After giving you teasers of the stories included in the Shades of Pink Charity Anthology in September, this month I'll tell you a little more about the authors involved. I interviewed them with questions about their contributions, their writing life, their works in progress...
Today, Angela Yseult.
Kallysten - Thank you for taking part in this anthology. Would you care to tell us a little about your YA story, 'Blush'?
Angela Yseult - It's a story that was written very fast... and very late, in all senses of the word! I had the idea while already in bed, only a couple days before the submission deadline. I got up and went back to my computer, writing the first draft in one go until something like 3am.
K - That explains why it was the last story to come in! Your editor commented that the story was relatable and that something similar had happened to her. How did you come up with the idea?
AY - The story is actually a mix of truth and fiction. There really is a boy called Matthew somewhere out there... although he's in his late thirties, now. And when he was 17~18, he and a school friend really did share a bottle of champagne while at a party while toasting to the most random things. And all right, I was that friend, and I had a terrible crush on him. Two major differences are that I never kissed my Matthew the way my heroine kisses hers, and the confessions that followed only took place 15 years later in reality.
K - Do you draw inspiration from your past for all your YA stories?
AY - Oh definitely not! The first one, Beneath the Twin Moons of Haldae, is a sci-fi / shifter story, and try as I might I can't find anything in there that actually happened to me. There is some aspect of 'real life' to it, though, as the spark for this story was born from an article I read about an helicopter approaching a tribe that had yet to be exposed to our modern civilization. My upcoming release, Demons World, is also rather far from my life, with vampires, portals to other dimensions, and beastly demons. That one still has a real life connection, which is about soldiers being sent back to the front even when their mental well-being would require otherwise.
K - Would you care to share an excerpt from it?
AY - It's still being edited, but I can do a sneak peek...
“Ready?” Lucas asked as he went to pick up our training swords. “Or do you need to stretch for a bit?”
After the work out I’d had at the rink, I needed to rest more than stretch, but I never passed up an opportunity to spar, so I just said, “I’m ready” and took the training sword he was handing me hilt first.
I took a few steps back, getting a feel for the cushioned mat under my bare feet. It covered the entire basement, from one wallpapered side to the other. The wallpaper, all around the room, was of a wheat field, golden stalks with a wide blue sky above. The ceiling was painted blue to match. The picture was so good that standing in that room always felt like being outside, right in the open. I knew Lucas liked that.
There was a punching bag in the far corner, and a treadmill on the side. Don’t ask me why vampires need to exercise, that’s beyond me. On the wall opposite the stairs, metal hooks held four swords. Those, I wasn’t supposed to touch. Even Lucas wouldn’t let me try my hand with them.
Of course, I had touched them. When both my dads were out of the house I sometimes practiced with the real swords, using each of them in turn. They were all different, the lightest one weighing just half as much as the heaviest one. Two had finely forged hilts and the other two were plain. They were all really, really sharp. And holding them, slashing the air with them after all that time using training swords… it was cool. Very cool. And even worth the suspicious looks both my dads sometimes gave me.
When I slashed the wooden sword in front of me, it didn’t hiss the way the metal ones did, but the weight was similar, the balance was good, and most important of all we were much less likely to draw blood with those. Drawn blood—mine—always put an end to our sparring, even if it was no more than a scratch or a scrape. I swear I’ve bled more on the ice than sparring in the basement.
Lucas always waited for me to deal the first blow. I did so without warning. I struck high, strong. For all of a second, I thought I might get through. He blocked at the last moment and pushed my sword back, hard enough that I followed the momentum and took a couple of steps back myself.
“How was school?” he asked, and launched his first attack on the last word. He struck to my left, but not very hard. Not yet. That would come later.
“Okay, I guess,” I replied – but only after I had countered his attack. The swords clanked dully. I took a step to the side and broke away.
Lucas turned to continue facing me. “You guess?” he asked with a slight grin, his eyes never leaving me. “Either it was okay or it wasn’t. Why do you need to guess?”
I started to move before he finished. I tried a feint on the right, followed immediately by a wide arc, lower, that would have caught his left leg if he hadn’t seen right through the move. He blocked with insulting ease, his counter blow hard enough to shake my arm from the impact.
“It could have been better,” I muttered. “Like, if the English Lit teacher hadn’t taken my phone away.”
He paused for a few seconds, sword high and ready to strike. The surprise was all too clear on his features. He shook his head once, asked, “English Lit? Isn’t that the same teacher as your newspaper club?” then slashed the sword down at me.
I had just enough time to grab the hilt of my word with both hands to block his strike. The weapons clashed with a loud clanking noise.
“Yeah. That’s… the one.”
Rather than pushing down and forcing me to break away, he pulled back. One step and to the side, and he was swinging again.
“What was so important—”
I parried, and he spun and immediately slashed toward my other side.
“—that you needed your phone out during your English class?”
This time, I couldn’t move fast enough. I’m quick, but he’s a vampire. The flat of the wooden blade smacked across my thigh. It stung, but not as much as the embarrassment of not seeing through such a basic move.
“I just checked if it was off,” I said, rubbing at my leg for a second before I took position again. “And now she won’t give it back unless you or Dad go get it from her.”
Lucas raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. With both hands on the hilt of his sword, he was waiting for my next move. I just wasn’t ready for it.
“Will you talk to her?” I asked. “She said she’d meet you before school or in the evening if you called her, but maybe you can convince her to give me the phone back.”
His expression remained inscrutable. He lowered his left hand and extended the sword toward me with the right. I raised mine to rest against his blade and we started again. Strike, parry, two steps forward, two steps back, almost like a choreographed dance.
He still hadn’t answered.
“So?” I insisted after a moment. I was starting to get a little out of breath. “Will you get it back for me? Please?”
“In a few days,” he said. “Long enough to let it sink in that having a phone is a privilege you can lose if you don’t follow the rules.”
Demon blood. A few days? My mystery texter might tell the entire school within the space of a few days. Lucas was choosing a really crappy time to start being a stickler for rules.
“I know all that. But it was really important. Come on, Dad!”
Without ever stopping to strike and parry, he shook his head. “You just said you were making sure it was off. Now you say it was important. Which is it, Vincent?”
I didn’t reply. My face felt like it was on fire, and not from the exertion. I was so screwed. Unless I asked Michael…
“And don’t bother asking your father,” Lucas added in between two blows. I hated when he seemed to read my mind. Vampires can’t do that, of course, he’s just really good at reading people. “I’ll tell him what I told you. I’m pretty sure that if you ask his opinion you won’t get the phone back before Christmas.”
Christmas was two months away. By then, the entire town might know about us. My dads might be back in a fighting camp, and me…
Fear and anger flashed through me like a wildfire. I lashed out blindly, striking wide toward his chest. He moved back, but not fast enough, and to both our surprise the tip of my sword caught his arm, a couple of inches above the crook of his elbow, just under the sleeve of his t-shirt. It didn’t break his skin, but it did raise a welt, three or four inches long.
It’s not often I manage to touch him. Like I said, I’m decent, but he’s really good. I know if he tried as hard as he can, our sparring matches would end in just moments. Usually, when I do get through his defenses, it’s because he’s made a mistake. Not this time.
Without thinking, I lowered my sword and rested the tip on the mat. Lucas looked at the mark on his arm, his eyebrows furrowed together, like he couldn’t quite believe it. Before I knew it, before he had even looked up again, he extended his sword. The tip came to rest at the hollow of my throat, so close that I felt it when I swallowed.
“Nice,” he said slowly. “But you dropped your guard afterward.” He pulled the sword away again. “Anger makes you faster, but sloppier. Be careful about that.”
K - Anything else before I let you go back to work?
AY - I just want to say I'm glad to be a part of this adventure.
Learn more bout Angela Yseult at http://angela-yseult.blogspot.com/