EDITED NOTE: Vampires of the Caribbean anthology has now been discontinued. My story, for which I provided the teaser below, will be available as a novella called Enzili – check this blog and the Facebook page for release news. As Enzili was written to a max word count, some of the issues raised were not resolved, and these will be resolved in a sequel later in the year.
VAMPIRES OF THE CARIBBEAN
Pre-order now – released on 15th March
Debra Dunbar and I exchange messages every now and then, y’know: S&M clubs, vampire hangouts, getting away with murder, how to hide bodies, etc. Usual writer’s stuff.
Last year we got to talking about vampires in the Caribbean. She had a short story that filled in some early history of one of her characters. We talked about soucriants (local vamps), and I said I’d write something in that setting if she put together an anthology. I sketched a couple of ideas in my notebook.
Didn’t think anything more about it until she actually went ahead and put together a group!
I came up with a final idea quite quickly. It’s set in the 1790s on the island of St. Mark’s, in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. It incorporates vampires, slavery, voodou, the position of women in that era, politics, the sugar industry, the British class system and emerging technology!
The name of my story, ‘Enzili’, refers to the voodou goddess of love and women, who is also the goddess of witches.
It was hugely enjoyable to write. I used the opportunity to experiment with 3rd person narrative, two points of view and British historical dialogue, all of which I hope gives it a very different feel from Amber in the Bite Back series and Amanda in the Outsiders series.
It was even fun to have to rein myself in—yes, yes, I know Amber would just punch him in the face, but Lady Margaret can’t do that!
‘Vampires of the Caribbean’ includes 9 other stories apart from Enzili. It’s 500+ pages and only 99c. It is released on the 15th March, and it’s available for pre-order now from Amazon and other retailers.
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2lyZSXQ
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2lWKo0X
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XCK41HV
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/d/B06XCK41HV/
Amazon DE: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B06XCK41HV/
This is the first time I’ve been involved in a pre-order, but I think it really helps that early rating, which in turn really helps the sales!
And reviews. Reviews are lifeblood for writers. Reviews please. 🙂
And here is the whole first chapter of Enzili to give you a taste:
It was the one point on St. Mark’s island that Charles would describe as reliably comfortable: the very top of Grande Street, above the main town, where the onshore breeze was cooling and smelled only of the turquoise Caribbean Sea.
Charles Frederick Tynes took off his wide-brimmed, cream fedora and let the early morning sun heat his face while the wind riffled his sandy hair, lifting it from his collar and forehead.
He must not allow a hint of the fears assailing him to be visible when he descended the length of the street to the docks, he reminded himself. Not one. They were like sharks smelling blood in the water, the good folk of Drakeston.
So he replaced the light hat, and began to walk down Grande Street with his head high and his smile broad.
He was dressed in his best. His lucky clothes, as he thought of them. Pale and loose, to suit the climate, though his unbuttoned jacket was tight on his broad shoulders. The ivory color of the jacket contrasted with his tanned face and hands. His muscular build and the darkening of his skin was evidence of hard physical work in the tropical sun, and it was all held against him.
In defiance of that, he returned every greeting with a cheerful one of his own. Merchants and chandlers, plantation managers and clerks. A lieutenant from the small fort on the other side of the harbor; the captain of the supply schooner recently in from Antigua. The elderly Reverend Leonard Birkett, his pale eyes even quicker to move on than he was, after his salutation.
At this hour, ladies were absent of course, though there were some strolling women.
Within fifty paces, the scents of the open sea had become mingled with the prevalent Drakeston aroma of cooking fires, which was at least better than the smell which might greet him at the bottom of the hill.
Midway along the street, and not a step before, he allowed himself to look down into the harbor bay to see the ship he’d been told had just arrived from England.
His heart dropped.
So much for the lucky day. Well, there is tomorrow, and next week. Perhaps next month.
As long as it didn’t stretch to the end of the season.
Although he had to squint against the glare of the sun which was dancing off the chop in the harbor, there was no mistaking the long, low, purposeful shape of the newly arrived ship; no missing the swarm of the crew, the neatness of the rigging, or the pale bar that ran the length of the side. The visitor wasn’t a merchantman come bearing good tidings from England to him, but a frigate of His Majesty’s Royal Navy, come to show the flag in troubled times.
He did not let his stride falter. They were watching.
And…it was not unheard-of for a frigate to carry private communications. Naval captains had that discretion. In fact, Lord Willoughby-Lazaure might well have entrusted a vital communication to this most secure form of transport.
His steps quickened at the thought, and presently he plunged into the morass that was the lower town’s Sunday market, taking some comfort from knowing that the mill of people would hide him from the judging eyes.
Around him, the cries of seagulls merged with the calls of street sellers. Yoruba and Ibo, French and Spanish, Dutch and English; citizen, freeman, indentured servant, slave. In this one place, all their voices blended equally together in a cacophony of animated buying and selling. There were mangos and plantain, yam and cassava, cloves and cinnamon. He smelled grilled pork rind, chicken cooking in the spicy smoke of pimento and bay, and the salty allure of fresh-made fish cakes.
The scent of delicious food overwhelmed the usual stench of misery, sewers and poverty, and made his mouth water. On any day there was not a new ship in the harbor, he would have stayed to sample. Instead, he followed a line of women making a hurried progress through the market. They were balancing large woven baskets packed with limes on their heads, heading for the frigate and a sure sale for their produce, if they were quick enough.
The closer he got, the more the crowd swelled, coming together like tributaries to a river, meeting at the docks.
To some, the arrival of a navy ship was an idler’s distraction before church; to others the possibility of selling supplies, or the chance of news from Europe.
To Charles, it was just possibly the difference between his fervent dreams and his worst nightmares.
“It’s like a bloody carnival!”
Without stopping, Charles turned his head to the owner of the voice. George Devieux was on his shoulder, elbowing through the throng to come alongside. He was the manager of the old Jessop Estate, out by Spanish Peak. He was not exactly a friend, but he was not one who judged Charles on his background. George’s face was thin and his gray eyes were cold, but his world-weary, cynical asides often amused Charles.
“Good day, George. How goes your estate?”
It wasn’t George’s estate, of course. It belonged to the absent Jessop family of some woolly market town in Norfolk, who hadn’t been to St. Mark’s in thirty years or more.
“Well enough. I could do without the mutterings of voodou and the depredations of maroons.”
Voodou was a constant background. Even the best efforts of Reverend Birkett made little impact on the beliefs of plantation slaves, and never a day passed without some tales of Enzili visiting sleepers with dreams of love, Legba setting dead men walking, or soucriants sucking blood from victims’ necks.
True bloodsuckers, Charles knew, were more real than were ever met with in the slaves’ most fevered dreams.
As for maroons, the escaped slaves hiding in the thick jungles around Spanish Peak, they were an intermittent problem, and their burden fell more on George than others.
“The maroons? Still?” Charles said.
“If it goes on, we will have to bribe our brave Army captain to do his job and clean them out again.” George barked a sour laugh. “Leave them too long and…well, look at Saint Domingue.”
The large island to the north was still gripped by the most horrendous revolt. Every ship brought more stories to feed the nightmares of people here in the more peaceful Leeward archipelago.
“They have had the example of America to inspire them,” Charles said quietly.
It was an old, exhausted conversation. Folly to let the situation with the British colony deteriorate to the extent it had, and worse folly to then allow the American rebellion to succeed. It was fifteen years on from the humiliating defeat at Yorktown, closely followed by the concession of the government in London, and the echoes had not died—would not die.
Damn the government. And damn the Americans. Damn their rebel Yankee hides.
But they were all just part of the whole.
There would be another war with France, as sure as the sun rose in the east, and as soon as they finished guillotining the rest of their aristocrats. There might even be another war with America. Or Spain. Or the Low Countries. Threats loomed on the horizon like thunderheads boiling out of the ocean.
And the price of sugar perversely sank, just as the risks and costs of transporting it rose and rose.
Charles had the solution, the insight into what it would take to overcome the problem. It was not for the captain to massacre escaped slaves hidden at Spanish Peak, or for George to beat his slaves into cutting even more cane at Jessop’s plantation. A simpler, more modern solution. An enlightened solution. But Charles didn’t have the resources to achieve it, despite every penny he’d sunk into the project.
Every last penny and that £10,000 promissory note.
The thought of that note squeezed his breath and chilled him to the bone, so that he shivered, even in the heat of the morning sun. They could call it in at any time. They were watching him. The slightest sign of a misstep and they would pounce. At best, they’d wait till the end of the season, when they’d be able to seize his unsold crop and recoup their investments. He’d go to jail, and he wouldn’t survive there, not even for one month. He’d end up in a pauper’s rough-made coffin, tossed unceremoniously into a common grave. They’d have robbed him of everything, killed him, and profited from it, completely legally. Bloodsuckers indeed, and they walked the streets of Drakeston, brazen as whores.
Or Lord Willoughby-Lazaure—absent, wealthy owner of the Nightwood Estate, the largest plantation on St. Mark’s—had read and understood his letters, and had decided to invest in his scheme and would send him the necessary letters of credit.
All else: maroons pillaging; dead men walking; even spirits feeding on blood in the night; all of it was as nothing, of no consequence.
But he didn’t tell George that. He didn’t tell anyone, except Lord Willoughby-Lazaure.
A month he’d spent, cramped over his table every evening, writing and rewriting the offer. He must not appear too much in need of help, yet not so unconcerned that the earl would ignore his plea. He must appear confident. Assured. A sober, educated man. Not an equal to a peer of the realm, naturally, but neither could he seem so low as to be beneath consideration.
Perhaps the offer of marriage to the earl’s youngest daughter had been a step too far.
The sweat was cold on his brow.
Have I failed by being too presumptuous? An earl’s daughter, for goodness’ sake!
It had been a mere flourish to bring his proposals to a memorable close without a real expectation of success. Now it gnawed at him that it might be the reason for their failure.
“What on God’s earth?”
George’s casual blasphemy jerked his attention back to his surroundings.
There was a terrific hullabaloo beside the frigate. A wooden cargo crane had been pressed into service, with its cradle of blocks and pulleys. A dozen seamen were scampering around, carefully lowering something they’d hoisted from the deck.
Charles stretched and peered, not believing his eyes.
A strange woman was standing beside the frigate, in the shade of a parasol as dark as a raven’s wing. An incredibly beautiful, black-haired woman, so pale he thought he was seeing a ghost, and in front of her…
An icy hand of superstitious dread reached out and squeezed his heart.
A portent? Surely not a portent.
It was lashed to a frame and half-hidden in the tangle of ropes, yet Charles could clearly see what the crew had just unloaded from the frigate: a large, rough-made coffin.