Happy Book Birthday to my friend and fellow critique partner/writing group member, author Andrea Stanet. Her contemporary fantasy book, Umbra's Shadow, is released to the world today and now everyone can see what a talented writer she is. Merc is a bad-ass mercenary-she's become one of my favorite female characters in many of the urban and contemporary fantasies I've read-as has the hot fae guy, Dúl. There's an excerpt to enjoy and a giveaway too.
By Andrea Stanet
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Release Date: March 13, 2017
Keywords: Contemporary, Paranormal, Fantasy, Shapeshifter, Mercenary
Got a problem that needs a kick-ass mercenary to fix it? Merc’s your shapeshifter.
It’s been open season on changelings—human/faery hybrids—until word gets around: someone’s got their backs.
Merc relies on her unique shapeshifting talents to defend the poor and disenfranchised hybrids living on the fringes of a modern-day Hudson valley city. Perhaps her past spurs her to help—orphaned, unable to remember her parents or her original form, forced to survive alone until a kindly Changeling couple takes her in. But Merc also dreams of escaping the poverty and rescuing her boyfriend from the environment that feeds his addictions.
Dúl, a mysterious and seductive full-blooded fey, seems to offer Merc the way out. But the job he proposes will plunge her into the political wasp nest of the Dreaming World and its fey courts. Dúl hires her to rescue the female lieutenant of the Shadow Court’s king. But Morgan isn’t the only full-blood that’s disappeared.
Nothing is what it seems. A hidden player is capitalizing on the animosities within the four courts, and Merc must solve the puzzle before anyone else falls victim. Her investigation exposes the web of betrayals and lies ambushing the courts from without, or maybe from within.
No one could defeat this conspiracy alone. Merc must suppress her solitary nature and learn to work with a team, while Dúl enters into a bitter alliance with his most hated enemy. Amid this treachery, the magnetic attraction between Merc and Dúl deepens into a forbidden bond they are powerless to deny.
Even if she unravels the chaos plaguing the Dreaming, can she handle the truth about the full-blood she’s fallen for?
I’d been in the “dungeon,” nursing bruises and biding my time, for about an hour when the cage door clanged. I peeked over my shoulder from where I was standing next to the rickety bunk bed in the corner of my cell, resting my head in my arms against the top mattress. The bunk shielded a bucket. From the smell, I’d guessed the pail wasn’t empty, but I avoided confirming my suspicion.
The chubby guard shoved in a new cellmate and locked us in together. The new guy beamed at me like it was his birthday. Why would anyone smile about being tossed into a steel cell by a crook-nosed thug?
A ring of keys and a wooden baton landed onto the guard’s desk next to the equipment which had been taken from me. I put my head back on my arms.
From behind, I felt a tug on one of my two braids. Without thinking, I dropped toward the floor and swung my leg in an arc. My cellmate jumped over it. Fast. Impressive. I drew back my arm to strike.
He dodged again.
“Strange to find an infiltrator with such long hair,” my cellmate said.
In the middle of my next punch, I froze and hoped he didn’t notice how I had almost unbalanced myself. It was a matter of professional pride.
Damn. He’s good.
He could probably be useful to me, but I didn’t want the added responsibility. No, better to work alone. That way if I messed up, I had no one to blame but me.
“Sorry if I startled you, but the oddness of your hair compelled me to touch it.”
The oddness of his statement compelled me to respond. “What?”
“Your hair. Rare, considering your dark skin. And your lack of ear-piercing panic suggests work for Rebus, the Fringe’s own Robin Hood and mercenary agent.” My cellmate’s voice was deep and silky.
“I work for myself, and I work alone.” Telling other people what to do and trying to think for them could lead to trouble. I relaxed my stance and shook out my fists. “Let me get this straight. Since, by your account, I’m a thief with unusually long hair, you get a free pass to touch me?”
Having to deal with a psycho today didn’t factor into my plans.
My focus shifted away from him, but he continued. “It stands out. Makes you noticeable.”
After climbing to the top bunk where I had a better view, I glanced back at the newcomer, considered explaining, and then changed my mind. Thugs and molesters I could handle, but it was always better to avoid crazies, especially in the Fringe.
I examined his features now: tall and wiry—over six feet, olive skin, and dark eyes. Wavy, black hair hung over his forehead and framed his face, curling just above his lobes. A couple of years older than me. Twenty-four? He dressed in a high-end-trendy style—two hundred bucks for jeans ripped just so. The fashion choice was forgivable.
Finally, my gaze landed on something that could identify this guy. Pointed ears hidden by his hair. Aside from the intangible energy signature he gave off, the ears were the telltale sign of a fey. Probably full-blooded since changeling ears were a little more rounded, closer to their human side. What was a fey doing in the dungeon?
I pushed aside the question of why he had been detained. It wasn’t my business.
Sitting cross-legged on the thin mattress, decrepit springs digging into my butt, I reached up with my left hand toward the blue light and along the edge of the ceiling.
A zap rocked me back and sent a jolt up my arm. I grunted. The tips of my fingers were charred and stung as if I’d reached into a wasp nest. A scowl twisted my mouth as I processed the setback and climbed down to the bottom bunk. Leaning forward, elbows on knees, I worked out my next steps.
“I thought that looked like some sort of lightning spell ward.”
Please go away. I don’t have time for this.
He did not go away.
“So, what are you in for?” he said.
“Better question: are you stupid?”
“I can’t stand to see a damsel in distress.” He towered over me with a smirk and leaned down to whisper in my ear. “I can get us out of here.”
I laughed. “For a price, I’m sure. No thanks, fey. I’m fine.”
Who/What Inspires You, and How Does It Relate to Your Story?
I can manage to find inspiration in just about anything: dreams, books, movies, interesting people on the street, kids, politics, history, and even games. It is a horribly kept secret that I’ve been a gamer for many years—mainly board and role-playing games. Changelings are a common fantasy hybrid race (humans and faeries), going back to ancient legends, and therefore, not new to fantasy or gaming. Merc was born when I was making a character for a game my husband was running, and my own spin on the changeling mythology became Umbra’s Shadow.
While I was moved to incorporate things I see in everyday news—stories of domestic violence and issues of drug abuse—I am always equally struck by what I don’t see. There aren’t nearly enough badass, black, female protagonists in speculative fiction. This was brought home for me especially when working on the cover design for Umbra’s Shadow. At the time, there wasn’t a single African American ‘action hero’ image available. That ‘void’ in the genre played a major role in Merc’s creation.
History influences my work, and not just the past world events that everyone learns about in school. My own past colored many of the settings and events in this story. My memories of the Bahamas, growing up in New York, and the experience of branching out on my own all flavored Merc’s development, although I’m sure she has more fun than I did. Having a rich, non-human patron will do that for a girl.
Overall, I wove Umbra’s Shadow together using a broad spectrum of threads that I hope translate as meaningfully to the readers as they do to me.
About the author
A dream stalker, shadow man, vengeful steampunk siren, ghost, and now fey court intrigue—while Andrea Stanet doesn’t shy away from any genre, her passion is writing fantasy and horror fiction for various age groups. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies and an online literary magazine. Her most recent releases are “The Tradition,” a middle grade horror about were-crows, and “Song of Vengeance,” about a young performer whose father traps her dying spirit in a mechanical bird.
When not fixating on dragons and zombies, Andrea’s hobbies include running (clearly displaying masochistic tendencies), cycling (hills are only fun when going down), reading (anything and everything), and gaming (Cthulhu themed board games are favorites). Andrea lives in New York with her husband, two kids, a cat that thinks she’s a dog, and another cat that thinks he’s a mountain lion.
A $10 Roane Publishing Gift Card