Wednesday, 20 November 2013
Escape Publishing Birthday Book Excerpt & Giveaway - The Children of the Mist by Jenny Brigalow
An original paranormal YA about an unconventional girl, an unconventional boy, their extraordinary transformations, and the secrets of the Scottish Highlands.
When skater girl Morven Smith turns sixteen, she develops boobs, acute appendicitis...and a pair of pointy teeth. While she is stunned by her metamorphosis into vampire, her best mate, the enigmatic Zest, is not. For the young werewolf, Morven’s transformation is an answer to his lonely prayers.
But they are unable to celebrate their mutual paranormalcy for long — there are too many dangers, too much suspicion, and too many questions. It’s only in Scotland that Morven can learn the truth about her past. But she discovers more than she bargained for when she meets her birth family — an ancient feud between vampires and werewolves. They may both be Children of the Mist, but only one species can survive.
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Morven was bored. When she was bored she counted. Today she was focused on the scuffed grey and black tiles beneath her school desk. The trouble was she couldn't make up her mind where the boundary should be, exactly. Should she include the tiles beneath her chair or, for that matter, those tiles that filled the space between adjacent desks? Tricky.
Finally she decided that she'd count them all separately and then pick out the most desirable number. The best number had to be even. Odd numbers were bad luck. The very best numbers were double evens, like 66. The number 30 could not be considered even because it had a three. However, it was a better result than a seven. Seven was bad mojo.
Morven did not look up but registered the interruption by her maths teacher in a distant part of her brain. ‘Hang on a sec’ she muttered, her eyes scooting across the last row beneath her desk. Sixteen. Good result.
A ripple of awed laughter coursed through the classroom. Morven checked out the damage. Mrs Inch (aka The Midget) looked on the verge of a stroke. A large blue vein bulged on her temple and her face was nearly as red as her bushy hair. Morven, however, was more interested in the impact her behaviour was having on Peter Goldman. The aforesaid lounged back, his chair tipped onto two legs and balanced precariously by the desk behind.
The expression on his face was one of detached amusement and, if she wasn’t mistaken, approval. Out of the corner of her eye she feasted on his dusky skin and square jaw with, may the gods give her strength, a faint black shadow of shaven beard. Bloody hell, he was more edible than mango.
Scared he'd sense her scrutiny, she looked quickly frontward. While she hadn’t aggravated The Midget to gain Peter's attention, she couldn't help but be thrilled by this unexpected bonus. She admired him from afar and it was a pleasant shock to find herself rotating in the same solar system. It was lovely to feel that connection, even if she were the farthest planet from the sun.
‘Morven Smith. You will leave my class. This is the third time I have asked you to contribute to the problem on the board.’
Morven yawned. She had a big mouth and her yawns were cosmic, designed to provoke. In front of a gratified and approving audience Morven couldn’t resist an encore. With a rude grating sound, she shoved her chair backward, grabbed her bag and stood. She flicked her bag over one shoulder and sashayed down the aisle of desks. Immediately, she knew that the bag was a bad move. The blue canvas strap pulled the white cotton shirt tight across her chest, which despite her advanced age of nearly sixteen remained stubbornly flat.
In that moment, despite her disdain for all the weak womanly wiles of her female counterparts, she would have given up her new Nikes for a pair of gel pads. The developing (well, frustratingly under‐developing) scenario called for a counter strategy.
As she neared the front of the classroom she allowed the offending bag to slip over her shoulder and onto the floor. It made a satisfying thud and drew all eyes as she adroitly rearranged her shirt. Ignoring the bleats of her near‐apoplectic teacher, she picked up a marker from the desk and faced the board. The Midget drew herself up to her full six feet and demanded Morven put down her weapon.
With decisive strokes Morven struck out the second line of the formula. It was incorrect. Without needing to think she finished the sum and put the pen back where she found it: seven centimetres above the maths textbook and two centimetres below the edge of the plastic ruler. Satisfied that everything was in perfect order, she picked up the blue canvas strap and headed for the door, her bag swishing behind her. As the door swung softly closed she could hear the hoots and catcalls that signified a successful mission.
In the corridor it was quiet. She checked out the time. Fifteen minutes until lunch. Question was, should she stay or should she go? If she went, where would she go? The obvious answer was home, but it too would be smothered in midday hush. Both her parents would be at work and there wasn't so much as a goldfish to greet her. Discontent rippled in her chest. She liked her parents. Hell, sometimes she actually loved them, but they could be stubborn. Why couldn't she have a dog? So what, they lived in a block of units. They were on the top floor with their very own, exclusive elevator. Who'd even know? With a scowl that caused her eyebrows to gather like storm clouds over her black eyes, Morven headed outside.
It was a blue‐sky day, which even the surrounding bevy of grey buildings couldn't diminish. Sunshine warmed her face and a pair of peewees pecked and strutted on the compact earth beneath the giant fig trees that shaded the quadrangle. It was Friday. After lunch break she had sport. Better stay. With luck they'd go out and do some track. That way she could amuse herself doing what she did best and hopefully get to perv on Peter Goldman's sixpack. With 10 minutes to the bell she wandered over to grab the best lunch spot, the bench beneath the fig tree. She didn't want to put on her hat.
She flopped down onto the timber seat and grabbed her lunch box. With a cold steak sandwich in one hand she dug around with the other for her sunscreen. ‘Shit,’ she muttered. The top had come off the tube and there was green goop all over the bottom of her bag. It'd need a wash. Then the aroma of rump steak wafted up her nostrils. Morven applied herself to her food with the same thoroughness that she counted tiles. Red sauce oozed out of the soft white bread like blood. Yum. Once the last chewy morsel had slipped down she reapplied herself to the goop. Just as she had the bag emptied, the bell went. The school grounds trembled with the slamming of doors and the thunder of shod feet. Voices burst into the air like fireworks. Unperturbed, Morven took a long gulp from her water bottle and then admired it lovingly. It was seriously cool with its clear outer shell and fluoro orange interior. And besides, it was a gift from Zest. A cool factor all of its own.
A couple of girls from her year level stopped at the bench and looked pointedly at Morven's belongings spread over the seat. Morven ignored them and took another drink. Slowly. Waves of hostility wafted from their pores like toxic waste. Morven smacked the lid closed and lifted an eyebrow. ‘Can I be of assistance, ladies?’ she said, in an uncanny imitation of their headmistress. The redhead, Alice Jones, giggled. The other, Sarah Goodchild, a tall girl with dyed blonde hair the colour of sour milk, pointed at the offending articles.
‘Shift them will you, Morven? We want to sit down.’
Morven considered the request, sighed and grudgingly shifted the stuff closer. It wasn't that she disliked either girl, just that they were so incredibly dull, wittering on about bands, boys and bras. Several more girls joined them. Some of them made great efforts to draw Morven into conversation. To keep them at bay she applied herself to her bag, wiping the goop up with a handy packet of tissues she hadn't realised she'd possessed. Finally satisfied that she could do no more, she put the books, pencil case, deodorant and water
bottle back. It could have been worse; she'd picked up the problem before the tube was empty. There was enough for the afternoon's activities. Alice tapped her on the arm. ‘What you doing tonight, Morven? Do you want to come round for a sleepover?’
Morven began to slather green sunscreen onto her slender arms. It was satisfying watching it turn white before it sank into her skin. Did she want to go for a sleepover? Frankly, she'd rather eat brussel sprouts. Or — God forbid — take up cheer leading. Still, Alice meant well. ‘Thanks, but I'm busy tonight.’
Alice wrinkled her small snub nose in a way that made her look like the bride of Benjamin Bunny. ‘What are you doing?’
Morven shrugged. ‘You know, the usual.’
Alice's grey eyes were curious. ‘No, Morven, I don't know. What do you do?’
Out of sight, somewhere to the south, a train hooted its coming or going. Morven loved trains. At night she could hear them whining down the track. Always busy, always going somewhere. When she was reincarnated she wanted to be a train; either one of those slimline speed machines in Japan or the Hogwarts Express. Hard call really. Speed was her thing but there was something oddly appealing about all that smoke and those pounding pistons. Of course, Zest always ribbed her about it. He reckoned that at heart she was a secret romantic. She grinned, and then realised that Alice was still watching her expectantly.
‘I just hang out at the skate park.’
Alice frowned. ‘What for?’
Morven felt a wave of irritation. What for? What an idiot question. ‘To skate, of course. What else?’ It wasn't strictly the truth, but neither was it a lie.
‘You're a skater girl?’
Alice made it sound like a disease. Morven had had enough. What a moron. Without a word she picked up her bag and headed toward the change rooms. As she made her way along the concrete path Alice's words echoed in her brain. How could she explain to a girl like Alice that skating was what she lived for? Sure, athletics was good, and so were the XMen and mint Aeros, but skating was the real thing. She wouldn't swap it even for a D‐cup.
She pushed the change room door open and looked in. It smelled of sweat and cheap perfume. Gross. Still, it had the advantage of being empty. Her footsteps echoed off the dirty cream walls as she made her way to the benches. As she passed the long, highlypolished metal mirror she paused. One hand subdued the front of her shirt and, after a guilty look around, she scrutinised her chest. Was it her imagination or had the fried eggs
graduated to poached eggs? She sighed, crashed onto the seat and hauled an Aero out of her bag. Probably wishful thinking. Her mum said it was normal not to have your period at nearly sixteen. Personally, she was not convinced. Even the bubbles of minty freshness failed to revive her spirits. As she sucked the melted remains from her fingers she had to dismally acknowledge that she really was a freak – a fact she preferred to keep to herself.