We interrupt your regular blog post viewing to bring you something that has never happened on this blog: a guest post!
When Allison is asked to play Cinderella-turned-Fiancee at a Halloween ball, the last thing she expected was to be accused of murder on the same night. She has to find the killer and quick, or she’ll be put to death for the crimes she didn’t commit. To make matters worse, the victims are all werewolves.
On the short list of potential victims, Allison has to act fast, or the killer will have one more body to add to his little black book of corpses.
There’s only one problem: One of the deaths has struck too close to home, and Allison’s desire for self-preservation may very well transform into a quest for vengeance…
But first, a note from me:
As you may or may not know, I am quite active on a thing called Google+ (yes, that Google+, the ghost town. Didn’t you know I’m a ghost?) I have made many, many friends in the course of my years participating in this social scene, and one of these is R.J. Fact: She is the one who named this blog. Her name is even posted on the front page. I couldn’t be more pleased by the fact that she is my first guest blog poster. So here it is, take it away R.J.! Happy birthday, and happy book selling!
“I can’t believe you brought me to New York on today of all days.” I nodded my head at the park, but taking in the entirety of the city in a single gesture. Even in the relative peace of the park, I could hear the bustle, the honk of horns, and the noise of the restless cityscape. Atlanta wasn’t much different downtown, but at least it was home.
“Oh, come off it, Allison. You like Halloween.”
I wrinkled my nose. “Maybe a little. I still can’t believe you brought me here, though.”
“Anyway, you owe me,” he said before clucking his tongue.
I winced. He had me dead to rights, and I knew it. Mark gathered favors and cashed them in like currency. Resisting was futile. “Rub it in my face, why don’t you?”
“Of course I will. Another time. I’m enjoying myself way too much right now. You’re mine for three whole days, like it or not.”
“I’m doomed,” I groaned.
I didn’t have the courage to tell him I meant it. It was bad enough it was Samhain. The full moon would reach its zenith after nightfall.
If I wasn’t careful, I was going to pop a tail for real. That’d surprise him. It’d also get me killed. I doubted the NYPD would appreciate a wolf running loose in the center of their city.
“Seriously, Mark. What’s so important that you had to fly me in from Atlanta? I do have a job, you know. I’d even like to keep it.”
“You’re owed three weeks, and at the rate you’re going, they’re probably getting ready to force you to take the time off. The way I see it, I’ve done you a favor.”
“Mark,” I growled.
“Okay, fine. It’s my mom. I told her I had a girlfriend so she’d shut up about me getting married for a while. She wants to meet her. To meet you.”
I broke into a brisk walk, cutting across the grass towards one of the other paths through the park. With luck, he’d get grass stains on his pretty, blue business suit. “You brought me to New York to dress up as your girlfriend for Halloween?”
I guess it really was going to be a night for wearing masks and pretending to be the impossible.
If I had a mother, I’m sure she would’ve been proud. I didn’t cuss, scream, or pitch a fit. I did keep walking without checking if Mark kept pace with me.
He did. “Come on, Allison. I’ll make it up to you, I swear.”
“A Halloween party with your mother, Mark? Have you lost your mind? She’s never going to believe we’re a couple, for one. Two, you live in New York City. I live in Atlanta. You know, that place you flew me in from? She’s got no reason to believe us.”
“I might have told her that you are an old college friend, and we’d been seeing each other on and off since we got our degrees. It’s even true! Just not for the reasons she thinks. Come on, Allison. It’s only for one night. And you’ll save me from marrying a woman I’ve never met.”
I sighed. “Seriously? Did your mother have you betrothed or something? That’s so two hundred years ago. At least you had the decency to book me into a good hotel. How did you manage a room at the Plaza on such short notice?” Using my brown bangs as a shield, I stared at my friend. He was grinning wolfishly.
“Who said it was on short notice? I had our room booked six months ago.”
I tripped over my own feet. A startled cry worked its way out of my throat. Mark’s arm slapped against my chest as he caught me. With a low grunt, he hauled me upright.
My face burned. “Sorry.” I drew a deep breath. Killing Mark in Central Park wouldn’t work — not during the daytime. There’d be too many witnesses. “Our room?”
“We’re twenty five. We’re young, healthy adults. There’s no way my mom will believe we’re a couple if we don’t share a room,” he replied.
“You have a perfectly nice condo, Mark. I’ve seen it. Why not invite me there instead of booking us a room in one of New York’s more expensive hotels?”
“Wait until you see the room,” Mark said. Then he leered at me.
Oh God. I closed my eyes, stood straight, and once again shoved my hands into my back pockets. No tail. That was a start. I counted to ten. Then I counted to ten again.
When that didn’t calm me down enough, I systematically considered all of Mark’s banking accounts I could probably hack my way into, calculating how much I could siphon off without him noticing. I wouldn’t do it, but the figure made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
When I managed to quell my urge to throttle my friend, I opened my eyes and glared at him. “You got a honeymoon suite, didn’t you?”
“Do try to act surprised when I propose. At least you have an easy line. Don’t worry, we’ll call off the engagement in a month or two.”
“Give me a reason I shouldn’t kill you in your sleep tonight.”
“I’m too good looking to kill.”
“I pay you exceptionally well for your accounting skills.”
“True, but no.”
“You like me?” His voice wavered, and I had to work to smother my grin.
“You sound so confident,” I murmured. “Fine. I like you. A little. I’ll do it, but you, dear Mark, will owe me.”
Mark’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “You wouldn’t really try to kill me, would you?”
I grabbed hold of his tie and yanked down so I could look him in the eye. A smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. “I wouldn’t bet your life on it, if I were you.”
The little color he did have fled from his face. I let him go and resumed walking across the park, whistling a merry tune.
What’s in a name?
While I’m a writer, I was a reader first. Over the years, I’ve fallen in love with a staggering list of fictional people. Some I’ve admired in an idol sort of fashion. Others?
I’m glad my husband doesn’t mind me having a crush on fictional men…
Names are important for readers. It’s a way we can connect with the character without knowing anything about them yet. Names give a sense of intimacy with the character in the beginning of a story. I’m far more inclined to keep reading if I know a character’s name in the first page or two. While the character’s personality is the most important thing, knowing their name is the first step for me forming that one-sided relationship with the character—and the book.
Names have meanings, both to readers and to writers. Writers might look at a name a little closer than readers might, but some names have strong connotations. Writers can use these connotations to set a tone for characters without investing a great deal of page space developing them.
So what’s in a name? It’s more than a word or a sound. While some folks make up names for characters—especially in fantasy worlds—these individuals become defined by their name. Names can be among the most challenging aspects of writing a book. This is doubly true if you want to create a character that defies the name they were given.
I’m going to reference two of my favorite characters: Harry Potter and Harry Dresden. Potter is a totally different sort of ‘Harry’ than Dresden, but the names fit both of them. They share some interesting traits, something tied directly to their names.
In Sweden, Harry means Ruler of the Home.
Harry Potter and Harry Dresden share one specific trait that ties with this name meaning: They’d do almost anything for their loved ones. Ruler can often be linked to Protector, since it is the job of a ruler to guard their domains.
That’s exactly what Potter and Dresden do.
In America and Britain, Harry has another meaning—essentially, war leader or commander.
Once again, this version of the name fits both of them, although in different ways.
Was this intention on the part of the authors? We may never know—but there’s something in a name, even if we don’t necessarily notice it right away when we pick them. Names can define us, and ultimately, be defined by us.
Whether intentional or not, names have meaning. Sometimes meaning is given to the name through actions… and sometimes the characters grow into the name.
As a reader, both of these are fine with me.
I just want to be there as the characters live and grow.
It was well enough our ‘relationship’ was nothing more than make-believe. Our friendship wasn’t much better off, either. Unfortunately, Mark didn’t know that. I shook my head to clear it, staring down at my watch.
I glanced eastward, at the glass-lined wall of the jewelry store I was in. Shoppers hurried about their business in the broad mall hallways, chatting to each other or talking on their too-expensive cell phones. Beyond the walls of the building, I could already feel the moon calling to me, birthing shivers under my skin. In a little over an hour, it would start to rise. I made a thoughtful sound, turning my attention back to the glass case in front of me.
It was a full moon on Halloween. Some people would don masks, confident in their superiority as a human, never realizing how close they’d tread to a very violent and bloody end. Others would remove the masks they normally hid behind, rejoicing in their one night of freedom.
A sad few would have no idea what horrors they had sowed come morning.
I was in a lot of trouble. My fellow boogeymen didn’t frighten me all that much. It was Mark who worried me. Mark, as well as the other humans he’d subject me to before the night was done. I hadn’t lost control in years — I doubted Mark’s mother had been born since the last time it’d happened.
But that didn’t change the fact that it could happen.
Old or not, I was still a bitch. Without pack or mate, it was only a matter of time before I lost control.
Mark wouldn’t stand a chance, and when I finally lost my grip on sanity, I wouldn’t even remember killing him. Why hadn’t I said no? Why had I agreed to travel to New York on Halloween? What had I been thinking?
I hadn’t been, and that was a big problem.
“Is there something I can help you with, miss?” A woman asked from beside me. I about jumped out of my skin.
Shit. I swallowed back my heart and improvised. Without really seeing the jewelry beneath the glass, I pointed at something shiny, and hoped it was a necklace. “May I see that please?”
“That’s a very expensive piece, ma’am.”
I glanced at the woman out of the corner of my eye. A pastel pink blazer was matched with a pencil skirt that showed off thin legs and knee-high black boots. Glittering bracelets clung to her wrists. “Is that so,” I murmured, focusing my attention on the piece I pointed at.
Rubies and diamonds winked at me, woven together in a Celtic knot trapped in the center of a web of delicate diamond-encrusted chains. My cheek twitched.
No wonder the woman was skeptical and eying me suspiciously. Here I was, in some luxury jewelry store poking around to waste time, dressed in a beat-up leather coat, a baggy sweater, and worn jeans, complete with mud splatter from my walk in Central park. As my luck had it, I pointed out a necklace worth more than any car or house I’d ever seen in person, let alone owned.
I felt the eyes of every customer in the store settle on me. Great. Just what I needed. An audience.
Maybe I should’ve acted more indignant. Maybe I should’ve walked away. Instead, I took out my wallet, pulled out my black platinum Amex card, and tossed it on the counter. “May I see that please?”
The sales woman stared at the card and then at me, her eyes narrowing. “Do you really think I’m going to believe this is your card?”
Half of the customers in the store cleared out in the time it took the sales woman to pick up my card.
“Is there a problem?” A man dressed in a business suit stepped forward. His blue eyes took in my clothes before settling on the black credit card in his coworker’s hand.
The woman glared down her nose at me, her gaze settling on my beat-up jacket. “I do believe we have a stolen credit card here, sir.”
The manager snatched my credit card. “Is this true, miss?”
Oh hell no. I felt my cheek twitch again. “It’s not. I’ll just take my card to a different store, then.”
“I think this can be resolved quickly and easily, miss,” the man replied. He frowned at me. “Can I see your ID please?”
I showed him my license. The manager winced. “I’m sorry, there have been a lot of theft of valuable jewelry lately by those with fraudulent credit cards and out of state driver’s licenses. This will only take a few minutes as I verify this is a real card.”
Well, at least he wasn’t going to call the police on me right away. I sighed. “Since when hasn’t my driver’s license been sufficient proof? What is this? LA?”
One final note:
Thanks R.J.! That was very well written. I must agree with you, names are very important. I strongly advise readers to look deeper into the meaning of names. Who knows? There might be a hidden story just in the names alone. I hope you enjoyed this post, and I do hope you purchase R.J.’s newest book, Inquisitor, because it’s her birthday and she deserves it. Or at least check out her other works, I know she’d appreciate that.
I have one last excerpt for you. Below that you will find the link to Inquisitor, among other things. Thank you for reading, and I’ll talk to you guys next week!
Caroline was either the best actress I’d ever seen, or she was really dead. I crouched next to her, torn between touching her neck to feel for a pulse and running away before the sweet scent of a fresh kill overwhelmed my restraint.
A clock chimed ten. The power of the full moon slammed into me, tugging at my heart, and tightening my chest. The need to embrace my inner beast and become one with the night quickened my breath.
Scents flooded my nose. Strong perfumes mingled with cologne, and the sweat of hot, living bodies stirred my hunger. I licked my lips, and for one brief moment, imagined the salty sweetness of fresh blood on my tongue.
There was another hunter in the room with me, and they taunted me with their kill. Their prey was either dead or left to die. It was a challenge to the scavengers, to the hunters, and a warning to the prey.
“What do you think?” Mark’s mother asked.
“I think she’s an amazing actress,” I replied, careful to keep my tone light. I rose to my feet. If I grew a tail, I could only hope my gown would hide it long enough for me to slip from the party and find a place to gain control over myself.
Or complete the change and go on a rampage.
Another minute passed in silence. I shook my head. “This would be why I’m not a police officer.”
The Wicked Witch of the West giggled. I shivered at the sound. “I see. Very well, Cinderella. Shall we mingle with the other guests and learn about this terrible, terrible deed?”
“I thought this was when Mark was supposed to come rescue me from a fate worse than death,” I muttered.
Oops. So much for keeping civil. I guess it was inevitable. Bodies brought out the worst in me. Especially when the body wasn’t one of my making. To make matters worse, I couldn’t exactly raise the alarm.
If I did, I’d reveal to those who knew the truth about werewolves and witches that I wasn’t just some human girl after a wealthy boy. Then the Inquisition would find silver old enough to kill me or reduce me to ashes to make certain they purged the world of one more rogue werewolf.
“Why can’t you be wealthy?” Mrs. Livingston lamented.
The old woman’s question caught me by surprise. Had she heard me? Did she think it an amusing quip?
Was it possible the woman actually liked me? Confused at the question, I answered honestly. “Ma’am, who says I’m not? I’m your son’s accountant. Do you really think he’d trust someone who didn’t have access to at least some money with his money?” I glared at the old woman. At least the brewing fight between us distracted me from Caroline’s body a little. “Don’t forget I know exactly how much he makes a year, where he transfers his funds, who owes him how much, and whom he owes. I know how much he’s paid in taxes, and I know how much I saved him last tax season.”
The witch’s mouth dropped open. “Just what—”
“I paid more in taxes than he did last year. I’ll let you do the math. Unless, of course, he learned how to count from you.” I pivoted on a heel and stalked my way towards the refreshment stand.
When she isn’t playing pretend, she likes to think she’s a cartographer and a sumi-e painter. In reality, she herds cats and a husband. She also has a tendency to play MMOs and other computer games.
In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Should that fail, her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until she is satisfied.