Welcome to the Story Time Blog Tour of Glass House Press!
My amazingly talented and overall awesome-beyond-description Glasshouse author sister, Mary Fan, has an exciting novella coming soon for Glasshouse’s Story Time anthology.
Check her exquisite cover:
Fire fears nothing. And Elaia is about to show her world that she doesn’t, either.
Like the rest of her kind, fire nymph Elaia is bound to her homeland, a forest whose borders were closed centuries earlier in a peace agreement between the humans and the enchanted creatures of the Terrestrial Realm.
But her heart is as restless as the flames she casts, and she secretly yearns to defy that order.
When a mysterious threat creeps into the forest, an invisible beast that leaves a trail of death in its wake, Elaia is determined to fight back and protect her people. Before she can, however, she must learn what the beast is … and the answers lie beyond the borders of her land.
Defeating this evil means she’ll have to go outside the rules, but she’ll do anything to find the answers she seeks—even if leaving her homeland means not only breaking the law, but risking her own life.
I’m so excited about this novella that I drew fan art for Mary’s kick-butt protagonist…
And here’s an amazing excerpt from its sequel Tell Me My Name:
Light floods my vision, but there’s no warmth in it, and I shut my eyes, wondering where it’s coming from. The darkness returns, and not just the darkness of my vision, but something far deeper, a terrifying abyss that freezes my heart.
The darkness in my mind.
I know I’m lying on a hard surface, and that I woke up here a moment ago, but before that, there’s nothing – nothing. Just a yawning maw of blackness gaping across my thoughts, a monstrous beast that hollowed out my head, leaving emptiness where memories should have been. Coldness wraps my entire being like an icy blanket; even the air in my lungs chills me. Questions assault me, a million flaming arrows aiming for my heart, and one strikes its target with the greatest impact: Where am I?
I sit up and blink, turning my face away from the whiteness that blinded me before. And all I see is ice. Ice and iron. Thick bars stretch up from the ground before me, reaching for the dark ceiling, with frozen water filling the narrow spaces between them. The frosty, pale blue wall glimmers, frightening and mesmerizing at once. It looks so sturdy, it might as well be a mountain, cutting me off from any hope of escape in that direction. Only a small, round window – the source of the light – breaks its otherwise solid form. The cold floor stings my bare feet as I stand and approach it, hoping a glimpse outside might help me figure out where I am. But the window is barely bigger than my hand, and all I see outside is a vast stretch of snow and the pale, empty sky above it. Nothing that tells me anything except this: I don’t belong here.
But where do I belong? I sense a great shadow looming over me, as if an invisible knife hangs over my head, and hug my bare arms. But the gesture brings me no comfort, for these pale, slight limbs look foreign, though they’re parts of me. I realize I haven’t even a memory of my own appearance – whether my legs are long or short, whether my face is heart-shaped or round, whether my eyes are black or blue. Who or even what I am. The very body I inhabit might as well be a stranger, and the unfamiliarity sends a new chill racing down my spine. If I don’t even know what I look like, how can I hope to discover who I am? Where I came from? Or how I ended up in this icy prison?
A shiver runs through me at the thought, giving my whole body a violent shake, and I clench my jaw in an attempt to stop it. There must be a clue around here somewhere, and I might find it if I can just pull myself together long enough to look. Glancing down, I see that I’m wearing a thin, azure dress that barely reaches my knees, with a top that hangs loosely over my torso from a knot at the nape of my neck, leaving my back and shoulders exposed. I inhale, reminding myself that even this detail is something; it tells me that I must have come from someplace much warmer.
I knit my eyebrows, searching for memories – how old I am, who my family is, what skills I’ve learned … a cascade of questions tumbles through my head, each yelling for attention and demanding to be answered. What is this place? And why can’t I remember how I got here?
But though I scour my mind, only an empty void greets me. I don’t even know my own name.
My pulse crescendos with fear, and the shadow of danger grows even darker, closing in around me. I draw a long breath, firmly telling myself to stay calm. I can figure this out if I just focus on one question at a time.
Then something glints at the edge of my vision, and I realize it’s my own hair. I reach behind me and pull forward one long, straight lock. It’s as pale as my hand, tinted with only the faintest hint of gold. Is it almost white because I’m old? I run my fingers across my face, and the smoothness of my skin gives me the answer to that question: I must be young. Narrow nose, high cheeks, slim eyebrows … I trace each contour with my fingertips, and try to envision what I look like. Part of me says that it’s not important – a frivolous detail compared to the larger questions looming over me – but I can’t help fixating on it.
I look down and take in what parts of myself my eyes can reach – slight shoulders, small chest, narrow hips. Twig-like legs. Bony wrists. Long, straight hair that reaches my waist. This is me, and I shouldn’t have to feel strange in my own skin. If I could just find that one thread connecting what I see to what I remember, maybe I could follow it and recover at least one piece of myself.
So I paint a self-portrait, based on what I’ve observed, and concentrate on the image. The face remains a dark shadow, though, and I focus on that. Surely I must have seen my reflection in the past, in a mirror or a window or even a bucket of water. If I could just recall that single moment, I’d have an answer, and maybe that would lead to more.
Because if I can’t even recall this simple detail, what hope do I have of escaping the dreaded shadow?
Closing my eyes, I put all my focus on this one simple task and nothing else, trying to sharpen the self-portrait and fill in the blank face with what I puzzled out by touch. The ache returns, and part of me wants to throw up my hands and yell, “This is hopeless!” But I press on, concentrating so hard that I barely feel the coldness surrounding me anymore. I’m so close …
Suddenly an image flashes through my head: a slender girl with sky blue eyes and long, straight hair. And, most importantly, a face. Perhaps … could it be? Is this skinny, bird-like girl, whose wide eyes seem to radiate naïveté, me?
Please let it be, a desperate voice whispers in my heart. Please say my efforts led to something real …
A great feeling of familiarity strikes me to the core, and a glow begins to enter my mind, as if a crack has appeared in a cloud-covered sky and revealed a ray of light. Yes, it’s me. The knowledge feels as certain as the sun shining outside that tiny window, and sudden relief envelops me as I realize I’m one step closer to being whole again. So I can recover memories after all. Small as this victory is, it tells me there are more triumphs to be had if I work for them.
And I must. I have to know who I am, and where I’ve come from. How I came to be here. How to get out.
But my sense of victory is short-lived, for the invisible knife, the danger I can’t identify but whose presence I feel with every nerve, still hangs over me. If I’m to escape it, I need to uncover more recollections … starting with my name. That could be the next marker in a trail of memories that will lead me home. I know I have one. I feel it in my innermost core – a sense of self whose presence was once as sure as the sun shining outside. But now there’s only hollowness within, as if someone stole a piece of my soul.
Still, there must be something left, and if I defeated the darkness once, I can do it again. I just need to find a thread, like I did with my appearance, that will lead me to what I seek. So I whisper random syllables, hoping the sound or cadence of one will somehow trigger the memory of something more. “Tah … Roh … Kee …”
Sudden white-hot pain fills my head, like a burning blade slicing me, and a million tiny daggers lance through my skull, each stabbing me with such force that I feel as if my whole body might shatter.
I cry out in shock and grab at my hair, as if ripping at it might tear away the pain as well. I claw my scalp, knowing it’s useless, but unable to keep myself from this vain attempt to stop the great fire. Before I can do anything further, my legs buckle beneath me, and I collapse to the ground.
The impact of the hard metal floor shakes the flames away, and I gasp at the abrupt relief. My knees and shoulders ache from the fall, but their throbbing is nothing compared to the agony I just felt.
I breathe hard, and my heart hammers in my chest. What was that?
I look around wildly, wondering if something attacked me, but all I see are the iron bars and the ice between them. Then a thought strikes me: All I see are the bars and the ice, no matter which way I turn. Except for the one small window, there’s no break in the four frozen walls surrounding me.
There’s no way out.
No, that can’t be; I must be missing something. I got in here somehow, didn’t I? Certain I must be wrong, I scramble up to the wall and run my fingers over the hard, freezing mass. Maybe I’m neglecting something with my eyes – maybe there’s a hidden door. I sweep my hands across the cold surface, and the chill bites my skin.
But there’s nothing.
No matter how I feel along the edges of the iron bars or search the ridges in the ice, I can’t find even a single crack. Maybe I can make one, I tell myself in a vain attempt to keep my head steady. Maybe this ice isn’t as thick as it looks, and I can break down this wall. Hoping with all my heart that I’m right, I ball up my fists and pound against it.
The impact sends a bolt of pain shooting up my hand, but the ice doesn’t budge. I hit harder and harder, until I’m sure I’ll shatter my bones and then, realizing these actions are useless, I flatten my palms and push against it, throwing all my weight forward. My fingers go numb, but I ignore them.
Maybe this wall is stronger than the other three. I turn to the next one and pound and push until my hands are so sore and cold, I feel like they might fall off. But nothing I do sends so much as a ripple of vibration through the thick ice. My hands look pathetically small against the great surface they’re fighting, and while part of me yearns to keep trying, I know I’ll break them for real if I do, and still be trapped.
Catching a glimpse of the window, I rush toward it. The wall around the opening is also made of ice – maybe I can widen it. I dig my fingers into its lower edge and tear, desperately using every ounce of strength I have. Though I rip at the ice until my fingers are raw, I can’t scrape off a single shard. My breath quickens, until it becomes ragged gasps, and my heart pounds with increasing panic, filling my ears with its desperate drumming. No matter what I do, though, no matter what I try, I can’t escape.
Exhausted, I collapse against the wall and sink to the ground. My whole body shakes with the cold I can no longer ignore, and I hug my knees to my chest in an effort to warm up. Hot, powerful tears sting my eyes, and dread weighs down with such heaviness that I feel it crushing me. Did someone leave me here to die? Why would they do that? Who could they be?
And who am I?
Just then, a loud clanging noise ripples through the air, and I jump. Realizing that someone else might be outside, and that they might be able to help me, I scramble to my feet and open my mouth to shout.
But then black shadows appear on the other side of the ice, their dark forms vaguely visible through its bluish surface, and my voice dies in my throat. There are at least six or seven figures – tall and shapeless, yet menacing. They draw closer, speaking in low, muffled voices like thunder rumbling in the distance.
Thunder. I remember thunder, roaring in my ears. And lightning, splitting the sky. And rain, both pounding in relentless fury and flurrying in a fine mist. I remember all these elements of the weather – and others, like wind, and fog, and snow … so why can’t I remember my name? How is it that I possess so much knowledge about the world, and yet nothing about myself?
Meanwhile, the shadows continue approaching, until they’re so near that I could touch them if the wall didn’t stand between us. Their looming presence makes me shudder. What are they? What will they do to me?
Then, a deep, commanding voice booms through the barrier: “Wall of ice, open yourself for me.”
Mary Fan is a hopeless dreamer, whose mind insists on spinning tales of “what if.” As a music major in college, she told those stories through compositions. Now she tells them through books—a habit she began as soon as she could pick up a pencil. Mary would like to think that there are many other novels in her bag, and hopes to prove that to the world as well.
Mary lives in New Jersey and has a B.A. from Princeton University. When she’s not scheming to create new worlds, she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and blogging about everything having to do with books.
Congrats to you, Mary, on being simply awesome!
As are you, all my kick-butt writer friends!
Love you all!