Please welcome Susan to The Mystique with her book Not Long Ago!
Susan is giving away a copy of her book to a lucky commenter.
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Genre: Time travel adventure/romance
Number of pages: 227
Word Count: 89333
Cover Artist: Suzannah Safi
Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/vOIQVdWUigU
Erin has met the man of her dreams, but as usual there are complications. It’s one of those long distance relationships, and Griffin is a little behind the times-- somewhere around 600 years.
Erin and her employer, March, are transported to a time where chivalry and religion exist alongside brutality and superstition. Something’s not quite right at the castle, and Erin and March feel sure mysterious Lady Isobeil is involved. But Erin must cope with crop circles, ghosts, a kidnapping and death before the truth of her journey is revealed.
Forced to pose as March’s nephew, Erin finds employment as handsome Sir Griffin’s squire. She’s immediately attracted to him and grows to admire his courage, quiet nobility and devotion to duty. Yet, she must deny her feelings. Her world is centuries away, and she wants to go home. But, Erin can’t stop thinking about her knight in shining armor.
One of my favorite things about writing is developing the characters that live within the pages of my stories. And not just the main characters, either. When I first envision things, the hero/heroine is the force that drives the story line. They have their jobs cut out for them from the beginning, so I have to make sure their personalities match the part they are going to play.
Not so with the supporting characters. For instance, in Not Long Ago, a time travel adventure with just the right amount of romance, I introduce a character early on who was originally intended to stay on the sidelines and appear from time to time, but only when needed. “Along with a disreputable shock of orange hair, the gangly, young man possessed an ingratiating smile and a pleasant manner.” His name was Arvo, and he was the tailor’s son my time traveling heroine, Erin, met on her way to the castle, where she hoped to find answers to why she had been transported to this medieval time. In spite of his charm, Erin found out right away Arvo had another side to his personality when she fell victim to his irresponsible attitude. “The minute the two men left our side, Arvo winked, telling me he’d see me later, and disappeared. His escape was no doubt one of the reasons he and his father clashed so often”.
Even so, she couldn’t help but like him, because of his wit and cheerfulness, plus the fact that he was privy to castle gossip.
Arvo’s character evolved until he became an integral part of my story. When I decided Erin needed a confidant, Arvo fit the bill. Later on I needed to invent a way for her to attend the Masquerade ball, once again, the tailor’s son was perfect. His character expanded and his personality gained dimension. Arvo kept showing up, and before I knew it, he became a well-rounded character who made my story even better by his presence.
A little more about Not Long Ago: While doing research for a novel set in the Middle Ages, Erin and her employer, March, are transported to a time where chivalry and religion exist alongside brutality and superstition. Things are not quite right at the castle, and Erin and March feel sure mysterious Lady Isobeil is involved. Erin must cope with crop circles, ghosts, a kidnapping and death before the truth of her journey is revealed.
Forced to pose as March’s nephew, Erin finds employment as handsome Sir Griffin’s squire. She’s immediately attracted to him and grows to admire his courage, quiet nobility and devotion to duty. Yet, she must deny her feelings. Her world is centuries away, and she wants to go home. Despite that, Erin can’t stop thinking about her knight in shining armor.
Arvo is only one of the things that make Not Long Ago memorable. Please join me and travel along with Erin while she journeys to another world, filled with other amazing characters.
Just so you know, you’ll be seeing Arvo again. Along with some of my other supporting characters, he’ll return in my current WIP, From Now On. It’s the sequel to Not Long Ago.
Here’s an unedited excerpt:
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Gone was the tall, gangly young man with orange hair shooting in every direction at once. In his place stood a well-dressed merchant whose air of self-assurance fit him like the tailored clothing he wore. Speechless, I could only gape.
“Well now. I did not expect a reaction such as this. Are ye that surprised to see me again or merely weak from the shock of my appearance?” He fixed me with his brown eyes and grinned, instantly transforming into the Arvo I knew.
EXCERPT: Chapter One Not Long Ago
I saw him the other day. It happened when I cut across Market Street and passed in front of the fancy new coffee shop. On the other side of spotless glass, waitresses in crisp black uniforms served expensive coffee in fancy cups and saucers. One man sat alone at a table by the window. No one I knew, just a handsome stranger who glanced up as I passed. Our eyes met and I froze in the middle of a busy sidewalk crowded with impatient people. Annoyed, they parted, sweeping past me like water rushing downstream.
What I saw left me reeling, as though someone had knocked the wind out of me. My glimpse deep inside the man’s essence unnerved me, but I couldn’t look away. Who was he? The waitress stopped at his table. He turned, lowering his cup into its saucer and shook his head, his mouth curving into a familiar smile that made my heart lurch.
After she left, his eyes returned to mine. A moment before, I thought they’d held a spark of recognition. Now, I saw nothing. I felt cold, as though he’d slammed a door in my face and left me standing outside in the rain.
I had no other choice but to move on.
It wasn’t just recognition—I knew things about him too. Things I had no reason to know. An image flashed in my mind: the curl of hair at the nape of his neck; a scar snaking down his arm. I’d put it there, after all.
I knew the man before me was an excellent horseman, accomplished swordsman, and an honorable man. Beyond the shadow of a doubt. How could I be so certain?
There was something else. A chilling realization crept up my spine. He didn’t belong in my world. Not in the coffee shop, not in the city. Not anywhere. None of this should have happened. We should have been no more than casual observers sharing a moment before going our separate ways. But something went wrong.
* * * *
A year ago, I was unemployed and bordering on panic. I’d filled out applications, sent resumes, interviewed and waited. Nothing. Fresh out of college, I was on my own and without a job. My parents were dead, my brother working out of the country. If I had sent word, Aidan would have wired money right away, but I wanted to do things on my own.
“You are incredibly stubborn.” His words, not mine. I prefer to call it determined. I’ve always been that way. Maybe it helps me survive.
I’d been bugging Angie, the girl at the employment agency. Frustrated, I begged her for something — anything — I could do. I’m sure she wished I’d go away. The last time I called, giving her my best groveling and pleading performance to date. She finally relented. “Okay.” I could hear her pencil tapping against the desk. “There is one position I’ve been unable to fill.” Hesitation filled her voice. “But, it’s only temporary.”
“What kind of work?” I tried not to sound too eager.
“I’ve been asked to find an assistant, a go-fer or whatever you want to call it.” I heard the sound of paper being shuffled. “The man’s a successful author with extreme methods of writing. He’s doing research for a new book and becomes so completely absorbed in his work he has no regard for schedules or meals. It’s not unusual for him to work hours at a time without stopping,” she said. “And he expects his assistant to do the same.”
“So, you’re saying he’s a workaholic?”
“Let’s just say he’s eccentric. He’s rejected most of the temps I sent before they even made it through the door. One or two got a little further, only to quit after the first day.”
I kept after Angie, and she finally admitted the worst. “The last girl I sent called me from the elevator in hysterics. He had bellowed at her in some hideous language before coming at her with a sword. She thought he was about to cut her up in little pieces.” Angie started tapping her pencil again. “Later, he apologized and explained that he was acting out an ancient method of swordplay, so he could get it right before he put it down on paper. It didn’t matter, she refused to go back.”
“Who is he?” I thought if I read up on him, it might give me an edge. I needed all the help I could get.
“He writes under a pen name, and don’t even think about asking him what it is, unless you want to make a quick exit.” Angie gave me a few minutes to let her words sink in. “Well, what do you think?”
“I’d like to give it a try.” I had nothing to lose, and neither did Angie.
“All right, I’ll set up the interview. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Five minutes later, she called back with directions to an elegant, century-old apartment building located downtown.
Later that day, I rode the elevator to the top floor of the building. The doors slid open to reveal plush floral carpeting. I made my way past elaborate gold sconces set against dark wood paneling, feeling as though I’d stepped into another century. At the end of the hall I stopped before a heavy, paneled door, took a deep breath and rang the bell.
A gentleman in his fifties answered the door after the third ring. His Scots-Irish ancestry was evident from his reddish brown hair, short beard and ruddy complexion. He met me with a ‘whatever it is, make it quick, can’t you see you’re interrupting me?’ look.
Flustered, I introduced myself, waving my resume in the air as though it were a magic charm. He took it without a word, ushered me inside and shut the door. Dressed in slacks and a white shirt with the cuffs rolled back, he wore eyeglasses hung on a chain around his neck. He lifted them, still folded, to peer at my resume.
“Aahhh, another lamb to the slaughter.” He spoke with a British accent, while his direct blue eyes bored holes in me. “Call me March.”
I had no clue if it was his first or last name. In a nervous voice, I began to rattle off any of my limited skills I thought he might find the least bit impressive. He paused only to pitch my carefully typed paper atop a stack of mail covering a table in the foyer. I wondered how many resumes like mine gathered dust there. March took my arm. “Let’s continue our conversation in the library, shall we? I was about to brew some tea. Would you care to join me, Erin?” He had a nice smile. I accepted his offer, telling myself Angie had probably exaggerated. March seemed slightly old-fashioned, but in a charming way.
While he went to get tea, I perched on one of the matching chairs placed on either side of a glass-topped table and allowed my gaze to wander around the large, airy room. Overflowing floor-to-ceiling shelves covered three walls. Reference books on history and geography shared space with studies on witchcraft, astronomy, astrology, quantum theory, physics and music. On the fourth wall, large glass doors led to an ornate wrought iron balcony with a view of one of the town’s oldest cathedrals and the quaint little park next to it.
In the middle of the library a huge wooden desk hid under maps, handwritten notes and large, heavy volumes, their pages marked by dozens of post-its sticking out from all sides. I wondered how the man ever managed to write anything in such chaos; however, I’d seen enough to whet my appetite. Working for him would be very interesting. However, I was getting way ahead of myself. He hadn’t offered me the job, yet.
March returned with tea on a silver tray and served from dainty cups and saucers while we made small talk. He studied me as he stirred milk into his cup. “I’m certain my reputation has preceded me.”
A gulp of hot tea almost made me choke. “What do you mean?”
“You’ve been made aware of my unconventional work habits, I’m sure.” With a nod, I set my cup and saucer on the tray.
“I expect my assistant to be available at all times, and I can be cranky when I don’t get my way.” He crossed his legs and leaned back in his chair. “Think about it. Are you willing to work under those conditions?”
Eyes averted, I studied my hands and wondered what to say. Ultimately I decided on honesty. “I really need the job.” After such a lame explanation, I expected him to see me to the door with polite regrets, saying I wasn’t suited for the position. But he didn’t.
He waved at the overburdened desk. “This disorder requires immediate attention. We’ll start tonight.”
We finished our tea and began going through the mess, making stacks of the books he could use, and transcribing his handwritten notes. After midnight we stopped and ate, probably because he heard my stomach growling. When the grandfather clock in the foyer struck two, I’d been holding yawns back for over an hour.
He glanced at his watch and frowned. “I’m terribly sorry, Erin. It seems I’ve done it again.” He nodded to himself. “It won’t do for you to be out on the streets at this late hour. Come. I’ll show you to the guest room.”
By the time March left me at the door of the cozy guest room, my stomach churned with uncertainty. He seemed harmless, but how much did I really know about him? I locked the door behind him and called Angie. “Maybe I should have listened to you after all.”
“Erin?” Her voice was groggy. She must have been sound asleep. “Where are you, and why are you whispering?”
Her yawn was loud and clear. “Listen to me. You’re perfectly safe. He’s not a crazed killer, only unconventional. Get some sleep, and let me do the same.”
After an apology, I hung up. I can take care of myself. Isn’t that what I’ve been saying all these months? But I shoved a chair up under the doorknob, just in case.
Born in west Texas and raised in south Texas, Susan makes her home in a 100-year-old farmhouse in a small east Texas town that comes with a ghost who has been known to harmonize with her son whenever he plays guitar. She’s married, with three children and four grandchildren.
She comes from a family rich with characters, both past and present. She spent her childhood listening to her grandmother’s stories of living on a farm in Oklahoma Territory with three sisters and three brothers and working as a telephone operator in the early 20th century. Her father shared stories of growing up in San Antonio during the depression, and through her mother’s eyes she experienced how it felt to be a teenager during WWII.
Yesterday, the first piece she ever submitted, won author Cody James Wolfe’s Flash Fiction Newsletter Contest and that started it all. Her entry, Lost Souls, won 2nd place in the 2009 short story contest of the Northeast Texas Writers’ Organization and My Father’s House won 3rd place in the 2010 competition. Not Long Ago is a time travel adventure/romance, available through MuseItUp/Amazon/B and N. She is currently working on a sequel, because the Erin and Griffin’s story wasn’t finished. In My Own Shadow is a Fantasy adventure/romance, due out May, 2013.
website - http://susanroyal.moonfruit.com
blog: - http://ssnroyal.blog.com/