Stains of Grace: More Music to Demon By

Novel Noveling Status Update

Oh, my dearest inklings: Stains of Grace is so, so very close to publication, I CAN TASTE ITS DONENESS.

“But alas!” you’re thinking. “Wherefore doth this much-desired tome not yet appear upon ye olde Amazon sales page?!?”

The answer, my dears, to that unhappy question is that (1) your author is pregnant and tired and (as of this writing) sleepless, and she therefore can’t write and edit and finalize as fast as she thought she could; and (2) the head of her indie publisher just yesterday completed his Master’s in Professional Writing and has been frantic to finish his studies.

We do apologize, loves. Sometimes, life just happens.

3:00pm Addendum:

Now, I am not just tasting the novel’s doneness. I HAVE CHEWED AND SWALLOWED ITS DONENESS. Stains of Grace is officially in the hands of the publisher, y’all. BANGERANG.

I CANNOT WAIT FOR YOU TO READ THIS BOOK.

So. With that out of the way, let’s move on. I anticipate our uploading the novel file to Amazon within the next 24 hours. After that, the Kindle version of Stains will hopefully go live — meaning that you can have the e-version of the book in your lovely, eager hands — no later than Monday!

In the Meantime…

You might, perhaps, recall the time I told you about the music I’ve listened to while writing the Demons of Saltmarch series. (If you don’t recall, just click on that link and check it out.) That post covered the playlists for Colors of Deception (Saltmarch #1) and Shadows after Midnight (Saltmarch #2).

Since you dears have all been so patient with me as I’ve scrambled to get Stains ready for you, I decided to go ahead and share its playlist with you. So here we go…

Stains of Grace Playlist

“The Strangest Party” by INXS (Anne)
“Girlfriend by” Phoenix (Peter)
“Devil Inside” by INXS
“Lights Out” by Breaking Benjamin (Polednitsa)
“Prodigal” by Porcupine Tree
“Papercut” by Linkin Park (Anne)
“I Don’t Care” by Apocalyptica (Anne)
“Burn for You” by INXS
“Suicide Blonde” by INXS (Dante)
“Living Dead Girl” by Rob Zombie
“I Will Not Bow” by Breaking Benjamin
“Afterglow” by INXS

As with the previous post, I’ve included characters’ names in parentheses. Each song has a particular meaning for that character — so, if you can’t stand the tease and you’re not afraid of a few teensy spoilers, you can look up the lyrics and get a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of each named character.

You’ll notice that I didn’t include names for some of the songs. That’s because I didn’t want to provide you with *too* many potential spoilers. If you want to know what characters belong with these songs, you’ll just have to read the book and see if you can figure out who goes with what. If you’re really brave, you can pay close attention to the fact that the playlist follows the chronology of the story. ; )

All right, sweeties, I’m off to grab a snack and see if I can go back to sleep. It’s 5:15am, I’ve been awake since 2:30, and I think it’s time to attempt this voluntary unconsciousness thing again.

Oh, and if you just can’t stand the wait, and the playlist isn’t enough to keep you busy, pop over here for a reminder of how the Demons of Saltmarch started. It involves a vacuum cleaner.

G’night! (I hope.)

P.S. May the Fourth be with you.

Music To Demon By

Once upon a time, dear inklings, I told you the story of how my Demons of Saltmarch came into being.

To recap: I dreamed about a forbidding figure on a bridge, and I recorded the imagery in my dream journal. I knew that at some point, those images would turn into a fantasy novel. A few months later, I was pushing and prodding my vacuum cleaner into sucky submission whilst listening to the INXS album The Greatest Hits.

And BAM! there was the rest of the story.

There is an entire blog post, by the way, on receiving creative inspiration while engaging in the mundane. But that is another story and shall be told another time.

Anyway, the song that really got me that day in my hallway was “Suicide Blonde.”

Got some revelation put into your hands
Save you from your misery
Like rain across the land
Don’t you see
The colour of deception
Turning your world around again
.

And that, my loves, was how Colors of Deception was born. As of last week, you are now acquainted with its younger sibling, Shadows after Midnight, as well.

Recalling the INXS lyrics that helped bring my demons to paper (in more ways than one), I realized I’ve been remiss in sharing my writing playlists with you. So, without further ado or adon’t, here are the songs that inspired scenes and characters for the first two Demons of Saltmarch novels:

Colors of Deception


All songs by INXS.

Suicide Blonde (Dante)
The Strangest Party (Holly and Peter)
Taste It (Dante and Holly)
Devil Inside (Holly in chapel)
Heaven Sent (Holly, driving)
Disappear (Dante)
The Gift (Dante in the cave)
Need You Tonight (Dante and Holly)
Deliver Me (Dante)
Baby Don’t Cry (Dante’s denouement)
Afterglow (Dante’s epilogue)

Shadows after Midnight


All songs by INXS. The Shadows playlist also included all the songs from Colors.

Original Sin (Dante)
I Send a Message (Dante and Holly)
The Swing (Peter)
Johnson’s Pendulum (Eileen)
Love Is What I Say (Peter and Dante)
Burn for You (Dante and Holly)
 

 
 

For Stains of Grace, I branched out from INXS. But if I share that playlist with you, you’ll get all sorts of icky spoilers, so I don’t wanna do that. ; ) I can tell you, though, that it includes Linkin Park, Breaking Benjamin, Porcupine Tree, and Apocalyptica.

Yeah. I mix stuff. ; )

And with that, I’ll leave you with the words of Dante’s favorite musician:

Yes, it’s me,
I am the one
To make you see
Where we belong.

To dream
All the time
Without a scream
In the dead of night,
All those faces
Come back to me.
I’ll be begging
To swim that sea.

A need to quench
The thirst of many
To justify
And make ready

This realization
Owes us strength to show.
If you’re uncertain
You’re invited to believe.*

______

*Lyrics by Michael Hutchence and Andrew Farriss.

SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT live at Amazon!

Hello, my dears! I know it’s been a stupid long time since you’ve heard anything substantial from me here. I am so very sorry! But it’s because I’ve been working hard to get you this:

The paperback of SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT is now available at Amazon. Click here to buy your copy, and happy reading!

For those of you who want a little more detail:

Peter Townsend is not normal and doesn’t play well with normals. He belongs to the ancient line of auguren, demon hunters with only one goal: Protect ordinary humans from their demonic tempters.

But last year, protecting Holly Idaho shattered Peter’s world. When Dante Mullins, the demon hunting Holly, spirited her away to the infernal realm of Saltmarch, Peter went through hell to save her. Falling in love with her wasn’t part of the plan. Neither was leaving Dante alive.

Now Dante is back, and Holly is missing. Holly’s friends Anne and Owin insist on joining Peter in the furious search. But when a new demon enters the fray, one that makes Dante look angelic, its nightmarish power threatens to consume them all.

The loyalties of friendship might be more help than Peter can deal with. This time, saving Holly might just cost him his soul.

BUY NOW:
SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT (Demons of Saltmarch 2)

Many thanks to Julie V. Photography, Amy Nickerson Design, and model Andy Sawatzky for the cramazing cover art!

And do click to embiggen. It’s way cool. : )

Extra! Extra! Get Your Sneak Peek Here!

As I promised yesterday, here’s an excerpt from my upcoming SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT (Demons of Saltmarch #2).

In this scene from Chapter 7, Peter (main character & narrator) and Company are looking for clues to the whereabouts of a friend they think has been taken by a demon. Their search goes awry when the demon Seirim attacks them by means of artwork hanging on the walls of a local café.

When last we saw Our Hero…

_____________________

A spiky-haired form flew past me, heading for the café’s front door. I wondered what had happened to her drummer brother. Get Daniel, I thought at her, with no hope that Jas would hear me. Only hope that she would make it outside alive.

At Owin’s side, Anne pulled at the vines that held him, her fingernails scraping green plant flesh onto the floor. She glanced up at me and yelled my name again. At her feet, Holly sprawled in a spreading pool of blood. Kneeling at Holly’s shoulder, its posture that of a penitent worshiper, a cartoon bunny lifted its face from her throat and grinned at me over her too-still chest. Its fangs and muzzle glistened with her blood.

Three normals in serious trouble—and trouble of a nature I’d never even heard of, let alone faced. This is not how this is supposed to go. For once, I needed Daniel. For once, I needed my big brother.

Dammit.

I lunged forward—and stopped short as vines thrust past my head on either side and twisted around my throat. This time, breath cut off completely as the demonic plant jerked me backward. My right foot went out from under me, and I crashed to the floor. My head smacked into something more solid than my skull. Darkness bloomed in my vision.

With the little air I had left, I tried to yell Holly’s name. But I only made a thin whistle. Banegold in my hands, I grabbed the vines encircling my neck and pulled. Plant flesh sizzled, but the pressure only increased. More vines whipped down from somewhere above, replacing the ones I weakened. I couldn’t see the doll anymore—and then its face slid over the edge of the bar high above my head. Its bland expression hadn’t changed. But its eyes were different. Too large for a doll head, the emerald eyes of Owin Moran stared down at me as though a plastic surgeon with a sick sense of humor had excised the twin green orbs and stuck them in the doll’s face.

“Greetings, Peter,” said the doll.

The voice was jovial and scratchy, like that of a favored uncle in some piece of classical British literature. But it didn’t issue from the doll’s pouty red lips, which remained frozen in their perpetual, inane smile. As though exuded from enormous pores, the voice came from the dozens of fanged mouths studding the mother vine.

“This day has been so very long in coming,” it said.

Owin shouted. Anne screamed. The barista sobbed on the other side of the counter. I raised my hands, hoping banegold still stirred at my fingertips. Black blossoms splotched my vision, so I couldn’t tell for sure.

A staccato giggle issued from the mouths in the vine. “How’s your leg?” asked the demon Seirim.

I shot banegold. Shot blind—but I heard wood splinter and vine shriek. The demon’s grasp on my throat eased just enough for me to suck in a short breath. Like the black blossoms in my vision, pain flowered in my chest. I tried to roll away from the counter. Tried to roll away from the pain. The pain followed me. As I flopped to my stomach, the demon doll landed on my back, its weight much more solid and crushing than it should have been for its size. The concussion drove my precious, salvaged bit of breath from my chest.

Pain morphed into a vise as vine fingers dug their claws into my scalp and pulled my head up. I felt banegold spark like electricity at my fingertips, then fizzle out. A vine snaked around my head. I felt its weird, alien lips pressing against my left ear, almost intimate.

“Look, auguren,” the demon whispered. “Look on them, these ordinary humans, and see the chaos you have wrought.”

I had no breath left. I couldn’t have said no even if I’d tried.

On the floor ahead of me, Holly was conscious. Her dark eyes rolled wildly as she fought off the demon bunny with one hand and held the gaping neck wound together with her other. Blood flowed steadily through her fingers. The creature cackled and swiped at her hands with its claws, but it wasn’t pushing very hard to reach her. No. It was playing with her. It wanted to watch her struggle to get away while it came on a little bit at a time, relishing her panic and her pain. Her legs fishtailed on the blood-slick floor as she tried to slide backward away from the thing. But her back was pressed against Anne’s legs. Holly had gotten as far away from the bunny as she could get—and Anne couldn’t move to help.

Vines held Anne’s arms trapped at her sides. Though her feet remained on the floor, the vines strained to lift her up—and into the painting. Owin’s left shoulder and arm had already disappeared into the canvas. I had a weird moment of vertigo, seeing most of Owin real on the outside but part of Owin flat and two-dimensional in oil paint. Even worse, the flat part of him was moving within the painting, his arm flailing to avoid the crushing grasp of the circular plant maw that I now knew was a manifestation Seirim.

How? I wanted to ask. I’d never seen a demon manipulate inanimate objects this way. In Saltmarch, maybe, but not in our world. How is it doing this? And where was Daniel?

A huge flower the color of my own midnight opened one blinding petal at a time in the center of my vision. As I lost sight of Holly, Anne, and Owin, a scream sounded that could only belong to Jas. Jas—not outside? A shout of rage arose in response. Bryan? My ears were ringing, and all other sound was muffled. But still, I could distinguish the demon’s voice as its damp, spongy lips pressed against my ear.

“You can’t save them,” it whispered. “They belong to me now. I shall gulp their blood and devour their flesh and gnaw their bones. You cannot save them.”

No! You won’t

In the confines of my thoughts, the words sounded powerless. My fingers tore at the vines around my throat, while the rest of me thrashed back and forth, bucking beneath the weight of the creature on my back. My body made these efforts without me, and I watched from somewhere far away. The only immediate sensations were the agonizing pressure in my chest and the horrible brush of the demon’s vine lips.

“But you can save the lodestone,” it said… . “You can still save her, auguren, if you are willing to pay my price.”

What price?

And in the most hideous moment I had ever experienced, a moment that out-hideous-ed every other awful memory I’d hidden away, the thinnest tendril of vine slipped into my ear, threaded its way into a cold pain that stabbed the side of my head like an iron icicle, squirmed past—through?—my eardrum, pierced my brain, and spoke to me with horrible intimacy as its tiny plant fangs gnawed at my gray matter.

That’s what it felt like, anyway.

“Yourself,” said the demon into my head.

___________________

Inklings, I hope you enjoyed this. Feedback is always welcome. : )

Book Release Party: SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT

Hello, my dear inklings, and welcome, Saltmarch fans!

Saltmarch, Where The Demons Live

As this unbearably hot summer hangs on tooth-and-nail to its ridiculously sweltering temperatures (here in Oklahoma, anyway), let us turn our mind’s eye to the near future, a future most glorious in its cooled-off-ness (we hope) and in its bringing of a near-and-dear-to-my-heart event, yea verily and forsooth.

 

That event, my little pumpernickels, is the BOOK RELEASE PARTY

for my second novel, SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT (Demons of Saltmarch #2)

on SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8th, at 6:30PM

at VINTAGE TIMELESS COFFEE (900 NW 150th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73013).

And you are all invited! Tally-ho, zounds, and bangerang!

If you’ve not yet delved into my Demons of Saltmarch Series, please check out COLORS OF DECEPTION (Demons of Saltmarch #1). Buy it for $2.99 on Kindle or $12.99 in paperback!

If you are already well-versed in the Demons of Saltmarch world, come back to courtcan.com tomorrow for a sneak peek at SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT! (And yes, this will be more than just the sample you found in the back of your COLORS copy.)

Dante and I hope to see you soon. ; )

Demons, Daftness, and Deadlines — OH My

So, I’ve got two exciting things to tell you about. I’m gonna try to tell you these things coherently — but, alas and alack, the lovely storm that rolled in this evening has bequeathed upon me a vision-blurring, brain-mushing headache. Thus, if I don’t make sense or if everything I write comes out weird, I’ll have to ask you to bear with me.

But exciting things! The first one, my darlings, is that a few weeks back, Julie and Carlos Velez of Julie V. Photography shot the cover art photo for my SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT (Demons of Saltmarch #2). And it was bonkers fabulous.

I know that after Book 1’s cover art shoot, I shared all manner of cool photos with you. Sorry to disappoint, but I won’t be doing that this time. For one thing, we shot our male model against a white backdrop, and the cool Saltmarch background will get Photoshopped in.

For another, I want to keep the appearance and identity of our male model a secret (though you already know who he is and what he looks like, if you’ve been paying attention on Twitter.) He’s gonna look cramazingly cool on the SHADOWS cover, and I want the whole thing to be a surprise.

In the meantime: MODEL! You know who you are! And I thank you once again for your fabulous work with our photographers!

I know so many cool, talented, and just plain nice people. : )

And that, my beloveds, was Exciting Thing One.

Exciting Thing Two is that I have officially completed my final draft of SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT and have submitted it to my editor for official, editor-ish “nurturing.” And as I peruse my Google Document, I see by her notes that the nurturing is already well underway.

Which, if you hadn’t guessed, gets me all kinds of nervous as well as giddy. I actually love getting edited, because it’s an honest joy to find out stuff I can do to make my story better.

The story in question, of course, is the sequel to COLORS OF DECEPTION. If you haven’t read COLORS, I won’t spoil it for you here. But. I will say that in this second book…

  • Peter takes center stage as main character,
  • we get to meet his auguren (read: demon-hunter) family, including his arrogant big bro Daniel (sibling rivalry! woot!),
  • Holly’s got a botheration of explaining to do,
  • seductive, craven, hungry Dante Mullins is up to his old tricks,
  • somebody gets whisked away to Saltmarch,
  • and demon cartoon bunnies are rather inconvenient.

Me, I am bouncing hither and yon, alternating between breathless excitement to get this book into your hands, my loves — and breathless terror that you won’t like it once you’ve got it. Welcome back to my Author’s Mild Manic Episodes. They might become more frequent until the first week of October (read: release of Book 2).

I hope you enjoy your stay. ; )

Guest Blogger: Dante Mullins of Saltmarch

The author signed her books...never knowing that I watched.

I stepped into the coffee shop and knew
three things in an instant.

There were humans everywhere — flesh in
motion, sweat glistening, blood pulsing.

There wasn’t a hint of colors.
Holly — sweet, delectable, foolish creature
that she is — calls them “Technicolors.”
If only the communication between demon
and auguren were as simple as movie magic
technology.

But no matter. I saw not a single swipe of
color in the room, which was
enough to confirm no auguren was present.

Ah, you delicious humans — you should
know better than to come to my party
without one of your so-called saviors.

The third sensation that washed over me was
auditory:

They were playing my song.

Devil Inside.
The Strangest Party.
Need You Tonight.
Afterglow.

Take your pick, my tasty ones. If it’s the
sensual strains of INXS, it’s my song,
play it how you will.

Of course, none of the humans saw me as I
slipped in among them; I needed neither
human nor salt layers to enjoy myself in
this venue.

Without senses, I sensed them:
listening in, brushing an elbow here,
caressing the back of a neck there. I tasted
the heat of their breaths on the air.

My name was on their lips as they chatted
and flipped pages and sipped their lattes.
The syllables of my name echoed above the
crowd, rising to mix with the throbbing, savory
notes of my favorite music. If I had blood, it
would have pounded in that luscious rhythm.

If I had limbs, I would have danced and driven
them all wild.

The choice morsel who penned my story
signed her name again and again, never
knowing I stood at her shoulder, whispering
my appreciation. If she frowned once or
twice, it was only because, for one fraction
of a second, her soul felt my presence.

If her eyes scanned the crowd and met
another’s in the briefest of shared, troubled
looks, it was only because their exquisite
hearts trembled at the hunter’s nearness.

Ah, my tempting ones. Indeed, how I
longed to taste you. Just for a moment.

As I roved among them, old friends greeted
each other. New friends introduced themselves.
The baristas kept the coffee flowing. My own
favorite drink was not on tap — or, rather, I
restrained myself from tapping into it.

From a human perspective, blood and coffee
are not the best mixture. Nor do gobs of
flesh pair well with walnut brownies.

They laughed, all of them, those succulent,
frail humans. They mingled, they talked,
they congratulated the happy author. They
bought more books for her to sign, never
realizing that they were taking a piece of
me away with them.

How I shall enjoy getting to know them better.

Until next time, I remain most cravenly —
and cravingly — yours,

________________________________

The author would like to express (or espresso?) her gratitude to Vintage timeless Coffee for hosting the Colors of Deception Book Launch Party. Great fun was had and much coffee was imbibed by all. Everyone’s looking forward to launching Shadows after Midnight, Demons of Saltmarch Book 2, at Vintage in October!

The Most Difficult Thing in the World–in the Shower

Idea Lizard with Vacuum Hose

Recently, I got inspired when Becca talked about what really happens in the shower.

Before you all click through en masse to find out the details, I’ll tell you the gist of what Becca was getting at: the power of verbalizing ideas and the precious instances in which we get those ideas.

Lizards

For Becca, those instances happen to take place in the shower. As I left a comment on her post, I pondered my own sources for artistic ideas.

Many of you, my most darlingest readers, heard me talk last Thursday about one of those sources: my dreams. (That was my first ever video blog post, and many of you lovelies let me know how much you enjoyed it! Thanks again — and yes, I do intend to repeat the trick. What I won’t do for you people… 😉 )

So, Becca revealed that what really goes on in the shower is thinking. In my reply to her post, I wrote the following:

My thinking time happens whenever I just let my mind wander. Like a kid, it comes back to me with its hands and pockets stuffed full of all sorts of oddities. This usually happens when I’m doing housework. The more mindless and repetitive the activity, the more likely I am to turn around and find my artist-child brain holding up a lizard or something for me to coo over.

Valkyries

Were this Twitter, and were I tweeting, I would now employ the most handy hashtag #outingmyself. There you have it, folks. I might be 34 years old, but inside, my mind is really just a big kid.

My mind loafs around, skipping merrily down darkened alleys and picking up things that probably shouldn’t be touched. I’ll be doing housework — vacuuming the floors, let’s say — and suddenly, I have this idea that a certain demon (Dante) in a certain story I’m working on (Colors of Deception) should have an obsession with the music of a certain rock band (INXS).

#thatreallyhappened

I’m shoving the vacuum across the carpet with all the elegance of a Valkyrie in platform shoes, and my artist-child brain dances up and shoves my antagonist’s main quirk in my face. “Look!” says the artist-child. “Look at this! Have you ever seen anything like this before? What is it?” And the most important question:

“What can we do with it?”

Greed and Goethe

What, indeed? In the case of this particular idea, what I did was drop the vacuum, grab some paper, and scribble down the idea. I’d been thinking, but I hadn’t been thinking consciously. I knew that such ideas originate in the vast depths of the subconscious, and as easily as they emerge from the murk, they can just as easily sink back into it. I needed to preserve my idea as quickly as possible, so that I could come back to it later on.

The artist-child loves to share her discoveries — but she can be a greedy little hoarder, too. She doesn’t trust me to take proper care of her lizard; she wants to stick him back into her pocket for safekeeping. She’ll take the lizard back from me if she can — meaning, if I don’t record my idea, I will forget it.

When I write down an idea in my scribblebook, it’s like sticking the lizard in a jar until I can put him into an environment where he can thrive.

Putting the idea into a story, that’s like letting the lizard loose in a huge terrarium made just for him, where he can run and play and laze around and just be what he was meant to be.

“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Goethe knew it’s not easy, building a terrarium to house all those scampering little idea lizards.

My artist-child mind brings ’em to me while I’m stuck doing the most mundane activities. But I guess it’s kind of a fair trade, considering how much I love playing with that terrarium.

And once the idea lizards are free to be themselves within their new home (i.e. within my stories), my inner artist-child concedes that keeping them cooped up in her pockets wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun, after all.

___________________________

And you? Where and when do you do your best thinking?

Does your mind hand you ideas you’d rather not touch too often?

What do you do with those?

What’s your lizard?