Thursday, 27 December 2012

The Price of Virtue by Keira Michelle Telford

The Price of Virtue

Her body lay limp on the forest floor, her white dress soaked with dew. Collapsed amongst the golden-brown blanket of fallen autumn leaves, her pale form glistened like a gem as the sun rose higher in the sky and cast its beam over her dewy skin.
Every now and again, her shoulders heaved.
She wasn’t dead, but clinging barely to life in this pre-winter wilderness. Any later in the year, and she would’ve been frozen by the unforgiving frost, her body soon covered by the first snowfall.
She was lucky.
Nature hadn’t killed her, though her kinsmen or their foes still might. Her people had pursued her for much of the night. First, through the dirt streets of her village, then through the river and halfway across the valley.
Day had turned to night, and as she’d darted for cover in the forest, the mob was eventually called off. Still, she’d kept running. She didn’t care where she was, and she didn’t care whose land she’d unwittingly wandered onto—she just sought desperately to get away.
She had no idea that she was now lying at the bottom of the dyke. Mercia was behind her, over the mound, and Powys was in front of her. She’d lost her footing at the top of the eight feet high dirt bank, and had tumbled down into the ditch on the other side.
She was a Mercian in the land of the Celts.
She was vulnerable.
As she lay there, her eyelids fluttered.
All of a sudden, she drew breath into her lungs as if waking from some terrible dream. Heart pounding, she bolted upright and almost fell back into the dirt. Her body was sore and bruised from the fall, and her bare feet were raw and throbbing.
The pain was almost unbearable.
She squeezed her eyes shut and leaned against the bank, trying to control her breathing. Her long blonde hair was damp, dirty and matted. It was sticking to her neck and chest, the ends curled over her bulging cleavage.
Looking down at her hands, which were almost completely numb from the cold, she felt a flash of panic at the sight of the wedding band around her finger.
It hadn’t been a dream.
Her wedding dress was tattered and torn, the pattern of the woolen fabric hidden behind smears of dirt and forest debris. The silk trim was shredded from the brush of twigs and branches, bushes and prickles.
She was a mess.
Her blue, moon-shaped eyes filled with tears at the thought of the life she’d so narrowly escaped: an arranged marriage to an invading Viking warlord. It was the price of safety for her family’s village, and she’d very nearly gone through with it all.
Until he’d taken her to their marriage bed.
Until he’d disrobed.
The thought of his touch repulsed her and she fled with her chastity intact—straight into the arms of another enemy.


Author Bio:

Keira Michelle Telford was born and raised in the UK. She spent the early part of her childhood in Worcestershire, before the family moved to Wales where she lived for most of her teenage years. In 2006, she moved to Canada. She currently resides in beautiful British Columbia, where she lives with her husband and 9 guinea pigs.

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Wednesday, 26 December 2012

“The Greener Forest” by Vonnie Winslow Crist

“The Greener Forest” is a collection of fantasy short stories. “Blood of the Swan” is a winter tale of magical justice. In the story, Jorund has been sent on a perilous journey to find a healer by Smid, the cruel ruler of the town of Egil. Thin ice has already claimed Jorund's best friend's life and all his provisions. Cold, hungry, and uncertain if he'll see the next day, he breaks a taboo...


“There was blood on the snow. And not far away, an arrow and feathers. But Jorund knew it was not the blood of a human, for it was from his bow that the arrow had soared. It was his arrow, carefully whittled from a tree branch and feathered with gull's plumes that had pierced the flesh of the swan. And now, Jorund trudged through the winter forest in search of the wounded bird.

He knew to eat of swan's flesh was taboo, but he was hungry; and the bird had looked well-fed. Besides, there was no risk of being discovered with a wounded swan, for he was alone. Utterly alone.

But at least I have flint and blade, a leather sleeping bag, bow and arrows, and woolen blanket, thought Jorund as he followed the blood splatters in the snow. Though those things would do him little good if he didn't find food and shelter soon.

His grumbling stomach refocused his thoughts on the swan. It had been flying between the tree branches, sailing low, preparing to land when Jorund loosed his arrow. The cry the creature had made when wounded had been like nothing he'd heard before. It had sounded almost like a frightened child. He shivered. Jorund rarely pitied his prey, but the swan's cry had chilled the marrow of his bones.

He stopped walking. Though the falling snow muffled noise, he thought he heard someone calling. He veered from the path and pushed his way through a thicket of brambles. The voice grew louder as he neared a rocky outcrop. The swan would have to wait. Anyone lost in such weather would freeze to death. And freezing wasn't a pleasant way to die.

Jorund could clearly hear a voice now. It sounded like a woman or maybe a child. At the base of a large boulder about fifteen strides in front of him, someone dressed in a blood-stained white cloak laid sprawled in the snow.

“Help. Help me, please.”

“I'll do what I can,” promised Jorund as he knelt down. He reached for the white cloak, ready to pull it back and examine the stranger's wound when a small hand grasped his wrist.

“Not here. My home isn't far. It'll be warmer there,” said the stranger as she turned her head to look at him.

Jorund found himself speechless as he looked into the golden-brown eyes of a young woman.

“But I don't think I can walk,” the woman continued. “If you would be so kind as to carry me...”

“Yes. I mean, I can carry you.” He slipped his mittened hands under the woman, lifted her into his arms, and stood. She weighed less than he imagined. “Which way to your...”

“Home,” she answered. “It's around the other side of this hill.”

Jorund nodded. He slogged his way through the snow, carrying the injured woman. She smelled like flowers, though he knew no flowers bloomed in the deep of winter.

“There,” she said as she pointed to a stone cottage built into the side of the rocky hill. “There, is my home.”

Jorund carried her to the cottage, pushed open its heavy door, and laid her on a wooden sleeping platform covered in blankets. He shut the door, lowered its locking board into place. After slipping off his bow, quiver, and carrying sack, he placed them on the floor beside the door. When he turned around to face the woman again, he saw she was watching him.

“Liv,” she said. “My name is Liv. And you are?”

“Jorund of Egil. I was searching for...” He paused, decided to tell her a half-truth. “I was searching for a healer when I heard your cries.”

“And I thank you for finding me, Jorund of Egil. We'll discuss what healing you need from me later. For now,” she said as she pulled back the white cloak to reveal a cream-colored gown with a large bloodstain marring its right side. “I need your help to clean and treat these wounds.”

“I'll do what I can,” he responded as he gingerly pulled off Liv's cloak and gown. He drew a nearby blanket over the left side of her body and kept his eyes focused on her injuries. There was a minor flesh wound that sliced across her right side, but it was from the gaping hole in her right arm that the blood  trickled in a constant stream. He frowned, then lifted his head, gazed into the woman's eyes.

“Someone shot you with an...”

“Arrow,” she said. “As I was heading home.”

Jorund studied the cloak more closely. It was woven of feathers, not wool. He'd been following the swan's blood when he'd heard her cries. And Liv's wounds were just about where the swan he shot would have been pierced. Which could only mean...

“Forgive me, Healer,” Jorund begged as he knelt by the swan-maiden's bed. “I was hungry, and the hour was late. I didn't mean...”

“It is done,” responded Liv. “Now, fetch hot water from the kettle, a clean cloth from the chest near the door, herbs from my stores, and the jar of healing salve from the mantle. You must make whole that which you've damaged.”

Jorund felt compelled to look into her golden eyes. He owed a blood-debt to the swan-maiden, and he was sure she meant to collect...”

You can buy “The Greener Forest” here: http://coldmoonpress/quickbuy.html

Author Bio:

Born in the Year of the Dragon, Vonnie Winslow Crist has had a life-long interest in reading, writing, art, myth, fairytales, folklore, and legends. A firm believer that the world around us is filled with miracles, mystery, and magic, Vonnie still sees fairies amidst the trees, mermaids on jetties, and ghosts and goblins of all sorts in the shadows. Her garden overflows with herbs and statues of animals. Toadstool rings sprout regularly on her lawn. And she's found so many four-leafed clovers that she keeps them in a jar.

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Author Tales: Alberta Ross

How did an oldie get here? Up on cyberspace having the time of her life.  It has been a long journey.  The story begins way back, after the second world war.

Back then hardly anyone possessed a phone, forget mobile or cell phones, I am talking landline phones here.  True,  oh doubting children:)  Air flight was for the forces and wealthy, the Astronomer Royal here, in the UK, declared space travel was impossible in our life time and as for computers? Well huge machines taking up a couple of rooms. We learnt the noble art of written communication with steel nibbed pens which needed dipping in an ‘inkwell’ – hard to believe that any one from those dark ages still lives, but  I and many others are still here and not even that old in the grand scheme of things.

It is Christmas – I will let you into a secret, the best item I could find in my stocking Christmas morning was a box of pencils and a homemade notebook, not the notebooks one collects because they are beautiful and too lovely to be used, oh no, these were cut up sheets of once typed paper – stapled to present the clean sides.  What bliss for a scribbler.

I was a reader as a child, born of a long line of such.  I cut my imagination teeth on old Victorian versions of Grimes and his ilk, on tales of derr and do of the Colonial kind and the classics.  Paper had been rationed during the war and during the times of bankruptcy and austerity, the country was going through afterwards, new children’s books were in short supply.  It mattered not – I read, I wished to write.  My first attempt was at 6 when I wrote a story about a rabbit.  I scribbled many tales during my growing years, in pen on paper, then typed on paper.  Influenced by my reading and life around me.  I have them all, in the attic, moved from house to house over the decades. Back then authorship was rare and seemed to involve years of misunderstood garret living.

I grew up – life took over.  College, employment and fulfilment of a childhood ambition to travel to all the amazing places I had read about.  Science and Technology suddenly grew up also. The world became colourful with Technicolor on film and television  I watched men flying through space, walking on the moon.  The world began to shrink but it would still take hours to get a long distance phone call through as operators across the continents endeavoured to connect to each other. Letters could fly cutting communication by months.  Exciting times. Video players, CD players. We heard more about computers , not yet for individuals but look around the corner ahead.

I bought into early computers, not understanding how they could work, but then I drove a car and never have understood how an engine works.  I upgraded whenever finances allowed.  I took myself off as a very mature student to University and found the machine so much easier than a typewriter.  I managed to get to grips with a fax machine.  E-mails? Not yet, they only work when the one you wish to send one too has a computer also. I didn’t possess the earliest mobile phone but had one of the second generation, large heavy and chunky – now look at them.

Each new innovation involved learning new skills but it was fun.  The increase in newness built up to become an avalanche, no sooner learnt when the skills became obsolete and retraining was required, the world grew ever smaller and ever quicker just as steps and mind became slower:(

I was enamoured with my computer, but used very little of it.  Research, typing and many trips to online book shops, that was all.  Then when I was certainly old enough to know better I decided to dust down my imagination and attempt to write a book. How was it done? Could I remember? It had been so long.  I began one evening to write a short story.  Yes.  Well no. it became the first in a series.

To publish? To self publish? ( )How? On that shimmering web of course.  The part of computer ownership where I had never really ventured.  Did I trust my old bones to such an ethereal place? Of course I did.  I was a traveller after all, had always wished I could have flown to the moon, always wished to discover new lands. Cyberspace was a new land.

Whenever I had set off on my travels I had made preparations before hand, it was no different now.  I researched and made endless lists, cross referenced and then one day stepped off firm land onto the trembling web.  It sparkled, oh how it sparkled, and was  more fun than I had imagined.

It is easy to forget.  As I curse the slowness of my laptop.  As I casually text a friend.  As I open my bulging Inbox of e-mails and chat with friends from around the globe and the generations. When I send a document through the ether to America or New Zealand it is easy to forget where I started from all those decades ago. When I read a book on a slim black reader that has never been told what paper is – so easy to forget how much has changed.  Our minds are so adaptable, so fluid, so accommodating to change that I have to think quite hard sometimes what the days of my childhood were truly like. My life really hasn’t been that long.

So, instant communication, instant (well almost) publishing, network on the constant move.  The only thing, it seems to me, that is not instant is the writing of the ‘book’.  Still the only way is to imagine and then to put it down, edit and polish.   It can be speeded up by using voice recognition software but that software can only write as fast as your own imagination.  Some things have not changed:)

Newness changes every few months now, new aspects need to be mastered constantly.  I can foresee a day when my brain won’t keep up, but, until that happens I am going to continue having fun, continue learning, mastering, communicating and playing up here on the web, creating tales to entertain. No garret for me – too cold:)


Alberta  spent the first part of her adult life travelling the world, the middle years studying and now has settled down to write. From the first part she has endless photographs, memories and friends. From the second  a BSc Hons, an MA and friends. Now in this part everything comes together.

Over the years her interests have expanded, as has her book and music collection. A short list would include reading (almost anything) science, opera, folk, gardening, philosophy, crazy patchwork, freeform crochet, ethics, social history, cooking (and eating of course) gardening, anthropology, climate change and sustainability.

Alberta says the best gift her parents gave her, apart from a love of reading and music, was an interest and curiosity in everything which, in itself, has become a total inability to be bored and for this she is always grateful.

Social Network sites:

Blogs: for background to the writing of Alberta’s publications for whatever takes her fancy for all things writing

Alberta can also be found on:


The Fiddling Feline, the Flea and the Frog et al is visiting other blogs over the next two weeks
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