Monday, December 31, 2012

Celebrate the New Year with a new book!

Hello everyone! 

This is just a quick post to let you all know that Luathara is finally available!  It's been a great year and I'm pleased to finish it with the conclusion of my Otherworld Trilogy.  I only hope that this final chapter in Meghan's story lives up to your expectations ;).  But for those of you who are reluctant to see this series end, do not fret.  I have plans to continue the story, at least from other characters' points of view.  One character in particular might even get their own trilogy (but I can't disclose who it is quite yet because it might act as a spoiler for Luathara ;)).

However, the other two characters who have been asking for their own books don't mind if I mention their names.  As of this moment, Robyn and Enorah will be sharing their own stories with us, so I hope you're looking forward to some more Otherworld novels in the future.  As for Cade, well, he'll be getting at least one more short story collection from me, if not more.

I plan to have another busy year ahead of me, because I would also like to get Oescienne book four done as well, and there are also several other plots and characters and stories just waiting to be told.  Alas!  If only it didn't take so long to write them.

On a final note, I just want to say how much I've appreciated all the comments and messages from everyone throughout the year.  Without my wonderful readers, this job wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable as it is :).  I hope you have a wonderful New Year and I'll do my best to get some more books written in 2013.  All the best!

-J.E. Johnson

Luathara - Book Three of the Otherworld Tirlogy
Now available from and in ebook format!

Suddenly, my pain and anger honed themselves into a sharp point, one aimed directly at the goddess's heart. She had been controlling Cade’s life, my life, for far too long. And then, in a powerful wave of realization strong enough to sweep the frantic tornado in my mind off course and force the air from my lungs, I understood what I needed to do . . .

Meghan Elam knows that she belongs in the Otherworld, but she doesn't know if she's quite ready to take that leap. With Cade on the mend and her mortal family aware of their daughter's true identity, everything seems lined up for her to make a smooth transition into her new life. Unfortunately, Meghan has a mortal enemy, an angry goddess who has not yet given up on her chance for revenge.

As Meghan struggles to find her place in Eile, secrets from a past she knows nothing about well up and threaten to tip the scales even further. And when the Morrigan vows to bring a war down upon the Otherworld, she finds herself stuck in the middle of an epic battle, one that promises to destroy all that she holds dear. In order to save the ones she loves the most, Meghan must be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice and hope that she will be strong enough to vanquish her enemy once and for all.

Friday, December 21, 2012

12 Days of an Indie Author's Christmas . . . Revisited

Okay, so I posted this last year and thought it would be fun to resurrect it again for this year :).  I know that some of my indie author friends can appreciate it, and of course those of you who read indie books might also be able to relate.  Either way, hope you guys enjoy and have a Happy Holidays!

The Twelve Days of an Indie Author’s Christmas

On the First Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
A fan letter with a smiley :)

On the Second Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Two new blog followers

On the Third Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Three website views

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Four questions on my series

On the Fifth Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
A five star review!

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Six books shared with friends

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Seven likes on Facebook

On the Eighth Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Eight Twitter followers

On the Ninth Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Nine brand new readers

On the Tenth Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Ten adds on Goodreads

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Eleven friend requests

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Twelve ebook sales

Monday, December 10, 2012

Luathara News and an Extra Scene from Cade's POV!

Hello everyone and I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season!
This post is brought to you with the goal of giving you a quick update on the progress with Luathara and to share a little treat (well, I hope you'll consider it a treat and not a rare form of torture ;)).  But first, here's the news . . . I have finally finished writing Luathara (woohoo!) but I must read through it once more before sending it off to the editors.  The final word count (and this may change a little depending on editing) is around 120,000 words (or about 500 pages long), so I hope you all like long novels . . .  Some people have asked for possible release dates, and I'm afraid I can't give you anything sturdy.  I would like to finish my own editing in the next week or so (hopefully this week if I have the time and energy), and then it will be in the hands of others, and I can't tell you when they'll be able to get it back to me (and of course, that all depends on how many typos and flimsy plot points that still need removal/polishing ;)).
In the mean time I'd like to share a little something with you all since you've been so patient.  For the past several weeks/months I've been working on and off on a scene from Cade's POV (I'll probably be including this in the second short story collection that will feature scenes from Dolmarehn from Cade's POV, though it might have a little more added to it or may evolve a little by then).  This one happens to take place between Dolmarehn and Luathara, so I really hope you'll enjoy it while you wait for the final installment.  Again, I just want to say how much I appreciate all of your kind comments and enthusiastic questions.  Without such awesome readers, I don't know if writing the story would be nearly as fun :).  With that said, I'm handing this off to Cade - happy reading!
  -J.E. Johnson

* * * * *
I dreamed.  No, not a dream.  A nightmare.  I was in my other form, barely aware of anything but the hungry instinct to kill and destroy the enemy around me.  My legs and arms were weak, all my resources nearly drained, and I could sense the blood trickling from the wounds I'd taken in the fight.  I was so tired and I could tell I was dying, so why didn't I just succumb?  The roar of my enemy, a creature similar to me, snapped my attention forward.  That's right.  I still had monsters to kill and I couldn't die until they were gone.  But why?
The harsh cry of a female voice stole my attention.  I glanced beyond my adversary and caught sight of her.  Dark, curling hair and a pair of flashing hazel eyes tracked my every move.  She was tall and lean, her skin pale and smooth, the black and white garment she wore ruined from the mud and her cloak soaking wet.  My lip curled and I took a deep breath, drawing in her unique scent along with it.  Immediately my instincts told me that this young woman was mine to protect.  She was the reason I fought these monsters, the reason I could not die until they were all destroyed.  I would not survive the fight, but I had to make sure these beasts couldn't harm her once I was gone.  My rage returned like a wildfire, consuming me and driving me on.  I fought, my violence tearing into my enemies as much as my hands did.  Finally, there was only one demon left, but I was too slow.  The creature lashed out and drove its claws into my abdomen.  The young woman screamed and then everything fell into a swirling whirlwind of pain and blood and death.
The screaming continued, forcing the agony and anguish into a great cyclone.  I felt a heavy weight pressing down on me, and I knew the screaming was coming from my own mouth.
"Caedehn!" a great voice boomed over me.  "Caedehn, my son, I've got you!"
I thrashed around, the vivid trauma of the dream still clinging to me as I gasped for breath.  I blinked my eyes, unaware that I still possessed them, and the darkness lifted to reveal the blurry shadows and brilliant orange flickering of firelight.  Where was I?  I blinked some more and reached out, clinging to the person who was holding on to me.  I groaned and coughed, dragging air into my lungs as if I had been without it for days; until they hurt.  Something cold and hard pressed against me, so I threw out an arm to brace myself, falling free of my savior's grip.  My bare skin scraped against icy, damp stone.
"Easy," that deep, familiar voice murmured, "easy now."
The arms loosened a little and let me come to rest on the floor.  I glanced down, my eyes finally clearing, to find that I was completely naked and covered in cuts and bruises.  As my eyes lingered on the several deep gashes in my side, the memories came flooding back.  An open plain, a stormy sky, the Morrigan's Cumorrig transformed into something horrifying, going through my riastrad, Meghan . . . Meghan!
I must have tried to shout her name because a hoarse, panicked sound left my throat.  I attempted to speak again, fighting against the other person's hold on me.
"Meghan!" I rasped as my heart pounded against my ribs.
"Shhhh, Cade, hush!  Meghan is safe!  You need to calm down.  You've just come out of the Cauldron and you're still very weak.  Collin, Riley!  Quick, fetch some blankets now!"
A large warm hand pressed against my forehead and that strong voice, the Dagda I suddenly remembered, crooned to me in the language of Eile.  He rocked me like a small child as he sat on the damp floor with me.  The scent of mold, ancient earth and the metallic odor of the great Cauldron's magic teased my nose, and despite my incessant shivering, my foster father's attempt at comforting me eased my nerves.
"What happened?" I whispered, my eyes closed.
"The Morrigan finally did you in son," he answered, his voice sounding sad, "but that lovely young woman of yours dragged your carcass all the way back here so that we could revive you."
I had been killed by the Morrigan.  My mother had finally murdered me.  My emotions were still swirling around like that whirlwind of my nightmare; still trying to find the body they had thought they'd left behind.  Several things remained unclear to me, but one idea, one thought, one overwhelming truth rang true through it all and a name floated to the surface of my mind: Meghan.  I had done it all to save Meghan.  What had the Dagda said about her?
"Meghan," I breathed.
"Safe Cade.  She's safe upstairs, asleep in one of the rooms."
Minutes later, something dry and heavy was draped over me and I realized that one of the Dagda's servants had returned with the blanket he'd ordered.  Several hands shifted me, wrapping me up in the fabric to ease my cold.
I did not fight them as the Dagda and his household lifted me and carried me away from that deep, dark place.  As we climbed higher out of the dungeon where the Cauldron was kept, I couldn't help but feel that although my body was once again alive, my spirit would remain lost until I could see Meghan again.
* * *
Pain.  I swam in a dark world of pain.  I was certain I was dead, because despite all the agony I'd been through before, nothing ever felt this terrible.  Yet, if my soul had departed and I was on my way to the afterlife, then how could I feel anything?  Perhaps it was only the memory of the suffering that haunted me because a strange weightlessness enveloped me as well.  Then something shifted, the lighting or the temperature of the place where I was, because suddenly the darkness wasn't so black anymore and a new sense came to me.  I heard something, but it was so muffled I couldn't understand it.  My soul strained to comprehend; to listen.  Words, it was the sound of words that flowed over me and for some reason, those words made the pain go away.  Maybe it was the voice itself that soothed me, the voice of a young woman.  I knew that voice so well but it wasn't my sister who spoke to me, nor was it my mother, the Morrigan.
A black shard of pain struck my heart and I tried to cry out, but nothing seemed to work for me.  The pain faded into a dull ache as my conscience realized the Morrigan was nowhere near me.  No.  It wasn't my mother speaking to me.  She had done something terrible; had tried to hurt someone I couldn't bear living without.  Perhaps this voice belonged to her, the one I had been trying to protect . . .  Yes, now I knew that voice.  Meghan.  I tried to reach out to her with my mind, but then I remembered I hadn't taught her how to do that yet.  Frustrated, I simply lay there, soaking in her soothing presence.  Before long, I began to slip away into that dark place again, but before I was totally lost, something warm and soft touched my mouth.  Slowly, the black void overtook me, but this time I knew the horrors of my own death would visit me no more.
* * *
The faint whisper and crackle of a fire woke me, or perhaps that was merely the first thing I heard when I regained consciousness.  I blinked a few times and stared up into the canopy of a large bed, confused and feeling nauseous.  My head pounded as if someone were driving a sword through it and every nerve and muscle ached.  I opened my mouth to take a deep breath, but a moan escaped instead.
Something creaked.  A chair?  A door?  And then a familiar feminine face stood over me.
"Oh!  You're finally awake!  I'll get his lordship."
Before I could so much as ask the time of day, Alannah disappeared through a door and left me to try and figure everything out on my own.  Luckily, I didn't have to wait too long.  My foster father arrived moments later, wearing his kingly robe and looking haggard.  I furrowed a brow at him, then winced.  Even doing that hurt.
"Ah, Cade, you are back with us.  Finally."
"Wha-what happened?"  I gritted my teeth.  My voice sounded as if someone had scraped my throat raw with sandpaper.
"Do you remember nothing?" my foster father inquired, his voice softer as he moved closer to the bed.
I tried to sit up but cried out in pain when my actions sent a bolt of fire through my abdomen.  My nausea only increased after that.
"Steady," the Dagda scolded, leaning in to help me resettle.  "You have a bad wound on that side."
So I couldn't even sit up.  Wonderful.  I sighed, trying to ignore my watering eyes and wounded pride.  I searched my memories, wincing when the Morrigan and her warped faelah surfaced in my mind.  Meghan had been there as well, and after that I couldn't recall much.  Which was typical when my riastrad took over.  And let's face it, if the Morrigan had us surrounded by her Cumorrig, then there wasn't a doubt in my mind that I'd made good use of my battle fury.
"All I remember is fighting the Morrigan's hounds," I murmured, "and an unquenchable urge to protect Meghan."
I turned my head on the pillow and looked over at the Dagda, who had taken a seat in the chair beside the window.
My next words came reluctantly, not because it was hard to speak, but because I feared the answer.  "Where is Meghan?"
The Dagda's bright eyes landed on me, but I could not read his face.  It was hidden under too much hair.
"She is safe in the mortal world Cade, with her family."
Thank Eile.  "And the Morrigan?"
"Will not be able to bother her for quite some time, if I can believe everything young Meghan said."
"Tell me," I insisted, fighting the urge to sit up once again.
And so he told me everything Meghan had regaled to him.  How her glamour had burst free, engulfing the faelah and driving the Morrigan away.  How she had managed to drag me up onto Speirling afterwards so that she could bring me to my foster father and his Cauldron of regeneration.  I listened as if my very life depended on it, and sighed in wonder when the Dagda came to the end of his story.
"So," I murmured, "her magic finally woke up."
The Dagda nodded.  "Apparently.  She should be safe from your mother's reach for now, but eventually the Morrigan is going to recover from her shock and the first thing she'll want to do is get her hands on Meghan."
I nodded, then regretted the action as the pounding in my head worsened.  Gritting my teeth, I struggled to sit up again.
"Hold it, what are you doing?" the Dagda asked, moving forward and placing a hand on my shoulder.
"Meghan," I panted against the pain.  "Needs . . . to be here . . . magic needs to refuel . . ."
Spirits of Eile, it was hard to think, let alone move my arms and legs.
"Oh no you don't," my foster father growled.  "You are in absolutely no condition to do anything but sleep, eat and heal.  Meghan is safe for now.  When you are better you can go and fetch her."
I would have fought him if I could, but it was as if every muscle in my body had atrophied and I had to wait for them to grow back.  Grunting in frustration, I let my head fall onto the pillow.  It wasn't a long trip; I'd only managed to lift it an inch or so.  Sadly, that small effort had been enough to drain whatever tiny amount of energy I possessed.  As I began drifting off again, the Dagda got up and left me to rest, chuckling as he closed the door softly behind him.
I spent the rest of the day trading off between sleeping and eating what the Dagda's household brought to me.  The next morning I felt slightly more energized, but not enough to get out of bed.  Testing my strength, I managed to push myself up on my elbows and lean against the mountain of pillows piled against the headboard.  I had just made myself comfortable when the Dagda came into my room carrying something huge and white in his arms.  Straining against the lingering ache in my bones and muscles, I turned my head to get a better look.
"Fergus!" I breathed.
He looked as bad as I felt, slumped against the Dagda's chest, his long legs sticking out like the bare branches of trees in winter.
"I thought you might like some constant company," my foster father said, kneeling down and placing my spirit guide gently onto a giant cushion in front of the fireplace.
Fergus whimpered slightly as the Dagda got him settled.
Fergus?  I sent, my thoughts gentle.
Tired.  Hurt.  Need healing, he returned before drifting off.
"When did he arrive?"  My voice sounded raw and I had to clear my throat to fix it.
The Dagda heaved a great sigh and sank into the huge chair in front of the window.  He regarded the white wolfhound for a few moments, as if checking to make sure he kept breathing, before facing me.
"The soldiers who saw Meghan to the dolmarehn scoured the hills for him after she crossed safely into the mortal world.  They just arrived an hour ago, carrying him in with them."
I nodded and leaned back into the pillows.  I still felt like death warmed over, and technically I was, but I was determined to mend, just like my spirit guide.
"Well then," the Dagda planted his hands on his knees and stood, "I'll leave you two alone to get some more rest."
I grumbled, but didn't say anything more.  Despite having slept the entire night away, I was too tired to argue.  When the Dagda left, I cracked an eye open to check on Fergus.  I tried reaching him with my mind, but he was exhausted and already fast asleep.  Although I didn't want to, I stopped fighting my own fatigue and followed Fergus's lead.  The sooner I could get out of bed, the sooner I could bring Meghan back to Eile.
* * *
The next several days passed by with little excitement as I slowly regained my magic and the use of my limbs.  I would wake in the morning to find the Dagda or a member of his household in my room, stoking the fire or offering me and Fergus food.  Most of the time between I slept, and when I slept, I dreamed of Meghan.  Memories I had let slip my mind would come back to me, simple things really, like how her hair often smelled slightly of lavender, or how she always wrinkled her nose when concentrating on something, or how the sunlight and her own laughter brightened the hazel of her eyes.
Eventually I grew strong enough to get out of bed.  When I was feeling particularly adventurous, I'd go outside to visit Speirling in the stables, bringing him carrots and apples and other treats.  Fergus would accompany me, always the loyal spirit guide no matter how feeble he felt.  Often I regretted the pain it caused me to make the small journey, that is until the open, clean air and the comforting scents of hay and horses revitalized my spirits.  Breathing in deeply and closing my eyes, I'd listen to the birds in the trees and the breeze filtering through the branches above.  The cool wind would draw out a shiver across my still overly-sensitive skin and the sun's brightness hurt my eyes, but I craved it nonetheless.  It was as if the earth herself was taking a deep breath and I was joining in with her.  It meant I was alive and beneath every other raw feeling I sensed the warm presence of Eile's magic, working to repair both my physical and emotional wounds.
With each passing day I felt stronger and healthier and went to bed each night feeling less exhausted.  I continued to dream about Meghan, but after the first couple of weeks, the dream changed.  No longer did I receive snippets of the memories I'd stored away in my mind.  Instead the dream would begin with Meghan standing on one of the hills overlooking Luathara's wide valley.  The trees were green with fresh leaves and the fragrance of wildflowers drifted past us on the wind.  Eile was in the midst of early summer, and I was with Meghan, happy and content.  Just as I'd reach out to her, however, Meghan would turn to face me and everything would shift.  No longer was she dressed in the casual style of the mortal world, knee-deep in wild grasses and heather.  Instead her jeans and sweater vanished, replaced by a royal gown.  Her beautiful dark hair no longer free, but pulled up and pinned back with combs encrusted with diamonds.  The colors of summer blurred and transformed into the simple stone walls of Danua's palace, and Meghan would regard me with the cool indifference so well-practiced by her mother's courtiers.
After the transformation, she would raise her arm and point, her hazel eyes flashing to a cold grey color, her face absolutely devoid of any emotion.  For a heart-rending second she reminded me of my own mother.  This was not the Meghan I knew; the Meghan I loved.
"Remove him, please," she'd say, her tone frosty and distant.  "I am Meghan, daughter of the high queen."
Despite her coldness, I tried to reach through to her.
"Meghan!  Have you forgotten me so easily?  I'm Caedehn MacRoich.  After I destroyed the Morrigan's Cumorrig, you saved me.  Remember?"
A knowing look would come into her eyes then, but it was soon replaced with unrepentant disgust.
"Monster," she hissed, still pointing at me.  "Monster!"
"No Meghan, that was only my riastrad.  You know me!  I love you!" I would cry out as the soldiers dragged me away even as I kicked and thrashed.
About a month after arriving at the Dagda's I woke me from a dead sleep, fighting the sheets on my bed as if they were the soldiers in my dream.  My chest hurt but I heaved in one great breath after another.  Gradually my heart slowed and I rubbed my hands over my face, the rough skin rasping against several days worth of beard growth.  Sighing, I climbed out of bed and stepped into the small bathroom adjoining my room to take a shower.  The steaming water refreshed me, warming my chilled spirit even as the memory of the dream continued to haunt me.  After pulling on a clean set of clothes and shaving, I returned to my room to find Fergus sitting up by the fire.
Better? he asked.
Yes, just the dream again.
My spirit guide cocked his head to the side.  Dreams may teach, but they are also the mind's way of purging itself of the worries that build up during the day.  It is only at night that the conscience has no defenses, no way of creating distractions to keep its thoughts occupied elsewhere.
Huh.  Philosophical wisdom from a wolfhound.  Fergus didn't often share much of the inner workings of his mind with me, but every now and again he managed to come up with something worth holding onto.  Though I understood what he was trying to say to me, and I appreciated the value of his advice, it didn't detract from the underlying truth in the dream and I couldn't help but feel my subconscious was trying to tell me something.  As much as I longed to see Meghan again, I wondered if it wasn't for the best that I keep my distance.  After all, if I had stepped aside like I should have done the moment I discovered who Meghan really was, then Danua would have taken her in without question.  And right now the high queen's protection might just be enough to make the Morrigan think twice.  Only one quandary remained: was I strong enough to let her go?
Taking a deep breath, I made my way down the long hallway and stepped into the kitchen.  I inhaled in the wonderful scent of home cooking, dried spices and fresh wood smoke.  Of all the rooms in the Dagda's abode, the kitchen was the most welcoming, at least in my opinion.  With its long, worn wooden table, great open brick oven and the collection of windows letting in plenty of morning light, one felt comfortable and at ease amid its rustic simplicity.
I took a seat on one of the long benches and watched the kitchen staff prepare the morning meal.  As I waited, one of the women brought me a pot of fresh tea and a mug.
"You're looking well this morning," the Dagda said, sliding onto the bench next to me.
I started, so absorbed in my own troubled thoughts that I hadn't heard him come in.
He regarded my posture, then took one good look at my face.  "What is amiss?"
I waited for him to pour his tea and stir in the cream and honey before I continued.
"I've been having a recurring dream.  About Meghan."
The Dagda arched an eyebrow.  "Oh?" he said in a voice full of feigned innocence.  "And is this dream something you should be sharing with your foster father?"
I smiled, his good humor chasing away the last remnants of the dark dream.
"No.  It's nothing like that."  I heaved a great sigh and ran a hand through my hair.  "It starts out with the two of us standing on one of the hilltops above Luathara, but then the scene changes and we are in the castle of Erintara and Meghan looks at me like I'm one of my mother's faelah.  Then she orders Danua's guard to drag me away."
I didn't mention the word Meghan used to describe me.  Monster.  It hurt too much and hit far too close to home.  When I was under the influence of my battle fury, I was a monster; a wild animal running on pure fury and instinct.
The Dagda regarded me for a moment.  "Perhaps this dream is just the lingering trauma of your fight with the Cumorrig."
No, it was more than that.  I suspected it was my conscience or the spirits of Eile fanning the flames of my fears.
The Dagda must have sensed my mood because he sat up straight, furrowed his brow, and gave me a long, hard look.  "Now don't you go thinking this dream means you're not good enough for our Meghan."
Well, what else could it mean?  I knew my foster father wasn't going to let this conversation go, so I took a small breath and said quietly, "What do I have to offer her?"
The Dagda turned so that he faced me, scratched at his chin with one hand and then smoothed his fingers down his beard.  I expected him to argue with me, but when he did speak his voice was soft and kind and nothing more than a whisper.
"I see what you're saying and yes, you have inherited your father's riastrad and your mother is an evil bitch."
I looked up at him, wondering where his logic was heading.
He gave a sad smile and continued on, "You've been emotionally abused by that same mother for years, and you have never had a lasting relationship."
I dropped my eyes and clenched my hands into fists, just as a fresh wave of shame and self-loathing coursed through me.  None of these things had ever really mattered to me before.  I had learned to bear them as my own personal burden years ago, but that had been before Meghan.  Living on my own, with only my sister and the Dagda to worry about my well-being had been enough.  The Dagda was a Celtic god and my sister was lethal in her own right, even without having the Weald to protect her, so I never worried about hurting them in any way or causing them any sort of misery.  But Meghan . . .  Meghan wasn't entirely helpless, or weak.  She just didn't know the dangers of our world and all the trouble she could bring upon herself by associating with me.  Yes, I cared about her more than I'd cared about any young woman before, but that made it even more imperative that I keep my distance, no matter how much it hurt.
A light touch to my shoulder made me jump.  I looked up to find the Dagda gazing down at me, his bright blue eyes sharp and clear.
"But there is absolutely nothing wrong with your heart Caedehn," he murmured, "and that is what Meghan wants the most.  Your heart."
A feeling of peace descended upon me and I wondered if perhaps my foster father was right; maybe this dream of mine was merely the residue of my mother's evil working itself out of my system.  I loved Meghan, so much so that I'd given my life for hers.  And she had brought me back here to the Cauldron so that I might live again.  I had to stop letting my assumptions make my decisions for me and pay closer attention to what was happening in front of my very eyes.
"That girl is in love with you, my boy," the Dagda continued.  "I can see it in her eyes when she looks at you, hear it in her voice when she speaks of you.  And if that still isn't enough to prove her love, don't forget the hell she went through in order to bring you back from death.  So, are you going to let some silly dream convince you otherwise?  Are you just going to throw that gift away because you're afraid you're not good enough?  You died for her Caedehn, and if I know you at all, you'd do it all over again.  If that doesn't prove your worth, I don't know what will."
Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, I sat up straight and allowed the corner of my mouth to curve into a small smile.  I could only hope that what he said was true, but whether Meghan shared my feelings or not, when I was fully healed I would be returning to the mortal world to see her again.  My foster father was right.  I needed to let go of the self-doubt that had accumulated over the years.  Only problem was, I wasn't sure how to go about doing it.  Somehow, I knew my troubled past would always be there, lingering in the shadows and never quite going away.  But if I had someone to stand by my side, someone who shone a light in those dark corners, then I would have nothing to fear.  And that someone was Meghan.  I had to fight to keep her safe.  The Morrigan had made it abundantly clear that she would stop at nothing to steal Meghan's power.  In order to prevent that from happening, that very glamour had to be stoked and trained here in the Otherworld.  And the only way to do that was to bring Meghan back to Eile where her power could grow in strength and abundance.
"No," I finally said, returning my thoughts to the present, "of course you are right.  I fear that my mother's foul magic has addled my brain.  When I am recovered, I'll return to the mortal world to bring Meghan back here.  The sooner she's in Eile, learning how to use her magic properly, the better."
The Dagda nodded.  "I sent her a note this morning, telling her about your progress.  Perhaps a week or two more, I think, before you can go fetch our girl back."
I smiled brightly this time, warmed by the thought of Meghan's return and the way the Dagda so easily accepted her as one of his own.
"Now, do you feel strong enough to take a short stroll with me?"
The Dagda stood and held out a giant hand.  I eyed it dubiously before pushing myself up.  The simple task proved harder than I'd anticipated, but I refused to let my foster father see my weakness.
"Why would the son of Cuchulainn and the Morrigan need help from a god best known for his hospitality?" I joked.
"Do not forget, you ungrateful pup, that I also have a reputation for outwitting mine enemies."
Despite my show of bravado, the Dagda surreptitiously managed to get his shoulder under my elbow, and I just as furtively pretended not to notice.  As the two of us hobbled down the hallway, I wondered what had been written on that note to Meghan.
Two weeks Caedehn.  In two weeks, if you are better, you will be seeing her again, I reminded myself.
Forcing an extra spring to my step, I stood as tall as my broken body would allow me and set my jaw in determination.  I'd be whole and healthy in two weeks' time, even if it meant letting Allanah and the other women of the Dagda's abode treat me like a new born baby.  Of course, that meant taking it easy and accepting the Dagda's fussing, despite what it might do to my pride.  Yet if I was being completely honest with myself, the prospect of seeing Meghan again would be the only medicine I'd need to make a speedy recovery.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Luathara Cover Reveal and Teaser and more . . .

     Hello readers!  I know, I know . . . It's been a while since I've posted anything, but to be honest (and hopefully to redeem myself ;)) I've been very busy trying to finish up Luathara.  As of today, I'm about two-thirds into my cover to cover read-through (where I read it from beginning to end and tie up all loose ends along the way).  Once I've finished doing that, it will still need a few more rounds of editing.  Also, I'm currently about 15,000 words over my word count goal (and I still have a bit more to patch up), so that might add to the time frame of getting it all nice and edited.  So that's the news I have for you right now.  I'm sorry it's taking so long, but I never anticipated writing so much for this concluding book of the Otherworld Trilogy (but heck, since it's the last one, I'm going to pack in as much as I can :)).

     Despite the fact that I don't have the book ready for you yet, I do have the cover art AND the entire first chapter (and then some, since anyone who purchased the digital edition of Dolmarehn already got a chance to read the first chapter of Luathara).  I hope you all enjoy this teaser and please keep hanging in there.  Luathara is almost here!

Some quick, other news:

I started working on a short scene from Cade's POV (what happens between the end of Dolmarehn and the beginning of Luathara).  I'd like to post that here on my blog when I'm done, and include it in the Omnibus once the trilogy is complete.  Stay tuned for more!

-J.E. Johnson

Here it is!!  The cover for Luathara!  Hope it meets your expectations ;)

And now, without further ado, I give you the new, slightly expanded, Luathara teaser . . . (Just keep in mind, this still needs some more editing, so don't let the typos and such scare you away ;))
     The creature was utterly disgusting, whatever it was.  Faelah, yes, but I didn’t have a name for this unfamiliar beast.  Not yet, at least.  So, what to call this one . . .  I’d have to come up with something creative, some new word to describe the half-dead creature resembling a possum, coyote and rabbit all rolled into one.  Perhaps I could combine the first two letters of the names for each of the animals: po-co-ra.  Huh, pocora.  It even sounded like an Otherworldly term.
     The thing, the pocora, jerked its head up from whatever poor creature it feasted on, bony jaws dripping with gore.  My stomach turned, and not just because of the brutal scene.  The faelah was eating one of Mrs. Dollard’s cats, the chubby one that obviously hadn’t been able to outrun this particular enemy.  I gritted my teeth.  I wasn’t attached to my neighbor’s cats, despite the fact I once spent a summer caring for them, but the poor thing hadn’t deserved to die at the mercy of an Otherworldly monster.
     I took a deep breath, pulling an arrow free of the quiver slung across my back and deftly positioned it in my bow.  I’d become quite good at this in the past several weeks; arming my longbow with an arrow quickly and without making a sound.  I stretched the bowstring back and aimed the arrow’s tip at the creature, steadying my arms while trying to concentrate.  With a twang, I released the string and fixed my face with an expression of satisfaction as the arrow pierced the mummified hide of the pocora.  The creature squealed like a pig and fell to the ground, kicking and clawing and attempting to remove the hawthorn arrow.  If I had used any other wood, the faelah might’ve stood a chance, but even as I watched the small monstrosity struggling to regain its feet, smoke lifted from where the hawthorn shaft burned through nonliving flesh.  I crinkled my nose at the acrid smell and turned away.  Generally, I didn’t like killing anything, but the faelah of Eilé were an entirely different matter.  And they weren’t technically alive, either.
     The creature’s screams ceased and it went still.  I waited a few more moments before moving close enough to pull the arrow free.  I always kept the arrows from my hunts.  It wasn’t like I could go down to the local sporting goods store and ask for arrows made with hawthorn wood.  I wiped it on a nearby patch of grass out of habit.  Whatever remained of the faelah would already be gone, however, burned off by magic.  I glanced back over my shoulder as I left the small clearing behind, but the pocora had already disintegrated into ash, its glamour no longer keeping it alive and whole in the mortal world.  I sighed and turned my eyes to what was left of Matilda Dollard’s cat.  I would pay her a visit later and tell her I’d found her pet’s remains in the swamp.  Another poor victim of a coyote attack.
     Clear, a bright thought said in my mind, forcing my thoughts away from the gruesome scene.
     I shaded my eyes and glanced up into the eucalyptus leaves only to catch the brilliant white flash of a small bird of prey darting through them.  She had been scanning the forest for more faelah.  I grinned.
     Did you catch anything? I sent to my spirit guide.
     Meridian chittered and sent back a joyous, Tasty.
     That would be a yes.
     I heaved a deep breath and pulled my quiver back onto my shoulders.  Mid-morning had become late afternoon and I knew Mom would be worried if I didn’t get back soon.  After having confessed to my family I was Faelorehn, an immortal being from Eilé, the Otherworld, and that a vindictive goddess was out to get me, she had been a little more protective of late.  I guess I couldn’t blame her.
     Meridian finished up with whatever she had caught and then set her focus on accompanying me back to the house.  The walk home took a good fifteen minutes, but I didn’t mind taking my time this afternoon.  I had a lot on my mind, after all.  Actually, there had been a lot on my mind since my junior year in high school when all of this stuff concerning the Otherworld got dumped on me like a ton of bricks, but for the past month I had even more to worry about.
     I made my way back to the main trail leading out of the swamp and thought about what had transpired just before graduation.  It sometimes made me sick with anxiety, but I couldn’t help that.  The Morrigan had tricked me, once again to my chagrin, into thinking she meant to go after my family.  A few years ago, she would have been happy just to kill me.  Now that she knew I possessed more glamour than the average Faelorehn, she was intent on using me as her own personal supply of endless magic.  She probably would have succeeded if Cade hadn’t stepped in.  Cade . . .
     A pang of regret cut through me and when I reached the spot in the trail where a fallen tree blocked my way, I leaned heavily against the rough trunk and pulled a well-worn note out of my pocket.  The message wasn’t from Cade, but from his foster father, the Dagda.  I unfolded the edges and began reading.
     Cade is improving every day, yet he is still very weak.  I know you wish to see him soon, but please give him a little more time and don’t cross into the Otherworld.  The Morrigan has been lying low; no one has seen her lately, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t lurking in the shadows, waiting to cast her net.  For now, you are safer where you are.  Cade will come and get you as soon as he is recovered.
     The note should have made me happy, and it did when I first received it a week and a half ago, but I longed to visit Cade so badly I ached.  I needed to know he was safe and I needed to witness with my own eyes that he was healing.
     I folded the worn paper into a perfect square and returned the note to my pocket, then climbed over the log and kept on walking.  Last May I’d been all set to go to prom with the guy of my dreams, Cade MacRoich, the gorgeous Faelorehn boy from Eilé who appeared one day like some guardian angel to save me from the Morrigan’s faelah and to tell me all about my strange heritage.     Unfortunately, on the day of the prom, we both got tricked into running headlong into the evil goddess’s trap.  Only, Cade wouldn’t let her have me, and right before he took on almost a dozen of her monsters, he told me he loved me.  And then he died.
     I stopped for a moment and craned my head back and leaned on my longbow, soaking in the filtered sunlight trickling down between the leaves above.  I shut my eyes and tried to tell the knot of worry in my stomach to go away.  Cade had died, he died defending me and the trauma of such a terrible experience forced my power to surge forth, scaring the Morrigan away, at least for the time being.  The sudden rush of my glamour had soon faded and the reality of what had happened slammed into me like a train.  I was convinced my heart would tear itself asunder, for Cade had sacrificed too much.
     Only after recovering from my hysterics did I remember Cade’s foster father, the Dagda, an ancient Celtic god-king, happened to own a magical cauldron with a reputation for reviving the dead.  A frantic horse ride against a driving storm later and I dropped like a fly at the Dagda’s door, a lifeless Cade in my arms.  I’d arrived just in time; Cade would recover.  But he never got to hear me tell him I loved him, too.
     I had returned to the mortal world, an emotional and physical wreck, only to finally confess the truth to my family: I was an immortal from the Otherworld, the daughter of a Celtic goddess and the high queen of Eilé, and one day I’d be going back to the world of my origins.  Let’s just say after such an ordeal, I needed something to keep me distracted, to give me purpose so I wouldn’t lose my mind completely.  Thus, I had taken up hunting for the faelah on my own.  Heck, before the Morrigan’s attack, Cade constantly pestered me about practicing my archery and this way I could kill two, maybe three, birds with one stone.  I was getting some much-needed practice in, I was keeping the swamp clear of dangerous faelah, and I was keeping my mind occupied.  Yup, three birds.
     I fingered the note in my pocket once more as I stepped onto the equestrian trail leading to my home.  I hoped the Dagda was right; that Cade was recovering.  I so desperately wanted to turn around and head for the dolmarehn in the heart of these woods, to travel back to the Dagda’s home and see Cade, but like the Dagda said, I’d be an easy target in the Otherworld.  And I agreed with the other thing he’d mentioned as well.  I had no doubt the Morrigan would be looking for me.
     Gritting my teeth, I turned my mind away from those dark thoughts and picked up my pace.  By the time I reached the end of the path, I welcomed thoughts of a shower and a sit down with a good book and some hot chocolate.  Summer was in full swing, yes, but the coastal fog was already creeping in and the early evening would turn chilly.  I planned on crossing our backyard and slipping in through my sliding glass door, but a barrage of young boys accosted me before I could even step foot on the lawn.  Apparently my brothers had been waiting for my return.
     “Meghan!” Logan whined as he rushed forward.  “We wanted to go with you this time!”
     He crossed his arms, and yes, actually stomped his foot.
     I blinked at him and my other brothers as they gathered around me, a small army of Elams.
     “Huh?” Despite my claims that my hunting ventures helped purge my mind of everything    Otherworldly except the faelah themselves, my wandering thoughts still found ways to wrestle free of the bonds I’d placed on them.  I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.  I’d been too busy reminiscing.
     “We want to help you hunt!” Bradley offered, thrusting out a fist which happened to be clutching a small bow.
     Oh.  That.  I cleared my throat and took a breath.  When would they realize no meant no?  I was still getting used to the fact that my parents and brothers knew about my Faelorehn blood.  After keeping my identity a secret for so long, I found it easy to forget I had told them (and shown them) what my Otherworldly power could do.
     I squatted down so I would appear less imposing to them.  Hah, me, imposing . . .
     “I’m sorry guys,” I said, feeling only slightly guilty.  “But you can’t go faelah hunting with me.  It isn’t safe for you.”
     “You go,” Bradley put in.
     I rolled my eyes.  “I’m Faelorehn Bradley.  I have magic, remember?”
     Not that it would make any difference.  Whatever power I managed to store up in Eilé during my last visit had most likely burned out after my battle with the Morrigan.  I was running on empty and it would take another extended stay in the Otherworld to get me back up to a level where I could do some real damage.  But they didn’t need to know that.
     “And I’m glad you didn’t come with me,” I continued.  “I encountered something really creepy today.”
      And just like that, their scowls were replaced with wide eyes.  “What?” Jack and Joey, the twins, whispered together.
     I grinned, despite the fact that the encounter had been more ghastly than usual.
     “Well, I’m calling the faelah I killed a pocora, but I’m not sure what it’s called in the Otherworld.”
     They remained silent, waiting for me to continue.  “It looked like a cross between a rabbit, a possum and a coyote, and I think it might have been mummified.”
     I had explained early on, right after telling my family the truth, that anything concerning Eilé would have to be kept top secret.  I made all my brothers double swear, spit and shake on it (tantamount to a blood oath, or in the Otherworldly sense, a geis).  They were not to repeat a single thing they saw or heard to their friends or classmates.  Having to keep this promise, and not being able to go on my hunting adventures with me, was practically killing them.  So, whenever I came back from one of my faelah target practices, I distracted their disappointment with a detailed description of whatever I happened to kill.  Worked every time.
     “Did you shoot anything else?” Logan piped in, forgetting his previous irritation at being left behind while I got to have all the fun.
     “No,” I said.
     Their shoulders slumped, so I thought the conversation was over.  I started to stand back up and nearly fell over when Bradley blindsided me with a completely different question.
     “So, when do we get to meet your boyfriend?”
     After regaining my balance, I blinked down at him.  “What?”
     “Your boyfriend,” he crooned, “the guy in the Otherworld you always talk about.  When do we get to meet him?  Or is he imaginary?”
     I blushed and gritted my teeth.  I did not always talk about Cade.  Always thought about, yes, but I only ever talked about him with Mom, long after my brothers’ bedtime.  Little, eavesdropping cretins.
     “He’s not my boyfriend,” I grumbled, glaring at Bradley.
     Then I paused.  Or was he?  Before the Cúmorrig had overtaken him, Cade had told me he loved me, but the last several weeks had given me plenty of time to think about it.  Did he really mean it, or had he only said so because he realized he wouldn’t survive the fight?  Did it mean he might have acted rashly?  Of course, it didn’t change the fact that I loved him . . .
     “Sure he isn’t,” Bradley snickered.
     “I bet you let him go hunting with you,” Logan muttered.
     I scowled at him again.  I’d have to try and analyze my scattered thoughts later.  “He’s my friend, and he’ll meet you guys when he’s better.  He’s very sick right now.”
     That’s right, because being brought back to life and recovering from what had killed you in the first place could be considered a sickness . . . sure.
     To my immense relief, my younger brothers decided not to hound me about Cade anymore.  We all headed back up towards the front of the house, but before we even got clear of the backyard, Meridian dropped from her perch in the eucalyptus trees above and came to rest on my shoulder.
     The boys all started arguing and crowded in again, forcing me to stop so I wouldn’t trip over them.  They absolutely adored Meridian.  She used to use her powerful glamour to keep herself hidden from them, but now she understood it was safe to be seen and she no longer bothered with the disappearing act.  Besides, I think she was rather infatuated with my little brothers as well, and I often wondered if she thought of them as her own little merlin chicks.
     Chase game!  Meridian sent as she chittered excitedly, leaping off my shoulder and darting around the backyard as my crazy brothers ran after her.  She loved playing this game with them.  Even Aiden, all too often happy with simply watching from the sidelines, joined in.  My heart warmed at seeing him play like a normal boy, but a painful lump rose in my throat again.  This was all temporary.  I couldn’t stay with my mortal family forever.
     Feeling rather morose, I reached into my pocket again and brushed my fingers against the thick paper of the Dagda’s note.
     Be safe Cade and come back to me soon, I thought.
     I turned to sneak back into the house, but the sudden presence I detected near my leg made me pause and glance down.  Aiden.  Apparently he was done playing chase.  Yes, I would be leaving the family who took me in and raised me so I could live in Eilé, where I belonged.  In Aiden’s own quiet way, he was telling me how we all felt about it: none of us wanted to let go.  I wasn’t human, though; I needed the safety the Otherworld and its magic would grant me, especially now that my power had shown itself.  Moving to Eilé would be hard, and I think I would miss Aiden the most, but I had to be brave.
     Fighting the well of pain in my chest, I removed Aiden’s hand from my shirt and curled my own fingers around his.  He looked up at me, his blue-green eyes trying to tell me something, but like always, his autism kept him from saying what he needed to say.  Luckily, I’d become rather good at reading his face.
     Taking a deep breath, I stood with him as my other brothers kept at their game with my spirit guide.  I set my quiver down and leaned my bow against the house, then bent over and pulled Aiden into a rib-crushing hug.
     “I know buddy, I know,” I whispered as he wrapped himself around me.  I managed to hold on a little longer before a tear escaped.  “I’ll miss you too.”

     The next morning I woke up feeling groggy and slightly dejected.  I didn’t know exactly when I’d be going back to the Otherworld, but I knew it was inevitable.  I wanted to go, don’t get me wrong, and not just because it meant more one on one time with Cade.  There had been something about feeling the full extent of my very own Faelorehn glamour that urged me to return, almost like a drug I couldn’t get enough of.  Despite the terror and anguish I had felt when facing down the Morrigan, the whole experience had been exhilarating.  It was almost as if the magic of Eilé itself was crying out to me; coaxing me to cross over into the Otherworld and soak it in like warm sunshine.
     Yet, there was also that part of me that hated leaving my friends and family.  Not that I would leave and never come back, but to not wake up and see my brothers every day?  To find my dad reading his newspaper while the house erupted in chaos?  To wake up without the smell of my mom’s cooking filling the kitchen?  The ache that swelled next to my heart threatened to overwhelm me, but I quickly got a hold of it and banished it away.  All children left their parents’ houses at some point in time, whether to go to college or start a life of their own.  How was this any different?  Okay, most young adults weren’t going to live in a different dimension full of magic, monsters and goddesses bent on destroying them, but hey, most people my age were human.
     Sighing to dispel some of my negative mood, I rolled out of bed and headed to my shower.  I took my time this morning, letting the steaming hot water pour over me, imaging it was washing away all of my worries.  After the shower I brushed my teeth, combed out my unruly hair and threw on a pair of old jeans, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt.
     It was still foggy out and I planned to go down in the swamp to get some more practice in with my longbow.  I wasn’t about to slack off, despite the fact that I’d found only the one faelah creature the day before.  I located the torque and mistletoe charm Cade had given me on my desk, placing them around my neck as if they were pieces of armor.  Ever since the day I’d returned from Eilé in late spring, I’d been wearing them almost constantly.  I had been questioned by Robyn almost immediately about the torque (let's face it, the piece of jewelry kind of stood out and Robyn knew her Celtic stuff), but I had merely brushed her off and told her that Cade had given it to me.  She was still the only one of my friends who had actually met him.  Of course, she thought he was human, a conviction I wasn’t about to correct.  Soon I'd have to tell them the truth, or at least some version of the truth, but for now I'd let them go on believing the lies as long as possible.
     I sighed and placed my hands loosely on my hips, scanning the room for my spirit guide.  Meridian, another gift from Cade, snoozed in the corner, making soft chirruping sounds as she slept.  I grinned.  I hated to wake her, but she was my bodyguard on mornings like these.
     Meridian, I sent to her.
     She snoozed on.  I smiled and tried again.
     She woke with a snort, well, her version of a mental snort.  Up! she sent as she ruffled her feathers and tried to act as if she had been alert the whole time.
     I laughed, threw my quiver over my shoulder, grabbed my bow with my left hand and held out my forearm to her.
     Ready for practice? I asked
     Yes.  Hungry.
     She landed on my sleeve, then crawled up my arm to settle herself on my shoulder, tucking her head back under her wing.
     I turned towards my sliding glass door, expecting to see the fog-dimmed vista of our backyard and the eucalyptus trees that trailed down into the swamp.  But something else was there waiting for me and my heart nearly leapt out of my chest.  There, standing on the concrete slab that served as a small patio stood a huge, white wolfhound.
     My bow thlunked to my carpeted floor as I dropped it, my eyes wide and my jaw hanging open in shock.  The dog panted and scratched at the door, his tail wagging.  But all I could do was stand there, frozen.  The memories of the month before flashed through my mind: the Morrigan, the faelah, Cade dying, Fergus nowhere to be found.  He had fallen somewhere during the battle, dying when his master had, and we’d been forced to leave him.  But if he was here now, alive and eager to get my attention . . .
     “Cade!” I cried out, barely even a whisper.
     My senses returned to me in a rush and I bent down to scoop up my bow, nearly tripping over its length in my rush to get to the door.  Meridian dug in with her claws as she got jostled about on my shoulder.  I dove for the handle of my door, flipped the latch, slid it open and tumbled out.  Fergus took a few steps to avoid me, but he wasn’t fast enough to escape the hug I threw around his great neck.
     “I’m so glad to see you!” I proclaimed as he panted next to my ear.
     I let go and he gave me a quick canine grin before trotting towards the horse trail.  I didn’t even hesitate to follow him, my heart lurching once again when he didn’t stop at the oak tree to indicate Cade had left me a note.  Could Cade really be here?  I shook that thought from my mind before I tripped over myself in a jumble of nerves, but the idea wouldn’t leave me alone.  My heart sped up even more.  The last time I’d seen Cade, he’d been lying in bed in one of the Dagda’s rooms, barely alive.  Would he be glad to see me?  Would he regret what he had done?  I bit my lip and tried to move faster to keep up with Fergus.
     We came to the point in the trail where the path led over the small land bridge and between two thick rows of willow trees.  On the other side was the small meadow where my normal, well, somewhat normal life had all started to go downhill.  I passed it without giving the memories of my first meeting with the Cúmorrig a second thought.  I walked a few steps further down the road, and then stopped dead in my tracks.  There, leaning against a tall eucalyptus tree, stood a tall young man.  Caedehn MacRoich.
     For a few breathless moments I merely stood there, my eyes taking him in, my heart galloping in my chest as my emotions tried to settle.  He wore the clothing of the Otherworld; brown leather pants with knee-length boots and a loose, cream colored shirt beneath a beautifully worked leather vest.  Instead of the old trench coat he had worn when we’d first met, he wore a long green cloak lined with fleece, the hood thrown over his head.  But I could see his face well enough.  He was pale, but not as pale as he had been after fighting the Morrigan’s - his mother’s - monsters.  His green eyes met mine and he smiled, but it was guarded, as if he was unsure of how I would react to his presence.  He looked worn down, weary, older almost, but I had never seen anything or anyone more beautiful in my entire life.
     Finally he spoke, only one word, but it was enough to make my scattered emotions burst forth.
     “Meghan,” he said, his tone so quiet I barely heard it.
     That was all it took.  The sob that had been hovering in my throat broke free and I dropped my bow and quiver.  Meridian took off in a flurry of white feathers and irritated chattering as I sprinted across the small space that separated us.
* * *