Avenue of Palms
by Athena Lark
Former slave and seamstress, Violet Kingsley, returns to the modern world on the eve of the first African-American president of the United States. Violet's spirit returns while walking down the long dirt road, dubbed the Avenue of Palms, which leads to Kingsley Plantation. She knows her soul is reborn when a car barrels down the road.  A chance encounter with the driver, will forever tie the two women together as Violet realizes only certain people, things and other spirits can see her physical body.
With its wings in a wide arc, a wild peacock greets Violet as she enters the gates of the plantation. Now, a National State Park, Kingsley Plantation is frozen in time. Except for the White tourists with their fanny packs, cameras and flip flops the plantation looks the same as it did in its original glory. The slave cabins are still there, the barn, Kitchen House, and Big House, all restored stand as monuments of a time when Violet was enslaved. Violet's emotions are torn between a life lived over 200 years before and a new world with cars, cell phones, and successful Black people.
Bewildered with modern times, Violet struggles to adapt to what she calls the "new world." In this world she faces the daily challenges of race not too far removed from her early days on the plantation. Violet tells her story of those early days like an old grandmother sitting in a rocking chair beside you. She recounts those early days struggling to survive the horrors of the Middle Passage. Early years of helping Nat Turner revolt against slavery. Days she wept when her mistress sold her baby girl, Jane, away. Frightful but loving years spent with her husband, freed slave and revolt fighter, Ishmael Carter. Years she spent searching for her family only to find some were closest to her than she ever imagined.

Excerpt from Chapter One - Rebirth

The Kingsley Plantation, 1832
Ft. George Island, Florida

The flames rose up the barn door engulfing the frame and the only way out. Violet Kingsley grabbed her two little ones, Rachel and Benjamin, by their clothes and carried them to the far end of the barn. Quickly the fire spread to the opposite side. The children held on to her tighter, crying as the red monster got bigger. She tried to gather her thoughts and figure out a way to save them, but it all seemed to be moving in slow motion to her.

She remembered the sting of the slap from her mistress just moments before, when she told her she would first have her whipped and then sell "those little nigger bastards of yours."

A beautiful woman, Violet's smooth brown skin, almond shaped eyes, thick nose, and pouty lips were more a curse to her than a blessing. Standing just over five feet, there was still something about her that made her seem stronger than her slender body.

She ran to the cabin where Auntie Rae watched all the slave children. She didn't say a word as she snatched up her kids. Instead of heading to her own cabin, she ran to the barn to hide. She hoped her master would have enough time to calm down the mistress before she came after her with the overseer and the whip.

When she heard the rustling of leaves outside the barn, she looked through a knot hole in the wood and saw Big John, the slave overseer. He had a lit torch in his hand. Looking around to see if anyone could see him, he threw the torch at the door.

Violet watched the dry timber light in a flash. The smoke instantly burned her eyes and began to fill up the barn. A sliver of sunlight on the wall led her to the direction of her salvation; a small window above the hay loft.

Her hands gripped the tall ladder to the top as she struggled with the children hanging on to her. Only minutes had gone by, yet all walls of the barn were engulfed in flames. The fire spread to the ladder, lighting her long skirts just as she made it to the hay loft. She beat at the flames until they went out.

The pain seared through her legs, but she knew she had to move quickly or they would be dead once the flames made it to the bays of hay. She stood on her tippy toes lifting five year-old Benjamin through the window onto the burning roof. With a burst of energy the fire attacked the hay stacks with ferocious speed.

So quick was the fire that Violet was holding one-year old Rachel up in the air when her whole body caught on fire. She screamed as the fire trailed up her body and consumed her baby girl.

She was a ball of fire cradling her dying baby when she looked up and saw Benjamin's crying face and tiny hand reaching down for her. Then she left the world in ashes.

( Continued... )

� 2014 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Athena Lark.  Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author's written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only. Share a link to this page or the author's website if you really like this sneak peek.

Purchase Avenue of Palms by Athena Lark

Cinematic Book Trailer:  Avenue Of Palms

Athena Lark is the author of the greatly anticipated debut novel, Avenue of Palms. She graduated from the University of California at Riverside, where she received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts. She has been published in; the Literary Journals, Gently Read Literature, Hippo Reads and Whistling Fire, the Florida Times Union newspaper, Jacksonville Business Journal, Jacksonville Advocate, the Albany Herald, UNF Spinnaker, and UNF Alumni Magazine. She is currently writing her memoir, Sailor Girl about her life in the U. S. Navy.

BPM:  What inspired you to sit down and actually start writing this book? 
I was inspired to write Avenue of Palms, when I visited an old slave plantation in Jacksonville, FL.  As I walked through one of the slave cabins, I felt a presence, and then saw a vision.  Sitting in a rocking chair, in front of the large fire place, was an old slave woman.  She was crying, as she sewed on a quilt.  The vision left just as quickly as it appeared.  My heart felt very heavy, as I thought about the trials and tribulations the people who lived in the cabin had to endure.  I began to cry uncontrollably, mindless of the tourists standing outside the cabin.   After gaining some self-control, I thought about writing a book about the woman in front of the fire.  Here name would be Violet.  

BPM:  Does your upbringing, prior relationships or life experiences inspire your writing?
A great deal of my life experiences inspired my writing.  My career in the U.S. Navy gave me vast amounts of inspiration to develop characters, plots, and dialogue.

BPM:  Where do your book ideas come from?  Are your books plot driven or character driven?
I've always been a lover of books, since my early childhood.  My book ideas come mainly from observing things around me, and studying my history.  

BPM:  Introduce us to your current work.  What genre do you consider your book?  Is this book available in digital forms like Nook and Kindle?
My research of African American history helped me enormously in writing Avenue of Palms.  Although the book is a work of fiction, there are some actual facts which laid the foundation.  Kinglsey Plantation was once a very profitable venture, for the white owner and his African wife. The dynamics of the odd couple helped me to develop my characters in the book.  Avenue of Palms is more than just another slave story.  

BPM:  Give us some insight into your main characters.  What makes each one so special? What topics are primarily discussed?  Did you learn anything personal from writing your book?
Violet Kingsley, the protagonist is a strong willed, courageous, and loving woman and mother.  Her journey from Africa, through the Middle Passage, and finally to the shores of Kingsley Plantation, and beyond is a tale of struggle, empowerment, revelations, and redemption.  Writing the book has confirmed the importance of knowing one's history.  Currently the novel is not available in digital forms.

BPM:  What defines success for you, as a published author?  What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Many writers define success by the number of accolades the book receives, such as a good review by the NY Times.  However, to me true success is when a reader lets me know how much they enjoyed the novel, and how Violet lingers with them, far after the last page is read.  It would be ideal if Avenue of Palms was picked up by a traditional publishing company.  I've been told Avenue of Palms would make a great movie.  If that were to happen it would be a dream come true.  I'm also in the process of writing my memoir, Sailor Girl.  

BPM:  How can readers discover more about you and your work?
For more on the novel, check out my website at www.athenalark.com.




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