by D.A. Botta
(Elyzian Chronicles #1)
Publication date: March 21st 2014
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult
Emily Hobbs is off to Salem State College when a chance encounter with a fortuneteller changes everything. Emily is transported to the realm of Elyzia and learns that she is, in fact, one of the most powerful witches in existence.
Madame Lavache, the strict headmistress of Cedalion Covenstead, has her sights set on Emily. In her desperate cling to power, Lavache attempts to protect her tyranny by invoking sinister forces, including bloodthirsty pirates and The Devil himself, to rid Elyzia of the rebellious witch.
Along with her companions – an old hermit, a small coven of witches, and their totems – Emily sets out on a collision course with destiny.
Just as the tarot foretold.
A powerful witch
A simple tarot read
And all hell breaks loose
Emily slunk closer to the glowing well and peered into its depths. The water bubbled and swelled in the hardened clay of underground. The candlelight illuminated the ceiling, casting shine and shadows dispersing throughout the dark. Hues of blue and sediment captivated Emily.
The colors shifted. Now Paige danced drunkenly about a snapping fire. Her body enveloped by the orange glow of bonfire. Paronskaft shrunk back against the wall.
“That scene …” he blurted, “is not for now.” He bit his lips closed and trembled.
Paige stood amongst the others, Gretchen and Melanie and Chloe, all of them. She waited for her turn to leap over the celebratory fire. First Gretchen leapt, then Chloe, Brenna and even Melanie, hurled themselves above the towering flame. There was laughter and music as the boys, too, leapt in their boots, soaring over the tops of the fire and crashing down on the other side. The ceremony burned into the autumn eve.
Paige leapt into the air wildly, drunk on wine, and the flames sucked her down into their belly. She seared and shrieked as her clothes burned away. The others watched horrified as the scorched silhouette flailed within the orange bonfire belly. Her hair turned quickly to dust and her skin blistered and charred. The shadow figure collapsed into miserable ashes and died wretchedly.
The image diluted into the watery pool and Emily fell to her knees and sobbed.
“It’s a trick!” Emily shouted, her voice echoing up through the chambers. “It’s a damned trick, you old fool!”
Paronskaft was taken aback, shocked at the insinuation. His feeble body shuttered against the affront. He wrapped his golden cloak tightly to his skeletal frame.
“I make no tricks, Miss Emily,” he quivered. “I make no tricks on you! Time is an essence.”
“I can stop this?! I can save Paige, you mean? How much time do I have?!”
“You have no time.”
Emily tore out of the cave and rode east, bounding along on Mongrel, weaving through clusters of trees and stones. The late night air splashed the last of the raindrops against her face while Mongrel galloped steadily toward the grounds. A few yards from the edge of the hillside, Mongrel shrunk into his miniature size, quickly and suddenly, which threw Emily off over his shoulders and into crumply dry grasses and brush.
“You could warn me, you know,” she admonished while she quickly laced up her boots. She retrieved a Scynderstem from Paronskaft’s box. “Meet me at the covenstead, okay?”
Mongrel yapped and pranced off.
“Go ahead and go!”
Emily secured her satchel over her shoulder crosswise and dug the balls of her feet into the ground. She leapt off, arcing and descending spans of nearly one hundred yards. The smoke from the bonfire crept up into the air over the eastern wall of Cedalion. I’m coming, Paige! she wailed in her mind. Emily soared and sailed toward the ceremony. Stop! Don’t leap!! she cried out inside. A lyre was playing, singing into the crisp air and laughter and dancing could be seen from the peaks.
Dread filled her bones.
Drew coasted over the seething flames. Then Melanie gracelessly rocketed over the fire. Next Ethan perfectly arced over. Wait! Don’t go! The scent of wine and embers wafted into Emily’s nose as she drew near. Nooo, my love! No!! The heat of the high flame pushed against her body. Paige crested the blaze and was pulled down just as Paronskaft’s pool had shown. Emily pressed her thumb into the Scynderstem and it broke as she leapt again, fearless at the fire, and cast the spell.
Paige wriggled and writhed in the hot orange glows, blackened already near the fire’s blue bottom. Emily wrapped her arms around Paige’s waist and dug her toes into the powdery ash to quickly leap again.
The pair landed near the twisty elm sprinkled with twinkling fireflies. Emily held Paige in her arms, resting what was left of her friend in her lap. Emily looked at her friend who heaved shallow breaths into the air. Paige’s body, smoldering still and black, released streams of smoke up passed the branches and into the air. Their eyes met and Emily let loose her woeful tears.
“I am here,” breathed Emily. “I am here with you.”
“I … love you,” Paige mouthed as she departed.
“I love you Paige!” Emily wailed. “Don’t go! Don’t leave me!”
Paige’s eyes shut forever.
An astonished crowd gathered a few yards away, shaken witnesses to the sadness and grief. After a long moment, Emily slipped out from under Paige and tenderly set her body into the grass. Her face contorted and her entire body trembled with loss. She trudged over to where Paige and the others had sat. She snatched up Paige’s lantern of fireflies. She grew angry in her hurt. She raged in her mind and ached in her heart.
Observing from a ways off, the Madame and the Ladies and the Lyre Man observed the tragedy in solemn seclusion.
“That girl,” Madame Lavache whispered to herself, “is going to raise havoc.”
The glass jar shattered into glimmering slivers and the fireflies were released to the sinewy elm.
The inner courtyard was decked in lovely ribbons: shimmering gold and black sewn through the arms of the scarce maples and elms. On the center tabernacle sat a large iron cauldron. The flames beneath crackled and spit in yellow and orange. The smoke ascended lazily toward the sky. The calm brooks carefully cradled red tea-lights that floated on lily pads. Their flickers reflected into the gray water, adoringly casting disparate pulses of light and shadow on the mingling persons in attendance.
Lady Nadia dispensed wine into glasses, setting them out full to their brims on a large crescent table of dark mahogany. Lady Kiyomi chatted with Lady Madeline by the cauldron. Lady Lillian greeted and ushered the incoming guests. Madame Lavache and Phaeton stood by the rear entrance, observing the celebration’s start.
The girls in their gowns, the boys in their suits – all of them masked strangers – danced and drank, laughing and watching through peepholes. The night spun in frenzied happy frivolity. The music of the lyre echoed throughout the courtyard over more drinking and dancing in decadent disguise. Yet, more drinking, more dancing, more laughing – all blending together in the merry masquerade.
A young man approached Emily. He wore an ice-blue suit with long coattails. A metallic blue tie clung to his neck and draped down his breastbone over a crisp white shirt. His mask was white with metallic blue etchings on its forehead.
“Care to dance?” he asked, extending his hand toward her.
“Ethan?” Emily replied.
He raised his mask from his handsome face and smiled.
“Pretty useless, huh?” he said, batting his mask with his fingertips.
“I guess so,” Emily responded while removing her mask and setting it gently into the grass. “I’d rather not … dance, I mean.”
“Come on,” he begged playfully. “Just one dance.”
Emily looked to Brenna and then back to Ethan. She defied her tom-boyishness, and allowed Ethan to help her up from her comfortable seat beside Brenna.
“I’ll be right back,” Emily called over her shoulder.
“Have fun!” called Brenna.
The music was soft. Ethan wrapped his arms around Emily’s waist and she rested her forearms on his broad shoulders. They rocked gently together surrounded by the music of the melodious lyre.
Ethan stared into her eyes.
Emily’s eyes shied away.
“You’re beautiful,” Ethan admired.
“It’s the dress, Ethan,” she quipped.
“I don’t think so.”
Emily looked at him and smiled.
“That’s kind of you to say.”
“You remind me so much of my brothers.”
Ethan frowned at his apparent inadequacy.
“It’s a compliment. I love them a lot.”
“I understand. Thanks, I mean. I … appreciate that. I do.”
“Did you just convince yourself of that?” Emily teased.
“I did, in fact!” he played back.
Emily laughed at his wine-induced honesty.
“How many brothers do you have?”
“And which of them do I remind you of most?”
“Toby … my oldest brother. But really, you’re kind of a mix of all three.”
Ethan got quiet.
“You okay?” Emily asked.
“I’m fine. Just thinking …”
“Well … I wonder what the convenstead’s stance on incest is.”
Emily scrunched her nose at him.
She slapped his chest gently.
“I know,” Ethan laughed.
The music stopped, and the two parted.
Lady Madeline made her way over to Emily and sat in the grass beside her. She reached for Emily’s hand and held it tenderly.
“I have something for you,” Madeline confessed.
“What is it?” Emily asked, scrunching her nose.
She placed it in her hand and folded her fingers around it. Emily felt the thin wooden cylinder against her palm. She opened her hand and noticed the branch of sallow, the one she had cut from the tree in The Woodlawns, resting there. It had been shaped and smoothed and lacquered with a dark fragrant oil. Two straight and parallel lines were etched into its base.
“My wand!” Emily squealed.
“I hope you don’t mind that I finished it for you while you were … away.”
Emily kissed her cheek.
“I love it. It’s perfect.”
“As are you, Miss Emily.”
“Thank you so much, Lady Madeline.”
“You are quite welcome, my dear.”
Later that evening, each coven encircled bubbling cauldrons and dreamily relaxed together. Emily peered through the furling gray smoke as it rose off the gurgling water in the cauldron, her brain swirling with too many glasses of white wine. The face was faint but familiar. The red wavy hair, the radiant blue eyes, the beautiful alabaster skin flecked with freckles. Her eyes widened with amazement, and she unconsciously reached toward the smoke.
“Let us bid Merry Meet to our beloved departed,” Phaeton concluded his speech.
“Blessed be,” chorused The Ladies.
A puff of silvery smoke disrupted the vision, slowly morphing the spectral image. Paige’s hair turned brown. The freckles disappeared into more a more pristine and golden complexion. Her eyes transformed from a blue sky to a midsummer field. Her lips grew just a little more generous. Brenna looked back adoringly through the wafts of smoke from the opposite side of the bubbling cauldron. She sent Emily her soft and exquisite smile.
How bittersweet is this magic, Emily thought.
D A Botta has written four New Adult Fantasy novels, The Elyzian Chronicles, and has also published a collection of poems There in Them Blues. D A is currently working on a New Adult Mystery series, Seriously Confidant, projected for debut in the fall of 2015. D A is a Fantasy Representative for NA Alley and frequents #NALitChat on Twitter. When not writing, D A plays guitar and dabbles in graphic design. D A lives with his family in Massachusetts.
Q: What is unique about your fantasy series?
A: First, the plots of the novels follow a tarot reading set out early in the stories. This gave the novels a structure and theme I could really work with. Each chapter involves the decoding of a tarot card in the spread. Secondly, I incorporated elements from witchcraft, tarot, astrology, mythology, and runes into each story. This gave Elyzia its richness. It made for interesting characters, suspenseful plot threads, and themes that I could string throughout. It’s really a comprehensive blend of fantasy.
Q: Are there spells in your stories?
A: There just may be. I strongly advise not attempting them at home. Only experienced witches should meddle in magick and spellcasting. I did alter some recipes slightly … for no good reason.
Q: What does New Adult offer your stories?
A: New Adult is a real shift from young adulthood to adulthood. It’s that brief space in time where things are really exciting and a person has to figure out who they are. For some people, it’s a traumatic experience. It can be tremendously invigorating too. I think, for stories, it makes for extra dramatic (any perhaps traumatic) events – psychological, emotional, spiritual or physical. I try to capture a lot of these perspectives throughout the series.
Q: What is the main theme of The Elyzian Chronicles?
A: There are a lot of themes interwoven throughout the chronicles, but if I can sum it up it’s: to truly know yourself is to have all the power in the world. I think that can be dissected in many ways, but essentially its understanding and embracing your own unique identity despite a world that tries to change you. Understanding your fears, knowing your limits (or the cause of your limits) is a liberating thing. I think people learn who they are forced by people or circumstance to honestly look at themselves. I believe it’s a powerful thing, and ultimately a positive one.
Q: What is your writing process like?
A: Painful and slow. I have a natural impatience. Writing for me is grueling. I did a ton of research for the chronicles, not just for world-building but also for the magick and mythology. I wanted to keep true to the various elements (witchcraft, tarot, mythology) I was using, to a degree. I wanted to be respectful of those things and still push the envelope a little.
I think once you understand something, you figure out where you can play with it a little to make it distinctive. I write at night, often late into the night. It makes for foggy mornings, and with a 3 year old daughter that’s pretty trying. I write linearly, mostly. I did skip forward when I got stuck, and revisited places once I fleshed out some of the heftier parts. But, I’m not one for rules. I wrote poetically where I wanted to. I wrote flowery where I wanted to.
I think the modern convention of chopping hundreds of words has some merit, but in fantasy I think you need to build entire worlds and civilizations. That is done with words, so it is a real challenge to strike that balance.
Q: Who would play your main characters in a movie?
A: I’ve gone over this a million times in my head over the past few years. I think a majority of authors want to see their books become movies. It’s a natural progression. If an author says differently, they could possibly be lying. Emily is such a complicated character. I’d have to say Kate Mara would be a top choice. I’d love to see upstart talent in any role. I always pictured Uma Thurman as Madame Lavache. I’d have loved to see Robin Williams play Paronskaft, the quirky old hermit.
Q: Why did you choose to write a female protagonist?
A: Witchcraft, and paganism in general, is strongly influenced by feminine power. It was a simple choice, really. One of the great things to come from Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code was a reintroduction of the concept of the sacred feminine into our lexicon. I think Brown really helped to educate a generation about the suppression and obfuscation of feminine spirit and the historical importance of goddess worship. For me, it was about honoring the struggles of a strong female, against other strong women and men. The gender stereotypes are broken down and juxtaposed in the chronicles. We see this with Emily’s sexuality, and with the contrast with, say, the pirate captains Brodish and Dresden. In Sinfluence, I depict even starker contrasts with the character Braun (a satyr).
Q: What readers would enjoy Hysteriata and the rest of The Elyzian Chronicles?
A: Definitely folks who read Rowling, but also readers who really enjoy some hefty NA. My characters endure some pretty intense situations. There are struggles between love and hate, power and weakness, fate and freedom, life and death, action, suspense, drama, satire, romance – all wrapped up in this magickal world. The series has believable characters with complex relationships. There is a lot for everyone really.
Q: What is your all-time favorite book and why?
A: It’s going to sound a little strange, but my absolute favorite book is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It was one of the first books I read where I was like, “Wow! This is how you can play with words! This is art!” It shows in some of the words I created and my book titles. I believe that type of creative license makes treetrunk and springwater single words. Sometimes, as a writer, you just ignore parts of spellcheck when you know it works. My all-time favorite New Adult read, so far, is Butterman Time Travel Inc by PK Hrezo. It’s some awesome sci-fi. Very solid contemporary and super fun.
Q: What’s your advice to other writers?
A: I don’t typically offer writing advice. It’s just a very personal and private craft. But I will say this: I think one of the biggest mistakes writers make is they select a time for writing, and everyday they sit down at whatever-o’clock and open their laptop to begin typing. It’s the wrong approach – and apologies to any NaNoWriMo-ers out there. I don’t believe in it. I think we put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves, myself too, to produce. Perhaps the best nights I spent “writing” were those I actually didn’t write a single word. I just daydreamed of that place or those characters. Sure I beat myself up over it, but looking back over four years of writing a series, I find that those were my most successful nights. Just thinking. Just owning that space. Just being in that story for awhile. The words will come when they come.
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