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Q. You've been "stirring up stories" since you were six years old. How did that inner storytelling voice manifest itself, beyond just the fact that you were given a journal by your grandmother? Have there been times where that voice waxed and waned?
A. When I was six years old, my grandma gave me my first journal. I took up the habit—now a compulsion—of carrying my notebook around and writing down everything from story ideas to lists to snippets of overheard conversation before I could even read her loopy cursive note in the first page. My inner storyteller was also roused around this time when the neighbor girl and I would go outside and act out epic storylines that would span the entire summer. We'd spend the first half an hour or so outlining—though we didn't call it that at the time—and then act out the stories of runaway princesses, brave Native Americans, or traveling circus performers until dark.
Q. You've worked as an English teacher in Beijing, a Kindergarten teacher with Teach for America in Nashville, a CPR trainer, and a yoga instructor. Starting with your experience in Beijing, did you ever consider staying in that part of the world? What was the most beautiful thing about the Chinese people themselves, not just the culture?
A. Storytelling and journaling stayed with me. In college, I majored in theatre arts, then moved to China to teach English and live my own adventure. I didn't expect that experience to touch me the way it did—China is a magnificent country and Beijing, where I lived and worked, is hauntingly beautiful. The city, like many of the people who live within it, commemorates history while skimming the cutting edge of technology and industry. Most of all, I loved the people I met there. I've never been anywhere else in the world where so many people were so eager to embrace strangers. The friends I made there quickly drew me in and generously shared everything they could, from language to food to fun. I did consider staying in that part of the world, and I still think I could have been happy there, but I missed my family and wanted to come home to be with them. I especially wanted to be near my brothers again—the relationship between Bristol and Denver in Unregistered was definitely inspired by my relationship to both of my brothers.
Q. Obviously, teaching has been and likely always will be a central part of your life. Where did that arise from? What kind of emotions does teaching engender in you? And, why, for God's sake, are teachers not given the monetary appreciation they deserve? (Is that last question big enough for you?)
A. In Unregistered, Bristol is a graffiti artist. As an Unregistered citizen, he falls through the cracks of society and isn't entitled to any benefits enjoyed by first-born children, so he has plenty of thoughts to paint. At his core, he is a creator. Regardless of the status, century, or citizenship he was born into, he's the kind of person who would find a way to express himself. Because of the circumstances of his birth, however, he finds himself painting images that express his frustration with he status quo. Though he doesn't know it, he's following in the footsteps of socially provocative artists like Banksy, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Dread Scott. Since Bristol is young and self-taught, he starts off as a selfish artist—he doesn't think about painting to communicate with others, let alone inspire a larger movement—he simply wants to express his thoughts. In later books, (Unregistered is a trilogy) he grows into his talent. In the first installment, however, he's still struggling to understand his compulsion of his and the responsibility that comes along with it.
Q. As noted above, "Unregistered" is your first novel. In that story, people who are "unregistered" are accidental second children. Obviously, this must parallel some of the practices/dark aspects of how the Chinese culture values children. Namely, female children have historically been unwanted to a certain extent. What was it about your experience in Beijing that made you want to write about this trying topic? Has the culture in China changed on this front?
A. I've always been impressed with provocative visual artists, regardless if I agree or disagree with their points. It seems remarkably satisfying to take a complex idea and distill it down to one image, and though I'm not a visual artist myself, I enjoy visiting modern art museums and letting the messages hit me in waves. I also love history has these seminal images that seem to indicate a turning point, such as Dorthea Lang's Migrant Mother during the Dust Bowl or Aaron Douglas' Aspiration during the Harlem Renaissance. Works like these have tremendous power to turn hearts, which, in the best cases, turn legislation. Art can absolutely be as impactful now as ever before, and I love seeing artists in all mediums create in the unique historical moment we live in today. Though I sometimes want to bang my head against the wall while listening to the news, I'm an optimist.
Q. Your main character, Bristol, is an unregistered and spends his night painting controversial murals in low-profile parts of town. He sounds a bit like Diego Rivera or Banksy. What are your thoughts on how art can change culture norms, legislative standards and ways of thinking? Do you think art can be as impactful now as before?
A. I feel a connection to Bristol and the growth he experiences as an artist because this book also began as a means of me expressing my frustration with our country's injustices. I wrote it as a dystopian because I love how dystopian stories use hyperbole to sharpen the reader's perspective of their own world. It's easy to accept the injustices around us because we've grown up with them; they're comfortable. But when you read dystopia and see what the characters put up with, it poses the question: what am I putting up with, and why?
Q. Part of the story in "Unregistered" address relocation plans of the majority, the Registereds, against the Unregistereds. Namely, they are going to ship the Unregistereds to far-off desert states. For millennia, with people of all races in all parts of the world, this has been a tactic of dealing with unwanted people. Even today, people argue that incarceration at its worst is a way to lock "unwanted" people away and out of sight. Since you've brought this up in your story, do you have a message on this front?
A. One of the messages of this book speaks to our desire to push away anything (or anyone) that makes us comfortable. From where I stand, it seems to me that Americans have trouble accepting anything outside of our comfort zone, probably because we're so accustomed to comfort. Being around discomfort is a problem some feel they can easily solve by simply removing the people, if they have the power to do so. The people in Unregistered do have this power, and they use it to incarcerate those who they think may be inclined toward crime (though they may or may not have actually committed them) and ultimately, to relocate the minority population to far-off dessert states. For millennia, with people of all races in all parts of the world, this has been a tactic of dealing with unwanted people. It will continue as a tactic as long as most people refuse to acknowledge the dark parts within themselves. When we as individuals can acknowledge the taboos of class, race, sexual orientation, and other divisions, I hope that we can offer the love that everyone deserves. Love doesn't expel; love embraces.
Q. Do you think there's an obligation for some authors to interweave social issues and analyses into fiction that is consumable by the masses--rather than delegating that type of work to the "ivory towers?"
A. Do I think there's an obligation for authors to interweave social issues and analyses into fiction that is consumable by the masses? Yes and no—I think that every person is obligated to uphold the integrity of their own conscious. For some—like me—that means listening to my heart, making the effort to see injustices through a lens of love, and sprinkling them into my stories when I can to communicate to readers. But I don't think popular authors writing lighter stories are doing bad work. As a reader and a thinker in this time in history, I need all types of reading material—both the deep and disturbing ideas of Margaret Atwood and the light laughter of Jenny Lawson.
Q. There's so much shimmering hope and promise when you've just published your first eBook. We need you to stir the pot of excitement in your new readers and fans. What can you promise next?
As I mentioned, Unregistered is a trilogy. The second book in the series, Unafraid, will be released next summer, and the third will be released, (God-willing-and-the-creek-don't-rise) sometime the year after that. In addition to continuing the story of Bristol, Samara, Jude, and Denver, I'm working on a new novel about a student learning the art of palm reading and the role of fate in our lives. All of these stories just light me up—I am buzzing the entire time I'm at my desk! Writing can be difficult at times, (reading, too, depending on what I've got in my hands) but it also brings incredible joy to my life.
I am a New York Times bestselling author of Paranormal Romance. All my books so far are set in the Many Lives Universe. 10 reasons WHY the Many Lives Series WILL keep you turning the pages:
1. Sexy Shifters who'll haunt your dreams
2. Brave Immortal Warriors who'll steal your heart!
3. Charismatic Vampires with edge
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5. Sizzling love scenes (yes!)
6. Psychic heat
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Most of all get the series because you love Kickass Heroines who you want to cheer on.
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International bestselling author Liz Gavin’s books have made to #1 in countries as diverse as Japan, the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and her home country Brazil, collecting 5 and 4-star reviews. Nominated for a Summer Indie Book Award in 2016, and again in 2017, this RWA member constantly seeks new opportunities to improve her craft. This thirst for knowledge propelled Liz to leave the comforts of family and friends in Brazil and move to California to pursue a Master’s degree in late 2015. She lives in sunny SoCal, where she’s researching the writing process, for her thesis, in hopes to figure out why she creates in English instead of her native Portuguese.
Liz Gavin writes in contemporary, paranormal, and historical genres. In her sexy stories, one finds smart, independent women, who don’t need rescuing by knights in shining armor, but indulge in steamy action with swoony Alpha males with big hearts. She also writes about women discovering their sexuality and finding happiness in unconventional setups.
Prospective ARC participants should contact Liz via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to apply.
Cold. God, he couldn’t remember ever before being this cold, never ever in his life. Only one day and he was already beginning to regret his decision. His jaw was numb from the cold and his shoulders ached from hunching against it. The wind was blowing out of the northwest, sweeping snow under the brim of his hat, the beautiful new Montana peak he’d bought just two days before. It swept in, no matter how he tucked his chin or turned away from the blast, blinding him and taking his breath away.
Hell, it was April. It wasn’t supposed to be doing this in April.
His name was Ray Turner, seventeen on his last birthday, and he was bone weary from his first day working the line, his first day of fence duty. No one had told him what a pain in the butt working the fence would be. Where was the glamour? The lariat on the straying calf, the long gallop over the plain to turn the errant steer, the fact-to-face encounter (oh god yes, the encounter) with some angry Sioux warrior come to plague the herd? Where the hell was the romance?
He and Curly were walking their horses back through the snow toward the line shack where they’d stowed their gear after riding out from the main ranch. That morning the Montana sunrise had been beautiful, the prairie grass glistening with dew in the slanting sunlight, nearly blinding him as it glanced off the ground. April in Montana, the huge sky above, the buttes in dark silhouette against the western horizon, the rounded hills leading down to the Yellowstone. What more could a young man ask for?
Well, how about some glamour? A little romance? He knew they were there somewhere.
But first the reality of a long day riding the fence, re-stapling sagging wire, straightening posts, re-attaching supports to the “deadmen.” Curly had thus identified for him the glacial boulders to which the tension wires were strung. By noon his fingers were numb from too many misdirected blows, his hands bloody from handling, mishandling, the barbed wire. By three his back was screaming from all the bending, lifting, pulling—using muscles he hadn’t used before, at least not in the way he was using them then.
And now the reality of a late spring blizzard as only Montana could know it, the Canadian low sweeping out of the north to turn the blush of April back to January scowl.
So much for glamour and romance.
With visibility near zero, they were following the fence back to the line shack. Finally, topping one last rise, there it was, barely visible below them. The slope leading down to the Yellowstone was irregular, with low hills and hollows north and south along the river, and the line shack was built into the side of one such hollow.
It was a sorry affair the color of Montana mud, almost indistinguishable from the rest of the landscape. The back wall and half the two side walls were earthen with cottonwood poles for the front, sides, and roof, the roof then covered with cowhides and sod. But it looked like a palace to the boy.
They dismounted at the shed on the north side, unsaddled their horses and turned them into the fenced enclosure. Then they hauled their gear into the shack.
The line shack was primitive in construction, but it had everything they would need while they were there on fence patrol. One room facing east, fifteen feet square with a plank floor, a window in each side wall, and a door that opened outward and was covered with cowhide to keep out the drafts. There was a pot-belly stove in the middle of the room with a wooden table and four chairs in the south half, then two sets of bunk beds along the north wall with the window in between. Near the door, hanging from a nail, was a water bag, and hanging from nails in the south wall were the sacks of provisions they’d brought with them.
Curly lit the lamps and turned to Ray. “Chips outside,” he said pointing north. Curly was not one to waste words.
Ray came back with an armload of cow chips, deposited them, the put some in the stove. On the chips Curly poured oil from one of the lamps and then dropped in a match. Soon the room was warmer as well as smokier, most of the smoke going up the stovepipe, but not all. And the air was pungent with the mixed aromas of coal oil, steaming saddle blankets, and burning cow chips. Ray didn’t care. He could hear the wind outside but he no longer felt its cutting edge, and the odors were a small price to pay for being warm again.
Curly took off his coat and hat and placed them on one of the upper bunks along the north wall. His head, shining dully in the lamplight, gave the lie to his name. Ray assumed he’d acquired it years before, in the days of his youth and curly locks. Or maybe it was the same mentality that called circus elephants Tiny. Using that logic, the boy thought, Curly should be Gabby. Curly McCoy, Ray guessed, was somewhere in this late forties or early fifties, one of the old-timers in Montana cattle ranching, and a man from whom Ray could learn much. And even though Curly seemed a bit slow with anything other than cows, horses, and fences. Ray could learn by example rather than word. Could learn from him, that is, if Ray was going to continue to pursue his career as a cowboy. After today, he wasn’t as sure of that as he’d been the day before.
He followed Curly’s move, putting his coat on the other bunk, then carefully placing the new hat on top. He’d paid too much for it, he knew, about half a month’s wages he hadn’t yet earned. But it was worth it. He loved the way he looked in it when he stood before the bureau mirror in his hotel room in Miles City where he’d bought it just after signing with the Bow and Arrow. It had taken too much of his meager savings but he didn’t care. No self-respecting cowpoke would be without a proper hat. And that raggedy old cap he’d worn there from home just wouldn’t do.
“You scrounge up some grub ‘n I’ll go tend the horses”, Curly instructed, putting his coat and hat on again.
In the gunnysacks they had provisions for a week: four loaves of bread, coffee, a half-gallon of baked beans, potatoes, carrots, onions, a slab of bacon, a ham, and two chickens. Though Ray had never before done any kind of cooking, he’d watched his mother do it often enough at the Ismay Hotel to believe he could pull it off. After all, a stew’s a stew. How tough could it be? He’d show Curly he was no greenhorn. At least not when it came to cooking.
He found a kettle big enough for more stew than the two of them would need, rinsed out the dust, filled it halfway with water from the water bag, and set it on top of the stove.
That morning, at Curly’s instructions—Curly wordlessly handed him the bag and pointed—Ray had gone down to the river, filled the bag, brought it back and hung it on the wall to be ready for them when they returned that evening.
He got out three potatoes, a half dozen carrots, and an onion. With his jackknife he peeled the potatoes and carrots, then cut them in chunks and dropped them in the water, which was by this time beginning to steam. Next the onion, in generous slabs. He took out one of the chickens from the other sack. It was already plucked and gutted so all he had to do was cut it up and put it in with the vegetables. Legs, thighs, wings, then the carcass in four chunks.
It was all bubbling nicely by the time Curly came back. He sniffed once and nodded. Ray took that to mean it smelled good. Curly brushed snow from his shoulders and beat his hat on an arm. “Nasty un,” he said. “Probly no work tomorrow.” He put coat and hat on the bunk, then sat in a chair with a long sigh. Then, “Thet’s probly okay with you, huh, Ray?” he said, smiling, already knowing Ray’s answer.
Ray assured him it would be better than okay—would Curly believe great, wonderful, heavenly? Even being cooped up for a day or two with Curly, no great conversationalist, beat having to go out to work the fence again. They sat with legs outstretched toward the stove and waited for the chicken to get done.
When Ray awakened, at first he didn’t know where he was, thinking he was back in Ismay still dreaming of being a cowboy. Then he remembered, and looked to see if Curly was laughing at him for falling asleep, like some kid exhausted from men’s work. He was relieved to see Curly slumped in his chair, hands folded over his belly, chin tucked in his chest, snoring vigorously. He looked older now in the lamplight, his features sleep-loose with deep creases in chin and cheeks, lines raying out from eyes that had squinted for too many years into too many Montana suns, his forehead and scalp a smooth white contrast to the heavily weathered face. Then Ray noticed the jagged flesh bunched and puckered from just above the left eye and running across the temple to a point above his ear. When Curly was a young man just learning the trade, he’d been bucked off a frisky mustang and then kicked into a three-day coma. Some of the Bow and Arrow cowboys unkindly suggested that was the reason Curly said so little: the kick had addled his brain and he just didn’t know what to say. But Ray hadn’t been around long enough to have heard the story of the mustang and the kick. Sometime, he promised himself, when he knew Curly better, he would ask him about the scar.
He got up to check the stew. He spooned out a potato chunk, blew on it, and popped it in his mouth. Oh yes, just like his mother’s—no, he decided, better than his mother’s.
He gently shook Curly awake, and they scooped out stew in their cups and ate together in silence. The vegetables were delicious, the chicken the best Ray had ever tasted. They ate it all, sopping up even the last drops with chunks of bread.
“Oooooeee,” Curly cooed contentedly, “mighty fine, boy. I cain’t remember any better.” For Curly, that was a speech, and Ray glowed with the praise.
Curly took out a sack of tobacco and a paper and rolled a smoke, licking the edge, twisting the ends and lighting it, then blowing out a stream of smoke. He extended the bag to Ray, who declined, not so much because he wouldn’t have liked to try it, but because he was certain he’d never be able to get the tobacco in the paper without scattering it all over the shack. While Curly smoked, Ray cleaned the pot out with some water and then hung it on a nail by the vegetable sack.
Just then, even over the moaning wind, they heard the sound of an approaching rider, then a horse’s snort and an answering whinny from one of the horses in the corral. Curly got up and went to the north window. He shrugged and sat down again.
“What is it, Curly? Who’s out there?” Ray asked.
“Too dark,” Curly answered.
Moments later the door opened and a man entered in a swirl of snow and wind, saddle in one hand, bridle and blanket over his arm. He pulled the door shut, threw his gear down in the corner, took off his hat and slapped it against a leg.
“Howdy do, boys,” he said. “We got us a good un out there.”
He took off his coat and put it and his hat on a bunk. Then he pulled a chair up to the stove, holding his hands out and rubbing them together. “Nice to hear yer sweet voice again, Curly. Who’s this young feller? Don’t believe we met before. Name’s Bob Atkins, Texas Bob to my friends. So what’ll it be, young feller—Bob Atkins or Texas Bob?”
Curly snorted his amusement.
Ray wasn’t sure who the man was or why he was there or how he should respond to him. “I’m Ray, Ray Turner,” he said, extending his hand. “I signed on just a couple days ago.” The man took his hand and they shook. “You work for the Bow and Arrow, Bob?” Ray asked. “Texas Bob,” he corrected himself.
“Me ‘n Curly been workin’ fer the Bow fer more years’n I’d keer to say. How many now, Curly? Gotta be . . . damn near thirty. Right, Curly? Just nod, Curly. I know how it pains ya to open yer mouth.”
“I was out checkin’ fence to the north, ‘n when the damn storm blew up. I figgered to come here ‘n spend the night with you boys. This un looks like that blue norther we had in, what, ’92, right, Curly? You ‘member that un, Curl?”
Curly was in the middle of rolling a cigarette, but he nodded as he licked the paper shut. He remembered. He wasn’t simple, after all. He knew what the others said about him, but he chose to ignore them.
“So, Ray, how’s ol’ Curly been treatin’ ya? He talkin’ yer ears raggedy?” He laughed. Then he frowned, having thought of something else. “Ya like ridin’ fence?”
Before Ray could respond, he went on. “Gol dern bob wire anyways. Curly ‘n me remember the days when this country was open—no fences, just God ‘n buffla grass ‘n cows ‘n open range.” He produced a corncob pipe and a pouch of tobacco and proceeded to fill it, tamp the tobacco in, and light it, puffing mightily with blue smoke billowing around him. He sighed when he got it going to his satisfaction, and slumped in his chair remembering the old days, the good days.
Ray considered him in the yellow light from the oil lamps. He was about the same age as Curly, medium height, but lean and tough as old cowhide. His hair was black streaked with gray, and his cheeks and chin were black with a day’s growth of beard. Another one he could learn from, he decided. And this one loved to talk.
“You boys already et, I spose. Yeah, I was afeared I’d get here too late. Well, I kin always rustle up somethin’ in a bit.” He punched down the tobacco with a blunt thumb, then struck a match and sucked the flame down into the pipe bowl.
“How old er ya, Ray? Look a little green to me.”
Before Ray could tell him he was twenty-one and no greenhorn, Bob went on.
“But then I ‘member Luke Sweetman, outta Texas, back in ’86. He’s only eighteen on the big spring roundup that year ‘n he’s headin’ up one of the big outfits in District Eight, Circle Dot, it was. Or mebbe N-Bar-N. I dunno. Which was it, Curly? You ‘member?”
“Yeah, well anyways, don’t much matter how old ya are, long’s ya know what yer doin’.”
The fire in the stove was down, so Ray added several more chips. He was happy to be sitting there, listening to the talk, even though only one of them was doing any talking.
“Them were the days, all right,” Texas Bob went on. “I ‘member when the XIT drove herds all the way from Texas to Montana range. Now we got ‘steaders all over the dern place. Everthin’s fenced now. Short-horn Herefords now ‘steada them mean-eyed, stringy, pisshead longhorns. Probly short-peckered men ‘n boys now too.” He looked at Ray and smiled. Curly was nodding off by the fire, Bob’s patter like an old, often-heard serenade.
Texas Bob got up and stretched. “I’m gonna find me some grub ‘fore I hit the sack. What’s left over here?’
He went to the south wall to the provisions. When he saw the pot hanging nearby, he turned to the others and said with hands on hips, “Gol dernit, Curly! What in sam hill’s the pisspot doin’ hangin’ over here?”
Ray never cooked chicken after that. Ray never ate chicken after that.
Reblogged from "Ruminate," which can be found by clicking HERE.
Looking out the plane window, I couldn't tell if I was just seeing clouds in the distance. Newly married, my husband and I were traveling westward for our honeymoon from our home in Boston. This white column in the distance towered over the horizon of the hoary foam layer of cumulus nimbus.
What I didn't realize is that I was looking at the tallest peak in Washington state. Mount Rainier, rises up just over 14,000 feet from sea level and welcomes all westbound travelers to its domain. As it filled my view, I was overwhelmed by this place that would become my home some fifteen years later. This trip was the very beginning of my journey to the Pacific Northwest.
For the many years before my husband and I moved to Seattle to settle, we made annual trips to visit his family who lived just south of the state capital. I thought the overview of the area the plane rides afforded was spectacular.
But once on the ground, the beauty of the landscape overwhelmed this young woman from the plains of the Midwest. The towering evergreens soaring up into the cyan sky formed a canopy over the streets and highways as we drove. Weekend trips led us into the pages of the National Geographic magazines I had enjoyed as a child: from the Ho Rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula with gigantic old growth trees covered in moss, to Deception Pass, the spectacular saltwater canyon cut by ancient glaciers and the swirling green waters of the Salish Sea. Each visit to the area introduced me to another place of overwhelming natural beauty.
The abundance of the geographical beauty was matched by the abundant bounty of farm and local food producers.
I remember one particular visit when I tasted my first, fresh apricot from a local farm. Having grown up in the Midwest, all I knew of apricots was the desiccated, candied variety. And for most of my life, I did not enjoy them. But, when I savored the real thing, I felt like I was consuming a piece of art. Blush-orange in color, the fruit's soft, supple flesh caressed my hand. My first bite extruded a juice both delicate and potent with its sweetness. I had come to a land of plenty.
Washington state finally became our home in the winter of 2009. Our move coincided with an epic snow storm that had shut down the city and dumped over five feet of snow on the ground. We trudged through the snow moving our lives inch by inch into our tiny Seattle bungalow. Finally, we would settle in what to me was a place of enchantment and wonder, of beauty and bounty. Now that we were residents, I saw our future ahead as one filled with abundance just like what we had found in this land of the Pacific Northwest.
He had just celebrated his 47th birthday. After seventeen years of marriage, I was now on my own. For a time, as I was grieving his loss, it felt as though one thing died after another, piling up successive losses like stacked coffins.
Not only did I lose my husband, I lost the life we shared and all of our hopes for our life to come. Absence, not abundance would be my new place of residence.
Grieving my husband's death landed me in a place of personal famine. The food that had been a celebration of this beautiful place in the United States, of life and of living things, now became a constant reminder of his death.
Our local corner market became a coroner’s market, pronouncing my husband 'dead' to me every time I had to get something to eat; once a place of shared delight now was a place of shame and mockery. I entered by myself, single, widowed, a loser who ate alone. Always on the verge of tears as I looked at the familiar produce that once encouraged a healthy appetite, now I walked the aisles to hurriedly purchase boxed cereal and frozen dinners.
While this place of self-imposed austerity held me in its grip, after two years and twenty pounds lost, I began to feel homesick, but for what home I wasn't sure. The place I missed so desperately I knew I would never be able to return to—it simply didn't exist any longer. And every step I took seemed to take me further and further away from my deceased husband.
Yet, I found myself routing my paths closer and closer to those places that held all the abundance I once shared with him. The neighborhood farmers' market continued on, held every Sunday, rain or shine. The mountains and the ocean were still a steadfast presence.
And if so, how would I create a new place of abundance as a widow? Would I allow myself to want abundance without him?
While I was unsure about where I was going and not exactly sure where I would land, I decided to plant a garden. With a donated, raised-bed frame, I planted my two-foot by five-foot plot of earth with radishes, bush beans, beets, and a small tomato plant.
And like the taste of my first, fresh apricot all those years before, I harvested the first fruit of my garden; a tiny radish. Bright green leaves with red and white flesh, it made it to my sink and then quickly into my mouth.
With a succulent firmness and just a hint of heat, I felt my appetite grow with each bite. A tiny radish was a first step for me towards a bountiful place.
I could survive on boxed cereal, but, I could actually want more. I could learn to feed myself, become my own chef, and nourish what had languished after my husband's death.
Perhaps now my memories of my husband and all that we shared would contribute to growth, rather than hold me back. Like the soil for my garden, composed of dead but vital layers of nourishment for growing, living things, these memories could nourish me. This could be a place I called home.
This review was reblogged from "Dear Author", whose blog can be found here.
About the book:
A tale of first love, bad theology and robot reincarnation in the Chinese afterlife.
In the tenth court of hell, spirits wealthy enough to bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld can avoid both the torments of hell and the irreversible change of reincarnation.
It's a comfortable undeath … even for Siew Tsin. She didn't choose to be married to the richest man in hell, but she's reconciled. Until her husband brings home a new bride.
Yonghua is an artificial woman crafted from terracotta. What she is may change hell for good. Who she is will transform Siew Tsin. And as they grow closer, the mystery of Yonghua's creation will draw Siew Tsin into a conspiracy where the stakes are eternal life – or a very final death.
THE TERRACOTTA BRIDE is an 11,000-word standalone fantasy novelette.
Dear Ms. Cho,
Sunita seriously tempted me to try one of your books with her review of The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo but it was a cover again that caught my eye while browsing at Amazon – like I need to browse for more books. Sigh.
After being promised love, religion and reincarnation via robots, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Turns out that’s probably for the best as to try and explain everything would give the game away. For a short story, it feels much more complete and complex than many stories twice the length. One thing I do want to make clear is that this is not a romance in the traditional sense. There might be a relationship that starts and tries for a HEA but in the end, it’s left nebulous as to whether or not this happens.
What is here is a marvelous, fascinating blend of Buddhist and Christian afterlife – after death? – set in a hell at once familiar and yet distinctly new. There are dead souls and demons and some of the famous terracotta warriors plus paper servants burned, along with cars, houses, money and even a piano, by pious descendants for the dead plus one new bride who is a mystery to most and a threat to some.
The writing is spare yet descriptive; the story is inventive and intricate. The ending is something I didn’t see coming yet I loved that with it, Siew Tsin takes control of her existence even as she takes a chance on her future. B+