Wednesday, October 22, 2014

NEW RELEASE: The Legend of Lord Randall Caste, book 1

Just wanted to pop in for a moment to let my faithful blog readers know about my newest written endeavor and give a little bit of an excerpt for you to enjoy. Engaging Enchantment, the first e-book in The Legend of Lord Randall Castle e-series, was released on October 3, 2014. On October 7, its first promotional "free" day, it was featured on
Freebooksy and hit #27 on Amazon.com's list of BEST SELLING free SF/Fantasy books. (I am absolutely glowing about the accomplishment.)


Before the excerpt, allow me to show you the book trailer. Please note the words on the left of the screen are somewhat difficult to read. So here is your cheat-sheet:
Screen 1: A princess... A lover... A guardian... A hobgoblin
Screen 2: On will be stolen. Two will stowaway.
Screen 3: Three will risk their safety for love. All will begin an adventure.

“I’m sorry, friend,” Melador spoke quickly, putting the dish towel in his hand onto the counter and walking toward the entrance. “We’re closed for the night. Can I get you something to take home?”

“Uncle…” a familiar voice issued from shadows under the cloak’s dark hood. Melador instantly recognized his sister’s grandson, the half-druid he had helped raise from boyhood. His face rippled into wrinkles as he smiled in greeting.

“Barwick! Well, bolt the door behind you, then,” the old druid spoke, walking toward the young man. Ever since his grand-nephew had joined the King’s service, visits had been scarce. Melador missed him sorely.

“Let me take your cloak,” he offered, removing the long garment and placing it onto a nearby hook before Barwick could refuse. Under the cloak, a plain shirt with long sleeves hid the young sailor’s rippled muscles. In his hand, he carried a small package wrapped in canvas.

“Come. Sit,” Melador continued. Giving his grand-nephew no chance to say no, he took Barwick’s elbow and led him toward the small dining area. He wanted to hear all the news. “What brings you out so far from the castle tonight? I hear there was some excitement… What is in your hand?”

Barwick, now seated on a stool, could not keep the corners of his mouth down no matter how hard he tried to maintain his discipline. He had missed Uncle’s quirky energy. Tilting his chin downward and away, he tried to mask a smile by looking at the package in his hand.

He regained his composure quickly and replied with a question, “Can we speak in private?”

Melador glanced around at dark emptiness. Scratching his chin, he answered, “Sure... Go ahead. What’s on your mind?”

“Uncle,” Barwick nodded in the direction of the server putting away glasses.

The old man’s eyebrows lifted as he realized that Barwick wanted complete confidentiality, “Oh.”

Addressing the server, he dismissed, “Don’t worry about the dishes tonight. I’ll take care of them. You can go home now. I am just going to visit with my nephew for a while. Have a good night.”

“Thank you, sir. You, too.” The server folded his apron and put it away, unbolted the door and walked out.

Melador re-bolted it behind him and turned back to Barwick, “Do you want my faerie friend to leave, also?”

“No, please have him stay.” Placing his package on the countertop, Barwick unfolded the canvas to reveal a faerie king’s ransom in honeycomb. “I have a request that may interest him.”

Two sets of tiny fingers appeared on the edge of the countertop, then a head, followed by a shoulder and an elbow, then another shoulder and elbow and, finally, the complete body of Bud Starembers.

“Hmm…” nodded the druid. Barwick obviously wanted faerie help. But what could he possibly want that he felt the need for a bribe? Melador’s helpers were generally pleased to assist anyone of good heart.

“As you know,” the young man continued, “the princess attempted to elope today.”

Melador nodded. Of course, he knew that. He was the one who had alerted the queen to it. He waited in silence to get to the part about the honey.

“What you may not know is that we received urgent news from the mainland today. King Edward died in Mercia and his son from his first wife, Aelfweard, is disputing Prince Aethelstan’s claim to the throne. The Lords of Wessex are gathering, sending representatives to Winchester for a council while Aethelstan moves his father’s remains from Farndon-on-dee to Winchester cathedral. The council is to make a unified decision as to which heir’s claim Wessex will support.

“We are not part of Wessex so this should be no concern to us. But it is. Our princess is betrothed to Lord Concobhar of Wessex and due to marry within the month. He wants his lady to attend the post-council festivities with him. It is right that he should ask her to accompany him and King Charles would be remiss to refuse the request. But in light of what happened this very evening, he would be foolish to send her without a trained escort to keep track of her. He has chosen me for that duty.

“I, after all, am the one who brought the princess’ lover to Saint Mary. I am also the only one who could find her with him tonight. Nobody else was able. But, Uncle, if she runs and I don’t have a faerie nearby… I am a fair tracker but I was only able to locate her because I had faerie help. I would never have been able to catch her without magic.

“Considering the princess’ propensity to escape and evade non-magical capture, I think it would be a good preventative measure to have a faerie with me in the event I might need help. Our ship leaves at first light and I know it is short notice, but will you relay my request amongst your faerie friends to see if anyone is interested in the job? This honeycomb is intended to be a half-payment to the faerie who accepts.”

Melador’s brow had begun to furrow gradually deeper as his grand-nephew spoke. By now, his eyebrows carved a deep gorge in his temple. He had guessed what was coming all along, but needed to hear the words to believe them. Having been raised around tiny people, Barwick did not fully grasp the hostility non-magical humans had festered through the years towards all creatures of magic. Even the faeries, mostly pacifists, were being persecuted – if they could be caught. The situation was so desperate that the Queen of Faerie, herself, had decreed the mainland of Albion a hazard zone. Faeries were forbidden to travel there. Melador, as a druid, did have the authority to supersede her command if the need should arise. But there was no genuine need.

Without a word, he turned toward the back counter and scooped measures of honey into two tiny pails. Despite the years he had observed the request of Barwick’s human mother, he knew he must now violate her wishes. Pulling a stem of ragwort from a nearby vase, he handed it to the little man on the countertop. It was time to tell Barwick enough truth to make his own choice.

“Forget what you just heard, Bud,” the druid commanded his tiny helper. “My answer is no. Go upstairs and bring down my sister’s amulet. It is in my top drawer on the right side. Here are both measures of honey that you earned today. When you have brought me the amulet, you can take them and go for the night.”

Bud appeared visibly relieved by his master’s edict. Without delay, he took the ragwort and flew up a corner flight of stairs. After a few moments, he returned carrying a silver amulet over his shoulder. Depositing it in Melador’s open hand, he picked up his honey and flew out of a nearby window, a huge smile plastered on his tiny face.

“I will see you in the morning. Aistrigh,” Melador called after his helper, ending with the druid word for “good night.”

Facing his grand-nephew while the sprite departed, he instructed, “Watch my eyes.”

Barwick, trying to decide how he could keep track of his spoiled princess without magical aid, obeyed his grand-uncle… and became very confused. As he watched, Melador’s eyes were changing color! Their normal chocolate brown turned to amber, then hazel and green… turquoise, then blue… light blue… ice blue. At the end of their transformation, they were so bright that they almost glistened.

Barwick’s eyes changed size as quickly as his uncle’s changed hue. They grew wider and wider and wider. Never in his life had he seen Uncle do anything like this.

Watching his grand-nephew’s surprise grow, Melador offered, “There are some things we need to discuss.”

Dumbstruck, the young man just nodded. Anything his uncle wanted to say was fine with him. He just wanted to know what was happening with the color-changing eyes and why Melador had chosen now, of all times, to show them to him. But could Barwick ask? No. He was too stupefied to speak. All he could do was nod. So that is what he did. He nodded, trusting that his uncle would answer his unspoken questions. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

From our house to yours during the most joyful season of the year.
 
Happy Holidays

 


 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Legend of Lord Randall Castle (updated)

I just went back and changed the original post to reflect my current draft, and I have written more than what is here, but I just want to make sure everyone sees this. I am really not sure how much longer it will take to write, as I am having issues with my computer AND I have recently begun courses to learn and begin "life coaching."

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this updated version of the book's prologue. Please let me know what you think.


Long Ago…

After the death of the Great Alfred, scholar and king of the unified Anglo-Saxons; and during the reign of Edward the Elder, who was Alfred’s second son (for the older son had perished during his father’s reign),  on the isle of Saint Mary in the archipelago of Scilly, there lived a noble king and his wife. This king, a practical man named Charles, was blessed with two children. It is of his younger child, Elspeth, that this tale is told.

To relay Elspeth’s story, the peasant with whom she fell in love must first be introduced. His name was Darragh. A slim young man, raised in the city of Ui Liathain in the county of Munster on the great isle of Hibernia, he was the only child of a hard-working peasant handyman. When Darragh’s father died of old age, he left no worldly possessions or means of support for his wife or their son. Thus, Darragh’s mother, Goneril, sold what little her husband had and went to live with her brother. For her keep, she gave to her brother half of the money she received from the sale of her husband’s belongings. The other half was given to Darragh, whom she sent with a kiss into the world to find a future.

This is how Darragh found himself with a pocketful of freedom as his inheritance, walking along the Ui Liantain pier two weeks before his 18th birthday. That freedom was the best his poor father could leave him and Darragh determined that it would be put to good use. Bright blue eyes gleaming in anticipation of high adventure, a blanket bundle of clothing on his back, a few coins in his other pocket and a future to determine for himself, he intended to use his inheritance to seek his fortune as a Viking sailor.

It so happens that docked in the harbor on that day were three ships. Two were the Viking drakkars that appealed to the youth of the day and upon which Darragh intended to serve. A fearsome sight, he was glad to know that he would be behind one of those dragonhead crowned stems instead of facing one!  (Or, at least, that is what he thought.) A chill shot up his spine just to see the long boats so close to where he walked.

When he approached the first drakkar to join its crew, the seaman recruiter snorted, announcing, “too skinny.” Deeply creviced skin weathered by years of salt air pulled apart to expose half of what might be considered a smile. The stench of rotting flesh washed over Darragh with the old sailor’s breath. Trying to hold down his breakfast, he turned away as the old man growled after him, “Vikings don’t have cabin boys.”

Not to be daunted, Darragh hefted his bundle of clothing higher onto his shoulder and walked directly to the second drakkar. That ship’s recruiter did not even comment. He just motioned Darragh aside with a wave of his hand through guffaws of laughter.

Shoulders slumped and head bowed, Darragh stepped away from the line of hopeful Vikings. He looked at the third ship. It was a Roman-style vessel from Scilly. Much different from Viking ships designed for speed and plunder, this vessel was built for sailing distances over deep water. Tall sail masts towered over a deep belly designed to transport goods and people. It did not look at all adventurous. It looked boring.

The pier was virtually empty near the Carthaginians as they were not recruiting. They had sailed in for trade purposes. Still, Darragh was determined to become a sailor. Sailing was his best chance to create a profitable future and he desperately wanted a better life than his father had made. He needed to get on a ship, any ship, to begin learning seamanship and his chosen new trade. So he swallowed his pride and stopped one of the ship’s neatly trimmed dock-hands to ask for the recruiter. The sailor took him to the quartermaster, who took him to the captain.

A slender and tight-muscled man, Captain Barwick took an instant liking to young Darragh. He was so impressed by the skinny, auburn-haired lad’s determination that he decided to take him aboard. The youth could earn his passage as a swabbie until they got home to the port at Scilly, where he could join the Navy if he remained so disposed.

That is how Darragh, an Hibernian, came to join the service of King Charles of Scilly. Being from Hibernia and, therefore, unfamiliar with Scillian royalty is why he did not recognize Elspeth as the king’s daughter when he saw her with her brother on the Naval training grounds. Being unaware of her lineage is how he came to pursue the princess’ affections.

Why she paid attention to him is a mystery. Perhaps it was his rusty colored hair or, possibly, his persistence softened her heart. More likely, it was teenage hormones of first-time infatuation or the fact that she did not want to marry Duke Maxime which caused her heart to wander from the narrow path dictated by her noble birth.

Nevertheless, stray she did and so the king’s firstborn child fell in love with a commoner whose primary interest was himself.
Copyright 2013 Beth Durkee
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dreams of a Castle

It seems to have a while since I posted anything new. Over the past few weeks, I won my court case by default, docketed the debt and sent an execution order to the county sheriff, received a death threat as a result, reported it to the police (just for recording), secured a part-time job at a fast food restaurant, mailed a pickle to my daughter at her university dormitory (baby dill), bought and read half of two books about writing a book, and began writing again on The Legend of Lord Randall Castle that I put down about a year ago. So far, I have written another 2,000 words on the story. At this rate, I should finish in about... oh... 47 more years and be... mmm... about 21 years old.

Watch out, fame and fortune, here I come!

I have also been talking quite a bit to the man who is building my castle or, rather, "Lord Randall Castle." (It is not really mine or a castle. It is more of a very large, windowless, storage building that I dubbed a castle when it had an accidental moat before the footers had been backfilled. The fun thing is that my friend who is building it is actually helping me pretend it is a castle by planning to add a top floor with windows, a catwalk and turrets. Yes, real turrets. Isn't that FUN?! I very much enjoy people who facilitate my dreamy-eyed delirium, therefore we have been talking quite a bit as the building of our castle progresses.)

Floor one of the castle is just about finished after two summers of non-stop building. I had better get cracking on my story about it! Every good castle needs at least one legend. On the other hand, my computer's circuit board is cracked (surmised by my engineer friend) and writing on it has become more and more challenging through the course of time. Ah, challenges. What would life be without them? Probably very boring.

You have already read my story's prologue [CLICK HERE] (which has been modified only a very little). Would you like a sneak peak of its awesome new cover? It was done by cover artist Emily Lam in anticipation of finishing the story sometime soon. Here it is!


Looking at the book cover is really inspirational because it makes me want to read it. I already know but I wonder what happened inside that castle. Don't you? Can you guess the genre? Yes, I am branching out into Historical Fantasy. Let me write a little more and I will try to give you a "sneak peak" of what is to come.

Till later!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Dream and a Promise


On July 27th, this year, I looked out my front window to find a beautiful, vivid double-rainbow hanging in the sky before me. I exclaimed so that my daughter would come to look, then ran for my camera. I knew right where it was but by the time I got back to my window, the doubling had almost completely disappeared. Still, I snapped photos so that I could remember. I was sure it must be a sign of some sort, so I posted two photos to a blank blog in anticipation of writing something about them.


My next-door neighbor's house
That night, I lay awake in bed, pouring through Noah's story in Genesis to try to discern what my double-rainbow might have meant. But all I could get was that there would never again be a great flood to destroy the earth. I let the matter go and forgot about writing in the blog.
The other night, which is months later, I had a strange dream. In the dream, a gentleman friend that I have never met in person but with whom I have been speaking long-distance for about 2 years was talking to his older sister. He was telling her of his failed attempts to ask me to marry him. It was a very strange dream as, to date, he has been very respectful of my Stand for restoration and there have been no proposal attempts. I determined that I would call him to talk about my dream. Unfortunately, the next day was Sunday and he was in church all morning (I went Saturday evening), so I could not call right away. I would have to wait.
 
I was just poking around online, biding my time, when I came across the unfinished post about my double-rainbow. All that was there was pictures, but when I saw them, the meaning of the dream and significance of the double-rainbow slapped me in the face. A tear formed in the corner of my eye with the realization.
 


Several years ago, my husband left me for his mistress. In complete disregard for Biblical Law, he divorced me against my will so that he could pursue his adulterous relationship. Since then, my heart has been closed. I have turned down every date request and, yes, marriage proposal while waiting for his return. (I figured he would have to wake up someday! No luck. He seems to be in a coma.) 
 
The meaning of my dream: It is time to open my heart again to someone who wants to love me.
 
Genesis 9: 11 "I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth."
The meaning of the rainbow: "I establish my covenant with you: Never again will your heart be destroyed by the waters of a flood of tears; never again will there be a flood to destroy your life."



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A different angle to the method

Roughly twenty years ago, when I was first married, I bought an avocado at the grocery store and tried to get its seed to sprout. I followed my mother's directions exactly, but no roots began to grow. Thus, began a minor mission that has lasted some twenty years and travelled with me to Texas and back, to 2 apartments, 2 duplexes and 3 houses.

No matter what I did, I could not get an avocado seed to grow... except once. I guess it was about 17 years ago. A root began to form from the bottom of a seed, which itself began to split. The root was about half an inch long and I was sooo excited! Then, somehow, despite my excitement, I allowed the seed to get too dry and it died in its jar of water. Arghh! Small success that it was, I determined that the next time my seed started to sprout roots, I would just plant it right away.

Next time? What "next" time? That was the ONLY time! Still, I kept trying to sprout a seed to get an avocado plant to grow. When I was living in the Austin, TX suburbs, my neighbor had a huge avocado plant that she had sprouted from a seed. She gave me some of her tips. Still, it did not work. Then, I moved back to Wisconsin and took a break from cooking for a few years. No cooking means no avocado seeds. No problem.

This last July, some family came to visit my house for the first time and my daughter and I made guacamole for them. We used two avocados. I remember looking at those seeds in defeat, wondering if I should even bother to try. Clearly, I am not meant to ever sprout a seed. I almost threw them both in the trash, but something stopped me. Perhaps it was the potential represented by the seeds. I don't know. What I do know is that I stuck toothpicks in their sides and stuck them both in little containers of water.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I used those flimsy, flat toothpicks instead of the sturdier round ones. The toothpicks holding up my avocado seeds kept falling out or breaking off! I felt very frustrated but determined that one of the seeds looked like it was beginning to form a nub on its bottom, out of which I believed a root would grow. I decided to stick it in some dirt and see what would happen. After all, I figured, that was better than certain failure from having the seed drown or the root break off when it fell down or something along those lines.

Together, my daughter and I poked some holes into an empty, plastic sour cream container, filled it with dirt and planted the seed with the nub on it. Then, for no apparent reason, we also planted the other seed in dirt. But the only container I could find for it was an empty yeast jar. It was glass, so we obviously could not poke drainage holes in its bottom, and its mouth was almost exactly the size of the seed itself, so we could not even test the soil's dampness with a fingertip. Despite that I doubted the seed would grow, it got planted.

I put both seeds on my front porch and watered their soil whenever I watered my other porch plants... about once a week. Once a week does not seem to be enough watering for avocado seeds on my front porch. The seed I thought had the best chance to sprout looked like it was thinking about forming a crack to let out a sprout, but nothing ever came. The other seed looked like nothing was either happening or ever going to happen. Still, I watered both seeds every time I went out to water my other plants.

Then, in August, the very week that I was due to leave to drive my daughter to college, I saw a mini-miracle that had been 20 years in the making. My seed, the one in the yeast jar that I thought had no chance to ever grow, sprouted a shoot. It turns out that because the jar had no drainage holes, the seed was effectively sitting in mud for the entire time it was on my porch. It had the moisture and nutrients it needed to form a massive root system (that I had to pry out of the jar using a table knife so I could plant it). I did not see the roots forming because of the yeast label. (I had not bothered to clean it off the jar because I thought the seed would just die, anyway.)

What a surprise! It is also kind of a lesson, though, don't you think? Just because we cannot see progress does not necessarily mean it is not there. Also, even seemingly hopeless situations that have been tried countless previous times are not necessarily devoid of potential. Sometimes, we just need to try a slightly different angle to our method (like using a yeast jar full of mud instead of clear water and toothpicks) to make things finally work out.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

More Stories Coming Soon

Hello to all my faithful readers and any new readers who may have recently found me. Long time no write. This is just a quick note to let you all know that you are not forgotten. I do plan to post new articles soon. I am just in the middle of a bunch of things right now and am having trouble writing for this blog.

THE EXCUSES
(Don't you just hate a complainer?)

1. I have this "pro se" (means I am doing it myself) lawsuit I have filed against that person who conned me out of money I cannot afford to pay my credit card. (If I could, I might just save myself the heartache, pay it, then re-learn my lesson about lending money to supposed "friends.")  It is a living nightmare. (The woman should be sued. Oh, wait. That is what I am doing.)

I cannot write much on this topic until there is a resolution, but you can see the little I have already written here: http://awritersblot.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-long-con.html

2. I have started a new blog, which requires some attention as it is an advice column of sorts for those "standing" for marriage restoration. Find it here: http://standingjournal.blogspot.com/

The new blog comes with a video segment, posted to Youtube, that takes considerably more time to create than it takes to watch. The experience of filming it leads me to wonder how soap operas produce such long shows on a daily basis.

3. I am looking for a job through an employment agency. (Disabled or not, I have bills to pay and I like to eat every day.) I am having considerable difficulty finding an open position I can adequately perform and that an employer will hire me to do.

4. On top of all that (as if it weren't enough), my computer is having power issues. At first, I thought my power cord was broken (again) and I bought a new one. But I just got the new cord in the mail yesterday and I am still having the same problem. Now I know what the problem must be (well, one of the problems):

I use an old laptop (I cannot afford a desktop) and I must have bumped it because the power cord does not charge the machine unless I hold it in the plug in just such a way. If I had any money, I would either have it fixed or buy a new computer... Ah, for the good old days when my husband was around to open up the case and fiddle with the insides of my laptop to make it right again.

BOTTOM LINE

The above are my excuses for not writing recently. There are always excuses to avoid things that consume time and pay nothing, but rest assured that there should be some more stories coming soon. I am thinking of this blog and I do still owe its readers at least one story about driving my daughter down to her university for the Fall semester. So keep checking back from time to time (or just subscribe so that new posts will show up in your feed). Here is a photo from our long drive to whet your appetite for my next short tale: