Her Royal Spyness is a thoroughly fun, clever, well-constructed cozy. Of course, it's by Rhys Bowen, so that's not surprising. I had hesitated to begin the series, not particularly excited to read about a "royal" -- it just didn't sound cozy -- but Lady Georgiana is a wonderful character. Georgie to her friends, she is only half-royal. Not only is she a great-granddaughter to Queen Victoria, she is also flat broke and has an independent streak. The combination makes for a comedy of errors and plenty of unusual circumstances, some, of course, involving murder.
The book, really, the whole series, gives us a glimpse of Britain's history in the 1930s. The supporting cast is absolutely funny and loveable -- her somewhat removed, but very glamorous actress mother, her socialite best friend, her cockney grandfather, and, of course, the delicious Darcy O'Mara.
I listened to the book with Audible. Katherine Kellgren does a brilliant job with all the voices. She has an amazing talent for accents.
Whatever the format, Her Royal Spyness is a fun and often hilarious escape. Highly recommended!
Richard Abbott’s Half Sick of Shadows: I love it and look forward to revisiting it often. It’s unique. It’s timeless and beautiful. It’s a historian’s romantic poem of the ages. It’s a classic.
I’m immensely proud to introduce one of my favorite authors to my readers. Dr. Richard Abbott’s books range from historical fiction to fantasy to science fiction, and that’s when he’s not working on computer applications or walking the moors in England’s historic Lake District. Welcome, Richard.
Before anything else, I’d like to congratulate you on your move from London to Grasmere. You are now living in Classic Writer Land! While of course I enjoy William Wordsworth’s poetry, I’m a lifelong fan of Beatrix Potter and have read so much about the beauty of the area. I’ve also enjoyed the photos from your travels that you’ve shared online over the years. Still, it has to be a major change from London. Has the transition been tough? What made you decide to make the move? Do you feel even more inspired to write?
Anastasia! It's a real pleasure to be chatting today, all the way from this side of the Atlantic. Thanks for welcoming me to your blog,
London to Grasmere - it's quite a change! In fact, there were also other transitions happening at the same time. As a place to live, there is no comparison between the two - even on a bad day, Grasmere is spectacularly more beautiful than north London. I do miss the accessibility of museums and such like in London, though of course with everything that's happened since March 2020 they would have been often out of reach, even though geographically close. But there were changes as well in my working life. I used to work as a software developer and tester as part of a team at various large firms: now I am one member of a very small family business (we run a guest house, pub, and micro-brewery). I still write software, but now I get to see the impact of it straight away, and it's great to be applying these skills at such a small level. The programs I write have so many more obvious benefits to us and our staff. But as perhaps some people reading this will know, there's always something else to do in a family business, and you have to be quite disciplined about time, just in order to do regular things like get out walking on the fells. So yes, some bits have indeed been tough... but worth it. As to what made me decide to make the change - well, there were a number of factors, some of which might well appear in disguised form in a future science fiction novel! But they are probably not suitable for today.
Do I feel inspired to write while living here? Well, yes, definitely, especially with a project I have had in mind for a while which I'll talk about in a while. There is so much history here, right outside the doorstep - for example, Cumbria has more surviving stone circles and other ancient monuments than any other English county. Every time I get out to walk one of the nearby ridges I start thinking about how the surroundings - both natural and of human origin - might be incorporated into the plot. The problem is making enough time to write in the midst of everything else. You'd have thought that this year, with so much of it closed as a business due to our three national lockdowns (mid March - early July, most of November, and late December to now), would have been an ideal time. Since March, we've been closed more than open. But in fact those months have been hugely busy for all of us, with all kinds of decorating, preparation work, and in my case programming tasks which you simply can't do when you're open. This year has to have been the hardest any of us have ever worked on the business, and writing is one of the things which has had to take a back seat for a while. Hopefully, as things get back to whatever new normal we find ourselves in, that will change again. I certainly have no shortage of subjects to write about! But right now, there's a difficult tension between the desire to write, plus the inspiration provided by the surroundings, and the available opportunities.
That is certainly understandable. I do hope that 2021 will be a good year for you and yours.
As you know, I tied myself in knots over this interview. I had so many questions I wanted to ask that it was hard to pick and choose. You write computer code, but you also have a PhD, hence the jaw-dropping Triumphal Accounts in Hebrew and Egyptian. Why don’t we begin with you telling us a little bit about yourself before we get to your fascinating body of work?
The PhD was studying poetry in the ancient world, and in particular how ancient Egyptian poetry might have influenced that of ancient Israel, back around about 1200BC. It sounds a bit rarefied, but it was a whole lot of fun. I originally thought I was going to work on something about the chronology of the ancient world, but once I began, I realised that poetry, and its potential cross-cultural influences, was a whole lot more exciting than the regnal dates of rulers. So I studied a lot of Biblical poetry, focusing mainly on the earliest pieces, and - to cut a long story short - concluded that those early pieces of writing were influenced by Egyptian writers and Egyptian conventions. Some of the ideas turn up in my historical fiction series, starting with In a Milk and Honeyed Land. Poetry and song are at the heart of those books. And in fact, music of one kind or another features pretty strongly in all my writing, so the experience obviously rubbed off., But not just music - in the historical books I tried to combine that with cross-cultural influences between the various people of the age. I think that interest which we share in what happens when different cultures intersect one another is what first brought us together as friends, Anastasia - it's a theme I have always enjoyed and appreciated in your own writing.
What else? I have moved around a lot within England over the years, starting in childhood in the south, then moving into East Anglia when I went off to university, then into county Durham in the north-east after that. Somewhere along the way I spent a year in Seatlle, USA. And now here I am in the north-west, in a part of the country that over the centuries has forged close links with both England and lowland Scotland! Indeed, it was the last British kingdom to resist the Saxon invasion back in the days after the Romans left and before the Normans arrived. Dunmail, or more properly Duwnwahl, died in 975 in his last unsuccessful attempt to stem the tide, and can reasonably be called the last authentically British king. There's a ridge just up the road from here which is named after him, and a huge cairn of stones which, according to some stories, was first raised by his soldiers before that fateful battle.
Back at university I studied math, and really enjoyed it - long ago I used to be a bit embarrassed to admit to that, but I've got more confident about it over the years. My working life as a computer programmer was heavily involved with AI in one form or another. One of my favourite projects from that time of life was working with the UK airports authority and Met Office on an AI program to estimate cloud and weather conditions at airports based on regular and infra-red pictures. Eventually I moved into writing programs for Amazon Alexa (called "skills" in their parlance), and I still try to find time for that every now and again. Some of these experiences have been recycled into parts of the background for my science fiction books - a major theme in the plot is how humans and AI individuals which I call personas form working partnerships and relationships. Right now in the real world we are not at the point where an AI could be a meaningful work partner to a person, though of course some people seem to treat their mobile phones as frustratingly sentient. But I reckon that within the next fifty to one hundred years we could be at that stage of development.
Sea of Galilee
Your first published book, In a Milk and Honeyed Land, remains one of my favorite pieces of historical fiction. Your subsequent works, Scenes from a Life, The Flame Before Us, Man in the Cistern, and The Lady of the Lions are all set in the same area but not necessarily during the same time. Despite the truly ancient setting, you’ve brought the characters to life in ways that make it easy for us to relate to them. Your writing conveys a timelessness that I especially appreciate, as well as a strong, cross-cultural emphasis. What inspired you to write fiction set in such long-ago times? Please tell us about the books and your process – both research and writing.
Well, I've talked a bit about the research process from a poetry and history point of view, but there was a lot of other stuff of an everyday nature. What kind of houses did people live in? What was their social and family structure like? And so on. The book is set in the period when, according to the Hebrew Bible, the Israelites arrived into Canaan from Egypt. But I wanted to write the story not from the viewpoint which the Bible presents. but rather from the perspective of those who lived in that land - those who chose to associate themselves with these newcomers. But we know very little about how these people actually lived, outside of some rather ambiguous archaeological records. So I felt free to borrow something from other ancient world societies in order to put flesh on the bones, and chose to make that society a matrilineal one rather than patriarchal. So households belong to, and are maintained by, the women in a family and not the men. A man marries into a woman's family, rather than the woman leaving her household and going to the man. The woman of the house has the power to invite people in or shut them out. A number of cultures in the ancient world worked like this, but over the years, this pattern of society vanished. So as well as imagining what such a society might be like, those stories also explore how old values and habits of life are eroded, as newcomers and new ideas arrive and become dominant.
Any fiction gives us the opportunity to speculate on the might-have-beens, and to focus on people or places which were of no consequence to whoever was making and maybe writing history at the time. Now, some historical authors like to position their writing in places and times where we already know a great deal about what happened, or about people who were famous in their time - the powerful families of Tudor England, for example, or the infighting in the days of the Roman Empire. My preference is to pick times and places where we quickly run up against the boundaries of what we know, and therefore we have to set out into the unknown. I pick people to write about who were unremembered by the leaders and generals of their day. Damariel, the central character of those three books, is a village priest and scribe, and his concerns are for his family, his people, and those he loves. History won't ever remember Damariel or those like him, but we can enter his world through fiction. It makes it more like ordinary life, and, I think, helps to get more directly into the things which are timeless about human nature and relationships.
Half Sick of Shadows – it has replaced In a Milk and Honeyed Land as my favorite of your works. It’s fun and profound all at once, not to mention hauntingly beautiful. It might be based on the classic poem The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, but you’ve added a very different twist. You describe the novella as historical fantasy and so it is. But it’s still more. Would you call this twist New Age? Science Fiction? Religious? All three? Please share your feelings about this masterful work.
I like Tennyson, and have used or alluded to his poetry in various books, though not usually so overtly as here! But of course the tale of Elaine of Shalott (or Astolat), goes back long before the Victorian fascination with it, at least to 13th century Italy and probably much earlier. It is part of the body of material about Arthur and his retinue, which though often inconsistent and difficult to place, nevertheless gives us a rich tapestry of lore which hovers somewhere between mythology and history. There's even a local connection to my new home here - one school of thought places Arthur's court up in the north of England. If correct, his men were doing vigil in the wild lands where Hadrian's Wall stretches between Cumbria and the North Sea, still marking out the furthest extent north of the Roman Empire. In this version of the tale, the Lady of the Lake, and Arthur's sword, came from Ullswater, a long lake a few hours walk north-west of Grasmere. When you see the morning mist hovering low over the water of the lakes up here, it is easy to believe that's where it came from, and to imagine a sword-brandishing arm emerging from below the surface. But Half Sick of Shadows is deliberately vague about geography, and readers are free to locate the events in north or south, just as they please.
But you're right, Anastasia, I wanted to do more than just write a kind of medieval tragedy, and this brings us to the elements that are more like fantasy. And yes, I think there are New Age elements in there, with a deep love of the natural world which eventually leads to a kind of transcendence. I hope there is a religious dimension, though one which is expressed in different ways by various characters. For the Lady, it is a kind of personal quest for meaning and connection. For some of those around her, it is enacted in ritual and ceremony. But what all of those individuals want is relationship, of a deep and authentic quality. For most of the book, this relationship is thwarted and frustrated. So as well as the things you have mentioned, it is also a love story, of a kind.
I think that it's my favourite of my own books as well. I loved exploring, however briefly, all those different periods of English life, in the ages before there was anything at all by way of written history. And inevitably it has made me wonder about the people in the book. especially the Lady - what have they been getting up to outside of the snippets of their lives I write about in Half Sick of Shadows? It's all too tempting to pick up their storylines in other books!
I'm sure that your readers would enjoy learning more about the characters' lives!
Moving on to science fiction! You’ve published Far from the Spaceports, Timing, and The Liminal Zone. I haven’t gotten to the series yet. Seriously, you make my head spin! But it’s not entirely surprising, considering your technical background. What made you decide to leap from the ancient, distant past into the future? Please tell us about the series.
Hmmm, good question. I very much enjoy reading science fiction and that led naturally to writing it as well. But - just as with my historical fiction - I wanted to write about ordinary people, not space battles or galactic empires. So the first two books (Far from the Spaceports and Timing) borrowed heavily from some of my software work experience. The main character, Mitnash, is a kind of technical detective - he solves financial crimes using his skills, and works in close partnership with an artificial intelligence called Slate. Slate is not an android or robot - she's a persona, and is more like a very-much-advanced version of today's digital assistants such as Alexa, Siri, or Cortana. Slate very much has her own agenda, and sometimes disagrees about the best way to proceed, so Mitnash has to deal with her ideas and plans alongside his own... just like any pair of human coworkers. Most of the time they get on with the job in hand using their own resources, but they also have to decide who can be trusted among the scattered habitats across the solar system, and in particular near their home base in the asteroid belt. These books are set something like a hundred years in the future, by which time I suspect we will have little colonies on the more favourable (or profitable) planets and moons, but won't have any kind of travel between the stars, I hugely enjoyed writing about this imaginary future world, and hope to return to it again before long.
The Liminal Zone is a little bit different - it's set a few years later in time, for one thing, and it's more of a first-contact book than it is about fraud in space. It's still the same world in the sense of people and AI assistants, but with a new set of characters to get to know. It's also, in some ways, a kind of follow-on to Half Sick of Shadows. I don't think I'll write another book specifically as a sequel to that, but I definitely want to do more exploration of that future setting.
Through all of your different works, is there an underlying theme or concern?
I thought a lot about this, and decided that there are a few themes that I keep returning to. One is the one that I have already mentioned - I like to look at the lives of ordinary skilled individuals, not "important people". Whether looking at the past or the future, I feel that human society and human relationships has lots of things in common. The surroundings may change, from Bronze Age villages to habitat domes on inhospitable planets or in the vacuum of space. Or the nature of surrounding cultures may change, from lands across the sea who speak different languages, to machine intelligence and the prospect of visitors from other star systems. But human nature is, I believe, a common factor, and in every age we have to decide how we respond to others, whether they have travelled from over the mountains or through space.
Secondly, I love to include music! It is, I think, another common factor through the ages. So music, celebration, or dance appears in one form or another in all my books.
Finally, I like to write so that readers get a sense of what it might be like to live at another place or time. That's fairly normal for historical writers, I think - we all want readers to be able to put themselves into the story, even if at the start of the book we don't know much about the place and time. But it applies to my science-fiction writing as well. Parts of Timing are set on a moon which is very fragile - the ground under the residents' feet is, quite literally, at risk of breaking up. How would that affect your everyday life, if all the time you knew you couldn't really trust the surface you walk on? The Liminal Zone is set out on the moon of Pluto, hugely distant from the comfortable warmth of Earth. A planetary year out there is about 250 years long - things move very slowly, out in the darkness there. How would it affect people's conscious and unconscious lives to be constantly aware that they are right on the edge of what is known? I love that sort of question.
Considering our uncertain times, it seems a very relevant question to explore.
Before we go -- dare I ask – what are you working on now and what is on the horizon?
Well, up until about three months ago I was sure that I was going to write a follow-on to Timing, which would close off the original science-fiction trilogy. I still have the first few sections of that off to one side, waiting in the wings. But in fact another project has pushed its way to the surface - a return to much older history than before, and with a local twist. Just over three miles as the raven flies from where I am sitting, or maybe six if you walked the footpaths across the open fells, are the Langdale Pikes. These are the very dramatic remains of an ancient volcano, long since worn down into steep crests around the rim of a central hollow. And amongst those Pikes a vein of very unusual rock comes to the surface here and there. Back in the Neolithic Age, that rock was prized for the manufacture of stone axes - axes from Langdale have been found all over the British Isles, hundreds of miles and many weeks of travel from here. Many were obviously treated as precious objects, maybe sacred ones, and were never actually used to cut anything down. So my current writing project - tentatively called Quarry - is a story about those peaks, the men who found simple rocks and transformed them into highly polished luxury items, and the nearby communities who benefited from their skill and wealth.
There's not very much of Quarry written as yet, though the overall shape of the book is becoming clear in my mind. If all goes well, and if not too many other things intrude, I am hoping to finish it this year. We shall see!
Quarry sounds amazing! In the meantime, it’s comforting to know that your books are available on many platforms. The links follow, as well as an excerpt from Quarry.
Booklinks -- Most are on SALE this week,March 29 through April 5, at Amazon and AmazonUK!
Richard also shares extracts and downloads on his website:
Extracts from historical fiction
Extracts from fantasy/science fiction
General download page
Excerpt from Quarry by Richard Abbott
There was noise in the heart of Ty Caroc, the open place at the centre towards which all the little huts faced. Bran was working at the first rough polish on one of yesterday’s finds: it was coming along, but even this initial buff would take half the morning. He laid the stone down. It would not be hurried, and he was both bored and curious, lured out by the early summer day. Through the open door he could see that the men were gathering, clustering around some focus that he could not quite make out. He got up, went across to join them.
At the hollow centre of the group was Gavur mab-Ymelud, the trader, beside the little handcart he brought just after each full moon. He was watching the stoneworkers pull at this and that, arguing, speculating, negotiating. But Bran’s eye was caught not by the familiar, but the strange. A woman was behind the cart, tied to it with a length of rope around one wrist. She carried herself as though the tether meant nothing, and she remained silent, aloof. The men were carefully, studiously ignoring her, apart from quick glances when they thought the others would not notice.
He looked more carefully at her. She was tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed, and reminded him of the women of his own island. And in the skin up the length of her arms, in little pinpricks and ink all the way from wrist to shoulder, were signs and symbols that he recognised. She had been taught herbs and plants, songs and spells, healing and story-telling, and she had been taught by somebody who signalled the training with the same marks that he knew from Inis Mon. Possibilities circled around him.
“Bran! Join us, my friend. See what I have for you today.”
Gavur was affable, confident. Bran glanced in the cart but saw nothing that he needed.
“Not this time. Next, perhaps. How much were you looking for?”
He gestured with his hands, then pointed to the woman.
“About twice the length as you have used to keep her with you.”
Prental, on the other side of the cart, straightened and laughed.
“Don’t take your chances there, Bran. Stick with the women at Dolgolvan. Even that Melen who you favour, though I can never think why. This one here sounds too much like hard work. Not worth it.”
Gavur shook his head.
“She could be a nugget of gold in a mountain of scree for one of you. Lindirgel is what she calls herself, but, just as true as I’m standing in front of you, my honest belief from my journey here alongside her is that she should be named Bronwen. Who’s interested in her?”
The woman looked scornfully around the little group.
“Who’s interested in me? Don’t any of you think that I’m an easy take. The man who lays his finger on me unasked will regret it ever after. I’ll so freeze the manhood within him that he’ll never lie with a woman again. His heart will fail at the sight of a breast, and his pride will go weak at the thought of a thigh. Whether by day or by night, whether in the hills or the valley, whether this year or the next, my curse will follow at his heels, and my words shall never be away from his side. And even my little sisters in Dolgolvan will mock him if ever he goes to them again.”
They drew a little away from her. One or two turned their backs. Brogat shook his head.
“She should be called Bron-suraf, not Bron-wen. I’ll have nothing to do with her. None of us should. You keep her, Gavur, and try your luck with her over at Lug Laesach. Anywhere away from here.”
There was a murmur of agreement, a hardening of attitude. Bran walked across to her. Having not so long ago joined the men of Ty Caroc, his sense of community with them had never fully settled. The exchange had scattered it again. Moreover, he admired her solitary defiance, and the clear signs of wit and training that she showed.
I’ll chance it.
Some of the men murmured behind him, but he ignored that. She looked at him distantly. She was only very slightly shorter than him, and her bearing was proud. It would, he thought, be easy to feel dismissed by her. He nodded his head in greeting.
“I am Bran of Inis Mon.” She looked sceptical, having listened to the way he used his words. At a guess, her home was close to the other island called Mon, the one almost joining the mainland.
“Mon Allan, I mean, not Mon Mewn. Is Lindirgel your given name?”
“Lindirgel mer-Crechidh. From the coastland beside Avon Ogwen, and the hill behind my village looks over at Mon Mewn.”
He nodded. He had never heard of her river before, but he could imagine where it was.
“I know where you mean.”
He turned to Gavur.
“Loosen her for me, if you will. I accept responsibility for her.”
Gavur leaned on his cart and ran a hand through his hair.
“If she’s what you’re looking for, then that’ good enough for me. But she’s trade goods, not a gift, my friend. We have yet to agree a fair exchange.”
Fin, headman of Ty Caroc and one of the oldest men there, stepped forward, clearing his throat.
“Bran, let’s you and I have a crack about this. Before anything’s done that’s not easily undone.”
He took Bran’s arm and led him away from the group. Gavur watched them go, his eyes thoughtful, and then busied himself with items that the other men wanted from his cart. Bran let himself be taken behind the nearest hut, out of sight of the others.
“You’re a good lad, Bran, and I’d not like to see you do something that would divide the men. I’ll not have them all set against one another because of some stranger coming in.”
“That’s why you’re our headman, Fin. I’m content with that, and I’ll do nothing to upset it all.”
Fin looked at him, steadily, for a long time without speaking.
“Then why do this? You know that we don’t have women living out here with us. Dolgolvan’s for that.”
“That’s not altogether true. Lewenidh lives with Avank. Cowann has Salis to help. Why should this be any different?”
^“To be sure. And Cornigil beds at Gwovan’s house. But those are not the same at all. Gwovan lost the use of a leg in that rockslide. Avank is easily old enough to be your father, and has earned respect and an easy life. And Cowann, though he’s a fine stoneworker, would mislay his own fingers if he didn’t have somebody alongside him. But you? You know it’s not the same. You owe nothing to this woman, and with Gavur you have no debt. Tell me why you do this.”
Bran paused, marshalling his thoughts.
“I think she has a talent I can use.”
The older man shook his head, then leaned very close to Bran, his shrewd eyes bright in the afternoon sun.
“It’s a talent for making division that she has, that’s what it’ll be. I don’t understand why you’re set on this. Let go of her again, and satisfy yourself at Dolgolvan.”
“That’s not why I’m interested in her. I’ll still come along with you all at the quarter moon. So tell me straight: do you forbid it? If you do, I’ll maybe challenge your word.”
“No, lad. You’ve heard what I have to say about it. If you’re set on this, I’ll not forbid it. It is what it is.”
“But you don’t like it?”
“I can’t say that I do. And you’ve seen how the men look at her after that little speech of hers. What if they turn against you because of her? And listen now: if that happens, I’ll not hesitate to put you away from us. Outside Ty Caroc. Are you so sure now that it’s worth it?”
He studied Bran again, then shook his head slowly and released him. They went back to the cart. Most of the other men had dispersed by now, and Fin followed them, striding away towards his own hut. Gavur beamed when he saw that Bran remained. He glanced this way and that, and seeing that nobody had stayed to dispute the matter, loosened the rope and handed the free end to him.
“You’ll not regret this, not at all. Take your time, Bran, and we can settle the exchange next time I come by.”
He turned and left with rather unseemly haste, pushing the cart away down the track that hugged the valley side. Bran looked at the woman, untied the rope from her own wrist and gestured towards his hut.
She went ahead of him, ducking under the low door-lintel. She looked around the room, a quick, thorough glance which, he felt, absorbed all there was to know about his habit of living. Then she turned back and looked very directly at him.
“If you’re thinking that what I said to the others applies any the less to you, you’re wrong. You with your honey words about knowing where my home is. Anybody might say that, and until I’m convinced you mean well, I’ll do the same to you. Don’t use me badly, if you have any care for your own future.”
He shook his head.
“You’ll get no demands from me.”
“So why take me into your home?”
He picked up the rock that he had begun to fashion earlier. It was the right size – nearly as long as his forearm, elbow to wrist – and not far from its final shape, but otherwise was scarcely begun. It still looked dull, rough, and betrayed all too clearly how recently it had been teased out from other rocks.
“When I’m done with this it’ll be polished smooth, and have a rare shine on it. You’ll near enough see your face in it. But it takes longer than I’d like to prepare – much too long, in fact. That little princess there will take me the better part of a month, mixed in with other jobs. Just now it’s as unformed as a newly caught baby, hidden inside its mother while its true shape comes onto it.” He put the embryonic axe down again. “This’ns right at the start. I’ve done the prayers and the chants for taking her from the mountain, but I’ve not even decided on her name. Look now: you’ve got skill and you’ve had training: I’m thinking that you can help me find a quicker way to turn it out.”
“So you want me to work for you on these bits of rock. Just to turn them into axes. Just to cut things down. And what’s wrong with the men all around you? Can they not already do this for you?”
“The men here? They’re good men, most of them, but they won’t change from the ways they were taught, the ways that have always been used. But I have a fancy that you and I could work together to change some of that. You with your talent and me with mine. You’ve learned things that maybe I can use. When once you’ve seen one of these little things truly finished, you’ll see why we do this. These axes are worth more than jewels, and they’ better than gold or silver. People up and down the land, people who live beside the other seas, east and south, they all want these. Not to cut down trees, and not to cut down their enemies. They want them because they are things of rare beauty. They join the sky and the earth, the earth and the underworld, and they take up the qualities of all of them. You’ll see. I’ll show you every step of what I do. We’ll start with the naming tomorrow. But, look now, it’s slow work. Help me do it faster, better, neater, and together we can get more of these bits of rock out to where they’re wanted.”
She turned and looked at him curiously.
“You sound quite eloquent about it all.” She paused, looked around the room again, assessing the full places and the empty, the tidy parts and the untidy. “Swear to me that I’ll not be harmed by you, and I’ll work on this with you. We’ll see where it goes. But our first job will be to change the way you organise your house.”
He picked up one of his tools, nicked a finger with the sharp edge so that a drop of blood welled out onto the table.
“I do so swear. And yes, change the house however you like. And after all you said today out there in front of everyone, I’ll ask you to share my house, and my table, and my tools, and my plans, and my food. But I’ll not ask you to share my bed, and I’ll come and go as I please without asking you first.”
A shadow of a smile crossed her face. She took the tool from him, drew blood from her own finger, and let it drip onto the little puddle of his.”
“Then let it be so.”
“Danger. Threat. Mate.”
What a great addition to the Rabbit River Saga! Lone Wolf is intense from the very beginning, even before the main characters meet, and that intensity grows throughout the story.
Jesse Wayne is a sexy sweetheart of a man. Throughout the series, his skills, loyalty, and honor, to say nothing of his sense of humor, have heightened every scene he’s in. He’s also achingly vulnerable, but that doesn’t stop him from doing whatever it takes to protect those he cares about.
When the story opens, Jesse is in Mexico, on a mission to save his younger cousin Annabelle. He ends up saving Melissa, more than once. In fact, they save each other. Melissa is American, a down-to-earth, hard-working farmer – something I personally appreciate – who had eagerly seized an opportunity to improve a good friend’s family farm in Mexico. She’s totally unprepared for drug lords, human trafficking, kidnapping, and murder.
It’s a good thing that Jesse is prepared. And he wants Melissa, needs her. From the first, he recognizes her as his mate. But unless they’re mated, he can’t tell her the truth about himself, about the People – and she has questions. How in the world will he convince her to accept him when she knows he’s holding back?
These two have a lot to deal with. There is a sweet tension between them through much of the story. Melissa, especially, struggles with both fear and longing. Jesse, for his part, is battling the Sickness. Even though he knows that being with his true mate can save him, he doesn't want to force the bond. He loves Melissa. But time is running out.
It’s not just the two of them, either. They have to save Annabelle, and they are dealing with very dangerous men. Lone Wolf is packed with action.
The setting -- Elyce de Reefe’s descriptions of the area – makes everything easy to visualize. We, the readers, are there in the Chiapas.
The slow-burn romance is well-paced and satisfying, culminating in an absolutely delicious Moonrise ceremony.
The heartwarming homecoming is a generous bonus.
This story made me smile and sigh. I look forward to spending more time with the Rabbit River pack and hope the next book comes out soon!
Love, not just blood, bound a family. This past year had taught her how badly
some people treated their blood. Nothing could ever destroy the love an actual
family. Their hearts connected them, and those bonds were more robust than
anything in the world.
-- from Not Without a Fight.
Isn’t that beautiful? I am pleased to welcome Rebecca Lange, author of Not
Without a Fight, Plane Crash, and The Heavenly Bodyguards series. Rebecca,
thank you for joining us.
Before we dig into your latest book, won’t you tell us about yourself? I enjoyed
checking out your website and for some reason, I’m particularly interested in a
certain Scottish wedding…
That particular wedding was unique. But first, a little more about myself: I was born and
raised in Northern Germany. My mother’s parents escaped East Germany before the
wall came up, and my dad’s family was already living in West Germany. (In fact, my
grandmother - my dad’s mom - was born in the house she still lives in. She is 92 years
old now.) I love reading, music, writing, acting, watching chick flicks (especially
Christmas romance movies), and sharing funny and uplifting posts on social media. My
husband and I have been married for over 16 years, and we have two boys (15 and 13
years old). We also have a cute little Yorkie.
Now about that “certain Scottish wedding” (this is the short version)… I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Both my husband and I were missionaries for our church. My husband was a missionary in Germany (we didn’t meet, though), and I was a missionary in Scotland.
My husband met a girl from Scotland on his mission. When I went on my mission a few
years later, I met that girl’s mother in Scotland. Right at the beginning of my mission, my
grandfather passed away from cancer. Since that was hard for me, and I was still
struggling with the language, that mother would call her daughter in Germany whenever
I visited her to speak to someone in my language. A friendship developed, that friend
got married right after I came home from Scotland, she invited both my husband and me
to her wedding, and that’s how we met.
That's a very sweet story and a truly lovely way for you and your husband to have met. Lucky you to have stayed in Scotland! I've never met anyone who visited that country and did not love it. How much would you say your travels have influenced your writing?
My first novel, “Heavenly Bodyguards – Trainee in Action,” starts in New York, but most
of the story happens in Scotland. I purposely used Scotland as the setting for my story
because after living there for 19 months, I love that country, the accent, and so many
things, and I used a few of my own experiences as part of the story. I mention the
Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo, and that’s because I was able to go twice. It is such a
cool event, and I was blessed to go both years I was there. I also talk about a castle and
loch ness. Even though I was never able to visit that area as a missionary, my husband
and I went on a trip to Scotland after he returned from his Iraq deployment. We made
sure we saw the highlands as well. It is such a beautiful country.
I am living in Germany right now because my husband works as a civilian for the
military. We also wanted to live closer to my family for a few years. Before we moved to
Germany, we lived in San Diego for 12 years.
I find it interesting that you choose to write in English rather than German, especially when you are living in Germany! What made you decide to do so? Are your books also published in
After serving my mission in Scotland and learning the language (and then living in the
US), I decided to write my books in English since there is a bigger audience for it out
there. I am fluent in both languages and tried to find a literary agent or publisher, but
when I kept getting rejected, I decided to do it independently. Being German comes with
a certain amount of stubbornness, and well, I was blessed with a lot of it. I hope to
publish my books in German one day, but since I have to do everything myself, I don’t
have the time right now. I had friends and relatives ask me to publish my books in
German, but I can only do so much. I used to have an editor, but she had to quit for
personal reasons. Now I am even doing my editing. I know it isn’t as perfect as it would
be with a traditional publisher, but I think it is pretty good considering that English is my
second language, and I am relying on two grammar programs and myself.
From what I’ve read about your books and from your latest one, "Not Without a
Fight", which I’m in the middle of reading, it is clear that while there are plenty of
joyful elements in your books, they are not lightweights. They cover serious
topics. Please, tell us your process, how you choose your topics. Then, I will
leave you free to tell us about Not Without a Fight.
I am pretty passionate about the topics I pick. I have covered abuse and bullying in my
stories, dishonesty, believing and trusting in God, racism, and human trafficking to raise
awareness. I think these things must be discussed even if it isn’t a comfortable topic.
Yes, my books are fiction, and certain issues make a book more dramatic and
suspenseful, but these things happen in real life. The reality of these topics is not fiction.
I addressed spouse abuse, for example, because I have a friend who went through that.
She told me one night what was happening to her and asked me to inform other friends
so they would know what was going on when she had reached the point of getting away
from her husband. He was such a nice guy for everyone to see, but not behind closed
doors. It was interesting to see how people reacted to my email. Most friends were
super supportive and thanked me for letting them know because now they could be
there for her. I did get two replies, however, that surprised and hurt me. They told me it
was not my business to share such details with other people and that I had no right to
get involved. I emailed them back and told them that I had every right since my friend
specifically asked me to do that and that we can’t ignore a problem just because it might
be uncomfortable. I never told my friend about it, but she found out much later and
apologized to me that I had become a target. I told her that she didn’t need to be sorry
and that I hadn’t told her about it so she wouldn’t feel bad. Now, I am not sharing this
because I think I am such a good person. No. I am sharing this to clarify that doing the
right thing isn’t always easy and might even cost us friendships, but we can’t look the
other way when someone is mistreated, especially when that person asks for help.
It must have been a very hard, very painful time -- scary, even. But I agree with you. We cannot turn away from those in need just because it would be easier for us to do so.
Let's talk about "Not Without a Fight". It’s the perfect name for this story, by the
Thank you for thinking it is the perfect name. I was wondering for a while if it was, but I
couldn’t think of anything else. “Not Without A Fight” is a story I originally wrote for
myself. It was a lot different and written in German. When I saw the many posts about
US Marshals rescuing children and women from human trafficking, I felt I should write
about that and research how it was back in the 1800s. The problem has existed for a
very long time; the same goes for spouse abuse. Although it is getting talked about
more often now, we still can do better. Today’s radical feminists like to paint a picture of
men that isn’t true or real. I tried to bring across that evil, but many good men exist, and
we shouldn’t shame the entire gender for the evildoings of a few. I believe that standing
up for our rights is essential. Women in the 1800s had to fight for fairness and better
treatment, but sadly, many feminists nowadays take it to the other extreme and are
demanding to be above men. I don’t condone punishing people for something from the
past that had nothing to do with them.
I am also a believer in romance. While women must know how to stand up for
themselves and can fight their own battles, there are times when we will need help, and
it is not a bad thing. Men and women were created differently for a reason, and we
should celebrate the differences. I believe that men and women can be playful without
being inappropriate. I think friendships between men and women are possible when both
are willing to see it as such. Not every man who is flirtatious and playful has
inappropriate thoughts in his mind. I think we often forget to enjoy life and not take
everything so seriously.
Thank you. That is beautifully expressed and also very interesting, especially considering the characters in the book. I have to say, I find Hazel, the heroine, uncommonly stubborn and opinionated. Wow. Of course, she needs to be strong. Please, tell us more about her. Did you enjoy writing her character?
I may or may not be uncommonly stubborn and opinionated myself. ;) I am not admitting
to anything here, but I like to use some of my character traits to better relate to my
heroine’s. Stubbornness, sass, outspokenness can be a wonderful and even important
thing as long as it is used for the right reasons and not to hurt another person.
I did notice that you have a Christmas novella coming out this holiday season. So exciting!
I hadn’t planned on releasing another book this year, but as I am such a fan of
Christmas and romances and recently have become somewhat of a fan of regency
romances, I thought I would get a little out of my comfort zone and give something new
a try. I don’t want to be known for just one specific genre, but be a bit adventurous.
Clean Young Adult Fiction will be my thing, but I am exploring the sub-genres a little.
The novella is about a young woman who fights her father when he tries to marry her off
to a man twenty years her senior. After a heated argument, he agrees to a compromise.
She has a month to find true love and accept a proposal. Let’s just say this heroine is
another rather strong-willed young lady. ;)
It sounds wonderful! Before we go, is there anything else in the works?
Yes, there is. I have two more novels in the making. One at least should be released in
2021, perhaps both. “Grandfather’s Will” is leaning towards the suspense-thriller genre
with humor, romance, heartbreak, and drama.
Something to look forward to!
Rebecca, thank you for joining us today and for the excerpt from "Not Without A
Fight", which follows.
Thank you for having me. It was an honor to be part of this interview.
Excerpt: NOT WITHOUT A FIGHT
1. This isn't Fair!
“Pa, you wanted to see me?” Hazel asked as she entered her father’s office before stopping in her
Uncle Ted, what are you doing here?” She jumped into her godfather’s arms, and he gave her a loving hug.
“It is so good to see you again, Hazel. You are getting more gorgeous each time I see you,” he said as he ran his hand across her cheek. The young woman blushed and stepped back.
“Ted is here for legal matters. I asked him to put my will together, so my family is looked after in case of my passing.”
“I don’t like it when you talk like that, Pa,” Hazel responded while her beautiful lips turned into a pout.
Her father grinned. “I am not sick, and I am not planning to die. It has to be done, though, and why not now, while I am healthy as a horse?”
“Hilarious, Pa.” Hazel rolled her eyes.
“Let’s sit, shall we?” George pointed to the chairs across his desk, and everyone took a seat. “Ted, I discussed this matter with Helen, and we both agreed that Hazel should be the one who inherits the ranch. I am aware I should leave it to a male heir, but I want Hazel to take over the ranch since I don't have one. She loves this place more than anyone and has been my right-hand helper ever since she learned to walk. She is fair and honest, and I know my family and ranch will be in excellent hands with Hazel in charge.”
“You seriously want me to take over the ranch, Pa?” A beaming smile spread across Hazel’s face, and her eyes lit up like the sky during fireworks.
“We all do. Haven has no interest in running a ranch, and Brenna wants to be a school teacher when she finished school.”
“George, may I say something?” Ted interjected as he scratched his neck uncomfortably.
You never have to ask, my friend.”
“As much as I would love to put Hazel as your heir into the will, it isn’t possible. The law states that a woman can’t own or inherit land or a business. That means any male related to you can fight her on it and would win.”
Hazel let out a frustrated gasp and glanced at her godfather with furrowed brows. “That is unfair!”
It is, I agree, but the way it is.”
“So what am I supposed to do? Sell my land because I don’t have a son?” George crossed his arms, his eyes squinted, a sign that he was not pleased.
“It doesn’t have to be a son, just a male relative or even friend.”
“The only living male relative I have is my younger brother Russell, and he doesn’t care about my ranch.”
“What does Russell do now?”
“He took over my father’s bank in Sacramento. I am sure he would love to get his hands on this place to sell it and make more money. I didn’t work this hard for him to destroy it.”
“Don’t worry, Pa, I won’t let that happen, ever.”
“There isn’t much you can do, Hazel. Once your father passes away, Russell can sue anyone who inherits this place. As the only living male relative, every judge will agree with his case.”
“But I am his closest relation. I am his daughter and should take over the ranch. I can run this place just as well as any man can. Isn’t there anyone we can fight on this? This isn’t right.” Hazel pressed her lips together and squinted her eyes. The smile from before was gone.
George smirked. He was aware of how headstrong and determined the 20-year-old could be.
“It isn’t right, but those who make the laws don’t care about fairness or what’s right.”
“Uncle Russell has no claim to this place. He only visited us once and made it clear what he thought of country-living and running a ranch. There is no way in he…”
“Hazel!” George interrupted with a warning growl in his voice, raising an eyebrow.
Ted turned around, hiding his grin.
“Okay, fine, I won’t say it, but there is no way I will let anyone take the ranch away from us. I am ready to take over the ranch. You taught me how to hunt, shoot a gun, and how to use a knife. I am good at archery. Girl or not, I can run this place.”
“I understand you and your feelings, Hazel. I do,” Ted replied, offering her an understanding smile. “My daughter Marianne is going through a similar situation right now. She wants nothing more than to follow her dad’s and brothers' footsteps in becoming a lawyer. But, no matter how many universities we’ve contacted, the answer is always the same: She can’t do it because she is a woman. Martin and John have tried their hardest to change the law, but this is a men’s world, and women don’t have a say in legal matters.”
“But why won’t they at least give women the chance to do those things? They wouldn’t stop being women by owning land or getting an occupation they love.”
“The most used excuse at the moment is that women aren’t strong enough to do certain things or not smart enough. Overall, they wouldn’t have an issue with one or two women trying out new things. However, they are afraid that more women would want to follow their lead and discover that they are smarter than men want them to believe. They want to keep women where they think they belong: in the kitchen and house. I disagree with that. Marianne is as smart as a whip, and she can out-debate anyone in any circumstance. The same goes for Hazel.”
“We need to fight for our rights then. I am not willing to step back and let my uncle destroy this ranch and sell it to someone who does not understand and appreciate how much hard work Pa and Jackson put into this place.”
“Fighting isn’t as easy as it sounds. I’ve tried suing for discrimination so my daughter would have a fighting chance, but I didn’t even get the case to court. The judges block everything that has to do with women getting more rights.”
“I am not giving up that easily. Hazel still needs to learn about business and management, but hopefully, we will find a way for that. I want her to inherit my ranch, and that’s it.”
Hazel’s eyes lit up again, her facial expression softening. She loved her father more than anyone. He never stood in her way of following her dreams.
George Buchannon and Ted Burton defined genuine friendship. They had grown up on the east coast in the same neighborhood in New Haven, New England, and had gone to the same schools. As a four-year-old boy, George had rescued Ted from drowning one day, after a few older boys had pushed him into a lake. George didn’t know how to swim, but he jumped into the lake, anyway. He held on to a tree branch hanging above the water. He then used his belt as a fishing pole so Ted could grab it, and George could pull him towards the shore and then out of the water. They had been best friends ever since.
George moved west before the big gold rush, even though his father wanted him to get into the bank business and take over his bank. But George had no interest in that. His dream was to own a ranch and live out in the country. Neil Buchannon was close to disowning his oldest son, but his wife reminded him he didn’t want to take over his father’s business either.
When George ended up in the Oregon Territory to follow his dream, his father supported him and moved his family west. They relocated to Sacramento, and Neil Buchannon opened a bank there. Several years later, Russell took over the Buchannon bank. Neil was grateful that he had listened to his wife. She made him realize that family should always come first, and different ideas and passions shouldn’t destroy the loving bonds.
Ted finished his studies at the University of Boston before following George to the west coast. He opened his office as an attorney in Salem and became George’s legal right-hand arm. He always made time for his best friend, no matter how busy he was. When the twins were born, George made Ted Hazel’s godfather.
If you are serious about trying to change the law and make Hazel your heir, we should wait with your will. As of right now, I must put your brother as the one inheriting your ranch. Once written, I have to contact the person who inherits your land. If you don’t want Russell to get his hands on it, it wouldn’t be wise to make it official now.”
“But what if something happens to me before the law changes in favor of women?”
“You can write a note in which you allow me to write your will as discussed, and we can ask Jackson to be a witness and sign it. Your signature is the most important, though.”
“What would happen if I get married before Pa passes away? Can you put me as the heir then?” “Yes, but your husband would get everything and can do what he pleases with this place.”
“Are you serious?” Hazel asked as she clenched her jaw, her eyebrows drawing closer together.
George grinned when he saw the familiar pout return.
“Yes. Until the law changes, even a widow has no rights. A widow can inherit her husband’s land, but as soon as she marries again, everything will fall into her new husband’s hands. She can’t pass on ‘her possessions and property’ to her children unless she has a son. If she dies and has daughters, they will get nothing, and the property and possessions will get auctioned off.”
“Wow. I am appalled. Is there no justice for women?”
“No. Once a woman marries, her husband is in full control and can do with her as he pleases; before that, her father. Many women get beaten and abused by the men in their life, and nobody is there to protect them. The law does nothing on their behalf.”
“So if you aren’t lucky enough to have a wonderful and loving father and later husband, the men in your life can do whatever they want to you?”
“Yes. Most violent fathers marry their daughters off to someone like them, so they will never know the difference.”
“That is horrible. We are human beings too, and should have the same protections and rights as men.”
“I agree you should, but many men don’t think that way and believe that women don’t deserve to be treated as equal.”
“They should reread the bible. God gave Eve to Adam as a helpmeet, not a slave. He created Eve out of Adam’s rib so they could work side by side as equals. Sure, we have different responsibilities and are different in several ways, but Eve completed Adam. We are supposed to be companions to our spouses.”
“You have a great understanding of the scriptures. That might help you change the world; change the thinking of many.” Ted gave her a side-ways hug, and she smiled.
Perhaps her godfather was right. Maybe it was her mission to fight for women's rights and remind everyone that God created men and women, and both are on this earth for a reason. Maybe she was sent to this earth to help people realize that being treated fairly and equally did not mean they were the same. Being different wasn’t bad, but being treated differently because of your race or gender was wrong. Hazel knew she could embrace being a woman and loving her role given and still taking over her father’s ranch. Now she had to make others see it that way too.
“Hazel, you realize it won’t be easy, right? The men out there will not roll out a red carpet, and they will not let you step into their world without a fight.” Haven squeezed Hazel’s hand.
“I am aware of that. I know it will be difficult, perhaps even dangerous, but someone has to step up to the task and change the world, so women and girls get to choose what they want to do in their lives.”
“And why does that someone has to be you? You can’t even vote, Hazel,” her sister interjected while shaking her head.
“So what? Perhaps that will get changed too.” Haven sighed. Her sister was so strong-willed sometimes, it drove her mad.
The Nocturne Falls books -- both the romances and mysteries -- are so fun and funny! We're talking lightest of light, but with so much humour and imagination. Kristen Painter has created a town where vampires, witches, gargoyles, reapers, hobbits, elves, Santa, the Sandman, werewolves, dragons, yetis, and many other mythical/ legendary, um, people mix and mingle. Of course, she puts her own particular twist on all of the legends and makes everything so much fun.
In the Nocturne Falls Mystery series, Jayne, Winter Princess, daughter of Jack Frost and niece of Santa Claus -- I am laughing as I write this -- is sent to Nocturne Falls to look into a problem in one of Santa's workshop toystores. Jayne is great. She's a good person with an elven metabolism, which means she thrives on sweets. The way she eats will have you wanting to dash to the nearest donut shop or bakery. I've been listening to the series and narrator employs a sort of East coast accent -- New Jersey light. It's really cute and makes all of her tart little observations even funnier. But the books are just as enjoyable to read.
Jayne also ends up with a talking cat.
The mysteries aren't hugely mysterious, but they are enough to keep the hilarity going. If you want to take a break and just laugh at the familiar in unfamiliar territory, by all means, try this series.
What an extraordinary book! As a rule, I try not to dwell on the pain and suffering that evil causes. I know it does, and that's enough for me. When I hear mention of demons and hell, I usually push it out of my mind.
JL Rothstein's Atonement doesn't allow the reader to do that. Her guardians - the O'Mara family - experience every sort of agony -- physical, mental, emotional -- as they fight to protect the human race against evil.
In Chapter One, a demon tempts a young woman to kill herself... I won't say more except that from there, the story only gets more intense. Throughout the book, whenever there's rage, violence, or despair, a demon or demons are present. Evil causes terrible discord, something we would all do well to remember.
The demons are terrifying, cruel, and relentless.
But there's also love and laughter. The O'Mara's are a close and wonderful family. They are each just as relentless in their mission(s), as well as brave and prepared to give up their lives for the good of all. But even in this -- and it's the author's special gift -- even though the guardians aren't human, they possess very human traits. They make mistakes. They know love, fear, and pain. They exhibit grief, anger, frustration, and joy.
So, it's not just a story of good versus evil, but a story of family, a story of love. The O'Mara family and their allies are likeable/loveable characters. I was holding my breath through most the book and felt with them every step of the way.
Rothstein shares a generous dose of religious tradition as well as Biblical references. The Four Horsemen from Revelation make an appearance. It's epic. It's violent.
That’s my review. Today, I’m pleased to share my interview with JL Rothstein, the author of Atonement. Welcome, Jen.
I’m so appreciative of the opportunity to come on and talk about the book with you, thank you for having me!
Atonement is the first book in your Heaven Sent series. I have to ask, how in the world did you come up with the story? What was your inspiration?
I dreamt of the character Gabriel, I knew right away he was from Heaven, but that he was trapped and longing for a long lost partner. I tried ignoring it, but the character kept coming back in my dreams and telling me, you need to write my story. I don’t know what I watched on tv or what book I read that led my subconscious mind to have these thoughts. I decided to go with it and started writing. The nine siblings are named after my nieces and nephews. The inspiration for the women, really comes from a mix of my now adult nieces and my own relationship with my two sisters.
You dreamt of him. I’m in awe, and I absolutely love that you named the O’Mara siblings after you nieces and nephews. They must be so proud.
As an author, my peace is disturbed when I have to ponder a sad scene for a week, a day, or an hour. Your story has demons – really scary demons! Did you ever creep your own self out? The way you describe them… from what sort of resources did you pull? Art? Movies? Literature? Sheer imagination?
I have scared myself from time to time. There were a few ideas that didn’t make it into the book. I am reserving them for future stories in this universe, but some of those really kept me awake. I think as a writer you draw inspiration and spark your creativity through a multitude of mediums. I like looking at artwork, I enjoy researching old artifacts (especially things the Vatican keeps hidden) and I’m a fan of fantasy shows/movies like Game of Thrones, Constantine, and the Marvel Universe. All those have supernatural elements, which makes them even more fun and interesting.
Tense as the action can be, I consider Atonement a character-driven story. I like all the good guys and my favorite is Kelly. I love her spunkiness and how much she enjoys life, especially food! Won’t you tell us more about your characters? Do you have a favorite so far?
It’s funny the reaction people have had to the sisters. The first book was Gen’s story, but it’s pretty clear that Kelly made an immediate impression on people. Kelly is just fun to write. I love her toughness, her sarcasm, and her unapologetic nature. I think Kelly is reflective of a lot of our inner voices. I can’t pick a favorite, but I love the strong women in this story, there are not enough stories portraying women like this out there.
I also find Atonement to be very timely. When did you start writing it? How long did it take you to write? I ask because it seems to describe the general atmosphere of 2020. In other words, it feels prophetic. Or do you consider that’s the way the world has always been?
I think prophecy would give me far too much credit. I wrote pieces of this story and a very rough draft years ago. I queried it and it went nowhere because quite honestly it wasn’t good. It needed a lot of work. In 2016 I decided to apply to graduate school and take some Creative Writing courses, I started reading books on writing and a couple of online talks. I went down the path of learning everything I could about the craft of writing. My whole focus was to get better. I ended up re-writing the book, using the first draft more like an outline. When I was done, I sent it out for a professional edit and tried to follow all the advice that the editor gave me.
I think the world has gotten smaller with technology. We are inundated with mostly negative news on a regular basis. It’s hard to get away from the bad, but I suspect it was there all along. 2020 is a year where a lot of things have merged, like a perfect storm. You have a pandemic (never thought I would type that in my lifetime), a contentious environment riddled with politics, and we’re isolated. I just try and stay positive that this is such a low, it can only get better from here.
As I mentioned in my review, I particularly appreciated how whenever there is despair or division, you’ve slipped in a demon or demons. I must assume this is on purpose. Can you tell us a little more about it? What do you think about the concepts of good and evil?
This is fictional, so focusing on evil as a construct, with actual bad guys is entertaining. Perhaps it’s too easy, in truth humanity doesn’t need villains or demons. People have been hurting one another long before the concept of Satan or Hell. I do fear that over time people have less faith. No matter what religion you are, or what God you believe in, having faith can help keep you grounded. Belief and spirituality allow us to think of something bigger than ourselves. This in turn can make us selfless, caring, empathetic. Those are things the world can always use more of.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about Atonement?
Atonement is a book about family, faith, and the power of forgiveness, not just of others, but of ourselves.
I’m so grateful to all those who have read the book, given a review, reached out on social media to talk about the characters. I’m grateful for this space to talk about the story and reach your readers.
Those are themes we all need more of. It’s a wonderful book. I’m eager for the next! Last question – how’s work on the sequel going?
I have a deadline to finish book 2 by October. The editor who reviewed the first book is doing the second book as well. Everything should be done by early 2021. I am hoping that book 2 can launch in March 2021. More to come on social media, if people are interested, they can always reach me on social media or sign up for my newsletter on jlrothstein.com
JL Rothstein, thank you for sharing your time and talent. Looking forward to your future work.
JL Rothstein is a published author. She writes in the Fantasy genre with an affinity for the Supernatural.
Atonement, the first book in the three book series is the fictional story of the O’Mara family, nine siblings sent by Heaven to guard humans against the interference of those in Hell. Along the way the siblings come to realize the violent confrontations and disturbing behavior they encounter can only be overcome if they have trust and faith in one another.
Jennifer was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. She comes from a large Irish family and spent twelve years in Catholic school. Having three siblings herself she understands the challenges, drama, rivalries, and loyalties between siblings.
Jennifer has a BS from Suffolk University and is currently pursuing her MBA in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. She is married and now resides in the western part of the state. Her first novel is launched and she is currently working on the second book in the series, Hellbound.
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Excerpt from ATONEMENT
Gen looked up as the sky shook with thunder and lightning pierced the darkness. A large
reddish-brown glow formed around them, something was coming.
“Get back, go to the tree line, now!” Michael shouted as he ran motioning with his hands.
Gen watched her brothers run toward the trees and followed them. As they got to the relative
safety of the forest, they turned back just as a Hell Fighter and two Hellions arrived in the middle
of the field noticeably pissed at the number of fallen comrades that lay at their feet.
Hell Fighters hadn’t been seen on earth in decades. Gen couldn’t remember the last
time they encountered one.
At least it’s not a newborn, Gen sighed in minor relief. Watching the demon’s somewhat
labored movements she thought, He’s older, he shouldn’t be able to stick around too long.
The demon was set ablaze in Hell fire. His large frame, long arms, and dragon-like head
just a mere outline in a shadow of rolling flame. Once away from Hell, the flame dwindled, and
its skin cooled to a leathery black veined with streaks of red. The Hell Fighter’s blood was made
of venom, cast from those tormented in Hell, it was Hell’s deadliest weapon against Heaven.
The upper level demon’s venom was fatal, even its sweat was enough to cause serious
damage. Newborn Hell Fighters carried the most lethal dose of the venom in their blood,
because the essence of the tortured still lingered. Though the Hell Fighter’s venom was
poisonous, its physical strength faded over time, which meant they couldn’t stay away from the
source that manifested them for very long.
The arrival of a Hell Fighter would typically signal the end of the battle. In most cases a
Guardian would be forced to vacate the scene, but the O’Mara’s had a weapon of their own.
Before the Hell Fighter could make a move, Kelly arrived, taking a stance between the
demons and her siblings. One of the Hellions lunged wildly at Kelly’s head, but she ducked and
the demon’s momentum sent him tumbling across the field behind her. Michael stepped out
from under the treelined covering and stabbed the beast through the ankle, quickly stepping
back away from the animal in case its blood had been tainted by the Hell Fighter. The hideous
beast howled like a rabid animal. Michael’s blade had penetrated all the way through to the
ground, effectively pinning the hound in place.
Kelly threw a knife at the second Hellion’s ear landing a blow that sent the monster to
the ground in a heap. It attempted to gain relief by clawing at the blade, trying to remove it as it
rolled back and forth across the grass. Blood gushed from the dog-like creature’s head and he
squealed as his skin began to burn, puffs of steam wafted above its head.
She must have dipped the blade in Holy water, Gen presumed. Nice touch, Gen thought.
The odds were even now, it would be Kelly one-on-one against the Hell Fighter. The
demon stomped forward taking an enormous swing toward Kelly. She blocked it and then used
the demon’s own momentum against him. Kelly pulled down as the demon’s weight was
propelled forward. The demon fell to one knee and Kelly grabbed onto his neck and swung up
and onto his back, harnessing her legs around his shoulders and tucking her feet under his
arms for stability. The Hell Fighter got back to his feet, grabbing at her twisting and bucking as
he tried to pull her off, but she held on. She threw a katar at the second wounded Hellion’s heart
and its chaotic rolling movements instantly halted.
The pinned Hellion pulled at its leg until it ripped and tore away from the ankle still
tethered to the ground by Michael’s sword. The beast hobbled toward Kelly leaving a bloody trail
behind it. By the time the wounded Hellion reached its master, Kelly had killed the Hell Fighter.
As the Hell Fighter collapsed to the ground, Kelly jumped off the demon kicking the wounded
Hellion lurching toward her. Jumping onto the Hellion’s back, Kelly pulled out a long silver blade
and plunged it into its head, killing it instantly.
Getting to her feet Kelly turned to her siblings. “Sorry, I couldn’t find my stupid boots.”
Kelly’s sweatshirt smoked as the remnants of demon blood soaked through. She swiped hard,
but it would burn through to her skin if she left it on. Though she was immune to the poison, her
“I’m surprised the Hell Fighter didn’t put up more of a fight,” Michael commented.
“What do you mean?” Dan asked.
“Did you notice anything odd when you were engaging it?” Michael asked Kelly but then
didn’t wait for an answer. “It should have been harder to kill. Even though he was obviously
older, he should have put up more of a fight.”
“He was pretty feisty,” Kelly shot back.
Gen interrupted them. “Do you smell that?”
Kelly was quick with a retort. “Yeah, I know, Hell Fighters reek, it’s all over me.” Kelly
attempted to clean the venom off, huffing loudly she finally gave up and pulled the sweatshirt off
tossing it into the burning pile of debris.
“No, not that. It smells like a fire, a real one.” Gen was looking in the direction of the
building. She could no longer see nor feel Deb. “I can’t feel Deb. They didn’t want us walking
toward the building, they wanted us up here. Whatever pulled me here, it’s down there.” Gen
pointed toward the hillside. “This must have been a distraction from the real target!”
“We need to move. Go! Go! Go!” Xavier started running and everyone followed.
Keep me away from the wisdom that does not cry, the philosophy that does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children. – Gibran Khalil Gibran