“This is close enough. Thanks,” I said to the cabdriver, and he swerved to park a block from Carew Tower’s drop-off zone. It was Sunday night, and the trendy restaurants in the lower levels of the Cincinnati high-rise were busy with the March Madness food fest—the revolving door never stopped as laughing couples and groups went in and out. The kids-on-art exhibit had probably brought in a few, but I’d be willing to bet that the stoic pair in the suit and sequined dress getting out of the black car ahead of me were going up into the revolving restaurant as I was.
I fumbled for a twenty in my ridiculously small clutch purse, then handed it over the front seat. “Keep the change,” I said, distracted as I tugged my shawl closer, breathing in a faint lilac scent. “And I’m going to need a receipt, please.”
The cabbie shot me a thankful glance at the tip, high maybe, but he’d come all the way out to the Hollows to pick me up. Nervous, I readjusted my shawl again and slid to the door. I could have taken my car, but parking was a hassle downtown for festivals, and tawny silk and lace lost a lot of sparkle while getting out of a MINI Cooper. Not to mention the stiffwind off the river might pull apart my carefully braided hair if I had to walk more than a block.
I doubted that tonight’s meeting with Quen would lead to a job, but I needed all the tax deductions I could get right now, even if it was just cab fare. Skipping filing for a year while they decided if I was a citizen or not hadn’t turned out to be the boon I originally thought it was.
“Thanks,” I said as I tucked the receipt away. Taking a steadying breath, I sat with my hands in my lap. Maybe I should go home instead. I liked Quen, but he was Trent’s number one security guy. I was sure it was a job offer, but probably not one I wanted to take.
My curiosity had always been stronger than common sense, though, and when the cabbie’s eyes met mine through his rearview mirror, I reached for the handle. “Whatever it is, I’m saying no,” I muttered as I got out, and the Were chuckled. The thump of the door barely beat the three loud Goth teenagers descending upon him.
My low heels clicked on the sidewalk and I held my tiny clutch bag under my arm, the other hand on my hair. The bag was tiny, yes, but it was big enough to hold my street-legal splat gun stocked with sleepy-time charms. If Quen didn’t take no for an answer, I could leave him facedown in his twelve-dollar-a-bowl soup.
Squinting through the wind, I held a hand to my hair and dodged the people loitering for their rides. Quen had asked me to dinner, not Trent. I didn’t like that he felt the need to talk to me at a five-star restaurant instead of a coffee shop, but maybe the man liked his whiskey old. One last gust pushed me into the revolving door, and a whisper of impending danger tightened my gut as the scent of old brass and dog urine rose in the sudden dead air. It expanded into the echoing noise of a wide lobby done in marble, and I shivered as I made for the elevators. It was more than the March chill.
From the book EVER AFTER Copyright C 2012 by Kim Harrison. Reprinted by permission of Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Vertigo threatened, not at the sensation of disconnection spilling down through his core, but from the abrupt feel of stone under his soft-soled shoes after the nothingness of line travel. Tightening his gut muscles, Trent caught his balance as the organized chaos of the King Street train station materialized around him as if, well... like magic, not the well-balanced act of scientific shifting of realities that it was. Calling it magic was convenient.
The twangy echo of announced departures mixed with a myriad of conversations and one child demanding that he wanted his book no-o-o-ow! Even at five thirty in the morning, it was busy. And somewhat... smelly, he thought, shivering at the final ribbons of power sliding off him to vanish like water into sand, or in this case, creation energy slipping through the molecule-thin cracks in the colorful mosaic now under him. The station had the distinctive tang of old mold growing on marble as a faint backdrop. Seattle never seemed to dry out. He didn't know how Ellasbeth tolerated it. Perhaps her nose was stuck so far up in the air that she didn't notice.
"Hey, you moss wipe! We haven't said good-bye yet!" A high voice shrilled inches from his ear. Wincing, Trent glanced past the pixy's fitfully moving wings to the attractive shadow of five-foot-eight inches of bothersome redhead vanishing from his elbow. Rachel Morgan was gone — never having fully materialized. Just as well. Her surreptitious ogling made him self-conscious. Then again, she'd never seen him in skintight spandex before.
"Seems she has pressing business elsewhere." Smiling faintly, Trent looked down at the elaborate compass rose the demon Algaliarept had dropped them on, then squinted up to the marvelously tooled ceiling. He would sooner suffer great loss than owe a demon a favor, but since Rachel was paying for the jump, he'd take it: eight hundred miles between San Francisco to Seattle in a blink of an eye. Technically speaking, owing Rachel a favor was the same thing as owing a demon, not that she truly understood that — yet.
Head coming down in a flash of guilt, Trent moved off the compass rose and into the flow of people. Rachel would never understand there was only one way to save her life and keep her out of the ever-after. But what did it matter, really? She didn't have to like him. He didn't like the decisions he made, either.
"I'm becoming my father," he whispered, an unexpected flash of anger coloring his thoughts. Just how much was he going to be asked to sacrifice for his people? His morals? His integrity? Even so, he was ready to give it, and watching Ellasbeth selfishly walk away from her responsibility had more than angered him. It wasn't her selfishness that kept him awake at night, though — it was his undeniable envy of her cowardly decision to walk. He did not like the person he needed to be to pull his people back from the brink of extinction.
The faint hum of Jenks's wings faded as the pixy came to an unfelt landing on his shoulder.
Rachel's business partner and backup was on loan to him for the duration. "Dude, look at those ceilings," the pixy said, then snickered. "Hey, I, ah, get the whole thief outfit thing you were going for, but you'd be more inconspicuous in a suit. I'll be right back. The Withons would be more stupid than a winter-born pixy to not have a man here. I'll ferret him out."
Trent took a breath to tell him not to bother, but the pixy was gone, his dragonfly-like wings glinting in the faint light coming in the high round windows. "A man in a suit is exactly who they're looking for," he muttered. Pace stiff, he angled to a billboard advertising the latest computer system where his black tights and shirt would be less conspicuous. The specially tailored guise was perfect. In the right setting, he would look like a cyclist, a diver, or a thief, though what he was after was worth far more than a bauble or money.
His eye twitched, and Trent rubbed his chin. There was a high probability that thieving from the Withons' family estate would cost him his life, but his people wouldn't listen to him if he didn't. Trent's eyes closed in a long, soul-searching blink. If he survived, his species would survive — but he might damn his soul in the process. Perhaps it would be better to die.
From the book INTO THE WOODS: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond by Kim Harrison. Copyright C 2012 by Cold Toast Writings, LLC. Reprinted by permission of Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
“Where do you get your ideas?” is one of the most common questions I get asked, and though I and two other YA authors once kibitzed with the readers about a “magic box,” a fabulous box that we simply open up and pull out ideas from…the truth of the matter is ideas grow from the needs of the story.
Characters have issues to work out; worlds need to be saved. The original core idea of a story might come from a commercial, an overheard conversation, another book, or a long-running personal question of “what would happen if?” But for me, the way to tell a story, the plot and the characters—the soul, if you will—comes from the same place I decide what I’m going to wear in the morning. I consider the weather, what I’m going to be doing, what I actually have in my closet, and I make my best choice and hope it’s an appropriate one—or in other words, the genre, the character’s background and social standing, the voice the story is told in, and the pacing all play a part. Sometimes it’s a conservative choice, sometimes a trendy one, and if I’m lucky, it might be a little of the old, a little of the new, making an oddball sort of a story that is just what readers are looking for.
As for the beginnings of Rachel, Ivy, Jenks, and the gang? I can only make guesses as to where they came from and what part of my psyche wanted to be challenged when I first began writing about them. It all began before I’d found publication. I’d been struggling to find publication for a while and had three novel-length pieces under my belt that revolved around the same core characters, but nothing was happening as far as New York was concerned. It was then that I decided to take a year off from writing novel-length traditional fantasy to try to break into print with a short story—I needed something to attract an editor or agent’s eye, and some publishing credits couldn’t hurt.
The material that was making the short story market at that time was an uncomfortable mix of odd sex and outrageous assumptions, and it made sense as to why. These were new talents pushing their skills and trying to gain the attention of a very small circle of people so their work could be seen by a wider audience…but first you have to get their attention, and what better way than with weird sex and violence?
I spent months researching the trends…. I sat down, sighed, and started writing and submitting to a few, overwhelmed-with-submission markets.
Nothing sold for almost a year, but when the rejections began getting more positive, I thought this might be a viable road to publication if I stretched myself a little bit more. They wanted weird? I’d give them my brand of weird, and taking the oddest characters I could think of—a pixy, a vampire, and a witch—I mixed in the honest appeal of the girl-next-door and put them in a bar to see what happened.
The Hollows happened…
Brown or green for the drapes, Rache?”
Jenks’s voice slid into my dozing state, and I opened an eyelid a crack to find him hovering inches from my nose. The sun was hot, and I didn’t want to move, even if his wings provided a cold draft. “Too close. I can’t see,” I said as I shifted in the webbed lounge chair, and he drifted back, his dragonflylike wings humming fast enough to spill a red tinted pixy dust over my bare middle. June, sunbathing, and Cincinnati normally didn’t go together, but today was my last day to get a tan before I headed west for my brother’s wedding.
Two bundles of fabric were draped over Jenks’s arms, spider silk most likely dyed and woven by one of his daughters. His shoulder-length curly blond hair—uncut since his wife’s death—was tied back with a bit of twine to show his angular, pinched features. I thought it odd that a pixy able to fend off an entire team of assassins was worried about the color of his drapes.
“Well,” I hedged, not more confident in this than he was, “the green goes with the floor, but I’d go with the taupe. You need some visual warmth down there.”
“Brown?” he said, looking at it doubtfully. “I thought you liked the green tile.”
“I do,” I explained, thinking that breaking up a pop bottle for floor tile was ingenious. “But if you make everything the same color, you’ll wind up back in the seventies.”
Jenks’s wings dropped in pitch, and his shoulders slumped. “I’m not good at this,” he whispered, becoming melancholy as he remembered Matalina. “Tell me which one.”
I cringed inside. I wanted to give him a hug, but he was only four inches tall. Small, yes, but the pixy had saved my life more times than I had spell pots in my kitchen. Sometimes, though, I felt as if we were worlds apart. “Taupe,” I said.
“Thanks.” Trailing dull gold dust, Jenks flew in a downward arc to the knee-high wall that separated my backyard from the graveyard. The high walled graveyard was mine, too, or Jenks’s, actually, seeing that he owned the deed, but I was the one who mowed the lawn.
Heartache took me, and the sun seemed a little cooler as I watched Jenks’s dust trail vanish under the sprouting bluebells and moss, and into his new bachelor-size home. The last few months had been hard on him as he learned to live without Matalina. My being able to become small enough to help him through that first difficult day had gone a long way in convincing me that demon magic wasn’t bad unless you used it for a dark purpose.
From the book PALE DEMON by Kim Harrison. Copyright © 2011 by Kim Harrison, Reprinted by permission of Harper Voyager an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Tucking my hair back, I squinted at the parchment, trying to form the strange angular letters as smoothly as I could. The ink glistened wetly, but it wasn’t red ink, it was bloodÑmy bloodÑwhich might account for the slight tremble as I copied the awkward-looking name scripted in characters that weren’t English. Beside me was a pile of rejects. If I didn’t get it perfect this time, I’d be bleeding yet again. God help me, I was doing a black curse. In a demon’s kitchen. On the weekend. How in hell had I gotten here?
Algaliarept stood poised between the slate table and the smaller hearth, his white-gloved hands behind his back. He looked like a stuffy Brit in a murder mystery, and when he shifted impatiently, my tension spiked. “That isn’t helping,” I said dryly, and his red, goat-slitted eyes widened in mocking surprise, peering at me over his smoked spectacles. He didn’t need them to for reading. From his crushed green velvet frock to his lace cuffs and proper English accent, the demon was all about show.
“It has to be exact, Rachel, or it won’t capture the aura,” he said, his attention sliding to the small green bottle on the table. “Trust me, you don’t want that floating around unbound.”
I sat up and felt my back crack. Touching the quill tip to my throbbing finger, my unease grew. I was a white witch, damn it, not black. But I wasn’t going to write off demon magic just because of a label. I’d read the recipe; I’d interpreted the invocation. Nothing died to provide the ingredients, and the only person who’d suffer would be me. I’d come away from this with a new layer of demon smut on my soul, but I’d also have protection against banshees. After one had nearly killed me last New Year’s Eve, I’d willingly entertain a little smut to be safe. Besides, this might lead to a way to save Ivy’s soul when she died her first death. For that, I’d risk a lot.
Something, though, felt wrong. Al’s squint at the aura bottle was worrisome, and his accent was too precise tonight. He was concerned and trying to hide it. It couldn’t be the curse. It was just manipulating an aura, captured energy from a soul. At least . . . that’s what he said.
Frowning, I glanced at Al’s cramped handwritten instructions. I wanted to go over them again, but his peeved expression and his soft growl convinced me it could wait until the scripting was done. My “ink” was running thin, and I dabbed more blood from my finger to finish some poor slob’s name, someone who trusted a demon . . . someone like me. Not that I really trust Al, I thought, glancing at the instructions once more.
From the book BLACK MAGIC SANTION by Kim Harrison. Copyright © 2010 Kim Harrison.
Every Which Way But Dead/A Fistful of Charms
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