Thursday, 10 October 2013
Blood, Bone & Stone by Tara Barnacle Book Spotlight
Iona is an archaeologist who is burying herself in her work in an attempt to forget her guilt and grief after the death of her mother. When the dig uncovers the skeleton of a Bronze Age woman in the sands of an Orkney beach, Iona is about to discover the true nature of life and death, and the enduring nature of love. Sometimes, when we uncover the past, we discover ourselves.
Blood, Bone and Stone spans the millennia between modern day Oxford and Bronze Age Orkney, with the mysterious town of Glastonbury floating somewhere in between, combining modern day archaeology and ancient history, cutting edge DNA research and reincarnation, and blurring the borders of life and death.
As Blood, Bone and Stone is a story that takes place in two time zones, partly in Bronze Age Orkney, and partly in the present day, I thought a little taster from each era would be just the ticket!
Meet Brona, our Bronze Age woman…
…”Brona was stretching up to the roof beam, reaching to unhook some dried, salted fish that would keep well for their journey, when a tearing pain shot through her belly. Gasping, she bent double and then fell to her knees. This was not like the pains she had experienced before, cramping and squeezing, welcomed because they were the sacrifice, willingly offered, for the healthy child given in return. She crawled to her bedding and propped herself against the wall of the house, calling for help to Ronna who had been unhooking hides from the drying frames outside. When the girl appeared in the low doorway, one look at Brona sent her running to bring the nearest women she could find. While Brona waited, with her arms wrapped around her belly, she whispered to the child, comforting nonsense that trailed away into silence, followed by frightened sobs when she felt the warm gush of sticky blood. A group of women arrived, breathless and coughing, led by Ara, who was well practiced at dealing with the complications of bringing children into the world. She knelt by Brona and put her hands on her stomach. Brona gasped through tears of pain and fear, “These are not the birth pains!” Ara could feel that there were no contractions but she concealed her anxiety. Instead, she calmly patted the white faced Brona and bid her lie back. She ordered one of the girls to go quickly to her house and fetch the bundle of dried moss that hung from her roof. “We must stop the blood before we can try anything else”
By the time the girl returned, word had spread across the settlement. Ara was packing Brona with the moss when Archai appeared in the doorway. At the sight of so much of her blood staining their bedding, he blanched as pale as she was, but he came to crouch by her shoulder, stroking her face that was shining with pallor in the gloom, the only gleaming thing in this dark grey world of ash and blood.
Behind the roundhouse Luis crouched, just the thickness of the wall between him and Brona, eyes closed, nerves straining, tears pouring unnoticed down his cheeks. He sat, frozen into captive stillness, until he heard Archai give a tearing, agonised cry. Then he slumped forward, pressing his forehead to his knees and sobbing in earnest, as he had not done since he was a small child.”
And now, may I introduce Iona, our modern day archaeologist, as she is about to make yet another startling discovery, this time in her own bathroom…
…” Next morning she woke, feeling ill again. They need to vomit drove her urgently from her bed, but her lack of dinner the previous night only resulted in painful dry retching. Coming to a decision, she spent the minutes between retching rummaging in the bathroom cupboards until she found what she was looking for. A home pregnancy test, bought several years ago in a moment of panic, but still sealed and unused because her period had arrived before the necessary courage.
A quick pee, followed by an anxious few minutes wait confirmed that she was indeed, pregnant. She stared at her reflection in the mirror and her hazel eyes, pupils mere pinpoints of shock stared back at her from a lividly white face. “Shit!” A sudden spurt of adrenaline sent her anxiously pacing through the few rooms of her flat, down the little hall “shit!”, round the kitchen “shit!” and back through the hall, finally flinging herself onto her bed. Rolling on her side and curling herself up into a ball, her eyes came to rest on the pair of dogs, waiting on her little table. Reaching over, she scooped them up and clutched them to her. The thought of having children had never even been a blip on the horizon, something neither rejected nor welcomed, just never considered as any possible part of her future. All attempts at logical thought, usually such a sure-fire means of calming herself, failed utterly. Questions such as how she would survive financially, or cope physically with a baby were questions for later. First she had to answer the biggest one of all – did she want it?”
And now..a teaser from my next book, Sea, Sky and Amber! We’re back on Orkney again, investigating the mystery around a mound containing a Viking era ship burial…but this time there are three time zones...and just maybe, a little ghost action!
…”The fires on the headland burned throughout the night, slowly collapsing in on themselves, throwing showers of sparks into the moonless night like paroxysms of unbearable grief. The fires marked the four sides of the ship that contained the dead man, covered now with a mound of soil, no longer part of this world.
Marrdoll stared into the heart of the flames, listlessly tracing the path of the flying sparks as she kept her vigil throughout the night. She watched, dry eyed as the heavens eagerly swallowed the smoke, until the glow of the dying embers was smothered by the dawn. The weight of her sadness was too great to allow space for tears, and she knew of no other way to express the enormity of her loss. In truth, she had no wish to release her grief in salted tears. It was hers, added jealously to the memories of the all too short time she had shared with the man whose warrior spirit was surely now welcomed into Asgard, to Odin’s hall, to Valhalla...where she could not follow. Besides, she had work to do in this world. Two sons to raise, who must never be allowed to forget their father, justice for the wrong done to him. Then, and only then, vengeance for herself.
As the sun broke through the turgid clouds that lay heavily along the horizon she smiled grimly at the thought of the storm that was to come. She would find and then bring down the sky upon those responsible for this treachery. Taking out her knife, she began to carve out a rune from the turf beside her. The rune for hail, for the natural forces that disrupt. She filled in the angular lines with small pebbles so that it would stand out in the grass, and so that everyone who visited this place would see it, and know what it meant. Unblinking, she drew the blade of her knife along her palm, cupping the blood that pooled there until there was enough for her purpose, and she pressed her hand, palm down, upon the rune. Strengthened by the silent promise, she turned at last to leave. The air was filled with the cries of the seabirds rejoicing in the dawn, but she froze in mid step as their plaintive cries were pierced by a single raucous croak. She turned, and saw a lone raven perched upon the fresh earth covering the mound. The grim smile returned to her lips and she nodded to the bird. Her offering had been accepted. The bargain was made.”
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Tara Barnacle lives in sunny South Australia, and dreams of walking on wild wintery Atlantic shores. She worked in a library in another life, but had to escape before her book addiction reached epic proportions…well, almost before! Blood, Bone and Stone is her first fiction book and also the first in the Orkney series, but definitely not the last.