Thursday, June 7, 2012

Delighting In Your Company Release Day Blitz: Guest Post with Blair McDowell


Welcome to the Delighting in Your Company Release Day Blitz! Author Blair McDowell is here to talk about her new release and is giving us a little look into one of the book's characters...there's an excerpt too! Stick around and feel free to say hi to Blair!

Delighting in Your Company  
A Haunting Romance 
By Blair McDowell  

What more could a girl ask for? 

When Amalie Ansett visits her elderly cousin on the small Caribbean island of St. Clements, the last thing she’s looking for is romance. Just out of a disastrous marriage, she’s ready to swear off men forever.

That is until she meets local plantation owner, Jonathan Evans.

He is tall, good looking, intelligent and incredibly sexy.

What more could a girl ask for?

An unsolved murder … Then Amalie discovers that the man she loves is a ghost. Only she can see and hear him. Perhaps he is real to her because Amalie is the image of her distant ancestor, Jonathan’s bride in that earlier time.

Jonathan was murdered two hundred years ago, and has no knowledge of who killed him or why. A perilous trip to the past… When Jonathan asks her to help him by returning with him to his past, Amalie is torn. If she helps him solve the mystery surrounding his death, she could lose him forever.

If she doesn’t, she is stuck with a ghost for a lover. And a love that crosses the boundaries of time.

To save Jonathan, Amalie agrees to travel with him back in time to the Caribbean of the 1800’s, when sugar reigned supreme and the slave trade was making fortunes for wealthy planters and ship owners. Her adventures there include a slave uprising, murder, deceit and an enduring love that crosses the boundaries of time.

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Buy the book here:
 An Excerpt from Delighting in Your Company

He was real. Jonathan Evans was what? A ghost, a spirit, a jumbie? But to her he was real. True she couldn’t touch him. She had a fleeting thought that that was a pity. She would rather have liked to touch him. But how could she help him? She wasn’t that other Amalie, no matter what he thought.

She couldn’t be, could she? And yet where had those memories of Ansett Plantation come from?

Josephina arrived at the table for breakfast at that moment and all thoughts of ghosts had to be put aside.

“What are your plans for the day, my dear?”

“I’ll spend the morning working in the archives again, and then this afternoon I guess I’ll just swim and read as usual.”

“Could you run me up to town before you begin? I need to see my solicitor.”

“Of course.”

It was mid morning when Amalie entered the basement room at the Museum.

“You!” Amalie looked at Jonathan, perched on her stool, his hair falling over his forehead, his elbows on the table, his long legs stretched out in front of him. He was whistling softly. That same elusive tune.

“You’re rather late getting here. I’ve been searching for evidence.”

She stared at him. He looked so real, so alive.

Reading her thoughts he said, “Jonathan Evans, in the flesh. Except that, unfortunately, I’m not in the flesh. If I were I could kiss you as I should very much like to.”

Amalie flushed. The thought of being held in those arms, caressed, kissed by those lips…she turned her thoughts hastily away from that direction.

“What’s that tune you’re always whistling?”

“Greensleeves.” He sang a phrase, his voice low and melodious.

“Alas, my love, you do me wrong,

To cast me off discourteously,”

He sighed.  “You used to sing it.”

“I used to sing it?”

“You used to sing it.”

“It must have been the other Amalie who sang it. But I know it from somewhere. I’m not sure where.”  She finished the stanza in her light soprano,

“While I have loved you well and long,

Delighting in your company…”

Jonathan looked long at her. “Of course you know it. You are one with her. Why do you find this so hard to accept?”

Amalie just shook her head. How could she possibly be a woman who died two hundred years ago?

She was alive. She was born in the twentieth century. For that matter, how could she possibly be holding this ridiculous conversation with a ghost?

 ***

Samuel's Back Story - Delighting In Your Company 
by Blair McDowell

As writers we all know that our stories do not start on page one of our books. If our characters are to breathe life we have to know their history. We may never use that history, but without knowing it we cannot create believable characters. The character of Samuel in Delighting In Your Company is one I found particularly interesting to research and write.

The year is 1798. We are in Equatorial Africa.

Samu awoke early that morning. He could hear the parrots chattering in the trees, heralding the dawn. This was an important day. Today he would accompany the men of the village as they went into the surrounding jungle to hunt for food for the tribe. It would be his first time as a hunter. It meant he was no longer a child. He had lived through twelve rainy seasons and was now old enough to be recognized as a man. To be given adult status in the Koromantyn tribe.

As Samu stretched and rose from his rush mat, he heard a sudden scream and then shouts from outside.  Rushing to the door of his family hut, he saw a raiding party from a distant village rounding up the men of his village.  His father had already been captured.

Samu moved to run to his father, but his mother grasped him from behind. “No, Samu. Not you too.”

“I must go. I must help him.” Struggling he broke loose and ran to his father.

The trek to the Gold Coast was long and arduous. Their captors had little care for the prisoners beyond giving them enough food and water to keep them alive. They were slaves now, and their black masters were not benevolent.

A week later they were sold to the captain of a slaving ship bound for the West Indies. He paid twenty-five dollars a head for them. Long gone were the days when Africans were satisfied with payment in glass beads.  At their destination, those of them who survived the voyage would fetch one hundred and twenty-five dollars each.

With the others, Samu was placed in the hold of the ship, chained to a narrow plank bed.  The men were so close together they could not easily turn over and the deck above them was so low they could not stand erect.

Once a day, buckets were lowered with food, usually a thin broth. Water was scarce. Within three days the stench was unbearable. Samu was suffocating for air, starving, and thirsty, but his father told him to be brave.

Then the sickness began among them. There was dysentery and small pox. Each morning the bodies of the dead were taken out and thrown unceremoniously into the sea. One morning, Samu’s father was among the dead.

The boy no longer spoke. He withdrew to a safe place inside his head and simply survived. Finally they reached land. They were led down a gangplank to a holding pen. The air was soft and scented with spices. It was possible to breathe again.

The next morning the auction began.

Samu peered through the cracks of the holding pen.  The men from his village and many others were being sold to planters who needed them to perform the backbreaking work of harvesting and processing cane. The naked men on the auction block were large and powerful. They brought high prices, the bidding coming fast and furious.

Suddenly someone grabbed Samu, took him from the pen and pushed him roughly up onto the platform. He tried not to show fear, but he was terrified, trembling.

The auctioneer looked at him.

 “I’ll admit he ain’t much, but he might be some use as kitchen help. Don’t know how he got into this batch. Was supposed to be all field workers. What am I bid? Come on gentlemen, got to move along. Don’t nobody want this scrawny piece o’ nigger flesh?”
There was a moment’s silence. Then from the back of the crowd,
“I’ll take him. Ten guineas.” The speaker was a boy no older than the one on the block.
“Ten guineas?” the auctioneer sneered. “Might as well give ’im away. What am I bid, gentlemen?”
The crowd was silent. The boy reached into his pocket and counted out a handful of change. “Ten guineas and twelve bob."
Someone in the crowd called out. “Jonathan Evans. Your pappy know how you’re squanderin’ his money?”
The crowd broke into raucous laughter.
“Never you mind.” The auctioneer took control. “The boy’s money’s as good as anybody else’s. You got yourself a slave, boy. Come and git him.”

Jonathan had bought a friend. Taking the boy by the hand Jonathan led him back to Evans Plantation.

There he confronted his father with what he had done.  Ernest Evans was a first startled, but realized that a companion might be just what the lonely, motherless boy needed. And so Jonathan Evans had a slave.

The naked boy was bathed and clothed and fed while Jonathan watched.

Only then did Jonathan try to speak to him. The boy clearly spoke no English.

“Jonathan” the blue eyed white boy said, pointing to himself.

The black child at first looked puzzled.

“Jonathan,” tapping his chest. He looked at the black boy and touched him.

The boy’s eyes lit with understanding. “Jonathan” he said pointing to his new master. Then he tapped his own chest. “Samu” he said.

“Samu? No. Samuel.” Jonathan replied.

Over the next years, the young slave, newly named Samuel, sat beside his master as Jonathan took lessons with his Jesuit tutor. Samuel quickly learned English.

Jonathan studied Greek, Latin, History and Mathematics. Jonathan was a desultory student, but Samuel absorbed everything.

When freed from their lessons the two boys swam and hiked and fished and explored the island together. They were inseparable.  They grew up side by side, the tall, laughing, blue-eyed, devil-may-care Jonathan, and the small, dark, intellectual, intense Samuel.

Sometimes Samuel thought back to the time when he had been Samu and lived in the jungle with his mother and father and younger brothers and sisters. But on the whole, he was content with his new life and he was devoted to Jonathan.

Jonathan’s father died when he was just twenty-one. Jonathan’s first act upon taking control of the plantation was to give Samuel his freedom. Then he immediately hired him back as Plantation Manager.

This was a job at which Samuel excelled. It was Samuel who ensured that Evans Plantation didn’t fall into the quagmire that overtook the cane-sugar industry in the early 1800’s, when the European market discovered that sugar could be made more cheaply from beets.

When Delighting In Your Company begins, Samuel is a man of twenty-one. He is still slight of figure. He wears wire framed glasses and always looks a bit puzzled by the world in which he finds himself. He’s black, but he’s not a slave. He’s educated and well read.  He knows much about the culture of the white western world, but he understands and empathizes with the world of the slaves. The world of Jumbies, the walking dead, and of Obeah, the black magic brought to the West Indies from Africa. It is this latter understanding that saves the day when the lives of Jonathan and Amalie, Jonathan’s fiancé, are in peril.

As a writer I found depicting the life-long friendship between these two men both interesting and challenging.  The template for their relationship was established centuries ago, by the friendship between David and Jonathan in the Old Testament.

And in the end, Jonathan gave Samuel the greatest gift he could have given. The gift of family.

About the Author



I started to write soon after I found my first pencil. But I began to write for publication about 30 years ago -- professional books. I wrote six of them, all still in print and still in use. Only lately have I turned to fiction. 

I'd have done it a lot sooner if I'd had any idea how much fun it was! I’ve lived in many different places. The US -- Certain cities call to me. I love San Francisco and Seattle and the wonderful Oregon Coast.

Australia -- among the most open welcoming people in the world, and a wide open young country with incredible land and seascapes, with amazing animal and bird life right out of science fiction. 

Canada -- HOME. The place where I belong. I travel a lot. I usually spend the month of October in Europe, Greece or Italy, and the winter in a little house I built many years ago on a small non-touristy Caribbean Island. I have worked and studied in many places -- Hungary, Australia the US and Canada, and have spoken in most of the States and Provinces as well as Taiwan and various cities in Europe. 

I enjoy being surrounded by cultures other than my own. I enjoy my own as well -- but variety is indeed the spice of my life. I keep busy -- and I love my life. I love meeting the people who come here to the west coast of Canada and stay in my B&B. I love traveling after the tourist season is over. 

And I love writing. My interests?? Music, especially opera, reading everything in print, and Writing. And walking on the beach and swimming. At one point I had hoped to swim in every major sea and ocean. I've realized that may not be possible in one lifetime -- but trying has been fun!


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