We had a great time at authorericprice.com in August. We started with discussions about comic book movies and graphic novels–two of my favorite topics. And to kick it off, we had the first ever authorericprice.com giveaway. I did my first blog swap, with Susan Royal. One of my best virtual friends, Mary Waibel, dropped by with a royal interview (another first) and another giveaway; and we closed the month with a double feature of excerpts (yep, first) by Christina Weigand.
September has a lot to live up to, but it’s prepared for the challenge. In two weeks my social media mentor and self-dubbed book sibling (we both have young adult fantasy novels coming out in November), Erin Albert, stops by with her book The Prophesy. Next week we have another first when the adorable alien author Ace Hansen pays us a visit (I usually avoid alliteration, but I couldn’t resist). To tie it all together, Ace, Erin, and I all have something in common: we share the same spectacular editor, Katie L. Carroll. (Okay, I’ll stop with the alliteration.)
I believe editors are the best thing to happen to books since paper, but Katie joins us this week, not as an editor, but as an author. She’s kicking off a month-long blog tour to celebrate the release of her book, Elixir Bound, in paperback. Katie has sent a short story prequel to her book, titled Winter Solstice. She’s also touring with a copy of Elixir Bound to giveaway at the end of the month, so don’t forget to click on the link at the bottom of this post to enter.
I’ve read Elixir Bound. It’s an exciting fantasy with a lot of action. I highly recommend it. So after you’ve read the prequel, follow one of the buy links and give it a peak (misspelling intentional, right Katie? 😉 ). You won’t be disappointed.
An Elixir Original Short by Katie L. Carroll
This short story takes place before the events of Elixir Bound. Siblings Katora, Kylene, and Bhar Kase are performing their annual celebration of the Winter Solstice.
“Do you have the acorns and your offering for the sacrifice?” Bhar asked with an impish grin and a glint in his blue eyes.
Katora raised her right eyebrow. “All but one, and Kylene should be getting it right now.” She thumped her younger brother on the shoulder with her fist. “You know the Great Mother doesn’t approve of sacrifices.”
Bhar laughed as he ran deeper into the trees of Faway Forest. Katora shook her head in annoyance and wondered if Bhar would ever be serious about anything. She shifted her backpack and followed his indelicate footsteps.
She stopped in a small clearing. Bhar stood in the center, a series of stacked rocks interspersed at regular intervals around him. She dropped her pack outside the rocks and sat inside the circle, legs crossed.
Katora had been coming to this place on the Winter Solstice for as long as she could remember. Her two older sisters used to participate in the ceremony, but they had recently moved out of the family home. They now held their own traditions. This was the first year they wouldn’t be there, and Katora wasn’t sure she wanted to be there either.
Still, Katora would honor the Great Mother with Bhar and her younger sister, Kylene. As Katora thought of her, Kylene loped into the clearing, cheeks rosy and long blond hair wild. Quick puffs of breath escaped Kylene’s mouth in the crisp air.
“I’ve got it.” From her pocket, Kylene pulled a small nut ending in woody cap. “Freshly fallen from an oak tree.”
Katora help up her hand, and Kylene tossed the acorn. Katora caught it easily and set it on the ground next to three others, each one collected during a different season. A hearty vine with withered essenberries also lay on the cold dirt. As Kylene sat, her gray cloak, the same color as the cloud covered sky, fanned out behind her and touched Katora’s cloak at the corner.
“Let’s begin.” Katora rubbed her chapped hands, souvenirs from years of farming, together. “Bhar, you did bring the trowel, didn’t you?”
Bhar produced the tool from his pants pocket. “Of course. Do you even have to ask?”
Katora grinned and glanced at Kylene, who failed to hide her smile. They both knew Bhar needed to be asked. He took his place next to his sisters. Behind him, his cloak touched each of theirs and completed the circle.
“Please present your items,” Katora said, tapping her offering of the vine.
A playing card appeared in Bhar’s hand, seemingly from nowhere. With a flick of the wrist, he tossed it among the acorns and vine. Kylene kissed a small book and gently placed it on the ground. The three siblings grasped hands and closed their eyes.
Katora chanted, “Mother Nature, we gather and return the fruit of the seasons. Take these and our personal offerings from our hearts to yours. As the cold of winter takes hold, offer in return safe passage to spring.”
A moment of silence passed before Bhar began to dig a small hole. Except for the scrape of the trowel in dirt, he worked in complete silence, the forest quiet as it fell into the sleep of winter. Katora and Kylene deposited the offerings into the hole. All three scooped the soil back over the hole and patted it down.
They grasped hands again, fingernails caked with dirt, and hummed. Their melody pierced the silent forest and rose to the top of the trees and beyond. A gust of wind swirled through the clearing, lifting their cloaks in the air behind them.
Katora’s eyes widened as Kylene’s hand gripped hers tight. Bhar turned his face to the sky. Katora felt her hair fly about her face as she watched Kylene’s locks do the same. Still, they kept humming. When their tune finally ended, the wind abruptly stopped.
A long sigh escaped Katora’s mouth, deflating the pressure in her chest. Nothing like that had ever happened during the ceremony.
“What was that?” Kylene asked in a whisper.
“A coincidence,” Bhar said with no trace of his playful smile.
Katora pounded her fist on the ground. “That was no coincidence. I’ve always been a bit skeptical that the Great Mother paid any attention to our little ceremony. But now…I believe she does.”
“Yes.” Kylene nodded her head repeatedly. “I always believed she did, but this is a nice confirmation of our faith.”
Bhar blew into his hands. “I’m cold. Let’s go home and heat up some milk and chocolate.”
Kylene’s brow wrinkled as she said with hesitation, “It is cold. And we must be home before dark.”
“I’ll catch up with you two.” Katora gathered up her pack as Bhar and Kylene left the clearing.
She heard Kylene tease Bhar about his offering. “What is Mother Nature going to do with a playing card?”
“More than she’s going to do with a book,” Bhar said. “Definitely more than she’ll do with an essenberry vine. Katora’s offering was definitely the worst.”
Kylene laughed at Bhar’s joke, and Katora was compelled to defend her choice. Every essenberry vine on Kase Farm was a gift from Mother Nature. The vines provided a means of wealth, and therefore survival, for the family. She didn’t bother arguing because her siblings’ voices had already faded away.
Just as she stepped back into the trees, Katora spotted a small bluebird perched high up on a leafless branch. Its beady eyes stared down at her. The bird opened its beak wide and let out one sharp chirp.
“You coming?” Bhar’s shout echoed through the forest.
She glanced back up at the oak tree, but the bird had vanished. As she jogged to catch up, Katora felt Mother Nature’s presence. It wasn’t only in the physical bounty of the forest, but also deep inside Katora’s own heart. She breathed deep and the winter air felt fresh instead of cold.
Katora Kase is next in line to take over as guardian to a secret and powerful healing Elixir. Now she must journey into the wilds of Faway Forest to find the ingredient that gives the Elixir its potency. Even though she has her sister and brother, an old family friend, and the handsome son of a mapmaker as companions, she feels alone.
It is her decision alone whether or not to bind herself to the Elixir to serve and protect it until it chooses a new guardian. The forest hosts many dangers, including wicked beings that will stop at nothing to gain power, but the biggest danger Katora may face is whether or not to open up her heart to love.
Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240854
Katie L. Carroll began writing at a very sad time in her life after her 16-year-old sister, Kylene, unexpectedly passed away. Since then writing has taken her to many wonderful places, real and imagined. She wrote Elixir Bound and the forthcoming Elixir Saved so Kylene could live on in the pages of a book. Katie is also the author of the picture app The Bedtime Knight and an editor for MuseItUp Publishing. She lives not too far from the beach in a small Connecticut city with her husband and son. For more about Katie, visit her website at http://www.katielcarroll.com.