Blood’s Embrace – Chapter 1

Blood’s Embrace – a Before the Sun Rises Origin short

copyright 2020 Nicola C. Matthews – All Rights Reserved

Note: this will be a 3 part saga.

Foreword: Hello fellow lovers of all things paranormal! Over the past fifteen years I have introduced a wide variety of characters, some of them spanning many books. In the coming year I will be releasing a new spin off from my original Before the Sun Rises trilogy called Fallen From Grace. This new series will introduce a new cast of characters and some old favorites. It seems only fitting that I begin writing some short stories and flash fiction surrounding some of my favorite characters from both series. So sit back, grab some popcorn, and prepare to delve deeper into my fantastic world.

***

Lorian Emerald Leigh moaned softly as she rolled over in her large, four-poster bed. Her dark green eyes fluttered opened as she stared absently at the flickering shadows on her ceiling created by the dying flames of the fire in the fireplace several feet away. Something was amiss, but her sleepy brain could not quite grasp what had awakened her from her sleep.

She heard it again; the light tapping at her window. She turned toward the sound, her brow furrowed as she listened intently. Again it sounded… tap tap tap… a light, insistent pecking on the glass pane.

“Leelee? Leelee, it’s Malcolm. Are you awake?” a deep, quiet voice asked, barely audible through the heavy French doors.

Lorian smiled as she tossed off the thick coverlet. She slipped her feet into the light house slippers before grabbing her thick, brocaded housecoat from the foot of her bed. She wrapped it snugly around herself as she hurried to the doors before stopping, paused, her hand on the lock.

“Malcolm, you shouldn’t be here,” she whispered, her head resting against the coolness of the freshly painted wood.

“I know, my love, but I had to see you,” he said.

She smiled again, her heart fluttering lightly inside of her chest.

How did I manage to be so lucky? she wondered to herself for perhaps the millionth time since her engagement to the most handsome man in all the country.

“It’s bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony.”

She could hear him chuckling lightly. “Our wedding is not for nearly a fortnight.”

She frowned, wondering why the sound of his laughter bothered her so much. Normally it was infectious, happy, but tonight it just seemed… off somehow.

“Please, Leelee, come outside for a bit. I’ve missed you.”

She couldn’t help but smile at his sentiment. His voice always made her weak in the knees, the sound causing a shiver to dance down the length of her spine.

“You saw me four days ago, Malcolm. You act like it’s been a lifetime.”

He sighed, the sound muffled by the bit of wood and glass separating them.

“It feels like a lifetime. Please, my love. Just for a few moments.”

She paused, undecided. They were betrothed, their wedding set ten days away from this very night. They had already purchased a house and ordered all the furnishings for it. It was merely a matter of time at this point before they became husband and wife. She knew he loved her completely, as she loved him. There was nothing which could halt their marriage at this point – yet she couldn’t help but give pause.

“I don’t think I should,” she whispered.

“You’re worried about your reputation,” he said, his voice quiet and reserved. “I understand. I swear to you, on my honor as a gentleman, I will not do anything which you do not wish me to.” He paused, but she remained silent. “Please, Leelee. I’ve done nothing to cause you mistrust. I have a gift for you, a surprise for our wedding. I wanted to give it to you, but I suppose I could send it by my footman in a few days.”

She smiled. He knew her so well. She felt foolish for even considering something was amiss. She turned the lock on the French doors; the door swinging silently on its hinges as she slipped out onto the balcony.

It was almost bitch black outside. The moon peeked in and out among the clouds as they rolled in, the tall oak trees a few feet away casting long, dark shadows across the wooden balcony. The snow crunched beneath her dainty house slippers, the soft glow illuminating their surroundings even as the moon’s light failed them. Her platinum blonde hair framed her face like a halo in the dim light, her beauty causing Malcolm’s breath to catch in his throat as she came near.

“It’s freezing out here!” she said as she crossed her arms over her chest. Not even her heavy brocaded robe afforded her much relief from the biting cold.

“I’m sorry, my love,” he said. “I would offer you my coat, but as you can see, I did not bring one.”

She eyed him in astonishment. “Malcolm, we’ll both catch our deaths out here! What on earth possessed you to ride all this way without a coat?”

He smiled, his lips barely parting as he did. She moved closer to him, her large, green eyes staring up at him with so much adoration on her face. She almost couldn’t believe her good fortune, being betrothed to someone as handsome and polite as Malcolm.

Their families had known each other for generations, but Malcolm was the first male heir in almost fifty years. If her older sister had not fallen ill three winters ago, she would have been the one to marry Malcolm. Unfortunately, her sister had succumbed to pneumonia, her body resting in the family mausoleum. It had broken their mother’s heart. Now, their entire family’s continuation rested on Leelee’s young shoulders, a burden she gladly took as she had been head-over-heels in love with Malcolm since they were mere school children.

“It’s quite alright,” he said, beckoning her closer to him. “I hardly feel the cold. Come, my love. I shall keep you warm.”

She giggled as she moved closer, allowing him to pull her into his embrace. She buried her face in his chest, breathing in the scent of leather and sandalwood. She knew she shouldn’t, but surely there couldn’t be any harm in allowing her betrothed to hold her, if only for a few moments.

“How can you not feel the cold?” she asked, her voice partially muffled by his crisp, white shirt. “I fear it may start snowing at any moment.” She paused, suddenly remembering why she had agreed to come outside in this weather, alone, risking her health and reputation. “I thought you had a gift for me?” she asked playfully as she smiled up at him.

He returned her smile, his expression barely changing even as he did so. She still had that nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right. He felt so cool to the touch, the gleam of mischief in his eyes oddly lacking. Perhaps it was just the eerie glow of the surrounding landscape fueling her wild imagination already running amok.  

“Are you okay? You are acting odd tonight. You don’t sound quite like yourself. And coming out in this weather with no coat. Honestly, Malcolm, you better not get sick right before our wedding. I will be very disappointed if we have to postpone while you recuperate!”

She tried to sound harsh, but her words held no real conviction. She never could stay cross at him for very long. He always gave in to her, no matter what she asked. He always liked to pretend he would not give in, but her wish was always his command.

She shuddered again as the breeze blew softly. She snuggled deeper into his embrace, beginning to feel the chill settling into her bones. The snow beneath her feet was slowly seeping its way through her slippers, her toes becoming numb. She could feel her body beginning to shiver, trying to generate some warmth. She pressed herself against her beloved Malcolm, yet his body offered no comfort.

“Malcolm, aren’t you cold? I can’t feel my toes. Please, perhaps you should come in and warm yourself by the fire?”

“Into your room? My sweet Leelee, what about your reputation?” he asked with a chuckle.

She frowned, that nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach growing. His laughter held no humor, sounding hollow and flat. She swallowed as she rubbed her hands together.

“I’m serious, Malcolm. I don’t understand why you aren’t cold. We are both going to be sick if we don’t get inside and get warmed up. I fear for your health, my love. Coming all this way without a coat, standing here in the snow. I’m already chilled to the bone. We should get inside where it’s warm. You can stay for a few moments, get warmed up before being on your way. I’m sure Father will understand. You could even use our coach to make your way home.” She looked up at him, searching a face that appeared to be completely devoid of emotion. “Malcolm?”

He looked down at her, a slow smile moving across his face.

“Do you love me, Leelee? Truly love me, even if I wasn’t who you think I am? Even if I’ve… changed? Would you still love me, stand by me, be with me—even in death?”

SciFanta-Con Virtual Author Experience

With the global pandemic going on and a huge chunk of the US currently under “shelter-in-place” orders, most of the spring, summer, and fall events have all been cancelled – sporting events, concerts, author signings, comicons, etc. So what’s a bibliophile to do?

Join us for the first ever SciFanta-Con Virtual Author Signing Event and Experience. Can’t leave your home? No problem! Sit back, relax, and join our science fantasy authors this Saturday April the 18th from 11 am to 3pm CST right on FaceBook – live, and in person (or at least as close as you can get from watching a livestream). We have a fabulous lineup of bestselling authors and publishers from across the US who are all waiting to interact with their readers and answering the most thought-provoking questions. No need to get dressed – join us from anywhere, any device – and enjoy this virtual author experience!

 

By Nikki Matt Posted in Events

An Open Letter to Ashley Purdy

I’m going to preface this by saying – I have no idea what to say about this. I do not know the correct words to “make it all better.” I’m honestly not sure anyone does. Despite my complete inability to write something which may stand out in among the sea of good wishes from the thousands of fans, I’m at least going to try.

First, I’m going to say I support you, and your decision. And if you had told this to me in person, I’d give you a big ‘ol bear hug and say, “It’s all going to work out, Ash, and I’ll always support you.”

Secondly, I want you to know that I not only support you, but my inbox in all my social media and my email is always open if you need an ear to listen, want to vent, or just need someone who will nod and say, “I get it.”

Because – I get it.

I don’t want to go into the reasons why I get it, because I don’t want to make this about me. It’s about you, and what you need, what you want, and what works for you. We’ve all been down the dark abyss at some point, some of us further down into the darkness than others. We’ve all stood at a crossroads at some point in time, wondering which path to take. Some of us will get it more than others, but that’s okay. Whatever your reasons may be, whatever you may need or have decided – I support you. And I’m here, if you happen to need a shoulder, or an ear, a supporter, or cheerleader, or even a friend. No strings attached, because that’s not how I operate. Creatives have to stick together, have to build each other up, and I’m all about community, and friendship.

I guess what I’m trying to say is – as long as you are happy, or at least on the road to finding some happiness, then that’s all that really matters. And, if by some miracle you should ever happen to want to take a chance on the crazy writer who tends to be a bit – um, weird – then I’ve always got a spare ear or two which will gladly listen to whatever you would like to talk about – no strings attached.

So, I wish you the best of luck, Ash. Whatever your road ahead may hold, I wish you nothing but continued success and all the happiness in the world.

XOXO

Nikki

Nikki’s Gone Crazy $0.99C Sale!

Been waiting to finish out the Before the Sun Rises series? Putting off finishing up the Sweet Seductions series? Well the wait is over. For a very limited time ( I might change these prices back tomorrow, you just never know) every single book in my catalog is just $0.99 So if you’ve been wanting to catch up on anything Nikki related, today is the day to do it! Grab my entire collection for less than the cost of a really nice meal at TGIFriday’s.

New 2019 Signing Events Added

Nicola has added two new signing events to her schedule for 2019, including CWC’s AuthorCon2019 in August and RidCon2019 in September. Be sure to check out the 2019 Events Page for details on each upcoming appearance.

All Genres Giveaway!

 

Looking for more freebies to continue your summer? How about 36 fabulous tales to whet your appetite? Join us for the fun all July long as we celebrate reading. And don’t forget to grab these freebies before they’re gone. All genres, all the time. CLICK HERE to download freebie books and stories until your heart’s content.

Unpopular Opinion: Yes, Authors are Just as Entitled to Their Opinions as Everyone Else

Okay guys, I’m about to play devil’s advocate here. Why? Because when I see everyone jumping on the bandwagon to completely trash someone’s career, be they author or blogger, I’m not going to sit back and watch the shit hit the fan. After thirty plus years in this biz, I fucking know how hard it is to be an author, how much money it takes to properly launch a book, and how much money and time and energy it takes to try to keep that book in front of someone, anyone, who is willing to pay for it. I also know that you can literally do everything possible, literally move the earth, and it still not be enough to get your book noticed.

So I’m going to try to lay this out as clearly as possible and show the problems I have with how all this went down. First, the jest of it. To put it all into a nutshell (which, honestly, you can’t really do that and get the full story, but we can at least try to recap) a blogger wrote a review on a ARC copy they had received. Blogger did not like said book and gave reasons. Author got butthurt over a bad review and proceeded to post on her blog about her getting butthurt over the bad review. Blogger finds the post on the author’s blog and gets butthurt over the butthurt.

Pretty simple.

Not.

First, I’m going to say that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, in their own damn space. And I do mean everyone is entitled to their opinions. Personally, I think this whole “authors aren’t entitled to get hurt over a bad review and should grow a thicker skin” is a bunch of BS. If bloggers and readers are entitled to express their opinion publicly over how bad a book was to them, then by all the gods authors have the same damn right to express how much it pisses them off, or how much it hurts, to know that someone hates something that took them months, even years to write. Sure, we need to go about it with poise and grace and not go all crazy hunting down bloggers or readers who leave us bad reviews. We have to draw the line somewhere.

But in our own space, among our own fans and tribe, then yeah – we have every right to voice our butthurt.

 

 

Now granted, there are limitations to those rights. I said everyone has a right to express their own opinions in their own space. That means if you come onto MY blog post on MY website or onto MY social media thread and make a comment on MY threads, then you bet your sweet ass I’m going to defend myself. It’s my space, it’s my fans, and it’s my tribe that I’m moaning to. It’s my right to be bitchy in my own space. They get me. They understand.

It’s one thing to go into MY space and moan about my butthurt. I find nothing wrong with that. It’s when authors or bloggers go outside their own space and invade someone else’s to moan about the butthurt that I find unprofessional. And this is why I find this whole situation to be suspect.

The blogger in question admits her fellow blogger confronted the author after she came across the author’s butthurt post. And then she confronted the author herself. Let’s make this clear. The author posted a blog post on HER OWN WEBSITE. She was in HER private space, on HER website, expressing HER feelings about a review. The blogger admits to this openly, and has said this on at least one thread about all this.

Everyone on social media is calling out this author for acting unprofessional, yet the only unprofessional behavior I’m seeing here is a blogger who confronted an author after said author expressed how much a bad review hurt. In her own space. On her own social media accounts. The fact of the matter is, what started this whole thing was the author posted on her own personal blog about how much it hurt to get a bad review. And this is what happened, according to the blogger:

 

 

 

Okay, let’s make sure we have this straight. The blogger posted her review up on GR’s the same exact day the author posts her butthurt post on her website about seeing a bad review. Now, here is where I’m having more problems about all this. The author states the review she was referring to in her blog post was one she had seen on Booksprout, a website specializing in ARC reviews. Below is the author telling one of the bloggers this:

 

 

For those who do not know, when an author offers ARC copies of a book through Booksprout, we have access to see those reviews DAYS before they actually hit the platform they are being posted for. In the case of Amazon and GoodReads, I’ve seen a lag time of as much as four days from the time the review showed up on my Booksprout dashboard til the day it actually showed up on the platform it was posted to. So yeah, I absolutely believe the author when they said they were talking about a review they saw through Booksprout. The blogger assumes the author is speaking about her review because it was the first one posted on Goodreads. However, it is very possible the author was looking at her Booksprout dashboard and seeing a review on THERE that hadn’t actually posted to Goodreads yet. I know the blogger has said she knows it was her review the author was talking about because hers posted to GR first. But, as I said, when you do your ARCs through BookSprout and the reviews post through there, they show up on the author’s dashboard as much as 4 DAYS before the review actually posts on some of these platforms. So, yes, it absolutely is entirely possible the author really was talking about a completely different review that only she could see on GR at the time.

These “assumptions” being made are the very reason why no one should ever confront anyone about a bad review. It wasn’t okay for the blogger to confront the author over her posting in her own space about the review, any more than it’s okay for an author to confront a reviewer or a blogger or a reader about a bad review. Sure, bemoan about it on your own website, page, social media, private groups, etc. but do NOT call out or confront whoever left you the review. By the blogger’s own admission, that is not what happened here. The blogger actually hunted down the author and confronted the author on the author’s own social media pages and platforms. Despite the author apologizing and trying to tell the blogger she was misunderstanding which review she was speaking of, the blogger just wouldn’t let it go.

This is not okay. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why people think it was okay for the reviewer to do this.

And honestly, judging by what was posted on the blogger’s website about all this, if the screenshots taken are as bad as things got with the author, then quite frankly I honestly do not see what the problem is. The author was in her own space. The blogger invaded that personal space to call her out.

If this is not what happened then someone please fill me in. Cause I’ve been all over the blogger’s website and from what I’m reading, this is what happened.

Now – the fall out. The author was dropped by her publisher. Great. The author has been forced to completely erase her social media accounts and start all over again – from scratch. I find it ironic that the blogger specific states on a blog post over all this “I’ve seriously considered giving up everything I’ve spent years working my ass of [sic] for with our blog.” And yet this is EXACTLY what the author in question was forced to do – all because she defended her right on her own blog to post what she wanted to on her own blog.

Hell, maybe the author went totally ape shit and said some really shitty things. I don’t know. Since all her social media is gone now, I have no way of looking into this any further. All I have to go off of is what the blogger herself posted and the screenshots she took. And as I said, from where I’m sitting, I only see one person who was behaving unprofessionally – and it wasn’t the author.

The reviewer struck first, and if someone comes after you in your own space, then I say all fucking bets are off. You would get upset if someone came into your house and started badmouthing your family, right? Same damn principle. From what I’m seeing, the author was merely defending herself.

But as I said, maybe I’m missing something, or a lot of somethings.

But I will say this.

The blogger keeps saying we need a change in the book world.

We absolutely do.

We need for everyone to stop thinking they are the only ones that matter. If authors aren’t willing to write, then bloggers won’t have their review blogs. If authors aren’t willing to give away ARCs, then a lot of reviewers won’t have their blogs or be able to read books for free. And if bloggers and reviewers aren’t willing to review then authors won’t have nearly as many reviews on their books.

Let’s face it – we need each other.

But we also need to respect each other’s right to voice our opinions.

Stop confronting each other. Reviewers, write your reviews and be done with it.

Authors, don’t read the damn reviews and if you stumble across one, take the butthurt with a grain of salt.

Yes, it fucking hurts. Bloggers, do you hear what I’m saying? You know how much it hurts when authors get pissy about your bad review? Yeah, we’re hurting just that damn much because we opened ourselves up to ridicule when we opted to publish – kinda like you did when you decided to post your review. It fucking hurts when someone pisses all over your hard work, regardless of whether that hard work is in the form of a book or a book review.

It.

Fucking.

Hurts.

So everyone, please, can we just pull our heads out of collective asses and get back to what matters – writing?

Marvel’s End Game & Cosplay Fun

I’ve been so busy I completely forgot to upload some of the really awesome photos from Marvel’s End Game viewing party with the Southern Geeks group! We had an awesome time last month with just a few of the over 5K members of the SGG. Everyone was out in cosplay (except for me – I didn’t have time to really get a good cosplay together) and had so much fun posing with some of our local southern family. The movie was seriously AWESOME and I encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it yet to GO GO GO!!

We had all planned a road trip back on May 4th for the annual Free Comic Book Day but unfortunately, life got in the way for most of us, including myself. My good friend Deby and were all packed and ready to ride but we had some bad thunderstorms and tornadoes coming through the area so we decided not to go. This was to be my first road trip with the Southern Geeks but it looks like I’ll have to wait until later in the year when I hope to help them out at some of the local comicons coming up. Until next time, here are a few of the pics I snapped before the viewing party.

 

 

For even more fun photos and ramblings, be sure to follow me on social media!

Nora Roberts Sues #CopyPasteCris, But She Can’t Go After Amazon

In early March I wrote three blog articles, I Write My Own Damn Books Can We Just Get Real for a Moment, and An Open Letter to Nora Roberts, after it was discovered the self-proclaimed USA TODAY bestselling author Cristiane Serruya had plagiarized dozens of authors and books, including Nora Roberts, Courtney Milan, and EL James, just to name a few. For the record, according to the archive on USA TODAY‘s website, Cristiane Serruya has never once hit the list. And now that she has been called out on her plagiarism, she’s admitted that she hasn’t even written one single book, instead farming it out to ghostwriters she hired on the notoriously unscrupulous site Fiverr.

Now Nora Roberts is going after blood as she has sued Brazilian author Cristiane Serruya for her blatant theft of approximate ten of her books. Needless to say, authors both big and small are urging her on, happy someone is finally standing up to the cesspool of low quality books and scammers that have been running rampant on Amazon for nearly a decade now, the steady flow of Frankensteined books and half-assed rough drafts forcing many authors to quit publishing altogether while simultaneously banishing the professionally produced books to the proverbial Amazon dungeons.

Authors are sick of being forced to compete with the immoral writers who have no qualms about using every unethical and black-hat tactic they can think of to squeeze as much money out of the Amazon publishing system as possible. By them doing so, it has forced a lot of authors to stop writing and publishing as they simply cannot compete with those scammers who are able to spend $100K or more on AMS ads and other forms of advertisement each year. Those of us who have been limping along hoping the system would eventually right itself have been left with our books banished to the proverbial dungeons of Amazon, no longer able to make sales or have any visibility on our books at all.

Needless to say, now that someone like Nora Roberts has learned the disgusting ways of the publishing world the hard way, and has thus been caught up in it, we are all very excited to know she is not taking this shit lying down. Everyone is behind her, authors and readers alike, and we are all cheering her on. Many authors are holding out hope that Nora’s voice in regards to how bad Amazon has let things get will be the first step in righting a system that was built on dishonesty and greed. Many are voicing their hope that Nora will actually take on Amazon itself.

Unfortunately, I’m not as hopeful as the rest in regards to her taking on  Amazon. Honestly, she doesn’t have enough money to do it. And if you want to get down to the nut-cutting, not even JK Rowling has enough money to take on Amazon.

Before everyone gets bent out of shape, I think we all need to take a real, hard look at Amazon’s revenue and why they are able to get away with all the shit they do, why they do not bother to police their own store, or even enforce their own rules and TOS other than when it suits them. Once you look at the basic economics of Amazon, you’ll understand why it would literally take all of the Big 5 publishers and all of their top 5% earning authors making a class-action lawsuit against the Zon, followed by pretty much every single author and business that has ever been a part of their store, to truly do any type of damage to them.

According to CNBC, Amazon reported earnings of $10.1 BILLION in 2018 alone. Gross profits for the year were over $141 BILLION. In 2017, their net profits were just over $3 BILLION, with a gross profit of over $118 BILLION. Of that, it is estimated that approximately 30% of that income came from book sales, which would be approximately $3 BILLION in net profits for 2018.

With numbers like this, it is no wonder everyone is fighting so hard to be seen on Amazon. Unfortunately, with revenue streams in the tens of billions, it is also no wonder Amazon has been completely unfazed by the multitude of authors who have been steadily calling them out for their bad practices. So while Nora may reportedly be worth $370 million and JK Rowling $1 billion, Amazon has enough revenue coming in to keep any type of lawsuit buried in the court system for decades.

While all of us would certainly LOVE to see Amazon come tumbling off its pedestal for once, it’s going to take more than just Nora Roberts to do it. It’s going to take more than just the Big 5 publishers to do it. It’s going to take more than just JK Rowling to do it. In fact, about the only way to get a retail giant like Amazon to take a step back and actually put the fear of bankruptcy into them would be if the top 20 richest authors in the world got together, along with the Big 5 publishers, and every other author who has ever done business with them, all fighting together to put the proverbial nuts in a vice.

I, for one, would happily jump on board that express train. Hell, I’d happily tap dance on the ashes that was once the Zon-Almighty.

But for now, I’m another author who is standing behind Nora Roberts hoping she is able to draw blood. It may be a small victory in the grand scheme of things, but if enough people begin beating down the gates of Amazon, then maybe, just maybe, we can take back our sagging careers and turn this once noble profession back into the proud industry it used to be.

And – you go, Nora!

Fantasy $0.99 Book Sale!

 

Love fantasy? Love a great book sale? What could be better than 24 awesome fantasy books across multiple genres, each for only $0.99 or less? Well, if you love a good fantasy book, I can’t think of anything better. But don’t wait! These books are only available at this deep discounted price for a very short time. CLICK HERE to browse and make your selection(s). As always, if you love the book, please leave a review. Or pie.

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