Cover & Excerpt Reveal
Lilith Stark knows from experience that dead doesn't necessarily mean gone.
Gettysburg took Joab's life, but her husband struck a bargain with Heaven to come home instead. She’s not about to turn away whatever the Yankees have left to her of their all-too-brief marriage. But when she inadvertently lets slip to the neighbors that not only Joab has come home, but one of the neighbor boys as well, she ignites a town already rubbed raw by the endless sorrows of civil war.
Lilith, hoping to salvage the situation, only puts her foot in it deeper when she offers the good people of Browns Corners, Virginia, the benefits of her strange and perhaps saintly father's magic elixir. With the neighbors fighting over the elixir, the Reverend Fisk convinced she's the lying daughter of a shiftless devil, and the bereaved mother of the ghost living in Lilith's barn turning the whole town against her, Lilith's happy penchant for creating unexpected rainbows curdles to a despairing gathering of black creepers instead.
A private little war between Lilith and the Reverend leads to a very public confrontation in which Lilith will either get the town to accept her—magic, ghosts, and all—or find herself locked away as a madwoman, deprived of everything that makes her life worthwhile.
Genre: Historical FantasyPurchase links:
Content/Theme(s): Ghosts, Magic, Civil War
Release Date: February 6, 2014
Publisher: Taliesin Publishing
Joab came around the team, smiling. Lilith flung her arms around him before she remembered there was nothing much to hug. He jerked up straight, shuddering.
“Oh, Lordy, Joab! I’m so sorry . . . I can’t seem to remember you ain’t really there.”
Joab shook himself, looking down at her with a face that couldn’t decide whether to crumple up with laughter or break down in tears. He opened his arms wide. “Come here, Lil.”
Cautiously Lilith stepped in close and slid her arms around his waist, feeling the rough, ghostly brush of his coat against her cheek and the half-alive feel of him moving against her. He hugged her with all the scant solidity he could muster and laid his cheek on her hair. He sighed, the wispy ghost of it stirring her hair.
“That’s all right, then.”
“Miz Stark . . . What in tarnation are you doin’?”
Joab stiffened, his head jerking up at Bert framed in the hayloft door. Lilith broke away, flustered to tongue-tied gibbers. “I-I—well . . .”
“Don’t answer him, Lil. He might decide you’re crazy after all.”
“Oh, hush up and let me think!”
“What?” Bert and Joab demanded together.
The silliness of it struck her all sideways. Lilith collapsed in the dirt and laughed, her nerves taking revenge in a gale of hysterics that would have done Tillie Martin proud. Joab stared down at her, his fine dark eyebrows twitching together in a puzzled frown, but she only laughed harder. And then Luke came running into the yard, and that set her off worse because he stopped when he saw her and stared with his jaw dropping fit to step on.
“Lilith!” Joab roared on top of Bert’s, “Miz Stark!”
Bert disappeared from the doorway and Joab stepped toward her. She tried to hush herself up but couldn’t manage it. Her ribs hurt and she couldn’t breathe and still the giggles just kept bubbling up out of her. Pretty soon she caught a wispy movement in the corner of her eye and saw the giggles turning to little floaty sparks bouncing around her like soap bubbles. The nearside mule snorted at one and bounced it back toward her. It splatted into another one, and they rained light all over the dirt in the barnyard and laid there, glowing sort of silvery gold.
“What in hell…?”
That was Bert, arrived in the yard still clutching his pistol and staring like an owl. Lilith knew she couldn’t explain if she tried all year. She gave up on the notion and just let the giggles take her.
Joab squatted down in the dirt beside her. “Come on now, pull yourself together. Bert thinks you’re loonier than Abe Lincoln. What’s the matter with you?”
Lilith tried to stop but her lungs locked up and she just couldn’t stop laughing. “Hysterical,” Joab muttered, sounding so disgusted that Lilith wanted to slap him but couldn’t manage that either.
She floundered around, trying to get to her feet, and found Bert Cummings waving a hand down in her face. She reached up to take it.
“Lilith Stark! What in the name of God are you doing?”
Even the mules shied from the outrage in the Reverend Fisk’s voice.
The laughter fled Lilith with the guilty speed of Calvin Fox fleeing his mother’s wrath. She sat there, legs splayed in the glowing dirt, with bubbles of laughter floating and dancing all around her and her two wide-eyed staring ghosts. Bert Cummings still had his hand stretched down but his face was turned toward the parson stalking across the yard from the house. Lilith couldn’t move a muscle, trapped same as a rabbit in a snare.
“Explain yourself!” Fisk stopped five feet away, looking like the judgment of God in his black frock coat and his prissy parson hat.
Lilith tried to swallow down a throat turned to dust. She caught Bert’s hand and let him pull her up. He stepped in front of her, putting himself between her and the preacher. “Who are you?” he demanded, his six-shooter stuck in plain sight in the top of his pants.
Lilith cringed. She still hadn’t gotten Bert’s shirt back to him and he hadn’t taken time to snatch up a blanket before coming down the ladder. Standing there with just his uniform pants on and hay stuck in his hair, he looked like he’d just gotten up from a good romp.
Fisk gave him a persimmon-mouthed onceover. “I would ask the same of you. I see it’s true, what Sister Carr reported to me.” His gaze swiveled to Lilith. “You are entertaining men up here.”
Joab lunged toward Fisk, his hands outstretched to throttle him. Luke yanked him back by the collar. Bert Cummings, shocked, said, “That ain’t so! Miz Stark got stuck with me when I couldn’t ride on because of stopping a bullet with my arm. What call you got to go accusing her of—of—” He couldn’t even say it, he was so taken aback.
Fisk’s frown never softened a whisker. “That does not explain the unseemly conduct I observed when I arrived, or you standing there half naked.”
He waited, staring down his long nose at Lilith. Bert reddened and turned tongue-tied; Joab, choking with Luke hauling his shirt up around his windpipe, quit fussing suddenly. A laugh bubble floated by his face, shining softly, lighting his paleness and the intense darkness of his eyes turned toward Lilith.
“Ask him what’s unseemly about laughter,” he said. He looked fit for murder. She couldn’t read the reverend’s face at all, it had gotten so dark. The laugh bubbles were floating away up toward the stars, bouncing on the breeze, trailing little fuzzy shimmers behind them. Only one hovered in the yard above the mules standing there half asleep. It shed silvery light over tufty manes and long drooping ears and set a soft shine on their mealy muzzles that was almost pretty. Lilith mourned the loss of those bubbles; she hadn’t ever seen them before, and it would have been nice to get a chance to enjoy them and let the wonder of them sink in before they floated off to entertain God up there in the sky.
He must be laughing pretty hard watching this, she thought sourly.
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Be on the lookout for S. A. Bolich's upcoming releases: The Mask of God coming Spring 2014, The Mark of God coming Summer 2014 and Delver coming Fall 2014
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