A la Downton Abbey

Like about a billion other people, I love Downton Abbey. I so very badly want Bates and Anna to be happy. I adore the grouchy Mrs. Patmore. I want to ring Thomas’s neck – and dry his tears of frustration. And of course, I can’t resist Matthew Crawley’s blue, blue eyes. But it was Richard’s character that intrigued me most as I watched the second season. Without giving away any spoilers, I’ll just say this. Power is sexy. It’s memorable.
And so it was with impressive memory acumen and bleary-eyed precision that I rolled over in bed this morning and mumbled to my husband, “I want to be a good wife. But if you don’t bring me some hot and very strong tea right away, I want you to know that I am a writer above all else and I have the means to ruin you.”
Ah, thank you Richard Carlisle. The tea was delicious. 😉

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A Taste of The Phantom King

From The Phantom King, book two in The Kings series….

Prologue
The metal of the gun slipped in Stephen’s wet grip. It wasn’t supposed to do that. He was never supposed to be in this state, sweating, terrified, without a firm handle on the situation – or his gun.

But when the back window shattered, exploding inward in an eruption of tinkling, foreboding sound, Stephen didn’t rise from where he crouched between the couch and the overturned coffee table. He didn’t stand and face his enemy. Not this time.

He was learning. The lesson was hard and fast and unreal, but Stephen’s mind was that of a trained cop, and despite the impossible nature of what he was facing, it knew what to do: Absorb the information and assimilate.

If he stood up, he was a dead man. If he faced this opponent, he wouldn’t live to see the sun rise. His only hope was to get out of the house and as far away as possible as quickly as possible. Which was to say… there really was no hope at all.

Stephen closed his eyes and swallowed hard when he heard footsteps slowly cross the kitchen tiles. Glass popped and crunched beneath a set of boots, and a trickle of sweat threatened Stephen’s eye. His breaths were harsh in the sudden, threatening silence. He tried to still it in his lungs. He’ll hear me, he thought.

“You’re a plucky little human,” his attacker said, a faint accent and the sound of genuine amusement lacing his words. “I’ll give you that.”

Stephen very carefully wiped the sweat from his brow and cut his gaze to the living room door. It was twenty feet away. Twenty feet between him and possible freedom.

“You’re in my way, detective,” the voice said. He was nearer now, boots casually closing the distance between them. “Have you any idea how many little shits like you have tried to get in my way during my life time?”

Stephen considered his options. He had eleven bullets left in his clip. But the first four had been fired point-blank into his attacker’s chest and had no effect. None whatsoever.
“Thousands,” the voice said. He laughed, the sound ominous and low. It raised the hairs on Stephen’s arms and turned his stomach to lead. “Thousands.”

Stephen tried to ignore the voice. What else did he have? His phone was on the kitchen counter. Worthless. The house was set back from the road and a good half an acre from the nearest neighbor. No one was planning on visiting. He was alone.

“She’s going to come home and find you in a puddle of blood on the living room floor, detective,” his enemy told him as he came flush with the threshold of the living room. “And in her distress, she will be weak.”

Stephen’s heart hammered, his gaze narrowed, and his gut twisted. The voice laughed, sending pain down Stephen’s jaw as his teeth clenched hard enough to crack a molar. “And she’ll be mine.”

All reason, all logic, and everything Stephen had ever learned came together in one split decision then and there.

He wasn’t going to make it out of this alive.

The best he could hope for was to give Siobhan a chance to do what he couldn’t do. Escape.

Stephen rose from behind the couch and turned just as the demon did. They faced each other head to head, eye to eye. The demon’s red gaze flicked to the gun in Stephen’s hand, and recognition passed before his beautiful but oh-so-wrong features. He knew what Stephen was going to do. The detective had learned his lesson the first time.

The demon acted in retaliation just as Stephen raised his arm and pulled the trigger. The detective’s tall form was enveloped in angry, red fire even as he unloaded all eleven of his bullets into his opponent’s face.

Outside on the lawn, a large ginger cat watched the house with big, yellow eyes. His tail twitched as a window exploded and flames licked out to kiss the falling temperatures of night.

The cat made a strange brrreow-like sound and cocked his head slightly to one side just before he raised his chin to watch a stream of red smoke lift from the chimney of the now-burning house and disappear into the night.

A second later, as sirens wailed in the far distance and the house crackled to bright, burning life, the ginger cat turned and bolted, disappearing as well.

*****

Release date for The Phantom King is TBD. Keep up with all of the latest release dates, contests, giveaways, interviews, and news at http://www.facebook.com/killoughwalden and follow Heather on Twitter @killoughwalden !

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My Thoughts on Censorship

As many of you by now know, Paypal recently demanded that Smashwords remove certain genres of books from their stocks by threat of shutting down business with them. This is a most unfortunate and unacceptable act for various reasons.

First of all, Paypal is an incredibly powerful financial institution, a monopoly of sorts, that has so finely woven its business practices with Smashwords’ that for Smashwords to pull out of it now would mean almost certain financial ruin. To this end, Paypal holds all of the cards, far too much power, and can therefore dictate what another company – a company built on the desire to share words – does and does not do. Because of this, they have taken freedom of choice and freedom of speech out of Smashwords’ hands (and all of its authors’ hands as well).

Secondly, Paypal is acting on a double standard of the absolute worst kind. It has required the removal of genres that sometimes feature rape (often consensual), incest, and the like. By this ruling, Paypal ought to be requiring the removal of many mainstream fiction books as well… such as Shakespeare’s works, Flowers in the Attic, Girl with a Dragon Tattoo – and even the Holy Bible. But is Paypal requiring the removal of all books that feature rape or incest? No. It has made a misinformed, high-brow and faulty judgement by choosing to pick on erotica, in which these sub-themes are often carried out by consenting adults (and read by knowing, consenting adults as well).

However, the main reason this “blackmail” is a fallacy is by far the worst reason. And that’s that this is censorship, pure and simple.

There are those out there who could contend that as a business, Paypal possesses the right to buy and sell whatever it chooses. However, let’s look at this through a clearer set of eyes, shall we? What would the free world say if a black man was turned away at the door of a business with a sign advertising that it was “now hiring” simply because of the color of his skin? We might not immediately harken back to the days of slavery. After all, no one is chaining that man up… are they? By the same token, no one is chaining up the authors whose books have had to be removed… right?

But the intelligent mind knows that censorship does not need to originate in the author’s office or at the keyboard of his or her computer. It is not a padlock placed on his or her word processor. It is not a set of bars through which the author must peek. A writer can write whatever he or she wants and has almost always been allowed to do so as long as the ability to write was granted at all. But what good is a set of words if no one can read them? Censorship arises when these words are kept from the reading public through various means: book burnings, threats to TV stations or radio stations, a cutting off of funds through “blackmailing,” and so forth. No one told Theodore that he couldn’t write The Lorax. No one locked him up for penning those words. They simply prevented the entire state of California from getting their hands on the book. This was censorship. And I contend that there is no virtual difference between a book that has never been read – and a book that has never been written.

Censorship in any form is unacceptable. In a free world, it is up to the individual what he or she reads, watches, listens to, and speaks. For a higher power to take this ability out of the hands of the individual is autocratic and dangerous. In the act of book burnings, it is obvious and glamorous and therefore fortunate because it riles people up and calls for counter-actions of an effective degree. But in this act, in what Paypal is doing, it is conniving, underhanded, and dare I say it – it is a gateway wrong. When one entity is allowed to decide for another what he or she will read, it has taken away a fundamental freedom of humanity. The right to choose. If we allow this, we are taking the first slippery step of a backsliding that will see us into the dark ages of government dictated emotion and intelligence – which is, of course, not intelligent at all.

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Spring into the Big Bad World Contest/Giveaway

In honor of The Vampire King’s February release (out now at Barnes and Noble and Amazon) and the fact that it is a Big Bad World book (meaning, it is a cross-over to the Big Bad Wolf series), and also in honor of the lovely new T-shirts Headline had made for the Lost Angels series, I have decided to run a contest/giveaway. I’ve had an attorney go over all of the legalities and we’re ready to go! I hope that you’ll consider taking part! 🙂

Rules, instructions, and details:

You know those wonderful Youtube videos people make in honor of their favorite movie, TV show, or book series? They splice together images from the shows themselves or from something non-related and put these images to music in a meaningful manner to create something totally new in order to pay homage to whatever it is they’re obsessed with?
That’s what I want you to do for me. ☺
Create a video/montage to some great song that you feel does the Big Bad World justice and post it to Youtube. This means it can be about anything from any of the four Big Bad Wolf books or from the first book in The Kings series, The Vampire King. Once you’ve finished, send me the link to the Youtube video in a private message via Facebook.
I will compile all of these and put them up on a single website. At the end of one month, I will open the website up for voting. Readers/fans/participants will get to vote for whatever video they like the best.

The winner(s) will receive the following items:
1. Signed copies of each of the first three books in the Lost Angels series (as they are released), plus one of each for a friend.
2. Signed Lost Angels T-shirt (size medium)
3. A free copy of each of my ebooks for himself/herself and a friend
4. The opportunity to help choose the name of one of the heroines or heroes from an upcoming novel (one winner will pick from a list of names for the heroine, a possible second winner will choose from a list of names for the hero)
5. A mention in the acknowledgements section of one of my print books

Stipulations:
1. At least five people must compete with viable videos/montages for the contest to hold and not be canceled. If more than twenty people compete, there will be two winners.
2. For international winners, please be patient about mailings. It can be very costly and time consuming to mail outside of the US.
3. Please remember to post a disclaimer at the end of your video/montage re: the music and the images and state that they are not yours and that you’re just borrowing them (just in case)
4. You must have fun!!

Again, you have a month to create yoru best video/montage, get it posted to Youtube, and send me the link. Have a blast exploring your own impressions of who would make the perfect Malcolm Cole or Jesse Graves. Who is your Gabriel Phelan? What images/scenes can you borrow to replicate what happens in The Strip? The Hunt? The Vampire King? Who is your Roman D’Angelo? And what is his song? ☺ xoxoxo

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A Valentine Treat for my Readers and Fans

“Wings in the Attic,”
a Big Bad World short story by Heather Killough-Walden

Valentine’s Day, 2012….
Lalura stopped in the open attic doorway, her small bent frame and surrounding dust motes outlined by the hall light behind her. She stood still for several long moments and gazed into the darkness. The stark blue of her eyes was hidden in shadow, just as were the remnants that waited in the corners and piles of the rickety shelter. It smelled of cedar and memories up here.
Cedar and dust and memories.
“Hmph.”
Lalura’s intelligent gaze narrowed on the darkness of the neglected room. It seemed a challenge, almost. There were whispers inside, from old friends and enemies; they pushed at one another for a chance at her ear. There were flashes of things she’d tried a thousand times to forget, like bits of torn movie reel flung before a projector light. There were old songs in there, and even now she could make out their faint notes, piano keys and violin strokes from long, long ago.
Lalura lifted her chin. She took a slow breath, filling her ancient lungs with both dust and courage before releasing her breath into the past once more. Then she spoke a harsh, magic word, and extended an arm.
An old-fashioned gas lantern appeared in her gnarled grip. Its yellow, flickering flame cast dancing shapes across the long floor boards in front of her. She stood there in the under-used doorway for several more long moments, and then took the first step past the threshold that she’d taken in seventy years.
At once, the atmosphere of the room changed. The dust lifted away, the darkness turned to light, and the past greeted her with the jubilance of an old friend. She moved through the attic, leaving behind her a trail of dancing couples and bridesmaids in a line and little girls learning to ride their bicycles. Winters, Springs, Summers and Falls blossomed to life, froze to silence, and fell by the wayside with every one of the witch’s slow, steady steps.
She moved with resolution, her blue eyes trained on the end of the attic, where a man stood at the windows that looked out over a snow-covered world. She didn’t see him, though. She saw past him, she saw through him, her far-away gaze trained on yesteryears and bygones, her heart trapped in what might have been.
But he saw her. His handsome face was clean shaven, his tall form was draped in uniform, and in his hands he held the hat of an air force colonel. His blue eyes matched the blue of his station; he was tall and regal, and the very air about him spoke of good deeds done. He was a hero. He was her hero.
Once upon a time.
Lalura smiled now as she remembered.
You’re a fool, she’d told him. Such a romantic. A proposal on Valentine’s Day of all days. Only you would brave the crowds, Conrad. Only you.
Is that a yes?
She could hear the nervous tremor in his deep voice. She’d held her breath and tried not to giggle. It wasn’t like a witch of her growing stature to fall to giggling. But her heart had grown wings – wings like the ones on his chest.
“Yes,” she whispered now, echoing her response of long ago.
Beneath the dusty window with its cobwebs and peeling paint sat a music box. Lalura made her way to it as the echoes died down and the memories settled and the world became still once more.
He watched her in his ghostly silence as she stopped before it and reached for its latch with gnarled, weathered fingers. It slid back and away as if it had not been seven decades since she had opened it last. A spell kept it safe. Dusty, but safe.
“I love you, Lana,” he told her now, his long-dead voice reaching into the empty spaces of the attic to grace them with remnants of another time.
Lalura closed her eyes as if she’d heard him – this ghost of the man she’d once promised herself to.
A moment later, she opened her eyes once more, and then opened the box. She gazed down at the small collection on the single velvet pouch that sat within it. The music of the box began to play, its crisp, lilting notes filling the air with bitter sweet harmony.
On the pillow sat a pair of wedding rings, as shining and smooth as the day she’d slipped them inside. Neither of them had ever been worn.
Beside the empty rings rested a set of metal dog tags and a single sterling silver pin. Lalura picked up the pin with trembling fingers and gazed longingly, rememberingly, at the small propeller and set of angel-like wings. “I love you too, Conrad,” she whispered. Snow swirled and curled outside. The wind rustled the branches of a nearby tree and brushed the wind chimes hanging from the porch rafters. Somewhere, violins joined the music box notes, and a symphony soothed Lalura’s tired soul.
The handsome soldier looked on. He always had and he always would.
Lalura, or Lana as her fiancé had once called her, closed her eyes and held the pin to her heart. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

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A few release dates (tentative)

I’ve been getting slammed with a lot of inquiries about release dates for sequels, etc. lately, but while I can’t yet release the publication dates for most of them, I can give my readers a general idea on the release dates of two of them, in particular. Why just two? The problem with being an indie publisher is that I’m doing everything myself and since it’s just me, it’s easier for something to hit a snag. Keep this in mind when (if) the dates are altered (life happens, after all).

*The Kings, Book One: The Vampire King
Release date February 2012 (don’t ask me what day, please)

Secretly Sam (sequel to Sam I Am and book two in The October Trilogy)
Release date October, 2012

*The Big Bad Wolf series is at a close, and there will be no further Big Bad Wolf books. However The Kings is a spinoff series of the BBW series and features the same beloved characters in extended and relevent cameos.

 

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But what has it got to do with Breast Cancer?

I’ve debated writing about this for some time. No matter how well intentioned a person is, there will always be another who is offended by their feelings. Since I am non-confrontational by nature, I want to avoid this. I really do.

So this blog has been a long time coming, and in the end, the reason I’m finally writing it is because “well behaved women rarely make history.” And all of that. But mostly because I see something I think is wrong and I want to make it better. It’s just who I am.

A while back – I think it was last year, in fact – something was started on Facebook. It was a “game” in which women would write secret messages to each other using codes generated by someone way high up on the chain of Facebook forwards. These messages would announce to the world that they were “two months and one week” or that they were “going to Germany for nine days” and so forth. The goal? Reputedly the goal was to raise breast cancer awareness. In actuality? I believe the goal was to have “fun” and alienate men.

Anyone who has ever found a lump in their breast or been the spouse or partner or loved one of someone who did the same can tell you that breast cancer is no game. Nothing about it is “fun.” So, it seems strange to me that the beginning of said games are announced with messages like, “It’s that time again, ladies!”… as if it was time to celebrate. To get your engines running. To dress up or something.

Maybe this is just my opinion and maybe I’m missing something. But to me? To me, these Facebook “games” miss the mark in so many different ways. First of all, you’re supposed to “keep the boys guessing” about what your posts mean. Why? Why do we want to leave men out? Do we think that when breast cancer strikes us, it has no effect on our boyfriends? Our brothers? Our fathers or sons? What about our husbands? Do we honestly think that our diagnosis… leaves them out? I can tell you from personal experience that it does not. A father might lose his daughter. A son, his mom. A man will never suffer more than when the woman he loves more than life itself becomes sick.

Emotional alienation aside, we’re also forgetting that breast cancer, believe it or not, is not a solely female disease. Men can develop breast cancer as well. They have breast tissue – and that tissue can develop tumors, just like ours can.

Also, how exactly does this game make women more aware of breast cancer? I’m sorry, but seeing someone joke about being pregnant when they’re not or going to France when they live in Pennsylvania doesn’t make me any more informed on the dangers, preventative measures, or medical breakthroughs of the disease.

So… What is the point? Why does this “game” exist? What has any of this really got to do with breast cancer?

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Small taste of what’s to come

I’m writing the first book in the new BBW spinoff series, The Kings. It’s called The Vampire King and features Roman D’Angelo – tall, dark, enigmatic and painfully powerful. Here’s a taste of what’s to come….

In the fresh silence, Evie could hear her heartbeat in her ears. At long last, the man looked away from the shop’s door and turned around.
His dark eyes found hers at once and the rest of the world receded.
Evie felt herself go very, very still, as if he could shackle her with no more than a look. Thoughts flew from her mind.
She heard her mouth speak without any conscious thought and could only hope it wasn’t saying something damningly stupid.
“Thank you,” she said, her voice a thousand miles away. “That was… pretty incredible.”
The stranger’s dark, dark eyes seemed to sparkle as if she could suddenly see their stars, and a second later, he smiled a smile that once more left Evie feeling breathless. His teeth were perfect, straight and white, and the expression softened his starkly handsome features into the visage of some Michelangelo angel. She felt, in that moment, as though one of the sculptor’s statues had come to life and entered the coffee shop.
“May I join you?” he asked, gesturing gracefully to the empty seat across from her at the small round table. His deep, smooth voice was like black velvet.
Evie opened her mouth again to reply – no, yes, of course you can, oh god please do – but nothing came out. Stupid, she thought. Stupid! You were able to speak before! At least smile at him!
Instead, she nodded.
Great. You dork.

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Happy Landings

One of my characters, Annabelle Drake from Hell Bent, is afraid to fly. She’s not just slightly against it or gently opposed to it, either. She absolutely, hands-down despises it and would almost do anything else. Luckily for her, she has a man who isn’t afraid to knock her ass out in order to get her on the plane, so she gets to land without ever knowing she’s taken off.
Me, on the other hand? I’m horribly conscious for the entire duration, and believe me – Annabelle Drake and I have a LOT in common.
Which brings me to the point at hand. I’m about to get on a plane again. For as much as I abhor it, I sure do a lot of air travel. Only, I don’t have Jack Thane to sneak up behind me with his incredible grace and stealth and put me to sleep. I have to find some other way to get my mind off of the possibility that at any second, I might tumble from the skies and be far too AWARE of my impending doom for several seconds – even minutes – before I hit the ground.
But no problem. I’ve got something that just might do the trick.
I’m working on the first book in the new BBW spinoff series, The Kings. It’s hot, it’s full of dangerously hot good guys and cruel, charismatic bad guys, and all of the shades of gray in-between. If I can just focus on what Hot Baddie is planning to do next, and what smart, loveable Heroine and Mr. Not-as-bad-as-the-other-guy are going to do about it, I might be able to get through the next seven hours.
Wish me luck.

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2011-2012

I have to be honest with you. For some of us, the end of this year feels like the end of ten. 2011 was a veritable era – long and hard and filled with a plethora of changes, both good and bad.

It was a tiring year.
I moved three times. I worked harder than I’ve perhaps ever worked before in my life. I slept less. On an honest and personal note, I dealt with physical illness, loss and hardship.

It was an anxious year.
My first print book hit the shelves and it was a toss-up from the beginning. Where would the coin fall? What would happen? Everything was uncertain – how much money I would make, where we would live, how I would feel from one day to the next.

It was a year for experimenting.
I made two book trailers, began using Twitter, went on my first blog tour, and started various medications. Not sure how much good any of them have done, but that’s what experiments are all about.

It was a rewarding year.
All in all, I think I am better off in December than I was in January, if only for the friends I’ve made. Through the empathy that comes with solidarity, our bonds have grown stronger and our hearts softer. Some of us have learned lessons. Whether hard or easy, they’re always worth something.

The oddest thing of all is that I think I can tell you with complete sincerity that I am a different person now than I was twelve months ago. People rarely change. Oh, they grow older and they get nastier or sweeter and sometimes they dress differently. But underneath the layers, they remain frozen in the mold they were poured into at birth. And it is just so for most of me as well. I’ll always love my daughter, consider my husband my best friend, abhor politics and absolutely adore both classic rock and boots. But there’s something changed in there somewhere. It’s like someone used a different spice in the cooking. Life tastes different for me now. And I think it’s altered forever too.

So here we stand at the doorway to another four seasons, another twelve moons and another new era. We take a deep breath, shrug off the layers that crusted us over, and hope that the ones to come might not feel so heavy. We have wishes, each one of us; no amount of time can snuff them. We have dreams in our sights – they are the requisite to continued life.

We break open the champagne and count the seconds down and watch the sky explode with grins on our faces – and hope in our hearts. It’s what we do. Because whoever we are, wherever we are, and whatever befalls us, we are human.

And there’s always tomorrow.

Happy New Year everyone. May love and luck and peace be with you.

Over and out.

XOXO
– Heather K-W

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