Today, I get to pinch a fellow South Carolinian. With a new small press and a book coming out in January, I’d like you all to welcome Kindra Sowder to the Doner Center.
Kindra, your debut novel, Follow the Ashes, is coming out soon. Tell us about it.
Follow the Ashes is the first installment of a trilogy I began writing when I was fifteen, and there are possibly many more to come. I haven’t decided. It will be released January 11, 2015. The trilogy is about a woman named Robin (whose name was inspired by my beautiful mother) and she is the Executioner, a slayer of the evil and undead. Below is a brief description from the Burning Willow Press website.
What does it mean to be the Executioner? Is it the struggle between good and evil, and the fulfillment of a Gypsy legend?
For Robin, it’s simply another day in the park in downtown LA. It’s killing the undead as she attempts to juggle life and love the same as any other ordinary woman would. That is until she meets Gordon, a crazed demon with a conscience. Now she must battle an ancient evil far more powerful than she’s ever faced before, or risk losing the world to Lilith, the mother of all vampires.
Will she save mankind? Or will we all follow the ashes of destruction as we burn in Hell?
It will be followed by two sequels, Follow the Screams and Follow the Bloodshed.
Where will we, the readers, be able to find Follow the Ashes?
Follow the Ashes will be available in a number of places and formats. It will be available on Amazon as well as through e-book on Amazon and in print in stores and on shelves! Be on the lookout for it or you can request it if your local bookstore isn’t carrying it at the time. I’m really hoping I can get them on the shelves in Barnes & Noble to be honest as well as a lot of indie bookstores.
I see you are one busy lady right now. You have recently started a small press called Burning Willow Press. What made you decide to start your own small press?
Well, I decided to do this after the debacle with Permuted Press. When they changed their business model I was one of the many authors affected and I chose to dissolve my contract with them in search for something better. After that experience I wanted to be different so, while making the decision to self-publish my work, I made one very big leap. I decided to start my own small press, vowing to be an advocate for authors and their work instead of taking advantage of them like others do. Along with good friend and fellow author R.M. Willis and my husband Edd Sowder, we joined together to form Burning Willow Press to achieve that goal as well as to put out high quality work and to make an author’s vision for their work come to fruition.
For the writers out there, what types of work are you seeking?
At Burning Willow Press we are seeking science fiction, fantasy and horror. All submissions will go straight to our submissions and acquisitions team: Sheron Parris (fantasy submissions), Greg Crum (sci-fi submissions), and Steven Winfrey (horror submissions) to be brought to me by VP and acquisitions manager, R. M. Willis. We are very open to submissions that are a blend of these genres as well and we love unique work. One we just accepted is from former Permuted Press author, Michael Gardner. It is a pirate fantasy called The Blood of an Immortal. ARGGGHHH!
One last question, and I think I know the answer, but: Vampires or zombies and why?
Well, Jeff, while I do love zombies and am even a loyal Walking Dead fan, vampires have always been my favorite of the undead. They have been since I was a child and was captivated by Bram Stoker’s Dracula and even more as I continued to delve into the folklore. Then my favorite show, Supernatural, brought them out into the light, and well, who doesn’t love Buffy? If anyone wants to hook me, give me a really good and unique vampire story and you have my interest.
The following is an excerpt from Follow the Ashes:
My whole body burned. Every muscle fiber, every bone, every vessel. My chest felt broken but yet tightly held together like a huge hand was holding me. I couldn’t get a breath in, but could easily get a breath out. Lying there on my side I continued to try to choke in gasps, each one harder and more excruciating than the last. Blood was still seeping from the two puncture wounds on my neck. Some of that blood had even made its way into my hair and down my shirt. Great.
I could hear her footsteps coming closer to me. Or was that the heavy thud of my heart beating in my ears? With every step she took I knew I had to fight back. I could either fight for my life, or lose it by being a coward and giving into the pain. I was choosing life and I was going to fight for it with all the strength I had left. That’s if it was enough to even stand. If it wasn’t, fighting could be a different story altogether.
I rose to my knees and my body protested with nearly agonizing pain. I let the fire build up inside of me and it began to take me over like a tidal wave. This fire would save my life.
The woman’s steps stopped and I looked up at her, vowing vengeance and justice without even speaking a word. I didn’t see a flicker of fear in her eyes as she looked at me. I saw a gleam in her eyes that said she saw me as waste. Filth beneath her feet she could just walk all over and not even bat an eye. I was something not worth her time and something to be swiftly snuffed out. She had a plan, and she only needed to get rid of me to be able to fulfill it. I was going to be an easy kill to her, but I hadn’t yet revealed the rest of what I had in my arsenal. This fire inside of me wasn’t all I had. I had a will that no one could rival. Not even her.
My hand seemed to rise of its own volition, and the scream came out on instinct. The scream contained that familiar demonic edge that had distorted my voice the first time I let it overtake me. Fire blazed out of my hand and enveloped her in licking light and heat that was unforgiving. Her screams echoed through the night, and I let it pour out of me until every ounce of power had drained from my body, and I was nothing but a frail and hollow person. My vision began to fade, but I knew with everything I had that the demon was down on the ground. She was almost burnt to the point of being a charcoal briquette, but by some means still alive. I could still feel that strong buzz of her power throughout my entire body. No matter how much I wanted to extinguish that blaze inside of her, I determined I wouldn’t have the strength to do so.
I felt myself collapse and as my body made contact with the unforgiving ground every part of me cried with pain. I heard that same whimper come from between my parted lips. My vision was slowly fading, and as it faded completely to blackness I caught a glimpse of the man with an angel’s face coming to my rescue. I knew with certainty this would be when he would save me. Then everything went dark.
As I regained a moment’s consciousness I could feel myself being carried, and heard two distinct and panicked voices. I knew that I was definitely being carried by the man that I saw hovering over me as I blacked out. Thank you, powers of deduction. I could hear him right next to my head. Then I heard a door being opened with a squeak and somehow I knew it was the door to mine and Beth’s home. The familiar smell of the herbs she used in her spells hung in the air so I knew it was definitely our house. It was mostly the scent of burned sage that we used to banish the evil spirits of anything we had killed since we met. They had a tendency to stick around. Another clue was the slight creek in the maple floor board right in front of the door that had always been there.
The other voice was certainly Beth’s and I knew she was terrified for me, but she was scared by the man she had never met barging into our home. I could tell only that much. Every smell, sound, and sensation was muffled to the point I almost couldn’t tell if I was really sensing any of it at all. I even tried to open my eyes, but couldn’t. My eyelids felt like they had been sewn shut, and held down by heavy weight. It was like someone wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be opening them ever again. I wanted to be able to tear them open, and that same panic I heard in Beth’s voice started to rise in me as well. I was stuck in a darkness I couldn’t pull myself out of. As it overwhelmed me my body began to quiver and shake.
Then a new panic set in as another thought crossed my mind. How did this man know where I lived? What were his motives? But I realized I couldn’t worry about that at that moment. I had more important things to worry about. Like becoming completely conscious again and being able to communicate with Beth. I had to tell her about this mysterious creature that I had come across.
“I’m not sure what she was, but this woman has knocked her out cold. I’m not even sure how long she’ll be out for,” was all I could make out from the man carrying me into my home. I felt hair being moved away from the bite on my neck. It stuck sickly to my skin. “This will need to be purified. Now!” I could feel every ounce of pain in my body that I had felt before I drifted into darkness, and it was excruciating. I could feel the familiar buzz of terror from this man as he seemed to realize I could possibly die from this encounter. Wouldn’t that be a relief from what I was feeling at this moment, but no. I could possibly turn tonight. That woman wasn’t just anything, she was a vampire. A very old one at that.
I was swiftly taken through our home and my eyes were able to drift open long enough for me to see our kitchen doorway as I was laid on the kitchen island. I felt very large, warm hands on me that rolled me onto my side. One hand moved to my shoulder and gave a reassuring squeeze as I heard rummaging through a cabinet. I knew what was coming. A holy water shower, followed by a silver nitrate shot. This was going to hurt.
I heard glass moving around and knew Beth had found the bottles of holy water. I was already shaking because I knew what was coming. I had experienced this pain before. We both had, but she wasn’t the one who had almost burned the house down because of it.
Fear gripped me and my eyes shot open and met his. Beth laid a glass syringe and an amber glass bottle on the corner of the island next to the three bottles of holy water it would take for the process. She glanced at me when her eyes met mine I saw pity and concern. She knew exactly what I was about to endure, and she felt sorry for me. I half expected her not to be able to do it herself, but as she picked up one bottle of holy water she removed the lid and gave me a reassuring look. I turned onto my stomach and gripped both side of the island, and braced myself for what was going to happen next.
Beth held the bottle over the wounds and hesitated. I could see her arm shaking as well. She didn’t want to do this, but she had to. If she didn’t, I was going to turn and they would be my first victims. I’d kill myself before I let that happen. I would not be one of the monsters.
I looked her directly in the eyes and nodded, giving her the okay. It had to be done. I gripped the counter even harder and squeezed my eyes shut, holding my breath. Every muscle in my body tensed up, and she hadn’t even poured anything yet. Then I felt the first sting as a few drops landed on my skin, and I gripped the edges of the counter even harder. Those few drops weren’t as bad as the barrage of acid that was about to be poured onto me.
A river of holy water touched my skin and sizzled. I felt like acid was being poured onto me and I was able to stifle a few screams. The river stopped, and then another started. I couldn’t stop it this time. Screams of agony ripped through the air and filled every corner of the house. There was no way to fight it. It stopped again. I opened my eyes and Beth was standing there, holding the bottle but not daring to pour anymore. I gave her another nod and closed my eyes. She then poured the whole bottle and then moved onto bottle number two, then three. I was sweating and soaking wet and could barely breathe by the time that was done. Now came the worst part. The syringe full of silver nitrate.
I slowly sat up, wincing, and put my arm out, rolling up my sleeve so she could get to the veins at the bend of my elbow. She touched the very tip of the glass syringe to my skin, looked me in the eyes, and pushed it into the vein right at the surface. I cringed, but held still. I knew once she pushed the plunger down I wouldn’t be as restrained. The man grabbed my shoulders from behind.
She pushed the plunger all the way down and at first everything was okay, then I felt a sensation was starting to build. My veins were on fire and as the burning grew, a glow began in the center of my chest and began to spread through those veins. The pain grew with it. I couldn’t hold it back. My head rolled back and I shrieked, a demonic scream being released with it.
The pain was unbearable and my body felt as if it were on fire and I went limp. My vision went black, but I was still aware of what was happening. The man picked me up and I could hear Beth directing him on where to go. As he laid me on what I could only assume was a bed I felt the coolness of the sheets, which was more than welcome as far as I was concerned. I wandered off into unconsciousness again, and everything was gone.
Thank you for joining us for this edition of The Pinch, and please check Kindra Sowder out at the following links:
Burning Willow Press Links:
Website coming soon!