Book Excerpt from: Vinland Viking: An Original Saga by Gary L. Doman

Vinland Viking cover art.jpgThe novella Vinland Viking is an epic fantasy-adventure, set at the time of the conversion to Christianity of Iceland and Greenland, about a young Northman who longs to lead the storied life of the pagan Vikings.  His opportunity comes with Leif Ericsson’s exploration in North America, but his fortunes change in a way and by a means that he could never have anticipated, and which will thrill the reader.

The richly-textured narrative incorporates history, nature, and mythology, along with plenty of action.  It is told from a Christian viewpoint, but can be enjoyed by a general audience, and, unlike so many other fiction stories, is acceptable reading for the young.

AMAZON paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Vinland-Viking-Gary-Doman-M-A/dp/1413763774/ 

AMAZON Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Vinland-Viking-Original-Doman-ebook/dp/B00AMV8KW2/ 

EXCERPT:

The pressing situation to which he was being called was the gathering of ugly weather off the Greenland coast.  Hoping to outrun the oncoming storm front back to Vinland, or at least to somewhere they could find shelter from the inclemency, Brand-Yngar directed that the prisoners be rounded up and secured, the knorr put in tow, and the Kraken be made ready to sail due south.

The homeward voyage began in the Davis Strait, to the west of the settlements on Greenland.  The southerly Labrador Current certainly had the potential to carry them away, even without the help of oar and sail, but it bowed to the superior force of the rising winds that were already wrecking the knorr.  Now gales, they wrenched the Kraken off her course and gave her quite a different heading; the crewmen could not even tell how far they’d been diverted.  When they weren’t cowering, they were praying to Thor for their deliverance, bailing rainwater and seawater out of the vessel, or saving each other from being washed over the sides.

Brand-Yngar stood resolute as captain.  Through his decision not to try to reach land immediately, he had saved the drakkar from the very worst of the storm; now, he had to guide them through its area of lesser strength to wherever it should capriciously deposit them.

The tempest poured and blustered for hours, driving the dragon ship as a godling might play with a bath toy.  Finally it blew the Kraken onto a shore.  Yet more time passed before the severity tempered enough locally so that anyone could move about on land; in the meantime, the occupants of the humbled watercraft huddled under the cover of their awning, peeping forebodingly at their unintentional port of call.
???????????????????????????????Gary L. Doman, whose (pen-)surname rhymes with “roman”, the French word for “novel”, was born in Syracuse (New York) and has spent the majority of his life in Connecticut.  He has degrees from Fairfield University and the University of Connecticut.  He has developed an interest in just about everything, especially history, geography, religion, language, and the natural world.  He began writing as a child and has never really stopped, although he does periodically need to eat and sleep, and also devotes considerable time to his other creative and intellectual endeavors; these include his “weblog” the Doman Domain and one of the items of interest found there, namely, “The Best Comic Strip Ever!”.  Further, he has taught himself to sing and founded his own political philosophy.  His greatest accomplishment may be remaining humble despite the preceding! 

Visit Gary online at http://domandomain.blogspot.com/

 Vinland Viking Tour Schedule 

Monday, August 5th

Book review at The Book Connection

Tuesday, August 6th

Guest post at Literarily Speaking

Wednesday, August 7th

Interview at Blogcritics

Thursday, August 8th

Guest post at Lori’s Reading Corner

Friday, August 9th

Guest post and giveaway at The Busy Mom’s Daily

Monday, August 12th

Interview at Between the Covers

Tuesday, August 13th

Guest post for Cheryl’s Christian Book Connection

Wednesday, August 14th

Guest post at The Story Behind the Book

Thursday, August 15th

Book review at A Year of Jubilee Reviews

Friday, August 16th

Book spotlight at The Writer’s Life

Book spotlight at 4 the Love of Books

Monday, August 19th

Interview at As the Pages Turn

Tuesday, August 20th

Book review at Vic’s Media Room

Wednesday, August 21st

Interview at Examiner

Thursday, August 22nd

Book spotlight at My Devotional Thoughts

Friday, August 23rd

Book review at Found A Christian by His Grace

Monday, August 26th

Book spotlight at Review from Here

Wednesday, August 28th

Interview at Broowaha

Friday, August 30th

Interview at Pump Up Your Book

Book review at Blooming with Books

Advertisements

Book Excerpt: Telegraph Island by John Milton Langdon

Title: Telegraph Island
Author: John Milton Langdon
Genre: Historical Fiction
Paperback: 279 pages
Publisher: Tate Publishing & Enterprises
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1598867145

Step back in time to the Victorian age. The industrial revolution in Britain is in full spate and electronic communication is in its infancy. Based loosely on fact author John Milton Langdon weaves a tale of romance and adventure on the high seas and in the Orient.

Jason Smiley Stewart — My Life Story describes the life of an average man. Although he is born in humble circumstances, he shows how a combination of perseverance and intelligence aided by a little good fortune, can help any child overcome the disadvantages of a lowly birth status and poor education.

In Telegraph Island, the second of four novels chronicling the life of Jason Smiley Stewart, the young man’s continuing adventures are described. He has his share of failure and success but once again demonstrates that his poor origins are no bar to fame and fortune when he leaves the life of a sailor to join the communication revolution.

Book Excerpt:

“- – – – – I felt on top of the world and ate a hearty breakfast and as I did so I noticed that Joanna was neither eating very much nor looking very happy.  After a time she stopped moving bacon and eggs around her plate, put down her knife and fork and looked at me with a strange and wondering expression.

She said sadly “You seem very happy this morning, Jason.  Are you pleased to be leaving me so soon?”

“No of course not, Joanna” I replied and went on “If I seem happy this morning it’s because I am in love with a most wonderful person and she loves me too.  I can barely believe that I’m really awake and not locked in a wonderful dream.  I don’t want to leave just as we have found each other”.   I held her hand and said “I must go Joanna as I cannot change the arrangements now.  I know that I will be desperately unhappy until we can be together again”.

“Haven’t you forgotten something, Jason?” she asked obscurely.

I did a quick mental review of my packing and replied “I don’t think so Joanna, thank you.  I’m sure I have packed everything”.

She let go of my hand.  “Oh!  Men can be so obtuse at times” she said with some asperity and then asked angrily “Don’t you remember what you said to me in the night?”

“Yes of course”.

“Do you remember my response?”

“Yes of course I do” I said still puzzled by her questions.

And then realisation struck.  She was angry because I had been thoughtless in my misplaced cheerfulness and what was worse I had said nothing about my suggestion that she should be my wife.  It was so much worse that Joanna had found it necessary to remind me about something that should have been my first priority.

What a fool I was.  My euphoric mood drained away like water down a plug hole and at least mentally I kicked myself around the room.

I tried to take her hand but she was still angry with me and moved it out of reach as I said “Darling Joanna, please forgive me for being such an insensitive clod.  I was so happy this morning that I just didn’t think beyond the here and now.   I said last night that I would like you to be my wife and this morning I still feel the same, but I will have to ask your Mother’s permission before I can propose to you”.

“So why just sit there eating breakfast, when my mother is sitting in the next room reading,” was Joanna’s tart reply “She intends to go out shortly”.

I jumped to my feet, left the breakfast room and knocked on the door of the morning room.  I went in when I heard Mrs. Evans call out.  She was sitting in an armchair reading and I stood in front of her chair feeling a little like a child in front of the headmistress.

“Good morning, Jason, I hope you enjoyed a good night’s sleep?”

“I did thank you, Mrs. Evans and I hope you did as well” I said, then paused, not at all sure where to start or what to say.  She looked at me, put her book on the side table and waited patiently for me to continue the conversation without saying a word herself.  I collected my thoughts and failed totally to remain calm as I said without ceremony or preamble “I would like to have your permission to ask Joanna to marry me.  I know it must seem sudden to you, but as I am just about to leave for India I would like to know that Joanna feels as I do and will wait for me to return”.

“Over the tribulations of the past few years I have come to know you quite well, Jason, and I think you will make my daughter a good husband.  I think you have a good future and know that you will provide for her to the best of your ability.  You have my permission to ask her”.

“Thank you Mrs. Evans.  You cannot imagine how relieved I am” I responded formally and returned to the breakfast room where Joanna was waiting.

As I closed the door and walked towards her she said in a worried voice “What did my Mother say?  You weren’t very long.  She didn’t refuse did she?”

I smiled at her, then went down on one knee and asked simply but very seriously “I should be honoured if you would consent to be my wife Joanna.  Please will you marry me?”

Excerpt from: The Queen’s Gamble by Barbara Kyle

Title: The Queen’s Gamble
Author: Barbara Kyle
Genre: Historical fiction
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Kensington
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0758238566

Young Queen Elizabeth I’s path to the throne has been a perilous one, and already she faces a dangerous crisis. French troops have landed in Scotland to quell a rebel Protestant army, and Elizabeth fears that once they are entrenched on the border, they will invade England.

Isabel Thornleigh has returned to London from the New World with her Spanish husband, Carlos Valverde, and their young son. Ever the queen’s loyal servant, Isabel is recruited to smuggle money to the Scottish rebels. Yet Elizabeth’s trust only goes so far—Isabel’s son will be the queen’s pampered hostage until she completes her mission. Matters grow worse when Isabel’s husband is engaged as military advisor to the French, putting the couple on opposite sides in a deadly cold war.

Set against a lush, vibrant backdrop peopled with unforgettable characters and historical figures, The Queen’s Gamble is a story of courage, greed, passion, and the high price of loyalty…

BOOK EXCERPT:

Chapter One

Isabel Valverde was coming home. The brief, terrible letter from her brother had brought her across five thousand miles of ocean, from the New World to the Old, and during the long voyage she thought she had prepared herself for the worst. But now that London lay just beyond the next bend of the River Thames, she dreaded what awaited her. The not knowing – that was the hardest. Would she find her mother still a prisoner awaiting execution? Horrifying though that was, Isabel could at least hope to see her one last time. Or had her mother already been hanged?

The ship was Spanish, the San Juan Bautista, the cabin snug and warm, its elegant teak paneling a cocoon that almost muffled the brutal beat of England’s winter rain on the deck above. Isabel stood by the berth, buttoning her cloak, steeling herself. The captain had said they were less than an hour from London’s customs wharf and she would soon have to prepare to disembark. Everything was packed; three trunks sat waiting by the open door, and behind her she could hear her servant, sixteen-year-old Pedro, closing the lid of the fourth and last one. She listened to the rain’s faint drumbeat, knowing that she heard it in a way the Spanish passengers could not – heard it as a call, connecting her to her past, to her family’s roots. The Spaniards would not understand. England meant nothing to them other than a market for their goods, and she had to admit it was a backward place compared to the magnificence of their empire. The gold and silver of the New World flowed back to the Old like a river with the treasure fleets that sailed twice a year from Peru and Mexico, making Philip of Spain the richest and most powerful monarch in Europe. Isabel felt the tug of both worlds, for a part of her lived in each, her young self in the Old, her adult self in the New. She had left England at twenty with her Spanish husband and almost nothing else, but he had done well in Peru, and after five years among its wealthy Spaniards, Isabel was one of them. Money, she thought. It’s how the world turns. 

Can it turn Mother’s fate? She had clung to that hope for the voyage, and now, listening to the English rain, she was seized by a panicky need to have the gold in her hands. She heard her servant clicking a key into the lock of the last trunk. She whirled around.

“Pedro, my gold,” she said. She grabbed his arm to stop him turning the key. “Where is it?”

He looked at her, puzzled. “Señora?”

“The gold I set aside. In the blue leather pouch.” She snatched the ring of keys from him and unlocked the trunk. She rummaged among her gowns, searching for the pouch. The soft silks and velvets slid through her hands. She dug down into the layers of linen smocks and stockings and night-dresses. No pouch. Abandoning the rucked-up clothes, she unlocked another trunk and pawed through her husband’s things, his doublets and breeches and capes and boots. The pouch was not here either. “Open that one,” she said, tossing the keys to Pedro. “We have to find it.” She went to the brocade satchel that lay at the foot of the berth and flipped its clasps and dug inside.

“Señora, it’s not in there. Just papers.”

“Look for it!” she ordered.

He flinched at her tone, and she felt like a tyrant. Not for the first time. He was a Peruvian with the small build of his Indian people which made him look more like a child than a lad of sixteen. He had the placid nature of his people, too, and a deference to authority that had been bred into his ancestors by the rigid Inca culture. When the Spaniards had invaded thirty years ago they had exploited that deference, easily making the Indians their slaves and themselves rich. Isabel hated slavery. Pedro was her servant, but a free person nonetheless. English justice said so. But his docile ways sometimes sparked her impatience, goading her to take the tone of his Spanish overlords, and when she did so she hated herself.

“Take out everything,” she told him, less sharply. “Look at the bottom.”

“Si, Señora,” he said, obeying.

His native tongue was Quechua. Isabel’s was English. Neither of them knew the other’s language. They spoke in Spanish.

Excerpt from The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

Title: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Genre: Historical fiction
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press (July 26, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0385344159

In her national bestseller Alice I Have Been, Melanie Benjamin imagined the life of the woman who inspired Alice in Wonderland. Now, in this jubilant new novel, Benjamin shines a dazzling spotlight on another fascinating female figure whose story has never fully been told: a woman who became a nineteenth century icon and inspiration—and whose most daunting limitation became her greatest strength.

“Never would I allow my size to define me. Instead, I would define it.”

She was only two-foot eight-inches tall, but her legend reaches out to us more than a century later. As a child, Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Bump was encouraged to live a life hidden away from the public. Instead, she reached out to the immortal impresario P. T. Barnum, married the tiny superstar General Tom Thumb in the wedding of the century, and transformed into the world’s most unexpected celebrity.

Here, in Vinnie’s singular and spirited voice, is her amazing adventure—from a showboat “freak” revue where she endured jeering mobs to her fateful meeting with the two men who would change her life: P. T. Barnum and Charles Stratton, AKA Tom Thumb. Their wedding would captivate the nation, preempt coverage of the Civil War, and usher them into the White House and the company of presidents and queens. But Vinnie’s fame would also endanger the person she prized most: her similarly-sized sister, Minnie, a gentle soul unable to escape the glare of Vinnie’s spotlight.

A barnstorming novel of the Gilded Age, and of a woman’s public triumphs and personal tragedies, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb is the irresistible epic of a heroine who conquered the country with a heart as big as her dreams—and whose story will surely win over yours.

BOOK EXCERPT:

[ ONE ]

My Childhood,

or the Early Life of a Tiny

I will begin my story in the conventional way, with my ancestry.

About the unfortunately named Bumps, I have little to say other than they were hardworking people of French descent who somehow felt that shortening “Bonpasse” to “Bump” was an improvement.

With some pride, however, I can trace my pedigree on my mother’s side back through Richard Warren of the Mayflower Company, to William, Earl of Warren, who married Gundreda, daughter of William the Conqueror. This is as far back as I have followed my lineage, but I trust it will suffice. Certainly Mr. Barnum, when he first heard it, was quite astonished, and never failed to mention it to the Press!

I was born on 31 October, 1841, on the family farm in Middleborough, Massachusetts, to James and Huldah Bump. Most people cannot contain their surprise when I tell them that I was, in fact, the usual size and weight. Indeed, when the ceremonial weighing of the newborn was completed, I tipped the scales at precisely six pounds!

My entrance into the family was preceded by three siblings, two male and one female, and was followed by another three, two male and one female. All were of ordinary stature except my younger sister, Minnie, born in 1849.

I am told that I grew normally during the first year of my life, then suddenly stopped. My parents didn’t notice it at first, but I cannot fault them for that. Who, when having been already blessed with three children, still has the time or interest to pay much attention to the fourth? My dear mother told me that it wasn’t until I was nearly two years old that they realized I was still wearing the same clothes—clothes that should already have been outgrown, cleaned and pressed, and laid in the trunk for the next baby. It was only then that my parents grew somewhat alarmed; studying me carefully, they saw that I was maturing in the way of most children—standing, talking, displaying an increased interest in my surroundings. The only thing I was not doing was growing.

They took me to a physician, who appraised me, measured me, poked me. “I cannot offer any physical explanation for this,” he informed my worried parents. “The child seems to be perfectly normal, except for her size. Keep an eye on her, and come back in a year’s time. But be prepared for the possibility that she might be just one example of God’s unexplainable whims, or fancies. She may be the only one I’ve seen, but I’ve certainly heard of others like her. In fact, there’s one over in Rochester I’ve been meaning to go see. Heard he can play the violin, even. Astounding.”

My parents did not share his enthusiasm for the violin- playing, unexplainable Divine whim. They carried me to another physician in the next town over, who, being a less pious man than the previous expert, explained that I represented “an excellent example of Nature’s Occasional Mistakes.” He assured my increasingly distressed parents that this was not a bad thing, for it made the world a much more interesting place, just as the occasional two- headed toad and one- eyed kitten did.

In despair, my parents whisked me back home, where they prayed and prayed over my tiny body. Yet no plea to the Almighty would induce me to grow; by my tenth birthday I reached only twenty- four inches and weighed twenty pounds. By this time my parents had welcomed my sister Minnie into the world; when she displayed the same reluctance to grow as I had, they did not take her to any physicians. They simply loved her, as they had always loved me.

“Vinnie,” my mother was fond of telling me (Lavinia being the name by which I was called, shortened within the family to Vinnie), “it’s not that you’re too small, my little chick, but rather that the world is too big.”

Book Excerpt: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner


Title: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
Author: C.W. Gortner
Genre: Historical fiction
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (May 24, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0345501875

Catherine de Medici was one of history’s most powerful women.  She has been called brilliant and bold, but was also known as a vengeful Italian Jezebel who resorted to murder to protect her family’s throne.  Was she the ruthless queen who led France into an era of savage violence? Or was she the passionate savior of the French monarchy?

Originally published in hardcover in 2010, C.W. Gortner’s novel THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI (Ballantine Trade Paperback; On Sale: May 24, 2011) challenges the dark legend surrounding Catherine de Medici, revealing her tumultuous youth as a papal pawn; her gift of second sight; her courageous fight to save France; and her secret passion for a man she is fated to destroy.

The last legitimate descendant of the illustrious Medici line, Catherine suffers the expulsion of her family from her native Florence and narrowly escapes death at the hands of an enraged mob.  Married to a French prince, eventually a queen in name if not in her husband’s heart, she strives to create a role for herself, aided by her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer.  But in her 40th year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children as regent of a kingdom torn apart by religious discord and the ambitions of a treacherous nobility.

Relying on her tenacity, wit, and uncanny gift for compromise, Catherine seizes power, intent on securing the throne for her sons.  She allies herself with the enigmatic Protestant leader Coligny, with whom she shares an intimate secret, and implacably carves a path toward peace, unaware that her own dark fate looms before her—a fate that, if she is to save France, will demand the sacrifice of her ideals, her reputation, and the passion of her embattled heart.

From the fairy-tale châteaux of the Loire Valley to the battlefields of the wars of religion to the mob-filled streets of Paris, THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI is the extraordinary untold journey of one of the most maligned and misunderstood women ever to be queen.

BOOK EXCERPT:

Chapter One
I was ten years old when i discovered I might be a witch.

I sat sewing with my aunt Clarice, as sunlight spread across the gallery floor. Outside the window I could hear the splashing of the courtyard fountain, the cries of the vendors in the Via Larga and staccato of horse hooves on the cobblestone streets, and I thought for the hundredth time that I couldn’t stay inside another minute.

“Caterina Romelo de’ Medici, can it be you’ve finished already?”

I looked up. My late father’s sister Clarice de’ Medici y Strozzi regarded me from her chair. I wiped my brow with my sleeve. “It’s so hot in here,” I said. “Can’t I go outside?”

She arched her eyebrow. Even before she said anything, I could have recited her words, so often had she drummed them into my head: “You are the Duchess of Urbino, daughter of Lorenzo de’ Medici and his wife, Madeleine de la Tour, who was of noble French blood. How many times must I tell you, you must restrain your impulses in order to prepare for your future?”

I didn’t care about the future. I cared that it was summer and here I was cooped up in the family palazzo forced to study and sew all day, as if I might melt in the sun.

I clapped my embroidery hoop aside. “I’m bored. I want to go home.”

“Florence is your home; it is your birth city,” she replied. “I took you from Rome because you were sick with fever. You’re fortunate you can sit here and argue with me at all.”

“I’m not sick anymore,” I retorted. I hated it when she used my poor health as an excuse. “At least in Rome, Papa Clement let me have my own servants and a pony to ride.”

She regarded me without a hint of the ire that the mention of my papal uncle always roused in her. “That may be but you are here now, in my care, and you will abide by my rules. It’s midafternoon. I’ll not hear of you going outside in this heat.”

“I’ll wear a cap and stay in the shade. Please, Zia Clarice. You can come with me.”

I saw her trying to repress her unwilling smile as she stood. “If your work is satisfactory, we can take a stroll on the loggia before supper.” She came to me, a thin woman in a simple gray gown, her oval face distinguished by her large liquid-black eyes—the Medici eyes, which I had inherited, along with our family’s curly auburn hair and long-fingered hands.

She swiped up my embroidery. Her lips pursed when she heard me giggle. “I suppose you think it’s funny to make the Holy Mother’s face green? Honestly, Caterina; such sacrilege.” She thrust the hoop at me. “Fix it at once. Embroidery is an art, one you must master as well as your other studies. I’ll not have it said that Caterina de’ Medici sews like a peasant.”

I thought it best not to laugh and began picking out the offensive color, while my aunt returned to her seat. She stared off into the distance. I wondered what new trials she planned for me. I did love her but she was forever dwelling on how our family prestige had fallen since the death of my great-grandfather, Lorenzo Il Magnifico; of how Florence had been a center of learning renowned for our Medici patronage, and now we were but illustrious guests in the city we had helped build. It was my responsibility, she said, to restore our family’s glory, as I was the last legitimate descendant of Il Magnifico’s bloodline.

I wondered how she expected me to accomplish such an important task. I’d been orphaned shortly after my birth; I had no sisters or brothers and depended on my papal uncle’s goodwill. When I once mentioned this, my aunt snapped: “Clement VII was born a bastard. He bribed his way to the Holy See, to our great shame. He’s not a true Medici. He has no honor.”

Given his prestige, if he couldn’t restore our family name I didn’t know how she expected me to. Yet she seemed convinced of my destiny, and every month had me dress in my uncomfortable ducal finery and pose for a new portrait, which was then copied into miniatures and dispatched to all the foreign princes who wanted to marry me. I was still too young for wedlock, but she left me no doubt she’d already selected the cathedral, the number of ladies who would attend me—

All of a sudden, my stomach clenched. I dropped my hands to my belly, feeling an unexpected pain. My surroundings distorted, as if the palazzo had plunged underwater. Nausea turned my mouth sour. I came to my feet blindly, hearing my chair crash over. A terrifying darkness overcame me. I felt my mouth open in a soundless scream as the darkness widened like a vast ink stain, swallowing everything around me. I was no longer in the gallery arguing with my aunt; instead, I stood in a desolate place, powerless against a force that seemed to well up from deep inside me . . .

I stand unseen, alone among strangers. They are weeping. I see tears slip down their faces, though I can’t hear their laments. Before me is a curtained bed, draped in black. I know at once something horrible lies upon it, something I should not see. I try to stay back but my feet move me toward it with the slow certainty of a nightmare, compelling me to reach out a spotted, bloated hand I do not recognize as my own, part the curtains, and reveal

“Dio Mio, no!” My cry wrenched from me. I felt my aunt holding me, the frantic caress of her hand on my brow. I had a terrible stomachache and lay sprawled on the floor, my embroidery and tangled yarns strewn beside me.

“Caterina, my child,” my aunt said. “Please, not the fever again . . .”

As the strange sensation of having left my own body began to fade, I forced myself to sit up. “I don’t think it’s the fever,” I said. “I saw something: a man, lying dead on a bed. He was so real, Zia . . . it scared me.”

She stared at me. Then she whispered, “Una visione,” as if it was something she’d long feared. She gave me a fragile smile, reaching out to help me to my feet. “Come, that’s enough for today. Let us go take that walk, si? Tomorrow we’ll visit the Maestro. He’ll know what to do.”

Book Excerpt: In the Aerie of the Wolf by Leonora Pruner

Title: In the Aerie of the Wolf
Author: Leonora Pruner
Genre: Gothic historical fiction
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Nordskog Publishing (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0982707487

Set in 18th century England, our heroine Anne is betrothed to a man she’s never met and must leave behind her girlhood fantasies. When she arrives at the home of Lord Wolverton, Master of the Wolf’s Aerie, the mysteries and challenges of her new life cause her to seek Biblical wisdom and guidance concerning honor, integrity, and faithfulness. In this story of the discovery of true love, there is also danger, betrayal, and sword fighting—and it all takes place in a castle complete with secret passageways. Become lost in another time and place. You will not want to put this book down.

BOOK EXCERPT:

The strange, deep voice coming from a dark corner startled her, prompting a rash of prickles on her skin. She heard a crunching step on one of the paths. Had he come through the door? She heard no sound of it. Should she call for Smithson? Anne pulled her Spanish shawl tighter as she rose and faced the voice, demanding in tones elevated by fear, “W-who are you?”

“Andrew Lupus, at your service.”

She saw the flash of diamond buckles as he made a proper leg in bowing. Diamonds? Who else could it be in this place? Despite a mouth suddenly dry she managed to murmur, “Anne Crofton,” and dropped a curtsy.

“I know.”

“Have we met?” she asked hesitantly, trying to recognize his voice.

“Not formally. We do not stand on ceremony at the Aerie.”

“Oh.” Her heart was pounding uncomfortably hard. “Are you, are you Lord Wolverton, m-my host?”

“The same.”

At last! She made a deep curtsy, trying to conceal her nervousness. “I am so happy to have this opportunity to thank you for your kindness in providing my lovely rooms. The moment I crossed the threshold, I felt the warmth of ‘home’.”

“Such was my desire. I am gratified it pleased you.”

She noticed the moonlight exposed the white stockings covering his ankles above the sparkling buckles. If she could talk long enough, it might move up his figure and reveal his features. “I was uneasy coming to this strange place, as you might imagine. But, on seeing my things from ho… the Haven, and realizing your considerable effort in bringing them here, not to say planning and forethought, I felt easier in my mind.”

“Then the efforts were more than justified. I trust your journey was not overly tiring.”

“No. Lengthy, but Old Samson took excellent care of me.”

“He is … my most faithful servant.”

Anne took a small step backwards and was pleased to see his feet move towards her and the moonlight expose his dark breeches fastened at his knees. “This is a very unusual garden. Old Samson said it was developed some years past, which I take to mean by one of your ancestors?”

“Traditions in the region indicate it was first planted in the 15th century by the eccentric master of the castle. He also delighted in fostering the notion that we were werewolves.”

Suddenly chilled, Anne asked, “W-werewolves? Surely you jest.”

“Not at all. Very likely it suited a perverse sense of humor or provided primitive power over a very superstitious people. Whatever his reasons, he cultivated that image. He called this place the ‘Aerie of the Wolf’ and took ‘Lupus’ as the family name.”

“How strange,” she murmured, seeing the dark skirt of his coat become visible, possibly brown like his servant’s livery. Casually, she moved a step away from him.

“Anything out of the way was attributed to him, justly or not. As a result, a number of legends grew up about us.” Again, his feet moved forward.

The fingers of his right hand became visible. Beneath the wide lace hanging from his sleeve, she noticed a ring with a large dark stone on his fore finger. Perhaps it was like the betrothal ring she wore. A word, long forgotten, learned with exciting shivers of fright, rose to her consciousness. Gripping her fan tightly, and taking a deep breath, she asked boldly, “And you, are you also a, ly, lycanthrope?”

“A what? A lycanthrope?”

Tensely, she awaited his reaction. Fascinated, she watched the light slowly move up his arm as he stepped towards her with a low laugh.

“You are asking me if I am a werewolf? Come, come. How might I answer? If I say ‘No, of course not,’ I could be lying. If I was a werewolf, I certainly would not admit to it to my … betrothed.”

The emotional timbre when he pronounced ‘betrothed’, created an enjoyable tingle in Anne. “No, I suppose not. I might be frightened away before being wed.”

“And that would not suit my plan at all.”

He almost sounded as if he was smiling. “And what is your plan, milord?” She tried to speak lightly, but her voice trembled slightly.

He paused briefly before answering in measured, vibrant tones, “To make you my wife.”

“Oh!” Her pulse quickened. “But why? Why me? You don’t even know me.”

“Ah, there you err. I know a great deal about you. Your gentle kindness and graciousness will be valued at the Aerie, and your wit and brave heart especially please me.”

“I cannot think why you should entertain such absurd ideas about me. I am far from brave, although I should like to be so,” she ended wistfully. She looked down at her fan, opened and closed it, and drifted back another step.

“It takes great courage to converse with a suspected werewolf on the night of a full moon without screaming for aid.”

She looked up in surprise. The lace of his shirt was clearly visible and metallic braid glinted down the front edges of his full-skirted coat. He’s not a great deal taller than I am, she thought. Perhaps he is shy because he is of small stature. “I, I may be foolish, but I admit I feel no danger.”

“Under these circumstances it is foolhardy to inquire if your companion is a werewolf, even in a veiled manner. The question might rouse him to a lethal reaction.”

“Ah, but if you do not wed me, your plan will fail. I must be safe until then.”

“As you say.”

“In any event, as your guest, I am already at your mercy, milord. Your many kindnesses encourage me to trust you.” Turning, she walked away slowly to the far side of the bench, hoping he would follow into the light. “Please, do not tell me my trust is misplaced,” she said, glancing hopefully over her shoulder.

But she was alone.

Book Excerpt: Against All Odds by John Milton Langdon

Title: Against All Odds
Author: John Milton Langdon
Genre: Historical Fiction
Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Tate Publishing & Enterprises (February 1, 2006
Language: English
ISBN-1598861476
ISBN-13: 978-1598861471

Stepback in time – it’s the Victorian era, when Great Britain is at the forefront of industrial development. Based loosely on fact, author John Milton Langdon weaves a tale of romance and adventure on the high seas. “Against All Odds” describes the early years of an average man. Although he is born into humble circumstances, he shows how a combination of perserverance and intelligence, aided by a little good fortune, can help any child overcome the disadvantages of lowly birth status and a poor education. If you long for a sense of wonderment in life read this first volume of a set of four, and discover how Jason Smiley Stewart transforms from callow village boy to a ship’s officer in Volume 1 of Jason Smiley Stewart – My Life Story.

BOOK EXCERPT:

I was envious and very disappointed to be excluded from the group, but there was no need for us both to go and he was a much more experienced small boat sailor than I was. Consequently, when he went down to organise the boat, I took over his watch on the bridge with the best grace I could muster. The ship was lying with the bows into a gentle southerly breeze and the island was almost due north of us beyond the stern.

The jolly boat was cast off and Evans ordered his crew to hoist the small lugsail to take advantage of the breeze that was blowing. Evans waved cheerfully and sailed away towards the island on the long run that would take him to the western and lower end of the island. The Captain took a last look around the horizon and went below to his cabin. I watched the jolly boat for a few moments and clearly the whole party were enjoying themselves. Like a Sunday school outing I thought as I resumed my duties as officer of the watch and checked that the ship had not drifted off position.

Fifteen minutes later, when the boat with Evan’s party in it were about half way to the island, the Captain came hurrying back to the bridge. Nothing had changed that I could detect. The sky remained a cloudless blue and the breeze was slightly lighter if anything, but that was all. But clearly Captain Stewart was worried. He had seen or felt something while he was in his cabin, that I hadn’t detected and from the expression on his face, the instincts of a very experienced sailor were giving him considerable concern.

He picked up a telescope and started to scan the horizon. He looked seaward and then slowly but progressively examined the visible horizon, carefully studying the shore line and the tops of the surrounding hills. He said nothing and may not have known what he was looking for, but he suddenly stopped moving and studied a particular area almost directly in line with the island for several moments.

He suddenly snapped the telescope shut, reached above his head for the lanyard controlling the ship’s whistle and blew five short blasts, the danger warning, followed quickly by another five blasts and then another five. He rang the engine room telegraph to standby and ordered me to signal the boat.

“Jason! Quickly! Hoist flags ‘U’ over ‘K’ over ‘X’.

Even as I rushed to the flag locker, a tiny part of my mind registered the fact that the Captain had addressed me as Jason instead of his customary Mr. Smiley. I was thankful that my many hours of practice under the Bosun’s watchful gaze were being rewarded, as I had all three flags, bent on, hoisted and flying within a few moments of receiving Captain Stewart’s terse order.

As I carried out the instruction, I remembered that ‘U’ means ‘you are standing into danger’, ‘K’ means ‘you should stop your vessel instantly’ and ‘X’ means ‘you should stop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals’. The Captain had sent a very comprehensive message with the minimum of wasted effort but the wind was now very light and, as it was blowing almost directly from the ship towards Evans, I did not think he would be able to see them. Captain Stewart called the engine room on the voice pipe in the corner of the bridge near the telegraph and the half of the conversation I heard was

“Chief?”

“Call the Chief Engineer immediately.”

“Chief?” Captain here. There is a storm approaching. Raise steam as quickly as you can. How long before I can use the engine?”

“I see. That may not be soon enough. You will have to do better!”

There was a significant pause as the Captain listened to the Chief and he then said, “I see. If the storm that’s coming causes the anchor to drag, you may not have an engine to worry about this afternoon.”
The Captain obviously thought the wind direction was preventing Evans from seeing the flag signal as he blew another series of danger warnings on the steam whistle just as the First Mate arrived on the bridge followed closely by the second officer.

Captain Stewart gestured towards the north and said “There’s a bad storm coming and Evans is right in its path”.

Captain Stewart turned to the second mate and ordered, “Go round the ship and make sure all portholes and hatches are closed. Tell the crew there is a severe dust storm coming and all off watch crew are to go to their mess rooms to wait further orders”.

In company with the Captain and Mr. Richards, the First Mate, I used a telescope and looked in the direction the Captain had pointed and could see low, dark, rolling clouds rushing out of the mountains towards us. It came even closer as we watched and the sea between the mainland and the island began to smoke and boil from the fury of the approaching wind. Suddenly the main land behind the island became a blur and then disappeared. Between the island and the ‘Earl Canning’, our boat with Evans and the surveyors on board sailed serenely on. They were clearly unaware of the approaching danger, possibly because they were close enough to the island for its bulk to block out most of the mainland and the approaching storm beyond. They had obviously heard the siren and knew something was amiss, as we saw in our telescopes Evans pass the tiller to one of his crew and stand in the stern of the jolly boat looking back at us with the small telescope that he always carried with him. We could see the dust being blown like smoke horizontally from the top of the island as the storm approached it but we were incapable of indicating where the danger to Evans and his party was coming from. Apart from the helmsman, everyone was looking back towards us.

The Bosun arrived on the bridge. He had also heard the steam whistle blowing and knew from experience that he would be required in an emergency.

He reported directly to the Captain who said, “Ah Bosun, just the man. There is a storm coming. Set an anchor watch. Two of your most experienced hands. I need to know immediately if the anchor starts to drag. Put some men at intervals along the deck so that there is no delay passing information to me from your men on the forecastle”.

The Captain again blew on the whistle to attract attention to the storm and as he did so a freak gust of wind blew our signal flags out to port. Evans saw the hoist, spun round and saw the approaching danger himself, and the lugsail started to drop. But his action was far too late, as the sail was not half down before the boat listed steeply in a sudden violent blast of wind. Both boat and occupants disappeared from our horrified view into an impenetrable blanket of dust.

We watched with fascinated horror as a thick brown cloud of dust, only rising a few hundred feet into the air, roiled and boiled rapidly across the sea towards us. Amazingly there was a serene blue sky above it and turbulent white capped sea at its base. The noise from the wind was deafening and seemed louder than the hurricane winds I had experienced a few years before.

My thoughts and prayers were with my friend Evans who was fighting three enemies at once. The sea, the wind and the dust. – – – –

— Excerpted from Against All Odds by John Milton Langdon