Lu’s Bookshelf

With the death of my Kindle, I have gone back and forth between using the phone app and solid tangible books.  The app isn’t perfect and I would love to own a new Kindle, but it isn’t in the cards right now.  And even when it is, I know now that I will never give up my old fashioned smelly books. There is nothing like reading a physical book.

Here is what is on my to-read pile:

Entera Files by Leanna Renee Hieber ~ I started reading this one last night and I am officially hooked.  From the first page, I want to know what is going to happen to Miss Clara Templeton, a gifted sensitive, and a member of a team of scientists, theologians, magicians and philosophers hunting for way to protect the nation’s leader from harm. Set in the period after the civil war, this novel is promising to take me on an amazing journey.

Bloody Bones by Laurell K. Hamilton – I have lost track of the number of times I have read this series.  This is the fifth installment.  It is just before it takes a turn for the erotic. Anita is ass deep in trouble not of her own making.  At this point in the series she isn’t the hero that she will later become. She is a gifted animator (zombie raiser)  and vampire slayer. She comes through with the grace and stubbornness that we will come to expect in the later books.

The Demise of Foxy Jack (Adventures of X Pirates of Book 1)  This is the latest book by Edward Medina and I can’t wait to read it.  Medina writes with the zeal of  showman and the talent of Shakespeare. You can find an excerpt on his blog, Just Sayin’.  The Demise of Foxy Jack follows up where the Murder of Crows left off. The second installment of the new X-Pirate series is coming out on the 28th and I can’t until the next one and I haven’t even read this one, yet.

These are the books that fueling my inspiration this week. What about you?

Casting Off

I was a broken girl

tattered by the love you toss away

Used my scars and tears to build myself

Now

the past is gone and you still live there

calling of all my love obsession

no that’s right

and I would hate to miss quote you

all my love was just a delusion

a silly fantasy

nothing to cry to about

Just one more silly girl broken by your love

 

I was a broken girl

running from my heart ache

ran so much

ran straight into womanhood

left you behind

never really living

tell love found me begging

and I learn my to love myself

and say those magic words

taking my time rolling them off my tongue

 

No!

 

No!!

 

No!!!

 

They are so sweet to hear and

even sweeter to say

 

I was a broken girl

just a little thing cowering

from all the thorns you toss my way

twisted from my own need to be needed

Saying all the right words

but never understanding that my power lies

in my hips and lips

all fueled by

the soul that animates them

 

I am woman, rebuilt from all my heartbreaks

more than a lover, a thinker and action taker,

dancing through the rain of my own memories

splashing in every puddle and laughing all the way

knowing that when I stand up for myself

casting off the labels

casting off delusions

imposed or otherwise

I am the woman

I am meant to be

10 Publishing Lessons From A Newbie (Part 1)

1. IWritingt pays to hire and editor, but know what you are paying for first. 

The best and worse thing that I did when I finished Blood Child was hire an editor.  I had read over and over again about how poorly edited some independent authors published works have been and how it gives a bad name to all of the self-publishing folks. So I hired an editor which was smart. The problem was I could only afford one round of edits and questioning and really didn’t know what questions to ask. I took everything my lovely editor told me (Stephanie, you really were a dream) and thought I was done. Nope, not even close. After I made those changes my sister, Zee, found twenty-one errors in the manuscript right before I was going to approve publishing.

Twenty-one errors.  Twenty-one things that would have taken away from the story that I worked so hard to create.

Those errors ended up delaying publication by two months and costing me over $200  since I had to reformat the book again. It was a nightmare. Still, I would pay for the professional editing again if given the chance. The feedback I received was invaluable.  The notes I received became the basis for the synopsis, helped me focus the book and gain confidence.  The only thing I would and will do differently is give the manuscript to my sister sooner. Her keen eyes were beyond helpful and if I had done it when she first offered I would have saved myself a lot of money and grief.

If you don’t have a sister like mine who can spot typos and other errors then it is worth it to pay for a second round of editing. Yes, it is expensive and there is no way of getting around it. Poor editing will cost you readers.

2. You may not want to tell anyone what you are doing. 

Seriously, you may want to keep your impending book to yourself until it is actually impending.  Your friends and family are well meaning and want to encourage you, but the last thing you want when you are stuck is someone asking you when it is come out every time they see you. It is pure torture. Trust me on this.

It will also help when you are going through the editing and revision process.  It took me more than a year to complete that part of the process.

Now, this doesn’t apply to you inner circle of friends. I don’t think I could have made it through this process if it wasn’t for their support. There were times when comments made by folks outside that circle made me question what I was doing or feel bad about how long the process was taking. Things will always take longer than you think.

Don’t ask me what to do about the second book, I am not there yet.

3. You really do need a marketing plan. 

There are a lot of great books out there and many of them never make their author millions.  Many only make a couple hundred dollars a year. Some make nothing at all. To be successful, you have to a plan.  So do you research and talk with other authors. See how the people who are successful have done it and follow their examples.

Their examples will likely include a whole bunch of work as well as rejection.

Don’t just assume that if you put a good book out there that readers will follow. Yes, you will get a few, but if you don’t market it then no one is going to know about it. Marketing is more than just asking or begging people to buy your book.

Making connections is now a part of the deal.  You are going to talk to people not just flood on-line forums with your books.  I have a satchel by next that I am filling with copies of my book, business cards and book flyers. My regular purse is going to have business cards in it with all my important information, i.e. ways to connect with readers.  Do you have a writer’s blog? Do you at least have an author’s page? Are you on Twitter and Tumblr? Instragram? Should all of the accounts be linked?

These all all questions that I am working on. I do have an author page and instagram, but using them effectively is another story.

4. You will make a mistake (several, if you are lucky) 

Mostly likely more than one.  It may be a big one or a little one. In my case, I made several mistakes. The first was making an unrealistic publication plan. I thought I could finished everything in a two month period.  A year and three months later, Blood Child was published on February 13th. 2015.  Not on October 31st, 2013. It is hard seeing that first release date pass me by, but as a good friend and author of my mine say “Take your time and do it right.”

I learned from that mistake as well as letting my fear paralyze me.  Take it from some of the great writers of our times, typos happen. If they happen to folks like John Green and Neil Gaimen, they will happen to you.

5. You are not only an artist, but now a businessman as well. 

Your dream was to write your book. Now, it is done and you need to get it out there without going broke.  This is not the same as number 3. It is a result of living number 3 and some very direct conversations with friends, a nosy neighbor and family.

Yes, the dream is important.  You wouldn’t have gotten this far without dreams, now that your book is in your hands you want to sell it.  Admit it, you want to make money off of it.  My Kindle is filled with free books. I love them and every time I finish a book, I do review it on Amazon the problem is that not everyone is going to do that.   My own reading schedule has come to a slow crawl between three jobs, writing and well, life.

Business have goals.  Set them and work for them just like you did when you writing your book.

Reviews will help move your book, so how are you going to get them? You can’t assume that your friends and loved ones will put up a review for you. They are more likely just to give the comments to you.  I am still working on this one with Blood Child.  I have gotten good feedback from readers so far two weeks out I don’t have any reviews to use as marking or as feed back.

Part of getting your book out there is knowing when to give it away, how much are you going to charge for it and where to sell it?

Yes, you can sell it on-line via Amazon, but there are other book sellers out there.  How do you get a hold of them?

Should you give away your book on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) every time it is eligible?

What are the pros and cons of selling your books off your own website?

All good questions.  Now go and find the answers.

6.  The Scary Step… 

One thing you need to do and do it sooner than later is let someone read your book. Some one you trust and listen to their feedback.  A book is a precious thing, but it isn’t an actually baby. You can’t protect it and you may need to change something to make it more marketable.

The world and internet are filled with tales of writers who didn’t give in to publishing pressure and were successful.  I admire those people. I really do, but most of us need feedback and we need to know when something doesn’t work.

So listen to the readers and writers you know, consider what they say and then make a decision.

This lesson was brought home to me after my boyfriend read the prologue to the next book. He said “Interesting.” and I had to get the answer out of him.  The prologue made the protagonist sound like she was suicidal, which she wasn’t. He wasn’t the first to tell me that; his answer was the final straw that made me go back and read it like an outsider, not the beloved creator.

And Rae was coming across as if she was on the verge of killing herself. She wasn’t so o I changed it and fell in love with the story again.

7. Writing will change the way you read. 

Today, I was re-reading one of my favorite books and I realized that there was a huge plot hole.  Then I started seeing typos. I have been paying attention to how authors shape stories and create imagery. It is amazing and doesn’t ruin the reading experience; just makes me think.   Basically, I have been reading to improve my own writing. Is it working? I don’t know, but it is making me think and reflect on my writing.

Short quick sentences in an action scene can quicken the pace for the readers.

Chapters don’t have to be a certain number of pages. I actually worried about this when writing and editing Blood Child.

8. It isn’t going to get any easier. 

Your next book isn’t going to write itself and your current book won’t promote itself.  So you have to get started and do something.

One my idols, Amanda Palmer, is a year younger than me. One year younger and she is out there making her dreams come true. I don’t begrudge her a single thing. Not one single thing. She has earned her accolades and awards. And one day I might earn some as well. In the meantime, I have to write and do the work like she did.  Like every person who I admire has done.

So I write. Everywhere I am, I write. Everyday. I write. Maybe not a lot, but words go on to paper or into my digital recorder everyday. Even the days that I say I am taking a break. I do some writing.

9. Be Nice

You are going to get frustrated with all the do’s and don’ts but before you take your aggression and frustration out on-line.  I followed another Indie author for more than a year on twitter when he had a melt-down about editing costs and how he couldn’t afford it.  The rant turned nasty all by itself. I am not sure if anyone else followed.

The copy editor or assistant of today could be the editor tomorrow. Publishing companies go through transitions and the person you think is unimportant now could be the one making the decision on whether to except you book tomorrow.

10. Luck is a part of the game.

In life, you can never discount the importance of luck in life.  So if you get lucky... share it. Pass on the things that helped you get where you are and keep working.  The amazing thing about luck is that there is a component of hard work to it. You need to do the work so when the door opens you are ready to go through it.

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P.S.  Blood Child is available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle formats.

 

 

My Promise

every time you see me

you see the most beautiful me

that there is

and the most beautiful me

that there will ever me

and it is a gift

that you give to me

that I wish so much

so very much

to give back to you

in a new ending loop

of what love is suppose to be

And is

And will be

Shy Lu and the Book Signing

My new books.

My new books.

The hardest thing for people to believe about me is that I am actually shy. The powerful voice I use on the stage or in the classroom isn’t a constant in my life.

This evening, I had the great opportunity to listen to and meet with two fabulous ladies, Leanna Reneee Hieber and Alethea Kontis.  They were bright and answered questions from the crowd and were both incredibly personable. They took their time and talked with everyone that was there.  But that voice of mine wasn’t there.

I was just in awe of these two women who are working authors. They are in many ways living the dream that I hope one day to achieve.

Tonight they gave me hope and four more books to add to my reading list.  A writer always needs a pile of inspiration. Tonight, they also earned a loyal reader.

They also reminded me how grateful I am to have the support that I have in my life. It wasn’t always there in a tangible way.  So please believe me when I say that I am so incredibly thankful for all of your support.  It may not seem like much to like a page or write a comment, but it can mean the world to the person receiving it. It does to me. At the same time, I can’t let myself get caught up in the numbers game (counting each and every like and share).

As of today, Blood Child has sold 49 copies, which might not sound like a lot, but coming from the point where I honestly believed that I would never write  or publish a book; it is awesome.

Just like the women who I met tonight, I am going to continue being nice, working hard and getting myself out there. I will be working on the last one.

 

A Well Lived Life

I don’t know how many mistakes I have made in publishing my first book, but walking back from the Audubon Park Farmer’s Market I realize just how happy I am and that things are good. Not always great, but pretty good. I was able to deliver another one of my books to one of my Kickstarter patrons.  I got a hug in return.

It is always nice when something you wrote is received with a hug and a lot of love.

There is love and laughter everywhere. Even if our expectations of life get in the way of seeing it.

And the past isn’t as bad or as good as I once believed.  It is a mixture of the two. It is a gray area in between.

Some friends of mine posted a link to a video taken back when I was in college. It was good to be reminded of days when I was daring. If you watch the video you will discover that once I was an evil minion.  Maybe that should be the subject my next book, My Life As an Evil Minion.

Good night all.

 

Preview: Blood Child Chapter 3

Blood Child

Coverart by Steven Warrick

Chapter 3

Atalik’s body, according to the county records, was interred on his estate in the family mausoleum. The magnificent mausoleum rivaled that of Heinrich Schliemann’s in Greece, shaped like a temple with marble columns and carved reliefs. It wasn’t an original part of the estate but had been built shortly after the property was purchased.

The architect, Matthew Rodriguez, worked on many of the renovations made to the estate. The mausoleum was one of his last projects. He was fascinated with secret passages and giving his clients a little something extra in each design whether they requested it or not. He died in a car accident returning to the city one weekend after a party at the estate. His will, which was immediately contested by his family, left everything, including his portfolio, to the count. It even when so far as to say that Atalik was the sole executor, which gave Atalik the right to dispose of his body however he choose. Knowing Matthew’s mother was old-school Catholic, he had the body cremated and the ashes mixed in with the cement for a planned extension to the house’s foundations. Atalik had everything in it shipped to the estate.

Atalik liked to infer that he came from old money, so the deceased members of the Bath family were moved from their original resting places to the mausoleum after its completion. It cost him a pretty penny in bribes to move the bodies and begin a cemetery on private land. At one moment he even thought of abandoning the project due to cost, but being defeated by a penny was not something he could allow. Eventually the site was even sanctified by a member of the local clergy to ensure the peaceful rest of its inhabitants. He had never had close relations with any of his family after he graduated from high school. The few living relatives he did have stayed as far away as they could. None of them ever seemed tempted to ask their cousin for a favor beyond being left alone.

According to Em, her father had a secret crypt built in the basement of the house for himself and his “special” wives. It was for the three women who gave him a child. Each one received a cash payment of a million dollars and a swift divorce, and died within two years.

Each was brought back to the estate and interred. All total, Atalik was married seven times, but only three of his wives survived him. Helena Jacqueline Antoinette Bath was in the process of divorcing the old scoundrel when he died. She left the house prior to the funeral, taking her small spending allowance with her. Her refusal to stay and see him buried surprised no one, once she knew the contents of the will. In the nearly decade-long marriage, he had never changed his will. It hadn’t been changed since the year after Emily was born. Her allowance was a provision of the will that allowed for her to receive a cash disbursement of three thousand dollars once a month for five years after his death; after that time the amount would be cut in half. The money was less than a third of what Antoinette spent in a month on clothing, beauty treatments, and entertainment. It was her entertaining of young men that incited the divorce proceedings.

The first time Em saw the crypt was when she was six years old. The youngest, most precocious of the children, she was always wandering away or, in the words of the nannies and tutors, sneaking off. It truly wasn’t malicious. She was just a naturally curious and restless child. Mihaly called her Houdini because of her repeated seemingly impossible escapes from their lessons and training. One moment she was working quietly alongside her brothers, and the next she was gone. It didn’t seem to matter who was watching her; there was always a moment when no one was looking, and she knew how to take advantage of it.

She was smart enough never to explore when her father was in attendance. More than one nanny was fired for failing to keep an eye on little Em. It was impossible in his mind that she could be so clever or they so absent-minded.

It was late in the evening when she slipped out of her room and made her way to the basement. Like the rest of the estate, it was unbelievable huge and mostly off-limits to the children. The buildings were under constant repair and renovation since its purchase. In her young mind, the basement, with its stone floors, timbers, and dust, was King Minos’s labyrinth beneath his Cretan palace, where Athenian youth were sacrificed to the bloodthirsty Minotaur.

Em was pretending to be the hero, Theseus, who saves the princess from the beastly Minotaur, when she heard the rhythmic sounds of footsteps hitting the stone floor in unison. She swiftly moved behind one of the wine racks. Her father, his manservant, Gerald, and four robed men came into the chamber. The men, who worked in various positions on the grounds, were carrying a long ebony box. The party came to an abrupt stop at the far end of the room. It seemed like they would have continued to walk forward into the stone wall if Gerald’s arm had not flowed up as a signal to stop.

Fear and intrigue held her tightly in place. She thought they would merely be depositing the crate and returning momentarily. After all, there was no place for the men to go except the way they came. She crouched as low as she could while still keeping an eye on the strange group.

Her father raised his arms and began muttering in Latin. When he finished, a section of the wall slid back, and the ensemble entered the newly formed doorway. Em nearly snickered at her father’s horrid elocution; had she demonstrated such poor pronunciation, she would have received a beating that would continue until she corrected the error. Consequently, she and her siblings practiced continually, drilling one another until they had mastered each lesson. Mihaly led his younger siblings in these drills. Sometimes they sneaked into one another’s rooms to prepare for assessments. No matter how intensely they practiced, their father and the tutors always found a reason to punish them.

The door closed as quickly as it had opened. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it didn’t deter Em. This mystery was too much for her to pass up, so she waited, watching, shivering on the icy floor. The Minotaur was safe for another night.

By the time they came out of the chamber, Em had nearly fallen asleep; only the return of rhythmic footsteps sounded just in time to keep her from nodding off completely and banging her head on the floor.

She waited until after the stomping sound had ceased to echo before she moved to investigate. It didn’t take her long to find the floor latch and open the crypt’s door. Secretly, she praised the Hardy Boys novels she had recently finished for helping her quickly locate the trigger for the door. Not that she would ever tell Mihaly, who had suggested the series. It just wasn’t proper to let your big brother know you thought he was cool or appreciated his advice.

The chamber was lit from an aperture running around the perimeter between the wall and stone floor. A shiver dashed down her spine when she noted the eerie similarity of this chamber to the one in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum.”

In the center was a stone sepulcher with her father’s name etched into it, along with his birth date and an epitaph—the date of his death waited to be carved. Along the walls three ebony boxes exactly like the one she had seen carried in were standing on end facing the sepulcher, except these boxes appeared to have glass fronts. There was one for each of the three walls before her.

Had Em been a fearful child, she would have run from the room and not taken another step. However, the physical and emotional abuse she had endured prevented her from experiencing the normal fears of a six-year-old child; she had seen too much and knew it wouldn’t kill her.

The boxes were like shiny bobbles left out for a magpie to snatch; the least she could do was inspect them. Em moved towards the one on the left for no other reason than her eye had turned in that direction. As she advanced on her target, an unexpected queasy feeling built in her stomach. She attributed it to the cook’s latest experiment, not knowing any better.

There are some things in this world that every child should be prevented from seeing, but Em continued forward, as she always had and always would. It only made sense in her mind to keep moving. She had no way of knowing what the crypt truly held or how similar its contents would be to one of Poe’s chilling tales.

The faint light caused her eyes to strain; however, the figure of a woman was becoming clear. Forward. Always forward. A foot away from the glass, details came into focus. Another chill ran through Em. The woman’s face was obscured by a veil, so Em tried to balance on her tiptoes for a better look. Her failure landed her face first on the frigid stone floor.

Her head ached, but her eyes widened when she read the name—Marcella E. Bath, her mother’s name—etched on the base in golden script. To her credit she didn’t scream or run from the room. She did crawl to the next black casket and then the last, reading the names of her brothers’ mothers.

Making her way back up to the main house, Em began to build a wall between her consciousness and the new knowledge, trying to shred apart the carefully constructed mental configuration that kept her young mind from collapsing in on itself. Children, after all, are the ultimate survivors. Forward, just keep moving forward. Back out of the basement, through the kitchen to the back staircase, up to the second floor, and down the hall to the nursery.

At six years old, she still slept in the nursery and would continue to do so until she turned eleven, when she had her first period. The decor of the nursery reflected Atalik’s predatory nature. The furnishings were all dark wood, and a mural of a jungle took up the largest wall in the room. The animals weren’t cute or cartoony, but realistic. In two of the corners, a hunter was positioned with rifle in hand, aiming toward the animals in the center. The opposing walls contained trophies from Atalik’s various hunting expeditions. A pair of kudos with their stately spiraled horns took up positions on either side of the door, with a lioness positioned directly over it. A few of the nannies interviewed by Atalik declined the position after seeing the room he had so thoughtfully decorated for his children.

The light flicked on as soon as she entered; Atalik sat on the bed, patting it slightly. His face wore its usual sinister smirk, a forewarning of his intentions. Em didn’t even freeze for a single moment. Hesitation would only make things worse. Forward she walked, taking her place beside her loving father and silently sliding the last brick in place. She had learned not to flinch when her father reached for her.

His hands gently brushed the hair away from her forehead. The grin dissolved when he noticed the mark blooming on her temple.

“Tell Papa how this came to be.”

“I was playing, and I fell, Papa.”

“And where was Ms. Kasik?”

She tilted her eyes down, trying her best to appear demure and innocent; manipulation was a survival skill she had learned early.

Mmm,” she said as she bit her lips slightly, “I went into the cellar when she wasn’t looking.”

“The cellar is out of bounds, young lady.”

“I know, Papa. I apologize for breaking the rules. I wanted to play where the boys wouldn’t hear me. They think playing Theseus and the Minotaur is moronic.”

“I see. And that is how you got the bruise, fighting the Minotaur again?”

Em nodded a shy affirmation. The wicked grin returned as Atalik tucked her into bed, placing a tender kiss on her forehead. Exiting the room, he chose the door leading to Ms. Kasik’s room.

As much as he relished disciplining his offspring, he never tolerated anyone else doing so without permission. The offense was especially odious if a visible mark resulted. Ms. Kasik was clearly guilty of neglecting and thereby injuring her charge.

The next day Miss Amber Russo, the nanny for her brothers Andras and Sandor came in to prepare her for breakfast. Em asked about her nanny and was dismissed quickly. The next week a new nanny was hired, a Ms. Ingrid Picador from Newark, New Jersey. She would remain with the family for three years before exiting in a similarly mysterious manner.

Atalik had a hedge maze built on the property for the amusement of the children. Em was allowed to play in the maze without her brothers under the supervision of her new nanny. She never went into the basement again to play.

The fate of Ms. Andrea Kasik is unknown. No record could be found of her being employed after her dismissal. She wasn’t the first or last employee to go missing over the twenty-five years that Atalik lived at the estate. Detective Anderson told me when I spoke with him that there wasn’t anything they could do. No one could find anything substantial to link the estate with their disappearances—no bodies, no evidence, no crime. Strangely enough, very few missing persons cases were filed. They just vanished. Charges couldn’t be filed based on rumors and speculation.

If you’d like more information on Lucinda’s work, subscribe to this blog, follow her on Twitter, like her page on Facebook .

Preview: Blood Child Chapter 2

Blood Child

Coverart by Steven Warrick

Chapter 2

Em and her brothers were born and grew up at the New York Bathory estate. Their births all took place in the house itself, attended by a midwife and a physician in a room built specially for the receiving of Bath heirs. Their father, Count Atalik Hedrick Bath, insisted on having access to all four children. As a result, they would be homeschooled so he could guide their education. This guidance included beatings if they did not perform up to his expectations.

Beginning at six o’clock each morning, Monday through Saturday, their daily lessons included Latin, Greek, arithmetic, literature, history, music, and science. They took a break about eleven for lunch and athletics, returning to their studies no later than two. All the Bath children were excellent equestrians, among other things. The youngest boys, Andras and Sandor, were accomplished fencers as well as fraternal twins. Mihaly, the oldest, was a skilled marksman who had turned down the US Olympic team. His father would never have let him out of his sight long enough to train, so why entertain the idea?

Atalik wanted his children under his complete control. His mind was the only mind allowed to influence them. The various nannies, tutors, and coaches over the years never said a word about the abuse the children suffered. Money lined pockets and sealed their lips.

On Sundays the family, along with the stepmother of the moment, would head into town to attend the First Methodist Church of Wanaka. It was a forty-five-minute drive that took place in complete silence. Atalik insisted that the time be used for reflection. Once there he would lead the family to the front row, never speaking or greeting anyone along the way. They would retreat in the same manner back to the estate and spend the rest of the day in yet more silent contemplation. Often the children would read passages of the Bible to their parents in the evening. Atalik would then give his own unique biblical interpretation, sometimes lasting for three or four hours, depending on the quality of the liquid fuel he ingested during his personal contemplation time in his study. A Ms. Emma Cathill was fired from her position for suggesting that it wasn’t right for him to get drunk on a Sunday. Her firing was one of the few that didn’t result in a mysterious accident or disappearance two or three months later.

The presence of the eerily stoic family unnerved the rest of the congregation to the point that when Em was ten years old, they were asked to leave. The Bath family was infamous in the small community even before the massacre. Interviews I had conducted prior confirmed the family’s banishment. The current minister hadn’t been a great deal of help, but his secretary, a lovely woman named Glenda, had all sorts of juicy information. The story was pretty much the same except for rumors about an affair with several of the ladies on the church board. The last lady reported to have been disarmed by Atalik’s charms had been the former minister’s wife. Each of the women had approached him seeking a donation for one committee or another and always ended up receiving more than just funds.

Margret Mitchell Hanopy was one of those women. She had been married for twenty-five years to the chief of police in Wanaka. Never strayed a day in her life, and looked down on any woman who spent just one moment longer than she deemed necessary with a man who was not her husband. Her pride made her the perfect target, and she fell hard and fast for him. For a split second, she thought he might leave the wife du jour for her. Her breakdown was public and cost her husband the next election. Not surprisingly, someone more suitable to Atalik’s needs was elected the next go-round.

Em didn’t step foot in the village of Wanaka until four years later, when her father’s car stopped to get gas before taking her to college. One of her stepmothers convinced Atalik it would draw unwanted attention to the family if she didn’t attend school. It was a good thing that online school wasn’t big at the time; otherwise, Em might never have been allowed to leave home.

At nineteen she was tall, shy, and awkward, but smarter than any of her future classmates hoped to be. She slipped into the store to get a soda to wet her dry throat. When Atalik discovered her absence, he strode into the store and dragged her out by her hair. The soda was still on the counter when they sped away. Em said she thought it would be OK, given the freedom she would enjoy at school.

A police report was filed; however, the case was never pursued. The owner of the gas station confirmed this version of events. He also admitted to altering his account after receiving a check from Mr. Bath, or Count Bathory, as he insisted on being called. The check paid for his son’s entire college tuition.

The count liked to pay for things. He found it far easier to give someone who had nothing a check than to waste other resources on that person. His charisma in the beginning was not strong enough to talk a dog into a walk. It would grow and grow over the years, but the easiest way to get what he wanted remained through purchasing it. The title he tossed around was also purchased from a relative, despite it having no meaning in this country. Em renounced it upon receiving her inheritance. It was her way of distancing herself from his legacy—a legacy that Em assured me was going to be far bloodier than her infamous ancestor. I inquired how that could be, since the Countess Bathory had a death toll estimated to be close to six hundred and fifty.

It was then that I received a history lesson. She explained that the Blood Countess was only convicted for eighty deaths, and reports of her bathing in the blood of virgins were added later after Bram Stoker published his famous tome. The countess, like most of the aristocracy of her day, disciplined her servants harshly to prevent any sort of uprising and to maintain total supremacy. The countess excelled at keeping those she considered hers in line; the occasional death was not uncommon. The death of a peasant was not considered a capital offense. It was only when the countess began to discipline the daughters of minor nobles that any sort of fuss was raised, and that was only after her political usefulness had been depleted by the crown. Her objection to paying her share of the crown’s debts owed by her and her family was also a factor in her being brought to trial.

Still, the countess hadn’t acted alone. She had a little gang of cronies who carried out her will and in some cases enforced it without the countess ever having said a word. They would end up betraying their mistress at the trial, saying she ate bits of her victims’ flesh. Their testimony would serve as the basis for bloody tales in the future. Then, as now, people wanted to cash in on whatever was popular to make money. It worked, and the infamy of the countess grew while her cronies disappeared into the fabric of history.

If I didn’t believe her, I could read her translation of the countess’s diary. She would happily give me a copy.

The diary mentioned in the trial had been lost or, more accurately, misplaced by the countess’s castellan, Imre Vasvary. He was in charge of her affairs after her arrest and managed her personal papers as well as her husband’s. Her beloved count had died in service to the emperor. It was his death that truly spelled the end for the countess. Emperor Matthias II sought to take control of the vast holdings that had been created by her marriage to the count. Vasvary lived for many years after his mistress’s death and served her son, Pal (Paul), and the other Bathory children until his death.

Atalik found the diary on one of his trips to Hungry. It had been authenticated using letters written by the countess, but it had never been released to be authenticated by the academic community. Atalik didn’t want to share his prize with anyone. Emily opted to keep it a secret because its release would do nothing to repair the tarnished reputation of the countess and would also bring the connection between Bath and Bathory into the public’s eye. One branch of the family choose to change the name shortly after coming to the U.S. It was common for new arrivals to change difficult names or in the case of the Bath family make a break from the past.

While the journal was recovered, the final resting place of the Infamous Lady was never found. It was reported that she was buried at the church at Cesjthe in 1614, only to be moved three years later to the Bathory estate. The crypt there and at a family estate in Nyirbator had been opened at various points; neither contained her remains.

The manner in which Atalik Bath passed from this life to the next was just as mysterious as his infamous ancestor. Atalik died in his home, attended by no one. He, like the Countess Bathory, was found dead at two in the morning after complaining that his hands were cold the night before. His death certificate listed the cause of death as heart failure. Atalik was just sixty-four years of age.

Atalik’s methods of research were unorthodox; he used psychics and thieves. Psychics were used to locate leads genealogists couldn’t, and thieves were used to steal artifacts buyers wouldn’t part with, sometimes even resorting to grave robbing. Everything was verified by a separate set of genealogists or psychics, depending on how the information was originally obtained. The results they yielded were still questionable, but Atalik was confident his money had bought him the truth. A lack of confidence was never his weakness—perhaps a tragic flaw, if there had ever been an ounce of goodness in him.

Emily’s father was far more discreet than the countess ever had an occasion to be. People didn’t die; they simply vanished or died with a reasonable explanation as to the cause. Atalik’s abusive nature intensified after his banishment. He had always been a sexual sadist, but the number of former employees increased exponentially afterward. Court records from his five divorces confirmed that all of his wives accused him of various degrees of sexual deviance. All but one of them recanted their accusations after receiving a generous settlement.

Marcella Bath, Emily’s mother, died in a car accident prior to any agreement being made. Her parents claimed that Atalik was responsible, but no connection was ever found. They died in a house fire six months to the day after they had buried their daughter. They would never see their granddaughter.

Em agreed to give me the names and contact information for some of her tutors growing up; she wasn’t sure they would talk to me, but there was a chance, now that her father as well as the New York statute of limitations on child abuse had expired. She produced two of her father’s scrapbooks, which contained photographs and notes on his sexual encounters with two of the tutors.

The first scrapbook documented five years of his relationship with Martha Vane, the Latin tutor. The first page contained a copy of her resume and a photograph of Ms. Vane. It was black and white and faded. She looked like June Cleaver, with her permed hair and a carefully tailored suit. Before turning to the next page, Em finished her glass of wine and returned to the kitchen for the bottle. I finished my glass in one swallow after seeing what those pages contained.

“You looked at these?”

            “Yes, of course.” Her tone was oddly down-to-earth, but she didn’t offer to explain.

            “All of them?”

            “Yes, all twenty-seven.”

            I nearly choked on the next sip of wine. Why in God’s name would you look at all of them?”

“To prove to myself that it wasn’t just a bad dream. My therapist said I needed to confront my past in order to stop living in it. So yes, I looked at every single page and photograph.”

            “Are there pictures of you?” My words stumbled out of my mouth, trying to shake the images of bodies tangled. The reality that some of the young faces staring feebly back from the photos were Atalik’s own children. He had molested his own kids, taken pictures, and then lovingly created twenty-seven albums. “But why keep them?”

            “Proof that my father was insane. That my siblings and myself were victims not complicit in his crimes. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean they were innocent as adults, but I know in my heart they weren’t evil like him. As we continue, my brothers’ innocence must be maintained. I can’t bear the thought of their memories being dragged through the muck. They deserve better.” Em’s eyes watered, but she didn’t start to cry. She took several deep breaths and regained her composure.

“Is this why you didn’t have them buried with your father at the estate?”

“Yes, but my father isn’t buried there either.”

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