Wednesday, May 13, 2020

#WhatToDoWednesday: Get Inspired Wherever You Are @KimHeadlee

Garden City Beach, South Carolina
©2016 by Kim Headlee

A couple of months ago, when we in the US finally began realizing that the world was in the process of flipping upside down, the emails about the importance of public safety began flooding our inboxes.

At first, I appreciated hearing from restaurants, retail stores, and other businesses I patronize about the steps they were taking to ensure the well being of their customers and employees, but after awhile, those emails started looking like they were all pretty much developed from the same boilerplate text.

All except one.

On March 19, stock-image provider Dreamstime shared with their customers:

“We know great ideas don't need a special place, they can come at your place. Work online, no matter where you get creative from…” (emphasis mine) offers free images now and then in addition to their paid subscriptions, and I plan to attach their offerings to future posts. However, since some of my best inspiration comes when I am near water, I today I chose to share one of my photos of Garden City Beach, SC.

In looking at the photo’s date stamp, I had quite forgotten that I had taken the photo barely a week before Hurricane Matthew devastated the area.

For the past several years, I had been utilizing the Myrtle Beach timeshare weeks my husband had inherited from his dad—one in late March and the other in late September—and those trips have done wonders for recharging my creative batteries. I cancelled my March trip this year because of the pandemic, and my September visit is looking less likely by the day, so I must find other ways to become inspired.

One of those ways is to simply gaze at images containing water. An ocean beach is my favorite type of scene, but any water will do… lake, river, waterfall, even a lone drop of water contains the potential to calm my mind and open it to infinite possibilities.

I hope this photo helps to calm and inspire you too. And if you have another source of inspiration that works better for you, please consider sharing it in the comments below.

My novel Dawnflight is currently free on Smashwords, and its sequels, Morning’s Journey and Raging Sea, are discounted 60%. The related novella The Color of Vengeance is permafree for Kindle, Nook, and all other e-readers. Please scroll the sidebar to view my titles. I invite you to message me on Facebook if you are interested in ordering a signed copy of any of my paperback or hardcover editions. Please rest assured that although I seem to be symptom-free as of this writing, I will be masked and gloved when I package your book for mailing.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

#WhatToDoWednesday Clean with Household Acid @KimHeadlee

Vinegar bottles
©2020 by Kim Headlee

Household… acid? What??

Yep, I’m talking about good old-fashioned distilled white vinegar. Not to be confused with apple cider vinegar (with or without the “mother”), balsamic vinegar, or other types, which are best reserved for cooking and pickling, and for medicinal purposes in some cultures.

White vinegar (called “spirit vinegar” in the UK) is a solution of acetic acid typically diluted down to 4–6% acid by volume. “Distilled” is a misnomer because all types of vinegar are created through the process of fermentation, not distillation. In the US, the term “distilled white vinegar” is applied to vinegar that is produced via the fermentation of distilled alcohol—and hence the “spirit vinegar” UK appellation.

Although 4% is the least expensive commercially produced white vinegar concentration, it is not safe to use in pickling recipes, which require a minimum concentration of 5%. If I happen to acquire one of the 4% bottles, it goes straight into the laundry room, not the pantry.

If you have a skin condition that leaves you sensitive to all cleaning products, you should wear your rubber gloves when handling vinegar. The same goes for folks with respiratory sensitivities; use a mask or other type of face and nose covering to guard against inhaling the fumes, and make sure the work area is well ventillated. Though mild, vinegar is still an acid, after all.

And as with all acids and most other cleaning chemicals with which you come into accidental contact, flush the area with lots of cool water as soon as possible, and seek professional medical help immediately if excessive burning or other symptoms occur.

I like to clean with white vinegar because it’s
  1. inexpensive, 
  2. versatile, and 
  3. organic and therefore safer for the user and the environment than other chemical concoctions. 

Normally, I would have added “easy to find except during pickling season” as a fourth advantage, but in today’s economic conditions, that particular bet is off. If all I can find are bottles labeled as “cleaning vinegar” (the bottle on the right in the photo, for example), those contain the higher concentrations, usually 6% in US markets.

If I want to conserve a few pennies, I can fill an empty vinegar gallon bottle with three quarts of 6% vinegar and one quart water to yield a 4.5% vinegar solution. That concentration is still not safe for use in pickling recipes, but it’s an easy proportion to remember and plenty strong enough for most household cleaning needs.

The ways I use vinegar for cleaning include:
  • Almost every load of laundry gets about a cup of vinegar dumped into the wash water before I add the clothes. Since my house’s well is sunk through limestone, this means our tap water is just about hard enough to chew, so the vinegar also acts as a water softener.
    Bonus: With vinegar in the wash water, I never need to use commercial liquid fabric softeners or dryer sheets, which in our household carries the added bonus of eliminating an allergen, as well as saving money and helping to save the environment. Vinegar combats static cling too.
  • Tougher laundry stains, such as underarm sweat and collar rings, may be treated with full-strength vinegar prior to putting the item into the washing machine. Let those items soak for at least 10 minutes first.
  • Neutralizing pet urine. We have had as many as thirteen cats living inside our house, so having vinegar on hand is a must for us. Although our current feline population is down to six, vinegar still plays a vital part in keeping the house from smelling like a litter box.
    Note: If you use a commercial urine neutralizer that contains pheromones for discouraging “repeat business,” use that product first. Otherwise, the vinegar will prevent the pheromones from activating, thus defeating the purpose. I typically treat the affected area with the commercial product, and then use vinegar as the first rinse, followed by plain water.
  • Surface cleaning. Bathroom and kitchen counter tops, door knobs, drawer and cabinet pulls, appliance handles, floors, ceramic or glass dishware—especially canning jars with a film of lime-scale buildup courtesy of the canner… just about any hard surface will benefit from being cleaned with vinegar. I do not recommend using vinegar on porous surfaces such as hardwood floors and furniture, or on soft plastic items. That said, the plastic spray bottle in the photo has held vinegar for years with no issues, so far. I keep one in the bathroom and one in the kitchen.
  • Vinegar is the least harmful way I know to dissolve lime-scale buildup, such as on shower stall and tub surfaces. Just don’t do what I did and use your marble pestle to weigh down the tiny, gunked-up parts from an electric razor as they soak in a vinegar-filled dish overnight. When I checked it the next morning, the vinegar had eaten through the gunk like a champ... and had started dissolving the marble! (The Pyrex™ glass dish was fine, though I imagine it would have been next, given enough time.)

If you have favorite household uses for vinegar that I haven't mentioned here, please feel free to share them in the comment section below. And don't forget to reuse or recycle the empty bottles!

You can also clean with salt… but that's another story. :D

Looking for a clean read? My novel Dawnflight is currently free on Smashwords, and its sequels, Morning’s Journey and Raging Sea, are discounted 60%. The related novella The Color of Vengeance is permafree for Kindle, Nook, and all other e-readers. Please scroll the sidebar to view my titles. I invite you to message me on Facebook if you are interested in ordering a signed copy of any of my paperback or hardcover editions. Please rest assured that although I seem to be symptom-free as of this writing, I will be masked and gloved when I package your book for mailing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Introducing #WhatToDoWednesday: Don't Panic @KimHeadlee

A worker assembling fortune cookies at the
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, San Francisco, CA
(c)2013 by King of Hearts, used with permission:
King of Hearts / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Many years ago, I heard what was attributed as a Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

Heh. Well, these times—global emergency, financial markets in a tizzy, people stockpiling guns and toilet paper and engaging in various other forms of hair pulling and jumping about—certainly can be called “interesting.” I’m not pointing fingers or anything, but the “curse” does indeed fit.

Last Wednesday being Earth Day, which also coincided with the launch of my daughter’s new blog, Siren’s Call, I resolved to resume regular blogging again. My dad’s passing in 2017 caused a radical shift in my priorities, but I feel it’s time to climb back into certain saddles, beginning with this one. I’m still not yet ready to get back into writing new fiction, but I hope this will prove a worthwhile exercise for me and provide helpful information for you.

What sort of information? The hashtag #WhatToDoWednesday leaves room for all sorts of tips: recipes, cleaning, keeping fit and healthy, being courteous to our fellow human beings, saving money, saving our planet... the list is quite literally endless.

Why the picture of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory? Because that ties in with the title of this post, which happens to be my favorite fortune-cookie wisdom that I have ever personally received:

Don't panic.

Seriously. Even if you’re facing unemployment, dwindling benefits, escalating interpersonal conflicts, and a looming rent check that won’t quit when everything and everyone else around you seems to be disappearing, take a breath, step back, and reflect upon what you do have. That’s Job One in any survival situation, and that’s what we're all faced with: surviving these uncertain and unprecedented times. Assess what you do have, assess what you need, and then form a plan for obtaining those needs.

Please note that I said “need” rather than “want.” There is a difference.

A person needs shelter; a palace may be something that person wants, but it’s overkill. Take an honest look at what you are labeling your needs, and then think about how those “needs” might be scaled down or perhaps eliminated in order to save you money and conserve other resources.

Think about how the acquisition of your “needs” might affect other people, perhaps depriving them of something they truly need, such as that last bottle of hand sanitizer, when you already have a case collecting dust at home.

Don’t panic... but do stop and think.

~Kim Iverson Headlee
The Story tells us.

P.S. My second favorite fortune cookie of all time told me: “The fortune you’re looking for is in another cookie.”

If you’re looking for something just as entertaining in its own way, my novel Dawnflight is currently free on Smashwords, and its sequels, Morning’s Journey and Raging Sea, are discounted 60%. The related novella The Color of Vengeance is permafree for Kindle, Nook, and all other e-readers. Please scroll the sidebar to view my titles. I invite you to message me on Facebook if you are interested in ordering a signed copy of any of my paperback or hardcover editions. Please rest assured that although I seem to be symptom-free as of this writing, I will be masked and gloved when I package your book for mailing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Welcome to the 50th Earth Day with author @KimHeadlee

Young woman reading (c) 2015 by khunaspix ID 69719181

Fifty years… wow. I had not realized that Earth Day had begun so long ago, and on a Wednesday too, just like this year.

I wouldn't have even thought about it if not for the fact that my daughter brought it to my attention when she asked me to edit some posts for her new blog, Siren's Call to the Sea.

Fifty years ago, I was in elementary school, and my family had moved to Southern California a few months after the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that catalyzed the modern environmental movement. Previously, we had lived in coastal areas of Washington, Louisiana, and Florida, where clean air was a given. I don't remember that first Earth Day per se, but I do remember hearing about the oil spill cleanup efforts and being sad for the huge losses of wildlife, and I possess vivid recollections of Smog Alert days, when the air quality was so bad, students were forbidden from running on the school playgrounds during recess.

The last time I visited the LA area was in July 2014, during a medically extended layover on the way back from Australia and Hawaii. I was too busy worrying about my husband's condition to pay close attention to the environment around LAX, but I do recall noting that there didn't seem to be as much smog as I had remembered from my childhood. I hope that my impression was a valid one, and that the air quality has indeed improved.

The perpetual traffic jams were another staple of our 1970s stint in LA, when my parents had to whisk me to swim meets across the length and breadth of Southern California. During this current virus-induced state of global emergency, of course, I expect there to be a whole lot less traffic on the roads of LA and everywhere else, for that matter. I know I don't plan to drive anywhere today.

Some good news amid all the fear and uncertainty: the stay-at-home orders seem to be sparking a resurgence in local wildlife, such as the endangered leatherneck sea turtles of Thailand. If you would like to learn more about our oceans and their inhabitants in a fun, conversational format, I encourage you to follow Siren's Call.

To commemorate this 50th Earth Day, I urge you to take the advice shown us by the woman in this post's photo: grab a book, go on a stroll… and smile. Even if circumstances hinder you from reading or walking, please try to recall the blessings you have been given, however small they might be, and smile.

If you need a book recommendation, well. I can help with that too.

My novel Dawnflight is currently free on Smashwords, and its sequels, Morning's Journey and Raging Sea, are discounted 60%. The related novella The Color of Vengeance is permafree for Kindle, Nook, and all other e-readers. Please scroll the sidebar to view my titles. I invite you to message me on Facebook if you are interested in ordering a signed copy of any of my paperback or hardcover editions. Please rest assured that although I seem to be symptom-free as of this writing, I will be masked and gloved when I package your book for mailing.

Take care out there—of yourself, as well as of our Earth!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Back to School with The Dawnflier of @KimHeadlee (Fall 2019)

I don't know about you, but my summer flew by for several reasons, book-related and otherwise. The wolf spider that gave my husband medical issues for weeks didn't help things any!

Snow in July by Kim Iverson Headlee.
Audiobook performed by Mark Delgado.

In book news, the audiobook edition of Snow in July went live in (what else?) July. It is available on Audible, iTunes, Google Play, Nook Audio, Kobo Audio, and various cloud subscription services.

The votes are in, and work has begun on my next full-length fiction project, King Arthur's Sister, the Once and Future Queen (sequel to King Arthur's Sister in Washington's Court). To complete the trilogy, I have published a Pendragon Cove Press companion print edition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
  • 31 Aug–2 Sep: Maryland Renaissance Festival, "Meet Author Kim Iverson Headlee" special book signing, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day of Labor Day Weekend, 1821 Crownsville Rd, Annapolis, MD. Come celebrate my return as an author-guest of the Page After Page Bookstore of Crownsville, MD after an absence of nigh on two decades. Huzzah!
  • 12 September: 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. Business of Writing presentation and book signing, Galax-Carroll Regional Library, 610 West Stuart Drive, Galax, VA.
  • 14 September: Olde Salem Days, Main Street, Salem, VA. My booth—one among 500 vendors—will be located at 121 West Main Street, toward the center of the event.
  • 21 September: BW Country Store "Meet the Author" book signing, noon – 4 p.m., Big Walker Lookout, Wytheville, VA.
  • 6 October: Connecticut Renaissance Faire, "Meet Author Kim Headlee" book signing and sale, 1 – 3 p.m., 122 Mack Rd, Lebanon, CT. Come celebrate Time Travelers Weekend with me; huzzah!
  • 19 October: Dragon Festival, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Virginia Museum of Natural History, 21 Starling Avenue, Martinsville, VA: vendor table.
  • 26 October: NRCC Comic-Con, New River Community College, Edwards Hall, 5251 State Rd 373, Dublin, VA: vendor table.

Autumnal blessings to you!


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Friday, April 19, 2019

Book spotlight on Love in Season #anthology by Pamela Thibodeaux @psthib #newrelease #ASMSG #MFRWOrg

Please welcome longtime Maze contributor Pamela Thibodeaux and her first anthology, Love in Season! In Pamela's words:

For quite some time I wanted to put together a collection of short stories that centered around the 4 seasons and 4 holidays that focus on love and family (Valentine's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas). Since I already had several stories at Pelican Book Group (PBG), I mentioned this idea to my editor, the amazing Nicola Martinez, and she loved it. I submitted two previously unpublished stories to round out the collection, along with those PBG had already published, and viola! Love in Season was born.

Love in Season
by Pamela Thibodeaux
Genre: Christian romance single-author anthology

Anytime is the perfect time for love.

In this anthology, author Pamela S Thibodeaux brings together eight of her most beloved romance stories—one for each season plus four holidays that revolve around love and family.

Includes two brand new stories!

Individual stories' synopses:

(Winter) Winter Madness: Sienna has survived what most succumb to - the death of a spouse and child and has maintained her faith despite her troubles. William has never met anyone who actually lived out what they say they believe. Is it true love between the faithful optimist and broody pessimist or simply winter madness?

(Valentine’s Day) Choices: Best-selling novelist and songwriter, Camie Rogers has penned numerous accounts of the secret love she holds in her heart. Country-Music Superstar Kip Allen has changed from the shy, humble boy, to the epitome of “star.” Can the two rediscover each other after one night of his Home is where the Heart is Tour?

(Spring) Cathy’s Angel: Single mom Cathy Johnson is tired of running her life alone…what she needs is a well-trained angel to help out. Jared Savoy gave up the dream of having a family when he discovered he is sterile. Can a confirmed bachelor and the mother of four find love amid normal daily chaos?

(Easter) Lilies for Sandi *NEW!* Sandi and Brett did everything backwards. They got pregnant before the wedding and had a baby instead of a honeymoon. Since, Brett has resented the fact that his dreams of a football career have been cut short and wonders how long it’ll take God to forgive him for his mistakes. Sandi has played second fiddle to Brett’s dreams and desires to the point of not knowing herself any longer and fears her marriage will never be a true one because of their failures. Can two hearts broken by unfulfilled dreams find healing, wholeness and restoration?

(Summer) The Big Catch *NEW!* Karla and, the love of her life, Jeff, have uncovered some uncommon ground: The Great Outdoors. For the life of her, she does not understand his love of fishing and how he can spend so much time doing so. Will she come to love the sport as much as he or will his passion for a rod and reel tangle up their relationship?

(Fall) A Hero for Jessica: Anthony Paul Seville is known as the ‘most eligible bachelor’ in New Orleans, possibly even the entire state of Louisiana, but finds himself alone—completely and explicitly alone. Jessica Aucoin is a writer on her way to fame and fortune, but is haunted by a man from her past. Will the “champion” lawyer and the author of romantic suspense find love written in their future?

(Thanksgiving) Review of Love (Newly Edited/Revised/Lengthened!): Jason Stockwell has been commissioned to interview Kylie Erickson and to review her books. Only problem is, she won’t give the time of day much less an interview to someone whose type of writing she deems not worthy of respect. Can they suspend their judgmental attitudes and find true love?

(Christmas) In His Sight: Grade school teacher Carson Alexander has a gift—a gift that has driven a wedge between him and his family. Worse, it’s put him at odds with God. Feeling alone and misunderstood, Carson views God’s gift of prophecy as the worst kind of curse…that is until he meets Lorelei Conner, landscape artist extraordinaire, and perhaps the one person who may need Carson and his gift more than anyone ever has.

Lorelei Connor is a mother on the run. Her abusive ex-husband has followed her all over the country trying to steal their daughter. Distrusting of men and needing to keep on the move, she’s surprised by her desire to remain close to Carson Alexander. Through her fear and hesitation, she must learn to rely on God to guide her—not an easy task when He’s prompting her to trust a man.

Can their relationship withstand the tragedy lurking on the horizon?

Buy links: Kindle US | PBG print | PBG ebook |

About the Author:
Award-winning author Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!”™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”

Follow Pamela via:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Amazon | Instagram | Goodreads |


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

#NewRelease RAGING SEA by @KimHeadlee epic historical fantasy #MFWROrg #ASMSG #Arthurian legends

Today on The Maze, I am excited to announce the release — after a whopping seventeen years in the making — of the latest installment in the Dragon's Dove Chronicles series, Raging Sea!

Kim Iverson Headlee with the paperback
Raging Sea

Artless selfie aside, I couldn't be more proud of this book, which features the coming-of-age story of my Lancelot character, Angusel.

Title: Raging Sea
Series: The Dragon's Dove Chronicles, book 3
Author: Kim Iverson Headlee
Genre: Epic Historical Fantasy (Arthurian Legends)
Publisher: Pendragon Cove Press 
Print Publication Date: 02/01/2019 (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion)
E-book Release Date: 03/11/2019 (Kindle Unlimited)
Pages/Words: 384 pages/100K words
Cover Designer: Natasha Brown

Outcast, clanless, and but a junior officer in Arthur the Pendragon’s army, Angusel struggles to rebuild the life stolen from him through betrayal by the person he had held most dear. His legion allegiance thrusts him onto the campaign trail as one of Arthur’s forward scouts, stalking Angli troops and being among the first to clash with these vicious enemies at every turn. But the odds loom high against him and his sword-brothers, and they will need a miracle just to survive.

Outcast, clanless, and dead to her family, Eileann struggles to rebuild the life stolen from her through the deaths of her husband and infant daughter by Angli treachery. She vows to thwart their violent plan to conquer her clan. But she is no warrior, she has no soldiers to command, and she will need a miracle just to survive.

How can one soldier make a difference? How can one woman save her kin and clan? In the crucible of combat, Angusel must surrender to the will of the gods, and Eileann must invoke divine power to forge the most dangerous warrior the world has ever known.


FOR THE first time in a year and a half, Angusel was returning home.

To his birthplace, he corrected himself. “Home” had become a barracks chamber.

He marveled that Stonn seemed to remember the lands surrounding Senaudon, tugging at the bit and prancing higher by the league. It took Angusel’s last mote of skill to keep his stallion from bolting down the path ahead of the Pendragon and Centurion Cato.

And why shouldn’t Stonn be eager? He had the comforts of a familiar stable awaiting him, not scorn.

Angusel straightened in the saddle, submerging his resentment. Whatever might happen, he would comport himself as one of Arthur’s soldiers, stoic and reserved.

That plan worked until the troop rode to within hailing distance of Senaudon’s gate tower.

His mother chanced to be standing on the battlements, talking to Saigarmor, the guard captain. As Centurion Cato identified the troop, Alayna’s face clouded. She had to resent the Breatanach occupation force—swelled tenfold for the second time in as many years by the soldiers being staged for Angalaranach action—but it seemed to Angusel that her scowl deepened when she made eye contact with him.

Angusel squared his shoulders and looked straight ahead as he’d been drilled countless times to do, thankful for the military protocol to mask the wound rending his heart.

Peripheral vision told him that Alayna had departed the battlements, leaving Saigarmor to act on her behalf in completing the welcome.

Arthur dispatched a soldier to find the Comitissa Britanniam and ordered First Ala to dismount and lead their horses to the staging area’s picket lines while he wheeled Macsen about to join his family’s litter.

The cavalry troop hadn’t advanced a score of paces when Alayna appeared, mounted, from through the gate and cantered straight up to the Pendragon.

“What is he doing here?” Angusel had never heard her sound so furious, and the pit in his gut confirmed that he was the he she had meant. He kept his gaze trained forward as he clenched Stonn’s reins, mindful not to drag on them and hurt his horse’s mouth. The heat in his cheeks and the sweat coursing down his back he did his best to ignore. “What gives you the right to violate Caledonach customs with such blatant disregard?” she demanded in Caledonaiche.

Arthur gave her a long, cool appraisal. “My soldiers are here upon my orders,” he answered her, wielding an improved Caledonaiche accent. “All of them. If you have a quarrel, it is with me and no one else. Not even my wife. We can settle this quarrel, you and me, in the nearest combat ring and to the death, if that is your wish.”

“My wish? You don’t give a bloody damn about what I wish. I’ll wager you can’t guess what I wish!”

“That you had never underestimated me in the Battle of Abar-Gleann?”

Angusel heard the undercurrent of humor in the Pendragon’s voice and pursed his lips to contain the smirk.

Alayna uttered a frustrated growl. As she reined her horse about, her frustration yielded to pity. Angusel risked a glance in that direction. Arthur’s sister and her children were peering out from between the curtains of their litter, and the traveling had heightened the worry and sadness on their faces.

“Your kin?” Alayna asked Arthur.

He confirmed her guess. “Their home is under siege. They shall be staying in the encampment with Gyan and me until it’s safe for them to return. We’ll not trouble you any further than we must.”

“Rubbish.” That won her a surprised look from Arthur. Angusel’s eyebrows raised too, but he flattened them before she could notice. “As you say, my quarrel is with you alone. If you take your kin to war, they will need a troop to guard them—soldiers who would be of greater use in stopping the Angalaranach threat.” The pity dominating her face softened into compassion. “They look as if they could stand a spot of comfort, poor dears. They may shelter inside my fortress for as long as is needful.”

Arthur regarded Angusel’s mother long enough to have made her son squirm. Alayna stood resolute.

“Thank you, Chieftainess Alayna,” said the Pendragon. “I shall not forget your kindness.”

“I shall not permit you to, Artyr.”

Angusel feared she might embarrass him by flirting harder than the coy grin she slid Arthur while uttering the Caledonach form of his name, but she took her leave and nudged her mount over to introduce herself to Lady Annamar and her children. After a brief exchange, which ended with Annamar expressing profuse thanks, Alayna instructed the litter’s driver to follow her through the gates.

Alayna’s son felt his chest swell because of her choices.

Before First Ala could resume course toward the picket lines, a figure emerged from the maze of tents and storage structures.

“Gyan? What has happened?” Arthur asked in Breatanaiche when she had walked close enough that he could keep his voice low.

Angusel studied Stonn’s black mane, waving off the occasional fly, but he was too close to avoid hearing their conversation.

“Colgrim sent a force to attack a ferry port village belonging to Clan Tarsuinn,” she said, also in Breatanaiche.

“A raid?” asked the Pendragon.

“Far bigger, though exact numbers are unknown. The clan”—she sucked in a long breath—“Chieftain Rionnach and his men repelled them, and most of the Angalaranach survivors escaped, but…”

Angusel dared to glance up. Her pursed lips couldn’t conquer the quiver of her chin, and the Pendragon had leaned his face close to hers.

“Mo laochag,” Arthur whispered, “let’s finish this in private.”

She blinked and touched her consort’s cheek guard. “My headquarters tent, mo laochan.”

Their innocent intimacy tore Angusel’s heart. Keeping Stonn’s reins slack, he clenched them till his fists cramped. The pain restored a dollop of reason. He forced his hands to relax, berating himself.

The Pendragon watched his wife’s departure before redirecting his attention toward First Ala. He moved his head in a slow sweep. “Soldier Gawain,” he said, “front and center.”

Gawain led Arddwyn out of formation to approach his uncle and war-chieftain, whom he saluted.

“Change of plans, men,” Arthur said primarily to Centurion Cato, though in a tone that carried to the ala. “I need a squad to scout ahead of the legion. Cato, select fifteen to twenty men from the First who are the most adept at fighting on foot. Your horses will not be crossing the Fiorth. Begin the mission by riding to Chieftain Rionnach’s stronghold to learn what he knows about the Angli and to seek his assistance in moving the infantry cohorts across Clan Tarsuinn territory. I designate you as my emissary. Optio Ainchis Sàl can serve as your translator. I shall dispatch further orders depending upon your report of Rionnach’s response. You depart at dawn.” Arthur glanced at the men, appearing to make eye contact with several of them. “The rest of First Ala shall remain here with the Horse Cohort under the direct command of Prefect Peredur.”

Angusel’s disappointment surged as he noted that the Pendragon expected the scouts to leave their horses on the firth’s north bank for the most perilous part of their mission—as well as Arthur’s implication that he intended to leave the cavalry in reserve at Senaudon—but he knew better than to openly disagree with the army’s war-chieftain.

And he knew better than to hope that Centurion Cato would select Drustanus as one of the advance scouts. He offered a swift, silent prayer that his friend would survive whatever the gods had in store for the First.

Centurion Cato saluted and made as if to reply, but the Pendragon raised a finger and shifted his gaze toward his sister’s son. “Soldier Gawain, since of all men in First Ala you know Dunpeldyr’s lands best, I promote you to the rank of optio and charge you with walking point to keep the scout squad clear of Angli patrols. Choose between one and three men to accompany you.”

“Ainchis Sàl.” Gawain grinned at Angusel. “He can be as annoying as that itch you can’t ever reach, but his stout heart and clear eyes and strong arms are all the help I’ll need.”

“The unit’s Caledonian translator?” Arthur knit his eyebrows. “It could put the mission at risk should he get injured or killed.”

While Angusel mulled whether he could get away with speaking in his own defense, Gawain solved that problem for him. “When does an itch ever go away at the first scratch?” Gawain’s grin yielded to absolute seriousness. “Ainchis Sàl can handle himself, sir, and his parade gear displays the phalera to prove it.” He saluted Angusel. “Same as mine.”

Angusel couldn’t decide what astonished him more: Gawain’s declaration, or the fact that it had made Arthur smile.


Preorder Raging Sea on Kindle for a special launch price of US$0.99!

Undecided? Try before you buy!
Raging Sea, part 1: Reckonings is free to download on Kindle | Nook | iBooks | Google Play | Kobo |

Stories make us greater.