Book 7 Update – #joissorry

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Just as Shia LaBeouf was sorry, so am I. No, not for plagiarism or whatever he was supposed to be apologizing for. I’m sorry for the delay in the seventh book, Clash of Legends.  I promised that it would be written, edited, formatted and published by next week only… it’s not going to be. I could write a long post detailing everything, but suffice to say there were some unplanned complications and my schedule fell behind. Three months behind.

Clash of Legends will be released in March, if I have to hand out copies myself. BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t find out some of what happens next RIGHT NOW. I know the agony of waiting to find out the end of the cliff hanger, and so I am releasing special preview copies of the first three chapters of Clash of Legends now – three months early – in the hope it will help tide you over. And I promise THIS doesn’t end with a cliffhanger.

If you’d like to get the pre-released chapters, please sign up for the mailing list so I can let you know when the pre-orders start for the finished product. (Pre-orders will be at Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Amazon! Yay!)

EDIT: The form does not seem to be working. I have contacted Mail Chimp. In the meantime, please sign up at http://eepurl.com/943g5

I should add that you have to CONFIRM the subscription by clicking the link they send you in your email and then you’ll get an automated message that has a link to the file download in it.

If you have any problems please let me know, and again, I’m so sorry for the delay.

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Heir of Nostalgia by Steve Muse

This is an excerpt from Heir of Nostalgia by Steve Muse, available on Amazon.

Blurb:
Age Level: 14 and up | Grade Level: 9 and up

I’m here to tell you, the world never started out this way. It became this way through a mistake, through my pride. I created the Hell we all have to live through. Because of me, the decisions I made, the world has been earmarked for suffering. I tore the veil between life and death. I caused the great shift, the new awakening. Because of me, the world will never be the same.”

Theo Valerian’s world is one of privilege, of always having enough, of having everything go his way. Up until the moment he meets Phillip, a thirteen year old runaway.

Phillip is homeless, hungry, and heartbroken. He’s been living on the streets of New York ever since losing his family. Since that time, the only thing that keeps him going is thoughts of vengeance. He’s looking for the man he feels is responsible for his father’s disappearance, the same man that destroyed his family, a man with silver singing spurs that can walk between worlds. Will a Riot Grrl called Maggie, who claims she can talk to angels, be able to help Phillip? Will a murder of ravens masquerading as teenage thugs defeat them? Or are there stronger forces at work, dark forces? Forces bent on destroying everything in Phillips life?

No one ever said growing up would be easy- then again no one ever said it would be this hard either.

Excerpt:

I finally located Phillip, he was with a man- but before I go there, there is something you must know, the corners of the roof, the corners of the doorways, anything at all that resembled a clear ninety degree angle of any sort; they all began to bleed darkness like a severed artery bleeds blood.

And that darkness the corners bled began to pool.

“Dad?” Not a cry, not an observation, but a plea from my son.

“Don’t worry,” I said, trying to reassure him, “everything is going to be alright.”  But I was lying; everything wasn’t going to be alright, because everything felt so incredibly wrong, starting with the man lounging beside the entrance of the stairwell leading back down into Union Station, the one with his hand on the back of Phillip’s neck, the one with the smirk on his face, raven hair hanging in strings alongside a face so pale, so long, as to appear cartoonish and sinister, the one holding a small silver dagger against my son’s throat.

In the fading light of day, “I’m glad you could join us.”  A voice so harsh, so painful, that simply hearing it is enough to cause headaches and nosebleeds.  Gratingly low, it sounded like what dragging your fist through a box of broken glass would feel like, only in your head.

“What do you want,” I asked.

Over the man’s left shoulder, hanging low upon the horizon, Domiciles sword, the all too familiar comet, like a blood smear drawn across the sky.

The man appeared to be dressed in the rags, the haphazard clothing of a street dweller.  In other words, nothing all that unique or familiar about him, in fact, he could have been anybody, but at the same time it was obvious he was more than that.  From the look on Phillip’s face, the boys stance, his drawn shoulders and hunched back, the man’s grip obviously caused him a great deal of pain.

Before the man answered, he seemed to breathe in deeply, as if ‘tasting’ the very air, like a bloodhound seeking to catch the scent of his recently acquired prey, “Nothing now,” he said.

The way he said this only confirmed what I already knew, that we were in for some serious trouble.  It would take more than simply staring the man down to get rid of him.  If he could be gotten rid of at all.

“Is there anything I can do?  Can we talk about this?”  I hated doing it, bargaining with both our lives, but I’d do anything at the moment.  Try as I might, I couldn’t shake the quivering of fear from my voice.

Phillip immediately picked up on my fear, because of this, any glimmer of hope in his eyes and on his face, quickly vanished, as tears began to leak from his eyes.  ‘Sorry,’ he silently mouthed.

‘It’s alright,’ I returned.

“There is nothing to discuss.  The only reason you two are still breathing is because, it has been such a long time since I’ve been here.  My curiosity has bought you both a momentary stay of execution, that’s all.”

It was obvious, unlike the majority of bad guys portrayed in popular novels, and/or made for the TV or big screen, our ‘bad guy’ was neither stupid nor obnoxiously helpless, simply put, if dark and gruesome had anything to say about it, we were going to die.

The only real question left to answer, was when.


About Steve Muse:

After meeting Frank Herbert, author of the acclaimed Dune Series, I decided the life of writing was for me. That was about 30 years ago, I’ve been writing ever since.

Heir of Nostalgia is my first published novel, and thanks to the encouragement of my loving wife Janet, is the first in a series chronicling the trials and tribulations of young man in search of his family, his country as well as his place in the world.

Here’s to the land of wonder, an air of Nostalgia, and childhood memories. May we never grow too old to dream… Got a question, comment or review, I’d love to hear from you. Simply drop me a line at: heirofnostalgia@gmail.com.

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For more information  please visit :


Warrior by Violette Dubrinsky

This is an excerpt from Warrior by Violette Dubrinsky, a Fantasy-Historical novel available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and All Romance Books.

Excerpt:

Jaisyn tugged her arm free and pushed past him, grabbing the brass handle and pushing inward. No fire had been lit in that hearth in the days since her father’s death. Just thinking about that made her want to cry. Her father was dead, the kingdom was no longer theirs and a large, evil wretch of a king now occupied Wilhelm’s chambers. What had her father been thinking, giving Mathilda to someone like him? Of all his daughters, he betrothed the one who would run screaming from this giant of a man?

As she’d sat across from Vulcan, Jaisyn had critically assessed him. She knew that many would find him handsome, with his thick head of silky black hair that cascaded past his shoulders, and stern yet sensual face, but he was in no way approachable. She had no idea how to reach him. She had to do something to get her kingdom back, but she didn’t know what. The people of Lytheria didn’t live for war, and this man did.

So lost was she in her thoughts that she didn’t recognize Vulcan was pushing the door in until she heard an audible snap of the latch. She spun immediately, recognizing that the door was closed and his tall body was against it.

His eyes looked dangerous and that scowl still loomed on his lips. What was he doing?

“Remove your veil,” he said in that pompous voice of his. Was he serious? She was a princess, a daughter of Lyria!

“King Vulcan,” she began stiffly, her hands clasped tightly at her midriff. “You are in my castle because I wish it. Do not think to disrespect me in such a manner.”

***

Vulcan could have laughed at how she phrased that statement. He was not here because she wished it; he was in his castle because he had conquered it. Twice. He took a step forward and with her fighter’s instincts, Jaisyn took one backwards.

“Take off the veil, Princess.”

***

Did he suspect it was she who’d tried to kill him on that horrid night? She’d tried her best to put that night from her mind but she’d still had dreams—nightmares—about it.

“My liege, you are being disrespectful. I am a princess of Lytheria—”

Two quick strides brought him directly before her and in the next instant, he was plucking the crown from her head, pulling the veil off and tossing it aside.

Jaisyn let out a startled cry and spun away from him, moving over to the fireless hearth. Vulcan’s voice came from somewhere behind her.

“Turn and face me, Princess. Or are you afraid your face will bring back memories of a night not so far gone?”

He did suspect her. How? It didn’t matter, but he did. Which probably meant that he wanted revenge. And he had promised to continue where he’d left off if he ever saw her again. Her eyes darted to the broadsword above the hearth.

Her father’s sword rested there as a reminder of the great king who had once occupied the place. She sent up a quick prayer to Lyria, and one to her deceased father, praying she would not soon be joining him soon.

Quick as a fox, she reached for the heavy weapon, unsheathed it, spread her legs wide, and spun to face him.

***

Vulcan was accustomed to the unusual. He prided himself on not being shocked easily, but this…girl—not just any girl, but a princess—wielding a sword? It was almost comical, with her flowing dress and brandishing a man’s sword. The he remembered that this same woman had almost killed him as he slept. There was nothing funny about that.

He lifted his eyes to her face. Her skin was lovingly kissed with the sun’s rays—a dark bronze. Her mass of golden curls was pinned intricately atop her head, and her eyes, cat’s eyes—almost yellow in their vivid brightness—flashed angrily at him.

This was his princess. This had to be his princess, or else she wouldn’t be gripping a warrior’s sword, looking like she was ready to decapitate him.

“Put the sword down, lady,” Vulcan said as calmly as he, known for his bouts of temper, could manage.

Jaisyn lifted it higher as her soft lips curled into a snarl. “So that you can rip off more than my veil? I do not think so! Lytherians are not as barbaric as your people, my liege!”

“Put the sword down before I am tempted to take you over my knee!” Vulcan bit the words out angrily, and took a menacing step forward.

She moved to the left, and the grace with which she did so made Vulcan recognize something: she was at ease with the sword. If it wasn’t completely unheard of, he might even say that she was a swordswoman.

He began to tread more carefully. More than likely she wasn’t skilled at using the weapon, but he was taking no chances. Stupidity did not a High King make.

“I am giving you to the count of three. If that sword is still in your hand after that, you cannot hold me accountable for what I do,” Vulcan threatened.

She held onto the sword. Vulcan had had enough. He took a few steps forward, intent on twisting her arm, as he’d done a few nights ago, and pulling the weapon away from her. He didn’t even get close. As soon as he was in range, she flicked her wrist so the flat of the broadsword faced him, and swung. A resounding crash reverberated in the room as the sword caught his breastplate, pushing him back a step and making his ears ring.

“I will not warn you again! Do not come any closer!” she hissed out, her hands aching slightly.

Vulcan recovered from his state of shock as anger took him by full force. Steel screeched as he pulled his broadsword from its sheath and advanced on her.

About Violette Dubrinsky:

Violette Dubrinsky is the author of the Dark God, Warrior, and upcoming Moonlight (in which she introduces you to her werewolves) sagas. She enjoys writing romance stories with stubborn, at times, clashing characters, who eventually learn the error of their ways and sometimes grow to love each other. She is the youngest of three, and the only girl. As such, she was spoiled rotten (in her elaborate dreams), and always wished for a playmate closer to her age.  At a young age, she began creating stories to fill in for the lack of creativity on the part of her two older jock brothers. Violette resides in New York and Boston, and although she has no pets, is intent on getting a Malamute or Husky (since it is the closest she will ever be to a wolf and she is quite obsessed with werewolves) at some point in her life.

She can be reached at: violettedubrinsky.com and violettedubrinsky.wordpress.com

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For more information on this and her other titles, please visit :

Interview with Jorick

Hello! My name is Katelina, and welcome to Character Interviews. I spend a lot of time in the Amaranthine series quizzing vampires on what they’re doing, where they’re going and why, so Jo thought I would be the perfect interviewer.

The first victim – erm – interviewee is none other than my very own Jorick! If you’ve never met him I can sum him up for you in a few words: Dark, sexy and crabby. Oh, and he’s one of those vampires I mentioned earlier. You can find him in Both Shades of Gray and Legacy of Ghosts, as well as the upcoming Ties of Blood.

Katelina: So, hello Jorick! Welcome to the first Character Interview!

Jorick: Hello.

Jorick

K: Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself?

J: I believe you already know everything important.

K: I doubt it. Besides, the people reading this don’t. *jabs Jorick in the ribs*.

J: *sighs* fine. I’m Jorick.

K: Well that was informative. Okay, moving right along, would you say the book series you’re in should be classified as romance or thriller?

J: I think you modern people are far too concerned with classification. It has romance. It has vampires ripping one another to shreds. It simply is. Accept it, and move on.

K: That sounded surly. What’s the deal? Do you object to being the hero in a romance? If I didn’t know better, I’d think you objected to romance in general. *pauses* But of course, you’re the one who went to the trouble of finding me, not to mention all those old mementoes you saved of you-know-who-

J: *glares* What’s your point?

K: Only that you must be a romantic. But, you have a pretty violent streak, too, don’t you? I mean, you’re always fighting someone. There was Claudius, and then there was Kateesha and now Oren wants to fight The Guild (the vampire government).

J: If you haven’t noticed, there’s a common denominator behind all of those, and it starts with an “O”. Though, I’ve already told both of you I’m not fighting The Guild with him. If he would use his brain he wouldn’t, either.

K: You said that last time, too, remember? You’re always making absolute statements and then retracting them.

J: No, I don’t. Occasionally I change my mind given the circumstances. For example, I had every intention of ignoring Kateesha until her pathetic goons hurt you. After that I owed her.

K *giggles* That’s kind of romantic, you know. And since we’re on the subject, would you say I’m your girlfriend?

J: *clears throat* I’d say you’re ridiculously obsessed with labels. (Katelina narrows her eyes). For crying out loud, Katelina! I’ve rescued you, held you while you cried, risked life and limb, bled, and killed for you, and I’m even going to go meet your mother! What more can a woman want?

K: All right. I’ll take that. My mother’s really not that bad, you know. Where would you rather go?

J: Go? Nowhere! Why in heaven’s name must we always be “going” somewhere? Can’t we just stay home and have some peace and quiet once in a while? Is it really that boring?

K: You don’t even own a TV. You really need to catch up with the rest of the world. Sometimes, you’re like hanging around my great-grandfather and that’s kind of creepy.

J: *sarcastic* Thanks a lot. You know, sometimes you’re like spending time with a spoiled child, but I don’t point it out to you. If you think trying to adjust to having someone around the house after a hundred plus years isn’t difficult, the you’re much mistaken. Especially someone who is as fond of noise as you are.

K: Are you saying I’m noisy?

J: is that an official interview question? The answer is yes, by the way. *mumbles* like your great-grandfather…

K: Fine, I’m sorry. I retract that statement. But, you are, erm, crotchety. Why is that?

J: I’m not crotchety! I just have no patience for stupidity. It was always annoying, but after a few hundred years, I find it tedious and infuriating. You’d think people would learn but, no, they’re exactly the same now as they were four hundred years ago! They still do the same stupid things, make the same stupid mistakes and spend all their time either trying to get more or else trying to escape the fact they don’t have enough!

K: When will the third book, Ties of Blood, be out, and do you think it’s better than the previous ones?

by me

J: Hopefully this summer. I believe our… lovely… author is waiting on editing at the moment, or at least that’s her excuse. As for being better, who can say? There’s less violence than Shades of Gray, and there’s less romance than Legacy of Ghosts. I’d venture to say that there is more world building in this one, especially since readers will get to see The Guild’s Citadel and meet some characters that have only been mentioned before, like Malick, as well as some new characters . As far as what it’s about, some… beautiful, but insane little human decides we should go visit her mother. I am dragged against my will and, just as I predict, it is a disaster that ends at the police station. If that isn’t bad enough, there’s a red headed idiot that shows up and won’t go away! That clown is like a bad penny! Everywhere I look, there he is!

K: Yeah, yeah, Verchiel. Move on.

J: And then we go see Malick. *shrugs*. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

K: You didn’t mention Oren and his plans for the stupid war, or about that Traven guy who shows up. I know he’s up to something. And what about Senya? She’s still as evil as it gets! And-

J: Why don’t you just post an outline? Wouldn’t that be faster? You’re supposed to make it sound mysterious.

K: Like you did a good job of that! “And then we go see Malick”! What is that? Something like, “And then we are summoned by Malick, the most powerful vampire alive-“

J: he’s not, though. He’s just the most powerful one in the Americas.

K: Fine! “And then we are summoned by the most powerful vampire on the continent and taken to The Guild’s Citadel against our wills. Will we ever discover what the ancient master truly wants, or will his insidious scheme remain veiled in shadows until the next book?”

J: A little melodramatic, but it’s better than anything our author has bothered to come up with. I don’t think she’s even started to write up a blurb.

K: And with that we are out of time! Thanks so much for being my first unwilling victim, Jorick. As I mentioned before, you can find both Jorick and myself in Shades of Gray and Legacy of Ghosts, available as an ebook from Amazon, Smashworda, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and many other places, or as a paperback through Amazon.com.

  

If you’re an author and would like your character(s) to be interviewed by me, then check out this very cool page that has all the details:

https://joleenenaylor.wordpress.com/character-interviews/

And now, as a special treat, here is a (tiny) extract from Ties of Blood chosen by Jo’s brother:

(working cover)


“No!” Jorick shouted. “If it weren’t for you and your wife and your sister! We’re here because of your war with Claudius! Your sister started that war, if you’ll remember, because she couldn’t keep her hands to herself! And when the Executioners came, they killed your wife because of the Laws she broke! She trapped your son into eternal childhood and the youngest as a baby for eternity, Oren! A baby! How many hundreds of years would you want to live, trapped like that? It was Jesslynn and Torina’s self centeredness that’s landed us all here! I’ve stood by you because no one else would, but by God, Oren, I’ve had it with your inability to see your own faults! You’re so quick to blame someone else when the person you should be angry at is the one who looks back at you in the mirror! You allowed Torina to be out of control! You allowed Jesslynn to turn the children! You let the war drag on and on, and when Torina derailed your second war to fight Kateesha, because of a feud over yet another of her bedmates, you went along! It was your choices, and your choices alone that have landed you here and I suggest you use the time until we’re released to come to terms with that!”

Katelina stared at the wooden door, her eyes wide and her mouth open in shock. As if her hand acted of its own accord, she opened the door wide enough to see the pair. Jorick stood over the couch, his dark eyes flashing fire, his hands on his hips. Oren was still seated, his face white, his jaw clenched and his fists shaking at his sides. His earlier anger was nothing compared to what she saw on his face now.

Taking Over Reena’s Blog!

Okay, I haven;t really taken it over, but Reena Jacobs, author of the intriguing Shadow Cat, has been kind enough to feature and excerpt from Legacy of Ghosts on her blog.

pooling blood

By me

“It was a nightmare.

Blood; there was blood everywhere -“

To read the rest check out her blog and be sure to leave a comment! 

Also, look for an interview with yours truly on the fifth of this month!

Six Sentence Sunday

it’s time again for Six Sentence Sunday, the awesome blog event where writer’s share six sentences from something they’ve written.

This week I am taking a break from Ties of Blood to share a snippet from Adam, a short story available for Free on smashwords

He’d heard something, but he didn’t know what, only that it had been something; something that shouldn’t be there. The tiny hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and a sudden, unexplained chill danced down his spine.

He walked towards the end of the alley where he instinctively felt the noise had come from. A row of weather stained garbage cans shone dully under a flickering light. The effect was eerie, but there was nothing there.

And then the light went out.

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to check out the other great participants!  Also of note, if you missed the announcement, sign ups will now start Tuesday instead of Wednesday because of the number of participants! That means lots of good reading!

Six Sentence Sunday

It’s time again for six sentence sunday, the fun blog group where participants post six sentences from something they’ve written. It’s a great way to find new writers, so be sure to check out the other participants!

I spent the last week catching up and got my website updated and some miscellaneous stuff done, though haven’t gotten to the Claudius story, so I thought what the heck, let’s do one more from Ties of Blood.

(working cover)

This is a continuation from last week. Jorick and Katelina are laying on the bed in their “room” at The Guild’s citadel.

“It won’t be for long.”

“I know,” she agreed, though truthfully she didn’t.  She gazed into the deep, dark pools of his eyes and felt herself sinking into their depths. As she had many times before, she let herself drown in them, like going under in a warm summer pond.

He captured her lips in a kiss, and she responded eagerly. Her lips parted for him and he swept his hot tongue into her mouth, tangling with hers and vying for supremacy.

Thanks for stopping by and remember to check out the other participants!

Have a great Sunday!

Bid Not For My Love by Darcee Tana

Today’s excerpt comes from the Historical Romance Bid Not, for My Love by Darcee Tana

When Baron Raul of Kinsborough won a woman at a sale, he never knew, he would enter his castle with her as his bride.When Emma of Rosemund, fled from home, she never expected, she had commenced her journey to love. The first had wanted to become a Templar Knight, the second was on her way to the Abbey. But destiny had other ideas

“What happened at yer fathers?” Peter queried.

“My father wishes to see me wed. Nothing has changed much where that is concerned” Raul answered, once again bereft of emotion.

“I heard, there was disagreement” Peter remarked

“How is it, the news has reached before I did?” Raul grinned.

“Ye left yer squire behind when ye left in a rage. Yer father delivered him, just moments ago. We were about to set off with the others, when the guard saw ye both riding in. We worried a mishap had occurred to cause yer delay” Rowan filled in.

“Aye! My father, it is a wonder he did not get the bride delivered as well” Raul scoffed

“I must be getting old, Raul” Peter smiled “Ye bride is with yer father, yet yer betrothed is here with ye? What brings about this strange situation?”

“We will talk inside. For now, make sure all the guards know, that the lady is not to leave the castle. She is to be kept in sight, always. If she leaves, is taken or if anything happens to her, it will be at the cost of their lives” Raul was stern in his command. He then made his way towards the great hall.

“My Lord!” Sir Rowan called after him

“What is it, Rowan?” Raul inquired

“Does ‘our lady’ know that she is yer betrothed or have ye forgotten to inform her of it?” The question was serious, but the grin on Sir Rowan’s face could not be held back.

Raul was silent a moment and then he said “She will”

“And does she know to who she is to be betrothed to?” Sir Rowan asked

“She will” he repeated and with that reply he marched inside.

*********

You can get Bid Not for my Love on Smashwords

Six Sentence Sunday

It’s time again for Six Sentence Sunday. Every week participants post six sentences from something they are writing – or have written. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to meet new writers!

This week’s are from my WIP Ties of Blood – again.

(working cover)

The idea filled Katelina with terror. She didn’t want to be a vampire, let alone one under Malick’s infamous tutelage. Jorick had been clear enough at the horrors that entailed.  She struggled uselessly and bellowed, “I’m not going anywhere!”

“Sorry,” he repeated. “But we are.”

 

No, not Jorick talking to her, but someone else.

Be sure to check out the other great participants, and thanks so much for stopping by!

Vampire Morsels – Benjamin

As I prepped my notes for work on Ties of Blood, I noticed that I have a lot of side characters who, for one reason or another, don’t get any “me” time.  so, I’ve decided to remedy that in a collection of short stories called…

Benjamin

(You can find Benjamin in Shades of Gray. This particular story takes place in 1972)

The Roockwood Inn was a roadside motel. The town around it had once been vibrant, but was looking forward to its demise. Somehow, the occupants hadn’t caught on yet, and still thought they had a corner on the tourist market. Even Benjamin seemed to think so.

The motel office was newly retiled, but no one had bothered to repaint. Behind the counter stood a doorway, closed off by a tatty blanket that served as a curtain. The smell of whisky and stale cigar smoke oozed out around the edges and left the office ceiling stained a permanent brown.

Through that door was a room as disheveled as its occupant. Though Benjamin called it his “living space” it was really a jumbled, windowless room with a dusty bathroom off to one side. There actually were windows, but they were hidden behind layers of cardboard, newspaper and masking tape. He was planning to renovate as soon as he got the money saved up, and when he did, the windows were going. Mei, the Chinese girl who looked after the place in the daytime and served as a part time housekeeping, couldn’t understand why he wanted rid of them. She argued more than once to save them, but he only shook his head and said the sun was bad for his complexion.

Benjamin sat in his usual spot. The ratty arm chair smelled like it should have been left on the curb, and looked like maybe it had been. The TV was as close to his lap as he could get it without having to hold it, so that he had one foot propped up on the table on either side of it. He watched the screen with an absorption born of years of television viewing and didn’t even seem to hear the first knock.

“Goodnight, John Boy. Goodnight, Grandpa. Goodnight-“

Benjamin clicked the knob and the television went off with a hiss and fizz of static. He cocked his head to one side and listened. The knocking was repeated.

“Who the hell is that?” he demanded, but the stale air didn’t answer him. There was only one way to find out. Using obscenities like booster fuel, he heaved his bulk from the chair and shuffled towards the side door. He had to stop and kick boxes of empty whisky bottles out of the way. No one used this door anymore, or at least no one was supposed to.

They knocked again and he grumbled a loud, “yeah, yeah,” as he unbolted the locks and jerked the door open.  The outside light was burnt out, but he could still see the two figures, their expressions carefully neutral.  The one in the front had short, cropped hair and dark skin, while his companion was a slender, willowy male with a reddish auburn mane. Benjamin surveyed them both and then demanded, “Eh? What do you want? Can’t you read that sign?”

“What sign?” asked the dark one.

“The one that says ‘use office door’!” Benjamin barked.  “You want a room, you go around!”

“We’re not here for a room,” the visitor purred. Then, he smiled, flashing a pair of silvery fangs. Benjamin drew back a step, and the visitor took advantage of it and was quickly inside, his companion on his heels. “You know what we came for.”

Benjamin met the dark vampire’s eyes. They stared at one another; a contest of wills, and then Benjamin declared, “Look here, poker night’s Thursdays, Des.”

There was a moments silence and then Des rolled his eyes. “It is Thursday, old man. Check your calendar.”

They stepped smoothly around their baffled host and headed for the couch.  Des tossed a week’s worth of mail out of the way and took its place. Benjamin trailed after them, ticking off the days of the week in his head. Thursday? It’s not Thursday – wait. The Waltons was on. Damn. The son of a bitch is right.

The bell over the office door tinkled, and with a few healthy curses Benjamin diverted himself in that direction. It wasn’t customers though, just Herrick and a bald guy that Benjamin didn’t recognize. Two strangers in one night. Ah well, their money spends the same.

He led them through the blanketed door and pointed in the general direction of the couch and some folding chairs. They seated themselves while he set up the card table and gathered up the cards, an overflowing ashtray, half a bottle of whisky and a beat up metal bucket that smelled like alcohol. Finally, he tugged his tatty chair into place and dropped into it.  “We ready to play, or is there anyone else comin’ I should know about?”

“Nah, this is it.” Des shuffled the cards with a little too much expertise. “By the way, this is Marcellus. I said last week that I was bringing him.”

Herrick nodded, but Benjamin just shrugged. “Eh. If you say so.” His eyes landed on Herrick’s companion; a bald vampire who had a tattoo down one side of his face. “And who’s this?”

“Micah,” Herrick explained, as if the name meant something. “He’s what you’d call a new recruit.”

Benjamin lit a cigar and blew put a cloud of thick smoke. “That’s just what we need.”

“You’re not so far past new recruit yourself there, old man.” Des commented.

Benjamin snorted an answer and took a healthy swig of whisky. He swooshed the amber liquid around his mouth thoughtfully. He’d been one of them for damn near two years, now. That was enough time to lose the new recruit status as far as he was concerned.

Des dealt the cards and Benjamin spat the whisky noisily into the bucket.  Marcellus cringed visibly, and Des shrugged. “I warned you he has some pretty bad habits.”

“Just because I can’t drink don’t mean I can’t still taste it,” Benjamin grumbled. “You got a problem with it…” he left the sentence unfinished, but the meaning was clear and it went something like “get the hell out, then.”

Micah fanned his cards casually. “I wondered how you planned on drinkin’ that. I learned the hard way that doesn’t work out.”

“Got sick, did you?” That was a mistake they said most newbie vampires made. Hell, he’d made it himself. You could get the stuff down, but you couldn’t keep it down. It was the same as when a kid swallowed something out of the cleaning cabinet.  Your body knew it wasn’t good for you and sent it back where it came from.

“Fuck, yeah.” Micah offered a toothy grin. “That was one helluva night, though. A couple of ladies, a bottle of scotch and a jar of honey.”

Herrick surveyed his cards, his brow wrinkled. “Honey? What was the honey for?”

Micah’s grin widened. “If I gotta tell ya’, then it takes the fun out of it.”

“For the girls,” Benjamin explained. “But sounds full a shit to me. This loser couldn’t get two chicks if he waved money in front of their faces.”

Micah cocked an eyebrow. “How would you know? Bet the last time you even saw a chick was in 1965.”

Benjamin ignored him and went on. “I get losers like him in here all the time. They show up on the make with a couple of stoned out girls and act all macho. Nine times outta ten they pass out in a puddle of their own puke in the john.”

Micah opened his mouth to argue, but Marcellus held up his hand. “Is an evening of negativity necessary? Let’s just play cards.”

“Negativity?” Micah snorted. “You sound like one of those dali-lama-guru Buddha heads. We here to play poker or talk about the meaning of the universe?”

“We could do both,” Herrick suggested. “As long as someone else deals.” He glared at Des who only snickered. Knowing him, he’d dealt the cards on that way on purpose.

But, Benjamin’s hand wasn’t half bad. He traded in two cards and quipped, “There’s no meaning to the universe. It just is.”

“I disagree.” Marcellus fished a wad of money out of his pocket and counted out the opening bet. Benjamin tried to mentally calculate how much he had on him, but he wasn’t fast enough before the money was stuffed back into his pocket. “There must be meaning, or else there wouldn’t be organization.”

“You see any organization around here?” Micah waved his arm to indicate the room. “It’s just like us. There’s no order, or reason, it’s just chaos and you pretend there’s a plan behind it to keep yourself sane.”

“Us?” Des asked, as he counted out his own money under the edge of the table.

“Yeah, us. You know, vampires.” Micah rolled his eyes. “If nothing else, we’re proof that it’s all just random shit.”

“I disagree,” Marcellus said again. “Our very existence proves that there is order beyond the seeming insanity of the cosmos. You can’t imagine that we, as a species, just appeared by accident? We were crafted for a particular purpose.”

Micah folded his cards, the game momentarily forgotten. “What, like the next evolutionary step? You don’t buy into all that monkey crap?”

Des glanced up from his cash. “How can you argue against both evolution and intelligent design?”

“Because I ain’t from no ape. You can be if you want to-”

Marcellus cut him off. “No, we’re not the next evolutionary step. Vampires have been in existence since the dawn of creation. As old as man, if not older. And that is the proof of the design, and the proof against the chaotic evolution theory. If it was all an accident that hurtled forth from chimpanzees to modern man, then why has the vampire not changed, too?”

“Maybe they have?” Herrick suggested. “It isn’t like there’s anyone from that time left.”

“And how do we know that? Because you haven’t seen one?” Marcellus eyes shone with some kind of victory and he folded his cards as though settling in for a long discussion. “When was the last time you saw the sun? But you still know it exists.”

Benjamin didn’t bother to comment or interrupt. He just took an impatient swig of whisky, swished it around his mouth, and spit it loudly into the bucket. It failed to get their attention.

“That’s different. I’ve seen the sun,” Herrick argued.

“When? How do you know you really saw it and don’t just think that you did?”

“And how do you know that any of us are real?” Des added, amused. “Maybe we’re all just figments of a hamster’s imagination.  Enough existential stuff, huh? Whose bet is it?”

“I bet I can prove who’s real,” Micah said with a broad grin. “Gimme your arm and we’ll see if you feel this.” He snapped his teeth together in imitation of a savage bite.

Marcellus smiled tolerantly, but made no move to return to the game. “Pain is only an illusion and proves nothing.”

“It can prove that your god damn foot’s been cut off!”

“No. First there is the pain and then you look and see that your foot is cut off, so the pain proves nothing, only draws your attention.  However, there’s no evidence that what you see is real beyond your own experience, or that your reality and mine are the same experience at all.”

“Memories are like that,” Herrick agreed slowly, drawn in despite himself. “One person may remember that it rained, while another says ‘no, no, the sun shone’.”

“Exactly.” Marcellus tapped his cards on the table.  “Each has a separate reality that is just as true to them as the opposite is to the other.  If reality is not to be trusted to the eyes or the senses, then that leaves us with only the emotion.”

“Ah, but emotion is nothing but an illusion, too,” Herrick argued, getting into the swing of things. “It is true that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.  However, your actions don’t necessarily correspond to their feelings. If I pick up this bucket.” He seized the bucket and Benjamin made a low, warning noise in his throat. “-and I toss it out the door, you may feel relieved to be get a break from the alcohol regurgitation, however, Benjamin will be mad enough to break my nose. To him, my actions are evil, but to you they were merciful. Meanwhile, the reality is that I neither planned to make him angry, or spare you, I simply acted.”

Benjamin jerked the bucket away and snarled. “Yeah, yeah. And there’s no ‘I’ in team. Can we get on with this, or should I kick the whole bunch of you out?”

“Your friend doesn’t like a thought provoking discussion?” Marcellus asked Des, half joking.

“No,” Benjamin answered for him. “I don’t.  I like to watch TV, which is what I was doing before I got interrupted by a bunch of idiots who wanted to play poker. Only, we haven’t done much playing yet! So either get with it or I’m gonna go watch Ironside.”

The conversation died down after that.  The cards were dealt, the bets were placed and by two am they were all sick of each other’s company. Micah and Herrick made their excuses first, followed shortly by Marcellus. Alone, they counted their money, and then Benjamin moved the furniture back while Des lounged on the couch.

“I assume you didn’t like Marcellus?”

Benjamin kicked an argumentative folding chair and shrugged. “Eh. I don’t care either way. He loses pretty good. So long as he shuts up and plays his cards.”

Des nodded and they lapsed into a thoughtful silence. Finally, he broke it. “You don’t suppose there really is some intelligent design behind everything? That there’s some kind of fate that made us all what we are?”

Benjamin rolled his eyes and plopped into his armchair, now restored to its rightful home in front of the television. “How should I know? It was a trucker woman with eyes like coal and nails as red as blood that made me what I am.” He glanced to the darker skinned vampire. “And I can’t say what made you the way you are, now, but I doubt it was God.”

“No,” Des agreed. “It was my mother.” He fell silent again, and Benjamin turned the television on. The stations were off for the night, so there was nothing but static. They sat there, lit eerily by the light from the television, both lost in their own worlds until Des snapped himself back to the present. “It’s been fun. See you next Thursday, old man.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Benjamin waved him off, and the dark vampire disappeared out the door. Benjamin stared at the television screen and watched the static bounce around, like ant races, some said. It never looked like ants to him. More like a blizzard. It was the same kinda blizzard that had brought that trucker gal into the motel. With her red nails and her black eyes. She’d been wearing skin tight jeans and been so full of pent up energy that she looked like she’d burst right out of ‘em. That had been one helluva night.

“And I didn’t even need any honey,” Benjamin commented aloud. He took a swig of whisky and spat it into the bucket. “Amateur.”

  • Tales of the Executioners

    Short stories from the world of Amaranthine; a universe of blood and darkness where vampires don't sparkle and night is eternal. Each is about a member of the Executioners squad; the special vampire "police" force. Members both past and present share stories of assignments, origins, and more.

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    Joleene Naylor

    An independent author, freelance artist, and photographer for fun who loves anime, music, and writing. Check out my vampire series Amaranthine at http://JoleeneNaylor.com or drop me a line at Joleene@JoleeneNaylor.com

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