You guys – it’s been a while. I know. I apologize for leaving all those days ago. Let’s pretend it never happened, okay? Onward. I have something exciting to share with you this year, starting this week: new contemporary fantasy fiction!
Today I’m posting chapter one of my book, Shattered, which is the first book in my new Calypso Curse series coming out later this year. Tony and I have been working on the cover this week and it looks amazing! I’ll be revealing that soon too, so stay tuned.
In the last couple years, I’ve shifted my writing focus to more magical stories, hence the new contemporary fantasy fiction title up yonder, Modern Myths & Magic. This new story which will happen over the arc of three books is contemporary fantastical women’s fiction set in a small town, similar to Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen stories.
It’s fantasy with feels. Always gotta bring the feels. I hope you enjoy it.
**On that note, if you like it and want to read more, please let me know in the comments. I’ll post more if I get ten people to ask for it.
**On the flip side, this is the genre I’m going to be writing in from now on and if you’re a subscriber to my blog or my book club and you don’t enjoy stories with fantastical elements, you won’t hurt my feelings if you unsubscribe. I want you to be happy to hear from me. If this kind of story doesn’t appeal to you, I totally understand and wish you the best!
SHATTERED – CHAPTER 1
Ten years ago the divine rush of first love collided with a family curse and altered Emma Rosen’s life forever.
When she was young she’d heard the bitter rumors about her disappearing family, hostile whispers polluting the air of Calypso Springs around her, seeping from people’s mouths like ink through water. And before she had proof, before that first burgeoning a decade ago, she’d thought it was all small town gossip, a juicy scandal to keep everyone preoccupied so they could ignore their own problems.
Curses aren’t real, her father had said. She’d believed him.
But with this destructive new ability she didn’t understand and couldn’t explain, she knew her father had been wrong. And she’d been searching for a way to bring light into the darkness of her town ever since, because the darkness was her fault.
That evening, while everyone else sat around picnic tables and back porches discussing what to wear to her neighbor’s Fourth of July barbecue that week, Emma sat alone in the barren woods drowning secrets made of glass. Sitting at the edge of the natural spring her town was named for, she dropped handful after handful of spiky glass weeds she’d made into the water below.
Twenty feet down, over the surface of the circular pool of the spring, a crosshatching of dead, tentacle-like morning glory vines grew from one side to the other. The long intertwined fingers of the vines obscured the water underneath, discouraging anyone from taking a swim. Emma could relate to that kind of self-protection. Self-concealment.
Though, no one in town was foolish enough to consider swimming in the nest, or in Emma for that matter. They all knew to steer clear of the source of the curse.
Like barbed, black icicles Emma’s weeds sliced down through the thick layers of vines and sank into the abyss. The glass never broke.
She bent forward toward the open mouth of the spring, mesmerized by the subtle light emanating from the bottom up through the nest of vines on top. Every time she made an offering, it sparked to life. It called to her. Not out loud, obviously. Water can’t talk. But something underneath beckoned her to bury her secrets there. And she had a surplus of secrets to bury. Her space in their barn filled up with glass quickly, especially if she was emotionally overloaded, or if the town was. And it always was.
Every time she came, she fought the urge to jump in. She couldn’t swim, but something pulled her to push off that edge, dive deep, and soak up that light. Find out once and for all what was under there. No one knew. No one had ever survived exploring the spring.
Except her grandfather. But some might question if he’d survived at all. He emerged a bitter, broken man and destroyed the town.
Emma had no idea how to put it, or herself, back together again.
Something shifted beside her.
Her grandfather’s green army bag, the one she always used to carry her glass, lay next to her on the ground and generally didn’t move on its own, but now it was sliding away from her at a precipitous pace.
A mess of a dog tugged at the end of it, yanking it quickly away. Her spine prickled with white-hot fear and every cell in her body stood at attention, ready for flight.
A dog in Calypso Woods? Dogs hadn’t existed in Calypso Springs for decades, not since long before she was born. Dogs didn’t survive in Calypso Springs. Period.
But there it was, this impossible thing with chaotic red fur dreads dangling all over its emaciated, wasted body, trying to wrangle the sandwich out of her bag.
That morning, she’d had a good cry and wondered how things could possibly get worse for her. Note to self, keep thoughts on a tighter leash.
The moment she turned, it stopped tugging and stood still as stone, staring at her, daring her to take her bag back. She wasn’t sure what to do with that. The light began to fade which made it harder to see details clearly. Maybe this wasn’t actually a dog. Maybe it was a coyote or a wolf. There’d been recent sightings at the other end of the woods in Maiden Lake, the next town over.
Given her limited knowledge of four-legged things, she wasn’t positive what it was, but it looked more like those shaggy red dogs with floppy ears she’d seen wandering around other towns. Their careless owners let them run wild off leash and harass innocent pedestrians with fat, slobbery tongues and flying leaps into their personal space. What a nightmare.
She wanted to shoo it away, but wasn’t sure if it would eat her face off if she tried. No sudden movements. Emma couldn’t tell by looking at the dog what its gender was, though the enormous size of the paws made her think it was probably a male.
Remnants of scars criss-crossed his nose and the top of his head. He’d been abused and thrown away. The idea of that made her stomach twist in a way she’d never experienced.
His eyes frightened her. They were feral. Angry? Full of fear? She couldn’t tell. His ears lay flat against his head as he grabbed the bag and dragged it backward again. She knew one thing about animals. If they were angry or scared, they would most likely attack. Just like people.
Barely breathing, she pulled her legs up and away from the steep granite wall of the nest. Dead pine needles crunched and echoed under her into the silent night as she pivoted away from the water and around to face him. The whole forest floor was covered in a thick layer of needles. Relics of some long gone era when they actually grew on trees there. They smelled like nothing. In Calypso Springs nature was devoid of scent, of life itself.
Somewhere off in the far corner of the woods coyotes howled, spurred on by the eerily disturbing song of their own voices. It startled the dog enough for him to let go of the bag and search over his shoulder for danger coming his way.
Emma seized the opportunity to take the bag back. She could use it to shield her body if he became aggressive or throw it over him and run if things went sideways. Skittish and nervous, the dog darted away from her and off behind a large tree about fifteen feet away from where she stood with the bag.
With her heart beating a tribal rhythm, Emma pulled the white styrofoam container out of the far end of her bag and opened it to take the other half of a roast beef sandwich out. Her stomach growled in protest of what she was about to do. So did her social standing meter. She was at the no end of the totem pole and this wouldn’t help matters.
What would people think if they caught me feeding a wild dog? It wasn’t something you did in Calypso Springs. The unwritten rules about animals were clear. Dogs were simply a taboo subject. Cats were questionable. Fish, thoroughly acceptable.
The dog peeked out from behind the tree, watching intently, waiting for her to make a move.
Nerves took the wheel. Many voices in her head all at once. What if he attacks me? What if he has rabies? Or bird flu? Do dogs carry bird flu? Is he going to hump my leg? What about SARS? Cholera? What if he follows me home? Oh god, I’m going to die, he’s got swine flu!
The voices lacked coherency. She jotted a strongly worded mental note for them to piss off so she could get on with things and most of them stood down. A couple still nagged at her. Am I up to the task of earning his trust? And then the more interesting one: Why the hell do I want to?
The conversation was weird.
She tore off a small chunk of the sandwich and threw it in his direction. It spooked him and he ran farther away behind a different tree, but he didn’t leave for good. He was interested. Suspicious, but interested. Either in her or the food. Hopefully the latter, she didn’t want to be considered the food.
“It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you,” Emma whispered, almost to herself. “And you’re not going to hurt me. We’re going to have an understanding. Right?”
She twisted off more of the sandwich and threw another piece closer to his tree. He jerked away from the incoming food and skittered farther into the woods, but came back and stood near the same tree fixated on her, almost like he was waiting for her to come take the food away or do something terrible to him. “It’s yours. I’m staying right here. You’re safe.”
In one gulp, the piece of sandwich disappeared and the other met the same fate soon after. She pulled another piece off and tossed it closer in front of where she stood. He didn’t move toward it. Obviously he was starving, but that may have been a little too close for his comfort. She left it and didn’t break off any more. Just sat down and looked off into the woods like he wasn’t there, holding the rest of the sandwich toward him.
Soft, tentative footsteps and the light snapping of pine needles close to her. He inhaled the food on the ground and retreated back behind the nearest tree, still interested in what she held in her hand.
She sneaked glances at him, waiting patiently with her peace offering, but she wouldn’t be able to stay at this dance much longer. Josiah always worried if she wasn’t home shortly after dark.
Since the first burgeoning, when she’d left the horticulture program at the University of Maiden Lake, she’d been living back in Calypso Springs taking care of her father. He’d been struck low by a debilitating illness no doctors were ever able to pinpoint or treat properly. Lately he’d been feeling stronger, but she knew not to expect any kind of miracle. Her family never had much luck with those.
Slow, delicate footfalls crunching toward her again. She could barely make out her hand holding the sandwich in the falling darkness, but the snout sniffing toward it cast a sharp silhouette. Being this close to him sent chills flying up her spine. A vibrant violet aura swirled around him, pulsing off his body in rushing waves as he came closer to her.
He backed away when she faced him, but then his hunger overcame his fear and he snagged the rest of the sandwich out of her hand. He’d left the hand fully intact and hers to enjoy for the remainder of life and she probably wasn’t going to get swine flu. For that she was grateful. Scurrying away, he hid behind the same tree, inhaling the rest of the food and then popped his head out toward her one more time.
This time it felt different. The air was energized with something palpable. Something not of this world.
They locked gazes and her body stiffened all at once, like she wasn’t able to move. He stepped out from behind the tree and stalked toward her. Not an altogether menacing approach, not a joyful one either. His ears, still bent flat back against his head, popped up, curious and searching, and then returned to their usual spot.
He stopped three feet in front of her, eye level. Neither moved. Neither made a sound. She was mesmerized by him, and he mirrored her. Just when the last bit of light faded and they both turned to darkness in front of each other, a circus of fireflies ignited around them, sprites illuminating the night.
And for that ephemeral moment, a foreign feeling came over her. A calm warmth in her center where there was normally fire. A blossoming of something she hadn’t felt in a decade. Almost like it had never been part of her at all.
A very specific thing, that hope. It was intentional and it spoke to her, not in words, but in a blooming buzz that unfurled and radiated through her whole body somehow assuring her things would not always be the way they were now.
She lifted her empty hand to him, palm up. Another offering. He considered it, but something in the woods caught his attention and he turned from her, disappearing like a ghost, silently, as if he hadn’t existed at all. She sat dumbstruck trying to gather her thoughts about what just happened.
The minute he ran off, the warm glow wilted inside her and then disappeared altogether. She didn’t understand what he’d done or how he’d done it and didn’t know if she’d ever see him again. Maybe that was okay. Maybe it wasn’t.
The only clear thought floating in her then was that he’d somehow helped her to know she wasn’t irreparably broken, damaged beyond repair. It was almost enough to know she could feel hopeful again, that things might change for the better someday.
If you’re still with me, THANK YOU for reading. If you have to find out what happens with Emma and this dog and the town and what’s up with those glass weeds anyway? Let me know you want the story to continue in the comments. Your feedback is muchly appreciated.
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