Saturday, July 13, 2013

Queen of the Damned (short story)

Here is a strange little story that came to me in the middle of the night. What do you think?


She stayed sane by keeping track of the experiments. They took her to a different observation room for #627. There were never windows, but this room didn’t have the glaring neon lights either. The men who watched her through the two-way mirror must have worn night vision goggles. The steel security door closed behind her with a clang as she drew in moldy air. She stepped forward and sank up to her knees into something soft and wet.

It came at once, slithering up, gripping hard, tasting, licking. “Feed me,” it whispered.

Her heart thrilled. After endless months, after endless torture, they’d made a mistake. This one was sentient.

“Patience, friend,” she whispered back. “I’m taking you to a feast.”

The muscles gripping her body spasmed. “A great feast? With blood and bones?”

“With blood and bones,” she promised.


“Behind the walls.”

“The walls can’t be broken,” it hissed. “We are hungry.”

We? she thought even as she felt a new ripple in the swamp.

“Can you get me to the wall?” she asked through laughter.

The grip tightened for a second before loosening. She didn’t have to hang on. She just had to relax her body, let them wind around her, float her on top of the muck.

The foul smell gagged her, her clothes and hair soaked, even her head bobbing under once, but only for a second. Then she hit something hard, and she scrambled to straighten.

Was it the right wall? She searched the flat expanse for a seam, for the different texture of the glass. She had to move forward, fall, be held up, before she found it.

She could feel them on the other side. They could certainly see her. She laid her hands on the glass and smiled at them.

The guards who’d brought her worn protective clothing. No rips in the rubber this time. They knew better. But there were things they didn’t know. And when the tall one shoved her into the room, she’d stumbled close enough, had raised her head for long enough for him to breathe on her.

A quick breath, not much, but all she needed was a starter spark. Drawing what she needed from him would have been easier through touch, but she could do it from a breath. She’d swallowed it, kept it, had it still inside her.

She focused on that little ball of air in her lungs until it glowed. And then the rest of her ignited. The glass simply melted under her hands, flowed into the cold swamp with a hiss of steam.

Men screamed on the other side, scrambling for the door, but hunger made her new friends fast. The scent of blood filled the air first, then the sound of bones cracking, before the emergency sirens came on and drowned out all sound.

Better not go forward. Something might mistake her for being part of the feast. She stuck to the perimeter of the room and found a stubby ledge, just enough for a toehold, and she shuffled back to the door.

She lay her hands on the lock, didn’t have enough to melt it, but warped the metal enough so that with all of her weight pulling, she could yank it open. Her ears rang from the sirens that were louder out here. Red emergency lights flashed down the length of the stainless steel corridor, blinding her.

Around the corner boots slapped on the floor, guards running. She fled the other way, found a utility shaft and pressed both hands hard against the grate. Frustration mixed with desperation inside her when she couldn’t work up the heat.

“Good feast,” it said behind her, making her nearly jump out of her skin.

It was twice as long as she, one long thick muscle the width of her thigh, ash-gray with four short but powerful legs, talons longer than her fingers, small black eyes that didn’t blink and a double row of razor teeth. She had no idea whether it was natural or man-made.

Half a dozen more came behind it, some darting forward on the walls, one on the ceiling. Blood dripped from their jaws. She rattled the grate.

“Will you feed us tomorrow?” it asked.

She thought of her sisters locked away in the dungeons to be experimented on, to be driven crazy, to be killed. It’d take an army, if she had an army, a year of siege to free them. If she saved herself, then at least one of her kind would survive. That was the primary directive. Yet now that her chance was at hand, she found she couldn’t run. “I will.”

“Blood and bones?”

“Blood and bones.”

It twisted, raised its powerful tail and smashed the grate.

She dropped down into darkness and it came on top of her, followed by the others, all wiggling and shoving.

“What are you?” it asked as it slithered by her in the narrow shaft.

“Nothing.” A queen without an army. The queen of the damned.

“Not nothing. You lead, we follow. There will be feasts.”

“Yes.” She reached bottom and she picked a shaft at random, hurried forward as they slithered and scurried behind her, her new royal guard. Better to be their leader than their dinner, she thought, and pushed forward into the darkness.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tortured Heroes

Some writer friends and I have been chatting about tortured heroes lately, and since my last hero was the most tortured man I've written yet, I thought I'd blog about the subject.

What is it about heroes with a tortured past that draws us to them? They're snarly, lone warriors who steal our hearts anyway. Who doesn't like a Beauty and the Beast story? It's been the theme of dozens of movies and TV shows.

But is there such a thing as a hero too far gone? What if our protagonist crosses all the lines? Can a hero be past redemption?

Jack Sullivan, the hero of DEATHSCAPE, comes pretty close. He's an obsessed detective who's been following a serial killer across the country for most of his career. His only goal is to finish the man who kidnapped and killed his sister fifteen years ago. It's the darkest suspense I've written to date, and the one hero I wasn't always sure would make it. He's been so focused on the killer, he is becoming nearly as ruthless as the man he is hunting.

Maybe the smart thing to do would have been to write a heroine who is very strong mentally and has a super nurturing streak that could lift Jack out of his darkness. Ashley Price, however, is far from that ideal. She's recovering from an accident where a child has died. She's broken and struggles with major anxiety issues. Yet somehow, these two broken people ended up being perfect for each other.

Who is your favorite tortured hero in fiction? I'll be raffling off free books, as well as a $25 Amazon gift certificate among those who comment.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Covers That Sell?

The amount of agonizing an author spends on a cover cannot be underestimated. For DEATHSCAPE, I started with the four numbered options, then ended up with the one that has the all blue background.

Thank God for my wonderful FaceBook friends (and my fabulous cover designer) who steered me in the right direction!!!! Fine, I admit, I'm clueless about what makes a selling cover.

Romance covers went through so many trends over the years. I remember the sexy embrace covers where everyone's clothes were constantly falling off. Then came the cartoon covers with shoes when chick lit hit. The word of wisdom was, if you had some stilettos on your cover, the book would sell. Then we had the head shot only, people staring off the cover. Followed by the object only covers that came with no people at all. And now the trend seems to be the 'people with head cut off' covers.

I've been told never to have a green book cover as readers will not pick it off the shelves. I've been told never to have cats on the cover (as some readers have cat phobias) or children (as small kids are seen as an interruption to romance).

Is it a wonder that authors can become neurotic about their cover art? I even had dreams about the despair of trying to pick the right font. (Why, oh why, couldn't it have been a dream about picking cover models??)

So some friends and I just put up a web site to ask readers about covers. Clue us in! Pretty please???

All you have to do is vote for which cover you like. To show our gratitude, we're raffling off a $25 amazon PLUS $25 B&N gift cert on Valentine's Day.

Thank you for your help!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Who's in the mood for a quickie?


Some friends and I are participating in Lunch Time Reads with dozens of wonderful quick reads that are perfect for a lunch break or to start after the dishes are done in the evening. Wonderful, fully developed stories from your favorite authors, and you can finish them without having to stay up until 4 a.m. I instantly LOVED the idea when I was first approached with it. I'm always excited when something new comes along regarding books and reading. I might be a little obsessed with the subject. LOL

I love the participating authors, and the best news is, the stories are just 99c each.

What a great chance to try new authors. I've been sampling last week, and loving it so far. I thought I'd share this newly discovered fun site. If you check out LUNCH TIME READS, please let me know what you think. I have one 100 pg novella up, Guardian Agent. Should I put up more? I'm always trying to figure out what readers are looking for.

Hope your New Year is fabulous so far!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 brought some good and some bad, but we survived it, and that's better than the alternative. Any big plans for 2013?

I always write a list of New Year resolutions. Some years my success rate is pretty abysmal, at other times I do fairly well. It's a good time to remind myself to go back to the basics and to look at the things that are truly important. It's too easy to get caught up in the rush of work and have my whole focus on sales numbers and amazon rankings. Reaffirming my true priorities from time to time helps me not to go loopy over things I can't control.

I spent way to much time in 2012 worrying about work and giving up rest and family time to try to push my new release DEATHSCAPE onto the bestseller lists. I didn't make it to the NY Time's list, but the book did hit the #1 spot on the Amazon romantic suspense list and stayed there for a full week. 20 years from now, will this still be as important as I thought at the time? Or will I wish I did other things with my time?

I know I spent waaaay too much time in 2012 worrying about politics and following our elected loafers (oops, representatives). So with one last brief prayer that the lot of them get taken by aliens, I'm letting that go.


How about you? Any plans?

Wishing you all the very best!