened when she heard this. “Wow!” She shook her head amazed, and then she sat down at the table and took an offered cookie. At the offer for coffee, Kelly smiled, “if I may have water, I’d prefer that. Thank you.” Then she thought on what Rachel said of Harrison Taylor. “So, why did your father gamble off half the land?”

Rachel opened the ice box and poured a glass. “My father to this day hates losing. He was losing in a poker game and was certain his luck would turn around. He was busted and to cover his bets in that game to Harrison, he deeded half this ranch to him. And lost.” Rachel sat at the table. “Imagine my surprise when Harrison showed up with that deed, some ten years after the event.”

“And what was your reaction?” Kelly smile just imagining it already.

“Anger doesn’t even start to cover what I felt.” Rachel toyed with her coffee cup. “My father hadn’t seen fit to tell me in those years what he did. Harrison’s half brother was lower than what I’d scrape off the bottom of my boot and here I was partnered with him?” She sipped from the cup. “If I could have shoot both of them and hidden the bodies, I might have done it in those first few minutes.”

“Okay, tell me the history of Harrison and his brother. Other than the fact that your father did this without informing you of it, why would you hate them so much?” Kelly tilted her head as she furrowed her brows.

“Didn’t trust Harrison but never hated him.” she smiled. “Which I suppose is a good thing when you’re married to the man. As to Jason…how do I put this in polite terms?” Her gaze drifted to the opened back door. “My son is the result of Jason’s unwanted attentions.”

“I see.” Kelly nodded but then tried to figure out the details. “Okay, so…you weren’t married to Harrison when he came to claim the land, right?” She raised her brows. “Sorry, I don’t understand the timing of things.”

“No, I wasn’t married to anyone at the time, even though my father told anyone passing through that I had married Jason.” A shudder passed over her. “I would have been in jail for murder had he forced me to marry that snake.” the depths of the coffee cup drew her attention again. “And, the funny thing about Harrison claiming the land is he wasn’t here to do that. He was following the best lead he’d had on Jason’s whereabouts. He was going to take him back to Kentucky to face charges for murdering a woman and her two daughters.”

“So, Jason came here, and…that resulted in your son, and then Harrison came around looking for Jason? What happened to Jason then?” Kelly furrowed her brows as she observed Rachel.

Rachel still stared into the depths of her coffee cup. “Jason drifted out here about a year after the War ended. He actually worked for a while for my father. About the time Joshua was born, Jason disappeared. And, almost five years later, Harrison Taylor rode in.” Rachel lifted her head and met Kelly’s gaze across the table. “And before you ask, I had nothing to do with his disappearance, other than to thank the Almighty every night in my prayers.”

Kelly nodded then smiled, “I wasn’t going to ask that, so what was life like before Jason?”

“You’re the first one to not make any assumptions about that.” Rachel leaned back in her chair. “Before Jason, even though my father was a hard man, he was fair. Even though women aren’t supposed to ride for the brand, because I’m an only child and this ranch was supposed to go to me, he allowed it. He made a fortune when I was a child, selling cattle back East and to the Army. He sent me to boarding school, which I hated. I would hide clumps of sage brush in my trunks, so when I got too homesick, I could crumble it up and smell it.” She gestured around the kitchen. “This place, this hard land, is home. My father wanted me to be a lady. I tried. Jason destroyed that.”

There were several things Kelly wanted to touch about, but she wasn’t sure what she should focus on, so she settled on one of the more natural questions. “What happened to your mother?”

“She died of birthing fever a month after I was born.” Rachel never knew her mother, so speaking of the woman presented little heartache. “And, she is the measurement that my father has judged my whole life with. From my earliest memories, I was told ‘Your mother would never do that. She was a lady.’ Or, ‘I want you to be the lady she was.’ It’s rather hard to live up to an ideal that becomes perfected through guilt. My father blames himself for her death.” Rachel stood and paced the kitchen. “When he learned I was in a delicate condition—“ A snort broke from her, ”he was so angry. He called me every name in the book, including a few in Spanish that I could only guess at. I had dishonored her memory. I had tarnished her image.”

Kelly frowned. “I can imagine it is hard to live up to that memory, but since your son was born, has your father accepted him and the circumstances of everything?” Then she had to add, ” And did he even know Harrison was Jason’s brother when he made the bet?” And she also wondered if her father knew that Jason had been responsible at the time of the bet, but Kelly didn’t want to ask too many questions at one time. She still wasn’t sure of the timeline of everything.

“No—to both questions.” Rachel turned to her guest. “My father barely speaks to Joshua and when he does, it’s to criticize everything he does. He still claims that I led Jason on. At the time he made the bet with Harrison, Jason hadn’t drifted out here, yet. I never understood why he hired him in the first place, but knowing what my father was hiding from me about that bet, I can guess he hired him because of his last name.”

“Hmm…sounds like your father carries around a lot of guilt—with what happened with your mother, with the land, and then with you.” Kelly made the mental note that she should talk to the father too—just to see what she could pry out of him, but then she focused on Rachel. “So, then Harrison came along, and you two hated each other, but now you’re married, so things are working out for you two quite well now?” She fixed her gaze on Rachel once more.

Another smile crossed her face. “I never hated Harrison. I didn’t trust him. I admit I was a bit unsettled that he was tracking his own brother to take back East, but I never hated him. I’m not sure how well things are working out, but I think we can make a partnership go. And the marriage…that was his idea, to protect the ranch and keep it intact. We have a completely platonic marriage—my idea—and I don’t think I like my own terms, any longer.”

“You’re married to him out of convenience, but do you love him?” Kelly raised her brows as she sat back in her chair and folded an arm across her body while listening.

“I don’t know.” Rachel sat at the table again. “If I can imagine my life without him, not any more. Do I miss him when he goes into town for the day? Yes. Have I wondered if what would happen between us if we didn’t have a platonic marriage would be different than what was done to me by Jason—every time he’s in the same room with me.” Rachel sighed. “I don’t know if that’s love.”

Kelly took this all in with a nod and considered her words. “And how does Harrison treat Joshua?”

Rachel didn’t even try to stop her smile. “Ever since Harrison’s been here, he’s taken Joshua under his wing. He takes him everywhere with him. Joshua asked me the other day if Harrison was staying. And, Harrison calls him ‘son’ and I don’t think he realizes he calls Josh that.”

Kelly smiled when she heard this. “And that is important to you—very important.” Then her smile morphed into a smirk. “You love him—might not realize it, might not want to admit it, but it’s true.”

“I have never blamed Joshua for his father. I have loved my son from the first moment I felt him move. I carried him under my heart for nine months. What kind of a monster would I be if I didn’t love my son? And what kind of a monster would I be if I ever allowed anyone to hurt him? so, yes, it’s important to me that Harrison treat Joshua gently and kindly.”

Kelly frowned. “I mean you love Harrison. Of course you would love your own son.”

“I’m sorry.” Rachel’s posture softened. “I’ve heard from too many people that I should have just given Joshua away when he was born. My dander just goes up when I think I’m being questioned about how I feel about my son. As to loving Harrison, I’ll have to take your word for it.”

“Oh, no, you shouldn’t have given Joshua away.” Kelly shook her head. “You need him more than you may realize. For instance, without him, it would make accepting Harrison even harder because you would just see him as someone who wants your land. With Joshua though, you can see him as an actual human, and…well, that has a way to sneaking under your guard.” Kelly tilted her head to a side with slight smile. “Would it be such a bad thing if you did love Harrison?”

She heaved a long, deep breath. “I suppose I should tell you the rest of my terms for this platonic marriage or business partnership—however you want to look at it. It’s for a year only, hence my insistence on a platonic relationship. At the end of a year, we decide if we keep the ranch intact or split it and go our separate ways. Or as separate as we can be living on our own halves. So, if I actually love him and he decides to go, where does that leave me and my son?”

“Rachel, does he treat you well? Does he treat Joshua well?”

“I suppose if he was his own son, he couldn’t treat him better. And, he treats me the like the lady my father wanted me to be.”

Kelly nodded but pressed on, “And has Harrison ever hinted at leaving or what life would be like away from here without you and without Joshua?”

“No.” Rachel picked up her cup. “He’s never once said anything about leaving, about coming up with a name for his half of the ranch, or registering a brand—everything I’ve told him he would have to do at the beginning of this partnership.

“Then that’s a pretty good indication that he’s not going to leave.” Kelly smiled warmly as she nodded but then she tipped her head to Rachel. “Of course, caution, in your situation, is prudent, but…” She paused to consider Rachel once more, and then she leaned forward, resting her forearms on the table as she locked eyes with Rachel. “You need to be honest with yourself with how you feel about him—regardless whether or not he leaves. Yes, it’s scary because you don’t know, but once you acknowledge how you feel about him, you then need to be honest with him. And yes that’s scary too, but you don’t want to be rejected, but by everything you’ve told me and how you’ve described him, I don’t think you need to worry about it.” She gave her an encouraging smile. “Wouldn’t it be nice to not have that uncertainty hanging over your head?”

“I suppose.” Rachel drew her hands down the front of her skirt. “I sound so decisive, don’t I?”

Kelly shrugged. “It’s not easy. You’ve been hurt, and you don’t want to repeat that, so it make sense that you’re guarded, and I speak form personal experience with that. I was hurt—not as badly as you, but still—and it took over a decade before I allowed myself to even entertain the thought of love, so…” she nodded. “It’s not easy. You’re trying to run a ranch, and you are trying to protect and provide for your son. You want to be as independent as possible in order to prevent hurt, but…in a way that can be hurting you more especially if someone like Harrison comes along and really cares for both of you. Does that make sense?” Kelly furrowed her brows as she observed Rachel’s face.

“I…I didn’t look at it that way. I don’t want to give up my independence. I’ve fought too hard and for too long to gain it. And, for too long, I haven’t had anyone to rely on. that makes it even harder to be vulnerable–to anyone.” Rachel leaned onto the table. “And, if this talk has brought up hurtful memories for you, I’m sorry. Let me say this. I will think very long on what you’ve said and one way or another, I will tell Harrison how I feel.”

Kelly smiled. “Oh, they may be painful memories, but they put me on the path I needed to be put on, so I could eventually create the life I now lead and find the man I’m now with, so I accept it, and it’s not so painful.” But she nodded, accepting Rachel’s words. “All I ask if you to think on it and be honest with yourself…and then be honest with Harrison.” She paused before adding. “Joshua deserves that much at least.” Then Kelly looked down at her pocket watch and frowned before looking up at Rachel. “My time here has just about come to an end. I really appreciate this conversation, and I do hope you think about what I said. From what I can tell–and I’m good at reading people—Harrison seems like a genuinely caring person…just unfortunately related to a bad person.” Kelly rose to her feet, still smiling at Rachel. “I hope you the best–regardless which way you go.”

Rachel stood and walked Kelly to the door. “Safe travels, to wherever you must go. And, thank you. Sometimes I can be too stubborn for my own good.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that–especially with all your responsibilities.” Kelly nodded as she came to the door. “May you take care, Rachel.” She bowed her head to her then left.

Rachel watched the woman ride away. It had been a strange conversation. She had never confided such intimate details to anyone, not even Fr. O’Cleary in the confessional. But, somehow, talking to Miss Kelly had felt right. And, the woman was correct about one thing. No matter which way this all ended, she had to tell Harrison how she felt about him, about their relationship, and actually making their marriage complete. She owed it to Joshua, to Harrison, but most of all, she owed it to herself. Now, just to manage a way to swallow her pride and defeat her own fears…yeah, and she might as well move the Medicine Bow range aside with wishing.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Lynda J. Cox’s novel, ‘West of Forgotten’ is not yet published, but her other books are! Also you can follow her on social media for more updates!

Smolder on a Slow Burn: https://www.amazon.com/Smolder-Slow-Burn-Lynda-Cox-ebook/dp/B013RJVDQU

The Devil’s Own Desperado: https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Own-Desperado-Lynda-Cox-ebook/dp/B0153Q7NIM

Seize the Flame: https://www.amazon.com/Seize-Flame-Lynda-J-Cox-ebook/dp/B0165X2M6K

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LyndaCox

FB: https://www.facebook.com/lyndajcox

e-mail: lynda.cox@aol.com

Author Interview: Lynda J. Cox

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Lynda was written by Lynda J. Cox.)

Not sure if Kelly was at the ranch house already, Lynda pushed the dually faster than safety would deem prudent on the slick, muddy approach to the old homestead. Just the past weekend, this part of Wyoming had been buried under a foot of heavy, spring snow. A week of sixty degree or better temperatures and most of the snow had retreated to shaded outcrops, the grasses were turning a deep shade of green, but the melting snow made the dirt roads treacherous. The last pasture gate before reaching the house was shut and there were no fresh tire tracks scoring the yellow/brown path through the sage and grasses. Lynda realized she hadn’t seen any tire marks since she turned off Old Gilchrist Road onto the five mile long road leading to the homestead.

She got out of the pickup, opened the gate, and drove over the cattle grate, a chill brushing her with the shade cast by the massive arching wrought iron sign that declared she was on Lazy L property. Getting out of the truck again to close the gate, she paused and tilted her head back, letting the noonday April sun wash over her face. The silence here wasn’t silence. A meadowlark trilled somewhere behind her, the notes like liquid gold. Far off in the distance, high overhead, a hawk’s scream was a muffled “kee-kee.”. Shading her eyes, she scanned the cloudless expanse for the winged predator. It was little more than a small black dot against the azure dome. The wind was a constant voice in this open space…today it was a hoarse whisper through the sages. On the shaded side of the drainage ditch cut along the edge of the “road” the melting snowbanks hissed as they rotted in the bright sunlight.

This empty, seemingly desolate landscape was home. And, less than a mile away was the house she desperately needed to see. Lynda climbed into the cab of the truck, clutched down, and dropped it into gear. When the road swung into a wide arcing turn over an eon’s old, eroded hogback, the ranch house came into view in the small valley below. It was exactly as she remembered it—wide veranda wrapping completely around the home, the massive bay window on the second floor so the home’s occupants could start and end the day with the view of Tableau Mesa supporting the western horizon—the flag pole in the front of the house was a new addition but somehow it didn’t seem out of place to see Old Glory snapping in the stiff breeze with the state flag of Wyoming mounted directly below the American flag. Daffodils bobbed their yellow heads from the confines of flower beds, their only neighbors seeming to be a myriad of white rose cones, protecting the still dormant plants from the unreliability of Wyoming’s weather. That roses could be grown in this semi-arid land still amazed her.

She climbed the wide flight of steps onto the porch and opened the screened back door. Nothing here had changed, either. Though the house now had electricity, provided by a bank of solar panels built directly into the roof and a wind generator which doubled as a water pump for the large trough by the barn, the massive Hoosier stove still dominated one wall of the kitchen. A neatly stacked grouping of wood filled the box next to the black monster. Pine cabinets appeared to have been painted and then a crackling medium had been applied, giving them a very aged look. The counter tops were still pine, multiple coats of resin and knife marks testament to how often they were still utilized. Hard wood floors were grooved and scored by decades of tread and it seemed more than a few pairs of spurs that had been neglected to be removed before entering the house.

“Hello! I’m here,” Lynda called.

Kelly sat at the piano playing it a bit. She stopped when she heard someone approaching the house, and when Lynda announced her presence, Kelly turned on the bench to greet her. “Hey, Lynda!

“Kelly. How the heck did you beat me here?” The sense of deja-vu was overwhelming. The piano dominating the front parlor, the cut crystal tumblers on the side board… “I didn’t see any tire tracks.”

Kelly smirked. “I’m the Muse, remember? I can appear wherever I want whenever I wait. Besides, I knew there was a piano here, and I wanted to play a little.” She motioned to the piano then turned her attention back at Lynda as she rose to her feet. “Shall we take a seat and get started?” They went to sit down, and Kelly smiled at Lynda. “So, tell me a bit about yourself. Other than writing, I’ve heard you work with dogs? How exactly?”

“I show them—on the beauty pageant side. They’re judged on how closely they conform—in that day’s judge’s opinion–to a standard of perfection written by the Collie Club of America and approved by the American Kennel Club. I’m also a western historical writer. I grew up with westerns and John Wayne. And, I have a master’s degree in English.”

Kelly smiled when she heard John Wayne. It’d been a long time since she’d watched those films, but they were always good. “So, I’ve got to ask, do dogs ever show up in your story since you work so slowly with them?”

“Amazingly, not yet. Because each dog has such a unique (and sometimes very quirky) personality, adding a dog to my stories would be the same as introducing a total character. Not fair to the dog to make him/her cardboard and only window dressing.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “That makes sense. I’ve always wanted to add my Doberman into a story but felt it unjust that she’d be sidelined.” Kelly sat back in her chair. “When did you first become serious about writing?”

Lynda crossed the room, and stared out the window at the flat roof of Tableau Mesa dominating the western horizon. “Serious about it? I’ve been serious about it since my first marriage when writing was my lifeline to sanity. I got serious about publication when I started work on my master’s.”

Kelly tilted her head to a side when she heard this. “And you said you write westerns…why westerns? I think they’re pretty cool, but why did they speak to you?”

“I grew up in the west, figuratively speaking.” Lynda hadn’t turned from the window. “I had a steady diet of the old syndicated westerns, my dad was a huge John Wayne fan, and my Grandfather Harris would read me bedtime stories of the Knights of the Round Table.” Lynda turned to the Muse and leaned back against the window sill. “Extrapolating those Knights to the Knights of the Plains wasn’t a long stretch. There was (and still is) a code of honor among the cowboy: Keep your word. Treat women and children as you’d want your Momma or young’uns treated. Listen a whole lot more than you speak.”

Kelly paused for a second, contemplating her next question. Finally, she leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “Okay, I have a question to ask, but before I can ask that one I need to first ask you to tell me about your story.” She smiled at Lynda. “Who are the characters? their conflicts? And such?”

Lynda laughed before she answered. “Which story? Which characters? There are times I feel like I have an insane asylum in my head with all these characters shouting at me to tell their stories. But, let’s go with the story that I’m working on…” She trailed off and took the time to sit on the leather couch. “Harrison and Rachel. They actually have appeared in all three of my published works. Harrison is a deputy federal marshal and the Harrison we see in those three books is mellowed by age and more importantly by his marriage to Rachel. Before Rachel, he viewed the world strictly in black and white, right and wrong. Rachel, on the other hand, knows that the world is filled with more shades of grey than in absolutes. That doesn’t mean she’s without a conscience or morality.”

Lynda traced the stitching in the arm of the couch. “Their conflicts…That’s a bit tougher. Rachel’s terrified of losing two things—her ranch and her autonomy. Harrison wants nothing more than to convince her she won’t lose either if she trusts him.”

Kelly nodded when she heard all this. “Okay, but what’s the main conflict? Is it between them or other people or what exactly?”

“It’s between them.” There was no hesitation in Lynda’s answer. “Rachel can’t trust Harrison and he is at a total loss on how to win her trust.”

Kelly chuckled when she heard this. “Hey, can’t make it easy on a guy. That’s totally unfair.” She watched Lynda. “So what inspired this story?”

“A dream.” She shook her head, bemused. “I know, sounds silly, but all I could remember about that dream was a scene that comes midway in the novel. Harrison is a little bit toasted and he’s trying to convince Rachel that with him “no” really means “no.” He has her backed up to the piano, she’s terrified…and when he doesn’t do anything other than draw a length of her hair through his fingers before he leaves the room, she finally starts to realize she might be able to trust him.” Lynda looked out the window again, without moving from the couch. “I woke up with that scene so vivid in my memory and had to write it down immediately. And, the story grew from there…asking myself the usual questions…who the heck were they? Why was she so afraid of that drop dead gorgeous guy?”

“Wow! That’s an awesome dream!” Kelly grinned widely. “Okay, so the question I wanted to ask you earlier but can do so now that I know your story a bit better, how’s this story different than all the other western stories out there? How does it stand out?”

“It’s standard trope.” Lynda shrugged. “But, what makes it different is how I take those standard tropes and add to it. This book is going to be a little darker, I think, than my first three. My last one dealt with spousal abuse, and it’s gotten some good reviews for the manner it was dealt with. Because of Rachel’s past, the issue of rape and the repercussions must be dealt with. It is a tightrope to walk across.”

“It is quite a tightrope indeed, and those are dark topics, but I’m glad you’ve addressed them because I’m confident you would handle it well.” Kelly eased back in her chair. “What has been your most difficult thing to write in this story?”

Lynda stood and walked to the sideboard. She moved a tumbler and then set it back. “Dancing around the rape. I have to tread very carefully or my publisher will reject it. And, because they are established characters in my previous novels, I can’t self-publish their story.” She drew a long breath. “And, that’s not exactly the truth, either. The hardest thing to write has been Rachel’s recollection of her rape. It was as if I was ripping open old, but less than healed wounds.”

Kelly frowned when she heard this. “That sounds very difficult indeed.” Then she shifted to a lighter topic. “And what’s been your favorite thing about writing it?” She smiled when she asked this.

“I honestly don’t have a favorite thing about writing.” Lynda smiled as well. “I love researching–one of the perks of being a history geek. I love creating. I love sharing my adoration for the Old West and for the places that thought process still survives, such as Wyoming with such an independent, pioneering spirit. I love connecting with readers. I love it when a character stops shouting at me to get it right, because I did get it right.”

“Not about writing in general but rather this story. Was there a moment that sticks out at you and still makes you smile?” Kelly raised her brows.

“Nope, because I’m not completely finished with the story. There might be a new favorite moment. As it is, my favorite moment in the rough draft is that moment in the parlor with Harrison and Rachel and he’s just about turning himself inside out to convince Rachel she can trust him to never hurt her.”

“I’m sure that’s a touching moment.” Kelly smiled but then had to sigh and rise to her feet. “Our time’s almost up, but I really do appreciate this time to chat with you, Lynda. Remind me again, do you title for your story?”

“The working title is ‘West of Forgotten’.”

Kelly considered this for a moment but then had to smile at Lynda. “That’s a good title. I really like it! Keep me posted on how it goes, okay? Because I’m sure my readers would be interested in a western for sure! Now though, I guess I should see myself out.” She gestured to the door. “But thanks again for agreeing to meet with me. It was great meeting you.”

“Likewise.” Lynda paused. “I think I’m just going to stay here for a few more minutes.”

“All right. You take care! Tell your characters I said ‘hi’.” With one final wave and a smile, Kelly headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Lynda J. Cox’s novel, ‘West of Forgotten’ is not yet published, but her other books are! Also you can follow her on social media for more updates!

Smolder on a Slow Burn: https://www.amazon.com/Smolder-Slow-Burn-Lynda-Cox-ebook/dp/B013RJVDQU

The Devil’s Own Desperado: https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Own-Desperado-Lynda-Cox-ebook/dp/B0153Q7NIM

Seize the Flame: https://www.amazon.com/Seize-Flame-Lynda-J-Cox-ebook/dp/B0165X2M6K

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LyndaCox

FB: https://www.facebook.com/lyndajcox

e-mail: lynda.cox@aol.com

Character Interview: Laura Hart’s Darkness

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. The Darkness was written by Laura Hart.)

He had been feeling off for a few days.  One of his subjects told him another had entered his plane, one who didn’t belong, and he wasn’t sure what to make of it.  Things felt different for sure.  Pacing through his throne room, he had his windows wide open to let the cool mountain air in. Wondering about how things would affect him, he sat down in his chair.  While he felt stronger, he also needed to be prepared if this other being came to his castle, or should he extend an invite and keep an upper hand?

He could certainly let things go on their own and see what happened.  The road to his castle was a rough one.  The path was not well marked, the stone was rough and jagged.  There were steeps spots and landslides were always a possibility.  It wasn’t always like this, but for now, he liked it this way.  He liked to be bothered as little as possible by things within his realm.

He looked around his current throne room, compared to all external surroundings, this room was bright, almost welcoming.  Windows were open, and fabrics draped the stone walls with pictures of green fields and blue oceans.  Soft chairs lined the outside and a large rug covered the center before the throne.  The platform where his chair sat was large.  Once, it held more chairs, now his was alone.

He was startled by a noise and stood immediately, his senses sharpening to see who was there.

Kelly had taken her time to pass through the rough terrain to get here because she hadn’t been in a hurry. Instead, she’d taken the opportunity to take in her surroundings because they spoke of the character of the person she was about to interview. Coming to the castle, she found none tried to stop her or question her, so she went on her way, straight to the throne room where she saw him sitting on his throne in the center of the room, but he hadn’t seen her yet. Apparently he was lost in thought, so Kelly cleared her throat. When he snapped his gaze around to her and stood, she offered him a kind smile. “Greetings.” She gave him a respectful bow then straightened and locked eyes with him. “I understand you are the one they call Darkness? My name is Kelly. They call me the Muse. I have come to ask you a few questions, and then I will be on my way and not bother you again. Agreed?” She raised her brows.

Darkness, he shuddered at the world.  He had not gone by his original name in over a hundred years, but the new name still stung.  He peered at her curiously.  What kind of questions would she ask him, and how did she get here?  Was she from the same place as the other human in this realm?  His brows furrowed as he nodded to her, his senses still alert. “Agreed,” his voice was stern and commanding, the deepness echoing slightly in the throne room. She looked awkward standing in the middle of the room, so he reached out and magically moved a chair over for her to sit on.  “Sit if you like.”  the words came out more like an order than a suggestion.

Kelly glimpsed around the room to take in her surroundings as she made her way to the chair and then sat. She smiled at him. “Darkness….that is an odd name, but I understand that is what they call you but not your real name. What is your real name?” She tilted her head to a side, curious to see if he would tell her.

He shook his head, he didn’t know if he remembered his real name anymore.  He had only memories that it was pleasant, and warm.  It had been a gift from his parents, a name with love, but it was gone, and so was that love.  His face turned to a scowl. “Darkness suits just fine, now.”  He was gruff.  He remained standing, peering at this stranger.

Kelly smiled at him because she could sense his distrust of her. “You really don’t know what to think of me being here, do you? Well, let me assure you that you can trust me. I’m not here to bother you…well, pester you with questions for a few hours, yes, but not bother you otherwise, and I will be on my way eventually. Please, just relax. I would merely like to hear things from your side of the story because I think everyone misunderstands you.”

He huffed a bit and crossed his arms.  He raised an eyebrow and waited for her to continue.

Seeing he still didn’t believe her, Kelly nodded and decided to glance around. “What is this place?”

His voice came out a little like a growl. “This is my home.  One of nine scattered castles across the land.  From here, I have view of almost everything that happens in any of the regions.”  He did have nice place for his castle, and it was the largest of all castles in the plane.  He had once hosted his siblings here, and many festivities.  The path was not always full of danger, it used to be a finely laid stone path maintained by his staff. He felt that reminding her he had such a wide view would keep her in her place.  She may not try anything funny if she knew she was being watched.

Kelly didn’t feel threatened. She’d dealt with such deities before, but she tilted her head to show her respect. She wasn’t trying to irritate him, but she would ask her questions nonetheless. “I understand where were or are more of you…your kind. Do they have their own place as well or did something happen to them?”

She was persistent.  “Yes.  The other castles belonged to my brothers and sisters.”  His eyes narrowed.  “But they’ve all died.”  The castles had fallen into ruin, long ago.  He had not been to visit them in a very long time, but he imagined none were usable at this point anymore.  Not that that would matter, he had shielded each one away from the eyes of most, only those with divine magic would know they existed.  He had done so as each sibling died because he didn’t want anyone to take over or live in those structures.

A few moments of silence and he figured she would want to know how they died.  Of course, she would, he assumed.  “They warred, they let greed take over and killed each other.”  His lips snapped shut and his teeth ground together.

She saw how much this troubled him, but she leaned forward and softened her voice. “But you escaped. How? Why?”

He was taken aback by her question.  Most cared about how you could kill a god, or other questions about his siblings.  He opened his mouth as if to speak, but closed it again, giving her a curious look. “I didn’t escape.  I live with the memories of what we once were, of the greatness they all held but refused to see.  I often wish I shared their fates.”  A frown took over his scowl. “I did not fight, as they fought among themselves.  I did not give in to their greed, their lust for power.  We had been gifted this, and each of us given equal space to best use our talents.  The world was ours, together. “  His voice finally softened some.

“That must have been hard for you—to see them fight and kill each other. How did you not get involved?” Kelly furrowed her brows curiously as she sat back in her chair.

He tsked at her.  “Not get involved?  How could you make such an insinuation?”  She had offended him, and she would hear the record set straight.   “As they began to quarrel, we met here, in this very room,” he gestured, pointing sharply to the floor to emphasize the point.  “We talked, we tried to come to answers, to make everyone happy, but they would not listen and would not come to any terms.  Their fights became wars.  Their ability to reason waned.  And you tell me, Muse, how you pick up arms against your own family, when neither side is in the right and you’ve been cast aside as weak for trying to mediate their differences?”  The scowl had returned, and his eyes were shooting daggers at her.

Kelly met his gaze unflinching. “I’m not saying you didn’t try to resolve their conflict, but apparently they fought and you didn’t pick up arms against them, and all I want to know was why. Yes, they’re family, and it’s difficult to fight against family, but the rest of *them* strove against each other regardless of their relation to each other. You didn’t. That makes it you unique.” However, Kelly didn’t want to focus on the conflict itself. She wanted to go deeper. “What was it like before the conflict, before the war?”

“They wanted power more than they wanted family.”  The answer was direct. “Before they warred, things were lovely.  We came here, together, each given a portion of the land as our own.  We created our world from the start, adding the landscape and creatures to our own tastes and talents.  We each built our dream.  We marveled at each others creations.  We began to work together to improve each others regions, sharing our gifts and giving to one another generously.  We gathered, often.  We hosted festivals for all our creations and ourselves.  Laughter and dancing and food filled these very halls at least half the year.”

“It sounds like such a lovely time, and I can tell you miss it.” Kelly nodded. “Do you blame yourself though? For not being able to bring them to peace despite your best efforts?”

He felt bumps along his skin as a shiver ran down his back. “Every day.” His hands balled into fists and he turned from this woman and strode to a window, looking out over the mountainside.

“You haven’t forgiven them, have you?” When he shot her a glare, Kelly went on, “Not for the fighting but for hurting you.”

“They didn’t hurt me,” he whispered.  He couldn’t muster strength to say that very loudly.  “They hurt each other.” He felt a tear try to form in his eye, and was thankful he wasn’t facing her.  He felt warmth wash over him as anger built inside.  Without thought, he extended an arm towards a table along the wall, and his magic picked it up and it crumbled, as if it was inside a giant fist crushing it from the outside.  He turned slightly to the side to see the Muse in his peripheral vision.

“Those fools, had everything at their fingertips!” His voice roared, filing the room.  “And what do they have now?”  The tone went back down, to a frigid calm.  “Nothing,” he hissed.  His arms dropped beside him, “nothing.”

Kelly watched his display of magic but remained unfazed. “They did hurt you,” she said firmly. “Because you’re hurting now. You’re hurt because you lost so much.” She rose to her feet and approached him. “Yes, you’re angry at them for their deeds, but you also know the truth: you lost your family, and that hurts. It’s okay to admit it, and it’s okay to hurt.” She stopped a short distance from him to respect his space. “But you shouldn’t let it consume you and control you.”

He looked at her squarely, one eyebrow raised. “And tell me what makes you an expert at such things?”  He smirked.  “It will all be over soon, the reminders will all be gone.  Then, and only then, will they lay to rest.”  Nodding, he turned back again to the window.  A haunting smile had crept in, one telling of a plan.

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, you’re not the first one I’m spoken to who’s endured such pain. Everyone’s situation is unique, but some elements remain the same.” However, Kelly caught what he had said, and she furrowed her brows. “What do you mean ‘over soon’? What are you planning?”

“Heh,” there was no real laughter, but a lot of scorn.  “I’m starting over.  What you see here today,” he gestured out the window, not to the room, “is all going to change.”  He paused and took a deep breath.  Thinking ahead and seeing a future again relaxed him and put him more at ease.

“Does this have anything to do with that other human on this world?” Kelly raised her brows as she folded her arms.

“So, he had crossed paths with her, too,” Darkness thought for a moment. “No, this dream has been coming for a long time.”  He did feel more of an influx of power, though, with the human here.  Just enough, he thought, to tip the odds in his favor so he could rid himself of the fairies that were holding the other divine magic in place.  Once the fairies were gone, his siblings could fully pass on and he could have his fresh start.  He held himself back from asking about the human.

“Then I’m assuming it has something to do with the fairies. I hear you don’t like them much.” Fairly certain that might get a reaction out of him because she knew the connection between the fairies and these gods, she watched him closely.

“Those meddlesome creatures.  If you encounter them, make sure to take care and not trust them.”  Genuine concern flowed with his words.  “They thrive on divine magic, and cannot survive without it, but my family cannot be at peace while fairies leech from their remains.  Parasites, filthy parasites.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “So you intend to rid the universe of the fairies?” She began to meander around the room at a slow pace then turned back to face him. “How would this affect the rest of the universe? The humans and such?”

He laughed out loud.  “Oh, my dear muse, gods have been trying to rid the universe of fairies for countless ages.  I simply plan to get them off the souls of my own loved ones and out of my own realm.  You humans, you won’t be affected.  You won’t even know this happened, or when it happens.  Your plane is, well, fairly safe as not much divine magic lingers there anymore.” He continued to chuckle at the thought of the fairies being gone for the entire universe.

Kelly observed him, wondering what the fairies side of the story was. “You sound quite confident that this plan of yours will work. Why is that? As you just said, gods have been trying to rid the universe of fairies for countless ages. How are you going to rid those who strive off your family’s souls? I mean, what chance do you have to succeed if, apparently, it’s difficult to get rid of fairies?” She lifted her brows and resumed her slow pace around the room. She was sure she didn’t fully understand the ways of this realm, and he might laugh at her, but that was okay—so long as he kept answering her questions.

“So, you know how your realm has fleas, and they feast on your house pets?  Think of fairies in a similar way.  You can scrub all you might, use repellants, and other barrier devices.  You may make it so one animal or two are parasite free, but somewhere, somehow, other fleas still multiply and find hosts.  The fairies are like this. They are easily killed, as they are small and relatively weak.  However, when they have a host, you have to make sure you catch the entire group feeding off that host at once.  If even one remains, any fairy slain will be reborn, their numbers replenished.  Fairies know this and rarely will leave their entire group assembled in one place.  It is how they assure their survival.” A sly grin came over his face.  “But I believe I have a way to make them assemble.”  Surely, the fairies were wondering about this other human also.  He started to wonder if the magic flow he felt originated from that boy.

Kelly tilted her head when she heard this. It made sense in a way, but unfortunately a realization hit her. “It seems my time here is almost at an end. I’m sure you’d be relieved to have me stop asking questions.” Kelly smiled at him. “However, one more question, if you succeed, and if your family’s souls are laid to rest for good, then what? Would you be able to make this world anew? Or would it still be the same? And would you still be alone?”

He had not realized how quickly the afternoon had passed.   “If I succeed, the world will be remade as new.  No ruins, no wars.  I would not be alone, as new beings would be created here, as I see fit, with kind hearts and gentle souls, friendly towards each other and themselves.” He nodded then.

A bell rang outside the room, and a small creature, appearing to be made from stone entered.

“Take the muse wherever she needs to go.  See to it she remains safe as she travels out.”  He turned them to his visitor. 

“Be careful, watch for fairies.”

With that, he turned back to his window and stared into the sky.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Laura Hart’s story ‘Hope in Darkness’ is not yet published, but you can follow her on social media for more updates!

Twitter: www.twitter.com/artamishia

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaurasWriting/

Author Interview: Laura Hart

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Laura was written by Laura Hart.)

Kelly sat at the edge of the pool and admired the picturesque waterfall in front of her. All around her were forest trees muting any chaotic lifestyle, but sun shone through this clearing, and a breeze passed through as well. Barefoot, Kelly stirred her toes in the water and smiled. It was lovely here—just an absolutely relaxing place for a chat. All she had to do was wait for Laura to show up.

Laura smiled as she headed towards her favorite place to relax and let her creative juices flow, a waterfall tucked nicely inside a thick forest.  She was meeting Kelly here, and wasn’t sure what to expect, but any anxiety about the unknown was overshadowed by the charm of the beautiful day. 

As she approached, she saw Kelly sitting and waiting.  She straightened her posture and walked towards the water confidently.  “Good morning, how are you today?”

Kelly looked up and smiled when she saw Laura. She rose to her feet to shake her hand. “Hey! I’m doing great. How about you?” She motioned for Laura to sit near the water’s edge if she’d like.

Laura sat as she answered, “Couldn’t be better,” as she looked around.  She kicked off her shoes to toss her feet in the water in a similar manner to Kelly’s.  She smiled, with a bit of a questioning look to see what kind of questions were in store for her.  A handful of birds stirred above them and it took her attention for a moment while she waited.

As they relaxed, Kelly smiled, “So, Laura, tell me a bit about yourself. What is it that you do? Are you a full-time writer, or do you have a day job?”

“Ah, it would be so lovely to be a full time writer,” her eyes went to a dreamy state for a moment.  “I would love to just set up right here and spend my days lost in my worlds.”  She wiggled her toes and let the current run between her toes a minute.  “But, alas, I have a full time job and am a full time mom also.  I’m blessed, though, because my children are now old enough to participate in brainstorming and love to contribute when I have the time to create.”  Her eyes lit up as she thought of her kids and her passion working together.  “Of course, as they get older, my hope is that I’ll have even more time to write.”  She laughed a little, nervously.

“Wow, full-time mom and have a full-time job?? How do you even have the time to write??” Kelly raised her brows. She highly admired parents, especially mothers, who wrote. She knew it couldn’t be easy.

“It’s a group effort sometimes.  My kids are 14 and 6.  When they know I am sitting down to write, they do what they can to join in.  They help me build characters, and give me names and scenery descriptions.  My most recent work, my 14 year old is even drawing pictures to go along with it.  We could spend our time watching tv or face down in tablets, but bonding over creating this book is priceless to me.”

Laura thought, she had other works that the kids aren’t part of.  Those have been in the works since before kids were part of her life at all, and she was sure some day she would work on them in detail again…but during this phase of her life, she felt a different piece made more sense to fit into her life, even if she didn’t get to write daily, or even every week, consistently.

“How about you, Kelly?”  She knew this was an interview, but she always felt awkward if she wasn’t learning about the other person also.

“Oh, I’m not married—don’t have any kids.” Kelly shook her head with a smile. “Hopefully one day, but not yet. So have you always been a writer? Or did something more recent spark the urge for you to write seriously?”

“Writing has always been part of me, since I was little.  I remember in elementary school going to Young Authors, and then taking a story I wrote as a child and revising it and growing it to make another Young Authors trip in middle school.  My nose was always in a book … which was a problem only because when I read, I am gone to the world.”  She blushed a little, she remembered how more than once, her mom would have to physically pull a book from her hands to get her attention.  “The biggest problem with being a reader like I am, however, is when you have small kids, reading goes on hold.  It becomes a luxury.”  It was true, she had read so much less because she was afraid of missing things with the kids.  What if they needed her and she was so zoned out they got hurt, or lost?

“I don’t think writing will ever leave my blood.  And I’m thrilled when I get feedback from my children’s teachers about how their voice is great, and how they are reading ahead of their grade levels.  My 14 year old is even in her advanced placement English class.”  Her pride was showing through, and while her kids may never write the same way, Laura knew she was influencing her kids at least a little in that way. “I’m sorry, I know this is about writing, but the kids are such a big part of that now for me.  They inspire me, and help me.  And because of them, one day I’ll even finish what I will consider my masterpiece.”  A branch cracked overhead and she turned a bit to see.  It seemed as if it was simply the wind breaking some dead wood. “Of course, a masterpiece, that’s subjective right?”

Kelly smiled when she heard Laura say all this about her children. “You know, I have to say, I’m glad to see how involved your children are in with your writing. You hear a lot of writers who are parents kinda…get frustrated because they don’t have their time to write. The two lifestyles don’t seem to mix. But you seem to have good handle on that, so good for you. When I get married and have kids, I hope to handle it similarly to how you do.” Kelly locked eyes with Laura and smiled once more.

Then she cast her gaze to look at the waterfall in front of them. “Okay, so…I’m sure you’ve written a lot of stories, but which one would you like to talk about?” She glimpsed back at Laura. “Unfortunately we only have time to hear about one.”

Laura shook her head, “Just remember, when you do have kids, they just like to be involved and heard.  Even if you can’t really use what they give you, they will remember being part of the process and the time with you.  And once in a while, they will surprise you with the most perfect solution to a problem you may not even know you had!”  She fidgeted a little, focusing for a moment on the water.  “As for the story to speak about, I think the one I am working on the most right now is best.  The work is called ‘Hope in Darkness’. It’s just the fairy book when we refer to it in our home.” She cringed a little.  Titling her works was always a challenge.

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “So…I’m guessing it has something to do with fairies or fairytales?” She raised her brows but then smiled encouragingly. “What’s it about?”

She nodded, “Yes, fairies, but there’s a little bit of a twist.  The environment we have set up has a world on many planes.  There are gods who can travel between planes.  One plane had its world set up by a group of gods, who ended up killing each other, save for one who still resides there.  The gods who died still have their essence in that plane, and each god’s essence and magic core spawned into a set of fairies.” Whenever she has delved into her world, she always waits for the odd looks like she’s lost her mind a little. “Anyhow, these fairies can die, and as they die a new one spawns at the source of the god power that they are created from.  The only way to get rid of them completely is to kill the entire set of fairies at the same time, which also destroys the god power associated with it.”

She started to wonder if she was getting to deep in the world creation, but carried on anyhow. “So each of these factions of fairies works pretty independently of each other, and are pretty oblivious to how the other groups carry on in their day to day.  One of these groups ends up inadvertently pulling a human back from the earthen plane which starts the story.” She took a deep breath, glancing at Kelly to see if she was giving the information Kelly was hoping for.

Kelly listened closely to everything and nodded as she kept up with it. “Sounds complex, but you’ve got a good world there!” She offered Laura a warm smile. “So, who are the characters? Their agendas? Conflicts? Struggles?”

Laura’s smile was a little devious at this point, as she went to start on about her characters in specific.  “Tim is our human,” she paused and pondered a second, “but he might not stay named Tim.  I think the kids were changing that.”  She shrugged, it wasn’t important in the long term.  “Anyhow, this human had a rough life.  He grew up with his grandmother after his father killed his mom and went to prison.  Tim lost his grandmother just before he finished high school, and is a very dark individual, he carries a lot of pain with him.”  She felt a little guilty at just how much heartache she was putting this person through, especially by the end of things but she would keep some secrets.

“Tim is completely out of place and lost in the new world, and because of the selfish nature of the fairies, they don’t pay a lot of attention to him either.” She shifted how she was sitting some, turning more towards Kelly and getting more enthusiastic about the conversation. “And, around this time is when we meet the remaining god on this land, currently just called Darkness.  Darkness is so named by the fairies and keeps pretty much to his own castle keep tucked in the rocky mountainside.  The world makes him sad, and he wants to destroy it and begin over with a new creation cycle.”

Kelly listened and tilted her head, trying to keep up with all this. “Is Darkness the antagonist?”

Laura nodded and tilted her head some, “Yes, and no.  You see, Darkness does not have evil motives.  Initially we are setting the book up to see the fairy point of view, get to know the world we are exploring.  Once we get to Darkness, and Tim gets to meet him and learn about him, we will find that Darkness has a lighter name and is a kinder soul.  His brothers and sisters were the other gods who fought among themselves and killed each other.  Darkness never joined those fights and only wanted peace.  We will find that he hurts, and every day on this world that he built with his siblings pains him, and he wants to start over to end the pain … he views the fairies as beings who are blocking the gods from being at rest and wants them gone, as well.  We will start to feel for him, and, as evil as I may be as setting it up this way, I want to make both sides likable and have people torn as to how they want things to end.” She realized that she had been doing some rambling, and it was getting close to the end of their time together. “I’m sorry, I know I ramble on a bit.  Do you have any other questions you wonder about before we have to go?” She was a little sad that other responsibilities of her day would pull her away from the waterfall as well.

Kelly shook her head. “Laura, stop worrying so much about what others think of your story. Don’t worry whether or not they’re going to like it or that you’re rambling or so. I enjoy hearing writers ramble about their creation. I like watching their eyes light up as they talk about their stories. Now though, before we go, what inspired this story? Your children? Or something else?”

“It was something else.  We had some trouble in the family and hard times.  I was in a dark place, and one morning, and I know this may sound crazy to some, but I had a visit from a friend.  She was a friend that meant a lot to me, we had been friends since we were born, almost literally but she passed on a couple years ago at a very young age.  Anyhow, I can’t tell you how I knew that morning that she was there with me, but she was.  And when she left, and I woke fully for the day, the story arch was nearly fully formed.  And my kids are helping fill in the details, and I credit that friend for bringing me inspiration in a dark time.” Tears started to form at the corners of her eyes, but she was smiling.

Kelly smiled when she heard this. “I’m glad your friend inspired such a story for you and that your kids could help fill-in the blanks. Now, complete the story, title it, publish it, and let me know, so I can help share it with the world.” With that, she rose to her feet and offered Laura a hand up. “It was a pleasure meeting with you, Laura. I can’t wait to see which character you’ll have me meet.”

Accepting Kelly’s hand, she rose and shook Kelly’s hand in return before gathering her shoes from the bank.

“It has been a very nice visit, thank you very much for meeting me all the way out here.  I will keep you posted as the book comes to full reality.”

She smiled at Kelly and thanked her again, before she started on her way back to home.  She was going to have to think long and hard about the character; she had thus far thought about having her meet Darkness, but something else started tickling the back of her mind.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Laura Hart’s story ‘Hope in Darkness’ is not yet published, but you can follow her on social media for more updates!

Twitter: www.twitter.com/artamishia

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaurasWriting/

Character Interview: Yasmise Jameson’s Marisol

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Marisol was written by Yasmine Jameson.)

Marisol watched the door waiting for Kelly Blanchard to come into the diner.  The rest of the crew was already at the next table. They were meeting for an update on the case.  Louis did not want to talk until they were all here. And Darwin agreed.  Marisol said that she would join them after her interview with Kelly.  The baby started to chirp. She had a happy daughter.  Always smiling (probably gas) she was only a couple of weeks old.  She stared at the door and thought she saw Kelly come inside.  Then she looked at Abdul.  She was still mad at him this morning.  They had a fight prior to coming to the diner. They had been married for 10 years and it had been hard especially with Abdul in prison.  Ah yes it was Kelly Blanchard.  Marisol stood up and said loudly, “I am right here Kelly. I have a menu you can look at and order anything you want.  The studio covers the charge and so does the police department. “

Kelly smiled when Marisol greeted her, and she went over to the table. “Oh, I’m fine right now. Maybe I’ll get a little appetizer, but really I’m here to talk with her.” She grinned at Marisol and noticed the baby near her. “Your daughter? What’s her name?”

Marisol beamed at Kelly.  “Abdul and I named her Mayra.  She is a beauty isn’t she? The food here is good. I recommend the home fries instead of the eggs.”

“Sounds like a plan.” When a waiter came, Kelly ordered the home fries and then focused on Marisol once more. “So you’re married to Abdul? How did you two meet?”

As she sips her vanilla shake, Marisol thought on how they met.  She said, “I met Abdul when I was friends with Darwin. I had been having some legal problems and Darwin was the paralegal at the time.  Part time as an intern.  It was part of her community service deal.  Anyway, she was dating Darius at the time. They took me out to dinner and introduced me to this fine tall black man.  And that was my Abdul.  We started to talk on the telephone and graduated to actual in person dating and then we ended up getting married in secret. I wasn’t pregnant but he was going to prison.  So we decided to get married before he went in. Now we have our little one”

“Very interesting.” Kelly smiled at little Mayra once more before shifting her gaze to Marisol. She knew what she wanted to ask next, but suspected it would be a sensitive topic, so Kelly approached it with care. “But what happened? Why was he sent to prison?”

She shook her head and smiled sadly at Kelly. “Kelly, the stupid man got in trouble.  And yes, I call him stupid for that. Because he is friends with some people who are into drugs.. He thought he could help them out and acted a courier to transport money with an armored truck. The truck got stopped and robbed on the way somehow.   He wouldn’t say that he knew the guy who did it. They got Abdul; on the charge of  drugs on him. 

Kelly shook her head when she heard this. “Well, at least you’re upfront with him and don’t mind calling him out on it.” She smiled at Marisol then saw the waiter bringing her fries, so she sat back and thanked him then tried the food. She nodded at Marisol. “This is really good! Anyway, back to the questions, so I hear he’s out of jail now and is back with the band. Tell me about this band. I don’t know anything about it.”

Marisol cracked up.  She said, “The band is as old as the members almost. They started singing in junior high. A little group at school for events and school dances.  Then moved on to contests and eventually a record deal in high school.  They did it through college. The band is made up of friends, Abdul, Marquis, Marcus, Lou, John and Darnell. They have been friends forever.  The broke up soon after college ended, say a couple of years because of problems of the individual members. And also Abdul went to prison. He was their song writer.  No one else at the time was writing. They all write now. It is how they make their money. The band is at the next table over. Do you want to meet them and the crew, Kelly? I believe Darwin just came in with the girls.”

Kelly raised her hand, shaking her head. “Maybe once we finish here. Otherwise we’ll get sidetracked from the original purpose of our meeting.” She smiled at Marisol. “Now though, you said they broke up, but…obviously they’re back together again.” She motioned to the band. “What brought them back together?”

Marisol tilted her head and thought.  She stayed that way for awhile and the she spoke softly.  ” I think they wanted a comeback album.  And so did Abdul. He wanted to have the band sing his songs and help move his career. He is currently writing songs for a couple of new artists. Not well known. “He got an opportunity to work with a friend out of college who works with the likes of Joe, Sananda and Dr. Dre’s proteges.  So he sent to Marc and Joe a couple of songs that he wrote for the band.  Marc approached Louis and asked him to listen because he knew that they spoke.  Louis said that they were the songs that Abdul had told him about.  They are excellent for the band.  When asked if he could work with and the band could work with him Louis thought and said it might not be a problem.  Approach the band. So he did and now they are working. Sad about the break in and the attack on Marc.  Plus the new single got stolen. “

Kelly furrowed her brows and leaned forward, setting her elbow on the table and her chin in the palm of her hand. “What happened exactly?”

Marisol said, “Well, Kelly, I don’t know what happened.”  She sighed. “I know that Marc was in the studio by himself.  And he had locked up the building when the assailants came into studio and knocked him and stabbed him with a knife.” She stopped and thought for a while.  “All we knew at the time was that Marc had been stabbed.  Then we found out that the single had been stolen. ” “All of sudden the police and Darwin appear. Darwin is their go to for private investigation.  I don’t really like Darwin because she has always been my friend-nemesis.  You have one of those, Kelly?  But I wouldn’t have another person do this investigation. She will treat Abdul fairly. The police have already been around to question him.  It was hard during my pregnancy.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this, but she tilted her head to a side. “So what’s the story between you and Darwin?”

“OH my God, let me tell you.  Darwin and I have a love hate relationship.  I told you I met Abdul through Darwin right?  At the time she was with Darius and I didn’t know that. I thought she had eyes for Abdul but she didn’t.  And he wasn’t my type either.  He was not tall and light skin and built. He was tall but dark skin, skinny and scrawny.”  She looks to the other table and sighs, “Look at him now. Prison huh?”  Marisol thought some more. Then Marisol continues on and says, “When I first the met the band  they had a practice of investigating the girlfriends. So  Darwin got me into trouble big trouble while she did that.  I didn’t appreciate that and had a lot of questions to answer at home and at work. Needless to say I wasn’t friendly to afterwards. But she is an excellent investigator. And she actually did help me out of a situation during the investigation with an abusive boyfriend. Like I said, she got me in a lot of trouble.  Don’t ever get involved with an abuser.  I was about to leave him when I met Abdul.  Back to Darwin, I wouldn’t have any other person/persons of than Darwin and the girls do this investigation.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “Wow, quite interesting! You two certainly have a lot of background together, but you trust her with this investigation? Why?” She raised her brows.

“You would think I would not trust her right?”

Kelly shrugged. “Well…let you said, she got you into a lot of trouble. It’s hard to trust someone who’s done that to you.”

Thinking before she answered, Marisol finally said, “I do trust her because if it wasn’t for her, I might still be involved with that abusive boyfriend.  She got my mother and my friends together to get me into a program that wouldn’t allow him near me. I got housing, a new job, a permanent restraining order, and Abdul.  My mother and family stopped worrying. My health got better.  And I gained a network of friends that helped me out.  Thats the love. The hate comes in because she puts me through hell in the process.  And Abdul and I have been through that for so long. We just want to not have it anymore. We just lost Abdul’s Mom and had a baby. We would like some time and peace.”

Kelly nodded her understanding. “It’s an interesting friendship, that’s for sure.” Then she paused and tilted her head to a side. “You mentioned your mother. I understand there’s tension between you and her, and even maybe between you and Abdul’s mother?” She furrowed her brows. “I’m not sure what the facts are, but what’s that all about?”

“Well you know mothers never good enough for her son.I am always lacking.  When she died, we were arguing the three of us about the baby and responsibility. My mother on the other hand, is worried of a repeat because Abdul has a temper.  But he has never ever hit me and he never will.  And Kelly I don’t doubt that. I have seen him put a fist through a wall and I have seen him bend metal when he is angry; we been in the hospital to because of that; but he will never hurt me.”

“I hope you’re right.” Kelly shook her head, hating the thought of Marisol getting hurt. “Have you, by any chance, taken some kind of self-defense classes though? Never hurts.”

She mimicked kung fu at the table and upset the baby. Mayra starts to cry. she quickly picked her up to settle her down. “I have as of this weekend a brown belt in karate. However they made me register as a lethal weapon because of a fight I had prior to my pregnancy. But now that I am not pregnant I can finish my program. All I needed was to be awarded my brown belt.  I can do that this Saturday.”

Kelly smiled at her. “Good for you! How’s that experience been?” She watched as Marisol calmed down the baby.

“Karate? I liked it. It kept me in shape and it also kept me focused.  It taught me how to control my anger. It helped with work and this situation. I get so mad at the guys because they don’t see the risks to themselves.  And I hate that.”  She started to rock Mayra because she was still fussy. Then she called over Abdul. She said to Kelly, “I am sorry I breastfeed her.  I brought bottles today so we wouldn’t disturb the interview.  I will be right back. I just have to set them up.”

“Sure thing.” Kelly nodded and let her do what she had to do. While waiting, she continued eating the fries.

Marisol and Abdul walked away towards the back booth. She set him up with the baby  and stayed for a bit to make sure she took the bottle. Then she walked back to the booth with Kelly.  Sitting down she said, ” I am so sorry for that.”

“No problem at all.” Kelly reassured her with a smile. “So, I have to ask, how’s life as a mother? Is it what you expected?”

“I love being a mother Kelly. It is the most rewarding experience in the world.  Mayra is growing and she is healthy despite the multiple problems i had during the pregnancy.  She is also the reason I get up in the morning and not mind Abdul’s bad mood or my problems.”

“What’s up with Abdul’s bad moods anyway?” Kelly jutted her chin toward Abdul. “I mean, I understand his friend’s been attacked and such, but…it sounds like it’s more than just that.” She shifted her eyes back to Marisol.

“He is worried about us. About the theft. They are looking at him as if he is the responsible party because it came soon as he brought the single. And his old cronies (translation-criminal friends) also started hanging around the studio more often. So he gets mad at the police. He started boxing to get rid of his anger. “

“That’s one way to deal with the anger.” Kelly nodded. “And his anger does seem quite reasonable. Things sound shady for sure.” Then she paused and happened to catch a glimpse of the clock on the wall and sighed. “Well, Marisol, our time’s almost up. It’s been two hours already, can you believe it?” She shook her head. “But before I go, tell me, what are your hopes for the future? For your daughter, for the band, for yourself, for Abdul?”

Abdul brought the baby back to the booth and gave her to Marisol.  She started to go to sleep so the band didn’t want her over there.  She took the baby and responded to Kelly’s question. “My daughter is the most important  person outside of Abdul and my family as of right now.  Our hopes are the same for the future.  My hope for my daughter is that she grows and develops into a beautiful women with a brain. It is important to have a brain. That she is able to take care of herself and won’t get into legal trouble.  My hopes for the band is that we find out who did this and Abdul is absolved of all the suspicion.  For myself and Abdul, we want to just raise our baby and live our lives in peace. “

Kelly smiled when she heard this. “Well, I hope all those come true, and I hope you the very best. Now though, it’s time for me to leave.” She rose to her feet. “Thank you for meeting with me. I’ve quite enjoyed this conversation!”

Marisol stood up and pushed the baby to the side and promptly got a finger up her nose.  So she pulled the baby’s to her nose and washed off her finger and hand. And then shook Kelly’s hand.  She said “Thank you for the interview.”

She shook her hand. “My pleasure. You take care!” With that and a final smile, Kelly headed out the door.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Yasmine Jameson’s story, ‘Dreaming:  A Music Mystery’ is not yet released, but follow her on social media for more updates!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Madam_Mystery

Blog. www.yasminejameson.wordpress.com 

Website:  www.yasminejameson.webs.com 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yasmine.jameson

Author Interview: Yasmine Jameson

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Yasmine was written by Yasmine Jameson.)

Kelly stepped into the small town coffee shop and smiled at the warmth the place presented. She ordered a drink then took a seat near the front window with a view of the door. While waiting, she pulled out her laptop and began to work.

She got several paragraphs in when the door chimed, and Kelly lifted her head to see a woman walk in and glimpse around. When they made eye contact, Kelly smiled and lifted her brows. “ Yasmine Jameson?” When the woman nodded, Kelly rose to her feet to greet her properly. She reached out her hand. “Hi, I’m Kelly. Fantastic to meet you! You’re welcome to order something to drink and then join me here.”

Yasmine walked to meet Kelly and accept her outstretched hand.  “Hi, Kelly, yes I am Yasmine.  Pleasure to meet you!  I definitely need a cup of coffee.  I will be right back.”  Yasmine lay her coat on the back of the chair  and then walked to order her coffee. Light and sweet with cream was her favorite.  As she waited, she glanced around the coffee shop and noticed that it is filling up already.  She also had her laptop as well.  She was planning to do some writing after the interview.  Her name was called out by the barista to pick up her coffee.  She got her coffee and walked back to the table to sit down.

Kelly smiled at Yasmine as they sat across from each other. “So, Yasmine, tell me a bit about yourself. Are you a full-time writer? Or do you have a day-job?”

“I am not a full time writer yet, only when not working. I had a job as a paralegal but had to leave it.  That was my day job.  I took it after I stopped substitute teaching.  But  I maybe back at it soon. I am new writer although I have a couple of publications to my belt. Most of it is blogs and book reviews.  And I have an anthology and also a self published book of poetry.  Writing keeps me busy and on my toes.” She sipped her coffee and asked Kelly if she needed anything else to drink. She offered to buy it for her.

Kelly shook her head. She already had a drink, and she focused on the conversation. “And when did you begin writing? I mean, you said you’re a new writer, but have you always have an interest in it, or did something recently spark it?” Kelly tilted her head to a side as she observed Yasmine.

Yasmine thought for a while so as to give her a complete answer.  Then she smiled and said, ” Kelly, I have always loved to read.  I think that writing is an extension of that desire to read.  When I was young I used to write extra assignments because I could get some extra credit. I joined the newspaper as to have an in to the New York Times.  But  I didn’t actually decide to write as a career until recently.  I had some down time in between jobs and started to write poetry. Then I had decided that I wanted to be a mystery writer because I loved to watch mysteries and figure out who did it. Plus if you want to know the truth there was an underlying motive. I had thought that if I could learn how they wrote the novel it would help me solve the mystery.”  “Does that answer your question Kelly?  Yasmine leaned a little heavier on her arms that were on the table.

“Writing mystery novels! That is one genre that is hard for me to write, so I applaud you!” Kelly grinned at Yasmine. “So, have you had anyone who supports you with your writing, encourages you? Inspires you or even challenges you to write more?”

Yasmine laughed. “I have to admit although I like Sherlock Holmes I have mostly seen his mysteries on television.  I have read Agatha Christie and the like.  But what really got me into mysteries”- Yasmine looked around and said a little sheepishly, “I got into mystery through reading romance novels. Most of the authors that I read also wrote mysteries. Authors like Nora Roberts who also writes as JD Robb, Jayne Ann Krentz who also writes as Amanda Quick and of course Janet Evanovich. So I read their novels when I can faithfully and try to solve the crimes.  More recently I decided I liked PD James and some other newer authors.  Who supports me?  My friends support my writing.  They believe that I am good at it and like to read.  They give killer critiques. My family supports me but they are like you need to be more well spread out and known. So this mystery is my entry into it. Hoping for some good responses.”

Kelly smiled when she heard this. “I’m glad you have such a wonderful community of people around you to encourage you. That is fantastic. So, tell me about your story–whichever story you’d like to talk about. What is it about? I’m assuming it’s a mystery novel.” As she said this, Kelly sat back in her chair, smiled at Yasmine, then took a sip of her drink as she listened.

Yasmine smiled and said ” I love to talk about my mystery.  Yes it is a mystery. I started it in a writing course not really sure what I wanted to write about. What do you know about musicians?  A lot – a little?  And what do you know about when they write?  What you see on television or see in the biographies right?  Well  this novel is actually set behind the scenes of the musician’s life.  You know when they are actually making the album and deciding what to do with the album. You know tell a story and the like.  The main characters of the story are a band that is staging a comeback.  There manager is hurt when someone comes to steal their about to be released new single. An old band member had approached them with the idea to re-start his career as well and he had some songs that he thought would be good plus a deal with another label to sell them.  But he wanted to work with his old band again.  Despite their misgivings they band agrees. As soon as the single is stolen the band hires a group of private investigators- an entire firm of women.  ( I love the idea of women being in charge and investigating.)  “The head of the firm Darwin has friends in the police department like Peluso who help her and her friends with what they need to solve the case. By the end of the novel, old relationships are renewed, more music is made and they find out who stole the single and hurt their manager. Of note, I try not to kill anyone in the novel. Just hurt them. I have had good feedback on that technique.” She looked at Kelly and waited.

Kelly listened to all this and had to smile. “I like it that you didn’t kill anyone because that’s overdone and can become predictable. Having someone get hurt is different, and the possibilities are endless.” She then leaned forward, thinking more of what else Yasmine had said. “So, just curious, are you into music too? Or was it just what the story wanted to be able?”

She said in response, “I like music. But my tastes are varying depending on my mood.  When I was younger I was into and still am into R&B,some pop, some country. As I have gotten older I am into some jazz and some alternative.”  She looked at Kelly and asked, ” What type of music are you into?”

“As for the second question, I had originally set my story on a college campus with a much younger detective who thought she could set the world on fire.  But it didn’t seem to go anywhere. But this story did. So yes it went where it wanted to go the story.  I am not sure how crazy that sounds but it is kind of how I feel about the story.”

“Music is great. Sometimes it can be complicated, but it’s great!” Kelly grinned at Yasmine. “Okay, so…tell me about the characters of this story. Who are they? What are their main conflicts/struggles?” With this, she sat back in her chair.

“Kelly, these are my babies.  The band is made up of six members, Darius, John, Marcus & Marquis-twins,  Darnell and Louis.  And each brings their own unique brand to the music. All come from similar background experiences  and have managed to be friends.  The older member who wanted to come back was Abdul.  He served some time in prison which was part of the reason for the band letting him go.”

“Tell you about their conflicts and struggles. Let me think.”

“Without giving away to much  Louis is the space cadet of the group.  He appears to be elsewhere but when he is looking at you then you know he is paying attention.  He is the one that the band uses to scout out areas and venues to play at. John is the slow and deliberate one. He is their method man.  He will lay out a plan and follow it. The remainder of the band,  Darius, Marcus, Marquis, Darnell and Abdul all come from the similar background of the street growing up in the projects wanting to do better for themselves and make their mother proud.”

“The biggest struggle right now for them isn’t so much the music- that is the easiest part.  They have always been together when it came to the music. It was the outside world that had caused them problems.  With Abdul it was the drugs and the crime.  With Louis it was his family. With the twins it was finding their own identity.  With John it was not being seen as an opportunist. All of them have families to support meaning girlfriends or wives. Not all have children.  But they all want to find out who did this to their manager and also why they stole their music. Not trying to give anything away, each has their own theory as to who was and is responsible for the theft and event.”

Kelly smiled. “What I like most of that is how realistic it sounds, so good job on that.” She nodded at Yasmine. “So, what inspired this story?”

“Ah good question and one I have thought about.  I think I just wanted to write a story that I liked and could to relate to on some level.  Not that I am a part of the industry itself but I like a good mystery as much as the next. I like to see behind the scenes with the musicians life. I am a faithful watcher of certain shows. But also I think the background that I was in at the time when I started was listening to music.  My family had been interested in starting a company with family and friends. So it kind of fit. Would you start a company with your family and friends- and what would you like it to be?”

Kelly shrugged. “My family runs several businesses, and I’ve started this one—with interviews—on my own.” She smiled at Yasmine. However, she caught a glimpse of the clock on the wall and frowned. “Our hour is almost up! Can’t believe how quickly time flies!” She shook her head and gave Yasmine an apologetic look but speaking, “But before you go, what is one thing you’d like your reader to remember, to think about, to keep in mind even after they’ve read your book? if anything, that is.”

“Oh time has flown by Kelly.  I have enjoyed this interview.  What is the one thing that I would like my readers to think about and keep in mind even after they have read the book?  Interesting question. Let me think.” She said, ” I want the readers to remember that  as long as its a good story- no  matter where it takes you a clue will always lead you to solve it.   Because that is how I solve the mysteries I read and I am hoping that thinking will help them solve this mystery.”

“Thank you so much for this interview Kelly, I really have enjoyed it. And hopefully once my book is out all those who buy it will enjoy it and recommend it to others.”  Yasmine smiled and finished her cup of coffee.

Kelly smiled as she rose to her feet. “It was wonderful meeting with you, and I loved hearing about you and your story. What is it titled, by the way? So my readers can look for it if they want.”

Yasmine stood as well and reached out to shake Kelly’s hand.   “The title of the novel is Dreaming A Music Mystery.”

“I love it.” Kelly grinned. “And I’m looking forward to meeting whichever character you will have me meet in the next interview. For now though, I need to go. It was wonderful meeting you!” She gathered up her computer and put her bag on her shoulder. “Keep writing, okay? The world needs good mystery stories.”

Yasmine smiled and said to her, ” I agree.”

“Have a good day, Yasmine! Stay in touch!” With one final smile, Kelly headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Yasmine Jameson’s story, ‘Dreaming:  A Music Mystery’ is not yet released, but follow her on social media for more updates!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Madam_Mystery

Blog. www.yasminejameson.wordpress.com 

Website:  www.yasminejameson.webs.com 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yasmine.jameson