Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Birthday Surprise

I had a great surprise on my birthday. My next project, a time-travel paranormal called Footprints in Time finaled in the Great Beginnings contest hosted by the Utah Chapter of RWA. I had to enter in the published authors category where all the contestants are judged against each other regardless of category. You can imagine my surprised when I got the e-mail that said I was a finalist. This is the first time I have been a contest finalist, so I am really excited. 

Here's an excerpt:

    Near Scone Abbey, 1296

Brother Ignatius helped Aed Mac Farlane roll the heavy red stone through the mud to the water’s edge. Word came last night that the English marauder, Edward was just a few hours ride from Perth. The lairds knew he was coming after the one thing that might make the Scots kneel to him as their king. The Stone. The Clach Sgàin. 

Scottish kings had been secretly coronated on the stone for nearly eight hundred years. They had put their foot into the mark and sworn their oath to Scotland. Ignatius flipped the stone on its side and rubbed his fingers along the smooth foot-shaped outline of the mark. Most had lived and died by that oath. Now the English bastards wanted to take the power the stone held, enslaving the Scots to the Normans. 
Ignatius had been of Clan Dunkeld before he joined the fellowship at Scone Abbey. He knew the way of his kinsmen. To follow him who sat upon the stone. Most of the other clans would do the same. Not that any of the lairds were above a little politics, deceit and backstabbing. He knew of a few who had literally been stabbed to death when they stood in the way of someone else’s plans. 
Still Edward’s reign would stop none of that. The highlands were a dangerous and violent place. And the Marches, the borderlands, were even more so. The clans needed a strong Scottish king to keep them reined in, not some weakling of a Norman. 
Ignatius helped Mac Farlane flip the stone again. Another turn and the hollow seat faced up. Many a king had sat upon this throne. One more lift and the stone was in the water. It sank down the bank of the river and out of site, but the last thing Ignatius could see was the footprint of the kings. He bent down and felt for the stone. His hand found the indentation and he smiled. The stone would not be going anywhere. It was lodged in the mud of the River Tay.

Chapter One
Old Scone, 2007 

Maggie Alpin pulled on her Wellies and grabbed her hooded jacket before stepping out of the tent. The predawn sky was just beginning to lighten from deep blue to gray. Maggie liked the quiet of early morning. Her eye was drawn to a bright star just below and to the left of a full moon that was settling behind the trees. She took in a deep breath of the cool air. Another reason she liked the morning was she could work on her own. She pushed the button to illuminate the face of her watch. Six-thirty. Almost two hours until breakfast.
Yesterday, Professor Douglas told her they had to be close to finding the stone and she was anxious to get back to her dig. Her arms had stopped aching after the first week of digging along the banks of the River Tay and the thought of being the first one to find the “missing” Scottish Coronation Stone filled Maggie with excitement. She pulled on the leather work gloves and grabbed the pick and shovel she had used for the past six weeks before she turned down the path toward the river. 
When they did the sonogram of Moot Hill, the coronation mound, the place where the stone should have been buried, there was nothing but dirt. Professor Douglass decided the old tale about the Brothers hiding the real stone in the river must be true. The Earl laughed at them saying that the stone was in Edinburgh Castle, but having taken a hefty amount of money from the University, he told them as long as the tourist season was not interrupted, they could dig all they wanted. 
The team had searched every inch of the riverbank, starting at the end of the footpath and moving northwest to the bend at the Stormontfield crossroads. Professor Douglass was sure that was where the monks would have hidden the stone. It was the closest place to where the Abbey had stood. 
Maggie thought different. She was sure the path of the river had changed enough in the last seven hundred years that the place she worked had been much closer to the abbey then than it was now. During the day, she worked the sight the professor set out, but in the early mornings and evenings she made the ten minute walk to dig along a spit of land that stuck out into the river like a thin finger. She had no idea how long the protrusion had been there. It was at most a quarter mile long and maybe half as wide. Depending on the geology under the silt, it could have been there for as little as a few years or as much as ten centuries. But she had a gut feeling. Her Mac Alpin blood told her that the stone must be here. This was the place where the stone rested. 
Since she was four years old, Maggie had heard stories of how the Alpins had been the first rulers of Scotland. Grammy Epona had spun wondrous tales of Kenneth, Aed, Eochaid, the Donalds, and the Constantines conquering the wilds of Caledonia to form a first Scottish nation. The stories enflamed her imagination and by the time Maggie was ten, she knew she wanted to be an archeologist. 
Her grandmother had been so proud when she graduated from Columbia and again when her thesis won a scholarship to study with Professor Douglas at Edinburgh University. Now six years further along she was ready to defend her doctoral thesis, Clach Sgàin, The True Power of The Scottish Coronation Stone. If they could just find the stone, it would make everything perfect. 
Maggie was pleased to see that the trench she had carefully dug out over the past three days was still dry. The fact that water had not seeped through told her the place was probably over a stone base rather than an ever-changing bed of silt. She checked her watch. Six forty-five. Good. She had a good hour to work before she would have to return for the morning breakfast meeting. She tossed the tools into the pit and jumped in after. 
As she began to dig Maggie thought about her thesis. Kenneth Mac Alpin brought the stone to Caledonia. That was the starting point of her thesis, and it had come to her as if by magic. A smile turned up the corners of her lips. The book where she found the text that sparked the idea had fallen off the library shelf and nearly hit her on the head. She had spent weeks searching out the original document. Her heart still beat fast when she thought about the first time she pulled on the white cotton gloves and slowly unrolled the crackling parchment. She was thankful Grammy taught her some old Scottish Gaelic. Otherwise she never would have been able to decipher the words that convinced her that she was right about the stone. She was sure that the one in Edinburgh was a fake, given to Edward I to keep the true clach on Scottish soil. 
Maggie looked down at the sound of her shovel hitting solid stone. She bent to look more closely and her breath caught in her chest. An edge of reddish sandstone poked through the black dirt. The stone found in this area of Scotland was a light gray. Red stone was found further west. 
Maggie tossed her shovel aside and fell to her knees. Her hands frantically moved dirt away from the stone tip. She dug until so much earth had been removed that dirt began to fall back into place, but still the red stone went deeper. She reached to get the shovel to remove the impeding dirt and realized she had buried it somewhere in her frenzied attempt to uncover the stone. Maggie stood and walked back toward where she thought she had put the shovel. 
How long had she been here? Maggie pushed the button on her watch. Six-forty-five? How could that be? She tapped on the crystal. The second hand moved, but the time still said six forty-five. Damn it. This watch cost a fortune. The salesman at the jewelry store had assured her you could do almost anything and the water resistant, shock resistant watch would keep running. Good thing she sent in the warranty card. 
The shovel handle flipped up out of the dirt and smacked Maggie in the forehead before she even realized what happened. As she fell backwards she envisioned the cartoon where the cat chased the mouse around the yard and ended up stepping on a rake. Only Maggie didn’t vibrate like the cartoon cat. She didn't hear birds chirping. She didn’t see stars circling her head. All she saw was black.

I'll keep you updated on the contest news and you'll be the second to know as soon as "Footprints" sells.

I'm kicking off my countdown to the Widow's Peak release party with a Supercontest. Yes, I know there are 132 days to go, but hopefully this will make them go faster. Here's how it works. 

I have made a limited number of special edition Widow's Peak Visa Gift Cards valued at $15.00. Only fifty lucky people will be entered in this contest. There are three ways you can enter. (1) Over the next four months I will give away four gift cards as prizes in regular contests. You never know which week the contest will run so you'll have to stay in touch for your chance to win.  (2) Six cards will be given away at my appearances. Check the website or my new quarterly newsletter for appearance dates. (3) You can purchase a gift card for $15.00. They are Visa Gift Cards so you can use them anywhere(though I'm hoping you'll use it to buy Widow's Peak at the Wild Rose Press website).

For each gift card won or sold, I will donate $5.00 to The Portland Literacy Council, the adult literacy organization that is supported by my local RWA chapter. The Council help adults learn to read as well as providing support for those who want to take the GED test. Our chapter reader's luncheon raised $1000 for this worthy cause and I will add another $250 if all the giftcards sell. So you get to spend your gift card, make a donation to a worthy cause, and enter a contest for one of two fabulous prizes.  

 You could win either a bronze-tone statue of the Welsh goddess Arienhod or a framed art print of the triple goddess. Both pieces are by artist Maxine Miller. 

The Supercontest ends September 22, 2009 at 11:59PM PST. Remember to check the weekly posts for a chance to win a gift card and entry into the contest.  


  1. Congrats on the contest. Looking forward to your new contests. Loved the excerpt. Have a great day.

  2. Reading back I read the excerpt and have to tell you I loved it. The contests sounds great too.
    Carol L.