Giveaway Story #3: Tears of a Daemon


Read the other stories–In the Silence and The Sailor’s Son!

Learn more about the giveaway here!

This is my personal favorite. I hope you enjoy it!

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Tyson had always preferred going places on foot, seeking open space as if it could help him control the strange power within him. For as long as he could remember, he’d felt an explosive in his chest instead of a heart, fire pulsing through his veins even in the calmest of times.

In closed spaces he was an even bigger threat. If that explosive in his chest went off in the house, there was no chance of people running. In the house, Tyson always kept a distance from his family—knowing it wouldn’t help forever.

And yesterday he’d finally lost control. Now that his life was over, he looked at his reflection in the car window and saw what he truly was: A daemon.

I hate cars, he thought, tracing patterns on the window. When Tyson doodled without thinking, he always wound up creating tongues of fire like the one that ended his life.

It smelled like lavender in this car, but Tyson suspected his presence was corrupting it with the odor of smoke. He didn’t know why the strange man with the silver car was so keen on helping him. He’d found Tyson in a shoddy old neighborhood, looking for an abandoned place to hide. He’d been looking for a shack where no one would find him unless they followed his trail of smoke.

The man’s wife hadn’t protested to letting Tyson into their spotless car. In fact, she practically shoved him in the back with their son who, though he said nothing aloud, watched the daemon with his nose in the air.

If they were hauling him to an orphanage, Tyson would find a way to escape. He couldn’t afford exploding again in the presence of other children. He dared hope, vaguely, that they would offer him some food before leaving him to charity. Tyson was already a daemon, it made no difference if he stole a cheeseburger from them before vanishing into thin air.

The blonde woman in the passenger seat turned, holding out a pile of neatly folded clothes. “These are for you,” she whispered.

She had knowing blue eyes. Tyson sensed that her words would have calmed anyone else like healing water, but he couldn’t bear to get wet. His world was one of sulfur, ash thickening his memory; smoke blurred the details, leaving only the ache of self-hatred and rejection.

Daemon, they had always called him; now he knew it was true.

He took the clothes selfishly, even though he knew he’d ruin them when he ran away. The thought brought him a pang of guilt, for something in her eyes made him trust her even though they were opposites—she with her soul of healing water, while his was of smoke and death.

The man who was driving found Tyson days before. He proceeded to ask questions about why Tyson was alone, where his parents had gone, why he was in such a bad neighborhood. The daemon knew better than to say the truth: That he’d been looking for a place to haunt, the prison where he’d live the remainder of his life.

This man persisted, finding him again and coaxing him into the car. He even brought his family the second time, perhaps in case he needed to wrestle Tyson to the ground. The daemon fixed his gaze on the clothes; if he looked into that woman’s eyes, her kindness would shake his resolve.

You don’t have to tell us what happened,” the man said as he drove. “Not yet. But we want to help.”

He had the accent of a foreigner—Italian, Tyson guessed—but his wife spoke like an American. The boy sitting next to him hadn’t said a word; he was the only person in this car treating Tyson as he deserved, like a criminal.

Should Tyson tell them what happened? He wasn’t ready to recount it, not yet, not while the echo of his sister’s dying screams fresh in his mind. Not with smoke still blurring his eyes, unwanted tears he deserved.

He closed his eyes, succumbing to the dreaded memory.

*

She’d been playing in the attic, where Father built her a dollhouse with wood from the forest behind their home. He was a talented toymaker; that dollhouse had lined pillars, a thatched roof, lace curtains…

Tyson!” she had screamed down the stairs. “I can’t reach Emma!” Emma was her favorite doll, the one she venerated like a real person.

The boy made a frustrated sound. He’d been trying to finish his charcoal drawing, his hands black from the stick he was using. Normally he helped her reach things on the shelf, but he’d been utterly absorbed in the piece…

Use your stool, Hailey,” he retorted, making a thick and pronounced line of charcoal across the sketchbook page.

She must have tried using the stool but failed, because a brief pause ensued. Then she shouted again, “Tyson!”

Another pronounced line. “I’m busy.”

TY—”

His stick of charcoal slid off the page, leaving a smudge on the tablecloth. Mother would kill him for that. Tyson felt a wave of fear and anger creep over his body, and the dark energy in his soul slipped from his control.

Suddenly the house smelled of smoke…

*

What’s your name?” the woman in the passenger seat whispered.

Tyson’s hands were trembling; he needed to leave the car before he killed an entire family. “No one needs to know,” he said through his teeth, peering out the window at the shadowy English road. “I want to get out.”

You aren’t going anywhere,” said the man. “We know what you are.”

Then why am I in your car?” Tyson shouted, exploding for the first time since the man found him. “Why would you want a daemon in your car?”

Yes,” said the blonde boy suddenly, breaking his silence. He spoke carefully in even tones, like a professor or a general. “Why is that, Giulino?”

Julian,” the man snapped. “Be kind, Peter, or say nothing.”

You aren’t a daemon,” the woman added, turning in her seat to fix Tyson with those eyes. “You’re a Changeling, and there are ways to control—”

It’s too late for that!” Tyson realized he was sobbing between words. “What’s the point controlling myself when I already killed my sister?”

He felt Peter inch away.

Because you didn’t mean to,” said the man—Julian, Giulino, whatever—“because you didn’t ask for these abilities, and they don’t have to be bad.”

My sister is dead!” Tyson shouted. “Because of me! She’s dead!”

The woman’s eyes clouded over. He feared for a moment he’d made her cry, but her words were steady. “It was a terrible accident,” she whispered. “It’s never going to stop hurting, but you deserve a new life.”

No,” he choked, “you should kill me.”

We are going to love you,” she told him, almost a command. He broke into tears just then, lacking the willpower to argue. He turned to the window, unable to stop the tears sliding down his cheeks—water instead of fire—misery instead of anger.

Daemon, they’d called him since he was a baby. Mother always said it; Father refused to make him toys, because he feared Tyson’s red eyes. No one had ever loved him like they did his sister; this woman must be an angel if she could love a daemon.

He closed his eyes, allowing this family to take him away. He shouldn’t be allowed to make his own decisions. If they refused to send this daemon to jail, he would succumb to their control.

Peter’s shoulders relaxed; perhaps it settled his nerves to see Tyson cry. He clasped his hands in his lap, addressing the daemon for the first time: “What’s your name?”

A sob escaped him. “Tyson,” choked the daemon, hating the sound of his name, how the T came powerfully like an explosion. “My name is Tyson Rakes.”

You’re one of us now, Tyson,” the man at the wheel said, looking at him in the rear-view mirror. “And we’re going to help you control your ability.”

Tyson said nothing. They might help him learn to control his ability, but nothing would erase the guilt from in his firecracker heart. They drove into the night, leaving him to wallow in miserable silence.

He was tempted to reply and say Good luck helping a daemon.


Question #3: Why is Tyson crying?

Giveaway Story #2: The Sailor’s Son


Here is the second story for the Dissonance giveaway! (If you just found out about this and want to know details about how to win, click here!) Reads for the first story and responses to that question still count, you can find it here!

Thanks for joining me, and I hope you enjoy! Again, here is the lovely graphic explaining simply how to win!

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David West had given his old denim jacket good use. He never explained his attachment to the thing, but now it was battered and threadbare. The material was too soft and it smelled of the ocean, testament to the times Peter spent with his father out on the boats.

Peter hounded his dad to get a new jacket countless times, especially when the buttons began to come off. Now he was the one wearing it.

He picked at the last remaining button he’d secured to the cuff with extra thread. Memory of that hounding filled him with regret. Not long ago this jacket was a cause of embarrassment, but after David’s death, Peter picked up many habits he had once despised.

He still didn’t understand Dad’s attachment to the jacket, but it didn’t matter. Peter sometimes thought he would die wearing it; sometimes he fell asleep wearing it, though his father’s scent was long gone. It kept him warm where his father’s embrace once did, this ratty jacket he’d once despised.

Just like Dad, he refused to part with it, even when Enna offered to buy him a new one.

Road trips made it too easy to get caught up in sad memories. They were headed to the plantation, and had been on the road for several hours. Last time they visited, Peter hadn’t left the car. It had been too soon after the accident; he couldn’t marvel at Julian’s magical world without Dad in it.

A year had passed and Peter wasn’t sure he believed the things Julian told him. More than that, he wasn’t sure if he disbelieved on purpose for the sheer delight of exasperating the Muse—like last week, when he finally lost his patience.

We were friends before,” Julian cried last week, “and you believed me! Why would I lie to you now?”

Peter hadn’t responded. In the past he’d accepted Julian’s tales because David never questioned them.

Dad’s not coming back, said the voice in Peter’s head he hated. It’s time to make your own judgments.

He tuned it out, letting the monotonous crunch of tires on pavement numb his mind into silence.

Before long they’d turned up a driveway, heading for a sprawling plantation with creamy yellow walls. The air around it appeared to shimmer with power Julian said was present—proof the Muse was not lying, proof Peter refused to accept.

But Dad’s not coming back.

Are you awake back there?” Enna asked over her shoulder.

He could not be mad at her. Julian was easy to snap at, but his wife only tried to be a friend. “Yeah,” Peter replied.

She peered at him with a faint smile. “You’re quiet.”

Peter shrugged and nodded to the book next to him. It told of explorers who conquered the ocean; it spoke of ships and brave captains who sailed them. One of Dad’s books—his name was written on the front page, David James West.

A sad glint darkened Enna’s smile when she turned away. She didn’t drag on the conversation, giving him space like she promised on the morning after the accident. Peter liked her, but wasn’t sure about her husband. The Muse had once been his best friend; now there was a chasm between them, and it was probably of Peter’s making.

Julian broke the silence, asking a tentative question: “Do you want to go in? I imagine there’ll be lunch.”

Peter imagined what his dad would say—We’re going inside, boy, you haven’t eaten all day. It’s rude to hide in the car. Julian never did that, keeping his distance as if scared of Peter, who would fight if the Muse told him what to do.

This time Julian hadn’t ordered him in, asking if he wanted to. Peter did feel rather hungry, so he replied: “Yes, I do.”

The Muse raised both eyebrows in surprise at the sound of Peter’s voice. He exchanged a glance with his wife. Peter bit the inside his cheek; they made him feel like a badly behaved puppy who’d finally learned a trick.

You’ll like it in there,” Enna promised. “The architecture is beautiful. They have a lot of sailing relics, too,” she added as an afterthought, triggering in him a rare spark of interest.

Peter hadn’t gone sailing since the accident. He tried filling the void with books about sailors, but words on a page did no justice to the freedom he felt at sea. Seeing maritime objects in person might fill the void a little.

God, he missed his dad.

How should we behave?” Enna asked her husband, as he switched the car off. “Are we in mourning?”

Peter remembered the baffling announcement Julian made earlier that week. One of the twins who lived in the plantation had gone missing. She vanished without a trace; none of the search parties had any luck to this day.

Julian tapped at the steering wheel, torn. “Perhaps it’s best to only speak of Georgiana if she’s brought up.”

It’s still her house, though. Wouldn’t it be rude to pretend nothing happened?”

Peter listened, sliding the book into his backpack. He’d never met the twins, because the last time they came he’d been hiding in the car. However, he sensed a supernatural sadness in the glimmering fields. The Van Meteren plantation was in mourning.

Let’s not make it the dominant topic, darling,” said Julian, taking her hand. “I’m sure by now he’s had plenty of guests give condolences, not knowing for sure if she’s dead.”

Enna nodded with a sigh, holding his gaze as if searching for stability. Peter watched, torn. He’d always harbored the guilt of an intruder, having joined them six months after their wedding. They had a magic bond stronger than marriage, one he’d never understand.

Dad knew about this bond. When Peter asked about it, he said Enna saved Julian’s life. He was careful to cloak the details, as if masking a crime.

Let’s go, then,” Enna said, turning to Peter with the smile she always had for him. “I’m sure they’ll let you explore.”

Explore. He almost smiled, egged on by the word he’d read so many times in his book. It might not be an ocean and he wasn’t in a boat, but he needed an adventure.

He slung the backpack over his shoulder and followed them up the sidewalk. It smelled like roses and rainwater, though the ground was dry. The calendar said it was July, but the weather was mild for the south.

As if reading Peter’s mind, Julian said, “We aren’t in Alabama anymore. We’re in a place called Bonifay.”

He knocked at the front door, assuming a confident gait he always wore when meeting other Muses.

Perhaps it was the Muse’s confidence, but this time Peter didn’t question his claim. If Julian said they’d taken a left turn into a different universe, Peter didn’t need evidence. His life was chaotic to begin with.

The door opened a heartbeat later. Peter tried to look dignified in his ratty jacket. Lear Van Meteren looked like he’d left a corporate meeting, complete with a red necktie, hands clasped behind his back.

Ah,” he said, gray eyes flashing, “Giulino, welcome back—”

Julian,” the other man corrected him as they shook hands. When Lear raised an eyebrow, he explained, “I had to change it. I couldn’t keep on with…the other name.”

I see,” said Lear, words meditative. He glanced at Peter, who shifted uncomfortably, then turned to Enna. “I assume your name has remained the same, Mrs. Alzarsi?”

She smiled, the sadness in her face replaced with pride. “It is,” she said, accepting his handshake daintily. “Thank you for having us…” Peter could hear her unspoken words: Even though your daughter is missing.

If Lear heard them he didn’t respond, instead barking over his shoulder, “Meredith! Hurry down and say hello.”

Peter frowned, thinking it a harsh tone to use on one’s daughter. Then a girl he assumed to be Meredith hurried down the winding stairs and he lost his train of thought. Graceful and blonde, something about her energy distracted him.

She curtsied and greeted the guests with enthusiasm to counter her father’s steely distance.

Meredith!” Enna cried, embracing her. “What a delight to see you again!”

Meredith turned to Peter with eyes of curious blue. He realized his hands were sweaty; he did not know how to greet her. He could only nod, because his hands were too clammy for a handshake.

He thought with distant embarrassment that yes, Julian’s words were true. This had to be another universe because her smile changed something inside of him. For the first time in over a year, he didn’t think of his dead father or his ratty clothes or even sailing.

She’d changed something in him, and perhaps one day he’d find out what.


Question #2: What tragedy has befallen the plantation?

Giveaway Story #1: In the Silence


The giveaway game starts today, and will last until the 26! Here is the first story, and at the end of this post is a question to answer; if you answer correctly, I will put your name in the jar to qualify for a paper copy of Dissonance!

To learn all about this giveaway, click here!

Here’s a graphic explaining the rules! I hope you enjoy the story!

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What was corrupt song? The question flickered in his mind, flickered like the candle on the ground before him: One shivering light to reveal concrete walls trapping him. This was the only prison that could steal a Muse’s freedom, because he scarcely heard his own ragged breathing.

Months ago, Giulino attended presentations given by the Muse Council. None of them had given a satisfactory answer to the question of what corrupt song was. They failed to give a clear definition of what he and his partner hunted.

But Giulino had been a fool for not pressing the matter, carried away by the glory that came with his first assignment.

A lot of good it did me, he thought, holding out a trembling hand as if to strike the candle. He knew the light wasn’t here to bring comfort, but to torture him; he would watch the wax melt until it left him in a pitch-black cell.

He could end it now and put out the candle, making a choice to bring about darkness himself.

There was no point dwelling on what should have been, or how they failed to prepare him for this corrupt song. He no longer cared that he and his partner had been told the bare minimum: Corrupt songs surfaced when Muses were careless.

In these presentations, the Council discussed what society accepted as ‘decent’ songs. They listed the qualities of songs parents banned from children who, upon reaching adulthood, were all the more eager to listen.

Those lectures turned out to be pointless—human bias had nothing to do with what Giulino and his partner faced.

The Dark Songs were more than sound; they infected society where it was most vulnerable, gripping the art and tainting peoples’ spirits. In attacking Muses, the source of art, they left humanity vulnerable.

Giulino was a Muse himself, but hadn’t been corrupted. He’d been doing the job they assigned him, never stopping to ponder the magnitude of it.

The candle flickered again, taunting him. His arrest took place in the dead of night, so people didn’t know he’d been taken. Giulino pondered the irony—he’d set out in hopes of fame but instead was put in Silence.

He wondered if the Council had planned it all when they assigned this task to young people. They tossed over the file, flashing smiles, washing their hands like Caesar—Here, you do it—but don’t do it too well, or we’ll accuse you of corruption—

The Muse stopped himself before his thoughts could consume him. Bitterness filled his heart, but he didn’t want the last thing he felt to be anger, so with a sigh he scoured his memory for the most beautiful thing he knew…

A woman.

He’d gone against the unspoken code of his people, falling for a human girl because of the purity in her gaze…because she would make him cookies for no reason…because she always had time for him—

The candle flickered, shattering his concentration. He felt, rather than heard, the shout of fury that escaped his lips, felt it because it hurt physically—lunging forward, he punched the candle so it rocketed across the room and hit the concrete wall, the flame going out and leaving him in darkness.

Hot tears slid down his face and he crumbled to the ground, sobbing—painful sobs—think of her, think of her, think of her…

The first time Muses recognized Dark Songs as harmful, he’d been an apprentice. On his way home after lessons, he would listen to crowds gathered in discussion. They were always talking about the latest victim to lose their mind because of a melody.

Then faery tales began to fall literally, beautiful houses plummeting from the sky to land in remote places. It seemed as if someone were going through storybooks, cutting the buildings and letting them drop. The Council sent Giulino a message suggesting these incidents were linked to the Dark Songs.

He investigated and came up with a theory: Every time a Dark Song came forth from a corrupt Muse, it weakened the veil between this world and the one where dreams lurked. Those buildings falling through came straight from the imaginations of storytellers everywhere.

The Council left this responsibility to two young Muses, so they could continue their lazy lives of luxury. It was against Muse nature to oversee one project for long, so they juggled tasks amongst themselves.

He still wondered, as he sobbed into the darkness, why the destruction of their universe wasn’t enough for them to spark into action.

Giulino and his partner tracked the Songs across the globe. Some people denied their existence while others embraced them as miracles. He could not remember the names of those people, or the places where Dark Songs were strongest.

It was a wonder he remembered his own name in this soul-sucking prison; he’d already forgotten that of his partner. All he felt was abysmal Silence torturing his mind. Muses might be lazy when it came to distributing music, but they couldn’t live without hearing it.

Giulino’s life would end soon, or he would go mad. Fight the madness, he thought, fight it… Taking a deep breath, he thought of her again, longing to see her one last time.

He remembered her blue eyes tearing up sometimes when she smiled. He remembered her voice being the purest he’d heard, even when she wasn’t singing—how it healed his soul when she whispered his name.

The precious nothing they would do together made him ache for a life where it was acceptable to settle, not fleeing the notion of responsibility. He would give anything to bring her a life of happiness, forgetting thoughts of glory he’d entertained months before.

He whispered her name, a breath of beauty in this place of darkness: “Enna.” He wanted to see her because he never said good-bye, promising he’d be back for the new year. He hoped that, wherever she was, she could feel him thinking of her.

In his last remaining moments, Enna was music breaking the Silence.

He stretched out on the concrete ground, taking steady breaths. There was no point screaming, but the tears came anyway. He might be breathing, might still have a heartbeat, but the young man Giulino was dead.

He heard through a daze when the cell door was kicked open—bang! He was too weak to jump at the sound, curling up against the echo keeping him awake.

He’s here!” It was her voice; perhaps he’d begun to hallucinate beautiful things. He tried to hush his breathing so he wouldn’t miss a moment. It sounded like she’d been crying, her words thick with horror. “We’re not too late!”

Not too late,” said a voice he recognized but could not assign a face to. “He’s almost gone. Hold the flashlight…”

No,” she wept. He felt a hand on his face, the tickle of her long blonde hair on his cheeks. “He’s not gone. He’s stronger than that.” Her voice dropped to a whisper: “Giulino, you can’t leave me, I won’t let it happen—”

Wasn’t he already gone?

If he’s here a moment longer he’s going to lose his mind,” the other voice said impatiently. “We need to get him out.”

He felt a soft kiss on the cheek before drifting into semi-consciousness. Occasionally he woke to hear Enna fussing over his health, Enna who had always been his lullaby…perhaps death wouldn’t be so bad, if he could listen to her.

He faded, grateful to hear something beautiful in the moments before he ceased to exist.


Question #1: What was the name of Giulino’s partner in the quest to learn about the Dark Songs?

How to Participate in the Dissonance Paperback Giveaway


Blank bookcover with clipping pathI’ve been looking forward to this–the first Dissonance paperback giveaway!

On February 26, I’m choosing a person (they can be anywhere in the world!) who will receive a copy of Dissonance, but this isn’t a like-to-win situation.

I have written four short stories based on what happened before Dissonance. They show four characters’ points of view: Julian, Peter, Tyson, and Allie. Each story is character driven, leading to the plot of the novel itself.

On the month of February I will release one short story every Monday, and on the 26 I will announce the winner’s name.

This means there will be a new story on the 1, 8, 15, and 22 of February, and the winner will be announced here and on all my social media sites on the 26.

To qualify for the paperback, there’ll be a question based on each short story. You can answer one or you can answer all four, but the more times your name is put in the jar (yes, I’m using a jar) it increases your chances of winning!

I’m not going to ask you to spam friends’ pages with my name and book cover (though I must mention that word of mouth is my best friend, and it would be really kind!) What I want is to get to know all of you and become closer friends.

Best of all, the winner could be international. You don’t have to be in the U.S. to win!

aboutgiveaway

To enter your name, leave a comment at the end of each story. You can answer in a blog comment, tweet me, or reply to the Instagram posts I’ll be releasing each time a story’s posted. If you answer correctly, it’ll get your name in the jar!

Remember, four entries increase your chance of winning. If you have any questions, ask here!

The fun starts February 1!