Saturday Snippet – Witch Dance

Here’s a snippet of my coming book, Witch Dance. Release is next week!!! 🙂

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When the figure reached the center of the field, it stood up straight, as if being pulled upright by a string on the top of its head. As it uncurled, its hands extended to the sides with its palms facing upward, and it grew from what looked like an old hag to a healthy person. As if picked up by the same string, it rose straight up into the air. Chiksa’s eyes widened as the figure floated above the earth. A breeze caught the figure’s cloak and the edges swirled. A wind intensified, blowing around the figure, slowly spinning it in circles, but there had been no breeze a moment ago. A cloudy vortex formed around the figure, resembling tight circles of light gray smoke from a fire, extending from the ground into the clear heavens above. Even though he was known to be a mighty warrior, Chiksa’s hands began to sweat and his heart beat wildly, pounding in his ears. He had seen many things in his lifetime, but never anything like this. What kind of creature was this? When the figure hovered about four feet off the ground, the black cape dropped from its shoulders, floating to the ground like a fall leaf, revealing a woman. A young and beautiful woman. Her skin glowed under the stars as if she were the moon itself, coated in shimmering gold. Chiksa gasped and jumped to his feet.

The figure heard him and instantly returned to the ground. The vortex stopped so quickly, he wondered if he had imagined it. The woman retrieved her cloak, covered her nakedness, and walked toward him.

He couldn’t move from his spot. There was no sense in running.

She covered her head with her hood as she neared him. “Why are you here?” she asked in a cracking voice.

“I came to visit with my father,” he said in not much more than a whisper.

She cocked her head. “Your father?” She gestured around with both hands, indicating no one else was there.

He pointed to the mounds. “My father died a short time…”

She held her hand in front of his lips as if to silence him. Her fingers were long and bony, covered in deep wrinkles. Her nails were yellowed claws. This was not the beautiful young form he had witnessed only moments ago.

“There is great pain in this place,” she said.

“My people have recently lost their chief.”

“No. No people. Pain in you.” She pointed to his heart, her finger only inches from his chest.

He said nothing.

“Sa…lee…Salina?” she said slowly, her head cocked as if listening to something only she could hear.

“My wife.”

“A great blackness has taken her.”

“Yes.”

“She will die.”

He shook his head. “She can’t.”

“She can.” She paused and narrowed her eyes at him. “But she can be healed.” The old woman looked up at the sky and her cracked lips parted. Small black gaps between what looked like fangs emitted a foul stench that wrapped around Chiksa. Her yellowed eyes twinkled and she nodded toward the sky.

Chiksa didn’t move. He didn’t know if this creature had put a hex on him or if he was frozen in fear. It didn’t matter. She said Salina could be healed. That’s all he focused on.

“You can heal her?”

She was still staring at the sky.

He didn’t dare ask again. He didn’t want to anger her.

After a moment, she looked back at him. “Yes, yes, I can, but all things come at a price. I will decide the price and will be here again on the full moon. You come. Bring her.”

She turned away and moved toward the woods. He couldn’t say she walked; it was more like gliding, as if she floated just over the ground’s surface.

“What is your name?” he called when she reached the edge of the dark forest.

“Oma.”

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Lori Crane books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooksWitch Dance will be available Sept 15 and is also coming to audiobook at Audible Oct 1.

Lori Crane is a bestselling author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day. 

Look for Lori on “Most Terrifying Places in America” on the Travel Channel the whole month of October, where her book “The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge” will be featured!

witch dance cover

Witch Dance

I’ve been working on a new book called Witch Dance. I went down to the real place and took this photo at a nearby location…

bynum mounds photo

Here’s what my amazing book designer came up with, using MY photo. He’s awesome.

witch dance cover

WITCH DANCE

Just south of Tupelo, Mississippi on the Natchez Trace lies a place of mystery called Witch Dance.

When Thomas and Margaret Speedwell took their twins to Witch Dance for a weekend camping trip, they never imagined they would be pulled into a vortex of witchcraft, tragedy, and karma. One of the girls goes missing; the other won’t say what happened on the other side of the hill.

The tragedy pulls together a cast of characters from Margaret’s childhood and beyond – Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, Toltec ancestors, the extinct Hopewell tribe.

With the help of a childhood friend, a concerned newspaper reporter, and visions by a strange old woman, a two thousand year old mystery begins to unfold, uncovering missing children throughout generations. Who is taking them? Could it be the infamous witches of Witch Dance?

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Here’s an unedited snippet…unedited being the key word there. You, my friends, are the very first to get a sneak peek! 🙂

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Emily and Sarah squealed as they raced each other toward the pair of small hills that sat at the edge of a field. No tree or bush grew on top of the mounds. They were simply two barren knolls of smooth earth, offering neatly manicured grass and clear views of the surrounding land. These hills, historically known to be the ancestral burial grounds of the Hopewell Indians, are today known as the Bynum Mounds, a minor tourist attraction on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

The six-year-old girls raced to the hills as fast as their legs would run. This was nothing new. They raced everywhere. They’d done so since before they learned to walk, crawling faster and faster to beat the other to the prize at the end of the race. Born mere minutes apart, they held the typical sibling rivalry, vying against each other for the prized possession, the favorite toy, or the brightest crayon. But, their favorite competition was racing to the next spot, always endeavoring to be in the lead.

Margaret and Thomas Speedwell had driven down the Natchez Trace from Nashville for a long-overdue getaway with their girls. They arrived yesterday, excited for their weekend camping trip at a place just north of the Bynum Mounds—a campground called Witch Dance.

Witch Dance sounded like a fun place to spend the weekend. It sported an elaborate history, rumored to be the place where witches held their eerie rituals and ceremonies. Legend has it that witches danced around bonfires, and where their feet touched the ground, no grass ever grew again—even until this day. The sign at the entrance stating the legend about the witches was a popular place for souvenir photos by the people who frequented the site – families, ghost hunters, and the curious. The Speedwell family didn’t come down for a ghost hunting expedition. This weekend was simply a chance for Margaret, Thomas, and their girls to shed the stress of their everyday lives and have a little fun.

“I wish they wouldn’t run ahead like that,” Margaret grumbled from the parking lot.

“It’s okay. Let them run,” Thomas replied. “We can see them from here.”

Thomas sensed his wife’s tension, marked by a crease of concern peppering her forehead. He gently reached for her hand as they strolled from the parking lot toward the mounds, following their daughters. The lack of shrubbery and trees made it easy to keep an eye on the girls, but the clear line of sight didn’t help Margaret relax.

“But they always run; through the grocery store, the playground, the parking lot. I’ve scolded them a million times, but I can’t get them to stop racing, no matter the punishment for disobeying.”

Thomas squeezed her hand. “You should let them run as much as they want. Someday they’ll win medals in track or become world-class cross-country runners.” He chuckled softly, attempting to lighten her mood.

Margaret puckered her brow. Thomas knew his carefree tone of voice wasn’t going to make her concerns disappear. He knew she wanted her girls to be proper ladies, not sweaty athletes.

He felt her stiffen when they heard Emily shriek and they both watched the girls run up to the top of one of the hills.

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Emily shrieked as Sarah grabbed the back of her pink shirt, attempting to catch up, but the material slipped from her fingers. Emily stretched her arm back for Sarah to grasp, and they both laughed as Sarah grabbed on and Emily pulled her forward. The curly-headed blondes crossed over the ridge on the top of the hill and began their descent down the other side when they suddenly stopped in their tracks, their eyes wide at the vision looming in front of them.

On a perfect late summer day with a clear blue sky and bright sunshine, a large cloud rested on the other side of the hill. Not a puffy white cloud—more like a menacing shadow. It slowly swirled and circled about a foot above the ground as if some imaginary wind was trying to create a tornado, but there was no wind, not even the slightest breeze. The shape and movement resembled the twister the girls had seen in the movie with Dorothy and Toto, but there was no dirt or debris or witches or houses in the vortex, just blackness.

The girls froze and squeezed each other’s hands. Emily wanted to scream, but she could only open and close her mouth like a fish washed up on a beach. No sound came. It was as if the shadow had sucked all the air out of her lungs. The black maelstrom quickly increased in size and volume as the whirling winds began to howl, starting first as a low hum and growing louder with each passing moment. The hum grew to an ominous sound, simultaneously emitting an ear-piercing shriek and a low agonizing moan. The girls instantaneously released each other’s hands and covered their ears against the painful sounds. The turbulence continued to expand, growing larger and larger as it moved closer to them.

Even with her hands over her ears, Emily thought she heard human voices mumbling something beneath the roar of wind. She narrowed her eyes and cocked her head as if doing so would make the voices clearer. She couldn’t take her eyes off the vortex, but she felt Sarah reach for her arm. Sarah took a step forward, trying to pull Emily forward with her, but Emily pulled back and Sarah’s fingers lost their grip. Emily didn’t want to go forward. As a matter of fact, everything in her gut told her to turn and run in the opposite direction. Run back to her mother, back to her father, back to safety. She sensed a great wickedness in the sight before them, something evil in the whirling darkness. She knew a malevolent presence lurked inside of the shadow. It watched them from the blackness, wanting them to come closer. Sarah grabbed a handful of Emily’s shirt and pulled harder. Emily pulled back again. She turned to run, the pink cotton material of her shirt, again, slipping from Sarah’s grasp. Emily ran back the way they had come as fast as her legs would carry her. She was certain Sarah would follow. Sarah always followed.

The moment she reached the top of the hill, the roaring stopped. The sound of the whirring, the voices, the wind instantly vanished. She saw her parents casually strolling, hand-in-hand, toward the hill. Why weren’t they running? Didn’t they hear the horrible tornado that almost devoured their children? Emily turned around to look for Sarah, but there was nothing behind her but the bright, sunny valley below. The tornado had vanished. There was no sound, no vortex, no Sarah.

Emily collapsed like a rag doll.

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Available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo. You can compare this rough draft with the final. My editor rocks!