Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Fire Above by C. H. MacLean: Book Blitz with Excerpt

Date Published: April 13, 2015

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I love her so much, I'd risk anything.

She and I don't have names. We're just slaves, after all. But our hearts don't care, and we're lucky, we have a chance at a scrap of happiness in our terrible lives. My father is the Queen's pet.

But when my love discovers the lords' newest atrocity, she lashes out, does the unthinkable, and attacks one of them. Her courage is heroic, but now they have stuffed her in prison, getting ready to slaughter her.

 With nothing to lose, I dare to dream of a life far from the lords. I fight for our freedom, and escape to the woods with my love. We can do no less than free all of our people in the effort.

Our flight through the woods is only the start of our journey. The lords’ flaming attacks, their deception, the loss of so many of my people—I don't know if I will survive, or if I even want to. But for my love, I will do almost anything, even battle the fire above.


    In that moment of indecision, my love struggled to rise and moaned, “Run, you fool! If you love me, run!” A plan burst into my mind, born of desperate hope. Perhaps it would be enough. I had to try.

    The guards, distracted, turned to look at her.          

    “I'll be back for you,” I swore. I waited until they looked back at me, then turned and ran into the night.

    I could hear them pounding after me. I cut into the woods immediately, slowing down and making a great deal of noise. I looked over my shoulder and could see one clearly after me.

    I ran in a large circle, keeping the guard chasing as close as I dared. When I began to approach the castle again, I sped up to give myself a bit more time. If I could just knock down the guard near her, we might have a chance. But when I came in sight of the castle, I saw two guards standing in front of my love, each firmly grasping his weapon, ready to fight. A third stood behind her, looking into the forest. Looking for me.

    She stood, arms bound behind her, feet shackled together. I stumbled, tears clouding my vision. The crashing from behind me drew closer. I saw her face in the moonlight, beautiful and proud. She thought I’d gotten away. She’d sacrificed herself so I could escape. What would she say if I just threw it all away now?

    So I cut left, trying to gauge how far to go to miss the one chasing me and avoid the two edging forward. The guard chasing me caught up and angled his run to cut off my escape, edge me toward the other guards. Legs burning, lungs gasping, I ran as hard as I could. Exhausted and starving, I was no match for them, fit, fed, and well-rested as they were. But her face gave me strength. And they didn't run like I ran. They didn't know the woods like I did.

    The guard behind me dove, fingers brushing my shoulder. I leaped, grabbing a branch and swinging as the onrushing guard leaped at me. What would have knocked me down just grazed my swinging legs and sent him sprawling. Landing, I cut left close to another tree, and the last guard stumbled over a hidden tree root. I kept to the shadows, using the night to my advantage until I reached the common footpath away from the castle. Running away from the castle, my footfalls loud on the path, I slowed to an easy stride. I looked over my shoulder to see the guards burst from the woods and start running.

    They were still after me. Knowing my love was back there, I almost gave up, let them catch me. At least we would be together for a short while. Then I remembered the bandits. They had fighters,
 maybe they could free us both! Spurred on, I lengthened my stride, knowing the guards could never keep up. I ran like my life depended on it.

About the Author

              To young C. H. MacLean, books were everything: mind-food, friends, and fun. They gave the shy middle child’s life color and energy. Amazingly, not everyone saw them that way. Seeing a laundry hamper full of books approach her, the librarian scolded C. H. for trying to check them all out. “You'll never read that many before they expire!” C. H. was surprised, having shown great restraint only by keeping a list of books to check out next time. Thoroughly abashed, C. H. waited three whole days after finishing that lot before going back for more.

                With an internal world more vivid than the real one, C. H. was chastised for reading in the library instead of going to class. “Neurotic, needs medical help,” the teacher diagnosed. C. H.'s father, a psychologist, just laughed when he heard. “She's just upset because those books are more challenging than her class.”  C. H. realized making up stories was just as fun as reading, and harder to get caught doing. So for a while, C. H. crafted stories and characters out of wisps and trinkets, with every toy growing an elaborate personality.

But toys were not mature, and stories weren't respectable for a family of doctors. So C. H. grew up and learned to read serious books and study hard, shelving foolish fantasies for serious work.

                Years passed in a black and white blur. Then, unpredictably falling in love all the way to a magical marriage rattled C. H.'s orderly world. A crazy idea slipped in a resulting crack and wouldn't leave. “Write the book you want to read,” it said. “Write? As in, a fantasy novel? But I'm not creative,” C. H. protested. The idea, and C. H.'s spouse, rolled their eyes.

                So one day, C. H. started writing. Just to try it, not that it would go anywhere. Big mistake. Decades of pent-up passion started pouring out, making a mess of an orderly life. It only got worse. Soon, stories popped up everywhere- in dreams, while exercising, or out of spite, in the middle of a work meeting. “But it's not important work,” C. H. pleaded weakly. “They are not food, or friends, or...” But it was too late. C. H. had re-discovered that, like books, life should be fun too. Now, writing is a compulsion, and a calling.

                C. H. lives in a Pacific Northwest forest with five pets, two kids, one spouse, and absolutely no dragons or elves, faeries, or demons… that are willing to be named, at least.

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