Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Falling From The Sky To Launch Soon

Many months have passed since the last posting on this blog.  Much has happened in that time, most notably my wife’s amazing recovery from what essentially was a broken neck, i.e., two displaced cervical disks suffered when we were in an automobile accident last Labor Day weekend.  After surviving a medivac helicopter ride from the island to Harborview Hospital in Seattle and an emergency six-hour surgery, she was in a hard neck brace for almost three months followed by three more months of slogging through rehab therapy.  I was proud of her determination and am quite happy to have her back living an active life, most notably tending to her beloved garden, particularly since her surgeon told us we were quite fortunate that she didn’t end up paralyzed.

As for me, during all that time, I acted in the role of primary care giver (particularly during the first few weeks of the recovery process) and paid scant attention to my writing.  That all changed toward the end of winter, when I returned to editing the manuscript of Falling From The Sky.  That process took longer than I’d anticipated, but is now behind me and the process of creating a Word document to ePub and MOBI begun.  The book’s launch date is on the horizon, so I though you might like to know a bit about it. 

The gestation period of Falling From The Sky was not short lived.  For more than a decade, and through several iterations, I struggled with what originally was intended to be a liberally fictionalized account of an alleged event in my paternal grandmother’s family history.  The novel’s first draft, entitled The Pouch, was set at the end of the 20th Century, with substantial flashbacks to events that took place in the mid 18th century.  More drafts followed, but it was only when I changed the main plot focus to a time and place that has always intrigued me, World War II and the role American B-17 pilots played in that conflict, that I finally I hit upon a premise that allowed me to paint the tale I wanted to tell. 

Falling From The Sky is a story of heroism, a tribute to the brave young men who took to the skies over Europe during the war in the face of massive losses of life and property to help defeat the Axis aggressors.  It is also a tale of mystery and suspense as well as a love story.  To give you a bit of the story’s flavor as well as setting the stage for you, I’m including a blurb detailing what the tale is all about as well as the book's Prologue.  I hope you are intrigued enough to want to read more. 


When American B-17 pilot Alex Kent isn’t struggling to survive World War II bombing raids in the skies over Germany he spends time trying to unravel a conundrum with even greater dangers: uncovering the lost legacy of William Kent, his great-grandfather seven generations removed.  Alex knows nothing about his ancestor’s life prior to William’s arrival in 1740 colonial Virginia as an eleven-year-old indentured servant although Kent family folklore suggests William might have been the exiled child of an English noble.  Over the generations, several Kent family members have tried to confirm that speculation.  None succeeded.  Some died trying.
On leave in war torn London from his bombing duties, Alex meets Sarah Perkins, fiancée of the Duke of Wyeford’s only son.  Alex and Sarah soon realize they are attracted to one another and she volunteers to help in his pursuit of William’s heritage. 

When Wyeford becomes aware of Alex’s quest, he understands the American pilot poses a threat to the conspiracy of silence concocted two hundred years earlier to deny young William his legitimate birthright.  Exposure of the conspiracy would topple the Wyeford dynasty, stripping the duke of his title and wealth.  He vows to take whatever actions are necessary to see that never happens.  Danger and tension escalate as Alex’s search barrels toward a shocking conclusion. 

Albert Drayton paused just inside the door of the fetid smelling bedchamber, his gaze coming to rest on his father, the Duke of Wyeford.  The duke, his head propped on pillows, appeared to be asleep in the room’s massive four-poster canopied bed.  Mouth agape, the old man’s chest shuddered raggedly with each wheezing breath.  At the duke’s bedside with his back to the door, Sir James Percival, the Drayton family doctor, was taking the duke’s pulse.  Albert had been aware for several months that his father was in failing health, but he’d not expected to encounter a scene like this when he arrived at the duke’s home on London’s Hanover Square.
Percival lowered the duke’s wrist onto the bed then turned to face Albert.  “Your father has been comatose like this for more than twenty-four hours.  I’ve been administering massive doses of laudanum to ease his pain, but I have no idea if it is helping.  What I do know is that I was despairing of your arriving before the duke passed on because he has little time remaining on God’s good earth.  I doubt he opens his eyes ever again.”
“I came as quickly as my horse could carry me,” Albert said, “but the roads to the west between here and Drayton Hall are almost impassable what with all the snow that’s fallen in the past three days.  This is a horrible winter.”
“Tis the worst December I can remember,” Percival agreed.
“I’ve been riding for the better part of the last two days.  I’m starving,” Albert said, “and I’m soaked to the bone.”  He moved across the gloomy room to the granite faced fireplace where a crackling wood fire cast flickering shadows.
         “Should I send downstairs for some food?”
“I spoke with Thomas when I arrived ten minutes ago,” Albert said, referring to the duke’s valet, the son of the old man’s former majordomo, Silas Carter, who died in a carriage accident two years earlier.
“He’s seeing that a proper meal is being laid for me in the dining room.  It should be on the table by the time we’re through here and I get into some dry clothes.  Now, what is it that is so important that I had to risk life and limb getting here?  The bloody messenger you sent to fetch me said the duke had something urgent to tell me, but he had no idea as to what it was.”
Percival picked up a leather pouch from atop the ornately carved lamp table next to the duke’s bed.
“What is that?”
“I’ve no clue,” Percival said, handing the pouch to Albert.  “Your father told me the day before yesterday that I was to give it to you should he pass before your arrival.”
“It’s what’s inside that is important,” a raspy voice announced.
Albert and the doctor turned to see the duke trying to raise himself to a sitting position.
“Prop some pillows behind me, Percival,” the duke wheezed, and then leave me alone with Albert.  There is something only he needs to hear before I draw my last breath—which will be quite soon now.”
“Would you like more laudanum, my grace?  It will help with your pain.”
“Damn it, Percival, I don’t need laudanum.  My mind must be clear for what it is I need to tell my son.  Just do as I say and get out.”
“Leave us, Percival,” Albert said moving to draw a chair close to the bed.  “If I require your presence, I shall ring.”
“I’m a bastard,” the duke announced without forewarning when the door closed behind Percival’s reluctant departure, his voice so low Albert had to strain to hear the words.
Albert smiled.  “Tell me something I don’t already know, father,” he said, edging his chair even closer.
“I’m not making a joke,” the duke managed to say after taking several gulps of air.  “I’m truly a bastard, illegitimate, something I only learned from my father when he too lay on his deathbed.”
“I don’t understand what you are trying to tell me,” Albert said from behind the hand he was using to shield his nose from the rank smell of the duke’s decaying body.
“Just that the words mean.  I am my father’s bastard son and as such should not have been entitled to claim the Wyeford title at his death.  The title was not mine to inherit.  By the laws of the land it should have gone to my younger half-brother William, the third duke’s only legitimate heir.  William was ten or eleven at the time.”
“But that means—that means, if what you are saying is true, you have no title to pass to me,” Albert said, his voice quaking.
The duke took several more ragged breaths then reached to wrap cadaverous fingers around Albert’s wrist.  “Yes, but only I, you and Thomas know that truth.  I’ll soon be dead, Thomas has good reason to keep our secret and I’m sure the two of you will take the steps necessary to see no one else ever discovers it.”
“Thomas?  How does Thomas know any of this?”
“It’s a long tale, one you’ll find related in a journal I’ve kept since the night of my father’s death.  The journal is inside the pouch.  It discloses everything.  Read all I’ve written and you’ll understand.”
Several racking coughs shook the old man’s body.  When they finally subsided, he continued.  “What’s most important is that on the night I became the Duke of Wyeford Silas and I concocted a scheme, a conspiracy of silence, to insure William would never have the opportunity to discover the truth.  The next day we brought you mother into our scheme.  We all agreed that William should meet an unfortunate end.  You mother came up with the plan to make that happen.  She saw to it that he was imprisoned on a family ship departing for America.  She gave him the surname Kent and instructed the ship’s captain that young Kent was to meet an unfortunate accident on the voyage, his body buried at sea.”
More coughs shook the duke’s body.  His chin dropped to rest on his chest and wrapped his arms around his ribs as if he was trying to hold his body together.  After several seconds, he raised his head and resumed his tale.  “That didn’t happen because the bloody Captain was a greedy sot,” he said, his voice weaker, now almost a whisper.  “He sought to make himself a few extra crowns by taking William all the way to America and selling him as an indentured servant.  He assumed we’d never find out, but we did and he was made to pay for his perfidy.  As for William, we never learned of his fate other than that he had been indentured to a Virginia plantation owner—beyond that, nothing.  I’ve lived in terror for the past forty plus years that he would show up claiming to be the legitimate heir to the Wyeford title.”
“How would a young boy have any knowledge of that?  Surely he knew nothing of the circumstances of your birth.”
“May I have some water, please?”
Albert poured from a pitcher on the bedside table and held the crystal goblet to his father’s lips.
After several feeble sips the duke indicated enough by pushing the glass away.  “You’re probably right,” he gasped.  “There is no way William could have known any of that.  Still I quake every time I hear that surname—Kent.  You should, too, because there is everything for you to lose if the truth ever became known.  Read my journal and you’ll truly understand.”
“Yes, your grace, I pledge to do that this very night.”
“I have one final request of you,” the duke wheezed.  He took in a noisy breath.
“Anything, your grace.”
“Do for me what Silas Carter did to my father.”
“What is that?”
“End it all for me—right now.  Smother me with one of my pillows.  I’m exhausted by the pain and wish for it to be over.”
Albert stared at his father.  “But—"
“Please, that is my last request.”
Albert stared at his father.  Finally, he stood and yanked a pillow from behind the duke’s head then pressed it against the old man’s face.  There was no resistance and soon the rise and fall of the duke’s chest stopped.  Albert shuddered.  By his act of mercy he had become part of a conspiracy of silence.  He’d also become the fifth Duke of Wyeford.  He started to the door, but then turned back to the bed.  Grasping the dead duke’s left hand he removed the symbol of the Wyeford title.  God help anyone who tried to take this away from me, he thought as he slipped the signet ring onto his own little finger.


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