My wonderful husband and kids have been giving me time to write lately. A lot of time. And not just blog posts. You know how I’ve been tooting my horn about being more creative lately? For me, that takes the shape of writing novels. Specifically thriller fiction.
See, recently I started looking into writing contests. I’ve got my eye on one, and the deadline is March 31st. It’s a horror novel contest — just my speed. So I’ve been hacking away at one of my stories, trying to shape it up.
I’ve never done this before.
And that’s the exciting part. Normally I’m too shy to share my work, because it is so near and dear to my heart. But books are written to be read, so I’m facing down some demons — fear and insecurity — and diving in head first.
Let me introduce you to Shadowblade.
Shadowblade is a urban-fantasy-thriller series I’ve been working at for a long time. Like, an embarrassingly long time. My best friend in high school used to bug me to send her new scenes as I wrote them. The stories have grown up with me, taking shape as they’ve gleaned from what I’ve seen, learned and experienced.
The first book, Immolation, is my favorite. Like all beginnings, it sets the framework for the world I’m creating. It takes the drab normal and rips it apart, revealing a dark network of classic horror, historical intrigue, and paranormal in the present day.
And, without further ado, I present you with a scene from chapter one.
“I’m so sick of all the rain we’ve been having,” Liz said, shedding her coat. “My son is tired of playing in the house. He may be just starting to walk, but geez, he sure thinks he needs the run of the whole world.”
“How’s he doing with Michael’s new schedule?”
“Okay I guess. It’s always an adjustment. Brett doesn’t want to go to sleep at night because daddy isn’t home. And when the baby don’t sleep, nobody sleeps.”
Their waiter appeared with their drinks and took their orders. As he was leaving, heavy rain drops pelted the window next to their booth. Ramona’s eyes were drawn outside, watching the scurry of pedestrians rushing for cover. A chill brushed her skin and she wrapped both hands around her coffee cup.
“Are you doing okay?”
“Yeah, sure.” She waved a hand flippantly. “Jarrod asked me out again.”
“Huh. Let me guess, you turned him down again?”
“You sound disappointed.”
Liz shrugged, toying with the dull silver fork on top of her napkin. “He’s been consistent. And patient. There are worse qualities in a guy.”
“I know. But…it doesn’t feel right.” It sounded weak even to her ears, but she couldn’t think of a better explanation. Forcing a smile, she added, “Not all of us get a romantic love story like you and Michael.”
Liz scoffed. “Hardly romantic. He was the cop who showed up when my car was broken into.”
“And it was love at first police report,” Ramona teased.
“Har-har. We’re talking about you, remember? Not me.”
Her smile wavered slightly. “Well, you know me, all professionalism and no fun.”
“That’s what I’m worried about. But I’m not just worried about your lovelife. Is something else going on? You’ve been kind of glum lately. And I know you’re hardly eating.”
A hard knot formed in her middle, the kind like when a child gets caught being naughty. “That’s not true. I eat when I do groceries.”
“I’ve been to your apartment. That isn’t very often.”
“Very funny.” She took a slow sip of her coffee, hoping the conversation would blow over. But Liz was giving her a stern look, so she set her mug down. “I just haven’t been getting much sleep lately.”
“Aren’t the doctors at the Sleep Research Center were helping?”
“They had me try some new narcotics. But just like all the others, they only worked for a little while. I’m back to square one. Again.”
“Which means you’re getting, what, four hours of sleep a night?”
She shrugged. “At least I’m not having full-out night terrors I used to. I don’t bolt out of the apartment in the middle of the night to wake up in the hallway or street like I did a couple years ago. It’s just nightmares. Weirder and weirder nightmares…”
“What do you mean?”
“Well…they used to be like watching my life through someone else’s eyes. Now, they’re in the first person and someone is constantly trying to kill me. Sometimes we’re in a big, empty blackness; other times I’m in Medieval Europe. If I didn’t know better, I’d say work was getting to me.”
“I sure hope not. But you know your schedule is flexible – you can call in every now and then.”
“I’m afraid if I started calling in every time I had a bad night, I’d never work again. Really, I’m okay. Please don’t worry.”
“I’m your best friend; of course I worry.”
Not sure how to respond, Ramona stayed silent and turned her gaze back out the window. Through the water-streaked glass, she saw heavy drops pound against the concrete, pummeling pedestrians huddled under umbrellas. A couple souls walked unprotected, one person even stood still in the downpour.
Intrigued, she stared at the motionless figure. She guessed it was a man, outline large and broad. Hands in pants pockets, she could barely tell he had pale skin and light colored hair. Only shadows indicated where his eyes were. He wasn’t wearing a coat — was he in a t-shirt? And barefoot?
And he was staring right back at her through the window.
The same dull humm from earlier grew in her ears, blocking out her senses except for the sight of the man. Heart beginning to race, beads of cold sweat suddenly trickled down her back. She had no doubt — he was staring directly at her.
He stepped off the curb into the street. Toward her.
A bus suddenly appeared, blocking her view for a split second. Her breath caught in her throat, sick with anticipation to see if he was getting closer.
The bus rushed past. He was gone.
“Ram? Ram! Earth to Ramona Caen!”
Ramona jerked back in her seat, eyes shooting across the table to Liz. The petite blond was half-standing, waving a hand in front of her face.
“What the heck — are you okay? What just happened?”
Blinking, she looked from her friend, out the window, then back. It’s okay, he’s gone…or was he even there in the first place?
Raking her fingers through her hair, she took a shaky breath. “Sorry, Liz. I think that was almost a panic attack.”
Liz reached for her purse and started to stand. “That’s it — I’m taking you home. You need rest.”
Ramona reached out and touched her arm. “No! No, really, I’m fine. The best thing for me is to keep going on like everything is normal.”
For a moment Liz just stood there, giving her a doubtful look. Then she slowly sat down. “If you’re sure.”
“I am. Besides, our food just arrived.” She shot a meaningful look at the approaching waiter. “You said I need to eat. So let’s eat and talk about work.”
Though still wearing a dubious expression, Liz put her purse down. They received their food and poked at it silently for a moment. Finally Ramona took a hearty bite of her salad — only to appease her friend — and pulled out her phone. “I’m checking my notes; I’d like at least thirty-six hours to examine the Medici weapons. The only one I’m really intrigued by is that longsword, everything else is pretty standard…”
It took a few minutes, but soon they were discussing work as though nothing had happened.
To be continued…
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