I’ve been asked to put a teaser up. This is the first chapter, which is a real teaser 🙂
It follows directly on from Cool Hand. I originally planned to write Cool Hand and Angel Stakes as one book, with the flight to LA being the mid-point, but only authors like GRR Martin can get away with huge books at such long intervals.
If you want more of a teaser, ask and I’ll email you the first 3 chapters. Be warned, Amber’s situation is not resolved in those chapters, so it would be just another cliffhanger.
ANGEL STAKES CHAPTER 1
Floating down the river of night toward the city of dreams…
Our Lady, Queen of Angels. Where the long dragon spine of San Gabriel sprawls over the trembling San Andreas Fault and four million people cluster in its shadow. Bad Feng Shui, the Chinese mutter, and spit to clear their luck.
Los Angeles. Where glittering streets of plenty cut like knives through the desperate barrios. Where gangs and cults, earthquakes and hill fires, riots and despair and madness, all simmer just beneath the surface, waiting, like the abiding desert, to erupt out through the drains and engulf the city.
LA. The laconic arrogance in the initials of the city that lives, full of myth, pulsing with tales. The city that feeds on dreams, leaving nothing but dust and nightmares. And we are such stuff as dreams are made. Or nightmares.
I knew I was on a plane, flying to Los Angeles, because Skylur had called us, and my oath bound me to him, as tightly as Diana or Bian were bound to him, or my House was bound to me. And I knew that I was teetering on the brink of insanity. That I’d been over the edge. That I’d gone rogue—become an unthinking, instinctive killer, consumed by rage and blood lust. And that I’d been brought back by my kin. Brought back as Were by Alex’s dominance. Brought back as Athanate by Jen’s Blood. And whatever part of me was Adept had been torn and stunned by grounding all the energy that the whole Taos community of Adepts had poured into a lock to hold Diana prisoner on that cold hillside up in Carson National Park. The energy that Kaothos, Tullah’s dragon spirit guide, had reversed somehow.
They’d told me the Athanate would drive my Were rogue, or the Were would drive the Athanate. That the Adept would drive them both rogue. It hadn’t happened like that.
You are none of the things they will think you are.
My great-grandmother, Speaks-to-Wolves, had said that to me in a vision, and she’d been right. My paranormal sides balanced each other. I’d escaped that nightmare, only to emerge into the same one—with a different face. The tide of darkness in my mind wasn’t caused by my competing paranormal instincts, but by the meddling of Colonel Petersen’s psychologists, as I’d lain defenseless in Obs after being bitten by rogue Athanate in the jungles of South America. I saw it as a storm in my head, sweeping in across the cold, high plains, threatening to obliterate me under towering clouds and cracking lightning. My body twitched and jerked with every electric strike.
My kin had saved me, but they hadn’t cured me. The darkness was returning.
And yet, it was as if there were two halves of me. A half that lay shaking and muttering feverishly on the floor between my worried kin, and a half that floated through the cool cabin, granted a clarity of vision that was painful. I’d bound my eukori tightly into my head so that the stain of my madness could not spread, but I was listening to Diana and Bian.
There was a crisis ahead. An opportunity and a danger twisted around each other like mating snakes.
We were going to LA, a place where you could toss away your old life like a bad hand and get a new deal. But also the place where the hollow-bellied god of fame lured dreamers to the great light, only to let it flicker and fade, leaving them blind and starless in the stone jungles, unable to tell truth from artifice. And still believing, still believing, as they offered the last things they had left. Their passion. Their health, heart, soul and youth. Finally, even their children. And the place where Basilikos and Panethus might end their shadowy battle, consuming each other utterly, that a new hope might rise from the ashes.
Floating down the river of night toward the city of dreams…
As they touched the cool, gray asphalt of Van Nuys airfield, the plane’s tires began screaming, and I went into convulsions.
Last December, I released my short story, The Biting Cold, as part of an anthology with Susan, Connie, Debra, JC and Jen. It went very well under both schemes we used. But it’s time to release it on its own. And to do that, I need an ISBN, a cover, the cover copy, and a price/package.
The ISBN I buy in bulk, so I just pull the next one off the list.
The price? Well, Amazon won’t let me put in anything less than 0.99 cents or pennies. I will put this story initially in the Kindle Select listings, so that Amazon Prime members can read it under their Kindle Unlimited contracts and I get paid for the number of pages read. This story was only ever intended to capture marketing information or be a tease to get readers into the Athanate world.
The cover copy I have from the anthology, but I want it shorter and sharper to stand on its own:
What price would you pay?
Dr. Amanda Lloyd, a dying psychiatrist with just days to live, is desperate to give the only testimony that will keep the criminal mastermind of a human trafficking network in jail. She can’t spare time for the handsome, mysterious patient who claims to be a vampire.
Unless what he offers her is exactly what she needs…
And the cover…
I’ve no intention of going out and paying a studio for a cover. So, what does the cover need to depict? “Vampires and romance”.
I don’t want fangs or a bitten neck on the cover, which leaves me with one obvious way of implying vampires (apart from the title itself), and that’s the font. I went looking for letter shapes that looked like knives or fangs, and I found Abaddon. Not perfect, but *free*. To ram the point home, so to speak, we need some blood dripping off a fang – ten minutes with PaintShop Pro.
The romance, well everything is a cliché. Naked male torso, serious abs and pecs. Bodice. Flesh. Kissing or embracing couple. Hands entwined. Red rose. Lipstick imprint. For no other reason than it was abstract, cheap and easy, I took the lips. Mwah.
What would be ‘nice’ for the cover to depict? Detroit, cold, winter, legal setting, a tale with a twist. I wanted to keep the cover simple and abstract, so the cityscape was out, as was the twist. They are respectively too detailed and too complex. The legal setting was interesting – there are lots of visual clues you can use, but I didn’t want to clutter. So I went for cold and winter, at which point, Jessica, Joshua and I came up with our interpretations and the attached are the result.
The covers have been getting votes on Facebook already. In case you haven’t seen it there, please vote here in the comments. Left to right, cover number 1-3. (I’ll be releasing the book on the 8th August).
As promised, the story of Amanda and Scott will continue for at least one more short(ish) book, and then will bind into the main Bite Back series.
I have been looking at names for the next book… maybe Heart of Winter
Welcome to my blog, where I’ll be posting my thoughts (ramblings) on writing and updates (shameless self-promotion) on the Bite Back series.
Here’s a little bit about me:
My name is Mark Henwick and I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often.
An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing.
And here’s a little bit about ‘Sleight of Hand’, book one in the Bite Back series:
“Vampires are the flickering illusions of Hollywood. They don’t exist. We do. We are the Athanate.”
For Amber Farrell, post-military life as a PI has its ups and downs: She’s been hit by a truck. She’s being sued by a client. Denver’s newest drug lord just put out a contract on her. The sinister Athanate want her to come in for a friendly chat. And it’s only Tuesday.
Enter Jennifer Kingslund: rich, gorgeous – a tough businesswoman who’s known for getting what she wants in the boardroom and the bedroom. Someone’s trying to sabotage her new resort and destroy her company – and she wants Amber to find out who.
The answers lead Amber past Were and Adepts, right back to the Athanate – and a centuries-old war that could threaten not just Denver, but the nation that Amber swore to protect and serve.
And all sides want to claim her for their own…
Interested in finding out more about Amber? Check it out: http://amzn.to/Sa0D3n