Rowan of the Wood: Chapters 21 & 22

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In today’s episode, we follow Max and a couple of stowaways down to San Francisco to find Cullen, and we rejoin Rowan as he meets with a very-changed Fiana. Rowan hasn’t seen her for two weeks, but she hasn’t seen him for 1400 years!

Stay tuned after the chapter for the Author Notes, where I reveal tidbits of our inspiration, process, journey, and some very big mistakes and lessons we learned along the way. You can also read them beneath the audio player below.

Rowan of the Wood: Chapters 21 & 22

Chapter 21 takes us with Max down the 101 towards San Francisco. As she passes through Santa Rosa, I make a comment on the traffic there. Hell four lanes of traffic were squeeze down into two… And that’s not an exaggeration. I lived in Santa Rosa for many years, in fact that is where I met Ethan swing dancing. The traffic is horrendous there. It has become a sleeper community for San Francisco, even though it’s an hour and a half away… Probably closer to three in traffic. I’m glad I’m not doing that commute.

Chapter 22 takes us back to Rowan and Cullen on the streets of SF. As it gets close to dusk, Fiana awakens and feels Rowan. He feels her as well and they begin to communicate in their heads.

There is a line of social commentary in there about Reagan privatizing the mental institutions when he was governor, and that was something Ethan would say often. I didn’t live in California the time so I didn’t really know much about it, but it was one of the things he I was extremely angry about. He said it is one of the reasons there were so many houseless people on the streets and so many of them were mentally ill.

Cullen retreats deep in to Rowan’s mind, feeling overwhelmed and forgotten. Not in control of his own body. This image is almost like someone with dissociative identity disorder, with different personalities. One emerges, and the other retreats. It must be extremely stressful for such a young boy to feel so many intense emotions all at once, so he is emotionally exhausted and confused, so he buries himself deep. Even while listening to this again, when Rowan tells him to just sleep, my heart broke for Cullen.

The part of Fiana no longer being able to speak Gaelic, her mother tongue, is symbolic of just how deeply she has changed. Imagine, even after a millennium, forgetting your mother tongue. It is such a deep part of who you are, but Fiona can no longer speak it comfortably. This is how much of herself she has lost. Rowan felt such sadness at this, because he already knows something has changed. Something has really changed in her, not just her clothes. 

The description of Fiana’s house, starting from the exterior all the way inside, is pretty much my dream house. She lives in a row house in San Francisco, similar to the ones in my beloved London, and the exterior is painted green with white trim. When Ethan and I renovated an 1850s hotel in Nova Scotia in the mid-2000s, we painted the exterior green with white trim. It was lovely. 

Our plan was to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast, but then we discovered we weren’t able to run a business in Canada without a lot of bureaucratic paperwork. It also cost us much more to renovate than we expected, but we still made a profit when we sold it. Rather, we broke even. It was a beautiful place. We left Canada the end of the summer of 2004, just being there about four months to renovate probably about 60% of it, and I went back into the states to go on tour with my documentary Liberty Bound, leading up to the 2004 presidential election.

When we arrived there, it looked like a haunted house. Barely standing, it was gray rotted wood, and the interior was even worse. Ethan and I did the work ourselves, with Ethan doing the bulk of it as a contractor, but my mother came up and we decorated the inside beautifully, with each room being a different theme. Like the Royal Room, which had a four poster bed with a canopy and Victorian style wallpaper. The Garden Room that had a little wallpaper footer of a picket fence with flowers…and more of the same.

The interior of Fiana‘s place is my dream house with wainscoting and deep wood throughout—the kind that you see in period English dramas, which as you know are my very favorites. I have always want to tapestries in a suit of armor, but I have yet to get one. The white sofa is never something I’d have, as I truly stay away from white anything, but when I was a teenager, my mother bought me a little white French provincial loveseat, has a decorated my little office in her house with a wingback chair that little French provincial loveseat and other things that reminded me of old world England and Europe.

Fiana’s silver teapot made me smile because in early college, I would scour all the thrift stores to buy used silver—again because of period English dramas. I had silver platters and silver tea pot since and silver all the things. I even had a ceramic wash basin!

As much as I love hardwood floors and wainscoting and furniture, there is a bit of environmental so political commentary about killing all the trees for our pleasure!

Back to the theme about being in prison and going insane after 1000 years as Fiana feared had happened to Rowan was also inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although I adore Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, I have been quite disappointed—albeit not surprised—in the recent reports of Joss Whedon’s abuse on set. Another white powerful man, big surprise. Still, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel was kept in hell dimension after saving Buffy for 1000 years, since time moved differently there. Giles had said that anyone would have gone insane by then, unless they were such pure soul…which of course Angel was.

There was another instance of this in the Angel series when they trapped a malevolent entity incarnate after haunting and murdering people in Angel’s hotel, or making them kill themselves, and put him in a box inside the wall. This entity was immortal, so he would spend all eternity there, and it is one of my greatest fears be locked away like that trapped in a box for the rest of my life, or even trapped in one’s body.

And finally, as this is getting rather long, we go back to some intense emotional and even sexual innuendo, most of which would go over the heads of the younger readers, but it was there for the adults. In hindsight, I would’ve chosen either a tragic romance or a middle grade novel, but not trying to do both in one book. This is also where Rowan discovers what Fiana has truly become, and he is horrified, which makes Fiana incensed. Let’s see how that plays out in Chapter 23.

You can purchase your copy of Rowan of the Wood, as well as the other books in the series and others written under my former pen name O. M. Grey, at Amazon in paperback or for the Kindle. 

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