I am pleased to welcome to my blog multi-talented author, Sheila Dalton.
Sheila Dalton was born in England, and now lives in Canada. She has published novels and poetry for adults, and picture books for children. Her YA mystery, Trial by Fire, from Napoleon Press, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award. Her literary mystery, The Girl in the Box, published by Dundurn, reached the semi-finals in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, and was voted a Giller People’s Choice Top Ten. Stolen is her first book of historical fiction.
Introduction to Stolen:
Lizbet Warren’s parents are captured by Barbary Corsairs off the coast of Devon, England. How can she discover what has happened to them? How will she even survive as a woman alone in 17th century England?
Lizbet sets off for London with the only other survivor of the raid, Elinor, a girl from The Home for Abandoned and Unwanted Children. Bonds form, but the young women are separated when Lizbet is arrested for vagrancy. Rescued by Jeanne Vallée, a French merchant and privateer, she helps him with his language skills, and with the extensive library he has no time to read, but must study in order to further his ambitions at the English court. Later, Lizbet sails with Captain “Gentleman Jake” Norris, a pirate and black slaver, who endeavors to learn, through her, what happened to his missing sister, as Lizbet endeavors to free her mother, with his help, from slavery in Morocco.
And Now for an Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Stolen:
Oh, to be sure, I was aware that young men found me at least somewhat pleasing to the eye; I was not blind to their glances and smiles. Nor was I above a little flirtation. But Mother made it sound as though I could not walk a yard without attracting a horde of eager swains; worse, ones whose intentions were dishonorable.
Yet I was tempted by Newton Abbot. Torn between a love of village life, and a growing restlessness to discover more of the world, I knew I must soon arrive at a decision.
However, scarce did I know that less than three hours later, the decision would be made for me, in the cruelest manner imaginable.
When I returned to the village on foot, proudly shod in my new shoes, that pinched but a little despite the long trek, I stared ahead of me at Teignmouth, puzzled. I walked nearer, and was worried; closer yet, and my heart began to pound. People should be in view, and horses, carts, cattle. I saw nothing but a few cows running loose at the outskirts, back and forth and back again, as though lost, swinging their great heads aimlessly.
I called out. Only silence answered. The miller’s dog came hurtling towards me, barking as it ran. I reached down to pat it; it collapsed panting at my feet. When I stroked its head, it howled, got up and raced away from the village that had always been its home.
My breath now coming in sharp gasps that hurt, I broke into a run until I reached Teignmouth, where I stopped as suddenly as I had started, and stared ahead of me, transfixed. Doors swung on their hinges, broken chairs and barrels spilled across the lanes, an empty cradle rocked up and down on a mound of refuse, rustling the ghostly silence. A hatchet poked, blade up, out of a pile of hay.
A sudden gust of a wind, and a tin pot rattled down the street, coming to rest against my feet. I kicked it away, and sat down hard upon the ground. A lone sheep stood amidst the wreckage and stared at me out of a blank, black face. By its open mouth, I knew it bleated, but I heard nothing save a roar that came in equal measure from the sea behind me and the devastation of my heart.
What in God’s good name had happened? Where was everyone?
On the beach, I found them, strewn like broken dolls, each one a villager I had known, who had known me. It wasn’t until I recognized the back of little Thomas’s head, his long blond curls, his cheek resting on his arm as though sleeping, a rope of blood running from his head to his waist, that I screamed. He was only four years old. I’d taught him how to button his shirt just the morning previous.
My feet felt heavy as though my new shoes were cast in lead or stone. I forced myself amongst the bodies, crouching down beside those who bore even the remotest resemblance to my mother, or my father, who may have come back early from the sea. I turned some over with the toes of my new shoes. The heaviness, the staring eyes, the flesh like candle wax made me swallow bile and shudder. Twice, I sat down amongst the dead, and cried into my hands. Many I cared for lay lifeless on the sand. Many others were gone I knew not where.
As I stumbled away, a girl stepped from behind a pile of stones, her face as white as those of the corpses. It was Elinor from the Workhouse for Abandoned and Unwanted Children. I often called her, in my mind, the Red-Haired Fury, for her temper and wild ways. To see her, such a spirited little thing, so pale and subdued struck such fear in me, I very nearly ran from her.
She fell towards me. I had no choice but to fold her into my arms and let her cry, though I was in sore need of comfort myself. I begged her to tell me what had happened. At first she could not speak for tears.
“Two great ships come in,” she said at last, in a voice like dark brown ale, unusual in such a tiny girl, even one a deal older than she looked. The Red-Haired Fury was then about fifteen years of age, though if I had not known better, I might have guessed her to be twelve. For though the huge eyes in her small sharp face had a knowing look about them, I’d seen that look in beggar children, grown old before their time.
“Them ships was all bristly with oars.” She smeared the tears across her cheeks with both grubby hands at once. “Hordes of awful men spilled off ‘em and spread across the beach like … oh, oh, I dunno … summat you knew were going to swallow you up.” She held her hands to her ears. “It were awful. They was shouting and yelling, our folk screaming and running and everything were so awful, I didn’t know what to do.
“They …” she choked out, “cut folks down with these huge great swords. I ent never seen swords so big and wide. I ran for my life, tripped up behind them rocks and stayed where I fell. I saw ‘em chaining people up and dragging them onto their ship. Then they sailed away. Oh, dear God.”
“Who where they?” My mouth was dry; I had to run my tongue under my lips to free them from my teeth. “Where did they come from?” Where is my mother? I thought, in anguish. Had Elinor seen her killed? I dare not ask, for details of her treatment at the hands of these fierce villains would be more than I could bear.
“I ent never seen men like ‘em before.” She was twisting her hands in the apron of her homespun dress, and scrunching up her face like a raisin. “They had on robes like clergy almost, but their arms was bare. Dark-skinned they was, and ugly, their faces horrible and mean.” Her eyes grew wider. It was as if her words came at me from far away, I heard them but did not grasp them. “They wasn’t speaking English, I don’t what they was speaking. Whatever else about ‘em, there’s one thing sure—they had no hearts. The smithy …” She gulped and took a big breath. “… the smithy were screaming that his legs was broke. They tried to make him walk all the same. Till someone picked up a rock and bashed his head in. Oh, they was terrible!”
“Is there no one left at all?” I said.
“After the coast was clear of ‘em, I come out from the rocks, and looked round everywhere. I did not find a single soul. Them that got in the way was killed, and them that was wounded, once they got ‘em on the beach, they killed them, too.”
“Babies? Old folk?”
“They killed the old, and took the babies along with their mams.”
I fought the rising panic that would take away my reason if I did not push it down. “What about our fishermen?” Though they were not due till nightfall, oftentimes they sailed home early. “Had they come back?”
“No.” She shook her head so vigorously her hair flew out like rusty water from a pail. “The only boats I seen were those them heathens sailed.”
My heart near stopping in my chest, my head pounding so hard I could barely hear my own words, I whispered, “My mother, Elinor …?”
She threw herself into my arms once more, and curled like a fist against me. “They took her.” Her words were muffled in my bodice; still they rang clear as day over the noises in my head. “A monster of a fellow picked her up and threw her over his shoulder. He carried her out into the water to the ship. She was crying and calling on God. They did hit her once or twice to tame her, then carted her off like she were a sheep or a goat.”
Stolen is available on Amazon U.K., Amazon Canada and Amazon U.S. It is also available for Kobo, Nook, and iTunes. In addition, readers who subscribe to Scribd will find it there.
Stolen eBook: Sheila Dalton: Amazon.co.uk: Books