Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired to write in this particular genre?
I’m originally from England but moved to Canada (specifically Montreal) as a young chap/wee lad/rambunctious nipper. I’ve been writing my whole life, including a stage play, screenplays, short stories, and novels (I’ve also written for corporations like Cirque du Soleil, which was fun but it’s super difficult to balance a laptop on a trapeze.)
I have young kids and was attracted to the YA sci-fi fantasy genre because I love the idea of encouraging them and other kids to get into reading. There’s an escapism and imaginative power to sci-fi fantasy that is very attractive when you’re young. I’ve always been a huge fan of Doctor Who (since the original series, pre-reboot) and I know that somewhere inside me I hope that the producers will like my books and ask me to write a script for the show one day!
What fascinates you about vampires?
Vampires only have a passing mention in the Embodied trilogy, but harking back to Doctor Who once again, I’ve always enjoyed seeing paranormal and mythological beings explained through science, which is where the sci-fi fantasy crossover comes in. Doctor Who has always had stories that “explain” vampires, ghosts, demons, the devil, witches, etc, and I get a real kick out of this reverse-cultural-engineering or whatever it is.
Vampires per se are interesting because of what they represent. I think we all know people who are psychic vampires, and unfortunately they’re often people we love. These are people who draw their strength from sucking it out of those around them. It’s very negative but highly fascinating to me.
What inspired you to write this book?
I have an 8-year-old daughter. The key message of the entire trilogy is that we shouldn’t seek unattainable physical perfection, and I think it’s a very important message to share with girls in particular. As the trilogy unfolds, this theme is expanded beyond the human body to the wider world. Is perfection in general something that we should aim for? Shouldn’t imperfection be appreciated just as much? The title character in book 2, Starley’s Rust, is a mysterious British artist who makes paintings that seem to be in decay. His works are therefore beautiful but also imperfect, as is his own physical and psychological persona.
Please tell us about your latest release.
The Embodied trilogy special edition ebook collection is – no surprise! – a 3-in-1 ebook featuring all the novels in the Embodied trilogy: Silent Symmetry, Starley’s Rust and Diamond Splinters.
The Embodied trilogy mixes sci-fi and urban fantasy in the coming-of-age story of Manhattan prep school student Kari Marinner. Following her move to New York from Wisconsin with her mother, she notices some strange goings-on involving her mother’s employer, a secretive pseudo-religion called the Temple of Truth (ToT).
Kari soon falls in love with Cruz, a boy in her class from the wrong side of the tracks. But she’s also drawn toward another boy, Noon, who turns out to be an Embodied being from the Dark Universe. And she begins to wonder whether her emotions are real or being manipulated by the ToT. As the mystery deepens, Kari has to face down mythical beasts and trans-dimensional villains, travel to Paris with a charismatic British artist, and ultimately make a heart-wrenching choice between rescuing her mother or preventing aliens destroying the Earth.
Kari was described by one reader as “a total feminist badass” and the series as “YA for a fun, independent brainy chick.” I’d say that if you like soft sci-fi in the same vein as Doctor Who, alternative Earth histories, mythical beasts and alien freedom fighters, you’ll probably enjoy the Embodied trilogy.
This ebook collection is a special edition because it also includes deleted scenes (basically an alternate ending) from book 3, Diamond Splinters, as well as a brand new foreword with author insights and a fun quiz/treasure hunt. Oh yeah, and during this blog tour, the trilogy ebook is priced at 20% off ($7.99 instead of $9.99).
Do you have a special formula for creating characters' names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning to attributes of the character or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions?
For regular human characters, no, I don’t have a formula. Obviously the name should match the character somehow. But in writing the Embodied trilogy I had an extra challenge when it came to creating the names of the Embodied characters. I can’t say why, though, because it would be a spoiler!
Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another?
Aliens are always challenging for the simple reason that they don’t share regular human behavior, emotions or motivations. The Embodied are from the Dark Universe, a place we can’t even imagine, and it made them especially difficult to write. But I love a challenge! One of the main characters, Cruz, is first-generation Puerto Rican. I wouldn’t say that writing him was a huge challenge, but more so than Kari, who has the same WASP-y cultural baggage as me.
Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others?
Yes, Starley, the title character in book 2. He’s British, and I got to let loose with him in a way that I couldn’t with the American characters. I simply had a lot of fun writing him – his energy and very different vocabulary and speech patterns compared to the others.
What is your favorite scene from the book? Could you share a little bit of it, without spoilers of course?
Gosh, that’s a tough one! That’s like asking me to pick my favorite child! The trilogy has scary scenes, action scenes, funny scenes, sad scenes… Tell you what – I’ll share the opening scene from book 1, Silent Symmetry. Each of the books starts with a flashback to Kari as a very young child, and the story starts when she learns that her father has died. It takes Kari until the end of the trilogy to discover what really happened that winter morning…
The second I walked through the door, I knew something was wrong. Not yet old enough to read, I could tell by the way Mom propped herself against the kitchen wall with the phone dangling loosely in her hand. My stomach turned inside-out.
“Mrs. Marriner?” said the tinny voice in the phone. “Are you still there?”
Mom put the receiver slowly back to her ear and groaned, “Uh-huh.” Her eyes were unfocused, her lips trembling.
“Is there someone who can look after your daughter? You need to come downtown and identify the body.”
Mom’s eyes came back to life and flitted down to look at me with a mixture of sadness, pity and fear. She clenched her lips together and hung up the phone. I walked toward her, wary, wondering. Mom crouched down and pulled me close. “I love you, pumpkin,” she whispered.
“I love you too, Mommy,” I answered, reassured by the familiar exchange.
“Listen, I have to go run an errand. I... I’ll drop you off at Maddie’s, okay?”
Normally the idea of a playdate would have made me jump for joy. But I knew something was wrong.
“Go pick out a sweater.”
“Okay.” And off I ran to my room, still shielded from the new reality.
* * * * *
That evening, Mom ordered pizza and we sat next to each other at the kitchen table as she explained to me that daddy wouldn’t be coming home any more. I can remember crying, but not really understanding. Mom cried too, even though she did her best to stay strong. She told me a little story about daddy driving to work and a big truck pushing his car off the bridge. Daddy flew and he was still flying. It was just an accident and daddy wishes he could come home, but he can’t, and he still loves me bigger than the universe and sends me kisses and hugs every morning and every night.
The Wisconsin winter rain pounded on the kitchen window. We finished the pizza in silence. Something was wrong and there was nothing either of us could do to put it right.”
Did you find anything really interesting while researching this or another book?
Oh yes, I’m currently finding out all kinds of interesting things about Victorian Montreal while researching a new series in the gothic horror genre known as dreadpunk. For example, Montreal is an island in the Saint Lawrence river and there are several bridges connecting it to the South Shore. But the oldest one is also the crappiest one, and it’s called the Victoria Bridge. The thing is, when that bridge was opened in 1859 (by Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the Prince of Wales) it was the longest bridge in the entire world! It was such an engineering marvel that it was known popularly as The Eighth Wonder of the World! And at the foot of the Montreal side of the bridge is an enormous boulder called the Black Rock, which commemorates the thousands of Irish immigrants who died from typhus on ships coming from Britain and were buried in mass graves on that spot around a decade earlier. It was a fascinating place at a tumultuous period of its history. So many stories to tell, and they just leap out from the research a lot of the time!
What is the most interesting thing you have physically done for book related research purposes?
On a research trip to New York City for Silent Symmetry, I took the sane helicopter tour of Manhattan that Kari takes with her mother. That was my one and only time in a helicopter so it was pretty amazing!
With the book being part of a series, are there any character or story arcs, that readers jumping in somewhere other than the first book, need to be aware of? Can these books be read as standalones?
Yes, the books can be read as standalones, because each has its own story and a subtle recap of the overall context it’s taking place in. But there is an overarching storyline too, so if you want to know whether Kari rescues her mother and clears up the mystery of Noon’s involvement in her father’s death, then you’ll have to read the whole thing.
Do any of your characters have similar characteristics of yourself in them and what are they?
As I mentioned earlier, Starley is English, so I couldn’t help but include a bit of my personality in his character. However I based him on a mix of a couple of real-world celebrities. Can’t say who though!
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
Rarely, but there are two ways to deal with it, both involving getting the hell away from a screen! I either go for a walk or take a nap (I guess depending on my energy level) and the effect is like magic.
Do you write in different genres?
I do – I’ve written an adult psychological thriller, The New Sense, as John B. Dutton, as well as a book of short stories called Life is Good that cover a range of genres. As mentioned above, I’m part-way through a gothic horror series in the dreadpunk genre. My next Embodied story is likely to be historical fantasy set in ancient Egypt.
Do you find it difficult to write in multiple genres?
No, I really enjoy it and find that it keeps me sharp.
When did you consider yourself a writer?
There were three different events that combined to make me add “Writer” to my email signature: Back in 1998 I wrote a stage play that was produced to some acclaim in Montreal, and then a couple of years later I received two grants to write a screenplay. All this time I was also writing short stories and my first novel, but what clinched it for me was taking the plunge to become a freelance marketing copywriter (ads, websites, stuff like that) in 2005 because that was the point when all my time was spent writing and all my income came from it.
What are your guilty pleasures in life?
Guinness. But I don’t even feel guilty about it!
Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life?
My British roots are showing when I say that I’m a huge soccer fan! I’m a very proud father, so looking after my kids is something I really take pleasure in. I genuinely love words and language, so I’ve always been keen on foreign languages and speak three pretty well, but I like to learn new ones.
What was the last amazing book you read?
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Where is your favorite place to read? Do you have a cozy corner or special reading spot?
Where can readers find you on the web?
I have a brand new website at www.jbdutton.com and my writing blog is at http://JohnBDutton.wordpress.com. You can also visit my professional Facebook page at: http://facebook.com/JohnBDuttonAuthor or see my pics on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/johnbdutton/
The Embodied Trilogy
Special Edition Ebook Collection
Genre: YA Urban fantasy / science fiction
Date of Publication: July 11, 2016
Number of pages: 560
Word Count: 183,094
Cover Artist: Alexandra Nereuta
Follow Kari's exciting adventure in in one special edition of all three ebooks, including bonus author insights, deleted scenes and a treasure hunt quiz..
The Embodied trilogy is an unusual web of adventure, romance, fantasy, and science fiction.
Prep school student Kari Marriner is swept up in a mystery that fast becomes a thrilling adventure when she discovers that mysterious aliens called the Embodied and their pseudo-religion, the Temple of Truth, been influencing her family’s life for decades. She soon finds herself battling dragons, unicorns, and nefarious angels on the streets of New York and in the catacombs of Paris, while having her emotions torn by a handsome alien and a jealous boyfriend. In a final showdown, she must travel to the creatures’ home in the dark universe and make a heart-wrenching choice: rescue her mother or save the Earth.
Special Tour Price $7.99
The first sensation was my stomach lurching and spinning. Then I seemed to be plunging dizzily while simultaneously zooming higher on some kind of impossible rollercoaster ride. And suddenly I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was separated from any kind of physical reality, like – oh… oh wow – like I was totally disembodied. I could sense things but not see them with my eyes. I had… a sort of mathematical awareness, as though I was plugged directly into the mainframe of a supercomputer the size of the universe, my mind swimming in pure information. Geometric shapes twinkled in and out of existence. Lines and points moved around in constant motion. It felt like a dream made of numbers… patterns and data combining and separating. Spirals within spirals and symmetries within symmetries.
“Mom?” I called out. Or at least imagined myself calling out. Ripples in this web of information undulated in front of me when I said her name. “Mom? It’s me. It’s Kari.” More complex ripples floated away.
At that moment it occurred to me I had no way of getting back home.
“Noon?” I said hopefully. Oh man – he’d told me how to use the sphere to reach the Dark Universe but now I was here and totally disembodied, I had no way of controlling my body to remove the sphere from my forehead.
But before I could worry about this too much, the waves of information started to coalesce into more recognizable shapes. Pyramids and spheres, but not solid ones. They seemed to be made of… of symbols and binary code. That was it – they were like living equations! And then weirdly, in one of the pyramid shapes, I could recognize Noon. I felt as though I could see his mesmerizing face. Even though it was data or whatever, it was somehow him. The whole experience was kinda hypnotic. Was it even really happening? In one respect, I guess none of it was real, because I was literally seeing outside my universe.
“Kari – you made it,” I heard him say.
“Is that really you? Cilic didn’t kill you?”
“Well, he killed Embodied me, but the Mihim brought my diamond pyramid back here.”
This was super-bizarro. Now it was like the surrounding patterns had gone out of focus and I could clearly see the pyramid that was Noon’s true form.
“Wait, let me do something,” he said. “I’m going to recreate a reality you’re familiar with to make this easier for you.”
And the entire crazy churning data kaleidoscope sort of crystalized. I found myself standing in a towering hall with walls, floor, and ceiling made of what looked like sheets of sheer diamond. But in the depths of the diamond the same patterns I’d seen before were refracted in a million colors. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever encountered.
The Embodied Trilogy
Genre: YA Urban fantasy / science fiction
Date of Publication: January, 2013
Number of pages: 194
Word Count: 54,359
Cover Artist: Alexandra Nereuta
Kari Marriner’s earliest memory is her father’s death in a car crash back in small-town Wisconsin. Now, 12 years later, her mother has been hired by a pseudo-religious organization in Manhattan called the Temple of Truth (a.k.a. the ToT). At Chelsea Prep, Kari develops a crush on classmate Cruz. But when she realizes that Noon, another attractive guy at school, is involved with the ToT, her curiosity gets the better of her.
Kari stumbles upon a secret tunnel leading from her apartment to another in the building, where an ancient book holds images she can scarcely believe, and a cavernous room contains... something inexplicable. As Kari pieces together the incredible evidence, she discovers that the ToT is run by other-worldly beings called The Embodied who influence human behavior and have established a global long-term human breeding program. But why? And what is her role in all this?
Just as she starts wondering whether the love she feels for Cruz is genuine or if her emotions are being controlled by The Embodied, her mother is kidnapped and Kari has to figure out who is human, who is Embodied, and who she can count on to help rescue her mother.
Book One Free
When I got in, the apartment was empty. I dumped my stuff and had a shower. I only realized as I was drying my hair that the apartment was really empty. Flash wasn’t there. The hairdryer was his nemesis, and the feud had being going on since he was traumatized by it as a kitten. But he couldn’t resist confronting it. Whenever I blow-dried my hair he would freak, hissing and arching his back, fur standing on end. But not this time.
I turned off the hairdryer and called his name. Nothing. I made little squeaking noises with my lips, walking from room to room. Okay, this was bizarre. Where the eff could he be? There was only one sure-fire way of making him come running. I went into the kitchen and opened the cupboard where the cat food was stored. I shook the bag loudly. Silence.
Wait, there wasn’t silence.
There was a muffled voice coming from... coming from? I bent down to follow the sound. It was coming from the cupboard.
The cupboard was a medium-sized space, maybe three feet high and 18 inches wide, and as I stuck my head inside to listen I felt like I was somehow entering another world. It was a gut feeling. You know, the kind you can’t explain but know you should trust. Some people call it instinct, but Mom explained to me once that the gut and the ancient lizard brain are linked. This is the “fight or flight” response that you feel when you’re threatened. It’s helped us survive over millions of years of evolution. And it’s rarely wrong.
So what was different in there? What was my subconscious reacting to? The smell. Yes, that was it – something smelled different in there, and it wasn’t cat food. Now the muffled voice was louder, more distinctive. And I could tell that there were actually two voices, a man’s and a woman’s.
I put my head in further and another part of my gut sent me a second message. The dimensions were wrong. The cupboard stretched back much further than it should have, back beyond the kitchen wall.
I withdrew and stood up. I opened the cupboard above it and moved the cereal boxes to one side. This one was only a couple of feet deep. Looking back into the cat food cupboard, it was obvious that it went back at least a foot more.
I stood with my hands on my hips for a moment, trying to process. And where on earth was Flash? I called his name again and listened. Suddenly the voices stopped. I bent down and put my head back in the cupboard. There was a stale smell, and... was that a draft? I reached inside and felt around. The cupboard was so deep it was hard to see the back clearly. I shuffled inside, resting on my forearms and prodding the back wall with my fingers. It moved slightly. I pushed harder, and with a groan it swung open at the bottom. It was hinged somehow at the top, like a large flap. I opened the flap wider and felt a distinct whoosh of cooler, damper air hit my face. I peered through the opening but it was pitch black inside. Then the voices started again, this time much clearer. I still couldn’t make out what they were saying, but it was definitely a man and a younger woman talking.
Pushing the flap open even wider I realized that I could fit through the opening. The other side of the flap felt like a tunnel or duct the same width and height as the cupboard. The trouble was, it was too dark in there to explore it. I needed a flashlight.
Mom is nothing if not resourceful. There were always spare batteries in the house when I was a kid. A first aid kit that nurse-Mom whipped out at the first sign of fever. And a well-stocked emergency box in an easy-to-reach location.
Five minutes later I was back in the cupboard, flashlight in hand.
I wriggled inside on my hands and knees, then pushed the flap open again. I crawled through it, testing the strength of the surface beneath me as I went. The tunnel creaked a bit – I guess it was made of wood – but it seemed pretty firm. I advanced, the tunnel’s blackness stretching out in front of me. The flap swung shut and the dank air enveloped me.
I stopped and listened, probing the tunnel with the flashlight. It seemed to go on forever. “Flash?” I whispered loudly. But all I could hear were the echoey voices. I carried on crawling forward. They seemed to be getting louder. The young woman’s higher-pitched voice was easier to make out than the man’s gravelly rumble.
I thought I heard her say, “...control of it...here, I can get...here...make it...” Just snatches of sentences. The man said something in reply. When I was crawling, the noise my jeans made on the wood made it impossible to distinguish individual words in what the woman was saying. I shone the flashlight ahead of me. Was that a turn in the tunnel? As I got nearer, I could tell that there was a junction to the left in the tunnel up ahead.
I reached the bend and looked around it, the flashlight beam sweeping the tunnel walls. There was another long stretch that ended in...? A bend or a drop? “Flash?” I whispered again and listened. Now both voices were more distinct. They were definitely coming from further along the tunnel.
“...can’t stop them,” said the man.
“That’s just it,” answered the woman. Then silence.
I crawled onward, accompanied only by the swoosh and scrape of my jeans and shoes. Half a minute later I reached the end of this stretch of tunnel. Now there was a turn to the right, and a section that went upward. I raised my head to look up this chute. For a second my brain made a connection. That was it – garbage chutes! These big old buildings were usually equipped with them. Maybe that was what this was. But why did the tunnels go sideways? No, it made no sense.
I knelt at the junction, searching for an explanation. Then, before I knew what was happening, I screamed. Something had dropped from the chute and landed in front of me. Something alive. I scrambled backward, heart in mouth, the flashlight making crazy-ass shadows on the tunnel walls.
In seconds I was back at the first turn, but as I tried to crawl around it, one of the belt loops on my jeans snagged on a nail. I tried to pull it off, frantic. I glanced back down the tunnel and saw a movement. It was coming toward me. It was... Flash.
My limbs sagged, I stopped struggling, and the loop unhooked from the nail. The cat meowed and trotted up to me. Laughing in relief, I petted him. “You... you... I love you!” I said, happy to have found him. And happy that he wasn’t a giant rat. Or something worse that the depths of my imagination had conjured up in my state of panic. He purred and snuggled against my nose.
It was the young woman’s voice. Distant, but distinct. I strained my ears to hear more but I was already far from the source of the sound, and Flash’s purring obscured the rest of the words. But I know I heard it. I know I heard my name.
The Embodied Trilogy
Genre: YA Urban fantasy / science fiction
Date of Publication: January 2015,
second edition April 2016
Number of pages: 206
Word Count: 60,934
Cover Artist: Alexandra Nereuta
Six months ago, Kari Marriner’s life was torn apart. Now turned 17, she’s looking for answers in her rural Wisconsin hometown. But just as the Embodied seemed to have vanished, there’s a new, more terrifying visitor from the Dark Universe.
Back in Manhattan, a charismatic English artist named Starley convinces Kari he can find her missing mother if she flies to Paris with him. He also shares an incredible secret from the dawn of mankind. But Starley is not who he seems. Before she knows it, Kari finds herself standing in front of the Mona Lisa with him, yelling out, “He’s got a bomb!”
And that’s when things go totally insane. The Rebel Embodied’s henchman, Cilic, returns to Earth on a deadly mission. The body of Kari’s treacherous friend Aranara is washed up on the banks of the Hudson. But is she really dead? In the Paris catacombs, Kari and Starley are hunted by a nightmarish mythical creature that’s all too real.
A family mystery, an exiled race, freakish beasts, jealousy, love… and death. Kari has to face them all in this fast-paced fantasy thriller.
Amazon Paperback Amazon UK Paperback
The sun was setting behind the buildings. A big barn with half the roof missing. A grain silo. A couple of smaller shed-type buildings, one with no door, the other with the door hanging off its hinges. And a farmhouse. Windows shattered. Front door gawping at me. I gulped and sent an ILY back to Cruz. He liked those.
Then I had the strangest feeling. Like a disruption in the atmosphere, but also in my mind. The air changed somehow, and I heard a rumbling of distant thunder. I could have sworn that the fading daylight got brighter for a few seconds. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. It made me stop moving. Then reality seemed to snap back to normal. I kept going toward the farmhouse.
I saw something move.
The setting sun had backlit the barn so it was hard to be sure what it was. A horse, I think. A big, black stallion moving around in the barn.
My mind filled in the blanks. Probably a horse that had escaped from a neighboring farm and made a new home for itself here. Okay, cool. No mystery. Maddie must have seen it and her mind made it fit the legend.
I lay Maddie’s bike down in the grass, careful not to make a sound. I tiptoed toward the barn, not wanting to startle it. I turned on the flashlight app on my phone. Clouds were gathering, the light was fading. More distant thunder. I just needed to find it, take a photo and show Maddie. Her grandfather would know what to do, how to capture it safely and find its owner.
I entered the barn, still creeping quietly. Ew. It certainly smelled like a barn. There was hay strewn around on the ground. My phone flashlight was practically useless. It illuminated a patch, like, five feet in front of me. In the dim light, I could make out a row of stalls on each side and a hayloft up ahead with a ladder propped against it.
Now I thought about it, the smell was kinda weird. I grew up around here and although I’d never spent any time on a farm, I sensed that there was some kind of extra, non-farm smell here. Hard to identify. But yucky and familiar all the same.
Was that an animal noise in one of the stalls on the left? Or just the wind blowing through the holes in the walls? I crept toward the stall very, very carefully. My hand holding the phone was shaking. Come on, Kari. Get a grip. The sides of the stalls weren’t high enough to conceal a horse. Unless it was lying down in the hay, of course.
I reached the stall where I thought I’d heard the noise. I waited a second, held my breath, then stepped in front of the stall’s open gate. It was empty. And that’s when the hairs stood up on the back of my neck again. But this time there was another, all-too-familiar feeling along with it.
It was the feeling I had when Noon was in my head. Yet not exactly the same. This was unpleasant, even disturbing, and somehow stronger.
I spun around. In the barn doorway stood the black stallion. Protruding from its forehead was a long, tapered horn. It really was a unicorn. It raised its head and my mind felt like a heavy blanket had been draped over it. It eyed me purposefully. My irrational fear as a little girl came flooding back, multiplied by a million. I almost peed my pants. Was this a bad dream? Maybe I would wake up surrounded by My Little Pony’s in my 8-year-old’s bedroom?
The unicorn took a step forward. The feeling in my head got even stronger and now I could swear that I heard the name Noon repeating over and over. Not his voice, just his name. Was the unicorn Embodied? I didn’t get a chance to wonder about this because now the feeling in my head was becoming worse… painful. I was convinced that my mind was being probed by this astonishing creature. In the space of a few seconds, the pain increased and so did the repetition of the name Noon until it was so excruciating that I felt like screaming. I put my hands to my temples and opened my mouth. As I was about to close my eyes, I saw the unicorn start to charge toward me.
Despite the pain, I managed to fling myself to one side and into the empty stall just before it reached me. It galloped past and I heard it stop. My head was still throbbing. I staggered to my feet, one fist still pressed to my temple. Maybe I could make a break for it.
The unicorn appeared in front of me, blocking the stall entrance. I was totally trapped. I looked around in desperation. A broken wooden handle was poking out from a pile of hay in one corner. I grabbed it and pulled out a pitchfork. The unicorn advanced into the stall, its head lowered so that its horn was aimed directly at my head. The pain coursed through my brain like a river of electricity.
I swung the pitchfork at the unicorn’s head. I missed, but it backed up, startled. I swung again. It made a snuffling sound and stepped back further.
“LEAVE ME ALONE!” I screamed.
The unicorn cocked its head to one side like it was listening to me. The pain in my brain diminished.
I swung again and shouted the same thing.
The unicorn drew itself up to its full height and then something even more incredible happened. It raised its tail. But this was no stallion’s tail. It was like a huge peacock tail, shimmering with shades of black, gray, and silver. The tail fanned out, probably ten feet wide, and despite the pain in my head, I lowered the pitchfork, just standing there in awe. What was this being? It seemed to possess incredible power and at the same time be unimaginably beautiful. In fact, it was all the more terrifying because it was so beautiful.
The Embodied Trilogy
Genre: YA Urban fantasy / science fiction
Date of Publication: May, 2016
Number of pages: 212
Word Count: 62,257
Cover Artist: Alexandra Nereuta
Prep school senior Kari Marriner has a heart-wrenching choice to make: rescue her mother or prevent aliens destroying the Earth.
Having faced down mythical beasts and trans-dimensional villains, Kari has finally unraveled the mystery of the cult-like Temple of Truth and found the diamond sphere that can free her mother from the evil clutches of the Thoth high priests. But to find out how to use the sphere, Kari must team up with the one person she can never trust: Aranara, the treacherous sister of her missing soulmate Noon.
When a submarine trip to the bottom of the Hudson River ends in death and disaster, Kari is scarred, both emotionally and physically. She wants to run and hide but digs deep and finds new sources of inner strength. As the storm of the century hits New York, a child’s life hangs in the balance and Kari gambles everything in a final confrontation with the genocidal Thoth.
Aranara pushed at the hatch. Nothing happened. Whether it was the water pressure or some safety mechanism I don’t know, but she stopped trying and went back to the control panel. The sub reversed. I looked through the transparent bottom and saw Noon’s pyramid coming back into view. As soon as it was directly beneath us, she climbed onto her chair and aimed the gun at the globe-shaped acrylic window. With a surge of terror, I realized what she was about to do.
“Nooooo!” I screamed as she fired. I was kneeling on the floor of the cabin beside Mangold’s body. I automatically shielded my face. The bullet ricocheted. The dome had cracked instead of shattering. She shot twice more, not even flinching from the flying bullets. The crack spread. Water started to spray in. I reached up to try to stop her, but she held me off with one hand while she fired again with the other.
The window bulged inward. Then it burst. Water poured in and I screamed again, clawing at her uselessly as she pulled away enough acrylic to make an opening big enough to swim through. The water gushed like a torrent. She got hold of the sides of the hole she’d made and somehow managed to pulled herself out. The sub listed to one side and my reality shifted. Everything felt like a dream. I was in a reversed fishbowl. The air was inside and the water was outside, with Aranara swimming in it, downward toward Noon’s pyramid on the riverbed. The water was already up to my knees. There was nothing I could do. This was where I was going to die.
Wait – maybe one thing! I had shut Noon out. Maybe he could do something. I closed my eyes and calmed myself as best I could. “Tell Aranara to help me. I’m going to drown.”
I heard nothing. The water was up to my waist now. Spray. Smell. Sickening fear. I looked down but now it was impossible to see where Aranara was underneath the sub because of the river water rushing into the cabin. Did she already have the pyramid? Was she blocking Noon’s communication with me somehow? The water reached my chest. The dreamlike state disappeared. New panic set in. There was only one chance. Once no more water was flowing into the opening that Aranara had made, I could try swimming out through it. But we were seventy feet below the surface. Could I hold my breath long enough? I saw something move at my feet and looked down. I let out a huge scream as Mangold’s head floated up next to mine. Oh god, oh god. The water was up to my neck. I stood on the chair. My head was touching the top of the dome. The water was now level with the opening. I had to fill my lungs with as much oxygen as I possibly could from the few inches that were trapped at the top of the cabin. I breathed deeply. One, two, three deep breaths. The water lapped at my chin. Four. I held my breath.
I pushed off the chair toward the opening. It was barely wide enough. But before I could reach it, the submarine pitched downward. The hatch hit me in the back. The opening was further away than before, below me now. I swam toward it. The acrylic was at least an inch thick. I caught hold of the edge of the opening with one hand and pulled myself forward. As my head went through, the submarine lurched to one side. A searing pain in my cheek. I held on tight. Now I could use both hands to pull myself through. Then I was out. My lungs were already starting to hurt. Daylight was so far away up above. Suddenly an arm circled my waist. It was Aranara. She didn’t even look at me, just kicked with both legs, pulling me away from the listing sub. I felt myself getting dizzy as we rose faster than a normal person would be able to. The pressure was enormous. The air was forced out of my lungs. I passed out.
About the Author:
After graduating from film school in London, England, JB Dutton emigrated to Montreal in 1987, where he still lives with his two young children and their even younger goldfish. He spent over a decade as a music TV director before moving into the advertising industry as an award-winning copywriter for clients such as Cirque du Soleil. JB Dutton has written novels, short stories, blogs, screenplays and a stage play. He also writes adult fiction under the name John B. Dutton.
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