Christmas is coming and what better present than a good book?
So for the next 12 days I’ve invited some guest authors on my blog to tell us about their latest books. You might want to order some of them for your family, or even treat yourself. I’m hoping to find a couple of books in my Christmas stocking!
My first guest is Misha Herwin who has dropped by to tell us about her YA,Clear Gold.
The world is broken. Fire and sickness rage and water is more precious that gold. Bandits ravage the countryside and the only hope for a better life is to fight for it. Mouse is an outsider; a girl who has never belonged and who questions everything. A born warrior her ambition is to ride guard on the water wagons, but when her rightful place is stolen from her she will have to find some other way to break free of the confines of The Town and seek the knowledge she longs for, whatever it might cost her.
Mouse lay on her stomach and looked down over the vast plain spread out below her. The sun beat down on her back. Sweat dripped down her face and her tunic stuck to her skin. Squinting into the sun, she scanned the narrow road for the wagon train, but could see nothing. Had there been another attack? Mouse propped herself up on her elbows and put her hands up to shield her eyes against the harsh light.
The mid-day watch was the hardest as the heat was unrelenting and there was no shade up on the Roches. The other watchers complained or tried to change shifts, but Mouse never did. She could do it and she’d rather tear out her tongue than moan. She was a fighter and one day she’d be a guard, riding shotgun on the wagon train keeping its valuable cargo safe from water bandits.
Reaching for the bottle at her side, she took a gulp of fighter’s water. The tang of bitter herbs matched her mood. She’d had enough of lying like a lizard on a rock. She wanted to be out there, doing what she had been trained for.
A flash of silver from an old bumper and she was on her feet, as the first of the wagons lumbered into view. Picking up her Sung from rock on which she had left it to charge, she keyed in the message,
“Returned” and pressed send. Pulled by heavy horses the wagons were cobbled together from the bodies of old vans and trucks and set on wooden bases with wooden wheels. Hard to drive, uncomfortable to ride in, they travelled over the county bringing fresh water to those who could afford it.
As soon as they were close enough she sent another signal to the town so that that the gates would be opened. Then she was free to leave her post. Mouse however did not move. She waited until the lead wagon entered the narrow gap where the road ran between the rocky outcrop on which she stood and the sheer drop into the valley.
“Yes!” Mouse thrust her fist into the air. It was what she had hoped. Rhett was driving and he was alone. His guard must be dead or badly wounded, which meant that at long last there was a post for her. It must have been a hard fight because few of the wagons had both driver and guard on board and one or two were being driven by people she did not instantly recognise. There was a dark haired lad, she’d never seen before, managing Asif Corundum’s team. The merchant himself dressed in his usual flowing silks sat beside him. They must have joined the others at the head of the valley, coming in to the town to buy a consignment of water. Mouse narrowed her eyes and counted in the remaining wagons. They were all there and there was no sign of anyone following them, so there was no need to raise the alarm.
Thrusting her Sung into the bag she wore at her belt, she leapt down from rock and wove her way through the narrow paths that led over the ridge, then dipped down into a smaller valley. Shaded by the surrounding hills it was cooler. Mouse wiped her face on her sleeve and hurried towards the great wooden palisade that surrounded the town. If she wanted to see Rhett on her own she had to get to the enclosure before the wagon train, otherwise she didn’t stand a chance. With his red gold hair and good looks he was the one the girls all wanted and as soon as they knew he was back they would be fussing round him like flies on ripe fruit.
“State your name and business,” the sentry at the gate stepped forward blocking her way.
“Mouse,” she snapped. “Lookout. Mid-day watch,” she added.
“No need to get shirty. Rules is rules,” the man drawled. Mouse clenched her fists. Since the Sickness the number of people in the town was small enough for everyone to know everyone else.
“You have to have permission to come in or go out,” the man continued.
“Yeah well,” Mouse said impatiently.
“In a hurry are you?” Mouse fought down the urge to draw the knife she wore at her belt and plunge it deep into his gut.
“You know I have to count you in.” He held out his hand. Mouse’s hand went to the neck of her tunic. Her fingers felt for the piece of string she wore round her neck. Pulling it free she flashed her token at the sentry, giving him time to tick off her number before the wagons lumbered up to the gate.
Mouse slid into the shadow of the guard post. She waited as Rhett was checked in, then before he could move his team forward she swung herself up beside him.
“You don’t want to do that,” he said, his eyes on the street in front of him. Mouse shook her head. She breathed in the scent of horse and open air that Rhett brought in with him.
“You’ve got no guard,” she said.
“She copped it. We were attacked on the Endon Road. Water bandits.”
“There’s a job going then.” In spite of her efforts to appear cool, Mouse’s heart beat frantically against her ribs.
“Sure.” Still he did not look at her. She dug her nails into her palms, willing him to say that it was hers if she wanted it. That he knew she could do it. That he’d be happy to have her along. Rhett said nothing.
“I can fight.” Mouse’s voice came out shriller than she wanted.
“I know.” Rhett nodded briefly.
“I’ll fight anyone for it,” Mouse said quickly. They were nearing the wagon enclosure. Word had spread and the usual gaggle of girls was waiting. If he was going to agree it would have to be now. Rhett moved his shoulder and winced.
“Rhett, you’re hurt,” Dayna, a long legged, dark haired girl broke free of the bunch and ran up to the wagon.
“It’s nothing,” he grinned. Then his face darkened. “Lyla, she got it.” He glanced over to where Mouse still sat. There was a collective sigh. Arms stretched out towards him. As the other girls moaned and murmured, nails bit into Mouse’s ankle.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Dayna hissed.
“Nothing,” Mouse held her glance.
“That’s my place beside Rhett,” Dayna tightened her grip.
“You wish.” Mouse kicked up her leg.
“Zits,” Thrown off balance Dayna let go. Mouse jumped off the wagon. Hooking her thumbs into her belt she walked away without looking back.
If you enjoyed the extract the book is published by Zharmae Press and you can buy it from:
Misha Herwin is a writer of books for children, young adults and adults. She lives in Staffordshire with her husband and a very bad tempered cat, in a house with a dragon in the garden. When she is not writing she likes to spend time with her family and likes to bake cakes. Marzipan muffins are a speciality.
I asked Misha to tell us a bit about herself:
Do you have any favourite family Christmas traditions? If so, what are they?
My favourite Christmas traditions all stem back to my Polish upbringing. Our Christmas meal is traditionally eaten in the evening on Christmas Eve, which is when we get and give presents. Before this can happen, however, someone has to look out for the first star in the sky. Next, the youngest member of the family places the Baby Jesus in the crib and the celebrations can begin. There is straw under the tablecloth to remind us of the stable and we always set an extra place in case a stranger comes to the door and needs a meal.
When do you open your Christmas presents?
Presents in my childhood were opened on Christmas Eve, after the Christmas meal. As you can imagine waiting so long was almost more than we kids could bear, so when I had my own children we opened our presents first, then we ate. Because my husband was English we also had stockings on Christmas Day and the full traditional English Christmas Dinner.
If you could invite any author living or dead to share your Christmas lunch, who would it be?
The author I would like to invite to my Christmas lunch is Lucy M. Boston. She wrote the Green Knowe books. They are set in a house where time is fluid. The young hero slips between present and past, ghosts come and go and I especially love the mysterious, evocative way L. M. Boston writes about Christmas.
What book would you like to find in your Christmas stocking?
The book I’d like to find in my Christmas stocking would be “The Emerald Crown” by Violet Needham. This was a favourite when I was a child and since moving house I’ve lost my copy and it has long been out of print, so to find it on Christmas morning would be a real treat.
I blog at www.http://mishaherwin.wordpress.com I can also be found on http://www.penkhullpress.co.uk
My Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/misha.herwin and I tweet @MishaHerwin.
Have a great Christmas everyone and thank you Karen for inviting me onto your blog,
Thanks for dropping by, Misha. Merry Christmas!