Vampire, Vampire – coming Friday, July 13th


Between them, Christopher was the first to make the change. It seemed to happen overnight. One day, they were in a field picking the lavender Darianna loved so much, and he was admiring the way the sunlight reflected in her hair… the next day, he was noticing the pulse in the side of her throat. His teeth were longer. They were sharper. And every time she threw her head back to laugh, they ached.
When she ran from him, as she’d done in play since they were children, every nerve in his body screamed to life, every muscle bunched, and his vision changed. The beast within him awoke, rearing its head.
Darianna Grace was every bit as breathtaking to him as she had always been, but Christopher was no longer the little boy that she’d grown to trust and love. There was suddenly a darkness to him that frightened him… for her sake.
It didn’t get any easier.
With the physical changes on Christopher’s outside came changing desires on the inside. The women of the realm readily lined up to satisfy this newly dawning need within him, eager for a few moments in the prince’s bed. But though their flesh gave way easily enough beneath the push and prick of his very sharp teeth, their blood only temporarily slaked the hunger that woke him up every morning – and kept him up every night.
It was Anna that filled his thoughts, burned through his veins, and sang a siren song in his monster’s mind. He found himself withdrawing from her company, never quite trusting the man he was becoming around the girl she’d always been. And from afar, he watched her go through her own changes.
One early morning, in the painful hours before dawn, Christopher stood at the side of his father’s death bed and, with straight back and breaking heart, he bid his old man farewell. Then, after shifting issues of state had kept him castle-bound all day despite his internal grief, Christopher retired to his wing of the castle, made his way to the very same windows he gazed through now, and let his rather fevered forehead rest against the cool glass.
His father was dead. Christopher Thorn was king now.
A clinking of stone against the smooth plane of window drew his attention. The vast night beckoned beyond the pane, and Christopher’s eyesight readily adjusted. His kind had excellent night vision.
Five stories down, wrapped in a velvet and hooded cloak of varying shades of purple, Darianna Grace gazed up at him and then beckoned with a single whispered word: “Come.”
He read her lips and heard her summons in the core of him. At once, every fiber of his being answered the call. Christopher’s gaze shifted into red, he turned from the window and sped through the castle like a wind-borne fury.
His long black coat billowed about his booted legs as servants scuttled to get out of the lord’s way. Lamps flickered at his passing; a shadowed breeze seemed to accompany him, forcing candle flames to genuflect, almost going out. A hushed whisper went up, an unspoken curiosity. He appeared the devil, with demons chasing his heels, as he stormed his way through the castle’s front doors and made his way impatiently into the night beyond.
– Vampire, Vampire by Heather Killough-Walden

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Rock Hard Crushes

In close circles, the titillating subject of crushes – on both real men and men we wish were real – has been coming up a lot. It’s got me thinking, and wondering. What turns a character (or real person) into a crush? What is that “last straw” that sends us from liking someone into really liking them? What are the qualities that get us deep down, and when do they work? When do they not work? What are our deal makers and breakers?

I’ll start with a list of crushes I’ve had in my life, both real and not real. Then I want you to tell me yours. LOL I’m curious!

The Count from Sesame Street
David and the gang from The Lost Boys
Jareth from The Labyrinth
Daniel Jackson from SG1
Darth Vader
Lieutenant Commander Data, from Star Trek Next Generation
That boy that helped me up off of the playground in the 4th grade and that I crushed hard on for the next EIGHT years without telling. Rock star god. You were awesome.
Niles from Frasier
Thor (way before he was played by Hemsworth)
Richard Armitage
Sean Bean
Michael Fassbender (but mostly as Azazeal from Hex)
My husband
And a few of my own characters. 😉 I won’t tell you which ones.

Your turn! xoxo

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June 5, 2012

Well, I’m literally locked away in a castle in Europe at the moment. Thick stone walls separate me from the lake and town beyond. It stormed last night; electricity zigzagged across the night sky and thunder rattled my barred window panes. I gazed out at the rest of the world and thought about the people who walked it five hundred years ago – when this castle was built.

Honestly, there is probably no better location for me as I see the release of the long-awaited second book in the Lost Angels series. Here, behind this cold stone on this misty morning, I feel the curse that belongs to Juliette. I sense the magic that is the second archess being released into the unsuspecting world.

Messenger’s Angel brings the reader to the fog-covered rolling hills of bonnie Caledonia. Is there a more ancient ground? Is there any fragment of Earth more baptized in blood than the highlands of Scotland? Has any sea but the North seen more crumbling castles, more Viking ships, more wistful gazes cast by selkies with long flowing wind-blown hair?

Bear witness to the archangel Samael’s charismatic and confusing machinations, fret for the hero as he goes up against an archangel with a literal taste for blood, lust for the archangel Gabriel as he seduces his tall, dark way into the heroine’s heart.

Smell the sea, feel the wind, sense the lightning about to strike. Pick up Messenger’s Angel – and taste the magic.

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“Release Day”

“Release Day”

Two days to go,
and I’m feeling it again, as I always do, as is my gifted curse.
That twisted, knotted, slithering sensation in the pit of me.
The chasm yawns open and I’m shoved to the precipice
in a buffeting wind.
I hug myself hard and close my eyes.
One wish… two… third one’s the charm.
I hope? Oh God I hope.
Teeth gnashing, nerves crackling, gut roiling, world tilting.
Will I fall?
Or will I fly?

by Heather Killough-Walden

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The Phantom King is Riding Your Way

Coming May 13th for Mother’s Day….

Siobhan Ashdown was born of magic; it rides her blood like a phantom, tainted and dark and unpredictable. She is a warlock, and the power within her is unlike any before known to her kind. So it’s no surprise that the most powerful of the demons who feed off of this warlock magic not only recognizes the enormous potential she represents but determines that he will possess her at any cost.
Even if it means war with the entire supernatural world.

Thanatos has ruled Purgatory as the Phantom King since time immemorial. King of a vast plane of solitude, he is a free spirit, a lone rider, a tattooed man of wind and dust and nonexistent boundaries. Then he turns around one morning to find himself face to face with Siobhan Ashdown, a woman with hair as red and wild as his soul, eyes like melted gold, and a spirit as elusive as his own. Time stops, the world tilts, and the fact that she attacks him right off the bat does little to deter his romantic convictions.

Thirteen Kings are severed by lust and greed, an ancient vampire and his rogue creation lay claim to what is not theirs, the whisperings of war begin to shake the foundation of the supernatural world, and primordial evil awakens from its slumber to slither across the land in this second installment in the Big Bad Wolf spinoff series, The Kings, by Heather Killough-Walden.

Coming Sunday.

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“He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that one Friday 13th of November he died.” – The Life of Rossini

It’s Friday the 13th and people everywhere are rushing about warning others about their impending demises and playing their Ratatosk-like parts to help along the self-fulfilling prophecy of the power of suggestion in any way they can.

However, where did we even get this idea that this particular day is unlucky? There is no written evidence of an unlucky “Friday, the 13th” prior to the nineteenth century. There are two reasons for this. One, the “unluckiness” of the date arose through various misconceptions, such as the one mentioned in the quote above, which details the personal feelings of a single man and the coincidence of his death, which superstitious individuals will liken to an omen.

And secondly, for thousands of years, the number 13 was considered a lucky – and in fact, holy – number, not an unlucky number. While it’s true that Zoroastrianism claimed 13 to be wicked, the small religion of the Coperos in Brazil considered 13 to be a God number and in fact, “All Coperos must know that this number can save humankind.” (There’s a book in there somewhere, I just know it.) In Judaism, 13 is the age where a boy becomes a man. There were 13 people at Jesus’s table during the last supper, and many religions have one prophet with twelve followers, totaling – yes, you did the math right – 13. There are 13 people in a Wiccan coven. 13 is a very special and powerful number for women as well, since there are 13 menstrual cycles in a year. Because of this, 13 has long believed to represent femininity.

In Spanish speaking countries, Tuesday the 13th is unlucky. And in Italy? Friday the 17th. In Japan, April 4th is unlucky because the number four is pronounced the same as the word for “death.” The same holds for China.

Did you know that scientists have studied tragic and unfortunate events throughout history in detail, determining that these “unlucky” days, including Friday the 13th have shown no greater tendency toward disaster than any other day of the year? There’s no difference other than the one in your head. Basically, if you try hard enough you can pick any day of the week and match it with any number between 1 and 31 and back up your claim that it is “unlucky” simply by doing a search online.

Personally, Friday has always been my favorite day of the week, even more so than Saturday. Who says “Thank God it’s Saturday?” Nope, it’s Friday we’re all thankful for. The end of the rush and the chaos and the sleepless zombi-fied work-a-day. We can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I love Fridays.

And 13? Heck, it’s a Baker’s Dozen. What’s more lucky than finding an extra – and free – donut at the bottom of the bag? ☺

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What Are Yours?

During a recent car trip, my family and I discussed our “favorites,” as in favorite smells, favorite sounds, etc. I found it interesting; a lot of the times, a person’s choices are very much tied in with their past or history. It became a bit of an exercise in self discovery.

And so, I figured I would share a little bit about myself with you – and in return, I would love for you to post back with your own favorites and least-favorites. It would be a chance for you to learn something new about yourself, and share it with others. 🙂

My favorite smells: Rain or fresh wet soil, rubber tires, leather, cooking cracked pepper, tomatoes on the vine, brewing coffee, baking sourdough bread, new car

Smells I hate: Halitosis (bad breath), garlic, grass or hay, wet dog, body odor, blood

Favorite sounds: Thunder, crackling fire in a hearth, rain on a tin roof, a babbling brook, classical guitar or cello expertly played, Harley Davidson V-Twin engines, horses’ hooves on cobblestones, leather soles on hard surfaces, the turning of pages in a quiet space

Sounds I hate: Blaring news or reality TV shows, lawn mowers, buzzing insects, hammering, discordant horns, elevator music over the phone

Your turn. xoxo

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Going for Extremes

I’ve never been a “Happy Medium” kind of girl. I guess I’m a drama queen at heart because my writing has always been the kind to evoke strong emotions in its readers. My words are words of extremes: Either people absolutely love them and want to read more, or they hate them, and consequently hate me.

I have to admit that there have been times when this bothered me. I was of course happy that there were people out there who could appreciate my style, my point of view, and me, in general. But I was confused and somewhat torn by the number of “haters” I seemed to attract.

I don’t sugar coat things. If my bad guy is going to pan out to be a real bad guy, I write him that way. He’ll give you chills, make you sick, and keep you turning pages because you can’t wait until the devil gets his due. If one of my characters is a werewolf afraid he’s going to lose the only chance he has at a meaningful relationship with a woman, I write him the way such a werewolf would behave. Like an animal, determined, fierce, and a little mean. After all, no alpha wolf in the wild would simply nod and step to the side when faced with adversity. No way in hell.
You get the point. I pull my readers into the world and make them feel as if it’s real, and sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes they are certain it isn’t.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about humanity, it’s that it makes absolutely no sense. Despite the fact that our youth are more jaded today than they have ever been in history, our adults appear to retain more delicate sensibilities than ever before as well. It’s highly illogical, to quote a pointy-eared alien, but there it is. I think it’s usually pretend, to be honest. I have a feeling it’s fear of being found out hastily masked by indignation. But whatever it is, it certainly riles people up, especially when they have nothing better to do with their time or lives.

Normally, I look at this one of two ways: 1. Wow, I must be doing something right if I’ve pissed people off this badly, after all “well behaved women rarely make history.” And, 2. Oh, give me a break. *rolls eyes, shakes head*

But today I realized that I should look at this a third way, from an entirely different angle – one that cuts out the negative aspects altogether. A reader wrote to me yesterday, “I don’t care what some reviewers say about The Strip, I feel you wrote Malcolm Cole just for me, and for that I’m eternally grateful.”

I reached someone. I gave them something that no one else dared to give them, and I made them happy. I improved a life, even if it was just a little. In this, I’ve made the world a better place.

So there it is. 3. I’ve made the world a better place.
That’s an extreme I can live with.

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A Day to Wear Those Clothes

I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately. I’ve realized that I struggle with something every day. It isn’t always the same something, but it’s always something. I struggle with my career or deadlines or my body or my health or my daughter – every day is a fight. Every once in a while, I naively find myself thinking, “I can’t wait until such and such, when we are so and so, and everything is just right.” All my life, I’ve been thinking this. It’s not always the same such and such, and my definition of “everything” has changed a bit. But I’m always looking forward to it. Always thinking that some day, it will come.
For nearly forty years.

I have a dress in my closet that I never wear. I keep waiting for the right occasion, the right weather, the right place to take it to. It’s beautiful. It’s exactly the kind of thing I want to drape myself in, twirl in, and breathe in. It’s long and white and diaphanous, like the gown of a fairy princess. But I’ve never worn it. Not even once. I keep telling myself, “I’m going to look so beautiful in that when I wear it.” Whenever that is going to be.

My best friend died of ovarian cancer two and a half years ago. A close friend of the family committed suicide last October. My cat died last month. A friend’s young son-in-law suddenly died yesterday, leaving behind three children under the age of ten and a wife in pieces. All of you probably have similar stories, but right now, it begs noticing.

It’s been said a billion times, and I think that because of this, it has unfortunately lost some of its meaning. But the fact is, life is short. So short. We never know how long we have. Today? Tonight? Next week?

I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately. But mostly, I’ve been thinking about how it ends. Because it always does. What precious percentage of my life allotment have I spent looking forward to the rest of it? Waiting for such and such so that everything will be just right? Life always ends. And when mine does, I don’t want that to be the day that I am finally seen wearing that dress because that’s what my husband placed me in for my funeral.

Screw that. I’m going to wear it today.

“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death.” – William Shakespeare

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YES!! WE DID IT!!! Score one really big point for freedom!!!!

Note from Smashwords founder, Mark Coker:

March 13, 2012

Smashwords author/publisher update: PayPal Reverses Proposed Censorship

Great news. Yesterday afternoon I met with PayPal at their office in San Jose, where they informed me of their decision to modify their policies to allow legal fiction.

Effective last night, we rolled back the Smashwords Terms of Service to its pre-February 24 state.

It’s been a tumultuous, nerve-wracking few weeks as we worked to protect the right of writers to write and publish legal fiction.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Smashwords authors, publishers and customers. You stood up and made your voice known. Thank you to every Smashwords author and publisher who wrote me to express opinions, even if we disagreed, and even if you were angry with me. You inspired me to carry your cause forward.

Smashwords authors, publishers and customers mobilized. You made telephone calls, wrote emails and letters, started and signed petitions, blogged, tweeted, Facebooked and drove the conversation. You made the difference. Without you, no one would have paid attention. I would also like to thank the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). These three advocacy groups were the first to stand up for our authors, publishers and customers. Their contribution cannot be overstated. We collaborated with them to build a coalition of like-minded organizations to support our mutual cause. Special kudos to Rainey Reitman of EFF for her energy, enthusiasm and leadership.

I would also like to thank all the bloggers and journalists out there who helped carry our story forward by lending their platforms to get the story out. Special thanks to TechCrunch, Slashdot, TechDirt, The Independent (UK), Reuters, Publishers Weekly, Dow Jones, The Digital Reader, CNET, Forbes, GalleyCat & EbookNewser and dozens of others too numerous to mention.

I would like to thank our friends at PayPal. They worked with us in good faith as they promised, engaged us in dialogue, made the effort to understand Smashwords and our mission, went to bat for our authors with the credit card companies and banks, and showed the courage to revise their policies.

This is a big, bold move by PayPal. It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction. It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction.

Following implementation of their new policies, PayPal will have the most liberal, pro-First-Amendment policies of the major payment processors. Will Google Checkout and Checkout by Amazon be next now that the credit card companies have clarified their positions, and have essentially given payment providers the permission to adopt more enlightened policies? Finally, thanks to Selena Kitt of Excessica and Remittance Girl for helping me to understand and respect all fiction more than I ever have before.

This is a bright day for indie publishing. In the old world, traditional publishers were the arbiters of literary merit. Today, thanks to the rise of indie ebooks, the world is moving toward a broader, more inclusive definition of literary merit. Smashwords gives writers the power and freedom to publish. Merit is decided by your readers. Just as it should be.


Mark Coker

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