Ugh. I hate this.
So in my last update on The Gray Kings, my plan was to start the second draft in January. And I said if all went smoothly, I hoped to get the book done and up for sale by the end of the year.
Well, suffice to say, things have not been going smoothly. Bleh.
I have been working, but what writing I’ve gotten done I haven’t been pleased with. Pacing feels off, stuff is happening but there’s no flow, and…blah. So I’ve been getting a few chapters done, be unhappy with them, start again, and this has been my cycle for the past few months.
And since, due to my job, I only have so many hours of a day (and the weekend) to write, my progress is at a crawl.
I have no idea when this will be finished. Not much else to say, unfortunately.
I’ll just keep working as best I can and hope I finally pick up some momentum.
In the meantime, to give you something and prove I have gotten some stuff written, here’s an excerpt from what will be Chapter 1.
A nearby cat stopped short and hissed. It had been slinking along, likely hunting for rats or some other food, and didn’t notice the demon hidden in the shadows until too close. The cat’s spine arched, and its hair stood as it backed away. When the demon didn’t acknowledge it, it darted back the way it came, disappearing into the night.
Under ordinary circumstances, that might have upset the demon—as she was fond of animals—but tonight Lily Blackthorn paid no mind. She was on a hunt of her own. Her crimson eyes glowed in the darkness like shining rubies as her demonic instincts came forward. The night seemed less dark, and she was aware of everything around her. The winter air was cold, but she was in her element. In this state, she was every bit the lethal creature she was bred to be, and she watched her prey draw near.
The woman walked down the narrow road hunched over and holding her coat closed. Her footsteps trudged through the mud with wet thuds, and in the darkness, she resembled a bear. Her name was Tabitha Greenwald, and she approached her mid-fifties with the grace of molding bread. Her short, curly hair was the color of week-old snow—the kind that had been stepped on too much. Her eyes were beady and cruel, and her puffy cheeks highlighted the unpleasant scowl fixed on her face.
Among the locals, she was known as a quiet and off-putting cook for one of the inns. Her cottage was located a mile or so outside town—an isolated and rickety place of rotting wood, seeming like the witch’s hut found in fairy tales. Although few knew it, that image wasn’t far from the truth.
Had they known, she would’ve likely been dead long before Lily came across her.
Lily watched her prey approach the cottage door. The woman’s breath wafted in the air, as she was muttering to herself, and she sensed anger in her. Usually hunting and the feeding that would follow was an unwanted burden she regarded with disgust. But seeing Tabitha Greenwald—knowing what she knew about the woman—she couldn’t deny taking some measure of satisfaction.
Tabitha flinched, startled by her presence. She turned to find Lily emerge from the shadows with a pleasant smile and welcoming eyes. “Devil shit,” said Tabitha. “Don’t be sneaking up on people like that!” She paused, looking her up and down, and asked, “Gods, girl. Aren’t you cold dressed like that?”
Lily, wearing only a black shirt with matching slacks, feigned a chill and rubbed her arms. “I am,” she said. “I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind letting me inside to warm up a bit. I would appreciate it.”
The woman frowned and grumbled under her breath. “Town’s a mile down the road,” she said. “You can find an inn or tavern or whatever there.”
Tabitha’s refusal came as no surprise. That wouldn’t be an issue, but the Blessed Star hanging over the front door held Lily at bay. Turning up her succubus charms, she said, “Please. I won’t stay long. I promise.” Tabitha hesitated, but didn’t relent. “I just … I get uncomfortable around people. I feel like they only want to take things from me. Just take, take, take. Sometimes I think it’s better to be alone.”
She chose her words carefully. Tabitha scratched at her scalp and sighed. “I know what you mean. Fine, you can come inside for a spell. But don’t think you’re spending the night here. You got that, missy?”
Lily offered a grateful smile and stepped inside. Behind her, Tabitha removed her coat, revealing a large, though not soft woman. There was brute strength in those thick arms. Strength, Lily knew, had been used to do cruel things.
“So how did you end up out here?” Tabitha asked, lighting the fireplace. “I assume you’re a drifter.”
“Yes,” she said. “I found myself north over the summer. I’ve been making my way back.”
With the fire lit, the small cottage was aglow in orange light. Looking around, Lily found a handful of old books and frayed threads of string scattered about. The knitting needles were dusty and had the remains of a spider’s web between them. Piled in the corner were a dozen stuffed animals in varying degrees of decay.
“I take it you’re a seamstress,” she said.
“Eh?” Tabitha barked, placing a kettle over the fire. “Oh. Yes. I do some repairs for the children in my spare time.”
Lily walked to the pile of abandoned dolls and noted the layer of dust coating them. Out the window, hidden behind overgrown trees and bushes, she saw a well. Beneath the age of the cottage and odor of Tabitha herself, the stench of death was in the air.
“Is that what you tell them?” she asked. “Or are these your trophies?”
Tabitha turned, her beady eyes suspicious.
“I’m a little surprised you don’t lure them here with treats,” she continued. “You being a cook and all. But I guess that would be too obvious.”
Tabitha stared at her, blinking, and glanced toward the door. Lily moved deliberately, in no rush, and stepped between her and the exit. Her eyes glowed as Tabitha backed into the corner.
“How many?” she asked, her voice turning harsh. “How many children died in this pit?”
She smelled fear come from Tabitha, along with the stench of urine. The woman stuttered and stammered. She might have been trying to deny it. Or maybe it was an attempt to explain herself. Whatever the case, Lily knew Tabitha Greenwald could see death had come for her.
Before she could scream, Lily pounced and locked her fangs over her mouth. Taking in Tabitha’s essence, she saw her memories and feelings. She saw the children lured to her cottage and how she would smother them with her thick arms or scabbed hands. She saw her dumping the bodies in the well and keeping quiet when sobbing parents lamented their missing children in town. She knew Tabitha would smile to herself, feeling grim pleasure in taking away the things these people loved most.
When it was done, and Tabitha was a shriveled husk on the floor, Lily backed to the far wall, pushing the Black away. She shook and trembled, trying not to cry, and told herself, if nothing else, she had done the world a service ridding it of such a monstrous human being.
She always chose her prey carefully—only feeding on evil-doers and refusing to hurt the innocent. Many times, she’d be faced with ambiguity and shades of gray. On occasion, she fed on those she pitied.
But every once in a while she did come across someone who truly deserved it. Men or women evil to their core in ways that gave even a demon such as her pause. She never took pleasure or pride in feeding, but on those rare occasions, she could at least feel better about it.
So there we go. Hopefully the next time I update this site, it will be with better news.
The wheels may grind slow, but they are moving.
And, of course, the obligatory shilling:
And for something different, try
Ones & Zeroes: A Short Story Collection
Hope you enjoy, and a good rating or review on Amazon and/or Goodreads would be appreciated.
Graylands ©2019 by M. Walsh