I’m excited to welcome science fiction and fantasy author Amanda Carlson, to The Sassy Bookster as she shares her inspiration for her characters. Her newest book, Struck, book 1 in the Phoebe Meadows series releases on May 24th, 2016 and she has graciously given us a sneak peek of the first chapter below. She is also offering one lucky reader a digital copy, so be sure to leave a comment on this post about who your favorite book characters and series are by June 11th and get entered into a drawing for a copy of Struck.
STRUCK started like all my books do, with a very strong opening scene, which played out over and over again in my mind. The scene was very vivid and kept bugging me until I wrote it down. For this book, I pictured a girl getting “struck” by something in the stockroom of Macy’s and ending up unconscious in a pile of shoeboxes. So, naturally, I had to investigate! I discovered she was a Valkyrie. I love Valkyries. Most people do if they’ve ever read them before.
After that scene, the story was born.
The idea of writing in the Norse Mythology world was something that had intrigued me for years. There are so many directions you can take the story, so many rich fabrics to build on. Once the story started following, I realized that I was writing a “contemporary fantasy” –a place where New York City and the Nine Worlds collide. My heroine, Phoebe, works in the shoe department at Macy’s and after being “struck” she is forced to navigate this brand new world.
The characters in this story are both from my imagination and built right from the stories of Norse Mythology. My heroine is totally unique, but she teams up with Loki’s son, Fenrir the wolf. As a huge fan of werewolves (if you know my other work this is of no surprise), so it was a no brainer. Fen is not a werewolf, per se, but he’s the equivalent of a werewolf if they lived in Asgard. He’s strong and fierce and fun to write.
I’m not pulling Thor into the stories much, because we have a lot of Thor out in the world already, but I am pulling in his brother Tyr (pronounced: TEAR), who is the god of war. That, along with some really fun creatures, makes it an exciting story.
If you love action and adventure, with a little shot of romance, this books is for you. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Available May 24th
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[Copyright 2016 by Amanda Carlson. The work represented here cannot be copied or reproduced in any way without the author’s permission.]
I blinked open my eyes to find two concerned faces hovering above me. I shifted my body, and a cascade of shoeboxes tumbled around me. “What happened?” I swallowed a few times. My throat felt funny.
“You tell us,” Sam said, hands on her hips, her blonde curls bouncing in agitation. “I was minding my own business helping a seventy-five-year-old lady cram her corns into a pair of high heels when all of a sudden what sounds like a sonic boom goes off. I run back to find you out cold, crumpled like a rag doll on top of a pile of Steve Maddens.” She extended her arm to help me up. Samantha Reed, my co-worker and recent best friend, was not amused. I grabbed on to her hand, scattering boxes and shoes as I went. “When I saw you lying here, I thought you were dead, Phoebe. Don’t scare me like that again. Ever.”
“Yeah,” Tom echoed in his standard monotone. “Don’t scare us like that.” Tom Levine, Macy’s resident eighteen-year-old stock boy, took a few steps back so I had enough room to fully clear myself of the mess. Apparently, I’d passed out, but I had no recollection of the event at all. “But, dude, at the same time it was freakin’ awesome. I thought the whole building was going to cave in or something. There was this huge kaboom.” Both his hands went out in front of him, mimicking an explosion. The story ended with a whooshing noise out of the side of his mouth. It was the most animated I’d ever seen the guy. “Then the lights flickered and…you were lying here.”
“Honestly,” I said, trying to smooth down my now static-frizzed hair, “I don’t remember much. I heard a noise and glanced up, right as a bolt of something shot out of the lights. It must’ve hit me, which is weird, because I didn’t feel anything and I’m not hurt. Next thing I knew, you guys were looking down on me.”
We all tilted our heads up to the ceiling.
Several long, narrow fluorescent bulbs hung from their fixtures at odd angles, rocking slowly back and forth. It was the only indication that my convoluted story held a kernel of truth.
“No way.” Tom moved under one of the bulbs and tried to reach it, jumping twice, but it was too high. He glanced over his shoulder, flipping his brown hair off his forehead in a single flick. “I wish this kind of stuff happened to me. It’s boring as hell back here.”
“I had no idea fluorescent lights could shock someone like that.” I rubbed my arms. My extremities were a little tingly, but other than that I felt fine. My throat was better after a couple of swallows. “A big store like Macy’s should insulate their lights better or check the circuits or hire better maintenance people.” I gestured to the broken fixtures. “That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.”
“Please, fluorescent lights can’t shock you like that.” Sam’s voice was full of authority as she marched forward to investigate. “It’s completely impossible. Electricity doesn’t arc that far at one hundred and ten volts, and even if it did, fluorescent lights are made up of electrons and gas, not wire filament. So essentially there’s no way on earth those light bulbs or that fixture”—she directed an angry finger toward the hanging bulbs that still had the audacity to rock back and forth—“shocked you from way up there.”
Sam was an aspiring actress, but she should’ve been an engineer. Her brain was vast and held more factoids than I thought possible for one person. She was one of the smartest people I’d ever met.
A sharp acidic smell hit the air.
I glanced down. The hemline of my skirt was smoking.
“Oh.” I licked my fingers and pressed them against the frayed edge, and a soft psst sounded as the tiny coal of heat was extinguished.
Sam met my eyes, her expression shocked. “Holy crap, Phoebe!” she cried, moving in front of me. “We need to get you to the doctor right away. Your skirt is smoking. How is that even possible?” She twisted her head up toward the ceiling and then back to look at me, her face incredulous.
“Dude, that’s freakin’ crazy.” Tom was giddy as he shuffled toward us. “I’ve never seen anyone on fire before.”
“I’m not on fire,” I answered testily as I checked the rest of my body for any other indication that I may, in fact, be on fire. This was beyond insane. “I’m totally fine. I promise. I have a great idea. Let’s call maintenance, and they can come in and check it out and we can all go back to work. The customers are probably crawling up the walls by now, and Nancy is going to be mad we’ve both been back here so long. I can’t afford to lose my job.”
“I don’t care if Nancy’s pissed or not. She can wait.” Sam placed her hands firmly on her hips. “This is much more important. Phoebe, if your clothes are smoking, that’s a pretty big indication that something calamitous just happened. People don’t just catch on fire. Something could be really wrong with you. I think we need to get you to a hospital, pronto.”
She might be right, except I felt better with each passing second.
In the short amount of time we’d been standing here, my body had become somehow more…energized. Like I’d downed an entire bag of Skittles, and the sugar high was kicking in. My fingers twitched, and my feet almost bounced on their own.
“Sam, I’m fine,” I reassured her. “I feel more awake, but that’s it. I actually feel like I could go for a run right now. Whatever happened, it didn’t hurt me. It worked the opposite.”
Sam wasn’t buying what I was selling. “It’s the middle of winter in New York City, and you hate running. You refer to runners as self-torturers who love inflicting pain on themselves. That alone means we should take you in. You’re not yourself, and this proves it.”
“Well, hm, you might be right about the running part,” I said. “But according to how I feel right now, I might have to alter my definition of self-torture. I could be missing out by not giving it a try.” She crossed her arms. “Seriously, Sam. I’m not lying. I feel amazing. I have no explanation for what happened, but I have no scorch marks on my body, no gaping holes in my chest, and nothing else is smoking. Let’s not make this a big deal, okay? Even though you said the noise was loud, you two seem to be the only ones who heard it. No one else is here.” I glanced at Tom. The kid had four looks: bored, ultra-bored, slightly happy, and confused. He was giving us confused now—the same expression he wore whenever we tried to explain how invoicing worked. I turned back to Sam. “Let’s get back to work. This entire thing is embarrassing, and we’ve been gone so long the customers are going to riot. Please, Sam. I can’t afford to have Nancy fire me. I can barely cover rent as it is.”
Sam rolled her eyes, dropping her arms. “Fine, but I’m keeping an eye on you for the rest of the day. If you so much as sneeze in the wrong direction, I’m calling an ambulance. I mean it, Phoebe. I’m not taking any chances.”
“Dude, you know”—Tom shoved his hands in his front jean pockets, tugging them down impossibly lower—“when you were lying there, you looked totally dead. I’ve only seen one other dead guy before, but you looked just like him. Kinda freaked me out.”
“Thanks, Tom. That’s really helpful.” Judging by the artful green leaves proudly displayed all over his attire, he was a real poster boy for Sherlock Holmes. Anything could look dead if it wasn’t moving. “I was clearly breathing the entire time, since I’m standing here alive. Fainting can look an awful lot like dead. The subtle difference would be in the chest movement.” I nodded to Sam. “I’ll just clean up these boxes and meet you out on the floor.” Macy’s didn’t mess around with their shoe department in New York. It spanned two floors, and it was always busy.
“Okay,” she relented. “If you’re not out in ten minutes, I’m coming back to find you.”
“Got it.” I was relieved when she finally walked out of the stock room. I wanted to forget this craziness had ever occurred.
Tom bent over to help me as I gathered up the errant shoes. “Dude,” he said, “can I touch your arm? I’ve never touched anyone who’s died before.”