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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Writer’s Block?

I saw someone pose the question to a writing community on Twitter, asking for suggestions on what to do when she was having writer’s block. To which, someone replied that there is  “no such thing” as writer’s block. “Just write,” the person instructed.

Don’t do this.

Don’t be THAT asshole.

Even when I didn’t think that I personally ever had writer’s block–I would never have presumed to know everyone else’s experience and claimed it didn’t exist. There are a shit-ton of things in the universe I do not know. In many MANY cases, something might exist even if I’ve never seen it or felt it myself–and that’s true for you too.

Another thing to consider, is what exactly you imagine writer’s block is. I know, you’re thinking this is simple–it’s being blocked from writing. Sure. But, as I said, until very recently I didn’t think I EVER got writer’s block. I considered myself exempt from the whole horrible experience because I could just write, whenever I wanted to write.

But those were the key words, “whenever I wanted to write.” I write a first draft in about a month or two of solid writing and then go through bouts of not writing. I usually spend the time editing or rereading or doing something else that looks productive enough and masks my complete flat-line of drive to write. And I definitely don’t have a writing month when I don’t feel like it. I ramp up to it, get excited, get everything in order and pretty much feel like I’m going to explode with new stories if I don’t get started.

I don’t often have to deal with writer’s block because I am not in a writing phase all the time–but some writers are. Some writers get new words on the page daily. Some have multiple stories going at the same time.

Good advice for writer’s block?

If it’s really bad, just step away for a while. Binge watch a show. Read a book. Go for a walk. Do something else and just take a breather.

If it’s light, maybe try writing something else entirely. Something completely indulgent with zero pressure.

You know yourself best. You know how you’re feeling and where you find your inspiration. And you know when you can push through and get your writing done and when you just need to step back for a breather.

 

Do you get writer’s block?

What’s the best and worst advice you’ve been given?

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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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