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Monday, 25 June 2018

A #fantasy novel to throw you head-first into the #mystery, #passion, and the harshness of #fictional #Norman times .@rararesources .@ToraWilliams1

 Bound to Her Blood Enemy
Tora Williams

Norman heiress, Matilda Comyn is desperate to escape her grasping guardian and reclaim her inheritance.
After a lifetime of being let down by men, she wants to rule her lands on her own terms. She can’t escape without help and battles her mistrust when compelled to join forces with a Welsh spy.  

Huw Ap Goronwy has a rival claim to Matilda’s castle and has sworn a blood oath against the Comyns. When his king rules they must marry, he struggles to reconcile his attraction with his need for revenge. But they must form a truce if they are to seize their castle.
 Risking capture and death, they will only succeed if Matilda learns to trust, and Huw allows his love for Matilda to overcome his need for revenge.

Bound to Her Blood Enemy

She reached for the ointment, only to gasp when Huw gripped her wrist.
“Hold—you’re Reginald Fitzjohn’s ward?” There was an odd look in his eyes that she couldn’t
“Yes. What—?”
He let her go. “You’re Matilda Comyn.”
A shiver of unease trickled down her spine. “How do you know my name?”
“I keep my eyes and ears open.”
“That’s no answer.” Suddenly she was afraid. Not the same fear she held for Sir Reginald, but the fear that came when standing on a precipice, knowing one misstep would send her plunging into the unknown. She moistened her lips which had grown dry. “You still haven’t told me why you’re here. Give me a reason why I shouldn’t turn you in.”
“Even if I tell you, what guarantee do I have that you won’t turn me in anyway?”
“Because I’m no…” She stopped. This wasn’t how the conversation should be going. So far, she’d learned his name, and that he was Welsh. She’d as good as told him her life story. Trying to get information from Huw ap Goronwy was like wrestling with eels.
“There’s no guarantee. You’ll just have to trust me.”
“I trust no one.”
This was getting them nowhere. “You’re right. I could turn you in.” She stabbed a finger up toward the main body of the keep. “There’s any number of men up there who would be very interested to know why a Welshman is here, disguised as a beggar.”
“What’s stopping you?”
“In case you hadn’t noticed, Sir Reginald and I are not on the best of terms. If he caught you and found out I’d spoken to you, he’d punish me. So, believe me, I want you to stay hidden.”
Huw’s face darkened. “He beats you?” It gave her a thrill to hear the concern in his voice. It wasn’t something she was used to from a man.
“Only when…” She caught herself. She was doing it again. Giving him information when he volunteered none. “That’s not your concern.”
Huw shifted on the bench as she was speaking, and his cloak parted. The tunic underneath was just as ragged, but a glint caught her eye. Before he pulled the cloak closed again, she caught a glimpse of a dagger at his hip. Although its ornamentation was simple, the quality of the workmanship was clear. No ordinary man would bear such a weapon. A suspicion of the truth formed in her mind, and she grasped it. Anything to break through this man’s reserve.
“You’re Owain Gwynedd’s man, aren’t you?”
She’d heard rumors that the King of Gwynedd was seeking to reclaim the lands taken by the Normans, taking advantage of the chaos in England.
A muscle jumped in his jaw, betraying him.
“That’s it.” Her voice, which she had kept pitched low, now rose in excitement. “You’re here as his sp—”
“Quiet!” He clamped a hand over her mouth and spoke in an undertone. “Do you want to get me killed?” He glanced over his shoulder toward the open doorway, his body tense. Matilda forced her breathing to calm. If he’d wanted to kill her, he would have done so by now.
The sound of the armorer whistling, accompanied by the rasp of whetstone upon iron, drifted into the room. Huw relaxed and loosened his grip. “Promise to keep your voice down, and I’ll let you go.”
She nodded. His reaction had dispelled any doubt about the rightness of her guess. The plan that she had been turning over in her mind was looking ever more possible.
He removed his hand from her mouth, and she stepped back, rubbing her arm.
“Did I hurt you?”
She shook her head. She picked up the jar of ointment and fumbled with the stopper, fighting the urge to speak. Two could play at this game. This time he was going to talk, and she was going to listen.
One corner of his mouth tilted up. “Very well,” he said. “You’re right. I am the King of Gwynedd’s man.”
“And you’re”—she dropped her voice to a murmur—“spying out the Norman strongholds for him?”
He nodded.
“Is that why you’re here at Redcliff?” She frowned. Redcliff was a few miles east of Shrewsbury. Not far from the Welsh border, but surely not close enough for the Welsh to have a claim.
“Not in this instance, no.”
“Then why are you here?”
“I came to find you.”


Tora Williams lives in Shropshire in the United Kingdom.

On childhood holidays her interest in history was fired by exploring castles in Wales and the Welsh borders, and she would make up stories about characters living there. When she started writing, it seemed only natural to turn to the settings that inspired her as a child.

In her free time, when she can drag herself away from reading, she enjoys walking and cycling.

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Friday, 22 June 2018

Described as 'unsparing in its emotional honesty', Tilting by Nicole Harkin #memoir #excerpt @rararesources @harkinna

Tilting, A Memoir
Nicole Harkin

We only learned about our father's girlfriend after he became deathly ill and lay in a coma 120 miles from our home.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble 

Overhearing the nurse tell Linda--since I was nine I had called my mom by her first name--about the girlfriend who came in almost every day to visit him when we weren't there confirmed that the last moment of normal had passed us by without our realizing it. Up to then our family had unhappily coexisted with Dad flying jumbo jets to Asia while we lived in Montana. We finally came together to see Dad through his illness, but he was once again absent from a major family event--unable to join us from his comatose state. This is the moment when our normal existence tilted.

Dad recovered, but the marriage ailed, as did Linda, with cancer. Our family began to move down an entirely different path with silver linings we wouldn't see for many years.

In this candid and compassionate memoir which recently won a Gold Award in The Wishing Shelf Book Award, Nicole Harkin describes with an Impressionist's fine eye the evolution of a family that is quirky, independent, uniquely supportive, peculiarly loving and, most of all, marvelously human.

Tilting, A Memoir

We made great time on the first day of the trip and didn’t stop at any marinas. We ate the peanut butter and jelly or ham sandwiches Linda brought and drank the juice boxes.
“Mom, where are we stopping tonight? Can you show me on the map?”
Both parents looked at me but didn’t say anything.
“Mom, the hotel is where on the map?”
“A hotel has different floors. A motel is only one floor. The places along the river are motels,” Linda said.
“We’re sleeping on the boat tonight.”
I stared at Linda, thinking about what she said.
“But there’s no place to go to the bathroom. Why?”
“Dad doesn’t know where the money is,” she said.
“It’s in his wallet.”
“Nicole, he doesn’t know where his wallet is.”
“Did he lose it?”
Again my parents looked back at me.
“He might have left it in the car,” said Linda.
The boat with its orange cushions and orange all-weather carpet shrank. The party barge quickly lost its fun.
“Well, we have to go back.”
“It’s too far to go back. You can never go back,” said Linda.
“What about the bathroom?”
“The boys can pee off the boat.”
“I’m not a boy.”
“You’ll have to jump in,” said Linda.
“What about you, Mom?” I asked.
“That’s enough.”
The locks that peppered the river lifted and lowered boats, as though they were in a giant bathtub, allowing the boats to traverse areas of the river with dams.
After the kids fell asleep on the boat the next evening, Dad pulled up to a lock and rang the bell to alert the lockmaster we needed to go through it. Without showers, we smelled and looked homeless.
Nothing happened.
Dad kept ringing. Once the kids woke up, Linda blasted the boat’s air horn. The lockmaster still didn’t respond.
This lock had railroad ties placed together to form walls and doors. Rebar steps formed a ladder for climbing out of the lock. The stars and moon shined brightly and an outline of the trees could be seen.
“Jack, you need to climb up and go find the lockmaster,” Linda said.
“He’s coming.”
“He’s not coming.”
“What else am I supposed to do?” Dad asked.
“I already told you to climb up the ladder and go get him.”
He didn’t want to get on that ladder, but he climbed slowly up it.
“Can you see those spiders above your head? Watch out for those.”
“I see some big spiders.”
Linda used the flashlight to light Dad’s way up the ladder.
“Linda, stop laughing and point the flashlight where I can see it.”
“The flashlight’s attracting bugs,” she said.
Dad found the lockmaster in his house, asleep. The lockmaster hadn’t expected a family on a pontoon boat to come through in the middle of the night.
On the way back down the ladder, Linda kept harassing Dad.
“I think I saw some really big spiders. Did you feel their webs?”
Dad called a guy who had bought a plane from him and lived nearby asking him for a loan. The guy lived in Memphis, and he met us at a marina along the river for an exchange that must have looked like some shady deal. The guy drove up, handed the Dad a wad of cash, and drove off. We had some money again, but still only enough for fuel and some food, not for a motel.
The next day things took a turn for the worse.
“Dad, why’s the boat tilting to the side?”
“Well, Nicole, I think there’s a leak in one of the pontoons,” said Dad.
His calm response meant he had already noticed the problem and deemed it unworthy of mentioning to me. The fact that the pontoons were steel instead of aluminum seemed more important.
“A leak?”
“We’re sinking!” I screamed.
“Sinking” sat in that spot in my brain where the most terrifying things that could happen to a person resided.
“Yes, technically, we are sinking. But very slowly,” said Dad.
“What are we going to do?”
“Nothing. It’s not that bad.”
Linda seemed resigned to Dad’s assessment: keep going, press on.
I was less convinced but stuck on the boat nonetheless.
It hadn’t rained much that summer, making the river low in some places. Dad had taught John and me how to drive the boat, making sure we looked at the map to stay away from the shoals.
“Dad, it’s a lit
tle shallow here,” said John.
Dad was in the back of the boat working on something else, not listening to John. We jolted a bit as the boat slid firmly onto a shoal. The other times we’d run aground, Dad had jumped in and pushed us off.
“Jesus Christ, John. I’ll push us off.”
“Jack, no! You can’t do that,” Linda said.
“Why not?”
“Can’t you see the signs?”
We turned our heads. The signs along the banks of the river stated, “NO FISHING, SWIMMING, OR RECREATING. CONTAMINATED WATER” above icons with swimmers and fishermen X-ed out.
As we sat there on the shoal hours went by. The sun moved from one side of the river to the other. There were no trees nearby and the mosquito spray no longer worked. And, we were running out of drinking water. Dad stood up.
“Jack, you can’t get in the water.”
“I have to. It shouldn’t be that difficult.”
There was no other way. He jumped in and struggled to move the boat.
Linda shouted, “Keep your balls up, honey.”
A few days went by like this, living and sleeping on the boat. We’d lay out our towels and fall asleep on the open front deck under the stars. Linda and Dad lay on the bench seats, covered in towels. Linda had had some money in her wallet, but not enough for the whole trip. For food, we had sandwiches that came in triangular-shaped containers from vending machines at the marinas. The long side of the container peeled back so I could get my ham salad or turkey sandwich out. When we ran out of those we only had the Oreos Linda had packed as a surprise.
“OK, where’s the motel we’re stopping at?”
Once she laughed, everyone laughed.

Nicole Harkin currently resides in Washington, DC with her husband and two small children. She works as a writer and family photographer. As a Fulbright Scholar during law school, Nicole lived in Berlin, Germany where she studied German environmentalism. Her work can be found in Thought Collection and you are here: The Journal of Creative Geography. She is currently working on mystery set in Berlin. Her photography can be seen at www.nicoleharkin.com.

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