Fridays at Ofelia’s | Death Gods, Hunters, and Soul Gardens

Guest-Post

Hello everyone, this is Jackie Keswick waving from England. Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on the blog today.

For those of you who don’t know me, I write across genres from romantic suspense to fantasy and sci-fi. And while I like to set many of my stories in England, which I love to bits, I also allow myself to make up my very own worlds when I’m writing fantasy and sci-fi.

I’ve made 2021 the year of trying new things. I’m shifting the focus of my business to make more time for writing. I’m trying my hand at writing a paranormal romance, which is a first for me. And I’ve decided to write that paranormal romance as a newsletter serial, which is a scary prospect for a pantser who can’t write in a straight line.

My new paranormal romance, Caught, is the story of Tenzen, a death god who’s as old as the worlds and spends his years alone, caring for souls, and Yamakage Rakurai, a Yuvine Hunter, who makes himself a target by sticking to the rules and believing in doing the right thing.

Tenzen and Rakurai don’t just live in different worlds, they’re very different men with different values. Tenzen is an introverted loner. He cares for the souls in his garden, kills when he must, keeps to himself and has convinced himself he isn’t lonely. He’s never needed anyone, until he meets Rakurai and finds that he’s not against raising hell to keep the Hunter safe.

Rakurai, on the other hand, is used to standing up for what he thinks is right. When he finds Tenzen in trouble, he steps up to help without a second thought. He offers his life to save Tenzen’s, fights with his own clan elders when he believes they’re wrong and accepts that his choices have consequences. None of that stops him from feeling that he could do better, though. Or from feeling guilty that he hasn’t done so.

Together, those two very different men will save two worlds.

Or that’s the plan.

So far, I’m having a lot of fun with Tenzen and Rakurai, and especially with building the world they inhabit, which combines bits of Japan, Italy, Latvia, and England.

Lindisfarne walled garden

My favourite location is the garden where death god Tenzen watches over his souls. It’s based on the walled garden at Lindisfarne Castle in Northumberland, and I love it because the garden next to impossible to spot from the ground. Huddled in the rolling dunes, you come up upon it suddenly, and the dry, swaying grasses turn into a riot of flowers as soon as you pass through the wall.

When I started Caught, I knew without really thinking about it that I wanted my death god to have a garden like this. And I made myself wait to write the garden scene until I’d written all the chapters that came before it.

Caught sub form header

Have a sneak. I hope it tells you as much about Tenzen and Rakurai as it told me.

Summer-warm air brushed Rakurai’s face as he set foot into Tenzen’s garden. The sky stretched deep blue overhead, and a soft breeze blew a myriad of scents towards him. After the red and gold autumn hues around the Rafeet’s manor, his eyes struggled to adapt to the mass of colour in this cheerful jungle, where trees, shrubs, and flowers grew as they pleased. And where butterflies tumbled from flower to flower without a care. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them, in colours and sizes Rakurai had never seen before.

Enchanted by the spectacle, Rakurai hadn’t noticed Tenzen leaving his side. Not until the Shinigami returned, an indulgent smile on his face. “It’s a joy to see them like this after all this time.”

These are the souls you’ve guarded?”

Yes. Plus the ones who were already in my care.” He laced his fingers with Rakurai’s and tugged him along a narrow path. “Let them recover and find their way around the garden.”

Tenzen moved deftly between bushes and giant ferns, not minding that fronds and branches tugged on his clothes and hair. Between the wonders of the garden and the enchanting view of a quietly relaxed Tenzen, Rakurai didn’t know where to look first. He pulled Tenzen to a stop as the path opened into a small meadow.

Who looks after all this when you’re not here?”

Soul gardens look after themselves. They adapt to the needs of the souls residing here. It’s… difficult to explain. The garden doesn’t exist in either of the worlds. It’s remade whenever a soul needs shelter.”

If there were no souls here, there would be no garden?”

Correct. Though it’s not a fate I’d like to think about. That’d be…”

The end of the world?”

Yes. It will come to pass, I know that. But I’ve tended my garden since the beginning of time. And I’d like to think that the end is a long time away.”

They stood in silence while Rakurai digested that. His own lifespan measured ten times that of a human, and he knew—intellectually—that the Shinigami were immortal. But he’d never tried to imagine all the years Tenzen had existed. What he’d seen. The people he’d met.

The kiss they’d shared seemed insignificant by comparison.

Is it always summer in your garden?” he asked to distract himself.

No. I told you the garden adapts to the souls sheltering here. What kind of garden it becomes is as much a surprise to me as it is to you.”

You don’t know what garden it will be?”

No. Walk with me, and you’ll see. It could be a zen garden, austere and serene with its shapes representing other concepts. It could be a forest covered in snow. Or it could be a riot of colour as it is now.” He smiled a little. “It was a pure rose garden, once. I spent days in it, just to enjoy the fragrance.”

Rakurai followed Tenzen across the meadow. He trailed the fingers of his free hand through the tops of the tall grass and breathed the scents of wildflowers until the meadow became an orchard and they stopped again to gaze. “This isn’t the garden I would build, but I’m enjoying this.”

The fact that you would build a garden tells me a lot about you.” Tenzen slipped his arms around Rakurai’s middle and pulled them flush together, leaving Rakurai with no doubt of his interest. “I’m thinking austere and serene would describe it well, no?”

If you’d like to find out more about Tenzen and Rakurai, then why not join me on my newsletter serial writing adventure? I send out new chapters every Friday morning, and the completed story will be published in the autumn.

We’re currently eight chapters in, and you can catch up on my website.

Sign up to my newsletter here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/b4v8p2

And if you’d like to keep in touch and find out what else I’m writing, then why not look me up:

caught blurb

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