by Krystle Jones
(The Red Sector Chronicles Omnibus)
Genres: Dystopia, Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
The strength of Sloane’s heart is about to be put to the ultimate test.
After the Eclipse – the night vampires began openly slaughtering human victims – everything changed. Out of fear, the government salvaged what remained of the human population and enclosed them in massive, security-laden cities called White Sectors, while marking the vampire infested territory as Red Sectors.
When seventeen-year-old Sloane McAllister’s twin brother disappears, she seems to be the only one who thinks he isn’t dead, and she vows to stop at nothing to find him. Gathering her courage, she braves the Red Sector to search for clues to his whereabouts. By chance, she encounters Aden, a handsome, charismatic vampire with a hidden agenda. He turns Sloane against her will and whisks her away to his underground city. Enemies quickly become friends as Sloane struggles against her attraction to Aden, and resists her growing loyalties to the creatures that ruined her life.
But the vampires themselves are the least of her problems. A war is brewing between the humans and vampires, along with a growing web of deceit and betrayal. And before it’s all over, loyalties will be tested, hearts will be broken, and no one’s lives will ever be the same.
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Excerpt from The Scarlet Dagger
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Stale air rushed up and we all gagged.
“Whoa,” Rook said, covering his mouth with his arm. “Smells like something died.”
Orion wrinkled his nose. “Probably just an animal.”
A bolt of fear surged through me as I took in the decay coating the air. I wanted to run but I was helpless, trapped inside the other Sloane’s body as she pasted on a bold grin and climbed down the ladder into the basement, covering her nose and mouth with her hand.
It’s like I was there but wasn’t there, a bystander watching the events unfold through 14-year-old Sloane’s mind. This wasn’t simply a dream – it was a memory.
I screamed at her to turn around while she still could, but she took a flashlight from her utility belt as the others joined her/me.
More flashlights flipped on. “Oh, sweet! Check this out.” Rook pointed to a shelf lined with containers. We all shuffled closer to examine them. Most had some sort of liquid in them, though it was too opaque to see much of what was inside. I shined my flashlight on one, and something long and bloated drifted past the edge of the light.
“Oh my God,” I said. “Is that a finger?”
“No freakin’ way!” Orion leaned forward, completely engrossed in my find. I tilted my head ever so slightly, caught Rook’s eye, and winked.
Taking my cue, Rook snuck up behind Orion and grabbed him by the shoulders, screaming into his ear.
Orion leaped about two feet in the air, nearly knocking over the shelves in the process. He rounded on Rook and punched him in the arm so hard he staggered a bit. “You think that was funny, smartass?!” Orion yelled, clenching his fists. His normally mischievous smile was gone, and his eyes had gone steely. I recognized the look on his face, the same craving for bloodshed I saw him get whenever he got into a fight. As much as I loved my brother, I hated the darker side of him, like how he’d pull off butterfly wings because he thought it was funny or said disturbing things like “Wouldn’t it fun to drown Ms. Allerby’s cat? Then it wouldn’t use our yard for a litter box anymore.”
I quickly stepped between them as my brother advanced on Rook. “Back off, Orion,” I said, throwing up my hands. “We were only joking, and you know it.”
Orion blinked at me, and just like that his goofy grin was back. “Hey, I know that,” he said, tapping me on the arm with a playful punch. “Maybe I was just playing too.” He laughed awkwardly, and I let my arms down, giving Rook an apologetic smile. We both knew the risks of hanging out with my brother. His dark mood swings were just part of “the whole package,” but he was largely a good guy and a lot of fun to be around.
Something – a shadow – darted away in the corner of my vision.
I stiffened, scanning the dark. “What was that?”
The others paused, a look of fear crossing their faces before Rook laughed. “It’s probably a rat or something scavenging off of whatever died down here.”
“Yeah, this reeks,” Orion said. “Let’s see what’s upstairs.”
Something about the shadow set me on edge, and I gladly let him pass, dismissing the thought to paranoia and the jitters. We found a rickety looking ladder and climbed the short ascent to the main floor. It looked like we had walked into a parlor.
As far as haunted houses go, this one was pretty damn creepy. Moth-eaten sheets were draped across the furniture, and there was so much dust and dirt floating in the air that it looked like mist. My throat immediately began to itch; it wasn’t long before I started coughing.
“Hey, sis,” Orion said, looking back at me. “Could you tone it down a notch? You’re kind of ruining the mood for me.”
I was about to respond with a rude comment when Rook’s light landed on a chair. There was an odd shape to the sheet lying across it.
“What’s that?” I asked, pointing.
Rook moved the light back until it was directly on the chair. At first, I didn’t want to believe what I saw. The folds of the sheet outlined arms and legs and a lowered head.
No one moved, and I knew we were all thinking the exact same thing.
Orion broke the silence. “Is that… a body?”
The sheet stirred, lifting just enough to see long, blackened nails dig into the armrests before a creature straight out of hell pounced on us.
I opened my mouth to scream, but all that came out was a choked gasp for air. There was a roar, almost human, right before Rook and Orion started screaming. Their terror-filled faces burned into my mind as I spun on my heel and ran.
Vampire Apocalypse: Building a Dystopian World
by Krystle Jones
When I first started writing my Red Sector Chronicles series, I didn’t know at the time I’d be writing dystopia. I was actually leaning more toward urban fantasy, since that’s what I read a lot of. But then as I developed my characters and brainstormed story ideas, I came to realize this storyline would work better in a futuristic America, where vampires ruled supreme.
But boy, did I have my work cut out for me!
Here’s the thing: Dystopian worlds are a lot of fun to write about, but they’re also a lot of work. I actually found them to be almost as involved as my epic fantasy worlds! In a dystopian novel, the world itself has a lot of influence over the rest of the story, especially the atmosphere. Dystopian novels – at least all the ones I’ve read – often imbue a very bleak, dark future. This can make the story somewhat heavy and depressing, which affects the characters’ attitudes and the themes of the story. There are more upbeat/comedic dystopian stories out there (Warm Bodies, anyone?), but the large majority I’ve seen are toward the depressing order.
Now, I like a little bit of humor in my books, so I tried putting that in my trilogy to provide some relief from the heavy atmosphere. Death hangs over my heroine through a lot of the story, since I also love thrillers, and I knew too much tension can strangle a reader. It’s like watching one of those movies where there’s so much action you eventually become desensitized to it, and it loses its effect. So that was something I had to watch out for.
I knew I wanted my vampires to be scary more so than sparkly (for the record, I love Twilight), but I’m also a little in love with the idea of the “romantic, dreamy” vampire that looks more like a human. So I decided to have both, the regular vamps and the Rogues, or flesh-eating monsters. Then it was a matter of figuring out how they fit into this dark world, and how they had altered history. That’s another thing, the “what went wrong” factor. Every dystopian novel has it, from killer plagues to the zombie apocalypse. For me, I decided vampirism was more of a disease rather than a fantasy element (witch cursing a prince, or something equally fantastic), and the Rogues were going to be the vampires who’d fallen prey to their bloodlust and lost their minds to it. The “what went wrong,” “what’s happened since,” and “where we are now” play a big part in dystopian stories.
The more I figured out about my dystopian world, the more I realized I was going to need a story bible. There’s no way to keep all those details straight, because you’re pretty much making stuff up after a certain point, from alternate history, to world building, to the way society and the government function in this alternate universe. Especially if you’re writing a series, a story bible is wonderful for keeping yourself from sticking your foot in your mouth in later books. If you’re going to be the queen of the universe, you have to keep track of what you put into it.
Lastly, I’d say the one of the big decisions about writing dystopian is deciding how much fantasy versus science fiction you’re going to have in the story. For me, my world was pretty grounded in science fiction, as I think most dystopian stories are, but there are definitely sci-fi books and movies that incorporate some fantasy elements (i.e. Star Wars). I’d say figure this out in book one and stick with it. If you’re writing a series steeped in reality and explainable science, and you suddenly have flying magical unicorns floating around your pages, readers will 1) be thrown out of the story; and 2) not believe it one bit. So stick to one or the other (no fantasy elements vs. some fantasy elements). Just be sure not to let the fantasy overwhelm the sci-fi, or else it becomes more fantasy.
Those are some of the things I had to think about while writing my dystopian novel. Hopefully, they’ll help you write yours, if you’re a writer, or give you a glimpse into what a writer thinks about, if you’re a reader. Thanks for reading!
And now for some fun!
Today, Krystle Jones, author of the young adult dystopian/PNR series The Red Sector Chronicles, will be interviewing the gorgeous and talented vampire, Dezyre Drake!
KRYSTLE: Thanks for joining us, Dezyre!
DEZYRE: *examines freshly-painted nails and ignores author*
KRYSTLE: *smile twitches* So, I’m surprised you could join us today, considering how busy you are with your medical studies.
DEZYRE: *raises a brow and deigns to look at author* I’m not studying – I am a doctor. Studying is something students do.
DEZYRE: *yawns and whips out a nail filer and goes to town*
KRYSTLE: *ahem* There’s been some tension between you and Sloane.
DEZYRE: *abruptly stops filing nails* “Tension” would be putting it lightly. Besides, she started everything. That little cafeteria scene did not need to get so out-of-hand. *rolls eyes* She’s such a child – and a hunter.
KRYSTLE: I take it you don’t like vampire hunters?
DEZYRE: I’m a vampire. What do you think? (said very blandly)
KRYSTLE: *writes a note about inserting a scene where Sloane stakes Dezyre* *smiles brightly at Dezyre* So are we seeing any romantic prospects on the horizon for you? Like a certain blond-haired vampire you have a crush on?
DEZYRE: *blushes and purses lips* I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have time to date. As if! That would imply I had free time, and I’m too important for that.
KRYSTLE: Of course you are. (said with fake enthusiasm) So is there anything you want to tell the audience about The Red Sector Chronicles?
DEZYRE: Eh. *shrugs* If you’re into smart-aleck vampire hunters pretending to be cooler than the vampires – the real stars of the story – you’re welcome to it. It’s diverting, at least.
KRYSTLE: O-kay! Wow, I didn’t know you were so magnanimous with your compliments, Dezyre! Way to help an author out. *grumbles* Useless side character. *grumbles* All right, that’s about enough time with Dezyre! Seeing as you’re so busy, I’m sure you’d like to be getting back to the Syndicate so you can save lives, stab kittens with your stilettos, or whatever it is you enjoy doing.
DEZYRE: *glares sharply at author* What was that last part?
I think that's my cue to step in before Dezyre makes a snack out of her creator ;) How about we get to know vampire hunter hottie, Leo Rinaldi, a little better rather!
KRYSTLE: Hi, Leo!
LEO: *sexy grin* Hey, girl. Sup?
KRYSTLE: Oh, my. *blushes* So how are things going with the vampire hunter Guild?
LEO: Oh, you know. It’s the same thing every day. Wake up, look hot, go kick some vampire ass. Typical vigilante stuff, since, you know, vampire hunting is kind of illegal. *mumbles that last part*
KRYSTLE: And how do you feel about Sloane becoming a vampire?
LEO: *eyes narrow* I don’t know. But I do know I’m gonna kick that blond vampire’s ass when I see him.
*Aden slips further into the shadows back-stage.*
KRYSTLE: Now, now. No fighting between characters unless I initiate it! So tell us a little bit about yourself.
LEO: *looks audience straight in the eyes* I’m the best character in this whole book – ‘cept for my girl, Sloane, that is.
SLOANE: *from off-stage* Aw, Leo! Thanks! *makes a heart symbol with her hands*
LEO: *winks* I got your back, girl.
KRYSTLE: Oh, boy. Did I really make you so shamelessly flirtatious?
LEO: Actually, you didn’t make me flirtatious enough. What’s up with that? I was expecting a few more love scenes, if you know what I mean.
KRYSTLE: Um, you do know I write YA, right?
LEO: So? You can push the boundaries. Won’t be any worse than what they see on TV. Hey, how about you write a new novel: Fifty Shades of Leo?
KRYSTLE: Um-kay, I can see this is starting to spiral out of control. That’s all for today! Thanks, Leo!
LEO: Wait a minute! I’m not even done with my book proposition yet!
Sorry, Leo! It's time for us to meet everyone else!
Here's Krystle's Dream Cast for The Red Sector Chronicles
Sometimes when I write, I see certain actors or actresses for my characters, and sometimes I don’t. The Red Sector Chronicles has a large cast, and I can honestly say I see a mixture of both already-known people and unknowns for my characters. I’ll try to give you an idea of what they look like, in my mind, below. =) (FYI, due to copyright laws, I just listed the names of the actors and actresses rather than including pictures in the guest post.)
We’ll start with my MC and work our way through the supporting cast.
· Sloane McAllister/Phoebe Tonkin: Seventeen-year-old headstrong and bold vampire hunter-turned-vampire. She can be pretty pigheaded sometimes, and she doesn’t take crap from anybody, but she still has a lot of heart. Why I picked Phoebe: I didn’t have a particular actress in mind when I pictured Sloane, but the more I see Phoebe (The Originals), the more I think she’d suit Sloane. Her skin would have to be a little bit darker, but she has the exotic look I pictured.
· Aden Knight/Ashley Charles the II: Sloane’s main love interest. A mysterious, handsome vampire soldier Sloane meets in the Red Sector while looking for her brother. Why I picked Ashley: I had no clue who to pick for Aden. Then I came across a picture of Ashely on imdb.com and I said, “That looks like Aden.” When I saw him in The White Queen, I thought to myself, “That could be Aden. The voice, those eyes, his look… give him some blonder hair, and that could be him.” Only not British, because Aden is an American. =P (Though I think he WOULD sound hot with a British accent.)
· Leo Rinaldi/Adrian Grenier: Sloane’s hot-blooded best friend. Passionate and just as reckless as she is. Why I picked Adrian: This was the only other character besides Paris I saw a certain actor for. Adrian has the right look, though he’s a bit too old to play Leo now. (Leo’s around seventeen.)
· Deyzre Drake/Yaya DaCosta: Somewhat vain yet smart vampire medical student. Has a habit of getting under Sloane’s skin. Why I picked Yaya: I’ll just admit, Dezyre would probably have to be an unknown if she were cast in real life. It was really hard to find someone who fit her image and could pull off her personality, but after seeing some clips of Yaya, I think she would suit her. She’s around my age, making a little too old for Dezyre, since she’s also supposed to be seventeen, but she has that refined look to her that I picture Dezyre having.
· Paris De Lange/Kate Walsh: Paris is a brilliant French doctor whose sassy attitude often makes her butt heads with Sloane. Why I picked Kate: Paris was one of the few characters where I had a particular actress in mind while I was writing. I saw Kate Walsh, maybe because her hair color is so similar to Paris’. I also think she could pull off the classy, sophisticated air Paris has.
· Rook/Jesse Williams II: Rook’s a talented soldier and a skilled fighter, but he’s a big teddy bear at heart. One of Sloane’s friends. Why I picked Jesse: I remember Jesse from Cabin in the Woods (WEIRD movie). I think he’d be able to pull off Rook’s softer nature, while at the same time making him seem tough.
· Orion McAllister/Shiloh Fernandez: Orion is the twin brother Sloane goes looking for in the Red Sector. Why I picked Shiloh: I haven’t seen him in much, but I distinctly remember him in Red Riding Hood. He has a cunning look to him I think would suit Orion well, and I think he and Phoebe could pull off being related. As with Phoebe, though, I’d picture him with slightly darker skin.
· General Minerva Frost/Meryl Streep: The cold ruler of the vampire Syndicate. Why I picked Meryl: She could rock this world. The frigidity she showed in The Devil Wears Prada would do Minerva a lot of justice. Plus, she’s one of my favorite actresses.
· Mrs. Knight/Susanna Thompson: Aden’s gentle mother. She’s soft spoken, but not afraid to stand up for what is right. Why I picked Susanna: She just has that motherly air, and she looks almost exactly like how I pictured Mrs. Knight. How she plays Moira Queen in Arrow is pretty similar to how Mrs. Knight acts, though I would probably make her even a bit softer.
· Arika Takihara/Arika Takarano: Another vampire hunter is a little too close to Leo for Sloane’s liking. Why I picked Arika: Okay, so Arika Takarano isn’t who I pictured playing Arika, but she is the inspiration for the character. She’s a talented singer, known for her complicated songs and elaborate wardrobes.
Okay, so now that we've met all the players, let's get to know their creator a little better!
1. How long have you been writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? I started writing a few years ago after having a really vivid dream. I had the same dream a few times, so I decided to write it down, and eventually, it expanded into a whole story. That’s when I made the decision to start seriously studying storytelling. That dream went on to become my first novel, an epic fantasy I’ll never end up finishing. *lol* But it got me writing, which I’ve never given up. And no, I didn’t always want to be a writer. I was active in the arts, but I hadn’t considered writing as a career until much later in my life.
2. Why did you decide to write about vampires? Vampires are one of my favorite paranormal creatures. (And I think a lot of people would agree with me!) They’re alluring, sexy, dark, mysterious. There’s also a certain romanticism that goes along with them, which lends itself well to paranormal romance.
3. Do you have a favorite author? That’s a hard question to answer! But one of my favorite authors is Richelle Mead. I love her worlds and her characters. I know when I pick up one of her books, I’m going to have fun. Her stories are so easy to sink into.
4. When’s your favorite time of day to write? Because of my job, I usually end up writing at night. It also helps me to relax and get my mind off the day.
5. Tell us a little about The Red Sector Chronicles. In a nutshell, it’s the story about a teenage vampire-hunter-turned-vampire and her adventures. =P That’s the super-short version. It’s a young adult trilogy that’s a mash-up of dystopia, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy, some of my favorite genres. There are laughs, gasps, and swooning-over-book-boyfriends to be had. If you’re a fan of Vampire Academy or Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, you’ll probably like this series.
6. What sort of things do you like to do for fun? I love to draw, manipulate images in Photoshop, and watch movies. Oh, and read. Of course, reading.
7. Which is your favorite: paper books or ereaders? I’ll admit I’m something of a pretty-cover collector. I love reading in both formats, but if a cover really draws my attention or if the book captivated me, I’ll want a hard copy to add to my collection. I also love the smell of books, as strange as it sounds. It reminds me of my childhood. I grew up with a lot of books, which I usually read instead of doing my math homework, much to the disgruntlement of my grandmother.
8. Do you have any advice for new writers? Read. A lot. And not just within your genre, but outside your genre. Also read as many writing references as you can, and practice what you learn. That’s the key. And speaking of practicing, write every day. Not edit. Write. Pour new words onto the page. That’s how you perfect your craft.
Krystle Jones was born and raised in the small, southern town of Tullahoma, Tennessee. Reading and writing have been lifelong passions of hers. In addition to being a novelist, she is also an award-winning flutist, and moonlights as a voice actress. Her voice can be heard in the popular online game, Alice is Dead 3.
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