So you can read my books

Saturday, April 21, 2012

BEST OF ENEMIES_What Is Sfumato?

{Many thanks to the


 Leonora Roy for her beautiful artwork

for my covers!}

Hurricane Katrina has mortally wounded New Orleans. The smell of blood, the lack of civilization ... both have drawn the predators.

Only one high school in the city remains open. Supernatural students are the elite. The mortal ones are unknowing teaching aides.

But eerie, invisible death haunts its hallways, preying on both supernatural and mortal students alike.

Who will be their savior? Alice Wentworth, the ghoul who more than anything else wants to die.



“What is Sfumato?”

The question hit me like a blow to the stomach. I couldn’t seem to catch my breath. That in itself was odd. I am a ghoul. I do not breathe.

Miss Helstrom snapped, “Miss Wentworth, I asked you a question. What is Sfumato?”

My eyes grew hot. The world blurred as my eyes filled with tears. Out of the corner of those eyes, I saw Becca and Trish, seated on either side of me, stiffen in anger.

How odd. They were angry at Miss Helstrom. I thought both of them hated me.

“I am waiting, Miss Wentworth.”

I drew in a ragged breath for some composure. If I did not fulfill Captain McCord’s bizarre request, he would not kill me and grant me relief from this terrible existence my life had become.

Miss Helstrom seemed to vibrate in place. Her prim black attire would be more in keeping in a Dickens novel than in a modern high school English class … even one in a school recently battered by Hurricane Katrina.

She opened her mouth, but before she could say something that would prove her epitaph, I answered.

“It was my beloved’s term he used as a … colorful metaphor.”

Miss Helstrom rolled her black eyes. “Beloved, is it? Isn’t that a bit overblown … even from something like you?”

Becca narrowed her own eyes that seemed every bit as the stormy as the sea whose color they were, but Miss Helstrom did not seem to notice as she sneered.

“Hopefully, this ‘beloved’ of yours knew the definition that obviously you do not.”

“Sfumato is one of the four painting styles used in the Renaissance, a gradual shading of image as in the corners of the Mona Lisa’s eyes,” I murmured.

Miss Helstrom applauded mockingly. “Finally. I heard the past tense when you referred to your so-called ‘beloved.’ Did he die of old age before you answered one of his questions?”

I flinched, but I managed to answer, “He died alone … surrounded by enemies.”

I felt the eyes of the whole class on me as Miss Helstrom purred, “Obviously, you chose survival over love.”

Becca literally growled, “She was struck from behind, bitch.”

Miss Helstrom bristled, “That is quite enough!”

A man’s voice simmered from behind her, “More than enough, Helstrom!”

The whole class sucked in a breath. I smiled sadly. Father Renfield was standing behind her. Victor always wondered how a vampire could be a priest.

He … never found out. Renfield’s lips pulled back to show his long canine teeth. Miss Helstrom wheeled about to face him.

“You have no right to be here!”

Father Renfield scared even me with the sheer hate on his face. “You overstepped yourself, revenant.”

He took a cell phone from inside his coat, flipped it open, and punched in some numbers. I shook my head. I was born in 1840. Advances in science made me feel as if I were in a dream. With the death of Victor, that dream had become nightmare.

“Bacchus,” snapped Renfield. “Helstrom is no longer one of your teachers. I am taking over her classes.”

He listened for a second and murmured like the night breeze, “That was not a request, merely a statement of fact.”

Miss Helstrom pulled herself up stiff. “I have tenure.”

“What you have,” softly spoke Father Renfield, “is ten seconds to vacate this school.”

Miss Helstrom laughed. I almost cried. Victor would have mocked her as laughing like some James Bond villain. I never got around to asking him who James Bond was.

“Priest, I eat prigs like you for snacks.”

“Try that with me, Helstrom, and you’ll be ending up with terminal indigestion.”

I went stiff in terror. Not for Renfield. I had seen him fight Soyoko, evolved raptors.

No, I went cold because of the wavering shape forming beside him.

Victor. It was Victor!

Dressed in jeans and a black T shirt, he was leaning lazily and arrogant against the wall beside Renfield.

He spoke but the words were silent. Still, I read his lips: “You tell her, Padre!”

Victor disappeared just as quickly as he had appeared. My chest grew cold and numb. I was going insane. I obviously was becoming mad with grief.

Surely Captain McCord would kill me now. An insane ghoul was a danger to all around her. I smiled. Finally, peace would be mine.
The fate of Victor Standish is in your hands. Does he remain dead? Or does he somehow manage to emerge from the shadows? I am 60% finished with BEST OF ENEMIES.

There is still time. Though right now, no sales of THE RIVAL are tipping the scales for Victor to die.


  1. Hi Roland. This is one English class I'm glad I wasn't in, lol. The tension is high right from the start and it continues to sizzle. Although to anyone who hadn't read your previous novels, they would be wondering at the first mention of Victor, as it's unclear (unless you're initiated) who he is and why he suddenly pops in. I had to go back and read a few times to sort out what was happening. You know the story so well, but you mustn't expect others do. Maybe a bit slower???

    This is just my thoughts. Maybe I'm way off. I just tried to read from the point of view of someone who doesn't know these characters.

    The artwork is indeed amazing. I'm sorry to hear The Rival isn't doing well. I've yet to download a copy but you know you're up against it - isn't there something like 100,000+ e-books posted either daily or weekly? Scary competition.


  2. Wow, this was indeed a tension-filled post!

  3. Never mess with a cell phone carrying vampire, even if you do have tenure. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  4. Denise:
    Thanks for the helpful critique. This is but the first part of the first chapter. I do try to fill in the blanks for the readers in the remaining paragraphs.

    The second chapter is one that allows the reader to catch their breath, letting them get the "lay of the land" so to speak.

    Have you ever started watching a TV program that starts with a bang, throws you a curve, then the words appear: "24 hours earlier"?

    My first and second chapters are like that.

    And thanks for the support. I am indeed up against it. But as Victor says, "Impossible just gives birth to legends."

    Speaking of legends, you actually see the genesis of the legend of Excalibur in BEST OF ENMEIES.

    Thanks. Hope you enjoy seeing the character who bears your name done by Leonora Roy.

    Good to see you here again! Don't be such a stranger. Yes, LOL. Renfield, a child of Victorian times as is Sam, loves his high-tech toys!

  5. I have such coverlust! Just popped by to see it. I love all of your artwork. I have someone working on mine - can't wait to see it:)

  6. Lady Gwen:
    I hope your cover art is all that you hope it to be! Leonora Roy is a suburb artist. She deserves better selling books than mine. :-)