That's a mere WEEK.
One-hundred and sixty-eight hours (of which I will be sleeping a minimum of fifty-six).
Ten-thousand and eighty minutes tick tick ticking away.
Six-hundred and four thousand, eight hundred quickly moving seconds.
Not much time at all after all the work and the waiting.
Sounds like I'm going to have a baby doesn't it? Well, that's very much like what it feels like when the first book is published.
Here's a teaser from the opening of the book . . .
Nicholas Edward Henry Philip Montford, Seventh Earl of Ashton, struggled through the dense foliage, clutching his shirtsleeve to staunch the blood streaming down his arm. His head throbbed. He'd looked back but a moment to see if he'd lost his pursuers and suffered a mighty whack from a low hanging branch as a result. That was when he'd parted company with his horse, an indifferent beast, rented from the inn, with no sense of loyalty to a somewhat incapacitated rider.
Now the pain, as relentless as a blacksmith's hammer, helped keep away the fatigue. But not for much longer. He could feel his life force drain away with each heartbeat.
Without warning his boot slipped on the bracken. He went down, bracing himself against the fall with both hands. Pure agony shot through his wounded arm. His head felt like it split in two. He groaned a deep feral sound, more animal than man.
Rolling onto his back, eyes clenched against the pain stabbing at his temples, Nicholas took a great breath of the cold night air. The ripe smell of decaying leaves filled his lungs. He opened his eyes to see the full globe of the moon shining down through the branches. The stars twinkled like old friends happy to see him after a long absence.
Sudden crashing in the underbrush alerted him to danger. Snorts and grunts announced a new enemy. Nicholas raised his aching head. From across the clearing, the eyes of a wild boar gleamed in the moonlight.
He repressed a harsh chuckle. What irony it would be to come to his end gored on the tusks of a swine.
But he had not survived the seamy streets of Amsterdam, the slave markets in Algiers, and endless days and nights floating adrift on the stormy Mediterranean to die here. It was not his time. At least he hoped not. He had yet to honor the promise he'd made to his father.
Nicholas rose awkwardly and readjusted his cloak. He pulled the flintlock pistol from his waistband. The weapon felt smooth and cold in his hand.
They faced each other, man and beast, quiet and still in the moonlight. The creature looked away. For a moment Nicholas thought it might leave, but then it turned toward him and charged.
Swearing and praying at the same time, Nicholas pulled the gun's hammer from half to full cock. He aimed between the glittering eyes, adjusted to compensate for the gun's tendency to shoot right, and squeezed hard on the trigger.
The pistol's recoil threw him back. He struggled to remain standing. Sparks flashed brilliantly. Then all went black. Pain throbbed through his head, echoing in his wounded arm. The loud explosion sealed his ears against sound. The foul stench of the powder invaded his nose and mouth, making it hard to breathe. Had he hit the beast?
With a pop, his ears cleared. All was quiet, save for the pounding of his heart and his own harsh breath. Finally the darkness took shape. Ten feet away lay the motionless boar.
Nicholas shuddered. It wouldn't be long before another predator discovered him. Weakened and one-armed, he could not reload. He would simply have to keep going.
Gritting his teeth, he stuffed the still-hot firearm into his waistband and set forth once again. For what seemed an eternity, he heard only the sounds of his own boots crunching the fallen leaves.
He pushed on until he could go no farther. Fighting against his own weakness, he braced himself against a tree to keep upright. The hot flush of fever crept through bones that now ached as much as his head. Nicholas rubbed his brow to clear the grogginess. Perhaps he could reach Ashfield before he died. Then they could bury him beside his mother. More likely, he'd be strung from a gibbet as a lesson to others.
But they'd have to catch him first.
A grim smile tugged at his lips. He staggered forward with new determination.
Then up ahead he saw Witches' Rock. Like a familiar scent packed away with clothes in an old trunk, a memory wafted through his muddled mind, and he remembered where safety lay. With sudden certainty, Nicholas knew it was not his fate to die this night. He had come home.
His steps took on new sureness as he skirted the large rock. Another twenty feet or so brought him to a squat freestone structure. Pushing open the wooden door, he fell forward, collapsing onto the hard dirt floor.