The Momentum Blog

Cover reveal – Limerence: Book Three of The Cure by Charlotte McConaghy

Posted December 11, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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No injection can cure love. Only life can do that.

Deep in the darkest tunnels hide the last of the resistance fighters. Hunted by the savage Furies and the ruthless Bloods, they live in constant peril. The only means of survival is to seek strength in family and find courage in love. So what happens when love is cured, scoured away, leaving death in its place?

In the final battle for freedom, there are no lines that won’t be crossed. And for Josi this means becoming the creature she fears most of all: the girl with a blood moon heart.

The gripping conclusion to the dystopian trilogy The Cure, Limerence is a love story for the monsters within.

Perfect for fans of Pierce Brown, Laini Taylor and Maggie Stiefvater.


Limerence: Book Three of The Cure (Omnibus Edition) is released on the 14th of April. Pre-order your copy now!

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Cover reveal: Limerence episodes 1-3 by Charlotte McConaghy

Posted December 4, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Limerence: Episode 1

Limerence-Ep1

No injection can cure love. Only life can do that.

Deep in the darkest tunnels hide the last of the resistance fighters. Hunted by the savage Furies and the ruthless Bloods, they live in constant peril. The only means of survival is to seek strength in family and find courage in love. So what happens when love is cured, scoured away, leaving death in its place?

In the final battle for freedom, there are no lines that won’t be crossed. And for Josi this means becoming the creature she fears most of all: the girl with a blood moon heart.

The gripping conclusion to the dystopian trilogy The Cure, Limerence is a love story for the monsters within.

Perfect for fans of Pierce Brown, Laini Taylor and Maggie Stiefvater.

Released 11th February 2016. Pre-order now!


Limerence: Episode 2

Limerence-Ep2

Killing a Blood asks for a piece of your soul.

The Josephine that has returned to the tunnels is a version broken by her disappearance. And while she is propelling the resistance fighters toward action, demanding knife-edge precision, Luke is tormented by his lost memories and the transformation of his wife. His desperation to understand grows by the day, threatening his ability to lead his people.

As relationships shift, new alliances form and secrets hang heavy, the tunnels grow ever more dangerous.

Who exactly has Josephine Luquet become, and what is she hiding?

Perfect for fans of Pierce Brown, Laini Taylor and Maggie Stiefvater.

Released 25th February 2016. Pre-order now!


Limerence: Episode 3

Limerence-Ep3

Hal spoke of taming the animal within. But I think he was wrong. I think we’re meant to let it free.

Josi is lost in the wilderness, surrounded by the savagery of an animal world. With the horror of her memories finally revealed, she becomes more and more like the creatures holding her captive.

This is what it takes to survive, and surviving is what Josephine does. If cutting ties to her once-happy life is the price she must pay for the atrocities she’s committed, then cut them she will. Love slips through hands drenched in blood, after all, and Falon Shay must die.

But what exactly is she fighting for, if she truly believes that love can be cured?

In the conclusion to the thrilling dystopian trilogy The Cure, Josephine and Luke face the greatest enemy of all: the one that lies within.

Perfect for fans of Pierce Brown, Laini Taylor and Maggie Stiefvater.

Released 10th March, 2016. Pre-order now!

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Five tips for aspiring science fiction writers

Posted April 28, 2014 by Charlotte McConaghy

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1. World Building: What if this continues?

Whether you do this as your first job or your last, building your world carefully and meticulously is one of the most important aspects of all spec-fiction. This doesn’t just apply to fantasy writers who can literally make up new worlds and therefore have both more freedoms and more difficulties in the task, but to science-fiction writers, horror writers—all spec-fic writers. Making changes to our existing world can feel a bit like a trap, but as long as you think as honestly and as logically as possible, you shouldn’t have too many people yelling ‘that doesn’t make sense!’ (Who are we kidding—there will always be some.)

Science-fiction exists to teach, engage, inspire, warn, excite and frighten. If something frightens you about the world, then chances are it will frighten others. Ask yourself What if this continues? What if these actions, or this train of thought, or this behavior continues? What will it mean for the world? (For example what if we really do become capable of singularity—that one really freaks me out.) And then let your imagination run wild. And you aren’t only tapping into fear, but wonder, awe, beauty. Take us up and forward and give us new realities that are based on what we know, what we desire, what we fear. Peel back the layers of comfort and show us what hides in the shadows of the world—and in the dark interiors of ourselves.

Human hubris is an important theme in science-fiction, for what frightens and excites us most as humans is our obsession with progress—an aspect of humanity that will never fade or die. We didn’t learn from Icaris who flew too high and died for it. We know this. We fear this. And that’s why we write about it: to teach, engage, inspire, warn, excite and frighten.

So use yourself as the test—whatever it is that engages you as a person will be what you use to shape your world. Really challenge yourself to think deeply, allow yourself to be confronted and inspired, because there’s no use in building a world that won’t provoke your readers.

 

2. Multiple POV and Time Periods

I personally love multiple points of view—I would never be able to write an entire novel from the one perspective, but that’s just a personal preference. If you’re trying to work out whether or not to use multiple POV, perhaps understanding the benefits will help you decide.

The main one, for me, is being able to see a character—particularly a protagonist inside whose head we’ve just inhabited—from another character’s perspective. Give the reader an intimate insight into what a character is thinking, and then let us see how another perceives them. There’s a great gap inherent in that—how are they really coming across? How do their actions make other people feel? It paints a more thorough picture, one with more complexity—because we are never quite what we seem to others. You also learn an awful lot about the second character, their perceptions and what they are managing to interpret in the protagonist.

It all boils down to the fact that as readers, we want to know the characters of the world, without having them all blurt out every little thing they’re thinking—there’s nothing worse than too much expositional dialogue. Having multiple POV allows for more subtext between characters and conflicting perspectives, which will help you to argue your premise.

Multiple time periods is another interesting tool that can be put to use. It sounds like it’s going to be confusing and it is, but there’s a simple trick to it. There are two rules to using multiple time periods: first, only use two different periods and work out the chronological events of both timelines separately. Second, move between the two time periods by only cutting away from one at a cliffhanger or twist. That way no matter how great one time period is, readers will be itching to know what’s going on in the other—and that’s the main point of having two running simultaneously: you get to create more tension, more intrigue. Which brings us to the number one reason people keep reading: to know what’s going to happen next.

 

3. Research

Science-fiction tends to fit within a scale of soft to hard science. Hard meaning real science that exists in the world today; soft meaning made up science that can often lean more towards fantasy. There is no right or wrong—both are just as valid as the other. But regardless of whether or not you’re writing hard or soft fantasy, I can’t stress the importance of researching enough. You don’t have to lay it on too thick in the book—we’re not reading a research paper—but it’s really great for you as the author to know what’s going on behind the scenes in the engine of the book. This will come through in drips and drabs and make the world feel more authentic.

 

4. Character

Character is key. It is everything. The most imaginative and clever worlds will fail to engage readers if you don’t also have fantastic characters to live within these worlds. When I wrote Fury, my protagonist Josephine existed long before I had the idea of a society with negative emotions being erased. She existed outside this world, helped to shape her surrounds, and gave birth to every tiny aspect of the science-fiction within the book.

Your character must be flawed. They must have desires and fears and contradictions, but you also have to think about how these elements of the character reflect and counterpoint the flaws of the world. The struggle your protagonist goes through on their journey should hold within it the premise of the world, the argument you are posing. If you can embody the theme of your story within your character, you have done the hardest and most important job of all.

Don’t forget, also, little things like having romantic characters who challenge the character to live in their essence—who they really are—instead of in the false identity they create and must eventually shed. The romantic character, as well as the antagonist, will force your protagonist to learn something, and you want readers to learn with them.

Take as much care with your side characters as you do with your main characters. Make them distinct and complex. Allow their qualities to be varying. Give them opinions and beliefs and fears that flesh them out as characters and they will in turn flesh out your world.

And lastly, make sure your protagonist is active. Give them something to do, a goal or desire that is properly motivated and compelling, and then make it really, really difficult for the character to achieve that end. It’s only by throwing problems at them that we can learn who they really are—the choices a character makes are the embodiments of their personality. The harder you make these choices, the more pressure you put on them, the more interesting things get.

 

5. Be Bold: Premise

What are you really trying to say? What do you want readers to think about? What do you want them to feel? What concerns you, conflicts you, makes your heart swell?

You don’t have to have all the answers—you just have to ask the questions.

And do this by being bold. Don’t concern yourself with offending anyone. Just ask the big, hard questions and demand a lot from your readers. Write ambitiously, write with passion and write with courage. Who cares what other people think? Follow your heart; it beats with as much validity as anyone else’s.

 

 

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Charlotte McConaghy is the author of Fury: Book One of The Cure, available now where all good ebooks are sold

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Excerpt: Fury: Episode 2 by Charlotte McConaghy

Posted March 24, 2014 by Momentum

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In the tradition of Divergent comes a novel about a world where negative emotions are stolen … and only those with fury can stand up and fight.
Eighteen-year-old Josephine Luquet wakes up naked and covered in blood on the same day every year—when the blood moon is full. Josi has not responded to the “Cure”—an immunization against anger mandated by the government—and believes herself to be a threat to others.
Then she meets Luke. Luke has had the Cure but seems different than the other “drones”—and he’s dead set on helping Josi discover the truth about herself before the next blood moon.
But time is running out. Is Luke willing to risk his life to be near her? Does he truly understand what violence she is capable of?
Raw and full of passion, Fury is a story of love in a dystopian world, and how much we are willing to forgive in the struggle to remember our humanity.
This is a novella-length episode of Fury. It will continue with Episode 3 on 25th March. 

Chapter Seven

September 13th, 2065

Josephine

Anthony is staring at me. He hasn’t interrupted me once in the last two hours. He has simply watched my face with that expression they all wear, all the drones. I imagine they must be trying very hard to feel the right thing, but I don’t think they are ever sure.

“Would you like to take a break?” he asks. And that’s when I see the strangeness in his eyes. The softness. He’s never looked at me this way before—as if he cares about me.

“No, I’m all right,” I say, voice dry. The quicker we get this done the quicker I speak to Luke. Jesus, even thinking about him makes me all crazy. I reach over and try to push the window further open. The sun is setting and the air is cool, but I can smell everything the rain has left behind and it makes the slight trembling in my fingers stop.

“You don’t look … all right,” Anthony points out quietly.

I decide to tell him the truth, because the trembling is making me afraid. “It’s the curse. For days leading up to it, and weeks after, my body fails.” I stand and cross to the desk. Briefly I show him the blood coming from my gums and my fingernails.

“Josephine!” he exclaims, standing in his chair. “What’s caused this?”

“I just told you.”

“We need to get you straight into the nurse’s station.”

“They won’t find any reason for the bleeding,” I warn him. “I’ve been to dozens of doctors. Not one of them could figure it out. They said that my body was behaving like a body does during organ failure, but none of my organs are failing. You’ve seen my file, right?”

He stares at me worriedly. I know the file he’s been working from is a psych evaluation, because according to the doctors I’ve seen my symptoms have no physical cause and therefore must be caused by mental problems. The best they could do to explain this absurdity to me was to use an analogy about husbands feeling sympathy pains when their wives go into labor. My body apparently sympathizes with my fucked-up head, so if someone can just get some drugs to work on me, then the problem’s solved.

Story of our civilization: all problems can be solved with a bucket load of pharmaceuticals.

“I’m okay,” I tell Anthony gently. “For now, anyway. Let’s keep going.”

He loosens his tie, clearly trying to rid himself of the unruly feelings he suddenly seems to be dealing with. He sits down, puts his glasses on and takes them off again, then looks at me and nods.

I cross back to the window. “I moved out.”

“That didn’t last long,” he comments. “Two months?”

“Yeah. Everything with Luke and me was fast. Out of control. I had this sense that nothing could slow the two of us down except making sure there was no ‘two of us’. I got out of there and went back to my crap box of an apartment. I got a job at a bar where all the girls got tips if they dressed revealingly. None of the men tried to touch me—none of them even looked at me. I got no tips no matter how I dressed.”

“Why?” The doc seems genuinely confused by this.

I level him with a stare. “Tell me the truth, Anthony. If you hadn’t been forced to spend an hour a day with me for the last year, how would you respond to me?”

He doesn’t reply.

“You barely glanced at me for weeks in the beginning,” I remind him. “You knew without needing to be told that there was something different about me. Your instincts were to distance yourself from me, to make sure you didn’t make any contact. You have a basic human awareness of danger that has been incorrectly spooked because your cure causes your brain to send the wrong signals at the wrong times.” I pause and then shrug with shoulders that ache. “Or maybe your sense of danger is spot-on. Maybe your instincts sense the truth your mind can’t believe: that I’ve spilt a lot of blood.”

Anthony hesitates long enough to confirm that this is exactly right. I don’t need him to confirm it for me anyway—I’ve been around the truth my entire life.

“So you left Luke before anything could happen between the two of you,” Anthony says. “A response from your childhood.”

I don’t want to talk about my childhood. I don’t want to blame my problems with Luke on the crap that happened to me as a kid. That seems like the easy way out. It seems like the definition of cowardice. “I left to protect him,” I say bluntly.

“From what?”

“Me!” I snap. “Protect him from me, you idiot. Are you really that dumb?”

“Let’s not get agitated.”

You make me agitated.”

He obviously doesn’t know what to say. “Do you want to continue? Do you need some water?”

“I’m fine.” God, sometimes all I want is to punch him in the mouth.

“If you get so annoyed by my calm demeanor, then why didn’t you get just as annoyed with Luke?”

I open my mouth but can’t think of anything to say. “Sometimes I did. A lot of the time, actually. But he wasn’t … he was different. He wasn’t as bad as you.” I think for a moment that Anthony is hurt, but quickly realize how stupid that thought is. Nothing I say has any effect on him, except maybe to exasperate him. I swallow and put my hands out the window, turning them this way and that. This slight movement hurts, but I like the fresh air too much to care. Then the blood on my fingernails catches the orange light of the sinking sun and I wrench my hands inside again, squeezing my eyes shut.

She’s coming for me. She prowls at the edge of her cage, but soon she’ll be strong enough to break free, and I’ll be so weak and sick that I won’t even have a chance at holding her back. Doors with locks and guards with weapons aren’t enough to stop her. I don’t know what will ever be enough.

My eyes hurt, so I lean back on the couch and keep them closed while I speak. I picture Luke the whole time, even though it hurts more than my body is starting to.

December 21st, 2063

Josephine

The slaughterhouse stinks of blood. It’s cavernous and has been sitting empty for years, by the looks of it. I climb in through a shattered window and wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Huge meat hooks hang from the ceiling, glinting red with rust. Puddles of old liquid dot the floor, and I pick my way gingerly through them, peering around for any sign that I was here once.

Plastic sheets hang against some of the walls, covered in mold, and I push them aside to try and see the layout of the building. There’s a set of stairs that leads down into an even darker, creepier room beneath the ground. More meat hooks hang in long rows, attached to chains that run the length of the roof. There’s a big green button on the wall and, even though I know my curiosity never leads me anywhere good, I always give into it.

The button is stiff when I press it. The chains creak and jingle alarmingly, and then the tracks in the roof start to move with a long shriek of metal against metal. The meat hooks slowly grind around in a long circle, swinging eerily. My nerves are shot, making my teeth chatter. I can hear something dripping amid the screech of metal, and the smells—I can’t think about them or I might throw up.

I shove my palm into the green button but it seems to be jammed, and the damn thing won’t turn off. Jesus, my hands are starting to shake, I have to get out of here.

I turn and run headlong into someone. A scream is torn from my throat but there are arms taking me by the shoulders and pulling me to a halt.

“Josi! It’s me!”

I blink and realize I’m looking up at Luke. His green eyes are the only bright things down in this pit of death. I let out a choked laugh of relief and extricate myself from his hands. “What are you doing here?”

“Apparently the same as you. Picking dates on the list and snooping around.”

Our eyes meet for a split second and then I look away. There’s a long, awkward moment as the meat hooks swing and creak behind us. The hairs on my arms are standing on end and I can’t shake the fear that creeps further into my heart with every beat. I think Luke’s presence makes me even more nervous.

A shadow moves against the wall, making me jump in shock.

“A rat,” Luke explains the scuffling sound.

I need to get out of here and away from him, but as I turn to leave something appears in the corner of my eye. I freeze. My heart is pounding. I can’t bear to look properly, but this is why I came.

These are your crimes, your memories. Own them.

Luke’s words echo loudly in my ears and I force myself to turn and look. It’s one of the hooks. No longer covered in rust. There is a body dangling from it, impaled on the sharp metal. A man. He is large and strong, his mouth and eyes open wide in shock. His insides are spilling out of him because his rib cage has been torn open and spread wide like a dripping, pink artwork of horror. Bits of his heart cover the hook protruding from his chest.

I stare, too stunned to move. I can hear my pulse beating in my ears, louder and louder. Ice is moving steadily through every single one of my veins. I’ve never felt so cold in my whole life.

I turn and vomit violently onto the hard concrete ground. My whole stomach comes up and turns me inside out. I heave and heave until my body aches too much to continue, and when I look back at the hook it is empty.

Luke

When I was a boy I liked to pull things apart. Electronics, old car engines, tools, machinery, toys—anything that could be picked into pieces was fascinating to me. I tinkered with things endlessly, always filthy with oil or dirt. I wanted to know how they worked, what they looked like, how they could be broken. I always wondered what it would be like to pick a person apart—I wanted to know how our bodies worked on the inside.

Once I took a kitchen knife and cut open my arm so that I could see my bones and flesh, my arteries and muscles. My curiosity was so strong that it blocked a lot of the pain. It wasn’t until later that I realized we can’t be taken apart as simply as a machine can. And I realized, too, that it’s even more difficult for us to be put back together.

My mother found me in my room, digging around in my arm and she screamed in shock. When I was stitched and back from the hospital she yelled some more, but differently this time. This was in the days when people still yelled. You tear everything into a thousand pieces but you never put anything back together! One day you will have broken everything in your life, Luke Townsend.

*

Outside the sun is too bright. Down a gentle hill of yellowish grass is a wide river. I guide Josephine to it, wary of her shaking legs and chalk-white lips. The fresh air is already doing her some good, and I think the sound of the rushing water is calming too.

We sit on the grass and I wait a long time for her to recuperate. I haven’t seen her for a month. But I’ve been to all of these places, these sites that are the essence of what is wrong with her, and I’ve pretended that she missed me as much as I did her.

Eventually I ask, “What did you see?”

“I killed a man in that slaughterhouse,” she says, her voice detached and cold. “I put him on one of the hooks.”

I frown. “Those hooks are at least six feet off the ground. You’re not tall enough or strong enough to get a man onto one of them.”

She shrugs. “What do you want me to say?”

“What was he wearing?”

“Black.”

“Any physical identifiers?”

“He was big. Strong. Very short hair. Clean-cut looking. That’s all I could see.”

“Are there any assumptions you can make about him?” I prompt. This is important, but Josi shakes her head, looking tired and pissed off.

“I’m going to the next site on the list,” she says.

“Isn’t that a bit much? Don’t you want to leave it for another day?”

She stands and starts walking.

“I’ll drive you. It’s too far to walk.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you.”

“Please just stop being so fucking stubborn and get in the car.”

“You don’t tell me what to do, remember?”

“I’m not telling, I’m asking. Begging, if you want.”

Josephine doesn’t look at me. She simply walks silently to my car.

The grass grows more yellow as we reach the outskirts of the city. Wide fields scatter the view on either side of the road, but there’s virtually no livestock anywhere. I haven’t seen a cow or a sheep in years, not since they were all moved to private organic farms that produce meat too expensive for more than two thirds of the population to afford. If we keep driving in this direction we’ll soon reach the wall. But I’m grateful our destination isn’t that far; I hate that wall more than I hate anything in this world.

Since the atmosphere in the car is tense at best, I’ve distracted myself by switching the Jag to manual and concentrating on the drive. Josephine keeps turning the radio to dumb crap that she knows I hate, and I keep turning it back just to get a reaction out of her. Once or twice I’m pretty sure I see her lips twitch, but god forbid she let herself laugh in the same vicinity as me since I’m now apparently the enemy.

I follow the GPS and turn the car down a winding dirt driveway. It leads us around a few hills and through some paddocks, and finally to an old, dilapidated-looking farmhouse. There is an enormous barn off to the side, and it looks like something out of a children’s picture book with its bright red door and yellow eaves. Josi climbs out of the car and stares at the barn for ages. I grow impatient and jog up the two steps to the front door of the house. I knock for about ten minutes before anyone appears.

It’s a woman holding a small baby. She peers at me through a window to the left, and then reluctantly opens the door. I wonder what’s made her so suspicious. The child squirms but the woman only looks at me blankly.

“Hi,” I begin, flashing her a smile. “Sorry to bother you, ma’am. My girlfriend and I were just wondering if we could possibly take a look around your property?”

“Why?”

I decide to take a bit of a gamble. “Josephine used to live on this farm, and she wants to show me all her little treasures. You remember what it was like to be a kid—lots of secret places you never shared with anyone. There’s this spot out the back where she buried some of her toys and she’s really excited about finding them again.”

The woman still looks utterly spaced out. She hasn’t responded at all to my gentle, soothing babble. I’m not surprised. She’s blissed out on emptiness and confusion. The scientists behind the cure must be over the moon to see the more extreme results like this—it’s a classic case of a personality that didn’t take well to being messed with. Assholes.

“Do you think it would be all right if we took a little look around?” I press carefully, keeping my smile fixed in place. “We won’t bother you at all …”

“She used to live here?” the lady asks abruptly, her eyes squinting against the sun toward Josephine’s still profile. “When was that?”

“A long time ago.”

“Oh. That’s odd. We moved in only a year ago. The house had been abandoned long before that, I believe.”

“So you just found it empty?”

“Our realtor found it for us. The property had been given to the state because its occupants disappeared—every single one of them. Left no will.” She shrugs, but the story makes a lot of sense to me. I’m suddenly not too sure I want Josephine to remember anything about this place. By the sounds of it, a lot of bad stuff went down. An entire family …

I turn to suggest we leave, but Josephine is already approaching the barn.

“Don’t take too long,” the woman warns vaguely. “And don’t disrupt anything.”

There is patently nothing to disrupt, since the entire property looks to be dead grass, but I nod and thank her before following Josi to the barn. Behind me I hear the woman start to laugh in a low wheeze that makes the hairs on my neck stand on end. I glance back but she’s closing the door and her creepy, deranged laughter is cut off.

“Wait outside,” Josephine orders me coldly, and there’s something scary about her in this moment, so I do as I’m told.

After about thirty seconds she walks straight back out, strides past me and hops back in the car. I’m not sure what to say when I join her. She refuses to look at me, and there’s a hard line to her clenched jaw.

“Josi—”

“You can never ask me about that place. Not that one. Do you understand?”

I swallow and then I nod, because I do understand.

*

I pull up outside her apartment block. We sit quietly for a while. She still won’t look at me, so I follow suit and stare straight ahead too.

“I’m going to get really drunk tonight,” she announces suddenly. “Would you like to be involved?”

My head jerks around. “Uh … sure.” It’s quite possibly the best offer I’ve ever had in my life. Her smell has filled up the car and I feel kind of heady from it. Since she moved out I’ve been imagining really embarrassing things that I will never admit to. Shit like candlelit dinners and romantic baths, and long walks holding hands. And when I’m not imagining that stuff or doing my research I’m storming around the apartment in a rage. I smashed the best bottle of wine I owned last night. It was worth a fortune and I’d been saving it for a special occasion. I drew it from the rack and felt so resentful that I wasn’t allowed to admit to every one of my feelings that I took the bottle out onto my balcony and hurled it straight down onto the street.

“We’re going to a party,” Josi says.

“Whose?”

“Some guy I met at the bar.” She is clearly demanding a fight but I’m tired of pretending I don’t want her. I can barely remember my adolescence. Josephine is the same. So maybe it’s self-destructive, but maybe we both need to blow off some steam. Maybe all I want to do is enjoy her for five minutes without being reminded that she might be dead in a few months.

So instead of warning her about how dangerous it could be, or pointing out that young men have the least predictable responses to the cure and when mixed with alcohol they can be truly violent, I say, “Good. What time will I pick you up?”

She hesitates a second then shrugs. “Ten.”

Josephine

I have no clothes that are suitable, and as I stare at my filthy home, my tiny suitcase and its meager contents, I have a moment of complete despair. I almost start crying, but I don’t, because that’s not what I do.

Instead I force myself to be proactive and I spread every item of clothing I own over the mattress. I have a pair of ratty old black jeans with holes in the knees; I decide to cut them into shorts. I have no scissors, so I have to rip them as well as I can, then I cuff them twice so that they’re quite short. My single pair of stockings have a ladder in them, so I rip them a couple more times, hoping it will look like they’re supposed to be like this. My scalp isn’t as sore as it was a month ago so I painstakingly brush my long black hair. I keep meaning to cut it short, but can’t quite bring myself to do it. I have no idea why—maybe it’s simply that I’ve always had long hair, and cutting it all off would seem a bit like losing the last part of me that was once innocent.

There’s one top in the pile that I’ve never had occasion to wear. It’s a deep emerald green, buttoned down the front with no back. I consider what I could wear underneath it, then remember that I’m supposed to be cutting loose tonight and decide to wear nothing under it. My bruises have faded, but tonight I don’t really care if people can see them, and this way my tattoos are visible too. Lastly, I add my black leather wristband, a long earring made of a bird feather in one ear and, because I can’t find the other one, a black stud in the other. Impatiently I brush on some mascara and red lipstick.

I only have a small cracked mirror in the bathroom, so I take a look at myself in there. I look like a completely different person. I can’t find myself anywhere in my reflection, and I like it. I feel dangerous. And even though this is usually the last thing I would ever want to feel, tonight I want to be wild and difficult. And angry.

There’s a knock on my door. My stomach lurches but I ignore it. He let me leave, and he made me confused, and I don’t need that shit in my life. I told him that I wanted him, for god’s sake, and he just stood there and didn’t say anything! I’ve never been so humiliated.

There’s also the much more important fact that I can’t trust myself around him. If I let myself have feelings for him, I might hesitate when the time comes. And that isn’t an option—killing myself is a necessity.

Anyway. I only invited Luke tonight because I need a designated driver and because I’m fairly sure no one will talk to me if I don’t come with a good-looking friend.

I open the door and we stare at each other. Oh Lord, the man is trying to destroy me. The stupid bastard looks like he hasn’t made any effort at all, and yet somehow he looks hotter than he ever has. He’s wearing slim-fitting, charcoal-colored suit pants very low on his hips. A pair of suspenders hangs carelessly from the waistband. I can quite clearly see the outline of his muscular chest and arms through his white tee, and he hasn’t bothered to shave so there’s dark stubble over his square jaw. He leans against the doorframe, and he looks at me with an expression I have never seen him wear before. It’s like he’s just as dangerous as I am, just as deadly, and he’s had enough of the games.

Luke’s green eyes travel over my body and I feel flushed. He doesn’t smile, but I can see in his eyes that he’s pleased. “You look hot.”

I turn and grab my black boots, pulling them on. I glance at his feet and see an ancient pair of sneakers. The bottoms of his pants are scuffed. All those fancy new clothes in his wardrobe and he insists on wearing items from the Stone Age. Even so—he can’t help but exude lazy sexuality.

“Come on,” I mutter as I brush past him. “Did you get any alcohol?”

“Was I meant to, Your Highness?”

“We’re going to a party and I told you I want to get drunk so what do you think?” I’m enjoying being snarky. I want to ruffle him, make him angry. I want to push every single one of his buttons. In fact I want to make everyone angry, everyone in this whole damn world.

“You’ve got a fakey—you can get your own booze,” he comments.

We arrive at the warehouse and head inside. It’s full already, even this early. The lights are low and there are bodies everywhere, moving and pulsing to the music. Crates full of drink line the walls and we grab a beer each. I also spot a bottle of vodka and manage to pinch the whole thing. I stalk away from Luke, realizing I don’t need an escort—nobody cares who arrived with who. There’s a carelessness here. Every person in this warehouse has lost something or is missing something from their lives. I can see it in the way they’re desperate to forget.

I take a long gulp of the vodka and nearly vomit. It’s without a doubt the most disgusting thing I’ve ever consumed. I don’t drink much because drunk people tend to get emotional, and I can’t afford to do that. I soon find that if I chase the vodka with the beer it’s slightly more bearable. I want to talk to someone, someone who has no idea that I’m a freak.

Three people are standing close by, two guys and a girl. One of the boys is chatting with the girl and making her giggle, but the other guy is staring into the sea of dancing limbs. He looks carefree and quite handsome, with his blond hair and collared black shirt. I approach him and his eyes glance over me. They quickly take stock of me and then keep moving. My feet falter for a moment, but then I’m reminded of the barn and I don’t really care about the fact that he won’t look at me. I refuse to allow every person in this place to ignore me.

“Hi,” I say when I reach his side. This time he manages to hold my eyes for a few seconds before looking away again.

“Hey,” he says shortly.

“I’m Josi.”

“Chris.” He looks me up and down and sort of reconsiders his reluctance. I can see the thoughts crossing his mind as if they’re neon-lit signs. He doesn’t know why he didn’t want to talk to me. I seem perfectly normal. And he probably doesn’t get many girls going out of their way to talk to him. Chris swallows and tilts his body more in my direction.

“Having fun?” he asks.

“I only just got here, but yeah, I guess.”

“You’ve certainly got your drink sorted out,” he mutters, gesturing at my bottle.

“Do you want some?”

He takes the vodka and has a few gulps. I follow suit and then we look at each other awkwardly.

“So … are you, like, on something?” he asks. “Your eyes … They’re kind of … manic, or something.”

My eyebrows arch. Is he serious? What was I thinking, coming over here to talk to a stupid child? I let a slow smile curl my lips; it is closer to a sneer. “I’m sorry. I thought you might be interesting. My mistake.”

I walk away from him, even though he calls out for me to wait. What a fucking joke. I press into the dancers, but feeling their skin against mine makes me jerk in shock. This isn’t the right way to be touched. I push through them, trying to head for the door, trying to find Luke.

At last I make it to the other side of the massive warehouse. A couple moves to the side and I am finally faced with Luke. He’s standing beside a girl in a sparkly red dress with amazing breasts and curly blond hair. She’s leaning close to him and he’s telling her something that requires lazy hand gestures and a mildly interested smile. She laughs, tilting her head back and shaking her tits.

I want to sink into the floor and cease to exist. Instead of dying, couldn’t I just stop being? That would be really nice.

But that’s when Luke’s eyes move in a cursory glance about the room. They reach where I’m standing and he stops. His eyes stop, his hands stop, even his mouth stops mid-word. Very slowly he starts to smile.

I hate him and I hate that damn smile. It hits me in the guts and heats my skin to flames.

Luke doesn’t even look at the girl as he brushes past her. She says something and then looks devastated that she’s been ignored. I barely notice this because my eyes are locked on Luke as he crosses the floor and leans close. “You look really lonely, girl.”

I swallow. He’s taking up every inch of the world. His presence is always larger than anything else. “This place is full of stupid little boys.”

“I hate stupid little boys.” He grins, teeth absurdly white. “Am I a stupid little boy?”

“I haven’t decided what you are yet.”

Luke moves his hand to my cheek and strokes his thumb to the corner of my mouth. “Well you let me know when you do.”

I feel sort of breathless. I want to kiss him, but I won’t, because I saw things in the barn today, and they make me want to die.

“Are you drunk yet?”

“Sort of.”

“And has it made you feel better?” he asks gently.

“Not really.”

“Why are we here, Josi?”

“I don’t know.”

Something loud explodes and shocks me so much that I jump. Luke’s hands are already pressing me behind him. It takes my poor, throbbing ears a moment to understand that it was a gunshot. I can’t figure out what’s going on, but people are starting to scream. A girl shoves into me and nearly knocks me off my feet, but I manage to stay upright.

“Nobody move!” a voice screeches out over the crowd. Someone has stopped the music. I peer around Luke to see that there’s a young man—the one who was flirting with the girl, Chris’ friend. He’s holding the gun high and there’s a crazed look in his eyes. He smiles wolfishly, giving an odd trickle of laughter.

His arm is around the girl’s neck, a bit like how he might hold her if he wanted to be affectionate. Her eyes have that eerie vacant look about them. She doesn’t know what to feel—she looks like she barely knows what’s going on.

“Let’s play!” the boy announces. There are a few sniggers in the crowd. One man cheers. Someone wolf whistles. Someone is crying. A few girls keep screaming in a really weird, abrupt way. I hear a high voice softly singing a skipping rhyme.

“Come on! Who wants to play?” He fires the gun twice into the roof, causing another eruption of chaos. “Don’t you want to see me shoot her?” And with this, the guy lowers the gun and points it into the temple of the girl.

“Stay here,” Luke says. He squeezes my hand once, and then he moves toward the boy with the gun. I feel a moment of terror in my stomach. Luke slinks into the empty space around the shooter. I don’t know what he’s going to do, but the girl needs help too. Quickly I thread my way through the crowd, moving around toward the back of the couple. I keep my eyes on them and Luke.

The stupid boy fires the gun into the ground this time, but the girl still doesn’t try to get away. Luke steps out in front of them. “I’ll play,” he says calmly.

The boy grins and aims his gun straight at Luke. He lets go of the girl and she stumbles sideways. I reach for her and pull her into the crowd. But Luke has the weapon aimed at his chest.

He’s edging his way closer and closer to the boy. Sounds are coming from within the crowd—whoops of excitement and jeers of encouragement. They’ve all lost their damn minds. Well, I wanted dangerous, didn’t I? Now I’ve got it. The static energy in the air is alive with unpredictability.

“I’ll play,” Luke says again, “but you have to come closer.”

The boy giggles and moves closer, pressing the butt of the gun into Luke’s sternum. Luke’s hand darts forward and swats the gun to the side. As this happens, he steps forward, beside the sounding shot, and into the boy’s chest. His fist connects three times with the boy’s chin, and somehow he manages to grab the gun and slip it into the back of his pants.

I blink incredulously. The boy is unconscious on the ground and Luke looks perfectly relaxed. He turns to look for me, but by the time he’s found me on the other side of the crowd, there’s another eruption from the back of the room. A huge fight has broken out and people are fleeing. Police sirens approach from somewhere outside.

Luke grabs my hand and drags me out through the swarming mass. I can hear shouts and screams and even some more gunshots. People are getting crushed by the crowd—one boy goes down and I look away quickly, horror building in my throat at the thought of him getting trampled. Luke keeps his hand locked around mine and deftly makes a path for us to escape through.

I can hear it all throbbing behind us—the chaos of it doesn’t fade until we’ve driven a long way away. I’m reeling from the whole thing, but Luke is still oddly calm. He’s the same as those lunatics inside. His calm is a product of his brain damage. It has to be.

Luke

The idiot with the gun has actually done nothing to wreck my mood. I still feel restless, right down in my bones. Josi looks outrageously gorgeous, and I want too much.

Impulsively I turn the car off the road. I’ve seen a map of this area, and I know that Josephine spent some time in a house out along the river. It’s a gamble, bringing her here, because she might loathe the idea of it, but I’m desperate to get her talking.

“Where are we?” she asks suddenly, sitting up to peer at the quickly passing trees. I’m driving too fast. I don’t want to slow down. I rip the handbrake and we slide around a corner. “Luke! Slow down, for Christ’s sake!”

I glance at her and smile. “It’s under control.”

“You’ll kill us!”

“I thought that’s what you wanted.”

“I don’t want you to die, you idiot!” she hisses.

My smile widens. “I can drive in my sleep. No one’s dying today.”

Eventually, after a fairly harebrained trip through the trees I pull us to a skidding halt. Josephine looks murderous as she flings herself out of the car and slams the door furiously. I climb out but leave the car headlights on to give us some illumination.

“What are we doing here?” she snaps.

I wink at her and walk over to the bank of the river. There’s a long wooden boardwalk that protrudes out into the water. It’s shrouded with mangrove trees, their long, gnarled boughs creepy in the dark. The headlights are throwing strange light against them, making them sway and flicker like thin, knobbly fingers reaching out to trace the surface of the moonlit river. My feet pound against the wood as I follow the planks all the way to the end.

I don’t turn around to see if she’s following. Sometimes with Josi it’s like trying to tempt a small, stubborn child into playing. Or convincing a timid animal that it’s safe to eat from my palm. I hear her feet reach the wood and edge hesitantly toward me.

“Do you know where we are?” she asks.

“Yes. Do you?”

“The house I lived in when I was eight is just up that hill. I used to lie on this boardwalk for hours and stare up at the leaves.”

I can tell by her voice that she must have loved it here.

“Did you know that when you drove here?”

“Yes,” I admit. “I saw it in your file. You were only here for six months.”

She edges a little closer.

“Why did you get moved?” I ask carefully. I think I might be frightened of the answer.

Josephine doesn’t say anything. Maybe she is frightened too.

June 14th, 2053

Josephine

I can see the river at the bottom of the hill, glistening silver in the midday sunlight, and I burst into a run. Before I make it something slashes through the edge of my vision and hits me in the face. I yelp and skid to a stop, raising my fingers to my cheek. It’s only when I see the blood on them that it starts to hurt. My face stings like crazy and there are surprised tears in my eyes.

I look around and see that it was a rock that hit me. And it was thrown by Lachlan, my foster brother. He’s twelve, and a lot bigger than me. He’s fat. I hate his chubby fingers and his pink cheeks. I hate the way he chews with his mouth open, and I hate the way his nasty eyes always look for me, no matter where we are.

He smiles as he crosses the grass toward me. He must have been hiding behind a tree or something. I don’t say anything, but I make myself stop crying immediately. I don’t really understand why he likes to hurt me, but I do understand that I can’t show him anything. None of the things I tell the trees. He can’t have any of my secrets or my thoughts or my feelings.

“Where are you going, Josy-posy?”

I don’t speak to him. I never speak to him. My words are mine too.

“Cat got your tongue?”

I try to move past him but he blocks the way and then grabs my hair. He pulls it so hard that I want to scream, but I don’t.

“Say something, you stupid little bitch!” he snarls. I know he got this name for me from his father. Probably everyone else in the house, too. They all call me that name. I don’t know why because I’ve never said anything mean about them. I’ve never spoken a single word to any of them.

Lachlan wrenches my hair, making me fall to the ground and skin my knees painfully. He sits on my back so I can’t move, even though I struggle like a mad thing. He’s too fat. I can’t get free. I can feel him pulling up my t-shirt. The sound of his pocketknife being opened is an alarm, but even as I squirm I feel the first sharp bite of agony. It’s along my hip, and it feels like he’s carving into my bone.

“Rude girls deserve punishment,” he says happily. His breath is close to my ear and it stinks like the licorice he’s just been eating. Then he says, in a funny voice, “You know I love you, Josy-posy. You’re my little sis. You belong to me, and it’s my job to protect you. All of my things need to be labeled, right? So no one else tries to use them?”

I don’t understand what he’s saying until he starts to cut me some more, deep slices of my flesh. I don’t cry. I bite down on a clump of grass so I won’t scream.

“Nearly there,” he tells me. “I’m just finishing up the N.”

A surge of rage floods my body. I can’t feel the small knife anymore. I can’t feel anything except a red tremble under my skin. A scream erupts from my mouth and I thrash so wildly that Lachlan is thrown off my back. He sprawls on the ground and before he can get up I lunge at him, grabbing him by the neck and squeezing until his face goes purple.

Next thing I know I’m being hauled off Lachlan by the ear, and it hurts a lot, but not as much as my hip. I try to blink the spots away from my eyes.

“You little psycho!” a woman screams. The woman I’m supposed to call Mom. Is she talking to me? Yes, she is. Of course she is. More feet arrive. “I just found the little brat trying to choke our son!”

“What?” It’s the man now. He clubs me over the head, making my vision cloud badly. I close my eyes and enjoy the darkness. I can still hear them shouting and blaming me. Lachlan is crying. Some of his words drift to me, and he seems to be sobbing over how frightened he is. I keep my eyes closed and my mouth shut. I could try to show them my hip with its bloody brand, but I’m too tired and I don’t think they’ll care anyway.

Maybe this means I’ll get a new house.

But that means I have to say goodbye to the river and the trees, and that will be sad, because they’re the only ones who’ve heard my voice.

December 21st, 2063

Josephine

“Luke?”

“Mmm?” He’s looking at the water, standing under the trees I loved once upon a time.

“Maybe I’m crazy.”

He looks up. “Why do you say that?”

“Maybe that’s why I murder people.”

Today there was a barn, and inside it there was a pitchfork. And that’s how I know that children once lived in that farmhouse.

Isn’t there a thing about kids who are treated badly turning into violent offenders themselves? Could that explain any of this?

“Maybe I’m a Fury. Or becoming one.” The thought of turning into one of those savages … It makes me long for death. “Before I moved here I was mute,” I tell him softly, the first glimpse I have ever given him of my childhood. “I never spoke a word to anyone. When I came here, I don’t know why, but I started speaking to these trees. They know all of my secrets, these branches, these leaves.”

He looks up at them and murmurs, “Lucky things.”

I shake my head. “I’m crazy. I must be.”

Luke walks up to me and pushes me straight into the river. The cold of it is sharp and sudden and hits me in the chest. I am momentarily silent and weightless. Breathless. My body doesn’t hurt, and my heart beats a steady rhythm. I want to stay below the surface of the world forever. I could drift away on a current and never have to see a single drop of blood again.

After a while my lungs start to really hurt so I launch myself up to the air again.

“Feel better?” Luke asks from the boardwalk.

“You deserve a smack.”

“Do you feel better or not?”

I am loath to tell him that I actually do. He must read the truth in my face because the bastard smirks.

“Come on,” he laughs, reaching a hand to help me out.

Honestly? How can he not see this coming?

I grab his hand and pull him in. Luke surfaces immediately, coughing and laughing. He splashes me once in the face and then we both swim for the muddy bank. Luke launches himself up onto the grass with an amazingly acrobatic display of upper body strength. I, on the other hand, scramble out looking like a clumsy oaf and get myself covered in mud. He takes one look at me and then laughs again, showing all of his white teeth.

“Instead of laughing you could help me,” I point out. “You’ve been really chivalrous tonight—what with scaring me half to death in the car and shoving me into a river.”

Luke walks back onto the boards. He wanders under the mangroves and then turns back to face me. In his eyes the twin bulbs of light from the car are reflected. “I just wanted to snap you out of it.”

I step out after him. “You can’t. Not permanently.”

“Then I’ll do it again and again, as many times as I have to,” Luke says softly. “Forever.”

And he walks toward me again, but this time he doesn’t push me into the river. This time he touches my cheeks and presses his lips against mine. It shocks me so much that I forget to pull away. I stand there and I think maybe I’ve ceased to exist except as a pair of lips.

Heart jerking unsteadily, I remember myself and wrench away from him. I run, but he grabs me and holds me, pulling me back into his body. When his mouth finds mine this time I struggle roughly, and I can taste my tears in my mouth and his and somehow my hands are straying to his chest, to the warmth there and the heartbeat.

I can’t move or breathe but I can taste and feel and I want him so much that even with him this close it’s still not close enough I can’t get close enough. “Luke,” I try to say, but it comes out as more of a sob because he doesn’t understand all the broken pieces and the things I’ve done. I’ve told him but he doesn’t understand that I’m drowning in an ocean of guilt and regret. I’m haunted and sick and rotten to the core and he’s good and bright, the brightest thing in the world.

His kiss is savage like a thunderstorm, like he’s desperate and sure.

“I know,” he rasps against my mouth. “I know how it hurts. But it’s supposed to.”

And I realize at last that he does understand, maybe even better than I do.

Fury: Book One of The Cure: Episode One is available now

Fury: Book One of The Cure: Episode Two is available now

Episode Three is available March 25

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Interview: Fury: Book One of The Cure author Charlotte McConaghy

Posted March 17, 2014 by Mark

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What is your daily writing routine?

I’m a total night owl. It takes me a long time to get settled during the day, so I usually start the morning by reading or watching a good tv show, then by the time lunch rolls around I’m good to go and I’ll write through the afternoon, evening, and often late into the night. I’m a big believer in inputting before you output, which is why I always try to make sure I’m feeling inspired before I sit down to write, otherwise I just stare at my computer screen and get bored.

Name some books or authors that have influenced you

I am a huge fan of Guy Gavriel Kay’s work – his fantasy books inspired me to become a writer myself when I was a teenager. I love Melina Marchetta’s fantasy series, ‘The Lumatere Chronicles’ for its complex characters, and Glen Duncan’s novels ‘The Last Werewolf’ and ‘Talula Rising’ for their incredible prose. But probably my favourite books of all time are all the works by Laini Taylor, especially ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ and ‘Days of Blood and Starlight’. Beautiful writing, wonderful characters, intriguing hints of fairytale influences… They are so gorgeous I could gush all day.

Why should people read Fury?

Because they love intensely romantic adventure stories set in dystopian worlds full of danger and disconnect.

What do you hope readers take from your book?

I hope they feel as though they’ve been on a wild ride, full of twists and turns, I hope they get all gooey when they think of the love story, I hope they feel inspired by the courage of the characters and compelled to appreciate the whole spectrum of their lives and emotions. Characters are by far the most important thing in my opinion, so ultimately I just hope people fall in love with Luke and Josi, and want to spend more time with them in the rest of the series.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished Lexicon by Max Barry – a fantastic Australian read with a really interesting concept and great characters.

 

Fury: Book One of The Cure: Episode One is available now

Episode Two is available March 18

Episode Three is available March 25

 

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Excerpt: Fury: Episode 1 by Charlotte McConaghy

Posted March 14, 2014 by Mark

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In the tradition of Divergent comes a novel about a world where negative emotions are stolen … and only those with fury can stand up and fight.
Eighteen-year-old Josephine Luquet wakes up naked and covered in blood on the same day every year—when the blood moon is full. Josi has not responded to the “Cure”—an immunization against anger mandated by the government—and believes herself to be a threat to others.
Then she meets Luke. Luke has had the Cure but seems different than the other “drones”—and he’s dead set on helping Josi discover the truth about herself before the next blood moon.
But time is running out. Is Luke willing to risk his life to be near her? Does he truly understand what violence she is capable of?
Raw and full of passion, Fury is a story of love in a dystopian world, and how much we are willing to forgive in the struggle to remember our humanity.
This is a novella-length episode of Fury. It will continue with Episode 2 on 18 March. 

 

 

Chapter One

September 11th, 2065

Josephine

I am a flame of fury. The last flickering flame in a world long since burned out. I have rage threaded through my skin, whispering against my ears, tied tightly around each one of my bones. My eyes, one brown and one blue, leak with it.

Most of the time this frightens me.

But sometimes I like it.

*

“When did it happen to you?”

He appears to be reading something but I figured out a while ago that he sits there and stares at a blank clipboard. God only knows why. Maybe he thinks it makes him seem smarter, or more aloof. I roll my eyes and turn them to the sky outside the window. A hint of dark gray is edging across the blue, and I can feel the static of a rising storm across my skin. I imagine being inside it, right in the heart of it, wild and out of control, but I only imagine this for the briefest of moments, because otherwise it starts to hurt too much.

“What?” Anthony asks. I know full well that he heard me perfectly the first time, so I don’t repeat myself. After a pause he says, “Nine years ago.”

“So you were … what—twelve?”

“Hilarious.”

“How old are you?” I sit up and face him.

“None of your business.”

“You’re in a friendly mood today. Aren’t you supposed to support every word I say?”

He shoots me a look that says at this point I couldn’t care less what I’m supposed to be doing with you. He is so tired. I can see it in his blue eyes and in the set of his mouth. I feel a moment of pity but it doesn’t last long because he wrecks it by saying, “Have you been taking your pills?”

“No. I seduced all the nurses on staff so that they skip me when it’s time for rounds.”

He actually looks alarmed, which is amusing.

“Yes, I take them. And they don’t do anything, like I’ve told you a thousand times.”

“That remains to be seen,” he says sternly. What a dick.

“You don’t look that much older than me, but you act like you’re eighty, Doc.”

He looks at me blankly and I grin. Antagonising Anthony Harwood is undoubtedly the only fun I have left in my life.

“Let’s talk about Luke,” he suggests.

The grin is wiped clean from my face. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to.”

“Why don’t you want to?”

I lick my lips and then meet his eyes. “For the same reason I’ve requested a new therapist. You don’t understand, Anthony. You don’t understand anything.”

He looks pale as he glances down at his clipboard, as though searching for an answer. He’s on the small side of medium height and medium build, and he’s pretty much the definition of the word average. Except he does have nice eyes when he smiles. I only worked that out recently, because he’s smiled all of three times in the entire year. His dark hair is prematurely graying at the temples, which he probably loves. Despite this, I would still put him at about twenty-seven, twenty-eight.

“What don’t I understand, Josephine?” he asks me.

“You’re a drone. You have no concept of humanity anymore—which is why you’re no good to me as a therapist, and why the very thought of talking to you about something as private as Luke makes my skin crawl.”

He sighs. “Who else do you think you’ll get?” He folds his arms, starting to get impatient. “There’s no one left who hasn’t been cured. Everyone is a ‘drone’.”

Ain’t that the truth.

I sink back against the comfy window seat, depressed.

“The only people left who feel anger are the Bloods.”

“And me, apparently.”

“Allegedly,” he reminds me pointedly.

“Yeah, allegedly. So to sum up—Luke isn’t on the agenda, today or any day.”

“Is the real reason because you made him up?”

“Oh, Lord.” I laugh. “We really are back to Basic Therapy 101. Imaginary friends. You’ve outdone yourself today, Doc. Did you buy your degree off the net?”

“Luke has never come to visit you and yet you say he loves you.”

“I would never expect you to understand the simple concept of complexity,” I say sweetly.

“You speak in paradoxes.”

“And it feels wonderful.” I smile. “If only you could appreciate it.”

He frowns and drops his clipboard onto the desk in what seems a rather petty manner to me. There are still forty-five minutes of our session to go, but he has that stubborn look on his face that tells me he won’t be the first to break the silence.

We’ve been doing this—sitting here in this room—every day for almost an entire year. Each time he diagnoses me with some new disorder, I get to try a new type of pill that inevitably fails, and we have to go back to the drawing board. I don’t mind the drugs that make me sleepy, because they make the time pass faster, but I do not enjoy the hallucinogens. Not. At. All. I’d sooner gouge my eyes out than go through those kinds of visions again. I get enough of them in my sleep as it is.

At the moment Anthony is convinced I have schizophrenia.

I would love to have schizophrenia. I’d love it.

Because the truth—a truth I’ve been trying to convince Anthony of for almost twelve months—is much worse.

“So nine years ago, eh?” I murmur, running my fingers across the glass of the window. It’s not cold enough outside for there to be any condensation—in fact the air is warm and humid. The wind is picking up, but I don’t want to close the window—fresh air is a rarity in this place, and it’s one of the only things that makes me feel halfway sane. “Do you remember your life before you were cured?”

“Of course.”

“Is it … different?”

He tilts his head and then gives a sigh that says fine, I’ll indulge you because I’m infinitely patient and good and you are just a silly, erratic child I feel sorry for. “Yes, it’s different. It’s like there’s a wall in my head between then and now. Everything on the far side of the wall is wild, chaotic and exhausting. Everything here is calm, beautiful and healthy.”

I get what he’s saying. I understand the ache of the before, because I’ve never had the after. I’ve lived every moment of my life within the full spectrum of human emotion, and he’s right—it is exhausting. But I can’t imagine ever being tired enough of life to want to cut half of it away.

“Were you happy to get the injection?” I press.

He grimaces uncomfortably, taking a pen and pretending to write in his notepad. I stole a look at that pad once and it was covered in doodles of birds. I wait for him to quit stalling and answer, but he remains silent.

“Some people look forward to it, don’t they?”

I shudder.

“A great deal of people.” Anthony sits forward and searches my face. “Josephine, why are you so against the cure? It helps people. It makes things safer and happier.”

The futility of trying to explain something to the brainwashed is not lost on me. I have tried many times and it hasn’t made a lick of difference. But I simply cannot bring myself to give up.

“My fury belongs to me, and only me,” I say as calmly as I can manage. “No one can take it from me—no one has a right to it.”

“Even if it hurts people?”

“Tell me how I’m supposed to have any sense of who I am if I don’t have access to how I feel? It’s like punishing a crime before it’s even been committed—like punishing the idea of a crime. Where does our freedom go then? We all have a right to be as angry as we want, just as we have a right to be trusted.”

“Give me an example.”

Is he serious? “All right. I’m pretty damn angry with you right now, but I’m not going to lunge across the room and strangle you to death. I have restraint, and a logical awareness of consequences.”

“That remains to be seen.”

“Oh, shut up.”

“Why do you want to be angry?” Anthony asks. “It doesn’t help anyone.”

“Want has nothing to do with anything. Have you heard the rumours, Doc?”

“What rumours?”

I smile coldly. “Don’t play dumb. Even I’ve heard them and I’m locked in an asylum. They’ve cured the human population of anger, and everyone knows that soon sadness will be next. Sadness. Can you imagine never being able to feel sad? What value will happiness have? And what will be next? Fear? Jealousy? Vanity? We’ll cure ourselves of our humanity.”

“Perhaps you should try to calm down, Josephine.”

“It’s called passion. When was the last time you felt passionate about anything?”

“I don’t know—there are pills for it.”

It takes me a moment to realize that he’s made a joke. My jaw drops open in astonishment. The corners of his mouth twitch and I laugh abruptly. Our eyes meet and a moment later he gains control of himself, looking embarrassed at his outrageous behavior. He will probably go home tonight and school himself not to be so wild. Wind is starting to keen through the trees outside. It sounds like screaming and makes the hairs on my arms stand on end. I am reminded of the nightmare in my head, replaying itself over and over and over.

“Do you know what the date is?” I ask softly without looking at him.

“I do.”

“Have you made any preparations?”

“What preparations do you suggest I make, Josephine?”

“I’ve told you a thousand times, and I’ve watched you pretend to write it all down a thousand times. I’m tired of repeating myself.”

“Hallelujah,” he says.

My jaw clenches and it hurts to breathe; I can feel the tide creeping up. I am too tired to say another word. We sit together and yet not together—I haven’t had a ‘together’ in a year. Instead I’ve had lots and lots of ‘alones’. We sit alone together until the hour runs out, and then he stands and leaves the room before me.

He has never left the room before me. It’s nothing, nothing at all, and yet it leaves me feeling lost. Even though I hate routine, in this place I need it.

Doyle comes to collect me, taking hold of my arm with that alarmingly tight grip of his. I don’t know how long I will have to be here without misbehaving before he will loosen that grip. He is unlike any of the other nurses in the facility. His face is scarred, his nose crooked as though it has been broken and, if I didn’t know better, I would think he was an angry man. He doesn’t want to be here—that much is obvious, and I always wonder why he is.

Doyle jerks me out of Anthony’s office and starts walking me down the halls. The lights in this building are fluorescent and flicker just enough to make you go steadily insane, if you aren’t already.

Screams follow us down the halls. Screams and sobs and mutters. They make me cold, all the way through, even now. Even after a year.

As we reach my room I flash Doyle a smile. “Thanks, Doyle. One of these days you and I are going to have a really meaningful conversation, you’ll see.”

Doyle, true to fashion, doesn’t respond. He throws me into my room roughly and locks the door behind me. I turn and inspect the view, hoping that maybe my eyes will spot something new this time. What a surprise: they don’t.

There is my empty steel desk, bolted to the ground. There is my tiny steel bed, bolted to the ground. There is my uncomfortable steel chair, bolted to the ground. And there is my Maria, mute and asleep and stationary like she’s bolted to the ground. I also have four windowless walls, and one large calendar, so large that I suspect it may have been made for the vision impaired. I hate that calendar as much as I need it.

Circled in black is one date. A date that falls in this month. And this week.

Time is running out.

It won’t be me who suffers under the blood moon.

It will be Maria. And Doyle. And Anthony. And every other person in the lunatic asylum on top of the hill.

September 12th, 2065

Anthony

I don’t know how it happened, but at some point in the last year my life has become about Josephine Luquet. I can hate her for it, but I can’t seem to do a thing to change it. Every hour of the day is like torture, except for her hour. Josephine’s hour.

As she sits there, within the tiny room but miles away from me, I can feel my body start to tremble as though it wants to be angry with her but can’t remember how.

Anger is a foreign concept to me. I am still frustrated—endlessly, it sometimes seems—and I am still impatient, but these feelings are dull, shades of what they once were.

I want to make Josephine listen to me but doing that may as well be like trying to force her into a tiny box she is far too big to fit within.

I don’t know why Josephine is how she is. Why she wasn’t cured like everyone else in the world was. And I don’t know why she has such violent delusions.

The only thing I do know is that she is one of a kind. An anomaly. A monster with strange blue and brown eyes, and a smile too cold for words.

Yesterday’s session was bad. There’s no getting around it. I failed to contain her anger, which is my main job, and I failed to convince her to speak of Luke. But last night an idea occurred to me. Today I am keen to broach it.

“Why hasn’t he called you?” I ask as she enters my office.

She blinks, her eyes dripping with scorn. I can’t bear that scorn. It’s the worst thing about her.

Or maybe it’s the worst thing about me, that she has so much to be scornful of.

“Well hello to you too.”

“Don’t avoid the question, Josephine.”

“Oh, Anthony,” she sighs. “You suck the fun right out of this.”

I don’t know who told her that therapy for a mental illness is supposed to be fun, but I shrug apologetically anyway.

“I don’t know why he hasn’t called.”

“Have you tried to contact him?”

Her eyebrows arch. “Would that be via morse code, or with a homing pigeon?”

“Don’t they give you phone privileges?”

“Don’t who give me phone privileges?” she snaps. “Doyle, the barrel-of-laughs nurse who manhandles me constantly? Maria, my semi-comatose roommate? Or my ever-distracted, uninterested therapist who dashes from the room the second our hour is finished? Because the three of you are just about the only people I have contact with.”

I find myself speechless. Distracted? Uninterested? I must be a better actor than I thought, because those are two of the last things I am with her. I belatedly realize how sad her life must be. She hasn’t spoken to anyone except two virtual mutes and me all year. “All right, how about I organize for you to make a phone call?”

She doesn’t say anything, and to my surprise I see a faint pink blush creep up her neck. She crosses the room and sinks into her usual spot, twisting her face to the window as she always does. The rain has been falling all day and the sky is streaked through with white veins of lightning.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you want to call him?”

“I don’t … know how to reach him. His old number was disconnected.”

“I could find a new one for you.”

“I don’t even know where he is anymore.”

“Where did he work?”

“He was a state prosecutor.” Josephine pauses, frowning. “Still is, I guess. I forget that the world keeps turning beyond these walls.”

“There you go. Shouldn’t be too hard to find a contact number somewhere.”

Her face lights up and for a moment she is utterly unburdened by the heavy dark veil that usually clouds her.

“On one condition.”

Josephine’s shoulders slump and she rolls her eyes in that way of hers. “I should have known. You really don’t give a shit about me.”

“Of course I do,” I say firmly, but she won’t meet my eyes.

“What’s the condition then?”

“Tell me about Luke. All of it, every single detail from the time you met up until the day you arrived here.”

Her strange eyes flash dangerously. “What happened to privacy, Doc?”

“That doesn’t exist anymore. Not for you, and not in this room.”

“Why?” she demands. “Who gets to decide that?”

“I do, because you’ve tried to kill yourself three times.”

There is a slow-burning silence. A clap of thunder finds the right moment to startle us both.

I stand up from my desk, but can’t manage to move from behind it. It feels safe behind the desk. “Josephine,” I murmur. “I need to figure out what’s inside you.”

The truth is I already know—an abused child can respond to being hurt in a number of different ways, and Josephine’s hallucinations are a perfect example of that. But I need her to speak about it. She never speaks, not in the ways I want her to. Without words we’ll get nowhere together.

She smiles and there’s ice in my veins. “You could have just asked, Doc. It’s simple. There’s an inferno.”

September 17th, 2063

Josephine

I’m on fire; everything in my entire body feels alight. Even though my ears are pounding, I need noise, loud enough to drown out the screaming I hear when I blink, and I need darkness dark enough to black out every horrific image I imagine myself to have committed last night. I go into the first place I find, the pounding bass reverberating all the way out into the street. I push my way through a loud crowd, feeling every accidental touch against my skin. I manage to find a seat on a couch and slump down onto it, closing my eyes. Nobody comes near me—nobody even looks in my direction. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s always been the same. No matter where I go or what I do, I’m ignored.

I sit for a while and sink into the noise around me. Pain lances through every muscle, every bone. My mind whirls, entranced, dazed. The music helps to keep me here in the room, as does eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. There are two girls behind me who won’t stop talking about the benefits of wearing primer under their foundation. “I’d die without it,” and “Where do you get yours from?” and “Thank god they make travel-sized bottles!” I had thought primer was something you painted a house with, but I’ve clearly been labouring under a misapprehension and might die unless I get myself some fast.

“Hello, beautiful.”

It’s a deep, rough voice. I don’t look at him straight away. Instead I roll my eyes. I don’t get hit on much, but when I do it pisses me off. Opening with “hello, beautiful” is uninspired. At best.

“Hello,” I start to say, but as I turn I forget the second half of the word. He’s looking at me. Like, really looking at me. And he’s beautiful. Despite the fact that he looks like he might not have slept in a month, he has incredibly bright green eyes. There are dark bags beneath them, and they’re bloodshot as hell, but damn they’re green. He has short dark hair and stubble over his square jaw, and even as he sits there, completely still, there is an undeniable sense of movement in his long limbs. I can’t work it out, but he’s sort of … animal.

In all my life I can’t remember seeing anyone with a gaze like his.

“It’s rude to eavesdrop,” he points out, cocking his head to listen to the girls.

“It’s rude to point out when something’s rude,” I mumble.

“What’s primer?” he asks me while wincing at a shriek of their laughter.

“No idea.”

He gives up on listening to the girls’ growing hysteria and looks at me directly. “You looked really lonely.”

I pull myself together and give him a bleak stare. “How do I look now?”

He smiles slowly. “You look good.”

Yes, he’s gorgeous, and yes, he’s got possibly the most delicious smile I’ve ever seen, but in one line he’s just reverted into every idiot drone who doesn’t have a clue. I feel so tired—and angry, too angry. I want to tear this whole place to pieces so they won’t all be so happy. Their lives are just … easy. This man sitting before me is easy. I want to run and scream and cry and shut it all out, except that then I would be left alone with the blood moon.

“Just go away,” I sigh. I regret coming here. It was stupid. I am almost too tired to get up and leave. I consider what might happen if I curl up on this couch and go to sleep. Would they leave me here? I can’t imagine anyone touching me for long enough to move me. I can’t imagine anyone even realizing that I am here.

“I can’t,” the man says. At a guess he’s early twenties. He’s a boy, really. Or, he’d look like a boy if he weren’t wearing that expression. He would have received the cure at fifteen, like everyone else, which means he didn’t get much time. He didn’t get many years of freedom before they stole his personality.

“What do you mean you can’t?”

He shrugs. “I mean I can’t before I make sure you’re all right.”

I eye him suspiciously.

“So are you?” he presses.

“I’m fine.”

We stare at each other. “You can toddle off and feel really good about yourself now,” I murmur coldly.

“I’m not trying to pick you up,” he says.

“I didn’t say you were.”

“You’re the saddest girl I’ve ever seen.”

“So why didn’t you run the other way?”

“Because if sadness goes next, I want to remember what it looks like.”

And just like that, I am made of sand and sinking through the cracks in the floor. I have an absurd desire to have his skin against mine, to see what it feels like, to see if it burns as hot as mine does. I am a long way from words, but he doesn’t grow awkward, he simply waits for me to come back.

“What does sadness look like?” I eventually ask in a soft, rasping voice.

He tilts his head and eyes me critically. “It’s cold blue and warm brown. It’s blurry edges and stillness. It’s unnerving,” he says, “and beautiful.”

After a while he adds, “I’m Luke,” and holds out a hand for me to shake. I don’t, because there is still blood on mine, and even though he won’t be able to see it, I’ll know it’s there. I haven’t touched or been touched by anyone in years, except for the occasional brushing of a shoulder.

“Josephine Luquet.”

“All right, Miss Luquet. If I asked you why you’re so sad, would I be the first?”

“That’s presumptuous.”

“Probably. Would I be?”

I shrug, unwilling to admit that he would be. “Are you going to ask me?”

“Yes. But not tonight. Right now I’m going to walk you home because you look like one touch might send you to dust. Come on.”

I follow him outside, blinking to rid myself of the haze I’m trapped in. He feels like a dream. My teeth ache. And my fingernails.

He lights a cigarette and I look at him properly. In the spill of light from inside he looks pale. His white t-shirt is dirty and full of holes, as are his jeans, which sit low on his hips. He’s wearing ratty old flip-flops, and I can’t believe he got into the club dressed like that. On the other hand, he is undeniably attractive, and men probably spend hours trying to make themselves look as careless as Luke does. He’s tall and lean like he might be a little underweight, but he’s no less muscled for it. The strength through his arms and chest is real—it’s the type that comes from hard work, not from muscle enhancers.

His cigarette smoke makes me feel like I might throw up. My head is pounding and I realize I must get home immediately or I’ll be in danger of collapsing in the gutter with a strange and eloquent man named Luke for company. I take off down the street and he follows, uninvited.

“Should we get a cab?” he asks.

I ignore him. He doesn’t actually think he’s coming home with me, does he? I stumble slightly and he’s there to catch me by the elbow, but his hands on me cause my heart to lurch with fear and I pull away. This is too strange. No one even looks at me, let alone… this. “Don’t touch me.”

“Sorry. You were about to eat concrete.”

“Are you following me?”

“I’m escorting you home, like a gentleman.”

It’s becoming too much. I can’t breathe. Just last night I … Oh, Jesus, I can’t face that—not yet. But there was a last night, and now I can’t have … this. I can’t have him looking at me and saying nice things to me and being a gentleman. I’m not a girl who understands those things—not today, on the 17th. Today I am a wraith. A shadow.

I am covered in the blood of the moon, and I’m the only one left who can feel angry about it.

We reach my block of apartments and I face him. No way is he finding out which number I live in. “Okay. Bye.”

“Josephine,” Luke says quickly. The moonlight makes his eyes look greener.

“What?”

“It’ll be all right.”

I smile, and even I can feel the chill of it. “You’re a silly boy.”

He searches my face with a look of his own. I suspect that among people who know him this look must be famous. It is very assured and direct. It says you don’t frighten me because I am more than I look. “I’ll be back in the morning.” I think this is supposed to be a promise, but it feels more like a threat.

“No you won’t.”

“I have a question to ask.”

“Luke.” I lick my lips and try to give my next words weight. “If you come back and ask that question, I don’t know why but I think I might answer it. And the truth is, if that happens, we’re both going to regret it.”

Luke

I watch her go into her apartment with the hopeless awareness that my life has changed. She’s different—so alarmingly different that I knew it the first time I caught sight of her. Under the calm, she’s rabid. And I’ve been waiting a long time to find someone like her.

The world is a sea of ghosts. When the plague annihilated us there were riots in the streets. Buildings came down in a flood of dry rubble. A fury made of fear was born, and the world grew dangerous. Nine years ago the government—every government—built walls around the remaining cities and started administering the cures. No more anger for humanity. No more aggression. The fight went out of us; we were malleable, controllable drones. But with one emotion gone, the other parts of us grew skewed and out of shape. Now everything is distorted—our perceptions of the world are damaged. A woman cheats on her husband and he can’t manage to care. A house is burgled and the occupants think it’s funny. A child is lost and nobody understands the importance of this except the Bloods. These aren’t rational responses—they are the reactions of damaged psyches, brains that are scrambling to connect pieces of pictures that have been pulled apart.

It is rumored that in three years the first of the sadness cures are scheduled to be administered. And what will the world be made of then?

Society has gone mad. I’ve been suffocating—until tonight, until she looked at me. I’m not sure what she is, or what she means, but I must ask that question, even if it will make her hate me forever.

 

Fury: Book One of The Cure: Episode One is available now

Episode Two is available March 18

Episode Three is available March 25

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Cover Reveal: Fury: Book 1 of The Cure by Charlotte McConaghy

Posted February 26, 2014 by Mark

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In March we are releasing a thrilling new serialised novel from up and coming author Charlotte McConaghy.

When emotions are erased from the world, creating a civilization of mindless drones, only those with fury can survive.

The year is 2063 and negative emotions are being cured – one by one. Eighteen-year-old Josephine Luquet has been locked up in a psychiatric ward. She has not responded to the Cure—an immunization against anger mandated by the government. Josi is tormented by the murders she believes she has committed while in a fugue state that comes upon her once a year—when the blood moon is full.

Luke Townsend is Josi’s only hope. Luke has had the Cure but he seems different than the others. With strange talents of his own, he is the only one in the world determined to help her find the truth about herself, and about those who feel only anger—the psychotic, murderous Furies.

Together, Josi and Luke must battle against their own demons and race to discover an answer before the next blood moon. But is Luke willing to risk his life to be near her? Does he truly understand what violence she is capable of?

Raw and full of passion, Fury is a story of love in a dystopian world, and how much we are willing to forgive in the struggle to remember our humanity.

 

March 11

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Fury: Book 1 of The Cure: Episode 1

March 18

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Fury: Book 1 of The Cure: Episode 2

March 25

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Fury: Book 1 of The Cure: Episode 3

March 25

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Fury: Book 1 of The Cure: Omnibus Edition

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