Sunday, 1 November 2020

Viking Romance! The Viking and the Pictish Princess. Pre-order, out Nov 5th. Excerpt

 


THE VIKING AND THE PICTISH PRINCESS https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08LTGYTHV/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i20

https://amzn.to/3jA5bDvUK

 https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08LTGYTHV/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i13

https://amzn.to/3jA52Qt


Excerpt

The lone figure rose silently from the loch. Emerging from the grey shimmer of a winter morning with water sheeting off his body, he glided over the submerged boulders onto the shore of her island. Bindweed scrambled into a holly tree and dropped to the parched ground. She gritted her teeth against the shout surging up her dry throat, old fears from the past made real.

Viking!

He was big, this invader, big as a king stag of the forest, tanned, barrel chested and with arms thicker than her legs. His black hair, dark as December pine cones, matted itself to his skull in long streamers of shadow and eyes, the colour of storm clouds, were quick and piercing.

“Black Norse,” Bindweed muttered, not daring to stir as that fierce grey gaze swept over her hiding place. His thick gold collar and armlets flashed when he strode by, arrogant as a lord. He moved with the swift, quiet grace of a warrior, the low winter sun illuminating his leather tunic and trews, the long dagger strapped to one thigh, his sword on the other.

Spy or assassin, Bindweed wondered, watching his retreating back. He made for her cave-house as if he had walked the path a hundred times, though she doubted he sought her skill in herb-lore. Still she did not stir.

The first snare on the trail he avoided with a snort of humour, the second, set below a seeming bed of innocent pine needles, swallowed him whole. Bindweed was out of the holly and sprinting before the Viking had stopped his bellow of surprise. A quick jerk of the rope hidden by ivy had the nets and timber unravelling and the trap closed. She quickly pinned it down, panting hard as she rolled the lock-stone in place.

Thirteen feet below, in the round pit it had taken her three summers to dig and harden with fire, the black Norse prowled, thumping the sheer walls and slamming the mud-churned floor. He would not look at her. Bindweed did not care.

“No one comes here,” she lied—why tell truth to the enemy? “Yell away,” she added, when the stranger’s mighty chest swelled like organ bellows. “None shall hear.”

The Viking lunged up. She stamped his clenching fingers off the timbers and nets and he cursed and spat. “Food later,” she told him, spotting how his eyes narrowed briefly in calculation. He understands me, then.

It did not matter. Tomorrow night she would lace his portion and his ale with enough sleeping draught to fell an ox and then drag him out, to question at her leisure. Thank the stag god and the great mother that I heeded my instincts four summers ago to fashion these traps. Sometimes my senses are not only tuned to women’s healing, but to more brutal matters of survival.

She had no time to celebrate, however. Now she was exhausted, harp-string taut tension replaced by a yawning tiredness. Without troubling to undress, she stumbled into her bed and slept.

She dreamed of her past, an old horrific recollection, that began, as too often, with screaming.

****

She was seven summers old when her father Giric killed her mother. Nothing as quick or kind as a knife, but his selling of Kentigerna bright-hair into slavery, to a Viking, was still murder. Years later, she had never forgiven the old man, nor forgotten her mother’s screams.

She had tried to follow the Viking’s longship, running hard for the track by the loch. Mongfind, her half-sister, older and bigger than her by two summers, had grabbed her. After hearing Mongfind’s shouts, Giric himself had seized and flung the little one, flailing and punching, into the ancient black broch that gave the people their name.

She had hammered on the locked door until her knuckles were bloodied, then sprinted up the winding staircase to the roof of the broch. Seeing a flash of her Ma’s bright red hair in the longship’s bowels, she had clambered right over the thick circular walls of the broch and leapt down.

“Me, too!” she yelled in her later dreams, though she could not remember if she spoke the words. She only knew that if the ship sailed, she would never see her mother again.

Seven years old, I knew this! But then bastards have to grow up fast.       

She landed in a mess of heather, winded and broken. She scrambled to rise and a searing pain in her left foot seized her whole leg. Too shattered to scream, too shocked to move, she watched the Viking longship and her mother sail away.

Irish Maeve, old and wrinkled as a dried out leather flask, prodded her with her walking stick.

“You will do, now get up. There’s work!” Maeve ordered, laughing as she burst into tears. “Get to it, Bindweed.

“She clings,” Maeve told the whispering onlookers, who smirked or shook their heads and turned away.

From that day, the little girl was Maeve’s servant. The name her mother gave her was forgotten and all knew her as Bindweed.

Later, Bindweed learned, a travelling tinker who had a taste for young things had wanted to buy her, but Irish Maeve had refused his offer. But only because I was quick and clever. She never forgot how the old woman had laughed at her hurt and grief, how the others in her father’s fort had turned away.

She never saw her mother again.

 Six years later Irish Maeve died in her sleep. Bindweed buried her mentor on their island home and mourned for three nights, as custom demanded. On the dawn of the fourth day, she poured the ashes of a barley loaf over the new grave and squeezed a final tear from her smarting eyes.

Enough of that, as Maeve would say. I respected her as a healer, but no deeper feeling than that. She took me in for her own convenience and laughed at my grief. Though she did keep the secret of the smaller cave, so there was that.

Bindweed patted the cold earth once, in valediction, and turned back to the small cave where she and the Irish wise-woman had made a dwelling and a home of sorts She was Bindweed Silverhair, wise-woman of the loch, keeper of the island pool, the one maidens and womenfolk turned to so she might heal their hurts. Poultice their beasts. Charm the chickens into laying more eggs. No one now remembered she was the bastard get of Giric the Harsh, a warrior and giver of gold, who had sold his own mistress, her mother Kentigerna, into slavery.

Lightning strike him down for that! Why does Giric thrive? Why do his well-fed, well-dressed legitimate sons and daughters parade through this land like the blessed children of fairy. Not that I wish them ill, but still—

Revenge did not interest her, for that would merely prove she cared about Giric’s ill-nature. She had a home and skills, a name she had made respected. She ate well, even in winter and before harvest-time. No man would want to wed her, with only this scrap of a wooded islet as her land dowry, but she might take a handsome highlander as a lover, someone quick and wick and small as herself.

No boy with light blue eyes, though, no youth with a beard like Giric’s. Send me a sunny lad, nimble with his fingers—

A long, low snore from nearby brought Bindweed stark awake. It was time for her to move.

Time to spar with the Viking again. Even if the brute sleeps.

 

****

Olaf came to with a pounding mead-style headache and a sick stomach. Twitching sore limbs he found himself bound, hand and foot, and blindfolded.

“Drink!”

A pot clashed against his teeth and he guzzled the weak ale, soothing both headache and sore jaws. “Why did you not slit my throat?” he demanded, after the cup was withdrawn.

“I heal, not kill.”

A young female. Another wise woman? Olaf risked a confession. “I was told the witch Irish Maeve was dead, her place empty. I planned to move in for the coming winter.”

“Who told you that? In truth, you cannot. I am her heir.”

“No one mentioned you.”

“No one ever does.”

When the wench said nothing more, he did not deign to respond to her question but asked, “What did you drug me with?”

“Drenched-salted the food, spiked the ale.”

He sensed her smirk and his bound fists clenched. She had admitted nothing new. “My men will find me.” And kill you. The threat went unspoken but hung like a gibbet between them.

A rustle like dry leaves made Olaf turn sharply to his left but the woman was already drawing back, leaving a whiff of lavender and a touch of the soft wool of her skirts.

“You will mend.”

True, since his headache was almost gone, though he tensed in irritation at her ignoring his warning. “And my men will still find me.”

“You have lain in my pit for two days, been sleeping hard for a day and a night, and none have come looking for you. Now there is fog. No ships in or out of the loch, y’ken?”

He breathed in deeply against her mockery, savouring her perfume afresh. “Aye.”

“No men are allowed here on Maiden’s Isle. For despoiling this sacred space I could spell you with ill luck for the rest of your life.” She paused, allowing the silence to grow, then delivered her final threat. “The curse would stick.”

Dread iced up his spine. Has my bad luck tracked me from Byzantium? Fore God, it has been evil since Karl’s death. Grief sleeted through Olaf afresh at the memory of his brother-in-arms, dead these six months and entombed in the white marble of Constantinople.

“What do you want from me?” he demanded. Anything to stop thinking of Karl, cut down in ambush in an arid city street, hundreds of miles away.

“Your name. Why you are on the run. The truth.”

“I am Olaf No-Kin.” He did not ask how the wise woman knew he had neither ship nor men, though he inwardly cursed the loss of that flimsy advantage. How can I do anything if she does not respect me? “I quit my lord Ragnar’s service and took the first passage I could to Alba to offer my sword to a laird of the Picts.”

“A mercenary. Why, if you left his war-band, does this Ragnar pursue you?” 

Published by Prairie Rose Publications, this novel is available for pre-order and will be out on November 5th.

Lindsa Townsend

Friday, 14 August 2020

Crowning Glories - My love of hair & how I use hair in my romances. Plus Excerpts!

 I admit it. I have a 'thing' about hair in my writing.


Not in real life. My hair is brown going grey and tough. It goes its own way and if it's cut 'wrong' then it will spike. I have it cut short and leave it alone. We get along fine. But in my romance novels, I love hair.

What colour will the herone's hair be? How long? Wavy? Curly? I always like to imagine my main female character's hair. 


Many romance novels have blond or auburn haired heroines. Isabella, my heroine from my novella "Mistress Angel" is a spectacular blonde, with colouring that both attracts and also makes others eager to prey on her. I showed off her hair with a scene drawn from the historical records - in May 1357, the King of France was brought as a prisoner to London and paraded through the city in style. The goldsmiths, eager to be part of the show, positioned twelve beautiful maidens in golden cages above the street for them to toss flowers. I made my Isabella one of the maidens.

The gaudy troop of soldiers and knights, already shifting at a slow canter, settled into a meandering amble as the road through Cheapside broadened between the grander houses belonging to the members of the goldsmith's guild.
“Ici, lĂ !” cried Prince Edward, sweeping a bejeweled gloved arm toward the upper storeys. Beside him, on his taller horse, the French king looked up and softly applauded. Stephen scanned the ridge tiles of the freshly-painted, gilded houses and glanced where the prince was pointing.
There she is. He smiled.
He recognized her instantly by the proud tilt of her head, her sweetly handsome profile and those glowing eyes, more compelling even than the luxuriant gold of her hair or her sumptuous costume.
Goldsmith’s garb and no glover’s girl for sure, he thought, reining in his horse and slowing to admire her the more as she shimmered above him like the evening star. Encased in a narrow cage of gold suspended above the cobbles, he saw that she was one of twelve maidens positioned high above the street, all caged, all lovely, but his gaze returned to her alone. Already the others seemed pale shadows, water ripples, echoes. But she is stunning. Above the roar of  blood in his ears he heard the ribald comments of Prince Edward and knew he also approved of her. 
By a mighty effort of will Stephen tore his attention away from this bewitching, naughty beauty and returned to scanning roofscapes. Still his eyes kept flitting back as he silently willed her to turn within her cage, to look out, to look back, to see him.
Know me, girl. Wonder at me, as I do at you. He was torn between admiration and a longing to kiss her thoroughly for her deception. Kissing you will be a sweet revenge.
She was tossing flowers, delicate metal posies of gold and silver that streaked the cobbles like flashing dewdrops or sun-flashed rain, pretty trinkets that the populace would certainly scramble for as soon as the nobles had passed. Still staring toward Westminster, although she must surely know by the mutter of the crowd that the foremost Prince of England and King of France rode right beneath her cage, she scattered another handful of golden petals, seemingly oblivious to the gasps of admiration. Silhouetted against the dark, smoke-stained jetty of the house, her slim body made a pleasing, subtle curve.
****

I kept in mind those aspects all the time I wrote of Isabella - and her hair.

Elfrida, the witch in my "The Snow Bride" is a red-head. This shows her supernatural and inner 
passion and fire, both of which she uses to lure a dangerous adverary closer.


She would not dwell on what could go wrong, and she fought down her night terrors over Christina, lest they become real through her thoughts. She lifted up her head and stared above the webbing of treetops to the bright stars beyond, reciting a praise chant to herself. She was a warrior of magic, ready to ensnare and defeat the beast.
“I have loosened my hair as a virgin. I am dressed in a green gown, unworn before today. My shoes are made of the softest fur, my veil and sleeves are edged with gold, and my waist is belted in silver. There is mutton for my feast, and dates and ginger, wine and mead and honey. I am a willing sacrifice. I am the forest bride, waiting for my lord—” 
Her voice broke. Advent was meant to be a time of fasting, and she had no lord. None of the menfolk of Yarr would dare to take Elfrida the wisewoman and witch to be his wife. She knew the rumors—men always gossiped more than women—and all were depressing in their petty spitefulness. They called her a scold because she answered back.
“I need no man,” she said aloud, but the hurt remained. Was she not young enough, fertile enough, pretty enough?
Keep to your task, Elfrida reminded herself. You are the forest bride, a willing virgin sacrifice.
She had tied herself between two tall lime trees, sometimes struggling against her loose bonds as if she could not break free. She could, of course, but any approaching monster would not know that, and she wanted to bait the creature to come close—close enough to drink her drugged flask of wine and eat her drugged “wedding” cakes. Let him come near so she could prick him with her knife and tell him, in exquisite detail, how she could bewitch him. He would fear her, oh yes, he would...
She heard a blackbird caroling alarms and knew that something was coming, closing steadily, with the stealth of a hunter. She strained on her false bonds, peering into the semidarkness, aware that the fire would keep wild creatures away. Her back chilled as she sensed an approach from downwind, behind her, and as she listened to a tumble of snow from a nearby birch tree, she heard a second fall of snow from a pine closer by. Whoever, whatever, was creeping up was somehow shaking the trees, using the snowfalls as cover to disguise its own movement.
A cunning brute, then, but she was bold. In one hand she clutched her small dagger, ready. In her other, she had the tiny packet of inflammables that she now hurled into the fire.
“Come, husband!” she challenged, as the fire erupted into white-hot dragon tongues of leaping flame, illuminating half the clearing like a noonday sun. “Come now!” 
She thrust her breasts and then her hips forward, aping the actions that wives had sometimes described to her when they visited her to ask for a love philter. She shook her long, red hair and kissed the sooty, icy air. “Come to me!”
She saw it at the very edge of her sight—black, huge, a shadow against the flames, off to her side, and now a real form, swooping around from the tree line to her left to face her directly. She stared across the crackling fire at the shape and bit down on the shriek rising up her throat.
The beast stepped through the fire, and she saw its claw reaching for her. She heard a click, off to her right, but still kept watching the claw, even as the fire was suddenly gutted and dead, all light extinguished.
Darkness, absolute and terrifying, smothered her, and she was lost.

Of course, the battered crusader knight Sir Magnus, hero of "The Snow Bride" is entranced by Elfrida and by her hair.

It's a sweet vice but I have to be careful. Sometimes I have have my characters spending too much time 'fiddling' with their own or others' hair - stroking, patting, tweaking, adding flowers. My heroes are usually as hair-fixated as I am and sometimes I need to remove some of their petting.

Why a dark-haired hero? I've never quite understood that romance 'guide'. Randal in my story Unicorn Summer (One of the novellas in One Midsummer Knight) is blond, a sunshine lad. (Again, I use the colouring as my own reminder and key to character, both for Randal and the Unicorn who is also an important part of this story.  I've written dark-haired heroes but to me it's not an essential.


Ffion shook herself.  “I care not for such trifles as looks,” she answered, in her head, “Though he is handsome.” He was sinewy and lean and his rough-cut yellow hair was as lush as summer butter,  flowing over his broad shoulders as Unicorn’s mane had spilled down his flanks. Catching glimpses of a green tunic and dark leggings beneath his chain mail, she noted the good quality cloth, of older dyes, she thought, but well maintained. Overall he seemed honest and open, and he had a very shapely mouth.
What do I care about his lips! He is clean-shaven, what of it? Aloud, she added, “Will you come with me, for company?”
It was a grudging invitation but Sir Randal smiled and said, “We shall discover how these feathers work.”  He tied his ancient helmet to his belt and offered her his arm.


In my latest novel, "The Master Cook and the Maiden" I have the hero, Swein, wearing a cap for quite a while, teasing the heroine and the reader as to what colour is hair is, a small, sweet mystery.

No one will bother looking for me, Alfwen almost confessed, but the night drew close and she did not want to admit she was friendless, powerless. “I can ride in your waggon?” she asked, spotting the same less than a sword’s length from her. I must have been deep in shock to have missed that and a mule arriving.
“I have some old pottage for your dog, too,” came the genial reply.
He swept her onto the back of the waggon, handed her Teazel and warned, “Stay away from the firebox, or the crocks therein. I have hot food going.”
“My thanks,” Alfwen whispered, praying her belly did not rumble at the thought of more dumplings. She met his bright eyes again, briefly wondering what colour his hair might be under his close-fitting cap. “Might I know your name, sir?”

Later, to show their developing closeness, Alfwen washes Swein's hair and she finally discovers its colour, length and texture.

To celebrate brown hair, in "Dark Maiden" my female exorcist Yolande has long, brown hair:

He saw her face change, becoming as still as a mask. Then she blinked. “I do understand it.  My thanks to you, master Geraint. How may I aid you in return? Are you thirsty or hungry?”
“Ale is always welcome,” he answered quickly, “but for now the pleasure of your company on the road will be more than payment.”
She raised her pretty eyebrows at that. The rest of her was  pretty too , if such a plain word could be used for such exotic looks. By “dark” he had expected black hair, which Yolande had—long, shimmering waves of the stuff, very clean but caught in a simple clasp at the back of her slender neck as if she had no time for any fuss. Her eyes were either brown or black—he could not be sure—but they were clear and steady as if she looked straight to the heart of things.
To the heart of me, for sure. Geraint liked women, loved their smell and feel and their cockeyed way of looking at the world. For all her man’s clothing, Yolande was very much a woman, and a love worthy of Solomon. Her skin was a beautiful shade of bronze, smooth as polished wood, and her eyelashes were double-lashed. She had a narrow face and elegant bones but there was a strength in her, character and soul together. He could imagine her besting devils.
For the rest…the performer in him knew at once that she should be in bright colors, reds and yellows and blues, not the drab serge of a thatcher. If she was in his company for long—and he intended she would be—he would tempt her into a brighter manner of dress.
For she has the glory of the evening in her. She wins me already and does not know it.
“I do not chatter,” she said, unaware of his inner tumult. “I have a way to go.”
Better still. He admired how she did not admit where she was headed. “For today then?” He lifted his hands, palms up. “To the nearest house of honest folk, who will let you sleep by their hearth and me in their hayloft?”
“You wish to squire me to safety?”
“For the pleasure of—”
“For the pleasure of  my company. Yes, Geraint the Welshman, you said that already.” But she was smiling as she spoke and he knew she would agree.
“Shall I carry this?” He motioned to the cross. “You have your bow and bag already, and it will be no trouble.”
After a moment she strode out like a youth, leaving him to catch up. Geraint admired her graceful gait and did not hurry. He wanted their day to last.
By then I may have won another day in her company.

I like to use hair to confound stereotypes. One of my heroines, is blonde - but she would never have a "blonde" moment. She is a dangerous, calculating, kindly, devious.

So I have fun with hair. I've had curly haired heroes and heroines, long haired heroes and heroines, shorn heroes. I've had heroines caught by their hair - one is trapped by her long hair while trying to escape. 

Next time (maybe) I will have to celebrate the naked scalp. That, for me, would be a challenge.

(Photograph by courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Lindsay Townsend

Monday, 27 July 2020

Skye McNeil - Doc T (Macha MC Book 1) Biker Romance



𝗪𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝗱𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗿 𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱𝘀 𝗮 𝗺𝗼𝘁𝗼𝗿𝗰𝘆𝗰𝗹𝗲 𝗰𝗹𝘂𝗯 𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗯𝗮𝗱 𝗯𝗼𝘆 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗼𝗿, 𝘄𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗯𝗮𝘁𝘁𝗹𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗸𝗲𝗲𝗽 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗹𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘃𝗲?

The job is simple. Babysit a MC princess until it’s safe for her to return to Ireland. What Doc T doesn't expect is to fall for the sassy yet innocent Isadora Walsh... but he can’t have her. It’s the club’s rule.
Isa never knew about her father’s role in Macha MC until it threatened her life. Spirited away to sleepy Snowshoe, Colorado, she craves the bad boy assigned to protect her nearly as much as she's determined to get away from club life.
When danger crosses into Snowshoe and alliances are questioned, Isa and Doc are thrust into a MC war that results in bullet holes and kidnapping. Can Doc protect Isa or will the Macha princess do the saving?


Excerpt
“Oh, yes. No woman compares to you.” He couldn’t help himself. She deserved to hear beautiful words every damned day. Lowering his eyes, he stared at her parted pink lips. He leaned in ever so slightly and pressed his lips against hers. She didn’t react, too dumbfounded to move. Catching her gaze, he offered her a smile. “And you deserve a man who’ll tell you that each day.”  


Skye McNeil
Author of Romantic Suspense & Contemporary Romance novels that are smart, sexy, and sassy.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Kristina Gallo - about my books. A Guest post from a Thriller Author

Kristina Gallo is a Croatian multi genre author who writes contemporary thrillers.


 She was a guest in the YouTube podcast The fiendish Minds. 

Here is the link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUUhdDEuucM&t=210s 


Here is Kristina's Amazon page with all links for the books:









The blurb for the book The player without luck:  When Silvija found a dead body in the casino, it looked like an accident. Did it involve the work of hitman?
A man who knew a dirty secret from her past blackmailed her. She had a motive for the murder because a ruined reputation could cause her to lose her job and husband. Her affair with a security guard, Ivan, will complicate things further. She wanted to be safe, but Ivan was involved deeper than she thought. 












The blurb for the book  I will kill you in my dream
Helena is an inexperienced teenager. She wishes to fit in, but local bullies marked her as a weirdo. After unexpected events happened, she will know her power to predict the future in dreams. The principal victims are her enemies and she can’t stop their terrible fate. The war in ex Yugoslavia is the background of this book. Social and national differences destroy many friendships and relationships at that time.  

























The blurb for The seller of sins
Karolina and Filip are a childless couple in a marriage full of daily conflicts and frustrations. Karolina eases her loneliness in a fantasy world of internet chat rooms with strangers while Filip remains blind to her pain. 
Filip wonders if any of the cyberspace connections Karolina finds mean actual betrayal or could something totally different be going on? His search for answers leads him on an unconventional life-altering journey that includes the mysterious Blanka, an obsessive woman addicted to love.