BETH CATO’S NEW RELEASE

BreathofEarth_500x332 (1) (1)Happy Release Day for Beth Cato’s Breath of Earth!! The gorgeous cover only hints at the spellbinding story inside!

An Excerpt from Beth Cato’s Breath of Earth

In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation—the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her power—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.

When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose Earth’s powers to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming the city into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . .

Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her powerful magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

 

This excerpt from chapter 1 offers an introduction to geomancy.

Whimpers and moans welcomed Ingrid to the junior classroom. Nearest to the door, a dozen boys half sprawled over their desks. A blue mist overlay their skin, and beneath that mist were the sure signs of power sickness—skin flushed by high fever, thick sweat, dull eyes. The rest of the class stared, their expressions ranging from curiosity to horror. Some of them still showed signs of very recent recovery in their bloodshot eyes. None of these boys was older than ten; the youngest was a pudgy-faced eight.

“There you are!” The teacher scowled, as if it were Ingrid’s fault he’d been so inept with his accounting. Biting her lip, she held out the bag. He snatched it from her fingertips.

The chalkboard laid out the terminology of the lesson, one Ingrid had seen taught dozens of times: hyperthermia, hypothermia, and the quick timeline to a geomancer’s death. These young boys experienced the hard lesson of hyperthermia. The last earthquake noticeable by the wardens had taken place three days before. These students had been directly exposed to the current and hadn’t been allowed access to any kermanite. As a result, they spent the past few days bed-bound in misery as though gripped by influenza.

Thank God none of them were as sensitive as Ingrid. Another direct tremor would cause their temperatures to spike even more, and could even lead to death.

The teacher adept pressed a piece of kermanite to a boy’s skin. He gasped at the contact. Blue mist eddied over his body, the color evaporating as it was pulled inside the rock.

If she could see the kermanite in the adept’s hand, the clear crystal would be filling with a permanent smoky swirl. It took a trained mechanic to rig an electrical current to tap the trapped magic as a battery. When the energy within was exhausted, a crystal turned dull and dark. Once that happened, kermanite became a useless rock.

The young boy sat up straighter. “Thank you, sir,” he whispered, voice still ragged. It would take him hours to fully recover.

Ingrid looked away, that familiar anger heavy in her chest. Wardens and boys in training carried kermanite openly from watch fobs and cuff links, or most any other accessory where stones could be easily switched out once they were full.

She had to be far more subtle. Her kermanite chunks clinked together in her dress pocket. She had to take care not to touch them today, or the energy she held would be siphoned away.

Ingrid loved this slight flush of power, because that’s what it was — power. It sizzled just beneath her skin, intoxicated her with how it prickled at her nerves. Certainly, if she absorbed any more energy, she’d use the kermanite. She didn’t want to feel sick, though she could hold much more power than these boys, or even the wardens. Mr. Sakaguchi said she took after Papa — that she stored power like a bank vault, while most everyone else had the capacity of a private safe.

When it came to her natural skill, Ingrid often regarded herself as a rare fantastic or yokai — not like garden ornamentals like the kappas or naiads sold to the stuffed shirts on Market Street — but like the geomantic Hidden Ones Mr. Sakaguchi so loved to research. She was a creature relegated to idle fancy and obscure mythology, and aggravating shoes.

Amazon http://amzn.to/1noq6fE

Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/breath-of-earth-beth-cato/1122785052

Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger series from Harper Voyager, which includes her Nebula-nominated novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE. Her newest novel is BREATH OF EARTH. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

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SWEET RELEASE

Today I am sharing a blog post by Bishop O’Connell, a friend and colleague at Harper Voyager, who is celebrating the release of  his fourth book July 12!

His series is known for its incredibly beautiful  book covers and exciting plots which are reminiscent of Highlander with a subtle touch of Maggie Stiefvater. Here is the synopsis for The Returned:

The ReturnedAlmost a year after their wedding, and two since their daughter Fiona was rescued from a kidnapping by dark faeries, life has finally settled down for Caitlin and Edward. They maintain a facade of normalcy, but a family being watched over by the fae’s Rogue Court is far from ordinary. Still, it seems the perfect time to go on their long-awaited honeymoon, so they head to New Orleans.

 Little do they know, New Orleans is at the center of a territory their Rogue Court guardians hold no sway in, so the Court sends in Wraith, a teenage spell slinger, to watch over them. It’s not long before they discover an otherworldly force is overtaking the city, raising the dead, and they’re drawn into a web of dark magic. At the same time, a secret government agency tasked with protecting the mortal world against the supernatural begins their own investigation of the case. But the culprit may not be the villain everyone expects. Can Wraith, Caitlin, and Edward stop whoever is bringing the vengeful dead back to life before another massacre, and before an innocent is punished for crimes beyond her control?

 

 

Bishop O’Connell is the author of the American Faerie Tale series, a consultant, writer, blogger, and loverBishop of kilts and beer, as well as a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Born in Naples Italy while his father was stationed in Sardinia, Bishop grew up in San Diego, CA where he fell in love with the ocean and fish tacos. After wandering the country for work and school (absolutely not because he was in hiding from mind controlling bunnies), he settled in Richmond VA, where he writes, collects swords, revels in his immortality as a critically acclaimed “visionary” of the urban fantasy genre, and is regularly chastised for making up things for his bio. He can also be found online at A Quiet Pint (aquietpint.com), where he muses philosophical on life, the universe, and everything, as well as various aspects of writing and the road to getting published.

Letting Go of Your Work

by Bishop O’Connell

If you pursue any kind of artistic endeavor, you invest a lot into it. Ernest Hemingway once said; “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” I’m not a big Hemingway fan, but I think his mastery of the simply stated shines through here. Blood, sweat, and tears aren’t always a metaphor. Having invested so much of ourselves, and our time, into our writing (or any art form), we become quite attached to it, and understandably so.

It’s not a coincidence my first blog post was called “Your Baby is Ugly.” In a very real sense, our writing can be like our children. We birth them, we raise them, we marvel as they grow and develop, we protect them when we feel they’re being attacked. And sometimes, we even see them die, but please don’t email me about what a bad comparison that is. I’m not saying that the death of something you’ve written is even in the same solar system as losing a child.

We do, however become attached to those things we work hard to create, and so it becomes a handy analogy. Through all the stages, there’s a final step we often forget in the earlier stages. Eventually, our beloved creation will take on a life of its own. It becomes something separate from us and ventures into the world. The hard part is letting go.

Now, I don’t mean in the literal sense of submitting your writing. I’m talking about the next step after that, when it actually gets into someone else’s hands. Once you share your writing—or any form of art—it’s not yours anymore. This might sound like a romantic notion, but there’s more to it than that. What I mean is what your writing “means.” Sure, you’ll be able to tell people what it’s about: the story, plot, and characters, but your thoughts on what you’re trying to express are no longer the only correct ones.

Each of us is truly unique. We each take different paths through our lives, and even the things we share in common are seen through lenses shaped by previous experiences. Combine that with our individual genetic predispositions (to whatever impact they may have), our ever changing world, and you can see how astronomical are the odds of any two people having the same set of experiences. As such, we all experience the world in different ways. Take Starry Night by Van Gogh, one of the most recognizable paintings in the world.Starry Night

I don’t know if we have any kind of record what Vincent was thinking when he composed this, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. Odds are we’ve all seen this picture. Some of us love it, myself included. Others are more sanguine about it, while still others don’t care for it at all. Are any of us wrong? Okay, that’s an easy one. How about this; what’s it about? What’s it mean? When you look at it do you see a serene and peaceful night? Does it bring back memories of your childhood? Or do you see a dark and cold night, imagining yourself standing alone on a hillside looking down at the town, at the lit houses where you know you’ll find no comfort? Or do you feel no strong reaction at all? Again, are any of those interpretations wrong?

When you let your writing go, you’re offering it up to the world. Some will read your work and have a reaction to it that is nowhere near what you’d expected, or perhaps hoped. And yet, the very act of putting it out there is an act of surrender. If someone wants to know, you can explain what you were going for, what inspired you, etc. But, your thoughts are now simply your opinion, one amongst many in fact. Think of a song you love. If the person who wrote it, or performed it, came up to you and told you that what you thought the song was about was completely off base, would it really change how it makes you feel? What it does in your mind and heart?

I posted some poems here a while ago, and I didn’t say what they meant, or were about, for the reason I just explained. For me, poetry is especially personal. I can tell you what I was thinking and feeling when I wrote it, I could explain the imagery I was going for, but that’s not as relevant as what you think and feel when you read it. Those poems, like anything I put out to the world, are not mine anymore. They’re yours. They’re ours. As writers, as artists, I think we strive for connection in our expressions. I’m storyteller at heart, and of course I love knowing someone was entertained by a story I came up with, but I’m hoping people find something in it that’s familiar to them. Something that says despite each us being unique, there are countless experiences, thoughts, feelings, “things” we have in common to one degree or another. In a world that is increasing isolated, ironically because of all the social media and interconnectedness of the world, we writers, painters, sculptors, actors, what have you, use our art like a message in a bottle, cast into the vast ocean surrounding our individual islands in hopes it reaches someone else on theirs.

I originally wrote this piece before my first book, The Stolen, was released, but there is still truth in it. If anything, I’ve learned just how right I was. Not only will people have thoughts and opinions about your work, not only will they differ from your own, but sometimes they’ll share them with the world in the form of reviews. It isn’t easy seeing a bad review, but that’s just another part of letting go.

In a perfect example of artistic insanity, the only thing perhaps worse than bad reviews are no reviews at all. I heard a quote attributed to Picaso, I have no idea if it was his or not, but I like it. “All artists are half-crazy, but so long as I’m submerged in my work, I’ll be okay.”

Bishop’s Blog –  https://aquietpint.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBishopOConnell

Twitter – https://twitter.com/BishopMOConnell

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/bishopmoconnell/

Amazon Author Page – http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00L74LE4Y

 The Returned ebook

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Cover Reveal: Book Two!

GRIM TIDINGS: COVER REVEAL!

Grim Tidings

Grim Tidings is the second title in Nancy K. Wallace’s enthralling Wolves of Llisé trilogy, which sees us reunited with our hero Devin, still on his quest to find out the true history of Llisé.

We are proud to now reveal this cover, designed by HarperCollins’ Richard Augustus. Evoking perfectly the forbidden mysteries of Llisé, we felt that this was the perfect illustration to get readers itching to open their very own copy.

Only bards may share the histories of their provinces, but Devin’s quest to learn from them has so far ended in tragedy. His best friend Gaspard has been kidnapped, Master Bards are being murdered and whole communities are disappearing. Clearly someone doesn’t want Devin to know the true history of Llisé.

With his guard Marcus and a wolf pack for protection, Devin sets out to discover the truth. But as terrible secrets come to light, Devin realizes that some knowledge can be deadly.

Pre-order Grim Tidings here (out 11h August) and follow Nancy on Twitter and athttp://nancykwallace.com/

 

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Cat Tales

Abbie and Emma in a rare moment of friendship.
I wish I had the ability to relax at will like my cats do. They yawn once, give a stretch, and the flop down in some strange position and fall asleep. Even as I lie awake for hours pondering every grave possibility that might befall me or my family in the next week, my cats lie strewn across the bed sleeping peacefully. 

There are four of them. I only intended to have one but when my daughter moved out and took her two cats, Abbie was lonely. She walked around the house meowing. When I was unlocking the door as I came home from work, I could hear her pathetic crying. Had she been at it all day? A mother cat and her kittens disappeared from the barn one night leaving one scared gray kitten. I named her Emma and brought her inside as a friend for Abbie. Unfortunately, Emma turned into Godzilla – climbing curtains, leaping from mantels and attacking ankles in the middle of the night. She was not a good companion for my aging Abbie, at all, but we had adopted her and there was nothing to be done except be wary when walking in the dark.

Grace, was also a barn kitten. She refused to sleep in the barn and chose instead to sit at our French doors in the kitchen in early winter, staring in at the lights and the wood stove. She slept on the doorstep, allowing snow to accumulate on her long fluffy gray fur, looking forlorn and tragic. We stood it as long as possible until one night my husband, who is, by the way, allergic to cats, came in with a sodden Grace wrapped in a towel and flopped her on my lap. “Merry Christmas,” he said.

She and Abbie became friends immediately. Emma continued marauding through the house attacking us and my daughter’s Golden Retriever. But I was convinced that somewhere in her villainous heart lay a sweet and cuddly lap cat. Three cats was definitely more than two and we adapted with extra bowls and litter boxes. Never would there be more than three cats, we vowed.

Then my daughter found a kitten with its eyes barely open tangled in the netting of the pea fence in the garden. The mother was nowhere to be found. A quick order to Amazon brought kitten bottles and formula. Feedings were a family affair planned around work and meetings. “Baby” lived in the dog crate with a tiny litter box, which she mastered almost immediately. She was a beautiful tortoise shell and resemble a bobcat kitten when she was tiny. Of course, as she grew and was allowed out to explore the house, she made herself right at home. Baby became Cat No. 4 in our one cat household. She is without a doubt the most affectionate cat we have ever had. She stands and puts her paws on my knee to be picked up and falls asleep over my shoulder while I’m writing. Unfortunately she never acquired a name that stuck except Baby. She was a sweet bonus to the one cat house!

I can’t believe there will ever be five cats. The plan is, to help my husband’s allergies, to gradually decrease the number as the cats age. Dennie is afraid they will outlive him. But they are like children – which one could I do without? Emma has mellowed after a dash outside had her frolicking through the fields for weeks. I’m not sure what happened to her on her vacation but she returned subdued and humble – not a bad thing for Godzilla. Each cat has a distinct personality but they are all loved.

Grace asleep on my knee.

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Cover Reveal – The Returned

Bishop O’Connell has had some of the most awesome covers of recent fantasys. This new one is no exception and the story is awesome, too.

 

Are you waiting patiently (or impatiently) for The Returned? Have you thought that if you could just see the cover, or know what it’s about, that your wait would be that much easier? Well, I&…

Source: Cover Reveal – The Returned

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EXCERPT: “Final Flight: A Clockwork Dagger Story” by Beth Cato

Hi, everybody! Shoveling out from beneath a mountain of papers, but today I’ve got a special treat for all of you. My friend Beth Cato has a new story out set in the same world as her Clockwo…

Source: EXCERPT: “Final Flight: A Clockwork Dagger Story” by Beth Cato

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The Pitchfork of Destiny arrives April 5, 2016!

I highly recommend this series! Fairy tales and lots of humor produce a refreshingly different literary concoction! – NKW

Finally, after what feels like forever, it’s only a week until the ebook release of The Pitchfork of Destiny. John and I finished the first draft of the book over a year ago, March 9, 2015 to…

Source: The Pitchfork of Destiny arrives April 5, 2016!

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GROWING OLD IN AMERICA 

A recent trip on my terrace sent me careening into the front door and down onto our barnstone step for fractured kneecap. Instead of enjoying the first few lovely days of spring digging in my flower bed, I am recuperating in a rehab facility with my left leg in a brace. Teetering on the verge of retirement in a few years, my twice daily visits to Physical Therapy have been sobering. 

A tall lanky man with broad shoulders, thinning hair, and the skin of someone who has spent his days working outdoors in the sun and the wind, sits in a wheelchair wrestling to lift a one pound weight. Behind the aging facade, I saw the ghost of a strong, hard worker. I imagined him as a farmer, riding his tractor over spring fields, the warm lights of home and his family waiting to welcome him home. 

When we are young we eagerly anticipate the next milestone in our lives: a driver’s license, graduation, a job, our own place to call home. If we are lucky, we find the right person to spend that journey with. Suddenly, the years that seemed to move so slowly speed by and our own children follow the path to independence that we have already taken. We wish we could slow the progression down. Tasks that once were simple and easy become difficult and unavoidably our lives change.

A nurse told me the story of a woman who had to sell her house and possessions and move into a nursing home. She was given a 12’x12′ room to hold her bed and all her medical equipment. Her agreement permitted her to take one piece of furniture with her when she moved in. She chosen a grandfather clock. The story tore at my heart the same way the elderly man in PT had. For the woman, this heirloom clock represented not only her lifetime but the lives of a host of family members who preceded her. It tied her to the past as she irrevocably sped toward the future. 

We cannot “turn back time” as Cher once sang. Taking care of our bodies and our health can delay aging but never arrest it. We inevitably reach a tipping point and then skid unwillingly toward a decline. Science with all its wonders cannot stop it. As humans we are born with a self-destruct mechanism that can’t be defused. So often, by the time we realize what we are losing, we also find that we may not have fully enjoyed what we had. The final milestone looms up unexpectedly fast.

I wonder if we shouldn’t, as a church and a society, prove “compassionate listeners” for our aging population. I think most elderly people’s souls cry out to be recognized as more than the husks that their bodies have become. Inside, a bright spirit burns simply waiting for someone to say, “Tell me about your life.” 

I’ve wrestled this week to find some peace with the inevitability of growing old and find I unexpectedly will cherish the glimpse of our final destination that the man from PT gave me: a farmer on his tractor, the sun setting behind him in a puddle of molten gold. Lavendar clouds drift along the horizon and in the folds of the hill ahead of him, warm lights and family beckon him home. 
Q

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AWESOME NEW YEAR’S YA GIVEWAY

 

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Win 6 PAPERBACK Novels

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The Third Time’s The Charm!

Three Promises_CoverBishop O’Connell has published his third book with Harper Voyager, US. His knowledge and love of Faerie lore form a magical backdrop for all three volumes. He weaves the beauty and terror of Faerie into our own world making us look at our lives and our history through a lens of his own making, a lens frosted with just a bit of faerie dust!

Let me introduce Bishop, an excellent writer and friend:

Three Promises: An American Faerie Tale Collection is my third book. It’s a compilation of short stories—technically three short stories and a novella—and while I’ve always struggled with short fiction, that wasn’t the case here. These stories seemed to write themselves, and the characters truly shine. In my previous books, The Stolen & The Forgotten (available anywhere books are sold) the stories drove the characters. In Three Promises, the opposite is true. There’s no child to rescue, no shadowy enemy snatching kids off the street, and you get to see the characters for who they are. I was worried they wouldn’t stand on their own, but I think they didn’t just stand, they soared I really liked my characters before; now, I love them. I hope you will, too.

Here’s a sample from one of the short stories, “The Legacy of Past Promises”:

Elaine stared at the painting. While her body didn’t move, her heart and mind danced in the halls of heaven. The depth and intensity of mortal passion was astounding to her, and her ability to experience it through art was like a drug. The heavy silence that filled her vast loft was broken by the high-pitched whistle of the teakettle. Elaine extricated herself from the old battered chair, which was so comfortable it should be considered a holy relic. She crossed her warehouse flat to the kitchen area, purposely stepping heavily so the old hardwood floor creaked. She smiled at the sound. It was like a whisper that contained all the memories the building had seen. Unlike the fae, the mortal world was constantly aging. But for those who knew how to listen, it sang of a life well lived in every tired sound. The flat took up the entire top floor of a warehouse that had been abandoned in the early 1900s. She owned it now and was its only permanent tenant. The lower floors of the five-story building were offered as a place to stay to the fifties—half-mortal, half-fae street kids, unwelcome in either world—she knew and trusted. But with all the unrest in Seattle, she was currently its only occupant.

She turned off the burner and the kettle went quiet. Three teaspoons of her personal tea blend went into the pot. The water, still bubbling, went next. The familiar and comforting aroma filled the air, black tea with whispers of orange blossom. Light poured in from the south-facing wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. But she ignored the view of the Seattle skyline. The twenty-foot ceiling was constructed of heavy wooden beams and slats, broken only by the silver of air ducts, a relatively recent addition. The floor was oak, original to the building but well maintained over the years, as were the exposed bricks of the walls and pillars. The flat was large, 5,000 square feet of open space, sparsely furnished with secondhand pieces. They had been purchased so long ago, they were technically antiques now. But she looked past all that to the paintings that covered the walls, collected over centuries and not always through strictly legal means. Nearly every school was represented by at least one piece. Her eyes followed the heavy strokes of a Van Gogh, thought lost by the general public. The emotions and impressions left behind by the artist washed over her. The melancholy and near madness, the longing and love, all mixed together like the colors of the painting itself.

The smell of her tea, now perfectly brewed, broke her reverie. As she poured tea into a large clay mug, her gaze settled on a Rossetti. Elaine smiled as she remembered seeing the painting come to life. Gabriel Rossetti—Elaine could never bring herself to think of him as Dante, it was such an absurd name—had captured Jane’s beauty spectacularly. Jane Morris had been a truly beautiful mortal; it was no wonder Gabriel so often chose her as a model.

Elaine carried the mug back to her chair, sank into the plush cushions, and hit play on the remote. Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto no. 4 in A Minor filled the space. She closed her eyes, letting the music fill her soul. The mournful cello danced with the playful harpsichord. She sipped her tea, opened her eyes, and her gaze fell upon another painting, the one she’d almost lost. Unwanted memories rose to the surface—and just like that, she was back in France, deep in the occupied zone.

The war—or more correctly, the Nazis—had mostly turned the once beautiful countryside and small villages to rubble. The jackbooted thugs had marched with impunity, leaving only death and destruction in their wake

Even now she could almost hear the voices of her long-dead friends.

 Êtes-vous attentive?”

Elaine blinked. “Pardon?

François narrowed his eyes. “I asked if you were paying attention,” he said, his French heavy with a Parisian accent. “But you answer my question anyway, yes?”

There were snickers from the collection of men, scarcely more than boys, gathered around the table and map.

“Sorry,” Elaine said, her own carefully applied accent fitting someone from the southern countryside. “You were saying a convoy of three German trucks will be coming down this road.” She traced the route on the map with her finger. “And this being one of the few remaining bridges, they’ll attempt to cross here. Did I miss something?”

François turned a little pink, then a deeper red when the chuckles turned on him. When Paul offered him the bottle of wine, François’s smile returned, and he laughed as well.

“Our little sparrow misses nothing, no?” he asked, then took a swallow of wine before offering her the bottle.

Elaine smiled and accepted.

Six hours later, just before dawn, the explosives had been set and the group was in position. She sat high in a tree, her rifle held close. Despite having cast a charm to turn the iron into innocuous fae iron (a taxing process that had taken her the better part of three weeks), she still wore gloves. On more than one occasion she’d had to use another weapon, one that hadn’t been magically treated.

As the first rays of dawn touched her cheeks, she had only a moment to savor the sublime joy of the morning light. Her keen eyes picked up the telltale clouds of black diesel smoke before she ever saw the vehicles. She made a sparrow call, alerting her fellow resistance fighters.

A thrush sounded back.

They were ready.

Elaine hefted her rifle and sighted down the barrel, her fingertip caressing the trigger. She watched the rise, waiting for the first truck to come into view.

Her eyes went wide and her stomach twisted when she saw the two Hanomags, armored halftrack personnel carriers, leading the three big trucks. That was two units, more than twenty soldiers. She made another birdcall, a nightingale, the signal to abort.

The thrush call came in reply, repeated twice. Proceed.

“Fools,” she swore. “You’re going to get us all killed.”

She sighted down the rifle again and slowed her breathing. They were outnumbered almost three to one and up against armor with nothing but rifles and a few grenades.

“Just an afternoon walk along the Seine,” she said. Of course Germany now controlled Paris and the Seine, so maybe it was an accurate comparison.

The caravan crawled down the muddy road, inching closer to the bridge. Looking through the scope, she watched the gunner on the lead Hanomag. His head was on a swivel, constantly looking one way then another. Not that she could blame him. This was a textbook place for an ambush.

The first Hanomag stopped just shy of the explosive charges.

Her heart began to race. Had they spotted it? No, it was buried and the mud didn’t leave any sign that even she could see. No way could these mortal goose-steppers have—

An officer in the black uniform of the SS stepped out of the second Hanomag, flanked by half a dozen regular army soldiers. Elaine sighted him with her scope, noted her heartbeat, and placed her finger on the trigger.

The tingle of magic danced across her skin as the officer drew a talisman from under his coat. “Offenbaren sich!” he shouted.

There was a gust of wind, and the leaves on the trees near her rustled. She whispered a charm and felt it come up just as the magic reached her. The spell slid over her harmlessly. Her friends weren’t so lucky. A red glow pulsed from the spot where the explosives had been set, and faint pinkish light shone from six spots around the convoy.

Aus dem Hinterhalt überfallen!” the officer shouted and pointed to the lights.

The gunners on the Hanomags turned and the soldiers protecting the officer took aim.

Merde,” Elaine cursed, then sighted and fired.

There was a crack, and the officer’s face was a red mist.

Then everything went to hell.

Soldiers poured from the trucks and the Hanomags, the gunners turned their MG-42s toward the now-fading lights marking François and the others. The soldiers took cover behind the armored vehicles and divided their fire between her and her compatriots. She was well concealed, so most of the shots did nothing more than send shredded leaves and bark through the air. Only a few smacked close enough to cause her unease.

Elaine ignored them and sighted one of the MG-42 gunners.

Vive la France!” someone shouted.

Elaine looked up just in time to see Paul leap from cover and charge at the soldiers, drawing their attention and fire. She watched in horror as the Nazi guns tore him to shreds. Somehow, before falling, he lobbed two grenades into one of the armored vehicles. There came a shout of panic from inside the Hanomag and seconds later came two concussive booms. Debris flew up from the open top of the halftrack and the shouts stopped.

François and the others took advantage of Paul’s sacrifice, moved to different cover, and started firing. A few Nazi soldiers dropped, but the remaining MG-42 began spraying the area with a hail of bullets.

Elaine gritted her teeth and fired two shots; both hit the gunner, and he fell. This again drew fire in her direction.

The fight became a blur after that. She took aim and fired, took aim and fired, over and over again, pausing only long enough to reload. It wasn’t until she couldn’t find another target that Elaine realized it was done, and all the Nazis were dead or dying.

She lay on the branch for a long moment, until the ringing in her ears began to fade. When she moved, a sharp pain in her shoulder brought her up short. More gingerly, she shifted and saw tendrils of white light filled with motes of green drifting from her shoulder. At the center was a growing blossom of gold blood. She rolled and dropped from the tree, landing only slightly less gracefully than normal. Still, the jolt made the pain jump a few numbers on the intensity scale.

She clenched her jaw, hefted her rifle, and carefully inspected the scene. The Germans were all dead, but the driver of one of the Hanomags was still alive. He took a couple shots at her with his Luger, but he’d apparently caught some ricochets or shrapnel because he didn’t even come close. Elaine put him down with a shot through the viewing port.

“Please, help me,” someone said in bad French.

Elaine spun to see a German soldier lying on the ground. He was little more than a kid, maybe sixteen; it didn’t even look like he’d started shaving. She just stared at his tear-filled eyes, blood running down his cheek from the corner of his mouth. He had at least half a dozen holes in his chest. He was already dead, he just didn’t know it.

Ja,” she said.

Dank—

His thanks were swallowed by the loud report of the rifle as she put a bullet between his eyes. There was nothing she, or anyone else, could’ve done for him. She wiped tears away and muttered a curse at Hitler and his megalomaniacal plans.

After double-checking that all the soldiers were dead, Elaine made her sparrow call. Her mouth was so dry, the call was hardly recognizable.

Only silence answered her.

Swallowing, she hardened her heart and went to where François and the others had been taking cover. She couldn’t bring herself to look down at the bloodied mess that had been Paul. She just kept walking. Her rifle fell to the ground, then she went to her knees, sobbing, covering her mouth with her good hand.

They were dead, which wasn’t a surprise, but it didn’t make finding them any less heartbreaking. Rémy was almost unrecognizable. If it wasn’t for his blond hair, now matted with blood—Elaine’s stomach twisted and she retched to one side. Michel, Julien, Daniel, Christophe, and Christian were in slightly better shape, for the most part. Julien’s left arm had been chewed up by the machine gun, and Christophe’s torso had been ripped open, allowing his insides to spill out. Elaine sobbed and turned to François. His rifle had been discarded and his pistol was still clutched in his left hand, two fingers having been shot off his right.

Sadness mixed with anger, and she screamed curses at him.

“You arrogant fool!” she said between sobs. “Why didn’t you just call off the operation? You got them all killed!”

It wasn’t long before Elaine grew numb inside. She used her fae healer’s kit to remove the bullet from her shoulder, and a liberal smearing of healing ointment numbed the pain enough to give her almost full use of her arm again. Lastly, she set the pinkish, putty-like dóú craiceann over the wound, sealing it like a second skin. She’d never been much of a healer herself, but she got the job done. With effort, and still careful of her wounded shoulder, she dragged Paul into the cover to join his brothers-in-arms. Elaine whispered a charm and the earth drew itself up and over her friends. A moment later, lush green grass covered the seven mounds.

Adieu, mes amis,” she said softly.

 

The ebook is only $0.99 (and how can you not buy a $0.99 book?), but if you preorder the paperback (releases 1/8/16 and is only $3.99) from The Fountain Bookstore, not only will it be signed, but you’ll get an exclusive gift. As a nice bonus, you can also order signed copies of The Stolen and The Forgotten while you’re there, and don’t worry, they ship worldwide.

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