Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sneak Peak: A Vampire's Reckoning

V.M.K. Fewings


THE POWERFUL, DISTURBING images—portraits of memories, a lingering resonance drawing together, fragments of consciousness—at times, I find myself reliving those fateful moments, surrendering to the consuming, agonizing details of June of the year of our Lord 1803.
I falter in the chill of the night, in the fractured stillness within the great pillars of Stonehenge. Exhausted from my journey, caught up in terror, the darkness engulfs me. But I will not flee, for the promise I have made, I cannot break—my life for that of another. I fear mortality. My apprehension intensifies.
The wait is over.
It is time to wake up.
I want to lead you to safety, distract you, and destroy the clues that lure you into my world. It’s too late for that now. This shakes me to the core. It’s impossible to turn back the clock, but I still crave peace, still want to gauge this feeling. Reassuringly, my expression does little to reflect such. In fact, all that my presence conveys is the demeanor of a twenty-five year old Englishman, and it easily disguises the enigma of my ageless, chiseled features.
Within those dark Wiltshire woods, hidden from view, I leaned my frame against the trunk of a large tree and stared, memorizing each groove and fissure of Stonehenge.
Scattered thoughts; a multitude of ways to begin.
Unable to stay still for long, I started pacing. Sunrise was only an hour away. A waning moon provided meager light. My gaze darted nervously. These murders had been committed to gain my attention, and it was working.
By my own hand my involvement was set, the consequence of my actions drawing me in. I watched the police exploring the area near the dead girl, positioned face up on the sacrificial stone. Though not foreign to death, I hoped I wouldn’t throw up on my tailored Savile Row suit. The mud on my shoes bothered me and the drizzling rain didn’t help.
Once apprentice to The Keeper of the Stones, such was the catalyst for all my nightmares. This was not how I envisioned my life unfolding. But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s just that these were the darkest of days. Sharing it with you provides some comfort.
I should not start here.
My aim is to earn your trust, so that you gain insight and are able to comprehend the unfeasible. It’s important that this is documented. How ironic that I now reveal what I once strived to keep hidden. Time has proven that it is safer for you to have this knowledge, so that you can prepare.
You want proof. I shall provide it, if you give me an open mind. After all, you have come this far. Therefore, I scribe this for you, in the sanctity of my study, here in St. Michael’s Mount in Marazion.
Travel back with me.
The smoke and mirrors of my youth now seem such a brief moment in a long and unordinary life that passed with timeless ease. Those were the years when I knew only innocence. Cornwall, my birthplace, was renowned for its pleasant bays with their golden sands and bleak, sprawling moors.
Heritage made me the lord of a great castle that had been in my family for generations. This immense and towering mansion, grandly structured upon a small island east of Penzance, rests steadfast—as if a part of the very circular island it was built upon. The only access is by foot at low tide, or boat when the sea is in. Once, as a boy, I got caught when the tide turned. It never happened again.
Within these ancient walls, I grew up and took living in such a place for granted. Not so much now. The grand castle had once been a monastery owned by British Royalty during the Reformation, only to be sold again by Queen Elizabeth I to my ancestor, the Earl of Salisbury. The famous ancient vision of the Archangel Michael on the island had even inspired the occasional zealous religious pilgrim. Nevertheless, my father had been reluctant to encourage such an invasion, even one
as passive as Christian visitors. He used large hunting dogs to keep the unrelenting observers away and the staff in.
In my mind, I wander the corridors, settling in the Great Hall with its low beams, arched windows, and stone walls, bestowing gothic sconces and ancient relics—typical of an affluent and powerful family of its time. Great tapestries hang fast on the walls—priceless paintings positioned this way and that in order to catch or avoid light. Exquisite Roman rugs strewn over the cold stone floors, and candles light the rooms, casting unfamiliar shadows over everything. During fierce winters, the cold is unrelenting, hence the thick walls and grand hearths within.
The castle’s history is as varied as its many rooms—a regal ballroom, which has entertained kings; an armory, which held the weapons used for their battles; lavish bedrooms fitted for visiting dignitaries, a large kitchen, and modest servants’ quarters. The rooms facing south overlook the terrace and provide a good view of the gardens below. The castle’s imposing towers, once used by loyal castle guards as sentries, look out over the ocean.
Now in the twenty-first century, the posts stand empty. Very often, I like to go up there to breathe in the fresh sea air and admire the view. On occasion, when inspired, I even take my paints and a fresh canvas to capture the dramatic Southern nightscapes. My artistic nature is a good contrast to my athletic pursuits. I am a worthy fencing opponent.
I have traveled, yes, but this is home, where I feel most comfortable; yet still I am unable to shake off the eerie calm of the place. Visitors seldom come here, though when they do, they are excited to take a tour and explore the rare artifacts that have withstood the test of time.
Human nature is appealing when presented in its purest form, but I seem to move in circles that reflect the darkest of realms. By following this venture of self-discovery, I unveiled a supernatural truth. Indulge me again and allow me to wander back, for perhaps soon all I will have will be the memories of my beloved castle.
The library and reading rooms are favorites of mine. Alex, my younger brother of two years, and I received our many and varied lessons within these very tenements, presented by the finest of teachers. We were lectured in the arts, sciences, languages, music, and mastered horsemanship and hunting. My father ensured that we became proficient swordsmen, rounding out our education. Renaissance at its best.
When our lessons were over we spent our time playing, tirelessly investigating each room; but we stayed clear of the servants’ quarters for fear of being smacked around the head by the moody cook. We became familiar with the castle’s lower chambers, even venturing into its cold, gloomy cellars, bravely exploring the dungeons where criminals had once been held before being condemned and escorted away to suffer their fate. Only rusting shackles are left to convey what horrors these rooms have witnessed. As boys, our imaginations ran wild, though our play never matched the reality of what happened down there.
Although we had the run of the castle, there was but one room to which our father had banned our entrance. We did of course try to turn the huge brass handle of the large imposing door, but alas, it remained locked, its secrets kept hidden within. All we could do was wonder what lay inside such a chamber, until inevitably we became distracted. My fascination with that room was to be my undoing. My present irrevocably dissolves into my past.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Vampire's Reckoning

In St. Michael's Mount off the coast of Cornwall, behind the thick stone walls of a castle, the last descendants of an ancient race of vampire hunters live oblivious to their history - and their destiny. Jadeon and Alex Artimas are brothers, the eldest bound by tradition to follow in his father's footsteps. After witnessing their father participate in the gruesome torture of a mysterious woman, they are inclined to believe whatever secrets lie within their fortress of a home.

But the truth may come to them too late. For outside the castle, the enemy they are destined to destroy has found them first. He knows their names, and he seeks revenge.

The second installment in the Stone Masters Vampire Series, A Vampire's Reckoning intertwines the continued story of Daumia Velde from A Vampire's Rise with the developing narrative of Jadeon Artimas, as the vampire and the vampire hunter come head to head in a battle of conviction, retribution - and reckoning.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ask the Author: Teresa Burrell

Fans of the ZOVA catalog have been following Teresa Burrell's Advocate Series for quite a while. We're eagerly anticipating the release of the series' third installment, The Advocate's Conviction, on October 22nd. To give you an idea of the author, her writing and life, here are some of our most pressing questions - and her answers:

What inspired you to develop the Advocate Series?

I worked in juvenile court for 12 years and saw some horrendous cases. Some of them just begged to be told. I wrote the first book, The Advocate, because I had this case that really haunted me. I knew it would make for good reading if it was told correctly and might help to educate the public as well.

How does your new release, The Advocate's Conviction, compare to the first two books in the series? 

This book is a little different than the first two. I personally think the mystery will be harder to solve. In the first two books it wasn't as much about who did it as it was the why. This one deals more with both. It also covers some strange cases that involves ritual abuse. Just like the first two, it isn't graphic, but it is filled with suspense.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Trying to write about satanic ritual abuse without getting too creepy. I think it worked.

We know that you, like your character Sabre Orin Brown, were a juvenile defense attorney in San Diego. In what ways are you and your character alike, and in what ways are you different?

A lot of Sabre's experiences are the same as mine, but her personality is different. Her family life, her background, her personal experiences are very different from mine. Also, she is younger, prettier, smarter, richer, thinner...than me.

In using real cases for inspiration in your novels, how do you determine what works in fiction and what doesn't?

When something is too coincidental, no matter how real it is, I don't use it for fear readers will say, "That wouldn't happen." 

Each of your novels relies upon interesting secondary characters - as victims, clients, villains, etc. What do you look for in a good secondary character?

I like my secondary characters to be a little on the edge, sometimes they are patterned after real people (generally a combination of people). And I push the lines more with the secondary characters, like they be a little more "perfect" than Sabre, Bob, or JP, or a little too extreme. 

What habits do you have to help you write?

I write best in my home with no music, no phone calls, no interruptions. I need quiet to write. Occasionally, I can sit in a coffee shop or by the water if there's not too many distractions and I know where my character is taking me. My most creative moments are done in complete silence, however.

Sabre's experiences are very much shaped by the events of her past, namely, the disappearance of her brother several years before. How do you think her character might be different under different circumstances?

Sabre has some serious trust and abandonment issues, much of that is shaped by the disappearance of her brother, the death of her father, and we are just starting to see how her mother's has helped to shape her personality as well. Not everything about Sabre has been revealed yet, not unlike when you meet someone you might see some behavior in them but not know why they act the way they do. It's the same with our characters, we see what they do but we don't always know why. Sometimes I know why and sometimes the character shows me why.

What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

I hope it will help them escape to another place and just enjoy the read, stimulate the mind working as they try to solve the mystery, and maybe learn a little something about the juvenile court system while they're at it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Yet another flash fiction piece from Jessica Therrien for the Writer's Campaign Challenge. If you like it as much as we do, be sure to vote at the link below. And follow her blog for more updates on Jessica's writing and the upcoming release of her debut novel, Oppression.
I watch Nathan’s lips move as he prattles on about the new world, but all I can see beyond the rusted bow of the ship is water, black as coal in the night.
A rush of air chills my skin, and I fake a yawn, in hopes that he’ll excuse himself. He does. Thank God.
When I stand to leave, I hear a bang and the clatter of splintering wood. The boards shake beneath my feet.
“Pirates!” someone shouts.
Another bang. This time I fall. I scream as I tumble over the edge, but nobody hears me. I hit the water with force, then nothing.


I wake to the taste of salty lips on mine as breath is forced into my lungs. I cough and choke up water, digging my fingers into the wet sand when I catch sight of the half-naked man above me.
“Synbatec,” he whispers.
I freeze.
“Where am I?”
The rising sun has stained the sky with pink, and I see no sign of the ship. I try to take deep breaths, but the smell of festering seaweed invades my nose.
He points to the jungle behind us.
“What?” I ask.
“Wastopaneer el tacise. Tu et Synbatec.” I can see every muscle flex beneath his coconut skin as he gestures with nervous eyes.
He beckons for me to follow him. My heart skips with hesitation, but I take his hand.
We walk in silence.
Without warning, a soundless arrow pierces my chest, and I cry out as sharp pain tears through me.
He catches me before I fall. I’m as good as dead. He grips the arrow, and I expect him to pull it out. Instead, the arrow disappears. The wound disappears. The pain is gone.
I stare at him. He smiles. We run.

(If you liked my story, you can give it a thumbs up here. I'm #70.)

Sneak Peek: A Vampire's Rise

V.M.K. Fewings
Chapter One

Spain 1471

More alarming it saw me, too. Even at the age of nine, I knew well enough to remain still.
The bull would be attracted to movement.
I sucked in air, trying to fill my lungs, yet no breath remained. Orange flames flickered from the few fire torches positioned around the empty arena.
He trotted toward me and then broke into a gallop. The ground shook and time slowed, forcing a dreamy sense of reality. Hoofs skidded to a stop, spraying up a cloud of dust. Sweat evaporated off his hide and a pungent aroma reached my nostrils.
Our eyes locked.
I bit down on my lip, fists clenched, fingernails digging into my palms, though I barely felt them.
He snorted, sniffed, and tilted sharp, devilish horns. My heart pounded, racing ever faster, and my hands shook as I rose to my full height and pulled my shirt over my head, hating those vulnerable seconds, careful to minimize my movements.
He pawed the dirt.
“Control with composure.” My brother’s words spoken to me long ago, conveying his poise as a seasoned bullfighter.
The bull flicked his tail and snarled. I judged which horn he favored, indicating the direction he’d go.
He thundered toward me, his hoofs rhythmically striking the ground, and I raised my make-shift cape. It brushed over his horns as he galloped past, and swerved left, snorting stale breath that left a putrid taste buried deep in the back of my throat. Lumbering, he turned to face me again, inclining his enormous head. My dry tongue cleaved to the roof of my mouth and I tried to gulp my fear. Taking short breaths, unable to remember my last, I suppressed a whimper.
Large nostrils sniffed the air again. I steadied my hands and flicked the garment as he lurched under my left arm, spraying up soil.
I backed up.
Head down, he followed.
My back struck the arena wall, betraying my escape, trapping me between it and him. His stare met mine and went on through. In a state of dread, those terrifying seconds seemed more like hours as they took my breath with them. I struggled to recall which saint could be rallied.
The ground vibrated, bringing with it a sea of black as a billowing dust cloud arose. I threw my shirt over his head and then dived to the right of him. The material blinded him and he plunged into the stone, horns scraping and grinding. He bellowed and shook his head.
I leaped to my feet and bolted along and over the enclosure, landing on the gravel, scraping my hands and knees. Still tasting the dirt he’d sprayed up, I turned awkwardly and peered back. The bull’s eyes bulged, his tail hung low between his legs as he trotted, searching. I sighed, almost forgetting my stinging, bloodied knees.
Thrown forward by the crack that struck my head, pain exploded in my skull. Through a bleary stare, I lay looking up at three men, their shadowy figures looming over me, handkerchiefs pulled up to obscure their faces. The tallest of the three tapped his fingers against his thigh. In his other hand, he grasped a wooden cudgel.
After the third strike, I blacked out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sneak Peek: The Advocate's Conviction

Teresa Burrell
- - - 
The fourteen-year-old girl struggled to break free from the bindings on her hands and feet. One woman on each arm held her as she fought. Her feet were in stirrups, and the unbearable pain shot through her abdomen. Her blonde hair was wet with sweat. She yanked her right arm away but the heavy-set woman holding her arm threw her body across the teenager, pinning her down on the hospital bed.
“No,” the teen screamed. “No! Don’t take my baby.”
“Push,” the body-blocker said. “Just push.”
The tall, thin woman holding the teen’s left arm spoke calmly. “You need to stop fighting and breathe. Your baby is coming. You need to push.”
The girl looked around the small, dirty room for help, but all she saw was a man wearing a surgical mask sitting at the end of the bed between her legs, waiting for her to give birth. He would be no help. After all, she had agreed to this. The candles flickered around her, casting soft shadows around the room. The oak tree painted on the wall and the circle around her bed would protect her, or so she was told. But she hurt so badly and no one seemed to care.
The heavy-set woman was face to face with her. The girl could feel her breathing and smell her garlicky lunch. “Just push,” she said again.
The girl screamed.
“This is your child’s fate. Your baby must be sacrificed. Are you a believer?”
The girl wanted to say no. She didn’t know what to believe, but fear won out. “Yes,” she said.
“Yes, what?”
“Yes, I believe. I believe in the power of the oak. I believe in the power of the oak.” She was chanting now and the two women joined her.
“I believe in the power of the oak. I believe in the power of the oak.” The young girl screamed again as another contraction shot through her. She pushed as hard as she could, then stopped.
“Again!” the man at her feet yelled. “Push!”
She pushed and screamed in agony until she felt the mass exit her womb. Her body lay limp on the bed as she heard the baby cry. The heavy-set woman continued to hold her in place while the tall woman took the baby to the back of the room and out of sight. The baby’s cries still filled the room.
Then, silence.
A few minutes later the woman returned without the child.
The girl turned her head away and closed her eyes. What have I done?