Monday, March 23, 2015

An Excerpt from Pam of Babylon by Suzanne Jenkins (from the At Odds With Destiny Book Set)

Hi, folks!

Remember the new book set I've been touting for the past month? It offers ten critically acclaimed, best selling authors all in one place - and each book is only NINE CENTS. It's crazy, and it's a super deal. The really cool part of this is that in AT ODDS WITH DESTINY, each full length novel is BOOK ONE in a series. So if you fall in love with an author and his characters, there are many more to turn to in their stable of works!

★ Kindle  Nook ★ Apple 
★ Kobo ★ Smashwords ★ 

Today I'm featuring another author from this collection, Suzanne Jenkins. Enjoy the excerpt, and thank you, Suzanne, for sharing with us!

Aaron Lazar

From Pam of Babylon by Suzanne Jenkins

Suzanne Jenkins

Jack Smith was thinking, I am the luckiest man alive. Sitting at a white-linen-covered table on the sidewalk outside of his favorite restaurant, he gazed at the perfect face of his mistress of nine months. This place was their place. They’d spent a rare night together, and in the early morning they could have a leisurely breakfast, enjoying the perfect weather of late May in New York.

“What do you have to do this weekend?” Jack asked, knowing this could be a dangerous topic. Sandra was sipping her coffee, head bowed but eyes on him. She slowly put her cup down and straightened up. He really wanted to know. He was interested in her life outside of where it meshed with his.

“After you leave, I’ll start getting ready for the week, and then I can relax tonight and tomorrow. Monday I’m having lunch at my sister’s in New Jersey. My schedule next week is fairly packed, so the more I can get done now, the easier it will be.” She thought of her messy apartment, the empty refrigerator, the pile of laundry, but didn’t mention it. Jack’s solution to it would be to say, pay someone to do those things for you so you can do what you want. Your time is worth more than what it would cost. “One thing I would really like to do is get back to that gallery on Houston and see if there isn’t a deal I can work out for the piece we saw last night.” She smiled at Jack and they nodded their heads, remembering the vibrant painting of the Riverside Gardens. It was so colorful, the yellows and reds and blues exaggerated, the flowers oversized. They loved it.

“You should have said something while we were there!” he said, smiling at her. She knew he would have bought it then and there for her. But she really wanted to buy it for herself. She knew it was wise to keep things like community property out of their relationship.

They ate the rest of their breakfast in silence. Soon, Jack would start fidgeting, pushing his chair back slightly, looking around him and fighting the urge to look at his watch. Their time together would be over for now. Sandra would try to beat him to the punch; it was easier for her to be in control of this aspect of their life. His schedule would dictate when they could see each other, but she could be in charge of when it would end. She hated those last minutes while they waited for the check to come, feeling like she was sitting in a vacuum. Today was a little different, maybe because of the night before. It was so special having the evening together and then spending the night with him. The hotel was the same one they always used. It was clean and comfortable and—impersonal. But she didn’t allow herself to think of it.

He suggested early on that they go to her apartment, but she didn’t know how long they would be together and didn’t want those associations in her home. It would be hard enough to end the relationship without memories of him permeating where she lived. No thank you. It would be bad enough having to see him at work every day. Besides, he was wealthy enough to afford a hotel, and she was worth it.

He would not have argued if he knew what she was thinking. On one hand, he was wondering what was taking so long to get the check, as he had a lot to do at home, but on the other he would miss her terribly. It took all the strength he had not to pout like a child when he was away from her. He thought of his home, close to the sea, the smell of salt air. He imagined the two of them sitting on the veranda overlooking the beach grass. But the face of his wife kept popping up on Sandra’s body, not allowing anyone to take her place, even in his thoughts.

She walked him to the subway, refusing to have him walk her home first. He often preferred the subway over taking a cab. She would shop on the way home and he had a long commute, over an hour to his home on Long Island. They walked arm in arm, a striking couple to look at. He mature, graying at the temples and in good shape for his age; she young, model thin and beautiful. Heads turned to look. Were they famous? The attention they got when they were out in public together pleased them and they became even more animated, laughing, standing up straighter, happiness radiating from them both.

On Broadway, another observer took note of the radiant couple. Jack’s sister-in-law, Marie waited in the Saturday-morning bagel line at H&H. She happened to be uptown because of having gone to the theatre the night before with her friend, Arthur, staying the night at his apartment. Marie stood with her mouth open, heat spreading through her body, shocked and furious. The man behind her tapped her on the shoulder; it was her turn already.

“Never mind, go ahead,” she said as she moved out of line. Her body turned toward her brother-in-law as his back and that of his companion continued down the street toward the subway. She inched along the pavement staying close to the storefronts, not wanting to be seen, but dying to see. When they reached the subway the woman, a girl really, didn’t go down the stairs with him. Marie found it incredible that Jack was going to take the subway. What the hell was that all about? The couple stood at the entrance to the stairs talking, his arm around her shoulder protectively. It was clear that they were a couple, not just work associates, not just friends.

Standing out of sight in a doorway, Marie could barely tolerate the physical sensations she was experiencing. Her entire body was vibrating. It was a combination of disgust, shock, and excitement. She had loved Jack as her brother. She was certain her sister, Pam had no idea her husband was cheating on her. Pam would have said something. Marie didn’t yet think of the implications this would have on her relationship with her sister. If she didn’t know, it would remain that way because Marie wasn’t going to tell her. She would confront Jack and insist he tell Pam. That was the only way. Let him do the dirty work. Her patience paid off; Jack took the girl into his arms. He didn’t look around first to see if they were being observed, although this was a neighborhood in which his relatives lived. Then they kissed. He kissed her passionately; she reached up and with her arms around him, kissed him back. They parted, reluctance obvious to all who looked upon them, intimacy flourishing in a public place. Jack went down the subway stairs, looking behind him and smiling. The young woman stood there smiling down at him, waiting to move away until he was out of sight.

Marie watched as the young woman, beautiful in a white sundress, turned her back to the stairs and starting walking up Broadway. Marie didn’t have all day to play detective, but she knew that for her sister’s sake, she would need to find out as much as she could about this person. So she followed her, supposing she was headed for home but having no way of knowing. She stayed about half a block behind her. Watching her from the back, she made mental notes: tall; slender (of course); long, dark hair. Marie thought the woman should be blonde, but that didn’t make any sense. She told herself to just keep walking. When they got to 80th Street, the woman crossed and went into Zabar’s. There was no way Marie was going in. She would wait outside for a few minutes. She didn’t have all day. If the woman was doing a big shopping trip, Marie would leave. She stood across Broadway watching, not wanting to miss it when she left the store. She looked up at the sky and could see blue between the buildings, sunlight peeking down from the east. It was going to be a beautiful weekend. Memorial Day was Monday. Marie was going to her sister’s house on Long Island for a picnic. She had been looking forward to it all month. Now this.

The young woman stepped out of Zabar’s with two bags of groceries. She turned left and started walking up Broadway again with Marie following closely behind. When she got to 82nd she turned left, walking toward West End. It figures, Marie thought, remembering her own apartment in no-man’s land. About midway down the block she made another left and walked up to a lovely beige-brick mid-century. She turned the key in the lock, opened the door and disappeared from sight. Marie stood in the center of the sidewalk, disappointed. Well, she had an address, just in case.

She walked back to Broadway, thinking about what she’d seen all the way. She wanted to call Jack’s cell and tell him off. Suddenly, overcome with nausea, she moved to the curb and threw up in the gutter.


About the author:
Suzanne Jenkins writes contemporary fiction, a reflection of American fantasy but with historical reality. Pam of Babylon books consistently rank in the Top 100 Best Sellers in American Drama with over 500,000 downloads.

A second series, The Greektown Stories, includes The Greeks of Beaubien Street, The Princess of Greektown, Christmas in Greektown and A Greektown Wedding.

Stand alone novels include Someone Like You, Alice's Summertime Adventure, The Savant of Chelsea, Slow Dancing, The Liberation of Ravenna Morton and Atlas of Women.

Burn District, Jenkins new sci/fi series, follows an American family as they flee from political insanity to save their lives in the Arizona Desert.

Her short story, Vapor appeared in Willow Review, Spring 2013.

A retired operating room nurse, Jenkins divides her time between the west Michigan lake shore, the Brandywine River Valley, and the mountains of Southern California where you may subscribe an email list entitling you to free stories and excerpts of soon to be released and new releases.

Like her on Facebook;
Follow her on Twitter; suzannejenkins3

Monday, March 09, 2015

An Excerpt from Janet Morris's Tempus: (Sacred Band of Stepsons: Sacred Band Tales Book 1)

Hi, folks!

Remember the new book set I've been touting for the past month? It offers ten critically acclaimed, best selling authors all in one place - and each book is only NINE CENTS. It's crazy, and it's a super deal. The really cool part of this is that in AT ODDS WITH DESTINY, each full length novel is BOOK ONE in a series. So if you fall in love with an author and his characters, there are many more to turn to in their stable of works!

★ Kindle  Nook ★ Apple 
★ Kobo ★ Smashwords ★ 

Today I'm featuring another author from this collection, Janet Morris. This synopsis and excerpts are from Tempus. Thank you, Janet, for sharing this with us!

Aaron Lazar

Tempus (Sacred Band of Stepsons: Sacred Band Tales Book 1) by Janet Morris

Relive the iconic adventures of Tempus, the Riddler, and his Sacred Band through the eyes of Nikodemos, his right-side companion, as Niko seeks his spirit's balance on Bandara's misty isles. Five pivotal Sacred Band stories from the earliest adventures of the Stepsons in a world of thieves. Ride with Tempus and his Band once again, for the first time. PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Parts of this work have been published in substantially similar form in several volumes of the Shared Universe Series, Thieves World®.

Excerpt from Tempus by Janet Morris © 1987, 2013


There was a little mist in the streets by the time Tempus headed his Trôs horse across the east side toward the Mageguild – nothing daunting yet, just a fetlock-high steaminess as if the streets were cobbled with dry ice. He’d had no luck intercepting his sister at Lastel’s estate: a servant shouted through a grate, over the barking of dogs, that the master had already left for the fete. He’d stopped briefly at the mercenaries’ hostel before going there, to burn a rag he had had for centuries in the common room’s hearth: he no longer needed to be reminded not to argue with warlocks; or that love, for him, was always a losing game. With his sister’s scarf, perhaps the problem of her would waft away, changed like the ancient linen to smoke upon the air.
Before the Mageguild’s outer wall, an imprudent crowd had gathered to watch the luminaries arriving in the ersatz-daylight of its ensorcelled grounds. Pink clouds formed a glowing canopy to the wall’s edge – a godly pavilion; elsewhere, it was night. Where dark met light, the Stepson Janni waited (one leg crooked over his saddle horn, rolling a smoke, his best helmet dangling by his knee and his full-length dress-mantle draped over his horse’s croup), while around his hips the ragged crowd thronged and his horse, ears flattened, snapped at Ilsigs who came too near.
Tempus’ gray rumbled a greeting to the bay; the curly-headed mercenary straightened up in his saddle and saluted, grinning through his beard.
He wasn’t smiling when the Mageguild’s ponderous doors enfolded them, and three junior functionaries escorted them to the “changing rooms” within the outer wall. There they were expected to strip and hand over their armaments to the solicitously smirking mages-in-training before donning proffered "fete clothes" (gray silk chitons and summer sandals) the wizards had thought-fully provided. Aškelon wasn’t taking any chances, Tempus thought but did not say, though Janni wondered aloud what use there was in checking their paltry swords and daggers when enchanters could not be made to check their spells.
Inside the Mageguild’s outer walls, it was summer. In its gardens – transformed from their usual dank fetidness by artful conjure into a wonderland of orchids and eucalyptus and willows weeping where before moss-hung swamp-giants had held sway over quagmires – Tempus saw Kadakithis, resolutely imperious in a black robe oversewn with gems into a map of Ranke-caught-in-the-web-of-the-world. The prince-governor’s pregnant wife, a red gift-gown splendid over her child-belly, leaned heavily on his arm. Kittycat’s approving glance was laced with commiseration: yes, he, too, found it hard to smile here, but both of them knew it prudent to observe the forms, especially with wizards….
Tempus nodded and walked on.
Then he saw her, holding Lastel’s hand, to which the prosthetic thumb of his disguise was firmly attached. A signal bade Janni await him; he did not have to look back to know that the Stepson obeyed.
Cime was blond, tonight and golden-eyed, tall in her adept-chosen robe of iridescent green, but he saw through the illusion to her familiar self. And she knew it. “You come here without your beloved armaments or even the god’s amulet? The man I used to know would have pulled rank and held on to his weapons.”
“Nothing’s going to happen here,” he murmured, staring over her head into the crowd, looking for Niko; “unless the message I received was in error and we do have a problem?”
“We have no problem –” glowered Lastel/One-Thumb.
“One-Thumb, disappear, or I’ll have Janni over there teach you how to imitate your bar’s sign.” With a reproachful look that Tempus would utter his alias here, the man who did not like to be called One-Thumb outside the Maze lumbered off.
Then he had to look at her. Under the golden-eyed illusion, her char-and-smoke gaze accused him, as it had chased him across the centuries and made him content to be accursed and constrained from other loves. God, he thought, I will never get through this without error. It was the closest he had come to asking Vashanka to help him for ages. In the back of his skull, a distant whisper exhorted him to take his sister while he could… that bush on his right would be bower enough. But more than advice the god could not give: “I have my own troubles, mortal, for which you are partly responsible.” With the echo of Vashanka’s last word, Tempus knew the god was gone.
“Is Lastel telling the truth, Cime? Are you content to face Aškelon’s wrath, and your peril, alone? Tell me how you came to half kill a personage of that magnitude, and assure me that you can rectify your mistake without my help.”
She reached up and touched his throat, running her finger along his jaw until it found his mouth. "Ssh, ssh. You are a bad liar, who proclaims he does not love me still. Have you not enough at risk, presently? Yes, I erred with Aškelon. He tricked me. I shall solve it, one way or the other. My heart saw him, and I could not then be the one who stood there watching him die. His world beguiled me. His form enthralled me. You know what punishment love could bring me.... He begged me leave him to die alone. And I believed him… because I feared for my life, should  I come to love him while he died. We each bear our proper curse, you and I, that is sure.”
“You think this disguise will fool him?”
She shook her head. “I need not. He will want a meeting. This,” she ran her hands down over her illusory youth and beauty, “was for the magelings, those children at the gates. As for you: stay clear of this matter, my brother. There is no time for quailing or philosophical debates, now. You never were competent to simply act, unencumbered by judgment or conscience. Don’t try to change on my account. I will deal with the entelechy, and then I will drink even his name dry of meaning. Like that!” She snapped her fingers, twirled on her heel, and flounced off in a good imitation of a young woman offended by a forward soldier.
While he watched, Aškelon appeared from the crowd to bar her path, a golden coin held out before him like a wand or a warding charm.
That fast did he have her, too fast for Tempus to get between them, simply by the mechanism of invoking her curse: for pay, she must give herself to any comer. He watched them flicker out of being with his stomach rolling and an ache in his throat. It was some little while before he saw anything external, and then he saw Nikodemos showing off his gift-cuirass to Janni.
The two came up to him wondering why it was, when everyone else’s armaments had been taken from them, Niko, who had arrived in shabby duty gear, had been given better than ever he could afford. Tempus drew slowly into his present, noting Molin Torchholder’s gaudy figure nearby, and a kohl-eyed lady (who might easily be an infiltrator from the Mygdonian Alliance) talking to Lastel.
He asked his Stepsons to make her acquaintance:
“She might be smuggling drugs into Sanctuary with Lastel’s help, but don’t arrest her for trifles. If she is a spy, perhaps she will try to recruit a Stepson disaffected enough with his lot. Either of you – a single fighter or half a broken pair – could fit that description.”
“At the least, we must plumb her body’s secrets, Stealth,” Janni rumbled to Niko as the two strutted her way, looking virile and predatory.
With a scowl of concern for the Stepson to whom he was bound by ill-considered words, Tempus sought out Torchholder. As he slid with murmured greetings and apologies through socialites and Hazard-class adepts, Tempus recalled Niko’s blank and steady eyes: the boy knew his danger and trusted his commander, as a Sacred Bander must, to see him through it. No remonstrance or doubt had shown in the fighter called Stealth’s open countenance, that Tempus would come here against Aškelon’s wishes, and risk a Stepson’s life. It was war, the boy’s calm said, what they both did and what they both knew. Later, perhaps there would be explanations – or not. Tempus knew that Niko, should he survive, would never broach the subject.
“Torchholder, I think you ought to go see to the First Consort’s baby,” he said as his hand came down heavily on the palace priest’s bebaubled shoulder.
Torchholder was already pulling on his beard, his mouth curled with anger, when he turned. Assessing Tempus’ demeanor, the priest’s face did a dance which ended in a mien of knowing caution. “Ah, yes, I did mean to look in on Seylalha and her babe. Thank you for reminding me, Hell Hound.”
“Stay with her,” Tempus whispered as Molin sought to brush by him, “or get them both to a safer place –”
“We got your message this afternoon, Hound,” the privy priest hissed, and he was gone.
Tempest was just thinking that it was well Fete Week only came once yearly when, above him in the pink, tented clouds, winter gloom began to spread; and beside him, a hand closed upon his left arm with a numbingly painful grip: Jihan had arrived.

Best selling author Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created Tempus and his the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

website link:
Wikipedia link:
Presentation at Library of Congress Youtube Link:

★ Kindle  Nook ★ Apple 
★ Kobo ★ Smashwords 

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Excerpt from NATIVE LANDS by PC Zick, from the book set AT ODDS WITH DESTINY

★ Kindle  Nook ★ Apple 
★ Kobo ★ Smashwords ★ 

Hi, folks!

This week a new book collection has been released which sets a new level for all omnibuses. This one offers ten critically acclaimed, best selling authors all in one place - and each book is only NINE CENTS. It's crazy, and it's a super deal. The really cool part of this is that in AT ODDS WITH DESTINY, each full length novel is BOOK ONE in a series. So if you fall in love with an author and his characters, there are many more to turn to in their stable of works!

This synopsis and excerpts are from P.C. Zick's  NATIVE LANDS.Thank you, PC, for sharing this with us!


Native Lands is a novel rich in intrigue and history as a tribe of Native Americans, thought to be extinct, fight to save their beloved heritage. They join with others willing to sacrifice everything to save further destruction of the Everglades and St. Augustine.

Forbidden loves, deceptions, and murder threaten to destroy nature and families in a saga stretching from the 1760s to the present day.

Join Locka and Mali as they lead their tribe of Timucuans away from the Spanish near St. Augustine in 1760 and settle into a new life in the Everglades alongside the Calusa Indians. Their progeny grow up in the Everglades, attempting to keep their bloodlines pure.

By 2010, Mangrove Mike, Joey Cosmos, and Rob Zodiac live among the white people and learn that the human connection transcends the fear of extinction of their people. Barbara Evans in the Everglades and Emily Booth in St. Augustine are the glue as the different cultures combine forces to fight a conglomerate of international interests.

It’s a dangerous journey as this oddly matched group attempts to halt the destruction of the natural world they treasure. Cultural boundaries established centuries ago are erased as love and nature seek the balance lost during the battle for power and control of the last of the Florida frontier.

Chapter One

1760 – near St. Augustine, Florida

Locka walked from his village through the marsh, carefully stepping between the sharp reeds as he headed to the estuary. He wanted to reach the weir before the tide retreated. Perhaps he’d have caught a mullet or pompano that swam into the estuaries during high tide. Locka inhaled the heavy salt air as the humidity of late May washed over him, and the smell of decaying plants emanated from the soggy soil with every step he took.
Behind him lay his village of Seloy tucked into a grove of live oaks dripping with gray moss as the sun edged its way up from the horizon. He noticed Mali walking parallel to the marsh carrying a large basket, most likely on a mission to gather blackberries from the bushes ripe with fruit after the spring rains.
Every movement was graceful as she carried the basket on her hip just above the line of her moss skirt. More moss, entwined with small shells and pearls, hung around her neck. It swung from side to side revealing her full breasts not yet turned soft from nursing a child. Her sturdy physique, caramel-colored skin, and raven hair made her an attractive prospect for one of the young warriors who vied for the attention of this beautiful woman.
He wanted to turn away from watching her, but couldn’t. Her hair hung straight down her back. She’d wear it up in a knot to keep her neck cooler once the intense summer heat settled for a long visit. Her almond-shaped brown eyes and her ample body made him feel the risings of something he hadn’t felt in a very long time. Mali’s body and carriage reminded him of his wife Suri before she gave birth to their son Olio. When Mali turned and saw him staring, he quickly turned away. Even though his wife had vanished five years earlier after a raid by the Spanish, he still ached for her. Chief Calumba often encouraged him to seek out one of the maidens, but he kept his distance. He didn’t want to feel the pain he’d experienced the day he learned Suri and Olio were missing.
Locka was a perfect specimen of a warrior with his broad, muscular shoulders and beefy chest. His eagle-like nose, chiseled jaw, and bronze skin created a stir among the maidens whenever he appeared in the village. They had all made it clear that they’d welcome the head warrior’s attention, but he ignored them, despite urgings from the chief that he should marry again. The only one who never fawned over him was Mali. She kept her distance, always polite and circumspect whenever they came into contact.
When he turned back around, he saw her nearing the blackberry bushes. He also saw a white man wearing boots and a tall metal hat walk out of the woods. Locka recognized him as one of the Spanish soldiers from the fort downriver. The soldier moved toward Mali, and when he stood in front of her, he reached for her breasts.
“Locka!” Her voice carried across the marsh to the estuary, but it only excited the soldier more as he pulled Mali toward him and pushed his leg between hers. With one hand holding her close, he used the other to rip the moss skirt from her body and reached down between her legs.
Locka was already moving, even before her screams rang across the marsh. Mali was spitting and pushing the soldier away, but he held her tight, continuing to probe her with his hands and mouth. So absorbed was he that he failed to see Locka’s approach.
Locka leaped at the man, shoving him to the ground as Mali escaped to the side. She watched as Locka rammed his spear into the man’s chest. The Spaniard died quickly, his smirk replaced by the open-mouthed shock of surprise.
Blood dripped from the spear as Locka wrenched it from the dead man’s chest. He reached down, rubbed the soldier’s blood on his hands, and smeared it on his face.
“He won’t bother you again.”
“Thank you, Locka,” she said. “I was certain he was going to kill me or take me back to the fort.”
Locka wiped the blood off his spear with his bloodstained fingers.
Their blood is the same color as mine, he thought. A chill descended over him, despite the heat of the morning air.
He looked down at the man he’d stabbed through the heart.
“Go back to the village now. I’ll take care of the body,” he told Mali as she attempted to cover herself with the moss the Spanish soldier had ripped from around her neck and from her waist. “Stay to the estuary.”
She reached to touch his arm, but Locka pulled away, turning his attention to the dead man.
“I’ll cover him at the base of the burial mound.”
“Do you scalp him like the rest before burying him?” Mali asked.
“No, and I teach my warriors not to do it either, but they are young and foolish,” Locka said. “I hate these white men who’ve taken over our land, but I respect the soul of all living things. Now go back, and tell the others to stay close to the village today.”
Mali nodded, and then headed back to Seloy.
He dragged the body by its boots to the line of trees away from the water. When he came to the base of a mound twelve feet high, he dropped the boots and began digging a shallow grave with his spear. If the animals came and dug him up, so be it. He had at least made the effort to bury him.
When he finished, Locka stood and looked east to the estuary and the river beyond. The sun was higher now, and the water was receding from the mud flats. On the opposite bank of the river, Locka could see the dunes thick with the orange sunflowers and yellow daisies of spring. Tall and spindly sea oats waved in the wind. He couldn’t see the ocean beyond because the land was so flat and the dunes were taller than his six-foot four-inch height, but he could hear the waves.
Now that the water was receding, he could go to the weir and see if he’d captured any fish in the nets. He’d also try to fill up his pouch with whelk and oysters.
Locka climbed another mound, this one made from centuries’ worth of shells thrown there by his people. His eyes took in the different landscapes. He’d missed living near the sea. The Seloy had returned from their wintering site deep in the woods to the west a few weeks ago. He pulled his thoughts from the violence of a few minutes earlier to the sights and sounds of the marsh and the ocean beyond. Balance slowly returned to his blood.
He watched as the egrets and ibis pecked in the mud for food. A lone great blue heron stood on the edge of the water, patiently waiting for a fish to appear. A pelican flew close over his head spying to see if he had any fish he was willing to sacrifice. His village lay to the west in a low-lying canopy of live oak trees weathered by the constant salt breezes. He surveyed the river immediately in front of him and let his gaze wander south to the settlement of St. Augustine.
The peace of the moment disappeared as he thought of the Spanish. They called his people Timucuans.
“We are Seloy,” Locka shouted to the wind as he tilted back his head with its tall top knot. He raised his tattooed arms and shook his fists at the fort on the riverbank.
The Spanish worked continuously to clear land to build houses and churches. They ripped trees from their roots as a black bear ripped the meat from fawn’s bones. Locka’s heart broke every time he thought of it.

Chapter Two

2012, St. Augustine, Florida

Emily Booth watched as the sun began its descent over the marsh during an idyllic evening ritual. Daniel intruded into her reverie with the fading reds, oranges, and yellows of the grasses before her when he made his announcement. The day turned as sour as the margarita mix in the cocktail-hour drinks. Her mood changed from peaceful to dark and murky as she faced her husband. His words from only a moment earlier sunk into her brain.
“Why in the world would you ever run for the county commission?” Emily asked.
“It’s time somebody stood up for the environment in this town.” Daniel Booth turned from his wife to look at their daughter Janie and his father-in-law Jack.
Emily left unsaid what she was thinking:  “Why didn’t you discuss this with me first?” She knew the answer to that question as well as she knew that she’d probably lose this battle. Daniel made his announcement during the family happy hour because he knew the others would outnumber her. Emily fumed at her own surprise; Daniel often proceeded in this manner. He went to the people with the least resistance first, and Emily knew as his wife of sixteen years, she didn’t rank high on that list.
Evenings often began on the Booth’s front porch as the sun set over the marsh grasses in front of them. The Tolomato River flowed on the other side of the rusty brown reeds now backlit by the light of the sinking sun. Unseen, but felt in the heaviness of humid salt air, lay the Atlantic Ocean which greeted the river around Porpoise Point. The Tolomato met with the Matanzas River to the south as it flowed past the riverfront of St. Augustine. Emily often imagined the native Timucuans who once lived on the land where her house sat. When she dug in the sand around the house, she often found remnants of shells. She shuddered to think that the homes here on the edge of the marsh might have been built over shell and burial mounds of the extinct people of north Florida.
Emily cherished these moments with her father, Janie, and Daniel. Her father came by on his way home from work, and many nights stayed for dinner before heading to his condo at the beach. They usually discussed the day’s events, sharing the tidbits of time spent as newspaper editor, high school student, and environmental lawyer. They laughed and planned as Emily sat and listened. She knew the details of her day running a hair salon didn’t match the observations and experiences of the others. Now Daniel ruined the peace with his pronouncement. Emily resented the intrusion as much as she hated what he intended to do. Even though she knew it was useless, she tried to enlist her father in her protest.
“Tell him, Dad, tell him what it would be like,” Emily said. “You know about those meetings and the pressure and the nastiness of politics in this town.”
Jack Dugan, editor at The St. Augustine Record for the past decade, cleared his throat.
“Emily asked you a question, Daniel,” Jack said. “I’d like to hear your answer before I say anything else. Why do you want to run?”
“I don’t like what I’m seeing and hearing. The current commission is filled with land developers and real estate moguls who approve projects without asking questions about environmental impact,” Daniel said. “Harbors and inlets and creeks are dredged and turned into marinas. Cars drive up and down the dunes of St. Johns County. All the while, our beaches are eroding, and populations of sea turtles and shorebirds are diminishing. Just look at Porpoise Point,” Daniel gestured across the marsh to the inlet. “We are doing just what south Florida did:  Growth and human consumption above all else, including nature.”
“Sounds as if you’ve been practicing your campaign speeches already,” Jack said. “But knock it off, Mr. Tree Hugger. Talk to me, not your adoring choir.”
“Daniel, you can’t change things with just one vote,” Emily said. “And besides you’re a Democrat.”
“I can have my voice heard more than when I speak during public comment time at the meetings,” Daniel said. “All right, Jack. Here’s the truth. I’m tired of Julia Curry shutting me up whenever I try to protest or ask questions. ‘Speak to the subject, Mr. Booth,’ she says. She keeps getting worse, and you know it. And it’s not just me; it’s anyone with a question on her questionable decisions. She’s killing democracy in this county.”
“You’ll put me in a difficult position with the paper,” Jack said.
“Haven’t you said for the past year that you’re ready to retire to the front porch to read about the news rather than report on it?” Daniel asked his father-in-law. “You know you’re not made to sit back and relax, but I know you want to retire from what you’re doing. If you did, you could help me win a seat on the commission.”
“Honestly, Daniel, you don’t expect Dad to retire just because you’ve gotten a notion to run for the county commission,” Emily said. “Next you’ll ask me to close the shop so I can be your campaign manager.”
“It’s all right, Emily. Daniel’s right,” Jack said. “I’ve been looking for something else to do, and here it is. I’ve been in the news business far too long; I’m losing my objectivity when I see what’s happening here with the same things Daniel’s mentioned.”
“Meredith is going to run the campaign, so you don’t have to worry about that part of it, Emily,” Daniel said. “It won’t affect her job at your shop, but she’s committed to helping me win, too.”
“You talked to Meredith about this before telling me?” Emily asked, but Daniel and her father had already started strategizing. His ears were shut down to everything else that might interfere or go against what he wanted.
Emily fumed to think about Daniel and Meredith, her assistant at A Stylish Affair, keeping this from her. In addition, he’d convinced her father to retire. She knew her father and Daniel were friends and confidantes before father-in-law and son-in-law. It had been that way since the first time she brought Daniel home from college. It was bad enough that for the past sixteen years of their marriage, Daniel continually brought public attention to himself, first by representing the poor in civil rights cases, and more recently by fighting the land grabbers and developers and championing the wetlands, beaches, and sustainable living. He didn’t bring in much income as a lawyer, but he gained the respect of the street artists, the homeless, and the environmentalists in the community. Daniel received all the attention, while Emily brought in more than half the family income. Now, he’d recruited her assistant without consulting her first.
“I think it’s a great idea, Dad,” Janie, their fifteen-year-old daughter, said. “Ignore Mom. You might be able to get the beaches closed to cars if you win the election. And I can help get the students at Flagler registered to vote in this county.”
“That’s good,” Daniel said. “We need the college kids to vote, if we can get them registered as Democrats. We’ll need that in this Republican county.”
“The Flagler students are fairly conservative, but it’s worth a try,” Jack said.
“You haven’t met them yet, but two new kids—a brother and sister—just moved here, and they joined the ecology club on their first day at school,” Janie said.
“Invite them over for dinner some night this week,” Daniel said. “I think it’s important to get the youth involved.”
“I will. Peter and Lori moved here after their mother married Eric Dimsdale,” Janie said. “Do you know him?”
“I know him,” Jack said. “I hear he might be running for the commission, too, in District 3. If he follows the Dimsdale legacy, he’ll probably run as a Republican and be in cahoots with Curry in no time, if he isn’t already.”
“Maybe his new step-kids will have an influence on him,” Janie said.
Emily decided it was useless to fight all three members of her immediate family. Janie, finishing the ninth grade, took more after her father in temperament and passion. The teenage years brought a rift between the mother and daughter that separated them more each day as Emily fought to retain some sort of control over her family. The careful, methodical approach she learned to use first on her mother, and then later on her husband, failed when it came to Janie. She envied her daughter’s fearlessness. With her long and thick sandy-colored hair, Janie looked like a typical teen. But once she opened her mouth, she sounded like a grown woman. Janie’s interests separated her from kids her own age, so Emily was heartened to hear she’d made some new friends her own age.
The year before, Janie’s passion for the environment led her to volunteer with the sea turtle patrol. Daniel and Emily joined as well and participated in the early morning walks with her during nesting season. Emily walked with her husband and only child on Saturday mornings, before the sun rose, because sometimes it was the only time the three of them did something together without quibbling. Those quibbles usually saw Emily on one side and Daniel and Janie on the other. 
Now as she sat on the porch listening to the discussion about Daniel’s bid for commissioner, she knew she’d eventually help. She believed in the same causes as her husband and daughter, but not with the same intensity. While Emily believed the environment needed protections, she also knew it wasn’t her passion. She failed so far to determine what that was. It certainly wasn’t styling hair and catering to the rich and pampered women of St. Augustine, even though she’d made a success of the salon. Despite Emily’s floundering sense of self, she knew she would have made a better choice as campaign manager than Meredith, whose talent lay in life’s more esoteric and ethereal matters. That type of mind had no patience for planning, plodding, and figuring. Emily felt as if a brick had been laid across her shoulders.
As the waning light turned the marsh grasses from yellow to brown, she watched the shore birds dive into the swamp waters for the last bit of the day’s morsels as the light of the fading day cast deep shadows over the marsh that lay in front of them. Then she went inside for drink refills while the conversation continued. When she returned, the discussion went on uninterrupted even when she handed fresh margaritas to the men and a soft drink to Janie.
 “Daniel, there’s one thing that concerns me,” Jack said. “You’re still considered an outsider in St. Augustine. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been here; you weren’t born here.”
“I thought about switching party affiliation, but that lost George Stone the election a few years ago. He lost his Democrat voters, and the Republicans were wary of him. I have to do something. This commission is rubber-stamping anything developers want. They don’t even ask questions anymore. And there are plenty of folks moving here who know it and will support my campaign.”
Emily thought about her drives with Daniel around the county. He incessantly complained about what he saw on the landscape and often exploded with frustration when all seemed hopeless. She was sympathetic when she saw bulldozers occupying the sides of U.S. 1 from the city limits of St. Augustine to the Duval County border north, which encompassed nearly twenty miles of roadway. The bulldozers stood like a platoon of King Kongs in a city of trees ready to step on everything in their path. Daniel ranted about the dangers of the rapid development to his family and anyone who’d listen. When Julia Curry, the chair of the county commission, came to the salon for her weekly styling, Emily heard the other side of the story. Julia loved to brag about her accomplishments in developing St. Johns County. Sometimes hearing both sides confused Emily, but mostly she sided with her husband.
“Now Curry wants to limit the public comment time,” Daniel said. “I meant to tell you, Jack, that your editorial chastising her for severing the ties to democracy in local government was a brilliant piece.”
“Thank you, but that doesn’t change the fact that you know absolutely nothing about running for office or about being a politician,” Jack said. “Let me think about it for a few days before I make a commitment.”
The phone rang, and Daniel went inside to answer it. Emily grabbed the opportunity to change the subject.
“Dad, I heard on the news earlier that they’re predicting an active hurricane season this year. Think we’ll feel it here?” Emily asked.
“I never say never, but we’ve been pretty lucky so far,” Jack said. “That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. NOAA usually does a good job of predicting the number of storms, but not the intensity.”
“There’s so much variability in tides and winds that anything could happen,” Janie said.
Emily looked at her daughter with a slight grin. “Where did you learn that?”
“I read, and our science class is studying climate change,” Janie said. “There’s more involved in global warming than melting glaciers.”
Daniel returned from the phone call as Emily sat there musing about her daughter and her intelligence.
“That was a friend of mine who lives in the Everglades,” Daniel said when he returned to the porch. “He wants me to connect with an environmental writer who lives down there. Something about fish dying.”
“Now you’re broadening your scope to the whole state?” Emily asked.
“It’s all connected, every bit of what they do down there is connected to us up here,” Daniel said.
“He’s right, Mom. We’re learning about the mangroves in environmental biology. The loss of mangrove trees in south Florida impacted species as far north as Georgia when they started removing whole groves near Tampa and the Everglades.”
“And don’t forget what happened to the snowy egret a century ago just because women wanted the feathers in their hats,” Daniel said. “It nearly wiped out the whole population across the state even though the hunting usually took place in the Everglades. It’s all connected, Emily.”
“I know an environmental writer down in the Everglades. She writes environmental columns for The Miami Herald. You remember Barbara Evans, don’t you, Emily?” Jack asked, but no one heard them because they were watching a tall, copper-skinned man walking toward the side door of the porch.
“Daniel, isn’t that the Zodiac fellow from the Plaza?” Emily asked quietly as the man looked around the yard before spotting the family on the porch.
“Hello, Rob. What brings you to the marsh?” Daniel asked, walking to the screen door.
“I’m sorry to bother you and your family, Daniel, but I wanted to tell you something about the work they’re doing out at the place where they’re making those canals off U.S. 1.”
“You mean Venice Village?” Daniel asked.
“Right. Some of the homeless vets have holed up there under the bridges since they’ve been kicked off the benches in the Plaza. I don’t want them to get kicked out of there, but I thought you should know something.”
 “What’s the problem?” Daniel asked.
“I discovered today that they’re bulldozing shell mounds, maybe even a burial mound, to make way for the canals,” Rob said. “Jeremy—he’s one of the vets—showed me some mounds out there in the marshes, and I’m sure they contain artifacts. I know the Timucuans had a settlement near there. How can this project be allowed to continue? One of the mounds is already flattened.”
“Let me make some inquiries with the folks at the University of Florida,” Jack said. “It might be reason enough to stall. Isn’t that a Global Seas project?”
The mention of Global Seas caused Daniel’s hands to rise and ball into fists as if warming up for a boxing match. “Yes, those bastards. I’d like to see that company destroyed.”
“They’ve got their hands in too many things,” Rob said. “I’m going to contact Florida’s AIM, too. Sometimes when they get involved some action can be taken.”
“What’s AIM?” Janie asked, saving Emily from having to ask the same question.
“The American Indian Movement,” Rob said. “They’re a group of activists fighting for the rights of all Native Americans.”
“I’ve always worried that our house was built on or very near one of their mounds,” Emily said. “But I didn’t know what to do about it.”
“Not much to do once it’s been destroyed,” Rob said. “But maybe we can save at least something out there. I didn’t know the Timucuans had a settlement that far away from the estuary, but maybe flooding moved them further out.”
“Didn’t they call themselves the Seloy?” Janie asked.
“They did indeed,” Rob said. “You’ve been studying your history of the area.”
“We don’t get much in school, but I read a lot. It’s so hard to believe a whole tribe could disappear like the books say they did. It’s the same with the Calusa in the Everglades.”
Rob smiled. “We need to sit down and have a long talk about it one day, Janie.”
“Are you noticing anything else out there?” Daniel said.
“That’s the other thing I wanted to tell you. The fish in the canals used to be plentiful, but now the guys either can’t catch anything or dead fish float to the surface. I’ve asked Jeremy to make sure they don’t eat those dead fish out of hunger. He told me they haven’t caught a live fish in more than a month. Something’s not right out there, Daniel.”

About the Author 

P.C. Zick began her writing career in 1998 as a journalist. She's won various awards for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction. She describes herself as a "storyteller" no matter the genre.
She was born in Michigan and moved to Florida in 1980. Even though she now resides in western Pennsylvania with her husband Robert, she finds the stories of Florida and its people and environment a rich base for her storytelling platform. Florida's quirky and abundant wildlife—both human and animal—supply her fiction with tales almost too weird to be believable.
She writes two blogs, P.C. Zick and Living Lightly. She has published three nonfiction books and six novels.

Her writing contains the elements most dear to her heart, ranging from love to the environment. In her novels, she advances the cause for wildlife conservation and energy conservation. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion.

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Blogs:; Living Lightly