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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

GUEST POST: The Inception Of Blood Of Cain series by J. L. Murray post plus MONSTROUS excerpt

I got my start in urban fantasy. When I began writing Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, it was mostly a labor of love that stemmed from a single frustration: I couldn't find female-led urban fantasy that wasn't erotic or obsessed with romance. So Niki Slobodian was born, and for the most part, she simply did not have time for a roll in the hay (until the devil came along, but that's another story).

After my first series of novels, I dabbled in epic fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. But I always came back to urban fantasy. I felt at home in this sub-genre, like slipping into a warm bath. So much so that I ended up penning five novels in the Niki Slobodian series and earned a small following of avid readers in the process.

So when a flurry of ideas hit me about a new kind of urban fantasy, I jumped on it. The idea of redemption in fantasy is an old and well-worn one. But what if, I thought, my character was dead to begin with? This wasn't a new idea for me either. My punk rock zombie apocalypse series The Thirteen focuses on a character that keeps coming back to life after being part of a series of horrific experiments. Niki Slobodian herself has died at least once. 

But this was different. This was a new kind of book for me. Something darker and richer than anything I'd attempted before. A flawed main character, someone who had done something so horrible that she felt she was beyond redeeming herself, who after being executed wakes up at a crossroads. Frankie Baylor is told she can either go to Hell, or live and do Cain's dirty work: murder the murderers. Anyone from Cain's bloodline has it in them to be psychopaths, murdering their way through life without a care in the world. Loving the death and pain and chaos that they bring to the world. And Frankie, the seemingly sister-murdering, former Death Row inmate, has to stop each and every one of them.

I commissioned Dean Samed of Conzpiracy Media Arts to do the cover, and he exceeded all expectations. He made me a gorgeous book cover to go along with my story, just as excited as I was about the dark and gritty and bloody concept.

Here is an excerpt of a pre-edited, pre-polished version of my upcoming release, Monstrous, the first book in the Blood of Cain series, which will be out late Fall of this year. To be honest, it's not pretty. There is cursing and drinking and sex and sin. And Frankie isn't a hero, just the opposite. So if you like your urban fantasy dark and gritty, you might like to give it a try. If you like a dose of romance and love with your fantasy, well, you might want to pass on by. This ain't no love story:

I died on a Thursday and that should have been the goddamn end of it. Not only dead, but executed by the state of Texas, of all places. No one cried. The only people that showed up to watch were a sprinkling of bloggers and so-called reporters, and my mother, practically oozing self-satisfaction. I was the daughter that lived, after all. The daughter that killed. Only once, but once was enough to get me strapped to a slab with a needle in my arm, a bunch of intern slackies taking furious notes.

And then they killed me.

Don't get me wrong. This isn't a story of good overcoming evil. This isn't some drippy, squishy story about love conquering the darkness inside of me. This is my story. An unrepentant murderer, drug user and liar. An occasional whore and manipulator. Don't expect me to come back to life with the light of a thousand angels. It wasn't an angel that brought me back, but someone much different.

You expect there to be a bright light. Or at least hellfire. But when I opened my eyes on that awful fucking Thursday, I was naked and sitting at a crossroads, the gravel cutting into my ass. There was a creepy dead tree planted next to the road, its branches looking more like dead fingers than wood, and there in the moonlight, leaning up against that tree was a man. He was watching me.

Where the fuck am I?” I said. I don't really cry, and I'm not easy to scare. So I probably had some dust in my eyes from the road. And those goosebumps were just from the cool breeze blowing across my skin. “Hey, I'm talking to you. Where are we?”

He stood up straight then and I saw how tall he was. Tall and skinny with a long coat and a fedora. A fucking fedora tilted at an angle. And as he walked toward me I saw his face. Young and good-looking with high cheekbones and just a suggestion of a beard.

You know a crossroads when you see it, Francine Baylor?” 

No one calls me Francine.”

They do in the papers.”

I finally had the sense to stand up. The gravel felt like shards of glass on my feet as I tried to back away. Tried because there was a weird glowy circle on the ground right in the middle of the intersection, and there was an invisible wall that wouldn't let me cross. I could see the field by the side of the deserted roads and the line of trees beyond, could hear the crickets and feel the early morning dew on my skin. But fuck if I couldn't put my goddamn hand past that asshole circle.

What is this?” I said, my voice sounding panicked. I took a breath and got myself under control. Control is important, especially to me. The guy was staring at me with no expression on his face, like some kind of vapid fucking male model or some shit. I stopped trying to cover my nakedness up and stood tall, looking at the creepy bastard straight in the eyes. His fedora was pulled low, so I couldn't literally see his eyes, but I stood there proud. Defiant, even. Tits pushed straight out, chin up, hands on my hips.

How do you know my name?” I said. Calm. Quiet. Under control.

I know your name because you're mine now,” said the creepy bastard. He had a slight accent, but I couldn't tell what kind.

I couldn't help it. I laughed. “I'm yours,” I repeated. “Really.”

Really,” he said, and there was something disturbing about the way the words came out of him. A coldness. Or maybe just a lack of anything. Like he was empty. Or maybe I just made him feel empty. I had that effect on people.

What the fuck is this?” I said again. “What exactly is happening here?”

He looked at his watch, stretching his long arm out, making a big show about looking at his wrist. “Approximately three hours ago, you were executed by the state of Texas.” He looked at me. “Texas? Really? How does it make you feel to die in Texas?”

I remembered the room all metal and glass. The straps that dug into my arms and legs, the needle in my arm. The burning as the plungers went down and then...nothing. I woke up here. Wherever that was.

Who are you?” I said. “Are you the devil?”

He chuckled. “Hardly. But I play bridge with him once in a while. Terrible bridge player, which actually surprised me. You'd think the Prince of Darkness would be better at cards.” 

Come on, man,” I said, fear creeping into my voice. “What the fuck is going on?”

What is fucking going on is that you died, Frankie. We covered that.” He started to walk slowly around the circle and I hated myself for following him. Him on the outside and me on the inside. It was like I was still in prison. Fitting.

But what is going on right now?” I said, straining to remain calm. “You're not the devil, so who are you?”

He stopped pacing and turned to face me. “I'm family, Francine. Long lost family a million times removed.” He pushed the brim of his hat up then with a finger and I took a step back. For a split second his eyes flashed red in the darkness. He smiled.

Family? What side?”

Both sides,” he said. “Your blood is my blood, and everything you are is because of me.” 

I've never heard of you,” I said.

Oh I'm sure you have,” he said. “Your mother was very careful to take you to Sunday School every week. Tell me, do you remember the first children of the Earth? Two brothers, if that jogs your memory.”

What, Cain and Abel?” I said. “Look, what kind of game is this? Is this some kind of prison guard prank? Because all you sadistic motherfuckers can kiss my ass.”

No prank,” he said, still watching me. Suddenly he bowed low, like the gentlemen in those period movies with the top hats and carriages. “Cain Adamson, at your service.” He straightened slowly and that goddamn smile went right back on his face.

So you're crazy,” I said. “That's cool. Just tell me what you want so we can get this over with. I want to go home, or wake up, or whatever. Anywhere but here.”

The guy calling himself Cain shrugged. He raised his hand and snapped his fingers.

How about here,” he said. The ground beneath my feet shook and swayed and the air grew thick and warm. We were standing at a different crossroads, surrounded by palm trees. I could hear water lapping somewhere nearby.

Or here,” he said. He snapped again and the world tilted. I had to squeeze my eyes shut against the brightness. Sun shone on my face and flat fields surrounded us. Just grass with no hills, no trees, just flatness. And still a fucking crossroads.

Or maybe here,” he said, snapping again. I almost puked, but managed to keep my last meal down. Macaroni and cheese and steak don't taste so good coming back up. We were at a crossroad again, somewhere cold as fuck. A dim light shone on the horizon and tiny particles of ice were falling from the sky. I shivered and my teeth started to chatter. I gasped as I realized my feet were standing in snow, the trees and mountains around us already dusted with white.

Okay, I believe you!” I said. Either this was a dream or this guy had some kind of freaky power. Or maybe it was me that was crazy. But whatever it was, he smiled, snapped, and we ended up where we started. The sun was threatening to come up and the sky had gone from black to a deep blue in the east.

I'm your ancestor, Frankie,” said Cain. “I am very old and very tired. But I want to help you.”

Help me?” I said. “Haven't you heard? I'm a killer. And I'm dead. The future's not looking so bright for me, Grandpa.”

I disagree,” he said, and he wasn't smiling any longer. “I can do for you what no one could do for me.”

What's that?” I said.

Offer you a way out. Redemption.”

Dude, I'm a lost cause,” I said. “Even my own mother hates me.”

My mother hated me as well,” he said. “Are you saying you don't want to try? Because if you won't try, you know where you're going, don't you?”

I swallowed hard. “Yeah,” I said lightly. “I mean, I sort of expected it, all this time. I mean, there was this priest in the prison and...”

Spare me the details. I'm offering you life if you want it,” he said. “Do you want to live, Frankie?”

I frowned. “What do you mean?”

Live. To have life. To breathe and taste and smell and screw. I'm offering it. All you have to do is accept.”

You can do that?” I said.

Only to certain people,” he said. “To family.”


What's the catch?”

He smiled again and I wondered how I had ever thought he was attractive.

So there is a catch,” I said. “Figures.”

You have to do some things for me from time to time,” said Cain. “You might say it's part of my own recovery. We all have our own kind of redemption.”

What kinds of things?” I said, narrowing my eyes.

There are others,” said Cain. He took the hat off and smoothed dark hair back. He had a foreign, exotic look to him. “Others like you and me, Frankie. They are beyond redemption. Sometimes we need to stop them.”

We?” I said.

Well, you,” said Cain.

How do I stop them?” I said. “Have you seen me?” I gestured to myself, 120 pounds soaking wet, and five-foot-six if I was wearing shoes.

How do you think?” he said. “The old-fashioned way.”

Oh fuck,” I said. “You want me to kill the killers?”

Now you're getting it,” he said.

Exactly how does that redeem me?” I said. “Isn't that just digging me deeper into sin? Shouldn't we just wait for nature to take its course and let God sort them out?”

Now that's funny,” he said, putting the fedora back on his head. “Do we have a deal?”

I bit my lip. “You'll let me live?”


And I'll be free? Not in a prison or the army or some shit?”

Free to do as you please, as long as you honor our agreement.”

And I have to kill these guys.”

Yes. Not all men, though. Some women.”

But they're bad guys. And bad women.” 


How bad?”

Imagine your crime,” said Cain. “You killed your own sister, just as I killed my brother. You didn't have a reason that anyone else could see. No one knew of anything that she had ever done to you. You just killed her.”

That's the story,” I said.

Now imagine doing that over and over again. Ten, fifteen, twenty times. Imagine you love it, the thrill of the hunt, the smell of blood. Imagine that you can't stop.”

That's pretty bad,” I said.

And you will stop them,” he said. “By killing, you will save lives. Perhaps hundreds.”

How long?” I said.

I don't understand,” he said. “How long what?”

How long will you give me?” I said. “How long can I be...not dead?”

He smiled his creepy smile. “As long as you need redemption. Until the end of time, if need be. How long do you want?”

I want to live forever.”

Perhaps,” said Cain. “But I'll warn you, some don't last a day, let alone forever.

There have been others?” I said.

Oh yes. And there will be others after you.” 

How many have been redeemed?” I said.


Out of how many?”

Three hundred something, I think,” he said. “I lost count.”

I don't like those odds.”

And yet,” he said, “you'll do it.”

What makes you think that?” I said.

Because it's me or the devil. And I am much more sympathetic. We are family, after all.

I watched him. He just stared right back at me. He must have been some con artist because I couldn't tell if he was full of shit or not.

Fine,” I said finally. “I'll do it.”

He smiled. “The deal is done.”

Cain snapped his fingers. The world tilted.....


GUEST AUTHOR INFORMATION: J.L. Murray grew up in a small logging town in Montana. Forever feeling out of place, she returned again and again to the worlds she created through her writing. This trend continued throughout her life, through a short-lived bad marriage, Rainbow Gatherings, punk rock concerts, and an aspiring career in Forensic Anthropology. Through every adventure, J.L. continued to write, until her first full-length novel, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea took off. J.L. started writing full-time and now has nine novels under her belt.

J.L. Murray lives and works from Eugene, Oregon, where she lives with her husband. She is a reluctant cat owner and purveyor of fine cheeses. She can be reached through her website.

NOTE: Crossroads picture courtesy of Joel David Hamkins.


Unknown said...

Definitely will be reading this!


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