QSFer Michael Mandrake has a new MM paranormal book out:
After dying at the hands of Ryland Durand, Eli Peckard is thrust into a different universe, one that is familiar to his home of New Orleans, but scary all the same. Battered and bruised from his rough travels, he is accosted, and then rescued by Anasa, an official in The Realm. From there, Anasa delivers Eli to his most reliable Keeper, Zylen, to heal and teach him the ways of a Soul Catcher as the Dark Lord intends.
Zylen has lived his days in Nouvelle Terre as a Keeper for new fledglings. During his time on the third plane, Zylen has kept his hate for vampires, especially Ryland and his brother. However, being the child of a fallen and a vamp, Zylen still beholds emotions of remorse and empathy for the mentally fragile soul, Eli Peckard, and those feelings transform into something more.
Eli’s insecurities and Zylen’s anxieties over crossing the line of teacher and apprentice might be an obstacle in their budding union. More importantly, Zylen’s instruction for Eli must include lessons that teach the newest souled demon how to survive the final challenge before gaining the ultimate prize.
WARNING: Potential triggers. Mentions of child abuse and rape. Graphic violence
Immortals Book One
“Wh — where am I? Am I in hell?” As I spoke, my voice cracked, my mouth parched from lack of liquids. A shiver ran down my spine thinking about what had occurred that final night in my apartment.
As the devil Valios, had instructed, I’d gone home to meet with the demon known as Kajika. I’d been following this dancer, who I’d thought to be mortal. Now, however, I knew the truth, which ultimately became my undoing. After he seduced me, I lusted after him and attempted to hurt Kajika. Instead, he bit me as a vampire would, virtually ending my life.
The only reason I’d agreed, or actually, the Beast agreed, to meet with Kajika was to get the gift to satisfy my cravings to hurt women as I’d long desired. With that, I’d be invincible and not caught. Though it hadn’t deterred me from killing, I still feared being imprisoned, much like I was when living with my grandmother.
Feeling the pain of gravel under my flesh, I grimaced when I rolled my body to the right. I slowly lifted one eyelid and noticed the black sky above me. Not a single star could be seen.
“Where am I, Beast? Where?”
When I tried connecting with my other self, there was no answer.
With a lot of effort, I forced the other eye open and slowly turned my head. The dimly lit cobblestone streets, broken in several places, looked oddly familiar. Like the ones in the Garden District or the French Quarter. I’d loved going there as an adult and a child. However, my most recent memories reminded me of my failure to kill my final victim.
Her name was Ophelia Dunham. I’d met her at a club and we’d gotten close over a three-day span, but in haste, my other self botched our opportunity and she got away. I’ll never forgive Beast for that because if it weren’t for his lust, we might still do what we love.
Killing and enjoying it.
I’d known no other pleasure more fulfilling.
Now, I’m dead with no clue of where I am. I don’t know if I’m in hell or caught somewhere else because the Most High may not have a place for me. Nevertheless, I must try to find the strength to stand and figure out my current existence.
Still befuddled, I tried my best to home in on my surroundings. Again, the place appeared to be a carbon copy of the area I’d once called home. Historical buildings that showed a lot of wear and tear with doors and numbers — noting the addresses, I supposed. There were no names on the signs, only directions. From the looks of it, I was now on a northern street with an eastern cross street.
“My dear boy, do you need attention from a local Keeper?”
A voice disturbed my train of thought and I had no idea who it was.
In moments, a grimy face with black eyes met mine. “Ah, you’re a new one. Probably cast here by Valios, eh?”
“Valios. Yes, I… he said he’d make me a … some kind of demon so I could be …”
Immediately the man roared and shook his head. “That ol’ Valios is up to his old tricks again. Did he tell you he’d make you a soul sucker?”
“I …” I only stared at the man, because I couldn’t recall exactly what the demon had said.
“By the confusion on your face, he did just that. Listen up son, I’ll help ya’ get to a Keeper … but for a price. You’re looking mighty worse for wear. No clothes and all.”
“I’m not wearing anything?” I struggled to lift my head to look at my body. My naked flesh had turned orange, almost matching my hair. I raised my arm and noted my hands looked larger than before, with black talons on the ends.
“No, son. You’re naked as the day you were born,” he laughed. “Welcome to Nouvelle Terre, my boy.”
“Nouvelle Terre. Is this hell or another place close to it?”
The man chuckled again and grabbed my arm so I could sit up straight. I glanced at my surroundings. Creatures that resembled animals or aliens walked about, acting as if they didn’t see a naked man in the middle of the street.
“It isn’t close to hell. This is purgatory, son. Now, like I said, I can get you to a Keeper if you’ve got money. How’s about a hundred dollars?” The grimy man, with dirty clothing to match his face, flashed a toothless smile at me.
“How can I pay you?” I spat. “I have no money. I don’t even have clothes!”
“I meant when you get squared away, son. You —”
“Leave him be, Achtumus!”
Another male’s voice boomed from the left and I heard footsteps on the gravel.
“Uh, damn. Well, good luck, kid. Here comes the head of the Keepers.” The man called Achtumus scampered in the other direction.
When I shifted around to see where he went, I noticed a bolt of fire catch him in the back and make him fall to the ground. I heard him moaning in the distance, then I saw him roll onto his side. Right then, I shuddered and my eyes stayed transfixed as that fire consumed his body. I surmised that the individual who’d warned him off me burned him.
“Are you all right?” The man’s deep voice shook me to my core.
Still shocked by the turn of events, I could not meet the other person’s eyes.
“No. The man there… you killed him.” I gulped hard and took a shallow breath.
“He’s not dead. You’re in Nouvelle Terre, Eli Peckard. You cannot die here unless your soul is taken away by one of the higher demons.”
“Oh.” Despite the man’s reassurance, I still couldn’t meet his gaze. “So I am in purgatory.”
“Yes, caught between heaven, earth, and hell. It is where my master deposited you,” the man said.
“Yes. He had mercy on your soul, for he sees you could become valuable to him if we go to war.”
Michael Mandrake pens complex characters already comfortable with their sexuality. Thorough these, he builds worlds not centered on erotica but rather the mainstream plots we might encounter in everyday life through personal experiences or the media.