Jeanne G’Fellers has a new trans-non binary fantasy book out. Please join me in welcoming Jeanne to my blog. She’s most graciously provided an exclusive excerpt for you to read here!
Cleaning House by Jeanne G’Fellers
Series: Appalachian Elementals – book 1
Publisher: Mountain Gap Books
Release Date: Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Length: Novel/112,000 words
Cover Artist: Jeanne G’Fellers
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy, Appalachian Fantasy
Tropes: It’s not really a romance per genre definition, but protagonist has been in a 3000 year, multi-life relationship w/ elemental character
Keywords/Categories: pansexual, nonbinary, gay, transgender, agender, lesbian, diversity, reincarnation, fae, elemental, witch, pagan, magic, Appalachia, Tennessee, mountains, Chicago, job-loss, haints, spirits, ghosts
Centenary Rhodes is an old soul with a well-traveled name, but she doesn’t know this yet.
Growing up in southern Appalachia wasn’t easy, so Cent left home as soon as she could, but the post-collegiate happiness she’d expected has never occurred. She can’t find a decent date, much less find that special someone and, after losing her job in a corporate downsize, she’s struggling to meet her most basic needs. Her car has been repossessed, her bills are piling up, and her questionable North Chicago neighborhood is dangerous to navigate.
Returning home to Hare Creek, Tennessee, never crosses Cent’s mind until her Great Aunt Tess contacts her with an offer she can’t refuse. The family’s southern Appalachian homestead must be sold, and Aunt Tess needs someone to clean it up. Cent will have access to Aunt Tess’ garden and truck and can live on the homestead rent-free for as long as it takes. A part-time job is waiting for her as well.
It’s a chance to solve some of Cent’s financial woes, but will her return be enough when evil sets its sights on Embreeville Mountain and the homestead?
Cleaning House is a carefully woven Appalachian tapestry of granny magic, haints, elementals, and the fantastic diversity of the human condition – served with a delicious side of fries and a generous quart of peach moonshine.
“Put it out and give me the rest of the pack.”
“Of all the— here!” Cent dropped her pack of Lucky Strikes onto the floor and kicked them under the outhouse door to Pyre. They’re almost gone anyway. It was the middle of the night, and she’d gone to the outhouse to sneak a smoke. One, that was all, and the rush felt so good. It was the best she’d felt in days, and—
“Drop that lit cigarette down the hole. Stowne’s on their way.”
“Dangit.” Cent took a long drag, exhaling as she rose. She couldn’t hide that she’d been smoking again, and—
“Centenary, please come out.” Stowne knocked on the outhouse door.
“We must discuss this.”
“I was just going,” Pyre’s light drifted away.
Coward. Cent tied her robe and stepped out the door. Fall had rolled in early and wet, setting her up for a rough bout of bronchitis that wouldn’t go away. “Fancy meeting you here at two in the morning.” She cleared her throat to stifle its perpetual tickle.
“Centenary.” Stowne folded their arms across their chest. “You should not be out here this time of night, especially in these cooler temperatures.” Stowne held out the quilt from their bed. “You should be inside where it is warm and dry.”
“I had to pee. It’s something Humans need to do regular.”
“There is a night bucket beneath our bed for you to use when the weather is bad.” Stowne caught her before she moved away, wrapping her in the blanket. “You gave Pyre the cigarettes, but where are the matches?”
“You already took my lighter.”
“And I am removing every pack of matches from the homestead.”
“But what if we need to light a new fire?”
“Centenary!” Stowne pointed to where Pyre hovered on the porch. “That is not a legitimate argument.” They lifted her into their arms.
“Put me down.”
“Please see reason.” They turned toward the house.
“Put. Me. Down!” Cent all but fell from Stowne’s arms before they turned her straight. “You and me, we gotta talk about this.”
“About what?” Stowne towered over her. “Your refusal to care for yourself?”
“About the elephant in the dang room!”
“El-e-phant?” Water ran off Stowne’s head as they stared at her. “Those large gray mammals you told me about? There is one in the house? Brownie or Birdie surely would have sounded the alarm if—”
“No, honey. I…” Cent shivered as the rain began falling harder. “Let’s go inside and talk.”
“That is what I wanted when we began this elephant-filled argument.” Stowne walked beside her up the hill, helping her at the slick spots until she was inside the door. “There. Safe and warm.” Stowne unwrapped her blanket and pulled off her rain boots. “Sit. I will stoke the fire and heat water for your tea.”
“Chamomile, please.” Nothing else agreed with her stomach anymore. “And do it over the fire so I can watch. Pretty please?”
“Such simple things bring you pleasure.” Stowne set her favorite earthenware mug on the table beside her chair and another blanket across her lap.
“Tell me a story from our pastlives together.” She watched as Stowne talked and worked, admiring the ever-changing lines of their body. Larger or smaller depending on what was needed, delicate as they poured water over the tea strainer but strong in the way they held the steaming cast-iron kettle without using a potholder.
“Cream and sugar?” Stowne peered up at her.
“Sugar, yes. But cream?” Cent blanched. “But I used to like it, didn’t I?”
“Until this life, yes. And you like it in your coffee now, along with lots of sugar.” Stowne slipped into the kitchen to get the sugar bowl and a spoon from the table, dropping three heaping teaspoons into Cent’s mug and stirring. “There. Now we discuss this elephant.”
“Sit down first, honey. You’re pacing.”
“I cannot help it. I worry.” Stowne turned their rocker to face her. “Tell me why you do not care for yourself like you should.”
“It’s hit the point of why bother.” Cent pointed to the medication bottles beside her. “I take something to sleep. Something for pain. Something for my stomach. Something for— Smoking calms me, all right? It helps with the— I’m afraid.”
“What are you afraid of?” Stowne seemed genuinely puzzled.
“This ain’t about dyingif that’s what you’re thinking.” She pulled the blanket higher on her chest and reached for her tea, cursing softly when her hands shook too hard to lift it without spilling it. “I’m afraid of hurting more, of leaving you with horrid memories before I go. Lung cancer is an ugly death.”
“What about the radiation your doctor spoke about?”
“It’ll only delay the inevitable and make me nasty-sick until then.” Cent smiled when Stowne lifted the mug to her mouth. “Thank you.”
“That is why I am here. Never forget that.” Stowne knelt before her. “I will be here the entire time.”
“You’ve never seen me like this.”
“I have watched you die from battle wounds, from Small Pox, and countless other ways. None were attractive, but I have been there every time to walk you across the veil. This will be no different.”
“But I don’t want to leave you alone.” She reached out to stroke Stowne’s face.
“I will wait for your return, same as always.”
“But this land…”
“Yes, there is that.” Stowne kissed her palm. “It must be handed down correctly.”
“I know.” Cent took Stowne’s face into her hands, pulling them up to kiss them firmly on the mouth. “All right. I’ll think on it.”
“Thank you. Does this mean the elephant is gone?”
“Not gone, but it certainly shrank. Take me to bed, baby.”
☆ Exclusive Excerpt ☆
“You. Are. Beautiful.” Stowne trapped Cent’s head with their hands so she couldn’t turn away from the mirror. “Look!”
“Look!” Stowne’s voice became commanding. “See past the glass to witness what we spirits do whenever you are near.” They stared into the mirror too but solely at her. “You are more than flesh. More than bone. You are energy. Pure, beautiful, desirable, eternal energy.”
“There ain’t nothing about me pure.” But as Cent stared, she saw her external layers slip away. Skin. Muscle. Bone. They fell aside to reveal the pulsating white energy that symbolized her existence. My soul, my very spirit. This was the part of her that existed on both sides of the veil, the part most Humans couldn’t understand or remember.
This is what I make love to. This is what I crave. You hold the energy and the knowledge of the ages inside you. There are precious few like you. Your kind is sought after, hated by those who wish to possess your power, and that makes you more precious than anything rising from the earth. Magic burns strong inside you. Stowne’s energy pierced hers, becoming warm hands that wrapped and held her spirit. This is why Rayne and Pyre love you, and why I protect you with such ferocity I appear jealous. You are much more than your wrappings, just as we elementals are, and you will change your form just as readily once you remember the spells and teachings inside your books. They turned their hands to hold her from the inside out.
More and more are returning to me. Cent placed her hands over Stowne’s, squeezing them as the brilliance they stood inside faded.
Remember that for there to be light, there must be dark. Stowne’s hands exited her body to hold her from the outside, rising to force her eyes open when she filled with unexplainable dread. Balance in everything. Everything in balance. Black mist rose from the mirror to consume her. She was a dark hole, neither alive nor dead, clinging to the mirror’s interior, slipping between the glass and the silver behind it. She was Stowne’s shadow on the floor, her lover’s darkest thoughts and willing fulfiller of their most carnal needs. Cent laughed at this as she came to understand, knowing Stowne served the same purpose for her. Thief in the moonless night. Taker of bloodless revenge. Mad lover when she thought she desired solitude. She now understood why Demis despised her, why she’d been able to pierce their form to retrieve her energy and why she’d stripped theirs away.
Cent turned herself inside out to face Stowne, kissing them, tasting their dirt, their power, holding it within her and returning it because that was what eternal lovers did. Beauty came with dark too, but it should be used only when needed and then used well. Stowne was both lightand dark, neutral because equal energy existed within every land spirit.
And I can be both as well, a switch on a dimmer. The lighter outside, the darker it must be within. I choose balance because I can. She raised her arms to break the dark, shattering it in her mind until only light remained. I remember.
You always do once I show you.
Born and raised in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Science Fiction and Fantasy author Jeanne G’Fellers’ early memories include watching the original Star Trek series with her father and reading the books her librarian mother brought home. Jeanne’s writing influences include Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert.
Jeanne lives in Northeast Tennesee with her spouse, Anna, and their five crazy felines. Their home is tucked against a small woodland where they regularly see deer, turkeys, raccoons, and experience the magic of the natural world.
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