Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Friday, November 25, 2011
The heavy darkness in the
He was an impressive figure in his solitary stance against the world. Tall, and straight, alert to all that drew breath in the sprawling city. If anyone had been permitted to venture close, they would have been surprised by the guardian who held vigil against the unseen evils that plagued their safe existence. He was a handsome man, with dark, aged eyes that saw everything and gave back very little. Despite the ancient wisdom that resided in him, his face was young; smooth, contoured planes striking in quality. He was dressed in the colours of the stormy night, and a wide-brimmed hat shaded his features further. His muscular form was given disguise by the fluttering, full length cape that added to the aura of mystery and danger that emanated from him.
It had been a night much like this, less than a season past, when his life had been altered in the most painful of ways. The woman he’d grown to love had died, in his arms, after a savage attack–by him. Gabriel Lucienne felt the anger and the agony searing his soul yet again when the ethereal face of Naenia Velarian swam into focus before his mind’s eye, blotting out the turbulent sky with her stunning beauty. As always, tears rose to make the image shimmer and glow, until it shattered with the falling of a single salt-tanged droplet of moisture, then he swallowed the rest of the endless swell of loss that wanted to pour forth in the wake of this tiny concession to grief.
Lucienne pushed aside the weakness that threatened to consume and paralyze him, turning his attention outward. To the night, and the evil that darkness spawned with such careless abandon. He could feel the presence of his latest assignment, an ancient warlock who preyed on the idle rich of
The Hunter’s steps echoed on the cobblestones as he strode through the heavy night air, his passing ruffling the dense churning of white mist that coiled and writhed on the ground. As he moved, steady, graceful, and lethal, Lucienne tugged his hat a little further down on his forehead, obscuring his features in shades of deep grey and black shadow. It hadn’t been so long ago that he’d walked these streets in search of a demon who had penetrated the echelons of the
Lucienne stopped suddenly, a new scent reaching him amid the potent mix that was uniquely
A scream ripped the low-level drone of night sounds in the
A red haze of blood-drenched fury tinted Lucienne’s vision and he lifted the gun and fired at the creature bent over the dying girl. He absorbed the shock and the vision as he moved toward the vampire; for he was in no doubt that what he had interrupted was a feeding creature of the night. He’d thought them all dead when Vladius was destroyed, but now realized it had been an uncharacteristically naive belief to assume that one vampire had spawned all who might walk the earth. The silver-haired head of this creature rose, and Lucienne stopped moving for an instant when he was transfixed by the hypnotic power of the vampire’s blazing eyes. They shone with preternatural brightness in the shadows, one minute molten gold fire, then the ice of winter-blue skies.
With an effort of will, Lucienne shook off the mental hold and advanced swiftly. The creature was startled just enough to slow his reflexes, and Lucienne’s gun fired again in a quick volley of bullets. The vampire was flung back against the wall by the impact of the attack and the Hunter delved into his coat a second time. This time he produced a heavy silver stake and triggered the lethal point as he leaped toward the creature.
Lucienne was airborne when he was slammed hard into the nearest stone wall by a new arrival. Stunned, he shook his head and tried to discern what was happening around him.
“Not before I finish this, Paien.”
Lucienne trembled inside at the malevolence in that rich, cultured voice. His eyes adjusted to the darkness and he was finally able to see the semblance of forms in the narrow space of the alley. He was being held against the building, one-handed, by a fair haired man. At the mouth of the alley, blocking any exit, stood a woman who was equal to Naenia Velarian in her beauty and stature. She looked every bit as fierce and formidable, as well.
Lucienne reacted on instinct and flung the stake toward the man who had been his first target. A roar of fury rose in the night and he was slammed harder into the brickwork at his back. For several beats of time, Lucienne held onto consciousness, then he lost his battle and the gaping abyss of true blackness swallowed him.
Soren was at her master’s side before the last echoes of his scream of pain had faded into the night. She pulled the stake free of his chest and flung it aside, then turned to look at the man who now lay at Paien’s feet. Her fangs elongated and her eyes shimmered, their enhanced vision sharpening further in the space of time it took for her true nature to emerge. She walked to the nobleman’s side and was reaching for Lucienne when she was pushed away.
“Get deVillier to safety,” Paien ordered harshly. “I’ll take care of this.”
“I want him dead, Paien!” She snarled in contempt. “And I want to savour the pleasure myself.”
“No,” Paien positioned himself between his beautiful lover and the fallen hunter. He was shocked himself by his defense of the mortal, but something deep in his soul was demanding that he keep the man alive. He winced unconsciously when he heard the growl of his vampire father ripple the night air, and for an instant he looked in that direction. His stomach twitched in response to the sight of deVillier ripping the girl’s throat out and gorging on her blood. The ancient vampire’s healing would be rapid with the veritable feast he was indulging in at that moment.
In the distance, police whistles were blaring, and Paien knew they had only precious minutes to get away from the scene of this grisly murder.
“Take him back to the estate, Soren,” he ordered firmly. “I’ll follow you.”
She was still glaring at him, and Paien shuddered imperceptibly at the low, guttural rumble of her vampiric anger. He waited, unmoving, and finally she went to their vampire father and bent to touch his shoulder. deVillier’s head rose and he smiled at Paien for a moment, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth as he silently dared his knight to reproach him.
“Come, deVillier,” Soren murmured. “Paien will finish him for what he’s done to you.”
deVillier straightened, stumbled a little before he righted himself, then drew Soren close to his side. They rose in a graceful arc, and vanished into the cloud-strewn sky.
“Who are you?”
Paien turned to peer at the mortal, surprised to find the man was standing again and had a crossbow aimed at his heart. For an eternity that spanned centuries in the space of seconds, the two men stared at each other. Paien’s heart, inert for decades, perhaps centuries, suddenly surged to painful life in his chest, and the savage, pounding beat almost deafened him for timeless moments.
Lucienne looked into the unnaturally bright blue of the fair-haired man’s eyes and his breath caught in his throat. It was impossible, but he felt undeniable recognition as he stared into the fathomless depths of the vampire’s eyes. The night dropped away and he was standing on a battlefield, the armourment of the Templar Knights weighing on his body... and this man was at his side, sword drawn as they faced a common enemy...
“It’s not possible,” Lucienne breathed, shaken to the core of his spirit.
“Do you intend to use that?” Paien asked, his eyes flitting to the crossbow.
Again, the sense of drowning and flying assailed Lucienne. His own voice whispered a more recent memory to him: “My life is committed to the vanquishing of evil, in whatever shape it may take. My talent, if it may be called such, is that I can sense evil.” He let his mind focus, reaching into the presence beside him, and the answer murmured: “Evil does not rule this one. Evil may have made him, even left its mark on him. But evil does not rule him. So I cannot kill...” He’d been right each time he listened to this quiet voice within him, and he knew he was right now. The man/vampire before him, awaiting his judgement, was not truly a thing of pervading evil. Not as the other vampire he’d sensed and confronted in this alley. Lucienne didn’t know if he was relieved or disappointed, and refused to examine the paradox more closely. Trusting instinct, he shook his head and said very softly, “I can’t.”
Paien leaned closer, confusion evident on his features.
“Who are you?” He heard the dread that textured the soft query, but he ignored it and waited for an answer.
“Lucienne.” He paused, and with equal reluctance, asked the same question of the man before him.
“Paien deBrassaunt,” Paien whispered, the reply extracted from a part of his soul that he’d thought long gone.
Profound understanding passed between them, and went unacknowledged by words or reaction.
“Why are you here, Hunter?” Paien asked when Lucienne made no effort to say anything further.
“I’m hunting,” Lucienne’s smile reflected the irony in his tone and he shouldered his crossbow. “Have you ever heard of a man calling himself Mandrake?”
Paien’s smile was an echo of Lucienne’s sardonic humour. He nodded.
“Try the old Carfax Estate,” he suggested. “The owner died recently, and Lord Rupert Avondale is restoring it,” he informed Lucienne, knowing the hunter didn’t actually have a name for his prey, and that this would insure he pursued and eradicated the right man.
Paien nodded curtly, glanced over his shoulder, and pointed.
“You might want to leave before they find you here,” he commented.
Before the words did more than register, Lucienne felt the shift in the air that told him he was alone again. He pulled out his grappling gun and aimed at the roof. He was swinging over the edge as the alley began to fill with policemen.
“You dropped this.”
He turned in time to catch his wide-brimmed black hat as Paien tossed it and swirled away in a current of displaced air. Smiling grimly, Lucienne donned the hat and tugged it down on his forehead.
“Carfax it is,” he murmured to the darkness and turned his attention back to the man he’d been assigned to hunt down and destroy...
© 2010 Denysé Bridger
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
What’s in a book cover?
I was having a conversation recently with one of my acquisitions editors, and we got to talking about covers and how people respond to them. Authors often agonize over their book covers, driving artists to distraction with their “vision” of what is the perfect image to sell their book, but in the end, is it really the cover that pulls a reader? A good cover catches the eye, but what makes the reader part with their valued dollars? I’m thinking it has a lot more to do with the author from the moment the cover says “pick me up” to the potential buyer.
Ultimately, we buy books for the stories they tell, so it’s the words that are really going to persuade a reader, isn’t it? How many people have been “fooled” by a stunning cover that masks a half-assed story that lacks depth and passion? I admit it’s happened to be a time or two, so I’ve started ignoring the pretty pictures to a large extent and really reading what is written in those all important blurbs on covers or webpages.
I am often reminded of how much more important the words are when I am looking at Harlequin books. I admit that my favourite line of HQ books has been their flagship imprint, Harlequin Presents. Now, consider every book in that line carries the same white cover, banner, and then the image of a couple in the middle of a circle. What is important in these books is the title and author name blazed across the cover, not the often generic couple that adorns the book. These books rely on catchy blurbs and author reputation.
And what about the opposite–a cover that you find really ugly for whatever reason. Does that put you off the book to the point where you refuse to pick up the book and read the back of it? One of my publishers recently released a book with a cover that I detest. Not even the presence of Jimmy Thomas saves it for me. I know the author and she’s not someone I’d read if I was stuck on a desert island, so I have no way of knowing if I’d excuse that cover if it was someone else. I do know that I frequently buy books with plain covers that contain little more than author name and title, so I like to think I’m not always influenced by something as shallow as a picture on the cover. *lol*
So, I’m curious what you, the readers, think of covers in general. Do you like sexy heroines, curvy heroines, kick-ass heroines–or are you drawn more to the hero of the story? The book cover that I spoke of earlier had the very sexy Jimmy Thomas, but the heroine was a frumpy looking, plus-size girl who just looked very unattractive. I have nothing against plus-size heroines, I’ve written them myself, I just don’t feel the need to label the book that way–a woman is what she is, and her body size is not what makes her beautiful to the hero, is it? Yet, here we are all of a sudden using this as a marketing angle. It’s a shame that everything devolves into a superficial need to “label” at all, but there you have it. Curvy girls are as gorgeous as slim and trim girls, it’s the skill of the writer that makes you fall in love with the characters, not the emphasis on what your heroine’s dress size is. So, again, would you buy a book just because the girl on the cover is less than “perfect” by media standards? I’m thinking there has to be more to it than that.
So, dear readers – let’s hear from you – what do you like, and what don’t you like to see on the covers of the books you buy?
Monday, November 14, 2011
Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to a couple of wonderful new authors who have made the leap from Role-play on Facebook to published authors. They're debut effort is included in the best-selling collection called Evernight, available from XOXO Publishing and Amazon, as well as other online outlets. So, without further ado, meet Aaron Speca and Patricia Laffoon...
How long have you been writing?
We've been writing for a little over a year, since we joined a little Dark Hunter role playing (RP) group that now has nearly a thousand fans. We joined separately and met there, and after a while our group did an alternate future storyline, and we decided to surprise everyone in the group by making our characters husband and wife in that future. We wrote so well together that we decided to develop the beginning of their relationship in the present day, and then brought them into an alternate pirate world that one of our players created and rediscovered their relationship all over again. That was the basis for our first published short story "Tears of the Mermaid".
How long have you been a published author?
*Checks the calendar* About ... seven weeks. *grins*
What titles do you have available?
Our story is "Tears of the Mermaid" in the anthology "Evernight: Romance in a World of Darkness" from Allison Cassatta.
What made you choose mermaids as the subject of this story?
Well, Patricia's character Trish has been a mermaid in every incarnation. She's always had a fascination with mermaids and mermaid lore. When the pirate page was created in our role playing group, it was a perfect fit!
Do you have any new titles coming soon?
We are working on a follow up short for Volume 2 of "Evernight", then we would very much like to expand Rudy and Trish's story into a full-blown novel.
Will you be venturing into other areas of fiction or nonfiction anytime soon?
This is all so new to us, we are just going with the flow. We've been tinkering with bringing some sci fi elements into our latest paranormal story in our RP group.
What is your favourite genre and why?
Sci fi, paranormal, and fantasy, because there is just so much you can do with your imagination. It truly is stepping into another world.
What, to you, is the most exciting part of the writing process?
We write almost exclusively with partners, and it's that "eureka" moment when a story just comes together, because you and your partner have a common vision and the characters and the story just take on their own life.
If you could co-author a book with anyone, who would you choose and why?
Our RP group has done some great stories in the Dark Hunter world, and we would be humbled and thrilled to be able to co-write some of them into a Dark Hunter book with Ms Sherrilyn Kenyon. There are at least three or four really good books in there, I just know it.
Where can readers find you on the web?
EXCERPT FROM "TEARS OF THE MERMAID" BY AARON SPECA & PATRICIA LAFFOON, IN THE ANTHOLOGY "EVERNIGHT: ROMANCE IN A WORLD OF DARKNESS" FROM ALLISON CASSATTA
Trish did not have long to wait. He didn't arrive the way she thought he would. No, he stole onto the beach like a thief in the night. His steps faltered at first as he rose up from the waves that crashed upon the shore. He quickly found his footing and made his silent way towards the single, solitary figure sitting by the bonfire. Tossing down a bundle of clothes, standing naked he towered over her.
A small gasp escaped her lips and it was not one of pleasure by any means. "What?" he demanded. "Do you not find my form to your pleasing? I seem to remember a time when you thought so."
She turned her face away from him, and in that moment he leaned over, inhaling her scent. His eyes flared in the rapidly darkening dusk, then narrowed as he pulled on his britches, tucking his feet into a stout pair of black leather boots.
"You lied to me; you said there was no human here." The look on his face turned into a snarl. "I can smell the same male on you that I smelled before!"
She scrambled back from her place on the sand in fear. "No! No you are mistaken!"
"Am I?" Aaron bent his knees slightly, grabbing Trish by her slender arms, dragging her up his well-defined chest. He could feel her resistance in the way she went rigid against him. His groin tightened as he drew in her scent again, dragging his nose and lips from the curve of her graceful shoulder, up her slender neck nuzzling just under her ear, whispering, "He was here, but he's not now is he?"
She tensed at his touch turning her face away from him. There was only one man's touch that she relished and his was not it. She had sent Rudy away from the island, and yes, she had summoned Aaron but it was to tell him that his attentions were no longer desired; actually that they never were. Now that he was here, the fear and trepidation she always felt in his presence came flooding back, as did the memory of his last visit when he first suspected that not only was there another man here, but a human at that. She had refused to tell Rudy where the scars had come from.
"I…," she trembled, "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Trish you lied to me once and paid a heavy debt for it; don't let us have a repeat of that tonight. You called to me; there must have been a reason, what other could it be than you wanted me."
(For the rest of this story and eleven other great tales, go pick up Evernight: Romance in a World of Darkness, available directly from XOXO Publishing, or from Amazon for the Kindle. Twelve stories for $5.99.)
Friday, November 11, 2011
What was your inspiration for putting a dollhouse at the center of The Strangers on Montagu Street? Did you have a dollhouse when you were a child?
I had an inexpensive cardboard dollhouse but was horribly jealous of my friend’s Victorian handmade wooden dollhouse! As I grew older, I began to classify dollhouses in the same category as clowns: creepy! And grist for a good ghost story!
Melanie and Jack discuss searching for the house replicated by the dollhouse and note that over time many owners made changes to modernize their homes. Greek Revivals became Victorians, etc. Was that common? At what point did preservationists influence what could be changed on Charleston’s historic homes?
Amazingly, renovating your house was quite fashionable back in the day. Our ancestors were a frugal lot and it made more economic sense to renovate instead of tear down and rebuild. People didn’t move around frequently, so staying in the same town was common—but that didn’t mean that your residence couldn’t keep up with the going fashion. The Montagu Street house was a challenge to track down because it, too, had been “updated.” Luckily, preservationists did step forward—but not until it was too late for some homes in the historical districts.
Jack talks about a miniature sideboard with diamond-shaped inlays on what appears to be mahogany. The inlay design is characteristic of Robert Wood, a cabinetmaker from Scotland. He had a shop in Charleston and today his furniture is very rare and very valuable. Did Wood actually exist? And did he make some miniatures?
Yes, Robert Wood did exist! Since Jack’s parents own an antique store on King Street, I figured I needed to be knowledgeable about the subject and I have several terrific books about furniture—which is how I discovered that particular piece and Mr. Wood (perfect name, isn’t it?). I have no idea if he made miniatures—that’s called “artistic license.”
Nola, her mother, Melanie’s mother Ginny, Julia Manigualt and her brother William are all musically gifted—extremely so. Are you? Music influences the direction of your plot. The radio plays without warning. The dollhouse piano is an actual working miniature. What is being conveyed by the emphasis on music? Can you share the subtext without giving away any spoilers?
My mother was a music major in college (she played the piano and the alto sax(!)) and I grew up playing the piano and singing (and still do both). Music has been a huge part of my life and I was so excited to use it in a book! There is a genetic link with artistic gifts, and I thought the music one would be a great connection among the characters. Like all artists, musicians share a connection whether or not they’re related. And whether or not they’re living or dead.
The ceiling of the porch on Montagu Street is described as “haint blue.” What’s that about?
A “haint” is a ghost—and African slaves began the tradition of painting porch ceilings a light blue to scare away ghosts and spirits. People also say that it will deter bees and birds from building nests on one’s porch because they think it’s the sky—but from personal observation, that’s not true!
Have you been places that are supposedly haunted? Do you know people who claim to have seen ghosts?
I’m a glutton for punishment and when traveling, I always opt for the “haunted room” in an inn or castle. Last year in Scotland, my son and husband (thankfully, not me) witnessed a vase hurled across the room in front of them. We were staying at a reputedly haunted 14th century castle near the Culloden Battlefield. I can honestly say that was the first night I’ve ever slept with both eyes open.
Melanie’s ability to see ghosts seems more powerful than in previous Tradd Street novels. Is that because she’s now accepted her “gift?”
Yes, definitely. In the beginning, she saw her ability solely as a curse. With her mother around, she’s become more accepting, and has also just begun to appreciate her ability to help others through her unusual gift.
Is this the first time you’ve written about spirits possessing inanimate objects?
Yes—but it might not be my last!
When is your next book out?
I’m returning to coastal Georgia for SEA CHANGE, which is set on St. Simons Island and will be published in June 2012.
THE STRANGERS ON MONTAGU STREET by Karen White
An NAL Trade Paperback/Original/On Sale November 1, 2011/$15.00/978-0-451-23526-8 ● 0451235266
Thursday, November 10, 2011