Ellie Coulter made a deal with the devil, and now it’s time to pay the price. Little did she know, the shadows that have swirled around her life since her parents’ death were not a coincidence. As Ellie’s destiny is revealed, it comes with the knowledge that her fate is the lynchpin in a far larger, and more dangerous game. And the one who found her has no intention of ever letting her go.
Ellie walks a fine line between keeping up the appearance of acceptance while gathering the information she needs to escape. Along the way, she has to decide who to trust and that includes the man she loves. As facts give way to lies, Ellie begins to question everything.
With her true intentions on the verge of being discovered, Ellie must find a way to defeat her captor before she becomes a shadow herself.
New Rules: Paranormal Creatures Rejoice!
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed the latest trend of sultry and smoldering, bad boy (and girl) paranormal creatures who set our minds and bodies ablaze. It doesn’t matter what persuasion strikes your fancy: vampire, witch, werewolf, ghost, demon, fairy, shade, wraith, or even zombie; the paranormal romance book section is bursting at the seams to give you what you want.
What happened to us that we are suddenly clamoring for our scary creatures to be sexy? You might blame Twilight for all of it, but our fascination with vampires started well before then. Imaginations went wild creating those beings who drew us in to do us harm. Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and the like became the benchmarks for that old school thinking.
But the old rules don’t apply anymore. There seems to be a requirement that writers need to push the boundaries to bring us a new dangerous, yet charming, enchanting creature. So naturally the new vampire sparkles and walks during the day. The werewolves change at will and are no longer bound by the full moon. A person can walk the line between living and dead and exist on both sides. In my book, The Soul Garden, my zombies are soulless creatures, who because of that “deformity”, look and act differently than the people around them but are not naturally aggressive.
As an author, I understand this desire to write our characters differently than they’ve ever been written before. It’s because we believe that this makes our story unique and memorable (or at least we hope it does). We think that those differences will make our readers salivate for more. It’s a logical transition to make our creatures different in a desirable way. We’re bringing sexy to the paranormal realm.
In my novel Edge of Shadows, Ellie’s love interest David is the perfect guy. He’s athletic, charming, gorgeous, and a doctor. Best of all, he’s completely into her and pursues her even though she’s grappling with some emotional baggage. I wrote David to be likable, relatable, and very much human. But there is much more to David than meets the eye.
I explore that aspect of David in Shadows Deep, and so as to not give away any spoilers I’m not going to tell you exactly what his background is, but it’s safe to say he’s got some paranormal flair about him. I’d like to think I created something entirely new with David’s character, and I’m excited to explore that further.
In contrast, Mikel, the villain in Shadows Deep, is the more traditional dark, supernatural entity. But as I built Mikel in my mind, there was something alluring that attracted me to him. It’s that same quality that pulls Ellie to him even though she doesn’t like him.
I think that is the effect of the new rules. We feel it necessary to stick somewhat with traditional so we aren’t disputing the creature’s nature. For example, if you drink blood and kill people that’s BAD. But if you layer on an attractive exterior and make the character conflicted about their behavior, suddenly that’s a quandary because that could be someone GOOD.
As a reader, encountering these creatures in this way makes them less threatening, and then we can fantasize about them without any of the actual moral compass questions. (Would you really want to date a guy who regularly killed people to survive? Probably not.) So we allow the creatures to play by the new rules and we admire them from afar.
The real question for me is do readers want and expect these deviations from the norm? I think the jury’s still out on that one. Lots of people criticized Twilight because of the “sparkle” factor, but others thought it was a creative way to get vamps out into daylight. Purists are less than pleased, but many applaud the new.
Which makes me wonder which paranormal character is going to get a makeover next? Because once we establish these new rules, we’ve just created the next benchmark to be broken.
Letting go was one of the hardest things a person could ever do. Ellie knew that. What happened when she let go of the idea that reality as she knew it was merely a cover on a rabbit hole? She had willingly taken the cover off and fallen down into the unknown darkness. She’d surrendered. Somehow it felt easier that way. But the Voice kept picking at her even though she was deep in her hidey hole. It wouldn’t leave her alone.
“What was it like for you when your parents died?”
Ellie had answered some variation of that question what seemed like a million times over the years, but her response always paled in comparison to the effect of that one event on the rest of her life. How could she explain the depth of pain she felt when the two people who she loved most were ripped out of her life? Or the excruciating, almost debilitating sense of loneliness that followed when she finally comprehended that she was completely alone in the world?
“I was eight,” Ellie replied. “I had no other family. One minute I was surrounded by love. In the blink of an eye I was an orphan. What do you think it was like?” No one could understand what she had been through, and eventually she gave up trying to explain. Her parents’ death was just something that happened to her a long time ago. Ellie preferred to leave that buried there.
“I am sure it was difficult. But you obviously learned to cope, even thrive.”
“Thrive isn’t the word I’d choose,” Ellie said. “I learned how to survive. Eventually I learned ways to be happy again, but I did that on my own. I never felt like I belonged anywhere again.”
The Voice was silent for a while and Ellie was relieved. When it wasn’t poking at her, the darkness was peaceful. Ellie was used to being alone.
“Tell me about your ability. You’ve linked that to your parents’ death.”
Ellie was tired of the questions. They had covered the same ground over and over again. But it was like the Voice was missing some nuance, and so it all started again. Combing through her life. Looking for clues. “I noticed it the first time at the funeral. I was standing there in the cemetery, looking at their caskets, with the social worker beside me. I kept looking around for more people, but it was just the three of us: me, the social worker, and the minister. And then I noticed that the longer the minister spoke, the more these colors seemed to grow out of him. It didn’t make any sense at the time. The colors were deep purple and blue and they got more vivid every time he made eye contact with me. It scared the hell out of me. I didn’t know what to do.”
A familiar cloud of sadness fell over her thoughts as she remembered that lost little girl. “When the service was over, I wanted to kick and scream and lash out. I wanted to push over those caskets because I convinced myself they were empty and it was some elaborate hoax. Any minute they would appear to take me home. But it wasn’t a hoax. My parents raised me to think that showing emotion in public wasn’t ladylike, so as desperately as I wanted to throw a tantrum, I knew they wouldn’t approve. I looked at the social worker and she had a glow of white tinged with yellow around her. Even though I didn’t know what it meant, the colors were soothing. I had to accept that I was left with nothing but this woman to take care of me. I was naive and automatically assumed that she was kind and that she’d be good to me.”
Ellie sighed. “After twenty-five years of reading auras, I know now that she was indifferent. She probably saw a dozen kids just like me every week. Her aura meant that she was at peace and even slightly happy, but it had nothing to do with me. I was part of her job, and while I was watching my parents be buried, she was probably thinking about getting a manicure or going home and having a glass of wine. Me, I had no home left.”
“You went into foster care.”
“Yes, and in foster care I stayed until I applied for emancipation when I was sixteen.” She remembered the day that the court approved her request. It had been bittersweet.
“Your ability must have been advantageous in that kind of hostile environment.”
“If you mean it helped keep me out of trouble, then probably it did. But I was always a good kid. I studied hard, got decent grades, and generally stayed out of everyone’s way. I never gave my foster families any reason to really concern themselves with me. I wanted to be invisible. I was pretty good at it,” Ellie said. She had closed herself off from anyone who tried to reach her. It was a defense mechanism that worked well. Perhaps too well.
“Until you met Veronica.”
A face flashed in Ellie’s mind. A pretty blond with infectious laughter. Whereas her parents’ faces had faded over time, Roni’s was vivid and seemed so real that Ellie almost thought her friend was there with her in the darkness.
“Roni just wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Ellie said. “She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. And for some reason she wanted to be my friend. I owe her a lot.” It was strange talking about Veronica. Those memories were under strict lock and key for a reason.
Cege Smith is a Minnesota based writer who is addicted to lattes and B-rated horror films. She had been crafting spooky stories since she was twelve years old. She lives with her husband, two adorable stepsons, and mini long-hair dachshund, Juliet in the suburbs of Minneapolis