Ilona Andrews's Blog, page 6
December 16, 2013
Facing the need to recap seven books and explain the terms like Pack and People, we’ve written an intro from Barabas. We will also add a quick glossary to the end of the book, just in case. In theory, this will permit you to get enough information to enjoy Magic Breaks while not spoiling the rest of the series. We thought you might like to read it, but if you know the series well, there’s probably not a lot of new info in there.
Thank you for pointing out the typos, although I was hoping to get more feedback on whether or not it worked as a summary rather than typo issues. I just got chocolate from Grace Draven, so fire away, although please do take into account that I know a little bit about what I am doing and I am not asking for edits.
PS. I do love you, even if you do drive me nuts.
My name is Barabas. I was named that because my mother was ambitious. It could be worse. One of my cousins is named Lucifer. I once asked my aunt why and she said, “Because I wanted him to be beautiful and to think for himself.” Boudas, or werehyenas as most people know us, have an interesting perspective on the world. Technically, I’m not a bouda. I’m a weremongoose, but my mother is one and I grew up among them.
At the time of writing this, I’m twenty-nine years old. I have a law degree from the University of Virginia and I currently reside in Atlanta. I’m employed as a Pack lawyer, which is to say I’m a member of the largest shapeshifter organization in the South and second largest on the continent of North America. I also work for the Consort of the Pack as a special adviser. The Consort refers to me as her nanny occasionally, and I find that term uniquely accurate. I would put one of those hideous child leashes on her, if I could, except I’m reasonably sure she would assault me.
I find myself at a strange moment in time. Something momentous is taking place right in front of me, something that I suspect will drastically alter the future of not just the Pack, not just my generation, but generations to come. I have the front row seat. I’m in the middle of it. Yet nobody around me seems to realize that years from now our descendants will look back on this moment and wonder how it all happened. Someone must document it. After all, history is written by and for the survivors and right now I’m not sure who these survivors will be. Don’t take me wrong, I don’t intend to roll over and fade into the night. I will rage with the best of them. But on the off chance we don’t prevail, there must be a record of how hard we fought. It looks like I’ll be the one making that record, since nobody else can be bothered. Funny how it always turns out that way.
So, I suppose, I’ll begin at the beginning. The world has suffered a magic apocalypse. As expected, it was completely our own damn fault.
In the ancient times, technology and magic existed in perfect balance, but then came the human race and built a civilization based on magic. Magical creatures of terror and beauty roamed the land. Wizards with god-like power built entire cities overnight and rained winged snakes and molten metal on their enemies. (As an aside, that age must’ve been a nightmare. Concentration of that much power in the hands of individual human beings, why that would never go wrong or lead to horrible atrocities. Just read the Bible.) Finally the balance between magic and technology had become too disrupted, and magic receded. The magical cities crumbled and their beasts became myth.
Fast forward five thousand years. It is early twenty-first century and we’ve created a civilization based on technology. Once again, we upset the balance and magic returned with a vengeance to slap us upside the head. It floods the planet in waves. One moment technology rules, internal combustion engines work, guns fire, and electricity keeps the monsters away. The next a magic wave drowns the area, choking guns and spawning creatures with nightmarish teeth and robust appetites. Then, without warning, the magic wanes and SWAT’s mages stop spitting fire and switch back to rifles.
This apocalypse is called the Shift. The Shift destroyed the technological civilization. Air travel is no longer possible, because planes fall out of the sky when the magic hits. The internet is all but dead, because half of the time we have no electricity and magic chomps computer parts into dust. The cell phones do not work, unless you’re in the military and have a really good clearance. The high rises and skyscrapers have fallen, gnawed to nubs by magic’s teeth, but life goes on and people survive. And in the new post-Shift Atlanta new factions and powers came into play.
First, there is the Pack. As mentioned, I am a shapeshifter and I work for the Pack, so I have a vested interest in explaining exactly who we are and what we do. The Pack is the second largest shapeshifter organization in the country and has over fifteen hundred members. It’s segregated into seven clans, according to the species of their beast, so Boudas, Wolves, and so on. Each clan is led by a pair of alphas. Together the alphas make up the Pack Council. But as Disney taught us, there must be a king, and our king is known as Beast Lord, because we, as red-bloodied Americans, have an issue with monarchy. His name is Curran Lennart. Curran took charge of the Pack when he was fifteen by defeating a mad werebear nobody could touch. He unified us. He convinced alphas to collectively purchase land and built the Keep, our fortress, giving us a safe place to be ourselves. He imposed rules and laws and taught us that abuse won’t be tolerated. Because of him, we live together in relative prosperity. When Curran says jump, we jump so hard, the ground shakes. Which isn’t to say that he doesn’t have bouts of assholeness, but all things considered, they are forgivable. He’s also a really scary bastard, who is found of “my way or the highway” style of governance. More on that later.
We, the shapeshifters, are viewed with open suspicion by the rest of Atlanta. Our existence is the result of a Lyc-V virus, and sometimes the virus overwhelms our bodies, turning us into loups. Loups are vicious, insane, cannibalistic murderers. There is no cure for loupism, which is why we all practice strict discipline and undergo extensive mental conditioning to keep our emotions in check. When everything fails, there is panacea, an herbal concoction cooked with magic. It won’t cure loupism, but about thirty percent of the time, it will reverse the transformation in progress. More on that later, also. In the eyes of the general public, every shapeshifter is a potential loup and werewolf is still a dirty word.
Next up we have the People. They are a nationwide organization, with offices in every major city. The People pilot the undead, specifically vampires, for fun and profit, but if you ask them, they do it for some dubious scientific purposes. Vampires have no mind of their own. The Immortuus Pathogen, which leads to their death and subsequent reanimation of its victims, cleanses their bodies of everything it doesn’t require, including internal organs, hair, genitalia, and consciousness. A vampire is a feeding machine, consumed by a never-ending hunger. They don’t speak, they don’t think, they kill anything with a pulse, and stopping one requires a heavy duty anti-personnel howitzer or decapitation. Mincing them into small pieces has also been known to work, as the Consort has proven on many occasions. A single vampire on the loose in the city results in the immediate evacuation of a ten-block radius and several emergency police units, because a single SWAT team will run out of ammo before they take it down.
The necromancers – they prefer to be called navigators – telepathically grab hold of a vampire’s empty mind, imposing their will on the undead’s blank canvas. This is called piloting. The navigators pilot the vampires like remote controlled cars. They see what the undead sees, they hear what he hears, and when a vampire speaks, the navigator’s voice comes out of his mouth. They can send the vampire into danger, while sipping coffee in the armored bowels of the Casino. The best navigators call themselves the Masters of the Dead, because modesty is clearly their most valued virtue.
The People make their headquarters in the Casino, while our HQ is in the Keep. The People are the Pack’s biggest competition within the city. When we butt heads, people die, so a while ago, in an effort to cut down on possible bloodshed, we nominally divided the city into their “territory” and ours. It’s a bit complicated with specific streets and areas, but for the simplicity’s sake, north and north-east are ours and south and south-west are theirs. When you hear one of us say “city territory,” that’s what we mean. We don’t own businesses in each other’s specific areas, and we patrol our imaginary borders.
Right now the People are embroiled in an inner power struggle. The head of the Atlanta office retired – or perhaps they killed him off, nobody knows – and two of the Masters of the Dead are maneuvering their way to the top spot. One is Ghastek, who is quite brilliant, competent, extremely dangerous and wrapped in a protective shell of world-weary arrogance. Basically a know-it-all with the expertise and a pack of vampires to back it up. The other is Mulradin, of whom we know little expect that he is a family man and he becomes perturbed when people say harmless things, such as “Holy shit!” in the earshot of his wife, who mustn’t be sullied by being exposed to such coarseness. Bite me.
Here is the kicker: the general public doesn’t know it but the People answer to one man. Remember the Age of Magic and wizards with god-like powers? Turns out that when magic began to disappear from the world, not all of them died. Some of them went into hibernation. The Shift woke one of them up. Think about it. Here is a man unconstrained by ethics and morals. A man who used to rule an empire. A wizard-king, a law onto himself, who has lived for thousands of years with the power to crush thousands of lives with one single push of magic. A walking nuclear bomb. A man so powerful, he doesn’t need a name, he has phrases attached to him starting in all capitals. The Father of Undeath. The Builder of Towers.
He calls himself Roland now. I asked Consort why and she showed me the Song of Roland. It’s a 12th century ballad about a knight who is ambushed due to treachery and refuses to blow his horn out of pride until all of his soldiers are dead and he finally blows so hard, his temples burst and he dies a martyr. Make of it what you will.
Thousands of years ago Roland created vampires and now he runs the People from his territory in Mid-West. There are stories and myths of him scattered through folklore, the Torah, the Bible, and other holy books under different names. Apparently, Roland has two compulsions. First, he is a social engineer. He builds empires. He can’t help himself. He knows that the only way we can achieve enlightenment is under his rule. Democracy isn’t a concept he considers relevant, which is really bad news for us. Second, he falls in love. He falls in love a lot and makes children, and sooner or later, these uber-powerful children turn on him and he has to kill them. For example, Abraham was one of his, they had some sort of a spat, and Roland exiled him until Abraham finally died later in poverty. Not exactly the way the Bible tells it, but there you go.
Before Roland went into his hibernation, he apparently swore off procreation. But after he woke up during the Shift, he must’ve been overcome by euphoria of being alive. Same reason why people have sex after the funerals. Roland fell in love with a woman called Kalina. She wanted to have children and he apparently was cool with it, until a child was conceived, a daughter, and then Roland decided to pull the plug and to kill her in the womb. Kalina had her own magic, the magic of compulsion, and she was desperate to save her baby. She bewitched Roland’s warlord, Voron, and magicked him into thinking he was in love with her. Together they ran away. Kalina gave birth, but Roland eventually caught up with them. Kalina realized that of the two of them, Voron had the better chances of surviving and raising the baby, so she told him to run and stayed behind to confront Roland. She stabbed him through the eye and he killed her.
Not a happy story.
So here is Voron, a ruthless cold bastard, a really talented fighter who was supposed to lead Roland’s armies when he got around to taking over our continent, a guy who probably killed hundreds of people to get that good, and now he is alone with this baby. His brain is permanently cooked by Kalina’s magic. So he looks at this tiny cooing magical baby, the daughter of probably the only woman he ever loved, and he doesn’t say to himself, “At least I have something remaining of her. I’ll raise this child and I’ll do everything in my power to guard her, and protect, and love her, and make sure she has a happy life.” No, he looks at her and he thinks, “I’m going to get even.” Because he was that kind of a cold ruthless bastard.
He takes this baby and he hones her and shapes her, until she turns into a living weapon. She can kill you with her sword. She can kill you with a toothpick. She can kill you with her bare hands. I’m a weremongoose. I’m fucking fast. When I get bored, I play with my pet cobra, and I don’t mean that figuratively. I never get bitten, because I’m fast enough to easily dodge a striking snake. Sometimes when Kate swings her sword, I can’t see it. She’s that fast.
So while this little girl is growing up, Voron moves her around all over the North and South Americas. One month she’s training with someone in Oklahoma, the next she’s in a gladiator pit in Brazil. The entire time he’s telling her how her father killed her mother and how he would kill her if she was ever discovered. All that is true. But Voron also tells her that the only way for her to survive is to kill Roland. That’s her mission: become as deadly as you can, hide, bide your time, kill your father. Not go and live happily somewhere else where Roland never finds her. No, the plan is for her to grow up and kill her biological father. He doesn’t just teach her how to kill people in theory. She learns by doing. So let’s review: she is isolated, she is moved around with Voron being the only constant in her life, she trains constantly trying to earn his approval, and the way to do that is to kill. She learns to end human life before she reaches puberty. The damage that was done to her as a child is staggering. But that’s not the worst thing.
Voron set out to make her into a perfect assassin, but he didn’t teach her any magic. He wasn’t a magic user himself, so she learned general magic skills, a little from the witches, a little from the mages, but she didn’t practice the blood magic, the Roland-brand of magic; first, because nobody could teach her and second, because Voron thought it would give her away. But there is a third reason. There was no need for it, because Voron knew what Roland was capable off. He knew that Kate’s skill was sufficient enough to for her to cut her way to Roland, but she would have no chance against her father. That was the crux of his revenge. He raised this child from the time she was a baby solely so one day he could watch Roland kill his own flesh and blood. I’ll let that sink in a little bit.
He didn’t get a chance to see it for himself. Roland decided he needed a new warlord, so he took Voron’s best pupil, the boy he raised like a son, and made him his Warlord. His name is Hugh d’Ambray, or Sick Fuck, which is more fitting. Hugh d’Ambray has been hunting Voron since his betrayal. One day, when Kate was away from the house, Hugh found him and killed him. He claims to be somewhat broken up over it, but you can’t trust a single word that comes out of that lying bastard’s mouth.
With Voron dead, Kate was on her own. A knight of the Order of Merciful Aid temporarily assumed guardianship of her and tried to send her to the Order Academy, but she dropped out. The Order is a semi-official law enforcement agency. Their legal status is murky, as I’ve pointed out to anyone who will listen a number of times. They are fanatics, they have a rigid mindset, and they believe that any deviation from your average vanilla Homo sapiens makes you non-human.
To these guys, Charlie Manson and Jack Ripper are more human than I am. If it wasn’t for the fact that our police force is overwhelmed, their presence wouldn’t be tolerated. It shouldn’t be tolerated anyway. But, as is typical, when someone comes to you and offers to remove that pesky griffin that’s killing people in your neighborhood and to do it free of charge if you can’t afford to pay, most people refuse to look a gift knight in the mouth.
So Kate decided the Order’s brainwashing wasn’t for her. She bummed around Georgia, dropping in and out of Atlanta. Worked for Mercenary Guild for a while. They’re the guys you call if you have money and a monster in your backyard, and the cops are too busy with a poisonous flying jellyfish downtown. She tried to hide in plain sight. She might have succeeded except she ran into the Beast Lord. As I mentioned, he is a scary, bossy bastard. She hates all authority. He said, “Jump.” She said, “Screw you.” Of course, they would fall madly in love after that. And when I say madly, I mean it.
Kate never does things half-way. I’m certain that Voron attempted to create a psychopath but somehow he failed. Kate will put herself between danger and some idiot bystanders every single time. She found a half-starved child of an alcoholic on the street, almost died saving her from demons, and then adopted her. Julie is an exceptional child in every way, including the amount of trouble she can generate. She isn’t easy to raise. Kate counts me as one of her friends. It is a privilege. It means when I’m several states away and I call her and say, “I’m in trouble,” she will get her sword and come to get me expecting nothing in return. That is a rare thing. Curran might be the Beast Lord and a stubborn one, but he knew what he had when he met her. That’s why she’s now the Consort of the Pack. We needed a Consort for a long time. Someone to balance out Curran. Then she came along and she is sensible and tries to be fair. Things were going so well for a while.
Remember I mentioned panacea, the herbal medicine that helps us to not go loup? Until recently we had no access to it. It was cooked somewhere in Europe and they wouldn’t sell it to us at any price. This summer suddenly the Beast Lord and his Consort got an invite to settle a shapeshifter family dispute in a small country on Black Sea. They would be paid in panacea. We all knew it was a trap, and we all went to see who was holding the string of the trap door. It was Hugh d’Ambray. He’d followed the trail of breadcrumbs and found Kate. Here is a woman who had been trained by a man he viewed as his father. She is better with a sword than he is. She is the daughter of the guy he worships. She is the boss’s deadly daughter and Hugh doesn’t understand no. To her, he is the man who killed her master. It went weird really fast and ended up in a giant fight and a castle on fire.
So here we are. We didn’t get the panacea, but we got Christopher, an insane mage Kate pulled out of a cage where Hugh was slowly starving him to death. Christopher isn’t all there. Turns out he can make panacea, so now we have our own supply, but the price was high. We lost Aunt B, the alpha of Clan Bouda. The boudas are misfits. Other shapeshifters don’t trust us. We don’t do things by the book. Aunt B took care of us. Of me. Words can’t describe what she meant to me. She is gone now. Kate watched her die. It eats at her. I can see it in her face. She visits Aunt B’s grave more than her son does, and Raphael is over there every chance he gets.
So here we are, at a crossroads. We don’t know if Hugh is alive or dead. Curran had broken Hugh’s spine and hurled him into the fire, but Kate says she felt him teleport out. We know that the days of hiding are over. Roland will come for his daughter. He’d attacked the Pack before through his agents. He doesn’t like us. We are growing and gaining in strength. But now, whether Hugh survived, Roland is coming. If Hugh is dead, he will come to see who killed him. If Hugh’s alive, he would have told Roland about his daughter.
As I said, this is the moment when everything hangs in the balance. If Roland comes, we will fight, not just for the Consort, but for our lives, as overly dramatic as it sounds. Roland understands the concept of personal freedom. He just believes it’s highly overrated. Freedom is everything to us. We won’t be slaves. Kate is our best hope of stopping him, but – here is that pesky word again – she knows her magic can’t match his. The Covens of Atlanta threw their lot with her and are supplying her with undead blood to practice. She’s learning, but I’m afraid it’s not fast enough. If Roland takes over Atlanta, the other cities will follow. We, the Pack, have the best chance of fighting him off.
There is a storm gathering on our horizon. We will make a stand, but I wonder if it will matter in the end.
December 13, 2013
Hasna of Bookpushers said, “Read Master of Crows.”
I looked at it and it was a $2.99 Romantic Fantasy. Nobody does RF well. It’s all either too much fantasy with unpronounceable names or a particularly overwrought brand of romance. But it was $2.99 and Has recommended it and I bought it.
“Yield to me, Master of Crows, and I will make you ruler of kingdoms.”
Silhara of Neith groaned and doubled over, clutching his midriff. Blood streamed from his nose and dripped on the balcony’s worn stones. The god’s voice, familiar and insidious, wrapped around his mind. Transfixed beneath the rays of a jaundiced star, he huddled against the crumbling parapet, fighting an evil the priests assumed long vanquished.
The god seduced him, filled his head with images fantastic and horrific—sacrificial blood pooling on a killing stone, armies marching across a sun-scorched desert, a sea of starving people kneeling in adulation. Magic surged through him, a colossal power bred of hate. Unstoppable. Terrifying. He was drunk on the knowledge that the armies moved on his orders, and the people worshipped at his feet. The victims sacrificed were offered to the god, and Silhara reigned over all before him.
The voice sang its malevolent song. ”You will be an emperor unchallenged, a sorcerer unequaled.”
Silhara ground his teeth against the agony splitting his skull. “And be a thrall to a beggar god?”
Draven, Grace (2011-08-08). Master of Crows (Kindle Locations 62-73). Grace Draven. Kindle Edition.
You know what it reads like? It reads like David Gemmel was a woman and decided to write romance. I’m not taking David Gemmel of giant sieges, but David Gemmel of Winter Warriors and The King beyond the Gate. Basically, she took Tenaka Khan’s non-existent wizard brother and turned him into romance hero. That in itself is recommendation enough, but since not everyone reads Gemmel, I’ll tell you more.
It is written beautifully. The narrative displays the level of skill and polish that typically comes after years of writing. The vocabulary is rich and vivid. But the narrative never wanders off. It’s tightly written.
A living flame in the begrimed room, he burned with a cold, still fire. Long scarlet robes swirled around his ankles like bloodied smoke. Taller than most men and lean, he wore his black hair in a tight braid that fell over his shoulder. The severe style accentuated a sun-burnished face neither handsome nor kind but carved from the same rock strewn across the courtyard. His black eyes and aquiline nose reminded her of those Kurman nomads she’d sometimes seen in the markets, selling their rugs and weaponry. Her belly tightened in dread as he gazed at her and Cumbria with sloe-eyed malevolence.
Draven, Grace (2011-08-08). Master of Crows (pp. 9-10). Grace Draven. Kindle Edition.
You get that sense of a living world, weaved with dark magic and ordinary lives, as if this place exists outside of the pages and the book is a window giving you a glimpse. Against this background, plays out a touching love story. You know those books that take place in two days and the hero and the heroine meet and Bam! they’re in love after 24 hours? This isn’t one of those. It’s not a sex story, although sex is in the book. It’s a slow burn relationship that unfolds over the course of weeks. I’m jaded and I had this terrible sense of dread before the finale because I’ve become attached to the characters. She got me.
I thought it was great. I liked it so much, I blurbed it, which as you know, almost never happens. As always, your mileage may vary, so I recommend downloading a sample first. Books are subjective. But anyway, if you’re in the market for a Romantic Fantasy, check it out. Here is Grace’s website, here is the link to the book, and here are the buy links if you’re looking for a sample: Amazon | Smashwords.
She has a new release at the end of the month and I will be getting an ARC. If it’s good, I’ll tell you all about it as soon as I read it.
December 12, 2013
You know when you have so many things to do, that you kind of hang suspended between them? None of the things are great and major, or even particularly difficult, but there are so many of them and they have to be all done at the same time. I don’t even know where to start. I made some progress today by cleaning the kitchen.
On the writing front, I’ve received the file back from Anne Victory (need to pay Anne), which means that most likely, after finishing this post, I will generate an ARC of Curran POV’s. I kind of have a strong urge to just lump Julie’s story and Adam’s Cousin’s story into it, but that would be a lazy mistake, because they are not thematically similar. Need to somehow come up with a third story for those two stories, so they can be together.
Need to edit more of Magic Breaks. Hate it right now. HATE. The beginning reads like a huge infodump, because Anne Sowards insists on having everything explained. She has a point – it’s the first hardback and new readers are likely to at least leaf through it – but I am so sick of explaining things. Strongly thinking of making a primer in the beginning of the story and sticking it in there. Gaaah.
Clean Sweep is now on iTunes. Still no Kobo. Grr.
Need to do laundry.
Need to fold old laundry.
Need to wrap gifts.
Need to make something for dinner, probably fish.
Need to say thank you to everyone for sending everything.
Need to go to post office to check the PO Box. (Typed this as POV box first and then stared at it, not sure what’s wrong.)
Need to call Anne Sowards about the chocolate.
Need to call to Dina and Slabby before they leave for Scotland.
Need to make arrangements for more gifts.
Need to knit more of the sweater. Have half the sweater, looks awesome.
::waves arms:: Also, Aunt J still hasn’t given us an account to wire the money for the tiny cabin for Memaw. I swear, we had this conversation the other day:
Me: I’m not chasing Kid 1. She isn’t five. She is seventeen years old. She knows where Robitussin is. She knows how much to take. She need to medicate herself.
Gordon: I’m not chasing Aunt J. She isn’t five. This is 2013. She knows the number. Pick up the phone, call, give me the account number, and I’ll wire the money.
Parents and kids, at one point in your life, they’re kind of the same. O_O
December 11, 2013
I’ve enjoyed Inkeeper story, Clean Sweep very much–thanks for writing it in such an open way. It’s very cool to see the difference/process from the original posted version and the final published version.
When you were writing this and even more so now with the final version I keep having a prequel déjà vu.I know you used to have a lot of snippets of experiments and bits and pieces of this and that and at at least one point you cleaned a lot of old stuff up from you blog. So, I guess my question is, am I going crazy that there was a story or part of a story or two about the parents’ inn or at least in the same world as the innkeeper?
There are only two precursors to the inn on the blog. I thought you might like them.
March 4, 2011
This story was going to be in an anthology but it wasn’t dark enough and we also felt that it would not fit into the word count limit. So most likely when it’s finished it will be released as an E-book.
Gerard Demille closed his eyes and rocked back and forth on the soles of his feet, swaying gently. He could feel the invisible walls of the pentagram around him, the magic solid and thick, streaming upward and downward. An impenetrable barrier. He could feel it, he could touch it – it would hurt like hell, but he couldn’t feel his own feet. Life was not fair.
He took a deep breath and blew it out. He couldn’t feel that either. He just went through the motions, following a muscle memory.
Bored. Bored, bored, bored. So mercilessly bored.
Around him the basement lay steeped in gloom, the thick stone walls patterned with a lattice of light and shadow, filtering through the wooden grates guarding the basement windows. A mouse scurried in the corner and paused to wash her nose with tiny hand-paws.
“You stop that,” Gerard told her. That’s all he needed. Mice gnawing on the walls.
The mouse looked at him with beady eyes.
“Shoo. Leave. You’re not welcome in my inn.”
The little beast appeared unimpressed.
Gerard heaved another sigh and concentrated. A small chunk of rock in the corner shivered and shot across the floor in front of the rodent. The mouse jumped and dashed away. Gerard chased her with the rock all the way to the wall where a strand of ivy had made its way down into the basement through the broken window. The mouse jumped, trying to get to the ivy, but the vine ended too high up. Gerard dropped the rock. His magic reached out like an invisible hand and gently closed about the mouse. The animal squeaked, flailing. Gerard held it tighter – mice could squirm through the smallest openings and this wasn’t his first time at the rodeo – levitated the mouse up to the window, where a corner of the glass pane had broken out, and gently pushed her through the hole. The mouse darted out, no doubt feeling for its life. He concentrated, flattening the magic into a narrow plane and sliced at the vine, severing it neatly at the window.
Well, that was fun.
He pondered the vine and began stripping the leaves from it, one by one. What marvelous entertainment. What delightful pastime. Why, he would have to pace himself or he might earn himself a fit of apoplexy from all this excitement—
A rumble of the car engine slowing to a stop.
Maybe they just had a flat tire.
The tires crunched rolling over twigs in the old driveway. The motor fell silent. A car door swung open.
He had visitors. Oh yes. Gerard grinned and shot an astral projection of himself straight up, through the two floors to the round attic window. A silver Audi had pulled midway up the driveway. A tall redhead had stepped out of the driver side door and peered at the house. Mirabelle Heath, the picture perfect real estate agent. Real name Shirley Heath. He’d snuck a peak at her driver’s license the first time she came to assess the house. He guessed Shriley just didn’t go with the entire super-agent persona.
Mirabelle’s bright red hair was pulled back into a ponytail. A female buyer then. For men, she curled it and left it loose. Dark grey Armani pant suit over a crisp white shirt, ridiculous platform shoes. Probably Ferragamo. At least that’s what it said on the inside of the one he’d pulled off her foot three months ago, when she tried to sell the house to some idiot with a midlife crisis. That shoe was real kidskin too. Judging by the way she wigged out when he tossed out of the window, it was expensive as hell.
His memory served up the shoes flying out into the yard. Gerard chuckled.
Mirabelle frowned at the house for another half a second and popped open the rear door. A boy jumped into the grass. About eight, dark hair cut short. Oh Mirabelle, you sleek devil you. Trying to pawn me off on some unsuspecting family.
Another child emerged into the light. A girl with dark blond hair, about thirteen, leading a two or three year old child in overalls. Could be a girl or a boy.
Full house, huh. Two point five children – the toddler counted for only half. Where are the parents?
The front passenger door of the vehicle swung open, and a woman stepped out.
She was… lovely. There was probably a better, more precise word to describe her, but he couldn’t think of one. She was about fifteen pounds on the right side of plump, and her blouse and ankle-length jeans hugged her figure. Her hair was a deep, rich brown, a kind of sun-tinted cloud around her head. Her face… there was something so captivating about her face. He couldn’t explain it. She was somehow so… alive. It must’ve been the big dark eyes. He was always a sucker for a woman with dark eyes.
She took the toddler by the hand. Gerard noticed the way she bent, the curve of her neck, the way her hair fell… He watched her move across the grass, suffused with sunshine. He couldn’t even remember what it was like to feel the heat of a summer day. Rage boiled inside him, the same rage that landed him in this damn purgatory. In that moment, if he let it lose, it would exploded like a fireball, bursting the house until only splinters remained.
Get a grip, Gerard. It’s just a woman walking with her child in the grass. One day, you will walk out there again.
At least he wasn’t dead. Everything else, well, it was temporary.
They were walking up the front door. He faded his projection, turning himself invisible and sank through the floor. This ought to be good.
April 19, 2010
Will you ever write a traditional pretty boy vampire?
Traditional as in Bram Stoker traditional, or Anne Rice traditional, or Stephanie Meyer traditional?
Fine, this once just for you. Since there is a boy in there, I suppose I have to go with a YA theme.
A faint flutter brushed against the back of my neck. The cat ward tattooed on my left shoulderblade stirred, prickling me with his claws. I raised my head from my locker. A boy was looking at me from across the hallway. Tall, blond, with eyes that were the purest unnatural shade of aquamarine.
He saw me looking and smiled. The smile lit up his face, warming his eyes, turning him impossibly beautiful. A subtle aroma floated on the draft, a mix of sandalwood and something slightly sweet. The cat on my shoulder stretched and rose, just in case.
The aroma tugged on me, enticing, spiced with magic. A vampire. Of course.
The boy headed in my direction, moving like a tiger on the prowl: graceful, elegant, and ready to pounce. He looked like he needed one of those tailored Tudor doublet things and a rapier. That’s one of the things vampires were good at – they made it seem they were miles better than you so when they stooped to your level, you were supposed to feel special.
I stuffed my Trig textbook into my backpack and pushed the locker shut.
“Hi! I’m Sebastian.”
Of course you are. They never had normal names like James or Robert. I had to say something. “Hi.”
He stepped a a few inches too close. “I haven’t seen you before. Are you new?”
Vampires were like cats: new meant exciting. “Maybe you just didn’t notice me.”
He cranked the smile up another notch. Miranda’s cheesy books go on and on about how the vampire skin is like polished white marble. They’re off by a mile. Marble is cold and monotone. Sebastian radiated warmth. He was vivid, as if everyone in the room was in black and white and he was the only one in color. He made you think of sex. Of what it would be like.
His voice caressed my skin. “I would’ve noticed you.”
I needed to giggle. If I giggled, he’d write me off as an easy target and probably move on. Problem was, I’ve never giggled in my entire life.
“You never told me your name…”
One giggle. I could do it. I had to do it or he wouldn’t leave me alone.
No. Not happening.
To the left Jessica turned the corner and saw us. She froze for a second, gulped, and headed toward us with a determined look on her face. “Hey!”
A faint hint of a grimace passed over Sebastien’s face.
“I’ve been looking all over for you. We’re going home together. Now.”
“We were talking,” Sebastien said.
“That’s nice, but she doesn’t need to be talking to you. Leave her alone, it’s her first day. Come on, Maud, we’re leaving.”
A burst of magic shot from Sebastien. Jessica stopped in mid-step.
“You don’t need to go home with Maud,” he said, his whisper saturated with force of suggestion.
“You’re right,” Jessica said. Her eyes went vacant.
“Maud is walking home with me. You’re leaving.”
“I’ve got to go,” Jessica said. “Bye, Maud.”
Obi Wan did it much better. “Bye.”
She walked away. I swung my backpack onto my shoulder and followed her. Sebastien matched my stride.
“Maud…” Poof, burst of magic. Overkill.
“What a beautiful name…” Poof, another burst.
The air was so thick with his magic, I wanted to wave my hand in front of my face.
“It’s such a nice day.” Poof! “Let me walk you home.”
“You’re adorable,” he said.
You really shouldn’t have said that. Really. “No.”
“Yes,” he murmured, opening the door for me. I stepped through into the sunshine. “You want to walk with me.”
“No, I really don’t. You’re an idiot. And a pervert.”
“Don’t charm Jessica again. I like her.”
The smooth mask slid off his face. For a second his eyes looked predatory, his lips trembled, baring his fangs, and then he hid it again. “That sounded like a threat.”
“You know what’s the fastest way to kill you, Sebastien? It isn’t by staking you or setting you on fire. The fastest way is to reach inside a vampire and rip his soul from his body.”
He sneered. “And you can do that?”
“No, I can’t. But my brother can. That’s his car over there.” I nodded at the dark Land Rover. “The sad thing for you is that if you piss me off enough, I won’t even need my brother to deal with you. ”
I walked away, heading to the Land Rover. Now Klaus will spend the entire ride to the Inn interrogating me about talking to vampires. Maybe I should rethink this whole highschool thing.
I've enjoyed Inkeeper story, Clean Sweep very much--thanks for writing it in such an open way. It's very cool to see the difference/process from the original posted version and the final published version.
When you were writing this and even more so now with the final version I keep having a prequel déjà vu.
December 10, 2013
This is one of those oversharing posts. You’ve been warned.
In the morning I wake up because Kid 2 is wailing.
She, pointing to her face.
Kid 2 has an attack of allergies. Her eyes are puffy and red. She looks like a raccoon, except instead of having a black mask, it looks like someone rubbed the skin around her eyes with raspberries.
Me, mental calculation: It’s too early for cedar, detergent is the same… Did you use bargain make-up wipes again?
Kid 2: No!
Me: Did you touch Batty?
Kid 2: Yes!
It could be Batty, because we come into contact with her infrequently and she is almost never picked up, but that’s unlikely. This is a new allergy.
Me: Think. New makeup? Anything new?
Kid 2: We took a brush out of that one new mascara and put it on the old mascara.
Me: Don’t do that!
Kid 2: I can’t go to school like this! This is terrible. :cries:
Me: Don’t cry, it will make it worse. I need you to take make-up off.
Kid 2: Noooooo! Everyone will comment on it! It will horrible. Nooooooo!
Me, doing my best to remember how it was to be fifteen: We will clean your face and reapply. Kid 1, bring me the oldest makeup you have.
15 minutes later of careful makeup application on the floor in the bathroom. Btw, I haven’t dressed, brushed my teeth, or gone to the bathroom.
Kid 2: I hate my life!
Me: I hate that you are failing three classes. You don’t see me crying about it. (She doesn’t turn homework in. She’s taking AP English and her English teacher wants to send her to advanced college level course, because her literary abilities are off the charts, but getting her biology homework in is impossible, apparently.)
Kid 2: Waaaaaaaah!!!!
An hour later.
Me, calling therapist, who must be thinking we are the strangest people by this point: Hi, V. I’m so sorry, I need your help. Kid 2 and her friend know a girl who has been a victim of a *bad thing.* Going into uncomfortable details. This is way above my pay grade. She hasn’t even told her parents. They talked her into coming to a group session today. Is there a possibility that you might speak to her after? We would be happy to take care of the charges. Kid 2 is worried she might be suicidal.
Editor Erika from Avon: Your cover?
Me, calling back: Erika!
Erika, apprehensive: Yes?
Me: We love it! It is perfect.
Erika: I am so relieved. I thought you hated it so much, you called.
Kids come home. Nobody talks. Everyone looks at me.
Kid 1′s Boyfriend, from now on known as Boy 1, because it’s short: Do you remember how my cousin had TB? I was tested and my results are positive.
Me, stricken mute for a second, because what his cousin had was actually some sort antibiotic-resistant fungal infection which kept her in the ICU for a week and caused health department to test the entire family.
Kid 1: Cough-cough. (She has the flu.) Are you going to make him move out?
Boy 1 stays with us due to really rough family circumstances. He decided at some point that he would rather sleep on a bench in the park in 40 degree weather than go home. Our house is more comfortable than a bench in the park.
Me: No. Thinking that the kids have been coughing on each other for a week and we are all infected with the plague.
Kid 2: But Dad said…
Me: Dad was joking. Of course, we’re not going to make him move out. Do you need to go to the hospital?
Boy 1: My mom is picking me up.
Me: Don’t be scared. I know you’ve been coughing, but you don’t seem really sick, and they caught it early, so it will be okay.
Kid 1: What are we going to do?
Me: We’re going to eat and I will take girls to therapy.
Gordon comes down, is told about the antibiotic-resistant TB, and promptly starts cursing up a storm, peppered by how he has been all over the world in the Navy and managed not to get TB and if he has TB, he will be really mad.
Kid 1: Are you going to make Boy 1 move out?
Gordon: What? No! Where did you get this idea?
I call to the family doctor, explain that everyone must get tested for TB. We can’t get tested until next Tuesday. I grit my teeth. We drop little girls off to therapy. We go to the pharmacy. We freak out at each other a little bit and we both can’t understand how we could have TB, as everyone, including Boy 1, has been vaccinated. We buy surgical masks – because Boy 1 can’t cough on anyone – and chocolate because by God, we need some.
We get home. Boy 1 returns.
Me: How did it go?
Boy 1, sits down: The first lady read the results wrong. Some stuff is in my blood, which is normal, but X-rays and other tests are clear. I am not positive.
Me, feeling like the floor dropped out from under my feet: That’s great.
Boy 1: Yeah, the second doctor was really angry at the first lady who read the results.
Me, wanting to punch the first lady in the mouth, repeatedly: I can imagine. Here is pasta. Let’s get you fed.
Little girls call, ready to be picked up. I drive over to pick up the girls (Gordon comes with me, because that’s how we roll), explain that we don’t have TB. The therapist is visibly relieved that nobody has TB. Set up my own session for Wednesday, because Jeaniene is patient, but she’s got to be sick of my problems by now.
Take everybody home. We get in. Phone rings.
Gordon, picking it up: Hi Aunt J. Aha. Aha. Yes, she is here. ::hands me the phone::
Aunt J: You know that Kindle Gordon bought for Memaw a year ago? (Memaw is 90 and is the only member of the family who reads our books. Aunt J doesn’t because she is a Fundamentalist Christian and magic is from the devil. She still loves us though.)
Aunt J: I want Mother to have her own account. I’m going to deregister it and register her on her own account.
Me: Aha. (Aunt J is cryptonite to all things digital. We bought Aunt J three different computers. Each had a warranty with Best Buy. She killed the first one somehow, downloaded a fake virus removal software onto the second that allowed a third party scammer to take over her desktop, and then instead of taking it to Best Buy, because it was under 2-year warranty and complete protection, she took it to a “nice Cristian boy” in Franklin, who voided the warranty and failed to fix it. She is on her third now. It’s a laptop. We know its days are numbered.)
Aunt J: I need you to help me with the Kindle.
Me, steeling reeling from TB scare: Umm, what does it look like?
Aunt J: It has a keyboard. Does that help?
I go to Amazon help page, pull up the instructions, read them to her.
Aunt J: Do you know what Memaw’s email is?
Cue listening to 5 minute conversation with other people about what could be Memaw’s email address. Memaw doesn’t remember because she never uses it.
Me: I will make her a new one. Here. It will take 30 seconds. You can use your laptop to make Memaw a new Amazon account.
I set up a new email address and proceed to listen to Aunt J trying to create a new Amazon account using Kindle. She is talking to Memaw and to the Kindle and to grandkids. I am totally not involved. I know how this goes, so I bide my time.
Fifteen minutes later.
Me: Aunt J, why don’t you use your laptop to create a new account?
Aunt J: That’s a good idea! I’ll do that and call you back.
Kid 2 runs down the stairs: My eyes are worse!
I google it for the hell of it, discover there is such as thing as Visine eye drops with antihistamines and here is a picture of a kid that looks a lot like Kid 2, and it says treatment is the eye drops.
Me: I will go to the pharmacy right now.
Gordon: I will drive you.
We go back to the pharmacy. I buy drops. We come home.
Gordon: I am not going out again today. I am done.
Me: Fine with me. (The post-crisis stress is hitting me. In crisis, I power through, but after the dust settles, I need a few minutes.)
Kid 1: We’re out of toilet paper.
Me: Take the spare roll from our bathroom. I am not going out.
I administer eye drops and sit down at the computer.
For 5 books the image of Kate on her covers was rather perfect, attitude, description of her in the books, edgy….and suddenly you have this whimpy looking oriental chick on the cover…
I get really pissed off and draft a very witty message, noting that Kate is not white, the model on Book 5 is not the same as on books 1-4, and that rugs are Oriental and people are not, and most Asian people I know find that term offensive. I don’t send it, because it’s late. Vent on Twitter instead.
It’s four o’clock in the morning. Sookie is crying in her crate. Kid 2 is asleep, dead to the world. I crawl out of bed. I take Sookie out. I am barefoot in a thin nightshirt, because finding shoes was too complicated. It is freezing. The grass is a iced over. Sookie pees and runs around. Sookie is black-brindle. The yard is full of Christmas decorations, none of them are on. I have no clue where the dog went. I trudge after Sookie, barefoot, through the icy grass. Sookie is nowhere to be found. I call. I finally come back to the door. Sookie is sitting at the door like a good girl.
I get back inside, put her back into her crate, and crawl into bed.
I get out of bed, I will wake Gordon up. I lay there and try to ignore the loud licking.
Fifteen minutes later.
Me, jumping out of bed and nudging him with my foot: Hey! Stop that.
Fergus yawns and falls asleep.
I crawl into bed, roll around for an hour, finally fall asleep.
Kid 2: Mom!
Me shooting upright in bed: WHAT HAPPENED?
Kid 2: Look, the drops fixed my eyes. I love you, Mommy!
Me, feeling like I just had a heart-attack: I love you too, Sweetie.
So, it’s Tuesday. Clean Sweep is #84 on Amazon US. We’ve got Magic Breaks to edit. Fingers crossed for boring. Here is an adorable video for you.
December 9, 2013
It’s a cold, icy, wet, gray Monday outside the window. Bleh.
So to cheer us up, here is the candidate for the Worst Movie Ever.
Clean Sweep continues to sell against all expectations.
We are plunging head-first into revisions of Magic Breaks. This is going to suck, but it must be done by January. Then it’s back to Avon Book.
So, how’s the Christmas shopping going?
December 8, 2013
In the past twenty-four hours we got three emails berating us/publisher for ending the Edge series. I am kind of tired of it. The funniest thing is that some of the same people who now complain previously complained about this series not being like the other PNR series and wrote long reviews explaining how much they didn’t like it. I don’t get it.
Anyhow, we are not going back to the Edge. But here is a goodie for you. Enjoy.
Hint: names are important.
Come With Me
A man walked into a darkened room, moving on silent feet. He stopped by the round table, poured a glass of red wine from a bottle, and drank. A refined, slightly oaky taste washed over his mouth. He savored it, watching the stars rise outside an enormous window past the stone balcony. Muffled sounds of a ball filtered through the floor from below. It would be a good twenty minutes, perhaps half an hour, before anyone would discover the body in the office, neatly tucked in behind the desk. By that point he would be long gone.
He almost never did field work himself anymore. But this one, this one was special. Politically insignificant now but personally deeply satisfying. A hint of a smile curved his lips. He supposed some would call him cruel for killing an old man ravaged by magic and disease, and some would call him kind. He was neither. It was simply a thing that had to be done and he did it.
If his old mentor still ran things, he would have caught heat for this little outing. The smile dripped down into a narrow, sardonic frown. Nobody told him what to do anymore. Nobody had the right to berate him. Not even the Crown. He had accomplished far too much for any rebuke. In fact, if the current ruling family had any ambition, they would murder him out of principle, just to maintain power. Thankfully, they were far too civilized and complacent.
At twenty eight he had climbed the ladder of his chosen profession as high as he could. Life was no longer a challenge.
He was so mercilessly bored.
A pale star detached itself from its neighbors, curved over the sky, and drained down in a shower of pale glow onto the balcony. A dark-haired man stepped out of the light. Interesting. The spymaster sipped his wine.
The man wore jeans and a tattered cloak. Not from around here.
“I’m so glad I caught you,” the dark-haired man said. “You’re a hard man to get alone.”
Interesting choice of words. “Wine?”
“No, thanks. I’m on the clock. I’ll come straight to the point. Are you bored?”
The spymaster blinked.
“With this, I mean.” The man indicated the lavish room. “Shifting the future of countries and colonies. Rather small potatoes, don’t you think?”
“It has its moments.”
“How would you like to raise the stakes?” The dark-haired man smiled. “I represent a small but powerful organization. We’re known as Arbitrators. We specialize in dispute resolutions. You’re aware that Earth is but one of the planets in the solar system. There are many star systems and many planets out there. Many dimensions, many different realities even, to be specific. Once these inhabitants of the Greater Beyond decided to have a war. It went rather badly, so when the proverbial nuclear explosions settled, it was agreed that a powerful but neutral body for settling conflicts should be established. We would like to recruit you to be member of that fine body.”
“You will receive extensive training and granted funds to maintain your own staff. Sadly you will be forbidden from seeking independent sources of income until your terms of service is over. Nor can you return to your home planet until the expiration of your term.”
“How long is the term of service?”
“About twenty standard years. Most people prefer to do more. Nothing compares to preventing an interstellar war knowing billions of lives hang in the balance.” The man grinned. “It’s a bit of a rush.”
The spymaster felt his pulse rise and strained to hold it in check.
“We recruit only the best and I’m afraid the offer is made only once. You do not get to say goodbye.”
“So I must decide now?”
The spymaster drained his glass.
Below someone screamed.
“And that’s our cue.” The dark-haired man smiled again. “Yes or no?”
“My brother comes with me. I’d like to extend an offer of service to two others.”
“We can arrange that. Of course, you realize that the decision is up to them. We do not compel. We only entice.”
“I’m sure they’ll join me.”
A sound of feet thudding up the stairs rushed from the hallway.
“Very well. We should be off then.” The man offered him his hand. “As corny as it sounds, please take my hand.”
The spymaster held out his hand and the dark-haired man clasped it in a firm handshake. “Welcome to the service, George Camarine. My name is Klaus Demille. I will be your guide for this orientation.”
The door burst open.
Pale glow coated George’s eyes. The last thing he saw were guards lunging at him in a vain attempt to avenge the murder of their master.
“Rest in peace, Spider,” he murmured before the light swallowed him whole.
December 6, 2013
Smart Bitches Trashy Books just did a wonderful interview with Renee Raudman, who is the voice behind our audiobooks. If you get a chance, listen to it. She is hilarious.
Renee also now has a Facebook Page, so you can stalk her there. She is absolutely fantastic and we are very fortunate to work with her.
December 5, 2013
I am so happy this morning, I can’t tell you.
Barnes and Noble
Even is this wasn’t a free serial, this would be amazing. When we were doing it, people told us that we were crazy and the investment of time and effort would never pay off. Who would buy the book if it was free already? Apparently tons of people.
Thank you so much. You made my day.
December 4, 2013
Funny thing happened. Instead of taking forever and a half to upload things, both Amazon and BN have CLEAN SWEEP up, which caught me totally off-guard. So this is the official release post. The paper version is coming shortly.
Doris made some really awesome wallpapers. Check them out here.
This is a short novel, about 60,000 words.
On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina.
And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night… Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.