Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Scent of the Soul" by Julie Doherty

Scent of the Soul
by Julie Doherty

Scent of the Soul is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my interview with the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

In twelfth century Scotland, it took a half-Gael with a Viking name to restore the clans to their rightful lands. Once an exile, Somerled the Mighty now dominates the west. He’s making alliances, expanding his territory, and proposing marriage to the Manx princess.
It’s a bad time to fall for Breagha, a torc-wearing slave with a supernatural sense of smell.
Somerled resists the intense attraction to a woman who offers no political gain, and he won’t have a mistress making demands on him while he’s negotiating a marriage his people need. Besides, Breagha belongs to a rival king, one whose fresh alliance Somerled can’t afford to lose.
It’s when Breagha vanishes that Somerled realizes just how much he needs her. He abandons his marriage plans to search for her, unprepared for the evil lurking in the shadowy recesses of Ireland - a lustful demon who will stop at nothing to keep Breagha for himself.

Book Video

As Godred’s oarsmen shoved off from the jetty, Somerled wondered if there was any man less suitable to deliver a marriage proposal. Godred of Dublin was coarse, marginally Christian—indeed, marginally sane—and easily riled. Nevertheless, King Olaf liked him, and for that reason alone, Somerled had selected him as his envoy.
“No side trips,” Somerled shouted before Godred was too far away to hear. “Ye have three places to go and that’s it: the Isle of Man, your clan, and back here.” Godred was prone to unscheduled detours.
Unless bad weather or the scent of easy plunder pulled Godred and his thirty oarsmen off course, Somerled would have Olaf’s answer in a few days. If Olaf agreed to the marriage, Somerled would add a wife to the items decorating his new castle at Finlaggan and eventually, the Isle of Man to his expanding area of influence.
The nobles would respect him then. Half-breed or not.
Behind him, a door squealed on one of the two guardhouses standing sentinel over the Sound of Islay. The small building spat out Hakon, his chief guard, another man of Dublin birth and temperament. Hakon strode the length of the jetty to join him. “I have every confidence the Norns will weave Godred a successful journey, my lord king,” he said, his words puffing white clouds above his tawny sheepskin cape.
“If your goddesses have woven anything, it’s an unfortunate headwind,” Somerled said. “Godred is forced to tack.” He closed his cloak and secured it at his throat with a brooch he once plucked from a Viking who no longer needed it. “The wind promises hail. My proposal will be delayed.”
“Aye, likely,” Hakon said, his hair and beard whipping into copper clouds, “but it will hasten Olaf’s reply. Do not despair, my lord. Ragnhilde will marry ye soon enough.”
Despair? Somerled stifled a laugh. Did Hakon think he had feelings for a lassie he had never met? He was about to tease his guard about being a romantic when Hakon stiffened.
“Another ship,” Hakon said, looking past Somerled’s shoulder.
Somerled spun around to inspect the northwestern waters of the channel separating Jura and Islay—the jewel of the Hebrides and the island that served as the seat of his burgeoning kingdom. “Where?” he asked, squinting.
Hakon thrust a finger toward the fog bank blanketing the horizon. “There, at the promontory, in that pale blue strip of water. See it?”
At first, Somerled saw nothing but swooping terns and ranks of swells. Then, an unadorned sail appeared. It crested on a wave, dipped low, and vanished.
“Should I sound the horn?” Hakon asked.
Somerled raked his fingers through the coarse, wheaten mess slapping at his eyes and held it at his nape while he considered his response. Behind them, the signal tower on Ben Vicar was smoke-free. Across the sound, the towers on the frosty Paps of Jura were likewise unlit, although clouds partially obscured their peaks. The Paps had a commanding view. If a signal fire blazed anywhere, the men stationed there would have seen it and lit their own.
“My lord king, should I sound the horn?” Hakon impatiently palmed the battle horn dangling at his broad chest.
Men began to gather on the jetty.
“Let us wait. It is only one ship, and it looks to be a trader. The signal fires would blaze by now if it were someone worthy of our concern.” Somerled glanced back at the mud and thatch cottages shouldering against one another. At their doors, the bows of half his impressive fleet rested on the shoreline, a sandy slip extending well into the distance. The rest of his ships sheltered at the far side of Islay, in Loch Indaal. A signal fire would deploy them quickly and, perhaps, needlessly.
“Alert the village. Have Cormac ready Dragon’s Claw,” he said, “but send only the nyvaigs for now.” The nyvaigs were smaller, but no less deadly. They would be out and back quickly.
Hakon sprinted through the gathering crowd and past the guardhouses. He leapt over a pile of rocks with surprising agility for a man of his years and size. In no time, specialized warriors and oarsmen were boarding the boats. A pony thundered inland, its rider instructed to warn, not panic, the people of Finlaggan.
Though Somerled carried his mighty sword, he had dressed for warmth, not battle. His mail shirt, aketon, and helmet hung in his bedchamber, two miles away in Finlaggan. He singled out a boy in the crowd. “Lad, find me a helmet and a shield, and be quick about it.”
The boy shot like an arrow toward the cottages.
Somerled held his breath as he watched the nyvaigs head out. At the first flash of steel, he would blow the battle horn. His men would light the towers and he would board Dragon’s Claw. The foreigner would be sorry he entered the Sound of Islay.
The ship’s features were barely discernible, but he could see that its high prow lacked a figurehead. He was trying to identify the banner fluttering on its masthead when the ship’s sail dropped and scattered gulls like chaff in the wind. His heart hammered against his chest as he waited for the foreign vessel to sprout oars; it didn’t. It stalled—a sign its crew had dropped anchor.
Dragon’s Claw bobbed next to him at the jetty, her top rail lined with colorful shields and her benches holding sixty-four of his savage warriors. Cormac gripped the tiller, but he would move aside when Somerled barked the order to do so. He would serve as his own shipmaster in the face of an enemy.
Low and curvy with a dragon’s head exhaling oaken flames from her prow, Dragon’s Claw was his favorite vessel, not because she was new or particularly seaworthy, but because he had wrenched her from the last Viking to leave his father’s lands.
The memory of that battle warmed him and occupied his thoughts while the nyvaigs swarmed around the foreigner. Then, they swung about, furled their sails, and rowed for home like many-legged insects skittering on the water’s surface.
When the boats reached the beach, Hakon jumped from his nyvaig and jogged through ankle-deep water, apparently too impatient to wait for his men to haul the vessel’s keel onto the sand. “Well, my lord king,” he said, “it seems to be the day for marriage proposals. It is an envoy from Moray, who comes at the behest of Malcolm. He asks to speak with ye regarding Bethoc.”
“Malcolm MacHeth ... the Malcolm MacHeth ... wants my sister?”
He had met Malcolm MacHeth only once, at King David’s court, on a night spoiled by ill-bred lassies who had mocked his foreign garb and speech. Malcolm, a bastard nephew of the Scots king, had observed his humiliation and pretended not to notice.
Yet here was Malcolm of Moray, a claimant to the Scottish throne and a known rebel, seeking Bethoc’s hand in marriage. Tainted bloodline or not, Somerled was apparently worthy of notice now.

Praise for the Book
"Suspense, adventure, a dash of history and a pinch of romance – my perfect recipe for a great book!" ~ J. K. Walsh
"I live in Scotland, and I was very intrigued by the premise of this novel. There has been too little written about the mighty Somerled, and this is a well realised depiction of an extraordinary heroic character from our Scottish History, spiced liberally with romance. Perfect." ~ Amazon Customer
"This genre-bending novel grabbed me right from the start and wouldn't let go until I finished. [...] The author's extensive research is evident in the descriptions of daily life, battle scenes, landscape, language, and more. But it is a fictional love story, and more than that - it even includes elements of the supernatural! History, romance, and fantasy are seamlessly woven together. Another plus is the author's style. I hate wordiness and prefer to read writing that gives you the sense that every word was carefully chosen. Not a word is wasted in this novel. Do not blink or you'll miss something! There is more to come from this author and I can hardly wait to see how the story continues." ~ E. Davis
"This is one of those 'can't put it down' books. Scent of the Soul held my attention captive from the first chapter and would not let go until the last. [...] The history and folklore made for an exceptional read. Don't miss this one folks!!" ~ clara schlegel
"I’m not going to ruin it for you by giving you any details, but suffice to say you will not be disappointed. Ms. Doherty has a winner with Scent of the Soul and I can’t wait to read more from this author." ~ SK

Interview with the Author
Hi Julie, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, Scent of the Soul.
Thank you for inviting me.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
I would recommend it to mature readers only because of language and content.
What sparked the idea for this book?
It sparked in stages. The first stage occurred at a gas station while I was waiting in line to pay. A man stepped into line behind me, and I felt this incredible energy emanating from him. It was really strange, because he was not the sort of guy I’d ever notice. In fact, if I met him in an alley, I’d run the other way, but as he stood behind me, I could feel the heat of him against my back. It’s been about twenty years since that happened, and I’ve never forgotten the power of it. I’ve often wondered why I found him so magnetic. There was nothing sexual about it - just a magnetic pull, like I already knew him somehow. Were we soul mates in a past life? Were our lives somehow meant to connect? I’ll never find out, because I paid for my gas and ran out of there like my pants were on fire. It’s crazy, I know, but it led to the question: what would happen if someone bumped into a soul mate from a past life? How would we recognize him/her?
It wasn’t until later that I decided to write a novel featuring reuniting soul mates. I was researching my ancestry at the time, and I came across Somerled of Argyll. Although much of his story has been lost to time, we know he was a hero long before Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. In fact, he’s the progenitor of many of the Highland clans so popular in fiction today. Without him, those clans may have disappeared altogether, since it was Somerled who wrenched Scottish lands from the hands of the Vikings.
I combined the "soul mate recognition" spark with Somerled, threw in a little supernatural scenting ability, and Scent of the Soul was born. Readers will recognize the "gas station event" in the scene where Somerled appears behind Breagha in the slave corner.
Sounds great! So, which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
In this case, it was the idea for the novel. The character’s story had to be developed later, because he was an actual person. I had to pick out known events of Somerled’s life and weave the supernatural threads among them.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
The hardest part was typing the words "THE END", because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to my characters. Starting a new novel felt like a betrayal. This happens to me every time I finish a book. I’ve learned to allow myself a short grieving period.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
As readers turn the pages, I hope they feel like they’re on a beautiful journey. I want to show them places they’ve never seen before, and maybe teach them something about history and themselves along the way.
Wonderful. How long did it take you to write this book?
Years, but only because the first draft was a total trough of swamp muck. I had to slow down and learn about the craft of writing before starting over. Once I got underway again, it took me about a year to finish the second draft.
What is your writing routine?
Up at 5:00 am to squeeze in two hours before leaving for the day job thirty-five miles from home. Then, writing in my car during lunch (while stuffing a sandwich down my throat), and writing all evening and every weekend. In fact, as I type this (Saturday), I am sitting in the car at an antiques store while my husband browses inside. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof, no makeup, haven’t even brushed my hair:
Thanks for that! (Hang on, you just let everyone know you're not actually here ...) How did you get your book published?
My queries on this novel netted a 20% request rate. I signed with the fabulous Francine Edelman, who sold my story to Soul Mate Publishing.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Run. Unless you are prepared for a long haul. Then, by all means, stick with it. But banish the image you have in your head that features you, the published author, strutting around like a pampered celebrity. That’s a complete fantasy. Today’s author is expected to handle at least some of her own marketing, if not all, and that takes time, baby. Time is the one thing you won’t have much of, since most authors can’t afford to quit their day jobs. I just gave my neighbors their Christmas presents. At Easter. That is the state of an author’s life.
Also, you will have to develop a thick skin. You know the book that you ate, slept, and bled out of your very pores for the guts of a year? Yeah, there will be people who hate it, and some will be downright caustic about it. You’ll have to somehow take it on the chin, allow the good reviews to feed your muse, and ignore the voices in your head that say you suck so much you should probably fling yourself off the closest bridge.
All 5-star reviews for you so far! What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I seem to remember that I liked shooting longbow, hiking, and spending time at my cabin. Nowadays, if I did any of those things, I’d probably be taking notes for future scenes.
What does your family think of your writing?
I am blessed with unbelievably supportive family and friends. I couldn’t do this without their backing. Of course, my husband has yet to read any of my books. In some ways, I’m glad. If he knew the depth of depravity I’m capable of imagining, he may never want to sleep beside me again.
He may want to now, after reading that! Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I was born the first girl after four rotten boys who had no interest in dragging me along on their adventures (probably why I’m still alive), so I had to use my imagination for entertainment. I spent a lot of time hiking up and down the ridges surrounding our Pennsylvania home, and I remember thinking how cool it would be to find a hidden Indian tribe or a deer that could talk. This probably grew into the "what if" method I use today as a writer. What if I went for a walk and stumbled across a forgotten tribe? What if a deer stepped out of the mist and told me I had a week to live?
Did you like reading when you were a child?
I loved it, especially Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series.
Me, too! When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I always loved writing, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that I started thinking about writing a novel.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Absolutely! A girl can’t grow up among four boys without learning how to survive. Some of the events of my childhood are completely plot-worthy.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
I love Bernard Cornwell, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, and Stephen King. That’s an odd combination, I know, but truly, I have learned something from each of them.
Do you hear from your readers much?
Not many, and that pains me! By putting this novel out there, I’ve essentially stripped naked and skipped down Main Street. Put me out of my misery and let me know you liked it, okay?
Sorry, I haven't read it yet, but the reviews so far are great! What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I’ve signed with Soul Mate Publishing for the release of my second novel, Scattered Seeds. This is a story of emigration and hardship. It follows two of Somerled’s impoverished descendants as they flee Ireland with the one valuable left to them - a gold torc that once belonged to Somerled himself.
My third novel is in progress. It features Somerled’s contemporary descendant, who unearths a gold torc on her Pennsylvania farm. Curious about its origins, she travels to Scotland to investigate - and finds more than she bargained for.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Julie. Best of luck with your future projects.
Thank you for having me. I know blogging takes a great deal of time. I appreciate your dedication and the opportunity to appear here. And please, dear readers, drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

From the Author
Scientists tell us that of all our senses, scent is most closely linked with memory. For this reason, certain scents remind us of people and places from our past. Take, for example, a musty basement. This scent always sends me "home" to the house I grew up in (built around an 1800’s era log cabin). Pumpkin pie reminds me of my grandmother. Cigarette smoke? My dad.
You get the idea.
But what if you encounter a scent that wakes a memory from a past life?
That’s exactly what happens to Breagha, a torc-wearing slave in Scent of the Soul. Brought as a captive before Somerled, 12th c. King of Argyll, she recognizes his intoxicating scent somehow, an impossibility, since she’s never met him before.
Somerled, who has just proposed marriage to the Manx princess, shares Breagha’s intense attraction, but he resists his feelings for her. She offers no political gain, and he won’t have a mistress making demands on him while he’s negotiating a marriage his people need. Besides, Breagha belongs to a rival king, one whose fresh alliance Somerled can’t afford to lose.
It’s when Breagha vanishes that Somerled realizes just how much he needs her. He abandons his marriage plans to search for her, unprepared for the evil lurking in the shadowy recesses of Ireland - a lustful demon who will stop at nothing to keep Breagha for himself.

About the Author
Something magical happened in the musty basement of Julie Doherty’s local courthouse. She went there intending to research her ancestry, not lose herself in a wealth of stories, but the ghosts of yesteryear drew her into the past and would not let her go. The trail left by her ancestors in those yellowing documents led her from rural Pennsylvania to the Celtic countries, where her love of all things Irish/Scottish blossomed into outright passion.
She became particularly interested in Somerled, self-styled "King of Argyll" and progenitor of the Lords of the Isles. In 1164, he led a fleet of 164 galleys up the River Clyde in an all-or-nothing attempt to overthrow the Scottish crown. What would lead a man of his advanced years to do such a thing?
Of course, history records he did so because the king demanded forfeiture of his lands. But the writer in Julie wondered ...what if he did it for the love of a woman?
Those early ponderings led to Scent of the Soul, Julie’s first novel, from Soul Mate Publishing.
Readers will notice a common theme throughout Julie’s books: star-crossed lovers. This is something she knows a bit about, since during one of her trips to Ireland, she fell in love with an Irishman. The ensuing immigration battle took four long years to win. With only fleeting visits, Skype chats, and emails to sustain her love, Julie poured her heartache into her writing, where it nourished the emotional depth of her characters.
Julie is a member of Pennwriters, Romance Writers of America, Central PA Romance Writers, The Longship Company, Perry County Council of the Arts, and Clan Donald USA. When not writing, she enjoys antiquing, shooting longbow, traveling, and cooking over an open fire at her cabin. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, who sounds a lot like her characters.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of ten bars of soap (US only) or one of five ebook copies of Scent of the Soul.