Excerpt from The Renegade

23 Jul

Excerpt from The Renegade

Due for release September 2015.

The Renegade

The Renegade

Chapter One

Alex Clarke tried to keep her composure, afraid that if her true emotions surfaced they would only add to her dad’s suffering. She bit down painfully on her tongue, silencing the hysteria clawing up her throat. A hot trickle of coppery blood was enough to keep her screams at bay.

She watched as her dad suffered yet another violent coughing fit, his gaunt face contorted with pain as he struggled to catch each labouring breath. The rattling sound from his chest had grown louder. His bulky frame was misleading, as his body was helplessly weak and frail. His clothes were saturated with sweat and bloody mucus. A thick layer of perspiration coated his skin, while his body shivered as the raging fever continued to ravage him.

Alex looked away. She knew he hated her to see him so weak. In truth, he no longer resembled the strong and powerful protector of their family. The anguish of remembering him as the gentle giant who’d taught her how to ride a bike, told exciting bedtime stories, and taken her on adventures hurt more than she’d believed possible.

As an only child, she’d never wanted for anything or been lonely. The three of them had been content and happy with their little family unit. Her parents wholeheartedly supported her in whatever she’d endeavoured to do. At sixteen, she’d finally gathered enough courage to tell them she was a lesbian and they’d accepted her without judgement. In later years, her partner Dianne had been warmly welcomed into their family, and for eighteen months they’d all been happy together.

Things had been perfect.

The perfect days they shared had turned into perfect months and had passed by quickly. In the blink of an eye, all hell broke loose. Within months, everything had gone to shit. Everyone and everything she loved, except for her dad, was gone. Soon he’d leave her, too.

She sensed the coughing fit subside and reluctantly returned her gaze to him. Besides herself, he was the only living person that remained.

“You’ve everything packed…like I showed you?” he asked, his voice nothing more than an audible rasp.

“Yes.” She grimaced at the pain it caused him to speak.

He gave a weak nod and his gaze met hers for a fleeting second before she looked away. The familiar blue rings of his eyes were set against the startling red backdrop that had once been white. Although his eyes had been this way for two days now, she still found it impossible to bear. The cause of the unnatural red eyes hadn’t been properly explained. It’d been listed as one of the main symptoms of the strain. She guessed it probably had something to do with the pressure caused from the violent coughing. Regardless of its cause, it was another indicator of the final stages of the Red Death. The sensational name was first used by the media, and by the time scientists had come up with an official name for it, the Red Death had already stuck.

She’d witnessed its devastating course from beginning until end twice before—first with Dianne, then only days later, with her mum. She was certain her dad was in the last and most horrific stages. Worse still was the knowledge there was nothing she could do to help or even mildly relieve his suffering.

He coughed again and thick bloody mucus, more black than red, spilt down his chin. With a trembling hand, he wiped himself with his soiled cloth.

Alex fought hard against the urge to heave and clenched her hands into painfully tight fists. Her nails cut into her palms, verging on breaking the skin. Hysteria stalked close to the brink again, and she mustered what little resolve she had left to swallow it down.

“Your mum and I love you—” Another coughing fit cut him off. The pain was obvious, but a few moments later, he continued, “You’re destined for something big, Alex. I’ve known it since the day I held you in the hospital. I’m just sorry I can’t be with you.”

A searing lump of emotion lodged in her throat. She forced her words over it. “I’m destined to die like Dianne, Mum, and the rest of the world. In a few days, I’ll start with the symptoms.”

He shook his head. Pink tears tainted with blood streamed from his burgundy eyes. “You’re immune.”

She glared defiantly and tried to swallow, but the lump made her wince. Boiling tears welled in her eyes. “That doesn’t make sense. Just because you’ve always said I was your miracle baby doesn’t mean I’m immune to this. You only started with it a few days ago.”

“I was lucky to last this long. It allowed me to teach you how to survive. I’m ready to be with your mum and Dianne. There isn’t time to go over this again.” Another coughing fit tore through his body, crippling him with pain.

Alex couldn’t hold back the tears. “I don’t want to be alone. I can’t go on without you. I can’t…I’m not this special person you think I am. I’m just me.”

“Alexandra,” he said, his lips and teeth coated with rank blood. “You will go on. You swore to me on your mum’s and Dianne’s graves that you would go when I told you to and never come back. We didn’t raise you to be a liar or a coward.”

She felt like a berated child, which made her sobbing worse. “Dad…please—”

“Promise me again, now.” His voice was raspy and disjointed because of his shallow breathing, but she still heard his steel determination. He wouldn’t back down.

In desperation she tried to get him to see sense. “I’ve nowhere to go. And I need to look after you—”

He lifted a weak hand, immediately silencing her. “I don’t need looking after. There’s nothing you can do for me. You know it. You’re not going to watch me turn into a corpse.”

Alex knelt before him. “I need to be with you until the end. I can’t just leave you. I won’t do it.”

“We went through this with Dianne and your mum. We both know what happens in the end. Soon, I won’t even know you’re here.”

“But I have to bury you with Mum.”

He sighed, which turned into another coughing fit. When it lessened he whispered, “I’ve made my own plans. This pathetic excuse for a body is nothing more than a slab of rotting meat. Burying it is pointless. Your mother and I will be reunited in whatever comes after this life. Now, promise me that you will go on living and never return.”

Alex couldn’t speak. The words were stuck behind the lump that choked her.

“Please?” He reached out and gently held one of her hands. “Promise me.”

His huge hand felt clammy as it trembled in hers. His desperation was so urgent and intense, it was claustrophobically palpable.

“I won’t come back here,” she said, swiping tears away. “I promise.”

He closed his eyes for a moment. “Thank you. Now take your things and leave. You’ll need to find somewhere away from the town to set up camp before dark. Try to remember everything I’ve taught you. Keep your wits sharp and avoid people.”

“Everyone’s dead!” She felt guilty for shouting, but her frustration and anger at their situation was too much. “We haven’t seen anyone in weeks. Months even.”

He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “You’re still alive and there will be other survivors. Everything’s changed now. Survival and self-preservation will rule people’s minds and hearts. You must be wary, sweetheart. Now, please pass me my box.” He indicated to the silver box resting on the coffee table.

Her stomach lurched as she got to her feet and picked it up. Inside was his Beretta handgun. She had the exact same model upstairs. They’d spent many hours practicing with them in recent weeks. Confused, she offered the box out. He’d emptied the fifteen-round magazine the previous day, ordering her to pack it with the rest of her ammunition.

“Thank you. Your mum and I couldn’t have loved you any more even if we’d tried. We’re so proud of you. We’ll be with you, watching every step. You’ve got to be brave. It’s going to be hard, really hard, but I know you’ll make it.”

Unable to speak, she tried to convey everything she felt and wanted to say in the fierce hug she gave him. His fevered flesh shook beneath her touch. She could already smell the familiar sickly sweet and pungent stench that came with the last stages. He didn’t have long.

“I love you,” she said, choking through muffled sobs.

“I love you, too. Now leave me.” His voice strained trying to remain strong and commanding.

She held on all the tighter, not ready to let go of him. When she did finally pull away, she refused to meet his eyes. She’d be strong for him. She’d gather her things, leave, and then when she was far enough away, she’d allow herself to break down. But not one second before, because she was brave, just like her dad.

She went to her room and checked everything one final time. It was hard to resist the urge to take more. Her bag was packed solid and heavy. But as she longingly surveyed the room, she saw photos and other sentimental belongings that she’d always taken for granted. Every single one of those items now seemed invaluable.

She laced her boots with trembling hands, shouldered her large rucksack, the weight pinning her. She slung the shotgun over her left shoulder and checked the gun holster on her right hip. Her own handgun was safely in place. She adjusted the leather sheath attached to her belt, allowing her fingertips to briefly caress the familiar smooth hilt of the six-inch hunting knife. In theory, she was ready to leave. The stark realization that she was ignorant and unprepared for what lay ahead was enough to physically paralyze her.

The sound of her dad coughing downstairs snapped her from her thoughts. It was time to go. She gave one last longing look around the room that had been hers for her entire life. Even when she’d moved into a flat with Dianne, her parents had remained adamant that this room would always belong to her. They’d never changed a single thing. She stepped onto the landing and closed the door behind her, resigning herself to the knowledge she’d never enter again.

Downstairs, she lingered at the front door. She could hear the sound of her dad’s gasping breaths from inside the living room. She waited silently. A sharp pain stabbed through her heart. Neither spoke. The foreboding filled the silence between them. She racked her brain for something to tell him, desperate to initiate one final conversation or to just hear one more word from him. But there was nothing left to say. It’d all been said, and there were no words that could voice her heartbreak and grief. She refused to make this harder for him. She knew intuitively that however unbearable and painful this was for her, it’d be worse for him.

She gripped the door handle, pressed it down, and pulled open the door. She stepped over the threshold like she’d done thousands of times before and was greeted by the warm June morning. With bated breath, she paused one final time, her ears straining for the familiar voice. After a few long torturous seconds of silence, she closed the door behind her. She followed the orders he’d given her; she engaged the lock, pushed her keys through the letter box, and heard their jingle as they landed on the welcome mat.

She took her first tentative step away from the house, her heart tearing in her chest. She took another step, leading her away from the home and burial place of her mum and girlfriend. She wanted to go back to the garden one last time and say good-bye, even though she knew it was useless. There would never be enough time to grieve fully, or enough ways—or words—to say good-bye. Although the solitary future she now faced would probably offer her ample opportunity to try.

She reached the end of the driveway and closed the creaky iron gate behind her. Without purpose she allowed her feet to carry her down the familiar but deserted street. Cars lined most of the driveways and pavements. She numbly passed by each house, remembering the familiar faces of those who used to live there. She’d babysat for most of the kids on their street at one time or another. She’d laughed and danced with them during their street parties only a few years ago. They’d celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympic Games with quintessential homemade buffets, plastic cups, patriotic bunting, and a mismatched variety of tables and chairs.

She rounded the corner as a sudden loud bang erupted, causing her to flinch in shock and grab for her gun. The silent morning echoed with the resounding sound of the single gunshot. Familiar. She knew it’d come from her dad’s handgun. With startling clarity, she knew if she checked the rounds in the magazine he’d given her yesterday, there would be one missing.

A single renegade tear escaped. She briskly wiped it away with the back of her hand. Inconsolable hurt filled her to the brim, but there was also a flicker of relief. He wouldn’t suffer the same excruciating, degrading, and horrific fate that her mum and Dianne had.

She’d never return to the house and break her promise.

There was nothing to go back for now.

“I love you,” she whispered, looking up to the sky, then bitterly chastised herself. Whispering was pointless when there wasn’t another living soul around to hear. Truly alone for the first time in her life, she began walking again.

No destination in mind.

No end in sight.

The Renegade can be purchased from the following links.

http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/9781626394278.html

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/162639427X/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?qid=1437659225&sr=1-3&pi=AC_SY200_QL40&keywords=Amy+Dunne&dpPl=1&dpID=51MBDWyimQL&ref=plSrch

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/162639427X/ref=mp_s_a_1_4?qid=1437659275&sr=8-4&pi=AC_SX110_SY165&keywords=Amy+Dunne

A Reader’s Perspective on Escapism with Ted Beverage

24 Jul

Wow! The Renegade received a fabulous mention on the guest blog written by Ted Beveridge​​. 🙂

“Amy Dunne: The Renegade, omygod, want to talk about world building? Yep pretty much sums it up with this one. This is one intense book.”

https://womenwords.org/2016/07/23/a-readers-perspective-on-escapism-with-ted-beverage/

Women and Words

A longtime follower of Women and Words, Ted Beverage, is with us today to share his thoughts on the fabulous world building found in sci-fi. Woo! Take it away, Ted.


Thanks to Andi and Jove for letting me bend your ear for a minute with a reader’s perspective. I wanted to talk about two of my favorite genre’s, lesfic and sci-fi.

Escapism.

I started growing up in the 70’s. With very few outlets to tide the boredom of life, I turned to books. I keenly remember calling up my father at work while reading ‘The Lord of the Rings’ series and asking my dad what “queer” meant in the context of my reading. Since I had an openly gay uncle, I was used to hearing words like, “fag, faggot, queer”, etc when the re-tellings of his beatings were overheard. In this instance, queer only meant different and out of the…

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What a Difference a Year Makes by Amy Dunne

28 May

My blog for the Bold Strokes Books UK Book Event 2016. 🙂

Bold Strokes Books, UK

The Renegade Cover

Writing the blog in the lead up to the book event is a task that I do every year. I can remember the first time I was asked to write a blog as an author. I was overly enthusiastic and slightly delusional, as I eagerly embarked on the start of my journey as a soon to be published author. I’ve never written a diary or journal, but reading each blog allows me to glimpse back retrospectively at each year. The mood, emotions, and aspirations are all there in the subtext charting where I was and how I felt during that time.

The first time I attended the BSB UK Book Event I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I was an avid reader and couldn’t believe my luck at being able to meet some of my favourite BSB authors. I dragged my wife along and we didn’t know anyone else…

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Old Friends/New Friends by Cari Hunter

27 May

Bold Strokes Books, UK

Cold to the Touch final 300 DPI

On average it takes me about a year to write a book, squeezing in scribbling time around day shifts, night shifts, and the points between those shifts when my brain feels like it’s leaking out of my ears. If I kept a daily word count, it’d go something along the lines of “20”, “64”, “301”, “I can’t remember where I left my pen…” Add to that a healthy talent for procrastination and a tendency to be led astray by BuzzFeed, and you get a slow, though conscientious, author.

On the bright side, that means I get to spend months with my characters, creating their lives and loves and thinking up new ways to torment them. As the Dark Peak series is now three books long, the central cast feel like old friends. I know that Sanne once had a pair of pyjamas with purple elephants on them and that Meg…

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Painfully Awkward by Brey Willows

27 May

Bold Strokes Books, UK

Fury's Bridge 300 DPI (1)

I wonder…when it happens, is it a conscious thing? A strike of lightning forever imprinted on your memories?

Or, is it a more subtle thing, something that creeps up on you like that ivy that covers the walls of old houses?

I’m not sure. But I know at the moment, I’ve got a wicked case of impostor syndrome. How can I possibly call myself a writer?

I’ve got no problem calling myself an editor. After a decade playing with words that way, I think it’s fair to claim that title. And I suppose it feels more…solid? More logical, perhaps. I’m a ponderer, and when I’m having discussions, I often take a minute to analyse whatever is being said. If, in an attempt to seem less awkward, I don’t take that time, I come off like Sheldon in Bang Bang Theory, trying to fit into a social situation where the cues…

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Publishable, but worth it? by Anna Larner

27 May

Bold Strokes Books, UK

Em Forster

E M Forster

‘Publishable – but worth it?’ are the words of E M Forster, inscribed on the cover of the typescript of his novel, Maurice.

Completed in 1914, Maurice depicts the turmoil of middleclass Englishman, Maurice Hall, who falls in love with another man at a time (1912) when to do so risked everything. “I’m an unspeakable of the Oscar Wilde sort.”2Maurice was one of the first gay books I read. And at seventeen, with no language to express my longing, to find the words that spoke of it meant everything to me. Maurice Hall’s turmoil was my turmoil, his fear of discovery my fear, his internal questioning my questioning, and, above all, his wish for ‘a friend’ my own heartfelt desire:-

“The second dream is more difficult to convey. Nothing happened. He scarcely saw a face, scarcely heard a voice say, ‘That is your friend’…

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Emerging from Solitary by Charlie Cochrane

27 May

Bold Strokes Books, UK

dont-kiss-the-vicar_charlie

Authors, in their natural environment, are solitary beasts, only emerging from their writing dens for essential activities such as getting a cup of tea. They only usually connect with others of their species on social media such as Facebook. That’s why, when they get the chance meet up with other authors, they hop around, get on their finest display plumage and eagerly make their migration to the conference or similar event where they can flock together and twitter to their hearts’ content.

It’s great meeting other writers in person, not least because you can achieve more face-to-face in thirty minutes than in a whole day bashing emails back and forth, and you avoid the risk of the “I wrote that comment tongue in cheek, so please don’t take it seriously,” fiasco. I can’t think of an occasion when I’ve been with other writers when I haven’t felt I gained from…

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A Little Bit Starstruck by Lesley Davis

27 May

Bold Strokes Books, UK

Starstruck_lesley

The idea for “Starstruck” came while I was marathon watching a TV series a few years ago when I was ill and pretty much bedbound. For days I just watched one episode after another, getting drawn into the world the characters inhabited, and being torn between the two actresses in it as to which one I liked the most. And that got me thinking. Would I want to meet them in real life? They do conventions, I could easily go and stand in line, say hi, get an autograph…but would I want to? You see, I fall on the side of the line that loves a character first. As much as I like certain actresses I don’t really need to know all the intimate details about their real lives outside of a show. That’s their business. And the characters aren’t who sign the photographs or turn up for the events…

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