I started writing fiction about 5 years ago, and while I’ve gone through bouts of productivity which included getting this website up and running, I’ve also let months pass of disuse and neglect. I realized that I’m not actually all that great at finishing the creative projects I started, though an ADHD diagnosis has helped with that a little.
But also because, you know, writing books is hard. However I’m half through edits in book four of my vampire dystopian series. The earlier, first books, I wrote quickly just to see if I could actually write fiction well enough for people to enjoy it. And book one (Taste of vampire), thankfully, has over 200 reviews.
But I’ve always wanted each book, each sequel, to be my best, and so naturally I had some reservations about completing and entire project and being *done* with everything. That said, things are coming along well. I actually split what should have been book3 into two parts, so book 3 currently feeling imbalanced to me – slower – and book4 might feel a little faster (all the events leading up into the final conflict).
Once I refresh my blog I’ll probably try to keep it better updated, and once my series are done I’ll make everything more organized and easier to find. Hopefully. But for now, here’s a little excerpt at the concept art I might use to rebrand the boxset or whole series. I still like the many variations I’ve used earlier, but will need to have a core design for this series now that it’s done.
We rode in silence for another hour, before I finally saw the intersection to the king’s road. It was familiar to me, and a flutter kicked up in my stomach as I recognized it. It had been so long since I’d seen anything familiar.
But I’d never been here at dusk, with a band of rebels and a carriage full of elixir. We followed the road, which seemed so quiet the hoofbeats echoed off the tree trunks, until the sun had set, then pulled up to rest and feed the horses.
“So does he have an alarm clock in there or—” Trevor said, jerking his thumb towards the carriage.
“I’ll wake him,” I said. Though really, I had no idea how to do that. I squeezed past Camina as she got out of the carriage, then closed the door. I’m not sure why I needed the privacy, but I felt like I was creeping into someone’s bedroom. I waited a few moments, my hand on top of the coffin. Waiting to see if I felt any movements. I even put my ear to the flat wooden top, listening for breaths, or a heartbeat. But it was quiet, and I felt foolish. So eventually I just knocked.
“Yes?” Damien’s voice came back, so close and so quickly I jumped backwards.
“We’re here,” I stammered. “I mean, it’s dark.”
I leaned back enough for him to unlatch the casket and raise the wooden lid. It was a fine piece, rimmed with silk.
“Sleep well?” I asked.
“Sleeping in someone else’s coffin is not pleasant,” he said. “Actually, sleeping in a coffin at all is pretty restrictive. But they’re effective. I am rested. And I love to see you when I wake up.”
“Can you see me?” I asked, realizing how dark it was with the windows shuddered and the door closed. I could barely make out his pale face, his eyes gleaming in the darkness.
“I can see you,” he purred, leaning forward. “Your chin, your lips, your nose, your eyelids…” I felt a flush rise through me.
“Should we, do you need to feed?” I asked.
“Better not,” he said, sitting up and crouching in the carriage. “You need your strength. Do you mind?” He pulled a flask out of his jacket pocket. I shook my head no and he took a long draught, tilting his head back[DM3] . He licked his lips, then wiped them with the back of his sleeve. I could taste blood when I kissed him. Then he nodded at me to open the door.
Damien got out and stretched, looking around. The others filled him in on what we’d seen. He glanced at me, studying my face, but I kept it neutral.
“I would have liked to be farther ahead by now,” he said. “Let’s keep moving.”
Damien kept up a brisk pace, nearly racing the horses down the road. We didn’t stop again until we’d found the turnoff, for the intersection that cut across towards Denvato.
This time, Damien showed Trevor and Luke how to lift the swiveling section of the fence to open a passageway for the carriage. The road was barely a trail, covered in dirt and ash, for several miles, but Damien seemed to know where he was going. When he found an obstacle, hand me the reins, and fly off the carriage to clear the debris. He’d be back again moments later, sometimes without even stopping the horses.
But then we crossed over to an old highway, cutting through forests and valleys, until everything started to blur and I fell asleep again. I woke up suddenly hours later, realizing that we’d stopped. The others were huddled in a circle not far away. Something was wrong. I heard it a moment later, a sound that sent shivers down my spine. A long howl in the distance, and another, a little closer, on the other side of us.
I jumped down to the carriage to join the others.
“We’re being hunted,” Trevor said.
“I heard,” I nodded. “So should we hurry?”
“We can’t outrun slagpaw,” Damien said.
PS If you haven’t read books 1~3 yet, they are available!
I whistled between my teeth. “I do like to outdo myself,” I said.
I glanced over my shoulder at Noah, who was slowly losing a fierce battle with humidity. His brown eyes were half-hidden by the fog creeping up his glasses, and his black hair had fluffed out to nearly twice its usual size.
“You know. You’re welcome to leave and let me face the felding all alone,” I said, adopting the most innocent, pure-hearted damsel look I could muster.
With a sigh, Noah tore off his glasses and wiped them on his short-sleeved shirt. The black material was terrible at cleaning his glasses, though, and poor Noah ended up replacing humidity with dust and fabric fibers. “You know I wouldn’t,” he replied, giving me a cross glance.
Of course, I knew. I grinned and turned my attention back to the soft slap of the boats’ hulls and the dull roar of the waves, heavy with debris from the latest storm, beating lowly against the docks.
“We’ll be fine,” I said, as I resumed walking along the dock, Noah following despite his protests.
“How do you even know this is the right place?”
“I overheard Father and Professor Faye talking about it,” I said.
“Overheard,” Noah said flatly.
Okay, maybe overheard wasn’t the best word to use. Overheard implied that it had been happenstance. And it wasn’t. I had snuck out of my room in the dead of night and listened through the crack in a barely open door, after all.
“Details!” I declared, waving flippantly. “Point is, I know. The felding is here. I promise!”
“And you couldn’t let your father and Professor Faye handle it?” Noah asked.
“I imagine they’re both busy planning for the upcoming semester,” I replied. “They already have enough to do. We’d actually be helping if we dispatched this felding for them! Besides, we’re going to be acolytes soon, and—”
“And there’s a big difference between two new acolytes and alary like your father and Professor Faye.”
The alary were the elite warriors who secretly protected humanity from all the evil and creepy monsters in the world. But I was tired of letting them do everything, while I sat in the wings being treated like a fragile academy princess. I raked a few damp strands of blonde hair back from my eyes and looked across the road at my destination: the water treatment plant. The sound of churning water blended with the mechanical clang of grinding metal, as we waited for a car to pass by. Over the noise of the water treatment plant, a screeching snarl echoed off the buildings around us. I grinned at Noah, then sprinted across the road. I paused at a round, concrete wall, waiting for him to cross the road and join me. Despite there being no cars in sight, Noah looked both ways twice and sprinted across the road as if Satan himself ran in pursuit.
“Ready to slay a dragon?” I asked.
“Actually, I was thinking about Professor Lynn, whose great-aunt—”
“Had her head ripped off and eaten by a dragon,” I finished, rolling my eyes. “My father’s only told me that story a billion times. I don’t need it from you, too.”
“He’s just looking out for you,” Noah said. “As am I.”
I knew that, but sometimes, my father acted like I was nine instead of nineteen in three weeks. And I suspected if my father had his way, I’d be kept as far from danger as possible for the rest of my life. Even my angel-blessed blood and destiny as a warrior wasn’t enough to soothe my father’s fears of losing me. Like he’d lost my mother Aurora. Best not to think about her.
Noah wasn’t much different from my father, though he had absolutely no reason to be so protective. He was only twenty but fretted over me like an old, overly doting grandmother. But he’d once promised my father that he’d protect me, and despite that promise being made when Noah was eight, he took it very seriously.
“Besides, Professor Lynn’s aunt was killed by a fire dragon,” I said, forcing a smile. “This is a water dragon, and considering it’s just living in this water plant, it has to be small. The humans probably just think it’s an alligator.”
The hissing screech of the dragon split the air around us, just on the other side of the concrete wall. The solid, straight concrete wall. I tipped my head back, judging the height. Fifteen feet? Twenty? There didn’t appear to be any ladders or footholds and no nearby fence or tree to jump from.
“How are we going to get in?” Noah asked, as if he’d read my mind.
“Isn’t it obvious?” I asked.
It really wasn’t, but I refused to admit that I hadn’t foreseen this particular obstacle. I’d figure it out. I didn’t come all this way to be defeated by a concrete wall.
“We leave it to the alary, who have wings, years of weapons training, and blessings from the angels?” Noah asked.
“No,” I replied.
I kept walking along the length of the structure, searching for any way up. There was something odd, a place where the moonlight cast a short, horizontal shadow. I trailed my hands up the concrete, groping the space. My fingers brushed against an object, damp and solid, just above my head. It was the remains of something. A step or a ladder, maybe? “We climb,” I said, grinning.
Noah sighed and cast his eyes heavenwards, as if God Almighty might instill him with enough divine patience to handle me. I sucked in a deep breath and jumped. My fingers curled over the edge of the step as I hauled myself up. My eyes darted upward, squinting through the darkness. There was another step, a couple feet up. Carefully balancing on the narrow step, I pulled myself onto the next one and quickly scaled the side of the concrete. My arms burned as I reached the top and pulled myself onto the rim, being careful not to fall into the water on the other side. I turned to Noah, reaching a hand to help him stand as he joined me. “See? No wings needed,” I said.
He didn’t smile. Instead, he gazed into the murky pool of water beneath us. “Is it even in here?” Noah asked.
I bent down, peering closer into the water, but only saw my own distorted reflection in the smooth surface. In the murky water, my blue eyes looked black and my pale hair a dingy gray. I pulled at my black blouse, which clung uncomfortably to my skin. The humid air that struck my bare stomach didn’t offer the comfort I’d wanted. The sweat gathering under my breasts and beneath my sturdy, canvas pants was worse. If there hadn’t been the threat of a dragon, I’d have been tempted to jump in fully clothed, despite the filmy layer of grime floating on the water’s surface.
Without warning, a flash of blue lightning lanced through the water toward us, just as something slammed against the concrete. A jagged sliver forked up the side of the wall beneath Noah’s feet, a trickle of water seeping out of the crack. Noah stumbled backwards as the concrete shuddered under his feet. I grabbed his arm to stop him from stepping off the ledge.
“Careful,” I said, as he regained his footing.
I drew a four-inch cylindrical rod from my back pocket and pressed my thumb into the m-shaped rune – flicking my wrist the way I’d seen my father do a thousand times. The weapon extended into a nine-foot lance with a deadly point.
Noah’s jaw dropped. “Cora, no. You didn’t,” he said.
“Oh, but I did!” I replied, smirking. “What else were we going to use to fight a dragon?”
Noah smiled, a new eagerness flashing in his eyes. He reached over his shoulder and drew a star-bright Crusader’s sword from the sheath across his back. “The sword of Saint George?” he suggested.
“And you criticized me for stealing my father’s dragon lance!” I exclaimed.
“The good Saint’s sword was just gathering dust in the library,” Noah said.
“There’s hope for you yet,” I replied, “but God above, my father is going to kill us both.”
My father was the chancellor of Divine Providence, the academy that trained the alary, and as his daughter, I knew I’d get a good scolding and a slap on the wrists. At worst, maybe a month of latrine duty. But Noah could face real punishment, especially for borrowing a Saint’s weapon. His mother worked in the kitchens of Divine Providence, and his father had abandoned him long ago. Noah didn’t have a high-ranking family to protect him.
“It’s not too late to turn back,” Noah said, his voice becoming serious, “and pretend none of this ever happened.”
I shook my head and tightened my grip on the lance. “Not unless we’re hauling the head of a water dragon with us.”
The surface of the water churned a little. I watched for flashes of blue, studying the shimmer of moonlight reflecting on the surface.
“Do you see it?” I asked, as I circled around on the ledge.
I tucked my father’s lance between my bicep and my ribs and curled my hand around the weapon’s shaft, forcing it steady. My whole arm ached from its weight. It was bigger than me by about three and a half feet. That gave me a good reach, but I hadn’t anticipated it being so unwieldy. Father always made it look so easy, and the life-size mural of Michael and his six brothers slaying a dragon horde in the great hall made it look simple enough. Tuck under your arm, aim, pointy-end forward. But they had wings, which probably served as a counterbalance. God, why hadn’t I thought of that before? As blue lightning flashed in the water, I suddenly wish I’d brought a trident instead or a sword like Noah had.
A swish of a finned tail flicked up through the surface. I stabbed the lance down before the dragon could disappear into the depths again. Its snarling cry tore through the air and echoed off the water, seeming to come from everywhere and nowhere.
The dragon dove, threatening to pull my lance with it. Frantically, I pushed on the rune, causing the lance to collapse once more. Red blood spurted from the tip, staining the water with a colorful cloud. Once more, I pressed the rune on the lance, extending it to its full length again. Beside me, Noah cried out. I barely caught sight of the triple row of jagged teeth, as the blue-scaled beast reared out of the tank behind us. For a split second, I stood frozen and mesmerized. I’d always heard of dragons as being monstrous beasts who ate the hearts of angelborn for power. A hundred angel hearts and—the bestiaries said—a dragon could become human. I’d seen countless illustrations and tapestries of dragons being slain.
But I’d never realized how beautiful they were. The dragon’s scales looked like sleek, polished sapphires, and its delicate-looking wings were thin and translucent like a dragonfly’s. Even the dragon’s sharp spines and crests seemed lovely, like icicles clinging from a tree. Then, the spell was broken, and I steeled myself for the coming attack. It snapped at Noah, who slammed into me, pushing me off-balance and into nothingness.
Over our heads, the dragon launched from the edge of the tank. It flew through the air with its short wings, then dove into the murky sludge just feet from us. When my body struck the lukewarm water, I floundered, struggling with the weight of my father’s lance. Praying that the dragon didn’t choose then to strike, I collapsed the lance and dragged my way up through the water, gasping for air as I broke the surface. My eyes stung with the rank, chemically treated water. My soggy boots dragged me downwards, but I kicked hard to stay above water. I reached the edge of the tank and leaned against it, swiveling my head to look for Noah.
He surfaced a short distance away, but then dove and disappeared for several heartbeats. When he surfaced again, his face was frantic.
“What is it?” I shouted.
“I dropped the sword!”
I growled in frustration and tucked my father’s lance into my back pocket. Instead, I drew out my mother’s twin daggers, as always, sheathed at my thighs. With my hands free, I swam across the water and shoved the hilt of the second dagger into Noah’s hand, just as the water beneath us began to churn.
I kicked away from the edge of the tank and out of the path of the breaching water dragon. It broke the surface, jaw chomping. I gasped, pain shooting up my leg as its teeth sank into my ankle. I sucked a frantic breath before the creature dragged me beneath the surface. Twisting my body underwater, I thrust the dagger down at the scaled flesh of the beast. The blade turned against scales, unable to penetrate the thick, natural armor. I almost screamed in surprise as a second scaled body slammed into my ribs, but forced my mouth shut to preserve precious air, biting my tongue hard in the process.
I slashed again at the dragon holding me, then kicked hard with my other leg. Its teeth ripped through the skin at my ankle and snagged on my boot, a chunk of leather coming away in its mouth. I kicked off its head to surface, took in a frantic breath, and dove again.
I roughly wiped away water from my burning eyes and searched for the dragons. I barely made out the flickers of blue as their scales and wings glowing in the moonlight. Their tails swished, cutting through the water as they circled back on me. The water rippled as Noah dove beside me. We nodded at each other as the first beast snaked its way toward us. It cut swiftly through the water with its short wings and swaying tail.
The beast’s mouth opened wide like the gaping jaws of an alligator. I kicked away, out of its reach, as Noah slashed his dagger across the eye on one side. I buried my hilt through the other. Blinded and enraged with pain, the dragon snarled and thrashed. My chest burned, and I pushed myself back to the surface for air.
I barely managed to gulp a fresh lungful of air before the second dragon rammed into me. It seized my left arm with its jaws and wrapped its wings around me like a cocoon, dragging me beneath the surface. I slashed out with the dagger, slicing through the delicate skin of its fragile wings until the blade struck bone. It thrashed and recoiled. I surfaced again, then cried out as its sharp spines dug into my back. Once more, its jaws gripped my bleeding ankle. “Noah!” I yelled before my head sank beneath the surface again.
My lungs burned from the lack of oxygen, and the moon above the tank grew fuzzy as the dragon’s deadly grip pulled me to the bottom of the tank. Blood stained the water and swirled around me in clouds of color. How much was mine? My ankle and arm throbbed, and the deep gouges in my back burned like wildfire.
A shadow blotted out the light. The dragon’s jaws loosened, and its whole body grew limp. I slipped out of its grasp, but my clothes were sodden and my muscles weak with exhaustion. I kicked and swished my arms through the water, but my movements were sluggish. Heavy, impossible. My thoughts were groggy, slow, and my vision grew black at the edges, as murky as the water around me.
Strong arms wrapped around me. A part of me wanted to thrash, to fight off this new attacker, but I was so tired. So very tired. When the night air hit my face, I gasped, coughing up water as I was lifted through the air. My rescuer’s feet struck the pavement at the foot of the tank. Did he just jump down to the ground? Impossible. The distance was fifteen or twenty feet.He loomed over me, night-black eyes gazing into my face with sharp intensity.
“Dammit, Cora,” he muttered.
His dark, velvety voice was familiar, although my mind was slow to put a name with it. I blinked in confusion. My eyes burned from the water, but I was almost certain I glimpsed fanged teeth between his lips.
“Aamon?” I whispered.
I must be imagining things. It couldn’t be him.
My body recoiled from the hard pavement as Aamon laid me on the ground. Every cell of my body felt hyper-sensitive and charged. I shakily sat upright, my throat raw. My eyes traced over his dark hair, his strong jaw, and the barely noticeable scar that cut just beneath his right eyebrow. It wasn’t a scar earned in battle or anything like that. He’d hit his head on the coffee table as a child.
“Aamon,” I rasped, choking on his name.
He glanced at something in the distance, then shook his head.
A second later, his thumb traced my cheek, his touch like lightning. “Please, don’t do anything stupid,” he whispered. “Anything else.”
I shivered at the chill on my skin where his hand had rested. Then, he was gone, as if he’d simply become one with the shadows around me. My head spun as I looked around, trying to find him.
“Cora?” my father cried.
I glanced up. His metal armor and star-white wings shined in the moonlight.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Noah,” I croaked, my throat is rough and raw, “The dragons.”
He sighed and flicked a hand to command the others. I swallowed, closing my eyes against the pain that throbbed through every part of me. I couldn’t bring myself to move. My thoughts were in fragments, but still, I wondered if Noah was okay and if we at least managed to get a dragon head out of this whole, stupid misadventure.
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I was going to kill Lydna when I got back to Divine Providence. I glared at my boots, pink frilly dress and studded leather jacket. She’d sworn this look was popular with humans, but the other passengers wore muted, comfortable clothing. But it was a short flight, and all I had to do was watch movies and kill someone.
I wondered if I should order champagne, but I needed my head clear. I clocked my mark, a few rows ahead of me, just behind the curtain that led to first class. From what I could see, he had at least one travelling companion. My long legs were cramped behind the tiny seat, and I felt the weapons strapped to the small of my back. Vamps preferred guns, so I’d be the only one armed, not that it mattered. Taking down one vamp alone would require skill, even with the wooden stakes I’d snuck through airport security, and two was suicidal.
This is why the alary never went on missions alone, but I had to prove myself somehow. A year after giving birth and Joel still managed to keep me bound to the manor like an invalid. A high-value vamp was just the right target to prove to the chancellor I was ready for action.
But he’d be isolated from his horde, and trapped in a steel box, seven miles in the air. There was nowhere to run, which meant one of us wouldn’t be making it home tonight. This plan was either genius, or insane. Lynda would have called it post-partum psychosis or something like that, but a future of being homebound, learning to cook and taking care of an infant was infinitely worse than death. I’d been bred as a killing machine my whole life, and I refused to let my skills go wasted.
Besides, I’d killed dozens of vamps in only a few short years, some even before I’d earned my wings. Not to mention a handful of fae and djinn, though they were much rarer. I’d only seen a mermaid once, but we usually leave them alone, as they don’t interfere in human affairs and are absolutely deadly underwater.
I didn’t recognize the dark-haired bloodsucker in first class, but I’d done my research. Some kind of eastern european aristocrat. I was surprised he wasn’t taking a private jet for the instagram, but then I guess he wouldn’t show up in the pictures anyway. Vamps weren’t exactly insta-friendly.
And despite their wealth, they were cheap, which is how I knew he’d only be travelling with far fewer bodyguards. I heard a laugh ahead of me, and realized he’d starting chatting up another passenger, a pretty blonde with a white skirt and a gold necklace. She had far too much mascara and lips that were too plump to be natural. My heart pounded as she glanced at him wickedly, before getting up to use the restroom. He followed a moment later.
Charming bastard. Sure he’s handsome and rich as fuck, but that didn’t mean he had to bang every former gameshow hostess that crossed his path. With any luck, he was just thirsty. A few sips of first-class heiress blood would slow his reflexes, and keep him distracted so I could sneak up on him.
But that meant this was happening now.
The angelic brand on my arm started to glow in anticipation, but it was dampened by the dark leather jacket. I couldn’t stake his companion with so many passengers around, but thankfully they also disguised my smell, so I was able to sneak up close enough to touch him. The light flashed down my palms as I pinched the space behind his ear. My magic sparkled under his translucent skin. He flinched, but didn’t move, as my power held him paralyzed. With my other hand, I took a clove of garlic from my jacket pocket and stuffed it gently between his fangs. His eyes widened as the allergic reaction stiffened his limbs, activating the dormant rigor mortis in his black veins. I shut his jaw and strapped a disposable eye mask from the care package we’d been given.
“Night night,” I whispered, as I pulled my fingers away from his neck.
One down, one to go.
* * *
I saw a flight attendant glance at the bathroom door, but she just rolled her eyes. Apparently she was used to first class passengers taking their priveleges into the bathroom. I waited till she passed, then rammed the flimsy door open with my shoulder, busting the cheap lock. The vamp’s pale chin was covered in blood, his fangs fully extended, his back to me. I slashed out with the wooden spike, but he whirled quickly, blocking himself with the girl. I stabbed between her shoulder blades, but the wound was shallow. She moaned, still intoxicated from the vampire’s venom. I kicked the back of her knees, and she folded like a puppet, leaving the vampire exposed. This time I struck true, but in the tiny bathroom, I couldn’t get enough momentum to pierce his ribs. I felt the stake slide between them, inches from his heart.
Shit. This was not going well. He sneered at me, smashing my head into the mirror, before rushing past me into the main cabin. I took a deep breath and followed, picking bits of glass out of my hair.
When he reached his companion, he tore off the eye mask and pried the garlic out of his mouth, scowling as he wiped the vampire drool off against the plush seat fabric. In about a minute, I’d have to fight both of them. But I didn’t need a minute.
Passengers screamed as I charged down the aisle, leap-frogging over the rows of chairs to plant a boot into his jaw. He caught my leg and threw me to the ground, so hard the luggage compartment above us snapped open, spilling their contents. Movement to my left caught my eye, and I squinted at the dark shape outside the oval window, silhouetted by the moonlight sky.
I flinched at the sound of tearing metal. Green scales pressed up against the window.
“You fool,” the vamp croaked, just as one of the engines was ripped off in a burst of flame, smoke and a shower of sparks.
The plane rocked violently to the side, before going into a nose dive that had us tumbling across the floor, then sliding along the walls above the heads of the strapped-in passengers. Joel was going to kill me when he found out about this unsanctioned mission. If I lived that long.
I couldn’t fight a dragon with a wooden stake. This one looked centuries old, very mean, and nearly as big as the plane. They rarely attacked humans, and there hadn’t even been a sighting for over a decade, as far as I knew. What are the chances, I muttered.
I stood my ground as the vampire charged, tearing apart the upholstered seats with his elongated claws as he dashed across the ceiling. The oxygen masked popped down, and the passengers clutched each other as they strapped in tightly. If I could just get my fingers around his wrist, I could incapacite him, at least until I figured out what to do next. But before his blow landed, the plane was torn apart from beneath us.
Wind sucked him instantly out of the mangled shell of the airplane. I clutched hold of the nearest seat, wrapping my hands into the seatbelt straps, even though the vibrations of the shaking plane made my teeth chatter.
Behind me, voices screamed as the now-open main cabin of the plane tumbled downwards in a death spiral. A little girl looked up at me with wide eyes and I heard her whisper, “look Mommy, an angel.”
“Sorry kid,” I said. “I’m not that kind of angel.”
Then I took off, driving through the scorched carnage of the plane and narrowly missing the flaming engine. I felt its warmth as I tumbled past. Then I flattened my body, riding the air forward like a missile. I found the dark silhouette of my mark a few hundred feet away. He probably wouldn’t survive the fall, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I grabbed his torso between my legs and stabbed him with the stake. He fought me off at first, but he wasn’t used to the low oxygen.
The thin air at this altitude made him weak. Finally, I felt his ribs snap and the wooden stake plunged into his rotten heart, oozing dark sludge over my fingers. Then I kicked away from him, as he plummeted towards the earth. Wind buffeted against me as I tore off my leather jacket, and rolled my bare shoulders back to unfurl my wings. I glanced back at the airplane, now a flaming inferno spinning towards the ground, but it was too late to save them. I watched as it hit the ground in an explosion, close to where my mark had fallen.
That’s one way to kill a vampire.
* * *
I took a breath, slowly flapping my wings to maintain altitude, wondering if I’d made the right choice. I could have saved that kid, but I’d chosen to take out the vamp instead. I couldn’t save the whole plane, but that kid, her, I could have saved. Now she was just another soul on my conscience.
My head still buzzing from the fight, I didn’t hear the slow pulse of the dragon’s wings until I felt the warm steam of his breath just behind me. The burst of hot air spun me sideways and when I glanced back, it was too late to avoid the wall of scales. Its talons bound me like a vice, snatching me in its massive claw like a hawk with a trout.
I felt the angelic mark on my wrist glow with power as I extended my shield around me, narrowing it to just a razor’s-edge over my skin to keep me from getting crushed. Even so, the pressure was immense. Enough to turn an SUV into a tin-can.
I clenched my jaw as the dragon flexed his knuckles. When the creature didn’t eat me immediately, I realized it was tenderizing me. I cursed at the nearly-full moon, which was pink and low on the horizon. I knew I should have consulted the astrocharts before leaving.
It was nearly Summer Solstice, on the year of a super strawberry moon that only occurred every twenty years. Breeding season. Dragons were periodical; like locusts, they emerged every few decades from their underground burrows, in search of mates. I’d been an infant during the last cycle, but that was no excuse. It was a stupid, and potentially fatal, mistake.
The thought of being fed to a nest of hatchlings made my blood freeze. Killing a vamp with an airplane? Badass. Becoming infant formula for a brood of baby dragons? Not cool.
The runes on my arm scalded against my skin, drawing more energy than I ever had before. My wing was pinned at an awkward angle and I gasped when I felt it snap. I shifted, trying to relieve the pressure, and the sharp edge of the dragon’s talons stripped off a few dozen primary feathers from my carpal edge.
I watched them fall with a sense of loss; I knew how long those suckers took to grow back. It meant Joel would have a new reason to keep me grounded, assuming I made it back at all. But I didn’t have much time to think about it. If I lost consciousness, I’d be done for. The stakes were useless against a full grown dragon, but I wasn’t out of options. With a snap of my wrist, I threw one at the dragon’s eye. At the same time, I flexed out with my shield, with all my remaining strength.
The distraction was just enough to pry apart the talons, allowing me to slip out and plunge into free fall. A moment later, I was tumbling down towards the city. I flapped my wings, which leaned to the side. My broken wing felt like a razor slicing through my shoulder, and it was hard not to fold it in and fly in circles, but with my shield energy depleted, I wouldn’t survive a fall from this height. I scanned the city skyline, as the evening lights of Boston rushed towards me. The streets were still full of tourists, warming up and pregaming for a hard night of drinking. Fucking Fridays.
I found a dark spot in the grid below, and recognized the steep towers and turrets of a church, one of Boston’s oldest. I knew it had a cemetery in the back. Perfect. With any luck, the trees would break my fall. Maybe there was even a pile of leaves waiting between the gravestones.
I started braking a hundred feet up, using the warm, polluted air of the city to slow my descent. Despite my stripped and broken wing, I managed to reduce my speed considerably, nearly hovering over the cemetery for an instant—barely enough to scan for threats. But then my strength gave out, and I let gravity take hold. I was still coming in too fast. It would hurt, but I’d live. I tucked my wings in, preparing for a hard landing as the ground raced up at me. But I never made it. Something dark hurdled into me from the side, knocking my breath away. The momentum carried both of us through the rose-shaped stained glass of the main ocular window.
Keep reading the short prequel!
The short story is about 10K words and ends on a brutal conclusion (the *end* of that protagonist, but the beginning of the main protagonist that continues in the full series.) If you like the prequel, or just want a longer, more satisfying read, you can also get the full first book on Kindle Vella.
Today I had a book promotion that got me to #1 in a few categories, and I adore metaphorically rubbing shoulders with other bestselling authors in my genre – so I wanted to chronicle the moment by listing some of my favorite authors (and people) who write in similar genres. If you like my books, or YA fantasy in genre, make sure you read these!
PS – why these authors? They all write in YA fantasy, with a mythological feeling or background (stories based on folklore) with rich worlds and deep character building. Most of them I’ve met in person, and their writing inspired me when I was just getting started.
Recently I made a big list of25 best books on writing for authors who want to improve their craft but in case you missed it, here are the highlights.
Firstly – “how to write a book” isn’t the problem, it’s too big and too vague. What you really need to focus on, is how to tell a story readers want to read. That’s a genre consideration, not a marketing one.
Read nobody wants to read your shit or perennial seller or story grid to get your head around that.
Then, you need a story, which begins with plot. You can try writing a character based, drama only story but it might be a mess – in the beginning, a plotting structure will help you brainstorm ideas faster and make sure your momentum and pacing is tight. Start with the plot dot or plot perfect.
Then finally, you need to get better at the craft of writing – but this probably isn’t what you think. Most authors can already string together purple prose and flowery description, but master comes from information management.
How and when you parse out critical information is important to avoid backstory, TMI, boring infodumps and lack of conflict, tension and suspense. I have some tricks for that in my newmammoth of a book writing guide.
Don’t worry about the writing – focus on the story elements. In most cases, the best way to improve is simply to avoid all the bad, amateur writing problems that crop up for most authors. I made a massive checklist of first-chapter problems and posted it to www.writethemagic.com – so check there, or this older article on self-editing your book.