Pizza on Easter

I tend to dread the holidays. Jeez O’Pete’s, yesterday just proved why. After staying up half the night baking (because I love my family) and socializing (because I just can’t help myself) I finally fell into bed. I was so excited to claim my three hours of sleep before it was time to get up to start Easter dinner, that it took me forever to finally drop off. Eight came way too early, and I literally rolled out of bed. I stood there for a few minutes, swaying on my feet, hair on end, my eyes still closed, but determined to find the brain capacity to shuffle out of the bedroom and start the day.

I bumped my shin.

It hurt, but I managed to keep plodding. The usual morning routine went off without a hitch (or tripping over Boo, which is unusual.) By that point, I was starting to think it might actually turn out to be a good day.

There are reasons people tell you not to count your chickens before they hatch.

The neck was still frozen inside the turkey. After rummaging around inside the thing for what felt like hours and gagging, I realized I have one of the few turkeys in the world where they forgot to include the giblets. I’m okay with that. I never use them and just holding the bag makes me feel squeamish. I got the bird in the pan, got it covered and started cooking.

Life was good.

The house was starting to smell wonderful. My stomach was growling in anticipation of food, and the valiant effort not to raid any of the pygmy human’s baskets in my perpetual hunger for chocolate. The skin was starting to crisp on the turkey. I burnt my hand checking on it. Nothing new. I was still determined to stick with the positive vibes and keep my head above water. I peeled a mountain of potatoes and diced them, soaked them in my seasoning blend and started to boil.

Okay. I got this!

Or so I think. I go to drain the drippings a short while later and pause. The liquid isn’t clear. It’s thick now, almost like gravy already, dark, and it smells like damp cardboard. I sniff the turkey. It smells the same, but stronger—worse.

Enter panic mode.

I cut off a small piece, and sure enough, the whole thing tasted just like the smell. At this point, I’m numb and in a state of shock. After the week I had, this really couldn’t be happening, could it? Surely, fate wouldn’t be so cruel as to give me a spoiled turkey after my computer had locked up, Windows had crashed, and I had to delete every single freaking file I had. I’d already spent the entire week scrambling to reformat and save data, including two books…endless, tedious hours, respacing entire documents because my computer was brand new and I hadn’t had the mindset to back anything up, because I foolishly thought I was safe. Right?

Wrong. It could be that cruel and it was.

I stood there, shaking, and eventually breaking into tears. I slumped over the stove and cried my poor little heart out. It was Easter. Everything in my tiny little town was closed, including the Chinese place. Everything but one lone pizza shop.

So…we had pizza, homemade mashed potatoes, corn, bread, and bakery—for Easter. Yep. True story. But hey, at least the cake and stuff turned out good.

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Sinister Kisses Release ~ AKA New Year, New Me

At the end of 2012, I realized I needed a change. I was stuck, stalled, my creative mind and spirit dulled. It was time for me to recharge. I think all writers go through this from time to time. As people, we are ever growing, ever changing, and ever learning. Or at least we should be. Rather than sit back on my laurels and whine and bemoan my situation, I took charge–and surrendered all in the same breath. I followed my passion, and from that passion, a new novel was born. I hate to say it, but this is the most fun and  I’ve had writing in years:

Sinister Kisses

After a chance encounter in the woods leaves her shaken and reeling, the last thing Taylor McAvay wanted to do was accept an invitation to dinner. Then again, after seeing what Sebastian Baas was capable of, she felt she had little choice. The guy did just save her life, and the feel of his partner’s assault rifle pressed against her cheek still lingered in her mind.

What she discovers surprises her. Beneath the armor and fatigues, is a smart, attentive, and sophisticated man. Unable to resist, Taylor finds herself drawn in by the Special Agent’s charm. Everything about Sebastian, from his imposing presence to his hypnotic eyes, pulls her under his spell. When a drive by shooting leaves her apartment riddled with bullets, she falls under his command as well—not to mention the shadow of a lethal, underground organization known as SKALS.

Her lover has a dark and dangerous side he tries to keep hidden, but when a series of events sends their lives spiraling out of control, she realizes there is much more to him than meets the eye. His moods can be dizzying—his temper, terrifying. And when she fails to meet his expectations, the discipline she faces is a startling contrast to the pleasure he gives. Whether she wants to leave or not doesn’t matter. Taylor soon learns, when it comes to Sebastian and SKALS, there is no escape.

**DISCLAIMER** This is a dark erotic thriller with a heavy emphasis on plot. It contains elements of Dominance and discipline with dubious consent, psychological conditioning, and mental manipulation. There’s also gunfire, violence, and things that blow up. If any of this offends you, this is not the book for you.

And now a brief Q & A:

 

What the heck? I thought you were a horror or fantasy writer.

If you’ve ever read any of my bios, all I can say is you were warned. *laughs* I love dabbling in a wide variety of genres. I’ve written everything from angsty romance, erotica, horror, to drama. One of my biggest fears about publishing was being boxed in to one area for the rest of my life. While I love horror, sometimes, I need a break. I need to switch gears and recharge. While still dark in many ways, Sinister Kisses explores a different kind of darkness. Plus, it was hella fun to write!

Why not use a different name for the new series?

Simply put, I didn’t want to. I work hard on every single thing I put out there. It’s still the same blood, sweat, and tears going into the book. It’s still the same spirit. It’s still the same brand. (It’s dark. It’s angsty. It’s still about conflicted characters trying to find their way in this world and survive) In short, it’s still me. I’m just exploring and sharing a different aspect of myself. If that alienates anybody, I’m sorry. I truly am. I love you all, but that’s just the way it is. I also like to give my readers credit. They’re smart people. I KNOW they are capable of reading a description and deciding if a particular book would interest them or not.

Why isn’t Sinister Kisses through your previous publisher?

Good question. I have some very valid reasons, but it is not something I will discuss.

What does SKALS stand for?

It’s a standing joke between Mara McBain and I that it does not stand for Spanking Kink And Lots of Sex, though it could! It actually stands for Special Kill And Leverage Squad—a concept that’s revealed more thoroughly as the book progresses. It’s also explored in more depth in the second book, which will be released sometime in May.

And for those of you who have read my work or stumbled across me on the web and are asking “What the heck is wrong with you?” That is a long story and an even longer list of things–but feel free to kick back, grab a drink, and enjoy the ride. 😉

And that, my friends, sums it all up. I hope that you are all doing well and that 2013 is bringing you one step closer to achieving your dreams. Keep banging it out. Keep following that unique inner beat.

~Best wishes always~

Adri

In Search of Monsters: Q & A with Hunter Shea

Hey, Hunter. *grins* I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for stopping by. You’ve had a super busy schedule lately between releasing your novella Swamp Monster Massacre, and dealing with a nasty blow from Mother Nature. I’m so glad you and your family made it through alive and well! You’ll have to excuse me if I get a little giddy. It’s not often someone lets me out of my cage, and I’m a really big fan of your work. Now let’s get rocking!

Writers tend to have a unique outlook on things. Not too many people go through life, have something horrible happen, and shrug it off with a smile. A lot of us do that, because we know those events can be used as fodder. How often do you find yourself building off of real-life experiences (either good or bad) and implementing them in your work?

First, thank you for allowing me to loiter on your blog for a bit. Super Storm Sandy was kind enough to spare my house, but the devastation in NY has been apocalyptic. Parts of the city and suburbs look like Dresden. It’s going to take a long while before we fully come to grips with the scope of this storm.

My real life experiences find their way into my books and stories all of the time. I’ve been fortunate, or unfortunate, to have had several paranormal experiences in my life.

Those experiences and my childhood fascination with ghosts, monsters and aliens helped forge an entire career. I’m particularly fascinated with ghosts not only because of my experiences, but also because that is absolute proof of life, or a form of life, after death. I’d like to think there’s more to us than a few years puttering around this planet. I guess in a way I’m sticking to the ‘write what you know’ adage, and damn if it isn’t fun.

Fun for you and readers alike! What is your favorite book you’ve written so far and why?

Forest of Shadows will always be a personal favorite because it was the book I poured my soul into and the one that got me a career in horror writing. I’ll always be grateful of the blood, sweat and tears that went into it. I have to say, Swamp Monster Massacre was my favorite to write. I decided to have as much fun writing it as I hope people have had reading it. I got to explore my inner Tarantino and Nimoy and let their spirits dance on the page.

I read you got the idea for Swamp Monster Massacre after catching a glimpse of Sasquatch on TV. Of course, you wanted to make the monster your own and ran with it, putting a unique spin on things. I was really impressed with Evil Eternal. Not only was it fantastic horror, but it was fun. There were some great moments of levity and humor. Is this something you try to incorporate often?

Thank you! I’ve always wanted to write a Bigfoot book, and when I sat down to do my spin, I wanted it to be off-the-wall and as original as I could make it. Mobster, tourists, thugs and skunk apes. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Evil Eternal started as such a dark story that I felt I needed to lighten things up with characters like Shane and Cain. Hey, that rhymes! Even in real life, I tend to lean toward the comedic in everything around me, even the dark, awful stuff. Evil Eternal is so over-the-top and dramatic, it needed light touches here and there to ground it a bit. Notice I said ‘a bit’, because that book is wicked strange.

When it comes to horror, you want to bring your readers on a rolling wave of emotion. A little humor brings you down, leaves you vulnerable, then smash!, you ratchet the fear and suspense in an overwhelming swell of churning emotions that makes someone turn the next page with one eye squinted shut.

I’d just like to say, I found Michael’s character kind of hot. 😉

And here I created Shane for the ladies! I can see Father Michael’s appeal, if you like tall, deathly pale, hairless and quietly dangerous. At least now, I know your type. 😉

LOL! Tall, pale, and dangerous is awesome! Okay, back to being serious. If you were stuck in the Everglades with a bunch of skunk-apes from Swamp Monster Massacre, what five items would you want to have with you and why?

Great question. Here goes:
1.   A video camera so I could get proof that they exist and walk among us.
2.  A bazooka with unlimited rounds. I’m not taking any chances. When I shoot, I don’t want any of those murdering beasts to get up and come after me.
3.   Lots of coroner bags to collect the pieces and send them to various labs for analysis.
4.   A cooler loaded with ice and a case of Sapporo beer.
5.   A bundle of Excalibur cigars. This and the beer are to celebrate my capturing evidence of skunk apes and surviving their murderous wrath.

Those things seem insanely smart. I’ve always loved the intelligent foe. They add so much more intensity to a story. Speaking of, there’s some pretty wicked content in Swamp Monster. These beasts have no morals! Did your publisher flinch at any of the more taboo content?

My editor, Don D’Auria, grew up just like me, drawn to the same spooky movies and stories, so he was on board 100% with everything. I like to think that the creatures had some morality, in the fact that they were a family unit and cared for one another in their own special way. I wanted to show that revenge can cross species lines and how very much like us they are in that regard. Now, the way they went about things was a tad harsh, but hell, they worked with what they had.

That they do! So many writers struggle with fear and revulsion when they reach certain aspects of their story. I think a lot of readers endure this experience, too, and it’s such a huge part of the draw of horror. One part is screaming “You can’t do that!” The other is chuckling and roaring: “Don’t hold back!” Do you ever find it difficult to push certain envelopes when writing, or is it always just balls to the wall?

Maybe because I’m so jaded, I don’t worry about writing things that will offend people. Proof of that is in Evil Eternal where I murdered a baby 3 pages in. As a horror writer, you have to bust through the ‘you can’t do that!’ barrier and make your readers squeamish from time to time. Back in the 1930’s, just seeing Frankenstein’s face made people faint. Today, you have to bring a hell of a lot more to the table to even capture people’s attention. It’s a challenge for writers.

Excellent points. What can your audience expect from you in the future? Any exciting news or upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?

I have a short story collection that I hope will be out around the holidays next month. My cover artist has shown me some great stuff, so I can’t wait to get that out. The sequel to Forest of Shadows, Sinister Entity, will be out in April, 2013 with Samhain Publishing.

There’s a short story called The Graveyard Speaks that will come out just before it to bridge the gap between the two books. I’m doing research right now for my next novel and have a ghost novella completed and ready to go to my publisher. There’s no rest for the weary, but I won’t complain. This has been everything I’d hoped for and more.

You can read more about Hunter and his quest for the dark and strange at his
website : www.huntershea.com
Twitter : @huntershea1
Facebook : www.facebook.com/huntershea1
YouTube : Monster Men 13 channel

 

Philomena

Philomena

A lone cry echoed through the corridors and jarred Claire from the pleasant escape of her dreams.  As she fought the pull of slumber, confusion set in, followed by a mounting sense of dread.  Her heartbeat hitched and Claire felt the security of her false world slip away bit by bit, like tiny grains of sand sifting through an hourglass.  Before her eyes even opened, she wanted to run, to hide—to disappear forever.  The bloodcurdling wail increased in intensity, bringing one terrifying word to mind.

Philomena.

The mere thought made her blood run cold.  Fear trickled down her spine and guilt rose in the pit of her stomach.  Claire knew, without opening her eyes that he was watching, waiting, gauging her every reaction.  His unmistakable scent infiltrated the room.  It carried on the spring breeze wafting through the window.  Still, she chanced a peek into the darkness, only to wince and draw deeper into the comforter.  Two eyes stared back at her.  Wide, accusing, and so pale they appear to glow; they watched, unblinking from the shadows.

The sweet, earthy aroma of sandalwood and smoke grew stronger as Aldric approached the bed.  Her ears prickled, filling with the soft rustle of his clothing.  He closed the distance between them in long, graceful strides, his feet soundless on the wooden planks.  Slender, cool fingers brushed her cheek in a deceptively tender gesture.  There was no place to go, no method of escape, and she stared up at him, conveying a silent plea with her eyes, hoping he would understand.

“Claire, darling?”

His voice was velvet and seductive, a compelling baritone.  It could lead angels from heaven and lure them straight into the depths of hell.  After all, she had followed, unaware of what fate held in store—unaware or uncaring.  She couldn’t resist Aldric’s tragic beauty any more than an art collector could resist an original Monet.  Now, it was too late to make amends.

His generous lips curved into a smile, as if he sensed her thoughts.  She watched as an ebony lock slipped out of place to rest against the pale satin of his cheek.  Aldric’s eyes mesmerized, but the mock concern glimmering in those shamrock pools didn’t fool her.  Not anymore.

Claire averted her gaze to watch the sheer curtains dance in the breeze.  They moved beneath invisible fingers, plied by a grace and beauty she no longer understood.  The scent of warm lilac teased her senses and, for a moment, she let it wrap her in comfort.  It chased away the damp odor of mildew lurking beneath the sandalwood and smoke, the smell of rot that encased the walls of her prison.

Outside, the clouds shifted and a thin sliver of light spilled through.  The pale glint of the moon eased the dark shadows, and for one blissful second, all was forgotten until another keening wail sliced the silence.

Hungry and demanding, the sound set her nerves on edge.  Claire swallowed against the acidic bile lodged in her throat.  Her breath came in shallow snorts; her nostrils flared.

Philomena.

A sigh of strained patience escaped her lover.  Aldric took her hand in his, holding it against his breast.  She thought she could feel a rhythmic thud beneath her palm, but words skittered through her brain like roaches scuttling for shadow: deception, trickery . . . until she realized it was only the violent hammer of her own heart that she felt.

Claire’s lips pressed together in a grim line to keep the screams from coming.  Madness swelled within, and she prayed that the burgeoning weight would become too much.  That like rain, the terror would break free and fall to the earth in driving sheets.  Perhaps it would cleanse her and wash away all that she had done.

Aldric drew her against him and cut her thoughts short.  His fingers speared through the damp tangles of her hair making her tense on instinct.  Without warning, his arms wrapped around her and squeezed like a snake constricting its prey.  Claire whimpered, terrified he’d somehow found out about her secret—her dirty, shameful secret.

She hated them.

Philomena’s cries grew louder still.  Wetness trickled down Claire’s bosom. It seeped through the thin nightie in blossoming stains, stains that threatened to purge her soul.  Hot crimson flooded her cheeks, bringing a hint of warmth not found in the air.  It wasn’t enough to chase away the cold that settled into her whenever those bloodcurdling wails pierced her ears.  The fires of Hell itself couldn’t banish those chills.

Aldric tipped her chin, forcing her gaze to meet his.  Claire trembled beneath his touch, fear and revulsion wreaking havoc on her frazzled system.  Her breath caught with a hitch and she prayed he couldn’t see through her thin disguise.  His eyes gave nothing away, but something sinister rose in their depths.

A scream bubbled against Claire’s lips.

“The baby needs you.”

For a moment, confusion obscured her thoughts.  Baby?  What baby?  Then, realization sank in, dropping like weighted lead through her heart.

Philomena.

With rubbery legs, Claire stood.  She forced a smile for Aldric’s benefit though every fiber in her being tingled with nervous tension, screaming at her to run; run as far, and as fast, as she could.  Each step made her feel as though she were falling forever downward into an eternal abyss.  The urge to flee tore through her in ragged bolts, errant surges of electricity and impulse.  Yet, she couldn’t break free.  Her body, weak and pathetic, betrayed her.  It answered the call of the soulless and damned.

She inched into the hall, flipping the switch on her way past.  Soft, welcoming light flooded the corridor, but the shadows still remained.  They always remained.  Claire shuffled forward, one foot at a time.  The movements stiff and robotic, disassociated from her own body, as if she were sleepwalking or moving in a trance.  She wished that was the case: that she could somehow wake from the nightmare . . . that Aldric and Philomena would somehow disappear and let her gather the few shards of sanity that remained.

Why had she not listened to that screaming voice of conscience?  She had known since day one that something was wrong . . . terribly wrong.  Aldric had been too good to be true.  Yet, like a fool, she kept coming back for more.  She had believed his lies, his seductive coos, and promises of love.  One icy touch had sent all sense of reason into permanent hibernation.  His pale, penetrating eyes had hypnotized, immobilized, and now she was trapped in a nightmare from which she would never awake.

Claire’s eyes drifted shut when another heinous wail lanced the silence.  Her blood turned frigid as if glaciers crept through her veins.  She shook, the aftershock rippling through her body in an uneasy tide. Beneath the demanding scream, something else rose.  A whimper echoed in her ears, the soft, pleading noise similar to a frightened animal.  It took Claire a moment to realize the sound emanated from her own throat.  Ashamed at her cowardice, and terrified Aldric would speed her progress along, she crept forward.

The antique doorknob rattled in her grasp.  She hated the old, rundown house almost as much as she hated its occupants.  The brass chilled her palm, sending another frigid stab of fear straight through her heart.  Her nightgown clung to her flesh, saturated with a mixture of milk and stinking sweat as Philomena’s shrieks grew more savage, and with the last bit of latent courage that remained, Claire pushed the door open.

An arctic blast assailed her, driving the breath from her body in frosty plumes.  Low bursts of fog rose above the crib in the center of the room, growing with each lofty scream.  Claire stared in horror through the thin, wooden rails, watching Philomena’s pale fists pump in the air.  Her heart seized in her chest as that monstrous head turned at the intrusion and the baby fixated her with an accusing glare.  Silvery blue eyes, so light they were almost clear, shone with anger and hatred.

It took every ounce of strength she had not to turn tail and run.

Claire edged forward, one hand held out in uncertainty, as if she could somehow placate the beast.  Her heart jack hammered against her chest and cinched with pain.  Tears stung her eyes, but she was certain they looked nothing like the watery graves her daughter boasted.  A muffled sob vibrated in the hollow of her throat, and Claire fought the familiar mixture of dread and horror that consumed her whenever she dared too close to the room.  She ached to offer a reassuring coo, to pick the child up and nurse her with all the love and care of a normal mother, but she couldn’t.  She hated the caterwauling beast confined in its crib.  The mere thought of touching it made Claire’s skin crawl as if infected by maggots.

Fighting a wave of rising gorge, she pressed forward.  Philomena stared up at her, her colorless eyes brimming with resentment.  Gaunt, pinched features twisted with fury as she screamed.  Claire’s hands twitched at her sides.  The urge to suffocate the monster surged through her veins.  Somehow, she had to rid the world of the miscreation sprawled before her, undo the damage she had done.  There had to be a way . . .

Those eyes, those soulless eyes, bore into her with fevered intensity.  She felt a disturbing sense of calm settle into her core, and Claire knew, as she lifted the creature to her bosom, that Philomena had worked her demon’s spell once again.  It was no more than a glimmer of a thought, and as soon as the notion came, it passed.  She shuffled toward the old rocking chair in the corner, no longer mindful of the room’s unsettling chill or the revulsion wrenching her soul.  All that mattered was feeding the precious bundle in her arms.

Loud suckling noises filled the air.  Tiny lips quested against Claire’s exposed flesh, smacking with zeal until they found what they sought.  She let her eyes drift shut, though her body stiffened with pain.  The baby feasted, and she remained motionless, staring at the wall as it attempted to quench its endless hunger.  The pain grew more intense and a low, rumbling growl snapped Claire to full attention.  Cursing, she wrenched Philomena away, her own brow drawing in furious reprimand.

“Ouch!  You hideous little—”

Philomena let loose a scream that slaughtered the words in Claire’s throat.  It was unearthly and raw, a forceful protest wrought with loathing.  She watched in wide-eyed horror as the screams seemed to multiply, growing to a cacophony of voices rising from a single being, none of them human, but all of them emitting from a mouth smeared with blood.

Two rows of tiny, razor-sharp teeth jutted in ragged intervals from the baby’s gums, none of them wider than a sewing needle.  Claire blinked in disbelief—once, twice, but the gruesome image still remained.  Philomena flailed, her crimson-smeared mouth opening wider with each furious scream.  Without thinking, Claire flung the swaddled infant to the floor and sprang to her feet.  Hands splayed in front of her, she staggered away from the abomination; a series of high-pitched mewls squeaked past her throat as she inched toward the door.  She could feel the insidious mixture of blood and milk trickling down her skin.  Each sinister kiss against her flesh made Claire shudder.  She had to get out.

Philomena lifted her head, and even from where Claire stood, she could see the thick blue-grey veins throbbing beneath the surface of the bulbous monstrosity.  She could smell the sickly-sweet stench radiating from the creature she was forced to call a daughter.  Her hand fumbled for the doorknob behind her, her fingers scrabbling against coarse wood.  A sharp yelp pushed past her throat, and she pulled back to find a splinter lodged beneath her nail.

The aberration on the floor sensed her weakness, however fleeting.  It pushed itself up, its tiny arms quivering beneath the strain.  Claire screamed, but even the shrill, jarring sound could not drown out the voice in her head—the quiet, pleading voice that kept insisting this just wasn’t possible.  The baby, if she could be called such, was only a couple weeks old, yet here she was, pushing herself up on her hands, her body trembling as she attempted to get her knees beneath her.

Nothing in the parenting books Claire had read prepared her for such a thing.

Philomena crept across the floor, her gown trailing behind her and dragging against the wooden planks with a slithering, raspy sound.  She grunted and growled with exertion, but she did not slow.  Silvery eyes locked on her mother and the leathered strips of her mouth stretched back into a feral leer.  Needle-like teeth glinted in the moonlight, teeth still stained with Claire’s blood.

Terror kept her rooted in place.  Claire’s heart performed tricks in her chest.  It hammered then stopped, hammered then stopped, until she grew dizzy beneath the spell.  Loud roaring droned in her ears, like the roar of the ocean fading in and out in nauseating surges.

Why had she been so weak?  Why had she let loneliness get the best of her?  Why had she played with that damn Ouija board?  Was this her punishment?  The house had been so empty before, so quiet and still.  Now–now she would give anything for that peace once again.

Frigid fingers bit into her ankle, snapping Claire from her thoughts with a scream.  Without thinking, she booted the creature away.  She felt a hint of satisfaction as she watched it fly through the air before landing across the room with a loud thud.  Her sense of accomplishment died as soon as the first pitiful wail pierced her ears.  Filled with pain and mourning, it broke Claire’s heart.  It was as if all of the heartbreak and suffering in the world poured forth from her daughter’s lips.

Her hands twisted with panic.  Sweat beaded against her flesh, amplifying the chill in the room.  Fear-laden icicles draped around her heart.

“Claire?”

She didn’t have to turn to see the displeasure etched into Aldrics’s features.  It weighed in his voice, sending ripples of unease darting down her spine.  Fear constricted her heart to a screeching halt.

“What have you done?”

Answers eluded her.  She remained rooted in place as he brushed past her and strode across the room to his beloved daughter.  The cries had since quieted to mere whimpers, and even those died as Aldric cradled Philomena in his arms.  Her hands and legs dangled limply, performing a lifeless dance as he clutched her against his chest.

Claire held her breath until her lungs ached.  Agonizing moments ticked by as she waited to see what would happen next.  She didn’t dare breathe as the deep reverberation of Aldric’s voice filled the room.  It vibrated off the walls and as she listened, a strange energy tingled around her.  The hairs on her arms lifted in response.  Even the fine down covering the back of her neck stood on end as Aldric whispered and murmured in foreign tongues, his body bowed over his daughter in a protective arch.

There was a time when his secret language had stirred excitement and arousal; when those strange words and sounds had been exotic and exciting.  Now they sounded sinister.  The illusions surrounding her life fell away bit by bit, each sloughing off like rotted layers of skin to reveal the ugly, raw seepage beneath.  What remained was a glimmer of something so unspeakable it induced madness.

The atmosphere grew heavy, weighted down, and charged with static–like the calm before a storm.  Aldric glanced over his shoulder, his pale green eyes full of accusation.  Claire withered beneath the hatred, her knees trembling as she struggled to draw air into her aching lungs.

“How does it feel to die, Claire, to feel your life slip helplessly through your hands while others look on with disinterest?”

She clutched at her throat, her fingers clawing in desperation against the invisible chokehold.  As she did, she watched the heinous bundle in Aldric’s arms begin to stir.  The long, gangly fingers twitched and curled and Philomena’s chest heaved in a lofty cry.

Claire hit the floor, hands and knees splayed against the rough wooden planks as darkness closed in.  She wanted to clasp her hands over her ears to drown out the shrill, monstrous noise.  Never in her life had she heard anything like it.  It was as if every legion in hell had been unleashed and now resided in the single, solitary scream emitting from her daughter.

Philomena.

As much as she hated that hideous beast, Claire never imagined that would be the last thought, the last thing to flitter through her mind.  But as her body jerked on the floor, ensnared in death’s final throes, Philomena’s name echoed with haunting clarity inside her head.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

A lone cry pierced the night, pulling Claire from the pleasant shroud of her dreams.  She stirred against her pillow, resisting the urge to sink deeper into the comforter and give in to the sweet promise of slumber.  Her eyes drifted open and she listened, for a moment, to the rhythmic breathing of her lover as he slept beside her.  Another wail lanced the silence and Aldric rolled over, a mumbling protest falling from his lips.

She stared at him, admiring the beauty of his features and the smooth scape of his skin beneath the kiss of the moon.  Bathed in an alabaster glow, he was almost too beautiful to resist.  Not wanting Philomena to disturb him, Claire slid from bed, grabbed her robe from the rocking chair, and padded out of the room on quiet feet.

Hungry, demanding screams grew in intensity and pitch.  Her heart sunk in response.  Philomena was waiting and obviously not pleased at the inconvenience.  Claire made her way down the corridor leading to the baby’s room, the smell of death and decay heavy in her nostrils.  She wrinkled her nose, trying to locate the source as she made her way down the hall.

Nudging the door open, she stood for a moment and observed the crib situated in the middle of the room.  A low, dense fog hung above the wooden rails, growing larger with each fervent cry.  Taking a deep breath, she braced herself and pushed forward.

There, inside the crib, lay a swaddled bundle with ashen skin.  One side of the baby’s face had fallen away and a dark, empty hollow sat where an eye had once been.  The other stared up, a single watery grave, as Philomena regarded her mother with hatred.

Claire felt an overwhelming surge of guilt wash over her as she plucked her daughter into her arms.  She cradled Philomena against her breast and issued a mumbled apology.  She had been a bad mother as of late, a very bad mother.  Tears welled in her eyes, each one stinging like fire.  What had she done to her beautiful, beautiful baby girl?

She pressed her lips against the straggly patch of coarse hair covering Philomena’s scalp.  Rotting flesh clung to her mouth as she pulled away to offer a nipple and settle in the chair.  She had been so tired lately; even the slightest movements left her feeling drained and exerted.  Gentle moonlight fell through the lone window centered in the room.  It fell across her skin, revealing mottled blots and leathery patches.  She swore it grew worse as the baby fed, yet Philomena, her precious, beautiful child grew more radiant with each ardent suckle.  Two watery blue eyes now stared up at her, unblinking in the darkness.

“That’s right, baby.  Eat,” Claire urged, her voice coming in a grated whisper.  A single tooth fell from her mouth and skittered across the floor.  “Everything is going to be okay now.  Momma’s here.”

© Adriana Noir – 2010

The End Has Come

Okay, perhaps I told a slight lie. It’s nothing quite so melodramatic. I’m sorry to disappoint some of you and say the zombies have not risen from their graves—not yet—but there is still news to be told:

 In case some of you missed the apocalyptic blare of trumpets (aka: me tooting my horn) on Facebook and Twitter, after years of blood, sweat, and toil Requiem has finally been released!

 Yes, the subject matter of my Pen of the Damned post, ‘I am Seir’ has finally been unleashed upon the unsuspecting world.

 The book has a lot of different aspects and elements to it, providing a little something for everyone. While the setting and subject matter are dark, the sarcastic humor of the main character tends to lighten the mood. There’s plenty of horror and some not so nice occurrences whenever the demons and Fallen are around, but angels such as the Arch Gabriel provide light, levity, and a chance for a “feel good” moment or two.

But that’s just my take. This book was a lot of fun to write and hopefully it’s a lot of fun to read. If you happen to snag a copy, I would love to hear what you think.

 Below is a brief excerpt not included in the look inside feature on Amazon. For those of you interested in buying the Kindle version of Requiem, you’ll find the first chapter of the upcoming sequel, Blood of the Damned at the end. What can I say? I’m a giver. 🙂

 

Shadows looped above the city. Their massive forms swept through the sky, wraith-like hawks circling for prey. Perched on the roof of an abandoned Borders bookstore I watched their undulating flight, a heavy feeling gathering in my chest.

“Why?” Zeruch asked. He kept his back turned, his shoulders hunched against the bitter wind. “Why do you do this? How can you continue to stand there and do nothing?”

The anguish in his voice struck with the force of a physical blow.

Angry and ashamed, I drew a deep breath. “I did not call you here to assess my performance.”

“For me to do that, you would have had to have done something, Seir.”

For a moment, I pondered tackling him over the side of the building and taking my chances. “If you’re done expressing your undying love and admiration for me, there are more important matters I would like to discuss.”

He spun on his heel. The look in his blue eyes a mere breath away from hatred. Yet there was something wounded and vulnerable lurking beneath that fierce façade.

“What could you possibly want from me?”

Forgiveness.

The word danced on my tongue like a child’s desperate plea. Choking it down, I turned my face away and stared across the city. “There is an old woman living above the internet café on Broad.” I paused, feeling a niggling of shame, though for what, I wasn’t sure. “I would very much appreciate it if you made sure she was looked after and fed.”

An incredulous look twisted across his face. “So this is what it has come to between us, you calling upon me to set me up for a slaughter?”

I sprung to my feet, clearing the distance between us with unprecedented speed. Glowering, I stepped nose-to-nose with my former brother. “Why would I do that and deprive myself the pleasure? This is not about us. It’s about you doing your job.”

“Why the sudden change of heart?”

“I . . . owe her.”

Zeruch’s eyes narrowed. Shaking his head, he turned away. The wind whipped his thin cloak about his body. Broad shoulders silhouetted against the dark outline of the city, he appeared every bit as majestic as I remembered.

“Try as I might, I fail to make sense of you.” He hung his head. “I will do as you ask. Not for you, but for her. She does not deserve to suffer because of your actions. Perhaps one day you will realize the harm you do.”

“I had nothing to do with what happened tonight!”

He whirled around, his eyes flashing with anger. “And as usual, Seir, you did nothing to stop it!”

I sank onto the ledge of the building. “What would you have me do? I am one among many. If I had moved to stop them, they would’ve killed me.”

“At least you would have tried. Goodbye, Seir.”

I waved him off, refusing to watch his departure. The anger and resentment simmering below the surface threatened to reach boiling point. He was too blinded by his own struggles to comprehend mine, and despite the battle lines carved between us, I couldn’t bring myself to burden him with the truth.

I felt him go, as if he managed to take a piece of me with him every time he left. Alone, I tilted my face toward the sky and watched the darkness roil overhead. The shadows swooped, spreading in black tendrils like branches of ivy. The war over mankind’s fate was about to begin, and I was still unsure of where I stood. With redemption out of reach and Ava’s heart hardened, there was nothing to lose and nothing to gain. Like the endless millennia leading up to this moment, survival remained the only thing within my grasp, and even that grew tiring.

I watched the city below, listening in on the trivial thoughts of its human occupants. A mother condemned her son for eating a small morsel of bread when her own stomach cramped with hunger. A young man pondered murdering his elderly neighbor, so that he might have his shoes and bed. Everywhere I turned there was more cruelty, hatred, and revenge.

They were so self-centered, so heartless in their thoughts and actions, that it made my stomach churn.

“Idiots,” I muttered through clenched teeth.

They weren’t worth the trouble or the bloodshed on either side.

What did it matter anyway? If left to their own devices, the humans would all destroy each other over greed, scraps, and pride.

“This is not all their doing, you know.”

The familiar voice set me on edge. Leaping to my feet, I confronted Gabriel with no small measure of surprise. Compassion flooded his features and he held his hands up in placation. Seeing some of the tension flood my body, he turned an observant gaze over the city.

“They do not know any better,” he said softly. His eyes were dark with sorrow. Rain dripped from the ends of his light brown hair.

“Bullshit.”

His lips curled into a sad smile. “Michael often says the same, a small point of contention between us. Lucky for them, it is not our place to judge.”

“What’s your point, Gabe?”

“You are quick to anger with me, yet I have done you no harm.”

“And?”

He shrugged. “You betrayed your oath and turned your back on the order we swore to uphold. I could harm you. Given your choices and station here, I probably should, but I choose not to.”

“Again, what is your point?”

“Choices, Seir, free will. Do not be so quick to leap to conclusions and give up. There is still some good out there, just as there is still some good yet in you. If I were as quick to rise to anger and resentment, you would be dead.”

“Why waste your time on them? Your brothers are falling left and right, and for what? Nothing has changed. Nothing will change. This place is too far gone.”

“Nothing is ever beyond hope,” Gabriel said. “I love them, Seir, and real love never dies, nor does it lose faith in the face of trouble. It fights and perseveres over all. There is no better cause.”

“They do not deserve your love.”

His head tilted and anguish swept across his face. “How can you say such?”

Look at them!

He gave a tired sigh. “I have, just as I have searched your heart for ways of understanding.”

“Don’t drag me into this.”

His eyes met mine and he bore a pointed smile. “There is no need to, Seir. You have done so quite well enough on your own.”

“Why don’t you leave the humor to Raphael? He always was much better at it.”

Gabriel chuckled. A cross scowl tightened my face.

“Fair enough, I will give you that much. You must admit, I make a good point though.”

“Perhaps I could if I wasn’t so busy trying to figure out what the hell it was.”

His eyes danced with amusement. “Did you hit your head in the fall? It is not that hard to comprehend. Tell me, why did you decide to take the plunge? What made it worth it in your eyes? The love you felt for a certain few, am I right?”

Cheeks flushing at the reminder, my jaw clenched, and I offered a curt nod.

Gabriel’s broad shoulders lifted in a solemn shrug. “Our reasons for being here are not so different. Zeruch is angry with you, yet you choose to spare him the pain the truth behind your decisions would bring. The world is angry, hurt. Many of them have turned their backs on us in their suffering, yes, but that does not change our hearts. We wish to spare them, just as you wish to spare your brothers.”

“Brothers?”

“Ponder my words if you must, but don’t give up, Seir. There is too much at stake here for you to make this about yourself.” He lowered his head in a gracious nod. “I will see you again soon. I hope the circumstances remain as cordial.”

Biting back a scathing reply, I watched him dismount the building with a graceful bound. I stared after him, watching as he disappeared into the shadows. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t fathom the Arch’s devotion where humans were concerned. They did nothing to deserve it.

 

Image

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Book-Fallen-ebook/dp/B009QE6CTE/ref=tmm_kin_title_0

So there you have it. A special look and the official blog announcement. On a much more important note, I hope you all have a fabulous and safe weekend. Enjoy your time off to the fullest. Monday will roll around again much too soon!

~Best wishes and happy haunting!~

Adri

Just Keep Going

No one ever told me it would be this hard. I thought writing the book was the difficult part. *laughs* Boy was I wrong. The last few months have been an absolute whirlwind. I’ve never exchanged so many e-mails or made so many business calls in my life. I’ve never been more excited for something to finally happen…or more scared.

And all of it has boiled down to this one lone minute. The minute where everything finally sinks in, and I realize: this is it. There’s no turning back now. Not that I want to. A million fiery horses couldn’t drag me away from seeing this dream through. Not now. Not ever.

But there’s this strange, surreal quality to everything. Some days, I feel as if I’m shuffling through life in a trance—terrified that something will jolt me and the walls of this carefully constructed fantasy will come crashing down around my feet in an instant. Nothing feels real right now. Nothing, that is but this maddening combination of unbridled excitement and sheer terror.

After months of editing, cover mock ups, e-mails, contracts, phone calls, and formatting….Requiem is heading to the printer. Everything is in place, ready to go…and I don’t know if I want to sing and dance my way through the city streets, or rock myself silly in the corner of my bathroom and throw up.

I guess the answer here is both.

And that I’m probably a little neurotic.

But it’s okay.

I’d be a liar if I said this moment never crossed my mind. All those years I spent writing like a mad woman until I thought my fingers would fall off, I had a small dream of having a published book. But to be honest, I never really thought that moment would come. I thought it was a pipedream. Something beautiful to cling to, a motivation to keep me going—something way beyond reach to strive for. It gave me hope, and fuel for the fire I used to feed my hunger for escape and words.

I wonder how many other people have yearned for the same. I wonder how many have tried to convince themselves their dreams, too, are impossible.

Nothing is impossible.

The world of self-publishing has opened so many doors. It’s proven there is a calling out there for new voices and ideas to be explored. Many small presses have flung open their doors in hopes of the same. No longer do authors have to sweat and toil with only the hope of a Big 6 to cling to. (Oh but you must still sweat and toil just as hard if you hope to succeed.) But now, there are so many other options, other venues to explore.

If you can dream it…you can do it. You just have to be willing to put in the time and effort. Mass quantities of it. Hard time—because like anything else in life, you’re only going to bring back what you are willing to put in. And even then, there are no guarantees.

Maybe publishing is a lot like a weekend in Vegas. You stand at the table. Perhaps for a moment, you tremble with a combination of anticipation and fear. Maybe you blow on the dice or plant a kiss on them for good luck. Then you let go.

There are no guarantees where things will land. You could win big—you could take a loss. Either way, you’re in it for the long haul. And in that moment, that one beautiful moment where everything hangs suspended, you close your mind, wish for the best, and simply just breathe.

Then the hard work sets in again.

I’m not really sure what the point of this blog post is. Part of me just needed to blow off some steam and try to relax—to remind myself to take the moment in and savor it. The other part, the bigger one, is hoping that somewhere out there, someone is listening. Someone who is in doubt. Someone who doesn’t have the courage or belief in themselves to reach for the stars and seek what’s in their heart.

I want them to know…if I can do it, you can too.

Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Just keep going.

That’s all any of us can really do.

~Best wishes

Adri

Monolaith

Make them pay. Make them all pay.

The raspy voice carried through the attic, drowning out all other sound. Holly Denton shook her head and covered her ears. Her face contorted into a pained grimace as the whisper echoed around her. Huddled on the dull floorboards, knees drawn to her chin, she rocked among the cobwebs and cardboard boxes. Dust particles swirled in the confined space, dancing through a narrow moonlit beam. They made her nose itch and clung to her damp face.

Fresh tears cleared a path down her grime-covered cheeks when the first screams pierced the silence. Holly jumped at the sound, her shoulders hunching in a defensive cringe. Her teeth sank deep into her lower lip to keep from crying out. If she did, they would find her, and like always, they would blame her for things she didn’t do.

The staff always treated her as if she were a leper, and the children weren’t much better. She always got blamed when something went wrong, or someone got hurt, even when it wasn’t her fault. Sometimes it was, though. Like when Sally Peters fell out of the tree and broke her arm. Holly hadn’t pushed her, but she had wanted her to fall, and deep down, she supposed that was the same thing.

The attic grew hotter, the air stifling. Small beads of sweat formed along the child’s brow. She crouched in the corner and rocked faster. Acrid smoke rose through the floorboards and an ominous amber light flickered below. Terrified, she let the first sob burst free.

Keening wails pierced the night, the noise sharp and unending. She could hear the sound of feet pounding against linoleum, the noise roiling like rolling thunder through the orphanage. Holly’s own fear mounted to unsurpassed heights as she clamped her hands against her ears in a futile effort to make it stop. It didn’t stop though, and the attic gave birth to worse terrors.

The rough, wooden planks grew hot beneath her bare feet, making her toes curl. Pain made her eyes flare. It was then that she noticed the shadowy figure perched on the cedar chest. Her eyes burned, watering from the thick plumes surrounding her. Certain her mind was playing tricks, Holly blinked. Once, twice … but the figure remained.

Dim, yellowed eyes peered back at her through the tainted haze. The creature, no bigger than a six-year old child, sat poised in a gargoyle stance. Sallow grey skin, as thin as parchment, stretched taut over gaunt limbs. It remained motionless, watching and waiting, its serpentine gaze filled with predatory cunning.

Holly screamed, her lungs filling with the noxious cloud crowding the attic. Hitting her hands and knees, the child coughed and wretched in a violent fit. Back bowed, she managed to suck in a few ragged gulps of toxic air. It made her head spin and the dismal gray haze grew thicker.

A quiet rustle carried over the sound of her heart hammering in her ears. Turning her head, she watched in horror as the creature unfurled its wings with a stretch. A delicate spider web of veins ran through the thin flaps of skin, illuminated by the eerie light oozing through the floor. Riveted with unspeakable fear, Holly’s gaze traced the outline of each wiry bone, much thinner and smaller than her own. An animalistic whimper tore from her throat. In a desperate bid for comfort, her fingers sought the familiar circle of the pendant dangling from her neck.

Her grandmother had given her the jewel on her seventh birthday, along with a warning that made Holly’s inside quiver like jell-o. “This will protect you against the Monolaith, child. Wear it and keep it safe. He watches you and waits for the day he can make you his.”

Mother! I will not have you filling my daughter’s head with such filth!”

“It’s not filth, Doreen; it’s true! This thing has haunted our family for generations. You know it and I know it.” Her grandmother’s voice dropped to a low whisper, one not meant for Holly’s straining ears. “It wants your daughter, Doreen. She’s the chosen one, the one born beneath the ninth moon.”

Holly shook herself free of the memories and took a step back.

The beast settled back on its haunches, its wings flattening against its emaciated body. Thin lips pulled back in a chilling spectacle of a smile to reveal unending rows of jagged teeth. Holly reared back and pressed deeper into the corner. Strangled noises worked their way from her throat, a mixture of pain and helplessness as the planks underfoot grew hotter.

Only I can save you now, child.

Startled, Holly searched for the source of the voice. It sounded from everywhere and nowhere all at once. The figure regarded her with a knowing gaze, its eyes unblinking. It dismounted from its perch, its feet hitting the floor with a soft thud.

Her grip on the necklace tightened.

It is like before, yes?

Dim recollection settled over her, diluted memories of past nightmares . . . of the shadowy form soaring alongside the car the night her parents died. She remembered watching it with an odd mixture of wonderment and fear, her head craning at a painful angle when it eventually looped out of view. Mere seconds after it had disappeared from her sight, the tires screeched, her parents screamed and, as the car rolled, her world shattered.

For the first time in months, she recalled the grated whispers that had sounded against her ear as something pulled her from the gnarled metal prison of the car. Broken glass and blood surrounded her like macabre jewels, fractured reflections of diamonds and rubies. The pain was unbearable and her terror immense as she lay there, screaming in anguish for her mother or her father. They lay immobile, not breathing, not speaking, blind to her suffering as Holly plead for help.

That was when the cool, leathery fingers curled around her arms. Something whispered against her ear, its breath reeking of damp earth and mildew: Embrace me, Holly. Accept me and I will save you, for I am yours, and you are mine.

Scared, wounded, and alone, she had.

Unable to draw any oxygen from the oppressive air, Holly’s head started to spin. Sirens sounded in the distance, a faint chorus above the screams and sobs echoing from every direction. The orphanage shuddered; the attic pitched and swayed. Everything started to fade into an enveloping black haze.

I am your fate. I am your destiny. Come, embrace me. No time remains.

Common sense warred with the instinct for survival. A long moment passed before Holly managed a weak but acquiescent nod. Her blonde head bowed in an attempt to avoid making further eye contact with the creature. She heard the rustling though as it neared, a sound like burnt paper being crumpled into the wind. She smelled the sickening sweet stench of her own roasting flesh mingle with its fetid breath. Pain and fear enveloped her … and then, Holly felt no more.

~ † † † ~ † † † ~ 

Blinding white lights and a symphony of beeping machines greeted Holly upon waking. She squinted against the invasive glare, her face wrinkling from the harsh antiseptic odor permeating the room. Long, clear tubes dangled from a metal stand. They wormed needles under her skin and crept up her nose to release a cool stream of air. Soothed by her ability to breathe and the lack of pain, she let her cheek settle against the crisp pillow and closed her eyes. Once again, the creature had kept its word.

She stirred sometime the next day, disturbed by the zipping sound of opening blinds. Dazed, Holly propped herself up on one elbow and shielded her eyes from the sun with the other.

“Good morning, sunshine. I’m glad to see you are awake. There for a moment, I almost lost you.”

The soothing voice washed over her, striking chords of familiarity she could not place. Smiling, Holly greeted the handsome man with raven curls. She stared unabashed into his pale green eyes, mesmerized by their hypnotic pull. He broke the spell with a disarming smile and crossed the room in long strides.

“Who are you?”

“No one of importance, Holly. At least not yet.”

Confused, she dropped back against the pillow. “How do you know my name?”

She closed her eyes, her head pressing into his touch as he ruffled her hair. The orphanage, the fire, it all felt like a bad dream. She had some recollection of huddling near the lower stairwell, hazy beams sweeping through the darkness, shouting, and the feeling of strong arms carrying her to safety.

Holly’s cobalt gaze studied the stranger, searching for any features that might trigger her memory. “Are you the one who saved me from the fire?”

“All in good time, sweet child.” He lifted her hand in his and his fingers pressed something cold against her open palm. “I believe you lost this.”

She stared at the pendant, a flood of gratitude surging through her. Her fingertips traced a reverent path over the knots surrounding the polished circle of agate. The precious heirloom was the only thing besides blurred memories that Holly had left of her parents and family. Tears welled in her eyes and she clutched the necklace tight in her fist.

“Thank you, sir.”

“You’re quite welcome, my dear. Now, you need to get some rest.” He seemed to sense her sorrow, for his lips pulled into an empathetic smile. “Don’t worry, angel. We’ll see each other again.”

Holly’s golden brow furrowed. “How can you be sure?”

His hands spread in an opening gesture. Eyes as hard and cool as granite remained riveted to the necklace in her hands. “Fate. I’m a strong believer in destiny, Holly. When the time is right, we shall meet again.”

He turned and headed for the door. Not wanting to be alone, she couldn’t resist one more question. “How will I know how to find you if I don’t even know your name?”

The man paused. “You know all you need to know, Holly. My name is not important.”

His voice became a raspy whisper. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled and stood on end as his head craned with slow deliberation. He smiled at her, revealing rows of jagged teeth.

“I am the Monolaith. I am the eternal nightmare from which you cannot awake. We are together as one. I am your fate. I am your destiny.”

The chilling mantra crashed into her, jarring her from the false security of her world. Somewhere in the distance, emergency alarms sounded. There in the room, Holly heard the faint rustle associated with death and destruction. The Monolaith had come again, determined to claim his captive bride. He would never stop, and as her grandmother warned, she would never be free. Fear cinched Holly’s heart into a knot. The Monolaith pressed closer. Its cracked lips stretched into a feral grin. She smelled the creature’s putrid stench, felt its searing breath roll across her skin . . . and screamed.

WC~ 1868
                                      © Copyright 2010 Adriana Noir