My American Nightmare – Women in Horror Anthology

Coming Soon! 

My American Nightmare – Women in Horror Anthology

Includes my short story She Looked Like Krystal Sparkle. A modern, twisted take on the fairy tale The Enchanted Canary.

For Fans of American Horror Story, Stephen King, Joe Hill, and Danielle Vega

America, land of the free, land of the brave, land of nightmares? A group of female authors come together in this collection of creepy tales and psychological horror stories to bring you chills and disturbing images that won’t leave you long after you are done reading. From zombies to rural small towns, to the foggy New England to the glamour of Hollywood, each story focuses on a diverse aspect of living in America and the horror found in bullying, being the “new girl,” starting your first job, and navigating the murky waters of adolescence and all the terrifying changes that come with it. Bold and haunting, My American Nightmare encompasses daring stories from new voices in the horror genre. This collection will unsettle your nerves and linger in your mind, demonstrating that women can show you a nuance of horror that isn’t always evident from the male perspective.

Author Line -up

Angela Sylvaine – Ballad of Sorrow and Lila

Amelia Kibbie –  We Kill The Skullman

A. Goli – Mr. Buttons’ Tea Party

Jamie Kahn –  The Poison & The Ivy

Rachel Bolton-  The Girl & The Yellow Wallpaper

Hillary Lyon – Boys’ Night Out

Nicky Peacock –  She Looked Like Krystal Sparkle

Spinster Eskie – Angie’s Change

Sheri Kreitner – The Pickman Sisters of Salem

Sierra Ryan –  Volunteer

Kara Nelson – The Eye

E.F. Schraeder – Night Moves

Andrea Teare – 39 Days

Heather Miller – The Stars

Marnie Azzarelli – When Evacuating Pennsylvania

Erica Ruhe – Perle

Phoebe Jane Johnson – Ruby

Azzurra Nox – Whatever Happened to Peyton Rose?

Kara Dennison – Billson

Released Oct 31st 2017

For further information:

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Flash Fiction Day 2017 @nationalflashfd

A little bit of Nicky style horror flash fiction to celebrate Flash Fiction Day 2017

 

Together

By Nicky Peacock

You run fast, but they are faster. Thump. As your body hits the ground, a painful tremor rattles your bones. Sharp nails drag across your chest. Blood blooms up like a salty, scarlet flower. A dirty hand rapidly thrusts between your ribs. Crack. The creature tugs at your heart, pulling part of it free. Rip. Quickly, it crams the organ into its foul smelling, yawning mouth and mashes it between barbed teeth. Munch. As it swallows, its dead eyes spark with life. Its expression morphs from hunger to affection. As the others mindlessly continue to split and steal your twitching limbs, it looks at you with the purest love you’ve ever known; will ever know. Tears squeeze themselves from its glazed, ebony, oozing eyes. Drip. It gently strokes your gore covered hair from you face.  Caress. Your heart meat seems to have slid into the chasm-like crack that had crept deep into its soul. Love. And just before a bright, white light flutters down to swallow your soul whole, the creature grips onto your hand, determined to go with you and never let you go again.

If you like this, you might like my published books and short stories…

Amazon UK

Amazon US 

Women in Horror Month 2017

To celebrate this year’s Women in Horror Month, I’m going to sharing some thoughts on my favourite women horror authors, so without further faff…

the-vampire-chronicles-book-coverAnne Rice

I read Interview with a Vampire when I was 17 years old. It made me fall in love with vampires. Before that, I’d worn a cross to protect myself from them (I’m not religious in any way, I’d just watched the film adaptation of Salem’s Lot and thought it was better safe than sorry!). Needless to say that after I r
ead the tale of Louis and Lestat, I took that necklace off.

It is a beautifully written book that seamlessly delves into the characters and makes someone, that could be considered as a monster, into a breathtakingly sorrowful and exciting creature of the night – a bizarre mix. I can not recommend Anne Rice’s books highly enough to those readers out there that haven’t discovered them yet.

 

Shirley Jackson6219656

Gothic horror author of highly disturbing short stories and novels, Shirley Jackson was a pioneer of the genre. Her short story The Lottery
(based on the lottery you wouldn’t want to win!) paved the way for all sorts of books, from Battle Royale to The Hunger Games.

She brought us horror that brandished social commentaries like a razor-sharp weapon, and human monsters that are more real than we would ever want to admit. Always engrossing, stunning prose that drags you into the story and doesn’t let you go, even after you’ve finished reading it. Anyone who doesn’t believe that the horror genre belongs in literary fiction needs to read her work.

51xrqewd0sl-_ac_ul320_sr212320_Nancy A Collins

Back in the 90s my older brother and I played White Wolf’s role play game, Vampire The Masquerade. I so wanted to be part of the Toreador clan; to be a beautiful vampire who only writes emotionally prose dedicated to her many victims…

It was this game brought me to Nancy A Collin’s book Sunglasses After Dark. Sonja Blue is a fantastic (had to stop myself from typing ‘fangtastic!) character that is true to her nature; something that made her feel more real and made the book far more interesting than the other vampire books that you get now. I can’t recommend this author’s work enough and, even better, she also writes amazing comics, Jason vs. Leatherface – how can you beat two slasher killers going head to head – with Michael Myers waiting in the wings to tackle the winner? Just an idea :)

Susan Hill51h6sqpzb8l-_sx309_bo1204203200_

A writer of genuinely terrifying ghost stories and true gothic fiction, this talented lady is most famous for writing, The Woman in Black and has also branched out into crime fiction. I started reading her work for an essay on isolation for my Creative Writing Degree and got hooked. The anthology, The Travelling Bag and Other Stories includes some rather disturbing shorts and is the perfect read for a stormy night when the rain beats your window like an impatient visitor, and the wind’s screams slice across the growing darkness. As England seems to be getting a lot of those kind of nights, I’d highly recommend buying this book! Susan Hill is a must for anyone with stones big enough to read a ghost story late at night.

I hoped you enjoyed this short dedication to my favourite Women in Horror. Perhaps I’ve been remiss in not putting myself in this list? I’ve had over 30 short horror stories included in anthologies with monsters ranging from: vampires, mad men, witches, unicorns (yes, you read that right) Jack the Ripper, dark faeries and much more. If you’d like to read my horror stories, pop along to my Amazon author page and take a look at the macabre selection on offer.

 

 

 

 

3 things I love about Christmas, and 3 things I hate

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1) I love the opportunity to spend time with family and friends. It’s a great excuse to get people together and have a good catch-up. We all live very hectic lives, and this time of year we can take time out and have a festive cuppa and a good old chat.

 
2) Presents. I’ll say it again, presents! I know it’s a bit capitalist/ commercial, but I’m not above saying that I love gifts and also the chance to buy beautiful things for the important people in my life. I’m a bit of a shopaholic, and I take every gift as a challenge to buy something that I think that person will love, something that shows them that I listen to them and know them.

 
3) The promise of a new year. Christmas heralds a new year and a chance to feel like anything is possible. It wasn’t that long ago that such a time started my writing journey, got me published and saw me start a writers’ group that has helped others along the way too.

1) But I do hate Turkey, There, I said it. It’s dry and has a strong taste to it, but this time of year I’m made to eat it. I can usually choke it down if I smother it in oodles of cranberry sauce, but still, I wish a new meat would emerge as a traditional Christmas meal. Although a few years back my mum branched out for Christmas and bought a bird within a bird, within a bird which turned out to be a culinary sin against nature, so maybe I should be grateful for the white meat devil I know!

2) I can’t stand Christmas decorations. I know, bar-humbug! But they smell funny; they make rooms seem claustrophobic and manic (if not done correctly, and mostly they are not) Competing with neighbours as to who can have the most flashing lights dripping off your house that waste electricity and distract drivers is just crazy. Then add in the cost and time for putting all those tinsel-encrusted decorations up and taking them down… it’s exhausting. Now, I’m not against everything; I love a bit of bunting just as much as the next girl, but a little moderation can go a long way.

3) Christmas cards. I really hate being told what to do, and for years my family forced me to write Christmas cards. What a waste of time, paper, money and thought. I’d much rather see that person and buy theeventing_and_dog_fall_photos_118m a drink and have a proper chat than give them a card of one of four designs I bought in last year’s sale with a scrawled signature in. Yes, as an author I’m still buzzed when I get to sign a book, but having to write fifty cards at once is just wrist numbingly wrong. I always appreciate when someone gives me a card, and I respect other people’s belief in them, but instead of just a hurried pre-bought Christmas message, why not use them to invite that person round for some mulled wine or, if they are too far away, set up a Skype call.

And for no real reason, other than it’s Christmas, here’s a cute dog dressed as Santa!

Merry Christmas to all my readers, and to all a good blog. May your turkey be moist and everyone you love be near enough to hug. Nicx

A Tourist’s Halloween Guide to Bad Blood

g1510984England has a rich heritage and, especially in London, you’ll find it difficult to spit and not hit something centuries years old – BTW, you might get arrested for that, so do check around before letting rip with the salvia!

London is a busy city where there are too many people and far too many construction sites. Our Tube (Subway) is unnaturally warm, and our roads are naturally congested. But none of this matters in my YA horror novel, Bad Blood. It’s hard to care about temperature and traffic when you’re hip deep in snarling smelly zombies.

Bad Blood is told first person from a vampire’s point of view. Britannia is the very essence of Britain; she has protected it many times in the past, and now finds herself taking on that role again to save survivors of a fast-paced zombie outbreak that hits the UK. The first book happens mainly in London – so let’s take a tour of some Bad Blood hot spots:

The Statue of George IV, Trafalgar Square: erected in 1843, this bronze statue of King George IV astride his faithful steed looks out over the world famous Trafalgar Square. Used as higher ground by Britannia when she is sniffing out un-infected humans to feed on, this statue gives her the space and time she needs to locate her next meal.

The Natural History Museum: A beautiful, elaborately designed building established in 1881; filled with knowledge, dioramas and now zombies. Britannia has an epic struggle on her hands here, and not just with the hungry undead hordes that were given free admission!

Madame Tussauds: Originally set up by wax sculptor Marie Tussauds in 1884, there is more blank-eyed scary looking celebrities here than on any red carpet event. But Bad Blood takes you deeper into the bowels of this tourist attraction, delivering you a fast-paced confrontation in the Chambers of Horrors.

Double Decker Red Buses: The Red Double Decker bus is an iconic symbol of London and is used by the vampires and the human survivors to flee the city and also to indulge the vampire’s competitor natures!

Now you know the stops, why not jump onto the Bad Blood bus and let it take you sight-seeing through the zombie ravaged streets of London; the price of admission? Well, Britannia only asks for your blood…

Evernight Teen   Amazon US     Amazon UK   Barnes & Noble   Nook    Amazon Canada   Amazon Australia 

Doing the zombie shuffle – Zombies in YA literature

img_0443_v2I find zombies scary – there I admit it. I always have done. And I can tell you why; we are just one mad scientist away from zombies becoming real. Zombies worry me, and movies aside, they are certainly not new to literature.

I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at school. It’s only when you get into the nitty gritty of this book you realise it was one of the first ever zombie novels. The creature, albeit more sentient than your average ‘braaaains’ screeching shuffler, is a re-animated corpse. Considered a ‘flawed creation’ by Dr Frankenstein, the creature has to contend with some serious abandonment issues, loneliness (after all zombies are pack creatures) and some rather vengeful thoughts. All in all, the zombie in question doesn’t act much like the zombies we’re use to today.

Moving quickly through the years to Carrie Ryan’s Forrest of Hands & Teeth we find Mary, the protagonist, struggling to free herself from a predictable YA love triangle while avoiding the ‘Unconsercrated’. The name of the zombies in itself echoes the book’s theme of religion; but apart from that, they seem to lumber around the forest being said hands and teeth. The zombies provide only one author objective: they are the threat that seeks to harm the main characters. The only zombie character that comes to ‘life’ is the fast and slightly vengeful, Gabrielle – who seems to retain some of her former personality and is hell-bent on killing Mary for allowing her to die.

Darren Shan’s Zom B uses zombies to unite its characters. One of the themes of this book is racism and yob-like behaviour. Although by its title, it’s a zombie book, the shambling flesh-munching creatures serve as danger and a catalyst for character development. They unite the survivors – regardless of their misguided beliefs.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion did something extraordinary with zombies – he made them the romantic lead. The book is written the first person from R’s point of view. It was a bold move that paid off and put zombies in a different light altogether. After that, Lisa Habel’s Dearly Departed also took zombies firmly into the romance genre.

Now it would seem that zombies are not just evolving but contorting into a new type of ‘monster’. Maybe it would be more accurate to say they are going back to their gothic character-driven roots. Who’s to say that if Dr Frankenstein had given his monster a bride that it would have gone very differently for him, and his loved ones.

As a YA urban fantasy writer, I love zombies, and am, to a degree, guilty myself of simply inserting them into my story as a wall of rotting flesh that relentlessly rolls towards my heroes – I did, though, introduce a new dynamic in my series, Battle of the Undead. It’s vampires VS zombies. So what happens when a vampire becomes infected? A Vambie or a Zompire? Find out now with the first in the series, Bad Blood:

Evernight Teen   Amazon US     Amazon UK   Barnes & Noble   Nook    Amazon Canada   Amazon Australia 

Halloween advice – surviving the zombies!

dsc00127We have a fascination with zombies, in my opinion, they are the most realistic monster lurking in the horror aisles of your local book shop. They are us. They could happen. Vampires, werewolves – well, as Disney put it ‘It’s a small world after all’ so we’d know about them already. In a time when people post what they had for breakfast on FaceBook, these creatures couldn’t hide for long. But zombies …there are more dead bodies crammed into the earth than live ones walking on it.
So how could it happen? Mostly in zombie stories the survivors rarely find out how they ended up nose to nose with re-animated flesh-munching corpses; they’re far too busy trying to stay alive than to discover the undead root of the problem. To me, the most believable way of this happening is a scientifically created disease, perhaps something similar to rabies.

Okay, so it’s happening, the dead are rising. In theory, this wouldn’t be an instant issue; it would probably take 2 or 3 days for the undead crap to hit the fan. In that time you’d see more violent news reports than usual. There would be odd hashtag threads on twitter about attacks and infection. They’d be YouTube videos popping up with alarming regularity featuring police show-downs with crazed, bullet proof psychos. It would be a slow but steady stream of bloody violence.
Now, if hunky British survivalist Bear Grylls has taught us anything, it’s that to survive in a harsh environment, we need to ensure we have three things: food, water and shelter. You need to be fed and rested to be able to keep one step ahead of the zombie hordes so, to survive, your priority would be to find a safe place to hole up, preferably which contains food and water too. We’ve all seen the potential trolley of problems with picking a shopping centre for this – it’s too big, you can’t defend it. So somewhere, perhaps like a small supermarket that’s doors could be barricaded, would work well.
The next question you have to answer is: do you buddy up, or go it alone? There are dangers with either, but I tend to think the buddy system was practicality designed for zombie attacks, so buddy up! Just be cautious and ensure your buddy is someone you can trust. You don’t want to test the theory ‘to survive – you only need to run faster than your friend, than a zombie horde in pursuit!’
So, you have a group of people you can trust; you’re holed up in a defend-able, solid building stuffed with food and drink – now what? Well, to be honest, you wait it out. When comparing a zombie outbreak to a disease of similar ilk, it would all be over after 21 days. After that time, those who were infected will have eaten their whole available food source, they’ll start to starve and, even zombies need food to keep going. After hearing the last animated corpse scratch and moan at your door, you give it another day before emerging. Then with other sensible survivors start to rebuild, and I guess figure out how it all went horribly wrong in the first place.
Just, remember the rules that horror movies have taught us over the years: Don’t open the door for anything/ anyone. Slug anyone who looks like they’re going to panic and rip out through your barricade. Ration the amount of sugary items you consume (Although I actually believe that you can never eat enough chocolate). Always carry a weapon. Check your buddies for infection. And always, always… hang on there’s a new #infection tag infesting Twitter…Right, I’m off down the local supermarket; you can join me if you like, but make sure you get there before I barricade the door!

If you like your zombie uprising with a dash of vampires, then check out Bad Blood today for your Halloween read:

Evernight Teen   Amazon US     Amazon UK   Barnes & Noble   Nook    Amazon Canada   Amazon Australia 

Rule Britannia – examining the main character of Bad Blood

britBad Blood is a vampires VS zombies horror set in England. Told first person from a vampire’s point of view, I knew as the writer; I needed a certain type of character who could tell the story, engage with the reader and survive the zombie hordes as they drag their rotten asses through the burning streets of London.

Britannia is over 4 hundred years old and was born Brianna. Daughter of a wealthy merchant she lived like a princess and was set to marry the love of her life… when Nicholas the vampire saw her. He kidnapped her, made her a vampire against her will, murdered her fiancé then kept her captive for 20 years in a crazy attempt to woe her. When she was finally free, she swore a vendetta on Nicholas and evolved from spoilt little Brianna to the blood-guzzling, ass-kicking, England protecting, Britannia.

Her lost love was a soldier in his majesty’s service so Britannia declared herself a secret protector of the realm, fighting in every war and falling ever deeper in love with the memory of her dead soldier. That love is reinforced on an almost nightly basis with her daydreams. She might be lying in wait on the roof of a West End Theatre to kill Nicholas’ newest vampire, but be imagining herself inside with her fiancé, enjoying a show. The mirror of a violent vampire dreaming she’s a bored housewife is held up throughout the book and is both an endearing and dangerous quality for a character to have.

She’s spent centuries learning to fight, to use her strengths and weakness as assets. Her favourite book is the Art of War, and she prides herself on winning every battle. She’s competitive, stubborn and amazingly loyal – but all that comes with a price. She still needs to drink human blood to survive, and when she does, she considers it the natural order – she certainly isn’t the guilty type. The vampires in Bad Blood have no glamour abilities. They cannot read people’s minds, and they certainly cannot make a bite in the neck painless. Usually when they feed they kill, but now zombies are fighting with them to be top of the food chain, they’re on a more ‘little and often’ diet and have to change their behaviour to survive.

Bad Blood is fast paced, and both humans and vampires get a lot of horrific problems thrown at them – I had to make sure Britannia was equipped to deal with these problems, to cut them up with her trusty scythes, and shoot them right back to where they came from.

So why not order a copy of Bad Blood today and let Britannia take you by the hand and give you a tour of the zombie-ridden streets of London and beyond. Don’t worry about the undead clawing to touch your pretty flesh; she’ll protect you. There’s only one thing that she asks in return…your blood.

Want a Halloween read? Pick up Bad Blood today: Evernight Teen   Amazon US     Amazon UK   Barnes & Noble   Nook    Amazon Canada   Amazon Australia 

Lost in Wonderland by Nicky Peacock – out now!

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My new series, The Twisted and the Brave has kicked off today with the first book, Lost in Wonderland.

The Twisted and the Brave, 1

Monsters, serial killers, and imaginary friends—being a Wonderlander can be murder… 

Once upon a time, Kayla was lost. Then she found Wonderland, but not the one you know. Run by ex-government agents and funded by an eccentric Silicon Valley billionaire, this Wonderland is the name of a collective of highly trained vigilantes who hunt serial killers. Now Kayla, aka Mouse, works tirelessly alongside her fellow Wonderlanders, Rabbit and Cheshire, baiting dangerous murderers. But even her extensive training hasn’t prepared her for the return of her older brother… 

Shilo has spent most of his life in an insane asylum, convinced his mother was abducted by a sinister Alaskan monster who lures the lost away to feast upon their flesh. And now he’s certain that his sister is in the same monster’s crosshairs. But if Shilo is going to save what’s left of his family, he’ll have to convince his sister that maybe, just maybe, we’re all a little mad.

14+ due to violence and adult situations

Excerpt:

Before I can scream, he stuffs me in his trunk. It is dark, smelly, and contains an empty plain black plastic bag and a dirty shovel; these are not good signs. I put my hands to the top of the trunk and push. It is locked. I wasn’t getting out till he wanted me to. I resign myself to curl into a ball, the acidic-smelling sweat of his palms still imprinted on my bare, narrow shoulders. I should be listening out for the car engine, hearing when it slows for corners or revs on open roads. I should be testing the resilience of all the sides of the black space around me. I should be doing all the things they tell you to do, but I don’t. I simply stay in my little ball, quiet and patient.

The car bounces up and down and I realize we’re not on the main road anymore. He’s taking me somewhere remote…

We come to a soft stop. The slam of a car door shivers through the metal of the vehicle. I know what is going to happen. It’s so inevitable that it’s almost laughable. Death comes to everyone at some point; what is that saying, “No one can avoid death and taxes.” Funny the things you remember when you’re in danger. I suppose your brain tries to distract you with all sorts of useless crap, anything to keep you from shutting down and freaking the hell out. I grab at my forearm, an almost robotic reaction, feeling down it to check that my tracking chip is still there. The hard edges beneath my skin make me smile. My small, metallic friend never lets me down, never abandons me.

The lid to my dark place is pulled up and I see him. His face is blank. There’s no hint of emotion or even intent other than what can be derived through his actions. His hands are sturdy as he pulls me from the trunk and stands me up before him. Being barely five feet tall, I only stand to his chest. I look down to the ground between us and see the cheapest sneakers in the world, ones probably made by enslaved third-world children. Man this guy is pure evil.

“Don’t worry, girl.” He puts a hand on my cheek and graces me with a twitchy smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. The hand lingers longer than usual polite social circles would allow. My eyes widen. I know that I am one of many girls he has brought here—one of the many that he planned to rape and strangle, then leave used and vacant by the side of the road, a hollow tangle of floppy limbs. How do I know this? Because I know him. I was looking for him. I’m not who, and what, he thinks I am. I’m not a fourteen-year-old girl, scared by the death sentence before her. No, I am something else entirely.

I smack his palm from my cheek and use the momentum to reach over with my other hand to grab his wrist. I position myself in front of him and use his own body weight to pull him down and over my now bent back. He hits the ground so hard he cries out. I keep hold of his arm and twist it around and under. He moves his body, angling it in the same direction in an attempt to ease the tension I’m creating.

“Stop!” he yells, those crappy sneakers frantically pumping to find enough purchase to get him to his feet.

I push harder till I hear the bone snap. He screams, but thanks to the remote location he has taken us to, no one hears him. I let go of his wrist and turn to retrieve the shovel from the trunk. I take a minute to loom over him. He is trying to get up, but the weight and pain of his broken arm is putting him off-balance. Funny how fragile the human body actually is, even one that belongs to a sick serial killer.

I raise the shovel and smack it over his knees. He howls and tries to shield himself with his good arm. An arm that is not intact for long, as I turn the shovel and this time use the edge to dig into his flesh. Blood pools on the ground and he begins to crawl. I’m not sure where he’s trying to go. I think his goal is just to get away from me. I walk the few steps to where he’s managed to drag himself to then bring my weapon down hard onto his skull. The splintering sound of bone meeting metal is my cue to get on with the operation. I pull my cell phone from my pink sparkle-covered jeans and dial the only number on it. An automated message greets me. “Off with their heads.” I take a breath and look over at the mangled mess of the serial killer they knew as the Doll Maker. “Here, here,” I say. The call rings off and I know that I have to make my exit now. They will come and clean up the mess. No one will ever know that the Doll Maker was an accountant with really bad shoes, and I mean really bad. It’s not till they’d stopped moving that I see peeling luminous go-faster stripes adorning their sides. Yeesh. The blood splatter does little to hide their ugliness.

I stoop and check for a pulse, finding none. His skin is already clammy and I could swear slightly rubbery, but in truth it is probably just my imagination.

I throw down the shovel and begin the trek back to civilization. The night air is bitter and cruel, so I pull up my lilac hood against it. An unmarked black car zooms past me. They were quick tonight. I rub my hand up my forearm and feel the comfort of my chip. My chip is a constant friend, albeit a chatty one; they will always be able to find me, know where I am, where I’ve been. Not that I’m complaining. I was lost once, when I was very little. And although that fear bubbles in my mind every day, I beat it back with my chip. I’ll never be lost again; or at least that is what my adoptive parents tell me. Wonderland doesn’t lose its operatives.

Buy links:  Evernight Teen  Amazon UK  Amazon US  Amazon Canada 

Book Spotlight: Traitors’ Gate (Battle of the Undead Prequel) by Nicky Peacock

traitorsgate1sWant to know how the Battle of the Undead started? Well, download you FREE copy of Traitors’ Gate today. A historical urban fantasy that stars some familiar faces from Bad Blood and Bad Timing, and some not so familiar ones.

Download here…

Battle of the Undead: prequel

Only time will tell who the traitors really are…

Sixteen-year-old Lucinda is getting the home-coming from hell. England is in the grip of the War of the Roses and her tyrant father has promised her hand to a vile man three times her age. In need of aid, she seeks sanctuary with an old childhood friend only to find him accused of treachery and harboring a supernatural secret. All too soon Lucinda is caught in a fight that’s not her own but, to be with the man she loves, she’ll gladly take up arms.

When you stand at Traitors’ Gate, keep the vampires close, and the zombies as far away as possible!

14+ due to violence and adult situations

Excerpt:

I rush into the dining room like the wind on a stormy night, gaining a withering look from Mistress. Black who is seated at the table along with my father and a strange man.

“And this is Lucinda,” my father says pointing at me. The man next to him gets up and smiles at me. He bows slightly and takes my hand in a sweaty grip. He drags his moist lips over my palm in what I assume is a romantic gesture. I look over at father, who doesn’t seem to care.

“This is Lord Appleby. He has a large estate in Dorset.”

“Dorset? My, that’s quite some way away.” I try to smile at him, but fail miserably.

“Yes, you’ll love it there.” Lord Appleby sits back down to the right of my father and Ms. Black physically moves me to the seat across from him.

Lord Appleby is painfully thin with almost black eyes and a complexion liked a cooked frog. I imagine him putting his arms around me, and I shiver; it would be like being enclosed by a sallow fleshy girdle. The dinner slowly marches through seven courses, every one of my favorites from Mistress. Leighton’s repertoire, but each plate is tainted by the obvious conclusion to my homecoming: my father has sold me and didn’t even have the decency to tell me beforehand. I’m to become Lady Lucinda Appleby, the sixteen year old wife to a forty year old man who eats with his mouth open and, as he’d gotten drunker through the evening, and has become more and more leery, regardless of Mistress Black or my father’s presence.

The moment I finish chewing the last piece of the cheese and bread I stand up.

“I’m tired from my journey, so I will bid you goodnight, father, Lord Appleby, Ms. Black.” I nod to each of them and turn to leave.

“Wait,” my father says, “Lord Appleby would like a turn around the garden with you.”

I glance toward the window. It must be at least ten o’clock and is pitch black outside.

“Now?” I ask.

My father narrows his eyes at me.

“Oh please, yes. I so love a garden at night.” Lord Appleby jumps to his feet and moves to my side. He’s protecting me. Have I misjudged him? I take his arm and we head into the garden.

Outside, the chill of the night air pinches at my bare arms. I look at Lord Appleby in his lovely warm cloak, but he makes no move to offer it to me in any kind of gentlemanly gesture.

“And these are the white roses,” I say. “My father planted them for my mother.” I linger at the small patch of buds that I remembered as being much bigger, fuller, and more fragrant.

“Ah yes, we are all white roses here,” he says with an exaggerated wink. He’s referring to the House of York. A war has been raging for quite some time between the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster, each backing a different king for the throne of England.

We make strained small talk for a while longer as we walk farther away from the lights of the house. Suddenly he stops and grabs my elbow, spinning me round so my body is flush against his.

“I do hope you are amenable to this arrangement, Lucinda,” he says.

I try to pull back, but he’s stronger than he looks and holds me firm. “Please let me go.”

I look up into his eyes and see a slight madness there, a malevolence that I hadn’t noticed before.

“Let me go!” I say again.

“Just a kiss,” he whispers and lowers his lips to mine.

I pull my head back so that he lands his kiss on my chest. I’m unsure as to whether that is worse than his mouth on mine. His grip on me tightens and he begins to slobber rough kisses over my collarbone, while his hand frantically pulls up my petticoats ripping into them as he does. I scream, but no one comes. I struggle and pull back as far as I can from him, falling halfway out his grasp. A wild look crosses his face and he raises up a hand and slaps my cheek. The blow makes me stagger backward, out of his clutches. He stares at me for a moment. I kick him in the crotch. He doubles over with a strained groan. I run.

battle covers