A Requiem for Royalty

I’ve wanted to make this post since April 21st, but couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

Prince. My God, how am I going to live without you?

I was seventeen when I heard your voice for the first time. In fact, I sort of feel like I might have been one of your first fans. It was 1980, and though I don’t remember what month it was, I know the weather was warm.

I was standing in the bathroom of my childhood home, getting ready to go somewhere. I don’t remember where, exactly, but I distinctly remember hearing the sound of the front door open and slam.

The next thing I knew, my best friend T.M. had ahold of my arms and was dragging me out to the living room. “You have got to hear this song!” she said. She had run the whole way up from her house, nearly a mile and a half away, so I could.

In those days, stereos were massive, a piece of furniture. My mother’s stereo was solid oak, at least five feet wide, holding a radio and a turntable. Practically shaking with excitement, T.M. threw the stereo lid up and turned on the radio. She dialed to WKBI, the local AM radio station in St. Marys, Pennsylvania.

I stood and listened to your falsetto voice assuring me “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and knew I was listening to something special.

T.M. and I were all raging hormones and teenage sexual angst, and you said everything we wanted to say and did everything we dreamed of doing. Your songs quickly became the anthem of my youth, blaring out of the windows of my bright orange 1977 Chevy Camaro every single time I put the key in the ignition.

Yes, I took crap for listening to “the guy who sounded like a girl.” If I had a dime for every time someone called you a fag, I could build my own Paisley Park. I didn’t give a shit. You were my jam and I held on with both hands. I even went out in the middle of a terrible snowstorm to buy “Controversy.”

Okay, so I didn’t care so much for your later stuff. “Purple Rain” was a great album but a terrible movie. I still bought your CDs, even if I didn’t listen to them.

It’s simply not possible that the world no longer has you in it, but even you acknowledged that life is just a party and parties aren’t meant to last.

Wherever you are, I hope there’s a party.

Créme de la Cover Contest

Earlier today, I found out that the most recent fantasy book that I published, Silverlight, was awarded 4.5 stars and the Crowned Heart from InD’Tale Magazine, thus making it eligible for the 2017 RONE awards.

Even better, Silverlight’s cover is up on their website in the Créme de la Cover Contest. Most of you know my daughter Kerry Hynds does my book covers. Won’t you take a minute and go vote for Silverlight? Thank you!

Créme de la Cover Contest

Goodbye, Merle Haggard.

Every time I hear one of Merle Haggard’s songs, I am immediately transported to the first day of summer vacation between my junior and senior year of high school.

Back in the day, we recorded our own 8-track tapes. Though she was mostly a rock fan (Elvis!), my mother had made herself a bootleg tape of songs by Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson taken from the radio and a bunch of 45s. She would often play that tape, and others, while she did her housework.

Those of you who are familiar with 8 tracks know that the tapes would play themselves over and over and over and over and over, until you changed it out.

Like most teens, I slept until noon and stayed up until midnight. This particular morning was warm and sunny, and Merle Haggard’s “Fightin’ Side of Me” woke me well before I was ready to get up.

I listened to the entire tape three, four, five times before I shouted, “Mom!”

Nothing.

“Mom! Put something else in!”

Silence.

I rolled, put a pillow over my head to block out the immense pride one feels when one is an Okie from Muskogee, but I did NOT get out of bed to do something about it.

At least not right away.

I’ll bet I went to Luckenbach, Texas with Waylon and Willie and the boys at least fifteen times before I finally got up, stormed down the hallway, and pulled that damned tape out. (Mom was working outside. She wasn’t aware that I was slowly going insane in the house.)

If I didn’t know it before, it was burned into my brain that day: Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Cause they’ll never stay home and they’re always alone . . .

Rest easy, Merle Haggard. There isn’t one damned reason I should know the words to any of your songs, but I do.

Happy New Year A Month Later!

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to be more active on my blog and social media. Well, you can see how well that worked out.

I mean well, I sincerely do, but I talk to people all day long at my real job. By the time I get home, I’m ready to take a long bath and curl up with a book. My goal is to try and interact a little more with all of you.

I did manage to publish a book on January 18, 2016. Silverlight is, I think, my best book to date. Check it out.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AGW3P26

I will also be at a book signing in Pittsburgh, PA on March 11, 2016. Details to follow.

A Name and Some Teasers

Well, I’ve decided to call the third book in the Alainnshire series “Tempest.”

And I’ll leave you with a little teaser from Tempest. (Keep in mind that these are unedited and may change in later revisions.)

“Ech. Horse manure. And he threw it at you?” Maeve wrinkled her nose and rolled into Aislin’s lap. Aislin shifted to make room for her. Her niece was getting to be a long-legged colt.

“Your father called them ‘horse apples’. As long as I wore gloves, I was not at all squeamish about shoveling the stables. Or helping with any other farm work. I actually enjoyed it, as it gave me time to reflect. But the thought of horse manure against my skin turned my stomach.” Aislin laughed softly. “I made the mistake of telling your father that one day when we were cleaning the draft horse barn. He promptly picked up a horse apple and threw it at me. It bounced off my hand and hit me in the neck. I nearly went into hysterics.”

“What happened then?”

“I chased him all the way down to the pond with the shovel.” She remembered how fast she’d run, how Fionn had looked back and laughed as she chased him.

“Did you hit him with it?”

“No. Fionn was twice my size. He promptly disarmed me, threw me over his shoulder, and gave me a good dunking in the pond. He said if manure bothered me that much, he’d make sure I was good and clean.” Aislin poked Maeve in the ribs. “And that is why you should never tell anyone that you have an aversion to anything. It will almost certainly be used against you as a weapon.”

“I’m sorry, but he doesn’t sound very nice at all,” interjected Maeve.

“Oh no, Maeve. He was wonderful. I loved him so much I thought my heart would burst. We were…two of a kind. Impetuous. Hot-tempered. Mischievous handfuls, my father called us. He and Roderic would just let both of us go at it. Fionn didn’t dunk me to be mean, really. I was so angry about the manure that I planned on taking a swing at him with the shovel. He knew that so into the pond I went.”

“Did he ever throw manure at you again?”

“Only if I was being extremely annoying. There were certain things he wouldn’t tolerate, and I soon learned not to do those things.” She tucked Maeve under the chin. “So I learned a valuable lesson the hard way. Two things, actually. Not to aggravate my brother and never to tell anyone I disliked something. Those are lessons you can absorb without being pelted with horse apples.” Aislin grinned at her niece.

And I don’t want to slight Cara, who also plays prominently in Tempest:

“If you see anyone selling bolts of cloth, will you buy them for me? I am most interested in velvet and silk. Oh, and several yards of flannel if you can get it. Joria’s little one is going to need nightgowns.” Artur pressed a pouch of coins into Cara’s hand.

Cara smiled to herself as she dropped the pouch into the deep pocket of her blue muslin skirt. There was nothing this man couldn’t do. She was so glad he’d decided to stay at Sweetwood with her. “I’ll do that for you. Thank you, Artur. I have little time to sew these days. I appreciate your talents. I’ll be sure to tell Joria you’re making gowns for the baby.”

“You can tell me yourself. I’m right behind you.” Joria laughed as she put her hands on Artur’s shoulders. “What would we ever do without you, Artur?”

Artur turned and made a comical show of trying to hug Joria, finally giving up when her belly came between them. “I am excited to hold your little one, Joria. I have asked the gods for a girl.”

Joria leaned in and whispered, “So have I. Don’t tell Ellis. He’s hoping for a son.”

“Of course he is,” said Cara. “Typical man.”

Just then, a small buckboard wagon pulled by two dappled gray horses pulled up behind their own in the road. Joria’s husband Ellis reined them to a halt and waved to everyone.

Cara’s brow drew together as her gaze fell on her daughter’s belly. “You aren’t traveling to Arianrhod in your condition, are you?”

“Darice said it would be fine, that most first babies are late. She’s been a mid-wife long enough that I think she ought to know.”

Cara gave her a dubious look. It was just like Joria to be fearless, but she didn’t want to take chances with her daughter or her first grandchild.

Random Thoughts About the Past Year

It’s been nearly a year since I self-published Aislin of Arianrhod. “Learning curve” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Some of you know that Aislin was conceived and written during a time when my husband and I faced one of the biggest challenges of our marriage. He lost his job in February of 2012 in a shocking way. I needed to take the negative energy I was feeling and turn it into a positive. It gives me an incredible sense of satisfaction and pride that I succeeded in doing just that. AH, you didn’t hurt us. You made us better. Trust me, you lost more than we did.

I have known the highest highs and the lowest lows this year. I have done happy fist pumps and screamed into my pillow in frustration. I have grinned like an idiot. I have lain on the floor of my bedroom staring at the ceiling in despair. Maybe a few tears even presented themselves, though I will adamantly deny that I am a crier.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

I now have two books published in the historical fantasy Alainnshire series. I love the people in them like my own family. Whenever I’m tempted to give up, one of them always raps on the inside of my skull and says “knock it off”. Truthfully, I’m curious to see how the story ends myself.

I have seen the very best and the very worst of human nature. I’ve witnessed people being incredibly unkind to each other. I’ve seen others extend a hand to help at no cost to themselves. These people love the feeling you get when you’ve been part of the solution and not part of the problem. We need more people like that, and they inspire me to pay it forward.

I met an incredible young woman who has become my editor this year. Tara Chevrestt, also an author, has made me a better writer. She is tough, and she is blunt. I want to kiss her on the cheek and squeeze her until her eyes pop out. She is pulling me up to her level, and I am most grateful. I laugh and sometimes turn red at the comments she leaves me on my manuscripts, but I never fail to give what she says serious consideration. Thank you, Tara. I’m pleased that I managed to stumble upon you in all the chaos out there.

I’ve learned that you aren’t going to connect with everyone. You should just do your very best writing and let it speak for itself. You might even learn something from the less-than-stellar reviews you get.

To those of you who have been with me on this journey, I can’t thank you enough: Sharon Gavin, whose kind words and encouragement pushed me to take the next step in July of 2012. Kerry and Kelly Jesberger, whose awesome artistic talents are not of this world. The ladies of the Allegheny, NY book club, who didn’t shy away from the tough questions and really made me think. To everyone who purchased Aislin of Arianrhod and liked it enough to move on to Winter’s Child. Even those who haven’t liked my books have given me something.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you’ll keep reading, I’ll keep writing. I can’t guarantee I won’t shove my face into a pillow at some point and let loose with a primal scream, but I’ll keep writing.

Wow!

I got an honorable mention in this contest!

http://authormingle.com/contests/

Prologue for the Third Book in the Alainnshire Series (As Yet Unnamed)

I’ve decided to give you all the prologue from book three of the series, which has not yet been given a title. Some of you that purchased an early upload of Winter’s Child will not get the prologue,and I didn’t want you to miss out on it.

June 1, 1694
Kingdom of Arianrhod

“I wish Aunt Aislin were here.”

Roderic looked up from the inventory sheets he was working on and glanced over at King Bryce. He sat slumped on the throne, his chin resting on a fist.

“Why?”

“She’d know how to fix the pessimism that seems to have pervaded this kingdom since I took the throne.” Bryce leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. “Everyone wishes she would’ve stayed in Arianrhod. I see it in the faces of the villagers when I walk amongst them. I’ll never be half the king she was.”

Roderic sighed and laid the parchments aside. Bryce, who was now his stepson, had been unusually quiet lately. Gwen was concerned and had asked him to talk to Bryce, though he’d already guessed it was due to moments of self-doubt.

He didn’t blame Bryce for having reservations. His youth was part of it, but the boy was also perceptive enough to understand that he had big shoes to fill. And they were big shoes. Roderic had to make sure his lack of confidence was only temporary. Arianrhod needed a strong king right now.

“She was just as frightened and confused as you are now when she first took the regency, maybe more so. She was trying to deal with the loss of her brother and running the kingdom all at the same time. She dissolved into hysterics and tears at least once a day for quite a while.” Roderic smiled gently at the memory. “Aislin has a core of steel though. She just had to find it. She’d grown up learning the same things as your father, but governing this kingdom is much different than watching others do it. Your father had to learn that as well.” Roderic glanced over at Bryce. “Go easy on yourself. You’ve been given the best education a king can possibly have. Now you just have to apply what you’ve learned. It was the same for Aislin.”

Bryce slid off the throne and sat across from Roderic at the large counting table. “That’s not it exactly. I was only around her for a short time, and I could see it. She has this comfortable way with people. Everyone loves her. I just…I don’t know if these people even like me.”

Roderic sighed. It was much too late to do anything about it now, but he thought perhaps sending Bryce off to be raised in a distant kingdom hadn’t been such a good idea. Aislin had grown up down in the village, practically a pet for most of the shop owners. It was not that they didn’t like Bryce. They just knew—and loved—Aislin.

“Give it time, my boy. They don’t know you very well. The same blood that flows in Aislin’s veins flows in yours. You will be a fine king once you gain some experience.” Roderic patted the boy’s hand. “Besides, not every monarch takes the throne at such a young age after an invasion. You’ve done remarkably well under the circumstances.”

“Thank you, Roderic. That means a great deal coming from you.”

Roderic tilted his head and narrowed his eyes. “You miss your aunt, don’t you?”

Bryce waved his right hand in the air, seemingly at a loss for words. “Maybe that’s it. She was lively and fun, and the manor house just seems so dull without her here. Devin looks like he’s going to cry half the time. So does Maeve.”

Roderic nodded. Aislin seemed to have that effect on everyone. He’d never been able to put his finger on exactly what it was about her, but she pulled people to her.

An idea took root in Roderic’s mind, and he brightened. “I miss her, too. What we need in Arianrhod is a good, old-fashioned farmer’s market, the kind we used to have years ago when your grandfather was king. Aislin loved the markets. Thousands of people would come from all over Àlainnshire. Why don’t we plan one and invite her, Tristan, and Colven? Adric is a year old now, so he should be easier to travel with. Your grandmother will be beside herself with joy to see him again.”

Bryce sat up straight, his eyes round. “That’s a wonderful idea! It will take everyone’s mind off the things that have happened here. Do you think Aunt Aislin will come?”

“I know she will. A herd of wild stallions couldn’t keep her away from a market in Arianrhod.” Roderic grabbed a piece of parchment and a quill. “When do you want to do this? I’ll start making a list of kingdoms we can send invitations to.”

“Can we schedule it for mid-July? Will that give everyone time to get here?” Bryce suddenly froze, canting his head to look at Roderic. “We won’t be sending an invitation to Morrigan, will we?”

Roderic frowned. No, they wouldn’t be sending one to Morrigan, though Boru would certainly hear of this. Would he have the nerve to show up here without an invitation? He made a mental note to ask King Stanis if he’d send soldiers over prior to the market.

“Mid-July should be fine. And no, we won’t be sending an invitation to Morrigan. There is, however, a rather large farm on the border of Morrigan that your grandfather used to do business with. I believe it’s called Sweetwood. When I lived here before, it was owned by Flynn and Maddie Tanner. I think their daughter and her husband own it now. They were always good people. They should be invited.”

“Yes, please invite them.” Bryce grinned. “I can’t wait. A market and a visit from Aunt Aislin is just what we all need around here.”

Winter’s Child on Kindle!

Okay kids, before we start the party, I have a couple of FYI’s for you.

Winter’s Child takes place 29 years before Aislin of Arianrhod. Just wanted you to keep that in mind as you’re reading.

I tried very hard to make this a stand-alone book, but it does piggyback on the things that happened in Aislin, so you will probably want to read that first or you’ll be scratching your head in confusion.

I am keeping the price of the Kindle version at $1.99 until Friday so all of my peeps can get it. After that, it’s going to $3.99, so tell your friends and neighbors!

Paperback version will be available in a day or so. I won’t have it for Nook for a couple of months because it’s enrolled in KDP select on Amazon.

Readers really do look at the feedback you leave for us authors on Amazon and Goodreads. If you like Winter’s Child, please let everyone know!

And without further ado:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E3Y2KI4

I’m a semifinalist!

My poor husband thought he was going to have to do CPR yesterday when I saw this:

http://www.thekindlebookreview.net/2013-book-awards/

Aislin of Arianrhod is a semifinalist in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category!