GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Author Lloyd A. Meeker guest post W.I.P. it Real Good + giveaway | I Smell Sheep

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Author Lloyd A. Meeker guest post W.I.P. it Real Good + giveaway

From my current writing project, never before seen in public! Here is the current beginning of Book Two of the Legacy of Albessind, which began with Blood Royal. This story occurs between the last chapter of Blood Royal and its epilogue (that’s important to a future love story). Like Blood Royal, it is set in Riardan, a magical world parallel to Earth.

The Garden Witch
Legacy of Albessind, Book Two
by Lloyd A. Meeker

Chapter One

Nestled safely in the deep forest, far from the capital cities of the clan provinces, and hidden from the towering ancient volcanic cone that housed the royal city of Riardan with its deadly intrigues, Auntie Bran’s little stone cottage almost felt like it had in the years Delen lived in it growing up. It almost felt happy.

Today the door and shutters were latched open to let the warm morning flow in, making the air in the house fresh as outdoors.

Wrapped in a simple preservation spell, the beef roast Delen had brought sat on the kitchen block next to a stack of washed vegetables fresh from Auntie’s garden, a happy chaos of orange and red and several shades of green. Even if Auntie couldn’t care for the garden as she used to, it seemed eager to take care of itself as much as it could.

Auntie Bran, more stooped and bony than ever, gripped a mop in her knobby hands, leaning on it for a moment to catch breath. “Well. It’s comforting to know Albessind isn’t full of men who’ll try forcing you to bed.” She wiped her nose with a knuckle. “I wish you could have cursed that little aristocratic turd in Athat for getting you dismissed when you refused. Damned royal blood immunity.”

Auntie Bran glared at Delen, her eyes fierce as any warrior. “Even at Albessind, lovey, stay alert. Some men don’t take to red hair, but you’re still much too beautiful for your own good. You keep your head down and stay out of the way of men with power. Lightning never strikes cabbages.”

Delen held back a laugh, simply grateful and happy the woman who’d raised her had the strength to rant and lecture her like this. She hadn't seen Auntie this lively in a long time, bustling around the cottage, so like her old self of years ago. By the time Delen had arrived this morning, she had already filled the woodbox, swept the floor and scrubbed every kitchen surface until the worn wood and smooth stone glowed. Now they mopped a floor that Delen was sure hadn’t seen water for moons.

Had Auntie found a cure for her wasting sickness? Even as the thought formed, Delen knew better. No, she already knew this present burst of energy would be brief. Auntie had them once in a while. When this fierce vigor evaporated, she would be left weaker than before it arrived. Still, Delen refused to be sad while Auntie’s strength lasted. There would be time enough to be sad when her devouring weakness returned.

But comforting as Auntie’s worry was, Delen didn’t see any reason for it. In that respect she felt safer at her new post than she had at any other. “There are only a dozen or so of us staff who live at Albessind, so there’s no one there to try,” she said as she rinsed out her mop. “Mistress Eva isn’t allowed to stay in her own house but for a month four times a year. That was part of her agreement with the clans when she exposed the queen.” She shouldn’t have said that—it would just rile Auntie more. “That’s what I’m told, anyway.”

Her aunt stopped sweeping and turned to fix Delen with a hard stare. “Now that’s exactly what I mean. You stay out of that kind of political gossip, young lady. Nothing good can come of it. Nothing.”

“You know me better than that, Auntie. I’m not involved at all, or even interested, really,” Delen said in her most soothing tones. “I’m just telling you why there are no men of power to be concerned about there, and why Albessind’s owners don't live there all the time. In fact Mistress Eva’s husband hasn't visited at all. They say he prefers to stay put in the Lower World. A country called Italy, I think.”

Auntie harrumphed and attacked the floor with her broom again, her harangue apparently over for now. Delen took the mop bucket outside to dump, and trudged to the well. They were so lucky the well still gave sweet water.

As she lowered the draw bucket Delen pondered Auntie’s advice. It was perfectly true—she wasn’t interested in the least in the upheaval caused by Queen Rhianna’s disgrace and suicide. Or her assassination, some said. Whatever it had been, the resulting political turmoil among the clans of royal blood was of no immediate concern to her, although most folk still seemed unable to talk about anything else even now, nearly half a year later. Half of what people said wasn’t to be believed at all, but more than enough of them said Mistress Eva and Master Talak had struck the spark that set the realm ablaze.

Delen was a realist, though, and Auntie was right to be afraid. She understood how easily the murderous intrigues of the clans royal could shatter her life without warning.

They already had. One day, long ago, Delen had had a mother who laughed and danced with her, who taught her the first simple spells a nature witch needed to know. The next, through the scheme of some royal and his magician, her mother was gone. Even though Delen could remember the sounds of her mother’s light-filled voice, she could barely remember what she looked like.

She would be forever grateful Auntie Bran had taken her to her hearth and heart as if she were her own. But as soon as Delen was able to understand, Auntie had tearfully confessed she didn’t have her sister’s magic, her depth of craft. She couldn’t be the mother to give Delen her very own Book of Seasons, couldn’t give her the spells and wisdom that Delen’s mother had received from her own mother and her grandmothers, reaching back through generations of wise women.

Delen had grown up cut off from her rightful inheritance, and it crippled her magic. She was sure of it. And it was probably the reason she hadn’t found a way to heal her aunt’s wasting sickness. She needed to find a way soon, or it would be too late.

She brought the fresh bucket just inside the door so they could work backwards toward it. “As soon as we’re finished cleaning,” Delen said, trying to sound more cheerful than she felt, “you can take a bit of a rest while I cook us up a lovely meal. I don’t have to be back at Albessind until tonight, so we have the whole afternoon together.”

#

All around her the life of the garden sang. Delen lay flat on her stomach between the vegetable rows, letting the heavy afternoon sun press her body down against the warm dark loam. This is where she belonged, this work was what she was meant to do. She happily pressed her lips into the dirt in a kiss, cherishing the moist grit against her lips and the soil’s ripe fragrance. Albesind’s gardens would thrive in her care.

She opened one eye. In her line of sight the generations-old espaliers of mulberry bushes spread high against the stone wall dividing garden from forest. Their thick, gnarled limbs spread in a living fan against the warm yellow blocks, open as a lover to the sunlight. Gardeners had respected nature for a long time here, and her contentment permeated everything.

For so many reasons, this place was a great improvement over her last position. The rocky land of the Durn estate in Athat was so polluted with the racket of greed and generations of family strife it had been difficult to hear the earth’s voices. She hadn’t really had a chance to make friends with the garden before she’d been abruptly dismissed from service and sent away. Men were so laughable sometimes, presuming to take a woman’s power as if it was their right. In this case, simply because she wouldn’t let Lord Durn’s whiny teenage son under her skirts. All she’d done was say no. She’d even been polite about it.

Still, it proved that Auntie Bran was right. Men would think Delen unusually beautiful, she repeatedly warned, even on Delen’s last visit. Her beauty would be a burden she’d have to carry with great caution until merciful age lifted it from her. Men wanted power either over a woman’s body, or over her magic. The only path for someone of Delen’s calling was solitude.

Delen didn’t mind. In all her twenty winters she’d never met a man she desired enough to want anything but solitude. She had her magic, powerful and deep, and she would keep it. Her magic would always be her lover, the only one she’d ever need.

She curled her fingers around the crowns of her spinach plants in a caress and closed her eyes, sending her inner sight down, down into the lightless earth. Below the soil’s surface the roots branched, reaching out in living threads until they were delicate as a spider’s web, more beautiful than the finest lace. She sent her listening down into the earth, to hear the Mother’s slow music pulsing below her, deeper down than the river bed at the bottom of the hill a quarter mile away—a fecund mother’s song, unhurried, content, unimaginably powerful. She let it flow up into her body until every part of her vibrated to it, and sang the ageless song.

“Hoyoo! Delen!”

She lifted her head, twisting around enough to see Cook standing at the garden gate, hands fisted on her hips. Delen pushed herself up, peeved at being yanked from her communion. Indoor people always seemed to carry a cloud of ragged urgency that made it hard even to think.

“Get in here right now, young lady. Master Yurud has arrived and staff are already gathered in the hall to greet him.”

Oh. She’d forgotten Albessind’s new overseer, second only to Mistress Eva herself, was coming today. “I was encouraging the spinach, Ma’am, and lost track of time.” Delen hoisted her skirts and hurried down the long rows of vegetables.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you,” Cook said, wiping her glistening brow with her apron. “This is no way to make a proper first impression. And look at you, dirt all over you and no time to wash! Well, you’ll just have to present yourself as you are, as poorly as that will reflect on the rest of us.” Cook turned and lumbered back toward the house as fast as her ample body could move. Delen followed, whispering a quick hello to the grapevines near the garden gate as she passed.


Blood Royal (Legacy of Albessind Book One)
by Lloyd A. Meeker
Genre: Romantic Fantasy
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
February 26, 2015
Print ISBN 978-1-5092-0606-3
Digital ISBN 978-1-5092-0607-0
Number of pages: 333
Word Count: 85k
Cover Artist: Debbie Taylor
Struggling artist Eva Milaras is in the midst of buying groceries when a bomb blast tears the store apart. A handsome man with mysterious powers saves her life and stuffs her into a limo without a steering wheel—while treating her like royalty. Caught in a deadly web of magic and murder, Eva faces an aristocratic destiny she didn’t know about and doesn't want. Now in a strange world she has to survive the deadly schemes of her new-found relatives as they maneuver for advantage in a murderous royal court.

Talak has loved Eva long before he saved her life, but that love is doomed. She must marry a man from a royal bloodline, and Talak is duty-bound to protect her until she marries—regardless of his torn heart. Together they battle intrigue and betrayal, only to discover they must choose between letting go of each other...or certain death for treason. A choice Eva refuses to make.


Excerpt:
Chapter One

Instead of the large, perfect fruit shown in the flyer, the Granny Smiths at Budget Foods were small and beaten up—yet another disappointing win for reality over promise. Eva Milaras gazed at the poor things as she tore off the coupon and stuffed the rest of the pages back into her bag. I guess we’re all bruised in one way or another.

Still, she was sure she could find half a dozen decent ones in the stack. She’d get some yams and put them together in a casserole—a tasty and inexpensive declaration that she was now back in charge of her life in spite of being broke.

She’d tough this out with what little cash she had in her purse until the gallery could figure out what was causing the mysterious delay in her payment. They owed her for two large paintings, and that money would be more than enough to get her back on her feet again. It was just a matter of time. She yanked a plastic bag from the dispenser and began picking through the apples.

She flashed on her little studio. It had great light, decent ventilation, and was within walking distance of most everything she needed. So what if she had to maneuver around her bed to get to the tiny kitchen? With Derek gone, it was all the room she needed for her easel and canvases. She’d love to keep it if she could, but the rent was due in two weeks and...well, she’d go to the gallery this afternoon, see what Leslie had to say. She found two more unbruised apples and took them as a sign of better times coming. She really would take charge of her life—simplify, concentrate on her work, and avoid complications like an unemployed boyfriend.


“Pardon, Serenissima.” A strong, warm voice from behind pulled her from her reverie.
Turning, she saw a man, early thirties probably, tall and well-built, dressed completely in black. Who wears such an expensive silk shirt and slacks to Budget Foods on a Saturday morning? They had to be club clothes, but he didn’t look like he’d been out partying all night. And what a great face to paint! A delicious olive tone to his skin, deep eyes, strong angular face-planes, so... compelling, framed by black hair that fell unbound, thick and dangerously sexy, past his shoulders. Great shoulders. Lean waist. Yes, he’d make a terrific model. She found herself smiling at him, realizing too late that it probably wasn’t a good idea. He was already standing uncomfortably close.

“Are you talking to me?” She backed away and tilted her head at the apples. “I’m afraid I’ve picked through these already. Good luck finding more decent ones.”

“Forgive my abruptness,” the man said, reaching toward her, “but you must leave this place with me immediately. You are in gravest danger. Please—we must leave this instant to avoid disaster.”

Suspicion chilled the spark of interest she’d felt. “Look, I came here just for apples.” She slid one hand into her purse, locating her pepper spray. “Leave me alone, please, or I’ll call store security.”

She hoped this guy didn’t know that Howard—the entire security staff of Budget Foods currently on duty— was in his seventies and would never be able to stand up to someone like this man, who carried himself with the smooth precision of a dancer or a martial artist. But at least Howard had a radio.

The man dipped his head and upper body in an odd, twisting bow. “Milady,” he said, his voice tight and urgent. “Please, I beg you. Your life is in real danger. You must trust me in this. I will explain later, but first we must flee.”

Flee? Eva looked around at the worn ordinariness of Budget Foods, with shoppers inching their carts along the aisles. There was nothing here to flee from except boredom.

Her finger found the directional notch on the tiny canister in her bag. “Look, I don’t know you, what you’re on, or what your deal is, but you’re scaring me.” She pulled out the spray and held it up. “This is nasty stuff, and I’ll use it on you if you don’t back off—right now.” She backed away from him again and bumped into the stacked apples. Several of them tumbled to the floor—even more bruises, she thought, as if they didn’t have enough already. She kept her eyes on the stranger, wincing as the apples thumped and rolled on the scarred wooden floor.

In a single fluid motion, the man flicked the can out of her hands and wrapped his arms around her, pushing her toward the floor, covering her with his body. Before she could scream for help, an explosion ripped the storefront window open, and she heard the screams of others.

In a strange, time-suspended clarity on the way to the floor, Eva could feel the muscles of his torso flex and twist, pushing hot against her in a symphony of coordinated physical power. How the heck did he know this was going to happen? Her back hit the floor, and her breath whooshed out in a grunt. She looked up into his face. His eyes stared into hers, fierce as a looming storm. Blue gray, she thought. No, slate. He was heavier than he looked, and she needed to breathe. But he had great eyes. “Get off me!” She pushed against him, and he rolled away without protest.

She sat up. Her ears hurt. The store—or what was left of it—was a mess. She could see two, no, three shoppers on the floor, not moving. In fact, nothing moved, and the stillness was horrible.

A soft groan floated through the smoke from somewhere. Still in its pink sweatshirt sleeve, an arm without an owner lay on the floor. And blood. Lots of it. This was so wrong. Oh, my god. She swallowed several times against a wave of nausea. What on earth had happened?

Then there was movement. All around her, shards of glass began to twitch and shift, becoming dark red scorpions scuttling toward them—dozens of them, different sizes, all the same. Glass shouldn’t do that, she was certain of it.

“Do not move, Serenissima,” the stranger commanded, his voice icy. He turned his back to her, putting himself between her and the scorpions. She stared at his back. He’d been hit by several pieces of glass—two of which stuck partway out of his flesh. All of those would have hit her if he hadn’t thrown himself over her. What the hell is going on?

His hands glowed, and pale fire flowed from his fingers in dancing streams—first carving a circle around them, then striking out at each scorpion. As his fire hit each one, the creature sparked into smoke and dropped, again becoming an inert piece of glass.

What did he just do? Eva looked around, trying to locate her pepper spray, but couldn’t see where it had rolled. She needed to get out of here. But her body was too heavy, felt too far away to respond.

“I don’t know how,” the man growled, “but your enemies have discovered who you are, milady. Now you will have no peace until you reach your Ceremony or they have destroyed us both, for I swear I will not outlive you.”

He stood, bending down. His hair tumbled forward, as if reaching to touch her. “I apologize, Highness, but I have no choice but to carry you to safety. With or without your permission.”

Why is he calling me these strange names? As he reached for her, Eva saw another shard of glass sticking out of his arm. Blood drenched his shirt down to the cuff. His hand dripped red, but he seemed oblivious of the injury. Still dazed, she felt him reach under her shoulders and knees and pick her up as if she weighed nothing.

He was kidnapping her. “Stop!” she screamed. “Put me down! Help!” She twisted against his iron-hard grip and grabbed a coconut from an end display as they passed. Eva pounded it against his chest and face, but he didn’t even look at her as he strode through the carnage to the rear of the store, kicked open the warehouse doors, and jumped off the loading dock to the ground.

On the other side of the alley sat a sleek limousine with darkened windows. As they approached, a passenger door swung open. The man deposited her inside, wrested the coconut from her, and tossed it away. He climbed in opposite her and pulled the door shut, wincing at the reach. The limo began to roll. 



About the Author:
Lloyd A. Meeker credits Walter de la Mare’s “The Listeners” as the first poem to steal both his heart and his imagination. That was in seventh grade, and he’s never been the same since. At university he devoured Lord of the Rings in a single weekend. Then came Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. Fantasy became his home turf.

He’s led what can only be described as an eventful life, and he’s grateful for all of it. He’s been a minister, a pilot, a janitor, a drinker, a cancer survivor, and a software developer on his way to becoming a writer. His work includes five novels, two books of poetry, a few essays, and several short stories.

He’s happily entangled in a life-long love affair with metaphor and the potent mystery of the Hero’s Journey, especially in its metaphysical and psychological aspects. He lives in southern Florida among friends and family with his husband, working on his next novel, practicing subtle energy healing, reading, wallowing in classical music and celebrating a very active retirement.


Tour giveaway
3 Signed print copies
3 Digital copies in epub or mobi format
a Rafflecopter giveaway

4 comments:

  1. Your descriptions are stunning. I could picture everything perfectly, smell the odors, and feel the textures beneath my fingertips. Simply amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a fascinating series! Thanks for sharing the great excerpts.

    ReplyDelete
  3. These excerpts are wonderful. I would love to read more. Thank you for the chance to win one of your books.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sounds amazing! Thanks for the chance!

    ReplyDelete