No Grave: Nicole’s Assignment

Hey, guys!  Just another friendly reminder that No Grave is coming out in a few weeks.

Today’s sneak peek goes back to Nicole, the narrator of No Reflection.  She’s a huge part of No Grave, definitely the lead narrator, and has a lot to juggle.  Living an overcrowded life, shut in by a sunset curfew, and struggling to stay ahead of an increasingly dangerous game, Nicole’s journey through No Grave is fraught with danger, confusion, and a surreal descent into strange visions and dreamscapes.

Straight off the bat of No Grave, Nicole is pulled back into the supernatural swing of things, helping her brownstone crew with a murder investigation, but, of course, her life could never be so simple as just that…

(Remember to pre-order your digital copy today!  Available on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Kobo, etc…)

Sneak peek:

 

Goodwin’s phone buzzed, and he peeked at the screen for a second, his demeanor dropping at the sight.  “Well, it seems like I won’t be staying very long, so let’s move on to business, shall we?”

“Let’s.”

He reached down into his leather bag and withdrew a thin folder, sliding it across the table.  “Have you ever heard of a band called The Four Horsemen?  They released two albums, 2002 and 2004, and an unplugged album in 2005.”

“I haven’t heard of them,” Nicole shrugged.

“Ah, well, then…the information is in the folder, but I’ll give you a quick rundown on the basics.  Formed in January of 2002 with their first album release the same year…under the MCA entertainment wing,” he said this last part as though giving her a stern warning, and continued after a beat, “second album in 2004, and a rather messy split in the summer of 2006.  It was a group comprised of four women, if you’ll take a look at the pictures there.”

Nicole flipped through several pages in the folder and arrived at a series of photographs.  There was a photograph of a tall, curvaceous woman with a shock of black hair spilling down to her shoulder blades.  Her pale arms were covered in tattoos, starting at her collarbone, running down both arms, and wreathing her fingers.  The next photo was of a slight, slender woman with shaggy blond hair that arched behind her down to her waist.  Her eyes were narrow, almond-shaped, and her skin reminded Nicole of the bark of a tanned tree.  Nicole thought she’d seen the woman somewhere, before, but couldn’t place it.  She flicked past those photos and found a dozen more of two other women from different angles and in different situations: on stage, in the street, in a promo ad, and at home.  One of them was extremely angular, tall and lean, with a sharp chin, prominent cheekbones, and a jawline that seemed like it could be used as a weapon.  The other had rounded cheeks, an hourglass figure, and full, bright lips.  Crinkled strands of hair fell around her shoulders in loose waves the color of blond coffee.  Her sepia skin looked drained and washed-out, but Nicole imagined men would stare at her, anyway.  The thought made her flinch.  “Who are they?”

“The thin one is named Harley, lead guitarist in the band, and back-up vocals.  The other one is Michelle, bassist and lead lyricist,” Goodwin explained.  “They are not what you would call morning people.”

“I see.”

“Quite.  In any case, I need you to convince them to sign a contract with me,” he tapped his fingers on the edge of the table, “specifically me.  Not the firm, not MCA, just me, Charles Goodwin, Esquire.”

“Did you just refer to yourself by title?” Nicole grinned.

“It helps to remember I went to school for this,” he answered, the everpresent smile tightening on his face.  “In any case, that’s a very important part of the arrangement…because of their history with MCA’s entertainment wing, especially.”

“So you want me to, what?—not tell them what company you work for?”

“Exactly.  Don’t mention MCA to them, at all.” Goodwin folded his hands in front of him, his tone measured and even as he spoke.

“That sounds…like a lie.”

“No, no,” Goodwin rebuffed, “not at all, because they won’t be signing a contract with the company.”

“Just with you?”

“Right.  So it should only be necessary to mention me.”

Nicole’s eyes drifted from the folder in front of her to Goodwin’s face and back again.  “This is very different from the business we usually do together,” she observed, staring at Harley’s face, the hue of her deep, crimson lipstick.

“This is a very different situation from what we’re usually in.  Is that okay with you?”

Not really, she thought, but nodded, anyway, “Yeah…yeah, I can do this.”

“Great.  I’ll be in touch, then.  Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need anything.”

“I won’t be.”

Goodwin stood from the table and pulled his bag from the floor.  “Good, good,” he dug into his pocket and came out with a monogrammed money clip, slipping out a fifty dollar bill and putting it on the table.  “Lunch is on me.  Have a great one.”  He gave her a short nod and was halfway across the restaurant before she could shout a goodbye after him.

Turning back to the folder, she sank down in her seat.  She flipped through pages detailing the life of the now-defunct Four Horsemen, photographs of the principal recruits, and a small CD buried at the back.  She shook her head and closed the file.  As if the case and the line and the e-mails hadn’t been enough…

“Excuse me, miss,” the waiter’s voice snapped her back to the restaurant, “what will you be having this afternoon?”

“Sorry, sorry,” she answered, “could I just have a second to think about it?”

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No Grave: Meet Tristan

Hey, guys!  Just another friendly reminder that No Grave is coming out in a few weeks.  During the lead-up, I’ll be posting a few small segments introducing some of the new cast and helping you remember some of the lovely people you met in No Reflection.  Our second installment will introduce you to Tristan Wallace, monster slayer extraordinaire and another of our narrators.

(Remember to pre-order your digital copy today!  Available on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Kobo, etc…)

Now presenting…Tristan Wallace:

 

 

“A liter and a half…that’s some bold shit, mano.”

Alex adjusted his aviator shades.  The sun glinted gold off the lenses as he tilted his face toward the hospital across the street.

“Or desperate,” Tristan replied, scratching a bristling shadow of beard.  Dracs didn’t usually drain that much in one go, not off a single victim.  It was the sort of thing that got noticed, and monsters lived and died by one rule: don’t get noticed.

“A drac starving out in New York?” Alex gestured at the crowd milling over the gum-stained sidewalk.  “No way.  Place is an all-you-can-eat buffet for a smart monster.”

“Never said it was smart,” Tristan muttered.  He pointed to the bun nested on top of Alex’s head, “Speaking of which, boyo…how many times am I going to have to tell you to get a haircut before you swing by a barber’s?”

Alex’s lips parted in an off-white smirk.  “Least one more.”

“One of these days, something’s going to grab you by the hair when you’re trying to make a run for it, and that’ll be the end of that.”

Alex shrugged, leaning back against the slender column of a streetlight.  “We’ll see.”

Tristan stared at the Missing Persons posters plastered up the length of the steel pole.  A young woman’s face peered back from one of them, a girl he’d place in her late teens.  He studied the shape of her nose, the narrow bridge and pointed tip of it, and the way her eyebrows peaked like arrows toward her hairline.  Details were important.  The devil was in them, after all.  A stranger remembering the slight asymmetry of a young woman’s eye height could mean the difference between a family reunion and a funeral.

He’d had a daughter, once.

He tore his eyes away from the photograph and dug his hand into his pants’ pocket to touch the purple chip he carried with him.  It was a small token with a slate texture and a hundred microscopic ridges running along its spine.  He’d earned it at their last meeting two weeks ago.  Nine months sober.  He prayed to it, clutched in his palm like a bundled rosary, and withdrew his hand.  Alex was still staring at the hospital.  Tristan cleared his throat.  “Sam’s late.”

“He’ll be here soon.”

Tristan nodded and tried to keep his eyes away from the dozen Missing Person posters fading white on the lamp post.  He focused on the revolving hospital doors.  There’s a job to do, he reminded himself.  A monster to catch.  He put on a worn, wrinkle-chipped grin.  “What do you think Sammie’s going to set us up with, this time?”

“NYPD, bet on it.  Hell, I’ll put down ten bucks.”

Tristan shook his head, “No deal, boyo.”

“You scared?”

“No, just not stupid.”

Alex’s smirk spread into a full-faced smile.  “NYPD, definitely.”  He pulled on a silver necklace and lifted a small badge from under his shirt, “Boy’s gonna get me in trouble, one of these days.”

“If you don’t do it yourself, first,” Tristan replied.  Alex had used his resources as a legal bounty hunter more than a couple times to help them track a monster through the New York streets.  Of course, rule-breaking was par for the course for a hunter.  “Besides, Sammie’s stuff is solid.”

“Says the guy who didn’t want to recruit him.”

“He’s a good Man in Havana, sure, but the boy’s still a bloody boy.”

“Twenty-five years old.”

“Kidding me, twenty-five years old.  I was half-retired when he was shitting himself in diapers.”

“Yeah, and you’ll be glad to have him when it turns the other way around, old man.”

“Fuck you,” Tristan couldn’t help but laugh at the thought.

“Just saying.”

“And you better say a little less before I show you what kind of tricks an old dog like me’s picked up over the years.”

Alex stepped away from the lamp post with a wide grin, “Go ahead.  Maybe I can show you some new ones.”

Tristan held up a hand and nodded to a figure maneuvering through the thick downtown crowd.  Sam was so grayed out Tristan barely noticed him: he wore an unaccented beige overcoat over olive pants, a plain gray shirt, and featureless sneakers—clothing picked out to blend in, manufactured to vanish.  His bright blond hair was trimmed short, but not military-style, with bowl-cut bangs an inch above his eyebrows and nothing hanging loose around his ears.  He was a bit pale, ghost-like except for the fading remnants of a country tan, but there was plenty of pale to go around in the Financial District.  Tristan smiled.  “At least the boy listens when I tell him something.”

“Yeah, and you still picked him out.”

“I got training for that.”

Tristan could hear Alex’s eyes roll behind the golden sheen of his shades.  “Whatever you say, mano.”

Sam pulled out a pair of leather-bound ID cards as he came up to them, “NYPD detectives.  We’re just doing a routine follow-up interview with the victim…crossing, dotting, the usual type stuff.  Tristan, you’re going in as Detective O’Malley.  Alex, you’ll be Detective Vasquez.”

“Ten bucks,” Alex held out his hand.

“I didn’t take the bet, boyo.”

“Chicken.”

Tristan took the leather-bound bifold from Sam, “And who are you?”

“Be going in as Detective Howard.”

“Howard, Vasquez, O’Malley…sounds a bit memorable.”

“Well…” Sam took a deep breath, the kind people take when they know they’ve screwed up.  “What’s a really common Irish name?”

“Brennan?  O’Brien?”

“So maybe…Detective Brennan and, uh, Detective Ramirez?”

“I get this feeling I’m being typecast,” Alex said.

Tristan snorted, “That’s half the point.  Quick and forgettable.”

“The names’ll have to wait ‘till next time, anyway,” Sam fumbled his own bifold open and showed them the NYPD emblem and ID badge inside.  “I already made everything up under O’Malley and Vasquez, even got it so the badge numbers call up records if someone digs into them.”

“Really?” Alex asked.

“Now, they won’t hold up to a real investigation, but as long as no one starts making phone calls, we should be fine.”

Tristan nodded.  “Then let’s not waste any more daylight.”

They split up, each one weaving away from the others through the lunch hour street traffic.  It was part of their approach ritual.  The monster’s axiom wasn’t just for monsters, after all.  A good hunter was an invisible hand.  A good hunter left a series of vague eyewitness accounts and disconnected paper trails in the wake of a downed beast.  A dead werewolf didn’t look much different from a dead human, after all, and nobody did the world much good behind the coal-colored bars of a prison cell.

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No Grave: Meet Cyrus.

As (all of you?) know, No Grave is coming out in just a few short weeks!  To tickle your curiosity, I’ll be posting a few small segments introducing some of the new cast and helping you remember some of the lovely people you met in No Reflection.  This first little teaser will introduce you to one of our narrators, Cyrus LeSage: Brooklynite, bar manager, and semi-retired witch.

(Remember to pre-order your digital copy today!  Available on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Kobo, etc…)

Without further ado, Cyrus LeSage:

 

Cyrus ate food cart breakfast on a sidewalk bench outside of Gilbert Ramirez Park.  He always thought calling the place a ‘park’ was a stretch.  It was a collection of white concrete streets winding around moldy bird fountains and scrappy patches of dying shrubbery.  Pale, splintering benches lined coiled walkways, framed in rusted black metal.  The park sat across from a desolate, walled-in lot of unoccupied land where tall, blue boards cried out ‘POST NO BILLS’ in faded orange stencil.  Despite the fervent demand, nearly every board was covered in vivid graffiti, wild hues of purple and yellow scrambled together in arcs of text and almost-murals.  One of the spray-paintings, a nearly three-dimensional spiral, reminded him of something from his nightmares.  He did his best to avoid looking at it.

The park was a good place to eat.  It was lightly populated.  Small children ran between scrawny trees laughing and playing tag, while older kids threw a tennis ball against a high wall and caught it as it rebounded.  An elderly couple perched on a nearby bench looked on, narrow smiles tickling their faces.  Cyrus had long ago found it was calming to be in the midst of a crowd.  No matter what happened, someone would see it.  It was a pleasant thought, even if it wasn’t true.

Cyrus dropped the Styrofoam serving box in a curbside garbage bin and watched a pair of children chase each other around a birdbath.  He turned to walk down the street when he heard a voice pick up on the autumn wind.

“Cyrus,” it tickled the back of his ears, soft and musical.

He spun around.

Bushwick, he reminded himself, his eyes searching for an unnoticed shadow somewhere between attenuated tree branches.  He took a step toward one of the twisting white walkways and peered down to where it vanished in on itself behind a thicket of bushes.  He listened for another sound.  A high-pitched giggle arced up from around a small hill.

Static crackled between the hairs on his arm.  The air hummed.  A coil of smoke lifted in the back of his mind, a West Virginian campfire window to Darkplace.  An ash-scented memory of the Last Ceremony.

His heart wardrummed in his skull.  It was coming.

A child turned a sharp corner over the crest of the hill and bumped into him.  She was a small girl wearing a floral dress, her hair a black tangle on her head.  She stared at him wide-eyed until a boyish laugh sounded behind her.  She squealed and ran off, leaving him alone with the drums in his head.

Cyrus swallowed.  The only other sounds he heard were clipped exchanges of Spanish and muted voices in the distance.  He looked the park over once more, and started walking away.  He kept close to the park’s wrought iron fence as he moved, hands tense at his sides, glancing over his shoulder every few steps to see if he was being followed.  He’d spent years of his life learning to check if people were following him.

That was before everything else, though.

That was before Kenya Kitteredge and the Coven, before magic was real and Hell was a place he had seen.

Now he had different things to worry about.

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Pre-Order No Grave!

NoGraveFrontAlright, guys, it’s about that time!  No Grave will be coming out on Friday, Sept. 11th, 2015…and you can be among the first to get it!  Digital pre-orders are available right now!

That’s right, you can grab No Grave on your Kindle or Nook as we speak, from Kobo, Amazon, Smashwords, or B&N.

Brief synopsis: A tangled supernatural fiction of epic proportions, No Grave focuses on three troubled characters as they struggle to come out on top against massive odds, fighting to keep hold of the lives they’ve barely scraped together.

Detailed synopsis: One year ago, Nicole DuPond was wrenched into a world of secrecy and horror, spinning down a spiral of terror and addiction. Since rehab, she’s been working alongside a ragtag team of paranormal researchers, trying to keep her head above the lorazepam waves. Now, she’s being pulled back under, stalked by an old enemy, tangled up in a new job, and uncovering a secret she’s kept even from herself.

Tristan Wallace sits in the cage of an empty suburban home. Since losing his family, he’s struggled through AA meetings and job loss to become a fearsome bogeyman in his own right—the man with the guns going bump in the vampiric night. But as the ghosts of his past haunt his dreams and his latest case proves to be beyond his pay grade, the life he thought he’d finally pulled together starts to unravel.

Cyrus LeSage wakes up every morning with a pounding heart and a head full of nightmare memories, trying to muffle them under a sea of whiskey and a string of one-night stands. All of that goes sideways when his past catches up to him. Before he knows what he’s doing, he’s signed himself on for a suicide mission to erase his debts, wired up on a sleepless quest to beat the odds and keep his hold on the little life he’s built for himself.

As their stories intersect and disconnect, it’s clear there’s something going on beyond their understanding. Someone or something is playing out a deadly bet with their lives as collateral, and if they can’t pull through to the other side, they’ll have a lot more to lose than their sanity.

Other information: ePub ISBN: 9781310915734
Kindle ASIN: B013ESUSW4
Release Date: 9/11/2015
Length: ~440 pages, 6×9 format (variable on digital devices)

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No Grave News, More Fiction En Route

Hey, guys!  No Grave is still in the middle of a lot of changes and a lot of stuff being up in the air.  I don’t want to get into all the details at the moment (especially not in a public place where  my embarrassment will be tenfold if things don’t work out), but know that the delay is a good sign and that I’m working my absolute hardest to make sure you can get the book in your hands, one way or another, as soon as possible.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on a couple other projects, and I figure that having something to read is better than having nothing to read, so I’m going to start posting some of the world-building stuff I’ve written, maybe even a couple sample pages from the projects proper.  I hope you enjoy the new pieces as they come out, but unlike with No Grave, I can’t make any promises about any of them going anywhere specific.  At least not at this junction.

Expect to see some world building descriptions, quick flash fictions, etc… especially from a little place called Oceanrest I’ve been working on for the past 2-3 years, give or take.

Why not start off with some background:

Oceanrest, Maine.  Population, 1985: 63,400.  Population, 2015: 35,750, including matriculated students.  Oceanrest is its own grave, the living part of the city nestled inside the dead.  Everything is derelict or slouching its way toward it, the remains of the city clinging to the sea, ensconced in a barrier of abandoned warehouses, dilapidated factories, and empty homes.

I’ve lived here just about my whole life, long enough, at least, to watch it fall apart.  Long enough to watch the factories and warehouses shutter up, one at a time, all five of them empty long before national news started talking about the recession.  Long enough to watch the roofs collapse under their own weight, disused and unmaintained.  Long enough to watch the budget cuts gut the hospital and the fire department, gut them so badly that when one of the wings of the Old Bentley hotel went up, it was half-kindling before the first truck arrived.  They managed to save half the building, and none of us are even sure why.

Even the logging is slow, now.  I used to look up at the sinuous silhouette of the mill at sundown as if it were a kind of monument, but with so many buildings closed and half the workers gone, now it looks more like a tombstone.

We still have two colleges, employing 3,000 faculty and staff between them, almost 16,000 students, which now makes them the largest employers in the town and a sizable chunk of the overall town population.  They’re on opposite sides of Oceanrest Avenue, a long, winding 7 mile road running west to east, two campuses edged in by the press of old forests and the looming shadows of long-empty structures crouched between the trees.

If you head south of the school on the East end, you’ll run into the old docks.  You’ll still see big cargo ships along some of the piers, but most of them are empty.  I couldn’t tell you the last time the docks were full, having never seen it happen.  My parents maybe could.  Now, though, the piers stretch out into the Atlantic like long bleached bones…like remains washed up on shore.

I’m more than a little familiar with what that looks like.

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No Grave Sneak Peek #6: Cyrus Sees Something

Cyrus looked out over the bar and saw ten or so customers clustered in groups around the whiskey barrel tables.  He cleaned what few glasses they’d used in the sink beneath the countertop. Afterwards, he’d let the warm water run for a little longer over his hands.  It was a soothing feeling.

“Hey,” a broad-chested man walked up to the bar and waved to Cyrus.  “Could I get a whiskey and diet?”

“Any particular kind of whiskey?”

“Jack Daniels.”

“Coming right up,” Cyrus turned towards the shelves of liquor bottles.  He reached out and grabbed the neck of the Jack Daniels, pulling it from the lower shelf and there was a body inside, a voodoo doll made of charred reeds tied together with bloody tendons.  It was a blackened crinkled husk, reeds singed and burnt, with a twisted, shrunken head bound on top by tanned ligature.  Its mouth hung open, cracked and toothless, and there were divots where eyes would’ve been, warped into alien shapes by whatever cruel torment had cooked it.  With a start, Cyrus  dropped the bottle and it landed with a heavy thunk on the counter by the cash register.  There was nothing in it but amber whiskey.

He took a sharp breath and reached back out to pick it up.  He held it aloft and rotated it, examining the liquid in the dim overhead light of the bar.  The customer cleared his throat, “You alright there?  Looks like maybe you should cut yourself off.”  Cyrus turned back towards him, trying to ignore the stupid grin on the man’s face, and selected a glass from the shelving on the opposite side of the register.

“I’m fine,” Cyrus replied, shoving the glass into the container of ice under the bar.  “Just been having a rough week,” he cracked a smile at the customer as he poured in a generous helping of whiskey, followed by a more restrained use of the Diet Coke.  “That’ll be eight dollars.”

“No problem,” the customer fished out a ten dollar bill and left it on the counter, taking the drink with him.  “Drive safe!”

Cyrus nodded without answering and took the cash from the countertop.  What the hell was that?

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No Grave Sneak Peek #5: Katherine’s Place

Katherine’s apartment was a frenzied clutter of miscellany.  There were nearly two dozen countertops, bureaus, and desks overflowing with books, letters, and bills.  The kitchen counters were overcrowded with colorful post-its and handwritten notes, which seemed to spread like a fungus across the front of the refrigerator, as well.  Nearly every wall had been converted into overstuffed bookshelves.  The only immediately visible furniture were a pair of office chairs and a gargantuan Lay-Z-Boy in chocolate brown, its dusty surface giving it the air of true age.

“I didn’t expect you quite so soon,” Katherine said as she waltzed across the apartment.  “I haven’t prepared at all.  Hold on,” she dug through the drawers of an old armoire and came back with a pair of scented candles, lighting them with a bright orange Bic.  “It should all smell much better in a moment.”

“It’s okay,” Nicole said, closing the door behind her.  “Really.”

“No, no, I insist,” she dug out another candle from a place Nicole didn’t see, “it smells like musty old books all the time.  It’s like I live in a library, but there’s alcohol stashed everywhere. It’s like I live in Ernest Hemingway’s library.”

Nicole felt a smile spread across her face.  “I don’t see the point in living in anyone else’s.”

Katherine opened a cupboard, revealing an absurd number of glasses ranging from champagne flutes to mason jars.  She plucked a pair of thin-stemmed goblets from the cupboard and rested them on an arts magazine laid out by the dish-cluttered sink.  “I bet the Fitzgeralds had some good supplies around their library, too.  Brandy and snuff,” she sniffed delicately, “the simple joys.”

“What are we having?” Nicole stepped into the small partition of the room still free of literary detritus.

“Well, like I said, the good stuff,” she pulled a bottle from a booze-filled cupboard above the sink.  There was a wide variety of wine bottles layered on top of each other, and one bottle of scotch, as per Katherine’s usual.  “This one set me back fifteen dollars, a small fortune.”

Nicole chuckled, feeling a grave heaviness lift from her chest.  “Don’t let anyone ever say you’re a bad hostess.”

“I wouldn’t stand for such an insult.  Why don’t you take off your coat and stay a while?  The coat rack is behind you.”

“What?  Where—oh…” Nicole turned in a sharp half-circle and saw the man-sized conglomeration of coats lurking by the door.  Presumably, somewhere beneath, they were supported by a long-vanished coat rack.  Nicole took off her father’s old jacket and rested it on top of the Lay-Z-Boy, instead.  “I’ll just put it here.”

“So, what’s been new with you?  Ghosts and goblins?  The spider baby?”  Katherine flicked her bright, green-hazel eyes over her shoulder at Nicole as she asked.  She’d fished a wine key out of the dish rack and was already uncorking the first bottle of the evening.

“Ugh, no.  There hasn’t been much since the werewolf, at least until yesterday…”

“Oooh, the wild and weird life of Nicole DuPond.  Do tell.”  Katherine was perhaps the only person in the world who could make the existence of monsters and spirits seem somehow droll.  She’d believed it almost too easily, when Nicole finally told her, and her attitude hadn’t changed, since.

Nicole shrugged as Katherine began to pour the wine.  “I, uh…I don’t really know, yet.  Did you hear about the animal attack down near Coney Island?” Nicole sat on the enormous chair, sinking into the old, comforting cushions.  “I guess it might’ve been something…”

“Otherworldly?” Katherine asked.

“Something like that.”  Nicole thought back to the pool of dry blood crusted in the rear of the alleyway, the ringing in her head.  She made a small, dismissive hand gesture.  “What about you?”

“Oh, who cares about me?” Katherine waved her off and set the wine bottle next to the sink, mostly empty.  The two glasses were filled to the brim when she was picked them up and drifted over to Nicole, offering one to her.  “How’s the fashion thing coming along?”

“Well, we’re breaking even, which is good…a little stalled, right now, with everything else going on and, um…” she took a sip of the wine.  It was a low, rich flavor with a snappy aftertaste.  Not much of an improvement over a six-dollar bottle, really, but she wasn’t exactly a cheap wine connoisseur.  “It’s coming along.  How’s everything with the arts fundraising and everything?”

“I quit,” Katherine said, taking a longer draught off her glass and letting her head fall to one side.  “The whole thing is just ughh, you know?  Just wretched people, really wretched people.”

“You quit?” Nicole sat up straight in her seat. “Really?”

“Really,” Katherine answered. “I’m getting my first funemployment check this week.”

Nicole hesitated before asking, “What happened?”

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No Grave Sneak Peak #4: A Performance

The leader stepped up on the stage and waved to the club.  He took off his coat with a broad flourish.  He wasn’t wearing a shirt under it, but instead was densely garbed in a robe of overlapping tattoos.  Thick, dark-hued suspenders held his pants aloft.  He seemed to be speaking to the crowd, and Tristan wished they had audio on the security feed as the man began to deliver a monologue, arms and hands making grandiose gestures as he crossed one end of the stage to the other.  When he left the platform after nearly a minute of talking, everyone in the club seemed to have their attentions fixed on the spot he’d stood on.

The first blurry figure dragged a fold-out chair with it up to the platform.  It removed a leather jacket from its body and rested it across the crest of the chair, turning towards the audience.

The figure began to twist its shoulder around, and its arm seemed to elongate.  It wrapped the limb up and behind its head, and started to pull its forearm across its own throat.  The image was too unclear to see what it ended up doing with the hand after that, but the arm shortly snapped back into place and the figure repeated the process with the other one.  Then it brought one of its legs straight up in the air, so that the ankle would rest just above the ear, and began to wrap it backwards behind its body.

“A contortionist,” Tristan surmised.  “Not exactly the kind of performance I was expecting from the description we got.”

“Not exactly, no,” Sam agreed.

The performance continued.  Limbs were woven together, peeled back, pulled from their joints, shifted into broken angles, and returned to normal.  It was only after this first segment that the true nature of the performer came about.  One of its arms stretched out too-long, an extra foot and a half Tristan estimated, and coiled its way around the performer’s throat.  The hand grasped the back of the chair.  The other arm extended, as well, and wrapped around its waist, holding it down.  It acted out its own strangulation, at first quietly realistic, but then growing in emphasis to wild parody, bringing the chair down on its side and dislocating its legs in its attempts to escape its own choking arms.  The crowd stared at the limp body for a few still seconds, then the performer stood back up and set the chair back in its place.

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No Reflection Available on Smashwords

nrnewcover

My first book (No Reflection) is now available on Smashwords!  Now, in addition to being able to get it for the Kindle, it’s available for the Nook!  Hooray!  Also, you’ll be able to get it in .pdf and .html files, as well, if that’s something you’re really into.  It’s also available for download at Barnes & Noble for your Nook.  It’s also available in paperback at Barnes & Noble, too.  I know, it’s a very exciting time for everyone.  You don’t have to thank me, I know how you feel.

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No Grave Sneak Peek! – Meet Cyrus.

Cyrus ate on a sidewalk bench outside of Gilbert Ramirez Park.  He always thought calling this place a ‘park’ was a stretch.  It was mostly a collection of white concrete streets winding around moldy bird fountains and scrappy patches of dying shrubbery.  The walkways were lined with pale splintering benches framed in rusting black metal.  It sat across the street from a desolate, walled-in lot of unoccupied land where tall, blue boards cried out ‘POST NO BILLS’ in faded orange stencil.  Despite the fervent demand, nearly every board was covered in vivid graffiti, wild hues of purple and yellow scrambled together in arcs of text and almost-murals.  With amusement, Cyrus wondered if the copious graffiti counted as some kind of ‘bill.’  One of the spray-paintings, a nearly three-dimensional spiral, reminded him of something from his nightmares.  He did his best to avoid looking at it as he ate.

The park was a good place to eat.  It was lightly populated.  Small children ran between scrawny trees laughing and playing tag, while older kids threw a tennis ball against a high wall and caught it when it returned.  He saw an elderly couple holding hands on a nearby bench.  Cyrus had long ago found it was calming to be in the midst of a crowd.  Even in New York, where the mass of crowd around him neither knew, nor cared, who he was, and he could feel as distant from his neighbor as he did from the moon, there was something inherently safe about a crowd.  No matter what happened, someone would see it.  It was a pleasant thought, even if it wasn’t true.

Cyrus dropped the plastic take-out box in a curbside garbage bin and watched a pair of children chase each other around a birdbath.  He turned to walk down the street when he heard a voice pick up on the autumn wind.  “Cyrus,” it whispered behind him, soft and musical.

He twisted around to scan the park.  Bushwick, he reminded himself as his eyes searched for an unnoticed shadow somewhere between the attenuated branches of the trees.  He took a step towards one of the twisting white walkways and peered down to where it vanished in on itself behind a thicket of bushes.  He listened for another sound and heard a high-pitched giggle arch up from around a small hill.  He felt a static sensation on the hairs of his arm, like he’d had at the Last Ceremony.  Fire crackled in his memory and through its smoke he glimpsed a twisted Hell.  A child turned a sharp corner over the crest of the hill and bumped into him.   She was a small girl wearing a floral dress, her hair a black tangle on her head.  She stared at him wide-eyed until a boyish laugh sounded behind her.  She squealed and continued running.

Cyrus swallowed.  The only other sounds he heard were clipped exchanges of Spanish and muted voices talking in the distance.  He looked the park over once more, and started walking away.  He kept close to the park’s wrought iron fence as he moved, hands tense at his sides, glancing over his shoulder every few steps to see if he was being followed.  He’d spent years of his life learning to check if people were following him.  That was before everything else, though.  That was before Kenya Kitteredge.  Now he had different things to worry about.

He started for the bar, heading east towards Jefferson Ave.  He worked his cellphone free from his jeans pocket and glanced at the screen.  He thought about calling someone, but there was a tension in the air that made him feel unsafe in the open.  He stuffed it back in his pocket and kept walking, stepping past a large stoop where a family had set up lawn chairs and a grill for their final barbecue before the autumn temperatures dropped too low.  An older man stared at him as he walked by.

After another few minutes, he ducked into a 99-cent store.  A young girl behind the counter watched him as he made for the back of the store, pulling his phone back out of his pocket.  He hid out amongst the cheap hardware section, trying to conceal himself behind the tall shelves of cheap metal goods, and called Miranda.

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