Spotlight & Excerpt: Along Came a Spider + Giveaway

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We are back with another Transplanted Tales novel as we celebrate the series 10-Year Anniversary. In this third novel, we are hunting vampires with Trish Muffett and Nicky, aka “Little Boy Blue”. Come read an excerpt, and enter to win some goodies before grabbing a copy!

 

Along Came A Spider

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Little Miss Muffet and Little Boy Blue are all grown up—and hunting the world’s most famous vampire—in this gritty paranormal romance novel.

Ever since Make Believe characters were transported into the ordinary world, their Happily Ever Afters have been a thing of the past. So when Trish Muffet is attacked at a grisly crime scene, the last person she expects to come to her rescue is Nicky “Little Boy” Blue. But these days Nicky’s doling out vigilante justice as “The Spider,” taking on predators of the night in the hopes of locating his ultimate target—Vlad Dracula. And he needs Trish’s help.

Although Nicky’s renegade style goes against everything Trish stands for, she’ll do what she must to bring Dracula down. With danger stalking her, Trish knows the only person she can count on is the one man who has the power to leave her breathless. There’s no way she’s letting this spider frighten her away.

Transplanted Tales Series

 

Red

Grimm Consequences

The Better to See You

Along Came A Spider

Ever After

Better Watch Out (Fall 2022)


Read an Excerpt

 

I glanced around, searching frantically for some escape, but it was useless. Unless I suddenly discovered some latent ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, I was well and truly hosed. I pressed my lips together and squared off. If I was going down, I wasn’t going to make it easy. They’d have to earn my blood.

“Come on, you bitch!” I growled at the blonde. “You want a piece of me? Bring it on!”

She leaped forward like she was on a spring. My eyes went wide, my courageous last stand suddenly not such a brilliant idea. But a split second later, she jerked back with a screech, her hand clawing at a small black arrow lodged in her shoulder. I heard an answering screech from the brunette and swung around in time to see her head snap back as an arrow pierced her eye.

What the hell?

            There was a scuffling noise behind me that brought my head around in time to see the blonde struggling with a figure dressed in black fatigues and wearing a black ski mask. As I watched, he swung his fist, catching her jaw with a right hook, then slamming her chin with a left uppercut that knocked her on her ass. In the next instant, he had a knee on her chest and snatched from his ammo belt something that looked like a railroad stake. The blonde didn’t even have time to react as he drove it down into the center of her chest.

I hadn’t even realized I was holding my breath until it burst from me with a gasp. But my relief was short-lived. An arm came around my throat, cutting off my air. I drove my elbow into my attacker’s ribs, but it barely fazed her. I grabbed her arm and tucked my chin down to take some of the pressure from my esophagus, then drove the edge of my snow boot down along her exposed shin, making her howl in pain.

“Get down!”

My eyes darted toward the sound of the man’s voice. He stood over the body of the blonde, a small crossbow aimed at the brunette. I bit down on the vampire’s arm as hard as I could, drawing her tainted blood. When she roared with rage, her grip loosening for a fraction of a second, I dropped, rolling out of the way as the man in black fired the crossbow. The arrow struck the center of the woman’s chest. Her eyes went wide for a fraction of a second before she crumpled into a permanently dead heap.

            So this was the infamous Spider…

I totally took back everything I’d said about the guy being no better than the criminals he brought down. He was my new BFF. I was tempted to see if he was a bit parched after the ass kicking he’d just doled out and maybe wanted to join me for a super stiff drink at Ever Afters, but then the mind-numbing pain in my wrist reminded me I probably had other business to tend to first.

Out of breath, I scooted myself back with my good arm until I could lean against one of the dumpsters. My adrenaline left me in a rush, and I was suddenly completely exhausted. I closed my eyes and let my head fall back against the dumpster.

“Are you hurt?”

My eyes snapped open, my stomach clenching painfully. There was something so familiar about that voice. . . . “What?”

My rescuer squatted down in front of me. “Are you all right?”

I blinked at him, suddenly experiencing a serious case of déjà vu. The man’s tone was rough, clipped, and there was no hint of mischief or roguish charm. Still . . .

“My wrist is broken,” I said a little breathlessly. “But it’s already healing. I’ll be fine by tomorrow.”

He gave me a tight nod and started to rise, but then seemed to reconsider and resumed his crouch before me. He studied me for a long moment, giving me a good glimpse of his eyes, but they were in shadow, obscuring the color, and he was completely on his guard. There was no way I was getting in.

“You did good, doll,” he said finally. “Made my job one helluva lot easier.”

I felt my cheeks going warm at the praise. “Thanks.”

His eyes narrowed, crinkling a little behind his ski mask and giving me the impression that he was grinning. “But you know, you shouldn’t be out here alone at night, even if you can kick ass,” he admonished. Then he reached up and twisted one of my ringlets around his gloved index finger and pulled gently before letting it spring back into place. “I’d hate to see harm come to a girl as pretty as you.”

My eyes went wide. Holy shit. “Nicky Blue?” I gasped. “You’re the Spider?” He jumped to his feet and took a few quick steps before I found my voice to cry out, “Wait! Nicky! It’s okay—I know you!”

He halted midstride and shook his head. “No, you don’t,” he said over his shoulder. “No one does. Not anymore.”

I scrambled awkwardly to my feet, my knees still shaky from my encounter with the vampires, but when I looked up again he was gone. I turned a full circle, searching for him in the shadows, but he had slipped away as silently and mysteriously as he’d come. I let out a disappointed sigh.

            “You’re wrong, Nicky Blue,” I announced to the darkness. “Nobody knows you better than I do.”


About the Author

Kate SeRine (pronounced “serene”) is a hopeless romantic who firmly believes in true love that lasts forever. So it’s no surprise that when she began writing her own stories, Kate vowed her characters would always have a happily ever after. She’s the author of the award-winning TRANSPLANTED TALES paranormal romance series as well as two romantic suspense series: PROTECT AND SERVE and DARK ALLIANCE.

Kate lives in a smallish, quintessentially Midwestern town with her husband and two sons, who share her love of storytelling. She never tires of creating new worlds to share and is even now working on her next project — probably while consuming way too much coffee.

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10-Year Anniversary Giveaway

 

Join Kate SeRine’s newsletter for the chance to win a US Amazon eGift Card. Winner will be selected at random from her active subscriber list on December 16, 2022. Enter here ➡️ https://www.subscribepage.com/w8n0q1

 

Spotlight & Excerpt: Bewitching a Highlander + Giveaway

BEWITCHING A HIGHLANDER

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the BEWITCHING A HIGHLANDER by Roma Cordon Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

Title: BEWITCHING A HIGHLANDER
(A Scottish Highland Warriors Novel #1)

Author: Roma Cordon

Pub. Date: June 7, 2022

Publisher: CamCat Books

Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Pages: 368

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.com

 

Defying all for the love of a bewitching lass.

Breena MacRae, a healer from Skye with a touch of witchery in her blood, embarks on a dangerous search for her missing father. She arrives on the Isle of Coll, seat of the vile Campbells. There, she encounters the debonair future chief to the Dunbar Clan, Egan, who rescues her from a Campbell sentry.

Egan Dunbar is on Coll to keep the peace between the feuding Campbells and Dunbars. But when he catches Breena in a lie, he agrees to help her find her father to pay back an old debt and get to the bottom of the secrets she’s hiding.

As their attraction for each ignites like a firestorm, Breena and Egan realize a future together could trigger deadly consequences—a clan war between the Campbells and the Dunbars. Is Egan willing to betray his clan for love, even though he knows Breena is keeping secrets from him? Can Breena trust him with her family secret and put those she loves at risk?


Excerpt:

CHAPTER 1
“You have witchcraft in your lips. . .”
—William Shakespeare, Henry V.

October 28, 1747—Isle of Coll, Scotland

Breena MacRae’s heart beat out of tune from the cacophony of their wagon’s rattling. Sixteen horse hooves trampled the knurled road, pulling them southwest toward the  Campbells’ keep, a clan she blamed for most of her childhood miseries.  Three weeks ago, she’d awoken from nineteen years of delusions, yet  it was no less painful living the truth. Her parents had neither died in  some horrific accident nor left because of her. Breena was after all the  most deplorable witch the MacRaes and Maxwells ever had the lamentable fortune to beget.

Uncle Craig leaned over and gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze. The  clumsy yet affectionate gesture grounded her. It rid her of her punishing  thoughts.

“We aught to go over the plan again.”

She would always be obliged to him and Aunt Madeline. They’d  been her guardians since she was six, although many times since then,  despite the fact that she loved them both with all her heart, they’d made  her want to either scream or blaspheme.

Sometimes both.

His familiar features reminded her of her mother’s, his little sister. “All right, but understanding the need to lie doesn’t make it any less  difficult,” she said.

“Difficult it may be, but it will keep us alive.”

She huffed. He was too cautious. Or was she not cautious enough? Breena blinked up as the afternoon sun reconsidered slipping pass  horizontal puffs of clouds.

Mayhap she herself should reconsider her decision to come here. No. Even if there was a remote possibility her father was alive, she  had to attempt to find him. She had to free him. Her heart ached for all he  must have endured. She’d believed him dead for the past nineteen years,  until three weeks ago, when lovable yet scatterbrained Aunt Madeline  had let slip the truth. After suffering from dysentery and a bout of guilt,  her aunt had blurted out that Ian might still be alive. Had Aunt Made line known she wasn’t at death’s door, she might have been more steadfast in her secrecy. Craig and Madeline had insisted her parents wanted  the truth kept from her all this time. The secrecy and deception might  have been the stimulant for her childhood misery, but it hadn’t been the  cause. Nonetheless, it had resulted in long, wasted years.  Her dream from the previous night replayed in her mind. Beloved  Grandmother Sorcha, their majestic matriarch, had told her Ian had  something to reveal. If Breena believed dreams were a sign of things to  come, then it was a sign her father was indeed alive. But she didn’t know  if she believed in dreams. After all, she lacked the gift of second sight. The revered Sorcha on the other hand wielded her own gift of sight like a true  proficient, when she was alive.

A chilled hollowness speared her innards, causing a shiver to run up  her spine.

It had been her tormentor since she was six. Often she paused  and wondered what had slipped her mind, what she had forgotten—perhaps she’d missed something. Then it would hit her. She hadn’t missed  anything, hadn’t forgotten anything, nothing had slipped her mind. It was  only that her parents had vanished, without a word, leaving an acute aching void. She pulled her woolen arisaid tighter around her shoulders and  prayed not only that their scheme would work on the Campbells but that  she could rid herself of this ache in the pit of her belly, once and for all.

She gazed out the wagon as the panoply that was the Isle of Coll  rolled by. The crisp October breeze swept her cheeks as she eyed the  chestnut-feathered corncrakes scavenging the beachgrass-infested sand  dunes. Nature’s russets, umbers, and olives, always vibrant at home on  the Isle of Skye, were starved for luster here on Coll.

A lone angler in the distance slumped his shoulders in a small skiff,  then gazed up at the sky as if beseeching heavenly bodies for a boon be fore casting a net onto the surface of the ocean. The earthiness of the  damp ground below mingling with the briny sea air and the pungency  of kelps filled her nostrils as she inhaled a cleansing breath. She was well  acquainted with the pain of unanswered pleas. Well, mayhap the tide was  changing for them both.

When she caught the incessant tapping of her fingers on the side of  the wagon, she pulled her hand back into her lap.

“I’ll wager they don’t even remember the name Beth MacRae after nineteen years.” Breena fought against the agonizing emotions that  flooded her every time she said her mother’s name.

Craig’s brown eyes looked back at her from beneath shaggy brows,  the slight impatience that twitched his cheek muscles highlighting his wrinkles. “That’s a wager I’ll not be taking, for the price of losing is finding our necks at the wrong end of a noose.”

George, her uncle’s worker, flipped the reins up ahead with a sharp,  practiced snap. A throaty intake of breath escaped his mouth. “Holy  Saints. It looks haunted.”

Breena’s head snapped up to follow his gaze. The back of her neck  prickled. Castle Carragh loomed grim on the horizon. George was as  strong as a feral goat but simpleminded.

“There are no such things as ghosts, she said.” But from her sudden  inability to swallow, she wasn’t sure she believed her own attempt to as suage his fears.

If the builders of this castle had meant to strike terror into its visitors, they’d carried out their goal to perfection. The shadows cast by Carragh against the backdrop of the setting sun stretched out toward them  like crooked talons, warning them to keep away.

She ignored the warning and said a silent plea that they were not too  late, that her father was still alive.

As they approached the castle’s outer gates, Breena made out two  menacing sentries dressed in threadbare tartan trews of blue and green,  the colors of the Campbell clan. They were each outfitted with a sword,  mace, and a flintlock rifle; were they preparing for war? George pulled  their wagon up closer to the gate, reined in the horses, and lowered his  head, awaiting instructions. It always caused Breena such disquiet to  see such a large man lower his head like that. She had known George  for close to a decade, since he’d come to work for Craig, and despite his  broad, hulking body he was the gentlest person Breena had ever met.

When one of the sentries at the gate brandished his sword, Breena’s dry gulp refused to be suppressed. His flared nostrils and squinting  eyes made his pugnacious expression more acute. Did he wish to intimidate them? If so, he’d gotten his wish. The other sentry snarled, exposing crooked incisors, as he scratched his crotch. Breena eased the tension  in her face into what she hoped was a pleasant smile, even as her fingers curled against her damp palms. The squinty-eyed sentry scowled.  “What’s your business here?”

“I’m Craig Maxwell. I’m a healer and spice merchant. May we be of  service to your clan?”

Neither Squinty Eyes nor Crooked Incisors was impressed by her  uncle’s request. Squinty Eyes spat on the ground, his scowl deepening.  He sauntered to the back of their wagon and started sifting through their  supplies.

All of a sudden he lifted his sword high in the air and brought it  down in an echoing crash on the lock of a trunk. Breena gasped out loud  in surprise.

Craig jumped down from the wagon and stumbled toward Squinty  Eyes. “I’ll show you whatever you wish, but there’s no cause to break our  trunks.”

Squinty Eyes raised his hand, still gripping the sword and slammed  the hilt down, with a dull thud, into Craig’s jaw. Breena’s body froze with  horror. Her uncle teetered backward and fell to the ground, landing on  his rump.

“Unc—Father!”

Dread rose up her gullet as she jumped down from the wagon, almost buckling at the knees, landing with more force than anticipated.  She ignored the approaching thunder of hooves and rushed toward  Craig. She couldn’t lose him too. She just couldn’t. She took hold of  Craig’s arms and helped him from the ground.

“Are you hurt?”

Her uncle’s mouth was open, his gaze flat. She took some of his  weight as he leaned against her. He was in shock. There was blood at the  side of his mouth, at the end of an ugly cut, where he’d been struck. A sharp pang of fear speared her midriff as she reached into her pocket for  a clean square of linen and, with a gentle touch, dabbed the blood away.  Her uncle’s worker approached them with hesitant steps.  Breena sent him a cursory glance, noting the fear in his bulging eyes  when he saw Squinty Eyes.

“George, why don’t you remain with the horses?” Breena said. His head bobbed. “Yes, mistress.”

George understood horses, but he had difficulty with people. She returned her attention to Craig. She took hold of her uncle’s  chin, avoiding the darkening bruise that was now a stark contrast to his  pale skin. She inspected the wound as she gently followed his jaw line  with her fingers all the way to his neck.

Nothing broken. She closed her  eyes and exhaled a breath of relief.

Craig was a graying man of eight and fifty with a slim build, whereas  Squinty Eyes was younger and more than twice the size of her uncle.  Breena ground her teeth when another drop of blood fell from Craig’s  mouth. Her pulse raced with heated indignation. How dare this barbaric  bully strike Craig? How dare he block them from entering this atrocious  castle? It’s not as if there were endless visitors clamoring for entrance.  Losing her parents and years of this aching void pushed her to retaliate.  But she couldn’t. They were at the utter mercy of this insolent sentry to  gain entrance to the Campbells’ keep. He held their fate and her father’s  life in his hands, a fact he was utterly unaware of.

As she tended to Craig, a loud snigger pierced the air. She swung  around to see Squinty Eyes dangling a gossamer shift off the tip of his  sword, right above the now-broken trunk. He jutted his flaccid chin in  Breena’s direction as he addressed Craig.

“You let me have a roll in the hay with the lass and I’ll let you in.” Breena’s eyes narrowed at the crude proposition. The insult dug  in. Her heart rate quickened as self-preservation and a survival instinct unfurled inside her. The heat of it spread throughout her entire body like  a wave of sickness, making her shake.

“You bastard.”

Rationality went out the window as she took two steps forward and  dealt a resounding slap across the sniggering face of Squinty Eyes. He  was caught off guard, judging by the way his mouth fell open and his  head jerked back. His odious stench made Breena want to pinch the tip  of her nose shut and breathe through her mouth.

But then, coldness sank into her stomach. Oh no. No. What had she  done? She blinked, trying to swallow against the rising bile, and stepped  back.

She would never forgive herself if they were barred entrance because  of her foolhardy actions. She’d never done anything like that before.  What was the matter with her? The earlier mention of a noose burned  her ears.

Squinty Eyes recovered. He grunted and swore as he grabbed her.  His grip, like cold steel, dug into her soft flesh. He wrenched her right  arm forward. Her mouth tightened with defiance as she glared at him.  Even as her right shoulder was at risk of dislocating under his granite  hold, she held her chin high. She would not give this bully the satisfaction of seeing her cower.

“You brazen wench, how dare you strike me?”

His eyes bulged, and spittle escaped from his mouth. She tugged  and pulled to no avail as the pounding of horses’ hooves reverberated in  the air around them. Out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed a towering, broad-shouldered Highland warrior dismounting from the blackest  stallion she’d ever seen.

He stormed Squinty Eyes from behind.


About Roma Cordon:

Roma Cordon was introduced to romance novels in her teenage years and instantly became a voracious reader of the genre. In the 1990s, she came to live in New York where she earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees. After taking a writing course at New York University with Anne Rice, she dived into the world of writing while testing the waters at public speaking at her local Toastmasters club. By day, Roma works in the finance industry; in the evenings and weekends, she is a passionate romance writer. She also writes on her blog romacordon.com.

 

Inspiration for Roma’s debut novel, Bewitching a Highlander came from trips to Scotland with her husband. Roma is an active member of the RWA-NYC Chapter and lives in New York with her husband where they care for two adorable furry friends adopted from local shelters. 

 

Sign up for Roma’s mailing list for exclusive news & updates! Scroll down to the bottom of her home page.

 

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Giveaway Details:

2 winners will win an ARC of BEWITCHING A HIGHLANDER, US Only.

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Tour Schedule:

Week One:

5/23/2022

Viviana MacKade

Guest Post

5/24/2022

Writer of Wrongs

Guest Post

5/25/2022

BookHounds

Guest Post/IG Post

5/26/2022

Sadie’s Spotlight

Excerpt/IG Post

5/27/2022

#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

Excerpt/IG Post

Week Two:

5/30/2022

Rajiv’s Reviews

Review/IG Post

5/31/2022

TakeALookAtMyBookshelf

IG Review

6/1/2022

The Caffeinated Reader

Review/IG Post

6/2/2022

Author Z. Knight

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6/3/2022

Angel’s Guilty Pleasures

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Week Three:

6/6/2022

Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt

6/7/2022

@jaimerockstarbooktours

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6/8/2022

See Sadie Read

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6/9/2022

The Momma Spot

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6/10/2022

Two Points of Interest

Review

Week Four:

6/13/2022

beersbooksandboos

Review/IG Post

6/14/2022

Fire and Ice

Review

6/15/2022

Lady Hawkeye

Excerpt/IG Post

6/16/2022

More Books Please blog

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6/17/2022

onemoreexclamation

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6/18/2022

Books a Plenty Book Reviews

Review

 

Spotlight, Excerpt & Author Interview: The Rarkyn’s Familiar, by Nikky Lee

The Rarkyn's Familiar blog announcement

the rarkyn's familiar

The Rarkyn’s Familiar
by Nikky Lee
Series: The Rarkyn Trilogy
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Intended Age Group: 16+
Pages: 452
Published: April 19, 2022
Publisher: Parliament House Press

Winter is Coming • Always on the Run (Lenny Kravitz) • You Shall Not Pass

An orphan bent on revenge. A monster searching for freedom. A forbidden pact that binds their fates together.

Lyss has heard her father’s screams; smelled the iron-tang of his blood. She’s witnessed his execution.

And plotted her revenge.

Then a violent encounter traps Lyss in a blood-pact with a rarkyn from the otherworld and imbues her with the monster’s forbidden magic. A magic that will erode her sanity. To break the pact, she and the rarkyn must journey to the heart of the Empire. All that stands in their way are the mountains and the Empire’s soldiers—and each other.

But horrors await them on the road, horrors even rarkyns fear. The most terrifying monster isn’t the one Lyss travels with…
It’s the one that’s awoken inside her.

Content/Trigger Warnings:

Shown on page: Gratuitous violence, Vomiting, Gore, Child/animal harm/attempted murder (non-human character, survives)

Alluded to: Vomiting, Bullying, Gratuitous violence, Racism, Sexual assault, Gratuitous violence Suicide/self sacrifice

Amazon / GoodreadsBookBub / Apple / Kobo / Barnes & Noble / Angus & Robertson


Excerpt:

His feathers itched; bones ached.

He crouched atop the shattered planks of Archer’s wagon, a chipped and ragged rock in his talons, poised to strike the manacle around his wrist. Break this time.

He swung the rock, smashing it into the metal. The rock shattered, crumbling in his hand, its grains bouncing down the mound of mud and splintered wood to the gully floor.

“Aether damn you,” Skaar exploded, grabbing the chain and rattling it.

The runes carved into the metal flared, strange letters flashing fluorescent green—and pulsed.

Skaar froze. Pressure slithered up his arm and he gritted his teeth. Cold seeped through feathers into skin, threatening to stab deeper, right down to bone. He stood, quivering, sucking in one slow breath, then another. The glow faded. Close call.

His stomach growled again.

Reythr curse this place.

He kicked a half-buried axle and when the wood didn’t give, he swore as pain bloomed in his toes. The chain rattled under him, iron manacle chafing his wrist as he hopped about, wings flared, tail whipping the underbrush, hissing curses under his breath.

No matter how he looked at it, the manacle was an ordinary piece of metal. He crouched over it again, wedging a talon into the lock, twisted, failed, and then tried to dislodge the pins for the hundredth time that morning. The problem wasn’t the metal.

Metal he could handle—except for silver. It was the galdar runes spelled on top of it. The glow in those cursed letters, scratched and scored into the iron, refused to die. Magic was annoyingly potent in the hands of humans—when they could use it.

As far as landslides went, this hadn’t been a big one. But it had been big enough. The mound stretched from top to bottom of the narrow ravine. Archer’s wagon lay overturned in the rubble, metal cage twisted, shattered wheels bared to the world like wooden ribs. Above, the cliffs loomed, threatening to dump another load of rubble on top of him.

That he’d survived the first slide at all was a miracle. Locked inside the wretched wagon, he’d bounced within its tumbling mass all the way to the bottom, the final impact turning his mind black. He was sure it had taken him at least a day just to summon the will to open his eyes again, skull throbbing as if someone had carved it open with a rusted knife. When he’d probed the raw lump on the back of his head, the world had swum, and he’d doubled over and retched into the dirt.

Now here I am. Skaar shot the chain a savage look as it lay coiled in the mud. Trapped and exposed in the middle of human territory. A hare out in the open.

A breeze wafted the scent of musty earth over him, along with something else, a thick sour stench he knew too well. Death.

Something—someone Skaar hoped—was rotting somewhere in the mound.

Probably the horse. With any luck, Archer too. And good riddance. If Skaar never saw that accursed mancer again, he’d die a happy rarkyn.

Which might not be far off if he couldn’t get free. It was only a matter of time before the runes became too weak to bind him.

Human galdar was like that. Their magic was strong but short- lived. If his captor was truly gone in the landslide, the runes’ power would soon fade. But who knew how long that would take?

A fine thing it would be to die of starvation or at the hands of some yokel one day, only for the sigiled manacle to break the next.

He reached for the talisman about his neck and held it up to the light. Aloft in the air, the jagged rock of quartz spun in a slow circle. The lifeless rune carved into it—a memento from happier times—sent dapples of light over the forest floor and reflected a mud-crusted face back at him.

Reythr, you look like something a ginndir chewed on and spat out. Dirt clung to his wasted limbs like a crusted scab, getting under every feather, into every orifice. Skaar scratched the mud- clogged crest atop his head. Grit rained from the long plumage and stuck in the ridge of feathers along his nose and brow.

He sneezed, teeth nearly taking off his tongue, and grimaced as a fresh throbbing started in his head, just under his horns.

Wretched luck.

He ran a talon over the rune in the crystal talisman: an old habit unbroken.

Unlike the manacle, this piece of galdar working had been made for his tampering, but he’d drained the rune’s magic long ago.

He gave it a shake. “Useless thing.”

The crystal gleamed back at him. Dead. A mirror was about all it was good for.

He let it drop with a sigh.

Forcing his eyes closed, Skaar leaned on the mound, willing himself to rest.

Rest, recuperate, then challenge the manacle again.

A cloud fell across the sun.

Eyes shut, all Skaar knew was the warmth seeping into his bones left. He scowled, impatient as he waited for the warmth to return. It didn’t. A faint, rustling footstep triggered a warning in his head. He vaulted to his feet. Too late.

Not a cloud. Not a cloud at all.

A dart bit into his neck. His jaw dropped; a brief cry of surprise escaped him.

His legs buckled.

Humans, was all he had time to think before the world teetered and turned black.


Extras:

Taker the Quiz: Which Rarkyn Are You?

 


Author interview:

1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be.
There was no one lightbulb moment for The Rarkyn’s Familiar, instead, it was a collection of elements that came together over time. The core idea—two people overcoming their differences—is a trope I enjoy immensely in fantasy, particularly in works such as Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy and The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. I also love the animal/monster companion trope after reading Tamora Pierce in my teens and Robin Hobb in my early twenties, so when I started piecing together the characters of The Rarkyn’s Familiar together, these two tropes were on my must-have list and eventually wove themselves into one.

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
In terms of writing craft, I learned a lot about character arcs for this book. I’d always considered character crafting my weakest skill, and for a long time, my characters took pages and pages to feel more than 2D. But over time and writing a lot of short fiction between edits it clicked.

I also learned a lot about how to slip world-building elements into a story. The first original draft of The Rarkyn’s Familiar had huge chunks of world-building exposition that I cut and then had to figure out how to trickle back in without slowing down the story.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
How quickly the story came together when I finally put my mind to it. The earliest, almost unrecognisable, pages I have of The Rarkyn’s Familiar are from around 2006. I rewrote them in 2009 for a university assignment and continued through to about 20k-30k. Then I stopped. The story languished on my hard drive for nearly 9 years before 2018 rolled around and I decided it was well and truly time to finish it. The remaining 100k of the book took about 8 months to fully draft.

4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
The Rarkyn’s Familiar is a fairly simple title. Rarkyn is the race name for the monster the protagonist finds herself in a magical bond with. ‘Familiar’ alludes to the witch’s familiar trope. When I put the title together, I liked how it referenced the way the story twists this trope—the familiar isn’t the monstrous rarkyn, but our human protagonist.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
Not consciously inspired. My characters tend to be inspired by other characters I’ve read or watched on the screen. Diane from Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals along with Mia from Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight and San from Princess Mononoke were strong inspirations for Lyss. Meanwhile, inspirations for Skaar came from the lyrinx in Ian Irvine’s The Well of Echoes series as well as from various mythologies.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
There are several. Not to judge a person before knowing their story, the question of what makes a monster a monster, and the corruptive nature of power.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?
Oddly, I had a lot of fun writing the middle of this book where Lyss and Skaar are learning how to work together, with various mishaps and misunderstandings along the way of course.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
Lyss was by far the most challenging, probably because we spend so much time in her head. She is a character of many contradictions, she’s capable in some areas but totally inept in others; sometimes she’s worldly and other times she’s naive. Trying to get all these elements of her character to align in a way that felt natural (and logical) was difficult. As she was working out who she is in the story, I was working out what kind of character she was too. I must have changed her name half a dozen times until I landed on a version of her that finally worked.

9. What are your immediate future plans?
Currently, I’m working through the edits for two short fiction pieces for a couple of anthologies. Once those are off my desk it will be onto the edits for book two of The Rarkyn Trilogy.


About the Author:

Nikky Lee Author PhotoNikky Lee is an award-winning author who grew up as a barefoot 90s kid in Perth, Western Australia on Whadjuk Noongar Country. She now lives in Aotearoa New Zealand with a husband, a dog and a couch potato cat. In her free time she writes speculative fiction, often burning the candle at both ends to explore fantastic worlds, mine asteroids and meet wizards. She’s had over two dozen stories published in magazines, anthologies and on radio. Her debut novel, The Rarkyn’s Familiar—an epic tale of a girl bonded to a monster—was published with Parliament House Press in April 2022.

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