Friday, 4 November 2016

The Butcher’s Daughter by Mark M. McMillin

Title: The Butcher’s Daughter
Author: Mark M. McMillin
Genre: Historical Fiction

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 an epic story about war, adventure, love and betrayal. This is a timeless story about vengeance. This is a tale of heartbreak…


The Author:

Mark is an attorney by day and an author by night. He has always had a passion for history and writing. The Butcher’s Daughter is his fourth book. Mark began his career with the military. He is a veteran of the “Cold War” and served with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Germany. Mark currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia and is the general counsel for an airline and freight forwarding company.


Interview with Mark M. McMillin

How did your writing journey begin? Have you always been a creative soul?
I remember loving to write in third grade. I think we all are creative souls.

Are there any particular places that help you get the creative cogs turning?
Long walks, sometimes liquor…

What’s the best writing advice you’ve been given?
If you like to write, find something that you are passionate about before you start crafting your story. Writing is HARD work but the task is made much easier if you enjoy what you are writing about. Pitch the ego and the $.50 cent words. Find your “voice” and stick to it. And don’t worry too much about the so-called ‘rules’ of writing.

The best thing about being an author is…
So far, being interviewed!

Tell us about your writing routine; what’s a typical writing day for you?
I try to write a few hundred words each day. Writing takes discipline. Sometimes what I write is good (or at least seems pretty good to me) and sometimes it isn’t but it is important to keep writing. When writer’s block sets in, no worries, accept it and take a break. That break can be a day or weeks. The story will come to you, don’t force it.

Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?
I’d be a fool not to.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
Interesting question. I’ve often struggled finding just the right name for a character, haven’t been very good at it so far and go with random names.

What is your favourite scene that you’ve written? Can you give us a peek?
I am particularly fond of the first scene and the last scene in the book. The first scene is offered on my Website and the last scene would give too much away. Here is a scene from the middle of the book after Mary is betrayed:
Our captors bound our hands. They took my men below but kept me on deck and tied me to the main mast. They left me there alone. Not far from my feet I could see a puddle of blood seeping into the planks where Hunter had fallen. I began to cry. And then I heard men lowering boats in the water and I watched a wave of longboats with teams of men from all four ships move towards shore. After the Twins had secured the beach, two louts came for me. They roughly tossed me into Star’s small boat and rowed me to the island. I couldn’t tell in the dark how many of my men had been killed as we stepped on the beach. Some I reasoned must have survived the barrage and fled into the jungle. The few bodies we walked by as my captors hustled me towards the only tent still standing had been carved-up by grapeshot. It was a quick, if gruesome death. It was a better death I knew than what was waiting for me inside that tent. My two escorts, one on each side of me, dragged me by my arms inside where the one-eyed Twin stood waiting.

“Ah, Mary, Mary, Mary,” the one-eyed Twin offered with a crooked smile. “How very happy I am you’re alive and well. How I’ve longed to see you, to touch you, to feel your soft skin against mine. I’ve thought a lot about you since our last encounter.”

I looked at him defiantly in the eye as his two lackeys held me firm. My thoughts turned back to the day of days and I smiled. This animal could hurt me. He could make me scream and beg. He could mutilate my body and kill me. But he could never truly break me. He could never make me yield. Never. And if there was the slightest opportunity to kill him, even wound him, I would take it.

He circled around me like a predator about to devour its prey. “You won’t be smiling much longer, my love. I am, you know, a cultured man. I am fluent in Italian, French and Spanish and I can even speak tolerable Latin and Greek. I appreciate fine art and music. I appreciate beauty in all its forms. You are an exquisite beauty I must say. What a sinful waste it would be if I were to exact my full revenge on thee here and now. But then again, my, my, my, well I know what a deadly, poisonous bitch you are.”

He stopped in front of me, ripped my blouse open and laughed. “Ahhh, I knew it! Your breasts are perfect, like two beautifully shaped melons. Your nipples are not too big and not too small. Everything about you Mary is nearly flawless. I even like this short hair of yours. It is most becoming. I should commission an artist to paint you in the nude for my own enjoyment later.”

Then he took a dagger from his belt and placed it against my cheek. He ran the tip of the blade playfully across my lips, down my chin, down my neck, across my chest and around my nipples. I closed my eyes. I clenched my teeth. My muscles tensed as I braced myself for pain. But I refused to beg. I tried to hide my fear. I bit my lower lip to keep it from quivering. I had the urge to pee and squeezed my legs together.

“Well my dearest Mary, did you know there is a bounty on your head?” he asked and wagged a finger in my face. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. You’ve been a naughty, naughty girl. You’ve committed piracy on the high seas back in Ireland. You’ve killed the queen’s good men. How can I carve you up on this fucking island and still collect the bounty? Your flesh will putrefy before I can get your body back to England. No, no, I will not kill you. Not here. Your life has more value to me than your death - for now. I’ll let the English kill you and they will pay me for the pleasure. You’ll be drawn and quartered at Smithfield. Your body parts will be dragged by horses across the four corners of England. The English will stick that lovely head of yours on a pike outside the Tower. I doubt any man will want you then. Oh Mary, my deadly, little viper, what a painful, grisly death you face, eh?”

I opened my eyes and looked down at the one-eyed monster’s brother sitting in the sand in a corner of the tent. His shirt was soaked in blood and he was whizzing his breath away. He would not last through the night. This was Hunter’s parting gift to me. Again I smiled.

The one-eyed Twin turned to look over at his wounded brother. He understood my thoughts.

“You needn’t concern yourself with him. He’ll live or die. What of it? Let’s concern ourselves with you. You’ve lost everything, Mary. Your ships, your gold, your men, your precious lover Hunter too, all lost. Ah yes, the gold - Billy told us where to find it, where you buried it. Very soon it will all be mine.”

I ignored the pig and glanced over at Billy. He was standing in a corner across from the wounded Twin, still dressed in his wet clothes and shaking. I finally broke my silence.

“Why Billy, why? What insult did I ever give you or your family?”

Billy looked away, ashamed, and did not answer me.

“Oh, Mary let him be,” the one-eyed Twin said softly. “The poor lad is embarrassed as you can plainly see. Where’s your heart, your kindness? Have you none at all? Billy has been working for me from the very start. I killed his father first and then held his sister ransom. Then I broke his leg just to get your attention, your sympathy, to hire him aboard your ship. Well, in truth it is my dead brother’s ship is it not? Breaking the boy’s leg was a nice touch don’t you think? It was my idea to use him as my mole. And when you sent him back to Ireland, he came running back to me. He told me everything to save his sister. Come over here, Billy. That’s a good lad. No reason to be shy around our sweet and gentle Lady Mary.”

I could see the tears pooling in Billy’s eyes as he slowly shuffled towards me. I was glad Hunter had not killed him. He was just a boy, a poor, abused boy trying to protect his sister.

“You’ve done well, Billy,” the one-eyed Twin said as he wrapped one arm around Billy’s shoulder and hugged him close. “I’m proud of you, my good lad. Have you ever seen breasts like these? No? Cat got your tongue, boy? No matter. I forget how young you are. Well here we are Billy. You’ve done everything I’ve asked of you and as your reward you can join your sister now. Off you go my lad.”

A spray of blood splattered across my face and chest as the wretched pig sliced the boy’s throat open with a quick jerk of his dagger. Billy stared at me in shock, crumpled to the ground and died.

“Ahhh, he was just a boy!” I blurted out and started crying.

The one-eyed bastard drove his fist into my stomach without warning. I doubled over in pain and couldn’t breathe.

“Do not question me, I did the boy a favor!” he screamed. As I struggled to catch my breath, he wiped his dagger across my skin. He smeared Billy’s blood over my breasts and hands. He roared with laughter as he looked me up and down. “There now, look at this! Ha! Ha! Ha! How fitting, Mary! Billy’s blood is on your hands!”

I bared my teeth and lunged at him, hoping to rip out his throat. But his men held me fast. The Twin backhanded me so hard across the face I nearly fainted.

“Still yourself, Mary! Restrain your temper, bitch! Don’t you see? Poor Billy would’ve been tormented all the rest of his days had I not shown him my mercy. We put dogs down, put them out of their misery, for less. Well, I’m not quite certain you heard me before, listen carefully now Mary: I… have… taken… all… your… ships…”

“You lie!” I said, spitting the blood pooling in mouth out on the sand. The one-eyed Twin’s savage blow had split my lip. “My men are well on their way to Ireland.”

“No, no, Mary. We are friends. I would never lie to you. Everything I am telling you is true, all true. And I want you to suffer knowing how colossal are your blunders before I hand you over to those putrid English shits. Old Havana? Isn’t that where you sent your precious fleet? Aye, Old Havana it was and that is where we surprised your men as your ships sat defenseless riding anchor in the bay. My ships flew the King of Spain’s royal colors, the Cruz de Borgoña, and I had this wonderful pilot with me too, a very knowledgeable Spaniard, who showed me the way. Poor, stupid Gilley, he hesitated when we pulled into the bay. He wasn’t sure what to do. He let us come in close. The fool never even ran out his guns. After we took your ships, with hardly a shot fired mind you, I had Gilley bound to the main mast and, aye, you know what happened next. I took my time killing him too. I used this very blade to filet him. Good God could that old sot squeal. I can still hear his pathetic cries for mercy ringing in my ears. Oh yes, that old drunk was not too proud to beg.”

I lowered my head. I could feel all my strength draining from my limbs. All was lost. My poor, dear Gilley, dead. Hunter and Gilley, dead. All my men, dead. My body began trembling. Tears streamed down my cheeks.

The one-eyed Twin looked over at one of his men. “Bring the Spanish toad to me!”

“Ohhh...” I offered meekly moments later when two thugs dragged Cortés inside the tent. The one-eyed Twin was right. My blundering had indeed been colossal. For the first time in my life, I knew the utter shame of absolute defeat, of total humiliation. The feeling was a supremely wretched one, ugly and unnatural. For the first time in my life, I wanted to fall down and die - not to escape to Heaven - I yearned to be no more. I wanted my very existence to end.

“Mary,” Cortés called out to me, dropping to his knees. He clasped his hands together as if he were in prayer and started sobbing. “They took my wife, my daughters. I had no choice. I did, I did not know it would come to this. I swear.”

He saw Billy’s dead body sprawled across a patch of blood-drenched sand and swallowed hard. “The boy, Mary, the boy is the one who betrayed you Mary, not me, never me. I am sorry, so very sorry.”

“It’s alright, Rodriguez,” I said and tried offering him a reassuring smile. “You were right to protect your wife and daughters.”

“Spaniard,” the one-eyed Twin barked. “You and your arrangements with the Captain-General might be useful to me in the future. Spain and England I think will be at war before too long and God how I hate the fucking English. That makes us allies and nearly friends. You are free to go your way.”

“And my family?”

“Your family? Why I’m no barbarian, sir. I never laid a hand their pretty, little heads. But I have men in Barcelona, men who will look in on them from time to time. If you ever cross me, well…”

“And Mary?”

“She’s hardly any concern of yours. Now leave us. Your touching reunion is over and I suspect you’re too squeamish for what will happen next.”

After he made the sign of the cross, Cortés quickly crawled backwards until he was outside the tent. I wasn’t certain whether to pity him or curse him as I watched him leave. It hardly mattered.

Then a seaman popped his head inside and told the one-eyed Twin that Carib warriors were massing along the edge of the jungle not far off. The giant nodded and turned to me again.

“Well, damn. It seems we must cut our own pleasant reunion short. So now you know most everything, Mary. Did you really think you could kill my brother, take his ship, steal our wealth and we’d let you sail away scot-free? Does your arrogance know no bounds? I’ve sailed across the world to find you. I’ve stripped you bare. I’ve taken everything from you. Everything I tell you and Mary, I want the world to know.”

“Kill me you pig and be done with it,” I offered defiantly, mumbling the words through swollen lips.

He laughed. “No, no, no. Kill you? No, I will not kill you. I know you are not afraid to die. Perhaps you even welcome death, eh?”

The rumbling sounds of a Carib war chant began to fill the tent. And as the Carib marshalled their numbers and drew nearer the chant grew louder.

The Twin looked at one of his men holding me and jerked his head around. “We must be quick. Have the men ready the boats and then bring it to me.”

The seaman snickered at me as he disappeared outside. I understood his glee a moment later when he returned with red-hot poker in his hand.

The one-eyed Twin took his dagger and cut through my trousers and undergarments. He ripped off all my clothes until I stood before him completely naked. He grabbed the poker and brought it close to my belly, close enough so I could feel the heat, then slowly moved the poker up along my torso until he reached my face, all the while grinning.

“Now I’ve truly stripped everything from you Mary as you stand before me naked at last. Your body is exquisite. Your beauty is like none other. I dare say Venus would be envious. I should pass you around to my men but, being the diseased, rancid trollop you are, I fear you’ll infect them all with the great pox, or something worse. I wanted to spend more time with you, show you what I can do with a razor, but I’m in a bit of a hurry as you can see and so this will have to do. This is the mark of the sea serpent. It is my mark, Mary.”

I turned my head away and closed my eyes.

But he grabbed me by my chin and yanked my head around. “Look at it damn your soul or I’ll burn out both your eyes! That’s it, that’s my pretty. Look at it. This serpent is the symbol emblazoned on my banner and I expect you to bear it proudly for me until the end of your miserable days. This, you filthy bitch, is for our brother…”

And when the beast pressed the searing, hot metal against my skin, when he pressed the branding iron over my left breast, next to my heart and held it there, my flesh began to sizzle, smoke and burn. I heard myself scream. And then I fainted.

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
I hired an artist, Fiona, to do the artwork as I have no such skill. I gave her a description of Mary and viola.

What can we expect from you in the future?
Not much if folks don’t like the book!

It’s time to relax! What do you do?
Good conversation with people smarter than me with good food and wine, reading, movies, shooting, sometimes golf, etc.

What is the most important thing in your life and why?
I suppose, to be a good person. Everything else is fleeting, and mostly beyond our control. Happiness, wealth, health, it all comes and goes.

What is your biggest fear?

What is your favourite book?
If I could only have one book on some deserted island, I would choose Robert Fagel’s translation of Homer’s Iliad.

Your book is being made into a movie, what music would you use as a soundtrack?
Now we’re cooking! A pleasant thought. Our heroine is a feisty, Irish lass so we’d need at least an Irish tune or two. For me, a good chunk of what makes a good movie is the soundtrack.

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