It’s Been a Long Time…New Cover, Winners, and Other Matters

Welcome back, folks. Apologies once again for the delay in posting, but real life has been pulling me away not only from the blog but writing in general. Never fear, though, City of the Dead is practically writing itself (already it’s at 10,000 words and I can see the clear path from Point A to Point Z) and Pathways is entering the editing phase just as soon as I can shake the funk of just finishing a project. That’s an odd thing when you’re a writer, you often just want to get away from a project for awhile – let the subconscious kind of work on the next steps, you know?

So yeah, as I said, in the meantime City of the Dead (book 3 of the series) is roaring along. Things end at a very interesting place in Pathways, and the beginning of City is turning out to be an intriguing, dreamlike experience. Even knowing exactly where everything fits and how it plays out, I’m still fascinated with pushing it forward, which makes Pathways feel a little dull at the moment. That’s the natural course of things for me, anyway. Doesn’t make Pathways inferior or fated to be inferior. It just means that I need time. Besides, I like the idea of having book 3 very close to ready when book 2 launches. This may mean that I leave some space between Room 3 and the Pathways release, but in the end I believe it will be worth it. Honest!

I also have some exciting news to share with you: we have a winner! Well, several of them, actually. The last few weeks have been the tour for Room 3, courtesy of Dark World Book Tours, and we’ve had quite a response.  Lots of entries, but only a handful of winners. I won’t name all the winners here out of respect to their privacy, but congrats to all of you folks. Expect your prizes very soon!

One more bit of news before I check out to work on other things: the covers are coming.

Oh yes, they are coming.

For those eagle-eyed folks who know me on Facebook, they may have seen the latest (and, truly, final) cover of Corridors of the Dead cross in a special sneak peek. Here it is for all you regular readers!

corridors_cover_1800x2700Pretty slick, huh? There’s a coded symbolism at work on this cover, one of a woman who resists the entreaties to turn herself into a weapon and finds herself in the midst of a crumbling world. And here’s the thing: the reason that I’m fairly confident this will be the last cover is that we’re working on the remaining covers in the series and they all align with the themes on this cover. So yes, a City of the Dead cover exists, and Pathways is coming along. Expect a reveal tour sometime in August as things begin to ramp up for Pathways.

In the meantime, thanks for all the support. Hope I can communicate more with folks as things go forward. Just hope for a quieter Summer than the one I’ve had so far.

 

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My Next Novel? Yeah, That’s Finished.

Had a long weekend out of town so this is my first chance to share with you, the reader, but Thursday evening I nailed down the first draft of the second book in the Among the Dead series, Pathways of the Dead. Even now I can scarcely believe that it’s happened; I began what would become known as Pathways last summer and pushed through it even during the Room 3 publication process. I had anticipated the finished first draft in March or April. May is acceptable enough, but it had begun to feel like it just wasn’t going to happen.

Of course, this is far from the finish line. The book is still working its way through the various layers of critiques and editors (TWO editors on this one in addition to the critique group and beta readers). The next stage of the voyage begins on the 24th, when I send a first draft that’s been altered with critique comments to my content editor. She’ll sanity-check the thing and make sure that I haven’t somehow put a character’s pants on his head, that sort of thing. Common errors. From there I incorporate her changes and get it out to my lovely, dedicated beta readers. All of this goes on while the critique group continues to read through the evolving drafts until they reach the end. Once ALL of that’s done, it goes to my final editor for final say.

This is a change. While the editing process on the last two books have not been solely on my shoulders, there have been phases that were nothing but my own changes. If all goes well, this book will see nothing like that. I’ll make my own changes in tandem with suggestions from other authors, readers, and editors, making for a far more polished reading experience.

In the meantime, you can expect to see a new cover for Corridors to accompany a revised edition (no major cheats, just some cleaning-up of the text) that feeds right into Pathways. Pathways cover reveal will be done about a month prior to release, so watch this space for more information.

In the meantime, a quick FAQ for folks who read the first book. This will evolve over time and sit on the Among the Dead page.

1. What is this Pathways nonsense? I thought the sequel was called City of the Dead. I wanted that to be so, but the version of City that I had crafted would have been north of 200K+ words. A thematic split also became apparent during the drafting process, and so it only felt natural to split the two books. City of the Dead is still coming, it’s just book 3.

2. What do you mean by a thematic split? Among the Dead is a series that incorporates elements of many different genres. Book 1, Corridors of the Dead, was an urban fantasy-cum-coming-of-age tale. Pathways is more of an action film with some mystery elements. Book 3, City of the Dead, is a cross between a fantasy and a mystery with some elements of a metaphysical journey. Book 4, Portal of the Dead, is a fantasy thriller. Now imagine trying to maintain some thematic consistency between an action film and a slower mystery novel and you see why City had to be split.

3. Is it still a trilogy? No. Among the Dead is now four books.

4. Are you going to be one of those authors who just keeps going and going with the series? Given the ultimate ending of this series, it would be pretty difficult to keep going. I do have a few ideas for prequels under my vest, but those would be far, far off and only for a good reason. I do think that some of the characters introduced over the course of the series would constitute that good reason, such as Omarosa and Anushka.

5. Omarosa? Isn’t she that woman from the Apprentice? The name Omarosa is actually Babylonian; it referred to a mistress of the universe, probably meaning “the sea.” The name is highly appropriate for the character devoid of any popular connections. Besides, I like the name. We’re taking it back.

6. Who are some of the new characters? Well, you know about Omarosa. I don’t want to give too much away, but you’ll meet the creator of the robot, Jazshael, from Corridors of the Dead (and oh boy will you meet him). He’s a very interesting, complex character who will pop up again and again through the rest of the series. The original founder of the Acolytes, Alma, will appear. Two characters from Room 3 make appearances as well – see if you can spot them. Both have prominent roles, though one is a younger version of himself.

7. How many characters die this time? Will your blood lust ever be satisfied? ALL OF THE CHARACTERS. ALL OF THEM. AND NEVER.

8. Where does Room 3 fit into all of this? Room 3 is a side-story to the series. You wouldn’t need to read it to understand what happens in Among the Dead, but some of the issues that pop up make a whole lot more sense when you understand just what the Watchers were up to in London in the late aughts. In time, I’ll fill in the gaps for folks who might have missed these connections.

9. Are you going to write about magick and fantasy all your life? No, sheesh, MOM. I actually have three literary books in the pipeline and am toying with the idea of using the whole Labor Day Rush method to write one of them. Crazy? Oh, probably, but it’s the best way I can think of to give myself the breathing room necessary to get one of those books out.

10. Okay, I’m interested. When can I buy it? Patience. Good work takes time…I’ll let you know as soon as I can.

Bottom line? STAY TUNED….

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The Room 3 Tour Continues -and- Some Quick Thoughts

Welcome back folks. Today the Room 3 tour is still ongoing, this time stopping over at Vaempires for a quick post about the real-world locations in Room 3. You can check it out at http://www.vaempires.com/the-room-3-tour-a-guest-post-by-jonathan-d-allen. We’re also giving away a ton of exciting prizes and today I can finally offer you the opportunity to join in the giveaway via Shaggin the Muse. This is our Rafflecopter, and please, feel free to do any or none of these. I’m itching to give these books away, and would love to send them your way!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It’s exciting to see the book finally beginning to take off after the show last Saturday, an appearance on BookGorilla, and now this. More is in the works, however; in June I’m going to take Room 3 KDP Select exclusive for at least the next three months, which will accompany an appearance as the Kindle Nation Daily eBook of the day in July (tentatively July 11th, more news on that in the near future).

Now as for more mundane news – the nuts-and-bolts of writing. Things have been a little slow with my vacation, but they’re picking up. Pathways of the Dead currently sits at 96K words and I’m anticipating it to finish somewhere between 105 and 110. It’s funny, the process this time has been a tad more difficult than Room 3, but the lessons that I learned in writing Room 3 have kept me on a way more even keel.

I also have two other novels in the hopper in addition to the Among the Dead series and Mirror Untrue. One is about a painting that turns out to be a prophecy of murder (trust me though, this one isn’t supernatural, more of a thriller) and the other is about a woman who begins to see her insular community in a very different fashion following a traumatic event. The former came from a dream. The latter came from reading the Facebook of an old high school acquaintance and realizing what incredibly different worlds we occupy and wondering what might happen when those worlds collide. Both already have titles and it’s just a matter of when, not if, I will write them. All in due time.

Oh, and hopefully the cover reveal for Pathways will be later this Summer. I’m working with a new, very talented cover artist who is revisiting the original visions for the Corridors cover now and has a great idea for the Pathways cover. Again, all in due time…

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The Tree in the Crop Circle

Morning, readers. First, an explanation. During the creation of every novel, I reach a point where I have to bear down and focus on that novel, saving my writing time and energies that are typically used on other items, such as regular blog posts. It seems that City of the Dead is reaching that tipping point.

So, good news and bad news. Good news is that the book is deep in serious development. Bad news is that posts will be limited to one or, at most, two at a week. This is why you haven’t seen many Friday posts lately and why I’ve been scarce on Twitter.

In that spirit, I’m going to run a series of Room 3 samples over the next month. In the following scene, the reader learns just what is entailed in “going to Room 3” when we see the protagonist, Kelli, doped up. Hope you enjoy.

=====

“Come on. Haven’t I been through enough?”

Barren paused, syringe held mid-air. “I’m sorry, but we have to do this. You’ll understand one day.”

He was right about that. One day I would understand. Wouldn’t like it, but I would understand. I didn’t know what to say, though. How do you argue with someone who believes that torture is doing the right thing?

Answer: you don’t.

He shook his head and moved the syringe toward my arm. “Now just a pinch.”

Pinch, my ass. It felt like the world’s biggest wasp had stung my arm. He pressed the plunger, injecting the full dose into me. I tasted something metallic and instantly became more aware of the air rushing into my ears.

I summed it up the best I could: “Whoa.”

He patted my shoulder. “That’s good. Just relax.” His voice echoed.

“Don’t have a choice…” I said. I couldn’t manage much more.

The next moment, the colors in the ball of light over my head kaleidoscoped, twirling into a brilliant mass that hung in mid-air. It expanded and the walls of the room melted away. Soon the chair went with it, taking its bonds, too. I stepped off of it before it vanished altogether, rubbing my wrists.

I gazed around me, getting my bearings, though I pretty much knew what I would see. As always, I stood in a giant crop circle in the center of the world’s largest field of corn, the sun beating down on me. I turned to look at the chair, but it had melted into the ground.

Something rustled in the corn. I whirled, but I knew who it would be before she even appeared. She always found me. “Mimi?”

A little girl appeared from between the rows, pushing the bottoms of the stalks apart. She had blue eyes, dark brown hair, and a smile that could just melt your heart – the kind of smile that never, ever survives into adulthood.

She cocked her head. “How’d you know my name?”

She always asked me that.

“We’ve met, but I’ve told you that before, too.”

She put her hands on her little hips. “How come I don’t remember you?”

“I think it’s this place. It always makes you forget.”

“I don’t like that.”

I looked around. “I don’t like it much, either. But don’t worry about it. I’m here.”

Wheels turned in her head. “But why are you here?”

No clue how to answer that one. “You’re looking for something, right?”

She nodded.

I leaned down, putting my hands on my knees. “What are you looking for, sweetheart?” I already knew the answer, but this had gone down a certain path forever, and the show had to go on.

She rubbed her eyes. “Cici’s gone. I can’t find her.”

Cici. The girl forever searched for Cici. I had no idea if she even existed. “Now where did you last see your sister?” I said.

Her eyes widened, like I’d shown her the secret of the universe. “We did meet, didn’t we, that’s how you know about Cici?”

I nodded. “Where did you see her last?” Knew the answer to this one, too.

She pointed over my shoulder. “There.”

I knew what I’d see when I turned. I’d seen it so many times that I’d even started to see it in my dreams. It didn’t matter, though. Every single time I turned to gaze on it, it knocked me on my proverbial butt: an enormous, gnarled tree, soaring up into the sky. This wasn’t just any tree, though. Somebody had carved a wooden organ out of the trunk, with two levels of wooden keys and wooden pipes rising out of the higher reaches.

The largest keyhole you’ve ever seen had been connected to that organ, its details carved right into the trunk, between the keys and the pipes.

“She’s locked in there, isn’t she?” I’d lived this nightmare so many times I had lost count, but this little detail got my heart pounding each time. To be locked away in solid oak, unable to escape –

“How do we get her out?” Mimi said.

That question. Always that question.

“I think we have to play the right notes to open the lock and get her out,” I said, but I couldn’t be certain.

Mimi’s brow furrowed. “Do you know what to play?”

I sighed. “No. But I can try.” Endless tries and just as many sleepless nights, and I hadn’t come any closer to figuring out the song than the first night that they put me under.

“Oh, please, you have to. She can’t live for long in the tree.”

“I know.”

I strode to the tree and stood before it, holding my hands over the wooden keys. I’d only ever seen organs in magazines before I started having this vision, and while you might think that it’s similar to playing a keyboard or piano, there are some key differences that had been throwing me off from the very beginning, and I couldn’t afford a single mistake.

I swallowed hard, stared at the carved wooden keys for a moment, and then glanced at Mimi.

She gave me a lopsided smile and a tentative thumbs-up.

Ringing endorsement.

I leaned over the keys. Did I feel ready to go?

Not at all, but might as well get this over with.

I played the portion of the first verse that I had worked out. The notes sounded clear as always, if a little bass-heavy. My stomach tensed as I played, approaching that dreaded unknown section.

My fingers froze when I reached the end of that first verse. I knew that if I could just get the first few notes of that next section started, the rest would flow from me. The damned thing had gotten backed up in my soul – could that be a bridge, a chorus, or something else entirely? There should be lyrics, too, but they refused to come to mind.

“A Minor?” I murmured, and hit the key.

Mimi groaned behind me. “Oh no, missy, oh no.”

I turned to look at her. “What?”

She didn’t need to answer; the answer came from overhead. It came as a great whoosh from the leaves caught fire, spreading into a curtain of red and orange that filled the sky above me. I screamed and fell backwards, but in those few seconds the intense heat had already baked most of my skin. My nerve endings blazed – I couldn’t imagine such pain, it had never been so bad, not ever. I could feel my eyelids melting down over my eyes, darkening my view of my arms and the nightmare unfolding on my flesh.

I screamed and screamed as the world went dark. My world became nothing but pure, unending pain.

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Room 3 Web Tour!

Hello again, readers…still here, still not feeling GREAT, but I’m pushing forward anyway. I have a few theories about what’s going on with me physically, but have to wait for the doctors to figure it out. In the meantime…

It’s time for Room 3’s web tour! And so far the book is getting great reviews. My personal favorite is from Lizzy’s Dark Fiction (and there’s a site I need to follow – so much of what she reviews speaks to me): “When the ending finally came, I was shocked.  Totally did not expect that ending, but looking back it explained everything.  Every doubt I ever had in the sincerity and plausibility of the story explained within a single scene.  You won’t guess the ending, but if you read this book, you’ll be happy you stuck through it the entire way.”

Now THAT is a review! Very pleased. Go on over there and check it out, and in the process, you can sign up for the giveaway. I’m giving away a $20 Amazon gift card and a $10 Amazon gift card – I imagine you could think of a few ways to spend that this time of year.

I have so many things to share with you. It’s really frustrating that I can’t concentrate enough to give it to you guys. Look for a flood of content once I feel better – including the next part of Open Slay.

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Shadows, Shadows Everywhere!

Greets, readers, and welcome back to the ongoing show. Hope you Americans had a great holiday, and for those of you abroad, sincerest apologies for the radio silence last week. I took the week off, for whatever that means to 90% of writers. In my world, it just means that the word count took a temporary dip (as it does every year) as I spent time with family and friends. I continued to chew at my stories as a dog will chew at a bone, and I even managed to start writing the next story for Wednesday Fiction, a fun holiday story titled “Open Slay” (heh). Here’s a little hint as to the story’s subject matter:

Hmm. What could it be? Anyway, look for the first part on Wednesday, with the next three parts following on each week, culminating in the final “episode” on December 19th. This is the last story that will make the short story collection due out next year.

Speaking of which, big news on that front! The collection now has a title, as brainstormed with the lovely wife: Shadow Boxes. Shadow boxes, of course, are “enclosed glass-front case(s) containing an object or objects presented in a thematic grouping with artistic or personal significance” (Wikipedia). The title seemed especially fitting given that each of the short stories in this collection are played out on a single stage.  Continue reading

Room 3 Launch Winners, Holiday Crush, and Planning a Tour. Whew!

Evening, readers. First of all, congrats to Cinta García de la Rosa for winning the $25 Amazon gift card in the Room 3 launch. If you missed this one, don’t worry – we’ll have a tour in early December for the rest of you folks. I’ll talk about that one shortly.

In the meantime, of course it’s a holiday week, and I’ve decided to take this week off from my day job. We’re heading out of town on Thursday to visit my parents and spend time with friends, so I don’t know how much I’ll be updating the site. Hopefully “enough” will do the trick? I don’t know. I’m focusing especially hard on City of the Dead right now, in hopes that I can get the first draft of that completed before the end of the year. Can it be done? I don’t know. I’m about halfway through, but it’s flowing out in a fairly steady stream, and it seems pretty good so far.

Fans of the series (all five of you) should enjoy it, based on how things stand now, and it’s far from having the early problems that I experienced with Room 3. The new characters are a lot of fun, and I’m enjoying spending some time with them. I’ll talk about them sometime in the future, but for now…a slight teaser: I think that the cover weapon (as it was a pistol for Corridors of the Dead and a sword for The Station) will be a scythe. Consider what that one might mean. Continue reading

Room 3 Launch – Get the Details Here!

Hi readers! I am proud to announce that Room 3 is now available on all major eBook and print platforms – and coming to many more in the near future (including an audiobook that’s in the works).

I have a fun promotion and giveaway going on this week, but first, let’s look at the current lay of the land with where you can pick up my second full-length novel:

  • Smashwords is my current favored e-store for purchase, just because you can get it in so many formats with such little fuss. I’m offering a 10% off discount if you purchase it through Smashwords, in fact; use PL77Y as your coupon code at checkout and you can knock a little off of the price.
  • I’m sure many of you are looking for the Kindle version, and you find it at Amazon. Go go go!!
  • Barnes and Noble also offers the print edition and the Nook version, if that’s your cup of tea. I can’t offer you a discount there, but you’re welcome to check it out.
  • You can also purchase signed and unsigned print editions through my site.
  • The print edition is also available on Amazon and Createspace.
More editions are coming soon (I’m trying to work something out with Google at the moment); it’s just taking some time to get them into the pipeline, as usual. In the meantime, I’m offering a special 2-for-1 deal and giveaway. Here’s how it works:
  1. Purchase Room 3 between now and Midnight on November 18th on any qualifying site. Really, I’m happy with anything, even through this site.
  2. Send me an email at crimnos@gmail.com with the receipt and/or screenshot of the receipt.
  3. Indicate your preferred eBook format and preferred eBook (The Corridors of the Dead, The Kayson Cycle, or The Station).
  4. I’ll send you a copy of that eBook for free! I’ll also give you two entries into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card. Pretty straightforward, right?
Now, I know – I’m not just using the giveaway as a tool to puff up my sales. Since memory is so important in Room 3, all you need to do to gain one entry is comment on this post and share one of your favorite memories. That’s it! I look forward to seeing what you have to share.
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Room 3 Week: Day 4 – The Factions

Welcome back once again, folks. Glad to have you here, and if you’ve read all of these so far, then I’m appreciative. Tomorrow I’m going to be outlining next week’s promotions, which include a giveaway and a two-for-one deal. For now, though, let’s look at the last major post for this week…

Those who have read The Corridors of the Dead (first in the Among the Dead trilogy) know that the Among the Dead mythos is populated by a number of factions, some of which “control” the Multiverse, and some of which are vying to seize that control. The factions are somewhat deliberately obscured in both Corridors and Room 3, as we are dealing with protagonists who come at this whole new world from a total outsider’s perspective; I want the reader to experience the same sort of confusion going into this that the characters will experience, and live through the same epiphanies that the characters experience.

That said, some of this lays the groundwork for stuff that will only really come to fruition in book 3, Portal of the Dead, and I figured it might be good to come clean and better explain these factions.

1. The Watchtowers. The Watchtowers are owned and run by the Aetelia, which we humans call angels. Within the structure of the books’ Multiverse, the Aetelia occupy a level of understanding roughly equal to our own understanding of the universe. By that, I mean that they have unraveled a number of major metaphysical mysteries beyond human comprehension – so, in a manner of speaking they’re a rung or two above us on an evolutionary scale and have a far greater view of the stuff that makes up the cosmos, but their knowledge is nowhere near all-encompassing. They don’t understand the nature of God or whether one even exists. They posit a Prime Mover who set everything in motion, but have very little evidence of that. When Matty learns the truth about our reality (that we are all constructs in a giant computer simulation), the Watchtowers are unaware of this truth. They only learn it through Matty’s confession to them. Matty is not, however, the first to know this truth. That brings us to… Continue reading

Room 3 Week: Day 2 – The Characters

Welcome back, folks. Glad you’re joining me again. As I said yesterday, Room 3 is releasing on November 12th, which means just six more days until you can read it on your favorite e-reader (savvy customers wishing to purchase a print copy can find a place to do so now *cough cough*). Yes, that means that, unlike my minor releases, this one is going to be multi-platform. Amazon has done enough for me to feel I need to diversify in my reader base. I may, in fact, switch my focus toward Smashwords in the near future. Still mulling that. But we’re not here to discuss sales and promotion. We’re here to talk story!

Room 3 revolves around three central characters, with a varied supporting cast. Today I’m going to talk about those three characters.

Kelli Foster is the protagonist and narrator. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Kelli has wanted to be a singer and songwriter for most of her life. The earliest events in Room 3 occur when she is tending bar at a dive in Boston, helping to pay her bills while she works to achieve some sort of breakthrough with her music. She lives close to the bar, so it’s just a short walk home after closing each night – a walk that is generally fairly safe. On that night, she encounters a seemingly familiar man who is encountering car trouble. He convinces her to hand over her cellphone and, in the process, knocks her out. She awakens in a cabin known as the Khesnaa, and the events of Room 3 truly get underway.

She and her initial roommate, Gina, are shot up with an unknown hallucinogenic drug and endure bizarre visions where they must unravel mysteries related to their creative gifts. Kelli, in particular, is expected to solve a musical puzzle to free an unknown captive.

Kelli begins the story as a cautious, though generally trusting woman who sometimes allows her ambition and drive to blind her to her surroundings. As events in the Khesnaa progress, she is transformed first into a bitter woman, distrustful of anyone and everything and then into a determined, savvy person who dares to fall in love even in the face of utter nihilism.

Kelli falls for Samarta, the night watchman, who has a lot more in common with the two captives than either expect at first. I’ll talk more about Sam shortly, but for now, here’s a key scene between the two of them.

I stopped in front of him, hands on my hips, cocking my head. “You’re an interesting fellow, Samarta.”

 

“I think of myself as the opposite. But thank you.” He cleared his throat. “You said we needed to speak…?”

 

“Oh, you’re no fun. Right down to business, huh?”

 

“I, uhm, suppose that is the best.” He shifted.

 

“Have you seen anything weird around here?” I said.

 

He walked over to the old wooden couch that sat before the monitors and plopped down on one of the ratty plaid cushions. He dangled one arm over the side. “Everything about this place is strange. You will need to narrow this down for me.”

 

I sighed. “I don’t know how to ask you without sounding crazy.”

 

He rubbed his chin. “Interesting.”

 

I walked to his side. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

“All of this –” He swept his arm across the room – “And you worry about appearing insane.”

 

Yeah, why was that?

 

Could be that you care what he thinks. Could be. That sounded a lot like Momma’s voice, floating around in my head. That was just what I needed.

 

“I’ve got a reputation to protect. Can’t have word getting around, you know?” I said.

 

He smiled. At that moment, I couldn’t remember if I’d seen him smile before, but it made me a little light-headed. “Of course. I would never harm a good woman’s reputation. Please. Tell me your concerns.”

 

“First, you have to promise that you won’t think I’m crazy.”

 

He waved a hand. “Of course. I would never think you crazy.”

 

I bit my lip. All right. Here goes. “Have you…seen people who shouldn’t be here?”

 

His body went rigid, his expression turning very serious. “What have you seen? Intruders?”

 

I held up my hands. “Whoa, calm down, chief. I don’t mean I’ve seen people like that. I mean…you know…”

 

He raised his eyebrows. “I am afraid I do not understand.”

 

Damn it, he just couldn’t make it easy, could he? Fine.

I’d go out on that limb. Dead people.”

Carla is key to the events in the Khesnaa; her arrival at the Khesnaa marks a turning point in Kelli’s life and represents the culmination of the Organization’s plans. Carla is also a Boston area native, but last remembers being in DC when the Organization nabbed her and brought her to the cabin. Thrown into the experiments almost from her arrival at the cabin, she is pushed harder and farther than Kelli has ever been pushed. Her visions are less puzzles and more a nightmarish melange of traumatic events from her history, pointing to her much larger purpose within the project.

Carla and Kelli develop something of an uneasy truce; paranoia drives both to play their cards close to their chest and eventually becomes an obstacle to their continued survival. In the end, however, a profound discovery about their pasts brings them together, with Carla fiercely defending Kelli.

Carla’s voice jarred me. “So what’s the deal with you two?”

 

“Thought you were going to sleep.” I crossed the room and sat at the Korg, facing her.

 

“I am. But if you think I can sleep without knowing the story between you two, you’re crazy.”

 

“There’s no story to tell. He’s the only decent one of the lot. He was there when Gina died, and we’ve been friendly ever since.”

 

She scoffed. “You don’t look at him like a friend. He didn’t exactly look at you like one, either.”

 

“I don’t follow you.”

 

“Right. Tell me another lie.”

 

“Your choice whether you believe me. I can’t prove a negative.” Her questions hit on the nose, as usual, and her persistence was going to drive me crazy. I turned to the keyboard, hoping she’d shut up.

 

Alas, no such luck. “I don’t think it’s messed up or anything. It’s not like he kidnapped us. My old man used to tell me, ‘you see something you want, you need to go grab it’. I figure that goes double here.”

 

I didn’t look back at her. “That your inspirational speech?”

 

“I guess so.”

 

“Well, thanks, Oprah. It means a lot. Gayle here has to do some work now.” I plunked a few keys. “Am I going to bother you?”

 

“I don’t think so. Way I feel, I could sleep through a war.”

 

“Good. Get some rest. We can talk more in the morning.”

Samarta. Finding a photo to match this guy is near-impossible. Samarta is tall, incredibly pale, and bald, with a stoic demeanor and a heavily muscled body. the picture on the left is the only thing that even approaches his appearance.

Samarta is a tribesman with a troubled past, held hostage and forced to work for the Organization with his family held as collateral. Sam, as he’s called, believes in doing the right thing in all circumstances, no matter what the cost – though this is a result of having sold out his principles with horrific consequences.

Sam and Kelli connect almost from the beginning, as Sam sees a reflection of his own hopelessness in Kelli’s false bravado and cynicism. In some ways, he hopes that by protecting and rescuing her he can make up for the terrible mistakes that cost him his family.

Now there was a nasty little surprise. But should it have been? He had pulled his hand away from mine so quickly. I wondered if he had been thinking of her. I turned to him, my mouth open wide. “Since when do you have a wife?”

 

He blinked. “Since long before my arrival.” He waved a hand. “This is not important.”

 

“No, this is important. Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“It was never any of your concern.”

 

“Maybe not, but I thought we were friends,” I said.

 

“We are not friends. Friendly, perhaps –”

 

Like a kick in the teeth. It put some fire in my words. “Well, that’s great to know. I’m sure glad I shared about my life with you, then. Good to know you can’t reciprocate now before…”

 

“Before what?” he said.

 

Carla’s eyes swung back and forth between the two of us. I worried she might get the wrong idea about us, that we were falling for each other or something. Heaven forbid that.

 

I waved a hand. “Guess what? It’s not important.”

 

He looked at me a moment longer. I wanted him to burn up inside, to know the irritation that scratched the back of my mind.

There are some other fun characters, such as Maple and Zito, but I’ll get to those in due time.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at some of the locations in the novel, because the story happens in a lot more places than just a solitary cabin.

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