Two ordinary young women, new to adulthood, seeking to define their futures against a world that has already defined them. Two uncanny encounters with a world of spirits hostile and benign. This intriguing collection contains two novels that deftly blend poignant human drama with unleashed supernatural bonds. Two stories of hope, and finding the courage to break from traditions that haunt us.
Margaret Campbell of The Soured Earth said goodbye to broad prairie skies a long time ago in favor of college, the East coast, and a budding career in fashion design. But when faced with an impossible decision, the 20-something Margaret must choose between returning home to her father’s farm in Alberta to help raise her two orphaned cousins, or fulfilling her fashion designer, city-life dream. What would you do? Margaret goes home, and once there, finds a local Native American ritual gone awry, and the larger community plunged into chaos as a devastating blight settles over the land. She finds comfort in the arms of Gene, a thoughtful ranch hand with a heart full of wanderlust, but will the pull of family ties and new desire be enough to quiet her own ambitious yearnings?
Sarah Markham of Unsettled Spirits thought she had everything figured out. Leave home, go to college, build a new life. It’s the last part that proves tricky when Sarah, unable to find a job that matches her lofty ambitions, takes on a job and a room in a haunted bookstore owned by an eccentric intellectual. Lucy Larch, dead for over half a century, has been waiting for someone to help her pass over—but can Sarah, herself perplexed in matters of life and love with handsome Irishman Ian, find a solution?
Excerpt from The Soured Earth
A CLEANSING NATIVE AMERICAN RITUAL
Sad thoughts were banished as the drumming began, and Margaret gave a low shiver, as she always did. There was something in those loud drumbeats that made her feel small and vulnerable. In the firelight, she could see the men’s arms pounding away rhythmically, their faces completely expressionless. Sam, who looked like an adorable penguin in her big jacket, pushed a blanket at her, and Margaret wrapped herself in it, more for comfort than for warmth.
Then Thomas stepped forward, and if five minutes before he’d been a laughing drunk, now he was something very different. He had a war club in his hand, and the way he was brandishing it, Margaret would not have wanted to be on the wrong end of the thing. His dark eyes glittered in the firelight, and he began to move, chanting the old song, the words whose meaning was now purely ceremonial, like the rest of the dance. It was, Margaret had always thought, a strange dance for harvest time. There was nothing thankful, nothing complacent about it. It was an angry dance, fraught with fearfulness. Thomas sang the cold prairie winds, and he danced the snowfall. He danced the evil spirits who stole the crops, who kept back the rain, who sent snow that killed cattle. And as he danced them into being, he attacked them.
Thomas whirled fast now, his war club held high, and each powerful swing and twirl of his strong arms spoke of the battle he was waging on their behalf. Thick and fast the evil came, and Thomas was hard-pressed by spirits. Blizzard, sickness, blight—they pushed, and he pushed back hard. Margaret took a deep breath, and only then did she realize she had been holding it.
But then something happened. Thomas’ high steps slowed and stumbled. The words slurred, then stopped. “Is he—” Sam whispered, and then Thomas fell over, pretty much answering the unspoken question.
Excerpt from Unsettled Spirits
THE GHOST SAYS HELLO
Her head rested against the dingy upholstery, and for a while she looked over her surroundings with a kind of detached interest. But then she fell quite asleep, and it was from within the confines of a dream, hours later, that she heard a voice say, “Wake up. Wake up, stupid. Don’t you ever do anything but sleep?” The girl sat on the cold floor in front of Sarah, mirroring her position. Sarah’s eyes opened, and she studied the girl closely. Lovely shoulder-length curls of brown hair framed laughing eyes and a strong-willed mouth. She wore a yellow dancing dress with a cardigan over it, despite the hot night.
“Finally,” the girl said, clapping her hands as Sarah awoke.
“Who are you?” asked Sarah, quite calm. “You’re not Esther.” She felt quite sure of that now.
“I’m Lucy Larch. Who’s Esther?”
“My sister,” Sarah replied. “She died a long time ago.”
“I died in 1946,” Lucy said, “which is a hell of a year to die in—I never ever got to eat as much as I wanted, and then after rationing ended, the streets were flowing with bread and jam!”
“Why did you die?” Sarah asked, soft and dreamlike.
Lucy scrunched up her face, annoyed just thinking about it. “I was running away with Jasper Clarke, who was not as good a driver as he was a lover. Tenderhearted, and what did he end up doing? Steered us into an oak tree to avoid a deer! If I let myself think about it, I get just furious.”
About the Author
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Sophie Weeks received a Masters degree in English Literature from Mills College in 2006 and completed her PhD in Victorian Literature at Rice University in 2013. Sophie resides in Payson, Arizona with three furry miscreants, who are wanted in multiple states for criminal adorableness. She is also the author of the whimsical Sherlockian pastiche, Outside the Spotlight. Learn more at http://sophieweeks.net.