Summer Teen Reading Party Guest: Rebecca Ryals Russell
Today I'm happy to have YA author Rebecca Ryals Russell visit my blog!
Harpies, Book Two of Seraphym Wars series by Rebecca Ryals Russell comes out soon. But you might wish to read the Book One, Odessa first. Here is Chapter One of Odessa:
17-year-old Myrna is drawn into the middle of an epic battle between Seraphym and Demons. An average High School student from Florida, struggling with inner demons resulting from an attack when she was 15, she wakes one morning on the Steampunk planet of Dracwald, home of the demon-dragons responsible for her brother’s recent murder as well as many other atrocities in the news. She meets sweet and sensitive Michael, who explains that according to prophecy, Myrna must gather the remaining six Vigorios (teen warriors with special talents) then train with the Majikals on an enchanted island. He accompanies her on the quest, but harbors a secret past that ironically would destroy all the faith she has placed in him. A handsomely roguish Scientist with suspect motives haunts her dreams and makes sudden appearances in unlikely places, while a sensual dragon warrior defends her against her will.
Will love and lust, jealousy, greed, deceit and distrust break the delicate tie that binds these teen warriors called The Vigorios? Can a troupe of teens help the Seraphym finally defeat the massive empire of evil dominated for eons by the demon-dragons of Dracwald?
I floated on wings of silence like a piece of driftwood at sea. Colored gases swirled around me like silk scarves, brushing against my bare arms and legs. They delighted my senses and tingled nerve endings. For as far as I could see, a myriad of colors swam and twirled, dipping and rolling around particles of dark matter and glittering specks of sunbeams in a miniature cosmos.
Was this a dream? I didn’t remember falling asleep. In fact, I didn’t remember anything at all. Soft singing and the sharp but pleasant ringing of bells echoed around me. I opened my eyes—had they been shut? Thousands of glimmering, radiant beings hovered in the rainbow cosmic cloud. So beautiful. So peaceful. My eyes drifted shut.
“Mind the signs, Myrna,” echoed in my skull and repeated over and over in millions of separate voices in unison. “Mind the signs…Mind the signs…”
I shoved the covers off with my feet and stood, stretching. The house was unusually quiet. Must be the first up. After showering I listened while getting dressed. Still no sounds. I went to the kitchen. No one. It was not like my parents to sleep in, especially later than me. I made my way toward their room.
“Mom.” Softly I pushed on the door, which was slightly ajar. “Dad? Anyone up? Hey, sleepy heads…” The room was empty. The bed was made. My stomach flip-flopped. Marcy’s room was next. I padded down the hall, then pushed on the half-open door.
“You’ll be late…” I didn’t finish because no one was there to hear me. Her room was immaculate—which never happened—and empty. Panic pricked my brain like a nest of wasps. My mind was a jumble of anger and fear. People don’t just disappear. Where are they? What happened to them? I ran to Jarrod’s room and found the same thing. I was alone. Sliding down the wall, I crumpled in a heap on the carpet.
“Where did you all go without me?” I shrieked at the ceiling, tears burning my eyes. “Where is everyone?” Running to the foyer, I slid in my socks across the white tiles. Swiping at my wet face with the back of my hand, I gasped a shuddering breath…
And flung open the front door, daring to look outside.
The slam rattled the dishes in the kitchen cabinets like bones in a closet as I threw it shut. My heart pounded against my ribs. This isn’t possible. I’m still dreaming. The deadbolt lock thudded with a satisfying crunch as I twisted the key. My breath came in short gasps. My mind reeled with the impossible unreality of what I had seen. Who were these people? They were people, weren’t they? Then why had I seen horns and tails? I ran back to my room. Crouching in the corner behind my bed, my head ached from crying and fear. My room was still dark and shadows wavered and squirmed across the walls like living shades. I shut my eyes and slid my hands across my ears to shut out the world. I had to shut out this world that was not mine.
* * * *
I must have fallen asleep again, because I woke to a dark room and knew the sun had gone down. I searched each bedroom along the hallway—not surprised this time to find them empty, but still disappointed. I was alone. Even when alone at home before, I’d known I was not alone. This was different. This was scary.
My stomach rumbled audibly and I jumped at the sound. In the kitchen, I luckily found peanut butter and bread and made a sandwich. The peanut butter stuck to my dry mouth. I drank some milk, diluted with salty tears as I tried to swallow. My eyes wandered across the spotless, silent kitchen until landing on the phone. I picked up the receiver. No sound. Cords and plugs seemed fine. I clicked the receiver button up and down. I always wondered why people in movies did that, but still, I did it again. No sound. I couldn’t even call the cops. Tomorrow I would have to find help. Find out what happened to my family. An unnatural, sudden drowsiness overcame me and I stumbled sleepily back to bed. Why was I so tired? How could I sleep when my entire family was missing? And what about what I’d seen outside earlier? I’d slept nearly all day, so there’s no way I should be sleepy. Yet my eyes shut, almost on their own, and I fell into a fitful sleep.
Tossing and turning like a storm-tossed ship at sea, my bed was soon sweat-damp and rumpled. Dreams which morphed into nightmares writhed through my confused brain. Blackness that felt alive as it wove around me like an anaconda, squeezing out my breath, was filled with screeches and banshee wails of pain and suffering. All around, shapes moved in the darkness. Amorphous, slithering, scales on dry stone, sometimes as high as my ceiling, others low on the ground—shapes without shape. Voices that growled like the notes of a tiger beside my ear, whispering words I couldn’t understand. Running. Running. Through trees stacked so closely together I had to inhale to squeeze through them. Water, slimy and brown with more amorphous shapes wriggling through it and around my thighs as I walked through. Skies heavy and dark, oppressive in their grayness, sucking all joy, pleasure, even satisfaction from my soul.
My eyes flew open and I sat up. In my bed. In my room. In my house. Deep breaths of fresh air filled my lungs, restoring my brain’s oxygen. Then I heard movement in the shadows. Saw the shadows slide across my wall in the vague moonlight that managed to streak through the closed blind. I stared hard, trying to see for certain, unwilling to believe my senses anymore. The dry scraping sound echoed around the room, followed by a hiss. More shadows, black as a moonless midnight, wove across the floor and walls. My throat, already dry from screaming in my nightmares, constricted—useless. Who would hear me anyway?
Then the atmosphere in my room changed. The hair on my neck and arms stood up. My skin prickled as though with a soft electric shock. My breathing became ragged and my heart thumped so loudly in my chest I could hear it in the silence of the room. I hadn’t prayed since I was a very little girl, but something in me said to pray hard right now, so I said the only bits I could remember from the days when, as a toddler, Mom insisted I go to
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” My brain screamed for the next words. I repeated the phrase over and over trying to recall them, but they wouldn’t come. The shadows no longer clung to the edges of the room but slid across the floor, around the corners of the walls, directly toward me.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” I screamed as loudly as I could, emphasizing the word Lord. “He maketh me to lie down in still pastures, He restoreth my soul. Yea, though I walk through the valley of death I shall fear no evil for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff protect me. My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” I knew there were parts left out, but it was the best I could do. I repeated it over and over, getting louder and more confident each time.
The room filled with the brilliance of a noonday sun. I screamed, shading my burning eyes with a hand. Other screeching and scrambling sounds filled the room for several moments until there was compete silence. The brilliance faded and I dropped my hand to see what had happened. I expected to see a gaping hole in my wall, or maybe half the house missing with starlight streaming in.
Nothing. There was nothing. My room was empty. I could feel its emptiness. Total and complete silence. But I also felt better. I wasn’t scared. I knew there would be no more nightmares for the rest of this night.
When I woke again, that same gray light as yesterday pushed past the edges of my window blinds, spitting its dullness into the room.
After several hours of fruitlessly contemplating last night’s events, and finding no food in the kitchen to sate my ever-grumbling stomach, I managed to work up the courage to go for help. After dressing I took several deep breaths before opening the door again. I thought I was prepared.
The murky gray light that filled the sky seemed watery and weak. Although there was no cloud cover, there was no sunlight. Several brown dragons swooped through the grayness, casually flying above the buildings of this strange city. I stared wide-eyed, heart pounding. Dragons? On Earth? Had I been taken backward in time somehow? Was this the Middle Ages and was I in a fairy tale? I glanced up again as one swooped directly overhead, its beady red eyes watching me.
I have to leave the house. If I ignore them, perhaps they won’t notice me. Heart beating a mad tattoo, I stepped onto the stoop. Dad’s pride and joy green grass was gone.
My heart pounded and lungs burned like I’d just finished a marathon. I twitched and jumped at every sound, spinning from side to side. Squeezing my eyes shut tightly, I inhaled deeply several times, trying to calm down. The air stank of sulphur and coal dust. I opened my eyes. Standing at the end of the yard, a loud chug and zip followed by a puff of steam enveloped me. I leaped backward, nearly falling into the dirt. A triangular car with a glass top sped down the road. Another headed my direction on the opposite side. The driver sat in the front of the triangle, managing the car with a joystick while two passengers sat side-by-side on the rear seat. It manoeuvred surprisingly well and was quite fast. Then I realized it was not on the road, but hovered just slightly above it. There were no wheels.
Leading east and west at the end of the walkway, a crushed stone path lined a packed dirt road that ran in front of the house. To the left and right of the house stood tall and short buildings of every description. Some seemed to be stores, others apartment buildings or individual homes like mine. Tall brass street lights stood sentinel at each intersection.
“Toto, we’re not in
anymore,” I murmured softly. I flipped a glance back at the house, expecting ruby slippers. Kansas
A rumble overhead pulled my attention to the murky sky as a glass-enclosed egg with the silhouettes of seated people lining its interior floated by. At the rear spun a huge brass propeller. Occasional clouds of steam escaped into the atmosphere. I grabbed my chest and inhaled deeply several times, settling my nerves. I turned right and, with eyes lowered to avoid making eye contact, began walking down the path.
A layer of black soot coated the buildings and walkways, reminding me of photos of Victorian London when chimneys belched black coal dust. Many of the grimy windows displayed new handbills showing a child with the question “Have You Seen This Child?” underneath. It shocked me to realize each face was that of a different child. How many children had disappeared from this city, and where did they go?
Glancing forward occasionally, I was surprised to see the odd assortment of costumes on the people who passed me. While some men wore bowler hats, others had formal top hats and long-tailed coats. Women wore long dresses with pinafores and bloomers. Most wore wide-brimmed hats mounted with feathers and other doodads or jaunty, small headdresses angled over impressive updos. Many of these strange characters stared openly at me as they passed. Goosebumps rolled up my arms and neck. I caught my reflection in a wavy window and realized why they were all staring. My jeans and Pink Floyd T-shirt definitely stood out. I smoothed back my long, black hair and wrapped the ponytail band around it, happy I’d thought to grab one on my way out the door and toss it onto my wrist. My younger sister Marcy showed me that trick. Thinking about her now made my eyes burn, blurring my surroundings. I swiped the back of a hand across my eyes.
“Watch where you’re going, lunchmeat,” a low, menacing voice growled next to my ear. I turned my head to apologize. There was no one beside me. I fell against a building, scraping my arm on the rough siding. Someone had deliberately shoved me. But who?
“Imbecile,” the voice continued.
I spun in search of the owner of the voice. I was alone on the walk path. People across the street stared in passing. One last time, I looked back the way I’d come. I could still hear him like he was next to my ear.
“Mother’v pearl!” I muttered, eyes roving from feet to hat of a giant man who was walking away. He was easily over eight feet tall—not fat, just...big. A black top hat and full-length black cape added to the effect. I wondered for a split instant how he found clothes big enough. He spun a black cane with gold, dragon-shaped handle and glittering diamond eyes. He must have realized I was staring, because just his head spun backward. He grinned maliciously at me with a flick of red eyes before his head swiveled back around.
Here are the links and topics detailing where I’ll be all month. Check them out and win PRIZES.
EXCERPTS AVAILABLE TO READ:
Comment on EACH of my postings (listed above with links) showing you read the posting. Commenters will acquire ONE point per comment. At the end, fill out the form on my blog, Under the Hat.
The prize? This lovely Phoenix medallion and a bag of swag including Odessa notepad, Seraphym Wars pen, Mind the Signs bookmark, coverart Postcards for each book in both series AND an eBook copy of my newest release: Harpies, Book Two Seraphym Wars Series.
Catch Rebecca at any of these links:
Barnes and Noble http://tinyurl.com/rebeccaryalsrussell-B-N
Rebecca Ryals Russell writes MG and YA Dark Fantasy while living with her family in a Victorian house on five acres of North Florida countryside. She also runs a Vacation Rental Log House on the property: Florida Black Bear Cabin.
She is a fourth generation Floridian having lived all over the state. The daughter of an Elementary-school principal and school secretary, she always knew she was bound for the classroom and for fourteen years she taught Middle Grades, preferring English and Creative Writing. She had several students’ works published in anthologies as well as her own poetry, photography and stories.
Her main interests are her four teenaged and young adult children and Irish hubby of many years. She enjoys spending her time writing, drawing, going to movies, reading, discussing philosophy and politics with her college-aged son.
Be sure to check out the special interactive Middle Grade Reader website Tween Word Quest for tons of information about Stardust Warriors as well as the other projects Rebecca has in the works and Under the Hat for all of her other works.
TAGS: Rebecca Ryals Russell, Seraphym Wars Series, YA books, YA Fiction Books, YA series, demons, Seraphym, dragons, Dracwald, Vigorios, Prophecy, Odessa, Harpies