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About the author:
E.M. is an avid reader, reading everything she could get her hands on her whole life. She has a passion for storytelling and science. A former science teacher, E.M. has always enjoyed finding ways to explore the world around her and share her joy with the world.
E.M. always strives to put some true facts into her books, so that while you are enjoying a wonderful story, you are also learning without realizing it. A book is not a book without romance, so every book that E.M. writes is packed full of romantic suspense.
When E.M. is not writing, she is running, biking, or taking her little one to the park. Her favorite people in the entire world are her husband and daughter, who supports her in her writing career. Never complaining when she is cranky because the muse was strong and she stayed up until four A.M. putting words on the page.
What inspired you to write your book?
I have been a reader for as long as I can remember, and I always wanted to write my own. This is a storyline that I have been thinking of for over a decade. Finally, I decided to begin drafting the story out so that I could share this with the world and hope that the world finds it as intriguing and special as I have.
Here is a short sample from the book:
The view out of my small, dirty window is staggering only in the sense that it is utterly unremarkable. The picture that is showcased by this dirty glass is the same one I have looked at for the past twenty years. I may have moved to this new apartment after leaving my parents’ hovel, but you wouldn’t know it by the view.
Run-down buildings stretch as far as the eye can see. The roads are barely recognizable because they have suffered so much damage. Lining those streets are countless trash containers that are home to small bonfires. The sky is a dreary gray—you would mistake it for smog or clouds, but you would be wrong. It is ash, floating down from the wreckage above.
For some reason, it seems wrong that this day is not marked by something. Anything at all out of the ordinary that would mark it as special or different. This particular day feels so momentous to me that I feel like the view outside should reflect that. I feel different inside, as if I am on the precipice of something great. I feel as if something is amiss—the portrayal I see of life outside is not matching the conflict that is occurring inside of me.
Today is the day that I have been both anticipating and dreading for twenty years—it is my Claiming Day. We have a Claiming Day every year, but this is the first year that I will be participating in it. Today is also my birthday; the day that I came into this world is forever marked by the suffering of women worldwide.
My mother tells me it is just one more reason my birth brought her pain. Not only did my father pass away the day I was born, but since that fateful Claiming Day, not one single woman has been claimed. Twenty years ago today marks the day that we stopped paying our fee for our salvation.
I doubt that she really believes my birth is somehow the cause for the lack of claimed women, it’s just a way for my mother to cope with the loss of my father. Well, one way. The other was marrying the horrid man that I am only permitted to speak to in public since it would appear odd to others if they learned I am not allowed to talk to my stepfather. In private I am to be invisible, neither seen nor heard. The few times that I failed in that regard were met with swift and painful punishment.
So I have lived most of my life never speaking to my mother’s husband, as if I would even want to. That vile man has taken great pleasure in abusing me for as long as I can remember—starvation and beatings being just two of his favorite punishments. I would never intentionally seek his attention.
Claiming Day is a day that affects everyone, especially my mother. She becomes violent, angry, and resentful. I have yet to sit in the arena, full of trepidation, waiting to see if this year is the year that I will be claimed. If I will be the woman who will never see her family and friends again. If I will be the woman who is whisked away to a life of uncertainty.
I have been told, repeatedly, that it is utterly terrifying to sit and wait in that crowd of young women. My mother hated the claiming ceremonies and had no qualms at sharing her horror. However, for me? There is an entirely different issue that is fueling my anxiety over the annual ritual our society partakes in. I am afraid because no one has been claimed. The fact that not one, not one single woman has been claimed in twenty years is much more worrying to me. Why have they stopped claiming us?
We earn protection by giving up our women. This is the only thing of value we have to offer our protectors. Is there something defective with us that prevents them from taking us? What happens then? What do we do when they no longer want us?
I look out the window into the sky and see the burning remains still visible from the last attack from the Erains, my eyes slowly following the softly falling ash. We are hopelessly outmatched—if we lose the protection that the Gelder warriors provide for us, there is nothing left to save us. We will all perish.
This will be my first year at a claiming ceremony, and for every year to come, I will have to be plagued by this uncertainty all over again. My mind is awash with a million questions, all that I have no hope of ever answering.
Whatever happened to the women who were claimed before my time? What will happen if women continue to fail to be claimed? Is there an expiration date on the security we are given by our Gelder protectors? If they do start claiming us again, what does that mean for the poor soul who gets claimed?
For my entire life, I have been overly curious. As a citizen of Area Three, I had specific roles I could choose for my occupation. With my passion for discovering the answers to questions that many never asked, I fell naturally into a love of history.
In my job as a historian, I specialize in the celebration of time before the Purge War, as well as the remembrance of the Purge War itself. There are dreadful facts stuck in my brain about that horrid war. Most people refuse to study the war, but I know how many died when the Erains first attacked a century ago.
We were utterly unprepared to face a threat from the skies. Billions died. If not for the treaty, billions more would have died. Our entire existence would have been wiped out had we not made allies with the Gelders. Their demands may have been unorthodox at the time, but the choice was simple. If giving up our lives to uphold the treaty is what we need to do, I am willing to make the sacrifice. The alternative is too bleak.
If I am honest with myself, I am worried about what it means to be claimed. I know every woman who has ever been claimed; I dedicated most of my youth to the sole purpose of determining what becomes of these claimed women.
Most of my people prefer ignorance, but not me. I can never feel safe when I do not have all the facts. But alas, after all my research there were no patterns to be found. Some are young, some are old. Some are rich, some are poor. The only connection is their age range, twenty to thirty. No order of any kind, let alone one that explains why they stopped taking us. Or predicts who will be next. It could be anyone, a woman living anywhere on the planet.
In my world, we stand as a planet, as a global race. There are no countries like I read about in the Old Earth. Here, on what we now call Earth Nueva, there is no racism against your fellow human. Honestly it is not needed, we just chose other things to judge each other by. Why bicker over race when there are so many more things to discriminate against?
Over a century ago our entire species faced annihilation. That really puts things into perspective. I imagine a woman a century ago, who had no idea that we are not alone in this galaxy, might have thought it mattered where you were born. That where your mother was when she pushed you out gave some sort of bearing on who you would be as a person. But really, when we are just lowly, defenseless humans out of all the galactic species, we have to stick together. Regardless of what piece of land you were born on.
Now that we are aware of the vast and diverse forms of life in our universe, it is almost laughable how little we matter. Compared to nearly every race that Area Ten, the ambassador and his cabinet members, have begun trade with we are behind in medicine, weapons, technology, and nowhere near equal in space travel. Now we have read about some other primitive worlds that exist out in the cosmos, but we have no contact with them here on Earth Nueva.
“I don’t know why you are so worried, Ellie. No one has been claimed in our entire lives, and it is doubtful that we will ever see one,” Marilee says to me, snapping me out of my reverie. Her hand pulling me away from the window.
Marilee is my best friend. We have known each other since we were children. She is a gorgeous, tough, self-assured woman. Her auburn hair is always effortlessly tamed, compared to my own tangled mess of wild blonde hair. Her body is a work of art, full of tall, lean muscles, while I am small and frail. Her green eyes blaze with inner fire, my blue eyes are lackluster.
She does not let anyone tell her what to do, while I have always been a follower. Doing everything that is asked of me. I often wish I was more like her. My whole life has centered on doing what my mother asks of me, and even after twenty years, I cannot manage to stop trying to earn her approval.
“Trust me, you are worrying over nothing. The call for claiming is simple. Last year all we did was go to our assigned waiting areas for the global call, look at the display and see that there was no one on it, and go home,” Marilee says to me.
Marilee is one year older than me and went through her first calling last year. She mistakenly thinks I am worried that I will be called. Honestly, the thought of someone claiming me is laughable. I am painfully aware of my own shortcomings, my mother has made sure of that. I know I am nothing special, so I don’t think our protectors would have any reason to claim me. Who would want me?
She, like many others, believes that the Gelders have merely decided to forget about our part of the agreement. They think that somehow the most dominant species in the galaxy simply forgot that we must allow as many as one hundred of our women to be claimed by them annually. Perhaps some think that we are merely of no more use to them, so they don’t claim us anymore.
They all seem to have forgotten that this was what we agreed to do to earn their help, our payment for their protection against the destruction of our people. Everyone else seems to think that we should just be thankful, but if you pay attention to the agreement, you would be very concerned about this turn of events. Everything in this world has a price, and eventually, the bill will come due.
They used our weaknesses and our desperation to force us to agree to the terms they wanted. We did minimal negotiating. Mark my words, the Gelders have a particular reason they signed this treaty, and I am sure it benefits the Gelders, not us humans. Not that I fault them per se. They have flawlessly protected us since the agreement, protection that we desperately needed. We need to pay our debts to them.
“Marilee, I just feel that one day soon we will find out why they have stopped claiming us and I don’t think I want to be there when we do,” I tell her again, attempting to explain my feelings of apprehension. “Or worse, what we now must do to earn their continued protection.”
“Oh, Ellie, you worry too much.” She gives me her standard reply. How she can be so unconcerned drives me crazy, but like always I avoid confrontation and let it go.
“Regardless, it is almost time. We should get going to our assigned waiting area.” I have no desire to go down this path, something is going to happen. I just know if I step out that door, it is the end of something. I can feel it in my bones. I just don’t know what it is going to be the end of.
No use delaying any longer though. With a small nod to each other, Marilee and I gather our things. All eligible women are required to bring something that we wish to take with us if we are claimed. Once claimed you are immediately taken away to be prepared. No heartfelt goodbyes or lengthy packing allowed.
We are allowed to bring only two possessions: one item of our choosing and one item to give as a gift to the Gelder who claimed us. I have my objects packed already in a small tote, as does Marilee.
I am so pleased with my small closet-sized apartment. I just moved in last week, but it has already become my sanctuary. I moved out later than most, but even though I obtained a job early, I give over half my income to my mother and stepfather. It took a while to be able to afford even this small place. But still, to live on my own, it is the purest pleasure I have ever known. Really, it is the only pleasure I have ever known. Well, that and my riverbank.
As I lock my door, I cannot help but feel a sense of finality in the action. We leave my small apartment and head over to an old stadium that used to house sporting events before such frivolous pursuits were banned. Imagine, being paid to play a game. That is definitely a thing of the past.
This is the assigned area where all the other eligible women who are of Area Three class or lower are to meet for the global call. I try to shift my focus to the frivolous chatter of Marilee to help calm my nerves. She is talking about a dress she wants to buy or something like that, but I am struggling to maintain focus. Anxiety keeps rushing in, interrupting my thoughts. Before I know it, we have arrived.
At the stadium, we will be joining the five thousand other eligible women in our social class that live in our geographical area, along with over fifty thousand women of different ranks. As a lower-middle level area class, we are one of the larger areas. Of course the lower the grade, the larger the group. The lowest class is enormous, comprising of over eighty percent of our population. With every level, the numbers get smaller and smaller. The top-tiered levels are minuscule in comparison.
As we walk into what once was a massive stadium and follow the directions to where our area meets, I can’t stop the feeling of dread. I am apprehensive about what it will mean if someone is claimed today, or possibly even worse, what will happen if yet another year goes by with no claimed women to pay our debt. Both outcomes are terrifying thoughts, but I cannot decide which is worse.