Lovely readers, I have some not-so-cheery news to share. I had originally planned to publish my next novel, Unearthed after Sunset this fall, but I am going to have to postpone its publication.
Sadly, Unearthed after Sunset's Kickstarter campaign didn't meet it's goal. However, I don't think it was completely unsuccessful. Unearthed had five wonderful backers and dozens of fans spreading the word about this novel. Hundreds of people read the first chapter for free on my blog and it founds its way into many fans "to read" list on Goodreads.
I think the experience of using Kickstarter was a great one, and I think it helped me spread the word about this novel.
That said, life has been a little crazy for me lately, and with my Kickstarter not meeting it's goal I'm going to need to postpone the publication of Unearthed after Sunset. I haven't yet mentioned this to any of my fans, but I recently got engaged! And, I'm going back to school for my Master's degree. Between school, planning a wedding and trying to save money for both, my writing has taken a backseat to pretty much everything else.
The truth is, I'm behind schedule on editing, and as I said in my Kickstarter campaign, I really want to take this novel to a new level of professionalism, compared to my past books. To do so will take more money than I've currently set aside for this project, and I don't want to lose quality by pushing myself to finish editing faster or cutting my budget.
The good news is that Unearthed after Sunset will be published. It's just going to take a little longer than I'd originally planned. Right now, I'm setting a tentative release date of Spring of 2016, and I hope anyone who's been interested in this book will continue to follow me on my publishing journey by following me on twitter, facebook, or by reading my blog.
If you haven't already, read the first chapter of Unearthed after Sunset here, and add it to your Goodreads "to read" list.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Enjoy this free chapter and please add this to your "To Read" list on Goodreads.
(Note: This is version of chapter one has not yet been professionally edited.)
Also, if you enjoy reading this chapter, please consider pledging to my Kickstarter campaign, to help me raise the money needed to publish this book. I have awesome prizes for backers, and every penny counts!
I heaved a heavy breath after trudging up three flights of stairs. My car had broken down four blocks away and it was nearly ninety outside. I’d unbuttoned my suit coat and my favorite tie, orange with tiny, polka-dot hippos, hung loose around my neck. My hand hovered on the doorknob, and I took a deep breath, preparing to play the lie for one more day.
I exhaled a sigh of relief stepping into my apartment. The air was icy cold, and the spicy aroma of enchiladas wafted to my nose. My mouth watered. I wiped the sweat from my brow and walked into the kitchen where Sarah stood before the stove. She pulled her dark hair back, revealing the bronzed skin of her shoulders.
“Hi honey,” I said, slumping into a stool at the breakfast counter. I pinned a smile to my face to hide my secret.
Sarah spun around. She didn’t greet me back; she didn’t ask how my day was. She narrowed her eyes and folded her arms. Her lips pulled down into a frown and she took one calculated step forward. I was in trouble.
“Where were you today?” She asked, her voice sharp.
“I um, well….” For the last three months, I’d only been pretending to go to my summer internship at Douglass and Smith Publishing.
“And don’t you dare tell me you were at your internship.”
Shit, she knew. “Sarah….”
Her folded arms flew open. “No, that’s it Greg, No more lies. You flunked that math class, lied to me about it, lost your internship and continued to lie to me all summer.”
My breath escaped in a defeated huff. “Who told you"
Her eyes narrowed. “Does it matter? You didn’t.”
Dammit. I pushed out of my seat and stepped toward her. If I ever found who ratted me out I was going to kill them. “I know. You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Her lips thinned. She exhaled through her nose. “Where have you been going every day?”
I released an uneasy breath and ran my hands over my face. I was busted, there was no sense in lying anymore. “I had a job for a while.”
“You had a job, doing what?”
The oven beeped. Sarah turned around just long enough to shut it off, then her eyes were back, staring straight through me.
“Landscaping for Marshall and his brother.” I used to leave the house in a suit and tie and change into a t-shirt and shorts in my car.
“So, you were doing that, but you’re not anymore?”
I groaned, this was going downhill fast. “I got fired.”
Her eyes widened.
“I know, I should have told you, I know, but—”
“But nothing. God, Greg, this is just all too much.” Sarah’s voice broke and she bit her lip, her eyes filling with tears. “How am I supposed to count on you, how am I supposed to trust you? I just can’t do this anymore.”
My eyes widened in disbelief. “What?”
She sighed and wiped the tears away before they could fall. “I feel like you’ve been pushing me away. I could have helped you pass that class. You never would have lost your internship. Or, I could have helped you find a job. I could have helped you with all of it. We could have worked through it together.” Sarah took a breath. “But you’d rather keep secrets from me and lie to me.” A beat passed. Her eyes focused on some imaginary point in the distance and glossed over with tears. “I think moving in together was a bad idea.”
The weight of my heart tripled. I rubbed the back of my neck, realizing she was angry about more than one little lie. She’d scraped together an accumulation of my faults, twisted them into a heavy ball, and there was no use arguing any of them. I had kept her out, lied to her, and hurt her. My heart sunk as I realized what an idiot I’d been.
“Sarah, can we just talk about this for a minute?”
She took a deep breath. “I’m just—I’m done.” She spun away and stood still as a statue before the stove. Her hand tightly gripped the countertop and she sniffled.
“Sarah, wait, I know I’ve been distant lately, but I can change things. I’ve been looking for another job and I had a really good interview today.” That was a lie. It had gone terribly, but I had been trying.
She turned back to me, her eyes gleaming and growing red at the rims. “No, you can’t. This just isn’t working Greg, I’m sorry.” She swallowed and looked away, mustering up the courage to say what came next. “I think we need some time apart.” The words came out a little rough, but she meant them. This wasn’t some sudden revelation she’d had. She’d been thinking about this for some time. I knew her well enough to know that.
I felt like punching something, and couldn’t look at her any longer. I turned and took a deep breath. “So that’s it then, we’re over?”
“I think it would be better if you stayed at Dan’s tonight. I sent him a text earlier. You can come get your things tomorrow while I’m at work.”
I stared at her blankly for a moment, then nodded.
I didn’t tell her that my car had broken down four blocks away or that my phone died. I didn’t want her pity. I didn’t want to guilt her by letting her know she’d made my shitty day even worse. If she wanted me gone, I’d go.
I plopped onto a cracked leather stool and slapped a twenty on the bar. Dan’s could wait; this would be easier if I were drunk anyway. Dukes was a small bar near campus. I looked around, waiting for the bartender to get to me. At the back of the room, a couple of frat guys had a game of pool going. ESPN played on the TV’s. Dim lights made the room feel dark, and maybe a little depressing, but I was okay with that.
I gulped a whiskey sour as the bar grew busier. Three girls walked in. They squeezed in at the bar beside me to order drinks.
“It’s too expensive to start drinking this early,” one of the blondes said, turning toward the other. She had an annoying voice but a great rack.
“It’s happy hour,” her friend shot back, laughing. She had the prettiest smile. She was blonde too, but her hair bounced around her face in tight curls.
The girl with dark hair ordered drinks as they chatted.
“I’m just saying, if we’re planning to be out all night we should pre-game first.”
The blonde’s pretty smile faded. “Except we’re not all planning to be out all night, at least not out drinking all night.”
“Care has to work tonight, remember?” The brunette added. The bartender brought over their drinks. As the brunette grabbed hers, I saw a glimpse of a tattoo on her arm. A skull with red flowers had been inked into her skin. “Which is why we’re hanging out now.”
They stepped away from the bar and found seats at a table behind me. I couldn’t help glancing back at them. The girl, Care, smiled again. There was something familiar about her, but I couldn’t place her. I turned back to the bar and finished my drink, then ordered another.
A short while later I tipped the bartender, slid the rest of my crumpled bills back into my pocket, and got up to leave. As I turned around I was met with an icy splash to my chest. The drink soaked through my dress shirt and dripped to the floor.
“Oh my God,” a girl said.
I looked up and met the horrified gaze of the girl with the cute smile.
“I am so sorry.” She set what was left of her drink on the bar and leaned over to grab a bar rag. Her short skirt swished around her thighs.
“It’s okay,” I said, but she was already dabbing my shirt, trying to clean me up. “Really.” I grabbed her hands to still her.
Her eyes met mine, and she smiled again. At that moment, I forgot that I’d just been dumped. I forgot that my life had been slowly falling apart. She smiled, and I was lost.
I cleared my throat. “Let me buy you a new drink.”
“I don’t know, I’m here with my friends.” She glanced over her shoulder. Her friends had abandoned their table and were dancing near the jukebox. She turned back to me. “Well, maybe one.”
When I turned back to the bar, my previous seat had already been taken. I waved to the bartender and ordered us drinks. Once we had them in hand, my eyes traced the room and realized there wasn’t a free seat in sight.
“We could go out on the patio?” she suggested.
I nodded. “Yeah, that’s a good idea.”
A small fenced in patio had been built off the back of the bar as a place for smokers to light up without having to abandon their drinks. I led the way outside, and we took seats beneath a bright green umbrella at one of the tables. Small round lights hung from strings above our heads, and the sun hung low and heavy in the sky.
“I’m really sorry about your shirt,” she said.
A grin slipped across my lips as I shook my head. “I never liked this shirt anyway…it’s Care right?”
“Um, yeah. Caroline.”
She smiled again. “Well, it’s nice to meet you, Greg.”
She took a long sip of her drink. My eyes traced her face, and that feeling of recognition hit me again, still I couldn’t place her.
“You look really familiar,” I said.
Caroline nodded. “We had that history class together with Professor Fitzberg last fall. I sat in the back.”
It suddenly clicked, and I remembered watching her wander into class late one day. Her hair had been pulled back in a scrunchie, and she’d worn bright pink sweatpants. I’d thought she was cute then, too.
“Right, I remember now. You were smart to sit in the back. That guy spit when he talked.
“So what are you going to school for?”
She looked at her drink. “I’m not anymore. I was going for business, but had to drop. I wanna start back up soon though.”
I nodded, not quite sure what to say next. I didn’t want to pry into why she’d dropped out.
“I’ve never seen you here before,” she said, breaking our momentary silence.
“Yeah, I don’t go out much.”
She tilted her head. “So, what brings you here tonight, bad day?”
I laughed. “Bad would be an understatement.”
She looked genuinely apologetic. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
My mind conjured images of Sarah, but I shook them away. “What brings you and your friends out?”
Caroline let out a long sigh. “I guess I’m just trying to squeeze as much fun as I can into the last of my summer. I’m out for a drink before I go to work.”
“Where do you work? Kind of late to be starting a shift. Do you bartend?”
She shook her head. “No, it’s boring really. Just some stuff I do for my dad. Lots of paperwork, that kind of thing. I also waitress at the Blue Coyote.”
“Yeah? I know where that is. I’ve never been in there though. Good food?”
“Yeah, definitely. You should stop by sometime.”
“Maybe I will.” Our eyes met, and though I’d just met her, I couldn’t help but feel a connection between us. Maybe it was just hormones, but I knew then, I definitely wanted to see her again. I was already thinking about when I could make a stop by the Blue Coyote.
“What about you?” she asked. “The tie says “job,” but the tiny hippo polka-dots don’t exactly scream corporate. Intern?”
I laughed. “Actually, unemployed. I had an interview today that didn’t exactly go great. I got fired a little while back and haven’t had much luck.”
“That’s rough, and it explains the bad day.”
I nodded. If only it explained all of my bad day.
“Do you go to ASU?” She asked.
“Yeah, hopefully, I’ll graduate next spring. I’m on the five-year plan.”
She grinned. “Five isn’t so bad, I wouldn’t sweat it. No one gets out in four anyway."
I smiled. It amazed me how in that short conversation, Caroline had made me smile and laugh more than I had in the past month. Another hour passed as we chatted. The time seemed to disappear as we joked about random things, and discussed our favorite movies. I told her that I had an affinity for horror flicks and she admitted to secretly liking musicals.
The sun hovered just above the horizon now, casting the world around us in a lusty red glow. Caroline stared at it for a moment, then took another sip of her drink.
“It’s getting late, I should get back to my friends. I’ve got to leave for work soon.”
I wished we could sit and talk longer, but figured I should be headed to Dan’s anyway. “Yeah, I’ll walk you back in.”
We both stood and took a few steps toward the door. Then Caroline stopped. She turned back to me.
“I don’t want you to think I’m blowing you off or anything. I really do just have to get going.”
“It’s fine. Maybe I’ll take you up on your offer to stop by the Blue Coyote for lunch one day.”
Again, I was caught in the beauty of her perfect smile. “Maybe we could swap numbers, then we could hang out some time when I, you know, have time.”
“Yeah.” I pulled my cell out, a beat of excitement rushing through me. “And my phone’s dead.”
“Oh, okay, here.” Caroline dug into her purse and pulled out a pen. She took my hand and wrote her number on my palm. “Just, don’t sweat.”
She put her pen back in her purse then looked up. Our eyes met as the door opened. It swung into Caroline, causing her to stumble as a group of people pushed through. She fell against me, and instantly my hands wrapped around her. Our noses bumped. Her soft chest pressed against mine, and her warm breath slid across my skin. The door slammed shut behind her, but she didn’t back away.
A tingling jolt of electricity coursed along my veins, and I did something I wouldn’t normally do.
I leaned in and kissed her.
Her lips were soft. Our kiss was short. Once again, her breath tickled my skin as she pulled back.
Her cheeks flushed red. “I um, I should go. Call me,” she said, walking away.
The door shut behind her and I ran a hand through my hair. A warm rush of feelings flooded through me, but they quickly faded as I remembered Sarah. Guilt trickled into my mind. I laughed. She broke up with me and I feel guilty? But I did. It wasn’t like I’d meant to meet someone that night, and I couldn’t help but feel like Caroline was special somehow. Still, it felt too soon
I looked down at my palm and the black ink of Caroline’s digits written in her curvy handwriting.
“What are you doing, Greg?” I mumbled to myself.
I fisted my palm hiding the number, but couldn’t wipe it away. My fingers loosened. I wouldn’t.
The air felt cooler as I left Dukes and strode down the sidewalk. I headed toward Dan’s, but his apartment was more than a few blocks away. Dan and I were the same age, but unlike me, he graduated a semester early and moved off campus quickly after. We met in the dorms sophomore year. Dan had been a jock basketball player, and I was a quiet kid, but he’d been nice to me and forced me to have a social life while I kept him from flunking English. We weren’t the best of friends, and we didn’t have much in common, but I suppose there wasn’t anyone else I felt closer with.
I didn’t have many friends growing up. I never knew my father and after my mother died when I was eight, I went to live with my great aunt, Mara. Starting college at ASU was supposed to be the beginning of the best part of my life, but it didn’t seem to be working out that way.
After walking a few blocks, I contemplated taking a shortcut to Dan’s. Across the street stood a black metal arch with the title Ironwood Cemetery woven into it. I recognized the name. Dan’s apartment was only a block from it, but I was passing the east gate and Dan lived on the west side. It was closed at this time of night, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to cut through.
Darkness fell around me as any last lingering traces of the sun were swallowed by the horizon. I stumbled through the cemetery gate. The farther I moved from the street lights and beams of passing cars, the higher the hairs on the back of my neck stood. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust, but when they did a well landscaped graveyard, with native plants and a pebbled walkway weaving through the grass, came into view. A short brick wall enclosed the space, and as a breeze brushed by, I couldn’t help thinking this seemed like a peaceful spot.
It was a clear night, heavy with stars. I tried to remember the constellations I’d learned in the astronomy class I’d taken my freshman year at ASU, but few came to mind. As I made my way across the yard, I read the names on the headstones. Sometimes I stopped and looked at the epitaphs.
“Here lies…Aaron Ackers,” I read on one grave marker. His headstone lacked a cross or any other religious symbols. “Aaron Ackers…atheist, all dressed up with nowhere to go.” I chuckled to myself.
I began walking away and nearly tripped. One of my shoes had come untied. Kneeling beside Aaron’s grave, I twisted the laces. After righting myself, my sight traveled across the yard and something new caught my eye.
Long tan legs kicked out from the wall. My eyes followed their movements for a short while before trailing up her body. The moon was near full. Its silver light reflected off her tight white top, and the blooming flowers growing beside her. She looked so innocent sitting there in her short floral skirt, the wind catching the edges of the fabric, making it flutter against her thighs.
She tapped her nails against the wall and sat slouching to one side. Then I saw her face. It was Caroline. What is she doing here? I looked at her bored expression, dark brown eyes rolled up to the sky as she sighed. Why is she in a graveyard, in this part of town, at night? She told me she was on her way to work. She couldn’t work here, could she?
She hopped down from the low brick wall and began walking deeper into the cemetery. I’d just started to follow her when three gangly men approached her. All three were tall or at least appeared so next to Caroline’s petite frame.
“Hey!” I called out, picking up my pace, but they were too far away to hear me.
My eyes were glued to her as I ran. The three men circled her, obviously trying to intimidate her and not a one of them looked like he had good intentions. My heart was already pounding, but I ran faster.
Caroline crossed her arms and said something, the sound of her voice no more than a whisper in the wind. A man laughed. Another lunged at her, and I fell flat on my face. My foot had caught on a root that had unearthed itself from the hallowed ground.
I pushed myself up and saw one of the men stumble back. Caroline’s hands were fisted, and she held them out before her. Had she punched him? Another man grabbed her from behind and had his arm around her neck while the other two neared.
I got back on my feet. “Hey, stop, let her go!”
Two of the men turned to me. I slowed my pace, glad to have their attention, but also suddenly cautious for the same reason. I tried to think of something clever to say to persuade them to leave her alone, but no words came to me.
At that same moment, however, Caroline flipped the man that held her by the neck over her shoulder. He landed hard on his back. The other two turned back to her, and I started running again. I watched as she pulled something from her purse and kneeled beside the fallen man. I wondered what she was doing. She should run. Instead, she took the object in her hand and drove it straight into his chest.
I stopped running.
Every square inch of breath in my lungs heaved out. I’d just watched a young woman murder someone. I’d just watched someone I knew murder someone. The words self-defense raced through my mind, but my thoughts about her were already altered.
What happened next had me questioning not only how sober I was, but how sane. The man she’d stabbed dissolved into dust. He broke apart in a burst of ashes leaving nothing behind but a flattened pair of slacks and a greasy shirt. I realized I should run, but couldn’t move.
The other two men sprinted in my direction. One of them ran straight at me. Over his shoulder, I could see curly, blonde hair and heard the other man scream. Then I focused on the dark-haired man, now only a few graves away. I wondered if dehydration had me hallucinating when he grabbed me by the arm.
“Worthless human,” the man said. He pushed me to the ground. His lips twisted into a snarl, and he had the longest set of canines I’d ever seen.
My eyes squinted shut, anticipating a hit, but it never came. I opened my eyes. His features had frozen. I watched his skin turn ashen. Dark circles grew beneath his eyes, making them look sunken. His dark hair lightened, turning gray, then white, and his skin grew loose and wrinkled. Within moments, the man before me aged half a lifetime, and then he started to decay.
Before I could convince myself that what I’d seen was truly the real life incarnation of all the horror movies I’d watched as a kid, the man before me exploded into dust. His clothes fell to the ground and his remains floated away. Through his drifting ashes she stood, slowly lowering her stake.
“Greg? What are you doing here?”
“W-what the hell was that?” The stutter in my voice told me I was even more shaken than I thought.
Her expression softened and she reached a hand out for me to take. “Nothing you need to worry about.” Effortlessly, she pulled me to my feet.
My legs wobbled a little before I found my balance, along with some composure. I looked her up and down. Her girly top and skirt were deceiving; along with her soft blonde curls and doe eyes, they made her seem innocent, maybe even a little naive and helpless. But, after what I’d seen I could tell she was none of those things. She was strong, much stronger than she looked, and by the way she moved, taking out those three men, I was sure she wasn’t helpless.
“Who are you?”
“You and I both know I didn’t mean your name.” I gripped my hands at my sides to stop their shaking.
She bit her lip and glanced over her shoulder. “I’m nobody.
A nervous laugh fell from my lips. “Well, you’ve got to be somebody."
She shook her head. “I’m just some girl you met at a bar, where you got way too drunk because I think you’ve been hallucinating.”
I did wonder if maybe I was seeing things. I shook my head. “No, don’t do that. What the hell just happened?” I imagined the look of that man’s face before he disintegrated before my eyes.
Caroline quickly changed the subject. “What are you doing out here so late? The cemetery’s closed this time of night."
I laughed again. Now that the threat was gone, I found her avoidance of my questions amusing. “I could ask you the same thing.”
What was she doing alone in a graveyard? I remembered watching her fight those men, how easily she seemed to take them down. The way she killed them—or had she? There were no bodies, yet I was sure I’d seen her stab the one in the chest. Then I thought about the man that’d grabbed me, how long and sharp his teeth were, the way he turned into dust, and then there Caroline stood with a stake in her hand. It was like they were…vampires. Was I really thinking that?
Caroline’s eyes widened in a flash, and she crossed her arms. “Look, you should just go and forget you ever saw me."
She started to walk away, but I followed her. I couldn’t let her off that easy. I’d just witnessed her staking a vampire.
“Fine, I’ll forget. But, if I’m going to forget this, you can answer me one thing. What are you doing here, other than I guess, slaying vampires?” Suddenly, having said it aloud made it so much more real. “God, is that really what I saw?” The last of my fear vanished as curiosity took its place.
She stopped abruptly and shushed me. “You didn’t see anything. And if you’re really going to forget, my answering that isn’t going to help any. You’re safe now, but you should get out of here. It’s not safe to be wandering around this part of town alone at night.”
I nearly burst out laughing at the irony of her statement but was too stunned.
“Wait, should I forget that I ever saw you, or just that I saw you in the graveyard?”
She smiled. “Forget that you saw me here.”
I nodded. So, she was definitely into me.
“I have to go.” She spun away. In the distance, a man’s voice called for her.
I stood immobilized, staring after her. A few moments passed before my limbs came alive again. I couldn’t leave without any answers. I hovered back a while before slowly following after her. I stayed out of sight, hiding behind trees and tombs as she met up with an older man. Crouching beside a headstone, I looked him over while they talked. He appeared to be in his fifties, had salt and pepper hair, a distinctive scar marred his cheek, and he carried a crossbow.
I tried to get closer; wanting to know what they were talking about. So, I kept low to the ground and sneaked toward them, watching with every step. Caroline’s arms were crossed. She cracked her neck and let out a deep sigh as the older man spoke. He seemed to be scolding her, emphatically gesturing with his free hand. Still, I couldn’t make out his words. I crept along the side of a mausoleum and peered around the corner to watch them. Finally, their voices came into focus, and I listened intently.
“Caroline,” the older man said.
“I was doing my job, I know you said to wait, but what was I supposed to do?”
“Without backup you risk—”
“Risk what? Getting killed? Don’t I do that anyway? You always let Michael hunt alone.”
The man pursed his lips in annoyance and color flooded his cheeks.
“Sorry,” Caroline said with more than a hint of guilt in her voice.
The older man looked like he was about to say something more, but just then a noise echoed through the yard catching his attention, and mine. It was a sharp crack, like that of a stick breaking beneath the weight of a boot. The man spun around, raising his crossbow. I crouched lower, frantically looking between the trees. Within seconds another group of people appeared. A dozen or so men and women emerged from the shadows. They had the same predatory sway to their steps as the three men who attacked Caroline earlier.
One of the women in the group laughed a sharp, shrill giggle. Before anyone could say a word, the man fired his crossbow and imbedded an arrow in the chest of one of the intruders. He exploded into a shower of ash, his remains floating away in the breeze.
A fight erupted. Caroline moved like some kind of ninja-ballerina, gracefully slinging punches and landing hard, elegant kicks with her long tan legs. I was entranced, mesmerized by her strength and skill. I was so obsessed watching her that the fight got away from me. It took a moment to realize that the people – or more accurately the creatures – she and her older male companion were fighting had finally had enough.
There were less than half of them left, and they ran in my direction. I sneaked along the edge of the mausoleum, until I reached the other side. There I spotted the heavy metal door that served as the entrance to the tomb. Pulling it open, I quietly slid inside. Their footsteps on the pebbled walkway echoed as they neared. My heart pounded as I pulled the door shut. Those things were dangerous, but unable to suppress all of my curiosity, I left the door open just a crack and peered out into the night.
They ran past; four men, a woman with reddish-blonde hair and another with light brown locks that swayed around her face. They dashed by the mausoleum where I hid, and then one of them stopped. The brunette woman paused, looked over her shoulder, and stared straight at me through the sliver of space between the door and its jam. Her blue eyes locked on mine, and as the moonlight hit them they flashed yellow like the reflective eyes of a dog or a wolf. I jumped back. My breath hitched, and my heart stuttered. She couldn’t have seen me. It was too dark, my peephole too slim, but it felt like she’d just stared straight into my soul. Cautiously I looked through the crack once again. She was gone.
I let out a deep, relieved sigh and stepped back from the door. Turning, I ran a hand through my hair. Tonight’s events felt unreal. I still had trouble believing what I’d seen, as my brain tried to rationalize everything. Maybe I drank more than I thought. Maybe it’d been a trick of the light. Maybe they’d been on drugs. But I didn’t really believe any of the things the logical part of my brain suggested. Those were vampires.
I gasped as acceptance of that thought came to me. This was real. Turning back toward the door, I planned to find Caroline again, but what I saw then froze me.
My heart plummeted a thousand feet and violently splashed into the shallow pool that was the bottom of my belly. The woman—no, the vampire—who’d caught my eyes just a moment ago was inside the crypt with me. Her eyes looked me over and red lips curved into a smirk. For a moment I was speechless. By the time it occurred to me that I should yell, she’d darted forward and in the blink of an eye, her hand coiled around my neck.
A garbled gurgle fell from my lips. I heard Caroline’s voice in the distance. Then I felt the sharp pain of my head being cracked against the cement wall and everything went black.
I woke with stiff limbs pressed against hard cement, and breathed cold, musty air. I felt a throbbing in my head as I sat up and leaned on my knees. Images slowly returned to my consciousness, and as I tried to figure out whether I could trust my memories, I realized I was still in the tomb. Staring at the cement ground I rubbed my temples. I’d just started to convince myself that I’d imagined the worst parts of last night when her voice filled the air.
“You sleep like the dead.”
Startled, I nearly fell over as I twisted around to face her. I pushed myself off the floor to stand, and attempted to appear strong and confident when in reality I was trembling.
“Though, I guess that’s my fault for knocking you unconscious, but I needed you to be quiet until the hunters left.” She sat atop the stone sarcophagus behind me. Her ankles were crossed, and she leaned back on her arms. Dark blue eyes focused on me, sizing me up, making me feel small.
“Who are you?” I asked.
Her full lips, painted in bright red, twisted into a grin. I watched as she stood and circled me, unable to help eyeing her milky white legs. I traced their lines to the hem of her black floral dress, dark red flowers folded around her slim frame, below a short, black leather jacket.
She ignored my question and poked me in the chest. “What are you doing here?” She asked. “Alone in the graveyard that is?”
“Could ask you the same thing,” I said, remembering how I’d said the same words to Caroline. I’d never realized how popular of a hangout the cemetery was until that night.
She smirked. “It wouldn’t make much sense to ask me such a thing…that would be like asking a chicken why she’s in the henhouse. I belong here; you’re the one that’s out of place.” She had a sultry voice, sensuous like a jazz singer. It slinked through the air and sent shivers down my skin.
I remembered that I should be scared of her, and I did feel the fear deep in my gut, but on the surface it was hard to be scared of something so beautiful. I still hadn’t learned that looks can be deceiving.
“What are you?” I asked. Vampire flashed through my mind, but the logical part of my brain still fought to deny it.
“Now that is a better question.” She walked back to the sarcophagus and sat down. “You’re not homeless are you?”
“Are you always this evasive?”
Se shrugged. “Sometimes.”
I glared at her; she didn’t appear to be a threat to me. “No, I’m not homeless…or well, actually I suppose I am, but not like how you’d think.”
“No, I didn’t think so.” She tilted her head to the side and bit her lip. “Just, lost I suppose…yes, you look lost.”
“You’re not human are you?” I knew it, I knew what she was, but I needed her to say it, or I’d never truly believe it.
Again she ignored me. “What’s your name?”
“I’m not going to answer any more of your questions until you answer mine. What are you?”
She stood again and walked to me. Looking me dead in the eye she leaned in until the leather of her jacket brushed against my chest. I flinched but didn’t back away.
In a whispered voice she said, “Silly lost boy, I’m the one that found you.”
Her breath brushed against my skin, feeling like a winter breeze. Then the panic set in. Panic I should have been feeling from the moment I looked upon her lovely face. She reached forward and grabbed my arms, her grip tightened and her nails dug into my flesh. She held me with strength that made her feel like she was made of steel, and she moved fast.
The next thing I knew, I was screaming and her ruby lips were at my throat. I’d never felt pain so intense before. It started as a sharp stabbing then grew to a fiery burn that flooded my entire body. An unpleasant numbness followed, starting in my toes and fingertips, spreading inward.
I couldn’t move. I tried to twist out of her grip, but it was useless. I could feel the wetness of tears sliding down my face. Worse than the lightheadedness and sharp, shooting pain, however, was the fear. Knowing I was going to die, and that I couldn’t stop it; that was the worst part.
Throughout the agony I fought, yelling and pleading for my life, but the torture never ceased. She covered my mouth. I tasted blood – her blood. Her wrist muffled my screams as she forced her blood down my throat. She continued until one by one, every part of me shut down. It felt like switches were being flipped in my brain, turning off each system in my body. I felt each one go out, knowing my consciousness, my soul, my whatever I was would be next. And then, just like that, I blinked out of existence.
If you enjoyed reading the first chapter of Unearthed after Sunset, please help this book get published by sharing this blog post and contributing to its Kickstarter campaign. With your help Unearthed after Sunset will be available in paperback and e-book form this fall.
If you enjoyed reading the first chapter of Unearthed after Sunset, please help this book get published by sharing this blog post and contributing to its Kickstarter campaign. With your help Unearthed after Sunset will be available in paperback and e-book form this fall.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
I am so excited to announce that Unearthed after Sunset's Kickstarter campaign is now live!
Kickstarter is a crowdfuning platform that many creative-types, including indie authors, use to help raise money to fund their projects. Backers pledge money to help bring a project to life, and in return receive gifts like signed postcards, swag packs, and free books.
Unearthed after Sunset is an Urban Fantasy vampire novel, that I am currently trying to raise $1,000 to publish. I have set up a Kickstarter campaign that will run until August 25th to help me reach this goal.
About the Book: When Greg Erickson is killed by sultry and seductive vampire Lila, he wakes up cold and alone in a wooden box. After clawing his way out he finds himself thrust into a vampire turf war, unsure of exactly what he’s fighting for. Greg discovers that it’s not easy to be human one day and hunting humans the next, and while his new vampire cohorts try to get him to accept his newfound existence there’s one girl from his human life he’s unable to forget.
Caroline Christensen lived a normal life once. Then her brother was killed by vampires and her family legacy as a vampire hunter was handed down to her. When she meets Greg out at the bar one night they both feel a connection. Then Greg discovers Caroline’s secret and she worries he’ll never talk to her again, but soon she finds out that he has a very different reason for not calling – he’s dead.
Now Greg has become the thing Caroline is supposed to hunt, but can she bring herself to kill him? Greg, however, isn’t Caroline’s only concern. There’s something going on with the vampires. They’re fighting over something and she’s determined to find out what it is.
Find out more about Unearthed after Sunset
Kickstarter page you can pledge money, any amount from $1 to the entire $1,000 I need, or more, and in return I am giving away prizes such as signed postcards and books.
Please, help me publish this book. Even if you can't give much, every penny counts, and if you can't give anything you can still help by sharing this blog post on Facebook and Twitter.
Friday, July 10, 2015
However, for as much good as Amazon has done good for indies, every few months I hear a new complaint about their business practices. They pissed off Hatchett. Some say KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited limit authors. They’ve changed their algorithms dozens of times, making it harder for Indie Authors to be seen and make a profit. And, I could deal with all of that. To me those changes were just the nature of the beast. They were the turbulent seas of the publishing world I attempted to navigate in a tiny inner tube. Recently however, I heard that Amazon has started deleting reviews, and I can no longer sit by quietly paddling in my float. I have signal flares in my hands and I’m waving them around, screaming that this is wrong.
Here’s the deal, Amazon is now automatically removing reviews that meet certain criteria. In other words they are removed by a bot, not an actual human being capable of looking at the review and seeing if it appears genuine.
The most common reason I’ve heard for reviews being removed is because Amazon believes the reviewer knows the author personally. First, dear Amazon, how do you know whether or not I have a personal relationship with a reviewer? Either you are guessing, or you have seriously invaded my privacy and neither case grants you permission to make decisions based upon this judgement. Second, why should those who know me personally not be allowed to comment on my work?
If you are afraid a reviewer's comments may be biased, why not implement some kind of notice to flag that review, like you do with “Amazon’s verified purchases,” instead of deleting it? Wouldn’t that do more to inform customers about the product instead of keeping information from them?
And thirdly, how close does someone have to be to me in order for my relationship with them to be considered “personal”? Must I have met them in person? Does sending me an e-mail telling me how they loved or hated my work count? Isn’t this rather subjective, and again, I refer back to my first point, how do you know?
I’ve heard Amazon is deleting reviews of authors who have reviewed each other’s work, and that possibly they are looking at people who have friended authors on Goodreads. Now, I want to point out this will help remove the possibility of “Review Swapping” where authors trade books and give each other 5 Star reviews – which is wrong. But, it will also remove honest reviews from honest fans, and punish authors for reaching out to their fans. Furthermore, honesty is not being rewarded. Even if a reviewer fully discloses their relationship to the author in their review, it can get removed, because once again, this process is done by bots not people.
I am an indie author. I do not have millions of fans. I’m lucky if I have a dozen who truly love my work. If I have one person in the entire world who ranks me among their favorite authors, I feel blessed. Because of this I respond to every e-mail a fan sends me. I friend every fan who reaches out to me on Goodreads. I respond to every tweet that mentions my name or work. To some extent, I do know many of my fans “personally”. But they are my fans because of my work, and I truly believe every review I have from my fans is an honest one. And yes, if I have a fan who is an author sometimes I check out their work as well. But, as an Indie Author, I hold myself to a high level of integrity and will only write and ask for honest reviews.
Deleting reviews will only further inspire deception by those who are abusing reviews, and it will hurt the people who are using them correctly. Review swaps will continue, authors will simply set up separate Amazon accounts. But those of us who review correctly, who take the time to inform readers about books, and do so honestly, we will be punished. This will hurt me both as an Indie Author and as a consumer, and for that I am greatly disappointed in Amazon.
So I ask Amazon, why are you doing this? If it’s to protect your customers then you’ve failed. The cheaters will continue to cheat the system, while the rest of us suffer and your lovely customers will be denied reviews allowing them to make educated decisions about their purchases. Are you trying to become the gatekeepers of the indie publishing world by deciding which reviews are worthy, and in turn choosing which books receive attention over others? Or, maybe you’ve just realized you’ve made a monster you can no longer control. The indie world has grown. We’re bigger and stronger now. We are the Frankenstein monster of the publishing world. You helped give us life and now you’re chasing us with pitchforks. But I must ask, did Frankenstein not deserve to live?
If you have a problem with this like I do, please sign this petition and leave a comment below!
Monday, June 29, 2015
I ate up every page of this and it became my favorite of the series. I liked seeing Juliette’s friends slowly change their mind about Warren. There were some interesting moments between him and them. And we get to see new sides to all of their personalities, which I loved.
I did wish by the third book that we would have known more about where Juliette and the other’s powers had come from. There’s a lot of background that I’d been waiting to find out and it’s really never explained. But, this book really does make all the decisions that Juliette made in the first two books make sense. You can see the full spectrum of her character development in this book and who she is finally all comes together.
While this book didn't feel like it hit the mark plot wise, Juliette's character development was so prefect and her growing relationship with Warren so captivating I loved it all the same. If what you liked most about the first two books were the characters and relationships, this will not disappoint.
Read my Review of Shatter Me
Read my Review of Unravel Me (Shatter Me #2)