Cowtan's tone will wrench you out of your life and into the spellbinding thoughts of her protagonists. You won't be able to escape until the last page is turned!
Published: March 30/2018
Master of Madhouse: The Fergus She 1894
Genre: Dark / Paranormal Fantasy
Word Count: 95,000
Pitch: In a mad rush to escape the Sanitarium, Rachel accidently transports herself back in time and right into the arms of Scarlett's husband, King of the Vampires and Master of his domain. Will he be able to master Rachel?
The Truth Behind the Looking Glass
The sharp edge of a cold spoon pressed against my lips. I turned my head and broth dribbled down into the hollow of my throat. Opening my eyes, I was treated to the sight of Seareet’s unfriendly face glaring at me from above.
“Get away,” I rasped, feebly trying to free my hands from the heavy quilts.
“Master’s orders,” she said. “Open your mouth.”
A stab of guilt reminded me that if I made it impossible for her to fulfill “master’s orders”, she would pay the price. With a sigh of defeat, I pressed my hands against the hard mattress and pushed myself into a sitting position. The covers fell away from my chest, and Seareet let out a long, low whistle.
I looked down, but I couldn’t see what she was looking at.
“Get me the mirror,” I demanded.
Seareet handed me the silver mirror from Scarlet’s dresser. It was gilded with intricate swirls of braided metals circling the glass. The mirror reminded me of fairy tales. But what was revealed in the reflection had nothing to do with happy endings. Just like Seareet had been covered with the little blossoming bites, my neck and shoulders and chest were punctured and bruised. Small dual piercings that could only have provided a mouthful for Gräfen, and would certainly never kill anyone.
“Bastard!” I threw the mirror across the room, and it shattered.
Seareet screeched and ran to the mirror. Lifting the frame, she stared down into the glassless silver oval clutched in her boney fingers. Shaking her head back and forth, she whispered, “no, no, no” over and over.
Then she turned to me with the fury of a wildcat and hissed, “Selfish! Selfish!”
Before I could say anything, she ran from the room, sobbing. I swung my legs over the bed and tried to stand, thinking I was going to clean up the glass shards before the count could see them. But the black of my nightgown bled into my eyes, and I fell into oblivion.
I don’t know how long I lay chest down on the floor, but eventually, little scratchy sounds dragged me from the black. My lashes fluttered open to reveal kid-sized button up shoes grinding the shattered mirror pieces beneath hard heels. The wraith was standing five feet from where my hands splayed out in front of me.
“This is a fun game,” she said in her high, whiny voice.
I looked up at the ghostly girl without moving a muscle. She was holding her hands out to the side, like she was walking a tightrope. Her blonde curls were dangling around her face as she turned her head this way and that to fully experience the sounds of the glass shattering under her weight.
I pushed my body backwards, wiggling under the bed, as quietly as I could. When I thought I was far enough under to be safe, I rested my chin on my folded arms and watched the tragic ghost. Like any child, she was absorbed by her little game and oblivious to her surroundings. She giggled at the sensations beneath her feet, and a twinge of pity twisted in my chest. But I wasn’t about to reveal myself. I needed to be terrified of her because everyone else was. When in Rome...
A sound at the door captured the wraith’s attention. Seareet! I almost called out to warn the maid, but in my weakened state I wouldn’t be able to escape if it turned my way. And so, I chose the coward’s route and kept my mouth and eyes shut as the door swung open.
“What a naughty girl you are,” said Gräfen’s disapproving voice.
“No, I’m not!” shouted the wraith, stamping her foot and crushing more glass.
Gräfen’s voice boomed in the small room, “Be gone!” and just like before, the ghost girl dissolved into smoke.
I held my breath hoping to hide from him, but of course, he knew exactly where I was. I’m sure he could smell me, or maybe hear my heart beating. He had senses I couldn’t begin to understand. And that made me think of his seduction in the woods.
Gräfen walked leisurely around the room, as if he was admiring the decor. His shoes pressed down onto the occasional uncrushed shard with a popping sound.
“Oh Ra-chel,” he called, drawing out my name. “Where are youuuu?”
His hide-and-seek voice was more than I could take.
“Trying to stay alive in this hell-hole you call a home,” I snapped.
He barked out a laugh. And then he was hanging over the bed’s edge, looking at me upside down. His silken, black hair hung straight down from his head. The bed had not sunk under his weight, and he had been so silent I didn’t even realize he had left the floor. It was a reminder of how deadly he could be.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” he said in an enthralling, low whisper, his eyes boring darkly into mine.
I pushed back out the other way, and when I finally got out from under the bed and onto my feet, he was standing behind me.
He whispered some foreign word into my hair, and gently turned me to face him. His expression was all smiling indulgence, and then he saw my neck and a dark cloud came over his features.
“Who did this?” he demanded.
I was too confused to answer him. His eyes raked my chest, taking in the bruises as if he were seeing them for the first time.
“Rachel, who did this to you?”
This was another one of his games. I was sure of it.
“How dare you even ask me that?” I shouted at him, my chest heaving with righteous anger.
Oh, he was good. He pretended to be hurt. His hands pleading out in front of him. “Why wouldn’t I ask? Why wouldn’t I want to know who has…” he took a deep breath and then spit out the word, “…dared to raise a hand against you.”
His face was dark with murderous rage. He was a first-rate con, and I started to be convinced by his performance. I started to wonder if maybe it hadn’t been him. After all, I didn’t see him do it. I had no memory of it.
He moved closer, pulling me into his arms, which only made me freeze in fear.
“Tell me who did this, Rachel,” his lips moved against the side of my face. “And they shall pay a thousand deaths.”
My mind was racing, as he ran his hand over my hair, soothing me. Who was he going to hurt? Who was going to suffer in the name of his sick justice? I couldn’t stand being the cause of that again.
“No one,” I pulled away from him and looked bravely into his face. “No one hurt me.”
He looked at me with a confused expression on his face. Then he looked at the floor and all the broken glass. And then he looked at me like the doctor had looked at my mother. That look. That judgement. Suddenly, the love was removed, drawn back like a line being pulled in. In its place was the gentleman’s scorn. “Do I have to put a guard on you, Rachel?”
Published: Jan 22/2019
The Precious Quest
Genre: Epic / Dark Fantasy
Word Count: 45,000
Pitch: When the goddess’ enemies seed the world with evil, Laywren, Queen of the Horde, must challenge chaos. But will she sacrifice her pride, her lover, and her rule to defy destiny?
The Brownie Bones Foretold
“Come, sit here,” Nailia smiled and fluffed a third cushion, placing it on the floor beside her.
I slid my sword out of its sheath and laid it against the tent wall, then crossed my legs and lowered myself to the floor. Strangely, I had enjoyed the camaraderie of Nailia when we had been in the flushing tent together. She was unafraid to joke with me, much like Rserker was. But it was different because she was a woman. Most women were subservient in my presence, some were envious, few were friends.
“We’re having a game,” Nailia grinned like an imp.
Jendara looked away nervously.
“What is the game?” I asked.
By way of answer, Nailia shook some tale-telling bones in her hand and rolled them out onto the table. I recognized the small pieces of brownie carcass. The women were future-reading. Cook was the one who usually relayed our paths, but I knew other dabbled in these magicks.
The tender, seeing my interest in the bones, put away her weavings and brought another mug. I took it from her hand, before she could set it on the scattering of ribs.
“What answer do you seek?” I asked.
Nailia leaned over and whispered, “Who next will be blessed by the flush!”
I looked at Jendara who dipped her head to hide her eyes. I wondered if I was being mocked. I looked back at Nailia, but she was busy separating the bones into matching piles. She placed the tiny brownie ribs and fairy wings into two separate stacks, the legs and arms into another. As she sorted, she was careful not to change the direction in which they had landed.
I gulped some of the tea to wet my dry throat.
“Now,” Nailia said taking out her dagger, “We make three pools of blood.”
The tender was hovering, making me nervous. I looked wistfully at my sword leaning against the far wall of the tent. Nailia stared at Jendara until the young warrior reached out her hand. Nailia pulled her arm roughly across the table, and made a small slice in Jendara’s finger. As soon as the cut was made, Jendara’s wound hound rose up from the corner of the tent and began to whine. The tender shushed it.
I watched the drop of ruby blood well up on the warrior’s light skin. Nailia gave a cruel squeeze and the blood rolled over Jendara’s dirty, broken nail and dripped onto the table.
“Hmm,” I grunted and gulped back more tea.
Nailia poked her own finger with the dagger and squeeze out another little pool of blood. She was careful not to mix her life juice with Jendara’s. The reading on the flush was making me think of Dorn and the ward and what they might be doing together. I crushed the thought.
“Shall we add a little more?” Nailia asked, as she held out her hand for mine.
The war dragon burned like fire on my back. I stared down into Nailia’s black eyes.
“More of your blood?” I growled.
The tender moved as if to fetch something and then stopped. Jendara sat back, her hands sliding into her lap.
Nailia broke the tension with another smirk, “We have just enough.”
She laid the dagger on the table close to me. Then, she turned her attention to the little pile of yellowing bones. Jendara let out her breath. I tipped the mug up to my lips for another drink and noticed the bones shimmer. Putting the mug down, I looked at the table. The piles of bones were in the centre where Nailia had placed them. Between the piles, the two pools of blood glistened, but when I turned my head to the side the bone pile moved.
“Now we will chant,” Nailia reached out for my hand.
When I didn’t give it, she continued. “We’ll all have to chant, if we want to find out the answer to the question,” she explained, as if speaking to a child.
Jendara joined hands with Nailia, but did not reach out for mine. I hesitated. Nailia was not lowering her hand. I was impressed at her courage in the face of my scowl. I reached out my right hand and clasped Nailia’s, giving her knuckles an extra squeeze to punish her for her insolent tone. Without looking at Jendara, I reached out my other hand. She took it. The tender watched nervously from the trunk.
“Brownie ribs and fairy wings,” Nailia started. “Don’t build fibs with webbing strings.”
Jendara joined in the next line with her soft voice, “Answer us true, when we ask, dance the bones, fulfill your task.”
The women repeated the chant, while I became uncomfortably aware of the moistness of Jendara’s palms. The game was foolish time spent, and yet, I didn’t get up and leave. In a small way, I was intrigued by this distraction.
“Brownie ribs and fairy wings,
Don’t build fibs with webbing strings,
Answer us true,
When we ask,
Dance the bones,
Fulfill your task.”
Just when I was wondering how I could sip another drink of tea with my hands trapped, the women stopped chanting.
Without breaking our circle, Nailia leaned over the bones and hissed, “Who shall be next to flush?”
Her voice screeched on the last word, making her sound like an old hag. We held completely still, waiting for the answer to boom from above, or below, or blow in through the tent opening. But as time moved on, there was nothing but silence, and my growing awareness of discomfort. Jendara was holding my hand with all the pressure of a wet leaf. I let go and it fell to her lap. She would not meet my eyes. Nailia was harder to release, for she hung on while she stared down at the brittle bones on the table.
“Tell us!” she shouted, rippling the small circle of blood with her breath.
Jendara reddened at Nailia’s desperate tone. I had not realized Nailia cared much about the flush. I had been so focused on myself during the night of the choosing, I had not thought of her needs. Now I could see the fine lines around her eyes, signs of her aging. Like me, and Jendara, and the tender, she was barren and only getting older. And yet, her encouragement had been for me in the tent.
I stopped trying to pull my hand from hers and instead, gripped back. “Perhaps the brownie needs another drink?” I said, trying to soften her disappointment.
Jendara waved at the tender who rushed to fill our mugs. My vision shifted again, as I turned to the side. I was sure the tea was drugged, but not for harm, only for pleasure.
Nailia straightened and released my hand. Gripping her hair by the roots, she made the short black spikes stand straight up. I thought she might shriek, but then she laughed softly.
“Bare-bones brownie,” she said to the bones. “Still mad at me for skinning you, eh?”
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Published: Jan 29/2018
Undo: The Poetry and Story of HER
Genre: Literary Creative Fiction
Word Count: 14,000
Pitch: This text will lead you on a rhythmic journey into the violent history and perseverance of misogyny, where you will discover how blood can be overcome by bleeding, and hatred can blossom into hope.
Chapter 1: Creation Theories
The Mythology of Rape
The God Rape was powerful, controlling and full of anger. He betook himself to earth so that he could release these emotions and so gain some freedom from their intensity. While walking through the forest, he came upon an old woman who was lost. Seeing that she was vulnerable, he decided to spring upon her and discharge his anger on her unsuspecting defenselessness.
Rape got great satisfaction from this attack, but the gratification was only temporary. He began to plan ahead, placing himself where he might find a victim and then selecting an unsuspecting wretch to vent himself upon, once the God Opportunity gave him a window.
After many attacks, temples were erected to appease the God Rape. The keepers of these temples were priests who would act in the image of their God. They adorned the temple walls with drawings of women in positions meant to arouse the angry desires of man. Good people tried to avoid these temples but they were placed near markets and other areas where many had to tread.
Rape was such a powerful God, he could easily kill a human woman. Many of his victims were relieved to escape alive. It became known throughout the land that a woman should do anything to live through a visit from the God Rape. Due to this imposed submission for survival, many victims of Rape would suffer from guilt. This suffering was increased tenfold by men who would accuse women of offering gifts in Rape’s temples; of trying to entice the virility of this God with ambrosia.
Rape had many God friends, some of whom would gain enjoyment in startling victims of Rape. They would whip up dry leaves on wooded paths so that Rape’s victims would run in terror, believing they were being chased. They would send down unprovoked thunder claps to make Rape’s victims jump and shriek and clutch their clothing. This became a game for the Gods, a contrived labyrinth of fear, which they called Postrauma. Only those victims who traveled the river of Lethe seemed untouched by the game.
After awhile, Rape’s gratification dwindled, and he became a greedy God. He passed laws that male husbands could no longer rape their wives because he wanted to be the only one with power and control. He began to assault his victims in daylight and anywhere that was convenient to him. He even began to impose his brutal intrusion on children and male humans. It became so no human from any age, village, or group was safe from him.
Finally, all of the humans understood they must band together and stop Rape. They tore down his temples, but Rape had become all powerful. He had rooted himself in the earth and attached himself to the families of humanity. He was a scourge upon their world, woven by the fates into the very fabric of human life. He could never be removed.
Chapter 3: Living It
The Plundered Bush
“Did you hear what happened last night at the bush party?” Sage asks.
“What.” I cloak my interest by lighting a smoke. Sucking the grey fumes in through my mouth, I show off my strong, white teeth. Then, I blow it out through my nose. Dragon fierce.
“Leslie, she got raped,” She says in an offhand manner.
I lean forward, all of my attention on her now.
“What do you mean raped?” I ask.
“You know–gang raped.”
She steps back, seems unsure.
“Who did it?” I fist my hands, pinning her against the brick wall with my expression.
“They all did,”
She pauses for effect like an actress. I wait for it, daring her with a narrowing of my lids.
“Dayle was there, too.” She drops her bomb with glee.
I search her eyes for the smile I know is there. Fear hoods her gaze.
I try to decipher her motive as I ask, “Did Leslie call the cops?”
“Does anybody? Ever?”
She walks away, sauntering down the bare sidewalk. I can feel her attention still on me, can sense her amusement at my reaction.
I recite one of my survival slogans to myself, “Never show you care.”
I drop the smoke and grind it flat under my angry heel. The wind blows. Cars drive by. I could phone Leslie. Convince her to lay charges. But she doesn’t talk to me. Last time I saw her, I threatened to kick her ass if she didn’t return the clothes she’d stolen from me.
Why the hell do the women in this town hate each other?
I walk into the arcade, my black, leather jacket creaking with cold. The owner looks up. I meet his eyes—big, brown eyes that see everything. He looks away. He knows.
Alright, Taff. I’ll leave you be for now.
I scan the room, marking each position, gauging foe or friend. It changes daily. Then, I move to the back, to the pool table. Weaker members of the pack are there. They see me coming and turn their backs on my judgment. The bigger one lines up a shot.
“Hey,” I greet the air and lean against the juke box, masking my face with uncaring attitude. “Been to any good parties, lately?” I nonchalantly ask.
The two-ball hits the side making a soft “foop”. It misses the hole.
“It’s none of your business,” The bigger one says.
“I’m a woman. That makes it my business.” I stand up, stretching from the inside to my full height. I’m pissed.
He puts down his cue and slides on his coat preparing to leave.
“We’ll finish later,” he says to his pool partner, Jud.
The cold wind invades the room, then the door shuts behind him. I am very aware that he didn’t threaten Jud to keep his mouth shut. We both read the omission as permission.
I look at Jud.
He looks at me.
I leave the arcade, feeling Taff’s eyes on my back. Piss off, Taff. The walk down to the little man-made lake takes no time at all, but the cold makes it feel like forever. I shiver on the wooden bench and wait.
Sure enough, he comes down. His Levis topping his white sneakers, hands in pockets. Head down against the never-friggin-ending wind in this town...