The De Sols: Backstory

I started writing about the De Sol family on, or around, the year 1996. It started with AOL RP rooms, and I brought out a table top character I put together once: Gabrielle De Sol. Originally, she started out as my dominatrix vampire. (Hey, I said it was for fun!) She evolved … I evolved … and the story of the De Sols came to fruition. A huge family tree blossomed, I recruited more people to play characters, and eventually … the “saga” was born.

The De Sols are a noble family. Mother De Sol was the goddess of the sun, and Father De Sol was Lord of Dragons and God of the moon. A star-crossed love brought them children, happiness, death, and destruction.

Before UNDERWORLD. Before GAME OF THRONES (TV). My love for dark fantasy took root in this simple concept: A family who was hunted by those who didn’t understand the love of two souls who were never meant to come together. It is a dark story, it is a story of Shakespearean tragedy. But overall? It’s the heart of who I am, and who I became, as a writer.

Some of the influences for Gabrielle were characters like “Razor” (comic book), and of course, there would be no roleplay without my love of D&D. Dragons, Drow, Trolls, Goblins … I love them all. Creatures with an epic story to pull you in, to lose yourself for a little while, and characters who become a part of you forever-those are the stories I love.

I write horror but I always mix an element of fantasy or science fiction to it. I feel it adds color and depth to the formula. With that in mind, I’ve decided to give you the De Sol Storyline, here. In the coming weeks, you’ll see it evolve, you’ll see the changes in real time. Hopefully, you feel a part of its process and growth. Feel free to comment and offer suggestions. Even if I don’t take the suggestions, it helps more than you know.

Until then … May the light fill the darkness and show you the way.

Artwork by Dorian Cleavenger

Something New

I’m going to try something new. Because my time is so limited, there are times I only get a few words in at a time. So, once a week I’ll be adding a piece of a story here. You can follow, or you can binge when it’s done … or don’t read it! (I hope you will, and comment with feedback 🙂 )

What do you think?

If I’m brave, I’ll try designated days. No Patreon, just free reading.

#Mentoring #WritingTips – Make Every Word Count

Today I want to address words and how to make them count. I know I’ll get some pushback on this from the masses but remember: these are only my opinions. Use what works for you.

When I start mentoring someone new, I ask them to go through their story and remove a certain word first thing. The word, “that”. This word is what I call an empty calorie (junk food) among the serving of healthy words. It’s become overused these days because it’s common speak (street talk, as I call it).

Try it. Go through one paragraph and remove the word that if it doesn’t change the sentence. Now read it again. Does it sound more concise? Do you miss the word if it’s gone? Does it give your sentence a “gut punch” effect? Finally, does it make your words and their delivery sound more confident?

Trust me, I still have to go through and remove them from my own writing. What I’ve noticed, however, is it’s such an overused and unnecessary word, it drenches the pages. I couldn’t believe it when I pulled 6 books off the shelf to peruse the first page, how many jumped off the page at me. I couldn’t continue reading because the sheer number of “that’s” took me out of the story before it ever began.

Go through your own story in Word. Do a word search for “that” and see how many times you’ve used it. Is it 20 times? 50? More?

The next step after removing unnecessary “that’s” is to search for any word ending in -ly.

Here’s where I get challenged most often: using an -ly adverb is lazy. I know. Hearing it stings. That’s what mentoring is, though. Correcting bad habits and creating good ones.

Ok, why do we remove them?

Reason number 1: Most -ly adverbs (quickly, slowly, quietly) can be considered perspective.

Example: He backed up slowly.

How slow? If someone is backing up, are they surprised? Afraid? Dizzy?

Try using your words and make them count.

He took a few steps back. Each step was tentative, seeking the ground beneath him to keep from tripping.

Or

I raised my hand in slow motion, the room spinning around me.

Or

Unsure of where the chair was, I took one slow step back before the other followed.

See how it gives the sentences a better visual? Instead of using “slowly” I gave a better idea of what slowly looked like.

Most times, you can change the position of a few words to eliminate the -ly word and it will make the sentence sound more confident, leaving the reader with a solid description of what’s happening. Adding -ly gives a meek sound to your words and gives the impression of a week vocabulary.

Are you up for the challenge? Give this a try and let me know if it worked for you. Do you feel it made your story more confident sounding? I’d love to hear from you!


If you love these tips and want more, please comment and share!

Nuclear Solstice (Unedited, WIP)

So this story is a work in progress. Posting them here motivates me. I am trying to be more consistent and show my writing style. Most people know me as the CEO of Stitched Smile Publications but don’t know who I am as a writer. I want to change that. I’m a woman of many crowns and writing happens to be one of my passions.  Posting them unedited allows a couple of things to happen:

  1. I show the difference a well-edited work makes when going from rough stone to diamond.
  2. To practice what I preach to those who I mentor, “No one shits out gold.”
  3. Knowing people are waiting on the story helps me stay excited about it.

This work is UNEDITED, so if you are unable to read something until it has been edited, please keep scrolling along. I do welcome thoughts, insights, comments. 

Without further ado, here it is


nuclearsolstice header blog

NUCLEAR SOLSTICE

© 2018, Lisa Vasquez
Do not distribute, print, or use without prior written consent.

 

The world was blanketed in white, and quiet. The atmosphere was almost tranquil in its existence under the half-light between day and night. Sybil watched from her vantage noting how nothing shimmered under the muted rays of the long-forgotten sun. Nothing caught its filtered rays in a magical way. It was silent like a child hiding beneath the covers until the boogeyman retreated beneath the bed. All around her, the world was a perpetual mono-chromatic landscape of white, grays, and blacks. Still glancing up at the sky, Sybil observed as the clouds hung low, snuffing out the life of the sun, forever concealing the battle raging in the unseen heavens. A storm trampled above, the sound broke the dead air. She heard the thunderous growls chasing electric spears with no promise of rain anytime soon. Sybil released a slow, steady exhale then lowered her head. Reaching up with one hand she pulled back the hood of her parka, allowing the smooth, pale skin of her scalp to breathe. With her other hand, she tightened her grip on her spear which doubled as a walking stick.  

Listening close, Sybil stretched her senses. Always on alert, she remained attentive. In this world of muffled noise, it was not easy to pick up sound of predators, or of a potential meal. Successful hunters used tricks from ancient civilizations learned before all the books were burned. When the last library went up in flames, the elders once said, “all hope went with it”. Now, over a hundred years later, humanity was reduced to living in caves, once more at the bottom of the food chain. Nightly stories around the campfire told of the new “man”, evolved with the help of the governments in the year 2018. DNA enhancing testosterone levels in both male and females gave them rage-like aggression. Crouching low, the warnings of her tribe’s leaders replayed in Sybil’s head as she slid her fingers through the layer of ash covering the earth.  

These new humans were the experiments of the governments who united in a ploy to create the perfect soldier, never heeding to the superiority of Nature to do her own bidding with the fate of their evolution. One cannot play God without remembering Mother Nature was a controlling bitch. She ruled the game of checks and balances. 

Looking out to the south, Sybil gripped her walking stick tighter. The Dead Lands lie between her home, and the Forbidden Place where the Evolved resided. The stories of those who died made her heart heavy and she let out a breath to relieve some of the pressure on her chest.  

Those who survived “The War” weren’t the lucky ones like they say, Sybil thought. The ones who died instantly were. Lost in a reverie which could not be her own, she saw it so clear; Seconds after the first flash blinded the world, billions of souls left the earth following the dark cloud creeping over the sky, trapped in its hell. As a child, the elders used thunder and lightning as nighttime tales aimed at scaring her and other children into behaving.  

“You must always be silent,” her mother whispered, “Always stay close. I cannot keep you from danger if you do not listen to me, Sybil.” 

“Yes, mother,” she whispered back, shrinking into her tattered blanket. Her dark eyes pulled away from her mother’s and toward the campfire. The amber flames flapped and crackled, illuminating the cave walls. It was cold and damp despite the heat emanating from the fire, and the coughs of the others in their caravan echoed from their chambers in the murky distance. Water dripped into underwater canals, and every night she fell asleep to the faint smells of Sulphur, and feces. 

No, they were not the lucky ones. When the first billion people died, others were left disfigured with burns, and later if the burns didn’t kill you, radiation would be waiting. Less than one percent of the population survived. This included diplomats and wealthy who were locked away in bunkers, and the anomalies: “Human Cockroaches”. We were given the nickname, because like the insects, we survived the nuclear war. We weren’t the elite, personally selected humans. To them, the ones who almost destroyed the world, we were insignificant. To them we were foul vermin in need of extermination. Because of this, Sybil bore witness to the horrors of watching as each night one of her caravan family disappeared. 

Year 2118, Month Unknown 

 

The family was settled in for the night and only the hushed whispers of families could be heard through the various cavern “rooms”. Meager campfires crackled and popped. The small flames stoked by the “watchers” throughout the night. The fires weren’t going for warmth, though they did offer a comforting feel to the features of those who slept around it. The main purpose of the fires was for light. Keeping them small meant little smoke would rise from exhaust holes above. Too much, and the new man, called Aethers, would find them. 

Living in caves had changed humans in addition to the effects of the chemicals of war. Lack of sunlight on the surface was nothing compared to the lack of light beneath the earth. The eyes of those beneath adapted, growing more sensitive to light. The most color any of them saw now were the brilliant fluorescent glows from algae and insects when the campfire lights went out. Having spent years in the subterranean, the changes in them became more obvious. Most of them lost pigmentation in their eyes, leaving their irises a pale variation of their former color. Their skin was smooth, almost pore-less, and translucent. A lack of high calorie food transformed them into waif-like creatures who, in the old years, resembled the fictitious race of elves. At the surface, they appeared ethereal as their skin captured the half-light and illuminated. 

Sybil was dozing off to sleep when she heard the whoosh of air pass by her. Opening her eyes, she saw the flames from the campfire bend in one direction causing her to sit up straight. Looking around, she saw the watcher facing away from her, looking into one of the tunnels leading to the next “room” of the cavern.  

“What was th—“ her whispered cut off by the motion of his hand raising up. He pressed an index finger to his lips and Sybil froze in fear. The watcher’s stealth footsteps led him to the next opening, his hand wrapped around the hilt of his makeshift dagger and listened. After a few moments of hearing nothing he seemed to relax. He turned back to face her again, and he offered a small reassuring smile. 

“It’s ok—“ his began, his eyes then bulged and his hands grasped his neck. Confused, Sybil used her hands and dug the heels of her feet into the ground, to back scoot into the shadows. When the watcher fell to the ground, a cloaked figure stood in his place staring at her until she choked out a scream. In the rush of the others waking, it disappeared, leaving Sybil in hysterics.  

“What’s happened?” One of the men called out. He came closer and stumbled over the limp body of the watcher. Whispers began to fill the room growing louder and louder. The noise traveled to the outer rooms in the cave where others began to stir and rise. Watchers from every direction ran in to see what was causing the disturbance, and like a chain reaction, the news made it to every den. 

“What was it, Sybil? Did you see anything?” Their faces began to crowd around her, suffocating her with their questions.  

“I-I don’t know,” she stammered, “Just eyes. Like a shadow.” 

One by one they turned to each other, passing the information … or what little there was. Delphi, the leader of their caravan, appeared and the crowd spread, allowing him to pass. Sybil’s eyes widened, then lowered with the bow of her head.  

When he was standing before her, he reached his hand out to lift her chin, forcing her eyes to meet his. He stared down at her with his pale amber gaze. From beneath the hood of his weather-torn robes, she could see he had kind features. Wrinkles around his eyes creased when he smiled at her, his long white beard and mustache raised with the corners of his mouth.  

“Peace, child,” he spoke, and everyone around him fell into silence. Only the deacons of their tribe were ever allowed to speak with Delphi. No one had heard his voice in years until now. Sybil’s mother watched from over his shoulder, her hands tucked into her chest in a show of her anxiety. Was her daughter in trouble? Would she be held responsible? 

Dropping his hand from her chin, Delphi crouched before Sybil and her locked gaze followed him. He reached for her hand this time and held it in his. It was large and warm in comparison to hers.  

“It’s ok, Sybil,” he said, and everyone behind him leaned in to hear him speak again, “Try to remember everything you saw. I’m here with you now, and nothing will harm you.” 

Nodding to the hypnotic tone in his voice, Sybil recounted what happened detail by detail, as she remembered it. When she was done, she realized she was trembling again, and a layer of sweat covered her brow and hairline. Inside her chest, her heart was throttling.  

“Very good, Sybil,” Delphi said with another smile. He stood, and gave her hand a squeeze before turning to the deacons behind him, “Bring her to my den. She is in my care, now.” 

Sybil’s mother’s eyes grew large before turning toward Delphi. She lowered her gaze and took the hem of his sleeve to her lips, giving him reverent thanks. Before he walked away, he brushed his hand over her head and bent to kiss it. The collective inhale of everyone in attendance filled the den as they lowered their head as a show of respect. Delphi was the closest thing to royalty in the new world. He led them to safety more times than they could count, and always seemed to be one step ahead of the (XXX) in their ploy to eradicate them from the face of the earth. Without him, their family would’ve been wiped out at the dawn of its existence.  

The deacon to Delphi’s left, Iapetus, faced Sybil and offered his hand to her. When she reached out to take it, he shifted his weight to the staff he held in his other hand and turned, guiding her to follow them. Beside Iapetus, Sybil felt smaller than she was. He seemed to be made from the stone walls, each muscle in his exposed arm appeared to be hand chiseled. The staff he gripped in his massive hand was created from a combination of the limestone, and marble found all around them. Clusters of raw crystal surrounded the tip where a repurposed piece of steel formed a spearhead. He was Delphi’s advisor, and also rumored to be his son. Looking up into his face, Sybil could see the similarities. 

“Don’t be frightened,” his rough voice whispered to her, “We will keep you safe, now.” 

Sybil offered a half smile. There was no malice in Iapetus’ mannerisms. She could feel the goodness in him right through the connection of their palms. Turning her head over her shoulder, Delphi’s other deacon, Crius, offered his hand to her mother, Dione. Dione reached out to take it, then followed her daughter and the procession out of the den. 

All around them, eyes watched and silent thoughts threatened to fill the room with overwhelming emotion. Jealousy, happiness, confusion, and anxiety collided on the surface of the unspoken question, “What happens, now?” 

As if she could hear the thoughts of all those around them the head watcher, Eos, spoke. Her soft tone was raspy like an Autumn wind through the trees, bristling against dried leaves. It was this way, they said, because she never spoke unless it was an absolute necessity-and when she did, her words were as strong as she, herself, was. 

“There is no cause for further worry,” she paused to sweep her eyes over those standing before her, “Security is increased with double watchers, and traps have been lain.” 

There was a unified sigh of relief. 

“Go now,” she continued, “Help us by staying together. Watch one another. Never go anywhere alone.” 

Like docile cattle, the crowd began to move. One followed the other until everyone was once again settled into their dens, and tucked into their blankets and furs. When the last whisper died out, the watchers lit extra candles to cast the shadows away, and stood guard this way for the rest of the week. 

# # # 

 

Getting used to living with Delphi was an adjustment for Sybil. She’d never known her father, and Delphi’s watchful eye could be unsettling. It’s like he sees everything, she thought to herself while tiptoeing across the marble floor. Delphi’s den was decorated in rare furs which she found fascinating. In all the years she was alive, Sybil never saw a real animal while it was alive. Whenever the hunters returned with meat, it was already stripped of any useable hide and fur, leaving it smooth, sometimes still stained pink with blood, but most times it was gray and colorless like the world around them. 

Slipping her fingers through the dark fur hanging from the wall, she closed her eyes and exhaled. It was the softest thing she’d ever felt. The furs in the den were a sign of status, but they were coarse in texture. This was like nothing she ever knew. Tears welled in her eyes and she leaned in, pressing her cheek against it. Her chest tightened and she held in a sob. What creature must this have been, she wondered, to wear something so beautiful 

Burying her face into it, she mourned for the beast even without knowing what it was, or if it was dangerous. 

“It came from a panther,” Delphi’s airy voice broke the moment causing Sybil to jolt, “They are extinct, now.” 

Sybil’s face crumpled and pinched, holding back more tears, “You killed it?” 

“No, no, child,” Delphi chuckled and shook his head, “You think I could do such a thing?” 

“Well, I …” she paused, a sense of shame rising to the surface in her cheeks, “I just see all the animals skinned and eaten.” 

“We must eat, yes?” 

“Yes, but …” 

“What makes one creature better than another?” 

Sybil’s jaw slackened as she attempted words, but she remained silent taking his in. He could tell he was making her work out her ideas with the presentation of a new one. This pleased him. 

“I did not kill the panther,” he said, walking toward the fur. His hand caressed the black hairs with affection, something sad creeping into his eyes, “It was my friend.” 

“Your friend? I don’t understand.” 

“I saved its life, it saved mine,” Delphi looked down at her and smiled, “And then we were friends.” 

“Then, how did your friend die” Sybil asked, letting her fingers tangle in the fur she was still stroking without realizing it. 

“Protecting me, one last time from the soldiers,” his eyes looked far away as he told the memory. Behind his glassy gaze, she could tell he was seeing it all over again, whatever happened, “I wanted to keep him near me always so I brought his fur back to my den.” 

He took in a deep breath and dropped his hand. 

“I did not want to wear it like some trophy, and I did not want to walk over it. So, here it sits on my wall near the fire to keep it warm, where we can both reminisce and talk.” 

Tears fell down Sybil’s cheeks. She only had one friend, and she died from sickness many years ago. It made her sad, the memories of her friends face seemed to fade more every day. 

“Will you sit with us, this evening?” 

Sybil blinked and looked at him. 

“Come,” he motioned to the campfire, “Let’s talk about Kobalos, and the mischief he caused.” 

A smile spread across her face and Delphi mirrored it with his own. She let out a quick laugh and so did he before sitting down and nodding with his head to the place opposite him. Sybil accepted the offer and sat down. There, they laughed and talked until the small hours of the night. When she could keep her eyes open no more, her mother appeared at the door with Crius for an escort. 

“I should take her for some sleep,” Dione said, her head lowered as she took a step forward.  

Delphi pulled his gaze away from Sybil who finally gave in to sleep and turned to Dione. 

“She still doesn’t know, does she?” 

Dione flicked her eyes up once to look upon her daughter, then back down to the floor again. 

“No, she does not.” 

Standing, Delphi gave the cue for Crius to leave. The deacon seemed lost in a moment of indecisiveness but bowed and exited the den. When he was gone, Delphi moved closer to Dione and lifted her chin with the tips of his fingers. When her eyes met his, he searched for answers in them. 

“Did I dishonor you in some way, Dione?” 

The suggestion itself pried her eyes open until they were wide with shock. 

“N-no,” she whispered firmly, “I did not want her to be raised with expectation or privilege.” 

“It’s hardly a privileged life we live,” he laughed. 

“You know what I mean, Delphi. The others can be cruel.” 

The corners of his eyes turned downward in sadness and he opened his mouth to debate but her finger pressed against them. 

“You cannot change hardened hearts, and you cannot manipulate human emotion of those who will not allow joy in their lives,” she sighed and leaned in, “we are a peaceful tribe, but it is a careful, delicate balance.” 

“Am I not allowed,” he began, pulling her finger from his lips and pressing his forehead to hers, “To experience some form of balance?” 

“You must lead men and women who know no concept of such a thing. Envy is a toxin we cannot afford.” 

Delphi could only nod his head to her wisdom. Her hand still cupped within his, he brought her palm to his lips and kissed it, then turned it toward herself to lay it on her chest. 

“I love only you, Dione,” his whisper hung between the two, “And I will honor your wishes but I will protect her with my life.” 

Dione’s shoulders dropped, giving in to his wishes. With a nod, she offered him one final smile before she pulled away and moved to her daughter. Sybil stirred as she was lifted into her mother’s strong, but wiry arms. Soon, Dione would not be able to hold her this way. Moving past the fire toward the doorway, she turned mouthing the words, “I love only you,” then exited. 

 

# # # 

 

The commotion from the adjoining den woke Sybil with a start. Two weeks had passed since the incident with the shadow-man and three more had gone missing. Nightmares filled her dreams. Lying there listening to the others voice their fears, she pulled the threadbare blanket up to her chin. They are scared, she thought, closing her eyes tight. Tears threatened to form behind her lids but she managed to push them back, opening them again. After a taking in a couple deep breaths, she slid upright and twisted her body so her legs hung over the side of her bed. As quiet as she could, she pushed forward setting her feet on the floor. She heard a noise near the door and stopped, lifting her gaze to seek the source of it. The chatter continued beyond, growing louder as moments passed. Walking her fingers toward her robe, she pulled it close and clung to it. She had no way of knowing whether it was night or day from where she was until she looked at the candle flickering on the table. It was burned down. Morning, her mind answered, and her stomach confirmed with a growl.  

Tugging the robe around her, she tied it place around her waist and stood. She used her toes to fish her shoes out from under the bed before pushing her feet inside, one at a time. Behind her, something stirred again making her shoulders tighten. Sybil spun on a heel and was confronted with Crius’ form standing inside the doorway. She dropped her hands to the knot in her belt and curled the end its fabric around her finger.  

“Why are you standing there,” Sybil asked, the confidence in her voice betrayed by a nervous fidget. Her finger curled into the end of the belt, looping it around the same finger, again. 

“I heard you stirring, I came to check on you,” he answered, letting his eyes drop to the opening of her robe crossing low on her chest in a “V”.  

“It’s customary to announce yourself before entering a room of opposite gender.” 

Crius’ smile was smug and he bowed in mockery. 

“Forgive me, madame,” he said, the words purring forth from his lips like a cat toying with its prey. Sybil’s heart fluttered a little faster with the extra dose of adrenaline pumping through her veins. Her nostrils widened, flaring at the corners, allowing more oxygen to enter her lungs and she felt her legs tremble.  

Don’t show him your weakness, she chided herself. Straightening her back, she looked away and turned to pick up the candle. Glancing at him over her shoulder, she forced a smirk. 

“I’m sure it won’t happen again,” she said in a warning tone, extending the candle forward to shed light on the room a bit more. She could see Crius did not move. Rolling her eyes, she willed her feet to move and stalked past him. The more distance she could put between them, the better she felt though she could still feel his eyes on her. Sybil couldn’t figure out what it was about him but she felt immediate danger whenever he cornered her in such a way-something which became a habit in the last few weeks. His guise of being her guardian was not convincing at all. Ulterior intention loomed behind his eyes, watching from the dark like the shadow-man. 

Putting Crius behind her, she padded into the next den. It was open and large enough to fit their entire tribe. Though no one spoke in loud tones, the combined whispers grew, sounding like the rush of a waterfall. Nothing distinct could be captured unless you were close enough, but unrest was evident in the tension suffocating the air all around. Their faces turned into one another, no one seemed to notice as she walked by. At the center of the den, Delphi sat in silence. He looked worn down and tired. Scratching at his beard, he looked up before pushing to his feet. The room went silent. Delphi held onto it, letting the absence of their whispers weigh down on them. It was deafening. 

“All of you have a right to complain, and all of you are right,” he began, “We are in danger.” 

The tribe continued their silence but many of them hung their head in shame, others due to hopelessness. Sybil had never witnessed this type of behavior from them, even when food was scarce.  

Sweeping his eyes across his people, the invisible connection pulling their attention from the floor to him once again, “We knew this time would come. Some have prepared for it their whole lives and passed it down to their children.” 

Eyes widened throughout the tribe, still fixed on their leader. 

“We must go to war,” he said, “It is time to end this, once and for all. For our sake, and for our children. We will not be afraid to sleep another night.” 

The crowd responded with the tapping of two fingers against their palm, a way of applauding without creating too much sound.  

“But remember,” Delphi said, calling back order, “War comes with death … theirs and ours.”  

Letting his warning dangle in the air, he turned and nodded to Iapetus. The deacon stepped in front of Delphi and the crowd parted, leading a path to where Sybil stood alone. She could feel her eyes still large and round from the shock of the word. War? She repeated over and over in her mind, Death? She was wringing her finger into the fabric of her belt again, lost in her own world when she heard Iapetus speak in a gentle tone into her ear, “Make way, Sybil.” 

His eyes were always soft and genuine, unlike Crius’. She swallowed a breath realizing she’d been holding it. All she could do was nod and step to the side in obedience, lowering her head as Delphi was lead past. 

 

(To be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blood and Champagne

I’m going to try something different. I want this to be an ongoing story you get only here on my site. Keep in mind, it is pre-editor status. (What do you think you get for free! :D)

Once a week, I will post a new addition to the story. If you enjoy it, please leave a comment, share, and subscribe.

As always, everything included on my blog and posts are © Lisa Vasquez and may not be reposted or used anywhere without my written consent. 

 

POSADA_img_03
(All credit and rights  for this image belong to Drew Posada)

 


Blood and Champagne

by

Lisa Vasquez

Pleasure Principle
The sound of her breath caught up with the tempo of her heart rate. In out, in out, in-out-in-out. Closing her eyes, Fay allowed her head to fall back into the rapturous abyss, its arms around her like a lost lover. The night was black. No moonlight due to the clouds of the incoming midnight storm. It was like falling in love. Fingers splayed, the sticky fluid ran slow and freely down her arms and she let out a slow exhale like an orgasm rising from deep in her womb, up through her lungs and finally escaping from between her lips. Staring up at the blanket of space, starless and silent, tears of ecstasy fell from the corners of her eyes. A release of all the rage finally melted away until she was quivering like a virgin on prom night. This … she whispered to the voices chattering deep in her mind, mmm, this.

There were no words to describe the feeling. So she closed her eyes again and leaned forward against the cooling body of the man beside her. His eyes stared back at her, pupils dilated into large black dots against a backdrop of blue. She needed to touch him again and lifted her hand to do so. Tracing his jawline, she smiled as the rough stubble from his five o’clock shadow brushed against her fingertips. His lips were soft and full, still wet from the kisses he trailed along her neck. When her thumb brushed over his mouth, it opened, and he let out a breath, jagged and shuddering. He tried to speak but it was nothing more than a croak.

“Shh,” Fay whispered, leaning in to speak the words against his mouth, “Don’t speak. Just feel.

Sliding her hand over his chin, she pressed against it, so her tongue could easily push inside. With a low moan she trailed her hand further down his chiseled body, hard from years of dedicated military training, and finding the trail of soft hair over his naval, she continued until she found it. It was hard and stiff against her palm. Still wet from when she left it. Tightening her fingers around its girth, she pulled slowly, and he moaned deep into her mouth. Fay hissed in pleasure, pausing to savor the moment until she could hold back no longer. Adjusting her grip once more to ensure her hand wouldn’t slip, she gave a thrust and sent the hilt of the hunting knife straight back into the gaping wound it came from, forcing more blood to gush over her fingers.

The man’s body spasmed and his eyes widened with a sudden influx of life, pulling him back from the grasp of death. He still had a little fight left in him, after all. The excitement coursed through Fay’s body, tingling across her skin underneath the leather bodysuit, and her temperature rose most notably between her legs. She had wrapped them around one of his, the one jerking and trying to kick at her. Flexing the muscles between her thighs, she held onto him. His limbs tangled between hers; in her mind she transformed into an anaconda, gripping so hard he could feel his bones ache just before his knee popped. Before he could scream, Fay eyes stared into his and she gripped his tongue with her teeth, pulling until the muscle was stretched into a thin, rubbery band. Her date for the evening struggled with a renewed, fight or flight vigor, in an attempt to survive. Throwing her head to the side with a rough tug, the man’s tongue snapped and wiggled in her mouth, slippery with blood and intermingled spit. Fay released the hold she had on the man, shoving him onto his back as she rose to her feet like a steam from the earth. Tipping her head back once more, she let the piece of flesh slide down her throat with a thick swallow and tuned out his waning, gurgled screams.

With her arms outstretched, she let the cool night air rush over her, blowing her hair back from her bloodstained face and announced to the world, “This is who I am.”

I am, she declared to black sky, the voices in her head clamored with excitement, Everything you want to be, and more.

Related image

 

Blood and Champagne

She walked by and the heads of every red-blooded male turned. Toxic, with her blonde hair loose like strands of fine silk and a body that would make angels weep. I kept thinking to myself how I’d like to die and come back as leather the way it clung to her hips then melting down to firm thighs all the way down her calves. She was dangerous; we all knew it. It’d be safer to try your luck kissing a pit viper than touching those red velvet lips.

She stopped to look into the glass window of the café. Her reflection was a cold mirror of the woman staring in. It all happened in slow motion yet faster than my small mind could register. Her small hand rose up to remove the dark shades that sat high on the bridge of her nose revealing the most feral blue eyes the world had ever seen. I mean, I was literally hypnotized from where I was sitting, and I was at least 40 feet from them.

I heard the screams before I could tear my eyes away from them. Glass fell like rain around her, the lights shimmering off the pieces like diamonds in the light and all I kept thinking was, “champagne “.

Time caught up with me and I ducked low with the rest of the crowd. Shots were fired and the screeching of the cars along the street drug me kicking and screaming from my reverie back to reality. The bullets came from the inside; seems I wasn’t the only one that noticed she was there. The woman barely flinched as they skimmed by her head and then, like a cat, she leaped up onto the cafe’s front window display case. She walked through the lead fire toward this fat man in the back who was scrambling toward the kitchen on his stomach, sliding in the blood all over the floor.

Her boots sounded like thunder hitting the floor in sure, steady steps. I watched as she moved like a dancer; elbow to the tall man’s groin, dropping him easily and slamming his nose into her knee. The blood exploded all over her leather and her hands left his twitching form with a soft caress along his jawline. She moved through them like nothing. The next man’s wrist was snatched from the air as it came toward her. A sick “pop” and it was dislocated before her foot thrust like a speeding car into his chest.

My heart raced and I stumbled forward as I tried to keep my eyes on her but every movement was a blur. The more men that came at her, the harder she put them down. A small Asian man came out of the back, hair slicked back like a cliché, pretty-boy gangster and almost shot her. She jumped onto the counter then slammed his face down on the bar with the force of her body when it fell into a crouch. Another spray of blood stained her face, mimicking the lash of a whip across her cheek. Her hand rose again to wipe it off then stopped, suspended in air as if time froze. Her eyes caught mine.

I felt like a deer in the headlights.

“My God, ” I thought, “She’s going to kill me”.

She smiled at me instead, then disappeared into the kitchen. I sat there stupefied among the chorus of the fat man’s horrific cries.

I heard him die.

I heard every plunge of her knife into his body. The wet slap of blood against the walls. It was gruesome and all at once…

It was beautiful

Related image

Standing there, soaked in blood, Fay trailed her eyes along the body count until they reached the man shivering in his own piss behind the bar. Feral blues locked onto his like a machine zoning in, assessing him for threat levels. She’d already decided he was as harmful as a piece of lint before she turned and closed the distance between them.

“What did you see?” she asked when she was looking down at him. Blood was sliding down the leather and he could smell the scent of both filling his lungs.

“W-what?” he stammered, “I-I didn’t see shit!”

A blast of pain sent his world into an explosion of fireworks behind his eyes. What the fuck was that? he asked himself before her voice interrupted.

“No, you pathetic waste of flesh,” crouching in front of him, Fay’s eyes narrowed in warning, “I want you to recount what you saw happen here. Do you understand what I am saying?”

The coward stared at her in disbelief. Snatching his chin in her gloved hand she squeezed until the pain registered in his mind, dragging him out of shock.

“I ..” he gulped and closed his eyes. This was going to go one of two ways. Either he recounted it, verbatim, or he played stupid. He had a fifty-fifty chance of coming out alive if he failed, “Saw a blonde woman murder everyone.”

When he recounted the event he was witness to, Fay released her grip and shoved her palm against his face. The strength of her push sent him on his back, and he could feel the shards of glass bite through his shirt like tiny teeth. He was belly up, with his legs spread open, like a submissive dog. The smell of fear in his urine was pungent, mixing with the bullets of sweat soaking the pits of his shirt. Fay’s nose scrunched, and she looked to the door.

“Make sure they get the message, or I’m coming back to finish my work.”

The coward nodded and watched as she exited the bar. Sobbing, he rolled over to his knees and whimpered as new glass found its way into his skin. When he finally made it to his feet, he stumbled to the old phone near the cash register. His bloody, swollen hand, trembling from pain and adrenaline, picked up the receiver and he dialed. A voice came on the other end.

“What, now?”

It was the assistant.

The coward recanted the tale then listened to a long silence before the phone line went dead.

Related image

She Walks Among Shadows

The office was dark, lit only by torches leaning out from their sconces on the brick wall. The assistant turned and faced the woman behind the desk whose facial features were concealed by shadows.

“It appears, Mistress, your plan worked.”

“Make the arrangements,” her voice was soft, echoing through the compound walls, “We’ll leave tonight.”

The assistant bowed his head and exited. When the door closed behind him, Ophelia lifted the cup of tea sitting before her and held it in both hands under her chin. The warmth of the steam caressing her face, she opened her eyes. On the desk, a dagger lay in its sheath. At any given time, the woman had an arsenal of weapons on her-but this weapon was reserved for one purpose. The death strike.

Taking a sip of her tea, Ophelia let the warm liquid relax her. She set the cup beside the dagger on the desk, then stood. This plan was in the making for years. Careful, pain-staking details put together for this one moment; She was coming. The thought of plunging the knife into her heart is what lulled this woman to bed every night and woke her in the morning. Revenge became her heart, pumping its toxic venom into her bloodstream for over ten years. Tonight, she thought, staring down at her weapon, it will bleed all over this bitch.

When the assistant knocked on the door, Ophelia slid her dagger into the harness at her lower back. She made her way through the shadows with silent footfalls and opened the door. With a final look over her shoulder at her office, she reached out for the handle and opened it.

“Transportation is waiting.”

“You have all the paperwork in case I do not come back?”

“Yes, Mistress,” he assured her, his eyes not daring to look up.

“And you sent messenger to deliver the invitation?”

“Yes, as per your original instructions,” he nodded, “In the event the woman were to reach Underboss Benitzi, a messenger should be dispatched with a black envelope to be found in the safe. He should find her, hand deliver it to the woman, then wait for further instructions.”

Ophelia waited.

“The messenger has been eliminated.”

“Excellent. Let’s go meet our esteemed guest,” Ophelia said, sliding her gloves from her belt. Pushing her fingers into place, she led them down the hall in the direction of the car. Exiting from the fortress set high in the mountains, the assistant stepped ahead to open her door. Ophelia slid into the backseat and waited. Once the assistant closed her door, she gave the driver the address to the meeting place.

The sleek, black car made the winding descent toward the base of the mountain for several minutes until Ophelia lowered the window. The scent of the fresh, pine-infused air rushed in against her face as she lifted her eyes back toward the peak, foreshadowing the night sky. As if on command, the fortress exploded. A mushroom tipping a pyre of bright red and yellow roared into the horizon, swallowing her hideaway, and the assistant, into its infernal belly.

Related image

The Messenger

Standing in the shower, Fay let the scalding water wash over her body until the water pooling around her feet was dark with blood. She closed her eyes and savored the pricking, needle-like pain against her skin, and face. With her arms crossed in front of her, between her breasts, she pushed her hands up along her face and through her hair. The bitch wasn’t there, she thought, clenching her teeth until her jaw squared, I will not stop until she pays for what she did.

Opening her eyes, Fay looked down and traced her fingers over the star-shaped scar over her heart. A constant reminder of the day she nearly died at the woman’s hand, only to wake up and learn her sister had not been so lucky. The tension in her neck returned, making her head throb. Not even the heat of the shower would work this time. Letting out a sharp exhale, she felt the pain ride down the nerves, through each vertebra, until it spread through her hands. Opening her fingers, she fought against the trembling in otherwise steady hands.

Closing her eyes, again, she took in deep, meditative breaths through her nose. Using the muscles in her stomach to blow them out in attempt to subside the pain took years of practice. Even now, it wasn’t easy.

When the pain became tolerable, she grabbed the soap and finished washing the bits of brain and flesh off, using her thumbnail to dig under the nail beds. She was still shivering when she slid into her robe and exited the shower but at least the pain went back into its dark hole.

I need to … the knock at the door put her at high alert. When she spun, she could hear the plastic she’d used to line the bathroom, rustle. No one knows I’m here. I made sure I wasn’t followed.

Fay already had her dagger in hand when she moved toward the sound of the second, soft tap against the door. Her grip on the weapon’s hilt tightened, and she leaned forward to look through the peephole. Standing outside was a man in black fatigues, holding a black envelope below his chin where she could see. One word was handwritten in gold leaf lettering.

“Fay”

Smirking, Fay unlocked the door and stood back, allowing the man to enter. She closed the door behind him, not bothering to close her robe and reached out for the envelope. Letting her eyes scan it, she couldn’t help but chuckle at its final words.

I’m sure you’re aware of the baggage which comes with leaving witnesses. The messenger is disposable. I trust you will not be late for the rendezvous I have scheduled for us. Let’s end this, once and for all.

From the shadows,
~O~

A Little of This, A Little of That

Sometimes when I sit down to write a blog post, the idea is clear in my head. As soon as my fingers hit the keys, I let out a sigh and realize it is a chaotic mess. I attempt to get all the ideas down into one post and discover I need to break them up. This is my challenge. I know a good blog is one where updates are made regularly but my thoughts don’t work this way. Conversations with other authors give birth to new ideas and, like the change of the wind, they dissipate into another direction.

I decided when I sat down today, this post doesn’t have a main goal. This post would be a menagerie of thoughts poured out in its raw format. I suggest grabbing a nice cup of java and curling up. This might take awhile.

I started this year with a goal. My goal was to help Stitched Smile Publications grow while simultaneously helping my authors grow. It is a daunting task. Stitched Smile Publications, affectionately referred by me as “The House of Stitched”, has approximately twenty authors. On any given day, almost all of them are active. This is a fact, and I love it. Because most of them are brand new, or have less experience than your average published writer they are hungry for guidance, input, attention, and direction. You may think this sounds like a bad thing but it is not. It’s a good thing, trust me. I don’t mind the pressure. I don’t mind the hours I put into it. Believe me when I tell you they reward me in ways I cannot begin to list here.

It can be stressful, yes. Publishing life is not conventional by any means. You have a due date. The due date can change. Running a company in this industry is like creating a monster and having to care for it without knowing anything about the species. You run tests and experiment, you sit back and watch, you keep them on a leash, and then you let them off … hoping it doesn’t turn around and devour you.

It helps knowing I publish horror and dark fiction which makes sense since I give birth to a stable of monsters … and some awesome books from those monsters (wink, wink).

Daily life is never boring. It is never predictable. I never use pen unless I’m signing a contract. My calendar is a living breathing entity.

Starting the year, I planned on attending maybe 3 conventions. As of right now I have surpassed this number. Each one is both exhausting and exhilarating. You walk in looking like a tourist and walk out feeling like you’ve aged 10 years. No matter what, I wouldn’t change a thing. Like all life “on the road” I miss my family, long for my own bed, and wish I could shut my brain off, but while I’m there speaking to each one of you I am fulfilled. This was my calling all along. Having discovered it before it was too late is my blessing.

One of the things I put off this year was mentoring. I had way too much to do, those who were in my group had “real life” stuff taking priority and then I lost one of them. Their time in this world came too soon and it rocked me harder than I thought it would. I wasn’t sure how to proceed and figured it was best to take a moment to heal. The staff of House of Stitched was understanding. Their leader had taken a near fatal hit and not once did they ever waver in their commitment or loyalty. Aboard our vessel you are either all in, or you’re all out. There are no gray areas because each person is a vital organ to the entire whole. We are a family. No one gets left behind.

Reflecting back over almost four years, I have to smile because I never thought we’d be where we are right now. I knew we’d be successful. If you don’t believe something will succeed, there’s no sense diving in. What we exceeded in my expectations was the strength of our bond. I don’t often get emotional, or “sappy” but when I sit and think of everything we’ve been through to get to this exact moment … I’m overwhelmed. Listen, it’s a fact. Horror is a male dominated genre. It is what it is. It doesn’t mean I won’t-or haven’t-earned my place. It simply means I’ve had to fight a little harder. I’ve learned not everyone is reliable, loyalty is hard to find, and people will jump ship at the first signs of a leak. Not everyone who glitters is gold. Not everyone is your friend. I’m sure I can come up with a hundred more cliche’ things to toss out at you. As an adult you think you know them until you wake up and find you’ve missed the signs.

Oh, how many times I wanted to give up!

Each time I threw my hands up and said, “That’s it, I’m done!” another person would message me and say, “You have no idea how much you’ve helped me.”

How can I let them down? How can I let myself down? I can’t just quit. Who are “they” (those slithering naysayers) and what makes them so much better than me?

I keep telling my authors, “Don’t give up.” I’d be a hypocrite if I threw in the towel because things got tough. LIFE is tough. Finding a solution isn’t always easy. Leaders are who and what they are because they can sort through the debris to find the hidden clues. They have insight to carry the ship through the toughest storms. My staff, my authors believe this about me, and so I must believe it about myself. I sound like a self-help book, now. It’s dawned on me. I don’t need a self-help book or inspirational speaker to tell me I can do this. I need to hear myself say it.

I’m glad I fought to stay focused because I’ve met amazing people, and have pushed myself harder and further than I’ve ever pushed myself. I still make mistakes (man, I make mistakes!) but I own them and learn from them. I eat up experience like Wheaties and push to the next benchmark. So, too, must my authors and my staff.

Four years.

Four years and I have full-time, dedicated staff who have learned more with us than in their college classes. Four years and I have life long partners (next stop, SSP Island!). In four short years, I’ve moderated literary panels, been invited to conventions, produced over thirty books, signed over twenty authors, traveled to different states, sold more of my own books, grown as a person, an author, a leader, and as a friend. There is no price I can put on what I’ve attained because I gave myself a chance to follow my passion.

My final, stray thoughts as I close this post?

I think of my parents who didn’t give up when we were so poor we had to hunt through couch cushions to find change for pizza. Who stood by one another, supporting each other’s dreams no matter the sacrifice. Who worked from the ground up to build a business from their dreams and elevated their life due to hard work and sound business sense. Who taught us it was not only OK, but imperative to speak our minds and to let our voices be heard.

I miss my dad who would’ve loved to be here with me, going to these conventions and meeting people who shared his passion. This was the life he loved but he passed before I could share it with him. I know his influence is always there with me but it still replaces the emptiness with a longing.

Most of all, I think of my SSP family and how they made this monster a little more human.

How to Design Evil: Human

WARNING: strong language within (sorry, I have a potty mouth when I’m excited or passionate about things)

Image result for serial killer photos

I get asked this question a lot. I want to state for the record, I’m not putting myself as the expert, but as a publisher it’s time I put on my “big girl” panties and accept that I have an area of expertise. I figure, if I didn’t? People wouldn’t ask me as often as they do.

So here is my response. Take from it what you will and my hope is it will serve you well.

People love monsters. What does it mean when you turn a human into a “monster”? It means this human is a machine. They run through the forest and they are hacking up young virgins, or college kids. They might be a faceless man killing for the joy of killing. Or they have a disfigured face and they prey on young beautiful women because they’ve been scorned by the beautiful people. The point is, there’s no rhyme or reason. Where’s there is blood, and body parts, there they are.

Are they scary? Uh … duh? No matter where you hide or run, this non-thinking, massive human usually donned in a butcher’s apron is barreling down on you (at a glacial speed), and will find you. I don’t care where you are. The problem is all these characters start to blend in with one another. No matter how creative you arem they end up getting compared to Jason or Leatherface.

How many times can you improve on “dysfunctional family of inbreds”, or “backwoods cabin”? And don’t even get me started on, “a group of college friends get lost” because that’s so overdone. I never get past those words before I start watching re-runs of whatever is on TV.

I know. Everything is kind of played out. So, how do we, as writers, stand out? It’s not easy. Suspense is akin to being a great fisherman. You throw out the bait and wait until they swim in. Once they take the bait, they get hooked. You have to pull them in but you can’t tug too hard, and reel them in too fast. You have to have patience. Allow your words to get them anxious and build suspense. Make your reader squirm and fight you. They’ll want to know what the hell is going on, right now. (Man, I love to use that phrase)

Stay strong! You cannot give in, yet. The prize comes at the end of a great battle, and this battle is all mental.

The reader doesn’t really want to know everything right now, but they have to know some things and the picture has to be clear. They have to know at the end of the hook there is a big, fat, juicy worm. If you let them get away too soon they will go away feeling dissatisfied and resentful.

The best part of characters like Jason and Leatherface is the slow gait. Yeah, there are some jump scares, and no one is taking away from the unrelenting gore (or the boobies, for those who are fans of the mammary gratuity). I’m not taking away from those bits and pieces. Think about it, though, for just a second. You can run as fast as your legs will carry you, but no matter where you hide, where you run (…or fall *facepalm*), or how fast you climb, he can find you.

That’s some scary shit! It’s like those dreams you have as a kid where no matter how fast your arms and legs were going, you felt like you were running in cement? Seriously, I hated those dreams.

There is so much horror going on in the real world. Take your cues from everything around you. Supernatural “powers” are/were tales made up to explain things we don’t/didn’t understand. Exercise your mind by taking everyday normal things and changing them. (Example: It’s not a normal hand mirror. Your mother found it at a resale shop and it belonged to a woman who died. Her spirit is caught in its reflection.)

Create characters who seem nice in public, but behind closed doors they are horrible. Maybe you’re inspired by the seemingly benevolent neighbor who always smiles and waves as you pull into your driveway, but at night he’s always climbing into a crawlspace in his garage. What is he doing in there? (Ok, fine. It was my own neighbor, but seriously! Why was he in his crawlspace at 2 AM?!)

The best part about creating these characters is getting back into your child-brain. No, I don’t mean peeing your pants and shoving toys in the toilet. I mean the child-brain where every shadow was a monster and a dark room held creatures with flippers and teeth. This is where you get to be free and let your imagination run amok. There’s no right or wrong in a story, only in the process. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Let others read it. Ask them for honest feedback. Did it scare them? Why? Did it give them bad dreams? Was it a childhood fear of theirs, too?

Don’t be afraid to face your own demons. Writing is cathartic, and you always get to be the hero … (or at least you can kill the bad guy off when you’re done).

The biggest challenge is to create a believable “evil”. In this day and age, it’s not as easy as walking through a park and killing teenagers making out in their car. C’mon, cellphones and livestream are everywhere. Our evil creations have to be smarter, and scarier than ever. My biggest advice is start with the basic template and add to it. It’s like drawing. Start with a model and layer. Is it a male or female? What drives them to do what they do? Are they strong? Are they smart? Are they human?

Once you have your basics, you can begin to piece the character little by little.
Are they quick tempered, or slow to anger? Do they have an addiction? Are they compelled to kill by certain events? Do they have a broken family?

The reader must relate in some way to the main character. They don’t have to be serial killers but maybe they were bullied as a kid, too. Put yourself in a similar scenario. How would you react? What consequences would there be? Would you be able to forget it and move on, or would it stick with you forever?

Read the news. Trust me, there’s an endless supply of craziness in the world every single day. Catch up on true crime shows. Watch how people react to one another in the mall. (Alright, stop staring, that’s just creepy.)

It helps to always have a small notebook nearby to jot things down. Our memory is a strange thing. Sometimes we think we remember things and our mind will play tricks on us. Having the ability to jot a thought down helps, a lot. There’s nothing more frustrating than having an idea come to you, and getting distracted hours before you can begin writing only to discover … you forgot what you were going to write about!

Creating a character others can place a face to is a sure fire way to get them into your story and keep them there … locked away until you set them free.

Who are some of your favorite “evil” characters? What made the impact on you so profound? Who is your favorite author who can create these characters for you? Leave a comment and share!