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Jennifer Torres, one of the three FIGs (Females of Intellectual Genius) who is a genius in both music and art, is the last to leave the closed rehearsal for her upcoming performance over Thanksgiving break at Carnegie Hall when she hears something in the darkened Hall. Recognizing the tilt of the woman’s head and the slight limp of the man as they hurry out an exit door, she realizes it is her parents who were supposedly killed in a terrible car accident when she was 15 years old.
Devastated and feeling betrayed, she sends a text to Carolina and the other two FIGs—THURGOOD. It is the code word they all agreed to use if ever one of them got into trouble or something happened that was too difficult to handle. They would all meet back at Carolina’s bungalow at Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women to figure it out.
As soon as they receive the text, because of their genius, Dara starts thinking of words in ancient Hebrew, German, and Yiddish, while Mackenzie’s visions of unique math formulae keep bringing up the date October 11, 1943. That is the date during World War II when the Nazis—the Kunstschutz—looted the paintings of targeted wealthy Jewish families and hid them away under Hitler’s orders. And as Carolina waits for the FIGs to return to Wood Rose, she hears warnings from Lyuba, her gypsy mother, to watch for the nightjar, the ancient name for the whip-poor-will.
As they search for “The Nightjar’s Promise” and the truth surrounding it, Carolina and the FIGs come face to face with evil that threatens to destroy not only their genius, but their very lives.
read an excerpt...
The sudden loud clash of cymbals resounded across the stage and reverberated throughout the empty seating gallery bringing forth the image of the pitiful souls living in the dark, dank underground of Grand Central Terminal. The cacophony of sound created by a syncopation of strings, brass, and percussion filled the famous Hall of Carnegie until, on cue—the conductor’s gimlet eye—Jennifer gently raised her violin to her chin and began playing the soulful music she had created filled with emotion expressing fear and passion, heartbreak and sadness. It was the final movement—the third in her fugue of The Wish Rider. It was the movement that revealed the love Dara’s mother felt for her daughter and, once again, her heart-rending disappearance.
Images of that horrible underground dungeon and the invisible, forgotten downtrodden who existed there flashed into her thoughts, the memory of rancid and damp earth smells, the long-forgotten deteriorated red train car with the number 61 painted on its side in bright yellow, and Dara—sitting on the torn, broken-down sofa, alone, knowing her mother had left her—again.
Note after note, altering tempo and timbre, volume and pitch, Jennifer’s fingers tenderly, almost magically, caressed the neck of her violin, while the horsehair-stringed bow amplified the heart-felt passages, penetrating the very souls of all who listened. Jennifer was aware of nothing or no one. There was only The Wish Rider. Then, one by one, other instruments joined the principal violin—the string section, the woodwinds, and the brass, and finally the percussion. After reaching a crescendo, Jennifer once again picked up the melodic theme, this time in legato—slowly, softly, mournfully, until the notes disappeared—just like Dara’s mother—into haunting silence.
The Hall was hushed. The conductor, slightly disheveled, his arms now limp by his sides, smiled. They would be ready for their Thanksgiving performance. As before, no one spoke to Jennifer. They knew not to. After all, she was a genius with an unpredictable if not strange and prone-to-violence temperament—a FIG. She would remain turned inward, listening to the notes she had created and seeing the images until they were no more.
Not wanting to disturb her, the other musicians quietly packed up their instruments and followed the conductor quickly off the stage. Only Jennifer remained behind, still listening to the heart-breaking music, knowing what each note meant, lost in her “other” world. Liz, the graduate student at Juilliard who had been assigned to assist Jennifer with her needs while she was a student there, would be waiting outside for her no matter how long it took. She would make sure she got back to her room safely.
about Barbara Casey...
Originally from Carrollton, Illinois, author/agent/publisher Barbara Casey attended theUniversity of North Carolina, N.C. State University, and N.C. Wesleyan College where she received a BA degree, summa cum laude, with a double major in English and history. In 1978 she left her position as Director of Public Relations and Vice President of Development at North Carolina Wesleyan College to write full time and develop her own manuscript evaluation and editorial service. In 1995 she established the Barbara Casey Agency and since that time has represented authors from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. In 2014, she became a partner with Strategic Media Books, an independent nonfiction publisher of true crime, where she oversees acquisitions, day-to-day operations, and book production.
Ms. Casey has written over a dozen award-winning books of fiction and nonfiction for both young adults and adults. The awards include the National Association of University Women Literary Award, the Sir Walter Raleigh Literary Award, the Independent Publisher Book Award, the Dana Award for Outstanding Novel, the IP Best Book for Regional Fiction, among others. Two of her nonfiction books have been optioned for major films, one of which is under contract.
Her award-winning articles, short stories, and poetry for adults have appeared in both national and international publications including the North Carolina Christian Advocate Magazine, The New East Magazine, the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer, the Rocky Mount (N.C.) Sunday Telegram, Dog Fancy, ByLine, The Christian Record, Skirt! Magazine, and True Story. A thirty-minute television special which Ms. Casey wrote and coordinated was broadcast on WRAL, Channel 5, in Raleigh, North Carolina. She also received special recognition for her editorial work on the English translations of Albanian children’s stories. Her award-winning science fiction short stories for adults are featured in The Cosmic Unicorn and CrossTime science fiction anthologies. Ms. Casey's essays and other works appear in The Chrysalis Reader, the international literary journal of the Swedenborg Foundation, 221 One-Minute Monologues from Literature (Smith and Kraus Publishers), and A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation).
Ms. Casey is a former director of BookFest of the Palm Beaches, Florida, where she served as guest author and panelist. She has served as judge for the Pathfinder Literary Awards in Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Florida, and was the Florida Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators from 1991 through 2003. In 2018 Ms. Casey received the prestigious Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award and Top Professional Award for her extensive experience and notable accomplishments in the field of publishing and other areas. She makes her home on the top of a mountain in northwest Georgia with her husband and three cats who adopted her, Homer, Reese and Earl Gray, Reese’s best friend.
more personal "stuff" about Barbara Casey...
Does this book have a special meaning to you? i.e. where you found the idea, its symbolism, its meaning, who you dedicated it to, what made you want to write it?The first book in The F.I.G. Mysteries, The Cadence of Gypsies, was published in 2011, and the characters – the Females of Intellectual Genius – have been living with me since that time. From that first book, I have dedicated the series to my granddaughter, Sophie Belle. Coincidentally, she is graduating from high school this spring and will start attending the University of Auburn this fall. So it seems fitting that the series is now ending.
The three FIGs - Dara, Mackenzie, and Jennifer - are brilliant, talented, and flawed in that they are struggling to exist in a world where they don’t fit. In addition, they are orphans, which creates more emotional baggage that they must deal with. Writing about their issues, and then writing about how they resolve those issues, has given me so much pleasure over these past several years, and now tying up all of the loose ends in this final book is especially rewarding. It truly has been a labor of love.
Many years ago I used to drive past an orphanage on the way to class at NC State University in Raleigh, NC. That memory stayed with me and started to form into a story when I started writing. I originally intended to write only one book – The Cadence of Gypsies. But my publisher liked it so much, she asked if I would develop it into a series. The Wish Rider, The Clock Flower, and now The Nightjar’s Promise are the result. Along with this final book, The Cadence of Gypsies and The Wish Rider are being re-released with new covers, which is exciting. The covers are absolutely beautiful and better define the four books as a series.
Since each of the girls is so different with her own special talent, I focused on each of those talents to tie into their individual story based on research of historical significance. For example, The Cadence of Gypsies reveals information about the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world. It also reveals information about the Gypsy culture, which plays an important role throughout all four books. For The Wish Rider, I researched the secret underground rails beneath Grand Central Terminal and the frightening society that exists there. In The Clock Flower, I explored the research that is being done on the dandelion and mortality. And, finally, in The Nightjar’s Promise, I revisit the dark period of history during World War II when the Nazis looted so much priceless art.
Where do you get your storylines from?
This is such a good question, and I really don’t have a good answer. I never know where my ideas are going to come from. It might be a line of poetry that triggers something, or an event in the news. It isn’t something I can force; it just happens.
Was this book easier or more difficult to write than others? Why?
This sounds so sappy, but it really does make me sad knowing I have finished with the FIGs and Carolina. They have been a part of my life for so long now, that I will miss them. With the characters in most of my other novels, I have been able to let them go and move on to my next book. Although there is one novel where the characters still keep me awake at night. But with The F.I.G. Mysteries, it is going to be hard for me to move on to something else.
Do you only write one genre?
I have over a dozen award-winning books published, both fiction and nonfiction for adults and young adults.
Give us a picture of where you write, where you compose these words…is it Starbucks, a den, a garden…we want to know your inner sanctum?
I have a home office with one wall of windows that overlook a forest and mountain beyond. My desk has a computer, of course, along with a stack of notes I write down as I am working, an urn-shaped lamp, a glass wishing ball, a wooden Chinese box, three framed photos, an antique brass letter holder, and a vase of mixed flowers – mostly wild. Also on my desk there is usually at least one cat. Behind my desk is a credenza where I have a collection of antique ink wells and ginger jars, and on two other walls are built-in floor-to-ceiling book cases filled with books and various things that mean something to me. On another wall there is a large wooden filing cabinet with a copy/fax machine and phone. In one corner there is a large leather chair, usually occupied by a cat, with a floor lamp behind it.
I have really enjoyed this interview and spending time with you. Thank you for your thoughtful questions and for your interest. I wish you and your bloggers my very best. ~Barbara