This week’s installment comes from Jeanne MacDonald, who writes, “What is one of your favorite quotes from one of your book(s). Explain the reason why its your favorite and its significance to the characters and your story.”
If you’re here, hopefully you’re hopping from Tracy Gee. This is a hard one, because I usually have a line or two in each of my novels that I really like. But the following section from Jessie’s War is, I think, one of the best things I’ve ever written, maybe because it means so much to me. I suppose it’s not the words so much as it is the significance behind them. So here you are!
Jessie sank to the ground in a heap of sodden skirts. The heat of the fire burned, and she moved away from it and toward the dark, gentle warmth emanating up from the lower chambers of the shaft. Their chant nothing more than murmurs on the wind, she heard her ancestors’ voices, strong and unafraid.
They beckoned to her, and her Paviotso heart responded.
She closed her eyes for a moment, and the song washed over her as she took up the chant. Only for a moment, out of deference to them. In her mind’s eye, she danced with them. She danced with her mother and her people. Danced with them into forever.
Wake up, that voice whispered.
She ignored it.
The fear and the anger and the hurt were washed away as her ancestors greeted her and accepted her as one of theirs. For the first time in a long time, Jessie belonged.
Calm and at peace, she was stone and sand, the pinion pine and the fast-moving waters of the river in spring. She was sagebrush and scrub and the sky, filled with bright stars.
Wake up, Jessie.
For a moment, she was pulled away from her people, but she reached into the abyss for them again.
She was tufa and hot springs, the scorching sun and the thunderous clouds of summer storms. She was snow-capped mountains and dry, desert valleys. She was the rabbit and the coyote. She was the sleek fish of the great lake, and she was the fisher. She was the mighty hunter and the prey.
She was one and she was nothing. She was so very small and she was infinite.
A sharp sting pierced through the dream vision. She ignored it. Another one broke through. Beneath the chant, she heard something discordant and angry, breaking the melody. The dark pulsed, and the magic began to crack.
I’ve always been a sucker for setting, for mood pieces where the setting acts as another character. In most of my stories, the characters are the main focus, with the internal setting being more important that the physical environment. Jessie’s War, though, is both a steampunk and a western, and setting is part of the backbone of story. In this case, Jessie is a product of her environment, and tied to the land all the way to the core of her soul. For her, the land is a living, breathing thing, and deeply important to her.
But I suppose I like it not just because of the symbolic weight it carries for the character. I’ve lived in this desert since I was eight, and it wasn’t really my choice to stay here. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had wanderlust. I never considered this desert to be my place, my home. But my husband has a job that he can’t really do anywhere else, so here we stayed.
I longed for… green. For lush valleys and deep, green rivers, and rain.
But I guess that, over the course of these last years, I’ve come to accept that the desert is my home. There is nothing quite like the green that happens after a summer rain (or for a brief two to three weeks in spring), when the hills are bright with new growth. Sure, it’s about 14 seconds long, but it’s the most amazing color, the most amazing smell. Every time I experience it–the sight, the smell–my heart clenches, just a little. It’s not something easily forgotten. There is something starkly beautiful about the desert, from the exposed, jagged rocks to the petroglyphs that one can find, to the old, abandoned mines and homesteads, where people fought against the landscape to try to make their fortunes.
So that up there is my love letter to the desert. The place that I can finally call home.
Why not click through to Collette Cameron and see what her favorite lines are! (Love her stories, by the way!)