Excerpt from IMMORTAL SINS – the Second Book in the Before the Sun Rises Series by Nicola Chey Matthews


The sun had barely begun to set when the shrill ringing of Ash’s cell phone roused Altania from a troubled sleep. She almost groaned aloud when she heard Ash’s deep voice answer the call with a short, “Ash speaking.”

She thought she had dreamed the whole thing. Her entire slumber had been riddled with dreams of Ashton, her sister, and the events of not only the past few hours, but also the events from all those years ago.

The memories were still so fresh, the reality mixed in with the recollections and offset with her wild, subconscious imagination. She had discovered her sister’s cold body on the floor of Ashton’s basement in dreams dozens of times now, like the whole thing was on a giant loop, finding her sister dead and then discovering herself in Ash’s arms, his body pressed against hers as he held her closely, running his fingers through her hair and murmuring over and over again how sorry he was, how he regretted hurting her and her sister and wishing he could erase the sadness from her heart forever.

Again, it felt like it was two different people, like Ash was two different people, the Ashton Jones that had brutally murdered her sister in cold blood, and the vampire Ash, passionate, loving, willing to do whatever it took to keep her safe and happy.

Altania’s mind and heart were conflicted, being pulled in so many different directions. Coming from beneath the veil of sleep, it took her a few moments to right the world, to come to grips with the stark realization that she was being forced to work with the man who had not only taken her sister from her, but a man who she was finding greatly changed the longer she was in his company. The former she could learn to live with, but the latter troubled her more than she would like to admit.

“Alty.” The sound of his voice so close shook her out of her thoughts. She turned towards him, his voice and body too close for comfort at the moment.

“Yeah?” she asked a bit groggy, sitting up in bed and pulling the scrunchy from her hair. She let the dark locks fall around her shoulders, running her fingertips over her scalp to massage some of the soreness out from having worn her hair up for so long.

“We’ve got a problem.”

Altania looked up at him as he said that word, her body stone still. She knew from experience that hearing that word, that sentence, was never going to end well.

“You remember that little elemental that we were supposed to be meeting this evening, the one named Ethereal?” He didn’t wait for her to answer as he continued, “The Council thought she might be able to help us gather intel on the whereabouts of Dakota.”

While he spoke Ash removed the shirt he had worn to bed, the sight of his half-naked body causing Altania’s eyes to wander. Feeling herself flush uncomfortably, she averted her eyes while he shrugged on a new shirt, the sight of his chiseled abs and multitude of scars marring the skin of his back forever burned into her mind.

Altania tried hard not to snort when Ash said the woman’s name. What was the deal with the supernaturals in this country? Who was naming these people? Better yet, did they think the names were actually cute? Who ever heard of an elemental fey named Ethereal? That would be like naming a vampire, well, Requiem or Stealth or Ash. If this were a book instead of real life, she’s be rolling her eyes, wondering if the author thought he was really being original, or thought readers were that daft in the head to not realize just how corny everyone’s names were.

She tossed the covers back on the bed as Ash continued to talk, digging around inside her bag until she produced a fresh set of clothes. No matter what he was about to tell her, she still had to get dressed.

“The Council has been unable to get in contact with her since right before sunrise this morning. Her cell phone is going straight to voicemail. It’s probably nothing, but the Council wants us to check it out just the same.”

Ash followed her past the curtain that separated the sleeping and bathing areas as he talked.

“What are you doing?” she asked, turning around to glare up at him.

He stared back at her for a split second, not sure what she was talking about. “What?” he asked a split second before realization dawned on him. He laughed then, a short chuckle that echoed off the tiled walls. “I’ve seen you naked before, Alty,” he said matter-of-factly. “Besides, we don’t have time for this right now. We have to get on the road.”

The words were barely out of his mouth before she let out a half scream, half shriek as she lunged at him, her hand drawn back with the intention of landing a much-deserved slap across the face. Ash caught her hand easily enough, his fingers curling around her wrist.

“What part of ‘protect your partner with your life’ did you have problems with?” he asked her quietly, his nearly black orbs boring into hers.

She did scream this time, in frustration and anger, her other hand swinging for his face again. He could have stopped it had he wanted, but he chose to let her hand make contact with a resounding smacking sound against his cheek. His own hand snaked out faster than her mortal eyes could see, his hand capturing hers a mere second after she landed the blow.

He held both of her wrists within his for a moment before pulling her roughly against him. Her heart was hammering inside her chest, partly from anger and now from a mixture of fear and something else, something that scared her far worse than the vampire whose arms were now holding her tightly.

Ash’s right hand moved to the small of her lower back, holding her firmly against his body as his left hand moved up to grip the back of her neck firmly. He dipped his head, allowing his cheek to brush against hers as he whispered, “I said we don’t have time for this, Alty, but I’m game if you are.”

His words, their indication, swept through her mind and straight to her body. An uncontrollable shiver ran down her spine, her body trembling as he held her so closely against him. She was acutely aware of how her body was pressed against his, the feel of hardened muscle meshing with softened curves. Her breathing had become slightly labored, her heart beating loudly in her ears as her blood rushed to the delicate parts of her body, her nerve ending more sensitive to what was happening than she thought possible. She tried to pull away from him, demanding that her body separate itself from his, but instead she discovered herself moving closer to him, her body making demands of its own that had her mind screaming in protest.

Ash pulled her impossibly close, the feel of her breasts moving against his chest as she struggled to breathe creating an immediate reaction in his own body, his organ becoming hard and throbbing despite his lack of fresh blood in nearly a day. He lowered his head until his lips hovered over the vein in her neck, his ears picking up the enticing tattoo of her beating heart.

The sudden and intense scent of blood wafted up at him, his mind instantly splitting into concern and hunger. He pulled back slightly, noticing the spreading stain on her shirt. His brow furrowed, realizing that Alty’s sudden movements only moments before had broken open the wound on her shoulder.

Ash released his hold on her neck to move the shirt out of his way, a movement that had Altania struggling against him in earnest. Her thrashing caused the shirt to rip a bit, adding fuel to her frenzied mind.

“Be still, Alty,” he demanded, his voice firm and quiet at the same time. She ceased her struggles when she noticed that her shirt had a growing blood stain inches from the fangs of a hungry vampire.

Alty grew very still, knowing that any sudden movement might set him off, trigger the predator that lay inside of him. She had seen how he behaved around her fresh wound yesterday, knew he could control himself better than most vampires five times his age, but her animal instinct was kicking in, telling her to be very still and ready to run if need be, the fight or flight instinct growing ever more prominent in her mind.

The sweet smell of the fresh blood was maddening, but at the same time his concern over her well-being was keeping the hunger in check. Ash let go of Alty completely for a split second, just long enough to rip the already shredded fabric from her body. For Alty it felt like her shirt exploded away from her in a fraction of second, the sudden violence making her cry out in surprise. Looking down, she realized that she was now standing bare-chested within the arms of the man whom she had sworn undying hatred towards.

She groaned inward, cursing herself for not taking the time to at least put a bra on before putting her clothes on last night. She had been in such a hurry to get any type of barrier between her bare flesh and Ash that she had rushed into her clothes before she was even half-dried from her bath. Now the loss of her tank top had her bare breasts pushed up against Ash, the soft mounds within hands’ reach.

She looked up, seeing Ash’s eyes drinking in the sight of her body, a slight smile curling up the sides of his mouth. Seeing that slight smirk, the total enjoyment he was having at her expense sent her over the edge. She hissed through clenched teeth, pushing against Ash in an attempt to free herself.

Her struggles caused the soft mounds of her breasts to jiggle irresistibly, the feel of her body squirming against his and the scent of her skin and blood had Ash about to explode inside his jeans. He was hungry and the attraction he had always felt towards Altania was almost more than he could bear with her naked body locked tightly in his arms.

Ash let his breath out in a low, whistling hiss, the predator in him taking over for a mere breath of a second as he suddenly picked Altania up and turned around, sitting her atop the vanity that had been at his back. He grabbed her hips and pulled her hard against him, one leg on either side of his waist, her pubic mound grinding into his as he leaned in towards her. He held the lower half of her body captive with his left hand and arm as his right hand wrenched her head to the side.

Ash was breathing hard, something that vampires only did when they were on the brink of losing control of their base urges. Somehow Alty knew this, could feel his body coiled as if ready to strike, a slight tremor in the muscles that rippled beneath her hands. She had stopped struggling, her hands on his shoulders doing little more than keeping her from collapsing into his arms. Her legs had wrapped themselves around his waist at some point, her body on fire, every fiber in her being now trembling at his touch.

“Ash,” his name was breathless on her lips, barely audible; her mind was trying desperately to remind her body that he was not only the enemy, but a predator that could easily rip her apart. Right this second, however, she was less fearful of his fangs and more concerned about the man whose organ was barely contained within the confines of the material of his jeans. And if she was truly honest with herself, she half hoped he would take what he wanted, what she wanted to give, and was too angry to admit.

“Altania,” his voice was rough, throaty as he tried to speak, his cheek pressed against hers as he whispered in her ear. “I’m not going to tell you again to be very, very still. I’m hungry, in more ways than one, and if you do not stop acting like a late breakfast then I cannot be held accountable for my actions. There is only so much I can handle with you.” He pulled back, those black eyes desperate in his need as he added, “And to be honest, Alty, I’m less interested in the blood right now and much, much more interested in you.”

She didn’t speak, afraid that all it would take for him, and for her, to claim what he so frantically wanted was just one word of encouragement. Altania became very still, allowing her body to rest against his. Her breath was still labored, her heart beat becoming less like the erratic tattoo of fear and a deeper, more rapid beat of one in the heat of passion.

Altania allowed herself these few moments to revel in the feel of her naked flesh against the rough texture of his shirt, the rigid muscles rippling beneath.

Why I Quit FaceBook: What You are REALLY Getting in a Self-Published Book

Back in 2005 I began researching the self-publishing industry. I spent more than 15 years trying to get some of my first books published through traditional publishing companies. I racked up more rejection letters than I can count, had more than my fair share of well-meaning editors tell me that I might want to rethink a career as a writer, and for good reason. The first three novels that I wrote were utter crap, and editors were not afraid to tell me as much. I’ve had my soul crushed on numerous occasions, but through it all I kept writing, because I knew that the only way that I was going to improve as a writer was to practice the skill.

And so I did practice. I not only wrote three novels before I turned 25, but I also wrote countless term papers, an endless chain of book reports and composition papers for high schoolers and college goers alike. I joined several RPGs back in 2004 and, after nearly a decade of only scribbling down a few notes and trying desperately to breathe life back into those first few horrendous books of mine, books that I finally realized there was absolutely no hope for, I once again found myself enjoying the art of writing. At the urging of several thousand readers on my social networking page, I began researching self-publishing, and after two years of reading everything that I could on the subject and weighing the pros and cons, in 2008 I decided that I would at least give it a try.

Back then there were only a very small number of self-published authors and only a handful of true self-publishing venues to choose from. Most people had never heard of the phrase “print-on-demand,” much less knew what it meant or how it worked to an author’s advantage. And self-publishing back then was not the easy “upload and click publish” walk-through-the-park that it is today. It was old-school publishing, where everything had to be formatted perfectly in order for your file to be accepted by the POD. You didn’t have a few dozen fonts to choose from, the POD companies only accepted about 3 fonts and you had to spend days reading through forums and self-help PDF files buried on their sites to figure out what those few acceptable fonts were and how to embed them into your file. You had to learn about the different sizes of books, what mirror margins were, what a gutter was, and what it meant for your cover art to “bleed” when creating the file. It could take you weeks of playing around with the formatting of the file before you finally got the company to accept the file, and then if there was anything wrong once the file was converted, you had to delete the file and start all over again. It was torture. These days all it means to be an author is that you figured out how to upload a WORD file and stock photo to Amazon. When I first started, you actually had to learn how to format the entire interior of the file before you could upload it.

So all the annoyances aside of those early days into the indie publishing realm aside, to boost sales I also posted excerpts of my stories and novels on an adult site. I did that for about six years, slowly building up a reader base of several million readers. Towards the end, around 2012 or so, the site was being trolled so badly that I simply could not stomach going to the site. All the little wannabe writers had learned to game the system, figured out how to create an unlimited number of accounts and up-vote their works to the point where any author who wasn’t willing to stoop to their levels was quickly buried beneath all the utter shit writings that polluted the story site. Needless to say, I was not one of the authors who was willing to stoop to their levels. So I left the site, disgusted that the owners of the site allowed such behavior to go unchecked.

I am a damn good writer because I have spent more than 3 DECADES honing my skill. I have been ripped apart by some of the best editors and publishing houses out there, been rejected by all the major players and hundreds of the minors as well. I took their harsh criticism with a smile on my face and a thank you on my lips, listened to their advice, and spent years honing my skills and writing style. I have EARNED my right as a legitimate author through decades of practice, which is why it pisses me to no end to see my facebook list filled with wannabe writers who cannot string a complex sentence together without leaving out the proper punctuation and misspelling half the words in the damn sentence. I am tired of these people whining and complaining about readers who leave them bad reviews. If you can’t handle the criticism, then don’t publish. It’s as simple as that. Don’t whine, don’t complain, and don’t send your damn little facebook fuck-buddies to harass the reader because you would rather spend your time and energy trying to figure out a way to screw more unsuspecting readers out of their hard-earned money than improve your skills as a writer. That is not fair to the readers nor to the other writers who actually give a damn about their reputation as a writer and put forth a whole hell of a lot of effort to provide their readers with the absolute best product they can write.

I am fed up with “Amazon bestselling author” being a new catch-phrase that these idiot writers keep using to screw readers out of a few bucks. And I cannot even begin to tell you how revolting it is to be put into the same category as these people. I take pride in my work, I do dozens upon dozens of rewrites and edits, my work goes through as many as 6 professional editors before it goes up for publication, and about once a year I send items that have already been published BACK to editors to fine-tune them even more. I am a professional writer, I produce a professional piece of work, but these days, when you one-click that indie book, chances are you are getting little more than a pile of word-vomit from someone who slapped down the first thing that came to their minds and then uploaded it to Amazon.

But my unhappiness with FaceBook and the hordes of first-time writers isn’t my only gripe. Just like that site I used to post to, a huge chunk of the writers on my friends list have learned to game Amazon’s ranking system as well. They are creating multiple accounts to post fake reviews or having all their family and friends post fake reviews for them. I can name you more than a dozen websites where you can buy a scripted review for a few bucks. There are dozens of so-called ‘review’ groups on FB alone where people will sign up and post any review the author wants on Amazon in exchange for a free copy of said book. And if you don’t want to get blacklisted from the group, you had better NOT post anything less than the required minimum star rating that the authors demand. The sheer amount of groups and websites that have sprung up that allows authors to fake their way to a high-ranking on Amazon is utterly disgusting. And readers are falling for it, bad writing and all. Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter HOW much spit and polish you put on a turd because, at the end of the day, it’s still a turd. And there are now so many turds floating around Amazon that the entire site has become nothing more than a giant sewer filled to the top with one piece of word-vomit novel after another.

I’ve also had my fill with so many writers having pity-parties every few days. I’ve had one hell of a difficult childhood filled with physical, emotional, and psychological abuse. But you don’t see me posting about it on FB to drum up a few sympathy sales. And just because I write steamy books and shorts doesn’t mean I have to cyber with half my friends list and then wonder why my significant other left me. I’ve seen some writers on FB act like bigger whores than prostitutes on the side of a New York street corner. Acting like a douche-bag and lying to get more readers isn’t the right way to get known as a writer. What it WILL do is cause you to lose the support of those decent writers who value their reputation as a quality writer who strives to only put forth their absolute best work.

So I decided to make a change. Just like I cut out that other writing site from my life, I am now cutting out all the negativity from my FB life as well. I simply cannot sit by and keep biting my tongue any time I see one of these truly horrific writers post a book teaser filled with mistakes. I am not going to keep suppressing my sheer disgust with writers who keep claiming to be BEST SELLERS when their ranking is lower than mine and their name has never ONCE hit the ‘Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store’ list on Amazon. I am no longer going to literally pull my hair out whenever I see one particularly bad writer whore it up on Amazon and see his little harem giggle themselves silly whenever he starts talking about doing a live naked chat with his readers. I have tried ignoring these sorry excuses for writers, I have managed to NOT tell their readers that if they seriously think these are good books than they are flaming morons because honestly, it isn’t the readers’ fault. They have been conditioned to think that if there are dozens of positive reviews sitting on a book and the same dozen fake FB accounts keeps posting stupid-ass comments like “Yesss! That was soooo hot!” to such utter shit as “My dick would like to say hello to her kitty” then this author and his work MUST be good and popular, right?

WRONG!! FUCKING WRONG!! It doesn’t make it the book good or the writer a good writer just because you have a few dozen “people” talking about it anymore than it made “50 Shades” or “Twilight” good books. It’s the complex social behavior behind it that made everyone flock to it, the ‘herd mentality’ if you will. When you are put into a group where everyone is saying the same thing, you don’t want to be that one person who doesn’t agree for fear of rejection by the group, so you go along with it. Same thing is happening with these wannabe writers, just like it did with “50 Shades” and ‘Twilight.” They have their little clique filled with who are more than willing to harass the fuck out of anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

As a writer, as much as I would LOVE to tell these idiots how fucking bad they are as writers and that they really should pull that shit down from Amazon before they embarrass themselves further, I simply can’t BECAUSE of the herd mentality. So I have done the next best thing. As of today, I have started removing a LOT of these so-called authors from my friends list. I figure if I cannot support them as a writer then there is no need to have them on my friends list. I do NOT want to stoop to their level to make sales. I refuse to buy, beg, or trade reviews, I will not start posting half-naked pics of myself online and cyber-sexing with my readers in the comments section of my Fb posts, and I will not claim to be a best-selling author just to try to convince readers that they should buy my books.

What I will say is that 30 years of writing has made me a decent author, that I pride myself on producing the absolute best story that I can. I won’t say that my writing style and storylines are for everyone, but there is a reason why I have less than a 1% return rate on my books, and it’s not because I slapped up some word porn onto Amazon and then lied to my FB friends about being a best-selling author. I’ve tried mentoring these young ‘writers’ and have basically had them spit in my face. If you cannot be bothered to at least try to learn and practice your craft and show respect for those of us who have been in the business way longer than you have, then I simply cannot support you any longer. And it’s not because I think I am such a better writer, it’s because I have come to expect so much more from myself and other professional authors.

Self-Editing 101 – Create an Action Plan and Execute

When it comes to reading, our mind naturally fills in missing words, doesn’t trip up on wrong-word usage, and will oftentimes auto-correct spelling so that minor flaws and typos are rarely noticed, especially by the average reader. However, as writers, and especially those of us who are independently published, we must take on the role of editor and proofreader once the rough draft of our masterpiece is finished. When it comes to self-editing our own work, we all wear the ‘beer goggles’ that makes finding our own mistakes even tougher than usual. Our minds are not only auto-correcting due to the way our brains are hard-wired, but after the sixth or seventh time of proofreading the same passage, our ability to detect inaccuracies becomes even more diminished from sheer repetition.

So what is an aspiring writer to do when it comes to self-editing? Of course, you should always hire a professional editor to do final edits and checks, especially if you are independently publishing. However, as many editors charge not only by the length of the finished piece but also by amount of work that goes into fixing errors, submitting a piece that is as error-free as possible will not only ease the cost to your pocket-book, it will also ensure that the final product will be as neat and typo-free as possible.

When deciding to tackle the all-important step of self-editing, you will find that each writer’s approach to the task will be as varied as their writing styles and genres. There really is no right or wrong when it comes to self-editing. The best advice will be to develop a plan of action and then carry it out, find out what works best for you, and stick with it. Below I outline my own personal system of conquering this all-important step.

1. The once-over, just for fun – To begin with, I will read over my story/novel in its entirety, just for fun, doing brief edits to fix grammatical mistakes, typos, and story-flow. These are the obvious flaws, the ones that are so bad that they just jump out at the reader. I don’t do heavy edits or massive re-writes, but I do take notes so that I can come back to a section to completely re-vamp if necessary.

2. The time consumer, part 1 – On my second run, I go through the story line by line, paragraph by paragraph. I start out reading each line of a paragraph, looking for typos, wrong-word usage, missing words, and grammatical errors, as well as light re-writes. I do this for each line of a single paragraph. Once I go through each line, I re-read the paragraph for story-flow for JUST that paragraph. I go through the entire story this way, line for line by each paragraph until I have edited the entire manuscript for typographical and grammatical errors. This takes the longest amount of time and can get very tedious. However, I have discovered that by breaking it down like this, finding and correcting typos and grammatical errors becomes much easier.

3. The time consumer, part 2 – The Rewrite Sessions – I go through the entire story from beginning to end, this time doing all the massive rewrites taken from my notes from the first once over. I am careful to note where the rewrites start and where they finish, so once the rewrite on a specific section in the book is complete, I will go back through that whole section line by line, paragraph by paragraph, to edit for typos and grammatical errors. Once I have edited just that specific section for errors, I read through it for story-flow and the overall feel. I continue on in this fashion, doing the rewrites and editing those sections until I have finished all rewrites and edits for each of the sections.

4. The final read – The final edits are done by once again reading through the entire book for fun, checking for story-flow, inconsistencies, and overall feel, as well as any wayward typos or grammatical errors. Anytime I change something major, I will go back and do a final read through, so I can end up doing several final runs before I am comfortable with the end result and ready to send it off to my editor.

X-Isle United Press Daily News

Today X-Isle United Press (www.facebook.com/xisleunitedpress) announced the release of its daily news publication dedicated to book reviews, new releases, cover reveals, author interviews, writing tips, and the publication industry as a whole. You can view and subscribe to this daily newsfeed by going to https://paper.li/f-1407014854#

If you are an author with a new release, a cover reveal, or an interview/review on a blog and would the article to be featured in the next edition of the X-ISLE UNITED PRESS NEWS, please visit the X-Isle United Press FB page or the paper for details on submitting the article.