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Interview with a Demon Part 1

Part 1 (my notes on an unauthorized interview with the Guardian)

 

As a scribe, albeit a low-level one, I’ve had some pretty harrowing experiences with my characters, many of which have straddled that dark line between what’s real and what comes from my imagination. I’ve been invited to a vampire’s home where I was soundly threatened and warned away from the story I was writing – a story too personal for his liking, a story I was forced to write anyway. I’ve met Magda Gardener/AKA Medusa on the Manhattan Bridge, where she all but hijacked me into her consortium. I’ve even walked in the storm tunnels of Vegas with Hades and Cerberus/ AKA Jon and Gus. I was pretty jet lagged at the time though. I’m still not sure that wasn’t just a dream.

 

While I’m not a Scribe in the true sense that Susan Innes is, Magda seems to think that as far as simply recording the stories she wants told, I’ll do. That means I’m often put into, shall we say, unusual situations. While vampires are terrifying, and somehow Medusa, in her Magda guise can be convincingly safe, if she wants to be … as long as you don’t look too closely, the interview I’m about to share with you is completely unsanctioned. Not a chance it’ll stay beneath Magda’s radar, and yet, when I was asked by the interviewee to tell his story, how could I refuse? In fact, I’m not sure refusing was an option. I don’t mind saying that interviewing Hannibal Lector through the bars of his prison would have made me less anxious. You see Susan Innes has approached me to interview the demon now imprisoned inside her body. Since she is both his prison and only one of two people to survive a full possession by him, neither of them felt she could possibly write his story objectively.

 

Susan meets me at the door of the penthouse apartment in Tribeca, which she shares with Michael, who is a fallen angel, or retired, as he prefers to call himself. He’s the only other person to survive possession by the demon. It’s night, and the lights of Manhattan are like jewels flung out beyond ceiling to floor windows of an open planned living space big enough to pass as a small ballroom.

 

Susan is a vampire, but that’s not why she asked me to come to her at night. Because of her demon prisoner, she could have easily met me in broad daylight on the Manhattan Bridge or in Central Park. But this interview will involve a bit of dream magic. The demon I’ll be interviewing, known as the Guardian, has insisted that it be him I speak to without using Susan as the intermediary. That means I have to approach him through dreams.

 

You’re probably wondering how I could possibly sleep in the presence of a scary-ass demon and a vampire. With the help of a succubus, of course. In the guest bedroom where the interview will take place, Talia Zephora looks up at me and smiles. She sits in a wing backed chair flipping through the pages of Cosmoand sipping red wine. “We meet again, KD.” She doesn’t offer me her hand, which is just as well. I know exactly what I would feel if she did, and I’ll experience enough of her magic very shortly anyway. “You manage to get mixed up with some rough characters, don’t you?”

 

I just smile stupidly. There’s no good answer to that one. “How’s Alonso?” I ask. She works for him.

 

“He’s got his hands full now that Reese has joined the growing ranks of the undead.” She offers a low throaty laugh. “Though he’s so cute when he’s hungry. Reese, not Alonso. Alonso is never cute.” She lifts her glass to me. “Want some. It’s a good one.”

 

“No thanks,” I manage, hoping no one will notice the little tremor in my voice that I can’t seem to get rid of in spite of all the fail safes I’ve been assured are in place.

 

She nods. “Just as well. You won’t need it to make you feel good, I promise.”

 

The fight or flight response kicks in, and I take a step back and reach for the door handle involuntarily. She laughs out loud. “Just kidding. I’m just here to get you inside,” she nods to Susan and shrugs, “Wherever the hell inside is. I suppose it’ll be up to you to find his cell. After that, well then you’re on your own.”

 

Susan flips Talia the finger and the succubus blows her a kiss for her efforts. “It’ll be okay, KD.” Susan says nodding to the bed. “All he wants is a chance to tell his story. He figures you know him better than anyone … at least you think you do.”

 

I can’t help wondering if that last little bit is Susan speaking or the demon.

 

I kick out of my shoes and lay down on the enormous brass bed. Ideal for handcuffs and rope, a thought I wish I hadn’t just had. I’ve worn a soft pair of track bottoms and a tank top, something comfortable but not too intimate. This is an interview, I remind myself. That’s all. Susan pulls a blanket up over and tucks me in. Her gaze moves to the pounding of my pulse in my neck and she pats my shoulder. “Just relax. It’ll be all right.”

 

It’s damn near impossible to relax as Talia crawls under the blanket next to me, still fully dressed, so we are keeping it all business-like. Then she takes me into her arms and pulls me close, and I realize it doesn’t matter what she’s wearing. I’m completely at her mercy, that is until I meet the Guardian, then a succubus might well seem like a waltz in the park. Even as her kiss pulls me under, I can’t help remembering what the Guardian has done to others, what he’s capable of doing to me. Promises of safety suddenly seem ridiculous, and just when I’m about to reconsider, throw off the blanket and make a run for it, I fall fast and deeply asleep.

 

In Praise of Reading Shamelessly

From the archives

 

No doubt you’ve all seen the checklists that periodically go around with must-read books, or the hundred best books of all time, or the checklists that test how well read you are. Honestly, who can resist? And who can resist possibly even cheating just a little bit and ticking the boxes of a couple of the ones we’ve not actually read, but maybe we’ve started, then got bogged down and finally just gave up and watched the movie or the mini series instead. Oh come on! Admit it! I’ve done it. Being thought of as erudite, well read and worldly is just so damned appealing.

 

There’s a link on List Challenges that goes around on Facebook periodically to another such list. But this list contains the titles of ‘books you’ll never brag about having read.’Some of them are just mindless guilty pleasures and smutty bonk busters. Some of them are infamous for being poorly written, but making their authors a mint. What writer isn’t a little green around the gills where those books are concerned? Some of them were the trend of the day — all the rage one week, forgotten the next. Some of them were written by people who were once admired, but have now fallen from grace. Some of them are rubber-necking books – you know the type – literary train wrecks and gossip fests just too juicy to resist. Some of them had me scratching my head and wondering why they were even on this list at all – especially when I could think of a few of my own I’d have added if I’d been making up the list.

 

Of course I had to test myself and felt slightly smug that I’d only read six. Yup! That’s me, Social Media folks! I pat myself on the back, I stick my nose in the air! I read only the highest quality literature. As for those six, well everyone lapses a little now and then, right?

 

But the lovely refreshing surprise that really got me thinking about what we read and why, was that most of the people who responded to my sharing this link on Facebook were unabashedly unashamed of reading their share of the books on this list. It’s reading, rights? These very smart people realize that. Whether it’s a bonk bust or a train wreck, the power of the written word is totally awesome! It’s an eye on the world that’s nothing less than magical.

 

The world we experience in the rarified air of what’s considered great literature is no more the real world than the one we get when we read fluff ‘n’ stuff. Reading isn’t now, nor has it ever been a reality check. If anything it’s the ultimate escape, the voyeur’s view into how the other half lives. It’s the opportunity to be entertained, titillated and even occasionally transformed. Being educated and well read is a thing we all treasure, and rightly so. But the experience of the written word is as much about pop culture and gossip and trends and history unfolding in all it’s marred, messed-up glory as it is about being educated. In fact, it seems to me that there is a point of cross-over that we can’t really afford to miss if for no other reason than because it’s a part of our culture, a part of the world we live in — bonk busts, bunny fluff, woo-woo and all. Besides, we need the escape, we need the view from outside ourselves. Guilty pleasures are often the best, and they’re never better than when we feel we should be reading Dickens, but end up reading Dan Brown over a pint of chocolate ice cream consumed straight out of the container.

 

Don’t get me wrong, some of my best, most life-changing reads have been classics, and they were wonderful and
transforming, and I see them as mile-markers in my life. But I have my own list of fluff, woo-woo and mindless pulp novels, my own dirty little secret reading list, and I’m fine with that. Those books make me feel good when nothing else will. The fact that I can read, that I do read, that everything is out there for me to read; the fact that the written-word, no matter how shallow or forgettable is still the written word, well that’s nothing short of wonderful. At the end of the day, reading is an activity worthy of respect in its own right. The fact that we DO read is of far greater value than just how highbrow the reads on our checklist are.

 

Concerto: Part 4

It’s time for the 4th episode of Concerto, my WIP unfolding in serial form right here on my blog. For a burned out writer, a holiday in a remote cottage on the Isle of Sky involves a mysterious man, a little night music and a struggle to discern what’s real and what is just  imagination.

 

Concerto Part 1: A little Night Music

 

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

 

Concerto Part 3: Too Much to Bear Alone

 

 

Concerto: Chapter 4 Writing and Waiting

I scrolled down through the open doc on the computer screen, the one I didn’t remember writing. It was a detailed account of everything that had happened until the point at which I had tripped on the patio of the cottage at the end of the stable yard and, in doing so, disturbed the man at the piano. Suddenly I wanted nothing more than to make sure I documented everything that had happened the past night, or at least as best I could. I doubted I’d ever find words for the experience of sharing the man’s music, what it had done to me, what it had done to both of us. But I had to try. I didn’t want to forget what it had felt like, how it had moved me. So I wrote.

 

As is often the case when I write, the flood gates opened and what poured forth on the page was far more detailed and had much more depth than what I actually had in mind when I sat down to write. I remembered more clearly the way the music rode the waves of the storm, the way it anticipated the rage of the wind and the moments of calm. Somehow what the man had played felt like a way of making sense of everything, of the storm, the sea, of my doubts, my longings, of his need to share what he had created. That need was something I had not really thought of, certainly hadn’t understood until he settled me in my bed. Of course every artist, every writer, wants to share the end result of their efforts, but I had never really considered that just maybe that creation could not be fully experienced by its creator unless it was shared.

 

By the time I finished, the kettle had grown cold, the fire burned low and my body had become stiff from sitting so long. It had been ages since I’d gotten so lost in my work, since my work had felt like anything other than a slog through heavy mud. Rubbing my hands together, I rose and put more wood on the fire. The rain pelted the slate roof, and the wind whistled through the cracks between the windows and their ill-fitting frames. In the kitchen, I clicked on the kettle again and found the Nescafe on the tea tray, not wanting to take time to make proper coffee. While I waited, I chafed my arms and stared out the window. A heavy fog had descended and the cottage at the end of the stable yard was now not visible at all. I fantasized about taking coffee and the coveted packet of shortbread across the cobbles to my neighbor and thanking him for last night, a thing not possible in this weather. When the kettle clicked off, I held my breath and listened, frustrated by the howl of the storm, but even between heavy gusts, I heard no music wafting through the thick air. A glance at the clock on the kitchen wall told me it was just past noon. The growling of my stomach reminded me that I’d had nothing to eat since yesterday evening. I tore into a package of croissants and ate one while I made the coffee. Then I returned to the lounge, determined to let the man rest. I figured he was exhausted.

 

I’d only just settled in to write again, when I noticed what looked like a self-published paperback in pride of place on the coffee table. “Cliff Down Lodge Reclaimed.” I flipped through the pages sipping my coffee and munching on another croissant. The book was mostly photos with captions, before and after shots of how the present owners had found the place and what they had done to make the stable cottages inhabitable. There was a brief history, but not really much more detail than what my landlady had told me on the ride over. What really drew my attention was the last three pages of the book. They were full of images taken from battered daguerreotype photos. Sadly none of them were of the stables. Most were of the lodge itself perched precariously on the cliffs above the sea, with its heart stopping view. I recognized the gatehouse as one of the last piles of rubble we had passed on the rough ride into the cottages. From the look of the photos, there must have been nothing left of the main house.

 

The rest of the images were of the interior, of the entrance hall, the formal dining room, a morning room. But the photo that drew my attention was of the music room. It was not particularly large, wood floors covered in rich carpets, heavy chandelier hanging from the ceiling, walls a mix of dark wood and heavy tapestries. In one corner there was a concert harp. But it was the grand piano at the center of the space that drew my attention. Perhaps it was simply the past night’s adventure that colored my perception, but to me, it was obvious that the piano was by far the most important part of the room. But then if the lord of the manor had daughters, they more than likely would have all played, as would have his wife. Or perhaps I simply watched too many period dramas.

 

I was about to set the book aside and make more coffee when I noticed the images on the last page of the book, all of pen and ink drawings. One of those was done in the music room of a dark haired man at the piano. And though it was difficult to tell from a print of an old drawing, the pianist, who sat poised to play, looked very much like the man in the cottage at the end of the stable yard. I laughed at my active imagination. I could easily see a story coming from this, though a rather predictable one I feared. I put the book down and went to get coffee.

 

As I refilled the kettle, the music began again, and even in the pouring rain, I couldn’t resist its pull. In an instant, I was out the door. In another instant, I was drenched to the skin, a condition I didn’t notice as I strained to hear the music against the wind. I only became aware of my waterlogged state when I slipped inside the French doors without so much as a knock and stood savoring the music as I dripped on the wood floor. My pianist gave only a quirk of what might have been a smile and kept on playing. While he said nothing, somehow I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the music was an invitation especially for me.

 

Suzanne Jefferies Launches Watched with a Great Giveaway

 

Suzanne will be giving away two ebooks of Watched to two lucky winners. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may increase your chances of winning by visiting the other tour stops. You may find those locationshere.

 


Watched Blurb:

Newly divorced Professor Evie Brown notices her student Cameron Slade and how attentive he seems, so totally unlike her ex-husband. Cameron is also delicious to look at, all taut body, broad shoulders, and hot eyes. He’s forbidden territory, but one late afternoon as she pleasures herself in an empty lecture hall, she looks up to find she’s not alone. He’s there…watching her.

 

And then there’s Sophie Walker. Ever since Evie met the sensual woman, she’s allowed her inhibitions to unreel, one by one. It’s Sophie who’s been sharing Evie’s erotic awakening, Sophie who she yearns for. Or is it?

 

Amazon Buy Link

 

 

Watched Excerpt:

I wipe clean the whiteboard, enjoying the push of the felt, swinging from side to side as I move, the squeaking sound it makes as it erases the past three hours’ worth of hard work. An image replays over and over—that unexpected reveal of Cameron’s torso—a handspan of bareness, the grooved shadow of muscle. It was a shock to the sterility of that lecture hall. My mouth waters. Bare, taut skin—that male skin, so much rougher, harsher than a woman’s.

Male.

I replace the lids on the markers and switch off the projector. Alone. Facing late afternoon emptiness.

If Cameron were to give me something I’d like… I’d like him, close to me, all sweet-sandy raw male youth, at my knees. Male.

 

I swallow back the desire that is starting to slither through me, stroking the space between my neck and collarbone. Cameron. I picture the way he ran his hands through his lightly gelled hair, the bulge in his arms as his hands extended behind his head. The soft curve of his lower lip. That vulnerable stretch of torso that was making my mouth salivate like a beast before its slaughter.

 

 

 

About Suzanne:

Suzanne Jefferies loves to write romance. As a member of ROSA (Romance Writers of South Africa), she knows that she’s not the only believer in romantic tension and emotional power smacks to keep the romance reader hooked. A movie fanatic, she spends most of her time as a writer-for-hire. Working in communication, she has done more than her fair share of corporate and investor PR, and now freelances in between editorial jobs for big. glossy company magazines. The Joy of Comfort Eating, her first contemporary romance novel, won the 2016 Imbali Award for excellence in romance writing.

 

 

 

 


Visit her website at www.suzannejefferies.com, tweet @suzannjefferies, Facebook: SuzanneJefferiesAuthor

 

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


 

 

Concerto Part 3: Too Much to Bear Alone

 

Sometimes a story takes a little while to unfold, and sometimes the path I thought something would take when I began
it isn’t the one that the story insists I go down. That’s when the fun begins. From that point, I honestly don’t know where the characters will take me with the tale they have to tell. With part 3 of Concerto, I’ve reached that point. That’s why this episode is a little longer. This was the episode that dragged me in, and I needed to ride it out to its full conclusion. And now I’m getting excited about this little ditty. I hope you are too. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve missed the earlier instalments, catch up here:

 

Concerto Part 1: A little Night Music

 

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

 

 

 

 

 

Part 3 Concerto: Too Much to Bear Alone

 

A writer expresses herself through words. They’re the tools she uses, not just to tell a story, but to make people feel, really feel, the life blood that flows through her tale, the very heart beat of each character, each setting, each layer of meaning. I’ve always thought that those results were better achieved with words than with any other artistic methods. Words are concrete in ways that visual arts and aural arts can never be, but I was wrong. That night as the storm outside snarled and rampaged around us, the music this strange man created became the pounding of my heart, the racing of my blood. It became my death and resurrection, my creation and destruction. It became the ache of every secret longing, every burning desire I’d ever had, all of it laid bare at his feet. And it truly was at his feet because I couldn’t stay on the sofa. It was too far away from the center of what he created, too far away from the tapestry he wove and too far away, it felt, from my own soul. In desperation to be nearer, I had, at some point, crawled beneath the piano, where I lay writhing and drowning in the wild sea of music, and wanting nothing more than to never surface again.

 

Then when he held me totally bound by his magic, when his music had somehow uncovered the very building blocks of my own story, he broke me apart. Bone and sinew, blood and tears — he broke me apart. Molecule by molecule, he tore me down until I floated away from myself, all boundaries dissolved, no sense remaining of where I left off and the music began. My essence spread thinner and thinner until I joined with each note, rode each phrase out into the night and let the storm blow over me.

 

And when I was gone, nothing remaining of me that he hadn’t played, that he hadn’t destroyed and recreated and destroyed again, he gathered me back to myself. It was in that gathering, just before the music stopped, that I became aware of the tears on my cheeks. Then, when silence filled the room as though it were itself a part of the music, accompanied by the storm that now seemed far away, he slid off the bench under the piano next to me and drew me to his body, cool against my fevered skin, his bare chest pressed tightly to my back. In my scramble to get to him, to his music, the tartan had fallen away. He reached for it and pulled it over us, then encircled me completely in the solid muscle of his arms. His breath came in heavy gulps, as though he had been running. Mine came in convulsive sobs. He didn’t speak. I couldn’t have spoken if I’d wanted to, and I found that I didn’t. It was only when my own shudders eased a little that I noticed he too was trembling. I hadn’t thought how the music he created might affect him. I had only assumed that he controlled it, created it, made it do his will. It had angered me, at first, that with the world of sound he created, he could so completely manipulate me. But then it didn’t matter any more. Nothing mattered but that he kept playing. I hadn’t known. I hadn’t understood that perhaps, he was as much in the thrall of his music as I was. Perhaps the power of what he created around us was not entirely of his own making.

 

The storm must have eased again at some point. At some point I must have slept the exhausted sleep that catharsis brings. I vaguely remember him lifting me into his arms, followed by the chill of the night air on my face. In protest, I remember burying my face in the heat of his chest, listening to the steady thud, thud of his heart, a different kind of music, as he carried me back to my cottage and eased me down into my bed. He pulled the duvet up around me, and I reached up and touched his stubbled cheek. “Is it always like this?” I managed, my words slurring with the threat of sleep.

 

He caught my hand and pulled it to his lips. His eyes darkened as though the storm from outside had come into them, and the succession of emotions that crossed his face were too fast for me to decipher. “Sometimes …” The muscled of his throat rose and fell and, with an effort, he cleared his throat. When he spoke, the words were tight and strained. “Sometimes it’s just too much to bear alone.” Then he tucked my hand under the duvet against my chest. I wanted to ask him to stay, I wanted to hold him close, to ask him all about his music, himself, the two of which I was certain were very closely entwined with a story of their own to tell. I wanted to hold on to the moment just a little longer, but as he turned to go, I was already riding too close to the edge of sleep. The last thing I noticed before I lost consciousness completely was his bare feet treading silently over the wood floor.

 

When I awoke to the subdued morning light of mist and drizzle, the whole night had a dreamlike quality to it, and as it all came rushing back to me, I stumbled from the bed and looked out the window. The cottage at the end of the stable yard was silent and dark, barely visible in the mist. If the man played all night, he surly must sleep late into the day. Every artist has their own best time to create. I was an early morning person, usually falling into bed just after ten and rising at six. Though lately I hadn’t been sleeping well, and the nights had been an endless desert of self-doubt and struggle to hold back the encroaching panic of a life I feared I’d wasted, of success I dreaded and yet was terrified of losing. For the first morning in a long time, I felt refreshed. I would tell him that when I saw him later today, and I would make a point to see him. I didn’t even know his name, and yet I couldn’t remember ever sharing such intimacy with anyone.

 

I quickly dressed in my heavy tracksuit and fuzzy slippers against the chill and fumbled with the radiators, remembering vaguely that the landlady had explained to me how to work the ancient storage heaters. In the kitchen, I
plugged in the kettle, happy to see the electricity was back, then I built a fire in the hearth to warm the lounge where I would work … or not work, as the case might well be. Once the fire was crackling merrily in the grate and in the kitchen I could hear the kettle starting to bubble, I stood, wiping my hands on my trousers. It was then that I noticed my laptop
sitting open on the desk near the window.

 

For a long moment, I stood staring at it. I didn’t remember opening it. I didn’t even remember unpacking it. With a clap of thunder, that made me jump, the rain began in earnest again. A gust of wind rattled the window as though it were keen on getting my attention, and I moved to the computer. The kettle clicked off with a loud pop and lightning flashed as I bent over and scrolled to the top of a word doc simply called “concerto.” The first sentence of what was clearly a multi-page document read: I started awake from disturbing dreams that I couldn’t quite remember.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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