UPDATE: The winners of the draw are Na and Liz. Congratulations. I’ll be in touch with you.
I am so pleased to invite good friend and all round perfect Virgo, Therese Walsh, back to MM. Therese and I have served together on RWA Women’s Fiction board for two years, and my friendship with her is one of the most wonderful things to have come out of my volunteer work. Therese’s first book, THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY, garnered praise from all quarters, and today Therese shares an excerpt with us, as her protagonist gets the first call to adventure.
The “call to adventure” is a big part of any story that has a true plot; it’s the moment when your protagonist decides to step outside of her comfort zone and do something different–something that will inevitably rock her world and lead her, hopefully, to a better self. In my debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, the protagonist–Maeve Leahy–is first pulled in the direction of avventura when she finds an envelope containing a book nailed to her university office door. Here’s a snip of this, from the beginning of Chapter Two:
I missed my alarm the next morning, tired from battling back Liszt all night, and had to scramble or risk major lateness: shower, shove wet hair behind ears, forget the makeup, throw on something clean, stuff all papers into battered briefcase for later speed grading, tear in two the business card of one Dr. Stephen Flett, neurologist, that Kit had left on the kitchen counter at some point in the wee hours, feed Sam and drive without coffee—which was never a good idea, but you did what you had to do to make it to Spanish Dialects on time.
I got my first real break just before noon and headed to my office, weighing the likelihood of being able to sleep there and the reaction my co-workers and students might have if they caught me. It’d make the Campus Times for sure. Dr. Leahy was discovered last week, snoring and drooling over a stack of ungraded essays. Clearly, she needs naptime built into her day, as might be expected for someone her age. No, I’d never live it down. Unless I locked my door…
On said door, though, an interoffice envelope hung from a nail like a dictum. Papers and a half-eaten granola bar spilled from my briefcase when I dropped it to wiggle free the nail, open the envelope. Huh. A pocket-sized book on weaponry lay in my hand, a red scrap of silk marking a page. I opened it to the bookmark, scanned, and found something interesting:
The keris is another Javanese weapon made only after a great deal of preparation. First, the empu decides what he will craft. A keris may be made to protect against evil, preserve dignity or secure wealth, for example. The empu fasts, prays and makes ceremonial offerings sometimes days before crafting begins. Iron, nickel, steel and meteoric metals are heated. The empu layers and forges them together to form the pamor (design) of the keris. He then smiths the dapur (shape) by straightening the keris or creating an odd number of luks (curves) as desired. Finally, he chisels the base to form its many intricate details. A completed keris is filled with purpose. It is said that humans easily succumb to its suggestive power as inhibitions are stripped away.
A keris. That’s what Lansing had called my new purchase, wasn’t it? As a child, I’d never known the name of the wavy blade I loved. I flipped through the rest of the book but saw no other passages related to the keris.
I called Janet in the library to inquire about the book, but she said no such title existed within the university system. I checked the inner pages for stamp marks, any evidence that the volume had belonged to another institution or a particular individual. Nothing. The new interoffice envelope, barely creased and with nary a pen mark, was also devoid of clues.
I reached for the phone again, let my fingers dance over memorized digits.
Maeve is intrigued–and really, who wouldn’t be?!–and though she’ll need a few more nudges from fate to truly begin her adventure–and embark on a mysterious trip to Rome–finding the keris most definitely marked the start of a journey that would end up changing her life. For the (much, much, much) better.
And now for a very different call to adventure from my upcoming novel, KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS. It’s an historical novel, and my main character, Susanna, who is from Ghent but is now living in London, has seen an old friend of her father’s. She approaches him, full of joy at the sight of a familiar face in a place where she still feels very much a foreigner, only to find things don’t work out as she expects:
“Master Jens.” She smiled at him as he turned; he must have thought her some brigand. “I did not mean to startle you. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw you come out that jeweller’s shop. It makes my heart glad to see a familiar face.”
“Susanna.” He tried to smile back, but it was a sick thing, forced at the corners and white-edged.
“Are you ill?” Susanna frowned. Her hand came up to feel his forehead, then stopped in a strange salute as he cringed back from her into deep shadow.
She noticed now that the alley was barely more than a rank passageway, and what little sunlight managed to angle itself into the narrow space stopped high on the left-hand wall.
“Master Jens, what is wrong?” She wanted to back out into the light and bustle of the street, but family ties and respect forced her to take another step toward her father’s friend.
He drew back farther into the gloom. “Nothing, nothing. Just a touch of travel fever.”
His voice sounded more like his own, this time, and Susanna relaxed. “If you come home with me, I’ll call our local healer to see to you. I can vouch for her knowledge. We can dine and exchange news.”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible.” He seemed to fold in on himself, sinking to the ground, and Susanna bridged the distance between them in two strides, then knelt beside him. She felt his forehead, which was cool and dry. She tried to see his face in the shadows, shifting so she didn’t block all the light.
His eyes shocked her, filled with the terror and rage of a trapped animal.
She fell back with a cry as his arm swung up and over. She scrambled away and heard a crunch as whatever was in his hand became buried in the earthen alleyway floor.
He pulled it out, lifted it up again, and she saw it was a chisel, dark-edged and finely honed. His diamond-cleaving chisel.
She struggled to find her feet, hopelessly entangled in her gown. He moved toward her on his knees, chisel raised, like some mad cleric sacrificing to a vengeful God.
He wanted her dead.
Susanna is thrust rather than called, in this instance. She manages to survive, and her choice after this is either to let it go, to bury her head, or to find out what would make an old family friend attack her in such a violent way. Her personality won’t let her ignore it. She must know. She needs to try to find a way to reconcile this madman with the person she once trusted. It’s her habit of never flinching from the truth that forms one of the main themes of IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, the first book in which she is the main protagonist, and now KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS.
Today, we’re giving away a copy of THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY, and an advance reading copy of KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS (you don’t have to have read IN A TREACHEROUS COURT to enjoy KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS) to two lucky commenters. So to get the ball rolling, can you think of a personal call to adventure?