Friday, April 27, 2018

Coming Soon: Another New Berlin Novel

And here is the proof that Iron and Bone, which has spun out from a short story into a novelette into an official novel, is actually going to arrive in the world someday.  Ladies and gents and whatevs, we have a cover:




Here's a teaser from chapter one (though you will have to momentarily bear with  Matthew's version of an exciting day ;)

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IRON & BONE (excerpt)
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The office had three gray walls, no natural light, and just enough space for a filing cabinet, a desk, and a rolling chair. The chair had two broken casters, and no longer rolled.  Whenever Matthew moved in the chair, it made a soft, dragging sound.

The only other sounds in the office were the clicking of Matthew’s fingers across the computer keyboard, and the susurration of his own breath.  He was a quiet breather; the noise was all but inaudible.

He had once asked if he might bring in a small radio to play while he worked.  His employer had rejected him curtly:  Absolutely not.  Whether he was worried the radio would distract Matthew or if the man simply found music distasteful, Matthew didn’t know, and had better sense than to inquire.

So he worked in silence, tallying the receipts from his employer’s four shops, including The Gem Shoppe, where his tiny office was located opposite from his employer’s much larger one.  Eight hours a day of compiling figures into Quickbooks and running reports of monthly profits and losses.  It was dull work, especially now that tax season was over. Matthew found himself missing the volume of paperwork that passed across his desk in early spring, all the 1099s that had to be mailed by end of January, and then the start of federal forms, February and March consumed by the search for every single tax deduction that could possibly lower his employer’s due.  He never felt so happily busy as he did during tax season, the mad rustle of paper its own cheerful song.

It was Monday now, and nearly noon.  Matthew had sorted the receipts for two stores already, The Gem Shoppe and Green Herbal.  Three more store remained to be sorted before the close of business.  It was the same every Monday.  He arrived at five minutes to nine, and the store was already unlocked. In the main display room, the crystal specimens were set out on stretches of black velvet, and in Matthew’s office, five identical boxes of receipts waited.

There was no sign of his employer, but Matthew knew Mr. Dietrich was there; he was always there.  Usually in his office, but sometimes surveying the contents of the walk-in vault.  Matthew seldom had reason to be in the vault, and preferred it that way.  There was a chill in the room that made his bones ache. The silence there felt different than other silences.  It had a waiting quality about it.  Matthew couldn’t begin to imagine what the vault was waiting for, but he doubted it was anything good.

There was still time before lunch to begin a new box of receipts.  He opened the next in line, which had come from Mr. Dietrich’s pet shop, Familiar. Matthew had a difficult time picturing his employer as the owner of a pet shop.  It didn’t seem to fit the man.  When he was still new, he’d made the mistake of asking about that, about why Mr. Dietrich spread himself so widely in his business ventures.  The gem shop, the pet shop, the health food store, the café, and most bizarrely, the matchmaking service.  Was there a connection between them, he had wondered?

Victor Dietrich had fixed him with such a cold look that Matthew felt a ball of ice form in the pit of his stomach.  “My interests are my own, Mr. Goode,” the man said in his hard, flat voice, “and your job description does not include questioning those interests if you wish to have a job at all.”

Matthew had never mentioned it again.  Because of course he very much wished to have a job, even if it wasn’t particularly a dream job.  The wage was adequate (though barely).  And he liked the regularity of his days, knowing what to expect, and that he would not be pressured into taking on extra work.  His previous employer had been a small business owner who expected him to grow with the business, to take on more and more responsibilities and make decisions that affected growth and direction.  The pressure had been incredibly stressful. He much preferred Mr. Dietrich’s ways, frosty and controlling.  Mr. Dietrich would never permit, much less expect Matthew to begin setting policy on his own.

Matthew created a new Exel sheet, copying the format from the week before, and began entering the pet shop’s sales.  Briefly and solely for his own curiosity, he glanced at the “items” sold on each receipt.

One black kitten.

Six cane toads.

Two crows.

One white kitten.

It was, Matthew had decided a long time ago, a very odd pet shop.

The bell over the front door chimed, echoing down the short hallway where Matthew’s door stood open (per Mr. Dietrich’s order). He glanced out the door, forgetting for a moment the quandary of how one might make a pet of a three week old Komodo dragon, and hoping for a customer.  Not that Mr. Dietrich would ever let him speak to the customers, of course. But sometimes he called Matthew out to ring up sales.  Mr. Dietrich had a deep aversion to processing credit cards.

It wasn’t a customer.  It was McCarthy.

Matthew’s heart executed a peculiar vault and flip worthy of any Olympic gymnast, and then settled into a fluttery beat.  The office seemed suddenly warm, spring creeping in from outside as if it simply couldn’t be kept out any longer; perhaps it had come in with McCarthy.

What Matthew knew about the man called McCarthy he could count on three fingers.  First, that his favorite color must have been black, just like Mr. Dietrich, because that was all either of them ever wore.  But where the color (or lack thereof) made their employer appear somewhat corpselike, McCarthy seemed to have been born to it.  The soft black leather of his high-collared coat perfectly matched his hair, which was drawn into a long braid that hung halfway down his back.  Black jeans seemed molded to him, showing every inch of long legs, muscled thighs. His gloves, too, were black, and also the aviator sunglasses perched on the bridge of his fine aquiline nose. All that darkness ought to have made his white skin look far too pale, and it waspale; but the stark contrast was outlandishly appealing.  Matthew thought.

Second, whatever work McCarthy did for Mr. Dietrich, it was dangerous.  Every time he appeared at The Gem Shoppe he had some new scar, or limp.  Frequently his lovely coat, so soft it seemed to fold around him like wings, had been damaged.  Though he seemed to have an endless supply of them, changing one out for another by the next visit.  Like the ruined coats, his scars had usually also disappeared by the next time Matthew saw him.

The third thing Matthew knew, and perhaps the most important thing, was that he would never in his lifetime meet a man more perfectly devastating to his senses than the man called McCarthy.  Or a man more terribly out of his league.

The front door fell shut.  Tinted glass cut off the impression of warmth and overcast skies, and the brief lift in the air flattened again.  The gems on their shelves went on sparkling, impossibly bright. McCarthy ignored the gems and the empty show room and stalked toward the hall, shiny black boots utterly silent.

Matthew looked quickly back down at his desk, trying to remember which entry he’d been in the middle of so that he could resume his absorption in it.  He couldn’t for the life of him recall.

“Good morning, Matthew.”

A cool shadow fell across the desk.  McCarthy smelled like the threat of rain, and he was tall enough to fill the doorway completely.  His voice was dark as midnight, smooth as silk, warmer than his shadow.

Without looking up, Matthew said, “Good morning… McCarthy.”  As always, with that little pause.  Because after six years of working at The Gem Shoppe, he still wasn’t sure if McCarthy was a first name or a last name.  McCarthy had never volunteered more, and neither had their mutual employer.

Good morning, in fact, was the extent of their typical conversation, with the occasional notation on the weather.

McCarthy’s shadow lingered.  Matthew wondered if he was about to comment on the approaching hurricane, early for the season.  Perhaps McCarthy had weekend plans that would now be ruined by wind and rain.

Yet the other man remained silent.  When Matthew glanced up, he found McCarthy frowning down at the stack of receipts on the desk.

His eyes were indigo.  Matthew had only been near enough to him to make out their true color once or twice.  From any distance, they simply looked black.

“Christ.  The dragon sold already.”

Matthew blinked, and then remembered the pet shop. “Ah, yes.  The Komodo.  For nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine dollars.  Plus tax, of course.”

McCarthy lifted a gloved hand absently to his jaw. “He should have doubled it.  The thing’s too much trouble to restock.”

His jaw was smooth and unmarked now, but Matthew recalled a week earlier when McCarthy had come in with a vicious festering wound there that appeared in the shape of a bite.

McCarthy shook his head as he stepped back out of the office.  An errant lock of coal black hair brushed his cheek, softening for a moment the unyielding lines of his face.  Matthew’s heart startled again.  He tried to formulate a response, any response, but between the lock of hair, the scent of leather, and the notion that McCarthy might actually have gone off to some sweltering island to procure that lizard, he was stuck.

He was still stuck when McCarthy paused again, just outside the door, and glanced back.  “By the way—happy birthday, Matthew.”

Matthew blinked again, rapidly.

“Thank you,” he said a full minute later, but by that time of course, McCarthy had gone.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Something New

Winter has done it's best to knock me on my writerly butt, but alas, I'm back up and pounding the keyboard.  When I'm not getting sucked into my new favorite hobby of embroidery.  Just give me my old lady badge already, okay?  I forfeit youth.

Anyway, lots of stories in the pipeline.  The one that doesn't spill oil in your prettiest puddle.  First up is another faerie story set in, you guessed it, New Berlin!  Matthew Goode is a third (or fourth or fifth, he's really not sure) generation fey descendant who's having some trouble with his personal life. Which is to say he doesn't have one.  What he does have is a crappy job keeping the books for an ungrateful employer, and a crush on his employer's rough-and-tumble errand boy, McCarthy.  Of course Matthew knows he'd never have a chance with a man like that.  He's a nice shy boy, maybe a little on the boring side.  He understands most men aren't attracted to the quiet, dull type.  Which is why he's never tried too hard to find one.  What the hay.  He's got a pet parakeet named Delilah and she could shit all over any human man.

And then Delilah dies.  Matthew goes off the deep end.  Demands a raise, gets turned down for a raise, steals a gemstone worth millions of dollars, and tries to run away to start a new life in England, where boring men like him meet each other over cups of Earl Grey every day.

What Matthew doesn't know:  His employer is a powerful witch not know for being merciful.  His crush, McCarthy, is actually one of the dark fey, a changeling adopted by the witch a hundred years ago and serving as his enforcer ever since.  And then gemstone he stole?  It's a magical talisman beyond any price tag, and the witch wants it back.  Now.

Who better to send after an errant fey than one of the dark fey?  Unless that dark fey has a soft spot for nervous reclusive bookkeepers harboring secret dirty fantasies.

If revisions go well, Iron & Bone will be publishing with a real cover in late spring/early summer of this year.  In the meantime, you can check out the in progress second draft at either FictionPress https://www.fictionpress.com/u/384634/LFBlake or Wattpad https://www.wattpad.com/user/lfblake.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day

Life goes on.  People live, in a manner of speaking that other people might not call living at all.  And caretakers, I have a new respect for caretakers.  It is a job that can ruin you, husk you out like rotten corn until the good parts of yourself are dust and only hard crunchy bits of cob remain.  Not everyone can do it, and when you come to terms with the fact you can no longer care, you're haunted by the possibility of being a terrible person.

I refuse to descend into depression on a manufactured holiday which I would likely feel more charitable toward if I were not spending it alone, fighting off a cold, and waiting to be called at any moment into my mother's bedroom to empty her catheter bag.  I resent these impositions.  I am a terrible person.

So... Sylvia Plath on Valentine's Day.  That's all I have the energy for.  The poetry and anger of Otep got me through depression in my early twenties, kicked my ass out of apathy, into righteous fury.  But today is not a day for rage.  It's a day for tulips.



...

I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free——
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them   
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.   

The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe   
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.   
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle : they seem to float, though they weigh me down,   
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their color,   
A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.

Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.   
The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me
Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins,   
And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow   
Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,   
And I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself.   
The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.

Before they came the air was calm enough,
Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss.   
Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise.
Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river   
Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine.   
They concentrate my attention, that was happy   
Playing and resting without committing itself.

The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves.
The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals;   
They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat,   
And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country far away as health.

~Tulips (abbreviated), Sylvia Plath


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Death Comes In Threes

It occurs to me that could be a good idea for a paranormal novel.  Death Comes In Threes.  Zombie ménage à trois perhaps.

Maybe someday.  For today it's just me babbling about things I can't say anywhere else, so please feel free to stop reading now, because nothing good will come of this post.  There's no takeaway here.

But it's a new year, right?  The old shit is supposed to be over, we're in a fresh new start...  To me it feels like the old shit is just rolling right into the new and forming one massive shitstain of a snowball.

I guess I still haven't gotten over the death of my dog.  Maybe because she felt more like a daughter to me, snotty attitude and all.  I'm sure she got the attitude from me.  As well as the anti-social, don't-touch-me, feed-me-now, yes-I-will-damn-well-pee-where-I-please stuff.  Because she was a nice, sweet girl when she arrived at eight weeks old.  She arrived when I was twenty-one, my young-mother baby, and she was supposed to hang out for a good long time.  Not turn up sick before she hit ten, go into the vet for an inspection and never come back home.  Not my beautiful bitchy girl who had me wrapped around her finger, and who I would traded places with in a heartbeat.

And yet.

Fast forward a couple of months and I get a call at work.  Apparently my grandfather's been found facedown on his living room floor and he's likely been there a couple days.  The funeral home is real impressed with themselves for "getting as much of him out of the carpet as we did."

I've never been close to this particular grandfather.  He was artistic, which I admire, and I loved his pottery.  But in his old age he always seemed deeply bitter at not having made a name for himself in the art world.  And frankly it never looked like he was trying that hard.  Which of course makes me worry I'm not trying hard enough (to be a writer, to be an artist), and I'll end up just like him.  But then again, the man told me to "put a lid on it" when I was five - "it" being a can of Pringles, and the meaning that I was a loud eater and likely to get as fat as my mother.  So.

But then we had to tell my grandmother.  His wife of seventy years, currently in a nursing home and not likely to ever leave.  And she kept forgetting who'd died and crying over her obese but still alive border collie.  So even if the dead relative doesn't make you sob, the living one probably will.

The rest of the family is out there now, picking over his belongings, by which I'm sure I mean they're cleaning.  And they want me to come collect mementos, and I can't even begin to.  Not only because it feels hideously morbid to me (and I'm a pretty goddamn morbid person).  But mostly because my mother's in the next bedroom dying, and I just can't seem to find my energy.

When I say she's dying I think I really mean it.  She's said she's dying since I was twelve, but last year, shortly after the sneaky bitch convinced me we should get an apartment together, so that she could escape the physical rehab facility where she was trapped, shit got real.  Lots of emergency 911 calls, followed by enrollment in in-home hospice care.  Hospice, you know, where patients get six months or less to live.

Some people die on hospice.  Others get better.  Despite failing heart, kidneys, eyes, and just about everything else, my angry, bitter-to-be-alive amputee of a mother thrived.  Healthier than ever.  Never going to die.

Then she got the flu.

And now her heart appears to be giving out.  Five days and she hasn't gotten out of bed.  She doesn't eat.  She barely drinks.  And in two days she hasn't once turned on the television to blast my brains out with Murder She Wrote or Quincy or Little House on the Prairie or any of that crap that makes me contemplate murder suicides.  She sleeps.  She mumbles to the imaginary possum on her bedroom wall.  (I jest not.)  Her body fills up with fluid until she looks like a beached whale, and when she wakes up, she doesn't know what day it is or why I have to leave her to go groom dogs at the shop or why on earth I want her to take her heart pills or drink some goddamn ginger ale.

Her doctor says she might surprise us and turn it around.  But her doctor also says this could be the beginning of the end.  And it will go fast, doc says.  But how fast is fast?  Days?  Apparently more than that.  A week, two, a month?  How long can you survive on one can of diet sprite a day?

I love my mother.  I hate my mother.  These are feelings I've lived with all my life, and I have no clue how to resolve them now.  I don't want her to die, because we just starting streaming iZombie from the first season, and she still hasn't seen how Game of Thrones ends.  The Bachelor just started for christ's sake.

I want her to die, because she's been in limbo for so long, and I know she believes in god and that she's going to heaven, and I want that for her even if it's all bullshit to me.

I want her to live, because she trapped me in this expensive apartment that I hate and can't afford on my own, and where the hell am I supposed to find a house for rent that will take me with two dogs, two ferrets, two rats, and four fish tanks, and yes I'm aware I created this particular dilemma all on my own.

I want her to live, because I have a new dog, adopted from one of my clients, and I want my new girl to have a grandmother.  I want my boy Jasper, who loves his grandma probably more than he does me, to keep getting his morning petting sessions and all the yummy people food she sneaks him.  I want to hear her bitching again about how Jasper leaves all his favorite balls right in front of her walker as gifts to her and she always thinks she's going to step on them and fall, even though she never actually lifts her feet high enough off the ground to step on a fucking gumdrop.

I want her to die, because I'm sick to death of living with my angry, sick mother, and I'm ready to be a fucking adult living in my own home, alone, without falling over walkers and wheelchairs and ugly ass furniture I can't stand and listening to that tv going day and night, day and night, until I want to scream.

I want her to live because she's my mom.  And even if there are a lot of ways she failed me as a mother, she always loved me.  And I love her.

My new novel was supposed to be finished a week ago, but I can't seem to write more than twenty words a day on it.  All my jewelry orders are overdue.  I burst into tears for no reason in the middle of every groom, and the dogs look at me like I'm nuts, dear jesus, why are they stuck with the nutso groomer and maybe a little nip would snap me out of it?

And I have no idea what to do.  None whatsoever.

Except wait.  And do nothing.

And now - just fucking now while my finger is hovering over the publish button - I hear her rasping and muttering to herself in her empty bedroom, and she says, "I love you, [Lydia].  I always have, I always will."

Fuck.  Me.



Friday, December 8, 2017

The Hunting, Vol.2

The second volume of The Hunting trilogy is officially up!  (Or will be in 24 hours...)  Releasing January 9, 2018, you can preorder a copy on Amazon.

PACK:  The Hunting, Vol.2

Opposites attract, and love is blind.  What other hope is there for a werewolf who can't seem to fall out of love with his werewolf-slaying ex?

Jackson thought the hard part of getting back together with his estranged boyfriend would be convincing Eric not to kill him outright.  After all, Eric has spent his entire adult life being brainwashed by the Paranormal Division; he's trained to kill monsters without mercy or sentiment.  And whether Jackson chose to become a werewolf or not, the fact that he ran away and hid for two years afterward has left Eric in a perpetually pissed off mood.

And yet—he didn’t kill Jackson.  He chose, instead, to leave the Paranormal Division and run away with his wayward ex.  But that wasn’t the hard part.

The hard part is living together after.  When they’re on the run from a secret and deadly branch of the government.  Camped out in the middle of nowhere with no decent coffee for miles.  When Eric won’t touch Jackson.  Won’t talk to him.  Will hardly even look at him.

When Jackson is pretty sure that Eric thinks running away with him was a mistake.

But the Paranormal Division is hot on their heels, and there’s only one place Jackson can think of where he and Eric will be safe to figure out their next move.  The problem is, it’s the same place where he spent the last two years hiding.  And it’s a wolf’s den.

For two years, Jackson lived with the Beneventi family.  From them, he learned how a man and a werewolf can live at peace in the same skin.  He ran with them, hunted with them, and called them pack.  To a wolf, pack means family.  And not every member of his adopted family has forgiven him for trying to return to his old life and his old lover.  Michael Beneventi thought he’d laid claim to Jackson, and now he’s fully prepared to take out any challenger, even a federal agent with a dangerous attitude and the knowledge and skill to put down any werewolf.

It’s up to Jackson to stitch together the two sides of his life—or tear them apart once and for all.  If he wants to keep Eric, he’ll have to fight for him.


But then… there’s always the thought that Eric never really left the Paranormal Division at all.
____________

And if you missed it, don't forget to check out the first volume of The Hunting!

Cheers!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pack Means Family

At long last, The Hunting continues - Volume 2, Pack, will be released for Kindle in January 2018.  It's taken a lot of drafts, a lot of coffee, and a lot of mumbling to myself, but Eric and Jackson's story has finally sorted itself out.

To be fair, nothing is simple when you're talking about a werewolf going on the run with his estranged boyfriend, who very formerly made a living killing monsters like the one his lover has become.  Not to mention his old employers are on their heels - the Division, the most secret and deadly branch of the FBI.  They want Eric back.  And if they can't have him, they'll put him down just like they intend to put his boyfriend down.  Throw in an old indiscretion of Jackson's, resulting in a dangerously jealous young werewolf dead set on knocking out his human rival...  And things are about to get messy.

Pack runs about twice the length of The Hunting, and forms the midsection of what is intended as a trilogy.  Volume 3, Blood, is in the works now and will be out closer to spring/summer of next year.

While The Hunting books are related to and partially set in New Berlin, they form more of a Division subset which gets a bit darker than stories like, say, Sweet.  I have plans for several Division focused novels to be released over the next year or two, werewolves and some undead forays as well.  And then it'll be full circle back into New Berlin proper, where the witches, incubi, and angels have been biding their time.

Pack will be available for presale mid-December.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

It's Halloween

Or almost Halloween.  Technically it's the first day of Mabon.  I was born at Mabon, which maybe accounts for some of my darker and more woeful inclinations.  Call me Demeter.  Or Persephone?  But I'm trying to look on the lighter side lately, because sometimes the dark is just too dark.  So even though I'm releasing my first zombie story in less than two weeks, it's kind of a lighter zombie story.  There are even jokes.  I can't say whether the jokes are funny.  But they're in there.  So...




Strange is a short story set in New Berlin, though it stands independent of any previous stories.  It's a look at the dangers of Craigslist roommate ads, and what might happen if a workaholic chef invited a hoodie-wearing, cash-rent-paying zombie to live in his spare bedroom.  It might be weird sometimes, right?  Like, who gets the last piece of bacon?  And is that blood on my beautiful kitchen floor?  But it might also be really convenient, say in the event of a home invasion, to have a roommate with superhuman strength and an insatiable appetite for human flesh.  Naturally though it would be a really stupid idea to start crushing on your dead roommate.


So, yeah, werewolves suck (you guessed it, I'm stalled on the second volume of The Hunting again), and zombies are in.  Strange comes out October 3rd.

And there will probably be more zombie stories to come, because they are somewhat of an obsession of mine.  I can't promise they'll all be light, because, you know, Mabon and the influence of the Dark Mother.  But there will probably be more.  And then maybe some vampires and/or witches.  Possibly we'll go back to a werewolf or two.  Eventually--eventually--there will be a return to the fey and incubi and fallen angels.  Because the angels are really the point of this whole city, if I didn't keep getting so damn sidetracked.

But for now.  Strange.  You can buy or borrow it from Amazon October 3rd.

Meantime.  Happy fall.  Go harvest something.