Tag Archives: Marissa Ames

Medieval Street Faire and Book Signing

On September 20th, Vassal: The Second Book of Tir Athair will be available in both print and eBook formats. To celebrate, Reno’s best independent bookstore will be hosting me as I sign print copies of all available Tir Athair works. But book signings aren’t the only attractions that day.

Grassroots poster

Book cover and advertisements designed by Blue Harvest Creative

Schedule of Events:

  • 11am: Storytelling for the kids by aspiring author Dave Nightingale
  • 11am: Falconry demonstrations by Darkwell Castle Organization
  • 11:30: Old world fibers by Beck, including spinning wheels and hand-spindling
  • 12:00: Renaissance music by youth musician Jaidyn MacDonald
  • 1pm: Book readings by authors Marissa Ames, Jean Booth, and Kurt Winans
  • 1:30pm: Face painting for the kids by Beck
  • 2pm: Renaissance music by youth musician Lauren Hutchings
  • 2:30pm: Storytelling for the kids by youth book critic Sahara Wilcock

Throughout the day:

  • Heavy combat demonstrations by the Society for Creative Anachronism. (The public will only be spectators for combat demonstrations.)
  • Craft demonstrations by the Society for Creative Anachronism
  • Historical representations of the Royal Court of Mary Queen of Scots

Other events are still being determined and will be added to the schedule once finalized.

Other authors include Jean Booth, authors of Zombie War and The Origins paranormal series, and Kurt Winans, author of science fiction works Pilgrimage and Second Moon. Works by all three authors are kept in stock at Grassroots Books.

On site food, including vegan and gluten free options, served by J&J’s Italian Ices

Grassroots Books is the preferred storefront for the Tir Athair series. Print prices will always be lower at Grassroots than on Amazon.com. However, if you prefer eBooks, you can pre-order Vassal for only $3.49 until September 20th. Upon the book’s release date, the price will rise to $4.99.

preorder ad

Call for Artists

troubadours

The day is fast approaching. Vassal: the Second Book of Tir Athair will be available in two more months! If you live in Reno, you can buy the print version on September 20th at Grassroots Books, Reno’s best independent bookstore!

To celebrate the release, I am teaming up with Grassroots to coordinate a medieval street faire for the enjoyment of all Tir Athair fans and Grassroots customers. Join us September 20th for entertainment, demonstrations, and books from me and other local authors Jean Booth and Kurt Winans. We’ll have storytellers to entertain the kids while parents shop, and even food vendors to help you through your midday hunger.

We invite you to a lineup that already includes Old World Spinning by Beck, storytelling by emerging author David Nightingale, acrobatics by marital artist Nancy Bouffiou, Renaissance-inspired music by Jaidyn MacDonald, and singing by the Nielson Princesses. The schedule is almost full, but we have a few spots left.

I’m looking for demonstrators. I need:

  • actors
  • artists
  • singers
  • dancers
  • musicians
  • educators
  • craftsmen
  • anyone who can represent medieval, Renaissance or Old World skills for the enjoyment of others.

We intend to publicize this event with press releases, sign twirlers in medieval garb, Facebook and Twitter announcements, and professional posters designed by Blue Harvest Creative and placed in local independent stores and coffee shops. We even hope to attract media coverage. If you participate in this event, your organization will be noticed!

This is an outreach gig, not a paid gig. You may hand out information for your venues or sales endeavors. We’ll provide a large bowl labeled “Ye Olde Tips” to help you out. Per Grassroots’ needs, we cannot offer you space to sell your own products. We also cannot involve the public in any demonstrations which may be dangerous, such as combat or acrobatics. You may involve the public in the more innocuous arts and crafts. We will ask all demonstrators to sign waivers.

If you would like to take part in this fun opportunity for artistic outreach, please message me at marissaames4@gmail.com or on my Facebook author page! Let me know what demonstration you wish to offer, and we will see if we can add you to our lineup.

But hurry! This schedule must be finalized by July 31, 2014!

If you are a Tir Athair or Grassroots fan, watch this blog or my Facebook page, or sign up for Grassroots’ newsletters to get updates on the street faire. We hope to see you there!

Dead Leaves

This was written for the Fall Flash Festival, hosted/judged by Eric Martell and Daniel Swensen. As we self-published authors can do, I’ve also submitted it for consideration for J.A.Mes Press’ Halloween Anthology.

Click Image for Photo Credit

Click Image for Photo Credit

Dead Leaves, 1000 words, by Marissa Ames

Trees rustled overhead, and dry, papery leaves tumbled over Angie’s face. White-gold sunlight angled beneath the canopy. A chill afternoon wind brought the aroma of dust and impending frost.

Angie rolled her head to the side, collecting autumn leaves in the congealed blood where the bullet had grazed her temple. She groaned at her crippling headache.

Something groaned in response.

Motionless beneath the autumn carpet, Angie glanced around. Heavy feet moved through the leaves with a rhythmic step-shuffle. Her fingers flexed, longing for her Glock. A half-decayed man, with scalp and hair hanging from the right side of his skull, ambled among the twice-dead.

The wind blew through the grove, stripping leaves from her inert body.

The zombie whirled around. Milky eyes fixed on her. Twisting its body until it faced her, it shuffled between leaf-covered mounds of rotting flesh.

Angie held her breath as the zombie swayed above her. It opened its mouth and groaned. Flecks of rotten lip fell off and skittered down the channel between her nose and cheek. Angie gagged and coughed. The zombie flinched, tilted its head, and bent down to observe her. They stared, her blue gaze to his milky white, as she tried to keep from blinking. The zombie stood up straight with a creaking of shrunken tendons. Groaning softly through the hole in its throat, it turned away.

She closed her eyes against the nauseating sunlight as the walking corpse explored the killing field. Shivering within her M65 field jacket, she slowly lifted an arm. In response to the rustle of leaves, the zombie turned again. It groaned in acknowledgement. Angie wiggled her fingers, but the corpse ignored her and continued its exploration.

With her eyes on the zombie, she sat up and pushed the leaves away. It did not respond as she stood, staggering from a sudden rush of vertigo. Angie widened her stance and cupped her hands over her eyes, smearing sticky blood over her face. She pulled her hands back and cursed at the gash across her palm.

She pressed her palm to her mouth, licking the salty, coppery blood away. The flavor soothed her, calmed her headache.

With her lips sealed over the wound, she shuffled between zombie bodies, toward the sunset.

This morning the unit had traveled east from the barn, following the old country road beside the broken-down white slat fence, keeping their guns trained before them. The old maple groves had been a refuge during the summer, unpopulated before the outbreak and free of zombies after. Now the old groves were no safer than the rest of Vermont. Angie’s unit, determined to defend their home, had used the most agile of them as bait. He had ducked between rotting hands before the rest of the unit opened fire on the herd of undead.

Sweat beaded on her forehead and she shivered beneath her jacket. The sun winked between maple trunks as she trudged down the abandoned road. Her old black combat boots plowed through mounds of red and orange, shoving the leaves aside. She pulled her hand away to cough then pressed her lips back against the freshly bleeding gash.

Gray against the flame of autumn, the barn rose higher on the other side of the little hill. She blinked her blurry eyes, watching the wooden shingles bob up, then down, then up higher in rhythm to her rough gait.

Piles of blackened wood lay around the barn, where the unit had burned the twice-dead to avoid contamination. An old Dutch oven sat on a rock beside the dedicated cooking fire. Nobody roamed the yard.

Angie coughed as she pressed on the latch. She rolled her neck back and forth, shivering when the wind dipped its chill fingers into her coat and down her back. Grabbing the handle with two sticky hands, she pulled the barn door open.

Sleeping bags carpeted the middle of the barn, well away from the walls. Angie found Todd’s bag, right beside the 4×4 support beam where he liked to hang his .357. She shrugged out of her jacket and sank to her knees. Pulling back the ripped and patched flap, she slid into the bag and buried her face in the quilting. It smelled like him. Angie shoved the fabric against her nose and inhaled deeply.

The door creaked open, and the last of the day’s light peeked in. Ten living bodies shadowed the entrance. Angie listened for the slick sound of cowboy boots along the barn floor. Todd led the unit into the barn, sliding his .357 from his shoulder as the door creaked shut.

The wooden stock of the gun tapped against the 4×4. Todd’s big, callused hand shifted on the beam as he kicked his boots off. Sliding against the beam, Angie made room for the man who had promised to love her forever.

Who had promised to never hurt her.

Todd knelt down, and his hand landed on her feverish arm. He froze. Inhaling a slow, cautious breath, he slid his rough palm against her sweaty skin, stopping at her paracord bracelet he had given her months ago.

He traced the bite mark just below the bracelet, his fingers glancing over the edges of dying flesh. Todd’s hand trembled.

It trembled just as it had this morning, when he had witnessed the bite. When the zombie had grabbed her wrist and sank its teeth into her flesh. His hands trembled so much that the barrel of the .357 jerked wildly as he took aim. Todd’s eyes clenched shut. He pulled the trigger.

The bullet had only grazed her.

Todd now yelled and jerked back, but Angie grabbed his wrist. She held tight with newfound strength and vigor, with muscles not yet decayed, in the most dangerous phase of the transformation. The phase Todd had tried to avoid by shooting her when she was first bitten.

Todd twisted and fought as the unit scrambled about in the darkness.

Gunpowder flashed as her teeth sank into his skin.

Read other stories from this contest here:

Soul of the Universe

SotU72logo

At long last, The Anthology Club’s first publication, Soul of the Universe, is available in eBook!

Ok, let me back up a little. Just what is The Anthology Club?

Launched in 2013 by Michael Manz, The Anthology Club promotes writers’ careers by producing and publishing anthologies of short fiction from flash to novellas. Senior members of the club propose projects, inviting both senior and junior members to write. Once the project is complete, the club publishes the work and offers it within the major eBook channels.

Royalties are distributed as follows:

  • 15% for the Club, to pay for publication costs, copyediting and formatting, artwork, and publicity for the current and future projects.
  • 5% for the editor of that particular project.
  • 80% is distributed among the contributors, based on the amount of content contributed by each author.

For a few months, The Anthology Club hovered within the limbo of closed beta as the senior members worked out the bugs in the system. When ready, Mr. Manz opened the club out to all writers, with calls for submission spread across the internet.

As one of the original senior members, I have been on board throughout the entire journey. It’s been fascinating. The Publication Agreement was my first ever, and a landmark for me in my career. I’ve had my say in projects still in the works, such as the pirate-themed anthology which still has a few meager weeks left for submissions.

Soul of the Universe paves the way for these other anthologies.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato 

“Here you will find a collection of six stories by four authors that, at first glance, seem to have little in common. We have Sci Fi Adventure. We have Medieval Fantasy. We have Emotional Drama, and we have Steampunk. We even have a Western. 

“Though each of these stories seems to have little in common with its companions, every one of them shares the same genesis. They were all inspired by that same divine spark that gives the universe purpose. They were all inspired by music. 

“Each of the authors in this collection took a favorite song as their inspiration and told the story that no one else could hear. The result is an endlessly entertaining collection of well spun yarns , thrilling adventures, and emotionally engaging drama. 

We hope you’ll enjoy.”

Soul of the Universe contains works by four authors: Michael Manz himself, Michael Walker, and me. And last but not least, the already published and quite bawdy and hilarious Michael Wombat, who has also headed up and edited the project. The artwork is by Kit Cooper, a newcomer herself to the eBook world.

SotU72logo

If you would like to check out Soul of the Universe and support The Anthology Club, you may find it at these links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Amazon Australia

Soul of the Universe on Goodreads

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And if you would like to write for The Anthology Club, you may find them online and on Facebook.

The Anthology Club homepage

The Anthology Club on Facebook

Take a moment to check them out! They might just be the writing project you’ve been looking for! And buy Soul of the Universe for some unique and truly entertaining stories.

Announcing J.A.Mes Press!

Ailsa Abraham

Author Ailsa Abraham with her copies of Tales by the Tree

It all starts with a dream. A notebook, a pen, and perhaps a laptop. A lot of time spent staring out the window. Characters, dancing like sugarplums within writers’ heads.

Then, somewhere between giddiness and reality, writers realize they have talent! They receive accolades that are from people other than their mothers. Fans return for more. The writers get exited and starry-eyed with possibilities. Then they panic.

Where do they go from here?

Do they jump first into a novel? Build an author platform? Freelance a little and get clips? But who is going to accept their work, and actually pay for it, if they’ve never before been published? And, in this world of independent publishing and a broad arc of costs, can any of these authors really afford that first jump into publication?

What if they are published, but seek outreach? Four novels later, they need to expand without paying for expensive advertisements. If only they could submit to a publication that hosts forty other authors, and get their work to the fans of those authors.

Laura Jamez

Laura Jamez

J.A.Mes Press has jumped in to help with these concerns. Started by two independent authors, Laura Jamez and Marissa Ames, the new publishing company creates anthologies to help with author outreach. This is not a paid project, even for the editors and publishers. All proceeds go to selected charities. Even their creative partner, Blue Harvest Creative, donates its time so all money can be allocated to better causes. J.A.Mes Press is completely non-profit.

mames

Marissa Ames

So if the authors are not paid for their writing, how do they benefit? For independent authors, and even authors seeking representation or publication, networking is everything. Outreach is everything. To be able to say you are published, in a tangible book, carries a lot of clout. Sometimes, even the act of being published will drive an author to go further.

Authors testify of the boost they received by writing for the anthologies. “Me!” says Sorcha O’Dowd. “It gave me the boost I needed to get more serious about my WIP, and reminded me why I love writing. Whilst I haven’t published anything else since, it made me serious about writing as a career.”

Eric Sproles told us, “My first publication, it shows me the process does not need to be overly complicated to get one’s work out there. This is something I hope to put in practice in the release of my RPG and perhaps further short stories in the future.”

Tales by the Tree cover

J.A.Mes Press started in December, with Tales by the Tree, a collection of seventy-five stories by over forty authors. Topics range from Family Friendly to Noel Nightmares, and all stories range between 300 and 1000 words. Authors wrote whatever their whims dictated, with only two stipulations: All stories had to be PG-13 rated or lower. And, though religious stories were encouraged for the Christmas anthology, no story could bash another religion or belief system. Tales by the Tree went live on Amazon on November 24, 2013. It has since sold 225 print copies and 37 eBook copies, in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia. Authors also received free eBook copies.

“It was my first publication,” says Theresa Miller. “The first time a lot of my friends knew I write.”

Beth Avery, who has two stories within Tales by the Tree, says, “It was a reboot for me. Several years ago I published some pieces in a now defunct zine called Mad Lovin’ Mamas, but when it went dark, I stopped publishing. It definitely was a boost I desperately needed. I have a hard time justifying writing without any venue for publishing.”

tales by the tree cover wrap

The anthologies consist of flash fiction: Stories between 100 and 1000 words. Each anthology has a theme, and author interpretation of that theme is vast. Authors need no special credentials to contribute. The anthologies aren’t just thrown together, though. Each story goes through a round of edits by an accomplished writer. The only images used are provided by Blue Harvest Creative, which has over 20 years experience in graphic design. And through Tales by the Tree consisted of 75 stories, future anthologies will be capped at the 50 best tales submitted to each project.

Authors are not asked to spend any of their own money, unless they wish to buy print copies. Because J.A.Mes Press publishes through CreateSpace on Amazon.com, anyone (including authors) wishing to purchase print copies must comply with Amazon’s pricing. This has allowed Tales by the Tree to raise over $375 for Mount Rose Elementary School in Reno, Nevada.

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“Blue Harvest Creative is excited to be working with J.A.Mes Press as their official book designers,” says a representative of the design company. “Their vision of creating anthologies featuring new authors as well as seasoned veterans and giving all profits to charity is amazing and matches our vision of bringing indie authors the opportunity to be recognized for their extraordinary talents.”

With her very first publication ever in Tales by the Tree, Mary MacFarlane now believes that she can, and will, someday have a book with all her own work. She tells the other authors, “So my mom is pretty impressed with our stories! She was just asking me the other day if any of you guys have books published she’d be interested in. Also, will J.A.Mes Press be doing another collection like this anytime soon?”

Why yes. And yes.

Each contributor to Tales by the Tree received a spot within the “Author Bio” section, where they spoke briefly about themselves and provided links to blogs or Amazon author pages. Fans of Rebecka Vigus may read A.D. Trosper’s story, look for her within the bio section, and proceed to buy one of her Dragon’s Call novels.

Jeffrey Hollar, who wrote several rather gritty stories within the anthology, said, “Not my first publication but it was nice to add to my catalog of publishing credits and, of course, fun and enjoyable hanging out with all of you throughout the whole process.”

J.A.Mes Press has two anthologies planned for 2014: This spring, they will orchestrate an anthology based on springtime and new beginnings, with all proceeds going to a charity that brings awareness to stroke victims. In October, writers and readers can expect a horror-based anthology that has many people excited.

Angie Trafford, who wrote one story for the anthology, loved the whole experience. Leslie Fulton, a journalist, had been published before, but never within the flash fiction genre. A longtime author, Rebecka Vigus, had never before tried flash fiction, nor had she written for children. Now she has new markets to explore. Authors Jean Booth and Lara Hays received additional outreach for their published novels.

Would you like to write for a J.A.Mes Press anthology? The next collection will feature the 50 best stories contributed, and will allow each author to present a bio and a link where readers can find their work. Follow the project at their blog or Facebook page.

And happy writing!

Aislin’s Trial by Ordeal

Darrion cover

Cover art by Blue Harvest Creative

If accused of a crime in medieval times, a person could undergo a lengthy trial with a jury of his peers. This happened more often with nobility, richer and more important people who might disrupt societal structure if proven guilty and removed from their stations. The peasants often faced quick trials by ordeal.

In Vassal, the upcoming novel following the short story “Darrion,” Aislin has already banished Darrion from her manor house, for sins she just can’t forgive. He lives within the serfs’ cottages, biding his time until she can find a way to banish him from her fief forever. But someone has slipped belladonna poison into Darrion’s food, and the soldiers have arrived to arrest both of them. Harboring a gifted fugitive, and consorting with the Brotherhood of Teague, isn’t punishable by death. It’s punishable by torture, dismemberment, and then death when the accused could take it no longer.

Aislin faces a trial, but medieval trials weren’t as merciful as they are today. A woman, even a landholding vassal, did not stand equally among a jury of her “peers.” She relied upon the mercies of a husband, or her liege, to defend her in a trial. But Aislin had no husband. And Parlan, the Earl of Edurne, sought to defend her only to gain further control. A cauldron bubbled in the courtyard, ready for her trial by ordeal. Aislin had one more option that even Parlan did not anticipate.

An ancient judicial practice carried on through the Salem witch-hunts and ending as late as the 1700s, trials by ordeal were surprisingly effective. They followed a simple premise: God would save the innocent. The effectiveness also followed another simple premise: The guilty, who had as much faith as the accusers in the premise that God would save them, knew they would fail and declined the trial, thus automatically condemning themselves. Church and judicial officials could often rig ordeals so the participants could pass them, if the authorities so wished. If they did not rig them, the innocent still suffered.

Several trials existed, some crueler than others:

Trial by Combat

trial by combat

Depiction of a judicial duel between a man and a woman by Hans Talhoffer (Ms.Thott.290.2º f80r, 1459)

Regularly used in Germanic law, trial by combat let men settle accusations without witnesses. Both parties fought in a single dispute, and the winner was proclaimed to be right. Trial by combat appears to have been introduced into common law in England following the Norman Conquest and remained through the high and late Middle Ages. This judicially sanctioned duel disappeared gradually throughout the 16th century. Hans Talhoffer, in 1459, names seven offences which warrant a judicial duel: murder, treason, heresy, desertion of one’s lord, abduction, perjury/fraud, and rape. Peasants had to present their case to a judge before dueling, but nobles had the right to challenge each other to duels without involving higher powers. Trials by combat were abolished by Emperor Maximilian I, but evolved into gentlemanly duels, which were only outlawed in the 19th century.

A one-sided ordeal of combat included “running the gauntlet,” though this was more commonly used as a form of public punishment much more dignified than the pillory or the stocks. Stripped to the waist, the condemned or accused had to pass between a double row of men holding cudgels, whips, switches, or blades. Someone walked in front of him, to keep him from running, and sometimes the accused was dragged or prodded along. Sometimes rules banned edged weapons, or required the two sides to each keep a foot in place, or allowed the accused to protect his head with his hands. He did not always die; sometimes he simply could not walk afterward. “The gauntlet” began in Roman times, as a form of execution by cudgeling, and ended in Russia and Sweden as late as the 19th century.

Ordeal of Fire

trial by fire

After being accused of adultery Cunigunde of Luxembourg proved her innocence by walking over red-hot ploughshares.

The ordeal of fire typically required that the accused walk a certain distance, usually about nine feet, over a red-hot surface such as ploughshares. Or they carried red-hot iron for the same distance. Complete lack of injury proved innocence but, more commonly, a priest bandaged the wound and re-examined it three days later. If the wound had healed in those three days, God had intervened for the innocent. If the wound festered, exile or execution followed.

Cunigunde of Luxembourg and Emma of Normandy, both women in history accused of adultery, proved their innocence by walking barefoot over red-hot ploughshares without incurring injury.

Ordeal of Water

Several ordeals of water were employed: boiling water, cold water, and use of water to condemn witches.

trial by water

Water-ordeal. Engraving, 17th century.

In the trial by cold water, people accused of sorcery were submerged in streams. Survivors were acquitted. In the 6th century, pagans cast Gregory of Tours into a river with a millstone tied to his neck. According to record, divine miracle saved him, and the water did not suck him down. This law was abolished by Louis the Pious in 829, but reappeared in the Late Middle Ages. Men guilty of poaching could be submerged in a barrel three times, and be considered innocent if he sank and guilty if he floated.

In the witch-hunts of the 16th and 17th century, the scenario reversed: those who sank were innocent, and witches floated. Believers claimed witches floated because they had renounced baptism. In the Historia Litteraria, Jacob Rickius claimed they were supernaturally light, and recommended weighing them as an alternative to dunking them. James VI of Scotland claimed that water was such a pure element that it repelled the guilty. Witch trials by water occurred as late as 1728.

trial by boiling water

Aislin faced the ordeal of boiling water, in which Warrick tossed a ring into a cauldron. She had to recover the ring and prove her innocence.

In history, the boiling water had to be deep enough to cover the wrist of the accused if he was charged with one accusation, and up to the elbow for three. Afterwards, as with the trial by fire, the arm was bound and examined three days later. If the wound had healed within three days, God had intervened.

The Tir Athair series occurs in a medieval-based world, which has a basic belief in the singular God. However, since this is a fantasy world, instead of medieval Europe, there is no Christianity and no Catholic Church. The people face holy wars, inquisitions, trials by ordeal, and forced religion, but  accuracy to the tenets of Catholicism is not used. Instead I use artistic license. In addition, Tir Athair has the presence of natural magic, referred to as “the gift” in Athairan and Saoiran societies. Gifted people can harm, heal themselves, and heal others with the natural magic residing within them. Opinions about this magic vary from land to land; in some lands, they are considered cursed, and are burned for witchcraft. In others, the gift is feared and revered at the same time.

As Aislin faces her trial by boiling water, Warrick is ready to take her back as his ward and to control her as he desires. He offers her the opportunity to submit instead of undergoing the trial. The thing is… Aislin is guilty. But she knows she will be burned. In defiance of the judicial system and the Earl of Edurne, she plunges her arms into the cauldron.

Ordeal of the Cross

To discourage ordeals by combat among Germanic peoples, the church introduced ordeals of the cross. In this trial, the accuser underwent the ordeal with the accused. They stood on either side of a cross with their arms outstretched. The first to lower his arms lost. Charlemagne prescribed this ordeal in 779 and in 806, before Louis the Pious and Lothar I abolished it to avoid the mockery of Christ.

Ordeal of Ingestion

A priest blessed dry bread or cheese and gave it to the accused. If he choked on the food, he was considered guilty. This developed into the ordeal of the Eucharist, wherein the accused professed his innocence by oath before partaking of the sacrament. It was believed that if the oath had been false, the accused would die within the same year.

The ordeals involving ingestion of sacred food were unusually safe and merciful, but the ordeal of poison wasn’t always so.

Ordeal of Poison

trial by poison

Castor beans contain ricin, and paternoster peas contain abric acid. Both are toxins of the highest ranking. From medieval Europe to western Africa, these two seeds were used by trials of ordeal. The accused had to swallow them without dying. There was one caveat to the trial: the accused often lived if someone tipped them off and told them to swallow, not chew, to keep the poison contained within the seed’s hard coating.

In the 1800s, residents of Madagascar used the tangena nut, causing about 3,000 annual deaths between 1828 and 1861. Even in present-day Nigeria calabar bean is used to determine guilt. Innocent defendants vomit; the guilty become ill or die.

Ordeal of Boiling Oil

Similar to the trial of boiling water in Europe, the trial of boiling oil occurred in India and West Africa, requiring the accused to retrieve an item from a container of boiling oil. Those who refuse the task are guilty. Those who emerge unscathed are declared innocent. Though many “boil them in oil” jokes exist regarding medieval Europe, this rarely occurred. Oil was precious in those parts, and far too expensive for an ordeal that could be easier executed with holy water or hot iron. Similarly, oil was rarely poured through murder holes onto invading armies. Instead, they used boiling water or burning debris.

Aislin’s plot thickens as she plunges her hands into the water. Will she face execution for harboring Darrion, though Warrick tries to convince the jury that she is innocent and led by fear, so he can regain control over her? Will the water even burn her, and will she retrieve the ring, which has its own emotional history throughout the novel? And what of Shaila, who accused Darrion of the sin which got him ejected from Aislin’s house? She’s sitting on a bench, watching the entire thing. As is Sully, who orchestrated the entire arrangement between Darrion into Aislin. Gael also watches, the soldier who was left for dead by the Athairan army and has risen again to fight for justice. Oh yeah… and what about Darrion, who’s hanging above the square in a gibbet, forced to watch the entire trial as she throws herself into the cauldron?

Here is where I leave you with a mysterious smile and tell you to keep in touch. I promise, all will be answered with Vassal’s release.

Rebirth in Bethlehem

This story is written for AMMC: A Merry Minion Christmas. You can find the rules here:

Title: “Rebirth in Bethlehem”
Author: Marissa Ames
eBook: YES
Genre: Traditional/Religious

Dedicated to John, Bonnie, and their family. Thanks for all the love, support, and inspiration through these years.

Bethlehem-at-night-background

Mariam pressed against the sandstone wall and waited in the darkness. Soldiers marched past, their spiked sandals scraping the dry road. She pulled her scarf up over her head.

Men knew her kind on sight. Righteous women did not roam the streets of David’s City past midnight, in tattered robes and unshod feet. Women with homes were tucked safely inside right now.

Maybe the soldiers would ignore her. Maybe they would have some decency tonight. The Romans patrolled the growing crowds, as travelers sought lodging. Maybe they would let her pass.

Mariam pulled her robes tight around her as the spring wind blew in from the hills. Candles flickered above her. Chatter subsided as residents tugged on ropes, dropping thin carpets over the windows and blocking out the breeze.

Mariam left her refuge.

Travelers lined the streets fourfold. Just days ago, they crammed their families into the inns. Tonight, they slept on the road. When they saw her they threw crushed figs. Her kinfolk knew what she was. Daughter of the poor, she earned her bread the only way she knew. Irredeemable, they called her. Harlot, hopeless and damned.

She tented her scarf over her head and sprinted to another building.

Inside, publicans worked by candlelight, taxing per decree of Caesar. Though the travelers would leave once taxed, the Romans remained. They claimed they kept the peace. More often, they tormented the Jews, taking from them as they did within Rome.

The Messiah was supposed to redeem them from injustice such as this.

Mariam scoffed at the thought.

Moses had not been the Messiah. Nor had this Messiah come during Jerusalem’s capture by Assyria, or by Babylon. Nor during Ptolemy’s reign, and not now, during Herod’s. For millennia, the priests promised redemption by a Messiah.

Mariam decided long ago that the Messiah was not real, and would not come. If he did, he would not come for her. Salvation came for those who paid generous tithes at the temple. Not for the poor who could only offer a crust of bread.

Her stomach growled. Mariam wrapped her scarf tighter and ascended the streets toward the hills. She passed the natural caves at the edge of town.

Other meek and poor people gathered above the city. Tonight they kept vigil over the flocks. Ewes often foundered during birthing, and shepherds could save both ewe and lamb. They exchanged watch, some sleeping and others alert for the sounds of distressed ewes.

They smiled, hailed her, and offered a place by the fire. She accepted a crust of old bread, leaned back, and gazed at the sky.

“It’s new,” they said as she beheld a star brighter than the fullest moon. Downhill, the walls of Bethlehem reflected the light.

As Mariam stared, the star brightened. It grew nearer to the earth. Shepherds cried out in fear. Mariam toppled forward, pressing her forehead to the sand and clenching her crust of bread.

“Fear not,” a voice pulsed through the air. The rocks and trees echoed the words.

Mariam looked up.

A man stood in the air, dressed in luminescent white.

The shepherds raised their draped heads, staring and whispering, “Adonai.”

The man’s words reverberated into Mariam’s breast. He spoke of good tidings and great joy, unto all people. He said, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

A Savior? Another claim to the Messiah?

The shepherds exclaimed in wonder and pointed at the sky.

“Glory to God,” new and powerful voices said around them. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

The sky filled with men and women, all dressed in luminescent white. Beautiful, perfect beings that made her ashamed of her tattered clothing and stained soul… yet hopeful at the same time. Mariam rose to her feet.

The shepherds rose around her.

Singing praises to God, the shining people retreated into the night sky. The light dimmed, leaving the shepherds in simple starlight, afraid to speak.

One young boy started down the hill. Other shepherds followed. Mariam started forward, then stopped. The angels had told the righteous shepherds to go into Bethlehem. Not her.

A kindly old shepherd tugged on her sleeve. “Unto all men,” he said in a wavering voice still thick with awe. “And all women. Will you argue with God’s messengers?”

More shepherds descended the hill, leaving only enough people to watch the birthing ewes. They promised to bring word of what they found.

The angels had said the Messiah would be in a cave, not a temple or by Rachel’s Tomb. Not surrounded by riches.

As they passed into the upper city, where the caves held livestock, they heard a little cry.

Mariam stopped.

A lamb bleated, its voice soft and mewing.

She walked again.

This time, she heard the cry of a new baby who had just found his own voice. She slowly stepped into the cave to see two adults in the darkness. A woman, barely out of adolescence, lifted a baby from a manger and held him to her breast.

The mother looked up in alarm. Giving the shepherds a nervous smile, she said, “Will you come in?” Slowly and hesitantly, the shepherds accepted the offer. She brought the child down from his breast and lifted a corner of cloth. Shyly, she smiled up at the shepherds.

Mariam’s mouth went dry as she beheld the humble parents. They wore tattered robes, as she did, dirty from travel. Their feet were shod with sandals that were broken and tied together. They looked hungry.

Mariam still clenched the crust of bread. She took a timid step toward the mother and extended her hand. “It’s all I have to offer,” she whispered, watching her own dirty feet.

The mother’s fair hand met hers. “It’s enough,” she whispered back.

Read other stories from this project here:

Thomas’ New Coat

This story is written for AMMC: A Merry Minion Christmas. You can find the rules here:

Title: “Thomas’ New Coat”
Author: Marissa Ames
eBook: YES

Dedicated to Jeremy, Laurie, Miles, and Lily. Thanks for all the apples and yoga.

christmas carol

Thomas shivered in the sooty slush outside the workhouse. The February wind whipped sleet into his face. He wrapped his tattered coat about him, which had become too small in his year detained in the boys’ ward.

Thomas lived in the best of times and the worst of times. In the age of wisdom and foolishness, the rich lived in three-story brick houses. The poor lived in workhouses.

The door opened, and his mother appeared. Emma wore her own dress. Gone was the striped inmates’ uniform.

With teary eyes, Thomas slid on the slush and collided with his mother. She wrapped her arms around him.

“Can we stay away this time?” he begged. “Please?”

Thrice, Emma had discharged herself when she could be apart from Thomas no longer. Women lived separate from the men, and everyone separate from the children. Those three times, Emma left in her own dress, took Thomas to a park then returned by midnight. The workhouse promised food and shelter in return for hard labor. The streets promised starvation.

“Mama,” he said, peering through his tears. “Please, mama?”

With hands roughened by picking apart oakum, Emma combed through Thomas’ hair.

“I’ll pull carts in the mines,” Thomas said. “I can still be a chimney sweep. I haven’t grown much, really.”

Closing her eyes in her gaunt face, Emma nodded.

As a widowed seamstress, Emma had managed to feed Thomas. Slipping in the slush during pea soup fog, she had injured her arm. She could not pay rent. After nights weeping in decision, Emma took Thomas to the workhouse.

Thomas had a plan. First he would work as an errand boy. Then he’d be crossing sweeper, cleaning streets in front of rich ladies in exchange for tips. He would purchase matches to sell to passing shoppers. Thomas would enter the mines if he had no other choice. But, for his mother, he would work anywhere.

Offering domestic services in trade, Emma found a room in a London slum. Thomas worked as planned, waking before dawn and coming home late, with money for soup and suet.

As he worked he advertised his mother’s skills as a seamstress.

The owner of a new factory bought his matches. He had a job for Thomas’ mother, with the new sewing machines. Emma had only sewn with thread and needle, but she soon learned the machines, pushing the treadle with her foot. Only once did she sew over her own hand. Thomas worked within the same factory, carrying bolts of fabric. They worked twelve hours a day and returned together to their tiny room.

Thomas fell asleep fast. At night, his mother stitched by the single flickering flame of her lamp. Customers wanted coats with detail that only skilled seamstresses could provide.

One year after leaving the workhouse, Thomas wore the same tattered coat. Emma had purchased scraps of fabric from her employer. She had unpicked the seams of Thomas’ coat and added the fabric to expand the sleeves. He had decent shoes, replaced when the others disintegrated. The slush did not invade the leather.

Luxury stopped at new shoes. Emma was ill. On good days, she worked at the factory, coughing into a handkerchief to catch the blood. On bad days, she sweated in bed with a fever. Half of November, Emma had worked at the factory. Twenty-four days into December, she had not worked at all.

Thomas trekked to the factory daily, buying food on the way home. After work, he cleaned the tenement to pay rent. Each night, Emma apologized as she fumbled with needle and thread while propped up in bed.

Thomas told her it didn’t matter.

Emma fretted over Christmas. Last year, they resided in the workhouse. She couldn’t see him at Christmas. This year, she had promised a hot meal, with meat. Goose and figgy pudding, she said. She had promised it before she fell ill.

Emma had one match left. She used that last match to light a fire on Christmas morning, as snow fell in the streets.

Thomas held his only gift, complimenting how well Emma had wrapped it in old blankets. Warm from the fire, he unpicked the twine. Emma smiled weakly as he withdrew his new coat: thick, warm, and sturdy.

He slid his arms into the coat and hugged it around his body as his mother coughed blood into her handkerchief.

As Emma napped at midday, Thomas traversed the new slush of the London streets. What he sought lay ten streets away, where Thomas had worked before finding the factory. Now other boys worked there, sloshing in sooty slush and broken shoes.

“Do you have matches?” he asked.

A boy half his age looked up with sunken eyes. Nodding and shivering, he said, “You have to pay for them.”

A rag wrapped around the boy’s head, in lieu of a hat. His patched shirt hugged his body tightly. The boy wore no coat.

“I need them for my mother,” Thomas claimed. “She’s terribly ill.”

Shaking his head, the boy said with chattering teeth, “My father will beat me.”

Thomas needed those matches. He needed them for his mother, who kept him out of an orphanage simply by staying alive. Emma had taught him that he was better than no man, and no worse either. She taught him compassion and charity.

“Will you trade?” Thomas unbuttoned his coat. The boy’s eyes lit up.

As the boy donned the coat and rolled the sleeves up, Thomas took his matches and sprinted home, sliding in the slush.

His own teeth chattered as he opened the door. He found his old, tattered coat. Emma woke as a log dropped from his frozen fingers onto the floor.

“Where is your new coat?” she asked.

Thomas added the log to the fire. Then he took her frail hands in his and told her of the little match boy. Someone needed the coat, just as Emma needed the matches.

“I’m sorry, Mama,” he said, hoping for forgiveness. “I know you worked many nights on that coat.”

Tears filled Emma’s eyes. She spread her arms. As she embraced her son and his tattered coat, she whispered, “I worked harder to make you a good boy. You’ve given me the best Christmas present by proving you are one.”

Read other stories from this project here:

A Public Identity!

I’ve had two major steps in my author process.

mames

 

First of all, Minstrel is available on Amazon for pre-order, with a discount over $4. I also have a corresponding author page set up on Amazon. Feel free to click on the link to my author page and send me a “Like.”

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Minstrel Cover

Second, Minstrel is also available on Goodreads! If this is a work you are interested in reading, please indicate it by clicking the “Want to Read” button!

Thank you all for your support! The likes, links, and reposting are all noticed, and they mean so much to me.

6 Weeks til Minstrel

Minstrel Cover

In exactly 42 days, Minstrel will be available in eBook and print formats. Now that I type that out, it feels a lot longer than saying “six weeks.”

However, with projects going on like the Fall Flash Festival, AMMC, and the Jingle Bells anthology, those six weeks will probably fly by as we rush to make these deadlines. But these six weeks are going to be full of excitement and anticipation.

In two weeks, I’ll have a surprise to offer. This surprise will only be free on specific days. (No, it’s not Minstrel. We all have to wait until November 5th for that.) To keep updated, and know when you can snag this surprise, “like” and follow my Facebook page. I will only be posting the links on there!

Thank you! Now go out and enjoy those fall leaves.