Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book Blitz: Hidden by Megg Jensen

Excerpt #1:

Death lurked in the air that afternoon. Tressa sat by Grannas bedside, clasping hands with the woman who at ninety-three had outlived her entire generation.
“You are leaving tomorrow, yes?” Grannas liver-spotted hands shook. The rough-hewn walls seemed to close in. Tressa knew Granna didnt have much time left. She wanted to squeeze out every second she could with her.
The smell of tonic and medicine hung in the dark room. When the curtains were drawn, Grannas eyes watered. Adam, the village healer, said sunlight would help Granna, but Tressa knew the truth. Granna would leave her soon, leave the village, taking the only first-hand knowledge of the outside world with her. The tales of the outside world – a place no one in Huttons Bridge had seen since Granna was just a child. Not since the fog had descended on the borders of their village.
“Yes, Granna. You chose me, remember?” Tressa stroked Grannas hair with her free hand. The silver strands were still soft. “Me, Sean, and Connor.”
Granna nodded. “Yes, yes, I remember now.” A gasp preceded each breath, struggling against the inevitable finality of life. “Youre the only girl eligible this year.”
Tressas eyes dropped to the floor strewn with straw, the hem of her long, cotton dress sweeping it every time she moved. She was eligible only because shed never conceived. After three years of coupling, not one baby to show for it. Not even a failed pregnancy. The girls who did achieve pregnancy were never forced to leave. They were safe, protected. Tressa had felt the cold breath of death breathing down her back every time she didnt conceive.
“But, Tressa, it is your destiny to leave the village.”
Tressa held back a sigh. Granna was about to die herself. Why would she want her only great grandchild to follow her in death? No one who ever entered the fog returned to the village. It was as much of a death sentence as Grannas failing health.
Tressas palms began sweating. A tremble skipped up her arms to her chest where her heart pounded out an irregular, nervous beat.
Granna took another deep breath. Without looking at Tressa, she said, “The fog. You must leave. It is your destiny.”
Tressa managed to force out a small laugh. Grannas grave expression didnt fool. “Granna, dont you want me to live a long life, like you have?”
Granna shook her head. “Beyond the fog there is a life for you. I have seen it.”
No one had the gift of sight in her village. Granna claimed once there was magic. It was one element of her stories that made the outside world seem so desirable. Tressa would give anything for a magical potion to save her great grandmother. Instead, they could only rely on Adams knowledge of healing.
“But I was supposed to live to watch you leave. I saw it. I believed it would happen.” She took another breath, shallower this time. “I don’t know if I can hold on until tomorrow.” Grannas eyes flashed with anger. She held out one frail hand. An owl flew through the window, landing on Grannas fingers. The fogs undulating fingers caressed the trees limbs.
“Thats my Nerak.”
The little owl hooted in response.
“You take care of Tressa, Nerak. Help her to see the truth.”
The owls head bobbed, then it flew out the window and sat in the tree.
Tressa leaned down, kissing Granna on the forehead. Granna always said the downy owl had magic. Tressa had never seen it do anything other than the other trained birds in the village. Tressa sat up again. Granna was cold, too cold. Her skin paled into a gray pallor. Her blue eyes lost focus, gazing somewhere over Tressas shoulder.
“I love you, Granna,” she said.
“I love you too, my sweet Tressa.” Her voice rattled. Grannas eyelids fluttered, then closed with a finality only accompanied by death. One last breath expelled, but her lungs didnt take in another whiff of air.
Tressa laid Grannas hand on her stomach. Taking a step back, she took one last look at the woman who had loved her every moment of her life. Tressas mother died in childbirth and her father had left through the fog. Like all of the others, three a year for the last sixty-seven years, none of them returned. Two hundred and one souls lost to the fog.
Tressa was next.

Excerpt #2

Bastian watched Tressa run away. Same as always. Unless their best friend Connor was there, Tressa wouldn’t stand in Bastian’s presence any longer than necessary. Not even today, when she needed him.
He turned to the direction of his cottage, not eager to go home. He’d been at the forge for a couple hours, pounding out metal in intense late summer heat. He was ready for a break, but hearing of Sophia’s death was not what he anticipated for the day.
Bastian’s intention had been to grab a snack and a long drink of water, but going back to his cottage meant facing his wife. They had come together the same way every other couple in the village had.
Once the council checked the lineage charts, they placed ribbons with the eligible men’s names written on them. The woman would choose a ribbon and that man would be her mate for three months. If the woman conceived, they were bonded. If not, the process began again.
Bastian had his chance with Tressa. He’d loved her too and when it was confirmed she hadn’t conceived, both of their worlds fell apart. They were forced to move on with others. His coupling with Vinya was successful the first month – and he’d hated himself every moment of it. It felt like a betrayal.
He walked through the town, invisible to everyone despite his height and red hair. Silence was his way and people had learned to ignore him. They spoke in whispers, everyone concerned with what was to come next. Bastian couldn’t be bothered with it. As long as the fog surrounded Hutton’s Bridge, nothing mattered. He was trapped.
The door swung open before he could place hand on the handle.
“Bastian. You’re late. I’ve had your snack waiting for some time. Why can’t you ever do anything right?” Vinya sighed and stepped out of the way. Her eyes, so accusing, raked down his chest. “And you’re filthy. Can’t you ever remember to wash before coming home? I work so hard to maintain this dump you call a cottage, just so my daughter and I have a decent place to live. Maybe you could be respectful of us for once?”
Bastian nodded. He’d learned long ago that words wouldn’t soothe her feral soul. Vinya was determined to strip away any semblance of manhood he had. At first he found her attitude amusing. Now he wished her lips would fall off.
Ignoring her huffing, he sat down at the table next to his daughter, Farah. “How are you, baby girl?” He ruffled her curls.
Vinya slapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t touch her with your filthy hands.”
“Good, Papa.” Farah ignored her mother too. At two, she’d already learned to cope with the circumstances. “Wanna nut?” She held out a walnut in her tiny hand.
Bastian’s fingertips were almost as big as her palm. He plucked the nut and tossed it in the air, catching in it in his mouth. Farah squealed and clapped.
“Again! Again!” She scrambled for another nut.
Vinya slapped Farah’s backside with the broom bristles. “Stop it, now. Go lay down for a nap.” Farah nodded, dropped a quick kiss on Bastian’s cheek, and ran through the door to her little room.
“You don’t have to be so harsh with her, Vinya.” Bastian said between mouthfuls of bread. “She’s still a baby.”
“Speaking of babies…” Vinya sat down at the table next to him. “It’s about time we try to conceive a second. Our village needs children to survive.” She reached out, running her fingertips along his arm. “It’s been so long since –”
Bastian looked up at her. Vinya had loosened her top. She dipped her chin and fluttered her eyelashes at him. Long ago, that move worked. He was younger. More eager. Trying to drown out his frustration about losing Tressa.
Now he didn’t want anything to do with Vinya.
“Sophia died.”
Vinya’s hand snapped back as if he’d burned her. “Finally. That woman was too old. Taking up resources the rest of us need.”
Bastian held back the urge to slap her. He’d never raised a hand to anyone, much less Vinya, but there were moments he fanaticized about it. “She was loved deeply by many in this village.”
Vinya snorted.
“What?” He asked it even though he knew he shouldn’t.
“You’re only worried about your precious little Tressa. Just like always.” Vinya stood up and continued sweeping the floor. The dirt among the rushes didn’t stand a chance against her fury. “Well, after tomorrow that won’t be a problem anymore. Maybe once the fog swallows her, you’ll be back in my bed. She’ll be forgotten and we can finally have a proper marriage.”
Bastian stood up, wiped the crumbs off his hands over the plate, and placed it in the washbin. He scrubbed with the cloth, sure he would wear a hole in the metal plate. “You shouldn’t speak of death like that.”
It had been feeding on his soul every day since Tressa’s name was chosen three months ago. He’d sought her out repeatedly, but never had the strength to say what he wanted. That he missed her. He loved her. He wanted her to stay in the village and live a long life even if he could never touch her again.
“I can’t wait for Tressa to die.” Vinya stood defiant, her hands clutching the broom’s handle. “I’ll finally have you all to myself.”
Bastian glared at Vinya. “You will never have me. Never again. You make me sick.” He tossed the plate on the table. It slipped and fell to the floor. Neither made a move to pick it up. Bastian strode across the room and through the doorway. He slammed the door behind him, not caring who saw.
She’d gone too far.

Hidden by Megg Jensen
(Dragonlands #1)
Genres: Fantasy
Publication date: January

The mystery enshrouding Hutton’s Bridge is as impenetrable as the fog that descended at its borders eighty years ago. Each year, three villagers enter the mist searching for answers. No one ever returns.
Then a dragon falls from the sky to the town square, dead—the first glimpse of an outside world that has become nothing more than a fairy tale to Hutton’s Bridge. Except to Tressa.
Tressa grew up with Granna’s stories of the days before the fog fell. When Granna dies, leaving Tressa without any family, Tressa ventures into the fog herself, vowing to unravel the foul magic holding Hutton’s Bridge captive.
What she discovers beyond the fog endangers the lives of everyone she loves.

I've been a freelance parenting journalist since 2003 and began writing YA novels in 2009. I live in the Chicago suburbs with my husband, two kids, and our miniature schnauzers, Ace & Tanu.

For more information on me please visit my website at http://www.meggjensen.com

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