Cascadence of Truth: Ships and Scars

“Go back there. Retrace your pain. Own every footstep as you face down your scars. Do it, Violet. Your orders will be waiting when you are done.”

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From Cascadence of Truth, book 6 of the Not the Same River series. Jet will have his own story in the No Good Comes series (Pinterest board here) and will feature in DeMobbed  (Pinterest board here).

Context: Violet is pissed off at her boss for sending her on a mission to a place she was tortured, without giving her prior warning. Jet takes her to Greenwich for more therapy.

***

We were on a dirty-grey, domed roof, ribbed stone beneath us, white pillars behind us. We were in Greenwich. I could see the rigging of the ship from our perch.

“Nobody’s going to ring that while we sit here, are they?” I said, leaning to the side when Jet turned to look at the bell caged behind us.

“No,” was all he said.

“Because I have really sensitive hearing.”

“So I heard,” he whispered.

“Are you alright out here?” I said.

“What?”

“In the sun, I mean.”

“Oh.” He laughed. “I won’t shrivel up and die, don’t worry.”

I was more worried that he’d go pink. He’d look like a skinned rabbit if he went pink. “So, is your name really Everett?”

“Does it matter?”

“No. Are you a nephilim or …?”

“Or?”

I shrugged. “Or something else?”

“I’m nephilim.”

“Whose son are you?”

“Raphael’s.” I choked, and he gave me a quizzical look. “What?”

“I dunno, that just seems so unlikely. You’re so beautiful. Really, really, ethereally beautiful. I mean you look like an actual angel. Not that he’s not good-looking. I mean, he is … but …” I burst out laughing, because Jet was laughing beside me. “Have you seen the size of his head?”

“It is quite big, isn’t it?” he said, grinning into the wind.

“It’s a boulder. And you’re so delicate.”

“I suppose my mother must’ve been an imp.”

“You don’t remember her?”

He shook his head. “I hear her sometimes. A voice in my head.”

“You know, that might not be your mother,” I said with a grin. He nudged me with his shoulder, and I toppled sideways, gripping the edge of the roof tightly. “Hey! No throwing me off the roof.”

“You can fly, can’t you?”

“I don’t fancy getting hauled in to face Raguel, thank you very much. I heard the angels aren’t very good at cover stories.”

“Raguel’s a pussy cat,” he said. “Just ask Jaz.”

“She’s one of his?”

“Yeah, that’s why she can draw blood.”

“Oh, you mean literally draw blood?” I said, remembering what she’d done to Kite in training. “I’ve seen her do that. It’s gruesome.”

“You wouldn’t think so if you’d seen Raguel do it.”

“I saw someone sentenced once. He passed out on the tube.”

“Ah, but sentencing is … legal. You should see him in battle.”

“Yeah, I think I’ll give that one a miss.”

He snorted, then his face settled. “You’re different now.”

“How do you mean?”

“Hmm, more content.”

“Content? I’m furious.”

“You might want to work on your facial expressions,” he said, “because you don’t look at all furious.”

“I’m not furious with you. Silver shouldn’t have sent me here. It was cruel.”

“What happened at Augarten?”

“I freaked out. Lost myself. It was like being back there with Fane messing with my mind. I felt like one day, I’d just disappear inside my own head. Unreachable.”

“Silver didn’t do this to be cruel.”

“It feels like she did.”

His lips thinned, but he didn’t push. He nodded into the distance. “Can you see it?”

“The ship? Yeah.” I didn’t even want to think about that ship. “So … did Raphael raise you? Uriel said he’s forgotten how to walk on land.”

He snorted. “It’s true, he’s rarely off his boat now, but … when I was young … he didn’t know about me … didn’t find me until I was seven. He put me in a house with a ridiculous number of staff. I had a governess, and saw Raphael every weekend, even after I was fully grown.”

“How old are you?”

“A hundred and ninety-one.”

“You’re looking good on it.”

He laughed. “Thank you. And you’re right, I do need to stay out of the sun to keep my complexion so glowy.”

“I really need to paint you.”

“Okay.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“God, normally I have to make barbaric threats to get people to sit for me.”

He stood, and I squinted to looked up at him. His hair whipped out to the front on the other side of his face, feathering across his sharp features. Yeah, I really did need to paint him. Outside.

“Let’s get this over with then,” he said.

“I’m in uniform,” I said, looking down at myself.

“I’ll fix it,” he said, grabbing my hand.

When we landed between two buildings, I caught sight of myself in a car window at the end of the alley. I was wearing black jeans and waistcoat and a saggy-necked, oatmeal shirt.

“God,” I said. “I didn’t even feel that.”

“Better?”

“Marginally.”

He laughed, then squeezed my hand tighter. He whispered, “My real name is Jet. Raphael said I should choose my own name. Before that, I was nobody.”

I squeezed his hand back as we made our way to the ship, momentarily distracted by the sight of a Nando’s. I slowed to an almost stop. I was starved after missing whatever wonder-sandwiches Milo made for us, but Jet pulled me towards the clipper.

“Oh, I should probably tell you that I’m quite famous,” he said.

“What?”

“Yeah, I’m a model.”

“Really?” I didn’t mean to sound so surprised, but I was.

“What, you were lying when you said I was beautiful?” He mock gasped, fanning himself dramatically.

“What kind of modelling?”

“The kind that puts me on massive billboards, and above escalators in tube stations, and over there.” He pointed at a bus, where he was sprawled across an ad banner wearing not very much at all.

“Nice pants,” I said.

He raised his eyebrows. “I have my own line of underwear now.”

“That’s … nice?”

He laughed. “I’ll have to age out and retire in a few years. Get old, all that stuff. That’s the problem with living life in the public eye.”

“How young can you go?” I said, joining the queue to get into the Cutty Sark.

“Seven,” he said.

“Oh my god,” shouted an excitable man with fearlessly quiffy blonde hair and a string bag full of pineapples. “You’re Jet Lux. I wear your underwear.” His cute face went pink. “Well, not your underwear. God, obviously not your underwear. I’m not a stalker. I don’t know where you live or anything.”

I laughed.

“Good?” said Jet.

“So yeah, not your actual underwear. But you know, the … the … underwear. Sorry.”

Jet grinned. “No apologies required. What’s your name?”

“Aidan,” he said shyly, like he hadn’t just told everyone in a fifty metre radius that he wore Jet’s underwear.

“Do you have your phone on you, Aidan?”

Aidan’s eyes went wide as he held his phone out. Jet tugged him to his side and they took a selfie.

Aidan stared at it like it was gold. “My boyfriend is going to die. Actually pass out and die. Think I’ll tell him after he’s made the dinner.”

“Good idea,” said Jet. “Nice meeting you, Aidan.”

“You too,” he said, turning away and waving over his shoulder.

“Wow, now everyone is staring,” I said.

“Most of them won’t have a clue who I am, but I bet they’re wondering now,” said Jet.

I saw phones casually twisted our way, but what could I say? We were at a tourist attraction. In public. He was an underwear model. I was dressed as Han Solo. Attention was bound to happen. Aidan kept turning around and walking backwards a few steps to gaze adoringly at Jet and make heart pump gestures at us. He was adorable and ridiculous.

I followed Jet, silently contemplating what it must be like to be famous. As much as my life belonged on telly, I was sure I’d hate it. I paid more attention to the way people looked at him than I did our surroundings, until finally I gasped.

I was beneath the ship, staring along the length of it. I remembered being tied to the beams that strapped the ship to the wall, thinking the floor didn’t look that far away, but the place was vast. Vast and beautiful. It wasn’t the place to exorcise any demons. I just didn’t feel them with me while I was there.

I told Jet that what would really exorcise my demons was a Nando’s. Nobody mentioned our chilli garlic breath when we got back.

The next day, one of the red tops made its way across the channel, asking the oh so serious question, Is this mystery girl Jet’s new love? Somehow, this was news. Somehow, only I was horrified.

***

No Good Comes: When You Dig Up the Dead: scene one

“That’s not a sandwich,” I said.

“You’ve shown a preference for freshly-culled squirrel lately.”

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This is the first scene from the first draft of No Good Comes which will be a series. Each book will focus on different characters, some of whom will be familiar from my other books. Eventually. This is a spin-off from the Not the Same River series, the first book of which will be published in the autumn of 2018.

No Good Comes will throw a spotlight on Cascade, an un/holy organisation set up to save humanity. I’m still building stories, but there will be queerness and romance and teleporting and murder. The series features angels, demons, vampires, vaewolves. There will be undertakers and magnificent hair and pistachios. If you’d like a sneak peek at my inspiration board—still a work in progress—you can find it here. Maybe you’ll have as much fun shipping the characters as I did.

In the meantime …

Stephen King is dead. But not for long.

***

She’d been watching my grave for weeks.

Every time I left my grave to feed, she was there. It didn’t occur to me until the tenth night that she’d make a tasty meal. She didn’t look overly tall, sitting there on the bench, but there was plenty of her to sink my teeth into. If I had any teeth. Bench. Bench. Was that a real word? I couldn’t really remember how big women were, or how they compared to benches. In size, I mean. Size. Size. Was that a real word?

My brain still felt fuzzy, which I suppose could be a normal thing for a dead person. Was I a zombie now? I felt like I should’ve been panicking more. I mean, it wasn’t every day you woke up dead. Except, now it was. Every day, or rather, every night, I woke up dead.
I spent all day in the ground, in a very tight, womb-like coffin. The lid was clear with dirt piled on it. Even in the consumptive darkness, I could see the tiny spaces between each grain and the seeds of other ungrown things. Nothing wriggled or crawled though. I was a sugar-free lolly, loaded with aspartame and avoided by ants, but not stupid humans. Why was she just sitting there? Aspartame. Aspartame.

She was young—early twenties at most—and very pretty, even with her ridiculous, acidic lime hair and matching eyebrows. She was bold and alive. She was exactly what I wasn’t. I hadn’t been bold and alive even before I died. I didn’t try to eat her. Even if I’d figured out how to do it, how to fit something so big into my face, assuming I still had one, I couldn’t bring myself to hurt her.

On the sixteenth night, I moved closer than I ever had before. I stood in front of her, taking in tonight’s outfit. She had one of those fifties dresses on—all floaty and triangular at the bottom, and tight against her breasts up top. It was lilac with cupcakes all over it. She wore cowboy boots and fishnets with embroidered things weaving in and out of them: stars, flowers, feathers, ribbons. Hanging over the arm of the bench was a denim jacket and a dark purple cardigan. Shouldn’t she be cold? She didn’t look it.

She wore a dreamy look on her pale face as she peered down at the phone in her hands. Someone was making her happy. Her thumbs flew over the screen, and I looked down at the back and forth of brief messages. Body Snatcher. That’s who was making her happy. It wasn’t the sort of nickname that should inspire happiness in a young woman who sat alone night after night in a graveyard. Unless that’s why she was here.

I looked around me. I’d never really bothered looking before. The moon seemed full again, the sky a brilliant, inky blue, pierced with stars. A stone church, small and perfect, squatted in the grass like a cottage in a fairy tale. The moon made it blue. The gravestones were uniformly square, unlike any cemetery I’d ever seen in England. England. There was something very off about them.

When I rambled back to the graves, I realised I didn’t know which one was mine. I felt panic rise where my gut should be, thinking I’d lost the ability to read the names on the stones. What if I couldn’t get back in?

Mine wasn’t far from the tree, I thought, but when I looked, there were five trees near the graves. I looked down at the nearest stone, one eye shut so only half my eyes could be disappointed. There was no writing. I checked the other side. No writing. I checked each grave. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. No writing.

I wondered if the woman knew where I was, or why there were no names on the gravestones. I wondered why I was more panicked that I couldn’t find my grave than by the fact that I was dead in the first place.

The urge to feed hit me again as I got closer. I wouldn’t hurt her though; I liked the sound of her laugh. And the way her head tipped to the side when she smiled.

She looked up, green eyebrows raised. “Don’t even think about.”

I looked around, wondering if the frown I felt was really there. Maybe she was talking to her phone.

I felt stupid as fuck saying, “Are you talking to me?”

She smirked. “Yes, I’m talking to you.”

“Am I dead?”

“Yes,” she said, without any of the respect that such a brutal response required.

I felt my lungs crumple, even though I wasn’t sure air did anything for me anymore. “Oh.”

“But it’s not permanent,” she said, her tone dubious.

“Good?”

“Can be,” she said, shrugging her tattooed shoulders. “That’s up to you.”

“Nothing is ever up to me,” I said.

“You wanna watch that attitude.” Then, without irony, she said, “It’ll get you killed.”

“Am I naked?” I said, wondering why I’d suddenly thought of it, and why the hell I thought it was a good idea to say it out loud.

Her gaze swiped up and down my … being. It lingered on my crotch and a smile kicked her face into a laugh that bubbled over. And despite the heat and embarrassment I felt, I wanted to laugh too, and though I felt the echo of a smile—the shape of it, the shadow of lips and teeth and amusement—I couldn’t remember how to do it. The moment fell flat.

“Calm down,” she finally said. “I can’t see anything.”

“I’m dressed?”

“You’re a shadow, a silhouette.” She crossed her legs and said, “I knew you’d be more awake tonight so I brought you a sandwich.”

“I’ve been awake every night,” I said. “I’ve been counting.”

“Have you?” she said, like I’d told her this a thousand times already. Maybe I had.

“This is the sixteenth night.”

She raised her eyebrows. “It is. That’s quite unusual, you know. Most of you are at least three or four days out. At least. Sometimes they’re ten days out. Ten, Stephen.”

“Yes. Stephen. Stephen. I keep thinking words aren’t real words.”

“That’s normal.”

“They just sound so weird. Weird. Weird.”

She laughed. “So, you want your sandwich?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said, feeling my insides pinch. “How do I …?”

She opened a paper bag that was sitting next to her and held it out for me. I felt like an idiot. I couldn’t remember how to eat. But that didn’t seem like such an imminent problem when I looked into the bag.

“That’s not a sandwich,” I said.

“You’ve shown a preference for freshly-culled squirrel lately.”

“That’s what I’ve been eating? Squirrels? God, I’m a monster.”

“Yes.” She sighed. “Okay, this guy here, he was called Gerald. He was a little bastard, mean to all the other squirrels. He hurt them so bad, he deserves this.”

“What did he do?” I said.

Her face crumpled in a way that seemed familiar, but I couldn’t figure out what it meant. She pulled her dark lips between her teeth, her nostrils flared, her forehead crinkled, not just into horizontal lines, but vertical ones too. Like she was about to …

“How did he hurt them?” I said, when it seemed like she’d never answer.

“He pinched their nuts,” she burst out, her laughing voice filling the graveyard. “Nuts aren’t supposed to be blue, Stevie.”

I laughed but said, “Don’t call me Stevie.”

“Yeah, well, you’ll need a new name when we bring you up.”

“You make me sound like vomit.”

“Were you a comedian in real life? That explains why there were so many people at your funeral.”

“God, what?”

“Shit, sorry, I really shouldn’t have said that. It was supposed to be a joke, but I—”

“You think it’s a joke that I had no friends? No parents? That there’s, like, four people who would even miss me at all.”

“No, that’s not what I … Stephen, you did have friends. The crematorium was full.”

“I can’t decide if that’s worse,” I said, feeling a phantom ache in my phantom throat where my voice was getting higher. “Not having friends, or not knowing I had any. I mean, I guess there were some. People from work. How … how did you find me?”

“You were on a watch list.”

“A watch list? Like, FBI levels of watch listiness? That’s the single most interesting thing about my entire life. Who was watching me?”

Erin grinned darkly. “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

“Is that a joke? I mean, I’m already dead. Is that … I can’t really … I don’t feel right. My brain feels fuzzy.”

“You were concussed. Before you died, I mean,” she said. “You were … you hit the back of your head.” My hand flew to the sore spot, but there was nothing there. Nothing to feel. “That feeling won’t improve until after, and even then it might linger for a while. And the bump’s been fixed, by the way.”

I wanted to ask what the hell I was, but I couldn’t. Not yet. Instead, I said, “Who are you?”

“You can call me Erin, but everything else will have to wait until you’re brought up, okay?”

She had this solemn look on her face, like everything she was saying was for my own good, like everything was what she’d wanted to hear when she …

“I’m the same as you,” I said. “You’ve been through this.”

She didn’t answer because we both knew I was right. “You’ll make a good case study. You’re very alert. Do you mind?”

“Mind what?”

“If I bring a notebook tomorrow night,” she said. “If I, uh, make notes about tonight in it too?”

I shook my head, maybe. Then figured she couldn’t see me. “I don’t mind.”

“Do you remember the first night?” she said.

“I remember the dirt hitting the glass. And salt. Rock salt.” I hadn’t remembered that until just that moment. My head came up quickly to look at her.

“You remember the salt?”

“Yeah, I counted each little rock.”

“You remember how many?”

I shook my head pointlessly. “No.”

“What else do you remember?”

“The smell. At first, I thought I was dreaming, but I knew I wasn’t. The smells were all wrong.”

Erin shifted to the edge of the bench, her hands gripping the front of it. “What smells?”

“Everything smelt like dirt, until …”

“Until?”

“At night, everything smells of blood.”

***

Original image from BMaxim37 on Pixabay.

July Camp 2018

I’m not ready for Camp NaNoWriMo, but I’m going for it anyway. I’ve given myself a target of 30K again, but I doubt I’ll stick to one project. I’ve been wavering for weeks and I’m no closer to a decision, even though I wrote 4K words of notes today. These are the projects I’ll be working on.

DeMobbed

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I’m going to have another crack at DeMobbed. I love the story, but I think because it’s so far away in terms of a release date—I have nine books in line before this one—it doesn’t seem so urgent. I would like to add about 10K to this one, just to move it on a bit. It’s at 40K right now after I slashed it in half for being too waffly and too smutty—who knew that was a thing? I have plans for a sequel brewing too, with a tonne of notes. Planning the sequel has helped me figure out where the first one needs to go and how it needs to end. You can read some first draft scenes from DeMobbed here. My Pinterest board for this project can be found here.

No Good Comes

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So, I’m gonna sound like a loon, but the notes I made today are for a sequel to No Good Comes, which will actually help me a little bit with characterisation because this new series—yes, I’ve finally decided it will be a series—will feature the same characters all the way through, but focus on different relationships, not necessarily romantic ones. The first book is now called No Good Comes: When You Dig Up the Dead. You can read some first draft scenes here. My Pinterest board for this project can be found here.

For the first time, I have a couple of short stories in mind, one may even extend to a novella depending on where it takes me. Both are based on the same lore as all the other books and contain backstories.

The Lion and the Wolf

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The short story is about a bloodborn vampire whose presence is first felt in book 3 of NTSR and a vaewolf we meet in book 4. It’s about a rescue that goes wrong because it feels like imprisonment rather than freedom. It’s about a love that was never given a chance. It’s about a man with dirty hands who wants the man he loves to stay clean. It’s about a lion and a wolf. I’m hoping to finish this, however long it ends up being.

Title to be confirmed. Currently referring to it as Puddles (which sounds like a circus dog)

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The potential novella is about a well-demon running amok in the foggy streets of Victorian London, and archangels, Uriel and Bel, who investigate the shady shenanigans plaguing the city. Essentially, it’s a Holmes and Watson style piece with a touch of farce and an avalanche of gruesome in the shape of a Scottish duke called James Stewart, who features in book 3 of NTSR. It came to me when I woke up with this line in my head: The gentleman fell off the roof of the carriage into the jaws of a puddle. I’m hoping for at least 5K.

I finished the new scenes and rewrites of Moonstruck Consent, book 4 of NTSR during the April camp as planned. I’ve just started the edits for book 5, Legacies Unmasked, which has had a zillion rewrites and makes me want to throw it out the window—even though it doesn’t even exist in physical format. I literally want to print it out just so I can throw it out. Therefore, I’ll be limiting myself to one scene per day while I’m doing camp, and because I’m cutting it—which I’ll definitely enjoy—there will be no words to add to my count.

Good luck to all of you signed up to the July camp. Have fun!