I’m writing this blog on February 9th. I’m in edits with eXasty Books as we work on the release for Redeemed. So I thought I’d do a post of Sanctified, the third book in the Matawapit Family Series. I’m 72,705 words into my first draft. The joys of writing. Wait on edits from editor, and while waiting, you keep fast-drafting the other book. I’m almost there, because I’m shooting for 94k.
The Matawapit Family Series: In the wilds of Northwestern Ontario, the adult children of a domineering Ojibway church deacon find their faiths crumbling and their beliefs faltering when a vengeful former lover, an ex-fiancé out on parole, and a seductive family enemy challenge Emery, Bridget, and Jude in a duel of love, loyalty, and values that threatens to destroy their perfect Catholic lives and family.
Here is Teaser 1 for Sanctified:
Keep in mind this is from my first draft, so this could all change once I move into the second draft. I usually do five rounds before I send off for a critique.
“Do you think he’ll have a traditional or a Catholic funeral?” Raven poured a refill into her brother’s mug. Their chief had practiced both faiths.
Clayton grabbed the sugar packets from the small bowl on the counter. “We’ll talk later.”
“Order up.” Cookie banged the bell.
“Okay.” Raven set the coffee pot on the back counter’s burner. With the chief’s death, the diner’s tables and the main counter were full. Whoever couldn’t get a seat stood, holding their coffee-filled mugs, since everything stopped after a community member died, except for Kiss the Cook, where the people of the reserve liked to gather if the home at the grieving family was too packed.
The diner door swung open.
Raven turned to Darryl Keejik and his husband Emery Matawapit entering. No doubt Darryl was already campaigning to fill Willie’s spot as leader of Ottertail Lake, especially now that he was a full-on Matawapit after marrying two summers ago into a traitorous Catholic family who shunned their own culture.
He probably planned to keep funding the local church, too, a dwelling that had no place at an Anishinaabe community, not after what the government and religious institutions had done to the First People of Canada for over a hundred years.
Balancing four plates, Raven wove her way through the crowd to the back table where four women sat. She set down their breakfasts. “Here you go, ladies. Do you need more coffee?”
“Yah. Meegwetch.” The one woman patted Raven’s arm. “Very sad about Willie, huh?”
“Very sad.” Raven wiped her hands on the apron wrapping her waist. “I should get—”
“But it’s how the circle goes,” the old woman rambled on in her smoker’s voice. “Creator has plans.”
“Yes, Creator does.” Raven inched away. Impolite, but she had other people to serve. The women were regulars, dining here every single morning, whether ordering The Hunter’s Special or a light serving of toast.
She turned and banged against Darryl who steadied Raven’s wobbling balance. Emery stood behind him.
“The tables are full. Help yourself to some coffee.” Raven used a nice voice. To give them the usual stink-eye after the chief’s death was disrespectful. Even enemies set aside their feuds burning hot on the campfire.
“You need help?” Emery asked in his perennial soft-spoken tone. “I can go around with the coffee pot.”
Leave it to Mr. Outstanding Catholic to volunteer assistance, since he volunteered everywhere else. His flashing white teeth, green eyes brighter than sunshine, and pale skin a shining rosy hue from being out in the cold produced a gag in Raven’s throat. How could someone be so perfect, even perfect looking? But she wasn’t dumb enough to pass up an offer for an extra arm in this crowd.
“Sure. Thanks a bunchies.” She flashed Emery her pearly whites. On the fake side, but she’d giver herself an A for effort, since Raven was getting A’s at her adult education classes at the school.
Too bad the principal had quit. But not surprising. Non-natives never lasted long at an isolated Anishinaabe community in Northwestern Ontario. They always ran back south after experiencing a year of extreme cold, high-priced goods if they wanted to eat healthy, flying in and out during the spring, summer, and fall to access Thunder Bay or Winnipeg, and chopping wood to feed the woodstove because none of the houses on the reserve had indoor heating.
Raven grabbed three more orders to take to another table while Cookie kept manning the full grill of frying food.
“Over here!” another regular called out.
“This isn’t for you.” Raven winked. She sidled around his chair and said into his ear, “It’s for over there. Wait your turn, handsome.”
“Handsome, that I am,” he replied, although he sure wasn’t at seventy-eight years old and a big pot belly.
Raven giggled and dashed to the table the food belonged to. “Okay, here we go. For Hunter’s Breakfasts. Eat up.”
“What you think’s gonna happen?” the one man asked. “Bi-election?”
“Don’t know.” Raven set down the other plates. “Ask my brother. He’s on band council.”
“Where’s ol’ Clayton anyway?” the man looked around.
“At the counter.” Raven stepped back. “Emery’s going around with the coffee pot. If you need a refill, give him a shout.”
“Gotcha.” The other man dug into his breakfast of eggs, steak, panfries, and pancakes.
Raven snaked her way through the crowd and back to the kitchen. Cookie stood at the other counter while her step-nephew manned the grill. Only fourteen, and in grade nine, Tyrell was present because there’d also be no school in respect to Chief Willie.
“Hey, hey, hey, I’ll need someone to take this over to the chief’s place.” Cookie set the last of the muffins into a cardboard box.
“I’ll ask Darryl. He’s hanging around while Emery’s serving coffee.” If Raven sent Darryl off on his way, he wouldn’t have time to start promoting what a great leader he’d make.
“Perfect, perfect, perfect.” Cookie patted the box. He gazed at Raven. “Too bad about Willie. What’cha think’s gonna happen?”
Why was everyone asking her? Because Clayton sat on band council? “Ask Darryl when he comes back here to get the food. I’ll get him.”
This was a perfect opportunity for Raven to unearth what Darryl was up to. She darted back into the main area of the diner. After worming her way through the pile of customers, she found Darryl standing at the back window, surrounded by a few people from the Traditionalists Society. Just as Raven had suspected. Darryl was promoting himself to those fierce in protecting their culture.
“I hate to interrupt but Cookie needs help.”
“Oh? What does he need?” Darryl held a mug of coffee.
“Someone to take the care package over to Willie’s place.” Raven motioned at Darryl to follow.
She wound her way back to the kitchen, while being asked by a few customers about their orders. They could wait. They wouldn’t die of starvation if they had to sit another five minutes.
“Here he is.” Raven scooted into the kitchen.
“Good, good, good.” Cookie smacked his hand together. “I need someone to take this food over to the chief’s house.”
“No problem. Lemme get my jacket. I’ll get Emery to give me a hand.” Darryl motioned at the boxes.
“I’ll go.” Tyrell whipped around from the grill.
“Stay put.” Raven used her lips to point at Darryl. “He’s going. We need you on the grill. So…” She folded her arms, eyeing Cookie to get him talking.
“Oh yah. Yah.” Cookie popped four slices of bread into the toaster. “What’s gonna happen now? Bi-election?”
Darryl’s small dark eyes widened. “Uh, I’m not sure. We probably won’t consider meeting until a couple of weeks. Joe’s deputy chief.”
“Yah, I know, but deputy’s only to fill in when Willie’s away.” Cookie reached for the butter.
“We’ll have to wait and see.” Darryl edged toward the swinging doors. “Until then, everyone knows Joe acts in Willie’s place.”
“But he’s a band councillor.” Cookie scooped up a knife.
“Yeah, he is. That’s why we appointed him deputy chief. For emergencies like this. We’ll wait until the funeral’s done. The coroner still has to fly up. Then Delilah has to plan his funeral.” Darryl vanished from the kitchen.
“He never gives me a second to talk to him.” Cookie threw up his hands. “Tyrell, take the orders out. I need to speak to Raven first.”
Raven grabbed the plates sitting on the warming tray. There was no use sticking around. Darryl was in diplomatic mode and not about to give any answers to what was going on in his scheming head. But he was up to something. He knew Clayton planned on running for chief in the next election, which was only three months away in April.
“Soo…y’know how old I’m getting.”
“Seventy-two is hardly old.” Raven washed her hands at the sink just as the toast popped from the toaster. “I’ll get those. You watch the grill.”
“See what I mean, eh?” Cookie flipped a couple of eggs over easy. “You always tell me what to do.”
“I’m only trying to help.” Raven buttered the toast.
“You run this kitchen like I do. That’s what I’m looking for. Someone who’s gonna care about this place as much as I do.”
The sizzling grill, and constant chatter, even roars of laughter from the dining area filled the kitchen. Raven checked the order lading. These were individual side dishes. She set the two plates of toast on the higher counter facing the main area and rang the bell for Tyrell.
“Of course I care. I love working for you.” Raven set two more orders of toast in the toaster. “You…” He’d given her a chance when nobody else had. “I’m always here whenever you need me.”
“Yah, that’s it.” Cookie eased the eggs onto three plates. He added the bacon and ham. Then he dished up the pan fries. “You’re always helping out. Always willing to come in whenever someone’s sick, or something. Keep this place clean without me having to tell you to. Always busy doing this or that.”
“I enjoy it.” The sight of dirt, after living in it for so long, made Raven’s stomach queasy. Filth, even a smidgen of something not put in its proper place produced an itch on her skin. “If I was forty years older, I’d marry you, sweetie. Keep your apartment super-clean. Make sure you’re fed each night with a big meal…”
‘Ho, ho, ho.” Cookie threw back his head, laughing. “Always make me smile. But I’ll take you as a daughter.”
Raven giggled. She pecked his cheek before reaching into the deep freeze to retrieve the chicken strips someone wanted to eat at nine in the morning.
“And that’s why I want to…” Cookie placed his chubby finger over his skinny lips. “It stays between us.”
“Gotcha.” Raven twisted a pretend key at her mouth to seal the imaginary lock before setting the chicken strips into the deep fryer.
“…sell you Kiss the Cook.”
It was a good thing she’d preformed her task first, or she would’ve dumped the order into the fryer, splashing hot grease over herself.
Kiss the Cook? The goldmine of Ottertail Lake? The place where everyone had been gathering for over thirty years after Cookie sobered up?