A Scene in the Forum

forum

Image of Rome’s Forum circa 312 AD. A rendering developed through the auspices of the University of Texas, Austin. See http://teachingwithoutpants.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-ruin-of-rome-or-something-happened.html

Once the priests had offered prayers and the sacrifices had been made, the crowd moved slowly outside. With his arm firmly wrapped around Caerwin’s waist, Marcellus stopped on the temple steps looking over the brightly garbed crowds still thronging the plaza. Surrounding the Forum, the great temples, statues, and official buildings of the Roman Empire stood like sentinels. Fountains splashed in brilliant sunlight. In the distance, the hills of Rome gleamed with their buildings, streets, and greenery.

Nothing in her life had been this overpowering. The city, the empire, all of it seemed summed up in this man standing beside her with his strength and beauty, his internal conflicts and passions. His easy use of violence. His knowledge of all things. His absolute power to conquer and hold her.

They descended the steps and walked a short distance. His head turned sharply and he looked down on her as if to speak. His face, which had become thinner in the last weeks, lightened with a tender expression. For a breathless moment, Caerwin thought he would kiss her or speak words of love.

She would say what she longed to say. “Marcellus, I…”

His gaze shifted to a person standing nearby and his face hardened. “Vedius,” he said, raising his voice over the clamor. “Yo Saturnalia!”

Excerpted from Caerwin & Marcellus, the sequel to Caerwin and the Roman Dog. Coming soon! Watch for a special offer.

Advertisements

Caerwin and Marcellus

CII banner

COMING SOON! Release date to be announced soon.

Finished! A week ago, I finished writing the last page of the second novel about Caerwin. I’ve been sad ever since. How do you live with two compelling characters for over two years and not get attached? I’ve watched them grow, fight, suffer, and grow some more. Now they become part of my past. I’ll miss them.

Truth be told, I’ll miss more than Caerwin, Marcellus, and supporting cast. I’ve been immersed in Imperial Rome with all its triumphs, perversions, violence, and accomplishments. The fascinating world that was Rome endured a thousand years. Looking back on those years, the progress of their culture, and the countless ways in which we today follow in their footsteps is both depressing and exhilarating. It’s impossible to imagine where we would be today without Rome.

While I sing Rome’s praises, I also recognize how much better we are today than the people of Rome. For one thing, we don’t accept slavery as the norm. Rome’s social class system included the ‘noble’ classes (patricians and equestrians) who considered work beneath them. They held the bulk of the empire’s wealth, controlled its government and industries, and owned both city houses and country villas. The plebian class, roughly equivalent to our middle class, were the freeborn men or freedmen who worked every day to sustain the modest circumstances in which they lived.

Then there were the slaves, vast numbers of persons captured in Rome’s relentless military expansion over most of the known world. Wealthy household might have as many as 300 slaves. Slaves were like livestock or furniture–zero rights. Could be raped, branded, or killed without consequence. Yet they could also become part of a family, cared for, and often freed to live as freedmen (and women).

So while we can thank Rome for establishing the foundations of our legal system, our economic system, our tradition of the arts, social customs, and more, we can also thank the people who came after–from the Dark Ages to the Middle Ages to the Renaissance and down to those who fight each generation for better working conditions, more social justice, refinements of law and wage equity for the conditions we live in today. It’s a sobering perspective.

And this, dear friends, is why writing historical fiction will always be part of my writing experience.

Caerwin II – work in progress

DSC_7914.NEF

Dear Readers — I haven’t forgotten about you! Thanks for all the great reviews on Caerwin and the Roman Dog. Just to show my appreciation, here’s an excerpt from the second novel in the Caerwin series. Love, Liz

Her horse spun as she wheeled around trying to stay outside the reach of the attackers. By now Marcellus and the legionaries had dismounted to form into tight knots, fighting outwards with their backs together. As she watched, one after another of the thugs fell back clutching mortal wounds.

A man ran up to her and seized her horse’s bridle. A dense beard covered his lower face. He wore a dark cloak thrown over his shoulder. A knife glinted in his hand. She plunged her boot into his chest. He grabbed her foot, but she yanked away. She kicked the horse’s sides but the man’s grip didn’t relent.

Another man appeared on the other side of her horse. “Your gold,” he yelled in coarse Latin. “Give it.”

“Curses on you!” she shouted, trying again to pull her horse free.

The horse circled the man, rearing as she kicked its sides. Its front hooves nicked the man’s legs coming down and the man cursed as he lost his hold on the bridle. The second man grabbed her clothes as he tried to pull her from the horse.

Caerwin leaned forward to urge the horse to run, but the first man grabbed her leg and pulled her from the horse. She fell sideways, hitting the ground hard on her side. For a moment, she couldn’t breathe.

He stood over her with his knife held to her throat.

“We’ll take it then,” he said, crouching beside her.

She felt the knife blade press her skin. She watched him with a strange detachment. His breath stank. A scar marked his cheek. His hair hung around his face in oily strands. Yet there seemed to be some questioning in his stare. He hesitated.

“You’re of the tribes, are you not?” he said. As he spoke, the other man seized the familiar gold band. It yielded to his grasp, twisting off her neck. Visions of the salt man rose in her mind. This time she had no knife to defend herself.

The second man’s hands skimmed her breasts and down past her waist as he searched for more valuables.

“She’s got nothing,” he said.

“Go on then,” the first man said.

The second man ran away with her torque. Sounds of fighting continued. Dimly, she heard men shouting from the woods. Had all the legionaries died? Had Marcellus?

“Are you of the tribes?” the first man repeated.

“Cornovii,” she said hoarsely. “Of Britannia.”

His eyes flickered. She had thought he would mount her, but he stood up, holding the knife loosely as if he hadn’t decided what to do. She licked her lips.

He turned at the sound of a horse approaching at full gallop. Before she could speak, before she could even comprehend what was happening, a sword flashed through the air and the man’s head flew off his body. His torso bent slightly as he fell backwards.

The horse’s hooves skidded to a stop, throwing up dirt. In moments Marcellus knelt beside her, his eyes black as night.

“Are you harmed?” he said.

Stay tuned for more excerpts as this project rolls forward! So excited to see what happens next!

New Release Giveaway!

hair pull copy

 

Three signed copies of Caerwin and the Roman Dog will be given away at the end of the Goodreads Giveaway Event! From now through December 1, you can sign up for your chance to win a copy at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27235437-caerwin-and-the-roman-dog

This is a completely free, no obligation event.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy vs Historical Fiction — What’s the Shared Ground?

braid promo copyI think every reader shares a fascination with alternate worlds. Thus the appeal of not only science fiction and fantasy but also historical fiction. In Caerwin and the Roman Dog, I explore the past as it existed at the height of the Roman Empire and the end of Celtic control over Britannia.

In my work over the last year in putting this novel together, I reached the obvious conclusion that research is the key to authoring a good book. It doesn’t matter if the story centers in the past or the future, or even in the present day. Building a believable setting where the characters will interact means making sure that the ‘world-building’ is effective. What did they eat? What was the weather? What were their daily routines?

In my novel, the setting is the Shropshire area of England, a place near the River Severn that borders Wales. Elusive mists shroud ancient hillforts where Rome’s legions pursue their conquest of the native tribes. Despite greater numbers, native warriors wield weapons and armor far inferior to Roman arms. (Details of Roman armor can be seen on my “Romans” Pinterest page.) The biggest difference, however, rests in Rome’s military organization—the army functions like a well-oiled machine.

It’s fascinating to study the chain of command that Rome perfected and which is used by today’s writers even in the most far-flung fictional world of the future. Obedience to the command hierarchy and to the operational rules of a legion creates a strict dynamic for any character caught up in that reality. In my story, that character is Marcellus. As the book opens with Legio XIV’s assault against the Cornovii tribe, the tribe’s defenses have been breached and action quickly devolves to a mop-up operation. Marcellus rounds the hillfort perimeter and spots a young woman, Caerwin, trying to make her escape. Instantly enchanted, he brings her back to camp and embarks on seduction.

And yes, in the midst of its historical action and setting, this novel is a sexy romance with a big dollop of BDSM.

At any time of man’s history or future, the introduction of an attractive woman into a man’s camp is certain to cause trouble. But Marcellus’ infatuation with a blue-eyed Cornovii princess takes second place when his superior officer succumbs to his battle wounds. His death propels Marcellus to sudden promotion as the legion’s commander. He’s not of the regular army serving a twenty-plus year term, but rather a young professional of privileged rank meant to gain a taste of military life before returning to serve Rome’s senatorial or merchant class. His crisis isn’t just rebellious tribunes or a young woman he can’t get out of his mind, but also the heavy burden of responsibility that comes with leading a force of ten thousand men in a hostile wilderness.

The struggle for Caerwin focuses on her stubborn refusal to accept her change of circumstance. No longer part of her ancestral family and tribe, she’s suddenly enslaved to a Roman commander. Can anyone ever come to terms with such a loss of freedom, family, and home?

The greater context encompasses two worlds. Dying on the Roman sword are the ancient traditions of Britain’s Celtic tribes: allegiance to spirits embodied in springs, rivers, hills, trees, and other natural elements, a social order strongly resembling modern democracy, and advanced skills in metallurgy and weaving, to name a few. Many of the mysteries of that world are lost forever because the Celts did not have a written language. Building a fictional world based on this relative dearth of information forces an author deep into archaeological records.

At the time of our story, the last one hundred years since the triumph of Julius Caesar has seen the erosion of Rome’s early republican political system. In its place is a sprawling empire under the sole control of its emperor. The Senate has been reduced to a rubber-stamp function in state affairs. Appetites of all kinds are indulged in hedonistic lifestyles, and this reality shows up in the backstory of some of our characters.

Rome depends on its army and the conquest of new lands to produce its wealth including precious metals and gems, agricultural bounty, and that ever useful commodity, slaves. Since the initial invasion of Britannia in 43 A.D., Emperor Claudius has made it clear to his governor that the four legions under his command must subdue and occupy this island and seize its treasures for the greater glory of Rome. Marcellus has no options. Even in a foreign winter’s cold, he must lead his troops on search and destroy missions.

Restrained in his bedchamber, Caerwin awaits his return knowing that he spills the blood of her people. She hates him. And yet, because he has favored her with his affections, she fares far better than the rest of her fellow countrymen. How does she negotiate that conflict? What is the emotional toll in knowing that she is the survivor? Can a vulnerable young woman resist her body’s urges at the hands of an experienced lover?

Caerwin can never return to the home and family she once knew, but she can at least plan to escape the hated bonds of Roman captivity in the hope of living again among others of her own kind. Will she attempt such a dangerous venture?

Much as he is drawn to this rebellious young queen, Marcellus can’t walk away from his duty to Rome. The concessions he makes to Caerwin soon result in mutterings among his tribunes. Personal and professional crisis ensues.

*✩* 99¢ PRE-ORDER now through November 9, 2015 *✩*

Amazon → http://www.amazon.com/dp/B016LA6ZVA

Originally posted at http://jimbossffreviews.blogspot.com/2015/10/guest-post-lizzie-ashworth.html

Caerwin and the Roman Dog

Caerwin cover*✩* 99¢ PRE-ORDER now through November 9 *✩*

Set in 47 AD, the story centers on a young Cornovii princess—Caerwin—who watches from the rocky battlements of her tribe’s hillfort as Rome’s legions approach. Devastation ensues as the Roman phalanx crushes Briton’s valiant warriors. Captured and held in Roman camp, she faces Legate Marcellus Antistius who makes it clear she will submit to his demands. In spite of her resistance, he forces her pleasure. She begs to die.

Caught between his increasing infatuation with this Briton princess and the demands of his military command, Marcellus must come to terms with his past.

A fiery novel of domination and submission, this historical romance follows Caerwin as she refuses to come to terms with her new reality: life as she knew it is over. Forever. In its place stands a man she can never love.

Excerpt:

The man she had seen on the white horse paused in the opening. His stare fastened on her and sent chills down her spine. He stood taller than the other men, his body of a stature more like her own people than these rat men of Rome. His layered metal vest had been removed as had his helmet and other outer garments, so that he wore only loose breeches that ended at his knees. She swallowed, casting her eyes away after her first long frozen moment.

“Do you like what you see?” he asked quietly.

The words shocked her, spoken fluently her familiar language. She turned to face him. Words rose to her lips but remained unspoken. He examined her, openly casting his gaze up and down her body as if he owned her. The terrible realization struck her—he did own her. She had been caught up at his command and now stood captive to his whim.

She spat in his direction and turned her face away. Tugging against the tight leather bonds, she succeeded only in chafing her wrists. Her nerves heightened to brittle pitch as she sensed him approaching. She knew what he would do, what such men did to captured women.

He placed himself in front of her, so close she could not look away without seeing his chest. His scent stung her nose, sharp and edged with the copper hint of blood. Stains marked his arms and face, sweat-encrusted dirt and smears of blood. His voice startled her, so close and so quiet.

“What is this trinket?” he asked, fingering the torque.

She glared at him. “Shall you steal it from me like you have stolen our lives and our land?”

“I wish only to converse with you, to ease this friendship we’ve started.”

She snorted and strained at the bonds holding her. “I wish only to kill you. I would leave your body for the crows.”

He grabbed her face and held her still while his mouth tasted her. His lips moved against her lips. His tongue sought the seam and when she refused to spread her jaw, he bit her lower lip. Her shocked cry gave him entry, and his tongue invaded her mouth, probing and pushing.

Hate rose in her chest, blinding her. She clamped her teeth down on his tongue, savoring a brief taste of blood as he jerked back.

Vipera!” He wiped his hand over his mouth. “You won’t win this battle, but if you wish a contest…” His big hand closed over the neck of her garment and ripped it down the front of her body. The beautiful woolen dress she had so carefully woven hung off her shoulders.

“I will have you,” he said in a hoarse voice. “Whether you wish it or not. Let the others portion out the gold and silver, whatever meager wealth your tribe held. I have wealth enough in coin. You with your hair like copper,” he added, fingering her long braid, “your eyes blue as sky—you are my pillage for this day.”

Evening damp had risen from the nearby river, and the cool air hit her exposed skin like a slap. She refused to look down on her nakedness or to meet his smirking gaze as he made a show of his careful examination. He pinched her nipples and probed the thatch of red hair between her legs.

“A virgin?” He laughed, pressing his finger deeper. “I’m surprised you’ve reached such an age without marriage. I will find much pleasure in this.”

She flinched at his intrusion. Were it not for the ties binding her ankles and wrists, she would have flown at him and gouged out his eyes. She cursed him, calling down the wrath of gods on him and his company.

“Your gods won’t help you,” he said, removing his finger and inspecting the faintly-red stain. “I’m your god now.”

Amazon → Buy link

Caerwin and the Roman Dog

Roman-Soldier-Horse350

I’m so excited to finish my first draft of a new novel! Set in 47 AD, the story follows a young Briton woman caught up in her tribe’s struggle to fend off Roman invaders.

Here’s a scene from the early pages of the book:

Horses appeared at the edge of the clearing. A white horse came first, a massive beast draped with red saddlecloth and gold ornamented breastplate and bearing a man of Roman rank. His red cloak swirled and the red plume cresting his fearsome helmet bristled as he pulled his horse short. Two dark horses came up on either side, also mounted by cavalrymen cloaked in the hated Roman red and bearing weapons of war. They held their shields close on their bared thighs and carried short swords dripping with the blood of her kinsmen.

For a long frozen moment, Caerwin stood without moving as her eyes locked with the dark stare of the man on the white horse. As if the ground could swallow her. As if she could summon the powers of the ancient ones and rise to the sky to fly away.

As if he spoke to her in some forgotten language.

Motioning toward her, he shouted words she did not understand. Immediately one of the men at his side kicked his horse forward. He came directly toward her, galloping across the clearing.

Virico’s ghost whispered in her ear. Run, Sister. We are dead.

Caerwin dropped the bucket and ran. She leapt over rocks and thickets of dog violet, struggling for balance along the precipitous slope. Her feet flew over the ground as the sound of hoof beats came ever nearer. Plunging into thickets of young rowan and yellow-blooming broom too dense for a man on horseback, she ignored the gorse thorns tearing at her flesh and deftly wove her steps southward across the familiar landscape.

Blood pounded in her ears. She would escape to the river and float downstream to the caves. She could hide there, wait until danger had passed then return to help the survivors. She ran headlong, ignoring the lash of limbs and stones that bruised her feet. The ground dropped sharply. She gasped for air, dodging side to side to keep from tumbling headfirst off the incline.

She strained to hear hoof beats over her ragged breath and pounding heart. She risked a glance toward the hilltop as she broke free from the thicket of gorse. Smoke rose in thick black plumes.

Strong arms grasped her midsection and hauled her upward. In one unceremonious thrust that knocked the breath from her lungs, the Roman hauled her belly down against his battle-stained thighs. He stank of gore and sweat.

“No!” she shouted, fighting against his grip as he swung the horse around. She cursed him, pounding his legs with her fists.

He pressed her down against the horse’s withers and made no response to her insults. As they galloped back, she twisted and fought against his grip. His strange words issued in a torrent then a hard blow struck her head. Light flashed across her eyes. Then her eyes stared and saw nothing.

Stay tuned for the final version, coming soon!