Dec 26, 2012

Cheers

     The New Year's Resolution. Why?
     Don't let the confetti distract you. It's a subversive plot.
     Oh yes, yes it is. Have a seat.

     Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there were two agents of Misery. Stress and Strife were their names, and they were very good at their jobs. Times were simpler. They broke the flint knives of hunters/gatherers, back-drafted hearth fires filling caves with smoke, and propagated mildew on food stores, but it was a simpler time and they were not overworked. They enjoyed a comfortable run for a long time.
     Our world grew and evolved though, and Stress and Strife had to organize and recruit assistance or give up earned vacation time. They formed a networking effort of global proportions and employed covert agents everywhere. The agents headed their own departments and were charged with specific tasks. One agent, for example, oversaw havoc in the medical field. This encompassed everything from lowering the accepted age of colonoscopies to flossing to HDL/LDL imbalance. Another was charged with retailing, and instructed underlings to periodically and without warning alter measurements of clothing industry size standards. Yet another was responsible for the financial world and their subordinates hid fees and bounced checks.
     The departments worked like a well-oiled machine to year-end culmination of widespread unhappiness, hypertension, and insomnia. December. The most glorious time of the year for Stress and Strife.
     Except ... it all ended every year at midnight on Christmas Day. Christmas night demarcates the DMZ (de-miseried zone), and Stress and Strife's archenemies, Peace and Relaxation, take over. The entire week between Christmas and New Year's Eve belongs to them, and Stress and Strife must watch from the sidelines. Joy, Mirth, and Unflappable assist Peace and Relaxation to hold the enemy at bay. All week, year after year, decade after decade.

     This week had long been a thorn in Stress and Strife's side. They sought to reclaim this lost territory, and the subject came up often. Emergency meetings were frequently called with only the one item on the agenda (which was good, because Robert hated Stress and Strife and forbid them to use his rules).
     At one such meeting the department heads mulled the same old ideas. The December 26th sales never managed to pack the wallop as Black Friday. Impatient suggested having the stores open at midnight, but that tactic was back-firing on Thanksgiving, and Hesitation was reluctant to go there.
     They puzzled and discussed but a solution continued to elude them. Just as the consensus was reached again they'd have to accept defeat this one week a year, Anxiety had a brilliant idea.
     "What if," she proposed, thinking aloud, "what if, somehow, we got people worrying about things that hadn't even gone wrong yet?"
     "What do you mean?" asked Suspicion and Skepticism simultaneously.
     "Well .. we can't make them participate in the misery of life this week, but maybe we can get them worrying about next week. .. make people think about it, and by just thinking about it, in fact, screw up their week .....yes! Yes! With the right marketing we can even get them to look forward to it! Plan to participate in said misery!" Anxiety was so excited she could hardly get the idea out.
     Well, everyone around the table was speechless (in fact, Rumor has it Anxiety got a big promotion that day).
     Obsessed was quick to see where Anxiety was headed and began making lists.
     Fret had logistical concerns. A lot.
     Clutter saw the marketing opportunities; noisemakers, champagne, dumb hats. Balls, pennies, and shoes dropping all at the same time.
     Resolve jumped in and asked, "Yeah, but how do we get them to do it?"
     "That's your department," Lazy said.
     And the New Year's Resolution was born.









original post 12-31-2010

Dec 23, 2012

Star of Wonder, Star of Night



Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright

Westward leading, still proceeding

Guide us to Thy perfect light

 The Star  
In this breathtaking photograph, Dara Hurt captured 
the star's beauty on a soft winter evening.



    The Älvkors, or Elf Cross, featured in The Keeper and the Rune Stone, is not the only star in the Camden Hills. Each Christmas season a star is mounted on the turret atop Mount Battie in Camden Hills State Park. The star is lit the evening after Thanksgiving and remains erected and lit each night until New Years Day. Bob Oxton climbs Mount Battie each night and starts the generator which illuminates the star. Neither rain, sleet, or snow have thwarted Bob - he's not missed a night in 40+ years. 



To see other pieces of Dara's amazing work:

Dara Hurt

contact: ladyblue12@yahoo.com








Dec 10, 2012

The Keeper and the Rune Stone




video


The Keeper and the Rune Stone
on YouTube


Available for Kindle and Nook, iTunes, and in paperback.

Gift the adventure today. Free apps for all their devices.






Nov 30, 2012

Show Someone You Care






Gift an e-book. It's cheaper than a greeting card. 


Birthday? Christmas? Hanukkah? 

A pleasant surprise to brighten a glum day?

Gift an e-book, and choose the delivery date for the occasion.

Click the button, enter their  e-mail, voila! 

A moment's thoughtfulness delivers hours of joy! 

<>

Amazon has the free apps for computers, phones, and most devices! 


Getting a Kindle for your favorite juvenile reader? 



Nov 28, 2012

The Alabaster Chalice





Prologue

Restless, Motte shifted from one leg to the other, her talons gouging the granite as she settled on the pediment.
The Ley Lines sang to her. They sang of what had been, what was, and what was yet to be. Songs, older than time, of love, joy, and loss, dwelled in Motte’s heart, and she recognized what had been prophesied had come to pass.
He’d bonded with the child. It was foretold, and so it would be.

Teaser 


Illustration by Thomas Block

Nov 7, 2012

The Winner of the YA Mythology Giveaway Hop....

is ...  Ryan!

Thanks to everyone who participated !

Nov 2, 2012

The Magnificent Map


Thomas Block created this illustration for 
the first book of The Black Ledge Series.

 Camden, Maine as seen by those aware of the Realm.  


               

-click image to enlarge-



ABOUT THE ARTIST:


Tom holds a degree in art education from the University of Southern Maine and was an art teacher in mid coast Maine for over 37 years. He has exhibited watercolors, sculpture, oils and mixed media in various locations through out New England. Tom's most recent book illustrations includes, Togus, A Coon Cat Finds a Home by Don Carrigan and Baxter in the Blaine House by Paula Benoit.









*Photo by Dara Hurt







Nov 1, 2012

The Winner of the 2012 Spooktacular Giveaway Hop is....

... Sarah !


Thanks to everyone who participated !  That was fun!

Book One


The Black Ledge Series

The secrets of the Red Paint People have haunted Maine for 7000 years. From the vast fjords of Norway to the shores of New England, ancient standing stones mark a trail of betrayal, greed, and murder.

  The Keeper and the Rune Stone 


An unholy ritual, a ticking clock. Four children discover there are things that go bump in the night ...

Centuries ago a group of Elves committed an unholy ritual. But the ritual was a spectacular failure. It transformed the Elves into the Noctivagi - the beings we know as vampires.

Striving to maintain a fragile peace, the ancient Elves and Dwarves negotiated an Accord, which they've renewed every year on the Summer Solstice. The ceremony depends on the magical Rune Stone, but it's missing. If it is not found—and quickly—the consequences could be dire, and not just for Elves and Dwarves.

Four children, Rob, Jack, Eleanor, and Flora, stumble into a world of magic and mayhem when they move into Black Ledge, the old estate on the Maine coast, and discover
they aren’t the only ones who live there.







"something wicked is going to happen.." EAD

"Hell, yes" KZF

"cracking tale of mystery and adventure" JBW

"Basically, I loved this" MF

Boo!

Oct 26, 2012

A Good Scare for a Great Cause


A Good Scare for a Great Cause

This time of year, who doesn’t love a great, chilling ghost story? This year, five mystery/thriller authors have come together to fill that need for hungry readers – All in the name of a good cause. Authors Susan Russo Anderson, DV Berkom, Jen Blood, Joanne Sydney Lessner, and Wayne Zurl have each contributed a ghostly/paranormal short featuring their respective series’ detectives, with 100% of their profits donated to the non-profit organization Doctors Without Borders.

For just $1.99, you get plenty of quality chills and thrills… And the knowledge that your hard-won dollars are going to a great cause. To whet your appetite, here’s a snippet from SERIAL SLEUTHS, Volume 1: Haunted.

The following excerpt is taken from DV Berkom’s short story Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, featuring the heroine of her bestselling Kate Jones thrillers.

I chose a table near the front of the restaurant and ordered a cup of coffee with cream and a plate of fry bread. One of the owners, Luci, came by with a full pot of coffee. Her long, dark hair pulled back in a thick ponytail, she wore a distinctive, silver squash-blossom necklace with earrings to match. Two men, locals judging by their familiarity with Luci, sat at an adjacent table, with a cup of coffee and a piece of pie in front of them. One wore a bright yellow ball cap, while the other had placed his red one on the table in front of him. They appeared to be friendly types, so I asked the guy with the yellow cap if he was from around there.

He smiled as he took a leisurely sip of his coffee. “Yep. Lived here all my life. Gary here has, too,” he said, as he nodded at his companion. “Where're you from?”

“Durm. I guide Jeep tours down the way.”

Yellow Cap appeared to ponder this as he took a bite of pie. “What're you doin' in this neck of the woods, you don't mind my asking?”

“Not at all,” I replied. Luci placed a plate of fragrant fry bread and a squeeze bottle of honey in front of me. My mouth watered as I cut into the warm, doughy goodness and wolfed down a bite. “I'm looking for a friend, Rana Celik. She mentioned she was in Hok'ee the last time I heard from her.”

Yellow Cap frowned and looked at the other guy. “What's she look like?”

“Around five-four, medium build with dark hair, brown eyes, and a Turkish accent. She would have been with a guy named Tony,” I added with a smile. I didn't know if these guys were friends of Tony's, and didn't want to tip them off I was worried.

Gary sat forward in his chair. “Yeah, there was a couple here two days ago. The woman matches your description. Turkish, huh?” I nodded and he continued. “They picked up supplies at the grocery store. Said they were going camping.”

“Did they say where?” Two days. I'd have to step up my game to find Rana before the trail went cold.

“Nope. But he had some weird ass things for a camping trip in the back of his pickup. Witchy stuff, if you ask me.”

“Witchy stuff?” I shifted uneasily in my chair.

“You know, stuff for ceremonies an' shit. He asked if Manny had any blood from a hog he just butchered. When he said no, the guy got pissed off and stormed out of the store. Your friend apologized for him and followed him out.”

“He Navajo?” Yellow Cap asked his friend.

“Nah. A wannabe, maybe. I never seen him around.”

“What kind of ceremony?” I had a bad feeling about Tony's quest for blood.

Gary glanced at Yellow Cap and shrugged. “It's probably nothin’.”

Yellow Cap seemed particularly interested in the last bite of his pie. Luci walked over with the coffee and freshened everyone's cup.

“He's talking about yee naaldlooshii. A Skinwalker,” she said.

Yellow Cap cleared his throat.

“Aren't they like shapeshifters?” I asked, ignoring his apparent attempt to silence Luci.

Luci nodded and set the coffee pot on the table. “Usually coyotes, but they can turn into any animal. I've heard they can even take over another person's body. Only thing is,” she glanced at the two men at the table. “To become a Skinwalker, you have to be initiated.”

“Which means,” I prompted.

She took a deep breath before continuing. “Which means your friend is probably in danger. In order to gain power, they're supposed to kill someone close to them.”


Celebrate the Halloween season by picking up your copy of SERIAL SLEUTHS, Volume 1: Haunted on Amazon for just $1.99!

Oct 12, 2012

Illustration Teaser

         Thomas Block has created a magnificent illustration for 
The Keeper and the Rune Stone, and it's time to reveal a tiny peek of his magic.  


Are you ready?  (scroll down)




















We are very excited!  Thank you, Tom!



ABOUT THE ARTIST:



Tom holds a degree in art education from the University of Southern Maine and was an art teacher in mid coast Maine for over 37 years. He has exhibited watercolors, sculpture, oils and mixed media in various locations through out New England. Tom's most recent book illustrations includes, Togus, A Coon Cat Finds a Home by Don Carrigan and Baxter in the Blaine House by Paula Benoit.



*Photo by Dara Hurt






Aug 22, 2012

Aldermere Achievers in The Belted Galloway Journal





     The digital edition of the Belted Galloway Journal is out, and the Aldermere Achievers' trip to the North American International Livestock Expo (NAILE) in Louisville was spotlighted in the feature article.


    The trip was an experience these kids (and their parents) will never forget.  Again, thank you to Ron Howard, Heidi Baker, everyone at Aldermere Farm, the Belted Galloway Society, and friends, family, and supporters who made this happen.  



For more about this spectacular trip:  



 

Aug 9, 2012

Ode to the Crow





"As a group, crows show remarkable examples of intelligence. Certain species top the avian IQ scale.[8] Wild hooded crows in Israel have learned to use bread crumbs for bait-fishing.[9] Crows will engage in a kind of mid-air jousting, or air-"chicken" to establish pecking order. Crows have been found to engage in feats such as sports,[10] tool use, the ability to hide and store food across seasons, episodic-like memory, and the ability to use individual experience in predicting the behavior of environmental conspecifics.[11]

Research has found some crow species capable not only of tool use but of tool construction as well.[2] One species, the New Caledonian Crow, has also been intensively studied recently because of its ability to manufacture and use its own tools in the day-to-day search for food. These tools include "knives" cut from stiff leaves and stiff stalks of grass.[12] Another skill involves dropping tough nuts into a trafficked street and waiting for a car to crush them open.[13][14] On October 5, 2007, researchers from the University of Oxford, England presented data acquired by mounting tiny video cameras on the tails of New Caledonian Crows. It turned out that they use a larger variety of tools than previously known, plucking, smoothing, and bending twigs and grass stems to procure a variety of foodstuffs.[15][16] Crows in Queensland, Australia have learned how to eat the toxic cane toad by flipping the cane toad on its back and violently stabbing the throat where the skin is thinner, allowing the crow to access the non-toxic innards; their long beaks ensure that all of the innards can be removed.[17][18]

Recent research suggests that crows have the ability to recognize one individual human from another by facial features.[19]


Crows are now considered to be among the world's most intelligent animals."

Aug 2, 2012

Taking Wing







  

   Pig Wing Press will release the first book of The Black Ledge Series, The Keeper and the Rune Stone, in October 2012.






Jul 2, 2012

A Question Meme from All the Blue-Eyed Angels Heroine Erin Solomon.







Jen Blood is author of the Amazon bestselling mystery All the Blue-Eyed Angels, the sequel of which will be released this week!! She is a social media and online marketing strategist for Gauss Media, and runs the popular mystery website, http://bloodwrites.com/. All the Blue-Eyed Angels will be Free! on July 3rd and 4th, in celebration of the release of the second book in the series, Sins of the Father. Be sure to download your copy!

From Jen:   
     In my Erin Solomon mysteries, Erin is a tough investigative journalist who will do just about anything to get answers to the one mystery that has plagued her most of her life: What happened to the Payson Church of Tomorrow, the fundamentalist church she was raised in for the first nine years of her life, until the entire congregation—with the exception of Erin and her father—was killed in a fatal fire in 1990. She tackles that question head-on in the first novel in the series, All the Blue-Eyed Angels, and then continues her quest to learn more about her father’s shadowy history in the second book in the series, Sins of the Father.
      For this month’s blog tour, however, I wanted to look at the lighter side of Erin Solomon. Because there is one, believe it or not. Fans will tell you she’s really pretty funny—even when she’s facing death and destruction—and one of the things I love best about her is just how rooted in pop culture she is. So, what better way to demonstrate that than with a series of question memes Erin and her cohorts will be answering all month long? Here, then, is the first meme from Erin. 



To: diggs@downeastdailytribune.com, jjuarez@dc.fbi.gov

Subject: Vital research info

Meme!

So, something you may not know about me, Juarez, is my deep and abiding love for question memes—those viral Q&As you see all over the worldwide web. Diggs has come to accept this about me… If you want to stick around in any capacity at all, you’ll have to do the same, my friend. I have a couple of rules with them (mostly for Diggs, who really sucked at this whole thing when we first started):

  1. Witty/smartass responses are acceptable, but you still have to answer the question. No passes allowed.
  2. No bitching about what a waste of time they are. Everybody knows they’re a waste of time. That’s why we love them.
  3. Lies are strictly prohibited.
 So, with all that in mind… Here’s the latest meme I found, with my answers to get the ball rolling. Feel free to forward to whomever you please. Talk to you soon, fellas! 

  1. How old do you look?
    Exactly as old as I am.
  2. Where do you live?
    At the moment? Taking care of my mother’s place in Portland, ME
  3. Are you waiting for something?
    I’m always waiting for something.
  4. What’s one pet peeve of yours that is not common?
    That sixty seconds you have to wait between taking the ice cream out of the freezer and the point at which it’s melty enough to eat.
  5. Do you want/have kids?
    I have a dog. He’s plenty, thanks.
  6. Have you ever thought about converting your religion?
    Buddhism always seems like a nice idea. Everybody’s so calm—they’d probably kick me out within a week.
  7. Last shocking news you heard?
    “We think your dad was a serial killer.” That was pretty shocking.
  8. What was the last thing you drank?
    Coffee. Last, first, and in between.
  9. Who do you most look like in your family?
    My mother. Or so I’m told—I don’t see it, personally. (shut up, Diggs)
  10. If you could have something right now, anything, what would it be?
    Aside from world peace or a night with Clooney? Figuring out what happened to my dad would be pretty good.
  11. Where does most of your family live?
    Mother: Maine. Father: ? Grandfather: Maine. Everyone else: ?
  12. Where did you grow up?
    Littlehope. The name says it all.
  13. Where do you want to go on vacation?
    Back to Italy, I think. Juarez, get on that, would you?
  14. Have you ever had a panic attack?
    Diggs? You wanna field that one?
  15. What can’t you wait for?
    The question is, What can I wait for? I’m not the most patient person on the planet.
  16. Who is the last person you told you love them and meant it?
    Einstein. And I always mean it. J
  17. Have your parents ever smoked pot?
    No idea. Kat—Probably not. Booze was always her drug of choice. Dad? I would have said no way a few months ago. Now? No clue.
  18. Want someone back in your life?
    Dad.
  19. What do you order at the bar?
    Whatever I damn well please.
  20. When was the last time you cried really, really hard?
    Littlehope’s mental meltdown comes to mind.
  21. Ever licked someone’s cheek?
    Who hasn’t?
  22. What is your favorite thing to eat with peanut butter?
    Ice cream.
  23. Where were you on July 4th, 2008?
    Gawd. 2008? Was that the year of that awful patriot’s cruise in Boston Harbor, Diggs? Your ex, my ex, a boatload of tequila… Where’s a good blackout when you really need one?
  24. What are your nicknames?
    Sol, Solomon
  25. If you could go back in time, how far back would you go?
    The ‘20s. Dorothy Parker, the Round Table, all the best clothes… Definitely the ‘20s.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Links:







Jun 19, 2012

We Need a Cartographer






Thinking about a map to include in the beginning of 
The Keeper and the Rune Stone,
Book I of The Black Ledge Series.  

Great fun, but as you can see, we need a cartographer.  

Jun 6, 2012

Interview of Jen Blood, Author of the Erin Solomon Mystery Series




 Jen Blood is a freelance writer and editor, Social Media Strategist at Gauss Media, and author of the mystery ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS, the first novel in the Erin Solomon series. The second novel in this page-turner series will be out at the end of June. I can hardly wait.  

All the Blue-Eyed Angels is Free this Wednesday and Thursday. 
 Do yourself a favor and download this page-turner!  


Your book is set on the coast of Maine, and an island in Penobscot Bay. Have you lived on an island in the Bay?

I worked for Outward Bound for a long time, so I spent tons of time on Hurricane Island and have wonderful memories of my time out there. For those who don't know, Hurricane is an island about ten miles off the Rockland/Thomaston coast, and for years it was the go-to site for all things Outward Bound around here. I also spent some time out on Monhegan and Vinalhaven, and lived for a year out on Peak's Island. In ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS, Payson Isle is kind of an amalgamation of a few islands locally: Friendship Long Island, Hurricane, and Monhegan chief among them.

I love the insular feel of island living, how genuinely weird islanders are -- it seems to be a prerequisite that you have to be a little off kilter to choose living somewhere one can only access by boat -- and of course I love being surrounded by the ocean. It's a good way of life, all things considered.

How many books do you plan with Erin Solomon and Stein?

I have eight books planned in the Erin Solomon "arc," following the story of Erin's quest to learn the truth about her father and to put the final pieces together about the deaths out on Payson Isle. I also have at least one Diggs & Solomon novella planned outside that arc -- a noir prequel told from Diggs' perspective that takes place the first summer he and Erin "hooked up," in the course of their complicated history.

Erin chases truth for fun. What does Jen do for fun?

I write about Erin chasing the truth! What could be more fun than that?! J When I'm not writing, though, I love the outdoors and can usually be found hiking or biking with my dogs. I have a big geek streak, and get far too invested in my favorite TV shows (I'm so not that girl with no TV -- I always admire those people, but I'm just not one of them). I also run a website for mystery/thriller readers and writers (http://bloodwrites.com/), so I read a lot within the genre and review books for my site and for Awesome Indies. All things considered, it's a pretty fun life. Busy, true, but I have no complaints.

What inspired this mystery?

It started with the character of Erin Solomon -- though she was initially Anna Solomon, until I found out there's a fairly well established author by that name. I was listening to singer/songwriter Ellis Paul's album "Translucent Soul" obsessively at the time, which he wrote while he was going through a divorce. It's a very introspective, melancholy album, and suddenly Erin started whispering in my ear. At the same time, I was reading Laurie King's A DARKER PLACE, about a theologian whose husband and daughter are killed in a cult suicide. From there everything just kind of gelled and suddenly (ten years later) I had ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS.

Your beginnings in writing? Honing your craft?

My mom saved the first story I ever wrote (actually, I dictated it to her), which goes like this:
Once there was a girl named Jenny May. She had my blue eyes and my blonde hair and my tuna fish sandwich.

I was three at the time. My mom was convinced I was a genius, of course; I blame my obsession with the written word for the next thirty-five years on my parents' unbridled enthusiasm when I was a tot. I was super shy in elementary school, and definitely lived vicariously through my characters when I was younger. I didn't write as much in high school because I started doing theatre and really came out of my shell at that point, but at the end of the day always found myself coming back to my notebook to write down my thoughts. I find it hard to really figure out how I feel about anything if I don't have a little time to set it down on the page and sit with it for a while.

So...I picked up writing again after high school, then went to Goddard College and got my BA in Liberal Arts as a Creative Writing major, and went on to the University of Southern Maine to earn my MFA in Creative Writing/Popular Fiction. As for honing the craft, I think that's an ongoing process -- grad school really helped, because I had an opportunity to workshop with some phenomenal authors. I'm gonna strut my geek cred a little more here by saying that, in all honesty, a lot of what I learned about putting a story together came by writing fanfiction, which I still do whenever I find the time (though that’s honestly pretty rare at this point). It’s a great opportunity to play around with structure, figure out my own rhythm, and learn a little about producing content on (largely self-imposed) deadlines.

I also have an AWESOME writing group filled with some phenomenal writers who are very generous about giving honest feedback. At the end of the day, though, I think honing the craft is all about writing as much as possible and then forcing your work on whatever poor souls will read it and provide some insight until you're ready to actually start selling your stuff.

The marionettes are a fabulous macabre detail - what inspired them?


I love the marionettes, they just give me chills every time I think of them! I was initially pulled into the idea when I saw these dolls made by the Amish when I was living in Kentucky. They were beautifully made, but there was still a certain creep factor – mostly because dolls always kind of give me the creeps. I did some research and found that a number of communes and smaller religious groups rely on custom-made crafts as a source of income, so from there I started thinking about how the Paysons would make their living. I did a little more research and found this fabulously macabre angel marionette online, and that was it – from that point on, I had my image. At some point I want to actually do some kind of mock magazine cover featuring one of those actual marionettes – charred, of course. Hmm. That’s not weird, right? 


You might be asking the wrong person, Jen.  Thank you so much for sharing this with us.  I can't wait for Book Two to be released!


Jen’s website: http://bloodwrites.com/
Erin Solomon website: http://erinsolomon.com/

ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS on Amazon:  HERE

(Regularly $2.99 – FREE Wednesday and Thursday)  




May 24, 2012

Excerpt, UnattendeAd





Excerpt, Unattendead:



     “WHO ran over my ROSE BUSH?” Mrs. Eikenbury’s voice thundered up the stairs.
      Dell looked at Miles.“Uh-oh.”
      Miles grinned. “She has a big voice for such a small woman.” Then added, “It’s all about projection.”
      Dell went out to the landing and called down to her mother, “Someone looking for Dad. I think it has to do with the body in the carriage house.”
     “There’s a body in the carriage house?” Mrs. Eikenbury asked, calmer. Everyone in the family knew what that meant.
     “Yep. Dad should be home soon. He had a removal at Endaline, but he didn’t think he’d be long.” 
     “Alright. I’m going to start dinner. Damn. I loved that rose bush. This was its best year yet. It isn’t easy getting Rosa Wandering Jew established.”


May 4, 2012

An Interview with Vernon Baker, Dreams and Beaujolais

       

     When I learned of Vernon Baker's plans to release his second book, The Arimathean, I began pestering him for an interview. I wanted a hint of what might be coming as it had been almost ten months since the release of Slow Boat to Purgatory, the first book in the series. He returned to Maine after spending the winter in Florida, and I finally pinned him down. He sent me an e-mail stating Saturday would be good for him if I was available.
I was.
Saturday was the sort of day you don't waste if you live on the Maine coast. Chilly, but starkly gorgeous. A perfect day to head up the coast of Penobscot Bay to Belfast.
I turned off Route One and followed a narrow road along the shore for a few miles. His directions led to a winding gravel road which made its way down toward the water. I rounded a bend and his home came into view. Though I'd never visited the house, something, a disconnected and fleeting memory, nagged. The place seemed familiar, though I had never been here before.
I parked, and walked toward the house. Just as I stepped onto the porch I looked out over the water, and it hit me. This was just like Randolph Donovan's home as Vernon had described in Slow Boat to Purgatory. The gravel drive. The house. The view down the Bay. Easy to see where he drew his inspiration.
A note was taped to the door. It read:
     
Come in.  
I needed something from the boat.  
Make yourself comfortable in the library. 
I will join you shortly. 


        I peeked through the wavy glass beside the door and knocked, anyway.  No answer. I opened the door and entered a foyer, dimly lit by streaks of sun from large windows and French doors on the opposite side of the house. It was quiet. Where were his wife and kids? To my right a doorway revealed the dining room. On my left a hall led deeper into the house. Hoping it led to the library, I headed down the shadowy corridor. A worn oriental runner in soft, rich colors muffled my footfalls. I poked my head in a few open doors, and tried one closed one. A set of stairs descended to darkness. I closed it quickly and passed by the other closed doors. Finally, on my right, I came upon a tall set of doors, the type that slide into the walls. They were cracked just enough for me to slide through.
I did, but stopped when I turned and faced the room. Shelves of books, there had to be thousands, covered the walls. The rows of books stretched upward from the floor to a ceiling at least twenty feet in height. Many of the books were old, the leather covers cracked and colored by age. Déjà Vu again caressed the furthest reaches of my mind, and my eyes moved to a certain section of the shelving. Placed beside it, as if on purpose, the rolling library ladder beckoned. Before I realized what I was doing I moved to the ladder and climbed. Both hands gripped the stringers as I scanned the book titles, searching, searching ... and then they fell on the one I sought. I'm not sure I breathed for several moments while I stood staring at the leather spine of Lolita, by Nabokov. 
Could it be? Was this actually the book that hid the secret space, hidden within the old walls of the library, Vernon had written about?
I closed my eyes. This was silly. I was here to interview my friend and fellow writer. Of course he drew his inspiration from his surroundings. I laughed at the ridiculous notion that came unbidden, the feeling I had fallen into some crack in reality and was floating through the pages of his book.
I climbed back down the ladder. 
Still, it was hard to turn my back without knowing what was hidden behind the Nabakov. The empty space I was sure was there seemed to call to me.
I turned myself from it, and noticed, for the first time, a large wooden desk positioned before a set of windows partially obscured by heavy curtains. Stacks of paper, multi-colored folders, what looked like the printed pages of a manuscript, neatly arranged across the desk top, sat alongside an antique letter opener and a small magnifying glass. An ornate ashtray inlaid with mother of pearl sat along the right edge of the desk, an unlit but half-finished cigar balanced along its edge. The image of Vernon with his cigar made me smile, and then I noticed the two large crystal wine glasses, both half-full of a dark, ruby-red liquid, and my smile grew. He wouldn’t be long.
I stepped toward the window to see if he was on his way up, and froze. 
Someone sat in the large wingback chair facing the desk.
The back of the chair faced me but I could clearly see the top of a man’s head, his hair a golden brown, and his left hand resting on the arm of the old wingback.
Welts and scars crisscrossed the hand, and a dark silver ring adorned the man’s wedding finger. It covered the entire length of his finger from the knuckle to the hand. Along the top of the ring was a white stone of some kind, and set into that stone was a luminescent cross, a red cross.
The hand rose from the arm of the chair and gestured. The man wanted me to sit behind Vernon’s desk.
Slowly, I moved toward the desk, never taking my eyes from the wingback. The man’s legs came into view. A pair of boots made of worn brown leather, which reached his knees, were evenly spaced on the floor. As I moved closer I saw a large floppy hat on his lap, and when I reached the edge of the desk I was able to see the side of his face.
He faced the window, not me, and sunlight fell on the strong lines of his jaw, his cheek, and forehead. Long flowing hair fell below his shoulders, and softened the planes of his profile.  
I reached for the edge of the desk and gripped the cool wood, reassuring myself that it, this room, and the man sitting in the chair, existed.
No sooner had that thought occurred when the man turned to me. “Hello, Paige.”
Sweet Jesus. He did exist. 
His eyes bored into me, dark pools of mesmerizing intensity. It was as if I were falling into them. I resisted the urge to move closer, to peer deeper. They beckoned as if doorways to secrets and places I desperately wanted to pursue. It unnerved me.
Until he smiled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, finally. Have a seat behind the desk. We have much to talk about.”
I kept my eyes on him as I moved to the chair, a simple wooden swivel office chair, and sat. Using my notepad as an excuse, I placed it in front of me and pulled myself from his gaze. I pretended to study the list of questions for a moment, but my composure was blown. When I looked up, the man's bemused smile revealed he knew it, too. 
"Vernon has been called away for a bit. A mutual friend of ours had some stories that needed telling. I told Vernon I would stand in for him. Besides...he said you’ve been dying to meet me.”
I pinched myself in the upper leg. 
He laughed then, a melodic rumbling that started somewhere deep within him and echoed off the walls of books. It was the most beautiful laugh I’d ever heard. It pulled me from my wonderment and I smiled.
“That’s better. Now, you came to do an interview, to hear what Vernon has up his sleeve, to talk about The Arimathean. I believe I can help you with that.”
I took a deep breath, flipped over my page of notes to a fresh blank page and began.
“Who are you?”
Again, he laughed. “Really, Paige? I think you know the answer to that, but I’ll play along. My name is Arnaud Tousseau. At least that is the name I’ve used for the last seventy years. My real name, the name I was born with many years ago, is Gaspar de Rouse.”
At the sound of that name I accepted that I had, in fact, crossed over a plane of mortal existence and entered a world beyond my understanding. Either that, or I was fast asleep in my bed dreaming the most vivid and life like vision of my life.
“Or perhaps, a combination of both,” he said.
“You’re reading my mind.” How could this be a dream?
“Of course I’m reading your mind, and perhaps you are dreaming. Would that make this any less real? What do you actually know of dreams? Do you know what they are and can be, who uses them as portals into the minds of men?”
He stood. He was tall, the long jacket he wore almost touched the floor. He reached across the table and pushed one of the wine glasses toward me, lifted the other, and gently touched the glasses together. The haunting peal of tiny crystal bells floated away across the room.
“Here’s to dreams, and the beings who inhabit them.”
He took a drink, gave me a wink, and sat again.
“I have so many things I want to ask you. I don’t know where to start. I wasn’t prepared. For you.”
“Ask me about wine.”
“Wine?”
“Yes. You love wine. We have that in common although I think your love of Beaujolais could be better placed.”
I smiled. Vernon hates Beaujolais and had teased me about it on more than one occasion.
“But it isn’t really the Beaujolais you love, is it?” he mused, studying me.
No, it wasn’t. Savvy. Crafty, too. I’d have to work to get answers to my questions. “What’s your favorite wine?”
“Syrah. Old French Syrah, the kind they make in southern France. It is imbued with the centuries of men, winemakers and farmers, who have worked and trod that stony ground even longer than I have lived. There is one in particular I have an affinity for. It comes from a small vineyard hidden away from the eyes of most mortals.”
“What’s it called?”
“Domaine Templier.”
“Domaine Templar.”
“That’s right.”
“You were a Templar.”
“I am a Templar, Paige. I will be a Templar until the day I die. There are those who walk the earth today who claim that mantle. They have no idea what it means to take up the cross, to give your life to it.”
“You’re referring to Dominicus and the organization he belongs to, aren’t you?”
“Yes, The Order of The Broken Cross, as they call themselves. They profess to be the rightful heirs to the lineage of the Templars and while those who begat their coven were indeed Templars, they were traitors...as is Dominicus.”
“So you’re the last of the real Templars?”
“Perhaps.”
“What does that mean, perhaps?”
“It means that while you are asking the questions it is I who is giving the answers, some of which will not be forthcoming. Next question.”
Something in the cast of his eyes, the sudden lack of a smile, steered my questions in another direction.
“How old are you?”
“I’m seven-hundred and fifty-six years old.”
I stared at him for a moment trying to prod my mind into acceptance of what this all meant and what to say to him.
“What’s the greatest thing you’ve witnessed in all your years?”
He thought for a moment, spun the glass, lost, it seemed, in the swirling liquid. “Mankind. I’ve seen them achieve so many great things, create such amazing civilizations. I’ve watched in wonder as artists, scientists, inventors have transformed the lives of men. Even now I can scarcely believe how the world has changed.”
“You say Mankind, as if you are no longer a part of it.”
“I’m still a man, Paige. I never stopped being a man. I simply no longer live my life as a man. I live it as if I am some sort of extraterrestrial being walking unseen and unnoticed, for the most part, among beings who look like me.”
Something had crept into his voice, a shadow had fallen across his face. I realized it was loneliness.
“What is the worst thing you’ve seen in all these years?”
There was another long drawn out pause before he answered. “How little the souls of humans have changed. For all the advancements around us mankind remains what it has always been, fierce, warlike, and destructive of each other. I’m never surprised by the savagery of men. As a warrior myself I understand it. It is part of us just as it is part of those we call angels. They exist in a state of perpetual war...why not us?”
He drank from the glass again and looked me in the eye. “Try some of the wine, Paige, and then lighten up a bit. Ask me something fun.”
I sipped the wine. It really was wonderful. Fun. Hmm. “Vernon’s hinted in the book that you’ve had a, how should I say this? Someone special in your life--I mean, you’re seven hundred years old, but you're a man....” 
I made a mess of the question, which elicited another of his addicting chuckles. “I don’t want to spoil Vernon’s stories so I will only agree with your statement, I am a man.”
My cheeks burned. I tried to salvage it. “I mean, love, in general. Not just romantic love, but people you have loved, and...”
“Lost. Yes.”
“Tell me,” I leaned forward. “About love. And loss. Please.”
“It’s a burden. And it’s liberating.”
“Will you tell me about the burden you bear?”
“Mortal moments are fleeting. One lifetime is often not enough to move beyond our own imposed boundaries and know true love.” He smiled. “Being immortal frees me to love in ways... in a way that can't quite be understood these days. To love a man in friendship, deeply and unconditionally. And accept his. To love a woman until your souls shatter. I would not have known those loves in one lifetime. Loss teaches us to love. To not waste time. The curse of loss is the most inspiring teacher.” He smiled, sadly, and then continued on in a mischievous tone.  I do have a few, shall we say, guilty pleasures that ease my burdens. I have a weakness for beauty. I drive an Aston Martin. I collect art of the old Masters, and new ones. I love great wine.” He raised his glass, tipped it to me, and drank the rest in one swallow.
My eyes were drawn back to his hand as he held the glass to his lips. The ring flashed in a ray of sunlight and the red stone, fashioned into a cross, dazzled my eyes as a wave of warm invasive light enveloped my mind.
I began to panic for a moment as I realized that the room, the man seated before me, even the chair upon which I had been sitting only a moment ago were all gone and that I was floating somewhere disconnected from reality.
I felt the sudden urge to cry out when I once more heard his voice, Gaspar’s.
“It’s okay, Paige. Our time together is over, for now. We’ll meet again. It may be on the pages of Vernon’s books or it may be in some other way but we will meet again.”
As Gaspar’s voice faded away the panic and fear was replaced by a warm feeling of security and wonder. I felt an overwhelming urge to sleep...in peace.
A sound, far off intruded incessantly keeping me from the sleep I now craved. A damn phone. In a semi-comatose state I reached out and retrieved the phone that sat beside my bed only half conscious of where I was.
“Hello.”
“Paige?”
“Hello? Who is this.”
“It’s Vernon, Paige, are you asleep? You were supposed to be at my house at noon for our interview. What, did you drink too much crummy Beaujolais last night?”
I sat straight up and looked around the room. My room. I mumbled something into the phone, something that drew a laugh and a question from my friend. But it was what was lying on the night stand that held my attention.
A golden medallion, attached to a long gold chain of heavy links, was propped up, leaning on the bedside lamp. It was shaped like a star and in the center of the medallion was a red Templar cross ringed by words, SIGILLVM TEMPLI XPESTI. And beside the medallion was a sheet of paper. I reached out and lifted it. It was heavy, luxurious, like no other paper I’d ever felt. Written in a beautiful cursive script was a short sentence, “To, Paige. With love and affection. G. de Rouse.
“Paige? Paige? Are you there?”






The Arimathean, the follow up to Slow Boat To Purgatory is set for release in early summer 2012. Look for it on Amazon. You can keep track of Vernon and his writing at Vernon J Baker.

Interview with Vernon Baker, here