Craft updates for Tami Veldura and S.T. Lynn.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Blood In The Water: Art!

4:00 AM Posted by Tami Veldura , , , No comments
Araceli is frequently singled out in early reviews for Blood In The Water. She's conspicuous as a black woman with influence on a pirate ship. Her manner is brusque, but her loyalty is unmatched. To celebrate Araceli, here's a hint of her character and some art. 

--//--





It couldn’t be a coincidence. Kyros had already been here. Though what he thought he was doing with spirits and demons, Eric couldn’t begin to guess. He thanked the baker and jogged to the epicenter of the fire scars. The street itself was clear of litter, but the former building hunched wood over clay, a mess on top of a wreck. People crawled over the leftovers, hauling wood away for other purposes.

A big black woman grunted as she toppled a beam too large for most men to shift. Eric pointed at her. “Oi! You!” He scrambled up a cascading hill of fired clay, suddenly hot with anger now that he had somewhere to point it. “Woman! Quartermaster. You’re Vindex’ quartermaster, aren’t you?” He stooped and picked up a shard of pottery. “Answer me!” He chucked it at her when she sneered.

She dodged the piece and put her foot on a fallen beam. She shoved it forward into Eric’s knee. He crashed to the pile, hands first and cursed. Eric rolled to one side. The quartermaster sat on his stomach, stepped on one of his hands, and held a knife up to his throat. He wheezed, “Fuck, woman, you are not light.”

“I knew you’d come after us.”

“Tell me where Vindex is.”

“Why?”

“TELL ME WHERE THAT SON OF A BITCH IS HIDIN—” He choked off the words when the knife dug in.

The quartermaster leaned closer, voice calm. “I asked why?”

Eric gasped for air. “He stole what’s mine. I want it back.”

“Is that all?”

“I haven’t decided yet.”

She pulled the knife away and wiped it on Eric’s heaving chest. “He’s on the Hawk. Trying not to die.”

Eric just lay there puzzling out what that meant. The quartermaster stood, and he gasped several full breaths. She walked away down the pile. Eric had to scramble to catch up. “What happened?”

She made a vague gesture at the fallen merchant stall. “Someone intended this for you.”

“Kyros was here,” he said. She led him to a pile of black on the ground, harder than rock with exploded spikes out of the top. She leaned her boot heel on one of the spikes and heaved. The spike tip snapped into the dirt. “People are saying a demon vomited fire on top of him.”

“He survived this?” Eric turned the shard of stone over in his hands, sharper than any knife he owned.

“You could call it that. He made it about two feet away.” She pointed. “Collapsed on his face. He’s been unconscious since then.”

Eric rubbed his chest, and for once Ghalil had nothing to do with it. There was a tightness there he couldn’t explain. He needed to see Kyros, and he wasn’t sure yelling at him was even on the table anymore. “Take me to him?” he asked. “Please?”

She gave him a once-over. Then nodded. “Don’t make me have to kill you.”

Araceli, she said her name was, and she didn’t let him row the boat. As they jumped across the bay, Eric realized that might be a good thing. Her broad arms heaved with a force he wasn’t sure he could match. And she maintained that speed all the way out of the bay, around to the Northwest, and down the coast to a much smaller cove where the Hawk bobbed out of sight. The ship sat with her sails furled, anchored close on shore.

They climbed to the top deck, and Eric felt the stares like points of heat. Without Araceli leading the way he wouldn’t have made it to the stairs.

Two decks down, the quartermaster stopped him at the door. “If you start any shit, I will put a knife through your eye.” The quiet desperation in her voice made Eric’s stomach flip. She opened the door.

A man at the table sat up, pushing glasses up his nose. The boatswain? If he said anything, Eric missed it. Kyros lay unmoving on the bed, body red and bloated, skin missing more than it was there, blisters from head to toe. Black. Chunks of roasted flesh. Eric knelt at the bedside and covered his mouth. His fingers shook. “He’s dead.”

“Not yet,” Araceli snapped at him. She urged the other man out and closed the door, leaving Eric alone.

--//--

Monday, December 15, 2014

Blood In The Water: Giveaway

9:00 AM Posted by Tami Veldura , , , No comments

Have you HEARD how awesome Blood in the Water is?

"Every time I turned around something else was happening! Action packed fails somehow. I tell you what, I want more. More. MORE! When's part two coming out? Ms. Veldura put me through the wringer and left me dangling on a cliff by my fingernails. It was awesome." 5 Stars

"Kyros and Eric are tender for each other as they fence with more than their, um, swords. Their competing treasure hunt for an important artifact that is also the key to their happiness is genius, as is the paranormal aspect. I really liked how this all worked together: a dark curse, pirates in lerve, looting, action/adventure, fighting, some very cool secondary characters… and a clever hunt for booty… erm, bootie… um, treasure troves. You won’t want to miss this one." 5 Stars

"Araceli will kick anyone's ass if needed. I really liked her quite a bit. She is a person in charge, she earns her respect by herself, and loyal to a fault. She really helps keep Kyros in order... I really liked the adventure during the story. It is like a treasure hunt with a twist. " 4 Stars

"Great story with two pirates hot for each other, one of which has a vengeful spirit that lives in his chest that comes out in the moonlight to reek havoc on anyone around it. This was a story that I couldn't stop reading." 5 Stars

Enter the giveaway! If you receive my newsletter or follow me on twitter/facebook, you already have several entries. Enter again by reblogging this post on tumblr.


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A Scorpion's Nature: Part 98

Original photo by jGlidePhotoATL
This flash fiction is part of a series. Follow Alex Drake from the day he joins Zodiac, through the trials of basic training, broken and mended hearts, to the day he becomes Motocross, elite Scorpio sniper. Start at Part One.

Part 98

Commander Kimberly was denied access to Alex's debriefing upon his return to the Zodiac campus, a detail she didn't let him forget. His trip was supposed to settle his reservations about leadership and decision-making among the soldiers, instead it simply pushed his concerns higher up the chain of command.

A Libra soldier stood in for her, taking notes on what, Alex couldn't imagine. His trip with the Pisces was a normal one, he came to understand, with the minor detail of Katz foot soldiers on the lower rungs of drug-running.

And that's when the Libre ask him a single question, "Why did you decide to look at them in ultraviolet?"

I don't know, probably wasn't the best response for this kind of thing. Alex shrugged anyway. "I haven't learned everything the helmet's HUD can do. I just flipped through the different options. Dall is the one who caught the tattoo."

The Pisces commander running the debrief nodded. "We've spoken with her already."

In the end he was told not to talk about Katz or the tattoos. He had questions the Pisces commander refused to address and beyond further notes, the Libra investigator didn't acknowledge him in the slightest.

It left him more frustrated than ever and he couldn't even talk it out with Dillon or Lance.

He returned to his apartment conflicted. Keta greeted him with a quiet smile and a cup of tea. She took the duffle from him and dropped it in the hallway. "Come sit."

He sighed into his chair at the diningroom table and curled his fingers around the mug. He felt his heart's double beat in his ears.

Keta let him sit, her attention absorbed in a novel of some kind while her own tea sat, cold, on the table.

"It's weird coming back," Alex confided.

Keta closed her book to pay attention but otherwise didn't move in her seat.

"I didn't realize it while I was there, but everything was sharp and bright. There's an urgency about everything, even waiting." He sipped his tea. "It's like…the world has kept going and doesn't seem to notice that I just went through something…so...outrageous."

He wasn't sure he could properly explain it, but Keta didn't seem to need more. She let him sit and sip at his tea for an hour without saying a word. And that was exactly what Alex needed. The comfortable silence let him wrap his head around the entire experience and file it away. Adjustment back to the real world probably took a lot more work when bullets were involved.

Lance stepped into the apartment like a small, gloomy storm. He perked up considerably when he spotted Alex at the table. "You're back." Said softy.

Alex sat up, his tea done. "Lance. I want to take you out to dinner." Lance blinked at him. "You, too, Keta," he said. "And Dillon. Calahan. Everyone. I want to take everyone out. This weekend." Somewhere nice. Something they'd remember. "How do you like Twenty-Four Seasons?"

Keta said, "I've never been."

Lance shook his head, too.

That settled it, then. "I'll make a reservation for Sunday."

--//--

Read more in this series every Monday.
If you enjoy this story, please consider supporting it on Patreon.



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Blood In The Water: Teaser

Blood In The Water
an excerpt

He trotted down the gangplank to the Spanish ship.

It looked worse on the inside than it did from the Hawk. Lanterns swung from exposed beams. Wood and metal were bent and broken in every direction. Twisted cannon lay some half a ship-length from their proper holds. Cannon balls collected in low corners like iron water. The Hawk’s ram had cut in far enough to warp the stairs center of the ship. Kyros navigated men and debris on his way to the captain’s cabin.

African trinkets and fetishes littered the place. All, bright reds and greens. Kyros picked through sheets of fabric and handfuls of carved things. A statue of a long-necked beast with stubbed horns towered in one corner, a deadly creature no doubt. Kyros had no intention of finding his fortunes in Africa. The place swarmed with monsters.

He dug through every cabinet, every drawer, every corner where something of more value might be hidden. He found something wrapped in plain linen. Kyros unrolled it over the table, but what he discovered didn’t look like anything he knew. It appeared to be gold, but weighed much more than that. It was a complete ring about the size of his two fists together, tapered a bit at the bottom (or was that the top?) and with no smooth edges. Pieces of it lifted off the face and could spin in any direction, interlocking with each other.

Weird. And exactly the kind of treasure hunt Kyros could use as bait. He didn’t recognize this piece, but the form reminded him of a jar he’d once stolen from the captain of the Sun. He rolled the item back up and wedged it into his belt. Another several minutes spent rummaging turned up nothing else interesting. He left.

Kyros stopped two of his men on their way down to the hold. “Are there empty barrels or bags down below?”

“A few, yes, sir.”

“Bring them up here. Empty out the cabin.” Kyros pointed behind him. “There are a thousand small fetishes and some nice-looking fabrics we can sell. Wrap it all up good, I don’t want to see these things rolling around the deck.”

“Yes, sir.”

“There’s also a tall, square-patterned statue of a beast in one corner. Be careful with that. It’ll be worth more in one piece.” Kyros took a step up the gangplank and reconsidered, a hand on the shoulder of his man. “On second thought, bring the statue to my cabin. I’ll find a spot for it.”

He let them go and relieved one of his men of their burden, a big bag packed with fabrics. Kyros hefted it over one shoulder and joined the line back to the Hawk.

That afternoon, with Javier watching over the salvage operation, Kyros sat down in his cabin with Bram. The bosun unfolded a pair of delicate spectacles and opened his ledger. “A decent collection, Captain. Salted meats, garlic, ginger, onion… something called an a-vo-ca-do? We have half a dozen things I’ve never seen listed in the Spaniard ledger. It’ll take me some time to match them up.” Bram glanced up over his glasses. “I don’t have a good count of the little statues you found in the cabin, yet.”

Kyros nodded, “I don’t know if they’re worth anything. If not, I’ll let everyone pick out a favorite, but until then I don’t want to see them in anyone’s hands. “Yes, sir. I’ve directed Tristan to craft new barrels, one for the trin—”

“Captain!” Araceli’s voice shouted through the door. She yanked it open but didn’t cross the threshold. “Sir, the Sun’s been spotted on approach.”

Kyros stood. “We’ll finish later, Bram.” He took the stairs two at a time, leaping to the helm and accepted the spyglass from Araceli. She pointed. He aimed the glass.

Sure enough, the dark hull and light sails of the Midnight Sun billowed in their direction. At speed.

“We should run.”

“No.” Kyros leaned over the rail to the deck and shouted, “Pull up the green for parlay.”

Araceli grabbed his shoulder and hissed, “Are you mad? They’re after this ship’s goods.”

“And I’m chasing a treasure on that one.”

A single cannon fired in the distance. Kyros and Araceli ducked. The iron ball flew over the deck and tore right through the fores’l. Kyros scowled and spied through the glass again. From the fore of his ship, Eric Deumont extended one middle finger.

Kyros muttered, “What’s the flag signal for ‘That was childish and unnecessary’?”

Araceli shook her head and stomped off the helm, her weight resounding with each step through the deck.

--//--

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Blood in the Water: Multiple Choice Quiz

4:00 AM Posted by Tami Veldura , , , , No comments
When I first started drafting Blood In The Water, I provided a multiple choice quiz to the M/M Romance group on goodreads for entertainment. Now it's your turn. Learn more about Kyros and Eric, the main characters of the story. Discover Araceli- a reader favorite- and Orthos, the ship cat. 

Grab a pencil and guess! Answers are provided below. Then tell me your score and what scene you're dying to learn more about.

1 Kyros was born...
1 At a plantation
2 At a fort
3 At sea
4 At a whorehouse
5 At a commoner's home

2 Eric was born...
1 Into the Governor's household
2 Into serfdom (slavery through debt)
3 During a raid on the town
4 Prematurely
5 To a craftsman

3 Kyros met Araceli, his best friend and Quartermaster...
1 During a brawl at the tavern
2 In a raid on a fort
3 During an attack on a Spanish merchant ship
4 While he was drowning in a fountain
5 In an argument with the Madame at a whorehouse

4 What did Eric's mother think of his idea to go pirating...
1 Refused to discuss it with him
2 Called him crazy and irresponsible
3 He left without discussing it with her
4 Didn't care either way
5 Couldn't get rid of him fast enough
5 The spirit in Eric's skin takes the form of...

1 A scar
2 A tattoo
3 A dye (like henna)
4 A rash
5 An itch

6 Kyros' first treasure find was...

1 A bag of coins
2 A gold nugget
3 A fruit
4 A crown
5 A ring

7 The spirit in Eric's skin, named Ghalil, craves...

1 Ink
2 Death
3 Chaos
4 Blood
5 Screams

8 Araceli, Kyros' quartermaster, has sprung him out of prison...

1 Once
2 2 times
3 4 times
4 7 times
5 Never

The first time she bribed a guard. The second time she raided the jailhouse at night. The third time she left him there for the 6 months of his sentence, paid the crew for extended shore leave, and negotiated with the harbor master for upgrades to the ship while they waited.

9 Eric knows a small spell that can contain Ghalil even during the full moon. It requires what spice/mineral?
1 Cinnamon
2 Salt
3 Mint
4 Sage
5 Garlic

10 Kyros' current ship is a 24-gun brig named...
1 The Hope of Fortune
2 Starling's Sorrow
3 Chance Kindness
4 Nomad Hawk
5 Seer's Shadow

11 The Midnight Sun carries how many long nine cannons in addition to her 24 six pounders?
1 2 cannons
2 4 cannons
3 8 cannons
4 12 cannons
5 16 cannons

12 Before possessing Eric's skin, Ghalil was trapped in...
1 A 'magic' lamp
2 A treasure chest
3 Another plane of existence
4 A treasure map
5 A ship's masthead

13 Araceli is constantly tested as Kyros' Quartermaster, piracy is an impolite profession. What made her choose such a hard life?

1 Piracy > Slavery
2 Piracy > Serfdom
3 Piracy > Not Allowed to learn a craft
4 Piracy > Homemaking/Children
5 Anything > Cross Stitch

14 No witch will help Eric with his curse because...

1 They don't deal with spirits
2 Eric deserves to be cursed
3 Ghalil is too powerful
4 Eric can't afford their rates
5 They've never seen a curse like this before.
15 Who was the first person Kyros killed?
1 A pirate: Age 12
2 A privateer: Age 14
3 A prostitute: Age 18
4 A guard of the governor's house: Age 23
5 A seaman on a trade ship: Age 26

16 24-gun brigs like the Hawk and Sun need a decent crew to sail but an even bigger one to engage in a fight. How many men does Kyros take into battle?

1 30
2 50
3 80
4 100
5 120

17 Ghalil makes the Midnight Sun is an unfriendly ship to both man and beast but there's one critter who stubbornly refuses to leave. His name is Orthos and he is...

1 A crewman's parrot
2 A shorthair tabbycat
3 The biggest damn rat you ever saw
4 A sea bird that favors the Sun
5 A stowaway tarantula

18 Kyros has been a treasure-seeker for most of his life. His favorite prizes to chase are...
1 Gold and gems
2 New technologies
3 Fantastic mysteries
4 Carnal conquests
5 Tradeable/Saleable goods

19 Eric has a collection of items in his dreadlocks; brass rings, bright fabric, beads and more. The items represent...

1 The number of people he's killed
2 The number of treasures he's found
3 The different places he's been
4 Each is a different memory
5 No meaning, they're random trinkets he likes

20 Kyros' first encounter with a witch did not end well. What happened?

1 Kyros killed the witch's familiar, a crow
2 The witch cursed Kyros' ship to swim in the sea like a dolphin
3 Kyros offended the witch and was forced to serve him for three months
4 Kyros stole the witch's casting bones
5 The witch saw Kyros' future and tried to kill him

21 Eric and Kyros first met...

1 At a tavern
2 Attacking the same merchant ship
3 At a hanging
4 At a whorehouse
5 Hunting down the same buried treasure

22 Kyros' first encounter with the paranormal was...

1 The ghost of his mother
2 A spelled die that always rolled six
3 A jar that made whatever you put inside disappear
4 A 'broken' compass that pointed to the closest stash of gold
5 A door that only opened if you sang to it

23 Eric made it to the hanging block, once. What saved him?

1 Last minute pardon from the Governor
2 Elaborate rescue plan from his crew
3 The spirit, Ghalil, slaughtered the crowd
4 He escaped when the rope snapped
5 Clerical error

24 Kyros spends much of his time on shore collecting rumors of fanciful treasures to seek. Which source of news is most reliable?

1 The tavern keeper
2 The fence that sells his stolen goods. (The go-between for a pirate to the legit merchant business)
3 A contact inside the governor's household
4 His scattered network of friends around the Caribbean
5 A witch Kyros has known for years

25 Eric claims to have seen a colossus of the deep. Which one?

1 Cthulu (pronounced: kugh-thoo-loo) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cthulhu)
2 The Kraken (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kraken)
3 A Coelacanth (pronounced: see-lo-kanth) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coelacanth)
4 A Vampire Squid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampire_squid)
5 Nessy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nessy)

26 Pirating is a rough gig. What's Kyros really after?

1 A very particular ring
2 Riches
3 An adventure that makes him feel alive
4 Collect All The Things!
5 Fuck up as many government ships as possible. Escorts, trade ships, privateers- they're all targets.

27 Eric's curse inspires fear, but also fanatic loyalty. What member of his crew has been with him the longest?

1 Claude Riviere, the boatswain in charge of inventory and repairs
2 Rutger Vries, the cook/surgeon
3 Sven Muller, the quartermaster, second in command and in charge of divvying wages
4 Otto Krause, the coxswain in charge of organizing the men
5 Stefano Soto, the metallurgist

28 A skilled navigator is hard to come by and once found, often pressed into service on a pirate ship. Kyros is knowledgeable in this area, but how did he learn?

1 A navigator on the boat he grew up on taught him some things
2 He intimidated a man into teaching him
3 He puzzled out a lot on his own
4 He's making it up as he goes along
5 All of the above

29 The first time Kyros tried to put the moves on Eric, things didn't go as planned. What happened?
1 Eric punched him
2 Eric ignored every sign
3 Eric said "no" without elaborating
4 Eric knocked him off the dock into the bay
5 Eric said he wasn't into men

30 The Hawk is not Kyros' first ship. Including the Hawk, how many ships has he captained?
1: 2
2: 3
3: 4
4: 5
5: 6

--//--

Answers:

1 Kyros was born...

3 At sea. To a woman running from an abusive arranged marriage and confined lifestyle at a wealthy sugar plantation. 

2 Eric was born...

5 To a craftsman.  His father and mother both threw clay and owned their own kiln for firing. 

3 Kyros met Araceli, his best friend and Quartermaster...
1 During a brawl at the tavern. Where she elbowed him in the nose and broke it, forcing him out of the fighting.

4 What did Eric's mother think of his idea to go pirating...
3 He left without discussing it with her. The sale of pottery and clay wasn't enough to sustain the family with a shift in the trade routes. Eric saw the family struggling and knew he could handle himself. They didn't need to support him anymore.

5 The spirit in Eric's skin takes the form of...

2 A tattoo. The spirit's 2D form appears to be freshly inked onto Eric's chest, a demon of some kind across his right pectoral and ribs.

6 Kyros' first treasure find was...

3 A fruit. Kyros followed a crude map to a chest hidden in the hold of the ship he grew up on. It held a small box of strawberries. He's been treasure-obsessed ever since.

7 The spirit in Eric's skin, named Ghalil, craves...

4 Blood. Ghalil is a vengeful spirit, an embodiment of rage and jealous of the life mortals still hold. It likes to see death, but would prefer to torture the living.

8 Araceli, Kyros' quartermaster, has sprung him out of prison...

2 2 times. The first time she bribed a guard. The second time she raided the jailhouse at night. The third time she left him there for the 6 months of his sentence, paid the crew for extended shore leave, and negotiated with the harbor master for upgrades to the ship while they waited.

9 Eric knows a small spell that can contain Ghalil even during the full moon. It requires what spice/mineral?
1 Cinnamon. Unfortunately, it's pretty rare around here and Eric is running low!

10 Kyros' current ship is a 24-gun brig named...

4 Nomad Hawk. The Hawk sports a battering ram on the front for dealing powerful body damage. 

11 The Midnight Sun carries how many long nine cannons in addition to her 24 six pounders?
1 2 cannons. 2 long nines sit forward on the gundeck. They can be aimed to some extent and are rigged to shoot nine-pound shot, fire arrows, grape shot, double shot, and chain shot.

12 Before possessing Eric's skin, Ghalil was trapped in...
2 A treasure chest. Ghalil was called into being by a strong witch with a vengeful agenda. For years the witch used him to murder, but Ghalil always resented the control his witch Master held. Ghalil became stronger with each kill and eventually the witch locked him away in a treasure chest to be forgotten.

13 Araceli is constantly tested as Kyros' Quartermaster, piracy is an impolite profession. What made her choose such a hard life?

1 Piracy > Slavery. Born into slavery, Araceli knew little of how the world worked but understood that an escaped slave's options were slim. She has learned to strike first and hard, because a woman who fights back doesn't get a second chance.

14 No witch will help Eric with his curse because...

3 Ghalil is too powerful. Eric has carried the spirit for six years and in that time Ghalil has killed hundreds of men. With each kill he grows stronger.

15 Who was the first person Kyros killed?

2 A privateer: Age 14. Kyros was a cabin boy and gunmonkey, he ran supplies around the ship and during battles out at sea, helped fetch powder or batting for cannons. During one such battle the ship was boarded by privateers and one man made it down to the gundeck. Another gunmonkey died on the privateer's sword, but Kyros stabbed him in the back until he stopped moving.

16 24-gun brigs like the Hawk and Sun need a decent crew to sail but an even bigger one to engage in a fight. How many men does Kyros take into battle?

5 120. Each gun requires 3 men (75), sailing takes about 10 (85), and if you're going to board another boat you need men on deck, too (110). Don't forget a handful of variously ranked officers, the cook, and a few cabin boys to run supplies around when they're needed (120). 

17 Ghalil makes the Midnight Sun is an unfriendly ship to both man and beast but there's one critter who stubbornly refuses to leave. His name is Orthos and he is...

2 A shorthair tabbycat. Orthos stowed away one afternoon and made himself useful chasing rats in the hold. Ghalil doesn't seem to like him, but hasn't killed him yet either.

18 Kyros has been a treasure-seeker for most of his life. His favorite prizes to chase are...

3 Fantastic mysteries. The unexplained, the unbelievable, the utterly surreal. Kyros wants to know the secrets of the world.

19 Eric has a collection of items in his dreadlocks; brass rings, bright fabric, beads and more. The items represent...

4 Each is a different memory. Brass rings for the number of ships he's sunk, bits of fabric woven into a headscarf for his favorite destinations, beads from different friends far and wide, and unique items for his more memorable adventures.

20 Kyros' first encounter with a witch did not end well. What happened?

2 The witch cursed Kyros' ship to swim in the sea like a dolphin. When a witch says his spell needs to be home by midnight, you better listen! If the tale is to be believed, that ship still swims through the distant ocean- the only one of its kind.

21 Eric and Kyros first met...

5 Hunting down the same buried treasure. They both tracked down the same island from the same fake map to the same empty treasure chest. When they discovered they'd been had, they traded information and hunted down the lying informant to make an example of him.

22 Kyros' first encounter with the paranormal was...

1 The ghost of his mother. 
Traveling unescorted is not the safest thing for a woman and Kyros' mother never fully adjusted to life outside of her family's protected plantation home. She struggled for several years and eventually passed of cholera. Her ghost appeared to then 6-year-old Kyros, guiding him to a shipowner who could use a small, quick child for running messages. She only left him when he became an official deck hand and cabin boy at age eleven.

23 Eric made it to the hanging block, once. What saved him?

3 The spirit, Ghalil, slaughtered the crowd. When asked for his last words, Eric requested his shirt be removed so he could feel the wind as he died. The hangman obliged, cutting his shirt off his back. When Ghalil was exposed to the moon, it ate the hangman and decimated the crowd.

24 Kyros spends much of his time on shore collecting rumors of fanciful treasures to seek. Which source of news is most reliable?

5 A witch Kyros has known for years. The same witch that cursed one of his ships is also Kyros' best connection to the paranormal. Weird goings on, strange creatures, and ancient fortellings; she's willing to pass them all on, for a price. Kyros wouldn't say they're friends exactly...

25 Eric claims to have seen a colossus of the deep. Which one?

3 A Coelacanth (pronounced: see-lo-kanth) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coelacanth). The coelacanth is a large fish unlike anything in the sea. Highly intelligent with more fins than other fish, it will opportunistically attack the whales that whaling boats target. Eric has seen one swallow men whole.

26 Pirating is a rough gig. What's Kyros really after?

3 An adventure that makes him feel alive. Kyros didn't grow up in a household that prioritized socially acceptable work or interests. Especially as a ghost, his mother encouraged him to go after what would entertain him. Kyros desires to know everything about what is in the world.

27 Eric's curse inspires fear, but also fanatic loyalty. What member of his crew has been with him the longest?

5 Stefano Soto, the metallurgist. Stefano was a member of the crew when Eric got himself tied to a spirit and was one of a few who survived when Ghalil ran free the first time. Orthos stood his ground between Ghalil and the men. Most of the remaining crew abandoned ship. Stefano has worshiped the cat and Eric ever since.

28 A skilled navigator is hard to come by and once found, often pressed into service on a pirate ship. Kyros is knowledgeable in this area, but how did he learn?

5 All of the above. When you've grown up on a scattered collection of ships with no parents and few guidelines, there isn't much of a structured learning curve. Kyros has picked up what he can where he can and makes up the rest.

29 The first time Kyros tried to put the moves on Eric, things didn't go as planned. What happened?
4 Eric knocked him off the dock into the bay. Kyros can't swim. He spent a panicked moment flailing about in the water until Eric grabbed a wrist and hauled him back onto the dock. Then left him there, gasping like a fish.

30 The Hawk is not Kyros' first ship. Including the Hawk, how many ships has he captained?

2: 3. 3 ships. His first was sunk in a skermish and his entire crew captured. His second, cursed by a witch to swim like a dolphin. And the Hawk is his 3rd. He's had her the longest, so he must be learning from his mistakes.

--//--


How many did you get? Post your score below. Any surprises? What scenes do you want to know more about?

Sign up for my newsletter to read about Kyros chasing Eric for the first time (question 29) and to learn more about Araceli's escape from slavery (question 13).

Support me on Patreon to learn more about Orthos (question 17) and discover how Eric became cursed in the first place (question 12). 

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Scorpion's Nature: Part 97

Original photo by jGlidePhotoATL
This flash fiction is part of a series. Follow Alex Drake from the day he joins Zodiac, through the trials of basic training, broken and mended hearts, to the day he becomes Motocross, elite Scorpio sniper. Start at Part One.

Part 97

"Katz?" Alex asked Dall. He saw one of the prisoners look up at the name, wide eyed.

"It's family name. German, I think. Most of the group is based out of China, now, though. They retain the name for posterity rather than lineage. You'll recognize the name Shu Mei Lin--"

Alex slid away from the criminals to settle himself back in his seat. "The east coast kidnappings two years ago. And the mosque bombing last year?"

"That's right." Alex heard Dall shuffle paper. "She's the leader of their group. The godfather, if you like. Not directly involved but pulling all the strings from her seat in China."

Mako and Thresher tied off the truck and boarded the Class A. The sagittarius pilot checked the lines one more time, then began their takeoff sequence. Alex traded his helmet for headphones. He swayed with the helicopter, more comfortable in the larger craft than the one they took on their way out here.

He kicked his toe into Mako's boot, "Have you run into a lot of folks working with Katz?"

She shook her head, "Not in drugs. We sometimes find them pimping prostitutes, but the men and women working the street don't seem to be involved directly. There might be more that never admitted to working with them during our interrogations. The tattoos are new."

"Is Zodiac trying to shut them down?"

"I don't know." Mako shrugged. "Honestly, except for you newbies, we're low on the foodchain. We go where we're told and we do the job we're assigned. If there's some larger investigation going on, Leo would be managing it."

Alex let it go. Dillon and Lance hadn't mentioned anything, but as in-training soldiers they might not have the clearance. Then again, Alex didn't either.

Zodiac had layers of secrecy isolating the players on their chessboard. As he discovered deeper secrets, Alex feared he'd find Zodiac at the heart of some kind of conspiracy

"Who runs the operations at Zodiac's top level?"

Thresher grunted. "There's a board of directors."

"Sure, but they're for PR and financing. Is there a C-suite?" He frowned at their unknowing shrugs. "How does your commander decide what your missions are?"

They looked at each other, then back at Alex. Mako said, "It's never come up."

Alex huffed and rubbed the palm of one hand with his other thumb. How had it never come up? Why didn't people ask these questions? How did any of them know they were doing the right thing? Going after the right people? Not that he questioned this particular mission- illegally growing and selling a hallucinogenic drug was clearly wrong- but who made this decision? And what was their agenda?

He let the remainder of the flight pass in silence.

--//--

Read more in this series every Monday.
If you enjoy this story, please consider supporting it on Patreon.



Saturday, December 6, 2014

Blood In The Water (and goodies) Calendar

Blood In The Water has been up for preorder but release day is coming. Do you have a copy? Go get it!

If you buy it from a 3rd party and want the other formats, just email me a copy of your receipt and I'll send them over for free.

Some of you may have already read Blood In The Water on the goodreads group. Well, I have something for you (and new readers) to enjoy.  In the next few days you can expect to see some excellent goodies:

December 13th: Back when Blood in the Water was being drafted, I hosted a multiple choice quiz on Goodreads. Get all the questions (and the answers) in one place for the first time.

December 14th: A new excerpt- learn a little more about our boys and their curse.

December 15th: Giveaway starts! Watch this page here.

December 16th: Cool Art! Watch the blog for some neat pirate art. For download links sign up for the newsletter (free). For full-sized resolution and desktop versions, support me on Patreon.

December 17th: 5 things about cannons that didn't make it into the story. Cannons are the coolest part about pirate ship battles (and if you disagree, you haven't played Assassin's Creed Black Flag as many times as I have). Learn way more than you ever needed to know about them here on the blog.

December 18th: Additional backstory made available to Patreon Subscribers only: (sign up here)

  • Eric Backstory - short story. Six years before the events in Blood In The Water, Eric heard of a chest on a plantation stuffed to the gills with gold. He found the chest, but he unlocked the spirit Ghalil that now lives in his skin. This is the story of that ill-fated theft.
  • Orthos Backstory - short story. A stray cat at the docks isn't a rare sight, but Orthos isn't just any stray cat. He bridges the mortal realm and the spirit worlds, walking freely between them both. This is how he became Eric's ship cat.
  • Araceli and Kyros backstory (details below) will also be posted for Patreon subscribers.
  • Subscribers already received a free copy of Blood In The Water. Sign up to get future books before they're published.


December 19th: Release day!

Free Newsletter goes out to subscribers, includes: (sign up here)

  • Araceli Backstory - short story, Araceli is black and female, she acts as Kyros' second in command on his ship, but she used to be a slave on a tobacco plantation in the Carolinas. This is her story of escape.
  • Kyros Backstory - short story. Kyros has grown up on the sea taking or schmoozing his way into whatever he wanted. But when he set eyes on Eric, he was shut down hard. Discover how they first met, and how Kyros decided stealing from Eric was the best way to get his attention.
  • Where to find Blood In The Water for free (hint: you need to be on Goodreads)
  • Possible: interview with a historical reader or writer (sounds like you? Email me: tamiveldura@gmail.com)


December 20th: Pirate soundtrack specifically for reading along posted to the blog and available on 8track. Over an hour of instrumental background music to get you on the edge of your seat.

December 21st: BitW giveaway ends. Winners announced.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Art: Elemental Dragons

4:00 AM Posted by Tami Veldura , , , No comments
For those of you not in the know, I've been taking a design class this semester to put art more regularly into my schedule. Most of it is traditional work, but I just finished a series of images digitally!





Wednesday, December 3, 2014

WIP: Writing Time and Writing Prompts

4:00 AM Posted by Tami Veldura , , , No comments
I don't have any progress to report on the dragon trans story (Transformation) yet, mostly because I'm
clinging to the idea that the best time for me to write is after 7 or 8 at night. And as far as time-frames are concerned, writing at night is easier for me than during the day- something about the darkness lets me zone out so easily. However, with boyfriend having a job, I only get to pester him with my presence during the evening hours which means I'm not closing myself away to write. Further, I'm now living with two other guys in the house and, frankly, the only me-time I have is in the morning.

So this is my declaration to start writing in the morning, one of the first things I do, because that is most important to me. Alone in the house (or at least, the only one up) for a two hour stretch is already built into my schedule. It's time I start taking advantage of it.

--//--

In other news, writing prompts! In an effort to write, even if it's not on the latest story, I'm making myself a list of places that run writing prompts. The list I have from last year is out of date- a lot of the sites are not longer running.

So, if you frequent a website that puts up a regular writing prompt (weekly is best), let me know! Leave a link in the comments. I have terribleminds.com and Max Kirin (on tumblr) both starting my new list and you can expect to see more random story scenes popping up here in the next few months.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Suggested Contemporary Stories

4:00 AM Posted by Tami Veldura , , , , No comments
One of the possible entries for the Baited giveaway was to suggest a contemporary story. I'm always looking for new books to read that I've never come across. This time a couple of interesting stories have been recommended.

Inherit The Sky by Ariel Tachna

Caine Neiheisel is stuck in a dead-end job at the end of a dead-end relationship when the chance of a lifetime falls in his lap. His mother inherits her uncle's sheep station in New South Wales, Australia, and Caine sees it as the opportunity to start over, out on the range where his stutter won't hold him back and his willingness to work will surely make up for his lack of knowledge.

Unfortunately, Macklin Armstrong, the foreman of Lang Downs who should be Caine's biggest ally, alternates between being cool and downright dismissive, and the other hands are more amused by Caine's American accent than they are moved by his plight... until they find out he's gay and their amusement turns to scorn.

It will take all of Caine's determination-and an act of cruel sabotage by a hostile neighbor-to bring the men of Lang Downs together and give Caine and Macklin a chance at love.

--//--

This looks like a properly angsty story to dig into and it's on my to-read list for sure. The reviews are mixed (when are the reviews not mixed?) but largely positive. I can appreciate a good rancher story, though I've had a few misses recently. I know they can be well done and I haven't read anything by Ariel before, so I'll give it a chance. Also, MC with a stutter? Must know how this is handled.

--//--

If I Must by Amy Lane

Joel Martinez, a practical and organized computer programmer, is roommates with Ian Cooper, a certified IQ-in-the- stratosphere mathematical genius who literally can't find his own underwear in the mess of his day-to-day life.

When Joel uneasily leaves Ian for the holidays, he ends up telling stories to his sister and discovers he feels much more for Ian than he thought. So when Ian calls, distraught because the only other thing in his life that loves him (a half-feral cat named Manky Bastard) is going to have to be put down, Joel hurries back home hoping that opposites really do attract.

--//--

First: Look at that cover. I'm getting this book on that alone. But seriously, two boys bonding over scrappy pet loss? Fountains of tears, here I come. Also, nerdy characters are the best characters.

--//--

Cry To Heaven by Anne Rice


Anne Rice brings to life the exquisite and otherworldly society of the eighteenth-century castrati, the delicate and alluring male sopranos whose graceful bodies and glorious voices brought them the adulation of the royal courts and grand opera houses of Europe, men who lived as idols, concealing their pain as they were adored as angels, yet shunned as half-men.

As we are drawn into their dark and luminous story, as the crowds of Venetians, Neopolitans, and Romans, noblemen and peasants, musicians, prelates, princes, saints, and intriguers swirl around them, Anne Rice brings us into the sweep of eighteenth-century Italian life, into the decadence beneath the shimmering surface of Venice, the wild frivolity of Naples, and the magnetic terror of its shadow, Vesuvius.

--//--

Ok, I know this doesn't count as contemporary, but this sounds absolutely delightful. I'm sad to admit that I've never read a single Anne Rice book in my life. I own(ed?) a copy of The Vampire Armond at one point or another but never got around to it. This is on my to-do list, and quite high.

--//--

Then The Stars Fall by Brandon Witt

The death of his wife four years earlier left Travis Bennett a shell of the man he used to be. With his dog by his side, Travis raises his three children, manages his business, and works as a ranch hand. But every day, every minute, is an aching emptiness.

Wesley Ryan has fond memories of the small Ozark town of El Dorado. Seeing it as a safe place to put his failed relationships behind him, Wesley moves into his grandparents’ old home and takes over the local veterinary clinic. An early morning visit from Travis and his dog stirs feelings that Wesley seeks to push away—the last thing he needs is to fall for a man with baggage and three kids as part of the package.

Life, it seems, has other plans.

--//--

Bisexual characters? Check. Animals? Check. Slow burn? Check. This book is on the list.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Scorpion's Nature: Part 96

Original photo by jGlidePhotoATL
This flash fiction is part of a series. Follow Alex Drake from the day he joins Zodiac, through the trials of basic training, broken and mended hearts, to the day he becomes Motocross, elite Scorpio sniper. Start at Part One.

Part 96

While Thresher fished his SCUBA supplies out of the lake, Mako and Lodon marched their prisoners into a line on the front lawn. By the time Alex made it from the forest to the cabin, all five knelt, blindfolded and bound, shoulder to shoulder.

The thwack-thwack of a double rotor helicopter echoed faintly between the trees. Alex couldn't see it yet. Lodon settled a heavy hand on his shoulder for attention. "We're not done, yet. Can you recognize a clutch cable on a dirt bike?"

"Yeah." Only because Dillon gave him a crash course in the desert and now he can Keta wouldn't shut up about them.

"Good. Mako disabled the bike and ATV by unscrewing the clutch." He gestured at the lean-to. "Put them back together and bring them over here, we're taking them home."

Alex shifted his rifle. "Is this how Zodiac gets a lot of its vehicles?"

"Some. Others are sold. Hop."

Alex jogged to the lean-to and flipped his vizor down. Night vision. He found the disabled motorbike and located the clutch. He hand tightened the cable. The bike growled to life under his hands. Alex cruised it around to the front yard, then jogged back for the ATV.

While he messed with the four-by-four, a Class A helicopter settled in the yard, blowing dust into the air. Large enough for all nine of them and the vehicles. The sagittarius piloting helped Mako and Thresher move the five criminals into the chopper. Alex stood on the ATV and drove it into the yard.

Lodon waved at him from the garage. He stood beside a full-size truck, maybe a year or two old, with the driver door open. "Grab a hook and line from the pilot. We're pulling the truck out."

He retrieved the line in question and saw Mako ride the dirt bike right into the helicopter. She tucked it into a side corner. With the ATV pulling and Lodon steering, they guided the truck onto a waiting steel net. Then Alex got out of the way.

Thresher parked the ATV on board. Makeo helped tie down the truck with the pilot. Lodon and Alex found seats on the helicopter. Preparing to fly with a load hanging below was not a quick process. Alex flicked through the visions on his vizor and looked around the helicopter, spotting heat sources and strange shapes.

When he flicked past ultraviolet, Dall barked in his ear. He jumped.

"Sorry," Dall said. "Look at the prisoners again? In ultraviolet."

Alex switched the dial. Pieces of the helicopter glowed in no logical pattern.

"What on earth is that?"

Alex pinched his radio, "Could you be more specific?"

A red circle abruptly appeared on his vizor. Alex blinked and turned his head. The circle tracked over one prisoner's shoulder. Alex unbuckled and crouched next to the criminal. He yanked the man's sleeve up to give Dall a full view of what seemed like a random interaction of glowing lines.

"I've seen this before.." Dall muttered. "Mako, do you recognize this?"

Mako didn't come over to look. After a second her voice came over the radio. "It's Mandarin? Maybe? Sorry, I'm not familiar enough to translate."

"Yes! That's it. Sheep."

Alex frowned, "He got an ultraviolet tattoo of the word sheep?"

"Scorpio, Check everyone's shoulder for me, please. Same spot."

Every prisoner had the same marking on the same shoulder.

"So, what? They're all sheep? Who's the shepherd?"

Dall sounded certain, "Katz."

--//--

Read more in this series every Monday.
If you enjoy this story, please consider supporting it on Patreon.



Sunday, November 30, 2014

Flash Fiction: Solitary

Flash Fiction prompt by Max Kirin
Photo by Suzan Peterson

The shaking woke her up. Shelby watched the bright white ceiling spin and shifted her shoulder into the wall to remind herself it wasn't real. The idea of movement lasted for several heartbeats. Then the whole building snapped back into place. Something massive groaned in complaint.

The pervasive white light flickered. Just once. Shelby sat up, her hand trading her shoulder for wall contact. She climbed off the bed and made a single circuit of her cell. A white box with a white bed, seven paces on each wall, no blemishes or marks anywhere. Not even on the wall beside her bed where she re-scratched her name every morning to remember what it was.

It wasn't morning yet. The twist of hunger in her belly wasn't strong enough for that. The light flicker was unsettling enough that she didn't want to return to bed. Nothing ever malfunctioned here. There were no power surges. Nothing deviated from the schedule.

A door slid open opposite her where nothing was before. Shelby pressed her back against the wall. Her heart raced and she held her breath. Hallucination? A girl dressed not in white leaned in. She offered a small wave at Shelby. "Hey."

The girl stuck out like a popup from a book. Her black spiky hair shined in the pervasive whiteness of everything. Her skin, a refreshing shade of dark brown, broke up the monotony in ways Shelby didn't realize she needed to see.

But this was not normal. This was not part of the schedule. This had to be another vision. Shelby pet the wall with one thumb and wasn't convinced. There was no spinning. No shaking. No groaning.

"Ahr--" Shelby's voice croaked. When had she stopped using it? She coughed and tried again. "Are you a test?"

The brown girl stood up in the doorway. "Probably not?" She didn't sound convinced. "I just got here. Whatever is here. You're the first one I saw that didn't look like you'd eat me on sight."

This was not good. Shelby stuck to the wall. "Why aren't you in a cell?"

"I walked out of it." Like the answer was that obvious. Like Shelby hadn't been stuck here for years in the same seven-pace box. "Are you alright?" She stepped inside.

The door slid. Shelby abandoned the reality of the wall and flung herself across the room. "NO!" Her world twisted between one vertical surface and the next. It snapped back into place when she crashed into the wall. No door. No seams. No sign there had ever been anything at all.

A hallucination, then. She knew it. Shelby grit her teeth. She slammed her fist into the wall and cursed. Were they watching? Laughing at her inability to see divide her reality from her fiction? She slid to the floor and turned to lean against the wall.

The not white girl with not white clothes and not white hair crouched in front of her. Shelby tilted her head up to delay the tears. "You're not real." She whispered. "You're not real, you're not real…"

"Ok… I saw a few people down the hallway. I'm going to ask if they can check on you. Just… just wait a second, ok?"

"You're not real."

The wall behind Shelby disappeared. She fell onto her back and the world didn't spin. Her ceiling stopped and transitioned into a speckled grid pattern. The brown girl stepped next to her. "Sorry, you ok?"

Shelby reached up. She touched rough, dark fabric, smooth, dark skin. "You're real?"

"Let me help you up."

Shelby transitioned to vertical and the door to her cell slid shut. Nothing twisted. She clung to the girl's arm in the middle of the hallway- touching no reality-affirming walls.

And she remembered.

--//--

Read more free fiction or sink your teeth into some longer work.