Happy Wednesday, everyone!! I’m excited about today. It’s going to be sunny and 85!! Wooohoo!! Spring is definitely here.
Today, for First Chapter Wednesday, I’m featuring Wakefield Mahon, a delightful author that I met on Goodreads (Yes, I just used the word delightful in a real, live sentence). He’s charming, polite, friendly… and an author. Just my kind of folk. (yes, I used the word Folk in a sentence. Yeesh- cut me some slack).
Wakefield’s book is Jade Dreams, book one of the Sacred Stones series.
Chapter 1: Dreams
This is that dream again. I don’t know what but something is after me. Last time it was a dragon, the time before that a horde of giant rats. Once it was a swarm of flying ninjas. Whatever they are, I know I have to get away or I’m toast. I trip over a tree root and a wave of fire passes over my head. Okay, so it’s the dragon again. All I have to do is make it to the sanctuary where I know I’ll be safe. I sprint across the stream when the ancient temple comes into view. I run inside and the doors slam behind me.
As I catch my breath, I breathe in the comforting familiar smell of incense and cinnamon. I see the twelve swords laid in a circle around an altar. As I walk around the circle, each sword glows with a different color, sings a different song, a chorus like glass chimes swaying in the wind. I reach down to touch the light green sword and the room explodes with light.
“Nǐ zài xiǎng shénme?” [What’s going on in that head of yours?] Mom asked me.
I opened my eyes to see Mom standing over a boiling kettle dressed in old-fashioned Chinese clothes. The aroma of chicken stew filled the room.
“Yǒu méiyǒu yīgè jiérì ne?” [Is it time for a festival already?] I laughed, answering in my best Chinese to play along. Normally, my Chinese was so terrible even I knew it sounded wrong, but my accent came out as if I was born in Henan Province.
Mom tilted her head, looking confused. Then she nodded and smiled. “Oh, now I see, there must be some young man that you are pining for, hoping he will take you to the harvest festival.” Mom gave me her trademark wink. “Don’t be so anxious, child. You shouldn’t be jealous just because your older sister has already found a husband. You’ll find one too when it’s your time.”
It finally clicked that I was still dreaming. I didn’t have an older sister and while my high school friends were pretty boy crazy, I’d just as soon marry a book as any guy. Mom and Dad were vacationing in upstate New York, but here I was sitting in front of a handmade loom, dressed in traditional Chinese clothing. Whatever, just go with it, right?
I glanced outside the window. Cruel mountains loomed ominously. ”How could I think about a husband right now, Mom? Haven’t you seen the notices? In a week, we’re going to war and Dad has to join the army.” I fought a losing battle to hold back the tears.
“Sweetheart, you know that your little brother is still too young. The most able-bodied man of every house must offer his allegiance and there is no one else to serve in his place.” Mom put on a brave smile, but I could hear in her voice that Mom was worried too. Dad was a man of honor. He would fulfill his obligation, but he wasn’t the young captain who went to battle twenty years before.
I wanted to do something. No, I knew in my heart that I had to do something, but I didn’t yet know what. Late that afternoon, just before sunset, I went for a walk. To the west stood the great stone mountains covered with trees and green moss. I walked along a cool babbling stream to a simple garden where I would often go to calm my soul. The light smell of herbs and spices growing in the garden served as incense.
I stopped to pray for guidance. “Shang Di, please hear my cry. I have spent my life trying to follow the Middle Way. I know that I should accept what comes and be content. Still, my heart aches at the thought of Dad having to leave again for battle. If there is a way to keep him safe while retaining our family honor, please show me now.”
When I opened my eyes, I saw a hauntingly beautiful young woman with pale green eyes that shimmered like the water.
I knew everyone who lived in our tiny village. This girl was definitely a stranger. Maybe the moonlight was playing tricks on my eyes but I swore the woman actually glowed.
“Who are you?”
“You may call me Jade.”
Jade’s eyes pierced my soul. “If your father goes to war, he will surely fall in battle.”
“Don’t you think I know that?” Who was this woman? I stared at the ground and covered my eyes. “But what else can I do?” I whispered.
I felt the ghostly woman walk closer, then kneel and lay her hands gently on mine. Jade pulled my hands away from my face and looked even more deeply into my heart. I felt her digging around in my in my mind. Then she nodded and smiled as if she’d found something she approved of. “I have foreseen your destiny. Listen to what I tell you and your people will sing of your name for more than two thousand years.”
The sound of an explosion took me by surprise.
“Oh no! We’ve been hit! What are we going to do now? We’re doomed, I tell you!” Someone was yelling, apparently trying to put out a fire of some sort.
“Don’t worry Lieutenant; everything is going to be okay. You can be sure that Robot Commander will save us!”
Just when the dream was getting interesting, I was back in the real world.
“Really, Timmy, did you have to put the TV on full blast?” I chucked a green sofa pillow at him.
Timmy ducked then stuck his tongue out after it sailed over his head.
“Yeah, that’s real mature.” I stood up to turn the volume down.
“Hey, I like this show. Besides, you’ve been hogging the living room all day.”
Even though I love my little brother, he can be a serious pain some times. But when I looked up at the clock, I realized he was right. “Sorry, I was trying to meditate. I guess I fell asleep.”
“Why don’t you go to your tree place, then?”
“Um, duh,” I said. “I can’t go out because it’s raining?”
He stuck his tongue at me again and I pounced on him and tickled him so hard that tears ran down his cheeks. He tried to tickle me back and soon we were both laughing like crazy.
Aunt Sarah walked into the living room from the kitchen. Normally she’d start laughing when she saw us roughhousing and even join in, but she looked lost in thought.
Timmy jumped up and gave her a hug. “Hi Auntie Sarah! Have you heard from Mom and Dad? Are they almost home yet?”
She didn’t say anything. She just stood there, eyes watering. A look I would never forget. I felt a sinking in my stomach.
“What’s wrong, Aunt Sarah?” I asked.
She sighed, staring through us as if we weren’t right in front of her. “I have something to tell you. And I’m not really sure how to say it.”
The teacup in her hand started trembling so I jumped up to grab it before it spilled on the carpet. “What happened?”
“Your parents were almost back from their vacation. They were driving on Breakneck Road right at Storm King Mountain, just outside the city. From what the police could tell, the oil truck lost control and they both ran off the road. The blaze burned up the truck pretty badly and completely incinerated the car. There is no way that anybody could have survived. I’m sorry Karen… your parents are gone.”
* * *
Me: Wow. That’s quite an ending to the first chapter. Wakefield, what inspired you to write this?
Wakefield: The Sacred Stones series started as a study in legendary weapons: Excalibur, the Spear of Destiny, Ragnarok, and so on. I wanted to find a fun way to discuss different cultures, religions and styles of story telling in a way that children and young adults could relate to. The characters began to take shape when I realized my children enjoyed many of the same anime series that I do, in particular Bleach. I hope to continue this series with Turquoise Wind – focusing on Native American culture, followed by books on Carribean/African, Indian and European legends.
Me: I’ve been meaning to read this book for a quite a while, but since I’m knee deep in finishing up Soul Bound, I haven’t had a chance. This is definitely on the top of my TBR pile. I love books that are interesting and immersive, and still manage to teach me things about other cultures. I still remember reading House of a Thousand Lanterns by Victoria Holt when I was a teenager and falling in love with Chinese culture because of it.
Thanks for being here today, Wakefield!