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The Empress Rose

Updated on February 8, 2014

In a Small Town, Change Is a Four-Letter Word

Rose Voss is sensible by nature; the kind of woman who sees the forest and the trees. In one day she is widowed, left with a storm-wrecked house, no money and four kids to raise. So she does what any practical woman in her situation would do: quits her job as a waitress and starts her own hydroponics farm.

Being a natural-born gardener and an organizational whiz, Rose succeeds in paying off her debts and turning a profit, but as is the case with many CEOs, its at a price. Her children, not wanting to be hired hands, do anything they can to avoid her. Her brother-in-law has become a raging alcoholic with no desire to get sober. And if that isn't enough, shes hated by her neighbors for, among other things, not giving a rat's patootey about fitting in.

But Rose isn't the only problem for the small, rural city of Luscious, Missouri. The new GoBuy next door is killing off all the mom & pops, and the young people are leaving for better opportunities. Luscious is struggling to survive and denial wont work anymore. Once and for all the residents must decide: will Luscious adapt or will it die?

Wonder what it's like to live in Luscious, Missouri? Well, here's a peek. - Can a small, Midwestern town...

"Real weather's always exciting, isn't it?"Photo:  vastateparksstaff
"Real weather's always exciting, isn't it?" Photo: vastateparksstaff

full of friendly people...

"They're only here in case there's carnage.  I bet hard cash that Sam Ailes brought a video camera."  Photo:  evil nickname
"They're only here in case there's carnage. I bet hard cash that Sam Ailes brought a video camera." Photo: evil nickname

work together to save itself?

"It's still not our responsibility."      "What do you want to do, Violet, wait until the bulldozers tear down the grocery store?"Photo:  Don Graham
"It's still not our responsibility." "What do you want to do, Violet, wait until the bulldozers tear down the grocery store?" Photo: Don Graham

Can a single, working mom...

"Dammit, Mother, I've told you a hundred, million times already that I'm not a farmer, and I'm not your puppet so leave me alone!"Photo:  |vv@ldzen|
"Dammit, Mother, I've told you a hundred, million times already that I'm not a farmer, and I'm not your puppet so leave me alone!" Photo: |vv@ldzen|

forgive past wrongs...

"We did what we could to fix things, but instead of giving us credit, Luscious stood over us, pointing out all the places still broken." Photo:  snre
"We did what we could to fix things, but instead of giving us credit, Luscious stood over us, pointing out all the places still broken." Photo: snre

and empower a community?

"Your best chance of success is to make our business owners more proactive, more of a collective force in the community."Photo: garryknight
"Your best chance of success is to make our business owners more proactive, more of a collective force in the community." Photo: garryknight

The Empress Rose Was Meant to be Read! Enjoy a Sample Right Now.

Chapter 1

Gwen sent a worried glance her uncle's way. He just sat there, lost, like he'd been doing every day for as long as she could remember. She shook her head and returned to studying the cards spread out on the porch steps while he continued to rock in her grandfather's old chair.

The steady breeze flowing under the eaves was a welcome change from the oppressive mid-August heat, but John didn't notice. It took a lot to get him to notice much of anything these days. Things were changing all the time and it was hard to keep up. Trying to figure out what went wrong, and why, kept giving him headaches. It was unbearable: nothing felt right anymore. He couldn't get used to seeing his land, his life, like it was now, couldn't wrap his mind around it.

What was she thinking?

John often asked himself that question. He couldn't remember how many times in the past six years he had sat on that porch, waiting for answers that didn't come. All he did know was that nothing made any sense. Nothing felt real.

"Uncle John?"

"What? Oh, hi darling," he said, startled back to the present.

"Hi, Uncle John. I've been standing here for two minutes asking if you wanted something to drink. You're looking a little pale. Maybe I should get Mama."

"No," he said, taking a quick look back at the house. "No, there's no reason to go bothering your mama. There's nothing wrong with me. I was thinking is all, a man can still do that on his own porch, can't he?"

Cassidy bent down to give him a hug. "Of course you can, Uncle John. I was only being concerned about my favorite uncle. A girl can still do that on her own porch, can't she?"

"Don't get sassy with me, little girl. And since you asked so nicely, you can get me a beer."

"Are you sure about the beer? I mean, haven't you had a few already today? I think a nice glass of lemonade would be better in this heat, don't you?"

John made to get up to spank his niece, but she was too fast for him. "One beer coming up," she called, skipping into the house.

"Don't you go taking after your sister," he told Gwen. "A bitty thing like that trying to mother a grown man like me... it ain't right."

"Uncle John, do you think she's pretty?" Gwen asked, holding her card up for him to see. A voluptuous blonde, with an unmistakable baby bump draped in blue, reclined among a sea of stars, smiling as if she could see him.

"Pretty? I suppose so darling. I can't really tell much from this picture."

"I think she's beautiful. Grandma Gigi told me that she's The Empress and that she's the mother of everything in nature and all the animals love her."

"Well I wouldn't know anything about that. Your grandma didn't teach your daddy or me about them cards. She told us boys that if we didn't want to pay attention to what was right in front of our faces, then she wasn't going to waste her time on us when we only had rocks in our heads anyways." John laughed at the memory. "That woman was a pistol, I have to admit."

"You don't have rocks in your head," Gwen said.

"No, maybe not rocks. Your father and I did do a lot of dumb things when we were kids though, so she had a right to say it. But she sure saw something in you, little girl," he told Gwen, chucking her chin. "You were the apple of your grandmama's eye, you know that? It's a real shame you two didn't get more time together."

"I know," Gwen said, laying out more cards on the deck. "Tell me again about the time Grandma Gigi caught you and Daddy trying to sneak out after dark and falling off the roof. That's my favorite."

"Now, who's telling this story? And I didn't fall off the roof, my foot just slipped a little and I lost my balance. Your daddy was the one who overreacted like always, and instead of helping me, he darn near threw me off the roof himself! So there I was hanging off the side of the house, my right foot still touching the roof mind you, with Joe trying to pull me back up. Out of nowhere, your grandma throws open the attic window, yells at us for sneaking out, and starts beating Joe with a newspaper. Your daddy wasn't having any of that, so he dropped me and climbed down the other end of the house. I wasn't so lucky. Your grandmama may not have had much heft to her, but she had spunk, let me tell you. As soon as I'd get close to pulling myself up that ridgepole, your grandma'd be slapping me back down again with that newspaper. She'd have been happier to have me fall to the ground then let me get away before she was done yelling."

John grinned and shook his head at the memory.

"Whoo boy, that was one of the longest nights of my life. We both got a whipping, a month's worth of extra chores, and even more yelling, if you can believe that. There your grandma was, barely five feet tall, hopping mad and turning purple. Your daddy and I were having the hardest time trying not to laugh, and that only got her hotter than she already was. She never did forgive us," John said with a chuckle.

"What's this," he asked, looking at the glass of lemonade Cassidy had put in his hand.

"Mama said that it's too close to supper and you don't need any more beer today."

"There's too many women in this house," John muttered.


"Supper's ready," Rose called. "Cassidy, you know your sister won't eat that if it has lumps in it. Gwenny, here, set the table. Riley, I don't know how your hands can get so dirty when you haven't moved off that couch all day. Go back upstairs and wash them. Don't argue with me, I can see the dirt from here and it's not doing anything good for my appetite."

"Mama, meat," Cassidy said, passing the heavy serving plate into Rose's hands to be placed on the table.

"Are you done with this," Gwen asked, holding up a dirty mixing bowl.

"Yep," Cassidy replied, trying to find space on the table for the bread basket. "Soak it in the sink with everything else."

"Whoops. Spill on aisle nine," Riley said, coming up behind his sister.

"Very funny," Gwen said, getting down on her hands and knees. "Hand me that towel so I can wipe this up."

"A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place" was the motto in this home, according to the sampler over the stove, but even with such well-thought-out planning, moving around was difficult in such a small space. It had been years since any remodeling had been done on the house, nothing, in fact, since Joe's death. That summer storm was about the worst Crawford County could remember and people were still talking about it. The house had been repaired just enough to be livable; every dollar had to be stretched, broken, and taped back together. They had to make do with the aging wallpaper and mismatched linoleum, all the while pretending not to notice. Cassidy tried to cheer things up with a couple of crazy quilts converted into curtains and fresh flowers on the windowsill, but even she knew such small touches couldn't begin to make the room any less depressing. It was as if the kitchen had let out a sigh of despair and hoped to be forgotten.

John stood inside the open doorway and looked over at his place at the table. He went to the refrigerator and took out a beer to replace the glass of water his sister-in-law had given him. Rose ignored him and plastered a smile on her face.

"How was everyone's day today, hmm? Gwenny and I did really well this morning at the farmers market, didn't we baby?" At the lack of response, Rose scowled at her youngest and her latest obsession, a deck of Tarot cards.

"Gwenny, I've told you not to play with those cards at the table. We're here to enjoy supper as a family. Put those things away."

Gwen huffed, but got up to do as she was told. Her heart lightened at Shane's arrival in the front entry. Showing off a crooked tooth that peeked out from behind her upper lip, Gwen couldn't help but run to the hug and kiss she always got from her big sister. She flounced back into the kitchen behind Shane and brought out another plate and utensils without waiting to be asked. Shane cast a furtive glance at her mother before reaching for the carrots.

"This is a surprise," Rose said. "I thought you'd forgotten you even had a home anymore. Riley, pass your sister the potatoes, she's wasting away."

"I don't want any potatoes Mother, I'm fine. You know I had to work today."

"You spend more time at GoBuy than you do with your own family. With school starting up again, your job, and that so-called boyfriend of yours, we never see you anymore. Riley, you need to eat some salad. You aren't getting enough vegetables."

Rose passed the bowl over to her son, who looked less than pleased.

"Even when you are here, my dear, you're glued to the telephone. Honestly, if that boy is as popular a mechanic as you say he is, then how can he afford to spend so much time on the phone with you, hmm? If I was paying him, I'd expect him to work."

"Leave Hudge out of this, please."

"I will not leave him out of this. Hudge. What kind of a name is that anyway? It sounds like a lump of rock sitting on the edge of someone's property line. I'm telling you, that boy is a waste of your time. I can't imagine he's got an education past the ninth grade, and he works at a gas station! You can't seriously think you could have a future with someone who doesn't even try to make a decent living. Sure it's all fine now while you're still in high school, but what's going to happen when you finish college? You're not going to want to hang on to some man who can't keep up, are you? I hope I raised my daughters to have more respect for themselves than that."

"You've never even met him!"

"Shane, I don't need to meet him, I know exactly who he is."

Rose raised her chin, folded her hands beneath it and batted her eyelashes.

To be continued...

Self-Published Authors: Second-Class Citizens or Worthy Contemporaries? - When you hear "self-published" do you automatically assume "poor quality"?

More and more writers have opted to publish their work outside of traditional publishing houses. Self-publishing provides authors more creative freedom, the ability to retain their copyrights and a higher royalty rate. But has this new found freedom been exchanged for professionalism, and the reader's expectation of quality? Has professional editing and packaging now become optional?

How likely are you to buy a self-published book?

If You Like The Empress Rose, You Might Like These

All Over Creation: A Novel
All Over Creation: A Novel

An eco-saga about current farming practices and food production issues amidst the backdrop of dysfunctional family life. A story full of suspense... full of pathos... can you say "drama"?

Tales from the Town of Widows
Tales from the Town of Widows

Ill-fated wives were forced to adapt to the war that took their men, and in the process built a peaceful, equality-based society. You never know how repressed you've been until you finally taste freedom.


Why Did You Write The Empress Rose?

Are you even qualified? You Live in the Suburbs!

Yeah, I tried going the route of only writing about what I knew, but that didn't work out. It was too rigid, structured, for optimal creativity. Now I pretty much just wing it and see what happens. Writing's a lot more fun that way.

Becoming a serious author was a gradual decision for me anyway. I didn't go into it with a solid idea of what I was going to do or how, I just followed the signs. One day I remembered seeing a billboard with a farmer on it and it stayed in my mind. A few months later I heard John Mellencamp's, "Pink Houses", on the radio and remembered the billboard. This went on and on for awhile until one day "The Grapes of Wrath" showed up on Saturday afternoon television. I thought that was really weird because a) it was such an odd choice and b) a football game was scheduled in the T.V. Guide- I checked. That's when I finally figured out that farming and small town life were going to form the basis of my story.

After that I picked a state that doesn't get much press and tried to determine what its main challenges were and what it might be like to live there. I thought I was going to write about the hardships of being a farmer, but then found out that the small farms were gone. I thought the backdrop would be something akin to Mayberry, but when I went to Missouri there was no Mayberry. I was kind of lost with these revelations, wondering what I was supposed to do now. So I talked to the residents, I read their newspapers and recorded what I saw. I knew for some reason that the farming aspect was essential to the story so I had to figure out a way to make it relevant. Once I decided on hydroponics everything else fell into place from there.

Photo: aliennation

Are You a Drive-By Reader? - What Does It Take to Get You to Leave a Book Review?

I'm a voracious writer and reader. For me, leaving book reviews is a natural extension of the reading experience. I like helping people find quality work just as much as I enjoy steering people away from things that might be a waste of their time (Yes, I know that sounds arrogant, but I'm a writing snob. It's how I roll.). I try to be as fair and constructive as possible without sugarcoating the negatives for optimal effectiveness. And of course I'm biased in favor of reviews because writers often live and die by the quality, and quantity, of their reviews. If an author gets a ton of bad reviews, they can be forgotten with the next good book. An author with only a smattering of reviews however, no matter how positive, may get stuck in obscurity forever, which for authors is career purgatory.

In my own circle, however, I'm finding that some people just aren't into giving reviews, no matter how they feel about a book. I've heard some are self-conscious about sharing their opinions, some get distracted and forget, and others simply don't want to make the time. Everyone agrees that reviews are helpful when deciding on their own purchases, but for some reason there's a disconnect between physical effort and how those helpful reviews just magically show up in the comments section. So my question to you is, does the idea of posting a review rank somewhere around visiting the dentist, or is it something you don't mind, or perhaps even enjoy? Would your answer be any different if an author approached you personally and asked for a review? I'd love to know more. Please share your thoughts in the guest book, if you're so inclined.

Photo: Chris Eastvedt

I Leave Book Reviews, Do You? - Don't hold back now, talk to me!

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