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Author Self Promotion > The Witch Awakening, Tapestry Lion, Phoenix Ashes, and Fledgling Witch Print Copy GIVEAWAY

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message 1: by Karen (last edited Apr 21, 2012 03:27PM) (new)

Karen | 7 comments Hello all~

My gothic fantasy series (entitled the Landers Saga) tells the story of Safire, a young psychic and artist who struggles against the contraints of a skewed Renaissance world that burns witches at the stake.

Books in the Landers Saga:
Fledgling Witch: A Novella
The Witch Awakening
Tapestry Lion
Phoenix Ashes
The Curious Fear of High and Lonely Places (the final book in the saga, tentatively available by September 2012)

First couple scenes from The Witch Awakening:

The sky had cracks in it. Then the wind rose, and I blinked, startled, as the cracks moved and transformed into the writhing bare branches of the old oak. Shivering, I sat up and pulled my cloak around my shoulders. Dusk had crept across the fields with shadow feet while I lay here, half in a doze as I watched the clouds. I should have been home an hour ago.

I stumbled up and shook the dust from my clothes. The blood stirred in my veins, stinging my numb skin as I began to walk along the rutted wagon track. The moon hung low and huge over the smudged shapes of the trees. "Go away," I told it. "I'm already late enough as it is."

The house wasn't far. The track wound through two fields, stubby with wheat stalks, and then through a tangle of trees before it stopped at the edge of the cobbled courtyard. My breath made fog as I stared at the light spilling from the large front windows on the first story of the house. Father and my sister Dagmar were there now, eating. Grimacing from the cold, I plucked up my skirt and headed for the side door.

As I went across the courtyard, a horse whickered. I glanced toward the stable and froze. My father couldn't have done this to me. I had told him, insisted that he never invite that man again, at least when I was around. But did he listen? No. There stood the evidence, eating out of its feed bag, oblivious: Peregrine of Bara's horse.

Even in this light, no one could mistake that silver gray coat with the black stripe down the back. The biggest scoundrel on the coast had the loveliest horse. Peregrine. If I had known he was here for dinner, I would have stayed out in the field all night. I threw open the front door and slammed it as I tossed my cloak on a bench.

Dagmar hurried through a doorway, her blond hair piled on her head in an explosion of ringlets. She stopped and stared at me. I glanced down at myself, holding out my skirt. I wasn't dressed for dinner--I wore my oldest frock and my slippers were covered with dirt.

"Where have you been?" she demanded. "Dinner started a quarter hour ago, Safire."

"I forgot."

"You forgot! You're always forgetting--and look at you! Get upstairs and put on a decent frock. Father's going to throttle you. And do something about your hair . . ." her words trailed off as I sauntered to the mirror over the hall table.

I had to stand on tiptoe and lean over the table to get a good look at myself. Someone tall must have hung this mirror. I poked my tongue in my cheek. There was a long smudge of dirt running down the side of my face, and my freckles stood out worse than usual. My red curls, my best feature, were stringy. I turned and looked at her.

She stood there, hands fluttering limply at her sides. "Safire . . ."

"I like the way I look. It's fitting for our company." I tossed my hair and strode towards the banquet hall.

"Stop it." She reached for me. But I was already through the door.

Father glanced up from his place at the head of the table, a vein standing out under the wisps of fading gingery hair that drifted over his forehead. He usually had a ruddy complexion, but his skin looked positively crimson tonight, his orange aura aflame. I faltered, taking a half step back. Then my gaze drifted to Peregrine. Bold blue eyes met mine in a look that could only be described as a leer. Lustful toad. I had never been able to see his aura, only smell it--he kept it hidden from sight like an ace up his sleeve.

My head high, I slid into my accustomed chair. "My apologies for my lateness. I was unavoidably detained."

"Obviously not by your lady's maid," Father retorted, stabbing a piece of pheasant with his fork. "You look like you've been digging in the potato patch."

He must be really angry, to let Peregrine see his displeasure. "Father . . ." I began.

"Up to your chamber, Safire."

Biting my lip, I rose as Dagmar crept into the hall and silently took her seat.

"Now, Avernal," Peregrine said, his voice slippery as oiled silk, "Don't tell me I'm to be deprived of your daughter's presence thrice in a fortnight. Last time I called she had a headache, and the time before that she had a fever."

"That's because you make me ill."

Father's face went purple. "Safire, you headstrong . . ." he choked.

I put my hands to my mouth. He was going to have apoplexy right here, just like Dagmar and I had always feared. And it was my fault. I stumbled around the table, reaching for him.

"Father, breathe. Just breathe." My fingers curled around his arm, and I felt the tight ropes of his muscles through his shirt. As I had done many times before, I concentrated on the tension, drawing it away from him and into me. Tonight, it was like swallowing a swarm of hornets. His shoulders jerked with the effort to exhale and inhale, a motion that gradually subsided to an even rhythm. But I backed away only when he raised his palm from the table.

"Enough," he said gruffly. "Sit down, daughter."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My hand clutched the charcoal stick, all the tautness inside me draining out on the paper in strong, black lines. It was a storm scene--a raging sea and jagged bolts of lightning and clouds pregnant with darkness. A bird struggled in the midst of the storm as it searched for solid ground. I paused over the last bedraggled feather and closed my eyes as I leaned against the rough boards of the stable wall. Finally, I was empty again, and what I wanted most in the world was my cozy bed with its goose down pillows and heavy quilt. Yawning, I set aside my sketch board and breathed the sweetness of hay and old leather and horse sweat.

The lantern flickered from a sudden draft as the door flew open. "I knew I'd find you out here in the animal pen," Dagmar exclaimed. "Oh, Safire--you've been messing with that nasty charcoal again. You know Father hates that. It makes you look like a hearth sweep."

I sighed. "Leave me be."

"I won't. Someone needs to take you in hand."

"What do you want, Dagmar?" I hugged my knees.

"I want you to quit worrying Father."

I rolled my eyes. "Do you always have to be the older sister? Leave me out of it for once. Seriously, what do you want? Are you content marrying Selwyn, having his babies?"

"I suppose so." She shrugged. "What else is there?"

"But you don't even like him."

She shrugged again. "It's a great honor, Safire, marrying into the House of Landers. There's not a higher noble House at court. I could be doing worse."

"But . . ."

"And you--you could be doing worse than Peregrine."

"I could be doing better, too."

"Your pride's going to be the ruin of you. Ridiculous."

"I bet you wouldn't think it was so ridiculous if you had that horrid man breathing down your neck, asking to marry you."

"Peregrine of Bara is handsome, well-mannered, and high at court. Not to mention the fact he's dripping with coin."

"Dirty coin."

"That's not true. That was just a nasty rumor, and you know it. You're lucky that some man even wants to marry you, with how you carry on. I can just see you now, an old spinster wandering the hills, muttering to yourself and gathering witches' herbs. That is, if you're lucky. If you're unlucky, a serving wench or some dirty dockhand's mistress."

"To be honest, sister, I'd work as a tavern wench who served more in the beds than at the tables before I'd ever stoop to marry that man." I smiled and grabbed my sketch board under one arm as I got to my feet.

"I bet you would. I bet you would bring shame on the family, just to prove you could. Ruin everything Father's done to build this House's position at court, just to prove you could. Father should have sent you to the convent." She picked up the lantern and followed me out of the stable, still talking. "You'll regret it, you know. In ten years, you'll regret it. But it will be too late then--no man will want you then."

I stopped in front of Peregrine's mount. He stood in the stable yard, languidly munching on some hay the groom had put out for him. I reached up and scratched the place between his ears. He tossed his head, neighing, and regarded me with dark, suspicious eyes. "Hello, Trident," I whispered. "Don't you remember me? I'm the one who told you to throw Peregrine."

"Safire, honestly . . ." Dagmar gasped.

"What is it?" I glanced around just as Peregrine stepped out of the shadows behind the stable door and strolled towards us, hands in his pockets.

Dagmar muttered something and fled to the house. Damn her--she knew I hated being alone with him. I shrank against the horse as he came closer, his boots echoing on the cobbles. He paused a few yards from where I stood.

"You like my horse?" he asked.

I met his stare with one of my own. "I suppose. He's a fine animal."

"He's yours."

"I already have a horse."

"Sell him then. Buy a new frock. Or better yet, save the coin for your future as a barmaid--you'll likely need it."

"You heard that?"

"Yes, I heard everything."


Peregrine shrugged. "It's not anything I haven't heard from you before." He took a step closer, and I shifted my sketch board so it was between us, a feeble shield. "Your Father's practically promised me your hand, you know."

"He wouldn't do that, not without my consent."

"He doesn't need your consent, pet."

"If he wants to keep me as a daughter, he does. The answer is no, Peregrine. How many times do I have to tell you?"

"As many times as it takes for you to say yes."

"Only God can wait that long. I suggest you take your suit elsewhere." I ducked beneath Trident's head, giving him one last pat before I headed for the house.

"There is nowhere else for me to take it, Safire."

I whirled on him. "I hate you. I always will. Now leave. How much plainer can I make myself?"

"How can you hate me? I haven't done anything except bring you presents you don't accept."

"It's not anything you've done," I spat. "It's what you're thinking of doing every time you look at me. It's disgusting."

"If that was all I wanted you for, I wouldn't be offering marriage." His voice lowered to a silky hiss as he leaned closer. "And a true maid wouldn't know what I was thinking when I look at you."

I slapped him, but he only chuckled, grabbing my arm. I wrinkled my nose at the overpowering scent of ambergris, an earthy sweetness that reminded me of the dust from the carved wooden saints in the ancient parish church, the scent of centuries-old driftwood slowly decaying. It was something only I could sense. When I had first met him two years before, I had told Dagmar that he reeked of ambergris cologne. She had given me her best older sister look and said that all she smelled was soap and expensive pipe weed, proper gentleman smells, and that I must have a cold. So I had said no more of it. Usually auras were something I saw, not smelled, but Peregrine was different apparently. Likely if Mother had been alive, she would have sensed the ambergris too and been able to explain why he was different to me, but Mother had been dead for over a year by the time we met Peregrine.

"How dare you--let go of me!"

message 2: by Karen (new)

Karen | 7 comments As the print copies of the Landers Saga titles are by necessity more pricey than the e-book copies, I wanted to let people know that I'm currently giving away print copies of all four published titles. More details here: My Own Private Giveaway

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