So, I’ve been tirelessly working on “Beast Within”, the third installment in my Loup-Garou Series. This past Saturday, I wrote 5,000 words and on Sunday I wrote another 6,000. I took a break on Monday because my brain was pretty fried, and tonight I wrote over 3,000 words. I’ve been setting a daily goal for myself of 1,000 words or 2,000 if I have the time. Well, I’ve been making the time and I’ll be on time with this novel. I aim to finish, completely (edits and all) by the end of February. At this rate, I only have about 8 more chapters to go.
To give a sneak peak, here’s a segment from Chapter 15 that I’m fairly proud of. I had a lot of help from my friends who have actually visited New Orleans. I was born in Louisiana and I’ve never been to New Orleans for good reasons, but I hope I’ve captured the spirit of Canal and Bourbon Street in this part of Katey and Logan’s journey. Keep in mind that this is a first draft scene with possible typos and atrocious grammatical errors. The finished product will be neater.
After parking Logan’s bike at the Canal Place Garage near the Mississippi River and across from the aquarium, they started their trek down Canal Street, into the swiftly setting sun. To the east, a blue and purple haze lined the horizon and Katey couldn’t help but admire how distinct the line was in the sky, differing their world between night and day.
The air was bursting with scents. The salty river breeze that wafted from behind them collided with the aromas of restaurants and cafes. Katey could smell everything from sugar-powdered pastries baking in overs to the spiced tinge of true Cajun seafood and authentic gumbo that made her stomach ache. The only thing they had to eat were those few packets of beef jerky at the motel and that did not satisfy the biting hunger. At the same time, the stench of stale alcohol assaulted her nose and made her lose her appetite.
Music joined the myriad of scents. Jazz, country, and rock melodies wove together, filtering out of the windows and doors of clubs along the strip. The cacophony of noises roared in her ears as well, but it wasn’t more than her senses could handle. After some time of walking close to one another, the modern shopping centers and restaurants gave way to an endless sea of European- inspired architecture with richly ornate facades that shot up three or four stories high in some places.
Lining the streets were all makes and models of cars, towering palm trees and bright red trolleys that carted tourists down the streets on either side. Somehow, Katey had imagined the French Quarter to be even more touristy and old world in its buildings.
They had been walking for several blocks before Logan paused, his hand grasping hers and he sniffed the air. Katey did the same and she smelt it too. There was a distinct trail of vampire. They looked to their right, down Bourbon Street, and she found the French Quarter she had been expecting.
There was hardly any room on the paved street for more than two cars to travel down abreast of each other. The style of the brick buildings were similar, but different as their balconies loomed over the sidewalks. Tourists and venders crowded for space on the streets further down, where the vampires must have been.
With wary feet, they made their way down the street that was dotted with potholes, passing by more shops – some modern and some not – as they searched. Logan had told her they would have to search for any vampire who might know Michael’s whereabouts. Unfortunately, they would probably be inside some club or bar that catered to their kind and Katey was not looking forward to it.
As the sunlight waned, colorful neon lights sparked to life down the strip, casting a red and yellow glow over the darkening street and shop entrances that were more like tall, lime green shutters in some places, opening onto the street under the balconies.
The iron railings and balusters along the balconies were decorated with potted plants whose vines hung low and must have sprouted flowers in the spring time. Some residents – or perhaps tourists – stood upon the balconies and took pictures of the sights below.
In some places, the fronts of buildings were wrapped in scaffolding, cluttered with building supplies and tools as the edifice was in the process of renovation. Several blocks away, Katey spotted what looked to be a man mounted on a horse, trotting down the street. When they came closer, she realize the rider was a police man just before he turned down a connecting street to patrol.
Katey walked into a wall of odor that she could only distinguish as a horrid mix of urine and vomit that drifted from the north. She had to stop and gag, tugging Logan to a halt just outside a cigar shop that wreaked of tobacco and smoke. Her eyes watered and for a moment she thought her own vomit would join in the unpleasant smells of Bourbon Street.
Logan seemed unaffected by the pong and waited until she could get her bearings again. “I know it’s bad. It’s going to get worse.”
“How could it possibly get worse?” she asked while trying to swallow back the beef jerky that wanted to see the light of day again.
Logan didn’t answer her and once she straightened up, they carried on.
Outside of shops, merchants and vendors displayed their goods, often shirts and souvenirs for the tourists. In some of the windows were displays of clothing and risqué fashion that Logan paid no attention to. Drunken voices slithered out of the countless bars and strip clubs they past and Katey held onto Logan’s hand a little tighter.
Bands and other street performers came into view. Some of them were single operations with a simple hat out to solicit tips, while others were five or six men groups of musicians playing lively music for a throng of spectators. Katey watched for a moment and admired the raw talent, but had no money and no time to pay them with as they continued their search.
The crowds began to thin farther north down the block and the vampire trail grew stronger with each step. Yet, with the potent scent of sulfur came another unwelcome sensation that set Katey’s teeth on edge.
It was a nearly imperceptible feeling that started in her bones and snaked its way through her blood. It was unlike anything she had experienced before and with her growing discomfort from what happened in the motel in Mississippi, Katey wanted to scream. It was too much.
Logan looked to her, probably sensing her unease. “It’s ok. Just keep walking.”
“What is that?” she whispered, looking around as if the answer lay with the shop keepers or pedestrians that passed them by.
“Magic,” Logan replied in a calm voice. “New Orleans is like the mecca of voodoo and witchcraft. Most of them are wannabes or charlatans, but there are a few that practice the craft. Some humans can sense the energy, but we can moreso. You’ll feel better once we pass the source.”
Katey cringed as images of shrunken heads and painted witchdoctors were conjured in her mind. “Where is the source?”
“It’s probably one of these shops. I can smell the herbs they use in their spells and rituals.”
Katey was afraid to breathe too deeply, lest the suffocating smells of New Orleans made her dizzy. Instead, she steeled herself against the effects of the magic and whatever else had been plaguing her since they left the motel.
The more they walked and dodged past hustlers, the begging homeless, and drunkards teetering on the sidewalk, the stronger the magic hammered at her spirit. Her wolf, who had been silent up to now, cowered and growled at the foreign powers.
Up ahead, a sign beamed in the darkness. “Madam Celeste’s Voodoo Emporium” it read in swirly, mystic letters. Katey gritted her teeth. There were no windows for her to peek through, but she could smell what Logan had been talking about.
The entrance, a set of blue shutter-like doors like the ones scattered along Bourbon Street, released a flow of magic, the essence of incense, spices, herbs, petrified wood, and other aromas that Katey couldn’t recognize. Firelight danced from inside, casting a flickering glow onto the pavement.
Just outside the open doors, sitting on a faded stool, was a petite woman. She wore a dark, flowing skirt that pooled on the sidewalk around her and a white, billowy shirt, embroidered with swirls and flowery designs. Her hands were folded neatly in her lap, her head held high and wrapped in a red turban to contain her hair that was pushed up inside of it. Hoop earrings dangled from her ears as her dark eyes were set across the street.
Katey shrank back and wanted to dart to the other sidewalk to avoid her, but Logan pulled her on. If they acted strangely, they would draw attention to themselves. The only way to cross the river was to go straight through.
They were no more than two yards away when the woman turned and locked stares with the two of them. The change in her cold expression shifted and Katey wanted to run. She beamed at the two loups-garous and stood from her stool. She didn’t seem young, but neither too old. The woman was at a sweet-spot in age where her beauty and womanhood was in full bloom.
Logan guided Katey around his back to stand on the side closest to the street, serving as her shield against the woman and her magic.
Katey averted her eyes, but felt the woman’s gaze drill into her like a penetrating heat.
“Friends,” she greeted in a silvery voice and tinged with a thick accent that seemed neither African or Creole. “May I have a word?” she asked, seeming eager, but polite.
Logan waved her off. “We don’t have the time, sorry.”
The woman charged forward and grasped Logan’s arm. Despite her fear, Katey stepped up and made her presence known. The woman saw her and recoiled her hands instantly.
“I’m sorry, princess,” she said. “I did not mean to offend.”
Katey narrowed her eyes on the woman. “I’m not a princess,” she corrected and weaved her arm through Logan’s before turning away.
The voodoo woman blocked their way with her hands held up to stop them. “But, you are. I can see it in you.”
Logan scoffed. “And I’m sure for thirty bucks, you’ll tell us more, right?”
The woman’s smile faded. “Do not insult me, wolf.”
They both went rigid. Could this woman tell they were loups-garous, or was she simply implying that Logan was like a wolf. He blew air from his nose and stepped towards her, his blue eyes holding all the excuse she would need to move out of the way.
“Stand aside, woman.”
She crossed her arms defiantly. “Please,” she crooned. “It’s been so long since I stood in the presence of such great creatures as yourselves. Indulge me for a moment only.”
Katey felt the muscle in her jaw jump. Yes, the woman knew.
She offered out her hand. “My name is Marie. I am an apprentice here under Madam Celeste. She’s away for a moment, but I’m sure she would love to meet you, princess.”
Katey didn’t accept the hand of friendship just yet. Through the dissonance of voices and feelings that teemed down Bourbon Street, she reached out with her spirit to read this woman. There was no malice behind her eyes and no cunning plan of deception about her. It seemed, regardless of what instinct told her, that this woman was kind and willing to help them. Perhaps if she knew what they were, she would know where the vamps were.
In a gesture that might have confirmed everything the woman thought of her, Katey briefly shook the woman’s hand and was sure to give it a firm grip to hide her anxiety. “We can’t stay long enough to meet your madam.”
The smile returned to Marie’s face, showing her pearl white teeth against dark skin. “Oh, well, I suppose that will be alright. It was my pleasure to meet you, then.”
Logan read her words as the cue to break away, but Marie blocked them again.
“No, wait. Please, allow me to grant you with some of my services. I have many spells and talismans that you can benefit from.”
He shook his head. “We’re not interested in your magic.”
A sly, unconvinced glint in her eye made Katey pay closer attention. “What about for that problem you’ve been having? You… can’t change, it seems. That’s a very serious thing.” She fished out a business card from the folds of her dress. “I have just the thing that can help you, if you so choose. Here is my card. I know you’re in a hurry, but please know I am here to help you in whatever way I can.”
Katey’s eyebrows shot up with curiosity. Was there such a potion or herb that could help Logan? More importantly, was it worth the risk to dabble in magic just to settle a one hundred yearlong battle?
Logan snatched the card of her hand and shoved it into his pocket. “Fine,” he mumbled and pressed past her, dragging Katey along.
Marie rushed forward, abandoning her shop front and grabbed Katey’s hand. They all froze and Katey looked into Marie’s dark and haunting eyes.
“My dear, take courage,” she whispered. “I sense the trouble in you. It will pass with the morning. And as for the other thing,” she smiled, “you will make a fine leader. Even our people have been waiting for you to bring peace. I have been privileged to witness many things in my life, but you are the greatest. I shall tell my grandchildren of the day that I met you.”
Marie kissed the back of Katey’s hand and then hurried away inside her shop, probably to tell all her friends who she just saw on Bourbon Street.
Heedless of the confusion that warred in Katey, pulled her along and they left the voodoo shop behind them in the chaos of New Orleans nightlife.
Curious about how Katey and Logan get to this place? Check out “The Enigma” and “Becoming the Enigma” on Amazon to get caught up in my Loup-Garou series before the release of “Beast Within”! Subscribe and follow my social media for continuous updates!