Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Scottish Witch (Anita Birt author)

I have stopped posting my story. Without proper punctuation it doesn't read right. So what to do? A reminder that my historical romance, A Very Difficult Man, is available from Cerridwen Press.

Watch for my contemporary romance with paranomral elements, Isabelle's Diary, in early September. My heroine, Sally Carter, is 42. After a bitter divorce, she hardens her heart against men but a ghostly encounter changes Sally's life.

Check my website:


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A posting problem

I will have to stop telling my story, The Scottish Witch, because it doesn't appear properly on my Blog. There are no paragraph indents to break up the text, therefore the story doesn't read well. I transfer it from my documents where everything is okay but in the transfer all the indents, etc. disappear. Sigh. I will try and work this out because I have a great story ready to add to my Blog.

Anita Birt

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Scottish Witch (continued)


Desperate to escape she tried to fix an escape route in her mind but terror dimmed her memory.
Mouth watering smells drifted through an open kitchen door. Ailsa's nose twitched. Hunger gnawed at her empty stomach. A few steps past the kitchen, she glanced into a large pantry. Shelves were laden with earthenware crocks. On the floor close by an open window baskets brimmed with fruits and vegetables.
Morgan tightened his grip on her shoulder and dragged her through a labyrinth of passageways. Suddenly he flung open a door and Ailsa paused at the threshold of a vast, lavishly appointed rectangular hall. The waning light of day filtered through the beveled glass of a vestibule door. A brass-studded outer door stood open. It led to a wide terrace and, beyond that, she glimpsed formal gardens.
Morgan shook her. “Move! Lord Redmond wants a look at you before sending you to the magistrate.”
Expecting another blow she cringed away from him. Her stomach in knots she edged across the white and black marble floor. Rich tapestries draped the walls. Burnished sconces gleamed beside closed doors. In every sconce were fresh, unlit candles. A wide staircase of highly polished oak swept up to the second floor.
In an alcove, a long-case clock chimed the half-hour. Its brass pendulum swung back and forth marking time. Doomed by her crime, out of harmony with the silvery chime of the clock, Ailsa's last few seconds of freedom ticked away.
Morgan knocked on a door, opened it with a flourish and shoved her ahead of him. Her broken boots tangled on the thick carpet and she stumbled into the presence of Lord Redmond. Rigid with fear, she struggled to her feet and faced the enemy.
He sat behind an imposing desk. Lips pursed, brow furrowed in an intimidating frown, he leaned forward to examine her.
“Here's the lad, sir. Caught him in the act. He took one of your salmon with his bare hands. A sly character, this one, I've never seen that done before.”
Morgan reached into his leather sack for the salmon. “Have a look at this. He poached one of your big ones.” He glared at the captive. “Take off your cap, boy! Besides being a thief, you've no manners.”
He snatched the cap from Ailsa's head. The tortoise-shell comb holding her braids in place flew off and her two long braids tumbled down her back.
“Bless my soul,” Lord Redmond snorted. “You told me you had a boy. This appears to be a girl.” He came from behind the desk.
Ailsa shuddered and hunched her shoulders as he approached. The bundle dropped from her nerveless fingers.
“Here you,” Morgan snarled. “What are you up to, dressed like a boy? Some new trick is it. Sent to poach by your thieving parents. You'll not get away with it.” Seizing her, he shook her like a rag doll.
Stressed to the breaking point from hunger and exhaustion, the last of Ailsa's strength ebbed. Close to collapse, her knees buckled.
“That will do, Morgan. There's no need to be rough with the girl.”
Lord Redmond smiled at her. “What is your name, child?”
“Ailsa Mary Macrae.” She lowered her gaze and studied the red, green and gold designs on the carpet. The patterns merged and flowed together. How strange, she thought, and narrowed her eyes to make the carpet cease its restless motion.
“And how old are you?”
“Eighteen, sir.”
“What part of Scotland do you come from?'
“The north, sir. The highlands.”
“You've come a long way. What brings you here?”
“I...uh.” She chewed her lip. “We have no home...” Every breath wearied her. Mumbling the words, she tried to continue. “We were driven off...driven off our land. My father...”
A gasping sob streaked across her bruised ribs. “Oh no, he is...” The room melted under her feet and she crumpled on the carpet. Eyes closed, too fatigued to raise her head, she longed to disappear.
“I'll put her outside, milord. She's nowt but a tramp off the road. The magistrate will put her away.”
Pain fogged Ailsa's tired brain. Hearing the dreaded words, she struggled to rouse herself. A cool hand rested on her forehead
“The girl is ill. Fetch Mrs. Jenkins at once.”
He knelt on the carpet beside Ailsa. “Stay quiet. Our housekeeper will be here presently. You have nothing to fear.”
Ailsa's eyes fluttered as a plump, rosy-cheeked woman bustled into the room. “Is the poacher dead, sir?”
“Not at all. Fainted I think. Help me carry her to the settle.”
Gentle hands lifted Ailsa. She tried to speak but words stuck in her throat. Helpless as a newborn babe, unable to move, she lay back and rested her head on soft cushions.
“Why she's light as a feather. Hasn't had a good meal for a bit, I'll be bound. If you'll just let me have a little brandy, milord, that should bring her round.”
Ailsa tried to sit up and toppled back when the room spun in dizzying circles. A glass clinked behind her.
“That will do fine.” Mrs. Jenkins sat beside Ailsa and slipped a comforting arm around her shoulders. “Sip this, child.”
The fiery liquor burned down her throat. Sputtering and coughing, words tumbled out. “I must go to my father. He's very ill and doesn't know where I am. Please let me go. Please.” She lurched to her feet, wavered briefly and kept her balance.
Mrs. Jenkins stood and patted Ailsa's hand. “Where is your father?”
Confused, not sure what to do, Ailsa's leaned against the ample bosom of the housekeeper. If she told them where to find him would they send him to a workhouse?
(to be continued)

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My historical romance, A Very Difficult Man, is featured.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Scottish Witch, copyright: Anita Birt

THE SCOTTISH WITCH, A historical romance



“Can we no' go into town, lass? I'm that weary, my bones ache. Let us find lodgings for the night. The constables will no' find us here.”
“Tomorrow, father, the sun is well down the sky. Soon it will be dark and the rooms all taken. It's a beautiful evening. We'll do better here in God's good fresh air than in a stuffy room at an inn.”
Sunlight filtered through the trees overhead and warmth of the July day lingered in the spinney where they'd sheltered. The scent of newly mown hay drifted on the summer air from a nearby field
Ailsa tucked a wool blanket around her father's gaunt frame. He shivered. His eyes, bright with fever, searched hers.
“What money do we have left?”
“Enough for a night or two's lodging. We'll stay awhile in the town until you're well enough to travel.”
“Then we'll be away to Liverpool and board a ship to Canada.” His voice trailed away and his eyes closed. He was dreaming their dream.
Ailsa brushed back tears and gazed over the Eden River to the town on the far side. Tomorrow they'd cross the bridge to Appleby and seek help. Without nourishing food her father would weaken further; except for a loaf of bread they'd eaten nothing for two days.
He'd forbidden her to spend the gold sovereign sewn into her jacket until they reached Liverpool but soon she'd have to tell him they didn't have sufficient funds to pay their passage. The sovereign would sustain them until he regained his health and she found employment.
Kneeling down she brushed a kiss across his cheek. “I'll be off to fetch something for supper. Rest until I return.”
He opened his eyes and Ailsa forced a smile. “I'll take my bundle with me. If there's no one about, I'll bathe in the river and wash off the dust from the road.”
Her father nodded and raised his hand. “Away then and take your time. You're my bonny lass. I'm not so hungry I can't wait for you to bathe before fetching our supper.”
Ailsa's heart sank into her shabby boots. If she was lucky, supper would be two or three eggs stolen from an unguarded coop or strawberries plucked from a farm wife's garden.
She hurried across the road and struck out along the path by the river. Walking quickly she left the town behind on the far side. At a bend in the river well out of sight of passers-by on the road, she stopped and gazed longingly at the water.
Tempted to bathe before going on, she dropped to her knees on the bank and peered into a quiet pool shaded by an overhanging willow. She longed to strip off her worn, dusty clothing and slide into the water. Almost under her nose, a fish swam lazily into the pool. Salmon! She smothered a peal of laughter. Elated by her discovery she studied the fish. It was a goodly size and would revive her father. Tonight they'd eat well and face the morrow with full stomachs.
A trout jumped farther out and sun-sparkled ripples disturbed the smooth surface of the water. Ailsa's reflection shimmered and stilled. Her dirt-smudged face stared up at her. A boy's scruffy cap hid her tightly braided hair.
Careful not to disturb the fish with a sudden movement she crept backwards up the bank and wasting no time lest it swim away, she shoved her plaid-wrapped bundle out of sight under a shrub. Thieves prowled everywhere. Long months on the road had taught her caution. Trust no one.
She dragged off her boots and socks, draped her shabby tweed jacket on a tree branch, hitched up her breeches and tightened the frayed rope around her waist.
Shirtsleeves rolled above her elbows, she stretched face down on the bank and wriggled toward the river.
Sharp stones pricked through her threadbare shirt. Close to the pool, she anchored her legs and feet firmly around the roots of the willow and hung head first over the riverbank.
She slithered her arms into the cold water. Within minutes the river chilled her but she steadfastly ignored the numbness creeping into her bones as she fluttered her fingers in the crystal clear pool. A fish approached to investigate.
“Thig thugam eisg mhoir,” she whispered in Gaelic. “Come for a nice wee guddle.”
Ailsa curved her hand over the salmon and trailed her fingertips along its sides. Its tail fanned slowly. Its gills opened and closed. She waited patiently for the precise second to strike.
“Now,” she murmured. Lightning quick she thrust her fingers under the gills, flipped the fish clear of the water and landed it beside her.
Freeing her legs and feet, she edged up the river bank with the salmon thrashing wildly in her hand and sat down. She dug her father's clasp knife from her breeches' pocket, flicked it open, slashed deep behind the gills and killed the fish. Blood spattered on her hands.
“What do you think you're doing, boy?” A loud bullying voice stunned Ailsa into shocked silence.
“I spoke to you, boy. Stealing fish, are you? Answer before I take my whip to you.
The man's heavy boot slammed into her ribs. Teeth clamped tight Ailsa scrambled to her feet and prayed he wouldn't see through her disguise. It had been her only protection on the long, difficult journey from the north of Scotland.
Shoulders hunched, the salmon twitching in her hand, she glanced up at the man's dark, scowling face. His pale grey eyes bored into hers. Afraid to let him look too closely, Ailsa bowed her head. Heart thudding against her bruised ribs, knees shaking, she dropped the knife.
“I'm sorry, sir. I'm very hungry and didn't know this fish belonged to anyone.”
“Hungry you may be but this stretch of the river belongs to Lord Redmond. He doesn't take kindly to thieving poachers stealing his salmon.”
He seized her shirt. “Poaching is a crime in England. A very serious crime,” he jeered. “I'll take the evidence to show his lordship. He'll thank me for this and then decide what to do with you.” The man hefted the salmon and dropped it into a leather sack slung over his shoulder. He had a rifle strapped on his back.
“Please sir, may I put on my boots?” She'd run, or jump in the river and swim across. She had to escape and return to her father. He couldn't survive without her.
“Be quick. I don't have all day.”
Fearing another blow, Ailsa sat down to pull on her socks and broken boots. Her fingers trembled as she struggled to tie the knotted cord around her boots. Helpless against a powerful armed man she could do nothing but hope he'd let her go.
“And don't try any tricks.” He picked up her knife, snapped it shut and stuck it in his belt. “Stole this too, I wager. Too good for the likes of you.” He aimed another kick at her. The toe of his boot stabbed the end of her spine. Excruciating pain radiated up her back.
Dazed by his brutal kicks, she dragged on her socks and boots, jumped up and plucked her shabby jacket from the tree. The wet sleeves of her shirt clung to her arms as she thrust them into the rough jacket. Snatching up her bundle, she clutched it against her heaving chest.
The man's strong fingers gouged into her skin-and-bones shoulders as he half-led, half-dragged her along the path. Leaving the river behind they headed into a densely wooded forest. Weak from hunger and fatigue, Ailsa floundered beside him and fell.
He yanked her to her feet. “Stand up, boy. We've a way to go yet then you'll be for it. Off to the hulks for the likes of you and away to Australia on one of them convict ships with other thieving rogues.”
Convict! Australia! Numb with pain, unable to think clearly, the hate-filled words swamped her senses. Stumbling along beside him she lost track of time. It was dark under the trees. Had night fallen?
As suddenly as they'd entered it they emerged from the forest. Ailsa blinked in late afternoon sunlight. Ahead was a great sweep of lawn, magnificent formal gardens and a towering mansion that dominated the landscape. Transfixed, she stared at the building.
Two great wings angled away from a central core. Mullioned windows recessed into weathered gray stone walls reflected the last rays of the setting sun. Golden light shimmered on the glass like eyes empty of life. An ominous quiet loomed over the waning day.
Terrified at what faced her behind those forbidding walls, Ailsa fell to her knees. “Please, sir, don't make me go in there. Whip me and let me go. I'll never go near your river again.”
He pulled her up and smacked the side of her head. Stunned from the blow, she fell against him. Tears spilled down her cheeks. With her free hand, she swiped them away with the sleeve of her jacket.
Don't cry. She bit hard on her lip. Boys don't cry.
The man seized her arm and led her to the rear of the building and shoved her down on a bench beside a closed door.
“Dare to move and I'll have the dogs on you.” He whistled and two huge mastiffs bounded across the cobblestone courtyard. He jabbed a finger at Ailsa. “See he stays there.” Teeth bared the dogs growled deep in their throats. The man entered the house, leaving them on guard.
Ailsa hugged her bundle and tucked her feet under the bench. Some of her panic seeped away. The dangerous animals, stiff hackles ridged along their backs, didn't frighten her. She examined them through lowered lashes careful not to make them nervous with eye contact.
She relaxed, raised her head briefly and risked a smile. The huge dogs examined her. Ailsa breathed deeply and whispered. “I had a dog like you back home. He pretended to be fierce but really wasn't. He was gentle as a lamb just like you.”
Her voice, lulling soft, calmed them. The deep throated rumbling growls ceased. Their hackles flattened. Mindful not to alarm the animals, Ailsa put out one hand, palm up, and leaned towards them.
“My name is Ailsa. I wish I knew yours then we'd be friends. That man caught me guddling a salmon. I'm sure no one would miss one fish. What do you think?”
The dogs cocked their heads seeming to puzzle over the question.
“I want you to lie down.” Ailsa spoke firmly, raised her hand and signaled. “Down.”
They flopped at her feet. Someone had trained them well. “That's much better. Now I can pat you and we'll be friends.”
“How lovely you are.” She crooned and rubbed their shaggy heads. “I knew you weren't fierce. I could tell by your eyes but I have to go before that man comes back.”
Ailsa stretched and stood. “Stay,” she commanded. Tongues lolling, the dogs gazed at her and didn't move.
The sound of boots rapping sharply on the cobblestones startled her. Frozen to the spot she watched a young man stride across the courtyard towards her. Fearing the worst, Ailsa cowered down on the bench and plucked nervously at the twine holding her bundle together.
The man was tall, taller than the other one, taller even than her father. She spied a riding crop in his hand and icy shivers squeezed her chest. Head bent submissively she closed her eyes waiting for him to close in and strike her.
Ailsa's captor threw open the door. “Come here, you young ruffian. The master will see to you.” He twisted her arm and dragged her off the bench.
Glowering at the animals lying at her feet, he lashed out with his boot. “Forgot what I told you. I'll fix that!” The dogs sprang out of reach and slunk off, whining.
“What is this about, Morgan? What has the boy done?”
Ailsa stared at the leather crop tapping idly against black riding boots. Hands clenched, she waited dumbly for the blow to fall.
Morgan doffed his cap. “Caught him poaching salmon, milord. Your father will see to him. You know how strict he is about poaching. He'd sooner lose a pheasant or two than a salmon. Likely this rascal will go to the magistrate for sentencing.”
The man in the shining boots spoke to Ailsa. “Look at me, lad. Have you been poaching?”
Fearing to disobey, she raised her head. His voice was gentle. Different from the other. Not loud or harsh.
His eyes held hers. Mesmerizing eyes. Above the open collar of his white shirt, his face and strongly muscled neck were deeply tanned. She forced herself to look away.
Timeless seconds passed. A familiar tingling swept over her. She dreaded the sixth sense fate had bestowed on her. A fearful premonition overwhelmed her. She had to escape from this place. Away from this man whose dark eyes searched hers; in his questioning gaze danger lurked.
Conscious thought gave way to a vision unfolding behind her eyes. In a brilliantly lighted ballroom, she glimpsed herself dancing with the dark-eyed man. A menacing shadow edged the scene. Evil lurked there. Waiting.
Panic seized her.
No more! She willed the vision to leave her but an image lingered until it too disappeared.
She struggled to breathe. What had she to do with this man?
“Didn't you hear, boy? Lord Grayson spoke to you. Answer him!” Morgan wrenched her shoulder.
Ailsa winced and gulped in air. Pain shot through her bruised ribs. Eyes downcast, she nodded. “Yes sir, I stole a fish.” She peeked up at him from under her cap. His mouth curved in a slight smile.
“Have the boy treated leniently, Morgan. There are plenty of salmon in the river.”
He rested his hand lightly on Ailsa's trembling shoulder. “No more poaching, lad,” the man said. “Speak to my father, Morgan; a warning is all the boy needs.”
He tapped the riding crop on his thigh, frowned slightly, studied Ailsa for several seconds then walked slowly to the whitewashed, stone buildings on the far side of the courtyard.
The touch of Lord Grayson's hand on her shoulder and his comforting words calmed her fears until Morgan pushed her into the house and the walls closed in.
“Warning indeed,” he hissed through clenched teeth. “You'll not get away with poaching while I'm gamekeeper here.”
She swallowed a sob. Her father was alone. Without her care he'd die.

Note: Let me know if you want to read on. Sorry about no paragraph indents. I hope to fix the problem next time.

Anita Birt

Friday, May 25, 2007

The road to hell

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I intended to begin writing my historical romance, The Scottish Witch, on my Blog but time got in the way. I will definitely send out a few pages tomorrow. Check my web site to find out more about me and the books I have written.

Anita Birt

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Telling stories

I am fairly new at blogging and have decided that my life isn't interesting enough to attract comments from strangers who stumble across my blog. So, after to-day I am going to tell a story in serial form and invite you blog watchers out there to add to it. That's for tomorrow.

I live in a city close to the sea and herons nest in the giant Douglas fir trees in and around town. There's a large heronry in our biggest park and the herons return year after year to build their nests and raise their young.

Unfortunately, bald eagles have taken up residence nearby and there's a picture in our local newspaper of a female bald eagle who has wasted the heronry.
She has eaten the eggs and new babies. Not a baby survived. Bald eagles are protected by law but I think this eagle should be trapped and released somewhere else. The poor herons were driven out of their nests in the Douglas fir tree at Government House by marauding eagles. Where are the poor things to go?

Tomorrow I start a story. Drop by and take part.

Anita Birt

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Researching is essential when writing historical novels. Writing in the time period so the words spoken by the characters reflect the time. I have just finished reading a romance novel set in 1425. The hero uses the verb "gotten." This is purely modern North American and it grates to see it on a page where it clearly doesn't belong.

But I've come up against a research problem and can't find the information I require. When were eavestroughs/gutters invented? In my historical romance, The Scottish Witch (working title) my heroine escapes from a third story room in a mansion by creeping along a slate roof with her feet braced on cast iron eavestroughs. If anyone reading my blog has information aout eavestroughs please e-mail me at

I leave you with an intersting statement I came across recently. "The major purpose of memory is to predict the future."

Anita Birt,
author of,
A Very Difficult Man, published by Cerridwen Press. My hero's memories of the carnage he witnessed and the wounds he suffered during the Crimean War have crushed the joy from his life until ... Buy my book and find out what happenes next. Go to:, click on Historical romance and find me.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Historical Romance

A VERY DIFFICULT MAN is my current release from Cerridwen Press. Check it out at Read an excerpt and buy my book! It's a historical romance. My hero, Richard, Lord Glenmore, has returned to England from the Crimean War. Wounded in body and soul, he has cut himself off from society and remains isolated in his darkened rooms at Glenmore Manor. Only his mother, uncle and his valet. In modern terms, Richard is suffering Post Traumatic Syndrome.

His mother is concerned about his mental health and engages a young lady to read to him and, hopefully, encourage him to open the draperies in his rooms and let in the light. Catherine Thurston thought she'd been engaged to read to a young lady like herself and is shocked to discover her charge is Lord Glenmore. He doesn't want a companion, male or female, and determines to get rid of Catherine by fair means or foul.

The conflict between Richard and Catherine raises the stakes in my story. The are interesting secondary characters. Richard's handsome brother, Randall, returns from soldiering in Afghanistan (yes the the conflict goes back centuries) add a beautiful gypsy fortune teller to the mix and the story sings.

Enjoy the day.
Anita Birt

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Simple Pleasures

I came home from my early morning walk this morning and found an evening grosbeak on the bird feeder. I had never seen one before so my day started with a smile. I think we sometimes overlook or don't notice the simple pleasures in life. A courteous driver lets me slide into a line of traffic when I'm coming from a side road. A wave and a smile brighten the day. As a writer I am surprised at times when a character in my Work In Progress stops me in my tracks. I didn't intend him to be a leading character but he pushed his way into my story and here he is vying for the hand of the heroine.

My blogs are not going to be long dissertations about writing. I'll write about things that interest me and hope they will interest anyone who stumbles on my blog and cares to comment. There's a line of poetry running through my head so I'm off to Google it and track down the poet.

See you tomorrow.
Anita Birt