They meet…excerpt from MOTHER TONGUE

Liz Fallon has inveigled her way to Corsica by taking a fluff assignment to cover Professor Nicoli’s announcement at the Università di Corsica Pasquale Paoli about the mysterious mazzeri and quite unexpectedly meets Antoine Scafani for the first time.

NPG Ax39646; (Frederica) Dorothy Violet (nÈe Carrington), Lady Rose by Francis GoodmanThe Professor’s voice turned tremulous. “I am currently seeking funding for an investigation to be—”

The same voice, louder and more agitated, drowned her out. “You expect the Corsican people to provide funds for this hogwash. We have more important issues to deal with. We are waging a war for independence. Several hundred voices are being raised outside these doors at this very moment. While we sit listening to fairy tales, they are out marching in solidarity for self-determination for all of us.”

flag and hillsAn even deeper male voice boomed out from the aisle. “You underestimate the importance of the Professor’s work. She is a true heroine, as much as any bearer of the Moor’s head. For decades, she has been dedicated to the preservation of our history and culture.”

mazzeri8I watched as the owner of the voice, whose words had silenced the interloper, strode toward the podium. I couldn’t see his face but the mass of dark curls dangling above a set of self-assured shoulders captured my attention. As he addressed the audience, I studied his chestnut-colored eyes and the pulsating muscles of his jaw. “Every invader from the Romans to the Visigoths to the French has tried to eradicate our spiritual beliefs—whether it is the signadoras who bring healing, or the mazzeri, who announce impending deaths. Suppressing local customs and beliefs is an invader’s way of keeping a people subjugated. Our comrades outside understand this well.”

I felt my throat go dry as the man paused and looked directly at me, the corners of his mouth turning up ever so slightly.

As another derogatory comment flew at the Professor, the man on the stage curled a protective arm around her frail shoulders and spit out a long string of expletives in lingua corsa. I twisted in my seat just in time to see the gatecrasher’s face twist in anger as he hurled back an insulting rejoinder.

linguaSuddenly, the noise of slamming of doors and rankled voices erupted from the back of the auditorium. I spun around to see a flood of protestors storming down the side aisles, their Moor’s head banners cutting through the air like scythes through ripe wheat. As I looked back to the podium, a second contingent thudded in from behind the curtains and took up a military stance across the front of the stage causing the professor’s champion to whisk her away. I muttered a few choice words of my own as the opportunity to meet the Professor and finish up my phony baloney research assignment got blown to hell.

I hadn’t given a thought to my own safety until that very moment. But as the chants of the protestors became more frenzied, I started scanning the room for camouflage clothing, masks, or gun muzzles, anything that could presage a hostage situation. I saw only Levis and passionate faces, more fervent than threatening.

flnc10Just as I let my shoulders relax, a loud bang echoed from the wings. A shot? I couldn’t tell. The audience wasn’t waiting to find out and broke for the exits. I jumped out of my own seat, threw my backpack over my shoulder, and shoved my way through the line of demonstrators filling the aisle. I was about to reach for my duffle bag when one of our placards smacked me across the cheek. The next thing I knew, a strong hand was gripping my upper arm and jerking me back against the wall. I wrenched myself free only to discover that I was being manhandled by the Professor’s defender. He scolded the man with the placard, who instantly offered up a sheepish nod of apology.

“Forgive my friend, Mademoiselle. We should be more welcoming to our English friends.”

“I’m not British.”

“Ah, American. My apologies again. Permit me to introduce myself. Antoine Scafani. Can I help you get out of here?”

LE FLNC REVENDIQUE UNE TRENTAINE D'ATTENTATS COMMIS EN CORSE AU MOIS DE MAIThe name Scafani set off alarm bells in my head. Hadn’t I just read about a man named Scafani in one of Benatar’s reports? Something about an unsolved assassination. This could turn into my first lead about Benatar and his son’s disappearance. I started to introduce myself as Lisabetta Falcucci but thought better of it. “Liz Fallon,” I finally said. “I’m here to cover the Professor’s announcement about the mazzeri.”

Desperately seeking…beta readers!

I have just finished a complete revision of MOTHER TONGUE, changing the protagonist to a child advocate attorney and using the first-person voice to add punch. I’d love feedback, especially from readers who have commented on prior versions.I have posted a portion of the First Chapter on my website.

If this story of a child advocate attorney who gets blown out of the water when one of her young clients is kidnapped and murdered and ends up seeking refuge in Paris as a translator, only to find herself caught up in the Corsican separatist movement and yet another child kidnapping, then contact me and offer to be a beta reader.

MOTHER TONGUE is finished and almost ready for publication. I’d love your input. It will appeal to readers of suspense novels that have romance and thriller elements, such as Anne Patchett’s State of Wonder.

Researching the Corsican Nationalist Movement

In the mid 1990s when I first got the notion to write a fictional account about Corsica, I asked a colleague of mine, who visited France often, if he knew anything about the island that would provide a source of dramatic conflict in my novel. He asked if I had seen the State Department travel warnings mentioning numerous bombings, attacks, and assassinations connected with the Corsican Nationalist movement, although they were careful to point out that no tourists had ever been harmed.liberation I began my search for more information about the situation by perusing a copy of Liberation, the radical French newspaper, where I found articles by Guy Benhamou, the premier journalist covering the Corsican situation at that time. I wrote him (these were pretty much pre-internet, pre-email times) and received back copies of his articles in French and a lovely letter wishing me well in my writing endeavors.

book coverIn the year 2000, that same journalist authored a book, Pour Solde de Tout Compte: Les nationalistes corses parlent, which essentially was a “final accounting” byJean-Michel Rossi and François Santoni, the most predominate of the movement’s rival leaders. Both suggested that even the Corsican rebels were weary of the fight for independence, and of the corruption and crime which that fight had engendered. funeral santoniWithin a year both of these men had been assassinated and Guy and his family were put under police protection. This photo shows Santoni as one of Rossi’s pallbearers prior to his own death.

The conflict is not over. In 2012 alone there were twelve assassinations on the island, all related in some fashion to the ongoing conflict between separatist factions. In my novel, I touch on some of the themes of the Nationalist movement as it existed back in 1996 but, as an outsider and as a writer of fiction, I do not pretend that my portrayal is at all accurate or fair to any of the parties involved. It’s as if a foreigner were writing about our American Revolution, in which my own ancestors took part. I can only pray that through the struggles of my fictional characters, readers will understand a bit more about the political and social struggles of Corsica’s Nationalists, especially their goal to preserve the Corsican language, lingua corsa, and that they will get a glimpse of the overriding beauty of the island, its fascinating customs and history, and the courage and determination of its people.

flag and hillsThrough the centuries, Corsicans have withstood many invaders, often by taking to the maquis. My hope would be that they would tolerate and forgive the invasion of this American author into their customs and conflicts.