By Blood by Tracy E. Banghart
Series: By Blood #1
Publication date: February 18th 2013
Genre: YA Paranormal
For 17-year-old Emma Wong, spending a summer in England should be a dream come true. Gorgeous scenery? Check. Lots of hot guys with accents? Yes, please.
Throw in an estranged mom, annoying new stepdad, and drooling baby half-brother, and it’s a disaster even her favorite cherry red leather jacket can’t fix. Even worse, there’s (hot) live-in research assistant Josh to contend with. The only thing more embarrassing than drunk-kissing him hours after they meet? Knowing he’ll be witness to her family’s dysfunction all. summer. long.
But when Emma meets a mysterious girl who happens to be a Druid, her vacation suddenly promises to be far more intriguing than she anticipated. Powerful rituals, new friends, an intoxicating sense of freedom...and Simon, the sexy foreign stranger she was hoping for. It’s all a perfect distraction from dirty diapers and awkward family dinners.
Trouble is, intriguing doesn’t often mean simple. And Emma is about to discover just how not simple her life really is.
By Blood is a novel about the ways that blood can bind us to others – or tear us apart.
PRAISE FOR BY BLOOD
“By Blood effortlessly transports you to the cobblestone streets and small pubs of Oxford, and Emma’s sassy voice pulls you right into the story with its hot British boys and touch of magic. A must read!” —Susanne Winnacker, author of Impostor and The Other Life
“A five star read from start to finish. Un-put-downable!” —Vanessa Garbin, author of the forthcoming Captivate
"Emma's sarcastic, biting narrative and the lure of Celtic myth and magic constructs a brilliant book to cosy up with...if you dare!" ~ 21st Century Once Upon a Times blog
"Love this book! It's a sweet little gem and I am glad that I got to read it! If you are looking for a story that is fun and quick, then I would recommend this book. You will want to know what happens to Emma in the matters of boys, family and adventure!" ~ Sarah, Me My Shelf And I blog
Tracy E. Banghart is a cheesy movie–loving, fantasy football–playing (go Ravens!), globe-trotting Army wife who began “practicing” her craft at the age of five, when she wrote her first story. She loves visiting the international friends she met while pursuing her MA in Publishing and spends a portion of every summer at her family’s cabin in Canada, where she finds inspiration and lots of time to relax on the dock. She lives with her husband, son, two lazy dogs and one ornery cat. When not writing or spending time with her family, she is on a mission to bake the perfect cupcake.
“This time we’ll each invoke the element of nature we want to draw strength from. Each of us will make an offering—” Simon pointed to the empty bowl. I swallowed. “—and then I’ll close the circle by submitting our offering to the universe.”
I didn’t have a clue what he meant by that, but the last ritual had been pretty easy to follow.
He opened the Grove the same way he’d done before, flashing the sword at East, South, West, and North, and invoking each of the four elements. Again, I felt the tingle of the living Earth beneath my feet. The air was much clearer tonight; a gusty breeze rustled through the watchful trees and set Simon’s candle flickering.
Again, Simon said, “Now that we have called on the elements, we may proceed with the work of the Grove.” And Harrison, Simon, George and Molly purified the circle by air, fire, water and earth.
We’d started tonight’s ceremony later, and long shadows played against our faces. Bryna’s hair flamed in the glow of the setting sun. Tonight felt different; there was an edge to the anticipation. Ash wasn’t smiling. But we were all waiting, tensed to see what would happen next.
Simon set the bowl with the votive on the ground and held up the flask and the sword. “I invoke the spirit of flame to infuse this Grove with strength.” His voice was strong. He took a sip from the flask and then walked to the center of the circle. “By my blood,” he said and nicked his palm with the blade.
I watched a thin trickle of blood drip into the bowl. My face felt hot. When Diana and I were ten, we made ourselves blood sisters, pricking our palms with needles and squishing the tiny drops of blood together. That had been fun, silly even. We’d giggled through the whole thing.
This—this felt real. There was real power in the words Simon said, in the drops of his blood in that bowl. I breathed deeply, watching in fascination as Simon resumed his place and handed Ash the flask and sword. She wiped the tip of the blade against her bare leg and took a drink from the flask.
When she spoke, she did it with authority. “I invoke the spirit of all warm living, breathing things to give this Grove strength. By my blood.” A few more drops of cherry red blood fell into the bowl.
“I invoke the spirit of unyielding stone.” George hissed when the sword slid against his skin.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” Molly declared, looking askance at the sword. But in the end, she invoked the spirit of spring – rebirth, she said – and made a little cut on her palm with a squeal.
It was my turn next. I felt the weight of the sword in my hand, looked down to see my white dress shimmering in the gloom of twilight. What strength did I want from the earth? What power did I wish I had? As I thought, I stepped to the center of the circle and took a gulp from the flask – the flavor was different this time. Spicy, dark. Like red wine, but sharper. It left a coppery taste, like blood, on my tongue.
Suddenly, I remembered the calm I’d felt Saturday, meditating with Ash. The flow of my breath, inhalation, exhalation like waves. “I invoke the spirit of the sea,” I said, and my voice didn’t shake. “By my blood, I ask the ocean to lend us its strength.”
Quickly, so I didn’t have time to think, I swiped the tip of the sword against my skin. The cut burned, but it was shallow and only a few drops of blood leaked out. I stepped back to my place and passed the flask and sword to Harrison.
“I invoke the spirit of air,” he said, gesturing to the incense in the bowl at his feet. I could smell the sandalwood faintly; it mixed oddly with the spicy dark flavor in my mouth.
Bryna went last, and she cut herself the most deeply. I gasped at the small stream of blood as it flowed into the bowl. She invoked the spirit of thunder.
I pressed my palms together and felt the sting of my cut; it had almost stopped bleeding, but I didn’t want to get blood on my dress.
Walking to the center of the circle, Simon held the blood-filled vessel up to the sky. “By earth, air, water and fire,” he said, his voice ringing, “and by our blood, we invoke the strength of flame, of living, breathing things, of stone, spring, and the sea. We invoke the strength of the very air around us and in our lungs, and we invoke the strength of thunder.”
As he said the words, a great gust of wind blew through the glade, whipping my hair off my face. I could almost feel the earth shift beneath me, almost hear the faint rumble of thunder in the distance. My mouth was full of the taste of blood, and my skin shivered under the touch of the wind.
For a moment, we all stared at each other, our eyes wide.
Did that just—what was that?
SOUNDTRACK FOR BY BLOOD
To get in the mood to write By Blood, I listened to British pop music for the fun Oxford touristy bits and dreamy, atmospheric songs for the Druid rituals. Some of my favorites:
Follow Me Home, Sugababes
Sin Sin Sin, Robbie Williams
You Never Get What You Deserve, Starsailor
Goodbye My Lover, James Blunt
People Got a Lotta Nerve, Neko Case
On My Way Back Home, Band of Horses
Your Heart Is As Black As Night, Melody Gardot
First Love, Adele
Cannonball, Damien Rice
Criminal, Fiona Apple
If You Want Me, from the movie Once
Finding My Own Way, Charlotte Church
The Moon and Sky, Sade
GUEST POST ~
THE BEAUTY OF A BAD ASS CHICK
One of my biggest role models when I was in high school was Buffy Summers, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Growing up, I constantly felt like I had to prove I was just as strong/smart/brave as the boys. And here was Buffy, a short, dainty blond chick who was constantly underestimated…and then totally kicked people’s butts.
The truth is, being a girl can be awfully scary sometimes. It’s just a fact of nature that we’re often shorter or weaker than our male counterparts, and that can lead to moments where we feel powerless or out of control.
Emma, the main character in By Blood, is a short, curvaceous chick, but it was really important to me that she also be strong enough to take care of herself. Not with special powers, but with knowledge and a little skill. Her dad’s a cop and she helps him teach self-defense classes, so she has the tools to defend herself (which, yes, she has occasion to use in By Blood! ;-)). Here’s a little peek at one of these classes:
Dad moved to stand behind me, then simulated a slow-motion attack so I could demonstrate as I explained the best techniques to evade or incapacitate an assailant. I walked the girls through “SING” – solar plexus, instep, nose, groin – and they laughed at the funny face Dad made when I pretended to hit him in the crotch.
“Remember,” I said, “it doesn’t matter how tall or short you are, or whether you’re in shape.” I made a grand gesture that started at my black sneakers and swept up purple leg warmers, black leggings, to the loose gray tunic that clung to my curves. “I’m not exactly intimidating, right? I’m shorter than most of you for one thing. But that doesn’t mean I can’t protect myself.” I shifted my position, ready for the next move. “The more we practice, the more muscle memory we build, so our instincts when in danger will be the right instincts.”
Now came the best part—the part that got the oohs and aahs. Dad reached over my shoulders and before you could say “speeding ticket” I had him on the floor, belly up on the mat. The girls started clapping and a couple laughed in surprise. Dad grinned up at me. I loved that he let me lead the class, and that he was okay with me throwing him around in front of a bunch of girls. Not all cops were cool like that. Not all Dads either.
There are lots of places to take self-defense classes, and resources online and elsewhere that can give you tips on how to protect yourself. As Emma says, you don’t have to be in great shape or a black belt to save yourself in a scary moment. All you need is knowledge – and maybe a little practice!
Here’s an example of some good self-defense tips!
Grand Prize Giveaway:
Giveaway Prize Pack #1 (US only)
Signed paperback copy of By Blood
Plus (all hardcover):
Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray
Starcrossed, by Josephine Angelini
The Body Finder, by Kimberly Derting
Jane, by April Lindner
By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead, by Julie Anne Peters
Sean Griswold’s Head, by Lindsey Leavitt
Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi
Slide, by Jill Hathaway
Wither, by Lauren DeStefano
Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma
Giveaway Prize Pack #2 (Intl)
Signed paperback copy of By Blood + $50 Amazon Gift Card