Excerpt from Delphinium (Happy Valentine’s!)

“So what did you do this last year?” she asked as they began to walk around the clearing. They heard water and made towards the stream.

“Surgery work,” he replied. “We had corpses to practice on, to be able to know what went where, and why, and how.”

“How did you receive corpses?”

“Several people and families generously allowed us to use their loved one’s bodies after death.”

“I can not imagine that is popular. Did you share each.. Body?”
Pierre grimaced. He had not wished to inform Lizzy of this specifically. “Truthfully most were criminals whose deaths were not deemed important enough to give full funerals. At least this way they would be… of use.”

She took this in stride, nodding her head slowly though shuddering.

“A grim year, then.”

“Quite. Though it was not all gloom and horror.”

“Do tell?” While they had walked their hands had linked and she leaned against him as they found the river.

“We were students after all. Pranks were pulled, curfew ignored, alcohol drunk in excess. I was among the oldest so I mainly watched over the younger men.”

“And when you were younger?” Lizzy probed, reading into what Pierre had not said. He did not meet her eyes, staring up at the trees quite pointedly.

“Your brother and I had our fun at times.”

She laughed. They had gotten into enough trouble as children to guess the level of possible mischief Pierre and Piers could do when alone and bored.

“Anything illegal?”

I killed a man, he thought immediately. Several in fact, but one stood out to him in that moment. A prisoner taken straight from his hanging to his slab, so the students could see what was as close to a living body as possible. He had been not quite as dead as they had thought. After seeing the blood flowing and hearing the man let out a moan, even opening his eyes, many of the students turned away and one ran to alert a professor. Pierre had made it seem that he checked for a pulse, but he squeezed the very damaged windpipe. By the time someone with more authority was in the room the man was well and truly dead. It was deemed a delayed hanging. Pierre remained to finish the lesson even though he had been offered a pass at seeing a man die right before his eyes.

“No,” he told her.

“A pity. I hear from Piers that the best moments are those that might get you a night in jail for your troubles.”

“Oh, did he? What tales did he tell his dear little sister?”

“I believe there was a time when the boys in your dorm snuck in strong wine, or went out on the town. Perhaps those were actually in chronological order, it would explain much.”

“I never did such things.”

“Of course not. Though I now shall have to find myself another companion,” she said with a smile and glance to him. “I would like a partner with experience in such things so I have some guidance when I deem to try.”

Before he could answer she dashed ahead to where the stream was in view. He gave chase. At the edge of the bank she did not stop, pulling up her skirts and jumping to a rock that jetted out in the middle. She made it, arms waving to keep her balance and getting one shoe wet, but staying on the rock. With a laugh she turned and curtsied to him.

“And you think yourself safe there, Lizzy dear?” he called.

He took even less care of his attire, jumping straight into the water, mud, and stones. She gasped, looking around for another place to go, but the far side of the bank was, as named, too far.
He reached her then, grabbing her and swinging her in his arms as she shrieked.

“Pierre!”

“Hush or I shall drop you!”

“You would not!”

He pretended to, getting another shriek from her that had him laughing as he carried her back to shore.

“No, my dear, I would not,” he agreed, finally, placing her down in the grass. Not after she had been ill. Another day, perhaps.

They were the same height at the moment and he kissed her before getting out himself and looking down at his ruined clothes. His shoes were wet and the feeling was quite uncomfortable out of the water. He knelt down and began to untie the laces.

Lizzy bit her tongue to keep from asking naughtily if he would also take off his trousers, seeing as they were wet up to the knee.

When barefoot Pierre hopped back into the stream with the shoes in his hands.

“What are you doing?”

“Leaving my shoes,” he called over his shoulder, going back to the rock. He made sure they would not fall into the water before again returning. “They are quite nice shoes, but hardly my only pair. I am sure there are fée around, perhaps the gift would be appreciated. We cannot spare much food or drink.”

Her one shoe was hardly as wet as his had been but she sat and began to undo her laces as well. Without a word he bent down to help her.

“I shall buy you an even lovelier pair when we reach Piques,” he promised as he turned back to place her shoes next to his.

“Oh, you do not—”

“I insist.”


Not exactly a Scene as it’s from Delphinium and not a stand-alone, but I thought it fitting for Valentine’s. You’ll recognize Pierre’s thoughts from the Scene ‘Hanging.’

So many promos! Now back to me :)

I thought I’d check in and ramble about myself and my work for a little bit to break up the other indie folk.

That said this cross-promotion thing is amazing. All the great writers that I’m showing off are also showing off Larkspur. In October I had 160+ downloads, 101 in November, and in December I have 425 so far, and it’s only the 4th! I’m sure I have a few more promos set up for December too, and I’m not-so-secretly hoping to break 1000.

I have most of the major scenes for Delphinium written and pretty polished, now I’m just trying to tie them all together coherently. Sometimes I explain something in a chapter only to find that I wrote something similar already, so that all has to be fixed and redone. Some of the chapters take place over a day and others might be several weeks and I need to summarize, or expand, and make it flow right. I’m feeling really good about this story though- I have fewer “this sucks, what the hell am I even doing” days than I used to have. The story itself, by the way, takes place over 4 months and almost a week. I am gradually scaling up the time for each book, Aconitella should take place over a year and a half, and a few of the vaguely plotted stories for after the Larkspur series may cover five to ten years. I am working with a lot of time, generations here, so going week by week might not be the best idea in the world.

The Wolf Within has been put aside so I can wrap up Delphinium, but it will be written alongside Aconitella. I want to try dealing with more than one world at once, outside of Scenes. And even with Scenes I tend to fall back into the realm I’m working on at the moment. I’ve not been able to stick to another realm long enough for a good coherent Scene in a while (sorry about that).

I do have a pretty finished opening page to The Wolf Within though, so I’ll go ahead and share that here! 🙂

The pups were coming out of the den. They were less than a moon old and had only opened their eyes a few days past, but the alpha-mother was letting them come to meet the rest of the pack. Their alpha-father stood at the opening of the den, tail wagging his entire body as he made himself wait for his mate and puppies to appear. It was their first litter.
The other two wolves of the pack stood further back, not part of the family and not wishing to intrude, though keeping away from new puppies had proved too difficult to overcome entirely.

Alpha-mother came out first and greeted her mate. An uncertain whining was heard from the den and she yipped, telling her little ones that it was safe. Alpha-father had had enough waiting and stuck his head into the den, sniffing and licking the bundles of fur. He grabbed one by the scruff and pulled him out, setting him down before covering him again in licks.

The other two siblings ran out then and all descended on their father, licking at the corners on his mouth and pressing to him, showing him deference and love.

“Come,” the alpha-mother said to the two sitting off to the side. She nudged one of the puppies, a solid black one, in their direction if her beckoning had not been enough. “You are pack too.”

The elder, a golden wolf with suspiciously blue eyes, looked to the younger white wolf before taking a step forward.

The black puppy moved to him, tail low but swishing, shy and trying not to show her fear. The golden wolf dipped his head and licked her in greeting, and she nuzzled him back.

“Smell different.” The pup sneezed and stood back to look at the other pack members, then back to his mother. “Wolf-not-wolf.”

“Man-wolf,” his father explained. “Pack.”

The golden wolf laid down to be less intimidating and all the pups decided it would be a grand idea to tackle him at once.

Finally the black pup went over to the white wolf and sniffed her curiously. She was different than the golden wolf still, and reminded her of her parents in how she sat.

“Alpha-not-wolf?” she asked.

Her father walked over and bent his head, exposing his neck. “Man-wolf queen. She is the alpha of all the alphas. Wolf and man-wolf.”

The queen nudged alpha-father to stand and snorted in annoyance. “I am still young, and a guest of your father’s. I am not here as his alpha.”

Hope everyone is having a great Christmas season! ❤

Captivate Me – S. J. Pierce

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51OosOwDyyL.jpg
Buy it on Amazon!

December 2nd – 4th Captivate Me by S. J. Pierce is only 99cents!

“I have not been this entranced since reading the House of Night series.” 

“My mom had always told me – when you meet”the one,” you’ll know; they’ll captivate your heart the moment you lay eyes on them. I had always wondered, though, if my mom’s words of wisdom were finite – if they applied to everyone. Maybe those who had found their one great love were the lucky few, and maybe the rest of us would have to settle for less than earth-shattering.”

All seventeen-year-old Kathrin Walsh wanted when she transferred to a school for the Gifted was to feel accepted and normal, and she does… mostly. But when dreams of another boy make her question her relationship, kids go missing, and she learns something troubling about what she is and why her future will forever be altered, she quickly realizes that ‘normal’ is only an illusion, and that love can walk a fine line between captivating and maddening, or even worse – it can make you abandon all trace of reason. Love can be deadly.

From the bestselling author of the Alyx Rayer Chronicles, comes a refreshingly different Young Adult series with plenty of love, suspense, and a new take on the Paranormal.

Recommended for readers 16 and up due to mature content.

Book 3 – How the Wolf Lost Her Heart by Sarah Brownlee

SARAH BROWNLEE
HOW THE WOLF LOST HER HEART
Displaying wolf-bookcover (5).jpg

Two hundred years in the future, the City of London has fallen to thugs and scoundrels. The once thriving metropolis is now a shadow of its former self; decent citizens cower in their homes and the streets are no longer safe. In the city lives Skye Archer, a Morpher with the ability to transform into a wolf (her spirit animal) at will. Morphers are the direct result of an experiment that took place two centuries previously. Though extremely rare, Morphers exist in all countries and from all walks of life.

 
It is on one fateful day that Skye meets Raphael Renzo, the handsome son of Lord Renzo who rules over a fair part of West London and does his best to thwart the villains and cads in the city. Raphael has a secret of his own, one the villains secretly fear and one that both intrigues and disturbs Skye. As time goes on, Skye is unable to prevent the feelings she develops for Raphael, but there is nothing to determine whether it is returned. As she sinks further into the depths of unrequited love, Skye discovers things about herself that she never thought possible, things even more incredible than being able to transform into a wolf. As an impending civil war approaches, Skye must wrestle with the fiery passion she feels for Raphael, while at the same time playing her part in protecting innocent citizens of the city. Intriguing, exciting and compelling, it is a tale of love and war, one where the heart of a city and the heart of a girl are simultaneously pierced by one man
 

Part 1 of Delphinium, Beta Edition

Here’s part 1! Remember, this is a beta/advanced-copy of Delphinium, being serialized on my blog because I’m horrible at getting things done. This way I’m working on it every day, and giving something back. This is *not* the final edition of the book. It’ll still be read through and tweaked, by me and my editor, before a final copy is up for sale. I can assure you the main story won’t change, but there may be scenes added in, or rewritten, and other small changes that make this the ‘beta’ version and not the final. Similarly, if you find any issue or are confused, please comment! Or if you like it, please comment then too.


She had become ill. A cough began the day of their departure and lasted throughout the  journey, bringing with it chills and taking away her appetite. Three days from Piques’s capital they were commanded to stop and rest in town, her suitor refusing to go further until she improved. As his orders were that of duc and doctor none could argue.

He carried her to the most elegant suite at the inn as if he were already her husband, laying her down in bed, but then moving to the hall while a maid helped her undress. When he entered again she was curled up under the covers and shivering. Ignoring the maid he made his way to the lady, kissing her forehead and letting his lips linger to both comfort and assess a fever.

“I am unfamiliar with what ails you, my dear,” he said, stroking back her curls. Her blue eyes were unfocused, and her skin was pale save for blotches on her cheeks. “I will consult with local physicians about this. You will be better soon.” His studies had been in surgery, not illness, but he would take extraordinary measures to make her well.

“Forgive me for being so much trouble—” A kiss silenced her. The thought that he could catch her illness entered his mind for a moment, but the desire to show her no blame won over. And if he did fall ill, felt the symptoms himself, at least he might be able to hold back the spirits that plagued her.

She broke the kiss to cough. Spots of red betrayed how much worse her condition had become.

“Rest for now,” he said softly. He took out a handkerchief and wiped away the blood, then tucked her in. She lay facing away and only mumbled a reply. The duc remained standing by her side, not wanting to leave her, one hand still stroking blonde hair that was damp from fever and sweat.

“There is drink for Lady Elizabeth by the bed, Your Grace,” the maid spoke up, breaking into his thoughts. “And chimes to the servant’s room for when she wakes.”

“Thank you, you may go,” he replied over his shoulder. Pouring his love a glass of diluted wine he paused after setting down the glass- the maid had left and the door was barely ajar. He took off his gloves and, with a pin taken from the folds of his clothing, he pricked a finger. Blood seeped out, becoming dark first with saturation and then in hue. When it dripped down his hand the trail left behind was black.

He let several drops of blood fall into her wine before putting on his gloves again. They were black as well, and by sight one would not see the bloodstains. He would change them when he had a spare moment.

“Sleep well, Lizzy. Do not forget to drink. I will have a light dinner brought to you later.” She did not reply a second time, already asleep or too weak to answer.

He closed the door behind himself softly, uncertain if he wanted to leave without making her at least drink first. But no, she needed to rest, it would do her good before any magic enchanted her. And he needed his own rest before using any cræft.

He went to his rooms, smiling when he walked in to see his cat lying on a pillow. He sat beside her and pulled the black queen onto his lap, not a care for the expensive clothes that would be covered in fur. He held her close as a pet from childhood and not the Familiar she usually was.

“She is very ill,” he told her. “I do not know what to do, Pluta. I don’t know how to feel… A doctor has been sent for, what if they can offer no help either?”

Pluta pressed herself to her master. He did not often worry, but Elizabeth had become close to him again these last few weeks.

“What is the worst that can happen?” the cat said. To most it would sound like purring or mewling, but to him and those that knew necrocræft it would be human tongue.

“She could suffer,” he replied. “And I might not be able to do anything.”

Illness was something one learned to understand and live with in Clandestina. While some of the best healers and doctors of the world resided in this realm, it was by necessity, as the guardians who had once controlled death and illness were all but gone. Some resided in other realms, most had just disappeared, yet the magic of a realm was innate. Other places could continue to thrive without ever knowing about the keres; this land of fée and mortal was in turmoil.

But some did not accept so easily that control was out of their grasp.

“My Lady,” Pierre called out to the silence around him. The bed shifted as another sat behind him, arms wrapping around his waist. Her head rested between his shoulder-blades. She brought a chill with her, as if she had stood out in the snow for far too long and had yet to warm, and the duc shivered in her embrace.

“The illness–”

“The spirits are not mine,” Mora said. “They come from my plane, but only in ancestry.” She was not a goddess. Neither all-knowing nor all-powerful, she was a being that happened to exist in another plane and have more magic than most– A daimon. The last ker. Legend and time, though, had turned her into a being that responded to Death. And sometimes Life.

“Do what you will,” she said before he continued. “Piques is your land, Clandestina your home, and you are my most beloved Suitor. You do not need my permission, Lord of Death.”

“Will you help?” he asked. She had been wary of Elizabeth since the daughter of the comte had returned to Pierre’s life. Had been jealous even that he had chosen to come back to life after committing suicide (the final of Death’s tests) instead of staying with her in the land of the dead.

“I will not hinder.” She placed a kiss of ice to the nape of his neck, and the weight on the bed vanished. The cold remained.

***

He made his way to the dining hall. Most of who had accompanied him were left to have meals while rooms were sorted. From guards to those driving the carriages, miscellaneous staff, and other nobles who had been at the castle for his birthday party just two weeks past. He had become ill that evening, through the use of his cræft, and Elizabeth stayed with him and kept him company until he was well. He had in turn asked her to join him for the spring in Piques.

Raising a finger to hush the man that would announce his presence, Pierre Salvador, duc de Piques, walked through the throng of people until he found his student. A gifted boy in healing and similar skills, Wolfram was sitting among a group of boys that helped with the animals.

“Have you heard of this illness?” the duc asked, interrupting some story about the dogs. The young man nodded, though the others seemed unsure of what to do with the duc before them.

“Yes, Your Grace. But I have only heard of it in passing. I do not know the treatment. I have just heard Lord Ophion mention it.” Before being with the duc he had been a student of the royal physician.

Pierre nodded, the tightening of his grip on his cane the only visible sign of discomfort. “Let us go wait for the healers and see if this has been happening in the area. Come along.” Wolfram was not needed, but he was the closest the duc had to a human friend within this party, aside from Lizzy. Thinking about medicine or cræft at least kept his mind occupied and relevant to trying to help her.

The food was forgotten, Wolfram standing and attending his lord while leaving behind the others. Several more people offered to come, but Pierre ignored them and walked quickly with only his apprentice.

“What else has Ophion said?”

“It presents with a harsh cough that can lead to blood coming up from the lungs and throat. The few cases he has seen…” Hesitation, and Wolfram did not finish what he was going to say.

“Ended in death,” Pierre said, guessing correctly why the boy would feel uncomfortable sharing this news. “At least death I can cure.”

***

“Your Grace,” the doctor greeted when he entered the room. After trying to understand the spirits of the illness and failing, Pierre and Wolfram had retired to wait until the physician came.

The duc stood and crossed the room to shake his hand, a gesture from physician to physician and not lord to citizen.

“My beloved is ill,” he began without further introduction. “A harsh cough that leads to bleeding, though whether from the lungs or throat I am not aware. She runs a fever and is weak and pale. She is asleep, though if you need to examine her she may be woken.”

The doctor nodded. “There is no need, Your Grace. I have seen the illness. It is rarer here than in the south of Piques, but it is slowly spreading north. I know of no name for it, but I can describe what is happening. It is an illness that can lay dormant in a human person for many months, if not years. I speculate there are many infected among us, we are merely not ill.”

“And what causes it to become active?”

“The presence of death,” the doctor replied. Pierre remained composed, but Wolfram coughed to hide his intake of breath. The doctor did not pay him any attention.

“How is this treated?” the duc continued.

“I have medicines to treat the cough, the tearing, to keep down the fever– but these only treat the symptoms and not the illness. The afflicted must be surrounded by life. It is early spring, if she has just become ill then perhaps it will not be for long. By next winter I hope to have a better cure in mind.”

“Thank you.”

They shook hands once more and the doctor left.

***

She awoke to a gentle hand shaking her shoulder.

“Elizabeth,” a woman’s voice said. “I am here with medicine for you, and dinner.”

Lizzy thanked the nurse, sitting and receiving a cup filled with some concontion that smelt of mint. A dinner tray with soup and a roll was beside her bed.

Her fever must still be high for she thought she saw wings on the woman’s back.

“Thank you,” she said.

Mora smiled.

Part .5 of Delphinium, Beta Edition

Once again my over-estimations come back to haunt me. Here’s part of the first ‘chapter’ of Delphinium, about a 4th of it. This is why I gave the vague ‘day or two’ for estimations. Slow and steady did finally win the race though, so I’ll keep writing even if it’s only a little at a time.

She had become ill. A cough began the day of their departure and lasted throughout the  journey, bringing with it chills and taking away her appetite. Three days from Piques’s capital they were commanded to stop and rest in town, her suitor refusing to go further until she improved. As his orders were that of duc and doctor none could argue.

He carried her to the most elegant suite at the inn as if he were already her husband, laying her down in bed, but then moving to the hall while a maid helped her undress. When he entered again she was curled up under the covers and shivering. Ignoring the maid he made his way to the lady, kissing her forehead and letting his lips linger to both comfort and asses a fever.

“I am unfamiliar with what ails you, my dear,” he said, stroking back her curls. Her blue eyes were unfocused, her skin pale save for blotches on her cheeks. “I will consult with local physicians about this. You will be better soon.” His studies had been in surgery, not illness, but he would take extraordinary measures to make her well.

“Forgive me for being so much trouble—” A kiss silenced her. The thought that he could catch her illness entered his mind for a moment, but the desire to show her no blame won over. And if he did fall ill and feel the symptoms himself, at least he might be able to hold back the spirits that plagued her.

She broke the kiss to cough, spots of red betraying how much worse her condition had become.

“Rest for now,” he said softly. He took out a handkerchief and wiped away the blood from her lips, then tucked her in. She lay facing away and only mumbled a reply. The duc remained standing by her side, not wanting to leave her, one hand still stroking blonde hair that was damp from fever and sweat.

“There is drink for Lady Elizabeth by the bed, Your Grace,” the maid spoke up, breaking into his thoughts. “And chimes to the servant’s room for when she wakes.”

“Thank you, you may go,” he replied over his shoulder. Pouring his love a glass of diluted wine he paused after setting down the glass- the maid had left and the door was barely ajar. He took off his gloves and, with a pin taken from the folds of his clothing, he pricked a finger. Blood seeped out, becoming dark first with saturation and then in hue. When it dripped down his hand the trail left behind was black.

He let several drops of blood fall into her wine before putting on his gloves again. They were black as well, and by sight one would not see the bloodstains.

“Sleep well, Lizzy. Do not forget to drink. I will have a light dinner brought to you later.” She did not reply a second time, already asleep or too weak to answer.

He closed the door behind himself softly, uncertain if he wanted to leave without making her at least drink first. But no, she needed to rest, it would do her good before any magic enchanted her. And he needed his own rest before using any cræft.

He went to his own rooms, smiling when he walked in to see his cat lying on a pillow. A pure black queen, she was his constant companion and confidant.  He sat beside her and pulled her into his lap, not a care for the expensive clothes that would be covered in fur. He held her close as a pet from childhood and not the Familiar she usually was.

“She is very ill,” he told her. “I do not know what to do, Pluta. I don’t know how to feel. A doctor has been sent for, what if they can offer no help either?”

Pluta pressed herself to her master. He did not often worry, but Elizabeth had become close to him again these last few weeks, a childhood friendship becoming an adult’s desire for true companionship and love.

“What is the worst that can happen?” the cat said. To most it would sound like purring or mewling, but to him and those that knew necrocræft it would be human tongue.

“She could suffer,” he replied. “And I might not be able to do anything.”

Serializing Delphinium

I’ve been a bad author. It has taken me far far too much time to get Delphinium done, and frankly, I’m still not finished.

I am sorry.

I get ahead of myself and make plans, and then I realize I can’t do what I want to. With a blog and facebook and twitter I’ve found myself also spouting all my plans to people who actually count on me. Then I can’t deliver.

I’m learning, I’m trying to catch up with my mouth and ideas. I’m getting there. To make up for this astoundingly long wait I’ve decided to serialize Delphinium’s first edition on my blog. It’ll have pages up there under “Clandestina > Larkspur Series > Delphinium” and I’ll mention it in posts here. There are 15 parts of ~2000 words each, and most still need polish, so I’m going to release one at a time (in order :P) until the book’s finished. I’ve giving myself a day, maybe two, for each section. That said some sections are almost perfect now, so as soon as they are done they will be put up. I won’t be holding anything back, it’s less ‘a part a day’ and more ‘a part as fast as I can finish it.’

Then I’ll send it over to my editor to catch any last moment issues I may have missed, and release it on Amazon/B&N/Kobo. Sadly at that point the ‘first edition’ will be taken down.

The first part of Delphinium will be up *tonight.* It’s late-ish (East Coast) but I’ll have it up before I crash for the night. I promise.