Well, it’s Valentine’s Day. I’ve never liked Valentine’s Day much, and this one is already sort of sucky. So I’m going to cheer myself up now, by giving some news on the Terrible novella and posting an excerpt and all of that fun stuff.
First, a little FAQ:
What is the novella called?
Ha! I finally have an answer for this! The title is WRONG WAYS DOWN.
How long is it?
I’m still editing it, but my estimate is that the final version will be around 55,000 words. So it’s actually more of a short novel than a novella, but oh well.
Is it in continuity?
Yes. It takes place in the time period between UNHOLY GHOSTS and UNHOLY MAGIC; the last scene is set about two weeks before the start of UM.
What’s it about?
It’s a little mystery, basically. There’s magic and hookers and untrustworthy people and Decisions To Be Made and Temptations To Be Dealt With and, of course, plenty of violence.
It’s not about Terrible and Chess, per se. Chess is certainly in it (I finally got to write an event between them that I mentioned very briefly in CITY OF GHOSTS), and there’s certainly time spent on how he sees and thinks of her, but they’re not really working together in this one. It’s HIS story.
I’d like/I’m planning to write UM and CoG from his POV, combined as one story, but that’s going to depend at least in part on how this one does, and whether you guys like it enough to want more.
Will we find out more of Terrible’s past?
A bit more, yes. Including more details on how he came to work for Bump.
When will it be released?
I don’t have a release date yet, sorry. I’d hoped to have it released around today, but I’ve had sick kids and all kinds of other craziness happening, which has cut into my work time. I am almost finished editing, though, and have a copyeditor lined up and all of that, so I’m hoping to have at least a close estimate soon.
And for those who follow me on Twitter… Yes, Terrible makes himself a sandwich at some point. Hee.
So…on to the excerpt! It’s a scene with Chess in it, because it’s Valentine’s Day. (Plus, come on, I know what you guys want to see.)
(This is pre-copyedits; final version may vary slightly.)
Chess answered his text fast, the text he sent almost the second he left Ben’s. A dame got attacked and she oughta know about it, so’s she could keep herself safe.
A dame got attacked, and he just wanted to see her, even iffen it were only for a few minutes. He hadn’t in a few days. And after Ben he felt calm enough that he figured he could.
He parked, ignoring the way his heart sped up, got out and went inside. Up the stairs, to stand outside her door for a second and feel, like he always felt, the little buzz. Came from them magic locks she had around the frame, maybe. Maybe just from knowing where he was and that in a second she’d open the door. He didn’t know. Just like a lot of other shit.
The knob turned almost as soon as his knock died. And there she stood, smiling at him like she meant it, in a faded black t-shirt and jeans, her pretty little feet bare. It was like…like something inside him got cheered up, just seein her smile at him. Like he relaxed. “Hey,” she said, already heading for the fridge. “Want a beer?”
“Aye, thanks.” He watched her walk to get him the beer. Watched her bend over to grab it off the shelf. Then, feeling guilty, he turned away fast before she could catch him at it. “You right?”
“Yeah, right up.” She handed him the beer—her fingers touched his—and wandered into her living room to sit on the lumpy brown couch. The TV was off, the stereo off; she’d been reading a book, and it sat pressed open next to her. She moved it so he could sit, too. “You? Everything okay?”
He was careful not to sit too close. If he sat too close he might forget and touch her, like resting his hand on her knee or some shit. Hard to remember sometimes that she weren’t his, that just cause he wished she was and sometimes felt like she was, she wasn’t. “Aye, right up.”
She looked at him a little more closely. Her eyes were clear, not glassy at all, so she’d been having a good day. He couldn’t stop himself wondering if that was causen she’d brought somebody home earlier, and wished he ain’t cared so much. “You sure?”
Shit. He’d hoped to find a better way to introduce the subject, a smoother way. But if he wanted to find that he shouldn’t have come right over to hers so fast after leaving Ben. Words weren’t his strong suit; always felt like he ain’t knew enough of em, like he couldn’t get em to say what he wanted them to say. So he shoulda gone home, or stayed in the car til he’d thought of a good way to say it.
But he hadn’t, cause knowing he was about to see her made it hard to think on shit like that anyway. When he was going to see Chess, all he could think about was Chess.
But then, when he wasn’t going to see Chess, all he could think about was Chess, so…
She waited. Didn’t raise her eyebrows. Didn’t look impatient. Just waited, like she ain’t cared how long it took him, it ain’t bothered her none. Or, more like she ain’t even noticed when it took him a long time to answer.
“Dame got attacked,” he said finally. “One of Bump’s, dig. Clapper Sue she name. Ain’t got who done it.”
“Is she okay?”
He nodded. “She be right. Ain’t—ain’t hurt bad.” It had felt bad enough lying to Edsel on it. Lying to Chess made him feel like shit.
But he didn’t have a choice, not on this. Weren’t just about Sue’s privacy, neither; aye, she deserved it, but he trusted Chess. She wouldn’t play pass-on with that.
Weren’t because of Sue that he couldn’t tell Chess what happened, or ain’t wanted to tell her. Were because of her.
She’d never outright told him anything. But she’d never had to. He knew. Dames like her didn’t hunt down an addiction lessin there was a damn good reason, and she’d sure as fuck hunted it down. He’d watched her do it, from the first time she showed up in Downside. Watched her not even fight with herself over it, least not what he could see.
And that was way before he really knew her, back when he’d just paid idle attention to her, kept track of her owes and every once in a while said something to her on them. Before he got to know just from the way them greeny-blue-brown eyes of hers clouded, or her mouth turned down, or she suddenly looked so sad and scared and pissed off at the world, what she was thinking on. Why she felt about herself the way she did. What they’d done to her.
He knew. He just did. So how could he tell her about what happened to Sue, and watch her smile fade and a shadow pass behind her eyes? Watch her reach for that pillbox in she bag and down a couple? He couldn’t do that to her. He just couldn’t, not if he ain’t had to. Specially not when it seemed like she were in a good mood.
Chess studied him. Waiting to see would he say more. But she didn’t reach for her bag, so he breathed a little easier. “He just grabbed her off the corner? Or…?”
“Lied like him were buyin. Robbed her in the car.” He reached for his smokes and raised his eyebrows at her. She nodded. He lit two and handed her one.
“Any clues?” She dragged off the smoke, her fingers slim and delicate around it, her gestures soft and graceful. “Did she get a description of him or anything?”
“Said had dark hair, but not much past it. Saying them all looking alike, dig, ain’t paid attention.”
She thought about it for a second. Like she always did. That thing in his chest, whatever it were, relaxed more. Chess was smart. She knew all kinds of shit he’d never even be able to imagine. He bet she’d have some good ideas for him.
And if she didn’t? Just chattering on it with her made him feel better. Like he ain’t had to worry on it all on his alones. Like he had somebody besides Bump backing him up.
“Do you think he was just trying to get it for free, or something else was going on? Like he’s targeting hookers for some reason?” she asked.
“He ain’t said aught to Sue, like any on bein dirty, if you dig. Whores get attacked just for bein whores, usually they hearing that kind of shit.”
Shit. He shouldn’t have said that. What the fuck was wrong with him, how fucking dumb could he be?
“Yeah,” she said. Her eyes darkened. Shit. “I guess they do.”
Maybe he could change the subject. Or move it on, or whatany. He spent too long thinking of something else to say, then finally came up with one. “Got you plans for the new year? Heading out anywheres?”
Her expression cleared, and he felt better. Some. Trouble was, every fucking time he saw that look in her eyes, every fucking time he saw her frown like that, it got harder and harder not to tell her to write down a list of names for him. Every single name she had a recall on, causen he wanted to hunt em all down one by one and make sure they knew why as they died. He honestly couldn’t think of much he’d like more.
“Not really,” she said, obviously unaware that he sat next to her planning bloody revenge on everyone who’d ever so much as looked at her sideways, much less hurt her. “I think the Runouts are playing at Chuck’s, right? I might go. You?”
“Be a fight on,” he said. “Figured on watching it. Maybe head Chuck’s on the after, aye.”
But he wouldn’t. Because Amy’d be at his place, and iffen he took her out after the fight he wouldn’t want to take her anywheres Chess was. Amy ain’t exactly liked Chess; the few times they’d been out somewheres and Chess showed up Amy’d wanted to leave right away. She’d been real casual on it, made up some other reason for taking off, but it ain’t been hard to catch that as soon as Chess walked in Amy wanted to walk out.
Weren’t hard to figure out why, neither, or that it was his fault. He knew that when Chess walked in he looked at her, watched her for too long. He knew he kept glancing at her. He knew his eyes followed her when she moved, and that they ain’t stayed on her face neither. He couldn’t help it, no matter how much he wanted to.
Have a happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
(BTW, there’s a little love letter to Terrible over at Vampire Book Club, if you want to pop over and see what one reader has to say to him.)