A friend’s deception. A family’s dilemma.
While cataloguing looted antiquities in Brussels, archaeologist Grace Madison discovers that her daughter has vanished in France, and her son’s bride has been attacked in Switzerland. After the Madisons unearth a relic whose taproot pierces the Ancient Near East, they realize that before they can save themselves, they must rescue an old friend. If he’ll let them.
They sacrifice hearts and lives in a race against eternity on a four-thousand-year-old trail crossing three continents.
Because choosing what’s right is all that’s left.
~ Virtual Author BT
Premier Virtual Author Book Tours
I was quite curious about my work appearing on a blog called Butterfly-O-Meter Books. My research revealed that the “butterflies” were apparently those that a reader gets when he or she engages—usually romantically—with a story.
Since I write international suspense with only a thread of romance, I was concerned.
But after learning that my host is from Romania, a beautiful, adventurous part of the world from which I just returned, I decided to share butterfly-worthy lessons that punctuated the journey of When Camels Fly and The Brothers’ Keepers. My genre doesn’t include ball gowns, vampires, or romantic trysts, but my research has involved sketchy situations that triggered sheer panic.
While peacefully searching for a caiman (alligator) on an Amazon tributary in Peru eighteen months ago, I waved at the log-sized anaconda (snake) lolling in the water lettuce. I noted three species of poison dart frogs on low-hanging bromeliads in the rainforest canopy and caught six piranhas using raw meat as bait. I adjusted my mosquito net (more chic than a frilly bonnet) continually, even though I had completed a course of anti-malarial and yellow fever drugs before I left the States.
I was dreaming about a hot shower (although the Amazon feels like a hot shower) when my guide, a college-educated young man who had grown up on the river, cut the motor. He grabbed an oar, and thrust it into the water. Moments later, I stared at a Robinson’s tarantula crawling, not three feet from my esteemed person, along the bow. Who knew tarantulas could crawl on water? And more importantly, who cared?
I pondered the current surrounding me, and determined that the ambling tarantula was the least of my worries. My guide was excited to share his rare find, and I thanked him profusely while encouraging him to return the dear, hairy creature to its natural habitat.
Lesson One: real tarantulas are scarier than literary vampires.
The War Zone
Archaeological digs are treasure hunts from which a person normally emerges empty handed. But if you’re an optimist, as I am, the lure of ancient life is irresistible.
I stood on tel Dan in far northern Israel as part of my master’s degree. My then-teenaged children were across the dig pit, having joined me for a long survey of sites in Israel and Jordan. Three weeks before we arrived, Hamas was bombing settlements nearby. The region usually is most peaceful immediately after an altercation.
A quietly persistent throbbing penetrated wind noise buffeting the tel. When I paid attention, I realized it was heavy artillery fire in Syria a few miles to the east. A rat-a-tat-tatting from the north became louder—machine gun fire in Lebanon! When the camo-painted bomber broke through the clouds, circling low enough for me to read IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) on its tail, I knew we were in trouble.
My mouth was dry, and my heart hammered. The lead archaeologist herded us to the bus, where he continued his lecture. I didn’t hear another word, but created my protagonist, archaeologist Grace Madison, that afternoon.
Lesson Two: artillery fire makes a heart beat faster than a hot, shirtless stud.
I was in Venice, finalizing research for manuscripts three and four, when a flotilla clogged the Grand Canal. Dozens of speeding water taxis chased one water taxi surrounded by boats from three divisions of Italian police. From the terrace of the Gritti Palace, I measured the wake rolling toward luxurious buildings slowly sinking into the thoroughfare. When the waves crashed over the dock and onto the terrace (and shoes of well-heeled guests), the concierges and maitre d’ issued rousing calls of . . . welcome? Thankfully, my Italian is limited.
Traveling for an extended period is an impediment to being well informed, particularly if more concerned with ISIS on the border of Turkey (where I was headed) than staged life events of Hollywood habitués. For four days, the canal was a congested pod of jostling watercraft as Mr. and Mrs. Clooney and their guests made a statement at the Aman hotel next door. I stuck to back alleyways, researched afoot, and circumnavigated touristy areas. More than once, I gave the Mom Look of Death to a security guard about to question my right to be somewhere. Who cares about the Clooneys when archaeologist Grace Madison, my protagonist, is saving the world?
Fortunately, the Clooneys left the day before I did, so I didn’t have to swim to the airport.
Lesson Three: “truth” is stranger than fiction.
(Author’s note: A young man, Matthew, has just brought a breakfast tray to the chateau library where Maggie, the adult daughter of our protagonist, works to prevent disaster on an epic scale. She’s a hydrologist, and he’s a Mossad associate. Both have neglected personal lives for careers, a condition that’s apparent in the awkward exchange that follows.)
“A headache, probably from lack of sleep. I don’t know how everyone keeps this pace. And I’m the nut who willingly got up early, instead of enjoying that marvelous bed,” Maggie said. “That’s the fluffiest down comforter ever.”
“Many geese gave their feathers for you, Ms. Madison. They were honored.” Matthew bowed, and reached for her hand. “Give me your left hand.”
She stiffened. “Why?” Failure.
“Just do it, Maggie.”
After ensuring it was not jam-sticky, she placed her hand in his. He pulled her six inches from him, and she stared at his collarbone. Thanking God she had washed her hair, she noticed he smelled of sandalwood. Using the thumb and forefinger of his other hand, he gently pinched a tendon in the Y at the base of her thumb.
“Look up,” he said, watching her. “Let me know if this is too much pressure.” After a minute of steadily increasing force, he opened his fingers and laid his hand over hers. “How’s that? Better?”
She had no idea how it was. She was not breathing. And her brain had left the building. She prepared to throw herself at him. Then she remembered she wore a chair throw. Failure.
“I think it’s gone. The headache. Not the chair throw.” What was she doing? “That’s amazing.”
“Acupressure. Works every time.” He looked confused, probably about the chair throw, but did not let go of her hand.
What was she supposed to do now? She considered dropping the disco ball.
“So much good comes from these hands.” He turned her palm over. He had expressed admiration for work he called “altruistic” last year in Galilee. Much remained unsaid during those early morning hours. They blew the moment before returning to their rooms—she angry, he clueless.
“I do what I can. It’s a privilege.” She needed a manicure, and would look for a file and emery board in her room.
He ran his forefinger from her wrist to her fingertips, drawing invisible lines to each pathetically ragged nail. Then he clasped his hand over hers firmly, and cleared his throat. “One day, maybe we can just talk, get to know each other in a normal way. I would—enjoy that. I’m interested in your work, and admire your relationship with your family.” He looked away.
She would not hyperventilate. Once certain her voice would not squeak, she replied. “I would like to make that a priority.” Was she structuring a business agenda? “Really.” Crap.
“Then it will happen. I suspect this will be over in a couple of days. Maybe we can find time then.”
“Or we’ll be dead.” Her gift was not romantic encouragement.
The winner is Anne! Congrats! Prizes will be shipped by the author when the tour is over 🙂
About the Author & Links:
Winner of ‘A People’s Chioce Award’ in fiction, NLB Horton returned to writing fiction after an award-winning career in journalism and marketing as well as earning her Masters of Biblical Studies degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. She has surveyed Israeli and Jordanian archaeological digs, tossed a tarantula from her skiff into the Amazon after training with an Incan shaman, driven uneventfully through Rome, and consumed gallons of afternoon tea while traveling across five continents.
Horton is a member of the venerable Explorers Club, based in New York City and founded in 1904 as an international multidisciplinary professional society of explorers and scientists. From her home in the Rocky Mountains, she writes, cross-country skis, gardens and researches ideas for her next novel. Horton’s first novel in the Parched series, When Camels Fly, was released in May 2014. The Brothers’ Keepers is the second, with the third installment available in fall 2015.
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