I just wanted to mention a few updates on how things are going.
- Last week I released a brand new short story in the Once and Future Series. I intend for this story to be free for everyone. I am still waiting for Amazon to price match it, however it is already free on BN.com, KoboBooks and Smashwords. Here is a description.
The shocking prequel to The River Maiden.
When she left Kettle Hollow, Molly MacAlpin hoped never to see her remote mountain home again. She returned eighteen months later angry, pregnant and abandoned by the man she loved. So, she threw all her energy into making sure her daughter had the best life possible.
With the help and sometimes interference of her mother, she is raising a bright, sweet child she they hopes will have every possible opportunity. Until one spring day a brief conversation with her little girl brings her world crashing down around her.
- I am currently participating in a Book Hop Giveaway through LiteraryAddicts.com. You could win an ebook or a signed paperback of The River Maiden. You can enter at Taking Time for Mommy.
- I'll be heading back to the James River Writers Conference in a couple of weeks. Very excited about this. I had as great time last year. There are terrific speakers. I'm especially looking forward to an Author Platform Master Class with none other than Hugh Howey.
- I am well into Book 2 of the Once and Future Series, which has the working title of Cauldron. Excerpt below.
A Strange Encounter
Sarah was glad that she had Dermot to lead her around Edinburgh, because she had no doubt that she’d never have made it anywhere without him. That wasn’t because it was a difficult city to navigate, but because every time she left her flat she found herself gawking at this old building or that restaurant she wanted to try or a busker doing something amazing. A building at home was old when it had been standing for a hundred years. Here, that was practically new. And while Chapel Hill was fairly cosmopolitan, it had nothing on Edinburgh. There was every kind of food and culture on display, and she was ready to soak it all up.
She had no idea where Dermot had taken her for lunch, or what type of food it had been other than delicious. They had been working all morning at the research team’s office putting furniture to rights, assigning desks, and organizing equipment and supplies. Aside from the utterly drab environment of the white walled office, her mood had been dampened by having to endure the company of Kirstie Robinson. The team had its first official meeting this afternoon, but Kirstie had taken it upon herself to show up days early and ‘help’ set things up. Sarah was sure that Kirstie was probably a nice person under normal circumstances, but she made it plain at every opportunity that Sarah was an interloper, a yank and a nuisance.
When Dermot called lunch, Sarah jumped at the chance to get out of confines of the office. She felt a little bad about how relieved she was when Kirstie declined to go to join them. It was obvious that the girl needed some kindness and maybe some help loosening up.
The restaurant had been small and dimly lit, betweeen two other small shops on West Nicholson Street. The owner had been friendly and boisterous suggesting dishes most of which Sarah had never tried before. Now, as they made their way back to the office with spicy aroma of the restaurant still clinging to them like a cloud, Sarah felt nothing but excitement. How many years had she been dreaming about coming to Scotland? The reality of being there with him was beyond anything she had imagined. She glanced up at Dermot as he was walking beside her. The sun was behind him and burst in rays around his head. Suddenly, Sarah couldn’t hear the bustling noise of the street and the traffic behind him blurred. She loved this man. She’d change his mind. She had to.
He glanced down at her and away again quickly, clearing his throat. She wished so badly that she could take his hand that her fingers itched. She put them in her pockets to fight the temptation.
“Are ye cold?”
Not really. She smiled. “Still getting used to Scottish weather.”
He made throaty noise and continued walking. Sarah tried to keep up.
Just around the corner, Sarah noticed a panhandler sitting on the cold sidewalk. He sat close to the wall with his knees pulled up to his chest. He had wrapped his legs with a worn and filthy blanket. The edges of a folded newspaper peeked out from underneath him, and his coat was also filthy and torn at the shoulder with insulation spilling out in a little cloud of fluff. He wore a threadbare stocking cap that Sarah didn’t think could be offering nearly enough warmth for the weather and several strands of matted gray hair trailed across his shoulders from under it. His straggly salt and pepper beard rested on his knees and his eyes stared vacantly across the street toward the campus.
As beautiful and exciting as Edinburgh was, it was still a big city. There would always be those who needed help. She was struck by the difference between the rural poverty that she had seen in the holler, and the urban poverty of a modern city. They had been poor, but at least they had been able to grow their own food. At least they’d had a home. Sarah fingered the change in her pocket where she had stuffed the few pounds change she’d gotten after paying for lunch.
When she reached where he sat, Sarah knelt down in front of him and put the money in the rusty can at his feet. She reached up and squeezed his shoulder gently until he turned his unfocused eyes to hers. She waited a second longer until the cloud in his eyes seemed to lift. She smiled at him. “I hope you find help, brother.”
He smiled back, and Sarah thought she caught the gleam of tears in his eyes. She gave his shoulder another friendly squeeze and stood. She was a couple of steps away when she heard the cracked old voice whisper, “Mòran taing, a’bhana-phrionnsa.”
She stopped dead, and suddenly felt the mid-winter cold surge in her veins. The last person to call her princess had been holding a gun to her head. She turned back, but the man was gone. Sarah stepped back to where he’d been. There was no sign that he’d been there, not even a rust stain on the concrete where his filthy can had been. Sarah checked her pocket for the money, wondering if she had hallucinated the whole thing, but the money wasn’t there and it wasn’t on the sidewalk.
She was about to go back around the corner to see if he had run that way when Dermot’s voice cracked through her confusion. “Sarah? Where did you go?”
“Sorry.” She said when he reached her. “I stopped to give the man some money.”
“What man?” His forehead wrinkled in concern.
Sarah glanced up and down the street again hoping to see him. “The panhandler. He was right here. I gave him a few pounds and then he disappeared.”
“I didn’t see a man.” He shook his head.
“You walked right by him him. He was right here.” She hoped she didn’t sound too crazy insisting the man had been there.
“Alright. Maybe I just wasna looking.” He took her elbow and leaned down to admonish her softly. “But you shouldn’t be stopping for people like that. I know you want to be kind, but anybody like that could be the next Ryan Cumberland in disguise.”
“That’s just it, Dermot. He called me princess.”
He grabbed her wrist and began to scan the street around them. “What was he wearing?”
“He was filthy. All of his clothes were grimy. He had on a-” She thought, trying to remember something distinct through the dirt. “-A black stocking cap, grey beard…straggly gray hair.”
Dermot studied the crowd on either side of the street. Then walked to the corner to look back at the way they had come. He hadn’t let go of Sarah’s wrist and dragged her around the corner a few yards scanning side to side. Sarah looked to, but there were no alleys or shops that he could have ducked into fast enough to completely disappear the way he had. Sarah dug in her heels. “He was here, Dermot. I swear.”
He studied her for a few long seconds before nodding. “Aye, well. We won’t find him now. But ye’ll let me know if you see him again. And do us both a favor and hold off on the in person donations, yeah?”
She sighed, hating that she had to be afraid of showing a little kindness. “Yeah.”