Happy November, my lovelies! We have another debut author with us this week. My friend Libby Doyle is here with The Pain Season, book two of her debut Covalent series. Libby writes sexy, action-packed urban fantasy that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Her latest book just dropped (music industry term, lol) on Halloween, so I’m excited to have her here with an excerpt and a chance to win a digital copy of book one. But before we get to that, I asked Libby some fun questions. 🙂
How long have you been writing?
I wrote poems and stories in high school. All of it was angst-ridden nonsense. As an undergrad I took a few creative writing classes, but I didn’t have the discipline to write enough to develop my skills. After college, practicality won out and I became a journalist. You might not think reporting would develop fiction-writing ability, but it did. In terms of craft, journalism taught me a lot: Clarity, economy of words, to vary my words, as well as the way I open paragraphs and their length. I was a reporter for more than a decade.
Ah, that’s right! I bet you have some stories there. You’re an attorney, do you think that influences your writing style at all?
Attorneys are trained to impose order and coherence on large amounts of complex information. To that extent, my legal training is a great asset, especially for a novel like mine that has a lot going on. My story takes place in two different worlds: on Earth and in the Covalent Realm, another dimension. The plot features an FBI investigation as well Covalent political intrigue. And let’s not forget my star-crossed lovers! My legal training helps me keep it all straight.
I bet, lol. Name three authors (living or dead) with whom you’d like to sit down to dinner and pick their brains.
Margaret Atwood, because The Handmaid’s Tale is the scariest book I’ve ever read.
Toni Morrison, because Beloved is a f*cking masterpiece.
Frank Herbert, because I cannot convey in words the level of my obsession with the Dune books when I was young. Science fiction at its best.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?
Clifden, Connemara, Ireland. I love the pristine air, the sea, cold blue and sparkling, and the hills! You know the type, carpeted with green and craggy gray at the tops. The place gets in my blood. I feel like I belong there.
I know what you mean. I was there for a few days last month, and I never wanted to leave. What inspired you to write this series?
You could say everything I’ve ever ingested pop-culture-wise went into my brain blender and out poured the Covalent Series. Law school had a lot to do with it. I never had the confidence to write a novel before. Too daunting. Then I went to law school at night while working full time. It was hard. It gave me confidence.
I’m so glad! You’re a natural-born storyteller. Is there a scene in the book you particularly enjoy?
Yes! Several. I love one scene in which Zan is walking along the Race Street Pier in Philadelphia in the middle of the night. She’s just found out that the love of her life is a superhuman warrior from another dimension, and she is struggling not to lose it completely. I love her reflections. Here’s a portion:
She looked across the river at the Battleship New Jersey, docked on the Camden side, now a waterfront attraction. Blue lights gleamed from its gray metal points and she could see the outlines of its port bow guns. Once, a warship had seemed an impressive thing to her. Now, she saw a pathetic symbol of false strength, manufactured by creatures terrified of their own fragility.
How am I supposed to function? The whole idea of getting up and going to work in the morning seems ridiculous.
She wondered what would happen if she just let herself fall into crazy. If she let herself pick up a bottle. Images flashed through her mind. She was barricaded in a building with a pile of guns, finally running out with a scream to commit suicide by cop. She was pushing a shopping cart filled with plastic bags that contained the sum total of her life, sticking her hand out for change and protesting that once, she had been strong and beautiful. Once, she believed she could protect people.
Love it! What can readers expect from you next?
I’m working on The Vengeance Season: Book III of the Covalent Series, a book that will be one hell of a ripsnorter, like the others.
Here’s more about Libby’s new release! Don’t forget to drop a comment below for a chance to win a digital copy of book one in the series, The Passion Season.
Tonight’s the night. Rainer Barakiel is going to tell me all his secrets. I thought I’d be excited, but I feel like someone shoved a knife into my gut.
Heh. Fitting, considering I met Rainer because of his expertise in edged weapons. The daggers used in that ritual sacrifice became our best lead, thanks to him. What kind of omen is it, that I met the love of my life because someone found a human spleen in the bushes?
I didn’t expect someone like him. When he opened his door I couldn’t talk, I was so stunned. God, how I flirted with him. Hell of a way for an FBI agent to act. This whole relationship is a hell of a way for an FBI agent to act. I didn’t want to face that he was hiding things from me.
What if he has something to do with this murder?
I’m being paranoid. He’s denied being a criminal and I believe him. I don’t see how my instincts could be so wrong. He can’t be bad. He can’t.
He’s hiding things from me, but he loves me. I feel it. Maybe he didn’t expect to fall in love with me, but he did, and now he wants out. He’s going to confess, leave it all behind. For me.
I wonder, after he tells me all his secrets, will this become a wacky story we love to tell? Or a story I tell only to myself, alone in a stale-smelling apartment, stewing in pain? The story of how my heart got damaged beyond repair.
Libby was kind enough to bring an excerpt from The Pain Season. Enjoy!!
The axial rift opened with a ripping, clattering sound that fell in on itself, like a record playing backwards. Barakiel stood near the rusted tangle of train tracks behind Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. When a dozen demons emerged from the rift he smiled with relief. No Corrupted. None of his father’s dark warriors had made it through. The demons might be sturdy and vicious, but they were dim-witted. This fight would be routine, and then he could get home to Zan. He didn’t let himself think about what might happen when he revealed himself to her. He had a battle to deal with first.
I cannot love her if I let myself be killed by demons.
The location was also a relief. Usually when the yellow-eyed beasts shot through the axial rift he had to draw them away from population. Here, regional-rail trains were passing nearby, but there were no pedestrians. And the hour suited him. The equinox had come at night, around 10:30. Even if Pellus had not been there to conceal his activities, it was unlikely the passengers would be able to see much of anything occurring so deep in the rail yard.
Pellus was there, of course, to create his curtain of refracted light that would hide the battle from weak human eyes. Barakiel could depend on him.
Thank Balance this will be easy, after all that has happened.
Shortly after the demons emerged, the warrior’s relief evaporated. Instead of attacking Barakiel, a handful peeled off, running in the direction of the city streets. The others headed for the section of the yard where the passenger trains were coming and going. Barakiel froze for a second to weigh the threats, before he moved toward the trains to pursue the greater number of demons.
I hope you can conceal this imbroglio, Pellus.
The warrior was about to fall upon a demon with his sword when he saw another attempting to rip up the tracks in front of an approaching train.
What in all the realms?
The train could be derailed if the monstrous creature finished, so Barakiel sped to fling it away from the tracks. As he raised his sword to take its head, another demon ripped apart a switching station. Yet another threw chunks of corroded metal. Some pieces fell onto a set of tracks on which a train approached. The warrior killed the first beast then ran to the blocked tracks, hurrying to clear the debris before the train reached that spot. Other demons ran amok in the rail yard, destroying any structure they could see. Anxiety gripped him.
What are you trying to do to now, father? Murder innocent humans to torment me?
Breathing deeply, Barakiel noted the location of each demon. The most efficient thing would be to kill them systematically, nearest to farthest. The longer they were alive, the bigger the chance of catastrophe. All he could do was try to finish in time to avoid a derailment. At least the trains were not traveling at high speed as they approached the station.
He flashed to the closest demon, which was distracted by its efforts to curl up a rail. Barakiel sank his dagger into the base of its skull. It twitched, then fell still. He left the damaged tracks to plunge his sword into the back of another beast that was about to push down power lines across the entire rail yard. Next, he cleaved the skull of a demon trying to destroy another set of tracks. One by one, he slaughtered them.
Lucky for me, their operating principle is chaos.
The problem was time. No train was approaching on the ruined tracks, but that could change at any moment, and the odds of detection increased the longer it took him to eliminate the ridiculous beasts. At this point, this mess had taken longer than his battle with the Corrupted at the summer solstice.
Is that what this is about, father?
Finally, Barakiel severed the head of the last demon. He rushed to the two sets of damaged tracks in succession and bent the twisted rails as close to flat as he could get them, hoping this would make it easier for Pellus to repair them so that the trains would not derail. As a traveler adept, Pellus could manipulate the properties of matter and energy, but it was not easy to alter metal. It took time and a great deal of effort.
After Barakiel had smoothed the rails, Pellus signaled him with a flash of light. The warrior charged over to find the adept’s face creased with anxiety.
Balance help us. Pellus rarely looks worried.
“What in all the realms is going on?” Barakiel asked. “The other demons, did you see where they went?”
“They ran into the street and got into a truck.”
“The false monks’ followers. I do not know how they knew we were here, but it must be them. They drove onto the highway.”
Two months previous, Barakiel had killed a group of men in France who had apparently worshiped his father. They claimed to be monks of the same order Barakiel had lived with centuries before, and who had witnessed one of his battles with the demons. He and Pellus discovered that these false monks had murdered Emanuel Morales, and that he was not the only human they had sacrificed to Lucifer. These men also trafficked in repulsive images of murdered and tortured women, making a sexual fetish of their suffering.
Compelled to kill them, Barakiel had paid a great price. In acting against his purpose and destroying the weak, he lost Balance and became weak himself. He would have died in battle if Pellus had not saved him.
The two Covalent knew the predator monks had followers in Philadelphia, but they had not succeeded in tracking them down. Now this. Barakiel darted his eyes from the tracks to the highway, unsure which was worse for the citizens of Philadelphia, a truckload of demons or a train derailment. He howled in frustration.
“Pellus, what should we do?”
“We need to pursue the demons, immediately.”
“But what about the tracks? Can you repair them?”
Pellus directed his penetrating stare to the west. Barakiel had keen eyesight, but it was nothing compared to the senses of a traveler adept, who could detect disturbances in air and light caused by objects moving miles away.
“A train is approaching. Around that bend, no more than five minutes from here. Not nearly enough time for me to restore that metal to its former state.”
“We have to do something! People may die if a train derails.”
“People will die, a lot of them, if those demons get loose in a neighborhood.”
“We have to do something,” Barakiel repeated. “Conceal me. I will force the train to stop. That will buy you time.”
“Not enough, I am afraid.” Pellus grimaced as he held Barakiel’s eyes. The warrior was about to dash off to the approaching train when the adept muttered, “Of course.”
“What?” Barakiel almost shouted.
“I will disrupt the electrical system. I can do it quickly. The humans will think it was caused by the vandalism. All the trains in the system will lose power, and you will stop the only train close enough to roll to the damaged tracks.”
Barakiel wanted to kiss him. Instead, he barreled off toward the oncoming train. He ran next to it, matched its speed, got a sturdy hold on the front and gradually reduced his pace, his muscles straining as the massive column of metal fought to jump his grasp. Whatever Pellus was doing caused a blinding arc of power to rise over the rail yard. Barakiel grinned. He let go of the train and spread his arms as the bolt of electrical energy shot right to him. For a moment, he luxuriated. Then he slowed the train as if it were a toy. He ran back to Pellus, his momentary elation gone as his frantic thoughts turned to the demons. He couldn’t imagine what his father would gain by siccing them on the population.
Then it hit him.
They are going after Zan.
He shook his head, trying to quell his fear enough to think. Zan was waiting for him at his house. He had planned to tell her everything. Tell her what he was. Such revelations were against Covalent Law, but his love for her had reached so deep he could no longer keep his secrets.
Now, he wouldn’t get the chance. He had to warn her. A warning was her only hope. He shouted at Pellus to give him his cell phone. The adept knew what Barakiel was thinking because the phone was already dialing. The warrior held it to his ear with a trembling hand. Zan answered.
“Zan, listen to me. Something is coming for you. My enemies. Arm yourself. Now. Arm yourself and run,” Barakiel said, struggling to sound calm as his chest seized with fear. “I can’t explain. There’s no time. If you can’t run, take a defensive position and arm yourself. Five will attack you. They are fast, extremely fast. Arm yourself, please. I’ll be there in minutes. I’m coming.” He ended the call and charged over to Pellus, who had moved to desiccate the demon corpses so they would not be found.
“Where is the kinetic rift?” Barakiel shouted.
Alexandra O’Gara sat on the couch flipping the pages of a magazine, too nervous to focus on reading. Normally, she liked it when Rainer asked her to wait for him at his place. Compared to her crappy little apartment, the ultra-modern space was an oasis of serenity, its sleek lines warmed by the rich wood of the furniture, the colorful rugs and the bright, abstract paintings. She had started a fire in the massive concrete fireplace despite the warmth of the night. She gazed into the flames.
Her phone buzzed. It was Rainer, talking rapidly, panic in his voice. When the call was over, she put the phone in her lap and stared at the floor.
What the hell?
Rainer’s tone led her to believe she should do as he said. Explanation or no, he wasn’t joking.
So much for my instincts. He must be involved in some criminal enterprise.
She suppressed tears as she pulled her service pistol from her bag. A 9mm Sig Sauer. Rainer had said there would be five assailants. She sent a prayer of thanks out to her FBI partner, Mel, who had insisted she get the Sig that took extra-capacity magazines.
Two twenty-round clips. That should do me.
Zan readied her firearm then ran to the front door. Before she opened it, she heard a vehicle drive into the compound. She looked through the peephole. A box truck.
I’ll never make it to my car. Should I call the police? Do I want to do that to Rainer? Have to explain this to my boss? I can slip out the back.
She remembered what Rainer had said about a defensive position. She decided on the weapons room. Its double doors were sturdy and it had an exit to the back balcony. She ran up the stairs. Once inside the room, she grabbed a pike off the wall and slid it through the handles to prevent the doors from opening. She waited. If they seemed like they could bust through, she would exit to the balcony, jump to the ground and hightail it to her car.
All I can do is hope they don’t leave someone outside to cut off my escape.
Zan opened the south-side window. She heard faint voices, doors slamming, the truck pulling away. She also heard sounds like rabid dogs would make if they were as big as grizzlies. Zan had not been afraid before, operating in some state of unreality, but the sounds brought fear screaming to her mind.
What the fuck is that?
She ran to peer through the crack between the weapons room doors. She saw them crash through the front. Five huge, scaly, slobbering monsters with double-sided axes in their hands pushed the heavy wooden doors aside like they were paper.
Oh my god, oh my god. I have gone crazy.
Closing her eyes, Zan tried to breathe, to fight her terror.
Think, soldier. These doors won’t stop them. I’ve got this fucking pea shooter. I need a fucking assault rifle. I need help.
Hands shaking, she dialed 911. The beasts stood near the kitchen table, making guttural noises and sniffing the air before they turned their yellow eyes toward the weapons room. She had to get out of there.
“Hello, 911, what is your emergency?”
Zan spoke as she ran toward the balcony door. “I’m being attacked. Bridge and Richmond streets in Bridesburg.”
“Are you injured, ma’am?”
“No. But I will be if you don’t send a squad car now! Send every squad car in the area! I’m being attacked by monsters!”
Fucking hell. Why did I say that? She thinks I’m a crank.
“Please. Bad people. Monstrous people.” Zan’s voice was weak with fear. “I have to hang up. I have to hide. Please send help.”
She went onto the balcony, climbed over the railing, hung from the ledge and dropped to the ground. She paused with one hand held over her mouth, the gun clutched in the other.
The response time is ten minutes if I’m lucky. I can’t run. I can’t. Who knows how many people those things would kill? I have to stop them.
Zan took a position behind a nearby tree. From inside she heard a crashing sound. The hideous things burst through the balcony door a few seconds later. She ran towards them, pumping bullets into every monster near the railing, outlined as they were by the light from inside. They howled and batted at their chests, but they did not fall. Zan returned to the tree, taking gulps of air as she reloaded.
I’m a dead woman.
The monsters recovered from their confusion at being shot and moved to jump off the balcony. As they made themselves vulnerable on the edge, she ran towards them again. She steeled herself, keeping her thoughts on the shooting lessons she had received from Mel.
Keep the gun steady with both hands, overlapping grip. Both eyes open, use your sight. Gently squeeze the trigger. Don’t jerk it. Don’t jerk it.
She took take aim at their brainpans, one after the other. Her shots landed true in two of the beasts. They fell dead to the ground, but three made it down and rushed her with bewildering speed, despite their bloodied state. Zan felt like her insides had been dropped down a bottomless shaft. She thought of Patrick, her best friend in the army, who had died to save her.
I’ll go out shooting just like you, Patrick.
As they came, Zan held the gun level with her eyes, resolved to empty her magazine. She knew only luck would land bullets in their heads when they were moving that fast.
Let it be quick.
Before the nearest monster closed the distance she heard a whir. A blaze of luminous blue shot in from her left. With a wet sound, the beast’s head fell from its shoulders. For a moment, she saw Rainer standing there, blue-steel sword in hand, before he whirled to meet the second beast and his image was lost to her. Then she saw him flash in the air, his sword over his head. She held her breath.
What am I seeing?
Rainer brought his sword down with a shout and split the skull of the second monster, spinning toward the next so fast that Zan could perceive nothing but the streak of his blade and the glint of his chain mail. He sliced through the last brute’s neck cleanly. Its carcass thudded to the ground. He immediately turned and went to Zan.
“My love, you are alive, you are unharmed. Thank Balance, thank Balance.”
Oh my god, oh no, what are you?
Zan pointed her gun at Rainer.
“Stay right where you are!”
“What the fuck were those things?” she screamed. Rainer’s eyes were a tortured mess of anger, fear and pleading. He seemed paralyzed.
“Tell me what those things were!” Zan screamed again.
“They were demons, sent here to kill me. They were trying to get to me through you. Don’t worry. No more will come. I’ve killed them all.”
“Demons? Demons?” Zan looked around wildly. “Oh my god, oh my god, what are you? No one can move that fast. I’ve never seen anything move that fast. What the fuck are you?”
He wouldn’t hurt me. He wouldn’t hurt me.
“I am Covalent, a being from another dimension. The demons are my enemies.”
“What? What? Another dimension? Are you fucking kidding me?” Zan stared at him with her mouth open. “Covalent? What the hell is that? An alien? You’re an alien?”
I thought we were something beautiful. We were a lie.
Rainer glanced at the ground and then back at Zan. “Yes, an alien, but humans have encountered us before. You’ve given us many names,” he said. “Angel, jinn, avatar, the gods. When human society was primitive the Covalent often came here. We became part of your mythology.”
“You, you’re an angel?” she whispered.
“No. Angels aren’t real. That’s only a story humans told about us.”
Zan’s breathing became ragged. Tears welled in her eyes. She began to pace and wave her gun around. “The sex, that warmth I felt, that power. You were—” She wailed and hugged her body, leaning forward, the gun sticking out to the left. “You were doing something to me. To control me.” She stopped pacing, steadied her gun and held it on Rainer.
“No. Please, Zan. We love each other.”
“Love you?” Zan shouted, erupting in desperate laughter. “I don’t even know what you are!”
“I just told you what I am.”
“Like that means anything to me! Oh my god, oh my god, I knew! Somewhere deep down I knew you weren’t right, you weren’t normal. The sex, your strength, the time that tree limb fell on you. It must have weighed three-hundred pounds. It fell right on you and you just walked away!” Zan put her gun-filled hand to her forehead and wailed. “What the fuck? What the fuck?”
When Rainer took a step toward her, she snapped her gun back to attention.
“Stay away from me!”
You have ruined me.
“You cannot mean that,” Rainer said. A slight tremor passed through him. “We love each other. You are my mate. We will share our lives.”
Zan half-laughed, half-screamed again. “Yeah, well sorry, whatever-the-fuck-it-is-you-are, but I have a few rules in life, and one of them is, I only date guys from my own goddamn planet.”
She walked away. Rainer followed.
“Please don’t go. I need you. Talk to me. I was going to tell you, you know that. That’s why I asked you to wait for me here tonight.” Zan pointed her gun at him again.
“So help me god, Rainer, I will shoot you. I’ll empty my clip if that’s what it takes. You stay away from me.” She resumed her exit.
Let me get somewhere normal.
Tensing his arms and flinging his head back, Rainer let out a roar that hit Zan like a baseball bat. She fled, running fast toward her car. She peeled out of the driveway as the wails of police sirens grew louder. Rainer stood looking after her.
About the author…
Libby Doyle is an attorney and former journalist who took a walk around the corporate world and didn’t like it. She escapes the mundane by writing extravagant yarns, filled with sex and violence. She loves absurd humor, travel, punk rock, and her husband.
Find Libby on:
Her website: http://libbydoyle.com
Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/thecovalent
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01CUPIZOU
And sign up for her mailing List: http://eepurl.com/bWvvi9