I used to be a good friend. No, really, I was! I was considerate and thoughtful and made sure to keep in touch with people. Then I became a writer.
Writing is a wonderful thing. I love it to distraction and it really defines who I am at a soul level. But the problem with launching a writing career is that it takes so much time and focus and dedication that sometimes you have to push everything else aside. That means people too, unfortunately. I’ve been a terrible friend lately as I approach the launch of my latest book, The Courageous Heart, tomorrow. I’ve forgotten to reply to blog post entries, failed to respond to emails in a timely manner, and forgone hanging out with friends in favor of working on the book. It’s what a writer has to do.
But P-Day is here! The book is out! You can now buy The Courageous Heart wherever eBooks are sold! Huzzah! Not only does this mean a sense of accomplishment and closure for me, it means that I can be a good friend again. At least for a while. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is this month. I could very easily slip into being a total non-friend again. But, after much soul-searching and temptation, I have decided not to participate in NaNo this year. It’s time for a break. It’s time to recharge the writing batteries a little bit by reading and hanging out with my friends.
So, because you are friends, instead of concentrating on writing a whole big blog post for Fun Friday, I leave you with something fun. Here is an excerpt from my new release, the third book of the Noble Hearts trilogy, The Courageous Heart….
The king swept to the front of the room and mounted the stairs to the dais that held his throne. He turned and glanced across his people with an assessing stare. Those who had marched in with him took up spots around the throne. Joanna recognized Prince John from his visit to Derbyshire years ago. He hadn’t aged much but his expression was drawn and penitent. An older woman stood near him with enough gold and jewels on her headdress to mark her as Eleanor, the Queen Mother.
Joanna’s heart thundered in her ears. She’d never dreamed of being in the presence of such greatness. Her knees threatened to give out. Her arms were numb as they held the children. Meg was wailing still. The room had gone silent but for her ear-splitting cries.
King Richard spoke something in a foreign language. Joanna had no idea what he’d said but his tone did not bode well. He frowned and searched in her direction. She tried to pat Meg’s back, do anything to keep her quiet, but with Wulfric squirming in her other arm there was little she could do.
“Silence that child!” a voice boomed in English.
The crowd of nobles inched away from Joanna, singling her out. Madeline broke away from Jack and crossed to pluck her daughter from Joanna’s arms. Joanna would have been grateful but for the panic in Madeline’s eyes. Madeline cradled Meg close as Jack rushed to hover by her side. The king spoke again.
“It’s Lord John of Kedleridge, your majesty,” Matlock answered. “The peasant who your rebellious brother made into a lord.” He repeated his words in the same language the king had spoken, but they had already had their effect on the rest of the nobles in the room.
The buzz that followed was too much like angry bees. The nobles around them parted further, glancing between them and Prince John. The prince kept his eyes downcast.
“My liege.” Crispin stepped into the opening, dropping to one knee and addressing the king with more humility than Joanna thought the man possessed. “Lord John was raised to his title for acts of valor in the service of the crown. He has continued to earn his position through untiring service to you and to England.”
Jack caught on a few beats too late and dropped to his knee in imitation of his friend. They both stole glances to Prince John, silent pleas for help.
There was a long silence. Prince John shook his head.
The king spoke in the foreign language again. A minister standing near him translated. “King Richard demands to know who you are.”
“I am Sir Crispin of Huntingdon, Earl of Derby, your majesty.”
“Another appointment of your brother’s, your majesty,” Matlock added, repeating his words once again in the king’s language. He slid closer to the throne, to where Pennington had positioned himself next to the king.
King Richard frowned at a stoic Prince John then spoke to Pennington.
Pennington turned a mock startled look on Crispin and Jack. “Why no, I don’t believe they have sworn fealty to you as yet, your majesty.”
Madeline gripped Aubrey’s arm, her eyes as wide and white as moons. Aubrey didn’t look much better. All Joanna could do was hold Wulfric and pray.
King Richard spoke directly to Crispin and Jack. The two of them exchanged apprehensive glances. “Aubrey,” Crispin spoke over his shoulder without taking his eyes off the king, “take Madeline and get out.”
“No. I’m not leaving without you.”
The king spoke again. The tension in the room doubled.
“Why doesn’t he speak in English?” Jack hissed to Crispin.
“He doesn’t know how,” Crispin whispered back.
“He’s the bloody king of England and he doesn’t speak English?” Jack swallowed.
“What he’s saying, peasant,” Matlock took a step towards them, giddy with delight, “is that he doesn’t think it’s particularly wise for the appointments of his usurping brother to go unchallenged. Or perhaps his words would be better translated as unpunished.”
The king spoke to Matlock again. Matlock spun towards him, dropping to his knee. Pennington stepped forward to say something, gesturing to Matlock and then to Crispin and Jack. Joanna couldn’t understand his words but she knew the tone all too well. The heads on the Tower walls flashed to her mind. She understood far too well how they had gotten there.
“Why doesn’t Prince John say something?” Jack muttered to Crispin, flushed with panic.
“He can’t.” Crispin motioned for him to be quiet. “Not unless he wants to be hanged for a traitor.”
“Hanged? No!” Madeline gasped.
“Nothing’s happened yet.” Aubrey tried to comfort her but didn’t sound convinced.
King Richard sighed and answered whatever Pennington had said to him. He put a question to Pennington. Pennington bowed low and sent a swift glance in Jack’s direction as he spoke to the king. His words were in the king’s language, but his sneer revealed everything. He finished his speech with an obsequious grin and melted back into the rest of the nobles.
The king stood. The sea of nobles sank to bows. He made a pronouncement in a loud voice. A murmur filled the room before his translator could say, “The king has declared that Sir Crispin and Lord John should be detained in the Tower until such a time as the appointments made by his brother can be investigated.”
Before Madeline could shout “No!” four armed guards sprung forward from the sides of the room. The assembly of nobles jumped out of their way, thrilled at the prospect of two men being arrested. The guards wrenched Crispin and Jack to their feet before they could rise on their own and had their hands in shackles behind their backs in seconds.
“Your majesty, I can assure you that we are true and faithful subjects,” Crispin argued. His plea was not translated for the king.
“You can’t do this!” Aubrey stepped forward, eyes blazing with anger and panic. “You can’t lock them up after everything they’ve done in Derbyshire!”
“Please!” Madeline rushed forward. “They have done nothing but serve you, your majesty!” To Joanna’s surprise she continued her plea in the king’s language. Crispin, Aubrey, and Jack stopped their struggles, watching her in shock.
The king spoke and Madeline bowed low, Meg still fussing in her arms.
“This is my daughter, your majesty, the peasant lord’s wife.” Matlock glared at her then repeated his words for the king. “She should be remanded into my custody while her husband is held prisoner, your majesty. Let me deal with her.”
“No!” Jack shouted, straining against his captors. “No, your majesty, he’ll kill her!”
The guard holding Jack jerked him back. Jack let out a vicious cry of pain and protest. He jammed his elbow into the man’s gut. The second guard holding him reached around to strangle him. Jack’s eyes bulged.
Crispin shouted and rushed to defend his friend as best he could. He kicked at the guard strangling Jack. The guard let go, but the one holding Crispin joined the fray. He clamped Crispin’s arms to immobilize him while his mate punched Crispin in the gut. Crispin doubled over.
Aubrey shrieked. She pushed the guard nearest to her then drew the man’s sword from its scabbard.
With a collective gasp the nobles watching the scene backed up. Aubrey slashed at the guard who had punched Crispin. He jumped away. His fellow let go of Crispin. Off-balance, Crispin spilled to the side, knocking into the man holding Jack. More guards rushed into the room. Aubrey spun and swung at them when they tried to get close. She gave one a nasty gash across his face. The watching nobles fell into a panic. They began to push towards the exit.
“Arrest them!” a voice demanded above the growing din of the crowd. “Arrest that woman as well!”
Joanna screamed as a guard barreled into Aubrey from behind. The force of the impact knocked the sword out of her hands and sent her careening off-balance. The guard swiped her around the waist and lifted her off her feet. Crispin roared but three men were on him in a heartbeat.
Jack struggled against his guards. “Madeline!” he shouted. “Get out of here!” Jack’s eyes flashed to find Joanna. “Get them out of here!”
By the way, here are the links to purchase The Courageous Heart:
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009Z1AATQ
B&N – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-courageous-heart-merry-farmer/1113712615?ean=2940015912661
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/250038