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A Sample of CONTAGION by Graylin Fox & GIVEAWAY!!

November 16, 2011

The fabulous Graylin Fox is here with me today, sharing the first chapter of her novella Contagion and a little sample of the next book in the series, Interwoven. She is also giving away a copy of Contagion to one lucky commenter!

*****

CONTAGION was released on April 15, 2011. This made my tax day wonderful! This month I finished the next in the series. Contagion is 38 pages in e-book format while the next one is quite a bit longer and much more detailed. To give you a peek into the world I created, here is the first chapter of the story.


CONTAGION

Chapter One

Tessa put on her robe on the way to the kitchen and helped herself to morning caffeine.

“The woods are peaceful this morning,” she said to the empty cabin. No animals ran through the field this snowy winter day. There was a calm to the wilderness in winter. Like the world paused for a few months. Tessa embraced that feeling and felt protected and cocooned in the family’s cabin. Here in the Appalachian Mountains neighbors were miles apart. The isolation calmed her. Well, she was stuck in the middle of the woods with an ornery fairy, his wife, and children. All she had since her family died the year before.

“A nice relaxing day,” she continued as she started a fire in the fireplace. Memories of holidays with her parents flooded her thoughts as she sat in her favorite chair. The days of childhood innocence, parental frustration, and extended family snowball fights disappeared, replaced by thoughts too painful to replay in her mind. The virus had taken everyone she loved.

“Tessa! Are you there?” a deep raspy voiced asked from overhead.

“What Kyl?” she replied to the four-inch dark green fairy that landed on the arm of her chair.

“There is something in the woods,” he replied.

Oh, really? Something moving in the woods?”

She was not in the right frame of mind for visitors. Her grump would wear off as coffee and awareness merged to lighten her mood. But for now, she only wanted a slow start to a quiet day.

“Are you sure?” Tessa asked.

Exasperation turned Kyl’s wings dark green. “I’ve explained that already. I’m not doing it again.”

“I know, I know, magical creatures can sense each other.” She paused for a moment. “Okay, how large?” The stories about dragons, ogres, fairies, Elves, and other creatures of legend in the human world were all true. The barrier between the Otherworld and the human realm was open now and all of the creatures of legend had waltzed through her woods for the past year. The initial shock wore off quickly but the early days had been difficult.

Kyl had been very patient with Tessa over the past year. He explained that the newly formed Dark Fae cabal had created a virus to put in the annual flu molecules with the intention to decimate the human population. They chose December 21, 2012, since humanity had seemingly already picked the date for their destruction, and released their virus in cattle and chicken feed.

The original panic and mayhem died down, and Tessa saw very little about it on the news. The bird flu and swine flu had recurred for a couple of years, so most experts figured it would also be over soon. When this current virus began to kill people, cattle, and chickens on farms in small rural areas, the assumption was that those victims hadn’t gotten the vaccine from the previous year.

That assumption would prove deadly.

The virus outran all efforts to contain it. The CDC and World Health Organization later revealed they were aware it was a new strain from the beginning. Tessa tried not to think about that time. She was attending Georgia State University in Atlanta when the cabal released the virus.

She did not know there was a problem until her family called from their cruise. Her father tried to sound confident they would be okay, but Tessa could hear her mother weeping in the background. Tears ran down her face as she listened to his assurances and tried desperately to believe them. The cruise ship returned to port with fewer than ten survivors; her family had all perished. She tried to call her father’s cell phone number for days afterwards in the hopes they weren’t dead.

The coroner’s office in Fort Lauderdale called and asked her to identify her family. She did so by webcam and immediately destroyed the video. The images still haunted her nightmares that were now blessedly only intermittent.

Three days after she identified her family, she’d managed to turn on the news. Tessa had stocked up her apartment with food from a huge box store two weeks earlier and was grateful she hadn’t bought anything that was tainted, checking and rechecking the CDC website for the list of contaminated foods.

Paranoia had removed reason. Groups of survivors raided grocery stores and then burnt them down. She saw huge fires from her windows. Tessa bought more locks for her front door, although the danger didn’t come close until a couple of weeks later. A group of thugs found her apartment complex on January 14th. She would never forget the date. She heard them raid one of her neighbors. They stole all of the food and beat the resident unconscious. She moved to the woods the next day. All of her supplies fit in the bed of her truck, and she was grateful her father made her get the truck bed cover, so it remained hidden during the drive.

Tessa arrived at the cabin exhausted and frightened, unpacking only after inspecting the place to make sure it was empty. She tried to push aside the memories of Thanksgiving just seven weeks ago. Tessa kept the lights off for the first two days, until Kyl yelled at her for keeping it too dark.

She smiled when she remembered chasing him with a flyswatter. Now he’s my best friend.

“The creature is about the size of your car.” The fairy glowed with concentration. “Lost and confused, it feels like a child.”

“What has a car sized baby?” She showered, put on jeans and a sweatshirt, and headed outside to search for a large baby. This was not in today’s original plan.

She noted the concerned look on Kyl’s face. “I have never been attacked in these woods. I’ll be just fine.”

“A large confused child is out there. Be careful and don’t sneak up on it. If you need me, just quietly come back and I’ll get a couple of my sons to go with you.”

“I promise,” Tessa reluctantly agreed. In her irritated mood, a fight might be just the thing to start her morning.

The August after the plague began, the cabal sent ogres, gremlins, and goblins to kill the remaining humans. Hunting parties popped up in forests and at first, they succeeded in adding to the death toll. Fairies were amongst the first creatures to return to the forests. Tessa had seen some on the news in Atlanta before she’d moved back to the cabin. She didn’t hear them speak or understand the sounds she heard, but their laughter didn’t need any translation.

They were not the only creatures that had appeared that summer. Dragons, Elves, brownies, dwarves, and nymphs had appeared in shaky videos on the internet. If you named a mythical creature, it crossed through the portal and someone posted a video or photo of it.

The remaining humans and mythical creatures learned to live together. The survival of humanity depended on assistance from these new allies. Humans were still hunted, but the rate of death had stabilized, and in some places the population had grown again. Many of the humans in the hunted areas knew how to defend themselves and the number of deaths dwindled as humans began to hunt for the portals the cabal used to cross over.

Tessa’s cabin was very close to an Otherworld doorway the cabal knew well. Or as Kyl put it, “You live on Invasion Highway.”Within a year of finding Kyl and his family at the cabin, they had become friends.

It had started off shaky, though.

“Marry Matthew, have babies, get a college degree, live in a nice house, and retire early. I’m an idiot,” she recited her teenaged life plan to quiet trees as she passed. Tessa listened for distant footfalls as she walked through the woods.

Matthew had gotten a cheerleader pregnant, married her by high school graduation, and was never seen again. Tessa was in college, twenty-two, and still figuring her life out when her world stopped.

Tessa gave up her hunt in the snowy woods, and as she turned towards home, she heard a strange sound followed by screams. The sudden smell of burnt something filled her nose. She followed the sound, careful to keep herself upwind and hidden, and saw a small elephant-sized dragon sitting alone in a clearing. Because adult dragons grew to rival the largest passenger airplanes, Tessa knew this was a child.

“Hey there little guy, what happened here?” The dragon looked sheepish and pointed with one little front arm at its nose.

Laughter erupted from Tessa. “You sneezed?”

The small brown dragon nodded and wiped his watery eyes.

“Allergies?” she asked.

The dragon nodded and she made out that his nose was clogged.

“Are you alone or with family?” Tessa inquired.

“Me!” the small dragon stood proud and replied.

“Okay, let’s get you back to the cabin. We can clear out the barn so you have a place to sleep.”

Kyl met them with a smirk at the edge of the cleared woods where the cabin sat. “You found a baby dragon?”

The dragon halted as he looked at Kyl. His translucent green hide had scales the size of saucers, currently covered in a light dusting of snow. His green eyes were full of curiosity and apprehension. When he stretched pale opalescent wings to their full size, Tessa guessed they were twenty feet from tip to tip. Impressive, but she doubted they would get his pudgy belly off the ground. His claws curved three inches off the end of each appendage and left indentations in the ground as he moved. Tessa walked around to the barn and began to move things out.

“What is your name?” Kyl asked.

“Jasper.” The dragon grunted.

“What happened out there?”

“I snuck up on those ogres; they never heard me coming,” Jasper replied sheepishly.

“You burnt them?”

“Only singed them.” He paused for an uncomfortable moment. Tessa poked her head out of the barn to look. “I’m allergic.” His hide blushed pink from embarrassment. His nervous smile exposed teeth that looked as if they could rip anything apart.

A sigh escaped from the amused fairy. “Not in my 150 years.”

The dragon shrugged while he tried to keep Kyl’s curious kids from flying too close to his nose. “If I sneeze, your family will get smaller.”

Tessa laughed as Kyl ordered his children to stay away from the dragon’s nose. Then Kyl and his wife Angel helped Tessa clear out the rest of the barn. The afternoon waned as they finished expanding the free space. They called Jasper in to see how much they needed to clear, but a few times, his small flaming breaths almost toasted them. Kyl and Angel’s youngest four children turned it into a game, and Jasper appeared adept at faking sneezes to their joy.

“So, Jasper, you’re here to do what exactly?” Tessa asked.

“I think he just got lost,” Kyl stated.

“I’m fifty years old!” Jasper stamped his frustration. “I will learn this place and not get lost again.”

“Fifty is very young for a dragon,” Kyl explained to Tessa. “Still a toddler by human standards.”

“Sure.” Tessa grabbed a Diet Coke from the ancient vending machine on the back porch and curled up in a deck chair.

“Uh, yeah.” The small fairy landed on the arm of the chair, exhausted. “There is something you should know, Tessa. I planned on telling you before but I kept putting it off.”

Tessa glanced at Kyl, only slightly irritated. He pretended to ignore the look, but she heard the pace of his breathing change. This happened often as Kyl told Tessa more about the Otherworld.

Angel joined her husband on the arm of the chair. Tessa could hear the children still playing in the barn with Jasper. Tessa waited for a few minutes, but patience eluded her. “What is it?” Tessa asked. The earlier irritability started to resurface.

“You were exposed to the virus, Tessa. You had to be either at school, the store, your neighbors in your apartment complex. Most humans were exposed. It’s the level of exposure that decided who lived and who died.”

“So I only ate a little of the tainted food, or caught the sniffles? I don’t remember the sniffles. But if you consider the amount of crying I was doing at the time. It’s possible I might not have noticed.” Tessa spoke the options out loud. “So does this mean I’m immune now?”

“No, Tessa, you are immune because you are not human,” Kyl replied.

Tessa froze in her chair, grasping the arms tightly. She felt anger begin in her toes and work its way up to her mouth. Kyl and Angel flew just out of reach. She couldn’t reach them, her hands locked into place.

“What!” The air from her shout caused the fairies to adjust their position.

“We meant to tell you when you arrived.” Angel, a peacemaker, quickly tried to calm the situation. Her pink wings fluttered nervously, and she rang her hands.

“Jasper stumbled on an ogre camp just down the mountain. They are getting close, and you need to know why.” Kyl almost stammered his reply.

“Why what?” Tessa’s anger had her seeing colors and her breath caught in her throat.

“Why they might come to find you.” Kyl’s answer smacked her into action.

“You’re lying, Kyl!” Stunned, she stormed inside. Memories of the family she lost a year earlier flickered through her mind. The feeling of betrayal crept up. Tessa never trusted easily, and Kyl had just shredded what it took months to build.

Kyl followed her. “It’s true. You know I would not lie to you.”

“If you tell me I just have to believe, or I can tap my heels together, I’m getting the fly swatter, fairy-man.” Her chest nearly burned with the rapid breaths. The dizziness would have knocked her over, but the sharp pain of loss and betrayal somehow kept her spine straight. She leaned on the nearest counter to keep from passing out. “You were adopted,” Kyl said from the other side of the room.

“How did you know? No one knew.” She swayed and felt her knees start to give out. She turned so both arms could brace her on the counter, her breath ragged.

Kyl flew to her shoulder. Her stare stopped him for a moment. “Tessa, you smell like an Elf.”

Well, that caught her attention. “Say that again? I smell like an Elf? What does that mean?”

Kyl flew out of reach as she eyed the cabinet with the fly swatter. “Each race has a different scent, and we fairies can smell it. You smell like Elf, although not like any other Elves I’ve run into. I just figured your time in the earth realm had changed you.”

Tessa had always felt a little different from her friends, but not a different species different. She’d been teased about pointy ears her whole life. The Lord of the Rings was not her friend. When the movies came out, she was a teenager, so her teen years were dotted with questions about when she would return to Rivendell. She hated those movies with a passion.

Tessa attempted to let go of the counter while she absorbed the information. Kyl hadn’t lied to her since they met, and there had been plenty of opportunities over the past year. He had been very informative about different races, magic, and the names of the species she marveled at on the nightly news.

She grilled him on the existence of every fairy tale creature she could remember. Do unicorns exist? Yes, but only males have horns. Are there other types of fairy? Yes, all shapes and sizes, and some elders believe fairy and Elf are the same.

Tessa ran these conversations through her mind to see if he’d slipped up anywhere. The tension bled from her shoulders as she realized Kyl had given her more information in the past year than she needed to survive. He taught her about fighting techniques in the backyard. He showed her how to fight an ogre in the woods, how to spot a Dark Fae even if they are disguised, even how to stay upwind and hunt for food. Until then, she was used to meat from the grocery store, with all of the nasty killing and butchering done for her. She thought of their first hunt. A full-grown buck trotted into the clearing, his triumphant huff caught short by a fairy arrow to his throat. Tessa caught his surprised look at his killer right before she threw up.

Killing became easier when her survival depended on it. She, Kyl, and his oldest four children hunted every Sunday just before dawn at the lake a hundred yards into the back woods. She wouldn’t kill rabbits or the horses that were now wild. Kyl never understood it, and she never quite explained who Thumper was; only that she could kill Bambi to survive, but not Thumper. He simply shook his head and sent his sons to kill any rabbits they needed to make winter clothing.

Her breathing returned to normal and the dizziness started to fade. It appeared that although they never told her why, Kyl, Angel, and their children taught her to defend herself. It did not take away the feeling of betrayal, but it did ease some of the shock.

Resigned, she replied, “Wait, let me guess. You have a cousin who needs a date for the next full moon?”

Kyl’s small frame shook with laughter. He knew she believed him and, well, he did have a cousin. “My cousin is a Warrior Elf and you are not allowed to speak to him,” Kyl spat out at last.

Appreciating his effort, Tessa forced a smile. He and Angel had helped her through her grief, and she didn’t want them to think it went unnoticed or unappreciated.

“I’m an Elf.” Her mouth twitched as she spoke.

Kyl flew over to her. “Yeah, that sounded convincing.”

“Well, I’m not convinced yet. A part of me wants to believe you. But right now, it’s a very small part, and I’m trying to squash it,” Tessa said.

“You know I’m not making this up,” Kyl said very slowly and clearly.

“I know.” Tessa sighed. “There’s just been a little too much this year. And for you to tell me the family I grew up with wasn’t even the same species. It’s all a little tough to handle.”

“Well, you let that information run around in your head for a while.” Kyl flew outside to watch his children play with Jasper. He sent two of his ten children—the oldest two boys— to see if the ogres had followed Jasper back to the cabin.

And now a preview of the next book in the series, working title “Interwoven.”

A small introduction, Rusty has mentioned his entire goblin family remains enslaved back in the Otherworld. Tessa thinks about the decision to stay at her cabin or go rescue her friends’ family…

It seems things in the Otherworld are not that different. A never-ending supply of power hungry jerks waiting for a small hole to open up so they can step in and fill their nasty little dreams. Her father had warned her about this type of person. The old mining towns in the Appalachian Mountains had their share of old west type shootouts, the kind you only saw on television with a new bad guy always at the ready to step up.

Tessa’s grandfather told her stories when she was a little girl about the wild mountain days. Her great-grandfather used to work in one of the old coal mines. He came up from the mine in order to meet his wife in town for lunch. Back then the town was still a collection of small wooden buildings scattered on less than a couple of acres, so as he walked from the mine entrance to town he could hear the commotion coming from up the street. He ran to the edge of town about a hundred yards ahead. He walked around behind the small cafe and saw his wife standing at the side of the building. Out in the street, the sheriff and a particularly obnoxious mine owner were facing off with their guns drawn. The town argued later over who drew first but the outcome was the same. Both men died that day. A town meeting was held that evening in the local café and they elected Tessa’s great-grandfather Sheriff and Mayor. Her grandfather insisted she should not be impressed by the titles, he emphasized the town was sure he would not survive for long. However, he convinced the mining company to sell the mine to everyone in town. Now that everyone had a financial stake in the mine, it became very profitable. The violent characters scattered to the hills as the downtown area grew.

Tessa loved hearing this story as her grandfather always told it with a light of pride in his eyes that his father had ended the violence and created the small town. It was absorbed as part of the growing local area but remained a thriving area for the locals who still live in the mountain area. The cabin she was standing behind sat just up the mountain pass from the original town square. Nothing left there would be recognized by her great-grandfather, only a small wooden cross to commemorate her great-grandfather.

That family legacy sat heavily on Tessa’s shoulders. She now knew there was no blood relation between herself, her father, her grandfather, and the great-grandfather whose photo still hung over the fireplace. But the pride she felt hadn’t changed. She knew if her great-grandfather was still alive he would already be packing up the gear to go save the goblins.

“Hello?” Jasper looked at her expectantly.

“Yes?” Tessa smiled in return.

“Where were you? You looked 1000 miles away.”

“Remembering my family legacy.” And with that Tessa marched off to the barn to find anything that had been stored they could use or would need in the Otherworld. She heard Jasper follow behind her. Her father had stored hunting tents for her brothers, sister, and herself somewhere in the barn. She moved things around, opened up boxes, and propped up the ladder to climb up to another storage area when she heard someone behind her clear their throat.

Rusty had entered without her noticing and while she stood there holding the ladder he began to climb up.

“What are we looking for?” He asked as he reached the top.

“Tents, guns, and any camping gear and other supplies we will need when we go rescue your family.”

The small goblin flashed her a quick smile and moved away to begin his search. He disappeared in a corner, they heard noises but Tessa could only see small puffs of dust float through the sunlight over head.

Rusty’s small head peeked over the edge. “I found four sleeping bags, two small tents, and a large tent that could hold a couple of ogres. You have some old oil lamps up here but I don’t know if we should take them. Once we get through the doorway your elf magic will be available to you.” Before Tessa could ask about the magic he disappeared once again.

She turned her head to Jasper and saw his hide blush pink. He lowered his head slowly. “Something you need to tell me?” She asked. No one mentioned magic.

The answer didn’t come right way, as the Dragon seemed unnaturally preoccupied with picking dirt out of his fingernails. “I thought Kyl would have told you about that.”

It seems she was going to have to have a long talk with a little fairy.

****

Thank you so much for stopping by today. I love this cast of characters and they keep me smiling and rooting for them each time I sit down to write.

Up for grabs today is a signed copy of CONTAGION! It will be an electronically signed PDF file.

I wish you the best of luck!

Graylin

***UPDATE***

AND THE WINNER IS… KARI!

Thank you everyone that stopped by!

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Allison permalink
    November 16, 2011 9:49 am

    Ooo sounds like a great read! Thanks for sharing!

  2. November 16, 2011 11:26 am

    Oh! I want a copy so terribly! After reading “Your biggest fan” I’ve been a BIG fan of Ms. Fox! 😀

  3. November 16, 2011 3:38 pm

    Hi ladies! What a fantastic chapter – the book looks so good – congrats!

  4. November 16, 2011 4:39 pm

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  5. LINDA B permalink
    November 16, 2011 8:52 pm

    AN AWESOME EXCERPT!

  6. LINDA B permalink
    November 16, 2011 8:53 pm

    GOOD LUCK EVERYONE AND I HOPE I’M NOT TOO LATE!

  7. November 17, 2011 10:52 am

    Love it when you get to share some of your writing! And, love Tessa and all her otherworldly interactions! And, can’t wait to see what other things they get themselves into 😀

  8. November 18, 2011 8:14 am

    Wait. I was told there would be naked men here. Where are the naked men?

    (Just kidding.)

    Great excerpt, Graylin.

  9. Graylin Fox permalink
    November 20, 2011 5:12 pm

    Congratulations Kari! You win. I’ll let my publisher know where to send the book. I hope you like it. Thanks to everyone for coming by!

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