Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sample Sunday - The Crown in the Heather

If you're on Twitter, there's a great way to discover new writers! Just search under #SampleSunday and add any other hash tags you'd like (#historicalfiction, #YA, etc.) to help you refine your search. This will take you to a sample of an author's writing. I'll be checking them out today, retweeting those that catch my eye.

So without further ado, here is my installment from The Crown in the Heather (The Bruce Trilogy: Book I). The year is 1296 and Robert the Bruce is at Lochmaben awaiting the birth of his first child with his wife Isabella of Mar. But as it was back in those days, childbirth was a precarious event. What should have been a joyous event was often bittersweet:

My eyes swept toward the great four-postered bed across the room. On the far side, the old midwife, Alice, wiped delicately at Isabella’s white brow with a cloth. And nearer to me, at the foot of her bed, Father Malachi . . . performing last rites.

“Dear God in heaven,” I uttered. “No, please, no.”

The priest daubed the soles of Isabella’s feet with holy oil as he blessed her soul to heaven’s keeping. I drifted past him, the iron tang of blood filling my nose and mouth. A great blotch of red-brown stained the sheets on which she lay. Over her bloated belly and bare legs someone had draped a blanket in modesty. Her shift, wet with the slickness of birth, clung to her full breasts in dark, sodden wrinkles.

Stunned, I knelt beside her and took her hand, still warm, in mine. Sweat glistened like a fine sheen of hoarfrost upon her cheeks. The only color in her face was a mask of red encircling closed eyes. Her waist-length hair, once fair and shining, lay across her pillow in twisted, lackluster strands. I stroked her fingers, even as I sensed them stiffening, and bent my head to my forearm.

My Isabella, she cannot be . . . No, no, it isn’t possible. This is not right. Did her eyelids not flutter just now? Her chest rise in the slightest of breaths? Was that twitch beneath my fingertips not the faint pulse of blood streaming through her veins?

A wail of lament ripped from my gut, but I clenched my jaw fiercely, trapping the knife of pain in my throat. My hands began to tremble, then my arms and shoulders, until soon my whole body shook uncontrollably.

“Marjorie,” came a hoarse whisper.

A long moment later, I swallowed back the hard knot in my throat and looked up through bleary eyes. “What?”

“Marjorie, my lord,” Alice murmured, a sorrowful smile on her thin lips. “Lady Isabella’s last wish was that you should name the child Marjorie—after your mother.”

With quivering fingers, I pushed away tears. But like a fresh cut doused with vinegar, their sting remained.

“If . . .” My voice cracked with grief. “If that was her wish.” I glanced at the tiny babe swaddled tightly in the curve of Ljot’s arms.

Father Malachi touched my shoulder. “The godparents should be summoned, my lord. If I remember, you chose your oldest brother, Edward. And your sister . . . Mary, was it? I will send to Lochmaben for them. We can perform the christening as soon as they arrive.”

Christening? How could I take joy in the baptism of a child in the same week I was to bury my wife? More often, it was the mother who lived and the child who died, as Ljot’s did. If only this babe had—

God forgive me. How can I even think such wickedness?

Then I heard the slurp and grunt of my daughter’s vigorous suckling and soon her bittersweet cries rent the air.

“Marjorie,” I repeated.

Until later,

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Somewhere, somebody needs your help

In the past couple of years, while I was contemplating whether or not to go the indie route in publishing my books, a very wise voice appeared on the scene over at Her name was April Hamilton and she had started up a website called Publetariat as an online community and resource for indie authors. She was among the first to herald indie publishing as a legitimate course for authors and an alternative to the traditional publishing scene. She spent many, many hours on Authonomy sharing information about what self-publishing is and is not. Although most writers there were curious to find out more, a handful of them believed that indie publishing was for those who would never find success anyway and would only ever end up selling to their friends and relatives. April always kept a cool head and never resorted to emotional outbursts,always maintaining the utmost level of professionalism. I quickly got the impression that not only was she very knowledgeable, but also very selfless with that knowledge.

I spent hours on her website and following the links there to learn as much as I could before finally making the brave decision to publish my own books. Without her, and many like her, I may never have done so. Six months into the venture and I'm now earning enough from e-book sales to pay off my monthly satellite internet bill, my phone landline and take the family out for dinner every now and then. It ain't a lot, but it's something and the added bonus is that I can actually call myself a writer because my books are being read by complete strangers.

But back to April Hamilton. This past week, she posted this: Is Publetariat Worth a Dollar to You? To summarize it, she was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, her husband left her and her business went under. Struggling to make ends meet, she is also facing foreclosure. So she's asking for help - a dollar or whatever can be spared, to help her family and the website stay afloat. You can donate at Publetariat via PayPal or purchase one of April Hamilton's books.

I firmly believe that if you do your best to spread good karma that it will one day come back to you. I also realize there are many, many other people and animals in the world who need a helping hand at times. So find someone in need, give up your Double Mocha Grande' Latte for a day and throw your change in the Salvation Army kettle or whatever cause you believe in. I've been eating cheap at A&W lately and shoving my change and spare bills in the Humane Society piggy bank there. Meanwhile, have faith in the Universe, then, that the same kindness will come back to you when you need it. But that good karma has to start somewhere - why not with you?

Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sample Sunday (#ss on Twitter)

Although I've been brewing a couple of other blog posts in my gray matter, they keep getting delayed by studying and writing a term paper. Next week my college course will be over and I'll be unfettered, so in the meanwhile here's a quick mention for the new Sample Sunday.

If you're on Twitter and are looking for new reading material from indie authors, just search for #SampleSunday or #ss and you'll find oodles of reading samples recommended by other readers and indie authors. The great thing about indie books, particularly on Kindle or other e-reading devices, is that they're usually very CHEAP!

Here's the link to David Wiseheart's (Kindle Author) blog post about it:

If you find one you like, feel free to retweet it.

Until later,