I’ve been working on Taste for a few years, and the story keeps growing.
It’s a vampire dystopia, and one review called it “Hunger Games meets Shade of Vampire.”
However it’s an interesting mix of fantasy and science-fiction, where the “vampires” are genetically modified super-humans who keep humans in captivity: each “Elite” must choose a human bride to honor the peace between the races, and the protagonist’s adventure begins when she is chosen. So there’s also the “choosing ceremony” motif – I actually began this book probably around 2013 when “choosing ceremony” books were popular, but I’ve seen a few similar stories recently that I loved, like the 100th Queen, so maybe it’s making a comeback.
I’ve tried multiple covers for this book, and actually it was the one on the far right that helped make some interesting story changes:
But ultimately I went with this beautiful art from Consuelo Parra.
Even though I have a pretty clean outline and know exactly how it ends (I usually start from my endings), the middle is developing and a few new characters have emerged. I’m confident there are some EPIC scenes in this book, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be my best book yet, but it’s also developing more slowly than I’d like (plus, like usual, my stories keep growing and I have a difficult time knowing exactly where to cut off book one and where to start book two).
I HOPE to have it done in April 2018, because I have so many other projects to work on.
Read the excerpt below, and if you like it, download the first six chapters.
I covered my mouth and nose with my mother’s shawl and cut through the poisonous ash, ignoring the battered warnings signs. Going past the wall is death. Inhale too much ash and it will kill you. But this wasn’t my first time skirting the laws. I headed further away from the purification engines, whose motors filled our town with a constant hum, and climbed the oak tree that had grown too close to the perimeter fence ringing our compound.
As I shuffled out to the tip of a gnarled branch, the buzz of electricity radiating from the fence made the hair on my arm stand up. We didn’t have much electricity in Algrave, but I knew it was dangerous. I gripped the rough bark between my fingers, wobbling slightly as I blinked away a chunk of ash that had gotten stuck in my eyelashes. It wouldn’t harm me in small doses, as long as I didn’t breathe it in. But the ash wasn’t the only thing beyond the fence that could kill me.
My father used to tell me stories about the beasts outside the gates. Rancid breath. Claws as long as my arm. Teeth that could pierce the hardest stone. Their beady red eyes—the last thing you’d see before they ripped you open. Slagpaw, we called them. His stories terrified me when I was young, but it had been years since the last attack. Maybe the elite hunted them to extinction, or maybe they were just a story to scare the village kids from wandering too far into the ash. But I wasn’t a child any longer, and my father was gone. Besides, it was Festival tonight, and I didn’t want to be late.
I lowered myself down from the branch and dropped into the pile of leaves I’d left on my last trip. I’d nearly broken my ankle the first time I made the drop. This time I rolled, tucking my bow to the side. I brushed myself off and took a deep breath through my shawl. It filtered out the ash while letting in the fresh scent of pine sap. Nocking an arrow, I walked forward silently, my bow ready. My father had taught me how to walk without snapping any twigs when I was younger. He said it might save my life someday. I’d never really understood what he meant, and he’d died before I could ask him.
He left behind a bow he made himself, a hunting knife, and a few basic traps. When I realized my mother planned to sell them, I begged her to let me use them instead. She gave me a month to learn how to hunt. Twenty-eight days later, I came home with my first rabbit. Since then, she’s pretty much given me free reign, as long as I helped put food on the table.
Of course, she didn’t know how far I really needed to go to get meat these days. She thought I stayed within the compound and waited for a really stupid bird or squirrel to wander in. That hadn’t happened in months. I was sick of hearing my little brother complain that he was hungry. He was too young to understand rationing, or why we could never buy the sweet pastries in the market.
My mom did what work she could, but there was only so much she could do. At night, she soaked her feet in hot water with herbs, and rubbed the back of her neck. Sometimes I’d catch her staring at the walls and smiling to herself. I think she was secretly looking forward to the Choosing ceremony. Not that anybody in our family had ever been chosen, but she could hope. For my part, I was determined to make myself useful in any way that I could. And this could be my last Festival at home with my family. I wanted to make it special.
Twigs snapped behind me and I whirled around, pulling the taut string of my bow to my ear. A buck with magnificient antlers moved slowly through the trees. I’d never killed anything so large before. At least it was an easy target. I held my breath as it turned its three eyes towards me. Radioactive, my father would have said. Whatever that meant. Meat was meat. I steadied my breath, aiming for the front of its body, hoping to hit one of the vital organs.
I was just about to release my arrow when I heard the voices. My eyes widened in surprise and my heart pounded like a drum in my chest. There shouldn’t be anybody else beyond the wall, unless…
I ducked just in time to see a group of elites wander into the meadow, laughing and shoving each other. They looked like us, mostly—but I knew they were faster and stronger than any human. And far more dangeous than the creatures in my father’s bedtime stories. Apart from the handful of guards posted around the compound, who wore a standard black uniform, and a small team of engineers that came through our village every few months to check the machines, I hadn’t had much interaction with the elite. They all looked young, healthy, and clean in a way the people of my village could never hope to look, as if they took a bath every night and every morning. These ones were wearing richer materials and clothing than I’d ever seen.
One of the Elites held a finger up to his mouth. He ran a thin-fingered hand over the long, dark hair slicked back over his ears, then signalled the others to loop around to the other side of a small meadow. I was so sure they smelled me, my heart nearly stopped. I crouched on my toes, preparing to run, but then one of them hollered and chased a buck into the clearing. My buck. The rest of them ran around the animal in circles, terrifying the poor beast. They let it dart around and think it could escape into the woods, before appearing just in front of it again. They moved so fast my eyes could scarcely keep track of them.
The one with dark hair straightened his purple velvet jacket and approached the animal, keeping his arms out to both sides until he was right in front of it. Without warning, he grabbed the buck by the antlers and snapped them both off with a firm twist. As the animal stood there, stunned, he plunged the antlers into either side of the buck, skewering it and sending a spray of blood up over his white shirt and pale face. Then he smiled, licking the blood from the corners of his mouth.
My stomach turned sour as the other elites crowded around the animal. They raised silver chalices to the still-quivering animal, filling their cups with warm blood. One of them found a vein, and latched his teeth around the creature’s neck. He bit down hard, and blood streamed over his lips and chin. I shuddered and took a step backwards.
The leader’s head snapped up, and he looked straight at me with hungry eyes. Before I could even think about running, he was at my side. A cruel smile played on his lips as he glared down at me. Very slowly, he took an embroidered handkerchief out of his dark jacket and wiped the deer’s blood off his face.
“Ready for a new game, boys?” he called.
Cover art: Consuelo Parra
Cover art: Consuelo Parra
-When the soul dies:
Cover art: Consuelo Parra
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