Midweek and a Short Story

I have a massive to-do list looming over my head, so instead of tackling that I sat down and wrote a short story.

But! Before we get to that, I do have the pre-order link for The Stranger, a horror anthology due out October 2nd that will include my standalone prequel to The Half Killed, “With My Own Eyes.”

Now, the short story.

It’s another entry into the files of That Victorian-era Werewolf/Gaslamp Fantasy Story I Need To Sit Down and Write. (I keep saying “this fall,” but this fall is almost here, so… hmph.)

So read, enjoy, and be warned that it’s a longer one, nearly 6k words. Just so you know.

An Only Pawn An Only Pawn
A flick, a brief push of air as the folded note cuts a path towards the tabletop, and there is the name and particulars of the person I am to kill, written in a cramped, blotted scrawl.

A confession, Reader: I have never killed another person. No matter that I unfold the paper carelessly, that I read the words forged on the surface of the vellum as if I were scanning the details of a shopping list; inside of me there is a great tremor of something—fear, perhaps—that what I have been appointed to do will mark an event from which I can never recover.

“There’s no concern over whether or not the death should appear natural.” The man across the table from me—Edwards, is his name, as if he were a valet come to decry the muddy state of my boots—brushes his knuckles across his jaw before pausing to bite at the edge of a ragged fingernail. Nothing else about him is ragged: his coat and trousers are immaculately tailored, if a bit nondescript. It’s not our purpose to garner attention here, in a middling tavern that treads a delicate line between the upper echelons of London society and the filthier holes of drink and gaming.  

“So a slit throat and all will be well, hmm?” I look at the paper again, at the name that loops its way across the upper corner of the page.

Lady Ariadne Drummond.

Continue reading “Midweek and a Short Story”

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Monday, a Short Story, and Snacks

It is eight days until the release of The Bride Price (you can read the entire first chapter here) and I’m almost to the point of running around like a chicken without its head. Not quite, but almost.

So in the meantime, and to perhaps serve as a distraction that might save my sanity, I bring you another short story/scene written for a prompt contest on Wattpad, featuring one of those old pals of mine, Mr. Callum Muir.

(And you can read more about Mr. Callum Muir here, here, here, here, and here.)

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In Silence and Tears In SilenceAndTears

His head still hurt where they’d struck him.

It throbbed, really, and he didn’t care much for the nausea that overtook him every time he opened his eyes and attempted to focus on… well, anything. They’d been thorough, at least, in their attempt at rendering him incapacitated.

The bonds on his wrists cut into his skin where he’d twisted against them. He’d expected brass or even iron, something that would act as a reminder that despite the ache in his head, the dried blood on his chin from where they’d split his lip, this was still a civilized society. But instead it was mere twine, wrapped around so tightly he’d lost feeling in the tips of his fingers hours before.

“She’s ready to see you.”

Continue reading “Monday, a Short Story, and Snacks”

An Update and a Short Story

I’ve had sick kids in the house for the last two weeks (one of those situations where, instead of them getting it all at once, they drag it out by only getting it one at a time) so I’m a bit brain dead at the moment. Lack of sleep, never-ending fetching of cups of juice, endless viewings of Moana and Horrible Histories…

But since I’m home with sick kids, I’ve been writing and editing and baking (so much baking…) The Bride Price is getting ready for its August 1st release (*bites nails*) and is now available for pre-order! I’m still finishing up revisions on An Unpracticed Heart as well, which is slated for a late-fall release (I’m looking at end of November-ish, to be honest.) And I’ve written another short story/scene set in the same world as my previous stories Dust and Silver, Sleet and Shadow, Pale for Weariness, and Music in its Roar. I’m posting it below for you, just to prove I’ve not been sitting around, resting on my proverbial laurels. *wiggles butt* These laurel things are prickly!

***

Upon the Brink Upon the Brink

I cannot see a thing. The rain ceased some hours before, but still a heavy mist clings to everything, clutching stubbornly to the rooftops, mingling with the smoke that belches out of every chimney and streams from every factory this near to the water.

“Stop here,” I say, and knock my fist against the ceiling of the carriage for good measure. The carriage meanders to a halt, and I drop the window and poke my face through the narrow opening. Despite the lights that should belong to the buildings I know are there, the orbs of illumination that should mark the position of each boat and ship currently trawling along the surface of the river, we are encased in a thick, stinking cloud that seems to glow from within, and all without providing any light by which George, my driver, can direct the horses.

The murk is even more impenetrable outside of the carriage. I stand still for a moment, the fingers of my right hand touching the door until I find my bearings. For there are no landmarks on which my eyes can fix, and before I can restrain it, a panic wells up inside of me, tightening around my chest like a steel band.

The sound of a ship’s horn is my saving grace. My mind latches onto it like the needle of a compass, and I move forward, picking carefully over the uneven ground as I approach the river.

Behind me, George clambers down from the carriage, and I hear his soothing words to the horses before he is swallowed up by the fog behind me. My eyes have adjusted to the point that I can make out a few larger impediments on either side of me. Warehouses, no doubt. And as I pass between them, the sounds of water slapping against the bank, of metal and wooden things knocking against each other grows louder. A gentle, downward slope of the ground, and I know I’ve nearly reached the water’s edge.

The light of the lamp catches my eye before I’ve taken three more steps. Two flashes, and then it is gone. Two more flashes…

My pace quickens, and what seems like it will be a great distance to travel is proven to be another trick of the mist when I almost stumble into the bearer of the light, one arm reaching out to steady me as the shuttered lantern swings from his other hand.

“My lady?”

My gaze sketches out the edge of narrow shoulders placed somewhere beneath a head and the brim of a cap. I search for the more identifying features of a face, but the gloom is too thick and so I must make do with the familiarity of the voice instead.

“Mr. Robson.” There is no gesture I can make that he will see, and so I move closer, my eyes fixing on the thin line of light peeking out from behind the cover of his lantern. “Where is he?”

My guide says nothing, but his fingers tighten on my arm and he draws me onward, our steps kicking out stones behind us as we rush towards the river and the treasure most recently dredged out of it.

Continue reading “An Update and a Short Story”

A New Year, New Chances, New Goals, No Naps

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Here I go again, always saying I’ll get back to blogging and to keeping up with things, and then life gets in the way and I feel like the only things I’ll have to talk about are my kids and what my kids are doing and getting my kids to eat new foods and my kids kids kids kids kids kids…

There. Now it doesn’t even look like a real word anymore.

But kids. We took a break from homeschooling (following fast on the heels of the break we took while I was in Morning Sickness Hell) and we’re starting up again tomorrow. Freja is doing a mix of first and second grade work, Ola is doing a mix of pre-k and kindergarten, and Will is trying to get in everyone’s way and hit his sisters over the head with Thomas the Tank Engine.

Kids.

But it’s going to be tough to get back into the swing of things, I know. I’ve had twelve days at home, eleven of those days with my husband also at home. So it’s been this magic time around here, when I could take a shower in peace, or use the bathroom in peace, or go upstairs to put laundry away and not worry about someone finding a pair of scissors and deciding that their clothes needed to be more aerated. And we cooked wonderful meals everyday, and baked wonderful desserts, and went for walks (whence the above picture came from), and slept in, and watched movies, and read books, and it was all MAGIC.

And now tomorrow is back to work and back to school and back to taking the kids to their extra-curricular activities.

But I can’t stop writing. Oh, no. I think I have about six or seven projects that I’d like to see completed before the baby arrives (May 7th is the day highlighted on the calendar. That is, if he decides to be punctual) and so I cannot be resting on my proverbial laurels for the remainder of this winter and into spring.

The projects I want to finish?

The Bride Price (Regency-era romance)

The Ivory Fan (working title, also Regency-era romance)

The Firstborn (possible working title, also also Regency – HEY! I think I’m sensing a theme here!)

Early Victorian-era romance. (Seriously. I don’t even have a working title for this thing. But, OOH! Look at me, mixing it up with my nineteenth century romance novels!)

The Scarlet Feather (Working title. Blah blah blah.)

And… I think that’s it? Then post-baby should bring a lot of napping and drooling (baby and Mommy included) and looking at locking in outlines and rough first drafts of sequels to The Half Killed, Knotted, and possibly First Position.

I plan on posting excerpts of the above works-in-progress as the next weeks come along. The Firstborn is the furthest one along (I am working on the penultimate chapter as I type! Well, sort of. It’s open in another window and I keep bopping over to it.) so I should have some character descriptions, blurbs, and other goodies to post about in the days and months ahead.

And now I’m off to eat dinner (the husband is making homemade potato soup, the kind with hard-boiled eggs on top) and start on the final season of Downton Abbey.

And, no. I haven’t watched the Sherlock special, The Abominable Bride, yet either.

Because kids, believe it or not.

Happy Birthday

Today is my book’s birthday. The day The Half Killed is thrust out into the world, naked and squalling and…

No, no. Scratch that. Not that kind of birthday. But it is new, and this is the day when it takes on a new life, so to speak. A life as something that no longer belongs to me, and me alone.

This is only my second novel, so I don’t have a tradition I celebrate with each book’s release. There’s no champagne here, no party, no special dinner or anything of the like. I have to go grocery shopping today, and I have to fold laundry, and I will no doubt have to change diapers and make macaroni and cheese and settle myriad squabbles between my children. And I will try not to spend too much time watching the sales rankings or wondering if and when new reviews will come in. Perhaps one of the kids will spill their chocolate milk on the carpet. That should keep me occupied and away from the computer for a little while.

And so I’m sitting here, much too late at night, wondering what I should put down in this post to commemorate this momentous event. I mean, this book took eight years to find its way out of my hands into… well, other people’s hands. (You can tell this is late at night, right? Words are dribbling out of my head as my brain slowly slips into slumber while the rest of my body remains irritatingly alert.) I researched into the wee hours of the morning. I kept copious notes on the most insane details and minutiae of nineteenth-century life in London. A London I then had to skew just a few steps into the realms of fantasy and the supernatural.

One option I have is to go over all the things I’ve mentioned in various places while I twiddled my thumbs leading up to this point. I could mention that you can read the first three chapters here, or that there are several other excerpts and deleted scenes here, here, over here , and one more right here. Or I could even link back to other posts on other blogs about writing historical fiction.

Or I could go short and sweet, and simply post the dedication I wrote for my husband:

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(Okay, it’s just a tad blurry. But it’s a new camera, and I was still working out all the settings.)

Or I could post my acknowledgements, my thank you to the people who dealt with me over the last eight years of literary gestation:

I could not have done this without the help from a great many people, a few of whom I will go out of my way to mention here: A.J. Navarre for her tremendous artwork (along with the motivation it gave me to cross the finish line). K.S. Villoso for constantly nudging me along, nit-picking, and reminding me of the myriad spelling differences that exist from one English-speaking nation to another. Amanda Bohannan for her amazing, amazing editing skills. I also can’t leave out all of the folks at Breaking Quills and World Tree Publishing for their talents in beta-reading, editing, proofreading, and listening patiently as I nattered on about the most irritating of plot and historical minutiae. To all of these and many, many more…

Thank you.

I could link to The Half Killed’s Goodreads page, where the reviews have been trickling in.

Or my author page on Facebook, where you can… watch me natter on about writing and books and other general things. (I should be better at selling myself by now. Which… Hmm, that sounded worse than I meant it to. But I trust you know what I mean.)

I even considered coming up with a list of reasons why you should Buy My Book. I didn’t get very far with that one. It was mostly filled with desperate and dramatic tales of having to eat Ramen noodles or drinking tap water instead of bottled. But I already drink tap water (sometimes), so that one didn’t really gain much momentum.

So all I can say is that if you bought my book, or are planning to purchase it, I hope you enjoy it. I love this book, I love its characters, and I plan on spending more time with some of them in the future. And I hope you will, too.

Thank you.

***

The Half Killed is now available on Amazon! In both ebook and paperback! Go, me!

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Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.

She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London.

And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control.

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.

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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”

The Half Killed: An Excerpt

I’ve been working, and editing, and writing, and editing, and researching, and editing, pretty much non-stop lately. My next book, The Half Killed, is due out later this year. It takes place in the late nineteenth century, in London. A former spiritualist, Dorothea Hawes, is forced to contend with a series of murders – many of them connected to herself – and seek to find the culprit, who may or may not be of this world.

And so, I give you an excerpt – a rather lengthy one! – of the first chapter. Okay, pretty much the entire first chapter. Because I’m nice like that.

 

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The Half Killed

Chapter One

The body doesn’t move. I don’t expect it to, and yet I’m transfixed all the same. My eyes search the thick block of a neck for the slightest vibration that would indicate a flow of blood beneath the skin. The skin itself is enough to intrigue me, cast in a pallor that no virulent illness could begin to imitate. It is this shade, this absence of color that makes the deep bruises beneath the jaw stand out, curving in a mockery of the smile that still graces the frozen features of the dead man’s face.

A push from behind forces me to take a step forward, my heel slipping on the greasy cobbles. It is a small group of onlookers gathered around the scene, but no one lingers for more than a passing glance. The poor man has nothing to recommend him. See there? The scuffs on his boots? And look at the patches on his coat, the fabric worn so thin it could lead a double life as a strip of cheesecloth. And what about his face? Oh, it’s not a handsome one. A face that could earn naught but a mother’s love, as is often said. And so the pedestrian moves on, their pace quickening until the shout of a seller or the rumble of a passing dray erases the memory of the dead man from their mind.

I know that I shouldn’t stay very long myself. Another glance from the constable, and I wonder if I’ve already worn out my welcome. His uneasiness grows the longer I stand here, and when his partner finally joins him, there is a great deal of whispering, punctuated by more than a few looks in my direction.

Not only because I’m a woman, surely. But because I am a young woman, modestly dressed, wandering the streets before the first rays of the sun have touched the dome of St. Paul’s. And most shockingly of all, because the sight of a recently deceased man sprawled across the edge of the pavement does nothing to disturb my feminine sensibilities.

And why should it? There’s nothing particularly gruesome about the scene. No blood, no other visible marks or wounds apart from the row of dark bruises beneath the unshaven jaw. If the eyes weren’t open, gazing up at the channel of brightening sky, I could almost fool myself with the belief that he had simply passed out, that any moment, he’ll groan and grumble back to life, waving his hand to clear away the inebriated haze that settled on his mind some hours before dawn.

But he doesn’t move, and one of the constables takes the liberty of borrowing a tarpaulin from a local shopkeeper, the better to shield the inert form from view. Move along, my mind tells me. Nothing more to see. And though I’m tempted to argue, I put on my best show of moving on, of slipping into the crowd and allowing their rapid pace to carry me back toward home.

Continue reading “The Half Killed: An Excerpt”