On Tuesday, February 12, 2008, LADY MACBETH will be (should be!) in bookstores everywhere, and online stores will be shipping copies. So let’s all cheer–hurray, hurrah!–because this has been a very long wait. I owe thanks and appreciation to the Wenches, who have been wonderfully supportive throughout the long process of writing, research, and production. Thanks are due to our readers and Wench visitors as well, for encouragement and interest in this book, and in all our Wenchly books.
Last week I was sooooo thrilled to finally get actual copies of the book. The editorial, art and production teams at Crown have done an outstanding job, creating a beautiful book that is, I hope, just a pleasure to own and to handle. It has high quality touches throughout — light metallic gold glossing on the cover details, a smooth finish jacket, parchment end papers, a stunning map and genealogy tree…and a fabulous surprise under the cover jacket! I didn’t know about this special detail, which my editor kept a surprise. For me, it’s one of the nicest things about the physical book, and it holds real meaning for the story, and for me personally.
…And I’m not going to tell you what it is. If you can get to a bookstore tomorrow and find the book, look under the jacket and you’ll discover the secret for yourself. If you do, please report back to us here. You can choose to keep the secret or to reveal it — I’ll leave that up to you.
Later in February, we Susans (Susan-Miranda and me, Susan-Sarah) will do an in-depth two-part Susans-Only interview about the research and other aspects of LADY MACBETH, so I’ll save all that authorish commentary for February 25 and 27. Stay tuned — we’ll have fun with it.
For today, to celebrate the launch of the book, I would like to give you more of the story. Last month I posted the Prologue when we talked about beginnings here at Word Wenches….
So here’s Chapter One of LADY MACBETH: A Novel, by Susan Fraser King . . . .
Well, part of it. The link at the end will take you to the rest of the chapter, if you would like to read on. Enjoy!
"Susan Fraser King breathes new and vibrant life into a woman who has become an archetype….Not since THE MISTS OF AVALON have I been so transported by elegant lyric prose, a great galloping story, and the unforgettable life and voice of this Queen of the Scots. Highly recommended."
– Eileen Charbonneau, Merritt Bookstore, Cold Spring NY, for BookSense.com
“King manages to challenge all our preconceptions without turning the strongest female character in literature into a pantywaist. Her footwork on this fictional ground is sure and graceful.”
Anno Domini 1025…
Scarce nine the first time I was stolen away, I remember a wild and unthinking fright as I was snatched from my pony’s back and dragged into the arms of one of the men who rode toward my father’s escort party. We were heading north to watch our kinsman, King Malcolm, second of the name, hold an autumnal court on the moot hill at Scone. Proud of my shaggy garron and painted saddle, I insisted on riding alone in the length between my father Bodhe, older brother Farquhar, and several of their retainers. Then horsemen emerged from a fringe of trees and came straight for us. As men shouted and horses reared, a warrior reached out and plucked me up like a poppet.
The memories of that day are vivid but disjointed. His furs smelled rancid and smoky; his whiskered chin was broad from my view beneath, trapped before him in the saddle; his fingers on the reins were grimy and powerful. I can recall the russet brown of his cloak, but I do not recall his name. I know it was never spoken in my hearing for years afterward.
Kicking, shrieking, twisting like an eel in the arms of that stranger, I managed to tear his dagger from his belt, slicing my thumb like a sausage. With no idea how to handle the thing, I meant to defend myself. A fierce urge insisted upon it.
He snatched the dagger back, but next I tore the large round brooch from his cloak, shredding the wool, and whipped it upward to jab it into his cheek. That slowed him. Swearing, he released me for an instant, and I lurched from the saddle, falling and breaking my arm in my thud to cold earth. Rolling by accident more than intent, I narrowly missed the forelegs of a horse as my kinsmen thundered past me.
Shouting then, and steel and iron clashed, and within minutes of yanking me from my pretty saddle, the man was dead, and two of his guard with him. My father and the others took them down with swift and ugly certainty.
Huddled beside the road on the frosted earth, I watched, arm aching, heart slamming, while men fought and died. Until then, I had never seen a skirmish, nor so much blood. I had heard steel ring against steel in the practice yard of our fortress in Fife, but I had never seen blade sink into flesh, nor heard the soft, surprised gasp as the soul abandons the body without warning. Since then, I have heard it too often.
I own that cloak pin still, good bronze and smooth jet, and I will never wear it. In the little casket with my jewels, its dusky gleam reminds me to stay strong and wary.
My brother Farquhar died of the wounds he took in my defense. I saw the angled sprawl of his body, though my father’s men shielded me from the full sight. I remember, too, the taste of my salt tears, and my father’s roar of grief echoing in the chill air. . . .
My blood had even more merit once Bodhe had no other heir. Because I am descended in a direct line from Celtic kings, the purest royal blood courses through me and blushes my skin. I could prick a finger and it would be gold to some.
I am Gruadh inghean Bodhe mac Cinead mhic Dubh–daughter of Bodhe son of Kenneth son of Duff. My grandfathers going back were kings of Scots, and I was born a princess of the house of Clan Gabhran that boasts Kenneth mac Alpin, the first king of Scots and Picts together. The line reaches back to the Picts who were native to this land, and the Scotti who came over from Ireland to settle as the Dalriadans in Argyll. We are proud of our heritage, and know the old names by heart: son of, son of.
Because a man could claim the throne of Scotland by marrying me, I was not safe. Nor were my kinsmen, come to that: if they were killed, one after another, our line would be eliminated at its heart, making room for others’ ambitions. Such is the way of things when one’s heritage is ancient, pure, and royal.
Little good did the blood of ancients do me. I was like a lark spiraling upward, unaware of the hawks above judging time and distance to the prize. . . .
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