A sale – a story – and a surprise?

1birthdaypancakesWell, that went by fast. I knew it was getting close, but it was still a bit of a shock when Facebook reminded me yesterday that a full year had passed since I released the first book – the 20-year project – of the Changelings saga. It also marked the nine months since I’ve blogged with any regularity. Now, while I can’t say the latter will change to any great degree, I can honor the former with, drum roll please–

D: You mean this drum roll?

A (Ridiculously cheesy grin): Glad you could make it to the party, D.

D: It’s not a party without me – as well you know.

A (Cheesy grin at odds with eye-rolling): Of course. Will you do the honors?

changelingsebookcover-flat4D: Of telling everyone that the glorious tale of my life and loves – oh wait, you haven’t gotten to that one yet–

A: D…

D: Right, anyway – that the almost-glorious tale, Changelings: Into the Mist – and A’s attempt to escape from me by writing an Irish spy thriller, Three Ghosts – are FREE starting today. Wait – did I just say free?!

A: Yes, D – it’s a promotion. It ends Sunday the 15th.

D: Well, that’s okay, I suppose.

A: You never took gold for your songs.

Cover Art by Casey T. Malone

Cover Art by Casey T. Malone

D: But I did get a good cup of mead or ale out of the deal.

A: I have wine. I’m good.

D: Fair enough – now, what’s the surprise?

A: Nope – story first. Because not only are we celebrating Changelings‘ birthday with a sale, we have a brand-new side story – staring you.

D: Oh. This one. You’ve saved it.

A: I have, and I thought, with Veterans/Remembrance day just past, it was appropriate. Enjoy.

Remember

“What do you remember?”

Dubh Súile mac Alasdair lifted his eyes to the red-haired man standing over him. He looked smart in his pilot’s uniform. He was young, yet his green eyes spoke of many battles.

Every day it was the same question.

Every day he said the same thing.

“Nothing.”

It was a lie.

Each of the 1200 years he’d lived among man and Fae spread out before him – loves and lives lost taunted him whenever he closed his eyes. Time etched fondness in the lined faces of his teachers in the Druid grove – and in the tonsured heads of the monks who took their place three centuries later. Each moment of the war that had torn him from the world of man screamed at him in dreams and the memory of magic, which had once been his reward, still lingered on his skin.

But that was not what the young man meant.

queen marys hospital

Queen Mary Convalescent Auxiliary Hospital

A broadsheet included with this day’s breakfast declared it 1 March 1944. The narrow bed in which he lay was courtesy the Queen Mary Convalescent Auxiliary Hospital just outside London, England.

He had not been in London for nearly 400 years. Metal-clad machines that growled in the street had replaced the placid clatter of the horses’ hooves on the cobbles. It had been one of these – these things which looked more like monsters reserved for the unmapped territories at the world’s edge than something man should ride within – that had put him at the mercy of the white-capped ladies of Queen Mary’s.

In fact, the only thing that remained the same in old London-town was the threat of ongoing war, only this time it wasn’t with the French.

“Nothing at all?” Pale eyebrows arched to etch lines of disbelief in the sergeant’s face.

“I remember nearly cracking your skull, even as I cracked my own.” Dubh snorted and shook his head. It had not been his finest moment, but Nuada Silver Arm had not meant it to be, either. In fact, he was certain the king of the Fae had intended it to be Dubh’s last moment.

“You and the cab came out of nowhere – if you hadn’t rolled me out of the way, I might have been hit by the bloody thing, myself. Your reflexes are sound, at least.”

“Physically, perhaps,” Dubh admitted. “My memory before that black cab is a little dim, however.”

“And yet, the doctors tell me the memory loss is a protective mechanism – depending on what it’s protecting, I would say that reflex is also very good, soldier.”

Dubh raised his own eyebrow and the sergeant finally cracked a smile.

It was about time. At turns solicitous and stern, the sergeant had been trying for two days to uncover Dubh’s identity, and yet it seemed to Dubh that the young man’s official suspicion was at odds with a more affable curiosity.

Even so, Dubh hesitated to reveal anything. His mortal record was lost to time, certainly, but creating an identity from whole cloth was dangerous. No longer did man rely on a messenger who might take days, if not weeks, to reach his destination. In 1944, a command from a faceless man half a world away could move – or halt – an entire army.

The sergeant sat on the edge of Dubh’s bed, and the hairs along his neck rose as he moved his legs. Typically, his visitor came later in the day, when Dubh was allowed the novelty of rolling around in the wheeled chair. Even then, the sergeant never stopped long, and he never sat.

The sergeant’s smile turned into mock surprise. “What’s this, no retort? No denial? I call you ‘soldier’ and you simply accept it?”

“I have been a warrior – among many things – all my days. I could no more deny it than willingly stop breathing. And yet, I do not know for whom I fight.”

“For Queen and Country, that’s who,” the sergeant snapped. “I had a thought you were from one of the Highland regiments. A lad from the Black Watch had gone missing on his way back from the front. Deserter, they thought.”

Deserter. The word slithered through the air, now sharp and sour. The sergeant’s eyes had turned to flint as he waited to pounce on any twitch or other sign that Dubh’s memory loss – amnesia the doctors called it – was a ruse.

Dubh blinked once, then twice, and waited for the sergeant to continue.

“A Corporal Doyle McAlister, late of Strathpeffer? I sent up your photo. Captain there says it was blurred – don’t know how that bloody happened – but it’s close enough.”

Breathing was suddenly difficult. Dubh’s family name – and the name of their home – had changed only slightly. Was this more of Nuada’s machinations, or some other agent of fate?

He took care with his next words. “The names feel familiar, sir, but I can’t say for certain that I am your man.”

“That will do enough for me.”

LIkCehE

Lancaster “S for Sugar”, the first RAF heavy bomber to complete 100 missions.

It was Dubh’s turn to smile. “Why in such a hurry to tag a name to me, sir?”

“Because amnesia or not, you’re a canny one, Corporal. You watch, you wait and you keep your own counsel. I have need of a man with your skills.”

Dubh arched an eyebrow.

“And I was only granted two day’s extra leave. I’m due back at 8 Group tomorrow. So, unless you would prefer to return to the front with your regiment…?”

Dubh didn’t let the question hang in the air too long. He had seen the mechanical monstrosities that man had made – and he had no desire to witness them any closer than he already had.

“You’ve cleared this with McAlister’s commanding officer, Sergeant O’Malley?”

“Indeed, Corporal McAlister, I have. How do you feel about aeroplanes?”

To be continued. . .

D: And the surprise?

A: Pardon?

D: There’s supposed to be a surprise. You promised – and it’s not allowed to be the “To Be Continued,” either.

A: Oh. Well, in that case, come back tomorrow.

D: If you were really a great and powerful–

A: Come back tomorrow, D – I promise, there’s more.01BlueVelvetChangelings

D: She said it here, folks – and unreliable though she may be, I know firsthand that there is much more to this tale already written. So, head over to Amazon and pick up the first installment in the Changelings series – or a quick spy thriller – and escape into our memories for a spell, for FREE!

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Hunted

I heard this wild cry of terror, as though hounds howled against the night.

Photo Courtesy Google Images, labeled for commercial reuse.

Photo Courtesy Google Images, labeled for commercial reuse.

The plain, Mag Mell, was empty – stripped of all lore, all magic and life – and Niamh Golden Hair’s curses rang in my ears.

I would rue the day I had turned from her cause, she had said.

As the sound caused dread to prickle my skin, a part of me laughed. There is a reason Mistress Niamh is Tír na nÓg’s greatest spell weaver and seer, though not many risk the King’s ire to say so.

The mists pressed down upon me. They started to dance. So wrapped up in my own misery – my own hot denial of her visions – was I that I did not see their grasping fingers twine ‘round my legs.

And then that cry. That hideous, desperate cry.

The King. It had to be.

I carry no weapon in the lands of the Tuatha. There would be no use – nothing man has made can harm them now. Once upon a time it was said they could be killed – that the Fae feared man’s iron and the cold touch of steel.

Fairy tales, I say. They were not driven to their hills. They did not retreat. These are bedtime stories to sooth the frightened Celtic heart, told reassure them that the Fae would trouble them no more.

Would that they had known that Fae had little interest in the world of man. Unless, of course, man came stumbling through the veils. Blundering, as I had, so many years ago.

The cry that rent the air told me I was hunted. It is always so for those who can travel between the worlds. Why did I think I would be any different?

Did it matter that I had won for him a war?

No.

Did it matter that donning the name of one I had heard since my days in swaddling – a man-god who saved his king – that I became the myth?

No.

All that mattered now was that I was a man outside of time, beyond the help of kindred, and I had just turned my back on the last of those who cared.

A haunting wail pierced the air, adding anguish to that wild cry of terror. We sang in tune, my hunter and I, and when he ripped the world from beneath my feet, I nearly wept with relief.

***

“What do you remember?”

Dubh an Suíle mac Alasdair lifted his eyes to the red-haired man before him. He looked smart in his uniform, and he was young, yet, his green eyes spoke of many battles.

Every day it was the same question. What did he remember?

Everything.

And nothing.

***

For Papi Z’s prompt: “I heard this wild cry of terror…”

Also, the 450ish words  above are a slightly different version of the opening page of Changelings: The Coming Storm, the sequel to Into the Mist.

Sometimes, giving over to D’s voice is the only way to jump start a new scene, or, in this case, a new book. Don’t get me wrong, the core of this book has already been written – it’s the second part of Maureen and Sean’s journey. Yet, this part here – with D and the red-haired man – this is new territory. And as much as I have enjoyed researching it, it was not something I had anticipated writing… yet. It has not been easy to get into the flow of the relationships forged over a very brief span of time – relationships that are key to understanding why D risks life, limb and time to keep Maureen and Sean safe.

It makes me wonder, for anyone, when you’re shifting gears in a project at work, in the home or in your writing, is there a trick you use, or a method you employ, to help you find that ‘sweet’ spot so you can move forward with it? Or do you just ‘keep on truckin’ in the hopes that it will find itself? Is this where planning comes in?

Warning: Here be Splinters

Castle Hill House Image: Google Images

Castle Hill House, 8 Group HQ
Image: Google Images

A: Did you know that the De Havilland Mosquito was made of wood – plywood, balsa and birch?

D: I do recall something of that nature. If I remember correctly, that is why I had no interest in flying in one of them.

A: So, the immediacy of the war, death, danger and the fact that you never saw a plane before you were exiled from Faerie and sent to 1944 wasn’t part of that reason?

D: And the plane was made of wood.

A: You sailed to Ireland in a boat, didn’t you?

D: Yes, but I can swim, A. I cannot fly if the aeroplane disintegrates.

A: Point taken. See, this is why I don’t use you as a research source.

D: Not that you use your research, anyway.

A: What’s that supposed to mean? I did! I found this great book, Pathfinder, by DCT Bennet (head of 8 Group) that I’m seriously thinking of getting. Then there is the name, location and pictures of a convenient convalescent military hospital for the Druid/soldier with no memory. I saw where the Path Finder Force’s headquarters were in 1944 and I know which squadron of 8 Group flew the Mosquito. I even have a suspicion that the mission on March 30 was pretty much a cluster. It could be suggested, in fiction, anyway, that someone on the German side knew what was going on that night. All in all, it is a perfect backdrop for an interlude.

D: An interlude?

A: It’s kind of like a flashback, but with dips and music, so it’s more fun.

D: I think that is a shindig vs a gathering, A. And stop comparing me to Buffy.

A: Yes, but you lurk.

D: You defy reason.

A: I know. Your patience and forbearance are appreciated, D. Really. They are. No, seriously. Stop looking at me like that.

D: I am not looking at you, I am looking at your name on the menu – what did you do to the blog, woman? And wait! Why is it so clean in here?

A: You’re just noticing this, now?

D: I was distracted by plywood planes and interludes.

A: (Eye roll) I cleaned up the blog, and my name is up there because this blog just got a baby sister.

D: I’m not changing diapers.

A: . . . um, okay. By baby sister, I meant I created an author site.

D: And what does one do with an author site?

A: List credentials–

D: Wait, you have credentials?

A: Stop laughing.

D: (Guffaws)

A: No, seriously D. Stop.

D: (Snickers).

A: Any time now.

D: (Giggles into his sleeve. Snorts).

A: Oh, that’s just disgusting. Here’s a tissue. Blow. Gross.

Perhaps credentials wasn’t the right word, but a quick overview of my work, where else I can be found and how to connect with me on the interwebs. It has a blog component that will sum up where I’ve been on the blogosphere, as well as a recap of our thrice-weekly posts here. Nothing fancy, just another way to promote myself.

D: You mean, when you would rather people not know that you talk to imaginary characters.

A: I’m a writer, that’s pretty much a given, D. Plus, I link directly to the blog here, so hiding you is out.

D: You could never hide me, A.

A: (Sigh) Oh, don’t I know it!

D: Speaking of authors with real credentials–

A: Oi—

D: John W. Howell, Marie Ann Bailey and Pamela Beckford have been published in Issue Six of the Paperbook Collective!

A: Congratulations, you three – that’s wonderful news!

D: And Briana is celebrating her blog’s one-year anniversary with a sale on A Girl Named Cord.

A: We should also mention that Charles completed the draft of another Legends of Windemere novel.  Head over there and congratulate him, and then stay for the song in the post (what, I’m feeling nostalgic for the Verve!). That heady feeling of being done never gets old!

D: And should you feel the need to be inspired, Papi Z has a prompt over at the Literary Syndicate.

A: I feel inspired.

D: Oh, do tell!

A: I feel inspired to have a cup of tea, write 500 words and then go to bed.

D: Don’t tell me this post counts towards that number.

A: It does not, D. You may actually get to Tír na nÓg when I’m done this evening.

D: Wonders never cease. No time to waste then – good night folks! A has to sign off before she gets distracted again!

A: Cheers, D. Goodnight everyone – thank you for reading1

I solemnly swear. . .

De Havilland Mosquito Yorkshire Air Museum Image Courtesy Google Images

De Havilland Mosquito
Yorkshire Air Museum
Image Courtesy Google Images

D: You are never up to any good.

A: Yes, I am. I’m up to researching-good.

D: Researching-good? Never mind your abhorrent abuse of words, I thought this was going to be about resolutions.

A: Yeah, that ship could have docked last week. If it had, I was going to mention something about organization, staying tuned because the blog is about to have a baby sister called “author website,” please don’t mind our dust as we reorganize, and that whole thing about only posting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (I mean it this time). As it was, that ship found incredibly cold waters, had to take a detour around the Rock of Hibernation and has since sailed.

D: You are taking that metaphor much further than it ever needed to go.

A: Yep, where no man, woman –

D: Or character –

A: Has gone before.

D: Hyperbole, too.

A: I aim to please.

D: Or distract.

A: Don’t look at the man behind the curtain, D.

D: You are a man?

A: (Eye-roll). No. No, I’m not, but thank you, D. That, again, was a figure of speech.

D: Pardon me for being a seventh-century Pict (you know that is not what we called ourselves, right?)

A: (Yes, but no one has determined what exactly it was you called yourselves, so I’m going with Pict for the mo, ‘k?)

D: (Was that English?)

A: (Nope). Anyway, writing Book 2 to completion and drafting all of the Catherine books is my first resolution of the year, and organization is my second. My third is research. Hence, researching-good.

D: Any research in particular?

A: At the moment, anything on Pathfinder Group 8, Squadron 109 and the Battle of Berlin, specifically the attack on Nuremberg on March 30, 1944. I took one look at the Mosquito planes and knew that was the plane Patrick O’Malley and James McAndrew flew.

D: Oh, you’re going there. Oh, joy. I thought you were waiting until my story to tell that part of the tale.

A: Try to contain your excitement, D. I was going to wait, and then I realized I needed to know why you were kicked out of Faerie. The readers will need to know, too. They need to know what the kids are up against. It eases the transition between the first book and the second book. I’m excited.

D: Or you just thought the Mosquito plane looked ‘really cool’ and you wanted to write about it.

A: . . .

D: Don’t deny it. I heard you.

A: Okay, fine. I’m not denying it. But, considering I know nothing about planes (besides wanting to fly one), or WWII (beyond the basics) I was actually hoping to postpone the research, but I just can’t. So, off to the library I go!

D: Can I make one request?

A: Yes?

D: Don’t turn me into Captain Jack. I know you have been watching an awful lot of Torchwood lately, and I’m a bit concerned . . .

A: I would never!

D: . . .

A: His name starts with a J, and your alias’ all start with a D. Any other similarities between you are coincidence.

D: (Mutter, grumble) Bloody woman.

A: Cheers, D!

With that, I’m off to the library – tomorrow, when it’s not below 0° Fahrenheit! Wish me luck! Good night, folks!