My first full-length novel, Light & Shadow, holds a special place in my heart. This novel is a tandem companion to M.W. King‘s novel, Shadow & Light. Mine is told from the point of view of Lucia, the queen of Light, whereas hers is told from the point of view of Orpheus, the king of Shadow. In each book, Lucia and Orpheus struggle to maintain their hold over their kingdoms while battling against the other for control of the Shifting—the dangerous, ever-changing lands between. Each character is the protagonist of their own story, so we leave it up to the readers to decide who the true hero and villain are! The books are written following their own story arcs, so you’ll never truly know what happens in each until you read them.
Here’s my synopsis, but keep reading for some behind-the-scenes info into the evolution of the story, followed by an excerpt!
Sidenote: This is a TEMPORARY COVER and will not be the final image. The sketch of the compass rose is courtesy of Michael Finch and is only used as a temporary, not-for-profit placeholder cover.
The sky is crying. Each drop of rain is a lost dream, a broken heart. The shadows fall, and the rain is dark. The sun reaches out to soothe them, the poor, lonely tears, but the Shifting is merciless, and no comfort is welcome here.
The kind-hearted queen of Light, Lucia, wakes one morning to discover that she has lost her memory—all knowledge of herself, her mother, and her ability to wield Light magic. Her drive to relearn—not only for her abilities but also the tasks of a queen—are fueled by her desire to regain her memories. When the queen’s controlling advisor informs her that the Light kingdom is at odds against the Shadow realm, she knows the key to maintaining balance throughout the land of Astellarya is locked away in her subconscious.
Lucia chases down every lead she can find but only manages flashes of remembrance and more questions than answers. Meanwhile, the Shadow is encroaching on the Light and her abilities are mediocre at best. Disheartened, she is torn between seeking out her past and protecting her kingdom.
Along the Shifting, where Light and Shadow collide, Lucia finds herself in the midst of a deadly battle for control and a duel against the Shadow king himself. She must decide who to trust to form alliances and friendships, taking hints from the trickle of memories she has managed to recall.
I started this story in November 2015 for NaNoWriMo. The original idea centered on a girl who got lost in her dreams—going through so many that she lost sight of who she was, where she belonged, or even what year it was supposed to be. She would have had to fight her nightmares to find her way back to herself or risk going insane.
My friend and fellow author M.W. King was at a loss for a NaNo theme, so I tossed out the idea for her to write from the POV of my antagonist. I wasn’t sure who that was supposed to be just yet, as I was planning on ‘pantsing’ my story (not really planning it), but after a few days she decided she liked the idea, so we sat down to coordinate. By the time NaNoWriMo kicked off, our base storylines were exactly what they are now, though our cast and events have changed drastically!
I’m so grateful to M.W. King for agreeing to write with me, because this has been an amazing journey. Not only have I learned how to better write my own personal novels, but I’ve gotten a more in-depth understanding of what it means to collaborate and be a part of a team.
That’s not to say this novel hasn’t had its fair share of ups and downs. Though I began writing in November 2015, the story is only half finished nearly a year later. NaNoWriMo 2016 will see this fully finished for a 2017 release. Even the year before its intended release has been a journey—in December 2015, M.W. King and I both signed our incomplete manuscripts with a small publisher. Circumstances saw us leave the company in August 2016 (on amicable yet irrevocable terms) though I’m excited to be self-publishing. My editing and formatting experience give me a bit of a one-up on that front, and I love being intimately knowledgeable with every step of the publishing process.
Anyway, I think it’s about time I give you a peek inside the book, don’t you agree? Here’s an unedited excerpt from around Chapter 5. Enjoy!
Deep in the woods, behind the black of the trees, something stirred. Lucia peered into the darkness, trying to distinguish the shifting form that seemed to be getting closer. Out of the shadows rolled an ominous fog, more blue than black, groaning in a dull roar as it consumed the earth beneath it. A heavy mist rained down over the dark cloud, and at the forefront, the wisps of moisture took on a pulsating ball that elongated and rose ever higher, until Lucia could clearly make out the shape of an equine muzzle, chomping at the feeble rays of light that managed to escape the storm above. Within seconds, the entire fog sunk to the ground, blanketing the dirt and leaving a tall, menacing, translucent horse charging toward her.
Lucia took a step back, then another. This beast was similar in consistency to the shadow bear in her training exercise, with one major exception—this was no harmless water shadow. A terrifying, guttural snort from his massive nostrils sent her racing for the tower. Why had she ever left? Her feet carried her as fast as they could, but her speed was no match for the galloping shadow behind her. The foremost lock of her chestnut hair lost all color as a streak of white flowed into being. The horse whinnied, shaking the bare trees; a cry as desperate and merciless as a thousand burning souls screaming for redemption. Lucia’s fear overcame her senses, and as much as she tried, she couldn’t recall any advice from Rynar or Illera that could save her from this. She didn’t have the time to stop and breathe properly, and she couldn’t bring forth her inner Light when every ray of hope was being devoured by the ferocious creature.
She couldn’t stop herself from stealing a glance over her shoulder. When her eyes locked onto those of the roaring beast, the sunken sockets of a shadow ignited into bright, red, glowing orbs. Lucia heard the high-pitched scream before she realized it was her own. As the sound escaped her lips, so too did the rest of the color in her hair, her brown tresses shocked to white with the intensity of her fear. She turned her head forward again, but the blanket of fog had washed up ahead of her and she could no longer see the path. Her fear was blinding her now; she didn’t know which way to go or how to escape these crippling terrors that haunted her through the forest.
A stray root from a dead tree reached out of the ground to cross her path, and she fell face-first into the cold, wet dirt. She pushed herself up, but her ankle had twisted. There was no way she could run any more. Rolling over on the ground, she knew she was about to find out just what happened to those who couldn’t face their fears. The horse grew larger with every frightening step, his body solidifying from the shadows and into creation. Here before her now stood a truly fearsome beast–one that was as real as she was, that could extinguish her life’s Light as quickly as his own spark of life had been borne from the darkness.
The horse slowed to a canter as he approached, then to a trot, making a wide circle around her. His hooves collided with the ground beneath the fog in a metallic clang that didn’t ring true to their nature. As he slowed to stand beside her, the fog was displaced, swirling it up and around his long, skeletal legs, revealing thick metal shoes that extended up the sides of his hooves to lock around his ankles in heavy iron chains.
The now-giant horse towered over her, shadowing her with dread as thick as the breath that poured from his mouth. His dark beauty was lost on her through the horror of his reality. He suddenly reared up onto his hind legs, pawing at the sky as he threw his head back in a screech that was more demon than shadow. As the roar escaped his lips, a deep purple ignited at the nape of his neck, like embers to a flame, quickly spreading down his back and up to the crown of his head, just between his ears. Scorching fire burst into life, crimson and orange and gold, with flares of white licking the mist above him. His metal-cased hooves came down toward her face, and Lucia knew there was no escape.
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