S&D Industries is a prominent pharmaceutical company based in New York. It has, for many years, appeared to exist only for the benefit of humanity, and this year's chief product seems no different. The company's CEO, whom we know only as Striden, announces the imminent delivery of a powerful flu vaccine. The true purposes of S&D are anything but philanthropic, however. The newly-engineered drug does not protect against flu. It turns people into werewolves.
The only group which stands a chance of resisting this change is a population of vampires. The foremost of them, who go by the name of The Endangered, are determined to turn back the mass werewolf infestation. Among them are an ambitious rebel named Catch, and Lori, Catch's newly-turned protege. Catch has brought this treacherous world to Lori's doorstep and both their worlds are turned upside-down in the process. Secrets are exposed, alliances are formed. Blood is spilled as the vampires must do everything in their power to preserve both their own kind and that of their food supply.
80 ... 85 ... 90. The pedal vibrated under my foot.
"I'm pushing a hundred. These winding roads make it hard.”
Crina climbed over the front seats and settled into shotgun. She'd been taking care of Xan, who was unconscious in the back.
"How's he doing?"
"He took one hell of a blow to the head, but he'll be okay."
I turned up the radio to drown out the sound of the police sirens behind us. My eyes kept darting to the rearview.
There were two of them back there. At least.
They'd caught our trail while we were tearing through the city. You could say we had a police escort out of Los Angeles.
"How far till Mexico?" Crina was wiping blood off her hands.
"Far. Dunno. At this rate we're not gonna make it."
"Where the hell are we anyway?"
"Somewhere mountainous,” I responded dryly.
"You shouldn't be driving. You lost a lot of blood."
"Well right now that’s the least of our problems."
I’d hotwired an old 90s roadster while Crina was hoisting an unconscious Xan through the hatchback. An easy steal, but the old beast of a transmission was fighting me on every turn. It was a miracle we’d made it out of the city at all.
Headlights glimpsed the guardrail. We hit a sharp curve, caught some stones in the tires and skidded through the gravel for a spell. I gripped the wheel tightly, downshifting. Crina clawed the dash. Xan remained sprawled across the backseat. We fishtailed, then straightened out.
I shifted gears and kept my focus on the road ahead.
The speedometer climbed back over 80 mph. Crina shot me a nervous glance.
"Just keeping the cops on their toes."
"They'll be sending out back-up and lots of it… likely include a chopper. We
aren’t going to make it much farther in this car. We gotta bail."
I hate when she’s right.
Crina rolled down her window and released her seatbelt. I followed suit.
"We should've stolen a convertible."
I grinned, “Next time.”
"There's a ravine nearby. I smell the water."
There was a valley down to our left, a fitting host for water. And our escape.
"Something to aim for. What about Xan?"
An over-confident Crina was halfway out the window, she ducked back in.
"Can't toss him. Gotta pull him from the wreckage.”
My stomach churned. Not what I wanted to hear. Cops were still in tight pursuit. They would not be relenting anytime soon. Someone blew apart several blocks of downtown L.A. and we presently carried the titles of Suspect One, Two, and Three.
Our options were limited at best. There was a tight bend up ahead.
"Get ready to bail."
My foot slammed the accelerator. Crina climbed most of the way out the window, bracing her feet on the door handle.
"See you at the bottom," I promised Xan under my breath.
The road curved sharply to the right.
The car went airborne and we ejected mid dive over the rocky and tree filled terrain. From my own airborne position, I watched as the car clipped the tops of a few trees and nosedived into the jagged landscape below. Its short-lived plummet was followed by a dramatic landing as it bounced into tree trunks, flipped over laterally and eventually rolled to a stop.
I had similar luck.
My feet struck the ground, but I didn’t stick the landing. Hurling forward over some rocks, I bounced along the mountainside until a tree brought me to an abrupt halt. Still conscious, I lay at its trunk watching the world spin.
Stumbling, I forced my feet to keep me vertical. My head was spinning. I staggered towards the light supplied by flames now emanating from the pile of metal and gasoline that used to be a car. My eyes started to focus as I neared the overturned vehicle.
"Xan," I coughed, holding my rib cage.
Had that fall not jolted him awake? Lucky bastard.
I looked around. No sign of Crina.
Hastily, I pried back the driver's side door and was relieved to see Xan inside, still unconscious. The fall had tossed him onto the foot well of the back, but he seemed no worse for wear.
Folding the driver’s seat forward, I climbed in and slipped my arms under him. Grasping his underarms, I slid him out from the burning car. Crina caught me as I fell back under his deadweight. She pulled us both to safety, beating out my pant leg which had caught fire in the process.
We took shelter in some dense underbrush. From there we could see the police cars up the hillside. They were parked, headlights beaming out across the night sky, illuminating the treetops. I caught the silhouette of an officer as he crossed the front of a car. We couldn’t spot anyone making their way downhill. Perhaps they were waiting for fire truck or a medical unit.
"How are you doing?"
"Okay. Caught hold of a tree branch mid flight. Made for an easy descent. You?"
"Had a kinda rough landing. Maybe a few cracked ribs."
Xan began to stir.
"Xan!" We both exclaimed.
"What happened?" his voice was horse and weak. I bent down to hug him.
"Lori!" He wrapped his arms around me and stayed clenched as I stood up. I grimaced at his weight on my half-eaten shoulder. Crina took his arms from my neck and helped him to his feet.
"You sure you can stand okay?" She asked. He was looking around.
"Where are we?"
"Somewhere outside LA." I muttered, bracing myself against a tree. I looked over at the car a few yards up the hillside. Cops were shining their flashlights around, but they didn’t quite have the range. The car was completely engulfed in flames.
"We have to keep moving," Crina said, "I lost my comm a ways back."
"I have mine." I popped it out of my ear. It looked intact. I tapped the button, stuck it back in. Not even static.
We continued downhill. Crina had been right. We trudged along the crooked path cut by the river, crossing when it narrowed. It wasn't long before we were out of range of the sirens and lights.
Both were refreshing.
Crina led the way, hacking through the foliage. Xan and I stumbled along behind. A good hour passed. None of us spoke much. I felt dizzy, nauseous, exhausted ...
Eventually we reached a clearing.
"Break time." I proclaimed, dropping flat on my back, letting the soft earth break my fall. Crina and Xan joined me.
We lay there taking in the beautiful, crystal clear night sky. And a full moon, apparently, illuminating the field around us.
"Full moon tonight. Amidst everything I’d forgotten."
"So had I," Crina sighed, "Ironic now, I suppose."
"Where is everyone else?" Xan asked absently.
"That's a good question."
I reached into Xan’s cargo pocket, fishing around.
“Feeling frisky,” he joked. I removed my hand, displaying the cigarettes and zippo he’d been holding for me.
“Oh, right,” he laughed as I winked at him.
I lit one. The sensation of smoke filled my lungs.
Crina reached across and slid one from the pack. She didn’t smoke, I didn’t comment. Just flipped open the lighter. I gave them back to Xan, who hadn’t moved since our collapse.
“And yet you still managed to start a fire,” Xan played with my zippo. He took a cig from the pack, now resting on his stomach, and craned his neck to light it.
After a moment.
"Does this mean it's over?" Crina was propped up on her elbows.
"I don't know."
She craned her neck for a better glimpse at the moon.
Xan groaned. "My head is splitting."
I reached out and ran my fingers through his hair.
"My head ... is full of static. The comm!"
I sat up with a jolt. Hand on my earpiece.
Static came over my comm, followed by a faint voice. I couldn't make it out. My ears were still ringing from the blast. I handed the comm to Crina.
"Thought I heard a transmission. See if you have any luck."
Crina put the piece to her ear. Pushing the button in.
"Hello. Anyone hear me? Hello."
I closed my eyes, relaxing on the moist earth. The blades of grass pricked my skin. It was a warm night. A perfect night.
It was not enough.
I had heard a voice over the comm. A voice that sounded like Catch's.
***Available now on Amazon***
Interview with S.L. Eaves
by TZPP Intern Andy Kubai
LC: When writing in crossed over genres, how do you balance the elements of your story between horror and fantasy, or do you feel the need to do so?
SLE: I think some balance is good, but I feel it’s less about balance and more about how effectively and creatively you incorporate elements of each genre. When you’re working within one genre and infusing aspects of another a lot of the cross over happens naturally during the writing process.
When I started writing The Endangered, my goal was to write a vampire story that I’d want to read. While I love horror and fantasy I’m also really into crime fiction and a sucker for a good mystery, so ultimately I set out to blend influences and it opens up so many possibilities. As far as the story goes, the need to balance all the components definitely came into play.
LC: Vampires and werewolves both have any number of established rules and variations. When writing The Endangered, did you ascribe to a particular set of guidelines or make your own?
SLE: Yes, for sure. I tried to stick to the conventions described in traditional mythology and folklore; those the audience has come to expect. However, there are so many tropes associated with vampires and werewolves that if you don’t create rules, then your characters basically become invincible, and readers are less invested because there is nothing that they can’t overcome.
I made an effort to establish certain parameters, limitations so to speak, on their abilities. I wanted to make it clear to readers that these characters had vulnerabilities and felt it important to be consistent when exploiting any strength or weakness of a particular character.
LC: How do you stay focused on your world when writing a longer work like a novel?
SLE: It’s a lot about the mindset, I think. I only write when I have something to say; if it becomes a chore or anything less than inspired, I have trouble focusing and the quality of the writing suffers.
I also wrestle with the storylines in my head for a while before I feel confident putting it on paper, so when I sit down to write I’m at the point where it’s on my mind so much it’s practically irritating me and I have to write it to purge it from my head and move forward.
I also listen to music constantly when I write. I find it helps me stay immersed in the world of the story.
LC: How do you evolve your characters and do they have minds of their own, so to speak?
SLE: When I write a character I try to think ‘What would [such and such] do in this situation? How would they handle conflict, approach situations, etc.?’ And I would often write them in each other’s shoes and see what reaction worked best for the story. Like ‘hey, maybe this character should not be the one to discover this because his reaction wouldn’t work for the plot.’ That sort of thing, so yes I feel they have minds of their own.
In the case of this story, it was initially much more action driven and my focus was on the plot and not the characters or their interactions. When I realized the characters were more evolved in my head than what had made it into the manuscript, I made an effort to develop them further because you want readers to care what happens to them. That is essential. But also the most challenging part. In writing, it is much easier to write what a character does than how a character feels. At least that’s my experience.
LC: In The Endangered, who was your favorite character to write and why?
SLE: Quinn. She is cunning and enigmatic and crazy. I based her off of Harley Quinn from Batman. She was fun to write.
LC: As a reader or a writer, what makes a story really pop for you?
SLE: Unpredictability. As a reader, if you think you know what is going to happen next or how it ends, it is way less enthralling and immersive.
As a writer, the desire to achieve this caused some serious inner turmoil. I had to do what I thought was right to move the story forward in a captivating way to give it that “pop.” And that resulted in some hard decisions.
LC: After writing The Endangered, would you like to work in this world some more or are you off to build other worlds?
SLE: I would. I think there is a lot more to explore. And I am working on a follow up.
I have also been working on a character-driven story set in more of a real world environment, no elements of science fiction or fantasy, but geared towards exposing a different sort of urban underbelly.
LC: What would you tell other aspiring authors about the publishing process?
SLE: Don’t write with the goal in mind of getting published. Write what you love (cliche, I know) and others will recognize the passion behind your words and feel inspired to bring it to the public. You approach it like a job and your writing will suffer.
LC: What is your favorite werewolf movie; favorite vampire flick?
SLE: That’s a tough one. For werewolf I’m going to go with Dog Soldiers because of the film’s depiction of wolves: the transformation and the upright stance is how I envisioned werewolves when writing.
For vampire, I’d say Interview with the Vampire because it does a great job of telling a story, establishing a world and making you care about the characters. I think it was a commendable adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel.
S.L. Eaves Bio:
S.L. Eaves is a graduate student at Drexel University, pursuing her MBA in Marketing. She received her undergraduate degree in Film from University of Pittsburgh. While attending Pitt, she took a number of writing courses and earned a certificate in Professional Writing.
Originally from West Chester, PA, she has lived in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis before returning to the Philadelphia area, where she currently resides.
Her professional background is in marketing, primarily in media and publishing industries. She enjoys being in an environment that promotes creativity and challenges her to apply her film and writing skills to generate innovative marketing campaigns.
Outside of writing, she's an avid sports fan and concert goer who enjoys running and biking in her free time and readily confesses to being bit of a film and television junkie. When home, she's never without a book in arm’s reach.
The Endangered is her debut novel and is slated to be the first in a new series from Zharmae Publishing Press, with the sequel scheduled for 2015.
Author Contact Info:
Book's Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheEndangeredBk