Being a Writer
“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one, you will feel that all that happened to you and afterward it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.” ~ Hemingway
I would amend that quote only a little to say “after you are finished writing one you will feel that all that happened to you…” I certainly felt like that after I finished Maidensong, my debut title. I lived Bjorn and Rika’s adventure, down the wild rivers of Europe to an exotic southern city that was filled with treachery and danger. I experienced their hopeless love, their angst, their despair and their triumph. It was, as we say in writer circles, “the book of my heart.”
It was also my first professional vindication. Someone (Dorchester) wanted to publish it in 2006 and was willing to pay me for the privilege. It was a huge milestone for my writing life and my first foray into the maelstrom of publishing. I was a “real” writer.
I love this story and was so excited to regain the rights to Maidensong so I can offer it to you as an affordable ebook.
I’ve had a wonderful time going back through this story, tweaking here and there, adding new material and becoming reacquainted with Rika and Bjorn and their Dark Ages world. Be sure to pop back by in the next few days. My webmistress will have a new book page for it with a longer excerpt, but for now, I’ll just leave you with a little of the opening:
The babe wailed again.
“There, lamb,” Helge whispered as she sponged the last of the slick fluids off the enraged little body. Flickering light from the central fire kissed the newborn and danced across the smoke-blackened beams of the longhouse.
The old midwife sighed. However difficult the babe’s entry into the world had been, she was at least a healthy child, perfectly formed with all her fingers and toes. A crest of coppery hair was plastered to her damp head.
“Hush you, now,” Helge coaxed.
The wrinkled little face puckered and the newborn shrieked as if Loki, the trickster godling, had just pinched her bottom. Helge wrapped the child snugly in a cat-skin blanket, crooning urgent endearments.
“Shut the brat up,” Torvald said, his voice a broken shadow of its usual booming timbre. All the souls sheltered in the longhouse went expectantly silent. As if she sensed menace in the air, the child subsided into moist hiccups.
“Will you not hold your daughter?” Helge offered the small bundle to Torvald. “She’s a fine child, fair and lusty.”
“No, I’ll not.” Torvald knuckled his eyes. “She’s killed my Gudrid. I’ll have naught to do with her.” When he looked at the mewling babe, his face was a mask of loathing. “Put her out.”
Helge flinched. “But, my lord—”
“Don’t argue with me, woman. Am I not chief over my own house?” Torvald’s gray eyes blazed with a potent mix of fury and grief. “I said, put her out.”
Helge’s shoulders sagged. She couldn’t remember the last time a healthy child had been exposed. But Torvald was master here, so there was nothing for it but to do his bidding.
Still, it didn’t seem right to consign the babe to Hel empty-handed. It was bad enough that she’d go unloved and unmourned to that shadowy, icy place. Even worse, she’d arrive there as a pauper.
Helge laid her little charge on the bedding, and untied the thin strip of leather from the dead woman’s slim neck.
The pendant was a simple little amber hammer, its only distinctive mark a tiny purple orchid trapped forever in the glowing stone. Perhaps Thor would mark the child for his protection if she met her death wearing his talisman. It wasn’t much, but it was all Helge could do for the mite.
She bundled herself against the cold and left the longhouse bearing her whimpering burden. The stiff hairs in her nostrils froze with each breath.
The thought of leaving the child for the wolves made Helge’s chest constrict smartly. She decided to let the sea take her. It would be clean and quick. There’d be less chance of hearing the child’s keening death wail on the wind. And the unhappy little soul would find it harder to trouble those who’d disowned her with malicious tricks later, as some malevolent ghosts were known to do.
Snow crunched underfoot as Helge trudged down to the shore where the fjord was choked with ice. Armed with an ax she picked up as she passed the woodpile, Helge carried the babe as close to the edge of the floe as she dared.
“Good-bye, little elf,” Helge said as she placed the newborn on the smooth, cold surface. “Thor keep you, for I cannot.”
She brought the sharp ax down with a thwack. The brittle ice shattered in a jagged line and separated from the main body of the floe. Helge gave it a nudge with the ax handle.
She watched with a gathering heaviness in her chest as, bobbing and dipping, the tiny bundle on the ice sheet floated out with the tide.
If you’d like to be notified when Maidensong is available, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. I only send one out when I have a new release or when one of my publishers is running a time-sensitive special on one of my books (hint: Valentine’s Day is coming! Have I got a treat for you!)
Have a great weekend. What are you reading? I’m loving an ARC of The Most Improper Miss Sophie Valentine by debut author Jayne Fresina.