Friday, May 1, 2015

SpotLight on The Tramp by Sarah Wathen-blog tour-guest post

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When John was seven, he found Candy dancing in the neighboring yard wearing a yellow polka-dot bikini and red rain galoshes, splashing and dancing and singing at the top of her lungs. She saved his throat from getting ripped out by her grandma’s guard dog. Good thing she did, too. It was John who raised the alarm that day, when the man who smiled with his mouth but not his eyes drove off with Candy in a cloud of dust. The police stopped whatever might have happened next in a seedy motel—a place Candy doesn’t dare remember. John rescued her, creating a bond between two friends strong enough to awaken…something. 
That something has haunted the southern mountain town of Shirley since a time before stories were written, in a cycle that has spun for centuries. 
Years later, John and Candy begin to suspect something more sinister lurking amidst the days of football glory and the nights of clandestine rendezvous. John discovers disturbing symbols from the ancient tribes indigenous to the area in his history textbook, in a local cave system, and in his very dreams. Candy uncovers a family history that is more colorful than she knew. If shades of black are colorful. 
If only the two friends could foresee the danger looming before them. For another something, one much more dangerous than the first, is waking up to continue the cycle. 
And this something is bent on revenge…again. 
Murder forces everyone out of sunny valley torpor, and Candy realizes that more than acquaintance connects her with the killer. When a corpse is found, gutted as if for ritual, she knows that whatever evil has overtaken her hometown is moving forward. She will have to exorcise the haunting herself—though she has no idea how—and she will need John’s predestined help to do it. Candy will have to face the memories of that seedy motel room first. At least she finally understands the power she never knew she had—a link to her departed mother and a line of healers shrouded in pre-history.
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 Sarah Wathen
Sarah Wathen is an artist, author, and founder of the independent publishing house, LayerCake Productions. She was trained in Classical Painting at the University of Central Florida, and then received her Master's in Fine Art from Parsons School of Design in New York City. If Florida was where she discovered her passion, New York was the place she found her voice. "Writing a book was my obvious next step, once I realized I'd been trying to tell stories with pictures for years," Sarah says about transitioning from visual artist to novelist. "Painting with words is even more fun than painting with oil." She describes world-building with language--developing characters, constructing settings and plots, and inventing history--as a power trip that everyone should try at least once.
If only she had as much control over her Bichon Frisées as she does over her narratives. A devoted animal lover, she populates every story with at least one of her pets--especially the dearly departed ones, as therapy for an aching heart.
Sarah lives in Florida with her husband, son, and at least a dozen imaginary friends from her two novels, The Tramp and Catchpenny.

“Come on, I’ll show you how to find rubies in the creek.”
The evergreen forest closed in around John and Candy. They stepped over loose earth and around algae-covered boulders, still slippery from a recent rain. John spotted a patch of bright orange mushrooms sprouting around the base of an enormous pine tree.
“Which alien planet sent those as spies?” he wondered aloud.
Delighted, Candy decided that they must find clues to lead them to the mushroom spaceship. No rubies were discovered that day, but John did find a bright red ladybug that he swore bit his nose, despite Candy’s protestations that “fairies” don’t bite. Candy found blue flowers with yellow sunny centers and John helped her lace them into her braids. She threaded her fingers with his when it was time to head back.
“Candy,” said a deep, quiet voice.
John jumped and Candy yelped.
“Oh my gosh. You scared me, Uncle Brian,” she said, grabbing her chest. John turned to see a tall thin man in faded jeans and a worn plaid flannel shirt: cuffs unbuttoned and gaping wide at his wrists. He was walking up the road towards them, just outside the little woodland. “Where’d you come from?”
“Candace, you need to come with me. Right now.” He was gruff and stony-eyed.
“In the truck?” Candy peered around him at an old blue pick-up. Its door was ajar. “What’s wrong?”
“You’re late, time to go home.” He held out his hand and flicked his fingers, impatient and distracted. “Just come with me. Now.”
“Jeez. Come on, John,” said Candy, tugging her new best friend’s hand.
Uncle Brian barked, “No. Just you. Let’s go—now.”
“But…” Candy let go of John, pink blooming across her face. “His grandma lives right next door to Grandma Catherine. He’s visitin’ from the city—”
“We’re not going to Grandma Catherine’s. Your mom wants me to bring you home.” Her uncle clenched his jaw and gestured towards the truck again.
The pick-up’s engine ticked out tense seconds. John strained his vision and could just see the limp figure of another kid asleep on the bench inside.
Candy followed his line of sight and perked up. “Andy’s with you?”
“Yes. Everything’s fine, sweetheart,” Uncle Brian said, his tone softening and his smile returning.
The smile looked forced to John.
“Okay. Well…bye.” Candy dove in for a hug. She squeezed his waist, leaned back and shrugged, “You just follow the trail around either way. It leads you right back to your grandma’s house. Or mine. It just circles the woods. Sorry.” She turned to walk with her uncle, without taking his hand.
“I can find it,” John said, not entirely certain that he could. But the unfamiliar trail was not what was setting his nerves on edge. That kid in the car looked more passed out than asleep; and John didn’t like the way Candy’s uncle smiled with his mouth but not his eyes. “Bye.”
John watched her walk away, her cut-off jean shorts still damp and muddy in the rump, and her coppery braids twisting down her back, trailing blue flowers with every step. She got into the cab next to her “sleeping” cousin—pinned between him and Uncle Brian—and waved from behind a filthy window. Her uncle slammed his door, avoiding John’s gaze. Then, the ratty truck spun its wheels hard, and they peeled away off the grassy shoulder, tires squealing on the asphalt. John gasped and trotted over to the road to see them racing away in a cloud of dust.
He sprinted home, his feet pounding the packed earth and his lungs choking on their exit.

Another EXCERPT 
Sam headed towards the inner hall and beckoned her to follow with an outstretched hand. She accepted it and sidled up close, nervous. Her breasts bumped against his back and she tripped over his heel. “Sorry.”
“Thats okay,” he chuckled. He squeezed her fingers and led her out into a wide marble entryway; their steps echoing against a thirty-foot ceiling.
“Wow,” Candy breathed.
The central staircase plunged past them. It lead to a sumptuous foyer: the handrail curled around ornately carved dancing women that stood guard at the top of each stair rail. A dusty crystal chandelier hung inert over a threadbare Persian rug. Candy stepped onto the richly patterned carpet. She spun, slowly, taking in the details of the Baroque balustrade. A circular gallery ringed the room overhead before reaching back into shadows.
Sam pulled her towards the mezzanine around the outskirts of the main hall. “Look at these.” He flicked a light switch as if he owned the place. The track-lighting ran under the entire upper gallery and the effect was instantaneous and brilliant—the bulbs shone down on half-a-dozen stoic paintings. Serious faces regarded her in disinterested surveillance.
Candy’s sneakers squeaked on the checkerboard marble floor. “Whoa…so many.”
The lights on the other side of the hallway flickered on over even more life-sized portraits. Sam watched her reaction, as she spun around, her eyebrows shooting up in surprise.
“Thats exactly the way I felt,” he said.
Candy nodded, speechless, the faces were so realistic it was like she had an audience. Gilded paintings hung across the wall: a parade of dignitaries. She looked from one intelligent face to the next and their eyes followed her as she moved past.
“Those must be the oldest, by the way they’re dressed,” she whispered, pointing to the other side of the hall. She walked over to inspect them up close. The first few in line seemed to have been painted during a much earlier time; though there weren’t dates on most of them. They were more refined—richer than what one would expect from painting in early Colonial America. “Shipped over from Europe? I don’t know who couldve painted them here.”
After those few gauzy, pastel likenesses, there was a much more crudely painted portrait. Candy strolled over to stand in front of an image of a bearded man with generic features. He was wearing a leather jerkin with some kind of animal skin draped over one knee and a rifle resting on his lap.
“The legend, himself. Fredrick Jessup Collins. I remember him from History,” she laughed. “In my freshman year. He founded the first settlement here.”
“He could be Daniel Boone.
Candy smirked. Another painting that was quite different from the rest caught her eye. “Look. A Sendalee woman. She looks important, like a princess or something. What was that thing about the ‘Beloved Woman?” She tapped her finger against her lips, searching her memory. “They were almost like female chiefs or princesses or something.”
Sam looked from Candy to the Native American woman in the portrait. “You have the same eyes,” he blurted.
Sam pointed at the face in the portrait, “You got any Indian blood? I always wondered about your eyes.”
She cocked her head to consider the painted woman’s face more closely, and the hair stood up on the back of her neck.
“Eyes so dark in someone so fair. Almost black,” said Sam. “Fathomless.”
Candy chortled. She had always heard people say that her eyes were unnerving. “Those aren’t my eyes. It’s just a painting. How exact could the likeness of that woman really be…to me?”
You can’t see it?” asked Sam, incredulous.
“Not really.”
But she could.
Candy stood in front of the painting and took it in. The Indian woman’s portrait lovingly captured the unique and intimate details of a real woman’s face and person—it was in no way a caricature, like the Danielle Boone painting. Her shiny black hair was parted in the middle and flowed like silk over squared shoulders. Her face was angular, but soft at the edges, and she wore a simple feather headdress with an elaborate brocade gown. Wisps of gossamer undergarments both covered and revealed her breasts. The hem of her gown stopped just above jeweled wooden sandals, and her ringed fingers rested demurely in her lap. The womans smile was alluring but her posture was erect; the combination lent an air of agression, and challenge, mixed with seduction. Her eyes twinkled with wit and private speculation, one eyebrow half-cocked, not with a need to please. A tiny plaque underneath read, “Ahnaanvwodi.” No date.
Turbulent waters,” Sam mumbled. “I know that look.”
Just one more EXCERPT for your enjoyment 
Tyler lunged forward, grabbed a handful of hair, and yanked it hard. Candy’s neck snapped back and he slammed his body against hers.
A blade slid under her chin. “You’s a quick lil vixen, ain’t ya?”
Foul breath huffed against the back of her head, blowing wisps of her hair. She braced herself and felt the knife dig deeper into her flesh. All he had to do was whip it to one side to slit her throat. She stilled herself, barely daring to breathe.
“You been given that ole’ Sam goodies all along, wasn’t you? Think it’s ‘bout time I took some for me,” he snickered.
The heat rose so fast in Candy she felt dizzy. She tried to catch her breath over her fury. But, she knew where his filthy mouth was. She had a better idea where his eyes were, right behind her cheek. And as he struggled against the buttons of her jeans with his knife-hand, the point of the blade swung away from her. Candy Vale hadn’t grown up wrestling against three older brothers without learning how to deliver a few sucker-punches. She rammed two fingers backwards and felt at least one make squishy, wet contact with an eyeball. Tyler howled, and when he raised the switchblade, she grabbed his wrist and bit down. She tasted blood and heard the knife thud to the ground. He was still hanging onto her arm with his other hand, but he was leaning over in pain. She cracked her head against the bridge of his nose. He fell down, moaning in agony. She broke free, but tripped over a tree root.
“Shit!” As she scrambled to her feet she could hear Tyler on the move behind her. He grabbed her ankle and wrenched her back to the ground, twisting her leg so that she landed hard on her elbows. Her bones jarred to the top of her head.
“You bitch!” he screamed, blood spurting from his nose.
She saw her opportunity—he was blinded with his own blood—and she wrenched herself around to grab his head in both her hands, delivering her rage through her palms with a howl. She had planned to knee him in the mouth, but he yanked his head back so violently she lost her grip. He wailed like a banshee and flailed away from her. His eyes rolled back in his head and his body convulsed.
She watched him in horror. What the hell?
“Ahnaan…” Tyler sat up, in control of his limbs again. “Ahnaaan…wodiii.” The word came from deep in his throat—guttural—but Candy understood the meaning perfectly. The Sendalee word: Ahnaanvwodi.
“Where?” she stuttered, bewildered. His eyes were fixed on her. “Me? But I’m not the…”
He lunged at her, ripping at her shirt, her face. He tore at her hair in a frenzy, like he would claw his way inside.
“Get off—get off me!”
She kicked him away as hard as she could. A hulking shadow loomed over Tyler from behind, raised both arms overhead with a club held high. The club came down on Tyler’s head with a dull whack and his body went limp.
“Are you alright?”
Candy sat up, staring dumbly at her savior.
“Candy, are you hurt?”
The adrenaline coursed through her body. “Is he d-dead?”
John knelt down next to the stilled heap, feeling for a pulse. “No, just passed out. But, I think he’s going to wish he were dead when he comes to.”
“M-my g-g-god…”
Candy accepted John’s hand, wincing in pain when she put weight on her left ankle. She bore the pain to administer a sharp kick to Tyler’s midsection, and ended up hissing and hopping on her good foot.
 “Come here, Candy.” John wrapped an arm around her waist for support, but when she fell into him, sobbing and trembling, he hoisted her up with both arms. She looped her legs around him and held onto his neck, clinging to him like a child. He threaded his hands under her bum—exactly the way the Child Services officer had carried her away from the crime scene when she was seven. She had watched over the officer’s shoulder—her Uncle Brian was sprawled face-down on the pavement, the policemen shouting over him. Guns were trained on his head.
“Let’s get you home.” John kissed her forehead, stepping gingerly through the undergrowth.
“Okay.” Her blubbering increased with her gratitude, and John made quiet shushing sounds as they left the woods. His Mustang was parked up the road under an umbrella of elm trees.
“I had him,” Candy snuffled wetly into his neck.
“Alright. It’s alright.”
“I don’t need s-saving.” Tears flowed and she pounded his broad back with a weak fist. “I don’t.”
“You could have fooled me, Candy-cane,” he sighed. She hugged him tighter. “You sure could have fooled me.”


The author is giving away the following gifts to one winner of the Rafflecopter.
1.       Signed print copy of the book + Kindle download
2.       MP3 download of The Tramp theme song, "Bound Hearts"
3.       Cover art T-shirt

Rafflecopter code to embed in a blog or website:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hope you enjoy the second visit of Sarah Wathen to my blog Lightning Chronicles! I presented three excerpts from her story to entice you to read her work.  Follow this blog for other exciting authors and their book tours. Talk back, I'm listening, have a great weekend!

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