Thank you for giving us time for an interview today. I really enjoyed this book, the different culture, and hard situations–but still a clean read. The cover is wonderful, too. I am looking forward to learning a little more about you and your writing. Can you tell us what genre you write and a little of your writing journey?
I write in several genres. However, I’ve only published historical westerns. I do have two contemporary stories coming out next year, though. One is a sweet contemporary boxed set I was invited to write for. The other is a suspense story, loosely based off my own life – a reason why I write. I’ve had an interesting one to say the least. It makes for good fodder!
What book are you featuring today and what story can you tell us that has something to do with your book?
Today I’m featuring the second book in my series, The Jericho Resistance. The book, Twice Redeemed (https://www.amazon.com/Mimi-Milan/e/B011O65CQU/), focuses on a heroine who works in a cantina (saloon) for a wicked man who essentially owns her. Believe it or not, this isn’t too far from the truth of how some places operate. Mercedes is based off someone I knew in Mexico who went to work for a bar, but then wasn’t allowed to leave. She only got out after family negotiated for her release.
Sadly, this kind of thing doesn’t only happen in other countries. Approximately nine years ago, I was barely staying afloat as a receptionist and had to find a job to supplement my income. So I took a part-time “waitressing” job at a local club in my North Carolina hometown. I noticed the other girls (mostly immigrants, but also a few American girls without any ties) made LOTS more money than me. When I asked the owner how they were earning such tips, he explained the rules. Basically, the girls were a little more than waitresses, and they charged guys for drinks, dances, and a lot of other “extras.” Money they had to split with the owner. I remember him explaining, “It’s not the kind of work for a girl like you.”
That’s when I realized it wasn’t the kind of place for a part-time job and quit. It was only later that I understood how dangerous the situation could have become.
Wow. That sounds like a bad situation that you were blessed to get away from. Can you give us a short summary or back copy blurb about the book you are featuring today?
*South of the Border Suspense* with *Christian Undertone*
Who will save her from herself?
After helping another girl escape, Mercedes Nobles suffers unspeakable abuse at the Jericho saloon. So when a familiar cowboy rides into town, she jumps at the opportunity to start a new life… even though she carries a secret that could destroy any chance of happiness for either of them.
John Durbin may have turned in his badge, but he still lives by a certain code of honor. That includes returning to a seedy Mexican cantina to rescue a woman who helped his friends escape. However, the tables turn and he finds himself getting married “in name only.”
Struggling with cultural differences, they question how the marriage can survive. Will John sacrifice his faith to make his new wife happy? How will Mercedes redeem herself when John learns of the secret she’s hiding?
*Authentic Mexican recipes found at the end of the book.*
I appreciated the way you showed the struggle John Durbin had to save this young woman. So, when you sit down to write, do you listen to a certain type of music or eat chocolate or exercise? Anything special?
I can’t eat chocolate (I know, the horror) and I find music too distracting (it makes me want to dance instead of write).
I usually brainstorm the chapter I’m about to write before doing so. That way the words flow a little easier. However, sometimes a snag will occur. If that happens, I usually do one of two things. If I’m child-free at the time, then I’ll go for a walk around the block. If the children are all home, then I’ll grab the broom and sweep the floors. LOL! Strange, right? I don’t know what it is about sweeping the floor, but it always helps me focus.
Oh, yeah. And I talk to myself. I literally talk out the scene like the characters are interacting. You don’t know how many times my son has walked in on me and asked, “Who are you talking to Mom?” In fact, my family has gotten so used to it that they just laugh now. “Mom’s doing it again.”
That’s okay, though. The one steady compliment I always get is realistic dialogue. I think that’s because I speak the dialogue out loud. If it doesn’t sound like something I would say, then it doesn’t get said in the book!
Which is very important! What is something unique or amusing about yourself or your life that we would like to know?
Ooops! I think I just told you in the previous question. Is there anything else? Hmmm.
Oh! I know! I wish I could go around dressed in Steam wear all day long. However, I think people would find me strange if I was walking about in Victorian clothing with goggles on my head.
I think you’re right about that! Give us a short biography about yourself and tell us how we can contact you (fb, twitter, website).
Mimi Milan spent two decades scribbling away in notebooks before realizing that her life’s calling was to write. So she returned from Mexico and attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Film. She decided to take her education a step forward, and was recently accepted in the MFA Creative Writing program at Queens University.
The books Mimi has outlined to write all give back to the community. The causes she supports include, but are not limited to: human trafficking, children with special needs, bullying, and Women’s Rights. She specifically enjoys writing multicultural stories that oftentimes have a bit of “Latin spice.” Mimi currently resides in the suburbs of Charlotte, making time for God, family and imaginary friends.
She can be found online at:
*GIVEAWAY!* One free book (either paperback or ebook) of this same title will be given to the winner of a drawing. Anyone who makes a comment on this post on my blog (lindarodante.com) or on my author facebook page (Linda K. Rodante) under this post will be put in for a drawing. On Monday, following this blog, a winner will be drawn and their name will be given to the author who will contact them and arrange for the book to be sent.
Please give us the first chapter of your book:
“Por el amor de…”
Mercedes let out a slow breath, tracing the swollen flesh around her left eye with a gentle finger as she stared at her reflection in the cracked mirror. She couldn’t remember who her assailant had been the night before since he wore a bandana, but she knew it had to be the same man who assaulted her three weeks prior because of the slur he used.
Just about every man who frequented the Jericho saloon treated her as such. It hadn’t taken long for Belmonte’s watchdogs to worm out a confession from one of the other girls. The resulting rage had her hair standing on end when he cursed; a chair flung across the parlor. He was beyond livid to find out she was the one to help that American girl, Catalina, escape. Of all the people to betray him, Mercedes was the least likely to do so. Sold to Belmonte at the innocent age of fifteen, she had spent the better part of a decade gaining his trust. Aside from La Fea, she was the only one permitted to roam the market, flitting from one puesto to another in search of food and other necessities to run his business. Now she was confined by the same four walls day in and day out.
And game for even the cruelest of customers.
Studying her face, she pulled out a small compact. The pale powder was a slight shade darker than the beige bedroom walls, but still much lighter than her own sun-kissed complexion.
“Perhaps that’s a good thing.” She mused under her breath, dabbing at the compressed dust. The lighter color may have been just what was needed to cover the purplish bruise; a dark crescent moon pinned on the rim of her delicate cheekbone.
The bell on the wall rang and she dropped the compact, the contents bursting into a fine cloud.
Mercedes kneeled beside the make-up to pick up a few small clumps that remained. She stuck a ragged fingernail into the crack of a floorboard and fished out a larger piece when the bell chimed again.
What would happen if she cut the string connected to it? She could always lie and say the damage occurred the night she was attacked.
No, that wouldn’t work. Cutting the thread would make the one that ran along the wall in the parlor loosen, or even fall. She would be the obvious culprit, punished for falling short once again.
A terse knock at the door shot her upright like a bullet.
“Ya voy!” She straightened her skirt, brushing off a mild dusting of powder from the black fabric. “I’ll be down in a minute.”
The heavy wooden door creaked open all the same. La Fea peeked into the room.
“Mercedes Angelina Nobles. Apúrate, nena!” She snapped her fingers at her friend. “You know el jefecito doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
Mercedes smiled at the younger woman’s feigned admiration for their owner. Although, gratitude wouldn’t have been too far from truth for her friend. La Fea had arrived at Jericho when she was even younger than her own delicate age. Nine? Ten at most. A dirty little urchin that for some unknown reason Belmonte allowed to run around like some wild animal. The ladies all figured it was because she was a useless kid who had yet to learn how to please a man. What was his excuse now, though? He had permitted her the luxury of maturing into a grown woman who looked more like something that spent the days rolling around in the dirt, instead of a working woman in the only saloon littering the border town of Nogales. Truth be told, the girl proved such a fright that Mercedes wondered if she ever bathed. She knew that she must have, though. Otherwise, the inevitable stench would have killed them all long ago.
Perhaps that would have been preferable to entertaining multiple chivatos night after night.
“A que ves?” La Fea jacked her chin up. “You like my face so much, maybe you should paint a picture.”
Mercedes snorted and looked away, embarrassed that she had been caught staring – a bad habit becoming worse since the routine attacks. She just couldn’t shake the evil feeling that someone was always watching; waiting.
“Sorry. Guess I got lost in my own little world.” She waved the girl away, refusing to voice her thoughts out loud. La Fea was the only one to show her any sympathy after Belmonte found out the role she played in Catalina’s getaway. A few medicinal herbs at the right time had sent most of his men in search of a place to relieve their stomachs. The incident at customs had directed the rest of them to the border, fearful that American soldiers were invading to take over their lands. “I’ll be down in a minute.”
She looked at herself in the mirror again and ran a hand down her figure, thankful that it was still slim.
La Fea threw her hands up.
“Ay, amiga! Everyone knows you look good.” She paused and Mercedes looked up. The girl winked and pointed to her eye. “Even with that fat face you got.”
Mercedes swatted at her friend who only giggled as she jumped back, then raced out the room. She chased after the girl, down the hall of painted adobe, colorful Aztecan gods looking down with disapproval until the pair skid to a stop at the edge of the stairs. They both knew Belmonte wouldn’t tolerate anything less than complete subservience in the parlor. Their playful behavior would belie that image and his authority.
“Suerte.” La Fea whispered under her breath as she veered off to the right, heading for the usual corner she hid in to embroider the cloth servilletas they used to keep the tortillas warm.
Mercedes repeated the hopeful wish, but was pretty certain that between the two of them, she was in much greater need of good luck. So much so that she had even taken to reading the Bible left behind by Catalina. Not that she believed any of it. She had given up on fairytales the day her parents prayed Belmonte would find her a good home.
She could still remember the two men negotiating. Her papá, desperate to get enough coin to never have to part with another child, looked like the frail viejo she soon realized he had always been. Belmonte, glorious like the golden calf that deceived Israel, argued down to the last peso with false promises of manna dripping off the tip of his slithering tongue.
And then there had been her mamá.
She could still feel the hot breath in her ear, a fervent prayer bequeathing her with all the blessings the Heavens could create. Then her mother pulled away and crossed her“hija tan preciosa,” the woman’s warm fingertips coming to rest a second time on her forehead before running them down her daughter’s cheek.
Mercedes wiped the back of her hand across the good eye and pushed back her long, dark braid as she hustled up to the bar counter. Belmonte grabbed hold of her arm, yanking her close enough to smell the Yuerba buenahe chewed.
“What took you so long, woman?” The steady rhythm of his jaw chomping on the minty herbs mesmerized her, and she wondered what would happen if a person were to straight-chew Senna. “First you undermine my authority. Then you keep my customers waiting. The food’s getting cold, the beer’s turning flat. Estás loca?”
He released her with a shove towards the counter where several new Talavera plates sat. Amorina, the latest girl to be acquired, spooned large portions of frijoles onto one of the clay pieces painted with a mariposa. The Monarch’s wings spanned from edge to edge, a milky-white glaze forever trapping him.
Mercedes gritted her teeth, the sound echoing in her ears.
“It’s not afternoon yet.” She snatched up two readied plates. “And I’m not lazy.”
“Close enough. You’ve spent most of the morning in your room like some princesa while the rest of us had to do your chores.” Amorina slammed the large silver ladle down onto the counter, and made two firm fists. “You owe me for laundry duty!”
“Ni madres!” She dropped the plates back onto the counter, ready to claw at the hateful woman. “All you did was cry like a little chillona the first few weeks you got here. Who was doing your part then?”
“Que se callen!” Belmonte grabbed the ladle from the counter. Stepping between the two women, he raised it high in the air, ready to strike. “Both of you shut your mouths and get to work. Ahora!”
His growl sent them both scurrying away, Amorina whispering revenge under her breath.
“Suerte.” Mercedes tossed back, the word laced with sarcasm as she walked around the counter. She leaned over, snatched the plates up again, and made her way towards a couple of ranch hands sitting in a lonely corner. She set the first plate in front of one man, a chivato who reminded her of a mean, old goat that spent most of its days roaming the ranch, searching to satisfy a hunger no woman could ever quench. He caught her looking at him, and she quickly averted her eyes.
“Señor.” She nodded, her eyes still cast downward, and turned towards his companion. He looked like the kind of vaquero who spent more time chasing the calves than the bulls. Too soon to be put out to pasture; too old to keep up with the young bucks. She reached over to set down his food when she felt a swift strike from behind. The hard blow filled her cheeks with heat, and sent her flying into the cowboy. Food flung all over him. He jumped up and the beautiful Talavera crashed to the ground, a puzzle of broken pieces. Expletives filled his mouth as he brushed the food off.
“Mujer de basura!” He grabbed her by the braid and fire seared through her scalp. “Mi vieja just made me this shirt.”
The other man stood. “Make that perraclean it up.”
“Asi es.” He yanked her head close, burying her face in his chest. “Use your tongue.”
Her eye pushed in under the pressure of his firm grip. The tender flesh throbbed with renewed pain, and her eyes filled with tears.
She cried for help.
Mercedes felt the immediate sweet release of her hair as Belmonte approached them, four of his men crowding either side of him.
“You gonna’ side with this Malinche after all she’s done?”
The man’s tone filled Mercedes with the realization that he had been her attacker. She backed away from him, hopeful Belmonte would offer some small salvation.
“Qué no!” He turned away from her with disgust, hocking a string of spit to the floor. “I wouldn’t trust that bruja with a broom. She’d be liable to fly off on it instead of sweeping the floors.”
“Then give her to us.” The man ran his tongue across his top teeth. “We’ll take real good care of her for you.”
His threatening tone made Mercedes shutter. She edged closer to Belmonte.
“Por fa.” She searched his face, begging him to pleasesave her.
He only crossed his arms, disappointment clearly written all over his face. Then the man took another step forward, reaching out for Mercedes. Her breath caught in her chest, the feeling of immense weight pressing in on her as she fought to breathe again. She began to swoon.
“Stop.” Belmonte held a hand up to the vaquero while one of his guards caught Mercedes and set her upright again. “This is MY cantina, and what I say goes. And what I say is that you have to ‘pay to play.’ But, hijole, you don’t have the pesos.”
Belmonte rubbed his thick fingers together, indicating that Mercedes was far above the man’s pocket.
“How much for the Malinche?”
Belmonte paced the floor, stroking his chin as if in deep thought. She had seen this act before. In fact, it was the same tactic he used to purchase her from on her father. A cat and mouse game of take and release.
He would sell her if the price was right.
“One thousand pesos.”
The man’s jaw dropped open. Belmonte nodded his head as he approached the man and patted his shoulder. He turned him around and began walking him towards the front doors.
“Like I said, amigo, the price is too high.”
“The price is crazy!” The man argued, but allowed himself to be escorted out. His older compadre followed.
“He’s right, you know. I wouldn’t pay that kind of money for a horse, let alone a traitorous woman.”
Belmonte stepped aside and allowed the second man to pass. “Then you, my friend, don’t know the price of a good horse.”
“Maybe I don’t, but I do know the price of a good woman.” He thumbed back to Mercedes, casting a quick glance over his shoulder. “And that right there is no good woman. You need to teach her a lesson, my friend, or someone else is gonna’ do it for you.”
The look on Belmonte’s face revealed his understanding of the subtle threat.
“Don’t worry.” His hand reached for his pistol. He fingered the butt of it. “She gonna’ get her lesson.”
Would he really shoot her?
The man looked over at Mercedes once more, then nodded at Belmonte and turned on his heel.
She watched the patron make his way across the street for a moment, thankful that the pair had finally left. She wasn’t sure what Belmonte would do, but she knew he would hold true to his words. If he didn’t, then he’d have a bigger fire to put out later when other men came searching for her, determined to teach her a lesson for selling out her own kind. They would get their pound of flesh one way or another.
“Ay, mujer.” Belmonte kept his back turned towards her, but she could sense his irritation. “Mujer, mujer.”
“I’m sorry.” She feared the apology wouldn’t suffice this time, having whispered it a dozen times since the incident. “I can make it up to you.”
She approached him, slow but sure. This was the one thing she knew she was good at. She reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder, softly massaging it with the hope that he would turn to face her. One kiss and he’d be hers. Then he would forget the whole thing.
At least, for a little while.
She felt the tension begin to release, and his back slumped. She stepped closer, almost close enough for their bodies to touch. He reached up and wrapped his hand over hers, guiding it to a different spot to massage.
“See?” She whispered into his ear, low and soft. “I can make it better.”
She felt his deep inhale; heard his long, quiet sigh. He gave her hand a gentle squeeze.
Then his grip grew.
“I really wish you could, amor.” He turned, still holding her hand. Then he pulled her arm up, bending it backwards as he crushed her small palm with his fist. She cried in protest, but he kept twisting her limb and forced her back towards the counter where Amorina worked.
The girl dropped the utensils she was using to prepare plates of food, a look of horror painted on her face. She backed away from the pair.
Mercedes felt the owner’s full weight as he bore down, pressing her hard against the counter. He reached past her to one of the plates and picked up a carving knife.
She struggled beneath him. “Please! Please don’t.”
He grabbed her by the hair, willing her to stand still. Fire seared through her skull once more. He pointed the knife at her, the sharp blade flashing in her face as he spoke.
Her scream filled the bar as he brought the knife down and began to saw away.
Wow! What an ending for your first chapter! I know the readers can’t wait to find out what happens. Everyone please sign up for the giveaway. We will have the drawing on Monday.