Blood and Fire: Book Two of the Talbot Trilogy — Playlist!

Similar in structure to Wind and Shadow, the story in Blood and Fire takes place over three days in mid-November. Sometimes, while I was writing or rereading, I was thinking of particular songs in the background of the scenes. Although I’ve lost my original list, the songs I’ve picked out below are those that best fit the movement of the plot and development of the characters. It was tempting to copy songs I used in the playlist for the first book, but that would be cheating . . .

However . . .

Given that I am still mad about losing my first list, this one still open to interpretation and change. It stands for now, and may be adapted further over the next few days (or weeks, or, you know . . . whenever).

I hope you enjoy!

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Shadows: The Talbot Trilogy Playlist 2

Prologue:

Enya, “Orinoco Flow”

Neverending White Lights, “Theme from The Blood and the Life Eternal”

November 17

Chapter 1:

U2, “Mysterious Ways”

Chapter 2:

Vince Guaraldi Trio, “Christmastime is Here (Instrumental)”

Dominica, “Luxury”

Taylor Swift, “Safe and Sound”

Chapter 3:

Taylor Swift, “Safe and Sound”

Muse, “Unnatural Selection”

Three Days Grace, “Animal I Have Become”

Chapter 4:

Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

Motley Crue, “Home Sweet Home”

Chapter 5:

Remik’s Cube, “Opportunity”

Linkin Park, “Points of Authority”

Nelly, “Hot In Here”

Kelly Clarkson, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”

Chapter 6:

Kelly Clarkson, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”

Tove Lo, “Talking Body”

Pitbull, “Feel This Moment (feat. Christina Aguilera)” or Daft Punk, “Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams)”

Rupert Holmes, “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”

Avicii, “Hey Brother”

Chapter 7:

Black Lab, “Learn to Crawl”

Black Eyed Peas, “Let’s Get It Started”

Rick Howland, “Parallel Lives”

November 18

Chapter 8:

Broken Bells, “The High Road”

Classified, “3 Foot Tall”

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, “White Rabbit”

Rick Howland, “Two Doctors”

Chapter 9:

Jenn Grant, “Parachutes”

Muse, “Resistance”

Chapter 10:

The Kinks, “A Well Respected Man”

George Thorogood & The Destroyers, “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”

Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Chapter 11:

Florence + The Machine, “Kiss With a Fist”

Reilly, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” or Celine Dion, “I Drove All Night”

Reilly, “Good King Wenceslas”

Chapter 12:

The Doors, “Strange Days”

Kardinal Offishall, “Numba 1 (Tide Is High)” or My Chemical Romance, “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)”

Chapter 13:

Gerard McMann, “Cry Little Sister”

Chapter 14:

Tim Cappello, “I Still Believe”

Chapter 15:

Lou Gramm, “Lost in the Shadows (The Lost Boys)”

Paramore, “Monster”

Chapter 16:

Nickelback, “Burn It to the Ground”

Chapter 17:

Queen, “We Will Rock You”

Spoon, “Got Nuffin”

November 19

Chapter 18:

Miranda Lambert, “Run Daddy Run (feat. Pistol Annies)”

Soundgarden, “Black Hole Sun”

Plain White T’s, “Welcome to Mystery” or Three Days Grace, “Never Too Late”

Chapter 19:

Three Days Grace, “Never Too Late”

The Calling, “Wherever You Will Go” or Demi Lovato, “Warrior”

Chapter 20:

Crooked Fingers, “Luisa Bones”

Chapter 21:

Maroon 5, “Come Away to the Water” (feat. Rozzi Crane)

Epilogue:

Sarah McLachlan, “Song for a Winter’s Night”

Crystal and Wand: Malcolm de Sade’s Backstory

One of the most difficult things a writer must do is accept that not every piece of the draft will make it to the final product. Something has to be cut, or multiple somethings, unless there is a very good reason for that section of dialogue or narrative to be kept. In Crystal and Wand, at my editor’s excellent suggestion, I plucked out a longish bit on the life history of my malicious and cunning Big Bad, the centuries-old vampire Malcolm de Sade. And it was difficult, because (without giving anything away) I know that part of that backstory gives some answers as to why he is capable of certain things that he does. But the tale of the most significant relationship of his un-life didn’t really serve the novel, in the end. Much like film editors must take away that which detracts from the movement and flow of a film, writers have to delete scenes, too.

I really think, though, that watching the deleted scenes (and the bloopers) are as enjoyable as looking at the final product.

So, dear readers, I thought I’d give you a peek into my head vampire’s secret past right here, by sharing with you this particular deleted scene. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into Malcolm’s world in advance of the release of the final installment of the Talbot Trilogy — the release date will be announced soon!

First, my inspiration for the character of Malcolm de Sade, the remarkable, handsome, and sexy Goran Visnjic:

And now, the story . . .

After a near-miss with destruction and losing track of his witches, Malcolm has returned to the home he has taken as his own from Andrea Renaud, the first member of his ill-fated coven. He takes stock of his situation, contemplating some of the choices he has made both in the past and the present. 

He had felt the pressing isolation of his kind profoundly, more than once. After Seingalt was staked, of course, as they had been turned together and had been brothers of a sort. And again, fifty-odd years later, when he’d encountered a talented young artist with the power to move his black heart as it had not been moved since his human days.

Malcolm rolled onto his side, losing himself in the memory so deeply that he almost returned to his day-sleep.

Aleksander Sokolov had been a student in St. Petersburg, on his way to becoming a brilliant painter. They had met at a midnight salon where de Sade had introduced himself as Sergei Davydov. While still a pupil, he had been commissioned for a portrait of a moderate official, an opportunity that opened doors and set him on a path that many of his peers envied as much as they did his looks. With a shock of soft, curling black hair falling over his smooth fair skin, features rounded almost like a woman’s, he was as fetching to regard as his oils on the canvas. Conversation had revealed that his background was similar to Seingalt’s—Aleksander had been sent to boarding school at age six, expected to join the clergy or obtain a degree in law, but had found himself pulled into the world of composition and beauty and accepted at the Imperial Academy of Arts.

A walk in the fresh air had revealed that his predilection was not for women.

Their passionate friendship had filled de Sade’s evenings through the long Russian winter, and he liked to think he had inspired some of his lover’s finest work. Sokolov had a way of using light, shadow, line, and colour to reveal his subjects’ deepest emotions and earnest desires. A young man’s arrogance and flair in one portrait would be followed by a matron’s steely gaze and knowing smirk in another. He could make an ugly princess into a delicate flower, and reduce a generous merchant to a scurrilous miser, all with seemingly careless strokes of his brush. He embodied the spirit of the Romantic Movement, and while it saddened Malcolm that he could only ever watch his artist work in the very early hours or the very late, he could not bring himself to grant the lad a gift that would steal from him the very sunlight that fed Aleksander’s soul.

It was a bitter sunrise that shone on Sokolov’s face the morning after he died of consumption, a scant eight months after their relationship had begun.

Would his art have been any less without his humanity? Or would the world have been granted a magnificent boon, had Malcolm changed him at that last moment? For hours, every breath had seemed to be his last. Held by his beloved Sergei—those were the very words he had used to describe his lover—he had wept a little to leave the world without having painted everything he’d wanted. So much beauty, so many faces, and he’d not even made the time to commit Davydov to a canvas.

“What work you have done, be assured I will never see it discarded, nor burnt, nor torn,” Malcolm promised him.

“In another lifetime, your portrait should have been the highest example of my efforts,” Aleksander whispered. He fingered the ruffles on de Sade’s sleeve. “Sergei, I am a little afraid to die.”

Malcolm sighed. “And if you could live, would you want to live for always? To never age? To never sicken, waste away, or perish?” He felt his mouth tingle and hoped that his lover’s answer would be yes. “We are not meant to last forever. That is why we paint.” Even with the shadow of death hovering about his eyes and mouth, Aleksander Sokolov had the strength and audacity to reprimand his elder. “You might as well ask me to give up my hands, my eyes, or my capacity to feel, if I lost the fragility that lets me portray life in…”

In what, Malcolm never knew. That was the moment his artist’s heart finally chose to end its struggle.

Before Aleksander, his purpose had been in acquiring knowledge he could use against others, both for pleasure and in manipulation of the soul. He had buried his loneliness, refusing to admit that it even existed, focusing on his games. And then into his world of darkness, this young man had exploded like a dying star. His very being was so pure, Malcolm had never even told him of his true self. His lover went to his grave without knowing that Sergei Davydov would never join him in eternal sleep.

He had believed himself inured to this kind of loss, immune to emotional pain, entirely free from the failings of humanity. Alek proved all of that wrong, but until this evening’s pairing with Damon Sabre it had not been clear to him just how much he remained vulnerable, or how deeply he had buried himself.

Not that Malcolm was some sorrowful shadow, or had ever been. After losing his artist, he neither lost himself in misery nor indulged in long fits of melancholy, bemoaning his situation. Instead, he carried on as he expected to, always: moving to a new place, finding someone to bed and on whom to feed, leaving the past behind. What was the point of mourning? Death was simply part of a mortal’s existence. If anything, Aleksander Sokolov had been luckier than most of his era, leaving his work behind as evidence that he had once walked the earth. When Malcolm felt the need to remind himself that their encounter had been more than a dream, he only needed to return to St. Petersburg, later Petrograd, and view the paintings on display.

Perhaps paintings on display were what had drawn him to Damon in the first place.

Malcolm turned onto his other side in Andrea’s soft flannel sheets, disturbed at the turn of his thoughts. Damon was so similar to Aleksander, in so many ways. They were of the same age, though Damon was taller than Alek had been, and in this time, the former was still considered by some to be a babe of the world—though the country’s government conferred on him most of the rights of adulthood—while Alek had been considered fully a man. There was that reservation in his manner, retiring in unfamiliar company, but unrestrainedly humourous among friends. True, the lad had not been completely honest with him about his sexuality when Malcolm had first broached the subject, that night at the hunters’ cabin, but it was to be expected in this era when it was growing nigh impossible to keep one’s secrets out of others’ hands. De Sade had seen this for himself, exploring the Internet, reading personal conversations posted for all to see and judgment cast upon those who challenged the perceived status quo.

Another reminder why the flawed human race needed creatures with greater perspective and experience to rule them.

Even though he himself enjoyed wringing secrets out of people, it was not his business to spread them. He collected their confessions and recorded them in journals, sometimes using code, to cherish as his own private treasure. After all, if there was anything he’d learned from Seingalt’s experience, advertising himself was dangerous. It was far better to avoid conflict and confrontation by staying hidden, even if that meant falling further and further from the comforts of society.

He frowned. Of course, eventually that had brought him to feeding on the homeless and indigent of society, living in filth no better than a rat. But that pattern had so swiftly come to an end. And it hadn’t been because of a handsome young man catching his eye—it had been the sight of an attractive witch, both powerful and fertile. Charlotte Fanning, now Mahonen, cursed be that name, had changed the course of his existence. It should not matter how much potential Damon Sabre could express with brush and paint. He had not seen the young man indulge his talent in many weeks, though; not since before he had become part of Malcolm’s coven. Perhaps that gift had already vanished, drained away with his life’s blood, replaced with cynicism and thirst. After all, an artist had to have a beating heart, able to feel both love and pain, and a soul that yearned for beauty in order to return it to the world. It was impossible for a vampire, the living dead sustained by carnage and ugliness, to come close to creating anything aesthetic that was also original. Witness Seingalt, who collected precious artwork and hired decorators to surround him with beauty, but made none of his own. And Malcolm himself had taken possession of this comfortable home but could claim none of it as his own design.

Whatever Damon Sabre had been, as his human self, it was gone, and there was no retrieving it. This was the reason Malcolm had given him a new, last, name. But if all this were true, why was he so determined to make a baby? To combine his seed and spirit with that of a witch? Many humans called infants beautiful, and each were original creatures, unique unto themselves.

Restless, he rose from the bed and paced the length of the bedroom. This was why he no longer enjoyed time alone. His thoughts took him to uncomfortable places, questioning reality in unacceptable ways.

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SOON TO BE RELEASED! Read the Prequel: Mist and Midnight, Book One: Wind and Shadow, and Book Two: Blood and Fire, available through Melange Books.

Excerpt from my WIP Snowmobiling Story / Camp NaNoWriMo Project

*Desperately needs a better title! Even a better working title!

Have a look at a section of this YA fiction I’m working on for reluctant readers, and tell me what you think!

———————–

I heard once that when someone gets hypothermic, they take all their clothes off and dig a hole. No, seriously, that’s — well, it’s something that Penny read in an article online and then told me about. I didn’t get an urge to burrow or anything like that, but I got to a point where I just wanted to lie down and take a nap, and I didn’t much care anymore where I did it. But I knew that’d piss Penny off, ’cause she was waiting for me, and it was a stupid idea to lie down on the railroad tracks no matter what. My dad would kick my ass if I did that.

No, I don’t talk about my dad that much. He’s not home a whole lot. He’s not even really my dad, okay? Just like my sister isn’t really my sister. He works driving transports, so he’s always going across country or down into the States. The money’s good, so you’d think we’d be doing better, but after my mom got divorced she ended up with a whole bunch of debt, and he had some too from before they got married. They had a cheapo wedding, too, although I don’t know why they even bothered to do that. Should have just moved in together and been done with it, in my opinion. No offense, if you don’t think people should just live together, but it’s honestly cheaper than having a big party just to show off.

When my dad does come home, it’s all about showing off. Mom’s got to show that she’s got it all handled, and that means I have to keep my nose clean, not argue or leave messes, shit like that. It sucks. Why should I have to be someone other than myself? I mean, heaven forbid I leave some dishes in the sink when my dad’s home — I do it when he’s not home, too, and the world doesn’t end.

On the other hand, he’s been around since I was a kid, and like I told you before, he’s pretty cool at teaching me some stuff. He was with me when I shot my first buck, showed me how to dress it and got the rack mounted for me for my birthday that year.

That same year, I heard about this thing where you can put a penny on a railroad track and when a train goes by, either the penny gets flattened completely, or it’ll derail the train. Either way, it sounds pretty effing cool, so I took a penny to try it. I hung around for a while, waiting for the action, but it got boring, so I just left the penny there and went back later, after I’d heard the train go by. It didn’t crash, but the penny was squashed.

You know what’s even cooler than getting a penny flattened by a train? Getting a loonie done the same way.

Yeah, I don’t understand why I’d want a train to derail, but when you’re a kid, it’s just something neat and different. I get it now, why it’d be bad. At the time I was all into explosions and loud noises and stunts and shit. So I take a loonie out of my mom’s wallet, not knowing that my dad saw me do it — I thought he was just watching hockey and drinking a beer — and I go out to the train tracks again.

So the first thing I get in trouble for, after I get back, is stealing. And it was just a dollar! Man, can you imagine what he’d do to me if I got caught taking a twenty? Or one of his beers? That’s why I wait until he’s gone on a road trip again, heh. He doesn’t keep count when he’s gone.

Anyway, he kicks my ass for taking money without asking. And then he wants to know what I did with it. I’m just a kid, I’m freaked out, so I tell him. Dad hustles me back to the train tracks, holding me up by the back of the neck so I’m practically on my tiptoes the whole way, and we get the loonie back.

Then we stayed there, waiting for the train to go by. While we’re there, he starts telling me about this one time that he saw a drunk guy walking home on the tracks lay down or pass out, and got his legs cut off by the train. It didn’t even slow down. I didn’t ask whether the guy lived or died.

I did feel like puking, though. My dad’s a good storyteller. I can kill and gut a deer, no problem. I went all that way after getting kicked by a moose and I didn’t whitey even when I wanted to. But you get my dad describing something gory, and I tell you, my stomach just turns over. And you can totally tell how much he’s loving it while I’m turning white and trying not to listen.

“Adam,” he says, looking at me seriously. “There’s a reason why most of the time, houses aren’t built next to the railway tracks.”

Of course, that’s a lie. There’re houses up here that are right close to the tracks. Okay, so there’s a backyard between the house and the rails, but still.

He starts telling me about what a train derailment is really like.

“The cars knock together and push each other to the sides,” he says. “So it’s not just turning over to one side, there’s cars to the left and cars to the right. And as soon as the first ones stop moving, the ones behind them jump on top, ’cause they don’t have any other place to go. If those are passenger cars, you got people inside getting flung all over the place, getting cut by broken glass and squashed under iron wheels and trapped between the seats. They can’t hear themselves screaming ’cause the sound of metal screeching is too loud, but when it’s over, then they’ll hear each other. And if they’re really lucky, someone nearby will hear them and call 911.

“But if there’s a house or a car that’s too close to the tracks,” he goes on, pointing at the spots. “The train pulverizes it.”

That’s the exact word he used. Pulverize.

“It’s going so fast, and it’s made of steel so it’s heavy, that it knocks into whatever’s in its way and smashes right through. If there’re chemicals or gas or oil, and there’s a leak, the steel makes sparks and that causes an explosion. So whoever might have survived in the house or the car, if he lived through getting hit, gets burned alive by the fire.”

Yeah, at this point I’m just about puking.

“This is why you don’t put shit on the tracks to derail the train, understand?” He’s shaking me now, just enough to get me to look him dead in the eyes. “This is why you don’t play on the tracks, or lie on the tracks, or mess around anywhere near the tracks. You get me?”

Then he points behind me, and holy shit, there’s a fucking train coming. I nearly crapped myself. You’d think you’d hear it coming, but you don’t, not until it’s almost on top of you. We weren’t even standing on the gravel, but I could feel the wind coming off of it. You know how you can imagine grabbing one of the handles as it’s going by slowly, through an intersection? Well, outside of an intersection, it goes just a little bit faster. Scary faster.

So I’m walking down the tracks now, years later, knowing my dad will kick my ass again if he catches me, and kill me himself if I even just sit down for a minute, and I’m starting to wish I’d just taken the goddamned trail, when it happens.

Unfuceffing believable.

Coming toward me, way down the track, there’s a freaking train.

————————–

The premise of this novel is that a young man is out snowmobiling and ends up in trouble, first by encountering a moose, then by bogging down his machine. His experience only gets worse from there, with a events pushing him further from home and safety, and into more and more dangerous circumstances. I’m aiming for 50,000 words, currently at 35,389 at the time of this post, with 7 days to go.

Cover Reveal and Giveaway! Enter by commenting…

Ladies and gentlemen and those in between, I present to you the cover for my upcoming release, the third and final instalment of the Talbot Trilogy:

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I’m so thrilled and pleased with this design by Caroline Andrus — it says everything about the power of the women in this book.

To celebrate, I’m offering a giveaway of the full trilogy, signed print copies of Wind and ShadowBlood and Fire, and Crystal and Wand, to be sent to the winner as soon as the print copy is available. Comment below over the next seven days, and I’ll make the draw on Saturday next week!

And if you need a reminder of what the book’s about, here are the blurb and an excerpt:

Lovers reunite, and are torn apart. Bloodthirsty fiends battle for control of an army of the undead. With the community of Talbot frozen under layers of ice and snow, the domination of the vampire coven seems certain, but in the eye of the storm, the witches and the vampire hunters search desperately for the means to bring an end to the violence that threatens to take over more than one small, sleepy town. Will Rayvin and Charlotte be able to work together, combining their skills in magick, to prevent the loss of more innocent lives?

He swiveled her stretcher around and rolled her into another room nearby, connected by a sliding door. Here, she saw a massive bed covered in white silk sheets, fur rugs and tables covered with candles. There was even a mirror on the ceiling. She recoiled, tugging feverishly and uselessly against her bonds.

Instead of taking her to the bed as she feared, he pulled again to the right, and stopped her in front of a bank of six small flatscreen TVs. The views changed every ten seconds or so, until he tapped a few keys on a small black keyboard. Then, each TV focused on the hospital lobby, where Grant and Malcolm sat glaring at each other below the hidden camera.

“I have eyes and ears all over this hospital, Rayvin,” he told her seriously. “I knew you were here the minute you showed up. I honestly kept expecting Grant to figure it out and come charging down here, but guess what? The wolf-man’s got a stuffy nose!” Jason snorted and pressed another few buttons.

The lower right flatscreen changed to a time-stamped view of the lobby, reversing its recording until Charlotte, Marcy, and Siobhan were walking backward into the room and facing the men. Here, Jason paused the video. He drew up a black leather office chair and sat in it, his arms folded.

“Where do you suppose they were going, Ray?” He mused, tilting his head back and forth. “You don’t think Malcolm de Sade, the dethroned and disillusioned, spilled a little secret to your band of allies, do you? Something about the Talbot Classic Theatre?”

Rayvin pulled so hard at one of the cuffs that she felt her skin chafing under its padding.

“I don’t know why you all think I’m so stupid. I know, Rayvin. I know about the vampire hunters from that stupidly named Society. S.H.I.P.—really? That makes no sense at all.” He got up and walked around the viewing screens. She heard a refrigerator door open, and when he came back around, he was sucking on a bag of plasma like it was a slushie.

Her stomach clamped at the sight, which made a little more of her own blood leak out and the after-pains surge once more.

“You’re really very tempting, you know. The smell of fresh blood is driving me nuts. You don’t mind if I eat in front of you, right?” He flopped back into his chair, clicking buttons again. The camera zoomed into the women’s faces, frozen on the screen. “You’re now wondering how I know about all this. Don’t worry, in a few minutes you’ll find out. I have a very reliable source.”

“So they’re walking into a trap, aren’t they?” Rayvin found her voice at last. “The Classic. You have people waiting for them there, don’t you?” It was really more of a statement than a question, but Jason nodded slowly in answer, still sucking on his snack.

She wanted to tell him something brave. She wanted to defy him, announcing that Marcy, Siobhan, and Charlotte wouldn’t fall for it, that they’d sense their enemies before the trap was sprung. Grant would sense her peril at any moment and come to her rescue. But the words dried up in her throat, and her eyes welled with tears. She turned her face away, willing herself to get back in control.

“Okay, I think that’s it.”

She heard Jason toss the empty plastic bag into a wastebasket. He turned her stretcher once more, so quickly it made her dizzy again, and pushed her back past the fish tank and his nurse shark, all the way to the hallway.

“I’m tired, Rayvin. You’ve got me up past my bedtime. I interrupted my sleep to play host for you, but I need to go back to dreamland for a bit. Thank god for the short days of winter, eh?” He chuckled, whisking her down another hallway. This one was lined with cinderblocks and unpainted wooden and steel doors. “I’ve watched enough movies to know what mistakes to avoid as the villain, but at the same time, I understand why the dastardly fiend needs to draw out the moment rather than ending it quickly. There’s so much pleasure in just relishing satisfaction, you know? So I’ve got my cameras ready, because I’m really exhausted and I can’t keep my eyes open much longer.”

He brought her to a stop next to a door marked “Boiler Room”.

And then he pulled a knife out of his pocket.

“It’s been more than ten years, Rayvin, since you paralyzed me and left me to rot in my chair.” Jason leaned over until his face was even with hers. He whipped off his patch to let her see the whole of his ruined eye. “And a couple of weeks ago, your boyfriend maimed me for the remainder of my after-life. So I’m thinking Code of Hammurabi. Remember, from Intro to Law?”

He shifted her body with one hand, reached under the blankets with his knife, and forced it deeply into her lower back. She shuddered and shrieked, the pain in her womb eclipsed by the agony of her muscles and tissue shredding. He sawed back and forth, cutting at her spine. She arched her back, trying to get away, screaming.

Something inside her gave way, snapping apart, and then for the second time in four hours, she blacked out.

Once again, comment below over the next seven days, and I’ll make the draw for a complete signed set of the Trilogy novels on Saturday next week!

Crystal and Wand is coming this spring — want a taste?

You’re invited to sink your teeth (or fangs) into this selection from my upcoming novel, the third and final instalment in the Talbot Trilogy, a paranormal romance / urban fantasy that’s not for the faint of heart.  

First, the blurb . . .

Lovers reunite, and are torn apart. Bloodthirsty fiends battle for control of an army of the undead. With the community of Talbot frozen under layers of ice and snow, the domination of the vampire coven seems certain, but in the eye of the storm, the witches and the vampire hunters search desperately for the means to bring an end to the violence that threatens to take over more than one small, sleepy town. Will Rayvin and Charlotte be able to work together, combining their skills in magick, to prevent the loss of more innocent lives? 

And now, the excerpt:

He swiveled her stretcher around and rolled her into another room nearby, connected by a sliding door. Here, she saw a massive bed covered in white silk sheets, fur rugs and tables covered with candles. There was even a mirror on the ceiling. She recoiled, tugging feverishly and uselessly against her bonds.

Instead of taking her to the bed as she feared, he pulled again to the right, and stopped her in front of a bank of six small flatscreen TVs. The views changed every ten seconds or so, until he tapped a few keys on a small black keyboard. Then, each TV focused on the hospital lobby, where Grant and Malcolm sat glaring at each other below the hidden camera.

“I have eyes and ears all over this hospital, Rayvin,” he told her seriously. “I knew you were here the minute you showed up. I honestly kept expecting Grant to figure it out and come charging down here, but guess what? The wolf-man’s got a stuffy nose!” Jason snorted and pressed another few buttons.

The lower right flatscreen changed to a time-stamped view of the lobby, reversing its recording until Charlotte, Marcy, and Siobhan were walking backward into the room and facing the men. Here, Jason paused the video. He drew up a black leather office chair and sat in it, his arms folded.

“Where do you suppose they were going, Ray?” He mused, tilting his head back and forth. “You don’t think Malcolm de Sade, the dethroned and disillusioned, spilled a little secret to your band of allies, do you? Something about the Talbot Classic Theatre?”

Rayvin pulled so hard at one of the cuffs that she felt her skin chafing under its padding.

“I don’t know why you all think I’m so stupid. I know, Rayvin. I know about the vampire hunters from that stupidly named Society. S.H.I.P.—really? That makes no sense at all.” He got up and walked around the viewing screens. She heard a refrigerator door open, and when he came back around, he was sucking on a bag of plasma like it was a slushie.

Her stomach clamped at the sight, which made a little more of her own blood leak out and the after-pains surge once more.

“You’re really very tempting, you know. The smell of fresh blood is driving me nuts. You don’t mind if I eat in front of you, right?” He flopped back into his chair, clicking buttons again. The camera zoomed into the women’s faces, frozen on the screen. “You’re now wondering how I know about all this. Don’t worry, in a few minutes you’ll find out. I have a very reliable source.”

“So they’re walking into a trap, aren’t they?” Rayvin found her voice at last. “The Classic. You have people waiting for them there, don’t you?” It was really more of a statement than a question, but Jason nodded slowly in answer, still sucking on his snack.

She wanted to tell him something brave. She wanted to defy him, announcing that Marcy, Siobhan, and Charlotte wouldn’t fall for it, that they’d sense their enemies before the trap was sprung. Grant would sense her peril at any moment and come to her rescue. But the words dried up in her throat, and her eyes welled with tears. She turned her face away, willing herself to get back in control.

“Okay, I think that’s it.”

She heard Jason toss the empty plastic bag into a wastebasket. He turned her stretcher once more, so quickly it made her dizzy again, and pushed her back past the fish tank and his nurse shark, all the way to the hallway.

“I’m tired, Rayvin. You’ve got me up past my bedtime. I interrupted my sleep to play host for you, but I need to go back to dreamland for a bit. Thank god for the short days of winter, eh?” He chuckled, whisking her down another hallway. This one was lined with cinderblocks and unpainted wooden and steel doors. “I’ve watched enough movies to know what mistakes to avoid as the villain, but at the same time, I understand why the dastardly fiend needs to draw out the moment rather than ending it quickly. There’s so much pleasure in just relishing satisfaction, you know? So I’ve got my cameras ready, because I’m really exhausted and I can’t keep my eyes open much longer.”

He brought her to a stop next to a door marked “Boiler Room”.

And then he pulled a knife out of his pocket.

“It’s been more than ten years, Rayvin, since you paralyzed me and left me to rot in my chair.” Jason leaned over until his face was even with hers. He whipped off his patch to let her see the whole of his ruined eye. “And a couple of weeks ago, your boyfriend maimed me for the remainder of my after-life. So I’m thinking Code of Hammurabi. Remember, from Intro to Law?”

He shifted her body with one hand, reached under the blankets with his knife, and forced it deeply into her lower back. She shuddered and shrieked, the pain in her womb eclipsed by the agony of her muscles and tissue shredding. He sawed back and forth, cutting at her spine. She arched her back, trying to get away, screaming.

Something inside her gave way, snapping apart, and then for the second time in four hours, she blacked out.

———————

Want to know more about the Talbot Trilogy? Follow the links below!


MistMidnightThe prequel novella: Mist and Midnight 
 Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Chapters, B&N

Stalked by a cruel and relentless vampire, Charlotte is on the run. Fleeing the city, the powers of magick her only protection, she couldn’t afford to fall for the hot modern prospector Pike Mahonen. Can she avoid temptation in a small town, to keep them both safe?

WindAndShadowBook One: Wind and Shadow — Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Chapters, B&N

Rayvin Woods, photographer and natural witch. She just wanted to start her life over again after a series of misadventures. She didn’t count on rekindling a lost love when she came home to Talbot…or battling a malevolent vampire and his coven for her life.

Grant Michaels, police officer. He thought Rayvin was a murderer. He will do whatever it takes to protect the community he loves from danger…but will he learn to trust his heart, and the word of a witch, before it’s too late?

Malcolm de Sade, cunning vampire, imprisoned underground for a year by Charlotte Fanning and Pike Mahonen (“Mist and Midnight”, Midnight Thirsts). His accidental release unleashes his hunger and ambitionon a small, sleepy town…

BloodFireBook Two: Blood and Fire — Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Chapters, B&N

What chance does one witch have against five vampires? Alone, not much. But Rayvin’s allies are gathering… The battle between good and evil supernatural forces heats up in the long, cold November nights of the former mining town. But how will Rayvin’s motley crew of spellcasters and shapeshifters cope when they discover the threat they face is even greater than they imagined?

Stay tuned for the Book Three: Crystal and Wand cover reveal, release date, launch party, and celebratory giveaways!

The Snowmobiling Story — this time in first-person and with the vernacular

Bah! I missed my self-imposed deadline — it’s exactly 12:00 am. But technically I DID post on March 17 with my update on Crystal and Wand. So, you know . . . we’re good. 

I’m applying some of my student’s suggestions here, and I’ve changed the narrative to a first-person  so that the vernacular works better with my grammatical sensibilities. What do YOU think, dear readers? Which version do you like better — this one or the first one?

——————-

I glanced down at the gas needle and wished I’d had enough money to put more than half a tank in before hitting the trails. I had a good half of a tank in my snow machine, but my buddies weren’t following the plan we’d all agreed on, turning left at the fork behind Northern College instead of looping around the lake in one quick trip. Danny was up front, leading the rest of us, and he had a habit of making changes on the fly. They might have been going halfway to Rouyn for all I knew.

Danny kind of pissed me off when he did stuff like that, but my heart was pumping and I was grinning from ear to ear, just the same.

If I’d only put more gas in the tank . . . I swore under my breath, adjusting my speed while leaning into a curve on the track. I had shit to do that afternoon, stuff that required money. My next paycheque wouldn’t come for another week, so I was trying to be good and make the cash last. Danny, Steve, and AJ didn’t have to worry about working; their dads all had good jobs and gave them money pretty much whenever they wanted. They didn’t have to think about budgeting. Maybe that explained why they could just change their minds at the last second and do whatever the hell they wanted.

I looked at the needle again and decided that as soon as they stopped for a break, or if I went down to a quarter of a tank, I’d turn back. No sense in being stupid.

My mind made up, I focused on keeping pace with my friends. It was a perfect day for a rip, so no wonder they wanted to do more than a loop and back to town again. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, just an expanse of deep blue overhead that reached from one side of the snow-covered forest to the other. It was damned cold out, but thanks to my mom landing some good deals during Boxing Day sales, my new Skidoo suit and gloves kept me from feeling the worst of the chill. -35 C was too cold for downhill skiing, which is what my girlfriend Penny would have liked to have done that afternoon, but it was perfect for hitting the trails: the Arctic temperatures made the snow sparkle in the sunlight, especially those crisp bits that flew away from the speeding vehicles’ tracks and blades. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Too bad Penny didn’t like hopping on the back and going with me. It was the one thing — well, maybe not the one thing, there were other things we didn’t have in common — but the main thing that we had different between us. I wished she was with me now, riding behind me, but I understood that I couldn’t force her to like it. Maybe, eventually, she’d want to try it out and I could take her for a ride.

Just not with Danny around. That guy was my friend, but also an idiot.

Case in point: Danny never stopped flirting with Penny, even when he knew it pissed me off. Or maybe he did it even more when I got mad. My gut twisted thinking about it, and my hands tightened on my risers. Penny didn’t say that she minded it, but every now and then I’d seen a shady look on her face when she moved away from Danny’s hand on her shoulder, pushing him back when he was begging for a hug, or when she caught him staring at her as he sipped from his drink. I would shove him or give him a semi-playful smack on the shoulder and tell him to stay away from her, but the guy just laughed it off.

“I’m just kidding! Relax, man!”

Sometimes I wondered why we were friends. Or, rather, still friends. We’d known each other since we were two, been to each other’s birthdays every year since then, learned how to fish and shoot together, and Danny had helped me to rebuild my old Skidoo practically from scratch. The hours we’d spent, hunting through the junkyard and picking through yard sales and Auto Trader magazines for the right pieces . . . And even though she was pretty ratchet, the snowmobile ran pretty good. Danny never bugged me about the way she looked, either. It was enough that I could match his speed.

I could see him up ahead, veering his 2016-model Summit X T3 880 up the drifted slopes and taking jumps that left wings of powder hanging in the air. What Danny wanted, he got, and so a lot of kids wanted to be in his circle.

It just sucked that being in this particular group meant you had to show you had balls. Turning around halfway through a run did not show anything but being a pussy. I sighed, anticipating the chirping I was about to get. But there was no help for it; the needle had already moved on the gas gauge, giving him about ten more minutes before I’d have to turn around.

The good news was Danny had already started slowing down, signalling a stop. If I was really lucky, I wouldn’t be getting back on fumes.

I parked my snowmachine in beside the other three and raised my helmet so I could speak clearly. ” ‘Sup, buds?”

“Smoke break,” Danny told him, grinning. “Want a dart?”

“Naw, you know I’m quitting.” Adam waved him off and looked away.

“Yeah, you keep saying that,” Steve said. “But I keep seeing you in the smokers’ pit at school.”

“That’s ’cause that’s where all you losers hang out, dumbass.” I propped one knee on my seat. “Listen, what’s the plan here?”

“We’re heading to Rouyn, gonna pick up some two-fours and head back to AJ’s for a party,” Danny said. He exhaled a long puff of grey-white smoke mixed with the condensation of his breath. 

“Seriously?” I looked away so I wouldn’t have to breathe in the stink of his tobacco, focusing on adjusting the velcro belt on the wrist of my glove. Normally the guys only smoked at the parties, passing around cigars, but Danny had decided for some reason that he needed regular smokes, too. I pulled the velcro back and pressed it down again in an awkward rhythm. “I got plans with Penny tonight.”

“Yeah, your plans include bringing her to AJ’s.” Danny jerked his chin and then glanced at the other guys, grinning.

“Honestly, I don’t think she’ll want to go,” I said. The noise of the velcro on my gloves was hard to hear against the growling of the engines. I slapped the strap down and took off my helmet to mess around with the padding, pretending to fix the way it sat on my head. “Kind of off parties right now, you know?”

Steve laughed, swaggering over to bush half-covered in snow with his gloves held under one arm so he could unzip his suit. “What, you afraid she’s gonna check out the competition, see somebody better, and ditch your ass? Bro, just bring her to the party. Don’t be a pussy.” The thin yellow stream steamed and crackled in the hollow it made under the bush. “Shit, I think I might have gotten piss on my boots again . . .”

Danny neatly tossed his cigarette butt in the snow at his feet. “Listen, bring her or don’t bring her, but you’re coming out. You need to relax, buddy. Way too tense. Am I right, AJ?”

AJ shrugged, his face still obscured by the mirrored visor of his helmet. He revved his engine, turning to the east, then took off suddenly, leaving an impressive spray of white powder in his wake.

“Whoa, nice boondockin’” Steve shouted, waving one arm. He zipped up and strode back to his machine,  looking at Danny as he straddled the seat. “Let’s go, we’re wasting daylight. If he wants to wimp out, let him.”

I felt a hot glow deep in my chest, watching Steve slam his visor down and zoom off without another word. Why can’t I just tell them I haven’t got enough gas?

“So you coming or not, Adam?” Danny asked. He checked to make sure his pocket flap was down over his cigarettes and lighter. “We can carry more booze with four machines.”

“Yeah, I’ll be right behind you,” I said, slowly. “I thought I heard a knock in the engine. Need to check it out first.”

“Hey, want me to stay and give you a hand?”

At least the kid actually sounded concerned. I took my gloves off, flipping them at him. “No, I got this. Like I said, I’ll catch up. See you in Rouyn, okay?”

“Okay. And remember what I said — bring Penny tonight!”

There was that look again, damnit. Danny was gone before I could ask him what the raised eyebrow and crooked grin was all about.

The last echoes of the Skidoos racing eastward faded. I had turned off my ignition, so the quiet was absolute. Even the wind had died down, and it was too cold even for the ravens to squawk. I opened the engine compartment, closing my eyes for a minute to appreciate the odours of gas and oil before I started fiddling with some plugs. I checked over my shoulder a couple of times, listening for any signs of my friends coming back. Not that I really expected them to do that . . . well, maybe Danny would, if only to ride my butt about his old machine and my girlfriend.

The silence didn’t stop a bunch of thoughts from cycling through my head. In fact, it was hard to ignore them. I checked the oil, shoving the wire harder than necessary back into its slot, willing my brain to stop thinking.

I should just catch up and borrow money from AJ for some gas.

I should just go home right now. The hell with this.

Danny has the hots for Penny.

It was in his eyes when he watched her coming to sit down next to me in the caf, the way he looked her up and down, his gaze settling on her chest until someone yelled at him to pay attention. It was in those stupid jokes

Something in that shit-eating grin Danny had on his face just before he’d zoomed off was really bothered me. Maybe it was how he’d sounded when he’d said I should bring Penny to the party.

I could already predict what that party was going to be like. It would be the same as always: loud music that would get louder as people got drunker, a bonfire in a home-made fire pit that some fool would try jumping over and end up wiping out next to on the ice that formed from the melting snow (next to the fire, if he was lucky — more likely to wipe out on the fire pit), Danny hitting on every girl until he got one who was drunk or stupid enough to think he was actually funny. And if Danny scored with a girl who actually had a boyfriend, there would be a fight.

Come to think of it, Danny would probably focused on girls with boyfriends just so that he could get into a fight.

Me and Danny had never been in a real fight. We’d goofed around, just being idiots and re-enacting MMA bouts and hockey fights, tossing each other off of docks in the summer and into snowbanks in the winter. Hell, we’d thrown each other off of any surface we could climb onto: the roof of the bottom-story addition of my house (winter), the railing of Danny’s back deck (winter), the flat top of AJ’s boat house (summer), the flat top of AJ’s grandparents’ garage (winter) . . .

Of course, we didn’t need a bit of high ground to throw each other down. Back in grade five, Danny’d taught me how to sweep a leg out from under my opponent, passing on whatever he’d learned in the karate classes that my parents couldn’t afford. And then I’d shown Danny how to pile-drive, what it took to do a decent sleeper hold that could really knock somebody out, and the pressure points I’d learned from my dad. Danny loved finding out about those, just little sensitive spots between thumbs and forefingers that could keep a kid on the ground for as long as you wanted, if enough you pressed hard enough.

Good times.

But we’d never yet taken a swing at each other. Hadn’t had a reason to. Especially not over a girl.

And I honestly didn’t want to do that. Not that I’d ever tell anyone, out loud.

It wasn’t that I was scared. I could take Danny

It was just . . .

I slammed the cover back down on my snowmobile. The bang startled a distant raven into cawing loudly as it flew away.

Guys fought, didn’t they? They fought and then they got over it. Fighting cleared the air. Girls, they snuck around and bitched at each other and sent nasty texts until they were ripping at each other’s hair and rolling around school hallways. Girl fights lasted for weeks, or even months.

When Danny went after some other guy’s chick, the guy would call him out either at the party where the thing happened, or at school the next day. I kind of thought it was stupid to do it at school, but there had to be an audience. My mom once said, after she’d heard about one of these fights, that it had to do with something called ‘saving face’. Whether Danny and whoever went at it right away depended on the other guy’s temper — or fear.

I sat on my snowmobile and stared at the remains of Danny’s cigarette in the snow, my nostrils crinkling in the cold air. The grey ashes looked like dead snowflakes. Zombie snowflakes.

Sometimes, after Danny had a fight with a guy, and there was snow on the ground, there would be blood spattered on it. He only ever needed to fight a kid once and then the problem would be over. Nobody ever challenged him twice.

If Danny was going after Penny now, I would have to fight him. Guaranteed.

Damnit, why couldn’t all of this be as simple as gliding over drifts and along the edges of embankments? It wasn’t Penny’s fault that she was pretty and smart; I was lucky to have her as my girlfriend, and I knew it. How long would it be before someone better than me came along and we broke up?

It might as well be Danny as anyone else. Then I wouldn’t have to deal with wondering who she was with. Then again, I might have to stop being friends with the jerk.

The ticking of the engine as it cooled off brought me back to reality. It was too confusing to just sit there and think; easier to ride. Pivoting on my heel, I threw my other leg over the seat, rammed on my helmet and started the motor. It was satisfying to lean into the curve as I turned my Skidoo around and headed back down the trail — better than thinking and thinking and not having any good answers.

It felt better, too, once I’d picked up speed. The dark trees whizzing past me on either side, but the sky didn’t seem to move at all. I relaxed my body into the seat, enjoying the way my shoulders and arms were feeling the strain of the drive and how my legs were working to mould him against the machine. The heavy vibration blended into my muscles until I felt like me and the Skidoo were almost connected, working together to virtually fly over the contours of the trail. All at once, like the driving was blowing cobwebs out of my brain, I saw clearly what I needed to do: warn Penny that Danny was going to hit on her, and then tell Danny to back off. It was as simple as that. I could even run our conversation through my head — mine and Danny’s, not the one with Penny — and predict how it was going to go.

I never had trouble talking to Penny. With her, I just felt comfortable. But Danny had a way of twisting other people’s words that was fun to watch, when it was happening to other people.

I gunned the engine as I approached a hill, catching air over the crest and bracing myself right before the impact seconds later.

“Dan,” I’d say, keeping my voice serious and low to keep from attracting attention. “Lay off of Penny, okay? She doesn’t like you like that.”

“Lay her? Sure, I’ll lay her for you!” Danny would probably laugh, and he’d do it loudly too, making sure everyone could hear. “I know you’re still saving yourself for marriage.”

The trail forked just up ahead, with the main branch — the official path — leading off to the right and back to town by following the uneven shore of the lake. I bent my left elbow and knee to direct the snowmobile over the rough pile of snow toward the southeast, relishing the thrill of the machine diving into deeper powder. The shortcut over the lake would save me five, maybe ten minutes if I really pushed it. Just had to watch out for patrols, but I could just explain that I was running out of gas and needed to get home fast.

“Dan, I need to talk to you,” I’d say instead, so that my long-time friend would know I was serious. “It’s important. Penny wants you to leave her alone.”

“I’m sorry if I freaked her out,” Danny would shrug, his eyes all innocent. “I was just joking around. Maybe you shouldn’t be with her if she can’t take a joke.”

I shook my head, gritting my teeth. The snowmobile shuddered over a patch of rough ice as I zoomed onto the lake. I had to come up with something to say that Danny couldn’t turn around on me, something that the asshole would respect.

What if I told him that if he kept harassing my girlfriend, we couldn’t be buddies anymore?

Did guys even do that sort of thing?

————

So, keep going with the first-person?  Or back to the third-person narrative?  Comment below!

Story time! Well, a writing exercise for a romance, at any rate. Should I keep this one going?

Cass twiddled with the spare stir stick she’d taken from the counter, trying to turn or flip it in circles about her fingers like she’d seen done in a movie once. It was difficult to keep from checking her reflection in the darkened window of the coffee shop. Night had fallen too quickly, so unless she pressed her face right against the glass and blocked out the light, people would know she wasn’t just looking for her date. The other patrons would be able to see her checking her lipstick for smears, tucking lockings of hair back behind her ears or pulling them out again, uncertain as to which style looked better. She sipped at her tea, trying to gauge the attentiveness of the others in the shop — were they watching? Had they noticed her fidgeting?

———————-

I know, I should be working on the snowmobiling story, but I was thinking about this idea earlier today, and I figured I should get it down. And since my files are currently out of my reach (sob), I’ll put it on my blog! 

This short piece is mainly me trying to focus on showing, rather than telling. But also — fellow writers, do you often find it difficult to come up with character names? I find that’s one of the hardest parts of beginning a project, because too often, I’m faced with a name that belongs to someone I’ve taught, or worked with, and therefore it’s hard to separate the name from the history. Plus, I would never want to be accused of having written someone into a story that wasn’t compimentary of that individual. Sometimes I pick a name because it’s unique and cool and suits the character more than anything else. Sometimes the name of the character will change mid-draft. In this case, I went back and forth on several options before I settled on Cass, and I’m not even sure I like it. But there we are.

———————-

The tea was scalding hot, but she preferred it black with a bit of sugar, so with not a little trepidation, she peeled up the edges of the lid on the take-out cup in order to pop it off and let the worst of the heat steam away. At the last second, Cass remembered to open it away from herself, only just avoiding a spatter of brown on her cream sweater. She had a long scarf with her to hide any accidental stains, but it would be one more thing to worry about, if she had to disguise her sloppiness all evening. Already, she’d nearly dropped the first stir stick onto the floor, but she’d caught it in time to keep from feeling foolish.

If Henry was watching from Heaven, what would he be thinking of her right now? 

He’d tell me to take a deep breath, Cass thought, straightening her shoulders. And don’t worry about what others think.

She was trying, but it wasn’t easy. The last time she’d been on a real date with anyone had been thirty years  earlier, and that had been with Henry! Typical. There were movies made about moments like these, and romance novels, although she wasn’t sure she’d seen any that directly matched her own situation. That would have been nice. Like a kind of guideline, perhaps, although God knew, people didn’t behave in real life as they did in fiction. If they did . . . she could have a say in how this conversation was going to go. She wouldn’t have to fear stuttering, or having a booger dangle from her nose, or spilling tea all over herself. 

She caught a glimpse of her reflection again, and in a wild panic, debated wiping off her lipstick completely so she wouldn’t have to worry about whether it was still in place. Did other women even notice lipstick, or was that just a part of those expectations for women that had been imposed by a patriarchial society? Cass gripped a paper napkin, her hand hovering near her face. 

Don’t worry . . .

Cass forced herself to fill her lungs and look away from the glass. Her lipstick was fine. She liked how it had looked when she’d put it on, and she liked how women looked with a skillful application of makeup. So if this woman she was meeting — Katherine Batey, she was called — if she didn’t like it, that would be one sign for Cass that their relationship was likely to be short-lived. 

Then the door opened, making the bell above it tinkle merrily. Cass put her fingers to her mouth, sweeping the underside of her lip one more time, as the woman in the red coat came toward her.