Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing

Fantasy fans, time to rally!

on 26/05/2016

Wonderful news for all fantasy fans, especially family fantasy, all clean text!

One of my favourite contemporary authors, Marc Secchia, whose writing truly reads like a movie, has co-written a book with his daughter! A phenomenal enterprise in a world with dwindling family values, don’t you think?

On top of everything, the book will be out in June, just in time for the end of the school year.

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It gives me great pleasure that Marc has agreed to share a sneak peek into this adventure. Furthermore, you may soon expect an interview right here with both Marc and his creative daughter, on the book itself and also how it was working in a father-daughter partnership. So stay tuned because the interview will be coming soon, along with the buy links for the book. Mmmmmm, The Horse Dreamer is certainly on my family to-be-read list!

(All materials used in the post with Marc Secchia’s permission.)

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Book blurb

Surprise! (5th June release) An epic fantasy co-authored with my eldest daughter.

Trapped in a car wreck, crushed by a train. In seconds, Zaranna’s world is torn apart and she must start life anew, as a survivor. A double amputee.

Yet why does this promising equestrienne remember a flash of sulphurous fire, and a crimson paw hurling her mother’s car onto the train tracks? Why does a tide of beguiling butterflies flood her increasingly chaotic dreams?

As Zaranna Inglewood adjusts to life minus legs, plus gorgeous Alex, the paramedic who cut her body from the wreckage, she learns the terror of being hunted. Relentless and inimical, the enemy lures her to a world where dreams shape reality. Equinox. A world of equinoctial storms; lashed by titanic forces of magic, dominated by the Pegasi and their centuries-old enmity with Human Wizards and the Dragons. This is a world where a girl can Dream her destiny. Where her soul can fly, or be chained forever.

She is Zaranna, the Horse Dreamer. Survivor. Fighter. A girl who doesn’t need legs to kick an evil fate in the teeth. All she needs is courage–the courage to Dream.

Sneak peek into ch.1

Chapter 1: Double Loss

THE CAR PLUNGED over the barrier.

A flurry of branches shattered the windscreen. Glass sprayed Zaranna’s face. She heard a shriek–but had it been the sound of the car’s roof peeling off, or the voice of her own terror? The seatbelt slashed her neck as the car careened along, rattling her teeth like beans in a gourd shaker.

Momentarily, something eclipsed the full moon. Leathery arches. A flash of furnace-hot fire, suddenly snuffed out. There came a horrendous, unending series of collisions. Her mother’s blue Ford Focus bucked like a wild horse fighting its first taste of the rope. Zaranna choked on a slurry of mud, bitter leaves and glass shards. She flung out an arm as the dark earth reared up, but the force of the final impact hammered her forehead against the dash nonetheless.

She blacked out.

* * * *

“Zaranna! Zara! Oh, God, someone please help!”

A hand slapped her cheek, twice. Zaranna moaned, “Uh … don’t hit …” Her eyelids fluttered. “Mom? Is it morning?”

“Come on, baby girl. We’ve got to get you out. Now!”

The urgency in her mother’s voice cut right past a most annoying habit, calling her sixteen year-old daughter ‘baby girl’. Talk about embarrassing her in front of friends. But she had never heard her mother roar like this, not even when six year-old Zaranna had tried to calm a rearing horse, only to be kicked clean across the stall. She still wore that scar just beneath her fringe, top-right of her heart-shaped face. Spitting out a bitter scrap of leaf, she tried to glance about. To understand. Only, reality was obscured by smoke and pain and a coppery tang of blood in her mouth. She heard a sibilant whistling of escaping gases somewhere nearby.

Her mother’s hands tore at the seatbelt, at the dash, at her clothes. Thoughts and impressions faded into and out of her head as if they were the ends of trailing rainbows. Why couldn’t she feel her legs? Why could she see the stars overhead? Unclipped, the seatbelt snaked past her left ear. Her mother wrenched at her shoulders; Zaranna screamed the piercing note of a hunting hawk. Her knees!

She had never known such agony, a sightless, white-hot tidal wave that sank her into oblivion. When awareness returned, her mother had a tree branch wedged down past her trapped legs. She heaved at it with all her strength.

“Move! Open, curse you …”

Susan Inglewood never swore. Not even when she had sliced the tip off the ring finger on her left hand while chopping carrots last year. She had stared at the offending flap of skin as though it belonged to an imposter. Her mother heaved at the crumpled dashboard so hard that the metal groaned; weeping, kicking the car’s twisted door as she leaned in through the passenger window–where was the window? Nor was there a roof, just cool evening air all the way to the stars.

Zaranna’s head lolled helplessly, as though her neck muscles had been severed.

Her mind rambled, confused. August skies. Leaving her grandmother’s home near the tiny village of Lacey Green to begin the long drive north up the M40 to Yorkshire, the late afternoon sunshine painting the forested Chiltern hills in vibrant autumnal hues. Later, she must have drifted off to sleep.
She remembered waking to a honking sound before the flying–the horn blasted again, a deep, animalistic groan that rattled her teeth. Closer. Lights dazzled. A low rumbling communicated through her spine to her dull awareness.
They were on train tracks! She gasped, “Train! Get me out! Get me–aaaaahhh …”

The tearing! Her legs felt like wet strands of spaghetti, curled under the crumpled dash–a lunchbox-sized space that could never have contained her limbs, Zaranna realised. Something was wrong. Badly wrong. She was imprisoned in the wreckage.
She heard herself begging, somehow, above the escalating roar of the onrushing train and the hissing and squealing of brakes as the great juggernaut tried to slow in time, but it loomed inexorably … and her mother still yanked at her arm, her face a stark mask lit by the train’s headlights … the Ford Focus quaked … it was too close. Too late.

“Mom, go.”

“Baby–”

“Go!” She tried to shove her mother away.

Even the train’s frantic honking succumbed to the thunder of thousands of tonnes of steel bearing down on their family car. All was light. All was terror, and the visceral knowledge of certain death.

Zaranna did not know from where she summoned the strength to swat her mother, but the last she saw of her was a flutter of white blouse beyond the dazzling beams. She saw the world in flashes of stop-motion, the prisms of light cast by the train’s powerful headlights seeming to yearn toward her upturned face, knowing that her body had, incongruously, fallen from muscular spasm into limpness. Curiously, her eyes tracked a luminous carmine-and-yellow butterfly as it flitted across her vision. Surely a dream; a fragment of beauty spawned by the expiring despair of her mind.

Just once, she sighed for all that was lost of her life.
The train plowed into the driver’s side door with monstrous force, caving it in like an eggshell, flipping the small car into the air as it charged onward without a care.

Now she was flying, too.

* * * *

The sensation of flying resolved into a horse’s smooth canter. Zaranna rode her favourite horse, Misty Dawn, along a vast curve of pristine beach, miles and miles of bone-white sand broken only by a rusty shipwreck jutting out of the stark expanse in the distance. Fierce African sunshine baked her cascade of sun-bleached blonde tresses. Snow-white gulls cawed softly overhead in a cloudless blue ocean. Misty Dawn’s hooves thundered across the hard-packed sand in the first wash of surf, kicking up clouds of sea-foam which matched the colour of her coat.

Noordhoek beach, near Grandfather’s farm in Cape Town, was her favourite haunt in the world. Five miles of uninterrupted sand, as lonely as the skies were wide and the day long, a place where a free-spirited mare could fill her lungs with salty goodness and run until her heart pounded for the joy of the gallop. Misty Dawn jawed at the reins as though aware of her rider’s thoughts. Bareback, they seemed clothed of one flesh, the communication so instinctive that it transcended the need for speech. Without warning, the handsome mare flicked the creamy length of her mane–brushed out before sunrise that morning–and made a prancing series of dance-steps, before pinning back her ears and shooting the breeze with an abandon that filched Zaranna’s breath right out of her throat.

“Faster, Misty!” she laughed.

Misty Dawn kicked up her heels and showed the watching gulls why she had been a fine racehorse in her day, before a drunken groom had permanently injured the thoroughbred. The stable had decided to put her down. Zaranna’s father, Peter, brought her home one afternoon in a padded horse trailer. They spent the next three years rehabilitating the mare. Gradually, Misty’s terror of humans lessened and she learned to gallop again, but not as before. Her gait exhibited a noticeable hitch and she tired easily, but that fiery champion’s blood demanded daily exercise. Now, Zaranna and the horse she called her own had developed an understanding her father called extraordinary.

Only, what was Misty Dawn doing on Noordhoek beach?

The thrill of speed faded into puzzlement. Misty had never been to South Africa. She belonged on her parents’ farm in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, half a mile northeast of Malham hamlet.

Then, she realised that Misty’s hooves were no longer kicking up joyous sprays of seawater. Crazy. This was some dream.

“Misty? Are you flying?”

Tossing her mane, Misty Dawn fixed her with burning gaze, one eye literally aflame … and when she spoke, her voice was a growl issuing between fangs that lengthened before her rider’s incredulous eyes. “So, you’re finally awake? Time to die properly, Zaranna, daughter of–”

Back in the car, helplessly belted in as it plunged down a sharp embankment toward the train tracks, Zaranna’s scream blotted out the remainder of the creature’s words. Branches lashed her face. She flung out an arm to brace herself, but the impact cracked her head against the dashboard regardless.

She drowned in endless darkness.

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Thank you, Marc. Can’t wait for the interview!

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