Welcome to another beautiful day in the great state of Alabama. I’m thrilled to have you drop by!
Today, I am shining a light on another wonderful author and member of RRBC, Bonnie Ferrante! Join me as we get to know the inspiring person behind the books. We also get to enjoy a lovely excerpt from her latest release, LEYA.
Although the villagers rose with the sun to work the fields, attend to the animals, bake their bread, and begin their long list of chores, for me, Leya Truelong, this was a day like no other. Today, Wren River was touched by the fantastic.
As smoke from the brick ovens rose in thin columns over the thatched and wood shingle roofs, I left the village and headed down a path toward a clearing in the woods. Perhaps, this year, for the first time in my parents’ memory, a fourteen-year-old from our village would be chosen. Perhaps it would be me.
I looked down at my soft, brown, suede boots, ankle high, with wrap around fronts that tied on the sides. They were stained and worn. I wished I had something prettier to wear, but at least these were solid and in reasonable shape, unlike my dress, which was held together by a whisper and a prayer. Ma had lent me a lace collar to hide the frayed neckline. Perhaps my boots would count in my favor. The Mistress of the Sphere of Vision might recognize that I was not a frivolous, pampered girl. Not like the tanner’s daughter, in her glistening leather shoes. Not like the silversmith’s daughter, whose canvas shoes sparkled with silver buttons. Not like the mayor’s daughter, Jenifair, in red satin slippers lined with felt. My boots were those of a hard-working, serious young lady, one who had to labor for everything she owned.
Every spring a Master, and every summer a Mistress, each from their own Sphere of Vision, came to the village to examine any fourteen-year-olds. They rode in on their great horses, wearing majestic robes that cost more than we could save in a year. Sometimes there was no one of the right age, so they rode on without pause, or they avoided the village altogether. This year there were four girls to be judged.
I saw the first three return rejected. The tanner’s daughter seemed angry. The silversmith’s daughter seemed bored. Jenifair, who already had everything a girl could want, seemed embarrassed. I was waiting on the doorstep for her return. Unexpectedly, she said, “Good morning,” as she passed our little cottage. I was so shocked; I didn’t think to respond until she had gone. Usually she looked through me as though I was made of glass.
I guess she was hedging her bets, just in case I was accepted since she wasn’t. At least, I didn’t think she was. Wouldn’t she be excited? But, this was just one of many opportunities for Jenifair. Her future was already bright. For me, this was the one and only chance to break free of a life of drudgery and fear. One possibility for happiness or heartbreak, and it all depended on my eyes.
Since the announcement of our upcoming examination, I had expected the village girls, led by Jenifair, to continue mocking me for my clothes, shoes, rough and red hands, and crooked teeth. Instead, they hadn’t said a word. I realized they had no more control over the outcome today than I did. Their wealth, education, and social standing were worthless when evaluated by a Mistress. For one marvelous moment, I was their equal.
A mourning dove called, its plaintive notes breaking the silence. “Don’t run, don’t run,” it warned.
I wanted to run. I wanted to fly. To be there. To have it done. To know. To know now.
I fought the urge to race down the dirt path. It was foolish to hope, but I could no more crush hope than I could turn inside out.
I had not had a chance to see the lucky two girls travelling with Mistress Sangra. They had been chosen from previous villages. Maybe they were ordinary peasant girls like me, with dreams and hopes, and theirs were coming true.
My youngest brother, Albair, told me those two chosen girls were refilling water bags and buying food supplies in Wren River while the Mistress examined prospective Novices.
“I heard the Mistress spoke Granjese,” said Albair. “She’s light-skinned and stocky. I think she may have originally come from our region.”
A Granja Mistress. She would understand our struggles. Being one of us, perhaps she would be more inclined to overlook my faults. But, I wouldn’t speak Granjese to her. Ma insisted we speak Esfera, the cross-region language developed by the Spheres. I could speak Granjese; I wouldn’t be able to survive in Wren River without it. But at home, we spoke Esfera, the language of the educated. I had never heard anyone from outside our region speak it. I hoped my accent wasn’t terrible. Would she admire my effort or think I was putting on airs?
I was the last scheduled for the Mistress to consider. I examined my surroundings, suddenly aware that this might be my last summer in Wren River for a while. The morning sun illuminated purple clusters of mock vervain and sunny coneflower that lined the winding trail. I felt as though the radiant flowers were wishing me good luck. Wealth, fame, power, could be waiting for me at the end of the trail. No more thrice patched clothes. No more rationing coal. No more eating the wormy vegetables and selling the best.
Without intention, my feet moved faster and faster toward the clearing where Mistress Sangra waited. “Think before you speak or act,” was Ma’s advice. “Consider all the consequences of your choices. I know what it’s like to be young and I don’t want you making the same mistakes I did.” Advice I heard often, for good reason. She never did confess what her mistakes were though.
I realized I was rushing. It would be a poor first impression to arrive out of breath and windblown. I forced myself to slow. Be calm, be calm. I took deep breaths. I smoothed back my long auburn hair. When had this trail become so long?
This opportunity would never come again. I was terrified of being chosen and all that would mean, but, being rebuffed would be even more unbearable. I was the third child of five in my family to be examined. When Thomis turned fourteen, and later Maark, neither had been selected by the Masters to attend their Sphere of Vision. Ma hadn’t said a negative word, but I saw the hopeful look extinguished in her eyes when neither of them was chosen.
On the other hand, the Masters had a reputation for harshness. Some Pesca and Miniria parents refused to let their sons be examined. Understandable, considering the wealth of those regions. I had never heard of a Granja turning down the opportunity though. We forest and farm people could never match a graduate of a Sphere for wealth or power. Even our mayor did not come close. Still, I was secretly relieved that neither Thomis nor Maark were chosen. Rumor said males were not the same after their time with the Masters. I did not want to see my brothers broken.
Even though the Mistresses were reputed to be kinder, it was not an easy thing to leave one’s family. This morning, I had avoided looking at my mother’s face. I had gone about my chores as though it was an ordinary day, until the appointed time. The Mistress had arrived in Wren River last night and stayed, with the two selected girls, in the best inn. She hired a local woman to set up morning examinations with all the fourteen-year-old girls. I barely slept last night considering what might happen.
In the clearing, the Mistress stood with her hands tucked in the opposite sleeves of her long red robe. I felt the woman’s eyes studying my every step. I took another deep breath, trying to calm my pounding heart and forced a shaky smile to my lips.
“Step into the circle, Leya Truelong,” said the Mistress in Granjese when I approached. Her voice was strong. She was but a snippet taller than me. She wore her long, flaming red hair pinned up in complicated braids. Intricate, fine leather sandals with silver studs graced her feet.
I noted the circle carved into the sandy earth, and stepped inside. The Mistress stepped in to face me.
I replied in Esfera, “What should I—”
“Sha,” ordered the Mistress.
I clamped my mouth shut. A light wind rustled the leaves on the trees and passed through my thin green dress. Mistress Sangra placed her hands on my shoulders and, with wide unblinking eyes, stared into my face. My heartbeat surged in my ears.
Bright red eyes, like a ripe tomato, studied me. I suppressed a nervous giggle at the thought. Some Visions were worth more than others. I’d heard of a woman who had the ability to control cloud formations. The best she could offer was a little shade. Surely, a Mistress should have a powerful, important Vision. What was the point otherwise?
The Mistress leaned in closer. When her red eyes burrowed into me, mine stung to the point of tears. It felt as though something tunneled through each iris and into my brain, like a peppery worm. Her fingers dug into my shoulders. No one told me it would hurt so much.
About the author:
Bonnie Ferrante lives on the north shore of Lake Superior in Ontario, Canada. Since she hates cold weather, she spends the 5-6 months of winter indoors reading, writing, decorating her new house, sewing (mostly adorable dresses for her littlest granddaughter), and upcycling or creating something usable from junk. Because of Parkinson’s Disease she has curtailed her previously extensive summer gardening, canoeing, and other physically demanding interests. Now, she keeps her garden small and spends most of her time playing outdoors with her grandkids or doing crafts too messy to do indoors.
Bonnie is a hybrid writer (publishing traditionally and self-publishing.) Her work has appeared in various children’s and adult magazines and anthologies. She was a grade school teacher for thirty-three years, ten as teacher-librarian. Her focus is on Young Adult novels and children’s picture books. You can learn more about her and her books on her website.
She has a wordpress blog, Bonnie Ferrante – Books for Children. She reviews books, focussing on books for children, especially picture books. She discusses writing for children, reading to children, and fun and educational activities. She interviews other authors every Wednesday.
Bonnie has a family friendly YouTube site for parents, teachers, and children. Kids can listen to a book being read or a story being told, learn about words and numbers, and sing along. Adults can watch a book trailer and find new active ways to teach children using inexpensive materials, active learning, and the outdoors.
You can follow one or both of her facebook pages. Bonnie Ferrante – Author is for adults and young adults, readers and writers. Bonnie Ferrante – Books for Children is for parents and teachers and those interested in books and writing for children.
Since Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, Bonnie is focussing on picture books at present. Because of increasing tremors, she has switched to digital illustration and is wading through the deep waters of Photoshop. She has three young adult novels in the works as well, one to be released this year. Switch, an historic paranormal-fantasy set in Tudor times.
Her last YA novel release was Leya.
In a world where eye color may determine your future, Leya is born with one green and one blue eye. Will this diminish her potential or provide the exceptional opportunity to become a Double Vision Mistress?
Even if she fulfills her gifts, Leya must learn to control her impulsiveness and quick temper or she will be stripped of her powers in a painful and crippling ritual. Unfortunately, Zendra, a devious Novice knows exactly how to raise Leya’s anger. But the Mistresses, struggling with significant problems of their own, seem blind to Leya’s dilemma. How much should she risk in pursuit of power, prestige, and wealth?
“Leya is one of my favourite characters, not because she’s perfect but because she is flawed. Even her motivation for wanting to become a Vision Mistress questionable. She tends to allow emotion to overrun self-control and responsibility. Meditation, practice, and self-discipline are all a struggle for Leya. She’s impulsive and has a quick temper. She loves her family and protects her friends, not always using the best methods. She makes mistakes, serious mistakes. She repeats them. Eventually, her “vision” clears and she is able to see who she really is and who she could become. That’s when she starts to grow as a person, a woman, and a novice. Just in time because that’s when the challenges really begin.
I used eye color to determine potential “gifts” because I’ve always felt that eyes truly are windows to the soul. Eyes easily reveal whether a person is excited, frightened, shy, or aroused. Experts take note of the directions eyes focus to discern if someone is lying or trying to remember. Direct, intense eye contact not only shows love but can trigger a romantic response in the other person. Intense eye contact can also be threatening and intimidating. In some cultures, direct eye contact can be disrespectful while in others it is expected.
Eye colour is not simply one or two shades. A single iris can have a dozen variations. They also differ in patterns, rings, speckles, stripes, zig-zags, and more.
The list of vision problems is staggering, from total blindness to blurred vision, double vision, night vision difficulties, tunnel vision, colour blindness, and more. All of these affect the way we see and interpret the world.
We also connect vision with perspective. The way we “see” the world greatly impacts the way we react to it and create it.
A “seer” is a psychic or prophet. We use sight to explain numerous social situations. Someone can be “a sight for sore eyes” or we may not be able to “stand the sight of them.” We sing about “beautiful brown eyes” and “don’t it make my brown eyes blue.” Eye makeup is the most varied and detailed of all cosmetic enhancements. We are drawn to portraits of large-eyed humans and animals. “I just couldn’t look away” can mean several things, all of which reveal much about the speaker.
In Leya, the focus is on inner vision. Some mystics cultivate the third eye. Some meditations require us to close our eyes or subdue our external sight in order to see in a different way. Mandalas, art, design, logos, even architecture uses our sense of sight to invoke a mental or emotional reaction.
Leya’s vision journey is long and hard, filled with misdirection and blind spots. I hope that readers are able to connect with her experiences and, perhaps, see something of themselves in her character and accomplishments.”
Thank you so much for visiting the site and showing your support to this grand author. I encourage you to continue supporting Bonnie with likes, shares, and comments. We always appreciate your thoughts!
Until next time, lovelies………Happy Reading & Reviewing!!!