LOSE YOURSELF IN a world of gods and spirits in Dark Tempest, sequel to the enchanting romantic fantasy Red Winter, by Annette Marie. In the mesmerizing sequel to Red Winter, Emi can no longer hide within the safety of the shrines. The goddess has charged her with a new task, one that will take her deep into the perilous realm of yokai. But as the solstice draws near, Shiro’s lost memories begin to emerge and his shadowed past threatens to destroy him. With the fate of the world in her mortal hands, she cannot falter, but is she strong enough to sacrifice everything—including him?
Emi has dedicated her life to becoming the perfect vessel for the goddess Amaterasu, but the insidious betrayal of another deity has changed everything. Now Amaterasu has charged Emi with an urgent mission: to find and free the earthly gods before mankind is brought to its knees beneath divine tyranny.
At her side is Shiro, the mysterious fox spirit. When she first saved his life, she could never have imagined that behind his cunning and confidence, he was lost—his power bound by a devastating curse and his memories obscured. His veiled history is somehow tied to the missing gods, but he can’t remember how or why.
As their search leads them into the murky depths of the spirit realm, the shadows of Shiro’s past begin to emerge. With each brief awakening of his true self, she loses a little more of him. The fate of the heavens and earth rest in her mortal hands, and she must find the missing gods before time runs out for her world—and for Shiro.
Releasing January 6, 2017.
“Maybe Amaterasu can help indirectly,” Emi said, straightening where she sat. “What about a spring blessing ceremony?”
“It’s a ceremony of renewal,” she said, a flicker of hope sparking in her. “Miko perform it for sick people and worshippers who want a fresh start or rejuvenation. Maybe it would help you recover your memories.”
“Those ceremonies have almost no power,” Shiro said, doubt written all over his face. “And even if they did, I don’t think a kami ceremony will work on a yokai.”
She held up a finger. “One, I’m not just any miko. Two, the power of the ceremony will come from Amaterasu and she wants you to remember, so I’m sure she’ll make an exception.”
“I don’t think it’s that simple—”
Launching to her feet, she grabbed the shoulder of his shirt and tugged on it. “What’s the harm in trying? Come on.”
“Come on where?” he grumbled, giving in to her pulling and rising.
“I need more space. Over here.”
She led him to the center of a clear, flat spot in the trees, the snow unbroken by animal tracks. As the kamigakari, she had learned all the same skills as a regular miko—in fact, she had learned them even better than the average shrine maiden.
“Sit,” she ordered.
He looked at her askance as he sank to sit cross-legged in the snow. “This won’t work.”
“Don’t be such a pessimist.” She scouted around the nearby trees and selected a thin, foot-long stick with a cluster of golden leaves clinging to the end. Snapping it off, she returned to stand in front of him.
“What’s with the twig?”
“I don’t have the proper tools. I can’t do the dance without something to hold.”
“You’re going to dance?”
“Almost all miko ceremonies involve dancing.”
His skeptical look intensified. Ignoring him, she turned her back to him and adjusted her kimono. Wrong outfit and lacking the proper instruments, but it would have to do. The ritual of the dance—the careful, precise movements that called upon the powers of the earth and the heavens, human ki and kami ki coming together—was what mattered. Closing her eyes, she took a few deep breaths and mentally centered herself. Letting the tension slide away and the calm serenity of the ceremony envelop her, she cleared her mind and turned back to him.
His eyes widened when he saw the difference in her demeanor. Keeping her expression smooth and tranquil, she extended the twig out to the side, her arm perfectly parallel to the ground, and positioned her feet with the toe of her left sandal touching the ground in front of her right foot. And then she began.
The movements flowed from within her, rising from deep inside her core. Her arm swept slowly in a quarter circle until the twig pointed forward, and she simultaneously slid her left foot out and around, drawing a curving line in the snow. Her body began to turn, her other arm rising, palm rotating from the sky to the ground, wide sleeves fluttering, the motions smooth with slow elegance. Warmth shimmered through her body and resonated into the ground as her feet slid from step to step.
As she moved in the precise choreography of the dance, she became aware of Shiro’s gaze following her every move. She brought the twig toward her chest and swept her other hand past the leaves before lifting her palm to the sky, the dance requiring she lift her face to the stars as well. She spun slowly, feet sliding through the snow in careful movements.
She completed her turn, automatically seeking his face—and that ruby stare caught her, holding her fast. She lowered her body in a painfully slow and smooth kneeling motion that had taken months of practice. As she went down, she felt herself falling into his eyes, sinking into their depths. From within the shadows of his gaze, something ancient looked out at her, something wise and cunning and dangerous. Something that whispered to her and called to her soul.
Barely able to breathe, she extended the branch to him, turning her hand in the same motion. The leaves rustled as they brushed his kosode over his heart. She couldn’t look away from him. That ancient something in his eyes had her, held her, chained her.
Her leg muscles clenched, and she began the precise, measured rise until she stood over him, the leaves held over his head. His stare followed her up, refusing to release her. She was drowning in him, losing her grasp on the world around her. But the dance was ingrained in her very bones and she was so close to the end. She slid her right foot back, transferring her weight onto it as she spread her arms wide, palms turned up, the leaves rustling.
Then her heel hit a tree root under the snow and her graceful movements came to a crashing end.
She went over backward, arms flailing. With a poof of displaced snow, she landed hard, the air shoved out of her lungs. As she wheezed, Shiro’s face appeared above her, his mouth canted in a crooked grin that revealed one pointed canine.
“Is that the traditional way to end a ceremony dance?”
Cover links to my review.
Who knew Annette Marie has a comedic side. I didn't. Ha! I hope you enjoy reading the responses as much as I did. Enjoy!
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The RED WINTER trilogy is an enchanting fantasy set against an exotic backdrop of Japanese mythology. What inspired you to immerse readers in this culture?
Is it too cliché to say “anime”? Once I discovered Japanese history and mythology as a teenager, I fell in love with the rich culture, steeped in tradition and fascinating folklore. I love getting lost in new worlds that are completely different from what I know, and I’ve wanted to write a story set in a Japan-like world for years.
What is your favorite Japanese dish, both cooked and uncooked?
I’m not quite brave enough to eat any of the classic raw dishes, but I recently got to try saikyo yaki, which is marinated and grilled black cod. Absolutely delicious!
Why do you write?
If I weren’t writing, I would just be daydreaming all the time. Storytelling is hardwired into my brain, and writing is the best outlet. I love bringing the crazy ideas in my head to life on the page, and getting to share them with other people.
When you develop characters and plot, do you already know who they are and what’s going to happen before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
A bit of both. I plan out the basics of the plot, major turning points for the characters, and portions of their history, but my writing process involves a lot of discovery too. Scenes will just happen, or characters will drive the plot in an unexpected direction. Shiro, for example, is a very uncooperative character and will derail my plans with distressing frequency.
What would you say is your most eccentric writing quirk?
Hmm. Probably listening to a single song on repeat for hours on end while I’m writing. Sometimes it’s just the perfect song for a scene or chapter!
What's the strangest thing you have ever had to research online for your book?
THE strangest? Because I’ve looked up a lot of weird things. A memorable one was researching firsthand accounts of what it’s like to get stabbed. Another one was how long it takes for a dead person’s eyes to film over. I’m pretty sure I’m on multiple government watch lists for that one...
Describe the main characters in the RED WINTER trilogy in one word.
“Fictional”? Oh wait, you mean one word for each character. ;)
Emi - “Ardent” is the perfect word for her because it can mean passionate, devoted, or even fierce. She is all of those things.
Shiro - I’m going to use a Japanese word for him: “hokage,” which means “shadows moving in firelight.”
Yumei - His name is actually a Japanese word that means “dark and light” but honestly, my first thought was “irritable.”
If you could spend time with a character from RED WINTER trilogy, who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
That’s a tough one. I would have to say Inari, the Kunitsukami of the Fire, and I’d want to spend the whole day just hearing stories about the adventures of the Kunitsukami, gods of the earth, from the beginning of time.
Ash. Lyre. And, now Shiro. You're able to create unique, mysterious, and likable heroes so well. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Remembering that men don’t always think like women do! When faced with problems and conflicts, especially emotional ones, a male character is probably going to react differently than a female. But I would say the character’s history and personality are stronger defining factors than gender.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have met so many awesome authors since I started publishing two years ago! My husband and I recently travelled to visit author Sever Bronny and his wife. My husband is a big fan of Sever’s Arinthian Line series (the final book is coming out this month!) and we talk shop all the time. CN Crawford is another super cool author that I chat with, and we’re actually hosting an urban fantasy ebook sale this weekend with six other authors! We’ll be giving away prizes all day Saturday during the Facebook party.
What are your plans after the RED WINTER trilogy?
After the Red Winter Trilogy, I’ll be diving straight into a new adventure set in the same universe as my Steel & Stone series! It will be a standalone series with brand new characters, as well as some familiar faces. I’m really excited to start it!
Lastly, please share with us something that is not in your author biography.
I mention my feline minion of darkness, Caesar, but I don’t mention my giant aquarium full of the biggest jerks ever--three mated angelfish pairs who can’t stand one another. Caesar and I both love watching the tank, but for different reasons.
Annette Marie is the author of the Amazon best-selling YA urban fantasy series Steel & Stone, which includes the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award nominee Yield the Night. Her first love is fantasy, a limitless realm of creativity where she can break all the boring rules of real life, but fast-paced urban fantasy, bold heroines, and tantalizing forbidden romances are her guilty pleasures. She proudly admits she has a thing for dragons, and her editor has politely inquired as to whether she intends to include them in every book.
Annette lives in the frozen winter wasteland of northern Alberta, Canada (okay, it’s not quite that bad). She shares her life with her remarkably patient, comparatively sensible husband and their furry minion of darkness—sorry, cat—Caesar. When not writing, she can be found elbow-deep in one art project or another while blissfully ignoring all adult responsibilities.