History of a Dead Man – excerpt

February 22, 2017

Until recently, I thought I would publish History of a Dead Man in with the 4th Sacred Knight novel. Imagine my surprise when one morning I woke up with a little voice telling me that I had to release it as its own novella? After all, why not? I am releasing a lot of short stories and novellas on their own right now. Why withhold the print edition of History of a Dead Man?

I couldn’t find a reason.

So what is History of a Dead Man? It’s a side story to the life of Saint Steigan and is meant to be read between the 3rd and 4th novels in the Sacred Knight series.

Here’s the blurb for the book (that’s what the ad on the back of books is called, a blurb):

History of a Dead Man

Annae Bytherhourn’s life changes when she discovers the truth about her father and he becomes a stranger to her. His past contains terrible secrets. History remembers him as a thief, conspirator, traitor, and killer. Now he has manipulated her life to position her in as much danger as he would be in if the world found out he still lived. Can she overcome her own personal anger to leave the unbiased account of a life that needs to be remembered for a thousand years?

History of a Dead Man chronicles the missing forty or so years in the life of Saint Steigan as told by the daughter he raised. Only she knows the true story of a man who had to make hard decisions to carry on a difficult mission and become a champion.

So, in celebration of the print version now being available, here’s a sample:

History of a Dead Man

I sat on my father’s lap in the darkened room, his warm arms around me. His heart pounded and an occasional shudder ripped through him.  I felt like sobbing and I wondered if he did too. Even at ten cycles old, I knew this new situation to be wrong.

Only moments before, a strange man had stumbled into the house, the door slamming behind him. Dirt splattered the stranger’s green shirt and the lacings hung loose as if he’d been too hung over from the previous night to do them up correctly earlier in the morning.

“Come here, Annae,” I heard my father’s deep voice call softly. It felt like a strong undertow current, safe and familiar, compared to the chaotic, cresting waves on the surface.

I left my seat at the square, wooden table and dashed for the room which served as my father’s library. As I skirted around the stranger, I half expected him to reach for me, but his dark, glassy eyes never left my mother as she ran her fingers through his disheveled hair. The scent of smoke and ale stirred in the air as they laughed and moved through the kitchen, heading deeper into the house, arms grabbing and tangling each other as if drowning and gasping for life.

Roused by the commotion, my dad had hobbled to the doorway and stared venomously at the embracing couple. He scooped me up in his arms and took me into the secluded room, closing the door behind us. His walking cane thumped hard against the floor as he went around the room and blew out all the candles as if pretending we weren’t even there. Then he sat down on the floor against the wall with me on his lap.

 A resounding thump followed trilling laughter. I glanced toward the door, wondering if they were coming into the library too. Dad placed one hand on my head, covering my ear so the only sound I heard was his heartbeat. Was he struggling to keep me from hearing the stranger?

As the ticks deepened, he began to tap his head against the wall behind him as if he could bang out the frustration he felt. I tried to look up at him, wondering if his expression would give me an explanation for what was going on, but I couldn’t see him in the dark.

At last, he stood up awkwardly bracing himself with the cane while holding me and carried me outside to the forge house. I glanced around, awed by the blacksmithing tools and creations he had in here. Normally, I wasn’t allowed inside, but the arrival of the stranger with my mother granted me an exception, though I wasn’t quite sure why. Pliers, hammers, pinchers all arranged neatly on the wall, tables set with different size anvils, nails, horseshoes, chainmail, plate armor, swords, arrow tips.

Setting his cane against the wall, Dad opened a cupboard and pulled out a cloth sack. Inside the sack, wrapped again in more cloth, he took out a loaf of bread and handed a chunk of it to me. “Sit and eat up,” he said, then he set to work. His gait took on a more pronounced limp as he walked around unaided. Tonight, I could tell, his leg bothered him more than usual and he’d probably looked forward to spending the evening writing at his desk as he did most nights after supper. Instead, he’d been driven out here. He removed his vest, hung it from a hook on the door, and put on a leather apron which had been hanging from another peg.

The hot, metallic odor of blacksmithing stung the inside of my nose and I could barely bring myself to eat, but I did anyway as I watched my father work. His tunic grew damp with sweat as he worked over the forge and pounded away at softened metal. His short black hair was soon plastered to his head.

With the heat and my belly filled with bread, I felt my eyes grow heavy. Rhythmic tapping urged me to sleep. I wanted to stay awake, to watch my father work, to know when the man would leave our house, to know why he was there, but all my curiosities fell away like sparks blown from the bellows when Dad would stoke the forge’s fire and more warmth surrounded me.

I woke for but a moment when Dad sat down beside me and pulled me against him. I felt him slide the rolled up vest beneath my head, picking away a piece of straw stuck to my cheek.

“Little Annae, I’m so sorry,” Dad whispered into my hair before he breathed in deeply. “It should have been me.”

I woke before Dad the next morning, though my stirring roused him. He helped me to my feet, then straightened my hair with his fingers, pulling out more straw, and adjusted my clothes so they didn’t look like I’d been sleeping all night in them though I had. He licked his thumb to wipe a smudge from my face and gave me a reassuring smile as if to say it would be all right. I believed him.

I didn’t want the strange man to still be in the house.

Dad took my hand and guided me along the cobblestone walkway to the door. The morning chill vanished as warmth from the fires of the kitchen hearth greeted us along with the scent of baking bread. It suddenly felt like a regular day. The normal moment almost erased the abnormality of the night. We came into the kitchen where Mother was making breakfast. She turned at our arrival and wiped the back of her wrists hurriedly over her cheeks. Rushing to put down the knife she’d been holding, she rubbed her hands inside her apron, then dried her red eyes once more. She’d been crying for a while.

Dad released my hand as my mother dashed over and hugged me.

“I thought you might have taken her away forever,” Mom said, her hands flat against my back, pressing me closer to her.

“If you want to act like a dog, keep it out of the house and away from Annae.” He started to step by her, but hesitated. “I will not be put through that again.” He continued on to the washroom.

How could my mother and father have come to this? I knew we were different from other families. I’d seen the way my friend’s parents acted together and wondered why mine didn’t do the same, but I’d been too young to understand why mine slept in separate rooms. It was our little secret which we hid from the world behind well-chosen lies.

To the outside world, we seemed like the perfect family. A mother and father swinging their young daughter between them, all of us smiling and laughing as we headed to Cliff Park in Dubinshire for the annual Springsday Festival, the annual celebration kicking off our holiday season.  Dad would participate in the sword challenge. I loved watching the young boys take on my father; none of them could ever land a blow unless he let them. Which he did; he always let the boys win. Lord Freygorio, ruler of Dubinshire, would jest about another defeat and tease my father about losing his edge, but Dad and I knew the truth: he was a great dominus and had fought in many battles for the Temple, defending the Goddess from naysayers. It’s how his leg had gotten injured and his face scarred.

My mother and I were so proud of him. Or I thought we were.

Dad made sure I had the best schooling, lining me up to become a Temple historian. It suited my intellect and penmanship, he had once told me. Little did I know that I had the biggest piece of history right in front of me.

One evening when I was thirteen cycles old or so, Dad and I were in his library after supper, as was our usual custom. I had my lessons spread out on the table before me. Dad sat at the desk nearby, two books open before him as he copied text from one into the other. I couldn’t read the beautiful scrolling writing, but I couldn’t stop watching how it flowed effortlessly from his quill.

He paused to ink the tip and saw me staring at him. “What did you learn today in your classes?” he asked with a sad smile.

“Your friend, Sapere Hyrin, came in today and spoke about the ethics of history,” I replied.

He went back to his writing. “So what did he say about the ethics of history?”

“He said that it meant we, as historians, had a job to record events like they really happened and not let our emotions cloud it. We have to be truthful and unbiased in our chronicles. He said we shouldn’t be influenced by what others would have us record.”

Dad frowned at the page he was working on. “What if that endangers the lives of those around you?”

“I didn’t think to ask that. But why would the truth endanger people?”

“Did he care to give you any examples?”

“He spoke about Saint Steigan and how he was a dominus who first transformed the Temple at Lilinar, then nearly destroyed it. Sapere Hyrin said that period of time became known as The Breaking and the Reunification in Lilinar, which is now dubbed New Lilinar to fully mark that devastating era as concluded.”

Dad put his quill down and covered his face with his hands.

A terrible thought hit me. “Were you there? Did you fight against Saint Steigan?”

Tears caught in the candle’s light highlighted the bitter pain across his face.  “The Temple was in flames, walls crumbled, there was smoke everywhere. The Breaking was a terrible time to be in Lilinar. Saint Steigan put you and your mom in a wagon and got you out.”

“Why don’t you tell her the truth?” Mom’s small voice asked from the doorway where she’d been listening.

Dad slammed his hands on the desk as he stood. “Have you been conspiring with Sapere Hyrin now? You will not destroy this family!” He grabbed up his cane and started toward her. I wondered if he would strike her with it. “I have worked too hard to let you break it up,” he shouted at her.

Mom fled and shortly the house door slammed behind her. She was gone for the evening. Dad’s shoulders slumped forward and he stood there for a moment before turning back toward me. I wondered if I might get the truth, whatever it was that Dad was hiding from me. Instead, he limped over to the table and put his hands over mine. He looked like he was about to say something, then patted my hand. “’Tis time to get ready for bed. Go on.”

I knew now that Sapere Hyrin had been telling me that history contained lies because some things were too terrible to drag into the light even within families. I also had been given a mystery within my own house. What did my parents know that they were trying so hard to keep from me?

 

I hope you enjoyed that except. Continue reading in ebook or print forms. Order your copy now.

Click here to get a signed copy.


Progress – 02/20/17

February 20, 2017

Fiction words written last week: 7,883 words

Blogs/Newsletter articles written:  985 words

Writing month to date total: 19,341 words.

Writing year to date total: 41,471 words.

Drawing/painting last week: 0 square inches painted.

Illustration year to date total: 131.25 square inches.

Audio: I spent 6 hours on editing  and recording audio.

Week’s happenings: I feel like I’m just about back on my game. I started my read-through of the 4th Sacred Knight book. I actually made headway this week, until Friday. Then I started having the urge to watch a movie. According to my spreadsheet that I keep, I had accomplished my daily writing goals (the minimum I need to reach in order to get to my yearly goal) every day for 7 days. I was so thrilled that I had the streak going on. Several of those days, I was far above my limit, meaning I was catching up on my prior days where I hadn’t reached that goal. But then Friday afternoon I started feeling the need to veg out and watch a movie. Mind you, I love stories. Movies are probably my favorite way of taking in a story because it only takes about two hours, but I generally feel as if I’m wasting my time when I should be writing my own stories. I literally have to remind myself that I’m watching a movie to take a break. But when I want to kick back and only be entertained, that’s usually my clue that I haven’t take an a recreational break in a while and I need to come to a full stop for a bit. Saturday I got my wish. I watched Howl’s Moving Castle. Dianne Wynn Jones was a wonderful storyteller. I want to be a writer just like her when I grow up.

On Thursday and early Friday, I thought I might even get some painting done. I thought that I’d spend Saturday writing and have reached my weekly goal so that I could spend Sunday writing. Obviously that didn’t happen. I have spent a lot of time thinking about that dream I spoke about in my blog last week and I’ve had so many additional insights about it. I feel like this week I’ve only aquired my inspiration that anything else since I still haven’t progressed forward with it.

I made several corrections to audiobook edition of The Last Ant, so I hope to have those merged this week and begin on my final mastering work. I’d like to have it up in a couple of weeks but we’ll see what really happens. I also spent some time trying to resolve some of the issues which make editing audio so painstakingly long. I re-recorded the first chapter of The Three Books (AGAIN!) and I need to listen to it to see if I’m making any progress. I feel like every time I move forward, I take two steps back. I look at the fact that I’ve spent 21 hours so far this year doing audio work and I tell myself that it’s 21000 words I could have written. Am I having fun yet? No, this is more damn work than I’d planned on. At times it really ticks me off. But then, I get in the booth and start to tell my story and suddenly I’m blissfully sharing my story. If I could actually get from booth to listener with ease (okay, I know it will never be as easy as I had orginially thought it would be, but not spending so much time editing everything would be helpful), I’d be delighted.

Maybe I’m still feeling tired overall, maybe I need more of a recreational break, maybe I’m feeling a little frustrated, maybe a little of all of the above, but I feel like I have so much more to go and too much to learn. In every aspect of my life, there are things that I love to do and I want to be at a certain level that at the moment it seems it will take me forever to get to. I want to be a great storyteller with innovative ideas like Dianne Wynn Jones. I want to be an artist that transports viewers to beautiful, magical places. I want to be a good enough voice actor that people love to listen to my tellings of the stories. Am I wanting too much? Would it be better if if I wanted a simpler life? But I only have the spot where I’m at. I can’t climb the mountain if I don’t start. I must keep putting one foot in front of the other, putting myself out there with what I have. That’s all anyone can ever do. And maybe if I’m lucky, this week I’ll be better than the last week.


ACEO of the Week – 02/18/17

February 18, 2017
magical-landscape-2017-6

Magical Landscape 2017-6
3.5″ x 2.5″ acrylic on Bristol Board
©2017 Dawn Blair
For Sale

I actually got the idea for this ACEO (and another one I will list here soon) when I was playing around with PicsArt — a picture app for your phone. I’d taken a couple pictures of some of my ACEO’s and was toying around with the app. Suddenly this very cool image appeared and I went, “Mine, mine, mine!” It’s kind of cool to see what inspires a creative direction, I think.

This ACEO is for sale.


The Doorway Prince – excerpt

February 15, 2017

Tomorrow I release my newest novella, The Doorway Prince, to the world. Today, my lucky readers, you get an excerpt from the story to whet your whistle.

the-doorway-prince-small-cover

 

The Doorway Prince

 A faint, damp smell of rain came through the open window, making Eclipse look up from his desk. The sun still shone brightly in the sky, but he saw the droplets falling outside and could just barely make out the edges of a gray cloud which must be situated above the castle. The large leaves of the trees several yards from his window collected the water and dipped in the breeze. A servant boy pulling a cart full of tools hurried for the nearby livestock sheds. Eclipse couldn’t help his chuckle as the boy walked beneath a branch that tipped its leaves over his head at that moment and drenched him. Some days were just like that.

Eclipse knew his day was coming.

He rose from his desk and crossed the room to his bookshelf. It had been awhile since Eclipse had allowed someone in here to clean; he couldn’t afford to let anyone’s energies conflict with his own while he made the necessary calculations. Dust piled on top of the wooden shelves, except in front of this one book which had a sharp-edged and dirtless track in front of it. Once again, he pulled the compendium smoothly from the shelf to consult with it as he had countless times already.

Eclipse just never liked the answer it kept giving him.

This time would be no different, he was certain. Yet he took it back to his desk and his calculations. He sat in the high-backed wooden chair once more, then put the book down atop his newest notes, lay his hands on the book, and blinked down his third lid. “Novestri ali’ack suventay.”

The book began to vibrate beneath his palms. He held it down, violently willing this attempt to yield the answer he sought.

Rain pelted the window and Eclipse noticed the wind had kicked up. The approaching storm was blowing in earnest now, brewing overhead.

“I know,” he whispered to the energy of the growing tempest. “Send me a good result this time.”

As the book settled, he removed his hands from the leather cover. The text flipped open and rolled through the pages. At first, the paper was blank, but then ink rose to the surface, bleeding through the white surface until it was covered with odd scrolls, lines, and dots. Eclipse knew better than to try to interpret it until it was done. The Humline rarely answered in a linear fashion.

Once the page was filled from top to bottom, Eclipse set to deciphering the writing. The first thing he noticed was the spiral pattern to it. He still wouldn’t get a straight answer. Even the spiral had waves to the lines and some letters and words were written larger than others.

CalcUlations, calcuLATIONS, Eclipse! Be Brave. yoU have the Answer You seek. Why keep asking? Questions, QUESTions, Eclipse. be NOT blind. Let the SON come forth. Do not hide IT behind youR cloak. Let the POWER not be ECLIPSED. Seek in the city and there you shall find HIM. Star 5402, Venric ipSON, DO NOT believe YOUR DOOM.

He slammed the book closed and paused for only a moment while he took a couple angry breaths. Maybe he was getting too old to be listening to the Humline. Then, swiftly, gracefully, he moved the book from atop his notes back to the shelf. Again.

 

To read more, pre-order (or order if it’s after 2/16/17 that you’re reading this) your copy here. Then select the store of your choice.

You can also get a signed copy on my Zibbet store. As a pre-order special, you get it for $1 off the normal price.


Tick-Tock Tuesday!

February 14, 2017

ticktocktuesday

Good day and welcome to a special Valentine’s Day edition of TIck-Tock Tuesday.

I’m offering 14% in my Zibbet store today. Use coupon code TTHEARTS to get the discount and get something for someone you love. Or use it to get something you want. Self-love is valid and you should never be ashamed to treat yourself. Being single and happy myself, I can say that.


Progress – 02/13/17

February 13, 2017

Fiction words written last week: 6,216 words

Blogs/Newsletter articles written:  1,687 words

Writing month to date total: 10,446 words.

Writing year to date total: 32,603 words.

Drawing/painting last week: 0 square inches painted.

Illustration year to date total: 131.25 square inches.

Audio: I spent almost 3 hours on editing audio.

Week’s happenings: I accomplished much last week. I finished reading through The Doorway Prince. I just kept having to add scenes to it. Adding, adding, adding until it clicked and announced that it was done. After that, it seemed like a flurry of activity to get it uploaded for pre-order. Watch for Wednesday of this week when I have an excerpt from the book here on this blog. I also got History of a Dead Man up as a print book. At this moment, it hasn’t been released and while not a new book, I hadn’t planned on it being in print version until I released the 4th Sacred Knight book. Surprise! Well, more on that in a couple weeks. I updated my Zibbet store to add items. I also updated my book website. I got my February newsletter out. What, you didn’t get yours? Well, be sure you’ve signed up. Click the “Sign up for Dawn’s email newletter” button off to your right to make sure you don’t miss out on more sneak peeks and fun stuff.

I’m surprised I didn’t get any painting done yesterday. I woke up in the middle of the night on Sunday with this piece of advise someone in a dream was telling me. I couldn’t completely shake off the dream to write it down, but I remember waking up several more times during the night with it repeating in my head. The advise: “An artist who believes his canvas is white remains invisible.” This probably doesn’t make sense to someone who doesn’t paint, but I remember the context of the dream right before this line was said to me. I was talking to this unknown someone about the gesso (a preliminary paint used on canvas) being white already so why did I need another layer of white? I know that probably has no meaning for anyone, but let’s see if I can explain and maybe even I will glean some additional value out of it. In the dream, I was complaining that the canvas already had paint on it, white. How could I do anything when it had already been painted on? I was obviously having blank canvas syndrome.

After I woke up and began to write down the quote, I had to expand it. “An artist who believes his canvas is white remains invisible. A writer who believes his page is blank remains untold.”

That was when this really started to come together for me.

Many writers I have both known and heard about have faced the blank page, whether it be a literal piece of paper or a blank computer screen. They sit there and do not write. They fear that they won’t be perfect. They can’t get out of their head to tell their story. I thank my lucky stars that I have never been afraid of the blank page, even when I had writer’s block and spent many years not writing. Even then, I could always find the hole on the page and slip through it to another world; I just felt all my words were crap. Hint: that’s usually a sign that you’re leveling up. I know that now. The blank page never remains that way for me for long. I write. I tell stories. I don’t even care if anyone else reads them or not. I’ve shared if people want to access them. I’m moving onto the next story. No blank pages. I see through to another time and place; I take the next adventure. My page is never blank and so my stories get told.

My illustration on the other hand, is a whole different creature. My canvases are blank. I am remaining invisible. I don’t know who I am as an illustrator. That’s what this dream was telling me. I have to find that same hole and slip through to see the artwork that is already created. I don’t know how to do that.

Okay, so there are some people who would say to just start throwing paint at the canvas and see what develops. I’ve done that, and I’ve had success (which in itself can be scary because it’s a power one has no control over and yet needs to respect). When I have a story idea, I usually start with a character who begins just talking to me and won’t shut up. I don’t know what to listen for with the painting. I don’t know what to look for. I feel blind. It’s invisible.

And yet I really wanted to paint on Sunday. Badly. I’d written early in the morning and by the afternoon, I wanted to switch to painting, but I didn’t know what to paint. I didn’t even pull out my paints because I didn’t want to face the blank canvas. Or, blank Bristol Board as the case probably would have been. Do I believe that my painting surface is white? I must for my work remains invisible.

I remember thinking at one point last night as I woke again with the quote circling my head that I could paint all my canvases with a light coat of burnt sienna. But all that would be doing is changing the color of the canvas, not solving the problem.

I know the answer, for it is the same thing answer for the blank page syndrome for writers: Just start. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be good. Just do something.  Give yourself forward movement. The block points to leveling up.

If I let my canvases remain white, the magic I want to share with the world will never been seen.


ACEO of the week – 02/11/17

February 12, 2017

Ack! I’m actually posting this one late. I completely forgot and I will admit that. With my deepest apologies, let’s get to the pictures, shall we?

2014-38

2014-38
3.5″ x 2.5″
acrylic on Bristol Board
©2014 Dawn Blair
SOLD

I’ve always wondered where the cave goes to. Maybe it’s something as unexciting as a culvert under a road. Except that I always had great adventures when I went through the tunnels in the ditches around my house when I was growing up. I’d go through one side and come out the other side in a different world. I still love getting teleported away.

Click here to see more adventuresome ACEO’s I have for sale.