July 17, 2015
A strange beeping echoed around Zane Ashford in that moment between complete, dreamless sleep and being painfully awake. Then his body awakened and he felt his left eye hurting. Not the kind of pain from sitting at a computer too long, or even the sting from accidentally dripping shampoo in the eyes.
Panic set in. His body went rigid and the beeping around him went haywire. Hands held him against the bed, and Zane struggled to get away, to get free. Why wouldn’t they let him go, and why couldn’t he see through his left eye?
Zane surged upward, shouting for help. His mind was screaming I can’t see, but for some reason, something blocked the words from escaping.
His chest heaved, his heart slamming, as someone screamed at him to stop freaking out. But he couldn’t see. One eye was completely covered and each time he opened the other everything was just a blurry mess and that sound was starting to give him a migraine. Two hands clutched at his shoulders, pushing him backward, but he didn’t want to go back.
Please! I just want to see!
“Come on, Big Daddy. Snap out of it. If you don’t stop struggling, they’re going to sedate you!” The hands shoved hard against Zane’s shoulders. “Is that what you want?”
Zane gasped and opened the one good eye he could see through. Everything was a little blurry. Slowly, he came around from his daze and instantly felt like crying. There was no mistaking the tube down his throat. His brain kept telling him to swallow, but he couldn’t and he only panicked more. He snapped a hand from the person holding him and reached for it.
“Zane Alexander Ashford! I swear to God, I will knock you out myself if you touch that tube!”
Still, he reached for it, but the moment he began tugging, there was a nick at his arm. At first surprise stopped him from taking the tube out, then the world crashed in on him, spun, and went dark.
There was no telling how long he was out, but the world swam in on him like a bad movie, shaking horribly into focus. The pain was there again, but this time he remembered what had happened. He could hear the doctor speaking over him as though he wasn’t even there.
“…80 percent vision loss….”
Once again Zane drifted into a quick sleep, but the beep woke him.
“…I don’t know if he’ll ever carry a badge again… physical….”
The memory of the heated char of a bullet from a perpetrator’s weapon burned in his mind, the pain unlike any other.
He’d gotten his man at a terrible cost.
“Ash?” a familiar voice called. “Come on, Big Daddy, open your eyes.”
“What for?” Zane’s throat felt rough and he coughed. He wasn’t sure which he preferred yet, the tube in or out. Either way his throat still felt as if he’d swallowed sand.
“So you can see my beautiful face.”
Zane tried to harrumph but failed.
“Because there is a whole world out here!”
Zane wanted to tell Renford to kiss the blackest part of his ass, but he was concentrating on the dryness in his throat. He cleared his throat, trying to be less of a burden than he knew he already was and not ask for something to drink. “How long have I been under?”
“Three days,” Renford replied. “You were in a coma because there was some swelling. They were worried you might have had some damage, but it seems your brain is working just fine.”
Renford reached for a cup on a nearby desk. Zane wanted to take it and drink on his own but he could barely sit up. Renford must have noticed and helped Zane ease forward so he could drink from the straw. He pulled greedily from it.
“Hey, slow down there.”
Zane ignored the warning and sucked until he could barely breathe before releasing the straw. He eased away from Renford and flopped back to the pillow. The hospital smell made him nauseous, and every sound was reason enough for him to worry. Detective Zane Ashford had been in too many hospitals when a perp or a victim was dying. He knew the sounds.
Someone crashed, and a loud alarm with an animated voice screamed code blue! Hurried voices and footsteps charged down the corridors. Someone was hollering for a cart as a voice boomed over the intercom.
The noise was almost too much to bear, but the darkness inside his own head was worse.
“… it really isn’t as bad as it could be,” Renford was saying.
“What?” Zane shook his head to clear it. “Sorry—all the chaos outside kind of distracted me.”
“I know this may be boring, but pay attention! The doctors say you will have to wear that thing for about six months.”
Zane lifted a hand to touch the patch and couldn’t help feeling like a pirate—a horrible one who should no longer be a pirate but cannot give up the life. “Well, shit.”
“I know you don’t want to hear this.” Renford’s voice was raspy, like he hadn’t used it in a very long time. “But it could have been worse.”
“And how could this possibly have been worse?”
“You could be dead.”
July 15, 2015
Hi, everyone! Jack Byrne here. I thought I’d share an excerpt from ‘Ace’ and some of the things that have been said about the book so far!
Jake sat up. “I was fine.”
“No, you were not fine. You were coping. You were coping with me doing that. Like someone copes with—” Damien sat up too, but he broke off and looked away.
There was a long silence, then Jake whispered, “I’m sorry.”
“It was my fault.”
“Nothing’s your fault!” exploded Damien. “Don’t you see that?”
“I’m not sure I know what you mean.” Jake’s voice sounded flat and worried even to him.
Damien closed his eyes. “Oh Jesus, Jake, I must be a nightmare for you to deal with.”
Damien turned to take Jake in his arms and hug him, stroking his hair. “Only because what?”
“Only because you matter.”
Jake said, “Only because you noticed.”
Damien looked at him. “You need a safe word.”
“I need what?”
“You need a safe word. Something you can say if it’s not okay, what I’m doing, you know?”
“We’re not doing anything that bad.”
“Oh? And tell me, how do you feel right now? Relieved?”
“Er, yeah, but—”
“Right. Relieved because I stopped. Which meant that you were uncomfortable about where it was going. Come on, Jake. Think of a safe word.”
“No. I can’t.”
“Because I’d use it every time, before we started.”
So, asexuality. It’s a complex topic, and not one that’s yet well understood. One of the first (outraged) reviews I received about this book was that ‘you can’t have a gay asexual.’ (This was from someone who hadn’t read the book btw.) Well, you CAN have a gay asexual. Because asexual people are not always aromantic, and some asexual people are homoromantic. If you find this confusing, there’s a wonderful place called AVEN (The Asexual Visibility and Education Network) which has ALL the resources: www.asexuality.org/en/
What is the book ‘Ace’ really about then?
Jake Tanner is asexual, but he’s never heard the term and doesn’t understand why he doesn’t feel sexual attraction to others. He’s had sex in the past, but not really enjoyed it. When he meets highly sexualized Damien Jamieson, he is expecting their relationship to end disastrously, just like every other relationship Jake has had. But Damien surprises him by listening, putting his desires aside and trying to get to know Jake. This gives Jake a breather, and he has time to get to know Damien in turn. What Jake discovers however, will shock him and make him reassess his assumptions about Damien.
July 8, 2015
Immutable isn’t just my first none HEA story, and my first non-anthology story with Dreamspinner Press, it’s a first in lots of ways. It’s my first ever fantasy story. I’ve done a zombie novel before now, called Patient Z, but they were very much science fiction zombies. It’s my first shifter story. It’s my first set in a historical fantasy setting. It’s not quite my first story in First Person point of view, but it’s the first of those longer than a short story that I’ve sold. So because of all of those firsts I’m just dying to see what people make of it.
Here’s an excerpt from chapter 1, to see what you make of it! Keep going and at the end there’ll be a chance to enter to win a copy.
The wind was cold that morning I found him. I remember. I’d come down to the beach when the sky was barely light. Fine rain misted my hair and clothes as I scrambled down the cliff path onto the sand.
I carried a basket on my back and began filling it with driftwood as I walked. Driftwood burns with a strange blue flame, but there were so few trees on the island it was the only type of wood we ever had to burn. Those who could afford it bought coal shipped over from the mainland. Me, I pick up the sea coal that washes ashore from the coal seams exposed under the water. I always pounced on a piece of that when I saw it, as if it were a diamond. Winter wasn’t far away. Ma wouldn’t make it through the winter if I didn’t keep the cottage warm enough.
I threw those thoughts off and continued along the beach, shoving driftwood in the basket, watching among the seaweed and pebbles for the precious sea coal. With my gaze glued to the sand, I didn’t spot the body until I was close enough to see instantly that it was a man. He lay on the wet sand, pale, almost gray in the morning light.
I ran, hoping—praying—not to find him dead. He was naked, but that didn’t surprise me. The sea can strip a body bare. I dropped the basket off my shoulders as I fell to my knees beside him. It toppled, spilling out its load.
The man lay facedown, his legs still in the surf, the waves breaking over them and ebbing as if trying to pull him back into the sea. He had skin as pale as ivory—not the skin of a sailor or fisherman exposed to the sun on deck all day. His exposed back was smooth and unmarked, without the tattoos or scars from the lash sailors often had. Hair as black as anthracite lay across his shoulders, a few strands of seaweed caught in it.
I laid a hand on him, fearing I’d find him cold and dead. But he was warm. I turned him onto his back. Nobody I knew. My island, Sula Skerry, was so small I knew the face and name of everyone who lived here. This face I’d never seen. This face… I’d never seen a face like it. Not even in schoolbooks about the legends of changelings and fair folk. For he was fair, God forgive me. I’d never seen a man so fair.
He lay against my arm, eyes closed, thick black lashes brushing cheeks marred only with wet sand. I touched his chest to feel if he still breathed. He did. I left my hand there, on that warm skin, as pale as the rest of him, one dark nipple under my palm.
I gasped at the sound of a voice and stared down at his face. He’d opened his large and dark eyes. So dark I couldn’t say they were any color at all, like I can say mine are blue. They weren’t merely dark brown; they were black. He’d spoken, and his mouth, his well-shaped lips, moved again. “I’m cold.”
The wind on his wet, naked skin must have been sucking the heat from him. I had to get him somewhere warm. I pulled off my jacket and wrapped it around him. But his long legs were still naked, and his…. I tried hard not to look at his member, for that’s a sin.
“Can you stand?” I asked him, grateful we understood each other. Sailors had been washed ashore here before, who spoke languages none among the islanders understood. I helped him up, but he sagged against me and I had to catch him in my arms to keep him from falling. I’d never get him up the cliff path to the cottage in this state. If I ran for help, he’d be dead of cold before I got back. I had a better idea.
“Hold on to me.” I hauled him toward the cliff face, a hundred feet or so along the beach, dragging my basket behind me. Good thing I’d been coming down here since I was a boy, when Ma was the one collecting the driftwood, and I’d followed behind her, barefoot, searching for shells or stones with holes in them—those were lucky—and always the precious sea coals.
With him lolling against my side and leaning heavily on me, I reached the mouth of a small cave. I’d first found it when I was eight years old. I’d hidden in it, listening to Ma calling me. “Callum! Callum!” A game to me, frightening to her the first time, fear in her voice that I didn’t understand. The cave seemed huge then, like a cavern. Fifteen years later I had to stoop over as I went into it, and I could reach the back in only a few steps.
It lay well above the high tide mark and only the worst storms ever reached into it, so there was little on the floor but dry sand. Some lichen grew on the walls. Nothing else lived here since it got sunshine only at dawn, as the sun rose over to the east and lit this cave low in the cliff for little more than an hour.
I lowered the man to the floor of the cave and he lay there shivering, despite having my jacket wrapped around him. What should I do? Go to the cottage and fetch him some clothes? Go to the village and fetch the constable or the doctor? I felt a strange reluctance to bring anyone else. I wanted him to myself.
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
“Breen,” he said, voice shaking as he spoke. “B… Breen.”
Breen? Where was that from? For all he spoke our language, he had a foreign look to him, with that coal black hair. Some of the shipwrecked sailors who washed up on the island before had skin browner than the most tanned and leathered of the shepherds and fishermen. This man had skin as pale as a highborn lady who’d never ventured out without a shady hat or parasol.
A fire. Yes. I could make a fire for him to warm himself by. I emptied my basket and built a fire at the mouth of the cave. Dried seaweed served for kindling, and I made a spark with the flint I had in my pocket. I blew softly on it until it caught and flames licked up. The wood ignited and the fire began to crackle. I hauled Breen closer to the mouth of the cave. A little smoke came in, but the wind was blowing from the north, down the beach, not from the sea, so most of the smoke blew away from us.
Breen sat up after a few minutes warming by the fire, pressed close against my shoulder. I didn’t know if the touch warmed him, but it sent a flush through me. Heat pooled low in my belly. I tried to ignore it. Mustn’t think on it. I could have left him then, gone up to fetch him some clothes from the cottage. He was out of the wind and had the fire and my jacket. He wouldn’t freeze in the time it took me to get there and back. But I didn’t want to go. I had a strange fear that if I let him out of my sight for even a minute he’d disappear.
“What’s your name?” he asked me suddenly, rousing me from a daydream, my mind full of… sin.
“Callum. Are you a sailor, Breen? Were you wrecked?”
“Wrecked?” He asked it as if he didn’t know what the word meant. He had an accent, not local, not even like the men who sometimes came from the mainland.
“Were you on a ship? Did it sink?”
“No. No ship.”
No ship? So how’d he come here? For he’d surely come out of the sea.
“A fishing boat?”
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I am here for you, Callum.”
“What?” I turned to him, thinking I’d misheard, or he’d misspoke, not knowing our language so well after all. His eyes were huge and so beautiful. Looking into them felt like falling into a tarn, or looking up into the night sky, at the velvet blackness.
“I have heard you call me,” he said, voice low, a dark, throbbing edge to it. He reached for me, his long fingers touching my face. Shock made me want to pull away. But the thrill down my spine at his touch—fingers still cold despite the fire—kept me riveted. I could no more stop him than I could fly. He leaned close. I thought he was speaking. His lips formed words, or perhaps my name, but my ears were full of the crashing of the waves and the crackle of the fire. His lips touched my mouth.
I closed my eyes. A kiss. He was kissing me. I’d never… not with a man, not a kiss. Some… fumbling with other lads, and a kiss with a lass or two, because they expected it, and because other people expected it, and it kept them from talking about me. But this… nothing had ever felt like this. His mouth slanted across mine, lips soft, but something hard behind them. No, not hard. Strong. His skin was smooth where mine was rough. I hadn’t shaved before coming to the beach.
His tongue—hot, wet—touched my lips. It should have been disgusting. Sin should feel disgusting, make me want to stop him, push him away, drag him out and toss him back in the sea that brought him. But instead it thrilled me. I wanted his tongue inside my mouth, and I opened my lips to him. It pressed in and found mine. Oh, God, to feel that for the first time. Like his tongue was a flint and mine was kindling. A spark and then flame.
If you’d like to read more check out the buy link below, or enter the contest to win an ebook copy. Comment and tell us about a memorable reading first. Maybe the first time you tried a genre you thought wasn’t your thing—and loved it. Or your first M/M book. Did it change your reading habits forever?
Answer by Friday 10th, 18:00 BST (that’s UK time) and you’re in with a chance to win.
Contest now closed. Thanks for entering and congratulations to the winner JJ.
July 3, 2015
So, people must be wondering a lot about all this talk about starting college when it’s July-and tomorrow is the 4th!
I figured I’d go out with a figurative bang and talk about vacations, since summer vacation—and vacations from work—are a grand part of life, whether it be school life or work life. At the end of the day, no matter one’s worries about work and school, what really matters is one’s family and loved ones. What with the landmark victory last week for gay marriage and the coming celebration of America’s birthday, I figured it would be good to talk about partying!
In Freshman Blues, people party before vacations with enormous frat parties and celebrations, complete with showing off superpowers. In college, I can’t count the number of random parties, Thirsty Thursday celebrations, and Friday night celebrations that happened for very little reason other than to have fun. I worked a lot of my own fun or funny college experiences into the book. After all, a huge part of college life is goofing off!
But how do you guys celebrate? Will your fourth be spent by the pool, at a barbecue, or out on a lawn, watching fireworks? For those outside the U.S., what sort of vacations do you take when you have the chance—or what would your dream vacation be?
Let’s talk about partying as I leave my last post for the day! Thank you all so much for participating!
I’m going to leave you all with one last cover shot, blurb, and an excerpt! Thanks again everyone, and I’ll be around to chat in the comments until midnight!
When Chris is invited to prestigious Creekville University, he discovers he is part of an experiment by the mysterious Professor Faran. There’s no other way a C student like him would have been accepted into a college where academic mastery results in unique powers like levitation or empathy. But if Faran is right, even below-average students can get special abilities and a good job after graduation. Chris just has to work hard.
Chris isn’t the only one, either. Frederick has worked for Faran for years, and Chris is intrigued by the aloof and sexy older student. But Frederick is too terrified of life after graduation to pursue romance. As they work together, Chris tries to help Frederick out of his depression, all while juggling friendship, classwork, dating, and trying to carve out a place he can belong.
But funding for the experiment is running out, and Chris has to acquire an ability—any ability—soon, or he’ll lose his opportunity at Creekville, and any chance with Frederick, for good.
Chris took a deep breath. Then another. The Isaac Newton dormitory loomed over his head.
The engine of his parents’ car gunned, and he gave a weak wave to his mother. The last thing he saw was her proud smile as the car began to pull away, leaving him on the sidewalk with his two enormous suitcases by his feet. The car rushed past the faded sign proclaiming “Creekville University, 1891,” and then was gone.
Chris turned back to the double doors and took another deep breath, the butterflies in his stomach threatening to spill out of his mouth. He took a crumpled paper out of his pocket.
“Are you lost?” He jumped at the voice. A girl with long blonde hair smiled at him, her teeth bright white. “Need help with your bags?”
“Uh….” He cleared his throat and started again. “I’m Chris Taklo. I’m, uh, a freshman.”
She smiled wider. “I figured as much. What floor are you on?”
“Fourth floor. Reed Hall.”
“Great!” She stuck out a hand, and he stared at it for a moment before shaking. “I’m Krystal, and I’ll be your RA this year. Welcome to the Newton dorm.”
Chris took a breath, his stomach calming. “Thanks.”
“Parents aren’t helping you move in?” When Chris shook his head, she nodded. “That’s fine. What room number are you? No, wait. Let’s get your bags first. You’re sure it’s Reed Hall, right?”
“Right. Room number….” He glanced at the paper in his hand. “Four-oh-nine.”
“Okay. Here we go!”
She began to recite something, and tension fizzed on Chris’s skin. He tried to pick out the words and numbers, and figured it out just as his bags began to levitate off the ground.
It was a physics equation, and it rattled off her tongue so fast he could barely make out the pronunciation of big G and little G, mass and velocity. The bags soon floated over his head, and then up toward the window of the fourth floor. Krystal changed the recitation, rattling off variables related to momentum, and the bags floated through the window.
“There.” She took a breath, then broke into another large smile. “That should lighten your load.”
Chris kept staring at the open window where his bags had disappeared. This was college. He hoped he could make it through even one semester. “Thanks.”
“Don’t look so down. You might be able to do that one day, if you decide to major in physics.” She patted him on the shoulder, then hopped up the cement stairs. “C’mon, let’s get you to your room. Do you know what you want to major in yet?”
Chris’s mouth twisted. “Not yet.”
“That’s okay.” The interior was plain, the walls a smoky yellow. Fire doors marked exits down long hallways, but Chris didn’t get the chance to explore before Krystal hit the elevator button with a well-manicured fingernail. “A lot of freshmen come in not knowing what they want to do. I’m sure some of the older students will give you suggestions, though.”
“Right.” The elevator dinged, and Chris stepped inside. A blue tarp stretched across the interior, and he peeked over. There was nothing on the other side.
“That’s for researchers transporting animals,” Krystal said. Chris blinked. “And here we are—Reed Hall.”
The doors swung open to the Reed Hall of the Isaac Newton dormitory, fourth floor. Chris’s new college home.
Green carpeted hallways led to two lounges on either side of the elevator lobby. His bags lay on the floor of the lounge to the left. A guy with a buzz cut was currently using them as a footrest. A football game blared on the television.
“Derric!” Krystal shouted. The buzz cut guy raised an arm in a lazy wave. “Get off the new student’s bags!”
Derric lifted his legs, Chris’s suitcase falling on its side. “Sorry,” he said with a shrug.
Chris sighed, then walked over and pulled the bags away from the chair Derric sat in. “You a freshman?” Derric asked, his gaze swiveling from the TV mounted on the wall. “That’s all you have?”
“Yep.” Chris grunted as he lifted the bags.
Derric shrugged again, then went back to watching the game. Well, fine, then. He wasn’t someone Chris would bother with much.
Reed Hall stretched down past the two lounges, a row of closed doors on either side. The first one he passed was decorated with colorful letters spelling Krystal R.A.
“This is my room.” Krystal had followed him. “There are sixteen people in Reed Hall, though I haven’t met all the new arrivals yet. Can you manage from here?”
Chris nodded. He certainly hoped so.
“Great! We have a hall meeting tonight at eight where you’ll meet all your hallmates. Let me know if you need anything at all. The two guys in the room next to mine are also seniors, and I wouldn’t ask Frederick, but you can ask Kiefer anything if you can’t tell me.” She winked, and Chris’s face heated. “Also, your roommate is a sophomore, so you can ask him whatever you want too. Welcome again!” She waved, and Chris waved back before heading on down the hall. He wondered who Frederick was, and why he shouldn’t speak to him.
Most of the doors he passed were closed, including the one next to Krystal’s, where she’d said the seniors lived. There were two bathrooms—one for males and one for females—and finally he passed another open door.
Paintings covered the entire room. Some were modern—splotches of bright color on white canvas—and others depicted stick figures. A few were more detailed, showing women in colorful dresses dancing in a brightly lit ballroom. A girl with long dark hair sat behind a desk, sketching something. She lifted her hand from the pencil for a moment, the utensil staying aloft and continuing to sketch. Almost certainly an art major, Chris thought.
Chris kept moving, staying aware of the numbers on the doors. His room was last.
He passed another open door, but the room had no occupant. A giant football jersey was spread across the doorway. Must be Derric’s room.
Finally, he stopped outside room 409, a bright red exit door down the hall to his left. He set down his bags and fumbled for his keys a moment before swinging open the door.
“Don’t move!” someone shrieked. Chris froze.
Two enormous computer towers met his gaze, and parts littered the floor. A guy with slicked black hair and glasses stood, a pair of tweezers in his hand.
“You’re my roommate, right?” he said. “Okay, give me a few seconds to get this stuff off the floor.”
“Uh… what are you doing?” Chris asked. His new roommate turned one of the computer towers, the interior gutted.
“Making some adjustments.” He began picking up electronic bits from the floor near the door, waving a hand. “Sorry. I wasn’t expecting you. My roommate from last year never showed up, so I guess I kind of… forgot.” He grabbed wiring that lay near the empty bed on what Chris guessed would be his side of the room. “Come in, come in. I’m Gene. Short for Eugene, but… just call me Gene. You?”
“Chris.” He stepped carefully into the room, arms straining as he lifted his suitcases onto the bed. He wished he knew a few physics equations at the level Krystal did.
“Nice to meet you.” Gene shoved one of the computer towers back under his desk with a foot. “I guess, um, tell me about yourself. Where you’re from, all that stuff. We’re roommates now!”
“Uh… I’m from California. I’m nineteen.” He gave a weak smile. “Not really interesting.”
“Nineteen? Same age as me. Old for a freshman.” When Chris didn’t elaborate, Gene shrugged. “Then again, I was young in my year, so whatever. What are you going to major in?”
“Uh… no idea.” Chris set his suitcases on the now-clean floor and sat on the bed.
“Figures. Not many people know. And even the ones who do know as freshmen don’t always know exactly what their abilities will be, even in their field. I don’t know yet, either. I’m majoring in computer engineering, though. Isn’t it obvious?” He gestured to the gutted computer tower.
Some of the tension went out of Chris’s shoulders. “You don’t know your abilities?”
“Nope. Maybe by the end of this year, after a few more classes. Or maybe I’m in the wrong field, and I’ll find out I have amazing skills in basket weaving.” He chuckled, sitting down in a plush computer chair. “Is that all you have, by the way? Where’s your computer?”
“I thought I’d rent one…?”
Gene’s eyes widened. “Wow. Okay, though. I’ll come with. We can go over to ITS, and I’ll help you get something good. Otherwise, you’ll end up with some piece of crap, trust me.” His chair creaked as he stood. “Put your things away. The sooner we go the better, or the good stuff will be gone.”
“Okay.” Chris unzipped one of the bags, thinking for a second. “Let’s just go now, then. All that’s in here are clothes and bedsheets.”
Gene raised a dark eyebrow. “Wow. Light packer, aren’t you?”
“I… don’t have much.”
“Well, let’s go, then. Don’t forget your keys. Unless you’re majoring in locksmithing, of course.” He grinned, and more of the anxiety left Chris’s muscles as he smiled back.
So far, college didn’t seem so bad.
Chris just wished he actually belonged here.
July 2, 2015
Thanks for joining me today for the Tower of the Ice Lord release party! I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the story. I’m also doing a giveaway of a free copy of the ebook – details at the end of this post!
The tower stood at the edge of the northern wastes, casting its long shadow upon the frozen landscape. Ancient beyond the memory of man and forged from the ashes of a fallen star, it thrust spikes of iron into the sky. Whispered legends told how sorceries guarded the gates and warded the walls. Winds howled through the turrets like the voices of the damned. They called it the Tower of Lost Souls, and Arius was its master.
He lived alone. All sorcerers did. He had taken and tamed this wilderness, and consequences befell those who dared trespass in his domain. For he had been sworn to the service of Gaia: set to war against the lords of Evernesse, all his purpose bent toward their doom. He had long ago buried the desire for human comfort and human company.
But that solitude was fractured on the night the ice wolves brought the stranger. Arius heard their baying across the distant miles and knew their patrols had found an enemy. From the battlements, he watched them herd their prey into the shadow of the tower.
The ghost owl watched with him, drifting on silent wings to settle on his shoulder. Its warm weight allayed his stirrings of unease.
“Well, Ghost,” he said, “shall we see what our friends have fetched us today?”
The ghost owl slanted its pale gaze on him, but made no answer.
Arius stroked its head and descended the hundred steps of the spiral stair. Before exiting the tower, he donned his ice wolf mask: cool ivory calming his blood, narrow slits sharpening his gaze. Armor against the distractions and delusions of the world.
He waited before the gates as the ice wolves drew to a halt, white flanks heaving, tongues lolling between teeth. Their kind had brought down mammoths in ages past, but Arius commanded them now. When he advanced, they yielded way, revealing the man they escorted between them.
He had slipped to his knees in the wet snow, soaking his trousers and boots. But he pushed himself doggedly back to his feet. His eyes were green as new leaves, hair gold like summer sun. Startlingly young for an aspiring champion, he stared at Arius in open curiosity when seasoned warriors quailed to face him.
“No invader has ever breached these walls,” Arius said. “Did you think you would be the first?”
“I’m not here to fight, Ice Lord,” the man said steadily. “I’ve come to offer myself to you.”
Arius suffered several moments of thunderstruck silence before he found words. “You’re hardly pretty enough to tempt me.”
The man flushed, staining his cheeks a becoming shade of rose. “Not like that. I know your god demands royal blood to end this war. Take me as your sacrifice.”
No words seemed adequate. “What mockery is this? Who do you think you are?”
“I’m the son of the king of Evernesse,” said the young man in the threadbare cloak. “And I mean what I say. If I trade myself to your god, will you call off your vendetta?”
His earnest tone roused only ire in Arius. This could be nothing save madness or trickery, and he would not be so easily deceived. “You are mistaken if you think to play games with me. Only a fool would believe your tale.”
The man regarded Arius with serious eyes. “Don’t you believe someone can love enough to die for another?”
Arius was thankful his mask concealed any reaction. Suppressing his disquiet, he answered, “You’ll die indeed. The only question is swiftly or slowly.” With a snap of his fingers, he summoned the ice wolves to attention. He felt savage satisfaction at the panic that flashed across the man’s face. “Take this prisoner to the dungeons.”
Arius stalked into the tower without a second glance, trusting his servants to carry out his wishes. He needed to commune with his brethren. He ascended the spiral stair, to the highest level of the tower, the Moon Chamber.
Eight arched windows cut into the walls, at cardinal and intercardinal points. Prisms of glass hung suspended in long chains, catching and refracting every sparkle of light, so that Arius walked through a frozen waterfall.
He angled them with care and precision, and though the waning moon was a mere sliver in the sky, its beams focused and refocused as they bounced between the prisms, until they shone bright silver in the round mirror at the center of the chamber.
Arius bowed over the Moon Mirror, calming his mind. “Ixia. I would speak with you.”
The mirror shivered, like wind rippling water. The shape of a face emerged from the brightness: a mask of carnelian, sculpted in the form of a hawk. She was guardian of the south, as he was guardian of the north. To the east and west, there were others, standing their shared vigil over the centuries.
“To what do I owe this rare occasion?” said the blood hawk to the ice wolf.
“Sister of mine,” Arius said, “I have had an unexpected visitor.” He relayed the encounter to her. “Never have I seen the like. Armies they have sent against us, and archmages, and assassins. All have failed. And now this, an ordinary man alone.”
The mask gave nothing away, but her amber eyes flickered with interest. “Perhaps he comes because they have failed.” She shook her head. “All these centuries hurling ourselves against the might of Evernesse, and here comes this gift fallen into your palm.”
“Gift or curse? Surely you do not trust it.”
“Then kill him and be done with it. But I trust in the wisdom of Gaia, against whom even the Eternal Mountain must crumble. Perhaps the king remembers the pact he betrayed. Perhaps he is ready to fulfill the bargain his ancestors made.”
“Not the king,” Arius said. “A prince.”
“Lord or heir, it is all the same. They pledged themselves in exchange for power, and now they owe the blood price. Or the land will suffer.”
“I know how the land suffers.” They both did. The blood hawks flew over deserts, and the ice wolves roamed through desolation, while the lords of Evernesse lived in their mountain paradise.
“Then you know your path already. You have no need of my counsel.”
Perhaps. And yet, “It has been too long since we spoke face-to-face.” It was a small jest; he had never seen her face.
“Indeed. Fare you well, brother of mine.” The blood hawk mask faded from the mirror, leaving Arius to contemplate his own reflection.
His path lay clear before him: the god called for a sacrifice, and the prince came to offer it. But there remained the question he had not asked Ixia, the question that troubled his thoughts.
Don’t you believe someone can love enough to die for another?
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June 22, 2015
Serious topic here. Scary topic. PTSD—post traumatic stress disorder. We all hear about it on the news. The statistics are scary. One in three will experience it upon returning home from active duty, but less than 40% will seek help. Military personal take their own lives by the hundreds each year because of the illness. It’s very real and I’ve encountered it myself.
My brother’s best friend fought it for a couple years. I remember him before he left to serve our country. He was a good kid. Kind of goofy and had an easy smile. He always had good grades and treated people with respect. When he came home, he was no longer that goofy, smiling kid. Instead he was a very quiet, stoic man who jumped at fireworks and dogs barking. He married the first girl who would have him, but ended up divorcing her less than a year later because he would fly into uncontrollable rages caused by PTSD and the resulting lack of sleep.
He did go to rehab. I watched him struggle. I watched my brother struggle to support him though he didn’t understand at all what the problem was. We walked on eggshells for years. He’d come out of rehab and for a few months be fine, then he’d go back again. He’s remarried now and has a baby girl. They’ve found some normal in their life. But to this day that goofy, fun kid is gone. He watches the world with wary eyes and has to fight every moment of every day to control his anxiety, anger, and pain.
How many people could live with this every day without help? Why do they have to? What happens if we don’t help them? We lose them, of course. And I think one of the biggest misunderstandings about PTSD is that it only shows up in combat vets. Not true. Anyone who’s had a very traumatic experience in their life can have PTSD. Though combat is certainly among some of the worst events people can experience in their life.
“Have you spoken to a therapist?”
Kade frowned and blinked in confusion for a few moments. “About?”
“You’ve seen a lot of active combat. That changes a person. PTSD is a pretty big problem and often goes undiagnosed for years.” I looked away, feeling my heart give a warning ache again as it did any time I thought of anything related to Nathan.
“I don’t have PTSD.”
“You didn’t watch friends blown up, see children with their heads shot off, or watch militia gang rape girls too young to be considered women?”
Kade sighed. “How is any of that relevant to the job? Yes, I’ve seen some of the worst of humanity. But I’m here and still kicking.”
I flinched then shoved the papers back across the table. “Thank you for coming in, Kade. I think Will can help you find something that is a better fit for you than PHI.”
Ollie is hurt by Kade because he feels like he’s saying that Nathan just wasn’t strong enough. That’s why he died. Of course that’s not what Kade is saying. But Ollie is so traumatized by the death of his older brother that everything relates back to Nathan. And putting Kade, who survived, in Nathan’s role at PHI feels like betrayal to Ollie.
Have you been touched by PTSD? Someone in your life maybe? Or yourself? Have you reached out to them just to offer some peace? An ear to listen? What more can we do to help them? Stories are pain are okay. Stories of recovery even better.
On the Right Track (Harmony Ink) Sam Kadence
Unicorns and Rainbow Poop (Harmony Ink) Sam Kadence
June 15, 2015
It’s time for Lonnie’s introduction.
Lonnie sighed and hugged himself, trying to appear at ease as the crowd moved around the room. After all, he was an artist standing in a gallery that displayed some of his best work to date. He should be all smiles and charm and wit. Instead, he felt as though he stood out like a two-headed goat, afraid to move, all hooves and confusion, bleating above the conversations.
On top of that, Lonnie had the distinct impression of being watched. He couldn’t shake it. He looked to his right and his left, then settled again on examining the campus beyond the wall of windows at the gallery’s entrance. He searched the mist-shrouded grounds for any sign of Jamison, but he was nowhere to be seen.
“Here, have a drink, Mr. Bellerose.” Professor Eloise Bink smiled and sipped her champagne, urging him to do the same from the flute she’d provided. She taught several art history classes, and Lonnie had been her assistant while earning his master’s.
He took a sip, then said, “Just call me Lonnie, please. I’m not your TA anymore.”
She smiled and tossed her short and sassy new haircut out of her eyes, the silver-gray strands catching the light. “I’ll call you Lonnie when you call me Eloise.”
He frowned in thought. “I think I can handle Bink but nothing more casual. Will that do?”
They sipped in unison, the bubbles nearly making him sneeze.
“You appear agitated. Waiting for someone?”
“Jamison’s coming, though he should be here by now.”
He shook his head. “Parents in France, Amber birthed a new human being, and brother-in-law is hovering, so… no. No family tonight.” A chill ran through him, so he took another sip of his champagne. It didn’t warm him, and this time he did sneeze, loudly, causing a few heads to turn in fright. His face heated, and he nodded his apologies before depositing the flute on a passing tray.
He turned to the entrance again and gasped softly. Through the floor-to-ceiling windows, he caught a glimpse of a tall, broad-shouldered silhouette hurrying toward the building. The campus lights along the path reflected off what little fog lingered above the lawn, giving the approaching figure a mysterious, superhero-like quality. To Lonnie, he seemed to be moving in slow motion and to his own soundtrack. Lonnie’s heart soared, and he excused himself from Bink to cut through the crowd and meet his man at the door.
“Hi,” he said, beaming up at Jamison as he walked in looking all kinds of gorgeous.
The worried frown on Jamison’s face vanished as he smiled down at Lonnie. “Hi, yourself.”
“You look fantastic.” He stood on tiptoes to give Jamison a peck on the lips, but Jamison pulled back, the frown returning, his gaze darting around the gallery. Lonnie sighed, took his hand, and tugged him deeper into the room. “I have someone I want you to meet.” He paused to look over the faces surrounding them, and when he spotted Bink again, he resumed his tugging.
Glancing around as he followed Lonnie, Jamison asked, “Isn’t your fam—?”
“No,” Lonnie said, “but they sent their congratulations.”
“Ah, Lonnie, back so soon?” Bink said, turning to face the two of them as they reached her. She blinked up at Jamison, her expression remaining warm and friendly. “Whom do we have here?”
“This is Jamison Coburn. Jamison, this is Professor Eloise Bink. I’ve mentioned her before. I was her teaching assistant.” His words rushed out as he gripped Jamison’s big left hand tightly. Mine.
“Yes,” Bink said. “I’m certainly going to miss you in that capacity. Perhaps I’ll find something else for you.” Lonnie laughed at that.
Jamison’s hand swallowed hers. “Good to meet you, ma’am.”
“And you, Mr. Coburn.” She grinned at Lonnie before continuing. “Anyone who can make him daydream at his desk is definitely someone I want to get to know.”
Lonnie gazed up at Jamison and caught the embarrassment as it crossed his handsome features. His chest filled with joy and pride that Jamison was here for him.
“Oh… I don’t know about that, ma’am,” Jamison said.
“Bink, Mr. Coburn. Please call me Bink.”
“If you’ll call me Jamison.”
She grinned. “Agreed. Champagne?” she asked, grabbing fresh flutes from a passing waiter. She handed them each a glass, and they clinked them in a toast to Lonnie’s accomplishment.
I think Lonnie is more delightful than annoying, but he walks a fine line. What do you think?
June 15, 2015
I’d like you to get to know Jamison a bit better.
“You gonna eat with me, baby?”
Jamison turned toward his mother, Alanna, who stood in the back door of her house watching him. He wondered how long she’d been standing there, and he suddenly felt guilty. The original reason for stopping by was to see her, catch up with whatever was going on in her life, but instead he’d ended up working on his latest piece in her garage. He’d heard it calling to him, urging him: finish me, make me pretty, show me off.
His living arrangement didn’t leave any space to store his equipment, let alone use it. Jamison supposed a decluttering of the Standleas’ garage—a family’s furniture and keepsakes collected over the decades—could make room. But deep down he knew keeping his equipment where it was would please his mother. It meant he would always come back. Tonight she probably thought he was avoiding her, but that wasn’t his intention. Unfortunately, now he had to leave.
“No, ma’am. Thank you, but I’m taking dinner over to Lonnie. He’s babysitting tonight.”
He saw disappointment play over her beautiful features, but she quickly brightened.
“How is that new baby?” she asked as he shut down and secured any tools he’d used.
“He’s fine, but Remmy’s just a month or so old, Mama. He doesn’t do much.” He just sort of lies there… and leaks.
He turned off the light and locked up before joining her at the back door. After following her inside, he turned on the security light and bolted the door behind them.
“Everything a baby does, no matter how tiny they are, is precious. It’s hard to believe you were ever that small. And Remmy? What sort of name is that?”
“Short for Rembrandt. Some famous painter.”
“Lordy, what will these people think of next?” she asked as she opened the refrigerator and removed a pie dish.
Jamison’s mouth began to water at the thought of homemade peach pie.
“Does he… does your friend babysit his nephew a lot?”
Jamison shrugged. “Uh… so far the baby’s been passed back and forth between his parents and grandparents. This is Claude and Amber’s first night out in weeks, and since Claude’s parents finally left, Lonnie’s jumping at the chance to have Remmy all to himself tonight before the next pair of grands arrives in a couple of days.”
“Well… do you think you should intrude?” she asked as she cut two pieces of pie and placed them on a sturdy paper plate.
“Intrude?” Jamison frowned as she secured a sheet of plastic wrap over the pie and plate. “I’m surprising him with dinner. I….” He hesitated as he thought it over. “I don’t think he’ll see it as intruding, Mama.”
She nodded without looking at him, then sighed. “Where are the other grandparents?”
“In France. There’s a family farm there.”
She nodded. “I see.”
“They were supposed to be here right after the little guy arrived, but since the paternal grands were already here, they decided to take their time, get Great-Grandma Bellerose ready to travel.”
She nodded and held out the pie-filled plate. “Take this with you for dessert, baby.”
Jamison smiled. “Thanks, Mama. I appreciate it.” He leaned in and kissed her still-smooth cheek. “Lonnie will appreciate it too.” He held the plate in one hand and bent over to hug her tiny frame with the other arm. “You know, if you’d like to meet—”
She pulled away suddenly and held up a hand to silence his suggestion. “No… no, baby. This is fine. Just fine,” she said, not looking at him. “You have a good night with your friend.”
Jamison deflated a bit and allowed her to usher him to the door. “Good night, Mama. I promise to spend more time with you next time.” As always, she watched until he climbed in his truck, then shut her door. He stared out his windshield at the neighborhood, the streetlights creating puddles of illumination every few yards, and wondered at her comment. What does “I see” mean? Does it mean anything? No. He was reading shit into it, feeding it with his own doubts about him and Lonnie. They enjoyed each other. What else mattered?
Before starting the truck, he glanced at the house again and caught his mother peeking at him through a curtain. As he pulled away from the curb, he tapped out a quick good-night on his horn, then turned onto Little Avenue and headed for Ming Empire to pick up dinner.
Please leave a comment below and tell me what you thought.
June 12, 2015
You probably can’t tell it from my name, but I’m half Sicilian, on my mother’s side. She was a Comparetto. And she was, as is the case with all good Sicilian boys, my first love (and my forever love—she was taken from me by cancer in 2007).
The excerpt below (and the character of Vito’s mom) was inspired by my own mother and the conversations we would have on the phone.
Sicilian mothers want two things for their boys—first and foremost, that they eat and second, that they find love….
An Exclusive Excerpt from Dinner at Fiorello’s by Rick R. Reed
Vito went into the living room, where he’d tossed his phone when he came home from his shift. He picked it up and pressed the Home button to bring it to life. He scrolled through his contacts and found the one labeled simply Mother. He tapped the word, and it brought up her picture.
She had once been a beautiful woman, and still was in many ways, defined and elevated by her Sicilian heritage. Her hair, once glossy and black, was now cut short, and it looked dryer. She kept the gray away by having it colored a deep shade of red. But you could still see the girl in her green eyes, still see the strength in her strong chin and broad Italian nose and full lips. He recalled when he had taken the picture, a few years ago, when he had begun work at Fiorello’s and she had come as his guest to dinner. She had been so proud! She had cried when he placed the lasagna with béchamel he made in front of her, not because it was sublime—it was—but because her husband, Johnny, wasn’t there to share it with her. This was a few years ago, and she had just lost him to a heart attack.
Vito shook his head and decided much more thinking like this would defeat the purpose of calling his mom, so he pressed the button that would connect him.
She answered, as she almost always did, on the first ring. And as soon as their hellos were out of the way, she said the same thing she always did. “I was just gonna call you.”
“Isn’t it funny how that works, Mom? Every time I call, you were just gonna call me. Yet my phone never rings.” He laughed to show he was teasing.
“Did you just call to give me a hard time? I haven’t even had my coffee yet.”
“Well, you have to admit, it’s usually the other way around. Isn’t it the parent who’s supposed to bug the kid about keeping in touch?”
“Oh, Vito, is my boy feeling lonely? What made you wanna call me up at the crack of dawn? I could have been sleeping.”
“Oh, come on, we both know Brenda gets you up at four every morning for her breakfast and a tinkle.” Why his mother had named her dog Brenda was a mystery Vito had never been able to unravel.
“She’s a good girl.”
Vito could imagine, and knew he was right, that his mother had the phone tucked between her shoulder and ear and was bending over in her kitchen chair to sweep the little dog up off the linoleum to cuddle her.
“Yes, she’s my baby,” she cooed, confirming what Vito was imagining. He smiled.
“So what’s up? You wanna come down for breakfast? I’ll make you bird’s nests. I baked bread yesterday, and I got some nice roasted peppers to put on top.”
Vito grinned at the mention of the egg dish, thick-sliced bread with a hole hollowed out in the middle for an egg, fried in a cast iron skillet in lots of butter or bacon grease. Not all that healthy, but God, was it comforting. Vito was tempted to throw on some clothes and head out to the western suburb of Cicero, where he had grown up and his mother still lived, just to sit in her kitchen and have her make that for him.
He could practically smell the toasted bread and hear the sizzle of the butter.
“That’s tempting, Ma. But I have to go to work today.”
“So what? You don’t go in until the afternoon, right? They hired that new cook, Elizabeth, right? To take lunches?”
Vito nodded, and when he realized his mother couldn’t see him, said, “Yeah, but I didn’t sleep too good last night, and I probably should take another run at it.”
Cora was quiet for a moment. “You thinking about them again?”
“Ma, I’m always thinking about them.”
“And you always will, son. Just like I always think about my Johnny, your dad. The world got a little darker without him in it. But you know what?”
“What?” Vito asked, even though he knew what his mother was going to say. Despite the fact he had heard this same speech over and over again, he let her say it. It showed she cared, and next to a hug, words like these made Vito feel loved.
“Everybody says it, but it’s true. Life is for the living. You gotta move on, boy. It’s been over a year now, hasn’t it?”
Vito said quietly, “One year, three months, and six days.”
“You have to think about not just the joy they brought into your life, but the joy you brought into theirs. You made them happy. You drove them crazy sometimes! But I know they always felt loved. That counts.”
“I know, I know, Ma.”
“If you need to, you go to church and light a candle for them. You think of them up in heaven, waiting for you. They’re okay. They wouldn’t want you moping around.”
She paused, and Vito could imagine the wheels turning in her head.
“I wanted to do the same thing when your father passed, just shut myself up in the house, crawl under a blanket. For good. But the girls, your aunts, wouldn’t leave me be. They made me come out to bingo on Sundays at the Sons of Italy. They made me go shopping at North Riverside. They even got me to get on a plane to Vegas! Ha! Remember that?” She didn’t wait for her son to answer. “They made me live. You gotta do the same. It’s time.”
At her words, a sudden, unbidden image popped into Vito’s head: Henry, piling dishes up to load into the dishwasher. Strands of his blond hair were glued to his ruddy forehead with sweat. He had stripped off the short-sleeve shirt he had worn in and had on only a ribbed tank that clung to him. He had caught Vito looking and given him a smile. It was a simple moment, but that connection stayed with Vito. It touched his heart. The moment was frozen because it was like they were the only two people in the busy kitchen, for just that fraction of a second.
“You’re right, Ma. You’re always right.”
She scoffed. “Yeah, that’s me. So, speaking of which, you’re off on Sunday. I’m making sewer pipes, sausage, and gravy, and you’re coming over. You can bring somebody.”
“Like Connie and Gabby?” Vito asked, referring to his big dogs.
“Well, I was thinking maybe a nice boy. That would make me really happy.” She was quiet for a moment. “Besides, those two monsters are gonna eat my Brenda for a snack one of these days, I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts.”
“Ma, they’re afraid of Brenda.”
They both laughed. Somehow the little five-pound dog always managed to ride herd on her much bigger “cousins.”
“But I’m serious, Vito. You got anyone you can bring? Seeing anybody? A handsome man like you shouldn’t be by himself.”
And again, Vito thought of Henry. Oh, he’d been “seeing” him, all right. Almost every night for the past two weeks. And then again, in his dreams sometimes. Once he even woke from one of those dreams with come in his shorts, an experience he hadn’t had since he was a boy. He had a feeling he dreamed of Henry because he pushed him away so consciously at the restaurant and even out of his waking thoughts. But his mind refused to let him go.
“No, Ma. I’m not ready to date anyone again.”
“I didn’t even necessarily mean date. But you got friends, don’t you?”
Vito thought sadly, or maybe gratefully, that the answer was no, beyond friends of the four-legged variety. The friends he used to have, in that other life that now seemed to belong to someone else, had all turned away. Not because they hated him or didn’t want to be around him, he knew that much for sure, but because they didn’t want to face his pain, didn’t know what to do with the longing and loss in his eyes, the hurt he wore like an apron. What could they do? What would they say? His life only brought theirs down. So one by one, they stopped seeing him.
He didn’t blame them.
“It’ll just be me and the girls. Is that enough?”
“Oh, let’s not have a pity party here. Remember when you told me you were a fanook?”
“Ma, we don’t use that word. We say gay.”
“Whatever. The point is, do you remember?”
“Yeah. I was twenty. I wrote you a letter.”
“And I cried. And I went to church and lit a candle for you, praying that this gay thing would be ripped out of you.”
“You know it took some adjusting. You weren’t who I thought you were. But so much happened over the next few years. There was—”
And Cora went quiet, her voice stilled for several moments, and Vito knew she was trying to catch her breath, to hold back tears. He knew because his own were springing to the corners of his eyes and running down his face.
In a choked voice, she went on, “I learned that I was wrong. That if Jesus granted my wish and did rip this thing out of you, you wouldn’t be you anymore. And I wouldn’t have had—well, you know.”
“I know. I know.” Vito held a hand to his eyes to stem the flow. “I’ll be there on Sunday, and I’ll bring a nice antipasti. I got some of that good sharp provolone like you like.”
“Okay, son. I gotta go. Brenda’s tap dancing at the back door.”
“I love you.”
Vito’s heart gave a little leap. He never, ever doubted his mother loved him, but she seldom said so. It wasn’t her way. She showed it more through hugs and pinches, sometimes too hard, on the cheek, but most of all through her food. Before he had a chance to return the sentiment, though, she had hung up.
Henry Appleby has an appetite for life. As a recent high school graduate and the son of a wealthy family in one of Chicago’s affluent North Shore suburbs, his life is laid out for him. Unfortunately, though, he’s being forced to follow in the footsteps of his successful attorney father instead of living his dream of being a chef. When an opportunity comes his way to work in a real kitchen the summer after graduation, at a little Italian joint called Fiorello’s, Henry jumps at the chance, putting his future in jeopardy.
Years ago, life was a plentiful buffet for Vito Carelli. But a tragic turn of events now keeps the young chef at Fiorello’s quiet and secretive, preferring to let his amazing Italian peasant cuisine do his talking. When the two cooks meet over an open flame, sparks fly. Both need a taste of something more—something real, something true—to separate the good from the bad and find the love—and the hope—that just might be their salvation.
May 15, 2015
So, ladies, gents, and everyone else, we have reached my final post of the blog party for Time Waits (click the title for links). Thank you for your time and your interest. If you want to keep up with what I’m working on next and potentially see missing scenes or character discussion, please feel free to drop by my tumblr.
And if you pick up this little morsel of mine, and if you enjoy it, here’s a sneak peek of the story which will potentially be the sequel:
At first, everyone assumed it was a burglary.
The postman was the first on the scene. He’d arrived early in the morning to make a delivery to the house in question, and found the front door wedged open. No one answered when he rang the bell, so he called the police. The two constables arrived to investigate, and they were the ones who found the body.
It escalated after that.
Not even noon, Jacob thought grimly. Hell of a way to start a Monday.
His autopod shuttled along, wheeling off from the main highway and into the more rural roads. As much as he missed manual controls of old-fashioned cars and early autocars, he appreciated the driverless function of the pod, because it gave him the time to skim through the images from the crime scene en route.
He knew he wouldn’t get a feel for the scene until he got there, but the images at least gave him an idea of what he was about to walk into. There were signs of a struggle in the room where the body was found, and plenty of blood, but the rest of the house seemed undisturbed.
“Control to Delta Seven. ETA to destination?”
He leaned forward and cleared the images from the display on the windscreen, bringing up his location on the map. Beyond it, he could see the country roads through the glass.
“ETA Fifteen minutes, control,” he replied, then muttered under his breath, “Into the backside of nowhere.”
Thanks again, and happy reading!
Length: Novel (330 pages)
Release Date: May 15, 2015
Genre: Sci-fi, historical, futuristic