Barbara Casey is the author of a fun mystery series known as the F.I.G. Mysteries. The fifth installment just dropped, so today we are featuring an excerpt plus getting some inside information from the author herself. There’s also a great giveaway at the end! So be sure to check it out and to follow the rest of the tour for more.
Book 5 – The F.I.G. Mysteries
Many changes have taken place at Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women while Carolina and Larry were on their honeymoon in Frascati, Italy, on the Granchelli farm. The newlyweds have been given a larger bungalow; Ms. Alcott, niece of the founder of Wood Rose, and Mrs. Ball, assistant to the headmaster, have moved into a bungalow together; and Jimmy Bob, caretaker and night watchman at Wood Rose has moved from his family home down the road a bit into a small bungalow on the orphanage property with his hound dog Tick, as well as his new cat and her litter of kittens. Most important, thanks to the persuasive powers of Ms. Alcott and Mrs. Ball, the F.I.G.s have been given a forever home at Wood Rose.
Summer is coming to an end and the F.I.G.s will soon return to the universities to complete their special projects. They are starting to feel anxious, and the coping mechanisms they have used their entire lives are starting to work overtime. Dara’s thoughts turn to an unknown language, possibly from another world; Mackenzie focuses on the relationship of math to music; and Jennifer keeps hearing the note of B flat minor and is drawing dark swirls on her canvas board.
Deadly forces and natural disasters are unleashed into the world when Milosh, the evil young man who placed a curse on Carolina when she searched for her mother, steals an ancient artifact—a “key”—from an archaeological site near Puli, China on the Yellow Sea where he is working. This artifact, when paired with a certain note—B flat minor known as the Seraphim’s song—opens a portal that enables man to communicate with the gods.
When the key gets lost in a storm, Carolina comes into possession of it through Jimmy Bob’s dog, Tick, and when she does, she hears Lyuba, her gypsy mother, tell her that time is running out. The F.I.G.s and Carolina must go to the forbidden cave on the Yellow Sea, the place where the early gypsies are believed to have settled before travelling into Europe. For it is there where the key must be returned before all is destroyed.
Read an excerpt:
As she usually did in the early, pre-dawn hours, Lyuba was digging roots, in the dark of the crescent moon, and every so often replanting a good piece of a root to grow next year. The day before she had picked herbs, during that time when the essential oils are at their strongest, before they could get evaporated by the midday sun. Where she searched was her favorite place, the place where the energies were strongest. Surprisingly, it was the old church graveyard built on a slight mound just outside of the rural Italian village of Frascati, which is why the other gypsy women stayed away. Unlike Lyuba, they feared being so near the dead. They believed that being near death would hasten their own, therefore they refused to go there. Lyuba, however, saw death as the natural and necessary progression of life, in another form, in a different dimension. She found comfort and solace in its nearness. A creek ran nearby, and a tall, unkempt yew tree grew near the entrance to the graveyard, poisonous, but giving off positive energies. It was a place Lyuba knew well, having discovered it from earlier times when the travelers came this way. It was there where she found peace. She would prepare her potions from the roots, bark, and hard seeds she gathered and make decoctions by soaking them overnight and boiling them the next day. Some of the decoctions she would add honey or sugar to; others she would thicken into syrup or add lard to make ointments and salves. The freshest herbs she saved for her oils. Once her potions were ready, she would take them into the village to sell. Coughs or colds, rheumatism, cuts and bruises, burns—it didn't matter. She knew what remedy was necessary to relieve pain, create lustrous hair, revive the impotent, whiten teeth, cure constipation, or simply heal the broken spirit. Unlike others who only pretended, she had the gift. As she scraped pieces of root and bark, and gently picked the seeds from the plants she revered, she suddenly paused, aware of something different in the air around her—an unseen potent force. She stood up and, closing her eyes, listened quietly as she sniffed the air. There was an unfamiliar strangeness surrounding her. She felt the slight tremor of the earth and somewhere very far away, she heard the low-pitched hum. It was a sound she knew well for it had been given to every civilization from the beginning of time. Used in all of the major religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Zoroastrianism and Christianity—it was the sacred universal sound. A single sustained note, a mantra, it was the melody of the angel that acted as the means of communication between the gods in the heavens and the humans on earth. It was the seraphim’s song. But something was wrong; the single note was slightly off-key. The pitch wasn’t quite right. Then, because she was a choovihni and had the knowledge of the universe coursing through her veins, a cosmic consciousness that had been passed down to her from her mother, her grandmother, and her great grandmothers through all time, she sensed darkness and evil.
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Describe your book in one sentence or fewer than 25 words.
When an ancient artifact falls into the wrong hands, the F.I.G.s must return it to its secret home to prevent natural disasters from destroying the planet.
What was the inspiration behind this book?
When I was attending NC State University in Raleigh, NC, I used to drive by an orphanage every morning on my way to class. The large stone buildings were beautiful, and the expansive grounds always well maintained. However, I never saw any of the orphans who lived there. That memory stayed with me for years. It was only after I came across the Voynich Manuscript while doing research for another book that I decided to write The Cadence of Gypsies. Initially, it was meant to be a stand-alone novel, but my publisher liked it so much she asked if I would expand it into a series. As a result, the F.I.G.s – Females of Intellectual Genius – have been living in my mind for years, and five books are the result.
What kind of research did you have to do for it?
I always do a lot of research for all of my books – fiction and nonfiction. The F.I.G. Mysteries are no different. Each book has required research on the themes I write about; for example, the Voynich Manuscript (the most mysterious manuscript in the world); gypsy culture, spells, and customs; the secret, hidden train track and train car beneath Grand Central Terminal in New York City; the medicinal properties of a dandelion flower; and ancient Chinese beliefs. The characters carry the strength and emotion of the story, but it is the research that makes the story believable and interesting.
What was one of your favorite scenes?
In The Seraphim’s Song, Book 5 in The F.I.G. Mysteries, a gypsy has found an ancient artifact in a cave in China where he is working at an archaeological dig. Sensing it might be valuable, he decides not to tell anyone so he can sell it. Natural disasters start to occur around the world, and a category 5 hurricane hits Raleigh, NC, where the F.I.G.s live at Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. Tick, the hound dog that belongs to Jimmy Bob Doak, the care taker at the orphanage, disappears during the hurricane. Jimmy Bob is frantic that Tick has been injured or worse. When he and Carolina and the F.I.G. start to search for him, Tick shows up with a “bone” and instinctively knows to take it to Carolina and the F.I.G.s.
First and foremost in Carolina’s mind was to help Jimmy Bob look for Tick. “The girls and I will drive around the area to see if we can find him,” she told Jimmy Bob. “You might want to take a good look around your family home. He might have gone there since it is a place he knows.” Before she and the F.I.G.s could get into her car, however, they were surprised to see a police patrol car slowly approaching with blue lights flashing.
The patrolman was Hank Pollock, a long-time friend of Jimmy Bob’s who occasionally visited Wood Rose and had helped out at various fund-raising events for the orphanage throughout the years. Walking in front of the patrol car carrying in his mouth what appeared to be a very large muddy bone was Tick. Slowly and deliberately, unscathed and completely ignoring the vehicle with its flashing blue lights behind him, Wood Rose’s guard dog didn’t stop until he got to Carolina. Then, somewhat ceremoniously, he dropped the dirt-covered object at her feet.
Jimmy Bob was beside himself with joy as he tearfully knelt down hugging his much-loved canine who had somehow managed to survive the strongest, most terrifying hurricane in recorded history.
“I saw him up on the road headed this way and tried to get him in the vehicle, but he didn’t want to ride I guess,” Hank said. “I think he was afraid I
was going to try to take that bone he had in his mouth away from him.” He watched the dog for a moment. “Looks like he wants you to have it,” he said glancing at Carolina.
Jennifer gasped as the pain in her chest returned. Then the musical notes of a tone poem that only she could hear rapidly filled the blank measures, treble and bass clef, she saw in her mind. Just beneath the musical notes, loud and insistent, refusing to be ignored, was the relentless, continuous undertone of the key B flat minor. The “aum.”
Dara looked up into the sky and envisioned words, symbols, and pictures of unknown origin, from another universe—another galaxy, yet she felt she knew their meaning. She understood.
And flashes of mathematical formula involving units, intervals, and spacing of the solar system penetrated Mackenzie’s mind as she removed her calculator from her belt and began entering mathematical equations representing what she saw.
Carolina squeezed her eyes shut; the tone of B flat minor was almost deafening. Then, because the vibration of the earth was so strong, the four young women knelt to the ground holding each other to keep from falling.
Jimmy Bob and Hank steadied themselves. “Must be having an earthquake,” Hank said looking around. No sooner than he said the words, it then stopped.
As Tick continued to watch Carolina, she suddenly heard her mother’s voice—soft, but clear and urgent. It is the key, daughter. You must protect it and return it to the cave.
The F.I.G.s couldn’t hear Lyuba—only Carolina could hear her—but they knew. Carolina had been given the key, she must keep it safe, and she must return it to where it belonged.
They also knew, because they were females of intellectual genius, that Carolina was in danger, and they didn’t know what to do to stop it. They didn’t know how to help her. And this more than anything terrified them.
Carolina reached down and patted Tick on his head. “Did you bring this to me, Tick?” Her thoughts turned to the strange pattern of cots, chairs, tables, and people she had noticed earlier from the stairs leading down into the safe room— the Canis Major constellation. “You are the Dog Star, Tick, the brightest star in the night sky heavens.” She cradled his face in her hands and stroked his long silky ears. “Good boy. Such a good boy.” Only when she picked the object up did he acknowledge Jimmy Bob with big, wet slurpy kisses and soft grunts that sounded more like a pig than Wood Rose’s brave guard dog.
Tell us about your other published works.
I have had 18 books published, fiction and nonfiction, for both adults and young adults. I will have 4 new novels being released between June of this year and January of 2023. Except for The F.I.G. Mysteries, all of my books are stand-alone. Most of my novels go into mystery and things that can’t always be explained. The F.I.G.s are a good example. They are all geniuses, and each girl has an exceptional ability in a particular area. For Dara, it is languages – ancient, obscure, foreign, it doesn’t matter; Mackenzie understands everything related to math and problem-solving; and Jennifer is a genius in music and art. The F.I.G.s don’t understand why they are different, but with each book in the series they find more answers.
Each one of my books is different. One of my new adult novels coming out next month deals with soul transference. My nonfiction books focus on strong women – not necessarily nice. Kathryn Kelly was the brains behind Machine Gun Kelly; Velvalee Dickinson was an American spy who worked for the Imperial Japanese Government during WWII; and Assata Shakur was sentenced to prison for murder and other things, but she escaped. These stories are strong and interesting because so many people don’t know about these women who made newspaper headlines around the world.
What is one skill you wish you had?
A sense of direction.
Thank you so much for your interest in my books and for interviewing me. I have really enjoyed visiting with you, and I wish you all the best. ~Barbara
Originally from Carrollton, Illinois, author/agent/publisher Barbara Casey attended the University 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.
Barbara 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. Several of her books have been optioned for major films and television.
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 Barbara 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. Barbara’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).
Barbara 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 Barbara 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 three cats who adopted her, Homer – a Southern coon cat, Reese – a black cat, and Earl Gray – a gray cat and Reese’s best friend.
Barbara Casey will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway