Guest Post by Devin K. Smyth, author of Badili

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Publication Date: June 29, 2014

Synopsis: Enter the world of Lucey Chimney, a 13-year-old girl enslaved on a remote Virginia plantation in the early 1800s. She and her family are barely surviving under the regime of a barbaric overseer and an indifferent master. Lucey feels helpless to do anything--until an ailing stranger is found in the woodlands nearby. Charged with his care, Lucey learns more about the stranger, including his claim to possess an ancient power, one that could free Lucey and the rest of the plantation's slaves. He's willing to give her the power--but at what cost?

Guest Post: When I'm searching for a new story to read, I ask myself a basic question: What makes this story unique? When I begin a new project, I ask a similar question: What about my story makes it different from others in the genre?

With my new novel BADILI, there are familiar elements from recent bestsellers--a teenage-girl protagonist, a historical setting, and a touch of the supernatural. What separates BADILI is that the protagonist, Lucey, isn't concerned about romance; she's more interested in a revolution that could end the slavery she and her family endure. While at first Lucey feels trapped by her dire situation, as things worsen on the plantation, her true nature is revealed as someone determined to take control of the uncontrollable.

The storytelling also differs in writing style. Many young-adult stories today are written in first-person present tense. BADILI, in keeping with its historical setting, is written in past tense and in third person. This limited point of view adds mystery as the reader must discover each character's motivations through their dialogue and actions, instead of through a running interior monologue that a first-person approach often depends upon. Also, the style of BADILI is in the tradition of Poe in its word choice and syntax, again in keeping with the timeframe of the story.

Finally, the setting is not used as an exotic device--establishing the action in the early 1800s means that there's little call for the abolition of slavery, and the isolated plantation means that running for freedom is a nearly impossible task. These elements add intrigue and authenticity to the story, while leading Lucey to believe that the only solution left to her is rebellion, one she may not survive.

If you're looking for a haunting read with a historical background, give BADILI a try. Thank you for your support.

Excerpt: Chapter I

Christmas 1805

Durham Bend was unseasonably warm that festive December evening—so mild that Lucey Chimney wore no more than her new calico dress patterned in green and white. Careless of the fresh frock her mother made her don for the holiday, Lucey began climbing what was known as the Mistress’s Tree. The white walnut’s branches offered regular rungs for Lucey to ascend, as she often would when her work in the Big House was over.

But there was no work today—at least not in service to the master. Once the menfolk put in place a long line of wooden tables, Lucey had helped decorate each with colorful pumpkins and squashes in celebration of the plantation’s harvest. Folks from miles around had come to enjoy the merriment, and Lucey smiled at the clapping and embracing upon every arrival. She watched aunts and uncles and cousins catching up with each other and guffawing as tales told in years past became even taller, a session of the dozens ready to arise at any moment. The men were adorned in suits and rimless hats, while the women were aglow with red ribbons woven through their hair. Children ran this way and that, their multitude of games and races colliding like waves.

From her perch, Lucey breathed in the fragrances of roasted corn and fatted hog, fried fish and sweet-potato pie, Hoppin’ John and collard greens—a feast that had been in the making for days. Nearby, a few of the young men were stamping out grass to fashion a dance ring while a huddle of musicians inspected and refined their homemade instruments. Even the overseer Mr. Foster and his drivers were in cheerful moods as they drank corn whiskey as quickly as if they’d thieved the spirits. It was a hoe-down indeed.

Beyond the festivities, the whole plantation opened before Lucey. Off to the north was the Street, the rutted lane where the folks’ cabins stood, fifteen on each side. Farther along the lane were the cotton press and gin house for processing Durham Bend’s primary crop. Clustered around these buildings were the smokehouse and corn crib, as well as the carriage house, stables, and smithy—a domain exclusive to Lucey’s father and his forging talents. Dotting the landscape in the distance were various other outbuildings, all cordoned off by a windbreak of trees that bracketed Goose Creek, a winding waterway that served as Durham Bend’s border to the north and west.

Looking south, Lucey could see the squat cabins that made up the drivers quarters, then a grove of trees separating the rest of the plantation from the Big House. East of the master’s manse was nothing but pastureland, save for the Mistress’s burial vault. It lay alone in a corner of Durham Bend, the matriarch of the plantation as lifeless as the fields that spread just behind the tree where Lucey sat.

But she could sit no more when she spotted a boy at one of the tables. “Jasper!” she called with a wave as she hurried down the Mistress’s Tree. Once on the ground, Lucey started running, her skinny legs, like those of a chicken and with the same lurching gait, churning along. Lucey’s deep-brown hair, braided into tails, whipped about with every stride.

When she came up to Jasper, he only shrugged in greeting with shoulders so narrow that it could be a matter of question whether he was facing forward or turned to one side.

“How come you’s jus’ sittin’ there?” Lucey asked.

“Paw say I ain’ got no call to join in,” he said, his voice honking like a goose’s as was usual for his age.

“C’mon,” Lucey said, tugging at his spindly arm. “Let’s us see how far we can roll my hoop. Mister Ben ain’ gonna see none.”

Jasper squinted into the setting sun and spied the landscape for his father, the Reverend Ben Newell. He was in the middle of a group of women, his eyes boring into each of them, his hefty hands gesturing to the heavens while his hefty belly bounced with the effort. “Don’ reckon I better go nowheres,” Jasper said. “Paw already done tan my hide fo’ gettin’ verse wrong.”

“’Cept ain’ no one else gonna wanna roll hoop wit’ me.”

Jasper kept his eyes on his father, then sighed and slid off the bench. “Where yo’ hoop at?”

A brilliant smile came to Lucey’s face, and she ran off. Jasper trailed behind as Lucey skidded to a stop before her family’s cabin, little more than a box of mismatched planks topped with a patchwork of shingles. Resting against a post was a rusted rain-barrel belt, which Lucey snatched up. “Now we gotta find us a good stick,” she said to Jasper.

Lucey led him to the grove near the Big House, and they wended their way through the stout trunks. Despite kicking and picking at every fallen limb, the pair discarded them all as too knobby or mangled to be of any worth. Lucey searched until she came to the far edge of the grove. Just ahead was the oyster-shell path that curved through the flower garden and up to the Big House, which rose ominously before her. In the dying light of day, the manse’s columns appeared aligned like an order of ghastly sentinels forbidding further passage.

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