The Lady in the Mist – A New Release by Catherine Wolffe

Posted: October 4, 2012 in Featured Authors
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Catherine Wolffe has released the book 1 in her new series, The Western Werewolf Legend. She answered a few of my questions about this release and they are below. She provided Chapter 1 as an excerpt as well. You can buy Catherine’s book at Smashwords or Amazon.

How did you come up with the title for your book?
The Lady in the Mist refers to the hero’s first glimpse of a woman approaching him following an ambush by Yankee renegades. Tyler Loflin is sure of one thing – that he’s dying. The woman is shroud in mist as a fog rolls in. There’s fire and smoke impairing his view of the woman. All he can tell she is a vision, like an angel with golden hair. The working title was Renegade Rebel.

Did you brainstorm the idea for The Lady in the Mist with family and friends?
I talked extensively with my sister about this book and the protagonists. My characters have some serious decisions to make following some life altering events. How they react will have a lasting effect on their future.

How is The Lady in the Mist different from other books in this genre?
I love westerns and western romance. However, I also enjoy most storylines in the paranormal genre.I blended the two genres for this book. Really it’s a blend of western romance with paranormal elements involving werewolves and vampires.

The year is 1863 and the story begins in Pennsylvania near the Virginia border. Ty and Sonja are from opposite sides. She is a Yankee and he is a Rebel facing death. Her instinct is to save him despite his being the enemy. He is loyal to those he cares about and honorable to a fault. They fall in love before discovering the truth about one another. How they handle the changes they face will test their strength and their love.

What would you say are Sonja’s best and worst qualities?
These are tough to categorize because I find her reactions to be similar to my own in the same situation. Lying is never a good idea, but avoiding the truth can have serious consequences as well. Sonja is a gentle, caring woman who accepts what life has given her. Her concerns are for others. This has both good and bad results.

Which character surprised you the most?
That’s easy. Hortence, the witch is a delightful old hag who always has an opinion. Rambling conversation is her best trait and she gives my hero and heroine fits.

What was the hardest part of writing The Lady in the Mist?
Time to write is always a serious concern because I work outside the home. Getting up early before everyone else is up helps. Still the muse may not want to cooperate. When that happens, I jot down ideas and take a walk or some other solitary activity and usually she wakes up eventually.

What would you like to share with your readers?
I always love hearing from my readers. Right now, I’d like to share another excerpt from The Lady in the Mist.

Here’s an Excerpt from “The Lady in the Mist.”

Chapter 1

He appeared in the shadows, preventing Sonja from viewing nothing more than his dark outline. Since she’d lived alone after her husband, Robert’s death, she carried a small Derringer in her skirt pocket at all times. With a hand on the gun, she hailed the person.

No reply.

How rude, she’d mused. Perhaps he didn’t hear her. “Hello, stranger. May I help you?”

Still no reply.

“You’re trespassing on private land. State your business.” Glancing behind her, she started to speak again and lost her voice when suddenly, a hand gripped her. Her snap peas spilled to the ground before the basket followed. Sonja screamed as the stranger grabbed her arms pinning them to her sides. The small gun clattered to the ground. The vermin laughed coarsely in her ear and his breath smelled hideous. His ragged nails tore at her flesh. Frantically, she struggled to get away.

“Be still, girly. Nobody’s going to hear you anyway,” he hissed.

She didn’t intend to obey the stranger. Darkness had fallen suddenly. His eyes glowed red from behind his mask. Sonja fought to see more but to no avail. “Show yourself, you bastard.” She spit at him.

He laughed again, this time the sound was vulgar and callous. “Don’t fret, girly. I’ll make it quick.”

Pain seared her senses as he slapped her across the cheek. Sonja’s breath came in pants. He laid his grimy fingers over her mouth. She gulped down the bile that threatened to spill at his decaying carcass body odor. Swearing she’d never forget the scent, she struggled with more force, but the man’s grip held like iron. His breath tickled her skin. The pain that came next made the world go black.

When she woke, she lay in a pool of blood. The trees above her swayed as if they’d come alive. She raised a hand to shield her eyes from the sunlight before crying out with the pain shooting through her shoulder. Gingerly testing the area, the flesh didn’t hold over her collarbone. Exposed to the open air, the hard marrow didn’t appear damaged. She whimpered though, when her fingers came back with her own skin mingled with clots of dark, crimson blood. Panicked, Sonja jumped up, running blindly.

***

She woke with a jerk. A sharp pain shot through her whole body, making her cry out. An old woman sat beside her on a cot. With a gnarled but gentle hand, the woman brushed the damp hair from Sonja’s face. Flinching despite herself, Sonja yanked away. The pain sang through her neck and shoulder again.

“There, there, my child. Lie still. The healing will be accomplished if you remain quiet,” the old woman soothed. “My name is Hortence. I’m a witch.” Simply stated, the woman’s words were without inflection.

Sonja’s mouth had gapped before she clamped her lips shut. “You admit to being a witch?”

“Yes, I was born a witch, or rather, born with the gift. As I grew, I learned and developed my skills.” She waved her arms upward and fire leapt from her fingertips. “My craft is real.”

Sonja inched backward. A fleeting glance around and she realized she didn’t recognize her surroundings. “Where am I?” Her voice sounded strange, almost garbled. Sonja searched the old woman’s face. Watching the old hag as she crooned, Sonja tried her best to understand where she was. Small snatches of horrible pain jabbed at her conscious mind. Sonja shut her eyes, wincing as the pain reminded her she’d been injured badly.

“Lie still now,” the old woman said.

Sonja opened her eyes cautiously.

Hortence crooked her head to the side, before peering at Sonja out of one eye. Sonja couldn’t tell if the other eye had been sewn shut or the old woman had a permanent squint.

“Shush, my child. Lie still. Your wounds are many.”

Sonja stared. Who was this old hag with the straggly, gray hair? “Where am I?” she asked again.

“You’re safe, my child. Now, you need to rest.” Gently laying a hand over Sonja’s eyes, the old woman murmured soft soothing words. “Rest, my child, rest.”

Despite her better intentions, Sonja couldn’t hold her eyes open any longer before falling back into sleep with the woman’s simple urging.

When she awoke, the room held darkness. A dreary cold gripped her. Sonja reached up rubbing at her arms. She’d already moved before she remembered her neck. No pain — how amazing, she mused. Perhaps the pain had really been only a dream.

Roughly cut, the rafters above her head hung heavy with cobwebs. Rolling her head to the side, she spied the old woman bent over a pot at the fireplace stirring something that smelled like stew. Sonya’s hunger was acute. She silently hoped the old woman would share. Bending her arms, she took solace in the fact the earlier pain had disappeared. “How did I get here?”

The old woman turned at the question, giving Sonja a broken toothed smile. “I brought you here, my child.” At Sonja’s blank stare, the old woman continued, “Don’t worry, you’re safe. There’s a protection spell around the cabin.” Settling her hands on her hips, the old woman glared at Sonja. “Do you remember anything?”

Sonja rubbed at her temple. “Some,” she mumbled. Everything blurred when she tried to recall the attack. “I wasn’t dreaming? I was really attacked?” She wished for some of the soup in the pot over the fire.

“Oh, to be sure. You are very fortunate that I happened along.” The old woman bent again over the pot to stir. Glancing back, she gave Sonja her broken toothed grin once more. “Don’t fret. I’ll get you something to eat. First, I wanted to hear about the scoundrels who attacked you.” She peered quizzically at Sonja with pursed lips. “Tell me everything you remember.”

Frowning, Sonja tried to sit up. The room spun. She caught her head in her hand before scanning the small space.

The room afforded all the comforts of a modest home. A small kitchen area nestled near the fire while the other side boasted a small seating area. On the opposite wall, the bed anchored the chilly stone expanse. A bench provided enough room for one person. Glancing up, Sonja noted the small window that allowed a sliver of light into the room.

She managed to right herself enough to sit in the middle of the cot and cross her legs. “There’s really not much to tell. Everything’s so blurry.”

The old woman sat across the room at the small table. The old woman ate as she listened. “Go on.”

“Uh, I remember seeing someone in front of me on the path. I’d been down by the creek gathering peas from my garden.”

Eyeing the bowl contemplatively, Sonja pursed her lips. Her stomach growled. Insulted by the old woman’s rude behavior, Sonja shifted on the cot. Her unease heightened when flashbacks of the stranger appeared in her mind’s eye. She reached up to touch the wound at her throat.

“Stop that.” The old woman wagged her spoon at Sonja. “I’ve already told you to leave the healing alone. The process will go faster if you don’t pick at the wound. Now, continue.” She scooped up another spoon full of stew.

Sonja couldn’t help but glower at the old hag. Irritated at the woman’s behavior, but desiring to remember more about the attack, Sonja pushed on. “Let’s see. I remember seeing this man standing in the path, but the shadows prevented me from telling anything about his identity. Darkness fell almost immediately.” Sonja paused. “That seems peculiar, because enough light remained for me to get back to the cottage before he appeared. Strange…” Her forehead wrinkled in bemusement as she considered why the light had left so quickly.

“You’re doing fine. Continue…” The old woman’s tone had softened.

Sonja couldn’t stop the pangs of hunger from coloring her opinion of the old woman’s manners. She’d offered her nothing of substance so far. “I called out, but the stranger wouldn’t answer me. Again, I called out. I smelled something before a set of hands pinned me.”

“Yes, what did you smell?” The old woman’s interest had peaked. She dropped the spoon before placing both hands on her knees. Peering at Sonja from the one eye, she asked, “What did you smell? Think, my child.”

Perplexed at the strangeness of the question, Sonja glanced at the old woman before dropping her eyes to her hands in her lap. Conscious of the woman starring at her, she shifted. All right! She would try. Straining, she tried her best to bring the scene back into her mind. “Yes, I remember a smell…” She wrinkled her nose. “Decay – like rotting meat.” Glancing back at the old woman, she searched her face, which remained blank.

“Go on.”

With a heavy sigh, Sonja relayed the rest of the story to the old woman. Finally gaining a bowl of the stew for her trouble, she ate every bite.

“What do you think it all means?” Sonja desperately wanted answers. Instead of answering, the old woman hummed as she merely stirred the pot. Perhaps Sonja should get up and go. Her house remained empty and she had animals to tend. But when she stood, everything spun and she reached back for the cot to anchor her.

Turning, the old woman stared hard at her, making her feel like a child who’d misbehaved. “Didn’t I tell you to rest? Don’t move, do you hear me? Not until that bite is healed.”

“Bite!” Sonja couldn’t help her voice raising an octave. “I was bitten?”

The old woman shot her a one-eyed glare before cackling like a loon. “Bitten? Of course, you’ve been bitten. The damn demons tried to kill you.” She stepped to the bed, shoving gently at Sonja’s shoulders, settling her on the bed once more. “My child, you were bitten by a werewolf.” She shook her head slightly. “The likes of which I didn’t realize existed here. Now you carry the mark of the beast on your palm.” Pointing to Sonja’s hand, she lifted her fingers before turning her hand palm up. “See?”

Looking down, Sonja scowled at the inverted pentagram she found imprinted in her flesh. Without thinking, she rubbed at the mark. Where had the mark come from? She scrubbed at the skin. Surely, the woman was mistaken.

“The mark of the beast can’t be erased,” the old woman said quietly. “Soon you will start to feel the effects of the change.”

Sonja’s eyes grew wide. “Change?”

“Yes, as the earth turns the moon grows closer. During this phase of the cycle, you’ll experience changes.” She patted Sonja’s shoulder.

“What sort of changes?” Sonja asked out of a strangled voice. Aggravated, she shoved the woman’s hand away.

The stew she’d wanted so badly didn’t seem like such a good idea, as she only had time to lean over the edge of the cot before retching. A slow wash of perspiration engulfed her. Moaning, she lay back against the pillow. “Sorry,” she whispered.

The witch clucked her tongue. “Don’t worry, my child.” Waving her hand in the air, the old woman mumbled something. To Sonja’s surprise, the stench evaporated. When Sonja rose up enough to look, the mess had disappeared as well. Slowly her eyes tracked from the floor back to the woman standing in the middle of the small room. Hortence continued to smile.

“What do you want from me?” Sonja asked with a quiver in her voice.

“Nothing, my child. The question is what do you want of your life?”

When Sonja didn’t answer, the old woman sighed and picked up Sonja’s half-eaten bowl of stew before hobbling back to the small kitchen area. “As the moon grows fuller, you will begin to evolve into a creature with great power. Your teeth will grow sharp and your nails will grow long.”

With a shake of her head, Sonja tried to reject the words the woman said. “I don’t believe you. You’re crazy!” Gripping the bed, Sonja swallowed the sickness that threatened once more. She cut a glare at Hortence. “Get away from me, you old hag. I don’t believe in such things. You’re mad!” Turning for the door, she yanked the handle. The light of day greeted her as she raced out. The nausea followed.

Sunshine flitted through a heavy cloak of trees. Maybe she’d reacted too hastily. Glancing over her shoulder, she wished she had a clue as to her whereabouts. The old woman’s cabin sat nestled in the midst of an oak thicket, one unfamiliar to Sonja.

“How do I get home?” Baring her teeth with her fists clinched tightly at her sides, Sonja glared into the watery eye of the old woman standing in the doorway.

Suddenly, the old woman stood right behind her as if she’d materialized. “When you come to the fork in the road, take the path to the right which will lead you home.” With a sweep of her hand she touched Sonja’s cheek. “You carry the gift.” Her brief statement gave Sonja the impression the old woman expected her to understand.

“The gift?”

“Yes, you will be the one who leads the Guardian’s followers into the new millennium.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!” With wide eyes full of shock, Sonja stared after the woman. She might be imagining the whole thing. Surely, the woman hadn’t said she would lead anyone anywhere! She had trouble leading the goat out of the barn. “Why are you babbling on about a Guardian and me leading his pack? I don’t understand. Trying for polite, she offered, “Perhaps you’re mistaken. I’m a widow with a small farm I tend myself. I have no plans to change.” Her exasperation showed by the time she finished. “I’m going home now that I’m feeling much better.”

Hortence scanned her face. “You are changed forever, my child. The place you call home cannot hold you anymore.” She smiled with sympathy. “With time, you will learn the ways of the wanderer. His name is Guardian. He brought you to me for training.” When Sonja only blinked in response, Hortence added, “To lead his pack.”

Sonja couldn’t control the laughter. The sound began as amusement but quickly evolved into hysteria. The woman was mad, as mad as the hatter in Alice’s Wonderland. Perhaps the whole thing was as simple as a dream, like Alice’s. She was dreaming so when she awoke, she’d have a lively tale to tell her sister, Brianda. Sonja fisted her hands while pondering what to do. The need to leave made anxiety clog her throat. To panic wouldn’t help the situation, but she wanted to run wildly down the path screaming out her frustrations.

Hortence smiled.

Wrinkling her brow, Sonja cut a dubious look the old woman’s way. “You seem as cool as a cucumber. Why?”

The old witch cocked a gray brow.

Still, she had to admit, something made her feel strange. Her nerve endings were tingling. Her sense of smell seemed heightened. She could even hear the mouse nibbling on a crumb in the opposite corner of the cottage near the fireplace. Trembling set in and she tamped down the urge to simply bolt.

Hortence continued to smile but said nothing.

Irritation mingled with the concern of where she found herself stirred in her gut.

“You will come again.” The smile widened across Hortence’s face before she turned, disappeared, and then reappeared on the threshold of the small hovel. The shutting of the cottage door left Sonja blinking as she stood alone in the dead leaves covering the forest floor.

Sonja swallowed. Gratitude mingled with relief rose up and almost swamped her. Glancing down at the bandage on her upper arm, she blinked. The wrapping was neat, clean, and smelled of disinfectant. Hortence had taken good care of her. “Thank you,” Sonja whispered. Glancing around, she jumped when Hortence’s voice came to her.

“No thanks are necessary. Your visit was an honor for me.” The old woman’s voice came to Sonja, startling her.

***

Waking, Sonja sat bolt upright, a tingling along her spine. Unable to fathom what seemed wrong, she shook off the chill slithering over her skin. The quilt provided some warmth, so she huddled under the weighty cotton cover. “Oh God! It had been only a dream.” Her hand shook as she treaded her fingers through her hair.

Her gaze swept the room as relief flooded her system. She recognized the tiny room as the bedroom she’d shared with her late husband, Robert. Now, she sat alone trembling in her frayed flannel gown. Robert had been dead and gone for more than three years, she reminded herself as she snuggled deeper in her blanket.

She’d had the dream again. The strange tingling in her hands began once more as well. She looked down to see her nails growing distorted and bluish-green. Reminded of the first time the change had happened, she simply sighed, no dream was capable of such magic. A tiny drop of something crimson clung to the nail of her index finger. Sonja brought the digit closer to examine. The droplet glowed in the darkness with only the light of the full moon to see by. Giving her finger a good study, the witch’s words came back to her. “As the moon grows fuller, you will evolve into a creature with great power.”

Sonja cried out in frustration. She frantically snatched up the tale of her old gown to try wiping the droplet off. The stain remained the whole while mocking her effort. The dream repeated itself more frequently of late. The sensation of her blood coursing through her veins forced her from the warmth of the wedding quilt over to the room’s tiny window to look out on the small farm Robert and she had struggled to build.

Time seemed to stop as she considered the man she’d married the year she’d turned twenty. Her mother had worried she’d be an old maid, but Robert Brooks had ventured into her life one bright summer day. Before Sonja could reconsider, he’d asked her father for her hand. The wheels were set in motion and they’d been married.

Robert had been a blacksmith by trade. Saving every penny, he’d managed to acquire a small parcel of fertile bottomland in the foothills of Pennsylvania. Their plans had included pigs, chickens, and cows as well as a goat for milk. They raised their own food and sold what they didn’t need. The farm would be an ideal place to raise a family.

Robert, being a determined man fed his dream well. During the first couple of years of their marriage, their dream flourished. Then The Civil War started. Their world changed forever. Robert had volunteered within the first days of the conflict between the Union and the “upstart” Confederates. He’d assured Sonja the uprising would all be resolved within weeks. Soon they’d get back to raising a crop and starting a family. Three years had passed. Sonja was now twenty-four.

The surging of blood in her veins drew her back to the present. Sonja leaned against the cool glass of the window to subdue the wave of anxiety, which gripped her when the sensation swept over her. Oh why couldn’t she be rid of this thing trying to take over her life? How could she remove the damned thing without killing herself? Perhaps, she couldn’t. Perhaps she’d become like the one the witch had spoken of, the one called “Guardian”. Could her dream have been real? The signs were all there. Whenever she grew frightened or threatened, Sonja realized her fingers grew long talons at the ends. She carried the healing wound of a dog attack. Now she had the persistent stain, which wouldn’t leave her hand.

Sonja sighed heavily before returning to the bed once more. What if she’d already become a werewolf? What if she’d already changed without knowing? She couldn’t completely remember what she’d done once she laid down to sleep? Could she have walked in her sleep? The witch had told her Sonja would be capable of terrible acts of violence and murder if she ventured out under a full moon. If the words of the witch were more than a figment of her overactive dream world, then she could expect to change without any control over the act. When the towns’ people found out she’d been bitten and now carried the curse of the werewolf, they’d hunt her down. She would be trusted up and burned at the stake. Silver killed werewolves. She could count on a great silver knife piercing her flesh, stabbing her through the heart.

She needed answers. Panic started to swell her throat shut, sending Sonja off the bed and into her meager stash of clothing to dress. Deciding to go to Hortence’s cottage again, Sonja shoved her bare feet into her only pair of boots before throwing a long cloak over her shoulders and leaving the warmth of her cabin.

***

“You’re a werewolf, my child.” The old woman’s craggy features softened fractionally in the flickering light of the room’s lone candle. Her words, though spoken with sympathy, were of little comfort to Sonja. Hortence, the witch, peered at her. “There’s nothing you can do to stop the curse.”

The old hag hadn’t intended to cause Sonja more pain, but the statement delivered with unwavering sincerity stunned Sonja. Denying the truth simply made the fact harder to deal with. Denying the fact she carried the mark of the beast on her palm didn’t make the mark disappear.

Things had been happening to her. The sensation of the blood coursing through her body started right after the attack. For Christ’s sake, she could hear the low roar of her life source rushing through her veins! She’d been terrified when her fingernails lengthened to claws before retracting almost as quickly. Remembering the pain only made the incident worse. Not two days before, she’d found herself lying in a wooded glade near her small cabin without a stitch of clothing on her body. The next night she’d caught herself before she’d actually howled at the moon. The events of the past several days did indeed frightened Sonja to the very depths of her being.

Now, with Hortence’s proclamation, Sonja’s own sensibilities were at their wits end. This type of phenomenon made up the tales in children’s folklore. A werewolf? What would become of her? Could she be going mad?

Hortence seemed daft, she mused. Surely, her prediction would turn out to be the rambling of an old, crazy person.

Inching backward toward the door, she glanced down at the wound on her shoulder. Sonja, who prided herself on her common sense, shook with denial. “A wild dog caused these,” she murmured. “I need your help to heal this dog bite.” Trembling, she pointed to her wound. After all, worry over the bite was the reason she’d sought out Hortence in the first place. Blinking she realized the blood spot and the talons factored in her traveling through the woods in the wee hours of the morning. Sonja couldn’t help the heavy sigh she released. Certainly, the witch would debunk the idea the wound was anything more as fantasy. She would give Sonja some herbs for healing, and then send her on her way. Despondently, she looked at her shoulder again.

Hortence fretted over a large, black cooking pot hanging above the fire in the hearth. Raising her gnarled fingers high above her head, she closed her eyes and mumbled some unintelligible chant. As if in response, the smoke in the pot rose up in a ghostly green spiral resembling an otherworldly creature.

“Come closer, my child.” The old woman’s voice broke over the command. “I need a snippet of your hair.”

Swallowing hard, Sonja slipped closer. Tales of this place and what Hortence did here, raced through her mind. Still fretting, she moved near the old woman and her bubbling pot.

Hortence took a rusty knife and sliced off a blond curl, tossing the golden lock into the gurgling pot.

Still irritated, but now more bemused than ever by the witch’s curious behavior, Sonja stepped closer before asking as politely as she could, “What’s in the pot?”

The witch turned her beady, watery eye on Sonja. Her faded, ancient face stood out in stark relief against the backdrop of the green smoke. Sonja stepped back, deciding she’d made grave mistake in coming. The old woman could be no more than a magician, a conjurer. She probably wanted money or whatever she considered Sonja had of worth. A trick made the woman’s eyes glow green.

“You need a spell. The spell is the reason you’ve come, isn’t that so?” Shuffling over to a rough, wooden table, she scrounged through the items cluttering the scared surface. Snatching up a bag of tattered burlap, she tossed the bag over her shoulder and into the pot. The ragged bag hit its mark.

The green smoke enveloped the olden sack with a loud crackle as the pot’s fire sputtered. Bright flames of orange and red flared before settling once more.

Sonja blinked in horror.

Did crusted, hairy fingers really slip out of the burlap to encircle the worn-out cloth, drawing the bag under the bubbling brew? A tremor of trepidation gripped her. Sonja swallowed hard. She’d definitely stayed too long.

The witch began to laugh, a course, calloused sound making the hairs on Sonja’s neck stand at attention. Again, mumbling something indecipherable, she pointed at Sonja, and then at the pot. With a fierce flailing, she waved her hands above her head before calling out, “Powers of protection, hear me! I seek the one called Guardian. Show yourself.”

The brew hissed and spewed upward in great gurgling plops while the witch continued to wave her hands, swaying in a trance like state.

Sonja stepped back in defense. What a crazy woman! Sonja turned for the door. Berating herself for a fool, she reached for the handle.

Suddenly, a strong, hand gripped her with sharp points of pain digging into her shoulder. When she dared look back, a hairy hand with talons similar to her own anchored her in place. Wheeling with the force of the grip, Sonja had the misfortune to come face to face with a beast as black as pitch. The mouth of the creature jutted out from hair-covered jowls. Opening his mouth, Sonja could see his surprisingly white teeth ran in a ragged line until pointed incisors gleamed right below a crusted, bulging nose. The beast’s nostrils were far too big in his hairy face. His bluish tongue ran out, licking against the side of the creature’s snout in a slobbering, snarling smack.

One scream erupted, which sounded very much like her own. The sensation of spiraling downward sluiced over her in a sickening wash of panic. The room spun out of control before everything went black.

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