One book more!
...Okay, I shall now switch out of Broadway musical mode and get to the point of my post. You may have noticed that I have not been very active on here for the past several months. There is a reason for this -- I have been hard at work getting the third book of The Sehret Chronicles publication-ready. It's taken up a lot of my time, attention, and energy, and I am pleased to announce that at last, there is a third book on the market!
The Survivor, formerly known as The Rescuer, picks up directly where the first book, The Follower, left off. Here's the back-cover blurb, for more info:
The ragtag group thrown together by a cave-in in 'The Follower' have reached the surface of the Rhenor mountains, and have plotted their course to Delnam, where they will part ways at last. Their adventure takes them through the hostile Kirat territories, but as long as they keep to themselves and are careful to avoid the locals, they expect to reach their destination safely.
When Zarea Kal, a Kirat runaway, brings her pursuers crashing down on the camp, the group united by circumstance is rent apart once more. Now those taken captive must fight for their freedom, and those already free must survive long enough to set things right.
But even with their enemies occupied, the battle for their souls and sanity still rages, and demons -- either real or of the mind -- refuse to retreat into the shadows that spawned them.
The battle for survival is not over. It has only just begun.
Not sure you're interested based on that description alone? Here's a sneak peek from the beginning of the book:
Beside her, Darek whispered, “What are we waiting for?”
Zarea silenced him with a wave of her hand, and her eyes flitted about the area. A small camp, three men guarding it, none well-armed. Their chest of supplies sat open to the air, dragged out earlier by the largest of the three to allow for easier access during the supper hour. That might have been wise, considering how much they ate from it. But they'd never bothered to drag it back into the tent.
And that was their mistake.
The brawny guard still did not stir, but Zarea thought she heard him mumble something unintelligible, and she released a shaky breath. The man was alive, and she lacked the nerve to change that. Hopefully, he would have the decency to stay unconscious until they were gone. She notched another arrow and rose to a crouch. “Let's go.”
Darek nodded, and they advanced. Zarea led the way into the camp and slowed her step as she approached the man she'd shot. The sedative-coated arrow that pierced his shoulder remained in place, and Zarea's eyes flitted to the wound before she forced them to move away. She dropped by his side and fumbled with the knot that tethered the keys to his belt. She grabbed at what she thought was the right end to loosen it and yanked.
The keys jangled.
“Kali!” The hissed nickname made her look up. Darek gestured wildly to his belt and glanced at the tent nearby.
Of course. Zarea pulled a knife from her belt and began to saw. A few heart-jolting clanks later, she pulled the keys free.
A breeze blew through, and the corner of one of the tent flaps flipped enough for Zarea to see inside. Her heart leapt to her throat at the sight of the two sleeping men inside.
She inhaled deeply and pulled an arrow from her quiver, then held it in her left hand like a dagger while gripping the keys tightly in her right. Darek rushed to her side and took the keys, then moved swiftly to the chest of supplies. After several agonizing moments of peering into the lock, of sticking one key after another into it without success, finally there was a click and he pulled the key free. He glanced at Zarea and lifted the lid.
Zarea’s breath caught at the sight of the contents. Stores of dried meat, of bread, and even a bag of dried berries sat before them. They were not much to look at, but she could not turn away, and her mouth watered. How pathetic that she should desire these withered old morsels after seventeen years of having plenty without having to lift a finger.
Darek rifled through the chest to see if there was anything else of use, then gestured to Zarea and mouthed, “The bag.”
Zarea rushed back to their hiding spot and snatched up the empty satchel she'd left there. A few stale crumbs fell to the ground, and she left them for the men to find. She and Darek stuffed as much as they could into the satchel, stuffing a fair amount into their mouths, as well.
The food stuck in Zarea’s throat, and she coughed, then froze wide-eyed. She waited for the men to wake up, to rush out and see who it was that was coughing on their precious food. But no-one came.
Darek’s eyes were equally wide, his lips cracked as he whispered, “Water. They must have some.”
Zarea tried to think. If she were these men, traveling through the plains in the dry season, where would she keep a precious commodity such as water? Not in this chest – she knew that already. She would want it nearby, easy to reach when the need for refreshment hit her.
Her eyes strayed to the tent, through the flap as it waved in the wind, and she caught sight of something that might be a jug by the larger man's bedroll.
Darek followed her gaze, and his face turned ashen as he shook his head. “No, Kali. They'll wake up.”
“We need water.” Her knees wobbled, but she forced them to hold her up as she crept to the tent and pulled back the flap. She caught her breath as the light fell through the crack, all the way to the jug and the man sleeping beside it. He stirred.
A pair of hands clapped over her mouth and yanked her back from the tent. She gasped, fumbled for the knife sheathed inside her tunic.
“Keep still,” a familiar voice hissed in her ear. “I'm not going to hurt you.”
Zarea ripped herself free of Darek’s grasp. “If you grab me again, I'll stab you.”
“Go in there, and they'll kill us both.” Darek lifted the full satchel of food. “Please, Kali – we have enough for a while. We'll reach the mountain soon, and when–”
“Stop telling me what to do,” Zarea snapped, snatching her confiscated longknife from his grasp. She lifted her chin imperiously. “I give the orders here, remember? We need water, and I'm getting it. Now stand guard.”
Darek opened his mouth to protest, then clamped it shut and pulled his own bow free, notching an arrow as he nodded and raised it to its ready position.
Zarea took a deep breath and, with her knife raised, stepped into the tent. Every breath the sleeping men took, every twitch or mumbled word made her jump, and she had to fight the urge to turn and run as fast as her legs would carry her. She reached the big man's side and held her breath, afraid the slightest noise would bring about sudden death. She saw the jug, about eight inches tall, and nearly as wide, just past the stranger's head. She tensed, took a careful step, placed her foot mere inches away from his head, certain he would wake and sweep it out from under her. Still his snores filled the tent.
The jug was inches away now. All she had to do was lean a bit, reach out, pull it ever so carefully over his head, and...
The jug’s weight knocked her off balance, and before she could so much as reach out to stop herself, she fell and found herself sprawled over the man's brawny chest.
And that was when he gasped, his eyes flew open, and he threw Zarea back as he groped for his sword. “What...”
Across the tent, his companion stirred. Zarea slugged the man beside her and, in the split-second before he could react, snatched his smaller water canteen from beside him and took off. Hands reached for her. She pulled away, dove out of the tent. Footsteps shuffled behind her and pounded into the open.
An arrow whizzed free of Darek’s bow, and Zarea heard a strangled cry as it hit home. She dashed forward to join Darek, but stumbled and bumped against his arm, and another arrow flew loose, far off-course. It hit the ground beside the larger man, who snatched it up as though it were a child's dart thrown too far from its target. Darek stepped backwards, fumbled for the knife on his boot.
The big man swung the arrow at him. Darek ducked, cried out, used the man's weight against him to throw him to the ground, and fell with him.
The less imposing man charged at Zarea. Fear had stolen away her sense of forethought – with a flick, her knife flew, and the man fell. Zarea gasped, her hand at her mouth. She hadn't meant to throw it. She didn't even know where she'd hit him.
Darek's cry of pain drew her attention back to the fight on the ground. Zarea turned, notched an arrow.
She needn't have bothered. Darek swung a fist, and the man cried out, freeing him. Zarea did not have time to process what had happened before Darek grabbed her wrist and yanked at it. “Run!”
Zarea barely managed to retrieve the food satchel as Darek dragged her along with him at top speed. Soon they put a fair amount of distance between them and the camp, and Zarea wondered why the big man hadn't followed them. Why had he not mounted one of his horses and taken off after them by now?
But she knew why, and the reason made her double over retching.
Darek stumbled from the sudden stop and fell to his knees a few feet away.
“I killed him,” Zarea gasped, unbelieving. “Darek, I killed that man.”
Darek did not answer, and at once Zarea noticed that his breathing was different, quivering, punctuated with gasps and suppressed groans. She stumbled over to him. “Darek, what...?”
That was when she saw the blood.
Her eyes grew wide. “He stabbed you!”
“It’s fine,” he rasped. His eyes were full of pain, but he set his jaw in determination. “Just a scratch... Caught me off-guard.”
“That is not a scratch,” Zarea snapped. “We have to find help.”
“The mountain,” he coughed.
Zarea groaned. “Hang the mountain – I never want to hear of it again!”
“The mountain, Kali,” Darek insisted. “There are places there, places to rest, find water, and herbs to treat wounds. We can find them.”
“This was a mistake.” Zarea blinked back tears and fought to keep a stern edge to her voice. “Darek, I was wrong. We never should have left home. We need to go back. We need to find my mother and tell her–”
“We’d never make it,” Darek said firmly, his voice stronger than before. His blue eyes pleaded with her brown ones. “We’ve gone too far into the wilderness. We can't turn back now.”
Zarea shook her head violently. “No. We can make it, and once we're home–”
“We’d die before we got there, or they’d kill me. And I’m not sending you off on your own.” Darek gripped her hand tightly, using his free hand to push against the ground for support to sit upright. He grimaced as the pain overtook him again. “Help me walk.”
She helped him to his feet, and for several steps, he leaned heavily on her as he tried to regain his bearings. But at last, he nodded and released his hold on her shoulder. “Let go. I can do it on my own.”
He nodded, still pale, his expression tormented as he lifted his eyes towards the looming Rhenor mountains. “Let's get going.”
If you'd like to read a longer excerpt, go the Smashwords page for the book and download a sample there (the first 20% of the book, completely free to read), or read up through the beginning of chapter two here.
Alternatively, if you would prefer a signed copy, you can contact me at my author e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org and order one directly from me. Books purchased from me are $12 USD plus shipping. Haven't read the first two books? That's okay! You can check them out on Goodreads or at the links below:
The Merchant's Son
(Book Two, prequel to The Follower)
If you read the books and like them (or just have something to say about them that you want other potential readers to know, even if it doesn't warrant a full five stars), I'd really appreciate it if you'd leave a review. Reviews are one of the most effective ways to spread the word about a book, and are invaluable to indie authors like me. But either way, I hope you have a blessed day and enjoy whatever books you do choose to read, whether they're mine or someone else's. (If you're a fan of Christian fantasy, my personal recommendation would be to check out Jill Williamson's books. They're fantastic. I'm also checking out R. J. Larson's work now, but I haven't read enough to have an opinion on her work yet -- I shall let you know when I do. The world can always use some more good, clean speculative reads.)
Have any book recommendations you'd like to share? Questions about the book I've just released? Feel free to comment below! I'll try my utmost to reply. Releasing a new book is always nerve-wracking, so I should be spending a lot of time online, checking on things, updating other things, talking about all the things on the social networking... um... places, and...
Yeah, basically, there's a good chance I'll reply this time around. And I shall endeavor to do more with the blog in general, now that the most daunting item is off of my to-do list. Maybe I'll even post more installments in the short stories I've previously posted...
...But I digress.