This week we have Gail Priest and her Annie Crow Knoll series.
Annie Crow Knoll: Sunrise (Book 1)
Annie Crow Knoll: Sunrise is a story of loss, grief, survival and the healing powers of friendship and nature. Annie is a strong-minded girl, who battles with her secretive mother to uncover the truth about her grandmother’s suicide. At nineteen, she goes against social convention and trusts and relies on Bo, her family’s African American friend and her surrogate father, as she struggles to save the fourteen summer rental cottages left to her by her parents. When the family legacy of depression emerges in her early adulthood, and Annie faces estrangement from her husband and young son, will she be able to embrace the love and acceptance that is offered by someone who has been there all along?
Annie Crow Knoll: Sunrise is the first novel in a literary fiction series by Gail Priest. In this family saga, the ties that bind and tear us apart twine together the people whose lives are changed by Annie’s fierce determination and the beauty of her knoll nestled along the head-waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
Annie’s water broke as she was standing in the kitchen making a shopping list for Thanksgiving dinner.
“Well, that was convenient,” she said to herself with relief that she hadn’t let loose on the new living room rug.
“Bo?” she hollered out the front door.
Bo was heading to his car which was parked in the circle by the flagpole. Annie had invited him out to discuss capital improvements she wanted him to make on the Knoll. The sun had set, and he had just finished checking all the cottages on the property before he headed home.
When Bo heard his name, he turned to see Annie waving from the front porch.
Suddenly her face squeezed tight, and he ran to her.
“Can you take me to the hospital?” she asked when she caught her breath. "I'm going into labor."
He took her arm to lead her to his car, but she stopped.
“Not yet. There are a couple things we have to do first,” she insisted, and they headed back into the cottage. “Please get the overnight bag by the table and put it in the car while I call Drew at the college. He can meet us there after his last class.”
After carrying Annie’s bag to his car, Bo hurried back into the cottage expecting her to be ready to go, but she was still on the phone.
“We’d best be going, Annie,” Bo said anxiously.
“Just one minute, Bo. I’m having trouble getting through.”
“You can call him from the hospital,” Bo insisted when he noticed the puddle on the kitchen floor.
“Hello?” Annie said into the receiver. “Yes, this is Drew Bidwell’s wife. Please tell him to meet me at the hospital. The baby is coming.”
Finally when Bo had Annie in his car and was pulling out of the Knoll, she grabbed the dashboard with both hands and a tiny cry escaped her throat.
“Go ahead and scream, Annie,” Bo advised. “And keep breathing. Don’t go holdin’ your breath like that.”
The contraction passed, and Annie slumped back in the car seat with sweat rolling down her face.
“I’m not one for screaming, Bo,” she said bravely.
“Well, you’ll be hollering before the night’s over,” Bo said with a laugh and sped up a bit when he turned onto Center Street. The hospital in Chester Landing was at least forty-five minutes away, and he was not going to deliver this baby! Then he saw the red lights flashing in the rear view window.
“Damn,” Bo said.
Bo never cursed, so Annie pulled herself up to see what was behind them. Bo slowed down, and then stopped on the side of the road.
“Oh, no,” Annie said when she saw Bunky Watson step out of the patrol car.
Patrolman Watson pounded his fist on the top of Big Black Bo’s car and then directed the blinding beam of his flashlight into the driver’s side window.
“Roll down your window, boy,” he demanded.
Bo obliged, and Annie noticed that he immediately put his left hand back up on the steering wheel next to his right.
Bunky Watson’s face then appeared in the open window.
“What are you doing here in town, boy?” he snapped.
Before Bo could say anything, Annie leaned forward.
“For God’s sake, Bunky, he’s drivin’ me to the hospital.”
“Annie, what are you doing in this Negro’s car?”
“What I’m going to be doin’ is having a baby if you don’t let us get on to the hospital.”
“Is it his baby?” Bunky asked sarcastically.
“Now Bunky, you know that my husband is Drew Bidwell, and he’s at the college so Mr. Bo, who works for me as I’m sure you also know, was kind enough to drive me into the hospital where Drew will meet me.”
“Why aren’t you sittin’ in the back seat?” Bunky asked.
“I-I don’t know, Bunky. I was having a contraction when he helped me into the car so I just sat where he put me.” Annie immediately regretted the wording of her explanation.
“You put her in the front seat with you, boy? What were you thinking?” Bunky asked and waited for an answer.
“I thought I could keep an eye on her up here,” Bo explained.
“You know the sun set fifteen minutes ago?” Bunky stated with authority.
“Yes,” Bo answered.
“And you were going ten miles over the speed limit.”
Annie saw Bo's hands grip the steering wheel tighter just when pain started again deep in her spine. She leaned forward in her seat.
“Bunky, you stupid ass, I’m about to have a baby, and if you don’t let us pass now, you and Bo are going to be delivering it together right here on Center Street.” Annie seethed between her teeth, and then she let out a blood-curdling scream as the contraction peaked.
“Go!” Bunky ordered and stepped back from the car.
Bo threw the car back into drive and pulled away. Annie leaned back against her seat again, panting. After a moment, she started to laugh.
“You were right about the screaming, Bo. It does help.”
Bo smiled. He reached over and squeezed her hand. Annie held onto it, and he let her. In all these years, they had never touched.
Annie couldn’t remember a time in her life when she didn’t know Bo. He’d been her father’s closest friend, but there was always a boundary. It hadn’t stopped the connection, the trust, or the love, but it had made physical displays of any emotion taboo. Annie thought of the time that she had discovered her mother and Bo embracing. What made it wrong? Bo’s race? Her parents’ marriage? Annie didn’t know and was almost relieved when another contraction came and erased any more thoughts of her mother in Bo’s arms. The baby was coming soon.
When the pain subsided, Annie realized that she had been crushing Bo’s hand. When she released her death grip, he didn’t remove his hand, so she continued to hold on. It was like when she was little and her mama would have to pull out a splinter or take off a Band-Aid, and her daddy would let her squeeze his hand as tightly as she wanted. Daddy never complained.
Her parents had always been there whenever she was hurt or scared. Annie felt the full weight of their absence during this important moment in her life. But Bo was there. He always was. She trusted him as if he were her father. But there was no one to mother Annie now. Who could she talk to when she needed advice about the baby? There was no woman to reassure her now when the wave of pain started again. Annie cried and gripped Bo’s hand again until the contraction ended. “It’s all right, Annie,” Bo reassured.
Annie could barely hear his voice. It was as if she were under water, and Bo was calling from the beach.
“Don’t worry,” Bo continued. “We’re almost to the hospital, and Drew will be there.”
Annie Crow Knoll: Sunset (Book 2) by Gail Priest
Return to Annie Crow Knoll . . . a place where people come to restore their spirits, heal their pain, and reclaim their lives. Annie Crow Knoll: Sunset is the second novel in this literary fiction series by Gail Priest. In this family saga, the healing powers of nature, art, and friendship offer courage to those facing loss and grief.
Nate Bidwell blamed his mother Annie for his parents' divorce. Buried hurts and resentments between mother and son make Nate reluctant to risk his heart when his childhood friend Beth Ann offers him her own. Instead, he allows himself to fall in love with the fragile and dependent June, and Annie's opposition to their marriage reignites years of unresolved conflict with her only child. Nate swears that he will never return to Annie Crow Knoll, his family home on the Chesapeake Bay. He and June move to Manhattan where he opens his dream restaurant and tirelessly works to build his career as a chef.
When near-tragedy strikes their lives, though, Nate is forced to return to the one place he hopes may save his wife: Anne Crow Knoll. There, surrounded by the love and support of his mother, their friend Packard, and Beth Ann, will Nate and June be able to face their doubts and fears about themselves, their marriage, and their future?
A few days later, June heard the familiar voice in her head as she sat alone in No Name Cottage. Fall asleep and never feel the pain again. Slide into the subterranean, seductive waters of painlessness. Nothingness. Take the step, make the decision. Let go, let go.
The water rose up like a lover, beckoning for her to come into his arms. I’ll take it all away. The voice was sexy, soothing.
I mustn’t listen, June told herself. I’m sitting in the living room. I’m not in the water.
Then the lover became disturbed. The waters began to swirl. She felt the strong sucking at her feet. A vortex of energy pulled at her body. Angry now, the voice raged at her. Come in now. Its roar vibrated in her head and in her chest. She grabbed hold of the chair arms, her fingers white and her knuckles red with pressure.
A sudden knock at the screen door made the water recede behind the old plaster walls. The room became quiet. The knock again.
Then June heard her own voice. “Yes?”
“Hello, I’m looking for June.”
Letting go of her grip on the chair arms, June forced herself to focus.
“Just a minute." She spoke barely above a whisper and stood slowly, walking onto the porch where the heat hit her.
A bald-headed woman was outside her porch door. "Hi, I hope I'm not disturbing you."
“No.” June took a few steps toward the door.
“Did I wake you from a nap?”
“I’m sorry. I can come over another time.” But the woman didn't move.
June waded through the thick air and pushed the screen door open. "Please come in."
"I'm Beth Ann Jakimowitz. My mom and I just got in late last night. We're from Cockatiel Cottage."
She shook June's hand. June felt energy and heat in the woman's grip.
"Mom and your mother-in-law are old friends," she continued. "I played with Nate when we were kids. Well, I followed Nate around really. He was a couple years older."
“He's not here right now.” June realized that the woman was her own age. She looked at her bald head again.
“Kind of shocking, isn’t it?” Beth Ann said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stare.”
“It’s okay. I’m used to it.”
“Nate won’t be back for a while.”
“Good. I came to meet you. Aunt Annie told me that Nate and his wife were in No Name. I wanted to see who had landed him.”
“Like a fish?”
“I thought that he was quite a catch. Just about every girl on the Knoll had a crush on him, especially Chatty Cathy from Tockwogh Cottage. You'd better keep an eye on her even now." Beth Ann winked.
"You call her Chatty Cathy, too?"
"Well, she's been talking since she was born and rarely comes up for air."
June suddenly came to and smiled. She felt an instant connection with this woman. “Sit down, won’t you? Can I get you some iced tea?”
“That’d be great.” Beth Ann followed her into the kitchen.
June noticed how messy everything must look to this stranger and wished Beth Ann had stayed out on the porch. None of the glasses were clean so June started washing two from the pile in the sink.
“I’m sorry this place is such a mess.”
“Are you kidding? This is nothing compared to the damage I can do.” Beth Ann laughed, an easy, open laugh. "And I never make my bed because I like to keep all my options open."
Praise for the Annie Crow Knoll: Sunrise and Sunset
"Nuances of the human experience spring forth from the pages of the Annie Crow Knoll Series and especially this second book, Sunset. A spiritual journey that makes no assumptions, but lets the reader inflect his or her own understandings to the experiences of the characters. I laughed, I cried. These are books I know I'll read again and again." - Olivia Hardin, Author of the Bend-Bite-Shift Series
“I thoroughly enjoyed reading SUNSET and SUNRISE. I loved getting to know these complex and interesting characters. The story and relationships captured my attention and imagination from the beginning and never let them go. Priest's passion for nature was expressed beautifully throughout each book. She is an exceptional writer with a bright future ahead.”-Amazon Review
****COMING AUGUST 9TH****
Annie Crow Knoll: Moonrise (Book 3)
Return once again to Annie Crow Knoll . . . a place to grieve loss, accept change, and rebuild a life worth living.
Breezy and Jemma, are world-class cyclists until violence at a race leaves Breezy with permanent physical disabilities and kills the man she loved. With her Olympic dream shattered, guilt and shame threaten to destroy her future happiness. Her sister Jemma escapes with only minor injuries, but the psychological damage she experiences shakes her self-worth, her Olympic potential, and her capacity to accept love.
The young women return to Annie Crow Knoll, their childhood home on the Chesapeake Bay, to heal and reclaim their lives, and with their parents and grandparents, struggle to make sense of life after this tragic and irrational incident.
Annie Crow Knoll: Moonrise, the third novel in this fiction series by Gail Priest, is a story about the power to reinvent life after surviving loss and trauma. (This novel can be read as a stand alone.)
Annie Crow Knoll: Moonrise (Book 3) Can be read as a stand alone.
Jemma stopped her bike next to the copse of trees, where she was dazzled by wind chimes of various sizes, shapes, and designs. There had to be over fifty of them suspended around her dangling among the leaves. Each time the branches swayed in the breeze, the jingling and dinging tickled her senses. For several luxurious moments, Jemma wandered around on foot admiring the craftsmanship of each charming wind chime. Many had bird themes; others were fashioned out of old silverware, glass, metal tubes, and ceramics. One or two were constructed from hunks of bamboo which generated haunting, hollow resonances. The light breeze also carried the smell of pine from a stand of evergreens several feet away. She ambled, hypnotized by the music and aromas surrounding her.
From beyond the pine trees, deafening clangs suddenly obliterated Jemma’s equilibrium. Instinctively, she squatted down on the ground. The pounding continued. Jemma yanked off her helmet, tucked her head, and covered her ears. She squeezed her eyes tight, struggling to close out all the memories forced to life by the terrifying sounds. Cowbells, an explosion, screaming, and sirens all crowded into her brain.
Just as abruptly as it started, the hammering stopped. Jemma stayed curled up for several moments before realizing quiet was restored. She opened her eyes and listened. The wind chimes played. Cautiously she rose and rubbed her sweating, shaking hands on her riding shorts. She sucked air into her lungs like someone who had nearly drowned. I have to get control of myself.
Jemma forced herself to focus. Her helmet landed in a pile of pine needles. Bending down to retrieve it, she spotted a log building partially obscured behind the trees. Although the disturbing noise could reoccur, Jemma was drawn to the rustic structure, perhaps by the need to find out what had caused the previous pandemonium.
In the clearing around the building, large iron sculptures dotted the property, but Jemma couldn’t pull herself away from the whimsical design of the building itself. A unique log structure stood before her, with the cut ends of the logs facing inside and outside like stacked firewood. Where windows would be, the necks of various colored wine bottles were plastered tightly together with chinking. Two large open barn doors flanked the entrance. Jemma read on the sign above, Forge at Mockingbird Farm. She decided to inch her way into the shadowy interior. Waiting for her eyes to adapt to the dark, Jemma was drawn to daylight filtering through the bottoms of the colored glass bottles. The effect was reminiscent of stained glass windows.
An ear-splitting clang, accompanied by sparks flying across the space, sent Jemma crouching down on the dirt floor. Her heart pounded when another clang rang out. Jemma willed herself to look up. At the anvil was a tall African-American man wearing a Baltimore Orioles’ baseball cap backwards and safety glasses across his face. Seeing who produced the disturbance allowed Jemma’s mind to stay present although her body struggled with its own agenda. Jemma inhaled, grabbed at the edge of a nearby table, and hauled herself up. A heavy leather apron covered the man’s jeans and bare chest. His hammering hand was uncovered, but he wore a leather glove on his holding hand. After hammering the tip of the rod a few more times, the blacksmith nimbly turned to the fire pot. A sheen of sweat glistened down the skin of his strong back. Jemma swallowed.
When he had reheated the metal to the desired temperature, he carried the rod back to the anvil. Jemma didn’t think he’d seen her, but before raising the hammer again to bend the hot metal to his will, he said, “Hold on a minute. This won’t take long.”
She couldn’t control herself from flinching when he struck with controlled force. Her mind raced as she worried what he must think of her having hunkered down on the floor of his forge.
The hard rod yielded to the heat of the fire and the power of his well-developed arm. Finally satisfied, he quenched it in a barrel of water. Steam hissed. Jemma couldn’t catch her breath.
The blacksmith took off the glove and his safety glasses, removed earplugs, and ran a rag across his sweaty face.
“Hello, Jemma Bidwell.” His smile reached his dark eyes and revealed white teeth and dimples.
“Atticus?” She recognized him now that her eyes had fully adjusted and he’d removed the safety glasses.
Atticus Grant had been two years ahead of her in school, but other than the fact that she was the only Asian kid in the county, she never imagined this gorgeous man would remember her name.
“I was sorry to hear about what happened to you and your sister. It’s a crazy world. How’s Breezy doing?”
Of course he knew Jemma by association with her popular and now-famous sister. “It’s been rough. But she’s doing better. Thanks for asking.”
“At least you’re able to ride.”
Guilt associated with Breezy’s condition instantly rose in Jemma’s throat. “Today’s my first time on a bike.”
“That’s great. Congratulations.”
Jemma stuffed down a sob. “What are you working on?”
Atticus walked to a worktable covered with various sketches, art books, and tools. “Would you like to see?”
“Yes.” Jemma followed him.
“It’s my first commission for Queen Anne College.” He cleared a few items revealing a detailed drawing with an elaborate filigree of birds, lizards, snakes, leaves, and vines. “It’s the gate into the courtyard for the new science building they’re constructing.”Jemma found it delightful. “You’re an artist.” Her skin warmed, standing this close to him. “It’s hot in here.”
I am super excited to start this series. I hope you have enjoyed our little promo please share with you friends and family. Now lets meet the woman behind these books.
Gail Priest is the author of the Annie Crow Knoll series. For many years, Gail and her husband have rented a cottage in Betterton, MD on the Chesapeake Bay in a cottage community that is the inspiration for the novels. Annie Crow Knoll: Sunrise debuted in 2013. Annie Crow Knoll: Sunset was released in 2014. Annie Crow Knoll: Moonrise is the third book in the series.
Gail is honored to have a selection from Annie Crow Knoll: Sunset in 50 Over 50, a PS Books anthology celebrating the wise and experienced feminine voice of fifty women writers over fifty.
Her play Eva's Piano was produced at the Dayton Playhouse in their 2000 New Play Festival. The Church Hill Theatre in Church Hill, Maryland staged a reading of her play A Thing with Feathers.
Gail's career in performing arts and education has allowed her to enjoy a combination of roles: teacher, adjunct college professor, guidance counselor, actor, director, and writer.
Want to meet Gail in person come see her at Indie Bookfest get your tickets Here.