Snippet Monday: Dust and Silver

I’ve given myself a deadline to have two books finished before the new baby arrives in June (possibly three if I don’t rest on my laurels) and so to help with that, I’m going to share an excerpt from one of those works-in-progress every Monday, just to help keep me moving forward. female_angel_praca_dos_restauradores_2

Today’s snippet is from Dust and Silver, a historical paranormal set in the Victorian era. There will be werewolves, witches, secret societies, and so very much more! For some context, we have Lady Drummond and Mr. Muir working – grudgingly – together to solve a series of extraordinarily violent murders.

***

“Ariadne.”

The knife is out before he’s finished speaking the final syllable of my name. I find his throat in the darkness, or where his throat should be beneath layers of collar and silk necktie. That he doesn’t flinch deflates some of my confidence, though he does raise a gloved hand, palm towards me, fingers crooked in a relaxed manner.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

Not until the words are out do I realize it’s the second time I’ve asked this question of him within the last six hours.

“You really should see about hiring a new driver.” Mr. Muir’s tone is purely conversational, not a quaver in his voice despite the pressure of the silver edged blade nestled against the underside of his jaw. “I’m sure you’re rather loyal to Melchett after all these years, but the poor man hardly blinked when I let myself into your vehicle.”

“He let you in?”

“Perhaps you need to question his loyalty to you. To have a servant in your employ who will let any ruffian in off the street…”

I apply more pressure to the knife, until I see the dark blot of blood appear on his skin. “Are you checking up on me? Are you my nurse, come to see that I’ve had my porridge and tonic and am tucked safe in bed for the night?”

He raises his chin slightly, so that the small bead of blood trickles down towards his collar. “I’d be more worried if that’s all you got up to at night.”

I pull the weapon back, snapping the blade into its engraved handle. It is not until the sharpened edge is put away and out of sight that Mr. Muir visibly relaxes – a breath slipping out of him, a small slump to his shoulders –  no matter how casual he managed to appear as I drew that single thread of blood from his throat.

“What fool notion made you come all the way back to London when there’s someone going about ripping apart young women’s necks, hmm?” The knife again in my sleeve, I plant my hands on the tops of my thighs and lean against the seat. I want to close my eyes and tip my head back, but I cannot look away from my fellow passenger, at least not while he is in such close proximity. “You should have remained safely tucked away in Venice. No one would have any reason to suspect you then.”

“So they do suspect me?” Is that a whisper of pride underlying his words?

“Not for the first two, at least. But this business with Mrs. Butler…” I dig my fingers into my legs, pushing at the layers of skirt and petticoats and flesh underneath until the urge to lash out again recedes. “They want to question you, as they call it.”

He scoffs. “Want to see my pelt tacked to the wall, is what you mean.”

“They will not relent. Even if they do manage to lay their hands on the true culprit.”

Mr. Muir puts his own head back, allowing me a view of his throat and jaw, stubbled with dark hair and the stain of the injury I gave him. “They’re beyond their levels of comprehension with this case. They’ll be responsible for the deaths of another dozen victims before they understand that a bit of bigotry and brute force will not be enough to give them their victory.”

The seat creaks beneath me as I lean forward, hands sliding down to wrap around my knees. “You know something. What is it?”

“Not enough,” he mutters to the roof of the carriage. And then he shakes his head. “Creatore di mostro.”

The Italian clashes with his accent, and it takes me a moment to decipher the words from their original language. “Monster creator?”

“And there’s the rub.” He regards me in the low light of the carriage; eyes, hair, hat all blurring into the smudge of shadows behind him. “Find one of these killers, and there’ll most likely already be another to take its place.”

***

And stay tuned for next week’s excerpt!

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Review: The Wolf of Oren-yaro by K.S. Villoso

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Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Queen Talyien’s life unfolded like a storybook. The shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves that nearly tore her nation apart, her marriage to Rayyel, the son of her father’s rival, spoke of peaceful days to come. 

But all storybooks must end. Rayyel’s sudden departure before their reign began created fractures that left the land as divided as ever. 

Years later, Talyien receives a message from Rayyel, urging her to meet with him across the sea. An assassination attempt interrupts Talyien’s quest for reconciliation, sending the queen struggling in a strange and dangerous land. With betrayals in every twist and turn, she is forced to enlist the help of a con-artist to survive and save her husband from the clutches of those who would seek to use him for their gain…if he would let her.

***

I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of The Wolf of Oren-yaro from the author, so I read it once in the fall of 2017, and then read it again earlier this month to refresh my memory before typing up this review in time for the book’s release.

If you’re unfamiliar with Villoso’s previous works (or even if you have read some of her earlier books, like Birthplace or The Agartes Epilogues) I will begin by saying that her stories are primarily character-driven. Her worldbuilding is excellent, so much so that instead of laying it out for you like a blueprint, she releases it to you slowly, through the eyes and thoughts of her characters, until you suddenly have an entire town, a country, a continent laid out before you without having realized it.

The Wolf of Oren-yaro focuses on Talyien, a Queen meant to co-rule with her husband Rayyel in a union devised from their childhood in order to put an end to fighting that has torn through their lands. Unfortunately, Rayyel is gone, leaving Talyien to rule a country that doesn’t want to be ruled. Or at least not by her.

We come upon Talyien several years into this task. Her warlords are rustling with rebellion. The other neighboring lands give her little to no respect. And if she’s not careful, she and her son might be assassinated and replaced by someone… anyone willing to make such a bold move. In order to restore some semblance of peace, Talyien attempts to find Rayyel and bring him back to help her rule. But it is when the meeting goes awry that Talyien realizes there is no one she can trust, and the bubble of royalty in which she’s been raised has not fully prepared her to fight for her throne.

We see all of this through Talyien’s eyes. Told in first person, we’re never left in doubt of her feelings, her opinion of the characters revolving around her. From con artists to mad rulers, she must use all of her wits, her persistence, her courage to keep from falling prey to those willing to use her as a tool, or simply get her out of the way.

Villoso’s main strength, as already mentioned, is in her characters. But this is backed up by strong pacing, lovely prose, and underlying themes of a daughter’s feelings of inadequacy in her father’s shadow, all of which are woven through every page until  it works into a beautiful tapestry that easily juggles court intrigue and politics as well.

I recommend The Wolf of Oren-Yaro to people who like or are looking for first-person narratives, female protagonists, non-European fantasy settings, female authors, and stories that might break your heart, just a little bit.

***

Buy it on Amazon now!

 

Roll Call!

I haven’t updated here for quite some time. There are reasons for that. The 6yo daughter went through several months of treatment for Lyme Disease. I discovered I was pregnant, then immediately dove into 2 1/2 months of awful morning sickness. Then the holidays. Now the kids are passing a bug around from one to the other like a demented game of Hot Potato.

But! I’ve been writing. The sequel (hopefully standalone-ish) novella to The Half Killed is well underway, and has a title! The Death Within should have a May release, and I’ll be sure to share cover art and all of those other goodies once they’re finished.

I’ve also jumped back into writing some shorter pieces of fiction. This one that I’m posting today is… different. A bit more sci-fi, I think. It wants to spiral out into something larger in my head, but for the moment, it’s just a snippet of a story/chapter, with a touch of humor (well, *I* thought it was funny while writing it way too late at night) and some new characters. Maybe I’ll spend some more time with them in the future. But for now, meet Dave. DAVE

 

Dave

The sign was in need of a fresh coat of paint.

It wasn’t much of a sign, really. It was wood, and it was vaguely square, and some claimed to see a few indistinct words scrawled across it, but regardless of the various arguments on what was necessary for a sign to be a sign, no one could disagree that this one was due for a bit of freshening up.

The sign hung to the right of a door – a typical door: knob, window, small strip of tape where the glass had cracked – and was meant to direct potential customers through the door and into the shop within. It was not a wholly uncommon occurrence for people to take one look at the sign, and the door, and the entire street before turning around and deciding that their business wasn’t nearly important as they’d originally thought.

Randall Smith paid no attention to the street, the sign, or the door, and the last one only for a  brief moment when the keys from his pocket made an appearance to slide into the lock. The door threatened to stick in its frame, but again, only for a moment. A swift kick to the warped panel of wood, a muttered curse, and he was inside.

The darkness was expected. Randall didn’t wait for his eyes to adjust before he returned the keys to his pocket and strode into the room. The shades were still down, and the square that might have been a window if he bothered to touch it with any kind of cleanser or cloth let in only enough light for him to see his hand in front of his face. He didn’t notice the other eyes that stared at him, blank and lifeless. Or the disembodied limbs crammed onto the already full shelves. One set of fingers twitched, and then there was a hum. Another twitch, and behind the counter, a blank screen lit up with a deep blue light.

“Welcome to Obsolete Robotic Services. If this is your first visit to our location, please step up to the counter, state your name and the nature of your repair.”

Continue reading “Roll Call!”