I’m running a promotion during October where I give the first book of The Painted Maidens Trilogy, The Rising, away for free. This will help boost sales and reviews for the follow on second book, The Betrayed, and will increase visibility for the series as a whole. Right now, the e-book is free across all platforms except for Amazon. In order for Amazon to list it for free, I need to price match it. When you have a minute, please go to this link:
This Contest is Now Closed
Congratulations to our Winner – Stephanie W.!
For all the ladies out there, single or not, the boys of The Akasha Series wanted to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Your gift (besides the obvious eye candy, of course), is the chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card in the ‘For the Love of Swoon Hop’ hosted by The Book Hook Up and I Am a Reader Not a Writer. To enter, simply complete the entry form at the bottom of this post. There are extra entries available for liking my page on Facebook and following on Twitter.
Don’t forget to click on the Swoony Boys Hop poster and follow the linky for more great prizes!
Introducing the boys of the Akasha Series; Micah, Shawn, and Alex.
During an interview with Cami from My Reading Addiction, I was asked which actors might best portray my characters. Well, there you have them – packaged up in sexy Valentine’s cards for you. Oh, and never to be upstaged, Kaitlyn has her own little card for the guys:
How to Enter: You must fill out the form below for one entry. Answer the questions at the bottom of the form. For extra entries, click below:
Like my Facebook Page for one extra entry
Follow me on Twitter for another extra entry.
Or, Follow my blog via e-mail for 3 extra entries (at most, I post once per week) – sign up under the ‘Follow Terra Harmony’ widget on the right.
This giveaway is open internationally. Giveaway is open until midnight EST on Feb. 20th. Must be 13 or older to enter. Winner will be emailed, and this blog post will be updated to reflect the winner. Winner will have three days to respond, or a new winner will be selected.
Yesterday morning I embarked on a journey. A 50,000 word journey. That’s right folks, it is NaNoWriMo time (National Write a Novel in a Month). Why, oh, why do they insist on starting it the day after Halloween? Each year, I stay up too late, drink too much wine, and worse – eat way too much chocolate. The morning after a chocolate binge is never pretty.
But I was determined to start my journey out on the right foot. I used that foot to stumble to the kitchen, and on my way to the coffee machine, managed to bypass this:
That’s right – I didn’t pause to clean the dang kitchen. Coffee in hand, I moaned my way to my laptop, bypassing this:
Yep. Didn’t take out the trash…or the recycling. Yay, me! I sat down and finished up my daily goal; 2,000 words before the kids got up. By the end of the month, I’ll have finished up ‘Earth, Book Four of the Akasha Series’ and get started on a brand new series. Speaking of, I recently posted the first chapters of ‘Water‘, ‘Air‘, and ‘Fire‘. Wanna read the first chapter of ‘Earth’?
Please keep in mind it is a rough draft; hasn’t been through any editors. The rest of the book will follow…next Spring!
Earth, Chapter One: Inside Voices
The Greenbrier is a Cold War era underground bunker buried 720 feet into the hillside of White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia. Each of the four entrances are protected by large steel and concrete doors designed to withstand a nuclear blast. Alex and I were standing outside the gated fence, trying to figure out how to break in.
“The west and east entrances are vehicular tunnels,” said Alex, handing me his binoculars. “This one here is the west entrance.”
I focused the binoculars in on a large ‘high voltage’ warning sign at the door.
“Do you think Akasha can burn through that baby?” Alex asked.
“Maybe,” I sighed, handing the binoculars back. “But do we really want to risk a high-profile entrance?”
Footsteps in the woods to our backs caused us both to duck down. I peered under a thick, prickly bush. Susan’s footsteps came into view. I stood, unsuccessfully avoiding sharp thorns.
Susan started at my outburst. Bee squealed with delight, “Mommy!”
She ran straight for me, and the thorns. “Oh, honey – watch out!” I scooped her up before she suffered the same fate. She squealed again.
“More!” She demanded as soon as I set her down.
“Um, excuse me everyone – we are in surveillance mode here. We need to use our inside voices.”
“Tell that to the two-year old,” I said. Alex was right, but leaving Bee behind wasn’t exactly an option.
Bee took the hint and ran to Alex, “More Unka Alek, more!”
He smiled down at her, “I can’t refuse my best lady. But can you be quiet when I lift you up?”
She nodded her head as fast as she could, practically hopping in anticipation. Alex lifted her up so fast her feet flew in the air above her head. To her credit, not one sound escaped her lips. She could be quiet if she wanted; she just had to be properly motivated.
“What did you find out?” I asked Susan.
“Hotel is operational. Well, as far as hotels can be, these days. But the tours have been cancelled since Daybreak. Electricity is too unreliable to lead tourists underground.”
“Either that, or the facilities are actually in use.” Alex said.
Bee automatically demanded more lifts at his sudden shift in focus. I dug around in my backpack for the stash of honeysuckle I found the day before. “Here,” I handed her the entire bag. “Let the grownups plan their break in.”
“Bake in, bake in,” chanted Bee, plopping down on the ground, already diving in to her new treat.
I smiled, then turned back to the west entrance and frowned. “Let’s camp out for a night – see if there is any activity in or out.”
“What about the other entrances?” Alex asked.
“We could split up,” I suggested.
Susan groaned. “I hate spending the night alone, outside.”
“You won’t be outside. You can go back to the hotel; find out more.” Alex said.
“And you won’t be alone, you’ll have Bee.” I said. The three of us looked down at her, still sitting at our feet. Several white flowers already sat crumpled by her side, having been deprived of all their sweet nectar.
In a world with only intermittent power, traditional packaged goods – including candy – along with a long list of other necessities, were scarce. Honeysuckle soon became a treat of choice. Last fall, we also discovered its medicinal properties when Alex came up with a concoction infused with honeysuckle and applied it to the poison ivy rash that covered my legs. After that, I had traded all of my shorts for a few pairs of Susan’s pants. They were long, but a few rolls around my ankles added protection from poisonous plants and bugs.
“Let’s meet back here an hour after dawn tomorrow,” Alex said.
Susan stuck out her lip.
Alex rolled his eyes, “Ok, two hours after dawn. Put that lip back in before I bite it.”
Susan smiled, raising one eyebrow, “Bite me and I’ll bite you back.” She moved a step closer to him.
“Is that a promise?” he asked, closing the distance between them.
I turned my back just in time to hear kissing sounds. The open romance between Alex and Susan was a long time coming, and I was happy for both of them, but with every passing day it made me long for Micah more and more. He’d been missing since a few weeks before Daybreak.
The kissing noises were still coming. I sighed and squat down by Bee, “It’s rude to stare, honey.” The few honeysuckle that remained were forgotten.
She shifted her gaze to me, stuck out her lips and said, “Kiss, kiss!”
I laughed an obliged, then gathered her in my arms, “You’re going to stay with Aunt Susan tonight. Be good, okay?”
I kissed her again.
“Enough with the smooching you two,” Susan interrupted. I passed Bee over. “We’re going to be late for girl’s night out.”
“Make sure she gets a bath – and check her for ticks.” I dug in my backpack for the only bar of soap the four of us shared.
“We’ll do the usual pampering session,” Susan promised.
“And you get double duty tomorrow night.” I said.
“Done.” A night out of the woods was totally worth it for Susan.
She waved, and I watched them walk away as Bee fiddled with the soap.
“She’ll be fine, mama.” Alex said, slinging his arm over my shoulder.
“I know. I just wish…” I trailed off. Alex didn’t need to hear all about how Micah was missing out on Bee, again.
“You wish what?” he asked.
I leaned into him, nose first, and sniffed. “I wish we had another bar of soap.”
Hope you liked it! I would love to get feedback on this chapter. Please comment or feel free to email me at: email@example.com. Don’t forget to get ‘Water, Book One’ now free pretty much everywhere as an ebook. ‘Air, Book Two‘ is at a special price of $2.99.
Happy Friday! I feel like this is going to be a great weekend – and I have no idea why. Hope it turns out good for all of us. Here is something to start you out; the first chapter of ‘Fire, Book Three of the Akasha Series’. Word of caution – this gets a little graphic. The second book left off with Kaitlyn in labor, alone on a boat navigation the Southern Ocean. Readers were left with the ultimate cliffhanger, so this first chapter couldn’t disappoint!
The fireball shot out of my hand, straight into one of the cupboards, blowing shards of pressed wood everywhere. Bits of flame flared up around the large captain’s bridge on the boat. I bent over, uncontrollable pain wracking my body. The coaching I received on labor pains did nothing.
Imagine riding on top of the wave of pain, instead of sinking beneath them.
I laughed out loud at the irony. Little did the doctor know I’d be in the middle of the Southern Ocean, on my own, navigating literal waves.
The contraction subsided, and I stumbled to the other side of the room to retrieve the fire extinguisher. The foamy, white goo was probably almost gone. With little hope of being able to reign in my powers, I was digging my own grave.
I paused before aiming the extinguisher over what was left of the cupboard. Most of the windows had blown out, and the cold wind, along with the freezing droplets of ocean, was quickly turning my hands blue; the rest of my body was bound to follow. Fire might be a good thing. But there was no way to control it. I forced my numb hand to squeeze the handle, extinguishing the flames before they could burn the ship right out from under me.
I hobbled over to the Doppler machine, checking to see if anyone was on my tail before another contraction came. I hadn’t blown up that machine, yet. Only one dot on the screen; my boat. Everyone I left behind on Heard and McDonalds Islands would still be there, recovering from the battle. Cato was dead, killed by the traitor Vayu – now also dead.
Susan had a boat, but she was on the opposite end of the island and had no idea I was gone. Alex would be helping Micah out of the crater formed from my earthquake.
Micah. A new wave of pain was mounting, physically and mentally this time. I let the contraction take me, nearly pulling me under and drowning me. This one I deserved. This one was my punishment for leaving Micah, depriving him of his family and the wonderful life he envisioned for us. This one left me in tears.
I am so sorry, Micah. Please forgive me. Please understand.
Even if he should find me, which he wouldn’t, nothing would go back to the way it was. Nothing would be the same.
I wiped my cheeks dry, and crawled over to my makeshift bed – a mattress on the floor. I looked over at the bassinet, ready to receive the life inside me. If only we could survive this; which was looking more doubtful by the minute.
Another contraction. Already? They were practically right on top of each other now, giving me no time to recover. It gripped my entire mid-section, muscles squeezing until I thought they would explode. I moved to my hands and knees, trying to concentrate on something. I looked out the window at the gray sky and sea, which blurred into one, never-ending ocean of nothing. I held my breath through the contraction, and my vision went wavy. The pain dulled slightly, making it a little more manageable. This contraction seemed to last forever, and I hadn’t even crested the wave yet.
The wind picked up outside. I blinked and my vision cleared. A tornado had formed directly in the path of my boat.
I want the fireballs back.
I launched my body toward the wheel and turned it, hard. The boat lurched in response. I considered turning back for the islands. I might be safer fighting Shawn than fighting myself.
My contraction peaked, rendering mind and body useless. The boat stopped its forward momentum, pausing as I rode the waves of pain, then was pulled backward, into the tornado. Although the contraction was subsiding, I couldn’t do anything but watch as I was drawn closer and closer into a vortex of spinning wind and water.
Thank God I did not do this in a hospital or even around other people. I couldn’t imagine the consequences. How did the other Gaias manage?
The doctor told me of two Gaias he helped during labor. For one the baby hadn’t survived, the other, the mother hadn’t.
I looked at the tornado. This would be why.
As the contraction ceased, so did the tornado. I dreaded the ride the next one would bring, and it was only seconds away. I pushed myself off the ground, groaning, and hurried to put the boat back on course for Perth, the largest city in Western Australia.
Confidence that I would ever make it was waning. I collapsed on the floor, too drained to even pull myself back to the mattress. My body temperature spiked, the ice-cold ocean spray hitting me through the shattered windows actually felt good.
As another contraction started, a lump of despair rose up in my throat. I can’t do this. What was I thinking? I need to turn back. But I was closer to my destination than my departure point by now.
The pain quickly rose to new heights. I bit my lower lip and tasted coppery blood. It was not a good enough distraction. Having no other choice, I screamed out loud, my shriek lost among the ocean waves surrounding me. The water grew more and more intense until every last wave was double the size of my boat, threatening to engulf me.
The boat made stomach-flipping drops, tilting to one side so much I thought it would tip. Then it leveled out and went to the other side; like a carnival ride. Except this time I wasn’t throwing my hands in the air. My fingers curled into the floor, cracking my nails. Just as I reached the peak of the contraction, I felt something inside drop. There was an unbearable pressure between my legs, accompanied with the urgent need to push. I held out, remembering what I could of movie births. Wait for it, take a breath. Breathe…breathe….it was almost over. I reached down and felt between my legs. Something hard where only soft should be. The head! My baby was almost here!
I waited a few more seconds until the contraction came. Then I pushed. I pushed through my gut, every muscle in my body tensed. My vision went blurry again but a new wave of adrenaline came to me and I used it to focus. Another quick breath, and then more pushing. The contraction came and went, and I had made no more progress.
I started to panic. What if she was suffocating? A million things could go wrong, and my baby was stuck.
One more time, I told myself. She’ll be ok. Give it one more contraction and then you can panic.
Before the thought finished forming, the next contraction came.
“This is it,” I said aloud, my voice rough, foreign-sounding. I pushed, determined to make it work. If she didn’t come out this time, I’d seriously consider putting the scalpel in the first aid kit to good use.
I pushed with everything I had left, not saving one ounce of energy for future contractions. It was now or never.
Everything tensed and strained, except my voice. My vocal chords were paralyzed. Pushing all of that energy out, I felt the elemental magic welling up within me. Shit, shit, shit, I thought. This time it wouldn’t just be a fireball, or a tornado. I could survive both of those, I had proven it. Instead, the elements were intertwining; I felt them knitting together inside me as if they knew exactly what to do.
Please no, please no, I thought. Nothing good would come of this. I couldn’t concentrate on both my labor and my magic. I had to pick one and go with it. At this point, I went with the only one I felt slightly more in control of; the labor.
On my back now, I lifted up my chin, trying to see something over my big, round belly. I put my hands down between my legs, feeling frantically. One quick breath, then I pushed again. I could feel her downward progress within me. It felt like fire. I hoped to God my powers weren’t harming the baby. More burning and finally, I felt her. Her large round head emerged into my hands. I pulled gently, but she didn’t come out further. Frantically, I turned her head, hoping the body would follow, and pushed again. Her shoulders popped out and then the rest of her.
Everything seemed to unleash itself at once. A final wave of energy burst out of the captain’s bridge, spraying bits of glass, laminate, and particle wood out and into the ocean. The atmosphere outside absorbed the mix of elements and then – everything went calm. The wind receded to a light, cool breeze, the waves evened out, and for the first time in hours the boat slowed to a gentle rocking motion.
I looked down at the tiny, pink, wrinkly baby in my hands, still slippery with blood and mucus. I gasped in deep, frantic breaths, laughing and hyperventilating all at the same time. I scooted over to the mattress and bassinette, wrapping a blanket around her, with an awkward twist around the umbilical cord. I worked to get my breathing under control, but tears were now streaming down my face, making it difficult to see.
She was still, eyes closed. And not crying.
She needs to cry; they always cry in the movies. I turned her face down in my arms, and gave her a light pop on the bottom. Still nothing. I took a deep breath. Don’t panic. One more spank and then panic.
The next spank elicited tiny, pathetic mewling. I turned her over, laughing again, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry – but you’re alive! My sweet baby girl!”
A quick check in the blanket confirmed it. The doctor was right – a girl.
Another contraction caused me to take a sharp breath in, and her umbilical cord reminded me. I laid her down on the mattress, still wrapped in her blanket. I brought myself to a sitting position and pushed again.
The afterbirth came out. I avoided looking at it, but glanced at the cord, still attached to the baby. Guess I’d have to make good use of that scalpel after all.
Lying on my side, I washed her as best I could with what water bottles and towels I had with me. Her mewling subsided. Her limbs moved in involuntary jerks as she got used to her body. My cooing was awkward and goofy. Not all motherly instincts came naturally.
A quick glance at her face showed me her eyes were now open, but I looked away. The color of her eyes may reveal who her father is. I had other things to think about. The rest of her was still a mess. Puffy and red from the labor, she resembled what I could only label as demon spawn.
I continued rubbing her down, counting fingers and toes, making sure her ears were clear.
Micah or Shawn?
I suppose in a way, I would feel relieved if she weren’t Micah’s. It would make my running off with her a little more bearable for him, had he learned the truth. But if she were Shawn’s, I’d have to take extra care to make sure she stayed well away from him. And should authorities get involved, they’d insist he’d get parental rights.
Ten fingers and ten toes. Had we been in a hospital, by now she would have been weighed, maybe received a few shots and whatever tests they do in hospitals.
“We don’t need those needles. No we don’t, no we don’t, do we?” I cooed at her.
She calmed a little further at the sound of my voice.
Wind blew in through gaping holes in the captain’s bridge, covering us both in the open artic chill. I moved her back to my chest, letting skin-to-skin contact heat us both. She started mewling again, now rooting with her mouth.
Oh shit, I thought. Does she need to eat already?
I shrugged. She was my daughter, after all.
Wholly unprepared, I took in a deep breath and guided her mouth to my nipple. A painful pinch, and I quickly pushed her away. She started crying now, with gusto.
Glad one of us found our voice.
I tried again, this time using one hand to position my nipple while my other arm pushed her into me. The pain wasn’t quite as intense, or I was better prepared; one of the two.
I felt her feather-light tongue against me as she sucked. I had no idea if anything was coming out, but she seemed happy enough. Almost right away, I had another contraction.
“What the hell; is there another one in there?” I tried breathing through it. It wasn’t nearly as intense, but plenty painful, especially after everything I had just been through.
The baby’s position was disturbed by my tensing arms. She popped off my breast, and cried again.
“Oh, sorry baby.” I moved her to the other side, “Gotta keep them even.”
This time was easier, and definitely less painful as she latched on, but again, another contraction. “Are you kidding me?” I bent over, careful not to disturb her feeding.
After the contraction subsided, I leaned back into the wall, utterly exhausted. The baby fell asleep in my arms. I swaddled her again using what blankets were left, nestled her in the crook of my arm and lay over on my side; sleep catching up with me faster than I cared to admit.
Stay tuned – next post I’ve decided to release the first chapter of the final book of the Akasha Series, ‘Earth’. In the meantime, if you haven’t started yet, you can get ‘Water, Book One’ as an ebook for free, ‘Air, Book Two’ at the special price of $2.99 and ‘Fire, Book Three’ for $4.99. Happy reading!
Oh geez, I’ve got a cold…and a stomach thing…and like half my kids have it too. I just realized two posts ago I promised the first chapter of each of my books, then didn’t continue. Sorry! But in case you missed the news flash, ‘Fire, Book Three of the Akasha Series‘ is now available!!! Except for iBooks (grrr) – still not available there. It’s been submitted but their approval process can take forevs.
Anyway, here is the first chapter to ‘Air, Book Two of the Akasha Series‘. Enjoy!
“I can see my breath.”
There was no response from the small, handheld radio nestled in my thick glove.
I clicked on the talk button again. “Did you hear me, Micah? I said I can see my breath. Time to go.”
Finally, a voice answered, though not through the radio. Do you not understand the concept of silent ops?
He was using our telepathic connection. I immediately shut it down. There were things in my head he need not know – not yet anyway. I couldn’t take the chance he would find them while tooling around in there. I clicked the radio again. “Then why did you bring the radios?”
I could almost hear his frustrated huff through the vast expanse of the Pennsylvania pine forest that lay between us. He had explained it to me before we separated; the handhelds were there in case we suspected someone intruding on our telepathic connection.
He came back, over the radio this time, and said, “I am almost to the cabin. Let me just check it out and then we can go. I am going silent – for real this time.”
“Don’t you dare turn off the—” my best warning voice was cut off by the hum of the radio, letting me know I was no longer connected to my counterpart. It was tit for tat with us.
I huffed, the same way I imagined him doing it. My breath formed a cloud of fog that lingered lazily in front of my face. I played with it, sucking it back in, then blowing out to form bigger clouds, and swishing it away with my hands. Anything to keep my mind off the cold. The wind picked up as clouds moved into the valley, darkening the midnight sky further.
I squinted, trying to pinpoint the cabin in the dark. The moon, fully hidden behind thick clouds, was no help. We had tracked Shawn this far, despite my protests. In my opinion, it had been far too easy – like following bread crumbs. But Micah’s need for vengeance surpassed my own.
Giving up on the cabin, I exhaled again. A gust of cold wind met the fog. I narrowed my eyes. This gust had come in against the oncoming storm. I watched as my breath cloud was sucked into an invisible black hole and disappeared, sizzling as it went. The wind followed its trail, straight into my lungs.
I turned, flailing my arms out to ward off whatever was attacking me. But how can you ward off air? The sucking persisted, panic and fear taking hold of me more thoroughly than the cold that had bit its way into my bones. Had it not been so dark out already, I’m sure I would’ve already seen the forest go black.
Falling to my knees, I reached out for the only element of which I had a strong grasp; water. Particles were drawn from the clouds, the soil, and the trees. They rushed to meet me, then wavered in front of my face, hesitating. I wasn’t sure what to do with them. But there was more than just me at stake. In a desperate, final act, I sent them down my throat, into my lungs and into the very thing that sucked the life out of me. I flooded it with far more water, volume-wise, than the amount of air it took. Shortly, it proved to be too much, and the mysterious void of nothingness expelled everything. Water and air both flooded my system. I sputtered, choking up the water I had so desperately called to my aid.
As soon as I lifted myself from the ground, thoroughly soaked, I thought of Micah. Whatever, or whoever it was might be going after him too. The trail leading up to the cliff was steep and full of loose rock, causing me to slide most of the way down. Once my feet hit solid earth, I took off running. The forest was dense, but I avoided the protruding roots and clawing branches easily enough. There was only one thing on my mind. Without thinking, I opened up the telepathic connection and screamed his name, Micah!
There was no answer. I ran faster. The forest opened up into a small, circular clearing. As I entered it, I spotted Micah clearing the trees on the opposite side in a dead run toward me. We met in the middle, coming to a stop a few feet apart, both hunched over with our hands on our knees. A cursory scan of each other while still gasping for air was enough until words came to us. He was out of breath, but he was unscathed and handsome and dry – and I hated him for it.
Before he could say anything, I went first, in between breaths, “Well – was there anything in the cabin?” I didn’t bother keeping the bite out of my voice.
He held up a piece of paper in his hand, at least having the mind to look sheepish. “I found a letter.” He folded it up and put it in his pocket. “What happened to you?”
I fixed him with a stare as cold as the wind, “I found trouble.” Then, because I couldn’t help it, I shivered.
He sighed, taking off his jacket and wrapped it around me, “I guess I shouldn’t expect anything less from you, Kaitlyn.”
Hope you liked it! Don’t forget to get ‘Water, Book One’ now free pretty much everywhere as an ebook. ‘Air, Book Two‘ is at a special price of $2.99. Stayed tuned for the first chapter of ‘Fire, Book Three‘!
Hi there everyone! If you haven’t yet, hop on over to Can’t Put it Down Reviews where I am giving away six sets of the first two books, ‘Water’ and ‘Air’ in the Akasha Series, plus one grand prize winner gets to pick a t-shirt from my store.
Now on to my newest flash fiction. This was recently featured on Can’t Put it Down Reviews. It is some of the back story on Kaitlyn’s (main character in the Akasha Series) parents. Enjoy!
Good Luck Charm
Mary leaned forward, looking through the windshield of their small, blue Honda and up into the sky. “Do they know we’re coming?”
The sky was growing darker by the minute, and the wind was picking up.
Cato answered from the back seat, “No one knows. Well, except Shawn. Boy probably doesn’t even remember, as involved in video games as he was.” Cato stared at the scenery rushing past. Corn fields. Acre after acre of the tall stalks; all leaning to the left with the growing wind.
“Oh, please. Your son is gifted and you know it. I’ve seen the spark on more than one occasion.” John smiled at Cato through the rearview mirror. He put his hand over Mary’s, attempting to calm her fears.
She smiled, but her eyes still wrinkled with worry. It began to hail. Small chunks of ice pelted the windshield and road ahead. Mary began rubbing at the charm around her neck.
It was a necklace given to her by their only child. John thought of their daughter Kaitlyn, at home probably working on college applications. She was all they really had, and he would give anything to make it a better world for her. Which is why they were all here. With far more confidence than either of his two passengers, he resolutely nodded his head. “Yes. Everything is going to be –“
“John! Stop!” Mary cut him off with her screams. He slammed on the brakes. About a mile ahead of them, a funnel shot down from the cloud cover. It was already bending the sturdy highway signs with its force. John put the Honda into reverse.
“Don’t want to do that either, John.” Cato pointed out the back window. A thick formation of clouds were already spinning in preparation for another tornado vortex to emerge.
John and Mary locked eyes. Their communication was almost telepathic. This was not natural weather.
The corn stalks no longer leaned in one direction. They waved wildly, as if flagging away the trio. But it was too late; they were trapped with twisters blocking each direction of road.
“So now we know – there has to be a traitor with The Seven.” John and Mary each turned to look at Cato.
“Let’s just get through this. Then we can turn to who is responsible. If I don’t make it…” Cato trailed off.
“We’re all going to make it.” John didn’t give Cato a chance to finish. “And we will all go home to our children.”
Cato nodded at his lifelong friend, thankful he was here to help face their enemy. The three exited the car.
Mary’s long, red skirt whipped around her legs. The red was a stark contrast to the dark grey skies. She faced the first of the tornados, opening herself up to the warm, moist air being drawn in from the south. She used her powers as a water elemental to diffuse the air of moisture. John stood by her side, commanding the cool, dry winds blowing in from Canada. Together they worked, forcing away the conflicting weather and trying to stabilize the atmosphere.
Though Cato could manipulate all of the elements, he concentrated on the wind speed. He worked to slow it down, preventing any more updrafts. He was significantly stronger than the pair that worked behind him, but he was hindered, having to deal with chunks of road and now farm equipment being tossed at them by the tornado. He moved forward, certain he was the target of the attack. The least he could do was decrease the risk to his friends by angling away, further down the road.
Mary looked back to see their small car in a slow spin, gradually being lifted up. It was as unpredictable as the winds. “We need to move!”
Without hesitation, she turned to the fields. The sharp, unharvested corn cut that might offer some protection from the wind, bit into her bare legs as she ran. John stayed close on her heels. “Where is Cato!” He called to her. But there was no time to answer. He lunged forward, tackling Mary to the ground as the roof of a barn whipped by overhead.
Cato remained on the highway, struggling with the wind patterns. They were unpredictable. He detected several threads of power being woven into the storm from two different directions. There would be more than four elementals attacking – and no time to target them. Cato had to settle for playing defense. He looked behind me, startled to find John, Mary and the car gone.
He ran back to where he had left them. Dumbfounded, he looked to the right, at the slightly wavering speed limit sign, still planted in the ground. He peered closer into the fields, thinking he saw a flash of Mary’s skirt. He took a step towards it, when a spinning, blue mass shot by, missing Cato by mere feet. He could barely track it with his eyes. It was their car, now bouncing end over end down the highway, taking the speed limit sign with it. Cato blinked, then turned back to the wind patterns in the sky and could only hope the same fate had not befallen his friends.
Gradually, his energy waned, and he was left only able to maintain a protective circle around himself. The weather had grown too strong; almost like more elementals had joined in. The corn fields and his friends were on their own. Cato’s whole body shook with exertion until he dropped to his knees. His sphere was allowing the strong gusts to pass through, but it would hold against the more solid objects thrown at him by the storm, and it would keep him firmly planted on the ground.
The two funnels moved closer, then angled in – towards the path his friends took. Shards of debris littered the air like feathers in a pillow fight. Cato was still able to discern the funnels, large as they were, merging together. As they did, lightening lit the sky and thunder cracked in the air, barely heard over the freight train noise of the super twister. It was a triumphant announcement; both sides knew who had won this battle.
Wind gusts did not let up. They grew stronger and stronger, pulling even more debris into the air, until Cato could not see past his protective circle at all. He was sure the large mass was coming for him next.
With a final burst of energy, Cato pushed himself to his feet. He wasn’t going to face death curled up like a coward. It would be full on, shoulders squared and eyes opened. And without his shield.
When the noise was unbearable – and Cato was sure the climax had arrived, he lifted his hands to dissipate his shield. Before he could, the world went silent. Stalks, corn, dirt, and fractured wood from nearby structures all fell to the ground at once. There was no wind. What cornstalks were left in the ground were still. In the skies, clouds moved away revealing a disturbingly peaceful blue sky in their wake.
The last of Cato’s energy fizzled out, and his protective circle vanished. Two loud, sickening thumps came from behind him. Cato swallowed the rising lump in his throat, then turned. Mary and John lay dead on the highway. All of their limbs twisted in unnatural, odd angles, except for one. Mary’s hand still clutched the charm at her neck.
Let me know what you think! Comments always welcome.
I’m taking a break this week from the Akasha Series characters, and delving into something that has been in my head for a while. I have to get it out for sanity’s sake. This is a possible first chapter for a new series I will undertake after completing the Akasha Series. Let me know what you think!
Serena turned the corner of the thin, rocky path. Her shoes slid along the pebbles almost sending her head first into the trees. “Damn things! Why would humans wear these?”
She looked behind her. There was time, the beast wasn’t yet in her sight. She quickly slipped the shoes off, and began running again. The beast took the corner too fast as well. As soon as she heard skidding, she turned and threw one of her shoes. Miss. The beast scrambled to get his legs under him and lunged for her. She threw the other shoe. Nailed him in the nose. Serena laughed out loud, and resumed her steady running pace. “I thought werewolves were faster than this!”
She had no idea if he could understand speech in his animal form, but he was no doubt enraged. His growls told her so. The noise scared off any other animals close by, plunging the forest into silence. Besides the beast, the repetitive waves in the distant ocean was the only other sound.
Her legs brushed past the sharp, thick shrubbery outlining the path. Shallow cuts crisscrossed over her otherwise smooth, white skin. She looked down at the trickles of blood. Good, she thought, at least I’ll get a few battle scars out of it.
Next to come off was her shirt. She threw it behind her, only stopping to watch the beast tear madly at his own face, where the shirt landed. She quickly stepped out of her jeans, but had to throw them backwards over her head as she ran. The beast was on the move again. He dodged the pair of pants, finally learning what to expect. Stupid mutt.
She breathed in deeply, putting her lungs to work, and smiled. Never had she felt so free, so reckless as tonight. Pursued by werewolf in unknown territory in nothing but her own skin. How was she going to top this adventure?
No matter. She would find a way. Serena always did. She broke the tree line at her fastest pace yet, soft sand greeting her feet and slowing her down. The wolf was close, she could smell his foul breath. The thing snapped at her, almost reaching the tresses of her long, curly, brown and gold hair. Some of the werewolves’ spit flung forward onto her shoulder. “Ew!”
The beast was faster on the sand. Serena did not expect that. The greedy thing didn’t even wait until he had a sure kill. He swiped at her as soon as the long reach of his paw was close enough. The gash caused Serena to falter, and she stumbled in the sand. Taking care to avoid the yellow razor-like gnashing teeth, Serena rolled. The beast rolled with her, unwilling to let go of his prey. In the split second he was on top, Serena pushed up and out with her powerful legs. The werewolf yelped as he spun, head over tail, into the waves.
Rough waves toppled over the beast as he struggled to get on his feet. The water pushed and pulled, becoming stronger and stronger, as if it were working against the werewolf. Sabrina laughed again, delighted to see the mighty creature out of his element. He dragged himself out of the water, weighed down by his thick, matted fur and gasping for breath. Sabrina walked by, keeping a wary eye on him. Welcoming waves reached out to her, drawing her into their frothy grip.
Having recovered, the werewolf shook his fur, ridding himself of the salty sea water. He looked out into the ocean, and spotted his prey bobbing up and down with the waves, well beyond his reach. He turned his head toward the moon and howled in mourning.
It was an ear-piercing noise. Serena couldn’t understand why the lot of them hadn’t been put down centuries ago. She flicked her freshly formed fins, spraying water onto the hound, effectively cutting off his pathetic cry.
She smiled, but was already longing for more adventure. Serena said goodbye to the world and turned, flinging her body up then down again, diving into the cold, dark water. Gills took over for her lungs as she dove deeper and deeper, returning to familiarity and routine, to her home…to her prison.
So there you have it – I am sane once again. Comments always welcome!
Merry Christmas – and a big welcome to all of my new followers! In addition to book review blogger interviews and fantasy author guest posts, my blog features once a week (ish) short stories based on characters from my books. This week’s short story includes Shawn, the antagonist of The Akasha Series, as a younger boy. I try to keep the short stories at flash fiction length (1,000 words or less). Please feel free to comment or e-mail me directly – I could always use the feedback
At first, they had been plentiful. Tiny specks of concentrated energy – each one of them so dense they could be seen with the naked eye, like specks of dust visible in the sun’s rays. Shawn collected them, willing them to group together, building a wall around the old man standing across from him. But now they were fewer, and so transparent they could only be felt, not seen.
They were also no longer cooperating. Many floated away from the mass, compromising the strength of the wall. The purpose was to block Cato, the old man, from being able to wield magic.
“Pay attention, son. Your creation comes from synching yourself with nature. Shields are not built by sheer willpower.” Cato lectured the 10 year-old boy, who had been at the exercise for the better part of an hour. Sweat poured down the boy’s forehead as he furrowed his eyebrows in concentration. If walls were built with willpower, Cato wouldn’t have a chance.
Cato smiled, forcing air into the flimsy block Shawn had constructed. Once the air tunnels had penetrated even the smallest pores, he pushed bits of earth through the tunnels with a burst of speed, effectively blowing apart everything Shawn had constructed.
Shawn’s frustrated growl made Cato laugh out loud. “How did you do that?” Shawn asked.
“Think of it like overpopulation. Just as the Earth cannot handle a limitless amount of humans, neither can your wall handle a limitless amount of force. Now – try again. This time, concentrate on the purity of your energy.”
Shawn took a sip from his water bottle and threw it aside. He wiped the sweat off his forehead with his shirt, took a deep breath, and closed his eyes – centering himself just as Cato had taught him. He drew energy again, attempting to build a wall around Cato’s magical abilities, molecule by molecule. This time he packed them in tighter, giving his structure a sturdy base.
“Good, good,” Cato commented. “Soon you will be able to practice with the Gaia herself. Your manipulation of her magical abilities will include strengthening it, altering it or even blocking it when necessary.”
Shawn fell into a rhythm. Slowly but surely, the wall was beginning to rise. It soon became boring, monotonous work. His thoughts fell to the overpopulation comment Cato made. “If humans are destroying the planet, because of how many of us there are – why don’t we just make it so there are less of us?” Shawn asked.
Cato turned a wary eye to the 10 year-old boy, “What do you mean, son?”
“I mean, maybe there should just be less people.” Shawn continued constructing his wall, brick by brick.
Cato wasn’t sure he should pursue the subject, but he had felt guilty – having spent all his time with the two new children he adopted three weeks ago. He at least owed it to the boy to treat his ideas with respect; owed him a serious conversation. “How would you propose we go about doing that?”
Shawn took his time answering. In the past when he had brought up the subject, he had been either brushed off or rebuked. “Well, population control, for one. Like China does. One kid per family.”
Cato nodded his head, “A valid point.” Shawn’s wall had completely enclosed Cato from the ground up to his knees. He could still knock it down, but the boy needed to practice. “Religion poses a problem. Many religions preach that faith equals fertility. Going against such a fundamental belief is not a good idea – even if your original intentions are to save the planet. Not many will be on your side. You would alienate our organization from the majority of the population.”
“Religion isn’t all bad – I mean, look at all the wars started because of religious differences. That got rid of some of the population,” said Shawn.
“You’ve been paying attention in your history lessons! Good boy!” Cato ruffled Shawn’s hair, choosing to ignore the darker implications of Shawn’s thought. Shawn had suddenly picked up speed with his wall – it was now closing over Cato’s chest.
Encouraged, Shawn continued. “Governments spend so much money on disaster efforts, sick people, old people. Why don’t they just, you know, stop doing that? Might help with population numbers.”
“Most certainly. But then you are telling people to ignore one of the very traits that define humanity – compassion.” Cato uttered the last word with uncertainty. He pushed a small amount of energy into the wall. Impenetrable. The boy was learning. Slowly, the wall began closing in; squeezing Cato like a sinister hug.
“But it is compassion, because you are saving the Earth – making it a better place for humans and in the end even saving people,” Shawn said.
Cato tried taking a deep breath, but the squeezing was too intense. Even though Shawn’s wall was invisible to the naked eye, it was as solid, and as real – as steal. They boy’s magic, as well as the conversation, were treading dangerous ground.
“Shawn – I think you are missing the point.” Cato was having more and more difficulty talking as the wall snaked around him. “The Seven exists to protect and help the Earth. Those of us that have been blessed with the ability to manipulate elements and energy must do our best to counter the harmful effects of the human population. We are not here to counter the human population itself.”
“Well, maybe we should.” Shawn completed the wall; it surrounded Cato like a claustrophobic igloo. The two stood there, still as ice – one by choice, the other not so much.
Cato was taking in short, constricted breaths, “To what end? Why then, would we be saving the Earth? Who would be here to enjoy it?”
Suddenly, the wall disintegrated. Shawn released his adoptive father and said, “You know – the rest of us. Whoever is left.”
Cato resisted the urge to brush off of the non-existent wall debris. “No. The answer is no. We will all abide by the mission of the organization – and the mission is not depopulation.”
Completely unnerved by the entire experience, Cato picked up his gym bag and walked away, mumbling excuses of the work awaiting him.
Shawn watched him go. “Then maybe we need a new organization.”
What did you think? Contact me or comment and let me know!
Want to read more? Check out my contemporary eco-fantasy, Water: Book One of the Akasha Series.
Another short for you. This one features Alex and Susan, two characters in my novel ‘Water’, and shows how Alex was introduced to the Seven
Somehow when I thought of Afghanistan, I imagined desert, men in turbans, and camels. I was so wrong. Instead, there were treacherous, ice-covered mountains. The men who shot at me didn’t wear turbans; they mostly wore their knitted pokal hats. And the only camel I saw was dead, bones picked clean by a starving village.
It was a horrible place, made more so by constant war. I shrugged off the misery of Afghanistan; it was better than going to foster parents. My mom signed the parental release forms for the military on her death bed; we had no surviving kin.
“Henson! Do you have them yet?”
“Working on it.” I grunted back. I was supposed to be behind the lines in a warm tent, playing with high-tech, cryptologic receivers trying to intercept enemy communications. But our small detachment got attacked, and the commander decided to integrate the radio guys with infantry. Apparently, in Afghanistan, there was no such thing as ‘behind the lines’.
“Hurry up, Marine! We need some intel.” The platoon sergeant kept pressuring me. He had no idea how difficult it was to operate a receiver with bullets flying so close I could feel the wind off of them.
“I swear to – ” The sergeant was cut off by a bullet to the throat. I watched, his body falling in slow motion while the rest of the world continued at a normal speed. Dust billowed up around him as he hit the ground. I crawled over to him, putting pressure on his throat. He started to gurgle so I let go immediately, afraid I was choking him. I didn’t know what the hell to do. I looked around helplessly, just in time to see the first truck in our convoy out of there get blown up. By the time I looked back down at the sergeant, he was gone – eyes wide open and lifeless.
I stared in shock, from my bloody hands to the whites of his eyes, and back again. His body jumped slightly as a bullet zipped into his side; like kicking him while he was down.
“Fuck a whole lot of this.” I immediately backed away; that bullet was probably meant for me. Another deafening blast; the convoy was not done getting ripped apart either. Where the hell were the reinforcements? I had called for them myself over three hours ago. These shooters weren’t exactly accurate, but they were coming out of the woodworks. Word of our position spread faster than disease out here, except to our allies.
I grabbed my rifle and radio and slithered over to a ravine. Two grunts took position on either side of me; keeping enemy bullets at bay. I switched channels back and forth on HF, trying to remember the frequency for the battalion. I didn’t bother going secure; there was no time for it.
Finally, something came in. It wasn’t the battalion intercepting my distress call. It was a woman. “Say again, I do not read you. I repeat…say again.”
“This is Corporal Henson, 3rd Platoon located three clicks northwest of Korengal Valley. We are under fire; we need air support and evacuation of casualties. Transportation is out.”
“Where is your battalion, Corporal? I will relay the message.”
I gave the woman my battalion’s information and our grid coordinates, praying this wasn’t some sort of trap. Five minutes later the radio crackled back to life, “Helo went down in route to evac you. They are doing recovery efforts there. Will be some time before they can get to you.”
I exchanged a despaired look with one of the Marines beside me. I put the handset up to my mouth when her voice came back on, “We are coming in from the south. Look for two vehicles with the number seven on the side. And do not effin’ shoot us.”
“Who are you?”
There was a short pause before she answered, “A friend.”
“Seals?” One of the Marines offered.
“What, they’re sending GI Jane to save us?” I rolled my eyes at him. Maybe CIA? Whatever – if she had vehicles that weren’t currently on fire, it’ll do.
No less than ten minutes later, the sound of idling vehicles reached us. They stayed well back from the battlefield, hidden to the enemy in the shadows. We had all taken up positions behind our rifles, but couldn’t let up. A break in fire could mean an enemy through our lines; another Marine dead.
A slight tap at the shoulder and my reaction was to immediately let my elbow fly back. Thankfully, she was expecting that, and ducked.
“I suppose I should’ve made it clear. No elbows, either.” The woman was almost as tall as me, an unusual trait. She was in tennis shoes and what looked like a running outfit. It wasn’t camouflage but at least it was dark. She had her hair pulled back into a tight ponytail at the nape of her neck. In rural America, she could have passed for a jogger.
“Who are you; why are you here?”
“I am Susan. We are going to get you out of here – alive.” She peeked around me at the raging battle; we weren’t even in the thick of it. We were on the outskirts. She put up a hand-held walkie-talkie to her mouth and began issuing instructions.
“But why are you in the area?” I asked.
“We’re here to help the environment.”
I laughed – as did several others. Susan glowered at me.
“I am being serious.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, woman.” The crazy episodes of Whale Wars came to mind. “My hands are stained with the blood of my sergeant, and you’re here to keep them from cutting down trees?!” I shot off my last couple of rounds and changed out magazines. “There are no trees out here!”
She shrugged, “Not anymore.”
I looked at her, mouth open, “You are serious.”
“They cut down most of their trees for war. Plus, the land is depleted and not conducive for agriculture. Help the land, help the economy. A stable economy makes for a stable country. See – it’s this whole domino effect that I don’t have time to explain, because your Marines are dying.”
Another explosion, closer this time, sent us all flying. We picked ourselves up. One of the Marines beside me went running into the thick of it, relaying orders for a retreat. He never came back. 13 others did.
“We can all fit, I think – let’s get going before they realize what’s up.” Susan said.
“No,” I stopped her, grabbing her at the wrist. “We have to get the fallen.”
Her mouth pressed into a tight line, “I’m sorry, we just don’t have enough room.” There must have been twice as many Marines dead than those that still stood. I shook my head, “Non-negotiable.”
Susan stopped, turned to face our group, and scanned their faces slowly. They were tired, dirty, bloody, hurt, and scared. But they were as resolute as I was. We all go, or no one goes.
She dropped her head in consent, “Fine. But we’ll need at least one other vehicle.”
There was one other, sitting untouched amongst the smoldering scraps of its brothers. I could see face of the enemy just beyond it. They hadn’t approached yet, but it wouldn’t be long now. “We’ll need a diversion.”
“Done,” Susan said, “When the storm hits, get someone to back that vehicle out of there, and get everyone on board – quick.” Susan held the walkie-talkie up to her mouth again, “I need you here.”
Placing the walkie-talkie in her back pocket, she closed her eyes, and began slowly raising her arms into the sky.
“What are you doing?”
“Please don’t distract me.”
A large, native-American man, with dark, black hair in a thick braid that went down to the middle of his back, walked up to join Susan. Despite the cold, he was in a sleeveless shirt. His thick arms were adorned with tattoos of the planet Earth, various trees and of course eagles.
“You people are crazy.”
“About as crazy as you, Marine.”
Great, compatible by insanity. Susan’s arms were all the way above her head now, and the wind had begun to pick up. How had she known a storm was coming?
I looked back at her face. Her eyes were striking, glowing a bright green against the dark sky. Her hair was coming loose; wild strands whipped around her face. The man next to her was now kneeling, with one hand on the ground, chanting.
The Marine standing next to me suddenly lurched forward, then fell to the ground. Blood gushed out from under his not-so-bulletproof helmet. That was the last Sergeant; meaning now I was in charge.
Susan yelled at me over the increasing wind, now infused with dirt and sand, “The storm will temporarily disorient them and slow them down. But it won’t stop bullets.”
Got it. I barked out orders to the nearest Marine, “As soon as the storm moves into that group there, run for the vehicle. We’ll lay down cover fire.” Then turned to the rest of the group, “The rest of you – get your brothers. We’re bringing them home.”
I had to cover my mouth. Where had all the sand come from? I had seen nothing but ice and rock on the ground for almost a month. The sky cracked open with a bolt of lightning, and rain like I had never even seen stateside poured down. It was literally raining mud. The storm’s intensity moved from directly overhead toward the enemy line. We were still getting rain and wind, but now they were bearing the brunt of it. My platoon stood stock still, staring at the freak storm with nervous glances at Susan and the Native American. “Move it!”
My bark shocked them into action. The whirlwind of rain and mud tightened in on itself, sounding almost like a freight train. Susan’s vehicles pulled forward, and two more men got out to help load the wounded and the dead.
Our vehicle came up beside them. A quick head count – everyone was accounted for and loaded up. “We’re good!” I shouted to Susan.
Her arms began to sink back down to her sides, and she lay a hand on her companions shoulder. He broke out of his trance and stood up. The storm had already started to diminish.
“We have about five minutes before they come charging through what’s left of the sandstorm.” Susan said as she hopped into the passenger side of one car. “You coming?”
“Yeah.” I narrowed my eyes at the storm, then her. It couldn’t be. But then again, I did just see it for myself.
I was the last one to the vehicles. I glanced at the large number seven painted on the side of the vehicle, then crowded Susan over as there were no more seats.
“I want to join.”
Susan looked at me with a half-smile, she exchanged glances with the Native American, then handed me a clean rag from the glove box. “Haven’t you done enough joining for one lifetime?”
I used it to wipe the blood from my hands, “Apparently not.”
I leaned back in my seat, and put my arm around Susan. This was one lady who offered adventure I could not pass up.