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Interview with Tara Edin: ‘There comes a time when being authentic is more beneficial than being flawless’

Tara is an incest, rape and sexual assault survivor, a teacher, a wife, a mother, a Reiki master, and an author.

As a rape and sexual assault survivor, who struggled for many years, yet came out on the bright side, one of Tara’s goals is to help fellow survivors feel less alone, less crazy, and more inspired.

Tara spent much of her life feeling “wrong” and being quiet due to some very tough circumstances that shook her to the core. After a spiritual awakening on one of her darkest nights, Tara began to embrace her own power to transform past trials into dreams come true.

Moonflower 2Writing her story has helped Tara retrieve her voice and find additional creative outlets. Publishing her book has simply made her story available to those who may benefit from it.

These days, Tara puts most of her energy into raising her two children, enhancing her creative life, and living her best life ever. But because she is a Survivor, Tara will always walk a healing path—healing for herself and for others.

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About the Book:

Blooming was her Birthright. Darkness the Unexpected Catalyst.

Tara is an incest, rape and sexual abuse survivor, who suffered from PTSD for many years but was misdiagnosed with mental illnesses instead. This took her down a near-fatal path ultimately ending in an accident, which nearly claimed her life at age 29. Most only know the abridged version of the story, yet the real story holds many truths and miracles that must be shared. With a second lease on life, Tara faces the sexual abuse and betrayal from her younger years with support from a compassionate zen therapist. Tara begins to recreate her life with a new spirituality that feeds her soul and encompasses her painful past, giving life to the love that has always been her birthright. With lucid prose and powerful poetry, Tara details her soul’s transformation from darkness to light, offering her readers the gifts of honesty, empathy, and empowerment.

Moonflower is Part Memoir, Part Self-Help & Part Spiritual Odyssey.

Rape, incest and sexual assault are unspoken controversial topics that still fester behind closed doors in the 21st century as survivors are still being told to “Get over it,” or worse, “It didn’t even happen.” It takes years to heal from such life-altering, traumatic experiences, and many survivors are doing this work alone. There is a great need for testimonies from those who have emerged from their ordeals stronger.

This revealing story uncovers the aftermath of abuse that often leads to unstable relationships, repeated abuse, and mental or physical disease. Although Moonflower covers difficult topics such as emotional and sexual abuse, the author sifts through these experiences to offer her readers the gifts and lessons that can be drawn from such setbacks.

There is no cookie-cutter journey to healing, but there is great power in sharing our stories. Moonflower exhibits the power of the self and spirit in the healing process. It stretches beyond what may be considered a “normal” path and braves a non-traditional spiritual road to wellness, inspiring others to broaden their perspectives of the healing experience. Readers will be inspired by Tara’s fiery spirit and deep reflective soul, cheering her on as she finds her way back to herself.

For More Information

  • Moonflower: A Memoir of Healing is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Watch the book trailer at YouTube.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Tara. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Moonflower: a Memoir of Healing is my first published book.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

I chose to self-publish because it was a more direct route, and I was interested in learning the process.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

Once I decided to self-publish, it took me about six months to complete the process.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I felt like Odysseus returning home after 20 years since I had been working on my book for over 20 years. When my e-book was live on Amazon.com, I smiled at my Moonflower page for several moments. Then celebrated over lunch with my best friend at the Cheesecake Factory.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I began promoting my book on my website and blog. Soon after, I followed suit with Twitter and Facebook.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

In publishing my first book, I have learned to let go of some of my perfectionism in order to get the job done. There is always room for revision, but there comes a time when being authentic is more beneficial than being flawless. I am now exercising my writing muscles via my blog by providing valuable, inspirational content to my growing readership. Having traveled the self-publishing route once, I am looking forward to a smoother course for my second book.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

I am amazed and inspired by the growing numbers of indie authors out there because of the great discipline and determination behind each and every self-published book.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

As a published author, it is extremely rewarding to know that I will make a positive difference in many lives for years to come.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Focus on the writing, and trust that the details will settle into place.

 

 

 

Interview with Melodie Campbell: ‘You need to love the actual act of writing’

Melodie CampbellBilled as Canada’s “Queen of Comedy” by the Toronto Sun (Jan. 5, 2014), Melodie Campbell achieved a personal best when Library Digest compared her to Janet Evanovich.

Winner of nine awards, including the 2014 Derringer (US) and the 2014 Arthur Ellis (Canada) for The Goddaughter’s Revenge (Orca Books), Melodie has over 200 publications, including 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories, and seven novels.

Melodie got her start writing stand-up. In 1999, she opened the Canadian Humour Conference. Her fiction has been described by industry reviewers as “hilarious” and “laugh-out-loud funny.”

Melodie has a commerce degree from Queen’s University, but it didn’t take well. She has been a bank manager, college instructor, marketing director, comedy writer and possibly the worst runway model ever. These days, Melodie is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.

Her latest book is the paranormal romance time travel, Rowena and the Viking Warlord.

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Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Melodie.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I think this is publication number 200!  I have over 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories, and seven novels.  ROWENA AND THE VIKING WARLORD is lucky number seven.

Rowena 2Guess I should preface that by saying I won my first writing award in 1989.  I’ve been making up stories since I was 4.  My parents called it lying.  That was so short-sighted of them.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

For my first novel, I went small press.  I’d been a professional writer for 15 years (comedy, standup and short stories) so I was used to working with publishing industry editors and enjoyed the relationship.

ROWENA AND THE VIKING WARLORD is with Imajin Books, my first publisher.  They are terrific, and I’m delighted to still be with them.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

About 5 months, which is pretty quick in the book trade!

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It was wonderful to have a novel published!  I think I stared at the paperback for an hour.

But how did I celebrate?  (Okay, get ready for it…)  I bought a 1994 white Corvette convertible!  (They don’t call my humor column ‘Bad Girl’ for nothing!)

I know.  Totally irresponsible.  And me, with two kids. This spring, with my two book advances, I traded it in for a 2006 sapphire blue Corvette convertible.  (The car, not the kids.)

I’ve been married for decades, so I can’t celebrate with fast men.  So I make it fast cars, instead.  Even my husband likes that <grin>.  No wonder he wants me to write more!

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I went on a blog tour, just like this one.  I love reaching readers in this way.  It seems personal.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

How much I would enjoy interacting with readers.  I’ve made some wonderful friends over the past five years, and they have encouraged me to write more and more.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

When I first started in this business, it was all about sales.  Then I thought the winning of awards was the apex (I have nine.)

Then a fan wrote to say that ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL (book 1 of this trilogy) was the best book she had ever read.  I actually cried.  I’ve won 9 awards.  None of them can match that moment. I write for her now, and readers like her.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

To be successful as an author, you need to love the actual act of writing.  That being, hands on keyboard, butt in chair, isolating yourself for hours on end as you create stories on paper.  If you love that, you will continue to write, and will get better and better at it. And you WILL get published!

Interview with Paul DeBlassie: ‘Religion can be both terrifying and damaging’

Paul DeBlassie IIIPAUL DeBLASSIE III, PhD, is a psychologist and writer living in his native New Mexico. A member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association, and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, he has for over thirty years treated survivors of the dark side of religion.

His latest book is the psychological/paranormal thriller, The Unholy.

About the Book:

A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, The Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.

Thank you for this interview, Paul. I get the impression that The Unholy is a book only you could write, because of the setting, and because of your own background. Let’s start with the setting. Tell me about Aztlan.

Aztlan is the mythopoeic realm of the mestizos (mixed bloods of southwestern United States). I am mestizo. Aztlan is New Mexico, especially  the region of Albuquerque (southern Aztlan) and Santa Fe (northern Aztlan) and extends to the four corners area. Spirits, dreams, visions, and natural magic are woven seamlessly into everyday life.

The Unholy 7Your protagonist, Claire Sanchez, is a curandera, a term which roughly translates as “Medicine Woman.” What exactly is a curandera? What led you to choose this occupation for your heroine? 

A curandera is a healer. She spoke to me as the story evolved, told me who she was and told me of her struggle to find herself. The path of a healer is fraught with danger. She dramatizes the life of so many women and men seeking to face their fears, find themselves, and walk the path of healing, natural magic, and life.

Faith and religion are central themes of The Unholy. You explore the abuse of religion and the conflict that can come from spirituality. What would you say is the central theme or message of Unholy? What impact are you hoping to have on your readers? 

The central message of The Unholy is Religion Kills. It is made explicit at the end of the tale. News media broadcast Religion Kills as they describe the battle between the evil Archbishop and the young curandera.

You live in New Mexico, in the general area where the novel is set. How has this affected the writing of The Unholy? How important was your knowledge of the places and people and culture? What kinds of personal knowledge did you draw on as you crafted your characters and setting?

New Mexico is Aztlan. My lineage reaches back for over three-hundred years in Aztlan, a long line of medicine people, healers.  I live here, breathe its air, am sheltered under the canopy of its turquoise sky. The Unholy and the natural magic of the medicine women, forces of darkness and light, exist side by side in the daily, mythopoeic realm of Aztlan. I live here. It is my homeland.

How has your training and experience as a psychologist impacted your writing in general? 

For over thirty years I have treated survivors of the dark side of religion. I chose to write a novel about this human drama. Stories cut to the chase. I’ve written three other books in psychology and spirituality, but there is nothing like stirring the imagination via story to set the mind working and the heart healing.

I know you’ve had some specific experiences in your role as a psychologist that led to your decision to write this book. Tell me about that. 

Religion can be both terrifying and damaging. I help people to heal from the dark side of religion. Decades of such experience led me to write this book and the ones that will follow. Each phantasmagoric story, much like The Unholy, plumbs the dark and light sides of human nature and spiritual experience.

The cover image for The Unholy is striking and haunting, and it’s not just some random stock photo. Tell me about that picture.  

It is the Devil’s Throne, an actual site between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The evil archbishop performs atrocities there. The land has been contaminated by evil, women desecrated, the air itself befouled. It is the Devil’s Throne in the realm of Azltan!

Interview with E.B. Tatby, author of ‘I Wish’

E.B. TatbyE.B. Tatby was born and raised in Sioux City, Iowa. She is living her life-long dream of being an Author and is passionate about inspiring others (especially teens) to follow their dreams. Above all, she wants to remind them of the power to wish.

I Wish, a YA story, is her first published novel. She is currently working on a sequel.

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Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, E.B. Tatby. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I Wish is a YA Fantasy and my first published book. I am currently working on a sequel to I Wish called I Could that will be released in late 2015. I am also working on a futuristic science fiction story with no announced release date at this time.

I Wish 2Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

I originally planned to go the route of traditional publishing, but over the years independent publishing has became more and more of an opportunity. So that’s the route I chose. These days, it’s inexpensive and effective to release a book and find web-based publicity. I have also been surprised at how easy it is to schedule book signings in unexpected venues.

Still, whether an author decides to self-publish or goes through traditional publishing, four steps are an absolute must: 1) know your readers, 2) write a captivating story, 3) seek a professional editor, and 4) make sure your book cover professionally reflects your story.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

As an independently published author, it was simply a matter of setting up my eBook on Kindle. Kindle releases eBooks within a matter of hours. For my paperback, it takes about 1-2 weeks for a book to be published.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I wasn’t expecting the speed at which a story can speak to readers and reach new ones. During the writing process, I’d always kept I Wish tightly guarded, with the exception of seeking editors and Beta readers. With social media, word-of-mouth helped spread the word about I Wish much faster than I expected. I quickly found people approaching me at book signings, via social media, and even in day-to-day interactions saying they loved it. It has been exciting for me to see so many people having fun with it and truly enjoying the story.

Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?

When I first got published (and certainly leading up to the release), I increased my focus on social media, namely Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. I also focused my efforts on scheduling local book signings. I especially enjoy speaking to teen readers who participate in their local library reading program.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

Several teen readers who have read I Wish have asked me when the second book in the series will be released. That simple question from so many people has created a pull for my stories, where previously there had only ever existed a push.

In other words, before anyone had a chance to read my work, 100% of my motivation came from within me. But now, I feel a sense of obligation to readers to ensure I deliver the next story in a timely enough manner that they can get the most enjoyment out of it.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

The thing that I’ve become most surprised about is that independent publishing has opened the floodgates to stories from unexpected or even previously blocked sources.

While some self publishers release their books before they are ready, the overwhelmingly positive news about self publishing is that great stories can be delivered to the masses even if traditional publishing gate keepers have rejected them. Now, more than ever, the public is free to decide what will be worthy of popularity and trend setting than a small percentage of people who don’t represent actual readers.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

The role of the author is so important, now more than ever. As modern humans we are inundated with choices, limited on time and money, and more equipped to write our own story than any generation that came before us. There is no room for wasting people’s time with mediocre stories. We must captivate; we must enthrall. What that really means is that we must keep them reading past page three— easier said than done.

By striving to satisfy readers’ hunger for powerful stories, I have discovered some things along the way. What I really want is for readers to reflect on their own personal character development in their life… to be free, even if just for a few sporadic moments, to deconstruct and reconstruct it. As a result of reading my stories, I want them to be an ounce more prepared for their own hero’s journey than they were before they read the story, just like I am when I read a great story.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Ever since 3rd grade, I dreamed of becoming a published author. Still, with almost no time to dedicate toward writing and a competitive book industry that seems to be re-writing itself, I nearly gave up on my dream countless times. I’m glad to report that I stuck with it. Fortunately, I was inspired by a most unexpected source: the main character of my novel, a girl named Kenza Atlas who is learning to wish.

My advice to others? Whatever it is you embark on, whatever stops time for you and makes you happy—whether it be writing, healing people, innovating new and untried forms of technology, or whatever it is that lights a fire within you—follow in Kenza Atlas’ footsteps in I Wish and believe.

Interview with New Adult Romance Author Karen-Anne Stewart

Karen-Anne StewartKaren-Anne Stewart has always adored reading and has now fallen in love with writing. Her written works are The Rain Trilogy: Saving Rain, Healing Rain, and After the Rain, and the newly released stand alone novel, Ash to Steele. Her debut novel, Saving Rain: The First Novel in The Rain Trilogy, was a nominee for the Book Junkie’s Choice Awards, and Saving Rain and After the Rain were nominees for the 2014 RONE Awards.

When Karen-Anne isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, hiking, and visiting new places. She fuels her addiction of creating new stories by her only other addiction, caffeine, and listening to a myriad of musical genres. Tucked away near the Blue Ridge Mountains, Karen-Anne lives with her husband, daughter, two dogs, and their cat. She plans on writing new adult romance as long as her fingers maintain dexterity.

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About the Book:

Ash to Steele 2Emma

Who I am and all I believe is marred with just one glance into angry, steel blue eyes. He seems to control my air, my ability to breathe. He makes me crave everything I know is a sin. Pure becomes tainted and lines are blurred. It’s my fault; I’m the one who isn’t strong enough. I’ve been damaged…broken. Breck’s words haunt me…’There’s a consequence for every choice you make.’

Breck

I’ve had so many women I can’t even remember over half of their names, but none of them are mine; I make damn sure of that. I take what I desire and never look back. I don’t need or want anyone, ever…not until I met Emma. Those eyes bore into what’s left of my soul and her touch sears me, weakens me. I want to hate her for that. She is my ruin…my sweetest hell.

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Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Karen-Anne. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Thank you so much for having me! Ash to Steele is my fourth published novel, and I’m thrilled to tell Breck and Emma’s story.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

When I first began writing my debut novel, Saving Rain, in September 2012, I had NO IDEA what I was doing, getting into, or how to take the first step. The only thing I knew for sure was how I had fallen in love with writing as I penned the first part of Kas and Raina’s story. I ended up self-publishing The Rain Trilogy with Authorhouse. With Ash to Steele, I decided to stay an Indie self-published author but took a different route and published through Amazon on Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space. I’m not the most patient person, and after hearing how it can take months, even years sometimes, to get traditionally published, I decided to start out as an Indie self-pub author. I would like to try to go the traditionally published route in the future so I can experience the differences between the two. I have a huge amount of respect for both paths of publishing.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

With being self-published, you can pretty much publish your novel fairly quickly once you feel it’s polished and ready to go. I do feel that it’s a bit more difficult to market being an Indie author, but maybe that’s just because I suck at self-marketing. I’m such a terrible sales person ;). I’m getting better as I go, though!

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

Not to sound cliché, but it was unbelievably surreal. Holding Saving Rain in my hand was such an amazing feeling; I still get butterflies remembering that moment. I celebrated by jumping right back into finishing up the rest of the trilogy because I was so excited.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I had no clue where to begin. Also, I was quite petrified of reading my first review. I googled reviewers, and Christine, from shebookblogs.com, gave me my first shot. I was thrilled when she agreed to read and provide an honest review of Saving Rain.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

I hope I’ve grown. I do feel that I’m better with marketing and social media, although I still worry about breaking some unknown rule or embarrassing the hell out of myself, but that’s part of the whole learning experience. For me, I learn a lot from my mistakes and go from there.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

I’ve been amazed by the astounding support authors give each other. I LOVE the writing community and am humbled and honored to be a part of it.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

Connecting with authors, bloggers, and readers. I’ve made some wonderful new friends that I never would have had the opportunity to meet if I didn’t write.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Never give up. Trying to figure it all out can be overwhelming to the point of making you want to curl up in a fetal position and sob at times, so do it. Then, get off your tush and keep on going because it’s so worth it when you love what you do and you connect with readers who love what you do, too J. There will be negative reviews; use those a constructive criticism. I truly respect every reader’s opinion, after all, it’s what he or she thinks of my book, not what I want him/her to think about it. We are all different; that’s what makes the world so much fun. So, learn from the negative reviews and focus on the positive, and remember that it’s impossible to write a book that everyone will like. If what you write makes you happy, then you know you’re doing something right and it will make others happy as well!

More Precious Than Rubies by Randy Coates Book Blitz – Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

More Precious Than RubiesTitle: More Precious Than Rubies
Author: Randy Coates
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 174
Genre: Fantasy
Format: Ebook

Purchase at AMAZON

Paul Brager is twelve when his father tells the story of Iduna and her apples. Mr. Brager always tells stories before bed to entertain Paul’s little brother, Adrian—a ritual that has become even more important since their mother died. Iduna was a goddess who grew apples that made the gods younger and stronger, but one day she disappeared, along with her apples. Paul doesn’t think much of the myth; he has other things on his mind.

Paul and his best friend, Chad Tremblay, are excited to start the school year as seventh graders at Dorian Heights Public School. Even when they hear about the new principal, Mr. Theisen, they aren’t worried about ending up in his office. When Paul finally meets the principal, however, he finds him to be strange, mysterious, and extremely fond of apples. That’s when things start going wrong.

Theisen develops an uncomfortable interest in Paul, claiming he once knew Paul’s father. It becomes apparent to Paul and Chad that Theisen is after something, maybe some kind of treasure—and it involves the Brager family. Paul believes his family must be protected and that Theisen must be stopped. Still, he can’t get the story of Iduna’s apples out of his head; there seems to be an odd connection to the tale his father told. He and Chad want to know the answers, but learning them may put their lives in danger.

 

amazon

 

Randy Coates graduated from the University of Waterloo with a bachelor of arts degree and went on to acquire his teacher’s certificate at the University of Western Ontario. He is currently an elementary teacher in the Toronto District Board of Education. 

First Chapter Reveal: Palmetto Moon by Kim Boykin

Palmetto Moon 2Title: Palmetto Moon
Author: Kim Boykin
Publisher: Berkely Trade
Pages: 320
Genre: Southern Women’s Fiction
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

June, 1947. Charleston is poised to celebrate the biggest wedding in high-society history, the joining of two of the oldest families in the city. Except the bride is nowhere to be found…Unlike the rest of the debs she grew up with, Vada Hadley doesn’t see marrying Justin McLeod as a blessing—she sees it as a life sentence. So when she finds herself one day away from a wedding she doesn’t want, she’s left with no choice but to run away from the future her parents have so carefully planned for her.

In Round O, South Carolina, Vada finds independence in the unexpected friendships she forms at the boarding house where she stays, and a quiet yet fulfilling courtship with the local diner owner, Frank Darling. For the first time in her life, she finally feels like she’s where she’s meant to be. But when her dear friend Darby hunts her down, needing help, Vada will have to confront the life she gave up—and decide where her heart truly belongs.

First Chapter:

“Murrah?” Rosa Lee’s eyes go wide and she shakes her head at me like I’ve forgotten the rules, but I haven’t. Since before I was born, my parents forbade the servants to speak their native tongue in our house. Offenders were given one warning; a second offense brought immediate dismissal. I say the Gullah word again, drawing it out softly. “Why are you crying?” The hands that helped bring me into the world motion for me to lower my voice.

Rosa Lee’s husband, Desmond, told me my first word was murrah. It was what I called Rosa Lee, until Mother made me call her by name. “My own murrah.” The forbidden words bring more tears. I press my face into the soft curve of her neck and breathe in the Ivory soap Mother insists all the servants use, mingled with Rosa Lee’s own scent—vanilla and lemongrass.

She holds me at arm’s length, trembling, and I know I’ve done it again.

“You got to tell them,” she pleads. “Make them see you can’t go through with this.”

I point to the door that leads to the elegant dining room where my parents are eating their breakfast. “I have told them. Mother refuses to listen, and I’ve begged Father. He says I have to do this.” She looks away. Her body rocks, sobbing violently on the inside. “Rosa Lee, please don’t cry. I can’t bear it.” She shakes her head and swipes at the tears that stain the sleeve of her freshly pressed uniform. “I won’t do it again. I promise.”

“When you’re asleep, your heart takes over. You got no control, and it’s gonna kill you.”

She’s right. Since I graduated and moved home from college two weeks ago, I’ve been sleepwalking like I did when I was a child, but these outings don’t land me snuggled up in the servant’s quarters, between Desmond and Rosa Lee. Most of the time, I wake up and return to bed without incident, but last week Desmond found me trying to leave the house. He said I was babbling about sleeping in the bay, which might not have been so disturbing if I hadn’t been wearing five layers of heavy clothing. I knew what he thought I was trying to do to myself and told him not to worry.

Since then, Rosa Lee has insisted on sleeping on the stiff brocade chaise in my bedroom. Of course, my parents don’t know she’s there or that she’s so afraid I’ll walk to the bay or step off the balcony in my sleep, she’s tethered my ankle to the bedpost with three yards of satin rope she begged from Mrs. O’Doul.

“Maybe it will be different after the wedding.” I love her enough to lie to her. “Father says I’m a Hadley and once it’s over with, I’ll fall in line the way I was born to.”

“But what if Desmond hadn’t caught you?” She threads her fingers in mine and kisses the back of my hand. A part of me wishes her intuition hadn’t sent Desmond to check on me, that he hadn’t found me. “And what are you gonna do when we’re not there?”

“Don’t say that.” My knees buckle, and I melt into a puddle at her feet. Justin has made it clear he’s happy with his staff and has no plans to add “two ancient servants.” But living under his roof and not having Rosa Lee and Desmond with me is unthinkable, another high price of being the last Hadley descendant.

“You think it’s not going to get worse after you’re married? Who do you think’s gonna be there to save you? Mr. Justin?” She hisses the last word. “You think long and hard before the sun comes up tomorrow, because I’m afraid down to my bones that you won’t be alive to see it.”

She collects herself and heads into the dining room to check on my parents. They won’t look into her beautiful brown face and see she’s been crying any more than they see this wedding is killing me, or at least the idea of being yoked to Justin McLeod is. Not because he’s eight years older than me and, other than our station in life, we have nothing in common, and not because of his good qualities, although no one can find more than two: He is a heart-stoppingly beautiful man and the sole heir of the largest fortune in Charleston.

For over a hundred years, Justin’s family and mine have built ships. And while two world wars made us rich, a prolonged peace threatens to weaken our family fortunes considerably. Somewhere in all that, my father convinced Justin a Hadley-McLeod union would position them to take over the world, at least the shipping world. And Father is certain nothing short of a blood union will keep Justin in the partnership.

Rosa Lee pushes through the swinging door and pours the coffee down the drain, her signal that breakfast is over and my parents are no longer close by. I smile, trying to reassure her I’m okay, that I’m going to be okay. She shakes her head and starts to wash one of the breakfast plates in slow motion, barely breathing. I hate those things, and after tomorrow, I’ll own twenty-four place settings of them, part of my dowry. I don’t give a damn about thousand-dollar plates, but I do care for Rosa Lee.

“I can do this.” I say from behind her. My voice sounds sure, steady. “I will do this.”

“You and I both know you can’t walk down that aisle. Dear God in heaven, Vada, tell them.” Her head is down, and she says the last two words like a prayer. “Make them see so they’ll put a stop to this foolishness.”

There’s no point. I’ve begged my parents, told them I can’t marry Justin, because I don’t love him. I’ve told them I feel nothing for him, not love, not even hate. Even after I told my father about the other women, he shrugged and said I was being ridiculous. “There are no fairy-tale marriages, Vada. Know your place, your purpose. Marry. Procreate. Continue the lineage. That’s your job.”

This archaic arrangement is not the job I want or the one I applied for. My heart races at the thought of how furious my parents would be if they knew my favorite professor recommended me for a teaching position, not in a posh boarding school but a two-room schoolhouse near a tiny crossroads community. Mother would fume silently while Father would remind me that no Hadley woman has ever worked.

But it’s 1947 for goodness’ sake. What did they expect when they sent me away to college, that I would learn everything except how to think for myself? The swell of defiance is snuffed out by Justin’s testy voice in the foyer. “Well, I am here now, madam. What do you want?”

I can’t make out what my mother is saying and slip behind the dining-room door. From the way I peer at them through the crack between the jamb, she looks tiny compared to him, but she emanates such presence. Justin has the posture of a rebellious teenager.

“It’s about Vada, and I am not talking about this here.” She points toward the study. He eyes her for a moment, knowing full well the drawing room is a woman’s place, the study a man’s domain for brandy and smelly cigars.

I can hardly breathe as she leads Justin into the study. Maybe she did listen. Maybe she’s finally going to tell Justin the wedding is off.The door to the study is slightly ajar. I slip off my shoes and tiptoe across the foyer to hear her say the words I’ve longed for since I was fourteen and learned about this horrible arrangement.

“You have me up before noon for this?” Justin is glaring at her, but she’s so strong, so beautiful. She’s not intimidated in the least.

“You must understand that Vada is a young girl, barely twenty. I heard the things she told her father. Your carousing.”

“My carousing?” he laughs and runs his hands through his short dark hair.

“Yes. The parties. The women. After the engagement, I thought you would change, settle down. Surely you don’t expect to carry on as usual after the wedding.”

Justin is no longer amused. His face is red, the veins in his forehead pronounced. “Let me remind you, madam, after tomorrow, I may be your daughter’s husband, but I’ll carry on at my own discretion, not yours, not your husband’s, and certainly not your Vada’s.”

Their standoff is palpable. Mother throws her hands up in disgust. “I shouldn’t even have to have this conversation with you, Justin, but Vada is extremely unhappy, and the very least you could do is try to be more accommodating.”

“More accommodating?”

“Just tell me, what is it going to take?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Your price. To be a proper husband. Doting. Monogamous.” She draws the last word out.

“Trust me, madam, you don’t have enough money.” He stands and straightens the sleeves of his suit. “We’re done here.”

“Justin.” My mother grabs his arm. He towers over her. “Don’t hurt her.”

Her steely look is returned with amusement. “My dear Mrs. Hadley, for Vada or me to get hurt, one of us would actually have to care about this union. Tomorrow we marry together two fortunes for the greater good. Nothing more.”

“But you expect her to be a proper wife?”

“Of course. Why shouldn’t she?”

“Your level of arrogance is remarkable, Justin, even for you. Get out of my house.”

He makes an exaggerated bow. “Good day, Mrs. Hadley.”

The door opens, and Justin stands there for a moment, looking at my tearstained face. He sighs and pushes past me. “Really, Vada, after tomorrow, I’ll expect you to be more presentable in the mornings.”

I’ve honored Mrs. O’Doul’s refusal to talk about Darby for three years now, but with the wedding looming, the loss feels fresh, and I can’t help myself. “I miss her.”

Mrs. O’Doul gives me a hard look to remind me of our silent agreement not to talk about her daughter, my best friend. She nods curtly as she scrutinizes my dress, which she’s had to take in, again, for the rehearsal party. “You’ll be a good wife. You’ll make your ma and da proud.”

I shake my head at my reflection and the exquisite design that looks funny with my bare feet. “Maybe it’s best Darby’s not here. She’d be so ashamed of me.”

“Who knows where that girl is now? And, to be sure, she’d be ashamed if she showed her face around here, but not because you’re marrying Justin McLeod, I can tell you that.”

“She’s your daughter. You can’t still be mad at her.”

Another stern look reminds me Mrs. O’Doul lost more than a daughter when Darby was run out of town for her tryst with Mr. McCrady. But Mrs. McCrady didn’t stop there. She made sure Mrs. O’Doul’s wealthy clients boycotted her dressmaking business. Darby’s mother lost everything: her daughter, her shop, her apartment. My parents fussed when I insisted on Mrs. O’Doul altering my trousseau, but Mrs. O’Doul said it brought some of her customers back, the only good thing that has come from this wedding plan.

She smooths her hands down the seams of the ivory bodice and inspects a tiny pucker. “Damn beads.” She works the seam with her fingers until it lies flat, then steps back and inspects the dress. Her smile is thin, almost sad. “I remember every dress I ever made for you. And now look at you, wearing couture since you were sixteen. Getting married tomorrow in the finest dress I’ve ever seen.”

She’s right. I’ve always had a shameless love for beautiful clothes, even more so for shoes. But when Mrs. O’Doul made something for me, it meant going to Habberman’s on King Street. She always said Darby and me went together like grits and gravy, she couldn’t very well take one of us shopping without taking the other. While she selected the perfect material for my dress, we played hide-and-seek among the tall bolts leaned against the walls. Sometimes we sorted through bins of loose buttons or rhinestones and talked about what our lives would be like when we grew up.

As I got older, I worried that Darby would be jealous of the dresses her mother made for me. I know I would have been. But Darby said she didn’t care—they were just dresses, and we were best friends, the grits-and-gravy kind.

The other girls Darby grew up with wanted nothing to do with her after I went away to college. She gave up a lot to be my friend, and how did I repay her? I didn’t make time to phone her or return her letters. I was so wrapped up in things that didn’t matter, I forgot about the one person who mattered most to me. And by the time I heard Darby had been banished from Charleston, I was too ashamed of what I’d done, of the way I treated her, to try to find her, to tell her how very sorry I was.

“You’re a stunning young woman, Vada Hadley, and that dress—”

“The clothes you made, they were just as beautiful, and they meant something to me.”

She scoffs and puts her tools away, satisfied that my dress looks the way Jacques Fath intended when he designed it. “You’ll not find the likes of this fabric on King Street, I can promise you that. And if you did, I wouldn’t know where to begin to make something this . . . perfect. And your wedding dress? Even grander, Vada. Really.” She pushes a strand of hair behind my ear. “You’re going to be a beautiful bride.”

All through the rehearsal and this ridiculous party, everyone has said those words to me, like somehow the way I look will determine the outcome of this union. But nothing changes the fact that this is a mistake.

The canvas of the massive white tent billows a little, and the night air is damp and thick. Well-wishing men dab at their foreheads with handkerchiefs, and little beads of sweat line the lips of pretty women who are sweltering in the late-June heat. But even their intrusions can’t hold my attention from the Ashley as it flows past Middleton Place. I can’t stop looking at the river, thinking about it. Where does it go? To Edisto? To Savannah? Does it matter? It’s free, unencumbered by family and duty.

“Tears of joy?” Justin’s famous second cousin, Josephine, dabs at my face. I shake my head and turn my attention back to the river. “Middleton Place is stunning. And while I do have El Dorado, in my bones I know this plantation shouldn’t have ended up with the McLeods, least of all Justin. But the gods split the lot the way they saw fit. Perhaps they intended for it to be your consolation prize.”

“Does it console you, Miss Pinckney?” I ask.

“Words console me.”

“Of course they do, your books. The movie.”

She laughs and shakes her head. “Yes, the movie. Well, I don’t think Three O’Clock Dinner will ever make its way to the theater, my dear. I hear Lana Turner’s off again, to Mexico this time, vacationing with Tyrone Power, and who knows who it will be next? Those Hollywood folks don’t know what they want, not really. Besides, I don’t need a consolation prize. But you? I’m not so sure.”

Most of the women here would kill for Josephine Pinckney’s lineage alone, much less her present status as the darling of the literary world. They comfort themselves with catty remarks and whisper that she’s plain and was never beautiful. But even in the moonlight, there’s something about her knowing look and those piercing eyes that make her stunning and powerful.

“Walk with me?” she says.

I nod and step toward the grassy steps that lead to the river and away from the party. Breaking a heel is the least of my worries, but instinctively I tiptoe across the boards that stretch out across the water, and Miss Pinckney does the same. The river makes a swishing sound and cuts hard around the posts that anchor the dock into the muddy bottom, and the waxing crescent of the Palmetto moon dips low across the marsh grass. A fish skips like a stone over the top of the silvery black water, and for the first time tonight, I feel like I can breathe.

“Run out—run out from the insane gold world, softly clanging the gate lest any follow.” I’m not sure if she’s quoting her books or one of her poems, but even in my hopelessness, I feel her silent prodding.

“I don’t want this.”

She’s quiet for a beat. “What do you want, Vada?”

“What I can’t have.”

“Something you can’t have. Really? The only child of Matthew and Katherine Hadley? I speak from experience as an only child born into the pinnacle of this caste system we live in, there’s nothing you can’t have.”

“You’re—wrong.” The sob building inside threatens to turn me inside out, so everyone can see the truth that doesn’t seem to matter to anybody. Not my parents, not Justin, and least of all the party lemmings.

“Then what is it?”

I’m shivering in this heat, teeth chattering, unable to answer. All I can do is point to the river as it flows away from this horrible mess and escapes toward the ocean.

“You are wrong, Vada Hadley.” She wraps her silk stole around me and kisses my tearstained cheek. “You can have anything you want.”

 

 

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