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Friday, January 17, 2014

Crosswind by @LynneCantwell - Author Reads a Chapter - [Audio Excerpt + Giveaway]

Storm’s coming…

Title: CROSSWINDAuthor: Lynn Cantwell Genre: Urban Fantasy Pages: Approx 275  Published 11.20 - Amazon

Life on Earth is much improved since the pagan gods' return. As conflict eases around the world, attention -- and money -- has turned to more humanitarian goals: improving the lives of the First Nations peoples and others who were repressed for thousands of years.

But the former ruling class – the military, religious, and corporate leaders who profited under the old system -- are about to stage a last-ditch effort to bring their good times back.

The gods refuse to start a new war against those men, because that would make them no better than Their opponents. Instead, They have drafted three humans to help Them. Together, Tess, Sue and Darrell must find a way past their own flaws to ensure the gods' peace will not be destroyed.

          Chapter 4 Copyright 2013 Lynne Cantwell

Two weeks after the kittens arrived, Sue knew no more about Darrell than she had learned the first day she’d brought them home. It was driving her crazy.

The more she saw of him, the more intrigued she was. He was handsome, she thought, with his brown skin and brown eyes. She knew he was an officer in the Navy – a lieutenant, according to the Wikipedia listing for the insignia on his uniform – and that he worked at the Pentagon. She knew he liked animals and that he was, apparently, an only child. And that was pretty much it.
He continued to spend some time with them every evening, giving the kittens a workout. He had found a seagull feather somewhere and brought it home for them to chase. Puck would make himself crazy trying to catch hold of it; Mrs. Norris was far more likely to sit and watch unless Darrell practically waved the feather in her face.

Which was why Sue was so surprised, early one Saturday morning, when Mrs. Norris paused at the top of the basement stairs, meowed once, dashed downstairs, and didn’t come back up.

She considered going after the cat, but hesitated. Mrs. Norris would probably find a bug to play with, or something, and be back upstairs in a few minutes. So Sue finished making her breakfast.
No cat.
She sat down and ate it.
No cat.

She finished her coffee. Considered pouring a second cup. Went after the cat instead.

Darrell had pulled down the original partition that had divided the basement roughly in half crosswise, and had instead split the room lengthwise, with about two-thirds enclosed for his use. He had cleaned up the four half-height windows, two at each end, so that they actually let light in, and built his enclosure so that each part of the basement had two windows. There was a narrow passageway next to the stairs to allow maintenance access to the hot water heater in the back corner. Under the stairs, Darrell had built the women a closet with shelves, and he had also constructed a closet for off-season clothing storage in the front of the townhouse. Then he gave the whole basement a fresh coat of paint – even the floor, which was now dark green. Sue thought the new color was much more pleasant than the battleship gray they’d had when they moved in.

He had shown them all his improvements after he was finished. But he didn’t show them his “apartment.” And he made sure to move in his stuff when both Sue and Tess were at work.
Sue thought it all very odd.

So she descended the stairs with some trepidation, but also with a healthy dose of curiosity. Darrell, she knew, wasn’t home; she had seen his car pulling out of the lot through the kitchen window as she’d entered that morning. And when she didn’t see the cat after a cursory inspection of their part of the basement, and when she noticed that Darrell’s apartment door was ajar, she only paused a moment before letting herself in.

“Mrs. Norris!” she called out, for form’s sake. “Norrie! Where are you? You need to come out of here, Norrie. Come on upstairs with me.” She looked over and under furniture – a sofa that had seen better days, a round table with a folding chair, several plastic crates’ worth of books and movies – without success. Then she thought she heard a meow from beyond a curtained doorway to the rear of the apartment. “Norrie! Get out here!” she called again, and ducked through the curtain.

She stopped in surprise.

The room was chockablock with Native American motifs. An elaborate dreamcatcher hung from the rafters over the bed. A sort of shield hung on what appeared to be a closet door; a decorated drum held pride of place in front of a trunk that was draped with a tanned hide. Atop the trunk was a small charcoal brazier, an eagle feather, and several other items, all carefully arranged. A staff decorated with more feathers leaned against the wall next to the trunk. Hung over the altar – for she was certain that’s what the display on the trunk was – she beheld an oil painting of a rabbit-eared man clad in richly-embroidered deer hide.

“What are you doing in here?”
Her stomach dropped. Trembling, she turned and faced Darrell, who looked murderous. “I was looking for the cat. For Mrs. Norris,” she said apologetically, noticing, even in her embarrassment, how well he filled out the jacket and jeans he wore.
“So you broke in.”

“No! The door was open! I would have never come in here if it hadn’t been.” It was clear he didn’t believe her, so she kept babbling. “Norrie darted down the stairs all of a sudden. I waited a long time, but she didn’t come back up. So I came down here to find her. And your door was open, and I didn’t want to come in but I didn’t see her anywhere on our side and I didn’t want her disturbing your things….”

Darrell seemed to sag as her voice trailed off. “It’s all right,” he said, sounding defeated.

“So you’re Indian,” she said softly. At his nod, she said, “I thought all the Indians had to live on reservations out west. The Trail of Tears and all that.”

“Not us,” he said with a bitter smile. “The Potawatomi managed to convince the government that we were Catholic.”
“Potawatomi? I’ve never heard of them. You.” She risked a small smile.

“We’re Anishinaabeg. So are the Chippewa – the Ojibwe.”
“Oh! Louise Erdrich’s tribe. I’ve read some of her novels. She’s a great storyteller.”

He nodded. “Our beliefs are pretty similar to the Ojibwe.” He pointed his chin at the painting over the altar. “That guy, for instance. Nanabush. He’s also known as Nanabozho, and a few other variations. The stories about Him vary, but He’s always the same – kind of a doofus. And a Trickster.” He said the last part ruefully. “I expect He’s the reason my door was open.”

Sue blinked. “I’m sorry?”
“He probably lured Mrs. Norris down here, too,” he went on, as if talking to himself.

The kitten in question meowed inquiringly from behind Darrell. “There you are!” Sue said in relief, scooping up the cat. She turned back to him. “Well. I’d better go.”

“Yeah.” He didn’t seem to know where to look.

She scooted past him. Then she paused at the curtain. “So your mom….”
“Works for the tribe,” he said. “She administers some of the educational programming. Including the language school.”
“Do you speak…Potawatomi?” she asked, hoping she’d said the name right.
“Yeah,” he said. He gazed sadly at nothing, his thoughts obviously far away. Then he blinked and came back to himself. “Look, I’m sorry for all this,” he said.
“For what?” Sue said. “You know I’m Wiccan, right? I have an altar of my own upstairs. I’d be happy to show you sometime.” The invitation escaped before she could stop herself. She hoped he didn’t think she was flirting – come into my room and see my altar, heh heh heh – but she admitted to herself that she wouldn’t be upset if he did.

Darrell nodded. And then he said, “And Tess? What does she believe?”

Sue thought of the goddess who had chosen her friend – a goddess to whom, she was dead certain, Tess would never dedicate an altar or anything else – and said, “You’ll have to ask her yourself.” The words came out more harshly than she meant them to, so she followed them with a smile. Then she let herself out, closing the door firmly behind her.

“Thanks,” Darrell said as he listened to Sue’s footsteps crossing the kitchen above his head. “Thanks a hell of a lot.”
“You were never going to say anything,” Nanabush said from where He lounged on the bed. “I merely got the dialogue going.” He leered at Darrell. “She’s quite a dish, isn’t she? And she likes you! ‘Come up and see my altar sometime’ – eh? Eh?” He studied Darrell’s face for a moment. “Or is the short, skinny one more to your taste?”
“Shut up,” Darrell said.
“I’m just trying to help,” Nanabush said. “We need these women. And you need to forget about Ruthie.”
“Shut up,” Darrell said again, and walked out of the room.

“Tess! I figured out Darrell’s story,” Sue called excitedly from her room as soon as Tess opened her bedroom door.
“Wait…what?” Tess blinked. “Let me use the restroom first.”
Sue waited somewhat impatiently. It had been a couple of hours already since her conversation with Darrell; she had spent the first hour or so searching the web for information on his tribe, and the rest of the time debating whether to drag Tess out of bed to tell her, or wait until she woke up on her own.
Within five minutes, a yawning Tess was standing in her doorway. “This had better be good,” she said. “I need coffee.”
“He’s Indian,” Sue said, grinning. “Isn’t that cool?”
Tess squinted. “Native American, you mean?”
“Yes! Potawatomi. The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians has its headquarters in that little town in Michigan where he’s from. He told me his mother works for them.”
“Cool,” Tess said. “I’m going to get coffee, and then I’ll come back up, and you can tell me how you found all this out.” She disappeared down the stairs.

Sue turned back to the picture of Nanabush on her monitor. Then, smiling, she knelt next to the low table that served as her altar and lit a candle next to her statue of Gaia. She had a feeling things were beginning to come together, and that whatever Gaia’s plan was, it would soon be revealed.

“So what’s the plan?”
Morrigan regarded Nanabush with a supercilious stare.
“I mean,” the rabbit-eared god said in the silence, “I’ve done My part. I’ve brought the three of them together. What happens now?”
Morrigan turned Her gaze to Gaia, whose expression was dreamy and unfocused. “Gaia!” She snapped.
“Our little friend here,” She sneered, “asked You a question. And frankly, I would like to know the answer Myself.”
“Oh. Well.” Gaia focused Her sky-blue eyes on Her companions. “A convergence is coming.”
“A convergence,” Morrigan drawled. “What sort of convergence?”
“Earthpower,” Gaia said, caressing Her belly.
Morrigan threw up Her hands. “Will You stop being cryptic and tell Us what We need to know?”
Gaia glared at Her sister goddess. “I don’t know,” she said. “If I knew exactly what was going to happen, I wouldn’t need You two to help Me fix it, would I?” She glanced at Nanabush, who was staring at Her, mouth agape, and softened Her tone. “Oh, all right. Here is what I perceive: several Elemental events are coming together, starting in mid-August in Washington, the capital of the United States.”
“Yes, I know Washington is the capital….” Morrigan began, rolling Her eyes.
Gaia held up a hand to stop Her. “These Elemental events,” She went on, a trifle louder, “are likely to be the vanguard of a chain reaction. If left unchecked, I perceive – nay, I fear – that all Our hard work will be lost.”
“That’s a trifle dramatic, don’t You think?” Morrigan said.
“Nevertheless,” said Gaia, unperturbed.
Nanabush ignored the goddesses’ bickering; He had grown so used to it that He was able to tune it out most of the time. “So this is it,” He mused. “The attack We have feared, ever since Our hard-won peace agreement with Jehovah.”
Gaia nodded. “And Our three human avatars, for lack of a better term, are in the best position to thwart it.”
“But All signed onto the agreement,” Morrigan said. “Even that troublemaker Loki.”
“He’s here, too,” Gaia said.
“Whose side is He on this time?” Morrigan asked.
Gaia shrugged. “Who knows? His own, I suspect. As ever.”
Nanabush nodded. “Nothing ever changes with that one. But if All signed – and that was My understanding, as well – then Who is stirring up the Elements?”
Gaia smiled at Him. “Think, Nanabush. Who was missing from the negotiation?”
Nanabush shrugged. “There were a lot of Us. I didn’t count noses. Except for this one.” He touched a finger to His own nose and grinned.
Morrigan, lost in thought, didn’t appear to hear Him. She frowned at Gaia. “You don’t mean Lucifer?” At Gaia’s nod, Morrigan went off into peals of laughter. “But You can’t be serious! He’s not a god – he’s some kind of…fallen angel, or something.” Her hands fluttered for a moment before She crossed Her arms.
“Lesser beings have been promoted to godhood on the strength of a shorter resume than his,” Gaia reminded Her. “All it takes is for enough humans to believe in him.”
“Well…” Morrigan began, Her voice trailing off.
“But he’s not a god,” Nanabush insisted. “Or he wasn’t, the last I knew. Hellfire and damnation have been falling out of favor with mainstream Christians for decades. All he’s got are a few Satanists. And those snake-handlers.”
“Alas,” Gaia said, “he has picked up more since Jesus returned to Earth.”
“The deniers,” Morrigan muttered.
“Precisely. And the godless men of power. And all who seek to cause chaos for their own pleasure. Those who have lost the most since Our reign began.”
“They are not actively worshipping him, though,” Nanabush said. “The deniers, for one, believe they worship the true Jehovah.”
“And who better to fulfill that role?” Gaia said. “The shift in power has given him an opportunity, and he is taking it. If We do not thwart him now, I fear We will be waiting longer than two millennia for another chance to restore balance.” She stroked Her belly again. “And the Earth may not last that long.”
“So it’s war,” Morrigan said, Her hand going to the sword haft at her side.
“Oh, well said! Well said!” A round of applause accompanied the sarcastic words. Loki, still clapping, emerged from behind Morrigan.
“What do You want?” She said, eyeing him.
“I want to help, of course.” Loki spread his arms wide. “I stand before you a chastened Trickster. Finally, I have taken My rightful place alongside My brother gods and sister goddesses after My many thousands of years of exile. I knew when Odin pardoned Me that My reinstatement came with certain responsibilities – cooperation with My brothers and sisters being paramount amongst them.
“I couldn’t help overhearing Your discussion just now, and as I happened to be in the neighborhood, and as I have a spot of unfinished business with some of the players in this Kabuki drama…. Ah, Nanabush,” He said, grinning. “Good to see You, Sir! You are a rabbit after My own heart.”
“Coyote said as much,” Nanabush responded equably.
“You’ve spoken to Coyote? Then You’ve heard about Our clever victory over the Jaguar God.” Loki smiled in satisfaction.
“He tells it a little differently,” Nanabush said, stifling a grin. “I believe He said something about winning the battle, but nearly losing the war.”
Loki waved one hand. “He has always been one to over-dramatize. So,” He said, turning to the goddesses, “who’s in charge?”
“Not. You.” Morrigan glowered at him.
“Of course not! I am merely here to assist.”
“Good.” Morrigan’s expression did not ease.
“Come and sit next to Me, Loki,” said Gaia, patting the ground next to Her. When He had complied, She said, “No tricks, all right? None of Us will have time to do damage control.”
“That’s all in the past,” He said, one hand raised as if swearing to it. “The only tricks I intend to play will be against Our adversary.” Gaia stared into His eyes long enough that He threw up both hands. “Honest!”
Morrigan snorted. Loki glared at Her.
“And Diana?” Gaia asked. “Can We count on Her, too?”
“Of course,” said the Huntress, joining Them. “And I promise that You need have no concern about Loki. Thor gave Me more than enough ammunition when He entrusted Him to Me.”
Loki looked up at Diana, disgruntled. “Oh, that’s perfect,” he complained. “Rein in the old Trickster. Make sure He toes the line.” He pointed at Nanabush. “What about Him, then? Who’s keeping an eye on the Hare?”
Nanabush chortled. “Oh, please. I’m an amateur compared to You.”
“The more important question,” Morrigan said, “is who is keeping an eye on Our adversary.”
Loki grinned. “Leave that to Me.”

Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell has been writing fiction since the second grade, when the kid who sat in front of her showed her a book he had written, and she thought, "I could do that."

The result was Susie and the Talking Doll, a picture book, illustrated by the author, about a girl who owned a doll that not only could talk, but could carry on conversations. The book had dialogue but no paragraph breaks.

Today, after a twenty-year career in broadcast journalism and a master's degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University (or perhaps despite the master's degree), Lynne is still writing fantasy. In addition, she is a contributing author at Indies Unlimited.

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  1. Amy, thanks very much for hosting me today! I hope everybody enjoys the excerpt. :)

  2. One of my favorite parts of the book, and it's great to hear Lynne read!

  3. I always love to listen to stories, so it was such fun to hear Lynne read the excerpt. Great to learn more about the story. Thanks so much for the giveaway. I love dream catchers and the cat's name is a nice shout out to Harry Potter. :)