Primal Calling by Barry Eisenberg – An Excerpt

While rummaging through the attic, high school senior, Jack Davies, is surprised to find his never-before-seen birth certificate, revealing a startling bit of information that changes his life. The story his mother told about his birth, he discovers, is revealed to be a lie, shattering long-held beliefs and the trust he had for her. Jack becomes obsessed with discovering the truth, leading him down a dangerous path. Faced with unanswered questions and confounding obstacles at every turn, Jack finds himself deeply enmeshed in an intricate world of national security and international intrigue. Relationships are tested as his every move is tracked by a group of mysterious people. Who are they? Whose side are they on? Who can he trust? And, most importantly, who will he ultimately become?

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An excerpt from Primal Calling by Barry Eisenberg

 

Jack walked toward the student parking lot. It was late in the day for a final exam, and he didn’t encounter any acquaintances on the five-minute walk to the parking lot. The driver of the Taurus spotted Jack entering the parking lot and turned on the ignition. Jack got into his car and backed out of the spot. His mother was expecting him home before dinner. He became preoccupied with thoughts of the important phone call he was scheduled to get the following morning. 

 

The Taurus followed the Accord, the driver carefully staying sufficiently back to avoid arousing suspicion. After exiting the college, the Accord turned right onto Rockaway Avenue, a main thoroughfare that cut through several suburban towns. Rockaway Avenue had an eclectic mix of old shops and newer, trendy stores. A health foods store sat adjacent to a shop that sold antique toys. When Jack was a boy, he had loved to watch the Lionel train set displayed in the window. The sturdiness of the train cars and the authenticity of their appearance mesmerized him, as did the fantasy of hopping on board and being whisked beyond the confines of his community. 

 

Jack turned onto Valley Mill Turnpike, a single-lane road that ran through a stretch of woodland. Jack was about seven miles from his home. About two miles onto Valley Mill Turnpike, Jack noticed that the Taurus behind him was getting much closer. That guy is in a big-time rush, Jack thought. The Taurus, gaining ground, was now about a car length behind. Jack gently tapped the brake to slow the car, hoping the Taurus would pass. 

 

After a few seconds, the Taurus began to pass. Jack glanced into the Taurus as it pulled alongside. He noticed three people in the car, all of whom were staring directly back at him. It struck Jack as a look of scrutiny, as though to confirm their find. The female passenger, sitting in the front passenger seat, had a piercing, frightening gaze. She waved to Jack to stop. 

 

Jack’s mind was racing. His fear that this group would seek him out had materialized. But he knew he must try to avoid them, lest he expose Cathy to danger. He believed he had no choice but to dodge them and call her. He also knew he should not use his cell phone. 

 

Jack hit the accelerator and his car lurched forward, pulling in front of the Taurus. The Taurus regained speed and, again, came up just behind the Accord. The driver was clearly skilled at this activity and, at once, was able to maneuver his car beside Jack’s. Another wave by the woman to slow down. Jack needed to get away. As he fixed his gaze on the road in front, the driver of the Taurus, in anticipation of Jack’s plan to try to race ahead, pulled his car in front. 

Jack was now behind the Taurus. Both cars were moving at sixty miles per hour. Jack knew that a string of about ten stores, including a gas station, was just two miles up the road. Just then, the Taurus started to slow down. Suddenly, the deceleration became abrupt, and Jack couldn’t help but get too close for comfort. He slammed on his brakes. Panic! 

 

Jack tried to steer around the Taurus, but it shifted to the left, a deliberate attempt to prevent Jack from passing. The Taurus was slowing to a complete halt, and Jack was unable to steer past it. His only choice was to put the car in reverse and try to back out of the area. Jack took a deep breath and threw the car into reverse. The Taurus, now also in reverse, followed closely. Jack desperately wanted to turn the car around, and thought he had an opening. He spun the wheel and the car veered toward the shoulder. But Jack was no match for the driver of the Taurus. Before Jack could put the car in drive, the Taurus lunged back, tires screeching, until it was positioned directly in front of Jack. 

 

Trapped! 

 

Jack slammed the gear shift into park and bolted from the car, leaving it running, and darted directly into the wooded area behind him. The lanky man from the back seat and the woman scrambled from the car in pursuit. In the meantime, the driver of the Taurus repositioned both cars to the shoulder of the road. 

 

Jack had no choice but to use his phone now. His hands trembled as he fidgeted for it, and the uneven terrain made it impossible to maneuver through his pockets. Then he realized his phone was on the passenger seat of his car. 

 

The man shouted to Jack to stop. The woman, not far behind, screamed, “We’re not going to hurt you.” In the face of this madness, Jack found her tone oddly believable. Fearing no possibility for escape, Jack was left with no choice but to confront them. 

 

He wheeled around, screaming, “What do you want from me? Who are you?” 

 

They stood about twenty feet from Jack, separated by a small clearing in the thicket of trees. 

 

“We are not here to hurt you. We need you to come with us,” the woman repeated. 

 

Jack succumbed to a strange, paradoxical mix of panic and curiosity. He didn’t know these people, though he had been aware they might seek him out. But he could not reveal this awareness to them. And he didn’t know if he was in danger. “What if I don’t? You can’t do this to me.” His wobbly voice managed a trace of defiance. 

 

“Actually, we can,” the man declared. His tone was powerful and convincing. That was it. With those three words, the man’s authority — an unequivocal dominance over Jack — became deadly certain. 

 

Jack stood there, frozen, while the pair walked toward him. He suspected he wouldn’t be hurt, but he couldn’t be positive. He was at once consumed with energy and sapped of it. 

 

“Where are we going?” Jack asked, relinquishing himself to a fate over which he knew he had no control. 

 

“Back to the car,” the woman replied. “You need to come with us.” 

 

The woman led the way back to the highway. Jack followed, not wanting to provoke the man, whose presence loomed directly behind. Along the path lay rocks and tree branches. One of these might be used as a weapon, he thought. His mind raced; is there time to grab something? But other than a small tussle with a class bully in the third grade, Jack had not been especially schooled in the ways of physical confrontation. In fact, among the best of his social talents was conflict avoidance. No, he’d surely lose out in a physical struggle. 

 

Jack pressed the pair for information. “Who are you? What do you want from me? Take my car. Take my money. Just please let me go.” As Jack’s pleas faded, so did any semblance of his resistance, and the pair offered nothing. No hint of purpose. No gesture of reassurance. The remainder of the short walk to the car occurred in silence. 

 

As the group neared the car, the man told Jack to get into the back seat with him. The driver and the woman assumed their original positions in the front. She turned to Jack and instructed him, “You need to call your mother. Where’s your phone?” 

 

“It’s in my car,” he responded. 

 

The woman retrieved Jack’s phone from his car and handed it to him. Then she advised him on what to say: “Tell her that you were asked by Mr. Dwyer to help with a project at the department tonight.” Holy shit, she knew his computer instructor’s name. “If she asks what the project is, tell her the department is planning the installation of new hard drives on the school’s computer system during the summer, and you’ve been asked to help with preparation.” Jack felt a sense of terror — she knew about that too! “Tell her you’ll be home close to midnight, but she shouldn’t worry if you’re running late.” 

 

“Is all that clear?” the man in the back asked with stinging bluntness. 

 

Jack nodded.

The man’s stare was laser-like. “Be convincing,” he said, which sounded to Jack like a warning.

Jack hit the call button and stared at the woman as the phone rang. 

 

The driver, who had not turned around during the entire time Jack had been in the car, kept his sights on the road ahead. 

 

“I got her voicemail,” Jack informed the group. 

 

“Perfect,” said the woman. “Just leave the message and tell her you’ll be home late tonight.” 

Jack delivered the message as directed. The slight hesitancy in his voice was not enough to create concern for the group. 

 

“Unfortunately, we’re unable to answer any questions right now,” she confirmed. “But I assure you our aim is not to hurt you.” Then she exited the car, walked to Jack’s car, and got into the driver’s seat. Jack watched as his car made a U-turn. The Accord drove alongside the Taurus and stopped. The window rolled down, and the woman instructed the driver of the Taurus to follow her back to the college. 

 

The trip back to the college was made in silence. Despite her cool assertiveness, the woman’s presence eased Jack’s fear. There was a cold, menacing steeliness without her, and Jack believed there could be harsh consequences if he showed any sign of resistance. 

 

As they arrived at the college, Jack realized he had yet to hear the driver utter a single word. Jack watched as his Accord passed by the student parking lot and headed for the visitor lot. The majority of students at New Jersey Central College commuted to school, but about a fifth of the student body was from out of town. Parents and friends who visited were directed to park in the visitor lot. Jack knew that cars could be parked there for days without being ticketed by college security. Apparently, Jack’s abductors knew this as well. 

 

The woman parked the Accord and returned to the Taurus. Jack observed her placing his car keys into her purse, which had been on the front floor of the Taurus. The Taurus pulled out of the visitor lot, through one of the smaller gates of the college and then back onto Rockaway Avenue. 

 

As the Taurus left the immediate area, Jack, impelled by trepidation, dared to question his captors again. His tone was pleading. “Who are you? Why are you doing this?” 

 

“Everything will be made clear in due time,” the woman replied, icily. “Now, please, no more questions for now.” 

 

Jack knew the car had been heading north, but he was unfamiliar with the route the driver was taking. After what felt to Jack like a distance of about seven or eight miles, the car pulled onto a small side road. It was desolate, eerily so under the circumstances. The lanes were narrow, not much wider than the car itself, and the quick succession of twists and bends in the road made it impossible to see beyond a few yards. 

 

The car drove about five hundred feet up the road, then pulled off onto a dirt shoulder. The woman turned around and faced Jack. Jack’s fear — this terror produced by a sense of imminent doom — caused his mind to scramble, scanning everything, anything for any possibility of escape. But there was no way out, and the fear manifested in jolts to his system. He could feel his heart beating in his chest. A strange numbness gripped his hands and descended toward his wrists. The tips of his fingers tingled and were overwhelmed by a paralyzing weightiness. A stinging electricity coursed through him. 

 

“I can’t tell you where we are going or why. And I’m not free to answer any questions right now. I need you to wear these for the remainder of the trip, though,” the woman said, handing Jack what appeared to be a pair of sunglasses with shields that wrapped around the sides. 

 

Jack slowly extended his hand to take the glasses from the woman and asked why he should wear them. “Just put them on, please. It’s for your own protection.” Jack sensed impatience in her voice, but with a hint of sensitivity. She was a model of efficiency. There was nothing wasted about her. Her words were delivered methodically without a syllable to spare. Her hair, shoulder-length with just a hint of a wave, had fallen back neatly into place despite a run in the woods. Jack felt his heart pulsing. 

 

Jack discovered these were not ordinary sunglasses. They blackened out all traces of light. He had no idea where they were going. 

 

Travel resumed. Jack felt the car make several turns in quick succession. He believed this was a deliberate strategy to confuse him. Until they had stopped, he knew they were headed north, but this jarring sequence of turns was disorienting. He knew only that there was no stretch of extended highway driving. 

 

About twenty minutes later, the car slowed, pulling onto gravel. The front passenger door opened and the woman stepped out. The two men remained in the car. The woman opened the rear passenger door where Jack was seated. He made no move. The woman reached in and placed her hand under Jack’s elbow. “Please come with me,” she demanded, her tone firm but noticeably polite.

Jack slowly extended one foot out the door and felt a gravel incline beneath his feet. With the glasses still on, Jack was escorted by the woman for about twenty yards. He heard a door in front of him open and was told to go up one step and enter a house. The wooden floor felt like the floor in his kitchen at home. Its hard texture was offset by a suppleness that muffled the sound of shoes making contact with it. 

 

Jack was advised by the woman that he was heading to a room in the back of the house. She led him straight for a few feet and then made a turn to the left. He surmised that a kitchen was to his right from the faint hum of what sounded like a refrigerator motor. He was also aware of the presence of other people in the house, not from voices, but from the dampened creaking of the floor. Another turn, this one to the right, then up five steps. The steps were carpeted, as was the hallway they entered on this elevated floor. 

 

A door opened in front of Jack and he was asked to enter. The woman escorted Jack about five steps into the room, then guided him toward a folding wooden chair. Once seated, Jack heard the door to the room close. 

 

“You can remove the glasses now,” she said. 

 

Jack squinted as his eyes adjusted to the light. The room was almost bare and small, about ten by twelve feet. In front of Jack was a small wooden table made from lacquered pine, flimsy in its construction. A plastic pitcher of water and two plain drinking glasses sat on the table. A small puddle of condensate had accumulated at the base of the pitcher. Jack was in one of four wooden-slatted folding chairs. The room had no windows and nothing on its bleak, beige walls. The light was dim, emanating from four recessed low-wattage lights in the ceiling. 

 

“Would you like to use the restroom?” the woman asked, her tone softer than at any time earlier. 

 

“No.”

“Please help yourself to some water if you like,” she offered.

“I’m not thirsty.” Then, after a beat, “What am I doing here?”

The woman glanced quickly at the door. Her eyes were in a constant state of alert, radiating a confident vigilance. This woman has never known panic, Jack thought. She checked her watch, then fixed her gaze onto Jack. “We brought you here to meet your father.” 

Reprinted from Primal Calling with the permission of Pegasus Elliott MacKenzie Publishers. Copyright © 2020 by Barry Eisenberg. 



Barry Eisenberg is an associate professor of health care management in the School for Graduate Studies at the State University of New York Empire State College, a health care management consultant and a former hospital administrator. He and his wife, Amy, live in New Jersey. They have three grown children and one grandson. Primal Calling is his first novel.

It’s The Blurbs! Blackquest 40 by Jeff Bond

Howdy. It’s the blurbs! Every Saturday I’ll try to share with you a book blurb or premise that I was impressed with. It may be one, or a few. Still haven’t decided yet. The first impression of an authors work is the book cover. Then the blurb. Usually if the book has at least, a half-way decent cover, I’ll proceed to the blurb. If it sounds cliched, uninteresting, boring, I’ll pass. If it passes the test then I’ll download a sample. If the first few pages draw me into the story then it’s a purchase!


 

BlueInk Review: “A Die Hard sequel for the #meToo era … chockfull of thrilling action … a page-turning thriller.”



 

Deb Bollinger has no time for corporate training.

Her company’s top engineer at just twenty-seven, Deb has blocked off her day for the one project she truly cares about: the launch of Carebnb, an app that finds spare beds for the homeless. When she’s told all employees must drop everything for some busywork exercise called Blackquest 40, it’s an easy no.

Trouble is, her bosses aren’t really asking.

Blackquest 40 is the mother of all corporate trainings. A near-impossible project to be completed in forty straight hours. No phones. No internet. Sleeping on cots. Nobody in, nobody out. Deb finds the whole setup creepy and authoritarian. When a Carebnb issue necessitates her leaving the office, she heads for the door. What’s the worst that could happen?

Armed commandos, HVAC-duct chases, a catastrophic master plan that gets darker by the hour Blackquest 40 is a fresh take on the Die Hard formula, layering smart-drones and a modern heroine onto the classic action tale.

Stand down, Bruce. Deb’s got this.

BLACKQUEST 40

I was very intrigued after reading the blurb for Blackquest 40. I’ve never heard of the author, but the blurb gave me a good summary of the story and piqued my interest in the main character Deb Bollinger. The author sounds pretty witty which further drew my interest into the book. In todays market the field is pretty crowded. That makes it ten times harder to stand out among the myriad of talented authors. I love it when I find something truly witty, original, and something with a unique twist. Check out Jeff Bond! Thumbs up!


 

Jeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. His books have earned multiple starred reviews from Kirkus and BlueInk and been featured in The New York Review of Books. His 2020 release, The Pinebox Vendetta, received a gold medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters. (Who share his Kindle account, as you might guess from peeking at his bookshelf.)

www.jeffbondbooks.com

 

Thursday Book Frenzy 11/19/20



Deb Bollinger has no time for corporate training.

Her company’s top engineer at just twenty-seven, Deb has blocked off her day for the one project she truly cares about: the launch of Carebnb, an app that finds spare beds for the homeless. When she’s told all employees must drop everything for some busywork exercise called Blackquest 40, it’s an easy no.

Trouble is, her bosses aren’t really asking.

Blackquest 40 is the mother of all corporate trainings. A near-impossible project to be completed in forty straight hours. No phones. No internet. Sleeping on cots. Nobody in, nobody out. Deb finds the whole setup creepy and authoritarian. When a Carebnb issue necessitates her leaving the office, she heads for the door. What’s the worst that could happen?

Armed commandos, HVAC-duct chases, a catastrophic master plan that gets darker by the hour Blackquest 40 is a fresh take on the Die Hard formula, layering smart-drones and a modern heroine onto the classic action tale.

Stand down, Bruce. Deb’s got this.

Amazon

 



From the author of The Winner Maker and Blackquest 40 comes The Pinebox Vendetta: a genre-bending thriller that combines a love story, cold-case murder mystery, and political blood feud – told over the course of a single breathless weekend.

The Gallaghers and Pruitts have dominated the American political landscape dating back to Revolutionary times. The Yale University class of 1996 had one of each, and as the twenty-year reunion approaches, the families are on a collision course.

Owen Gallagher is coasting to the Democratic nomination for president.

Rock Pruitt – the brash maverick whose career was derailed two decades ago by his association to a tragic death – is back, ready to reclaim the mantle of clan leader.

And fatefully in between lies Samantha Lessing. Sam arrives at reunion weekend lugging a rotten marriage, dumb hope, and a portable audio recorder she’ll use for a public radio-style documentary on the Pruitt-Gallagher rivalry – widely known as the pinebox vendetta. What Sam uncovers will thrust her into the middle of the ancient feud, upending presidential politics and changing the trajectory of one clan forever.

The Pinebox Vendetta is the first entry in the Pruitt-Gallagher saga: a series that promises cutthroat plots, power grabs, and unforgettable characters stretched to their very limits by the same ideological forces that roil America today.

Amazon

 



When a corpse surfaces in the aftermath of a hurricane, the storm has only begun for Devon Ritcey. Friends and family in Caleb’s Cove offer up an excess of secrets and suspects. With ex-cop, ex-lover, Greg Cunningham, suspecting everyone, can Devon trust him to help her unravel the tangled truths in time to stop a desperate killer?

Amazon

 



Cowgirls. Bikinis. Murderous media conspiracy. What could go wrong?

After Meg Brecker’s scuba-diving boyfriend is scooped up by a firefighting plane, she returns incognito to investigate the crime scene. Spear-gun-wielding dolphins attack; Meg escapes and collapses on a Galveston beach. So much for going incognito—she wakes up surrounded by the cast of the Next Bikini Cowgirl reality show, which launches her and the cowgirls into the viral stratosphere.

Meg links the show to her boyfriend’s demise and joins as a contestant to find the motive. As she pits her cowgirl skills against talented rivals, can she avoid her own demise and uncover the nefarious Bikini Cowgirl plot before it reaches its must-see-TV climax?

Bikini Cowgirls of the Urban Legion envisions hilarious conspiracies behind the news, entertainment media, and not-so-legendary urban legends. You’ll even learn the fragile truth about mimes.

 

Amazon

 



While in the Lake District, journalist Emmeline Kirby and jewel thief/insurance investigator Gregory Longdon overhear a man attempting to hire international assassin Hugh Carstairs, a MI5 agent who went rogue. They race back to London to warn Philip Acheson of the Foreign Office and Superintendent Oliver Burnell. But it’s a devil of problem to prevent a vicious killing, if the target is a mystery.

More trouble brews as Emmeline pursues a story about shipping magnate Noel Rallis, who is on trial for murder. Rallis is desperate to keep the negative publicity from exposing his illicit schemes, especially something sinister called Poseidon. Lord Desmond Starrett, whose dark past made him easy prey for blackmail, is getting cold feet about their dubious partnership. Hovering in the shadows of this ugly secret world is a Russian mole buried inside MI5. Scorned prima ballerina Anastasia Tarasova makes the fatal mistake of threatening to reveal all she knows. The hunt for the answers takes Emmeline and Gregory up to Scotland, where they learn that the truth has lethal consequences.

Amazon


Book Review: A Time To Kill by John Grisham

Before “The Firm” and “The Pelican Brief” made him a superstar, John Grisham wrote this riveting story of retribution and justice. In this searing courtroom drama, best-selling author John Grisham probes the savage depths of racial violence, as he delivers a compelling tale of uncertain justice in a small southern town, Clanton, Mississippi.

The life of a ten-year-old girl is shattered by two drunken and remorseless young men. The mostly white town reacts with shock and horror at the inhuman crime. Until her black father acquires an assault rifle and takes matters into his hands.

For ten days, as burning crosses and the crack of sniper fire spread through the streets of Clanton, the nation sits spellbound as young defense attorney Jake Brigance struggles to save his client’s life, and then his own.

 

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I had already read Sycamore Row, Jake Brigance book 2, but hadn’t read A Time to Kill. The first one was just as riveting as the second! Full of suspense, racial violence, intrigue, great characters and a gripping storyline; A Time to Kill certainly leaves it’s mark far after the book is read. Like meat and potatoes that fills you up and sticks to your ribs. That’s John Grisham. That’s Jake Brigance. I was utterly amazed at Grisham’s storytelling genius. There’s great writing, and then there’s great storytelling far elevated above the rest. Now it’s time for book 3, A Time For Mercy. Jake Brigance is back once again!


Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written at least one book a year (his other works are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, The Appeal, The Associate, The Confession, The Litigators, Calico Joe, The Racketeer, Sycamore Row, Gray Mountain, Rogue Lawyer, The Whistler, Camino Island, The Rooster Bar, The Reckoning, and The Guardians) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently more than 350 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 45 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marked his first foray into non-fiction, and Ford County (November 2009) was his first short story collection. In addition, Grisham has written seven novels for young adults, all in the Theodore Boone series: Kid Lawyer, The Abduction, The Accused, The Activist, The Fugitive, The Scandal, and The Accomplice.

Grisham took time off from writing for several months in 1996 to return, after a five-year hiatus, to the courtroom. He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer: representing the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Preparing his case with the same passion and dedication as his books’ protagonists, Grisham successfully argued his clients’ case, earning them a jury award of $683,500–the biggest verdict of his career.

When he’s not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes, including most recently his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. The man who dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.

www.jgrisham.com

The Crew Reviews: Michael Connelly – THE LAW OF INNOCENCE

Michael Connelly | THE LAW OF INNOCENCE

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MichaelConnelly.com


Lincoln Lawyer Mickey Haller is back in the heartstopping new thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly.

Defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over by police, who find the body of a client in the trunk of his Lincoln. Haller is charged with murder and can’t make the exorbitant $5 million bail slapped on him by a vindictive judge.

Mickey elects to defend himself and must strategize and build his defense from his jail cell in the Twin Towers Correctional Center in downtown Los Angeles, all the while looking over his shoulder–as an officer of the court he is an instant target.

Mickey knows he’s been framed. Now, with the help of his trusted team, he has to figure out who has plotted to destroy his life and why. Then he has to go before a judge and jury and prove his innocence.

In his highest stakes case yet, Mickey Haller fights for his life and shows why he is “a worthy colleague of Atticus Finch…in the front of the pack in the legal thriller game” (Los Angeles Times).

 

Goodreads |Amazon | B&N


About Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly is the bestselling author of over thirty novels and one work of nonfiction. With over eighty million copies of his books sold worldwide and translated into forty foreign languages, he is one of the most successful writers working today. A former newspaper reporter who worked the crime beat at the Los Angeles Times and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Connelly has won numerous awards for his journalism and his fiction. His very first novel, The Black Echo, won the prestigious Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 1992. In 2002, Clint Eastwood directed and starred in the movie adaptation of Connelly’s 1998 novel, Blood Work. In March 2011, the movie adaptation of his #1 bestselling novel, The Lincoln Lawyer, hit theaters worldwide starring Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller. His most recent New York Times bestsellers include Fair Warning, The Night Fire, Dark Sacred Night, The Late Show, Two Kinds Of Truth, The Late Show, The Wrong Side Of Goodbye, The Crossing, The Burning Room, The Gods of Guilt, The Black Box, and The Drop. Michael is the executive producer of BOSCH, an Amazon Studios original drama series based on his bestselling character Harry Bosch, starring Titus Welliver and streaming on Amazon Prime. He is also the executive producer of the documentary films, SOUND OF REDEMPTION: The Frank Morgan Story and Tales Of the American. He spends his time in California and Florida.
 
 

www.michaelconnelly.com

Writing, Rewriting, and Craft by Elena Hartwell

 

 

Writing, Rewriting, and Craft

By Elena Hartwell

 

As a novelist and playwright, I’m often asked where I get my ideas. Almost every writer I know gets this question, and I think we all feel the same. Ideas are never the problem. That’s the easy part. Ideas are a dime a dozen. The hard part, the magic part, is turning the idea into a polished, final manuscript.

 

The writing process varies wildly from author to author. Some write extensive, detailed outlines. Others sit down with an idea and write scenes on the fly. A number of writers fall somewhere in between, while they may not outline, neither do they sit down and write completely organically. They might write a synopsis or outline a chapter in advance.

 

The various combinations of these methods all work, depending on the writer and the project. There is no “wrong” way to write a novel. The “how” a writer works isn’t why their manuscript sells or doesn’t sell. The primary reason an author’s work has not yet sold is a lack of craft.

 

People who lack craft skills rarely sit down to write a novel. Or if they do, they can start, but never finish. Or if they do finish, they don’t rewrite. Or if they do rewrite, they quit after a single pass. Or, if they do continue to rewrite, they aren’t aware enough of craft to recognize the flaws in their own work. You get the picture. The problem is the writer stops too soon.

 

As a writing coach—I do one-on-one manuscript critiques as well as teaching workshops—there are some fundamental issues I see repeated in early drafts, over and over. These same issues show up in my own work, and probably on some level, in the early drafts of every writer out there. So the first thing aspiring writers can do to increase their chances of writing a successful manuscript, is learn how to identify these problems.

 

The first is a lack of clear objectives, obstacles, and stakes. It’s not enough to have a dead body to write a mystery. Someone has to investigate the murder. The person investigating the murder has to need to solve the crime. If they don’t need to solve the crime (objective) there’s no tension about the investigation. If the solution doesn’t matter to the investigator, it won’t matter to the reader. 

 

The sleuth also can’t solve the crime easily, that’s not dramatic. Various impediments (obstacles) have to appear, one after the other, to prevent the protagonist from catching the killer. The more the investigator has to overcome, the more satisfying to the reader when they do. 

 

Lastly, it has to matter (stakes). For example, the protagonist with an internal struggle, coinciding with their investigation, is far more interesting than someone who simply goes through the motions of solving a crime.

 

The more important solving the case is to the protagonist, the more dangerous or difficult the journey, and the greater the importance to find the guilty party, the more invested a reader will be. That’s what keeps a reader turning pages.

 

Complex protagonists will also have personal objectives, obstacles, and stakes to go along with their investigation. For example, a crumbling marriage, a child in danger, or overcoming an addiction are common tropes within the genre. When we know an investigator has to choose between catching a killer and saving their marriage, the stakes are high and we breathlessly turn each page waiting to see what the character chooses.

 

Another common error I find is a lack of structure. All stories have an underpinning structure. While there are variations to that structure, for the most part, especially in crime fiction, we start with the world as we know it, which is disrupted by a specific event, followed by rising action, where events pile one on top the other, each more important than the one that went before. This ends with a climactic scene, with the maximum danger to our hero or heroine, followed by a glimpse into the new world order for our characters.

 

If any of these parts are missing, the story can feel unfinished. For example, if we don’t have some sense of what the character’s life was before the intrusion, we don’t know what they are putting at risk. The “world before” can often be well hidden, it might not appear in the first chapter, but later in reflections the character makes as the story progresses, but usually a reader can identify it if they look for it. 

 

The middle of a manuscript might falter if a lot of exciting things happen at the beginning, then nothing exciting follows. Rising action is important, because it builds dramatic tension, making it impossible to put the book down.

 

Lastly, an ending can feel unsatisfying if we have no sense of the outcome. Readers don’t need everything tied up in a bow, but they do want the primary threads to be resolved enough to know what the character’s lives will be like after they read “the end.”

 

Dialogue can also be difficult to master. One of the most common problems I see is when authors have their characters say exactly what they feel and exactly what they mean. That doesn’t ring true. People lie all the time. We lie because it’s expedient, it benefits us in some way, it keeps us from hurting others, or we don’t want to get in trouble. We rarely say what we mean, we obfuscate, we dither, we agree out loud when disagreeing feels like a mistake. Dialogue works best when each character speaks distinctly from the others, through word choice, sentence length, grammatical accuracy, and the use of slang. 

 

If a writer can identify just these specific problem areas in their own writing, their next draft will be a much tighter, more polished manuscript. It can feel overwhelming to try to identify and fix all the issues I’ve outlined at one time. My recommendation for writers is to choose one aspect and rewrite just for that. Heighten the stakes in one rewrite. Focus solely on dialogue for the next. Breaking down the process into smaller chunks can make each rewrite a more successful venture. This will help the writer get through a series of rewrites rather than attempting one and feeling like the mountain is too high to climb. My final piece of advice. Don’t give up. That’s the only difference between a published author and an unpublished one. 

 


Elena Hartwell started out her storytelling career in the theater. She worked for several years as a playwright, director, designer, technician, and educator before becoming a novelist.

Elena has more than twenty years of teaching experience and now works one-on-one with writers as a manuscript consultant and writing coach.

She lives in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, two cats, and the greatest dog in the world. When she’s not writing, teaching writing, or talking about writing, she can be found at a nearby stables, playing with her horses.

For more information about Elena, please visit www.elenahartwell.com.

 

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For fans of Julia Keller and Sheena Kamal, All We Buried disturbs the long-sleeping secrets of a small Washington state mountain town.

Deep in the woods surrounding the Cascade mountain range, a canvas-wrapped body floats in a lake, right in Elizabeth “Bet” Rivers’s jurisdiction. Bet has been sitting as interim sheriff of Collier after her father’s–the previous sheriff’s–death six months ago. Everyone knows everyone in a town like Collier. She has made it her duty to protect the people she’s come to see as family. And she intends to hold her title in the upcoming election, but she’s never worked a murder investigation on her own before and her opponent and deputy, Dale Kovac, isn’t going down without a fight.

Upon unwrapping the corpse, Bet discovers the woman is from out of town. Without an identification, the case grows that much more puzzling. Determined to prove herself worthy, however, Bet must confront the warped history of Collier. The more she learns, the more she realizes she doesn’t know the townspeople of Collier as well as she thought, and nothing can prepare her for what she is about to discover.

 

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A Q&A with Crime Writer Thomas O’Callaghan

 

 

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Is there a sociopathic killer on the loose and murdering prostitutes in New York City? NYPD’s top cop, Homicide Commander Lieutenant John Driscoll, believes there is. Someone who calls himself “Tilden” and claims to have been sexually abused as a child by his mother’s john. But what could have triggered Tilden’s rage that has him on a mission to eradicate all the women of the night in The Big Apple?

 

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Q&A with Thomas O’Callaghan for Benjamin Thomas’ The Writing Train

 

How did your early reading habits lead you to become a writer?

After graduating with a liberal arts degree from Richmond College I landed a job with Allstate Insurance Company as a sales agent.  When the company opted to take their sales force in another direction I decided it was time to retire and find something else to do with my time. I spent much of that time reading.  On the beach in summer and on the couch in winter.  One day I picked up a copy of HELTER SKELTER, by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. This is an often used adage, but I couldn’t put it down. The author’s attention to detail fascinated me. After that, I was hooked on novels depicting murder, mayhem and suspense. I soon discovered such notables as Thomas Harris, John Sandford, Lawrence Block and Ed McBain, just to name a few. Unlike, HELTER SKELTER, where the storyline was based on an actual murder, Harris, Sandford, Block, McBain and company, created murder and the intrigue that surrounded it. I was enthralled all the more. Read on, I said, and so I did.  After I finished reading my twelfth 87th Precinct novel, I thought: I could do that!  And so, on a gloomy, rain-soaked Friday afternoon, that happened to follow Thanksgiving, I began writing NIGHTKILLS, which would later become BONE THIEF.  Looking back, I’m happy with the course my life had taken me, bringing me to what has become my life’s passion:  Writing!


Was it a journey developing the confidence to write, or did it come naturally? 

 

It was a journey that had begun at a slow pace.  Aside from essays in college I’d never written in a narrative fashion.  When I took an early retirement from Allstate I was 49.  With a great deal of free time on my hands a very good friend suggested to either take on a new job or devote time to a hobby I’d enjoy.  My first venture toward that end had me wandering through Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY armed with a 35mm camera taking photographs of nature-in-the-raw.  That interest waned after four or five weeks.  I then enrolled at HB Studios in NYC to study the art of ‘acting’.  It was fun, but after two months I began to lose interest. Since I enjoyed reading mysteries and thrillers, my trusted friend suggested I write one.  Me?  Write a book?  I haven’t a clue as to where to start, I argued.  She suggested I write 

an opening chapter similar in style to what I liked to read.  And so I did.  After she read it she asked me what I had in mind for the next chapter.  This went on for several weeks at the end of which I had written the opening of a story that only she and I had read.  I didn’t think it was very good but she encouraged me to call a friend of hers, a “writing coach” of sorts, which I did.  His name was Stephen Ohayon.  He had once taught the art of writing on a college level and offered to work with me to turn my feeble attempt into a saleable novel.  We met weekly in his office in Manhattan where his day job was as a psychotherapist.  He scheduled time for me between patients.  I brought him a typed chapter and during a one hour session he helped me push that chapter from first draft to second, third, fourth and fifth.  When we reached Chapter Last I set out to market the book.  It sold close to 100,000 copies and was translated and published in Germany, Slovakia, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, China, and Italy.   

 

 

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I enjoy writing for a number of reasons.  One that comes to mind immediately is that writing allows me to escape the hum drum of everyday life.  Another reason is that creating characters for the sole purpose of performing in a story that I’ve set in motion is exciting.  I’m fueled by that. And, because it’s fiction, I’m motivated to weave memories of times in my life, some good, some regrettable, into the back story of my characters. We all have chapters we wish never to see published, but, with the right finesse, the theme of those blunders can and do add human authenticity to fictional entities. 


What are the most challenging aspects?  

One of the most challenging aspects of being a writer is constantly competing with an inner voice that tells me what I’ve written isn’t very good.  That, of and in itself, drives me to be a better writer.  Writers write.  Rewriters get published.


How has your writing process developed over the twelve years it took to become published?

The writing process as outlined above continued in the same fashion, day after day, week after week.  Those weeks became years as I needed to convince a publisher my work was ready for print.  That involved submission after submission of query letters and partial manuscripts to every single literary agent that specialized in my genre.  When I reached the end of the line, so to speak, and any further submission would be repetitive I took the advice of a few well intentioned literary agents along the way to have a professional editor have a look at my manuscript.  After working for two years with the late Dick Marek, who’d edited The Silence of the Lambs for Thomas Harris along with nine of Robert Ludlam’s books, Kensington Books agreed to publish my debut novel.  


What are some ways working with an editor has helped you?

Aside from learning that a tightly written novel reads very quickly, thereby keeping the reader engaged, working with a professional editor taught me a wonderful lesson:  a writer, especially someone starting out, often feels his or her work is sacrosanct, but the editor is keenly aware of what a publisher is looking for and what sells.  It’s best to accept that reality and be open to change.  It will increase the chance of having your work published.   

How important is rewriting when working on a manuscript?

Extremely important.  I begin by writing a first draft of a chapter which entails typing without concern for spelling, punctuation, or cohesion.  The point is to get the thought on paper as quickly as possible without listening to that inner voice telling you “Oh, that’s not good,”  Once that’s done, I’ll go in and rewrite the chapter over and over again, until I have what I consider perfection.  In essence, one must write drunk and edit sober.


If we were to meet NYPD homicide cop John Driscoll, what kind of person would we meet?

In short, he’d be a taller version of me.  He’s an Irishman with a sense of morality who tries to do the right thing.  A compassionate soul who tries to be kind to friends and foes alike. Yes, Lieutenant Driscoll is flawed.  But, then, who isn’t?

 

Do the John Driscoll mysteries employ a certain theme?

Yes, the theme is that good prevails over evil.  They are psychological thrillers which detail the fictionalized onslaught of heinous murders perpetrated by a madman, or in the case of THE SCREAMING ROOM, a set of demonic twins, using New York City as a killing field.  Lieutenant Driscoll is brought into the equation intent on putting a stop to the madness.

 

If you were John Driscoll in, No One Will Hear Your Screams, could you solve the case?

 

Absolutely!  The Lieutenant is a resourceful investigator who, with the able-bodied assistance of two professional and ingenious associates in Margaret Aligante and Cedric Thomlinson, evil can’t triumph.

 

What are you currently working on?

My current work in progress introduces Richard Singleton, a bestselling author suffering from writer’s block.  When he becomes the owner of a beach house where a heinous murder had taken place, he finds stimulation and is able to put the pen to paper again.  His manuscript is progressing well and his faltered career is looking bright again, that is until he gets an anonymous call from the former owner of the house who had perpetrated the aforementioned murder who has plans of his own regarding what this bestselling author should write. 

 

 

Thomas O'Callaghan

 

 

Thomas O’Callaghan’s work has been translated for publication in Germany, Slovakia, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, China, and Italy. As an internationally acclaimed author, Mr. O’Callaghan is a member of both the Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers associations. A native of New York City and a graduate of Richmond College, Mr. O’Callaghan resides with his lovely wife, Eileen, a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean in beautiful Belle Harbor, New York. His debut novel BONE THIEF introduces NYPD Homicide Commander Lieutenant John W. Driscoll. THE SCREAMING ROOM, is the second in the John Driscoll series. The third book in the series, NO ONE WILL HEAR YOUR SCREAMS was recently released by WildBlue Press. For more information, please visit: ThomasOCallaghan.com

 

ThomasOCallaghan.com

 

 

Old Locomotive

 

 

 

 

 

An Excerpt: Robin Hood’s Widow by Olivia Longueville & J.C. Plummer

 

 

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Don’t miss this unique retelling of the Robin Hood legend!

England, 1154-1194
A kingdom under assault.
A conspiracy born of anarchy.
A hero standing against tyranny.

Robin’s duty to his king sends him on an odyssey that will unfold from the streets of Paris to the banks of the Danube. From incredible triumphs on the battlefields of the Crusade, to harrowing sea voyages, to a desperate dash across the frozen landscape of Central Europe, Robin Hood must ensure that King Richard safely returns to England.

Meanwhile, the outlaws of Sherwood Forest rise again under a new leader—and she is unwavering in her pursuit of justice against the tyranny of Sheriff de Argentan. Marian endures the heartbreak of widowhood only to find strength and purpose as she leads a small band of devoted men in her quest for vengeance while she protects Robin’s legacy.

Sir Guy of Gisborne, tormented by his conscience and enslaved by the sheriff, faces the wraith-like fury of the woman he once loved. How do you find forgiveness when you have committed an unforgivable crime? He must attempt a daunting journey of redemption, while finding inspiration from an unexpected source.

And through it all, Robin, Marian, and Guy are entangled in a web of treachery spun by the King of France and his sinister advisor, Montlhéry, as the plot to dismantle the Angevin Empire and take the throne of England from the Plantagenets boldly continues.

Part two of an exciting three-part retelling of the Robin Hood legend!

Although the books in the trilogy are not stand-alone, they do not end in cliffhangers.

 

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Excerpts

Prologue: A Widow’s Journey

 

9 April 1192, North of Poitiers, On the Banks of the Clain River

Bracing herself against a tree, Marian gasped for air, clutching her side as she struggled to catch her breath. She felt as though she had been running for hours.

“I think we lost that man who was following us,” Much shouted over the roar of the nearby river.

Allan, who was also winded from their dash along the riverbank, followed behind as they skirted the tree line of a dense forest. Bent over at the waist and panting, he asked, “Did you recognize him?”

Much peered over his shoulder again. “No, but he looked familiar.”

Finally able to speak, Marian interjected sharply, “All I care about is returning to England as soon as possible. The king commanded me to go to the court in Poitiers, and I did. I made no promises that I would stay there.”

“We are very far from home, with few coins…” Much faltered as Marian glared at him.

“You told me you knew the way,” she reminded him.

“I do,” declared Much. “I traveled between Aquitaine and the ports in Normandy many times with Lord Robin.”

She stared at him for a moment. The sound of Robin’s name struck her like a physical blow, as if Gisborne’s dagger were piercing her heart just as it had pierced Robin’s. Paralyzing anguish besieged her mind until Allan’s warm hand on her shoulder interrupted her descent into the black abyss of her grief.

“Much will guide us, and I will earn coins by performing in the towns along the way. It will take time, but we will be back in Nottinghamshire in a month or so.”

Marian gazed into Allan’s kind eyes and then Much’s troubled frown. They were both looking at her with such pity that she was overcome by an irrational fury—a toxic brew of bitterness that these men lived, while Robin lay buried in the Holy Land, crushing guilt that she hadn’t revealed her secret to Robin, and hatred for the men who had taken her husband from her: Guy of Gisborne, Sheriff de Argentan, and even King Richard. They all shared some blame in the tragedy of Robin’s death.

She recoiled from Allan’s attempt to comfort her. “We will do whatever is necessary to speed our journey,” she stipulated. “Allan will sing his ballads, and if we need to steal or beg, then we will do it. Nothing is more important than returning home and avenging…” she swallowed to maintain a steady voice, “Robin’s murder.”

The day was drawing to a close, so they made camp. Despite the chill of the spring night, it was too risky to build a fire, since Much was still worried about the man who had followed them when they slipped away from the palace.

Fortunately, Queen Eleanor had not been in Poitiers, so security around the keep had been lax. The dowager queen had traveled to England the previous month, determined to thwart Prince John’s scheme to join forces with King Philippe of France to undermine King Richard while he was away on the Crusade.

Marian had insisted on taking the first watch. She leaned against a tree at the edge of camp, hoping that she could detect the sound of approaching danger over the rustling of leaves and the whoosh of the river. At least the full moon brightened the forest, although the pale light left everything drained of color and vibrancy.

Like her life without Robin.

She willed herself to think of something besides Robin’s death. Instead, she reminisced about another full moon, now over three and a half years ago, when Robin had rescued her from the sheriff. They had pledged to marry and had later become one. It had been the true beginning of her marriage to Robin.

She desperately wanted to fill her mind with joyful memories like those of that fateful, glorious night. But again and again, the happy recollections would transform into the same horrific scene, and she would relive Robin’s death. The details were so vivid in her mind: kneeling in the gritty dirt, the soft texture of his hair against her cheek as she cradled him in her arms, and the sharp bristles of his short beard as they shared one last kiss. After his death, she had held his hand, clinging to its warmth and begging God to either restore his life or take hers as well.

At that moment, Marian had wanted nothing more than to join Robin in heaven. But with time to reflect, she realized that seeking death would not honor Robin or protect his legacy, and it could very well condemn her soul to eternal hellfire.

By the time she disembarked at Marseilles, she had dried her tears and resolved to resist the grief that relentlessly pulled her towards a chasm of black despair. She would not surrender her spirit to the melancholy allure of endless mourning.

Instead, she would take action. First, she would honor the blood oath she swore over Robin’s body by making Gisborne and Argentan suffer for their murderous deeds. Then she vowed to devote the rest of her life to ensuring that Robin’s legacy would endure and thrive. This would be her sacred mission as Robin Hood’s widow.

 

 

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Chapter 1: Failure is Like the Sun

 

29 April 1192, City of Acre, Kingdom of Jerusalem

The sound of horses approaching him from behind caused Robin to draw his dagger and pivot to face his attackers. The distinctive cadence of galloping hooves striking the cobblestone street triggered an intense memory of men on horseback, charging towards him with their swords drawn and surrounding him as he defended the woman he loved and the king he served.

At first, it all seemed so real, but when he blinked, the attacking soldiers morphed into a trio of mounted Knights Hospitaller riding past him as they hurried down the street. Their weapons were not drawn, and they did not even glance in his direction. An embarrassed Robin sheathed his dagger and continued on his journey to the harbor.

It had been two months since Guy of Gisborne had nearly killed him. During his recovery, Robin’s existence had alternated between excruciating pain and lethargic befuddlement. Eventually, he had refused to take any more of the mind-numbing poppy potion, resisting the entreaties of the king’s physician, Ranulphus Besace.

And when the doctor informed him that he must remain in his chamber, Robin had resolved to leave at the first opportunity. As soon as Ranulphus was called away to an emergency, Robin had dressed, retrieved a bag of coins hidden in his trunk’s false bottom, and headed towards the harbor of Acre.

No doctor, not even King Richard himself, would hinder his mission.

As he walked away from the citadel, he initially felt overjoyed to be on his feet and free of his confinement. His injuries were much improved. However, as he moved through the ancient city, the tightness in his chest became a throbbing pain that frequently caused him to stop and lean against a wall to catch his breath. A sheen of cold sweat enveloped him, and his head repeatedly spun in a dizzy spiral that threatened to send him crashing onto the pavement in an unconscious heap.

Robin grimly trudged onward. At the harbor, he would board a ship where he would have plenty of time to rest from his exertions. Regardless of his pain and discomfort, there was nothing more important than traveling to Marseilles, and from there, Poitiers.

During his convalescence, the alarming discovery that King Richard had sent Marian to Poitiers dominated his thoughts. He knew that she would learn the truth, and he wouldn’t be there to explain it to her. He decided to go there without delay and beg Marian to forgive him. Then, he would return to the Holy Land and fulfill his duties to Richard.

He had sacrificed enough for his king; now he would do something for himself and his wife. He smiled at the thought that Marian was his wife. Even if she was furious with him, they were still irrevocably and eternally joined.

When Robin entered the port, he noticed that it was unusually busy. The assembled men were abuzz with conversation, and many seemed angry and agitated. He pushed through the crowd, distracted by the snippets of conversation that he overheard.

“… It happened just after midday.”

“The Assassins are famous for striking in broad daylight. They…”

Robin paused to listen, but the men moved away from him. He had heard of the fearsome Assassins; they were Saracen mercenaries known for their willingness to kill for hire. He tried to hear what others were saying. The disjointed fragments of sentences were both intriguing and disturbing.

“… stabbed him in the back…”

“… They captured one, the other was killed…”

“… died in agony. Count Henry left at once—”

This revelation caused Robin to stop in his tracks. These men were talking about Count Henry of Champagne, nephew to both King Richard and King Philippe, a trusted ally of Richard, and one of Robin’s friends.

The other men took notice of Robin’s eavesdropping, and they stopped talking as they glared at him warily. Robin averted his gaze, for he did not want to be recognized, and he continued his walk towards the ships moored along the pier. Although his curiosity had been roused, he forced himself to refocus on his mission.

Traversing the wharf, he selected the largest vessel and inquired about its itinerary. The ship was traveling to Cyprus, then Sicily, and finally Marseilles. It was perfect for Robin’s needs. He informed a sailor that he wished to buy passage, and the young man left to find the captain.

After a short delay, the captain lumbered down the gangway and approached Robin, squinting suspiciously at the thin, pale young man dressed in a nondescript, hooded cloak. He brusquely demanded, “Payment is required up front. I need to see your coins.” The scowling captain looked him over from head to foot. “What’s the matter with you? You can barely stand. I ain’t taking any sick passengers.”

Robin knew the captain was within his rights to refuse passage to anyone. He cursed the wave of dizziness that briefly seized him and decided that the best course of action would be to answer honestly. “I’m not sick; I’m recovering from a battle wound.” Robin lowered his voice, “I would appreciate your discretion, so please don’t reveal this to anyone: I am the Earl of Huntingdon.”

The captain’s reaction was unexpected. For a few moments, he just stared at Robin, his mouth agape. Then he threw his head back and howled with laughter. Now it was Robin’s turn to stare open-mouthed at the other man.

“Was this battle wound to your head?” The captain guffawed.

“I don’t understand—”

“You ain’t right in the head, and you ain’t no Earl of Huntingdon. Everyone knows he was killed months ago.”

Robin was flabbergasted. This made no sense. He struggled to respond, but shadows were creeping into the edges of his vision.

The captain continued, “Get away from me before I call for the guards. With the king’s assassination, I have more important things to do than bother with you.”

The shock of hearing such news cleared the cobwebs from his mind. Robin stepped closer to the man and questioned, “Are you telling me that someone has killed King Richard? When? How?”

The other man pushed him away, and Robin tottered before grabbing a nearby railing to steady himself.

“Get out of here, you daft fool. I’m not talking about King Richard. Yesterday, Assassins killed King Conrad in Tyre. Where have you been that you didn’t know this?” The captain studied him with heightened mistrust.

Just then, a contingent of soldiers burst onto the wharves, shouting for everyone to make way. The lead guard announced loudly that they were searching for a man who had escaped from the citadel.

Robin and the captain watched with interest as the soldiers moved through the crowd, methodically inspecting each man.

Someone shouted, “What’s this man look like?”

The man in charge replied, “He’s a fair-haired Englishman who is thin and sickly. He’s delusional and thinks he’s a nobleman.”

Abruptly, the ship’s captain waved at the soldiers and hollered, “He’s here! Look!”

Robin looked at the man in surprise, and when he looked back at the soldiers, they were now running towards him and yelling, “Hold him!”

The captain grabbed his arm, and Robin’s instincts took command. He pulled away from the man’s grasp while kicking him in the knee. Howling in pain, the sea captain released him.

Another pair of hands reached for him, but Robin ducked and sprinted away from the soldiers. He dashed into the maze of narrow alleyways connecting the harbor with the rest of the city. His heart was pounding painfully in his chest. His mouth had become so dry that he was coughing and retching, and his eyesight was growing dimmer by the moment.

He could hear the men behind him. They were getting closer and closer. Robin realized that he was crawling on his hands and knees, no longer able to stand, let alone run. And then an ebony oblivion descended upon him.

 

 

An early medieval feast.

 

 

Chapter 4: The Feast of Midsummer

 

24 June 1192, Sherwood Forest, Near the Fortress of Nottingham

“I think we should tie him behind a horse and drag him through the village and into the forest. That would be a miserable death,” Will suggested.

Much had a better idea. “That death is too quick. I want to stab him in the stomach with a small dagger. The wound will not kill him immediately. Instead, he will live long enough for it to fester. That is the most miserable way to die.”

Little John grunted appreciatively; he liked both ideas.

The day was drawing to a close, and Marian was sitting on the ground with the three men in a thickly wooded area near the fortress of Nottingham as they awaited Allan’s return.

She was morbidly fascinated by the men’s proposals for killing Guy of Gisborne.

“Let’s cut him up, piece by piece. We’ll start by cutting off his—” John stopped abruptly.

“Cut off his what?” asked Marian. When she saw John pale and Will blush, she knew the answer to her question. She also blushed.

“What is taking Allan so long?” Much hastily changed the subject.

Marian stood and walked to the tree line of the forest, and the men followed her. They were on a hill that overlooked the river, and on the far side of the river, steep cliffs jutted out of the ground. The castle walls were perched at the top of the cliffs, and beyond the walls stood the stone keep of Nottingham castle. The tallest part of the keep was the tower where Sheriff de Argentan held court.

Marian remembered only too well her visits to that tower room. She shivered at the memory and drew Robin’s cloak around her shoulders. Upon her return to Nottinghamshire, she had gone to the old hunting lodge where she found a trunk belonging to Robin. His clothing was too big for her, but she had made a few alterations, and now she wore his clothes, including the hooded cloak that had been partly responsible for his outlaw name. Even though the clothing had lost Robin’s scent, it still made her feel closer to him.

She also had his bow slung across her shoulder and his quiver tied to her belt. She had planned to carry his sword, but it was so long that its tip dragged on the ground when the sheath was attached to her belt. The weight of the sword was another problem, so she carried a dagger instead.

At that moment, Allan emerged from the thick brush surrounding them.

“What is happening at the castle?” Marian inquired.

“Visitors have arrived for the Feast of Midsummer,” Allan reported. “I met with Kenric’s friend who works in the kitchens. He says there are many wealthy nobles in attendance, and he believes it is a meeting of Prince John’s supporters.”

[…]

Much angrily interjected, “We must kill Gisborne at once. He has no right to be breathing the same air as Lady Marian!”

John was formulating a plan. “We will wait along the road between Nottingham and Locksley and ambush him.”

[…]

The flow of ideas between the four men intensified as each gave his opinion and attempted to shout down competing schemes.

The noise became unbearable for Marian; she covered her ears and yelled, “Quiet!” She was astonished when the men stilled and gazed attentively at her. She had never commanded such obedience from men, and she was briefly frozen in shock.

Suddenly, an idea formed in her mind. It was audacious and unprecedented. But in that moment, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. Rallying her courage, she declared, “We will punish both Gisborne and Argentan, but I want them to know that their suffering is the result of what they did to Robin. And I also want to ensure that Robin’s legacy is protected. Will you follow me as you once followed Robin?”

“My lady, how can you lead us? You are but a girl. What if you are captured or injured?” Little John’s concerned, fatherly gaze caused Marian to swallow nervously.

Undeterred, she asserted, “Robin and his uncle Edmund taught me how to use weapons and how to think strategically. John, you will be my captain and assist me.”

“We are only four men. We cannot prevail against the sheriff and his soldiers,” Allan reminded them.

This instigated another round of arguing, and Marian again bade them to be quiet. She was pleased when they obeyed her without complaint. Gaining confidence, she acknowledged, “We might be at a disadvantage in numbers, but we are on the side of what is right. If we cannot use brute force to succeed, then we will outwit our enemy.”

Her words impressed the men. Perhaps she could lead them in the spirit of Robin Hood.

Little John went down on one knee in front of Marian, and the others echoed his movements. The outlaw pledged, “My lady, we are ready to dedicate our lives to serving you.”

Their show of devotion touched Marian’s heart. Realizing that the sun was dipping below the horizon, she instructed everyone to return to the small camp they had made nearby. As they left, Marian glanced over her shoulder at the sheriff’s tower. With the coming of twilight, she could see that its windows were brightly lit, and she wondered what nefarious plots were being hatched by Argentan and Gisborne.

 

 

Archway in an enchanted fairy forest landscape, misty dark mood, can be used as background

 

 

Chapter 5: The Road to Perdition

 

30 June 1192, On the Road South of Paris, Near the Town of Montlhéry

The sun had descended below the horizon, although the sky was still bright with the lingering glow of a long summer’s day. Robin and André made camp a short distance behind Raimbaut and his men. They could not light a fire without alerting the other men to their presence, so they were thankful for the balmy weather. At this point in their journey, they had become weary and discouraged.

As they had expected, Raimbaut traveled to Paris, where he entered the king’s palace and remained overnight.

King Philippe’s keep was well-guarded, so they had been reduced to watching and waiting. While in Paris, Robin and André had heard vicious rumors about King Richard and his behavior in the Holy Land. It had been frustrating to listen to such outlandish tales, yet there was nothing they could say or do to counter the gossip.

On their second day in Paris, Raimbaut had emerged from Philippe’s palatial keep late in the afternoon and gathered his men before setting out on the road which would take them back to Poitiers. Robin and André were no wiser than they had been before their arrival in Poitou the previous week, and they had debated whether to stay in Paris or follow Raimbaut. They could find no easy way to slip into the royal residence, which was situated on an island in the river. Reluctantly, they chose to follow Raimbaut.

Settling in for the night, they refrained from conversation for fear that their voices would carry in the still air. They could hear indistinct sounds from Raimbaut’s camp. The men were in high spirits as they headed home.

Robin contemplated their options. Perhaps they should return to Paris and infiltrate Philippe’s court. They would need to obtain nicer clothing. But could they find a way into the court without being recognized or without their accents giving them away? Both he and André were fluent in French, but there would always be slight variations in their pronunciations and inflections that might betray them as interlopers.

He sighed. The answers which Richard sought could only be found at the French court. Following Raimbaut back to Poitiers was pointless.

“What troubles you, Robin?” André whispered to him.

“I was recalling my last conversation with Richard before we departed the Holy Land. I think we should abandon Raimbaut and return to Paris,” murmured Robin.

“Can you disclose what the king said?”

Maintaining a low voice, Robin explained, “During the regicide attempt, Richard recognized Baron de Argentan, but not from the Poitevin court.”

André leaned closer, his full attention upon Robin. “I don’t understand your meaning.”

“Richard was certain that he had seen Argentan at the court in Paris. I believe we will find the answers there.”

His brow creased in concern, André insisted, “Tell me exactly what Richard said.”

“Do you remember when Richard and Philippe were allies fighting against King Henry?”

“I will never forget it. I was serving Richard, and he was determined to force his father to declare him next in line for the throne. Even though it was ill-omened for a father and son to make war against each other, Richard was correct that England and the Angevin lands needed a clear plan for the royal succession.”

Robin elaborated, “Richard went to Paris to strategize with Philippe, and he saw Argentan standing with the advisors, courtiers, and attendants along the periphery of the room. Richard’s exact words were: ‘Argentan was just one of many men standing in the shadows.’”

Worried that he had spoken too loudly, Robin lowered his voice. “I was shocked when the king said that, for it cannot be a coincidence.”

Robin’s cryptic remarks confused André. “I have spent more time at court than I care to admit. However, what he describes sounds like a typical day at court, with advisors and attendants hovering around the perimeter of the hall, awaiting a summons from their lord. What is so shocking about that?”

To clarify his meaning, Robin recollected, “Every time I have met Argentan, he has recited some absurd riddle about shadows. Gisborne even has a sword engraved with the phrase, From Shadows to Glory. I think shadows are a metaphor for secrets, but I’m not sure.”

“You are right; we should return to Paris.”

“Baron de Argentan once told me, ‘Someday the sun will break through the clouds and illuminate everything around us. The truth of the shadows will be revealed.’ I will welcome such sunshine,” commented Robin.

With those words, the two men fell into quiet contemplation until the urgent rhythm of hoof beats disrupted the peace of the forest. André unsheathed his sword as Robin grabbed his bow and quiver, and they hastened to the nearby road.

The dark shapes of a dozen mounted men-at-arms galloped past them and disappeared around a bend in the road, and within moments, a cacophony of shouting and screaming erupted. Risking discovery, André and Robin sprinted towards Raimbaut’s camp.

 

 

Wooden Flag of Nottinghamshire

 

 

Chapter 9: Marian Hood

18 July 1192, Sherwood Forest, On the Road to Nottingham

 […]

“Well, don’t you agree with me?” demanded his companion.

“Yes, of course, Sir Gervase,” Guy dutifully answered.

Sir Gervase Rainecourt was Prince John’s envoy, and he had been dispatched to Nottingham to meet with Argentan. He was the same age as John, and he was eager to remind everyone of his position as a confidant of the prince.

Guy had been tasked with meeting him at the border of Nottinghamshire and escorting him to the sheriff. Guy had also collected a bag of silver from their contact at the tavern in Dover, and he had noticed that the monthly bags of silver had decreased in weight since their return from the Holy Land.

Stifling a yawn as he endured yet another story about Gervase’s close relationship with the prince, Guy felt some gratification knowing that the sheriff would also find the man insufferable, but he would still have to curry favor with him.

[…]

Diverting John’s interest from Nottinghamshire was becoming increasingly difficult. Nearly every noble traveling to Nottingham during the past fortnight had been robbed. Marian and the outlaws took anywhere from a tenth to a quarter of whatever valuables they found […].

Gervase was still droning on and on about something Prince John had said or done; Guy had stopped listening several miles back. He glanced over his shoulder at Gervase’s men-at-arms as they marched behind the two mounted knights. The royal envoy had brought a dozen men with him, and they easily outnumbered Marian’s outlaws.

Looking forward, he tensed at the sight of two dark figures ahead. He was relieved to see that it was just an elderly couple hobbling along the road. They were swathed in tattered hooded cloaks and leaning heavily on walking sticks. Tomorrow was market day in Nottingham, and it was likely that they were on their way to sell whatever was wrapped in the bundles tied to their backs.

“Make way; we’re on the sheriff’s business,” he shouted.

The man bobbed his head, and they shuffled into the marshy ditch and tall weeds that bordered the old Roman road.

After scanning the forest on both sides of the road, Guy looked up, as if he expected Robin Hood to drop a net upon the soldiers from heaven. Sighing, he acknowledged that he needed to get more sleep.

“Look!” Gervase exclaimed.

Some thirty yards down the road, the red-headed outlaw who had accompanied Robin to the Holy Land stood at the tree line. On the opposite side of the road was the boy with the red scarf.

“Murderer!” roared Much. “You will be punished for killing Lord Robin!”

Will Scarlet said nothing, but he grinned at them and waved his scarf over his head.

“After them!” Gervase ordered. “Divide up, and bring me that forest vermin, dead or alive!”

His men eagerly started after the outlaws, who fearlessly stood there, easy prey for such trained wolves.

“Wait! You can’t send all your men after two outlaws,” insisted Guy.

Gervase agreed, and he sent three men after Much and three after Will. Once the soldiers drew near, Much and Will vanished into the forest.

Guy grew concerned that half of their men were now chasing after outlaws. “My lord, we should not tarry here.”

Before Gervase could respond, they heard a shout behind them. Turning, they saw Little John laughing and pointing his staff at them. He was at least twenty yards away, and the two elderly peasants were fearfully crouching in the ditch between the soldiers and the outlaw.

Once again, another outlaw stood across the road. He was playing a lute and loudly singing:

A rooster is a proud bird;
He tells everyone he’s king.
But although he rules a roost,
He lacks land and can’t take wing.

Guy suggested that they ignore the outlaws and hasten down the road, but the song’s insults to Prince John incensed Gervase. Much to Guy’s exasperation, he sent all his remaining men after Little John and Allan-a-dale.

Once again, when the soldiers drew close, the outlaws entered the forest, and Gervase’s men disappeared as they pursued them.

Guy glared at the other man in disbelief. “Who taught you military tactics?” he thundered. “You’ve sent all your men into the woods. Who will protect the sheriff’s silver?”

“Get off your horses and kneel on the ground. Place your hands on top of your head,” commanded a dulcet feminine voice.

Guy saw that the ‘old’ couple had dropped their burdens and pulled back their hoods. It was Marian and the Knight Templar, and they were aiming nocked arrows at them.

 

www.angevinworld.com

 

 

 

Author Olivia Longueville robin hood

 

 

Olivia’s social media profiles:

Personal websiteOlivialongueville.com

Project websitewww.angevinworld.com

Twitter@O_Longueville

FacebookOlivia Longueville

Tumblr: http://www.olivia-longueville.tumblr.com

 

 

Author JC Plummer Robin hood

 

 

J. C. Plummer 

J.C. Plummer (Jennie Coleen) graduated Summa Cum Laude from Washburn University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Anthropology.  She later earned a Master of Science degree in Computer Information Science from Dartmouth College.

Co-authoring The Robin Hood Trilogy has merged J.C.’s passions for history, culture, and technology into one unique, exciting project.

As an author and historian, J.C.’s goal is to provide thoughtful and entertaining storytelling that honors the past, is mindful of the present, and is optimistic for the future.

 

J.C.’s social media profiles:

Project websitewww.angevinworld.com

Twitter@JC_Plummer

FacebookJennie Newbrand