Snippet Monday: The Death Within

Busy, busy, busy. This is the life I lead. But we seem to have tailored the daily homeschooling down to about three hours, finishing by lunch, and then a flurry of chores and other things give me leave to write while the youngest naps in the mid-afternoon.

The last two weeks I’ve shared bits of Dust and Silver, my paranormal historical mystery, but today I’m jumping over to an excerpt from The Death Within, the sequel to my book The Half Killed.

In this story, there is an illness that is infecting people in London, one that kills them in a horrible manner. Dorothea Hawes connects one of the victims to a local temperance society, and so attends a meeting in order to see if there is anything of importance to be discovered, or if the connection is merely coincidence. 800px-Accueil_scribe

***

“Pardon me, but I do not believe we have yet been introduced?”

Mrs. Newton is taller than I imagined, my original impression of her height taking into account the small stage on which she stood. But even without the aid of a platform, she stands at least a head above me. On top of that head, held to her hair with a jet-tipped pin, she wears a simple hat, adorned with only a few black silk roses tucked away in tight curls of lace.

“Miss Hawes,” I say, and hold out my hand. The other hand I slip behind my back, my handkerchief and its plunder held well out of sight.

She takes my fingers and shakes them gently, as if one of us will shatter should she attempt a more forceful maneuver. “Miss Hawes, is it?” Her fair eyebrows pinch together, then pull apart as her forehead clears and a smile pushes her cheekbones out and upwards. “Miss Dorothea Hawes? Am I correct?”

I must admit, I am stunned that she knows who I am. I am far from claiming myself as a celebrated personage, and what fame I did have when I was younger has long since dissipated, even before the loss of what gifts had plagued me. But her hand drops quickly away from my own, her fingers working inside her gloves like one brushing a few particles of dust from the tips of them.

“Yes.” A rough sound drags itself out of the back of my throat, the word sticking there before I cough behind my hand and say it again. “Yes, though I am not what I once was. I am reformed, you might say.”

“We are more enlightened now, I think. Spiritualism, seeking to commune with those departed from us…” Her lips nearly disappear between her teeth. “A perilous return to the superstitions of the Dark Ages. We are better than that. Such great scientific discoveries of the last few years have brought about a new age, don’t you think?”

“A renaissance, you mean?” I glance towards the nearest window, where the sky darkens over a city hunkered down beneath a drifting fog of smoke and sleet and the discolored fumes spewed out from the various factories and mills gathered near the river. Since the last intellectual rebirth swept across Europe, has anything about London really altered? If my history has not failed me, it was a fire and not science that brought about any change to that sea of buildings, stretching towards the horizon.

Mrs. Newton smiles, her gaze dipping down in what appears to be an affectation of shyness. Or perhaps I am being too harsh, though the lack of that smile in her eyes when she again raises her head leads me to cling to my original assumption. “And what else? The poverty, the filth, the drink and vice that infect these streets… I fear we can descend no further, Miss Hawes.”

Even lacking my ability to delve into her thoughts, to trawl through the sins of those assembled around me, snacking on their edibles while they stir cream and sugar into their tea, I wonder at the gall of this woman to make such an assertion. In all of mankind’s history, and here, at this moment, we have only now fallen to the nadir of our development? But I pull my mouth tight, an expression one could almost mistake for a smile as artificial as Mrs. Newton’s. If only I could touch on the fringes of whatever cogitations are currently spinning around beneath that silk-flowered hat, but I push the desire away before it can lead me in a less healthful direction.

“But you believe we have begun to rise again?” I pose the question easily enough, giving them the tone of being the first words to leap into my head. The truth is that Mrs. Newton’s manner is rather open, considering that this is our first encounter with one another. If her wish is to win me over as a new recruit to her cause, I wonder at her willingness to delve so quickly into subjects that would make the typical London housewife curl her lip in offense.

“Do you not agree?” She steeples her fingers in front of her, taking on a pose I would expect from one standing to have their likeness painted. “You yourself have already left the foolishness of Spiritualism behind. There are no great mysteries that cannot be solved without the dedication of great intellectual minds and the tools they yield. We will conquer all of the scourges that have plagued humanity, from illness to war…” She spreads her hands apart, leaving the rest of her statement open.

“Perhaps even death itself?” I suggest, still managing to keep my voice light.

A small laugh escapes from the back of her throat. “Oh, I’m not sure we’ll press matters that far. But with the advances we’ve seen these last few decades, I would not rule out anything, Miss Hawes.”

***

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Snippet Monday (belated): Dust and Silver

I apologize for the lateness of this post, but my reasons are good: I was caught up untangling some plot messes yesterday, forgot to write up this post, and ta-da! It’s suddenly Tuesday and whoops.

So, this week, I bring you another excerpt from Dust and Silver. In this scene, Lady Drummond arrives at a meeting with several others, to discuss a recent string of murders that has occurred in London…female_angel_praca_dos_restauradores_2

***

“Another one?” I pose the question to whichever of them decides to provide me with an answer. Mr. Albert Goring, the man at the table, is the first to reply.

“That makes three now. A prostitute, a kitchen maid, and now the wife of a banker.”

I scan through a few more lines, my eyes narrowing as I attempt to make out the notes, apparently written in some haste. “Hmm, seems to be moving up steadily along the rungs of society. And there is nothing in common other than the manner of their deaths?”

Mitchell sniffs and lets the window blind fall back into place. When he turns towards us, his dark eyebrows are pinched together, the creases between them the only lines on an otherwise smooth, ageless face. “The head nearly chewed off. Hell, this one was barely held to the body by more than a scrap of sinew.” He comes up behind Goring, reaching over him to shuffle through a few of the papers until he finds what he wants: A photograph, one that he takes the trouble to walk around the length of table in order to bring to my side.

“No,” I say, as my gaze falls on the image. “Not a clean wound at all.”

I try not to imagine how much worse the scene must have appeared to the naked eye. Rendered in black and white, a majority of the blood is reduced to mere mottled shadow, or stains that could be explained away as something – anything – else. But the position of the woman’s head cannot be interpreted as a play of light and shadow or a simple photography trick. There it lies, against her shoulder, the thick, wet ropes of her dark hair spread out around her, in a grotesque simulation of a crown or the rays of the sun.

There is no elegance to the injury. A knife or even the swift slice of an axe would have left some line of the woman’s throat intact. But this is a nothing short of a mess. Flesh that appears to have been gnawed on, torn apart, the skin hanging ragged around the still-gleaming white and visible vertebrae of her spine. The rest of her remains untouched, and I wonder at how so much violence could be inflicted on a single part of her body, and nowhere else.

“What was her name?”

“Mrs. Lillian Butler,” Goring tells me. “Married less than a year. The police, of course, have their eye on the husband. But he wasn’t even in the country when the last murder occured. They were on their wedding journey, in Paris at the time.”

I push the photograph away from me, face-down on the tabletop. “So we have three deaths over the span of a year—”

“Fourteen months.”

I glance at Mitchell, who has resumed his place by the window.

“Fourteen months,” I amend. “Three women, vastly different backgrounds, and there’s nothing connecting the location of their deaths?”

Goring clears his throat. “Mrs. Butler was murdered in her home. In Leadenhall Street.”

“And the ladies’ maid, Miss Docking, was in St. James’ Street. Though she wasn’t killed there.” Instead, her body had been found in the mews behind the townhouse in which she lived and worked, the straw of an empty horse’s stall soaked in her blood. “And Miss Patton—”

“The whore,” Mitchell interrupts. I refuse to even flick my eyes in his general direction.

“—was discovered in an alley off Chancery Lane. And there is nothing else? Place of birth? Even where their parents, their grandparents hailed from?”

Goring shakes his head. “Nothing but the, uh…” He waves a hand in front of his collar, the vicious wounds shared by three separate victims recreated with a waggle of wrinkled fingers.

I lean back in my chair, drum my fingers on the edge of the table. “So we are precisely where we were before, when Miss Docking was killed.”

***

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!

Pre-Order The Bride Price, Help a Library

So! As some of you probably know, I write books. *ahem* Some of you probably also know that I have a new novel coming out on August 1st which is available for pre-order now.

Most of you also know that I love public libraries and that I love to help them out as much as possible (since my family uses them so much.) So! I have decided that all of my royalties for every pre-order of The Bride Price (my next Regency-era romance) will be donated to our local library (which is a small library, so I like to help it as much as I can every time they have a fundraiser). So! If you want a wonderful way to donate to a Central Pennsylvania library, please consider grabbing an early ebook copy of The Bride Price. Every copy sold will send over two dollars to the library, so this could be a GREAT donation for them once the total has been added up.

Emily raised her eyes...

Pre-order link (US): https://www.amazon.com/Bride-Price-Quenby-Olson-ebook/dp/B072KJ1RYW

Pre-Order link (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072KJ1RYW

Update! Update! Update!

Ah, there I go again, failing to update this ol’ blog. I do have reasons, though. Genuine reasons! (… aside from children, homeschooling said children, taking children to dance lessons, to the playground, errands, sleeping, taking pictures of clouds, the occasional shower or bologna sandwich…) DSCN5372

I have two deadlines looming over my head, one for June 1st and the other for June 2nd (Yes, you read that right). The first requires that I finish a 10k story by then, the second needs a first chapter and a synopsis. Plus I’m trying to revise An Unpracticed Heart in there, as well, because why not throw more stuff on the to-do pile.

I’m also in allergy hell right now. As much as I love this season, this season doesn’t love me. So when I’m taking medicine to stave off the urge to CLAW OUT MY EYES WITH A FORK OH MY LORD IT FEELS LIKE MY FACE IS MADE OF SAND, I also don’t get a great deal of… oh, let’s call it “thinking” done. So there’s that, too.

And I’m just tired. I really need a nap, people.

But! If I keep at this pace, I should make my deadlines. The first story  – “A Handful of Dust” – is at 6k words now and I have the ending worked out in my head. The second is titled “With My Own Eyes” and will act as a 10k-word prequel to The Half Killed (so if you love the Dorothea and Chissick dynamic, I’m sorry to say that the latter character only receives a brief mention) which covers events that pretty much lead up to where we find Dorothea, or rather WHY we find her in said situation, at the beginning of The Half Killed.

So. All of that. It’s a lot, but I’m managing it. I find that setting small word count goals for each story (say 500-700 words) keeps it from overwhelming me, and I’ve been okay jumping from story to story without an issue. Well, so far. Let’s see if I’m a gibbering mess once these deadlines have come and gone.

Oh! And in other news, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who picked up a copy of The Firstborn! This has been my most successful book release to date, and I am tickled that it didn’t sink like a stone right out of the gate. (Hmm, I think I’m mixing up my sayings there. And I rhymed. Hmm, I may need one of those naps. Or some bologna.)

 

This After-Writing Special Brought to You By….

There are so many stages to writing and publishing a book, it’s enough to boggle the mind. Not only do you have to write the thing in the first place, but there is the book’s description, and the cover, and editing, and rewriting, and sending it out to beta readers, and editing again, and tweaking the cover, and formatting, and giving it one last edit, and formatting, and marketing, and… and… 800px-Accueil_scribe

Wait. I think I missed something.

Proofreading.

It’s one of the last steps that needs to be done. Once the story is completely finished, once the characters are all doing the things they’re supposed to do in the manner they’re supposed to do them, there is one final pass that must be made to catch all of those little items. The dotted “i”s. The crossed “t”s. The “teh”s that should have been “the”s.

When you’re in the thick of writing, cackling madly as you pull the strings that give your creation life… LIFE!… you don’t always notice the tiny mistakes. The sentence missing an “a.” That time you wrote a word twice. That scene where you deleted a line, wrote in something else, but left something of that first line behind. And sometimes, even editors will not catch it. So you need to give your story that final “proofing” to make sure that every little mark is exactly where it should be.

I’ve read books that contained small errors. Hardbacks and paperbacks put out by big publishing houses that had a small typo here or a missing word there. Little things. But often only one or two mistakes in an entire 400-page tome. Nothing to pull me out of the story and force me to read the line again.

But I’ve read other books that held more than one or two tiny blotches over the course of their several-hundred-page lifespan. Books that had mistakes on nearly every other page. At first, I try to be forgiving. Oh, it’s just one mistake. That’s fine. Formatting can make things wonky, or perhaps that was the ONE MISTAKE that slipped through everyone’s edits. And then, when they continue, I become irritated. At what, I’m not exactly certain. The author? The editor? Myself for being too picky? The reviewers for not pointing out the multiple mistakes in their comments?

Probably a bit of all of that, if I’m going to be honest. But to continue on with the truth-telling, a book that contains dozens (or more) of errors is a book by an author whose work I will not be picking up again. It is a book I will not recommend to other people. It is a book that, if I review it, will lose points because of those mistakes.

Yes, you could argue that as long as the writing behind those errors is strong, those little things don’t matter. But they do. It’s like going to a restaurant, ordering a steak and potatoes for dinner, and being told not to complain if the potatoes were lousy since the steak was so awesome. No, it doesn’t work like that. It shouldn’t work like that.

When I buy a book, whether it’s traditionally published, indie published, or self published, I want it to be the best thing the author and their team (no matter how big or small a team it may be) are able to give me. I’m not demanding perfection. There is no such thing. But I hope that the author will respect me—their reader, their customer, their potential fan—enough to present their greatest effort. And I also hope they will respect themselves enough to want to produce only the finest work of which they’re capable, that anything less, anything riddled with mistakes that could have been fixed, would be a bruise on their pride.

As an author, I want my finished product to be as finished as possible. Just when I think my manuscript is complete, it gets one more read-through. It doesn’t matter how much time I put into building my world or striving for great dialogue if my work is rendered mediocre by a hundred typos.

So please—PLEASE—as both an avid reader and an author, polish that manuscript. Because it may bring a writer a swift flash of success to produce stories as quickly as possible to gain fans and earn money. But if you want to be respected, if you want to endure, then quadruple-check your spelling and mind your p’s and q’s. In an era when texting and disregard for grammar seems to be shaping the English language into something that more closely resembles Newspeak, the next generation of readers will surely thank you for your trouble.

 

The Firstborn is here! … now I have to tidy up.

.It’s release day! The Firstborn is born, a bouncing new book, ready to be read and enjoyed!

(To help matters along, I’ll just get all the links and such out of the way.)

Want to buy the ebook? (Ignore the fact that I sound like I’m selling knock-off watches from the trunk of my car): http://amzn.to/2puCT2i

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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 Haughton will stop at nothing to prevent the slightest whiff of disgrace 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.

Yes, you want to buy this book. Why? So that I can afford to hire someone to come in and clean my house while I’m busy writing, editing, marketing, cooking, homeschooling my kids, changing diapers, and occasionally bathing. (I am an occasional bather. It’s an occupational hazard of being a parent.)

This is my livingroom: 001

The youngest is down for a nap. The older three are watching Wild Kratts (that’s educational, right?) I stood on a chair despite my horrible fear of small heights (Long story short: I can stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon and not be scared. Stick me on a stool to change a lightbulb? I’m going to die) to bring this picture to you. And then I turned around and snapped a picture of my kitchen sink.

002

Equally gorgeous. (At least this is proof that I feed my children.)

Sometimes, people refer to me as some kind of supermom. I make costumes for my kids to wear to the movies (Ola wants to be Wonder Woman for the movie’s release next month), I bake all the time, I crochet things, I sew stuff, I take the family to the park and we learn about nature and commune with unicorns.

But this is the reality. While snatching minutes here and there for writing and teaching my kids about Charles I (yes, they love the stories about the rulers who end up meeting a ghastly end) and eating all the cookies I baked, this is what happens to the house. (And before someone chimes in to tell me that I need to create a chore wheel for my kids: My kids do chores. They clean bathroom sinks and bathroom floors and put away dishes and pick up toys and make their beds. But last week, they were sniffly, and we were all just too almost-sick and exhausted to care.)

So I’ve written a book. My fourth full-length book! I’m happy and proud and ecstatic and many other words from a thesaurus. And I’m also hungry, my hair needs brushed, and I really do need to load the dishwasher.

Happy Tuesday. 🙂