Music in its Roar – A Short Story

I intended to have this finished nearly two weeks ago. I also intended this to be a short-short story, maybe 2k words or less. And then it grew, and grew, and grew, and finally just tipped its toe past 6k words and here we are.

If you’ve read any of my earlier short stories (Dust and Silver, Sleet and Shadow, Pale for Weariness) set in this world of werewolves and corsets and proper speech, then this is a prequel to those (though there’s no particular order in which any of them needs to be read). And if you’ve been curious as to how Mr. Callum Muir took on the curse of a werewolf, well then this is the tale for you…

Music in its Roar

Music in its Roar 

He wasn’t entirely certain of the day. Morning, perhaps. But, no. The light was all wrong. Despite the mist that clung to everything, mingling with the fog that hovered several feet above the ground, there was a quality to it; a glow that spoke of a sun completing its journey towards the horizon, of stars springing back to light in an unseen sky.

He could’ve moved if he’d wanted, away from the questionable puddle by his right hand. The stench would still be there, but at least he would find a safe remove from its source. Instead, he flexed the fingers of that same hand, one at a time, wincing as he reached the third finger, the one he suspected was broken. The pain was fresh and raw, still throbbing as he took to turning his wrist once, and then again. Another thing broken. He recognized that feeling, along with the ache in his ribs, the grinding of fractured bone every time he drew in another breath of the foul, cloying air.

There were windows, though less resembling their namesake than existing as mere apertures in a crumbling wall. Even the door was gone, ripped free of its hinges some time before, enough years passed since its removal that ivy grew thick around the frame, as if it would reclaim the building along with himself, should he lie there much longer. And if he could roll onto his side, or at least turn his head, he knew that she would be there, too.

Continue reading “Music in its Roar – A Short Story”

Monday, Another Short Story, also Monday. Always Monday.

It was a busy week last week, a busier weekend, but I’ve come out of it with a child who is now six years old, a houseful of groceries, the new Beauty and the Beast movie watched and enjoyed, a lesson learned that I should not give my three-year-old son M&Ms at any movie theatre for the foreseeable future, and too much ice cream cake and pizza consumed in the last 36 hours.

And here I am, trying to get back into the usual Monday routine. Dishes, schoolwork with the kids (we learned about clouds and condensation today, and Freja wrote a “commercial” for her latest favorite book, Penguin and Pinecone), and baths for everyone (and hopefully a quick shower for me).

I have a few more in-depth posts slated for later in the week, but to make sure I don’t slip away and forget to leave my mark here, I’m going to post the third werewolf short story I wrote recently. The prompt for this one was to focus on the transformation into a werewolf, and the word count limit was cut from 2000 words to 1500, so I had to be fierce in cutting out what wasn’t necessary. I have another story set in the same world in the works for the weeks ahead, and with a longer word count (2k-5k) so I should be diving into that one before the end of today or tomorrow.

For now, enjoy Pale for Weariness, and I’ll be back soon.

(If you’d like to read my previous short stories about Lady Drummond and Mr. Muir, you can check out Dust and Silver and Sleet and Shadow.)

Palefor Weariness

Pale for Weariness

At the bottom of the stairs, the candle gutters and nearly goes out. I turn my head in anticipation of a noise that will lead me onwards. But there is nothing. The thump that pulled me from my bed is proving itself an aberration, and I fear I’ve come all this way to find a mop slid down from its place or one of the children tucked into the housekeeper’s room, sneaking a midnight helping of jam. 

I could return to my room. My feet are bare, the marble floor that leads a checkered path towards the vestibule like a block of ice against my skin. But curiosity will be my downfall. The candle sheltered behind my cupped hand, I scurry further along the corridor, chasing shadows that remain always a few paces beyond my reach.  

Several steps more and the gun room lies ahead, along with the doorway that will lead me down to the kitchen and the laundry rooms at the rear of the building. Still, I hear nothing aside from the pulse of my own blood through my ears, the click of my jaw as I swallow over a lump of apprehension that wasn’t there moments ago. I steer myself towards the gun room. Like a fool, I’ve left all manner of weaponry upstairs. If I’m to venture further, a defense greater than a dripping candle will be needed to lend some manner of self-assurance to my search.

I open the door and step inside. My gaze dances across shadows that I recognize, the polished wood of shelves and the shine of glass in cabinet doors. I could arm a legion of men with the armaments on display, but they’re all beyond my reach. For between myself and the nearest pistol or sword or mace, lies a figure sprawled across the rug. Continue reading “Monday, Another Short Story, also Monday. Always Monday.”

“Mark and Seal”: A short story

It’s Sunday, the snow is melting, and my brain is busy mulling over the next scene in An Unpracticed Heart, my latest and main work-in-progress. I’ve not much more to report than that. The kids are bopping around, their antics spurred on by too much cabin fever. We’re having sloppy joes and cauliflower (What? I like my cruciferous vegetables) for dinner. Tomorrow is Monday and schoolwork and laundry (ALWAYS LAUNDRY) and shuttling the kids to their extra-curricular activities. The usual suspects.

So to prove that I am actually accomplishing things – occasionally – I finished another short story/scene-let, but instead of werewolves in Victorian-era London, I have a scene that’s been in my head for some time. For those of you who have read The Half Killed, I do intend to write its sequel (at some point… when my children are grown and off to college, most likely). This story takes place about six months after the main events in The Half Killed, and sets up the continuation of Dorothea and Julian’s story in The Sparrow Falls.

It was also brought about because of a story prompt set up by a few author friends of mine, K.S. Villoso (who writes amazing Filipino-inspired, diverse fantasy fiction) being one of them, Julie Midnight (as she’s known on Wattpad) being another. (If they make theirs public at any point, I will link to them here.)

It is a little dark, and there is some mild language. Just getting that much out of the way before we go any further. And if you do proceed, I hope you enjoy it.

“Death has set his mark and seal
On all we are and all we feel,
On all we know and all we fear…” Percy Bysshe ShelleyMarkandSeal

Mark and Seal

The birds close in, black feathers sweeping against a backdrop of white. Footsteps track through the fresh fall of snow, though it’s still pristine in some places, soft mounds and drifts over the horseshit the sweepers have yet to clear away. Nearer to the first of the bodies, the blanket of white devolves into a slurry of muck and slush, and it’s not until Trevor moves nearer that the splatter of blood becomes discernible from the drip and splash of other things.

Continue reading ““Mark and Seal”: A short story”

It Was a Week (And Another Short Story) (And a Release Date) (Woo-Hoo!)

Yesterday was Tuesday. Somewhere in my brain, I knew it was Tuesday, and yet another – much more optimistic – part of my mind kept trying to tell me it was already Friday. That I had already survived a week that had begun quite inauspiciously with a severe stomach bug (nothing like spending your Sunday night/Monday morning curled up in the fetal position on the living room floor), with my oldest daughter and then my husband catching the same bug (to lesser degrees than me, but of course I was hit the hardest because I’m awesome like that), and with the weather changing its mind every five minutes.

So because of that, this is going to feel a bit more like a weekly round-up type of post, when in reality… It’s Wednesday morning.

Now, to sum up. First, my next book, The Firstborn, has a release date! On May 5, it will be available in both ebook and paperback! I’m excited about seeing this story that began as a failed attempt at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) find its way out into the world.

So it will have its own shiny new cover (the only cover I currently have for it is a placeholder that was used for its time on Wattpad) and you’ll get to hear me expound on all things about it here over the coming weeks. (Yes, please. Contain your excitement.) And to start things off, I’ll give you the description of the story (like what you would read on the back or on the jacket of the book):

Sophia has sacrificed everything for her younger sister, Lucy. She has removed them from the only home they ever knew, taken on the care of Lucy’s illegitimate son, George, and even assumed the role of a widow and mother in order to erase all hint of scandal from the boy’s birth. But rumor continues to follow them like the darkest of clouds, and Sophia must adapt to her new existence as a false widow with no prospects beyond the doors of her small cottage.

Lord Finnian Haughton will stop at nothing to prevent the slightest hint of scandal from tainting his family’s name. When he learns of his younger brother’s latest indiscretion-one that leaves a bastard child in his wake-Haughton rushes across the country to offer the boy’s mother a comfortable living in exchange for her silence about the child’s true parentage. But he arrives only to have his generous offer thrown back in his face by Sophia Brixton, a sharp-tongued and sharper-witted woman who proceeds to toss him out of her house. But just because he is banished from her home does not mean he is so easily banished from her life.

Also, I wrote another short story since I last posted in here. This one also follows the adventures of Lady Drummond, when she encounters someone on the streets of London who may not be quite what she seems…

Sleet andShadow

 

Sleet and Shadow

There is nothing for it. I am alone. In a city teeming with life, the mingled breath of thousands rising upwards as their waste drains away beneath my feet, there’s no one to protect me. I have only myself, a pitiful blade tucked within my sleeve, and a rapid prayer remembered from my childhood, the words falling from my lips with a greater speed than the strike of the sleet on the cobbles around me.

Water runs into my eyes, ice stinging my forehead and cheeks as I press my back against the wall behind me. There is no shelter from the weather, and so I can do little more than lower my chin to my chest, my breath coming out in brief, steaming gasps as I close my eyes and listen.

There are no carriages. I will wonder at that later, but for the moment, I cannot decide whether to praise or lament the lack of traffic. From a distance, the sound of a horn reaches my ears. From the river, I think. But it’s far to my left, if the weather and the cold and the abnormal absence of pedestrians haven’t disturbed my sense of direction. I breathe again, reveling in my renewed orientation, and on the exhale, there is a step. Continue reading “It Was a Week (And Another Short Story) (And a Release Date) (Woo-Hoo!)”

Well. That Was Unexpected.

Have I been quiet lately? I have. Apologies for that. Life, the universe, and everything, you know. And a horrible cold that the kids have been passing around like a chewed up juice cup. That, too.

But I’ve been writing like a banshee (Do banshees write? That may have been a terrible comparison. Apparently NyQuil has not been kind to my brain these last few days) and baking and crocheting and overall adjusting to life now that I’m a full-time stay-at-home mom. *insert additional hyphens here* I’ve also begun working on short stories, which is a format I’ve always felt I needed more practice in. Over on Wattpad, I’ve begun following story prompts set out by @projectwerewolflove, and the first one was the theme “Feel the Love.” The challenge was to present a romantic relationship between two characters, at least one of them being a werewolf, and without the catch of a mate-bond thing that is used in some werewolf and shifter stories.

And it seemed like a fun thing to do. I’ve never written a werewolf story before, but I’ve always loved the Jekyll and Hyde/Frankenstein/Dorian Gray/Wolfman stories of the Victorian era. So that’s what I sat down to write. And I was pretty okay with it, for something I wrote really quick and submitted hours before the deadline.

And then I found out today that I won the challenge.

So, you know. I’m pretty pleased about that, I have to say.

I even won a nifty badge.

Which…. I can’t seem to download at the moment. I’ll edit to add it later. Just imagine that it’s here, and it’s nifty.

*nifty badge goes here*

And also to celebrate, I’m going to post the story here, for those of you who don’t have Wattpad accounts.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you my first foray into werewolfdom, Dust and Silver.

(Just so no one thinks I’m being flippant, I am super pleased to have won. And honestly? I think I fell in love with these characters about five second after putting them on the page. They may just have to earn their own full-length story at some point.)

dust-and-silver

***

I step into the room and find myself in darkness. There is little light from the window, whether because the sky produces nothing more than an ochreous glow or because the glass itself is rimed with a mingling of frost and filth, I cannot tell. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust, and then I see the outline of a bed, of a writing desk and chair tucked beneath the slant of the ceiling.

There is more if I give myself time. I gravitate towards a washstand in the corner, a pitcher and basin of what might be a beautiful blue porcelain in the full light of day. And there, his toiletries lined up—toothbrush and powder, a shaving kit kept in a wooden box, with razor, strop, and soap all arranged and ready for the next morning’s use.

I reach out with one hand, then pull my fingers back. A quick tug and I remove my glove before stretching forward again. It is too personal, I think, to be here. To touch these objects as if I had any right to do so. I wonder how I would feel should I learn that he had visited my rooms, pawed over my belongings in the same way in which I run the edge of my thumb over the bristles of his hairbrush, but I cannot find the outrage within myself that should be there.

“What are you doing here?”

Continue reading “Well. That Was Unexpected.”

The Half Killed – Deleted Scene

I’ve posted a couple of these before already, deleted scenes that never made it into the book. But they’re necessary, always necessary in laying out the details of a character’s background, a bit of history that never makes it into the current events of the book, but needs to exist to shape everyone and everything in the world trapped inside said book.

And so today I bring you another deleted scene, from the childhood of my main protagonist, Dorothea Hawes. If you’d like to read the other deleted scenes I’ve posted so far, you can find them here and here.

I hope you enjoy.

In Sleep

The matron’s woolen dress smelled of perpetual damp, the fumes only growing stronger when she stood quite near a fire or any other source of heat. The heavy skirt, darkened with dirt and moisture near the hem, swished across the wood floor, caught on the edges of the threadbare rugs, and knocked the occasional chair off balance. But when she stood over your shoulder, the rough weave of the wool scratched your arm, and you thought of nothing but brushing it off like you would an irritating insect. But you could not, and so you remained still, with the old woman breathing down your neck, her bones creaking in time with the slow, steady cadence of your words.

And when you faltered, she only hit your back with the flat of her hand, your spine straightening, sometimes even arching away from her touch. It was never a forceful strike, nothing meant to cause you pain, but simply a reminder that she was there, that she was behind you, beside you, watching, listening to the Word of God as recited by your tongue. It became clear to your mind, quite soon after your arrival, that she never touched you but to hit you, and that this same queerness of behavior followed true with her treatment of all the other girls. And there were so many of them now, enough girls to fill every bed, so that you fell asleep every night to the sounds of breathing and bare feet kicking at thin blankets.

As soon as you finished reading, the book passed to the next girl, and then the next, until the entire lesson had been read. One of the other matrons spoke then, telling you to go to your rooms, and the lights were put out behind you, darkness filling your wake as the footsteps of fifty girls shuffled up the stairs to the dormitories.

There was some light from the moon, casting shadows on the wall as you stepped out of your dress and took care to hang it on the peg beside your bed. The nightgown was cold, and you shivered as the stiff fabric slid across your arms, over your back, but it did little to prepare you for the cold of the blanket that you tugged up to your chin, over your mouth, just high enough so you wouldn’t have to see the pale cloud of steam escape from your lips every time you exhaled.

One by one, the girls around you fell asleep. Better to sleep than to suffer through the cold, and you wished that sleep would come to you, but it never did, leastways not until the ephemeral light of dawn colored the windows, and then only a few minutes of rest were your before the bells began to ring, another day called to life with the sound of shuffling feet, this time tramping down the stairs, on their way to breakfast.

The sleep itself was not what frightened you. It was the dreams, the visions that flashed before your eyes, always right there, yet always just out of reach. And the voices were louder then, because you didn’t have the strength to fight against them or to shut them out. And knowing this, they taunted you, telling you things you never wished to know. And in the morning, when the ringing of the bells pushed that other ringing out of your mind, you only felt more tired than the night before, the look on your face prompting a few of the other girls to ask if you were unwell. But you told them that you were fine, and then you washed your face, and rebraided your hair, pinning it close to your head before covering it with the stiff white cap.

Another day of lessons then, of basic reading and writing, and then hours of sewing, or in your case, because your stitching had never been fine, of untangling bits of thread and yarn for the others to use. The work was dull, numbing to both body and mind, and you sat with your eyes narrowed, your back bent over the task, and when the lights dimmed, the work was brought nearer to your face, until your eyes were mere slits, the red reaching in from the corners, stinging until you had no choice but to wipe the tears away with the back of your hand.

Night came again, overtaking you before you were aware of it, the bells ringing again, and you fell into step behind the other girls, while being pushed up the stairs by the dozen or so girls behind you. Another night, your dress hanging on the peg, and the exhaustion swept over you and around you until the dreams pressed in again, the voices attacking with greater precision, never trying at the same place twice, but always searching for a weak point. And when they found it, they slipped inside, only you couldn’t battle them in your sleep. One voice in particular was more familiar than the others, yet it spoke softly to you then, almost lulling you into a deeper slumber, one that threatened to smother you with its offer of comfort.

The screaming didn’t wake you. Your throat was already sore from it, as if you’d been crying out for some time, and when you finally opened your eyes, you saw the other girls in the dormitory, all of them crowding away from you, pressed against their own beds, against the walls, a few of them running out the door, nearly falling down the stairs in their haste to escape.

One of the matrons appeared a few moments later, still in her nightdress. You remember the look on her face, the horror that flashed in her eyes, and it was then that you noticed the placement of the other beds in the room, all of them far away from your own, as if they’d been swept toward the walls with a great hand, and only your bed still sat untouched in its original position.

Gathering herself, the matron staggered forward, her hands on your shoulders, gripping them, shaking until the screaming stopped, and you gasped for breath, unaware before that moment that you had almost fainted from lack of air. She struck your cheek and called you a stupid girl, a monster, and as she spoke, the soft, familiar voice echoed the same thought in your ear. Only you were much more inclined to believe him above all others.

***

oldcover7

The Half Killed is currently available for pre-order at Amazon.com for only .99 cents from now until August 25th. You can check out the reviews on Goodreads and add it to your list.

Where It All Began

This Spring, I’ll be releasing my second novel, The Half Killed, a supernatural murder-mystery set in London at the end of the nineteenth century.

oldcover7

Now, I don’t know when the idea of The Half Killed came to me. It started with a scene. And then another scene. And then another and another, until I had an entire world in front of me and a wider variety of characters than I could have ever anticipated. Of course, once I’d written several thousand words and a few chapters, I realized I needed to slow down and research and make sure I was happy with what I was producing. I didn’t mean to slow down to the point that it would take nearly a decade to finish the book, but there you go.

This little scene was the first thing I wrote. I clearly remember sitting up very late at night (this was pre-marriage and children) and scribbling this whole thing down in a notebook, my hand cramping up as I reached the end of it but not wanting to stop for fear that the words would dribble out of my head before I could get them onto the page.

At this point, my main character didn’t even have a name. (She’s Dorothea Hawes now, but she was simply Spiritualist Girl at the beginning). But from this bit grew another 90,000 words and 24 chapters. And even more stories for these characters to tell.

 

The Unveiled

 

The hush came quickly, as it always did. Even the coughing ceased, and I knew I had them. They would hold all of it in: the noises, the whispers—even the scratchings were postponed for a time, until the lights came up again and that aura of the mysterious lost its hold.

When the curtain rose, a shudder passed through the crowd, hundreds of bodies moving forward, shifting for a better view. The immediate disappointment was an almost palpable thing. The stage was mostly bare but for a chair, a table, and a few other knick-knacks that wouldn’t serve any purpose as the evening progressed. But Marta insisted on them, claiming that a few baubles were necessary to entertain the eye.

The edge of the curtain was my barrier, my point of no return. Behind the heavy fabric that smelled of dust and age, I tried not to give in to my curiosity, my head bowed as I assured myself that no one out there could hear the erratic palpitations inside my chest. The hiss of the gas jets was something of a comfort, and I exhaled through parted my lips as I closed my eyes and pretended—for a moment, at least—that the performance had already arrived at its end.

The people would stand then, find their way back towards their homes, and I would escape to my room, if Marta allowed it. More often than not, there would be a private audience she would wish for me to entertain, and once again it would be long past midnight before I could stare out my window, until I could allow the voices to fade to a low buzz of whispering inside my head.

Continue reading “Where It All Began”