Character Interview: Nancy A. Nation’s Susan

In this interview, I had the privilege to sit down with Nancy A. Nation’s character, Susan, and come to understand her otherworldly adventures as well as hopes she has for her future, especially as she continues making pottery. ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Susan’ was written by Nancy A. Nation.

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A week after Christmas, Susan had agreed to meet Kelly, the Muse, at the local diner in Firth, Idaho. Outside the sky was partly cloudy and a light snow was falling. On a day like today, Bosloe’s cafe makes the best stew. She walked in and asked the hostess for Kelly’s table and spotted her right away. “Hi, are you Kelly?”

“Yes, and you must be Susan.”

Just as Susan was about to remove her sweater the server asked if they wanted anything. “Just hot chocolate for me, Kelly? I’m buying,” Susan responded.

“I already got my hot chocolate, but thanks.” Kelly smiled at Susan as she rose to her feet and shook Susan’s hand before both of them sat down at the table. “Thank you for meeting with me. How are you doing today?”

“I’m fine, thanks. Sorry, I’m late, but I had to get ride with my friend, Nancy.”

“That’s quite all right. Don’t worry.” Kelly brushed it off and smiled at her. “Now, I understand you took up pottery classes. I’ve *always* wanted to do pottery, so what is it like? Do you like it?”

“Yes, it was fun. I thought the process would be messy, but my neighbor convinced me to go with her,” Susan explained.

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “Well, I’ll definitely have to try my hand at it sometime. So tell me, I understand you got involved in investigating a few murders?” She furrowed her brows. “How did that happen? I mean, are you a detective as well?” Kelly was a little confused because the information she had gotten ahead of time had been vague, but that allowed for more questions anyway.

Susan leaned forward. “No, not really, things just happen around me and I just want to find out. Our local police officer tolerates my theories. I’m just an ordinary housewife that gets into the wrong places at the wrong times.”

Kelly raised her brows. “So what have you discovered?” She leaned in quite curious.

“Let me back up a moment. When my husband died, I was, how shall I say, not all there. Maybe it was myself or the people in the other world, Vesda. There those people helped me return to my home and find out what really happened to my husband. Eventually, my friends and I found out he was murdered. Having that solved, me and my pottery classmates walked in on the first murder. A man was head down in a rotating clay bowl. Not a pretty sight.” Susan hot chocolate arrived, and she took a sip.

Kelly grimaced when she heard this. “Definitely doesn’t sound like it.” She shook her head and sat back in her chair, reaching for her cup of hot chocolate on the table. “So this other world, Vesda…tell me about. What’s it like?” She smiled at Susan before taking a sip of her drink.

“Thankfully, it’s gone now. It was an enclosed world run by my little friend and gnome, Hobnobby. Another friend as we were escaping, blew Vesda up. As I was learning pottery techniques, Hobs, as that is what I call him, located a underground fairy world called Bailory. Naturally, he gets me involved after the second murder. Honestly, our little town is usually so quiet.”

Kelly chuckled when she heard this last part. “Aren’t all small towns?” But still, this other world bewildered her. “So….there was another world, but it’s been blown up now? And you’re thankful it’s gone. Was it a bad place then?”

Susan sipped some more from her cup and arranged a napkin under it. “Sort of, I just wanted to leave and get back home. I kept bugging the two scientists who wanted to do other things until one them built a machine than transported us back to my home. Bailory is kind of like Vesda, in the way that the people, if you can call elves and Norse gods people, can’t leave their world.” Susan brushed her short blond hair to one side.

“Ah.” Kelly nodded. She could understand the desire to return home. “So, now that you’re back, are you content? Knowing there’s more to life than just this…world?” Kelly gestured to their surroundings.

“I am but I’m bored. That’s why when my neighbor suggested the pottery class, I jumped right in. At this time of my life I don’t have to work, but I do love to making pies. My other friend from Vesda has a diner down the road and I make pies for him to sell.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. It was hard to find a thrill in a small town after visiting an altogether different world. “Susan, I understand you had a husband who you lost. Now, I understand it may be a topic you won’t want to discuss, but can you tell me what he was like?” Kelly offered a kind, warm smile. “He must have been an amazing guy.”

“He was, he was my rock, my support, my advisor. Unfortunately when he passed, I discovered, like most women in my position, I didn’t know the first thing about electronics, hot water heaters, you name it. All the stuff that keeps a house going. My friend at the cafe, Bosloe, and my friend’s husband next door are always helping me get something fixed. Why just the other day, my hall ceiling fixture fell down. What a mess.” Susan relaxed and took another sip of her drink.I forgot to mention that I miss my Henry.”

Kelly nodded. “And it’s a good thing you do. Shows how much you loved him.” She smiled. “How did you two meet?”

“We met in college, but when he joined the insurance firm in town and I had a little girl, we didn’t get our degrees. Say there’s something I could do. When my daughter, Jan moved out to go to college, Henry and I christened her empty bedroom, if you know what I mean. I have been looking at the packed boxes with his clothes. There’s a chore I don’t really want to do.”

“Because you don’t want to let him go.” Kelly stared at Susan, observing her. She leaned forward. “Susan.” Waiting until she had eye contact with her, Kelly finally went on, “Go ahead and talk. You’ve never going to see me again, and I’m not going to tell anyone what you say, so….whatever you say is safe with me. It’s hard to lose someone that close to you, and it’s hard that life just moves on. I’m sure you hard the phrase now. I’m sure you’re also annoyed with how everyone says ‘I’m sorry’ because it doesn’t change the fact that you lost the love of your life. So…go ahead, vent if you want. Cry. I don’t mind.” She offered Susan a kind smile. “I’m here to listen. Not to judge.”

Susan smiled back. “I’m doing better now, it has been six months since he died. Just the other day, my neighbor wanted to know if there was going to be anything between Bosloe and me. Well, I set her straight. I don’t want to think of that in my life right now. Getting Hobs out of trouble seems to keep me from thinking of the sad times. Ahem, I’m certainly not interested in that little old man,” Susan clarified and brushed her hair aside again.

Kelly chuckled. She could respect that, so she sat back in her chair. “Well then, what are you planning on doing with your future then?”

“Keep up with my pottery, I converted Henry’s old study into an art room where I can relax and read. I even had a wall knocked out to install a large picture window. Going back to college maybe hard as I’m 46 now. I’ll think about that. Occasionally, I still visit Hobs in Bailor. At least that is still there. I forgot, I’m going on a cruise.”

“College is definitely a possibility, and 48 isn’t old.” Kelly smiled at Susan. “My mom would whack you over the head if she heard you say that because she’s much older than that.” Then she heard the bit about the cruise. “Ah, a cruise! Sounds exciting. Are you going to try and travel the world eventually? I mean, after traveling to ANOTHER world, exploring this one won’t seem so daunting.”

“Maybe, what started out as a Christmas gift to my wonderful next door neighbors, backfired on me, when Larry offered me a ticket to join them. Henry and I did a cruise once to the Caribbean when we were first married, but nothing since.” Susan folded the chocolate stained napkin into a smaller square.

“So will you be going alone?” Kelly lifted her brows before taking another drink of her hot chocolate.

“Just with my neighbors as far as I know. Maybe getting aboard a ship will seem normal in my life. The people at the pottery shop and in Bailory were weird enough. We are flying to SanDiego, then flying to Oahu to take the ship around the Hawaiian islands. It should be fun and relaxing,” Susan said folding her hands together on the table.

“Sounds like it.” Kelly then tilted her head as she observed Susan. “Something seems to be bothering you though. Are you nervous about something?”

“I have just never talked to a muse before. Your life must be interesting. I shouldn’t have had the hot chocolate but I’m fine now. What makes me nervous is surprises that I didn’t expect. Like when my husband’s murderer came through my bedroom window. But that was a long time ago.”

“Talking with me is just like talking with any ordinary person,” Kelly reassured her with a kind smile, but then she furrowed her brows when she heard what she said about the murderer. “Okay, now I have to ask, what exactly happened with your husband? Were you there?”

“My husband and his car was forced off a bridge over the Snake River. I had nightmares every morning for a long time. When the murderer forced me into Henry’s study, Hobs and my other friends saved the day. He did it again when one of the bad guys was after us in the old warehouse.” Susan shook her head not wanting to remember.

“Hobs seems to save the day on a regular basis,” Kelly observed with a small smile. “Tell me about him. How did the two of you meet?”

“He was the first one I met in Vesda, and a cranky fellow at that. He thought he was in control of the planet’s machine and didn’t want to leave when explosions were going on around him. I saved him that time. I was curious as to where he was going at nights from my house and while I was at pottery class I saw him walk by the back door. After I found him, I found out that this abandoned building was used as a thieves meeting place. Yes, my friend gave that same look you have, when I told her.”

“So you met him in Vesda? Which means you ended up in Vesda on you own somehow then?”

“Yes, one of the scientists was experimenting and had captured inanimate objects around my home as well as other people’s homes. Then I guess I just disappeared into Vesda.”

“Very interesting.” Kelly nodded when she came to understand better. “What did you first think when you realized you were no longer in your own world?”

“It took some time. I knew I was in what looked like the countryside, but when everyone said to go back and talk to Hobs pointing ahead of my stroll when I just came from behind. It didn’t make sense until one of the characters blurted out where I was. I guess they hadn’t seen a new person in a long time and were having fun with me. I kind of knew about Bailory beforehand after Hobs wanted to know how to destroy a witch. Our conversation was like pulling teeth. he didn’t want to tell me.”

Kelly chuckled and nodded. “I know what that’s like. I’ve endured conversations like that too. If you had the chance though, if Vesda still existed, would you go back to explore it–on your own terms, of course? Rather than abruptly being transported to another world.”

“I really don’t know. I was glad to leave at the time. Maybe there’s another out there somewhere. Uh, no, I don’t think so. Once was enough. Then there’s this new place under Firth…”

Kelly furrowed her brows. “Go on….”

“Well, Bailory is peaceful now. The elves and Nissens are working. The water spirits still try to lure me into their water pond but I know better and maybe I’ll take my other Vesda Friend, Thyla to meet Huldra. They seem alike. I can only think of doing one thing at a time,” Susan replied.

“Sounds like you have much adventure ahead of you if only you choose to take it.” Kelly smiled at Susan. “However though, I have a question that I must ask. I know you only lost your husband six months ago, and you’ve been through much, but…do you ever think you’ll marry again?” She lifted her brows as she observed Susan.

“Not in the near future. How can anyone match up to the man my Henry was? Bosloe is nice but rough and unschool. One of the scientists is a wonderful housekeeper, but he’s dedicated to his friend and their inventions. I was stirred at the Nokken water spirit, but he can’t leave the pond. I thought I had found a kindred spirit in the pottery owner when his wife died but he was definitely not a good catch. So I’ll just relax and see if anything pops up on my cruise. Don’t hold your breath on me.”

“It’s all right to be single. Discover who you are independent of anyone else. You don’t *need* to have someone…especially if you’re not sure you will ever find someone who can stand up to your late husband. So, spend time alone, go out on cruises, have adventures, learn new things, meet new people, and if there is someone else out there, you’ll meet him at the right time. No need to rush or to worry.” She gave Susan a reassuring smile. However, she decided to shift the topic a bit. “Do you have any children, by the way? I think you mentioned Jan…?”

“Oh, Jan is my daughter, the only one we had. She’s in her twenties now and just informed me about her new boyfriend. He looks like a good boy. How it would have been if she had a place like Bailory to visit growing up.”

Kelly smiled at the mention of Jan. “Where is she now? Does she come to visit you at all?”

“She lives in Boise while she’s going to college there and has a part time job. It’s about a two hour boring drive from Firth. When I was in a terrible way after Henry died, she and my sister took turns watching over me with my neighbor doing the same. I love her and she’s just like her dad in the sports she pursues and her curiosity.”

Kelly nodded. “Well, I’m glad she was there for you.” For a moment, she paused, contemplating her next question. She sat back in her chair. “Our time is coming to a close, but we still have time for a few more questions, So tell me, if you could change anything in your life or in your past, what would it be?”

Susan thought for a moment, then remembered her nightmares. “I had one bad dream that I was in the back seat of a car. I thought it was a taxi until the driver turned his head. He was my husband. The man or my husband began to drive across the bridge when I saw a car to my right clip the back fender. I was yelling for Henry to turn with it when I woke up. Yes, if I could turn the clock back I woudn’t let him go to work that day. Unfortunately, the fates to be were already in progress.”

Kelly considered Susan for a moment before nodding. “Without him with you now, you will learn new things about yourself. You will be challenged in ways you never thought possible. And you will always miss him. But there might be another out there for you somewhere.” Kelly glimpsed out the window then back at Susan with a small smile. “I hope you the best with all your endeavors and adventures. Unfortunately though, it is time for me to leave.” Kelly rose to her feet. “Thank you again for meeting with me. This chat was delightful.” She smiled at her.

“Thank you for your time and stop by the pottery shop to see our wares for sale. Bye”

“I’d love that. Have a good day, Susan!” With another smile and a wave, Kelly headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Nancy A. Nation’s novel ‘The Pottery Sale’ is available online. You can find it along with her other books at the following links. Be sure to follow her on social media too!

Similar:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HL2I084     

Deflection:    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PD8LW56

Crossroads:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01E9N6FPW                                                     

Found:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B015Y0OS1M

Return:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EP2C47U

Desert:     https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LZ43IQU

Where:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B019S493BU   

Pottery (soon):  https://www.amazon.com/Pottery-Sale-What-Beneath-Urban-ebook/dp/B01N49IECN   

Social Media:

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

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorANation   

Blog:  www.bloggingwrites.weebly.com 

Blog: www.anationbooks.wordpress.com     

Website: www.anationauthor.com

Amazon group page:  http://www.amazon.com/A-Nation/e/B00SUHXM6E    

Smashword group page::  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ANation

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Author Interview: Nancy A. Nation

I had the pleasure of meeting with sci-fi/urban fantasy author, Nancy A. Nation, to ask her a few questions about her writing and what inspired her series. In this interview, ‘Kelly’ is written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Nancy’ is written by Nancy A. Nation.

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Pushing open the door to the cafe, Kelly looked around, finding it to be a quaint little place. She smiled as she went up to the counter. “Just hot chocolate with whip cream, please. I’m waiting to meet someone.” After chatting a little with the woman behind the counter and coming to learn a bit more about this place, Kelly finally got her order and went to a table in the corner but near the front window. She sat facing the door, so if her interviewee, Nancy A. Nation, came in, she would see her.

After sipping on her drink then deciding to just wait and let it cool down, Kelly heard the chime of the door opening, and she lifted her gaze to see a woman enter. The woman matched the picture Kelly had seen, so she rose to her feet. “Nancy?” When Nancy looked her way, Kelly greeted her with a smile and reached out her hand to shake. “I’m Kelly. Thank you for meeting with me. How are you doing today?”

“I’m fine, and you?”

Kelly smiled. “I’m quite well. If you’d like to order something, you may, and then you can join me over here, so we can chat.” She motioned to the table she had been sitting at.

Nancy sat down, “Thanks.”

Kelly sat down as well and smiled once more. “So, Nancy, tell me a bit about yourself. Obviously you’re a writer and you’ve published several books, but when did you develop the interest in writing?” She tilted her head to the side as she listened.

Nancy ordered a hot chocolate when the waitress stopped by their table. “I’m a snowbird. When we came to Arizona, I didn’t have a lot to do. I saw a sign in the local library about getting your story published through a writing class. So I said, why not?”

“Well, I’m glad you took that chance. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here, and that would be unfortunately.” Kelly smiled then sipped on her hot chocolate. Putting down her mug, she asked, “So what kind of stories do you write?”

“I chose science fiction just because I feel it gives me more freedom to move the characters. But also I didn’t want to write non-fiction and have someone come after me. When I began writing in nano two years ago, I came into urban fantasy.  It’s a way to mimic today’s issues.”

Kelly had to smile. “I totally understand that–about not wanting to write non-fiction and have someone come after you. There’s much more freedom, in a way, with sci-fi and even fantasy. You can address today’s issues, but in a more…roundabout way without fear of being attacked by people.” She nodded, understanding this greatly. “So, you said you wrote sci-fi, but now you’re writing urban fantasy…do I understand that correctly?” She furrowed her brows. “Or you still writing both genres?”

Nancy’s hot chocolate came, and she stirred it some with a  spoon.  “I have written both. I have six in a series that is sci-fi and during NaNoWriMo month, I have been writing the urban fantasy. The series in in third person, and the urban is in first person. Just a way to be flexible. Since I still feel new to the writing game, I try different methods.”

“I really like that. Staying flexible works quite well and is really good for strengthening all kinds of skills in the craft of writing.” Kelly nodded. “So, how long have you been writing? You’ve written quite a few books already, yet you said you feel new to the writing game.”

Nancy took a sip of the delicious hot chocolate and looked over at Kelly. “I started the writing class in 2011, published the first book in 2013. By then I knew how to self-publish. I have been writing three books a year because my readers want to know what the next story is going to be. I feel new because I’m always learning something new in the craft. My mother said you will learn something new every day, and she was right.”

“No matter how far advance as a writer, you will always learn something new…actually, this applies to life in general to.” Kelly smiled then took another sip of her drink. Setting it down, she focused on Nancy. “Okay, so which book of yours would you like to focus on? I’m afraid we only have time for one although I’d personally love to hear about everything!” She grinned at her.

Nancy smiled and began, “Might as well as talk about my latest, ‘The Pottery Sale’. This urban fantasy takes place in a real town in Idaho. This is a sequel to the first urban book I wrote in 2015, Where did they go?  I had to make sure in The Pottery Sale that the reader was informed as to what happened in the previous book. The Pottery Sale is about an ordinary housewife/widow that is bored with her normal routines until her gnome friend takes her into another world.”

Kelly raised her brows, but then she smiled widely and set her elbow on the table and her chin in the palm of her hand as she listened. “Oh, this sounds like a grand adventure! Can you tell me more of who and what they encounter? Without spoiling it, of course.”

“Well, I show two worlds. My heroine takes up pottery that somehow becomes associated with the drug world. Hobs, her friend, finds a fantasy land in the same building the bad guys are using. When a few people die at the Pottery shop, Susan runs for her life and Hobs saves her. The land of Bailory is your typical fairyland that has a wicked witch. This land is a combination of Norse spirits and local Indian ones The two worlds come together when Susan and Hobs saves the day.”

“That sounds fascinating!” Kelly smiled widely as she sat back in her chair. “A bit complex too, and that’s great! So, where did you get the idea for this story? You mentioned you did it for NaNo, but what inspired you to shift from sci-fi to urban fantasy?”

Nancy took another sip of her hot chocolate, “I don’t really know, it just came to me unlike my other tales that have some basis in real news stories. I was writing’ Where Did They Go?’ for NaNo, and it just seemed boring for me. As soon as I had my character walk into another world, I finished it in 11 days. I finished ‘The Pottery Sale’ in 16 days. It’s like I’m watching a movie with specific characters in a certain location. The characters take off and do their thing. I just relay their story.”

“You finished it in 16 days??” Kelly raised her brows. “That’s fantastic! So will there be more to the series?”

“I hope so, but now I have been thinking of what to do for my next sci-fi adventure. I’m still waiting on my readers to proof ‘The Pottery Sale’.”

“Well, I hope it goes well for you. Now though, we actually have little time, so why don’t you tell me about your sci-fi series? What is it about?”

Nancy finish her drink and set the cup on the table. “My sci-fi series has many arcs. Basically how we may live in the future 300 years from now. The first book, Similar but not the same, is about first contact with a species of people that want to be our friends. From there, humans travel with them to another planet and back again. A take off in the same time with the same characters is a detective story and the murders he solves traveling to Mars and the Moon.” She took a deep breath. “I always put a moral tone into my books that expresses how greed can destroy. You see examples every day in the newspaper.”

“So like a homicide detective but in space?” Kelly smiled, her eyes brightening as she thought on this. “I’ve got to say, that is quite unique. I like it a lot! Of course you said there are other arcs to it as well, so it must be very complex, but that detective story…gotta be interesting.”

For a moment, she checked the time on her phone and frowned. “Our time is almost up, but tell me, what is your favorite thing about writing? What makes you keep coming back for more?”

“Writing is relaxing for me and helps get those pesky irritations off my chest. I want to thank you for doing this interview with me. As soon as you post it I will post on my blog. I want to add at my age, I have to write as much as I can.”

“You are doing quite well. Keep up the good work. It’s certainly been a pleasure to meet you and to hear your story. I can’t wait to see which character you will have me interview.” Kelly smiled then rose to her feet. She reached out her hand to Nancy. “Thank so much for meeting with me. I hoe you the best with all your writing endeavors! Keep writing, and keep publishing!”

“Thank you, have a good day.”

<~>~<~>~<~>

Nancy A. Nation’s novel ‘The Pottery Sale’ is available online. You can find it along with her other books at the following links. Be sure to follow her on social media too!

Similar:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HL2I084     

Deflection:    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PD8LW56

Crossroads:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01E9N6FPW                                                     

Found:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B015Y0OS1M

Return:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EP2C47U

Desert:     https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LZ43IQU

Where:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B019S493BU   

Pottery (soon):  https://www.amazon.com/Pottery-Sale-What-Beneath-Urban-ebook/dp/B01N49IECN   

Social Media:

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

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorANation   

Blog:  www.bloggingwrites.weebly.com 

Blog: www.anationbooks.wordpress.com     

Website: www.anationauthor.com

Amazon group page:  http://www.amazon.com/A-Nation/e/B00SUHXM6E    

Smashword group page::  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ANation

Character Interview: K. M. Vanderbilt’s Tyr

In this interview, I visited K. M. Vanderbilt’s story world of ‘Skeins Unfurled‘ to meet her character, Tyr. Kelly was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, while Tyr was written by K. M. Vanderbilt.

book-cover

Tyr situated himself more comfortably in the chair, running his finger over the carven images that decorated the table. Sweeping his gaze around the room, he found the marble clean and white, striations sparkling. Table and chairs were free of dust. Everything appeared to be in order.

His guest would be arriving soon. He wasn’t sure what to expect of the meeting, but he had prepared the usual hospitality–mead and bread. Tapping his finger on the table, he glanced out the window, green eyes meeting with sunshine and verdant hills beyond.

What did a muse want with an Aesir king? It seemed she should stick with her own kind. Then, again, that meant relinquishing his position in favor of a lesser king, and Zeus would not be afforded such consideration. His eyes narrowed at the thought, lips turning down to shift the length of his gray beard.

No, whatever the muse wanted would remain in his hands. Hand, he silently corrected, looking down to his mangled arm and the wrist which ended in a stump. He still caught himself trying to use an appendage which no longer existed.

Uncomfortable all over again, he rearranged the table, scooting the utensils and mead jug into alignment. Cup and knife gleamed, polished to a high sheen. He would not be accused of being an ungracious host. Everything would be just so.

A gust of wind whipped through the room, and when it settle,d Kelly stood there and looked around. She nodded at the nice setup of the room then fixed her gaze upon Tyr and smiled at him. “Greetings. I am Kelly. You must be Tyr, God on High, Aesir King, God of Justice. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. How are you doing today?” She always liked to start with a simple question to see how the individual would respond.

Tyr grunted, taken by surprise as he jerked back against the chair. His eyes went to the door and back to the muse. He’d expected her to come by dark water so the runner would announce her presence. Her sorcery reeked of her Olympian brethren. Stifling his distaste, he forced a tight smile, rising to offer his forearm in traditional greeting. “Well met, friend Blanchard. I am quite well. And you?”

She smiled as she accepted the traditional greeting and nodded to him. “I am well.” With the introduction out of the way, she stepped back and glimpsed around. “I have to say, it’s quite a lovely place you have here.” Then she looked back at him. “But we’re not here to talk about this room. So tell me, what is it like being the God of Justice. That doesn’t sound like a very easy job at all.”

Tyr nodded and indicated a seat at the table. “Sit with me. Drink my mead, eat my bread, and I will tell you what it means to be a god.” He sat, poured their drinks, and regarded her with a stern eye. “A god of justice must always weigh the needs of his people against their well-being. What is just is not always the easiest path, as you may imagine.” After taking a sip of the mead, he put his cup away, once more tapping his finger on the table. “I find myself having to juggle many responsibilities my people would never imagine.”

Kelly sat down and partook of his bread and mead. It was always interesting talking with a god. “People’s needs against their well-being…isn’t that the same thing though? Technically? I mean, their well-being creates those needs…” She trailed off to let him explain.

“No,” he corrected, “it is far from the same thing.” Sighing, he looked away. “They don’t always know what they need, but it falls to me to make sure their well-being is taken care of. As God on High, I have made the hard choices, some of which seem to run counter to the idea of justice, but all of it stems from the need to keep them safe, to protect what we have built here. In the end, it serves the same goal.” A pained smile tugged at one corner of his mouth as he finally met her eyes again. “I don’t expect you to understand, friend Blanchard.”

Kelly shrugged. “I may understand more than you realize, but that doesn’t mean I won’t ask questions.” She smiled. “So have you always been God on High? Or has that been something you’ve acquired? I’m not sure how gods and their ranking works here. It’s different in every realm I visit.”

“God on High is a title bestowed upon me by the Norns, the day I created Do Bzerania from the bones of the conquered worlds.” He smirked, more at ease with this vein of conversation even if he did chafe under the memories. “I became a king among kings by uniting the god realms under one rule.”  He waved his good hand to dispel the idea of rankings. “Titles are trifles in the scheme of things.”

“So you rule over all the gods? I’m sure that some gods didn’t quite appreciate that.” Kelly motioned to his missing hand. “Some fought you? Rebelled? What happened exactly?” She leaned forward, setting her chin in her palm as she observed Tyr.

He glanced down at his stump, slowly pulling his arm from the table so it was hidden from view. When his gaze landed on her again, it was with rage in his eyes. “Rebellion is a crass idea. All who live in the light of Do Bzerania’s sun do so with full voice under their pantheon’s council member. I am not a dictator in that sense.” Grunting, he sat back, fingers clenching around the arm of the table. “My hand was lost due to stupidity and a long-standing hatred. The wolf abomination, Fenrir, attacked me when I came unarmed into the wastelands of Asgaard.” Teeth gritted, he very nearly choked on his tongue when he spat, “His traitorous father broke the thousand year peace and was forced from this plain. We do not honor the troll-kin and their trickery! With Loki and his family banished, the last vestiges of dissent have gone!”

Kelly listened to all this and tilted her head to a side. “What exactly did Loki do?”

Tyr leaned forward, voice dipping to a low growl. “He killed his own brother.”

Kelly waited to see if there was more, but when he said nothing, she shrugged. “Well, that’s a horrible thing indeed, I’ve met people who’ve done worse. Maybe it’s worse though when a god kills a god. I don’t know how all this works.” She met his gaze. “Okay, answer me this question I’ve always wondered. Are gods actually immortal? I mean, a god can die, then they’re not really immortal.”

Taken aback by the question, Tyr shook his head. “Another crass idea.” Scoffing, he attempted to dodge the true answer. It was dangerous to touch that information. “We are immortal, Muse. Do not think otherwise.”

“I think you’re merely immortal until you die. And I think your time of death is one set in stone but unknown to anyone including you. So yes, nothing can kill you until then, but then…then you’d be as mortal as the rest of us. It must be a startling realization for gods when that moment comes because they’re so used to immortality. I suppose mortals have a slight advantage in that regard.” She shrugged. “Not that it matters. They’re merely mortal.”

Then she shifted the conversation to something she had considered earlier. “You said that you must balance the well-being of all. Where does free will play into all this? Or is that a myth as well?”

Though he ground his teeth in irritation, Tyr gladly accepted the change of topic. “Free will exists. The wyrd is composed of choices. All make choices, and those choices have far flung consequences. They may not reveal themselves in weft and warp for thousands of years.” His thoughts turned inward to the wasted death mask of the Arbiter of the Future, the destruction of the Norns and their visions of Ragnarok. “But they do exist.” He exhaled, long and slow. “Control is an illusion.” But it was little more than a whisper.

“Control is an illusion?” Kelly raised her brows. “Some people say choice is an illusion—that all things are already predestined or set in stone and cannot be changed.”

“Lies.” He stared into her eyes, judging her intent. “Inevitably, everything moves toward an end,” he said, “but we have no control over anything but our own choices, how we respond to the challenges laid before us.” Cocking his head to the side, he smiled and said, “You choose to address me as an equal, and I choose to let it stand because I have offered hospitality. Our conversation will end without bloodshed, but it is because of choice rather than a predetermined set of events. 1000 years from now, what credence does this hold for the wyrd?” Shrugging, he answered, “None knows that answer now. But we are given the choice to comport ourselves however we please…and we also accept we must deal with the consequences of that choice.”

Kelly smiled at him. Even if he chose to strike out at her, she knew it would have no effect on her. That was the safeguard she was given when traveling to realms. No one could touch her unless she allowed it. It always amused her when someone tried to attack her only to pass through her.

However, she kept all this to herself and asked him yet another question. “And how did you respond to Freyr’s betrayal?”

Tyr’s self-satisfied grin faltered. Looking down at his good hand and the burnt skin there, he replied evenly, “I answered it in kind. His betrayal threatened the well-being of all the gods.” When he met her eyes, it was without an ounce of remorse. “I will tell you that justice is not about turning your cheek to a blow. It demands blood, and I took it from all who tried to trample on the dreams we built here.”

“We built? Or you?” She met his gaze unflinching.

“Perhaps it was me.” He shrugged.  “They all benefit from it now. Is it not the same thing?”

“Do they? Or do you? Do you get the peace you want, but at what cost? Does it even matter what they want? Because, after all, you know what’s best for them.” She tilted her head to a side.

“As I said, I am not a dictator.” Smirking once more, he leaned back and crossed his arms. “My wife leads the Egyptian pantheon, and her voice is not diminished, but strengthened by that alliance. Zeus, also, has married into the strength of the Aesir. We are as one now.” Raising a brow, he reminded, “Our voices rule this gathering with as much fairness as can be afforded, but war is sometimes needed. If it results in lasting peace, I fail to see the difference.”

“All this talk of gods and goddesses. Makes me wonder where are the mortals are in all of this? How do they fit in?” She folded her arms as she sat back in her chair to watch and listen.

“The mortals…” Chuckling, he rapped his knuckle on the table a few times, watching the movement as he sought words to frame his answer. “They live upon their own plain. The middle-realm was theirs to do with as they pleased, but now they serve our will. They choose a patron, offer worship, and fuel the power of our world. In turn, we offer protection and blessing.” Pausing his tapping, he looked up at her. “Freyr’s betrayal brought that unfortunate aspect back into their lives. If he had left Dodriki abandoned as the Norns decreed, the mortals would be free of gods’ interference. Now, we have no choice but to rule their realm alongside ours. To do otherwise invites destruction.”

Kelly regarded him for a long moment before finally speaking her mind. “You have a very interesting life, that is for sure. So why do you hate the Jötunn so much? You’ve basically have everything you want. Why the hatred toward them?”

“That—“ He sighed and shook his head, eyes tightening at the corners as he glared at the table. “The God Wars saw us as allies, but I mentioned their trickery. They intended to destroy us by unexpected betrayal when they could not meet us by force. In the end, I was forced to kill them all.” Sighing, he met her gaze. “That is what justice demands, what weighing needs versus well-being means. I gave them every opportunity to be as one with us, to live among us as did the other pantheons.”  Shaking his head, he added under his breath, “Had I known the corruption they spread, I would have sent Freyr and Loki to the same end when I had the chance.”

“And where is mercy in all this? Where this is justice, there is also mercy, so how that that work with everything you do?”

“Mercy is afforded when it is deserved.” His face remained locked into a stoic mask. “Mercy exists as a tool. Loki knows it’s touch, for whatever the Norns saw in him worth salvaging. I trust to that still, even if everything he touches turns to putrid rot.”

Pointing at her, he said, “Do not think me merciless because I kill when it is demanded. Freyr and Loki may be shorn from the gathering, but they live still. Odin—wherever he may be—lives still. All are traitors, but their betrayals have been answered, mercy dispensed.”

Kelly stared at him for a very long time. She could tell he was irritated with her, but she knew they only had a little longer before she would leave. She enjoyed probing this god too much.

Leaning forward, she searched his eyes, reading him. “Mercy is a tool….so who decides to use that tool? You? As the god of Justice, how can you make that decision? It would be completely against your constitution. Who counterbalances you?”

“I am also a tool,” he responded evenly. “I may make the hard decisions, but I do it with support from those who remain.” He expanded to explain, “When Loki killed Baldr, it was the Norns who decreed punishment. My word does serve as law in the absolute. I am not without fault, though I do take into consideration all facets which may be examined. Wyrd is a strange concept to grasp in that sense, but all choices have consequences. Loki’s choice moved the pantheons to answer. It trickled down to affect us all—Freyr and Odin became entangled in it, for instance. Freyr refused to remain among the gathering and was thus corrupted by Odin. And Odin… Well, he chose a banished mongrel over his own kind, and that moved us to an answer to preserve our lives. One choice can have far-flung consequences, and it falls in our laps to make another choice, and so on.”

Kelly noticed how he really didn’t answer her question, but she allowed it. Yet she paused to consider his words and what her next question should. “Do you mind if I meander a bit? I like to pace a bit. It helps me think.” She didn’t wait for his answer but stood and meandered around the room, taking in all the oddities she saw there.

Finally, she turned back to him. “It almost sounds as though a single god made a single choice, and chaos erupted from there. Why do you think Loki did it?”

“I make no claims to know the inner workings of a troll, but that question has plagued me for some time.” He watched her for a moment before revealing the truth. “Had Loki not killed Baldr, you may have had this meeting with a different God on High. Baldr was considered more suited to the task of peace than an old conqueror. And perhaps he may have been a good replacement, but we will never know what may have been. Loki made a choice, and it changed everything down to undoing the skeins of the worlds’ end.”

“You don’t wish to be God on High?” Kelly lifted her brows as she glimpsed at him before turning way to look at the interesting artifacts.

“I tremble to think of putting this mantle on another’s shoulders.” He looked out the window, finger once more taping up that tapping rhythm. “I would not wish it on another.”

Kelly finally turned to face him. “That doesn’t answer my question.” And she approached the table, placing her hands on the back of a chair, leaning in to meet his face. “Did you not want to be God on High at all? Was it a responsibility you only took because there was no other to take it?”

“I answered your question.” It was said with resignation, though. “I vied against Odin for title of King of the Aesir before I knew what it would mean. I took the mantle of God on High because I conquered the god realms and so had the burden of their people to take under my wing. What am I if I take them and do not offer the rule that title assumes?”

“Why did you take all of it?” She studied him. “Why did you take all of it?”

“Because it was what it meant to rule as Aesir in that time upon Asgaard.” He tried to keep the sadness from his gaze, but it did not abate. “Things change.”

Kelly regarded him and then nodded. She offered him a smile as she straightened her posture. “Well, you would be pleased to know my time here has about come to an end. That means it’s an end of this…interrogation, I suppose you may call it. I appreciate all the answers you have provided for me though. It is quite insightful.”

Nodding, he took a deep breath, burying the things the muse had dredged up. “You are a most insistent creature, friend Blanchard.” Regarding her with narrowed gaze, Tyr said, “A most odd meeting, though not entirely unpleasant.”

Kelly had to smirk. “Well, I enjoyed it even if you didn’t. I learned quite a bit, that is for sure.” But then she met his gaze and told him. “Something weighs heavy on you though. You keep it to yourself, locked away. It’s a source of sorrow and regret. Something you may not let the others ever see because they have to see you as strong. If I had more time, I would ask you to open up to me since…after all, I’m a mere mortal who will, of course, die before a mere minute has passed for you in this realm. But unfortunately, I am tied to time, and my time here has come to an end. Perhaps another time….if your’e willing to have me back, of course.” She smiled gently at him.

He took a deep breath, truly examining her. How strange that she could see through the heart. What he wouldn’t give for that ability—to intuit intent beyond masks and false words. Almost wistfully, he nodded and agreed, “Another time.”

She bowed to him and then vanished away in a gust of wind.

<~>~<~>~<~>

YOU CAN FIND THE CONTINUATION OF THIS INTERVIEW ON K. M. VANDERBILT’S WEBSITE HERE: http://www.kmvanderbilt.com/single-post/2017/01/05/Tyr-An-Interview-Part-2

K. M. Vanderbilt’s book ‘Skeins Unfurled: Prequel to the Breadth Key Cycle’ is now available. You can find it here: getBook.at/SkeinsUnfurled

Be sure to follow her on social media for more updates!

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Author Interview: K. M. Vanderbilt

I had the privilege of chatting with K. M. Vanderbilt, the author of the dark fantasy book, ‘Skeins Unfurled’.  In this interview, ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘K. M.’ was written by K. M. Vanderbilt.

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Kelly sat on a bench overlooking the ocean. There was a pathway that led down to the sandy beach, and she might take her interviewee there in a bit, but for now, she waited, enjoying the breeze in her hair. She sighed. She needed this. It’d been a long few weeks, and the beach always had a magical relaxing touch.

Sensing someone approach, Kelly opened her eyes and looked over her shoulder to see a woman drawing near. Kelly smiled and rose to her feet. “K. M. Vanderbilt? I’m Kelly.” She extended her hand. “So great to meet you. How are you doing today?”

K. M. smiled and offered a firm shake. Her mother had always told her a good handshake marked someone’s character. “Yes, that’s me…I…she? Maybe it’s we.” Smiling sheepishly, she released Kelly’s hand and awkwardly amended, “Hi. Nice to finally meet you.”

It seemed like the interview would never come, but with it happening, she just felt unprepared and flustered. She struggled to remember what Kelly had asked. “I’m…great actually.” Her eyes wandered to the surf, sweeping across the beach. “Great view.”

Kelly smiled as she turned to take in the view as well. “Would you like to walk down to the beach? We can take that path.” When K. M. nodded, Kelly led the way. “So tell me a bit about yourself. When did you first begin writing?”

Looking down at her bare feet, toes kicking up rooster tails of sand, K. M. thought about that. “Well…I’m me. I dunno.” A deep noise hummed in her throat, the precursor to laughter. She always felt weird talking about herself despite the nature of interviews. “Well, okay…this is how it goes. 29, traveler at heart—and that lifestyle goes well with an Army guy as the hetero-life mate. I’ve pretty much been all over the continental US, a few other countries as well, and I use all of that to fuel my writing. I took up the pen, so to speak, when I was six,  and never put it down. I actually published my first book this year.” She smirked, one shoulder rolling up in a half shrug. “Finally. Ha.”

Kelly smiled. “Congrats on your writing accomplishment. That’s always a wonderful thing! However, who or what pushed you to finally get published?” After a moment, Kelly decided to remove her shoes too and sighed in relief at the sand between her toes. It felt good. But she looked to K. M., waiting for her answer.

That was actually a good question. As K. M. looked at the path ahead, she felt her eyes drawn inward to memories twenty years old. “My mom,” she answered, voice soft. Locking her hands behind her back, K. M. considered where it began. “My mom used to read to me every night. Then I started reading for myself. Writing followed. My mom read a lot of it and encouraged me to do something with it, though she didn’t want it to be my career. It’s not lucrative in most cases, so not a viable option for most people as a day job. Circumstances change, though. It’s the dream, right? Now, the reality.” She smiled softly and looked over at Kelly. “And she supports that.”

“I’m very happy to hear that.” Kelly smiled back at K. M. “So, what genre do you write? What kinds of stories?” As she asked this, Kelly noticed a beautiful shell sticking out of the sand, so she bent down and retrieved it then brushed it off to inspect it.

Cocking her head, K. M. scooted a little gray crab away with her toe. It scuttled off with an angry click of its pincer. “I mean…I write everything,” K. M. admitted, struggling to find that niche answer she assumed was expected. “I started off with YA urban fantasy when I was 17. It was my first complete manuscript…and it was complete crap.” Chuckling, she shook her head. “I don’t know. I’ve tried a bit of everything—southern noir, fantasy, sci-fi, ”she looked at Kelly and raised a brow, voice lowering, “romance. Most of it will never see the light of day. The book I published is part of a series, though, and it’s dark/epic fantasy. I think that would really fall as my comfort genre.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “So tell me about this story. What is it about?” She cast K. M. a smile. She loved hearing about writers and their stories.

K. M.’s face lit up and she spread her hands, palms out. “Allow me to geek briefly here. The book is called Skeins Unfurled: Prequel to The Breadth Key Cycle. Okay, so you know the Norse pantheon—death, blood, and Ragnarok…maybe a little gender fluidity when Loki decides to be a she for the day?” At Kelly’s nod, she continued, “Take that and expand it, throw in a sprinkle of other pantheons from around the world, and then make wyrd become this tangled concept that touches everything in a trickle down effect—chaos theory at its finest.” Laughing at the convoluted answer, she admitted, “It spans an entire universe—in the sense of planets—and shows how choices and consequences can affect people other than those gods who make the choice. I usually just tell people it’s about boobs, beer, and battle…but it is so much more.”

Kelly laughed when she heard all this. “Wow! Sounds quite complicated but awesome! What inspired this idea for you?”

Humming again, K. M. waggled her head back and forth, pulling a face. “That’s probably more complicated, but the short answer is…mythology. I love other religions and mythos, finding ways to blend so many different beliefs together and show how it all explodes.” She glanced at Kelly and smiled. “It was the challenge inherent to finding the differences and similarities between…say…Olympian and Aesir, or even Aztec and Aesir.”

“I bet you had a lot of research to do, but you likely loved every moment of it.” Kelly grinned at Kayla then motioned for them to go up the path a little to a bench. Once they sat down facing the ocean, Kelly glanced at K. M. once more. “So who are the protagonists and antagonists and the struggles they encounter?”

Taking a seat, K. M. buried her feet in the sand, wiggling her toes in as deep as she could. “It’s a multiple point of view story, so you’ll see different angles of the same conflict. There is no clear protagonist or antagonist, as it all becomes gray washed in motivations and character flaws.” Giggling low and throaty, K. M. admitted, “If you were to ask my beta, she would say Tyr becomes the main antagonist while Freyr and Forebelo are set as the protagonists. Loki is more of a wild card.” She nodded, as if to herself, and took a deep breath. “As for what they face…basically, Ragnarok is unwritten. Secrets emerge which have been kept for a thousand years. Everything falls apart. Loki discovers the truth behind his people being exterminated, Freyr discovers a an abandoned world, Tyr is just trying to keep his gathered world at peace…safe. and Forebelo has the biggest secret of them all.” She looked at Kelly, wiggling her fingers as she mystically whispered, “The breadth key. It all shows how they ally themselves, sometimes in the strangest ways, and how their goals are set against each other.”

I love it when stories don’t have a clear-cut antagonist or protagonist but rather a lot of gray areas. That’s more realistic. I like it!” Kelly grinned at K. M.. “So you said you published the book, but is it the first in a series? I imagine it would be because of the extent of the story sounds massive.”

“Yes.” K. M.’s eyes went wide. “Huge. I keep thinking I can pare it down to six books, but there’s just SO MUCH.” One corner of her mouth lifted. “This book is just a prequel to set the stage, which I think was needed for a deeper understanding of the universe. The next book—Errant Tides—shows the aftermath and moves into the main series.” That said, she looked out at the water. “I kind of view this series as an ocean all its own: the deepest corners may never be explored, but it holds a wealth of life.”

“Sounds amazing.” Kelly nodded but then happened to check her watch and frowned. “Our time is about up, so we should be heading back.” They stood, and Kelly led the way back up the path, but along the way she asked, “Is there anything you’d like your readers to take from your story? If they remembered one thing, what would it be?”

K. M. took a deep breath, eyebrows shooting up. “Well, I think it’s important to realize you never know as much as you think you do. In life, there are no absolutes, and no one view of the world can ever encompass every angle. So, on that note,” she laughed, “it’s good to question everything and explore what it means to be the other guy, have the dissenting opinion.” Grinning, she laughed, “Maybe playing devil’s advocate is dangerous, but I think it allows us to broaden our horizons.”

“And horizons are always meant to be broadened. How else will we explore, learn, and discover more?” They finally came back up to where Kelly had been originally, and she sighed. “Unfortunately our time is up, but this was a lovely visit. Here.” She offered the shell she had picked up earlier to K. M.. “A gift from the Muse.” She smiled at her. “I hope you the best with all your endeavors. Keep me posted on your progress. You’ve got quite a journey ahead of you.

“Thanks, Kelly.” K. M. flipped the shell, caught it, and tucked it in her pocket. “It’s been great.” Waving, she walked off into the sunset, gunslinger style.

<~>~<~>~<~>

K. M. Vanderbilt’s book ‘Skeins Unfurled: Prequel to the Breadth Key Cycle’ is now available. You can find it here: getBook.at/SkeinsUnfurled

Be sure to follow her on social media for more updates!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KmVanderbilt

FB Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/theauthorknownasvanderbilt/

Blog: http://theemptywaterdish.blogspot.com/

Website: http://www.kmvanderbilt.com/

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.

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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.

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