The lovely Jill M. Smith, who has reviewed several of my books for RT Book Reviews, reviewed Guardian: Hidden: Soulhunter, Book 1 for the magazine, and I was thrilled to see that she gave it a four-star rating! From her review:
Great news! Rising star Vanderlinden is launching an offshoot series to her exceptional Detroit-set Hidden series. A key component of Vanderlinden’s storytelling is her ability to create well-rounded characters forced into extraordinary circumstances. This excellent new Soulhunter series promises to be just as dramatic and action-packed as Hidden!
I was so happy to hear that she enjoyed it, and I’ve been delighted with the feedback I’ve gotten from you guys as well. I believe she’s reviewing Betrayer for next month’s edition of the magazine, so… fingers crossed! (Also, my ego really enjoyed that “rising star” bit of her review!)
Shadow Sworn Update
Shadow Sworn is on track to be finished next week, and then it goes to the editor and will be available in early September. I’ll have a more exact date as we get closer to the day. I’m not sure about doing a pre-order for this one. We may skip it this time around, but we’ll see.
I love this book. I feel like some of those little threads that I scattered around in Shadow Witch Rising are starting to weave together and I’m really pleased with the way everything is coming together. Sophie and Calder are… sigh. I love them. Can’t wait to share this book with you!
Shifted Fate Update
I suck. I just do. I got off-track with releasing the installments of Jamie’s story in the newsletter, but I will definitely have a newsletter out tomorrow with an installment, and hopefully we’ll stay on track after that. My intention was to release an installment every Friday, but just as it started up, I hit a bit of a rough patch with Shadow Sworn. We are past that now, so things should start working out according to schedule. (Ha. Wishful thinking, right?)
Finally — Lost Girl is free on Amazon today and tomorrow, so if you know anyone who has been on the fence about giving it a read, this would be a good time to give them a little nudge.
All right. I think that’s it. If I don’t have an installment of Shifted Fate out tomorrow, please feel free to tell me off any time you see me goofing off on Twitter or Facebook. 🙂
I seem to have gotten out of the habit of doing my weekly updates. What a surprise, eh? 😉 I think part of the issue was that I was planning them for Friday, and I now realize that Friday just doesn’t work. Maybe Wednesdays will work. Or maybe not.
Blogging is always the first thing to fall by the wayside when things get busy. That feels wrong to me, really. I think I’m falling back on Facebook and Twitter too often and then I end up ignoring my blog.
Anyway. Here’s what I’m busy with this week.
I am on schedule to finish Shadow Sworn by the end of the month, and that feels great. Shadow Witch Rising was a nightmare to write, partially because it was the first non-HIDDEN book I’ve released and I had myself psyched out that everyone would hate it. That particular stress is gone, but Shadow Sworn has its own complications. Mainly, it’s a much darker book, and it’s a bit draining emotionally, despite how much I love writing it.
I’m also making good progress on Shifted Fate, which is the current newsletter story I’m writing. That one has been a lot of fun to work on. I suspected it would be.
I always have a side project I’m working on in addition to my two main ones (I can’t work on one project at a time. When I do, things don’t go well. It seems counterintuitive, but that’s just the way it works for me) and in this case it’s a fantasy romance that I’m really excited about.
Oh, the reading. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Right now, I’m reading Sandra Byrd’s Mist of Midnight, which is gothic romance. Not a genre I’ve read much, but I can easily see becoming obsessed with it. If you have gothics you love, please let me know in the comments — I’m not sure what to read next. Of course, the lovely Grace Draven released The Brush of Black Wings yesterday, and I’ll be reading that as well! I’m in research mode for another project I am considering, so I’m reading quite a bit of Detroit history right now. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve read the following:
The Violent Years: Prohibition and the Detroit Mobs by Paul Kavieff (currently reading)
Are you sensing a trend here? 😉 We’ll see how it all goes.
Besides reading and writing, I’m trying to get into a more regular exercise routine (ugh). The kids have been busy with their summer classes, and the demon dog continues to be evil while also being disarmingly cute. There has also been quite a bit of gardening, and I’m really happy with the way the garden’s looking right now.
Today’s the day! The second Hidden: Soulhunter book is out today, and I can’t wait for you all to read this one. E’s job, the hunt she began at Molly’s request in GUARDIAN, becomes so much more complicated. My history geek side got to have some fun with this book as well, and writing E’s development as she learns how to let herself feel and experience things has been such an amazing experience.
Thanks so much to everyone who pre-ordered the book — you should have it waiting on your Kindles for you! Anyone else who is interested in grabbing a copy, you can find it on Amazon.
Tell me what you think! Comments, tweets, Facebook posts, emails (and, of course, reviews on Amazon/GoodReads) are always welcomed and appreciated. The support you guys have given me, your love for these characters, is something I am so grateful for. Thank you so much.
I can’t believe it’s almost here — BETRAYER is out on Friday, and I am dying for you guys to read it. I loved this book. I loved writing it, I loved revising it, I loved researching it (and there was A LOT of research for this one, because of its historical aspects). I loved getting to know E and her New Guardians better. I can say that I was happy writing this book, and sometimes, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, the writing is hell and nothing feels right until after several rounds of revisions have passed. BETRAYER, though… BETRAYER felt like playing, and those are the stories that make writing so addictive for me.
So we have four more days and I thought this would be a good time to give you guys one more teaser before release day (the other teaser I posted can be found here.) This scene takes place pretty early on in the book, continuing from where GUARDIAN left off. And, of course, any scene in which I can write Molly and E being their BFF selves is a good one. 🙂 Enjoy!
* * *
A few hours later, Mollis had satisfied herself that she had punished the soul of Chen enough. Most of Mollis’s punishments were of the mental variety. She used their thoughts, their deepest fears, against them. Of course, she punished them physically as well. She hadn’t needed my help at all, though I understood why she liked having me there. Having another being standing ominously off to the side only made him more afraid.
We had been doing this for a few weeks now. I would hunt, now looking for just about any missing soul I could, and I would bring it directly to Mollis, who would learn what she could from it, punish it on the spot, and then release it into the Everafter on her own. For those who had done horrid things, apparently the Everafter was not a nice place. Mollis’s punishments were usually their introduction to what they had ahead of them, their own personal version of the mortal concept of hell. If they were good people, their Everafter was peace and love and being reunited with loved ones.
It was not the easiest way to handle things. It meant that Mollis was pretty much on call, because she did not want me to have to stand around with a soul for hours until she was able to come. She also had to hide the fact that she was seeing me, due to the fact that we supposedly hated one another.
Really, I hoped her traitor would reveal themselves soon.
My small group of New Guardians, souls who had started following me when I had begun my hunt for Mollis’s lost souls were essential in helping me find as many souls as I had. We were in a race against whoever Mollis’s adversary was, it seemed, each side racing to claim a newly-deceased soul before the other side took it. Quinn, who had taken the worst of the injuries when my sisters had attacked, was back on his feet and relentless as ever. He had started to show some interest in learning to rematerialize, despite the fact that it still made him nauseous. Claire seemed to have become my second-in-command, and kept track of the movements of the other three New Guardians, reporting their successes, and, more often than we liked, failures, to me.
I had tried, gently, because I know Mollis would rather not talk about it, to suggest that she look into her mother and aunt’s minds. She could do that. And this whole mess would be at least partially reconciled within minutes. So far, she had demurred, with the excuse that she would have to sift through thousands of years of memories, and there were things in her mother’s mind she did not want to see again. She had torn her way into Hades’ mind once, when she was captive in the Nether, and apparently had learned a hard lesson about the things one sees in the mind of a death god.
I understood that, but in this case, it seemed worth the risk. Why would you not want to just know, for sure, whether someone had betrayed you or not?
As I watched Mollis send the soul of Chen to the Everafter, which only took seconds after she was finished punishing him, I considered broaching the subject again. A look at her eyes, at the razor edge of madness there, made me swallow the advice I was about to give. The souls we were missing still weighed on her. Nether still fought her for control.
Instead, I took her hand, gave it a small squeeze. “Another one down, demon girl.”
She nodded. “Too many still out there, though.”
“We are working on it,” I said, trying to soothe her.
She gave a small smile. “I know, E. Thank you. It would be pretty handy if you discovered a few more New Guardians out there somewhere, though.”
I gave a short laugh. “That it would. Though Quinn does the work of three Guardians on his own.”
Mollis nodded. “Thanks for this. The only one he ever saw was Delo.”
I nodded. “About her…”
Mollis sighed and shook her head. “I’m still working at her, as well as your other sisters we have in custody.” She paused, looked uncomfortable. “There is still that blank space in their memories, and I know whoever is pulling the strings is there. I just wish I knew how to undo whatever was done to them to make them forget. At the same time, I really don’t want to risk whoever was working with them somehow managing to help them escape.”
“Nain has been watching their cells almost non-stop since you kicked Anthousa and Delo’s asses back in Tokyo.” That fight had been brutal, even beyond the loss of my wings, and I had believed, at the time, that I had killed Anthousa, at least, on the mortal plane. As it was, despite it looking as if her body had turned to dust, Mollis had found her, weakened and unconscious, not far from the building in which we had battled. I did not quite understand it, but I was glad my Queen had been able to take another enemy to interrogate. “We don’t want to risk them getting out again,” she continued. “But he has other work he needs to do too, and it’s coming to the point where having them there and accessible is more of a liability than a help.”
I could see where she was going. “So you want to end them?”
“I think you should do it. If they have nothing of use to offer you, do not risk keeping them around.”
“You’re sure you don’t mind…”
“Mollis! As far as we all knew, you killed them once already. It did not pain me any then, and it certainly will not pain me now. Even less so, this time around.”
She studied me. “Do you want to be there when they end? Do you want to say anything to them?”
“I have nothing to say to them. If you would like me to be there, I have no problem doing that.”
“They’re your sisters, E,” Mollis said softly.
“They are traitors. I have seen the things they have done. I feel no loss or pity for them, only regret that they have failed so completely in what they were created to do.” I paused, changing my mind and deciding to say what I intended to say earlier. “Speaking of familial traitors,” I began, and Mollis shook her head. “Have you made any headway with your mother and aunt?”
She did not want to believe it possible of either of them. Truly, neither did it. But Furies are not above petty backstabbing and other betrayals. It had already happened once, with the third Fury, Alecto, whose name was no longer spoken; everyone, especially the Furies, wished they could make it so that she had never existed at all.
Alecto had betrayed her sisters, Hades, and, most of all, Mollis. She had worked directly with the demon Astaroth, Nain’s oldest enemy, to get to Mollis. It had all ended badly, with Nain dying in the mortal realm. Mollis’s blood in his veins, thanks to the demon marriage bond they’d performed, had been the only reason he had resurrected in the Nether. Like many beings who had been imprisoned in Tartarus, Alecto was now trapped in the Nether, the gateway between the worlds having been destroyed by Mollis and then permanently closed by Mollis’s grandmother, Nyx, who was the Creator of everything known to man and god alike.
“I’m keeping an eye on it.”
I repressed a sigh, but she felt my irritation anyway. “We’re not all as uncomplicated as you are, E. I know. You just want me to break in and be done with this.”
“Obviously,” I answered. “Obviously, I want you to do that so we actually know something instead of guessing. You need to get into their minds, Mollis. Do you really want to keep going on this way?”
“Are we already falling apart here, E?” she asked me quietly.
“I am not the one falling apart,” I said, looking her squarely in the eye. “You know there is nothing I would not do to help you. You know this. So take what I am about to say in the light it is meant: you need to stop being so soft about this. You need to get into their minds and have this question answered.”
She sighed. “I know.” Her shoulders slumped, and she looked up at the night sky. We’d walked out of the church, and were standing on the front steps. “I don’t want to just force my way in, E. I do that when I have to, and if we can’t figure this out, then I’ll do it. But this is my family.”
“It is tearing you up inside, wondering which one, or if both, betrayed you,” I reminded her, and she nodded.
“It is. You haven’t had that done to you, though, have you? Had someone break into your mind?”
I shook my head.
“It’s an assault. An invasive, violent, terrifying assault. The only way I can explain it that truly expresses how wrong it is is that it’s like mental rape. I have done that. I have broken my way into people’s minds, back before I inherited my father’s powers. Now, there’s no need, except for these cases in which I’m trying to uncover what has been hidden from us,” she said with a grimace. “This is my family, E,” she stressed again. “My mother. My aunt. I don’t want to do that to them. Not unless I have strong evidence to suggest that it needs to be done. Because if I’m wrong, and I do that to them… there’s no way to come back from that.”
We stood in silence for several long moments. “And I know that our theories point to it being at least one of them, because of the missing memories in the lost souls and your sisters. I am being careful. But you also recommended that I look at every possibility before leaping to the conclusion that it had to be one of them, remember?”
“Yes,” I said. “You know, you could ask them to let you into their minds,” I said.
“If it comes to that,” Mollis said. “I will.”
She had closed up on me, which I knew meant that our conversation was over. She would not budge on this, and I did not know how to make her see that she was only making it more difficult on herself. The illogical nature of the way she was about her family truly baffled me.
“Well. As I said before. If you desire to end my sisters, please feel free to do so. I have no remorse for traitors,” I said.
“Touché, E,” Mollis said wryly. “You think I’m weak.”
I shook my head. “Not that. Never that. I just hope you do not end up regretting the loyalty and respect you are giving them. They may not both deserve it.”
“That makes two of us, E,” Mollis said softly. Then she disappeared, most likely returning to her palace in the Netherwoods to be with her mate and children.
I stood there alone for a few moments longer, and looked up at the night sky, at the puffy clouds passing over the tiny sliver of a moon. For just a moment, I felt my wings flex under my leather coat.
But of course, they hadn’t. It was the memory of wing movement, the phantom remainders of what it had been like to be able to soar.
These were the times I needed it most. These were the times I needed to feel free and weightless, just for a few moments.
My mind flashed back to that day in Tokyo. My New Guardians and I had believed ourselves to be tracking prey, tracking a soul that had eluded us. We had made our way into one of the love hotels in Tokyo, and found ourselves beset by too many enemies, including two of my sisters.
Memories passed through my mind, images I would not likely forget.
My New Guardians, lying weak and injured.
The bodies of the goddesses of autumn and winter, chests ripped open, their hearts taken from them.
My wing, falling, torn and bloody, to the filthy floor.
I shook my head and closed my eyes, trying to will the images away.
It was not just the fact that I missed flying. It was the knowledge that I was now less than I should be. That I was not fully able to do the things I knew I should be able to. I had always considered myself to be a fairly even-keeled being, especially for an immortal. But the emotions that had stormed through me since waking a few weeks ago and realizing my wings were gone, for good… those were things I had not expected. I was, at turns, depressed, angry, mournful.
Frankly, it was irritating.
I forced my gaze down, away from where I longed most to be, reminding myself that I had a ridiculous shifter to reprimand. And Artemis’s cooking to suffer through.
* * *
Just four more days!! Also, Friday’s newsletter will have the first installment of SHIFTED FATE, the next HIDDEN novella, so I hope you’ll check that out as well!
If you’ve been reading my blog or following me on social media for a while, you likely know that I have a dedicated playlist for every project I work on. The songs help me keep the tone of each project focused, and they help me get into the right frame of mind and mood for each one. This is pretty important since I am usually working on at least two books at any given time, and usually the mood of each of them is pretty different.
My BETRAYER playlist has a pretty wide variety of musical styles on it, and part of that is that, for whatever reason, many of the songs for this book’s playlist are associated in my mind with a particular character. I thought it might be fun to share the five songs I listened to most. We are less than two weeks away from the release now! (Yay!!)
Betrayer: Top 5 Tracks
1. Led Zeppelin, Kashmir
This song has been with me in different ways since the first HIDDEN book. At the time, I’d noted it as “Brennan’s song.” And it still is, yet the longer HIDDEN went on, the more I started thinking of it as “E’s song.” I guess that kinda makes sense, considering. 🙂
2. Florence + the Machine, Shake it Out
If there is one song that kind of ties the whole Hidden: Soulhunter series together, it’s this one. “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
3. The Pretenders, I’ll Stand by You
This song. The only other song I could ever consider as “E’s song” besides Kashmir would be this one. Her steadfast loyalty, her love for those she holds close, the way she’ll literally do ANYTHING to protect them… this song has all of that in it. (Fun fact: this was almost our wedding song when I married Mr. Vanderlinden.)
4. Courtney Love, Ms. Narcissist
Eh. Once you read the book, you’ll know who this song is about. 😉
5. Taylor Swift (featuring Kendrick Lamar), Bad Blood
Thank you, T-Swift, for giving me the single best song ever to revise my fight scenes to. 🙂
So, there they are. Once the book is out, maybe we’ll have to make a community playlist for HIDDEN: Soulhunter the way we did for HIDDEN. If you want to see which other songs were on the playlist, you can check it out on my YouTube channel.
A betrayer hides among the immortals of Detroit, a threat that could very well send not just the immortals, but the rest of the mortal realm into chaos. Violent souls have escaped their prison in the Nether, and the appearance of the undead, created by a rite long forgotten by most beings, only adds to the imminent danger.
Eunomia, created for the sole purpose of hunting the souls of the dead, searches ceaselessly for those who have escaped her Queen, as well as those new creations, the undead, which only she and her New Guardians can capture.
An old nemesis appears, and Eunomia’s trust is tested by those she once considered allies. When something precious is stolen, it sends the immortals into a turmoil unlike any they have ever experienced.
A Guardian Learns to Live
Amid all of it, Eunomia fights beside the man she knows she is coming to treasure more than anything else in her long existence. She begins to understand how much she risks in letting herself love, and she can only hope she is strong enough to keep him and everyone else she cares for safe.
Each betrayal, each lost soul, drives her Queen closer to insanity, and the safety of the mortal world hangs in the balance.
Somehow, Eunomia will have to be enough to keep it all from falling apart.
* * *
BETRAYER will be released on July 10th, 2015. If you want to receive it as soon as it becomes available, you can also pre-order it now on Amazon, and it will be there waiting for you. 🙂
“I read the Hidden series and loved it all! I noticed that you mentioned Molly collecting things like pottery, and then in Soulhunter you mention collecting again with E and her shirts. Is this something you’re interested in? If so, do you collect the same stuff Molly does? I’m a junker myself, though I tend to like more rustic items….”
Sherrie caught me. 🙂 I don’t have any huge collections, but I do have several small collections of certain things. Of course, the fun thing about a collection is that it only gets bigger with time!
So, the two main things Molly collects are McCoy pottery and old milk glass. I have some of both. I only have two McCoy pieces (both flower pots) but I have a larger milk glass collection. I have a mix of vases, bowls, mugs, and tea cups, as well as a perfume bottle (that might be the next thing I start collecting — vintage milk glass perfume bottles!)
The McCoy thing with Molly is mostly based on childhood memories. In two of the houses I grew up in, I remember pottery which, I only realized as I got older, was McCoy. There was a baby bootie, and a donkey with a cart, and a few others that I remember being both in my room in our first house and then, later, in the bathroom of the house I spent most of my childhood in.
The milk glass, I collect mainly because I think it’s pretty, and it’s pretty inexpensive, so if you’re starting a glassware collection, it’s a good way to go.
Aside from those two things I have in common with Molly, I also collect (a small collection, for now) Pewabic Pottery (made in Detroit!), vintage Pyrex bowls, and Lincoln Beautyware canisters. I also have a lot of comics, though most of them were technically my husband’s from his childhood and teenage years, plus the ones we’ve bought since I started getting into them.
The only other thing I collect is really a more recent thing, within the last few months. I love going to thrift stores — that’s where I’ve found most of my collection pieces, and I always looked through the aisles of picture frames and artwork. The past couple of times we’ve gone, I’ve ended up purchasing small pieces of art, one of a kind items that were most likely done in art classes or something like that and ended up selling for $1.99 at the Salvation Army. I’ve started hanging them in my office, and they make me happy. I guess maybe it’s the idea that someone, at some point, put work and thought and creativity into creating these things, and I want to be surrounded by that kind of energy or feeling when I’m writing.
So, those are my collections! I have fun answering questions like this, so if you ever have anything you’re curious about, whether it’s about my books or me, send them along — it’ll give me things to blog about between book releases! 🙂
We are less than a week away from the release of the first Hidden: Soulhunter book, GUARDIAN! I am dying for you guys to read this one! Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten a few questions about the book and this new series, so I figured I’d take a second to answer them here for you…. and keep reading, because there’s a new teaser from the book as well!
Soulhunter Q & A
Q: So… is this a new series? A spinoff? Explain yourself, woman.
A: Hidden: Soulhunter is a spinoff series of Hidden. It focuses on Eunomia, and is told from her point of view.
Q: Where does it fall in terms of the main series?
A: Hidden: Soulhunter takes place two years after the events of Nether.
Q: So, is it a continuation of Hidden?
A: In some ways, yes. The events of Soulhunter are a result of what happened in Hidden, and the things that happen in the Soulhunter series affect the rest of the Hidden world. (For a more in-depth explanation of the way I am planning future Hidden world books, check out this post.)
However, because this series focuses on Eunomia, you get a different look at the world. She is very different from Molly in many ways, and her life experience and history plays a huge role in her life now. The things that happen in Soulhunter are things that only E can handle… which is why she got her own series. 🙂
Q: Are the other characters from Hidden going to be in it?
A: Sure! Most of the old cast appears in Soulhunter. Some are more important to E’s story than others, but I think Hidden fans will be happy to see some familiar faces in the book and catch up on what’s happening with their favorites.
Q: Do you have to have read Hidden to read Hidden: Soulhunter?
A: No. I have tried to write this series in such a way that those who haven’t read the main series can start reading Guardian and not be lost. This series has a self-contained story arc that, while it ties into the main storyline, stands separately as its own plot. Of course, if you’ve read Hidden, it’s likely you’ll enjoy this series even more because you know the characters a little better, but I’ve tried to strike a balance between making it welcoming to readers who have not read Hidden as well as those who read the entire Hidden series.
Q: Fine. I want it! When can I have it?
A: It’ll be available in ebook format on Monday, 5/4/15 from Amazon. Paperbacks will be available shortly after.
Q: Is there a pre-order? I really like those.
A: Sorry, not this time. I am not organized enough to do pre-orders. Maybe someday I’ll do them, but for now it just makes more sense for me to do them this way.
Q: Okay. Can I get a reminder that it’s available?
Hephaestus and I appeared in a train station in Beelitz, Germany. Train stations and airports tended to be good places to reappear, because usually no one was focused on anything other than getting to their gate, and, if they were not, nowadays they were usually staring at a phone or other device.
“Okay. Fill me in here. Who’re we lookin’ for?” Hephaestus asked me.
“Friedrich Munch,” I said, leading him out of the train station. “Mass murderer. Killed seventeen teenage boys in an attempt to regain his lost youth.”
“Agreed. But of our two souls here in Germany, he’s the less evil of the two. We are also here to hunt the soul of one Peter Stumpfe. In his time, in the late sixteenth century, he was known as the werewolf of Brandenburg. He claimed the devil made him do it, and he was tried with cannibalism and murdering sixteen women and two infants.”
“And was he a werewolf?” Hephaestus asked
“He was. There was a werewolf clan here at the time, but he was a loner.”
“Why do I have a feeling there’s even more to it than that?” Hephaestus asked.
“Stumpfe was a sadist who enjoyed playing with his food before he ate it,” I answered, and he nodded. “If you need to get an idea of how monstrous he was, those two infants he killed? He ate their hearts. One of them was his own son.”
“Those are the ones I most would like to kill,” Hephaestus growled, and I nodded in agreement.
“This was where he ran after he was executed. I had to chase him down. This is as good a place to begin as any, considering how long he has been free,” I said. “There is a small inn down this road, I think.”
“E, when was the last time you were here?” Hephaestus asked with a laugh.
“Not that long. It is still here, I am sure,” I told him with a glare, and he laughed.
‘If you say so. Are we walking or traveling the sensible way?”
“We will walk. It is the best way for me to sense for energy signatures. Is that all right?”
“It’s your party,” he said.
I furrowed my brow. “I would not call it a party.”
“It’s a figure of speech, E.”
“I do not like those.”
“I noticed,” Hephaestus said, and I shook my head. We walked on, and I noted with some amusement that, as I’d predicted, his eye was caught by every distraction presented to us. Car models we did not usually see in Detroit, the man playing some one-man-band contraption on one of the street corners. He was in his element.
“You should take your family on travels more often,” I said to him. “You love this.”
He shrugged. “I will someday. When things settle down.”
“That could be never, my friend,” I told him, and he nodded.
“Eventually,” he said with a shrug. “So… what’s the deal between you and the shifter?”
I stumbled a little and swore under my breath in irritation as he laughed. “Yeah, that’s what I thought,” he said.
“There is nothing going on. He is my friend, and Mollis has us working together on this mess.”
“Sure. Yeah. That’s all,” he said, and I could tell from his tone of voice that he did not believe a word of it.
“He is too young for me. He has no understanding of our world, and he wants someone who will be a meek, delicate little flower,” I said, waving away my irritation, able to be more open with Hephaestus than I allowed myself to be with most beings. “He wants to know every detail of my life, and gets irritated when I will not tell him every single thought in my head.”
“We both know he doesn’t want someone who’s meek,” Hephaestus said.
“Well, he thinks he does, except when he thinks he doesn’t,” I answered. “I can be honest with you. I like him quite a bit. But he has had a whole mess in terms of relationships before me. And I am not particularly adept at putting in the time long-term with anyone. The relationships I have had the past two years have all been short and I was able to walk away before they became ridiculous.”
Hephaestus scratched his chin, thinking. “From experience here, E, things don’t really get good until they start getting ridiculous, until you start arguing about shit you’d never imagined yourself arguing over, and then you just look at one another and laugh. Until you’ve been through late nights and tears and anger and every other emotion, and you know one another inside and out. That’s when the relationship shit gets good.”
I shook my head. “I will have to take your word for it.”
“Why not find out for yourself?”
“It would be stupid,” I said. “And I do not want to talk about it anymore.”
* * *
Guardian (Hidden: Soulhunter, Book 1) will be available 5/4/15.
How to avoid being seen, even when you are standing right beside someone.
In all honesty, sometimes, it is not that difficult. A man gasps his last breath, a woman fades away peacefully in her sleep, and they are alone as they pass. Just you and them, and in those moments there is beauty. It is a sacred moment. Sad, to those left behind, but sacred nonetheless.
Sometimes, it is not only the deceased there. Some lucky humans die surrounded by loved ones. It is easy to stand among them to witness those last moments. Their attention, after all, is not on me.
Violent deaths are different, I thought to myself as I walked along a dusty road in rural Wisconsin. Those, I usually did not watch. We never knew we would have to be there until the death had already happened. Random. Cruel. Violent death left its victims with no dignity, no peace in that moment, that infinitesimal space between life and death.
The hot summer sun beat down on my hair, making my scalp feel hot. I’d shed my leather coat a few miles back. Even I have my limits, and there was no one here to intimidate.
* * *
So the first thing you learn is how to be invisible. The second thing you learn is how not to care. Caring is useless, a waste of time and energy, when our entire existence was devoted to one purpose: escorting the dead to what came next. There was nothing else.
A crow passed overhead, squawking at me in passing, and I knew that it was going to claim a soul. I could feel it, that old urge to escort it myself still strong. In this case, a twenty-seven year old man had died when his tractor tipped and crushed him beneath it. He was leaving four children and a young wife, and there was not a single thing that could be done about it because death comes for all, even those who are not human.
I have watched great human empires rise and fall. I have watched the most powerful men and women take their final breath. Some raged against me when I came to claim them. Some went happily, ready for the next part of their journey. I wondered how this man would feel, a father and husband, with so much yet to live for.
I pushed it aside, and walked on. It was no longer my concern. In some ways, I was glad for that. For the first time in eternity, my path was one of my own choosing.
I never would have guessed that freedom would be so stifling.
I have made choices in the past couple of years that I never could have imagined making before. The decision to not merely befriend Mollis Eth-Hades, but to fight for her, to defend her and her home against those I’d known for millennia, had surprised me as much as anyone. It felt right, and I still do not understand why, but I am glad I did so.
More decisions. More choices, things I never even gave a second thought to before, such as how I would dress, how I would wear my hair, which foods I preferred. Music, movies, books. None of them were things I had given any consideration to before. It was as if a whole new world had opened itself to me. I have seen everything. Nothing surprises me. Yet I find that I delight in ordinary things in a way that feels alien to me.
Perhaps I am changing.
* * *
The first thing you learn is how to be invisible. The second thing you learn is how not to care. The third thing you learn is that your only value lies in how well you dedicate yourself to those you were created to serve.
I was the most dedicated. The most reliable. The one who would go without sleep, food, or even sitting down for days on end if it was needed. I was the perfect servant, the perfect hunter for the god of Death. I reveled in it. I believed in it. I prided myself in my ability to keep working long after the others had decided to quit.
I believed in Hades. The beauty and dignity in death. I believed in justice, in my role in assuring that actions taken in life were judged and punished after death. Balance. Righteousness.
I still believed in those things, but somehow, it was not as simple anymore. My god had died. My king. If death can claim even the god who ruled it, what balance can there truly be in this world? What purpose is there for someone like me, like Mollis? Is it all just chaos that we fool ourselves into believing we have some control over?
I kicked a stone and idly watched it disappear into the tall wildflowers at the side of the road. Perhaps Mollis changed us all, with the things she’d done. Some believe so. Mostly the Aether gods. I do not think so. My sisters began betraying Hades and his family before Mollis even became part of our lives.
I furrowed my brow. It was a choice they’d made. One I had not. One I had not been privy to until I was slapped in the face with the cold reality that the twelve immortals I’d referred to as “sisters” had not only betrayed everything we were, but had left me behind.
I took a breath and looked up at the clear, empty blue sky. It was time to move on from here. It was time to stop wandering, hoping to find something I am not even sure I would recognize if I saw it.
* * *
The first thing you learn is how to be invisible. The second thing you learn is how not to care. The third thing you learn is how to serve. And the fourth thing you learn, the thing all immortals hold on to, is that humanity is beneath us. Humans are a means to an end, to either be ignored or toyed with; chess pieces in an endless game to use as the gods see fit. To Hades, they were like tally marks, and all had to be accounted for.
I believed all of it, once upon a time.
I walked back toward the small log cabin I had slept in the night before, and every night the month before that. When I opened the front door and stepped into the single room of the cabin, the woman I had been staying with was lying in bed, watching me with a sleepy expression on her lovely face. Violet smiled, and I smiled back.
“I am glad you are awake,” I said.
“I was wondering if you’d taken off on me already,” she said, sitting up. Her toes peeked out from beneath the buttery yellow sheets, her toenails painted a pearly pink. Her long blond hair flowed in waves over her shoulders, her skin tan from days spent out in the summer sun. She was golden and soft and warm, and I was happy I’d known her.
“Not without saying goodbye,” I said, a small smile still on my lips. I sat on the bed beside her, and she gently ran her fingertips through my hair. An intimate gesture, one I would not have expected as part of my life.
“Thank you for last night,” Violet said, giving the ends of my hair a gentle tug.
I smiled wider. “I feel as if I should be thanking you,” I said, and she laughed, and it was rich and alive. She hugged her knees, still sitting in bed beside me.
“You really have to go?”
“I haven’t had many flings, Mia,” she said, using the shortened form of my true name I’d begun giving to the humans I met along the way. “I’ve gotta say: usually I feel like shit when it’s all over.”
She grinned. “Usually I feel like shit because it’s awkward,” she said. “This isn’t awkward. I’m glad you stuck around.”
“I am awkward by nature,” I pointed out, and she laughed again.
“Not as awkward as you seem to think,” she teased. She sobered. “I want you to take care of yourself, Mia. I know you’re a quiet person by nature, but these past few days it’s been clear there’s something on your mind.”
I nodded. How odd to be known, even a little bit, by another. “My family needs me,” I said.
“I hope everything goes all right, then,” she said softly, taking my hand. “Be safe. The way you talk about your family, I keep picturing The Godfather or something.”
I let out a short laugh. Well, she was not too far off. I was familiar with those movies. “It will be fine. I have been away for some time. I miss a few of them.”
“And the rest?” she asked, delicate eyebrow raised.
“Not so much,” I admitted, and she laughed.
“That’s the way it is with families, I think,” she said, and I nodded in agreement. We sat in silence for several long, comfortable moments that I wanted to hang on to for as long as possible. She was a good woman. A sweet woman, and she’d brought laughter, warmth, and pleasure into my life in the time we’d spent together. I had never lied to her. She knew I would not stay, and she was not looking for more, content, at this point in her life, being alone. I looked up at her, meeting her soft brown eyes as I had so many times when we’d loved one another, my gaze moving to her full lips, and I warmed at the memory of the things we’d done together. I met her eyes again, and she smiled.
“I’m not going to see you again, am I?” she asked in a low voice.
I squeezed her hand, leaned forward and gently pressed my lips to hers. She sighed in contentment, and the sound filled me with joy. That my touch could have this effect on someone still amazed me. She kissed me, gently nibbled my lower lip, and I heard a soft sound escape me, one that spoke of desire. Need. She had that effect on me. A few more soft flutters across her lips, and I pulled back.
“So I guess that was a ‘no,’” she whispered, worrying her full lower lip between her teeth, as if mimicking the way she’d just done the same to my own mouth.
I did not want to think about the next time I would have the chance to see her. Likely, it would not be until her soul passed from the mortal realm, and all of her warmth and life was left behind her. I hated the thought of it.
What a surprise, that death, which has always been my life, is something I have come to greatly dislike at times.
“We both knew it would be so,” I reminded her gently, and she nodded.
“I know,” she said. “It would just be nice to know you’re okay. You’re pretty awesome, Mia.”
I smiled. “As are you, Vi. I will be fine,” I told her, squeezing her hand again. “I do not know how to be otherwise.”
She shook her head and climbed out of bed. I watched as she pulled a white t-shirt over her body, covering curves I’d delighted in over and over again.
“Take a picture. It’ll last longer,” she teased, and I smiled.
“I will remember,” I said, and she smiled back. She was beautiful, and I would not forget her. I have been with a small number of people in my time wandering. Men, women. What equipment they had or did not have did not matter to me. Eyes. Smile. The ability to make even a cold old woman like me laugh. Those were the things that made me want someone. I would not call any of it love, if such a thing is even something I am capable of. But there was joy, and warmth, and laughter. Life.
Gods, life is a beautiful thing.
I stood up, and grabbed my black duffel bag out of the closet where I’d left it the night before after I’d packed. Violet watched me, and I went to her, and we shared one slow, sweet kiss before she tugged my hair gently and pulled away.
“Go on. Otherwise I’m totally going to kidnap you and keep you here,” she murmured with a smile.
I laughed, and we hugged. “I will never forget you. Thank you for this time.”
She nodded, and blinked a tear from her eyes, and gave me a small wave. I walked down the road, toward town, where it would be possible to catch a bus if one needed to travel that way.
When I was out of sight, I turned back one last time. The cabin looked tiny in the distance, its green metal roof shining in the summer sunlight, heavy branches of the nearby white pines arching over one side of the structure. I breathed in the scent of wildflowers, dusty road, her scent still on my skin.
* * *
The first thing you learn is how to be invisible. The second thing you learn is how not to care. The third thing you learn is how to serve. The fourth thing you learn is that humans are of no consequence.
The fifth thing you learn is that we are the choices we make. And this is something the humans learned long before we immortals did.
I dropped the enchantment that had hidden my wings from Violet. It was no longer needed, and it was time to be myself again.
I had spent over two years trying to find myself, trying to find a reason for being now that my role was stripped from me.
I do not know that I found it. What I do know is that this world is beautiful and worth protecting. And there is one woman who does that better than any other. It was time to serve my friend, my Queen. I spread my wings and rose into the air, delighting in the warm sun on my skin, the air cooling me as I flew east.
Things have been BUSY around here lately, and I have a few things to share with you guys.
First off, the audiobooks for both Broken and Home are finished and available on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible! My narrator, the fabulous Tonya Cornelisse, did an amazing job with both books, and we’ll be moving forward with Strife as soon as Tonya and her production crew can work it into their schedules. There is nothing quite like hearing that moment toward the end of Broken when Molly feels you-know-who again in the Nether. Or that moment when she sees Sean for the first time in Home. I’m very pleased with all three of the HIDDEN audiobooks, and I hope you enjoy them as well!
In more audiobook news, I have signed the very talented Julia Knippen to narrate the Shadow Witch Rising audiobook! It’s looking like that will be available sometime in July, so you’ll be hearing more about that as time goes on.
I am in the home stretch of Hidden: Soulhunter! I have been editing as I go, so there really shouldn’t be too much clean-up to do once I have the end the way I want it. I’m planning to have it finished by 3/31, and then on to my beta readers and editing, which is a pretty quick process — we’re pretty much all pros at this by now. 🙂
I have Shadow Sworn (Copper Falls #2) all outlined and writing has started on that as well. The current plan is to have Hidden: Soulhunter #1 come out in April, and then if everything works out, Shadow Sworn should be out in June or July. I’ll take a look at things and decide after that whether I want to launch straight into writing Copper Falls #3, Hidden: Soulhunter #2, or the first of the HIDDEN vampire novels. So many options, which is really a nice situation to be in.