Saturday, October 18, 2014

"The Blue Diamond" by P. S. Bartlett

The Blue Diamond
(The Razor's Edge Book 1)
by P. S. Bartlett

The Blue Diamond is currently on tour with Ravenswood Publishing. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Ivory Shepard didn't want to be a pirate when she grew up but she didn't plan on being orphaned and alone at thirteen with her three cousins either.
After a Spanish raid in Charles Towne left them with nothing, Ivory held her cousins together, trained them to fight for their lives and led them to a life of quiet refuge on the banks of the Ashley River. Out of reach of the hands of unscrupulous men, they found life on the farm a tolerable substitute for the traditional alternatives life would force onto them - until the night the pirates showed up.
Setting foot on that first pirate ship was nothing compared to the life of freedom and adventure awaiting them, once Ivory and the girls were through playing nice. Only one man believes he can stop her and he won't need a ship full of guns to do it.
If it were only that easy…

Chapter One
Ivory once said, "Bring me a lad with the right stuff, and I'll leave him even better," but that was long before she was found adrift and alone in a leaky longboat, rocking her way with the tide to the soft, white Jamaican shore. Her skin was the color of an angry sunset behind the white clouds of hair tossed about her face and shoulders. Too vacant and weak to move, she lay curled up in the bow of the vessel, clutching her razor in one hand and an empty rum bottle in the other.
Adrift in delirium, her battered hands reached forward, pressing against two golden gates, pushing them open with ease, until she heard several faint, panicked voices. They grew louder and stronger until she blinked, and the gates before her vanished. Up she floated into the air, until all she saw through her lidded eyes was the white sky growing closer and two strong, black arms lifting her from an early grave.
“Be still or be dead,” said the voice belonging to those arms, as he pulled the razor from her flaccid grip, folded it and slipped it into his sash.
Another voice spoke above her, “Is it she?”
“She has ears on her head, unless you have gone blind. Now shut up and check that boat for anything she may have carried with her.”
The next time her eyes opened, she was again in a longboat, but this time she was not alone. She felt the boat list, as two men jumped out into the surf and pulled it ashore. A moment later, Ivory’s limp body was draped across the sweaty, broad shoulders of one of the largest men she’d ever come upon. She cracked her eyes enough to see the world around her rise and fall with each step in the sand the giant took. She could barely remember her own name, let alone how long she’d been adrift before the tide so generously dumped her into the waiting arms of the next chapter of her life. She did, however, find something oddly familiar about the giant.
Trying to think exhausted her. In hopes of remembering, she closed her eyes. The next thing she knew, she was lying on a soft, down bed, naked, clean, and covered with a red satin sheet. That was many hours later.
“Good, you’re awake.”
She turned her head in the direction of the voice but had no recollection of the person from whom it came. She blinked several times, her body barely able to twitch in surprise at the sight of the far too pretty, well-dressed man seated in the chair to her left. Through her blurred vision, his thick, dark, curly hair, bronze complexion, and impeccably wrapped white satin neck scarf were clear enough. However, she was literally dying of thirst, and as such, at this moment, cared not as to who brought her the water, but only that there was…water.
“Water?” she whispered.
“Of course,” the man replied as he leapt to his feet and poured her a glass from a fine crystal pitcher. “Allow me,” he said, lifting her head from the pillow as he guided the goblet to the split between her scaled lips.
Once a single sip of water reached her tongue, she reached out, took the goblet, and poured the water into her mouth.
“Slow down now, love. Easy does it.”
Ivory pulled the empty goblet away from her lips, and slid her tongue out from between them. She swiped it from one corner of her mouth to the other before she pushed the goblet back into the man’s hand. “More?”
“Why, of course. You may have the sea in its entirety if that is what it will take to quench your thirst, love.”
“If the sea could have quenched my thirst, I wouldn’t be here, now would I?” she said in a rasp.
“Oh, you take me quite literally. I was simply making a…”
“Do not play at words with me, sir. Who are you, and where am I?”
Ivory sat up on her elbow, holding out the goblet as the red satin sheet slid down over her chest, catching itself on her blistered skin. She was grateful to be alive, yet as the water flowed into her blood and restarted her shriveling organs, her mind returned to life as well. Every brain cell reignited with the powerful instinct of suspicion as the man leaned in over the goblet to refill it, and she pulled it back.
“Do you think I’d poison you? I’d do no such thing,” he remarked with an exaggerated frown that appeared insincere, yet appalled at the same time. “If I wanted you dead, I certainly wouldn’t have had you brought here,” he said, pouring himself a glass.
“Don’t flatter yourself. I’m deciding if I want to live or die.”
“I believe that God has made that decision for you already.”
“Well, I believe He may have made a mistake.”
“Why would you say such a thing?” he asked, pulling her hand forward and filling the goblet without breaking her gaze. She did manage, however, to admire the large and rather unique rings he wore on nearly every finger.
“Sit down. I don’t like you hovering over me.”
“Of course, Madame—now, back to God and His mistaken act of sending my men to find you and your boat on the beach,” he said with a bow, sweeping his right arm across his body, yet still barely blinking and strangely unable to relinquish eye contact.
Ivory stared at the full goblet and tried to decide whether or not to continue replenishing her body, or to lie down and die. She imagined she wasn’t far from death anyway, when the memory of the gates before her appeared in her thoughts. Found me on the beach? A moment later, the goblet flew from her hand when she was startled by the hard pounce of huge, fluffy black cat with bright emerald eyes that leaped seemingly from some other dimension onto her chest. The Maine Coon weighed no less than twenty pounds and almost knocked the wind from Ivory’s lungs.
“Lasher, where are your manners?” her host chided the cat, standing to retrieve his darling pet. The cat let out a deep meow which lasted until his master sat back in his chair and settled the animal as it curled into his lap. “Pardon my boy, love, he was only saying hello. Just a moment and I’ll have that cleaned up for you. Roman?”
“Yes, sir?” said the young Jamaican man who stood just outside the doorway. He wore a powdered wig and a black waist coat and tails, complete with white gloves.
“Bring the young lady some dry sheets. It seems Lasher’s adoration of the element of surprise has caused Madame to spill her water.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Ivory stated firmly.
“Why? You’re soaked!”
“And it feels wonderful. It’s hotter than the fires of hell. You’ve been extremely kind, and I’d love to stay and chat, but I really should be going,” Ivory said, as she attempted to sit up and rise from the bed. She reached down and pulled the wet sheet around herself, pinching it at her side, but fell slowly back onto the bed.
“My dear, you’re not the least bit ready to go anywhere. Roman, get the sheets.”
Roman bowed and hurried off while the man lifted the goblet from the bed, refilled it, and placed it easily back in Ivory’s hand.
“Is he always so formally dressed?”
“I like to maintain a certain level of decorum and dignity. Roman doesn’t seem to mind, now does he? Drink. You’ll not die today under my watch—unless I say so.”
“Surely you jest? Neither you, nor any other man, have power over my life. Even God Himself did not kill me. You said yourself. He spared my life today.”
“God and the sea pushed you to safety, but it was I who saved your life.”
“Saving my life does not give you ownership of it, sir. Do not allow my weakened state to deceive you of what I have done, and can do, when called upon to stay alive.”
“Good. You’re obviously feeling better. You know, when they brought you to me I had my doubts as to your identity. Burned and dried like seaweed in the sun, and what was left of your skin pulled over your bones, perhaps only hours from being picked to bits by the birds.”
The man stood and reached into the breast pocket of his stark white, billowy shirt. Then, with a sigh, he checked his coat pocket, and with a satisfied smile, revealed an old weapon. And not only was it old—it was hers.
“Give me that,” Ivory shouted, rising back up to her elbows. She cursed beneath her breath that she hadn’t the strength to wring his swarthy neck, let alone rise from the bed.
“When my man gave me this, I drew closer to being convinced. However, in light of your, how shall I say it, bold and combative nature and that glimmer of fire I see there behind those blue eyes, I am honored to admit that you are, in fact, the one and only Madame Ivory Shepard. Also known as…the Razor.”
“Give me that you…”
“Unh, unh, unh…you get some rest now, love,” he said as he pulled out of her reach, tucked the razor into the front of his sash, and patted it. “I’ll keep this safe for you right here, close to my heart…or rather—well, never mind.”
Ivory rolled her eyes and said, “You obviously control the situation for now, but make no mistake. Unless your intentions are to tempt God’s will yourself, spare me your ridiculous puns and tell me where the hell I am.”
The man stepped to the door and pulled it open, “My dear Madame Razor…oh, I beg your pardon—Shepard! Why don't you get some rest? We’ll fill in the blanks for you after dinner.”
Still unable to stand, and angrier than a trampled nest of wasps, Ivory fell back and poured the remaining water over her face. I’ve got to get out of here. At least she was alive for now. Moment by moment, the feeling was returning to her extremities, and her thoughts were clearing enough to remember what happened to set her adrift and twist her fate.
“Hello! I’m here with your dry sheets, Madame,” said the meek, caramel skinned girl who knocked lightly and entered the room.
“You wouldn’t by chance have any clothes in that bundle, now would you?”
“No, Madame, only linens.”
“Good luck changing this bed with me in it.”
“I’ll manage.”
The young girl was much stronger than she appeared, and lifted and rolled Ivory with very little effort. At this point, however, there wasn’t much of her left to maneuver.
“What’s your name, girl?”
“Zara, Madame. I’ve brought some balm for your burns and wounds. Will you allow me to…?”
“I can do it myself.”
“I’m not permitted to allow that, Madame,” Zara stated, standing back with the jar of whatever concoction she’d carried in with her bundle. “Please, allow me. It does not appear you are able to do it anyway. Let me help you.”
“If you really want to help me, Zara, you’ll find me some clothes so that I can get the hell out of here.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, Madame, where the hell would you go?”
“Anywhere but here.”
“Yet, you know not where you are, correct?”
“But you do.”
“You don’t even know me, and yet you’d see me hanged? Or worse, marooned to suffer whatever fate that would await me, no?”
Crimes against women, whether or not they were criminals, were a tender spot for Ivory, and she went silent, reluctantly laying back while the girl smoothed handfuls of the homemade potion over the burned areas of her body. Her chest, her face, her forearms, and her lower legs suffered the most, but the balm soothed her almost immediately. It was cool and smelled like fresh cucumbers. Most of the wounds Ivory had suffered from the gun blasts aboard the Blue Diamond were superficial, and required only cleaning and time to heal.
“Allow the air to touch your skin for a while. I know there is not much of it in this room, but do not cover yourself completely until the balm sinks into your skin. No one will disturb you. The Captain has given orders that only he and I are allowed in this room alone.”
“The Captain?”
“I must go now.”
“Zara, wait, please. I can pay you,” Ivory whispered, reaching out her left hand and catching Zara by the wrist.
“You really would see me dead,” Zara whispered back, looking down at Ivory in contempt.
Ivory released her grasp, and her head fell back. Zara collected the damp sheets and her jar of magic and scurried out of the room. Ivory stared up at the ceiling, then raised her head slightly and glanced about at her surroundings. There were no windows, and the room was sparse; bare except for a dresser with a mirror, the ornate winged back chair in which that the so-called Captain had perched himself, and a side table where the pitcher and goblet sat. A two foot by two foot barred skylight was her only means of fresh air and a bit of sunlight.
Oh Ivory, what have you done…

Praise for the Book

Guest Post by the Author
The Kind of Writer I Want To Be
I’ve believed since I dedicated myself to this journey two years ago that I knew exactly what kind of writer I wanted to be. Since I wrote the first sentence of my first novel, that dedication hasn’t wavered.
I’ve had no formal training in this profession but I’ve done a ton of research, logged countless hours writing and I’ve dug in my heels. I’m not going anywhere.
I write fast. I think fast and once I set my sights on a goal I rarely give up unless I’m personally not satisfied with my level of performance or the quality of work I’m doing. So far, I see no reason to quit. As long as I keep breathing, moving, growing and evolving as a person, I’ll never stop.
It is important to me to produce quality books. Since I am still learning every day what that means to me and how it relates to my writing, I believe I can only keep improving. I’ve always loved writing and although I spent most of my adult life working, raising children and just trying to keep my boat right side up, I chose to put my aspirations on the back burner and take care of my family. I do not regret it one little bit. Through that journey, I learned so much about myself and gained volumes of experience at just being a human being. I’m proud of whom I’ve finally grown up to be and I need to be proud of the work I do too.
It’s a long road from writing your first page, to publishing. You will be knocked back more times than you can imagine. You’ll be told over and over again that your book “just isn’t what we’re looking for at this time.” Roadblock upon roadblock will rise up in front of you but you have to keep pushing on. Family problems, money shortages, day job, responsibilities and oh, that little thing called sleep will feel like a ball and chain at times but no matter what, you can’t give up. If being a published author is truly your calling or at the very least, your goal, allowing anything to stop you is not an option - no matter how long it takes or what road you take to get there.
The most important thing to me is that I write what I want to read. I want to write words that feel like warm butter on a hot roll. Words that get inside of you and either make you squirm or rise up inside of you and escape with a smile. Words that stick in your head and come to mind when you least expect it. I want to write stories that when you close the book, you want more. The reason I know how important writing what I want to read is, is because I’ve tried writing stories that may fall into one of the hot selling genres and I couldn’t get through the first chapter. You’ll know you’re writing what you want to read, when closing your laptop feels like kicking a heroin addiction.
I don’t want to write about what everyone else is writing about. I don’t need to sit at the cool kids table to feel good about myself. I know there are lots of genres and I know which ones sell the most. No, I’m not crazy and of course I want to make money and be able to write full time but I have to do it in a way I feel good about inside. I have to do it on my own terms. I have to tell a good story with characters you want to meet and know, and talk to again and again. I believe at some point I’ll be able to put almost anything into words but it has to be my anything, not what’s hot at the moment and not just because I want to be with the in crowd. My readers are out there and as long as I keep looking, I’ll find them and they’ll find me.
I want to stand out. I have this crazy dream that my stories will one day be considered as some of the best ever. I’ll stand by that. I believe that and soon, I’ll live that.

About the Author
Award winning author, P. S. Bartlett, was born on Valentine's Day many moons ago in South Baltimore, Maryland, less than a mile from Fort McHenry and Federal Hill.
Her first novel, Fireflies, was published with GMTA Publishing in 2013 and the prequel, HopeFrom the Ocean, was published in March of 2014. She loves history and historical fiction. She gets her history fix via movies, television and of course, books although she enjoys reading almost every genre.
Her motto is: "I'm taking a fantastic voyage. Won't you join me?"

Enter the giveaway for a chance to win an ebook copy of The Blue Diamond by P. S. Bartlett.