Publication Date: August 7, 2012 (1st Ed.) / July 1, 2014 (2nd Ed.)
Synopsis: Hounded by watchmen, trolls, goblins, and a relentless bounty hunter, thirteen-year-old Jetsam dreams of the day he’ll no longer have to run for his life. A victim of circumstance burdened with an interminable unlucky streak, each sunrise ushers in more difficulty for the resilient adolescent. An avalanche of life-changing events forces him to boldly decide his future.
In the mountain city of Dwim-Halloe, Eidryn and Elvar were born twins to teachers at the city’s revered School of Sorcery. When the new king outlawed magic, the boys’ parents were murdered. Their deaths forfeited the siblings' magical birthright and made them homeless fugitives.
Rescued by an orphan gang, the water-logged twins were nicknamed Flotsam and Jetsam. To survive as outcasts, the orphans scavenge and pilfer nightly. Their last risky foray sent them fleeing into an unfamiliar cavern. Now the brothers are lost deep underground where they encounter a strange beast that will change their lives forever and begin a harrowing journey for their ultimate survival.
Crimson & Cream recounts Jetsam’s adventurous tale of flight and discovery as the fugitive orphan unravels the tangled mysteries his tortured past while securing his tenuous future.
Book Coupon: Smashwords free coupon (code: HB78A) to download in the e-book format of your choice (epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, txt). Coupon expires December 31, 2014.
Author Bio: C.M. Skiera grew up in Michigan and now lives in California with his wife and two rescue Chihuahuas. He works as a professional environmental engineer to pay the bills and has been writing since the mid 1990s. Crimson & Cream is his debut epic fantasy novel. He started writing Crimson & Cream in 1999, and after lots of twists and turns, 15 drafts, plenty of rejections, the arrival of the 21st Century and the advent of online self-publishing, Crimson & Cream has finally arrived. C.M. Skiera is currently finalizing Mirrors & Mist, book two of The Oxbow Kingdom Trilogy, due for release in late 2014.
Excerpt: “Jetsam!” his twin brother Flotsam whispered. “Get down! We shouldn’t be here.” Jetsam’s ragged pant leg tightened from his brother’s pull. The second-hand breeches were ill-fitting for the growing youth. Jetsam’s trousers, and his wrinkled tunic, were swiped from a peasant’s clothesline. With a grunt, Jetsam jerked his leg free of his brother’s grasp.
Jetsam hung from the stone wall, transfixed on a maiden strolling in the garden below him. With the tip of his nose resting on the ashlar, his aching fingers clung to the bulwark’s lip. Jetsam’s nostrils flared at the fragrances rising in the warm night air. The toes of his shoddy boots wedged into the cracks between the blocks.
Upon first glimpse, Jetsam noticed the girl’s eyes. Her crystalline orbs drew him in, mesmerizing Jetsam. Sallow moonlight danced in her locks, shimmering like waves. Willowy and angelic, the somber lass displayed a regal air. She meandered the flagstone path amidst flowers and shrubs, drifting like a leaf on the wind. Surrounded by low hedges, she moved out of earshot.
“Jet-sssam,” Flotsam hissed again. “Stick to the alleys. This is too dangerous!” he whispered. “Can’t believe you sodding talked me into this.”
Jetsam snorted. Only had to pester you about it every day for weeks, he thought. If only you’d relax, then we could enjoy our birthday! Jetsam was amazed he convinced his brother to go this far. For months he envisioned this special adventure for their special day, but convincing his cautious twin was another hurdle. Swimming the moat was hazard enough, but creeping inside the castle through a narrow drainage chute was risky indeed. Must be the full moon, he rationalized.
“Sheer lunacy, sneaking into the Citadel—birthday or not,” the pragmatic Flotsam warned, whispering his brother’s thoughts while maintaining his sense of reason. “Turn back while we can.”
Despite the plea, Jetsam didn’t budge. Logic fell on deaf ears. Captivated by the lass, Jetsam ignored his twin’s urging.
“Seem rather fond of that wall,” Flotsam teased. “Find a soft spot?”
“Always the jester,” Jetsam replied with a smirk. “Come have a look,” he whispered.
Visibly flustered, Flotsam scaled the rough surface alongside his brother. Inside the yard, trees rustled in the midnight breeze while their branches shaded flowers and bushes from the lunar radiance.
“Let’s go inside!” goaded Jetsam, blue eyes flashing with enthusiasm. He glanced at Flotsam’s stern face. Bet he’s hungry, Jetsam connived. “Look at those apples!” Jetsam exclaimed in a high whisper. “Can you imagine eating one? Fresh and juicy—not some chewed-up core. Fill our sacks and not a one’ll be missed.” The trick to getting his brother over the wall was to convince him of the garden’s bounty. A meeting with the mysterious girl would be Jetsam’s secret birthday present.
“You’re not looking at apples,” Flotsam retorted, “and she’ll holler for the stinkin’ guard. We’ve done just fine filchin’ in town. Always enough for both of us, and then some.”
“She won’t rat us out. She looks lonely.” Jetsam turned to his twin. “How long’s it been since we talked to a girl? Can’t even remember.”
“Don’t want to get dragged to the mines over a stinkin’ lass!” Flotsam snapped with a scowl. “Just ‘cause she looks lonely don’t mean she won’t go screamin’ bloody murder when she spots our dirty hides.”
“We’ve outrun the stinking guards before and will again,” Jetsam countered, while remembering a few close calls. “Can’t ignore that fruit.” Jetsam even began to sell himself on the succulent produce. “Look, pears!” It was the girl, however, that drew him in. “I’m going over!”
With both hands grasping the wall’s top, Flotsam could only object with a grunt. Jetsam scampered to the top, hunching cat-like before dropping on all fours into the grass on the other side. Jetsam crouched and watched the lass, who remained oblivious to him. Now he wavered, as uncertainty raced into his head. With her radiant hair and immaculate gown, she looked so clean. With his greasy locks and tattered clothes, he felt ashamed. Although he acclimated to his own odor, he was certain she’d smell him. Flotsam’s right. I don’t belong here. He considered sneaking back over the wall.
“Hello?” the girl said in a melodious voice, slightly above a whisper.
Too late. Jetsam’s heart raced. He didn’t dare glance at Flotsam.
The lass kept her distance, her head tilted. Jetsam surmised she was a few years younger than he and his brother, but he had little experience with the fair sex.
“Who art thou?” she snapped, standing hands on hips, a dozen paces from Jetsam, who was still frozen on hands and knees. He noticed her drawn lips and furrowed brow. Oh, no—Flotsam was right.