Friday, December 20, 2013

Casting Light Upon the Darkness

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Forgive, please, but I've had to drop out of this hop; a wedding decided to happen in the family as well as computer problems, and you know how that goes.

Please catch the list of blogs at Helen Hollick's page.

Thanks, and may the shortest day of your Northern year be full of light and good cheer!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Historical Fiction Excerpt: The Defiant Lady Pencavel

by Diane Scott Lewis

Down another gloomy corridor, Melwyn and her abigail entered a large room that smelled of leather and smoke. The light from the lamp barely touched on the numerous shelves of books. A large walnut desk, a smaller neoclassical desk by Maggiolini, and leather chairs filled out the area.

“Run your hands along the books, to try to find a latch or lever of some type,” Melwyn whispered, the lamp flame flickering in her gush.
“I’m doin’ it, over here in the dark in case ‘ee hasn’t noticed,” Clowenna groused. “Keep your knickers on, m’lady.”

“We don’t wear knickers yet.” Melwyn traced her fingers along the smooth and tooled leather volumes. “Though why is beyond me, and it’s extremely inconvenient at times.” She felt along the shelves, frustrated that she found nothing.

“I don’t feel naught but books an’ more books. Who has time for so much readin’?” Clowenna grumbled, then the sound of tripping and a thud. “La, and damme, I walked into a picture frame.”

“Shhhh. Do you want the wrath of his lordship, or his dragon of a housekeeper down on us?” Melwyn hurried to where she stood, shining light over the maid who rubbed her nose, and a tall portrait of Henry VIII that hadn’t swung on the picture rail. “This seems solidly in place.”

Melwyn pushed on the frame and the picture slid to her left. “Oh, my, I think we’ve found it.” She shone the lamplight on a dark wood panel.
“How do we open it?” Clowenna sniffed loudly, still intent on her nose.

“Find a latch or lever.” Melwyn handed her maid the lamp, and felt along the panel’s grooves and carvings, her fingers dipping into every nook and cranny. Finally, something metallic under her fingertips. She lifted it, and the panel creaked open slowly.

Melwyn grabbed the lamp and shone the light inside a musty, tiny room. “It looks like a priest’s hole. There is even a cabinet where they hid the sacred vessels and vestments.”

“Hope there’s no dead priest in there.” Clowenna gripped her mistress’s shoulder.

“I thought you weren’t a superstitious ninny.” Melwyn stepped in, and soon discovered another latch. The far door squeaked open. The dank smell of earth swept in on her, almost dousing the lamp. “This must be the secret tunnel.”

“Great, we found it. Now we can go home and tell your father.” Clowenna tugged on Melwyn’s arm. “I’m tired; let’s go up to bed afore we’re murdered.”
“I remind you that this was your idea.” Melwyn shook her off and put one foot into the tunnel, her heart racing. She held up the lamp. “This could be a passageway built by a previous ancestor and have nothing to do with Lord Lambrick.”

“That be wishful thinking, m’lady.” The maid tapped her foot in irritation. “Now come back an’ don’t do no too-stupid-to-live act.”

“We need more proof,” Melwyn insisted. She chewed on her lower lip. “How will I take you to the continent if you’re going to be a nervous Nellie?”

The light barely reached down the tunnel with its crude shored-up walls, and the sound of water could be heard farther along. Melwyn shivered in the cooler air. A stack of crates sat a few yards away. She walked toward them, and reached out her hand to touch the top one’s scarred lid.
A shadow moved to her right. A hand grabbed her wrist and she gulped in astonishment, almost dropping the lamp.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Historical Fiction Excerpt: But For the Grace of God

But For the Grace of God

by Ginger Myrick

West Virginia, May 1864

The Confederate soldier galloped his flagging mount through the densely wooded copse, unheeding of the bullets zinging dangerously past his head. He didn’t know how they could see to draw a bead on him in this thick growth so close to the river. They were probably shooting blindly.

Maybe he could lose them. It didn’t really matter. He’d already been hit once and would probably be dead soon, but he wasn’t about to give the bastards the satisfaction of his capture. If he could just hold on long enough to find a hiding place, somewhere he could at least settle down to take a look at his wound and perhaps stem the bleeding. He pressed his hand more tightly to his side, bent lower over the horse’s neck, and rode even harder.

The unfolding drama did not go unnoticed by the residents of a nearby farm. The gunshots drew Hannah Carter to her window, and she pulled back the curtains to scan the dimming twilight for some explanation of the commotion outside. She was about to abandon her vigil when her eye caught movement down by the river’s edge. She saw a horse struggle up from its crossing, and her vision focused just in time to witness its rider’s unceremonious yet oddly graceful slide to the ground. She let out a little cry of surprise as he hit the grassy bank not fifty feet from the house and rolled three times before coming to a stop face down in the dirt.

She reached the door in three swift steps, flung it open, and sprinted down the porch. Halfway across the yard she was joined in her flight by a big bear of a man running from the barn. They reached the soldier at the same time, and Hannah threw herself down at his side to get a better look. As she rolled his shoulder back, she saw that his face was dirty and covered with small abrasions from his tumble. She inhaled sharply as her eyes took in the tattered right side of his uniform and the gaping hole oozing blood in a slow but steady stream.

“Jeb, we have to get him to the house,” Hannah said, looking anxiously up into the big man’s dark brown eyes.

“We can’t,” he said, his face taking on a defiant set. “Have you forgotten about the pick-up tonight?”

“Well, we can’t leave him out here to bleed to death.”

“Why not? It’s what he’d do to me,” Jeb insisted stubbornly.

Hannah smiled tenderly, amused by his reluctance. Though there was no time for this, she placed her gentle hand on the powerful brown forearm exposed by his rolled-up sleeve. “Jeb,” she said softly, “I know you’re too smart for that petty argument. Besides, it would eat at your conscience to leave him. You wouldn’t sleep for a month.”

He sighed wearily, knowing that she was right. He hefted the considerable mass of the soldier’s long lanky body as if he were a child, threw the man over his shoulder, and made his way up the slight incline to the house, mumbling the entire time that they would all hang for this. Hannah shook her head, chuckling nervously to herself behind his wide sulking back. She grabbed a small leafy branch lying under an oak tree and scraped it along in the dirt behind them, doing her best to erase the evidence. Maybe it’s dark enough they won’t notice, she prayed hopefully, attempting to convince herself.

When she reached the porch, she hurriedly tossed the branch around the corner of the house and jogged up the steps, casting a last worried glance over her shoulder at the dusky horizon before stepping inside and closing the door—and just in time. No sooner had the latch securely clicked home than she heard pounding hoof beats thundering past on the other side of the river. They would have to hurry.

Hannah bustled into the kitchen where Jebediah had already deposited his burden onto the heavy oaken table and begun to cut away the raggedy remnants of the battle-stained coat. Ginny had dropped her supper preparations and had already begun to wash the soldier’s face and the area surrounding his wound.

“The bullet’s going to have to come out before we do anything else,” Jeb said, his earlier reticence forgotten as enemy now became patient.

“We don’t have time to open him up now,” Hannah observed, gathering the gray rags of the uniform and pitching them into the stove. “Those soldiers will be back as soon as they catch up to his horse. Just clean his face and wrap him up tight enough that he won’t bleed all over everything. Then get him upstairs into a bed. I’ll help Ginny clean up this mess.”


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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Historical Fiction Excerpt: Walk to Paradise Garden

by John Campbell

(Following a brawl that happened in a military canteen during WWI.)

John lingered in the ethereal comfort of near-oblivion, safe within his mind. Yet despite his resistance, dawning alertness drew him to the surface. He lay on his back, eyes closed. His tongue slid over his teeth, checking and rechecking, searching out any sharp edges that hadn’t been there before. Various sensations began nagging him, each fighting for dominance: upper back, shoulders, neck, jaw and stomach. When he tried to take in a deep breath, another agony joined the ranks, a dull, almost restrictive one, telling him his chest must be badly bruised. Ah yes, he thought. The fracas.

He didn’t regret a word of what had inflamed the testy Manchester bunch, but he cursed himself regardless. When would he learn discretion? He tried to open his eyes, but the glare of the room pressed them closed. The glare and…a silhouette stationed close to his bed. Please heaven, not Evelyne. Not with humiliation stuck to his face like scabs.

He forced his eyes open a slit and saw it was indeed Evelyne in her uniform, her lovely eyes searching for his. Her gaze commanded him to open his. He tried to mask his embarrassment, but in that instant she read him, and he knew she understood. He considered feigning a drift back to unconsciousness, but thought better of it. He tried to smile, but his swollen jawline quickly put a stop to that.


In that syllable she communicated a book of sentiments: honesty, understanding, a little judgment, perhaps? Concern, certainly. And could it be…affection? With complete focus, he studied her face, but she averted her eyes toward the small table next to his infirmary cot. Her chair stood next to the mattress, within reach. He sensed movement, then felt her hand settle on his arm. Her cool, soft fingers calmed his jagged breathing, helping him to think more clearly.

“I, uh…” It hurt to move his mouth. His right hand went to his jaw and carefully explored the damage. His puffy skin felt like an overripe tomato. “I, uh, must look a fright.”

She nodded, eyes still locked with his.

“I’d fancy some water.”

“I have some right here. Can I help you sit up?”

“Uh, no, no.” His stomach felt like jelly. He tried to push with his hands against the mattress to raise himself, but could barely clench his teeth to fight the pain. Once up, he needed to catch his breath.

After a moment she said, “Now, as you try to sip, don’t be alarmed if some drips down your chin. You’ll find your lips are clumsy yet.”

He frowned, feeling vaguely pleased that at least he could frown without pain. He couldn’t help but remember all the times Edwina had ministered to him like this.

“I’ll hold it,” she said. “Keep your hands on the bed to steady yourself.”

She placed the tin cup against his bottom lip and tilted it. He tried desperately to sip without mishap, but water came around and over his lame lips, dribbled down his chin and onto his lap. He almost cursed. She could easily read his frustration in his face, but he was relieved she didn’t change her facial expression or say a word. What he could swallow refreshed his throat.

He took a shaky breath. “I feel like a baby.”

“That’s rather appropriate.”

Ah, there was judgment after all.

“Sorry.” Her expression pinched with remorse. “That was unattractive. I know you were only trying to be true to your ideals.” She smiled for reassurance. “Ideals that I agree with, by the way.”

After setting the cup down, she took his hand in both of hers. This time it was his turn to look away, away from this married woman.

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Fourteen Years Overseas for Stealing Two Sheep

Victorian era punishment for crime quite baffles us today. What might be a misdemeanor in our court systems now could have meant a devastating change in a person's life then if not death, and often for merely trying to keep from starvation. Read the post HERE (on my other blog) by Prue Batten which is found in the book Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors.