A Dog, A Dragon, The Moon and a Serenade

by Amanda S. Green

First an update.  Last week I reported that I’d been representing NRP at FenCon (this year’s Deep South Con) in Dallas.  It’s my first time at a con representing the press and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about it. But, so far, so good.  The small press roundtable was Saturday afternoon and went well — I think.  What really interested me were some of the questions from the floor.  Despite the rapid changes in the industry, it is clear writers are doing their best to educate themselves not only on whatever subject they are currently writing about but also about the business of writing.  The questions ranged from do we have favorite agents we work with — and each of us noted that most agents don’t bother with small presses.  They let us work directly with their clients and don’t get involved — to why their book from Publisher X looks great in pdf but sucks eggs when it comes out as an ebook in epub, mobi, etc.  There were questions about promoting a book and what we expect our authors to do to royalties, etc.  This truly was a panel where there were no dumb questions.

I also had the opportunity to go to Toni Weiskopf’s Baen Slide Show.  I’ve heard about the slide show for years, but this was my first time seeing it.  Toni’s desire to have good art that represents the novel shone through during the presentation.  I know there are a bunch of people out there who think Baen has horrible covers, but I have a feeling those are also the folks who don’t like the sort of books Baen puts out.  Mind you, there might be one or two that aren’t on my shelves at home or on my kindle, but not many.  What I was absolutely thrilled by was how wonderful some of the upcoming covers are.  One of my favorites is the cover for our own Dave Freer’s upcoming novel, Dog and Dragon.  The image on Amazon doesn’t do it justice.  (BTW, I’m going to do a plug here and recommend you run, not walk over to Amazon to pre-order Dog and Dragon and, while you’re at it, if you haven’t read Dragon’s Ring yet, do so.  It’s wonderful.)

So, while this weekend has been partly professional, it’s been a lot of fan girl time as well.  Not only have I had the great fun of spending time with Sarah, but I’ve been able to spend time with friends from Baen’s Bar who don’t live in the area.  The high points of the weekend so far have been meeting Toni in person and in meeting Dr. Les Johnson and his wife, Carol.  If you haven’t read any of Doc Les’ books before, let me recommend Back to the Moon (with Travis Taylor).

Since my mind is on the con and everything on the schedule today, I’m going to leave you with an excerpt from Nocturnal Serenade (Naked Reader Press, Nov 2011). BTW, this is not from the start of the book.  Why?  Because I’m evil ;-p

*  *  *

Elizabeth Santos Wheeler dropped her head into her hands and closed her eyes, fighting back a sob as she did.  This was all just a bad dream and she would soon awaken.  It had to be.  No other explanation, reasonable or not, made sense.  But what if it wasn’t?  What if it was real?  Then what was she supposed to do?

Damn it all, why was this happening?  It had nothing to do with her, not really.  So why was she the one forced to deal with it?

Because you’re the one with the most money as well as with the most to lose.  That’s why.

Resentment warred with fear, anger with the maternal instinct to protect.  For the first time in so very long, she didn’t know what to do.  It was as though her worst fears had suddenly sprung to life and she simply didn’t know how to react, didn’t know if there was anything she could do to protect herself and those she loved.

Damn it!

She shoved back from her desk and climbed to her feet.  As she did, she glanced outside.  Beyond the window, darkness swathed the yard.  Only the light cast from her window and the pale lights surrounding the swimming pool broke the darkness.  The leaves of the ornamental fruit trees on the opposite side of the pool rustled gently in the light breeze.  The oak trees shielding the yard from the golf course formed a dark curtain against the night sky.  In the distance, a neighbor’s dog barked once, twice, as if calling for someone or something to answer.  Everything looked so normal.  Yet it wasn’t and it never would be again.

Her lips pressed together in a thin, angry line.  She moved from behind her antique Georgian desk and began to pace.  Her steps were muffled, almost silenced, by the thick carpet.  She no longer heard the soft strains of the music she’d put on earlier in the evening when she’d come upstairs to work.  Instead, the sounds of her teeth grinding and her heart pounding filled her ears.  She didn’t have time for this.  She should be focusing on the Allingham case, not this – this stuff of nightmares.

As she turned back, her sea green eyes fell on the photos scattered across the top of her desk.  No one else looking at them would be this upset.  They would know with a certainty that the pictures had been faked.  After all, the images showed the unbelievable, the unreal.

But she knew better.  No matter how badly she wanted to dismiss the photos as a simple prank, she couldn’t.  She knew the images captured by some unknown photographer could be all too real, no matter how unbelievable they were.  After all, she had lived with this particular nightmare all her life, waiting, fearing for the moment it would manifest itself in either her or one of her children.  Now it had and she didn’t know what to do.

Her fingers trembled as she reached for the nearest photo.  Her chest felt as though an iron band had tightened around it, making it almost impossible to breathe. Instantly she was transported back to that terrible moment she she’d first seen the picture.  Despite the fading light caught by the image, she’d immediately recognized the subject of the photo.  In that moment, she’d died just a little.  Even as her brain tried to close down, to deny what her eyes saw, she knew the truth and she damned herself for it.

Sharp pain and the bitter taste of blood brought her thoughts back to the present.  Absently, she dabbed at the lower lips she’d been gnawing without realizing it.  But her eyes remained glued to the photograph she held in her right hand and a soft moan escaped her lips.

Why?  Dear Lord, why?

A young woman knelt on the ground, her head thrown back, her expression filled with agony as her hands ripped at her tee shirt.  Her green eyes, just a shade darker than Elizabeth’s, reflected terror at what was happening to her.  Even then, the change was obvious, if you knew what to look for – and, much to her regret, Elizabeth did.

The young woman’s hands were altering, her fingernails lengthening even as the features of her face blurred.  Muscles rippled and bunched as her body was reshaped.  Hair seemed to sprout from every pore, short hair that was more fur than hair.  All of this was documented in the other photos strewn across the desktop.

A soft sob caught in Elizabeth’s throat as the photo fluttered down to the floor.  No, the image was all too real and her nightmare had finally come to life.  What was she going to do?

Not even the note included with the photos helped her decide what her next step should be.  A single sheet of ordinary white paper with just a few lines printed on it mocked her, revealing nothing about the unknown sender or what he wanted from her.

Mrs. Wheeler:

I thought you might want to see what your eldest daughter is up to these days.  Being a parent is such a trial at times, isn’t it?  I wonder if your other children will show the same bad habits as their sister.  But don’t worry.  I’ll be in touch soon to discuss what needs to be done.

That was all.

Mackenzie, what happened?

Unable to stand it any longer, Elizabeth abruptly turned on her heel and started out of the room.  Then reality once more intruded and she hurried back to her desk.  She couldn’t leave the photos where they might be found.

She scooped up the photo she’d dropped and then those scattered across the desk top and shoved them back into the envelop they’d arrived in.  Once she had, she locked them in the top drawer of her desk and pocketed the key.  They were safely hidden from view, for a while at least.  But how long would it be before the photographer made them public?

And what would she do when that happened?

Her left hand slammed against the light switch on the wall by the door as she passed, throwing the room into darkness.  She had to do something, anything to find out who had sent the photos.  The envelope had been delivered to her office.  Hopefully, the receptionist had made an entry as to who brought in the innocent looking brown envelope.  At least it was a place to start looking for answers.

7 thoughts on “A Dog, A Dragon, The Moon and a Serenade

    1. Thanks, Dave. And the cover was wonderful in the slide show. That’s the problem with the small images on Amazon,etc., You just don’t get the full effect.

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