Friday, December 22, 2023

Bragging Rights, and contest Winner by Diane Scott Lewis


To purchase, please click HERE

My book, Outcast Artist in Bretagne, is the winner in N N Lights Book Heaven best book for 2023 in historical fiction.

Here is an excerpt:

At the sound of a boot scraping over stone, Norah peeked around the tall rock. Her pulse spiked. The Commandant stood a couple of feet away, straight as a steel beam, arrogant, gazing out over the Atlantic. His Nazi uniform was a terrible mockery to the village of Saint Guénolé.

She’d thought herself secluded here. Why had she taken the chance? She hunkered down and should slip away, since she could be apprehended for spying on the German officer. Though that’s not why she was there. Loathing coated with fear rippled through her.

Almost frozen with inaction, she slid down a little more into the cove of rocks’ shadows. She glanced at her drawing book. The sketch of the Atlantic Puffin, delicate in its lines traced in colored pencils. The orange legs and strong red and black beak on a body of black, pale gray, and a white underside shimmered on the page. In profile, its eye shone with life, and the puffin looked about to take flight.

A gust of wind tossed her hair into her face, a thick sweep of strawberry-blonde in the scent of brine from the sea.

Did she hear his boots scrape closer? What if he peered over the rocks? Swiping her tresses aside, she shrank deeper into a cleft and glared over the ocean, longing for her home in Yorkshire, angry and upset at being stranded. But she must pretend to be calm, in control.

The Southern Finistère coast, with its rugged, rocky outline, was a buttress against the forceful ocean waves that slapped the stone slope two yards below her toes. The dark indigo of the Bay of Biscay reflected a blue spring sky. Spray filtered through the air, a mist that refreshed her skin—except today. If she could only sneak to the north coast and be capable of swimming the channel.

Inching to the side, Norah crept, head down, out from the semi-circle of tall rocks on the opposite side from the Commandant. Thankful she wore trousers and not a skirt, plus sturdy Oxford shoes, she brushed off her backside. She hurried past the monolithic-like stones with golden lichen clinging to their bases, across an open area of grass and into the bushes then woods. Her pencils rattled in the canvas bag. Her legs grazed against the orange and yellow wildflowers.

A sentry or two always patrolled this area. She tried to remain inconspicuous, but more soldiers had arrived in the last few weeks. The Germans had started to build ports somewhere along here and a special one, heavily guarded, right below the village. She must be more careful.

As she pushed her way through gorse bushes and scratchy plants, sharply fragrant, she pondered the German officer’s reasons for standing at the cliff, which he did often—but never so close to her cove. Was he waiting for reinforcements by sea? Or coveting England across the channel? But that view was on the northern coast of this peninsula that stuck like a fat finger out into the Atlantic.

The Nazis’ bombing raids had already decimated so much in London in the Blitz. They’d also dropped bombs on York, but with minimal damage so far. Her country had been attacked by German planes from September ’40 to last month—the worst raid ever on London. She groaned. Now June, would it start again?

Since last year, Hitler planned an invasion of England, but it had failed to land any troops.

Her stomach clenched with more anger she needed to temper. She increased her stride, sucking in the fresh air. Rustling behind her, footsteps—too close. Someone panting then a hand grabbed her shoulder.

Norah flinched and swung around. A baby-faced soldier in Nazi greenish-gray scowled at her. “What are you doing here?” he demanded in heavily accented, terrible French, two of his teeth jagged like a weasel.

She straightened, chin high, the pad pressed to her stomach. Inside, she trembled. “I live nearby. I was enjoying a walk. I draw birds.” Her French was passable after the year entrenched with her cousin, and her schoolgirl lessons from a decade ago. Her arrival happened only five weeks before the Germans invaded France. A desperate year because of that and for anguished, personal reasons.
The young man pointed at her book and bag, then shouted over his shoulder in German.

Was he alerting his superior? “Please, I’ve done nothing wrong.” She had no desire to come face to face with the Commandant. “You can search me…if you want.” She cringed at that idea.

“I have no choice but to report you.” The soldier shouted again. The officer’s heavy footsteps thudded closer.

He burst through the bushes, tall and broad-shouldered, his expression stern. The two Germans spoke in their guttural language.

Norah wanted to collapse to the ground but refused to show intimidation. Her spine nearly crackled as she held it firm.

The Commandant confronted her, his blue eyes penetrating. “What is your purpose out here at the shore?” He had distinct cheekbones, a handsome face, his lips full; a man of about forty. An iron cross hung at his high collar. “You don’t care to take instruction from we Philistines. Civilians are restricted.”

“I apologize,” she tried to keep the revulsion from her tone, though his near-teasing words —or perhaps a taunt—put her off-balance even more, “I was out for a walk and…I used to walk by the shore. Before—” Before you damned Germans arrived.

Diane lives in Western Pennsylvania with her husband and one naughty dachshund.

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