Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Erika Gardner ~ an interview and her novel ~ a Dragon in the Garden

Erika Gardner

Author Bio:
Erika is an author and storyteller who is fortunate enough to have her first book just published.  The Dragon in The Garden is available on all eFormats through Tirgearr Publishing out of County Meath, Ireland.
When she is not marketing to insure Dragon’s success, Erika continues to create new stories and characters that she loves.  There are a lot of voices in her head and she hopes to let each one of them live.  While she enjoys writing poetry and short stories, she especially loves writing fantasy and has completed two more novels. In addition to Dragon she also has an epic fantasy novel, Spells Of A Mortal’s Weaving and another contemporary fantasy novel, Sea Strand.  At present she is close to completing a new urban fantasy novel called Galliano Greys, introducing the magnificent female P.I., Charlie Watts.
Erika resides in Northern California with her incredibly hot husband, their three amazing kids and their chocolate Labrador, Selkie. 


Q: When you think of a garden, do you picture vegetables or flowers?
A:  Can I be contrary and choose a third option? Is that cheating? I actually think of succulents. I live in Northern California and around our pool we have a succulent garden. They have so many different colors, shapes, and textures. When they bloom they are truly stunning. They have a certain doing their own thing air that appeals to my geeky, Dungeons & Dragons personality. My philosophy is to fly your personal freak flag high and proud. Be you- there’s no else like you.

Q: What kind of music do you listen to? Do you have an all-time favorite song?
A: I listen to a great variety of music but if it’s me trapped on an island then I will go with heavy metal every time. Favorite song? Eek, that’s rough one. It touches at the “picking between my children” nerve.  No One Like You by The Scorpions, Nemo by Nightwish and Fear of The Dark by Iron Maiden are go to favorites, always.

Music also has a huge impact on my writing. Each novel I tackle invariable ends up with a soundtrack of sorts. For this book, The Dragon in The Garden, the album Learning to Fly by Yes was what I wrote to. Not metal, but certainly inspiring.

Q: How do you feel about exercise?
A: LOVE it!!! I started running competitively in grammar school and continued through high, college, on to present day. I actually coach middle school cross country and track and those kids, their love of the sport, and the comradely of the team are some of the things in my life that I proudest of. I call them my adorable turkeys. Their heart, joy in life, and willingness to lay everything out on the course inspire me every day.  When I am creating a book I put on the Iron Maiden, hit the trail, and dream a new world.


Q: Do you write long hand first, or does it go straight into the computer?
A:  In college I would often write long hand and most of my first novel (which is sitting a drawer because it’s crap) is long hand. The computer is simply faster. I can save multiple drafts, move text around, try different things. Plus, the value of spell check cannot be overstated. I still sit down and journal, outline, create maps, family trees, you name it. The one thing I do not do is draw my characters. I haven’t the gift. I mean, at seven I did a pretty nifty rainbow, but sadly that was my zenith.

Q: Are you a sit down and play it by ear kind of writer, or do you need a structured guideline, or maybe a little of both?
A: Ideally, I outline as much as possible. That being said, sometimes my outlines are just so lame. For instance one time, in a fit of brilliance, I wrote on my chapter outline, “they escape.” Really, Erika? How? When? Details, oh mighty author, where are the details? 

There also times when I am working within the outline and bam! a character, a situation, a conversation takes the bit in their mouth and we’re off! Usually that is some of the best, most inspired writing so I just go with it.

Q: What geographical locations are your favorite and why?
A:  Actually, I tend to write about the places that I know and love. For me, that means Northern California, United States settings. My first novel, an epic fantasy (yes, the one stuck in a drawer) is set in the town that I grew up in- Santa Rosa. The Dragon in the Garden is set in Calistoga and Jenner. Sea Strand (a book of souls lost and found at sea) is set in Half Moon Bay and Pismo Beach. Finally, my latest book (still in progress), Galliano Greys, is about a female P.I. in downtown San Jose. She, Charlie Watts, is a bit of a badass. I flipping love her!


Q: How can we reach you?
A: You can follow me on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.

To reach Erika regarding all dealing supernatural, wine recommendations, or to debate which Iron Maiden album is the best (clearly, it’s Brave New World) you can email her at erika6390@gmail.com.


When A Hag Comes to Call- Chapter Eleven

I woke filled with the dreadful certainty that I was not alone. Blinking, I tried to see around me. In the faint light, I discerned the shape of a man sitting in a chair by the window. I started to cry out when I realized a faint, growing luminosity filled the room. It came from me. I glowed with a silvery light. A slender illuminated cord came off me, traveling upward. Pulses of energy flowed along the cord away from my body, leaving me drained and weak. Movement seemed incredibly difficult, impossible. As my eyes followed the shining strand aloft, I saw in sick horror that some kind of creature hovered above me.
I couldn’t figure out at first if this dreadful phantasm actually lived. Fragile, paper-like skin covered its skeletal frame. She? He? I couldn’t say, but the thing’s emaciation made it difficult to tell if skin actually covered those bones. The thing appeared all cheekbones, its features shrunken and shriveled. The being possessed wild, wispy hair so white it shone in the shimmering glow projected from my body. The strands floated in all directions around the apparition as did its robes, more rags than clothing. I was grateful for anything shrouding any part of the wraith-like figure.
I’ll never, for all my days, be able to explain the dread radiating from its presence. The sensation came from the thing’s eyes. They burned with an electric red, yet, this flame burned in a cold fire, devoid of any warmth or compassion. Though it wore a humanoid form, nothing remotely human emanated from it.
 I drew in breath to scream for Daisy, Turel, anyone. More than anything I wanted to call for help, to be as loud as possible. Instead, I whimpered. No other sound came. The thing turned its withered head to the man in the chair. “Abraxas, it speaks. Never do they talk.”
“That’s because they usually don’t wake up and even if they did, they couldn’t see you,” explained the man named Abraxas. “This one is special.”
“Yes,” it rasped. “I see it is. I like it, so delicious, my ducky.” The thing’s voice rasped as thin and emaciated as its form. The death rattle sound of those words conjured nightmares from the dark corners of my mind, places where nameless terrors lurked, and my fears scurried like beetles under a rock. The faint smell of death and decay clung to the air around us.
“What are you?” I managed to whisper. My voice sounded faint, a breath, nothing more.
The thing floating over me cackled, an insane, evil sound. “Now it speaks to me. I love its fear. See it? So pretty, wants to run and hide, but can barely move.” It drifted an inch or two closer to me and I cringed, but couldn’t look away; its hellish eyes consumed me. “Soon it will never move again. Never, ever move, little pig.”
Abraxas snorted at the creature. “Why the pet names, Hag?”
The nightmare above me reached out with one bony finger as though to tap my face. Locked inside my head, I became a screaming, gibbering thing, beyond rational thought. It didn’t touch me though; it moved the finger back and forth as though conducting an invisible orchestra, its blood-red eyes burning into me. “It is food for me. I am calling it food names it understands, so it will know, it will suffer. Going to eat you, pretty lamb, eat you up.” It made a slithering noise, a slurping sound.
I strained again to scream, but only mustered a gasp. “Why? What are you?” Speech grew even more difficult. The draining left me a shadow of myself. So tired, so very tired.
Abraxas shifted in his chair and fumbled around in his pockets. The faint flick of a lighter registered and then came a small flame as he lit a cigar. As he puffed furiously I had my first glimpse of his face and shuddered. Abraxas wasn’t human.
I’d lay odds he looked human to anyone else gazing upon him. However, to my eyes, even weakened, I saw the clever-faced demonic visage peering out from under the sharply dressed businessman exterior. It was as if he wore a people suit. He smiled at me with wickedly pointed teeth. Abraxas puffed on the cigar and remarked in a matter-of-fact voice, “You should save your strength. I have already answered your question.”
“Yes,” hissed the creature above me. “Save for me, all of you for me.”
I made my lips move. “No, you didn’t.”
The sound came out so softly, I didn’t know if I said it out loud, but Abraxas heard me anyway. His eyebrows flipped up in surprise. He leaned forward, exposing short, pointy horns on his head like a goat, or to more accurate, like a devil. He puffed his cigar. “Certainly, I answered you, she’s a Hag.”
“Hag,” agreed the terrifying vision above me. “Riding you, taking you, soon all gone.”
Abraxas shrugged. “She calls it riding, I say eating. She’s draining your life force, your will to live.”
“And fear, Abraxas, fear and hope. I take them all, yes, ducky.”
Abraxas crossed and re-crossed his legs in an impatient gesture. “Get on with it. We need to finish before Turiel returns. I don’t want to be meat for that tiger.”
The Hag snarled at him, “No rush me.”
“Oh fine, have it your way,” Abraxas grumbled, glancing at his watch. He smiled a nasty grin. “Just think, Watcher, if you had left a broomstick by your bed, folklore says she’d have been forced to ride away on it, instead of riding your spirit. A broomstick, isn’t that the craziest thing you’ve ever heard?” He chuckled, an evil sound, and shook his head. “You can’t make this shit up, I tell you.”
The Hag exhaled in a quivering, rattling way. The sound created images of broken body parts and decomposing flesh rolling through my mind as I shuddered again in pain and fear. She commanded Abraxas, saying, “We go now. No nasty angel and I take little lamb with me. I drain her slowly, play with her forever.” Her eyes burned like two pits of hellish fire as she examined me again. “So special, so delicious, little piggy.”
“No, the Black God wants this finished before Gwyrdd can find a way back to this world. I didn’t hire you for playtime,” snapped Abraxas. “Finish and let’s get out of here.”
“No broomsticks,” said the Hag. “Bad Abraxas.”
He held up his hands. “Right, no broomsticks. Just hurry up.”
“Poor ducky,” said the Hag, gloating.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered in a drifting way a program I had once seen on television. It was a wildlife show, one of those safari ones. Some lions ambushed a zebra and began to eat the poor animal before it even died. I remember being shocked at the way the zebra lay there, waiting to die, waiting to lose enough blood to bring on oblivion. I was the zebra now. My body grew colder. It no longer seemed important enough or worth the effort to be terrified, although the Hag looked even more frightening now as she fed on me. The more of my life force she consumed, the brighter she burned luminescent, as I faded. As she devoured me, she became more substantial.
The faint odor of an open rotting grave became a ripe, overwhelming stench. If I could have gagged, I would have. All thoughts of escape, of curiosity, vanished as I waited for the end. The Hag smiled, showing rotten, yellow bits of teeth, her evil, red eyes danced. In her deathly voice she said, “Good chickie. Good. Never moves again. No, it doesn’t want to. It belongs to me. Mine.”
 Something stirred in me at that moment. I didn’t belong to her. I belonged to me. No one else got to decide who I was or who I belonged to. I spent my whole life hanging on to my sense of self. No one else, not even a supernatural Hag sucking out my life force, and killing me in my own bed got to take that away from me. If ten different psychiatrists and more prescriptions than I could count hadn’t changed my mind, then I’d be damned if I’d let her decide for me.
There in the darkness, with my glimmer disappearing and a chill enveloping my limbs, I found a small spark inside of me, a stubborn iota of will. I searched my mind, seeking some way out. Then I did the only thing I had left, the only recourse still in my power. I prayed.
I didn’t pray to God. At the time, I don’t think it ever even crossed my mind to pray to Him. I didn’t have the strength of Tim’s quiet faith. Still, I knew who I needed. I prayed to Turel, only this time I called him Turiel. I prayed to him, partly in my heart, partly through lips like ice; lips gone numb. I prayed with fervor, hanging on to the spark even as I grew still colder, darker, and the Hag above me glowed in stolen radiance.
My breath slowed, and I fought for each inhalation. Each heartbeat echoed through the room. That, too, slowed. My world reduced to these things: breathing and my heartbeat. Still my frozen lips moved and my spark of will pushed my prayers out into the universe. With my vision blurred as Abraxas regarded his cigar from his chair. He tapped his foot, frowning at us.
The Hag tilted her head in a gesture that in her hideousness suggested a caricature of a human’s movement. She seemed puzzled. “It is saying something, Abraxas. This I do not understand. What does my duck say?” She leaned closer and the stench of death and decay enveloped me. Still I prayed.
 “What is it?” asked Abraxas, impatient.
The withered Hag tilted her head. “I do not remember the word for what it does. It is asking for help,” she answered. “It does not know no help will come? What a strange lamb it is.” She shrugged her now much more substantial shoulders, her hideous features twisting in concentration. “Ah, Abraxas,” she continued in her gruesome voice, “I remember the word. My piggy prays.”
Abraxas sprang to his feet in alarm. “She prays? To whom?”
A bolt of lightning exploding in the small room blinded my eyes. Turel appeared in its flash, his face drawn in a snarl, glorious wings extended. Sunlight, beautiful, sweet sunlight, filled my night shrouded bedroom. Turel took one look at me and the Hag over me. “She prays to me,” he roared. His arm drew back in a graceful arc and a second bolt of lightning shot toward me.
The Hag’s back arched when the bolt struck. The draining stopped and my heartbeat steadied as I took an unimpeded breath. The Hag dematerialized. Starting with her feet and working upward, she disintegrated. Bits of her scattered like ashes on the wind, twinkling for a brief second, and then disappearing. As she went, she fixed her repugnant, blood-red gaze on me one last time. “Bad ducky,” she lamented. Then she disappeared.
 Turel turned to Abraxas, but the chair stood empty. Through the open window the sound of rapid footfalls grew fainter. With a growl, Turel started toward the window, but stopped and examined me. The sunlight faded from the room, leaving the angel glowing golden in the dark. “Watcher?” he gasped and rushed to me. “Watcher, talk to me, say anything.”
I wanted to answer him, I did, but all I could do was lie frozen on my bed and think about breathing. At that moment, my job consisted of clinging to life. I struggled to keep the oxygen flowing. Turel gathered me and held me close to him, searching my eyes. “Oh, merciful Heaven,” he swore ardently, “Siobhan?” His voice broke on my name. “Gwyrdd,” Turel called, “Gwyrdd. Come to me.”
Everything around me glowed golden, wrapping us in amber light. I basked in the shimmery light which held us both. Yearned for sensation flooded my limbs in the sheltering warmth.
The light faded and Turel laid me back on the bed. He straightened, his expression focused. I heard the off-key resonance I remembered from the night at my house. Strange to think what had happened in only a couple of days. A melodic sound danced almost, but not quite, out of my range of hearing. He called another angel.
First Daisy, then Nefta stepped through dimensions into my bedroom. The returning warmth to my body brought on a delirium of pleasure and relief. Getting crowded in here, resisting the near-hysteric urge to giggle.
Nefta sized me up, taking in the situation. “Well? Out with it.” Her words hit a brisk and businesslike beat.
“Hag,” said Turel in a hard tone I had never heard him use before.
“How bad?” asked Daisy in a hushed voice.
“Bad, very bad.”
I had a sudden, important thought, so overwhelming I needed to say it aloud. I tried to speak, but only the barest breath came forth. No one heard me. I whispered too soft even for an angel’s incredible hearing. I focused every part of my being on moving my hand. My fingertips grazed across his jeans, enough to get his attention. “Yes, Watcher?” He sat with me, holding my hand in both of his.
“Alex, Tim,” I whispered, forcing the words out.
Turel raised his head, his face stricken. “She’s right. They didn’t come running. I used a bolt, they should have heard.”
Nefta moved at his first word. “On it.” The blonde Valkyrie vanished before I could blink.
Daisy inspected the chair, her face set in a cold mask. She sniffed the air and turned toward Turel.
“He’s getting away,” Turel said in frustrated anger.
The woman who was a dragon held up one hand. “Not from me, dear one. Give me a moment. Let me know who I am following into the night.”
Turel waited his impatience palpable. I concentrated on breathing. The world floated in and out of focus. Clinging to consciousness by my metaphorical fingernails, I listened to Turel and Daisy.
“Cigar,” noted Daisy.
“Little weasel,” Turel said, delivering the words like a curse.
“Abraxas will not be an issue,” promised Daisy. She came to me and laid one gentle hand on my cheek. “Turel, she’s like ice.”
Turel shook his head; his chiseled features resembling a statue. He showed no more emotion, except for his clinched jaw and a certain grim set to his eyes. “You should have touched her when I first arrived. I can’t imagine how she’s still alive.”
Daisy smiled at me. “Stubborn,” she said, brushing my hair aside. I managed a small quirk of my mouth at her. “You can heal her?”
“I can. I will,” he said. “Now, Abraxas? I must stay with the Watcher. I will not leave her again, not for anything.”
In a blink Daisy disappeared. The sound of immense wings filled the night air outside, fading into the distance. Turel stared out the window for a moment. I sensed more than heard the discordant music of another angel speaking to him and Turel’s shoulders relaxed. The angel closed the window and came back to my bed.
He studied me before taking off his leather jacket and kicking off his shoes. Turel tucked his wings away. He pulled back the covers and slid in beside me still wearing his usual jeans and T-shirt. With no more effort than moving a cat, he lifted me across the bed, making room for himself, and slid me on to my side. Tucking the blankets around us both, he wrapped his arms around me. The soft aura of the angel’s healing energy surrounded me, and I relaxed. Filling me up where earlier I had been drained.
“You are so cold. How ca­­n you bear it?” he asked.
“No, I feel warm,” I said and though quiet, my words already came more easily.
“Only by comparison to what you were a short while ago. Your lips are blue and your skin is like ice.”
“Believe me, this is better.”
Turel squeezed me closer. “You’ll need to help me, Watcher,” Turel said.
Sleep closed in and I struggled to reply. “Sure.”
“You need sleep, a deep, healing sleep. No dreams, and especially, no nightmares. I can ensure that for you, but I’ll need to go into your mind. It won’t be the same as with Gilbert, but it will be similar.”
“You’ll read my thoughts?” That had me more alert, even battling exhaustion.
“No, well, I mean, I’ll try hard not to pry. Will you trust me?”
I smiled even though he wouldn’t be able to see it. “Of course, Turel.” My eyes hovered on the edge of closing. The covers enveloped me, warm and comfortable. Safe.
Turel placed one hand on the side of my head. “Sleep, Siobhan.”
In my mind’s eye, a simple wooden door appeared and Turel nudged me toward it. Duh, way, way ahead of you, buddy. Opening the door, I sank like a stone into unconsciousness, his deep chuckle in my ear.

Buy Links:
To purchase The Dragon in The Garden please check out this page on her publisher’s website.

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