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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Navajo Code Talkers and Navy SEALs

In my new book,SEAL’s Code, which comes out Tuesday, I decided to create a hero character, Danny Begay, who is half Navajo. He’s raised on the res until he turns 12, when his mother, of Miwok ancestry, moves him to her people in Northern California.

I’ve enjoyed spending time in the Tucson and Phoenix areas the last three years, attending the Arizona Dreamin’ conventions, and the Tucson Festival of Books. This past year, I also spent time talking with good friends who have taught on the res, or have done FBI undercover work there. I wanted a character who was not okay with his roots. In fact, I wanted a character who washaunted by his past. And I want this character to discover that his past actually contributes to his becoming the best man he can be, a Navy SEAL. SEAL’s Code Book Trailer here.  SEAL’s Code Thunderclap Campaign.

Here’s an excerpt which shows his before state of mind:

The family gathered afterward at Wilson’s mother’s house which was on the res nearby. It was hard not to feel the eyes of his relatives on him, just as it was hard not to notice the pats on the back Wilson received. Lopez had been well coached and sought Wilson out to thank him for his service. Danny wanted to leave and told his mother so barely two hours into the get-together. He’d politely greeted all the relatives he recognized, and those who didn’t come up to him he figured didn’t want to be reacquainted. Not like Wilson.

As a youth, just hanging with Wilson would have been enough to make the afternoon interesting, but today with the frostiness between the two cousins, it was forcing him into a dangerous place even the sweet recollection of the night with Luci couldn’t heal. Making matters worse, Wilson made an off-color remark, about Danny’s activities last night which irritated Danny further.

The two ignored one another until, somehow, they wound up waiting to use the only restroom in the house.

“Your mom says you’re ready to go home,” Wilson said to his cowboy boots.

“That’s right.”

“I honestly don’t know why you came in the first place, Danny.”

Danny’s right eye squinted a little. “We never liked these things, Wilson. You know that.”

“You’ve been gone, what, eight years or more?”

“Twelve.”

“Okay, then. Twelve. And you can’t spend an afternoon giving these people the time of day?”

“I don’t belong here, Wilson.”

Wilson nodded his head. “Oh yeah. Forgot. You’re the one that got away. You trying to rub my nose in it, huh?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“So what are you saying?”

“I’m saying I don’t want to be here. I’ve done my farewells, and now it’s time for me to say adios.”

“You might consider your mother’s feelings.”

Danny drilled him with a return look that probably picked at a scab, inflaming Wilson further. “You hear the voices? Does the chanting get to you, Wilson?”

He could see his cousin was thinking about this carefully. It surprised him that Wilson didn’t give a quick answer no, which meant only one thing.

“Holy fucking shit, Wilson. You hear them, too. Just like I do.”

Emma Barnowl, one of his grandfather’s friends, opened the bathroom door and their nostrils were hit with room deodorizer, which did a poor job of masking the smell she’d left behind.

“Fuck me,” Wilson said under his breath. “I’m going out back.”

Danny followed his cousin, and within thirty seconds, was standing next to him, pissing on his aunt’s tomato plants just like they used to do when they were boys of five. To this day Danny hated tomatoes, especially home grown ones.

After they were done, they sat in metal lawn chairs. Wilson offered Danny a cigarette.

“I don’t smoke, and neither do you, or you didn’t,” Danny corrected himself.

“That’s funny,” Wilson said as he casually lit up and put his lighter and cigarettes back in his rear pocket.

“How come you didn’t wear your uniform?”

“It’s my choice. I didn’t think he’d like it.” Wilson took a long drag on his cigarette and blew it right at Danny’s face, but the wind carried it away.

“Thought you were proud of being in the Navy. Running little rescue boats around and shit.”

“I am. Got nothing to do with it. Kind of felt like it would be bragging or something, you know?”

Danny wondered about Luci, halfway expecting she’d drop by the gathering. Was he disappointed she’d stayed away? He couldn’t get the memory of her warm body against his out of his mind. This might be a reason to stay an extra day or two, but that would be a dangerous road, full of emotional potholes and entanglements. None of his liaisons ever lasted, so he figured it was better to remember her the way he’d left her. He remembered seeing her proud straight shoulders and those tight jeans, encasing her thighs and a world-class ass, as she walked toward her car and didn’t look back once. He knew the only good ones were the ones who didn’t look back.

Wilson’s voice snapped him back to reality.

“Look, Danny, I’m going to say this once, and then let you go. I’m sorry we got off to a bad start after so many years.”

“I was surprised you were around. Didn’t expect it.”

“So I was right, you’re not happy to see even me.”

“Again, putting words in my mouth.”

Danny looked down, eyes landing on Wilson’s scuffed cowboy boots, which were a mismatch to the clean suit pants and white shirt he wore. “I left this place with a lot of demons. I think I got just as many, maybe more than you, Cuz.” Wilson took a final drag, stomped it out on the patio, and then tossed the pieces into his mother’s vegetable garden.

A slight breeze shivered its way down Danny’s spine. A little group laughed from inside the house. He heard the tinkling of glasses and silverware, the sounds of cars arriving on the crushed rock roadway in front of his Aunt’s house, a doorbell ring, and the buzzing of a small plane overhead. The place looked, smelled and felt dangerously normal.

“I learned to tame those demons in the Navy, Danny. I’m not going to lie to you, but serving in the Armed Forces is giving me skills I can take out there in the real world.”

Danny found himself chuckling in spite of the fact that it was going to piss Wilson off. “Yeah, don’t see many rubber boats around the res, Cuz. You training to be a white water rafting guide in the Canyon? Shit, you coulda done that in high school.”

“Except I was getting stoned in high school, Danny. So were you. I heard you were a real mess.”

“Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I look like a mess to you?”

Wilson abruptly stood. “No, Danny, you look like a fuckin’ hero just like your grandfather.”

His cousin left and joined the gathering inside the house.

Question for you readers today? Do you like to learn about history with your romance reading? Or is it all about the romance? What balance do you like to give? And do you enjoy learning about Native American, or specifically Navajo culture? I’ll pick one winner and announce it here on this blog on my launch day, Tuesday, June 30. Won’t you join us?

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