Monday, July 25, 2016
Here are a list of top websites that authors can use to help build their careers. There’s no specific theme behind them, and it includes advertising websites, review websites, services, and anything else that I’ve found beneficial since hitting that publish button on KDP.
10 – BookBub – The king of email advertising. Bookbub has been around for a long time and only takes the best of the best books with a lot of reviews, and even then only if it matches the current tastes of their readers. It can boost your book sales unlike no other program out there, and if you’ve submitted before and been denied don’t worry: everyone has. Just keep trying.
9 – Online Book Club – A website where you can submit for a free editorial review. They have a lot of promotional options as well, and if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to join the community it can really help you out.
8 – CLC – Literary Classics comes with reviews and a contest. It isn’t necessarily cheap to enter, but they put a lot of work into their annual book awards and there are some amazing people who work here. If your book is a good fit for YA or children, then this company can help immensely in building up your career and helping you expand. When they like a book, they will champion it.
7 – Reader’s Favorite – This website can help immensely for anyone interested in getting a free review or entering a contest for their works. The submission process is easy and the company has a lot of different systems in place to help indie authors to build their careers.
6 – IBPA – A very professional organization that has discounts and benefits for its members. A lot of their services are powerful and expensive, so this is something that can be hugely beneficial as an author’s career expands. The discounts alone can pay for the yearly fee.
5 – Wattpad – An online forum for authors and readers to look at works in progress and offer feedback and critiques. It’s a difficult community to work into and the site feels somewhat fractured, but it can be immensely useful.
4 – WriteOn – Similar to Wattpad, but the site is a little easier to navigate. This forum is filled with more authors and less readers, so occasionally it can feel like shouting into the abyss to get attention for your book. That being said, people can be very helpful.
3 – RRBC – An online community of authors and readers that are full of information and support for your career. When you join, you’ll find an engaged and professional group of people who are always willing to help. The more you put in, the more you’ll get. Has an annual fee, but it isn’t a lot.
2 – BookFunnel – A hosting service for eBooks you’re planning to give away, BookFunnel can help you distribute watermarked copies of your book to readers. Great for giveaways and being able to track how many copies you give a month, or for newsletter signups to track the number of people who take advantage of free offers. They have a really cheap entry level option for authors who aren’t making a lot of money, and they deliver the preferred format directly to your readers.
1 – KBoards – If you want to put your finger on the pulse of amazon’s publishing network, this is where it is. Anything that is happening in the world of self-publishing can be found here, and usually as soon as it comes into existence. The people are friendly and supportive and browsing will teach you more about writing and publishing than you ever would have expected.
There you have it: those are just a few of the websites I’ve discovered as an indie author that can help build a career. A lot of them I only found out about recently and wished I knew about sooner.
My best advice for authors is to just have fun with it. Experiment and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re having fun with your books, then other people will too.
World on Fire
Genre: Horror/Paranormal Thriller
Date of Publication: 7/4/16
Number of pages: 280
Word Count: 76,000
Cover Artist: MN Arzu
A quiet little mountain town is hiding a big problem. When the townsfolk of Raven's Peak start acting crazy, Abigail Dressler is called upon to find out what is happening. She uncovers a demonic threat unlike any she's ever faced and finds herself in a fight just to stay alive.
She rescues Haatim Arison from a terrifying fate and discovers that he has a family legacy in the supernatural that he knows nothing about. Now she's forced to protect him, which is easy, and also trust him if she wants to save the townsfolk of Raven's Peak. Trust, however, is considerably more difficult for someone who grew up living on the knife's edge of danger.
Can they discover the cause of the town's insanity and put a stop to it before it is too late?
“Reverend, you have a visitor.”
He couldn’t remember when he fell in love with the pain. When agony first turned to pleasure, and then to joy. Of course, it hadn’t always been like this. He remembered screaming all those years ago when first they put him in this cell; those memories were vague, though, like reflections in a dusty mirror.
A buzz as the door slid open, inconsequential. The aching need was what drove him in this moment, and nothing else mattered. It was a primal desire: a longing for the tingly rush of adrenaline each time the lash licked his flesh. The blood dripping down his parched skin fulfilled him like biting into a juicy strawberry on a warm summer’s day.
“Some woman. Says she needs to speak with you immediately. She says her name is Frieda.”
A pause, the lash hovering in the air like a poised snake. The Reverend remembered that name, found it dancing in the recesses of his mind. He tried to pull himself back from the ritual, back to reality, but it was an uphill slog through knee-deep mud to reclaim those memories.
It was always difficult to focus when he was in the midst of his cleansing. All he managed to cling to was the name. Frieda. It was the name of an angel, he knew. . . or perhaps a devil.
One and the same when all was said and done.
She belonged to a past life, only the whispers of which he could recall. The ritual reclaimed him, embraced him with its fiery need. His memories were nothing compared to the whip in his hand, its nine tails gracing his flesh.
The lash struck down on his left shoulder blade, scattering droplets of blood against the wall behind him. Those droplets would stain the granite for months, he knew, before finally fading away. He clenched his teeth in a feral grin as the whip landed with a sickening, wet slapping sound.
“Jesus,” a new voice whispered from the doorway. “Does he always do that?”
“You’ll cuff him?”
“Why? Are you scared?”
The Reverend raised the lash into the air, poised for another strike.
“Just…man, you said he was crazy…but this…”
The lash came down, lapping at his back and the tender muscles hidden there. He let out a groan of mixed agony and pleasure.
These men were meaningless, their voices only echoes amid the rest, an endless drone. He wanted them to leave him alone with his ritual. They weren’t worth his time.
“I think we can spare the handcuffs this time; the last guy who tried spent a month in the hospital.”
“Regulation says we have to.”
“Then you do it.”
The guards fell silent. The cat-o’-nine-tails, his friend, his love, became the only sound in the roughhewn cell, echoing off the granite walls. He took a rasping breath, blew it out, and cracked the lash again. More blood. More agony. More pleasure.
“I don’t think we need to cuff him,” the second guard decided.
“Good idea. Besides, the Reverend isn’t going to cause us any trouble. He only hurts himself. Right, Reverend?”
The air tasted of copper, sickly sweet. He wished he could see his back and the scars, but there were no mirrors in his cell. They removed the only one he had when he broke shards off to slice into his arms and legs. They were afraid he would kill himself.
How ironic was that?
Mirrors were dangerous things, he remembered from that past life. They called the other side, the darker side. An imperfect reflection stared back, threatening to steal pieces of the soul away forever.
“Reverend? Can you hear me?”
The guard reached out to tap the Reverend on the shoulder. Just a tap, no danger at all, but his hand never even came close. Honed reflexes reacted before anyone could possibly understand what was happening.
Suddenly the Reverend was standing. He hovered above the guard who was down on his knees. The man let out a sharp cry, his left shoulder twisted up at an uncomfortable angle by the Reverend’s iron grip.
The lash hung in the air, ready to strike at its new prey.
The Reverend looked curiously at the man, seeing him for the first time. He recognized him as one of the first guardsmen he’d ever spoken with when placed in this cell. A nice European chap with a wife and two young children. A little overweight and balding, but well-intentioned.
Most of him didn’t want to hurt this man, but there was a part—a hungry, needful part—that did. That part wanted to hurt this man in ways neither of them could even imagine. One twist would snap his arm. Two would shatter the bone; the sound as it snapped would be . . .
A symphony rivaling Tchaikovsky.
The second guard—the younger one that smelled of fear—stumbled back, struggling to draw his gun.
“No! No, don’t!”
That from the first, on his knees as if praying. The Reverend wondered if he prayed at night with his family before heading to bed. Doubtless, he prayed that he would make it home safely from work and that one of the inmates wouldn’t rip his throat out or gouge out his eyes. Right now, he was waving his free hand at his partner to get his attention, to stop him.
The younger guard finally worked the gun free and pointed it at the Reverend. His hands were shaking as he said, “Let him go!”
“Don’t shoot, Ed!”
“Let him go!”
The older guard, pleading this time: “Don’t piss him off!”
About the Author:
Lincoln Cole is a Columbus-based author who enjoys traveling and has visited many different parts of the world, including Australia and Cambodia, but always returns home to his pugamonster and wife. His love for writing was kindled at an early age through the works of Isaac Asimov and Stephen King and he enjoys telling stories to anyone who will listen.
The great thing about mythical creatures is that they’re real. They’re just as real as other things we know about but can’t actually touch or see, such as freedom or non-Photoshopped supermodels. I mean, if my daughter asks me, “Are unicorns real, daddy?” I’ll answer, “Sure they are – they’re real mythical creatures!”
Here’s a quick rundown of my personal favorite mythological creatures from cultures around the world. And I have to admit that I’m biased, because many of the ones I’ve listed make some kind of appearance in the Embodied trilogy, my sci-fi fantasy series.
There’s already something majestic about a white horse with a flowing mane, but when you add a single long, tapered horn to its forehead, the result is staggeringly beautiful. Unicorns have symbolized purity and grace, and can only be tamed by fair maidens. Kari Marriner, the main character in the Embodied trilogy, finds herself up against a terrifyingly unusual unicorn – and it doesn’t intend to be tamed any time soon!
I’m going with the easy ones first. Dragons come in two varieties – the European ones that are nasty and have wings, and the Asian ones that are nice and have no wings. Back in the day (before the Middle Ages) dragons looked more like snakes or sea serpents, but nowadays the fire-breathing, bat-winged variety are all the rage. The one that Kari and Starley encounter in Starley’s Rust, book 2 of the Embodied trilogy, is definitely not nice. He’s also related to the unicorn…
Quite how an aquatic creature with the body of woman and the tail of a fish came to appear in unconnected mythologies the world over is, well, a mystery. From ancient Greece to Walt Disney, mermaids have figuratively or literally enchanted people for thousands of years, along with their less common counterparts, the mermen. My daughter asked for a mermaid tail for her last birthday, so they clearly aren’t going out of style anytime soon.
If you were a man with the head of a bull, you’d probably want to be trapped inside a labyrinth on an island in Greece, but apparently the Minotaur wasn’t super keen on this situation and had to be appeased by being fed seven strapping youths and seven fair maidens every few years. According to legend, the Minotaur was the unnatural offspring of a woman and beast, so eventually Athenian hero Theseus decided to rid the world of this abomination. Or was it really Theseus? In Silent Symmetry, book 1 of the Embodied trilogy, Kari discovers an ancient book that has a different tale to tell…
The idea of a many-headed serpentine monster with poisonous breath and blood that can’t be killed because when one of its heads was chopped off a couple more would grow back from the stump is terrifying even in modern times because it seems to represent an unstoppable evil, the kind that we’re unfortunately used to hearing about in news of terrorist atrocities. Luckily for the ancient Greeks, the heroic Heracles dispatched the monstrosity using sword and fire. Good riddance!
5. Gorgons (Medusa)
In Greek mythology, the Gogons were horrifically ugly winged women with venomous snakes for hair. But let’s face it, we’ve all woken up in the morning looking like that, haven’t we? Medusa was one Gorgon sister who was able to turn anyone into stone who looked her in the eye. Again, been there, done that. The Gorgon sisters were born of deities and hated moral men, but legend has it that one such man, Perseus, was finally able to decapitate Medusa and thereafter carried her head around to use as a weapon by turning his enemies into stone.
Normally “man’s best friend”, this mutt was no stick-chasing, waggy-tailed companion who enjoyed having his belly tickled. No, Cerberus was literally an ancient Greek hell-hound – the offspring of monsters who had three heads, a serpent for a tail and snakes coming out of his body. I’m assuming that he did not walk to heel or sit and stay like a good boy. Cerberus would prevent the dead from leaving the underworld, which, on the face of it, is the kind of guard dog you want.
It’s kind of awesome that he enormous Great Sphinx of Giza (meaning “The Terrifying One” or “Father of Dread”) is almost five thousand years old and yet is still the largest monolith statue in the world. The ancient Greeks – who were pretty good at coming up with mythical creatures, and might have done very well writing Young Adult novels – defined a sphinx as having the head of a human, the haunches of a lion and sometimes the wings of a bird. The Egyptian sphinx is typically male, while its Greek counterpart is female. Either way, you wouldn’t want to run into one lurking behind a pyramid.
The ultimate freakish beast, the chimera has come to refer to any mythical or fictional animal made up of a bunch of other animals. However in Greek mythology, the chimera was a fire-breathing animal composed of the best bits of a lion, a goat, a human and a snake. Noon, one of the main characters in the Embodied trilogy, uses the term chimera to refer to high priests of the Dark Universe once they are embodied in Earth-bound form.
1. Gog and Magog
This two-for-one is probably a surprising entry for most readers. But for some reason I’ve always found these names to be terrifying. Even though I’m not religious, there was a period when I was fascinated by the Book of Revelation as a teenager, and the mysterious characters of Gog and Magog were causing havoc at the end of the world. But these strange beings don’t only appear in Christian mythology. Gog and Magog, wrote an early Muslim scholar, “ live near to the sea that encircles the Earth and can be counted only by God; they are only half the height of a normal man, with claws instead of nails and a hairy tail and huge hairy ears which they use as mattress and cover for sleeping.” Maybe they aren’t so scary – they sound like something from Where the Wild Things Are.
Mythical creatures in the Embodied trilogy
As I mentioned above, all these mythological creatures have a role to play, big or small, in the Embodied trilogy, and that’s because the Thoth, one of the Dark Universe races that come to Earth are embodied as similar creatures. But the Thoth go a step further – they often have extra features that combine different beasts from the classical mythological sources. And at the end of Diamond Splinters, we finally get to meet the terrifying Gog, who is as hell-bent on destroying the Earth as the biblical version. Can Kari defeat the Thoth? You’ll have to read the Embodied trilogy special edition eboo
The Embodied Trilogy
Special Edition Ebook Collection
Genre: YA Urban fantasy / science fiction
Date of Publication: July 11, 2016
Number of pages: 560
Word Count: 183,094
Cover Artist: Alexandra Nereuta
Follow Kari's exciting adventure in in one special edition of all three ebooks, including bonus author insights, deleted scenes and a treasure hunt quiz..
The Embodied trilogy is an unusual web of adventure, romance, fantasy, and science fiction.
Prep school student Kari Marriner is swept up in a mystery that fast becomes a thrilling adventure when she discovers that mysterious aliens called the Embodied and their pseudo-religion, the Temple of Truth, been influencing her family’s life for decades. She soon finds herself battling dragons, unicorns, and nefarious angels on the streets of New York and in the catacombs of Paris, while having her emotions torn by a handsome alien and a jealous boyfriend. In a final showdown, she must travel to the creatures’ home in the dark universe and make a heart-wrenching choice: rescue her mother or save the Earth.
Special Tour Price $7.99
The first sensation was my stomach lurching and spinning. Then I seemed to be plunging dizzily while simultaneously zooming higher on some kind of impossible rollercoaster ride. And suddenly I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was separated from any kind of physical reality, like – oh… oh wow – like I was totally disembodied. I could sense things but not see them with my eyes. I had… a sort of mathematical awareness, as though I was plugged directly into the mainframe of a supercomputer the size of the universe, my mind swimming in pure information. Geometric shapes twinkled in and out of existence. Lines and points moved around in constant motion. It felt like a dream made of numbers… patterns and data combining and separating. Spirals within spirals and symmetries within symmetries.
“Mom?” I called out. Or at least imagined myself calling out. Ripples in this web of information undulated in front of me when I said her name. “Mom? It’s me. It’s Kari.” More complex ripples floated away.
At that moment it occurred to me I had no way of getting back home.
“Noon?” I said hopefully. Oh man – he’d told me how to use the sphere to reach the Dark Universe but now I was here and totally disembodied, I had no way of controlling my body to remove the sphere from my forehead.
But before I could worry about this too much, the waves of information started to coalesce into more recognizable shapes. Pyramids and spheres, but not solid ones. They seemed to be made of… of symbols and binary code. That was it – they were like living equations! And then weirdly, in one of the pyramid shapes, I could recognize Noon. I felt as though I could see his mesmerizing face. Even though it was data or whatever, it was somehow him. The whole experience was kinda hypnotic. Was it even really happening? In one respect, I guess none of it was real, because I was literally seeing outside my universe.
“Kari – you made it,” I heard him say.
“Is that really you? Cilic didn’t kill you?”
“Well, he killed Embodied me, but the Mihim brought my diamond pyramid back here.”
This was super-bizarro. Now it was like the surrounding patterns had gone out of focus and I could clearly see the pyramid that was Noon’s true form.
“Wait, let me do something,” he said. “I’m going to recreate a reality you’re familiar with to make this easier for you.”
And the entire crazy churning data kaleidoscope sort of crystalized. I found myself standing in a towering hall with walls, floor, and ceiling made of what looked like sheets of sheer diamond. But in the depths of the diamond the same patterns I’d seen before were refracted in a million colors. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever encountered.
The Embodied Trilogy
Genre: YA Urban fantasy / science fiction
Date of Publication: January, 2013
Number of pages: 194
Word Count: 54,359
Cover Artist: Alexandra Nereuta
Kari Marriner’s earliest memory is her father’s death in a car crash back in small-town Wisconsin. Now, 12 years later, her mother has been hired by a pseudo-religious organization in Manhattan called the Temple of Truth (a.k.a. the ToT). At Chelsea Prep, Kari develops a crush on classmate Cruz. But when she realizes that Noon, another attractive guy at school, is involved with the ToT, her curiosity gets the better of her.
Kari stumbles upon a secret tunnel leading from her apartment to another in the building, where an ancient book holds images she can scarcely believe, and a cavernous room contains... something inexplicable. As Kari pieces together the incredible evidence, she discovers that the ToT is run by other-worldly beings called The Embodied who influence human behavior and have established a global long-term human breeding program. But why? And what is her role in all this?
Just as she starts wondering whether the love she feels for Cruz is genuine or if her emotions are being controlled by The Embodied, her mother is kidnapped and Kari has to figure out who is human, who is Embodied, and who she can count on to help rescue her mother.
Book One Free
When I got in, the apartment was empty. I dumped my stuff and had a shower. I only realized as I was drying my hair that the apartment was really empty. Flash wasn’t there. The hairdryer was his nemesis, and the feud had being going on since he was traumatized by it as a kitten. But he couldn’t resist confronting it. Whenever I blow-dried my hair he would freak, hissing and arching his back, fur standing on end. But not this time.
I turned off the hairdryer and called his name. Nothing. I made little squeaking noises with my lips, walking from room to room. Okay, this was bizarre. Where the eff could he be? There was only one sure-fire way of making him come running. I went into the kitchen and opened the cupboard where the cat food was stored. I shook the bag loudly. Silence.
Wait, there wasn’t silence.
There was a muffled voice coming from... coming from? I bent down to follow the sound. It was coming from the cupboard.
The cupboard was a medium-sized space, maybe three feet high and 18 inches wide, and as I stuck my head inside to listen I felt like I was somehow entering another world. It was a gut feeling. You know, the kind you can’t explain but know you should trust. Some people call it instinct, but Mom explained to me once that the gut and the ancient lizard brain are linked. This is the “fight or flight” response that you feel when you’re threatened. It’s helped us survive over millions of years of evolution. And it’s rarely wrong.
So what was different in there? What was my subconscious reacting to? The smell. Yes, that was it – something smelled different in there, and it wasn’t cat food. Now the muffled voice was louder, more distinctive. And I could tell that there were actually two voices, a man’s and a woman’s.
I put my head in further and another part of my gut sent me a second message. The dimensions were wrong. The cupboard stretched back much further than it should have, back beyond the kitchen wall.
I withdrew and stood up. I opened the cupboard above it and moved the cereal boxes to one side. This one was only a couple of feet deep. Looking back into the cat food cupboard, it was obvious that it went back at least a foot more.
I stood with my hands on my hips for a moment, trying to process. And where on earth was Flash? I called his name again and listened. Suddenly the voices stopped. I bent down and put my head back in the cupboard. There was a stale smell, and... was that a draft? I reached inside and felt around. The cupboard was so deep it was hard to see the back clearly. I shuffled inside, resting on my forearms and prodding the back wall with my fingers. It moved slightly. I pushed harder, and with a groan it swung open at the bottom. It was hinged somehow at the top, like a large flap. I opened the flap wider and felt a distinct whoosh of cooler, damper air hit my face. I peered through the opening but it was pitch black inside. Then the voices started again, this time much clearer. I still couldn’t make out what they were saying, but it was definitely a man and a younger woman talking.
Pushing the flap open even wider I realized that I could fit through the opening. The other side of the flap felt like a tunnel or duct the same width and height as the cupboard. The trouble was, it was too dark in there to explore it. I needed a flashlight.
Mom is nothing if not resourceful. There were always spare batteries in the house when I was a kid. A first aid kit that nurse-Mom whipped out at the first sign of fever. And a well-stocked emergency box in an easy-to-reach location.
Five minutes later I was back in the cupboard, flashlight in hand.
I wriggled inside on my hands and knees, then pushed the flap open again. I crawled through it, testing the strength of the surface beneath me as I went. The tunnel creaked a bit – I guess it was made of wood – but it seemed pretty firm. I advanced, the tunnel’s blackness stretching out in front of me. The flap swung shut and the dank air enveloped me.
I stopped and listened, probing the tunnel with the flashlight. It seemed to go on forever. “Flash?” I whispered loudly. But all I could hear were the echoey voices. I carried on crawling forward. They seemed to be getting louder. The young woman’s higher-pitched voice was easier to make out than the man’s gravelly rumble.
I thought I heard her say, “...control of it...here, I can get...here...make it...” Just snatches of sentences. The man said something in reply. When I was crawling, the noise my jeans made on the wood made it impossible to distinguish individual words in what the woman was saying. I shone the flashlight ahead of me. Was that a turn in the tunnel? As I got nearer, I could tell that there was a junction to the left in the tunnel up ahead.
I reached the bend and looked around it, the flashlight beam sweeping the tunnel walls. There was another long stretch that ended in...? A bend or a drop? “Flash?” I whispered again and listened. Now both voices were more distinct. They were definitely coming from further along the tunnel.
“...can’t stop them,” said the man.
“That’s just it,” answered the woman. Then silence.
I crawled onward, accompanied only by the swoosh and scrape of my jeans and shoes. Half a minute later I reached the end of this stretch of tunnel. Now there was a turn to the right, and a section that went upward. I raised my head to look up this chute. For a second my brain made a connection. That was it – garbage chutes! These big old buildings were usually equipped with them. Maybe that was what this was. But why did the tunnels go sideways? No, it made no sense.
I knelt at the junction, searching for an explanation. Then, before I knew what was happening, I screamed. Something had dropped from the chute and landed in front of me. Something alive. I scrambled backward, heart in mouth, the flashlight making crazy-ass shadows on the tunnel walls.
In seconds I was back at the first turn, but as I tried to crawl around it, one of the belt loops on my jeans snagged on a nail. I tried to pull it off, frantic. I glanced back down the tunnel and saw a movement. It was coming toward me. It was... Flash.
My limbs sagged, I stopped struggling, and the loop unhooked from the nail. The cat meowed and trotted up to me. Laughing in relief, I petted him. “You... you... I love you!” I said, happy to have found him. And happy that he wasn’t a giant rat. Or something worse that the depths of my imagination had conjured up in my state of panic. He purred and snuggled against my nose.
It was the young woman’s voice. Distant, but distinct. I strained my ears to hear more but I was already far from the source of the sound, and Flash’s purring obscured the rest of the words. But I know I heard it. I know I heard my name.
The Embodied Trilogy
Genre: YA Urban fantasy / science fiction
Date of Publication: January 2015,
second edition April 2016
Number of pages: 206
Word Count: 60,934
Cover Artist: Alexandra Nereuta
Six months ago, Kari Marriner’s life was torn apart. Now turned 17, she’s looking for answers in her rural Wisconsin hometown. But just as the Embodied seemed to have vanished, there’s a new, more terrifying visitor from the Dark Universe.
Back in Manhattan, a charismatic English artist named Starley convinces Kari he can find her missing mother if she flies to Paris with him. He also shares an incredible secret from the dawn of mankind. But Starley is not who he seems. Before she knows it, Kari finds herself standing in front of the Mona Lisa with him, yelling out, “He’s got a bomb!”
And that’s when things go totally insane. The Rebel Embodied’s henchman, Cilic, returns to Earth on a deadly mission. The body of Kari’s treacherous friend Aranara is washed up on the banks of the Hudson. But is she really dead? In the Paris catacombs, Kari and Starley are hunted by a nightmarish mythical creature that’s all too real.
A family mystery, an exiled race, freakish beasts, jealousy, love… and death. Kari has to face them all in this fast-paced fantasy thriller.
Amazon Paperback Amazon UK Paperback
The sun was setting behind the buildings. A big barn with half the roof missing. A grain silo. A couple of smaller shed-type buildings, one with no door, the other with the door hanging off its hinges. And a farmhouse. Windows shattered. Front door gawping at me. I gulped and sent an ILY back to Cruz. He liked those.
Then I had the strangest feeling. Like a disruption in the atmosphere, but also in my mind. The air changed somehow, and I heard a rumbling of distant thunder. I could have sworn that the fading daylight got brighter for a few seconds. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. It made me stop moving. Then reality seemed to snap back to normal. I kept going toward the farmhouse.
I saw something move.
The setting sun had backlit the barn so it was hard to be sure what it was. A horse, I think. A big, black stallion moving around in the barn.
My mind filled in the blanks. Probably a horse that had escaped from a neighboring farm and made a new home for itself here. Okay, cool. No mystery. Maddie must have seen it and her mind made it fit the legend.
I lay Maddie’s bike down in the grass, careful not to make a sound. I tiptoed toward the barn, not wanting to startle it. I turned on the flashlight app on my phone. Clouds were gathering, the light was fading. More distant thunder. I just needed to find it, take a photo and show Maddie. Her grandfather would know what to do, how to capture it safely and find its owner.
I entered the barn, still creeping quietly. Ew. It certainly smelled like a barn. There was hay strewn around on the ground. My phone flashlight was practically useless. It illuminated a patch, like, five feet in front of me. In the dim light, I could make out a row of stalls on each side and a hayloft up ahead with a ladder propped against it.
Now I thought about it, the smell was kinda weird. I grew up around here and although I’d never spent any time on a farm, I sensed that there was some kind of extra, non-farm smell here. Hard to identify. But yucky and familiar all the same.
Was that an animal noise in one of the stalls on the left? Or just the wind blowing through the holes in the walls? I crept toward the stall very, very carefully. My hand holding the phone was shaking. Come on, Kari. Get a grip. The sides of the stalls weren’t high enough to conceal a horse. Unless it was lying down in the hay, of course.
I reached the stall where I thought I’d heard the noise. I waited a second, held my breath, then stepped in front of the stall’s open gate. It was empty. And that’s when the hairs stood up on the back of my neck again. But this time there was another, all-too-familiar feeling along with it.
It was the feeling I had when Noon was in my head. Yet not exactly the same. This was unpleasant, even disturbing, and somehow stronger.
I spun around. In the barn doorway stood the black stallion. Protruding from its forehead was a long, tapered horn. It really was a unicorn. It raised its head and my mind felt like a heavy blanket had been draped over it. It eyed me purposefully. My irrational fear as a little girl came flooding back, multiplied by a million. I almost peed my pants. Was this a bad dream? Maybe I would wake up surrounded by My Little Pony’s in my 8-year-old’s bedroom?
The unicorn took a step forward. The feeling in my head got even stronger and now I could swear that I heard the name Noon repeating over and over. Not his voice, just his name. Was the unicorn Embodied? I didn’t get a chance to wonder about this because now the feeling in my head was becoming worse… painful. I was convinced that my mind was being probed by this astonishing creature. In the space of a few seconds, the pain increased and so did the repetition of the name Noon until it was so excruciating that I felt like screaming. I put my hands to my temples and opened my mouth. As I was about to close my eyes, I saw the unicorn start to charge toward me.
Despite the pain, I managed to fling myself to one side and into the empty stall just before it reached me. It galloped past and I heard it stop. My head was still throbbing. I staggered to my feet, one fist still pressed to my temple. Maybe I could make a break for it.
The unicorn appeared in front of me, blocking the stall entrance. I was totally trapped. I looked around in desperation. A broken wooden handle was poking out from a pile of hay in one corner. I grabbed it and pulled out a pitchfork. The unicorn advanced into the stall, its head lowered so that its horn was aimed directly at my head. The pain coursed through my brain like a river of electricity.
I swung the pitchfork at the unicorn’s head. I missed, but it backed up, startled. I swung again. It made a snuffling sound and stepped back further.
“LEAVE ME ALONE!” I screamed.
The unicorn cocked its head to one side like it was listening to me. The pain in my brain diminished.
I swung again and shouted the same thing.
The unicorn drew itself up to its full height and then something even more incredible happened. It raised its tail. But this was no stallion’s tail. It was like a huge peacock tail, shimmering with shades of black, gray, and silver. The tail fanned out, probably ten feet wide, and despite the pain in my head, I lowered the pitchfork, just standing there in awe. What was this being? It seemed to possess incredible power and at the same time be unimaginably beautiful. In fact, it was all the more terrifying because it was so beautiful.
The Embodied Trilogy
Genre: YA Urban fantasy / science fiction
Date of Publication: May, 2016
Number of pages: 212
Word Count: 62,257
Cover Artist: Alexandra Nereuta
Prep school senior Kari Marriner has a heart-wrenching choice to make: rescue her mother or prevent aliens destroying the Earth.
Having faced down mythical beasts and trans-dimensional villains, Kari has finally unraveled the mystery of the cult-like Temple of Truth and found the diamond sphere that can free her mother from the evil clutches of the Thoth high priests. But to find out how to use the sphere, Kari must team up with the one person she can never trust: Aranara, the treacherous sister of her missing soulmate Noon.
When a submarine trip to the bottom of the Hudson River ends in death and disaster, Kari is scarred, both emotionally and physically. She wants to run and hide but digs deep and finds new sources of inner strength. As the storm of the century hits New York, a child’s life hangs in the balance and Kari gambles everything in a final confrontation with the genocidal Thoth.
Aranara pushed at the hatch. Nothing happened. Whether it was the water pressure or some safety mechanism I don’t know, but she stopped trying and went back to the control panel. The sub reversed. I looked through the transparent bottom and saw Noon’s pyramid coming back into view. As soon as it was directly beneath us, she climbed onto her chair and aimed the gun at the globe-shaped acrylic window. With a surge of terror, I realized what she was about to do.
“Nooooo!” I screamed as she fired. I was kneeling on the floor of the cabin beside Mangold’s body. I automatically shielded my face. The bullet ricocheted. The dome had cracked instead of shattering. She shot twice more, not even flinching from the flying bullets. The crack spread. Water started to spray in. I reached up to try to stop her, but she held me off with one hand while she fired again with the other.
The window bulged inward. Then it burst. Water poured in and I screamed again, clawing at her uselessly as she pulled away enough acrylic to make an opening big enough to swim through. The water gushed like a torrent. She got hold of the sides of the hole she’d made and somehow managed to pulled herself out. The sub listed to one side and my reality shifted. Everything felt like a dream. I was in a reversed fishbowl. The air was inside and the water was outside, with Aranara swimming in it, downward toward Noon’s pyramid on the riverbed. The water was already up to my knees. There was nothing I could do. This was where I was going to die.
Wait – maybe one thing! I had shut Noon out. Maybe he could do something. I closed my eyes and calmed myself as best I could. “Tell Aranara to help me. I’m going to drown.”
I heard nothing. The water was up to my waist now. Spray. Smell. Sickening fear. I looked down but now it was impossible to see where Aranara was underneath the sub because of the river water rushing into the cabin. Did she already have the pyramid? Was she blocking Noon’s communication with me somehow? The water reached my chest. The dreamlike state disappeared. New panic set in. There was only one chance. Once no more water was flowing into the opening that Aranara had made, I could try swimming out through it. But we were seventy feet below the surface. Could I hold my breath long enough? I saw something move at my feet and looked down. I let out a huge scream as Mangold’s head floated up next to mine. Oh god, oh god. The water was up to my neck. I stood on the chair. My head was touching the top of the dome. The water was now level with the opening. I had to fill my lungs with as much oxygen as I possibly could from the few inches that were trapped at the top of the cabin. I breathed deeply. One, two, three deep breaths. The water lapped at my chin. Four. I held my breath.
I pushed off the chair toward the opening. It was barely wide enough. But before I could reach it, the submarine pitched downward. The hatch hit me in the back. The opening was further away than before, below me now. I swam toward it. The acrylic was at least an inch thick. I caught hold of the edge of the opening with one hand and pulled myself forward. As my head went through, the submarine lurched to one side. A searing pain in my cheek. I held on tight. Now I could use both hands to pull myself through. Then I was out. My lungs were already starting to hurt. Daylight was so far away up above. Suddenly an arm circled my waist. It was Aranara. She didn’t even look at me, just kicked with both legs, pulling me away from the listing sub. I felt myself getting dizzy as we rose faster than a normal person would be able to. The pressure was enormous. The air was forced out of my lungs. I passed out.
About the Author:
After graduating from film school in London, England, JB Dutton emigrated to Montreal in 1987, where he still lives with his two young children and their even younger goldfish. He spent over a decade as a music TV director before moving into the advertising industry as an award-winning copywriter for clients such as Cirque du Soleil. JB Dutton has written novels, short stories, blogs, screenplays and a stage play. He also writes adult fiction under the name John B. Dutton.
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