GETTING PUBLISHED FOR FICTION WRITERS

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Author Interview: Riley Banks

Riley Banks - Author
Please join me in welcoming Riley Banks, author of The William S Club. Riley Banks writes sexy contemporary novels a la Jackie Collins and Sidney Sheldon. Her background is in journalism, which shows through in the fast-paced action of her novels. Having spent more than a decade living the pampered life of the expatriate wife overseas, Riley has plenty of rich experiences to colour her books and has created larger than life characters you love or love to hate. With plenty of raunchy sex, passion, scandals, drama, corruption, affairs, murders, glamor, suspense, love, heartache, secrets, betrayals, big money, power and exotic locations, there is more than enough for fans of many different genres. Visit Riley's website - http://www.rileybanks.net.

ref=la_B009BDA8IG_1_1.jpgWithout further ado, let's get down to business and find out
more about Riley and her wonderful stories.


  1. Where do you get your ideas?

    They come to me in all sorts of places. Take The William S Club, for instance. I got the idea for that sitting in a Chinese take away restaurant waiting for my order. I started reading something about the dramatic rise in property prices over the years and my brain started imagining what it would have been like to have bought back before the boom. I started jotting down notes and the book was born. Another book I have on the backburner at the moment, The Pact, came to me when my mother was admitted to hospital with pancreatitis. I did a bit of research and discovered that the ailment usually affects chronic drinkers and drug addicts yet my mother is a complete tea-totaller. From there, I came up with the idea to write about a woman who has survived some of the worst tragedies a family could face and who has watched her daughter ruin her life with drugs and alcohol. She makes a pact with God to take her daughter’s addictions upon herself and as the daughter gradually gets better, the mother grows sicker. It is a story of redemption and love, and how far a parent will go to protect their child. So in answer to the original question, the ideas come from tiny sparks, which I allow to germinate and become fully fledged ideas and plot lines. Often times, if an idea comes to me, I will sit down and write the first couple of chapters based on that idea. I then leave it and go back to whatever it was I was already working on, knowing that those chapters are there, ready for me to work on when I get the chance.
2. Do you work with an outline, or just write?

A bit of both. I generally have a loose outline of where I want to go with a story but I try not to get too bogged down in sticking to the plan. I think if you lock yourself too rigidly into an outline, your story is in danger of becoming plot driven rather than character driven. And sometimes, it is the characters themselves which take us on the most exciting journey.  

3. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel, or getting it published, that you would change?

If I didn’t hate writing synopses so much, I probably would have made an attempt to get a trade publisher. In this instance, I didn’t even try. Just made the decision to Indie publish it and get on with the job of writing the next book.

4. How do you market your work?

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could just hand our books over to a publicist and say, ‘Make me famous’? One day I hope that will happen but in the meantime, I utilize as many marketing tactics as I can. It does help that one of my day jobs is in marketing, so I know the mechanics of writing media releases. Having worked as a journalist in the past, I’m also quite comfortable approaching the media. One thing people often forget to do is harness their existing network. I’ve lived in four countries and have friends all over the world so one of the first things I did was send out an email to them all letting them know I’d published a book. I gave them the link and asked if they wouldn’t mind spreading the word to any of their friends who might be interested. That simple technique generated a number of sales that might otherwise have been missed and introduced me to new readers I would not have been able to directly market to. 

Another forum I use quite heavily is social media. One of the mistakes I think a lot of people make is to only use social media to promote their work. They send out dozens of tweets and posts each day, plugging their books and their websites and their interviews and their ads… ad nauseum. They never interact on a social level with their follows, forgetting the key word is social media. People expect you to interact with them, not just bombard them with advertising material. I take the time to introduce myself to new followers. Sometimes it takes a week or two to get back to everyone, and it does take up time, but by engaging them in conversation, people are far more likely to remember you and take notice of what you have to say.

I’ve got a couple of other marketing ideas up my sleeve but I’ll let you know how successful they are once I put them into action.


5. Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

The William S Club straddles a couple of genres. It is a chick lit novel with elements of drama, suspense, erotica, and action but it ultimately a romance.  

6. What project are you working on now?

I’m wearing two writer hats at the moment. As R.A. Byfield, I am putting the finishing touches to book one of The Vampire Origins. As Riley Banks, I am writing The Expat Wives series about a group of pampered women living in Dubai. Having been the ‘expat wife’ I am really excited about this project and have plenty of colorful characters – some based on real life people – to explore.

7. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Keep plugging away. Every single author out there started out just like you – a beginner. And everyone of them had their fair share of rejections, knock backs and critics. Read up as much as you can on the craft of writing and read other authors to see what works and what doesn’t – but please, don’t jump on bandwagons. Forge your own path and be original. Most of all, develop a tough skin. While I haven’t had negative comments yet, I am sure they will come. The buying public can be quite cruel when they don’t like something. Act like a duck and let the negativity run off your back. My mother had a great saying – chew the fat and spit out the bones. In other words, if there is a lesson to be learned in negative feedback, take that lesson and then get rid of the rest. Don’t let it upset you.  

8. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve got three completed manuscripts done in addition to The William S Club. I’m leaving two of them to mature while working on The Vampire Origins. (Like a fine wine or cheese, I believe all books need some time to sit and mature – even just a couple of months greatly improves them because on the next read through, you see things you missed the first ten times of reading through it). My favourite, so far, is Vampire Origins because it is the one book I share with my family. They helped me plot out storylines and work on characters. In fact, we had some great ‘family meetings’ sitting around discussing the book series and where it could go. While I love my Riley Banks books, I can only really share it with my eldest daughter, as the other two are too young for the adult themes.

9. Is there a message in your novel that you hope readers will grasp?

I think one of the overriding themes of The William S Club is that bad things happen in life. It is up to the individual whether they choose to get on with life or become a perpetual victim.

Having lived overseas, I have seen people overcome the most terrible tribulations. Met people that have watched their entire families raped and murdered in front of them. Yet despite having survived such a horrendous ordeal, they are still positive about life and genuinely happy to be alive. Many of them are trying desperately to make something better of their live, studying hard to honor their dead family members. Western society has a terrible habit of looking inwards. We’ve become a generation of ‘belly button gazers’, trying to find ourselves, to seek self-fulfillment and self-enjoyment. We are a society of victims looking to lay blame for our actions on other people.

Bad things happen to Charlotte but she chooses to get on with life, to find the positives rather than focus on the negative. Hopefully more people are inspired by her to do the same.  

10. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I have a real problem writing synopses. No problem with writing the book but condensing it all down to a couple of pages is torture. For that reason alone, I chose to self-publish so I didn’t have to go through that torment. One day I’ll face that fear and see if an agent or publisher is interested in picking up my work. Otherwise, I’ll keep slogging on being an independent author.

11. Do you have any pets that keep you company when you write?

Ah, yes. We have three very spoiled pets that we shipped back from Saudi Arabia with us. Two golden cocker spaniel dogs who sit at my feet while I write and a street cat we rescued in Riyadh who often tries to lay across my keyboard. In fact, Bear, the cat, has already ‘forced’ his way into Vampire Origins as a character.

12. Do you have a favorite quote?

The quote I live my life by is ‘Do what you enjoy and it is less like work and more like fun’. No idea who wrote it or if I just made it up myself but it is definitely my motto in life.

13. Where can people buy your books?

The William S Club is available as both a paperback and ebook through Amazon, Smashwords, Sony, Diesel, Apple, Barnes and Noble and a number of other retailers. For more details, go to www.rileybanks.net Happy to do discounts for book clubs or other bulk purchases.  

Thanks so much, Riley! It's been an absolute pleasure getting to know a little about you as an author.

For all you readers who wish to learn more, or read about The William S Club, you can get in touch with Ms. Banks in a number of ways. See below:


Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to leave a comment.

About the interviewer: Dee Ann Waite is the author of The Consequential Element, a fiction based on fact, which is due to be released the end of Decenber 2012. She is a passionate writer, an avid reader, a semi-pro photographer, and lover of life in general.

Ms. Waite is a poet and freelance writer, and has written several tense and emotional pieces of work. Many of her main characters are women who struggle through the pains and sufferings of life, but somehow manage to come through as victors, not victims. They wear their battle scars proudly, and they learn to see life as half full... like Dee Ann.

  




www.rileybanks.com

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Week 18 'THE NEXT BIG THING' BLOG HOP

We are blog hopping our way through some new reads. What a great way to be introduced to some wonderful authors you might have not known about. Be sure to follow our blog hop and be introduced to some exciting reads as well as works in progress. Below you will be able to learn a little about myself and the authors who follow me in week 18. Be sure to check them all out. For they are fabulous authors that I am delighted to brag about!! Special thanks to Eri Nelson at https://www.facebook.com/dear.harts for asking me to participate.


Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

Q: What is the working title of your book?
A: THE CONSEQUENTIAL ELEMENT

Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?
A: I was surfing the net one day reading up on some political issues and came across a site that discussed the current issue of China and their near monopoly on rare earth elements and minerals. The article went into how China's control over the elements and minerals, and their decrease of exporting them to the U.S., could - and does - affect the security of our country against foreign invasion. The U.S.  utilizes rare earth elements and minerals in much of their military weaponry, and unfortunately we are 100% dependent on China for them. After discussing this with family and friends, it became obvious that many people were unaware of this very critical issue. I decided to write a book (fiction) around this important issue, but do it in such a way - surround it with action, adventure, and thrills such as car chases and kidnappings - that the reader becomes enthralled with the story. Oh, and yes, there is a bit of romance, too. :)

Q: What genre does your book fall under?
A: Action/Thriller

Q: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
A: The archeologist Roland Dupre would be Sean Connery; the main protagonist female Danielle Montgomery would be Alexa Davalos; and the main protagonist male would be... hmm, I'm still working on this one.

Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A: Ha! This is a killer. Guess what - I still haven't come up with being able to sum up my book in one sentence. Sorry.

Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
A: Self-published, but I'm still going to send out query letters. You never know. I've had two friends who have been picked up by agents after they self-published, so the possibility is real.

Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A: It was my first book, and I wasn't even sure I wanted to write it, at first. I only worked on it here and there for the first six months. Then all of a sudden things just seemed to kick in and I developed this unbelievable desire to write it - I mean really write it. I know this sounds strange, but it was as if the characters started screaming at me that they needed to tell their story.

Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A: A bit like Michael Crichton's Congo and Andy McDermott's Atlantis.

Q: Who or What inspired you to write this book?
A: After surfing the web one day I came across an article regarding China and the rare earth element issues between China and the U.S. It became obvious that this is a serious issue. Unfortunately, not many people seem to be aware of it. So, I decided to write a fiction novel based on this premise to help enlighten people to the very real threat of China weakening our borders little by little making us more vulnerable every day. What do you suppose China's intentions would be once we are too weak to control our borders?

Q: What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
A: Like I said earlier, there's quite a bit of action, suspense, thriller, and romance. The fact that the main character Danielle must travel back to Africa to find her missing uncle, and must confront the rebel soldier (now leader of the rebel army) who killed her mother and ruined her life - the man who she has dreamed of killing every night for these past 15 years - and how she is forced to make a decision: forgive the demon of her dreams and accept his help in finding her uncle, or exact her deepest desire of revenge and kill him once and for all, I think this is very compelling for the reader.

Here's a list of my tagged blog hop authors for next week. Check out their blogs next Wednesday, October 24th, to read about their WIPs and New Releases:

1. http://madelinesloane.wordpress.com
2. www.mstrinkay.blogspot.com
3. http://www.graemeing.com

Monday, October 15, 2012


As promised, here's chapter 1 of THE CONSEQUENTIAL ELEMENT - my debut action/thriller fiction novel! Enjoy. And please leave a comment to let me know what you think.
I heard from my copy editor today. All is going well and on track so I'm still looking forward to a beginning of December release date. 
I am going to post one more chapter - chapter 2 will be up in one week. This will be the LAST chapter I post.

FOR EVERYONE WHO LEAVES A COMMENT, I WILL OFFER A FREE E-COPY OF MY BOOK.

CHAPTER 1
"What do you mean, you have to turn me in? Do you know what you’re saying?" Roland Dupre sat in the over-stuffed, brown leather chair across from Simpson's desk, his fists clenched.
Charles Simpson stood staring out the window into the gardens of the U.S. Embassy. The sweet, nutty scent of his Cuban cigar wafted through the air, enticing Roland's taste buds. "This isn't Botswana we're talking about," Simpson said, "it's the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and you crossed the line when you went digging there. The DRC wants what they believe to be rightfully theirs, for the benefit of their country."
Roland sneered. "Come on Charlie. We’ve been friends far too long and seen far too many years of political bullshit for you to think I’d believe that crap. You know as well as I do the rebels have been working with the Chinese on digs like mine, ever since they discovered the element Yttrium a few months back.” He leaned forward in his chair resting his elbows on his knees, and ran his fingers through his thick, gray hair. “My discovery won't even make it into the hands of the government of the DRC. The rebels will confiscate it and use it to fund their army - grow their forces. Nothing good will come of that, and you know it. 
"Our government, on the other hand,” Roland drew in a long breath and exhaled, “we need this, Charlie.” Roland stood, the red notebook clenched in his hand. “This is Promethium. Do you know what that means? Do you know how rare this is? I need your help.” Excitement and desperation oozed from his words.
Simpson continued his gaze outside.
 The clock over the sofa began to chime. Roland waited for the final eleventh chord to fade. "I said, I need your help.”
Simpson turned, his hands clasped behind his back. His dark suit and gray hair made the deep, etched lines in his pale skin stand out, making his worn face appear older than Roland remembered from just four months earlier. He reached for the phone.
"What are you doing?" Roland asked.
"I'm sorry."
Roland stood. "No, don't give me that shit. You owe me, you son-of-a-bitch. Do you know what will happen to the United States if China gets their hands on this? We're talking about a new discovery, a possible new element of the periodic table. I need you to help me secure that cave." He took two strides closer to Simpson. "Is this about money? Is that it? What'd they promise you? Whatever it is, it's not worth it. Your country is at stake. Your fellow Americans' lives are at stake. The world as we know it could change forever." 
"What have you done with the girl?" Simpson asked.
Time stopped for the briefest of moments and Roland’s mind froze. “Is that what this is? You want the girl? Are you working with them now, Charlie?” Roland asked in nearly a whisper. Anger crept under his skin as he regained focus. "You have a responsibility here, and you damn well better own up to it."
Simpson turned, his gray eyes pinched to narrow slits. "Don't talk to me about responsibility. I fulfill my responsibilities to my country each and every day. Look around you; this is the goddamned U.S. Embassy - Gaborone post. And I've been stuck in this God forsaken country for nine years. It seems the good 'ole U.S. of A. doesn't want me back, so fuck 'em. Responsibility? I've paid my debt to our country. Now they owe me." Simpson stood before Roland, his body shaking, spit sliding from his lower lip, his eyes red with rage.
 Roland knew he'd gone as far as he could. Simpson had made up his mind and he'd chosen a side -- as wrong as it was. "Fine, have it your way." Roland returned the notebook to the pocket beneath his field jacket. “The girl’s safe. That’s all you need to know. As for the cave…”
Simpson eyed the notebook and softened. "Just give it to me. They can decipher it themselves. Give it to me and you can walk away. No one has to get hurt."
"Weren't you listening to me? An entire country will get hurt, and that's just for starters. I'm not giving you shit."
"Then you leave me no choice," Simpson said, lifting the receiver from the desktop phone.
Roland took the receiver from him and returned it to its carriage. "You owe me. Give me a head start, at least."
"What will you do with a head start? You have no place to go where they won't find you. You're an old man now, my friend. You're no match for these men. It would be better for you to be here, let them come to you. The Embassy will protect you; out there you're as good as dead."
"Yeah, maybe. But at least I can try to do what's right."
"I'm afraid I can't buy you time. I'm sorry."
Roland pulled a small caliber pistol from his jacket pocket. "I'm afraid you don't have a choice," he said backing toward the door. "I don't know what happened to you, Charles 'ole boy. It breaks my heart to see you go to the dogs like this, after all we've been through together." He reached behind with his left hand and opened the door. "Touch that phone or call out to your assistant, and I'll kill you myself." 
Roland squeezed out the door, slid the gun back in his pocket, and rushed down the hall and out of the building. 
A young African man standing in the shadows of a tall Fica tree in the lobby, watched Roland exit the building, then pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed.
***
He returned to his room at the lodge. Adrenaline pumped through his veins as he gathered his thoughts. Sitting at the edge of the bed, he pulled the notebook from beneath his field jacket and thumbed through its pages. Who could help, if not Charlie? 
Roland dialed the front desk and gave the New York number for Bull Reardon. After several minutes he heard Bull's voice.
"You've reached Bull Reardon. I'm away on business and will return next week, at which time I'll be happy to return your call. Please leave your name and number. Thank you."
Roland hung up the phone and dropped his head in his hands, rubbing his temples with his thumbs. His mind snapped on an idea. On the desk sat a pad of paper with "Big Five Wild Game Preserve" written across the top. He tore off a piece of paper and quickly made a rough drawing of a map, then tore it in two. Shoving a piece of the map in the middle of the notebook, he scribbled out a letter to his niece, then jammed the notebook and letter in a large envelope. He turned it over in his hands several times, doubting his decision, but knowing he had no other he could make. With his mind set, he grabbed the backpack and left the room.
"Good day to you, sir," said Samson, the front desk operator.
"Yes, good day. Listen, I need you to do something for me, right away. I want to have this mailed to this address. Can you do this?" 
"Yes, yes, of course, Mr. Dupre. I will see that this is done right away."
"Thank you." Roland stared out the doorway into the setting sun and cursed Simpson for his betrayal. Two things were very clear: his discovery of the rare earth element was of definite value… and the girl needed to be moved… again. He returned to his room.
***
Roland woke to loud male voices. He sat up and pulled the curtain back. Were they soldiers? Unable to make out their clothing from the distance, he threw on a pair trousers and a shirt, and rushed to gather his things. He pulled the second half of the map from the night stand and slid it in the pocket of the pants he wore the day before, then shoved them in his cargo trunk.
Roland’s cell phone rang and he looked down at the caller I.D. - Simpson. “Tell me you’ve had a change of mind, or we have nothing more to talk about.”
“I’m sorry. I thought you should know that the rebels have been informed of your visit here yesterday.”
“You son-of-a-bitch.”
“No, it wasn’t by me. I told you, many people want what you have. I’m afraid it was my assistant who turned you in.”
Roland moved to the window and pulled the curtain back. “I think I have company.”
“Yes, that would be my men. Listen, Roland, just go with them and everything will be fine. You have to trust me.”
Roland’s heart raced with anger. “Trust you? Your assistant turned me in to the rebels, you sent your own men after me, and you want my trust?”
“Listen to me, if you don’t come back, I won’t be able to help you. Please, stop being so pig-headed and acting like an old fool.”
Roland watched the men from the window as they moved from hut to hut. “Why, Charlie?”
“Because you’re my friend, and it matters to me what happens to you.”
“No, I mean why did you change sides? What could make you turn against your own country?”
Simpson’s voice came through the phone weak, and tired. “I haven’t changed sides.”
“Then you should have helped me.”
“Come back to the Embassy. We’ll work this out.”
“Nothing left to work out. I no longer have the notebook. I’ve sent it some place safe from the likes of you.” Simpson’s silence made Roland smile. “What’s wrong, Simpson? A little curve ball in your plans?”
“Roland, what have you done? You must tell me where you’ve sent the book.”
Roland chuckled at his victory. “No need to worry, ‘ole boy. It’ll get where it needs to now.”
“Listen to me. Wherever you’ve sent it, to whoever you sent it to, you’ve put them in grave danger. The people I’m dealing with - they’re well funded and have resources. They’ll find you, and they’ll track the book. Tell me now. Where have you sent it?”
Roland’s gut wrenched. He disconnected the call and stared out the window at the chaos in the camp. His thoughts raced and his heart sank at the thought of what he’d done. Danielle’s life was in danger, and it was his fault. He had to make it right. He flipped open his cell phone and dialed the only person he knew could help.

Monday, October 8, 2012

My book The Consequential Element is nearly ready for release! I'd like to share the Prologue with you. Next week I'll post Chapter 1 and the following week will be Chapter 2. Enjoy! And please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think. Really - I want to know and would appreciate your feedback tremendously. Thanks.

PROLOGUE


he'd been rescued. That's what they said. Only she didn't feel rescued; she felt captured.

Danielle sat in the middle of the organized chaos, a thick military blanket held tight around her shoulders. They landed in the clearing of the Safe Zone in Congolese territory only minutes before. She watched through the open sides of the chopper as Congolese troops and U.S. military men shouted to each other over the rhythmic sound of the helicopter. The tall, dry, sun-burnt grass resisted violently against the strong winds blowing down upon it from the slow turning blades.

“Keep this chopper running; be ready to move out on my orders,” said a tall soldier with up and down stripes on his sleeve.

Danielle looked past the chaos into the deep jungle that surrounded the clearing. The new sun had risen and its bright rays cast down through a cloud; she imagined them shining directly over what was once her village. Was this Allah’s will?

“You’ll be all right, Miss,” a soldier said, and knelt before her. He helped her from the chopper and waived to a man in camouflage with red crosses emblazoned on white bands around his arms. The medic ran to them and ducked as he approached.

“Miss,” he yelled, “are you hurt? Can you walk?” asked the medic.

Danielle couldn’t speak.

The medic took her arm and led her toward a large, white, open-sided tent. “Miss, I’m going to examine you to be sure you’re all right. Do you understand?”

Again, Danielle was silent. His words left his mouth in English, but her mind distorted them. Nothing made sense to her. Why did they do this? As the medic placed the stethoscope on her heart she thought, you won't find anything there. He helped her on a table and began his intrusion.

Men in green camouflage and others in solid black moved about in rapid sequence, carrying out orders from a man with the name "Bull" taped to the front of his helmet. He pointed toward Danielle and two soldiers turned and headed in her direction. They passed by her tent and jumped into a black military jeep. She overheard them as they pulled away:

"Poor kid looks pretty fucked up."

"Yeah, three years as a prisoner with those assholes'll do that to ya."

Three years? Has it really only been three years? I'm only seventeen?

These were the men who attacked her village. They’d called out her name and killed her fellow soldiers - these were the men who claimed to save her.

She looked up at the medic’s face – he couldn’t be much older than her, maybe eighteen or nineteen. He nodded and smiled. She didn’t smile back.

Close to her right, inside another large tent stuffed with radios and communication equipment, Zulu sat watching her, a green blanket draped around his shoulders. Another medic held a stethoscope to his chest.

A jeep sped from around the corner and Danielle saw two men in the front and one in the back. The passenger was dressed as a civilian. She eyed him carefully while her thoughts confused her. He was familiar, yet not. A part of her wanted to run to him, a part of her wanted to run from him.

She looked back at Zulu who limped his way through the chaos and stood before her, but did not speak. She moved off the table and locked her eyes to his, helpless to stop them from filling with tears. Her comrade - her friend - why did he betray her?

Someone grasped her shoulders from behind and spun her around.

“Danni! Oh my God, Danni,” the man said, and pulled her close in a bear hug before releasing her at arms length.

Danielle looked up and examined his face. Her mind reeled with confusion. Why did she feel for this man? What did she feel for him?

“Danni, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I tried to get you out of there from the very first day.”

He stared into her eyes and she could almost hear his thoughts. His thumb traced the long scar from her jaw down her neck. His once neatly trimmed beard was now bushy and white, his gray/black hair had thinned and receded back on his forehead, but his eyes – the dark handsome eyes that had once laughed and danced – remained. He was…familiar; he was…safe.

“Uncle Roland,” she whispered.

A smile curved his mouth but tears filled his eyes. “Yes, yes, my dear,” he said, and pulled her to his chest.

"Monsieur Dupre, thank you for rescuing me," said Zulu.

"No son, it is I who thank you," Roland said. "You are a very brave young man. My friend Bull told me if it wasn’t for you they may have never found Danni. He told me how you risked your life when you pulled her from that hut. If it wasn't for you, this rescue would never have been possible. You saved my niece's life, and for that I will always be grateful. Your mother would be proud."

“My mother…”

“Yes, son. I’m sorry. She was a good woman and a good friend. My sister, Danni’s mother, loved her very much.”

“They’re dead,” Danielle said, without emotion.

Both men looked at her.

“You’re dead,” she said to Roland. “You are a ghost. He told me you were dead.”

“No, I’m not dead. He lied to you,” Roland said. "Danni, my dear. You're going to be all right now. I promise you." He pulled her close and hugged her. She stood rigid in his arms, numb with confusion. Her head rested on his chest, and she noticed her pale hand against his black uniform. She was touching him - the man she had dreamed of saving her all those many nights long ago – the man Obasanji said was dead. But now he seemed alien to her. These were not her people – he was not her people - not anymore.

Her people were back in the rebel camp in the mountain forest. Her guardian was Obasanji; she belonged to him. Images raced through her mind. Did he live? She’d seen his angry eyes when these men ran her from the camp. He’d pointed his AK-47 at them - at her - and fired, yelling wildly. And then she was in the deep, dark jungle forced to run with the American soldiers to a waiting chopper. But did he live?

Bull came up behind them. "Dupre, you need to be ready to pull out in ten minutes."

Roland nodded. As Bull turned Roland placed a hand on his shoulder. “Thank you.”

Bull smiled at Danielle. “Well worth it my friend. Well worth it.”

“How can I ever…”

Bull held up his hand. “Not another word. You saved my ass in Nam. It took all these years, but now we’re even.” He smiled, patted Roland on the shoulder and ran off toward the chopper.

Zulu placed a hand on Danielle's shoulder and looked at Roland.

"Five minutes," Roland said.

Danielle watched her uncle jog off toward the camp and then faced Zulu.

"Danni, listen to me. You are safe now. You are with your uncle. He loves you and will care for you. You will be all right."

"Why, Zulu? Why did you betray us? Why did you turn your back on your brothers and sisters - your comrades?" She wasn’t angry, her love for him went too deep for anger, but she needed to understand.

"I did not betray you. You do not belong here. You are not a rebel soldier anymore than I am. That is not who we are. We are not murderers, Danni. We were prisoners, and we did what we had to so we could survive."

Danielle watched the dark clouds roll over his eyes. She knew his pain, she’d lived it. But her mind would not allow her to betray her comrades, even with words. "You're wrong."

"No, I am not."

“He’ll kill us.”

“No, he cannot harm you any longer. You will be safe now.” His eyes cleared and he smiled down at her.

“And you?”

“I will be fine. I am going to return to my people in Botswana. I will be okay.”

"Our mothers’ spirits are here, I can't leave her."

"No, Bano, they are not here. Their spirits live in us, here," he said, and pressed his palm to her chest. "They will forever be with us. They goes where we go now. You must leave this place. Leave and never come back. If you do, you will die."

"And you? How do I leave you? I would have died without you with me these past three years. You’re all I have." Danielle grabbed his arm and moved in close to him. "Come with me, Zulu. Please, I know they'll let you."

"I cannot. I need to return to my village. My people will be happy with my return. I'm sorry, Bano. Please know that my heart goes with you."

Danielle stepped back. "Bano - you call me Bano - your princess - but you don't care.
You will let me leave."

She saw Roland nod and tap his watch.

"Danni, we cannot speak any longer. They are ready for you. You must promise me you will never return," Zulu said.

"No."

"Promise me."

"I hate you!"

"Yes, now promise me."

Danielle looked at the helicopter and the men waiting to take her away. She squared her shoulders and turned toward Zulu. She took a step closer to him and stared up into his dark eyes. The eyes she had learned to read, to love, that had given her comfort for three years. Now they said good-bye. Tears fell and her voice cracked, but she spoke with anger. "I promise you, I will never return."

Roland approached and tapped her arm. “We need to go.”

Danielle stared at Zulu a moment longer silently praying he would change his mind.

“Danielle, we have to go…”

She turned and ran to the helicopter, away from her uncle – away from him. A soldier pulled her inside and her uncle climbed in a moment later.

Roland took her hand in his and looked at her, but her eyes were fixed out the open door, locked on Zulu.

“I’m sorry, Danni. Please try to understand. Perhaps one day…”

Her uncle’s voice trailed off as the chopper’s blades spun into motion. She could not pull her eyes from Zulu. The chopper slowly lifted and she watched as the last piece of her soul ripped away - until nothing remained of Danielle Montgomery.
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