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Interview and excerpt - ROOMS by James Rubart

James L. Rubart

On a rainy spring day in Seattle, young software tycoon Micah Taylor receives a cryptic, twenty-five-year-old letter from a great uncle he never knew. It claims a home awaits him on the Oregon coast that will turn his world inside out. Suspecting a prank, Micah arrives at Cannon Beach to discover a stunning brand new nine-thousand square foot house. And after meeting Sarah Sabin at a nearby ice cream shop, he has two reasons to visit the beach every weekend.

When bizarre things start happening in the rooms of the home, Micah suspects they have some connection to his enigmatic new friend, Rick, the town mechanic. But Rick will only say the house is spiritual. This unnerves Micah because his faith slipped away like the tide years ago, and he wants to keep it that way. But as he slowly discovers, the home isn’t just spiritual, it’s a physical manifestation of his soul, which God uses to heal Micah’s darkest wounds and lead him into an astonishing new destiny.

Excerpt of chapter one:

Chapter 1
      Why would a man he never knew build him a home on one of the most spectacular beaches on the West Coast?
      Micah Taylor stared out the windows of his corner office overlooking Puget Sound, rapping his palm with an edge of the cryptic letter. Cannon Beach, Oregon. Right on the ocean and built by his great-uncle Archie, at least that’s what the letter claimed. But of all the towns up and down Highway 101, why there? A place that repulsed him. A place he cherished. Both at the same time. Fate wouldn’t be that cruel.
      Shake it off. There couldn’t really be a house in that spot with his name on it. No way. Not there. This was exactly the kind of practical joke his team might try to pull off. No one would ever accuse RimSoft’s culture of being stoic. If they only knew how badly they’d misfired this time. Micah sighed.
      But if the letter was real—
      “Time to go, boss.”
      Shannon stood in the doorway, eyes bright behind her Versace glasses, short-cropped salt-and-pepper hair outlining her face. She’d been Micah’s administrative assistant for three years. Smart and not easily intimidated, what churned in her five-foot-eight frame made her one of the strongest links in his company’s chain.
      “I hate being called boss.” Reminded him too much of his dad.
      “Yes, I know.” She pulled her glasses down and gave him her pirate look—one eye closed, the other squinting.
      Micah tried to smile and tossed the letter announcing his inheritance onto his desk. Shake it off, he told himself again. It didn’t help.
      “You all right?”
      “Yeah. Great.” He grabbed his notebook and wagged his finger at Shannon as they walked out of his office. “You shouldn’t call someone boss when you’re almost old enough to be their m—”
      “—much older sister.”
      “Right,” Micah said as they fell into step and marched down the halls of RimSoft. Normally he loved Fridays. The creativity his team poured out was astounding. If employing people better than yourself were an Olympic event, Micah would be swimming in gold.
      But today wasn’t a regular Friday. Today a bizarre letter sat on his desk trying to dredge up memories he’d buried forever.
      As they turned the final corner on the way to the conference room, Kelli Kay, one of Micah’s more talented programmers, approached. “Want to hear something really cool?” Her red curls bounced like a Slinky.
      “Absolutely.” Micah kept walking—now backward—his Nikes scuffing lightly on the teal carpet.
Single mom until four months ago, Kelli put herself through computer school while working forty hours a week and taking care of her ten-year-old son. Never complained about fifty-hour weeks. Never complained about sixty-hour weeks.
      “My kid won that art contest I told you about last week; he’s headed to L.A. this summer to compete in the national—”
      “You serious? Listen, if he places, let’s fly him and you and that new husband of yours to New York to see the MET. I’ll bring Julie, and we’ll all go check out the art with him and time it so we catch a Mariners-Yankees game.”
      “Really?” Kelli half-jogged to keep up with him.
      “RimSoft’s already made $2 million off that little antivirus program you developed last year. You’re amazing.”
      Micah turned and picked up his pace. Shannon picked up hers too, her white Adidas running shoes helping in the effort. He couldn’t believe this was the same woman who showed up her first day wearing three-inch heels and a business suit straight out of Uptight Dresses for Corporate America. Micah told her to get rid of the heels and put on whatever she loved wearing and felt comfortable in.
      “You could actually stop when you talk to people.”
      Micah frowned at Shannon. “We have a meeting. You know, the company? Work to do. Software programs to develop. Lots of sales. Happy stockholders. Make money. All that stuff.” He brushed past a lush, broad-leafed dracaena plant and walked faster.
      “You’re not exactly yourself this morning.”
      “A lot on my mind.”
      “They just want more time with you, Micah, to know you like them.”
      “I like everyone. But, to be sure, let’s get out an e-mail that says, ‘From Micah Taylor. To you. I like you. I really, really like you.’” He pushed open the conference room door and held it for Shannon.
He returned her glare with a forced smile.
      The conference room was small but comfortable. No vaulted ceiling, no massive table, just two light tan leather couches and six overstuffed espresso brown chairs all circling the center of the room. RimSoft’s version of Camelot. The room wasn’t designed for ego; it was crafted for efficiency.
The couches held two people each. On one couch sat Micah’s head of Legal, with his jet-black hair and John Lennon glasses. Next to him slumped his VP of Mergers and Acquisitions, thirty-one years old but looked fifty with his premature gray hair.
      On the other couch perched his VP of Marketing, looking more every day like a young Oprah. Next to her sat his chief financial officer. Two of Micah’s software development VPs sat in the chairs. Shannon also sat in a chair; Micah paced in front of his. On a table in the center of the room sat a steaming pot filling the air with the aroma of Seattle’s Best Coffee. Clumped next to it were mugs from Disneyland, the University of Washington Huskies, and cups with RimSoft’s logo on them. Good. All the pieces were in place. Time to check out the condition of the chessboard.
      “All right,” Micah said, a slice above his normal volume. “Let’s roll. Where are we with the i2-Rock alliance?”
      “Done,” his Mergers VP said.
      “We love their hardware; they still love our software, right?”
      “Excellent, great work.” Micah focused on Oprah’s twin. “Is the ad layout done for Wired?”
      “Last one you did was a home run into the rafters, so let’s keep the hits coming.” He turned to his right. “Beta testing on version four is done, right?”
      “Finished Wednesday.”
      “Very nice work. I can’t believe you already have it almost bug free.” Micah looked at the head of his legal team. “You’ve finished the docs for the Bay-C buyout?”
      “Not quite.” The man glanced up at Micah. “We’re almost there.”
      Micah stopped pacing. What was this guy’s problem? Everyone else knew how to fire on all cylinders. He couldn’t afford to have the guy keep playing with his B game. Micah whipped his pen around on his yellow notepad like a poor man’s Picasso, then held it up for everyone to see.
      “This is a sketch of underwear. But not just ordinary underwear; it’s asbestos underwear.” He turned to the head of Legal. “You need a pair.”
      “Well, you said your team would be done on Tuesday. It’s now Friday. So since it isn’t done, your team falls into the category of ‘liar, liar, pants on fire.’ I would think the asbestos underwear would help squelch the flames a bit.”
      The head of Legal squirmed and mumbled, “We’ll get it done by the end of the day.”
      “End of the day.”
      “By two o’clock.”
      “What comes out of a toaster?”
      Legal Guy frowned and shifted in his chair. “Toast?”
      “You’re not sure?”
      “It’s nine thirty now. What will you be if your docs aren’t finished by noon?”
      Legal Guys’s face flushed. “Toast.”
      “A little louder please so the whole class can hear.”
      “I’ll be toast.”
      One of Micah’s team coughed. The rest kept their eyes glued to the agenda. Micah turned and looked out the conference room windows overlooking Puget Sound. One breath. Two. Wow. Not the way to win friends and influence stock splits. He turned back to his team.
      “Okay, let’s move on.”
      A half hour later Micah glanced at each member of his team. “Thank you. For two things. First, for being good enough at what you do that this company could no doubt survive without me. Second, for not being so good there’s no room left for my input.”
      He grabbed his notebook and strode toward the door. Too harsh in there on Mr. Always-Late-Legal? Probably. Micah sighed. Definitely. Where did that stuff come from? He rolled his eyes. Micah knew precisely where it came from. Cannon Beach.
      Shannon stepped into the hallway just ahead of him and clipped down the hall like a speed walker. In two bounds Micah caught up to her. “Hey, slow down.”
      She walked faster and didn’t respond.
      “You’ve got that Micah-was-a-jerk look again.”
      She looked up at him with a thin-lipped smile. “It’s only the first time this year. You’re improving.”
      They walked seven paces in silence. “I was trying to make a point with a little humor. That’s not who I really am.”
      Four more paces.
      “You’re right; I was a royal, platinum-certified jerk in there,” he whispered. His face grew warm as he fingered the scar on his left palm. “It’s just . . . some realities about life have stuck with me whether I wanted them to or not.”
      “So you weren’t this way from birth?”
      Not always. Only since he was nine. He looked down as he gave his head a tiny shake.
“Zero! Zilch! Nada! That’s what you’ll always be, kid!” The rest of the scene—the torn jersey, the humiliation, the message—tried to surface, but Micah slammed the vault to his heart shut and the
memory vanished.
      By the time he arrived at his office, his breathing steadied and his focus shifted to the letter from his great-uncle that sat on his teak desk. Micah picked it up and flopped into his black leather chair. The yellowed paper was probably white once, though the fluid script looked as crisp as if it had been scrawled yesterday. The envelope it came in had been sealed with wax, the outline of a lion’s head distinct in the dark-blue paraffin. Micah leaned back and stared at the name above the return address. Archie Taylor.
      Definitely strange.
      Archie was his great-uncle whom he knew less than a paragraph about. He’d been dead since the mid-nineties, and Micah had never met him. Archie had made quite a bit of money and hadn’t married,
but the rest had always been a mystery. Until Micah’s late teens, he hadn’t known Archie existed. When Micah had asked, his dad only said Archie was odd, a man to stay away from. Micah opened the letter and wondered once more if it was real.
September 27, 1990

Dear Micah,
You are likely shocked to have received this letter as we never had the opportunity to know each other. The reason for the letter will surprise you more. I have asked a friend to mail it when you turn thirty-five
or when you acquire enough financial resources that you no longer need to labor. Consequently, if you are reading this letter before reaching your thirty-fifth birthday, you have already made a significant amount of money, which is sometimes a beneficial occurrence at a young age but usually is not.
If my instructions have been carried out, a home was built during the past five months on the Oregon Coast, four miles south of Cannon Beach. I designed it for you. I assume by this point you’ve asked yourself why I would choose to build this house in Cannon Beach of all places.
You likely already know why.
Because it is time to face your past.
It is time to deal with it.
My great desire is that the home brings you resolution and restoration, and if the builder followed my directives, I believe it will. It will certainly—if you’ll forgive the cliché—upset your applecart if you allow it. The home is all you.
Your great-uncle,

P.S. There should be a key enclosed with this letter as well as a card with the address.

      Micah reread the last line and frowned. “The home is all you ”? Typo. Must mean all yours. He leaned his head back till it hit the back of his chair. His dad was right. This guy was a whacko. Face his past? His past was dead. Buried. Forgotten. And it would stay that way.
      A noise in the hall made Micah look up. Julie. Good. Back to real life. Julie was the perfect business partner. Tenacious skiing partner. Recent romantic partner. Her shoulder-length blonde hair bounced as she pranced through the door of his office, her crisp beige suit complementing her gleaming pearly whites.
      “Hey!” Micah rose from his desk and opened his arms.
      When she reached him, she ruffled his dark brown hair and kissed him softly. The faint scent of Safari floated up to him. She never wore too much, almost not enough. Julie. Powerful yet tender at times.
Driven and radiant. It was nice to have her back.
      “How was the trip, Jules?”
“We’re richer, but I’m so glad it’s over.” She slid out of her blazer, flicked a piece of lint off the lapel, laid the coat across the back of Micah’s chair, and patted it once. “I did find the perfect SLR digital camera to add to my collection. You’ll model for me, please? Your baby-blue eyes are worth taking up two or three hundred megs on my laptop.”
      When they’d started RimSoft six years ago, he never imagined they’d strike such a rich vein in the software gold rush. Of course, he’d never imagined their long-term platonic relationship would
bud into romance, either. Micah sat down and stared at Archie’s letter. He had to get down there. And if the house existed, get rid of it. Now.
      “You with me here?” Julie leaned against Micah’s desk.
      “I asked about Monday’s board meeting, and I think waiting five seconds for a response is long enough.” She laughed.
      “Sorry, didn’t hear you. Brain freeze. I got a bizarre letter from a long-lost relative. In fact, this weekend I might have to go—”
      Julie pressed two fingers against his lips. “We cannot allow those thoughts to escape.”
      “What thoughts?”
      “Of nixing our Whistler trip this weekend. You and me and snow and spring skiing and fireplaces and old, old bottles of cabernet. Ring any bells?”
      “Hmm.” He grinned, raised his eyebrows, and hoped Julie would understand a change in plans.
      “If you’re canceling, you’d better have a really, really good reason.”
She straightened the collar of his olive green polo shirt.
      “Apparently I’ve inherited a house right on the ocean, just south of Cannon Beach.”
      “Cannon Beach?” A scowl flashed across her face. “Didn’t you once tell me you hated Cannon Beach?”
      “I used to love it.”
      “What? You did?”
      “Forget it.” Sorry, Archie. The emotions that stupid letter wanted him to face would never see daylight.
      Julie stared at him, but he ignored it.
      “Let me see something.” Julie leaned over him as her red fingernails danced over his keyboard until a sampling of Cannon Beach oceanfront homes for sale flashed on-screen. “Take a look at these
prices.” She tapped his monitor. “Your little gift could be worth $3 million plus. Throw a sign on it and make some quick cash.”
      “Exactly. The quicker the better.”
“That’s why I love you, Micah. Cha-ching. Where did this mystery house come from?”
      He picked up the letter and drew it across his hand like a blade. “My great-uncle, whom I’ve never met, had it built for me.”
      “You never met him and he gives you a house?”
      “Weird, huh?” Micah snapped his fingers. “So this weekend, let’s head for the sand, see if it’s real, and if it is, put a For Sale sign on it and make some money.”
      “Instead of Whistler?” Her shoulders sagged.
      “You’re right.” He ran his finger over the surface of the letter. “Let’s go skiing.”
      “Wow. You really need to get this taken care of, don’t you?” Julie didn’t wait for an answer. A few seconds later, Google Earth splashed onto Micah’s monitor. “Address?”
      Micah read it to her off the letter. In moments they gazed at a patch of dirt overlooking the ocean.
      “Not even a pile of concrete,” Julie said.
      “Maybe, maybe not.” Micah punched a few keys. “Look. That satellite image is seven months old. Archie’s letter says the home was built by somebody during the past five months.” Micah’s gaze stayed riveted on his screen. “There could be—”
      “How ’bout I make you a deal so you can go to the beach, Mr. Break-My-Heart.”
      “Hey, it’s not that important for—”
      “No, no, stay with me here. I know that look. You have to go. If you switch out our weekend at Whistler for a week in the Alps, we have a deal.”
      “Then you’ll come with me this weekend?”
      “What? I’m not sure I want to do this by myself.”
      Julie slid her finger across Micah’s cheek and turned his head toward her. “Something tells me you need to do this alone.”
      It would be his first time in Cannon Beach in more than twenty years.
      And his last.
      Without question the last.

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And now, here’s me and Jim!

What inspired you to write Rooms? How did you conceive of the idea?

When I was in my teens I read Robert Unger’s little pamphlet My Heart, Christ’s Home and it stuck with me. In my mid-twenties I thought, “What if I took that idea and put it on steroids? What if I mixed in some of my favorite books and movies like, It’s a Wonderful Life, Disney’s the Kid, The Shack, Field of Dreams, The Screwtape Letters, etc., and stirred it all up? Out came ROOMS.

So is the house based off of a real place?

My wife and I are big fans of the Oregon coast. During the years I worked on ROOMS we went to Cannon beach frequently. One trip there three years ago we walked the stretch of beach where I'd always imagined the house would be, and found a home that represented my vision perfectly. So I took some pictures. You're already ahead of me aren't you? Yep, the house you see on my cover is the home I took photos of.

What do you hope your readers will take away from your story? Aside from a few chills.

It was for freedom's sake Jesus set us free. But do we live free? I know I don't much of the time. I want readers to be set free. I want them to experience the healing available in Jesus. I want them to step into their divinely designed destiny. Oh, and have a heck of an entertaining time.

If you could be a professional athlete, what sport and position would you want to be and why?

Tough question! I loved sports growing up and played most of them, so it's hard to decide. I'm going to go with professional surfer. I've only surfed once, but loved it. If I'd grown up in Hawaii I'd probably be doing that right now.

You're off the hotseat!


Any parting words?

I waited so many years to follow this dream. I was insecure. Scared. I thought I'd be like one of those awful singers on American Idol who didn't know they're terrible. So if you have dream—whether it's writing, or traveling, or serving people halfway around the world—dive in full force. At the very least you won't get to the end of your life and wonder what would have happened. Don't die with your music still inside you.

Camy here: Thanks so much for being here with me, Jim!

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