Monday, May 25, 2015

Beverly Toney, Author of Blood Descendants: St. Clair Vampires, Book 1

Author Bio:
Beverly Toney was raised on the Central Coast of California and earned a B.A. in History from California State University, Northridge. Always an avid reader, she set out to write a novel that she would want to read.
Title: Blood Descendants: St. Clair Vampires, Book 1
Author: Beverly Toney
Page count: 251
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Price: currently free

Tell us about your book:
Cheyenne wanted to be part of a family, but she had been a peculiar child and her behavior had her shuffled from one foster home to another. After 13 years in as many foster homes, Cheyenne's wish was granted. Her foster mom, Joyce Redding, was a gift from heaven and for 5 years, they lived a nice, quiet life. But, in life, appearances could be deceiving.
The summer before her senior year, Tabitha came to town and the two became fast friends. But, Tabitha brought more than friendship. Cheyenne would have to decide who to trust, what sacrifices to make, and, most importantly, what she was willing to become!

How long did it take to write the book?
About 1 year due to procrastination and writer's block.

What inspired you to write the book?
I love to read fantasy and paranormal books. As an African American female, however, it has been difficult to find a diverse set of characters. One of my favorite authors said if you cannot find h book that you want to read, then write it.

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
I have a degree in history so I try to make sure that people, places, and events are depicted accurately, so I do a lot of research for some things. As for my writing process/routine, I only wish that I had one. If anyone has any suggestions, I am open to them.

Excerpt from book:
Chapter 3

I didn’t wait for the entire house to get quiet. If it was silent then any noise I made would be obvious. I snuck into Tabitha’s room to change into jeans, throw some sweats into a duffel bag and grab my purse before heading for the front door. I couldn’t have picked a worse night to leave. It was rainy, cold and the streets were starting to flood. I walked the 3 miles to the bus depot and waited under the awning for the bus. I had money for a ticket to Vegas and some food and I was going to find my mother.

From across the street, a neon Budweiser sign was casting an eerie shadow on the street lamp on the corner. The bulbs had long since been broken by local vandals and the blinking neon was the only light for blocks. I prayed that the bus would be on time so that I didn’t have to stand on the dark, raining street for too much longer. Again the feeling that I was being watched made my skin crawl. The shadows across the street appeared to be changing. With every flash of neon, I imagined a cloaked image just beyond the street light. The harder I looked, the harder it was to determine if the image was real. After about 5 minutes, it was gone. Talk about your typical paranoid runaway.

The headlights of the bus had just appeared about a mile down the road. With the fog this heavy, the trip would be slow and tedious. I didn’t care, though, because running away wasn’t easy or glamorous like books and movies depict it. I knew I had a long hard way to make. I was going to be eighteen in three months and I hoped I could find a judge to emancipate me. I could not spend another night being dependent on someone else.

The wind picked up as the bus came closer and blew rain and debris in my direction. My jeans and hoodie were soaked through to my skin by the time the bus came to a stop in front of me. I stood slightly to the side to allow passengers to depart. It was no surprise to see that not one of the people on the bus wanted to get off in this hell hole.

The driver looked like he had seen better days. The only problem was that those better days were in the 1950s. He was old, smelled like he was wearing ‘Stale Cigarette, Body Odor and Scotch No. 5’ cologne. The interior of the bus was stifling hot and the occupants matched the driver’s fragrance like it was a competition.

I found a seat somewhere in the middle of the bus; far enough away from the driver that I could breathe without gagging. I sat down and tried to rest my eyes. Later, how much later I was not sure, I was jolted awake when the bus came to a sudden halt. The doors opened and a gush of cold air rushed in. There were four passengers waiting at the tiny roadside bus stop; an old lady and three hooded figures. The old lady hobbled down the aisle with her cataract eyes narrowed on the window seat next to me. I swept my legs into the aisle to allow her entrance when she stopped short. She stood right next to me while the three hooded figures lowered their hoods and boarded the bus.

The first to board the bus was the boy with the white hair. I sank low into my seat and covered my face with my hand just as the other two boys followed him toward me. The second two looked like they were twins, both having jet black hair and brown eyes. All three of them were dressed in black jeans and matching hoodies. They walked slowly down the aisle and appeared to be looking right through me, as if I wasn't there. They passed, one by one, slowly making eye contact with the old lady. The old lady, not one to be bullied by young people, simply lifted her chin and stared until they each took a seat.

Do you know those young men”, the old lady asked as she was taking her seat next to me.
No Ma’am. I don’t know anyone on this bus.”

Well, you be careful, then. Nothing good comes out of carelessness”, she finished and promptly went to sleep.

If she only knew just how careless I had been hours before. I sighed deeply and tried to figure out how to lose those three boys during the trip. Pulling out a small map of the western states, I figured a place like Las Vegas was as good as any to meet my bio-mom. We were currently in Las Cruces, New Mexico and traveling West. I wasn’t able to get a bus that went straight to Vegas. The bus I was on would go through Arizona and Los Angeles before heading north to Las Vegas. With all of the stops, this was going to be about a 24 hour trip, and I hoped it was long enough to formulate a plan.

I closed my eyes and slept until the bus came to a stop. It was around 9:00 AM in Tuscon and we'd been on the cramped bus for almost 7 hours. Not hungry but desperately in need of a good stretch, I waited until the bus was only occupied by sleeping passengers before I stepped off into the cool sunlight. One thing I could say about Arizona was that the air was crisp and clean. I took several deep breaths to clear my head before returning to the bus. On the way, I saw the three boys. Something, though I didn’t know what, told me to avoid them at all costs. They were standing right next to the entrance, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that.
Nice day, isn’t it?” the old lady asked from behind me.

It took everything I had not to scream out. That old hag was going to be the death of me if one of us didn’t get off of this bus. I turned slowly to see her chomping on a carrot and eyeing me with amusement. I took a moment to get a good look at her. She was about 5 feet tall with a slight hunchback. Her hair was not entirely gray, more like salt and pepper in color, and it lay on her back in a long braid. She must have weighed about 100 pounds but she looked like she was wearing every stitch of clothing that she owned. The longer I looked at her, the more familiar she felt, like an old comfortable sweatshirt. Her eyes held mine and my shoulders relaxed infinitesimally. Although I didn’t know why, this old lady was okay.

It would be nicer if we would just get back on the road,” I said, looking past her toward the three boys and the bus entrance.

The driver said that this would be a short stop. I think we are ahead of schedule and he wants to make up for the time he will lose in traffic. Where are you headed?”

Las Vegas, to see my mom.”

Las Vegas, huh?” The old lady looked as if she didn’t approve but, to her credit, she didn’t say anything else.

It was obvious that she wasn’t going to leave my side, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would have company. She watched me as I watched the three boys. They were looking around as if they had lost something or somebody. Maybe I was just being paranoid, but I felt like I was the object of their search. It was probably just my nerves. How could I possibly rate that kind of attention? I shook off the feeling just as the bus driver came stumbling out of the restaurant.
The bus began to fill up with passengers as the three boys looked around. The engine started and the driver took the tickets of the new arrivals all before I stepped out from my hiding spot. The old lady walked just steps in front of me as we approached the bus doors. I lifted the hood of my sweatshirt as I tried to hide my face from the three boys. The old lady, on the other hand, looked straight ahead and confronted the trio. Either out of respect or contempt, the three moved out of the way for her, all the while continuing to look behind her. It was strange that they didn’t appear to see me standing right there. My first instinct was to wave a hand in their faces to make sure I wasn’t simply being ignored, but the old lady stayed my hand while gesturing for me to board the bus ahead of her.

The boy with the white hair stiffened as I passed and turned his head toward me as if looking for something. He continued to stare at the space that I had just passed by until the old lady poked him in the stomach and lectured him on how he should be a gentleman and help her onto the bus. The trio quickly jumped into action, almost throwing the old lady onto the top step of the bus’s interior. The other passengers and I reached out to catch her, since she should have been off balance after being handled so roughly, but she landed squarely on her feet and wobbled to her window seat.

The next leg of the trip was marked by multiple stops and tons of traffic. The driver had to maneuver around several accidents and lanes that were closed due to construction. We finally limped into the parking lot of a restaurant around 2 in the afternoon and I was starving. I jumped out of my seat and waited for the old lady to go ahead of me but, surprisingly, she wasn’t there. She must have left the bus while I was busy looking through my maps of the Las Vegas Strip. I shrugged and departed the bus with the rest of the passengers.

The restaurant appeared to be clean which made me hopeful for the condition of the restroom. It was bright white with three stalls, one of which was already occupied when I went in. I quickly chose the one furthest from the door and proceeded to wash my hands afterward. I looked into the stainless steel mirror and was horrified by what I saw. My mahogany colored skin had the imprint marks from the jacket that I used as a pillow and I had major eye buggers. It was a good thing that I didn’t know anyone around here, because I looked homeless. I washed my face and put my dreadlocked hair back into a ponytail, took a deep breath and turned to leave, running smack into someone.

I had heard the occupant of the other stall flush and open the door, I just hadn’t expected her to be standing directly behind me, but there she was. And she was a lot sturdier than her 5’5” frame should be because I should have knocked her down. Instead, she steadied me by holding my elbow, looked up into my eyes and smiled.

Sorry about that. You okay?” Tabitha asked sincerely.

Yeah, I think so”, I replied, wondering more how I didn’t knock her over than how she had found me. Somehow I knew that I didn’t want to know.

I watched her as she walked over to the sink to wash her hands. Her long blond hair was pulled back into her usual high ponytail but was now caught in a long braid. I still wondered how anyone could deal with that much hair. As if she felt me looking at her, she met my gaze in the makeshift mirror and smiled. I shot her my best “screw you” look and made my way to the restaurant.

I didn’t realize how hungry I was until I smelled the food. I was certain that it was greasy and fattening and I couldn’t wait to order. The boys from the bus were sitting at the counter so I took the first empty booth that I came to and picked up a menu. I felt the bench on the opposite side of the booth dip under someone’s weight and I froze.

Do you mind if I sit here?”

Make yourself comfortable”, I said, trying to sound casual in the presence of my former best friend. I didn’t know what her agenda was.

So”, she said from behind the menu she had picked up, “where are you headed?”

Excuse me?”

You got off that bus, Cheyenne! Where are you going?”

She pointed out of the window to the bus as if neither one of us knew what she was talking about.

I’m going to Las Vegas.”

Vegas? Cheyenne, what for?”

I shrugged, trying to figure out how to change the subject. I looked around the restaurant and saw that the three boys at the counter were viciously glancing in our direction. Tabitha followed my gaze. She smiled at the boy, but it didn’t reach her eyes. The blue orbs were intense and predatory. The twins bowed out of the staring contest but the boy with the white hair held her gaze until our waitress appeared.

Cheyenne”, she said, after the waitress left. “If you are trying to go after your mom, it isn’t worth it.”

Not answering, I shook off the feeling of abandonment before it led me to tears. She, of all people, knew how much I wanted a family.

We sat in uncomfortable silence while we ate and paid for our meals. We passed the counter where the three boys were eating only to find it empty and headed to the bus. I knew Tabitha hadn’t been on the bus before, so I was surprised when she climbed on ahead of me and sat where the old lady had been sitting. That reminded me. Where was that old lady? I started to glance around to make sure we weren’t going to leave her when the bus driver closed the doors and pulled off. This must have been her stop.

I took my seat next to Tabitha and put the old lady out of my mind. I’d come a long way from my small New Mexico town and I was too weary and anxious to be concerned about anyone else. I had no idea what I was going to do once I arrived in Las Vegas or how I was going to find my bio-mom. All that I knew for sure was that I had to get away.

As the seconds turned into minutes, I noticed Tabitha looking over her shoulder and through the opening between our seats toward the rear of the bus. She was watching the three boys as if she was waiting for one of them to come our way. When she realized that I was watching her, she stiffened and sat up straight, fixing her ponytail as she did. Then she laid her head against the window and closed her eyes.

I woke up with a start and with a hand over my mouth.

Will you stop?” asked a familiar voice, filling me with déjà vu.

Great!” I replied sarcastically. My heart was pumping so hard it felt like it would jump out of my body.

Shhh, Cheyenne”, Tabitha hissed. “The bus has stopped for gas and we really need to get out of here!”

I felt Tabitha’s weight shift as she looked over the back of the seat towards the rear of the bus. She quietly grabbed my duffel bag from the overhead compartment and pushed it into my arms. I sat as still as possible as I heard the window being unlocked. Tabitha pushed on it until it was opened wide enough for us to climb out and then she turned back to me.

They’re gone right now and we have to go, too.”

What the hell is going on?” I whispered, a little shook up.

Just hurry. We don’t have much time.” Tabitha looked me straight in my eyes and asked me to do the impossible. “Trust me”, she said.

She held out her hand and I took it, surprising myself to no end. For the life of me I didn’t know why I trusted this girl, but I did. She quietly slid through the open window and then reached up for the duffel bag. Once I dropped it into her arms I did my best to squeeze my 5’9” frame through the same tiny opening. I finally dropped to the ground with a thud and wondered how Tabitha had done it with so much quiet grace.

As soon as I was on the ground, Tabitha led me around the back of the bus away from the lights of the gas station. Not too far from where we stood was a steep hill separating us from the highway below. In complete darkness, we started down the embankment toward the noise of traffic. We climbed about 20 yards down and crouched behind a rock.

So…” I started.

Look,” Tabitha interrupted. “I will tell you everything once we get to the house, I promise this time. What I will tell you now is this: your life depends on us getting away from this gas station without being heard or seen. Can you just trust me?”

Before I could answer we heard noises from the bus. The driver had returned and was trying to start the engine when someone started yelling. At first I didn’t understand what the problem was until I heard a boy’s voice and I froze.

Where the hell is she? Did you check the bathroom and the store? What about the Mc Donald’s over there?” The boy sounded furious.

Are they looking for me?” I whispered.

Yes, they are.”

I began to run through all of the reasons my foster mom would have sold me out and greed just didn’t seem like one of her virtues. I had to force myself to remember what I heard her say to the boy with the white hair and steeled my resolve. I started to stand up when I heard a sound of footsteps just a few feet from where we sat. I froze and looked towards Tabitha. She was digging around the ground frantically looking for something.

Just as the footsteps were getting louder and I began to panic, Tabitha grabbed my ponytail in her hands and began rubbing something into my hair. It smelled like…dog mess! OH. MY. GOODNESS. She just put dog crap in my hair and now she was putting it into her own. I didn’t know if I should be more horrified that I was being hunted or that I was covered in crap! My decision was made for me when the footsteps stopped on the other side of the rock.
Raphael, where should we look?” asked an unfamiliar voice.

Everywhere! She can’t have gone far. And she has to be with that blond witch. I knew we should have killed her when we had the chance!”

Finally, the boy with the white hair had a name; Raphael. I would know that smooth voice anywhere, and right now he was about four feet away from me. He looked like he was in charge of the other two. But why did they want me and why in the world would they want to kill Tabitha. I turned toward her and saw that her eyes reflected the light like a cat’s eyes would. If not for the current danger that she was keeping me from, I would have run from her. A slight smile crossed her face as she tilted her chin just slightly and sniffed the air. The only thing I could smell was the dog crap stuck in our hair so I decided to hold my breath.

Call it in,” said Raphael. “Grigor is going to be pissed.”

From our position I could see the faint light of a cell phone as the screen turned on to make a call. The threesome had started to walk away so I was unable to hear the conversation but I had heard enough already. Since she knew more about what was going on, I waited for Tabitha to move, but she stayed still for a long time. We heard the bus pull away and watched it head to the on ramp and continue northward.

They will have left a scout somewhere in the vicinity so we have to be careful. Nothing good comes out of carelessness”, she whispered.

She gave me a motherly pat on the shoulder before she turned and led me further down the embankment. With great effort I continued down the embankment with the grace of a two-legged elephant. I slipped and slid until I was completely covered in whatever had been in the dirt. We reached the side of the highway, jumped a six foot chain link fence, and crawled out of a ditch before finally reaching asphalt.

While I was catching my breath, it didn’t escape my notice that Tabitha wasn't even slightly winded. A black SUV began to slow and it pulled onto the shoulder of the road. As I started to run down the side of the highway, Tabitha stopped me and motioned to the vehicle just as Solomon exited the driver’s seat. I watched as he opened the rear passenger door. My hesitation lasted only momentarily because I turned to look back towards the embankment just in time to see something moving swiftly down the side of the hill in our direction. It was too large to be a dog but too small to be any other type of animal. Just then the hill was lit up by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle and I saw that the thing running at an extraordinary speed was Raphael and he was looking right at me.

Turning on my heels, I dove into the back seat of the car, pulling my feet in right as Solomon slammed the door. The locks clicked into place at the same time that Raphael hit the window…hard. The window was almost shattered and Raphael had his fist cocked back to hit it again when the SUV pulled onto the highway.

Someone was screaming and it took a second to realize that it was me. I clasped my hands over my mouth, closed my eyes and told myself to breath because this just simply was not happening. I took mental stock of the events so far: bio-mom sent for me, foster-mom tried to sell me, three boys trying to catch me, best friend lying to me, and I may be related to Efia and Jordan.

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
I hope my readers are entertained, engaged, educated and left wanting more.

Where can we go to buy your book?

Any other links or info you'd like to share?