Friday, April 22, 2016

Mermaids, Blood and Bones

The Meek Shall Walk
 Shaun Allan is a rising star - comet, really - on Wattpad. I'll let him tell you about his amazing success on the site for writers, poets, and readers:

Wattpad is a site which has over 14,000,000 unique visitors a month.  You can find, there, a huge amount of work to read – stories of every genre.  I originally posted the Prologue to Sin, along with some other stories, on the site about four or so years ago.  Wattpad asked me if I’d be willing to serialise the book in its entirety, which I agreed to do with a little trepidation.
courtesy wiki commons
I don’t know why I was so worried!  Sin has had almost 765,000 reads and has received fantastic comments.  Since then, I’ve become a member of their Wattpad Stars program and been a Featured Writer.  With Wattpad, I’ve written for Universal (for The Purge: Anarchy and Sinister 2), DC Vertigo Comics, Goosebumps and the film The Boy!
And, And the Meek Shall Walk has already been called ‘one of the best stories on Wattpad.’
Now the story, a ‘savage’ retelling of the classic Little Mermaid tale, is finished, I’m working on a new take of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland.
For the excerpt, I thought I’d include the first chapter:

1: The Corpse and the Cave

The head floated on the surface of the water, face up, glassy eyes staring at the clear sky.  A seagull swooped down and landed on the cavity where the nose had been, dipping its head to peck at one of the dead eyes.  It pulled, the orb popping free of the socket, but the optic nerve’s hold was stronger and, after a brief tug of war, the bird opened its beak, dropping its prize and flying off.
courtesy wiki commons
A hand reached through the waves, grabbed the matted hair clinging to the skull in lank clumps and pulled it under.  A flash of red mane and blue-silver tail broke the ripples of the ocean before vanishing into the dark depths.  The seagull, which had been circling above, debating on whether to try again on the dangling eye, cried out in frustration before turning with the wind allowing it to carry the bird off towards the shore.
The mermaid swam down quickly, the head in its grip.  The light from above quickly faded to be replaced by a undulating twilight, illuminated by the krill sentries which floated at regular intervals along the Korel, the dividing line between above and below.  The mermaid nodded to the guards as she passed.  They didn't acknowledge her, knowing to do so would mean death.  She was the princess.  She was also not allowed to violate the Korel.  If they showed recognition of her presence, she would eat them.
Under normal circumstances, merfolk were forbidden to cross the boundary.  The king had ruled, as had all kings before him, the world of Humans and that of Mer were forever to be isolated from each other.  The krill were placed far enough below the surface to ensure no human would discover their presence.  They were also instructed to stop any of the merfolk from reaching the surface.
The princess was not exempt from such laws.  She should have been punished.  Even being the king's daughter, she would pay the price of flaunting the decree of the king.  The krill, however, valued their life.  The princess had feasted on a hundred of their number only a few short weeks before when one attempted to tell her she should stay below in the city.  It was dangerous to be this close to the ships which crossed the waters above.  She could be discovered, captured, killed.
courtesy wiki commons
The mermaid, Princess Aren, didn't say a word.  She simply opened her mouth, her jaw dislocating to allow it to widen further, and swept along the line, catching the krill in her throat and crunching down on them.  She licked her lips, her forked tongue flicking menacingly.  Then she rose to the surface, returning hours later with a dismembered arm.
The krill feared the king.  He was a mighty warrior, a strict, inviolate ruler who all would bow to without being asked.  You felt the authority in his presence.  It was so absolute, its weight almost forced your shoulders down, buckling your tail until you were prone before him.  He'd allow you to remain there for a moment until, finally, waving his hand, your signal to rise.
Princess Aren bore nothing of her father's power.  Whereas he was imposing, she wore an aura of simplicity.  She was polite and humble, a disconcerting contrast to the crown she bore on her head.  If you bowed, she would too.  If you addressed her by her title, she would laugh and call you 'sir' or 'madam'.
And if you angered her, she would sneak into your room at night and disembowel you.  She would mix shell fragments into your food and watch while you choked, coughing up the blood from your torn insides.
courtesy Youtube
At an early age, Aren had learned the secrets of the royal palace.  She knew of her father's infidelity with the matron of staff, and how the resultant son was her half-brother, though even he and the king were oblivious to the fact.  She knew of the plot to overthrow her father's rule by his very own brother, and had dealt with it herself.  The princess and her uncle had met one night, in the reef at the edge of the mer kingdom.  She lured him there with promises of aid and support.  She would help him gain access to the king's chambers.  She would be there to encourage his succession.
When he arrived, they embraced.  The blood from the savage wound in his back from the barbed blade she'd embedded there attracted a shiver of sharks.  She swam away a short distance, watching as they tore him apart.  His right hand remained, barely touched, wrenched from the arm by the frenzied ripping of the shark as it feasted.
When the sharks had finished their meal and swam away, the princess picked up the hand.  She turned it over slowly, examining it closely.  After a long moment, lost in thought, she cast it aside, letting it drift to the bottom of the sea, the swell of the tides dragging the ocean bed over it, losing it forever.
Once past the krill, Aren swam towards a large rocky outcrop, thrusting upwards as if reaching for the world above.  She hated these rocks.  They reminded her of everything the merfolk were.  They pretended to live happily together, content in their daily lives, yet she knew they secretly longed to walk on the surface with the humans.  They wished for legs instead of their tails, and for lungs rather than gills.  And they wished for the immortal soul.  Rather than a limited three hundred year existence beneath the sea, they wanted to live forever, even beyond the lifespan of a human body.  They wanted to carry on as a spirit, not simply dissipate as foam on the whim of the moon's pull.
Princess Aren wanted this.  She craved it desperately, as did her mother.  It was this need, this overwhelming desire which had led to her mother's death at the hand of a human who thought her an aberration, a sea monster.  It was this which had caused her father, who had been contemplating a change to the law, one where human and mer might make contact and, perhaps, even coexist, to slam his trident into the palace floor and roar his command.
From that day, the krill sentries were doubled.  The sentence of death for breaking the Korel was final and irrevocable.  The merfolk were confined to their kingdom.
In reality, most were agreeable to this.  The kingdom was their home.  They were happy.  They didn't need change or disruption.
Princess Aren did not agree.  Her mother had told her the stories of the cities on land.  She told of the lives and the clothes and the food.  Aren wanted to taste it.  Not just the food, but the life.  She wanted to savour and devour it.  More than anything, however, since the day her mother died at the hand of a human, she wanted revenge.  She wanted the life of the man who had killed the queen.
The rocks echoed her perceptions of her people's needs.  They were grasping for the sun and for all that walked beneath it.  She despised them, yet she had to use them.  The rocks were barren, jagged shards of anger driven upwards by a quake which rumbled, long ago, in the depths of the Earth.  Black and bleak, they were avoided by both fish and merfolk - apart from Princess Aren.  At the front of the crag was a sharp overhang behind which a dark tunnel bore into the rock.  Its edges were smooth as if some strange creature, born in the fiery heart of the planet, had burrowed its way out.  It was through this channel Aren dove.  She whipped her tail to give her a burst of speed and shot forward, spinning through the shaft and bursting out into a large cave.
She paused, catching her breath.  She was always left panting when she had killed.  The feeling of taking a life, ripping a body apart with the passion of a gorging shark, made the princess giddy with fervour.  It was an addiction she often struggled to subdue, with only the risk of discovery making her stay her hand.
Aren pulled a length of seaweed from a hollow just before the entrance to the cave and tied one end to the decapitated head.  She tied the other to a rock, weighting the end so it sank to the floor, the head itself floating upwards until it stopped, the seaweed holding it steady in the sway of the water.
She looked around the cavern and smiled.  Three other heads, two male and one female also floated, rocks and seaweed keeping them from rising upwards to the roof.  At least a dozen arms and legs and a myriad fingers joined them in a macabre collection of body parts, suspended like balloons in a human fairground.  The princess thought the image comical - the murdered humans' body parts were paraded in a mermaid's version of their own carnival.  Did it not serve them right?  Were they not all guilty of the exile of her species?
Aren's mother was not the first.  Centuries before, when the original law was set, forbidding merfolk to interact in any way with those on land, a king had been killed.  He had been speared through the heart by a harpoon, the blade of which Aren now used as a weapon.  Since then, mermen and mermaids remained hidden beneath the ocean.
Princess Aren thought of the laws as she surveyed her trophies.  She thought of their futility.  Why hide when they could wage a war on the humans?  Why sneak about like plecks on the ocean floor, when they could - should - rise up and have their revenge?
But no.  Such was not the way.  Such was not the royal decree.
It was usual for the princess to wait a few days before venturing back up to the surface in search of another victim.  This most recent kill had ignited a fire in her heart.  She wanted more.  She had to slice through the flesh of another human.  She needed to satiate her desires before they consumed her.
The princess gripped the handle of her blade tightly and turned, exiting through the tunnel, back out into the ocean wide.  She looked around to make sure no-one was nearby, then swam upwards, weaving silently through the water, barely leaving a wake.  The krill parted to let her through, moving immediately back into formation.  There had been no mermaid through here.  There had never been and there would never be.
Princess Aren reached the surface, her face hard and her eyes narrow.  A ship moved swiftly through the water, its stern retreating from her.  She could hear music and laughter from the deck, the sounds feeling like an insult to her.  How dare they enjoy themselves?  How dare they be so unaware of the world under their feet?
She swam slowly forward and then, with a flick of her tail, dove just under the surface, dashing along in pursuit.
The Meek Shall Walk: Princess Aren is determined to make the human who killed her mother and exiled her people to the bottom of the ocean pay. To do so, she must go to extremes of pain and heartache in her search for justice. Aren, however, is no sweet, happy mermaid. To kill is to ignite a fire of passion in her heart which only the savage letting of blood can satiate. She will go to any lengths to find the man responsible, including cutting off her own tail and sewing, in its place, a pair of human legs - legs she tore from one of the many humans she had murdered. With the unwilling help of the sea witch, Princess Aren must go ashore and hunt for her mother's killer. But, in doing so, the worlds above and below the ocean will clash in ways neither thought possible!

Find out more about Shaun on his website, Facebook, Amazon, and his Wattpad page.
Shaun Allan

Friday, April 1, 2016

Witch of the Cards guest post + #GIVEAWAY

Today's guest post is by Catherine Stine, author of Witch of the Cards:

Inspiration for Witch of the Cards – Shipwrecks & Seemingly Magical Taffy Shops

For my new historical fantasy Witch of the Cards, inspiration came from all angles. First of all, I’ve been visiting Asbury Park for years. It’s a beach town on the Jersey shore that went from being a posh destination in the 1900s, to being a dilapidated, even dangerous town in trouble. Its gorgeous Art Deco convention center was in ruins, its boardwalk practically deserted.

Despite this, or maybe because of this, I loved strolling its boardwalks and stopping into the few stores still open. One was an ancient taffy shop run by an old lady. I made the shop in my novel have taffy with very strange effects. I changed the tumbledown convention center into a shiny 1930s dance palace, where Fiera and Peter danced to Rudy Vallee’s rendition of Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries, and more. It was big fun researching the music of my grandma’s time.

In another shop on the boardwalk, I discovered dozens of photos of a shipwreck from the 1930s that had washed ashore on the Asbury beach and become a tourist curiosity. It was called The Morro Castle and during Prohibition, it cruised from New York City to Cuba, carrying high rollers who could drink penalty free. In those days, large vessels were still crafted from wood, and the Morro caught fire, causing scores to perish in the cold waters off the Atlantic coast.

I put this disturbing event into my novel, but in Witch of the Cards, it is caused by a supernatural dilemma (not saying what! No spoilers here). Peter Dune, Fiera’s love interest, attends a business meeting on the Morro Castle, where I have him run into a group of 1930s glitterati: actors Bela Lugosi and Irene Ware, the surrealist painter Salvador Dali and the cutting edge fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli. This encounter injects some wild fun and helps break up the tension.

Stars with cameos

A paranormal store I have visited to get psychic readings became Peter Dune’s Séance and Tarot, the site of many an unsettling event. And in Witch of theCards, even the ocean holds terrible danger.

And here is the blurb for Witch of the Cards by Catherine Stine

Fiera was born a sea witch with no inkling of her power. And now it might be too late.

Witch of the Cards is historical, supernatural romantic suspense set in 1932 on the Jersey shore. Twenty-two year-old Fiera has recently left the Brooklyn orphanage where she was raised, and works in Manhattan as a nanny. She gets a lucky break when her boss pays for her short vacation in Asbury Park. One evening, Fiera and her new friend Dulcie wander down the boardwalk and into Peter Dune’s Tarot & Séance, where they attend a card reading.
Morro Castle washed ashore

Fiera has always had an unsettling ability to know things before they happen and sense people’s hidden agendas. She longs to either find out the origin of her powers or else banish them because as is, they make her feel crazy. When, during the reading, her energies somehow bond with Peter Dune’s and form an undeniable ethereal force, a chain of revelations and dangerous events begin to unspool. For one, Fiera finds out she is a witch from a powerful sea clan, but that someone is out to stop her blossoming power forever. And though she is falling in love with Peter, he also has a secret side. He’s no card reader, but a private detective working to expose mediums. Despite this terrible betrayal, Fiera must make the choice to save Peter from a tragic Morro Cruise boat fire, or let him perish with his fellow investigators. Told in alternating viewpoints, we hear Fiera and Peter each struggle against their deep attraction. Secrets, lies, even murder, lace this dark fantasy.

And about that giveaway:

Catherine is offering these prizes: One $40 gift card, two hand-painted heart-boxes (by Catherine) with secret treasure inside, one signed paperback of Dorianna by Catherine Stine, one signed paperback of Witch of the Cards by Catherine Stine, one brand new collector Tarot deck along with an envelope full of special swag! 

Click the link below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can buy Witch of the Cards on Amazon USUKCAAUDEIN, as well as iBooksKobo, and on the Nook.

Author Bio:
Catherine’s novels span the range from futuristic fantasy to paranormal to contemporary. Her futuristic thriller companion novels Fireseed One and Ruby’s Fire are both Amazon bestsellers. Her paranormal YA, Dorianna won Best Horror Book in the Kindle Hub Awards. She also writes romance as Kitsy Clare. Her Art of Love series includes Model Position and Private Internship. Catherine suspects her love of dark fantasy came from her father reading Edgar Allen Poe to her when she was a child.