Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ravens From the Ashes

Ravens From the Ashes

From the Ashes Trilogy: Book 1

I love thinking about the apocalypse. Zombies, nuclear war, alien invasions, global warming, whatever, it's all fun to think about. But, like most people who like thinking about the apocalypse, I like it only as a concept. Let's face it, I'd be totally fucked if society really did fall. I'm an indoor kitty cat who doesn't even like camping. Still, it's fun to think about from the social standpoint of what might happen to all sorts of people if society's rules were suddenly gone and challenges that nobody has ever faced before popped up...even if my fate would be to immediately get eaten by zombies because I suck at climbing trees. So it should come as no surprise that I write a lot of post-apocalyptic books, but this is my first book outlining the fall of humanity.

This book was supposed to be a prequel to the Ravens Ladies series, and then I decided it was going to be a prequel trilogy...prilogy...triquel...pretriquelogy...I'm really close to making up a word for that. This caused problems, none of which are particularly important now, but it delayed the release of the book by about a year, which suuuuuuucked. The result, however, is the first book I've actually had complete creative control over. A first for me. So if you're wanting to see exactly what my vision of a paperback is, you should spring for the hard copy since it's exactly what I wanted in a book.

I've also been toying with the idea of books with soundtracks. Movies get them, TV shows get them, and holidays get them, so why not books? Nikki and I sat down while we were working on proof copies (sorry, dear readers, but the love of my life does get to read all my books way before anyone else) and came up with a soundtrack for Ravens From the Ashes. If you want to listen to the music we decided should be the backdrop for the book, check it out on Spotify: Ravens From the Ashes Soundtrack. If you've got music you think would work for the book and would like to add to it, feel free to post your personalized soundtracks for this (or any of my books if you want to) in the comments section. Also consider buying songs/albums/merch or go to a concert for any of the musicians on the soundtrack--I only picked songs I've personally paid for and several musicians I've gone to concerts to see.

Here it is, lovely readers, the first book of the origin story trilogy for Fiona Bishop aka the Gunfighter, Veronica Vegas aka the White Queen, and the Raven Ladies. It's available in all formats through the links below, and heck, I'll throw in the first chapter right now to get you started.

Kindle   --   Nook   --   Kobo   --  Paperback



Drip, drip, drip, drip. Fiona awoke to the familiar sound of the coffeepot finishing its run. Her head felt like it was full of wet cement when she dragged it from her pillow. Were the coffeepot not automated, she doubted it would ever make coffee before noon. She didn’t actually know if either assumption was true for that morning. Daylight streamed in through the Venetian blinds on her bedroom window that overlooked the top of King Street. Her cell phone wasn’t on the nightstand so telling time wasn’t an option until she went into the kitchen to look at the microwave.
She stumbled from bed, found a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt among the scattering of clothes on the floor, and wandered out the open bedroom door into the rest of her West Hollywood condo. The coffeepot had filled the living room, kitchen, and dining room with the lovely scent of freshly brewed coffee. Fiona glanced at the sleeping form on her couch on her way past.
“Sharon, get the fuck off my couch and out of my apartment,” Fiona snarled at her mother on the way past. The bleached blond, comatose figure on the couch barely stirred at the order barked at her. Fiona nearly stumbled over a pair of daringly high wedge heels on her way into the kitchen. “And pick up your hooker shoes before I break my neck.”
A glance at the microwave mounted above the never-used stove told her that she’d awoken at 10:32 AM. Not bad considering her night ended on the barely light side of dawn. She stood in front of the coffeepot a moment before she remembered what she was doing. A white mug sat next to the white appliance. Most of the things in Fiona’s apartment were white, not for any vision of d├ęcor, but because she didn’t like trying to figure out complimentary colors and nothing in her apartment was ever used enough to show dirt even on white surfaces. She poured coffee into the mug and considered its existence. Her mother clearly hadn’t made the coffee, and even if she had, she wouldn’t have set out a mug for her daughter.
The coffee mixed poorly with the tequila film coating the inside of Fiona’s mouth left over from the night before. She spit the coffee into the sink and dipped her head under the tap to run the faucet over her mouth to suck in a few mouthfuls. She swished the water around and spit it into the sink before returning to her coffee.
“Don’t drink from the tap like some stupid animal,” her mother croaked from the couch. “There’s bottled water in the fridge. Besides, there are chemicals in tap water.”
It wasn’t even funny how many chemicals Sharon willingly ingested in the form of drugs, paid to have pumped into her face by plastic surgeons, and poured over her head to turn her red hair platinum blond, but her daughter was supposed to un-ironically beware tap water chemicals. “I told you to take your hooker shoes and get out.”
Fiona’s mother rose from the couch like a herky-jerky zombie. She glanced at the shoes mentioned as she staggered toward the hallway and the bathroom door. “Is that any way to talk to your mother?” she said. “And those aren’t mine.”
“You were telling people you were my sister last night.” Fiona sipped her coffee, wrapping both hands around the mug to absorb the warmth along with the caffeine. She took a harder look at the shoes. Upon closer inspection, they were real Jimmy Choos, which were well out of her mother’s price range or fashion savvy.
“There’s someone taking a shower,” her mother said on the way back through toward Fiona’s master bedroom and the other bathroom.
“I told you to get out,” Fiona said.
The shoes must belong to whoever was in the bathroom, the same someone who made the coffee and set out the mug. That made more sense than the automated timer making the coffee. Fiona rarely remembered to set up the pot the night before—automatic didn’t mean the coffeepot would fill itself with a fresh filter, coffee grounds, and water. Fiona hated to admit, even to herself, that she’d thought that’s what automatic meant when she bought it.
“You need to be in Las Vegas by 7 PM,” her mother said. “Do you want me to drive you? We could have a girl’s weekend.”
“You mean you can snort all my coke and dance with frat boys while I work? Fuck off, Sharon.”
“You can’t drive anymore. How else are you going to get there?”
“Stripper flight out of Burbank.” Supremely sought-after strippers and porn stars or sometimes struggling models and actresses, would fly from Burbank airport to Vegas for the weekend on cheap flights to dance in the high-end strip clubs of Las Vegas, earning five figures in two nights. Fiona never did the dancing part, but she’d taken the flights before because they were filled with beautiful women who smelled heavenly and appreciated the professional courtesy of not pestering one another. After Fiona stabbed a paparazzi guy in the mouth with a pen knife outside LAX a couple years ago, she wasn’t eager to use the L.A. hub again and she really didn’t want anyone recognizing her.
“How are you going to get to the airport?”
“Whoever is in the shower can give me a ride.”
“Maybe it’s a him in the shower and he was my date.”
Fiona rolled her eyes. “Not likely. My television is still here instead of at an Echo Park pawnshop sold for meth money and those are women’s shoes on the floor. You’re not coming to Vegas with me.”
“Fine, can I at least have the Camaro since you can’t drive it?”
“Chaos tic.” Fiona looked down meaningfully to the steaming cup of coffee in her hands.
“Whatever, I’m gone.” Fiona’s mother comported herself and walked out of the condo with all the grace and dignity that a hung-over hanger-on could muster.
Fiona returned to sipping her coffee. She hadn’t really had a chaos tic that demanded she throw the hot coffee in her mother’s face, but she’d indulged so many of her psychotic tendencies lately that it was a potent threat even as a lie. Only a handful of people even knew of Fiona’s particular mental affliction that required her to do most of the insane things that popped into her head; thankfully, her mother didn’t know her well enough to know when she was bluffing.
A dainty figure wrapped in a towel emerged from the hallway. Her dark brown, shoulder length hair was still wet from the shower and her face had the attractive, freshly scrubbed glow that Fiona adored. Fiona knew the woman, although she couldn’t remember how they’d met or what her name was.
“What’s a chaos tic?” the woman asked with a twinkle in her dark brown eyes.
“You know those weird urges you get in everyday situations where you feel like doing something socially unacceptable like spitting in someone’s face for no reason, or shoving a stranger off a curb, or whatever?”
“Yeah, everyone gets those.”
“I call them chaos tics,” Fiona said, “and my mother knows I either can’t or won’t ignore them.”
“Good term for something I didn’t know had a name.” The woman kicked her shoes out of the high traffic area between the bedroom and the kitchen. She leaned against the divider wall alongside the kitchen island. “How’s the coffee?”
“Good, thank you.” Fiona liked that the woman had kicked her own thousand dollar shoes as if they were five dollar flip-flops just because Fiona wanted them out of her way. Pliable was good, but being instinctively aware that Fiona’s feelings were far more important than shoes of any price range was great. It kept her calm when people picked up on her desires, however small, without her having to ask for something, and calm kept her from lashing out.
“The shower is all yours if you want.”
“Thanks, I could use one.”
“You have no idea who I am, do you?”
“I want to say Kelly,” Fiona said.
“Right so far. I work for you.”
“As an…accountant?”
“My lawyer is a large, hairy Jewish gentleman with unpleasant breath and a weightlifter’s body,” Fiona said.
“That’s your criminal lawyer. I’m an entertainment industry lawyer.”
“Oh, right, the fucking TV show thing.”
“You’ll be the next host of ‘Model Behavior’ by the end of the month if I have anything to say about it,” Kelly said.
Normally inking a reality television show contract wouldn’t require a lawyer since she already had an entertainment industry agent, but Fiona had some legal baggage that necessitated a specialist, chiefly because of the mouth-stabbing incident at LAX and the suspended drivers license from two DUIs. Truthfully, Fiona didn’t even want the show—playing the mentor figure to a gaggle of bitchy wannabe models sounded like a shit job to her. They drove the metaphorical dump truck full of money into her living room, and she got over her trepidation.
“Did we sleep together?” Fiona asked.
“You fell asleep while I was going down on you.” Kelly cracked a smile that made Fiona flinch inwardly.
“I swear that’s not my best move.”
“I would hope not,” Kelly said. “Did you need me to give you a ride to the airport?”
“I’m driving to Vegas. I just didn’t want Sharon knowing.”
Kelly gave her a suspicious look. “I thought your license was suspended.”
Fiona leaned forward against the countertop between them. She smiled sweetly, letting a few strands of her red hair fall across her face. A little fidgeting with the handle of her coffee mug gave off the sense of nervousness she didn’t really feel. When she glanced up from the demure tilt of her head, she saw in Kelly’s eyes that her coy routine had done its work.
“You could come with me, if you want,” Fiona said shyly. “Give me a chance to make up for last night.”
“You’re not planning on hooking up a bunch when you’re in Vegas?” Kelly asked. A light touch of pink warmed the curves of her cheeks and the top of her neck.
“I am,” Fiona said, letting a tiny pause pass, “with you.”
“I suppose I can take a weekend off,” Kelly said.
“We can swing by your place on the way out of town to pick up your slinkiest party dress and skimpiest bikini,” Fiona said with a smile.

♠ ♣ ♥ ♦

After a quick stop off at Kelly’s Culver City apartment, they were on their way down the 10 heading east toward Vegas. Fiona’s lead foot didn’t know or care about suspended licenses or speed limits. She’d purchased the highest of high-end Camaros for the express purpose of feeling every single horse the car had under the hood whenever she so much as twitched a toe against the accelerator.
“Silver and black Camaro ZL1,” Kelly said. “Something like 580 horsepower?”
“Something like that,” Fiona said, not really knowing the exact numbers. Long Beach motor-head butches certainly seemed to like her ride whenever Fiona ventured down that way for an edgier date than she could get in West Hollywood. She hadn’t pegged Kelly as the type to know more about her car than her, although it was definitely a point in the lawyer’s favor. Fiona was a sucker for fast cars and fast women who knew cars.
“Am I going to get to drive it?” Kelly asked.
Fiona downshifted to fourth, slammed the gas pedal, and shot around a slow-moving BMW. The car roared and jumped forward under her expert direction. Fiona liked to think her car wanted to go fast as much as she did. The Camaro understood her self-destructive streak because it had one too. They were both built to someday end up wrapped around a telephone pole—it was in their blood and motor oil. Burnouts that fell short of anything worthwhile in life like Sharon and sweet girls with people-pleasing streaks like Kelly couldn’t understand the need to ride the edge of imminent destruction.
“Maybe,” Fiona said, reconsidering her estimation of Kelly. Anyone who would go to Vegas with her for a weekend must have some nihilistic tendencies.
They merged onto the 15 toward Barstow with the early afternoon sun beating down on the worn California highway. Kelly kept herself busy messing with the air conditioning on her side, answering emails on her Blackberry, and searching through Fiona’s iPod for tolerable music. Fiona couldn’t tell if her lawyer was nervous or just self-contained.
“So what exactly are you doing in Vegas?” Kelly finally asked when she’d run out of busy work.
“There’s a runway thing and a photo shoot,” Fiona said. “I usually just skim the emails enough to know where and when something is happening. Details aren’t my thing. It doesn’t matter since they usually let me know what’s going on when I get there.”
“Is your agent okay with that attitude?”
Fiona shrugged. “Don’t know; don’t care.”
“I saw that you packed something of a treasure trove of pills and other chemical refreshments,” Kelly said. “Are you really going to go through it all in one weekend?”
Fiona glanced over, hoping to judge Kelly’s intentions, but ended up fixating on the top of her silk blouse where the blasting air conditioner vent was fluttering the gauzy material across her cleavage. She was tan, her breasts were exquisite, and Fiona couldn’t think of anything beyond wondering what color Kelly’s bra was. There was little doubt Kelly’s breasts were the work of a surgeon and not genetics, but that had never bothered Fiona. A person in Los Angeles would kill their hookup chances if they excluded the surgically enhanced.
“Um…sure, maybe, do you have a weapon of choice against unsuspecting brain cells?” Fiona asked.
“No, I’m the squeaky clean type, maybe a little pot in college,” Kelly said. “It just made me think of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The talent and her lawyer driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with a trunk full of illicit drugs.”
“I don’t know what that is,” Fiona said. Even if Fiona wasn’t entirely distracted by the luscious view of Kelly’s cleavage, none of what she’d just said rang a bell.
“The Hunter S. Thompson book?” Kelly asked hopefully.
Fiona shrugged. “It sounds interesting, but like I said, I’m a skimmer not a reader.”
“They also made it into a movie, twice actually,” Kelly said.
As the 15 seamlessly turned into the 515 at Barstow and they dipped into the true desert of eastern California, Fiona began to suspect she was losing Kelly. The truth was Fiona didn’t think of herself as a very interesting person. She didn’t read, didn’t care about politics or causes, and she didn’t even watch TV or movies all that often. Anything that required a quiet mind to enjoy made her skin crawl. She worked hard and partied twice as hard in the hope that the next adrenaline rush or fix would satisfy her long enough to sleep for a few hours before she would have to get up and start hunting for the next jolt. Kelly was interesting, though. She’d gone to college. She’d read things. She knew things that connected to other things she knew in ways that made her seem smart and worldly when she spoke. She probably even knew exactly why she was going where she was going for work. In comparison Fiona was empty, beautiful to look at, but vacant in almost every conceivable way. When faced with that level of disparity in overall value as a human being, Fiona did what she always did.
“Let’s play a game,” Fiona said.
“Like twenty questions or something?”
“Yeah, but strip twenty questions,” Fiona said.
“Okay. You think of something first.”
Fiona could tell from the upward trill in Kelly’s voice that she was excited by the prospect and probably more than a little nervous. That’s what Fiona needed: to feel as though she’d regained the upper hand despite how inferior she really was to Kelly.
By the time Vegas rose out of the desert like an unholy abomination cobbling together a dozen cities from around the world into one, Fiona and Kelly were both mostly undressed and practically thrumming with sexual frustration. The bra Fiona finally got to see cupping Kelly’s breasts so perfectly was maroon with little lace flowers. It was as satisfying of an answer as she could hope for.
Rather than let Kelly get dressed once they pulled onto the strip, Fiona gunned the engine, weaving in and out of traffic until she shot across the oncoming two lanes to get into the Bellagio parking roundabout. The Camaro’s engine roared, the cars she cut across the front of slammed on their brakes and laid on their horns, and Kelly let out the most delightful noise comprised of equal parts nervous giggle and scream of excited fear. They passed along the side of the famous fountains, skipped the valet beneath the awning, and darted straight into the south parking garage.
Fiona loved Vegas for the parking. Finding parking in Los Angeles was impossible, required the right stickers from a monolithic parking authority, and always cost money. In Vegas, they wanted people out of their cars and into casinos as quickly and as painlessly as possible, so parking was typically free and plentiful.
It took every drop of willpower she had not to race through the crowded parking garage to find an empty, secluded spot. Near the top of the structure, away from the elevator to the casino, she finally found the dark corner she was searching for. She pulled the Camaro in, slammed on the brakes, turned off the engine, and practically leapt across the center console into Kelly’s arms.
The fiery kiss they shared was only broken momentarily when Kelly asked, “Aren’t you going to be late?”
“Only a little and I’ll look much better on the runway if I have the glow of just getting laid,” Fiona whispered against Kelly’s mouth.
“Good answer,” Kelly murmured back and their lips were once again inseparable.


Alexandra Koerner said...

I pondered some about post apocalyptic scenarios (though no zombies) and what you came up with is a great setting for roleplaying as well. I just need to get them to read the books.
I also really love the idea of a soundtrack to the book. I am listening it up and down, and all I can say is: More please. Through some songs the characters appear before my eyes, I really like that.

Erin Kane said...

This is just exciting and awesome news! The playlist is fantastic as well! I was happy to see Brandi Carlile on there. So fitting. As always, I look forward to whatever you do with bated breath!