Available now: When First I Met My King

wfimmk_cover_finalI’m happy to say that When First I Met My King, the first book in my Arthur trilogy, is now available to buy. Here are the links for Amazon, Amazon UK and Smashwords:

http://bit.ly/WhenFirstCom

http://bit.ly/WhenFirstUK

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/751088

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I’d rather have published the Arthur stories in one volume: I know how frustrating it can be for readers to have to wait for subsequent instalments! But although I did it this way primarily for economic reasons, when I look at my storyboarding for books two and three, the narrative has a kind of inbuilt triptych quality, and I hope you’ll find a satisfying reward for your wait, which I don’t intend to be a long one anyway: volume two will be my festive offering for this year, and volume three should be with you in March 2018.

I am sorry for the lack of fun and fan-fa-rah attending this New Book Day! My friends in the community (and I count myself so very fortunate in having so many of you to call my friends) will know that I finished and released My King in tough circumstances. Still, my read on what you lovely folk want is less about giveaways and competitions and more about the story itself, so I reckon none of you will mind too much if I save my energies for cracking on with book two, The Dragon’s Tale.

Now, for those of you who like excerpts, here is an excerpt!

***

 

 

When Art met him in the courtyard of the praetor’s house, he knew at once that something had changed. But Lance looked too lost and sick for interrogation. Instead, Art fell into step at his side. “That leg must be hurting.”

It was an excuse, kindly offered. Lance nodded, his gratitude plain. “A little now, yes.”

“You shouldn’t be on your feet. I tell you what—I’ll help you upstairs, and you can have a rest before supper.”

First Lance had to manage the steps up to the main door. They were majestic in the Roman style, broad and shallow, their crumbling marble patched by moss. Deftly Art relieved him of his broomstick crutch. He ducked beneath his arm, got a grip around his waist. “There. That’s better, isn’t it?”

“Where have you been all this time?”

“With Sir Ector, getting hauled over the coals for conduct unbecoming to a soldier. Wasting resources, risking valuable lives, that kind of thing.”

“I tried to tell him it wasn’t your fault.”

“I know, and thank you. I don’t really mind it, though.” Art tightened his grip and began to hoist Lance up the steps. The fire had been lit in the praetor’s great hall, and dancing shades of crimson met the last of the sunset in the cooling air. “To tell you the truth, I’m more afraid of the day when he stops doing it. He’ll feel he doesn’t have the right anymore. And that means…”

“That means you’ll be king.”

Art came to a halt. They’d reached the footworn passage beneath the portico. “That’s right.” Just for a while, I’d thought I wouldn’t have to do it alone. “More importantly, supper smells good. Who’s coming?”

“Oh, who isn’t? Everyone’s still ravenous after the winter. If the word of free food goes out, we’ll have everyone from shepherd boys to squires. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker—and their women and children. It’ll be chaos.”

“It sounds like you’ve done this before.”

“Many times, in Ban’s better days. He was generous, and would feed people when he could. He was a good master, a good father.”

Nobody had denied these things. Arthur examined the pale, set profile studiously avoiding his gaze. “Of course,” he said gently. In the kitchen beyond the hall, men and women were bustling about: Lance’s housekeeper Edern and his family, who had continued their faithful service, it seemed, through famine and long winter. Arthur doubted that Lance could have afforded to keep paying them after the catastrophic raid. All kinds of things about this lonely, far-flung household were good. “In that case, you can help solve a domestic problem of Sir Ector’s. A future one of mine, at that.”

“I doubt it, but go on.”

“Come indoors where it’s warmer. All these squires, farmers, shopkeepers… I suppose they have their own ideas about their importance, just as the knights and landowners do who come to visit us in the Forest Wild?”

Lance smiled reluctantly. They’d entered the friendly dining hall with its long trestle table, where he, Tomas and the Roman visitors had taken their evening meals for the last fortnight. “You’ve no idea. The miller would come to blows with our blacksmith over whose wife had more of a right to sit nearest the head of the board.”

“And whose wife does?”

“Neither of them, of course. We shan’t be eating in here tonight—come with me.” He detached himself from Arthur’s grasp, took back his makeshift crutch and set off across the hall. He pushed open a door Art hadn’t noticed before. “There,” he said. “My mother solved the problem long ago.”

Rushlight torches had been set in cressets all around the walls. Arthur stepped into the flame-lit space, and burst into laughter. Occupying the centre of the room, skilfully crafted from peg-tied sections of brightly polished oak, was a perfectly round table, nobly set out for dining. “Wonderful,” he exclaimed. “I shall have one like this made for my fortress at Cam, only five times the size. If I have nothing else, I’ll have this, even if they have to build the place around it.”

“It does help. You do know they’ll still squabble for the privilege of a place at your right hand?”

That place ought to have been filled. Arthur bit back the words fiercely. If he didn’t push, he didn’t have to know—not yet, not yet. “Perhaps I’ll fashion mine with a hole at the centre,” he said thoughtfully. “I’ll put my throne there, with some kind of wheel and mechanism to turn it. Then I’ll sit in splendour, command myself to be rotated, and shed my kingly beneficence upon each of them in turn.”

Lance was laughing now too. “Please don’t do that. You’ll look like the sack of grain they put up on a pole at the fair, for the lads to shy down with stones and clods of mud.”

“Thank you very much. Maybe not that, then. Your mother was a clever woman, though.”

“She was. She died fighting, I’m told.”

Art turned to him, suddenly as serious as he. “Oh, Lance. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t. It’s better that way, isn’t it—to go down with honour and pride?”

“Far better, I’m sure. But fearful too, and far from easy. I hope it won’t ever be asked of me—or you either, my friend. How long do we have before these guests of yours arrive?”

“None at all. I can hear cart wheels on the cobbles right now.”

“And here come Ector and Guy, all dressed for feasting.” Art pressed a hand into Lance’s back and began to steer him out of sight of the handsomely turned-out pair striding through the main hall. “They can take care of things for a while.”

“Arthur, no. I have to do the honours of the house.”

“Come and do them with me. My blood’s warm, and so is yours. How can we get out of here without being seen?”

“We can’t. But Edern’s too busy to notice us, so… Quick, through the kitchens. There’s a flight of wooden steps from the yard at the back to the bedchambers. It’s more like a ladder, though—you’ll have to help me up.”

Art beamed. “If I have to carry you. Come on!”

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