What possesses one to write a novel? Passion! It’s there inside of you,clawing its way out. You can’t not write it. That’s how it was for me with The Singing Dagger. I was in an emotionally abusive marriage with my—ooh do I dare say it – second husband. Dagger was an escape for me. When I look back on writing it, I rather feel like I cheated.
There were no arduous outlines. No hair-pulling bouts of writer’s block. No episodic self-doubt. I set a schedule – 6:00 pm to 6:00 am, six days a week. Each day at Noon I’d slip into silken sleep and the dreams would come. Always the next scene came to me in perfect order. I could clearly see my characters and came to know them so intimately that there was no question in my mind as to how they would respond to various situations. Although the main characters, mortal and immortal, are gifted with magical powers and are pure of heart, they have their faults and idiosyncrasies as well. I love them. I’ve heard tell an author can love his characters too much. Poppycock. Ooh did I say that out loud?
Each night I set myself a minimum of five pages of new material. Some nights might indeed see just five pages. After all, dreaming a story scene and putting it on paper are two very different animals.
Each night I’d start with editing the previous night’s work. I never had any desire to rush through these pages trying to see how much I could turn out in the shortest period of time. I was in love and my novel was my lover. We caressed each word with great care, committed to careful study of each to ensure greatest satisfaction. We? You may ask. Yes. We. My characters and I. For indeed, they had their own voice.
There are many words in a writer’s tool chest, but the joy is in determining exactly which word delivers the precise emotion, the picturesque ambiance, the subtle nuance. Which word will paint the desired landscape in the reader’s eye? Which word will perfectly describe the character’s anger, joy or despair?
The writing took about six months. I set it aside for nearly three months before turning it over to an editor. I started the book in January, 2007 and ended it in November of the same year. And then I left husband number two. The process of leaving and the writing of the novel ran parallel lines. Dagger saved me, gave me confidence to do what I had to do.
I’m including two excerpts. I could have, and maybe should have, included an intense romantic scene, but this first one makes me laugh. I hope it will you as well. The second is rife with raw emotion. Is there sex in the book? Let me just clarify. It is a Celtic Romantic Fantasy.
Intro: Aidan is visiting the four army camps ensconced around the estate. King Mordha had proven to be difficult from the beginning — with his prejudices and backward ways. In this scene – well let’s just say, the proverbial shit hit the fan.
“We need to move on to our final stop,” Aidan said to the king. “Since it’s late afternoon, Ian and Bradach may as well come with me. We need to see Mordha and then head back to the house for dinner. We’ll see you after for our nightly debriefing.”
“I look forward to it.” Fergus sent them on their way feeling hopeful, in spite of what they were riding into.
The foursome was still a ways from the stables above Mordha’s camp, when Bradach pulled up next to Aidan.
“Any reason you put Mordha’s men so close to your house?”
“They’re the smallest group and they need the most attention.” Aidan breathed a long, tired sigh. “I’ve been dreading this visit all day.”
Bradach turned his head towards Ian and Gildas. “Is that why you brought back up?”
“I guess you could say that. I have no patience with undisciplined behavior, and I don’t trust myself to respond as I probably should.”
“Oh, so you brought me along. You think I’m going to be any more controlled than you?”
“Well, one of us has to be.”
Before they even reached the stables, sounds of raucous laughter arrived on the breeze—along with something else.
Ian held his sleeve up to his nose. “What’s that stench?”
Aidan bit his lip. “This is going to be bad.”
The sight that met their eyes when they rounded the stables was worse than any of them imagined. Animal and human excrement covered the ground because Mordha’s men were too lazy to dig a ditch. They’d strewn food scraps as far as the eye could see.
Aidan pulled at Mire-chath’s reins so tightly the horse reared.
Finn and Murtagh joined them, having just returned from their encampments for the evening meal.
“Oh shit!” Finn let out a long low whistle and laughed. “Brie’s gonna to have a fit. There’s only twelve hundred of them.” He threw up his hands, still laughing. “How’d they do this in such a short time?”
The camp wasn’t even aware the Elders and their captains watched them. Music rang through the air. Mordha’s men danced jigs and emptied jugs of new beer down their throats. And the king himself reveled in the middle of the fray.
Isélad and Lennox rode up beside Aidan and Bradach.
Aidan gave them a black look. “How could you let this happen?”
“Let this happen?” Isélad said, snarling. “You think we let this happen? There’s only Lennox and me here. I wanted to kill the useless bastards,” Isélad curled his upper lip and adopted a churlish, sing-song voice, “but Lennox here didn’t think it a wise choice.”
“I would never have imagined sons of Tara to be such debauched fools,” Aidan said.
Bradach crossed his arms over his chest. “What’re you going to do?”
“Do?” Aidan gaped at him. “I find Isélad’s idea attractive.” Aidan jerked his head toward Finn. “Damn it, stop laughing.”
“I know what to do,” Finn said with a shrewd grin. He turned and rode top speed to the house. They could still hear him laughing halfway up the path.
Aidan and the others pulled away from the noxious stench and waited for Finn’s return.
Soon enough he rode past them, Brie’s long blond hair flying behind her. She had her wand drawn and was in a fury, evidenced by the fiery red of her cheeks.
Men scattered, dropping jugs, instruments and food. Finn cut several swaths through the unruly crowd until they were silent. Brie’s inhuman screams rooted them where they stood.
Finn brought his horse to a stop in the middle of the mob.
Brie jumped down and the encampment stared at her wild eyed. With the first swipe of her wand she cried, “Glan amach!” Every jug of alcohol turned upside down, emptied their contents and shattered on the ground. The men cried a vicious lament, but before they could take any action against her she waved her wand again and cried, “Glan suas!”
Excrement and debris swirled into the air and flew to the end of the field furthest from the stables and main house.
“Oh, Brie.” Finn spit and wiped his face with his hand.
Yelps of anger rose from the crowd, but none dared move. Human and animal filth covered everyone, including Brie and Finn, but the field was clear again.
Aidan, Isélad, Ian and Bradach ventured closer, shaking with laughter.
“I’m glad we stayed back.” Bradach doubled over, clutching his side.
Mordha marched up to Brie. All she could see of him through the muck were his two hamsterish eyes. “What’s the meaning of this, young lady?”
Finn dismounted and lodged himself between the king and his wife. “I know you want to be careful how you address Lady Brieanna, Mordha. Don’t forget, you’re in her home now.”
Mordha backed off a few paces.
“How dare you come into our home and treat it in this manner,” she said. “Take your men down to the water and clean yourselves up. That way.” She pointed toward the cliff path leading down to the ocean. “Don’t even think about mucking up the river.”
“How dare you address me like this.” He poked his thumb at his chest. “I am King.”
“Then act like one. Since this is how you regard our hospitality, you’ll enjoy none of it tonight.”
Mordha’s mouth hung open.
“Go,” she screamed.
He hung his head and motioned his men to follow him. They disappeared down the path as she’d told them.
Brie and Finn climbed back on their slippery horse and rode to where Aidan and the others waited near the stables.
“I don’t know about you, Bradach, but I couldn’t have handled it better,” Aidan said.
“Nothing like a riled up woman to set things straight.”
Finn pulled up to Aidan. “Whoa,” Aidan said, backing away. “That’s close enough, thank you.”
Once she calmed down, Brie got a good whiff and wrinkled her nose. “Ugh!” She retrieved her wand from her pocket and returned Finn, their horse and herself to their clean and altogether more pleasant selves.
“That’s much better,” said Bradach, laughing. “Yummy. I’m hungry.” They broke into a gallop and raced each other home.
NOTE: The Taran army has just arrived at Faerne Green, just a few miles from where the deadly battle for which they have prepared these past months will take place. Aidan is in the inn watching Erin settle herself and their baby into their room. He is coming to terms with the imminent loss of the woman he cherishes more than his own life. The Elders had told him he would have a long, happy life with her, but he knew better — felt the rending of his heart as they drew closer to her end. He recalls the vision he had when he was away with the Night Stalkers.
He closed his eyes and the dreadful hour glass imprinted on his brain. Only a few grains of sand remained and the dagger quivered impatiently. Anger snaked up through his core. She was leaving them. He clenched his fists.
She busied herself cheerfully, folding Tiernan’s clothes as if nothing were out of the ordinary.
He beat against a raw fury that made no sense. It’s not like she’s choosing to leave, but how dare she be so happy.
He threw the door open. “I’ll be back,” he said sharply over his shoulder. “I need to check on…something.” Aidan slammed the door behind him and ran to an exit at the far end of the hallway. The door opened up on a set of stairs leading down into a deserted alley. He leaned against the wall of the building and banged his head against the roughness of the unpainted pine boards. Aidan slid down the wall and came to rest on the dirt-encrusted landing.
He beat his fists against the floorboards trying to distract himself from the rising torrent inside him. Thunder boomed overhead. Lightning stabbed the sky and piercing raindrops fell, joining the first tears that sluiced down his face. The increasing ferocity of the late spring storm kept pace with the tempest railing inside him and provided cover for the unleashing of his anger.
“I can’t do this. You ask too damned much.” He shook his fist at whatever god had set this path. “I need my wife and that boy needs his mother. What gives you the right to ask so much of us?” If there was an answer, he couldn’t hear it over the shrieks without and within.
Bradach raced up the stairs to get out of the rain. He had his hood pulled down low over his face and nearly tripped over Aidan before he saw him.
Aidan leapt up and intercepted Bradach’s jaw with an uppercut, knocking him backward.
Bradach grabbed the rail and broke his fall about a quarter ways down the steep stairs. He stumbled back against the rail, rubbed his jaw and gawked at Aidan in shock.
Aidan’s body drove him the rest of the way down the steps. They landed in the mud, Aidan straddled him and drove three more punches home before Bradach threw him off and jumped to his feet.
He stood over Aidan, his knees soft and his fists clenched in defense.
“You’re the last person I want to see.”
Bradach’s expression echoed his confusion.
“My loss, your gain. That’s the way of it, isn’t it, Bradach?”
“No, that’s not the way of it. Do you seriously believe I want her to suffer? You think I’m chomping at the bit just waiting for her to die? Of course I want her, I love her, but I would’ve never chosen this path for her. I assumed she’d live to be a grandmother, a great grandmother even. I wanted her to have a full life, a man that worshipped her as much as you do and children that adored her.”
Aidan flew at Bradach.
“I didn’t choose this path, Aidan. She did.”
Aidan’s body went slack. He fell rather than plowed into Bradach, who caught him. “No, she wouldn’t do that.” He wept while Bradach held him.
The storm was subsiding.
I am working now on The Lost Child, book two of the Caitriona Prophesy. I’m happily married to husband number three. We’ve been together ten years now. And no. I’ll not be leaving him with the publication of The Lost Child.
You can purchase The Singing Dagger on Amazon.com.