This post is a message from your sponsor, er, me.
This year has been the year of the “Garden of Heaven Trilogy,” my series of novels about a protagonist born on a Montana sheep ranch who loses his first love while looking at the stars (The Seeker), joins the Navy during the Vietnam war and finds himself more distressed by news from home than events in the South China Sea (The Sailor), and ultimately teaches at a small Midwestern college where lies and slander take precedence over literature and history (The Betrayed).
While writing the trilogy, I saw the scenes in these adventures as old stories, parts of which are true and not forgotten, that lent themselves to a mix of magical realism and contemporary fantasy. The stories could have happened anywhere, but those in the Garden of Heaven Trilogy burnt their way through Florida’s swamps, Montana’s mountains, and an old city in America’s heartland.
The Seeker and The Sailor are available in paperback as well as multiple e-book editions including Kindle and Nook. The Betrayed, which just came out this month, is available on Kindle and Nook as well as at Smashwords. (Click on the graphics to see the Kindle versions.)
Here are three tempting excerpts from the trilogy:
(David is watching the scene in a dream.)
“Where is your church, Anne Hill?”
He sullied her name by saying it.
“My church is down Adams past Park Street.”
Nick laughed. “Presbyterian are you, with or without your panties on? One of the elect are you? Predestined to be here at this moment upon the crisscross of two streets.”
Nick leaned in close, through David, and David felt cold.
“Mary Baker Eddy’s church, then, where they will tell you I am an illusion.”
“Yes,” said Anne.
He looks ill, and he smells ill, like pissed-on sheets and last week’s sweat. If I shove him away and run, the police station isn’t that far away.
“Yes,” she said, “the Christian Scientist Church.”
“Oh, poor girl, you think none of this is real,” said Nick, spinning in a circle and pointing at the buildings on the corners, the street lights and the fire hydrants, and the parked cars.”
No, that will anger him. “I don’t know, Nick.”
David stood close to Nick and shoved at him, and when that didn’t work, he whispered in his ear, hoping the words would seem like his own thoughts. That didn’t work either.
“My pain is as real as this street, Anne. Help me pray it away.”
She stepped back and turned to run, but Nick was strong and quick and not as sick as he looked. He grabbed her arm. She swung her purse into his face, wrenched away, and ran toward the dark newspaper office.
Nick flung himself after her, tripped and caught her by the ankle. She cried out when her elbow hit the curb.
“You broke my elbow, you sorry bastard.”
“If you’re a Christian Scientist, their readers will heal your elbow,” he said, out of breath already. “But if this place is your true church, they’ll gather up all your sins fit to print. Pray with me now. The Lord wants you to be a Christian.”
He pulled her up and shoved her against the side of the building.
Coleman watched several small fish jumping alongside the boat, couldn’t quite say the words, coughed, spat, and got himself composed. “Heavy ground fire,” Coleman said without looking at David. “Ackersly saw him go into the water and sink like a stone, then circled until he was on bingo fuel. No sign of him; he never ejected. South Search and Rescue came up empty and called it a day.”
“He was a good man.”
“Good enough to steal my chair,” said Coleman. “You need some time?”
“Ward, how much do you know about a sluff (nickname for an A-7 Corsair, a ‘short little ugly fat fucker’) speed brake?”
“Christ, why can’t they send you people to school before you show up on my watch?”
“God only knows, Chief.”
“I’ve got a little OJT waiting for you when you’re of a mind to do it.”
Coleman slapped him on the back and cut across the flight deck toward the island.
When the lightning struck the staff at the foot of the grave, it found its twin, forty-three years gone, raised the old rowan from the dead and brought the sacred fire up out of the tomb. The fire gathered itself within the wood while the lovers danced. Sikimí was the first to notice the new life and drew close, touching the alpenstock with his muzzle, sniffing it, licking it. His soft whinny caught David’s attention. Then he noticed the hackamore and the saddle.
“Why are you wearing such things, Sikimí?”
“He doesn’t want you to fall again. Now, intend fire,” whispered Anne, as he pulled the staff from the earth. “Intend to see it.”
“It’s warmer than usual,” he said. “But that’s all.”
“You’re overly tired; use Sikimí’s strength.”
The horse came alongside the half-moon bench nearest the tree. For once, David did not need a stepladder or fence. He put his foot in the stirrup, flung his right leg over the horse’s back, settled down into the unfamiliar saddle, and pulled the staff up after him. The rain had slacked off, but the clouds were regrouping for another onslaught.
“If lightning strikes the staff again, we’re screwed, Sikimí.”
Sikimí snorted and backed out from under the tree, head high, ears alert, moving—almost dancing—between the two half-moon benches.
“Now,” said Anne, “release its fire.”
Sikimí’s forelegs were shuffling, he was about to bolt, impatient, kicking up dirt, ready to go. David reined him in to the extent that was possible, startling him almost, so unused to reins he was, and he looked around, eyes as daemon and bright as they had been at the base of Nináistuko years ago. David reached forward and rubbed the great horse’s neck.
David held the staff out away from him, treating it like a loaded weapon, and pointed it toward the gathering clouds. He stilled his mind, heard the unconjugated flow of Sikimí’s thoughts, felt the horse begin to walk slow and easy with outstretched forelegs, saw the tree and the gravestone and the field drawing away, then the world was between breaths and all of a single point, and then he said, “fire now.”
I hope you enjoy exploring the trilogy!