An Appalachian Elementals Historical Dark Fantasy Side Tale.
Benjamin Schnell is the possessor of secrets he wishes he could bury beneath the rich Nolichucky river flat dirt he farms alongside his dear friend, Conall. But secrets lead to lies, lead to more secrets, and all eventually come home to roost in a bed of distrust, even on the 1779 Appalachian frontier.
After Ben is injured, he realizes there are odd things happening around him that others cannot see. Corner shadows take human shapes, lightning bugs dance in broad daylight, and the farm’s strange owner, Master Gow, returns with an offer Conall cannot refuse if Ben is to live. But making a deal with Master Gow will take them deep into the mountains to where a haunted king reigns and Fire balances Water in a delicate natural friendship.
Ben must learn self-acceptance and trust if he and Conall are going to survive because there can be no secrets in the mountains, only truth.
Another rich tale from the Appalachian Elementals world focusing on complex families containing rich LGBTQIA+ characters.
Jeanne is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour – enter via Rafflecopter:
Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47132/?
Ten Questions With Jeanne G’Fellers, Author of Striking Balance 776 Words
- Can you tell us some about Striking Balance?
First off, thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to share my work on your site. Striking Balance is the personal journey of Beatrice Benjamin Sophia Scott Schnell Gow. The tale is best described as magic realism meets the American Revolution meets the Appalachian frontier. Ben’s deepest secrets lead to lies, lead to more secrets, and all eventually come home to roost in a bed of distrust in a world where Fire and Water maintain a careful friendship and haunted kings reign. Striking Balance is late 18th Century Appalachian Dark Fantasy. It’s set very close to where I live, but in a place that seems far away.
- What literary pilgrimages have you gone on to write this novel?
Not many, really. I’ve actually only gone as far as a side road along the base of Embreeville Mountain for this series as a whole. Boring, I know, but there it is. Fact is, my stories are either set in the distant future in far-off worlds or very close to home. One requires looking at the sky, some astronomy websites, and my imagination, while the other is my everyday world with some added magic. Or, in the case of Striking Balance, a good bit of local history thrown in with that magic.
- Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing both energizes and exhausts me, but let me explain. It energizes me in that I get so excited about my characters and their escapades, but then it exhausts me because I don’t want to quit writing. I so lack a stop button that I’ve actually asked my spouse to tell me when it’s time to put things away and go to bed. It’s quite a problem truth be known.
- What is a common trap for aspiring writers?
I don’t have time to write. Yes, you do. Five minutes. A poem. A haiku. Journal. Bullet list ideas. It doesn’t need polish. You don’t have to share it unless you want to. Just. Write.
- Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
It hurts. Hurts. HURTS. It hurts writers because they forget where they came from and that their words have true power over their readers. Case in point… Rowling’s present dirty dishwater spew of hate. Enough said.
- Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Yep. Reader’s block plagues me anymore. Okay, perhaps it’s not truly a block, but I get on tangents. Major tangents. I’ve been on a history and folk medicine tangent since I began researching Striking Balance and I can’t seem to shake it.
- Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Nope. And I’ve been asked this before. If I’m going to write it, I’m putting my name on it or why write it at all? That doesn’t mean I’m knocking those who do write under pseudonyms, but it simply isn’t for me at this point.
- Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I write mainly for myself. I write the stories I’d like to read. I write what’s swimming around in my head and won’t leave except via the keyboard. Some readers love it, some don’t, but my work is always original from beginning to end. Striking Balance might be the most original of all my works because I’ve had to set this story within the framework of existing history.
- If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
If I could tell… Hey, Jeanne? That idiot student teacher who’s going to criticize your poetry senior year? Ignore him because he’s jealous. That’s right. Jealous. You’ve got talent he wishes he had. You’re never going to see him again after fall semester so his words are meaningless. Hug your poetry notebook tighter and put it somewhere for safekeeping after you graduate, maybe with Mom, until the coast is clear. It’ll take a while, but by the time you’re in your early thirties, you’ll wish you’d saved it.
- How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Believe it or not, aside from my current work in progress, none. I’m not one to half-finish works. I never have been. I’ve completed and published every single novel I’ve written. (winces and grimaces) I probably jinxed myself by saying that, but it’s true.
Thanks letting me drop by today to talk writing and my new release, Striking Balance. It’s history, fey, magic, and queer acceptance pressed into your choice of print or ebook formats, a world at your fingertips. I hope y’all enjoy, and thanks again for your time.
“Get back here ye’ fool!” I turn my head in time to see Alexandria pause before a window. Her face is flushed, and her hands are in fists at her sides. “Get back here wit’ mah pie!”
“Come get it, you flightless baggage!”
My thoughts of Heaven erode when Alexandria launches into a long line of Scots-Gaelic curses of the likes I have not heard since I left the mine. This is not the Alexandria I know and respect, not the voice of a proper lady at all. She hisses as she threatens to cut off his twiddle-diddles with her kitchen knife, cook them in the pottage, and feed them back to him.
“Return Lexy’s hard work, boy.” This is Master Gow’s voice, but ‘tis also not, higher in tone but equally powerful, and I wonder if he has a sister. “And the crust best not be broke!”
“But… ow!” I am unable to see what occurs next, but a man crosses in front of the window with a pie in his hands and something or someone I cannot see is dragging him. “Ow! King Dane, please! I am sorry, Lexy, real sorry!”
King? This woman who I suspect is related to Master Gow is named King Dane? Whatever… My cough returns, deep and fluidic, but ‘tis clearly not to be my death so I look for something to spit into.
“There’s a bucket of sawdust at your bedside, Benjamin.” Master Gow’s sister speaks from just outside the window. “I’ll be there shortly to talk with you.” Her voice turns away. “Go cut two days of wood for the main kitchen,” she tells the man who is still apologizing to Alexandria.
“But I got hides to scrape and…”
“Do it! Then scrape them hides.”
“Ow! Yes, King Dane.”
I crawl deep beneath my quilt when their voices fade. Where am I? At this point, I have no clue, but I believe I am alive. The table beside my bed is laden with bottles, jars, a fleam and cup, but there is also a mug so I sit up, examining the contents, water, before I drink.
I startle when the door to the apartment swings open. “Ah brought ye soup an’ tea.” Ceardach deposits a tray onto my lap. There’s also buttered bread on the tray, along with bacon, eggs, and a bowl of beans.
“Thank ye, but I need to…”
“Of course.” Ceardach pulls the tray away. “Th’ pot’s under th’ bed.”
I hesitate, but my need is too great so I swallow my pride, thankful when he moves to stand in the doorway with his back to me.
“Ye need tae drink more.” Ceardach returns to my side when I am abed and pushes the pot under the bed after he examines the contents. “An’ ye best get over bein’ bashful right quick. Someone will use it against ye.” He drops the tray onto my lap, “Eat.” pulls his pipe and pouch and begins filling the bowl, watching as I take up my spoon. The food has most certainly been made under Alexandria’s watch. I can tell by the seasonings, and… I am nearing famished.
“Slow an’ steady. Let one bite settle afore th’ next.” Ceardach lights his pipe so quickly I see nothing but a flash. The outside din continually grows while I eat, but Ceardach pays it no heed. I hear hammers striking anvils, a proliferation of swearing, wood being split and stacked, the sounds of a wider community. The smells coming through the door would be enough to turn my stomach if I was not so hungry. Baking bread, multiple privies, wood, ash, dirt, burning wood, herbs, and… I smell iron and sulfur, but none of it quells my appetite to the point I cease eating.
“Am I in a town?” I shovel more into my mouth.
“Of sorts. Ye will grow accustomed tae it all.” Ceardach blows out a billow of white smoke that rings his head then drifts away. “Yer cough an’ congestion will fade in time.”
I nod and bite into my bread. My appetite must be part of my recovery, a drive for nourishment so I might heal quickly. There is another bed I have ignored until now, unmade, with blankets folded neatly at the foot. “Where am I?”
“In the kingdom.” He points to my water. “Drink.”
I am obedient, but he tells me to empty the mug before he will speak further. “Good, now—” Ceardach raises his head. “Ah, here’s yer answer.”
I attempt to sort through all I see, but ‘tis difficult. Is this Master Gow or—
“Stop gawkin’. ‘Twill get you slapped ‘round here.”
“If not hit or cut,” adds Ceardach. “Sit, Dane. Ah will step out but stay close.”
“Aye, Ceardach, thank you.”
I see a woman’s face, a man’s work cap atop her head. “You’re still under my protection. That hasn’t changed, but the rest…” She wears trousers and a calf-length smith’s apron over a man’s red check work shirt with rolled sleeves. “You’re starin’ even longer than Conall did.” She pulls a tobacco twist from her apron pocket and bites off a piece. “Are you as tongue-tied too?”
“I…” This woman bears the same tattows as Master Gow. “No, sir, I mean, miss, I mean…”
“You’ll address me as King Dane ‘til I tell you elsewise.” My spit bucket slides across the floor to her feet. “How will you address me?”
“Say it, Benjamin.” She spits into the bucket. “‘Tis important you know my station ‘round here.”
“Yes, King Dane.” But this is a woman. How does she warrant the title of king?
“And you never disobey your king, right, Benjamin?”
“Yes… King Dane?”
“Smart man. ‘Tis why I chose you, but I made Conall in the process, an excellent deal I am pleased we could accommodate.” King Dane seems amused by my gaping mouth. “Calm yourself. I hear your heart poundin’ from here.”
Jeanne lives in Northeast Tennessee with their spouse and five crazy felines. Their home is tucked against a small woodland where they regularly see deer, turkeys, raccoons, and experience the magic of the natural world.
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