The Butcher's Daughter by Mark M. McMillin Genre: Historical Nautical Romantic Adventure
In an age ruled by iron men, in a world of new discovery and Spanish gold, a young Irishwoman named Mary rises from the ashes of her broken childhood with ships and men-at-arms under her command. She and her loyal crew prowl the Caribbean and prosper in the New World for a time until the ugly past Mary has fled from in the old one finds her.
Across the great ocean to the east, war is coming. The King of Spain is assembling the most powerful armada the world has ever seen - an enormous beast - to invade England and depose the Protestant “heretic queen.” To have any chance against the wealth and might of Spain, England will need every warship, she will need every able captain. To this purpose, Queen Elizabeth spares Mary from the headman’s axe for past sins in exchange for her loyalty, her ships and men.
Based on true historical events, this is a tale about war, adventure, love and betrayal. This is a story about vengeance, this is a tale of heartbreak…
“… a pleasurable and action-packed read … a delicious spin to the otherwise tired clichés of male captains … the joy of the open seas - as well as the danger churning below - pulses throughout this rip-roaring, hearty tale of the high seas.” - Kirkus Reviews
I stood on the poop deck next to MacGyver, Michael MacGyver, my best man at the helm, watching the morning sun, dressed in brilliant red, rise majestically above the sea’s shimmering green waters. A good, flowing wind filled our sails and the ship was cruising along nicely. We had Dowlin’s magnificent ship in tow and I could hear my men with their saws and hammers working to repair her shattered rudder. It was a glorious morning. It was a hallelujah morning.
“Good day, Mum,” Hunter said with a mischievous grin as he made his way up the companionway and handed me a mug of steaming, black coffee. “Sleep well my lady?”
“I did indeed, Master Hunter, I did indeed. And you?”
“I have no complaints. I feel most refreshed.”
From the corner of my eye, I could see MacGyver crack a thin smile. A ship is a small place, too small for secrets. The whole crew knew that Hunter and I were lovers.
I savored the coffee’s rich aroma for a bit before I took a sip. “What course, MacGyver? Did old Gilley even give you one before he retired to his hammock or are you sailing aimlessly about on the open sea to only God knows where?”
“We sail for the Na Sailtí, my lady.”
“Ahhh, the Saltee Islands,” I said. “I thought as much.”
No one had ever accused Dowlin of being clever. The Saltee Islands, lying just off Kilmore Quay between Waterford and Wexford, was an obvious choice. The islands were remote and uninhabited and not far from Dowlin’s base at Youghal. Still, without a map or guide, one could roam those small islands for years and not find any buried treasure.
Hunter grabbed my mug of coffee from my hand and took a sip. “Dowlin’s brothers,” he said soberly, staring absently out at the horizon, “ghastly brutes the pair of them, will want revenge when they hear of what we’ve done, Mary. Righteous or not, the gods always exact a price for a killing.”
Only Hunter and Gilley ever addressed me by my given name. Mary had been my mother’s name. But I did not know her. She had died when I was very young. They say she had been a rare beauty. They say that before my father took her in and married her, she had been a whore.
“No doubt,” I said evenly, stealing a secret moment to admire Hunter’s exquisite face in the soft, morning light.
He had not yet shaved. He wore no hat and had neglected braiding his long, black hair into a queue. The breezes toyed with the loose strands, brushing them across his face. His eyes were striking blue. His chin was square and strong. I thought him the most handsome man in all of Ireland, perhaps in all of Christendom.
Hunter used his fingers to comb the tangled mess off his forehead. He turned to face me and gave me a puzzled look.
“Out with it, Hunter,” I demanded.
“I’d rather see it comin’ than get it in the back. That’s all, my lady.”
“I agree,” MacGyver chimed in, “with Hunter.”
“You agree with Hunter do you now?” I asked mockingly as I placed my hands on my hips. “As if I give a damn what you two agree on! Do I smell a mutiny brewing aboard my ship?”
Hunter and MacGyver exchanged knowing glances and chuckled. As every man in my crew knew, any one of them could speak his mind freely and without fear. Honest speech was protected by one of the Ten Rules, though precisely which one I doubt any of us knew.
Then Gilley, climbing up the ladder from the main deck, stepped onto the quarter deck carrying a basket of bread from the ship’s galley. The bread was freshly baked, still warm and smelled delicious.
“Mutiny is it?” Gilley asked while handing out his loaves. “Never trusted the likes of these two, Mum. Be happy to gut them both for you after they finish their breakfast. I’ll hang their worthless carcasses off the main yardarm to rot. Let them serve as a warnin’ to all other would be mutineers.”
“Hunter,” I said, “is worried about Dowlin’s brothers.”
“Ah, and well he should be, Mum,” replied Gilley with a serious nod. “Well he should be. Them two aren’t no better than Dowlin. Worse maybe. An ill-tempered litter sprung from the angry womb of an ill-tempered bitch.”
“Aye,” I agreed. “So gentlemen, we must be the first to strike. And when we strike we must do so with deadly purpose.”
Born in 1954 in Indiana, Mark McMillin has lived in a number of states throughout the U.S. as well as overseas. He attended Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, focusing his studies mostly on military history, and served as a cadet in Canisius's nationally recognized ROTC program. After graduating in 1976, Mark was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army and was stationed in Bad Kissingen, Germany where he served with the elite 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
In 1986, Mark received his J.D. degree from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois and began his legal career with a law firm in White Plains, New York focusing his attention on general corporate law. In 1994, Mark moved to Virginia and ventured out into hazardous world of litigation where, in 1999, he won what was reported to be at the time one of the largest and longest federal criminal trials in Virginia's history. Mark thereafter moved to Georgia where he resumed his general corporate practice and served as general counsel for several companies, including a $1B publicly-traded airline.
Mark has been a life-long student of military history. And he has always had a passion for reading and love for writing and wanted to someday write his own book. But write a book about what? Mark had no desire to write about some subject that 100 authors before him had already delved into. And then, almost by accident, this fascinating, little known story of Captain Luke Ryan fell into his lap. It was an opportunity was too good to pass on and so Mark began the long and tedious journey of researching, writing and rewriting. The twelve year project ended in 2011 with Gather the Shadowmen (The Lords of the Ocean), Prince of the Atlantic and Napoleon's Gold.
Mark currently lives in the Southeastern part of the United States.
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: I wrote a series of books in the omnipresent voice about a little known, real life hero named Captain Luke Ryan, Benjamin Franklin’s most dangerous privateer during the American War of Independence. When I was ready to write again, I wanted to try something a little different, something a bit challenging from a writer’s perspective. I wanted to write about a strong female character in the first person (even though I am a guy) and choose the Elizabethan Era.
Q: What can we expect from you in the future?
A: I am nearly finished with the sequel to The Butcher’s Daughter (A Journey Between Worlds). The title to this new book is Blood for Blood (The Uncertain Journey).
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in book?
A: Mary is the main character and our heroine. She is a strong, fearless woman trying to survive in a world of men during a time when women where thought of as chattel. While Mary is fictional, there were amazingly several female ship captains in the 1500’s.
Q: How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
A: Initially I started my research on a woman named Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen, a real life historical figure who I found fascinating. I intended to write a historical fiction novel about her but discovered that someone had beat me to it so I invented Mary, Grace’s half-sister.
Q: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
A: I enjoyed the challenge of trying to write from a woman’s perspective and recreating life in the ‘wild west’ days of the West Indies.
Q: Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
A: There are a number of supportive characters in the book, but everything revolves around Mary. She is the only main character. It is the violence in Mary’s childhood that shapes her.
Q: How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
A: Mary is the (step) daughter of a common butcher who is slaughtered before her eyes.
Q: Who designed your book covers?
A: Fiona Jayde and I was pleased with the final product.
Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
A: I’m sure a thoughtful editor with a skilled hand can improve my work but, honestly, I’m not aware of anything I would change.
Q: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
A: Oh yes, I learned a great deal about the 1500’s. The 16th Century was a Golden Age in many ways.
Q: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
A: Ah, now there’s a pleasant thought! Mary’s character is beautiful, smart and complex. She has a tender heart and an iron fist – and she’s Irish. An actress with the talent and depth of Kate Blanchett comes to mind.
Q: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
A: I welcome any (constructive) criticisms or praise.
Q: What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
A: I do some preliminary research about the era I intend to write about and then I just write. I fill-in the historical details later to add an element of authenticity. I know, I know, my process is backwards. For example, this book takes place in the late 1550’s. When I wrote some scene with Mary (who wears men’s clothing as most of her time is spent at sea) and a refined lady, I just write the scene and research the types and colors of dresses the lady might have worn later. I’ve tried hard to strike a balance between adding enough detail to create realism but not too much detail that can bog a story down.
Q: What do you think about the current publishing market?
A: It’s hard, nearly impossible, for and unknown new writer to break into. I know that much.
Q: What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
A: Just write, ignore the rules and processes and just write. Then polish, polish and polish your story and when you think you’re done, go back and polish it some more.
Q: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
A: Six months or so – but then it takes me eighteen months or more on the rewrites. I bet I wrote well over 600,000 words to get the 100,000 + words for The Butcher’s Daughter.
Q: Do you believe in writer’s block?
A: Of course, no question. When it happens, just walk away from your work - but keep a notebook handy or voice recorder nearby if that’s your thing. At some point an inspiration will hit you square in the face out of the blue and then you’ll know you are ready to write again.
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