Amazon, book industry, books, historical romance, indie author, indie books, indie writer, Reviews, self publishing, stories, writing

An Honest Review Versus a Bad Review

Let me get straight to the point. I don’t like it when we term a book review “bad.” I think of it as someone speaking their honest opinion. I know we don’t like it when someone says the book is horrible. It doesn’t feel nice, that’s for sure. But we discount the person who was at least willing to leave a review.

I am more apt to leave a negative review than I am a positive review of something I like. It seems to be human nature to be critical. You have probably encountered a boss like that. Never compliments what you do well; only points out your faults.

Well, this isn’t Unicorn land. We wrote a book. Not everyone is going to like it period.

Now granted, there are those who seem to enjoy being mean, but that is their problem. We all can spot those reviews on products. They are pissed off at the world, and you just made them madder. But then we have an honest review. I love honest reviews.

Just as there are good writers and poor ones, so you have reviewers. Some know the right words to use, and others don’t. But that doesn’t necessarily make them bad. If you eat dessert all the time, and nothing else, you won’t be healthy for long. If you eat dirt all the time, the same thing goes. A balanced diet is healthy and allows you to grow.

An honest review states what a reader did and did not like. Remember, in this day and age of consumerism; the reviewer looks at your story as a product. It must meet their view of what that product should be. And it is a chance for you the author, just one chance, to make a change. It shows where you might be able to do better. Granted, you can’t please all the people all the time as I said before. And you still must consider the percentages on your reviews. For instance, if you have five good ones (and they are all family) and ten negative ones (who aren’t family and friends), there is a problem. But an honest review gives you direction.

You, as an author, know when it’s an honest review because it reveals a spot where you were unsure of like in plot or advertising. I recently had a review that showed me what I feared; I am promoting my story in the wrong genre. It gave clarity to where I need to list it and how to advertise it. I did this by overlooking the general dislikes the reviewer stated, to understanding this person was saying they had bought a product that didn’t fulfill their needs as a reader. It was not as the advertising lead them to believe. It was only one little review, but they nailed it. I want more reviewers like that. They aren’t good or bad; they are honest.

I am not afraid of hearing you don’t like my story; it grows me as a writer. That is why I send my book to copious amounts of beta readers. Then drag it through edit after edit. I want the best I can produce for those readers who are looking for this particular genre. I’m the same way about my cooking. Why waste my time and food if it’s not going to be palatable?

And yet, hell yes I’m into praise. We all are! I love the “likes” and the “wonderful job” comments. Who doesn’t like a tasty dessert? But I can’t be healthy on that diet. I need honest reviews: honest beta readers, honest editors, and honest customers.

If for you, it’s only about the dessert, the kudos, the Atta girl, find something else to do. It is tough to compete in the book field. Writing is personal, but to become a great author, you need the criticism, just as an athlete needs a good coach. Always try to take the bad and find something useful. None of us are perfect. I’m a fair writer, but I want to be the best writer I can be. I have read other people’s writings and wonder why I even try. There is real talent out there. I recognized that in my teens when I dreamed of becoming a concert piano player, it never was going to happen because I didn’t have the talent. I also feared I’d never make a living as an author, so I worked jobs that honed the skill everyone told me I had for writing. And while I may never have a best seller, that doesn’t mean I’m going to quit trying. And without honest reviews, I will never succeed.

So please readers, friends, family, editors, and customers don’t be afraid. Tell me the worst. I appreciate it. Thank you!

Feel free to leave a comment. Have you ever learned anything from an honest review? I would enjoy hearing your opinion. 🙂

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Amazon, book industry, books, historical romance, indie books, Reviews, stories, vikings

Authors and Reviews

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I remember during the edit of my first book, Windswept Hearts, the editor commented that one chapter should be two chapters and it needed more back story. I was upset because I hate writing joiners. Those sections you need that continue the flow of the story but to you seem boring. How do you spice them up? It also meant another 1200 words and there would be an uneven number of chapters.  All creative types have their idiosyncrasies. My quirk is wanting my books to end on an even number of chapters. Ugh.

I was mad at my editor but too passive to say anything. So, I decided my heroine would wake up grumpy, then the coffee maker goes out, and her love interest irritates her. I relished writing this scene and I put all my frustration into it. My editor is no dummy. She figured out my angst and added salt to the wound by telling me it was the best scene in the book. We have laughed many times over it.

My point? We all know, as writers where our weaknesses lie. Whether it’s writing a scene ten times and not getting it right or merely skipping something we don’t want to work out. We know when our writing doesn’t make the grade and we worry the reader is going to notice. Every author knows you get tired at the end of writing, editing and re-writing the story. There are scene changes that don’t go smoothly, those plot holes that take a dump trunk of words to fill in and all your skill to cover. Then you are finished, and you send your project out into the reader pool hoping it won’t get torn to shreds by public opinion or worse yet, left to die a slow, dusty death on a bookshelf.

I also worry about how a reader is going to react to the social setting of the time.  I find writing historical fiction gives me more leeway to be creative but keeps my feet to the fire because I still have boundaries I must work within. The period I chose, Viking history, is a little rough around the edges for our present time.  They weren’t called barbarians for no reason. They eked out an existence in the harshest of lands, fought like demons, loved wildly, had a sophisticated social setting and were independent to a fault.  They did not live by our current societal rules.  I knew I would have to be accurate about their lifestyle yet I knew this would be offensive to some.  I was concerned about my heroine’s age. Typically, in the period I was in, young girls were married off by the age of fifteen. I have felt the parents may have been smarter then. (I raised three teenage daughters) At that age a girls’ hormones are raging, she wants to do things her way. Could those parents have decided, “let’s just marry her off and let the husband handle it?”

However, in our day and age girls are considered underaged until 18. I knew where the hard spots were, and worried how they would be perceived. Take for instance the rape of hostages or woman of a conquered village. This was the norm.  Also, a woman didn’t have much choice or say in whom they may have to marry. They were used as bargaining chips for peace or alliances, or for improving the family wealth. They could even be sold into slavery. On top of that, they were held to high standards, such as being a virgin when they married.

Nowadays men are expected to treat women equally, fairly and respectfully. Women have rights and freedoms that didn’t exist back then. I knew Viking men in the 800’s were a rough crowd and conditions harsh. Though Viking women had more rights than most of that time, men still held most of the power. Historical fiction can be hard to read through the lens of our modern society.

The bottom line, when a reviewer comes along, it’s easy to become defensive, angry or filled with self-pity if they don’t like something. If you are honest with yourself though, you know when they are spot on and have ferreted out your weaknesses. So, what do you do?

Everyone handles it differently. All I can tell you is how I did it. On my recent book, Norse Hearts, I sent out and paid for three professional reviews.  The first two reviews, Kirkus and Foreward Reviews, came back with glowing comments. I was ecstatic. Then the Blue Ink review came in. I was surprised, but I stepped back and analyzed it.

The reviewer hit on every one of my fears. Did that make her wrong? Did that make my book a piece of crap? Did that mean I should never write again? Nope. It said that I was an average writer, and the reviewer was one of the one-third of people who would not like the book and not necessarily for the same reasons.

I have to say I liked her style. She gave respect where respect was due, recognizing my hard work and research. However, it socially did not fit with what she wanted to read. When Blue Ink contacted me about releasing the review, I said go ahead. They seemed surprised. I explained that I needed this review. I wanted those who might hesitate about reading such material, to be able to make an educated decision on whether this was the story for them.

I want my readers to enjoy the material I write. If it is not a subject they care for, I’m okay with that. I have read books I disagreed with, or I didn’t enjoy the writers’ style.  But, I respected their effort.  I respected this reviewer’s honesty, and it will help others who have her same view to avoid an unenjoyable read.

I also looked at the percentage. If I had gotten two negatives out of three, maybe the book needed another rewrite. Instead, I was overjoyed; my rate is two out of three on the positive. I have done my best, and that is all any of us can do.  I can say I am okay with what I have accomplished, and this negative review has given me insight and ideas for another book!

If you would like to read any of those reviews, please click on my site page, headed “Books by Robynn Gabel.”

If you would like to comment on any experiences you have had, please feel free to do so below! Have a Happy Writing Day!

Amazon, book industry, indie writer, stories, writing

Frankenstein Consumerism

The Frankenstein Monster of Consumerism

I realize I am deviating from my normal blogging about writing books but bear with me….

Consumerism created the Customer. Fed by the ever-changing world of advertising we are courted, pleaded with, prodded and bombarded with endless promises.  Each product touted to be the best-ever cure-all, big fix to any problem we have, all in the name of the great god of Money.

In return, Money created a monster that has a ravenous appetite with the mindset of a spoiled brat.

Now I must admit I am one of those brats.

Note that forty years seems like a long time, though compared to geological time, it is but a Nanosecond. But a long time ago, I could buy a product, bring it home, plug it in, turn it on, and it would work. In fact, there was no instruction manual. Then, I would have the luxury of not having to buy another one for a long time.  Of course, the better the product, the longer it lasted, making the company that made it have to find something else to do in the meantime to make money, like service it when and if it broke down.

Times change just like seasons.

Now, it’s about the number of sales versus quality.

Take, for instance, a wireless printer. I have a perfectly good printer, by the same company, that works well when I plug it into my computer. But I’m getting lazy in my old age because I’m constantly being shown new ways of saving time to be able to go bask in the sun on the beach.  So, I brought home my shiny new toy and spent the next two hours trying to make it work, as promised. I tried installing apps on phone and computer. Downloaded instructions until I was blue in the face. The printer itself printed well, but all it would print was instructions on how to connect to the internet and supposedly anything else that had a Wifi brain. Nothing worked. Like the brat I’ve become, I took it back to the store in a huff.

So first, I would like to point out as a writer, I have learned through many grammar checking programs that the average reading level in our country is 7th grade. Last time I checked you had to have a degree to work on computer programming in order to create programs. I highly suspect these technicians read, or think, above a 7th-grade level.  So, they are basically trying to get mice to run a maze to get the cheese. We are overfed, obese rats. We give up when it gets hard. Please come down to our level.

Second, at my age, you recognize after scurrying through the world these many years, the most valuable commodity you have is TIME.  Yup, it is more precious than money. I get upset when I waste my time on the next new and shiny gadget after receiving promises of it making my life easy. Yup, Frankenstein temper tantrum.

Third, I sadly realize we did it to ourselves.  In our greed and laziness, the first thing we sacrificed to the god of Money, was SERVICE. When the smarter rats discovered how easy it was to legally rob us of our hard-earned cash, they, being the smarter rats, learned how to cut corners.  The first thing to go was service. Self Service was invented and the cheese that tempted us? Cheaper product.

Now we build our own furniture, fill our own cars with gas, check ourselves out at stores, guide ourselves with voices from little boxes, and must have several degrees to run anything electronic. We have been trained by faster and faster internet services to expect instantaneous answers as well as the immediate delivery of any product we want.  Heaven forbid we have a natural disaster because we have lost the knowledge of basic survival.

Advertising has lost its charm and magic. With the sensory overload of constant advertising, we have become numb to it, where now the only thing that sparks our interest is a good drama, whether it be YouTube or Facebook, or politics, or accidents on the road, or even disaster, we are jaded to consumerism and advertising. Until we get something that doesn’t hold up to its advertised promise, then we become little dictators demanding our money be returned.

We stomped through the village and wrecked the environment, greedily grabbed all we could, and scared away customer service so it hides behind little chatbots on every product site and conceals any method of human contact that could answer your questions. The Wizard behind the curtain continues to tell us not to look and to just take our rotten forbidden fruit and be happy with it.

Sigh. I want to go back to simpler days where I had to make my own weapons, chase down my food which in turn kept me fit and I could cook it the way I liked it.

 

 

books, cancer, cancer survival, hope, indie writer, journaling, stories, Uncategorized, writing

Good Morning!

It has been over a year since I have posted a blog. You might be wondering what happened? How or why does one disappear?

I could wax poetic and say I have emerged from the long, dark night that grieving can bring about. Or, I could point out that it has been a crazy three years. But if I was pressured to come up with a simple reason or bring it down to a single word, I would have to simply say, OVERWHELMED.

After my husband passed, I spent a year lost. Then a year re-engaging in life. Then there was the year of getting married again, cleaning out the house, putting it up for sale and rearranging my entire life schedule.

Now things seem to have settled a little, I have found the characters from the last book I wrote demanding to be released into the world by publishing their story. Being so rusty and out of touch with all that it takes to do that, I hired a Life Coach to get me back into shape. So I’m working into the area of marketing, production, social media and just plain organizing.

Interestingly enough, the desire to write has come back as well. I feel like a hermit coming back out into the light of day! Gosh, it’s bright out here!

I hope you will join me as I continue to journey again in the world of the written word.

books, cancer journey, historical romance, indie writer, stories, Uncategorized, writing

Changing Directions

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After losing the love of my life in September, I have floated aimlessly on the waves of change, until the last few weeks. Then I decided to get back into my second passion in life.

I’ve taken control of the helm once again through the re-organization of my writing world. First was to hire someone that had knowledge of the vast digital world I am helpless in. Starting with my blog, you will notice new banners, social links and a page advertising the upcoming new book due to Mr. Richter’s skills, rickcarufel@netscape.net.   I have revised the first two books and added two children’s books as well.

For those of you who have been following my journaling on the 33 years of travel through cancer with my husband, (Living in the Shadow of Death) do not fear, I am still working on it. It will now be available on my Author website. It will be linked here and notification served through Facebook.

I needed the freedom to post again about my writing journey and to re-blog some of the awesome blogs I run across in my travel through cyber-space.

I must sadly report that I’m still editing Norse Hearts. This is a 100,000 worded romance, and trust me, grammar is not a talent of mine, just ask Chryse Wymer, http://ocdeditor.weebly.com/, my ever long-suffering editor.  But when it is finished you will be inundated with advertising joy.

Meanwhile, thank you for following my little corner of insanity.

 

books, stories, writing

New Release by Casey Harvell

Wired

Wired:

Electric Book III

With the weight of the world on her shoulders, nothing for Kat gets easier. The country is still under siege from both the evil General Carch and the nanobot infection. As things percolate they get worse—and the entire world tenses to await the outcome.

Things are hard inside the camps, too. When a serious betrayal comes to light it nearly destroys Kat…or will it set her free?

Every story has to end sometime. The question is—how? Will Kat prevail and save the world? Can she stop Carch? Can she survive saving everything? Get Wired and find out.

 

Always find more at caseyharvell.com

About the Author:

Amazon Bestselling and USA Today Recommended Author Casey Harvell resides in the great Hudson River Valley of NY with her husband and their two sons. Casey is slightly zombie obsessed. She uses the word ‘boom’ and attaches ‘pants’ on the end of words frequently. You can find all of Casey’s books on her website http://caseyharvell.com

Website: http://www.caseyharvell.com

Find Casey on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Casey-Harvell/238364846204319

Find Casey on Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/CaseyAHarvell

Find Casey on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4996856.Casey_Harvell

Amazon Author Page for Kindle Books & Paperbacks:

http://www.amazon.com/Casey-Harvell/e/B00DRQSGLE/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/casey-harvell?store=allproducts&keyword=casey+harvell

Wattpadd: http://www.wattpad.com/user/CaseyHarvell

Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClSV6GMN7phkUo4GLpQAtcg

Other Books by Casey Harvell

New Adult (18+ L/S/V)

The Wrong Way

Doesn’t Play Well With Others

Thriller (18+ L/S/V)

Lingering…

Paranormal

The Decisions Series:

Righteous Decisions (eBook always Free)

Harsh Decisions

Cover Art by No Sweat Graphics by Rachel A Olson

http://nosweatgraphics.weebly.com/

books, historical romance, indie books, stories, vikings, writing

So Close…..

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Recently I decided to raise awareness of the upcoming release of “Norse Hearts” by entering the cover in Little Book Corner’s Book Cover contest on Facebook.  https://www.facebook.com/littlebookcornerpage

Thank you to all who came out and voted! I am touched and very appreciative of your support. Now I would like to give you a little reward for your effort.

The following is the first chapter of the soon-to-be-released, “Norse Hearts.”    Enjoy!!

Norse Hearts – Chapter 1 – The Raid

“That which has a bad beginning is likely to have a bad ending.”

Britain – 760 AD

Einar stood in the ship’s bow as its oars sliced the water in perfect unison, powering the ship effortlessly towards the riverbank. Uneasily, he rubbed the back of his neck. There would be no honor to Odin in what they were about to do. Watching the giant man at the steering tiller, he waited. At the helmsman’s nod, Einar raised his arm in a silent signal. The oarsmen quietly pulled in the sculls through the oar locks. The dragon ship’s momentum sent her bow onto the shore with a hiss. He glanced over as a second ship, with a larger, ornately carved bow, slipped in beside them.

Leaping ashore, the men took on solid form in the ghostly fog. Woolen cloaks covered their broad shoulders and leather tunics studded in various designs of worked metal. Heavy brows pulled into fierce intent and created granite profiles framed by beards. Unhooking their shields from the railing of the ship, those who had swords slid them into wide leather belts or scabbards. Others carried heavy war axes. They shoved helmets—wrought into fiendish metal faces—over wild sea-salted hair.

Church bells pealed, sounding hushed in the fog, as they called to the faithful for evening vespers.

All went silent.

Then, from far off, Einar heard something faint and growing steadily louder: a deep-throated singing—people chanting. Rolling through the humid air, their voices rose in ethereal waves.

The band of warriors moved silently around the trees. Finally reaching the edge of the forest, Einar saw a small, grassy incline with the chapel and monastery at the top. The little hamlet of Seletun had the only church on this stretch of the River Ouse. The stained-glass windows in the sanctuary glowed with jeweled colors. Quickly scanning the area, he saw that there was no challenge. It looked like there were riches to be had here, but he had no desire to kill unless in the heat of battle. In this moment, he was simply being loyal in following his jarl’s orders.

Time slowed as the choir’s chant gave an unholy rhythm to the sounds of creaking leather and the warriors’ heavy breathing. With brightly colored shields, black shadows for eyes under helmets, and swords or battle-axes now in hand, it looked as if heaven and hell were about to collide.

The chant ended just as Einar and his horde hit the chapel doors. Crashing into the sanctuary, he stared at the worshipers’ startled faces. The monk turned from the altar and froze in fear. Women raised their hands to their mouths that had opened in screams.  The faithful scrambled to their feet to escape their impending doom.  With an animal-like howl, his shield in front of him and his sword held high, Einar led the charge as they fell upon the hapless victims.

Terrified monks pushed over an iron-wrought candelabrum as they fled from the invaders.   Flames crept up the heavy tapestries hanging behind the altar, adding the acrid smell of smoke to the carnage’s hellish glow. The warriors struggled and fought with any who stood against them. Their swords’ bright glint was now dulled by blood from those hacked without pity.

Einar’s gaze swept the front pews, noting a kneeling woman. Her bowed head was covered in auburn plaits. A fur-rimmed brown cloak, held together with a large gold brooch, draped over her thin shoulders. He strode forwards, catching an arm, and pulled her up, looking into her fear-widened eyes. He stared for a second at a plain silver cross that hung from her neck and then tore it from her violently. Reaching for the gold brooch, he ripped it from the cloak. Shoving her aside, she fell to the floor with a thin scream.

He whirled, facing the cry that had erupted behind him. A slim girl with copper-tinted hair ran past him, kneeling at the woman’s side, helping her to sit up. He watched a peasant rush the chapel door, and a single slash by the Norseman guarding it sent him into eternity. In the confusion, a monk who had a blonde, petite woman clinging to him screamed as she watched her family and friends die. Einar saw one of his men raise an axe to forever quiet the blonde, but the kneeling redhead lurched to her feet and darted forwards. Shoving the monk and the girl behind her, she glared at the warrior with her arms spread wide, protecting them. The sword hung in midair as the Norseman hesitated, startled by her defiance.

The twinkle of jewels caught Einar’s eye as the cross around her neck swung with the swirl of her cloak. He grasped the warrior’s axe hand, speaking roughly, “Gunnar, hold!  She is the one we seek.”

Glancing at the weeping blonde, Einar snapped out, “Spare them. Slaves bring good profit, and we still have room for a few more.” His eyes narrowed as his gaze raked over the redheaded vixen.  Her breast rose rapidly with quick breaths, anger setting her face in hard lines. A tan wool cloak, edged with gold embroidery and lined with fur, covered her slight frame. Without another word, Einar grabbed her arm and yanked her against him, fingering the gold cross, staring into her wide green eyes.

“Slitting her throat would lose us a chance of a better profit in ransom. I am taking her with us.”

Gunnar ground out angrily, “Then I claim first rights to her.”

Einar shot back, “No, she is mine. Take the other two.”

He watched Gunnar’s brow furrow and his knuckles whiten as he gripped his axe handle before bringing it down on a bench with a dull thud, the wood splintering. Kicking at the shattered bench, Gunnar pulled the axe loose. Looking at the trembling blonde who still clung to the monk, Einar heard him grunt, seemingly unimpressed with what was left. Slipping the axe handle into a leather loop on his belt, Gunnar grabbed them, joining him.

The redhead beat at Einar with her fist, screaming, “Nay, nay, let me go!” He tightened his hold on her wrist, smiling grimly to himself when he heard her sudden gasp.

Heading out of the church, the warriors grabbed everything of value and quickly searched the bodies lying about for anything of worth. Einar led the horde as they made their way back to the dragon ships, going a little slower for the captives taken and the loot carried.  A few Norsemen trailed behind to discourage anyone who found the bravery to get back what had been stolen.  The only noise in the foggy evening was the heavy breathing of men fired up from battle and the occasional whimper from the prisoners.

A few of the monks who escaped had gone into the bell tower, and clanging tones now called for help from the village.

Impatiently, Einar tugged on the struggling girl to hurry her along.  Breaking from the forest’s edge, he almost lost his grip on the arm he was clutching.  Grunting, he turned around, seeing she had wrapped her free arm around a slim tree trunk and dug her heels into the damp soil. Teeth clenched, her lips curled back, and her green eyes had a feral gleam.

“Nay. Nay!” she cried as he increased the pressure on her wrist again. Suddenly, she let go of the tree and braced both feet against his calf, throwing herself back. Her move startled him, and for a brief second, her hand slipped in his grasp. Twisting, she kicked up with her right foot between his thighs. White-hot pain seared through his groin, the air in his pain-constricted lungs leaving in a whoosh through his clenched teeth. His grip loosened while he instinctively sought to clutch his injured manhood. Wrenching free, she fled like a startled rabbit.

Suddenly, Gunnar’s laughter turned into a shout. “After her! She is the lord’s daughter!”

Gunnar had a head start on him, but Einar scrambled over damp rocks, stumbling through the deadfall littering the ground, until he came across a small path. Up ahead was a small meadow, and he watched her run across it, thinking that if he wasn’t in so much pain, he might appreciate the deer-like grace she had in full flight. She definitely knew the forest and had the advantage.

Still limping, he watched Gunnar gain on her. They both disappeared into the woods. His ragged breathing sounded harsh in his ears as he tried concentrating on any nearby noise.  Tripping over a tree root, he muttered, “By all that is Thor’s, if he does not beat you, I will!”

Suddenly, he heard a loud shriek and a muffled “umph” as something hit the forest floor. Pushing past the pain, he started jogging. Finally reaching the forest’s edge, he saw Gunnar stretched out over the girl’s small frame. He had both hands imprisoned above her head as his weight pressed her flailing legs into the moist earth.

Gnògr!” Gunnar growled.

Einar noticed the girl’s sudden stillness, and before he could call out, Gunnar shifted his weight, holding her wrists with one hand while his other hand slipped down her cheek, resting on her throat. The girl tried to move her knee to escape, and suddenly, his fingers tightened, cutting off her air.  She froze again, and Gunnar loosened his hand and slid it down over her body, checking out the soft curves.

“Get off of me, you filthy lout! Murderer!” she shouted, struggling wildly again.

“Shhhh,” Gunnar hissed in her ear, pressing her against the ground with his full weight to stop her from moving again.

“Gunnar!” Einar barked.

Gunnar looked up, his brow wrinkling in anger. “What? I caught her, and I have claimed her—again—since you can not seem to hold her.”

“I have first claim and am holding her for ransom. Get off her.”

“Let me have a few minutes; then you can have her back, if you can keep her.” A smirk covered his face.

Ekki! Let her loose now. Her ransom will cover the worm’s debt. Will you interfere with the jarl’s profit?”

“She is mine!” Gunnar spit back.

Folding his arms over his chest and leaning a shoulder into a tree, Einar stared impassively down at Gunnar. “Fine. You explain to the jarl why she is no longer a maid and why we have nothing to bargain with. I will wait here until you are finished.” He noticed that the girl had stopped struggling, watching the two of them intently.  Finally, with a glare, Gunnar brought up his knee beside her hip, still holding her wrists, and with a rough jerk, he drew her up with him as he stood.

“I am not conceding my claim,” he snarled, pushing the girl towards Einar.

Pulling a length of leather from his belt, Einar quickly wrapped it around her wrists, binding her hands before her. Tugging at the length of remaining leather, he started back down the path as Gunnar walked behind, pushing if she slowed.

“You heathen swine! Give me one moment with that fancy sword on your back and I will hack you to pieces. You are nothing but thieving barbarians with pig dung for brains. Lord Allard will see to it you are nothing but food for worms.”

Einar glanced back at her, one eyebrow raised in surprise. Quite a bloodthirsty little thing, he mused. Maybe this is why her betrothed wanted her dead. He could see how her fiery temper might be daunting for a pasty-white worm like Cecil Allard. But Einar found her insults to be quite entertaining.

When the dragon ships came into view, the little vixen planted her feet—having caught her breath and strength—and started fighting again. Gunnar’s laughter grated across his nerves.

In one swift turn and scoop, he slung her over his shoulder. Putting his arm around her legs, he kept her still. She beat against his back with her bound hands and screamed.

“You son of a boar! Murdering heathen! Put me down!”

Loud laughter from the warriors around the boats drifted up, only adding to her agitation. A young, lanky warrior came up alongside him.

“I see you caught her. She sounds like a cat in season. If they did not hear the bells, they certainly will hear her.”

Einar grunted.  With a few long strides, he reached the dragon ship. Her shifting movements and the tug on the scabbard strapped across his back warned him that she was trying to pull the sword out. Suddenly, Einar dropped his shoulder, dumping her on the ground. She took a deep breath to scream, but his large, rough hand descended over her mouth, cutting it off. He felt her lips pull back as she bared her teeth to bite, but he pressed her head against the side of the boat, his hand pushing against her mouth.

He said to the lanky warrior beside him, “Tell her to cease.”

“Why? You can speak Angles just as well as I can.”

Einar glared at him. “Do it.”

Stepping up, the Norseman spoke quietly in the girl’s language. “Ladye, if you do not cease your struggles, Einar will bind and gag you.”

Taking his hand away from her mouth, Einar’s fingers grasped her arm in a tight grip.

The girl stilled, staring at the warrior who had spoken.  She took a deep breath and spoke softly. “How is it you speak as I?”

Einar watched Dagfinn pull his shoulders back and straighten. “I was born in this land and once was slave to the Norp weg. I am now called Dagfinn, shield hand to Einar Herjolfsson, your new master.”

Her eyes opened wide as she stared at the youth for a few seconds.

“I . . . I am no one’s property! I will not be anyone’s slave. Tell your lord to slay me now.” She drew herself up, squaring her shoulders, and stared into the dark holes of Einar’s helmet, seeking out the eyes behind it to convey her defiance.

Einar chuckled. “She is worth more alive. Quite dramatic, is she not?”

“Ladye, Einar refuses to slay you. A dead slave brings no profits,” Dagfinn said, a smile quirking at the edges of his lips.

“My father, Lord Landis Forthred, will pay him, if this is about coin. I am to be married tomorrow. My dowry is substantial, and my father will meet his demands,” she said, standing straighter, pushing her chin out.

Einar’s intense gaze sized her up.

Gunnar joined them, leaning against the side of the boat. “If what she says is true, there are several Forthreds who are related to the King of Northumbria. They can well afford a large ransom, but we have to meet with Roald in a fortnight, and he may not appreciate the problems she brings. Or did you think about any of that before you spared her?”

He gazed coldly back at his stepbrother. “We held our end of the bargain. She is gone—he does not have to marry her—but he did not hold up his end, so she will pay his debt, one way or another. You would pass up a chance for increased profit?”

“I think she would make a wonderfully obedient wife; do you not agree, Einar?” Dagfinn replied with a wolfish grin.

A scowl darkened Einar’s face. “Boy, if your sword arm was as quick as your wit, I would not need half of my men.”

Sudden silence fell between them as they stared at her. The girl shifted, her hands twisting in the bindings. Einar finally snarled out, “We need to go.”

Dagfinn translated quickly. “We are leaving. He will consider your offer.”

She beat her bound hands against her legs, the fingers laced and white as she spit out, “Did you not tell him I am to be married tomorrow? The lout can speak to my father now!”

Einar grabbed the leather lead; she pulled back against it, stomping her foot to emphasize her words. “I will not go. I must marry Lord Allard tomor . . . .”

Her words were muffled as Einar suddenly grabbed a length of leather from his belt and turned her around, his brawny forearm crushing her against his chest. She started to scream, but he shoved a rough piece of leather into her mouth, tying it off behind her head as she thrashed. Trying to shriek around the gag, she choked.  She brought up her elbows, shoving into his gut. He caught his breath, scooping her up and pressing her against his chest, squeezing the air from her lungs.

“Move it, boy!” Einar ordered Dagfinn. “I am tired of her beating me like a dog!”

Gunnar’s laughter rang out as Dagfinn quickly tied another piece of leather around her ankles while she kicked, hampering the efforts. Einar lifted the squirming bundle up to several of the men in the ship, and they dumped her against the wooden mast.

The sound of wood clacking against wood sounded muffled in the fogged air as Einar and his men hung their shields along the gunwale of the ship. Nimbly vaulting up and into the ship, he made his way to the bow, meeting the glare of the bound and gagged redhead. Seating themselves on wooden trunks, his crew set the oars on end, waiting for his signal. Loot and other captives had been put in the holding area at the base of the dragon ship’s tall mast, and the captives knelt with their hands bound, their faces reflecting misery, fear, and shock.

Einar raised his hand, and, as one, the crew slid the sculls out into the water. Glancing up, he watched the ghostly forms of trees slipping by the dragon ship as it moved silently through the fog. The mist rolled around them in a moist caress as the proud bow disappeared into the gray.