Friday, 7 April 2017

Indiesphere Feature - In a Blue Moon (Blue Moon #1) by R.A. Desilets

In a Blue Moon
(Blue Moon #1)
Author: R.A. Desilets
Genre: YA Fairy Tale Retelling
Publication Date: May 20th, 2016

Book Description:
When Effy stumbles down the rabbit hole, she discovers the wondrous fairy tale land of East Valley in chaos. Death and insanity reign after the release of the deadly blue moon curse. Teaming up with the only sane people left—Jack the giant killer, Hansel, and Cat from Cheshire—they traverse East Valley, desperately searching for an answer.

They know Effy’s the key to unraveling the curse, but everyone who remembers how to break the curse is… well, cursed. The murderous mob has Effy in their crosshairs. With Snow, Red, Rapunzel, Gretel, and Pinocchio on the group’s trail, Effy isn’t sure any of them will make it out alive.

Buy Links:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30229219-in-a-blue-moon

EXCERPT

It was chaos, and I stood in the middle of it. People in strange medieval garb rushed around me, attacking each other with a fury I never thought possible. Their feet shuffled against the cobblestones, clashing with the noise of metal clanging against metal.

This had to be a dream. Dreams started like this, with some non sequitur into an unknown world. Except I had memories before this, didn’t I? Something had happened to bring me to this very place. The more I searched my mind, the more fog I discovered clouding my brain. It intensified my belief that this was, indeed, a dream.

Garbled war cries rose from the crowd around me. One of the screams was cut short by the swish of a sword slicing flesh. These people—no, these things—had maces, swords, and steel shields. Each weapon slashed left and right with precision. A sword sparked as it crashed against another at a perfect angle. These kinds of weapons—this kind of movement—didn’t exist. In fact, the Tudor-style homes lining the street weren’t anything like the ranchers we had back home. I had wanted to see a Tudor revival for a long time, which was why I had taken an extra design course.

Two votes for a dream. Medieval weapons one, Tudors two.

The third was the amount of blood. It wasn’t humanly possible to bleed enough to make the cobblestones slick, I didn’t care how many people were involved in the fight. There was no logical way. Occasionally, I caught sight of a patch of clean gray stones, contrasting against the deep red that had spilled onto the others.

I almost gagged when I realized I was standing in a pool of it. Blood seeped around my shoes, and there was something about my shoes… Something I needed to realize about them. A mental fuzz surrounded my brain, and the thought flitted away. Why was it so hard to focus?

“Oi!” I jumped at the loud, grumbling voice. “It’s a wee little girlie. Look at what she’s wearing!”

My eyes shot up, boring straight into the offending—ogre? He towered over my five-foot-seven self, at least two, if not three, feet taller than me and thicker than a redwood. Tusks curled out of his lower jaw framing his pudgy snout. Dream or not, the wrinkles across his face were entirely too real—he was entirely too real. I gulped.

Another set of beady eyes shifted in the crowd, focusing on me. A lanky man turned and stepped up next to the ogre, forgetting the person he had been sword fighting. Upon closer inspection, this guy wasn’t a man at all. His eyes were too narrow, his build too tall and slender. Earrings lined his pointy ears. Everything screamed elf, but that didn’t make sense, did it? Elves and ogres were notorious enemies, at least in all the fantasy I’d ever read.

“Aye, such fine ‘air. We should scalp ‘er. Bet it’ll earn us a pretty.” His eyes roamed over my body. I took another step backward, feeling completely violated as a smile slithered across his lips.

“No, let’s send her to the fishes!” the ogre bellowed, deep and guttural.

It’s a dream, I repeated. It’s a dream. This was my new mantra, but it wasn’t doing anything to calm my racing heart. Scalping? Who does that?

Moonlight glinted off of the ogre’s ax, and I finally noticed the blood. Thick and dark red. My stomach churned; these two wouldn’t blink twice if they decided to kill me. These two were already monsters.

“Actually, I was just heading out.” I wrinkled my nose as if this were a normal conversation with two completely normal people.

A hand grabbed mine, and I whirled around. I had taken in too much information and couldn’t think. I threw my fist forward, aiming to hit the offender as hard as I could. Maybe if I distracted these men—these monsters—with one good punch, I could disappear into the chaotic crowd. If that didn’t work, at least I would go down fighting.

My fist was a second away from connecting with a younger guy’s face when he skipped to the side, like a choreographed dance. This guy was no older than me, with dark hair draping in front of his dark brown eyes. I glared at him.

“Hey!” he yelled and reached for my hand again.

I slapped his away. “Get away from me!” I took one step backward, only to walk into the broad chest of the ogre. I looked up, and he smiled a big, rotting grin. Okay, maybe that had been a bad decision.

“I’m only trying to help…” the guy said, shrugging.

“The girlie’s staying with us,” the ogre said.

“The girlie is leaving. By myself,” I said. It sounded a lot cooler in my head.

Before I could take a step away from them, the normal looking guy pulled me forward into his arms. His speed was impressive, and I almost tripped over my own feet from the sudden force. I tried to wiggle my hand free so I could slap him. I froze when something whirred by my ear. The ends of my hair curled as the ax combed through them. This guy had pulled me out of the way just in time.

“Are you going to come with me now?” he asked, his eyes narrow. His lips were too close to my face, and this whole situation sent my synapses into overload. The crowd, the chaos, the noise, the death; it was all too much. As if to accentuate the thought, a large, round object flew through the sky above the crowd. In the blue moonlight, it took me a moment to realize it was a severed head.

The absurdity of it almost made me laugh, but it got choked coming out of my throat. “Sure,” I managed. He didn’t need to spend any more time convincing me. The severed head and the ax were enough.

“You can’t take ‘er. We needs ‘er ‘air,” the tall one insisted, flashing his scimitar.

“Sorry, boys. That doesn’t work for me.” My rescuer pushed me behind him, pulling out his own sword.

I swallowed. What had I gotten myself into?

The ogre laughed, sizing up the guy. Both the monsters had a bigger build than him, and it was clear by the looks on their faces they felt pretty good about their chances. “What makes you think we’ll give her up so easily?”

The side of the guy’s lips twitched upward, creating the illusion of a smile. “Gentlemen, it’s me, Jack. The giant killer?” He did a small bow, taking a step back. I took the hint, easing my way into the crowd. “Surely you don’t want to fight me. We all know how this is going to end.”

The two monsters exchanged a look, but even with the warning, the ogre still took a step forward. He readied his ax.

Before the ogre settled into a stance, Jack had disarmed him with one swift movement. The ax flew into the crowd, causing a hysteric cry of pain from whomever it hit. The tip of Jack’s sword aimed steadily at the ogre’s throat.

“You didn’t see anything tonight, got it? No girl, no weird clothes.” He didn’t wait for a response and turned toward me, a smirk spreading across his face. “Shall we?” He snatched my hand and dragged both of us through the crowd.

Fine, maybe I needed to be rescued after all, but it was just a dream. If I had died, I would have woken up in my bed with my heart racing. Maybe I would have screamed. No big deal.

Except the feeling I had in the back of my head unsettled me as it crawled along the stem of my brain. My shoes. I was usually barefoot in dreams. A quirk, yes, but it was a rule my subconscious rarely broke. And right now, I had shoes on.

Jack ducked, dodging an arrow by a few inches. My eyes widened. How could he be so aware of the scene around him? The crowd was in such a fury there didn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason for anyone’s actions. I had trouble focusing on one person long enough to register the pained expression on their face, let alone pay attention to the weapons around me. Jack navigated the chaos like he thrived on it.

We rounded a corner, and the crowd thinned a bit. Voices grew more distinct, but none of their screaming made any sense.

“You put one too many thumbs in my pies!”

“Crying wolf, that’s all you’ve ever been good for! You’re a terrible shepherd!”

“Why don’t you go eat some more peppers, Peter, you fat cow!”

It was obvious how frustrated these people were, how annoyed and angry, but was that any reason to go on a killing spree? My subconscious must be dealing with some mental block, something I needed to deal with in the waking world. The time period had to mean something too, right? Maybe there was an event in my past I wasn’t listening to.

The more I tried to justify my dream, the more I questioned why I was still asleep. Shouldn’t I have woken up by now? Whenever my dreams became lucid, I woke up. Always.

Jack turned the corner abruptly, heading down an alleyway with a dead end. I shook him off once we were out of eyesight and rubbed my shoulder. “Jeez, you could be a little gentler.”

“No time,” he spoke with crisp, direct words; his voice deep. His cheekbones looked more hollow in the blue light seeping into the alley. Blue light had to mean something too, right? “Where did you come from?” Jack stepped closer to me, and I shrank back. He eyed me expectantly.

“What do you mean?”

“Where did you come from?” he repeated slower, as if I hadn’t heard him the first time.

“This is dream, so it doesn’t really matter, right?”

He closed the gap between us, standing so close I could feel his breath on my face. It was heavy and oppressive, but his eyes flashed with urgency. “Try to remember. Before you got into the crowd, where were you?” A hint of panic whispered through his words, demanding my focus.

Before the crowd. I closed my eyes, searching through shredded memories. They were jumbled, confusing, almost non-existent. “I was falling, tumbling, which is perfectly normal for a dream.”

“I need to know. What else do you remember?” He rested his hands on my shoulders.

Suddenly, I wasn’t feeling so good about being in an alley with this guy. “Look.” I weaseled out of his grip and walked to the other side of the narrow passage. It was a stupid move, because it was farther from the exit, but it was either face this guy or an angry mob. I’d take my chances against the one. “I’m going to wake up in like five minutes. And when I do, none of this will matter.”

Jack closed the gap again. I backed up against the far wall, and he stood over me. He placed his hands on the wall, leaning toward me. “What happened after you fell?! I wouldn’t ask stupid questions at a time like this. This is important.”

“Fine, just stop getting so close to me!”

He pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. He let out a long breath and conceded by taking a step back. “Okay, I’m sorry. This isn’t very gentlemanly of me, is it?” I shook my head. “What’s your name?”

“Effy. Effy Camden.”

“Effy,” he snorted. I narrowed my eyes, and he realized I was being serious. “Okay, Effy. I’m Jack, and I saved your head from getting severed by an ogre and a bloodthirsty elf. Now, can you please tell me what happened after you fell?”

I breathed, thinking. It was like searching through a cloud. There were hollow patches of memory, blank spots where something used to be. Maybe my conscious mind couldn’t reach me here, but I could remember last week, last month, last year. I could remember my friends, the teachers I loved and hated, and my parents. Everything was there, but not the end of last night. I had gone to a concert with Alyssa. That was the last thing I remembered before falling. The last memory I had was of her grinning face in the back of the concert hall.

Sometime later, I fell. “There was a room with tiny furniture, the littlest things I’d ever seen. I knew I had to get out.” I shook my head, trying to piece these bits together. “I had to get out of that room because a man was chopping through one wall, trying to get in. So I broke a hole through the opposite wall, crawled out, and then, well, I was in the middle of the street.”

Why hadn’t I remembered it before now? It all felt so clear. Me, falling into that room, staring at the tiny furniture I had crushed beneath my feet. My shock when the end of an ax sliced through one of the walls. My terror as I tried to escape, peeling the drywall back with my fingernails.

“The man—I think he was a man—was wearing overalls and a plaid shirt.”

“Woodcutter.” Jack shook his head. “Such a shame.”

“What?”

“Nothing.” He offered me a rueful smile, but no further explanation. “So, you’re the new Alice.”

“What?” I choked out a laugh.

He smirked, one corner of his mouth displaying his white teeth. “The new Alice. Come on, I’ll explain everything later, but we need to get out of here. And you need to trust me. Can you do that, for now?”

I nodded. Saving my life had to count for something, even if he was completely unaware of personal space.

“Glad we’re on the same page.” Jack turned around and stopped cold. I leaned to the side, looking over his shoulder. There was a man standing at the end of the alley, blocking our exit.

He had straw-gold hair, perfectly parted down the side. It looked like it had been cut yesterday. Whereas Jack was rough around the edges, this guy was proper. His back straightened as he looked from Jack to me. His lips twitched as his eyes shifted back to Jack.

“We’re taking the girl.” While his voice was calm, it was confident and demanded attention. His words captured both of us in reverie for a second.

My eyes traveled over the guy, picking up every detail about him. His clothes were pressed, his tunic straight, and his belt cinched it all together. He wore ankle boots with the bottom of his pants tucked in, like some charming prince out of a fairy tale. The only thing separating him from a storybook was the knife clutched in his white-knuckled grip. It was obvious he didn’t wield one often.

He shifted his arm, and the knife gleamed red. He must have seen me watching, because he brought the blade up, a full smile spreading onto his lips. A drop of blood fell onto the cobblestones. He stuck his tongue out and ran it along the sharpened edge of the knife. I was horrified, disgusted, and utterly entranced.

I swallowed. No matter how prim and proper this guy looked, he was anything but.

“Now is not the time, Charming.” Jack shifted his stance, ready.

“Now is never the time, is it Jack?” He took a casual step forward, waving the knife as if it were nothing more than a dull twig. “Tell me, how is it you can spend all your years slaying giants, but can never seem to get a girl? You have to go after the only outsider in East Valley. It’s pathetic, really. Do you know where this street rat came from?”

“Hey!” I took a step forward, but when the guy’s eyes flitted to mine, dark and brooding, I remembered the knife in his hands—the knife was painted red. I frowned, desperately wanting to smack him.

“Let me take her off your hands.”

“Let us go,” Jack growled.

The smile faded from the guy’s face. “I don’t think so.”

Two other men stepped around the corner. They looked exactly like the first guy, except for their hair. They sported the same chiseled features, same full lips, same straight nose… but they all had different hair. The guy on the right had a black pompadour curving away from his face. The guy on the left had brown hair, cropped close to his head. Their faces made me take a step backward. It was impossible—they were impossible.

It’s a dream, I reminded myself. Just a dream.

“Let. Us. Go,” Jack repeated, accentuating each word with a warning.

There was no way out. We were trapped. I frantically searched the alley. My eyes scrambled over everything, but there was no magic escape route. Just some discarded trash, not much use to anyone. Jack had his sword, and I had nothing.

“Not a chance,” the three answered in unison. It made my bones turn to ice hearing the same commanding voice coming from three different people.

“Who are they?” I hissed.

“Prince Charmings. Annoying, but usually harmless.”

“They don’t look harmless.”

They smiled in unison. “That’s because we’re not.” Without any further prompting, the three of them charged down the alley toward us. The blond got to Jack first, striking out with his knife. Jack dodged easily, with smooth movements. He was light on his feet, almost treating the fight like a dance. The brunette stayed focused on Jack, waiting for the perfect opportunity.

I shuffled back, farther away from them, but the black-haired guy caught my eye. He prowled toward me. I had never been in a fight, much less faced someone bigger than me. But if this guy was going to charge, I was going to try my hardest to… well, do something. Anything was better than nothing at this point. I pressed back against the far wall of the alley, eyes trained on the approaching Charming. I could hear Jack struggling with the other two.

I hoped he would be okay.

The other guy slid a few feet closer to me. “This is cute.”

“What?”

“You.” He tilted his head to the side. “It’s like a game of cat and mouse. But you know who always wins, right?” His smile turned sinister, darkening his cheekbones.

I gritted my teeth. I was not a toy, and I was not prey. I refused to answer him; I didn’t want to give him the pleasure of a response.

“The way I see it, you only have one option.”

“Oh?”

A smile stretched across his face. “Come with us. We won’t hurt you.”

“Oh yeah, sounds totally reasonable.” I squeezed farther into the corner of the alley as he took another step forward. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was because I wanted to keep him talking for as long as possible. Talking meant not attacking, and I’d take whatever seconds of safety I could get. So I asked, “What are you?”

“I’m a prince.”

“Yeah, Jack said that, but you can’t—”

“We’re all princes. We’re Prince Charming; here to rescue you.”

I blinked. This dream, this was unreal. I recounted the stories in my head, running through the fairy tales I knew. These guys had looked familiar, but different at the same time. Real, fleshy, not like the animated versions I was used to seeing. The princes never had names, did they? Rose, Cinderella, Snow… They all had a prince—these princes? And if these were the Prince Charmings, why were they being so violent?

“Well, that makes sense then,” I nodded, hoping my voice was steadier than how I felt. I forced a smile to my lips, but was pretty sure I managed to grimace. “I wish you had explained it earlier.”

There had to be a way out. There had to be something I could—that’s it. A broken piece of wood lay on the ground, discarded with the trash. It wasn’t much, but it would be better than fighting without a weapon.

“I’ll just get my things and come with you.” Before I finished the sentence, I lunged for the piece of wood as the Charming ran toward me. I snatched it off the ground and whirled around, swinging it has hard as I could. The wood smashed into the side of his head, sending vibrations all the way up my arms. The light in his eyes faded as he slipped out of consciousness. His body dropped to the ground.

My breaths came fast and heavy. I turned around, ready to help Jack, only to see him crouching and casually cleaning a bloody dagger off on the blond’s white shirt. His sword was already sheathed.

“Well, it took you longer than I had hoped, but honestly, I didn’t expect you to knock him out. Not in that outfit.” Jack scanned me, and I looked down.

My cheeks flushed. The shoes I wore were the same ones from last night—last night when I had gone to a concert with Alyssa. The rest of my clothes? They were meant to be worn for a girl’s night out, certainly not as run-for-your-life attire. My top was too low-cut for everyday wear. I adjusted it, realizing how low it had sunk in the struggle. The jeans I wore were also a bit too constricting to really kick butt in.

“You know, you could be grateful I’m not completely useless.” I tossed the wood back into the trash heap. It thudded against the ground. “I mean, I could have screamed and woken up, right?”

Jack let out a sigh as he stood up. “No, you wouldn’t have woken up. I’ll keep telling you until you believe me, Effy: this is not a dream.” He placed the dagger in his belt; it hung next to the sword. “If we’re going to continue on together, you need to trust me with these things. First, this isn’t a dream. And second, you can’t trust anyone unless I tell you it’s okay to trust them.” He held up his fingers.

I crossed my arms, glaring at him.

“And third, no more of your stupid protesting thing. It’s going to get us killed and waste time—time we don’t have.” His brown eyes narrowed, challenging me.

I opened my mouth, but he reached a hand up toward my face. “Fine!” I slapped his hand away. “Just stop patronizing me.”

He frowned as the roar of the crowd grew louder. “Time to get out of here.” He grabbed my hand—so much for not patronizing me—and we plunged into the street.

Jack was steady on his feet and guided us through the thinning crowd with ease. In any other circumstance, I would have been more upset with the hand-grabbing thing, but since everyone seemed hellbent on murder, I let it slide. As long as he kept me safe, I could put up with a lot worse.



About the Author
Rachel A. Desilets was raised in a small New Hampshire town, but left it behind to attend Emerson College in Boston. After graduating with a degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, she moved to southern California.

Working as a barista, she somehow turned her life into a cliché and met her husband while serving him coffee. They fell in love, got married, adopted a bunch of cats, and moved to the rainy side of Oregon.

When she's not writing, she plays video games, drinks tea, reads way too much (though, she wonders if there is such a thing as too much reading), and snowboards.

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1 comment:

  1. Great read. Would make a fantastic movie. I particularly like the ending and anxiously await the sequel.

    ReplyDelete