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About the author:
When not writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, photography, playing “ball” with the dogs, and rooting on her favorite sports teams.
What inspired you to write your book?
And so the story of Zara Grey began to take root in my imagination. The resulting novel, Winter Fire, went on to become a Golden Heart Finalist.
Here is a short sample from the book:
October, 1779. Six Nations Territory
She ran. Breathless, heart straining. Despite the stabbing pain in her side and the fire in her lungs, she forced herself on through the crackling underbrush. The cold wind whipped hair in her eyes. Briars tore her face and hands.
Yet with each labored stride, the soldiers’ shouting voices drew closer. She dared not look back for fear of losing ground, dared not avert her eyes from the forest path.
But where was she to run? As if the question were an obstacle in her path she stumbled to a halt.
There was no one to help her. The People had gone, taking with them all help, all hope. She was alone. The outcast. Nameless.
Gasping, she slumped to her knees into the dew-drenched leaves.
The witch Jiiwi is no more!
The truth of it choked her. She set her teeth against the cry of anguish rising in her throat. She could have chosen death! Death at the hands of The People would have been swift. Nichus, her-husband-no-longer-her-husband, had assured her.
But her fear of death had been stronger than her fear of the unknown. She had chosen life. And with it, banishment.
She tore wind-blown hair laced with leaves and twigs from her face and glanced back over her shoulder. The soldiers were nearly upon her.
Five of them. They slowed their pace. Perhaps they knew she could run no more. They approached as if puzzled, talking among themselves. ‟Savages musta left her behind when they sneaked off,” one of the men said. ‟Why d’you suppose…?”
‟Hotakwih!” she said to herself, unable to hold back the tears. It is finished. Raising her eyes to the sky above the autumn colored hills, she whispered, ‟Hohsah” It has begun. She bowed her head. ‟Haywokahweh!” I have gone in a circle.
When the blue-coated soldiers caught up with her, she no longer had the strength nor the will to resist.
Two of them edged closer to her in the shadows. ‟Here, we’re not going to harm you,” one said, his voice a raspy whisper. ‟Do you understand?”
She could not bring herself to look at them. Soon they would do more than talk. She knew. Soon they would see what she was. They would take her away. Take her back. Back to where the circle had begun.
‟Not so close,” the other man ordered. ‟Give her room. You’re scarin’ her.”
A twinge of unease rippled through her stomach. These were the same blue coats that had left a trail of ashes where thriving villages once had stood, who girdled the fruit trees so they would wither and die, who laid waste the fields of corn and squash and beans. She had seen them before, in her dreams. Her dreams had shown them the way.
‟Good God!” another of them cried out. ‟She’s white! The woman’s white!”
The first man knelt before her. ‟Do you speak English? Can you tell us your name?”
She would not trouble herself to reply.
‟Here!” A man fumbled in his pack, producing a slice of jerky. He extended it just beyond her reach, an attempt to lure her closer, like a starving dog. But she would not oblige him. ‟I’ll wager you’re hungry.”
She lifted her head slightly and eyed the meat with longing. Three days of subsisting on nothing but roots and groundnuts had left her light-headed and weak. But she would accept none of their food. She looked down at the leaves.
‟Suit yourself,” the man grumbled, and tore off a piece with his teeth.
In the distance, the shouts of men rose above the morning stillness. An acrid odor wafted on the wind through the trees. Across the meadow, lush with green grasses, beyond the expanse of ripening fields and orchards, the soldiers had set fire to the village.
From a place deep inside her, as if awakened by the sounds and smells, an old terror forced itself past the dust of forgotten memory.
Voices from the past rang out across time. Silenced for so long, they gained new strength and force on the billows of smoke darkening the sky.
Mama! Her own voice. The voice of the child she had been.
For as long as she could remember, her dreams had been filled with fire and smoke. And a savage host tore her from one world and thrust her into another. So it had been in the past. So it would be again.
‟Haywokahweh!” she said, and she closed her eyes.
The circle was complete.
‟…more savage than human, I say. Lord, but it makes me sick to the heart to see what’s become of her…my own brother’s flesh and blood….” Rufus Grey’s voice rattled the cold morning stillness.
Zara cringed at the suppressed tone of anger in her uncle’s voice and the rapid report of his boots as he pounded back and forth across the length of the floor. Kneeling by the kitchen hearth, her back to the room, she fed more kindling to the wavering tongues of flame and steeled herself against her own uneasiness.
‟Hush, Rufus, please…” Aunt Ginny’s whispered voice–submissive, hesitating–barely competed with the sound of his tread. ‟She can hear you.”
‟Then let her hear!” her uncle roared. ‟What difference does it make? She don’t understand a word I say.”
‟Oh, but she does. Well, maybe not everything. But she does understand. You must be more patient with her.”
‟I ain’t got no more patience. As soon as we collect the inheritance–”
‟Oh, please, Rufus give her more time. She’s been with us less than two months. After all those years! Can’t you see? Everything’s still so very strange to her. You can’t expect–”
‟She’ll do as I say, or God help me, I’ll….”
‟Honestly, Rufus!” Aunt Ginny’s voice held a placating edge. ‟What difference does it make if she comes with us to the settlement or not? After the last time, why–?”
Her uncle’s boots made a sound like swift rhythms on a water drum. ‟She’ll come I tell you!” The words were finished with a slam of his fist on the table. Crockery rattled.
The ensuing silence quivered over Zara’s nerves. Rolling back her head, she squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to keep her tears in check.
How she wished she had never come to this house! How she wished the soldiers had not found her…that she had died instead. Of hunger. In the jaws of wild beasts. Even the worst manner of death would have been a far kinder fate than life with Rufus Grey.
But hunger had proved to be her weakness. Hunger and the stirrings of memories from another life.
At Fort Sullivan, the soldiers had brought a man to see her. Somehow, the man knew her name, the name she had been given in another time, another place. Zara Grey. He sparked a deep and painful longing inside her.
‟Grand…fa-ther….” she had said, the words gathering like storm clouds, rising inside her from the world where her dreams began. ‟Al-bany.”
They had promised to take her to her grandfather. They had promised to send him word. But it was Rufus Grey who had come for her. Rufus Grey who had brought her to this place.
From the moment she had first set eyes on her uncle, she sensed something disturbing in his nature. His display of relief and affection had seemed forced and cloying when they met again after all the years.
But he soon grew hostile toward her, criticizing her dress and manner, finding fault with even her most earnest attempts to please him. ‟You were the devil’s own as a child,” he often said to her. ‟It’s no wonder you took to a savage life. No wonder they didn’t butcher you like they did your ma and pa!”
Those words had stirred up a fire in her heart. She hated him for those words.
‟What are you going to do, Rufus?”
Aunt Ginny’s voice jolted her from her thoughts. She tensed.
‟Beat some sense into her.”
‟No, Rufus. Please. You mustn’t–”
‟Out of my way, Ginny. I said, ‘Out of my way!’”
Zara turned with a start as Rufus Grey pushed his wife from his path. Aunt Ginny hit the table hard. The milk pitcher crashed to the floor.
Zara pressed herself into the corner by the hearth.
‟C’mere, you!” His labored breath rasped on the air.
She swallowed hard, bracing herself. Still, she was unprepared for the wrenching pain when he grabbed her by a fistful of hair and hauled her to her feet. She tried not to struggle, not to scream, but a whimper of surprise escaped her. He slapped her hard across the face. The impact stunned her. Despite the pain and the outrage, she fought back her tears and faced him with all the defiance she could muster.
He struck her again. The strength of the blow sent her sprawling across the floor. Still, she would not allow him the satisfaction of her tears.