This is the First Chapter from Blue of Blood – A Nate Silver, Vampire, Hunter, Novel. Blue of Blood is the third book of the Nate Silver, Vampire, Hunter series. This is more than a trilogy so the story won’t end at book 3. The first book of the series is Nine Princes of Blood. That link will take you all three books of the series: Law of the Blood Queen and Blue of Blood as well.
BLUE OF BLOOD – CHAPTER I
by Wil Ogden (c) 2017
“Nate! What the hell?”
When Nate realized the woman’s voice he heard wasn’t that of the woman cuddling with him under the sheets, he woke up.
“Lanie?” Nate asked. Dreams he couldn’t remember hadn’t relinquished their grasp on his mind. He didn’t know if he’d spoken her name aloud. He asked again, “Lanie, is that you?”
“Since when do you sleep at Three a.m.?” Lanie asked. “When Dai texted you at Nine, I expected you’d be gone a couple hours. Your phone hasn’t stopped ringing or blaring out text notifications since midnight.”
“Huh?” Nate opened his eyes, trying to adjust to very bright lights. Lanie must have turned on every light in the room.
“That ‘J’ guy is contacting you frantically. He’s got a shipping container belonging to that criminal mastermind you’re trying to bust. Dougal, is it? He seems to think you need to be there now, and that was three hours ago.”
“Where is my phone?” Nate searched the bedside table. It vibrated as he found it. He didn’t have to ask Lanie how she knew when his phone got calls. She acted as his talent agent, and in that capacity, she screened his calls to keep his fans a safe distance. Only Lanie, Dai, and maybe two or three other people knew his personal number, the number Lanie didn’t screen. Should someone try to contact Nate, they’d call his professional contact number and their call would hit Lanie’s phone first before being forwarded, if Lanie approved. Sheriff’s business hit his phone on a separate number; all those calls and texts were screened by Lanie’s phone as well.
“Dai, what did you do to my boyfriend to tire him out?” Lanie asked. “Seriously, I want every detail.”
“I’ll tell you when Nate leaves,” Dai said. “Since I kept him for so long, I’ll let you watch me shower while I tell the tale. Well, tales.”
“You’ve got a deal,” Lanie said. “Can I wash your back?”
“No,” Dai said.
“Can I take pictures?” Lanie asked.
“No.” Dai climbed out of bed. She had on Nate’s old sheriff shirt—one from his TV costume, not one of his real Los Angeles County ones.
“Oh well, still a deal,” Lanie said. “Nate, get your cute butt out of here and on the job.”
“I am never going to understand this relationship,” Nate said.
“You don’t have to understand,” Dai said. “Like everything else in life, you have duties and you reap rewards when you perform your duties well. Tonight was more about my reaping rewards for performing your duties well.”
“Ooh, ouch,” Lanie said.
Dai’s words had been the first in months to suggest Nate had been slacking on his duties as the sheriff of Dai’s kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven seemed to be fine, though Nate had been doing his best not to know for sure. Since the burning of Hallows and Zylpha murdering all his cast-mates from Midnite Starr, he hadn’t been anywhere near where Hallows used to be. Dai’s theatre, The Nocturne, stood only half a block from Hallows. Unable to get there without risking too painful a reminder of what he couldn’t have prevented, Nate hadn’t attended court at all since the massacre.
He expected that Dai would have given him instructions if she needed him to do something. She might have been respecting the distance he’d been keeping, and not demanding anything of him until he was ready. He wasn’t sure when that would be.
“I have human sheriff duties, too,” Nate said. “Dai insisted I legitimize the badge I wear, so it’s her fault I’m so busy. This Dougal guy falls right into the area I’m using as a cover for working nights all the time. It’s my job to track down crime lords like the Nine Princes, and Dougal, from what I’ve seen so far, certainly qualifies.” Dougal focused primarily on human trafficking, but dabbled in other forms of smuggling, such as weapons and drugs. In three weeks on the case, Nate knew he’d nearly missed getting a glimpse of Dougal four times and stopped exactly zero of Dougal’s crimes. “If ‘J’ is right, I need this break.”
“Is this a real case?” Dai asked. “If this ‘J’ is another booty call, I will have issues. Lanie isn’t the jealous type, but…”
“You are,” Nate said. “I’ve been stabbed by you. I do my best to not anger you so I don’t get stabbed again.” Dai’s reasons for stabbing him had nothing to do with her jealousy. He wasn’t sure she wouldn’t stab him should he invoke it. Nate didn’t know enough about J to describe even their gender. He assumed J was a guy, because the person worked as a henchman for a crime lord. “I wish I could tell you more about J, but I don’t even have a name, just the initial.”
“It’s a real case.” Lanie held up her phone and read the latest text. “Sheriff Silver, I hope you’re on your way. I’m risking my ass texting you and there are women chained in this crate. If you don’t get here before Dougal does, the crate may get loaded onto a ship and no one will see these women alive again.”
“Well, fuck!” Dai said. “Long Beach or L.A. docks?”
“Port of Los Angeles,” Lanie said. “He included a map in a few of his texts.”
“Nate, you have my permission to fly,” Dai said. “You won’t make it back downtown by sunrise. I’ll tell Katina and Azure you’ll be staying with them at their place.”
Nate grabbed his pants and pulled them on. He pulled his shoes closer with his mind as he strapped on his Kevlar. “The house in the cove?” He pulled a black sweater over the bulletproof vest.
“Their hotel room was undergoing renovations, last I heard,” Lanie said. “This is good timing; they want to see you. I keep meaning to tell you. It’s been in the works for a few weeks, but you must see them today.” She grabbed his foot and slid a sock over it, then started wiggling on a shoe.
“I guess fate is pulling me south this morning,” Nate said. “Lanie, will you be meeting me at Katina and Azure’s?”
“I have business to handle for most of the day,” Lanie said. “I’ll be down in the afternoon.”
“Lanie, send Cynthia that map,” Dai said. “Nate shouldn’t handle that kind of thing alone.”
“I guess you’ve got business to handle, too?” Nate asked Dai.
“I really didn’t have time to cuddle afterwards,” Dai said. “I have so much crap to do, it’s not funny. Lanie, you’re working for me this morning, right?”
“Yeah,” Lanie said. “My Six a.m. appointment is you. Eight is that security contractor for the real estate deal. Nine-Thirty and Ten-Thirty are inspections. Until Four o’clock this morning, I have time to watch you wash your hair, and whatever else you need to wash. Did you get sweaty?”
Vampires didn’t sweat as much as humans did. Their physiology didn’t let them waste moisture that way. Nate did remember a little sweat, though.
That Dai had cuddled, and if Nate recalled correctly, she’d been lying on his chest since sometime before one a.m., surprised Nate. Dai didn’t normally cuddle; she never had before. He’d have to get his mind straightened out and put the Hallows massacre behind him. Dai may not have needed him recently, but she would soon. He needed to be all-there when she did, even if it meant passing by the empty hulk of the building that once housed Hallows and his and Lanie’s apartment.
“Details after Nate leaves,” Dai said.
Lanie handed Nate his badge. “Sweetie, as much as I’d like to keep you here, too, I can’t. So, you need to hurry up and get out.”
“Nate, here!” Dai handed Nate his shoulder holster with his county issued firearm snapped in. His badge was affixed to the strap. “Fly!” she commanded.
Nate ran out of Dai’s apartment to the stairwell then went up one floor to the roof. He took out his phone and activated the map, then pushed off with his mind, flying off to the south. He knew how to fly in a city without being seen. Staying just below the rooftops and east of the taller buildings, he wouldn’t be on the scope of the airport’s radar. He had to avoid the buildings with balconies by at least a block. Outside of downtown, he stayed between seventy and a hundred feet from the ground over the brightly lit streets, and he flew fast. Streetlights face down and blind people to whatever’s above them.
With all the guidelines of how to do it without being noticed, Queen Dai had one law concerning flying in her city: Don’t.
Minutes after leaving Dai’s apartment in downtown Los Angeles, Nate landed near the container ‘J’ had mentioned, just beyond the edge of the light from the nearby building. He watched and waited. If ‘J’ was right, he might finally meet Los Angeles’ newest crime lord. No one he’d questioned had seen or spoken directly with Dougal. For someone with a reputation for being involved and heavy-handed, the only evidence of Dougal’s existence were texts on his lackey’s burner phones. He considered calling his FBI contact, Special Agent Hannah Dwyer, and letting her know he had a solid lead, but if Nate had to fight to free the women, there would be blood. With blood, Nate’s curse of the bloodeyes could take over and every human he could smell might die.
He waited for Cynthia because she had the tool to stop him. Nate didn’t like having a sword thrust through his chest, but he’d rather suffer that pain than endure the guilt of killing blindly.
By the look of things, he could probably save the women without hurting anyone. A single man leaned by the cab of a truck, smoking and watching a movie on his phone. He could hear six distinct women’s voices in the container on the back of the truck, but he couldn’t understand what they said. Four men inside the building were talking about their fantasy football teams. Nate couldn’t pick out many words through a wall from as far away as he was hiding behind stacks of plastic barrels. He sent a text to ‘J’, “I’m in place, just waiting.” He heard an alert from a phone in the building. That night, in addition to rescuing the women in the truck, he’d meet his inside man.
He then got comfortable and waited. If Dougal showed before Cynthia arrived, Nate hoped the steel of the container would keep the women inside safe from him. He considered rushing the driver and coercing him to walk home, but even a small chance the driver could make it messy was too much risk.
Half an hour passed with nothing happening except the driver went inside once to use a toilet. He didn’t stay inside. When he returned, he checked the container, making sure the lock had been opened. Dougal wouldn’t want any unnecessary delays in inspecting the women before shipping them off.
“Hey!” Cynthia said, jogging up to him. “Ready to be heroes?”
“We’re waiting on Dougal,” Nate said.
“You know he’s coming?” Cynthia asked.
“My contact is expecting him. The driver unlocked the back,” Nate said. “Dougal should be here to inspect his goods before they ship.”
“Women,” Cynthia said. “They’re people, not goods.”
“I know. I’m thinking like Dougal must,” Nate said. “My contact is expecting him.”
“Has your contact met Dougal?” Cynthia asked.
“Not yet,” Nate said.
“Dougal won’t show,” Cynthia said. “At least the odds are against it. That truck is running, though that might not be a sign they’re ready to go. It’s a diesel, they don’t shut those down if they don’t have to. But, they could be getting prepared to move soon.”
Nate didn’t know trucks were left running on purpose. “But, the back is unlocked. Wouldn’t they lock it while preparing to move?”
“Do I hear henchmen in the building?” Cynthia asked. She had far more acute hearing than a human, but she was a dhampyre, not a vampire. As a dhampyre, Cynthia had all the benefits of being a vampire, to a much lesser extent, but none of the drawbacks.
“Yes, four of them,” Nate said.
“They’re getting ready to get in the truck,” Cynthia said. “That truck holds three people in the cab, which means two of those guys are riding in the back.”
“Less than a year ago, you were a struggling actress getting ready to head home to Utah, and now you’re an expert on trucks and criminal tactics?” Nate asked. The question wasn’t looking for an answer. Nate meant to express his amazement.
“Unlike you, an Assistant Sheriff with a cushy job and no expectations to actually get directly involved in law enforcement beyond giving orders, I’m a deputy. I have to study four hours of training every week. I work fifty hours a week for the county and twenty hours a week for Dai.”
“I didn’t mean to…” Whatever he’d triggered, Nate wished he hadn’t. Cynthia wasn’t wrong to feel overworked.
“Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love the life of the queen’s personal bodyguard,” Cynthia said. “The money’s great. Never aging is awesome and you can’t beat being able to heal from any illness or injury. I’m just saying I worked for my knowledge. You deserve everything you have. You’ve earned it with effort, pain and blood. You’re just not really a cop. You’re a vampire king who plays at being a cop.”
“Vamp sheriff, not king. I don’t play at anything. I’m not on TV anymore,” Nate said.
“Season two of Midnite Starr premieres in November, less than a month from now,” Cynthia said. “You may never film another episode, but to the rest of us, you still play a part more than enforce the law. I’m sorry. I respect you for the hero you are, but this is serious law enforcement, and we need to go in while we have a chance to save the girls. The sooner we go, the easier it will be. That driver could jump in the cab and drive off. Then, any rescue involving a moving truck is a thousand times more dangerous than us going in now.”
“If we were doing this by the Sheriff’s Department protocols, we’d have called in backup,” Nate said.
“Well, we know why we can’t do that,” Cynthia said. “You’re still my boss, both as a sheriff and in the vampire world. You just need to tell me the plan.”
Nate’s tactical training involved going after one vampire at a time with a team of two or more hunters. He thought about asking Cynthia for her trained tactical ideas, but she needed him to be a worthy leader. Since every law enforcement tactic started with superior numbers, they wouldn’t be using Cynthia’s training. “You’re right,” Nate said, letting her know he valued her opinion. “We need to act now. Like they say, a bird in the hand, right?”
“Thanks,” Cynthia said. “So, we going in shooting or are you going to try to talk them into early retirement?”
“They work for Dougal,” Nate said. “They’ll fear him more than they fear the law. I’m going to go try to talk our way out of this, but there will be shots fired. Let’s hope there isn’t much blood.”
“Damn!” Cynthia said. “I left my sword in the car. Dai usually handles your risky nights. I haven’t taken the sword out of the sheath since we arrested Mikhail for killing Lady Brandy.”
“Brandy’s dead?” Nate asked. “Mikhail killed his own bloodmother?” Nate didn’t know either vampire well, but he remembered meeting them a few times. They both seemed close.
“Brandy kept Mikhail on a short leash and a shoestring allowance,” Cynthia said. “Dai didn’t take pity, she sent Mikhail to the roof. That was three months ago, back in July. Are you seriously that out of the loop?”
“I guess I am,” Nate said. “You’re going to go over to the left of the door. I’m going to go tell the driver to walk away and then I’m going to honk the horn of the truck. When the guys come out, I’ll try to talk them down. If I can’t, you shoot them. Kill shots. I can’t promise to deal well with living blood. If I go berserk, make sure I stay clear of that container. You know how to shoot past a vest, right? If I’m berserk I won’t be in the right stance to cover the gaps.”
“Armpits and through the neck,” Cynthia said. “I might just go for kneecaps.”
“Please don’t. Bones take hours to heal right and hurt like hell while they do.”
“I know you want me to do whatever I have to,” Cynthia said. “The important thing is the lives of the women in the shipping container. Go get ‘em. I’ll be in position when the goons come out to play.”
Nate unsnapped his holster, but didn’t draw his pistol. He stood and walked calmly towards the driver. The driver saw Nate as soon as he entered the light and drew a pistol from his belt. “You need to leave, bro!”
Still too far to assure enough eye contact for his coercion to hold, Nate tried anyway. While walking slowly forward, he said, “Go home. Take what money you have and move…”
The driver fired, missing Nate. Nate drew his gun and rushed close before the man could fire again. Nate grabbed the man’s wrist and aimed the man’s pistol toward the harbor. The man kept pulling the trigger, hitting only water. “Let me try this again. Drop the gun. Take your wife and kids, if you have them, and move somewhere far away, far inland. Go, now> Run until you can’t, then walk.”
The driver ran off. Nate didn’t have to get that specific. The man would kill himself running. Coercion couldn’t override natural instincts. It couldn’t even make someone do what they wouldn’t do. It straightened the thought process, creating a shortcut to whatever decision the vampire suggested, if such a decision could be reasonable for the person to make.
Nate didn’t even get the chance to bend over to pick up the driver’s gun when the door to the warehouse burst open and a man ran out shooting. Nate stepped farther from the truck and shot back, hitting the man in the thigh and shoulder, just as he’d aimed. His training taught him to shoot for the center of the chest, but he needed to make sure he had someone to question. The next three might come out as a group and Nate might not have the time to aim for non-lethal areas.
The next man came out and fell to his knees, throwing his gun.
The last two emerged together and one yelled at the man on the ground. “Get the hell up and shoot back!”
“Don’t be stupid,” the man on his knees said. “That’s Nate Silver. You’re not prepared to kill him.”
“Is he a vamp?” the yelling man asked. “Dougal wasn’t just being insane? Bas, run back inside and grab the machete. We’ll need it after I drop this guy with a couple of brain shots.” The yelling man’s head then sprayed forward, as did the other man who still stood.
Cynthia stepped up behind the man on his knees and said, “You better pray you’re the one Nate doesn’t want to kill. Are you his informant?”
“I am Julian, Petra’s human,” he said.
Cynthia fired again. Her shot tore into the chest of the man Nate had shot in the knee and shoulder. Julian winced. “Don’t feel the need to shoot me in the leg to make me seem less complicit. I’m a pet, it’ll heal too fast.”
Nate walked over and picked up Julian’s gun and then handed it to Cynthia. He had a brief realization that at least one of the men they’d shot hadn’t yet died. Nate smelled living blood. The world turned red.
When Nate came to his senses nothing around him had changed. He expected to wake as he usually did, among a messy pile of carnage. He only smelled vampire blood. His nose hurt like hell and blood ran over his lips—his own blood.
“You broke my nose?” Nate asked Cynthia.
“I’ve warned you not to stare at my chest,” Cynthia said, nodding slightly toward Julian. No one could know of his bloodeyes or even vampires would want him dead. Cynthia’s nods told him to go along with her ruse.
“I’m sorry?” Nate tried not to make it seem like a guess. He failed at making it sound like an apology. Nate’s informant wouldn’t be in a state of mind, with the recent gunplay, to notice.
“If I’d had my sword, I’d have stabbed you. But, I had to improvise.” Cynthia shook her hand. “If it makes you feel better, I broke at least two knuckle bones on your face.”
“You’re Dai’s dhampyre, aren’t you?” Julian asked. “I’ve seen you at court, but I’ve never been this close. I always assumed you were just a pet, but you don’t move like a pet. I didn’t believe she had the gall to keep a dhampyre. Most vamps and pets in L.A. think it’s just a rumor to make us afraid to cross Dai, like we need more inspiration than not wanting to suffer the wrath of Asmodeus or Nate Silver. But you’re not a vamp and you’re not a pet. Seeing you this close, I can tell. You are what they say. The devil among us, a dhampyre.”
“That’s me!” Cynthia said. “Sunbathing and vampire killing.”
“You’re fucking ruthless,” Julian said. “You just murdered these guys because they had five minutes of training in how to kill vamps.”
“To be trained, they had to know about vamps,” Cynthia said.
Julian shrugged. “They had been given tools to kill vamps. I bet until they saw Nate, they didn’t believe those odd orders were anything other than another of Dougal’s insanities. One time he sent twelve of us to guard Shamu’s tank in sea world.”
“Twelve of you for one tank? I guess the tanks are big,” Nate said.
“Well, it’s all confusing because when we got there, there wasn’t a killer whale named Shamu and there were about a dozen of them. So we each guarded one. I guess we did a decent job of whatever it is we were supposed to do. The next day we each got a thousand dollar bonus.”
“So, what you’re saying is that we didn’t need to kill anyone,” Nate said.
“Don’t go there, Nate,” Cynthia said. “Let’s not forget they were armed with machine guns and getting ready to shoot you. If we were to write this up with the sheriff’s office, we’d spend two weeks at a desk with daily counseling to help us get past taking a life, and then we’d get a medal.”
“I try to be better than being the guy who kills because I can,” Nate said.
“I’m Dai’s proxy here, not yours,” Cynthia said. “Dai would have killed them. And don’t try to back off the responsibility, here. You literally, just two minutes ago, told me to take kill shots.”
“Let’s face it, if you hadn’t killed them, I would have, just less elegantly,” Nate said. “I’m sorry, I take killing seriously, but there are times when it’s unavoidable without exposing us to far more risk than we should.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Cynthia said. “I’m no monster. I just know what needs to be done and I’m trusted to do it. Maybe that makes me a monster, but I don’t kill lightly.”
“I’ve got to run,” Nate said, noticing the sky seemed several shades lighter.
“Leaving me to the grunt work while you go off to play with your girlfriends?” Cynthia asked.
“The sun’s coming up,” Nate said. “I have an appointment with Katina and Azure.”
“I know, Nate,” Cynthia said. “I’m teasing you. You do know I’m your friend, right? I couldn’t give you this hard of a time if I didn’t like you.”
“It’s been so long since we’ve worked together,” Nate said. “I didn’t really get a chance to know you before Hallows burned and I haven’t seen much of you since.”
“You know where I am and when I’m there,” Cynthia said. “You really should be those places, too. This time I’m not messing with you. Dai won’t say it but I will. You have a lot of grief over losing Hallows and all your friends, but you also have duties to Dai and your kingdom. Dai hasn’t needed you for anything I couldn’t handle, but she might, soon. I’m not as strong as you and I don’t have your powers.”
“I’ll be back into things soon,” Nate said. “Take the truck to Nocturne and make sure the girls are safe and get them whatever they need to be healthy. Do you drive this kind of truck?”
“No,” Cynthia said. “I mean, I have the CDL, but no time at all in a big rig diesel.”
“I’ll drive,” Julian said. “You busted me. It’s not like you were just going to let me go home. I don’t know where vamp jail is, but I bet I’m heading there. Do I get a phone call?”
“Yes, there’s a couple cells,” Cynthia said. “Yes, one of them has your name on it, tonight. Of course, you get a phone call. It’s the best way to get Petra into the other cell. You should probably just tell her to meet us at Nocturne.”
“She’ll sacrifice me, and herself,” Julian said. “Dougal knows where Petra’s grandkids live and has been using Petra as his inside vamp. Dougal thinks the Nine Princes still run things in Los Angeles and, when he’s ready, he plans to go to war against them. Petra’s been feeding him lies about which prince oversees which part of town. Dougal is oblivious, I assure you. I spend two nights a week at Concentric, reporting on Satan and Asmodeus’ drug imports.
“Dai wasn’t into the drug trade,” Nate said.
Julian tilted his head and smiled at Nate. “She’s not into anything illegal, except that she kills anyone who interferes with her power over the city.”
“Careful,” Nate said.
“Her body count is way down, but she did lay waste to like a hundred guys from that civil war biker gang. Not everyone believes when Dirk’s bar burned that it was Zylpha. Why would a council member care about a bar in Los Angeles?” Julian asked.
There had been sixteen bikers, and Nate had killed them all while berserk from his bloodeyes. He didn’t feel it necessary to correct Julian’s details about the biker gang. Zylpha was a sore subject, however. Nate had to watch her execute three innocent people in cold blood. They’d been the last three survivors of her massacre of every single member of the cast and crew of his show, Midnite Starr. “I guess Petra doesn’t have any inside connections to the council,” Nate said. “Zylpha lost her own kingdom and…”
“Nate!” Cynthia said. “I’ll explain it all to Julian on the way to the theatre. You have to get to the cove and you probably have just enough time to run there without having to run faster than an early morning jogger. Two more minutes of jabbering with this pet and you’ll either be arriving smoking and steaming and stinky, or you’ll have to run faster than a human can. It’s already too light out to fly.
To Nate, it felt like over a hundred degrees, though the actual temperature was closer to seventy. “I’m going. Thanks for taking care of this.” He jogged off. As he approached the exit gates from the harbor, he slowed and walked past the security station. He pointed at his badge hanging from his shirt pocket, only because he carried his shoulder holster in the open and didn’t want to alarm the guards. They barely looked his way. As he almost got out of sight of the guardhouse, someone getting out of a car in the parking lot yelled his name.
“Sheriff Silver?” Nate hadn’t heard the voice except through the phone or over a video conference.
“Special Agent Dwyer?” Nate called back and jogged over to a woman in a suit. She had a physically imposing presence, standing as tall as Nate and nearly as muscular. She kept her blonde hair pulled into a short ponytail, which seemed far more severe and tighter, in person than it had over the video conferences she sometimes used to plan their investigation. Unlike most of the people Nate knew, at around Six a.m. Special Agent Dwyer would be just starting her day. Her ponytail hadn’t had time to loosen,
“It’s good to finally meet you in person,” agent Dwyer said. “You found something of Dougal’s in there?”
“I did,” Nate said. “My deputy is taking care of some human trafficking victims we found. No concrete links to Dougal, but I suspect he’s involved.”
“Good thing you didn’t follow the lead I sent you, then,” Dwyer said. “Though, a response would have been nice.”
Nate checked his phone. He had two messages from Agent Dwyer from just after midnight. Both gave the address of a parking garage in Hollywood and told Nate to be there between three and six. The second message also asked if he got the first message. “I totally didn’t see these,” Nate said. “It was a busy night and it’s not done yet. I really have to go!”
“You’re running off?” Agent Dwyer asked. “Surely, there is a crime scene to investigate and henchmen to question. By the bloody nose, I can see they didn’t go down without a fight. But, they did go down, right?”
“One got away. I don’t know what became of the other henchmen.” Nate hoped Cynthia found a way to dispose of the bodies and cover up any pools of blood. “I do have somewhere I need to be. I’m sorry I can’t discuss this right now. Call me, we’ll video chat after lunch. I’ll have more details then.”
“Need a lift?” Special Agent Dwyer asked.
Looking down the street, Nate knew he wouldn’t have time to make it to Azure and Katina’s home before the sun rose. He checked his watch. He had ten minutes until sunrise. “I’m headed to the third hotel down along the beach,” he said, remembering which hotels had the Night Watchman’s Suites. “A ride would be nice.”
“Hop in!” She got back in the car and pushed the passenger door open.
Nate climbed in.
“You know Nate, for someone who’s supposed to be my partner, I don’t have any missed calls this morning,” Agent Dwyer said as they pulled from the parking lot.
“That explains why we didn’t get any FBI backup,” Nate said. “I’ll have a chat with my deputy about why she didn’t call for assistance.”
Agent Dwyer asked, “Are you one of those old-fashioned sheriffs who doesn’t like to use your cell phone?”
“I was too close, physically, to make a phone call without risking detection,” Nate said.
“Sounds like a tactical error,” Agent Dwyer said.
“If you’ve heard I’m perfect or that I’m a savant at law enforcement, you’ve been talking to my girlfriend.” Nate looked toward the eastern sky. The bright colors seemed to make him sweat, or maybe he sweat from Agent Dwyer’s light interrogation. She drove slow, under the speed limit, slower than traffic, and far slower than Lanie drove. They had plenty of time to make it to the hotel, but Nate couldn’t help but worry he wouldn’t make it on time.
“You’re a good man, Sheriff Silver,” Agent Dwyer said. “You’re not a great cop. I’m having trouble believing you earned your position the normal way. Assistant sheriffs are usually in their fifties. I thought it was the webcam making you look young, but, seeing you in person, you’re half the age I’d expect of an assistant sheriff.”
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Nate said. “Maybe the sheriff is a fan of Midnite Starr.”
“What’s Midnite Starr?” Agent Dwyer asked.
“For an FBI agent, I’d have expected you would have done a full check of my past,” Nate said.
“You can bet I’m going to be spending my day doing just that,” Agent Dwyer said. She pulled under the overhang of the hotel. “Don’t get me wrong; I like you. You have a lot to learn about how to be a lawman. The first lesson is to call for backup before assaulting even just a handful of bad guys.”
“Even if it wakes you up, I’ll call you before I shoot anyone,” Nate said. “Thanks for the lift.” He gave her an unsure smile. He’d meant it to be friendly, but he felt his lips tighten, betraying his uncertainty with how he felt about her. He walked quickly into the hotel, the pre-sunrise light felt like steam.
Just over the first ridge of the Chino Hills, the tiny chapel was hardly noticeable, even from the air. The cast-iron archway over the driveway read ‘Sta. Isabella’. To call it a driveway was being generous. He doubted that dirt trail had ever seen a wheel, let alone a car. Nate didn’t drive anymore, but he wouldn’t have wanted to try the hairpin turn he’d seen on the path with anything bigger than a dirt-bike.
From downtown Los Angeles, he hadn’t flown thirty miles. In a car it might have taken him an hour, maybe more, even on the freeway. But he had places to be later that night, and he didn’t want any of the people he could get rides from to know where he was going or why.
The doors to the chapel were wide open, shedding a dull yellow light on the moonlit lawn outside. Nate set his feet upon the dry grass, in the shadows by the door. When he entered, he noticed the crucifix hanging above an altar at the far end of the church. The only light in the chapel was a baseball-sized, orange crystal light fixture behind the crucifix. It was almost too bright to look at, but the orange light reflected well off the white plaster, bathing the small interior in light which might be slightly dim for a human, but was more than enough for a vampire. He stopped between the four pews and knelt, bowing his head.
“Can I help you, sheriff?” a man in black robes with a priest’s collar asked.
Nate checked his clothes. He was wearing the uniform Dai insisted on. It was also his costume from his acting gig. The khaki pants and shirt bore the badges and patches of a sheriff. Only, instead of Los Angeles, the county on the insignia was ‘Midnite’, a town that only existed on television. The name on the tag said ‘Starr’, his character’s surname in the show. His real name was Silver.
“I’m not a sheriff,” Nate said. “I’m an actor. This is a costume. I am here to confess.”
The priest was one of two men in the tiny chapel. The other was a man wearing just a set of denim overalls, dusting the paintings on the walls. Each of the paintings depicted a woman. Perhaps Mother Mary, but Nate suspected they might be the Saint the chapel was named for. Nodding, the priest stepped to a small confessional Nate had almost mistaken for a coat closet. An alcove with open curtains sat to the side of an ornate wooden door. Behind the curtains was a small room just large enough for a single bench seat. Nate walked into the area behind the open curtains and sat on the bench. A window with close-set wooden bars was between him and the space between the alcoves. He pulled the curtain closed and waited.
The priest opened the door and sat in the middle alcove. After closing the door, he asked, “How can I help you, my son?”
“Like I said, I need to confess,” Nate said. “Is there something I’m supposed to say like, ‘Forgive me Father for I have sinned?’”
“Are you Catholic?” the priest asked.
“Do I need to be?” Nate asked.
“Yes,” the priest said. “If not Catholic, then Orthodox.”
“I’m Evangelical,” Nate said. “Or, I was.”
“I can’t offer you the Sacrament of Penance,” the priest said. “I’m sorry. I can offer my ear and anything you tell me will be between you, me and the Lord. But absolution through penance is reserved for those baptized as Catholic.”
Nate had always believed that to unburden his soul, all he needed to do was pray with sincerity. But his prayers felt unholy coming from the lips of a vampire. When Dai had suggested he confess to a priest, the idea of talking to a person who could be God’s ears seemed to offer some promise of hope. Nate didn’t come thirty miles for counseling.
“Can you see me?” Nate asked.
“I saw you come in,” the priest said. “Traditionally this is purely anonymous, but it’s really not. I saw you come in and I’m familiar with the voices of the people that do come to confess. To be honest, it’s not hard to see through this screen.”
“Then look at me,” Nate said. When he could see the outline of the priest’s irises in the whites of his eyes, Nate added power to his words and coerced the priest. “See me as a Catholic man—one who needs guidance to get the ceremony correct. Whatever I say, take it as truth and don’t panic. Don’t be afraid of me.”
“Start with ‘Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been however much time since your last confession,’” the priest said.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been years since my last confession,” Nate said. He didn’t know how to quantify ‘never’ without bursting the priest’s illusion.
“Tell me your sins, my son,” the priest said.
“I’ve killed,” Nate said. He paused to wait for a reaction like a gasp or sharp inhale, but the priest remained calm. With that evidence that his coercion worked, Nate continued. “I’ve killed in the name of the Lord and I’ve killed in self-defense and I’ve killed those I’ve hunted for food,” Nate said.
“The work of a soldier can be forgiven,” the priest said. “There is no sin in defending yourself. There is no sin in hunting for your food.”
“My food is people,” Nate said. “I am a vampire.” Nate hoped his coercion to keep the priest calm held.
“I see,” the priest said. He was silent a moment. Even if Nate had coerced him to take his words as truth, the priest might need time to adapt his coerced beliefs to his reality.
“You’re safe,” Nate said. “I’m not evil, though I might be a monster.”
“I can’t condone murder,” the priest said. “You cannot see people as food if you seek forgiveness. To attain absolution, you must be penitent. To be penitent you must intend not to commit the sin again.”
“I never intend it,” Nate said. “When I first learned to feed, I did not have control over it. I have not killed accidentally in the past year. I have, however, killed three other vampires and two men in self-defense in the last month, but more than a dozen have fallen at my hands in total.”
“And how many of these were righteous?” the priest asked.
“I don’t know,” Nate said. “Certainly all but two meant to kill me. I am uncertain any of them were true threats. I am trained to battle my own kind at a level few are. I was a holy warrior, a vampire hunter, before I became what I am now. But, that title is misleading; that life was a lie. My teacher was a dark man and served a darker vampire. They are gone, and I am something different now.”
“A sheriff?” the priest ventured.
“I said the clothing is a costume,” Nate said. Dai, his queen and bloodmother, called him her sheriff and her enforcer and whatever else she felt like calling him at any given moment. These were details the priest didn’t yet need.
“But you speak like the law,” the priest said. “Either you still are a warrior for the church or you are a warrior for the government. You claim righteousness in your fights, which means you fight for a cause.”
“I do,” Nate said. “In all but two cases, I was fighting a war that was not my own and I believed myself to be following a benevolent leader.” The two exceptions had been his early attempts to feed before he knew how to control the bloodlust that accompanied the curse of the bloodeyes.
“Has your opinion changed?” the priest asked. “Is your general not kind? Is their cause against God’s will?”
“She’s a vampire and she’s a queen among us,” Nate said. “I would not call her godly, but she is not wanton. Her goal is peace among our kind in the city, and she enjoys the attention of those currying for her favor.”
“But she’s a vampire,” the priest says. “She condones treating God’s people as food, does she not?”
“People are food to us,” Nate said. “But we don’t kill, usually. The leadership before her was evil, without a doubt, and Dai is holy in comparison, but we are vampires and can never truly be in the grace of God.”
“The Bible is surprisingly unclear on the status of vampires,” the priest said. “I don’t have much guidance to offer. If you are a person, you must abide by the laws of man and the laws of the Lord. Have you considered placing your fate in the legal system on the matter of the murders you admit to?”
“I am a vampire,” Nate said. “There is no prison for me that is not death. No human can know our kind exists. The men I killed were the vilest of humankind. One was a slaver, a trafficker of women. The other was a druggist, a man who designed recreational drugs including some horrid variations of the date-rape substances.”
“And you are qualified to be judge, jury and executioner?” the priest asked.
“So I was taught to believe in the church I belonged to at the time,” Nate said. “Before I was a vampire, I believed myself to be a holy warrior, and when I acted in the name of Christ, I acted with impunity. I am less sure now of my standing with the Lord, which is why I am here.”
“You have a conscience,” the priest said. “Follow what you know and the Lord will guide you.”
“Is this the part where you tell me to say Hail Mary’s?” Nate asked.
“If I knew the measure of your sins, I could offer penance,” the priest said. “I don’t know how to measure what you’ve done or by which yardstick to judge it. You seem like a good man. Knowing that you are a good man, be confident that you can choose to do the right thing. And, foremost, try not to kill. Go with God, my son.”
“Thank you,” Nate said. “I have one more request.” The priest looked at Nate and when their eyes met, Nate added, “Forget I was here. Forget everything about vampires.”
The priest said nothing, turning his attention to the book in his lap. Nate took the cue to leave and set out to his true mission of the night: to find a killer.
The second Nate Silver, Vampire, Hunter book is now available.
The long awaited followup novel to Nine Princes of Blood, Law of the Blood Queen follows Sheriff Nate Silver and Queen Daiyu Long as they attempt to settle into a peaceful Kingdom of Heaven (as the vampires call Los Angeles). But, some question the relatively young queen’s ability to govern. Some even think she is falling back on her historically evil ways to cement her power. It’s up to Nate Silver, her sheriff, to find the truth, but he has his own struggles in trying to get control of his bloodlust. Worse, he’s one of the vampires questioning Queen Dai’s integrity.
Now that we’ve found another planet that is “just like Earth” the question is coming up: Is it populated?
(If you came here looking for a DC comics reference, this isn’t what you’re looking for. Stick around though. It’s fun.)
I once referred to the Fermi Paradox obliquely in the post https://wordpress.com/post/16293530/157/ about Alien Invasion several years ago. That post deals with all the reasons aliens would and wouldn’t bother with Earth. The Fermi Paradox says that the universe is so big and so old that if aliens existed, they’d have found us by now and said, “Hi!”
Well, the bad news is the Fermi Paradox might be right. The good news is that it’s probably not. Statistically, even if the chances of life developing on a given planet are one in a jillion, there’s billions of inhabited planets out there in the universe.
Seriously, we’re not alone.
Ignoring that Ed Snowdon tells us that aliens live under Earth’s crust, let’s leave the definition to mean species from other planets.
While extra-terrestrial life is a certainty, intelligent extra-terrestrial life is also a certainty. I mean statistically a certainty.
First, Earth isn’t rare. Earth 2.0(the nickname for Kepler 452b) might be 1400 light years away, but we’ll find closer ones. Planets are really small and don’t give off light. We’ve found very very few planets by ‘seeing’ them with a telescope. Most of those were in our Solar System. We discover most planets by occultation, meaning, we can detect a tiny dimming of a star when the planet passes in front of the star from our perspective. The odds of any given solar system being on the proper plane to produce occultation is very small. If we’re looking at a star’s north pole, we’ll never see a planet in orbit around that star pass in front of it. We pretty much have to be looking edge on at the star’s solar system to see an occultation.
We can also detect planets by wobble. As much as a star’s gravity keeps a planet in orbit, the planet’s gravity is always tugging slightly at the star, creating a wobble. For us to see a wobble, we currently need the planet to be massive, usually bigger than Jupiter, and close to the star.
As technology improves, we can see slighter wobbles, which means we can see the signs that smaller planets are out there. You need to understand this is very complex math and requires years of watching the same star. An astronomer on a planet ten light-years from Earth would have a damned hard time calculating that our sun has eight planets. After ten years, they’ll know about Jupiter, but Saturn would take decades to detect with any accuracy. Compared to the wobble on our sun caused by Jupiter, Earth’s gravitational effect on the sun would be negligible. Eventually they’d figure it all out. But the point is that we, when observing other stars, looking for planets, have to spend years, even decades to find them. That makes my more important point. There are lots of planets out there. The science and the statistics tell us they’re there. We just don’t know exactly where.
Now that we’ve established that habitable planets are common, we want to assume that all planets that could be inhabited are inhabited. Let’s just make that assumption, because, with the numbers we’re talking, billions of Earthlike worlds, whether a few or all are populated by some form of life isn’t terribly important. Important is acknowledging that some of them are.
After over a billion years of life existing on Earth, it’s been about 50 years since we managed to throw anything off our rock. There is only one significantly intelligent species on the planet. This basically means that no matter how common life is, intelligent life is far rarer. You might try to argue that humans have squelched out any competing species. That might be true over the past million years, but it doesn’t explain why no species managed to invent an iPhone before humans even evolved.
But, again, there are so many earth-like planets in our galaxy, some of them will have intelligent life. They will, that’s a fact. (Note that, for legal purposes, I only state opinions, so even if I say it’s fact, even if it’s actually a fact, I’m only stating my opinion. –see the side bar—>)
There’s still no guarantee we won’t kill ourselves off before we find a way to make it to the nearest other habitable world.
We don’t know what technology we can use to do that yet. As far as we know physics, there is no such thing as warp drive. There is a finite speed limit for a space ship that makes travelling light years simply infeasible. We don’t have the technology to get to the nearest stars, those less than five light years away. By the time we find speeds that would get us there in less than a thousand years, the speeds we’d travel would tear any material we know about apart. So, until we develop warp drive no person will ever travel to another solar system.
There is the concept of putting travelers in cryo-sleep, basically stopping their aging while they travel. Still, thousands of years. The best cars have ten year warranties. How do you trust a star ship not to break down over that time? Okay, so that tech is in the foreseeable future. Cryo-sleep and self-repairing ships might be possible in our lifetimes. Still: Thousands of Years. Let’s just say that, without some kind of Warp technology, interstellar travel is just not an option unless your planet is no longer habitable.
So, to continue this discussion, we have to leap to the assumption that warp technology is possible. If so, there might be thousands of civilizations bouncing around the galaxy, visiting new worlds and maybe spreading their species on new worlds.
The Fermi Paradox asks that if Intelligent Alien Life exists, why hasn’t it contacted us?
The real question is: Why would aliens want anything to do with Earth?
We’ve all seen the t-shirt or bumper sticker “Mean People Suck.” From an alien perspective it would just be “People Suck.” There is no benefit in engaging in commerce with a less evolved planet. We expect to trade our iPhones for their Hixoblups? Yeah, no. They won’t want what can offer.
Raw Materials? Earth has lots of iron, gold, and water. Honestly if you can get around space easily, there’s no reason to deal with such pesky things as atmospheres and pesky natives when mining. Asteroids and uninhabite worlds are just so much easier to mine. Water is not rare. Iron is not rare. Gold is not rare. Nothing on Earth is worth putting up with humanity. I mean we still think there’s something to reality TV. Well, there’s something we might be good for. Aliens might have sensors set up to monitor us for their own ‘Stupid Human Stunts’ entertainment. It could be argued that the most significant human development for the purpose of perpetual posterity might be cat videos.
Basically, unless they think our culture is the bee’s knees, any intelligent alien species is going to avoid us like the plague we are.
Even if the Aliens just need a new world to colonize, they have better options than Earth. Assuming intelligent life sticks around on Earth until the oceans boil away in billion years, intelligent life was only on Earth for half of it’s habitable time. That means there are other worlds to move their civilization to that don’t require them to deal with pesky indigenous intelligent species.
Basically, the Fermi Paradox is too simplistic. It’s not that alien’s aren’t out there, its that, any life-form smart enough to develop space travel is also smart enough to avoid any species as annoying as humanity. We can’t see them because we just can’t see that far yet. They don’t want to see us.
I don’t get political if I can help it.
Sexual Identity should not be political.
There is irony in people complaining that Caitlyn Jenner should not have received her Espy Award for courage.
Just the mere fact that people would be so vocally against celebrating her courage and the fact that she had to know they would be proves that she deserves it.
People incorrectly equate transgender to homosexuality. Coming out as homosexual is difficult. Coming out as transgender is nigh impossible. I can comprehend homosexuality. Attraction is physiological and psychological. Love is, as unromantic as it is to admit, more physiological than psychological. Emotions are triggered by hormones when it comes to love.
It’s difficult for me to understand transgender, which is not me saying I think there’s anything at all wrong with people who feel they are, in fact, the opposite gender. It’s something I accept that I am not sufficiently expert at, and I leave it to the doctors to know. Just because I don’t understand it, doesn’t mean I can’t sympathize. Part of me still believes its not the individual that’s broken, but it’s society that’s broken in forcing people into roles based on their sex, but that only covers the social aspect of transgender. That’s probably still true but it doesn’t mean that transgender people don’t have a valid need to be the sex opposite that which they were born with.
One thing I’ve known for years: Transgender is not a sexuality. It often goes hand-in-hand with sexuality, because women, whether born as male or female, are more often attracted to men. So a woman who is genetically male, would seem homosexual for being attracted to men. But, not all transgender people are attracted to the opposite sex.
Transgender is a condition entirely about the self. It’s not a man thinking that because he’s attracted to other men he must actually be a woman; its a person knowing their own body is wrong for them. Transgender isn’t a new concept. Every major civilization has had people who lived cross-gendered. Today, however, medical science can make the changes, hormonally and physically to help people feel comfortable in their skin.
The thing about Caitlyn that many people don’t understand. She didn’t used to be Bruce. She was always Caitlyn. For a time, even she didn’t know it. For a time after that, she had to struggle to admit it. Finding the courage to not only admit it to herself but to the public as well, especially knowing the American public expected her to live up to being an Olympian gold-medal winning athlete role-model, is why she deserved the Espy.
I don’t speak with any authority on transgender. I have done some research because I have someone close to me going through the same thing. Luckily, she’s young enough that she doesn’t have to contend with a world that already has another expectation of her.
The Blooddaughter Trilogy is now available as one book. That’s all three novels, over 500 pages.
Free on KU. $4.99 for everyone else. Traditional Vampire fiction; not paranormal romance. Blood, intrigue, mystery and history.
All three novels of The Blooddaughter Trilogy in one book.
Shauna discovers the vampires in her favorite novels are real, as she hoped they would be. Her initial encounter with them proves fatal for her.
She awakens as one of them, but the mysterious vampire who turned her has disappeared. She is taken under the wings of both the Countess of Philadelphia and the legendary Elizabeth Bathory and soon discovers that even immortality can be fatal.
Adjusting to life without the Sun and the need to feed, Shauna travels to Europe to track down the notorious vampire hunter, Henry the Inquisitor.
Her companion has particular difficulty adjusting to the new powers in Europe. Defending her friend will make enemies among the vampire royalty.
Blood Atonement on Amazon (250 pages, $2.99 on Kindle) – Free on Kindle Unlimited
Names and numbers populated the pages of the pocket-sized book Elsa carried. She stood over the crumpled body of a man whose name she didn’t know and, if she had her way, never would. Elsa gave the body another kick in the kidney. The man grunted, causing Elsa to feel a bit more satisfied. A girl, midway through her teen years, crouched in the corner, trembling. Elsa knelt by her, careful to get close without touching her.
“Do you have a name?” Elsa asked. The girl’s name, unlike the man’s, had infinite value.
The girl nodded as she responded, “Maria Esperenza.”
They were all named Maria in Havana and they all joined their middle name to their first. Elsa ran the name through her mind again and again. She’d need to remember it to write it down. Maria Esperenza would be number four-ninety-three on the second list of six-hundred and sixty-six names in the tiny red leather-clad book.
“Are you hurt, Maria Esperenza?” Elsa asked.
Maria Esperenza shook her head. The bruises on the girl’s naked shoulders belied the truth, or a part of it. The girl, unlike the man, still had her bloomers on. At least Elsa had arrived before the man had taken what the girl would never get back. Elsa couldn’t do anything for the bruises on her shoulders, but she could do something for the damage that didn’t show.
She picked up the girl’s torn dress from the floor of the tiny launderer’s shop and handed it to the girl. It took a moment for the girl to look up. When the girl reached for the dress, Elsa caught her eyes and spoke. She put her will into her words, coercing her as she said, “This man tried to take your money, nothing more. He got rough, but only wanted the money from the till. Another man came and stopped the robbery, taking this man away. Get dressed, lock up your shop then go home. Sleep well. You’ll not remember me or anything I did or will do here tonight.”
Elsa stood and walked to the door. She envisioned a hand in her mind, and used that hand to grab the man from the floor and drag him along behind her as she went out to the dark streets. The only lanterns or torches on the street were the ones hung from shops and those were not alight after business hours. It didn’t matter to Elsa. She preferred it dark. As a vampire, the light of the quarter moon was more than she needed to see clearly. She walked past several streets, careful to avoid the few people awake and about that late. The man she drug along occasionally grunted if he bumped over an uneven cobblestone. Finally, she got bored of dragging the man. She walked back and looked at his face. It wasn’t one she’d remember. She considered drinking her fill from the man, but he was dirty—too many days removed from his weekly bath, if he bathed that often. Lacking any further use of the man, and having separated him from the scene of his crime, Elsa pulled a razor from her boot and slit the man’s throat. His eyes popped open just before the life faded from them. The smell of his blood running down to the gutter made Elsa hungry, but there was nothing for her to drink there. The man was dead; his blood was dead. Elsa cleaned the razor on the man’s sleeve and slid it back into her boot.
From her breast pocket, she pulled out the little red book and a pencil. “Maria Esperenza, 493,” she wrote under Maria Bella’s name. Maria Bella had been the four hundred and ninety-second girl she’d saved. Though that girl hadn’t fared as well as Maria Esperenza, she’d live. Life and death were what mattered for Elsa’s book. A full list of the names of girls whose lives she’d stolen two centuries earlier preceded the pages of names of girls whose lives she’d saved. She’d imposed the penance on herself. It wouldn’t be enough to fill the second list, but it would be something. The one name that would never be on the list, the one name of a woman who could never be saved, was her own: Elizabeth Bathory.
Buy the rest at Amazon (250 pages, $2.99 on Kindle) – Free on Kindle Unlimited
PreOrder for June 1 release.
Blood Atonement: The True Tales of Elizabeth Bathory, Vampire is now for sale from both Createspace and Amazon in print. For Kindle, you’ll have to wait for June 1st. This is mostly because I can’t figure out how to reschedule a pre-order style release to an earlier date.
This is a stand-alone novel, but, works well with the other stories in the world of The Blooddaughter Trilogy.
This is, by far, the darkest of the vampire novels in the world of The Blooddaughter Trilogy. It’s about an infamous serial killer as the protagonist. I mean, if the good guy of the book is this evil, how bad does the bad guy have to be? To be fair, if the title doesn’t give it away, Elizabeth (or Elsa as she’s called–and she was Elsa in my other books long before that Disney movie used the name) is striving to be good, but what she considers good is from a unique perspective.
This is Elsa from The Blooddaughter trilogy, but from a time centuries before those stories–a separate story that can work as a prequel.
As you read, some of the story might look familiar, from history, from classic tales of vampires or from The Blooddaughter Trilogy. You’ll discover it’s much more than what you thought you knew.
Sidenote: This is a work of fiction, starting with the title, as if the word, ‘vampire’ didn’t give that away.
Like many technophiles of the world, I was sucked into the hype around the new iphones. I have had an android phone in the past, but, I prefer Apple. My wife, on the other hand, prefers Microsoft OS phones. That, however is not the point of this post.
I was determined to resist the urge to upgrade my phone early. I still have nine months on my iphone5 contract. I was just going to wait for the iphone7 (or 6s). At first the huge screened iphone plus seemed very unweildly. Then I was in a store with a display and put my phone beside the 6 plus. Bigger isn’t always better, right? Why do we keep having to remind ourselves, then? Still, I resisted. If I truly wanted one come March, I could upgrade on one of my kids lines and pass my phone down through the ranks. This is what everyone does with teenager phones, right? they get last years phones so we adults can stay trendy.
I discussed the situation and the unnatural draw of Apples marketing with my wife. We decided I would wait. We’d leave the option open for when we needed a phone to replace a dead or dropped phone. No, I didn’t ‘Accidently’ drop my phone in the blender or anything. I didn’t slam my phone into a closing car door, not that anyone does that. I resolutely stuck to my guns. No new phone. Period.
And then my wife comes into our room one day and says, “You’re son’s iphone screen stopped working. The picture is there but no touch. He can’t even turn the phone off. I guess you get to order that new phone.” My oldest kid has an iphone4. He would inherit my wife’s iphone4s and my wife would get my iphone5 until we could get her the HTC phone she wants. It took me about ten minutes to have the iphone6 plus ordered.
Then my rational mind kicked in. Not rational enough to try anything like cancel the order, however. I just realized I hadn’t actually tried to fix my son’s phone yet. I went and got it and sure enough, no touch capability. I then remembered you can turn an iphone off by holding the power button and the home button at the same time for a few seconds. When the phone rebooted, it worked fine.
Hey, I followed the agreement. There was a broken phone at the time I ordered the new one.
My wife has killed a phone inside an otter box. Gravity, combined with a closing car door – ’nuff said. To replace that phone, we got an old iphone 4sfrom her friend. Currently her iphone, which might still be her best friend’s iphone on loan, has a shattered backplate. That’s a new thing since it was given/loaned to us. The case will drip glass shards on occassion. So I’m just eliminating an injury risk.
And that’s how I’m rationalizing getting the new iphone.
One of the most difficult things to do when writing stories that take place in the present is to avoid too many pop-culture references. When writing about times in history it adds a little depth to involve people from history. When writing in the present, we can’t do that because people don’t like to have their lives fictionalized without their permission.
We have to be careful how often we reference things that are very popular now, like television shows. They might seem like a way to create a common bond with the reading audience, but sometimes our audience might absolutely hate something in pop culture our characters like and this can turn off a reader’s interest. And readers don’t really like it when they feel something went over their head, so if we do use a pop-culture reference, make sure it’s something the audience will get or miss entirely.
In “Blood Reprisal”, I make a ‘Friends’ pop-reference that is a little oblique. However, I don’t mention the show directly. I like to think I used it like a double-entendre in a kids’ movie – something people who know will get and something people who don’t won’t actually realize they missed something.
Since my vampire stories take place almost entirely during the nighttime hours (duh, it’s vampires) I spend a lot of time with my characters in bars and clubs. So there is a lot of music in the atmosphere. Trying to avoid pop-references means I can’t use a lot of actual band names. I have to come up with new ones. Naming bands is hard. Finding a good name that isn’t already being used by someone is harder. No one wants to make an unintentional pop-culture reference. But, I have three that I’ve come to like: Skeledudes as a Grateful dead cover band, Dire Monotony as a goth rock band and Jalapeno Pop as a band that does instrumental covers of bubblegum pop songs.
And as much as I’d like to mock the teenybopper vampmances out there, I can’t outright disdain the sparkly vampires in my stories. I do gently mock the genre of vampire books that are really just erotica for women in the first chapter of the first book of The Blooddaughter Trilogy. I do this by having two fans of the book talk about a new vampire book. It seems cheesy, talking about vampire writing in my own vampire book, but that particular book in a book (think play in a play) actually is important to parts of the plot of “Second Blood”.
Then there is Pop-History. Taking real history and using popular myths around that real history. All vampire books do this if they mention Vlad Dracula. Elizabeth Bathory is a very major player in The Blooddaughter Trilogy. I also rib on Alex Dumas with my Milady DeWinter character in “Blood Huntress”. No, I did not take every Femme Fatale from history (and historical fiction) and make them into a vampire in my fictional history. Lucrezia Borgia barely makes an appearance in the Trilogy. The only other Historical figures I use are Artemis and Virginia Dare (though I don’t think I ever call that last one by name. Okay, so I name drop a dozen or so more – sometimes making the historical figure a vampire, other times outright mocking the use of historical figures as vampires.
Most avid readers will get the Vlad Dracula and Dumas references. Vampire fans will almost always get the Elizabeth Bathory references and the Lucrezia Borgia ones. Everyone gets the Artemis reference. I try to stick to a historicaly verifiable version of my fictionalized historical characters. Dracula was a bad, evil man. So was Countess Bathory, but she got better. With these guys, I had to try very hard to create characters that would act like readers would expect if they knew the character’s history and/or myth. At the same time, I had to make them unique characters to my stories. Okay, so not so much with Dracula. His part in my books is so minor it’s non-existent. Like pop-references, historical references have to be obvious or so obscure, a reader won’t want to stop and look it up on wikipedia. If they do, if I did my job right, they will see the actual history as just more of the story presented in my books — an added depth to my novel.