Lately I’ve been pretty focused on the subject of sequels. Before I started college this last fall I got e-mail from my publisher stating that my sequel for Ancestral Magic (currently named Shadow Magic), didn’t have enough back story. Now I admit, as a woman who enjoys a good fantasy or paranormal book series, nothing irritates me more than feeling like a previous book is being retold in the following one. Fortunately, for my sake and that of my readers would’ve been politely nudging me for the sequel, I finally got over the creative speedbump and now the newest version of Shadow Magic is in the hands of my publisher.
Since then I have been working away on my newest project, National Rebirth, the sequel to my novel that came out last month, Natural Order. It’s crazy hard. It’s been so long since I wrote the first one, I had to really reacquaint myself with the story, and the little details. Timeline was a huge one. The characters, those seem to always remain with me, but setting, dates, even name sometimes, those can be tricky. I found the easiest thing was to become a scholar of the first book, before I even started working on the second. While I have enough back story this time with all slowing the pace? Who knows. But I now have a better respect for the authors I used to be irritated with as I waited for the sequels and continuing sagas of their work.
So for my readers who have enjoyed getting to know the wonderful folks in the community of Green Grove, and who are waiting patiently to revisit there, I invite you to come and get to know the Archiquette family and their newest daughter, Elizabeth.
Here’s a sample of that community from my newly released novel, Natural Order. Elizabeth has recently lost Dusty, the woman she loved, to a violent crime, and now she’s going to live with Dusty’s family in northern Wisconsin. She is pregnant, weighed down by grief, and watching her life seemingly go on without her control. She is currently riding in a truck with Dusty’s brother Orion, a gentle natured Oneida man who has been Elizabeth’s support system since his sister’s death a month ago.
The farmers’ fields were aflame with crimson and gold fire, and the air was crisp and clean, like a fresh canvas for the painted sunset displayed in the early evening sky. Beth watched the farmhouses and grazing livestock disinterestedly as they passed, at times closing her eyes as the cool air stung her face through the open window. The short nap helped, but now the churning in her stomach made sleep difficult. A wall of cold air was preferable to the waves of nausea that seemed to worsen in the enclosed vehicle. Dusty had tried to get her to drink special teas, but there was a part of Beth that never trusted “alternative” remedies. It was one of several things she and Dusty had spent a long time butting heads about early in their relationship, before deciding just to agree to disagree. As the next gut-turning wave hit, she grimaced, wishing she hadn’t eaten all her saltines that morning.
“I picked you up some ginger ale in town today.” Orion jerked a thumb toward the space behind the seat. “It’s back there if you want it. The soda’s warm, but Dad used to make it for Mitexi when she was pregnant, and it always made her feel better.”
Beth looked over at him in surprise. “How did you know I was having morning sickness?”
“I just pay attention, something my father taught me long ago.” Orion flashed her a boyish grin. “Told me the girls like it when you pay attention.”
Beth laughed and reached behind the seat. She found a flat box that held several glass bottles, and retrieved one. She read the label critically, raising an eyebrow. “All natural organic ginger ale. Sounds tasty.”
Orion chuckled at the sarcasm in her voice. “You’ll get used to it. As I’m sure Dusty told you my family runs an organic farm. Free range chickens, wild game, organically grown fruits and veggies, hormone-free milk. We rarely ever eat anything we don’t make ourselves.”
Beth looked at the bottle, and tipped it, the light from the sunset shimmering inside the amber liquid. She moved the soda around and the bubbles fizzled and popped excitedly. It looked normal enough. “Dusty used to drag this sort of food into the house all the time. I never touched the stuff.”
“Think of it as an adventure.” At the raised eyebrow he received in response, Orion smiled. “I promise. It’ll make you feel better.”
Without her typical fallbacks like saltines and toast, the ride was looking to be a miserable one. As sick as she was, Beth was ready to try anything to make the nausea go away. Besides, she told herself, Orion had taken very good care of her these last few weeks. Beth had learned to trust that, even if his ideas often sounded strange, there was wisdom behind the words that came from his young lips. With one more uncertain glance at the bottle, she unscrewed the cap and raised the glass in toast to him. “Bottoms up.”
She took a long drink. It wasn’t as sweet as what she was used to, but had a bite to it that was interesting. She finished the rest and set the empty container next to her on the seat. As they drove, Beth saw houses and barns that were adorned with intricate symbols. Each was unique, but they were all circular in shape. Some were brightly colored, while others were simply black and white. Common symbols caught her eye, but the details were more difficult to make out from a distance. She remembered reading about the use of similar symbols amongst the Pennsylvania Dutch. They were hexes used to ward off evil magic they believed could affect the health of their family and livestock or cause crops to fail. It was a fascinating superstition, but not a practice she was familiar with this far west.
By the time Beth saw the sign for the Fox River, the nausea was fading. She wasn’t willing to give up on modern medicine just yet, but this time there seemed to be some credence to “traditional” remedies after all. Whether or not she was ready for the full organic experience, Beth got the feeling that over the next few months things were going to be very different. They drove over the Fox River Bridge, speeding past cables that hung down from the steel arch. It reminded her of bars on a birdcage. Looking away from the cables, Beth’s gaze fell to the river below. “Dusty said you all live close to the river. Must be nice.”
“Sometimes.” Orion opened a small rectangular tin with one hand and threw a white mint into his mouth. “But you have to be careful where you fish or swim. There are people trying to clean up the river, but some of the local factories spent several decades screwing it up. Gonna take a lot of work to heal the damage they did to the water.”
He offered her a mint, and she shook her head. Beth remembered Dusty liked those things but they had always been too strong for her. “Heal? Now you sound like Dusty. You talk about the river as if it had been burned or cut, as if it was a real person or something.”
“The river is a living thing.” Orion’s eyes remained on the road, but a deep sadness crept into them. He spoke with great reverence and love. “She’s timeless in her beauty and strength. Without her, none of us can survive. She is sacred to my people, Beth, sacred to anyone who hasn’t forgotten how to listen to the land.”
Beth was uncertain how to respond to this, so she turned back to the open window and watched as the truck turned up a long, dirt road. In many ways, Orion was like Dusty. They both took their beliefs to heart, and it permeated every part of them. Beth envied that conviction. What did she really believe in?