Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"The Price of Blood"

Patricia Bracewell taught literature and composition before embarking upon her writing career. The first novel of her trilogy about Emma of Normandy, Shadow on the Crown, was published by Viking in 2013. The second book in the series The Price of Blood has just been released.

Bracewell applied the Page 69 Test to The Price of Blood and reported the following:
The Price of Blood is the second novel in my trilogy about the 11th century queen of England, Emma of Normandy. It was a turbulent time in England’s history, and page 69 begins with the report of a brutal punishment meted out by the king to two of his subjects – an event that actually occurred.
Without waiting for permission to speak, he cried, “There is word from Windsor that the lords Wulfheah and Ufegeat have had their eyes put out!”

The needle slipped from Emma’s hands, her gaze drawn immediately to where Aldyth and Hilde sat frozen, their faces ashen. They stared back at her with horror in their eyes until Aldyth collapsed forward, wailing as if she’d taken a mortal blow. Instantly Margot was at the young woman’s side, wrapping a comforting arm about her while Wymarc swept a protesting Robert from the floor.

Emma grasped the young slave by the arms and pulled him toward her. He was new to the court, still raw and untutored, sold into slavery during the worst of the famine when his parents could no longer feed him. He had meant no harm. He had only been eager to tell her the news, but a slave who could not hold his tongue was of no use to her.

“You are never to speak in my presence until I give you permission to do so, whatever the message you carry. I shall punish you if you ever burst into my chamber like that again. Do you understand?”

He nodded, his eyes wide and frightened.

“Good,” she said, drawing him still closer. “Now, tell me,” she said more gently, for his ears alone, “what else do you know of their fate?”
It was a difficult scene to write because of the number of characters present and because the situation was one where several things happened simultaneously, which is always a challenge for a writer. I had to decide how my focal character was going to respond to so many factors at once in a way that would make sense to the reader. In addition, Emma had to be authoritative as well as compassionate.

I also used this scene to reveal some of the realities of this period of English history: famine drove people to desperate measures; slavery was an accepted element of Anglo-Saxon society; and punishment, at least in this instance, was carried out at the king’s pleasure. It was a harsh world, and my heroine – a young queen – has to forge her place in it.
Learn more about the book and author at Patricia Bracewell's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Shadow on the Crown.

My Book, The Movie: Shadow on the Crown.

Writers Read: Patricia Bracewell.

--Marshal Zeringue