Today, a little under a year since I pitched the book to Unbound, Ashael Rising is available for purchase on Amazon. I don't quite know how I feel.
This book that has been such a prominent part of most of the last three years of my life is now out in the world. It doesn't really belong to me anymore but to all of the people who will read it and hopefully enjoy it. People will form their own pictures of the characters, interpret the action in their own way and make the story their own.
It's beautiful and humbling and a little frightening.
I have no shortage of other projects to work on, as those of you who read 2017 – The Plan may remember. Not least of which is the sequel to Ashael Rising and if I've done my job well, there will soon be people waiting for it! There's a little bit of fear around writing the sequel, though. Or indeed any other lengthy project. I don't think I've ever quite accepted that Ashael Rising wasn't a fluke, that I didn't just get lucky. Who's to say that I can do it again? I suspect that's a fairly common fear.
For the moment I'm working on blog tour posts and this month's flash fiction then it's on with the anthology. A writer's life is never dull!
I'm still giving away review copies so if you're interested in reading and reviewing Ashael Rising, get in touch. I'll leave you with this excerpt:
All-Mother, you who gave birth to the world, watch over this woman and her child, Bhearra prayed silently. She had lost the thread of the baby’s consciousness and was deeply worried. Soraya screamed as another contraction struck. Ashael wiped the pregnant woman’s face with a cloth dipped in cool water. Bres paced the room. It was mid-afternoon and Soraya was exhausted.
‘We’re almost there now, Soraya. Get ready to push.’ Bhearra squeezed Soraya’s hand, keeping her voice calm, trying not to show her concern. The poor woman was frightened enough. As the next contraction arrived, Soraya pushed as hard as she could, gripping Bhearra’s hands hard enough to press the old bones together, and the top of the baby’s head appeared.
‘I can’t. I can’t push anymore.’
‘One more and the head will be out, and then I can help you,’ Bhearra replied with a soothing voice . She pushed a little of her own energy into the woman before her. She had been doing this for some time now and did not have much more to spare. With the next contraction, the baby’s head was out, face white and lips blue. Bhearra soon saw why: the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. Another contraction pushed a shoulder out while Soraya screamed, and Bhearra was able to get her fingers under the cord, pulling it slightly away from the baby’s neck. With quick, sure movements, Bhearra took the foraging knife attached to her belt and cut the cord, pulling the baby the rest of the way out with the next contraction.
The baby had not yet taken a breath. Bhearra moved her out of view. She blew into the baby’s face then slapped her bottom. Still nothing.
‘What’s happening? Is my baby alright?’ Soraya asked, gasping in exhaustion.
‘Ashael can help you with the afterbirth,’ answered Bhearra. ‘I’m just going to get the little one cleaned up.’
Bhearra moved towards the doorway as she spoke, Bres close behind. Speaking in a low voice, she told him what had happened. Bres looked back at his mate and began to weep silent tears.
‘Hush now. All is not lost.’ Bhearra held the baby before her then closed her eyes, once more stretching her senses out beyond her own body, searching for the lingering spirit of the baby. Nothing. Nothing… There! A spark of life floated nearby. The filidh breathed this spark in and then blew it gently toward the baby’s face. Nothing happened. Please, All-Mother.
The baby gasped and let out a great cry.
Bres fell to his knees and Soraya burst into tears. Bhearra gave a small smile, letting out a shaky breath as she moved over to Soraya and handed the baby to her.
‘You have a beautiful baby girl. What will you name her?’
‘Bhearrael . For the woman who brought her to us,’ Alayne answered.
‘Sirion bless you. You saved her life,’ Bres said. ‘How can we ever thank you?’
‘Nonsense; I didn’t save her. I just showed her the way home. She did the rest herself.’