First and Fourth Fridays is pleased to welcome David W. Landrum. David has been writing from an early age, but began writing and publishing about 2008. He has published over 200 short stories and several novels and novellas. The Last Minstrel is from Clean Reads; others, from other publishers, include The Gallery, ShadowCity, The Prophetess, Strange Brew, The Sorceress of the Northern Seas, and, newly released, Mother Hulda. David teaches English at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan.
Here are David’s answers to The First and Fourth Friday Four Questions:
1. The first book that I felt a physical loss when I ended? It was The French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles. It is a postmodern novel that, literally, has two endings, and the reader is invited to chose one. I felt sadness at the second ending, which, the author admits, since it comes at the close of the book is probably the one most people will pick.
2. The nicest and most unique thing I did for someone? It was when I decided to throw someone a surprise birthday party. I knew the young lady I was dating liked pie rather than cake, so I told everyone to bring pies. I managed to keep it a secret, and when we pulled up to the house where the party was to take place (it was summer) I said, “Gee, there are a bunch of people out in the yard.” She realized what it was and started crying out of happiness.
3. What is the most romantic thing someone has ever done for you? A girl I dated took me out on a wildflower walk. A city boy, I knew nothing about wildflowers. She asked a farmer we both knew if we could go walking in his wood lot. It was early spring, and we saw violets, trillium, wild columbine, wild roses, Dutchman’s breeches, Jack-in-the-pulpit, spring beauties . . . a whole range of flowers growing out in the wood. The event struck me as more romantic and sweet than any before, and it remains so in my mind even today.
4. To me, the most romantic of songs is the old Beatles song, “Norwegian Wood,” sung, and so probably written, by John Lennon. It starts out, “I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.” It is the story of the last night of a romance. The narrator sees that the girl he loves has left him that morning (“and when I awoke, I was alone / this bird had flown”) and, later–and I picture this taking place on a winter afternoon–he lights a fire in the fireplace and remembers some words she said: “So, I lit the fire. ‘Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?'” Maybe a little sad, but so beautiful and romantic.
Wow, so we know David is a romantic. (I’m listening to “Norwegian Wood” as I type this.) Here is an excerpt from David’s latest release, “The Last Minstrel”:
We walked to the shrine. Caelen laid a trillium at the base of each of the five monoliths. Her feet crunched on the jewels as she walked around and distributed the flowers. When she had finished, she looked up at the sky for a moment then around at her house, the trees and groves, the flowering bushes. “Stay here,” she instructed, and walked back to her house. I waited. The sun glittered on the precious stones inside the circle of monoliths. Caelen emerged from the house. She carried a purple bag.
“You are in the goddess’s favor,” she said. “Abide here for one hour. After I am finished making atonement, the shrine will pass from Morrigan’s control to Ardwinna’s. It will once again be a place of healing and safety.” I wanted to object but knew it would not be appropriate. Sorrow and pity for her filled my heart.
“Will you bless me?” I asked.
She laughed a short, bitter laugh. “Bless you? I have blasphemed Ardwinna, desecrated her image, and disgraced her shine. I have brought suffering, evil, and misery upon this land. I am not worthy to lick the dirt from your feet, let alone bless you.”
“You are a priestess of Ardwinna. Nothing you have done can erase that. Her blessing will come through you because of your standing and your position, whatever you have done.”
She contemplated and then nodded. She put down the bag and knelt in front of me. When a priestess of Ardwinna blesses you, she kneels. In the Church, you always kneel for the priest to bless you, but in the old religion the one giving the blessing knelt to show that she was simply a conduit of the goddess’s favor and that you, who received the benison, are the one who should be reverenced. She put her hands on me and muttered the blessing in an ancient tongue. When she was finished, she rose.
“Take the path over there”—she pointed—“in an hour. I asked you to do what is proper for me, though I deserve nothing but scorn. Still, I ask this as a grace.”
“I have the ring and the necklace Orlev carried—and the gold he had in his purse. Do you want them?”
“No. Keep them. You may use them as you see fit. Your mother will return with the other captives when the shadows of the stones fall entirely within the circle, I’ll go now.”
I leaned over and kissed her. She turned and walked to the path.