woensdag 29 augustus 2012

Interview with author Joseph Rakowski

Hi all!

Today's interview is with author Joseph Rakowski who is the author of the debut novel The Delivery Cut (Black Rose Writing Company, 2012). Joseph’s literary work can be found at www.josephrakowski.com

After receiving his Bachelor's degree from Florida State University, Joseph Rakowski hitchhiked around the southern United States. Somewhere outside of Montgomery, Alabama, while smoking Backwoods cigars and writing, he decided to seriously pursue his ambitions of becoming an author. Shortly after, he entered law school, staying only through his first year. After leaving, he devoted his full-time to writing. Joseph currently lives in Florida and is working on his second novel, Bar Mate.

Joseph has worked with the United States Marshals, been to jail twice, hitchhiked around the southern United States, held over 30 odd jobs, held a national ranking in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, totaled a motorcycle, killed a pit-pull with his bare hands ‘-in the defense of another,’ and saved a man from drowning. Joseph has been the best man in three weddings and has been between housing for the last five years.

When Joseph received his literary contract for The Delivery Cut, he was living in a kitchen in D.C. The actual night of receiving the contract, Joseph was sleeping off a hangover and ass-whooping in the Arlington County Police Station. (Stop running means . . . stop running.)      

Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?

Joseph Rakowski: The first story I ever wrote was about women. Growing up with a mother and three sisters guarantees at least one of them, every week for the first 18 years of my life, was menstruating and pissed off at me. They say women who live together eventually get on the same cycle. This is a lie. Trust me. I do not remember what happened to the actual story. I was 12 when I wrote it. My mother probably has it somewhere piled with her signed copy of Fifty Shades of Grey

Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your book The Delivery Cut and the main characters? How long did it take you to write the book?

Joseph Rakowski: The Delivery Cut is a literary contemporary fiction that follows the protagonist, James Young, through a twisted and turned path at self-realization. It is written in the same mold as The Rum Diary, by Hunter S. Thompson, but also invokes punch-to-the-throat living used in the autobiography Life by Keith Richards. 

James Young is under pressure to be just like any other ordinary young adult who is seeking higher education to achieve a postmodern American, accomplished and prideful, nine to five. Despite his set path as an incoming law student, James, accompanied by a slew of alcohol and chain-smoked cigarettes, awaits a future meltdown. Surrounded by a fog of commonplace people who strive for unoriginal lives and others who have found them, James searches for a flash of inspiration to discover life as more than a mere existence.

Within the first 24-hours of his law school orientation, he finds himself under the watchful eye of an egotistical law professor and face to face with a mysterious Frenchman’s beguiling proposition for a story. The anarchical Frenchman joined by a misanthropic brute leads James through a revolution of the South Florida drug market, positioning him as a new addition to the drug world hierarchy. As he struggles to mentally shed from his old life, James takes refuge in a local Cuban Coffee shop where he befriends its regretful owner for advice.

Leaving his prior self behind, James is soon engulfed by the “who’s who” of upper class clients wanting their drugs brought to their downtown night scenes, high-rise luxury condominiums, local offices, and island mansions. Armed with reliable transportation, three dress suits, a tight schedule, and pushed by the fear of never having lived, James becomes the man who brings them their needs with a smile and a touch of customer service.

When violent competition for the market heats up around him, James, in a final climax, must choose between death and what is giving him a newfound sensation of being alive.

As for writing the book, my process was very rigorous. I woke up every morning at 4:30a.m. and had three or four espressos before sitting down at my desk. My goal was to reach 2,000 ‘meaningful’ words by 1:00p.m each day. With revision, The Delivery Cut took me 11 months to write, numerous cartons of cigarettes, a few handles of Jack Daniels to combat the caffeine shakes, and a few broken doors.   

Books & Writing: I understand you are also working on a book called Bar Mate. Is this a sequel to The Delivery Cut, or is it a totally different story? Can you tell us a bit about it?

Joseph Rakowski: Despite current requests for a sequel to The Delivery Cut, Bar Mate regrettably is not. Bar Mate follows a collection of untamed characters at a removed Miami pub as they drink their way through temperance, unchecked masculinity, infidelity, mocked reason, and a brilliant riposte to the great illusion of what it means to act human. Guided by Geno, their expatriate tender, they take to the agreement that amongst everything else, a wild romp around the fervent city is best done after a few pints. Bar Mate is a sardonic look at modern man.

Books & Writing: What do you love about writing a story?

Joseph Rakowski: Ironically, what I love about writing is also what I find the most challenging. Writing is the process of finding the primal rhythmic beat of life and putting it into words.  As a writer, I find myself in a daily quixotic attempt to uncover this structure, this inherent beat of life. I place commas and periods for reason rather than structure, short tense here and there as emotions, even the repetition of dialogue in imperative moments helps transpose the untamed lines of human life to words on pages. The ability to develop characters, their changes and their thoughts, leaving plots of the mind rather than rehearsed and copied premises is very self-abusive. Cracking into this subconsciousness and the primal rhythmic beat in which my fiction, yet participatory fiction vibrates, most days leave me drained and lost. “Why must I experience everything I write?” Is a question I ask myself daily. The difference between fiction and journalism, to me, is not an unequivocally circumscribed square, but an enigmatic and mysterious edge of balance. Maintaining balance is the challenging part. My pure love is to fully understand and liberate human existence, both verbally and textually.

As I continue my contemplation for being a writer past simple love, I know more than likely it will only bring mental and financial hardship. I find myself searching . . . searching for all the missing writers. Maybe why I write is the personal fact I cannot deal with another plagiarized and regurgitated $16.95 packing the shelves at the local bookstore, giving preferential treatment to market make-ups rather than anything resembling sustenance for starving high-quality literary work. Of course, there is a place for this, but it is not my place.

I write to transgress the dichotomy between living and writing. Where authors are not trapped in coffee shops, drinking $8 lattes, thinking of synonyms for something they never experienced.

Where did all the Hesses, Bukowskis, Kerouacs, Keseys, Hemingways, Fitzgeralds, BolaƱos, Thompson’s, etc. go? To me, writing is a true adventure, a drunken romp, a failed or successful exploration of self. I understand the need for genre, but fuck give me something original and fresh. Give me selfless plots and multifarious characters.

Maybe I write for the nostalgic idea of what a writer was, the original Rock Stars. The “go out and live what you are writing then come back and write about it” attitude. If it sucks at least you will know I was there. You will know what I felt. You can believe in the pages I captured.

I hope when you read my work, you understand why I write. Besides love and the eternalness of the written word middle finger, I am seeking understanding.

Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Joseph Rakowski: When your dreams become crazy to everyone else, that is when you must follow them the most. Write every day, open your mind to experience, and never let anyone take your passion.

Ad Astra Per Aspera –“Through difficulty to the stars.”

Books & Writing: How do you go about in publishing a fiction book?

Joseph Rakowski: So you want to publish a fiction book? Turn back now. Publishing a book is not for the faint-of-heart, the prideful, or writers unwilling to become educated in the language of literary publishers and agents. There are millions of writers and only an infinitesimal number will ever see their name on something they did not self-publish. The odds are stacked against you, go start a family photo blog. If you are still reading then you more than likely are a brazen writer like me. I advise a cold stiff drink before we continue.   

The world of publishing a first book is extremely multifaceted. Writing the darn thing will be the easy part, enjoy it. In fact, if you are currently not staring at your finished manuscript, stop reading immediately and get back to writing. No publisher will place any effort in a book “about to be” written. There are enough want-to-be writers at the local Starbucks. They sit there sipping their coffee slowly, waiting on their “great book idea” to come to fruition eventually. It is a crock, write the thing or shut up.

A first time author, depending on genre, needs to have a manuscript between 50,000 and 90,000 words. Before submission, your manuscript needs to be revised, edited, and formatted properly. Your content should be, to the best of your abilities, perfect. It should be your finest work, ready to be read by the world. So what do you do once your manuscript is polished?

Every writer’s first step should be buying a copy of the Writer’s Market. It can be found at your local bookstore for around fifty dollars. The Writer’s Market houses all the information you will need in submitting your manuscript to different publishing houses, literary agents, and independent publishers; their addresses, their requirements, and genres they accept for review. Once you get your copy, go through it and find the most suitable places for your work.

Next comes the bane-of-existence for all writers, the query letter. A query letter is a one-page, single-spaced letter selling your idea or convincing an editor to request your entire manuscript. A query letter is not the back cover of your book. You need to explain, in entirety, the plot, the premise, the crux, and the resolution of any conflict in the ending. Prove to them your book does not suck. Not with grandiloquence or an austere speech, but with the bare bones of your writing. Remember, the editor does not care what you think or feel about your book, you are supposed to love it and consider it your magnum opus. Let your work speak for itself. There are great examples and tips in the Writer’s Market for you to reference. Give it the same time and thought you did for your manuscript. This is your golden ticket. 

Once your query letter is complete, it is time for you to submit. After that, sit back and hold on. You will hear no, no, and probably more no’s. Do not give up. Rejection is not the end. This is the process.

During the waiting game, use this time to your advantage. Begin attracting a following. Start a website with your work, the more creative the better. If you do hear back and it is good news, be proud, but your work is still far from done. You have contracts, agents, reading, approving, signing, promoting, book reviewers, and building a platform for future readers to follow. You have come this far, do not blow it now. There is knowledge all around you on this process. You just need to look for it.

“When the going gets weird, the weird go pro.” H.S.T.

Below is the trailer for the book so check it out!

Below is an Excerpt from Chapter 16 of The Delivery Cut

“We headed downstairs riding the elevator to the 4th floor. “This is where the car will be from now on,” Hugo said gliding out as the doors opened. The car rested about three spots down from the elevator and I got in. Hugo opened the back door and sat down releasing the compartment. He placed the five packages into their different slots then moved to the front opening the center console. I watched as he plugged in a USB drive uploading the addresses into the car’s computer.

I opened the gold canister and took a couple large bumps giving one to Hugo as we waited. “Alright, all of the locations are in the computer. Any special directions for you once you arrive will be highlighted on the final destination screen as an end note,” he instructed. I pulled up the GPS on the screen and went to the first destination on the list. I scrolled through the directions of right and left turns and came to what he was talking about. “These the notes?” I asked.

“Wow, I knew we found the right guy,” he said. He pushed my hand off the screen and went to a different menu.

“I also uploaded you a playlist on here. You like Quiet Riot?” he asked.

“From the eighties?”

“Yeah from the fucking eighties,” he said punching me in the shoulder were Claude had pinched the fabric earlier.

“You know, you should really look into getting a girlfriend or something,” I said. “You have a lot of pent up anger.”

“Relationships?” he responded disgusted. “I only pay for sex.” I shook my head. “Don’t fuck this up,” he said getting out of the car.

Back in the driver’s seat, the adrenalin and blood ran hard through my unused body, the drugs now adding to my natural high. Since last week, a vein had developed and ran down the middle of my forehead. Alive, it bulged on the verge of bursting open and shooting everywhere. I liked it.

I pulled up the playlist and hit start along with the first address. I raced out from the spot speeding down the parking ramps as I beat the steering wheel uncontrollably to the song pumping through the speakers. I left my worries and wounded cares behind me. It was past that now. Tonight I wasn’t James Young. I wasn’t Gabriel. I was simply and responsibly alive once more.

On the map, my first delivery near the beach sat only eleven minutes away and I took my time cruising there, enjoying every second. The roads were empty, still early for a Friday night, the heat off the black top now just beginning to settle. The air was crisper near the ocean and I could feel I was getting close. I passed a row of beach bars as they began setting up. The droning screeches of freelance musicians playing Margaritaville one more time hadn’t started sounding from their open patios. The mindless debauchery of another drunken bar scene wasn’t at all missed.

I found The V complex of high-rise condominiums and pulled into a meter parking spot before the resident’s gated entrance. The highlighted endnote read, “Suite 126, gate word—Jewel.”

I jumped into the backseat shifting my weight over the sensor like Hugo. It released the lock and I pulled the armrest down. I grabbed the first package, A200, putting in its place the envelope Claude had given me. I closed the compartment and jumped back up front proceeding to the gate. A guard stepped out carrying a clipboard as I came to a stop.

vrijdag 17 augustus 2012

Interview with author L. D. Hutchinson

Hi again :)

My latest interview is with author L. D. Hutchinson who was kind enough to answer my questions :)

Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

L. D. Hutchinson: My name is L. D. Hutchinson (Leah D. Hutchinson) I'm eighteen years old as of December 10th I'll be turning nineteen. I've been writing since I can remember, mainly Paranormal type things though. I grew up in Uniontown, Pennsylvania but now live in Ohio. I love to travel, if I could I would travel the world. I'm a huge horror buff and a massive Stephen King fan. I have four cats and three dogs. In my spare time I tend to make book covers (All of mine but two were made by me.) and work on trailers for my books that I have yet to even use. I love, love, love music. I don't honestly think I could function without it somewhere, especially rock music. Oh, and I am a pretty big nerd.. trust me, as well as a gamer. 

Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?

L. D. Hutchinson: Yes actually, it was a fan fiction for Silent Hill. It was about 80 pages long but I lost it a few years ago.

Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?

L. D. Hutchinson: Honestly, just the game. I had just gotten done playing it and had the events stuck in my head so the fanfiction was born.

Books & Writing: What do you love about writing a story?

L. D. Hutchinson: I love the feeling of being able to just create a world that is purely your own. Your own places, races, people all of it, I get a thrill from it.

Books & Writing: I understand you have written several books in the Shadows in the Dark series. How did you come up with the story for the books and can you tell us something about the main character(s) 

L. D. Hutchinson: I came up with it when I was a kid, it was a bad dream I had and I wrote it down. -- Habit of writing my dreams down constantly -- When I looked at it later I just started forming people and events and bam you have Shadows in the Dark. 

The main character is Avangeline, she's in her 20s, and a witch though she didn't know that until recently and she's thrust into the world with the only knowledge that she is the heir to a vampyric clan. Her best friend Sarah happens to be a Vampyre, and Sarah's Fiancee aswell. Phoenix is her assigned Guardian and he's a nasty Vampyre, don't think he knows how to smile. Then there's Blaine, a demon that she has known since childhood who so happens to have been guarding her his whole life from the war that's been threatening everyone. Fun life, right?

Books & Writing: The last book, you have written, as far as I know, is "Book of Curses (The Renning Chronicles)". Can you tell us a bit about that and when you will release the next part of the series? 

L. D. Hutchinson: Book of Curses is my first novel, it follows twins, Raine and Tom Renning as they go through their 18th birthday only to be sucked into a alternate world that dwells within' a book. They find out that they just so happen to be the 'chosen' ones to help end a war, and kill Gods but that's not the fun part. They're teamed up with creatures that you could only imagine in movies or your darkest nightmares for help. It's about choices, hardships and doing the right thing. Though there's some humor in there too at times.

I don't think i'll be releasing the sequel until next year sometime, but I have novella's coming out to hold everyone over. The first of many 'Fang' should be released late Oct- Early Sept. 

Books & Writing: You have also written some short stories I believe, so what attracts you in short stories and are they bundled in a book or are you planning to bundle them? 

L. D. Hutchinson: It's more stories of characters that are going to be in other books. I always write back stories for my characters, so I figure why let them go to waste, right? 

Books & Writing: Are you working on something new? 

L. D. Hutchinson: Yes, a book called The First Flame. It's the first in a series called "The Elemental Series" it'll follow a girl who comes into her powers at a really strange moment in time, and is thrust into a world she never knew to learn to hone and control those powers though while learning her and everyone else there is threatened and at risk of dying. It'll be more adult themed though probably.

Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? 

L. D. Hutchinson: Just don't stop regardless of what people throw at you! If you keep pushing sooner or later you'll get to that place you want to see yourself.

Books & Writing: Which Author inspires you? 

L. D. Hutchinson: Oh wow, that's tough. I have so many that do, Stephen King, Julie Kagawa, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dean Koontz, J. K. Rowling just to name off a few.

Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?

L. D. Hutchinson: Amazon, Smashwords, my pages on Facebook, Barnes & Noble. 

Books & Writing: Where can people find you on the internet? 

L. D. Hutchinson: facebook.com/Iridescentheroine; facebook.com/Leahdianehutchinson and any other side pages, there's also my personal website. http://leahdianehutchinson.wix.com/ldhutchinson#!home/mainPage

Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers? 

L. D. Hutchinson: Just to keep constantly checking back on my pages and sites for updates, and to keep persueing what they want in life. If I can get here, they can get anywhere they want in life. Happy reading you guys!

Below is an excerpt from the Book of Curses!

I moved on without a second thought, not even bothering to be sneaky about it anymore. We made it to Fang and Nixon quickly, well as quickly as I could manage without tripping and knocking over anyone. Talon moved next to me keeping his gaze down and grabbing Nixon, nearly shaking him to death. I could hear him growling under his breath but he didn't give up on what he was doing.

All I could do was watch him, hoping that Nixon snapped out of this, and came back to reality. “Snap out of it, now!” He nearly screamed in his face, I took hold of Fang and turned him towards myself. I kept repeating his name, and started shaking him a bit trying to get his attention. Then, I heard Amamai scream.

“You two! Get those girls away from them, the rest of you, seize them!” She cried, pointing at us. I could feel the blood leaving my face.

The panic started to take over me, and just as the others began to charge toward us I felt Fang's hand move. It lashed out, grabbing a vampire that stood behind me, and his eyes snapped down to me. “What, in the name of the gods, is going on?” Fang growled at me, and then threw the vampire off to the side.

Nixon was next to me almost immediately, throwing two more vampires off to the side. I pulled my sword up, turning and shouting out for Dolphus and the others as I started fighting alongside Nixon, Fang and Talon.

I saw a demon smile in front of me. It was a sickly smile, he was too pale looking, with eyes that had no pupils or iris's, they were simply black. Within a second of looking at him, I fell to the ground gasping for the air that I seemed to lack now.

maandag 13 augustus 2012

Interview with author Rebecca Roland


My latest interview is with author Rebecca Roland about her writing and upcoming release "Shards of History"

Books & Writing: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Rebecca Roland: My name is Rebecca, although I prefer to go by Becky. I've lived on the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast, and now I live in the high desert in New Mexico. When my husband and I moved here from Florida, a lot of people thought we were moving to a foreign country. I work part-time in the health care industry and spend my time off from the day job hanging out with my two-year old, writing (of course), traveling, and eating chocolate.

Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?

Rebecca Roland: The first story I typed out was a mystery. I was probably fifteen or so when I wrote it. I recently found it during a trip back home and had a good chuckle while reading. Then I hid it away. I couldn't quite bring myself to burn it, although the world would probably be a better place without my juvenilia in it.

Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?

Rebecca Roland: I write because I love to read, and I want to write the kind of stories I'd enjoy reading. My parents turned me on to reading, my mother in particular. She had to rein me in every time we went to the bookstore. So I guess my parents inspired me to love reading, and in turn, love writing.

Books & Writing: What do you love about writing a story?

Rebecca Roland: Let me start with what I hate. Maybe hate is too strong a word. My least favorite part is getting the rough draft written. I start out with this vision in my head of a beautiful, gut-wrenching, unforgettable story, but when it first lands on paper, it's more like an ugly, shapeless blob of goo. I much prefer revising, which is when I get to shape that blob of goo into something more akin to my original vision. That's when I can focus on foreshadowing, symbols, theme, and the myriad details that make the story sing.

Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming book Shards of History and the main characters?

Rebecca Roland: Shards of History is a fantasy novel in which Malia, a clan mother in training, comes across some information that changes what she knows about her people's history and also impacts the war her people are about to engage in.

Books & Writing: How did you come up with the story for the book?

Rebecca Roland: The novel started out as a short story written at the Odyssey Writing Workshop. I needed to turn in a story in a couple of days and was starting to sweat bullets trying to come up with something to write about. My subconscious came to the rescue when it provided me with a dream about towering, steep cliffs and houses built in them with no discernible way to get to them. I wondered what sort of people would live in such a place and then realized that nobody human would. That led to the Jeguduns, which led, eventually, to the rest of the story.

Books & Writing: When will the book be released and have you planned a release party?

Rebecca Roland: The book will be available on August 21, 2012. I'll be having a release party in September. It'll be an informal get-together for friends as opposed to a public event in which anybody would be welcome to wander in.

Books & Writing: Who is going to publish it?

Rebecca Roland: World Weaver Press will be publishing the book. They have been a pleasure to work with and have done a great job with providing edits to make the manuscript stronger, coming up with a beautiful cover, and with marketing.

Check out World Weaver Press at:

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15748318-shards-of-history
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WorldWeaverPress
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WorldWeaver_wwp.

Books & Writing: I understand you have also written several short stories. Could you tell us something about those?

Rebecca Roland: My most recent publications include a story titled "The King of Ash and Bones" in Stupefying Stories in November 2011 and a reprint of a flash fiction piece called "The Secret Ingredient" in Uncle John's Flush Fiction earlier this year. I grew up reading the Uncle John's Bathroom Readers, so I was tickled to have a story appear in one.

Books & Writing: What do you love about fantasy?

Rebecca Roland: I love how fantasy can encompass anything from the gritty urban environment to the countryside to pseudo-medieval England to other planets. I love the magic and the magical creatures. I love how anything is possible.

Books & Writing: Are you working on something new?

Rebecca Roland: I'm currently working on a YA urban fantasy novel set in Albuquerque. I enjoy reading YA but haven't written much of it.

Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Rebecca Roland: If you'd like to see your work published, keep at it. It takes perseverance to spend years working at the craft and to keep on submitting when you've received dozens or hundreds of rejections. I had over a hundred rejections before I sold my first story.

Books & Writing: Which author inspires you?

Rebecca Roland: There are so many that it's hard to pinpoint one! I suppose, if you twisted my arm and made me choose, I'd say Stephen King. What he does so well is take your fears, turn them over and inside out, and inspect them with a microscope. He isn't afraid to go to dark places. That takes courage. I'd love to be courageous like that.

Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?

Rebecca Roland: People can find my aforementioned stories in Stupefying Stories at http://www.amazon.com/Stupefying-Stories or in Uncle John's Flush Fiction at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=uncle+john%27s+flush+fiction.

My short story "Clothes Make the Man" is forthcoming in Every Day Fiction on August 29th at http://www.everydayfiction.com/, and my story "The Appetite" is forthcoming from Aoife's Kiss on September 1st.

Shards of History will be available in electronic format August 21st.

Books & Writing: Where can people find you on internet?

Rebecca Roland: I blog: http://rebeccarolandwriter.blogspot.com/

I tweet: @rebecca_roland

I facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rebecca.roland

Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?

Rebecca Roland: Breaking Bad is one of my favorite TV shows right now, and not just because it's filmed and takes place in Albuquerque. Sadly, it's in the midst of its last season. But Dexter will be on again soon to satisfy my blood thirst.

Below is an excerpt from "Shards of History"!

            Soon Malia neared the spot where the Jegudun had fallen from the sky. She slowed, scanning the area for any signs of it. Wind rustled aspen leaves, the only sound other than her soft footfalls. The lack of animal sounds raised the hairs along the base of her neck.

            Something rustled in the tree above her. Malia’s hand flew to her dagger as she crouched and looked up. A squirrel chattered at her, then bound along the tree limb. Malia pressed a hand to her chest and took a deep breath. Her heart raced as if she’d just run uphill. Then she grinned and shook her head at her reaction, glad nobody had been around to see her jump at a squirrel.

            A few steps later, the aspen opened to a meadow about twenty paces across. The grass grew as high as Malia’s waist in some spots. Yellow cinquefoil bloomed along the perimeter. The wind died, and everything went still.

            To Malia’s left lay the Jegudun, a small, human-like figure with wings. Standing, it would probably be no taller than a five year old child.

            The creature’s face reminded Malia of a wolf. Sharp teeth lined an elongated snout covered with down, and a short beard clung to its chin. Its eyes, set forward in its face, were closed, and its tufted ears, although pointed, seemed relaxed.

            Feathers on one side of an outstretched wing melded from light gray to dark gray on the other side of the wing. Blood covered its right shoulder.

            Feathers gave way to down on its face and barreled chest, but that was the only thing soft about the Jegudun. It had squat, heavily muscled legs, and arms separate from its wings. An outstretched, human-like hand ended in curved, sharp claws that could easily tear flesh.

            The tension in Malia’s muscles eased as she realized the Jegudun was dead. She imagined those men at the cliffs, facing a horde of these creatures, and shook her head. She didn’t think she could stand up to one living Jegudun, much less a bunch of them.

            Malia swallowed the knot in her throat and inched forward. She reached a trembling hand towards the wing. The feathers were soft and smooth beneath her fingers. Emboldened, she ran her hand along the forward edge of its wing, moving to its bloody shoulder. Hard muscle lay beneath the down.

            The Jegudun’s other arm whipped around to grab her leg. Claws dug into her flesh. The creature yanked, toppling her onto her back.

Malia hit the ground hard. She kicked her leg, trying to pull free, but the Jegudun’s grip was a vise.

            It sat up, snarling, showing two rows of sharp teeth. Malia cried out and fumbled for her dagger, but it was pinned between her hip and the ground. The Jegudun pulled her towards it, her skin scraping against the ground. She imagined the creature’s teeth clamping on her leg and tearing out flesh, or burying its snout into her soft belly until it reached her intestines. I won’t die this way.