Happy Saturday! Every day is a little closer to the release of ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN, and I’m so excited by the little gems of feedback that are popping up here and there on social media. One reviewer wrote to me that it inspired her to go watch the La Llorona movie that just came out . . . oh man. First, let me promise you all that ROSES is not a horror story meant to give you nightmares. La Llorona is. Whenever you get to the book, you’ll understand exactly why this reviewer wanted to go watch the movie! (Full disclosure: I don’t know this person, but I’m confident she must be braver than me. I don’t have the heart to watch La Llorona in theaters…)
Oh, how the crazy crying ghost story used to scare the pants off me as a kid. Especially when it was storming outside, and the wind was strong enough to pull open the screen door when I was at my grandmother’s house…
But if you’re up for a story within a story, I have the first excerpt for you from ROSES today. If you’ve read The Carver, you just might recognize the storyteller. If you haven’t, don’t worry! You’ll learn all about the man before you’re done reading…
The dwarf paced back and forth, tugging his beard in alternating motions like cow udders. While he got over his fit, I checked out his home. This guy seemed like the least likely person to put wanted posters around the city for a dragon’s death. Reptilian figurines lined his shelves, golden eggs the size of my head sat in silver bowls, and paintings of winged beasts clung to every inch of the wall. And yet, here stood a man who was blubbering like he had a phobia. When he finally stopped pacing, he poured three goblets of wine without asking. I wondered if it was juice at first, but the smell stung my nostrils, and I vowed not to touch it.
Zid gulped his wine, wiped his lips, and then slammed his goblet down in front of him. “I’ll have you know that I used to be a dragon trainer. I’ve bred and raised a few. I fed them and exercised them and advocated for their rights. See that one on the wall right there?” He pointed to a painting of a dragon that oddly seemed to be smiling. “My Draco. I loved him dearly, so much that I had to move him into Grimm’s Hollow with a friend. He was too big and too free for my little yard.”
A tear sparkled like a marble in Zid’s eye.
Karina offered a smile. “I can imagine you’re very passionate about dragons.”
“Was,” Zid said. “Until Verdoro.”
I gripped the sides of my chair, ready for some kind of story. We needed a thunderclap and a theater spotlight to properly set the mood.
Zid cleared his throat dramatically, rising on his toes to make himself look taller. “Verdoro first plagued Florindale Square some time ago. You can imagine my excitement when I first saw those scales. He was a dream. Most people ran in fear, but I wanted to talk to him. They can understand us, you know. They know our tones, our intentions, and our body language. But when he burned down Midas’s Pub without provocation, I knew there was something . . . off about him. Dragons do not descend on civilization to burn or consume unprovoked. They’re actually quite gentle. Leave them be—respect them—and they shall never hurt a soul.”
Based on that statement alone, I knew Zid would’ve become fast friends with Tio. Coffee shop buddies. I tried to picture them broing out, and I almost laughed. The trouble was I didn’t agree with Zid’s statement at all, and Karina clearly didn’t either.
“My uncle did nothing to the dragon,” she said. “It came out of nowhere and took him away with no good reason.”
“That’s because this one’s different,” Zid said. “As if Hades itself spat him out. He cannot be reasoned with or tamed. Believe me, I was the only one foolish enough to keep trying. I considered that he might be a shifter—a human who’s dabbled in dark arts to assume another form at will.”
Karina and I exchanged wide-eyed glances. Real life shifters? Like Dracula and his bat form? Or the blue lady from the X-Men comics? Neither of them was very nice.
Zid must’ve sensed my discomfort because he waved a hand and said, “But I have doubts. Humans have different auras that don’t go away when they turn. You can sense it. Go figure, we finally settle into a period of peace, free of curses and evil queens, and now we have Verdoro returning at random intervals to terrorize Florindale. Sometimes he engulfs buildings. The Woodlands are dying. Sometimes he batters a living being and leaves them there to suffer, as if he enjoys the sport of torturing people.”
My stomach churned. What was the monster doing to my tio?
“I should say there are few who have ventured out to hunt him. None have returned, and not a soul wishes to attempt the journey anymore, even with the rather generous reward on Verdoro’s head. It feels as though we are destined to settle into our fear, to keep one eye fixed on the clouds until the monster finally plummets from them. Unfortunately, the life of such a beast spans ages we do not care to wait for.”
Rina and I grew up with some messed up legends. Mom liked to scare us with La Llorona, the crying ghost woman that took bad kids away. But never an actual dragon.
Karina put on that famous Rosas concentration stare, like she was taking an X-ray of Zid. “What do you think is the lifespan of somebody who’s been taken by the dragon?”
Zid frowned, deep lines appearing on his forehead. “I’m sorry, younglings.” He refilled his goblet and then drained it again. “Nobody’s ever come back.”
There’s still time to download an ARC of ROSES if you’re interested in getting it for free! Most of them have been claimed already, but there are about 8 left last I checked. As for the eBook, it’s on preorder for $2.99 where digital books are sold! Try Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Apple . . . they’re everywhere, and they’ll hit your ereader on April 30th!