How can evil help you today?
Here's the pitch:
Youth, magic, and a luxurious Manhattan apartment, Kalara has it all. She's a classic evoker--hurling fire, ice, and electricity is her specialty. As her father always said, the classics are important.
Meet Whitcomb, a powerful necromancer who doesn't want anyone discovering he's selling the souls of the dead who go through his funeral home. Kalara finds out he's also a mage, and lets him know they have that in common in an endeavor to network. His response is an attempt to teleport her into the Hudson River, and it almost works. Scared for her life, she elicits the help of a devil.
Enter Evander, son of a devil. He's fresh from failing his final diablerie test, and making a deal with a mortal would save him from disgrace. He has Kalara sign an overly fair contract: in return for borrowing his power for five days, she has to give him a heart from one of his enemies so he can eat it and grow stronger. If she fails to deliver the heart, he eats Kalara's instead.
Scroll to the bottom to read the first chapter!
Traditional publishing is really shaky these days, and I don't know where it's going. I do know where indie publishing is going: up. And it's still hard to get discovered by the public, but printing out a limited edition hardback is a solid step toward a foothold. I can take them to conventions and sell them, all the while meeting future readers face-to-face, creating a meaningful relationship with them.
My plan is to release the ebook during the holiday season, when everyone will be buying books for their reader friends. I'll do a Black Friday deal to gain even more exposure.
To do either of these things I need my book edited, and I can't quite afford that on my own. I just barely managed to pay for the cover art (but isn't it looking good?), and that little extra would give my book that extra polish.
Please help me make my breakout novel a success. On the side you can see the various rewards I'm offering as thanks.
First goal $3,000: With the extra money I'd pay for a Kirkus review, something that can be an awesome boon for indie authors if it's positive. They're approaching the level of credibility often associated with The New York Times. And as an extra prize for meeting the goal, everyone who pledges $20 or more gets a 10 minute Skype/Google Hangout call with me (And don't forget, if you've pledged less than that, you can always increase your pledge amount).
Second goal $3,250: This money will go toward marketing. Every breakout novel needs this, and most marketing isn't free. I'm thinking ads on Goodreads, Amazon, and webcomic sites. I'm thinking promoting my book trailer on YouTube. I'm thinking that if the pledges reach $3,250, I'm going to add everyone who's pledged into a drawing to guest star on my vlog.
Third goal $3,500: More marketing funds! If we reach this goal, everyone who has pledged $10 or more will get an ecopy of my next novel In about a year when it's done.
I've been reading fantasy since I discovered Harry Potter, and I've wanted to be an author almost as long. I worked on an epic fantasy for (mumble mumble) years, but finally in October 2012 I decided it was time to write something new, using from the start all that I'd learned through said years.
Then I had a brilliant idea. I couldn't stop thinking about it. What if a mage made a deal with a devil, but she was the evil one of the pair? How would the world react to a good devil?
I'm confident that this book is exciting, fresh, and can really stand out. And it won't be my one-hit-wonder, either. I've got lots of other stories on the back-burners waiting for this one to be served before coming to a full boil themselves. I've started plotting one recently, and if I have the same turnaround rate I did with The Complete Guide to Being Evil, I should be releasing it around the same time next year.
@LauraSFantasy is my Twitter name. I follow back!
This is the image which will adorn the bookmark, the hardcovers, and the posters.
Feeling a little pretentious? Snarky? Evil? Join the club (with my characters)! And if you donate $75 or more, you'll get a memento to celebrate your cackling villain side. The "My other cup is a snifter" mug!
I totally can't wait to have a few myself, to be honest.
Feel free to peruse the various prizes to your right. Each higher donation level gets the prizes in the ones below it (because it's easier that way), and most of them have a limited prize to have a minor character named after you.
And down to the business part. I've already personally funded the cover art and book trailer, both of which will appear here in their final form soon. There's still a lot of other costs associated with self-publishing, though. Here's a breakdown:
- $1200 to print limited-edition hardbacks (100 copies).
- $700 to cover rewards.
- $300 for the professional editing.
- $250 for Kickstarter and Amazon's cuts.
First Chapter of the Book
Kalara watched the floors tick ever higher. Having grown up in Chicago, she was used to elevator rides, but they tended to be shorter than this one. She tapped her foot, ready to reach the top floor. There, atop one of the richer buildings in the Capital of the World, she would attend one of the finest dinner parties there could be.
All her life Kalara had been wealthy, the sole child of the sole owners of a nation-wide chain. She'd spent almost as much time at lavish social soirees as she'd spent at school, but tonight promised to be even more splendid than her previous experiences.
Kalara eyed her chaperones, Neva and Tate. They lived here in Manhattan, but had visited Chicago many times in the past few years. When Kalara had announced her intentions of attending Columbia University, they'd offered to introduce her to all the local well-to-do. As if they were doing her a favor. She knew all they really wanted was to please her parents—or show her off at parties as proof they were close friends with the Orlov family. Neva ran a local jewelry chain she was trying to expand, and she'd hinted at an interest in placing her new stores next-door to existing Orlov's Bridals.
Neva stood stiffly, her purse clutched in front of her, her face blank. Tate looked mildly bored, his eyes watching the floor readout as hers had been.
Itching to entertain herself, Kalara considered pulling a small magic prank on one of them. Ultimately she decided against it. In such intimate company, too much tomfoolery would spark suspicions.
Instead, she let out a frustrated breath and waited for the elevator to ding one last time, then sped out onto the floor. She strode quickly to the corner condo—Tate had already told her which number to look out for—and held her fist by the door. Okay, don't pound so loud you sound like a brute. But not so quietly they can't hear you. And don't rap four times, you'll sound over-urgent. Three should be fine. She knocked, and the sound boomed into the room beyond. She winced. Great, now they'll think a storm giant's come to their party. Neva and Tate caught up as she waited. She silently thanked the universe that they hadn't heard her embarrassing display.
The door swung inward to reveal a man with a bulbous nose parting a curtain of wrinkled skin. His eyes squinted almost shut beneath lids grown unwieldy with age, and a wisp of white hair seemed about ready to blow off his head. He wore a black bow-tie.
Obviously a butler, Kalara thought.
“Neva and Tate, plus one,” Neva said, rather loudly. Of course, who wouldn't assume he was deaf?
The butler scrolled a gnarled finger along the guest list. Kalara's gaze wandered to the ceiling, which was covered with irregular recesses. The motion might have resembled rolling her eyes. Tate cleared his throat and, when she looked at him, raised his thick, caterpillar eyebrows.
Be polite, those brows said. You're our guest. Your actions reflect on us. She'd grown used to interpreting his eyebrows in all the time she'd known him.
“Ah! Hum.” The butler's finger stabbed a specific line on the page. He stepped to the side, letting them see the full sweep of the foyer, and plucked a hanger out of the closet.
They stepped through the door, Neva whisking off her red fox coat and handing it over. While the butler fiddled with it, trying to match it to the hanger like an uncooperative puzzle piece, Kalara silently graded the room. It was fairly empty, save for a modernist painting, mostly dark with a few tendrils of white, and a solid stab of red on one side. The perfect sort of thing to make someone seem deep without actually making a statement. And there were lots and lots of mirrors. Too many.
She'd hoped for something . . . more here. The crème de la crème of interior design. This was New York City, after all. But maybe the host was spectacular in some other way.
After much tinkering the butler hung Neva's coat, and Kalara handed over her own, a white ermine. While the butler was working on this newest puzzle, Tate reached past him and slid his own jacket onto a hanger.
The warm-up from Neva's outerwear proved useful, for the butler only required a minute or two to fasten Kalara's. When he hung it in the closet—which was filled with gorgeous outerwear—he turned to find Tate wearing only his suit.
“Huh?” The butler shook his head and started walking toward an archway, muttering, “Hum.”
They passed through a hallway and into the dining room, which was done in cherry wood, the dark bars of the chair backs curved and slightly thicker on one end. The effect seemed reminiscent of something, but Kalara couldn't quite put her finger on what. The abundance of mirrors continued in this room as well.
What's his deal? Checking to be sure he's not a vampire?
The butler gestured to a set of open double doors, through which she could see several chefs working on various sauces, meats, and vegetables. “Kidden.” Gesturing to the dining room around them he said, “Dinnur.”
He took them to an archway past the dining hall, where many guests crowded the center of the room, obscuring someone from sight. “Misser Whicomb.” He bowed his head.
Has the butler lost his teeth or his marbles I wonder?
Kalara patted her chest in the same spot the butler had a pocket, summoning a pair of dentures into his. She knew they were childish, but pulling such magic pranks was how she'd first discovered she was a mage. She didn't feel like giving them up.
As he straightened, he looked down and said, “Well hi never. Dere dey are.” He turned his back to them as if to make toward the foyer, and discreetly pulled something from his front pocket, popping it into his mouth.
Both, it appears.
Tate made his way to the bar in the corner where a few other men stood around sipping from snifters. They nodded at his approach, but let their mouths focus on their glasses. Kalara had once pulled a prank on a man sipping cognac. She'd pushed more than a mouthful down his throat, and he'd thrown up. She hadn't done that again.
Kalara took in the room expectantly. Instead of finding a more glamorous bunch of people, more witty and elegant, she saw the same boring, stuffy type of people she'd known in Chicago.
“It seems Whitcomb is quite busy at the moment,” said Neva. “I'll have to introduce you later.”
A serving boy—quite cute, but too poor—walked by, brandishing two trays of hors d'oeuvres. As she snagged one and popped it in her mouth—neatly, to avoid smearing her makeup—the large group parted, and she got her first look at Brentley Whitcomb. He had an exceptional socializing smile, ice-blue eyes, and a full head of well-trimmed salt-and-pepper hair. As he turned one way and another, it didn't move a centimeter. It was absolutely perfect.
“No matter,” Neva went on, “I wanted to see if Lucille Steer has arrived yet, anyway.” Kalara followed her to the next room over. She'd have to wait on the introduction. All she knew about him was that he owned a few funeral homes around The City, and he knew nothing of her. Neva and Tate were his acquaintances, but had RSVP'd with her as an extra. She, as the most interesting person in their repertoire, was their best shot at being the most impressive at the party.
The new room was smaller, as if Whitcomb had converted it from a bedroom to a second living room. He lived alone, so it made sense. Neva joined a cloister of women in their thirties or forties, all with their noses up and none of their pinkies touching their drinks. They didn't look more interesting than the silly women who attended her parents' parties. Kalara tapped her foot, trying to decide whether to go mingle.
Well, I don't want to look like a lost kid with nothing to do.
While at a distance, though, was the perfect opportunity. She focused on one woman's glass of chardonnay for a second, raising its temperature to that of the room while keeping the glass around her fingers the same, so she wouldn't suspect. The woman took a sip, paused, and seemed to have some difficulty swallowing. Kalara chuckled as she sidled over to the big, wide windows.
She still couldn't believe she was here, in Novum Caput Mundi, just as she became an adult. Eating in one of the richest condos in Manhattan, renting one of the most luxurious apartments herself, and going to Broadway shows whenever she wanted. Certainly living the high life. She allowed herself a small smile as she gazed down at the Hudson, swirling with life under the bright sun. With her enhanced sight she could see the ripples on the waves, even from twenty stories up.
Then The Feeling welled up in her, and she had to squelch it down.
Another woman, probably in her eighties or older, stood erect beside her, holding a jewel-pommeled cane but not putting weight on it. “Hello.”
“Hello madam.” Kalara gave her a polite party smile.
“Do you know the nephew?”
Kalara leaned her head to one side. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me. Thought you would, if you care about money.”
Kalara, despite all her good breeding, couldn't quite keep her face straight. Responding to something so nutty was simply out of the question. Why wasn't whoever brought this bizarre woman to the party keeping an eye on her?
“The nephew will inherit. No kids of his own.”
She stepped away slightly, intentionally aloof, though being so was considered bad etiquette. Perhaps the woman would lose interest. She also shot static at the woman's hair, and it frizzed out to an embarrassing level.
“Kalara, dear!” Neva called. Kalara turned gracefully. The group of people across the room were all looking at her, as well they might. “Come, be a dear and tell Mrs. Steer here that you are an Orlov.”
Kalara obliged, sauntering over in a way that splayed the mermaid flow of her dress just so. Her parents agreed that mermaid skirts were the best shape on her. It was their business to know that sort of thing.
“Kalara,” Neva said when she was close, “who are your parents?”
A cool wisp of air brushed her arm. Magic. With rather less poise than she meant to, she responded, “Leander and Fara Orlov.” She glanced around, trying to find the source of the magicy feeling. She refused to call it magical. That word rang of Disney Land.
“The owners of the country-wide Orlov's Bridal. I told you, Mrs. Steer.” Neva gave Kalara a pointed glance. Kalara dismissed it and kept searching. Only two people in the world knew she was a mage, and she wasn't about to let her chance to find another confidant slip through her grasp.
“Really? I thought their daughter was younger,” said another of the guests.
There it was! In a nearby display case was a magic rod*. It was the source of the ghostly touch, even locked up in its cherry wood and glass. So Whitcomb was a mage. But his eyes were blue! A bright, piercing . . . oh. Colored contacts, of course. Underneath they would be the same slate gray as her own.
*Guide note: The scepter had been around literally for ages, crafted long ago by a mage trying to help his kingdom win a war. As he presented it to his lord, that lord raised his sword, which he handled as if it were but a willow whip, and split him in two, crying that only the enemy used such cheap means for victory. The rod clattered to the ground and was stolen before it could share its master's fate. Now it found itself in a display case, feeling sorry for itself.
“. . . for your wedding needs?” Kalara focused on the speaker, realizing they weren't making general observations yet, such as the conversation always drifted toward when complete strangers were trying to be polite with one another. They were still talking directly to her.
She tilted her head. “Maybe,” she said with a conspiratorial grin, figuring that response was the least likely to reveal her inattention.
The group gave uncomfortable little laughs, the speaker straightening a few inches. “Am I boring you, little Miss?”
Kalara swallowed some anger, readying a retort that would scald her scolding tongue. She was nineteen, which was no age to be associated with the word 'little' any more.
Neva guided her away. “What is the matter, Kalara? Are your studies wearing on you? Shall I have some lavender water fetched?”
“No, thank you.” She glanced at the case. “Would you mind introducing me to Mr. Whitcomb, though? I should very much like to compliment him on his home.”
Neva brightened. “Of course, dear. I'm sure he'd just die to meet an Orlov.” As they moved back into the previous room, Kalara wondered who would deal with his body when he died—his own business or his competition?
This room was fairly similar to the one they came from. The same black chandelier hung in the center of the ceiling, and a similar stiff, cream-colored rug covered the dark hardwood. Kalara noted the guests either drinking white wines or holding their drinks very carefully.
And there he was, standing in the best spot of lighting, his perfectly-peppered hair slicked back with a side-part, ready to go on camera. She wondered if he used magic to style his hair, the way she did. Perhaps ten guests surrounded him, as he took sips from a goblet and spoke so the whole room could hear him.
“The problem with the world today is that people are too lazy. Those people you hear about blocking up Wall Street because they were fired? So go find another job. And if there isn't a job, make one! It isn't that hard. I built my company from the ground up. And the other day my assistant tried to take a second break, right in the middle of unloading coffins*. Truly unprofessional, holding up the truck that way. He's eating me out of my home.”
*GN: What Brentley wasn't remembering, or at least not telling his guests, is that he'd cut the man's lunch break from thirty minutes into fifteen due to “pressing business,” and his assistant hadn't had time to eat his whole lunch.
Kalara glanced around again at all his treasures. Mirrors and pedestals and precious metals galore. It all seemed utterly untouched by loss.
“Brentley, how horrid of him,” Neva said. “Are you sure you wouldn't be better off getting rid of him and hiring someone new?”
Brentley turned as Neva and Kalara joined the throng. “I was thinking more along the lines of holding the threat of firing him over his head so that he shapes up. 'Blessed are the Iron-handed, the unfit shall flee before them.' --Might is Right. After all, they're all the same. Who's to say the next man I hire wouldn't be twice as lazy*?”
*GN: Twice as lazy as Brentley's assistant still would not be all that lazy.
Kalara wondered if she really wanted to share a secret with Mr. Whitcomb. Then she thought of how many spells he might know that her tutor, who'd been one of her middle school teachers, hadn't. Whitcomb probably wouldn't have the “I know this but can't tell you because it's too powerful” scruple her teacher had, and she could advance as a mage more quickly. The thought almost set her drooling. Almost.
“You could hire a woman instead,” Kalara said. “One who may be stronger than she looks, and would not quibble, unloading your coffins in record time.”
He focused on her. “Are you recommending yourself? You should have started with your name, so that I could affix it with your brassy attitude in my memory.”
“Excuse me,” said Neva. “This is my guest, Kalara Orlov, daughter of Leander and Fara Orlov, owners of the Orlov's Bridal. She moved here to attend Columbia.”
“I see. Charmed, I'm sure. And why, Miss Orlov, are you recommending yourself for a labor-intensive job?” The guests around him tittered and ha-ha'd ever so stylishly.
“I'm getting my degree in business. I'm sure working for your business would provide an excellent background for what I'll need to know.” She kept her eyes off Neva, whose business she hadn't asked to join. Before Brentley could respond, she said, “You have a lovely home, by the way. Stunning, just,” she leaned forward, “magic.”
“Why thank you,” he said, his lips tightening. He sniffed—inward--almost imperceptibly. “Now, do you have any experience with the dead?”
“No, I thought not. You see, it takes a certain . . . tenacity, to be able to stomach it. One I'm not convinced you posses.”
“I assure you, I can be quite tenacious.”
“And yet tenacity isn't always the best policy. For example, if a young woman of some fortune moves to the most cultured, wealthy city of the world, to which she has no real ties, and finds herself having only attended a handful of the right kinds of parties. Should she assume she is not fit for that city's speed and move somewhere more comfortable for herself? Or should she remain tenacious, sticking it out and only increasing her own embarrassment?”
Kalara glanced at Neva, who was fidgeting, her face pained. He is insulting me. Before some of the most wealthy people in the world.
“I can handle New York speed, I'm sure. I only arrived here a few months ago.”
“A few months already and this is the first party I've seen you at? Are you quite certain you're fitting in?”
“Forgive me, but if this is how you treat your applicants and the guests of your home I must rescind my request.”
“Trust me,” he said, his teeth showing, “that has no effect on my decision.”
They both looked down as a crackling sound came from Whitcomb's glass. His Cabernet had iced over, frost crawling down the stem. Oops. I need to keep my anger under control. When she glanced back at Whitcomb his jaw had tightened so much she thought he might crack a tooth.
“Excuse me,” she said, barely managing a smile, “I'll not stay in your company a moment longer.” Neva visibly relaxed as she moved away, though she didn't rejoin the conversation right away.
Kalara tapped Tate on the shoulder. He bowed his head toward Mr. Harrison, with whom he was drinking, then walked to the side with Kalara.
Tate, I feel ill. I'm afraid I must retire.”
Tate pulled his keys from his pocket with a raise of his brow. Want me to drive you home?
“No, no, I'll take a cab. Besides, don't want to spoil Neva's fun.” If I haven't already. “You know how she loves these parties.”
Tate's focus slid inward, then he nodded, extending his arm. At least let me escort you out.
Kalara lay a hand on his proffered arm, and they made their way back to the foyer. She glanced over her shoulder as they went, and caught Whitcomb smirking at her retreat.
This is only a retreat, not a surrender, she thought as Tate swung her coat open for her. A small stack of business cards on a side table snagged her eye, and she swiped one as she shrugged on her beautiful, white fur. Whitcomb has made a very dangerous enemy today.
Risks and challenges
There is the possibility, however slight, of printing and shipping delays. Don't worry, I want this to happen on time as much as you do. I will do everything in my power to finish everything early so that these possibilities for delay don't become realities.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (25 days)