Eeeeeee! I am so excited! My friend Julie Hutchings's first book is coming out on Aug. 1, 2013 from Books of the Dead Press, and she's written this post for my blog. Read on for an excerpt from Running Home, an urban fantasy with vampires according to the Japanese tradition. :D
Synopsis of Running HomeDeath hovers around Ellie Morgan like the friend nobody wants. She doesn’t belong in snowswept Ossipee, New Hampshire; she doesn’t belong in the frigging gift shop she works at, she doesn’t belong with people that death will always take from her, and she definitely does not belong at this black tie party with Kat. But that is where she is, and where he is. Nicholas French, the man who mystifies her with a feeling of home she’s been missing, and impossible knowledge of her troubled soul.
Nicholas followed an abomination that is one of his own, but soon finds fate has driven him to New Hampshire as more than a bystander. He reveals himself to Ellie as being of the Shinigami, a heroic vampire order that “save” their victims from more tragic ends. He knows why Ellie is human repellent, and why physical agony grips them when apart. The Shinigami are cornered into isolated human lives, plucked out when they have no one left to be created for their higher purpose. Ellie is destined to be a legendary Shinigami, and Nicholas her creator.
Nicholas and Ellie’s fates intertwine closer when his latest victim in waiting turns out to be the only person who tethers her to this world, Kat. Fate will not be ignored, and in the only real choice Ellie has made in her life, she must determine a horrifying path; let the vampire who would make her a hero wither to shreds or sacrifice the life of her closest companion.
A Note from Julie
I took a few opinions into account to do this post, as this part got a lot of positive reaction from some of my beloved advanced readers. Nicholas and Eliza find these serene moments together now and again, but there’s always something morbid lurking underneath that they can feel coming. Here, though, is probably the only moment where they are just happy. Nothing else. And I think we would all want to be in the snowglobe they have, cut off from the world when the storms rage around us.
In one movement, we were across the kitchen, through the door, and in the storm outside.
But I was warm, and dry.
A little halo of clear air surrounded us, a shimmering bubble that Nicholas had created somehow, like he had breathed life into the sky itself. I was able to take in the beauty of nature’s ferocity in the thick of it. The trees were so dense and towering, miles high, it was incomprehensible that there was civilization anywhere near here. The branches, leaden with snow, swayed dangerously, despite that the wind had died down. Darkness enveloped the senses, but for a piercing howl of a coyote in the distance that matched the winds.
It was so amazingly beautiful, the startling tranquility and wildness of the night. Chaotic and yet, silent. I could hear my heart slowly beating, my breathing steady. I don’t believe I had ever been so aware of anything in all my life as I was of every living thing in that open blackness that night. I saw Nicholas out of the corner of my eye, watching me with the most gentle appreciation.
“This is…there are no words.”
He smiled warmly. “I knew you would feel it. Let’s walk.”
There was no end to surprises with him.
He wound his fingers between mine, causing my heart to jump to my throat, but it didn’t disturb my peace here. His hand was so warm, even through my glove. We took our first steps across his vast yard. The sphere around us walked with us. I could hear owls in the woods over the crunching of our boots on the snow. A deer came to the edge of the trees to watch the intruders pass by. Nicholas, however, did not seem out of place here. He belonged to this wilderness and depth of night. I felt blessed to be a part of it.
We walked up the sloping path at the back of the yard, over which you could barely see the trees on the other side. Beyond a toolshed in disrepair was another slope downward in this neverending landscape. As we rounded the shed, I was able to look down the hill.
“Oh, Nicholas. It’s just stunning.” Immediately, I began the descent, pulling him behind me.
I knew instantly that he had created the hidden heaven here, and it spoke to me like I had been waiting all my life to come to this place.
Snow covered hedges formed a shallow cave in which an ornate little iron table stood with two matching chairs, their black filigree nearly glowing in the carpet of white. Steps away was a fish pond covered in a thin layer of ice, surrounded by purple and red lanterns. The dim light cast a puppet show of shadows on the snow as a rabbit skipped by, unafraid of our presence. Having zero knowledge of gardening, I was amazed by the violet and pink flowers that filled the air with delicious sweetness in this winter wonderland. The scents, mingling with the indulgent aroma that was Nicholas, made me heady. A hammock hung between two sturdy trees close by, and I imagined Nicholas dozing there in the summer heat, and probably even in the winter as icicles hung from the ropes.
I realized the storm had picked up again, but this place was subject only to the most perfect flurries. I looked up to see the cruel gusts beating against the trees, whirling clouds of snow pounding against the curio shop snow globe that encased this place in all its simple perfection, and the two of us with it.
“Yes, that’s me,” Nicholas said, motioning toward the clear case that shielded us from the storm. He walked a few paces from me and bent to the water, gently breaking the ice with a finger. The rabbit hopped right up next to him as though they were old friends.
I joined him at the water’s edge, watching his face bathed in the lantern light, creating a blush where before there was the sheen of a pearl. He stood, inches from me. My heart betrayed me again, and he turned nonchalantly to face the pond. Fish were visible right beneath the surface. How quiet it must be under there, I thought, and then thought how perfectly quiet it was in this dome, with Nicholas by my side. So serene, so apart from what I knew I shared this space with, underneath it all.
He closed his eyes lightly, and stray flakes clung to his lashes.
“I love standing in the snow,” he murmured with love in his voice. I’m certain I groaned. “Close your eyes.”
“I don’t want to.”
He snuck a glance at me, and nodded, as if to say it was okay, that this would all still be here when I reopened them. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, standing blissfully in the evening snow, peace at its most wonderful.
It was the most beautiful thing I would ever see, I was sure of it. Tears sprang to my eyes, too cold to drop.
About the Author
Julie Hutchings writes urban fantasy primarily set in New England. Julie revels in all things Buffy, has a sick need for exotic reptiles, and drinks more coffee than Juan Valdez and his donkey combined, if that donkey is allowed to drink coffee. Julie's a black belt with an almost inappropriate love for martial arts. And pizza. And Rob Zombie. She lives in Plymouth, MA, constantly awaiting thunderstorms with her wildly supportive husband and two magnificent boys.
Julie's debut novel, Running Home, an urban fantasy giving you vampires with a Japanese mythology twist, will be published by Books of the Dead Press on Aug, 1, 2013. In the meantime, the muscle and wildcard of the Undead Duo is working on the sequel, Running Away, and a new and fun freakshow called The Harpy. Fear not, the Egyptian sex god, The Animal, patiently awaits a second draft. You can also read her stories at Elephant Press and Opening Line Magazine.