When I started writing Shira, I had just left South Africa back to the States and was feeling like I didn't belong. I had found a job in SLC, UT as a typesetter and spent much of my day typing and the evenings learning karate.
On my weekends I had been involved with my church, but then because of this isolationist feeling I was drifting away. Soon I would walk for hours on Saturday and Sunday, and then I would write a few pages here and there. Since it was my first book, I didn't know how much effort it took to write three hundred or more pages. I had already bought the idea that novels came in a rush and then they were done.
I took a detour into the Navy as an electronics technician, so I didn't write until I left six years later except for poetry. I tried again to write in between different jobs and then in between an English Literature degree.
This book went on hold again when I became ill and I didn't write again until about four years into the disease when the brain fog began to lift. Then I made a great discovery. I could finish this one as a weekly serial. I eventually put it on Helium.com as in novel excerpts. If you want to read the novel free, you can find it there under Cyn Bagley. Eventually I put it together and it ended up on smashwords and amazon.com.
This first book took over twenty years to write. I don't think it is great. I do think that it has a lot of my feelings and life in it during the time I wrote it. I go back and look at it once in a while and find that it isn't a bad story.
An excerpt of Shira:
The heartbeat, the very pulse of the city was the marketplace. Nowhere else were there more colors, wares, food, and sensory overload. Fruits, vegetables, horses, pigs, scarves, and home wares. Noise everywhere.
Amyl stood near the animal pens with her eyes closed. Ahh. It had such a different smell than the country. The country had a fresh clean smell even through the smell of animal crap. The city though had a more mysterious musty smell. Sometimes there was an old rot underneath, but to day the fresh autumn air had brushed the old bad smells. Amyl pulled in a deep breath. If she sniffed to her right she could smell the harsh tang of pigs. To her left, she smelt the light musk of horses.
In her basket, she carried eggs to trade for a few essentials. Of course, they needed vegetables and if the market prices were good today she would get a piece of sturdy cloth for a dress.
Amyl was a pleasant looking gal with red cheeks and sturdy build. Her hair was dark and bound to show her lady-like status. Only the streetwalkers wore their hair down in public.
Her da had not been pleased when she mentioned that she needed to shop this morning. It is a bad place he had said. Wait and I’ll have one of your brothers guard you. Amyl smilled.
She had slipped out anyway. She was an only daughter and did get her way. She knew she was safe in the marketplace. Everyone knew her da. At sixteen, she was sure that she would be just fine. She had had offers already. And she had kissed one of the stable boys in the barn behind the horse stalls. Her da would have horsewhipped the boy if he had known. But it was sweet. She swished along the street looking at ribbons and sighing.
Above the marketplace, the castle perched like a huge eagle ready to land on an unsuspecting lamb. Every time, she looked up at the castle a shiver would prickle her neck and back. One of the serving wenches at the inn had told her that the castle was looking for new servants. If she wanted to stay in Corsindor, she wouldn’t work at the castle because it was haunted.
Before she was born, the young prince had disappeared. Now the king was witless. She shivered again. The queen was a hard, but lovely woman. It was whispered that she caused most of the troubles. But the markets still ran and the taxes were low, so Da said he would deal with the devil himself if he’d get a good deal.
Amyl needed to get her trading done. She walked into the cloth merchant’s tent.
“Oh there you are,” a young man said. “You shan’t go traipsing off on your own, you know. Da would be mad.”
“Daris,” she said. “All I needed was some cloth. I would have been fine.”
“Hurry up,” he said. “We gotta meet Da at the tavern.”
“And that’s why I hate to have you with me,” Amyl said. She turned from him and looked at the silks and fine cloth. Da would not buy them for her. They were for queens or courtiers. She looked at the gingham. Then she picked a green cloth that matched her hair and eyes.
“How much?” Amyl asked the merchant.
They started to haggle. Her brother watched, tapping his foot. Amyl and the merchant agreed on the price. The merchant wrapped the cloth up and tied it in string. She put the cloth in her basket.
They walked toward the tavern. Daris, of course, made her walk at his pace. Brothers.
Lord Haustfal was haranguing his valet. It was lovely to feel the power over a human being even if it was only a servant. The valet cringed at his smile. Maybe he would have to tone it down. He didn’t want to be considered to evil a man—not yet, anyway. Oh what the hell.
“Didn’t I tell you,” Lord Haustfal said in a warm almost caring voice, “that I needed my clothes pressed?”
“Yes, my lord,” said the valet.
“What about this?” Lord Hastfal was holding a white shirt with a small crease on the shoulder seam. He crumpled the shirt then threw it at the valet. “Do you know what I want?”
“That just one incompetent servant would do his job.” The valet stood at the doorway, ready to run. Lord Hastfal had not brought his own servants. He had requested a valet from the house staff as soon as he arrived. Although no one had seemed to see him arrive. But he was here and of course, he needed a room and servants. He didn’t seem happy unless he was berating one or all of them. The maid had been told not to come back. Something about the way she started the fire in the bedroom grate.
Lord Haustfal admired himself in the mirror. A man of medium height, he looked good in his riding gear. His medium brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail.
“The clothes do make the man,” he mused. He reached for a long coat. The valet helped him into it. He kept his eyes down. As he turned away from the valet, red glinted from his eyes.
Amyl and her brother walked into the tavern. He seated her at a table and waved at one of the tavern wenches. “I’ll go get Da,” he said. He strode towards the stairway that led to the rooms. The tavern wenches watched him. He was looking to be a fine man.
One of the wenches, Alice, brought her some stew. “Your brother is coming back?” Alice had an eye on all the young men. Amyl hoped her brother was careful with this one.
“Yes,” she said. Alice nodded. She would bring two more bowls of stew when her brother and Da came back. It was busy and they didn’t expect to be waited on like the royals.
Amyl watched the other patrons. Some were rough-looking. She imagined that they were highwaymen or sailors. Others looked young enough and soft enough to have come from the castle. Alice brought her a glass of ale and some bread.
Amyl broke a piece of the bread and dipped it in the soup. It was good.
A tall man walked through the door. He glanced around the tavern as if looking for someone. He walked straight towards her. He was impressive, but no one in the room seem to notice him—only her.
“May I sit at your table?” he asked. She wondered that he had the nerve to walk to a young girl’s table. Did he think that she had no protectors?
“Let me introduce myself,” he said as if he had heard her thoughts. He smiled, a dimple formed on his right cheek. She was charmed. “My name is Andres Hastfal. May I sit down?”
“Yes,” she smiled.
“And, your name is?”
“Amyl,” she said. She felt her heart pound from excitement.
“Such a charming lass,” he reached to her hair and pulled a strand from her bun.
“Beautiful and charming.”
She started to thank him. When her father said, “Who is this man, Amyl?” She looked away from Andres’ eyes and the spell was broken.
“Why, why. I don’t know, Da.” She shivered. Was it so easy?
“He’s gone.” Her da said. “It may seem romantic. But two girls have already disappeared from this tavern. I suspect it was this same man. Do not talk to anyone. I will have Daris be with you all the time. Don’t slip away. I would hate to lose you.”
“Don’t be so stern, Da.” She said. “It was just a man and he only wanted to flirt.”
“There are a lot of wolves in this city. It is time to go. We will be leaving in the morning.”
The lecture was interrupted by Alice. “Soup, sirs?” She handed Daris and Da their soup bowls. In minutes she also had ale for the two men and fresh baked bread. They dug in. Food was not to be wasted.
After the meal, Amyl went up to her room. Daris followed her. She started packing.
Lord Andres Hastfal slipped through the back kitchen and out the door. The young girl, Amyl, had enough energy to take care of all his problems. But there were others. He had hoped that he could feed, but she had been protected.
A tavern wench leaned against the door, watching him. Her dress and peasant blouse were spattered in grease. She looked tired and worn.
“Marie, my lovely,” he said. He had spent some time whispering endearments into her head. He could not foul his own place, not yet. One day he would be able to use whomever he wanted, but today he had to pick on the runaways, the streetwalkers, and sometimes the wenches.
Marie rubbed against him. He handed her a bill. Her eyes widened. They walked down the street towards the marketplace.
At midnight, a bloodless Marie slid into the ocean.