Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Eliza's Shadow, Giveaway and Guest Post

Thank you Paranormal Romance Fans For Life for granting me a guest post.  Today, I’d like to share a little bit about where I find inspiration for my writing.   
         It’s 2 a.m. and I can’t stop thinking about a swamp, again.  The first time I experienced a swamp was when I was 17 years old.  My environmental science class took a field trip to the Okefenokee Swamp, a massive 600 square foot swamp at the base of Georgia and northern part of Florida.  We’d spent the weeks prior to the trip learning about swamp ecology and I was very excited to see alligators in their native environment.  After a grueling double-digit hour bus ride, we arrived at our destination and got settled in the dorms of a local college. 
               Bright and early the next morning we met our guide on a dock at the edge of the swamp.  The water was still and brown, stained reddish brown like tea.  From the dock I noticed long, dark shadows that rose and fell disappearing into the water.  We paired off and picked canoes.  Our guide explained that we must keep our hands in our boats and if we capsized, we should not panic.  Most of the alligators were not big enough to attack a human… 

               My classmates and I climbed into canoes.  But one of the girls had a broken arm and couldn’t pull an oar with her cast.  So, our teacher picked a couple of strong kids to take her.  As the canoes pulled away from the dock and sailed single file behind the guide’s boat, my partner and I nervously waited, noticing that we were going to be the last boat in line. 

               Hundreds, maybe thousands, of small channels cut through the dense swamp flora.  They weave and branch creating a labyrinth.  Our guide was adamant that we must stay together because getting lost in the swamp could be deadly.  Even people who traveled in the swamp frequently sometimes lost their way and never returned.

               The boat carrying our wounded classmate very slowly pulled away from the dock and fell in line.  My partner and I followed.  We entered into a channel, took a turn down another channel, and then another.   Very quickly it became clear that we would never be able to find our way back without help.  I got nervous.

               To make matters worse, there really were a lot of alligators and we were in a little canoe.  The alligators were bold.  They floated up to the top of the water right next to our boat, their slit pupils daring us to make a false move. 

               But after half an hour or so, I began to relax.  I hadn’t seen a single alligator big enough to eat me.  And I couldn’t help but be absolutely amazed by the beauty around me, the trees that rose from the water perched on bulging roots and delicate dragonflies that zipped across the calm channel.

               When you see pictures of swamps, they look dirty and maybe even stinky with all that stagnant water.  But in reality, even though the water looks still, it is so clean you can drink it and it doesn’t stink at all.  In fact, it smells clean and full of fresh, vibrant life.

               Just as I grew comfortable with my surroundings, we meandered around a corner and found ourselves at a crossroads.  The boat, carrying our wounded classmate was there, but everyone else had vanished.  There were two channels we could take and no clue as to which one our group had chosen. 

               We panicked.  Half of us wanted to go right, the other half left.  We argued and paddled in circles trying to make a decision.  Should we stay together?  Should we split up and try both?  Time was ticking away, along with our chances of catching up with the group.  We decided to stick together and go left.

               It was probably a half an hour before we found ourselves at another fork in the road.  The sun was high in the sky and we had to admit that we had taken the wrong path.  Some of the kids wanted to keep going left.  Why, I don’t know.  Instead, we turned around and headed back the direction we came from.  But by the time we arrived at our original crossroads, we weren’t sure which channel was the original path!  We were officially lost and scared. 

               As time passed, we worried that our group took a different way back to the dock.  Did they even notice that we were missing?  Would we have to gather bugs for food and drink the swamp water to survive? 

               It was mid-afternoon before we heard the sound of a motor in the distance.  Finally, a boat shot around the bend.  Our teacher was perched in the front with a scowl on her face.  Everyone was relieved but there were not many words exchanged.  We paddled behind the motorboat as it led us back to the pier. 

               Our classmates snickered and shook their heads as we approached.  Someone handed us brown paper bags.  The lunches we’d missed while were lost.  A day later, I developed a raging kidney infection from holding my pee for an entire day because I couldn’t pee in the swamp.  I ended up having to get a shot of antibiotics in my bum.

               After an experience like that, you’d think I’d loath swamps and never want to see such a place again.  But actually, those hours, floating around in the shady channel of the swamp, staring into the strangely clear, peat stained water, watching tiny fish pick at the roots of the cypress trees, is a memory I carry with reverence.

               I have learned that any experience that extracts you from your normal life, be it pleasant or torturous, comfortable, uncomfortable, dangerous or boring is fertile ground for creativity.  So now, on nights when nothing out of the ordinary has happened for days on end, I think about the swamp. 

Title: Eliza's Shadow
Series: Eliza's Shadow #1
Author: Catherine Wittmack
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
Publisher: Self-published
Format: Ebook | Paperback
Length: 332 pages
Purchase: Amazon |

 Book Description:
Eliza Gowan’s past has come back to hunt her. Since her mother’s mysterious disappearance, Eliza has enjoyed a quiet life under the care of her aunt in the sleepy town of Port Rune. But the moment magnetic Ren Alden appears in her high school classroom, Eliza is thrust into the exciting world of magic and the path of danger. Menaced by an otherworldly enemy, Eliza embarks on a quest to solve the mysteries of her past and end the hunt for good.


Ren laughed.  “What are you doing?  Just sit still and focus, why don’t you?”  He urged impatiently.

I pressed my crossed ankles together and my arms to my sides.  “Ok, ok.  I’m ready,” I stammered.

I forced deep measured breaths until the cold air stilled the nervous bubbles bobbing around my head.  My hands stretched around my knees and I flexed my fingers imagining the flame leaping from the tips.  I turned inward imagining the spark growing inside of me.  My mind’s eye examined the small dot of electricity and watched it glow in the caverns of my mind.

Run!  I commanded.

I followed the little spark as it hopped from one nerve to the next, racing down the length of my arm and felt it, hot and anxious to perform.  Then something strong and sure told me the spark was ready.  Without a conscious effort, my arm lifted from my side and my wrist snapped. 

My eyes shot open.  A small ball of light glowed bright against the darkness.  I glanced up to find Ren’s giddy grin.

We sat for several moments in reverent silence before Ren snatched the wriggling little light from my palm as easily as a frog snatches an insect. 

He chuckled and tossed it above our heads.  The small light bounced in the air like a yo-yo before settling suspended above our heads.

“Wow!  How’d you do that?”  I exclaimed.

“Clean flames will do just about anything you want them to,” he said.

“Can I touch it again?”  I asked tentatively.

Ren shrugged.  “Sure, it’s your flame,” he said and sank back against the cluster of pipes, a pleased smile lingering on his lips.

I reached into the air and plucked the tiny blaze from its perch.  I held the flame in my hand admiring its dance. 

“It’s hot,” I said wincing.

Ren inched toward me and slid his hand beneath mine.  His palm was soft against my knuckles.  Then his fingers closed around my wrist and he pulled my hand toward his lowered face. My fingertips grazed the scruff of his chin sending a tingle up my arm. Our eyes met across the glowing expanse of my palm.   

“Even the most magical things can burn,” he said tensely, holding my gaze.

My cheeks flushed hot under his intense stare. 

“Only… if you let them,” I responded, carefully controlling my breath.

“Easier said than done,” he said with a sigh.

I blew softly across my palm.  The flame flickered and disappeared into a wisp of smoke.
About the Author:

Catherine Wittmack lives in Charlotte, N.C. with her husband, Charlie, and their two sons, James and Jack.  She holds a B.A. in English from Villanova University and a M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Northern Iowa.  Her debut novel, Eliza's Shadow, was published on Amazon in May 2012. 
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