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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Excerpt from Three Princes by Ramona Wheeler - February 4, 2014

I'm delighted to share with you today an excerpt from Three Princes by Ramona Wheeler, which is out today from Tor Books. Look for a 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interview with Ramona next month! Ramona Wheeler is on tour along with James L. Cambias and Brian Staveley. Check the end of the post for the Book Tour stops. 

Excerpt from Three Princes by Ramona Wheeler - February 4, 2014

Excerpt - Chapter 1 from Three Princes

LORD SCOTT Oken sharpened the focus of the opera-eyes so that a particular pair of legs filled the frame. She was the tallest woman on the stage, and to Oken’s eye, she was Golden Hathor with all her graces, a joy to behold. Certainly, there was not another pair of legs so exquisite, white thighs shaped by riding wild Cossack ponies as a child. In his better moments, Oken regretted the power he had over her intentions. In other moments, he simply had to admit that he loved his work.
His attention was interrupted by a knock on the door to his private viewing booth. It would be unseemly for a man of his rank to leap at an interruption.
The dancers sank into their final pose amid a swirl of silk and pearls. The gentle knocking became more insistent. The booth was small and carefully secured, so Lord Oken had only to turn in his seat to unlatch the door behind him.
The theater manager peered around the door, with only his self-important face and fashionably trimmed beard visible. He reverently held out a velvet cushion with a leather scroll-case. The gold-wax seal was the explanation for the manager’s excited decision to interrupt a dance scene. Oken took the case, thanking him with a casual word. The manager gave such a deep bow that he had to retrieve his top hat with a sudden snatch, and he retreated, struggling to balance his hat and the cushion while bowing as he backed away.
Oken shut the door and latched it. He sat, looking down at the golden seal on the case, feeling the familiar tug of duty and awe invoked by that familiar and historical icon. The Queen of Egypt was thousands of leagues away at Pharaoh’s Palace in Memphis, yet she could ensnare him with such a simple gesture. The blare of brass instruments striking up the final strains sounded, but he did not look up.
Oken unclipped his watch fob from its gold chain, a small, enameled-gold Watch It Eye. He tapped the snake coiled in the inner corner of the Eye and the cover opened, revealing a magnifying lens. The signs of tampering on the gold-wax seal were slight yet unmistakable: indentations in the bottom edge. Someone had read the Queen’s message, then skillfully resealed the case.
Oken closed the Eye and returned it to the chain, then broke the seal and unrolled the scroll. He raised it to his nose and sniffed gently. The unique incense of Pharaoh’s Palace was faintly present, evoking the majesty and wonder of Memphis. He was an agent of the Egyptian Empire. That thought had more power over him than the lure of those long, long legs.
The presence of Lord Scott Oken is requested at the palace in Memphis, for a presentation to Pharaoh Djoser-George. Life! Health! Courage! On Famenoth 30, commencing at 8 of the clock.
The handwriting was Lady Khamanny’s formal secretarial hand, signed with the hieroglyphic signet of the palace. Underneath it, however, was a simple sentence in the Queen’s familiar hand: We are counting on you to be there to dance with us, Scott, since poor old Dozey says his knees just won’t take the strain! Sashetah Irene.
Oken returned the little papyrus roll to its case and slipped it into an inner pocket, resettling his jacket around the stiff shape with a graceful shrug. He was smiling.
A reply to the Queen’s message could wait until morning. Oken returned to his close-up view of the stage.
* * *
HE LEFT his fur-lined overcoat in the booth. The manager would send it to the embassy hotel. Street carriages were heated, and Natyra kept her apartment unusually warm. She claimed she did so because she could spend more time in the bathing pool in the center of her bedroom. “Water, it keeps my body ready for the next dance!” Oken believed, however, it was more likely that she preferred being nude. This thought kept him warm as he climbed the nine stories to her apartment via the back stair, unheated and unguarded, lit only by small and ancient windows admitting the streetlights.
Natyra Arkadyena Solovyova lived in a great, round room in the sky above Novgorod, at the top of a stone tower in a western wall of the royal palace. Her sponsor, the grand vizier of all Oesterreich, Nevski XXI, was generous. Her room was as luxurious as any in the main halls of the palace, where the vizier and his many wives lived. It was also quite private, in its remote tower above the city.
Lord Oken found the door at the top of the staircase also unguarded, as he had expected. He removed his left glove and rested his fingertips against the touch-points of the ornate figure in the central panel. The hidden circuits in the silver inlay responded only to bare skin. Oken felt, rather than heard, the slight tremble as the panel activated; then it divided down the center and silently slid apart. He had to bend his head down and to the side as he stepped through the portal that had opened in the door. He was taller than most.
There were candles everywhere in her apartment, in silver and alabaster candlesticks. He could smell the soft, warm-wax scent of candles that had, until only moments before, been lit. The dying smoke made a sweet, mournful fragrance that told him the candles had burned while she awaited his arrival. He had known that they would not be lit when he walked in.
Oken asked her about it once. She told him someone (she would never tell him who, or when or why) had used candle flame to hurt her, badly. She showed him the pale scar still lingering on her sweet white breast. Whoever it was had used her own candles to burn her until she screamed her throat raw and confessed to things that she had not done and had never thought of doing until those ideas were put into her head. She had adored candles and candlelight from the first time she had been carried—small and helpless, and loving of the arms that held her—into a temple ceremony of the divine Neith, she of the wick and the lamps. Natyra’s first dances on temple stages had been to this ancient divinity. Natyra loved candles, the waxy scent, the yellow orange glow, the simple magic of light and heat that arose from string and wax and oil. She could not let that night of torture turn her away from her divine guide, but she could never bear to have anyone share them with her. She lit candles only when alone.
Oken, upon hearing this sad confession, had gotten up from her bed and taken a fat green candle from the mantel and set it on her nightstand. When he lit it, he saw her face go pale and her lips tremble. She held her chin up, still proud, yet a cloudy fear touched her green eyes.
He did not touch the lit candle. He held his hands out beside it, with the firm, tanned flesh of the backs of his hands and wrists close to her.
“Burn me,” he said to her, firmly. “Burn me with the candle.”
Natyra shook her head. He could see the candlelight gleaming in her eyes and on the smooth, polished skin of her shaved head.
“Do it.”
She stared at him, gauging his conviction, then took the candle and dripped hot wax onto the backs of his hands.
He winced.
He let her drip more wax, until he saw something fierce and clean shine in her perfect face. With a cry of alarm, she put the candle back into its holder and pushed it away. Oken blew out the flame, watching her face in the sudden twilight. He used a bit of ice from his drink to chill the wax on his hands until it was brittle and fell away.
Natyra had tears in her eyes as she kissed his hands then, the soft, unburned insides of his wrists and his palms. They never spoke of it again. She did not light candles when he was there, but she trusted him.
Her trust hurt Oken more than the mild blisters on his hands. He was testing a theory, doing his job. What truly mattered was that he discover the identity of her contact in Novgorod, in the palace of the grand vizier of Oesterreich, who was leaking vital information to Bismarck in Turkistan, the only nation in open resistance to Egypt’s embrace.
* * *
THE TAPESTRY that concealed the hidden entrance to her apartment was drenched with the fragrance of incense, oils and candles. Oken was familiar now with that mingled scent of smoke and time and he felt his pulse quickening.
He paused with the corner of the tapestry’s fabric in one hand, gazing around, adjusting to the dim light. At the far side of the room, tall windows looked out over Novgorod. City lights created an orange glow in the night sky. Opposite the tapestry was a fireplace, originally built to burn whole trees at once, radiating warmth into the room from the complex flutings of a steel radiator. White peonies filled the mantel, masses of them in crystal vases set between miniature lotus columns.
Oken could see the gold and silver threads of the tapestry’s design reflected in the mirror above the mantel, making the divine faces of Isis and Osiris shine softly in the darkness. They seemed to be smiling down benignly at his face, reflected in the mirror as well. For an instant he felt himself to be a part of their eternal scene. He pushed the feeling aside to focus on the moment. However lovely the scene, this moment was not benign. He was here on a mission, weaving lies in search of a truth.
Natyra’s pale form was outlined by blue radiance as she floated comfortably in the bathwater with an ivory headrest supporting her slender neck and shaved head. She raised her glass to him in salute when he stepped into sight.
Oken strolled slowly toward the glowing pool and her magical presence. He circled the pool so that he could see every curve in the water, then he stopped beside the ivory headrest. The blue radiance emphasized the pattern of veins in her throat and breast. Her eyes were deeper green in this light, large and luminous, gazing up at him with sultry promise.
He dropped to one knee beside her upturned face. “My mum spent a lot of her wealth to make sure that I had a proper appreciation of classical art. You are a classic, and I do appreciate perfection.”
“My compliments to your dear mum,” Natyra whispered.
“My mum would not like you,” he whispered in return.
“Good.” She reached up and drew his face close to kiss him.
Oken was careful not to let the cuffs of his jacket get wet. He tasted vodka and hints of absinthe along with her incomparable sweetness.
“Join me.” She gestured toward the pool.
“Your bed would be more comfortable.”
“I am comfortable here.” She waved her hand once slowly through the glowing water so that inviting ripples swirled over her creamy flesh.
“Yes, you are, but I’ve had my bath already.”
“Silly boy. You will need another bath when I am done with you.”
“I certainly hope so.”
“I am tired from the dancing. The hot water, it makes me relax.” A slight pout in her voice suggested Oken was going to give in to her.
“I can make you relax,” he whispered.
Natyra stretched lazily in the water, arching her back so that the pearl white mounds of her breasts rose out of the pool, sparkling with water drops.
Oken sighed. This was his favorite suit and he was on very good terms with the tailor. He did not want to get it wet. It was silk. Then he remembered the scroll in his pocket. He sat back on his heels.
“I’ll meet you there.” He stood up.
Natyra’s scrunched up her forehead, and she let her glass drop into the bath.
Oken stepped back, smiling down at her, then strolled over to the canopied bed. He settled onto it, bracing himself on hip and elbow and stretching his long, lean legs out across the silk quilts. He lazily undid the buttons of his jacket, thinking not of Natyra but of the royal wax seal on the scroll calling him back to Memphis to dance with the Queen of the world.
“You are a tyrant.” Natyra stood up in the pool. “You did not even give me a towel.”
“Do you need one?”
She pouted at him more firmly as she climbed out of the bathing pool and took a towel from the warming rack. She let it trail dramatically behind her in one hand as she stepped slowly toward the bed with the exaggerated grace of the stage. Droplets of water rolled down her perfect flesh, tracing the rise and fall of her muscles as she moved.
Natyra was forty-eight, almost twice Oken’s age. She always made sure that her lovers saw her only from the distance of the stage or in the twilight luxury of her private apartment. Oken was less mindful of her age than of her ageless perfection. He marveled at the good fortune that had brought him here. Were their ages reversed, he doubted she could have been more beautiful. She wore time better than most women wore youth.
She swirled the towel around and draped it across his hip as she knelt on the bed. “You must dry my back.”
Oken sat up, pulling her to him as he pushed the towel to the floor. She put her arms around him, stroking his thick hair as she kissed him. The bare curve of her skull fit his hand perfectly. Oken knew, whatever else happened, he would remember that curve of bare skin against his palm for as long as he lived, and not just because of his perfect memory.
She teased his teeth with the tip of her tongue, and Oken stretched her out on the bed.
There was a thunder of fists pounding on wood from behind the huge tapestry covering the far wall, then a crashing thud, and the corner of the tapestry was thrust aside as a man in uniform burst into the room. “Natyra!” he shouted when he saw them.
Natyra sat up as though stung, her eyes wide.
The man looked as big as a bear—not a big European bear, but some giant, golden animal from the deep, wild woods of Rusland, towering over everything and everyone, sleek and enormous. Even his blond mustache was waxed into giant curls. His bushy brows were drawn down into a fierce V of anger over his raging blue eyes.
Oken recognized him at once, with some surprise, as General Vladimir Modestovich Blestyak, in command of the vizier’s royal horsemen guard, and the last person Oken expected to see in Natyra’s apartment. Blestyak was a lowbrow from a famous family, never seen out of uniform and never seen when anything important or dangerous was happening. Oken was more curious than alarmed by his noisy entrance. He made himself remain still, ready to leap in whichever direction this invasion demanded.
Blestyak bellowed as he stalked toward the two poised on the bed. The size of his rage and his volume made his words incoherent. Even so, Oken picked up at once that the general was not happy about the “Egyptian pig” in Natyra’s bed.
Natyra reared up, defiantly nude, to stand between Oken and the general. She placed her hands on her hips and lifted her chin with regal disdain. “How dare you come in here uninvited!”
The general spat out a torrent of words, accusing Oken of being a spy for the Pharaoh. The sight of those perfect breasts, however, made the intensity of his rage falter. He hesitated before taking another step toward her. He repeated the accusation at a lower volume.
Natyra, speaking in the same language, reminded the general that he was also a spy. In Trade Speak she added haughtily, “Irrelevant! He is invited to be here—you are not!”
Oken had faked ignorance of the native tongue. He had just received his reward for the ruse. General Blestyak was not on the embassy’s suspect list. He was considered to be something of an idiot, fit only for horses and royal stables. Natyra’s single sentence, however, made pieces fall into place. The royal stables were part of the palace compound, with access to the entire grounds. The royal family worshipped their horses. The stables were temples to Epona, sacred ground. Blestyak was in a perfect position to observe anything happening there. His obscurity even made sense. Who would notice him?
Oken made himself lie still, resting back on one elbow, a hand draped across his hip. He let his gaze drift as if the glorious view of Natyra from behind were more important than a raging giant.
Blestyak’s step faltered again as he looked back and forth between the lovers. “I will have this pig arrested!”
“I will have you thrown out!” Natyra stamped once with her foot.
“That’s one big bear.” Oken spoke lightly, pretending to be entertained by the interruption. “What’s he shouting about? Does he plan to join us?”
She turned her head to glare at Oken. “Do not be impertinent.”
“Good.” Oken made himself relax back against the pillows. “I don’t much like animals, not in bed.” He waved the general out as he would dismiss a servant. “Make him go away, milya Natyra.”
Blestyak recovered his rage, flinging himself at Oken with a roar.
He landed on the bed with such a crash that the solid wooden frame creaked ominously. Oken, however, had neatly rolled away. He leaped to his feet as the general raised himself up to scramble after him.
Oken was glad that he had not yet taken off his jacket. He sprang around the bed to where Natyra was just regaining her feet. He picked up the towel and draped it around her shoulders like a dinner cloak.
Blestyak also regained his feet and was coming around the bed with an incoherent string of curses. Giant hands stretched out to grab Oken.
Oken kissed Natyra lightly on the tip of her nose, feeling, as he had from the first, a strange jolt when so close to her green eyes. “I’ll be back,” he said, knowing it was a lie. His work here was done.
He turned aside as the general reached them, thus Natyra intercepted Blestyak’s assault. Both of them fell heavily onto the bed, with the general’s arms tangled around Natyra’s long limbs. Oken sprang away, running toward the secret exit behind the tapestry.
The general moved with surprising swiftness, untangling himself and snatching up giant handfuls of the carpet with a fierce jerk. Oken went down. He rolled as he fell, and he came up just as Blestyak’s fist came down on the side of his face.
The buzzing in Oken’s head nearly drowned out Natyra’s scream. He tasted blood.
Even Oken’s eidetic memory recalled only a blur of pain and pounding fists in the next few seconds. His best training in martial arts could only keep him moving fast enough that the general could not kill him, not all at once. Natyra’s angry screams penetrated like darts in the fog.
There was an abrupt explosion of shattering crystal. Blestyak fell heavily across Oken, pinning him to the carpet.
Oken had a glimpse of Natyra’s nude form standing over them, holding the broken remains of the vase she had just smashed over the giant general’s giant head. White peony petals clung to the droplets of water on her arms and legs like stray feathers. She held that crystal weapon raised, prepared to hit Blestyak again if he stirred.
“Is he dead?” she whispered.
Oken could see the flutter of veins pulsing in the general’s forehead as blood spilled down across the huge face. Petals were caught in the hot, red blood. “No,” he managed to gasp. “Get him off me.” Then the lights vanished, and the world fell silent and still.
* * *
LIGHT AND sound returned with stunning cold.
Oken found himself lying on a mound of snow beneath a clear black sky of northern stars. His first thought was to regret that he had left his gloves on Natyra’s bed. The next was to hope that the blood staining the snow was not his own—at least, not all of it.
He tried to sit up, thought better of it, and settled for lifting his head enough to see beyond the bloodied snow. He was lying on the frozen drift at the base of a stone wall. He recognized the wall. He had been carried to the side entrance of his hotel. The Egyptian Embassy was across the street. He checked his jacket pocket with trembling fingers. The case was still there. He shook it, hearing the slight rattle that said the scroll was inside.
His body ached with the fierce cold and bruising and the hard, sharp pain of fractured ribs. He rolled off the snowdrift and into the road. Pain gave him the strength to pull himself up to his feet and he staggered over the pavement to the embassy building. His legs gave way as he reached the huge windows. The building’s automatic security system would alert the guards inside. He lay huddled around the pain, waiting for them to find him. It was time to leave Novgorod. He had accomplished his mission and his best suit was ruined.

Copyright © 2014 by Ramona Wheeler

Three Princes

Three Princes
Tor Books, February 4, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Excerpt from Three Princes by Ramona Wheeler - February 4, 2014
Lord Scott Oken, a prince of Albion, and Professor-Prince Mikel Mabruke live in a world where the sun never set on the Egyptian Empire. In the year 1877 of Our Lord Julius Caesar, Pharaoh Djoser-George governs a sprawling realm that spans Europe, Africa, and much of Asia. When the European terrorist Otto von Bismarck touches off an international conspiracy, Scott and Mik are charged with exposing the plot against the Empire.

Their adventure takes them from the sands of Memphis to a lush New World, home of the Incan Tawantinsuyu, a rival empire across the glittering Atlantic Ocean. Encompassing Quetzal airships, operas, blood sacrifice and high diplomacy, Ramona Wheeler's Three Princes is a richly imagined, cinematic vision of a modern Egyptian Empire.

About Ramona

Excerpt from Three Princes by Ramona Wheeler - February 4, 2014
Ramona Wheeler grew up an Army Brat, shuttling from library to library with every move. She has written extensively on ancient Egypt and comparative mythology and her “Ray and Rokey” stories appeared in Analog magazine from 1998 to 2004. She now resides in Massachusetts. Visit her online at

Twitter @Ramona332

Book Tour

James L. Cambias, Brian Staveley (The Emperor's Blades) and Ramona Wheeler (Three Princes) will be touring together. Here is the schedule:

2/4, 7pm - Towne Book Center, Collegeville, PA

2/6, 7pm - Barnes & Noble, Holyoke, MA

2/7, 7pm -Annie’s Book Stop, Worcester, MA

2/8, 2pm - Barnes & Noble, Hingham, MA

2/11, 7pm - RiverRun Bookstore, Portsmouth, NH

2/13, 7pm - Harvard Coop, Cambridge, MA

2/15, 3pm - Bartleby’s Books, Wilmington, VT

2/22, 7pm - Flights of Fantasy, Albany, NY

2/24, 7:30pm – Housing Works Bookstore, New York, NY

Excerpt - Indexing by Seanan McGuire - May 22, 2013

The first episode of Seanan McGuire's new serial Kindle eBook, Indexing, was published on May 21, 2013. I'm a huge fan of Seanan's novels as well as the works of Mira Grant (a pseudonym).
Per Amazon:  Kindle Serials are stories published in episodes. When you buy a Kindle Serial, you will receive all existing episodes on your Kindle immediately, followed by future episodes as they are published at no additional cost. Enjoy reading as the author creates the story, and discuss episodes with other readers in the Kindle forums.

47North has given permission for me to share this excerpt with you.


Excerpt - Indexing by Seanan McGuire - May 22, 2013

Excerpt from INDEXING by Seanan McGuire – episode 1: “Attractive Narcolepsy)

Attractive Narcolepsy

Memetic incursion in progress: estimated tale type 7.90 (“Snow White”)
Status: ACTIVE

            Alicia didn’t feel well.
            If she was being honest, she hadn’t been feeling well for a while now.  The world was spinning, and everything seemed hazy and unreal, like she was seeing it through the filter of a dream.  Maybe she was.  Dreaming, that is; maybe she was dreaming, and when she woke up, everything would be normal again, rather than wrapped in cotton and filled with strange signs and symbols that she couldn’t quite understand.  Maybe she was dreaming…
            In a daze, she called a cab and left the house, the door standing open and ignored behind her.  The dog would get out.  In that moment, she didn’t have the capacity to care.  Alicia didn’t feel well, and when you don’t feel well, there’s only one place to go: the hospital.
            Alicia was going to the hospital, and when she got there, they would figure out what was wrong with her.  They would figure out how to fix her, and everything would be normal again.  She just knew it.


            My day began with half a dozen bluebirds beating themselves to death against my window, leaving little bloody commas on the glass to mark their passing.  The sound eventually woke me, although not before at a least a dozen of them had committed suicide trying to reach my bedside.  I sat up with a gasp, clutching the sheets against my chest as I glared at the windows.  The damn things had been able to get past the bird-safety net again, and I still couldn’t figure out how they were doing it.
            A final bluebird hit the glass, making a squishy “thump” sound.  Feathers flew in all directions, and the tiny birdie body fell to join the others.  I glared at the bloody pane for a few more seconds before turning my glare on the clock.  It was 5:22am—more than half an hour before my alarm was set to go off, which was entirely unreasonable of the universe.
            “Once upon a fuck you people,” I muttered, shoving the covers off of me and onto the floor.  If I wasn’t going to get any more sleep, I was going to get ready for work.  At least in the office, there would be other people to receive my hate.
            Wildflowers had sprouted from the hallway carpet again, this time in a clashing assortment of blues and oranges.  I didn’t recognize any of the varieties, and so I forced myself to step around them rather than stepping on them the way that I wanted to.  Research and Development would be able to figure out what they were, where they originated, and what tale type variants they were likely to be connected to.  The wildflowers were usually random as far as we could tell, but they had occasionally been enough to give us a lead.  Rampion flowers meant a three-ten was getting started somewhere, while the strange blue-white blooms we had dubbed “dew flowers” meant that a three-oh-five was underway.  It wasn’t an exact science, but very little about what we did was anything like exact.
            Turning the water in my shower all the way to cold produced a freezing spray that chased away the last unwelcome remnants of the previous night’s dreams and left me shivering, but feeling like I might have a better day than the one indicated by the heap of dead bluebirds outside my window.  Really, if all that went weird today was a few dead birds and some out-of-place flowers, I was doing pretty well.
            I work for the ATI Management Bureau.  Our motto is “In aeternum felicitas vindactio.”  Translated roughly, that means “defending happily ever after.”  We’re not out to guarantee that all the good little fairy tale boys and girls get to ride off in their pumpkin coaches and on their silver steeds.  They’ve been doing that just fine since the dawn of mankind.  They don’t need any help from a government-funded agency so obscure that most people don’t even suspect that we exist.  No, our job is harder than that.  Fairy tales want to have happy endings, and that’s fine—for fairy tales—but they do a lot of damage to the people around them in the process, the ones whose only crime was standing in the path of an onrushing story.  We call those “memetic incursions,” and it’s our job to stop them before they can properly get started.  When we fail…
            When we fail, most people don’t hear about that, either.  But they do hear about the deaths.
            There’s no dress code in my office, not even for the field teams, since many of us have reasons to avoid the more common suits and ties.  I still liked to keep things formal.  I pulled a plain black suit out of my closet, selecting it from a rack that held ten more, all of them virtually identical.  Pairing it with a white button-down shirt and a black tie left me looking like an extra from the set of Men in Black, but that didn’t bother me much.  Clichés are relatives of the fairy tale, and tropes aren’t bad; they go with the territory.
            My gun and badge were on the nightstand next to my SPF 200 sunscreen.  I scowled at the bottle.  I hate the smell of the stuff—it smells like a shitty childhood spent locked in the classroom during recess because the school couldn’t take responsibility if I got burned, but also like trying to find the right balance between flesh-toned foundation and sun protection.  None of that changed the fact that if I went out without lathering up, I was quickly going to change my complexion from Snow White to Rose Red.  “Lobster” is not a good look for me.
            My phone rang as I was finishing the application of sunscreen to the back of my neck.  I glanced at the display.  Agent Winters.  “Answer,” I said curtly, continuing to rub sunscreen into my skin.
            The phone beeped, and Sloane’s voice demanded, “Where are you?”
            “In my bedroom,” I said, reaching for a tissue to wipe the last of the clinging goo from my fingers.  “I’m getting ready for work.  Where are you?”
            “Uh, what?  Are you stupid, or just stupid?  Or maybe you’re stupid, I haven’t decided.  Have you checked your texts this morning?”
            I paused guiltily.  I hadn’t taken my phone into the bathroom while I showered, and I could easily have missed the chime that signaled an incoming text.  “Let’s say I didn’t, to save time.  What’s going on?”
            “We have a possible seven-nine kicking off downtown, and management thought that maybe you’d be interested in, I don’t know, showing the fuck up.”  Sloane’s voice dropped to a snarl on the last few words.  “Piotr sent everyone the address ten minutes ago.  Most of the team is already en route.”
            Full incursions are rare.  We usually get one or two a month, at most.  Naturally, this one would kick off before I’d had breakfast.  “I’ll be there in five minutes,” I said.
            “You don’t even know where—”
            “Goodbye, Sloane.”  I grabbed the phone and hit the button to hang up on her with the same motion, pulling up my texts as I bolted for the door.  Even obscure branches of law enforcement can break the speed limit when there’s a good reason, and a Snow White starting to manifest downtown?  Yeah, I’d call that a damn good reason.


            There are a few things you’ll need to know about fairy tales before we can get properly started.  Call it agent orientation or information overload, whatever makes you feel more like you’ll be able to sleep tonight.  It doesn’t really matter to me.
            Here’s the first thing you need to know: all the fairy tales are true.  Oh, the specific events that the Brothers Grimm chronicled and Disney animated may only have happened once, in some kingdom so old that we’ve forgotten whether or not it ever really existed, but the essential elements of the stories are true, and those elements are what keep repeating over and over again.  We can’t stop them, and we can’t get rid of them.  I’m sure they serve some purpose—very little happens without a reason—but it’s hard to focus on that when you’re facing a major beanstalk incident in Detroit, or a gingerbread condo development in San Francisco.  People mostly dismiss the manifestations, writing them off as publicity stunts or crazy pranks.  It’s better that way.  Not many people have the kind of iron-clad sanity that can survive suddenly discovering that if you’re born a seven-nine, you’re inevitably going to wind up poisoned and left for dead…or that rescue isn’t guaranteed, since once you go inanimate, the story’s focus switches to the Prince.  Poor sap.
            We use the Aarne-Thompson Index to map the manifestations as much as we can, cross-referencing fairy tales from all over the world.  Not every seven-nine has skin as white as snow and a thing for short men, even if Snow White is the best known example of the breed.  Not every five-eleven is actually going to snap and start trying to kill her stepdaughter or stepsisters, although the urge will probably rear its ugly head a time or twenty.  Like any rating system, the ATI has its flaws, but it mostly gets the job done, and it’s better than running around in the dark all the damn time.
            Some folks say using the ATI dehumanizes our subjects, making it easier to treat them like fictional creatures to be dealt with and disposed of.  Then again, most of them have never put in any real hours in the field.  They’ve never seen what it takes to break girls like Agent Winters out of the stories they’ve gotten tangled up in before the narrative consumes them.  Me, I got lucky; I got my sensitivity to stories by being adjunct to one, rather than being an active part.  My mother was one of the most dangerous ATI types—a four-ten, Sleeping Beauty.  She was in a deep coma when my twin brother and I were born, the misbegotten children of the doctor who was supposed to be treating her injuries and wound up taking advantage of her instead.
            She slept through our birth, just like the stories said she should.  We didn’t pull the poisoned needle from her finger when we tried to nurse; we pulled her life support cable.  Mom died before the ATI cleanup crew could figure out where the narrative energy was coming from, leaving us orphans.  Under normal circumstances, the narrative would have slammed us both straight into the nearest story that would fit.  The cleanup crew didn’t let that happen though, despite the fact that I was already halfway into the Snow White mold, and my brother was just as close to becoming a Rose Red.  In a very real sense, I owe them my life, or at least my lack of singing woodland creatures.
            Most of the subjects we deal with are innocents, people who wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time and got warped to fit into the most convenient slots on the ATI.  Others are born to live out their stories, no matter how much damage that does to the world around them.  It’s not a choice for them.  It’s a compulsion, something that drives them all the way to their graves.
            That’s the second, and most important, thing you need to know about fairy tales: once a story starts, it won’t stop on its own.  There’s too much narrative weight behind a moving story, and it wants to happen too badly.  It won’t stop, unless somebody stops it.


            Whoever had initially scrambled the field team was following the proper protocol: I started driving blindly toward the address Piotr had sent to my phone, only to come up against a cordon nearly half a mile out from my destination.  It was disguised as a standard police blockade, but the logos on the cars were wrong, and the uniforms were straight out of our departmental costume shop.  Anyone who knew what the local police were supposed to look like would have caught the deception in an instant.  Fortunately for us, it was early enough in the day that most people just wanted to find a clear route to Starbucks, and weren’t going to mess around trying to figure out why that officer’s badge had the wrong motto on it.
            I pulled up to the cordon and rolled down my window, producing my badge from inside my jacket.  A fresh-faced man in an ill-fitting policeman’s uniform moved toward the car, probably intending to ask me to move along.  I thrust my badge at him.
            “Special Agent Henrietta Marchen, ATI Management Bureau,” I said sharply.  “Tell your people to get the hell out of my way.  We’ve got a code seven-nine, and that means I’ve got places to be.”
            The young man blanched.  “I’m sorry, ma’am,” he said.  “We were told to stop all cars coming this way, and we thought all agents were already inside the impact zone.”
            “Mmm-hmm.  And while you’re apologizing, you’re not moving anything out of my way.”  I put my badge back inside my jacket.  “Apology accepted, sentiment appreciated, now move.”
            He nearly tripped over his own feet getting away from my car and running to enlist several more of the “officers” in helping him move the barrier out of my way.  I rolled my window back up to discourage further conversation, sitting and drumming my fingers against the steering wheel until my path was clear.  I gunned the engine once, as a warning, before hitting the gas and rocketing past the cordon like it had personally offended me—which, in a certain way, it had.  I detest lateness.  When you’re late in a fairy tale, people wind up dead.  And not true-love’s-kiss, glass-coffin-naptime dead.  Really dead, the kind of dead you don’t recover from.  I am notoriously unforgiving of lateness, and being late myself wasn’t improving my mood.
            The control van was parked at the absolute edge of the probable impact zone.  I pulled up next to it.  The door banged open barely three seconds later, and five feet, eleven inches of furious Goth girl threw herself out of the vehicle, already shouting at me.  At least, her mouth was moving; thanks to the bulletproof, charmproof, soundproof glass in my car windows, I couldn’t hear a damn thing.  I smiled, spreading my hands and shaking my head.  It was a shitty thing to do, but considering the morning I’d been having, winding Sloane up a little was perfectly understandable.
            She stopped shouting and showed me the middle fingers of both her hands, an obscene gesture that was only enhanced by the poison apple green nail polish that she was wearing.  It clashed nicely with her hair, which was currently an unnaturally bright shade of red with black tips.  Nothing about her could be called “subtle” by any conventional means, and that was how she liked it.  The more visible she was, the less she felt at risk of sinking back into her own story.
            “Getting a little saucy today, I see,” I said, finally taking pity on Sloane and opening my car door so that she could shout at me properly.  “What’s the situation?”
            “Andy’s working with the grunts to clear out as many of the local businesses as possible before shit gets ugly,” said Sloane.  “And you’re late.”
            “Yes, but if we’re still clearing coffee shops, I’m not late enough that you’ve been waiting for me at all.”  I took another look around the area.  In addition to our control van, I could see four more vehicles that were almost certainly ours, going by their paint jobs and lack of identifying features.  “Who called it in?”
            “Monitoring station,” said Sloane.  She shoved her hands into her pockets, slouching backward until her shoulders were resting against the side of the van.  The resulting backbend made my own spine ache in sympathy, but she continued as if she weren’t trying to emulate a contortionist, saying, “They started getting signs of a memetic incursion around two o’clock this morning, called it in, didn’t get the signal to wake us because there was nothing confirmed.  The signs got stronger, the alerts kept coming, on alert ten they woke me, I came into the office and sifted the data, and we started mobilization about twenty minutes later.”
            I nodded.  “And you’re sure it’s a seven-nine?”
            “She has all the symptoms.  Pale skin, dark hair, affinity for small animals—she works in a shelter that takes in exotics and half the pictures we were able to pull off of her Facebook profile show her with birds, rats, or weird-ass lizards hanging out on her shoulders.”
            The image of the bluebirds committing suicide via my window pane flashed across my mind, there and gone in an instant.  I managed not to shudder, turning the need for motion into a nod instead.  “Have we identified her family members?”
            “Yeah.  No siblings, father remarried when she was nine years old, stepmother owns a beauty parlor and tanning salon.  She’s pretty much perfect for the profile, which is why we’re here.”
            “Mm-hmm.”  I considered Sloane.  She was our best AT-profiler; she could spot a story forming while the rest of us were still looking at it and wondering whether it was even in the main Index.  But she was also, to put it bluntly, lazy.  She liked knowing where the stories were going to be so that she could get the hell out of their way.  She didn’t like knowing the details behind the narrative.  Details made the victims too real, and reality wasn’t Sloane’s cup of tea.  “And we’re positive about her tale type?”
            Irritation flashed briefly in her eyes, there and gone in an instant.  “Jeffrey confirmed my research, and he said we haven’t had a seven-nine here in years.  We’re due.”
            “If that’s all we’re going by, we’re due for a lot of things.”  Some stories are more common than others.  Seven-nines are thankfully rare, in part because they take a lot of support from the narrative.  Dwarves aren’t cheap.  Other stories require smaller casts and happen more frequently.  Sadly for us, some of the more common stories are also some of the most dangerous.
            Sloane’s expression darkened, eyes narrowing beneath the red and black fringe of her hair.  “Well, maybe if you’d shown up when we were first scrambling this team, you’d have been able to have more input on what kind of story we’re after.  You didn’t show up for the briefing, so the official designation is seven-nine.”
            I bit back a retort.  Another promptly rose in my throat, and I bit that back as well.  Sloane didn’t deserve any of the things I wanted to say to her, no matter how obnoxious she was being, because she was right; I should have been there when the team was coming together.  I should have been a part of this conversation.
            “Where’s Andy?” I asked.
            “Behind you,” said a mild, amiable voice.  It was the kind of voice that made me want to confess my sins and admit that everything in my life was my own fault.  That’s the type of quality you want in a public relations point man.
            I turned.  “What’s our civilian situation?”
            “I’ve cleared out as many as I could, but this isn’t an area that can be completely secured,” said Andy, as if this were a perfectly normal way for us to begin a conversation.  Tall, thick-waisted, and solid, he looked like he could easily have bench-pressed me with one arm tied behind his back.  It was all appearances: in reality, I could have taken him in either a fair or an unfair fight, and Sloane could mop the floor with us both.  What Andy brought to the table was people skills.  There were very few minds he couldn’t change, if necessary, and most of those belonged to people who were already caught in the gravitational pull of the oncoming story.
            Put in a lineup, we certainly made an interesting picture.  All three of us were dark-haired, although Andy and I were both natural, while Sloane’s black came out of a bottle.  Andy had skin almost as dark as his hair.  Sloan was pale but still clearly Caucasian.  I had less melanin than your average sheet of paper, and could easily have been mistaken for albino if not for my blue eyes and too-red lips—although more than a few people probably assumed that my hair was as dyed as Sloane’s, and that my lip color came courtesy of Cover Girl.  We definitely didn’t look like any form of law enforcement.  That, too, was a sort of truth in advertising, because the law that we were enforcing wasn’t the law of men or countries.  It was the law of the narrative, and it was our job to prevent the story from going the way it always had before—impossible as that could sometimes seem.


            We set the junior agents and the grunts to holding the perimeter while we walked two blocks deeper into our isolation zone, trying to get eyes on our target.  We found her getting out of a cab that had somehow managed to get past the cordon—not as much of a surprise as I wanted it to be, sad to say.  Most of the police didn’t have any narrative resistance to speak of, and our junior agents weren’t much better.  If the story wanted her to make it this far, she’d make it.  The obstacles we were throwing in her way just gave her tale one more thing to overcome.
            There are times when I wonder if the entire ATI Management Bureau isn’t a form of narrative inertia, something gathered by a story so big that it has no number and doesn’t appear in the Index.  We’d be a great challenge for some unknown cast of heroes and villains.  And then I push that thought aside and try to keep going, because if I let myself start down that primrose path of doubts and disillusionment, I’m never coming back.
            Our target paid her cabbie before turning to stagger unsteadily down the sidewalk.  She was beautiful in the classical seven-nine way, with sleek black hair and snowy skin that probably burned horribly in the summer.  She looked dazed, like she was no longer quite aware of what she was doing.  One of her feet was bare.  She probably wasn’t aware of that, either.
            Andy pulled out his phone, keying in a quick series of geographical tags that would hopefully enable us to predict her destination before she could actually get there.   Finally, he said, “She’s heading for the Alta Vista Medical Center.”
            I swore under my breath.  “Of course she is.  Where else would she be going?”  Alta Vista was the largest hospital in the city.  Even if we’d been able to close off eighty percent of the traffic coming into our probable impact zone, we couldn’t close or evacuate the hospital.  Not enough people believe in fairy tales anymore.
            “Shoot her,” said Sloane.
            “We’re not shooting her,” said Andy.
            Sloane shrugged.  “Your funeral.”
            “Let’s pretend to be professionals…and pick up the pace,” I snapped.  Sloane and Andy exchanged a glance, briefly united against a common enemy—me.  They knew that I wanted them to be mad at me rather than each other, and they accepted it as the way the world was meant to be.  Besides, we all knew that our job would be easier this way.
            We followed the target all the way down the road to Alta Vista, hanging back almost half a block to keep her from noticing us.  Our caution was born more of habit than necessity; she was deep into her narrative haze, moving more under the story’s volition than her own.  We could have stripped down and danced naked in front of her and she would just have kept on walking.
            “If we’re not going to stop her from getting where she’s going, why are we even bothering?”  Sloane walked with her hands crammed as far into the pockets of her denim jacket as they would go, her shoulders in a permanent defensive hunch.  “She’ll play out whether we’re here or not.  We could go out, get breakfast, and come back before the EMTs finish hooking her to the life support.”
            “Because it’s the polite thing to do,” said Andy.  He was always a lot more at ease with this part of the job than Sloane was, probably because the only thing Andy ever escaped was a respectable profession that he could tell his family about.  Sloane missed being a Wicked Stepsister by inches, and she’s always been uncomfortable around the ATI cases that tread near the edges of her own story.  I can’t blame her for that.  I also can’t approve any of her requests for transfer.  Jeff’s fully actualized in his story, and I’m in a holding pattern, but Sloane was actually averted.  That gives her a special sensitivity to the spectrum.  She’s the only one who can spot the memetic incursions before they get fully underway.
            “She’s a seven-nine,” snarled Sloane, shooting a poisonous glare in Andy’s direction.  Metaphorically poisonous: she never matured to the arsenic-and-apples stage of things.  Thank God.  Once a Wicked Stepsister goes that far, there’s no bringing them back to reason.  “You can’t do anything for them, short of putting a bullet in their heads.  Even then, the dumb bitches will probably just get permanently brain-damaged on the way to happy ever after.”
            Andy raised an eyebrow.  “Gosh, Sloane, tell us how you really feel.”
            The target approached the doors of the Alta Vista Hospital.  Even at our half-block remove, we saw them slide open, allowing her to make her way inside.  If the story went the way the archivists predicted, her own Wicked Stepmother would be waiting inside, ready to hand her a box of poisoned apple juice or a plastic cup of tainted applesauce.  That would let the story start in earnest.  That’s the way it goes for the seven-nines.  All the Snow Whites are essentially the same, when you dig all the way down to the bottom of their narratives.
            Sloane shifted her weight anxiously from one foot to the other as we waited, looking increasingly uncomfortable as the minutes trickled by and the weight of the impending story grew heavier.  Then she stiffened, her eyes going wide in their rings of sheltering kohl.  “There isn’t a five-eleven anywhere inside that hospital,” she said, and bolted for the doors.
            Swearing, Andy and I followed her.
            Sloane had been a marathon runner in high school, and she’d continued to run since then, choosing it over more social forms of exercise.  She was piling on the speed now, running hell-bent toward the hospital doors with her head slightly down, like she was going to ram her way straight through any obstacles.  Andy had settled into a holding pattern about eight feet behind her, letting her be the one to trigger any traps that might be waiting.  It wasn’t as heartless as it seems.  As the one who had come the closest to being sucked into a story of her own without going all the way, Sloane is not only the most sensitive—she’s also the most resistant.  She could survive where we couldn’t.
            “Sloane!” I bellowed.  “If it’s not a seven-nine, what is it?”
            She didn’t have time to answer, but she didn’t need to.  She came skidding to a stop so abruptly that Andy almost slammed into her from behind, both of them only inches from the sensor that would trigger the automatic door.  Those inches saved them.  I could see the people in the lobby through the glass as they started falling over gently in their tracks, all of them apparently sinking into sleep at the same moment.
            I let momentum carry me forward until I came to an easy stop next to Sloane and Andy.  “Great,” I sighed.  “A four-ten.”
            I hate Sleeping Beauties.


My thoughts on Episode 1:

I've read the entire first episode of Indexing.  This particular take on the idea that fairy tales are real is just terrific. The second part of the Episode 1 contains some wonderful twists. Even in this first Episode, you get to know a lot about the main characters and what they do to protect against memetic incursions. This is going to be a lot of fun!

The next Episode of Indexing will be published in two weeks. I'll update this post then with my thoughts about Episode 2.  Think of it as a serial review! There will be approximately 12 Episodes in all.

Faith Hunter - Death's Rival Blog Tour - September 30, 2012

Death's Rival, the 5th novel in Faith Hunter's Jane Yellowrock series, will be published in October 2012. The Qwillery is delighted to share with you an excerpt from the novel.

Faith Hunter - Death's Rival Blog Tour - September 30, 2012

Death's Rival
Jane Yellowrock 5
Roc, October 2, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Faith Hunter - Death's Rival Blog Tour - September 30, 2012
Jane Yellowrock is a shapeshifting skinwalker you don’t want to cross—especially if you’re one of the undead…

For a vampire killer like Jane, having Leo Pellisier as a boss took some getting used to. But now, someone is out to take his place as Master Vampire of the city of New Orleans, and is not afraid to go through Jane to do it. After an attack that’s tantamount to a war declaration, Leo knows his rival is both powerful and vicious, but Leo’s not about to run scared. After all, he has Jane. But then, a plague strikes, one that takes down vampires and makes their masters easy prey.

Now, to uncover the identity of the vamp who wants Leo’s territory, and to find the cause of the vamp-plague, Jane will have to go to extremes…and maybe even to war.

Chapter Three

I Started to Squeeze the Trigger

Holding his eyes, I slid the tote strap around my shoulders, shoved it back out of the way, and walked straight toward him. Keeping loose. Letting Beast bleed into my bloodstream and into my eyes. My heart rate sped as her adrenaline pumped into my body. His blue eyes widened. Beast-fast, I swerved right, forcing him to move cross-hand. And back left, into his personal space. I body-slammed him. Hard. Hooked his ankle as he shifted and shoved.

The gun went off. Wild shot. Toward the ceiling. I caught his gun hand, flipped him, and landed one knee in the middle of his spine with all my weight. Took his gun away while he tried to remember how to breathe. Banged his head on the floor so hard he had to see stars.

Fun, Beast thought. More!

The shadow over me shifted. I lifted my eyes. Nikki-Babe was standing over me, still vamped out, blocking the light. Fangs latched down, claws out, waiting. If I really tried to hurt the stranger, he’d kill me, and I didn’t know why. Ignoring the looming shadow, I leaned in and sniffed. Blue Eyes smelled of witchy-power, not his own, but something he had obtained from a powerful witch or coven—probably an amulet of some sort. The witchy stench nearly overrode the blood-signature scent of his master, but not quite. It was a vamp-scent I recognized. The undertang made me hesitate, but only for a moment. For now the amulet was more important. Whatever spell he had was underneath him, inactivated, and I had better keep it that way. I pulled his arms back and secured them with a zip strip. Then added three more strips. He was a blood-servant to someone very powerful, with a witchy charm on his person. I wasn’t taking chances.

Also in the Jane Yellowrock series:

Faith Hunter - Death's Rival Blog Tour - September 30, 2012

Faith Hunter - Death's Rival Blog Tour - September 30, 2012

Faith Hunter - Death's Rival Blog Tour - September 30, 2012

About Faith Hunter

Faith Hunter - Death's Rival Blog Tour - September 30, 2012
Faith Hunter, fantasy writer, was born in Louisiana and raised all over the south. The Skinwalker series, featuring Jane Yellowrock is taking off like a rocket with Skinwalker, Blood Cross, Mercy Blade, Raven Cursed, and Death’s Rival. Her Rogue Mage novels, a dark, urban fantasy series—Bloodring, Seraphs, and Host—feature Thorn St. Croix, a stone mage in a post-apocalyptic, alternate reality, urban fantasy world. These novels are the basis for the role playing game, Rogue Mage (2012).

Under the pen name Gwen Hunter, she writes action-adventure, mysteries, and thrillers. As Faith and Gwen, she has 20+ books in print in 28 countries.

Hunter fell in love with reading in fifth grade, and best loved SiFi, fantasy, and gothic. She decided to become a writer in high school, when a teacher told her she had talent. Now, she writes full-time and works full-time in a hospital lab, (for the benefits) tries to keep house, and is a workaholic with a passion for travel, jewelry making, white-water kayaking, and writing. She and her husband love to RV, traveling with their dogs to whitewater rivers all over the Southeast.

Website : Facebook : Twitter : Goodreads

MaryJanice Davidson - Undead and Unstable Excerpt & Giveaway - June 16, 2012

Many thanks to The Qwillery for letting me make ruthless use of this space to promote the new book, UNDEAD AND UNSTABLE. Many thanks to the readers who parted with hard-earned money (in this economy!) to put UNSTABLE on both the NYT and USA Today best-seller lists. Thanks in advance to readers who will be seduced by the excerpt below and go out to grab a copy, keeping my sales figures undeservedly high. (Yep, undeservedly, I meant what I wrote. Because I’m not doing art, here. The UNDEAD books are the cotton candy of books. And that’s on purpose, because I love cotton candy. I’ve never taken offense when readers or critics refer to my books as fluff. They are! And I’m fine with it! Fluff rules. Sometimes you want a turkey dinner with stuffing and gravy and mashed and cranberries, and sometimes you want cotton candy. Oooh...yummy yummy cotton candy...but I digress. Again. Or still!)

And thanks to me! Because without the awesomeness that is me, these books wouldn’t exist. So I’m pretty great, too. (I know...what a pill, right? Trust me, all writers think this. They just won’t admit it out loud, or even to themselves sometimes. But writers will look at their latest release and think, I did that. Damn! My mother was right: I’m pretty terrific. Oh, and hey, it’s great that all those readers bought copies of the books that wouldn’t exist without me. Yaaaay, me! And also, yaaaay, them!)

It’s possible I’m projecting on other writers. It’s possible that I’m the only one obnoxious enough to think like that.

Naw. But! In all seriousness, thank you for your kind attention. And if you buy the book, any of my books, thank you again. But if you want the turkey dinner, if the thought of cotton candy at 8:00 a.m. on an empty stomach is revolting, I totally understand, and would suggest you try or re-read: Gone with the Wind, The Stand, The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser, Gone Girl, Bring Up The Bodies, A Dance of Dragons, or Easy Peasy French: Your French Phrase Book To Go!

That oughta get you where you want to go. To which I say, thanks to my handy French phrase book, Adios! Oh. Wait...I’m sure that’s not right. Where is that French phrase book...?

Warmest regards,
MaryJanice “I am not a monster!” Davidson


     What sounded and smelled like a hundred black Lab puppies swarmed over me, barking shrill puppy barks and licking everything they could reach and suffocating me with their foul puppy breath.

     My cardigan! My Etienne Aigners! If one of those mangy little monsters so much as thought about taking a chomp on my shoes . . . oooh, just picturing it made me feel like I was going insane.

     And Sinclair had made this happen. The betrayal! He really screwed me after he didn’t screw me, the treacherous bastard.

     “Get them off. Get them off! Argh, it feels like they’re crawling all over me! Is this what withdrawal is like? Oh, those poor drug addicts! Why are you just standing there, you rat bastard? Help!”

     While I writhed in a sea of puppies, the King of the Vampires fell to his knees. His sinister plan had worked beautifully, and he was so delighted he gave in completely. For a guy who prided himself on keeping things under control, he was letting loose an awful lot this week.

     “Stop it! You bum! Ack, get away . . .”

     He’d collapsed to his knees and was holding his stomach while bellowing laughter. Every time he tried to get up and help me, he fell back down again. This only increased my puppy-induced fury.

     A velvety black ear slipped into my mouth, probably because I was screeching threats at my husband, the puppies, the stars, the Antichrist for picking such a dreadful meeting place, and any bugs or telemarketers in the vicinity. I puffed it back out with a breath and struggled to sit up. Did I . . . was that? It was! My left shin was warm and wet. “Oh, Goddammit! That’s it. Gloves off. I’m gonna pull a Cruella de Vil and skin each of you. Starting with you!” I told Sinclair, and he finally stopped laughing.

     “Now, darling,” he said reprovingly. “There is no need—”

     “Don’t ‘darling’ me, butt monkey. You knew what would happen. You figured out what this place was, and you deliberately—get away!” I yelled at the puppies, and several of them scampered back toward the garage. Of course, several more ignored me and collapsed on their fat puppy butts, looking up at me with their puppy tongues hanging out of their puppy mouths. “Dogs and zombies. That’s what this Thanksgiving has for us, Sink Lair. Dogs and zombies.”

     “Perhaps you might consider seeing if they bend to your will,” he suggested.

     “Shut up.”

     “Now, Elizabeth. You yourself said this sort of, uh, event . . .” The corner of his mouth twitched, but he managed to keep the grin off his face. If he’d still been human, his eyes would have watered with the effort. “This sort of thing did not happen to you in life. Perhaps you can control them in death.”

     “I can’t even control my split ends, never mind the hounds of heck.”

     He blinked. “I have no idea what that means. But as I said—”

     “I wasn’t listening.”

     “Perhaps you could dominate them.”

     “I’m still not listening.”

     “Oh, you’re here,” the Antichrist said. No doubt roused by my bitter screams of hatred, she’d come out of the house and was standing on the porch. She was pretty focused, too: she was looking straight at me, like Sinclair wasn’t there and, weirder, like thirty-some puppies weren’t, either. “Good. We’ve got to talk.”

     “Boy, do we,” I said. “Also, do you know a good divorce attorney?”

     Sinclair ignored me and was (ugh!) holding two of the black Lab puppies, which seemed delighted to be in his arms, judging from all the wriggling and licking. “They shall be mine,” he said, delighted, “and I shall name them Fur and Burr.”

     “And the horror continues. Fur and Burr? Be serious. Uh . . . Laura . . . you wanna help us wrangle some of these dogs?” They were annoying, but that didn’t mean I wanted them to get lost or wander onto a highway and get squashed.

     “Okay.” Laura came down the steps, crossed the driveway, and absently scooped up two more puppies. I’d rarely seen her look so solemn. And given that the Antichrist loved puppies, shelters, orphans, lemonade, babies, marshmallows, and the homeless, it was weird that she wasn’t going deep into cuddle mode. “But then we’ve got to talk.”

     “That’s not all we’ve gotta do,” I muttered, aiming a kick at the vampire king, who easily dodged, and walked toward the house talking in a low voice to Fur and Burr.

About Undead and Unstable

Undead and Unstable
Undead / Betsy 11
Berkley, June 5, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

MaryJanice Davidson - Undead and Unstable Excerpt & Giveaway - June 16, 2012
“If you’re fans of Sookie Stackhouse and Anita Blake, don’t miss Betsy Taylor. She rocks” (The Best Reviews)—and she’s back once again as a vampire queen who finds herself an unlucky (but fashionable) passenger on the road to damnation…

Betsy’s heartbroken over her friend Marc’s death, but at least his sacrifice should change the future—her future­—for the better. But it’s not as if Betsy’s next few hundred years will be perfect. After all, her half-sister Laura is the AntiChrist, Laura’s mother is Satan, and family gatherings will always be more than a little awkward.

What’s really bothering Betsy is that ever since she and Laura returned from visiting her mom in Hell, Laura’s been acting increasingly peculiar. Maybe it’s Laura’s new job offer: as Satan’s replacement down under. Unfortunately, the position comes at a damnable price: killing Betsy, her own flesh-and-blood.

Over Betsy’s dead body. And for that matter Marc’s, too, since he’s not quite as buried as everyone thought. Now a war has been waged—one that’s going to take sibling rivalry to a whole new level, and a dimension where only one sister can survive.

MaryJanice Davidson - Undead and Unstable Excerpt & Giveaway - June 16, 2012

About MaryJanice Davidson

MaryJanice Davidson - Undead and Unstable Excerpt & Giveaway - June 16, 2012
MaryJanice Davidson invented a) her children, and b) the vampire chick lit genre. Also the Internet. She is kind to (some) children and (occasional) small animals, and enjoys referring to herself in the third person. Appearing several times a year on the best-seller list, as well as occasional Federal "person of interest" sheets, she takes time from the living hell that is being paid to do what she loves best to seek out the nearest Cinnabon franchise. Her goals include working for world peace, figuring out how to make potstickers, and speaking at writer and reader conferences around the world. (Australia is still recovering.)

MaryJanice's Links

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The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a copy of Undead and Unstable (Undead / Betsy 11) from Berkley! US ONLY

How:  Leave a comment.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. You MUST leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a USA mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Saturday, June 23, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*
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