I’ve just opened to a random page of my book to get this quote. I may make this a habit. 🙂

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Sif stood once more and walked to Dinah. Before Dinah could object, Sif grabbed her hand and lifted it to rest on the swollen stomach.

Dinah could feel the child move under her fingertips, a small but powerful poke under Sif’s bulging belly. Dinah’s hand grew clammy and all the muscles of her arm stiffened.

“Sif says her tribe and the future of her unborn child are in your keeping,” Gunnhilda said. “You will choose their fate, when you choose your own.”

When I was writing Dinah of Seneca, one of the reasons I decided to use the Romans, Vikings and Northeastern Native Americans in the same universe was to compare and contrast their societies.

The Native Americans of the Northeast were built on a matriarchal base. The women choose the war leaders, they arranged the marriages between their different clans and their word was basically the final say. It’s a fascinating dynamic because it wasn’t a dictatorship either. Most of the time, the women consulted each other and the rest of their tribe on important decisions. For example, caucus is a Native American word.

The Vikings were led my men but the women had more of an equal role than is generally thought. I had my Viking colonists intermarry with a Lenape clan, so I was able to set up a village that was more or less equally run by men and women.

Rome, of course, had a very patriarchal society. Men were in charge. Women had some rights but they were clearly in second-place.

And while Spartacus has some issues with historical accuracy (heh), they did get this right. In fact, they had all sorts of wonderful moments that showcase just how little power women had and I’m not talking about just the slaves.

Major SPOILERS below the cut!

(more…)

25 Days to go until publication!

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“Tabor, do you understand what you are asking? You want me to sneak into the camp of an enemy I know nothing about, evaluate their
strength, and report back, all in a single night? On terrain I know nothing about?”

He smiled. “Yes.”

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I could have sworn I posted Dinah’s first chapter somewhere but apparently while I’ve posted the first meeting of Dinah and Gerhard, and a glimpse of the Roman Commander, Tabor, I neglected Dinah herself.

So here it is.

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Chapter One

The New England of a different timeline than our own, circa 950 A.D.

The ring must be perfect.

It had taken over a year for her work to attract the elder Seneca’s attention. If he was pleased with this signet ring for his grandson and eventual heir, it would be the beginning of a long and valuable patronage. She’d finally have enough coin to stand on her own. Enough, maybe, to begin a family.

Dinah bent her head lower, determined to finish today. The eagle’s wing feathers had to be just right, wispy enough to suggest flight, thick enough to suggest power.

Her wooden door swung open so hard it smacked against the far wall. She glanced up and saw a Roman soldier in her doorframe, blocking the rays of the setting sun.

“Centurion, I told you the jewels for your bracelet would not be here until next week.” She went back to her work, not wanting to lose focus at this stage of the engraving.

“I care not for a bracelet.” The soldier stepped inside.

Her head snapped up. This was not the over- eager centurion.

“Licinius?”

The big engineer wore his full on-duty uniform, including the chest plate. In his wake stood his young assistant, Ceti, also in uniform.

“Commander Tabor summons you, Dinah,” Licinius said. His face and his voice had no emotion at all.

No. She took a deep breath as her stomach began to swirl with acid. “I don’t understand. What has happened?”

She kept her voice clear and unwavering, even while fear crept throughout her body. Never show weakness. She’d learned that a long time ago.

“You don’t need to know. You simply need to obey,” Licinius said.

She curled her hand around the ring. “I’m not Tabor’s soldier, I’m not under his orders, and I have work to finish.” Gods, Tabor, you cannot truly need me. You cannot truly be asking this of me, to become less again now that I’ve worked so hard to become more.

Tabor finally had the damned Legion he’d pleaded for to defeat the Mahicans who’d been harassing the settlement. There was nothing she could do that the soldiers could not do better.

“Dinah, I do not have time to spar with you,” Licinius said, his voice strained. “He said fetch you, your skills are needed.”

Ceti, Licinius’ assistant, placed his hand on the hilt of his gladius. She scowled, wishing for a knife in her hand for the first time in over a year. Licinius waved Ceti back, took off his helmet, and placed it under his arm.

“Tabor is your patron. You owe him duty,” Licinius said, his voice gentler. “Do not make me use force.”

No more a slave but she still wasn’t free.

“I’m not—” Not what I was. “Licinius, no. Tell Tabor it’s been too long. I’m out of practice, my old skills are useless to him.” She slapped her palm on her granite anvil. Her bowl of acid, needed to etch the design into the ring, almost tipped over.

“Tabor obviously disagrees,” Licinius said.

Ceti drew his gladius and the sound of the blade scraping the scabbard echoed around her home. Oh, yes, that would make her surrender, a soldier who didn’t even know how to draw his sword properly.

“Ceti, don’t be an idiot.” Licinius removed his hands from her worktable. “I will allow you time to put your tools away, Dinah. Then we go.”

She looked up to her loft bed. A real bed, with a real mattress, the first she’d ever owned. “Licinius, you know what this could cost me.” She stepped off her stool.

He leaned toward her, his clean breath flowing over her face. “I know. I am sorry for it. I will be sorrier if you refuse and I have to hurt you.”

If he could hurt her. Once, she could have taken him down within seconds, despite his size. She stepped back and gathered the ring and her tools together, making each move deliberate, buying more time, yet giving Licinius a reason to think she was cooperating.

A weapon, she needed a weapon. Ducking her head, she looked around her home. But there was no salvation to be had from the shelves of raw stones to her left, her woven chair by the fire, and the hanging oil lanterns near the door. She closed her hand around the bowl of acid. Scar Licinius. Far too cruel. He’d been more than kind to her. Besides, it was Tabor who’d ordered this.

“Hurry,” Licinius said.

“You could tell Tabor I was not here,” she whispered, fearful that Ceti might overhear.

Licinius put his helmet back on, the crest brushing the top of her roof. He shook his head. “I cannot. Just as you cannot forget your debt to Tabor. If not for him, you would not be here at all.”

That was simple truth. She closed her eyes and shuddered. All the fight, all the dreams, all her hopes faded from her body. “As you command.” “As Tabor commands.” Licinius shook his head again and turned to Ceti. “Sheathe your weapon, boy, and wait outside.” The boy took a long look at her, as if trying to figure out what was going on, then followed orders.

Just like she was.

She put her tools away in the drawer of her worktable. She pressed a section of the table leg with her foot. A hidden compartment popped open and she slipped the ring inside. Maybe this would not take too long, maybe she would get back to it, soon.

And maybe Augustus himself would come down from his place with the gods to make things right with the Empire that he’d founded.

Meaning, no chance at all.

She retrieved her cloak from a hook in the corner, taking a moment to place her palm flat on the stained glass window, letting the chill on the glass seep into her hand. In her dreams, a crib holding a healthy child sat under the window, the babe looking up to glorious multi-colored light. A child to care for, to be loved, and never to be sold, as her parents had sold her.

Turning, she tied her woolen cloak around her neck, feeling for the handle of her hidden knife. She pulled the hood of the cloak over her head as she stepped through the doorway.

Full dark had fallen.

Dinah of  Seneca at The Wild Rose Press.

Publication Day is getting closer and closer and closer…..

Less than thirty days away. Bonus for me–I should have the sequel finished by the time it’s out. 🙂

A little late in the day but here’s the promised snippet.

This is from chapter one which begins with Dinah being summoned by the Roman commander. If you’ve been reading my blurbs and the other snippets, you’ll realize that the commander, Tabor, is not the hero.

However, more than a few of those who read the manuscript before I sold  immediately bonded to Tabor as the hero. I’m hoping this isn’t a problem now that I’ve got a blurb. 🙂

It’s all Tabor’s fault. He refuses to be ordinary.

In any case, feel free to bond to him as a character as he does play a large role in the story.

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Licinius and Ceti handed their horses over to a  guard who saluted and faded back. As they walked,  her boots squished in the mud from yesterday’s rain.
She didn’t bother to look around. Even without the oil lanterns that dotted the camp, she could have found her way. Memorizing the layout of a Roman
encampment had been one of the first lessons from her master. The final test of her knowledge had been  walking through a simulacrum of one, blindfolded.

She’d passed. She’d been all of eight years old.

Instead, she listened. Rocks scraped against metal to sharpen it. Hammers pounded on armor to knock out dents. These soldiers expected a fight at any time. Her thumb rubbed the hilt of her hidden knife, tracing the great cat carved into it. She had never wanted to be in a military camp on the eve of
battle ever again.

Licinius set a fast pace with his long legs and she was breathing heavy by the time they reached Tabor’s field headquarters. One side of the command
tent was covered with the painting of a bald eagle, white head against a blue sky. Seneca’s symbol, both for the family and the settlement named after them, the same design that the old lord wanted on the signet ring. Too bad she couldn’t make either become real and fly away with the great bird.

The tent guard, another one of Tabor’s tight-lipped and serious soldiers, pulled aside the cloth door and passed them through with a quiet nod.

Tabor, in full uniform save for his helmet, dominated the tent. He paced back and forth, verbally tossing out orders to his staff, who were gathered around an oval wooden table in the center.

Tabor’s red woolen cloak swirled around him. His heavy winter boots made deep impressions in the soft ground. Only the sawdust poured onto the dirt
prevented a muddy mess.

Licinius announced their arrival. Tabor stopped in mid-stride. His cloak settled about his shoulders and he nodded to her. The staff officers around the
table froze, listening.

“You summoned me,” she said to Tabor, ignoring everyone else. Not quite a question, not quite a complaint, but a little of both.

“I have a task for you.” Tabor chopped the air with his arm and ordered everyone out, from his scribe to his top aide. The scribe grumbled but shut  his mouth in mid-sentence at Tabor’s angry glance.

No one else dared voice an objection. Licinius left first, with a quiet nod. The staff officers stared at her as they passed. No doubt some assumed their commander wanted sex to soothe his nerves. False. She might have tempted him if he liked women in his bed but he did not. Too bad that Tabor did not
have a twin, one she could tempt.

“I need your skill,” he said. Like always, his brisk manner was more like a large feral wolf than the polished Roman patrician he actually was. But like a patrician, he took what he wanted, when he wanted.

I was being obsessive earlier and double-checking all my hyperlinks and I discovered that the Freya’s Gift links under the “Books” tab wasn’t working any longer.

Samhain did something on their website and cyber-moved me. Heh. It’s corrected now but I wanted to apologize who anyone who clicked on the wrong link and got the Samhain site but also a ‘not found’ message.

I should be back tomorrow with another snippet from Dinah of Seneca. (And I have to pester The Wild Rose Press and make sure they have me up on their site now that my release date is less than sixty days away.)

At least, I hope to have a snippet.

The minions are quite restless today. I may have to bribe them into silence.

For those of you who have read Freya’s Gift and were intrigued enough to click over to my website, I thought I’d put up a short excerpt from Dinah of Seneca, which is a novel-length sequel set in the same universe.  This book is coming out at the end of May from The Wild Rose Press. (If you click on the tag to the right side, you’ll see the cover and the blurb.)

Gerhard from Freya’s Gift is the hero of the book but Sif also has a nice role in it, which includes one of my very favorite scenes but I can’t post that because it’s a huge spoiler.

Instead, I pulled out how Dinah meets Gerhard and how the cougars from the earlier story come into play.

To set this up, Dinah has been spying on the Viking camp for the Roman commander. (The Romans don’t show up in Freya’s Gift because they weren’t important and would have been distracting. 🙂

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Gerhard released her hair and knelt down to her. His hand reached out to her. She flinched, expecting a blow. But instead, he grabbed the belt knife at her waist and snatched it out of its sheath with ease. She bit back an objection. She should not have taken her favorite knife on this insane mission.

He held the knife up to the firelight and studied it, tilting his head in curiosity. He said something in his language. She shook her head, let the shivers take her body and the tears flow down her cheeks. She shrank back from the spear. I am small and not dangerous and most definitely not a Roman spy.

“Why are you here?” Gerhard said, in Latin. Her eyes widened. A Viking, speaking Latin? “Why are you here?” Gerhard waved his hand  and the spear moved away from her throat. She swallowed and curled into herself. “I, I, I’m sorry, I was hungry and I spied your fires and I tried to find some food. My master does not feed me properly.” She licked her lips, willing herself into a state that matched her words. Panic was not hard,  she was halfway there already. “I’m sorry, I become  lost so I hid behind the shields. I never meant harm, never meant harm.” She raised her head, so Gerhard  got a full look at her tear-stained face in the torchlight.

Gerhard took a breath in and let it out. He smelled like pine needles. He pointed the knife at her. “This is not the knife of a slave. It is too well-balanced, and it is Roman steel.” He traced the ivory carving on the hilt. “And this is intricate work. It captures one of Freya’s cats well.”

Freya? Who are Freya and her cats? “I stole it 1t from my master before I left,” she said. Idiot. She  should have bought a non-descript weapon, a basic Legionary belt knife, not a long-ago gift for a job well done. Sentiment will get you killed. Another one of Gracchus’ sayings.

“So you are twice a thief?” Gerhard asked.

“I have stolen nothing from you.”

“Yet.” He tilted his head, almost smiling. “You are saying you reached the center of our camp by accident? Interesting, since I know you followed me.”

So Gerhard had been playing with her. Cruel Viking. And very smart. “I did, I thought with you being the leader, you might help. But I got scared and hid.”

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My first published novel, Dinah of Seneca, will be out on July 2, 2010 from the Wild Rose Press.

It’s an alternate history romance with Romans and Vikings in North America. My heroine is Dinah, a former Roman slave trained as a spy and assassin who’s escaped to the North American colony of Seneca to start a new life.

That new life is shattered when Seneca is attacked by the local tribes, the Mahicans. The hero is Gerhard, the chief of a tribe of immigrant Vikings who’ve been decimated by sickness. Until he meets Dinah, Gerhard’s only goal was to have a good death in battle. Once he meets her, he begins to hope for a real future. If they can survive in the middle of a war, that is.

Every time I pitched this book to an agent in person I got the deer in the headlight reaction of “omigod, there’s no way I can sell this.” Wrong continent, wrong time period, wrong type of heroine. But I love the book and was thrilled when The Wild Rose Press offered a contract. They’ve been awesome.

Here’s the cover: