Infernal Excerpt

An excerpt from Infernal, a horror novel about an adventurous group trying to escape a dangerous island.

She stood on that ledge and put the mouthpiece of her oxygen tank between her lips. She watched the opening at the top of her cage while Felix watched the shark. She held her camera close to her belly with both hands.

“Go,” he said, and she jumped.

The world went quiet. Not silent, but quiet. She sank down into the bottom of her cage and stayed there, turning on her camera and testing out the settings on the great open sea around her. When a shadow cut over her, she twisted up to film George from beneath as he circled the boat again. She stood, getting her bearings, and pushed the camera and her arms out the viewing hole to film the shark as he moved deeper, leaving the hunk of fish for a moment to circle her instead.

The cage shuddered, bobbed, and then started to move. Either Felix or Poppy were turning the crank to move her out from the boat. The chains rattled, making strange sounds in the water, the surface rippling around the top four edges. George seemed more interested when she moved, coming in closer, baring teeth for the camera and nudging the cage.

He swam between her and the boat and in the background of the shot she saw Felix drop down into the second cage. George whipped around to investigate and she filmed the massive fish closing in on Felix’s cage to take a closer look. The body of the shark blocked her view of the other cage completely and then, seemingly out of nowhere, a second shark burst up from the deep. Val knocked her shoulder against the bars but held fast to her camera. The second, larger shark shot straight up under George, caught his belly in her jaws and continued to thrust upward.

They breeched the surface together but with their combined weight, the flight was short-lived. They crashed back down and onto Felix’s cage. The whole back of the ship dipped down, pulled violently until either the cables or the rigging snapped. The sharks thrashed, stirring air into the water turned red with blood.

Val continued to hold the camera on reflex but stopped thinking about the shot. She stared over it in disbelief at the scene. The new shark, even larger than George, thrashed against the back of the boat atop the shark cage. She couldn’t see Felix through the writhing bodies of beasts and churning waters. Her heart sank low in her stomach when Felix’s cage dropped out from behind the fighting giants. She leaned hard into the front of her cage to see him slipping down into the dark, but the cage was empty. A sliver of relief washed over her, her body leaning forward into the bars and exhaling a gust of bubbles. Her gaze tore up to the fight again, suddenly horrified that he might be in those waters with the monster sharks.

Before she could worry about whether or not he had gotten out of the sea and into the boat, her own cage bobbed. Had the rigging really given way? Was her cage cut loose? It bobbed again, sinking lower, more than a meter from the surface now. Biting at her breather, she let go of the camera with one hand and pushed herself upward. Grabbing onto one edge of her cage and pulling, Val launched herself high enough to have her head break the surface. Water clung to her goggles and daylight gleamed, making her squint.

Felix stood on deck and even from this distance she could tell he was shouting, arms pulling with all his weight to try to turn the crank and drag her cage back in. It must have been stuck. They couldn’t reel her back to the boat. Lochner had left the wheelhouse, shouting something back to Felix and then pointing up at the rigging. Val looked up, squinting against the sun. The rigging had bent, half attached now where bolts ripped out and only struggling cables kept it together. Those cables were the ones still attached to her cage—dragging her in closer to the ship and closer to the sharks thrashing about the waters between.

Felix twisted to the side to look back at her. She was going to collide with the great whites. There was a chance she could survive just bunkered down in her vessel. There was a chance they would stop any second now and vanish into the deep. The water churned red, spraying into the air when a tail cut across the surface. There was also a chance they would push her cage down enough to snap those cables, or whatever fastened them to the ship, and she would have no choice but to swim up through that bloody water or sink to the bottom and eventually drown.

It seemed that the very moment she made her choice to abandon the cage, Felix climbed over the railing along the side of the ship and dove into the waters off the port. She pulled her legs up out of the cage and pushed off the metal railing. It was hard to swim away from the boat, away from safety rather than toward it, but she had to get distance from the struggle in the water. She sank down just enough to escape the splashing on the surface, breather exhaling bubbles and fins propelling her forward. She cut an arch in the blue, inelegant in the company of creatures made to swim.

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Detox in Letters Excerpt

Excerpt from DETOX IN LETTERS because I was playing with my camera and took this beautiful picture!

The great, transparent wolf lunged for her. That gaping maw came at her face until all Fay could see was the shape of teeth and the distorted image of Vaun across the room through its head.

Rage rippled through her, surprise cutting to the bone. A hundred screams rang out, hands pulling at her waist but unable to move her from the monster’s path.

Fay’s fingers sank into rough fur, pressing into muscle until she felt the shape of bones. How dare it turn on her? How dare the Queen? She twisted her hands and a loud snap rang in her ears. A breath gushed across her cheek and a spray of blood wet her skin, flecking her hair. The weight of the wolf hung from the grip she had on its throat, suddenly very real. Its hind legs and tail went limp, dragging on the floor. The mighty head hung to one side, dangling as though only flesh and fur kept it attatched.

She swung her arm down, just as quickly as she had brought it up, and threw the body to the floor. It landed in a heap, no longer the Queen’s ghostly thief of souls, but a very real, very solid beast at her feet. It had changed when she grabbed it, just before she killed it. She had killed a wolf.

The others growled, skirting along the side of the room but watching her uneasily. The tools of the Queen did not know what to make of a victim that refused to die.

Her mother had tried to kill her.

Fay clicked her teeth and stepped around the dead monster, toward the rest of the pack. They fled. They had a soul to bring back to the Queen tonight, but it wasn’t hers. It would never be hers.

Silence clung to the room, all eyes upon her. They gawked, minds reeling, unsure whether to lay their gaze upon the dead beast at her back or the princess that had killed it. And then the thunder above rumbled again and the wild patter of rain beat down against the rooftop, sweeping them into a rise of voices and footfalls as guests climbed down from tables.

Fay walked away from the wolf, waves of guests edging into the space she abandoned to get a closer look. They parted for her in the hall, all the way to the door.

“Wait!” Vaun called from her back, but she didn’t stop.

The doorman faltered at her advance, his throat bobbing when he swallowed and his shoulders pressing back under the weight of duty. He opened the doors because she showed no sign of stopping. The sound of the storm rolled in through the entrance, rain beating a violent melody outside.

“Fay!” Vaun caught her arm just as she reached the threshold, skirts swaying when his grip brought her to a stop. He grabbed her other arm, too, just above the elbow, holding her back to his chest with the dark night ahead of them. “You can’t go out. It’s raining. Everyone will see,” he whispered near her ear.

She considered shoving him away but the worry in his voice reminded her heart that it did not need a mother’s love. Instead, she turned just enough to look back at him. His face was no less pretty for all the dread and worry gathered there.

“Maybe the wolf went mad,” her brother speculated in an act of desperation. “She’s losing control. It could have slipped the leash.”

She touched his hand on her arm to peel away his hold. He let go. “Don’t fret, little prince.” Fay smiled as the shock and anger wore off. She had killed a wolf. “Everything has changed.”

Fay could see that it gave him no comfort, but it filled her with joy. She walked right out into the rain, hearing the gasps and cries from inside though they dared not follow. She was soaked by the time she reached the middle of the street, the Queen’s Tower to her right. If the hag stood in her window, even without her gifted sight, she’d be able to see her daughter there below.

Fay was tempted to look up, but instead she turned her back on it and marched down the middle of the street.

She had never looked at the Tower. Not since she was a child. It had been an act of stubbornness in the beginning, because she was never invited to see her mother. She had never been called on like Vaun, never brought to tea for inspection. No, Fay had received exactly two notes from her mother in her entire life. One had been the command to marry into a household. And the other had been to move out of Vym.

It had been so long since she looked at the Queen’s Tower that Fay had forgotten the details of it. It could be seen from anywhere in the Realm, but her eye never strayed to it. Not once. First out of bitter anger and then out of horrible resolve. She would not look because there was always the chance of the Queen looking back, and some members of the Realm did not deserve her gaze.

She continued on, toward the edge of Belholn where it would meet with Vym. Fay was going to walk all the way home. Because it was her home. She had claimed it and she would not give it up. In fact, she was quickly deciding that the High was simply not enough. Perhaps she needed more.

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Hellbound in a Hurry Excerpt

HELLBOUND IN A HURRY comes out in 2 weeks!

When Antonia gets a disturbing message from her brother, she drops everything to search for him. What she finds is Jack—an interstellar being claiming to have been dragged into mortal existence against its will by the same cult her brother was with.

Jack just wants to get home, out of the human vessel it’s currently trapped in, and back to immortality. In exchange for her help, Jack offers to lead Antonia to her brother.

The two go on a violent ride—one desperate to survive and the other bent on revenge.

Will either of them be long for this world?

This horror novella is my first self-publishing project and I’ve learned so much.

This was a completely new experience for me and it’s been a lot of googling. I found a wonderful editor to work with, Rachel Oestreich of The Wallflower Editing, LLC and the process was so smooth. If you’re looking for an editor, I would happily recommend her.

I’ve also learned the hard way why people pay to have their books formatted–that was tricky. I have never known Word more intimately and thank goodness for googling.

And cover art by Linn Arvidsson! It was a pleasure to work with her again!

HELLBOUND IN A HURRY is up on goodreads, so please take a minute to add it to your TBR!

Chapter One of HELLBOUND IN A HURRY

Dominic ran over the uneven ground, away from the voices and the flicker of flashlights, and definitely away from the glow of the old greenhouse. He ran toward the arms of darkness in panic and desperation—the only way anyone ever did.

His right ankle throbbed, sending jolts of pain up his leg with every step, dragging him lower and lower. No matter how much he blinked or how wide he opened his eyes, he couldn’t see, the branches overhead so thick that not even starlight could reach him now. There was no way he could escape—nowhere he could go—but he couldn’t stop trying. His arms stretched out ahead of him, scraping against trees in an effort to navigate. He had no direction—needed no direction but away. He was a bird in flight.

The white beams of flashlights strobed through the night to his right and left. Dominic hadn’t realized he was crying until those lights gave him a taste of his own vision, blurred.

A light flashed right over his shoulder. He was sure of it, as though he could feel the heat of the lamp through his sweatshirt.

His right ankle finally gave out and he fell hard, rolling in low bushes and newly fallen leaves. He clawed at the cold ground, dragging himself into the dark. Footfalls came closer, stomping the autumn ground.

Dominic’s short life flashed before his eyes, and he found it lacking. Too much panic and pain and not enough joy, not enough contentment or laughter. Too much running for his life and looking for a place to sleep. Too much hunger.

The beam of light struck him in the back, pouring over him. His dark hair hung in his face, sticking to sweaty skin, and his dirt-coated fingers groped at the mulch of the forest floor. The ink on the backs of his hands stood out in the light, the word ‘hands’ tattooed on the back of his left and ‘up’ on the back of his right in scrawling script. A part of his frantic mind registered the words and imagined a voice with the flashlight calling them—shouting at him in the night under the flashing glow of red and blue lights. But that had been in another place and another time. Not here. Not tonight. These people had no demands of him because they wanted to take everything.

A hand grabbed his shoulder, turning him over and groping at his side, trying to lift him up. Dominic swallowed for air, vision still blurred in tears when the man pulled him to his feet. Dominic kept his weight on his left this time, one hand grabbing the man by the shoulder for stability while his other arm lifted and swung the rock he had picked up from the ground—leaving a crater in the cold earth. He slammed the rock against the man’s temple, hard enough to hear the clap of flesh and crack of bone. The flashlight fell, half-buried against the crisp leaves.

Dominic swung again and again, in brutal succession, until the stranger landed on his knees and then slumped over. He was still breathing, the sound of it raspy and wet. Dominic patted him down in a hurry, found his phone, and took it.

He turned off the flashlight and hopped away, using the trees to keep himself upright in the dark and moving away from the sounds of the search party. He didn’t stand a chance. He couldn’t get far like this, in the dark and with only one leg to stand on. He slid down a slope and crawled into the base of a tree, hoping it would hide him from the search lights.

Dominic turned the phone on, holding it close to his chest and curling his body around it. He dialed the only number he knew by heart and choked back a sob when it rang and rang. “Please,” he whispered to the night.

No answer.

He didn’t know her work number. He dialed again.

Ringing.

Ringing.

The beam of a flashlight stroked the night far to his left and he pressed the phone to his chest to hide the glow. When the light passed, he held the phone to his ear again. The automated answering machine recited the number to him and suggested he leave a message. Not even her voice. He almost forgot how to speak when the beep sounded, coughing and dragging a breath in. “Annie… Please…” He cried and cringed, hating himself for doing this. “I should never have gone with them. You were right… Please. Please help me.”

Logic told him there was nothing she could do now, even if she had answered. He was torturing himself and he was torturing her. “Annie, they’re insane. They’re going to kill me, or I’m going to die in this fucking forest, and I just want to leave.” He choked back a mad laugh. “Save me. Please. Please. Just one more time. Save me and I promise I won’t do dumb shit like this anymore. I promise, I’ll get my shit together. Please, Annie. Please.”

Four beams of light fell on him, hands grabbing from all directions. Dominic screamed when he was lifted from the ground, not even ashamed of that high-pitched sound echoing from his chest. There was no room for shame now—only fear and anger. Annie had told him, back when they were teens, that all other emotions were useless and frivolous. The only ones that would ever help them were fear and anger. She had leaned into it and made those feelings her home. Dominic had never been able to do the same, always aching for something better, something softer. He hated the wild, soul-gripping strength of fear, and the way it infected every part of his heart. And now, he was going to die with it as his last thought, his last friend, his last anything.

They dragged him screaming from the woods and into the clearing, the glow of that old glass building pulsing in the night. He flailed, but they were more than enough to keep hold of him. The phone was gone, he realized. Had they taken it and hung up or left it there in the woods?

The door opened, dozens of figures standing around in their robes and hoods. Cliché motherfuckers, he thought but bit back the fury and begged instead—still hoping against hope. “Please! Just let me go!”

The figures swayed and moaned their strange, melodious chants, side-by-side like faceless lemmings in the dark.

The old greenhouse was warm, the space inside cleared but for an alter at one end and a long dining table in front of it. Their voices echoed inside, rising up against the dirt-coated glass walls. They had no faces—these people, he knew most of them. He had spent months at their compound thinking he had found a home, but it had all been a lie. He had been a fool, and Annie had been right. There was no easy out. There were no homes. Just monsters with hungry needs of their own.

Dominic let out another ragged scream, body bowing when they put him down on that table and cuffed his arms overhead. “Fuck you! I hate you! I hope you all die for this!” he shouted, feeling that rage pour into his heart like the infectious, molten substance it was. He laughed through his tears, his voice echoing over their chanting and moaning. They would die for this, he realized. They would all pay. But it was only a small comfort to him now—not nearly enough.

One man, without a hood drawn, stood up at the alter overhead, and Dominic recognized him. Benjamin stared back at him for a long minute. They had been in the same foster home for a year when they were twelve and reconnected a couple times since. The last time had been when Benny heard about this commune where they could get away from it all, “it all” being the gloom of the city, the shitty jobs Dominic could never quite hold on to, and the drugs that always left him feeling hollowed out and lost. It was supposed to be a place full of sunshine, fresh air, and freedom. But what had really convinced Dominic was the way Benny had said “family.” He promised that was what it was like, up here in the woods. That it would be like finally coming home—finally finding his family.

“Benny… I want to leave.” Dominic managed to choke out the words.

Benny winced subtly, the perfect mix of remorse and excitement all pressed under the numbing weight of his high. Dominic knew what Benny looked like high—his eyes glassy and red-rimmed and his mouth slack in the corners. He was shirtless, jeans riding low on his hips, and the candlelight made the sheen of sweat on his brown skin glimmer like stars.

The chanting grew louder, the robed figures pressing closer. Two of the hooded figures rounded the table, holding a stag mask between them. Dominic struggled, but they placed it over his face, the weight pinning his head back. It stunk inside, warm and animal. He screamed and the sound echoed back on him. He could barely see through the slits of the eyes, catching Benny’s face just before he donned a wolf mask and picked up a slender knife.

Dominic struggled anew, even knowing it was pointless. He struggled and screamed and kicked, sounds growing only louder when the knife sunk into his chest.

He realized, in the last moments of his life, that family had always been bloodshed and struggle. It had always been a fight to survive. But family had also been the people fighting to keep him alive. Family had been the one person that ever fought for Dominic. And he knew, without a doubt, that his last phone call would bring her down on these people like lightning on dry grass. They thought they knew some secret of the universe—that they could summon a demon.

But they had no idea that he had already called one.

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Writing The Whicker Witch

I have a couple projects in the works this year and among them are a few horror novellas/novels I’m writing and editing. I usually set aside a few weeks to write my first drafts. They’re sloppy but I get them done and then work on edits later on.

Last month I wrote my first draft of a work I’m currently calling The Whicker Witch. The first week went super smooth, the second got a little bumpy.

I dedicated a couple weeks to it and wrote five thousand words a day. My goal for the project was 50k but that was really just a guess. I wasn’t sure if it would come out longer or shorter.

I swear, I sent my dad a text first. He replied and that led to me calling him up at his 1:15am to talk about bridges for my book.

So the second week didn’t go quite as smooth as the first but I managed to stay on target for my word count. It went over the estimated 50k and into a third week. But it’s done!

And this is pretty much what it looks like! I write all my first drafts on Scrivener because you can have the outline in the same screen as well as a sidebar with character cards and this pretty little project target thingy!

Now, I should be on to editing this or one of the other finished first drafts on my desk BUT I jumped on another novella outline I had ready while I was still on a writing kick.

So, wish me luck! Because now I’m writing a novella about a demon and a mobster on a joyride!

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Crowns & Ash Character – Fay Dray Fen

No one takes from Fay Dray Fen.

“When did your dabbling in disobedience become full blown treason?”

“I do not dabble. I am an expert in all things.”

Second child and only daughter of the Queen. Fay was unwanted by her mother, sent out of the Tower at birth and never invited back. The people of the Realm rejoiced at a royal in their midst, happy to have a princess at their tables and, in time, Fay became a force to be reckoned with. She has no authority she didn’t take for herself, no love from the Queen, and almost no law in the Realm above her. Fay bends the city with the force of her will. She creates spoken laws like, “No one takes from Fay Dray Fen” by saying it and enforcing it until the rest of the Realm knows it well.

“Kill them.” He remembered Fay’s voice. Not angry or bitter, not even frightened of her own vengeful heart. Her voice had been so calm and so clear, as though death was the only path before her, the only choice she could have ever made. -Detox in Letters

A thousand paintings, sketches and sculptures of Fay Dray Fen adorned the homes of the High but her eyes were always wrong. In the end, they often painted her looking away, because none could capture even a fraction of the true weight of her gaze. -Vanity in Dust

Fay begins the series as Vaun’s bitter and somewhat smothering sister. She pushes and spies and plays at games he is only beginning to take notice of. Fay prides herself on knowing all the happenings of her world, but only after the events of Vanity in Dust, does she begin to see the people of the Realm as hers–not pawns to be moved but lives to be protected.

Fay is as loved as she is feared. The people of the Realm see her as something godly, the only one more powerful or terrifying is the Queen herself.

One of my favorite scenes in Detox in Letters is a duel between Fay Dray Fen and Addom Vym. Despite duels being a well-loved hobby of the High, where the wealthy battle with a flourish for the entertainment of their audience–Fay has never really participated. She’s dueled, but she’s never played along–known to win quickly and without any showmanship. But not only does she arrive to the duel with pageantry, she drags out the fight.

Her vision blurred in a second of fury. She had commanded him to play her enemy today and, true to his bloodline, he was an excellent liar. He lunged at her and they clashed in a rush of blood and the violent scraping of metal. She almost forgot to hold back, boots sliding in the rubble. He pushed her sword up with his, other arm slashing between them to cut at the bend of her elbow with his dagger.

Fay sucked in a breath so deep that it hit the bottom of her lungs. Her arm spasmed and fingers released her sword. It clattered to the ground and the crowd gasped in a way they never had before.

Before the first drops of her blood hit the ground, the handle of her dagger, still securely in her left hand, slammed against his face. His body bowed to the side, staggering a step away from her. She kicked out, heel to his wounded side and shoved him hard away from her and to the ground.

She glared when he rushed to his feet again, as though she would strike while he was down. His cheek turned red, rising with a welt and a bruise in the faint shape of her hilt, but Addom didn’t seem to notice. He just stared at her, mouth opening but no words coming out.

The whole yard had gone quiet.

Her arm twitched, warm liquid sliding down her hand to drip from her fingers. She followed his gaze to it—her blood—and then back up. His mouth trembled with a grin, eyes gleaming with too much excitement edged in a terror that had the Vym locking his knees.

“So, you really are just flesh and blood.” Addom heaved a breath, tears gathering in his eyes even when he smiled like a fool.

He wasn’t the only one gawking. Everyone stared at the red dripping from her arm. They’d never seen her bleed before.

Fay squared her shoulders, lifted her chin, and waited for them to return to reality. This was just a show—a display for the entertainment of the public and the distraction of the Queen. “Are you grinning like that because you think you might win?” She took slow steps, pulling him into a circle and watching how he favored one side. His torn shirt exposed the gashes across his ribs, sticking to his waist where it soaked in blood. “I may be flesh and blood, but I am still your god.”

He sobered right before her eyes, swallowing hard and shivering in the face of his own mistake.

 

…though Fay boasted a cold heart, it was still there, beating in her chest and bleeding for her people. -Detox in Letters

Loves: Herself, even when her mother didn’t. Her brother, Vaun. A perfectly set table. Books. Knowledge. Victory.

Hates: The Queen. Bad manners. Ill-fitting jackets.

Fears: She would say that she fears nothing, but we know better. She’s afraid of failing the people she’s taken responsibility for. She’s afraid she won’t be able to do all the things she wants–that one day her will won’t be enough.

Relationships: Had a romance with Philip Belholn in her youth that sometimes pops up in the present. Has a complicated flirtation with Addom Vym and a known affection for the Dourdin sisters. Everyone in the Realm knows she loves her brother, Vaun, and is close friends with her sister-in-law, AviSariel. She also has strong ties with the Vym family, often seen in the company of Evelet and Larc.

Fay loved her secrets almost as much as she loved her knowledge. -Detox in Letters

And if the Realm had ice cream, her favorite would be something seriously chocolaty with chunks of brownie.

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